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Why Recognizing The Charleston Church Shooting As An Act Of Racially Motivated Terrorism Is Only The First Step

Thu, 2015-06-18 06:31
I took a moment of silence last night.

A long moment... as I struggled to sort through my emotions while I painfully watched breaking news broadcast reports that gunshots seared through Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina around 9 p.m Wednesday. Nine people, who congregated for a prayer meeting, were killed.

The shots were fired by an unidentified 21-year-old white man who entered the church and opened fire -- meanwhile, the massacre will be investigated as a hate crime, Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said. However, by definition, it was a domestic act of terrorism and the gunman, a terrorist.

The shooting, heinous in every regard, immediately prompted panic and pandemonium as police arrived to the scene and attempted to locate and arrest the shooter. Police, so far, have been unsuccessful; the gunman is still at large.

As the victims become publicly identified -- so far only one, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, has been named as among the nine dead -- we must acknowledge that this atrocious act occurred inside one of the nation's oldest and most prominent black churches, making it hard to argue against the logical assumptions that all of the victims are black. More importantly, despite any confirmation of the gunman's motives, it would be remiss to not consider this wicked act of violence is an one of racial hate and terrorism. It appears steeped in the repulsive reality of race in America and the injustice it has forged against black lives everywhere.

“It’s obvious that it’s race,” one local resident told an MSNBC reporter of the murderer’s motives. “You got a white guy coming into an African American church. That’s a choice, he chose to go into that church and harm those people.”

The agony pulsing through Charleston today is the same piercing pain felt each time a black life is lost to the acts of bigots and brutality. It is the familiar pain felt each time a black life is violently dehumanized, devalued and disposed of -- often without repercussion.

It's not breaking news that being black in America can be difficult and frightening, to say the least. Now, more than ever, we cannot ignore or mask the reality that we live in a country where one’s complexion is a direct threat to their safety and livelihood.

Last week, I watched in horror as a white police officer yelled and used excessive force against young, black kids at a pool party in McKinney, Texas. A 15-year-old black girl was pinned to the ground and cried out for her mother as the officer dug his knee into her back. Moments before, he wielded his gun at two young black boys as they tried to come to her aid.

Much less importantly, in the last few days, I have seen former NAACP leader Rachel Dolezal's white face, terribly tanned and masked as “black,” plastered across TV screens, her name dominating my Twitter timeline and her life dissected through discussions I've both overheard and participated in. Today, and every day going forward, I no longer care to see, hear or say her name ever again.

Dolezal is a distraction and her story is far too confusing, contradictory and complicated to be used as a catalyst to reexamine or redefine race and, more specifically, what it means to be black. She doesn’t deserve that privilege -- and we shouldn’t allow it.

Instead, if we are motivated to truthfully examine the role of race and racial violence, let us look to the events in McKinney, which dominated the news cycle just days before and made us witness, yet again, the harsh treatment of white officers against black lives.

Let us look to the Dominican Republic, where hundreds of thousands of Haitians fear being deported in a move rooted in racism.

Let us look to our criminal justice system and the long-term and fatal effects it has had on countless individuals like Kalief Browder.

Let us look to the death of Walter Scott, an unarmed black man who was shot by a white police officer in April, just miles away from Wednesday’s church shooting.

Let us look to the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963 when four young black girls were the victims of another hate crime targeted at another predominantly black church.

Let us look to the purpose and mission of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

Lastly, let us look to all the other black men and women who have been brutalized and killed under similar, distressing circumstances as acts of racial violence.

To understand race, author Ta-Nehisi Coates steers us in the right direction. In his latest piece in The Atlantic, Coates urges us to reexamine “America’s greatest and most essential crimes -- the centuries of plunder which birthed the hierarchy which we now euphemistically call ‘race.’”

He wrote:

Kalief Browder died, like Renisha McBride died, like Tamir Rice died, because they were born and boxed into the lowest cavity of that hierarchy. If not for those deaths, if not for the taking of young boys off the streets of New York, and the pinning of young girls on the lawns of McKinney, Texas, the debate over Rachel Dolezal’s masquerade would wither and blow away, because it would have no real import nor meaning.

The time is now. Let us all take a moment to reflect on the horrific violence that occurred at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

What's more, I challenge you to extend that moment to examine the role of race as it relates to this tragedy -- and take worry in knowing the shooter still roams free and is still capable of acting out on his hatred and committing more crimes. If black people are not safe in places of sanctuary, then we are not safe anywhere.

“This is as bad as it can get,” one black Charleston resident told a reporter Wednesday night. “If we can’t find refuge in church, where can we go? Where can we be safe?”

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Northwestern Faculty Magazine Censored Over Article About Nurse Blow Job

Wed, 2015-06-17 16:08
Digital issues of an annual magazine published by Northwestern University's Medical Humanities and Bioethics Program are now back online after school officials allegedly took them down in response to an essay that described a nurse giving a patient a blow job in 1978.

Each Atrium issue is themed around a different topic, and the Winter 2104 issue focused on the idea of "Bad Girls." It included an essay by Syracuse University professor William Peace, who described an experience in a hospital (not Northwestern) in which a "head nurse" performed oral sex on him after he was paralyzed at the age of 18 and started using a wheelchair.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a free speech watchdog group, wrote in a May 26 letter sent to Northwestern President Morton Schapiro that Feinberg School of Medicine Dean Eric Neilson was "allegedly very concerned" by the content of Peace's article, "worrying that it was incompatible with the 'brand' of FSM and of Northwestern Medicine, the corporate parent overseeing the hospital system that includes FSM’s primary teaching hospital."

Emails obtained by The Huffington Post also show administrators expressing concern that the article could threaten a "branding agreement" with the medical school and the hospital, and that it could suggest the hospital doesn't value nurses or that it condones sexual relationships between patients health care workers.

After administrators raised concerns about the issue's content, "Bad Girls" and all other Atrium issues were taken offline.

Alice Dreger, a Northwestern professor of clinical medical humanities and bioethics who was the guest editor for the "Bad Girls" issue, said she worked with Northwestern to try to get the school to reverse its decision. According to Dreger, school officials agreed to put the other issues back online, but not the Winter 2014 one. The print version of the magazine has a subscription base of roughly 3,000 people, but the digital versions are available online for free.

Dreger recently wrote a book about academic freedom. "If Penguin wanted to write me a publicity stunt, this is exactly what they would do," she said, referring to her book publisher.

Biting her tongue for 14 months, Dreger held off on going public with her battle over the "Bad Girls" issue until she saw the lengthy Title IX investigation of Northwestern film professor Laura Kipnis, who caused a firestorm with an essay published in February in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Dreger said the investigation into Kipnis, coupled with continued stonewalling from administrators and her observations of the way other universities were handling professors' speech, prompted her to open up about the Atrium problems.

But on May 18, one day after Dreger told administrators she was going to go public, the issue "magically" went back online, she said. Dreger shared an email from one Northwestern official with HuffPost that read, "At the current time we have no objection to ... reposting the prior published Atrium issues."

"It's just so shocking to me that I was dealing with a problem involving one blow job in 1978 when I would've been 12 years old," Dreger said.

Neilson, the medical school dean, deferred a request for an interview to the university's press office. A Northwestern spokesperson provided a statement saying the university honors "academic freedom." The university declined follow-up requests for answers to HuffPost's actual questions.

Dreger and Kristi Kirschner, who also wrote an article for the "Bad Girls" issue, both told HuffPost that future issues of the magazine will now be subject to approval from a new committee made up of senior administrators and public relations staff from the university. FIRE took issue with this pre-publication review process in its May 26 letter.

"This raises serious concerns not only for Atrium’s autonomy but also for that of any faculty or departmental publication that dares to venture into uncomfortable or controversial territory," Peter Bonilla, director of FIRE's Individual Rights Defense Program, wrote. "It is particularly concerning that this should occur at a medical school, where the spirit of unfettered inquiry and debate ought to be especially robust, given the potential implications for humankind of their outcomes."

Kirschner resigned her clinical professor position in December 2014 after nearly two decades working with the university. She said her choice was "in no small part due to changes in the academic milieu" and the "attack" on the faculty magazine.

FIRE requested a response to its letter by June 9, but so far, the university has not said anything. Bonilla said he worries the censorship could have a "chilling effect" on other faculty and represents a threat to academic freedom.

"It's a road that most universities don't want to go down," he said. "It can call their credibility on any number of other things."

"There is an inherent tension within academic medical centers between the missions of the hospital and the university, but recently the commercial interests of the hospital are dominant," Kirschner said. "The tipping point at Northwestern was the 2013 purchase of the university faculty practice by Northwestern Memorial Healthcare. Northwestern's medical school is no longer the institution I was proud to be a part of for a quarter century."

Peace told HuffPost he figured the article would be controversial -- not least due to his provocative language -- but he hoped it could take on a stigma about sexuality and people with disabilities. The most common question he's always been asked, Peace said, is "Can you have sex?"

"It's remarkable that taboo has not changed," Peace said. "I would like to believe the world is ready for it, but I guess it wasn't."

FIRE Letter to Northwestern University, May 26, 2015 by Tyler Kingkade

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Can we Celebrate the Blackhawks Without the Air Horns, Please?

Wed, 2015-06-17 15:41
On Monday night, the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup at home for the first time in 77 years. Some sources say that the team's win was fueled by the determination to give sports reporters the chance to write articles with headlines that broadcast that the team has failed to win something at home for more than half a century, because you know a Chicago sports team is truly beloved when people track how many years it's been losing -- just look at the Chicago Cubs.

I "didn't catch" (which is the phrase people who don't care about sports are obligated to use when they miss something big/exciting) any of the Stanley Cup final on Monday night, but I was fortunate enough to hear all about Chicago's victory from someone's air horn and impromptu illegal fireworks show.

I was lying in bed on the cusp of a dream involving Arya Stark and Jaqen H'ghar from Game of Thrones. I recall a leaky ceiling, and "Oh, Me" from Nirvana's MTV Unplugged performance was playing in the background, and I was just about to settle into this puzzling scene when... EeEEeEEeERRRRRRRRRRRHH!

The landscape was stolen from my mind like someone shaking an Etch A Sketch. The air horn went off again, followed by what I assume were fireworks, but what could've also been everyone in the neighborhood microwaving silverware at the same time. As the dog barking brought me back to full consciousness, I remembered the Blackhawks were playing and assumed that something good must have happened. As I rolled over, trying to get back to Bravos, the noise continued, and I realized something very important: No sports victory justifies using an air horn.

In case you've never attended a high school football game highly attended by jerks, or your dreams haven't been interrupted by one of these noisemakers, let's learn a bit more from Wikipedia about what an air horn is:

An air horn is a pneumatic device designed to create an extremely loud noise for signalling purposes. It usually consists of a source which produces compressed air, which passes into a horn through a reed or diaphragm. The stream of air causes the reed or diaphragm to vibrate, creating sound waves, and the horn amplifies the sound so it is louder. Air horns are widely employed as vehicle horns, installed on large semi-trailer trucks, fire trucks,trains, and some ambulances as a warning device, and on ships as a signaling device.

You may have noticed, "Alerting the world that a sports team you like did something cool while early sleepers toss and turn" is not among the list of intended uses, which begs the question, unless someone is operating a large method of conveyance whose only meaningful method of communication is a loud, context-less, sense of urgency-inducing horn, why are household air horns so accessible? Shouldn't they be tucked away for zombie apocalypse-esque emergencies? I've made my share of worrisome impulse purchases at Target -- Ring Pops, Crossroads on DVD, and trendy accent pillows galore -- but how does an individual come to have an air horn at their disposal for honking during televised sporting events?

The origin of modern sports air horn usage likely began with a guy named Dave. Dave liked sports a lot, and they became a source of escapism for him. He started feeling like he won every time his team won, like his fandom had these super powers that only worked if he cared more and more about the team every season. Dave decided to change his Facebook profile photo to a picture of the athletes on this team in full uniform, and he even got the team's logo tattooed on his right leg, in a spot prominent enough for people to judge him two out of the four seasons.

One day Dave was out shopping for foam fingers and thinking about how cool it would be if his team won so he could rub it in with his rival team sports buddies for the next six to eight weeks when he happened upon an air horn display. "I don't own a boat or drive anything that requires this worst case scenario method of communication," Dave thought, but then he had an idea. He could use this air horn every time his team succeeded so people both near and far would know that he was pleased with the outcome of the game. Moreover, apathetic strangers and mellow sports fans alike would be able to infer from the sound (that could simultaneously cause a heart attack and wake a baby in the same household) that something of note happened in the professional sports arena. From that day forward, Dave's bastardization of the air horn spread, and we got to where we are today being awakened by horns in the night.

It may seem tempting to use a loud horn to share that you're happy, but let's not forget that this crude instrument is fundamentally the same style of horn you routinely use to symbolically shake your fist at other drivers. At this point in our history, horn linguistics is still in its infancy, and it's too soon to start muddying the waters with careless usage. More importantly, unless you have a barge docked somewhere, you probably shouldn't even own an air horn in the first place.

Can we come up with some alternative to celebrate late night sports victories? Has anyone heard of this thing called making a toast? Hugging? High fives? Clapping your hands? Saying "yay" or "woo"? Jumping up and down? Consuming copious amounts of alcohol in lieu of ostentatious displays of excitement that may wake others who completely respect your right to celebrate sports victories, but also selfishly enjoy a good night's sleep?

We can pick up where Dave left off. We can all choose to celebrate our favorite team's wins in a way that allows other people to sleep peacefully without fearing that a DJ who's over-using sound effects is breaking into their home. Cherish your favorite team's successes by buying some commemorative gear or going to a parade, but know that no sports victory should imbue you with a need to honk a horn. Not only is it kind of unnecessary and rude, it cheapens life's truly horn-worthy moments.

Originally published at Sass & Balderdash.

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Gina Rodriguez To Publish Book On Her Father's Words Of Wisdom

Wed, 2015-06-17 14:54
Gina Rodriguez may have just given her dad the best Father’s Day gift ever.

The “Jane the Virgin” star announced on Tuesday that she'll be publishing a book that will encompass all of the lessons she's learned from her father, Genaro Rodriguez. The book, titled I Can And I Will: Tools My Daddy Gave Me, is expected to be released by Simon & Schuster in 2016, according to Entertainment Weekly.

Rodriguez enthusiastically shared the news on Twitter after the announcement by the publishing company.

I couldn’t be more excited to share that I will be publishing my book, I Can and I Will: Tools My Daddy Gave Me w/@simonbooks! #icanandiwill

— Gina (@HereIsGina) June 16, 2015

“In I Can and I Will, [Rodriguez] will share words of wisdom from her father,” Simon and Schuster associate editor Emily Graff told EW. “These are words that give her strength in times of hardship. Through personal stories, she will describe how these words were challenged, and confirmed. This book will be something you can turn to when you are in search of a friend, when you need inspiration and encouragement.”

When Rodriguez, 30, accepted her Golden Globe in January, she spoke about the influence her father has had on her life and career. Rodriguez is just the second Latina to win a Golden Globe for best actress.

"This award is so much more than myself," Rodriguez said during her acceptance speech. "It represents a culture that wants to see themselves as heroes."

"My dad used to tell me to wake up each day and say, 'I can and I will,'" she continued. "Well, Dad, today's a great day. I can and I did."

Rodriguez and her fans have since used hashtags like #ICanAndIWill as empowering statements. Earlier this week, the actress channeled her father again with an Instagram photo and caption that thanked him for introducing her to boxing as a child.

My father gave me boxing as a young kid. Boxing makes me feel strong both inside and out. It puts perspective on what beauty truly means to me, it's not about being skinny it's about being strong. Strong in my character, strong in my heart, strong enough to give my strength away to another. Thank you @jeremyrayvaldez for capturing this moment. You are an incredible actor, photographer and friend.

A photo posted by Gina Rodriguez (@hereisgina) on Jun 15, 2015 at 4:06pm PDT

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What Budget Crisis? The Truth About Illinois State Revenue

Wed, 2015-06-17 13:52
Illinois working families already pay their fair share. Big banks, large corporations and the wealthy, however, continue to pay less and less to support the infrastructure that our state needs to thrive.

The result? The lives of hundreds of thousands of Illinois residents hang in the balance, as the deadline for the legislature and the governor to adopt a balanced state budget came and went. Elected officials still need to find $3-4 billion in new funds to pay for the vital and essential services and programs that support our economy, our communities and our families.

This so called budget crisis is really a revenue crisis.

In February, our rookie billionaire governor, Bruce Rauner, proposed a budget with $6.6 billion in cuts -- slashing vital services and programs that support Illinois families and children. He did this while bringing back tax breaks for wealthy corporations. That was his idea of shared sacrifice.

We are calling for a different kind of shared sacrifice -- one where the wealthiest individuals, corporations and big banks are asked to finally pay their fair share.

Illinois is one of only seven states that refuses to ask its wealthiest citizens to pay more in income taxes. Two thirds of Illinois corporations pay $0 dollars in state income tax. And every year, we lose over $913 million to banks who charge the state millions in fees and collect profits from predatory lending deals called debt swaps.

There are short term revenue solutions to fix this year's budget gap and long-term proposals that will structurally address the deficits that face us each year without fail.

There has been little to no talk in the halls of the Capitol about real shared sacrifice, about true progressive revenue solutions. Solutions that ask those who have more to pay more. Solutions that follow the money.

That's why recently, during the final official week of the legislative session, 25 grassroots community leaders and rank and file union members moved to Springfield to occupy our state Capitol. Named the "Revenue Truth Squad," these leaders brought the realities and voices of Illinois working families literally into the center of the Capitol. Determined to have the voices of working families heard in the debate about the future of our state, the Revenue Truth Squad carried out a week of creative direct actions and advocacy in and around the Capitol building.

They brought a "Raunerville" encampment into the Capitol and held it up outside the House chambers, to demonstrate the devastation of Rauner's proposed budget cuts. Truth Squad members held a die-in outside the Governor's office and the House Chambers. We held a mock press conference with our own billionaire Governor, where we unveiled the Millionaire Tax Ticker which calculates the amount of new revenue that would have been generated if we enacted the proposed millionaire tax ($2 million a day). And on the final day, after a last direct action inside the Capitol, we created a living art exhibition demanding that Speaker Madigan and Governor Rauner walk a mile in our shoes.

All throughout the week, the Truth Squad members visited with legislators from across Illinois, urging them to support real progressive revenue solutions.

There are three specific proposals that were championed by the Grassroots Collaborative's Revenue Truth Squad.

Tax Millionaires: About 64 percent of voters support a millionaires tax, getting far more votes than the Governor himself. Illinois is surrounded by states with much higher tax rates for their wealthiest residents. There are several paths to creating a fair tax in Illinois, with lower rates for lower incomes and higher rates for higher incomes. The estimated new revenue from such a change varies according to which path we choose -- between $1 billion and $6 billion.

Close Corporate Loopholes: Only 8 percent of state revenue comes from corporate income taxes and 2/3 of Illinois corporations pay no state income tax at all. Closing 5 major corporate tax loopholes would bring in $700 million in uncollected revenue annually.

Renegotiate Bad Bank Deals: Illinois taxpayers spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year on fees for financial services, which contributes to the state's financial distress. Last year alone, Illinois paid at least $413 million in fees to financial institutions (not all firms are required to disclose publicly). We call on state officials to show leadership by using the state's substantial buying power to negotiate fairer terms. For example, a 20 percent reduction in fees would result in at least $82 million. Any cut to state aid to municipalities should not be implemented unless those cuts are matched by equally proportionate reductions in fees for financial services paid by State Agencies.

And that work led to a very bright spot at the end of the week.

The House of Representatives voted unanimously to pass H.R. 531, introduced by Representative Chris Welch (D-7). H.R. 531 calls for the general assembly and the Governor's office to negotiate a reduction in the fees paid by the state to major financial institutions each year. Illinois pays at least $413 million in fees each year to banks and other private financial institutions. H.R 531 calls on the state to negotiate a reduction in fees, proportionate to any cuts that budget cuts passed on to human services or municipalities -- a shared sacrifice. And if financial institutions won't renegotiate, then they go to the back of the line in terms of which bills get paid first. So, if there is a revenue shortfall, as predicted, childcare providers and mental health clinics would be paid first, banks last.

As he continues to hold the state budget hostage, Governor Rauner has just announced his first set of cuts and closures to take effect on July 1. These cuts and closures have real impact on seniors receiving home care, working parents who depend on child care programs to stay employed and youth in the juvenile justice system -- to name a few.

These are impacts that will not be felt by the Governor. Or by the state legislators. They will be felt by working families, seniors, children and people with disabilities. And it is up to us to force the politicians to deal with the real crisis that they have created and that they are perpetuating. The revenue crisis.

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Cycle Naked -- Your Brain Will Thank You

Wed, 2015-06-17 13:30
I took up cycling several years ago after reading multiple scientific studies concluding that the simple act of repetitive clockwise leg movement while hunched over and struggling to breathe (my definition of cycling) improves memory and concentration while reducing stress and anxiety. This being science, researchers no doubt spent astronomical hours and federal grant monies to recruit cycling enthusiasts, place them on stationary bikes, hook them up to heart monitors, take copious notes ("Look, Dr. Jackson, he's still pedaling! What do you make of that?") and then observe those same participants as they solved puzzles and engaged in cognitive activities.

Save yourself time and tax dollars, scientific community. Next time, simply hop aboard a bike and ride naked through a large metropolitan city.

Having recently completed Chicago's chapter of the annual World Naked Bike Ride, I heartily concur with the "cycling helps your brain" theory. For the record, I wore boxer briefs and a helmet, firm in my belief that nudity should always take a backseat to safety, particularly when one is riding up Michigan Avenue on wet pavement while high-fiving Uber drivers. And for those who feel my decision to ride partially clothed was somehow illegal, allow me to set the record straight. Total nudity is not a WNBR requirement; some participants wore full cycling attire while others bore all, much to the horror of young families strolling near the American Girl store on the Magnificent Mile.

Let's start with concentration. My prefrontal cortex - the portion of the brain that controls the ability to focus - was in fine form. Perhaps it was the random bare breast that appeared on my left, the occasional dick on my right (the anatomical variety, not the guy who cut me off on the Kinzie Street Bridge) or the body-painted butt in front of me proclaiming "Less Gas, More Ass" an event slogan coined to encourage more reliance on "people powered vehicles."

Alas, the cheap acrylic paint was no match for the recurring rain showers; the message slowly dissolved into its owner's intergluteal cleft while I pedaled and focused intently. Add that image to all the other stimuli flooding my acetycholine receptor and I felt confident I could work as the lone barista at Starbucks and correctly produce every order during the Monday morning rush, no matter how complex. This from a guy who, prior to the ride, could only half remember his wife's request to pick up ground beef AND toilet paper from the grocery store.

As the phalanx of nudity streamed up Rush Street, causing upper crust Gibson's Steakhouse patrons to whip out their cellphones for something other than trading stocks, my stress and anxiety levels evaporated. Granted, I was a bit anxious upon checking in for the event and realizing I could be riding alongside "Baby," a New York man whose cycling ensemble consisted of a Scooby Doo mask, ski googles and candy-striped underwear. But Scooby/Baby quickly melded into the crowd. I bonded with topless, 36-year-old Sarah, riding her fifth consecutive event and insisting she would continue doing so until "my boobs get caught in the spokes."

Anxiety free and armed with my newly returned abilities of concentration and memory, I began to exercise the capabilities of my brain's parietal lobe, processing auditory information, and committing it to memory via the hippocampus deep within the medial temporal lobe. In other words, here are things I overheard on the WNBR and will NEVER forget:

  • "Nice pecker!"

  • "Does anybody have any duct tape?"

  • "Slow down. I don't need road rash down there."

  • "No photos please." I'm still wondering how a publicly naked person could be camera shy.

  • "Why bother closing the door?" (A comment made to a male participant about to urinate in a Porta-Potty)

  • "Go Hawks!"

Even among nudists, Chicago is a hockey town.

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5 Madigan/Cullerton Quotes About Budget Talks

Wed, 2015-06-17 11:52
In the efforts to come to a budget agreement in Springfield by July 1, an unusual but unsurprising pattern has developed in the deadlocked talks.

It goes like this:

  1. Gov. Bruce Rauner, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton meet in Springfield.

  2. Madigan and Cullerton emerge to describe the meeting as "cordial."

  3. Rauner publicly derides Democrats Madigan and Cullerton as beholden to, dependent on and operators of a corrupt political system.

Rauner added a new twist this week when he began airing a 30-second TV ad that singled out Madigan, the state's most powerful Democrat, as the source of the state's financial woes and chief impediment to their solution.

"Mike Madigan and the politicians he controls refuse to change. They're saying no to spending discipline. No to job-creating economic reforms. No to term limits. All they want is higher taxes -- again," the ad's narrator states.

It's an unprecedented move politically and has perplexed most observers. If you're trying to make progress in an important negotiation, why be cordial to your adversary in private only to rip him so publicly? But Rauner was elected on a pledge to break all the china in Springfield's insider cabinet and this, presumably, is part of that effort.

For their part, Madigan and Cullerton have scrupulously avoided returning fire upon Rauner's invective. In a pair of media appearances this week -- Cullerton on WTTW-TV's "Chicago Tonight" on Monday and Madigan in a Capitol press conference the next day -- they offered up some interesting quotes that encapsulate the substance and curious tone of the budget talks.

Here are five of the most notable quotes from Madigan and Cullerton during their recent appearances.

10. (Madigan) When I meet with the governor I'm going to reiterate what I told him a few weeks ago. That the No. 1 problem facing the state of Illinois is the budget deficit and the elimination of that budget deficit will only be done in moderation, not in the extreme. And any actions by anybody in the extreme are not helpful.

9. (Cullerton) We cannot have the state shut down. People maybe in the Chicago area don't realize how important it is what the state does... We also have to make sure that the schools open. The schools literally could not open. Over a third of the money that comes to schools comes from Springfield. And so what's at stake is critical.

8. (Madigan, responding to the question, "Is the governor credible right now?") No comment.

7. (Cullerton) I just want to work together to pass a budget that he can sign and work with him on his other items that are not related to the budget to see if we can address the issues that he wants to address. I'm not going to do any name-calling. I'm not going to react to his name-calling. I would urge him to not do his name-calling.

6. (Madigan) I'll accept his (Rauner's) argument that the current budget deficit and the problem of the accumulated debt of the state has been caused over several years. It's a multi-year problem that's developed. It's going to require strong action by a lot of people in the government to solve those two problems. That's why I continue to argue that if we're to eliminate the budget deficit, if we're to bring down the accumulated debt, everybody has to be reasonable and everybody has to function in moderation, not in the extreme.

Check out Reboot Illinois to see five more attention-grabbing quotes from the legislators.

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After Rauner's Ad Blitz, Madigan and Cullerton Respond

Wed, 2015-06-17 11:40
After Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner's TV ad campaign began Monday, casting House Speaker Michael Madigan and other legislative Democrats as the reason that a budget deal has not yet been reached, Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton reacted. Mark Fitton of the Illinois News Network explained:

SPRINGFIELD -- If any, signs of progress in the standoff between legislative Democrats and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner were few on Tuesday.

With two weeks to go before the fiscal year runs out and no budget in place for the one that starts July 1, the House and Senate spent much of the day on non-budget hearings.

And despite a new Rauner television ad that ripped him, House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, stuck to his talking points.

The speaker did, however, say talks between both parties' legislative leaders were making progress "slowly, slowly."

Senate President John Cullerton sounded a bit more upbeat in a Monday night TV appearance on WTTW's "Chicago Tonight."

"Ironically enough, I think we're going to reach an agreement on the budget, and hopefully we'll do it it before the 1st of July," said Cullerton, D-Chicago.

Cullerton, though, didn't back that up with any hints of concession from either side.

And the governor's office seemed unimpressed.

Check out more analysis and videos of Cullerton and Madigan at Reboot Illinois.

Even with all the news of the budget stalemate coming out of the General Assembly, the Better Government Association's Andy Shaw wants Illinoisans to remember that not all new developments out of Springfield this spring have been bad. Shaw praised the legislature for addressing Freedom of Information Act issues and other transparency and accountability measures. Check out the full list of Shaw's thumbs-ups at Reboot Illinois.

NEXT ARTICLE: 7 top Democratic staffers in the Illinois General Assembly and their salaries

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The Things I Miss Most About My Dad This Father's Day

Wed, 2015-06-17 11:05
Father's Day is coming. Like it or not. This will be my tenth unhappy fatherless day. As the big day approaches I can't help but think of all of the things my dad was to me. And I can't help but think of the things I miss most about my dad.

I really miss the way his left arm got really, really tan from hanging it out the car window to smoke all summer long. Yet his right arm was pasty white. It would have been no big deal if he wore long-sleeve dress shirts. But he didn't. Only short sleeves and a tie for him.

I also really miss report card days. Those were some crazy times in our house. My brother Dat would straight up lie to my Dad's face on a daily basis saying he was doing great in school. His report card told another story. Every freaking time. I can remember driving home from the school and my dad just slamming my brother's head off of the passenger's side window the entire ride home. Still makes me laugh.

Another time my dad was going to have knee surgery the same exact day that report cards were being handed out. I could not believe my luck. He would be in the hospital and way too busy/drugged/in pain to remember report cards. I was very wrong. I remember going to the hospital and the first thing he said was how'd you do on your report card? He got so mad that he whipped out that oxygen tube and lit up a cigarette.

My dad was really calm and very laid back. But we still found ways to really tick him off. One time, pretty sure it was another report card day (he really had a thing for education), I was the one in trouble. I just remember him yelling at me to take out the garbage. My mom chimed in that it was actually one of my brother's jobs. My dad's response was, well if she's going to act like a boy we'll treat her like a boy. Ummmm what the hell does that even mean?

Another thing that really got my dad's blood boiling was the all-girls Catholic high school he sent me to. This may have been the maddest I ever saw him in my entire life. It cost a small fortune to send me there. And one day I came home and announced that my school was changing the sign of the cross. Instead of "In the name of the father, the son, and the holy spirit" it changed to "In the name of the creator, the redeemer, and the sustainer of life".

I think they were trying to take the gender out of God. Perhaps implying God could be, might be, possibly be, a woman. Not on his dime they weren't.

My dad wasn't a male chauvinistic pig. He was totally okay with women wearing slacks, voting and even pumping their own gas. But the implication God was in any way, shape, or form a woman -- that wasn't gonna fly. Not even a little bit.

I know all of the medical experts say my dad died of pancreatic cancer, but I'm pretty sure this incident is what really killed him.

I remember thinking that I really didn't care what the hell I was supposed to say, but when I saw my dad's reaction I knew I could really take advantage. I knew that if I got an F in religion, I would not get in trouble. I got the F in religion. And I did not get in trouble. I saw pride in my dad's eyes that report card day. I still weep thinking about it.

My dad loved the Chicago White Sox. Like, maybe more than he loved us. He watched every single game in his La-Z-Boy. He loved lemonade and was always on the hunt for the biggest cup possible to drink it out of. One summer my brother found a sixty-four ounce plastic cup called "the hog". My dad was in heaven. It was the little things.

My dad taught me so many things that I didn't even realize until I had my own kids. He used to go nuts if we spilled something and used too many paper towels to clean it up. He was constantly ripping paper towels in half. I still feel a pang of guilt each time I use paper towels. If only he had lived to see the select-a-size. He would have been in heaven. Well if he wasn't already in heaven.

When my mom died I remember making all of the arrangements. The funeral director suggested we get a limo for the procession. My dad said no. I argued the fact. My dad simply said we're not limo people. And we all crammed into his little, smoke-filled, green Ford Contour instead. That's one thing I did not inherit from my dad. I think I'm a limo person.

I definitely inherited his sense of humor. I also inherited his laidback demeanor. And unfortunately I've been told I inherited the way he would talk in what he thought was a whisper. I did not, however, inherit his liver. That I got from my mom. I was able to drink my dad under the table by the time I was eighteen.

My dad was such an awesome funny guy. He taught me most things by example. I try to be like him everyday. My brothers and I each have one child that totally reminds us of our dad and it makes us happy. I spent a lot of these past ten years crying. If tears had calories I'd be obese.

But this year I'm remembering all the good times. The times that mattered. The memories I'll have forever. Like the way he liked to scratch his back with a fork. And put his feet up on the table to have an after-dinner smoke. Or compliment my mom by telling her a meal she prepared made his top five list.

And I will laugh. Like the time the gynecologist was trying to explain how dire the situation was with our mom and my dad said, now I'm no genie-ologist, but this doesn't sound good.

The thing my dad taught me the most was to laugh. Even in the worst of times. There is humor in everything.

Follow Eileen's blog No Wire Hangers, Ever.

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Rauner's Anti-Madigan Media Blitz Begins

Wed, 2015-06-17 10:51
Gov. Bruce Rauner has begun airing TV ads across Illinois that attack House Speaker Michael Madigan and legislative Democrats as anti-reform and pro-tax.

The first 30-second spot began appearing this week on TV stations and cable channels throughout Illinois as part of an $826,000 campaign by Turnaround Illinois, an independent expenditure committee established in April. Chicago businessman Sam Zell donated $4 million to the committee on April 17. Rauner added $250,000 on April 30.

The ad singles out Madigan for blocking Rauner's business and political reforms, but its tone is not abrasive. It ends with Rauner reminding viewers that they elected him to change how things work in Springfield.

Watch the video:

Check out more commentary on Rauner's ad at Reboot Illinois.

In early 2015, Madigan proposed an idea to erect a statue in honor of former U.S. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. Hastert, who is now under federal investigation for subverting banking laws, possibly as part of a "hush money" scheme, said "No thank you," to the $500,000 statue, according to the Illinois News Network's Scott Reeder. Check out what Reeder thinks the whole episode means at Reboot Illinois.

NEXT ARTICLE: Best of the best: The top 10 hospitals in Illinois

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Rauner's anti-madigan media blitz begins

Wed, 2015-06-17 10:51
Gov. Bruce Rauner has begun airing TV ads across Illinois that attack House Speaker Michael Madigan and legislative Democrats as anti-reform and pro-tax.

The first 30-second spot began appearing this week on TV stations and cable channels throughout Illinois as part of an $826,000 campaign by Turnaround Illinois, an independent expenditure committee established in April. Chicago businessman Sam Zell donated $4 million to the committee on April 17. Rauner added $250,000 on April 30.

The ad singles out Madigan for blocking Rauner's business and political reforms, but its tone is not abrasive. It ends with Rauner reminding viewers that they elected him to change how things work in Springfield.

Watch the video:

Check out more commentary on Rauner's ad at Reboot Illinois.

In early 2015, Madigan proposed an idea to erect a statue in honor of former U.S. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. Hastert, who is now under federal investigation for subverting banking laws, possibly as part of a "hush money" scheme, said "No thank you," to the $500,000 statue, according to the Illinois News Network's Scott Reeder. Check out what Reeder thinks the whole episode means at Reboot Illinois.

NEXT ARTICLE: Best of the best: The top 10 hospitals in Illinois

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

The Rules for Crashing at a Friend's Place

Wed, 2015-06-17 10:14
This post originally appeared on Map Happy.

Everyone's been there, trying to stretch the dollars. I've crashed my fair share of couches, worn out my welcome (I'M SORRY, INDI AND ANDY) and have been an avid Couchsurfer when times get rough. These days I pay it forward as much as I can but that doesn't disguise the fact that there are basic guidelines. The key to being an amazing houseguest is learning how to talk, walk and breathe like a ninja.

The other option is being homeless.

Be practically invisible.
Don't be messy. Wash the dishes. Walk softly. Talk softly.

For all intents and purposes, leave as little trace as possible. Minimize and occupy as little space as it is possible for a 110-pound, 5'3 person to occupy. Let everyone have the bathroom first. See no evil, hear no evil. You are a ninja in the night.

Clean up the sheets on the couch -- daily.
Couches are in the common area, right? Well, guess what happens when there's a guest sleeping on a common area? It's no longer so common. Be aware that the space you're sleeping on is where most inhabitants of the household would usually congregate outside their respective bedrooms so make an honest effort to fold up the sheets and put them away every morning. Let other people sit on the couch. It's about being respectful.

God, it's good to be in your 30's and have friends who have money and spare bedrooms.

Don't bring guests over.
At least not without permission from the person whose name is actually on the lease or mortgage. Being a guest doesn't entail the ability to bring over other guests, unless you're at your parents' house. I don't know about you but at least my mom is pretty cool about it.

It might be a little different if the invitee is in the same friend circle as your friends but, yeah, no extra overnight guests, plz. (I also think this applies to Airbnb guests).

No. (James Lee / Flickr)
Help out.
I have i-banking friends. Artist friends. Everyone makes a different income. The important thing is that you are able to contribute what you can contribute and, in the event that the shoe is ever on the other foot, to pay it forward.

Be prepared with a gift for short stays--"thank you" cards have a permanent spot in my travel bag--and if you're staying longer, definitely carve out time with your host to take them out to dinner. Cook a homemade meal if that's beyond your means. Make 'em your famous cookies. Show your appreciation.

Finance startup Splitwise even has a guest calculator about how much to contribute. Amount varies depending on how much your friends love you.

Offer to pay for long-term stays.
Anything longer than a week starts dangling into weird long-term territory. Two weeks is super substantial; any longer than that and it might even be possible to turn into a real subletter (or freeloader). Definitely preempt to pay for some rent and/or utilities; still beats staying at a hotel, right? To keep everyone happy, if I'm going somewhere for a while, I usually like to stay at a place for a week max and will arrange another place as a backup, at the very least. For the sake of your friendship.

Long-term stays are relevant to how often you visit.
I'm a bit more gracious to someone I'm close to who I haven't seen in two years and lives in freakin' Munich or someone's who helped me out substantially. If I see you every weekend... we might need to have a conversation.

If you get asked to pay for the utilities, prepare for an exit.
No one wants to have the discussion. (starmanseries / Flickr)

This is a clear sign you're wearing out a welcome. As much as I love my friends and I don't want to them to leave ever--okay maybe that's not true--there's a point in time where everybody should start paying for the fair share of the rent if you're in the spare bedroom all the time or if I haven't been able to sit on the couch for longer than a week.

If I've gotten to this point where I've asked this, it means I don't want to tell you to get out. But I do want you out. This is not my passive aggressive way of telling you to leave. But maybe it is.

Make life easier for everyone by getting the hint. Love you!

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