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Stratton, McCann Primary Wins Expose Weakness in Governor's Budget Position

Thu, 2016-03-17 10:39
The house phone last weekend rang off the hook with robocalls from candidates in Tuesday's primary. This included one Sunday from Gov. Bruce Rauner, who was "askin'" me to vote for Bryce Benton in his Republican state Senate primary bid against two-term incumbent Sen. Sam McCann.

I needed to vote for Benton, the governor said, to prevent the race from being stolen by "Mike Madigan and the Chicago Machine."

I suspect the call I received was paid for with some small part of the $3.1 million that Liberty Principles PAC spent on this race on Benton's behalf. Benton, a state trooper from Springfield, also had raised $108,000 himself, though $50,000 of it came from Rauner. Ultimately, though, McCann prevailed with a 5.4-point victory over Benton.

Obviously, this race meant a lot to Rauner, and not just for the obvious reason of punishing McCann for voting with unions on a controversial arbitration bill last summer.

Rauner needed to oust McCann to show other Republican lawmakers that it's better for them to withstand pressure from constituents and stay with him than to give in to constituents and incur his wrath.

For McCann, the pressure came from constituents in a district heavily populated with unionized state employees. But virtually every Republican in the legislature has some issue that makes him or her especially vulnerable to pressure from back home.

For example, Republicans whose districts include state universities will be in a tough spot in November if no state funding has arrived. To this point, all House and Senate Republicans have stood firm with Rauner and voted against Democrat-sponsored bills that would have brought instant relief to college campuses while compounding the state's horrid long-term fiscal trouble.

Now that they've seen that even a $3 million blitz couldn't unseat McCann for his union bill sin, will these members stay loyal to Rauner with a general election on the line? With each passing week without a budget, the situation at the universities becomes more dire and, by extension, the constituent pressure increases.

Republicans already have been burned once by Rauner, who insisted last May that they vote against the Democrats' budget bills only to then sign the bill that funded elementary and secondary education. Now every Republican on the November ballot will have to explain to constituents why he or she voted against school funding when even the governor supported it. I don't think, "The governor told me to vote that way, then changed his mind" will be an effective answer.

On a related note, Rauner may want to stop invoking all those unnamed Democrats he says would love to side with him but are too afraid of Madigan to do so. The lone Democrat who crossed over to the Rauner camp, Rep. Ken Dunkin of Chicago, was routed Tuesday night by Juliana Stratton, the primary challenger Madigan had backed. Even with $4.2 million in protection money from Rauner allies, the seven-term incumbent Dunkin was defeated by a margin of more than 2-to-1.

I can't say either Rauner or Madigan was particularly magnanimous in their post-primary statements.

Rauner's office didn't issue a direct reaction to the McCann victory when I asked for one.

"Even in a Democratic primary, the Speaker needed to call in the President of the United States to defeat one legislator who dared to show a hint of independent thinking," said Rauner spokesman Lance Trover in an emailed statement that referred to President Obama's endorsement of Stratton. "But the primary elections are over and rather than issuing partisan press releases, the Speaker needs to end his month long vacation and begin working with the Governor to enact a balanced budget alongside structural reforms that grow our economy."

Madigan issued a statement that attributed Dunkin's loss to "how he turned his back on the elderly, children and families struggling to make ends meet, his failure to follow through on promises he made, and his association with Bruce Rauner and the governor's allies."

"...(T)he gridlock that we are experiencing stems not from a difference in political parties, but from the governor's insistence that we focus on his agenda attacking middle-class families, rather than making the budget deficit his priority," Madigan said.

I'm taking it as a good sign that Rauner's statement on Wednesday, unlike the robocall I received on Sunday, didn't contain any allegation of Madigan stealing the 50th Senate District primary from Bryce Benton. Except for McCann, the Republicans have stood solid with Rauner throughout the past year as the governor engaged in a political muscle-flexing match with Speaker Madigan and state government became a shambles.

After Tuesday's results, Rauner needs to get his members some good news to deliver back home as Nov. 8 approaches.

NEXT ARTICLE: 10 lessons from one of the wildest Illinois primary elections in a long, long time

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Stratton Unseats Dunkin in First Rauner vs. Madigan Proxy War

Wed, 2016-03-16 10:16
Challenger Juliana Stratton won a landslide victory over Rep. Ken Dunkin in the Democratic primary in the 5th Illinois House District Tuesday.

Stratton won with 68 percent of the vote to Dunkin's 32 percent.

Stratton's victory came with heavy financial backing from unions and despite record-breaking spending by a Super PAC against her. Stratton's victory was a sharp rebuke to the seven-term incumbent Dunkin, who this session had staged an extended rebellion against House Speaker Michael Madigan and his fellow Democrats in the House.

The Dunkin-Stratton race was of particular interest and import because it directly matched Madigan against Gov. Bruce Rauner over the makeup of the Democratic caucus in the House. (Rauner's political muscle also was tested in a downstate Senate race in which he sought to oust a Republican incumbent. More on that race here.)

The House currently has 71 Democrats, which is the exact number needed to override a gubernatorial veto. While two other Democrats -- Scott Drury of Highwood and Jack Franks of Marengo -- regularly have not supported issues favored by Madigan, generally on tax increases, Dunkin had become particularly antagonistic toward Madigan since Rauner's arrival last year and amid the state budget impasse that has played out since July 1.

Dunkin first crossed Madigan in September, when he was absent for votes on overriding Rauner's veto of a controversial union arbitration bill and restoring cuts Rauner had made to the state's Child Care Assistance Program, which provides subsidized day care for children of low-income working parents. Those efforts failed because of Dunkin's absence.

Dunkin used racially charged language in criticizing Madigan during a Jan. 27 press conference.

"The fact is, this is Month 7 and we're waiting on Speaker Madigan to move. We don't do anything else unless he moves," Dunkin said. "That's a plantation mentality to me... That word is offensive, but what is even more atrocious is us not having a state budget and disrespecting every single citizen..."

While Rauner didn't donate directly to Dunkin, his supporters did. The Illinois Opportunity Project, a libertarian non-profit operated by Rauner ally Dan Proft, gave a total of $1.3 million to Dunkin in three donations between Feb. 1 and March 14. As a 501(c)(4) organization, IOP is allowed to donate directly to candidates. It's not required to disclose the source of its own funding.

Dunkin also benefited from IllinoisGO, a prominent Super PAC aligned with Rauner. Super PACs are not allowed to donate to or coordinate with candidates, but they can spend unlimited amounts in support of or opposition to any candidate or cause. IllinoisGO reported spending $588,000 in support of Dunkin and $994,000 against Stratton.

On the other side, unions were eager to stand up to Rauner and his allies. They donated $940,000 to Stratton from Jan. 1 to March 10, making up 83 percent of all donations. Especially noteworthy was $150,000 from Michael Sacks, one of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's closest associates. Emanuel and Rauner have traded barbs throughout the state budget impasse.

NEXT ARTICLE: Jason Gonzales comes up short in challenge of Michael Madigan

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Black Lives Matter Movement Notches Major Win In Chicago Race

Tue, 2016-03-15 20:43

CHICAGO -- Embattled Cook County States Attorney Anita Alvarez was ousted in the Democratic primary Tuesday night by challenger Kim Foxx (D), who now eyes a November bid for the role of top prosecutor of the nation's second-largest county.

Shortly before 9 p.m., Foxx led with more than 61 percent of the votes with 76 percent of the precincts reporting. Alvarez's staff said she was calling Foxx to concede and vow a "smooth transition."

“Obviously, we hoped the results would be different,” Alvarez told supporters during her concession speech Tuesday night.

“I’ve been criticized that I wasn’t a very good politician,” she said, adding, “I am damned proud of the fact that I am a very good prosector.”

Foxx, 43, triumphed thanks to a wave of support and heavy organization from anti-discrimination and anti-police brutality groups in Chicago, many of which are affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Foxx was among those who criticized Alvarez's handling of the Laquan McDonald case -- including the decision to wait more than 13 months to bring murder charges against the Chicago cop who was seen on camera shooting the teenaged McDonald 16 times.

"The public has to hold feet to the fire on these issues. And Anita Alvarez's feet have not been held to the fire," Foxx said in an interview with the Chicago Reader

The Chicago native's history was also undeniably powerful: Raised in the now-demolished Cabrini-Green projects, Foxx fought through homelessness in high school to make it to college and then law school. She spent 12 years as a prosecutor in the Cook County States Attorney's office, eventually working under Alvarez. 

Foxx has said she was initially inspired by Alvarez, who held the role as Cook County's top prosecutor since 2008, when she was the first woman and first Latina to score the Democratic nomination. But as those feelings gave way to disappointment, Foxx moved on to become chief of staff to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, considered the most powerful Chicagoan, according to Chicago Magazine -- and a noted Alvarez foe. 

Preckwinkle was hardly the only one hoping to see Alvarez's term come to a close. 

Alvarez handily won her previous re-election bids, but her pattern of harsh prosecution of youth offenders -- which made Cook County among the leaders for juvenile life without parole sentences -- and low rate of prosecuting police misconduct eventually drew the ire of those hoping for progressive reform. 

In 2012, Alvarez gave a disastrous interview with "60 Minutes" in which she defended police amid evidence that Chicago, at that point, had managed to rack up more false convictions than any other city in America.

Critics, including Chicago aldermen, activists and justice reform advocates, accused Alvarez of being compromised due to her cozy relationship with the city's powerful police union. 

Alvarez made national headlines once again when video of a Chicago police officer shooting McDonald 16 times was finally made public. 

Kelly Hayes, a Chicago organizer whose group Lifted Voices was among those working to oust Alvarez in favor of Foxx, said Alvarez was complicit in the Chicago Police Department's "blue wall of silence."

"For this campaign, we wanted to make sure people walked into the voting booths with Laquan McDonald and Rekia Boyd in their hearts,” Hayes said Tuesday.  

Alvarez eventually charged officer Jason Van Dyke with first-degree murder -- more than 13 months after the shooting -- despite having obtained video of the incident within two weeks of it occurring. 

"Sixteen shots and a cover-up" became a rallying cry from both Chicago residents and community leaders who called for the jobs of both Alvarez and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose office was also accused of suppressing the video until a court order forced it into the open. 

By then Alvarez had been facing criticism for months from the fallout from Boyd's shooting death by off-duty Chicago detective Dante Servin. 

Boyd, a 22-year-old unarmed black woman, was killed in 2012. Alvarez charged Servin with involuntary manslaughter a year later. 

Hayes said she and organizers like her, which include the Chicago chapter of Black Lives Matter, the Black Youth Project 100 and Assata's Daughters, had "no illusions" that a Foxx win would spell the end of racism or that Foxx would end racism or problems in the CPD. 

"Everyone involved in this campaign understands the limitations of an electoral victory. It’s not going to change the culture of racism, but it’s a step," Hayes said. 

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Read Live Updates On Super Tuesday 3

Tue, 2016-03-15 17:30

More voters are bringing their voices to the 2016 presidential primaries on Tuesday.

Voters in Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Illinois and Missouri have the opportunity to support their candidate of choice on what's been dubbed as Super Tuesday 3. Republican voters in the territory of American Samoa will caucus, as well.

See results here, and read live updates from the primaries below:

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Two Men Convicted for Drug Crimes That Never Happened

Tue, 2016-03-15 16:29
Two different men. Two different states. Two drug convictions. Two prison sentences. Two exonerations.

On an October day in 2014, 60-year-old Joseph Crochon was arrested by Houston, Texas police for possession of cocaine. Like many other defendants facing low-level drug charges, Crochon pled guilty two days after his arrest to possession of a controlled substance. He was sentenced to 30 days in the Harris County Jail.

After Crochon served his jail time and was released, the results of the Houston police crime laboratory test came back: the substance seized by police from Crochon was not cocaine, or any other illegal substance. Crochon has been convicted of -- and, in fact, had pled guilty to -- a crime that never happened. He was exonerated in February 2016.

Many miles away from Texas, and nearly a decade earlier in Illinois 2006, Ben Baker was arrested for selling and possessing drugs. The prosecution's case was based entirely on the testimony of a team of corrupt officers who worked the notorious Ida B. Wells public housing project. At trial, Baker testified in his own defense. According to the Chicago Tribune, Baker testified that the officers ran the housing project like it was "their own criminal fiefdom, stealing narcotics proceeds, shaking down dealers for protection money and pinning cases on those who refused to play ball." Baker denied possessing or selling drugs, and claimed that the police officers targeted him because he refused to pay them bribe money in exchange for protection. The judge rejected Baker's version of events and sentenced him to 18 years in prison. Baker's sentenced was eventually reduced to 14 years in prison.

Ten years later, Baker was released from prison. The cops, it turns out, were as corrupt as Baker claimed. Baker was exonerated in January 2016.

Both Crochon and Baker did not commit the drug offenses for which they were arrested and convicted. In fact, neither drug offense even occurred. But both men nevertheless were forced to endure the horrors of the criminal justice system; Crochon pled guilty to avoid further potential consequences for his "offense," while Baker wasted over ten years of his life in a cold, dank prison cell, separated from family and friends.

In addition to the individual human toll, both cases cost the taxpayers thousands of dollars for expenses associated investigation, court proceedings, and imprisonment, plus the unknowable opportunity costs of resources that could have been spent elsewhere. There was no public gain. No net public safety benefit. No crime solved. No nothing, except the needless squandering of people's lives and public resources.

Innocent people are convicted of crimes that never even happened. These are worst case events that show what happens when the justice system goes completely off the rails. This is true whether a man is convicted of a low-level misdemeanor crime or a more serious felony offense, particularly when those events were not criminal at all.

Surely we have far more pressing things to do as a nation than put innocent people in prison for crimes that did not ever occur. Surely we can do better.

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Reflections from the Trump rally-that-didn't-happen

Tue, 2016-03-15 14:08

Credit: John V. Moore

By John V. Moore

A few minutes after it was announced that Donald Trump would hold a Chicago rally on March 11 at UIC Pavilion, someone created a Facebook page titled Trump Rally Protest-Chicago which amassed thousands of RSVPs within hours.

As a proud progressive, I added my name to the RSVP list because I had to stand against Trump's divisiveness and tweeted: ".@realDonaldTrump is going to regret coming to Chicago. #ShutItDown #shuttrumpdown." I was optimistic that Chicago students, activists, organizers as well as unions would mobilize to disrupt and quite possibly shut down the rally.

When it comes to activism and politics Chicago is a special place. This city's protesters have a reputation of taking to the streets and disrupting things in the name of social justice.

In 2003, 15,000 people shut down Lake Shore Drive for hours to protest the start of the war in Iraq. A May Day action in 2006 saw 300,000 people flood downtown streets in the name of immigrant rights. This past November several hundred protesters successfully blocked entrances to stores on the Magnificent Mile on Black Friday to protest the killing of Laquan McDonald who was fatally shot by a Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke.

When a Chicago student, studying at New York University, created a virtual resignation party for embattled mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook Country state's attorney Anita Alvarez, it evolved from a fake Facebook event to a real protest that saw hundreds of Chicagoans marching through the streets and halting traffic for hours on December 9, 2105.

Needless to say nobody can disrupt like Chicago.

I was outside the entire time for the rally-that-didn't-happen and it was a remarkable spectacle.

By 2:30 p.m., the line of ticket holders to get in snaked around two sides of the Pavilion. A bearded young man in a black skull cap with a Confederate flag emblem held up a sign that read, "What part of illegal do you not understand." The line was overwhelmingly white, all ages and evenly split between men and women. Many carred signs or wore apparel that was pro-Trump or featured politically provocative messages.

Credit: John V. Moore

Diverse groups of young adults were dispersed throughout the line, including a young lady in a hijab, sunglasses and a "Free Palestine" T-shirt who stood with a group that included two men who had keffiyehs draped over their shoulders.

On another side of the building, ticket holders waited to get in while a small group of protesters assembled across the street. A female ticket holder held up a sign that read "Not racists" as folks next to her yelled racist epithets to the protestors who were chanting "Racist! Racist!"

At 4:45 p.m., a multicultural group of thousands of University of Illinois at Chicago students and faculty and other Chicagoans descended on the Pavilion to join the protesters. Poet and Chicago organizer Ethos lead the gathering and informed us that there were more than 100 protesters already inside the rally, which we would later laren was more like several hundred.

"No Trump. No KKK. No fascists in the USA," we chanted as we marched down the street towards the Pavilion. Overhead, police choppers monitored the crowds and in the distance, media choppers broadcast the street action.

I joined the throng of protesters positioned across the street from the Pavilion and in the intersection. Another group of protesters assembled next to the main entrance with only bike racks separating them from those in line waiting to get in. The main entrance of the Pavilion was blocked off by more bike racks. Police officers, including many on horseback, stood between the two groups and the entrance.

We spent the next 90 minutes running through a repertoire of new and old chants. The crowd bounced up and down as it screamed, "I believe that we will win! I believe that we win!" The mood was decidedly festive.

Around 6:30 p.m., we noticed that red shirted Pavilion ushers rushed into the building and locked the doors. Now, protesters moved to the main entrance. We knew something was up.

As folks chanted "Shut it down, shut it down," I called a news reporter inside the venue who told me the rally was cancelled. Others were getting word too and a protester on a loud speaker confirmed the rally was shut down.

A collective cheer arose. The mood was festive. A short while later, as I walked to catch my train home, I saw rally attendees leaving too. There was a lot of tension among protesters and supporters who mingled as they headed to the parking lot and public transportation.

I heard shouting matches and racial slurs. Some protesters took to briefly blocking parking garage exits and even the expressway.

As I waited for my train, I thought of a chant that we didn't use during the protest, one that was made popular by protestors during the 1968 Democratic Convention: "The whole world is watching."

Trump came to town to peddle bigotry, incite violence and make a mockery of our political system. As Chicagoans, we had to do something. The thousands of protestors sent the message that Chicago would not tolerate his divisiveness. It seemed like the right thing to do, after all the whole world was watching.

John V. Moore is a marketing communication consultant, adjunct professor at Columbia College Chicago and a proud Chicagoan.

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Adopting A Dog: 7 Questions to Ask Yourself

Tue, 2016-03-15 13:45

In the Chicago Tribune "Ask Amy" column dated March 8, 2016, advice columnist Amy Dickinson responded to a lonely middle- aged woman's plea for advice on how to improve her social life. Dickinson's advice included three suggestions: move to an apartment, get a dog, and join a gym. I worry that Dickinson's simple advice to "get a dog" was not presented with the caveat that you must first want a dog in your life. Dogs can be wonderful "friend-makers" but owning a dog for this reason only is a terrible mistake.

Dogs are not accessories. Dogs should not be purchased for the sole purpose of attracting the attention of strangers. In fact, some dogs are anti-social; they love their parents and that's it. Dogs are living beings with emotional and physical needs. Owning a pet is a tremendous emotional, financial, and physical responsibility that cannot be ignored.

In Chicago, over 19,400 animals were abandoned at Animal Care and Control last year because pet owners did not properly think through their pet ownership decisions. Before you decide to adopt a dog, please ask yourself the following 7 questions:

1. Do I have the time to have a dog? Dogs need a lot of attention. Housebreaking and training your pet not to destroy your furniture can be exhausting and time consuming. Dogs need to go outside at least three to four times a day to eliminate. In wintertime, this means you will be going outside in the bitter cold weather. In the fall, you may find yourself outside in the rain watching your dog defecate. Additionally, I recommend a minimum of two twenty-minute playtime sessions a day for most dogs. Remember, this is a daily responsibility that cannot be forgotten. If you are not available, you must arrange for another person to do this activity. Many of my working clients hire a dog walker to come to their homes for a fee.

2. Do I have the money to pay for the dog food, toys and their veterinary bills for the next 16 years? A 15- pound bag of dog food costs around $35 and will last a medium- sized dog around one month. Vaccinating your pet and addressing your pet's health concerns may run $500 to $1000 per year or more. Don't ever assume that the purchase price of your dog is your greatest expense or that your pet only needs to go to a veterinarian once a year for vaccines. Dogs do get into trouble-they eat garbage on the streets, cut their foot pads and get infections. Most of my clients bring their pets to see me two to three times a year.

3. Ask yourself, "Where will I be in five to ten years?" Because wherever you are, your pet will be there too. Make sure you realize that some pets can live 16 years and you will be responsible for them. Pets are not disposable and cannot be discarded when they no longer fit your new lifestyle.

4. Do I have the space to have a dog? If you rent, does your landlord allow you to have a pet? If you live in a condominium, are there any weight restrictions? Don't forget that adorable ten-pound German Shepherd puppy will be a seventy-five pound adult!

5. Do I travel often? Not only do you have to find someone to take care of your pet while you are away, but most likely you will also have to pay them to do so. Pets are expensive and a privilege to have.

6. Do I work long hours or have an erratic schedule? Just like children, pets like to sleep, eat and eliminate on a set schedule. If you disrupt their schedule, there may be unpleasant consequences when you get home. If you are away from your home for more than six hours, I recommend that you hire a dog walker to take your pet outside to eliminate and exercise. This may be an additional financial responsibility for some pet owners.

7. Finally, the most important consideration you must reflect upon is if you really want a dog. Are you emotionally ready to connect and love a dog at this time in your life? To thrive, dogs need to emotionally connect to their owners, and you must be ready to receive them.

If you are a pet lover and are not prepared for the total responsibility of pet ownership, ask a friend if you could pet sit their dog while they are out of town or take their dog to the park a few days a week. Another option is to donate your energy and passion to a local animal shelter. These shelters would love for you to walk or play with their dogs.

Don't ever get a pet just to meet a new human friend. Pet ownership is a huge responsibility and should not be taken lightly. Let's try to reduce the number of pets abandoned each year by asking yourself the above seven questions before you adopt a dog.

Dr. Donna Solomon is a veterinarian at Animal Medical Center of Chicago and invites you to email her your questions or future topic ideas to

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The Significance of Chicago's Trump Shut Down

Tue, 2016-03-15 13:39
How a diverse group of Chicagoans took down the bully, braggart racist, and what it means for our movement

The people of Chicago are reviving an old tradition. Young people here, particularly blacks and Latinos, have re-learned a lesson about how real change is made and they are teaching the rest of us:

We have power in the streets that we don't possess in the electoral arena. And using this approach, on last Friday night in the course of a few hours, several thousand Chicagoans did more to stop Trump bigotry than months of media blather and politicians' handwringing.

The protesters' boldness has roots in recent struggles against our infamously vicious, pro-1% mayor. Shutting down half of the city's mental health clinics, attacking teachers and public education while diverting funds to charter schools, giving millions of tax dollars to wealthy real estate developers while illegally harassing the homeless and starving public services, particularly the schools, of funding.

But it was the cover-up of a police dashcam video showing a cop murdering 18-year-old Laquan McDonald, while several others casually looked on, that caused the protests to reach a qualitatively higher level. Gone was any fealty to Chicago's notorious anti-protester laws, bad to begin with, but made much worse in the run-up to the 2012 NATO conference in the city. Other cities with similar laws, please take note.

For weeks, Chicagoans poured into the streets -- sans permits -- blocking the city's busiest streets during rush hour and shutting down Michigan Avenue's posh boutiques and high-end stores on the most profitable shopping days of the holiday season.

The militancy rid the city of a hated police superintendent; it gave the sitting mayor unprecedented low approval ratings; and it has forced the county's supinely pro-cop state's attorney into a fight for her political life.

So it is no accident that it was in Chicago that Donald Trump first got his just desserts. After taking on an authoritarian Democratic Party machine in Chicago, why not take on arch-bully and Republican thug, Donald Trump? And that's just what happened on Friday!

Chicago's response last Friday to Trump was not simply fresh and exciting. It also charts a far more effective path to getting real change than the quadrennial "choice" of picking the least worst next president.

Since Trump declared his candidacy, the media has provided tons of free publicity to his anti-immigrant, sexist, ablist and Islamophobic hate. And politicians in both parties have no principled response to his out-front bigotry -- their policies and statements often mimic his own, just without the bombast and ranting.

Just consider Obama's record number of deportations---something that has earned him the bitterly mocking title, "Deporter-in-Chief," by millions of angry Latino voters who supported him in 2008 and 2012. Or consider the baldly Islamophobic statements Hillary Clinton and her Republican opponents have routinely made over the past few months. Or consider Bernie Sanders' long and torturous equivocations when pointedly asked whether he thought Trump was a racist.

Thousands of Chicagoans demonstrated last Friday that the 99%'s main strength is in the streets, not at the ballot box. It's there, in the streets, that change happens; the ballot box at best only ratifies that change.

But the "street heat" made on Friday shouldn't stop with Chicago. It needs to be replicated elsewhere. If it is, it could herald the beginning of the end of Trump's presidential campaign.

He's built his reputation on being a bully and a thug, and the hate he spews attracts those of like mind to him. But there is a lesson that the movements of oppressed people here and elsewhere, from the civil rights movement to the women's movement to the gay rights movement, have taught us:

Bullies lose face and their support melts away when they are successfully confronted by their victims.

Trump was the recipient of that lesson last Friday night in Chicago. He needs to be a recipient of the same lesson wherever he goes in this country.

Many thanks to the Gay Liberation Network's Roger Fraser for his contributions to this article. Andy and Roger can be reached at

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Why The Illinois Primary Should Be The Nation's First

Tue, 2016-03-15 11:11

A recent study by WalletHub makes the case that Illinois -- not Iowa or New Hampshire -- should hold the first presidential primary election.

It's long been argued that, because of their atypical demographics, having Iowa and New Hampshire as the first primary states invites skewed results. For one, they tend to be whiter than the rest of the country, so those early contests might not be accurate indicators of candidates' performance on a national scale.

WalletHub tackled the issue by compiling a study of how closely individual states resemble the U.S. average in factors like gender, age, race, education, poverty level and political ideology.

Click the states on the map below for WalletHub's rankings of how closely each mirrors the national demographic average. The Top 10 most demographically "average" states -- which is to say, the states that arguably should hold the first 10 presidential primaries -- are listed below.

Source: WalletHub

Here are the Top 10 states that most closely resemble the rest of the U.S., according to WalletHub's analysis.

NEXT ARTICLE: Bruce Rauner not on the primary ballot in name, but his presence will be felt

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Rauner's Name Isn't On The Primary Ballot, But His Presence Will Be Felt

Tue, 2016-03-15 10:52

Clockwise from upper left: Bruce Rauner, Ken Dunkin, Michael Madigan, Juliana Stratton, Sam McCann, Bryce Benton

Bruce Rauner's name isn't on the 2016 primary ballot, but it will be between the lines in a couple key legislative races involving incumbents in both parties.

The districts and incumbents in these races could not be more different, but the results will be important indicators of whether the balance of power in state politics is shifting.

In August, Sen. Sam McCann, a two-term Republican from rural Plainview in Macoupin County, defied Rauner by voting with Senate Democrats on a bill to sharply limit the governor's power in contract negotiations with AFSCME Council 31, the union that represents some 35,000 state employees. He was the only Republican to vote with the Democrats to override Rauner's veto of the bill.

McCann, whose district includes part of Springfield and is home to many unionized state workers, said he merely was voting in the interest of his constituents. Rauner, whose hard-line stance on unions was a defining characteristic of his first year in office, saw it otherwise.

Rauner has endorsed McCann's Republican primary opponent, Bryce Benton of Springfield, and has been responsible for much of the more than $3 million that's been spent on Benton's behalf by Liberty Principles PAC, a Super PAC led by Republican activist Dan Proft. Rauner's Turnaround Illinois Super PAC has given $2.34 million to Liberty Principles PAC.

@GovRauner making the rounds Sunday morning w/state Senate hopeful Bryce Benton at Charlie Parker's in Springfield.

— Dave McKinney (@davemckinney) March 13, 2016

McCann's campaign has received nearly $600,000 in donations since Jan. 1, most from unions eager to push back against Rauner. The result of this race will be a measure of Rauner's ability to keep Republican lawmakers in line.

As Rauner tries to oust a member of his own party from the Senate, he's also defending a Democrat in the House who engaged in acts of disloyalty to Democratic leadership.

Rep. Ken Dunkin, D-Chicago, got himself into trouble with House Speaker Michael Madigan over the same bill that put McCann in Rauner's crosshairs. Twice, Dunkin refused to join fellow House Democrats in voting to override Rauner's veto of the union arbitration bill.

Dunkin also refused to vote with Democrats on a bill to nullify Rauner's cuts to the state's Child Care Assistance program. Instead, Dunkin said he worked with the administration to roll back most of the cuts. Dunkin amplified his dissatisfaction with Madigan in House floor speeches and press conferences.

Now Dunkin faces challenger Juliana Stratton, director of the Center for Public Safety and Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago, whose financial backing has come almost exclusively from unions.

Strategically, this race is far more important to Rauner and the Republicans than the McCann race. House Democrats now have 71 seats, which is the exact number of votes required to override a gubernatorial veto.

Dunkin's rebellion against Madigan means that there is no functional Democratic super-majority in the House.

The race took on a stratospherically high profile a week before the primary when President Barack Obama endorsed Stratton. (Obama's endorsement also was an indicator of just how much Democratic party leadership values Dunkin's ouster.)

The politics behind Obama's surprising decision to endorse Juliana Stratton in the race for state rep.

— Chicago Reader (@Chicago_Reader) March 8, 2016

The Illinois Sunshine database reports that 83 percent of the $1.13 million donated to Stratton's campaign since Jan. 1 has come from unions. Dunkin, meanwhile, received an $800,000 donation from the libertarian non-profit Illinois Opportunity Project (which, like the Liberty Principles PAC mentioned above, is run by Dan Proft).

But that's not all. The Super PAC known as IllinoisGO, which describes its purpose as "defending Democratic incumbents from challenges they may face as a result of taking the tough votes needed to address the crisis" and is funded by Rauner supporters, also has poured money into the Dunkin-Stratton race - nearly $600,000 in support of Dunkin and almost $1 million in opposition to Stratton. Dunkin also has faced opposition from fellow Democrats in this race:

Democrats launch brutal attack on Ken Dunkin, lawmaker who defied Mike Madigan:

— Zoe Galland (@zoegalland) February 12, 2016

If Rauner can help keep Dunkin in office, he'll keep Madigan's power in check, assuming Democrats don't win more seats in other districts in November.

Regardless of the results, the races in the largely rural 50th Senate District and the urban 5th House District will test the power of Super PACs and big money even in races once considered minor.

NEXT ARTICLE: Silencing Donald Trump is a poor way to combat his intolerance, writes this UIC assistant professor

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Life According to the Alternative Rock Band, Guster

Tue, 2016-03-15 09:42
Twenty-five years in the same rock band can make one wax prophetic about life and one's expectations. Guster Frontman Ryan Miller and drummer Brian Rosenworcel discuss playing, performing and recording together since their first day at college, maintaining a following for a quarter century (impromptu dumpster sets in an alley!) and how their music has evolved over the decades. In the most recent episode of The Dinner Party with Elysabeth Alfano, over spicy Chilaquiles from my kitchen in Venice Beach, Ryan, Brian and I discuss life according to Guster.

Enjoy this podcast to go. For more information on Guster and their newest CD Evermotion, see below.

Photo credit: Ryan Murray

Guster currently consists of Ryan Miller, Adam Gardner, Brian Rosenworcel and Luke Reynolds. Ryan, Adam, and Brian met their freshmen year of college in 1991 and have been performing together ever since. They recorded and distributed their first album, Parachute while still in college. In 1996, the second album, Goldfly, was released. The band had mass success with their third studio album Lost and Gone Forever, with the single Fa Fa which made it to the Adult Top 40. They also had success on the charts with Keep It Together, their fourth album, with two singles, Careful and Amsterdam.

A live album/DVD, Guster on Ice, compiled from two shows in Portland, Maine was released in 2004. Guster released its fifth full-length studio album, Ganging Up on the Sun in 2006. 2006 was also the year that Guster won Album of the Year at the Boston Music Awards.

Guster released their sixth studio album Easy Wonderful in 2010. On tour for that album, Luke Reynolds replaced Joe Pisapia, who had joined the band in 2006.

2015 saw the latest studio album by Guster. Evermotion is distributed with Ocho Mule/Nettwerk Records and was created under the production of The Shins keyboardist, Richard Swift.

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3 Chicago Police Officers Shot In Gun Battle; Suspect Killed

Tue, 2016-03-15 01:40

(Reuters) - Three police officers are expected to survive gunshot wounds suffered in the chase of a suspect shot dead on Monday on Chicago's West side, the police department said.

The officers were investigating possible narcotics activity at about 9:40 p.m. when they encountered two suspects and chased one of them into a dark gangway between two buildings, the Chicago Police Department said.

"At some point, the offender fired shots at pursuing officers," it said in a statement. "At least one officer involved in the pursuit was able to return fire, fatally striking the offender."

UPDATE: per Chicago Police spokesman, 3 officers shot here, 3700 block of weat Polk about 9:50 pm

— Sam Charles (@samjcharles) March 15, 2016

One of the pursuing officers was shot in the back, another injured in the foot and a third shot in the chest area, possibly striking a bullet-proof vest, the Chicago Tribune reported, citing sources.

The officers were being treated for non-life threatening injuries at a nearby hospital, the police department said.

"Tonight we were reminded of the dangers that our police face, and the bravery that they routinely display," the office of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement.

The Officer Down Memorial Page shows that 2011 was the last time a Chicago police officer died in the line of duty.

3 Chicago police officers shot on city's West Side

— ABC7 Eyewitness News (@ABC7) March 15, 2016

Eight people were fatally shot and 22 wounded by Chicago police in 2015. In 2014, 37 people were shot and 16 people were killed by police gunfire in Chicago, the Tribune said.

The incident comes amid a U.S. Justice Department investigation into the department's use of force, including deadly force, following the death of a black teenager in a 2014 police shooting.

Police officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder in November, 13 months after having shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times, in an incident captured on a police squad car dashboard video.

The release of the video sparked protests and led to the firing of Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy in December. The city has yet to find a permanent replacement.

"The thoughts and prayers of our entire city are with the officers and their families during this difficult time."

— ChicagosMayor (@ChicagosMayor) March 15, 2016

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When They See the Melee, Do They Hear the Message?

Mon, 2016-03-14 19:22
As I've watched the decay of our civilization and the devolution of our culture displayed at these Trump for president campaign rallies, I have pondered the words of Booker T. Washington, "Let no man pull you so low as to make you hate him."

Donald J. Trump is pulling a whole lot of folk into his cesspit of hate, and he must be held accountable -- not tomorrow when it's too late, but today, before somebody gets killed.

When he pulls you that low, you get drowned in depersonalization and disregard. Your humanity is hidden, and your message is muffled.

He's now pulled us so low that violence has become the storyline.

Love wins, but hate makes the headlines. Why does America seem to have a love affair with hate?

Let's just tell the truth, you can hawk hate, and Donald Trump is one of the best pitchmen in the nation. He can sell it. But he needs distribution.

The mainstream media has had an almost co-dependent relationship with Donald Trump. It's been practically quid pro quo. I've never seen a candidate spend so little and get so much in return. The data is clear. The network evening newscasts, for example, are still wildly overplaying Trump. This story of campaign rally violence is emotionally suffocating, but it's also ratings intoxicating. The media, to my mind, has been complicit in creating this "racial arsonist" who continues to taunt his opponents, and encourage his supporters to verbally and physically harm protesters.

But despite the campaign violence, Donald Trump doubles down, starts calling the protesters "thugs" and gets away with it. We will see if all this helps or hurts Trump this week on so-called "Super Tuesday 2." But his rhetoric is not just divisive and demeaning, it's antithetical to everything America needs in a president right now --- civility, honesty, integrity and a little humility.

But enough about Trump and the corporate media. Let's get back to the rest of us.

What does it say about us that we so easily allow him to pull us into this cesspool of incivility? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us that, "Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; and toughness begets a greater toughness." This is not to say that Trump doesn't need to be challenged and called out, but how we go about doing that is another matter altogether.

I have never been a fan of disrupting anyone's presentation, of infringing on their free speech rights. I didn't like it when they threw shoes at President Bush, and I didn't like it when they interrupted President Obama during his State of the Union address - especially since that indignity was courtesy of a sitting member of Congress. And I don't like it when it happens to Secretary Clinton, Senator Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump.

Let me be clear, I abhor most of what comes out of Donald Trump's mouth; too many times he's crossed the thin line between off the cuff and off the wall remarks. And, yet, I would defend with rare exception his right to express himself. I don't recall Dr. King ever interrupting a speech by Bull Conner.

What I do recall King saying is that "our aim must never be to humiliate the white man," but rather to "act in the struggle in such a way that they will see the error of their approach and will come to respect us."

Now, let me be the first to acknowledge that in this presidential campaign, Donald Trump has shown almost no respect for anyone - women, Muslims, immigrants, the president, the Pope, opponents, protesters (I'm running out of space here, but you get the point).

That said, I just don't want fellow citizens to focus on the melee and miss the message. The message that civilization and hate are antithetical concepts. The message that democracy and oligarchy cannot coexist. The message that we have always been and always will be a nation of immigrants. The message that religious freedom in America is non-negotiable. The message that every child in this country has the right to be safe from violence, food secure, well educated, with a chance to flower and flourish perfecting their individual talent.

That's what I think the protesters were trying to say last week. I'm just not sure we heard it over all the fracas and fisticuffs.

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Will Illinois Republicans Slow or Add to Donald Trump's Momentum?

Mon, 2016-03-14 18:47
Ever since Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination in June, many longtime GOP members have been waiting for his star to fade.

Known for his brash personal style, outlandish political statements and stardom in reality TV via "Celebrity Apprentice," Trump seemed destined for a candidacy that would burn very brightly and fade very quickly.

Nearly nine months later, the star of Trump's candidacy only burns brighter with every passing primary and the Republican establishment has gone into overdrive to stop him from winning the nomination. These efforts will reach their apex just as Trump hits Illinois in advance of the March 15 Illinois primary, in which a victory could all but seal the nomination.

On this week's "Only in Illinois," we look at the Trump phenomenon in Illinois, where recent polls show him with large leads over his three competitors. This is surprising because Illinois, home to arguably the most moderate Republican in the Senate in U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, has been regarded as a bastion of moderate Republicanism.

Meanwhile, Illinois native Hillary Clinton registered even stronger support among Democrats in recent polls.

But as we learned last week in Michigan (and, for that matter, in the 2014 Republican gubernatorial primary), polls can't predict results.

Will Illinois Republicans put a speed bump in front of the Trump Express or give it more momentum as it rolls onward to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July? That's one of our topics on this week's "Only in Illinois."

NEXT ARTICLE: Bruce Rauner not on the primary ballot in name, but his presence will be felt

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People Hate Rahm Emanuel So Much It Might Cost Hillary Clinton Illinois

Mon, 2016-03-14 18:25

The race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders has tightened in Illinois' Democratic primary as Sanders' campaign works relentlessly to tie Clinton to Rahm Emanuel, Chicago's deeply unpopular mayor.

The wealth of votes in the Chicago metropolitan area could be key to victory in the state's Tuesday primary. Early voting has already begun, and turnout is reportedly high in the city and surrounding Cook County.

Over the last few years, Emanuel's handling of multiple shootings by city police and public school closures has raised local ire. A Chicago Tribune poll in January found that just 27 percent of voters approve of his job performance and that 4 in 10 Chicagoans want him to resign. He's even more unpopular among Latino and black voters in the city.

The ties between the mayor and Clinton are long-standing. Emanuel, who endorsed Clinton before she had even announced her 2016 presidential bid, worked as a high-profile adviser to then-President Bill Clinton in the 1990s. He served as President Barack Obama's chief of staff while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.

But since November, Clinton has sought to distance herself from Emanuel following revelations that city officials worked to withhold dashcam footage that showed a police officer shooting Laquan McDonald 16 times as the teenager walked away. Officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder that same month.

While Clinton expressed confidence in Emanuel in early December, she also called for a federal inquiry into the October 2014 shooting and its aftermath while the mayor was resisting such an investigation. She was cooler to him in January, saying that it was up to the people of Chicago to decide whether he is credibly reforming the city's criminal justice system.

Sanders' campaign, meanwhile, seeks to highlight the Clinton-Emanuel relationship. At a press conference on Saturday, Sanders said that she "proudly lists" the mayor as one of her endorsers. The independent Vermont senator also criticized Emanuel for the Chicago Public Schools money-losing investment deals with financial institutions like Bank of America.

"Based on his disastrous record as mayor of the city of Chicago, I do not want Mayor Emanuel's endorsement if I win the Democratic nomination," Sanders said. "We do not want the support of people who are indebted to Wall Street and big money interests."

Sanders' campaign is running a television ad in Illinois featuring Chuy Garcia, the Cook County commissioner who unsuccessfully challenged Emanuel for the mayoral job last year. Another ad features Chicago school principal Troy LaRaviere, who criticizes Clinton by saying, "If you have a presidential candidate who supports someone like our mayor, you have a candidate who's not willing to take on the establishment."

Clinton hasn't talked about Emanuel herself in recent weeks, but on Sunday her husband implicitly criticized the city's response to the McDonald shooting in a speech at a Chicago church.

"She believes we need police reform," Bill Clinton said. "We shouldn't have to go through what this community went through, where everybody is waiting around for a video. There's a simple answer to that -- a lot of cities do it. When the video's taken, you don't leave it with the police department; you put it in a neutral place where anybody can get it when they need it."

Assata's Daughters, a volunteer group aimed at empowering black girls, has unfurled banners across the city linking Clinton to Emanuel and to Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, who is also on the ballot Tuesday. Alvarez may be in danger of losing her job over her response to the McDonald shooting.

Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, a 27-year-old gay Chicago alderman who supports Sanders, told HuffPost that he knocked on dozens of doors this past weekend and found that his constituents, roughly half of whom are Latino, were "overwhelmingly" in favor of the senator.

"The message that Bernie puts out there -- that he will fight for working people, that he's not bought by the corporations, by the super PACs and by the billionaires - that resonates with us here in Chicago because we have a hyper-local example of what happens when you have a corporate Democrat like Rahm Emanuel or Hillary Clinton essentially engaging in pay to play," Ramirez-Rosa said.

On Monday, Sanders visited four of the five states with primaries the next day -- Ohio, North Carolina, Missouri and Illinois. (He omitted Florida, where polls suggest Clinton has a large lead.)

In Illinois, Sanders' campaign hopes that he can repeat his Michigan upset win by appealing to enough African-American and Latino voters. He has struggled so far with racial minorities, leaving Clinton to build up a significant delegate lead by sweeping states in the South.

Clinton's allies in Illinois have worked to highlight Sanders' votes against gun safety measures and his mixed record on immigration reform. Still, communities of color may look to her ties to Emanuel when voting Tuesday.

The Democratic primary is shaping up to be a referendum on the mayor with Alvarez as his proxy, according to Amisha Patel, executive director of the progressive advocacy group Grassroots Collaborative. 

But maybe Clinton will serve as a Emanuel proxy, too.

"It's not right that Wall Street banks are getting billions from the city while the mayor is closing schools, while the state is literally forcing homeless shelters to shut down because there isn't a budget," said Patel. "Yet we're continuing to pay the banks every single month on these really rigged deals. All of this is relevant, and the fact that we have a candidate who is speaking out about these issues is powerful and energizing."

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Chicago's Archbishop Preaches Equality, Solidarity at St. Patrick's Day Mass

Mon, 2016-03-14 17:21
One day after violence broke out at a planned campaign event at the University of Illinois at Chicago for Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, an event that Trump cancelled, Chicago's Archbishop Blase Cupich preached at a Mass for the celebration of St. Patrick's Day, commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Easter Rising, at the historic Old St. Patrick's Church in Chicago, on the urgent need to recognize equality among people and friendship as the key to democracy that leads to unity, peace and solidarity.

Old St. Patrick's was founded 170 years ago in 1846, by Irish immigrants not welcome elsewhere. The oldest continually-used church and public building in Chicago, it survived the Great Chicago Fire in 1871.

To open his homily, Cupich shared a humorous story about his Croatian last name.

Years ago when I was serving as a bishop's secretary, I was asked to get another bishop on the phone. The housekeeper answered the phone in a strong brogue. I asked, "Is the bishop available." "And who would be callin," she insisted. "This is Fr. Cupich," I replied. "And how would you spell that," she demanded. "C-U-P-I-C-H," I offered. With a laugh in her voice, she blurted out: "Isn't that a funny name?"

Now you have to realize that when all of this took place I was young and lacking in restraint, and so I couldn't let that go by. "Well, don't trouble yourself, deary," I explained. "We shortened it; it used to be O'Cupich." She reported me to her boss, wanting to know who that cheeky lad was.

Turning to the first reading from Isaiah 32:15-18, Cupich highlighted the prophet's use of the "image from the natural world to offer a vision about the restoration of society and the civic order to a people alienated from each other and their God. It is a restoration offered to those open to receiving God's spirit," he said. He continued:

"In those days: The spirit from on high will be poured out on us." The desert will give way to an orchard of justice and the orchard of justice will grow into a forest of peace, calm and security. The message is clear. The growth and preservation of human civilization, culture and the social order requires a discipline, a pacing, a collaboration and coordination involving everyone. Growth cannot be forced. It cannot be advanced by favoring some over others, including some and excluding others. It cannot be left to chance, but it has to be intentional, ordered and purposeful in bringing about social solidarity.

Cupich reminded those in attendance that disordered growth leads to cancer in living organisms, as well as in the human society. "When the common good of all is not the aim of society's growth, whether that be in the economy, education, civil rights or civic participation, a cancer grows that damages the whole social body."

The 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising in Ireland served as an example of social isolation and discrimination that led to the killing of Irish nationalists by British forces and the destruction of much of the Dublin city center.

Cupich asked:

How did this happen? What were the causes? A segment of society was told they didn't matter, and were treated as sub-human, "a lower class" not only economically but socially to be excluded from the body politic. Social cohesion wore thin in a system corrupted by inequality, favoring the powerful and wealthy, their self-promotion and preservation to the exclusion of the weak and voiceless. The result: many people lost hope, solidarity vanished, hearts hardened and society ended up becoming infected by a cancer that harmed all.

Twice in his homily Cupich used the same excerpt from the poem, Easter, 1916, by William Butler Yeats, to capture the outcome of long-term discrimination:

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.

Cupich pointed out that an alternative reality is possible, one of unity, friendship, equality and solidarity, according to the text in John 15:9-17. "[Jesus] speaks of the importance of friendship for remaining together. The disciples are not just to be acquaintances but friends," Cupich said.

While friendships take time to develop, once rooted, they "transcend differences of opinion and conflicts, bring comfort in trial and they grow in moments of forgiveness and failing," said Cupich. "For their community to remain united, they needed to befriend one another," he said.

Turning to the broader community, Cupich pointed out that centuries ago Greek philosopher Aristotle, in the Nicomachean Ethics, "noted that friendships are needed for the growth of civilization. He remarked that while friendships, like justice, are not found in tyrannies, they are proper to democracies, 'because the citizens, being equal, have much in common.'"

Aristotle's insight seems forgotten in today's politics and public discourse. Cupich continued:

Our nation seems to have lost a sense of the importance of cultivating friendships as fellow citizens who, being equal, share much in common. Instead, our politics and public discourse are often marked by enmity and animosity. There is an overly competitive character that defines how we relate to one another, emphasizing what divides us rather than what we share in common. And because we do not value growing together, a cancer is developing that threatens to harm us all. Positions harden, progress is stalled, and it is becoming clear that the body politic is nearing the limits of how much suffering it can endure.

Given the reality of divisive, and even violent, political discourse, Cupich asked, "Is it not time to remember that we are a democracy and that in being equal we have so much in common? Can we recapture the value of friendship as fellow citizens? Is that not what we should all pray for this day, as we call on the spirit of God promised by the prophet?"

Cupich asked all Chicagoans to be open to the spirit of God, to take up the work of restoration, a restoration that comes in building friendships, with a commitment to dialogue, a commitment to walk together equals who recognize differences, but know they have so much in common.

In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, called by Pope Francis, Cupich recommended that people reach out to each other with works of mercy that foster friendship and reconciliation and open up new horizons for us to live together as children of the one Father.

The full text of Archbishop Cupich's homily can be found here.

Originally published in the National Catholic Reporter (3/12/16). Tom Gallagher is a lawyer, business executive and writer, who has worked on the cause of sainthood of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and helped create and administer the not-for-profit Mother Teresa of Calcutta Center on behalf of the Missionaries of Charity, and he is also a regular contributor to the National Catholic Reporter.

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Election Board to Review Bogus Newspapers Tied to Rauner

Mon, 2016-03-14 15:43

The State Board of Elections is set to review complaints against Chicago-based Liberty Principles PAC about whether it has been coordinating independent expenditures with candidates in violation of state campaign finance law.

Funded by Gov. Bruce Rauner and former Chicago Tribune chairman, Sam Zell, the group has produced political mailings disguised as newspapers to push its candidates for public office. The weekly "newspapers" have been flooding resident mailboxes across six suburban Illinois counties in the ramp up to the March 15th election.

Residents aren't happy. "I dump those newspapers in with the rest of the junk mail. Enough already," said a Lake Zurich woman, who asked not to be named.

The election board will hold a hearing Monday - a day before the primary election -to determine whether the PAC, headed by Cicero political operative Dan Proft, coordinated with candidates and if there will be public hearings on the matter. In one instance, the complaint alleges that one of committee's "newspapers" conducted a front-page interview with Reggie Phillips, a candidate for the 110th house district - a strong indication of coordination.

The Governor's office could not be reached for comment on the nature of the legal complaints or why he is funding the bogus newspapers.

So why are Gov. Rauner and Zell funding these fake newspapers? Now that Michael Ferro, a staunch Rauner ally, is the controlling shareholder in Chicago Tribune, why is it even necessary?

This is the question responsible media should be asking.

Proft has partnered with Brian Timpone, the former CEO of troubled local news service provider, Journatic, LLC, to produce the newspaper-like political mailings. The two men have a history together - both got their start as staffers for Lee Daniels, the embattled former speaker of the Illinois house. After working for Daniels, Proft became the spokesman for Larry Dominick, the scandal-ridden town president of Cicero, and Timpone focused on online data mining.

Timpone's participation in the shady project begs another question: Why is Zell involved in funding any of this? Didn't he learn his lesson with Timpone the first time around?

The answer is no.

In July 2012, Columbia Journalism Review ("CJR") published a story calling out Tribune for continuing its relationship with Journatic after the service was exposed in a segment on NPR's "This American Life" for plagiarizing, falsifying quotes, and using fake bylines in hundreds of outsourced "news" stories. Under fire, the Zell-run Chicago Tribune was forced to suspend its relationship with Timpone's Journatic then rehired the tainted company just six months later.

In addition to its deal with Chicago Tribune, Journatic also provided real estate content to Chicago Sun-Times, under Michael Ferro's leadership, before news of the scandal broke. Tim Knight, then CEO of Sun-Times Media, was also an investor in Journatic and helped expand its publishing contracts.

CJR summed up Brian Timpone's reputation this way: "Journatic is sinking deeper into a journalism ethics scandal that will leave its reputation in tatters."

But it won't prevent you from getting the big bucks from a wealthy governor and his pals if it serves their political interest.

The Liberty Principle PAC political mailings look almost identical to standard newspapers and are mailed unsolicited every week. The fake newspapers include: The Lake County Gazette, The Champaign Urbana Sun, DuPage Policy Journal, Kankakee Times, East Central Reporter, McHenry Times, North Cook News, and West Cook News.

Some of the candidates supported by the PAC and its "newspapers" are: Allen Skillicorn, in the 66th house district; Bryce Benton, in the 50th state senate district; Dan McConchie, in the 26th state senate district; Brandi McGuire, 72nd house district; Mike DeSutter in the 74th house district; Brad Halbrook in the 102nd house district; Reggie Phillips in the 110th house district; and Paul Schimpf in the 598th senate district.

The political mailers mix story content from the Illinois Policy Institute's Illinois News Network with articles favorable to Liberty Principles PAC's candidates or against their opponents in order to resemble newspapers. Illinois Policy Institute is a tax-exempt 501c3 group that is also heavily funded by Gov. Rauner. IPI consistently promotes Rauner's positions on right-to-work laws, state pensions, and the budget impasse.

This isn't the first time Illinois Policy institute has tried to pass itself off as a legitimate news entity.

After being denied media credentials, Illinois News Network "reporters" sued to get access to press areas on the Illinois House and state senate floors. Last March, a U.S. District judge upheld the Illinois General Assembly decision and denied INN's credentials.

To circumvent the media credentialing process, Illinois Policy Institute recently purchased the Illinois Radio Network, which provides local news coverage to 48 affiliated radio stations in Illinois.

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17 Names You Don't Know Now But Will By The End Of March Madness

Mon, 2016-03-14 14:28

The beauty of the NCAA Tournament is that once the field of 68 gets set, it no longer discriminates. If you play like a star, the nation catches on. If you succumb to the pressure, there is nowhere to hide. Of course, we know that the upset reigns supreme this time of the year as well, which also sets the table for new stars to emerge. In the past, it's been unknowns like Davidson's Stephen Curry or Northern Iowa's Ali Farokhmanesh (recall his iconic 3-pointer to help topple Kansas) or Valpo's Bryce Drew, all the way back in 1998. Whether they go on to achieve NBA success is immaterial -- March is about so much more.

With that in mind, here are 17 names you don't know now but will by the end of the madness.

Email me at or ask me questions about anything sports-related on Twitter at @Schultz_Report, and follow me on Instagram at @Schultz_Report. Also, check out Bleacher Report Video for my full college hoops analysis throughout the entire tournament. And tune in to my SiriusXM Radio show Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3-6 p.m. EST on Bleacher Report channel 83.

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Illinois Has a Crisis of Confidence in Government. Here's What We Can Do to Change That

Mon, 2016-03-14 12:32
A recent Gallup poll shows us just how low Illinois politics have sunk in the eyes of the public: We rank dead last among the 50 states when in comes to confidence in state government.

A shocking 75 percent of those polled--a much higher percentage, by the way, than even the other states in the bottom five--believe Illinois government can't do its job.

Sadly, that number is not surprising. The promise of a government that works for all people is badly broken in Illinois. Every day brings fresh news about the gridlock and hyper-partisanship in Springfield, the sinking approval ratings for our state leaders, and the resulting cynicism, anger, and distrust among the public. Closing in on a year without a state budget? Well, what do you expect, we say with a disgusted shrug--it's Springfield.

Illinois isn't an isolated example of political dysfunction. As President Obama has pointed out, America as a whole desperately needs and deserves a "better politics" at every level of government. In a recent speech to lawmakers in Springfield, Obama noted that a "poisonous political climate" drives citizens away from participating in the political process. And in his last State of the Union address, the president argued that a healthier democracy, in which we all have an equal say, requires two essential ingredients. First, we must change the systems that govern political participation. Second, we have to get more people involved in political and civic activity. 

The good news is we can take direct and immediate action now to help level the political playing field in Illinois. Right here in the president's home state, there's growing support for two common-sense solutions that will disrupt politics as usual and make government more responsive to the needs of ordinary people. Each of these reforms would empower voters, and each reflects the core values of any high-functioning democracy: equality, opportunity, fairness, diversity, and transparency. 

Reforms for immediate impact

The first reform is to enact automatic voter registration. Two states, Oregon and California, have already done so, and legislators in 34 states, plus Washington D.C., have introduced such bills. Illinois is among them. SB 2134 - dubbed the new motor voter bill -- would automatically register eligible citizens to vote when they apply for, update, or renew their driver's license or state ID. The legislation would make our voter registration process more cost-effective, secure, and convenient. Anyone who is eligible would have to opt-out if they don't want to be registered, instead of having to opt-in under our current system. 

The second step we can take toward a healthier democracy is to reform our state's partisan redistricting process. The current process virtually ensures that the game is rigged against giving voters real choice at the ballot box. Our recent CHANGE Illinois report, for instance, found a dramatic increase in recent years in the number of state legislators who were elected without any opposition. (Our full report is here.) And when voters go to the polls March 15, they'll find only five of 52 state Senate races, and only 12 of 154 state House races, with at least two candidates on the ballot. 

Luckily, though, a major reform proposal is picking up steam that would give the power to redraw districts to a nonpartisan commission instead of a handful of powerful politicians. Supporters, from the left and the right of the political spectrum, have already gathered more than half a million petition signatures to help place a constitutional amendment on the November 8 ballot that would create a nonpartisan map-drawing commission. It's time to let the voters decide who should draw the legislative maps in the Land of Lincoln.
We, the people, have the power to fix the governing crisis in Illinois.  All of us who care about achieving true democracy should resolve to get informed and get more involved in our public life. Whether it's attending a town hall forum, taking someone to the polls or just making sure we vote in every election ourselves and encourage our friends and neighbors to do the same--we all need to do our part.

The late Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said, "The most important political office is that of the private citizen." CHANGE Illinois is committed to getting more people elected as public citizens who will roll up their sleeves and take the reins of our democracy.

Creating a better politics is up to us.

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The First Rule Of Trump Rally Fight Club

Mon, 2016-03-14 08:27

1st Rule: You do not talk about substantive issues.


2nd Rule: You DO NOT talk about substantive issues.

3rd Rule: Fights end when someone goes limp, taps out, or passes out drunk.


4th Rule: It's not over until the fat lady sings. Or until the old lady heils Hitler.

5th Rule: Get 'em out.
6th Rule: Every fight must contain at least one person wearing camo.

7th Rule: It's not a racial thing. Seriously. We're spitting in each other's faces because we disagree over Chinese tariffs.
8th Rule: If this is your night at a Trump rally, you have to fight.

-- 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.