Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Is this proposed legislation good?

Look for some merchants to try to slip such a surcharge into their transactions. Is this a problem we should be addressing or at least discussing?
SPRINGFIELD - With the 98th General Assembly about to swing into full gear, State Rep. Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) is looking towards consumer protection with her first ever piece of legislation aimed at credit card user fees.
“There are certainly signs that the economy is moving again; however, families are still weary of fee increases,” Wheeler stated.  “Even small savings can go a long way, and now is not the time to begin burdening families with increased fees, regardless of their size.”
The measure, HB 977, seeks to make it unlawful for merchants to impose a surcharge on a consumer who elects to pay with a credit card.  In July, an antitrust settlement between the major credit companies, Visa and MasterCard, and merchants will now allow retailers to charge a higher price for consumers who choose the “credit” option as opposed to the “debit” option when making purchases beginning on January 27 of this year.  Prior to the settlement, merchants were only allowed to offer discounts to non-credit card purchases, not to charge a higher price to those paying with credit.

This bill marks the first piece of legislation introduced by Rep. Wheeler and is already receiving
support from many of her constituents.
Area business owner Pete Kalantzis, owner of Marzano’s Wood Fired Italian Restaurant in McHenry, has already vowed not to charge customers.  “Me personally, I will not charge my customers,” Kalantzis stated.  “Credit cards are a part of our cost of doing business.  We are providing a service and we shouldn’t be penalizing our customers for using credit cards.”
“This is exactly why Rep. Wheeler will be an asset to the people of McHenry County,” said Ed Donahue of the Law Office of Donahue and Walsh.  “This is a common sense approach to an issue that affects everyone.  I am the owner of a small business and credit card surcharges have always been a cost of doing business.  I am also a consumer and this is a bill that protects the consumer.”

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Doctor probes teen on guns in the home

Medical people at Christ Hospital are now questioning children about whether their parents have guns at home. The answers are going into a database operated the Federal government. Now why does the Federal goverment want to know of a kids parents have guns? Is there anyone out there that thinks this is a good idea?

Read about this in today's John Kass column. Evidently, these types of questions are mandated by provisions contained within Obama care.
Doctor probes teen on guns in the home

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Chicago is Underwater

It's too early to tell but Richard M. Daley's malfeasance may have  destroyed our city.  He spent all of the money and didn't consider the possibility of an economic slowdown. If the city is to be saved and continue to exist as we know it, bitter medicine has to be taken. 
Attention City of Chicago homeowners, employees and retirees. It looks like that side job you have been working for the last 20 years is going to become handy. That pension they kept talking about, that health care, that civic pride, that great tradition, that this, that that....................it was all just a bunch of wishful thinking. Read the full report and blame it on the management. Press Release

Pew Study Finds 61 Cities' Retirement Systems Face $217 Billion Gap

Sixty-one key cities across America have emerged from the Great Recession with a gap of more than $217 billion between what they had promised their workers in pensions and retiree health care and what they had saved to pay that bill, according to a report released today by The Pew Charitable Trusts. The new report includes the most populous city in each state, plus all others with populations over 500,000.
For pensions, these cities had a shortfall of $99 billion in fiscal year 2009, the most recent year with complete data. The rest of the shortfall—$118 billion—was for retiree health care and other benefits. Because some cities are slow to report their results, a complete set of data was available only through fiscal year 2009. Over the long term, cities and states strengthen their fiscal position if they have policies that aim to fully fund their pension and retiree health care obligations.
Between 2007 and 2009, 16 cities consistently did well in funding their pensions, while nine cities underperformed. Wide disparities exist in how well prepared cities are to fulfill their pension obligations to employees. Milwaukee, Wisconsin had a surplus at the end of fiscal year 2009, with enough money to cover 113 percent of their liabilities. At the other end of the spectrum, pension systems in four cities—Charleston, West Virginia; Omaha, Nebraska; Portland, Oregon; and Providence, Rhode Island—were the most poorly funded, with Charleston trailing all the cities at 24 percent.
“Cities like Charlotte, Milwaukee, and San Francisco show that pension obligations can be met in a sustainable and affordable way that benefits employees and taxpayers,” said David Draine, senior researcher at the Pew Center on the States. “On the other hand, rising costs for poorly funded pension systems can crowd out funding for other city priorities like roads and education, lead to tax increases, or threaten retirement benefits.”
While investment losses during the Great Recession depleted cities’ pension funds nearly across the board, the new Pew report found another factor made the difference between the best- and worst-funded pension systems.
“Having studied 61 cities and the 50 states, the better-funded plans all share one characteristic; they have the discipline to pay their annual pension bills,” Draine said.
Nearly six out of 10 cities made at least 90 percent of their annual payments in all three years studied. Among those jurisdictions, pension funds weathered the recession better and their funding levels dropped only half as much as cities with poor funding habits.
How cities interact with their state can also have an influence on their pension system. For example, in Wilmington, Delaware, the six city-managed pension plans were on average 69 percent funded in 2010. In contrast, the pension fund managed by the state, which includes Wilmington police officers and firefighters hired since 1993, was 96 percent funded. Wilmington has since decided to enroll new general employees in the state-run plan.
However, in Louisville, Kentucky, most of its employees are enrolled in two state-run retirement plans. While the city consistently paid 100 percent or more of its required contribution in fiscal years 2007-2010, its pension savings kept losing ground because the state required cost of living adjustments without ensuring they would be funded. That mandate substantially contributed to the unfunded liability facing the city. 
“When city leaders lack the authority to fix their underfunded pension systems, it can further strain budgets,” said Draine. “Both city and state policymakers will need to work together to put these poorly funded plans back on a firm footing.”
For pensions, the 16 best performing cities included in the Pew study are: Albuquerque, New Mexico; Baltimore, Maryland; Charlotte, North Carolina; Dallas, Texas; Denver, Colorado; Des Moines, Iowa; Los Angeles, California; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Salt Lake City, Utah; San Antonio, Texas; San Francisco, California; Seattle, Washington; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Virginia Beach, Virginia; Washington, D.C.; Wichita, Kansas.
The nine worst performing cities included in the Pew study are: Charleston, West Virginia; Chicago, Illinois; Fargo, North Dakota; Jackson, Mississippi; Little Rock, Arkansas; New Orleans, Louisiana; Omaha, Nebraska; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Portland, Oregon.
Besides pensions, many localities also have promised health care, life insurance, and other non-pension benefits to their current and future retirees, but few have started saving to cover these long-term costs. As of 2009, only Los Angeles, California and Denver, Colorado had even half of the money needed to fulfill their promises to employees. Thirty-three cities had set aside nothing to pay for this bill coming due.
About the Methodology: 

Researchers examined the retirement plans listed in each city’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). Principally from these documents, Pew collected the actuarial value of assets and liabilities for each defined benefit pension plan and other post-employment benefit plan that a city participated in for fiscal years 2007, 2008, and 2009. Because some cities are slow to report their results, a complete set of data was available only through fiscal year 2009. The report also includes 2010 data for 40 cities. 
The Pew Charitable Trusts is a nonprofit organization that applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public, and stimulate civic life.   

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

New Approach

After some thought, brought on by my recent retirement, I have decided to try using a new format for this blog. Instead of daily post(s) about something affecting us, I am going to post something of interest, less frequently. The something of interest will probably be an article about a subject which touches our neighborhood, either directly or indirectly. Something which has in the past or may in the future, affect the way of life that we have in the 19th ward. 

I'm not going to be writing about falling trees, bake sales or the classes being offered by BAC (although all of those are important). Part of what I want to accomplish is to stimulate discussion about changes in society which are somehow being felt here. Some of these changes are well known and some of them are subtle. I think I am helping out the neighborhood by creating awareness. Also, I only have so much time in the day and I certainly don't want to spending it in front of a terminal. 

As always, I will continue to invite serious discussion. Thank you for your support. Murph

Chicago Schools


Underneath the Chicago Teachers' Union outrage against proposed school closings is a note of optimism: parents are leaving inner city failing schools empty.  There are 100,000 empty seats in a Chicago school system set up for 400,000 students.
How did the Chicago Public School system lose 100,000 students, forcing school closures to be considered? They "flew" through school choice to charter schools, private schools, home schools while the rest escaped to other cities, as well as Chicago's suburbs. Those especially ingenuitive parents saving their kids left behind a travesty in the form of crumbling buildings housing discouraged and down-trodden families. Those left - especially in Chicago's south and western neighborhoods - are now being ruled by gangland terrorists and drug dealers.  
Despite community pressure to keep failing and deteriorating schools manned with union teachers and staffers, Chicago Public Schools' exhorbitant, burdensome costs on an exhausted taxpayer base are forcing demand for substantial budget cuts. Chicago teachers are opposed to any personnel cuts, and they're desperately looking for reasons to keep schools open.  
EAG News points out the latest CTU tactic to keep schools open: it's too dangerous for students to go to new locations where they may be forced to cross gang territorial boundaries.
Instead of appropriately dealing with gang-related violence, an independent Chicago school closure commission is recommending no school closures because such a move could force students to cross gang lines.
So in Chicago, gang violence is the “new normal” and instead of combating and gaining some control over the problem, city leaders are simply accommodating it.
Still, think of those 100,000 students that have escaped Chicago school system's virtual prison and their persistent parents that pushed and pulled to get them out.
Good for them. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Quinn is a failure.

Pension reform was supposed to be one of Gov. Pat Quinn's biggest accomplishments, an issue he proclaimed he was "put on Earth" to solve after the failure of "12 governors, 13 speakers of the House and 13 Senate presidents" before him.
If last week's result is any indication, fate may have other plans for Quinn. Instead of declaring victory after a yearlong push to overhaul the state's vastly indebted government worker pension system, the Democratic governor joined that same list of leaders who've been unable to bridge wide differences on the politically tricky issue.
Quinn chalked it up to "political timidity" by legislators unwilling to cast tough votes, and there's little doubt lawmakers share in the blame. But the governor's inability to win on several other high-profile issues he had championed before the lame-duck session, including gay marriage and an assault weapons ban, resurrected long-simmering questions about his leadership abilities.
His governing style is often puzzling: He declares deadlines for lawmakers to act, setting himself up for failure when the date comes and goes and nothing happens. He publicly switches positions multiple times on major issues, leaving his allies wondering if they can trust him. And he seems to lack the political skills of past Illinois governors who were able to get stakeholders in a room, find common ground and seal the deal.
"He's not constitutionally cut out, I don't think, to be a manager," said Charles N. Wheeler III, who teaches how to cover state government at the University of Illinois at Springfield. "He is more a rabble-rouser, a populist, a bomb thrower out there stirring the pot. But when it comes to actually figuring out how to get things done, that is not his strong suit."
Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, put it more gently.
"It's not his strength, passing legislation in the General Assembly. You know that," said Cullerton, who credited Quinn for generally doing a good job. "He's never been in the General Assembly, but the four leaders have been here. We know how to pass bills."
But rescuing the pension system from $96.8 billion in debt presents a much larger challenge than passing your average bill. It's particularly tricky for ruling Democrats, many of whom campaigned on pension reform but risk angering public-sector union workers who traditionally have been key supporters.
Indeed, Quinn acknowledged that pension reform is likely the toughest vote lawmakers could face. In an interview with the Tribune on Friday, Quinn said he didn't view the latest inaction on the matter as a defeat, but rather a temporary pause in negotiations.
"I was a cross-country runner in high school, long distance. I was captain of the team, and sometimes you'd come to climbing a hill and you'd think, 'Well, down there is the finish line. No, it's another hill to climb.' That's sort of how I see this," said Quinn, who went to Fenwick High School in Oak Park. "We are going to prevail."
Quinn, however, was the one who set the finish line for pension reform, saying he wanted lawmakers to send him a bill before the session ended Wednesday. The governor also requested that lawmakers act to legalize gay marriage, pass an assault weapons ban, expand gambling and allow illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses. He prevailed only on the last issue.
He pointed to other legislative successes this year, saying few thought he would be able to win a major restructuring of the state's Medicaid health care program for the poor or persuade lawmakers to give up the oft-abused perk of legislative scholarships.
The governor bristled at suggestions that part of the reason he has yet to win pension reform is that he has no experience in the legislature. Despite serving as the state's chief executive, he proudly declares that he's "not an insider" and doesn't want to be one. Quinn said his job is to represent "the people back home" who want change, adding that he expects lawmakers to "put aside personal feelings and vote for the common good."
"Now there are governors who made deals before me, all right. They made deals to make this pension system worse. Let's face the facts," Quinn said. "Somebody ultimately has to step in and stop the merry-go-round and do what's right for the taxpayer."
Quinn also said that "sometimes the only way you get a law passed is you build up public pressure to get it done, and I think I'm good at doing that." Public pressure, outside of newspaper editorial boards, largely has been missing from the pension debate, however.
Quinn did launch an online campaign featuring a cartoon python named Squeezy. The snake was supposed to represent the "squeeze" the pension crisis is putting on the rest of the state budget but was instead mocked, including a satirical Twitter account and a Facebook fan page. That's a far cry from the support Quinn rallied decades ago when he persuaded people to send thousands of tea bags to government offices in protest of legislative pay increases.
Given that pension reform is a tough issue to get the public to rally around, lawmakers say Quinn must do more to convince the people who are doing the actual voting.
Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno, of Lemont, said it's clear that the governor is "well-intentioned" but said he needs to do more heavy lifting behind the scenes in order to reach a compromise. Radogno said one the biggest hurdles is getting Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan to agree on a path forward.
"The governor's office is a powerful one, and he does have influence on members of both parties," Radogno said. "Right now part of the problem is that Democratic legislative leaders are not on the same page. It would be very helpful if he could help make an agreement there."
Madigan seemingly lifted one roadblock when he temporarily backed away from a proposal that would shift some of costs related to teacher pensions away from the state and onto suburban and downstate school districts.
It was not enough. While House lawmakers were scrambling to attract votes on a compromise, Cullerton stood by pension changes that had already passed the Senate, arguing that it was the only proposal that could pass a legal challenge. As a result, some House lawmakers said they wouldn't cast such a controversial vote if it had no future in the Senate.
Cullerton said he plans to pass similar legislation again after a new set of lawmakers were sworn in last week, but this time incorporate some ideas from House lawmakers. Quinn said the bill could be a vehicle forward but acknowledged there were still several hurdles to clear.
For his part, Quinn took several positions throughout the year on what he wanted out of a pension reform bill. At the end of May he sided with House Republicans, only to watch a bill go down to defeat in the Madigan-controlled chamber. By this month, Quinn simply said he wanted a bill that would deal with the pension shortfall.
The changing stances recalled Quinn's push for ethics reform after he took over for impeached ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Quinn hailed a watered-down measure as "landmark" before bowing to pressure and vetoing it. He eventually signed a reworked version. To Quinn, it shows he can be flexible. To lawmakers, it's taken as indecisiveness.
Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat and key pension negotiator, said the governor should continue to focus on winning support one lawmaker at a time. Quinn held individual meetings with legislators when it looked like a vote was nearing last week.
Nekritz said she anticipates that when lawmakers begin crafting next year's budget and realize that tax revenues must be spent on the annual pension payment instead of schools, public safety and other priorities, movement might occur.
Quinn found a defender in former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar, who said people often expect too much from a governor, especially when cutting deals isn't as easy as it was in the past. Ethics reforms partly have done away with a system of patronage where governors used to be able to dole out jobs in exchange for votes, Edgar said. Quinn also can't rely on his own popularity — polls show his job approval is below 30 percent — to try to pressure lawmakers.
"That's the one thing a governor might have, and he doesn't have that," said Edgar, who credited Quinn for sticking his neck out on pensions. "At least in the eyes of the members, they are more popular in their districts than he is. So they are not as apt to follow his lead."
Quinn said he's not about to give up and is encouraged by the new crop of lawmakers, predicting they will set a progressive course not seen in the state's history.
As for the lumps he may take along the way, Quinn said he's used to it and is more concerned about the state's future than his own.
"If you're a political consultant who wants to take no risks, then you would not advise your client to take on pensions," said Quinn, who faces re-election in 2014. "But I believe that no-risk baseball is second division baseball. So we're going to be excellent."

Sunday, January 13, 2013

O'Shea can be counted on.

Alderman O'Shea should be applauded for his recent efforts to stop a developer from attempting to undermine the BHMP Historic District.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Is Lipinski Quiting?

Is this a trial balloon? He has been in office for 8 years. That is a long time. If so, who should replace him? We have plenty of talent in the 19th. Any names?
Filling the slot tends to be a special headache for Democratic presidents," Vatican 

and papal biographer John Allen wrote in a column this week for the National Catholic Reporter.
Allen said Vatican diplomats have their sights set on a number of Catholic scholars and politicians, including an Illinoisan: U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, a socially conservative Democrat who opposes abortion rights and the health care mandate.
In an interview, Lipinski told the Tribune he has not been offered the job but would welcome consideration.
"Certainly I am honored with the suggestion that I would be a candidate," Lipinski said. "It's certainly, as a Catholic, something I'd be interested in considering."
The U.S. ambassador to the Holy See confers with the Vatican on matters of foreign policy. It also relies on the Vatican to emphasize common values in countries where the U.S. does not have as much influence, said Mark Lagon, a professor in Georgetown University'sSchool of Foreign Service. 
Nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate, ambassadors report to the secretary of state. Beginning in 1933, several presidents tapped a liaison to the church in Rome, but the U.S. did not establish official diplomatic relations with the Vatican until 1984. Since then, the appointee has always been Catholic.
The nomination is especially challenging for Democratic presidents because of the party's difficult relationship with the Catholic hierarchy in recent times.
"The custom that it has to be a Catholic complicates things further because it's not just a candidate's policy positions that might cause problems, but his or her internal standing in the church," Allen wrote.
Six former U.S. ambassadors to the Vatican endorsed Republican Mitt Romney in the last election. One of them was Ray Flynn, the former Democratic mayor of Boston who was appointed by President Bill Clinton and knows firsthand that the nomination can cause friction.
"It takes a bit of a courageous act on the part of the president to appoint somebody that he disagrees with on some of these issues, as President Clinton disagreed with me," Flynn said. "You need someone who is going to be well-received, well-respected and at the same time is going to be loyal. Loyalty is the key word here — loyal to his church and loyal to the United States, and that can be done."
The ambassadorship vacancy was created when Miguel Diaz resigned in November to teach at the University of Dayton in Ohio. Obama broke ground in 2009 by appointing Diaz, the first Latino in the position. A Cuban-American theology professor, Diaz said he constantly reminded Vatican officials that he handled foreign policy, not domestic issues.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Politicians hate this but it may be the right thing to do.

A Tinley Park Village Board committee on Tuesday night approved forming a seven-member commission to study mandatory term limits for all elected officials.
The budget committee vote was in response to an advisory referendum in the Nov. 6 election in which residents overwhelmingly approved the idea — 16,808 votes in favor of term limits and 6,635 opposed.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Chicago Teachers Union President, Karen Lewis Jokes About Beheading The ...

A great example for the children! This chick is not a leader. She is a bomb thrower. Time for her to go. 
“We are in a moment where the wealth disparity in this country is very reminiscent of the robber baron ages,” Lewis said in the speech videotaped Dec. 2. “The labor leaders of that time, though, were ready to kill. They were. They were just — off with their heads. They were seriously talking about that.” Laughter rose up from the audience then Lewis continued: “I don’t think we’re at that point. And that’s scary to most people. But the key is they think nothing of killing us. They think nothing of putting our people in harm’s way. They think nothing of lethal working conditions.”

Monday, January 7, 2013

Go Irish, Bad Tide. Check out the video of the Irish in action.

A Catholic priest being arrested by ND campus police, for saying the Rosary! They didn't want to offend Obama. 

Serious Catholics should not send their children there.  

Below is a reprinted newspaper article.

Former Ambassador and Presidential Candidate Alan Keyes and Father Norman Weslin, found of the Pro-Life group Lambs of Christ walked on the campus of Notre Dame University on Friday with approximately fifteen others to pray the Rosary and witness to their opposition to the appearance of President Barack Obama at Sunday’s commencement. Two hundred yards later they were stopped by police, arrested and taken away in handcuffs.

The actions of the Notre Dame police were taped and re-broadcast on the Internet just after the event took place.

Those arrested were part of a larger gathering of almost 50 people that met off campus. Police had already informed the group that they would be arrested if they stepped foot on Notre Dame property. Following talks by Randall Terry and others, the crowd prayed the Rosary, Then the smaller group walked on campus carrying a banner as they continued reciting the Rosary.

The group walked up the driveway on campus, while police, along with a group of reporters, photographers and videographers, waited for them with a van just a few hundred yards away. Dr. Keyes was one of the first arrested after one of the officers demanded they leave campus.

The encounter became more intense when police began to remove Father Norman Weslin, a former Army Colonel who became a priest after his wife died in a tragic automobile accident. In his 80’s, Fr. Weslin is a familiar figure in the work of Pro-Life through Lambs of Christ.

The elderly priest was singing when he was handcuffed and taken to the ground and carried off on a stretcher.

This probably marks the first time in the history of the University when individuals have been arrested on campus for exercising their Catholic convictions and praying a prayer that has been recited in their chapel millions of times since its founding in 1842.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

"Dems have a voracious appetite for more taxes"

The Dems used to be the party that cared about us. Somehow that has changed. Now they just want the money.
(CBS News) The debate over taxes on Capitol Hill "is over," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., insisted today on "Face the Nation," adding that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's, D-Calif., suggestion otherwise "underscores the voracious appetite for more taxes on the other side."

With a deal reached on the first of the year to avert the so-called "fiscal cliff," extending the Bush-era tax cuts for individuals earning less than $400,000 a year and couples making less than $450,000 a year, McConnell said, "the tax issue is over. We resolved that a few days ago."

Pelosi, who appeared on the program immediately before McConnell, argued the "cliff" package did not offer enough in terms of revenue, but implied that closing loopholes and deductions in the tax code was a more likely course going forward. Though McConnell agreed tax reform is "a good idea," he added, "now that we have resolved the revenue issue, tax reform ought to be revenue-neutral."

"Now it's time to pivot to the single biggest threat to our country, both in the short-term and the long-term... and that's reducing spending," McConnell said. "We now have a debt of $16.4 trillion. That's as big as our economy. That alone makes us look a lot like Greece. We have an incredible spending addiction. This administration has driven spending as a percentage of our economy from 21 percent up to almost 25 percent."

Asked if he agrees with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who in a Houston Chronicle op-ed Saturday said the GOP should be prepared to shut down parts of the government if they can't get to where they want to be on spending cuts in the coming negotiations over raising the debt ceiling, McConnell said "it shouldn't require doing any of these things," but indicated that if it comes to that, President Obama is to blame.

"We have a few opportunities here in the next few months presented to us by his request to raise the debt ceiling, by the sequester kicking in two months from now, by the continuing resolution to operate the government - plenty of opportunities to generate that discussion," he said. "But what's really disappointing to me is that the president isn't generating that discussion on his own; that he has to sort of be dragged kicking and screaming to the table when we have these other big issues like the debt ceiling to get him to talk about it. I wish he'd lead."

McConnell wouldn't go as far as to commit to the level of cuts being pushed by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio - one dollar in spending reductions for every one dollar the debt ceiling is raised - but indicated such a demand could be used as "leverage" by Republicans.

"If the president won't lead us here, in the direction of reducing this massive spending addiction that we have," McConnell said, "then we have to use whatever leverage we have. And there are some examples of leverage coming along - the debt ceiling is one of them. That hopefully would get the president engaged, even though he seems unwilling to do it on his own."

As for other top-priority legislation, such as a review of gun laws and treatment for the mentally ill - issues Mr. Obama assured Americans after the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., would be handled immediately following his inauguration later this month - McConnell said it may fall to the backburner amid the continuing budget debates.

"Clearly we will not be addressing that issue early, because spending and debt are going to dominate the first three months," McConnell said. But when Vice President Joe Biden, appointed to lead a task force on the subject, does offers proposals, "I'm sure the House and Senate will take a look at them."

Saturday, January 5, 2013

NFL Roundup

1. Atlanta Falcons (13-3)
Wild Card Opponent: N/A, first-round bye
Potential Divisional Round Opponents: A Vikings' win guarantees that Atlanta hosts Minnesota. If Green Bay wins, Atlanta hosts the winner of Seattle-Washington.

2. San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1)
Wild Card Opponent: N/A, first-round bye
Potential Divisional Round Opponents: A Packers' win sends Green Bay to San Francisco. If the Vikings win, the 49ers would host either Seattle or Washington.

3. Green Bay Packers (11-5)
Wild Card Opponent: vs. Minnesota Vikings
Potential Divisional Round Opponents: A win Saturday means Green Bay heads to San Francisco. The Packers have no other divisional round scenario.

4. Washington Redskins (10-6)
Wild Card Opponent: vs. Seattle Seahawks
Potential Divisional Round Opponents: If the Packers and Redskins win, Washington heads to Atlanta. If the Vikings and Redskins win, Washington travels to San Francisco.

5. Seattle Seahawks (11-5)
Wild Card Opponent: at Washington Redskins
Potential Divisional Round Opponents: Seattle has the same scenario as Washington. The possibility exists for the Seahawks to play at either Atlanta or San Francisco, depending on the Vikings-Packers outcome.

6. Minnesota Vikings (10-6)
Wild Card Opponent: at Green Bay Packers
Potential Divisional Round Opponents: If the Vikings win Saturday, a trip to Atlanta awaits. No other advancing scenario exists for Minnesota.

American Football Conference (AFC)
Hi-res-136536400_crop_exact Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

1. Denver Broncos (13-3)
Wild Card Opponent: N/A, first-round bye
Potential Divisional Round Opponents: A Bengals' win sends Cincinnati to Denver. If the Texans win, the Broncos will face either the Ravens or Colts.

2. New England Patriots (12-4)
Wild Card Opponent: N/A, first-round bye
Potential Divisional Round Opponents: New England will host Houston with a Texans' win Saturday. A Bengals' win means a trip from either Baltimore or Indianapolis.

3. Houston Texans (12-4)
Wild Card Opponent: vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Potential Divisional Round Opponents: A win over Cincinnati sends Houston to New England. The Texans have no other advancing scenario.

4. Baltimore Ravens (10-6)
Wild Card Opponent: vs. Indianapolis Colts
Potential Divisional Round Opponents: Wins from Baltimore and Houston would send the Ravens to Denver. Wins from Baltimore and Cincinnati would send the Ravens to New England.

5. Indianapolis Colts (11-5)
Wild Card Opponent: at Baltimore Ravens
Potential Divisional Round Opponents: The Colts have an identical advancing scenario as Baltimore. A win could send Indianapolis to either Denver or New England, depending on the outcome of Texans-Bengals.

6. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)
Wild Card Opponent: at Houston Texans
Potential Divisional Round Opponents: Beating the Texans Saturday guarantees a trip to Denver. The Bengals have no other advancing scenario.

Time to sit up and pay attention to what is going on around us!


The CEO of Hobby Lobby has penned a letter about the tragic loss of religious freedom and liberty in America. The Christian crafts company has been forced by the Obama administration to pay for drugs for its employees in their health care plan that may cause abortions.
Doing so violates the religious freedom of the founders and owners of Hobby Lobby, but the firm has, so far, been unsuccessful in getting courts to give it an exemption while its lawsuit against the HHS mandate continues.
The letter from Hobby Lobby CEO David Green that LifeNews received follows:
When my family and I started our company 40 years ago, we were working out of a garage on a $600 bank loan, assembling miniature picture frames. Our first retail store wasn’t much bigger than most people’s living rooms, but we had faith that we would succeed if we lived and worked according to God‘s word. From there, Hobby Lobby has become one of the nation’s largest arts and crafts retailers, with more than 500 locations in 41 states. Our children grew up into fine business leaders, and today we run Hobby Lobby together, as a family.
We’re Christians, and we run our business on Christian principles. I’ve always said that the first two goals of our business are (1) to run our business in harmony with God’s laws, and (2) to focus on people more than money. And that’s what we’ve tried to do. We close early so our employees can see their families at night. We keep our stores closed on Sundays, one of the week’s biggest shopping days, so that our workers and their families can enjoy a day of rest. We believe that it is by God’s grace that Hobby Lobby has endured, and he has blessed us and our employees. We’ve not only added jobs in a weak economy, we’ve raised wages for the past four years in a row. Our full-time employees start at 80% above minimum wage.
But now, our government threatens to change all of that. A new government health care mandate says that our family business MUST provide what I believe are abortion-causing drugs as part of our health insurance. Being Christians, we don’t pay for drugs that might cause abortions, which means that we don’t cover emergency contraception, the morning-after pill or the week-after pill. We believe doing so might end a life after the moment of conception, something that is contrary to our most important beliefs. It goes against the Biblical principles on which we have run this company since day one. If we refuse to comply, we could face $1.3 million PER DAY in government fines.
Our government threatens to fine job creators in a bad economy. Our government threatens to fine a company that’s raised wages four years running. Our government threatens to fine a family for running its business according to its beliefs. It’s not right. I know people will say we ought to follow the rules; that it’s the same for everybody. But that’s not true. The government has exempted thousands of companies from this mandate, for reasons of convenience or cost. But it won’t exempt them for reasons of religious belief.
So, Hobby Lobby – and my family – are forced to make a choice. With great reluctance, we filed a lawsuit today, represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, asking a federal court to stop this mandate before it hurts our business. We don’t like to go running into court, but we no longer have a choice. We believe people are more important than the bottom line and that honoring God is more important than turning a profit.

Friday, January 4, 2013

More about the Gay Marriage bill.


Thomas More SocietyFrom Thomas More Society - a National Public Interest Law Firm -
Dear Member of the Illinois General Assembly:
We strongly encourage you to oppose the “Illinois Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.” From our experience protecting the constitutional rights of Illinois residents for over 15 years, we believe that this Act is both unnecessary and gravely harmful to religious liberty rights. In 2010, the General Assembly enacted a civil union law which provided the same rights and privileges to civil union couples as are enjoyed by married couples. Because of that civil union law, Illinois’ same-sex civil union couples already have the same substantive legal rights as married couples do.
However, if you vote “yes” to the proposed same-sex marriage bill, you will harm your constituents in two primary ways:
1) You will declare your constituents who believe that marriage is a union of one man and one woman to be bigots and discriminators. You will further ensure that this declaration is reinforced through official government policy. For instance, as in other states, you may see public schools in your district instruct children, beginning in kindergarten, that (a) same-sex couples and same-sex sexual activity are the same as opposite-sex married couples and opposite-sex marital sexual activity or that (b) kids do not need both a mom and a dad – two moms or two dads are just as good. Parents in your district who disagree have no right under law to opt their young children out of this kind of instruction.

2) You will strip away the meager religious liberty protections of the 2010 civil union law, as these protections are not included in the 2013 same-sex marriage bill. These religious liberty protections currently provide explicit shelter to Catholic Charities and other faith-based adoption agencies in providing private adoptions. These protections also shelter Evangelical, Catholic, and other faith-based organizations, including hospitals and schools, from being charged with Illinois Human Rights Act violations when they follow their beliefs on marriage in employment, facilities rental, and other decisions. Penalties for violating the Human Rights Act include fines, injunctions, and other penalties intended to force acceptance of same-sex unions.
What benefit would a “yes” vote provide to same-sex couples? The mere changing of a title of a license – such that the license for most same-sex unions would now read “marriage license” instead of “civil union license.” And, if the example of other states holds true here, the words “Husband” and “Wife” would be stricken from marriage licenses in favor of “Party A” and “Party B.” Again, a “yes” vote on same sex marriage would not grant a single additional substantive legal right to any homosexual couple in Illinois.
However, there are likely more grave harms, yet unknown in type and intensity, that will afflict your constituents who are faithful Catholics, Evangelical Christians, Missouri Synod Lutherans, Muslims, Mormons, and Orthodox Jews. The harms listed above are only the likely harms foreseeable in the short-term.
The harms noted above do not begin to address the suffering of your constituents who must participate in and support same-sex unions: small bed & breakfast owners who would be forced to rent out their home for same-sex wedding weekends; solo photographers who would be forced to spend hours photographing and designing albums for same-sex wedding ceremonies that they believe to be sinful; family catering company owners being forced to prepare, feed, serve, and support same-sex wedding receptions, even though the family members oppose those receptions with every fiber of their being. In other states, such businesses have been fined and subject to injunctions, some even permanently shutting down to avoid legal penalty.
A “yes” vote will inflict these harms, all for the sake of giving the title “married” to some number of the fewer than 1% of Illinois households headed by same-sex couples.
This morning, several amendments that purport to protect religious liberty were rushed through that made the bill worse, not better. The alleged “protection” for religious hiring is so weak that it wouldn’t protect Catholic and Christian grade schools from being forced to hire teachers in same-sex marriages. The section on facilities rental wouldn’t protect most parish halls and Knights of Columbus halls from being enlisted into service for same-sex wedding ceremonies, since many of those halls are not used “primarily ... for worship or religious purposes.” The section defining “religious organizations” wouldn’t protect Catholic hospitals and healthcare facilities, Catholic Charities, the Knights of Columbus, and other religious service and fraternal organizations. Only time will tell whether organizations would be forced to shut down or significantly reduce their ministries in order to avoid the reach of the “Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.” Of course, none of this morning’s amendments even acknowledge the conscience issues faced by people of faith who are forced into participating in these ceremonies.
Titling this measure, “Religious Freedom,” is an insult to people of faith – your constituents who go to church weekly, quietly serve their community, and merely ask to be allowed to live out their faith in their daily lives.
Our national motto, E Pluribus Unum, teaches us that while we are one nation, we are a union of many folks of different races, colors, and creeds.  Thus we teach tolerance as a solvent that melds us together in a shared political community in spite of our differences.  This measure, however, that purports to foster tolerance, swings the pendulum so far as to epitomize intolerance, forcing a vast segment of society to act at odds with their conscience and to behave in ways that offend their fundamental beliefs about right and wrong.  In the name of tolerance, then, this bill must be rejected.
Thomas Brejcha
President & Chief Counsel
Peter Breen
Executive Director & Legal Counsel

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Same Sex Marriage

“Same-sex Marriage:” What do Nature and Nature’s God say?

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
The Illinois General Assembly is being asked to consider a bill called “The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.” This is a deceptive title that ignores basic truths.
Marriage comes to us from nature. The human species comes in two complementary sexes, male and female. Their sexual union is called marital. It not only creates a place of love for two adults but also a home for loving and raising their children. It provides the biological basis for personal identity.
It is physically impossible for two men or two women to consummate a marriage, even when they share a deep friendship or love. Does this mean nature is cruel or that God is unfair? No, but it does mean that marriage is what nature tells us it is and that the State cannot change natural marriage. Civil laws that establish “same-sex marriage” create a legal fiction. The State has no power to create something that nature itself tells us is impossible.
Neither did the Church create marriage. The Church asks if a man and woman proposing to marry are mature, responsible and free, willing to commit themselves to one another before the Lord in the presence of the community of the faithful to a lifelong relationship of fidelity to one another and openness to the creation and care for new life in their children. Christ raised marital union to the dignity of a sacrament, giving it significance beyond that given it by nature; but, like the State, the Church cannot change the natural basis of marriage. Does this mean that the Church is anti-gay? No, for the Church welcomes everyone, respects each one personally and gives to each the spiritual means necessary to convert to God’s ways and maintain friendship with Christ.
The Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Chicago has consistently condemned violence toward or hatred of homosexually oriented men and women. Good pastoral practice encourages families to accept all their children and not break relationships with them.
The Archdiocese offers Mass and other spiritual help to those who live their homosexuality anonymously (Courage groups) and also to those who want to be publicly part of the gay community (AGLO, which celebrates its twenty fifth anniversary this year). People live out their sexual identity in different ways, but the Church offers the means to live chastely in all circumstances, as the love of God both obliges and makes possible.
Should the lame duck legislature or the new Assembly take up the passage of a “same-sex marriage” law, it will be acting against the common good of society. We will all have to pretend to accept something that is contrary to the common sense of the human race.
Those who continue to distinguish between genuine marital union and same sex arrangements will be regarded in law as discriminatory, the equivalent of bigots. This proposed legislation will have long term consequences because laws teach; they tell us what is socially acceptable and what is not, and most people conform to the dictates of their respective society, at least in the short run.
What happens next? If we ignore in law the natural complementary of man and woman in creation, then the natural family is undermined. Our individual lives become artificial constructs protected by civil “rights” that destroy natural rights. Human dignity and human rights are then reduced to the whims of political majorities. When the ways of nature and nature’s God conflict with civil law, society is in danger. It is to that danger that we direct your attention.
We urge you to visit www.ilcatholic.org to stay updated on the effort to redefine marriage in our state and to find information on how to contact your state legislator.
Pray for our State.
Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I. Bishop Francis J. Kane
Bishop John R. Manz
Bishop Joseph N. Perry
Bishop George J. Rassas Bishop Alberto Rojas Bishop Andrew P. Wypych 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A classic lack of leadership.


By Mark Rhoads -Elephant donkey
They don't call US Senate Republicans the stupid party for nothing.  If they take the latest deal from Harry Reid, not a single dime of spending will be cut now or ever in the future.  If Tea Party Republicans in the House go for this horrible deal, even with a modest compromise from Democrats on tax rates, John Boehner has failed as a GOP leader if the House approves.  

Never in the future will any Congress or any president of either existing party cut any spending at all until the government is forced into bankruptcy.