An Illinois Voter’s Pulse on Election Day (November 2, 2010)

I live in the State of Illinois, where today we’ll be electing a Governor and a brand new Senator, among other offices. Though he has been gone from the Prairie State electoral canvass for over two years now, this voting day is still somewhat of a referendum on deposed former Governor, Rod Blagojevich and the dispiriting legacy he left in his wake.

In the Governor’s race, citizens have a choice between Pat Quinn, the former Lieutenant Governor for the Blago administration, who has served half a term since Roddy Boy was given the boot. Although not a perfect lawmaker by any stretch, Quinn has suffered from two major flaws: a lack of scintillating personality and the bad luck to have been the person to inherit an economic meltdown, immediately after the Illinois State legislature voted to eject Blago. In the same way I feel that President Obama has been curiously blamed for prolonged economic pains that were not his doing, Quinn seems to have paralleled Barack in microcosm.

Illinois, now officially the most bankrupt State in the Union, was well on its way to being so before Pat Quinn took the reins. However his Republican opponent for the Governor’s mansion, State Senator Bill Brady, will not have any of that – if one assesses the situation by looking at his ads. Senator Brady is fond of highlighting the statistic that Quinn has retained “75% of Blago appointees,” a thinly veiled suggestion that Rod and Pat are chums and bedfellows who have celebrated the continuity of corruption in Illinois. The problem with that assertion is that for most of Blagojevich’s term and a half, the two men were barely on speaking terms. I think “frenemies” is what the kids are calling it these days. The suggestion that Quinn’s failure to clean house and fire everyone the moment he took office means he and Rod are ideological cousins is a stretch at best.

Furthermore, one of Bill Brady’s most treasured sound bites is his claim to be an “optimist. We are facing tough times, but I’ve always believed in America and the people of Illinois. Together, we’ll make a clean break from the past and grow jobs here.” That sounds wonderful, but how exactly? What is your plan Senator Brady?

Don’t look to the candidates website for clarification:

“The four cornerstones of the Brady Better Illinois: Jobs Plan begin with the fundamentals:

•Create a stable tax climate to help jumpstart the economy
•Engage in long-term strategic planning
•Create a fair playing field to once again make Illinois competitive
•Restore accountability and transparency to the state budget process”

I think I speak for many of us when I say that the only thing more unspecific than this plan is Charlie Sheen’s diagram for getting his cocaine and booze soaked life together.

So clearly, we know I voted for the Governor’s seat in Illinois. However, the race to replace outgoing Senator, and further Blagojevich collateral damage, Roland Burris, was not as simple as it might seem for a Lefty like myself.

Clearly, I would not be using the touch screen ballot to select Mark Kirk, the Republican candidate and five term Congressman, who been caught lying about everything this campaign season. Kirk had said he won the Navy’s “Intelligence Officer of the Year” award, which he didn’t. He said he was fired upon the last time he visited Iraq. Nope. Did he learn nothing from Hilary Clinton? He said he served in Operation Desert Storm when he was in actuality a reservist in Maryland. Even his civilian biography proved to be full of half truths. Kirk has frequently spoken about his time as a nursery school teacher, a huge former campaign talking point. Turns out he was just a work-study student from Cornell.

And the funny thing is, given the weakness of Kirk’s competition, Democratic nominee Alexi Giannoulias, the Congressman had no need to embellish his record. Alexi, as my friend Tim so eloquently put it, “has failed at everything he tried.” This hardly speaks to one’s ability to make sober and reasoned decisions for the state. The 34 year-old current State Treasurer (we’re bankrupt) and former BFF of Barack Obama (until the April failure of his family’s Broadway Bank created tension) is hardly qualified to be a Boy Scout Troop Leader, let alone a man in charge of advocating for the American people.

So as I entered the ballot booth early this afternoon, absolutely despising both candidates in this contest, wishing not for the first time that the two party system would provide us more palatable options, I made a snap decision: LeAlan Jones, the Green party nominee.

The former NPR documentarian, just 13 years-old at the time of his honest portrayal of life on Chicago’s south side, Ghetto Life 101, managed to impress me more with this one accomplishment, than anything I have seen out of Kirk or Giannoulias. Republican voters have long ago written me off, and my fellow Democrats might tell me I wasted a vote. No I didn’t. I am sending a one person message to both parties in this politically scarred state to get serious and send me some real candidates. In the meantime, I wish Jones, a linebackers coach at Chicago’s Simeon Career Academy, the upset of a lifetime.


The Waning Days of Summer (August 31, 2010)


The annual battle with Seasonal Affective Disorder has arrived early for me in 2010. Typically, my serotonin levels begin to drop as the days grow shorter and colder, but this year, my brain is slipping into despondency before the heat even dies. It has been a hot, wet season and that’s my wheelhouse, so I suppose it seems curious that I have chosen to take up residence in Chicago. It seems logical that if you want to fight the winter blues, maybe leaving a City that is damp and dark for nine months of the year would be your first step. What can I say? My masochism is twofold. Apparently I require the bracing, biting cold to remind me of summer’s beauty and value, and I can’t shake this morbid fascination with Illinois politics and all the carnivalesque oddities it brings.

This year, early onset SAD is hitting me in profound ways. I don’t want to let go – of the beach, the street festivals, the outdoor restaurant seating. One of my favorite sights this year has been the scene of children playing and riding bicycles until 10:00 PM, as I sit and quietly sip wine on my balcony. The season of fun and frivolity is now behind these kids. Do they feel the loss as I do?

I am also in no humor to welcome the Fall, for reasons that have nothing to do with a Peter Pan-like desire to extend fun in the sun. If it’s September, than that means we have to start taking the November elections seriously. One need not actively participate in the gamesmanship and punditry to feel the effects. Watching the evening news, picking up the paper before your morning commute, then the often frustrating act of voting, which usually means choosing the lesser of two to three evils – it’s enough to make one wish they were still underage.

Though there are many obnoxious and odd matchups in elections across the country, the State of Illinois makes a great case for having the most dispiriting contests around. Though Prairie State politics are historically dicey, we do occasionally get the proverbial Paul Simon/Barack Obama bone thrown at us.

This year, I am very sad to report, there is no such luck. One candidate after another is guilty of complete and total buffoonery. Let’s take the Governor’s race as an example. In this corner, we have sitting Executive Pat Quinn. Quinn is the sad sack who had to step in rather unceremoniously and take the reins after the ignominious fall of one Rod Blagojevich. Quinn inherited an office beset by felony convictions and deplorable fiscal irresponsibility. However, he is a good, if boring fellow, who has spent the last two years watching every plea for reform fall on a large crowd of deaf ears. Thus Illinois now carries the title of “Most Debt Ridden, Least Business Attractive,” State in the Union. This is far from Quinn’s fault in entirety, yet it is clear that it is he who must wear the crown of thorns [cue video of vociferous booing of Governor Quinn at June’s Stanley Cup rally].

Quinn’s competition for the Governor’s mansion arrives in the form of State Senator Bill Brady, a man whose strategy thus far consists of relying on the incumbent’s low polling numbers as a path to victory. Brady has adopted any means necessary to avoid the hassle of actually discussing the issues in public. The Republican’s plan to address the shortfall in revenue and human services, according to his website, includes a resolve to “cut taxes by a billion dollars, as well as reduce spending throughout the state.” With a budget deficit currently hovering around the $13 billion dollar mark, how can Brady justify cutting taxes, and what specific programs would he cut to begin to offset the already terrific revenue imbalance? Don’t know. He won’t say. Like every other good politician in Illinois, he is going to await being voted in before delineating his plans to drag us further into the red.

In the spirit of comic relief, I will briefly mention the third party, Independent Candidate for Governor, Scott Lee Cohen. Cohen had a brief flirtation with political shame and notoriety earlier this year, after winning, then promptly resigning the Democratic nomination for Lt. Governor. The pawn broker was chased away from the Quinn ticket after surfacing allegations of domestic violence, prostitution, drug abuse and rage filled outbursts. Deviant behavior from a pawn shop proprietor? Never saw it coming!

I am almost too exhausted at this point to get into the Senate contest. On the left we have the Democratic Alexi Giannoulias, a once good friend of Barack Obama’s who has begun to see his calls go to voicemail since his business venture, Broadway Bank, was shut down by the FDIC this past January. What, you mean a Wall Street charlatan might not be the kind of ally for which the President is looking? Well why ever not? A man who previously failed to protect the State’s finances in his elected role as Treasurer, while simultaneously running a bank into the ground may be good at malfunction multi-tasking, but this hardly qualifies him to make decisions for the voting public on a greater scale.

Republican challenger Mark Kirk, a current U.S. Congressmen, has experienced PR infractions that appear relatively minor compared to the rest of this lot. He has since backtracked from a statement made at a 2002 House Committee hearing, where Kirk declared himself a recipient of the Navy’s “Intelligence Officer of the Year” award. The politician’s fib was exposed by the Washington Post in May of this year. Not so smart now, are we Kirk?

Oh and by the way, both Giannoulias and Kirk are running to fill the seat of Roland Burris, the half term Senator who may or may not have cut a deal with Blago to take the chair of newly elected President Barack Obama. Though Burris could not be prevailed upon to resign after allegations surfaced in early 2009, he has decided to decline seeking re-election in order to make room for a younger, less experienced goofball.

Pass the melatonin and another glass of wine my friends. It’s going to be a rough autumn.

Rod-tarded (April 8, 2010)


Those who know me well are aware of my cultural spilt personality: highbrow and literary on one side, lover of Beavis & Butthead on the other. In the past I have ignored the whiffs of shame that have threatened to encroach on my infinite love of reality television. A few examples from the Fox network come to mind: Temptation Island, Joe Millionaire or Paradise Hotel among many others from the dependably slimy steerage of Rupert Murdoch.

But until Sunday night, I never knew never the sensation of squirming uncomfortably, of physically recoiling from my television set as though bitten by a poisonous snake, wishing I could walk away, but knowing very well that I couldn’t if I tried. It took the shenanigans of one reality TV famewhore to create a personal gutcheck moment that no enjoyment of The Real World/Road Rules Challenge ever could.

I am speaking of course of Blago, also known as Rod Blagojevich, the disgraced former Governor of Illinois. For some reason NBC loves “Hairball” (so nicknamed by Mr. A.) so much, and is such a willing partner in helping the deposed CEO of Illinois squeeze every drop from the bottle of his 15 minutes of fame, that the network has attempted to cast him on not one, but two reality programs. The first, last summer’s I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Outta Here! was a no go because Roddy Boy is unable to leave the country while awaiting trial. So NBC opted to cast loyal, foul mouthed wife Patti instead.

The already put upon denizens of Illinois believing they had dodged a bullet, we failed to recognize the awesome tenacity of the “Polar Bear” (so nicknamed by Eddie due to Blago’s love of jogging in tight pants in sub zero temps) in his quest for media domination. Of course Blagojevich found another willing consort in Donald Trump, no stranger to scandal and famewhoring himself. And thus a man who should be spending every waking moment with his unfortunate children before he is hauled off to the Pen, instead finds himself trying to “win money for charity” (What a guy!) on this season of Celebrity Apprentice.

It is awful enough to have Blago’s face and voice put before me, a constant reminder that yes I voted twice for the Elvis loving loser who tried to sell Barack Obama’s Senate seat about five minutes after he was promoted to the White House, every Sunday evening. I enjoy the show of course, but I also accept that witnessing Blago’s greasy prostitution of himself before America, gathering fame and fortune that most innocent people will never experience, is a punishment I richly deserve. I have said it before, and I will vow it again: never, ever will I allow myself to cast another ignorant local vote. National politics are important and of course I remain attuned, but no longer at the expense of knowing what’s going on in my own backyard.

I was ready for the egregious self-promotion, the practiced smile in front of any and all cameras and autograph seekers, no matter what else might be going on at the time. I never expected Blago to function as a focused and selfless team player, even if colleagues like wrestler Goldberg and sprinter Michael Johnson could stomp him without even trying. One of Blago’s many charms is that he is utterly impervious to looks of loathing.

Be that as it may, I was utterly unprepared to have evidence of Blagojevich’s most embarassing weakness of all sucker punch what was left of this voter’s self-esteem. The man cannot use any kind of technology at all. AT ALL! No email, no camera phone, no text messaging and the very idea of a laptop utterly befuddles him. Upon the placement of a computer in front of him on Sunday’s episode, he proceeded to turn it over with the confusion a man asked to assemble a 2,500 piece Ikea rocking chair. Therefore, one of my favorite snide comments that the Governor would need a GPS to find his ass with both hands is rendered obsolete.

Isn’t it enough that I cast two ballots in favor of a man with the moral scruples of Satan? At least the image of him as some sort of evil genius consoled me. I had obviously been hoodwinked by a mind much more powerful than mine. But no, no. Now I know that the man who utterly failed Illinois is a simpleton, whose inability to use technology to convey his “vision” to an obedient Bret Michaels, necessarily means he was never qualified to walk and chew gum, much less lead a State.

All I have left now is a thought provoking query posed to me on FaceBook by another one of our regular readers, a fine lady who could probably see the good in cellulite, so generous is she in her opinion. “A man w/such a lack of savvy, could he be wise enough to be a mastermind of criminal activity?” An intrguing question to be sure, but there’s no rule I’ve read that says the stupid can’t be amoral as well. Clearly, if Blago were any more adept at organizing his illegal behavior, he would never have been caught on tape. Nevermind that he would need someone to show him how to use a tape recorder.

Clearly the sullied politician is off the grid in more ways then one. We get it. Mercy! No more Rod Blagojevich NBC, I beg you! Illinois has suffered enough. Selita Ebanks for Governor in 2010!

With Democratic Friends Like These, Our President Needs No Enemies… (January 12, 2010)

Blagojevich: “I’m blacker than Obama”
Former governor, in a somewhat bizarre interview, goes off

Reid’s Obama comments could worsen Democrats’ woes

Sigh. What the hell is going on here? Where is this crap coming from and why now, all of the sudden, from Obama’s own party? It’s like the Democrats have a death wish regarding the 2010 mid-term elections.

This makes me so apoplectic, I don’t even have words to form an argument. I am just disgusted.