Need some holiday cheer? Check out this epic flash mob performance by the United States Air Force band at the National Air and Space Museum, featuring Bach's “Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring.”
Need some holiday cheer? Check out this epic flash mob performance by the United States Air Force band at the National Air and Space Museum, featuring Bach's “Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring.”
By Mark Weyermuller -
CHICAGO - Just before the Chicago City Council's regular Wednesday meeting, the Chicago GOP held a press conference to introduce 18 candidates ready to take on Democratic Senate and House incumbents in 2014. The press conference was held on the Chicago City Hall's 2nd Floor, 30 minutes the Chicago City Council gathered.
Chicago GOP Chairman Adam Robinson explained the local GOP's effort to break away from the party's past and offer Chicago voters electoral choices in a one party-dominated city.
Chicago GOP Vice Chairman Chris Cleveland blamed the state's troubled financial situation on poor leadership under Democrats House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton.
"Illinois is in terrible economic condition. Compared to our neighbors we are losing population, jobs, and hope," Cleveland said. "In 2014, Chicago voters will have a choice to bring back our communities."
SOUTH AFRICA - Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock (R-18) led a bi-partisan congressional delegation to South Africa this week for a ceremony paying tribute to former South African President Nelson Mandela. Via phone, Schock recalled the experience with Comcast Sports News:
“It struck me that, just as he was able to bring white and black leaders together after his prison term, he brought world leaders together on the same stage who, quite frankly, don’t agree at all on much,” Schock said during a phone interview from South Africa. “You have president Obama who started out the speakers giving very personal testimony about how Mandela inspired him, comparing him to Lincoln and Gandhi, and then it was capped up with President Raul Castro of Cuba.”
For Schock, his presence at the ceremony had even greater significance.
How do you feel about buying Illinois bonds?
Well, in the short term, they’re OK. In the long term, I wouldn’t touch them. The [state’s] pension liability is much worse than [the reported $100 billion that] people think.
States discount their liabilities—I think Illinois uses a discount of 7.5 percent [it’s between 7 and 8]—arguing that’s the expected [annual] return on their portfolio. But the expected return on a portfolio is totally irrelevant. What counts is, How risky are the claims that you have to meet? You’ve made a promise to your employees that you’ll pay them a certain fraction of their income that is usually indexed. Which means it’s a risk-free real outcome. What’s the risk-free real rate? Is it anywhere near 7.5 percent? It isn’t. Historically, it’s like 2 percent. A 2 percent discount rate would approximately triple Illinois’s pension liabilities.
Rest of the story HERE | Photo: Chris Walker/Chicago Tribune
SPRINGFIELD - What could downstate GOP conservative House members Bill Mitchell, Michael Unes, David Reis and DuPage County's Jeanne Ives possibly have in common with the late South African President Nelson Mandella?
All five agree those that register to vote should provide ID. South Africa demands its voters show an ID before entering the polling booth.
Part 2: Riveting Facts About Common Core That Can't Be Ignored
Common Core sounds innocent enough, but what it represents and how it is applied in teaching children from K - 12 can't be ignored. If we do so at a local, state, and national level we are ourselves to blame for what looms ahead as to the final outcome of an experimental educational system that has been put in place lock, stock and barrel without any trial runs to test the credibility of the system.
This nation already ranks below other nation in math, reading and science, while we spend more money per child than any other nation but Sweden. It defies logic to expect that Common Core standards will succeed in advancing educational standards to duplicate those of other nations who spend far less but who get better results. And how long will it take teachers to get up to speed in learning how to teach the "Common Core way"?
Yesterday, Illinois Review ran a piece by Warner Todd Huston entitled "A Spate of Pro and Anti William Kelly News Making the Rounds."
In his article, Huston questioned why Kelly - an outspoken critic of State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka - had recently accepted $20,000 from Topinka. According to the State Board of Elections, the money was transferred from Topinka's committee to Kelly's production company.
When queried about the money, Kelly told IR that his political enemies had made it "virtually impossible" for him "to make a living" and that he reserves "the right to make a modest, honest income with a production company that does, from time-to-time, accept paying clients." According to Kelly, Topinka's team hired his company to do video production.
Today, Kelly responded in full to Huston's piece, writing to IR:
"I have been an outspoken conservative activist for more than 20 years. Some people call themselves conservative because they post on Facebook. I have acted – usually at great personal cost.
For decades, I have also been personally and professionally attacked by people just like Rahm’s political ally Bruce Rauner. This has directly impacted me, my family, and my business.
Pope Francis, TIME's 2013 Person of the Year, has a knack for shaking people up. His official Exhortation, 'Evangelii Gaudium,' hot off the presses, has a number of politically conservative and religiously orthodox commentators in a lather because of its blunt criticism of capitalism and tentative approval of some level of state control over the means of production. Politically conservative and religiously orthodox, myself, I was prepared to be alarmed as I slowly and carefully read it. While continuing to think he made some misdiagnoses, the deeper I got into it the more I wanted to dance and sing.
A sad by-product of our hyper-partisan times is that commentators often study serious documents in light of what is important to them rather than what is important to the author; what it is in itself - and are ever vigilant for any whiff of heresy. The pope's comments on socioeconomic political systems are mere ancillary aspects of this extraordinary document, which calls the faithful to a renewal of evangelical fervor and explains in detail how to do it effectively.
Pope Francis' criticism of modern capitalism is of a piece with the American founders' universal warning about the system they devised: that it is only suitable for a moral and religious people. Even the most elegantly designed system, when populated by those who have despaired of the possibility of transcendence, degenerates into a parody of itself.
SPRINGFIELD, IL - Like a relationship on Facebook, Illinois’ post-pension reform credit future is complicated.
Standard and Poor’s has slightly upgraded Illinois’ credit, still at A-minus, but with a developing future. The state had been rated A-minus with a negative outlook.
“S&P’s new outlook only means that Illinois’ credit rating could be raised or lowered in the short term,” said Ben VanMetre, senior budget and tax policy analyst at the Illinois Policy Institute.
Standard and Poor’s released a statement that paints a mixed picture for Illinois.
“Although we view the consensus achieved by Illinois on this difficult issue as positive from a credit standpoint, the developing outlook reflects the implementation risk — legal and budgetary — associated with various provisions of the pension reform, as well as the overall structural budget challenges facing the state,” Standard & Poor’s credit analyst Robin Prunty said in a statement.
In other words: Illinois’ credit is going to remain terrible until the courts rule on the pension reform law.
After two months of open enrollment for Obamacare, only 7,043 Illinoisans have "selected" policies. However, the figures released Wednesday still leave unclear how many people actually bought plans. The data include individuals who paid their first month's premium and those who have "selected" a plan on the exchange but have not yet paid and therefore officially signed up.
In Illinois, 67,616 completed applications in November, up from 56,636 in October. Through the two months, 28,689 were determined eligible for some type of subsidy to purchase a private plan, and more than 30,000 others were determined eligible for Medicaid, the taxpayer-funded health insurance program.
The State of Illinois has separately accepted applications from roughly 82,000 Illinoisans via its own website, abe.illinois.gov. State officials say those figures likely contain some overlap. In all, the state has received more than 206,000 new Medicaid applications through its website, a mailed application to food stamp recipients and an early expansion of the program in Cook County.
PALATINE - Abigail Cornejo is a Sophomore at Palatine High School who merely wanted to write a paper on the controversial topic of abortion. But her English teacher had something else in mind and told Conejo she couldn’t write on the topic — and if she did, she would have to write from the pro-abortion perspective.
“My English class is doing a controversial issue research paper,” Abigail told LifeNews. “My English teacher, Mr. David Valentino originally told the class we may not do abortion, euthanasia, or legalization or marijuana. I asked why we couldn’t do infanticide, abortion and he replied with, ‘I’ve read too many papers on it. I don’t care anymore.’”
Cornejo is now writing about stem cell research.
The rest of the story from LifeNews.com HERE
Many had high hopes that the first budget conference in four years would make a substantial down payment toward fixing the U.S. spending and debt crisis. The new “Bipartisan Budget Act” thoroughly disappoints. While we dig through the details for a more complete assessment, here are three key facts on the sour deal:
1. It busts through supposed spending “caps.” The way Congress operates, it’s ridiculous for Members to set spending caps. They just keep busting right through them. The deal announced yesterday raises discretionary spending above the bipartisan spending agreement forged in 2011 as part of the Budget Control Act. Spending for defense and non-defense domestic programs would be raised by $45 billion in 2014 and by $18 billion in 2015.
A friend of mine called me this morning to vent her frustration over her local school district's growing obsession with its anti-bullying campaigns. Yesterday her kids attended what she believes was the fourth anti-bullying assembly since the beginning of the school year – not including the messaging that was woven into the annual Red Ribbon Week festivities – and she found it troubling that the leitmotif of each new event seems to build from the intensity of previous assemblies to what is now bordering on reckless cruelty.
This woman – this concerned mother is worried that the anti-bullying train has jumped the rails and is careening over a cliff, and she's fearful that it's going to drag untold numbers of children down with it as school districts continue to employ severe "scared straight" techniques to what one can only assume is an outright epidemic of student on student violence. No other explanation for such extreme and devoted messaging makes sense at this point.
CHICAGO - The City of Chicago and Cook County continue to use voting machines that are illegal, the voting security group Defend the Vote contends. The group asked the Illinois State Board of Elections in a letter released to the public Wednesday that the board "fulfil its statuory obligations and assure only legally certified voting equipment is in use in Illinois."
"...[T]he Illinois State Board of Elections has knowingly permitted uncertified election equipment to be used in multiple elections in Illinois by Chicago and Suburban Cook County election authorities.These elections include the Federal General election in November 2012, the Special Congressional election, and the two Consolidated elections in 2013," Sharon Meroni, the group's executive director writes.
The People's Pope Francis is TIME Magazine's pick for 2013 Person of the Year, from among a list of ten nominees, including President Obama, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, NSA secret revealer Edward Snowden, and music star Miley Cyrus.
TIME writes: ...In less than a year, Pope Francis has done something remarkable: he has not changed the words, but he’s changed the music. Tone and temperament matter in a church built on the substance of symbols—bread and wine, body and blood—so it is a mistake to dismiss any Pope’s symbolic choices as gestures empty of the force of law. He released his first exhortation, an attack on “the idolatry of money,” just as Americans were contemplating the day set aside for gratitude and whether to spend it at the mall.
SPRINGFIELD - State Senator Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) said Tuesday that Governor Pat Quinn should call the Illinois House back to Springfield to pass a tax incentive package designed to keep Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) in Illinois. Brady said movement on the bill is urgent after the newly merged office Max and Office Depot announced they were moving their corporate headquarters from Downers Grove to Boca Raton Florida, yet another employer leaving Illinois for greener pastures.
“We have to do what we can to keep job creators in the state of Illinois," Brady said. Last week, the Senate passed incentives for Office Depot Inc. and ADM, but the House adjourned without taking action.
"Now we’ve lost out on the jobs that would be created by having a major corporate headquarters in our state," Brady said in a statement.
But this goes far beyond one lost opportunity, Brady said.
Last week, the General Assembly met in special session to address legislation regarding the state pension systems.
Today, the unfunded pension liability in Illinois exceeds $100 billion. From last year to this year, our required pension payment increased by $936 million. We now spend more than 20% of General Revenue--more than $6 billion per year, or nearly as much as we spend on all K-12 education across the state--on the pension payment.
In order to meet our growing obligations, we've made cuts in other areas of state government. School funding was reduced to 89% of the formula level. State prisons, mental health hospitals, and developmental disability centers were closed. The Medicaid system was targeted for $2.7 billion in reforms. More than $6 billion in unpaid bills have piled up.
CHICAGO - Three law experts discussed how the pension reform plan is likely to fare during an expected constitutionality challenge this week on WTTW's Chicago Tonight with Carol Marin.
CHICAGO - New York bond rating firm Standard & Poor's Corp. adjusted Illinois debt from negative to developing and left the state's rating at A- after last week's pension reform deal passed the Illinois General Assembly and was signed into law.
The best news is S&P cautiously indicated that maybe Illinois financial mess won't get worse right away.
"This change reflects the consensus reached on pension reform, which we believe could contribute to a sustainable path to fiscal stability," S & P analyst Robin Prunty said in a statement. "Although we view the consensus achieved by Illinois on this difficult issue as positive from a credit standpoint, the developing outlook reflects the implementation risk — legal and budgetary — associated with various provisions of the pension reform."
CHICAGO - Miss America 2002 Erika Harold took a ride with Morning Commute's Charlie Stone recently to talk about her GOP primary bid in the 13th Congressional district on RealClearPolitics.com.
UPDATE x1: Round Lake Middle School principal Jeffry Prickett chuckled when asked if there's ever been as much attention to a 7th grade social studies class assignment as the one they've had this week.
"Can't say enough about the power of social media," Prickett said. "Certainly in the future, we'll use more caution, but it was a creative lesson. In the future, we'll probably use fictitious names and not use the school's official letterhead on lesson like that."
The letter that caused an uproar was reported here yesterday (see below). It was part of a lesson to teach the students how the colonists might have felt when they were told taxes on a product like tea was being put in place, and raised with no recourse for the taxpayers. At the end of class, the teachers told the students the letter was not real, and that it was a part of the lesson.
Some of the kids must not have heard that part, because at least one student took the letter home and gave it to his mother. Shocked with what the letter said, the mother put it on her Facebook page, and it took off from there. Despite the lesson being used in the past with no reaction from outside the classroom, that mom putting the lesson on Facebook this year created quite a controversy this year.
"We're surprised, and yet we're not surprised with the reaction," Prickett told Illinois Review. "People are sensitive to fee increases like that these days, and just the idea the school would do that set off quite a reaction."
Here's the letter the teachers sent home after the unexpected reaction:
See the original story and letter below:
Apparently political gadflay William J. Kelly has become the subject of political intrigue this month with a wave of pro and anti Kelly info making its way to my email inbox. I have no clue why Kelly is suddenly a hot topic, but it is what it is.
OK, get ready to get into the weeds on all this as this entry is going to be a long one…
Let’s start out with the pro Kelly stuff.
So, I was sent an email with some info about donations to one of Kelly’s many campaigns and after that I began getting other emails apparently trying to brush aside any concerns over those donations.
Someone apparently on the pro-Kelly side was making sure I was sent an email with a link to a 2012 piece on a site with the odd name of the “Internet Troll Safety Center.”
OSWEGO - A three-way GOP primary is likely to determine who will fill State Rep. Tom Cross' (R-Oswego) heavily Republican House seat next year. While Plainfield real estate agent Mark Batinick may have hoped being first to announce would intimidate others from getting in the race, two other candidates have also filed - Shorewood Mayor Rick Chapman and Oswego's Amanda Mancke.
House Republican Organization (HRO) spokesman Joe Woodward told Illinois Review last month that HRO would not be picking a favorite in the 97th race. But at the time, HRO staffer Dave Krahn was introducing Amanda Mancke at GOP gatherings, a non-verbal indication of the organization's support.
When Ms. Mancke's petitions came in on the last filing day, more indication of HRO support of her became evident. The names of a Republican House consultant Eric Pulia and House Republican Communications Director Ashley Barry appeared among Mancke's petition circulators.
Part 1: Common Core sows seeds of Socialism in young
For over 100 years an educational system was in place that served this nation well. Those of us who can relate back to the 1950's and before remember a time when the curriculum was left to individual teachers, or to department personnel in larger school systems, and where textbooks were likewise selected by individual teachers or department committees from a state-approved list of school textbooks.
It was an era when if teachers weren't doing their jobs, they were usually let go after having a chance to improve. This same accountability existed from grades K through graduate school until the 60's when teacher unions were organized and took hold in states. The Illinois Education Association (IEA) is one of the strongest in the nation. Its influence is far reaching in setting teacher salaries and in determining rules and regulations under which teachers work in local school districts.
Young men, having been educated under an educational system that some now view as haphazard, were prepared for work and for college. They further acquitted themselves well on the battle field when serving in World War I and II. After the wars these same ordinary men and women built businesses and proved to be productive in many ways.
Even as ObamaCare is trying to self destruct, its advocates suggest a détente in which “Republicans recognize the conservative nature of the law,” in the words of Austin Frakt in Bloomberg News.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), they point out, incorporates some ideas from a Heritage Foundation proposal and a law promoted by Mitt Romney. Those are not, however, conservative ideas, much less good ideas, and are not a “sound chassis” for anything.
There is nothing conservative about the forcible redistribution of wealth. And even Wall Street Occupiers should be against redistributing people’s earnings to Big Insurance, Big Pharma, Big Hospitals, Big Data Mining, and nameless unaccountable bureaucrats in the vast, ever-expanding realm of Kathleen Sebelius.
In February and March of 1990, I had a profoundly life-changing experience. At the time, I was working for Robert J. Brown, former aide to President Richard M. Nixon, as a vice president for the international division of Mr. Brown’s B&C Associates. The position required my spending many months in South Africa.
Never in America, before or since, had I felt and seen such racism, raw and ugly, as was laid bare in South Africa, where blacks were treated as chattel and subhuman. I was treated that way myself until they heard my accent or saw my passport. Suddenly, I was okay to the racist throngs and treated with all respect. Only my U.S. passport differentiated me from other blacks, but apparently that was enough.
Very quickly, this exposure started to harden me and for the first time, hate began to seep within my heart.
But then, on Feb. 11, Nelson Mandela was released from prison after 27 years. Mr. Brown had been a friend to Mr. Mandela and his wife, Winnie and he arranged for me to be one of the first to interview Mr. Mandela and to act as his personal secretary after his early release from prison.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and Co-Chairman Sharon Day released the following statement on the death of Richard Williamson, Republican National Committeeman from Illinois.
“On behalf of the entire Republican National Committee, I want to extend my condolences to the family of Rich Williamson,” said Chairman Priebus. “We are deeply saddened by the loss of our friend and colleague.
“Rich will be remembered for his service to his country and his party. Because of his expertise in foreign policy, he was asked to take senior roles under three presidents, including Ambassador to the UN for Special Political Affairs and Special Envoy to Sudan. A dedicated Republican, he previously led the Illinois state party and was the party’s 1992 nominee for the U.S. Senate.
CHICAGO - GOP primary gubernatorial candidate State Senator Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) visited with Public Affairs' Jeff Berkowitz saying he was the "only consistent conservative" on the GOP primary ticket. Brady said he's a "business person," in this interview before the controversial pension reform vote, and knows the challenges of meeting a budget. He's never supported a tax increase, he says.
Brady says his bid at the top of the ticket in 2010 brought a lot of voters out and candidates down ticket benefitted. In this interview, Brady compares himself to fellow GOP candidates Kirk Dillard, Dan Rutherford and Bruce Rauner.
CHICAGO - If GOP gubernatorical primary candidate Bruce Rauner's "upside down" ad or the one about his $18 Timex didn't catch your fancy, maybe his newest featuring a plaid shirt-clad Rauner shaking a holiday snow globe with the State Capitol inside will do the trick. Or maybe the one with the sledge hammer. Or the malted shake. Altogether there are seven 15 second ads, and there's audience participation to pick the best ad on the new Hammerandshake.com website to boot.
Sort of like "Illinois' Got Ads" instead of "America's Got Talent."
With another $100,000 donation added to the Rauner campaign Monday, their fundraising surpassed the $6 million mark -
Following $25,000 each coming from three members of Chicago's uber-wealthy Lester Crown family, plus more from other well-heeled donors -
State Senator Kirk Dillard is getting heat from the Champion News blog over contributions he and his senate campaign made to Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration committee. Dillard, as well as several other Republican federal and state lawmakers, joined the January 2009 DC celebration and attended the Illinois State Society's exclusive inaugural ball. Those expenses show up on Dillard's filings with the Illinois State Board of Elections.
Champion News, which is owned by Jack Roeser (who serves on Bruce Rauner's campaign committee), argues the recorded inauguration expenses contradict Dillard's assertion that he never contributed to Barack Obama's presidential campaign. The Rauner campaign agrees, tweeting:
Dillard has been criticized since 2008 for participating in a campaign ad for Obama, lauding then-State Senator Obama's willingness to work across the aisle for legislative progress. Dillard does not apologize for his part in the campaign ads, and has said he believes his part in them could help him gain support among suburbanites and conservative black church voters.
In 2008, Adam Jadhav of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, spoke with Dillard about the ad: