Tuesday, February 02, 2010

2009 IL Primary Elections - Blue Skies Falling Endorsements

It's very late in the day, and I've only recently gotten around to researching any of these candidates. That said, if you haven't voted yet, and you're interested in a pseudo-informed opinion, here's who I'm going for this round.


My most enthusiastic endorsement goes to Todd Connor, for his strident argument in favor of closing the Sanitary and Ship Canal to prevent the spread of Asian Carp into Lake Michigan. It seems that almost every politician I'm aware of has vocally supported keeping the locks open, a horrible choice to favor short-term expediency over long-term stability and fairness. The contention also illustrates one state's ability (and nobody can doubt that Illinois is the most powerful state in the region) to blatantly disregard the interests of other states. In this, one of the most important of county offices, we need qualified candidates who are willing to act on principle, and Connor appears to have exemplified this in his response to the Asian Carp crisis.

It is interesting for me to note that all three of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District candidates listed here were endorsed by the right-leaning Chicago Tribune Editorial Board as well as the environmentally-conscious Sierra Club. This level of concord among such different crowds suggests that these are extraordinarily qualified candidates.

My least enthusiastic endorsement goes to Pat Quinn for Governor. Both candidates ran attack ads of the variety that call the integrity and mission of their campaigns into serious question. There is no sugar-coating the vigor and virulence of political debate in Illinois, but the ads of both candidates completely occluded any discussion of their policy differences, which were, in many cases, little easier to disentangle from their public statements... at least from my point-of-view. I disagree with Pat Quinn on a variety of issues; he supports ease of recall elections, which is ironic given pledges to reduce the deficit, and Hynes makes a very well-reasoned argument that recalls are a gateway for special interests. However, I got a better sense of Quinn's specific stance on many of the most important issues, and he seems to have a stronger focus on the hard-hit middle and lower-classes in the midst of recession. So: "I'll punch the card for Quinn, or whatever."

My primary protest vote of 2010 goes to David Hoffman for U.S. Senate. Our political machine has been infected with all sorts of nasty financial shenanigans, and Alexi Giannoulias seems to typify many of these. However, I would like to add that Hoffman represented himself well overall in Tribune interview.

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Event:Pass Health-Care Reform Yesterday!

I've been getting progressively more worked up each day the last few weeks and it finally spilled over into this letter I just wrote to my congresswoman and senators.

On consideration, I think the analogies here (trite as they seem) are worth sharing precisely because they are so very obvious and applicable. At any rate, I'm interested in your thoughts.

Dear Sen. Durbin, Sen. Burris, Congresswoman Schakowsky,

First, I appreciate your hard work and the good things you do. Please be aware of this.

Second, enough is enough.

Many in my family worked for GM for may decades, and I've had plenty of opportunities to reflect upon the failings of that company and the odd sort of insight that you only get from not being in the thick of a situation. Isn't it strange that the executives who ostensibly knew more about their company than anyone else missed the most apparent signs of its downfall? There's some horrible disadvantage to being on the inside; one misses the obvious wisdom that consumers stop buying cars from an unresponsive automaker unconcerned with quality and changing needs. Ironically, the people building the cars understood these liabilities far better than those running the company.

Today, I have had a grand opportunity to observe the same phenomenon in the slow and incremental death of health care reform.

Now everybody and their brother who supports you (and has been supporting your career for how many years now) knows that the Democrats' odds of surviving in November improve if you pass this bill. We all know that your chances are better the sooner you pass it. You seem locked in this idea that the independents -- that precious margin that determines so many elections -- are going to freak out if you are seen as having too progressive an agenda, while you miss the reliable and fundamental fact that the independents are more drawn to things that work than they are to political ideologies of any stripe. And today's half-passed bill does not "work" by any stretch of the imagination.

Conversely, the senate is too blithe in assuming that the liberal base that has funded and supported the last two election cycles is going to have anything other than fury and resentment with an agenda that seems to turn its back on most of the issues we care most about.

In this case, the analogies are simple and apt:

Roger Smith, CEO of GM thought his restructuring of GM without changing corporate culture or quality standards would save GM. He was wrong, and it was obvious to everyone on the street.

Jeff Zucker of NBC thought that preemptive shuffling around of late night personalities without consulting the hosts or the affiliates would help NBC. He was wrong and it was obvious, and it was obvious to everyone on the street.

Now Rahm Emmanuel is sidelining health care and it looks like Harry Reid is going along with that. Guess what: They're wrong, and it's obvious!


Pass it yesterday.

The sooner you pass it, the sooner it will start saving lives, and the sooner you can start taking credit for the good work you've done in the face of stiff opposition.

If you do not pass it, I assure you, and not without great sadness and regret, this November will be a calamity.

Respectfully yours...

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Diary: Life these days, these times.

It has been a long time since I've posted here, but of course, these "intermissions" are not unheard of in the history of Blue Skies Falling, and they have become lengthier and more frequent in the last few years. In the first few years that I kept this blog... basically from 2003-2005 and from 2005-2007, I posted a great variety of content with few interruptions. There was a long interruption in 2005, 2007, and a six-month break in 2008. There have been more breaks since then, and the current lapse is, I believe, about three months.

I enjoy blogging and given the current line of work I am doing, media consultation, it is not unhelpful to my career. But it is also very time-consuming, and with so many major life changes underway, I have to rank this a somewhat low priority.

That said, a lot of the damage has been in the sheer disarray of the last several months. From around Thanksgiving efforts for the 2009 Parliament of the World's Religions in Melbourne, Australia kicked into high gear, and I didn't really have time for anything else through mid-December.

After that had concluded, there was actually a lull that lasted for about a week, but I wasn't going to spend it blogging. I was enjoying the fullness of a long and mild autumn giving way to a white and wet and gorgeous Chicago winter... I was reading books, watching movies, catching up with my friends. Dealing with very important preparations for not-so-future events. And getting ready to move. There was a trip for Russian food. There was a trip to see the Nutcracker. There was a Christmas tree which I bought and dragged home even though I had only gone out for a wreath. There were meetings and consultations with new clients (that's right, now I have "clients" instead of "bosses").

In the two or three days leading up to Christmas, I packed two years of frenetic and memory-drenched things (like the first season of Taxi) -- I've been back in Chicago for almost as long as I lived in New York -- so that when my parents arrived for a visit on Christmas day, the furniture was all rearranged and the boxes were stacked high. Early the next morning, the movers came and we absconded to the new place in glamorous Edgewater Beach.

The week between Christmas and New Years was completely consumed by moving. There was a lot of stuff to clean and take care of in the old place... the purple and blue and shamrock green and salmon pink walls had to be painted back to the same shade of dull bone white. By by the time New Years Eve rolled around (and after a particularly dizzy all-nighter), I was sleeping in very late, and the old place was locked for good.

New Years Eve and Day were a delight, surrounded by friends from Chicago (where I haven't celebrated that day in years) and a good friend from Flint who made the trip down for the holiday. We celebrated from a loft in East Garfield Park with a spectacular view of the Skyline, but got home easily. The next day, we met with friends for brunch, a trip to the Garfield Park conservatory, and pizza and games. Two days later, a two day trip to Kentucky. Two days later, I had a hospital procedure that has knocked me somewhat out of commission for the last week. Although I did manage to make it down to Hyde Park last Saturday for a magnificent 16-hour marathon of the extended version of the Lord of the Rings movies.

It was worth it.

This isn't just a prolonged excuse... or even mainly. I know the numbers show that not many people stop by here anymore, and it isn't likely that any of these excuses for my hiatus will ever be read.

But I also think it is important to document times like these... the frantic, inescapable, mazey, insomniac times that (thankfully) only seem to crop up for a couple months once every year or two. The feelings that bubble to the top when you move around heavy and fundamental things deep down are, of course, a very peculiar sensation and they generally preserve the atmosphere of these times far into the future. But the actual steps involved... the craziness from one day to the next... this is also worth remembering.

It's worth taking the time to write down for that reason alone.


Friday, October 23, 2009

Event: It's Friday. Some videos.

Not silly stuff this week. But engaging and worthwhile.

Also: Watch this one on Facebook videos.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Concept: It's Friday. Here is some stilly stuff, therefore.

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Event: My letter to the newspapers.

Dear editors,

Most Americans understand now that health care reform is necessary. Most of us, eighty percent according to some polls, support a public option. The economic analysis and historical precedents have been examined; nobody proposes we go where angels fear to tread. No death panels, and no debt inflation. The public option is, quite simply, the muscle. It's what will make the reform meaningful. What will make it work.

So why does this option seem to be slipping further and further toward the horizon?

Quite simply, the insurance and drug industries have more money than the scattered public. These industries are better organized and have deployed their resources effectively. They have fought this fight with the same single-minded discipline with which they deny millions of legitimate claims.

What seems to be missing from the debate is the righteous anger and indignation that is the only appropriate answer to the outrages of the health care crises. People are dying out here. Careers are ruined. Health is lost. Long lives are cut short because treatable problems are unfixed.

John McCain rightly said this week that "elections have consequences." If this is truly the case, then the public option should pass by wide margins. I urge all reasonable Americans, the Americans who have seriously considered the public option and know how reasonable and even necessary it is, to pick up your phones and write your emails. Give your representatives the pressure and the political cover to push this thing through, and to make it stick.

This issue is too important to leave at the voting booth. It needs to be heard and read. Share your anger. I've shared mine. Now it's your turn.

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Event: My letter to Sen. Dick Durbin.

Dear Senator Durbin,

I am a Michigan transplant who has been living and voting in Chicago for the better part of the last ten years.

I am writing you today about an issue that will supersede in importance the life of the auto industry; this is a bold statement for me to make as many of my family and many friends are or were employed by GM.

It is not enough to desire a public option in the effort to reform health care. We must *demand* it. Now I recognize that the diversity and recent development of the Democratic party makes consensus and coalitions difficult. But quite simply, this is what you were all elected to do, and your constituency is vastly in favor of the public option. I am reasonable, and I recognize that insisting on a public option will cause some risk to the entire reform initiative, and will entail short-term political liabilities. But this risk will be repaid with a robust and meaningful reform, just as immediate dips in the polls will be more than balanced by what will be increasingly seen as a historic long-term victory.

Not to be confused with the skeletal acquiescent "reform" increasingly represented by the proposal of Sen. Baucus.

A public option is essential. Any reform stripped of this option will not accomplish what must be accomplished, and the problem will resurface down the line.

Voters like myself, loyal liberals and Democrats with a variety of views have held out through the discouraging years of the Bush administration, when the slimmest of Republican majorities set a policy that we found as repugnant as it was regressive. With the strong numbers of Democrats in both the legislative and executive branches, this is a victory we insist upon.


Connor Coyne

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Friday, October 09, 2009

Diary: Should I Call It Platform Surfing?

Sometimes, if I get onto the CTA platform and an outbound train is waiting with no inbound train in sight, I'll hop on the outbound train and ride north, and catch my train to work further up the line. It's fun. It adds a little variety to my morning. It means I'm more likely to get a good seat, and if someone looks like they need a seat, I can always offer it to them (something many passengers are not always inclined to do). In the past I've ridden as far north as Thorndale, which is three stops out and about two miles away.

This morning I added a bit of a gamble to this game. An inbound train had just left, an outbound train was waiting for me, and the next inbound was just setting out from Bryn Mawr, less than a mile away. I hopped on the northbound train, got off one stop up at Berwyn, and caught the southbound train just as it pulled into the station.

It didn't save me any time.

But it was fun, and that's what Fridays are for.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Event: I support the Chicago 2016 Olympic Bid.

At the end of the day, this is a great city, and it is events like these that make cities great. In the late 1800s Chicago suffered a devastating fire that tore it to its foundations, and less than twenty years later, it dreamed up the skyscraper, gave the lake to the public, and invited the world in for the Columbian Exposition.

There is much that is wrong with Chicago, naturally; that is true for all cities. But I think that the world and Chicago itself will learn and benefit from this choice. It is, after all, "the city on the lake where the embers never fade." The logo itself suggests embers to me.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Body: Today is Michaelmas.

It is also the feast of the three Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael.

You can read more about it here.

One of the wonderful ambiguities of religious tradition is the way that what may seem from the outside to be a simple "symbolic" allegory is, in fact, multivalent and complementary. Michael is most popularly considered as a warrior and in a military light. He led the angels against Satan and threw him from heaven. Yet earlier traditions associate Michael with curative powers and healing, and to this day he is the patron saint of the sick. This is conflated with the role of Raphael, whose name means "God has healed," and who is cited in the book of Tobit which features miraculous healing. In that same book, Raphael accompanies Tobias on a great journey, which has caused him to be associated with travel and critical junctures. We might think that these qualities would be better suited to Gabriel, who is the messenger and angel of the Annunciation, who first proclaimed: "Hail Mary, full of grace..." But while Gabriel is both a traveler and a messenger, his own work does not stop there. Gabriel's own name means "strength of the lord" and he has been associated with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

It would seem, then, that the qualities and roles of these three angels are somewhat mingled, and I believe that this is a reflection of the interaction of their themes in the real world. You cannot really separate testimony from struggle and from healing. They all combine and take each other on.

To step for a moment into a "political" issue, I want to consider the current health care debate here. It is political but it also touches on religion and spirituality. The Health Care debate might fall under the province of Michael, since it is a question of healing. But healing itself is a fight and a struggle; the body fights off infection. Right now we are in the midst of a great fight for the health of our nation, and too many Christians (and too many Catholics) are looking at the issue within the closely inscribed boundaries of their own self-interest. They may sincerely ascribe their views to concerns over abortion or patient rights, but these issues have been resolved for the discerning witness and listener. And isn't that our responsibility? Isn't that an aspect of the faith we are called to observe? To be a discerning witness?

So I call on my fellow Christians to consider the sharing of roles and responsibilities of these three angels, and to take a stand for the public option in today's debate. This is a case where our faith must enter into the realm of politics, but the argument that faith should make, based on both tradition and scripture, is solidly on the side of robust reform.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

CONCEPT: I'm back.

I was a good, consistent blogger from 2002 to 2007. But ever since I moved back to Chicago, I've been more unreliable about it. I'm hoping to return to the blog soon, and I will shortly be making changes to the appearance and content. In addition to more frequent updates, the blog will be:

- More professionally oriented.
- More streamlined.
- More navigable and straightforward.

That said, I'm going to continue the admixture of the political and the artistic, the esoteric and the routine, that has made this fun to work on for the last seven years. I hope you'll be a frequent guest, and if you have any suggestions for the update (which should start to nose its way in later this week), please let me know.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Diary: Things to Inspect and Consider, 2009-2010

These links are for my own use and convenience.
However, you are welcome to use them too, if you like.


USNO: Complete Sun and Moon Data for One Day. BSF:ET - Resource
Sapphire Moon: Solstice and Equinox Finder. BSF:ET - Resource


EXERCISE: Society of Jesus: Oregon Province: The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. = starting mid-September - Resource



LOOK UP: SPACE.com: Night Sky Highlights in 2009. ~M
LOOK UP: AccuWeather.com: Chicago, IL Weather Forecast. =
LOOK OUT: Phenology ~W
LOOK OUT: Chicago Reader. ~H
LOOK OUT: Wikitravel: Chicago. y6
LOOK OUT: Gardening Plan. y3
LOOK OUT: Camping Plan. y3
LOOK OUT: Fishing Plan. y3
LOOK OUT: Frugal Village y9
LOOK OUT: Chicago Urban Exploring. y9
LOOK OUT: Benjamin Franklin y12
LOOK IN: Time. BSF: ET, y12
LOOK IN: The Eightfold Path. y1
LOOK DOWN: St. Boniface Cemetery. y12


United States Department of Agriculture: MyPyramid.gov. BSF:ET

New York Times. =
Chicago Sun-Times. ~T
Detroit Free Press. ~F
Flint Broadside. ~H
Flint Journal. =
Andy Heller. =
Detroit Free Press: The Detroit Tigers. ~M
Detroit Free Press: Detroit Pistons. ~T
Detroit Free Press: Detroit Red Wings. ~W
Detroit Free PresS: U of M Wolverines. ~H
Detroit Free Press: MSU Spartans. ~F
USA Gymnastics. ~F

Proceed to blog. *