Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Have You Given Any Thought?

Our friend and neighbor CAPSMAN has had trouble with our posting guidelines here. It rankles him that I won't allow him to call those who disagree with him mean names, at least not without proof. So he has promised to start a "counter-site," no doubt to call us all mean names and provide his unfettered version of the truth!

Let's send him off in style: think of a good name for CAPSMAN's new blog, and, if you like, give him a little advice about how he should run it!

FTR, I think it's great that CAPSMAN is taking this step. I think there should be more blogs about the neighborhood and a greater diversity of political opinion. I wish him well.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Stone Slept Here

Ald. Stone and his family have spent a lot of time denying that he takes naps frequently in public. I know that the last few times that I've seen him, he fell asleep.

Some people were even offended that Stone's opponents used the famous picture of him asleep during City Council this spring. "He was just resting his eyes," is the common refrain.

For some unknown reason, the fact that Stone in known to sleep at work, in public, and often is something that he wants to cover up. Now we have new pictures of Stone asleep at a public meeting taken by the person sitting next to him. We have first hand testimony to the fact that Stone was asleep. [These pictures are clearly from Mr. Gernhardt's cell phone. I was wrong; see comments.]

It wouldn't be so disturbing that Stone falls asleep if he didn't do it so often and didn't try to deny it. Why lie about it? We all wish that we could get paid for sleeping on the job. If you are our alderman, you can! No wonder so many people want to be alderman. But don't lie about it.

hat tip: The 'Broken Heart' of Rogers Park

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

DePaul, Finkelstein, Israel, Free Speech and Academic Freedom

A spirited debate has broken out in a separate thread. Given the interest in the subject, I thought I'd front page this. This may be of little interest to many of us in the 50th, but for many Jews and those who have connections with DePaul or academia or even just a general interest in Free Speech, this seems to be what people are talking about.

I've been criticized for allowing people to defend Norm Finkelstein here. Yes, I believe in Free Speech. That's a central tenet of America. But given the kind of repressive nature of political debate in the 50th Ward, what is more important is to increase awareness that we are not monolithic in thought here. It seems to me that this is a highly polarized ward, largely due to the divisive leadership of Ald. Stone. While other wards have increased community input dramatically, we have to fight with the alderman for every nugget of information, every bit of participation in our local government.

Stone's tenure in the 50th has devolved into almost a Stalinist-era dictatorship. Free speech is not only discouraged, it is actively attacked. We have witnessed that here. Often. So I am not inclined to curtail comments about Finkelstein.

A rabbi, a teacher, once told me one of the great lessons from the Holocaust was that we have to speak out early, speak out strongly, in the face of evil. While I might not agree with everything that Finkelstein says or writes, I certainly believe in his right to say it, even if he's wrong. I'd rather have the debate out in the open than in private, where lies fester and can destroy the consciences of good people.

Another underlying theme in this debate is Israel. Israel exists in a very dangerous neighborhood. I have learned over the years that American Jews and Israelis see things very differently. I've been to Israel and continue to have good friends there. One of them I met while he still lived on the kibbutz. His military commitment having turned into a career, he would laugh at the debate over Finkelstein. We regularly have conversations about the tough issues facing Israel: the two-state solution, the challenge of "occupation" (his term), his perception that American Jews are far too conservative and paint Israel into a corner in the pursuit of a permanent peace. He argues that Jews in America not only don't understand Palestinians, they don't understand Israelis either. "We don't have the same (national) interests," he likes to say.

Another friend of mine in Israel is not a native Israeli. She immigrated to Israel from Romania when she was a young girl. Her family were economic refugees, and they came to Israel because they could. She just started college, having completed her military commitment. She finds the debate over Finkelstein silly. "We don't ned talking," she writes, "Israel needs hope....this problem solved."

My friends in Israel are disappointed in America because we have done nothing to advance the cause of peace there in the last few years. When I try to explain to them that we cannot help them because we aren't seen as an honest broker, they interpret that as a lack of will. To me, the debate between Dershowitz and Finkelstein is meaningless. They talk in terms of black and white while people are held hostage.

I don't completely dismiss the views of Finkelstein. I don't disagree with his thesis that a Holocaust Industry exists. So? He argues that this perpetuates the Holocaust. I don't agree. I think the Holocaust is more central to the thoughts of older Jews than younger Jews. It traumatized Jews who lived through it, and challenged the moral integrity of those who followed. But people my age (and younger) seem to have normalized this, recognizing that man's inhumanity to man has a very long history. The question that is relevant to me is: will we stand up to inhumanity when we see it? This is relevant not only to our neighborhood, but to the debate over Norman Finkelstein, Darfur, etc. It's easy to talk about this from afar, which is all that Finkelstein and Dershowitz do. But it doesn't solve anything.

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Friday, June 08, 2007

Little Birdie Department...

We hear that State's Attorney Dick Devine, 50th Ward Resident, is considering not running for re-election.

Naisy Dolar told me during the campaign that Devine "was making calls on her behalf." One wonders, if this is true, whether Ald. Stone has anything to do with Devine's decision on his future. Stone, once a Republican (and said to control the 50th Ward GOP organization), has threatened to run a "strong" Republican against Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky because of her public support for Dolar. But I don't believe that Devine's name ever appeared in a public endorsement of Dolar. Still, Stone's wrath can be matched only by Emil Jones.

Regardless of Stone's part in all this, Devine may very well draw a substantial challenger in the Democratic primary for State's Attorney if he does run for re-election. This is one of the positions that Stone's fellow alderman have on their radar when they talk about Jon Burge and the use of torture in the Windy City. I'd hate for Devine to be the fall guy, but are the stars aligning against him?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Arrogance of Power

I had an interesting conversation with a worker from Streets & Sans last night. He was sort of laughing at me for using the blue bags and my defense of recycling. It's not separated, he said. Our garbage doesn't go to one of the city's MRF's. It goes straight to the landfill. The blue bags that are collected in the 50th don't get removed beforehand.

What was insulting, as I thought about this more, is that they are just laughing at us. It costs us money, real money, to take our trash to the landfill. With recycling, the city actually makes money. Maybe not much, but when you add together what we make from recycling and the reduced costs from not having to pay to add more to the landfill, the savings could be considerable.

Chicago built three or four state of the art recycling facilities in the 1990s. Granted, we are on the edge of the city, but it sounds like it was the alderman or Ward Superintendent who made the decision not to use these facilities.

They must not care if our taxes go up. We wouldn't want to inconvenience them to actually do their jobs! Besides, Stone was probably asleep when the subject came up.

We've been misled. I'm going to blame Stone because he's our point of contact with the city. He doesn't have to be. No one asked him to. He took the blame on his shoulders all by himself. And I'm going to blame Stone because he always tells us that it's his decision (except when it makes him look bad - anybody else ever notice that?)

But I'm not going to stop recycling. Ald. Stone, who has a cushy part-time job (where you can sleep on the job!) that pays more than $100,000, may not care if our taxes go up, but I do. Stone is probably too old to care about the health and beauty of our city, but I do. There's a recycling center at 6441 N. Ravenswood. That's where I'll be taking my blue bags.

Mostly, though, I came away from this conversation amazed at the arrogance of Berny Stone and his people. They truly don't care about us. They just don't get it. They think it's THEIR ward, and that we are fools. Accountability is not a once every four years thing.

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