Monday, November 15, 2010

Young Voter Turnout Dropped 60 Percent from 2008 to 2010, and Democrats Took the Hit

Young Voter Turnout Dropped 60 Percent from 2008 to 2010, and Democrats Took the Hit
John Nichols for The Nation
November 16, 2010

Everyone knows that young voters were less enthused about the 2010 mid-term elections than they were about the 2008 presidential election, when their votes powered Barack Obama to a landslide victory and gave Democrats big boosts in congressional contests. But detailed studies of the election reveal that the decline in voting by Americans aged 18 to 29 was actually more serious than initially imagined.

In 2008, polls showed that young people were overwhelmingly supportive of Obama and the Democrats. And they turned out in droves. According to the research group Circle: The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, which tracks civic engagement among young voters, 51 percent of 18 to 19 year olds voted that year.

In 2010, polls showed that young people were still supportive of Obama and the Democrats. But only 20.9 percent of them bothered to vote.

Circle director Peter Levine said that: “For liberal students, this election felt, at best, as a defensive move, protecting a Congress they don’t like that much."

That cost Democrats Senate and House seats across the country. And the down-ballot losses were even more significant, as close contests for legislative and local races tipped to the Republicans after young people failed to show.

The Circle study suggests that turnout among young voters in 2010 was down almost 10 percent from the last mid-term election year, 2006, when Obama was not even on the ballot.

Those numbers are significantly worse than initial exit polling suggested.

And the picture on ground is even darker.

In Champaign County, Illinois, home to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the ten precincts identified by local election officials as "entirely campus" turned out 7,535 votes in 2008. This year, according to a survey by the Politico, the figure fell to 2,615. That's represent's a 65 percent drop in turnout in precincts were young voters make up most of the electorate.

Republican Senate candidate Mark Kirk easily won Champaign County, as he did a number of other parts of the state where campus turnout collapsed. Overall, in Illinois, 54 percent of voters over 30 cast ballots November 2, while just 23 percent of voters under 30 did so. That's no small matter when we recall that Kirk won by just 65,000 votes statewide.

John Nichols

Bernie Sanders and the Progressive Plan to Balance Budgets, Defeat Deficits and Avert Austerity (Government, Politics)
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is ready to fight for a progressive alternative to proposals to slash Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Champaign County Clerk Mark Shelden says: “Virtually everything that drove college kids to turn out for Obama kind of got ignored."

Democrats simply did not get campus voters excited enough to go to the polls -- even for a young Democratic Senate candidate with close ties to Obama, Alexi Giannoulias. The situation was similar across the country, and a Politico review of races across the country suggests it cost the party House seats in New York, Ohio, Virginia and other states.

What's the problem?

1. Getting young voters to the polls is about more than the candidate. Some of the youngest and most tech-savvy Democratic contenders in 2010 lost. And that's a fact that President Obama ought to note as he prepares for a difficult 2012 reelection campaign. While Obama was on the winning side of the enthusiasm gap in 2008, he may not be there in 2010.

2. Democrats have not done enough for young people. While there have been some important initiatives with regard to student loans, and while the federal stimulus bill did a lot to keep colleges open and affordable, there was never a sense that 18 to 29 year olds were a central -- or even prominent -- concern of the Obama administration or the aging Democratic leadership in the House and Senate.

3. Even where Democrats did deliver -- as on the student loan front -- they did a lousy job of communicating about their accomplishments. Imagine Democrats failing to remind seniors of their work to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and you get the picture. Democrats also failed to develop a youth agenda that would have made a case to young people for getting to the polls and giving Obama's party the majorities it needed to advance meaningful legislation.

4. There are still problems with access to the polls for young people, especially those living in campus settings where local officials are frequently accused of erecting barriers to young voters. Champaign County's Shelden, a Republican, was accused of setting up an early-voting center in an area taht was hard for students to reach. That was a common complaint around the country, and it is easier to blame physical and technical factors. But there is scant evidence that Democrats made themselves champions of youth voting. And if the Democrats won't fight for the right of young people to vote, they should not expect much in the way of 18-to-29-yeat-old turnout.

Unfortunately for the Democrats, that is precisely the vote they needed in 2010.

It is, as well, precisely the vote Barack Obama will need in 2012.

Neither the president, nor his party, can ignore the stark data from 2010 if they plan to compete in 2012.

“Since 2004, young voters have been one of the strongest Democratic constituencies,” explains CIRCLE director Levine, who says that: “Democrats need to engage them better than they did in 2010..."

Right now, young people still lean Democratic. But Republicans, Levine says, have an opening to "make inroads in a generation that continues to prefer Democrats" -- especially if Democrats continue to neglect them.

John Nichols
November 16, 2010

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Lebron's Charge of Racism Rings True

See the article in its original context HERE:

The Nation: Lebron's Charge Of Racism Rings True

LeBron James of the Miami Heat poses for photos. James has said that he thinks the public backlash against his decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers was based in part on racism.

October 5, 2010

Dave Zirin is the sports editor for The Nation. He is the author of the forthcoming book, Bad Sports: How Owners Are Ruining the Games We Love.

You can't say Lebron James didn't warn us. Three years ago, the then-22-year-old James said he had two goals in his professional life: to be a "global icon like Muhammad Ali" and to become "the richest athlete in the world." This seemed like one whopper of a contradiction. Agree or disagree with his stances against war and racism, the fact is that Muhammad Ali remains a global icon because of what he sacrificed — professionally, personally, financially — in the name of political principle. To take such action in the world of sports, as Ali learned, is to make powerful enemies, and to make powerful enemies is not exactly the way to become Richie Rich.

The Ali way is to tell the truth as you see it, consequences be damned. Last week, Lebron dipped his pinky-toe into his Muhammad Ali persona during an interview with CNN's Soledad O'Brien and set the sportsworld on its ear. O'Brien asked Lebron about the fury he provoked when he left his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers this past summer. She wanted to know if he felt issues of race and racism might be connected to both the rage in Cleveland and the fact that Lebron has seen his popularity plummet, according to the advertising industry's annual Q-rating score.

Lebron answered, "I think so at times. It's always, you know, a race factor." That's all. Just twelve words where a 25-year-old athlete dared say that news footage of people burning his jersey in the streets of Cleveland might have something to do with racism, and even then, as he was careful to say, it was just a factor.

It's hardly Ali saying, "Damn America! Damn the white man's money!" But given the response, you would think that Lebron had changed his name to Farrakhan bin Laden. Sports Illustrated's Peter King, a self-described liberal, tweeted that Lebron's affirmation of racism was "garbage." Jason Whitlock, a man who says he "never leaves home without his race card" said, "Give me a &*%$ing break." He then, with his typical lyricism, praised America for "taking a dump on Lebron" (It's like Grantland Rice still walks among us!).

Charles Barkley also piled on, saying, "It's like watching a movie. Just when you think it couldn't get any stupider, it gets more stupid." The only thing getting "stupider" is how we discuss these issues in America and in the world of sports.

I was neither a fan of Lebron's move to Miami nor his egomaniacal ESPN infomercial, "The Decision," where he revealed that he would be "taking [his] talents to South Beach. But to say that racism doesn't shape our perceptions of controversial, narcissistic or outspoken athletes is to deny that the sky is blue or that most sportswriters could stand to bathe. Just look at the aforementioned Q ratings. The six least popular athletes in America are Michael Vick, Tiger Woods, Chad Ochocinco, Terrell Owens, Kobe Bryant and Lebron. Yes, Vick, Woods and Bryant have had their share of off-field scandal, but so has Ben Roethlisberger, Brett Favre, and even Tom Brady. To say that racism doesn't shape the volume of the anger at black athletes is to say that sports somehow exists in a magical, hermetically sealed universe where the sewage of our society never manages to seep.

It also shapes the near-lockstep hostility Lebron provoked from the sports media. There is a valuable lesson for the King to learn: if you really want to walk in the footsteps of Ali, especially in the age of 24-hour news media, Twitter and Whitlock, you had better develop a serious backbone. If your goal is to "be revolutionary," then going on ESPN the next day to complain that people are making such a big deal over your comments is like wearing red to a bullfight. You had better be prepared to handle the backlash, and like Ali, punch back.

If you really want to be the richest athlete on earth, then speaking about how race and racism affect your life is not exactly torn from the Michael Jordan playbook. But if you are going to "go there," you had better be able to take the heat. Whether or not the self-proclaimed King James can, or even if he wants to, is an open question. Right now Lebron is walking on the fence between being a rebel and just another creature of commercialism. The problem with walking that narrow fence though, is that eventually you slip. Then comes the pain.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Noam Chomsky on On Point with Tom Ashbrook

Noam Chomsky on On Point with Tom Ashbrook

Tonight's guest on Tom Ashbrook's 'On Point' show on WBUR out of Boston is Professor Emeritus Noam Chomsky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In this intelligent and insightful discussion, Professor Chomsky carefully dissects the core tenets of the Tea Party movement, its dangerous potential and the broader problems with the U.S. political system and body politic. Listen HERE

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Specious reasoning and intellectual flabbiness dominate the right wing of the intellectual gymnasium

Conservative blogger Tom Roeser strikes with specious reasoning as he looks about for any excuse to link African-Americans, laziness and big government. Read HERE

In his analysis of the single guilty conviction from a 24-count indictment in the corruption trial of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, the blogger is aghast at the failure of the jury to convict, despite the endless stream of pundits across the country, who have, since the indictment and arrest, questioned U.S. Attorney Fitzgerald's hurried approach to announcing his case rather than taking the time to properly prepare and present it in a manner most likely to result in a conviction. For those who are unaware, former Governor Blagojevich was convicted on only one count, that of lying to federal investigators during questioning. Roeser attributes his blog post to the thinking of an unnamed black 'colleague', who suspected that the single juror who was a holdout on a guilty verdict was an African-American solely based on the fact that she would not vote to convict. The author says his black 'colleague' was certain of this, because Blagojevich, in a craven political move, showered minorities with government largesse to assure their political loyalty. Tthus, their argument goes, because minorities are addicted to benefits for which they did not work, they would vote to acquit him, or otherwise hang up the jury and prevent a conviction as some sort of misplaced show of gratitude.

When I read this, I just had to post a comment (3rd comment in response to this thread). In my response I noted that the link between being a client/beneficiary of government largesse and support for any politician nominally liberal and supportive of entitlements is specious, at best. Being a recipient of entitlement spending in no way ensures some sort of outcome such as that claimed by the author, namely that if you're poor you will support corrupt politicians as the only ones willing to extend entitlements in your direction. If that were the case, surely the majority of poor and working-class whites - who are themselves the largest recipients of any entitlement spending in the U.S., simply by virtue of their much larger populations - would not be joining anti-government groups across the nation, with the Tea Party being only the most notable example. Or perhaps, what the author really thinks and wishes to say is that only blacks vote for the corrupt? Perhaps the author believes that support for corruption travels in the DNA?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Story That Won't Go Away

This is the story that just won't go away. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, in yet another example of the administration's extreme media sensitivity and commitment to advancing toward a second term rather than to truly progressive transformative politics, buckled to outright lies from the right wing blogosphere in the firing of Shirley Sherrod. Their attempt to smooth this over and make amends has failed, as the linked article relates. Read the full article HERE.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Need to Call This What It Is: Nativism

I'm tired of citizens and pundits beating around the bush, so I'll just say it: Nativism has reared its ugly head in the body politic.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Clinton Aids Meek in South Florida

Clinton lends his democratic star power to Kendrick Meek in South Florida.

Read the article HERE:

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Xenophobia, US-style

An interesting read from Progreso Semanal's Max Castro, in both English and Spanish for the blog's readers. Spanish first, English text follows at the bottom.

To see the article in its original context, click here

Xenofobia republicana: Otra vuelta de tuerca
Miercoles, 11 August 2010 09:17 Max Castro

Por Max J. Castro

El Partido Republicano tiene un largo historial de oposición a los inmigrantes y a la inmigración, la cual se remonta al menos a las primeras décadas del siglo 20. Cien años más tarde, el Partido Republicano del siglo 21 parece que trata de superar a su predecesor.
Desde que la actual ola de inmigración comenzó a fines de la década de 1960, prácticamente todas las propuestas legislativas a niveles local, estatal y nacional han sido patrocinadas y apoyadas por los republicanos. Proposición 187, la tristemente célebre ley californiana de 1994 para negar educación escolar y otros servicios públicos a inmigrantes indocumentados –invalidada por los tribunales— fue promovida por el gobernador republicano del estado, Pete Wilson. En 1996, el Congreso dominado por los republicanos dirigidos por Newt Gingrich, aprobó una dura legislación federal que negaba a los inmigrantes muchos programas sociales y hacía obligatoria la deportación incluso por delitos leves cometidos años o décadas antes.

El patrón ha continuado durante el presente siglo. En 2005, la Cámara de Representantes de EE.UU., dominada por los republicanos, aprobó la Ley de Protección, Antiterrorismo y Control de Inmigración, una ley extremadamente punitiva que, afortunadamente, nunca fue aprobada por el Senado. La medida provocó manifestaciones callejeras masivas de los latinos y sus partidarios. En la década actual, las legislaturas estatales y concejos de ciudad dominados por republicanos han aprobado cientos de medidas destinadas a perseguir a los inmigrantes ilegales.

La más reciente y draconiana de estas es la SB-1070 de Arizona, aprobada este mismo año por la legislatura estatal encabezada por el Partido Republicano y firmada de inmediato por la gobernadora republicana Jan Brewer. La ley, entre otras cosas, requería de todos los agentes policiales que inquirieran acerca del status migratorio de toda persona detenida o arrestada cuando existiera “sospecha razonable” de encontrarse ilegalmente en el país. Esta medida, aprobada sobre la base de una campaña de demagogia que vincula a los inmigrantes con el crimen, parece suministrar una licencia a los agentes policiales para que se dediquen a la identificación étnica.

El Departamento de Justicia de EE.UU. presentó una demanda judicial contra Arizona en la que mantiene que la inmigración es la sola responsabilidad del gobierno federal. A fines de julio, poco antes de que la ley entrara en vigor, un juez federal de distrito entregó en la práctica una victoria al Departamento de Justicia cuando prohibió al estado a poner en práctica disposiciones clave de la SB-1070. El estado está apelando la decisión.

La actual corriente de xenofobia ha llegado a su cénit con una propuesta que está siendo promovida por los republicanos en el Congreso para cambiar la Decimocuarta Enmienda de la Constitución de EE.UU., a fin de negar la ciudadanía a los hijos de inmigrantes indocumentados. La Decimocuarta Enmienda, una de las enmiendas más importantes de la Constitución, declara en su primera sección:

“Toda persona nacida o naturalizada en Estados Unidos, y sujeta a la jurisdicción del mismo, es ciudadana de Estados Unidos…”

Anteriormente el cambio de la Decimocuarta Enmienda y la abolición de la ciudadanía por nacimiento estaba limitada a los fanáticos anti-inmigrantes, incluyendo a unos pocos en el Congreso, como Tom Tancredo, republicano por Colorado. Actualmente, los miembros republicanos del Congreso, los cuales hace unos meses o años apoyaban la reforma migratoria completa que desembocara en la ciudadanía, en especial Lindsey Graham de Carolina del Sur, y el ex candidato presidencial John McCain, hablan ahora de realizar audiencias acerca de la Decimocuarta Enmienda, o cambiarla totalmente.

El tema ha provocado palabras feas y desinformadas, incluyendo la especulación acerca de mujeres extranjeras (léase mexicanas) que vienen a Estados Unidos con el deliberado propósito de “soltar un bebé” que automáticamente se convertiría en ciudadano, y por lo tanto sería un “bebé ancla” que facilitaría a otros miembros de la familia la obtención de un status legal.

La idea de darle vuelta a la Decimocuarta Enmienda –una dudosa y poco probable propuesta— y el uso de un lenguaje tan deshumanizado (“soltar un bebé”) refleja la fuerte oposición de los republicanos duros de base a los cuales los políticos del partido les hacen el juego, conjuntamente con la transición étnica que está teniendo lugar en Estados Unidos. También revela la desesperación de los republicanos por controlar el crecimiento de la población latina, una tendencia demográfica que pronostica la hecatombe del Partido Republicano tal como es en la actualidad.

Los latinos están disgustados con el presidente Barack Obama, y con razón. Él no ha cumplido durante su primer año en la Casa Blanca (ni siquiera en el segundo) su promesa de reformar la ley de inmigración. Y es cierto que durante la administración Obama se ha realizado un número récord de deportaciones. Al mismo tiempo, la administración Obama ha abandonado los ataques en el puesto de trabajo y se concentra en expulsar a los inmigrantes que han cometido delitos graves. Mientras tanto, la administración ha evitado calladamente deportar a los inmigrantes indocumentados que llegaron a Estados Unidos siendo niños, una práctica que ha enfurecido a los republicanos. Pero también debiéramos tener en cuenta el papel de los republicanos en la obstrucción de la reforma, ni tampoco debemos ignorar lo que nos espera, si los republicanos controlaran una vez más todas las palancas del poder en Washington.


Republican xenophobia: Another turn of the screw
Wednesday, 11 August 2010 12:03 Max Castro

By Max J. Castro

The Republican Party has a longstanding record of opposing immigrants and immigration dating back at least to the early decades of the twentieth century. One hundred years later, the twenty-first century GOP seems to be trying to outdo its predecessor.

Since the current wave of immigration began in the late 1960s, virtually every anti-immigrant piece of legislation at the local, state, and national level has been sponsored and supported by Republicans. Proposition 187, the infamous 1994 California law to deny schooling and other public services to undocumented immigrants -- invalidated by the courts -- was pushed by the state’s Republican governor, Pete Wilson. In 1996, the Republican Congress, led by Newt Gingrich, passed harsh federal legislation barring immigrants from many social programs and making deportation mandatory for even petty criminal offenses committed years or decades before.

The pattern has continued during the present century. In 2005, the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed the Border Protection, Antiterrorism and Immigration Control Act, an extremely punitive bill that, fortunately, was never approved by the Senate. The measure sparked massive street protests by Latinos and their supporters. In this decade, Republican-dominated state legislatures and city councils have passed hundreds of measures intended to crack down on illegal immigrants. Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005

The most recent and draconian of these is Arizona’s SB-1070, passed earlier this year by that state’s GOP-led legislature and quickly signed into law by Republican governor Jan Brewer. The law, among other things, would require all law enforcement officers to inquire into the immigration status of persons detained or arrested where there is a “reasonable suspicion” that they are in the country illegally. This measure, passed on the basis of a campaign of demagoguery linking immigrants with crime, seems to provide a license for police officers to engage in ethnic profiling.

The U.S. Department of Justice filed suit against Arizona, asserting that immigration is the sole purview of the federal government. At the end of July, shortly before the law was to take effect, a federal district judge essentially handed the Justice Department a victory when she enjoined the state from enforcing key provisions of SB-1070. The state is appealing that decision.

The current wave of xenophobia has now reached its zenith with a proposal currently being floated by republicans in Congress to change the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution in order to deny citizenship to the offspring of undocumented immigrants. The Fourteenth Amendment, one of the most important amendments to the Constitution, states in its first section:

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States…”

Once, talk of changing the Fourteenth Amendment and abolishing birth-right citizenship was confined to anti-immigration zealots, including a few in Congress, such as Colorado Republican Tom Tancredo. Now, GOP members of Congress, who only a few short months or years ago were backing comprehensive immigration reform leading to citizenship, notably South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham and former GOP presidential candidate John McCain, are talking about holding hearings on, or outright changing, the Fourteenth Amendment.

The issue has provoked ugly and uninformed talk, including speculation about foreign (read Mexican) women coming into the United States deliberately in order to “drop a baby” who automatically becomes a citizen and thus an “anchor baby,” facilitating other members of the family in attaining legal status.

The idea of toying with the Fourteenth Amendment -- a dubious and unlikely proposition -- and using such dehumanizing language (‘drop a baby’, ‘anchor baby’) reflects the fierce opposition of the hard-core Republican base to which the GOP politicians are pandering vis-à-vis the ethnic transition underway in America. It also reveals the desperation of the Republicans to stench the growth of the Latino population, a demographic trend that spells doom for the Republican Party as we know it.

Latinos are upset with President Barack Obama, and with good reason. He didn’t deliver on his promise of immigration reform not in his first year in the White House (or even in his second). And it is true that a record number of deportations have happened under the Obama administration. At the same time, the Obama administration has focused away from work place raids and concentrated on expelling immigrants that have committed serious crimes. Meanwhile, the administration has been quietly refraining from deporting undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children, a practice that has infuriated Republicans. And we also should consider the role of Republicans in obstructing immigration reform nor should we ignore what is in store for us should the Republicans, once again, control all the levers of power in Washington.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Prospects For November

With the never-ending onslaught from the right's noisemaking apparatus (Fox, Tea Baggers, and the like), congressional ethics investigations against senior House Democrats Rangel and Waters, continuing economic softness and the ongoing Afghanistan quagmire, what are the prospects for November's general elections?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Seu Jorge rocks Miami, Orlando & Chicago

This has to be the best concert(s) I have attended all year. Seu Jorge, the talented actor/musician from the Belford Roxo district in Rio de Janeiro, is on tour. His latest release is a team effort with colleagues percussionist Pupillo, guitarist Lucio Maia of Nação Zumbi, and bass player Antonio Pinto. The results are incredible. The result is the self-titled LP "Seu Jorge and Almaz", with covers of some Brazilian classics as well as some totally unexpected U.S. and European sounds.

Not only does his reworking of the Brazilians standards blow me away, but I found his tweaking of Kraftwerk's "The Model" to be amazing: it is no mean feat to take the prog-synth group's alienated, stark love song and turn it into a sticky dub reggae excursion. As for his cover of Roy Ayre's "Everybody Loves The Sunshine", it felt like an homage to an African-American standard from across the Diaspora, filtered through a different type of black lens. And MJ's "Rock With You" is not meant to be a straight cover - in my opinion - but instead a softer take on the tune, revealing more subtle textures than in the original, where Quincy Jones and Michael make the tune as lush as a velvet sofa. His ominous version of "Cirandar" totally changes the way you hear the original - which, I admit, I only did after hearing his version. "Pai Joao" becomes an almost arena-sized samba with a sing-along chorus reminiscent of old Two-Tone sing alongs and British pub rock. And Jorge Ben's "Errare Humanum Est" has quickly become my favorite track, with its expansive echo and touches of psychedelia. And these are only the tunes I have the space to write about here!

I had the good fortune to see him in both Orlando and Chicago in the last week thanks to work travel and all I can say is: If you can't get out to one of the remaining tour dates...Buy this CD!

To see the crew in action, click HERE

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


While readers of this site will by now have figured out that I am an avid (dare I say rabid?) sci-fi, comics and adventure buff, I would be remiss where I not to recommend wholeheartedly and without reservation the following films: The Losers and Iron Man 2.

The Losers

The Losers is a great film, another in a long line of caper/buddy flicks, this time involving covert operatives on the payback trail as opposed to a bank job, mob rubout, et cetera. It features one of the most underrated actors out there today - Idriss Elba. Elba has gotten busy since the demise of his leading character from HBO's The Wire, Stringer Bell. Since then he's gone on to star in a couple of romantic comedies (including Daddy's Little Girls). However 'Musings' isn't as a blog know for its interest in romantic comedies, we'll reference only his two recent roles that speak to our readers, Rock 'n Rolla (Guy Ritchie's great flick from 2009, featuring Gerard Butler alongside Elba) and The Losers.

Iron Man 2

How can you go wrong? Robert Downey, Jr., reprising his role as Tony Stark, alongside great actor Don Cheadle (in a role formerly played by Terrence Howard in the first installment), and Mickey Rourke (who has also had a great boost to his acting career of late, with parts in Man on Fire, Sin City, The Wrestler and now Iron Man 2) all do more than carry their weight.

The Illinois General Assembly soldiers on...

The Illinois General Assembly went on recess after a session of several substantial pieces of legislation, most notably pension reform. However, they have yet to complete work on the 800-pound gorilla in the room: the annual operating budget for the state government's own operations. There is a gaping $13 billion budget deficit, an amount large enough that no amount of fiscal slight-of-hand, borrowing or other stopgap measure can paper over.

We all now wait with bated breath for the Speaker of the House, House Minority Leader, Senate President, Senate Minority Leader and Governor to hash out some sort of tentative agreement that they believe their respective caucuses and supporters will go for, at which time they will call everyone back to the state capitol Springfield, Illinois for a final vote. We're nowhere near finished yet, people.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Illinois Politics

The Republican side is still waiting for the dust to settle on the primary results to find out if their candidate will be moderate Kirk Dillard or right-leaning Bill Brady. The victor goes on to face Democrat incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn.

The race for Lt. Governor on the Democrat side ended with the resounding winner, Scott Lee Cohen, withdrawing after lurid accusations of domestic violence. Party insiders are now doing the internecine dance to determine who they will select to replace Cohen on the state ticket. Meanwhile, Speaker of the House Michael Madigan is purportedly supporting measures to abolish the office altogether, subject to the support of the voters at the polls. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Book of Eli: the latest in a pretty good group of dystopia films

The Book of Eli was a great movie. That being said, let me qualify my remarks with the statement that I have NOT read the book upon which the movie was based. For that reason, my review must be taken as a commentary only on the quality of the film itself. The book may in fact, provide more nuance than the film, but then again, what movie doesn't?

The film is another installment in what is admittedly one of my favorite genres: the post-apocalyptic dystopia. It features all of the hallmarks of the genre, including stoic and/or cynical heroes, a sense of despair coupled with a dogged belief or hope that something better is indeed possible, and a journey of some sort that has to be made through the wastes, which gives the director a chance to show both the atrocities and beauty of the human experience. My other favorites in this genre include last fall's brilliant Viggo Mortensen film "The Road" and Clive Owen's "Children of Men".

The Book of Eli is no different. It features Denzel Washington as Eli, whose name we never learn directly, only when it is spied on a name tag he has kept in his backpack. Eli appears to the viewer as a bitter cynic, because throughout the movie he makes efforts to ignore the horror around him as "not his fight", but we later learn that this apparent cynicism masks a much deeper hopefulness for humankind's future. The pervasive despair is lightened when we realize that his despair is really hopefulness built around his singleminded dedication to a mission. And the journey through the wastes is also present, showing the depths of the degradation to which we are all in fact, vulnerable, once things fall apart.

The sepia tones typical of a burned out dried wasteland are all there. The camerawork is impressive, showing Denzel's Eli marching through miles of western desert, winding roads and wrecked former highways. The action sequences are brilliant, with much of the gore alluded to or shown in shadows, as Washington masters hand-to-hand combat with an assurance of a man who knows he is in fact, invulnerable. Washington's performance is nuanced, showing self-assurance in his character's mission, coupled with a sense of sadness for how horrible things have become for mankind. I have always found Washington's depiction of flawed protagonists (He Got Game, Training Day, Glory, Out of Time, even X) more compelling, and Washington's Eli continues this trend, as a brilliant but reluctant warrior in the fight to serve humanity who often ignores situations where he could help because it is inconsistent with his primary objective. Yet despite this, we soon learn he has the biggest heart of any character in the film.

The film has a surprising cast, including Washington, Gary Oldman, Jennifer Beals, Mila Kunis, Ray Stevenson and even appearances by Tom Waits and Malcolm McDowell.

And this cynical blogger, was, despite being a hard-boiled agnostic/atheist, touched by the film's message about having a dogged belief in something other than oneself.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Crist v. Rubio

Governor Charlie Crist's campaign for the Republican candidacy to the U.S. Senate appears to be running neck and neck with that of fellow challenger Florida Rep. Marco Rubio. Rubio appears to be outflanking Crist on the right, which is strange given the racial and ethnic attitudes that predominate on the right end of the spectrum. How has Rubio positioned himself in this way? Are the far right fringe elements becoming schizophrenic in their views on race, backing the child of Cuban immigrants to tighten laws on immigration?

Meanwhile on the Democratic side of the ledger, U.S. Rep. Kendrick looks to be in dire straits as well. With name recognition lagging outside of the greater Dade County area, Meek looks to have an uphill climb, particularly among more conservative parts of the state.

Any thoughts on the Florida U.S. Senate race? I'd love to hear your thoughts.