Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis has a problem with the First Amendment

Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis ordered the raid of a residence where it was believed that a now-suspended Twitter account parodying Ardis was being operated from.

The raid resulted in the arrest of one individual, but not for anything connected to the parody Twitter account:

The warrant, filed in Peoria County Circuit Court, details a two- to three-week process whereby Peoria police tracked down the location of the Internet address used for the account as well as the identity of the person who paid for the Web access.

Two judges signed off on warrants to get information from Twitter and Comcast. Another judge approved a Tuesday afternoon raid of 1220 N. University St., which led to one arrest for marijuana possession but no charges related to the Twitter account or any of the posts.

Jacob Elliott, 36, of the University Street address, was held on $3,000 bond for marijuana possession. Elliott, who has no criminal record, was released from Peoria County Jail on Thursday. His next court date is May 15 for a preliminary hearing.

According to the charge, Elliott was accused of possessing between 30 and 500 grams of marijuana. No mention was made during his five-minute hearing Thursday about the Twitter account.

Apparently, Ardis has a problem with the First Amendment and would rather conduct Joe McCarthy-style witchhunts on Peorians than do anything to make Peoria a better place to live. Social media accounts parodying elected officials and other public figures are protected free speech in the United States. Additionally, the Twitter page in question was clearly a parody (at least to me), since the Twitter page made numerous references to sex and drugs and frequently compared Ardis to crack-smoking Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, and any elected official in this country would never do anything like that with their real social media pages.

My advice to anyone who wishes to create a parody website or social media page would be to clearly mark the site or page as a parody, as not doing so runs the risk of facing legal trouble.

Gordy Hulten is an embarassment to Champaign County and to Illinois

In a short while, Republican Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten is set to appear before the Champaign County Board after massive tabulation errors were discovered in Champaign County in the March 18 primaries on both the Democratic and Republican sides of the ledger.

Simply put, the tabulation of the primary election results in Champaign County was ridiculously inaccurate. Here’s one example of how far off the Democratic primary tabulation was in one Urbana-area precinct:

A bizarre situation exists in Cunningham 17, a precinct split between the 13th and 15th Congressional Districts. The unopposed Democratic candidates for Congress and State Committeeman in the 15th District had zero ballots processed – not surprising, since there were only two registered voters in that small area at the close of regular registration. But the Democratic Candidate for State Central Committeewoman had 63 ballots processed from that sparsely-inhabited area, and was credited with 44 actual votes!

Even the Republican primary tabulation in Champaign County contained massive errors:

Remarkably, these anomalies exist in the Republican Primary reports as well, contrary to the Clerk’s assurances that only the Democratic ballots were miscounted on election day.

In City of Champaign 34, 229 total Republican ballots were processed, but 243 materialized for the Precinct Committee candidate.

Worse yet, the error-filled Republican primary tabulation in Champaign County could have a significant effect on both the upcoming election for Champaign County Democratic Party chairperson, which will be decided at the county Democratic convention in Champaign County, and a contested race for Republican State Central Committeeman in the 13th Congressional District, which will be decided at county-level Republican conventions in the 14 counties that contain parts of the 13th District, including Champaign County, tomorrow. In both cases, the conventions use weighted votes by precinct committeemen/committeewomen, with each precinct committeeperson’s vote weighted by how many ballots were cast in their respective party’s primary. Since races on both sides of the ledger have results that include different numbers of ballots cast for different races in the same party’s primary, there could be legal challenges to the results because both major parties in Champaign County don’t know how to weigh the votes for their precinct committeemen/committeewomen.

Gordy Hulten has badly mismanaged the office of Champaign County Clerk, and Democrats should slate a candidate to run against Hulten in the general election. Mismanaging elections is something that I have zero tolerance for.

Bruce Rauner wants to shake down Springfield and bring back corruption

Republican nominee for Governor of Illinois Bruce Rauner has a few corrupt friends.

First, there’s Stuart Levine, the Rod Blagojevich crony who was convicted for his role in the Blagojevich scandal. Levine’s ties to Rauner include a company financed by Rauner’s venture capital firm, GTCR, gave Levine $1 million to get state contracts by whatever means it took to do so, including political payoffs. Additionally, Levine helped put $50 million in pension funds into the coffers of Rauner’s firm.

Now, William Cellini, a Republican power broker who was released last year after serving a prison sentence for participating in an extortion scheme, has endorsed Rauner and has called Rauner “impressive”:

Springfield powerbroker William Cellini is back on the political scene, following his release from prison late last year. He was found guilty of participating in an extortion scheme when Rod Blagojevich was governor.

Cellini attended a Sangamon County Republican Foundation event Tuesday night, which featured Bruce Rauner, the party’s nominee for governor.

Cellini says he backed State Senator Kirk Dillard in the Republican primary race. But now he’s behind Rauner.

“Well I’ve been a Republican all my life and he’s the Republican candidate,” Cellini said.

Cellini says last night’s event was the first time he heard Rauner, and says he was “impressive.”

Trust me, Bruce Rauner is NOT what I’d call “impressive”. Rauner wants to gut public education and public employee pensions in Illinois, as well as privatize public education by implementing school vouchers, which does nothing whatsoever to improve the quality of education in Illinois. Furthermore, Rauner wants to cut taxes when our state has billions of dollars in unpaid bills, which is highly irresponsible.

More importantly, though, Bruce Rauner has said that he wants to “bring back Illinois”. What Rauner means by that is, although he won’t outright admit to it, he wants to take this state back to the days when crooks like George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich ran the state. I certainly don’t want to bring back that Illinois!

Rahm Emanuel stealing public pension money to benefit campaign donors

I am a proud Illinois Democrat, but I’ll make it absolutely clear that Rahm Emanuel does NOT share my values.

In this article for the website PandoDaily, David Sirota writes about how Emanuel is raiding public employee pension funds, which are supposed to go to Chicago’s public-sector workers once they retire, and diverting the funds into a slush fund:

If you’ve read the financial news out of Chicago the last few weeks, you’ve probably heard that the city faces a major pension shortfall, supposedly because police officers, firefighters, teachers and other public workers are selfishly bleeding the city dry.

You’ve also probably heard that the only way investment banker-turned-mayor Rahm Emanuel can deal with the seemingly dire situation is to slash his public workers’ retirement benefits and to jack up property taxes on those who aren’t politically connected enough to have secured themselves special exemptions.

This same story, portraying public employees as the primary cause of budget crises, is being told across the country. Yet, in many cases, we’re only being told half the tale. We aren’t told that the pension shortfalls in many US states and cities were created because those same states and cities did not make their required pension contributions over many years. And perhaps even more shockingly, we aren’t being told that, while states and cities pretend they have no money to deal with public sector pensions, many are paying giant taxpayer subsidies to corporations — often far larger than the pension shortfalls.

Chicago is the iconic example of all of these trends. A new report being released this morning shows that the supposedly budget-strapped Windy City - which for years has not made its full pension payments – actually has mountains of cash sitting in a slush fund controlled by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Indeed, as the report documents, the slush fund now receives more money each year than it would cost to adequately finance Chicago’s pension funds. Yet, Emanuel is refusing to use the cash from that slush fund to shore up the pensions. Instead, his new pension “reform” proposal cuts pension benefits, requires higher contributions from public employees and raises property taxes in the name of fiscal responsibility. Yet, the same “reform” proposal will actually quietly increase his already bloated slush fund.

You may be asking yourself this question: Exactly why would Rahm divert public pension money into a slush fund? Here’s the answer:

…just after Emanuel took office, his apparatchiks on Chicago’s City Council passed that $7 million TIF subsidy that will benefit grocery chain Mariano’s Fresh Market. Mariano’s is owned through a parent company by Willis Stein & Partners, whose CEO gave Emanuel $25,000 just months before the TIF was approved.

Similarly, in the above mentioned data center proposal (which fell through), Emanuel offered to use his TIF authority to let private equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners and real estate company JDI Realty get away with not paying back $7.5 million in TIF money that is still owed to taxpayers. Madison Dearborn Partners is one of Emanuel’s biggest sources of campaign cash.

Then there is Emanuel’s $29 million office-tower TIF. That boondoggle will underwrite the new Chicago headquarters of DLA Piper – the same law firm whose employees have given Emanuel more than $125,000. The law firm will benefit not only from having its leased office space effectively subsidized by taxpayers, but also from the preservation of TIFs in general, as the firm’s Chicago office has a long history of TIF legalwork. As just one example of that, DLA Piper is the law firm involved in the $4.5 million TIF Emanuel’s allies engineered for Vienna Beef.

Not to be forgotten is Emanuel’s $55 million TIF for a massive new hotel near Chicago’s convention center. According to the Chicago Tribune, Emanuel appointees on the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority awarded commercial real estate company Jones Lang Lasalle the big construction management contract that will benefit from that huge TIF. One of the largest shareholders of Jones Lang Lasalle is Ariel Investments, whose president gave Emanuel’s campaign $31,500.

There are likely more such examples, and we’ll keep digging to uncover them. What we know now is that the real estate and financial industries are among the big beneficiaries of Emanuel’s shadow budget. The former often benefits from TIF subsidies of development deals, while the latter often either has ownership stakes in TIF projects or sells off the debt at a profit in the financial markets. And – surprise, surprise! – campaign finance data show that those two particular industries bankroll Emanuel’s campaigns.

In other words, Rahm is using Chicago’s TIF funds as a slush fund to provide taxpayer money to construction projects supported by Rahm’s campaign donors. You may be asking yourself yet another question…exactly how is public pension money being diverted into a slush fund and TIF money benefiting Rahm’s campaign donors connected? Well, as Ben Jorvasky at The Chicago Reader reported a couple of days ago, Rahm’s proposed pension reform plan for Chicago would raise property taxes to fund the pension reform plan, which would result in cuts in payments to municipal retirees, increases in payments into the pension funds by current public employees, and…wait for it…more taxpayer money going into the TIF funds that are used to fund projects for Rahm’s cronies:

If the mayor raises the overall tax rate to fund his pension bailout, he is of course raising the rate in TIF districts thereby. That means more property tax dollars will flow into the TIF bank accounts. Think of it as more slush for the fund.

Rahm Emanuel and his fellow plutocrats want you to believe that police officers, firefighters, teachers, and other public-sector workers are responsible for the pension crisis in our state’s largest city, as well as the pension crisis at the state level here in Illinois. In reality, Rahm himself is responsible for the pension crisis in Chicago by robbing retired public employees to hand out political payoffs to his campaign donors. The next election for Mayor of Chicago is in the spring of next year, and there better be someone with a progressive vision to protect Chicago’s retired public employees, end the rampant culture of corruption in Chicago, and get the city’s finances back on track running against Rahm.

Right-wing newspaper publisher John Foreman is a total misogynist

John Foreman, the publisher of The News-Gazette, the local right-wing rag in Champaign-Urbana, went on C-U right-wing talk radio station WDWS-AM (which is owned by The News-Gazette) and delivered this sexist screed about Democratic nominee Ann Callis’s campaign in the 13th Congressional District of Illinois:

I think her message is not gelling because she doesn’t want her message to gel. I believe Ann Callis is making an effort to run for office and say as little as possible about what she would be or do. She’s making the point that she was a judge, that’s very admirable. She’s a very telegenic, attractive, lady who we saw a lot of her face in advertising. She’s the mother of a young man currently on active duty. Apart from that, relatively very few voters can tell you anything about Ann Callis, at least in this part of the district. And I think that’s the way she wants it to be. If she can stick to that, vote for me because of these things, she will.

Am I a fan of the “stealth campaign” strategy that many Democrats, especially in high-profile races, utilize? Of course I don’t. Do I wish that Ann Callis was more vocal about where she stands on the issues? Of course I do. However, to suggest that Ann Callis is campaigning on the fact that she’s a good-looking woman is a misogynistic lie. I live about 30 miles outside of the 13th District, however, since I live in a media market that includes much of the 13th District, I’ve seen Callis’s ads on local TV stations. From the ads I’ve seen, she is running on her record as a circuit judge in Madison County, specifically, the fact that she created the first veterans’ court in Illinois, designed to rehabilitate veterans facing legal issues back into society.

John Foreman should resign from The News-Gazette because sexism should have no place whatsoever in the media.

Alan Grayson SLAMS right-wing crackpot Susanne Atanus

From my email inbox, Democratic U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida’s 9th Congressional District absolutely slammed Republican nominee for Congress in the 9th Congressional District of Illinois Susanne Atanus, who has become notorious for her crackpot views on many issues:

In a candidate debate at the Chicago Daily Herald, Atanus said that her top issue is the economy. The solution to our economic problems, Atanus said, is to eliminate the S&P, Dow Jones and Nasdaq indices. (While we’re at it, why don’t we eliminate unemployment by eliminating unemployment reports? How about achieving immortality by prohibiting death certificates?)

Here is more from the Daily Herald:

[Atanus] said she believes God controls the weather and has put tornadoes and diseases such as autism and dementia on earth as in response to gay rights and legalized abortions. “God is angry. We are provoking him with abortions and same-sex marriage and civil unions,” she said. “Same-sex activity is going to increase AIDS. If it’s in our military it will weaken our military. We need to respect God.”

She then elaborated on her views about religious meteorology with the aptly-named Windy City Times:

“Everybody knows that God controls weather,” Atanus said. Atanus said that the snap of cold weather to the Chicago area, as well as the string of tornadoes and other adverse weather, is God’s response to the passage of same-sex marriage in Illinois. She also adds that she believes autism and illness are a response to abortion and same-sex marriage.

“God is super angry,” she said. “Gay marriage is not appropriate, and it doesn’t look right, and it breeds AIDS,” Atanus added later.

Oh, and Atanus also wants to repeal the separation of church and state in the First Amendment. “I believe that maybe there should be an amendment to get that out of the Constitution, because God will never go away,” Atanus said. Even if all the tornado victims and the AIDS patients wish he would.

First, eliminating major stock market indexes are going to do absolutely nothing to improve the U.S. economy, in fact, the Dow Jones, NASDAQ, and S&P 500 indexes aren’t the best indicators of overall economic performance in this country since they only represent the stock prices of large corporations. You can’t eliminate economic problems by outlawing stock indexes, unemployment reports, job gain/loss reports, and other kinds of economic indexes and statistics.

Also, it is an indisputable fact that God doesn’t exist. Nobody has ever verified the physical existence of God, so, therefore, he can’t exist. Furthermore, various natural forces that have been documented by scientists for centuries (although extreme weather events in recent years have been made worse than they otherwise would have been thanks to man-made global climate change), not some religious deity, control the weather. Additionally, AIDS and autism were not created by a religious deity of any kind. Unlike what many people claim, many heterosexual people have been diagnosed with HIV and/or AIDS. As someone with an autism spectrum disorder known as Asperger’s Syndrome, suggesting that me and many other people in this state and this country having a developmental disorder of some kind is because abortion and gay marriage are legal in Illinois is flatly absurd.

Finally, unlike Atanus, I believe that there should be an iron curtain between church and state. As a proud atheist, I believe that any use of taxpayer money that subsidizes religious organizations of any kind is wrong, and I absolutely despise anyone who wants to shove their religious beliefs down the throats of me or anyone else who has different religious views.

Not surprisingly, I hope that Jan Schakowsky, one of the most progressive members of our state’s U.S. House delegation, is re-elected on November 4.

Bruce Rauner’s “John Kerry problem”

Remember the last time the Democratic nominee lost a presidential election? That was in 2004, and the Democratic nominee in that year’s presidential race was John Kerry, then the junior U.S. Senator from Massachusetts who is now the U.S. Secretary of State. Kerry lost to one of the worst presidents our country has had, Republican George W. Bush, for many reasons, one of which was his flip-flopping on the issue of funding for the unjustified Iraq War.

Now, in 2014, Illinois Republicans have nominated venture capitalist Bruce Rauner as their candidate for governor, and Rauner has a John Kerry problem of his own. In Rauner’s case, he flip-flopped on the issue of the minimum wage. Governor Pat Quinn’s campaign is wasting little time attacking Rauner over wanting to lower the minimum wage in Illinois before flip-flopping (after being sharply criticized for wanting to lower the minimum wage) and claiming that he doesn’t want to lower the minimum wage in Illinois:

Lowering the minimum wage in Illinois would result in working-poor Illinoisans having less money to spend on goods and services, which would hurt our state’s economy and worsen our state’s fiscal problems. Anyone who is even open to the idea of lowering our state’s minimum wage is bad for our state.

More importantly, when a candidate flip-flops on an important issue for primarily or exclusively political reasons, voters are not going to trust that candidate. We saw what happens when one flip-flops on an issue in the 39th Representative District Democratic primary last night. In that race, Toni Berrios was for the Mike Madigan-supported pension theft bill before she voted against it for purely political reasons (specifically, progressive activist Will Guzzardi was running against her in the Democratic primary), and she lost the primary to Guzzardi, who did not once waver from any of his stances on the issues, even when his stance on pension reform was to the left of the public-sector unions. Just like John Kerry and Toni Berrios before him, I have a gut feeling that Bruce Rauner will lose the 2014 gubernatorial election thanks to his flip-flop on an important issue facing our state.

Unlike Rauner, Governor Quinn has always been for lifting working-poor Illinoisans out of poverty and boosting our state’s economy by raising our state’s minimum wage.

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