Saturday, September 27, 2014

Recovering lawyer who makes art from Lego back in the news

I was stuck at the car dealer, in the Service Department waiting room, waiting for the verdict on the family van. The waiting room at this dealer is bigger than most, and less dingy. But the big room was still dominated by an equally big TV, turned on at full volume, presumably in an attempt to drown out the incessant intercom announcements. If that was the intent, it did not succeed. The sonic barrage made it difficult to focus on the reading I'd brought with me to while away the time.

The TV was tuned to a newscast. These days, in Chicago, there's almost always news on some channel. In a waiting room, one might get Ellen or Maury or Jeopardy or Judge Mathis. But the news will follow immediately.

Anyway, at the end of this newscast, there was a little piece on an ex-lawyer who is opening a show in London this weekend, showcasing the art he creates from Lego. I couldn't find the TV station piece on the station website, but the Chicago Tribune had an AP video up about the artist.

Involuntarily listening to the TV broadcast, I realized that I'd written about this lawyer-turned-artist, Nathan Sawaya, back in 2008. Quoting from an article by Christine Y. Chen on portfolio.com, I had written,
Sawaya graduated from NYU Law School in 1989. He became "a Wall Street attorney, earning a comfortable six-figure salary—and working in a high-stress environment." Seeking a way to unwind, Sawaya began working on art projects in his spare time, working in clay at first, "then moving into more whimsical media, like candy."

And then he moved into Lego.

Sawaya won a 2004 Lego-sponsored competition to find the best builder in the U.S. He quit his day job -- and started working for $13 an hour creating sculptures for a Lego theme park in San Diego.
Things progressed swimmingly from there. Chen's 2008 article said that, though Sawaya was working longer hours than he had on Wall Street, he had more than replaced his income as a lawyer. And now Sawaya's staging big shows in prestigious museums.

In short, Sawaya has become a real-life Lego Master Builder. As opposed to these Master Builders from The Lego Movie.

Still, with all the success he's enjoyed, I wonder, if one were to ask Sawaya how things are going, whether he might answer, "Everything is awesome."

Saturday, September 6, 2014

St. Tars to host 5th Annual Recycling Day and Green Expo September 27

St. Tarcissus Catholic Parish, 6020 W. Ardmore, will hold its 5th Annual Recycling Day and Green Expo on Saturday, September 27, from 9:00 to 3:00.

Computers, monitors, televisions, telephones, radios, DVD players and metals (aluminum cans, brass, copper) will be accepted for recycling in the parking lot behind the church, on the 5800 block of North Moody. Paper shredding will also be available (but only from 9:00 to noon). Walgreens will have people on hand to collect unused prescriptions (flushing expired prescription medications is not the best plan; that puts traces of medicine in the water supply) and to offer flu shots. Working Bikes will be accepting donations of old bicycles, bike parts, crutches, sewing machines, and wheelchairs for repair and distribution to the underprivileged, locally and globally.

The Green Expo will be in the St. Tars School Auditorium, 6040 W. Ardmore. There will be a free book swap (leave a book, take a book), games and activities for children, vendors offering Green and Fair Trade products, Green household cleaning tips, and backyard composting demonstrations. There will also be raffles for various items, including a rain barrel.

Monday, August 11, 2014

It will take time (and terabytes) to rebuild this relationship

Today started as Day 11 of our Internet outage at home. I don't want to name and shame the Internet provider, so I'll just call it by its initials, AT&T.

Readers would presumably be bored with the specifics of my problems. I'll even concede that the poor person employed by the Illinois Commerce Commission to read consumer complaints may not have been entirely riveted by the screed I submitted last Thursday. But, for reasons that will become apparent, I must at least point out that, in the course of allegedly repairing my Internet outage, AT&T disconnected my home phone besides as of Monday, August 4. This was at least our second home phone outage in the past couple of weeks; we'd had an unexplained five-day outage that had only just ended (after our repeated pleas for assistance) on July 28. These phone outages were mentioned in the ICC complaint.

However exciting, or unexciting, my ICC complaint was, it at least seemed to have a salutary effect on the aforementioned telephone monopoly: On Friday I received an earnest phone message from a gentleman in the "Office of the President of AT&T," and if that doesn't sound as official as all get-out I don't know what does.

Interestingly, Friday was also the day that, according to the AT&T U-verse computers, our Internet "upgrade" was to take place. Never mind that, for roughly two blessed hours on Wednesday evening, our Internet was working. Our outgoing phone line was open. Only incoming phone calls were blocked. My foolish mistake was in telling AT&T about this one little flaw. AT&T responded to our request to take care of this minor, remaining issue by scuttling our brand new Internet service and our partial home phone service. My wife and I had just about finished installing the new wireless password on our phones and iPads and other household geegaws when the lights on our brand new U-verse router stopped flashing a uniform, cheery green. From cheery green, the "service" light had gone cherry red. And the phone's dial tone was gone, too.

But that did not set us off. No, we were more or less rational about having the 21st Century snatched away from us -- again -- at least until the AT&T "service" representative told us (our recollections notwithstanding) that our new service had not been installed, but was scheduled to be installed on Friday, August 8. Things got a little heated. But at least the "service" representative did not ask, "Who are you going to believe -- my computer screen, or your lying eyes?"

And, in fairness, a man did show up on Friday afternoon. He worked at a box a couple of blocks away, then came to our house, heading out to the pole in the backyard for awhile, before coming back to the house to tell us that the paperwork was all wrong and would have to be reentered. Meanwhile, my wife and I could return to our unscheduled nostalgia trip to a time before the Internet. And house phones. I had to resist the urge to stop by the general store for some kerosene on Saturday morning.

This morning, when I got into the office (located in the Loop and the 21st Century) I checked the AT&T website to see the status of my "repair appointment." I thought I'd been angry before, when the website said installation was scheduled for a day and a half after it had been up and running, only to have it snatched away from us. But now, when I looked at the screen, and it told me my order was "complete," I'm afraid I may have lost it.

I'm also afraid the attorney in the next suite over is going to look at me with a bit of a raised eyebrow for some time to come.

My wife called AT&T again, while I waited vainly for the earnest young man in the "Office of the AT&T President" to call me back. The person with whom she spoke on this occasion noted the pending ICC complaint and promised that a "senior technician" would be dispatched, a plenipotentiary with full authorization to do whatever it took to put us back online.

And, would you believe it? This time, it worked.

Even the home phone works.

And when the home phone started working again I discovered I had seven voice mails waiting. One was from a credit card company, trying to sell something. The other six were from AT&T. None of the callers seemed to appreciate that they were calling a number they knew, or should have known, not to be in service. This does not inspire confidence.

Nevertheless, I am back. Tentatively. Fearfully. Checking the lights on the broadband modem in between key strokes.

I am hopeful, but I am wary.

I can't embrace the Internet again at home as I had before, not right away. It'll take time. And uninterrupted service. Uninterrupted service for some time. A long time.

I'll try and make this relationship work again. But some scars heal slowly....

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Congratulations to Big Frank Thomas on his enshrinement in Baseball's Hall of Fame

When I was a boy, baseball cards were sold at Waxman's Drug Store at 95th & Hoyne. That's where I got mine. I had a pretty good collection, too, before my mother threw them all out. (Your mother did it, too; don't try and con me.)

In those days, baseball cards came with thin, brittle sheets of awful bubble gum. I never could blow a bubble. But I chewed the gum anyway.

In my life, I have bought very few baseball cards that came without bubble gum.

The one you see above is one of them.

I took it from the vault today to share, in honor of the enshrinement, this weekend, of Frank Thomas in Baseball's Hall of Fame.

When our kids were young, my wife would buy the boys baseball cards as stocking stuffers. I'd get some, too.

Here's one of these.

It's ironic that Big Frank is blowing a bubble in this baseball card photo. By the mid-90s, I think they'd stopped selling baseball cards with bubble gum. I don't remember cards with gum being available anywhere.

Big Frank was always big. He was big in Birmingham; he was big with the White Sox. In 1990, the White Sox acquired Sammy Sosa, a skinny kid from the Texas Rangers. I seem to recall him being called Sammy So-so at the time. He got lots bigger, though, when he went to the Chicago Cubs. He credited "Flintstones Vitamins" for his new muscle mass, as I recall. The sportswriters -- the same ones who will keep Sosa out of the Hall of Fame -- winked at each other and nodded and laughed and ballyhooed the home run duel between Sosa and Mark McGwire, saying nothing about PEDs. Then.

They've said a lot since. And whether or not you think Sosa, McGwire, Barry Bonds and all the rest also deserve to be in Cooperstown, the sportswriters may have said something useful by putting Big Frank in ahead of all of these. Big Frank was great and clean. It is fitting and proper that he gets in first.

Assembly line collection firm faces its own legal troubles

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has sued a Georgia law firm, Frederick J. Hanna & Associates, P.C., and three of its principal partners, charging that the firm operates "a debt collection lawsuit mill that uses illegal tactics to intimidate consumers into paying debts they may not owe." (For a complete copy of the CFPB's Complaint, click here.)

Debra Cassens Weiss posted about the suit on July 15 on ABA Journal Law News Now. According to Weiss, the Hanna firm "filed more than 350,000 debt-collection suits from 2009 through 2013" in Georgia alone (the firm also boasts offices in the St. Louis and Ft. Lauderdale areas). Weiss writes that the suit charges that one lawyer in the firm "signed an average of about 1,300 collection suits a week."

Now, let's assume that non-lawyers prepare the suit papers. Indeed, the government's suit (which says the Hanna & Associates operates more like a factory than a law firm) alleges "non-attorney support staff produce the lawsuits and place them into mail buckets, which are then delivered to attorneys essentially waiting at the end of an assembly line. The Firm’s attorneys are expected to spend less than a minute reviewing and approving each suit."

Let's do the math.

There are 60 minutes in an hour. There are, allegedly, eight hours in the typical business day. (I'll pause here until you stop snickering.) 60 x 8 = 480.

There are, again allegedly, five business days in the week. 480 x 5 = 2,400.

Clearly, the government's charges are exaggerated. The man or woman who signed 1,300 suits in a week could have lavished a good 90 seconds on each case and still found time, occasionally, to go to the bathroom or scarf down a sandwich.

And, remember, these are debt collection suits -- not antitrust pleadings. After all, how long does it take to say 'the deadbeat defendant owes my already megarich corporate masters even more money'?

Except... while some of the firm's clients are giant credit card issuers seeking to collect from their own customers, the firm also represents zombie debt buyers -- "companies," as the Washington Post Wonkblog explained, "that purchase old accounts for collection -- such as Portfolio Recovery Associates and Midland Funding."

Here's the deal: John Q. Public buys a widget from the store, charging the $100 purchase price on his Megabank MultiCharge (note that MultiCharge is not a real card issuer -- I can't afford to get sued). The store gets paid a discounted amount -- $97 or $98 from Megabank -- but the store is happy because it has most of its money up front and doesn't have to worry about collection.

If John Q. pays his MultiCharge bill in full on or before the due date, Megabank makes only $2 or $3 on the transaction. Unless, of course, it gets an annual fee or a membership fee (some cards command these). But MegaBank really makes out when John Q. Public can't quite pay the entire balance when the MultiCharge bill comes due. Depending on the card, John Q. may be accumulating annual interest charges of 10, 12, 15 or even 24, 25 or 29%. Considering that, these days, MegaBank pays virtually nothing to borrow money (if, for example, it had to borrow money to pay the store in the first place), the bank's profit margin gets pretty darn plump pretty darn fast.

But, now and again, a MultiCharge customer will fall behind in his or her payments. These losses can be readily absorbed by the obscene profits made from other Megabank customers, but discipline in the ranks must be maintained. The offending customer must be dunned.

If those efforts are not successful, for some reason -- perhaps the credit card customer, taking a page from the corporate giants, decided to decamp in the middle of the night to another venue in order to capitalize on tax advantages -- the charge (still accruing interest the whole while) may be "written off."

But that does not mean that Megabank has given up on collecting. No, it packages its uncollectable accounts and sells them to a zombie debt buyer for pennies on the dollar. The zombie can sue for the entire amount of the indebtedness, still piling up interest according to the original cardholder agreement; it need not hit on very many of these long-shots to make a huge profit on its investment. But the zombie's pleadings should be a little more complex: It addition to allegations of fact showing the validity of the original debt, the complaint needs to document how the zombie came to possess the debt. This documentation might be easy enough if the zombie is the first purchaser of the debt from the credit card issuer, but zombies sell downstream, too.

And the debts written off and sold by the card issuers are not just the ones where the cardholders moved in the middle of the night and left no forwarding address. Some debts were discharged in bankruptcy, others may have been run up on cards fraudulently issued (it's not always a Russian or Bulgarian syndicate that gets a phony credit account started, sometimes it's a spouse who never tells his or her partner about the card issued in both spouses' names).

And then there's the problem of mistaken -- as opposed to stolen -- identity. Computers are wonderful devices, but the accuracy of the information stored within varies according to the humans who enter that information. Mistakes can be made. There may not be too many persons named Xxzyz in any given town (and probably not any, but let's pretend). So the odds that the Stanley J. Xxzyz named by the zombie in its complaint being the one and only Stanley J. Xxzyz in the town phone book are probably pretty good. But it ought to take a little more time to evaluate whether the right defendant has been named if the defendant is named Smith or Jones, right?

I don't know what the rule might be in Georgia, but in Illinois a lawyer's obligations with respect to pleadings is spelled out by Supreme Court Rule 137. An attorney must not only sign every new complaint, but the attorney's signature is meant to be "a certificate by him that he has read the pleading...; that to the best of his knowledge, information, and belief formed after reasonable inquiry it is well grounded in fact and is warranted by existing law or a good-faith argument for the extension, modification, or reversal of existing law, and that it is not interposed for any improper purpose, such as to harass or to cause unnecessary delay or needless increase in the cost of litigation."

In other words, an Illinois attorney is expected to vouch for the legitimacy of every complaint he or she files -- not that it's a dead-bang winner, but that it states, in good faith, a legitimate dispute. Where the complaint is prepared by staff and the attorney sees it for the first time in a pile of pleadings to be signed, whether he or she spends less than a minute on the 'review' or spends 90 seconds or even two full minutes, it seems unlikely that, in any but the simplest and most straightforward of cases, that anyone could realistically comply with Rule 137. If Georgia's rule is similar (and I'll bet it is) it will be interesting to see whether, regardless of the outcome of the CFPB suit, there are disciplinary consequences for the attorneys who signed these pleadings or those who set up the assembly line system.

The takeaway for the layperson who comes across this post is that one should never, ever assume that suit papers, even though (in your view) clearly erroneous, can be safely ignored. It will not matter to the court that a zombie debt collector has sued the wrong John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt. The court will not know the complaint is erroneous -- not unless you appear to say so. If you are a John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt, but never had a MegaBank MultiCharge account, but if you are served with a complaint that says you did, and you do not go to court and prevent it, you will be defaulted. You will wind up with a judgment on your record, possibly a garnishment summons on your employer. His name is your name, too, and, if a default judgment is entered against you, his debt is yours as well.

Put it this way: The Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble; they're only made of clay -- but, in Illinois, after 30 days, a default judgment is here to stay.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Republicans trying to bail out the Redistricting Amendment?


That's what the Illinois Observer is reporting this morning. Specifically, according to the linked post, House Minority Leader Jim Durkin and Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno have asked the Illinois State Board of Elections to reconsider the impossibly tight deadline imposed on Yes for Independent Maps to 'rehabilitate' signatures tested and found wanting on its petitions to place the Illinois Independent Redistricting Amendment on the November ballot.

The Observer piece makes this out to be a normal Republicans vs. Democrats story: As I reported on May 21, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is behind a suit to knock this amendment off the ballot... if it makes it on the ballot in the first place. Today's Observer post notes that the Yes to Independent Maps campaign has raised $2.9 million, principally from Republicans, "such as Ken and Anne Griffin who have donated $350,000 to the effort and who are among GOP gubernatorial nominee Bruce Rauner’s biggest financial backers."

See? Straight-up partisan politics, right?

As Lee Corso says on college football Saturdays, not so fast, my friend.

It's easy to assume that the Republicans would be in favor of the amendment, since the Democrats that now control that mapping process have drawn such friendly districts for themselves, and such dangerous districts for their Republican friends, that the Republicans can practically qualify for endangered species status in Illinois. But nothing lasts forever, especially in politics. The Republicans will presumably have their day again. Eventually. And when they get it, they don't want to have to deal with fairly drawn districts; they will want a chance to draw three Democratic incumbents into the same new district and see how they like it. Republicans want to pick friendly voters and hamstring their opponents just as badly as Democrats do.

Today's alleged Republican plea to the ISBE comes suspiciously late in the process.

The ISBE is required by law to spot-check 5% of the signatures on mega-petitions like that filed by the redistricting amendment's supporters. In that check fully 54% of the signatures were deemed invalid. Projecting this failure rate across the entire petition would put the amendment well short of the 298,400 valid signatures necessary to qualify for the ballot.

Amendment supporters were given the Herculean task of trying to track down the 13,807 petition signers whose signatures were deemed invalid and secure affidavits from them showing that they did in fact sign the petition -- and they were initially given only until June 5 in which to accomplish this.

A Tribune editorial on June 5 noted that an ISBE hearing officer had agreed to give the Yes people a brief extension, to June 13, in which to marshal their rehabilitation evidence, but the full Board overruled the hearing officer. (The Tribune article also notes -- curiously -- that there was no consensus as to which signatures were invalid -- some Board staffers found only 17% of the signatures wanting, while others were willing to throw out an astonishing 86% of the signatures checked.)

Anyway, Radogno and Durkin's plea apparently comes after this reinstated deadline has passed -- before the Board's seemingly inevitable final ruling against the amendment comes down on June 17, but too late to do any real good. Fodder for a commercial or two, perhaps, but without incurring any serious risk that the voters might get a chance to vote on the amendment.

Photo obtained from this post on Capitol Fax
It's interesting to note that the constitutional amendment that Bruce Rauner openly supports, the term limits amendment, an amendment that would also cut the size of the Illinois Senate, has sailed through the ISBE without difficulty. (That's Mr. Rauner, above, posing with the term limits petitions just before they were sent for filing.)

Political professionals can deal with term limits -- Putin and Medvedev simply traded places, you'll recall. Granted, the last Cutback Amendment, perhaps the all-time blunder of Pat Quinn's career, was disruptive. Not only did it put one-third of the Illinois House out of office, it did more than any other single thing to create our current system in Springfield in which the majority leaders in both houses have such authority. The political class as a whole survived and prospered despite the disruption.

If some individual politicians would also suffer under Rauner's new cutback plan, the entire political class, in both parties, would be shaken to the core by a non-partisan map-drawing process. The Democrats are honest enough to be openly against it; many Republican politicians are merely pretending to be for it.

There may well be some constitutional infirmities in the Yes proposal; election attorney Michael J. Kasper will make a strong case, if he has to. This sentence in the proposed Amendment, for example, seems likely to cause trouble: "For ten years after service as a Commissioner or Special Commissioner [on the Independent Redistricting Commission], a person is ineligible to serve as a Senator, Representative, officer of the Executive Branch, Judge, or Associate Judge of the State or an officer or employee of the State whose appointment is subject to confirmation by the Senate."

But the professional politicians don't want to get to the merits of the map-drawing amendment either in a courtroom or on the hustings. They'd like to see it killed before it gets on the ballot. And, today's nominal Republican protest notwithstanding, the professional politicians may soon get their wish.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Lots more photos from yesterday's Norwood Park Memorial Day Parade

This post is a continuation of a post that began on page one. If you just came from there, you saw the large group of from Taft High School that marched yesterday.

Well, a lot of the local grammar schools and Scout groups participated as well.

Here's a group from Garvey School.


And there was a large group from Immaculate Conception Parish, including several Scout groups and a contingent of junior high students.


Girl Scout Troop 41640, sponsored by the Congregational Church of Jefferson Park, marched in the parade...


...as did Lutheran Unity School...



... and Cub Pack 3958, sponsored by the Norwood Park Lutheran Church.



Norwood Park School also had a good sized turnout.


Also marching were Cub Scout and Girl Scout units from Edison Park Elementary School.


St. Thecla Parish had a large group participating.


And Boy Scout Troop 943 and Cub Pack 3943 from St. Monica Parish also marched...




...as did Cub Pack 3965 from St. Juliana's.



The Marching Eagles Band from Smyser Elementary School also performed along the parade route.


There are more pictures I could share -- my daughter Brigid will be mad at me for not including any pictures of the marchers from the Norwood Park Dog Association -- and I haven't shown any of the old cars that rumbled by. Some of these old cars were new in my lifetime, and I'm not thrilled by that realization. But I can't leave the parade without showing these two ladies, who marched behind a car bearing placards for the Norwood Park Historical Society.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Wait -- I thought Mayor Emanuel said we needed speed cameras because pedestrians in Chicago are in such mortal peril

In today's Chicago Sun-Times Rosalind Rossi reports that Chicago is among the safest cities for pedestrians, ranking no. 45 out of 51 metropolitan areas in a Smart Growth America survey of pedestrians killed per 100,000 residents in traffic accidents between 2008 and 2012.

(Finally! A survey where it's good to be down near the bottom!)

So that's good news for a change.

Still, I'm confused. Didn't Mayor Emanuel tell us that we need speed cameras because our streets are so dangerous?

Saturday, May 10, 2014

45th Ward "ecoFair" today from 10:00 to 1:00

I saw this earlier, but when I went looking for it, I couldn't find it.

Ald. John Arena (45th) is hosting the ward's annual ecoFair, paper shredding and electronics recycling event, cosponsored by the Chicago Park District and the University of Illinois Extension, today, May 10, from 10:00 to 1:00.

The ecoFair will be at Wilson Park, 4630 N. Milwaukee, and will feature booths where you can learn about ecologically-friendly practices, such as composting, creating rain gardens and sustainable back yards.

There will also be a drawing for a free rain barrel.

Electronics recycling and paper shredding will be available across the street and next to the fire station. Used shoes, clothing, and books will also be collected for charity.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Another Northwest Side electronics recycling event tomorrow


The first thing you have to realize is this: Not all trash is created equal.

You can throw out your coffee grounds or the dust picked up by your vacuum cleaner and lots of other gooey and gloppy stuff, but, in Illinois, if you put your old TV out in the trash, you could be fined a hefty sum of money (see, Sec. 80 of the Electronic Products Recycling and Reuse Act, 415 ILCS 150/80). In addition to televisions, the Act also prohibits folks from throwing out any computer, computer monitor, printer, electronic keyboard, facsimile machine, videocassette recorder, portable digital music player, digital video disc player, video game console, electronic mouse, scanner, digital converter box, cable receiver, satellite receiver, digital video disc recorder, or small-scale server.

So if you have any of this stuff piling up in your garage, and you're in the area, tomorrow may be a good time to responsibly dispose of your old electronics at St. Priscilla's, 6969 W. Addison. Ald. Nicholas Sposato and State Representative Luis Arroyo are hosting tomorrow's event.

Monday, April 28, 2014

City Council to adopt partial plastic bag ban this week?

This is the plastic bag recycling bin at the south entrance to the Jewel-Osco at Harlem and Foster on Chicago's Northwest Side.

The Chicago City Council is expected to vote Wednesday on an ordinance that would prohibit this Jewel store and other chain grocery stores in the City from giving out plastic bags to their customers after August 2015. A "compromise" worked out with the ordinance's sponsors will give smaller retailers (stores with under 10,000 square feet of space unless part of a chain of three or more stores) a reprieve from the ban until August 2016. The Chicago Sun-Times Politics Early & Often site provided the text of the proposed ordinance:

Plastic bag ordinance



Retailers subject to the ordinance would be required to provide paper, cloth or "compostable" plastic bags that meet specified standards of biodegradability.

This is touted as a great environmental victory instead of just another regressive tax. It might be beneficial to the environment if the use of plastic bags would really be eliminated, but the proposed ordinance is also a regressive tax.

Bags are not free. I had a post on Page One back in 2011 that looked at the differences between the costs of paper and plastic bags. Paper bags cost significantly more than plastic ones; that's why grocers started using plastic. If this new 'environmental' ordinance passes, the costs of switching back to paper or using "compostable" plastic bags will be passed along to consumers. More well-to-do consumers may already be using cloth or other reusable bags (that they pay for). But, under the proposed ordinance, everyone will have to buy them, or pay increased costs at check-out to cover the costs of new bags. This will raise prices for rich and poor alike. It is for this reason that this new tax, like the sales tax, is regressive.

And the plastic bags have their uses. For example, dog owners will still have to have something to dispose of what dogs do, only now they will have to pay for their doggie-doo bags. It would be best, of course, if the dog owners used "compostable" bags, but the ordinance won't guarantee that.

Plastic bags are also helpful when carrying meat home from the grocer, even in enviornmentally-sound cloth bags. If blood from fresh meat contaminates those cloth bags and the bag owners don't launder them properly, what sort of public health concerns will that create? The ordinance doesn't consider that either.

The environmental benefits of the ordinance were touted by Ald. George Cardenas (12th), who chairs the Health and Environmental Protection Committee. He was quoted in a recent post on the CBS2 Local site. Cardenas said said plastic bags by the hundreds and thousands litter city streets in many wards.
“You see litter, and you see plastic, and you see plastic bags. That’s what you see,” he said. “And we clean it up on a daily basis. Every week we have a task force from the Streets and Sanitation [Department] to go out and clean.”
But that's why they have bins like the one pictured above, at my local Jewel, so people can recycle the plastic bags, not let them blow away in the breeze. We just passed the 44th anniversary of Earth Day. Weren't we supposed to have eradicated litter bugs by now? Wouldn't the truly "green" solution be to encourage recycling?

And it's quite interesting to note that, despite the concerns of aldermen that plastic bags are winding up as litter, the City of Chicago does not even accept plastic bags for recycling. Chicago residents finally have their blue bins -- but plastic bags are not permitted in those bins (from the City of Chicago website, highlighting supplied):


Will my local Jewel still collect plastic bags when it can no longer issue them? Will anyone?

I don't know if the ordinance will really kill jobs, as some of the more strident critics charge. It will presumably give a price advantage to stores just outside the City limits -- bad news for my local Jewel, located just inside the City boundaries. The bag ordinance is a regressive tax, hurting poor people more than rich ones, and yet not contributing one thin dime to the City coffers for the benefit of either rich or poor. Instead of a ban, the environment might be a lot better served if people would just pick up after themselves and use the recycling bins already at their local groceries.

I hope the City Council will again reject this proposal. I'm not, however, holding my breath.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

One in four Illinoisans think ours is the worst state in which to live

This table is reproduced from a Gallup poll discussed in a post on page one. You may need to enlarge or clarify this table, depending on the device on which you are viewing this.

Illinois fares poorly in Gallup poll of state residents' trust in their home state governments

This table is reproduced from a Gallup poll discussed in a post on page one. You may need to enlarge or clarify this table, depending on the device on which you are viewing this.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Judicial blogger appears on this week's North Town News Magazine



I am a guest on this week's edition of North Town News Magazine, talking about the results of the March judicial primary with host and moderator Avy Meyers.

My thanks to Avy Meyers and his entire technical crew Sonny Hersh for allowing me to appear.

The program airs tonight at 7:30 on CAN-TV, Channel 19 on Chicago cable systems, with a rebroadcast tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. The show is also seen in Evanston on Channel 6 tonight at 5:00 and Sunday night at 10:30. NTNM is also broadcast on a number of other suburban cable systems on Mondays at 6:00 p.m. Check your local listings for air times in your area.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Definitely not a good sign

Non Sequitur comic, by Wiley Miller, obtained from Yahoo! Comics.