The Grand Old Partisan of Illinois

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

What's in a Name?

The Sun-Times reports that Governor Blagojevich signed a bill “requiring candidates who have changed their names within three years before running to have a ‘formerly known as’ under their name [on the ballot].”

It seems that a number of candidates for judicial offices in Cook County have changed their name to sound Irish, because, “candidates with Irish names…tend to sweep judicial elections.” Well now, thanks to a bill signed by the Governor and sponsored by fellow Illinoize blogger State Rep. John Fritchey, only truly Irish candidates get the benefit of such ridiculously thoughtless voting habits.

Seriously, isn’t the fact that voters are selecting judges based on ethnicity to begin with a much more disconcerting issue? Granted, I’m not sure much can be done about that. In a democracy, people are certainly free to base their vote on whatever superficial criteria they want. But how far should the state go to help them do so? Should we start including the race or religious affiliation of a candidate after their name on the ballot, in case someone wants to base their vote on that?

Also posted, with comments (and a debate with Rep. Fritchey), at Illinoize

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Hastert Raises Cash and Questions with Recent Mailings

A story in today’s Roll Call (subscription required) reports that former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), who is expected to retire before the 2008 election, recently sent out a mailer soliciting funds for his campaign committee. The story goes on to explore the various reasons why “the Coach” may be loading up his coffers, and the circumstances under which he may pull the trigger on retirement

Hastert is clearly positioning himself to become a power broker in both his 14th District and throughout the state. In terms of his retirement, Roll Call notes that there are concerns a special election could lead to a free-for-all, and encourage a strong Democratic candidate (not mentioned by name, but presumably Aurora State Rep. Linda Chapa-LaVia) to enter a race that would otherwise require them to risk their current positions. I think they are right, and thus my original prediction that Hastert would force a special election was based on faulty and incomplete reasoning. In regards to the Republican nomination, they speculate that Hastert could follow the example of Illinois Democrats Bill Lipinski and Lane Evans, and run through the primary only to drop out and have his organization push for his chosen successor (reportedly Batavia Republican State Rep. Tim Schmitz).

As someone who was critical of Lipinski and Evans, I’d be very disappointed to see Hastert do the same, especially when there is an effective but far less objectionable alternative available. As Roll Call reminds us, "campaign finance laws allow Hastert to give unlimited soft-money donations on the state and local level in Illinois from his campaign committee." I think it's more likely that he will use his war chest to help Schmitz in a primary by shifting funds to local and state Republican office-holders who agree to endorse him.

Coincidently, such moves could also add some muscle to Hastert’s endorsement of Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney if the Illinois primary is moved up.

Also posted, with comments, at Illinoize

Friday, January 19, 2007

Hey, Britney and Lindsay turned out alright, didn't they?

From the The Wall Street Journal’s consistenly spot-on Best of the Web, January 19, 2007:

They're Called Boys
"Some Say It's OK for Girls to Go Wild"--headline,, Jan. 17

Actually, many of them are called 'sex offenders.'

Possessing, buying, selling and distributing sexually suggestive images of minors are all criminal offenses under state and federal law. But according to a report by Sheila Marikar of ABC News, the creation of such images by minors themselves is a positive thing:

Your 14-year-old daughter shows up on MySpace in a bikini. Her 13-year-old friend is wearing a miniskirt that might make Britney Spears blush. Time to panic? Not necessarily. [...]

While young women may express their sexuality more overtly than they have in the past, for the most part, their behavior isn't cause for alarm. It's a necessary step in growing up.

Much of Marikar’s story is based on an interview with LynNell Hancock, who thinks that this phenomenon is merely the latest chapter in the long history of adolescent rebellion, and that parents should simply “relax.” Who is Hancock, you might ask? A respected child welfare counselor or developmental psychologist? Nope, she’s a Columbia University journalism professor who “covers the youth beat.”

Okay, let’s pretend that Professor Hancock’s opinions are relevant enough to discuss and….discuss.


"Adults think that kids take everything literally — if [teens] pose in a bikini, they're suddenly sexually active. It's odd that adults who are supposed to think more conceptually are thinking so concretely."

Huh? She think it’s odd that parents are thinking about the possible consequences while their children do not? (Someone, please tell me she doesn't have tenure!) Granted, it's possible that Hancock is right to suggest that there is no connection between this phenomenon and a rise in teenage sexual activity. Since the only study cited by Marikar's report was done before the launching of YouTube and MySpace, it can hardly be used to validate either parents' concerns or the professor's dismissals. Hancock’s Columbia colleague, John Broughton, a professor of psychology and education, isn’t much help. He says:

"What adults don't get is that MySpace and YouTube are very complex and really quite innovative media that have a whole set of conventions of their own, which are not really meant very seriously and not taken very seriously. It's not really as personal as it seems." (emphasis added)

No, I think adults do "get" it, professor. It’s not personal. It’s about objectification. And any decent psychologist should know how destructive a force that is, particularly in the realm of sexuality. To that end, Jaana Juvonen of UCLA raises some very interesting questions:

"It's the kind of dialogue that's missing from our schools at the moment: Have you thought about what that kind of picture does to people? What is the likely reaction for people who see that picture?"

I'd suggest that this dialogue not be limited to the classroom. Any organization that has contact with youth - including families - should find a way to address this issue. We shouldn't wait for girls to turn into statistics by ignoring this legitimately alarming phenomenon.

Friday, January 05, 2007

It appears history repeated itself

Fred Barnes, speaking on Special Report with Brit Hume, December 14, 2006 (brought to my attention by commenter “District 14” on my December 22nd post to show how Republicans were trying to exaggerate and exploit the seriousness of Johnson's condition):

There is a long history of the doctors reports about politicians from the president on down about doctor's reports being untrue. You really have to be wary of them... I'm not saying we -- anybody has told an untruth about Senator Johnson, but this does happen."

From Roll Call, January 4, 2007

The office of Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) disclosed late Wednesday that the veteran lawmaker has been unable to breathe regularly on his own since emergency brain surgery was conducted last month to fix a brain hemorrhage, an indication that his condition has been significantly more delicate than previously acknowledged

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The not-necessarily-final, not-necessarily-fatal role of a presidential candidate

Does it matter that Barack Obama did drugs when he was in high school and college?

That’s the question that will (if not already has) come to dominate Obamamania, thanks to a Washington Post story that ran yesterday.

This, and the questions that naturally follow, are difficult to answer, and inevitably exposes almost anyone who gets into the debate to charges of hypocrisy. How can Republicans say it mattered while supporting a President who, by his own refusal to talk about it, has ostensibly acknowledged that he did drugs in his youth, as well? Doesn't the fact that Obama openly acknowledges it make it less scandalous? Does something that a person did 20+ years ago really matter today?

I’ll take the last question first. And the answer is: it depends. To me, the question can’t be generalized. Does it matter if you stole a candy bar when you were kid? If you did pot as a teen, or coke in college? What if you committed negligent homicide as a 37 year old Senator? At what age, and at what level of criminality, do you draw the line for dismissible “youthful indiscretions?”

The question of how – or if – you talk about it once you enter public life is far more important, and even more difficult. Seemingly every presidential candidate since 1992 has dealt with it in their own way. Bill Clinton didn’t inhale, and he was rightfully mocked for trying to have it both ways. George W. Bush wouldn’t discuss his youth at all, except to say that he had found redemption through Christ and changed his ways, and has been criticized for being dishonest and hypocritical. Barack Obama wrote in his memoirs that he did drugs, and then joked with Jay Leno that inhaling was “the whole point” (and, yes, made a caveat along the lines of “don’t try this at home, kids”). Will Obama’s handling of this delicate subject be as ultimately successful as that of Bush and Clinton?

My guess is that the “middle America” voters Obama is courting (and needs to win) are more like Bush. They think that even if parents did drugs in their youth, they shouldn’t tell their kids because they might get the impression that they, too can experiment and still turn out okay in the end. America is not like Illinois, where the partisan scales have tipped so far that a Democrat can successfully campaign as a champion of education while telling students how they need only be C-students to become Governor. Ridiculous as it was, there’s a reason Bill Clinton told us that he “didn’t inhale.”