Saturday, October 21, 2006

Never Be Late!!!

A priest was being honored at his retirement dinner after 25 years in the parish. A leading local politician and member of the congregation was chosen to make the presentation and give a little speech at the dinner. He was delayed, so the priest decided to say his own few words while they waited. "I got my first impression of the parish from the first confession I heard here. I thought I had been assigned to a terrible place. The very first person who entered my confessional told me he had stolen a television set and, when questioned by the police, was able to lie his way out of it. He had stolen money from his parents, embezzled from his employer, had an affair with his boss's wife, taken illegal drugs, and gave VD to his sister. I was appalled. But as the days went on I knew that my people were not all like that and I had, indeed, come to a fine parish full of good and loving people.".....

Just as the priest finished his talk, the politician arrived full of apologies at being late. He immediately began to make the presentation and gave his talk. "I'll never forget the first day our parish priest arrived," said the politician. "In fact, I had the honor of being the first person to go to him for confession."



On the outskirts of a small town, there was a big, old pecan tree just inside the cemetery fence.

One day, two boys filled up a bucketful of nuts and sat down by the tree, out of sight and began dividing the nuts.

"One for you, one for me. One for you, one for me," said one boy. Several dropped and rolled down toward the fence.

Another boy came riding along the road on his bicycle. As he passed, he thought he heard voices from inside the cemetery. He slowed down to investigate. Sure enough, he heard, "One for you, one for me. One for you, one for me."

He just knew what it was. He jumped back on his bike and rode off. Just around the bend, he met an old man with a cane, hobbling along. "Come here quick," said the boy, "You won't believe what I heard! Satan and the Lord are down at the cemetery dividing up the souls."

The man said, "Beat it kid, can't you see it's hard for me to walk." When the boy insisted though, the man hobbled slowly to the cemetery. Standing by the fence they heard, "One for you, one for me. One for you, one for me."

The old man whispered, "Boy, you've been tellin' me the truth. Let's see if we can see the Lord."

Shaking with fear, they peered through the fence, yet were still unable to see anything. The old man and the boy gripped the wrought iron bars of the fence tighter and tighter as they tried to get a glimpse of the Lord. At last they heard, "One for you, one for me. That's all. Now, let's go get those nuts by the fence and we'll be done."

They say the old man made it back to town a full five minutes ahead of the kid on the bike.

Support ebbing for Bush strategy in Iraq - ‘Stay the course’ strategy crumbles

Support ebbing for Bush strategy in Iraq - ‘Stay the course’ strategy crumbles
By Edward Luce and Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006
Published: October 20 2006 21:23 | Last updated: October 21 2006 00:35

Support for George W. Bush’s strategy of “staying the course” in Iraq appears to be crumbling, with a growing number of fellow Republicans and senior military figures openly questioning how long the US can sustain its presence.

The US president got a jolting reminder of the deteriorating situation when the Mahdi army of hardline Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr took control of the southern city of Amara. The localised putsch raised more questions over the stability of Iraq’s coalition government under Nouri al-Maliki, who is nominally supported by the Sadrist group which carried it out.

It follows some of the worst violence Iraq has seen since the US-led invasion, with more than 100 civilian deaths a day over the past three weeks and more than 70 US military casualties. Major General William Caldwell, US military spokesman in Baghdad, acknowledged on Thursday that the strategy of “clear and hold” in Baghdad was failing.

Mr Bush conceded on Friday that he was increasingly flexible about America’s military strategy. In the past few weeks he has abandoned talk of achieving “victory” in Iraq – previously a stock-in-trade of presidential announcements. ‘‘We are constantly adjusting tactics so we can achieve our objectives,” Mr Bush said. “And right now, it’s tough.”

Domestic pressure on him is mounting ahead of a widely predicted Republican defeat in the November 7 midterm elections.

“We are now way past the tipping point on the ground in Iraq,” said Gary Samore at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. “But it is doubtful there will be any change of course until we see the results of the mid-term elections.”

Mr Bush’s difficulties have been exacerbated by growing dissent in his party, with Republican congressional candidates increasingly distancing themselves from the “stay the course” line. In what analysts see as a sign of desperation, some even support a widely-distrusted plan to partition Iraq into separate Kurdish, Shia and Sunni entities. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Texas Republican, described the situation in Iraq as “chaos”.

Attention is increasingly focused on the Iraq Study Group, an independent body led by James Baker, the former secretary of state, and Lee Hamilton, a former Democratic lawmaker, which is expected to recommend a drastic change of course. This week Mr Bush indicated he would take its findings very seriously and some in Washington think it could lead to the departure of Donald Rumsfeld, defence secretary, soon after the polls.

“A lot rides on the outcome of the elections,” an ISG member said on Friday night. “If the Democrats win, the pressure on Mr Bush to start drawing down the troops could be overwhelming. If the Republicans retain control of Congress, you could see more US troops sent there in a last-ditch effort to stabilise the violence.”

Recycling bins on way in - Blue bags dumped in 7 Chicago wards

Recycling bins on way in - Blue bags dumped in 7 Chicago wards
By Dan Mihalopoulos and Laurie Cohen
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
Published October 21, 2006

Suburban-style, curbside recycling containers will replace the unpopular blue bags at homes in Chicago's 1st, 5th, 8th, 19th, 37th, 46th and 47th Wards, under a plan city and state officials are expected to announce Saturday.

The plan calls for the state to give the city $8 million over the next four years to help buy the containers, according to a draft press release obtained by the Tribune. Sources familiar with the plans confirmed details on the condition they not be named.

The expansion represents another step away from Mayor Richard Daley's controversial blue bag program. Daley has long defended the program, under which residents buy plastic bags and put recyclables such as cans, paper and plastic in them. The bags are thrown into trucks with the rest of the garbage.

But Daley said last month his administration was planning to expand a pilot recycling program in the city's Beverly neighborhood to other areas of the city. For the last year and a half, homes in the pilot area have placed recyclables in bins that are left curbside. The city collects those recyclables separately from garbage.

Only 13 percent of Chicago households participate in the blue bag program, according to a 2003 study by the Daley administration.

The city recycles about 8 percent of its garbage, far short of the 25 percent goal set by Daley when he introduced the program more than a decade ago.

In the 19th Ward pilot area, however, participation in curbside recycling reached 80 percent, city officials said.

That approach will be expanded to the rest of the 19th Ward and six other wards. The chosen wards represent a racially diverse mix of neighborhoods, including some with a high interest in recycling.

If the initial phase of the expansion is successful, the Daley administration "could further expand separate-container recycling throughout the rest of the city," according to a press release drafted by state officials for Saturday's announcement.

Daley's environment commissioner, Sadhu Johnston, declined comment on the program.

Chicago is the only major U.S. city that uses blue bags to recycle, and many environmentalists have called for the city to adopt the curbside approach, which is used in most suburbs.


Priests vow support for immigrants

Priests vow support for immigrants
By Margaret Ramirez
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
Published October 21, 2006

Dozens of Roman Catholic priests from across the Chicago area gathered at Holy Name Cathedral on Friday to express support for undocumented immigrants and call for immediate suspension of deportations that separate families.

The priests, who lead congregations with large Latino, Polish, Irish and African communities, are part of a new group, Priests for Justice for Immigrants. They publicly pledged to listen to the stories of undocumented immigrants, educate church leaders on the issue and raise awareness about the 98,000 families at risk of being separated by deportation.

They also called on other priests to participate in homilies and prayers on Oct. 29 as part of the Catholic Church's Respect Life Month. The pledges are to be posted in parishes across the Chicago archdiocese.

Reading from a statement, Rev. Larry Dowling said the priests were "saddened by the current congressional leadership's passage of enforcement-only legislation, which totally ignores the disheartened spirits of the immigrants among us who daily contribute their gifts to this country."

Dowling, of St. Denis parish on the Southwest Side, said the 120 priests in the campaign are supported by Cardinal Francis George and are part of a national effort organized by the nation's Catholic bishops to press the federal government for immigration reform.

Rev. Esequiel Sanchez, pastor of Mary, Queen of Heaven, in Cicero, said the priests were not pressing for a sanctuary law to harbor immigrants or arguing for open borders. Instead, they want respectful and just immigration reform. "We're asking for a change in the law that is more compassionate," he said.


Militia storms Iraq city - Police stations burn as Shiite factions battle

Militia storms Iraq city - Police stations burn as Shiite factions battle
By Aamer Madhani, Tribune staff reporter. Nadeem Majeed contributed to this report
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
Published October 21, 2006

BAGHDAD -- Hundreds of militiamen loyal to radical cleric Moqtada Sadr took control of the city of Amarah for several hours Friday in a brazen revolt that pitted his Shiite faction against a rival Shiite faction that controls the city government.

The black-clad fighters of Sadr's Mahdi Army, armed with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades, stormed three city police stations in an act of defiance that raised more questions about the government's ability to keep the militias under control. The militiamen retreated hours later.

Arabic satellite networks showed pictures of fires raging in the police compounds and militiamen running through the city with weapons drawn. At least 15 people were killed, including five militiamen, a policeman and two bystanders, according to Iraqi government officials.

The startling Shiite versus Shiite fighting, coming a day after U.S. military officials conceded that their plan to battle violence in Baghdad has not succeeded, added to growing concerns in Washington about the course of the war against insurgents and efforts to stanch sectarian attacks between Shiites and Sunnis.

The White House announced that President Bush would meet over the weekend with Gen. John Abizaid, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, and Gen. George Casey, head of the coalition forces in Iraq, to consult over war plans.

The unrest in Amarah comes just days after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki visited with Sadr, the Shiite cleric, to discuss the country's security situation, a meeting that underscored the renegade cleric's immense power despite entreaties by the U.S. military for al-Maliki to act more aggressively to control Sadr's militia.

The latest flare-up will add fuel to U.S. commanders' contention that al-Maliki needs to act swiftly against the militias, and particularly the Mahdi Army, or risk losing control of large swaths of the country.

The fierce fighting in Amarah was triggered by animosity between Sadr loyalists and members of the city's police department who are aligned with the rival Badr Organization, the armed wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Shiite political party. It was preceded by clashes between those police and officials from Sadr's Amarah office earlier this week.

Nasser al-Saedi, a parliament member aligned with the Sadr movement, said police raided the Sadr office Thursday after four Iraqi police officers, including a top commander, Qassim al-Tamimi, were killed by a roadside bomb in southern Amarah. Al-Tamimi was aligned with the Badr Organization.

Action called spontaneous

The Sadr allies resisted the police search and several of them were detained, al-Saedi said.

"This caused a strong feeling of anger among the Sadr followers in Amarah and they acted up in response to this," said al-Saedi, who insisted that the uprising was not a coordinated response by the Mahdi Army but a spontaneous reaction of Sadr's followers. "The situation is back under control."

The Associated Press reported that, in retaliation for the killing of the police commander, al-Tamimi's family had kidnapped the teenage brother of the Mahdi Army commander in Amarah before Friday's revolt. The Badr Organization once maintained its own militia but disbanded it. Many of the group's members, however, have been implicated in sectarian killings and are rivals of the Mahdi Army, with whom they have had running gun battles in the past in several cities.

"The situation that happened in Amarah today is mostly a political one," al-Saedi said. "The tensions between these two groups are widely known."

It was not clear why the violence subsided and the Mahdi fighters withdrew. Al-Maliki dispatched top aides to the city Friday afternoon to meet with Badr and Sadr officers as well as Amarah government officials, said Brig. Qassim al-Musawi, the Iraqi armed forces general command spokesman. Sadr also called for calm, al-Saedi said.

Amarah, a city of more than 300,000 people on the Tigris River about 200 miles southeast of Baghdad, is under the control of Iraqi security services. British troops are stationed just outside the city but were not asked to intervene in the fighting Friday.

More than 600 Iraqi soldiers were called in from outside the city to bring calm, al-Musawi said. He said the fact that coalition forces did not have to be called in to quell the uprising was a sign that Iraqi forces are making progress.

It was the second time in a little more than a week that strife has broken out in areas that coalition troops have turned back over to Iraqi forces. Over a four-day stretch, as many as 100 people were killed in sectarian fighting in Balad, a city north of Baghdad that was turned over to the Iraqis a month ago.

Influential cleric

Sadr, who is believed to be in his early 30s, has become one of the most influential figures in Iraqi politics despite U.S. commanders' desire to undermine his authority.

The cleric has a large following in the slums of eastern Baghdad, called Sadr City in honor of his father, a revered Shiite leader who was assassinated in 1999. In 2004, Sadr twice summoned his Mahdi Army to rise up against the Americans in what were some of the fiercest battles of the war.

He also has developed close ties with top Iranian leaders and reportedly has vowed to his allies in Tehran that he will galvanize his followers to fight on their behalf if the U.S. ever takes military action there.


GOP bastions under siege here - Democrats gaining in land of Hyde, Crane, poll says

GOP bastions under siege here - Democrats gaining in land of Hyde, Crane, poll says
By Bob Secter, John Biemer and Susan Kuczka
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
Published October 22, 2006

Once finely balanced between the city and the suburbs, the political scales of metropolitan Chicago have been tipping ever more Democratic, and fierce congressional races in two long-safe Republican bastions now are putting that trend to an important new test.

With 82-year-old U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde stepping aside, the west suburban 6th Congressional District seat he has been re-elected to easily since the Watergate era is now very much up for grabs, according to a new Tribune/WGN-TV poll.

In the northwest suburban 8th Congressional District, the survey found strong re-election support for freshman Democrat Melissa Bean, suggesting that her 2004 upset of 35-year Republican U.S. Rep. Phil Crane was no fluke.

If Republican leaders feel blindsided by the turn, then they would do well to pay a call to the Wheaton home of Lois and Gerald Sheridan, for years one of the GOP precinct committeemen who rallied voters for Hyde at election time.

Fed up with the Bush administration and the Republican Congress, the Sheridans say they are backing Democrat Tammy Duckworth as Hyde's replacement over Republican Peter Roskam. They say a lot of their friends and neighbors will be doing the same.

"It's the war or the deficit," Lois Sheridan said. "One of those things put them over the edge. These are die-hard, longtime Republicans, and they're switching."

Republicans have run the U.S. House for a dozen years, but a once firm grip has grown tenuous, and they head into the Nov. 7 elections holding on by their fingernails. A handful of critical contests around the nation could tip control of the chamber. Among the most closely watched of those battles are the Roskam-Duckworth faceoff and the 8th District battle between Bean, GOP challenger David McSweeney and independent candidate Bill Scheurer, who had little support, the survey found.

These are contests largely played out in leafy blocks of upper-middle-class homes, but the candidates still are speaking to very different audiences. Duckworth and Bean supporters are consumed by the war in Iraq and bread-and-butter concerns such as affordable health care, the survey shows. Illegal immigration and terrorism top the concerns of voters who back Roskam and McSweeney.

The campaigns come at a time when the Republican Party is facing an identity crisis, tilting ever more right as it struggles to satisfy a social conservative base that passionately opposes things such as gay rights, flag burning, gun control and abortion.

Those stands wear well with Southern voters but are proving a turnoff in once solid GOP areas outside Chicago and other urban centers in the North and East, said Curtis Gans, director of the Washington-based Center for the Study of the American Electorate.

"Suburbia has long been Republican but not right-wing Republican," explained Gans. "It was economic conservative Republican. I think Democratic candidates have grown in appeal as the Republicans have turned to the right."

Hyde was a renowned abortion foe in Congress, but on a range of other social issues, he and Crane often took a centrist stand. Roskam and McSweeney, by contrast, are playing to the right.

That doesn't sit right with many longtime Republicans in the districts, among them Charles Eldredge, 62, a land developer from tiny Richmond whose roots in McHenry County reach back six generations.

Eldredge and his kin have always been loyal Republicans. Now, he said, he's voting for Bean. "I think she supports what this district cares about, which is practical, middle-of-the-road approach to issues," Eldredge said.

In sync with district's values

Simply put, Eldredge said, Bean seems more in sync with the values of many Republicans in his circle of friends; while McSweeney, a former investment banker, opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest, favors the teaching of "intelligent design" in public schools and would eliminate the Department of Education and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Looming large over the races in the 6th and 8th Congressional Districts is an evolving social and political dynamic that is punching gaping holes in the stereotype of bedrock suburban Republicanism.

Gone are the days when the old GOP political bosses, such as DuPage County's James "Pate" Philip, could assume newcomers from Chicago or elsewhere would transform magically into Republicans the moment they crossed the Tri-State Tollway.

The transplants now flooding into the sprawling subdivisions are no longer overwhelmingly white, and they are as likely to trace their roots back to Tennessee or Bangalore as Chicago. Many probably have never heard of Philip, the former Republican leader of the Illinois Senate.

Hyde's 6th district sits mostly in DuPage County, which the GOP establishment is fond of calling "America's most Republican County." And Crane's 8th district, rambling north of Hyde's to the Wisconsin border, was thought a close second. Republican presidential candidates routinely have chalked up healthy victory margins in the districts, and Hyde and Crane usually won re-election by blowouts.

Crane's undoing two years ago was largely his own. Voters turned to Bean because they were fed up with being represented by a veteran lawmaker who increasingly seemed out of touch with the district and suffered a well-publicized alcohol problem.

Now Bean is enjoying the advantage of incumbency, which helps raise her profile and ability to raise campaign money. That, in part, can account for the survey finding Bean holding a commanding 19-point lead over McSweeney.

Despite both districts' track record of backing Republicans, the poll found party allegiance now evenly distributed among voters. In fact, more voters considered themselves to be independents than either Republicans or Democrats.

Among them is Gerald Sheridan, 75, the former GOP precinct committeeman. A lawyer who has lived in DuPage County for nearly all his life, Sheridan said he has grown thoroughly disillusioned with his old party.

"It's not just this [Roskam] race, it's been coming over a couple of years and it's mainly a matter of disaffection with the actions, the whole thrust of the national Republican scheme of things," he said. "Iraq. Health care. The deficit. ..."

Sheridan said he does not agree with everything Duckworth stands for, adding that this is "not a pro-abortion district." He knows Roskam and considers him a "smart guy" who is smoother as a candidate than the Democrat.

But Roskam has also turned to powerful special interests to help fill his campaign coffers, Sheridan said. "He won't challenge somebody like Bush, he won't ask for any accountability," Sheridan complained. "He's obligated. He could be the strongest guy in the world, but he's obligated."

Roskam may not be racking up Hyde-like support, but he still has some big cards to play against Duckworth. The GOP has a strong field organization in DuPage County to help get out the vote on Election Day, while Democrats have next to none.

A state senator from Wheaton, Roskam also has deep roots in the district. Duckworth, meanwhile, lives outside of it in Hoffman Estates, leaving her open to charges of being a carpetbagger. She is a double amputee who lost both legs while serving in the military in Iraq, and she is remaining in that home for now because it is specially equipped for the disabled. Duckworth was recruited by Democratic leaders who saw the vote-getting potential of a candidate with an inspirational personal story.

When Duckworth walks into a campaign event on her prosthetic legs, the war inevitably walks in with her.

"Tammy's a patriot," said Debra Eaton, an Elmhurst computer programmer who typically votes Republican but opposes the Iraq War. "She knows what it's like over there and she's brave enough to ask the question: `Why are we over there?' "

The changing face of the districts can be seen in many communities, but perhaps nowhere is it more evident than in Wauconda, in Lake County, where farm fields and apple orchards have given way over the last decade to sprawling new subdivisions.

Crane called Wauconda home for much of the time he served in Congress, though constituents complained they rarely saw him there. Now it's home to newcomers from far and wide. When it comes to politics, says Mayor Sal Saccomanno, they are an eclectic stew of Democrats, Republicans and independents who seem decidedly mainstream.

"This isn't a red area anymore," he said. "It's closer to purple."

Are YOU the Enemy?

Are YOU the Enemy?
by Joe Wolverton II, J.D.
© Copyright 2005 American Opinion Publishing Incorporated
October 30, 2006

Under the Military Commissions Act of 2006, you could be.

The Military Commissions Act of 2006 allows the executive branch to circumvent the Constitution, endangering the due process of law for all Americans, not just terrorists.

On September 28, by a vote of 65-34, the Senate formally passed S. 3930, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA). The next day, the House of Representatives followed suit, passing the act by a vote of 250-170, and the affixing of the president's signature is now a formality.* This legislation is being highlighted by the Bush administration and most Republicans as a get-tough-on-terrorists measure that allows "alien unlawful enemy combatants ... [to be] subject to trial by military commissions" without the constitutional safeguards American citizens possess against illegal detainment and judicial railroading. Moreover, the bill allows "pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions" and "statements ... obtained by coercion" — think administration-approved methods of torture. We are being told that this action is preventive medicine to heal a world gone wrong. Question now: with this fix in place, what's the prognosis for the patient?

To begin answering that question, imagine the following scenario: your son Michael (or daughter Michelle) is in Florida on vacation; you speak to him via cellphone when he arrives at the airport and he is waiting in line to check his bags. You go to your local airport at arrival time to pick him up and he never appears. You call all the relevant authorities, including the police, FBI, CIA, and Homeland Security, and no one acknowledges having any information on your son. You go almost out of your mind; you go to the airport in Florida, interview security guards, concession stand workers, and cabbies. You learn nothing. After six months of never-ending worry gnawing at your gut, your son is dropped at your house. You learn that he was mistaken for a known terrorist by the CIA, flown to Cuba, and interrogated by being repeatedly put in a giant freezer and chilled to within an inch of his life and by being painfully deprived of sleep.

All of this would be allowed under the new act. Worse yet, imagine that the government never figures out that your son is innocent of all charges, and he never returns.

Habeas Corpus

In effect, one could say that the sick world is being given potent poison to bring about the cure sponsored by President Bush. Granted, the bill does not apparently treat citizens and foreigners equally, and the harshest treatment would generally be doled out to foreigners, but is the bill something we want to inflict on ourselves or others? Can we justify it by saying that the majority of those scooped up will be terrorist killers who deserve what they get? Let's look at what the bill would do.

A component of this bill that has attracted the attention of legal commentators and civil libertarians alike is that part which authorizes the president to suspend the right of habeas corpus. Habeas corpus is Latin for "you have the body." It grants prisoners the right to request from a judge the reasons for his incarceration. Article 1, Section 9 of the United States Constitution plainly states: "The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it."

Despite the Constitution's clear restriction on the suspension of this bulwark of liberty, the bill states:

No court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider any claim or case of action, including an application for a writ of habeas corpus, pending on or filed after the date of enactment of this Act, against the United States or its agents, brought by or on behalf of any alien detained by the United States as an unlawful enemy combatant, relating to any aspect of the alien's detention, transfer, treatment, or conditions of confinement.


The act gives President Bush the power to define for American interrogators behavior that does or does not constitute torture, physical and mental pain, or serious coercion. Admittedly, according to the black letter of the Military Commissions Act, evidence obtained by torture is inadmissible against the suspects. But what constitutes torture?

The legislation leaves it up to the military judge to decide whether or not the coercive methods used to elicit evidence from detainees constitutes torture. The act instructs the judge to weigh the "totality of the circumstances" surrounding the garnering of the prisoner's testimony in making this crucial determination. This sort of ad hoc determination of what is and is not torture is unsettling and capricious. Remarkably, these parameters will be the only binding guidelines for the CIA and others responsible for gathering intelligence from detainees, regardless of principles of the Geneva Convention, rulings of the Supreme Court, or constitutional prohibitions to the contrary.

Geneva Convention

This act dismisses outright the limitations and guarantees provided by the Geneva Convention, as well. After the vote, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) tried to make the act sound as if it never comes close to skirting the line in the area of personal legal protections: "America can be proud. Not only did she adhere to the Geneva Conventions, she went further than she had to, because we're better than the terrorists." But his statement didn't even hold water with the military lawyers who would be charged with operating the tribunals. Several commented on Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention. Article 3 (called "Common Article 3" because it is common to all four of the conventions) proscribes the "passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples."

In addressing this issue before a Senate committee, Brigadier General James C. Walker, Staff Judge Advocate General (JAG) for the Marine Corps, lamented: "I'm not aware of any situation in the world where there is a system of jurisprudence that is recognized by civilized people, where an individual can be tried without, and convicted without seeing the evidence against him. And I don't think the United States needs to become first in that scenario."

This new law clearly ignores General Walker's concern. Specifically, the law declares: "It generally is neither practicable nor appropriate for combatants like al-Qaeda terrorists to be tried before tribunals that included all of the procedures associated with courts-martial."

Brigadier General Walker's warning voice was but one in a respectable chorus of credible opponents harmonizing in their condemnation of the unconstitutional and unjust aspects of the new law. None of the parts of this song sound as persuasive as that of the officers of the armed forces justice system, known as the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps. These uniquely interested and informed military legal experts adamantly oppose several key aspects of this new legislation.

Referring to the new law's provision that a detainee is not allowed to see the evidence presented against him, Rear Admiral Bruce E. MacDonald, the Navy's top lawyer, echoes his colleague's sentiments: "I can't imagine any military judge believing that an accused has had a full and fair hearing if all the government's evidence that was introduced was all classified and the accused was not able to see any of it."

Not to be left out of the battle, the Air Force's chief lawyer, Major General Jack Rives, flew into the fray and dropped a bomb on the MCA, declaring that the commissions established by the act do "not comport with my ideas of due process."

Are You an Enemy Combatant?

Americans would be forgiven for naively believing that while the threats to liberty in the MCA tip-toe toward tyranny, they will only be used toward that end against those with at least diaphanous ties to terrorism. Namely, they would be employed to protect Americans from that group of n'er-do-wells known as "unlawful enemy combatants." In language that is sure to shake your sense of safety, the following is the MCA's definition of an "unlawful enemy combatant":

The term "unlawful enemy combatant" means: (i) a person who has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its co-belligerents who is not a lawful enemy combatant (including a person who is part of the Taliban, al-Qaeda, or associated forces); or (ii) a person who, before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, has been determined to be an unlawful enemy combatant by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the president or the secretary of defense.

Notice that this definition contains no exception for Americans; it throws the blanket over citizen and alien alike by using the word "person" rather than "alien." Jose Padilla found this out firsthand.

Jose Padilla is an American — born in New York and raised in Chicago. On May 8, 2002, he was arrested in Chicago after returning from Pakistan upon suspicion of being linked to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack. Padilla's attorney immediately filed a habeas corpus petition with the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, seeking to invoke his client's constitutionally guaranteed right to be informed as to the justification for his confinement. The court denied Padilla's petition citing the president's authority to designate any person, citizen or alien, an "enemy combatant" and to detain such person indefinitely.

Padilla appealed this decision to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. The appellate court held that the president had no such authority. The administration then appealed this ruling to the Supreme Court, where the justices were called to consider the legitimacy of the president's power to suspend the constitutional protections of the due process of law from an American citizen. The court meekly dodged this issue, however, and remanded the case back to the district court for dismissal without prejudice. Admittedly, Jose Padilla has a history of criminal behavior, and he was no poster boy for the law-abiding, but the rights set out in the Constitution are designed to protect all Americans, likeable and detestable.

Another character ensnared in the "illegal enemy combatant" net was Yaser Esam Hamdi. Hamdi was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to Saudi Arabian parents. In 2001, Hamdi was captured by the Afghan Northern Alliance and subsequently handed over to the U.S. military. Hamdi was accused of being a member of the Taliban regime, but he and his family argued that he was in Afghanistan as an aid worker and had been erroneously detained.

Undeterred by his parents' testimony, Hamdi was shipped to the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Later, he was transferred to a brig in South Carolina. In June of 2002, a petition of habeas corpus was filed on Hamdi's behalf by his father. The court ruled that the petition was proper and granted Hamdi's father standing to act in the place of his son. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision, however, ruling that the "security interests" of the country outweighed Hamdi's right to file a habeas corpus petition. Upon remand, the lower court denied the government's motion to dismiss Hamdi's petition. The court requested evidence from the government that would prove Hamdi's alliance with the Taliban and his designation as an "unlawful enemy combatant."

The government refused to comply with the court's order, and appealed the request to the Fourth Circuit. Remarkably, the Court of Appeals held that the president's power to make war (is this not a power delegated in Article I, Section 8 of our Constitution exclusively to the Congress?) prohibited a court from interfering in matters of national security. The decision was appealed to the Supreme Court.

Although the Supreme Court's opinion in Hamdi is diffuse and complicated, eight of the nine justices agreed that the Constitution proscribes the Executive Branch's attempt to hold indefinitely an American citizen and to deny him the protections of the Bill of Rights with regard to the due process of law.

Could a completely innocent person also be ensnared? Yes. Khalid al-Masri, a German citizen, was abducted in 2003 while he was on vacation, taken to Afghanistan, and interrogated and tortured for five months before the CIA figured out that they had abducted a completely innocent man who just happened to have the same name as a wanted terrorist. (Why the CIA thought that a well-known terrorist would have been traveling and vacationing using his own name is anybody's guess.)

Passage of the MCA was pushed by the current administration in a bid to get congressional approval of all the illegal actions that they had already been taking, obviously banking on the idea that if they could get congressional approval, they would also get Supreme Court approval.

Prognosis: Long-term Suffering

The Military Commissions Act of 2006 is an eradication of the most basic protections of liberty enshrined for over 200 years in our sacred Constitution. The all-encompassing powers granted to the president by this law potentially forbid any man, woman, or child deemed an enemy of the administration or its policies from seeking judicial relief from unlawful imprisonment. Most terrifying of all, this law enthrones President Bush — and his successors, whether Democrat or Republican — as the ultimate arbiters of justice to those suspected of being America's enemies. You can only hope that that person is not you.

Those who fail to see the dire gravity of this legislation and who prefer to take refuge in the naive partisan belief that President Bush and the Republican Congress would never abuse this tremendous power, should contemplate well the fact that both the White House and Congress may very possibly change to Democrat control in the near future. Then will the supporters of the Bush administration's grasp for power have a leg to stand on to even protest, let alone stop, dictatorial exercise of the same power under a Democrat regime run by Clinton, Feinstein, Boxer, Pelosi, Schumer, and the like?

This law, as well as other recently chronicled usurpations, sacrifices the due process of law on the altar of absolutism. There can be but one final obstacle to complete executive power — the people of the United States of America. We must hold every member of Congress accountable who voted for this unprecedented and unconscionable breach of our constitutional rule of law, and we must seek out and support men and women determined to uphold the federal oath of office and courageously defend the Constitution against all enemies — foreign or domestic. If we do not do this, are we really better than the terrorists?

Friday, October 20, 2006

Phil Burgess Honored for Walgreens Work

Phil Burgess Honored for Walgreens Work
Business Profile
Copyright by Te Windy City Times

Chicagoan Phil Burgess, a leader on gay corporate issues, has received a top business honor for his work with Walgreens.

People don’t know … “That my mother and father were Elvis Presley’s Sunday-school teachers.” Burgess has a photo of his parents and Elvis, all sitting in their church.

Quoting Burgess: “I don’t think gay America will totally accomplish the things that we’re seeking until we’re able to engage the heterosexual community and really help them see why our rights being denied have a negative impact on them. That’s our challenge.”

Favorite Quotes: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter,” and, “Every individual is responsible for the world in which they live.”

Burgess on Mayor Daley: “It made me proud to be a Chicagoan seeing Mayor Daley’s support for the Gay Games, including his appearance and both the Opening and Closing ceremonies.”

Favorite politician: Barack Obama. “He’s just the nicest, down-to-earth guy who truly is committed to equality in the truest sense of the word. He doesn’t flinch when you talk about the need to be a more inclusive society. I certainly hope he runs,” for president in 2012.

Phil Burgess sure has come a long way since 1969, when he joined Walgreens as a pharmacy intern right after graduating from the University of Tennessee.

Well, sort of.

Burgess, 59, is still working for the Deerfield, Ill.-based company, yet is now its National Director Pharmacy Affairs. And he is Walgreens’ highest-ranking openly gay employee—at a company with more than 195,000 employees.

“If I have a mission in life, it is for people to look back and say, ‘Phil Burgess did this or did that, and he’s openly gay, so maybe I too can do something,’” Burgess said. “My goal in life is to make a difference.”

And that he certainly does. Be it locally within the Lakeview community where he lives, or statewide; he is, for instance, the Vice Chairman of the Illinois State Board of Pharmacy and the President of the Community Pharmacy Foundation. He also impacts nationally. Burgess was on the National Board of Directors from 1997-2003 for the Human Rights Campaign and, perhaps more impressively, was an appointed member to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS from 1998-2002.

“When I speak publicly, the thing I always try to stress is: large organizations have to have confidence in their executives, that their executives will appropriately represent the company,” Burgess said. “Part of a company’s comfort level in an executive is that they know who you are, they know your integrity, your honesty.

“Well, when you’re closeted and yet many people know you ( probably ) are gay, what that does to organizations is, it communicates that, ‘We can’t trust you because we don’t have confidence in your integrity, that we don’t have confidence in your honesty, that we don’t know who you are.”

Burgess recently celebrated 30 years with his life partner, Jim Nutter.

Burgess also has been out almost his entire Walgreens career.

“When I came out years ago, sure, coming out ( as gay ) may have had a negative impact on your career. But not today,” Burgess said. “Instead, what will have the most negative impact on people’s career is not coming out, but rather, staying in the closet and creating a lack of confidence in you from your boss and supervisor.”

Walgreens is the largest drug chain in the country, with about 5,500 stores in 47 States and Puerto Rico ( not in Maine, Hawaii and Alaska ) , including about 400 in the Chicago area. Walgreens’ fiscal year 2006 sales for the 12 months were more than $47 billion.

Burgess speculated that at least 10 percent of the Walgreens employees are gay.

That percentage includes, perhaps, Burgess’ intern this past summer who, at the least, was questioning his sexuality. The intern, after seeing Burgess’ HRC key chain, searched the HRC Web site and learned that Burgess was a founding member in 1999 of HRC’s Business Council.

The intern then asked for, and received, a closed-door meeting with Burgess. He then came out about his sexuality and asked for advice.

And who better than Burgess to ask for tips on succeeding in the corporate world, even if you’re gay. Burgess, after all, was named as this year’s recipient of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ ( NADCS ) Harold W. Pratt Award, the chain pharmacy industry’s highest honor.

Established in 1985, the award recognizes individuals whose activities have contributed to the promotion, recognition, and improvement of the practice of pharmacy. Burgess received the award at the annual NACDS Pharmacy & Technology Conference in San Diego.

The lifetime achievement award is the highest honor for the chain pharmacy industry and Burgess is the first openly gay winner. He also was Walgreens’ first winner since 1994 and just the third winner ever from Walgreens.

“I had no idea it was coming,” Burgess said of the award.

But Nutter did—and he even was among the 2,000 attendees at the Closing Dinner ceremony when Burgess was recognized. Event organizers called Nutter about three months earlier and they orchestrated an elaborate explanation why, coincidently, Nutter could be in San Diego at the time for, supposedly, business of his own. But, in reality, it was just so Nutter could be a part of the ceremony.

Burgess acknowledged Nutter from the stage when he was presented with the award, and Nutter was part of the post-event photo-ops.

“Having my partner there and have him able to share in the recognition made the award all the more meaningful,” Burgess said. “If there’s a message here, it is: if you think you cannot be successful and move up in an organization because you’re openly gay, well, you can. Walgreens is a very conservative company; not by any stretch are we a liberal company.”

Walgreens was a Premier Sponsor this summer for the Gay Games, held in Chicago. The company contributed $100,000 cash plus significant in-kind contributions.

“Walgreens’ support of the Gay Games was a big, big deal for us. It really caused us to step out of our comfort zone,” Burgess admitted.

Walgreens also was responsible for donating a truck-load of water, delivered to the Chicago Hilton & Towers, after scorching heat hit the opening days of the Games.

Burgess did not participate in the Games, though he did attend badminton, soccer, tennis and other events.

“I didn’t even think about participating because I knew I’d be consumed with having to make sure everything went smooth, and I thought I was going to be dealing with the media on a regular basis. We assumed that we were going to have all sorts of protests, lots of chaos,” he said.

Gerry Studds Dies - First Openly Gay Member of Congress

Gerry Studds Dies - First Openly Gay Member of Congress
by Bob Roehr
Copyright by The Windy City Times

Gerry Studds, 69, the first openly gay member of Congress, died Oct. 14. For 24 years, until he retired in 1997, he represented a district that began at Provincetown on Cape Cod and stretched south and west in Massachusetts to the border with Rhode Island.
Studds first came to national prominence in 1983 when it was revealed that a decade earlier he had a sexual relationship with a male congressional page who was then 17. He refused to apologize, appearing at a news conference with the former page where both declared that the private, consensual matter was no one else’s business.

The House investigated and censured Studds for sexual misconduct. But his district responded with little more than a collective shrug of its shoulders, reelecting him five more times to that office until he chose to retire.

During his tenure he rose to head the subcommittee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries, which has oversight of the U.S. Coast Guard. He used that position to fight for the right of gays to serve in the military, demanding accountability and prying secret reports from an otherwise reluctant Pentagon.

Studds also was one of the leading early advocates for AIDS legislation and funding. He helped to build the initial bipartisan approach to fighting the disease that largely continues to this day.

In 1996, he was one of the few members of Congress to speak out against the Defense of Marriage Act ( DOMA ) , but by then he had already announced that he would not run for reelection.

Studds collapsed while walking his dog on Oct. 3. Doctors at Boston Medical Center later determined that he had suffered a blood clot in his lung. He was recovering from that and was scheduled to be transferred to a rehabilitation facility when his condition deteriorated rapidly and he died.

Studds had a long-term relationship with Dean T. Hara, which began in 1991. The pair solemnized it in a wedding ceremony soon after Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage in 2004. He is survived by Hara.

“One of the many lessons Gerry Studds left is that one can lead an open and authentic life and do good,” said Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese. “He understood that the greatest contribution he could make to his community was to do an extraordinary job, and that is why he was resoundingly reelected time after time until he chose to retire.”

“Congressman Studds believed passionately in the right of lesbian and gay patriots to serve our country and he worked tirelessly to reveal the empty rhetoric that propped up the military’s exclusion of gay Americans,” said C. Dixon Osburn, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

Bill Borah elected vice president of the Screen Actors Guild-Northern Region

Bill Borah elected vice president of the Screen Actors Guild-Northern Region
By Gary Barlow
Copyright by The Chicago Free Press
October 16, 2006

Chicago gay activist, actor and attorney Bill Borah has been elected vice president of the Screen Actors Guild-Northern Region, which includes nine states and more than 3,600 actors. Borah has served on the SAG council for the past three years and has acted since age 12. He’s appeared in numerous commercials for McDonald’s and other companies, and has acted in films and in the hit TV series “Queer As Folk. A longtime Chicago gay community activist, Borah has served on the board of Equality Illinois and is a volunteer for the Center on Halsted.

Agency suspends activist's law license

Agency suspends activist's law license
By Gary Barlow
Copyright by The Chicago Free Press
October 16, 2006

The Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission has suspended gay activist Michael Bauer’s license to practice law for nine months over his handling of a trust fund for his brother.

The suspension took effect Oct. 12.

In 1992, Bauer’s brother Jerry Bauer created a $1.2-million trust fund to benefit his children and made Michael Bauer the trustee of the fund. The IARDC ruling said Bauer breached his fiduciary trust by borrowing $297,000 from the trust fund when “his financial condition made it unlikely that he would be able to repay those funds.”

The ruling noted that Bauer had reached an agreement with his brother prior to the IARDC’s involvement in the case. That agreement specified that the $297,000 Bauer borrowed is to be repaid from his expected inheritance from his parents. Bauer also stepped down as trustee of the fund.

The Illinois Supreme Court, which has final say in disciplinary proceedings involving attorneys, approved Bauer’s suspension.

In a statement, Bauer said the case involved a private, not public, matter.

“I’m continually amazed that there are a few people in our community who have the time to be obsessed with me and my personal life and yet seem to have so little time to understand their own ineffectiveness,” Bauer said.

Blagojevich backers say he’s earned GLBT votes

Blagojevich backers say he’s earned GLBT votes
By Gary Barlow
Copyright by The Chicago Free Press
October 18, 2006

Three high-ranking, openly gay appointees of Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) say the good news about the Blagojevich administration, particularly as it relates to the GLBT community, isn’t being told enough.

Rocco Claps, Michael McRaith and Justin DeJong said in a recent interview that Blagojevich has earned the GLBT community’s support in the November election because of a long list of accomplishments, including GLBT inclusion in state appointments, initiatives on AIDS prevention and other healthcare issues, domestic partner benefits and passage of a law banning discrimination against GLBTs.

“Not only does he practice inclusion in the people he hires to lead agencies—he practices inclusion in public policy as well,” said Claps, director of the Illinois Department of Human Rights. “These are the kinds of intangible things that we don’t necessarily see on the front pages of the papers every day.”

Claps’ appointment by Blagojevich made him the first openly gay director of an Illinois state department. McRaith, tapped by the governor to lead the Division of Insurance in the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, is the first openly gay head of a regulatory agency in the country. And DeJong, working for the Department of Central Management Services, helps shape the state’s communications.

“For Rocco to be the first openly gay agency head in the state is phenomenal,” McRaith said. “One thing that’s undisputed is that the governor has appointed people with greater diversity across all backgrounds.”

The three are campaigning for Blagojevich on their own time because, they say, he’s kept his promises to the GLBT community.

“We support candidates all the time based on what they tell us they’re going to do,” McRaith said. “With Rod, we have a chance for the first time to support a candidate based on what he’s actually done.”

That list, they say, includes a host of issues, starting with passage in 2005 of the amendment to the Illinois Human Rights Act that outlawed discrimination against GLBTs.

“Not only did he say he was going to work for that, he worked the floor,” Claps said. “This governor actually worked the phones and worked the aisles. Every step of the way, he was there.”

On HIV/AIDS, McRaith cited Blagojevich’s initiatives to fight HIV transmission among African Americans and his efforts to keep the state’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program fully funded, something that hasn’t happened in many states.

“There’s not one governor across the country who’s done what he’s done,” McRaith said.

DeJong said Blagojevich’s order to extend domestic partner benefits to state employees helped gay and lesbian families. He questioned why Blagojevich’s Republican opponent in the governor’s race, Ill. Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, refused to follow suit for employees under her control.

“It was her chance to do more than provide lip service to this community,” DeJong said.

The three said they’d like Blagojevich to back equal marriage rights for gays and lesbians, but said while he’s not there, he does offer state recognition of gay and lesbian relationships.

“He supports domestic partner rights and civil unions,” Claps said. “On basic rights, he’s been there.”

DeJong said GLBTs could look forward to more accomplishments if the governor wins a second term this November.

“Progress is incremental,” DeJong said. “We’ve seen four years of progress for our community, and I think the gay community can rest assured that there will be four more years of progress if the governor is re-elected.”

Whitney (Green Party) makes his case in governor’s race

Whitney (Green Party) makes his case in governor’s race
By Gary Barlow
Copyright by The Chicago Free Press
October 18, 2006

The things that distinguish Rich Whitney from the other two candidates for governor this fall would fill a pretty long list.

For starters, he’s the one without millions in corporate campaign contributions.

He’s the one who’s not airing a constant stream of negative TV ads.

He’s the only one who supports the right of gays and lesbians to marry.

He doesn’t have a campaign plane or even a campaign bus.

And—perhaps related to most of the above—he’s the only one who’s actually rising in the polls lately.

That’s right—in a new Chicago Tribune poll released Oct. 14, support for both Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) and Republican Judy Baar Topinka was down from last month, while Whitney’s support rose four percentage points.

“I’m very pleased with that,” Whitney said in an interview the day the poll came out. “It’s continuing a gradual upward trend in the polls.”

Granted, Whitney, who’s campaigning on the Green Party’s first statewide slate of candidates, has a long way to go. Even with the rise in the Tribune poll, he’s still far behind the other two candidates at just 9 percent. But that’s a significant accomplishment for a candidate whose campaign doesn’t have the bucks to match TV ads with the Democrats and Republicans.

Instead, Whitney’s campaigning the old-fashioned way—driving around the state talking to voters face-to-face.

“We’re the Green Party,” he says. “We’re the ones really standing up for clean government.”

As the poll shows, it’s a message that’s resonating with more and more voters disgusted with the current state of Illinois politics. More than half of those polled by the Tribune said they’re dissatisfied with the choice of Blagojevich or Topinka, and that was before one of the governor’s closest friends and advisors—Tony Rezko—was indicted by the U.S. attorney last week on corruption charges related to his ties to state government.

Whitney says his campaign represents the change Illinois voters say they want.

“Politics today is dominated by big money,” Whitney says. “Democratic and Republican politicians are invested in this whole system. ÉThey cross the line to make bad decisions in their lust for money. I’m not part of that system.”

Throughout the campaign, Whitney’s struggled to reach voters. The Tribune poll showed that still only about a third of Illinois voters are familiar with him. That makes his rising poll numbers even more impressive—he’s gone from an almost negligible 2 percent earlier this year to 5 percent last month and 9 percent in the latest poll. It means that when he does reach voters, many are impressed.

“Our basic themes, besides the budget and education, are clean energy, clean government and a healthy economy,” Whitney says.

He says Illinois has to balance the budget honestly, and he blasts Blagojevich for raiding the state’s pension funds.

“If you look at what he has done to the budget, to pensionsÉit’s all about making future taxpayers pick up the tab,” Whitney says.

Whitney also wants to transform the state’s healthcare system by enacting single-payer, universal health coverage—the kind of system Canada and most Western countries have. Citing factories locating in Canada recently because companies there don’t have to pay for employees’ health insurance, Whitney says such a healthcare system would be a boon for Illinois businesses as well as the health of its citizens.

“Let Illinois be first,” Whitney says. “We can’t wait for the federal government. ÉIt’ll be a win-win situation for the state of Illinois.”

Energy is another issue Illinois should take the lead on, he says.

“We have to do more to create clean energy,” Whitney says. “It is not a pipedream to believe that we can get to that point to where every home in Illinois, certainly every farm, can be an energy producer, not just an energy consumer.”

Technological innovation such as that, he says, would create more jobs and a cleaner environment, as would boosting mass transit.

“To me, mass transit is a priority—it has to be,” he says. “Frankly, if we have a better infrastructure, it’s going to bring more jobs to the state.”

Those kinds of Green Party stands, Whitney says, represent the best prescription for a more robust economy in Illinois.

“These are positive ways to build our economy,” Whitney says. “I think Illinois can do something the other 49 states aren’t doing. Right now, what are Rod and Judy talking about—more tax breaks for big business? ÉIt’s a race to the bottom line. That’s why so many states are in financial trouble.”

Whitney applauds Blagojevich’s role in getting an amendment to the state’s Human Rights Act passed that protects GLBTs from discrimination in employment, housing, credit transactions and public accommodations. But he’d go further and push for equal marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples.

“Part of my answer to the right is—they get all bent out of shape that this is somehow going to sully the sanctity of marriage,” Whitney says. “But what the state calls marriage has nothing to do with religion. It’s contract law—99 percent of our marriage law is about divorce, really. It’s about how property is combined and gets divided up. Believe me, there’s nothing sacred about that. ÉGay and lesbian people have the same right to that title of marriage under the law.”

The Carbondale attorney, who helped form the Illinois Green Party in 1999, has a ready answer for people who say they agree with him on most issues but fret that they’d be wasting their vote if they voted for him.

“History is not static,” Whitney says, debunking the idea that only the Democratic and Republican parties are going to endure. “There really isn’t much to lose. Even if I do take more votes from Blagojevich than from Topinka, which I’m not sure is the case, I say, ‘So what.’ I don’t see that we would really be worse off four years from now if she won. So why not vote for me? Why not break through this progressive glass ceiling? ÉThis may be the time when people do show that courage.”

Judy Shepard tells son's story

Judy Shepard tells son's story
By Gary Barlow
Copyright by The Chicago Free Press
October 16, 2006

Eight years and four days after her son died following a vicious anti-gay beating in Wyoming, Judy Shepard brought her message to a crowd of hundreds at the Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University Oct. 16.

“I’m a mom, and a mom with a story and opinions, and that’s what you’re going to get tonight,” Shepard said.

Shepard told her story, and that of her son, following a vigil against hate sponsored by the Center on Halsted’s Anti-Violence Project.

“He had such hopes for the future, his future,” Shepard said of her late son, Matthew, who was just 21-years-old when two men beat him and left him to die on a rural fence near Laramie, Wyoming.

“He was my son, my firstborn and more,” Judy Shepard said. “He was my friend, my confidant. ÉI will never understand why anyone would want to treat Matt with such cruelty.”

Shepard and her husband were overseas in Saudi Arabia when they got the phone call telling them that their son was critically injured and near death. Flying back to be at his side, she said, was like an eternity—”an eternity of not even knowing if Matt was still alive.”

When they got to the hospital and saw Matthew in a coma, with tubes and bandages and massive injuries, she said, “I wasn’t even sure that this was Matt.”

“We so desperately wanted him to know we were there,” Shepard said.

But he never woke up, dying six days after the attack.

Shepard said she then faced the question of how to respond. She was sure of what her son would want.

“I knew Matt would be disappointed in me if I gave up,” Shepard said.

Rather than do that, she said, she began to speak out against hate and bigotry, telling people that’s the legacy her son would want to be remembered for.

“For all who ask what they can do for Matt and other victims of hate crimes, my answer is this—educate, educate, educate,” Shepard said.

She implored the audience to avoid contributing to what she called a “sic society—S-I-C—silent, indifferent and complacent.”

Every GLBT person, she said, should be registered and ready to vote in the upcoming election.

“Do you know how amazingly free you are?” she asked. “You have a voice.”

And after elections, she reminded the audience, voters’ rights and responsibilities don’t end.

“You need to follow up on the people you elect,” Shepard said. “They work for you. You don’t work for them.”

GLBTs should be vocal about who they are, she added.

“Talk—share your stories,” she said. “You have to tell your families and friends what your life is like.”

Shepard said no one should be afraid to be out.

“There’s not anything wrong with being gay,” Shepard said. “You love who you love and that’s just the way it is. ÉI never hear anyone say, ‘I wish I hadn’t come out.’ I hear, ‘I wish I’d come out sooner.’”

Shepard also said gays and lesbians should be able to marry.

“This separate-but-equal stuff just doesn’t cut it,” she said.

Shepard and her husband founded the Matthew Shepard Foundation to promote diversity in education and to work against hate. Last week the foundation also launched a get-out-the-vote effort.

“I do this now because I don’t want there to be another Matthew,” she said.

Following her talk, Roosevelt hosted a reception for Shepard.

Amid debate over rights, number of gay judges rising By Joan Biskupic, USA TODAY

Amid debate over rights, number of gay judges rising By Joan Biskupic, USA TODAY
Posted 10/17/2006 11:09 PM ET

WASHINGTON — When a case testing whether Oregon should allow same-sex marriages came before the state's Supreme Court in 2004, one of the court's seven justices quietly wrestled with a vexing question:
Should he, a gay man, take part in the case? Or did part of Rives Kistler's identity — his sexual orientation — mean that he should sit it out, to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest?

Kistler, a former Oregon assistant attorney general and the first openly gay member of the state's highest court, consulted an ethics book to decide "whether it was permissible for me to sit on the case." Then he checked with a judicial ethics panel, which told him it would not be a conflict.

When Oregon's high court heard the dispute, Kistler was on the bench. Four months later, he joined a unanimous decision as the court ruled that same-sex marriages were not allowed under Oregon law. He says his sexual orientation wasn't a factor in his decision, and he agreed with the other justices that any changes in Oregon's marriage laws had to come from legislators, not judges.

"Everybody's got a personal life, but you don't bring it to work," says Kistler, 57. "You're not here to impose or enforce your personal viewpoint. You're here to follow the statutes and the Constitution."

The case was part of a recent string of state court rulings on same-sex marriage. It shed light on the rising number of openly gay judges, and the situations they face, at a time when gay civil rights is a key issue.

The complex issues associated with being gay and in politics also were evident in the recent scandal involving former U.S. representative Mark Foley, R-Fla., who resigned from Congress Sept. 29 after ABC News confronted him with sexually explicit Internet messages he allegedly sent to teenage pages.

Foley publicly acknowledged that he is gay, and his resignation drew attention to the pressures some gay men and lesbians in Washington feel to hide their sexual orientation.

It's unclear how many gay judges there are among the roughly 30,000 local, state and federal jurists in the USA. No one keeps precise figures, but comparisons of membership lists of gay and lesbian legal groups — including the Victory Fund and the International Association of Gay and Lesbian Judges — suggest there are 75 to 100 openly gay judges, most of them in California, New York and Chicago.

That's a large increase from the early 1990s, but still a tiny percentage of the overall number of judges. It does not include any gay judges who have kept their sexual orientation secret for a range of reasons, including a fear it would harm them professionally.

New York trial judge Michael Sonberg, 58, a former president of the International Association of Lesbian and Gay Judges, says California and New York each have about 20 openly gay judges. In the Chicago area, where jurists are elected, there are 10 openly gay judges on municipal courts, says Chicago's Advisory Council on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues.

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Chiola says he expects that number to rise to 12 after the fall elections. Chiola, who was elected in 1994 and was the first openly gay judge in the Chicago area, says gay judicial candidates' sexual orientation rarely has been a significant issue in a campaign there. "Part of being successful in an election campaign is doing the groundwork," he says. "That means being involved in the community and already being known. That can make the gay and lesbian issue a non-issue."

But Chiola, 54, adds that when he first ran in 1994, he had trouble winning endorsements from some prominent lawyers because of his sexual orientation.

Gay and lesbian judges do not appear to have had a particular impact on gay-rights issues. However, in recent years they have been more vocal about their sexual orientation and the notion that having gay men and lesbians on the bench helps diversify the judiciary.

"To the extent to which the bench ought to reflect society in general, having openly gay and lesbian judges matters," says New York Supreme Court Judge Rosalyn Richter, 50, a lesbian who was elected in 2003 to a trial judgeship in the Bronx. "It matters for the same reason that we would not want a judiciary that was all men."

After joining the bench, Richter changed the questions asked of potential jurors in her court to be more welcoming to gay men and lesbians. Rather than ask jury candidates whether they are married and pose questions about a spouse, "I use the word 'family' and I tell jurors they can define it for themselves," Richter says. "In my own case, I thought, what would happen if my domestic partner showed up for jury duty?"

The effort by gay rights groups to increase the number of openly gay state and local judges has drawn criticism.

"We don't accept that homosexuality is any kind of cultural identity that should be sought in a judge," says Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council, a conservative advocacy group in Washington, D.C., that opposes same-sex marriage. "We think it's a behavior, not something that should be held up as a role model."

'Chilling' atmosphere

Such sentiments — and the partisan politics that surround judicial nominations on the federal level — help explain why there appears to be only one openly gay judge on the 875-member federal bench, where appointments are for life.

That judge is Deborah Batts, a Harvard University law school graduate and a former professor at Fordham University. In 1994, Batts was appointed by President Clinton to a trial court in the southern district of New York.

Batts, 59, declined to be interviewed. She has participated in gay-rights events, and in 2001, when her portrait was hung at Harvard Law School, officials there said her Senate confirmation marked the first time an openly gay person had joined the federal judiciary.

During the confirmation process, Clinton administration lawyers did not emphasize Batts' sexual orientation. On a Senate questionnaire, Batts noted her membership in gay legal groups, but the issue was not discussed in hearings, and she was confirmed easily by the Senate, then led by Democrats.

In federal court nominations, things are different now. President Bush has vowed to make the judiciary more conservative, and it appears that none of his nearly 300 appointments to the federal bench has involved an openly gay person. It's unclear whether the administration has considered any gay men or lesbians for federal courts.

White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore says the administration does not reject potential nominees based on sexual orientation. "President Bush has based his nomination decisions solely upon a person's judicial excellence and experience," she says. "He will continue to select a diverse group of people with sterling credentials."

Eleanor Acheson, an assistant attorney general in the Clinton administration and now policy director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, says "many different forces" make it tough for gays to become federal judges.

"I don't think this administration is committed in any deliberate way to not appointing gay men and lesbians," she says. "It might even have happened, but we don't know because the individuals are 'out' to such a small circle" of friends or associates. "But I do think there is probably a smaller pool of people who fall into the category of prominent, openly gay and lesbian lawyers well known to and supported by Republican senators. Also, the atmosphere created by the Republican Party, the right-wing base, and the president himself contribute to a bit of a chilling effect."

Acheson says gay men and lesbians interested in seeking a federal judgeship might think, " 'I've got nothing to hide here. But do I want to go forward when there's a chance that the whole buzz about my nomination is that I'm openly gay?' It overtakes the person's professional qualifications."

Paul Smith, a gay man who is a partner in the Washington office of the 400-lawyer firm of Jenner and Block, says "the unpleasantness of the whole confirmation process" is a big reason there are not more openly gay federal judges. "Who wants to get caught up in it?"

Less of an issue at law firms

The relatively small number of openly gay judges contrasts with the increasing tendency of law firms to tout their gay and lesbian lawyers as symbols of diversity.

"In the broader legal profession, as opposed to the judiciary, there's been a sea change in attitudes," says Smith, whose firm highlights its work in gay civil rights on its website and in a newsletter.

Smith, who argues regularly before the U.S. Supreme Court, says the 1993 movie Philadelphia, in which Tom Hanks played a gay lawyer who was fired by his firm because he had AIDS, seems particularly dated today.

Mark Shields, director of the Human Rights Campaign's Coming Out Project, says gay men and lesbians have been more open about their orientation in recent years.

"It is difficult to quantify, but I don't think you need a survey to look around and say, in the early 1990s we didn't have (talk-show host) Ellen (DeGeneres) out, we didn't have Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, and we didn't have Brokeback Mountain. Looking around us, we see everyday people being more open and secure in their openness."

At the state and local levels, where judges can get on a bench through appointment or election and where appointments are not for life, there are increasing signs of acceptance of gay and lesbian judges — and not just in California, New York and Chicago. Politicians elsewhere — including Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich, a Republican, and Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski, a Democrat — have appointed gay judges and then not flinched when conservative groups protested.

When Ehrlich appointed an openly gay man, Christopher Panos, to a state trial court in Baltimore last summer, the Family Research Council's Sprigg complained in a conservative, online newsletter. Panos was the first openly gay person Ehrlich had named to a court since taking office in 2003 and filling 67 judgeships.

For Ehrlich, Panos' sexual orientation was not relevant, says Henry Fawell, spokesman for Ehrlich.

"He is just looking for the best judge," Fawell says.

Fawell says Ehrlich was aware of Panos' sexual orientation but that it did not help or hinder Panos' candidacy. Panos declined to comment.

In Oregon, Kulongoski appointed Kistler to fill an unexpired term on the state's high court in 2003. The governor says Kistler's sexual orientation wasn't a factor, and that the judge proved his merit the next year by winning a statewide election. The Oregon Christian Coalition backed Kistler's rival, who supported a ban on gay marriage. However, Kistler's sexual orientation was not a big campaign issue.

Many of those calling for more gay and lesbian judges are focusing on the federal bench, the most powerful segment of the nation's judiciary. Nan Aron of the liberal Alliance for Justice says her organization and gay-rights groups don't expect much from the Bush administration, so they are pushing for more gay and lesbian judges on state courts. They aim to create a "farm team" of judges who could be in position for the federal bench if future presidents are willing to appoint such judges.

Sprigg says his group would fight such an effort. But he says gay judges are acceptable to his group — as long as their sexual orientation isn't a factor in their work.

"We don't think we should make an issue of it, if they keep it private," he says. "If we had reason to believe that they would pursue a pro-homosexual agenda, then we would vigorously oppose them."

GIs face worst Iraq toll in 21 months

GIs face worst Iraq toll in 21 months
By Aamer Madhani and Stephen J. Hedges, Tribune staff reporters. Aamer Madhani reported from Baghdad and Stephen J. Hedges reported from Washington
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
Published October 19, 2006

BAGHDAD -- The U.S. military announced the deaths of 11 more service members Wednesday, bringing this month's death toll of American troops to 70 amid a surge in violence against U.S. forces unseen in nearly two years.

At the current pace, October's toll would exceed the number of U.S. deaths in January 2005, when 107 U.S. troops were killed as insurgents tried to disrupt the first round of national elections after the fall of the former regime. The body count, if the violence continues unfettered, also could approach the grim mortality rate of November 2004, when 137 U.S. troops were killed during fierce fighting in Fallujah and elsewhere in Iraq.

The latest spurt of violence comes at a difficult time for the White House as some Republican lawmakers have become more vocal about doubts that Iraq is on the right path. The latest reported fatalities include a soldier killed Wednesday afternoon in southern Baghdad and nine soldiers and a Marine who were killed in and around the capital Tuesday.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said Tuesday that the recent spate of violence would not affect President Bush's outlook on the war.

"No, his strategy is to win. The president understands not only the difficulty of it, but he grieves for the people who have served with valor," Snow said in Washington. "But as everybody says correctly, we've got to win. And that comes at a cost."

U.S. commanders cautioned at the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in late September that a spike in violence was almost certain. Violence surged in the three previous Ramadans since the invasion, and U.S. commanders said they expected about a 20 percent increase in violence this time.

The U.S. military reported a daily average of 36.1 attacks in Baghdad for the first 16 days of Ramadan, a spike from the daily average of 28.1 attacks during the previous six weeks. The number of attacks has skyrocketed in the capital since early June, when there were 22.3 attacks per day.

Situation expected to worsen

Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, a military spokesman in Baghdad, told reporters last week that commanders on the ground "assume it will still get worse before it gets better" and that violence likely would increase in the last days of Ramadan.

Caldwell also attributed the increase in attacks to the aggressive posture of U.S. and Iraqi forces in the capital. U.S commanders have moved thousands of U.S. troops to Baghdad from elsewhere in the country in an attempt to curb sectarian strife.

What is unclear is how much of the violence against U.S. troops can be attributed to militias, such as the Mahdi Army, and how much has come from anti-American insurgents.

In recent weeks, militias have had at least a couple of fierce scraps with coalition forces. But in western Anbar province, a Sunni stronghold, attacks against U.S. forces remain solely the work of anti-American insurgents, said Lt. Col. Bryan Salas, a Marine spokesman.

"Most of the violence comes from Al Qaeda and Al Qaeda-paid thugs that work to destabilize the rule of law in the province in order to maintain their organized criminal activities," Salas wrote in an e-mail, replying to a Tribune query.

Retired Col. G.I. Wilson, a Marine who served two tours in Iraq and has written on counterinsurgency and unconventional warfare, said pushing troops from Anbar and elsewhere to calm Baghdad could have disastrous consequences.

The redistribution of U.S. troops will allow the insurgency to regenerate in Anbar, which in turn will allow insurgents greater freedom to travel and bolster the Baghdad fighting, Wilson said.

"We're concentrating on the urban areas and giving up the countryside," Wilson said. "Sound familiar? Remember Vietnam?"

The latest violence has hit Iraqi civilians even harder than U.S. forces. According to The Associated Press, October is on the way to being the deadliest month for Iraqis since April 2005. In October, 767 Iraqis have been killed in war-related violence, an average of 45 a day.

Latest U.S. casualties

The 11 U.S. troops killed Tuesday and Wednesday died in a series of attacks using roadside bombs and small-arms fire.

A soldier with the Multi-National Division-Baghdad was gunned down about 12:30 p.m. Wednesday in southern Baghdad. Six other soldiers from the division were killed in a span of about six hours Tuesday.

Four of those soldiers were killed early Tuesday morning, when a roadside bomb struck their vehicle west of the capital. Less than three hours later, another soldier from the division suffered fatal wounds when his patrol came under small-arms fire in northern Baghdad. A roadside bomb killed another soldier from the division north of the capital.

Three Task Force Lightning soldiers were killed and another was wounded in Diyala province, north of the capital. A Marine assigned to Regimental Combat Team 7 died from wounds suffered in Anbar, the military reported.


Chicago Tribune Editorial - Is this Obama's time?

Chicago Tribune Editorial - Is this Obama's time?
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
Published October 20, 2006

If the crowd is large enough, even mumbles can grow deafening. So it is that the Democratic Party's sudden `It' candidate for the presidency in 2008 is an Illinois chap named Barack Obama.

Many rank-and-file Democrats would love to see Obama run. They see the first-term U.S. senator as an honest-eyed embodiment of charisma and content. He evokes what FDR and JFK evoked--a focus not on the tiresome past or the troubled present, but the ennobling future.

But many rank-and-file Republicans would love to see Obama run too. They relish a presidential candidate they would portray as an inexperienced prospect for a nation sure to be tested for many years in a war with Islamist extremists: Think Bambi, but more touchy-feely.

Barack Obama alone will decide whether this is his time. He has the luxury and the burden of mulling whether an attempt at the presidency would be good for his country, good for his family, good for him.

What some see as his reason to run now is, paradoxically, also his reason to wait:

- Senators rarely move up Pennsylvania Avenue (see Dole, Bob, and Kerry, John, two names among many). The likely reason: Their years in the Capitol leave them with long voting records for opponents to dismantle. Thus the thinking in some circles that Obama should leap into a presidential race before he has more experience, a.k.a. more of a record.

- The counterargument is that every election cycle is hostage to the context of its time. In the comparatively calm moments of 1976, 1992 and 2000, voters grew comfortable with newcomers to the national stage who knew little of foreign affairs--Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. In ostensibly more challenging years such as 1964 (Lyndon Johnson) and 1988 (George H.W. Bush), voters gravitated to candidates steeped in Washington experience. Come Nov. 4, 2008, as they cast their presidential votes in private booths, would Americans see Obama as refreshingly free of Washington baggage--or as a young man who still needs more seasoning?

Judging by numerous comments he's made over the years, Obama appreciates the immense distance from this heady autumn of 2006, as his face gazes up at him from the cover of Time magazine, to the swearing-in ceremony of 2009. Any candidate for the presidency must survive the long knives--which in Obama's case would be wielded first by some fellow Democrats in a long primary season, then by opposition Republicans. In his few campaigns thus far, he has barely had to survive hard-thrown Nerf balls, let alone tempered steel.

That said, there is reason to think Obama someday will clear the gantlet. He has handled beautifully his 19 months in the bright light of the U.S. Senate. He has, to his great credit, not strayed from his early message that America must rise above angry partisanship. Other candidates' abrasive attacks on him could, in voters' eyes, highlight his many strengths.

Is this Obama's time? His election cycle?

If he decides so, he'll bring a whale of excitement. And if he decides not, there'll be another one along soon enough.

Greens step beyond ordinary 3rd party

Greens step beyond ordinary 3rd party
By Crystal Yednak
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
Published October 20, 2006

As the "other guy" in the race for governor, Green Party candidate Rich Whitney said he is often asked what makes him qualified to hold the state's highest office.

"It's true," he said with a smile. "I have absolutely no experience screwing up the government."

That quality is becoming more attractive to voters fed up with the blasts of negative advertising filling their TV screens as well as the allegations of corruption that swirl around the Democratic and Republican candidates.

A recent Tribune poll showed Whitney with 9 percent support--far behind Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Republican State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka--but still a strong showing for a third-party candidate.

"I figure if enough people vote for Whitney, it sends a message to the two parties they better shape up," said Charles Small, 65, of Ottawa, who was among the 9 percent in the poll. Small said he's lost interest in the major-party candidates.

Whitney said he's fine with the idea of picking up any protest votes but is intent on giving voters a more positive reason to vote for him.

"I'm not just the other guy," said Whitney, 51, a Carbondale lawyer and political activist. "I have well-thought-out ideas on the issues."

Whitney moved to Illinois from California with his wife and three children in the early 1990s, when he decided to switch careers from journalist to lawyer. He graduated from the law school at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.

Whitney helped start a law firm in 1997 and now specializes in civil-rights and employment-discrimination cases. At home, he has been active in local campaigns to protect the environment, prevent a Wal-Mart from being built in his area and oppose the war in Iraq.

Whitney said he drives a Mercury Mystique "with a dent in it" and thinks voters may appreciate a governor who can get by on less. He often tries to inject humor into his many policy talks with slightly sarcastic remarks about the state of the current system, trying to connect with voters who may also be sick of the influence of big money.

He's run for state representative twice under the Green Party banner, getting 6 percent of the vote in 2002 and 8 percent two years later.

Nationally, the Greens are probably best known for supporting Ralph Nader for president in 2000. But since then, organizations in Illinois and elsewhere have been hard at work trying to build state parties so they can better break into the political system as "America's non-corporate party." While environmentalism is key to their philosophy, so are social justice, non-violence, clean government and electoral reform.

Dreams seem possible

While Whitney has grand ideas for reforming the Illinois system, ideas that some would brush off as impossible, he speaks about them in a very practical sense, guiding audiences step-by-step through his plans in a way that makes the large-scale reforms seem within reach.

Whitney helped write the state Green Party platform and authored lengthy position papers for his own campaign. He distills his party's ideology to four concepts: clean energy, clean government, healthy people and healthy economy.

He promotes himself as the only candidate backing the long-discussed swap of higher income taxes and reduced property taxes to reform school funding. Blagojevich wants to pump more money into schools through a long-term lease of the lottery, while Topinka wants a land-based Chicago casino.

"There have been many good Democrats who have pushed this [tax swap] plan, but their own governor won't back them on it," said Whitney, who joined in a Chicago march Saturday to support school-funding reform. "We need new leadership in the governor's office to break that logjam."

A recent Green Party event in Pilsen is indicative of the low-key fundraising that Whitney and the rest of his ticket are relying upon. A handwritten sign suggested a $10 donation from those walking into the back room of a Mexican restaurant to hear him speak--a far cry from Blagojevich's annual multimillion-dollar Field Museum affair or Topinka's July fundraising visit by President Bush.

Noting failures at the state and national level to eliminate pay-to-play politics, Whitney said he won't accept any campaign donations from corporations and would ban contributions from firms that do business with the state. He also proposes a $500 limit on campaign donations to wipe out the influence of large donors.

But such pledges may be easy to fulfill for a long-shot candidate with low name recognition. Whitney's most recent campaign disclosure report shows he has raised only about $20,000 since July.

"We do need to raise enough money to get our message out, but we don't need millions," Whitney said. "Let the other two spend millions on commercials attacking each other."

Credibility remains a serious issue for the Greens. Whitney's ticket includes a Green candidate for secretary of state who moved to New York and is ineligible to hold office. The candidate said she was trying to help the third party fill out its statewide slate.

Whitney has been taking his campaign around the state.

Whitney supports the right to carry guns--a stance that may seem at odds with the party's commitment to a non-violent society. But the position on the right to carry guns is his alone, he said, and flows from his belief in the Bill of Rights.

Allowing law-abiding citizens to carry guns serves as a deterrent to crime and reduces violence when combined with other programs that attack social problems, he said. Whitney favors "common sense" limits on gun ownership as well as an "open-carry" law that would allow qualified gun owners to carry their firearms in plain sight in places frequented by the public.

Only responsible gun owners

"You need to show that you are a responsible gun owner," he said. "You need to pass a background check. We cannot have anyone with a violent history that is allowed to carry a weapon in public."

Whitney said he would support so-called concealed carry, requiring firearms to be kept out of sight, if it were the only choice and would consider exempting Cook County to address the strong local sentiment against such a proposal.

As governor, Whitney said, he would try to stop further mobilizations of the Illinois National Guard to Iraq because he sees the war as illegal.

Despite a lack of exposure, Whitney has gained some notice for his positions--particularly education-funding reform.

"If electability were not an issue, the choice would be easy in this year's governor's race. Rich Whitney, the Green Party candidate, is in sync with the union on virtually every issue," wrote Henry Bayer, executive director of the state employees union, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, in a union newsletter.

No union endorsement

But AFSCME chose not to endorse a candidate for governor, and Bayer noted "electability must always be a consideration. If Rich Whitney can't win, he won't be able to advance the interests of AFSCME members, at least not from the governor's office."

Democrats backing Blagojevich initially tried to knock Whitney off the ballot in a petition challenge, but later gave up. Though Whitney was viewed as potentially siphoning votes from the Democrat, a recent Tribune poll showed he is getting more support from self-identified independents and Republicans than from Democrats.

Even if Whitney gets as little as 5 percent of the vote, the Green Party will have won a major victory and voters will have sent the other two parties a message. Receiving at least 5 percent support would put the Greens on par with Democrats and Republicans as an "established" party, giving them the ability to field candidates in partisan contests at the state and local levels through less-onerous petition signature-gathering requirements.


- - -

Here's the rest of the Green Party slate

Lieutenant Governor

Julie Samuels, 62, of Oak Park

Samuels is a community outreach coordinator for Openlands, which helps with open-space planning on the West Side and elsewhere. A longtime community organizer, she has been instrumental in building the state party and informing voters about the Greens.

"If we really want to promote social and environmental justice, we need to have equal access to the ballot," she said. She would make electoral and campaign-finance reforms her top priorities. That way, the legislature "would not respond only to the biggest donor."


Dan Rodriguez Schlorff, 26, of Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood

Schlorff is director of resource development for Adair Home Health Professionals and is on the finance committee for the national Green Party. As an openly gay candidate, Schlorff would work to support equal rights for gays and lesbians.

He has identified himself as a Republican in the past but said the Green Party represents the founding principles of the Republican Party better than the current GOP. He said the state's debt level is troubling, and as treasurer he would object to borrowing that would exacerbate the problem.

Attorney General

David Black, 58, of Belvidere

A lawyer, Black is a member of several activist organizations, including the Rockford Peace & Justice Action Committee. "The main issue is the effect of money on state government," Black said. "Under the Green Party, it would be independent, and we wouldn't accept money" from corporations.

Black said he would try to improve the climate in state government to encourage more people to report corruption.

Secretary of State

Karen Young, 50, of New York

Young, a strategic campaign researcher and founder of Media Democracy Chicago, lived in Chicago when she filed as a candidate, but has since moved to New York. She would not be able to serve if elected. She said it was important to run so the Green Party could field a full slate of candidates.

She said fees in the secretary of state's office should be reduced. "Government needs to be funded through fair taxes, progressive taxes," she said. Instead, taxes are cut for the wealthy and corporations while governments make up the money by raising fees that hit low-income people hard, she said.


Alicia Snyder, 40, of Centralia

A special-education teacher, Snyder is a co-chair of the Illinois Green Party. She wants to reform state finances and focus attention on the state's delayed Medicaid bills.

"The carry-over effect of people who are on Medicaid literally not being able to get services in a timely manner because people have been paid late is appalling," she said. Snyder has raised concerns about the state's borrowing and would use the office to encourage reforms to the tax structure.

-- Crystal Yednak