All Progressive Roads Lead To Illinois? Illinois Bans Death Penalty


Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn

Illinois is not precisely dead-center on a map of the United States, but it certainly forms part of what we Americans typically refer to as the Nation’s “Heartland.”  Bordered by Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Iowa and Wisconsin, Illinois – quite literally these days – forms a bastion of progressive ideals amidst a sea of conservatism.  So, do all progressive roads lead to Illinois?


For example, if you have been following at all the political debacle taking place in Wisconsin, then you probably know that Wisconsin’s 14 Democratic state lawmakers recently fled to Illinois in protest over Wisconsin’s governor, Scott Walker’s, attempt to end the collective bargaining rights of public employees in that state.  The exodus by these lawmakers has effectively shut down Walker’s efforts by denying the Wisconsin Legislature a quorum, a move that is being hailed by progressives across the country.

Did you also happen to know that a similar exodus took place involving Indiana state lawmakers?  In late February, as events in Wisconsin unfolded, a similar fight was brewing in the Hoosier State.  There, over three dozen of Indiana’s Democratic lawmakers took to the broad, well-kept interstates that lead one into the Land of Lincoln.

As a New York Times article put it, “Illinois [has] suddenly found itself as the refuge of choice for outnumbered Democrats fleeing their states to block the passage of such bills.”  In truth, Illinois has a long and proud tradition of progressive politics.

Obama Launches Presidential Bid At Illinois State Capital

U.S. Sen. Paul Simon, courtesy of Illinois Public Media

Though it is  the birthplace of Ronald Reagan, Illinois is also the state from which President Obama catapulted to national attention as a U.S. Senator.

Prior to Obama, Illinois was well-known as the home state of liberal U.S. Senator Paul Simon, pictured to the right.  Simon unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for President in 1988.

On a personal note, this writer is proud to say that I was an Intern Staff Assistant for Senator Simon in 1988.  Even now, I continue to revere Simon for his profound honesty, sense of purpose and overwhelming decency.

Simon was the kind of leader who believed it was wrong – morally and politically – for an elderly person, who had lived and worked all their life, to not be able to afford medical care.  He told you his beliefs, and he voted his beliefs.

Of course, Illinois also produced President Abraham Lincoln.  While Lincoln may have been a “Republican,” we should get real about his political leanings, people.  Lincoln would not be caught  in the same room as some of these modern-day, neo-fascists. Lincoln lived by a motto that included, “With malice towards none, with charity for all.”  Those are not the words of modern-day Republicans that hand out enormous financial breaks to the wealthiest, while fomenting discord to advance their regressive policies.

This writer is proud also to remark that my home state is continuing its progressive tradition.  Today, Illinois’ Democratic governor, Pat Quinn, outlawed the death penalty.  In a surprising show of bi-partisanship, Illinois’ death penalty was first called into serious question over a decade ago by former Republican Governor George Ryan.  Ryan declared a moratorium on executions after 13 condemned inmates were cleared of the charges that led to their imprisonment on Illinois’ death row.

Quinn’s order takes effect on July 1.  However, the governor’s order immediately clears death row, so no executions can take place in Illinois.


Georgia Lawmakers To Girl Scouts: It’s Time You Pay Your Fair Share


Pay Up, Smiling Thin Mint Mascot!

If you missed tonight’s The Ed Show on MSNBC, you missed a feature discussing a pending bill in the State of Georgia, known as House Bill 385.  House Bill 385 is a Republican-backed proposal which seeks to balance the revenue shortfall in that state.

So, how does this Republican-backed measure seek to balance that state’s budget?  Does it ask for contributions from large corporations like Coca-Cola or Lockheed Martin who have benefited greatly from Georgia?  Heck No.  In fact, House Bill 385 gives substantial tax breaks on corporate income taxes.

Instead of asking the most privileged citizens of Georgia to step up to the budget shortfall plate, Republican lawmakers in Georgia, instead, propose a hike in taxes on gas and food, including hikes on sales taxes for Girl Scout cookies.  That’s right, folks.  Couldn’t make this stuff up; it’s too ridiculous!

Of course, in fairness to the Republican lawmakers of Georgia, they are not just balancing the budget on the backs of girl scouts and their dreaded Thin Mints.  The Boy Scouts‘ popcorn drive is also expected to cough it up.

Thanks For Making February The Best Month Ever!

As many of you know, I believe in the power of thanking someone.  That includes my readers, and over the past several months, I have tried to include a Thank You when milestones were reached here at CRW but also over at my other blog Cyber-Esq.

February 2011 represents one such milestone, in my humble opinion.  Despite not posting as much content as I would have liked, February 2011 was CRW’s most successful month to date – the blog received just shy of 4,000 unique visitors for the month.

It will be hard to duplicate February’s results, but I am going to give it my best effort.  Once again, I appreciate everyone who takes the time out of their busy schedules to visit my site.

Palin Blasts Supremes’ Support Of Anti-Gay Church

The Westboro Baptist Church picketing at the m...

Image via Wikipedia

On March 2, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of Westboro Baptist Church’s right to picket funerals, espousing anti-gay rhetoric such as “God Hates Fags,” “You’re Going to Hell” and, as shown in the picture here, “Fags Are Worthy Of Death.”  In an 8-1 vote, the Justices ruled that such behavior was protected speech under the First Amendment.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote:

But under the First Amendment, he went on, “we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker.” Instead, the national commitment to free speech, he said, requires protection of “even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate.

In the case at issue, the church picketed the military funeral of Matthew Snyder.  Interestingly, Matthew was not gay.  Matthew’s father sued and obtained a $5 million verdict against the church, which has now been set aside.

Surprisingly, conservative politician/commentator, Sarah Palin, initially blasted the High Court’s decision on Twitter, tweeting:

Common sense & decency absent as wacko “church” allowed hate msgs spewed@ soldiers’ funerals but we can’t invoke God’s name in public square

Subsequently, in an interview with the Daily Caller, Palin sought to “clarify” her remarks, saying:

Obviously my comment meant that when we’re told we can’t say ‘God bless you’ in graduation speeches or pray before a local football game but these wackos can invoke God’s name in their hate speech while picketing our military funerals, it shows ridiculous inconsistency.

Assuming Palin’s frustration is genuine, which I do for purposes of this article, I can understand where she is coming from.  Frankly, I am saddened that she felt the need to so quickly, sort of retract/clarify herself.  Where she seems to be coming from is quite legitimate, if you ask me.  Why is that, in certain circumstances, we cannot invoke religious verbiage or iconography – even if done so peacefully – but this rogue band of crazy, half-witted, inbred hate-mongers – pretending to be followers of Jesus Christ – get the full panoply of First Amendment freedoms?

As an attorney, I can – intellectually – comprehend the arguments on both sides.  On a personal level, I can even support the outcome, belonging as I do to a traditionally dis-enfranchised group that often needs First Amendment protection to make its own public case.  From a viewpoint based purely on political strategy, I can even see the benefit in exposing such idiots to the light of day rather than forcing them into the shadows where they fester like a stinking boil on the butt of Lady Liberty herself.

And yet, the difficulty I have – and which Palin may be trying her best to express – is that it does seem to be the case that this “church’s” hate-filled expression has received judicial imprimatur, while arguably neutral, civic expressions that merely touch upon religion are so frequently scorned or called into legal question.

What message are we sending?  Peaceful, neutral expressions of faith are a no go.  But, hateful expression is in.  In my opinion, true Christians ought to be concerned about this decision.  And, this “church” ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Furthermore, if they truly believe in Hell, they ought to be very afraid.  As my granny would have said, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

Jesus Wept

Palin Stalker Arrested In Alaska

Palin Worried About Stalker In Alaska, courtesy of Getty Images

Back in October 2010,  an Alaska judge found 18-year-old Shawn Christy stalked 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin. The judge further ordered Christy to not follow or otherwise stalk the politician and to have no communication with her or her family.  You can read an article about the restraining order issued against Christy here.

In a frightening turn of events, Christy, who is now 19, was reportedly arrested and held by the FBI in Anchorage, only 50 miles from Palin’s home in Wasilla.

Palin received nationwide ridicule recently following the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona.  In fairness to Palin, it would appear that she may well have her own “lone gunman” to worry about, and Christy’s behavior ought to be no more acceptable because his target may be Palin.

While Christy reportedly told authorities that he traveled to Alaska in an attempt to get the restraining order against him dismissed, he is a resident of far away Pennsylvania.  In my experience, for someone to turn up so near to a protected person’s home – when that location is so far away from the stalker’s own residence – is highly suspect.

Palin’s family has reported that they are distressed by the events, and I think they have every right to be in this current political climate.  Palin would do wonders for this climate if she were to use her considerable public platform to speak out against such anti-social and criminal behavior.

Ohio Law Student Not Qualified To Be Atty If Debts Not Paid, Supreme Court Rules

According to an ABA Journal article, Ohio’s highest court has ruled law grad Hassan Jonathan Griffin of Columbus, Ohio failed to satisfy the “character and fitness qualification” requirements to be an attorney because he had no visible means to pay back his law school loans or credit card debt.  Mr. Griffin works part-time in the public defender’s office, earning $12/hour.  He has $170,000 in loan debt and $16,500 in credit card debt.  Griffin provided information that he was remaining at his part-time job in the hopes that it would become a full-time position

To the Ohio Supreme Court, these facts rendered Griffin unfit to practice law based on low moral character.  The opinion is downloaded to the Box for those who wish to review it.

Frankly, and I agree with the ABA writers, this decision is outrageous!  In my opinion, this young man is being penalized for a legal education system that yokes its students with back-breaking student loan debt, often well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.  The fact that Griffin is working – whether part-time or full-time – in a public interest career ought to be encouraged, not be grounds for punishment or banishment.  In fact, it is not at all unusual – instead, quite typical – for public interest jobs to be less than full-time at first, often working into more stable situations for those graduates that are able to stick it out.  In the present economy, Griffin is not doing anything extraordinary – certainly not immoral – when you consider the many articles recommending volunteer work as a means to land a full-time job.

If Mr. Griffin has any further avenues available to him to pursue this matter, this author strongly encourages him to do so against what is truly an inequitable decision, one with far-reaching implications.  For example, what if Mr. Griffin – like me – wanted to go directly into his own solo law practice, but lacked any clients at first.  Would that evidence insufficient morals to practice law?  If so, then can only the super rich, or super lucky, practice law in Ohio?



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The Dangerous Workings Of Sarah Palin

If you want to hear the real sound of “100% wacko,” then just listen to Sarah Palin.

In the wake of the shooting of Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, many around the country blame Palin’s “incitement to violence”-style rhetoric and imagery which includes, among other techniques, use of the now-infamous “cross hairs” map that – rather literally – targets Democratic leaders.  The “cross hairs” map is pictured below:

At the time of writing this article, the “cross-hairs” map was still publicly posted on Palin’s Facebook page.  Furthermore, in response to criticism, Palin says that she (and her cronies) are being unjustly blamed for the attack; it is their right to free speech that is being trampled.

In other words – just in case you missed it – Palin is the real victim here.  It is not Congresswoman Giffords whom Palin targeted with her map and other violent-provoking rhetoric.  No way.  It is not the federal judge killed by the gunman.  Uh-uh. It is not even the 5 others that were killed in the shooting, including a 9 year-old girl who just happened to have been born on 9/11/2001.

Nope, Sister Sarah is the victim here – she, her cronies, and, well, I suppose the First Amendment.  You remember the good-ole No. 1, don’t you?  It is part of that pesky document called the Constitution that so many dangerous, half-crazed, ne0-con zealots can never seem to stomach – until it becomes useful to wrap themselves up in it for protection and justification.

Here’s a news bulletin for Sister Sarah – you can put lipstick on a pig, but in the end, you still got a pig.  And, in this case, a rather dangerous pig.  In this case, we have a pig willing to use this tragic event to transform herself into some kind of victim or martyr; or, at the very least,  Constitutional champion.  In so doing, Palin is revealing either a profound degree of psychological disturbance, or she is demonstrating her willingness to stoop deep to promote her own domination agenda.  Maybe both.

Also shocking are those that have publicly defended Palin.  For example, Barbara Walters feels Sister Sarah’s pain, saying that it is unfair to blame her for the shooting.  Although I normally regard Walters higher than most, not on this occasion.  As Lynn M. Paltrow noted in her “Open Letter to Sarah Palin,” Congresswoman Giffords – in particular – criticized Palin’s methods, including the “cross hairs” map.  What a coincidence, eh Babs?!?!

Walters is, of course, known for her own brand of “in your face” journalism.  However, as she should know, speech that promotes the public good by encouraging debate or controversy – even spirited or agitated – is not the same thing as the self-indulgent calculations of a demagogue trolling her cult of personality for violence with military-style words and imagery.  For example, evidence continues to mount suggesting that Palin’s racists comments aimed at President Obama has led to death threats against the President.

If Sarah Palin’s brand of “speech” is protected, then we ought to start now and re-write every Constitutional law textbook so that they feature the likes of Charles Manson and Jim Jones alongside Constitutional champions like Mary Beth Tinker (pictured below), Clarence Earl Gideon and Rosa Parks.  Hyperbole, you say?  Sarah Palin is nothing like Jim Jones?  How would we know that – until it is too late?

What if we suddenly learned that Sarah Palin had direct ties to a terrorist organization whose mission is to cause anarchy and civil unrest in the U.S. to destroy democracy?  What is the gunman in this case had ties to the same organization?  Suddenly, it might seem as though Palin’s comments were something less akin to pure free speech and something strikingly closer to conspiracy.

Even if Palin’s “speech” is protected, let us not dignify that which does not deserve dignity.   A lot of very undignified “speech” is legally protected by our Constitution, whether we like it or not.  That does not mean dignified citizens should go out of their way to be cheerleaders.

Mary Beth Tinker talks to students at Cardozo High about their constitutional rights. In eighth grade, Tinker was suspended for wearing a black armband, inspiring a Supreme Court case that upheld students' freedom of expression. (By James A. Parcell -- The Washington Post)

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