Illinois Made New York And New Jersey Look Like Weedless Dorks

❝ Illinois just became the unofficial 11th state in the nation to legalize marijuana for recreational use. But more important than that, it bent legal weed hopefuls New York and New Jersey over its knee and gave them a vicious spanking that they will not soon forget. Both Eastern states have been fighting to put cannabis legalization on the books since dinosaurs walked the Earth, but everyone involved with the process keeps showing up for work in clown shoes.

❝ For whatever reason, lawmakers in that part of the country are confused about how to establish a taxed and regulated pot market while also keeping the social equity aspect in mind. And we have got to hand it to them – they almost convinced the nation that passing such a comprehensive bill through legislative channels was like pulling a shark’s teeth while it gnaws on your leg…

But then Illinois swept in last week and approved what is considered the most progressive cannabis law in the nation. And it did it just hours before lawmakers called it quits for the summer…

❝ A report from Crain’s Chicago Business indicates that the Land of Lincoln will have one of the most lucrative cannabis markets in the United States. It is a cash cow that is expected to grow in upwards of 20 times larger than its medicinal sector, creating tens of thousands of new jobs and generating revenue to the tune of $1.6 billion annually.

Much of the same could have been readily available to New York and New Jersey, but pettiness and the inability to compromise ultimately sabotaged prosperity.

❝ Nice job, dorks!

He gets job after copper gives him a ride to interview – instead of a ticket


Photo courtesy of Ka’Shawn Baldwin

❝ An Illinois man starts a new job Tuesday and he has a police officer to thank for getting him to his interview.

Ka’Shawn Baldwin, of East St. Louis, was pulled over Wednesday in Cahokia by officer Roger Gemoules for allegedly having expired license plates. Baldwin also did not have a valid driver’s license…

❝ “The routine thing is to tow the car and take the person to jail who is driving the car,” Baldwin said.

He told the officer that he did not have any other way to get to his interview at an area FedEx facility and that’s why he was driving illegally.

❝ Gemoules explained to Baldwin that the car could not be driven any further.

With no other option, Baldwin then asked the officer if he would give him a ride to his interview. To his surprise, Baldwin said Gemoules followed him home where he parked the car and took him to his interview.

❝ Gemoules said he could tell Baldwin really wanted the job.

“He was polite when I pulled him over and he seemed like a good young man, so I wanted to give him a chance,” Gemoules told NBC affiliate KSDK in St. Louis. “I knew if I gave him a bunch of tickets and towed his car, it would be tough to recover from.”

RTFA for more of the details. And, yes, as often as we have to blog about some creepy racist cop there are folks with a badge who are ahead of that curveball. Gotta get the right one is all. 🙂

The Militarization of America’s Cities by Maj. Danny Sjursen

❝ I can remember both so well.

2006. My first raid in South Baghdad. 2014. Watching on YouTube as a New York police officer asphyxiated — murdered — Eric Garner for allegedly selling loose cigarettes on a Staten Island street corner not five miles from my old apartment. Both events shocked the conscience.

It was 11 years ago next month. My first patrol of the war and we were still learning the ropes from the Army unit we were replacing. Unit swaps are tricky, dangerous times…

❝ Officers from incoming units like mine were forced to learn the terrain, identify the key powerbrokers in our assigned area, and sort out the most effective tactics in the two weeks before the experienced officers departed. It was a stressful time…

Major Sjursen quickly learned to rearrange his response and definitions to war, honesty, actual military and political goals to the realities of the American War on Iraq. Short, worthy read on its own.

❝ Years passed. I came home, stayed in the Army, had a kid, divorced, moved a few more times, remarried, had more kids — my Giants even won two Super Bowls. Suddenly everyone had an iPhone, was on Facebook or tweeting or texting rather than calling.

Somehow in those blurred years, Iraq-style police brutality and violence — especially against poor blacks — gradually became front-page news. One case, one shaky YouTube video followed another. Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile and Freddie Gray, just to start a long list.

So many of the clips reminded me of enemy propaganda videos from Baghdad or helmet-cam shots recorded by our troopers in combat, except that they came from New York or Chicago or San Francisco…

The tactics, intent, goals began to more than resemble his life in an occupying army thousands of miles from home. And that’s what the rest of his article is about.

Woman sues Catholic hospital that refused to remove her IUD

❝ An Illinois woman is accusing a Catholic hospital of refusing to remove her birth control device because of the hospital system’s religious affiliations, causing her nearly a week of pain and bleeding while she was forced to seek help from a different hospital network.

❝ Melanie Jones, who is being represented by attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said she dislodged her copper intrauterine device (IUD), a form of long-acting birth control, in 2008 when she slipped and fell on a wet bathroom floor. After a night of cramping and bleeding, she went to a hospital controlled by the Chicago-based Mercy Hospital and Medical Center network, where a doctor confirmed that her IUD needed to be removed.

But the doctor refused to remove it, Jones claims in two separate lawsuits, saying the hospital’s “Catholic initiative” barred her from providing any care related to contraception. In fact, the doctor allegedly told her, every single provider in her Blue Cross Blue Shield Insurance network followed the same religious restrictions.

❝ Jones left the hospital with her IUD still dislodged, leaving her “at risk for infection, cervical and uterine lacerations, and scarring, and pregnancy”, she claims in her suits. Because she could not pay out-of-pocket for a visit to the emergency room, she did not get her IUD removed for another five days, when Blue Cross Blue Shield moved her coverage to a secular network of hospitals…

❝ Catholic ethicists argue that their rules are consistent with modern standards of care. But public health advocates have warned that the rules are subject to arbitrary interpretations, and that they pose a special threat to women’s reproductive care

❝ One out of every six beds in the country’s acute care hospitals is in a hospital with Catholic affiliations, according to a May report by the American Civil Liberties Union and MergerWatch, a public health watchdog that monitors healthcare institutions with religious affiliations. Today, Catholic hospitals make up 15%, or 548, of the country’s acute care centers. In dozens of communities, the only hospitals that remain are Catholic.

Mergers and acquisitions have increased the number of Catholic Church-controlled hospitals in the US by 22% in the last decade. In many of these communities, staff have left because of archaic regulations required by the church.

RTFA for other cases brought against the so-called Mercy Health Partners in recent years. It’s an important question for insurers, federal and private. Especially in a nation supposedly governed by secular civil law over religious beliefs.

Wind energy will add billion$ to the Illinois economy


Click to enlarge

Illinois’ 25 largest wind farms have supported 20,173 jobs during construction and will add $6.4 billion to local economies over the 25-year life of the projects.

That is one of the findings of a study on the economic impact of wind energy released by Illinois State University’s Center for Renewable Energy…

“Wind energy has played an increasingly important part in the state’s energy mix resulting in numerous economic development benefits,” Center Director David Loomis said. “Decision-makers need to be well-informed about these benefits so that they consider all of the factors when deciding on future wind projects.”

The Center’s report adds that the 25 largest wind farms in Illinois support about 869 permanent jobs with 226 direct jobs in rural areas in Illinois. The wind farms generate $30.4 million in annual property taxes for local communities and $13.86 million in extra income for landowners who lease their land to developers…

Illinois built two new wind farms in 2015 after two years of not building any. Several new wind farms were permitted in 2015 and could start construction in 2016.

Or they could listen to idjits in the pocket of the Koch Bros and go back to polluting the skies of Illinois with more coal-burners.

Who owns your fingerprints?

These days, many of us regularly feed pieces of ourselves into machines for convenience and security. Our fingerprints unlock our smartphones, and companies are experimenting with more novel biometric markers — voice, heartbeat, grip — as ID for banking and other transactions. But there are almost no laws in place to control how companies use such information. Nor is it clear what rights people have to protect scans of their retinas or the contours of their face from cataloging by the private sector.

There’s one place where people seeking privacy protections can turn: the courts. A series of plaintiffs are suing tech giants, including Facebook and Google, under a little-used Illinois law. The Biometric Information Privacy Act, passed in 2008, is one of the only statutes in the U.S. that sets limits on the ways companies can handle data such as fingerprints, voiceprints, and retinal scans. At least four of the suits filed under BIPA are moving forward. “These cases are important to scope out the existing law, perhaps point out places where the law could be improved, and set principles that other states might follow,” says Jeffrey Neuburger, a partner at law firm Proskauer Rose.

The bankruptcy of fingerprint-scanning company Pay By Touch spurred BIPA’s passage. Hundreds of Illinois grocery stores and gas stations used its technology, allowing customers to pay with the tap of a finger. As the bankrupt company proposed selling its database, the Illinois chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union drafted what became BIPA…

Under the Illinois law, companies must obtain written consent from customers before collecting their biometric data. They also must declare a point at which they’ll destroy the data, and they must not sell it. BIPA allows for damages of $5,000 per violation. “Social Security numbers, when compromised, can be changed,” the law reads.Biometrics, however, are biologically unique to the individual; therefore, once compromised, the individual has no recourse, [and] is at heightened risk for identity theft.”

National efforts to establish biometric guidelines haven’t gone well. In 2014 a Department of Commerce agency led an effort to develop a code of conduct for companies using facial-recognition technology, but consumer advocates withdrew from the group the following year, saying tech companies refused to consider the most modest of privacy protections…

..In May the Department of Justice proposed exempting the FBI’s facial-recognition program, called Next Generation Identification, from privacy protections. In June the Government Accountability Office reported that the FBI program failed tests of accuracy and privacy. So far the report hasn’t led to any action…

As it stands, one law in one state is all the protection Americans have against abuse or misuse of biometric data. I suggest you contact your elected officials, state and federal, nudge them off their rusty dusty.

Some parts of the world have a stronger tradition of protecting privacy than we do. Experience living under a truly fascist government can have that effect, eh? Given the long trend of attempts at a police state in the US – often under the banner of “protecting” individual liberty – I hope you don’t wait around until the question doesn’t stand a chance.

Progressive issues have an opportunity to influence the coming national election – this year. Don’t miss the opportunity.

Slain “hero” cop actually staged suicide after stealing, laundering money for years

Authorities say an Illinois police officer, whose fatal shooting this summer led to a large-scale manhunt, staged his death after committing a series of criminal acts over a seven-year period.

George Filenko, Lake County major crimes task force commander, announced Wednesday that the death of Fox Lake Police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz in September was a “carefully staged suicide.”

Filenko said that Gliniewicz had “been stealing and laundering money” from the police department’s “Explorer Post,” a program for young adults interested in law enforcement careers, and had used thousands of dollars for personal expenses, mortgage payments and adult websites.

Filenko said authorities also recovered electronic messages deleted from Gliniewicz’s personal and work cell phones that included incriminating statements.

The investigation also found that Gliniewicz had “intentionally left a staged trail of police equipment,” including pepper spray and a baton in an effort to “mislead” first responders and investigations into believing his death was a homicide, Filenko said, adding that Gliniewicz had experience staging mock crime scenes for police training purposes.

“There are no winners here,” Filenko said. “[Gliniewicz] committed the ultimate betrayal to the citizens he served and the entire law enforcement community…”

Gliniewicz’s death set off a large manhunt, with hundreds of officers searching houses, cabins and boats on area lakes. Helicopters with heat-sensing scanners and K-9 units scoured the area for days. Officials also ordered commuter trains halted, roads blocked and area schools locked down as they conducted a widespread search in a wooded area about 40 miles north of Chicago near the Wisconsin border…

Around 50 suburban Chicago police departments and sheriff’s offices assisted, racking up more than $300,000 in overtime and other costs…

Gliniewicz became known as a hero to young people because of his work with the Explorers program – that he stole from. Always nice to have a bit of oversight where money is concerned, folks.

Just another oil train derails, catches fire — let it burn, baby, burn!

A BNSF Railway train loaded with crude oil derailed and caught fire on Thursday afternoon in a rural area south of Galena, Illinois, according to local officials and the company.

The incident marks the latest in a series of derailments in North America and the third in three weeks involving trains hauling crude oil, which has put a heightened focus on rail safety.

Dark smoke was seen for miles around the crash site, and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency told local WREX.com that two of the cars were potentially on fire. Images posted online by Dubuque Scanner showed flames several hundred feet high, while aerial footage showed the wreck spread across two sets of track.

The train with 105 loaded cars – 103 of them carrying crude oil – derailed around 1:20 p.m. CST (1920 GMT), according to a BNSF statement. The incident occurred on what appears to be a major rail line alongside the Mississippi River that handles as many as 50 oil-trains a week…

BNSF said there were no reported injuries and no evacuations…Eight cars derailed…six of which had tumbled onto their side…

It was also not immediately clear where the train originated or where it was heading. Chicago, which is 160 miles east, is a major rail hub for shipments from both North Dakota and Canada’s oil sands. It was unclear if the train’s tank cars were older models widely criticized for being prone to puncture during accidents.

About 40 to 50 oil trains come through the area each week…The accident is just the latest involving oil trains in the United States and Canada.

State and federal bureaucrats are predictable as ever. Everything is under control. Which means no one was killed, this time.

That’s probably what it will take to get qualitative change in safety requirements – for the rail cars, train speeds vs. quality of roadbed and rail standards. Face it, folks. Most of these systems haven’t been upgraded in a half-century. After John Wayne and Walt Disney finished winning World War 2 – our government was so thoroughly owned by the Detroit auto industry and fossil fuel producers that consideration of upgrading rail transit for people and products was a non-starter.

People forget we had a cabinet officer named Charles Wilson, former CEO of GM who famously said, “what was good for our country was good for General Motors – and vice versa”.

You can’t make this crap up!

An Illinois mother has filed a lawsuit in order to prevent a school from expelling her 15-year-old son for trading his attention deficit disorder medication to another student in exchange for bags of Cheez-Its and cash.

The suit contends that the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy illegally expelled the boy because the conduct he displayed during the transaction was “likely a manifestation of his disability.”

The school nurse was well aware of the boy’s condition because that individual was responsible for dispensing the boy’s medication.

Although the boy “admitted that he received several bags of chips/Cheez-its and/or $3.00 payments” for the ADD medication, he said the reason he made the sale was to “to help his fellow student do better in school.”

The lawsuit is seeking a restraining order and injunction preventing the school from expelling the boy due to his disability.

Saying why you did something, truthful or otherwise, is not how you judge the behavior of someone. Doesn’t matter whether they are drunk or stoned or sober, doesn’t matter if they are unbalanced, disturbed or strange. How you behave determines society’s response. As far as orderly society is concerned.

If you challenge the rules, understand the consequences. Saying you are exempt from responsibility – doesn’t exempt you from a damned thing.

What’s left is deciding upon a just response.

Prison, indictment, no problem in Illinois primary

In the Illinois primary elections, today, candidates on Chicago’s Democratic ballot will include someone who served a prison term for bribery, another who is due to go on trial on bribery charges this spring and a third charged with bank fraud.

“It’s a terrible indictment” of the local political culture, said Dick Simpson, a former Chicago alderman who teaches at University of Illinois at Chicago. “There is still a patronage-based political army on the West Side of Chicago.”

Political experts say all three candidates are either guaranteed victory or heavily favored to win.

The candidates include Isaac “Ike” Carothers, a former Chicago alderman who was sentenced to 28 months for bribery and tax fraud, and is now running for commissioner of the Cook County Board. He was released from prison in late 2011.

Derrick Smith, a state representative, was expelled by the Illinois House in 2012 after he was charged with taking a $7,000 bribe, but then won his seat back and is now running for re-election. His trial date has been set for the spring.

A third candidate, state Representative La Shawn K. Ford, has been charged with bank fraud for alleged actions before he was elected a legislator in 2006. He is running unopposed in his primary…

Chicago, the state’s largest city, ranked first in the nation in public corruption over the past three decades and has had 1,531 public corruption convictions since 1976, according to a 2012 analysis of U.S. Department of Justice statistics…

Ahead of Tuesday’s vote, both Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle have urged voters not to back the younger Carothers. They have endorsed another candidate, attorney Blake Sercye.

But both Smith and Ford have the backing of powerful state House Speaker Michael Madigan.

It’s been a long time since I lived in Chicago…but I recall standing offers from alley mechanics to get me any car I wanted. Cheap. Stolen, of course. I could pick out model, color, options. It would come with license and title.