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May 2012 Archives

Selling sales taxes in 60 days

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Matthew R. Shay thinks you aren't paying enough sales tax.

Shay is the president and CEO of the National Retail Federation, which has launched a 60-day campaign for what it calls "tax fairness." He hit town recently to talk about it.

Brick-and-mortar retailers are grumbling because they must charge sales tax, but often online retailers don't have to do so. That puts traditional retailers at a disadvantage because it makes it too inviting for customers to wander around stores, decide what they want to buy and then go home and order it online without paying sales taxes - a practice they bitterly call "showrooming" at the brick-and-mortar stores.

CO2-spewing coal on the hot seat in Chicago today

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Coal isn't getting such a warm reception these days over at the Midwest Office of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is holding national public hearings to get input from the public about a proposed rule to regulate carbon, which is released into the atmosphere when coal is burned. The hearings are being held both in Chicago and Washington on two separate dates.

Steve Frenkel, UCS Midwest director, thinks the EPA should do what it can discourage utilities from burning coal.

"Coal-fired plants are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States," Frenkel says. "Forty percent of the emissions in the United States come from power plants. Carbon has never been a regulated pollutant under the Clean Air Act - until now."

What about anti-hate crimes?

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If hate crimes are exceptionally objectionable, deserving of especially harsh punishment, then what about anti-hate crimes? Do we go a little easier on them?

I'd say no, of course not. People can't go around cracking heads in the name of anti-racism.

But if we're being strictly logical here, shouldn't this be treated as a lesser crime?

I got to thinking about this after reading about that group of people from Indiana, supposedly on an anti-hate mission, who allegedly charged into a Tinley Park restaurant Saturday and beat up a bunch of diners they thought were white supremacists.

We'll leave it to the lawyers to figure out if anybody really was a white supremacist and who beat up whom. But if the facts eventually bear out the claim -- that the motivation for these alleged crimes was, weirdly enough, anti-racism -- do we cut the defendants a break?

At the heart of the question is a skepticism, held by many Americans who are properly appalled by racism, about the whole notion of creating a class of hate crimes -- against minorities and gays and others -- that by statute establish enhanced penalties. They are uneasy that hate crimes criminalize not only acts, but the thoughts behind those acts.

The proper time to consider a defendant's motivations for better or worse, they say, is only after he or she has been convicted and is being sentenced. A judge or jury, for example, typically will go easy on a woman who killed her husband after years of being abused.

Cook County Cemetery - 53 years later

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The Cook County Board is exploring getting back into the cemetery business. Commissioner John Fritchey has proposed resuming operations near the former Oak Forest Hospital. The county operated its own cemetery there from 1854 to 1971.

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ABOVE: The dedication of the Cook County Cemetery in 1959.
BELOW: The same scene today. | Larry Ruehl~Sun-Times Media

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Read a Sun-Times editorial here.

Read a Cook County Cemetery Fact Sheet.doc here.

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Jill_Stein-72.jpgBarack Obama will not be the only 2012 presidential candidate visiting Chicago for the NATO Summit this weekend.

Jill Stein, the Green Party's presumptive nominee, will be here too. Like Obama, she has strong ties to the Chicago area. She grew up in Highland Park, and her first political victory was for student council at Highland Park High School in 1968. She now lives in Massachusetts and ran against Mitt Romney for governor there in 2002.

Two of the things she will be talking about while she is here are her party's "Green New Deal" and the need to stop being spooked by the results of the 2000 vote in Florida, when Ralph Nader was seen as drawing enough votes from Al Gore to deny Gore a clearcut win in that state -- and an Electoral College win in the national race.

Gov. Pat Quinn is missing a chance for comprehensive pension reform, according to a University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs analysis published today.


Gov. Pat Quinn (Seth Perlman~AP)

The report states: "Rather than modernizing the pension system, the governor's plan largely [focuses] on shifting the costs of pensions to employers, effectively ending the state's role in funding future retirement benefits for public sector workers."

Read the analysis here.

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Cook County's legacy of corruption

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richard.lindberg-72.jpgA legacy of Cook County corruption also means a legacy of expensive problems.

Part of the reason Cook County is struggling with high-maintenance unincorporated areas is that corrupt former officials looked the other way or took bribes to allow substandard development.

Chicago author Richard Lindberg says corruption has a long history in Cook County, dating back to the 1800s, when boodle was the favorite pastime for "a whole raft of Cook County commissioners."

"Wherever they saw a chance to make money, they did," Lindberg says.

As recounted in Lindberg's The Gambler King of Clark Street and other books, a 10-year period of rampant graft culminated in the appointment of Harry A. "Prince Hal" Varnell as warden of the Cook County Insane Asylum and Alms House at Irving Park and Narragansett, which then was out in the country. Varnell's qualifications amounted to being Chicago Democratic boss Mike
Richard Lindberg
McDonald's pool room and saloon lackey.

In another example of blatant graft, Cook County Hospital had a tool shed with 42 lightning rods because the lightning rod manufacturer had the right connections to county officials, Lindberg says.

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Illinois requires permits for new oil pipeline construction, but only two other Great Lakes states (Michigan and Minnesota) do, and that's a problem, according to a new report,

Other Great Lakes states should approve their own rules to protect the lakes' basin from oil pollution because federal laws aren't adequate, says the report released Monday by the National Wildlife Federation and University of Michigan Law School.

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A worker monitors water in Talmadge Creek in Marshall Township, Mich., near the Kalamazoo River as oil from a ruptured pipeline, owned by Enbridge Inc, is attempted to be trapped by booms Thursday, July 29, 2010. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

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This page is an archive of entries from May 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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