Category Archives: Wading into the Potomac

Sneaking and Being Proud

StoryWorks is an interesting concept that every once in a while produces a short story that hits me. For obvious reasons, this one was close to home.

It’s funny because I have a similar story. I remember one day in middle school I was at cross country practice and my teammates began making fun of me. And they used a word that I was unfamiliar with: “gay”. I had no idea what it meant or why anyone would call me that and after practice, I headed home. As was par for the course, I cried on the way home. But I didn’t really know why. And when I walked up the driveway, my dad was in the garage and he could see I was upset. He asked, “What’s wrong, Danny?” And I told him that they were calling me names. “What names? What did they say?” “Gay.” He stopped for a second and then followed it up with, “Do you know what that means?” I shook my head and he walked around the car and looked at me and said, “Don’t worry about it. They don’t know what they’re talking about.” He did not explain it to me or try to tell me anything else.

I learned what the word meant and I also disagreed with their assessment of me for a long time. For a long time, I felt ashamed that there seemed to be something different with me. In fact, I’m really only getting to the point where I am good with myself in the last few years. It took a long time and a lot of work.

And this is why it is very difficult to see my life being used a political weapon. Anyone who looks at this blog or my Facebook page or has ever talked to me knows that politics have always been close to my heart. I try to watch the debates and read as much as I can. But this is why there are several candidates who scare me more than anything: Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, and Mike Huckabee.

Don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t vote for any of the GOP nominees but I don’t feel like my safety or my family is in danger under a Bush, Rubio, or even Trump presidency. However, the hate speech that those three use to describe me is exactly why I came home crying at the age of 11 and why I couldn’t accept myself until I was 30 years old. I am a people watcher. I love seeing how people interact with each other but there is one thing I will never have that most people take for granted: universal acceptance. If you put your arm around your husband/wife at a movie theater or hold their hand on the street, you never have to worry about what others will say; you never have to worry that you will be kicked out of the theater. It must be a nice thing to feel. Yet with three men running for the highest office in the land with such hate-filled hearts, I know that it will not be a possibility for quite some time. Put their economic or other policies to the side (because none of them stand out with ideas different from their Republican colleagues on those topics) and you see exactly what they want to do – tell me that my family will not matter and that I do not matter. And their supporters are focused on those same issues that want to make me a criminal.

It took me a long time to “not sneak” and be happy with who I am because there is nothing wrong with who I am – but three possible leaders of the greatest nation on Earth disagree. At the end of the day, that hurts more than those words that eleven year old boys say.

The Day I Was Afraid of Judy Dench

Philomena is not a scary movie. It’s a heart-warming tale about a woman discovering what may have happened to the son that was taken away from her in Ireland. I wanted to see it as Steve Coogan is one of my favorites. And my mom wanted to go.

I rarely go to the movies with my mom, so this was going to be a fun outing. She had nothing to do and my dad was at a fishing show. She was going to go to my Aunt and Uncle’s house afterwards where she would meet up with my dad, so I could just drop her off and then she didn’t have to drive by herself home.

We headed out to Barrington and got our tickets. I’ve been to the theater many times. It’s a big theater, but a lot of these art house movies will play there for a while due to the 30 screens.

When we walked into Theater 12, there was a man standing at the end of the long hallway that led from the door into the auditorium and he had a backpack on a seat in the front section. My mom and I passed him and sat down near the top of the theater. I figured he was waiting for someone.

But for over ten minutes, he paced back and forth and kept touching his bag and then returning to leaning against the wall at the end of the hallway or block the entrance so people had to go around him to get to their own seats. As more people came in, he continued just to lean against the wall and I became very anxious.

The lights went down and the previews were going to start. It always reminds you to put your cell phone away as to not bother anyone and then AMC reminds you that if you see anything suspicious, let someone know. Those words rung in my ears as the man continued to lean against the wall and then look at his bag.

I told my mom that I was going to go say something to the people at the front and asked if she wanted to come with me. I said I’m sure it is nothing but I was not comfortable. I told my mom to just keep an eye on him and then I walked down the stairs right past him as I tried not to make eye contact.

I ran to the front after exiting the theater and while stuttering mentioned to the young woman who took our tickets that there is a man leaning against the wall and that I assume it is nothing but it is making me anxious. She said she would send a manager to check in and I went back to the auditorium.

I came back into the theater and he was still there. He looked right at me as I returned to my seat next to my mom as the previews were running. I whispered to her that a manager was coming and she said that was good.

A few minutes later, the manager walked in and began talking to the man. After the conversation, the man grabbed his bag and left with the manager. But then a few minutes later, he returned and sat in the row behind us.

I had to assume the manager checked everything out and he was harmless but the rest of the movie, he would get up, make noises, and rustle in his bag. I kept one eye behind me for the entire movie and we left as soon as the credits began.

I hated that I had to sit in a theater and be scared of what the other people around me may do, but that is the society we now live in. For some reason, people believe if we all live in fear, that is better than a life where we trusted one another. There has to be a warning at the beginning of a movie to ask you to be suspicious of your fellow movie-goers.

This is the hardest part for me to comprehend and truly what I believe the NRA is designed to do. It is not about gun ownership in a responsible manner. It is about scaring people that they are going to be hurt and need a defense tool. It is about scaring people that someone is going to take their gun and therefore they need more guns to protect their other gun. It is about fear and making money off of that fear. And as much as people say that we lived in a better time before, it is because we had a sense of community where we were not scared of our neighbors. There were horrible people then and there are horrible people now. That never changes. But how we react to these horrible people is the problem.

So instead of enjoying a movie with my mom, I have to be afraid of a random man who may have just had leg issues or diabetes because I have no idea who is armed or when someone who had easy access to a weapon will decide to use it.

Two innocent people trying to watch a funny movie were gunned down last night because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. We know the reactions we will hear: they should have been armed; crazy people do crazy things; it’s not the gun that killed them, it’s the person who killed them.

Nothing will come of this. More people will be afraid to go to the movies. More people will be afraid of people in their community. More people will assume the worst of their common man.

That’s why I don’t think I can ever see Philomena again.

2014 Midterm Election

Vote-CountsBecause I occasionally opine on politics on this blog, I feel it prudent to display my affiliations and for whom I voted. With the election only a few days away, here is how I plan on voting. Things can change between now and then but I will outline why I am voting for the individuals below. If you are currently researching candidates, google “Sample Ballot”, type in your address, and get all the major races. In addition, look up the judges on the ballot and go here. I won’t discuss uncontested races – unless I’m not voting for anyone.

U.S. Senate – Richard Durbin (D)

There are few politicians who I believe honestly stand for something and work to get things done. You may disagree with his politics, but Sen. Durbin does his job. He has been elevated through the Senate to the whip position, which is incredibly important for a party, especially for one with divergent views. He was instrumental in getting the Affordable Care Act passed. He has spent his career in Washington fighting for issues that I believe in. There is no reason to kick Sen. Durbin from his position.

U.S. Representative – Janice Schakowsky (D)

Unlike Sen. Durbin, I believe Rep. Schakowsky is too partisan and a bit disconnected. She definitely fights for what she believes in but I am not a huge fan. There are a few things recently that I have liked that Rep. Schakowsky does. She has reached out to my community and meets with constituents each Wednesday at the public library. Mt. Prospect is notoriously conservative and I give her credit for making these appearances. I just wish she would use her seniority to push issues a little more and try to reach across the aisle a little better. Her opponent, Susanne Atanus, is unqualified for office and even if I didn’t agree with Rep. Schakowsky, I would be completely disavowing my patriotism to support her. I do hope that another Democrat runs for this seat to challenge Rep. Schakowsky in the next election though.

Illinois Governor/Lieutenant Governot – Pat Quinn and Paul Vallas (D)

Governor Pat Quinn

Like Rep. Schakowsky, Governor Quinn is not on my list of favorite politicians. I don’t believe he has a back bone or that he can stand up for anything. I also would like to support his opponent, Bruce Rauner, but I cannot for three reasons: the recent Sun-Times story, personality, and guns. First, the recent story that a Sun-Times reporter was put on leave when he wrote a negative story about Rauner prior to the newspaper reversing a recent decision not to endorse political candidates to endorse Rauner makes me question the ethics of Rauner. If this story is even slightly true, we have had enough egomaniacs in the Governor’s mansion. The reporter has hired a respected former prosecutor as his attorney in this case and I have to believe this attorney would not take the case if there wasn’t at least a decent amount of support. This moves in with the personality aspect. Rauner seems to fit in with Governors Scott Walker, Rick Scott, Paul LePage, and Chris Christie as strong-willed Republicans who don’t care what you think as long as they get their way. I don’t go for that Machiavellian approach to government, especially in a state where we already have a megalomaniac running the state house. I don’t like his answers to questions regarding what he will do or his themes. I have read his issue pages on his website and besides getting rid of the tax increases and hoping for increased productivity, he doesn’t have a plan. And the plans he does have, haven’t worked anywhere else. No one likes tax increases, but this state has no revenue currently and the lowest income tax rate in the area. If the income tax was better structured, the other taxes could be modified to encourage businesses and homeowners to stay in Illinois. Last, I believe that the states are the best arena to honestly enact rational gun control. I want an assault weapon ban and a high capacity clip ban. Rauner supports neither of these and Quinn does. My vote is mainly against Rauner instead of for Quinn. In the last two elections, I voted for the Green candidate, but this year the Greens didn’t put anyone on the ballot – and I’m not voting for the libertarian when even the Chicago Tribune said not to waste a vote on them.

Attorney General – Lisa Madigan (D)

Not my favorite family, but she has done nothing to warrant an expulsion from her position. This will be a common theme in the next few.

Secretary of State – Jesse White (D)

Including with his tumblers, Secretary White appears to do a good job. There is no reason to change this politician.

Judy Baar Topinka

Comptroller – Judy Baar Topinka (R)

She seems to have done a good job and though Sheila Simon seems like a good person, I don’t see a reason why Topinka should not be re-elected. I also saved her from hurting herself at the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee back in 2006 when she tripped on a stair.

Treasurer – Tom Cross (R)

This is an open seat because current Treasurer Dan Rutherford tried to run for Governor, lost the primary, and had some weird sexual harassment allegations brought against him. This is the race I have done the most research on because both candidates seem very qualified. This is also the only race where my vote may change in the closing days. Both want to close the office of treasurer and merge it with the Comptroller, which I believe to be important. I watched the forum. And it is close. I like both of them, but I think Cross has a bit more experience in Springfield, and I believe that to be a bonus. I hope Mr. Frerichs runs for another statewide office soon. He seems very bright and I would support him in my other roles, but unfortunately for him, I have to support his opponent. If Cross does not work to eliminate his office in these four years, he will be out of a job.

State Senator – No vote

Although Sen. Matt Murphy is running unopposed, I am not voting for him for one main reason. I wrote a very personal letter to him regarding marriage equality asking him to consider his vote carefully. I did not expect him to change his vote but I expected a response. I have written letters to many politicians, most recently: Sen. Kirk, Sen. Durbin, President Obama, and Rep. Peter Roskam. I voted for three out of the four of these people when they first ran, but after Rep. Roskam responded to my letter, even though we disagree on just about everything, I believed he, at least, tried to response to his constituents, no matter what they believed. I respect that. I have no respect for Sen. Murphy.

State Representative – No vote

Similary, I wrote a letter to Rep. Harris, who is also running unopposed, regarding marriage equality. I also received no response. I have no respect for Rep. David Harris and hope that someone runs against him and Sen. Murphy in the next election.

Assessor – No vote

Joe Berrios is everything that is wrong with Chicago politics and Illinois politics, I have never voted for him and even though I don’t live in the district, gave money to the opponent running for a state house seat against his daughter. The opponent won – I was happy. I will never vote for a Berrios.

Commisioner, 9th District – Peter Silvestri (R)

Commissioner Silvestri appears to be a good person to have on the board. He knows the county well and though I may not agree with him on everything, it is good to have divergent voices on the county board. I see no reason not to re-elect him.

Commissioner, Water Reclamation Districts – Avila (D), Santos (D), Schumann (R)

This is always just a crap shoot. I usually look at endorsements and any questionnaires that candidates filled out. One rule I have: I never vote for anyone who doesn’t fill out the questionnaire. So though the Tribune endorsed Tim Bradford, he didn’t respond to the Daily Herald’s questions, so he’s out. Otherwise, it looks like Santos, Avila, and Schumann are the endorsements in the papers and all three seem like fine water people.

Judge, 12th Subcircuit – James Kaplan (D)

According to the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, James Pieczonka (though I have seen lots of yard signs) is not qualified. His opponent is qualified. Seems simple.

voteJudge Retention – Cook County

I use

Any judge that has any NO, I vote no. If any group believes that an individual is not qualified, I don’t want that person as a judge. So I will will vote no on:

Thomas E. Flanagan

Themis N. Karnezis

James L. Rhodes

Laura Marie Sullivan

Joan E. Powell

Pamela Elizabeth Loza

Annie O’Donnell

Marijuana Legalization

I remember in high school that I was once on a run with some teammates and they were talking about marijuana. Because they knew I liked politics, they asked me if I was for legalization. I was never a popular kid and I did want people to like me. I honestly had no thoughts on the matter because I didn’t even really know what it was besides what I learned from after school specials. I had never encountered it. I had never encountered any drug outside of the time this girl would hide her cigarettes in my locker in middle school because she knew that no one would search my locker. I went through all of high school without seeing anyone with a red Solo cup or tasting a beer. I definitely never saw pot.

Marijuana Rally 2007-09-15 34So, I said, yes. I did support legalization. I believed them when they told me it was no worse than alcohol. I believed them that it was a way to relax. And if nothing else, I didn’t need to seem even more square than I already was. It didn’t mean I was going to try it. But I wanted to show that my liberal credentials were solid.

Unfortunately, I still feel I need to do that on this topic.

After Colorado and Washington legalized small amounts of pot, it has become a hot topic. And strangely enough, the only real connection to marijuana use happened in 2013. A few days ago, I wrote to Andrew Sullivan of The Dish the whole story.

I don’t know if it is worse than alcohol. And as someone who doesn’t drink, I have no frame of reference. I have never been drunk. I have never wanted to be drunk. I had only one drug in my past – antidepressants. And I never want to have that loss of control feeling again. I hated it because I lost myself. And as hard as I am on myself, I like myself. Maybe I am not supposed to be relaxed. I might be tense and a bit of a stick in the mud. I may not be very social and maybe a drink would calm my nerves but I have made the decision to not do that to myself. It isn’t good for my social life, but I am content with being the guy who reads and writes.

I understand why people want to use drugs. I understand the want to relax and basically shut your mind down. I do the same thing with reality television and superhero comics. But there is one thing that reality television and superhero comics don’t do: create addiction. Yes, alcohol is legal and creates addiction. And maybe pot should be legalized with the same thing. But to just write it off as a given and a good thing ignores one big problem. And I have not seen anyone pointing this out. I don’t know if it is a gateway drug and honestly, I don’t care. My biggest concern about marijuana legalization is that addiction is forgotten. Marijuana is addictive.

People addicted to things aren’t bad people. People are addicted to lots of things – good and bad. But addiction creates a dependency on something that seems to extend past boundaries. And that was how it affected me in 2013. I don’t know how to talk about this without going into the details and I don’t want to get into the details, but it hurt more than I can really say. I saw someone on marijuana say and do things that I couldn’t comprehend. It is why I am torn about legalization.

I understand the tax arguments. I presume the “no worse than alcohol” argument. I presume the crime statistics are true and that there are lots of individuals arrested for marijuana possession. But there are going to be people hurt by legalization, just as there are people hurt by alcohol legalization. And that will be something I will never understand. I don’t think I’m meant to.Marijuana Tax Stamps

I don’t see this as some big civil liberty win. I see this in the same category as abortion. It is something I wish never happened. I wish no one got high. There are so many beautiful things in the world to see and explore. I will never understand why it is more fun to sit in a room and get high, just like I don’t get why it is fun to get together with friends, get drunk, and then forget what happened the night before. I honestly believe I only have so many hours on this Earth and I want to be aware of as many as I can. I need my sleep but otherwise, I want to be alert and ready to go.

Lots of productive people smoke marijuana. Lots of smart people drink. Lots of amazing people do both. I will never be one of them. Just like abortion, I understand why people want it to be legal. But just like abortion, I wish that we lived in a world where it didn’t have to be. So, if it is to be legalized, I won’t celebrate it. I don’t think it will be the end of society or the beginning of some sort of US crash as the Chinese become more productive than us. But I will continue to wonder why people need something to escape.

Why I Spend Time Posting and Writing About Politics

Any time I read an article about Facebook etiquette, it states never to write about politics. You hear the same thing about parties or dates. Never bring up politics. It only will divide people.

I hate that rationale. It only divides people because we allow it to divide us, and honestly, that is what our leaders prefer. It is easy to demonize an argument or a side you don’t agree with if you don’t have to interact with someone who believes it.

I spend a lot of time reading about politics, commenting about politics, and thinking about politics. I am sure many of you wish I would stop. I am sure many of you have decided not to pay attention to any more of my posts. And that is fine. You have that prerogative. But I never will.

Politics is about people. We all have different belief structures and have different images of how the world should work. We get these ideas from many places: our parents, our faith, our education process, our friends, our jobs, and a multitude of other sources. But they come together to create our belief structure. And the way that we shift our belief structures are by living and learning from other people.

For example, I will never own a gun. I will never hold a gun. I want nothing to do with a gun. I don’t believe that I should have anything in my hands that can be triggered to kill anything. I have no interest in hunting for sport or for food and if it came down to that, I would probably just die. But I understand that my opinion is not held by many people. I have read many articles about gun owners. People who have had a tradition of owning guns, hunting with their fathers, and it gives them an identity. I may never understand that – but that may not understand why I love comic books so much. When I read about people who have that emotional attachment to guns, I understand why they want one. When I read about someone who has a gun for protection, though I may not believe it is the best decision, I understand why they want it. But I also believe that a gun owner who does respect the weapon they hold should understand the need for regulation of something that they revere, because there are people who don’t have that same feeling about it. They are people who treat the gun as a toy. It is children who get a hold of it and pretend it is like something they saw in a movie or a television program. But the difference is if you shoot a zombie in a video game or if you shoot a friend in a video game, that friend can come back into the game. So, I do believe there is a discussion there that can be had if both sides take a respectful look at why the other side is concerned.

I have a similar attachment to the First Amendment as many have with the Second Amendment. The ability to say what you want and print it wherever you want is important. But I understand the limitations. You can’t slander someone. You can’t yell obscenities at three in the morning outside of your apartment building. But for example, I believe that someone should have the right to burn the American flag. I don’t want to do it myself and would never stoop to that behavior, but I don’t believe that people should not have that right if they so desire. I understand why it upsets so many people and why they might want to ban it, but just like banning guns doesn’t solve the crime problems in the United States, banning the burning of a flag does not solve the problems of discontent in a political structure.

But if two people can’t sit down and discuss this without resorting to names, then we don’t actually live in a democratic republic. We don’t have control over the issues or what matters to us. Instead, we allows groups of people dictate what we should think. We allow the parties to define themselves and we vote for them in a parliamentary-like system. We allow money handling organizations to put on commercials and force us to believe something that generally is only half true and not be concerned with it – but we love to quote them.

I recently got involved on a Daily Herald message board discussing the deficit. I put out arguments that both sides were at fault and dismissing the claims that President Obama owns all of the fiscal problems we are currently having. I was being honest with my beliefs, but most people believed I was defending the President and at one point called me a communist because I argued that we aren’t discussing the real problems with our budget: Social Security, Medicare, and the military. And I know I am not going to change minds on a message board, but I like the activity. I like having someone push back at my beliefs and I like to be challenged.

When I was a freshman in college, I worked for Illinois PIRG. I went door-to-door raising money to shut down the coal-fired power plants in Illinois. I would annoy people during dinner to tell them of the woes of plants that are still open today. I hated the job. But I didn’t hate it because people closed the door on me. The only people I hated in that regard were those that had Sierra Club stickers on their doors and told me to scram without giving me a second breath. I hated the people who pretended to care but wouldn’t even spend a second listening to my argument. I loved the people who disagreed with me. And I would argue with them why it was problematic. I would discuss the asthma levels and cancer epidemics near the plants. I would talk about other forms of energy that were better for the environment – even nuclear (even though that wasn’t in my pamphlet). I remember one man who I talked to for over ten minutes who didn’t want to hear a word I had to say when I first opened my mouth, but he saw a kid who was doing something he believed in and wanted to hear him out. He argued with me and I argued back. We didn’t raise our voices or call each other names like we were supposed to if we were on the set of a cable news program. And in the end, he looked at me and said, I’m gonna give you five dollars, but you can’t donate it to your cause. I don’t support that, but I’m impressed with you. I smiled and thanked him. And donated the money to my cause against his wishes – but I’m sure he knew I would.

I have many conservative friends. I love my conservative friends. I will listen to their arguments any day of the week. But I want to hear them. And I want to be able to discuss them.

Our political structure is only as good as we are. It is designed as a marketplace of ideas. But we are strapped for ideas because the people in charge don’t want us discussing them and figuring things out on our own. It is far easier to divide us into red and blue states and into liberals and conservatives. We are all Americans. We were given a voice by our Founding Fathers. Use it.

Mount Prospect Trustee Race – 2013

In April, Mount Prospect will hold an election for village trustee. There are six candidates on the ballot. Below are samples of articles regarding the candidates, information on their personal beliefs and other political opinions, and this will be updated along the election to better serve Mount Prospect.

<updated with new Carl Ariazza video 2/26>

Almost every candidate running for Mt. Prospect village trustee and park board commissioner have agreed to participate in the Mt. Prospect Journal’s debate/forum on Wednesday, Mar. 20 beginning at 7 p.m. at Mt. Prospect Village Hall.


Trustee Steven S. Polit
    • Picture with Rick Santorum on Facebook page
    • Political organizations according to Facebook page:
      • Eagle Forum of Illinois
        • A public policy organization partnering with Eagle Forum, for God and country, leading the pro-family movement since 1972.
        • Currently, lobbying to defend marriage in Illinois
        • Associated with Phyllis Schalfy
      • Patriot Voices
        • A 501(c)(4) organization started by former Sen. Rick Santorom
    • Daily Herald – Feb 21, 2013 – “”We, as the village, need to take a leadership role there and get all the existing business and property owners on the same page,” Polit said. “I’d like to see a ‘Kensington Business Center Association’ formed to provide a single focus.”
  •  John Matuszak
John Matuszak


    • “What are you going to cut and how much will that save?” Matuszak asked. “When you cut those services, what will be the impact to the community?”
    • According to Matuszak, Dyslin and Arriaza continue to argue taxes are too high, but do not offer an alternative budget. “If they want my vote, they need to tell how their budget cuts will impact my life,” Matuszak emphasized.
    • Daily Herald – Feb 21, 2013 – “The Internet has been a huge change, obviously,” he said. “Going forward, we should target businesses that can do well on the Internet. Mount Prospect is a great location for companies and retail stores, we just have to be smart and aggressive to get them.”
  • Michael Zadel


Michael Zadel
    • Mt. Prospect Journal
      • “I would first like to maintain a fiscally conservative approach to providing village services after identifying and prioritizing needed capital projects. Then implementing funding sources to accomplish these projects in a manner that provides minimal impact to the residents’ financial obligations<.>”
    • Daily Herald – Feb 21, 2013 – “…he’s happy the village has taken steps to annex properties on the south end of the village near O’Hare International Airport. Those could be good sites for warehouse-type developments, he said. He added that while progress in the downtown area has been slow, there are encouraging signs of life.”


  • John Dyslin
    • This Facebook page has many discussions between Dyslin and his opponents, specifically Polit. The main issue is regarding increases in property taxes.
John Dyslin
    •  Columnist for
      • “John Dyslin is a lifelong conservative and Republican. He currently is a precinct captain for the Republicans of Wheeling Township, a Liberty Leader with the Illinois Policy Institute and a volunteer for several Republican candidates in Illinois. He also is a veteran magazine editor, covering industries such as HVAC, electrical contracting and workplace safety and health.”
    • Daily Herald – Feb 21, 2013 – “…the village has to re-evaluate its business permit process to make sure it runs as quickly and smoothly as possible. He said he would make attracting businesses to the downtown area and the Kensington Business Center a priority.”

Kevin Grouwinkel

Kevin Grouwinkel
    • Mt. Prospect Journal article  – okay with three incumbents winning re-election and will ask soon-to-be mayor to fill her empty trustee spot with him. 
    • Daily Herald – Feb 21, 2013 – “…while he’s pleased with the overhaul of Randhurst, he too wishes more had happened in the downtown area. He said he would encourage more active communication with prospective businesses and existing property owners. ‘There’s been some progress downtown, but it’s been slow,” he said. “Bringing new businesses in is a huge help in keeping taxes reasonable for residents. Downtown has to be a top priority going forward.'”


Carl Arriaza

Carl Arriaza

  • Daily Herald – Feb 21, 2013 – “…’new eyes’ are needed in the area of downtown redevelopment. While retail chains and major restaurants have opened at Randhurst, he said the village must work harder to get smaller businesses.”

Welcome to the Echo Chamber

I got into a discussion on Facebook today that doesn’t really end up looking like a discussion. A little background – someone posted something, I responded, my response was deleted, I responded on my own wall, a response was posted on mine, and the rest is history. Since we were not in the same physical space, this was as close as a discussion as was possible.

I love politics. I love discussion. I love hearing points of views.Arguing and yawning

But my greatest fears of our political system played out in this discussion between two people who probably agree on over 90% of issues. I call it the echo chamber. People flock to people of the same ideology and only want to hear points that verify what they already think. This is a left and right problem. Gun rights activists won’t ever hear that there may be a good reason for gun control. Universal health care proponents don’t want to hear that there may be people who don’t want health care. Conservatives listen to talk radio and watch Fox. Liberals listen to NPR and watch MSNBC.

A few years ago, I read a book by Cass Sunstein regarding extremism and noted that when people discuss anything, an extreme position is generally reached. He basically was arguing against the marketplace of ideas, but didn’t know how to relate that to how democracy works.

I do not believe that. I don’t live that. You put two people in a room and let them discuss something rationally and it will lead to understanding. Maybe both sides won’t agree to something, but something can be learned. But when you decide on your own that you know better based on things you read and things you heard and disregard anything to the contrary, you are not following a sound logic. It leads to faulty logic that it your political opponents used against you, you would decry it as heresy or just plain wrong.

And honestly, it is easier to just find similar thinkers and go with it, but I like to be challenged. I enjoy reading what Judge Richard Posner has to say on issues. I enjoy reading The National Review to get a sense of what my ideological opposites are worrying about. I will critique them and argue against them as much as anyone – look at anything I have said about Paul Ryan – but I will listen to them.

I could easily just read Ezra Klein, read The New Republic (I love the redesign and became a subscriber late last year), watch The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, and discuss this with only my liberal friends. But then my positions won’t grow. I become isolated in my ideology and become no better than any other ideologue.

Life and politics is complicated. There is generally not a right or a wrong. There are scales of both of those. There are lots of grays. There are no simple answers. There are only simplistic answers. If problems could be so easily solved, you’re fooling yourself if you think our leaders wouldn’t accomplish them.

To Kill a Mockingbird 1But I ask you, next time you are thinking bout something, take the approach from To Kill A Mockingbird, walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. You might come to the same conclusion, but you will at least thought about why the other person might not reach the same conclusion as you.

Straw Men to Absurdity

When asked why Justice Scalia relates homosexuality with bestiality, he points to an argumentative style: reduction to absurdity, which demonstrates that a statement is true by showing that a false result follows from its denial or that a statement is false by showing that a false result follows from its acceptance. In other words, if we accept that homosexuality is okay, then bestiality or incest is okay. But bestiality and incest are not okay, therefore homosexuality is not okay.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin ScaliaFor a legal scholar, this is faulty logic, to say the least. This is a combination of a straw man and fear mongering. An absurdity can be drawn from any argument. To make a valid argument, the assertions must actually exist in the argument. In mathematics, this is a proof by contradiction. For example, when proving that the square root of two is irrational, the approach is a proof by contradiction.

Assume that the square root of 2 is rational.  Thus is can be expressed as a fraction of a/b, where a and b are integers, where at least one is odd because the fraction is expressed in lowest terms. If a/b is equal to the square root of 2, then a^2 = 2b^2. Thus a is even. Thus b must be odd. If a is even, then a^2 is a multiple of 4, so 2b^2 is a multiple of 4 and thus, b^2 would be even and so would b. So b is odd and even – which is a contradiction because b cannot be both odd and even. This is an assertion. Therefore, the initial assumption that the square root of two is rational must be false.


For Justice Scalia’s argument to be true, there must exist some assert in the argument between bestiality or incest and homosexuality. I wish someone would push him on this point.

His second point seems to be completely different:  “If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?”

And I say, yes. You can have moral feelings against homosexuality, murder, or anything. You can have moral feelings for homosexuality, murder, or anything. But we live in a society where mores are discussed by cultures. If a culture decides that murder is immoral and then illegal, then if there are three people in that culture who disagree, it is up to those people if they want to shift their beliefs, leave the culture, or just accept that they are different.

I believe it is morally reprehensible that capital punishment is legal in this country. I believe our use of torture and the current use of drones are morally wrong. I can have these beliefs, just like Justice Scalia can have his beliefs. But at the end of the day, capital punishment is legal because more people believe in it than disagree with it. I live in a state with a capital punishment moratorium. I voted for a President who uses drones all the time. I made these decisions as a member of my society.

Justice Scalia is more than able to believe that homosexuality is wrong. But he is on the losing side of history. More and more people don’t agree with that morality. Morality changes – I just saw the movie Lincoln and will be writing about that soon. To think that people at the end of the civil war were still debating if slavery is a moral right or that universal suffrage was against all moral fiber does not make sense today.

Who I Voted For and Why:

Every year, the writers of Slate Magazine post who they are voting for and why. I think it is a noble decision as they write about politics and culture the world. It gives readers a sense of where they come from. As I write often about politics and post even more about it on Facebook, I wanted to share who I will be voting for as I go to the polls tonight.The ballot-reading machine

U.S. President Obama at Intel's Fab 42
The man I voted for

President/Vice President: Barack Obama/Joe Biden (D)
When I voted for President Obama the first time, it was the only time I ever felt strongly about a candidate. I am not as liberal as I once was and have a practical side to me. I like people who believe in compromise and coming to the table with ideas. I like people who don’t always curtail to the popular will. Barack Obama is that person. He took ideas that originated on the other side of the political spectrum and adapted them. He worked on a grand compromise that was only destroyed when the other party realized it was better politics to have the President fail. Additionally, I do not trust Mitt Romney to run this country with anything besides a weather balloon. He doesn’t have a solid bone in his body.

U.S. House of Representatievs: Janice D. Schakowsky (D)
I have never voted for a winning Democrat for Congress. I am not a big Schakowsky fan, but I will vote for her.

State Senate: Matt Murphy (R)
The Democractic Party failed to run any candidates in the primary and therefore lose my vote. If you don’t compete throughout the election cycle, I don’t feel you deserve my vote. I have heard nothing from the Democrat and don’t know why I should vote for him. Matt Murphy is a relatively conservative Republican and I doubt I agree with him on any issues at the end of the day. But the Tribune believes him to be a good senator and I feel that he put in the time.

State House: David Harris(R)
See above. The reasons.

State’s Attorney: Anita Alvarez (D)
I am not a big fan. Her opponent seems like a decent candidate, but I believe Alvarez has done a competent job.

Recorder of Deeds: Karen Yarbrough (D)
Tribune liked her. Nothing else. She’s the recorder of deeds.

Clerk of Courts: Diane Shapiro (R)
The Cook County court system is disgusting. Dorothy Brown is an embarassment. I have no idea what Shapiro will do, but anything is better than the status quo.

Water Reclamation: Debra Shore (D), Kari Steele (D), Dave Ehrlich (G)
The Tribune likes the first two a lot and my friend, Louis Mercer, recommended the third on Facebook. This is one of the first times that Facebook impacted my vote. Way to go, Mark Zuckerberg.

Board of Review, First District: Dan Petlak (R)
Has done a good job. Deserves to keep his job.

Judges I voted no on:
I vote no if any bar association, newspaper, or legal group says the person in not qualified, even if it is a group I don’t agree with. If someone says that they are not qualified, they must be biased in some way and should not be on the court.

Cynthia Brim
Rodney Hughes Brooks
Christopher Donnelly
Lisa Ruble Murphy
Loretta Eadie-Daniels
Joyce Marie Murphy Gorman
Pamea E. Hill-Veal
Gloria Chevere


I will not disclose the rest of the judges as they don’t matter as most are unopposed or barely opposed.

A Note on My Car

They say that there are two things that you shouldn’t talk about: religion and politics. However, these are two of the strongest things that bring us together. The reason that we are told not to talk about it is because people have high passions for both and in many instances, think that the other side’s perspective is wrong. I have always felt this is a short-sighted view of both topics.

Politics is the way we organize ourselves. Aristotle defined politics as the thing concerning the polis, or the citizenship. It is the thing that defines us as a citizen. But we treat it like a black and white decision between good and evil.

I have never been shy about my political beliefs. There is no reason in my mind to be afraid of anything in regards to my opinions. I feel that as long as you respect someone else’s beliefs that your beliefs will be given the same regard. I am friends with Republicans, Democrats, and Green party members. No libertarians…just kidding.

I know this isn’t a given for everyone. Yesterday afternoon, John and I went to see Hotel Transylvania with our friends Karl and Loryl. The movie was fun and it is always great to spend time with friends. But then we got to our car and there was a slip of paper on my windshield. I was not happy. The last time this happened a kid busted up my front headlight and bumper such that one light sometimes still dangles off of the car. I didn’t know where this new person hit my car and why they had a small scrap of paper.

Hi Friend,
I just wanted you to know some knucklehead vandalized your car by slapping an Obama sticker on it. I didn’t want to drive around all day looking like an idiot and a complete fool.
Take care,
A Good Samaritan

I suppose this is funny in Brookfield, WI. I am sure the person who thought it was funny to put it on my car just giggled and walked away. But what is the state of our polis if this is something that a person carries around with them? How does this affect the marketplace of ideas?

I would be curious to know what this person thought my response would be. Would I read this, see the error in my ways, and repent and get a Romney/Ryan sticker? There was a reason I donated money to the Obama campaign. I paid attention to the issues important to me and saw where the candidates fell. So, I gave him money. I voted for him in 2008 and have not lot any faith. Honestly, I trust him more today than I did four years ago.

So the knucklehead who vandalized my car was me and I am proud to have the sticker. I don’t think I look like an idiot or a complete fool, just like I don’t think that of anyone with a Romney sticker. But I do think that someone who has printed out pieces of paper to put on Obama supporters’s cars might want to look in the mirror and find a better way to spend their time than by touching my car.