Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Very Civil Editorial

While I have my share of criticisms about much of the recent output of the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board (which I'll discuss at a later date), I want to give credit where credit is due. They put out a cogent and thoughtful editorial in support of HB2234, Rep. Harris' bill which would legalize civil unions in Illinois.

In so doing, they recognize the fact that much, but certainly not all, of the tensions over this bill are rooted more in semantics then they are in substance:
Unnoticed in the uproar is that most Americans favor extending the benefits and obligations of marriage to same-sex couples -- just as long as it goes by a different name. Call it marriage, and most people bridle. Call it a civil union, and some 55 percent of citizens are in favor.
While Rep. Harris and other advocates of the bill have put in countless hours trying to explain to our colleagues what the bill is, and isn't, about, there are obviously many of them who are nevertheless opposed to the proposal, often times citing moral or religious reasons. It's to this mindset that the Tribune does, IMHO, a great job of setting the record straight.
If it's enacted, gay couples will gain the right to do things that heterosexuals take for granted: make emergency medical decisions and funeral arrangements for a partner, visit each other in the hospital and share a nursing home room. More important, perhaps, it will protect kids by placing same-sex couples that split up under the same rules that govern divorce, while assuring access to survivor benefits when a de facto parent dies.

By this compromise, the state would promote long-term commitments and the well-being of children. But it would avoid the intense emotions that surge around anything altering the traditional definition of marriage, which for many people has deep religious meaning. Harris' bill stipulates that no religious entity may be forced to bless such unions.
Nothing in HB2234 requires anybody to approve of homosexual couples if they choose not to. Rightfully, nothing in the bill imposes any requirements or restrictions upon any religious institutions or entities. Rather, in a modern-day version of the civil rights struggles of the 60's, the bill simply extends equal legal rights to a class of people that some people would prefer didn't have those rights. The bill should be passed. Now.

Friday, April 24, 2009

You Just Can't Make This Stuff Up

I'll try to get a more substantive post up this weekend, but in the interim, I'll just let this video speak for itself. Ladies and Gentlemen, our former Governor:

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Welcome to the Party

Here is the latest reason why I have been a Mike Lawrence fan for a quite some time. While the Chicago Tribune continues to fawn over the recommendations of Governor Quinn's Illinois Reform Commission, Mike actually takes the time to analyze the bigger picture to try to get at why we have had the ethical lapses in Illinois government that we have.

The Tribune, which in my opinion has been inexplicably selective about when to call out for reforms and when to turn a blind eye, has decided that the work product of the Commission should be taken as gospel and passed as is, notwithstanding that the Commission didn't even attempt to put their ideas into draft legislation, settling instead for broad concepts that sound great at a press conference.

Don't get me wrong, I strongly support most, if not all, of the Commission's ideas. But as somebody that has put more years into working on ethics legislation as has the entire commission combined (many of those years in conjunction with Governor Quinn), I will tell you that the devil is assuredly in the details.

And while I most certainly look forward to seeing ideas that have been little more than idle chatter finally get their day in the sun and their vote on the floor, what the Tribune fails to recognize is that legislation alone, no matter how strong, will never clean up government by itself. To do that will take a bilateral combination of honest elected officials and an electorate willing to put the time in to separate the wheat from the chaff at the polling place.

And it is that precise point that Mike Lawrence hits on the head in his latest column:

But structural change cannot fully address the creeping corruption that can exploit character fault lines. No individual is perfect, nor is any administration. Honorable politicians are particularly vulnerable to the arrogance of incorruptibility.

The right kind of elected official will recognize the potential for corrosion. He or she will recruit, respect and heed aides and other associates who speak truth and integrity to power. We have had — and still have — such public officials, aides and associates. But we need more.

We also need citizens who value honest government more than a plowed street — citizens who resist the cynicism that permits them to tag all politicians as corrupt and avoid the homework that helps distinguish between the fakers and the true public servants.

Maybe the time that I have put in over the last decade working on these issues has sensitized me to Johnny-come-lately proselytizers who think that they have suddenly discovered the cure for what ails us. The answers have always been there, what has been missing has been people willing to find them.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

I'm Baaaack

In keeping with the spirit of this holiday weekend, what better time than Easter to resurrect my blog? Having been mercilessly taunted and ceaselessly cajoled by a number of readers, and having had sufficient time to get back into something resembling stride after a pretty hectic first quarter of the year, I'm thinking it's time to wade back into the blogging waters.

In addition to just a general malaise, one of the issues keeping me from getting back into the swing of things has been my increasing use of my Facebook page and Twitter (@johnfritchey) to keep people apprised of my random musings. And while I actually think that they both serve their respective purposes to varying degrees, there's no question that they don't give me a format for longer-form musings on various issues.

So then the issue becomes how to integrate my blogging, Facebooking and Twittering into some remotely efficient exercise. And the answer that I think I've settled on for now as far as the blog is concerned is that while the blog will be the place to go for just getting my more in-depth thoughts as well as the news feeds, my posts will also be linked onto Facebook and Twitter, while my more spontaneous thoughts will simply be tweeted.

Facebook will serve as a middle ground and will likely be the most interactive of my sites due to its nature and the fact that it has a more diverse following than does this blog, which given its genesis, tends to attract mostly political junkies. It will also be the one spot where you can find all of my content in one location, since both my posts and tweets will appear there, in addition to random unique content which doesn't really qualify for the blog and is too long for Twitter.

And so there you have it, my first blog post in ages, and it's about...absolutely nothing. Enjoy.

Happy Easter everybody.