Monday, December 30, 2013

Donations for IRTA Defense Fund!

I sold a pair of my shoes for IRTA.  What are yours worth?

Notice from Illinois Retired Teachers Association:

“On Friday, December 27, the Illinois Retired Teachers Association along with the Illinois Association of School Administrators filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court challenging the constitutionality of the new law that radically diminishes retired teachers pension benefits.
The law firm of Tabet, DiVito & Rothstein filed the lawsuit on behalf of the named plaintiffs and similarly situated persons.
Among other allegations the attorneys for the plaintiffs allege the new law (Public Act 98-0599) represents a clear violation of the Illinois Pension Code as it protects the retirement benefits of all retired educators, both retired and currently active.
The plaintiffs seek a declaration that P.A. 98-0599 is void in its entirety because it violates the Pension Protection Clause of the Illinois Constitution.
The IRTA expects other aggrieved parties will file similar challenges to the constitutionality of the new law.
To review the complaint in its entirety go to”

On my off days, which are less numerous than I thought when I retired, I work retail at a little bird food store in Palos Park.  I get paid in bird seed – literally.  By the way, grains are as expensive as everything else nowadays, and this is just one more reason for me to obsess on the continued thievery in the guise of legality by the General Assembly and Governor Squeezy.  It’s been an ethically irksome and morally discouraging end of year. 

Forget the wings, old man.
I sometimes picture particular legislators in tailored suits beating the Jesus out of Clarence the angel on the snow-covered bridge in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” while George Bailey and Old Man Potter decide what 401 K instrument would be best for the former’s  dismal prospects.

Even “…And God Bless Everyone” has a hollow ring to it. 

Yes, therapy is included in one of my upcoming resolutions –anger management for sure. 

Thank goodness for the IRTA.  Good for you too, even if you are still an active teacher reading this and planning on retiring one of these days, years or decades.  They refused to turn a blind eye to one more attempt to siphon benefits away from those who have given and retired, those who are giving now, and anyone else in Springfield who believes that the Constitution is just so much insignificant nonsense. 

Remember outgoing president Elman’s exhortation at the IRTA Convention in Springfield, this fall that “We will sell our shoes” to fight against anything like this latest unconstitutional pension theft (SB1) in the courts. 

At work and elsewhere now, I am drawn to footwear. 

Really nice shoes, kid.
Would you like some No-Mess seed with that? (nice Uggs!)  Happy Holidays, Niece! (whoa, Benjamin Adams?)  Glad to help you, sir. (Magnanni’s?) 

I received a really nice letter from IRTA last week thanking me for my donation to the defense fund.  How ‘bout you?

Dear Gary,

I wear New Balance Heritage/992 running shoes that retail at $149.95.  Please find enclosed a check for the IRTA Defense Fund for $149.95.

My hope is that my and your efforts will not only prove victorious in the battles to come, but that we will also expose the kind of ethical, immoral, and fiscal scapegoating of which so many are ignorant and so many are culpable.

Thanks for all you do.  All you have done.  And your commitment to this upcoming battle.

May the courts be with us,

John Dillon

P.S. I have more shoes in my closet.

If you’d like to sell your shoes too, please do it now.

Send to your checks to:

IRTA  (mention Defense Fund on notation line of check)
620 North Walnut Street
Springfield, IL  62702

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Some Myths About Charitable Giving at End of Year

The Myth of the Local Economy (or “Brother, can you spare a dime?”)

 Been begging lately?  I have.

When I seek donations and contributions for a small, local animal shelter, I don’t call it begging, but that’s what is it.  Hard work, begging – especially in this cold and especially in this economy.  Some shelters are experiencing up to 400% increases in the amount of dogs and cats left abandoned in foreclosed homes or given up by owners who have lost their jobs. Sometimes their poor pets are just tied to the front door when we get there.  

But what really makes finding money for food and medical treatment for animals such an uphill climb is the changed nature of the economic landscape in which we all now live.

We used to be able to depend on the many local shops and businesses to provide a few dollars or an item suitable for a fund raising auction or raffle.  Not so anymore.  Not so local anymore.  What used to be trickle down from our local mom-and-pop shops is no more.  Instead, it is decidedly trickle up.

“Hi, I’m from Peoples Animal Welfare in Tinley Park.  We’re trying to solicit assistance in any way from local businesses like yours to help us pay for the thousands of abandoned animals we vet, feed, care for, and adopt out each year. Would your business, here in our town, be willing to help?”

“Sorry, you’ll have to go through corporate for that.”

Corporate will be in Idaho, Minneapolis, California, or somewhere else usually far away.  And corporate, even in a closer place like Chicago, usually has a program of giving on a national not local scale.  It’s part of the boardroom budgeting process; FY15 is already in the hopper.  And, honestly, the last target (pun intended) for their obligatory corporate giving would be a small, local shelter.  You see, giving on a national or international scale provides advertising, which is of value to corporations – it is revenue generating.  Even a thank you from a charity on a corporate level (like United Way) can assure a full page of company icons and solicitous appreciation in a newspaper like our Chicago Tribune.  In addition, in the lower corner it reads “With thanks to our media partner Chicago Tribune.”  See, more feel-good advertising.

CEO Greg Marcus
Of course you won’t believe who makes this full page spread in the enormous “thank you” and collection of icons in pages of the Tribune.  Here’s a partial list of the 24 corporate Samaritans, and I’ll just highlight the companies with membership in the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago:  Northern Trust, Illinois Tool Works, AT&T, UPS, Deloitte, Exelon, Bank of America, Ernst & Young, Illinois Blue Cross and Blue Shield, KPMG, PWC, William Blair, Wells Fargo, GE, Nicor, Allstate, Kelloggs, Sargent and Lundy, HSBC, Harris Associates, Pepsico, Aon, Walgreens, and US Bank.  They all appreciate the spirit of giving on the mammoth scale to national and international charities because beyond the good citizen-type appearance…well, it pays back.  Helping people is profitable (except when they desire to bargain collectively).  Go to a movie this holiday season, and you'll see CEO Gregory Marcus pushing United Way as well as popcorn.  

United Way CEO Gallagher
And this corporate giving and getting is a two way street, you know.  The CEO of United Way is Brian Gallagher, whose 2010 reported annual salary is $375,000, “plus so many numerous expense benefits it’s hard to keep track as to what it is all worth, including a fully paid lifetime membership to 2 golf courses (1 in Canada and 1 in the USA), 2 luxury vehicles, a yacht club membership, 3 major company gold credit cards for his personal expenses…and so on.  This equates to about $0.51 per dollar of income [going] to charity causes”  (

In the case of corporations, the amount of bang for the buck isn’t nearly as important as the public fawning and media attention that comes with it.  And let’s not forget the connections or the possibility of playing golf today, let’s say in Canada? “Hello, Brian, maybe I can fly up?”

Abandoned animals?  How about abandoned local communities?   

Gotta go untie some dogs.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Simple Ethical Elegance: Senator Toi Hutchinson

Senator Toi Hutchinson
Simple Ethical Elegance: Senator Toi Hutchinson  

Read below the full text of Senator Toi Hutchinson’s (40th District) statement before the Black Tuesday vote on SB1 that will, if approved legally, strip the benefits of active and retired public sector workers in Illinois, despite Constitutional protection.  After that, call her office to thank her.  This is an honorable legislator in Illinois.

"Because this is a heart-wrenching decision, and because I have so much respect for how much work has gone into this by so many people, I'm not going to stand here and use a whole lot of hyperbole to talk about the people who are going to vote yes on this bill.

I'm standing here because I'm going to vote no on this bill, and it's really simple.

During the 1970 Constitutional Convention, the delegate that carried this - her name was Helen Kinney - and she specifically said that the intention was simply to give public employees a basic protection against abolishing their rights completely or changing the terms of their rights after they'd embarked upon employment...or lessening them.

That was why the phrase was included.  That was why it was debated as much as it was.  That is why it is in the same Constitution that I raised my right hand and swore to uphold along with the United States Constitution. 

I cannot abrogate my responsibility for that here today.

If this were only about picking the bill that saves the most money, we'd all pick the bill that saves the most money. We'd all do that. 

But it's not.

It's about taking people's retirement benefits right when they need them the most, after they have worked hard and earned those benefits. 

They earned those benefits.

And if we do not respect the basic modicum of contract law, then we have a whole lot of other problems that we have to solve. 

Maybe we could just rewrite all those underwater mortgages? Those are contracts.  Last time I checked, banks and Chambers didn't want us to do that because those are contracts. 

Those contracts are sacrosanct; this one is not.  I have a problem with that.

This, for those people who say, ‘We're not constitutional lawyers.  We don't know what's going to happen...’  I'm not a constitutional lawyer; I'm really not, but I can read.

And it's in the constitution.

Please vote no.”      

Senator Toi Hutchinson
217-782-7419 – Springfield

708-756-0882 – Chicago Heights

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Dysrationalia: How Illinois Legislative Minds Work?

His Eminence The Speaker
Dysrationalia: Or How Illinois Legislative Minds Work?

The email excuses for “my positive vote on SB1” continue to arrive in my mailbox, and I suppose yours as well.   This brings us to today’s pension vocabulary word, dysrationalia, or an attempt to explain how at least 30 Senators and 62 Representatives voted on Madigan’s SB1 on Black Tuesday, December 3, 2013.

Dysrationalia:  noun.  the failure to act rationally despite adequate intelligence.  According to theorists (Stanovich), such non-thinking (but nevertheless thinking) behavior indicates that real thinking becomes too time consuming and resource-intensive and sometimes counter-productive to perform.

Let me explain just what this recent theoretical concept means, and why it fits so well with how our pathetic hand-washing legislators are acting through oyster-eating tears.  (I do not just mix metaphors, I often boast at blending them).
In order to save ourselves from decision based upon irrational influence, we have developed a whole set of heuristics and biases to limit or explain away the decisions we make. 

Important when considering SB1:  Add to that, a nearly 1000 page introductory bill from powerful Speaker Madigan to vote on in less that 24 hours. 

Mental metaphor (and I promise not to mix too many here): 

Man in mahout
Imagine for a moment that your are witnessing a large gray elephant tearing about on a path on the outskirts of an Indian village, trampling a bit of crops and ambling on occasion onto the foot-worn path to the next village.  On top of the elephant resides the driver, a diminutive character in a fabric-adorned mahout.  He yells to the elephant “Mumjab, Mumjab,” as if he is controlling the beast. But in actuality, he is only steering the leviathan from point to point without any real control, just a reigning in after what has been done or even destroyed.

In theory, dysrationalia means that our careful and cognitive mind resides in the upper reaches of the mahout, trying to control or explain our thinking.  Our thinking, it would seem, is the tusked animal below, uncontrollably moving in its own directions based upon little if any real reasoning.  Are you with me?

In fact, those psychologists and theorists who support dysrationalia would warn that what this simple metaphor depicts is exactly how we as a species tends to think.  That is, we make a decision based upon some instinct, some gut-level, or some herding instinct, and then bring forth the more conscientious and deliberative part of our thinking mind to defend our position.

Let’s take for example, Senator Emil Jones defensive position after his vote if YES on SB1.

 As you may already know, earlier this year I supported SB 2404, a reform plan that had been negotiated with the We Are One Labor Coalition and that would have provided an estimated $60 billion in savings.  Unfortunately, that measure failed to gain enough political support to be called for a vote in the Illinois House, despite being passed by the Senate.  If the courts rule against SB 1, this could provide the necessary momentum to find a solution that has union approval.
Senator Emil Jones - Dysrationalia 
This observation is disturbing and unsettling for several reasons.  Impulsive and non-thinking behavior at these levels have real consequences for real people like retirees and workers in public sector unions.  Let’s also add Medicaid recipients too.  It is a dangerous kind of thinking, one that has un-thought impact and repercussions, but is forcefully defended in the end.  This sadly is not how to lead.  This, my friends, is how Madigan depends on their leading.

A constituent of Senator Jones answered:

Senator Jones,

Your yes vote was very disappointing.  Rather than a negative unconstitutional position such as this, it would have been better to seek ways to generate new revenue streams to pay for the services the citizens of Illinois have been enjoyig at the expense of teacher pensions.  The TRS is sustainable if actives continue to contribute and the state pays its share.  TRS investments have a history of doing well.  The state is attempting to pay for the same or better services for more people at higher costs without generating new revenue.  What is wrong is the flawed tax system in Illinois and the ability of large corporations to steal from the citizens,  tax dollars that should be going to pay for state services, and the legislature which grants sweetheart deals to them without any accountability.

Neither SB1 nor SB2404 will solve the problem and will be unconstitutional though constitutionality seems to be unimportant to many legislators who have suggested that we set the constitution aside.  How those who have sworn to uphold that document can even suggest that is daunting to me.  If we do not recognize the sanctity of such a document, how can we survive as a civilation of law.  

I am gravely disappointed in your vote and will convey my feelings to the members of Illinois Retired Teachers Association and all my friends and family.

But remember, that Senator Jones cannot likely be reached intelligently at this point.  According to the theory, his fabricated wall of reason is as strong as reasons to go to war with…say Iraq – just to name a recent example. 

Back to metaphors of dysrationalia. 

There will always be those erratic and beserk elephants without any driver that destructively roam the villages and fields of our political landscape – think Tea Party Representative Jeanne Ives or wannabe watch-wearer Bruce Rauner. 

But one-time good legislators like Senator Emil jones need reminding.  They are victims too, and we must keep our pressure on them before they become pathetic creatures giving away their deliberative and slow thoughtfulness to the Speaker and his ilk in Springfield.

Next pick-up.
Keep in touch with your legislator, even if they have done the wrong thing, like my Representative Monique Davis.  Explain your concern and anger.  Then, work to get rid of them.