THE ILLINOIS ABYSS

Here we go! The Illinois gubernatorial election approaches with an overload of baggage. The term of Bruce Rauner has been an unfolding disaster. We are in massive debt; “downstate” passionately desires Chicago to secede from the rest of the rest of Illinois (up to the point of revenue generation); public education slides toward bankruptcy; Mike Madigan exercises a refinement of “Boss politics” (a Daley family legacy); and the state infrastructure is crumbling before our eyes. Pensions are at risk and no one can figure out how to pass a budget. Every poll I’ve seen ranks Illinois as one of the worst run, most corrupt states in the union. Charming.

We need to stop and reflect on the consequences of being a Blue Dog/Democratic state. It has done the people of Illinois little good. More than the classic tax-and-spend characterization of Democrats, the party, by accident or intent, stumbles over itself at every crooked turn. Springfield is a snake-pit of no-bid contracts, deal making, and kickback opportunism. Four of the last seven governors have been jailed. Rod Blagojevich (D) was convicted of numerous corruption charges in 2011, including allegations that he tried to sell or trade President Barack Obama’s old Senate seat. Dan Walker (D), governor from 1973 through 1977, pleaded guilty to bank fraud and other charges in 1987 related to his business activities after leaving office. Otto Kerner (D), governor from 1961 through 1968, spent three years in prison after being convicted of bribery related charges. George Ryan (R) was found guilty and jailed for fraud and racketeering charges as both Secretary of State and governor. A tenured felon.

How can we forget the venerable Secretary of State (’65-’70), Paul Powell (D)? Though his salary was never more than thirty thousand dollars per year, when he died, his room was found to contain eight-hundred thousand dollars in cash and checks kept in shoe boxes, briefcases, and strong boxes, as well as nineteen cases of whiskey and one million dollars in racing stock, leaving an estate of 4.6 million. During his tenure, fees for automobile licensing and registration were made to “Paul Powel-Secretary of State” or simply “Paul Powell.” That made it simple!

Party affiliation pales in the presence of the black hole of corruption that permeates our state. Republican State Rep. Jeanne Ives faces fellow Republican Rauner in the primary. At a recent event, she argued the solution to the state’s gun violence was having “more fathers in the home.” While this is tone-deaf to the complexity of the issue, it doesn’t appear to be color-blind. Some of the Democratic contenders are State Senator Daniel Biss and Chairman of the University of Illinois board of trustees Chris Kennedy. The spigot of campaign spending from candidate J.B.Pritzker borders on obscene. The historic truth is “money does not make for sound governing policy.” Toss in a handful of insignificant and third-party aspirants, you have a circus.

The only event with as much entertainment value is the coming Chicago mayoral election. Big fun ahead!

 

  • J. Tortorici
Advertisements

Welcome the New Year!

Good-night,-Loen!
Godnight, Loen!

The image you see above is from Martynas Milkevicius. His presence speaks to the times as we share a vision from half the world away. How fortunate we are to feature his gallery on the KIOSK page. The global community is real, and now.

I found a common thread of optimism weaving its way through the essays this month. We will survive the recent onslaught of electric-shock treatments to our cultural frontal lobe. These political troubles will pass. A populist voice is awakened and we are talking about the world. There is an air of activism at large.

This blog is made to go with coffee, of course.

John Zielinski knows ornithology. True… and not just the Charlie Parker standard. His essay “For The Birds” extols the virtue of community and survival.

Steve Buschbacher asks “Are We Selfish?” and talks values. How were you raised?

Brule Eagan takes on “The Annual Challenge” of New Years in free-form.

What better time of year to talk baseball? Tom DeMichael has the latest from winter camp and thoughts for both Cubs and Sox fans, “Buh-Buh-Baseball – What’s New, Year?

Is reality subjective? Marc Piane tugs at our brain muscle in his essay “A Thought for the New Year.”

At “The Publisher’s Desk” I reviewed a recent field trip. “This Place” was a day well-spent in reflection.

We stride into the New Year with energy and a sense of determination. The world moves forward through the hands of the obsessed. These are people who can’t put down the pen, who can’t stop painting, alone practicing their musical instrument hour after hour, driven people, compelled to read and learn, speak and listen.

Such are the contributors in this month’s issue of Central Standard Time. Contemporary views from the urban, the urbane, the wry and seasoned, creative practitioners in every discipline grace these pages for you… the reader.

Write to the publisher – jstortorici@gmail.com. I invite your input. Don’t forget the coffee.

HR13247: The National Defense Education Act of 1958

dwight_d_eisenhower_

by J. Tortorici

Why the Alabama Special Senatorial Election Matters –

In the ongoing experience of a civil society, we need debate. Our Constitution celebrates collective will and decision-making as we argue to our highest, and lowest, personal principles. Throughout our partisan history, there are occasional moments of bi-partisan brilliance. Here is one lesson for modern times.

In the post-World War II environment, the industrial and engineering might of a victorious free world was firing on all cylinders, and warm. Fear and dogma then brought us a Cold War. The subsequent arms and space race was only symptomatic of a greater conflict. The coming age would belong to the nerds, and my nerds had to be better than yours. The educational high ground, the future, needed to be won.

Advances in the matrix of man and machine were moving at an exponential pace. The shallow depth of institutional mathematicians and scientists in the United States was being soaked up by emerging private sector technology. Uh oh! Not only were defense issues in immediate peril, there was no fuel in the tank, no pool of university level instructors. No farm team. The ultimate goals of this cultural shift could not be achieved overnight. A plan was needed to spread the seeds of an educational revolution. Enter Republican President Dwight Eisenhower, and liberal Alabama politics. You read that correctly.

Representative Carl Elliott and Senator Lister Hill were both Democrats from Alabama. “Dixie-crats” was the fraternal moniker and their segregationist beliefs were entrenched. Both men were signatories to the infamous “Southern Manifesto.” The document condemned the Supreme Court’s 9-0 decision in Brown vs Board of Education ordering school desegregation. Yet, they championed relief from the plight of rural post-war Alabama.

Senator Hill distinguished himself with legislation for assistance in constructing facilities for the mentally ill, increased support for medical research at the nation’s medical schools and other research institutions. He sponsored the Rural Telephone Act, the Rural Housing Act, and the Vocational Education Act. Congressman Elliott wrote the Library Services Act, which brought mobile libraries (bookmobiles) and continuing library service to millions of rural Americans. They served their community in spite of what history now labels the American apartheid.

Eisenhower was justifiably rattled by dramatic Soviet scientific achievements, particularly in nuclear technology and the development of the Sputnik orbiter. The United States needed a profound response. In reality, the scientific community’s pressure for science and math education started long before Sputnik. The academic community was being overshadowed by the weaponized doctrine of Curtis LeMay, bomb them into the stone-age. Not only was this an institutional dog-fight, it was a developmental crossroads. Congressman Elliott and Senator Hill were hell-bent on achieving federal education aid in any form, for whatever reason, in service to their agenda of raising the quality of life for their constituents. Here was an opportunity.

An extraordinary, multi-layered, cooperative vision broke the log-jam of opposition to federal aid in elementary and secondary education. Designed to overcome a perceived national failure to produce enough qualified scientists, engineers, and mathematicians to compete with the Communist bloc, the effort resulted in the National Defense Education Act of 1958 (NDEA). HR13247.

The alliance President Eisenhower forged with these esteemed gentlemen from Alabama moved the NDEA through Congress quickly. The legislation provided aid to education in the United States at all levels, public and private. NDEA was instituted primarily to stimulate the advancement of education in science, mathematics, and modern foreign languages, but also provided aid in other areas, including technical education, geography, English as a second language, counseling and guidance, school libraries and librarianship, and educational media centers. The act provided institutions of higher education with 90% of capital funds for low-interest loans to students. NDEA also gave federal support for improvement and change in elementary and secondary education. The act contained altruistic statutory prohibitions of federal direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution. Sibling initiatives DARPA and NASA were legislative partners.

President Eisenhower felt it was essential to strengthen the American education system. In the end, it was also implemented to meet the basics of an elevated national security. This act was an attempt to raise the literacy of our nation so that Americans could comprehend the increasing technology of the day, much as fifty years earlier, public education was instituted to meet the needs of the industrial revolution. Eisenhower believed that a plan such as this would help society as a whole and suffice its needs.

The National Defense Education Act and stimulated $877,000,000. When quoted on the bill Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “This act, which is an emergency undertaking to be terminated after four years, will, in that time, do much to strengthen or American system of education so that it can meet the broad and increasing demands imposed upon it by considerations of basic national security.” The bill revolved around student loans and fellowships. Primarily, these loans were reserved for prospective college teachers. Also the states received funding students and equipment in the science, math, and foreign language fields. In return, the states were obligated to deposit more than $400,000,000 over the course of the program. These loans ranged from $1,000 to $5,000. This borrowed money was to be repaid after the student had graduated. The parameters included a ten year pay period with a 3% interest rate!

This was a bill that, from the beginning, was believed to be insufficient. President Eisenhower proclaimed, “Much remains to be done to bring American education to levels consistent with the needs of our society.” The New York Times wrote, “…it would not do all that was necessary in a scientific world.” With this lingering over the legislation, another thought also arose, it was absolutely necessary. America was now competing with other countries to pioneer innovation as a world super-power. Inaction would have been a national disaster.

Insufficient? In little more than a decade, we walked on the moon. In my lifetime, we advanced from Explorer 1 to a photographic survey of our solar system… and beyond. The vision of 1958 has come to pass. Once more we are faced with an existential threat to our national security… and the (computer) nerds are at center stage. The United States requires a fresh vision, a progressive plan for educating a new generation of Americans to meet the scientific and security demands of a global society. It will take effective governance to achieve anything meaningful and we are fortunate to have examples of our own success.

The recent special election in Alabama matters. It marks the beginning of a return to the balance and sanity needed to move forward. We need to keep the momentum alive and demand foresight from our leaders.

The future is at hand… we have only to reach for it.

Majors and Minors

– J. Tortorici

Enigmatic counselors and “dark ministers” of the political system have an enduring history in America. My liberal’s dismissal of Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka, and their ilk, is rooted in remembering genuine, diabolical giants of the Washington power drama. Over the decades, perspective is revealing.

One of my first memories of world events involved the Dulles siblings, John-Foster and Alan. Eisenhower’s Secretary of State, John-Foster, built Cold War alliances, most prominently NATO. With his brother, Alan, head of the CIA, he helped instigate Operation Ajax, the 1953 Iranian coup d’état, and the 1954 Guatemalan coup d’état. Alan oversaw the U-2 spy aircraft program, and the Bay of Pigs Invasion. After President Kennedy abandoned the Bay of Pigs, he forced Alan Dulles out of government service. Thus began one of the premier conspiracy sagas surrounding the Kennedy assassination.

Robert McNamara was the classic hero/villain conundrum. He was an author of an imaginative global nuclear strategy known as “MAD” (Mutually Assured Destruction). As Secretary of Defense under Kennedy and Johnson he escalated the United States involvement in the Vietnam War, yet advocated the use of a blockade during the Cuban Missile Crisis, averting a nuclear confrontation. I highly recommend “The Fog of War” for his unique view of global power politics.

Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, USMC, oversaw an illegal arms program (from the basement of Reagan’s Whitehouse) with Iran (designated State Sponsor of Terrorism) and Nicaraguan rebels, the Iran-Contra scandal.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is a contemporary legend. Rumsfeld played a central role in planning a response to the September 11 attacks, which included two wars: Afghanistan, the seat of terrorism; and Iraq, an inspired, erroneous WMD conflict. His tenure then became controversial for prisoner abuse.

Imagine the cost in human life and physical resources this gallery represents. It is not arbitrary to say “immeasurable.” These were cabinet secretaries, administrators, and principals of the National Security apparatus… the major league of decision makers with high executive function. Their influence and the consequences of their decisions were so profound as to effect the course of history in ways we continue to experience.

No, the Bannon coterie, including Stephen Miller and Kellyanne Conway, appear like so many Dick Tracy villains by comparison. Strip away the bravado and hyperbole, little of purpose remains… and I always worry less about the guy needing to tell me what a bad-ass he is. For the time being, they have access to the halls of power, and history proves these characters will fade along with the aberrance of their views. Consider the fate of so many that had the same access, the same bombast, the same imagined elevation, whose existence is now more ignominious than influential. Their ideas were not durable.

Perspective, indeed. Time is an ally. Every organization, General Electric down to your local Cub Scout Pack, reflects the tenor of its leadership. In spite of all the media exposure, we are dealing with a farm-team of limited political acumen and untenable schemes. Deep governmental skills elude them, they refuse to be “coached,” in many ways to our good fortune. Their limits become our safety net.

American Statesmen –

US-state-department

Before introducing this month’s articles, it is worthwhile for every American to reflect on some of the unsung heroes populating the halls of our government. Theirs is an unwavering path of significance.


In January of this year. I enrolled in an honors course examining International Relations. The class, through the City Colleges of Chicago, was uniquely chosen to participate in a State Department program called The Diplomacy Lab. Launched in 2013, this is a Public-Private Partnership that enables the State Department to “course-source” research and innovation related to foreign policy challenges by harnessing the efforts of students and faculty experts at colleges and universities across the United States.

Within the structure of Public/Private Partnerships, we examined social entrepreneurship, the State Department’s Global Partnership Initiative, USAID , and a variety of programs addressing issues around the globe: children’s rights and public works in India, land rights in Thailand, citizen sector and renewable energy in Brazil, public health in Nigeria, environmental concerns in Iceland, microfinance in Bangladesh, and nascent entrepreneurship throughout Central and South America.

My class interacted, one on one, with representatives from the State Department and other universities in the evaluation of selected social programs. It was the experience of a lifetime. Thank you, Professor Mayer.

A potent example of unified effort can be found in this TED Talk:

Myriam Sidibe – The simple power of handwashing

I find myself in awe of the career diplomats we met. If they had a partisan dogma, it was never evident. Theirs is a world of global perspective and a deep sense of responsibility for utilizing the vast resources of our country in an effort to address real-world problems. These are dedicated people that see possibilities through countless improbabilities, venerating the art of statesmanship. They function with little fanfare, remaining the quiet steady force of an America we seldom acknowledge. It was a humbling example of true patriotism.

I learned the community of nations operates most productively at the conference table. Civility, language, accountability, and the nature of practical debate are more formidable than any force of arms. The future belongs to this conviction.

Within the tsunami of reading required to survive this course, Professor Mayer included two exceptional books. For those interested in world affairs, I highly recommend:

The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It – Collier, Paul. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007)

The Wilsonian Moment: Self-determination and the International Origins of Anticolonial Nationalism – Manela, Erez. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007)


I can’t overstate the superlatives when speaking about the exceptional, talented people contributing to this blog. Yet, once again, they exceed every expectation. Please welcome a new page to this humble effort, KIOSK. Quips, commentary, music, poetry, marginalia, all will find a path to the village square of Central Standard Time.

Brule Eagan reports from Los Fresnos, where everything is Texas-sized…including the future, in Land of the Giants.”

Steve Buschbacher never shies from the most difficult questions and his essay Liberal Media? gets to the point. Let’s talk reality.

John Zielinski proves unequivocally “All that we can control is the now” in his insightful essay It’s About Time.”

Tom DeMichael has few peers when it comes to the topic of baseball. Tom breaks down the current highs and lows of our Cubs and White Sox in Crosstown.”

Marc Piane is back with brain food. When Marc’s research includes Monty Python, his philosophical perspective Thinking Critically vs Being Critical is likely to include an Argument Clinic.

Our new page, KIOSK, will begin the urban affectation for violating “Post No Bills.” This month we are treated to some verse from Rebecca Francescatti and Linda Solotaire. So much more is coming for this part of our monthly presentation.

My 50th high school reunion is on the immediate horizon. It’s been months of reflection and wonderful memories. I hope my former class-mates will join me in The Reunion.”

Thank you for being here. Let’s take a break from the common and keep company with the uncommon. As always, fill your favorite mug with designer coffee and have a seat. Let us know your thoughts and wishes…this publication belongs to you.

Looking East…

Cardinal

I recently took a regular Amtrak line, the Cardinal, to the great city of Philadelphia. A visit with my daughter and granddaughter proved to be all the joy I anticipated. The train traveled about twenty-six hours across the southern border of Ohio, into West Virginia, and on to the eastern megalopolis. As expected, the Smoky Mountains are a vision this time of year. Nature throws a blanket of vegetation over the rolling terrain in what must surely rival any great rain forest of the tropics. Our country has many beautiful vistas.

As American cities go, Philadelphia is one of the elder statesmen. Established in 1682, Philadelphia played a pivotal role in the formation of a nation that revolutionized government in the modern world. In this place, the finest minds of an age met in conference and debate to plan for our future. For as much verbiage given to the considerations of the “common” man, this was no ordinary gathering. Among the participants to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 were future presidents, ministers, ambassadors, and cabinet administrators. This was the best and brightest the colonies had to offer. We should do as well for representation in contemporary times.

IMG_4344
Independence Hall

I discovered Philadelphia is also one of the great “Food Towns” on the continent. Oh man! The classic cheese-steak sandwich and hoagies of doom; a fine colony of Italian restaurants; seafood befitting a culture in close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean; and home-made beer seems to be a “thing.” To my pleasant surprise, the Amish know a good meal, and their pastries are to die for…trust me.

I also saw stark contrasts in the culture of America. Coming from the urban sprawl of Chicago, the physical “rust” of Appalachia was very evident. Not crumbling, as some alarmists would have us believe, but more like aging and un-renewed. Along rail sidings appear miles of coal tenders and bunkers of ore waiting to be loaded. A glow of pastel orange emerges from the darkness and then a processing plant would come in to view. Enormous spherical tanks and pipes in a tangle of unknown purpose covering acres of land. In the distance were cracking towers venting licks of blue flame. It occurs to me that this is capital investment in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The human component is only part of the equation.

The motif of Mamet’s “The Water Engine” takes form in reality. Should science discover the grail of inexpensive, renewable, non-polluting energy tomorrow, there will be an inestimable physical, economic, and cultural impact. Can we abandon entire segments of the existing labor pool, let alone this infrastructure? In the name of progress, can we deny anyone a chance at survival in the modern world? Finding the “science” is only the tip of an iceberg we must surely face. Once more, we need the best and brightest minds to formulate a future in our best interests.

Indeed, the train was a welcomed break from the superhighway of regulated concrete. It was a time for reflection, extrapolation, and a quiet scotch as the sun went down. Highly recommended.

###

July marks a return to publishing on the first of every month. This is far more considerate to the wonderful writers and artists that contribute to this blog, as well as you, the readers. On this sultry summer morning we offer two essays from mid-June that were not given their requisite fanfare.

Steve Buschbacher offers a double-dip of commentary with “Innocents Abroad?” and “Mascot-eers“…which conveniently segues to this month’s sports features. Baseball savant, Tom DeMichael, talks about the legendary Jimmy Piersall in “There Was No One Like Jimmy” and my cousin Nick Goehrke and I commence a running bucket of opinions on the state of the Chicago Blackhawks in “Hockey, Hockey, Hockey,” this is only the beginning (yes, that’s a threat). Hey, nepotism works!

Welcome, my friends, to the July issue of Central Standard Time. Grab your coffee.

Summer Breeze…

exotic-island-beach-
Wish you were here…

…and not a moment too soon.

Welcome to the June edition. We revel in the coming of pleasant temperatures and sunny skies. The briefest getaways take on the gravity of great expectations…every moment counts! Let’s make it so.

City dwellers, such as myself, participate in an additional custom this time of year…road construction. My neighborhood is easily compared to the pit of hell for drivers, cyclers, and pedestrians alike. No, your GPS can’t keep up with closures, so don’t even try. Successful detours are for experienced neighborhood commuters as small side-streets and alley-ways become the secret passages to reach your destination. It’s an art.

As temperatures an humidity rise, the savvy population takes to the wooded areas that dot our environment. Great care is taken to provide these preserves as an oasis of sanity and depressurization for a harried urbanite. On the most muggy mornings, I can get on my bike and take a short run through the local Forest Preserve Trail. A moderate pace under the canopy of tall Elms surpasses any mechanical air-conditioner man can devise. Indeed, every moment counts.

John Zielinski is here with a wonderful essay near and dear to my heart…audio. But wait! John takes it one step deeper, as always. A great read in “I know What I Like…”

From the Publisher’s Desk, a review of the current environmental crisis and some very important, over-looked consequences of the “low-carbon” culture. A demon lurks in our midst disguised as a solution…it is not. Take a Moment with “The Nuclear Stain” and recall what the Hippies were protesting about fifty years ago. The truth is timeless.

Relax and pour a cup of your favorite bean. Join us for good conversation and the occasional spontaneous grin.