Sunday, July 31, 2011

Is the quality of food and products dropping before our eyes?

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Prices are going up. That's a fact. That's why you can't rely on Social Security to take care of yourself in your senior years and why it always makes me wonder why Seniors are so dead set against the health care improvements President Barack Obama is trying to bring to America.

But the real problem is the quality of food. It used to be that you would go to Jewel and Dominicks to insure that you bought the freshest and best quality food. You went to Cub Foods and Aldi to save money, knowing that the food had a shorter shelf life and that sometimes the food had to be eaten right away. No more luxury of time for food there.

That was the perception and I think the reality. But who really knows? No one actively monitors food freshness at grocery stores.

But I have noticed that food I am buying at the so-called "good stores" is not that great. It has a shorter life and seems to spoil faster. You have to watch the "Sell by" dates more vigilantly or you might end up buying a gallon of milk that is stamped to be sold by the next day. It happens more often than not.

The eggs are not as fresh as they used to be. Meats are not lasting as long.

What's happening?

Like everything, food retailers are not wasting potential sales in today's poor economic markets. They are selling food that they might have tossed a few years ago, to reduce losses and increase profits. Every dollar thrown out in bad food is actually valued at $2 and maybe $3 to the store. You throw out $1 and you also lose the $1 sale. But it also costs to sort through the food and move out bad product or product with a short shelf life.

So it's easier now to keep the garbage on the counter and in the deli with the new food and sell the older food, rather than worrying about consumer satisfaction. I mean, what are consumers going to do about it anyway? Write blogs?

No. Consumers are sheep. They won't do anything. They may complain but that's it. They will still buy the food. And, because most are struggling economically -- well, those making less than $250,000 a year for sure -- they are too busy worrying about how to pay the bills each cycle than to spend time assessing the quality of  their food.

It's a hidden cost of today's bad economy. The economy isn't about politics. It is also about quality of products. When the economy is bad, retailers are less likely to toss out spoilage. They will try to keep it longer for that sale because selling what they may have thrown out before could mean the difference in today's economy between success and bankruptcy, a word we are all hearing and reading about more and more.

-- Ray Hanania

Monday, July 25, 2011

President Barack Obama's appeal to Americans to lobby the rigid rightwing fanatics

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Full Text of President Barack Obama's speech Monday July 25, 2011 on the stalemate caused by the rightwing fanatics in the national Republican party.

Good evening.  Tonight, I want to talk about the debate we’ve been having in Washington over the national debt -- a debate that directly affects the lives of all Americans.
For the last decade, we’ve spent more money than we take in.  In the year 2000, the government had a budget surplus.  But instead of using it to pay off our debt, the money was spent on trillions of dollars in new tax cuts, while two wars and an expensive prescription drug program were simply added to our nation’s credit card.
As a result, the deficit was on track to top $1 trillion the year I took office.  To make matters worse, the recession meant that there was less money coming in, and it required us to spend even more -– on tax cuts for middle-class families to spur the economy; on unemployment insurance; on aid to states so we could prevent more teachers and firefighters and police officers from being laid off.  These emergency steps also added to the deficit.
Now, every family knows that a little credit card debt is manageable.  But if we stay on the current path, our growing debt could cost us jobs and do serious damage to the economy.  More of our tax dollars will go toward paying off the interest on our loans.  Businesses will be less likely to open up shop and hire workers in a country that can’t balance its books.  Interest rates could climb for everyone who borrows money -– the homeowner with a mortgage, the student with a college loan, the corner store that wants to expand.  And we won’t have enough money to make job-creating investments in things like education and infrastructure, or pay for vital programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
Because neither party is blameless for the decisions that led to this problem, both parties have a responsibility to solve it.  And over the last several months, that’s what we’ve been trying to do.  I won’t bore you with the details of every plan or proposal, but basically, the debate has centered around two different approaches.
The first approach says, let’s live within our means by making serious, historic cuts in government spending.  Let’s cut domestic spending to the lowest level it’s been since Dwight Eisenhower was President.  Let’s cut defense spending at the Pentagon by hundreds of billions of dollars.  Let’s cut out waste and fraud in health care programs like Medicare -- and at the same time, let’s make modest adjustments so that Medicare is still there for future generations.  Finally, let’s ask the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to give up some of their breaks in the tax code and special deductions.
This balanced approach asks everyone to give a little without requiring anyone to sacrifice too much.  It would reduce the deficit by around $4 trillion and put us on a path to pay down our debt.  And the cuts wouldn’t happen so abruptly that they’d be a drag on our economy, or prevent us from helping small businesses and middle-class families get back on their feet right now.
This approach is also bipartisan.  While many in my own party aren’t happy with the painful cuts it makes, enough will be willing to accept them if the burden is fairly shared.  While Republicans might like to see deeper cuts and no revenue at all, there are many in the Senate who have said, “Yes, I’m willing to put politics aside and consider this approach because I care about solving the problem.”  And to his credit, this is the kind of approach the Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner, was working on with me over the last several weeks.
The only reason this balanced approach isn’t on its way to becoming law right now is because a significant number of Republicans in Congress are insisting on a different approach -- a cuts-only approach -– an approach that doesn’t ask the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations to contribute anything at all.  And because nothing is asked of those at the top of the income scale, such an approach would close the deficit only with more severe cuts to programs we all care about –- cuts that place a greater burden on working families.
So the debate right now isn’t about whether we need to make tough choices.  Democrats and Republicans agree on the amount of deficit reduction we need.  The debate is about how it should be done.  Most Americans, regardless of political party, don’t understand how we can ask a senior citizen to pay more for her Medicare before we ask a corporate jet owner or the oil companies to give up tax breaks that other companies don’t get.  How can we ask a student to pay more for college before we ask hedge fund managers to stop paying taxes at a lower rate than their secretaries?  How can we slash funding for education and clean energy before we ask people like me to give up tax breaks we don’t need and didn’t ask for?  
That’s not right.  It’s not fair.  We all want a government that lives within its means, but there are still things we need to pay for as a country -– things like new roads and bridges; weather satellites and food inspection; services to veterans and medical research. 
And keep in mind that under a balanced approach, the 98 percent of Americans who make under $250,000 would see no tax increases at all.  None.  In fact, I want to extend the payroll tax cut for working families.  What we’re talking about under a balanced approach is asking Americans whose incomes have gone up the most over the last decade -– millionaires and billionaires -– to share in the sacrifice everyone else has to make.  And I think these patriotic Americans are willing to pitch in.  In fact, over the last few decades, they’ve pitched in every time we passed a bipartisan deal to reduce the deficit.  The first time a deal was passed, a predecessor of mine made the case for a balanced approach by saying this:
“Would you rather reduce deficits and interest rates by raising revenue from those who are not now paying their fair share, or would you rather accept larger budget deficits, higher interest rates, and higher unemployment?  And I think I know your answer.”
Those words were spoken by Ronald Reagan.  But today, many Republicans in the House refuse to consider this kind of balanced approach -– an approach that was pursued not only by President Reagan, but by the first President Bush, by President Clinton, by myself, and by many Democrats and Republicans in the United States Senate.  So we’re left with a stalemate. 
Now, what makes today’s stalemate so dangerous is that it has been tied to something known as the debt ceiling -– a term that most people outside of Washington have probably never heard of before. 
Understand –- raising the debt ceiling does not allow Congress to spend more money.  It simply gives our country the ability to pay the bills that Congress has already racked up.  In the past, raising the debt ceiling was routine.  Since the 1950s, Congress has always passed it, and every President has signed it.  President Reagan did it 18 times.  George W. Bush did it seven times.  And we have to do it by next Tuesday, August 2nd, or else we won’t be able to pay all of our bills.  
Unfortunately, for the past several weeks, Republican House members have essentially said that the only way they’ll vote to prevent America’s first-ever default is if the rest of us agree to their deep, spending cuts-only approach.   
If that happens, and we default, we would not have enough money to pay all of our bills -– bills that include monthly Social Security checks, veterans’ benefits, and the government contracts we’ve signed with thousands of businesses. 
For the first time in history, our country’s AAA credit rating would be downgraded, leaving investors around the world to wonder whether the United States is still a good bet.  Interest rates would skyrocket on credit cards, on mortgages and on car loans, which amounts to a huge tax hike on the American people.  We would risk sparking a deep economic crisis -– this one caused almost entirely by Washington.
So defaulting on our obligations is a reckless and irresponsible outcome to this debate.  And Republican leaders say that they agree we must avoid default.  But the new approach that Speaker Boehner unveiled today, which would temporarily extend the debt ceiling in exchange for spending cuts, would force us to once again face the threat of default just six months from now.  In other words, it doesn’t solve the problem.  
First of all, a six-month extension of the debt ceiling might not be enough to avoid a credit downgrade and the higher interest rates that all Americans would have to pay as a result.  We know what we have to do to reduce our deficits; there’s no point in putting the economy at risk by kicking the can further down the road.    
But there’s an even greater danger to this approach.  Based on what we’ve seen these past few weeks, we know what to expect six months from now.  The House of Representatives will once again refuse to prevent default unless the rest of us accept their cuts-only approach.  Again, they will refuse to ask the wealthiest Americans to give up their tax cuts or deductions.  Again, they will demand harsh cuts to programs like Medicare.  And once again, the economy will be held captive unless they get their way. 
This is no way to run the greatest country on Earth.  It’s a dangerous game that we’ve never played before, and we can’t afford to play it now.  Not when the jobs and livelihoods of so many families are at stake.  We can’t allow the American people to become collateral damage to Washington’s political warfare. 
Congress now has one week left to act, and there are still paths forward.  The Senate has introduced a plan to avoid default, which makes a down payment on deficit reduction and ensures that we don’t have to go through this again in six months. 
I think that’s a much better approach, although serious deficit reduction would still require us to tackle the tough challenges of entitlement and tax reform.  Either way, I’ve told leaders of both parties that they must come up with a fair compromise in the next few days that can pass both houses of Congress -– and a compromise that I can sign.  I’m confident we can reach this compromise.  Despite our disagreements, Republican leaders and I have found common ground before.  And I believe that enough members of both parties will ultimately put politics aside and help us make progress.
Now, I realize that a lot of the new members of Congress and I don’t see eye-to-eye on many issues.  But we were each elected by some of the same Americans for some of the same reasons.  Yes, many want government to start living within its means.  And many are fed up with a system in which the deck seems stacked against middle-class Americans in favor of the wealthiest few.  But do you know what people are fed up with most of all?
They’re fed up with a town where compromise has become a dirty word.  They work all day long, many of them scraping by, just to put food on the table.  And when these Americans come home at night, bone-tired, and turn on the news, all they see is the same partisan three-ring circus here in Washington.  They see leaders who can’t seem to come together and do what it takes to make life just a little bit better for ordinary Americans.  They’re offended by that.  And they should be. 
The American people may have voted for divided government, but they didn’t vote for a dysfunctional government.  So I’m asking you all to make your voice heard.  If you want a balanced approach to reducing the deficit, let your member of Congress know.  If you believe we can solve this problem through compromise, send that message.
America, after all, has always been a grand experiment in compromise.  As a democracy made up of every race and religion, where every belief and point of view is welcomed, we have put to the test time and again the proposition at the heart of our founding:  that out of many, we are one.  We’ve engaged in fierce and passionate debates about the issues of the day, but from slavery to war, from civil liberties to questions of economic justice, we have tried to live by the words that Jefferson once wrote:  “Every man cannot have his way in all things -- without this mutual disposition, we are disjointed individuals, but not a society.” 
History is scattered with the stories of those who held fast to rigid ideologies and refused to listen to those who disagreed.  But those are not the Americans we remember.  We remember the Americans who put country above self, and set personal grievances aside for the greater good.  We remember the Americans who held this country together during its most difficult hours; who put aside pride and party to form a more perfect union.  
That’s who we remember.  That’s who we need to be right now.  The entire world is watching.  So let’s seize this moment to show why the United States of America is still the greatest nation on Earth –- not just because we can still keep our word and meet our obligations, but because we can still come together as one nation. 
Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America. 


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Des Plaines hardest hit by rain-caused flooding

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            for immediate release

5 PM, Sunday, July 24, 2011, Des Plaines, Illinois

The National Weather Service reports that 6.8 inches of rain fell in the City of Des Plaines within a 3 hour period during the night of July 22, 2011.

According to the National Weather Service's Report of 3:45 PM, Sunday, July 24, 2011, the Des Plaines River near Des Plaines is at 5.2 feet.  The river crested at 7.58 feet at 4 PM Saturday, July 23, 2011  (Flood stage is 5.0 feet).

The City has placed sand and sandbags at the following locations:
  • Big Bend Drive & Hawthorne Lane
  • Christ Church (Cora Street and Henry Avenue)
  • River Road and Howard Avenue

ComEd reports that 66 residents are without power.  ComEd has 16 crews in Des Plaines continuing to work to restore power.

The City of Des Plaines Emergency Management Agency will continue to monitor the situation and will issue additional information as needed.

Residents should place flood damaged items and related debris curbside for pickup at the regularly scheduled collection day. 

Residents and businesses with flat roofs are reminded to make sure that their roof drains are not blocked, as blocked roof drains may result in roof collapse.

City of Des Plaines Mayor Martin J. Moylan signed a Declaration of Local State of Emergency at 10am on Saturday, July 23, 2011.

Emergency calls more should be directed to 9-1-1. Des Plaines residents are advised to turn to cable channel #17 and the City's website,, for more information as it becomes available.   Additional weather information is available from the National Weather Service at Flooding information and non-emergency calls may be directed to the Des Plaines Emergency Management Agency (EMA) at 847-391-5396. 

Written information is available at the City’s kiosks located throughout the City:
Ward 1 Rand Road & Hawthorn Terrace
Ward 2 Christ Church, 1492 Henry Avenue
Ward 3 Prairie Lakes Community Center, 515 E. Thacker Street
Ward 4 588 Dara James Road
Ward 5 Lake Park Golf Course Building, 1069 Howard Avenue
Ward 6 Des Plaines Park District, 2222 Birch Street
Ward 7 Chippewa Park, 123 Eighth Avenue
Ward 8 Friendship Park Conservatory, 395 W. Algonquin Road


Will Soderberg
City of Des Plaines Media Services
1420 Miner St, Des Plaines, IL 60016
847.391.5327 (office)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Don't buy Flex Seal - Liquid Rubber

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It is rubber spray paint and I purchased it to give it a try. The TV commercials showed someone promising that FlexSeal will help seal any cracks, breaks or anything especially in rain gutters to prevent water leakage.

I purchased two cans. Click here to read my story.  But I learned that for $39.98, thw two cans are a rip-off. Don't buy Flex Seal.


It's not that the product doesn't work. It does work. But, the manufacturers are greedy. It's about money, not service. They give you a large spray can but it is only filled with 10 ounces of spray. I'm not even sure if it is really 10 ounces. It's probably less. Each can will barely cover 12 inches of a standard rain gutter before it runs out of spray.

Seriously. Flex Seal is that cheap. I sprayed the seal on one gutter bend where I had a small drip leak. Inside and on the corner. The can emptied out in seconds. Seconds! For $19 a can.

It's a serious rip-off. Don't buy it.

They offer you two cans, but you have to pay the handling and processing fee for the second can which they say is Free. But the cost of the processing and handling is equal to the cost of one, useless can of Flex Seal.

Then, they call you and try to sign you up for $100 in coupons that are worthless, which requires a subscription cost of $39 a month. You can say NO but they will sign you up anyway.

It's a scam. Don't waste your money. I waste my money to help you save yours.

These people are serious scammers. The product is not worth it. They don't lie, but they mislead.

The spray works. But they don't give you enough to do a good job. To fix a rain gutter with lots of problems, you would have to buy $3,990 worth of the Flex Seal. For that price, get yourself new rain gutters.

-- Ray Hanania

Monday, July 18, 2011

A day at the ballpark -- Wrigley Field Cubs versus Marlins

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Okay, We didn't win. But who really watches the game when you are actually in the ballpark enjoying hot dogs, pop or beer, and the beautiful women in their halter tops?

Aaron, my son, and I had tickets to row 11 in Section 202 on the far left field, above the aisle and the box seats on the main floor. Seats 105 and 106. It's called the Marquee section or the Terrace - Reserved. They were great seats. It drizzled a bit but not long. The mezzanine level above blocked most of the rain drops.

It wasn't too sunny so it was very comfortable as we began plotting out official game program, which cost a few bucks. If you buy the $20 Commemorative Booklet, they give you the program book for free. We filled in the names of the players in the program book as the announcer listed them for both teams. And then I had to figure out how to fill in the inning boxes to record the runs, strikes, balls and outs. I cut to the chase. O for outs. 1st, 2n or 3rd for hits. W for walks. I marked the RBIs and the homers. And there were three that day, mostly by the Florida Marlins. Mike Stanton slammed two homers in a row. The Cubs Aramis Rameriz hit one. The Cubs lost 13 to 3, a massacre. But the game was still a blast.

The four fat guys guzzling beer who sat in front of us kept fanning out from their four seats to squat in the two extra seats held by a young father and his toddler who sat in his lap. Every inning, the kid had to go to the toilet and when the father and kid left the big guys in front of us spread out. It bothered Aaron because it made it hard to see the game.

Now I know why people used to listen to transistor radio broadcasts of the game even sitting in stands. No such technology today. We're too advanced. We have iPads, iPods, Blackberries and iPhones. And it sounds easy to listen to a radio using one of those technology devices, but it's not. Transistor radios had longer life batteries. If a cell phone lasts a few hours not being used, you're lucky today.

The hawkers sell mostly beer at the game. And occasionally, you might be able to see one selling Pop. Maybe. And occasionally, they'll come by with hot dogs. The dogs cost $4.75 each. The pop costs $4.75 each. And the beer is $7 a can. Yikes? Our tickets were $48 each, including taxes ($96).

We parked our car at a Lutheran Church three blocks east of Wrigley Field on Addison. It cost $25. I was worried the whole time the car was going to get dented. Wrigleyville is not a safe place to be despite all the boozer yuppies who hang out there -- or whatever today's yuppies are called, I don;t know and I don't care.

The official count for the game was 40,709.

Alfonso Soriano had to be one of the nicest Cubs players there. Each inning, he practiced with a ball throwing to someone on the sidelines. And when the innings began, he'd turn around and point to someone in the bleachers behind his left field position, usually a young kid, and throw them the ball. Aaron was yelling to get his attention but we were a ways a way. No way to explain that to an eager and excited 10 year old who loves baseball.
Aaron brought his mitt and my mitt too, just in case a pop-up made it our way. And when the game was done, I spent $140 on an official Soriano shirt and an official Louisville Slugger wood baseball bat.

Beyond the homerun walls were the rooftop bleachers filled with people drinking and eating their barbecues. Id been to a couple on the East Side of the ballpark when I worked for KemperLesnik Communications. Fun but really not the same as enjoying the ballpark and the game from inside.

The pitches came fast and with so much going on, it was easy to get distracted. But I managed to score the entire game in our souvenir program book.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What is the problem with Palos Hills, Willow Springs and the Cook County Forest Preserve District?

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What is the problem with Palos Hills, Willow Springs, IDOT and the Cook County Forest Preserve District?

I ask that because every time there is a ComEd outage, the traffic lights at 107th and LaGrange Road go out. And I don't mean out just for a few hours. I mean for days on end. Once again, we had a storm and ComEd, which makes millions of dollars in profits for the owners of its parent company Exelon, couldn't maintain electrical service.

ComEd's track record is so bad that if they were in any other line of business, they would have gone bankrupt and the owners would probably face legal challenges for irresponsible behavior and conduct.

Yet no one is held accountable at ComEd but then no one in Willow Springs, Palos Hills or the Cook County Forest Preserve District are held accountable, either.

Why isn't there a police officer directing traffic at 107th and LaGrange Road?

Well, all of the municipalities have facing severe budget stress. They spend too much and offer too little in services. One important service would be to manage the intersection. Is it the fault of IDOT as a state road? Probably. But have you ever seen a state trooper directing traffic at an important intersection?

Who do we hold accountable? Or do we just deal with the pathetic lack of government service and sit in traffic every morning, every night and all day at 107th and LaGrange Road. Can't Palos Hills step up to the plate? Or maybe Willow Springs? How about the County or IDOT? If they none of them can take responsibility, maybe none of them deserve to be government agencies funded by taxpayer dollars. We're certainly not getting our monies worth from any of them.

The problems has been going on for days. I don't think anyone cares. It's surrounded by forest preserves on all sides but that's no excuse. Someone is responsible. How about rounding up those cops from Dunkin Donuts and get them walking a bit to lose a little weight. Seriously, there were three cops at 95th and LaGrange dealing with a speeder -- that generates money for the municipal coffers. And they looked more overweight that Two Ton Baker. (Remember him?)

Get off your lazy butts and do some work, that includes not just the cops but the government officials. Seriously. Doesn't anyone care?

-- Ray Hanania

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Netflix to double their prices ... still cheaper than Comcast Cable

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Netflix has enjoyed a surge in membership over the past few years, but the online video rental company is moving towards greed and more money announcing that beginning at the end of this month, the subscription rate will double.

Netflix will be separating its online viewing from its free DVD delivery by mail system. Tha means that if you want both, you will have to pay nearly double the cost.

The streaming cost is now $7.99 and the One DVD out at a time cost is an additional $7.99. I used to like Netflix, although I have only been a member for about six months. The Netflix movies offered better choices, sometimes, than Comcast Cable TV which has turned in to a greedy milk the consumer operation where even old worthless films now cost money.

Netflix allows you to also subscribe to other options, like taking two DVDs out at one time, for $11.99 a month.

It wasn't a tough choice to drop the Netflix by mail option. It's not worth $7.99 a month. And now my monthly cost is dropping form $9.99 a month to only $7.99. I'll keep trying it but the reality is it is still cheaper and more convenient to go to Red Box to watch movies, even if a few movies are held back by the companies from Red Box to maximize their greedy profits. (I don't mind paying in exchange for good quality service, but pure greed is what's driving Comcast and Netflix.)

Eventually, I'll probably drop Netflix and stick to Red Box. Of course, if Red Box were smart, they would offer the movies online. That would be a no-brainer. I find that I actually spend more when the price is cheaper. But once greed factors in, it's just a reminder to save money. Dropping Netflix will save money.

I've already trimmed back Comcast and will probably also drop the service soon, too. Anytime you pay over $200 for a cable service, you know you are being ripped off. I may keep the internet access, if that's an option, or go somewhere else. That's one reason why I have been migrating to a new email account at Google's very reliable and free GMail service.

-- Ray Hanania

Governor Quinn doesn't think much about the Southwest Suburbs

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Gov. Pat Quinn talks the talk but he doesn't do much walking when it comes to the Southwest Suburbs. Quinn was the guest speaker Monday at the "Southland Chamber of Commerce," the organization that undermines the influence of the Southwest Suburbs and puts the emphasis on the southern-most communities, most of them racked by economic challenges.

It's no wonder then that one of Quinn's "big announcements" was to provide a grant to help create low-income housing in the "Southland" and to use the grant monies to purchase, rehab or raze abandoned homes. As if abandoned homes is the problem in the Southwest Suburbs which get no representation from the Southland Chamber and no interest from Gov. Quinn.

Click here to read the release about the Governor's plan to help eliminate those abandoned homes.

The "Southland" is a misnomer, an attempt by the communities in the South suburbs of Chicago, which are economically weak, to take control of the communities in the Southwest suburbs, which are economically stronger. Why? Because some near-sighted governments don't care about supporting the communities that pay the most taxes. These faulty governments only care about the communities that can't do anything. In the scale of government priorities, communities that are economically challenged get more news media coverage than those that do well. Look at Orland Park, Tinley Park, Palos Heights, Mokena, Frankfort and that region. Their interests are overshadowed by the interests of the far South suburbs, mainly because the chamber that supposedly represents us doesn't represent us at all. It's in their name "Southland." This isn't the southland. The Southwest Suburbs don't share the same concerns and challenges of the suburbs in the south.

This mentality to absorb the Southwest suburbs into the Southland has huge ramifications. First of all, it has resulted in the Southwest suburbs getting stuck with do-nothing Congressman Bobbie Rush. (I worked for Rush when he was first elected congressman and he never paid me for my time. Turns out that's his pattern of government, doing things only for himself and the interests around him and ignoring the rest of the suburbs that he represents.) Rush's district was shoved further southwest into Orland Park and beyond in part because that is the uncarring agenda of the Southland Chamber of Commerce. Their goal has been to undermine the voice of Orland Park and that's why they cheered so loudly when Quinn addressed their members Monday.

Click here to read Phil Kadner's column on how Quinn has done nothing for the suburbs on the "Southland."

Where's the casino? Where's the new economic revitalization? Where's the support for local government services? Quinn's government is cutting services that many southwest suburban communities rely on for support. Communities have been forced to hire lobbyists to get their message to the state.

Just this week, the Southwestern suburbs were slammed by hurricane-like storms that knocked out power. Yet it wasn't surprising that the cloutless Southwest suburbs were treated like the abandoned stepchild. ComEd slammed the region with directed power outages. Yes, ComEd actually shut down power in some areas of Orland Park long after the storm-related power outages, so that the power could be shared with other areas that have more clout, like in the "Southlands."

Where is IDOT and the state when traffic lights go down on state roads? LaGrange Road and 107th Avenue was a one-hour traffic jam, not during the storm. Not immediately after the storm. But seven hours after the storm. None of the traffic signals were restored causing huge hours-long traffic jams on LaGrange Road Monday night. There were no state police to direct traffic. No county police. No local police -- although the Palos area (Heights, Park and Hills) are do-nothing governments when it comes to their regional responsibilities. They don't care because no one else cares.

Why? Because Quinn does't care about the Southwest Suburbs. The Southland Chamber doesn't care about the Southwest suburbs. Congressman Rush clearly could care less about the Southwest Suburbs. And that means that when Governor Quinn delivers a useless, empty speech to the Southland Chamber, they are just happy that he accepted their invitation to speak.

Read the Tribune Local about how excited the Southland Chamber was just to have Quinn as their luncheon guest.

The squeaky wheel gets the oil. The silent, inactive, undemanding Southwest suburbs get diddly squat!

What's "diddly squat?" Higher taxes. No real substantive services. No state grants for major services like Fire, Police and more. Of course, maybe that's what the residents of the Southwest suburbs are satisfied with. Diddly squat. It's better than nothing. Or, is it?

--- Ray Hanania

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Getting ripped off with Flex Seal

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The commercial always looks appealing. I have a gutter that's leaking and I need something to spray on it to seal it. Flex Seal sounds like the perfect solution. The spray can is only $19.95 plus shipping and processing, the commercial promises. And, I can get one extra free, just pay the extra processing and handling fee.

Of course, when you order, the processing and handling fee comes out to be almost equal to the cost of the can itself. The end result, $39.99.

They don't tell you how much the shipping costs are. That they equal the cost of the first can seems suspicious.

Okay. Now the next step is to see if it works or if it is a waste of time.

Their web site is I'll keep you posted.

-- Ray Hanania

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Sickened over the Casey Anthony jury decision

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Casey Anthony has been booked into the Orange ...Image via Wikipedia
Nothing has been more disgusting than the decision by the jury in Orlando Florida rejecting any responsibility by Casey Anthony for the shocking death of her child, Caylee, that she kept a secret for nearly one month. Clearly the prosecutors made a tactical mistake to push as hard as they could to try and convict Anthony, the smug uncaring mother of the little girl whose bone remains and clothing were found in a watery marsh wrapped in a garbage bag.

The thought of this case makes me sick.

But there is no doubt that Casey Anthony was hiding something and a review of the basic facts proved beyond a doubt that Casey Anthony knew something but was trying to keep it a secret.

How does the mother of a young child not anguish over the loss of a child, even if that child died by accident. Her only concern was for herself. And it wasn't just the partying. It was the smugness in which she pretended her daughter no longer mattered, now that she was dead. The outrageous selfishness worried about herself and protesting to her own mother that she was more concerned about the dead baby girl than her.

But the jury is pathetic. They are morons. Idiots. Fools. Rather than using common sense, they decided to punish the prosecutors for failing to prove how the baby was killed. The tragedy in many murders is that there are no live witnesses to the crimes and the only means of determining the truth is through what little forensic evidence might have remained. This little girl's body deteriorated in a watery grave in a plastic garbage bag for nearly a month.

Casey Anthony is a monster. She deserved to remain in jail for the rest of her life, if not for having murdered her daughter than for helping to cover the death up. It was HER responsibility to protect the child and that failure deserves punishment. Her refusal to even cooperate and help the world know what really happened to her daughter, Caylee.

The jurors should be ashamed of themselves. No one should cite them with having stood by justice. They committed a gross injustice. They are shameful and will stand forever as examples of the corruption of our judicial system and the how ignorant and uneducated and moronic members of the public can be.

And as for Casey Anthony's pathetic excuse for a lawyer, Cheney Mason, who worked with lead attorney Jose Baez, Mason should resign or worse be denied any rights to represent anyone in the future. His holier-than-thou lecture condemning the media coverage is outrageous. The fact is that if Mason has the right to pillory the media, then the public certainly has the SAME right to express outrage at them, and at the Demon Mother Casey Anthony. God protect any child who has a mother like Casey Anthony. No human being on this Earth deserves that kind of injustice.

-- Ray Hanania
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Sunday, July 3, 2011

No reason to waste money or time at Taste of Chicago

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When it all started with Mayor Mike Bilandic in 1978, the idea of a downtown festival was unique and badly needed. The purpose was to bring everyone together and try to restore the Loop as a family fun attraction. So Bilandic launched ChicagoFest. It lasted two weeks and it featured some of the great entertainers like Frank Sinatra, the Beach Boys, the Doobie Brothers and Carole King just to name a few of the hundreds. There were some 600 performances each year.

The big benefactors at that time were the beer companies that sponsored the stages. They are the ones that made fortunes and they donated to the politicians. Isn't it always about the campaign contribution?

Taste of ChicagoImage by jericho1ne via Flickr
When Jane Byrne became mayor, she vowed to dump ChicagoFest and then changed her mind and turned it in to a world class event of music, food and entertainment. Of course, several of her closest aides ended up getting the food concession franchise that sat right at the front entrance where she held her opening day press conference.

Byrne politicized the festival during her four years in office, giving reporters she liked books of free tickets for food and the event and they ones she despised -- like me -- had to go on my own dime. It was cheap back then.

When Harold Washington came to office, he ended up cancelling ChicagoFest. There was too much criticism that the festival was intended for White residents of Chicago who packed the entertainment, even though there were lots of African American entertainers and the Blues.

Then, ChicagoFest morphed into Taste of Chicago and something changed with it. The focus, which was supposed to be on family, suddenly shifted to the big shot restaurants and food companies. Taste of Chicago became a promotion not for families and the city but for the restaurants that had deep campaign roots with the office of the Mayor. The costs started to rise.

It was a simple transition. Taste began while Byrne was mayor, intended to be the alternative to ChicagoFest. CHicagoFest was the baby of the Chicago Tribune, which was one of the big sponsors and they campaigned against Byrne to prevent her from cancelling it. But Byrne had her restaurant pal Arnie Morton come up with the idea to do a Taste of Chicago in 1980. The political transition started from that.

It all became about the money and making the restaurant owners happy, because some of those restaurants had real clout. And the news media started to fall in line, turning their backs on exposes about clout and politics at the Taste each year because their advertising revenues were dropping and they couldn't afford to criticize the restaurants, who were their biggest advertisers.

And then crime started to happen at Taste. And that grew too.

The only thing that didn't grow was the food. The portions got smaller and smaller as the restaurants got greedy. Prices kept jumping. And the quality of the food started to fall too. Honestly, the whole reason to attend Taste of Chicago was to see what it was like to be a sardine without any aluminum walls. No can. Just space packed with people. It became a game. Could you walk through Taste of Chicago without having your pocket picked by a pick pocket?

And the biggest game of all, how much money would you have to lay out by the end of the Taste of Chicago tiring trip. Walking back and forth and all you really got for your time was the opportunity to spend a lot of money -- as much as $200 for two adults and one child -- to sample the sometimes lousy food samples.

The way money went through the Taste of Chicago experience was similar to the way money flows out of your hands in to the casino slot machines, with very little to show for it but body odor and sweat. Well, at Taste of Chicago, over the 4th of July weekend, it was caused by the hot summer. At the casinos, the B.O. is from the level of patrons who have begun dominating the gaming experience. The poor need the money so bad they are willing to risk what little they have on gambling, not spending it on food and other things they really need because it isn't enough anyway.

This is the second year we didn't go to Taste of Chicago and frankly I don't feel like I missed anything. There is nothing to see. I don't need to lay out hundreds of dollars just to be able to sample a measly portion of crappy food.

This year's tickets sold for 12 for $8, up from last year. Each strip of tickets basically pays for one dish of food. So, to stop at four of the 59 restaurants, you would probably need 12 strips or about $96 just for the samples. And that is NOT much food at all, believe me. They did come up with some called "Samples where you pay the equivalent of $2 to get a tiny "sample" of food. But when you are done "sampling" 10 different places, you will have spent $20 -- supposedly because it is all based on tickets and each ticket is about 67 cents per ticket. So a $2 group of tickets would be three or four tickets, or really $1.97 for three tickets or $2.64 for four tickets. Believe me, it is all a scam to get your money.

Rahm Emanuel, White House Chief of Staff, form...Image via Wikipedia
Hey, at least this year the ban against having an American Arab vendor was lifted and alHambra Palace was allowed to participate. Oh yes. Arab vendors have been banned by the city by practice not by stated policy. What looked like Arab vendors in the past were not really Arab at all. And that is kind of ironic considering that under the new administration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose father was a member of the terrorist organization the Irgun during the 1940s Arab-Israeli wars before the creation of Israel in 1948, all things Arab have begun disappearing (the annual Arabesque Festival ended this year; no major Arab appointments to the city administration; and the targeting of Arab owned small grocery stores in the inner city, among the many anti-Arab policies of the Emanuel Administration. Read about it all.)

Well, no one really cares much about the Arabs, including many of the Arabs who are happy to get whatever crumbs they can from the Mayor's Office under Daley and even less from Emanuel. Chicago supposedly is the role model of diversity and cultural richness but some how the Arabs get stiffed every year when it comes to grants, cultural programs (the city considers "Israeli" events to be "Arab" when you FOIA the paltry list of funded real Arab events). In truth although Emanuel's administration by design or by accident is anti-Arab, Mayor Daley did his best to only give us as little as was needed to keep the Arabs of Chicago happy. (I wrote the book on Arabs of Chicagoland, so I know.)

But I digress, of course, because when you are American Arab, digressing is about the only way you can get someone to consider your challenges.

The bottom line is this. Taste of Chicago sucks. It is too expensive, it is not family-friendly. The entertainment is not the priority and the campaign contributions to the politicians are all that really matter. And even though Mayor Emanuel has beefed up the police presence at the festival, crime is always a major issue -- crime that often gets under reported by the media which are partners in the festival to make money, too.

Save your $200. You are better off using it to by fresh food and the barbecue it at your home, somethign you could do five times on t hat budget as a much more family-focused alternative.

(But I do think that you will have more fun out in the suburbs like at Naperville's RibFest and Orland's Taste of Orland.)

-- Ray Hanania

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Gambling on a casino -- not worth the bet

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I don't gamble much which made the idea of going to a casino that much more exciting. I hadn't been to a casino in at least three years or more. So I figured, why not take the little woman and go and throw away a little money just for the heck of it? I mean, money doesn't have much value these days with the prices skyrocketing through the roof for gasoline, food, vacations and clothing. When you pay almost $10 for a "value meal" at McDonalds or at Burger King, it's time to rethink the whole value of money. And what better place to do that than at a casino where your money basically has no value whatsoever.

We decided on Jack Binion's Horseshoe Casino in Hammond Indiana. We'd been there before and I prefer it over the Empress, which is not very impressive, and the Grand Victoria, which is really too far away to drive. It was a Saturday night but I was surprised how crowded the place was. It was jam-packed. Full. Shoulder to shoulder. Every one of my favorite slot machines, the Wheel of Fortune, was taken (I think they have 14 of them in an island). So I walked around a bit and I was shocked at how things changed.

First of all, I had a hard time finding the $1 slot machines. They've been replaced. Years ago, you would see some Dime Machines and a couple of nickle machines. But this place was filled with Penny Machines. Yes, One Cent machines and there were lines waiting for seats. There were Two Center machines, too, and also Nickle Machines. I'm thinking, who walks around with a pocket full of pennies. But, that's the other thing that has changed -- no pun intended. The casino doesn't use "change" any more. You don't use coins. You put money in and you get worthless pieces of paper that you have to "cash in" at little Casino ATMs.

What a hassle. I liked it when I could walk out of a place with $400 in Silver Dollars. Well, we don't have many Silver Dollars any more. We have those gold colored dollars which are the size of half dollars.

The place was really disappointing. I finally got one of the Wheel of Fortune Machines and it turned out to be a good one .. I love getting the Wheel of Fortune and then spinning the wheel. It's rigged, though. The machine on; lands on 25 and 50. And once-in-a-while, a 75. That is not much when you can only pay for quarters. Yes. Crap. No, not dice. Crap. They didn't have a $1 Wheel of Fortune Machine. When I finally did land a 750, that was only $200 in quarters. What a waste of time.

I think the casinos make more money from the poor slobs who play pennies, nickles and dimes because it's so easy to lose change than it is to loose a dollar or more on each spin. And a lot of the people were slobs. I guess no one considers going to a casino a classy place. We were dressed up but I felt like I was walking down Skid Row or something. The place was skanky.

Ihad to try a Penny Slot. I figured $20 would be like playing a million dollars.But, I quickly discovered how misleading they are. You can bet the maximum and it's really $2 I thought the maximum bet of 20 meant pennies.

I don't mean to be mean to Horseshoe. The place has a great reputation. But gee wiz. Gte rid of those penny slots if you want people to come and drop some real cash. I left after donating $200, with more than $500 in my pocket that I had planned to play but just didn't think sitting there dropping quarters and nickles all night was worth the time or the effort. I mean, the Progressives -- the slot machines that are rigged to really rip you off -- offered astronomical winning pots of ... $125. Wow.

I had to wait in a long line of people who needed a bath badly until I could put my slips of paper into the machine only to find out that it was jammed and I had to go to another one. And then when it did pay out, it gave me $400 in crinkled fives and singles. And the dollars had B.O., too.

Okay. I don't care if you think I am being insensitive. There were people there that needed a bath, damn it! And if they don't care smelling like slobs, then I don't care about writing about them.

All in all it wasn't a fun time. The machines were broke too. I got one of the Club Cards but every time I put it in a machine, it wouldn't register at all. And after a while of trying to get it to work, you end up playing the machine anyway with no real credits to your name. But then, I figured if the place is filled with Penny Slots, I wonder what kind of food they offer at the buffet, which in the past was my favorite place to go? McDonalds? Burger King? Value meals?

So much for the gaming industry. And Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel thinks bringing a casino to Chicago is going to generate revenue? No. It will just create a hangout for the "out crowd."

Put some people at the door Jack and keep some of the riff-raff out. Get rid of some of the Penny Slots and bring back more $1 slots and put some $5 and $10 slots back in the gaming room.

-- Ray Hanania