American politics is broken. By just about any measure, we are collectively disenchanted with both the system as it exists, and the people we elect through that system to carry on its business. Particularly disheartening, money has become the defining force in shaping our political character. In Illinois, we’ll be holding a primary on Tuesday, March 18, wherein the highest-profile election will be the race for the Republican nomination for governor. The putative front-runner in that campaign is billionaire Bruce Rauner who, not coincidentally, is one of the richest men in America.
A few weeks ago, I met E. Glen Weyl at a cocktail party and heard about his quadratic voting idea for the first time. A simple idea on the surface—allow the buying of votes, but with the provision that the cost of each vote is squared as you increase in number, with all the proceeds redistributed equally to all voters—it also seems simply absurd at first. After all, money in politics is the problem, not the solution, right? But as he explained its implications—the reductive influence of wealth given the power of exponential pricing, the positive implications for the “tyranny of the majority” and so forth—I became intrigued. Why are we so blindly attached to a way of conducting democracy that was conjured up hundreds of years ago, in a time far removed from most of today’s concerns and technological capabilities? If the system is broke, why aren’t we trying to fix it? That’s what our Founding Fathers would have done.
Weyl is a rising young star in the University of Chicago economics department. Just twenty-eight years old, he achieved his first notoriety for finishing Princeton as the valedictorian of his undergraduate class while simultaneously finishing all the coursework for his PhD, which was awarded a year later. His partner in this idea is Eric Posner, a professor in the University of Chicago Law School who, among other things, is a regular contributor to Slate magazine. And yes, Posner’s father is Judge Richard Posner, the celebrated jurist and scholar. Read the rest of this entry »
By Tony Fitzpatrick
There is actually a lot to like about “Chicagoland,” the eight-part consideration of this city airing on CNN this spring starting March 6. Namely it gives us a look at the lives of people like Fenger High School principal Elizabeth Dozier and police commander Leo Schmitz. These are Chicagoans with very difficult jobs who perform them bravely and make life-and-death decisions every day. Dozier particularly earns our admiration with the compassion with which she dotes on “her kids”—the student body of Fenger—often following them on foot to navigate the gang-infested mean streets around her high school. At one point, the heel of her shoe breaks off and she continues—barefoot.
Commander Schmitz maintains an optimism and a sense of goodwill though he presides over a district in which far more young people are in gangs rather than college, on the turf that has earned the ugly moniker of “Chiraq.” Commander Schmitz isn’t jaded and is the very face of hope for the good people of his district.
These are people who make me proud to be a Chicagoan. Read the rest of this entry »
By Rob Brezsny
ARIES (March 21-April 19): Are you between jobs? Between romantic partners? Between secure foundations and clear mandates and reasons to get up each morning? Probably at least one of the above. Foggy whirlwinds may be your intimate companions. Being up-in-the-air could be your customary vantage point. During your stay in this weird vacationland, please abstain from making conclusions about its implications for your value as a human being. Remember these words from author Terry Braverman: “It is important to detach our sense of self-worth from transitional circumstances, and maintain perspective on who we are by enhancing our sense of ‘self-mirth.’” Whimsy and levity can be your salvation, Aries. “Lucky flux” should be your mantra. Read the rest of this entry »
By Rob Brezsny
ARIES (March 21-April 19): The battles you’ve been waging these last ten months have been worthy of you. They’ve tested your mettle and grown your courage. But I suspect that your relationship with these battles is due for a shift. In the future they may not serve you as well as they have up until now. At the very least, you will need to alter your strategy and tactics. It’s also possible that now is the time to leave them behind entirely—to graduate from them and search for a new cause that will activate the next phase of your evolution as an enlightened warrior. What do you think? Read the rest of this entry »
Wrongful conviction settlements are big business, but they are not always sensible. Chicago settles millions of dollars in cases where convicted offenders claim they were wrongfully convicted.
For a number of law firms, suing the city over wrongful convictions has become a kind of cottage industry. Inmates claim they were tortured and coerced into confessing. The offenders are freed from prison. Attorneys quickly initiate civil lawsuits against the city. Many people assume that a settlement signifies the police were culpable and had something to hide.
But this is not the truth in several key wrongful conviction cases, none more so than the Anthony Porter case, a double murder in 1982 in Washington Park on the South Side.
“I got accused of certain things I didn’t do,” says Charles Salvatore, a lead detective in the Porter case. “I got accused of being this ringleader in a great conspiracy to frame Anthony Porter. I got accused of not having probable cause. I got accused of intimidating witnesses and I got accused of physical abuse, and I didn’t do any of this.”
In this case and many others, cops long for the opportunity to explain their investigation in civil court, even if accused of torture and coercion. Detectives want to retain their good name, and prevent the city from paying millions to murderers. The decision to settle, though, is out of the detectives’ hands.
When, in 1999, former Governor George Ryan watched news coverage of Anthony Porter’s alleged wrongful conviction by a Northwestern University investigation, it compelled him to place a moratorium on the death penalty (which stayed until Governor Quinn later abolished the death penalty). The Porter case continues to set the precedent for wrongful conviction cases in Illinois.
As a police officer currently employed by the City of Chicago, I have a unique perspective on wrongful conviction cases. Although I had no involvement with the Anthony Porter case, learning about its three-decade history has made me question the assumptions about wrongful convictions. Read the rest of this entry »
By Tony Fitzpatrick
There is a very expensive steakhouse in Brooklyn called Peter Luger’s that, for more than a hundred years, has served what’s thought to be the best steak in New York, or the country for that matter. And when you eat their beef, it is hard to argue with this appraisal. It melts in your mouth. It is perfectly seasoned and cooked at a very high temperature in butter. The Luger’s steak is delicious. No argument. The service leaves a lot to be desired, though: snotty old Kraut waiters, a long wait even when you have a reservation, and the light so bright, you’d think you were in an operating room.
For many of the years that I knew Lou Reed, this was his favorite steak and we ate a lot of it. We’d often go with a big group, five or six people at least. Luger’s was less likely to fuck you around if it was a big table. Over the years, Lou brought Salman Rushdie, Hal Willner, the musical genius, Laurie Anderson and a host of dudes from his tai-chi classes, including the instructor. Read the rest of this entry »
By Rob Brezsny
ARIES (March 21-April 19): A woman from New Mexico wrote to tell me that after reading my horoscopes for three years in the Santa Fe Reporter, she had decided to stop. “I changed my beliefs,” she said. “I no longer resonate with your philosophy.” On the one hand, I was sad that I had lost a reader. On the other hand, I admired her for being able to transform her beliefs, and also for taking practical action to enforce her shift in perspective. That’s the kind of purposeful metamorphosis I recommend for you, Aries. What ideas are you ready to shed? What theories no longer explain the nature of life to your satisfaction? Be ruthless in cutting away the thoughts that no longer work for you. Read the rest of this entry »
By Rob Brezsny
ARIES (March 21-April 19): In her TED talk, science writer Mary Roach made it clear that human beings don’t need genital stimulation to experience orgasms. She spoke of a woman who routinely reaches ecstatic climax by having her eyebrows caressed, and another woman who reaches the big O simply by brushing her teeth. Then there’s the woman who can simply think herself into coming, no physical touch necessary. I can’t guarantee that a similar aptitude will suddenly turn on in you, Aries, but the coming days could bring you as close as you have ever been. Right now you’re a connoisseur of deep pleasure—a blessed bliss master. Read the rest of this entry »