The Rich Want to Take Over Illinois

A Wealthy Governor and His
Friends Are Remaking Illinois
Unprecedented political spending helped elect a fresh-faced
financier. But his ideological vision has unsettled many in the state.


Bruce Rauner, sworn into office as the governor of Illinois in January.CreditSeth Perlman/Associated Press



The richest man in Illinois does not often give speeches. But on a warm spring day two years ago, Kenneth C. Griffin, the billionaire founder of one of the world’s largest hedge funds, rose before a black-tie dinner of the Economic Club of Chicago to deliver an urgent plea to the city’s elite.

Kenneth C. Griffin, left, and Sam Zell, two major donors to Mr. Rauner’s campaign.CreditLeft: Fred Prouser/Reuters; Right: Richard Drew/Associated Press

They had stood silently, Mr. Griffin told them, as politicians taxed too much, spent too much and drove businesses and jobs from the state. They had refused to help those who would take on the reigning powers in the Illinois Capitol. “It is time for us to do something,” he implored.

Their response came quickly. In the months since, Mr. Griffin and a small group of rich supporters — not just from Chicago, but also from New York City and Los Angeles, southern Florida and Texas — have poured tens of millions of dollars into the state, a concentration of political money without precedent in Illinois history.

Their wealth has forcefully shifted the state’s balance of power. Last year, the families helped elect as governor Bruce Rauner, a Griffin friend and former private equity executive from the Chicago suburbs, who estimates his own fortune at more than $500 million. Now they are rallying behind Mr. Rauner’s agenda: to cut spending and overhaul the state’s pension system, impose term limits and weaken public employee unions.

“It was clear that they wanted to change the power structure, change the way business was conducted and change the status quo,” said Andy Shaw, an acquaintance of Mr. Rauner’s and the president of the Better Government Association, a nonpartisan state watchdog group.

The families remaking Illinois are among a small group around the country who have channeled their extraordinary wealth into political power, taking advantage of regulatory, legal and cultural shifts that have carved new paths for infusing money into campaigns. Economic winners in an age of rising inequality, operating largely out of public view, they are reshaping government with fortunes so large as to defy the ordinary financial scale of politics. In the 2016 presidential race, a New York Times analysis found last month, just 158 families had provided nearly half of the early campaign money.


Many of those giving, like Mr. Griffin, come from the world of finance, an industry that has yielded more of the new political wealth than any other. The Florida-based leveraged-buyout pioneer John Childs, the private equity investor Sam Zell and Paul Singer, a prominent New York hedge fund manager, all helped elect Mr. Rauner, as did Richard Uihlein, a conservative businessman from the Chicago suburbs.

Most of them lean Republican; some are Democrats. But to a remarkable degree, their philosophies are becoming part of a widely adopted blueprint for public officials around the country: Critical of the power of unions, many are also determined to reduce spending and taxation, and are skeptical of government-led efforts to mitigate the growing gap between the rich and everyone else.

“There was never so much money behind these efforts,” said Iris J. Lav, formerly a senior adviser at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning economic think tank in Washington.

“It has gotten much stronger in the last five or six years,” Ms. Lav continued. “There’s the sense of an opening, of a discontent with the old model. It’s about social insurance, the social compact — who’s responsible for whom?”

Illinois was fertile ground for the movement. Four of the state’s last 10 governors have gone to jail. Decades of mismanagement by state officials of both parties have left Illinois with more than $100 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, among the most of any state. Public employee unions, assured that the state’s Constitution made their retirement benefits untouchable, focused on lobbying for other spending. By last year, the state owed billions more in unpaid bills.

And tax increases are particularly difficult in Illinois, where other state constitutional provisions ban raising taxes solely on the rich. A temporary income tax boost presided over by the state’s last Democratic governor, Pat Quinn, was resented by many voters.

The future governor was among those fuming. Around Chicago, Mr. Rauner, a Republican, was known for dashing off angry, blind-copied emails about the state’s fiscal woes to a long list of fellow businessmen and political leaders. Some of those who coalesced around his campaign, like Mr. Griffin, had also backed Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, a Democrat, in his battles with teachers’ unions. Others had collaborated on endeavors including Chicago’s Olympic bid, or the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, a group of wealthy and politically active business leaders. (Mr. Rauner, Mr. Griffin and other supporters declined requests for interviews.)

“They’re not what you would call the traditional corporate world,” said William M. Daley, a Chicago hedge fund executive and former chief of staff to President Obama, who served on Mr. Rauner’s transition team. “They come with a very political and philosophical bent.”

Mr. Daley added, “I think they believe philosophically in that business mentality and that strong public unions are a root of all evil in governing places like Illinois or Chicago and New York and California.”

To bring about a revolution in the Illinois Capitol, in Springfield, Mr. Rauner and his allies have created what amounts to a new campaign economy, in which union money has long been the financial lifeblood of both parties. Contributing millions to his own campaign, Mr. Rauner triggered a state law that removes limits on campaign contributions when a wealthy candidate spends heavily on his or her own race.

The law, intended to limit the influence of the wealthy by providing a level playing field, had the opposite effect: Freed of the restraints, supporters of Mr. Rauner poured millions more into his campaign, breaking state records. About half of the $65 million he spent through last year’s election came from himself and nine other individuals, families or companies they control. Mr. Quinn, the incumbent, spent about $32 million, with many unions making mid-six-figure contributions.

Mr. Rauner’s biggest donor was Mr. Griffin, who gave $5.5 million and put his private plane at Mr. Rauner’s disposal. Mr. Rauner’s allies spent millions on political advocacy groups, research organizations and party committees. The Chicago Sun-Times reversed its no-endorsement policy to back Mr. Rauner, who was a part-owner of the paper before he ran for governor.

“He didn’t have to play by the same rules as other candidates,” said Bill Hyers, the chief strategist to Mr. Quinn. “He just kept on spending.”

Never before in modern Illinois politics had so few people provided so much of the money for campaigns. The size of the average contribution in last year’s general election almost tripled over those made in the previous governor’s race, according to a Times analysis of campaign records collected by Illinois Sunshine, a project of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.

Local Republican organizations found themselves flush with cash. Mr. Rauner blanketed the state with ads promising, vaguely, to “shake up Springfield” and slammed Mr. Quinn as an insider beholden to special interests.
Bruce Rauner raised more money from a handful of donors in the Illinois governor’s race than previous candidates raised in total. He was the first Republican to win the office in a decade.

Mr. Rauner gave $27.5 million to his own campaign.
Ken Griffin gave
$5.5 million.
Sources: The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform; National Institute on Money in State Politics. Figures shown include only money raised before the election.
Attacks on Mr. Rauner’s wealth fell flat, even as he splashed around money in flamboyant ways: Late in the campaign, he drove up to a credit union on Chicago’s predominantly black South Side, depositing $1 million to support small-business loans.

“It had never happened before,” said Otis Monroe, a community activist in Chicago. “We said, ‘If you want black votes, you should invest in African-American-owned initiatives.’ Rauner was the only one who responded.”

On Election Day, Mr. Rauner won every county except Cook County, which encompasses Chicago. That evening, he giddily declared to his supporters: “This is our time. This is a transformational period. We will not accept the status quo. We are going in a new direction — the voters have spoken.”

The eye-popping sums continued to flow in the weeks that followed. On the last day of December, shortly before inauguration, Mr. Rauner, Mr. Griffin and Mr. Uihlein poured an additional $20 million into Mr. Rauner’s campaign committee. The money was intended to help Mr. Rauner beat back union pressure on state lawmakers during the legislative session ahead.

All told, the Griffin family’s contributions to Mr. Rauner through the end of 2014 came to $13.6 million — more than the combined sum donated to Mr. Quinn by 244 labor unions in the state.

For Mr. Rauner, the election results affirmed his agenda to shrink government and make the state more friendly to business.

But voters seemed torn. Along with electing Mr. Rauner, they gave Democrats a supermajority in both houses of the legislature.

They also approved two advisory ballot measures. One proposed an increase in the state’s minimum wage, something Mr. Rauner had told a candidate forum he was “adamantly, adamantly against raising.” Another urged lawmakers to amend the Illinois Constitution to allow a millionaires-only income tax increase, something Mr. Rauner had campaigned against.


Mr. Rauner was undeterred. Immediately after taking office, he unveiled a strikingly ambitious policy agenda, one with a more ideological tinge than even some Republicans had expected.

Along with expected cuts to spending and property taxes, he proposed tort reform; local “right-to-work zones,” where union membership and dues would be voluntary; and a half-dozen constitutional amendments. He sought to bar public unions from making contributions to state lawmakers — state contractors are already barred — and in February issued an executive order prohibiting public employee unions from collecting mandatory fees from state workers who are not members.

Mr. Rauner and his supporters believed such changes were necessary to fix Illinois: Only by disempowering the unions and making the state more hospitable to business, they have argued, can revenue grow fast enough to fix its financial problems.

But despite voters’ deep unhappiness with the direction of the state under Mr. Rauner’s predecessor, they quickly soured on their new governor. Just two months into his term, Mr. Rauner found that his job approval rate was around 36 percent, according to a poll by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute. Almost half of Illinois voters favored either tax increases or a combination of increases and spending cuts to fix the budget.

Mr. Rauner has since signaled he will discuss new revenues as part of a budget deal, but only if the legislature includes some of his union restrictions or other policy changes as part of the deal.
The Views of the Top 1 Percent

Our government should redistribute wealth by heavy taxes on the rich.
52%   of all Americans agree
17%   of wealthiest 1%

Social Security should be expanded, not cut back or kept about the same.
59%  of all Americans agree
3%    of wealthiest

The minimum wage should be high enough so that no family
with a full-time worker falls below the official poverty line.
78%  of all Americans agree
40%  of wealthiest

Note: Opinions for the wealthiest are based on a survey of 83 wealthy households from the Chicago area.
Source: “Democracy and the Policy Preferences of Wealthy Americans,” by Benjamin I. Page, Larry M. Bartels, and Jason Seawright
“I’ve been one who thought he misread his mandate,” said David Yepsen, the director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute. “People were ready for a change, but the emphasis on attacking the labor movement, that really poisoned the water here.”

The unexpected rift between Mr. Rauner and his constituents echoes a greater divide between the political views of the very wealthy and those of the broader public, one that has taken on new significance as the rich invest more time and money in politics.

Around the same time that Mr. Rauner began running for governor, a group of researchers based at Northwestern University published findings from the country’s first-ever representative survey of the richest one percent of Americans. The study, known as the Survey of Economically Successful Americans and the Common Good, canvassed a sample of the wealthy from the Chicago area. Those canvassed were granted anonymity to discuss their views candidly.

Their replies were striking. Where merely affluent Americans are more likely to identify as Democrats than as Republicans, the ultrawealthy overwhelmingly leaned right. They are far more likely to raise money for politicians and to have access to them; nearly half had personally contacted one of Illinois’s two United States senators.

Where the general public overwhelmingly supports a high minimum wage, the one percent are broadly opposed. A majority of Americans supported expanding safety-net and retirement programs, while most of the very wealthy opposed them. And while Americans are not enthusiastic about higher taxes generally, they feel strongly that the rich should pay more than they do, and more than everyone else pays.

“Probably the biggest single area of disconnect has to do with social welfare programs,” said Benjamin I. Page, a political scientist at Northwestern University and a co-author of the study. “The other big area has to do with paying for those programs, particularly taxes on high-income and wealthy people.”

Mr. Page added, is “a case study of the disconnect in action — between what average citizens want the government to do and what it does.”

In many states, however, including old union strongholds of the Midwest like Indiana and Ohio, a rising lack of trust in government has proved a more powerful force in mobilizing voters — particularly with enough money behind it. In Illinois, Mr. Rauner and his allies have responded to the budget impasse with a redoubled, well-financed effort at persuasion.

To encourage Republican lawmakers to stick with him on tough votes, the governor has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to them. In April, Rauner aides set up Turnaround Illinois, a super PAC designed to support state lawmakers who backed his agenda and “oppose those who stand in the way,” according to state filings. The group’s main contributor is Mr. Zell, the Chicago investor and Republican donor, who gave $4 million.

In June, after Mr. Rauner and lawmakers failed to reach a budget deal, Turnaround Illinois spent close to $1 million on television ads assailing Democrats.

The true impact of their financial muscle may not be felt until the legislative elections next fall, in which Mr. Rauner’s allies could again exploit an opening in the campaign finance law to spend unprecedented sums. (The same provision that removed the caps on Mr. Rauner’s campaign lifts them in any legislative race in which a “super PAC” spends more than $100,000. Mr. Rauner’s group has enough money to trigger the law in more than two dozen races.)

Mr. Rauner’s closest supporters hope to elect more Republicans. But some wealthy families, mindful that Democrats are likely to control the legislature for the foreseeable future, have financed an even more ambitious goal: to carve out a new faction of Democrats more willing to reach a compromise with the governor.

That effort has raised more than $14 million, in donations that rival the largest contributions in the presidential campaign. One million dollars came from Helen Zell, Mr. Zell’s wife, and $2 million from the head of a financial firm in which Mr. Rauner is an investor. The largest disclosed contribution came from hundreds of miles beyond Illinois: The former Texas energy trader John Arnold and his wife, Laura, gave $5 million.

Mr. Arnold, a Democrat, declined to be interviewed for this article. But in an essay published last year, he described himself as a counterweight to traditional interest groups like labor unions and corporations.

Immediately after taking office, Mr. Rauner unveiled a strikingly ambitious policy agenda, with a more ideological tinge than even some Republicans expected.
“One might ask why Laura and I should be able to influence policy decisions just because we have money,” Mr. Arnold wrote. “Were government immune from lobbyists and money, I would agree on the premise of the question. However, government is deeply influenced by special interests.”

His goal, Mr. Arnold wrote, was “to counterbalance these entrenched forces, on the right and the left, by providing policy solutions rooted in objectivity and solid analysis.”

For the moment, Illinois is creaking along, polarized and deeply discontent with its leaders. Five months into the fiscal year, the state has no budget. A combination of court orders and partial appropriations bills has kept the government in operation, but at a level of spending that exceeds the state’s current revenue.

Now, every month, Illinois falls even further behind on its bills. Illinois politicians, on the other hand, are flush as never before.

As of early November, Mr. Rauner and the state’s new super PACs had a combined $36 million available to spend. The state’s 15 best-funded labor union PACs, along with campaign committees controlled by Democratic legislative leaders, had slightly more than half that, but are likely to put in millions more in the months ahead.

Next year’s legislative races promise to be the most expensive in history. And Mr. Rauner, those who know him say, is just getting started.

Said Mr. Shaw, of the Better Government Association, “I think he views this as a very long, long term war.’’


Sarah Cohen contributed research.

tiny $5 computer has giant potential

I asked John whether he has seen this little computer.  He said,     Yes.  I have, and I plan a little project around one,  a raspberry-based streaming music server. Pretty amazing stuff.  Pi Zero will play a key role in the way we pull and process data from any endpoint, whether a car or a football or a manufacturing robot.  rjn


The Raspberry Pi Zero is a tiny $5 programmable computer with giant potential
And you thought the $20 Raspberry Pi was crazily cheap.

Steve Ranger
By Steve Ranger | November 26, 2015 — source

The Raspberry Pi Zero: so much smaller than the bill it sells for. Image: Matt Richardson

Raspberry Pi has unveiled its latest device: a tiny programmable computer that sells for a just $5 called the Raspberry Pi Zero.



Raspberry Pi: 11 reasons why it's the perfect small server


Despite its size — a mere 65mm by 30mm by 5mm — the Zero has a core that’s 40 percent faster then the original Pi 1.

“We really don’t think we’re going to get any cheaper than this,” said Eben Upton founder of Raspberry Pi, which has been building Raspberry Pi boards since 2012 with the aim of getting more people interested in programming.

The original Raspberry Pi aimed at putting coding within reach of anyone with $20 to $35 to spend; while Raspberry Pi only expected to sell 10,000 of its original model, more than seven million have now been sold. An even smaller, cheaper device like this could have just as big an impact, especially in terms of fuelling the nascent Internet of Things (IoT).

But Upton said there were still people for whom cost is a barrier to entry.

“Even in the developed world, a programmable computer is a luxury item for a lot of people, and every extra dollar that we ask someone to spend decreases the chance that they’ll choose to get involved,” he said. At the start of this year Raspberry Pi began work on an even cheaper device to help these people take the plunge.

Upton describes the Raspberry Pi Zero, which is made in Wales, a “full-fledged member of the Raspberry Pi family”.

Features include:

A Broadcom BCM2835 application processor
1GHz ARM11 core
A micro-SD card slot
A mini-HDMI socket for 1080p60 video output
Micro-USB sockets for data and power
An unpopulated 40-pin GPIO header
Identical pinout to Model A+/B+/2B
An unpopulated composite video header
Raspberry Pi Zero runs Raspbian and applications including Scratch, Minecraft and Sonic Pi. It is available today in the UK from element14, The Pi Hut and Pimoroni, and in the US from Adafruit and in-store at Micro Center.

“We’ve built several tens of thousands of units so far, and are building more, but we expect demand to outstrip supply for the next little while,” said Upton. The Zero is also being given away on the front of each copy of the December issue of The MagPi, the Raspberry Pi magazine.



Thanksgiving Poem



                    Thanksgiving  1978

(for Peggy, Lisa and Rich, Philip, and Steven)

Perhaps I should have said it just between                                                            The wine and grace, the wishing and the blessing.                                                   That was the time for words, when the scene                                                          Had just begun, before we passed the dressing,                                                       Before the knife cut deep into the breast,                                                               I might have paused, looked up and all around                                                         Into the eyes of each of them.  A jest                                                                        Came easier, wit tossed into the sound                                                                   And lost.  Between the stuffing and the pie                                                                Was yet another quiet moment when                                                                      I could have told them all.  Instead I sighed                                                        And let it pass. Just once before the end

I should have cried:  “Listen.  Before you go,                                                           I love you.  I just wanted you to know.”

Peter LaForge

I worked with Pete for a long time, a good writer and teacher, a good man.  rjn

Turkeys in Illinois

Wild turkeys make comeback in northern Illinois
More than 150,000 of the birds found throughout state
By Sheryl DeVore News-Sun   source
{Turkey population is growing in Kansas, too. rjn}

   Kathy Brandt was walking her dog in mid-September when she saw a wild turkey and four young running on the Millennium Trail near her Round Lake area home.   In mid-July, Luke Buckardt saw a female and several young wild turkeys 200 yards from the main entrance to Chain O’ Lakes State Park near Antioch.   “I was very surprised. I got really excited,” said Buckardt, a restoration ecologist for Lake Forest Open Lands Association. “Being able to see a brood of turkeys is quite a treat.”  

Those sightings are confirmations that after an absence of at least eight decades, the wild turkey is again successfully breeding in Lake County.   In fact, its numbers have grown enough to have a wild turkey hunting season in fall at Chain O’ Lakes, with three bagged last year, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.  

Neighboring McHenry County has even more wild turkeys — and hunting is allowed in that county in both spring and fall.   In the spring of 2014, more than 13,000 wild turkeys were bagged statewide, according to IDNR.  

When early settlers came to Illinois, wild turkeys were plentiful, with reports of flocks of several hundred.

Habitat loss and overhunting led to their near extinction in the state, according to IDNR.   Wild turkeys live in mature forests scattered with edges and fields, and they can be seen feeding on corn in agricultural fields. They also eat acorns and other wild nuts.  

An introduction program began in 1959 when seven turkeys from Mississippi were released into southern Illinois.   For the next 40 years, wild turkeys have been captured and released throughout the state, and in 1970, Illinois held its first wild hunting season in 67 years in southern Illinois, according to IDNR.   Reintroductions occurred at Chain O’ Lakes State Park and Redwing Slough in Antioch in the late 1990s and early 2000s, according to a Tribune report.  



Today, more than 150,000 wild turkeys live in Illinois and in every county, according to the University of Illinois Extension, with most of these nonmigratory birds found in southern, western and northwestern parts of the state.  

Hunters, nature lovers and bird watchers, including Richard Bisbee of Round Lake, said they are happy to see the turkeys back.   Bisbee saw his first turkeys in Lake County on April 25 this year at Chain O’ Lakes State Park.   “They were in a small field right along a tree line and they went into the trees as I watched,” Bisbee said. “I think it was one male and four females. There was a tom for sure though. He puffed up and spread his tail feathers a couple times. Those were the first and only turkeys I’ve seen in Lake County.”   Buckardt, who’s seen wild turkeys on and off in the county for the past seven or eight years, said he’s only seen chicks once, and that was this year.  

“This is a very good indicator that we have done a good job monitoring and increasing open space particularly in the northern section of Lake County,” he said. “It’s very exciting we have created an environment for them to survive so close to Chicago. They have quite a long history in the United States and it’s fun to have them around.”   IDNR ranger Ronnie Lawyer said he’s happy to have the turkeys back as well.   He hunts in neighboring McHenry County, where turkeys can be harvested in spring, and works at Chain O’Lakes State Park where turkey hunting season is underway.   A state license, a habitat stamp and archery tags are required to hunt wild turkeys at the park.   “We allow 35 turkey hunters Monday and Tuesday,” he said of the season that runs through the end of December.   “They’ve shot three turkeys so far this year,” Lawyer said. “The majority of archery hunters are hunting deer.”  

Wild turkey chick


Lawyer said wild turkeys are “very smart” and “can see color very well.”   It takes patience and stealth to bag a wild turkey, he said.   Wild turkeys are nothing like their cousins that will appear on countless dinner tables this Thanksgiving. Wild turkeys can fly up to 55 mph for short durations, according to the National Wildlife Federation. They also fly up to trees to roost at night.   Lawyer said he often hears male wild turkeys gobbling and sees them strutting and fanning their tails to attract females in spring in Lake and surrounding counties.   “You’re seeing something that’s gone on for thousands of years,” he said. “To be there and experience it is neat.”  

Wild turkey numbers fluctuate, which is why bag limits are established each year, he said.   Similar stories about wild turkeys’ fall and rise in population have been occurring throughout North America, but recently, in some states, including Ohio and Pennsylvania, numbers of wild turkeys are declining for reasons biologist are working to pinpoint.  

According to the National Wild Turkey Federation, reintroduction programs helped the population of wild turkeys in North America reach about 6.7 million in 2013.   Last year, turkey numbers were down by about 15 percent, according to the federation.  

Some Lake County residents became so enamored with a lone wild turkey that hung around Sand Lake Road and Route 45 in Lindenhurst for several months that they dedicated a Facebook page to the bird they called Lindy.   When it was hit by a car in February residents placed a memorial at the intersection where the turkey died.   The memorial is gone from the intersection, but the RIP Lindenhurst Turkey Facebook remains up with more than 1,000 likes and pictures of wild turkey cookies and recent reports of sightings.  

Jennifer Hoffman posted Nov. 8: “We saw a gaggle of turkeys this past week, early morning, near Millburn Elementary School. We counted seven, but there might have been more since they were crossing the road into the woods.”   “I was giddy with excitement,” she added.  

Those who want a glimpse of a wild turkey will have the most luck at Chain O’ Lakes State Park, said Brad Semel, natural heritage biologist for IDNR.   “Multiple broods are seen in summer and early fall by the office,” Semel said. “Gobblers (males) with their harems (females) can predictably be observed each morning on the hillside just past the horse stable during spring.”   Sheryl DeVore is a News-Sun freelancer.

Sound of Falling Leaves

What’s the sound of falling leaves?

This morning it was sunny, very cold, with a layer of crusty snow in the backyard, and a big mulberry tree was shedding leaves.  As each leaf touched the ground, it made a little tick.   Imagine being surrounded by leaves and ticks !                   rjn

The Runaway

The Runaway

by Robert Frost

Once when the snow of the year was beginning to fall,
We stopped by a mountain pasture to say, “Whose colt?”
A little Morgan had one forefoot on the wall,
The other curled at his breast. He dipped his head
And snorted at us. And then he had to bolt.
We heard the miniature thunder where he fled,
And we saw him, or thought we saw him, dim and gray,
Like a shadow against the curtain of falling snow.
He isn’t winter-broken. It isn’t play
With the little fellow at all. He’s running away.
I doubt if even his mother could tell him. ‘Sakes,
It’s only weather.’ He’d think she didn’t know!
Where is his mother? He can’t be out alone.”
And now he comes again with clatter of stone,
And mounts the wall again with whited eyes
And all his tail that isn’t hair up straight.
He shudders his coat as if to throw off flies.
“Whoever it is that leaves him out so late,
When other creatures have gone to stall and bin,
Ought to be told to come and take him in.”


Morgan horse–The Morgan is a compact, refined breed, generally bay, black or chestnut in color, although they come in many colors, including several variations of pinto. Used in both English and Western disciplines, the breed is known for its versatility.  Wikipedia

Photos and video

Tour of “Hidden Union Station”


Furnished by John

November 11, 2015

The hidden Union Station: Take a tour        source


A historic photo of Union Station’s old ticket room, now being converted to a first-class passenger lounge.

Anyone who’s seen “The Untouchables,” the Kevin Costner version, has an idea of how stunning Chicago’s Union Station used to be.

The famous baby-carriage scene in the 1987 film showed some of the station’s beauty, set on marble steps flanked by brass railings that flowed into a huge room. It suggested what used to be the reality: Union Station was the O’Hare International Airport from the mid-’20s until the Korean War, the meeting place for the nation.

The famous Union Station staircase scene from “The Untouchables.”

Recently, Crain’s photographer Manuel Martinez and I got a chance to look at what is hidden behind the walls of the million-square-foot structure. And, despite tarnish and dust and soot, it’s a lot.

One of the many hidden areas of Union Station that commuters don’t see.

Tucked behind impervious walls and locked doors or accessed only by keyed elevators is a different world—700,000 or so square feet of empty but usable space, below, which station owner Amtrak is seeking partners to redevelop.


The entire west wall of the building, flanking the Great Hall, used to be a mass of men and women’s lounges, a 17-barber barbershop and three-story Fred Harvey House Restaurant, both a cafe and a fine-dining room.

Above, historic photos of Union Station’s cafe, barbershop and dining room. Below, the barbershop then and now.

The cafe closed after a fire in 1981 and is empty—except for the Christmas decorations and fixtures stored in a corner, the blackened walls and the boarded-up three-story windows.

One small room in the station has been redeveloped as a lounge with Wi-Fi, satellite and other perks, at $20 a day. But at the moment, that’s about it.

The redeveloped lounge.

There’s almost as much space on the east wall, underneath Canal Street. That used to be high-end retail, with a Marshall Field’s-esque look. Included: a false exterior wall with no ceiling (below), designed to give retailers a place to display their wares to pedestrians and to let a little more natural light enter. One section is being eyed for an indoor/outdoor cafe. Another room, once used to sell tickets, is being remodeled into a lounge for first-class passengers.

The remains of the false exterior wall today.

Lightwells are a frequent feature of the building, which was partially designed by Daniel Burham—of Burnham Plan fame—before his death. “Daniel Burnham was a pain in the butt because he was a build-forever (type of guy),” says Amtrak building manager Paul Sanders. “Well, guess what. We’re at forever.”

That’s seen even better upstairs, in the seven empty floors that used to house railroad offices and that flank the Great Hall’s glass atrium, which, miraculously, is still there.

Above, a now-empty area where a new first-class lounge could be located.

The offices are empty, stripped to the walls, wheelchair accessible and ready for development, Sanders enthuses.

A walled-off area in Union Station that used to house a women’s lounge.

The area collectively is referred to as the station headhouse, and Amtrak is hoping to return it to what it looked like when it opened after 10 years of construction in 1925—and to make a few bucks off of it, too.

Union Station’s Great Hall, then and now.

Amtrak also is hoping to peddle adjoining air rights, too. If responses come in to its bid requests, the passenger rail service will get some badly needed money. And Chicago will get a piece of its history back.

Changes coming? Above, Union Station’s cafe, then and now.

Update, 12: 45 p.m. — In a somewhat related matter, two Illinois Democrats, Sen. Dick Durbin and Rep. Dan Lipinski, have been named to the Senate/House conference committee that will hammer out the first multi-year road and transit bill in a decade.

The bill at the moment does not include financing for Amtrak, which is expected to be funded in a separate bill. But one key item is support for freight rail, with several projects in the pipeline that would help unclog Union Station, which was built as a long-distance rail hub but now mostly houses Metra’s commuter service. There’s also some pots of money at issue that Amtrak could tap for Union Station work.

Lipinski told me in an interview that his priorities in the conference include freight rail, as well as securing the somewhat higher overall spending level the Senate wants. Lipinski said he believes funding problems involving Chicago Transit Authority projects—especially extension of the Red Line south to the city limits and rebuilding the Red Line north—appear to have been taken care of. But the situation remains flexible until a bill is enacted.

Present-day photos by Manuel Martinez; historic photos via Amtrak.

Twins and decisions

An Ill Newborn, A Loving Family And A Litany Of Wrenching Choices


Anne Shamiyeh says grace before a meal with her husband, Omar Shamiyeh, and their two daughters, Zara and Malia. Anne says faith played a strong role in helping the family deal with the death of Malia’s twin brother, Kai, in 2013. Heidi de Marco/KHN

Anne and Omar Shamiyeh first learned something was wrong with one of their twins during an ultrasound, when Anne was 18 weeks pregnant.

“The technician was, like, ‘Well, there’s no visualization of his stomach,’ ” says Anne. “And I was like, ‘How does our baby have no stomach?’ ”

It turned out that the baby’s esophagus was not connected to his stomach. He also had a heart defect. At the very least, he was likely to face surgeries and a long stay in intensive care. He might have lifelong disabilities.

This was only the start of an eight-month ordeal for the Shamiyeh family.

Decisions about how much care to offer very sick family members are always challenging. But they can be particularly wrenching for parents like the Shamiyehs, who face harrowing choices during what is supposed to be a wonderful time — the start of a life.

As doctors and families consider how far to push medical care, a chasm can open between the parents’ hopes and what providers consider realistic.

For the Shamiyehs, the first major decision was whether to “selectively reduce,” the clinical term for aborting one fetus in a multiple pregnancy. “Omar and I were very uncomfortable with that,” Anne says. “We really wanted to see what he was going to be like, and what life had to offer.”

That decision meant the twins, a boy and a girl, would likely be born prematurely. As it turned out, they were delivered by cesarean section at 30 weeks — about two months early — at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, in San Francisco.

The boy was named Kai, the girl Malia. Each weighed about 3 pounds. They were rushed immediately to the neonatal intensive care unit. That night Kai had his first surgery.

Malia went home after about five weeks. But Kai was far from ready. He was on a ventilator, had to be fed through a tube directly into his stomach and was still struggling to survive. Eventually, he was diagnosed with CHARGE syndrome — a rare genetic condition that can result in severe cognitive and physical disabilities.

Omar looks through Kai's photo book. The charges for the infant's six months of care in the neonatal intensive care unit totaled about $11 million, according to the family, though their insurer very likely negotiated a lower rate.

Omar looks through Kai’s photo book. The charges for the infant’s six months of care in the neonatal intensive care unit totaled about $11 million, according to the family, though their insurer very likely negotiated a lower rate. Heidi de Marco/KHN

About the time Malia went home, the doctors and nurses sat down with the Shamiyehs to discuss Kai’s treatment. They needed to know whether the family wanted a tracheostomy — surgeons would insert a breathing tube directly into Kai’s neck to ease passage of air into his lungs.

“It seemed awful,” Anne recalls. “We were both really unhappy with that, but we understood it wasn’t a choice. It was something we had to do.”

But Dr. Liz Rogers, a UCSF neonatologist who cared for Kai, saw it as a significant decision.

“To be very honest,” Rogers says, “for many, many of our families, the point of decision around a tracheostomy is a major, major time when families say, ‘This has gone on for too long, and it’s not what I want for him.’ ”

Anne had real hope for Kai’s future, despite the pessimism of some doctors.

“I kept thinking, maybe that doctor’s view of quality of life is different from mine. And maybe, for me, loving my child and having him feel love is enough,” Anne says. “And it’s OK if he can’t talk. Maybe he’ll wear a diaper until he’s 5, and maybe he’ll be in a wheelchair, but that’s OK. Because he’ll be alive, and he’ll be my child.”

Studies suggest that health care providers do tend to have a different view of quality of life than parents do. In Kai’s case, many of his day-to-day caregivers — the nurses — felt Kai was suffering unnecessarily.

Deidre Miller, a registered nurse in the NICU, says she was one of just a handful of nurses willing to be part of his primary care team. It was clear to all of them, she says, that Kai wasn’t going to make it. Miller says she felt comfortable caring for Kai, but faced pressure from other nurses.

“A lot of people thought, ‘OK, well, let’s just offer the Shamiyehs the opportunity to withdraw care today.’ And, as a primary nurse, you knew that the Shamiyehs were never going to agree to that, and you knew that he had joy in his life,” she recalls. “But you go into the break room, and everybody wants to talk about it, and everyone wantsyou to be the person to tell the Shamiyehs.”

There’s often a lag between when health care providers and parents sense a child isn’t going to make it. In one study, for instance, oncologists realized that their young patients would not recover months before the parents recognized it.

“As easy as it is to say we knew Kai was going to die, and we knew he was going to have a difficult life — gosh, what if we had been wrong?” Miller says.

From Anne’s and Omar’s perspective, Kai had many happy moments. They visited every day, always with Malia in tow. He smiled, cooed and connected with them. But he wasn’t getting better.

In May 2013, five months into Kai’s stay in the NICU, the Shamiyehs and their doctors sat down to talk about whether they wanted to go forward with the heart surgery that had been on the calendar since his birth. It would have to be done if Kai was ever to leave the hospital.

The surgery wouldn’t help, doctors explained, and Kai might die during the procedure. This time, Anne and Omar decided not to go forward.

“So that was the day we found out we wouldn’t ever be bringing Kai home,” Anne says.

Two weeks later, Kai developed an infection the doctors couldn’t treat. On June 5, 2013, he died in his mother’s arms.

There were real costs to Kai’s long stay in the NICU. Based on billing statements, the Shamiyehs calculate that the charges for Kai’s care added up to more than $11 million, though their insurer very likely negotiated a lower rate.

There were also consequences for Kai’s twin sister, Malia, whose parents were mostly focused on her brother during her first six months of life. Born two months prematurely herself, she had physical and speech delays; although at age 3, she’s already caught up.

Anne Shamiyeh at home with 3-year-old Malia. Twins Kai and Malia arrived roughly two months early. Each weighed around 3 pounds at birth, but Malia was able to go home after about five weeks in the NICU.

Anne Shamiyeh at home with 3-year-old Malia. Twins Kai and Malia arrived roughly two months early. Each weighed around 3 pounds at birth, but Malia was able to go home after about five weeks in the NICU. Heidi de Marco/KHN

Looking back, Omar says he wonders if they went too far. “It’s really hard to think — for five months he was going through all this pain and all this stress,” Omar says. “You wonder if you made the right decision in keeping it going, you know?”

But Anne, who is now studying to become a nurse in the NICU, says she does not regret giving their son the best possible chance at life.

She’s at peace with both their decisions — to try to save Kai, and to let him go.

I Don’t Believe in ESP, But . . .

. . .  Extra Sensory Perception seemed to work for me once when I needed it. Years ago, before cell phones,  on a bitterly cold evening, I parked my car in the parking lot of a large shopping mall and rode with a friend, Molly, to a movie.

When we returned, the mall was closed and my car was the only one in the lot. The temperature had fallen.  Molly drove off as soon as I had jumped out. Then I found I had locked my keys in the car !  I looked over the lot and saw her turning out onto the street.

I started walking around the car, repeating in my mind, “Molly come back, please come back, I need you”.  I felt pretty desperate.  After a few minutes, I saw her coming back. She pulled next to my car and said, “I don’t know what it was, but I couldn’t go home.  I had to turn around.”

Then I realized I had an extra car key in my wallet.


Image result for puzzled man photos

At one time, there was a great deal of interest in ESP.  Duke University had an ESP research laboratory led by J. B. Rhine, one of several in the country, that gained a good deal of credibility.   The British government even financed a project on remote-viewing.

But  The Amazing Randi stepped in.

Randi was a retired stage magician with a special interest in investigating claims of paranormal abilities and events.  He appeared on the Tonight Show (when Johnny Carson hosted it), other television and radio shows, explaining how psychic tricks were done. He had his own radio show in the 1960’s.  He maintained  his offer of $25,000 (now $1,000,000to anyone who claimed paranormal abilities that he could not explain as normal.   I don’t think anyone ever applied for the prize.

A book endorsed by Randi:  THE SKEPTIC’S GUIDE TO THE PARANORMAL by Lynne Kelly,