Thursday, December 29, 2011

Fran Eaton takes her shots but she's more of a hypocrite than anyone

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Fran Eaton calls me a "character," but I wonder what she would call herself if her writing wasn't so far up the butts of the Tea Party conservatives and the extreme wing of the Chicagoland Republican party.

Eaton writes a PR puff piece for the Illinois Review, a conservative Republican publication that gives her a platform to promote her extreme rightwing pals. I should say it's not about her hiding behind the Republican Party coats that bothers me; there are a lot of great Republicans out there. But Eaton is a phony. She wants people to think she can analyze politics objectively but she can't. Her writing is stilted and her naalysis is handed to her usually by her political buddies who feed her the inside "scoops" she passes off as news.

This week, I wrote about how State Rep. Kevin McCarthy has decided not to run for re-election, and speculated based on my 35 years of covering Chicagoland politics, that he was stepping down on a high note rather than facing off with Republican Renee Kosel. Kosel is a powerhouse in Republican circles and not one of the nutjobs that Eaton usually pals around with. Eaton has taken shots at me before. I covered Chicago politics for 35 years including 16 years covering Chicago City Hall (from Daley to Daley 1976 through 1992). So although my family is Republican (and so is my wife) I lean towards the Democrats since there is no real Republican presence in Chicago at all.

And Eaton took off on me again, this week attacking me in her usual wet blanket and pacifier in mouth style.

What angered Eaton this time? Well, in analyzing the McCarthy decision not to run, I wrote critically of Jeff Junkas who ran against McCarthy in 2010. Junkas is a rightwing Tea Party activist and is a personal friend of Fran Eaton. During that battle against McCarthy, Eaton played an active role in trying to diss the other Republican in the race, Molly McAvoy Flynn and also Cook County Commissioner Elizabeth "Liz" Doody Gorman.

Well, Eaton decided to use her political column in Illinois Review to defend Junkas' honor.

Her biggest points:

1 - I am a media consultant
2 - I also write for several newspapers (several in Chicago and several in the Middle East)
3 - I am "friends" with Liz Gorman
4 - I criticized Junkas' junky campaign

Guilty on all counts. But I am upfront about my relationships, unlike Eaton who hides hers to pass herself off as "objective." She's not objective at all. But she is transparent.

Eaton basically argues that I mix politics and journalism. Wow. Being accused mixing politics and journalism by Fran Eaton is like being called ugly by a pig. If anyone uses her column to pimp for her political pals it is Fran Eaton. (Here's a profile the Chicago Reader wrote about the openness of my journalism-consulting balancing act.)

At least I am up front about my work. Yes, I am president and CEO of Urban Strategies Group. I have seven political and government clients. When I write my columns I openly identify myself as being a media consultant or a political consultant. When I write about someone that is a client, I point it out. When I write about someone who is a political "friend," I point it out.

One of those clients is the high profile Town of Cicero and Town President Larry Dominick, who I not only work for as spokesman but admire. (Eaton, remember, writes also for the Southtown/Star which is owned by the Chicago Sun-Times. I worked at both newspapers years ago and loved the Southtown and loved the old Sun-Times. But today's Sun-Times is nothing near what it used to be two decades ago. And people like Eaton only help bring it down even more.)

It's called "ethics," Fran. Something you clearly lack besides being a horrendous political writer. (Who learned you politics anyway? LOL).

It is true that I am "friends" with Liz Gorman. I admire her and I think she is the best political force in Cook County that the Republican Party has. That came AFTER I spent three years criticizing her and questioning her actions. And that makes me far more objective than the politically partisan Fran Eaton could ever be.

The truth is that Fran Eaton was and basically is Junkas' campaign manager. How did I find that out? When Eaton asked to interview Gorman, Gorman called me and asked me to attend as a writer I did. Eaton mentions this meeting but turns it upside down pretending that she was there to write an "objective" story. Baloney. Eaton was there as an activist for Jeff Junkas. During the entire interview, Eaton kept trying to push Gorman into supporting Junkas. She kept slandering Flynn (who I met several times but Eaton apparently can't locate) in the hopes of undermining Flynn's candidacy against Junkas. Junkas eventually won the Republican primary and went on to get his ass kicked by the weak McCarthy.

Ironically, Eaton questions Gorman's support of Junkas. But the truth is that had Gorman gone south on Junkas and helped McCarthy, the unknown Junkas and Tea Party activist would never have come within 117 votes in Orland Township where Gorman is the Republican Committeeman. In fact, the vote shows that Gorman came out strong for Junkas.

Eaton goes as far as to attack House Speaker Michael J. Madigan who is one of the most brilliant politicians in Illinois history and in the Midwest. I've known Madigan for 35 years, since the very day I started working at the Southtown in the 1970s. We've had our ups and downs. Like Gorman, I've criticized him and I have praised him, too. Eaton? Well, she hates Democrats, hates moderate Republicans and is a groupie for the Tea Party nutjobs who have, in my opinion, undermined the Republican party's honor.

Fran Eaton is no journalist. She's a political hack doing hack jobs for her pals. And the Illinois Review does't care as long as those hack jobs align with their political bend.

I'll put my credentials up against the smarmy Eaton any time. I have four Peter Lisagor Awards for column writing from the Chicago Headline Club. A sigma Delta Chi Award from the SPJ. Best Ethnic Columnist in America (2007). And two Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, among many more.

What does Eaton have? Well, she has her political chums who spoon feed her most of her worthless drivel. if the word "creepy" applies to anyone, it applies to the hypocrite Fran Eaton and her unethical writing and her efforts to disguise her political activism. Eaton loves to dish it out but she has a skin so thin her screaming rants are notorious. Eaton is pals with right-wing Republican Dan Patlak who is running for another term on the Board of Tax Review. He's only taken $300,000 in donations from the lawyers who appear before the board. You won't see Eaton writing about that, but she will be attacking Patlak's challenger Sean Morrison who Gorman supports.

Click HERE to read Eaton's political consulting analysis for the Illinois Review.

Click HERE to read my analysis of  McCarthy's decision to step down.

The truth is Junkas is a horrible public candidate, Gorman is the best thing that has ever happened to Southwest suburban Republican politics, and Eaton is a flaming hypocrite.

By the way Fran, I host a Sunday morning radio show on WSBC AM 1240 from 8 until 11 am ( And I'm happy to expose your hypocrisy there this Sunday, too!

-- Ray Hanania

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Kevin McCarthy stepping down: who will take his place?

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It really isn't much of a surprise. State Rep. Kevin McCarthy decided to resign from office rather than run for re-election.

McCarthy had it easy until last election. In 2006 and 2008, McCarthy ran unopposed in the 37th House District. Then in 2010, he faced a pretty obscure Tea Party candidate who seemed to upset everyone, Jeff Junkas. Junkas divided the Republican Party, and yet he came within 1,195 votes of  beating the 14 year incumbent McCarthy (Junkas got 16,269 votes in the district while McCarthy's received only 17,444 votes). Junkas almost won Orland Township losing it to McCarthy by 117 votes.

That's not much of an insurance for a longtime Democrat.

So the amiable McCarthy decided better to leave on a high note rather than to risk getting booted out in the election. Especially since a real heavyweight decided to file in the 37th District against him, Renee Kosel. The Democratic remap pretty much sealed McCarthy's fate. Kosel, who had been in the old 81st District, now shifted over east a bit into McCarthy's cozy nest.

McCarthy has served in the district eight terms (16 years) representing communities that include parts of Orland Park, Tinley Park, Oak Forest and Frankfort Square.

The Democratic Primary election is March 20, 2012 and the General Election is November 6, 2012.

It's not an easy district to win, especially with the rising influence of Cook County Commissioner and Orland Township Committee-person Elizabeth "Liz" Doody Gorman. Gorman almost singlehandedly gave the Democratic organization in Illinois a knock-out punch when she easily defeated Pat Maher, a member of the once powerful Hynes dynasty. Gorman is a close ally of Kosel.

The only really big bad news for Republicans in the Southwest and West suburbs is the anticipated loss of Congressman Judy Biggert who has been forced to file in the heavily Democratic 11th Congressional District. Former Congressman Bill "The Phantom" Foster is planning to run there and he'll be challenged by Jim Hickey, the now current president of the Orland Fire Protection District who is a Democrat with a lot of Republican balance among his support.

But McCarthy probably caused himself his own problems. He was not the easiest person to reach. I lived two houses away from his district office and only saw him once when he came to my house with literature in the last election. I don't think he expected that knock-out, drag-out battle from a nobody like Junkas.

Worse is that McCarthy is one of the few legislators without a web site. Yikes! And those political web sites that list him can't even get their information right and one (click here) posted the wrong photograph for him. It's bad enough that online information for voters on state and county elections are so screwed up as it is. It doesn't help when your legislator doesn't have a presence -- though he is a good person and we do wish him well.

The Democrats will probably push back the Republican gains in the U.S. House but they are set to face some tough battles in the state.

Democratic Committeemen will have to come together and find someone else to put on the ballot. It was kind of a cheap trick to deny voters the ability to slate their own since the filing deadline for candidates to seek the office passed in early December. (The congressional filing deadline was delayed until this week). So the Democratic candidate who will face-off with Kosel will be hand-picked by the Democratic Machine, not by support from voters. I know several Democrats wanted to run but in deference to McCarthy wouldn't challenge him. McCarthy passed out his petitions suggesting he planned to stay in, but that's just a cheap political trick often used by veteran politicians.

Can't say I blame them, though. Voters don't really care. Turnout is so low. Who's to complain?

So who should the Democrats slate? Not me. I ran there once in 1992 against Larry Wennlund when much of today's 37th District was the old 38th District which became the 81st District. Whatever! (That shell game called redistricting happens every 10 years and it's always a mess). Poor Larry, I drove him nuts though he managed to tip the vote against me with a last minute letter to voters that read, and I quote "Ray Hanania isn't just an Arab, he is Iraqi." That didn't help with our soldiers coming back from Iraq in Operation Desert Storm. And even though I served active duty in the military during the Vietnam War and Wennlund never did serve active duty anywhere, it was not an easy hurdle to overcome. Divisions among the American Arabs and Muslims were hard enough to handle -- they are worse today -- let alone facing the bigotry of the pre-Sept. 11, 2001 public anger out there.

Maybe the Democrats could run Pat Maher, if they can get his birthdate straightened out. He left a mess at the Orland Fire Protection District that the new board leadership is working hard to straighten out for taxpayers.

Maybe Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin might run. The rumors are rampant he is planning to step down as mayor. Who knows? Maybe Springfield appeals to his political interests? Although neighboring Tinley Park Mayor Ed Zabrocki ran for the legislature and decided that he preferred to spend more time on his Tinley constituents. (How many politicians would give up another public office to serve their constituents? Zabrocki was one of the few.) Today, under the new map, Tinley is represented by three members of the Illinois House. That's good because it means you have three legislatures fighting for your needs. And it's bad because it means you have to meet with three people instead of one to get something done. Zabrocki can handle it. He's a good guy, too.

Don't even worry trying to sort through all this. It won't matter anyway.

Just in case you want to figure this all out, here's the link to the current list of candidates who have filed for statewide offices (not including Congress). Click here.

-- Ray Hanania

Monday, December 26, 2011

Coyotes in a Winter lull

You might not see them. You might not catch a glimpse. But they are out there. In the twilight of the passing night. Prancing on tip-toes through the shine of the street light, darting from shadow to next. You can stare down the street or through a neighbor's yard. Under the yellow light above a porch or in the faded reflection of a full moon above in the night sky.

They pace themselves cautiously. Not afraid but vigilant. Looking. Smelling. Listening for signs of humans or prey. Small animals that are lost or left wandering the night outside the safety of the home.

You can see their elegance, if they let you a glimpse. They don't pose for portraits or stop to trade glances or attitudes. They're on the prowl for prey or safety. Their destiny in the wild. A wild that was once a forrest or a prairie of tall grass and oaks now a canvas of manicured front lawns, shrubs, Malibu lights and concrete sidewalks and driveways with cold steeled cars.

They walk carefully on their tiptoes. But they don't hesitate. Werewolves of the night. Grey coats of thick fur. Silverish hue in the distance. Their long snouts distinct and piercing black eyes.

They emerge in the middle of the night as the stars are bright. Where do they hide? Where do they spend their daytime? The forest? Large clusters of Italian carved evergreens? An old, abandoned garage? Under a rotting porch or gazebo? Waiting for the sun to go down and the streets to clear of cars and headlights and the loud echoes of racing engines. For the people to retire to their heated homes, heat exhaust billowing like white smoke from the roof stokes? The eeriness of the smoke as it sales like a soft haze in the night sky, slowly until it evaporates into the chilled air.

Dead silence outside. Maybe a train in the distance, making them four legged hobos and transients past your window.

They are not easy to spot. But when you do, they is an elegance to the madness of animal charm. Dangerous yet appealing. You don't want to get too close. Cross paths with the wild. Just watching as they move in their stealth from out of one dark shadow to the next.

-- Ray Hanania
using Blogsey for iPad2

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The absolute best restaurant to eat a fine dinner for a great holiday

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Normally, I love to cook for the holidays. But this Christmas, we decided to take it easy and instead of slaving over the oven, we wanted to go out an enjoy a great meal. There are a lot of restaurants where you can enjoy a great meal, but there is only one in the Southwest suburbs where you can really enjoy a fabulous meal worthy of Christmas or even New Years. That's 94 West Steak and Seafood, 15410 94th Avenue in Orland Park.

94 West is the absolute finest restaurant where you can get one of the best meals not only for quality but even for price. We ordered the Prime Rib. Now, my son ordered the 18 ounce Mary Prime Rib and I ordered the 18 ounce Johnny's Cut. I thought, for some reason, that the cuts would be pretty normal. But the Prime Rib I got was huge. I mean huge! It melted in my mouth it was so good.

Alison got the Sea Bass which was phenomenal. And We had the buffalo shrimp and the buffalo calamari as starters. Wow!

I figured this was one of the best Christmases we have had in a long time. The weather was beautiful -- one of the first Christmases I can remember where we didn't have any snow. Not a snow flake. It felt like a slightly chilled California with a clear blue night sky and bright stars.

What a perfect Christmas. Thanks to owners Brian and Maria Sjord. What wonderful hosts and phenomenal food. Try it.

Don't forget that they have a Special New Year's Eve dining evening planned from 11 pm until 3 am only $25 a person including a while roasted Filet Mignon carving station. Lobster Newberg saute station, Scottish Salmon, Tilapia, snow crab and more. Reservations for open menu available from 3 pm to 5 pm.

Visit for more details.

-- Ray Hanania

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Orland Park a long way from the days when they discriminated against American Arabs

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The Village of Orland Park, years ago, was a place where discrimination against American Arabs was common. It was reflected in the three high schools at District 230 (Andrew, Sandburg and Stagg) back in the early 1990s when the number of expulsions of students showed that 90 percent of them were Arab or Muslim, even though the total Arab and Muslim student body at the three schools was only about 10 percent of the total population (6,600). Arab kids were beaten, harassed and no one did anything about it. And then there was the Orland Mosque controversy, in 2004, where bigots and racists packed meeting halls to warn that if they build a Mosque in Orland Park "Osama Bin Laden will come to Orland Park and kill our people."

Thank GOD, then, that President Barack Obama managed to do what his predecessor George W. Bush failed to do (or didn't want to do because he is such close friends with the Saudi Royal family) and had Bin Laden, the terrorist mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks killed in his secure little castle next door to a Pakistani Security and Military center. (That's another story we all know).

Anyway, back to Orland Park.

The fact is that in the past seven years, Orland Park has changed much. Mayor Dan McLaughlin has worked more closely with American Arabs and Muslims. The Orland Mosque is a showpiece of how a mosque should be run -- it's considered one of the most "moderate" mosques in the Chicagoland region. And many American Arab businesses have opened in Orland Park -- but like other businesses have also stumbled on their own because of the terrible economy and their lack of marketing knowledge.

Pita Oven, one of my favorite, closed a few months back. It just couldn't generate the business to cover its expenses. Shami Restaurant at 152nd and LaGrange Road next to the now shuttered Borders book store is continuing but who knows for how long? There is a wonderful Arab Muslim Grocery store that makes GREAT foods, The Grape Vine (Laila there makes the best stuffed grape leaves and lamb in the region -- order them for your dinners sometime.)

It's not because of Americans who dislike Arabs. American Arab restaurants have a tough time because many Arabs and Muslim won't eat at them. They prefer to cook for themselves. And the Arab restaurants don't do a good job of marketing. How do you teach marketing and communications strategy to a community that has a 2,000 year history of ignoring such important things? Can't be done.

The truth is the Village has been very supporter of American Arabs and Muslims, treating them no different than other ethnic and religious groups. (There is a growing population of Jews in Orland and Tinley Park and they are talking about trying to find a way to build a Synagogue here -- I hope they succeed. It would save my son and wife a 35 minute drive that they now make to go to their synagogue.)

But the issue of discrimination came up, this time in the case of a cigar store, the only one where smoking was permitted under the Village's smoking ban ordinance. (If anyone is discriminated against, it is smokers). But the former owner of the cigar store, an American Arab, was arrested, charged and jailed for tax problems and the new owners, who is also American Arab, is charging that she is being discriminated against because she is Arab. Click here to read the story.

I don't think so.

I think Orland Park has been very supportive and sensitive to the needs of American Arabs and Muslims and they are a bright star in a sea of Southwest Suburban communities where discrimination is a common practice -- like in Worth Illinois where several Sheesha (nargeelah or bong) shops were forced to close while smoking continued in other non-Arab owned bars.

Orland Park deserves praise for their ethnic, racial and religious sensitivity and Mayor Dan McLaughlin and the board of trustees including Ed Schussler and Pat Gira and Brad O'Halleran and especially the Village Administrative staff headed by Paul Grimes deserve much praise and credit for that.

Even District 135 has strengthened their support and programs for children of Arab and Muslim families to give them the same educational benefits as all of the families in Orland Park enjoy.

Discrimination at the Cigar Store? I don't think so.

-- Ray Hanania

Here's the two-part  video I did on the Mosque controversy ... Part I and Part II.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Alert: Community Alert: Increases of “Ruse Burglary” attempts in Orland Park and surrounding areas.

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Alert: Community Alert: Increases of “Ruse Burglary” attempts in Orland Park and surrounding areas.


Community Alert: Increases of “Ruse Burglary” attempts in Orland Park and surrounding areas.
“Ruse Burglary” is a term used by police to describe burglaries that occur when criminals attempt to distract a person or people from their home so that an accomplice can enter from another door and steal cash, jewelry and other items. 

The offenders like to target elderly residents.

There was a recent attempt in Orland Park on December 1st, 2011 at 9:30am, in the 15300 block of Regent Drive 

If a solicitor comes to your residence, before answering the door, attempt to locate and remember what kind of vehicle he or she is driving 

Further, make a mental note of the person’s attire and physical characteristics. If you do choose to speak with a solicitor or utility worker, be sure the other doors in your home are locked and/or attended. 

Here are a list of story lines offenders have used: 
Inquiries about the homeowner’s water supply or pressure
Informing the homeowner there is an electrical problem
Offers to repair gutters/fences or tree trimming and landscaping
Blacktop/driveway repair
False statements about problems at the neighbor’s house
Inquiries about homes for sale in the neighborhood 

Police are reminding residents not to allow strangers access to their yard, home or garage and to call 911 immediately to report suspicious people asking for access to their home.

For full details, view this message on the web.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

While visions of Jewel-Osco numbers danced annoyingly in my head

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I love to shop at grocery stores. It's a lot like shopping at the hardware stores. Jewel is my favorite, although I continue to fight against the computer self-check out sections. (Those computers always give me a hassle.)

But I have been collecting those little green playing cards that Jewel gives you when you buy food. It's part of their "Wish Big, Win Big, Holiday Giveaway." But deep down I doubt I am going to win much of anything except maybe $5 -- if I am lucky -- or a few "instant winner" tickets so I can get two more tickets, suckering me in even more.

Here is how it works. You get a game board with pictures of products on it. Sections of the pictures have numbers and you get little green square playing cards that you have to open (not easy) and then find four numbered playing pieces, numbers 1 to 85. (Each number represents an image slice of a specific product.

You open the playing card and then carefully tear away the coupon and then tear away each of the four playing tabs. Each tab gets glued onto its numbered space on the playing board, which is a flimsy sheet of glossy green paper.

Now being a baby boomer, I have certain habits that I am sure some consultant explained to Jewel. I love to spend money on food. I love to play grocery store games. I'm addicted to grocery store games, actually. I don't love to play them at all. It all began int he 1960s (maybe 1950s) when my mother used to collect S&H Green Stamps and I would help her lick the backs and put them in the stamp book. As each book filled up, you could turn in books for certain prizes, like a Waring Blender. Of course, I was only 5, so it was fun. Plus, the glue tasted good. That got me hooked on White Paste glue which I ate along with my lunch at school each day.

But, I have some issues, of course. What respectable curmudgeon wouldn't have a few issues with a game of stamp giveaway at a grocery store? First, there is no real system to the ticket giveaways when you shop. When you make a purchase, the cashiers give you the playing cards with the little tabs that you have to cut away to place on the game board. There is no rhyme or reason to how they are given out. One day I spent $111 and got one ticket. One day I spent $20 and got six. When I shop at a Jewel in a "poorer" community, it seems like I get more playing cards. When I shop in richman's Orland Park, it seems like I get fewer gaming cards.

At first, it's fun to rip them open and locate them on the board. The board is empty. Nearly every one will find its place. But after a while, it becomes harder to find a piece to paste onto the game board.

You need six tickets numbered 1-6 to win the $250,000. I'm missing 1, 4 and 5. I need two tickets to win one of the 8 cars they are giving away (numbers 22 through 25, I have all but 22 and 25.) I need only one ticket to win the one of 75 big screen TVs (42--45, I need 44). And one ticket to win the $500 Jewel-Osco Gift Card (50-53, I need 50).

So I collect the little bastards when I shop. I want to say know, but you never know. What if you get that number 50 and don't check? You have to check. Arrrgh! That's what is so annoying. I have to check. So, for the past week, I have been collecting them, placing them on the dinner table. Starrign at the growing pile. I figure, if I collect enough, I will find one of them.

I have three of four tickets (46-49, I'm missing 46 (Reddiwip)) to win an Apple iPad2. (Nooooooo! Not an iPad2? And I need only 1 ticket to win a digital camera (62 through 65, I'm missing 62.) There are 500 of those cameras.

I can already see where I am headed. The statistics don't lie if you read them right.  There are 60,000 $2 prizes and 8,000 $5 prizes. 500 digital cameras and 100 Apple iPad2s. There are four $50,000 prizes and eight cars valued at $25,000 and again, only two $250,000 prizes.

I keep all of the old tabs, just in case. What if I glue the wrong number on the wrong spot by accident. It could happen? These concerns haunt me throughout the day while I am working.

Oops. I have to run to the Jewel to get some lunch from the deli section. Caesar's Chicken salad. Gotta go. And get one of those last few tickets before the contest ends Feb. 8 -- last day to get a ticket is Feb. 1. So, I have time. Bye.

- Ray Hanania