My feelings about Mark Kirk are well known by those who follow day-to-day politics.  I have branded Mark Kirk as my “renegade” Republican congressman because of his unacceptable “yes” vote in the House on its “Cap and Trade” legislation.

There are undoubtedly many others who feel the way I do, but they, unlike me, are hesitant to speak out lest they be called Republican Party traitors.

Recently an individual did voice a Kirk concern in an annonymous “Talk of the County” comment published on Sunday, Sept. 7 — GOP savior? — although it was obvious that the comment was made by a registered Democrat who falsely claimed that the Bush-Cheney administration was filled with corruption and that Kirk had failed to come in on his white horse to clean up that corruption.

When I received my email invitation from a concerned Lake Forest resident inviting me to attend an intimate private town hall-like meeting she would be hosting with Mark Kirk at her home on Sunday, August 30, I accepted without hesitation.

The purpose of the gathering was to give past supporters like me, and there were 30 of us, a chance to express our concerns to Congressman Kirk over his numerous unpopular votes and liberal positions on many issues such as “Cap and Trade,” Embryonic Stem Cell legislation, his 100% voting record from NARL, Gun Rights and Veterans Affairs.

Because Mark Kirk only had an hour to spend with the group before he had to leave for Glenview to be endorsed by Senator McCain, many hot-button issues remained untouched. Instead, Kirk was able to talk at length on many “safe” topics where there was little disagreement.

Somewhat disappointing is that Kirk did not abide by the ground rules outlined by the host, that there be three 20-minutes segment for expressing concerns first about social issues, then about the environment and the economy, and finally whatever, whatever.

I was delighted to learn that Mark Kirk now supports off-shore oil drilling and nuclear power. On his much disputed “yes” vote on “Cap and Trade,” Kirk indicated that as a senator he would vote against any similar legislation in the future, realizing he would be representing all of Illinois which is manufacturing and coal state.

Kirk also displayed a good grasp of the “hot spots” around the world gained from spending one weekend a month working in the Pentagon in his duel role of congressman and a Commander in the Navel Reserve.

Also on the plus side were Kirk’s expressed views about his opposition to Obamacare, his strong support for tort reform, his belief that the patient-doctor relationship is sacrosanct, and his opposition to the “Fairness Doctrine.”

Discussion of the abortion issue gave Mark Kirk the most grief.  Although assuring those gathered that as a Republican he would not support the funding of abortion with tax payer money as do Democrats (This belies Kirk’s past votes that make him the only Republican in either the House or Senate to receive a 100% rating from Planned Parenthood in 2006 and 2008.), Kirk finally had to admit that on the issue of “where life begins” he would just have to disagree with the pro-lifers present.

Many times it appeared to me that Mark Kirk used details designed to deflect rather than to illuminate.  It was disappointing that no one present hammered Kirk for voting in opposition to the Republican Platform more often than he was in sync with it.

Although it cannot be refuted that Mark Kirk delivers a polished presentation, can he be trusted?   Did Kirk really modify some of his past positions or did he tell those present what he thought they wanted to hear through the art of spinning?

Mark Kirk has not convinced me to come over to his side, although I am speaking for myself and not for other twenty nine who attended the Sunday, September 30th gathering.  Just as a leopard cannot change its spots, I still have grave doubts whether Mark Kirk can be trusted or if he is even capable of moving toward the center in his bid to become Senator Mark S. Kirk.

I do applaud Mark Kirk for agreeing to meet with a group of his malcontents.   Did Kirk really listen?    I hope so, but only time will tell.

There was little fanfare in the news media over the death of Ravinia’s “pops” conductor Erich Kunzel, who died on Tuesday, Sept. 1st of liver, colon and pancreatic cancer, diagnosed in April of this year.  I

Many readers might be wondering why I am saluting a person they have never heard of.  But is this really so?  Millions of viewers, including many Chicagoans who have not experienced Erich Kunzel first-hand at Ravinia, have watch the PBS broadcasts since 199l of his Memorial Day and July Fourth concerts with the National Symphony Orchestra on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

As the chief Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, Erich Kunzel was a regular at Ravinia every summer since 1978, when he was called upon as a last-minute substitute for an ailing Arthur Fielder, founder of the Boston Pops.  Kunzel’s initial performance was a success.  Thereafter Kunzel began his long 31-year association with the Ravinia Festival, conducting more concerts at Ravinia than any other conductor,129 performances in all.

I missed very few of Kunzel’s 129 performances in my over 30 years as a Ravinia Festival Opus Member.  I watched throughout the years as more grayness invaded his hair, beard, and mustache, but Kunzel never failed to please and delight his audiences. In his signature all-white conducting outfit down to his white shoes, Kunzel made a striking appearance as he advanced to the podium and picked up his baton, signifying that another delightful summer evening of music at Ravinia was about to begin.

And what were some of these enchanting evenings that I enjoyed along with many other Ravinia-goers throughout the years seated in the Pavilion and on the lawn?  I especially delighted in programs whose themes centered around Broadway musicals and movie tunes.  Then there were pops concerts featuring the music of Vienna, with a good dose of selections by Waltz King Johann Strauss, and programs that highlighted music from the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan.

At the conclusion of every Ravinia season was Erich Kunzel’s ever popular end-of-the season concert, an all-Tschaikovsky bash featuring the 1812 Overture, complete with cannons.  Kunzel never failed to warn the audience that as the cannons were pointing directly at the men’s room, it was advisable to avoid that area at all costs.  A fitting finale to the Tschaikovsky concert was the releasing of red, white and blue “I love Ravinia” balloons from the ceiling of the pavilion to the stirring stains of Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever march.

This year I was filled with sadness during Ravinia’s final pops concert on Sunday, September 6th.  Missing was Erich Kunzel.  Had illness not entered Kunzel’s life in April of this year, ending with his Sept.1st death, there is no doubt Kunzel would have been on the podium.  He would have been in his element conducting tunes from musicals given to the world by the dynamic team of Rogers and Hammerstein, which included:  South Pacific, Oklahoma, Carousel, The Sound of Music, and The King and I.

It was most fitting that Welz Kauffman, President and CEO of the the Ravinia Festival, presented a pre-concert tribute to Eric Kunzel on Sunday, Sept. 6th, at which time Welz Kauffman dedicated the night to the memory of Kunzel.  Kauffman related how Erich Kunzel loved Ravinia and how Kunzel was able to bring music to all types of music lovers so all could experience the joy of music.

As stated by Welz Kauffman, “He (Kunzel) will be with us in our minds, hearts and thoughts forever.”  I know this rings true with me.

The Ravinia Women’s Board will be planting and dedicating a tree to Erich Kunzel so he will be remembered at Ravinia long after those like me had the good fortune to experience the joy Kunzel brought to music lovers throughout his 31-year tenure at the Ravinia Festival.

In a televised speech to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, September 9, which sounded more like a campaign stump speech, President Obama told legislators that “Now is the season for action.”

Since Obama did not reference any particular bill, he can disclaim any charge against the many bills now in the works.  The so-called compromise bill proposed by Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus as a political breakthrough still keeps many features of ObamCare in place.  It would give Congress the power to dictate the decisions of insurance companies, doctors, hospitals and would also increase the government’s share of medical spending, adding billions in new health-care liabilities.

Regarding Obama’s claim that illegal aliens would not be a part of the program and that abortion would not be funded by taxes, why did Democrats defeat amendments introduced by Republicans that would have  prohibited both from happening?  Planned Parenthood wouldn’t be on board to support whatever the plan turns out to be unless they had been assured that abortions would be covered.

Is it any wonder why Rep. Joe Wilson yelled, “Liar.”  Millions of Americans listening to Obama’s speech most likely had the same reaction.  They realize that these are not ordinary times, nor is this an ordinary president.  The radical changes being proposed by Obama will take this nation down a path that is not consistent with this nation’s Constitution.  I applaud Rep. Joe Wilson for reacting to what he heard and for not pretending that their was believability in Obama’s words.

I liken Wilson’s outburst to the young boy in Hans Christina Andersen’s short story, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”  The boy told the truth, while all around him adults were extolling the beauty of the Emperor’s new clothes.  In truth, the emperor had no clothes on at all!

If Obama was really sincere in reducing fraud and waste as the answer to our health care cost problem, why not start eliminating both now?  There is no need to wait for the bill to take effect after 2013, unless President Obama hopes to be safely re-elected before the pain of the Plan takes effect on the public.

As the August debate on health care reform heated up, doctors, patients and insurance companies were receiving the brunt of the blame for escalating health care costs.  Instead, Tort Reform should loom front and center in all debate, given that health care represents one sixth of our economy, but no one is discussing Tort Reform.  Why?

Many people don’t really understand what it is and its effect on the overall medical system.  For those of us who are not lawyers, tort is a legal system for compensating wrongs and harm done by one party to another person and/or their property.  This explanation is an oversimplification, but one can find a nice, fuller discussion of Tort Reform under Wikipedia.

When you have medical care that is negligent, you can sue the doctor(s), hospitals, clinics, labs and everyone in sight if you want to.  You go to court and, if you win, you will be rewarded with a monetary award that will  recompense you.  This award may run into millions and millions of dollars.  In some cases, like a child who has been damaged in some way, the award may allow for their financial and medical care for the rest of their lives.  In some cases, the person may be compensated for the loss of an arm, leg, eye or other loss of function because they can’t make a living anymore, or they can no longer make the living they normally would be making.

Additionally, you may receive a penalty award, which is just that.  It penalizes the medical provider for doing sloppy, careless or negligent work.  This award can also run into the millions and millions of dollars, and, depending on the state, may even be a % of the recompense award.  It is intended to be punitive, and juries tend to give out huge amounts of money to hurt the providers so badly they will be more careful in the future.

Almost all medical providers carry malpractice insurance to protect themselves in the case of negligence or lawsuit, and over the years the cost of malpractice insurance has ballooned dramatically as the numbers of lawsuits have also ballooned.  For those doctors who are specialized in some field (OB, Neurosurgery, Orthopedics, Pediatrics, etc.), the cost of malpractice is especially high because the risks are so high.  As an example, my own OB/Gyn left the state of Illinois almost four years ago to practice in Wisconsin because Illinois malpractice rates were so high he couldn’t afford to pay them anymore.  My loss —  he was a really good doctor.  And, he couldn’t deliver perfect babies every time.

So far, so good.  None of us dispute that negligence occurs and that medical people need to be punished for their carelessness when it does occur.

Here lies the problem.

1.  Over the years, people have begun suing more and more over the least little thing, whether it’s negligent or not.  A baby is born without a little toe – sue the OB.  Tricky brain surgery didn’t restore the patient to full health – sue the Neurosurgeon.  Junior has a reaction to a medication he’s never had before and has an asthma attack – sue the Allergist.  Sue anybody in sight, and if it’s a large clinic or hospital with a rich endowment, sue them even more.  These are called frivilous law suits and a good judge would throw them out the window in a New York minute.  In fact, in some states there is a regulation that the loser pays.  That means if you sue and you lose, you pay court costs, attorneys fees, etc.  It cuts down on the number of silly, frivolous suits that people file, hoping to make a big bundle of money. Remember the lady with the McDonald’s hot coffee spilled in her lap?  That was frivolous.

2.  Trial lawyers have a big stake in this business because they make HUGE amounts of money if a recompense award is given and even more if a penalty award is granted.  Most trial lawyers take 30% to 40% of the final awards – before the patient/family ever see a dime. This is how 2008 presidential candidate John Edwards made his millions.  Tort Reform has now become a political issue, because over the years trial lawyers have been big supporters of the Democrat Party and of President Obama.  In the 2008 election cycle trial lawyers gave $2,991,290 to Democrats and $140,750 to Republicans  in a 95% to 4% ratio. There is no way Democrats want Tort Reform to be a part of their health reform proposals. They will not even discuss it, nor is Tort Reform ever mentioned in any liberal news articles, TV, cable or interviews, despite the billions of dollars lawsuits add to the cost of today’s health care.

3.  Because doctors are terrified of being sued, sometimes for no good reason, they order multiple, expensive tests to be sure they have correctly diagnosed a patient’s problem.  We call this ‘Cover your a- – medicine.’.  They do it to protect themselves in case of a lawsuit.  This adds to the overall cost of health care in the country to the tune of countless billions of dollars.

What must be done?

  • Include Tort Reform in any health bill being considered for legislation.
  • Put a cap on the punitive award side of lawsuits.  For example, in Texas, they have a $250,000 cap on punitive awards.   This has brought many doctors back to Texas who had left; and brought many new doctors to the state.  They know they can practice real medicine instead of defensive medicine, and awards, without limits, for true negligence can still be paid where warranted-Make medical lawsuits (Why not all lawsuits?) = loser pays.  When people realize they might not just lose the suit, but will have to also pay the cost, they might think twice about suing, as will attorneys
  • Put a limit on political donations (for any group).  Certainly a pipe dream, as measures to limit political donations have failed repeatedly over the years.

Suggested Republican health care reform proposals do sound reasonable and workable, but why isn’t Tort Reform a major part of their plans?

Tort reform can’t take a back seat, for without Tort Reform there can be no real health care reform.

Nancy J. Thorner   331 E. Blodgett Ave., Lake Bluff, IL   60044    (847) 295-1035   Republican Precinct Committeeman, Lake County, IL, Shields Township, #240

Jane E. Keill     1516 Plymouth Place, Apt. 2N, Glenview IL  60025   (847) 724-2527 – (25 years in medical claims insurance industry as a claims processor, trainer, auditor, manager and consultant).

On Sunday, August 30, I attended a private meeting with my 10th District Congressman, Mark Kirk, who is now running for the Illinois senate position now held by Roland Burris. It was held at the home of a Lake Forest, IL couple.  I was among the 30 invited guests who find unacceptable Mark Kirk’s liberal stances on many issues.  The intimate meeting was held prior to Kirk’s endorsement later on in the afternoon by Senator John McCain before veterans in Glenview, IL.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss Kirk’s numerous unpopular votes, among them “Cap and Trade,” Hate Crimes legislation, Embryonic Stem Cell legislation, his 100% voting record from NARL, Gun rights and Veterans affairs, with the understanding that Kirk will face serious opposition in the primary.  For If Kirk should be victorious, he will need to reach out to people having the same concerns as those expressed at the meeting I attended on August 30th.

The hosts expressed their desire that Mark Kirk would re-evaluate his positions on troublesome issues after hearing from her guests so he might become a  candidate worthy of their support.

Serious discussions did occur in the hour allotted by Kirk to address questions. Somewhat disturbing to me was that Kirk did not follow the rules of engagement, which were outlined initially by the hosts, in which the hour was to be divided into three twenty minute segment: concerns about social issues, the environment and the economy and whatever, whatever.

Congressman Kirk spent the first 15 minutes of the townhall-like meeting speaking in general terms about his senate candidacy.  Mark Kirk anticipates that his perceived main Democrat challenger, Alexi Giannoulias, will raise $35 million in campaign funds, while Kirk anticipates raising $20 million.  By electing him, Mark Kirk told the group that the number of Democrat senators would be knocked down to 59, making it impossible for President Obama to pass national health care, raise taxes, close Gitmo, among other things.

Kirk then went on to praise his “Medical Rights Act” legislation, unveiled on May 20, which bans government interference into the doctor-patient relationship by protecting the rights of Americans to get the care they need when they need it.

Regarding the two issues that most concern those attending Kirk’s townhall meetings, Kirk described them as being the nationalization of health care and the borrowing of trillions of dollars.

The first 15 minutes having been utilized by Kirk, Congressman Kirk graciously invited questions from the guests.  When listening to Mark Kirk, one has to admit that Kirk is a polished and knowledgeable speaker with a boyish charm that is pleasing, but it is sometimes necessary to probe beneath Kirk’s remarks in order to understand what has been left out.  As with many politicians, Kirk is able to sound convincing by presenting facts that often make him appear to be on your side, when facts left unstated would lead to a different conclusion.

First off was a three-part question asking for an explanation of Kirk’s TARP vote, his “Cap and Trade” vote, and the “Cash for Clunkers” program.  In order Kirk’s responses were:

  • Kirk heeded recommendations from President Bush, the Treasury Secretary, and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board that without TARP the U.S. would “drive off a cliff” and that unemployment would jump to between 20 and 30 percent.  Kirk didn’t want this nation to experience the economic conditions of the 1930’s.
  • Kirk related the many changes in the “Cap and Trade” legislation before the actual vote took place.  He spoke of his 18 years in the military and how that experience fostered a desire to make this country better. Kirk admitted there was contrasting information about what the bill would do or wouldn’t do. As to the advice Kirk received, he spoke of having to chose the best of two really bad alternatives when voting for the legislation.  Surprising to me is that Kirk now supports nuclear energy, but he hedged on my question about restarting the dual Nuclear Plant at Zion, IL, stating that Commonwealth Edison no longer owns the Zion Facility, and that to the new owner cost factors into its decision to keep the facility shuttered.  As far as building new nuclear plant here in Illinois, Kirk doesn’t see much movement and blamed the corrupt government in IL for “dragging its feet” on increasing the state’s nuclear energy capacity.  In retrospect, Kirk indicated that as an Illinois senator representing the entire state, he would expand his views and would in the future vote “no” on any “Cap and Trade” legislation.  The reason given: Kirk understands that Illinois is a manufacturing and a coal state and that he must represent the entire state.  Not asked was whether Kirk believes in global warming and if he also endorses wind and solar power as viable energy sources for this nation’s future needs.  It is my opinion that he does.
  • Kirk explained how “Cash for Clunkers” was part of the defense supplemental bill.  Even so Kirk thought that the program brought the Chrysler line back to Illinois and recovered some confidence in one part of the U.S. manufacturing process — the auto industry.

Another question addressed concerned the mess this nation is in because of government meedling in things that are not prescribed in our Constitution. Kirk didn’t address the question head on.  Kirk did, however, indicate that the “heart and soul” of his thinking is that the first duty of the federal government is to defend the U.S.  Congressman Kirk then went on to speak about the threats this nation faces around the globe.

Thereafter Kirk was questioned as to whether there wasn’t a right to life in the Constitution and how could Kirk justify the killing of millions of children every year only to be replaced by the children of immigrants, many of them anchor babies, Kirk faltered in giving a satisfactory answer.  His answer was that on this issue he would have to differ from the pro-lifers, but on other issues, like raising taxes and the nationalization of health care, they could find a home with him.

On the abortion issue, Rep. Kirk reminded the many pro-lifers in attendance that Democrats believe in using tax money to support abortions, while Republicans do not, Kirk included. He also informed the group that he would have voted against Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor because he perceived her views to be out-of-sync with the American people.

Concerning Kirk’s decision not to support the surge in Iraq even though Senator McCain did and President Bush signed off on the surge, Kirk said he followed the advice of military advisors.  This seemed odd to me.  Since the Iraq war was at a low point at the time Kirk told Bush that he could no longer support the war or the planned surge, it makes more sense to believe that Kirk rejected the surge because it would not have helped him politically to support what he perceived might be a losing cause.

As the questioning continued, Mark Kirk was asked if he was aware of the serious conditions in our Illinois hospitals?  Kirk addressed the question by referring back to his “Medical Rights Act” legislation which would lower costs, increase choice, and expand access.  It was enlightening to hear that Kirk is totally against the trial lawyers and that he is an advocate of tort reform, which Democrats won’t touch because malpractice suits provide financial boon doggles for trial lawyers who contribute handsomely to the Democrat Party.  Kirk, to his credit, informed the gathering that to him the doctor-patient relationship is sacrosanct.  Rep. Kirk then went on to cite some studies of how cancer survival rates are higher in the U.S. than in Europe.  Men benefit greatly in the U.S. in regard to prostate cancer, where the survivability rate is 66% for Americans as compared to 47% for Europeans.

Of interest to many was a concern expressed by a woman who worked at a major Chicago newspaper.  She lamented the loss of the free press and how government seems intent on quashing it even further.  Kirk went on to explain how he opposes the “Fairness Doctrine.”  He further advised those present to sign up for Face Book, how Face Book was an excellent way to get out the Republican side on issues, and how through Face Book one could find allies at work and in ones own community.

An astute observation made was that Republicans don’t seem to learn from their past mistakes and that they must do better in promoting themselves to the public.  There was agreement as to a flaw found in many Republican legislators and candidates.  They are not willing to fight for what they believe in and are often too willing to compromise their principles given their desire to get along and to be loved by the media.  The latter seldom happens!

The hour passed by quickly, but not before Kirk admitted that part of him really loves the back and forth and the give and take that he is experiencing in his August town meetings.

Many hot button issues remained untouched when it was time for Congressman Kirk to excuse himself.  This was unfortunate because it in on these hot-button issues where disagreement exist with many Illinois Republicans.  Among those who attended, it was not obvious whether Kirk had won them over to his side.  I do applaud the Lake Forest couple for arranging and hosting the intimate town hall meeting.  They brought together a group of like-minded people with concerns that are real and which could play a factor in whether Kirk is able to win over at least 51% of Illinoisans.  Congressman Kirk’s liberal voting record as a Republican might appeal to his more liberal 10th Congressional District, but how will it play out with rank and file Republicans throughout all of Illinois?

As one who attended the event, I found Mark Kirk’s responses lacking in credibility and truthfulness.  Kirk sounded good and did make some sense as he is well-verses on many topics.  There is, however, a difference in what politicians promise when running for office and how they perform once elected.

I base how I feel on Mark Kirk’s past voting record as a congressman.  As leopards cannot change their spots, it is not possible for Kirk to change what he has racked up as his liberal and disturbing voting record to change my opinion of him during his now 5th term as congressman in the 10th District of Illinois.

Illinoisans will have to decide when they vote in the Illinois Primary Elections in Feb. of 2010, and once again in the November 2010 elections, if they feel Congressman Mark Kirk is the best candidate to defeat his Democrat senate challenger, the prize being a Republican senate seat in a very blue state.

It goes without saying that there will be much national interest in the Illinois 2010 senate race.  Should Kirk be successful in winning the Illinois Republican primary election in Feb. of 2010, all stops will be pulled out to defeat him by Chicago’s Daley Machine and by Democrat interest groups who will financailly support and work to ensure that Illinois remains a two person, Democrat senator state.

Precinct Committeeman, Shield Township, Lake Bluff, #240