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Put those poking sticks down, kids

House Speaker John Boehner invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress.

So John Boehner doesn’t think he poked anyone in the eye? If he has his way he will be poking Iran in the eye. Then what? What happened when Sony pictures poked Kim Jong-un in the eye? What happened when Charlie Hebdo poked Islam in the eye? All this poking is childish, at best. Everybody, put down your sticks and play nice.

Tony Galati, LemontGambling ruins lives

In regard to a Dec. 23, 2014, letter from Michael Gelatka, president of the Illinois Gaming Machine Operators Association:

Let’s start with calling it what it is — gambling. “Gaming” is classier, sexier, smacks of family fun, but no mistaking, the raw term is “gambling,” which is what I will use here.

SEND LETTERS TO: letters@suntimes.com

I may have heard Happy Days are Here Again crooning in the background as Mr. Gelatka regurgitated statistics as the antidote for Illinois’ budgetary woes, a regular economic panacea. One only needs to look at Atlantic City, where reckless gambling saturation resulted in massive socioeconomic and ethical fallout to communities, businesses and families. Local businesses fail, or report a 30 to 50 percent decrease in sales when money is forfeited to gambling venues, as opposed to stimulating the economy. Child welfare agencies report increases in child neglect and endangerment in the form of decreased household funds, to abandoning children at home or in parking lots to go gamble. Not far behind is increased bankruptcy, homelessness, crime and suicide.

I have statistics too, and at the end of those numbers are decimated lives. Please ask yourself, in what world is it acceptable that for any industry to win, its patrons MUST lose? This industry, which our government not only promotes but encourages, has built a public policy around inducing residents to gamble away their hard-earned money to fund their coffers. Does that not seem like a glaring and dishonest juxtaposition?

The argument for job creation is certainly valid. However, consider, at last report there were roughly 7,000 part-time and full-time employees in Illinois gambling, a small number proportionally to those negatively affected by this industry, as individuals, family members or business owners. Hundreds of jobs were lost when Atlantic City casinos imploded! Didn’t 20 employees of the Casino Queen in East St. Louis just get laid off because of falling revenue? It’s only the beginning.

Mr. Gelatka, you say video gambling is strictly regulated by the Illinois Gaming Board, yet they can’t find a way to protect the now nearly 12,000 individuals on the self-exclusion list from the 4,600 venues available for them to now fail, a list certainly to exponentially grow with gambling permeation.

So you are right, video gambling is making a difference in our state. The broad and deep-seated collateral damage as a result of this disastrous “experiment” for many Illinoisans will be far reaching, life-altering, and in some cases, life-ending, with this addiction carrying the distinction of the highest rate of suicide. This will cost Illinois way more in ruined lives and having to provide aid to those who find themselves completely broken, both financially and otherwise. Gambling is a nightmare, sold as a fantasy with broken promises all around. It’s only a matter of time.

Melynda Litchfield, National Victims Advocate, StopPredatoryGambling.org

Gov. Quinn made humane call in granting clemency to domestic violence victim

Gov. Pat Quinn’s clemency decisions, made during his last days in office, have been criticized in several news outlets over the past several days, including his decision to reduce the sentence of our client, Tammy Englerth, a survivor of domestic violence, from 40 to 20 years.

In the article, “Downstate prosecutor says Quinn’s last-minute clemency decision ‘appalling,’ ” published in The Sun-Times on Jan. 15, Tom Gibbons, the Madison County State’s Attorney, and the spokesperson for Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez are quoted suggesting that Quinn’s clemency decisions were unjust and that the process for these decisions was somehow improper. The spokesperson for Alvarez refers to the process for these clemency decisions as a “secretive maneuver.” This is simply untrue.

In Ms. Englerth’s case, the state’s tttorney received a copy of the petition over a month before the hearing that was conducted, as required by the guidelines of the Prisoner Review Board. No one from the state’s attorney’s office appeared at the hearing, where witnesses testified on behalf of Englerth.

The governor is given the extraordinary power to grant clemency in the Illinois Constitution. It is an important “check and balance” established to temper the strict rules of our criminal-justice system with mercy. Moreover, it is a tradition throughout our country’s history for clemency petitions to be granted during a governor’s last days in office.

While the facts of Englerth’s crime are sensationalized in the headlines and in Gibbons’ account, the unspeakable violence that Englerth endured for 12 years is dismissed by Gibbons as “fabricated.” In fact, the clemency petition submitted on behalf of Englerth included extensive evidence, including three orders of protection, medical records documenting the violence, and a letter of support from a domestic violence counselor.

Gov. Quinn’s decision to grant clemency for Tammy Englerth is the most recent in a long line of petitions for battered women that have been granted by all Illinois governors, both Republicans and Democrats, except Governor Blagojevich, since the mid-1980s. At least 25 clemency petitions for battered women have been granted. Each of these decisions represents a gesture of mercy that fell well within proper procedure and the governor’s discretion.

Tammy Englerth has great remorse for Christopher Englerth’s death. Every year of life lost to violence — of anyone’s life lost — is a tragedy. Englerth lost 12 years to living with extreme violence and 10 years to prison — and she is still not freed by Quinn’s merciful decision. She will spend an additional 10 years in prison. Quinn’s decision to exercise mercy in this case was the right thing to do.

Rachel White-Domain and Margaret Byrne

Illinois Clemency Project for Battered Women