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Politics & Religion Provide Mixed Bag of Questions for U.S. Economic Fate

At precisely 7 a.m. this morning, St. Patrick's Day, Rev. Thomas F. Baldonieri began mass at St. James Parish in Highwood, at a Catholic church that is largely Italian. His parish regularly provides food to the poor, the homeless, the hungry, on Thursday nights starting at 5:30 p.m. What is unusual is that Father Baldonieri's church also sometimes helps the needy with cash. Most Chicago Catholic Churches, including St. Theresa of Avila in Lincoln Park, and St. Margaret Mary Church in Rogers Park, unabashedly rely on strict oversight, directing people's lives through casework and social control through donations and the St. Vincent DePaul society. Not so at St. James in Highwood. In Highwood, the Catholic Community take freedom and privacy seriously. Cash means privacy and freedom, personal choice, consumer freedom. This, during the pressure now put on President Barack Obama to prove that his economic initiative, to raise the debt ceiling, is paying off. In the Internet age, in the thick of government momentum to turn everyone and everything into online commerce and payment, cash flow and identity fraud issues have been reopened.

With the St. Patrick's Day Parade on Saturday, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel's Special Events office appeared to be milking the media glare for all it was worth, as Illinois politicians geared up for the final political showdown that is expected on Tuesday between. On Michigan Avenue, on the way to the parade route, three Chicago Police patrol officers were stationed in front of the Art Institute lions, eyeing the crowds. When asked if the Mayor would appear in the parade, Officer Diaz said, "Don't know, but the old mayor certainly would!"

The WLS-TV/ABC cameras had a front-row elevated position in Grant Park near Buckingham Fountain. NBC/WMAQ-TV, and CBS/WBBM-TV camera trucks had parked further south and by 11:00 a.m. green colored shirts, hats, and socks and even a dog dressed in a green body warmer that spelled out "Jacques Strappe" said it all about the morality that Democratic President Barack Obama and Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and the Democratic organization have sanctioned publicly and openly at public events in Chicago since the start of Gay Pride.

While the politicians were waving at the cameras behind marching musicians with Irish kilts and bagpipes , the smell of marijuana stenched the muddy knolls around Buckingham Fountain. A balloon-waving supporter of Edward Bonner for the Metropolitan Water District Commissioner plowed into a crowd pushing a stroller shouting "let's get around these pot-heads."

Meantime, a baby-boomerish father hawked St. Patrick's Day doodads, "Non-food, non-junk" he said, as one of two part-time jobs, the other one being a similar gig at the United Center at the Hawks game Saturday night. "I have to put my three kids through college."

Perhaps the real question for the President, the Mayor and the candidates is whether or not fear of poverty is the true election commodity.

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