Friday, February 12, 2016

Foxx wants us to not look behind the curtain w/ Preckwinkle standing behind

I found it interesting to learn of the new campaign advertising spot for state’s attorney hopeful Kim Foxx that tries to emphasize her independence.

The new spot tells us of how she experienced first-hand as a child the mean streets of the old Cabrini-Green public housing complex, and makes us think that she identifies with the problems of the segment of our electorate most offended by the behavior of incumbent State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez.

YET THAT ADVERTISEMENT was something I first saw included in a Thursday morning e-mail message from Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle – the woman for whom Foxx worked most recently as her chief of staff.

There are those people who want to believe that the Foxx campaign is merely a tool by which Preckwinkle is trying to assert her own authority over other governmental units.

The combination of the concepts of independence and political ties seems to me to be a strange one, particularly since the Preckwinkle e-mail (officially from the Preckwinkle for President electoral committee) is a fund-raising pitch.

A ploy for us to make contributions of $5, $10 or $25 to the Foxx campaign fund, so as to allow Kim to have “the resources to fight back against these attacks.”

WITH THE ATTACKS being those people determined to point out every potential flaw of the Preckwinkle administration in charge of the Cook County Board, then claim it’s all Foxx’ fault since she was in charge of running Preckwinkle’s county government staff during much of that time period.

How truly independent is Kim Foxx ...
“Kim Foxx’ opponents are trying to discredit our efforts to transform Cook County government,” Preckwinkle wrote in her Foxx fundraising pitch.

So for all the efforts to claim that Kim Foxx is her own woman, she’s going to be clung to by the Preckwinkle people who see that any attacks on her are also going to be blows to themselves.

I’m sure Toni Preckwinkle doesn’t want her own future governance being hindered by the politicking that will take place during the next month over who gets the Democratic nomination for Cook County state’s attorney.

SO SHE THROWS in the appeal for small-scale donations, which is what some political people like to use so they can create the impression that they’re not tied to corporate and other big-money interests.

... from her former boss?
Of course, all those $5 contributions can add up, and potentially into sums that sway the bigger-money people into taking a candidate serious enough that they wind up kicking in their money too.

All too often, those interests want to throw out their money to as many potential candidates as possible – so they can claim they backed “da winner” regardless of which candidate actually wins.

Insofar as Foxx’ actual commercial spot is concerned, it tells us how violence and pleas for help “they’re still here” in urban communities where the issue of violence being caused by the police is not some fantasy too ridiculous to take seriously. Whether that’s enough to get a majority to vote for Foxx, rather than just turn her campaign into the preference of the third of the Chicago population that is African-American, has yet to be seen.

HOW THIS SPOT will play among the electorate and make them want to actually vote (rather than being turned off by whichever nitwit candidates remain in the presidential field by the time the March 15 primary comes along) will be determined.
PFANNKUCHE: Takes on Dem winner come Nov.
Although I wonder if there will be even less interest come the November general election when the eventual Democratic nominee claims the right to challenge Republican Christopher E.K. Pfannkuche in the November general election.

Who, you might ask? I must confess that the only reason I know the name is because I remember him prosecuting cases I wrote stories about back when I was a reporter-type person at the Criminal Courts Building for the City News Bureau of old.

Even then, what I most remember about him was that he liked to be identified in copy with his middle initials, but would never actually tell me what they stood for. Maybe by the time November rolls around, I’ll finally learn the answer to that question.


Thursday, February 11, 2016

It’s the delegates who matter, dummy!

There’s a reason the popular vote, at this stage of the presidential election process, is referred to as the “beauty contest.”

FOXX TO SANDERS FANS: 'You big dummies!'
It’s downright superficial. It doesn’t mean a thing. When it comes to the process that Iowa and New Hampshire have already performed (and which Illinois will undergo March 15), it’s who you pick for the delegates to the nominating convention that matters.


Those votes you cast on your ballot for the actual name of a candidate? Although fun to do, it was a waste of your time.

And if you are some sort of politically-unaware numbskull who only cast your ballot for the presidential candidate and chose to ignore all that political gibberish about delegates, then you really accomplished nothing.

For it is the delegates who go to the presidential nominating conventions and actually pick who gets to be on the ballot for the November general election. Although in all honesty, by the time the conventions come about, the outcome is so preordained that they really are a formality.

THE EQUIVALENT OF a political pep rally – only with people wearing all sorts of donkey and elephant paraphernalia and most definitely not with teams of scantily clad cheerleaders on the sidelines. (Whether there are scantily-clad women hanging around the delegates hotel rooms is a question for a different day’s commentary).

CLINTON: Will her lead grow?
To me, all of this is incredibly obvious. I remember back in 2008 when I attempted to write a commentary making a presidential endorsement of sorts, I began by highlighting the names of the delegates from my congressional district who were committed to Barack Obama.

Because that was the way to ensure that the Democrats would pick Barack over Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid – which had the same air of inevitability that fizzled out the same as she appears to be weakening in the presence of Bernie Sanders, the U.S. senator from Vermont who goes about bearing the “Socialist” tag with a sense of pride.

But Hillary isn’t politically dead by any means – and this delegate issue is the very reason why.

SANDERS: The N.H. winner -- Not really!
CLINTON MAY HAVE not been the choice of New Hampshire voters any more than Coca-Cola was NOT the “choice of a new generation.” But she took most of that state’s super-delegates (there are two who are so wishy-washy they won’t commit to anyone).

Which is why after Iowa and New Hampshire, it is Clinton – 42/Sanders – 36. And in many of the states coming up in the near future, it will be the establishment Dems likely to make sure all those snot-nosed, punk kids know their love for Bernie won’t mean much.

It is likely that the Clinton delegate lead will continue to grow, no matter how many people are likely to want to make Hillary “feel the Bern.” Actually, by the time the process gets to Illinois, it may not matter much what we think.

We may have a pre-ordained outcome. No matter how many people rant and rage about how New Hampshire could be a “tie” for Clinton and Sanders even though Bernie took about 60 percent of the popular vote.

SUPER-DELEGATES CAN be a fickle batch, because they’re usually the party regulars who have no interest in people who think the process itself (which they have made the effort to master) is the problem – and that if we’d only get rid of the rules, we'd be better off.
TRUMP: Whiners bigger than Bernie's
Which is part of my problem with the Bernie Sanders movement – one that seems to be a collection of amateurs – which was never really the way with Barack Obama back in 2008. Which also is why it’s not a surprise that Barack himself now says he’d rather have Hillary succeed him, rather than Bernie.

Then again, it’s also why I consider Donald Trump on the Republican side to be the ultimate political buffoon – making his way to appeal to people who think we win only if the system is gamed in their favor.

Their idea of “revolution” strikes me as being the equivalent of the whiny kid who, realizing he’s about to lose playing Monopoly, decides to knock the game board flying in the air while ranting about how unfair those rules are.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Obama ‘farewell’ tour begins Wednesday; there’s nothing more to it

OBAMA: Bringing back memories?
Let’s be honest.

The reason Barack Obama is coming to Springfield, Ill., on Wednesday is to begin the series of stops across the nation that will occur during the next year that are meant to provide a guide as to what the president wants his legacy to be perceived as.

IT KIND OF reminds me of the last couple of months of the Richard M. Daley stint as mayor when Hizzoner, Jr., literally made an appearance in each of the city’s 50 wards so he could boast of some local achievement.

I still remember when he visited my own native 10th Ward – a stop at the site of the old Wisconsin Steel Works where my maternal grandfather once worked plant so he could brag about a new industrial plant that was being developed there.

No real news, but it was a touchy-feely moment meant to inspire mayoral good will.

That’s the same thing we’re going to get on Wednesday at the Statehouse. Barack Obama will reminisce a bit about his days as a state legislator, then (according to his aides) will offer up a speech meant to encourage political bipartisanship – something that definitely is lacking in Springfield these days.

OF COURSE, THERE wasn’t much in the way of bipartisanship back when Obama was a legislator either. The president’s early days in the state Senate were as part of a minority caucus that then-Senate President James “Pate” Philip went out of his way to treat as irrelevant.

Then, Obama became a significant member of the Democratic majority that Emil Jones used his presidency to let Republicans know what political payback felt like.

In short, the idea of a bipartisanship speech from Obama is too much of a stretch to take seriously. In all honesty, his presidency has been even more ideologically tainted than either those of Bill Clinton or George W. Bush.

Although that was largely because Obama came into a situation where the opposition party was determined to work to make his presidency a failure. Bipartisanship in the Obama years never had a chance.

Who'd have thought a century ago that someone like Barack Obama could set foot on these grounds as president?
THE ONLY THING that ever really could be accomplished was that the nation got a taste of what Chicago experienced back in the mid-1980s when a majority of the City Council was determined to thwart then-Mayor Harold Washington’s every governmental desire.

Maybe the Congressional types of the past eight years have been more subtle in expressing their bigoted motivations. But the sentiment was the same.

Of course, there’s one other political motivation for having the president speak in Springfield on Wednesday – it comes right after the primary in New Hampshire. Now as I write this, I don’t know who “won.”

But I’m sure there are people prepared to say that, regardless of what the electoral results turn out to be, it represents a repudiation of the Obama presidency. Without a trip to Springpatch, Obama would have to actually come up with answers to dopey questions.

INSTEAD, OBAMA WILL try to get away with talking the moral high ground of political bipartisanship, claiming he wants to work with everybody and it is their own reluctance to do so that has prevented any lasting change from occurring during the past eight years.

It is with all this in mind that I have to laugh at those people who are getting all worked up over the way in which Obama’s address to the General Assembly, to be given in the Illinois House of Representatives’ chambers, is so overly staged.

The capitol won’t be open to the public. Only certain people will even be allowed in the House chambers during the event. News media are being shifted to a separate room where they will watch the event on a television monitor.

There will be an after-party of sorts where people can see Obama – but only if they were pre-invited. In short, it’s a fake event. Completely staged so as to create the illusion of Obama addressing the great unwashed masses.

REAL PEOPLE WILL have to tune in their televisions to whatever local public TV station is broadcasting the event in their part of Illinois. Kind of like a political version of the recently-completed Super Bowl.

Only there won’t be all kinds of inane commercial spots to attract the attention of the politically-clueless. Although there will be all kinds of speculation about who “wins” from the event – Gov. Bruce Rauner, or da Dems?!?

As far as Obama? Heck, he couldn’t even pick the football Super Bowl correctly (he had Carolina beating Denver). What makes you think he can sway our self-absorbed politicos into supporting bipartisanship?


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Getting an education becoming such a hassle, what w/ all the politicking

There’s one advantage these days to being a 50-year-old whose formal education process is a thing of the past – I don’t have to put up with the nonsense that contemporary college kids have to endure.

Tuition these days is so ridiculously sky-high, I don’t think I could be able to afford it.

AND THAT’S TAKING into account that I was willing to take on some debt in the form of student loans that put me through college – and took me some six years to pay off. Nowadays, those loans would be so costly that I don’t think I’d ever be able to pay them off.

But the more serious problem these days is the fact that the political gamesmanship taking place these days between Gov. Bruce Rauner on behalf of Republicans and the Democratic legislative caucus led by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, is interfering with the education process.

For the budgets of the state’s publicly-funded colleges are NOT among the state agencies and programs whose activities must continue even though the state is now in month eight of the fiscal year without a balanced budget in place.

There also are the private colleges being impacted, since many of their students rely on financial aid to meet those costly tuition payments and those are government programs that provide the aid.

THE COLLEGES WENT forth with this academic year back in September making the best of the bad situation, while also hoping that the political people would come to their senses within a month or two.

Instead, the political people seem determined to hold out. They’re not going to concede a thing. They’re willing to make Fiscal ’16 the year that no budget was ever approved – and show no willingness to make Fiscal ’17, ’18 or ’19 any different.

The situation at Chicago State University, which admittedly always faces slightly more dire circumstances that most other colleges, is actually talking about having to shut down.

Other colleges might have to do mid-year layoffs that would affect their academic departments. Now we see why the one thing Rauner did was to approve the portion of the state budget for elementary education – just think how ugly it would be if all schools across Illinois were threatened with closure?

COLLEGE KIDS IN Illinois these days literally face the possibility of having their studies interrupted because of the politicking going on. Considering that these young people are supposed to be our future that relies heavily on the success of their academic efforts, what kind of long-term damage is being caused?

Those Chicago State students literally were picketing in the streets of downtown on Monday – figuring they’d get more public attention there than they would down at 95th Street and King Drive.

Although I also noticed reports about a student rally held at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, where the local Republican state legislators it seems were upset they were not permitted to speak during the event.

Organizers said the rally was meant to be a student forum, not for the general public. Although you have to admit, it would have been interesting to hear those legislators try to justify themselves and their support for Rauner’s political actions.

IT ALSO WOULD have been downright ridiculous if one of those legislators had managed to make a verbal gaffe that would have had statewide repercussions. Which, considering the ineloquence of many political people, was too likely to happen.

Those legislators were saved from themselves; they committed the primary rule of public speaking – they avoided saying something stupid!

This uncertainty is headache-inducing for all. But particularly those students who perceive their education beyond the upcoming weekend’s kegger.

Because what happens to all our society if it turns out years from now that the young people who spent their late-teenage years inhaling bongs accomplished more than those whose efforts at self-improvement were thwarted because Rauner wants to undermine organized labor’s influence within government?


Monday, February 8, 2016

Is it really history? Or just the past’s trivial garbage cluttering our present?

As a person who spent his college years studying history, I am familiar with the arguments made about what exactly is appropriate for academic study.

'Wisconsin Steel' kept many Chicagoans employed
Did we focus way too much of the past study on the antics of now-dead white guys? Did we miss out on the stories of regular people of the past – particularly those of a more-intense melanin content level in their skin complexions?

My grandfather cleaned up well after week in steel mill
OR ARE THOSE people who make such an argument going so far to try to legitimize their own stories that they’re bringing up trivial points – rather than letting us know what was truly significant in our past.

Now I don’t doubt that some people use historic study not so much to comprehend who we as a society were, but to try to legitimize what they want to believe – and downplay people whom they’d prefer not to have to acknowledge at all.

My own thoughts about history are to say that none of my elementary or high school history courses taught me a thing of significance. And the sad part is that many allegedly-educated people don’t take much in the way of history courses beyond that academic level.

History? Or not?
All of this came to my mind this weekend because of my touristy-type behavior. I spent part of Saturday wandering about Chicago with camera in hand, collecting stock photos I can use to illustrate my writings here about various aspects of the Second City.
I EVEN MADE a stop at a museum – the Chicago History Museum up in Lincoln Park.

I have been there many times before, and have my memories of grade school field trips burned into my brain. Those dioramas of old Chicago scenes and the various artifacts that survived the Chicago Fire of 1871 – I will never forget the sight of those charred cookies found in the rubble that somehow were preserved.

But I couldn’t help but notice many new exhibits and artifacts on display that I suspect would never have made the cut at the museum of the past.
I never wrote on a typewriter that nice!
My own favorite was the sight of letters from the old Wisconsin Steel Works sign on the factory that used to exist at 106th Street and Torrence Avenue in the South Deering neighborhood.

A PLANT I heard about many times growing up because it is where my maternal grandfather, Michael Vargas, got a job upon coming to this country from Mexico as a young man and wound up working there until he hit retirement age.

Somehow, I doubt the museum of old would have been too obsessed telling me about Fort Dearborn and the “massacre” to have spent much time telling me about the Southeast Side steel mills that were a significant part of my family’s lives (both of my grandfathers worked in them) and many other Chicagoans.

And as for that exhibit about the ’68 Democratic Convention and the protesters – hippie posters next to a light-blue police helmet? It would have been ignored in the past, unless someone felt compelled to try to write history to erase the phrase “police riot” from its description.

Would modern-day reporter-types 'get it'
Personally, I was intrigued by the exhibit the museum now has about ordinary objects and how even they tell stories about who we once were.

WHY ELSE WOULD I have had the chance to see a telephone booth (no sign of Clark Kent approaching needing to change his clothes) or a typewriter put prominently on display?

Although I can already hear the rants and rages of the alleged historic purists saying there’s nothing important about a phone booth – although I’ll admit to still finding myself engaging in an old reporter-type habit of looking for a public payphone anywhere I go.

Just in case news breaks out and I have to call my editor – while first calling the receptionist “sweetheart” – to report the details.
I also have to wonder what they thought of the sight of the exhibit about food and "Chicago-style" hot dogs -- allowing people to turn a giant wiener into their own personal favorite concoction.

Let's really upset the history 'purists'
BEING IN SUCH a touristy mood perhaps made it all the more appropriate that I also included a walk to, and through, Millennium Park – which I have to confess that until Saturday, I had never actually visited.

I got to see those pictures of people who periodically spit fountains of water, while also checking out the new ice rink that appears too clean and pristine for Chicago, lacking the grit and makeshift nature of the old ice rink that occupied the Block 37 space by the Daley Center all those years.

Then, I did the ultimate geek tourist move – I took a photograph of myself off the reflection of the Cloud Gate sculpture. More commonly referred to as “the Bean.” At this rate, it will be soon that I’ll be espousing the merits of the Chicago Cubbies like all the other touristy-types who don’t have the nerve to set foot on the Sout’ Side.
Historic artifact? Or moment of silliness
I was far from alone in having such a picture taken. People from all parts of the world who happened to be in Chicago on Saturday were doing the same.

WHICH MAKES ME wonder. Will that photographic image itself become a historical artifact that will show future generations what people would do upon visiting Chicago?

Or is it just trivial evidence that I had nothing better to do Saturday afternoon?


Sunday, February 7, 2016

‘Super’ ball game didn’t take place in California stadium named for Levi’s

I’m enough of a baseball fan that I follow the winter leagues in Latin America – and always manage to find the Caribbean Series to be an event worthy of a level of hype that we waste on that other allegedly major sporting event.

A highlight never achieved in U.S.
The one that many people felt compelled to watch on Sunday so they could see the so-called significant television commercials that air during the broadcast.

YES, I’LL CONFESS to not planning to watch the Super Bowl – because I’m all sported-out from having watched the Caribbean Series’ championship game. The one in which the Mazatlan Deer of Mexico’s Pacific League beat the Aragua Tigers of the Venezuelan League to allow them, and Mexico in general, to have bragging rights for this year as the champions of Latin American baseball.

I must admit to seeing Jorge Vazquez hit that 9th inning game-winning home run off Renee Cortez to turn a 4-4 tie into a 5-4 Mexico victory was a jolt that now has me all-the-more worked up over the coming of spring training in just under a couple of weeks.

That’s quite a highlight for Vazquez, whose career in U.S. baseball was little more than a couple of seasons playing for New York Yankees minor league affiliates.

It is a shame, however, that Freddy Garcia didn’t wind up getting the victory for his Venezuela team – since he had already said he is now retired following two decades of playing baseball professionally.

INCLUDING THOSE YEARS with the Chicago White Sox when he was one of the top pitchers on teams worthy of respect and national attention.

A decade after World Series highlight, he's retired
For those curious, it was also humorous (as usual) to listen to former White Sox star shortstop and manager Ozzie Guillen do the color commentary on the Spanish-language broadcast – which is all that ESPN gave to the Caribbean Series this year.

Ozzie’s humor, and ego, manage to come across regardless of the language translation. Although I wonder how Venezuela fanaticos de beisbol will react to Guillen -- a Venezuela native -- saying that the best team (Mexico) won the game.

As for Garcia, I’m sure he would have liked to have ended his career with a victory for his national team.

Ozzie's come a long way!
OH WELL. I guess he’ll just have to settle for a career highlight of being the winning pitcher in Game 4 of the 2005 World Series.

That’s the one where the White Sox beat the Houston Astros 1-0 to give Chicago what remains – no matter what the Chicago Cubs might try to claim – the city’s ONLY World Series title in the past 99 years.

And all of this, I’m sure, will wind up being much more spectacular than anything that happens later Sunday in the allegedly ‘Super’ Bowl.


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Chinese takeover of stock exchange? Used to be Chinatown neighborhood

Perhaps I just have an odd way of viewing things. But I couldn’t help but be amused by the news reports about how the Chicago Stock Exchange was going to be sold to Chinese business interests.

What 99.9999 percent of Chicagoans today think of as Chinatown
Specifically, the Chongqing Casin Enterprise Group wants to buy the stock exchange that has been located in Chicago since 1882 as a way of getting themselves involved in the U.S. financial markets.

A FACT THAT may appall those of us more xenophobic individuals, but one which I find ironic.

For the stock exchange is located at LaSalle and Van Buren streets in the South Loop neighborhood – not far from that tall, thin triangular building that serves as a detention center for those people awaiting trial on federal criminal cases pending in the nearly U.S. District Court.

But there’s something else that used to be on that strip of Van Buren Street – Chinatown.

Generations of Chicago know of Chinatown as being that great big pagoda at Cermak and Wentworth avenues, along with a few blocks surrounding that entrance site.

IT IS A place where one can find Chinese-oriented shops, along with the restaurants. I know many people who insist that a trip to Chicago isn’t complete without a stop or two in that area – whose residents are growing in such a way that the neighborhood’s boundaries are spreading further and further south in the direction of U.S. Cellular Field.

Anyone upset by Chinese interests being in control here ...
But that Chinatown didn’t develop until about a century ago – in those years when the world was at war the first time around, but the United States’ isolationist sentiments made it think it could stay out of the brawl.

But the Chinese had been in Chicago for decades before then, coming here because our city was more hospitable to their ethnic presence than many of those West Coast places like San Francisco – which now may want to think it always had an international character but then was more than willing to run them out of town for not being “white enough.”

Chicago’s original Chinatown enclave centered around Van Buren and Clark streets – literally one block to the east of the stock exchange.

ANYBODY WHO THINKS the Chinese have no business being at the stock exchange would probably be appalled at what the surrounding neighborhood once looked like.

... would despise what surrounding neighborhood once looked like

Old Chicago Tribune reports indicate the Chinatown business strip along Clark Street included eight grocery stores, two pharmacies, two butcher shops, two barbers, a cigar factory and a restaurant. Although in due time, all of that moved south as the Loop tried to adopt a wealthier image that priced small business types such as what often exist in ethnic enclaves out of the neighborhood.

Personally, I always get my kick out of seeing the La Cocina restaurant on Clark Street – the one whose sign includes a Chinese pagoda design even though they serve Mexican food.

A touch of the past in modern-day Chicago
Not that I’ve ever eaten there. But the fact that current occupants felt no need to erase the neighborhood’s past is something I find appealing.

AND NOW, THE Chinese could potentially restore a presence to the area if they succeed in taking over management of the Chicago Stock Exchange, although the deal is not expected to be signed off on until the second half of this year and would still need approval of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Although it is interesting to see that the Chongqing group says it will keep the exchange’s trading platform in place and has no plans to replace the exchange’s CEO.

Almost as though we can relax our fears because nothing significant will change in the daily character of life in Chicago!