Saturday, January 21, 2017

Fantasies always predominate in political people’s mentalities

Are we really destined to get a 110-story towering building in downtown Chicago – one that would enable its occupants to look down on City Hall and the rest of Chicago?
Is the Thompson Center destined to dominate Randolph and LaSalle? Or become a vacant block in the city grid? Photograph by Gregory Tejeda

Does one-time House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, currently serving time in a federal correctional center, really have the nerve to demand repayment of the money he allegedly paid out to keep certain people quiet about past indiscretions in his lifetime?

FOR THAT MATTER, did former Gov. Rod Blagojevich really go down to the final seconds of the Barack Obama presidency believing he had a chance to gain clemency from the man he once jealously derided and believed stole his own presidential aspirations?

Even though, to be honest, it was only Blagojevich himself who ever thought he’d wind up in the “crown jewel of the federal penal system” (to steal from Harry S. Truman) rather than a cell at the Englewood Federal Correctional Institute in Colorado.

Yes, it’s true. One does not have to focus attention on the District of Columbia to see silly and absurd behavior. President Donald J. Trump will have competition for the category of political nonsense.

Take the talk that Gov. Bruce Rauner is stirring up again about wanting to demolish the Thompson Center state government building. He has pitched this idea before, although with state government’s other problems it is quite a ways away from becoming reality.
RAUNER: Will he be able to do anything w/ bldg.?

SO TO LEARN that architect Helmut Jahn (who designed the structure back in the 1980s as the State of Illinois Center) is defending his structure and proposing an exorbitant renovation that would include a 110-story tower at the southwest corner is beyond belief.

Considering that the current structure is only 16 stories, with Rauner’s office on the top floor. Does Bruce think he’d get a new office complex on the new top floor – allowing him to look down on the gardens that exist on the roof of City Hall located across the street?

Or maybe the governor thinks he can one-up the new president by having a Chicago office that could compete in height with the Second City take on a Trump Tower.
Denny a long way from dignity of Speakership

Would that inspire the prez to tell his sons who technically are now running the real estate company to figure out a way to one-up the governor – who has been incredibly quiet and refusing to say anything that could be interpreted as supporting or opposing the new reign of Trump that befell the nation on Friday.

BUT THEN, THERE is the plight of Denny Hastert, who currently is serving a prison term at a correctional facility in Minnesota, has filed a lawsuit claiming that $1.7 million he paid out to one of his former students at Yorkville High School should be returned.

Hastert is in prison through August on convictions of charges that he violated federal laws concerning the withdrawing of money from bank accounts. Large withdrawals are supposed to be publicly recorded and acknowledged.

But Hastert wanted to get at large sums of money because he was facing that amounts to blackmail threats from the former student, who says he was sexually abused as a teenager by Hastert.

As it is, Hastert paid the money and technically was supposed to pay another $1.8 million in order to ensure that the now middle-aged man would keep his mouth shut. That man has his own lawsuit pending saying that Denny still owes him money from their agreement. The courts ultimately will have to decide which of these people has a less-sleazy legal argument, and it could wind up that attorneys fees wind up devouring the money all the way around!

THEN, WE GO back to Blagojevich, whose name was not included in either of the final rounds of acts of clemency granted by Obama on Wednesday or Thursday.
Rod a long way from days of youthful hair

The Chicago Sun-Times gave us a particularly pathetic image of former first lady Patti saying that Rod hadn’t given up hope yet because there was always the chance of a last-second commutation Friday morning.

Maybe she was just saying that and really knew better. Either that, or our state’s former governor has gone goofy from incarceration. Anybody who remembers the Blagojevich/Obama animosity and jealousy over which would be the promising young pol to come out of Illinois would know there would be no reason for Obama to want to do a thing – particularly since it would whack his own legacy if he bothered.

Resulting in Blagojevich having to serve until about May 2024 in prison – unless Trump feels some justification for granting an act of clemency. Which may be the most ridiculous political fantasy of all.


Friday, January 20, 2017

EXTRA: Even with the sides changed, partisan politics will carry on

My e-mail Friday morning about an hour before the presidential swearing-in ritual contained a plea for cash from the Democratic National Committee.
TRUMP: The official presidential photo

Now that we have Donald J. Trump as our president, the party wants to have as ample a cash flow as possible to pay for their many efforts to counter the activities likely to occur in coming weeks, months and years.

FOR IT WILL be a busy time of political people trying to undermine everything that has occurred in recent years of the now-departed Barack Obama presidency. After spending eight years of obstruction, now the Republican partisans are going to try to erase the actions they weren’t able to stop from occurring in the first place.

Personally, I’m less bothered by the election of Trump himself. I think the man has the intellectual heft of a Glad bag, with most of his “policies” worthy of being stuffed in such a bag and left in the alley for weekly collection.

It is the Republican caucuses in both chambers of Congress who will gain power for their members of a conservative ideological bent because they now will no longer have a chief executive capable of standing in their way.

Of course, it could turn out that Trump becomes capable of standing up to people. At which time, I have no doubt that the GOP types will be more than capable of turning on Trump and depositing his political aspirations into the aforementioned Glad bag. They're backing him because they expect him to be their political lap-dog.

TRUMP IS GOING to learn the hard way that he is a business-oriented guy trying to play politics – and showing thus far that he has no real knack for it. He is the kind of guy who seems to think he can become a real life version of that clownish character he played on television.
PENCE: Would presidency be ideologue dream

The executive who goes about bellowing “You’re Fired!!!” at everyone who offends him.

The baseball fan in me wonders if Trump is the equivalent of the late New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner – who may have put together a few championship ballclubs but also had a string of teams in the late 1980s and early 1990s where the Yankees (a franchise of baseball tradition and glory) turned to garbage.

Garbage that could easily have been stuffed into the aforementioned Glad bag.

IS THE UNITED States of America in the late 2010s about to become the equivalent of the 1990 New York Yankees – who were a 7th Place (a.k.a., last place) team with a dreadful 67-95 record.
Newly-inaugurated President Donald J. Trump watching a ballgame with New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. I wonder if hard-core Yankees fans have the best idea of what the nation faces, considering how low the Yankees sank in the early 1990s back when Trump was a regular Yankee Stadium presence

Ironic, since back in that era Steinbrenner used to like to draw pseudo-celebrities to show up at his ballpark, and those people often included Trump himself. Since with all his gaudiness, he was capable of drawing some sense of flash to himself.

That is what we’re now headed for in these coming years. As for those who call for the impeachment of Trump, keep in mind that putting an ideologue like former Indiana Gov. Mike Pence into the top post might well be the fantasy come true of the hard-core conservatives who are celebrating Friday the departure of Barack Obama from the White House.

Now I don’t doubt there will be an opposition portion of our society that will try to reduce the amount of damage being done to our nation due to the politicking being celebrated today by that segment of our society who thinks it interesting that singer Jackie Evancho is performing at the Inaugural balls taking place in D.C.

WHILE MANY OTHERS are making a point of not going (Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., has been sending me and many others her partisan e-mail messages explaining her lack of a presence in Washington), and many may even be preparing for the marches to take place across the United States on Saturday – including Chicago.

I won’t be there, and not just
Should we buy stock for all the trash we'll generate?
because the management of the newspapers I do some work for sent us all a note informing us that such activity is considered inconsistent with a so-called objective news reporter.

Although I could say that the Dem political operatives already are aware of my absence, since just a couple of days ago I received an e-mail informing me their records showed I had never contributed a dime to their cause.

Should I feel guilt that my vote wasn’t enough – even though I’d argue the ballot is the ultimate political expression one can make to respond to the many Glad bags we’re going to fill up in coming years with all the nonsense our federal government is going to produce.


EDITOR'S NOTE: I happened to be on the Internet at 10:59 a.m. (CST) looking at the website, filled with the Obama administration information. When my clock turned to 11 a.m. (Noon, in D.C.), I hit "refresh." The screen turned solid white. Another quick refresh, and I got to see the official website pronouncing "President Donald J. Trump" (and a campaign photograph of a crowd all excited about making America great again) take its place.

65,844,610 – More than just Chicago will miss what we’re losing Friday

The day upon which Barack Obama departs our federal government's employ and becomes just another private citizen has finally arrived.
A Chicago bye-bye to Barack Obama

It’s Inauguration Day in the District of Columbia and we transition into the presidency of Donald J. Trump, which has the potential to undermine the eight years of the possibility of “hope” and “change” that many of us voted for back in 2008.

BUT WITH THE quirks of the Electoral College, the 62 million-plus people who wanted Trump in office actually outweighed the 65 million-plus who preferred the thought of “President Hillary Clinton,” let alone the other few million who went for a Libertarian or Green party person – or perhaps some other stray name that appeared on the ballot in certain states.

Not that I’m turning this into a diatribe against the nitwits who stuck our nation with the egomaniacal Trump as its leader. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of reasons to write such commentary in the future.

Because this would be a sad day on Friday even if it was the chance to transition into a presidential administration that did not see its mission as to undo what little was accomplished (largely due to strident GOP opposition) during the Obama years.

The past eight years have been unique from the perspective of Illinois and Chicago because there was that sense of one of our hometown people was actually in a position of authority.

SOMEONE WHO WASN’T going to use our city to score cheap partisan political points for himself.
A "President Hillary" wouldn't be the same

Which may be the most offensive aspect of a Trump administration – he’s already taken enough cheap shots at Chicago to last a four-year presidential term; and he hasn’t even started that term yet!

We’re no longer going to have someone in office who comprehends the sense of neighborhood that makes up Chicago, or who realizes that there is a Chicago beyond the tourist traps along Michigan Avenue.
Potential to be "President Pot-shot?"

If anything, I’m sure there are those who found the fact of a Chicago president who settled into the South Side of the city was a unique touch. Living in that Hyde Park home, which actually is just across the neighborhood boundary in Kenwood. Not that most people ever noticed.

EVEN IF WE were transitioning from an Obama administration to a Clinton presidency, it would not be quite the same local touch. Even though Hillary herself would have been the first Chicago-born U.S. president who was raised in suburban Park Ridge.
Unlike any first lady because she WAS Chi!

For she left us for the east coast to attend college, then Arkansas to follow husband Bill through his own political aspirations. She became of elsewhere.

Just like Ronald Reagan, who some like to try to claim for purely partisan reasons as one of our own because he was born here and attended a local college, even though he left us for an adult life in California and never returned. The fact that spouse Nancy Reagan was a Chicagoan as a child added little to his understanding of our city.

For Ronald was the guy who gave us the “welfare queen” in the form of a Chicago woman, Linda Taylor, who managed to collect benefits while driving around in a Cadillac and had expensive jewelry and furs. Trying to claim that all welfare recipients were the same!

WE’RE COMING UP on the four-year anniversary of the death of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton; shot to death by a stray bullet fired in the Kenwood neighborhood. First Lady Michelle Obama was the one who famously said of the girl who lost her chance to have a significant life, “Hadiya Pendleton was me and I was her.”
Created the "welfare queen," can Trump top that?

Can anyone envision Trump or anyone in his circle identifying with Chicago, or anything significantly urban? Particularly Trump himself, whose own idea of Noo Yawk life is seen from that 69th floor penthouse he lives in when not spending time at his gaudy Palm Beach, Fla., mansion.

This is a day of note because I do remember Obama from his earliest days in the Illinois Legislature, and I suspect none of the other local clowns whom I’ve written about throughout the years will have the ambition or talent to seek the presidency.

Friday is a day of loss for Chicago, and even a “President Trump” will come to realize that. Who's he going to blame for the next homicide in Chicago without Obama around when he makes the next of his Tweets from a twit!


Thursday, January 19, 2017

EXTRA: Just a thought – would you rather be Hank Aaron, or Bob Gibson?

Pure political nonsense and trivia to spew as we work our way through these final hours before a presidential transition many of us are dreading.
Obama a political Hank Aaron?

We’re going from President Number 44 to Number 45. A fact that does amuse some people with a baseball mindset.

FOR BARACK OBAMA is Number 44, which makes some think of ballplayers who bore the double-4 on their uniform backs. As in double-cleanup hitter.

A number with such aura that Reggie Jackson wore it with the New York Yankees and can’t say he’s the biggest star to bear it.

That would be either Hank Aaron or Willie McCovey (another reason why its perfect that Obama granted the one-time San Francisco Giants star a pardon earlier this week).

So does that make Hammerin’ Hank the political equivalent of the calmness and coolness of Obama? The sophistication and aura that he portrayed politically equates Aaron’s stints with the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves?

OBAMA GOT THE baseball number with quite a punch.

So what does that make for President Number 45. Who does Trump get to claim for his image?

Looking at the website (which actually keeps track of so many minute details), there have been some 558 ballplayers who bore the Number 45 on their uniform jerseys.
Does Trump have Gibson-like brushback?

Listing literally from Don Aase (I remember him pitching when I was a kid for the California Angels, but he bounced around several different teams) to Oscar Zamora of the Chicago Cubs back in the mid-1970s.

I EVEN REMEMBER the Number 45 on the back of Bobby Jenks during that short stint he was the ultimate big and tall relief pitcher for the Chicago White Sox when they won the 2005 World Series. Not bad. But also not as intimidating.

None of these people equate with Aaron. Until you stumble across the St. Louis Cardinals, which retired jersey Number 45 for pitcher Bob Gibson.
He may be Mr. Baseball, but he's NOT Mr. 44

Is he now the baseball image we’ll have to conjure up when we think of Donald Trump? That of a tough competitor who had a reputation of being willing to throw at hitters to try to intimidate them.

Which may account for the .215 batting average with only 8 of his 755 home runs that Aaron achieved against Gibson in some 163 career at bats.

BUT IT WAS another pitcher with a “headhunter” reputation off whom Aaron managed to hit the most home runs – 17 against Don Drysdale of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers (for the record, he was Number 53).
Obama's baseball card; where's Trump's?

I’m also sure the fans who saw those home runs being hit recall them with a sense of delight – as opposed to just another strikeout or whatever at-bat in which the pitcher prevailed.

Just as I’m sure the sense of hope and inspiration that the Obama years brought to this country will not be matched by the sense of trepidation that many have these days about the uncertainly of what direction our nation is headed in these coming years.

As in the Affordable Care Act equating a Home Run! While its’ repeal being little more than the equivalent of a rally-killing strikeout.


Countdown to Obama presidency means one thing – “It’s pardon time”

Perhaps it was only appropriate that Chicago Cubs baseball executive Theo Epstein made the joke this week about giving Barack Obama a "midnight pardon" for being a White Sox fan.
President gets pardon for offense ...

For since we’re in the final days of the Obama presidency, about the only thing we should be expecting is to see what signs of clemency the president chooses to give.

FOR IT IS one of the perks of being a government chief executive – you get to grant pardons and other assorted types of clemency, usually based on whatever guidelines you decide are worthy.
... of wearing this in public

Which means some presidents are tougher than others, and some will choose to reward their political allies who managed to screw up and go afoul of the law during their times in public life.

I have no doubt that once Donald Trump actually takes the oath of office on Friday and becomes president, one of the first statements he’ll make will be to publicly denounce Obama as being weak and indecisive because of the amount of clemency he chose to dish out.

For a guy who likes the public image of going on television and telling people “You’re Fired!” probably is also the kind of guy who dreams of being able to tell people they’re “Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!” and can rot in a prison cell somewhere.

WHEREAS OUR DEPARTING president is someone who has shown some sense of compassion and impartiality – to the point where he sometimes has not dealt harshly enough with people who were his political enemies.
Some upset with Obama action

Anyway, the official list of pardons and other sentence commutations came out on Tuesday – although there’s always the chance Obama could slip in a final move or two in the hours leading up to 11:59 a.m. Friday – which is when the alarm goes off, Obama ceases to have authority and the Secret Service would no longer have to tackle Trump if he tried to assert any presidential powers of his own.

The clemency move that got the most public attention was that of Chelsea Manning, who got a military court martial and a lengthy prison term because of her disclosure of information considered classified.
For some, Obama action long overdue
Manning’s case drew attention because he is undergoing the process of becoming a woman, and some felt that fact was the reason for an overly harsh prison term that Obama commuted. She’ll be free come May and get on with her life.

EVEN THOUGH HOUSE Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., made it clear he thought Manning deserved continued incarceration. He probably likes the idea of a “freak” being abused by fellow inmates – regardless of specific circumstances.

There also was the clemency granted to Oscar Lopez Rivera, the Puerto Rican revolutionary who has spent the past 35 years in prison even though all of his counterparts who argue they’re fighting for a free and independent Caribbean nation (instead of its current Commonwealth status) had long been set free.

I have no doubt some will be grossly offended, yet freeing Lopez is merely acknowledging reality that there’d be nothing accomplished by requiring him to serve the 20 remaining years of his federal prison sentence.

In fact, that is the case with many of the pardons, commutations and other clemency actions that Obama granted – even though the ideologues amongst us are determined to point out that he granted more clemency than any other president!

MOST OF THE people who got clemency this week were people who got caught up under old federal drug laws that have since been lessened or eliminated – meaning most have already served more time than they would have if they were to commit the same offense now.
Karmic payback to baseball?

Personally, I found the pardon given to one-time San Francisco Giants slugger Willie McCovey to be the most intriguing. McCovey, who also played ball for San Diego and Oakland, got caught up in income tax violations a few decades ago.

He didn’t report all the income he received from participating in sports memorabilia shows, which is the same thing that got Pete Rose sent to prison for a few months at Marion, Ill.

McCovey has had to live the past couple of decades with a federal conviction on his record, one that perhaps now he can move forward from. Obama pardoning a ballplayer was probably the least he could do after receiving that “midnight pardon” from a collection of ballplayers themselves.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Could Chicago baseball fans wind up rooting for pair of Expos to make Hall?

It’s not likely there will be many Chicago baseball stories to tell Wednesday night when we learn who, if anyone, will be the newly-elected members of the baseball Hall of Fame.
Rest of world will see MB, while we'll see Old English

The officials in Cooperstown, N.Y., are scheduled to announce their new members during an evening ceremony, with the new members being inducted during summertime ceremonies.

NOW I DON’T have a ballot, or any say, in who gets picked. So this isn’t one of those columns written by someone justifying why they picked who they did and informing the world why they’re wrong for disagreeing with them.

I’m just a fan. Someone who has watched countless ballgames throughout the past four decades and has devoted too much of my life to following the activities of the American and National leagues (usually rooting for the former).

I’m realistic enough to know that one-time White Sox Magglio Ordoñez or former Cub Derrek Lee aren’t going to be honored. In fact, if you’re determined to pay attention only to a Chicago angle, then you’ll be obsessed with whether or not one-time Cubbie slugger Sammy Sosa gets enough votes to even remain on the Hall of Fame ballot for future years.
Ramos, Pate will see their baseball card values boost

Or will this be the year he finally fades into anonymity; quite an outcome for the guy who two decades ago was one of baseball’s biggest names. But now has to deal with the “s-word” tagged to his name, even though there is no hard evidence (nothing admissible in court) that would convince people he used steroids.

WE’LL JUST FORGET those three seasons (1998, 1999 and 2001) when he managed 60 or more home runs in a season – a feat NO OTHER ballplayer can come close to matching.

An unsung beisbol star
Personally, I’m intrigued to see what becomes of Tim Raines and Vladimir Guerrero – a pair of outfielders who had their best years playing for the no-longer-existing Montreal Expos.

If I had any say, I’d vote for the two of them, without caring about anyone else on the ballot. Although I’m sure there are those who will disagree about either being included and will be particularly outraged that I don't care about their own 'pet' player (such as Ivan Rodriguez or Larry Walker).

Should he really overshadow Raines?
Raines was a star player of the 1980s who managed to keep playing ball into the 21st Century. He was a base stealer; he could run and stir up offensive activity.

ALTHOUGH THERE ARE those modern fans who think the stolen base is overrated (foolish them) and don’t care that Raines has more stolen bases than all but three other players. It doesn’t help that one of those three is a Raines contemporary – the famed Rickey Henderson.

While I see Raines as one of the best ever, they merely see the second-best of his own era. Which is nonsensical!

Raines, however, could wind up becoming the closest we get to a legitimate Chicago angle. For he also played for the Chicago White Sox in the early 1990s and was a part of that 1993 ballclub that won a division title (hitting .444 and scoring five runs in the playoffs against the ultimate World Series champion Toronto Blue Jays).
Top base thieves of all-time, not just '81

He also returned to Chicago in the mid-2000s for three seasons – which made him a first base coach for that World Series-winning team the White Sox had in 2005.

AS FOR GUERRERO, there isn’t a hard Chicago connection – he played for the Los Angeles Angels, Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers, along with Montreal. But one of the funniest moments I ever saw in a ballpark took place at Wrigley Field and involved Guerrero.
Will he get another chance next year?

It was 2003 and the Expos were in town to play the Cubs in what turned out to be one of the last games they played here before relocating to Washington, D.C. Guerrero hit a home run not only over the left field wall, but over the bleachers and out onto Waveland Avenue.

Cubs fans gathered outside the ballpark tried to partake in the tradition of throwing back a home run ball hit by a visiting team player – only the people out there had such weak throwing arms that they couldn’t get the ball back into the ballpark. Their tosses kept hitting the screen that offered protection to nearby homeowners.

Truly worth a chuckle to see the effort by Cubs fans, who showed us firsthand that day why none of them were playing for the Cubs.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Times change and attractions of the past don’t carry the same weight w/ public

The United Center in Chicago may well be the House That Michael Jordan Built, but the reality of the operators of that West Side structure is that the Bulls got kicked out of their home every November to make room for the circus.
Who knew back in November that Ringling Brothers wouldn't be coming back to Chicago?

The Ringling Brother, Barnum & Bailey Circus to be exact. Which is in the news these days because the so-called Greatest Show on Earth that can trace its origins back 146 years is soon to become defunct.

THEY’RE GOING TO finish out their show schedule through mid-May before becoming no more. As things turn out, their last Chicago appearance were the ones back in November when they staged their show at the United Center.

For those of us Chicagoans who feel one more need to go see the circus with the Ringling Brothers brand name, you’ll have to check out one of the performances come March in Cincinnati – which is about as close to the Second City as they will come in the rest of their lives.

Now I know some of us are getting nostalgic while others are expressing anger.

Some are going out of their way to make politically partisan statements against liberals, whom they want to believe are responsible for the circus’ demise.

FOR WHAT IT’S worth, circus officials in their statement announcing their closing did say that attendance had declined significantly since changes were made in the program to downplay the elephant displays – whom the animal rights activists had always complained were potentially being mistreated.

Although they also conceded that attendance had been on the decline even before that.

The fact is that it wouldn’t shock me to learn that many young people just don’t feel the same attraction to a show that could trace its origins back so far. It wouldn’t shock me to learn that they’d rather play the latest video game (or perhaps take part in a virtual circus in which they could simulate the participation of an actual event) rather than seeing the real thing in person.

After all, the animals smell, and sometimes they poop right in front of you. Yuck!

PERSONALLY, I CAN remember that being the gut reaction I had the one time I went to a circus – back when I was about 5 years old. It wasn’t something I ever felt compelled to do again. And for those people who will claim that a circus gives people exposure to nature and animals, I’d argue that it shows us animals under very unnatural circumstances.
United Center won't need this configuration any longer

Unless you really want to believe that an elephant wears a tutu and dances, or that horses perform tricks for our amusement.

The baseball fan in me is reminded of when the New York Giants left Gotham to relocate in San Francisco, with then-team owner apologizing to the children of New York, but adding, “We didn’t see many of their parents out there at the Polo Grounds in recent years.”

I suspect many of the people who are complaining the loudest about no more circus are the same people who didn’t bother to buy tickets.

THEN AGAIN, THE idea of no more circus makes the baseball fan me think of those people who complain about World Series games being played at night, because supposedly we’re depriving kids a chance to see the ballgames. If they’re playing late into the night, after all, they can’t listen to the broadcasts of day games on the transistor radios they sneak into school.

Except when was the last time a kid ever listened to a transistor radio? And if they are looking at the Internet on a computer during school time, I suspect a ball game is the last thing they’d care to watch!
Nostalgic image? Or everything that was wrong with the circus?
Besides, I’m sure Chicago Bulls fans will enjoy their team getting control of its home arena back. Although I almost feel the extended road trip of a few weeks long every November is something of a team tradition.

Just what will the Bulls do with themselves with all that extra time they’re going to spend in Chicago come November?