Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Lawsuits won't defeat bigots

What should we think of a gay couple who is upset that the child they went to great lengths to conceive has turned out to not be white enough to fit into their lives?

It ought to be evidence that WASPs should quit thinking that the whole rest of the world is somehow ganging up on their desired way of life. We're all so different that we ought to quit thinking in terms of people being "us" and "them."

THIS THOUGHT HAS been running through my head ever since I read a Chicago Tribune account of a lawsuit filed against a Downers Grove-based sperm bank by a lesbian couple who contracted with them to enable one of the ladies to become pregnant so they could raise a child.

Midwest Sperm Bank complied with its end of the contract, although it seems that someone misread a "3" for an "8," resulting in the couple not getting the exact sperm donor they thought they were ordering.

They wound up receiving sperm provided by an African-American man. The resulting baby is clearly biracial.

The couple contends they have no racial hang-ups. But they say the predominantly white Ohio community they live in (one with a 98 percent white population where the nearest big city is Canton -- home of the Football Hall of Fame) is not a racially tolerant one.

THEY CLAIM THE sperm bank's screw up has resulted in conditions where the child will face hostility and intolerance.

I don't doubt the women are correct about what will happen. For while biracial people and gay couples and just about everybody else who doesn't fit into a 'straight white' lifestyle can now be more open in their existence than in the past, there are those who are willing to keep the old prejudices alive -- and who think that it's everybody else who's screwed up for not back their hostility.

But I can't exactly be all that sympathetic about the lawsuit filed in Cook County Circuit Court, particularly since there isn't any place in this nation that's entire exempt from the bigotry of old.

For the record, the sperm bank says it was a matter of a hand-written label being misread. The Chicago Tribune reports that they have refunded the money the couple paid for the sperm -- which is generous in that it realizes the desired effect was not provided.

BUT I'M NOT convinced anyone needs to be more sympathetic than that.

I wonder how realistic it is to expect much more. I wonder how much hostility the couple itself experiences living in that community. Since I doubt there is a place that doesn't mind gay couples, but has hang-ups about biracial people.

Then again, there are those among the nitwits of our society who are willing to overlook certain differences if the underlying nature of a "white" community is maintained.

Of course, it should be noted that the mother has her problems in reaching out to African-Americans for support. She says in her lawsuit that she is "not overtly welcome" when she goes to nearby black neighborhoods to find people who can cut her daughter's hair.

THE WOMAN IN her lawsuit says she has been advised to move to a community with a more diverse ethnic and racial population so that her child will not stand out so much.

Of course, she'd probably be wanting to do that just to avoid hostility due to her life partner.

Although the reality is that there isn't any place where one won't run into numbskulls who are going to have their hang-ups about people who aren't exactly like themselves.

The real lesson that couple ought to be teaching their daughter is to realize her own self-worth, and to know that all the people harassing her are really pointing out their own shortcomings in life.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A DAY IN THE LIFE (of Chicago): Suburbanizing the city? Political heavyweights? Or twin mediocrity?

I remember once being in the now-former Borders Books store at Diversey, Clark and Broadway when I overheard what appeared to be a rural couple approach a sales clerk and ask if there was a Wal-mart store anywhere nearby.


That clerk explained to the couple that Wal-mart wasn’t exactly the kind of business that located in such a community as the Lakeview neighborhood. The tone of his voice made it clear he held the couple in some sort of contempt for even thinking of shopping at a Wal-mart.


I COULDN’T HELP but think of that clerk (whom I don’t believe I have ever seen or heard from since that moment) when I stumbled across the press release Gov. Pat Quinn put out on Monday – one that boasted of something that Quinn wants to think is a major business accomplishment during his administration.


Chicago, the city proper, is getting its first Olive Garden restaurant!


Officials say the restaurant on Addison Street will employ 170 people in all. Those new jobs are among 13,800 new private sector jobs created across all of Illinois during the month of August.


What would that clerk think of the concept of an Olive Garden – mass produced Italian food for those people who claim they like Italian, except for the garlic – being located within the city limits?


THIS COMMENTARY IS not about to turn into a rant about generic businesses being located in Chicago. I’m not about to claim the city is a bastion of sophistication.


I’m sure there are many city residents who would patronize an Olive Garden if it was located near their homes. It’s not the kind of place they’re going to make a lengthy trip for.


Yet the idea of boasting about this particular business accomplishment. It makes me wonder what’s next – will Quinn get all worked up at the thought of a Steak ‘n’ Shake being located within the city? Or maybe an International House of Pancakes winding up in Chicago?


Small businesses might well be an important part of our local and regional economy. But it takes a lot of them to create benefits that are noticeable to the masses.


POLITICAL REINFORCEMENTS: Gov. Pat Quinn is going to get the reinforcements to bolster his campaign during the next week-and-a-half.


Both President Barack and first lady Michelle Obama will be in Chicago at events on his behalf. And one-time suburban Park Ridge native Hillary Rodham Clinton will be in Chicago to tell people why they should get off their keisters and cast ballots for Quinn.


That’s some pretty heavy-duty political power to be able to wield. When combined with the fact that Republican opponent Bruce Rauner isn’t the kind of guy who inspires people to vote for him (GOP backers are voting against Quinn, by and large, the incumbent governor is looking like he’d better win come Nov. 4.


For if he can’t turn out the vote in Illinois, particularly the urban parts of the state, in strong enough numbers, he’s got no one to blame really but himself.


73-89 SQUARED: The professional baseball season is over in Chicago. Both the White Sox and Cubs finished with identical won-loss records that say they improved from being absolutely dreadful last year (99 White Sox losses compared to 96 for the Cubs) to being mediocre in ’14.


It has some wondering if the improvement will continue to the point where we might have dual pennant races within a couple of years. I’m not rushing to any judgment. Serious contention is a big leap from the mediocrity we saw this past season.


So while I joke about that upcoming all-Chicago World Series, I realize there is much development (and many quirks that must break just so) for that to become a reality – and it may never occur.


So now we count down to 2015, and the possibility of Jose Abreu improving on his 36-home run performance – more home runs than any other White Sox rookie (and good enough for third best in the American League).



Monday, September 29, 2014

Will we EVER get new A.G.?

One of the things I remember from the days of Harold Washington and Council Wars is that the aldermanic opposition to Harold was so intense that they rejected just about everything he proposed.


To the extent that there were political appointments of individuals who didn’t get confirmed until after the end of the time period to which they were originally appointed.


MEANING THAT A lot of positions sat empty and in a holding pattern – nothing was really able to go forward.


Why do I expect that the Congress is more than willing to have the same happen with regards to the position of Attorney General? Eric Holder, who was one of the few original Obama Cabinet members to remain in place the entire six years that Barack has occupied the Oval Office, let it be known he’s stepping down.


Obama now has to come up with a new attorney general to finish out the remainder of his presidency – running through January 2017.


Because of the process involved in finding a prospective nominee, there likely won’t be a “name” for anyone to consider until late this year. By which time, we could have had the Nov. 4 elections and there may be a Republican majority in the U.S. Senate.


WHICH WOULD MEAN open hostility toward anyone that Obama put forth. Heck, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, already is going about hinting that the Republican caucuses in Congress will be as obstructionist as the “Vrdolyak 31” in the City Council of old.


Would they really have the nerve to oppose anyone for just over two more years? Thereby waiting for the next president (whomever that turns out to be) to pick a new A.G.? Would they leave the legal office of the federal government in limbo?


I don’t doubt for a moment they fantasize about such an action; probably justifying it in their minds as the “tearing down” of a government they don’t trust. Although such actions are exactly why real people don’t trust the ideologues of the Tea Party movement.


I do find it amusing that the Chicago Sun-Times already has put forth the idea of Patrick Fitzgerald as a potential Obama nominee. The idea that he prosecuted both George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich while serving as the Chicago-based U.S. attorney allegedly would make him acceptable to all sides of a partisan argument.


ALTHOUGH I WONDER if it really makes him untrustworthy to all political people who would fear that he would go after their particular political interests and not focus attention solely on the “opposition,” whomever they might consider that to be.


I find it amusing that if he were to somehow get the post, he’d be the second-straight Attorney General with a record of going after Chicago-type political interests. Let’s not forget that Holder was once a U.S. attorney who handled the prosecution of Dan Rostenkowski – turning him from the mighty Ways and Means chair to a federal inmate.


But it should be noted the Sun-Times seems to be the only entity that believes Fitzgerald is in the running. The Washington Post recently came up with a half-dozen or so names of people who seem to have more direct Washington political ties.


They include Solicitor General Don Verrilli, Jr., who was the one who defended the Affordable Care Act when it was argued before the Supreme Court of the United States.


I CAN ALREADY hear the rants and rages from the individuals who can’t accept the reality that having so many people without health insurance in our society is a significant burden to us all.


That debate might even get more stupid than anything that occurred at City Hall during the Washington era.


All of which makes me think that there are political people destined to permanently taint their reputations in coming months with their actions. Just like Vrdolyak did all those decades ago.


It’s too bad some people can’t think before they open their mouths!



Sunday, September 28, 2014

Staging the end of baseball eras

It was some time about 1:25 p.m. Sunday (Central Time, depending on how accurate my time piece was) when New York Yankees star Derek Jeter came to bat at Boston’s Fenway Park.

While at U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago White Sox star Paul Konerko had his first plate appearance for the season’s final game against the Kansas City Royals.

BOTH THE YANKEES and White Sox are out of the pennant race. Neither is going to the playoffs, or has a chance at a league championship and World Series appearance.

But both Jeter and Konerko are long-time players of some prominence who have said that 2014 will be their last season as professional ballplayers – although Jeter was the one whose farewell made the cover of Sports Illustrated. So Sunday was it.

I wasn’t at a ballpark. I was parked in front of a television set, and was flipping my set back-and-forth between the two games – going from listening to Jerry Remy narrate the Jeter hoo-hah, while Ken Harrelson gave us the accounting of the Konerko finale.

It literally turned out that the two men came up to bat simultaneously – leading to a pitch-by-pitch flip back-and-forth between the Comcast Sports Chicago broadcast and the carrying of a New England Sports Network broadcast of the Yankees/Red Sox affair.

BOTH OF THE announcers played into the storyline that the ballclubs wanted their stars to go out with a bang – both were prepared to immediately remove their player if he managed a base hit of sorts. Let him go out on a high note.

All throughout “the Cell,” the chants of “Paulie, Paulie” could be heard for Konerko, while Jeter got to hear Red Sox fans do their imitation of that “Der-ek Jet-er, clap-clap, clap-clap-clap” chant that Yankee Stadium crowds regularly give him.

Which is quite a concession from the Boston crowd, since I can remember when Red Sox fans used to taunt Jeter with the chant of “No-mar’s Bet-ter,” in reference to their own almost-as-good shortstop Nomar Garciaparra.

Jeter had already managed one at-bat in his game (those East Coast games start earlier than Midwestern ones), and had cracked a hard line drive that the shortstop had to make an amazing leap to catch.

SO COME THE third inning, Jeter tried again, and managed to get a relatively weak single past the Red Sox’ third baseman that drove in a run. It’s not exactly the “Kid Bids Hub Adieu” of Ted Williams’ home run in his final at-bat in 1960, but it sufficed for Yankees fans who got to see Jeter trot all over the field to congratulate everybody in sight  (including Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz) before leaving the field.

Somehow, I don’t think any body’s going to lambast Jeter for leaving early the way they still do Sammy Sosa’s Cubs departure of 10 years ago.

Just a few seconds later in Chicago, Konerko’s first at-bat of his final game ended with him suffering the same fate of the Mighty Casey – he struck out to Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura, and wound up striking out a second time, then grounding out to third base before being removed from the game in the sixth inning.

White Sox fans wound up giving him a standing ovation even though he didn't get that final base hit and Jeter-type finale that would have got him a couple of seconds worth of air time on ESPN Sunday night.

ALL BEFORE BASEBALL moves on to its rounds of playoffs that make the season seem endless and always create the potential for an early-season snowfall to knock out a game or two of the World Series.

Which might well be the only reason fans ought to root for an all-Los Angeles (suburban Angels versus city-based Dodgers) matchup come World Series time. Better weather -- even though a Baltimore Orioles/Washington Nationals matchup would give us "true" World Series-type weather.

One plus is that it would make the rest of the baseball world appreciate how superior an all-Chicago World Series would be by comparison if the improving White Sox win a league championship in the next few seasons – and if the Cubs actually do amount to anything close to all the hype their fans are falling for these days.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

'05 memories all the more distant w/ Konerko departure from baseball ranks

I'm not going to make it out to U.S. Cellular Field this weekend -- so I won't get a first-hand glimpse of all the Paul Konerko hoo-hah.

The White Sox slow-but-hard-hitting first baseman/designated hitter has been with the Sout' Side ballclub since 1999, but has let it be known he's not going to play any more following this season -- which ends Sunday.

I DID MANAGE to catch a ball game just over a week ago; seeing Jose Abreu (Konerko's replacement) hit one of his many home runs this season but otherwise watching the Minnesota Twins beat up on the White Sox on what was a sunny Sunday September afternoon.

If anything, the repeated video tributes and bits of Konerko-related trivia were dominant throughout the spectacle. And this was just a routine late-season game in which Paulie didn't even play. I can just envision how over-the-top the tributes will be this weekend. Particularly on Sunday -- Konerko's last home game.

Although I doubt it will get as over-the-top as the "final home game" mania that surrounded the Thursday-night ballgame at Yankee Stadium, where long-time shortstop Derek Jeter got in his final home game of a career ending on a downer because the Yankees didn't even make it to the playoffs this season.

But still, there's just something about all this ending-of-a-career hoopla that seems to get ridiculously over the top. I realize that without this, these games Saturday and Sunday against the Kansas City Royals would otherwise just be the end of a mediocre season -- one in which the White Sox' highlight took place in Cooperstown, N.Y., when one-time star hitter Frank Thomas got inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

INSOFAR AS KONERKO, it is intriguing to see a ballplayer last so long at the professional level and stay so long with the White Sox -- to the degree that most fans forgot he was once a Los Angeles Dodgers star prospect and also had a stint with the Cincinnati Reds before he ever envisioned that Chicago would become a significant part of his life.

Although when I think of his career, I have to note he is the final ballplayer from that 2005 World Series-winning team. Now, those of us who want to relish in nine-year (and counting)-old memories will have to watch the on-field antics of pitcher Mark Buehrle when the Toronto Blue Jays come to town, or those of Juan Uribe when the Dodgers play in this year's playoffs (and perhaps the World Series itself this year).

Or maybe we'll have to wait and see if there's a ball club out there that wants the former White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who becomes a free agent at season's end.

The rest of the guys from that ball club are gone from the major league playing ranks. Now the '05 White Sox are as much of the past as the '59 version of the ball club, or the 1977 "South Side Hit Men" version that some people forget wound up being merely a third-place team.

PERHAPS ONE REASON to turn out at the ball park this weekend would be to try to wring out one last memory of that '05 team that finally brought a World Series to Chicago in my lifetime.

Although the idea of sitting through the "Hispanic Heritage Night" festivities planned for the Friday night game against the Royals (or should I say, "Los Reals") was a bit too much. Particularly since it seems a large part of the" festivities" was that music by Shakira, Daddy Yankee and Cristina Aguilera was to be played throughout the game.

I don't want to pay "big league" ticket prices to have to endure that much racket over the public address system.

Although I will admit that not having Konerko around with the team is going to take some adjustment. Particularly since he was so big and slow and the total antithesis of what a traditional White Sox player (think Luis Aparicio and/or Nellie Fox) was supposed to be.

IT IS WHY one of my favorite Konerko memories remains the time I attended the next-to-last White Sox game of the 1999 season. It was a Saturday night, and the stands were virtually empty by the final third of the game.

But Konerko managed to get on base, then started chugging along toward second base. The idea of super-slow Paulie trying to steal a base caught everybody off-guard. The catcher made a terrible throw to second base. Konerko was safe!!!!!

Back then, the White Sox flashed a graphic on their video board every time there was a stolen base that read "(INSERT PLAYER'S NAME) has stolen _____ bases this season." With the ballplayer's name and theft total to fill in the blanks.

This particular moment in game number 161 of a 162-game season wound up getting a "Paul Konerko has stolen 1 bases this season." Which wound up stirring up a loud laugh from the dwindling crowd.

IT'S NOT SOMETHING you see every day.

And be honest. That thought is more entertaining than someone who says his favorite Konerko moment was that Grand Slam home run in Game 2 of the 2005 World Series. Which wound up getting overshadowed by the game-winning home run by Scott Podsednik (a real-life base thief whose home run was almost as rare as the Konerko stolen base).


Friday, September 26, 2014

We see terrorist attacks everywhere, particularly where they don't exist

It was just the other day I was sitting in the waiting area of an auto repair shop when the television broke away from the ladies of the View to tell us of a crucial breaking news story.


An incident at O’Hare International Airport. Security was beefed up significantly. Terminal One (the United Airlines terminal, a very significant part of the airport that once again believes it is the world’s busiest) had parts of it completely shut down.


THERE WAS ABSOLUTELY no detail given out by police about what exactly was going on. But news anchor Alan Krashesky gave us some information, purely on background, that implied something may have happened that could be construed as an attempt at a terrorist-motivated incident.


In the end, it turned out that a piece of luggage went unclaimed. Somebody took it to be suspicious. All the authorities were called in.


All for a bag that ultimately had nothing in it that could have been considered threatening!


A great big “Whew!” We can relax. No terrorist threat there.


NOR WAS THERE one on Friday, when a fire broke out at an FAA radar center in suburban Aurora. That center is an integral part of the communications that allow officials at O’Hare and Midway airports to keep track of which airplanes are coming and going from their respective facilities.


In this incident, officials knew right away about the fire.


But there were those who were convinced early on that this had to be some sort of terrorist-motivated attack on the United States (which makes sense since anything that impacts O’Hare and Midway has a backlash affect to airports across the country).


That fire managed to disrupt more than 1,800 flights into or out of Chicago, and Southwest Airlines wound up cancelling all its flights on Friday out of Midway. Which is a big deal because Southwest is the airline that essentially props up Midway. All those cheap, no-frills, flights wound up being cancelled.


MY FAVORITE ANECDOTE was to learn that the Valparaiso University football team over in Indiana had to scramble to get a charter flight out of South Bend, Ind., so that they could be in North Carolina on Saturday for their scheduled game.


They were already on the way to Midway when they learned of the chaos that passengers were being confronted with. Meanwhile, activist Gloria Steinem couldn't get a flight from New York to Chicago to appear at a campaign event on behalf of Gov. Pat Quinn's re-election desires.


For purposes of this commentary, it should be noted that FAA officials found out the fire was caused by a now-former 36-year-old employee of the facility who was upset about a job transfer to Honolulu. Nobody with ISIS or Al Qaeda or anyone else along those lines had anything to do with the incident.


Although I’m sure some people over there would love to be able to take credit for causing such havoc. It would play into their agendas.


WHICH IS WHY I’m bothered by all the paranoia that crops up whenever there is some sort of incident that people with certain ideological hang-ups will want to blame on people of Arab ethnic backgrounds.


It gets those of us who ought to know better all freaked out. We should be more rational, particularly in a moment of crisis. It is the people who panic and over-react and make misjudgments who wind up making mistakes that cause lasting problems.


It makes me suspect that the people who are quick to assume “Muslims” did it every time something bad happens are inadvertently giving aid and comfort to the terrorist-types who they think they’re attacking.


A moment of rationality every now and then would help us to put these incidents into a proper perspective – particularly the Aurora fire; which makes me think the offender is going to get the real punishment by being forced to endure future Midwestern winters instead of the balmier climate of Hawaii.



Thursday, September 25, 2014

Would Harold still hold a grudge against the Mighty Quinn?

“I would never appoint Pat Quinn to do anything. Pat Quinn is a totally and completely undisciplined individual who thinks this government is nothing but a large easel on which to do his PR work.


“He was dismissed; he should’ve been dismissed. My only regret is that we hired him and kept him too long.”




Those were the words of then-Mayor Harold Washington back in 1987 to explain the dismissal of the city’s director of revenue following only an eight-month stint in the job.


That director, of course, was Pat Quinn – who by that time had already been involved in the “Cutback Amendment” that reduced the size of the Illinois House of Representatives by one-third. He had yet to be elected to the post of Illinois treasurer, lieutenant governor or governor, nor to run any of the unsuccessful campaigns he tried in the late 1990s for the U.S. Senate or Illinois secretary of state.


THOSE WORDS ALSO are being used these days in a campaign ad that uses video of Washington speaking, then tells the voters we should “fire” Pat Quinn come Nov. 4 (a.k.a., Election Day).


This particular advertising spot came a couple of days after Republican gubernatorial nominee Bruce Rauner touted his endorsement by a collection of African-American ministers – many of whom had previously offered their support to Rauner individually.


It is part of the continuing effort by the Rauner campaign to hurt Quinn’s standing amongst African-American votes (where theoretically he could get up to 90 percent support).


Create a sense of apathy amongst black voters, and perhaps Rauner’s coalition of rural residents and business-type executives can be large enough to win the election for Illinois governor.


THERE’S JUST ONE problem with this strategy; the tidbit being used this time to motivate this line of thought is so old and unimaginative.


For all Rauner’s campaign has done is recycled the theme of one of the campaign ads that Dan Hynes used in his 2010 Democratic primary campaign against Quinn for governor.


He also reminded us of what Washington once had to say about Quinn.


For that matter, I have heard many political people of both major party persuasions use the fact that “Washington fired Quinn” as one of their talking points about how Quinn is somehow less-than-legitimate.


ACTUALLY, IF YOU study what Washington actually said (particularly that line about the “large easel on which to do his PR work”), it is so in line with what so many political people said about Quinn – he puts the “causes” he touts front-and-center, and isn’t afraid to embarrass his alleged colleagues if it helps bolster himself.


A “phony reformer,” is a phrase I have heard used to describe Quinn by so many people I can’t even begin to recall them all.


This is an old attack. It is why Quinn had little to no trouble swatting it aside when he started to get questioned about it on Wednesday. Heck, Quinn should probably have put a response to this on tape years ago. Then, he could just play that segment in response to the Washington attack whenever anyone tries to resort to using it against him.


All of this is to say that my response to learning of the latest Rauner campaign rhetoric was to wonder why his people couldn’t come up with something original. Unless they want to believe that black voters will mindlessly follow their “leader” when they cast ballots on Election Day.


SOMEHOW, I JUST don’t see that happening.


And as for the debate some are taking now as to whether Washington would have ever forgiven Quinn (the mayor died shortly after this firing occurred), I can’t help but think that Washington would have been like many other people will be come this election cycle.


He’d hold his nose and vote for Quinn against the “rich guy” who seems to think all the money he can afford to put into his own campaign gives him a sense of intelligence and know-how.