Saturday, July 30, 2016

EXTRA: So much for Trump bump; Hillary back in the presidential lead

The Reuters wire service came up with its own poll taken in the aftermath of the Democratic National Convention – one which shows that Hillary Clinton’s campaign has received its post-convention bump in support.
CLINTON: She's back in the saddle, again
She has a 6 percent lead (41 percent to 35) over Republican candidate Donald Trump – who of course had some polls showing him with as big as a 7 percent lead over Clinton in the days following the Republican National Convention.

SO WHAT DOES any of this mean? Are we, the electorate, really so shallow that we support whatever is of the moment?

Or are the nominating conventions little more than pep rallies (even the “Everything in this country is miserable and I’m the only one who can fix it” mentality of the Trump take on society) meant to boost the public perception of the candidates.

In which case, these post-convention polls are probably as meaningless as they come.

They may also be the ultimate evidence of the truth of one of the oldest political clichés – “The only poll that matters is the one taken on Election Day”


Decriminalization – it’s about time!

For as many times as I have taken pot shots at the actions of Gov. Bruce Rauner, I feel it’s the least I can do to acknowledge that Illinois’ governor actually did something right.
RAUNER: Got something right
He did something that should have been done so many governors ago; something that will reduce much of the bureaucratic nonsense that often springs up with our police trying to protect and serve us.

I’M REFERRING TO the many arrests that have been made throughout the years related to drug possession – particularly the possession of small amounts of marijuana clearly intended for personal use.

Rauner on Friday signed into law a measure that decriminalizes the offense. It is now something about as legally lasting as a traffic ticket.

You will still get cited and face fines if the police catch you possessing pot. After all, the local governments would still want that source of income.

But the idea of someone developing a lasting criminal record from such actions will now be a thing of the past. It’s definitely not something that is going to get one locked up in jail – unless they happen to be doing something else particularly stupid at the same time as being stoned.

WHICH IS ALWAYS a possibility. So it’s probably not a good idea to rush out and get stoned. There’s still too much of a risk.

But we’re not going to have people building up criminal records for an offense that really doesn’t hurt anybody but themselves.

Just like we don’t criminalize someone who gets intoxicated on alcoholic beverages unless they do something seriously wrong while in a state of drunkenness. The intoxication itself is not a crime – or at least it hasn’t been in most of the country since the repeal of Prohibition!

I suppose this means we’re going to start having to figure out a legal standard for being stoned – how wasted can one be before it is considered to be an impairment on one’s physical abilities?

IT HAS BEEN a few decades since I was last around people who engaged in marijuana use to any serious degree. In fact, most of the people I deal with these days who are exposed to large quantities of pot are the cops who make all the drug arrests.

It just always strikes me that there are more serious offenses they ought to be concerned about fighting. Particularly in this day and age when the homicide rates are high and catching the public’s attention.

It seems that the people who are opposed to decriminalization of drug offenses (and I know they exist, because I’ve heard them erroneously argue that decriminalization and legalization are one and the same thing) are really interested in making a political statement.

They want to keep the image of marijuana use by liberal hippie freaks and no one else. As though the idea of enforcing pot possession bans is their way of penalizing people they want to blame for everything that is wrong with our society.

OF COURSE, I’VE found that drug use in the modern era spreads across people of all ideological bearings. In fact, it seems to me that the people who can most afford the cost of illicit drugs are the ones with incomes that would make them part of the conservative elite.

In short, it is as though Rauner made a point to not make a political statement when he signed into law the measure that was approved earlier this year in the General Assembly.

Where legislators from across Illinois gathered together to put together this particular legislation, which basically means police can focus their time on scouting out real crime.

I feel safer already!


Friday, July 29, 2016

How big a bounce will Hillary get?

It’s called the “bounce,” the impact that the presidential nominating conventions have on the public perceptions of the candidates with fantasies of getting to live in the White House for a few years.
CLINTON: Bigger bounce than Trump coming up?
The conventions, both Democratic and Republican, are designed to bolster the public view of the presidential candidates. It always turns out that the first polls done right after the conventions show an increase in support.

HECK, THE POLLS done this week show that Donald Trump is in the lead over Hillary Clinton in terms of voter support. The size of his lead varies depending on which poll one studies – but one commissioned by the Los Angeles Times shows Trump with a 7 percent lead over Hillary.

Of course, it still shows him with only 47 percent support, meaning a majority of people likely to vote would still rather have somebody else. It’s just that the Green and Libertarian candidates are infringing just enough in the public eye to take potential votes from Clinton.

Yet as one who’d just as soon see Trump’s campaign drop dead come Election Day, I can’t say I get too concerned about this factor. For it is one that was fully expected by anybody with political awareness.

There’s also the fact that “bounce” is truly a bipartisan quality. Hillary Clinton is having her own nominating convention this week, and it is likely that by mid-week of early August, we’re going to get polls showing Clinton back in the lead.

JUST AS SO many polls have been indicating in recent months.

Which means that no one is really changing their mind. They’re still basing their choice on who they hate the most! This is still an election cycle that will center around voter turnout.

There are enough types of people who despise the notion of “President Donald John Trump” being anywhere near the District of Columbia – and not just because we fear he’d want to move the executive branch of government into another of his tacky buildings named after himself.

In theory, there ought not be a chance that Trump could actually prevail. Except that there’s always the chance of political apathy setting in so that people decide it’s not worth their time to bother casting a ballot.

WHICH COULD RESULT in the hard-core elements of our society who really want a Trump presidency (because they think he’ll exclude everybody not exactly like themselves) being a large-enough group to actually prevail.

I’ve met my share of people in recent weeks who are convinced this is the exact phenomenon that will occur in Election ’16. Personally, I’m not sure what to think.

Other than that people looking for such scenarios are most likely trying to find an excuse for blame on somebody else if Hillary Clinton does not achieve electoral victory.

I’d have to say that’s a waste of time. This will be an election where Clinton needs to convince a majority of people of the benefits she could bring to our society with her selection as president.

IF SHE CAN’T do that, then perhaps she deserves to lose and would have no one to blame but herself.

Because with all those elements lined up to knock down Trump (the Latino vote against him is likely to be so overwhelming that it will make Mitt Romney of 2012 appear to be an Honorary Hispanic by comparison), we’re going to see how all those people who spent a week in Cleveland chanting “Lock Her Up!” are truly individuals with far too much free time on their hands.

We’ll see how high the ball bounces in Hillary’s favor and how long she can hold on to such momentum.

And perhaps then we’ll begin speculation on whether Trump will use his money to try to create his own politically-motivated foundation – one that will treat him as “el Supremo” and go out of its way to appease his massive ego in a way that the American people would never dream of doing so.


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Blagojevich will be on TV again (sort of); does he want to control image?

Rod Blagojevich will crop up back in our minds in a couple of weeks when a judge at the U.S. District Court in Chicago decides whether he ought to have his prison sentence reduced.
An embarrassing-enough day for ex-gov
But it doesn’t mean that Blagojevich will physically be in our presence.

SINCE BLAGOJEVICH IS being held in a federal correctional center in Colorado, he will remain there on Aug. 9 while legal activity takes place in the Chicago courtroom of Judge James Zagel.

It will be the modern-day miracle of television and a closed-circuit connection that will allow Blagojevich to express any thoughts he has about his legal predicament without actually having to be in the courtroom.

We may well get Blagojevich family or friends speaking in person on his behalf. But we won’t get to see in person the wrath that five years of federal prison life have brought down upon the governor who likely considered himself to be the ultimate “Elvis person.”

He will remain at the prison during his court hearing. Which strikes some as odd because they remember the Blago ego that would have naturally have made him want to be the center of all attention.

SO WHY WOULD Rod choose not to be transported to Chicago at the federal government’s expense?

The smart aleck in me wonders if Blagojevich enjoys the thought of a courtroom full of spectators with their attention focused on a television screen with his face filling it up.

It would be (sort of) like the old days. Back when our whole state paid attention to his every bizarre move and when some people actually took seriously the notion that he would someday be presidential timber.
The image Blagojevich would rather have; being one of the masses with fantasies of a Cubs World Series this season and dreaming of a chance to throw out the first pitch prior to a World Series game
Does Blagojevich fall asleep these days to dreams of how Hillary Clinton is offering him advice and support after she congratulates him on the crushing primary election defeat he administered to her in the 2016 primary election that exists only in his mind?

COULD IT JUST be that Blagojevich didn’t feel compelled to return to Chicago at this time because it would be under less-than-desirable conditions?

He’d be an inmate. He’d be in the brightly-colored jumpsuit meant to make him stand out in a crowd in a humiliating manner.

Heck, he’d be shackled. The resulting image would probably feed the fantasies of many a conservative ideologue whose life is so pathetic that they have nothing more to live for than the misery of other people.

And worse of all, we’d all wind up getting the answer to the question many of us have had since we learned of his regular use of hair dye to maintain a youthful look – How old does Rod Blagojevich look in reality?

COULD THE THOUGHT of being seen with all that grey hair (he will turn 60 come Dec. 10) be too much for him to bear? Does he want to maintain that vision of himself that we all became used to a decade ago with the primped-up hair?

Which may be the reason that one of the few details that has come out about Blagojevich’s time in prison is that he participates in a band of inmates who envision themselves as rock ‘n’ rollers.
Is this Blagojevich's biggest fear?
Literally calling themselves the “Jailhouse Rockers” in memory to the old Elvis tune. That image, he can handle. Which makes me suspect that Blagojevich’s worse nightmare is something similar to that of the late New York-area gangster Henry Hill.

Who in being portrayed by actor Ray Liotta at the end of the film “Goodfellas” told us, “I get to live the rest of my life like a schnook.”


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

It’s hard to say right now who do we hate the most – Trump or Hillary?!?

We’re halfway through the Democratic nominating convention for president and have completed the Republican version of the show, and it’s hard to say which of the two major candidates seeking the White House we have the most contempt for.
CLINTON: It's her week to impress U.S.
It’s true that the establishment Republicans made a show attempt at denying Donald Trump the GOP nomination and that Ted Cruz of Texas made a point of publicly snubbing the real estate developer/aspiring politico when he spoke.

YET IT’S NOT like Hillary is getting much more love in Philadelphia.

The people who had delusions early on that the nation would ever come together behind a Democratic socialist for U.S. president seem determined to show that they’re not giving an inch – even though their preferred candidate of Bernie Sanders himself has said they should support Hillary.

It caught my attention when several Sanders supporters took up the same chant that some Republican convention-goers used the week before whenever Hillary Clinton’s name was mentioned – “Lock Her Up!”

As in thinking she belongs in a criminal indictment and ought to be facing the prospect of federal prison time – even though investigators in all the issues that Republican partisans have brought up against her throughout the years have constantly cleared her of illegal activity.

I WENT INTO this election cycle feeling largely apathetic toward the concept of Hillary Clinton as U.S. president and came around to the idea because (A) somebody has to win and (B) all the other mopes on all political sides came across as worse!

I really believe that if we had a legitimate option of letting people vote “None of the Above,” that would be the winner. Of course, someone would still have to take over when Barack Obama’s term ends in January. We have to make our choice of “Who?”

This is going to truly be the election cycle in which the nominating conventions were less about the pep rally aspect and more about how the candidates themselves handled the idea of being confronted with the fact that a majority of America despises them.

Trump gave us the impression last week that he could care less. How will Hillary conduct herself this week?

MUCH IS BEING made of the leaked e-mail messages from Democratic Party operatives – the ones that show party regulars didn’t want anything to do with Sanders as a presidential candidate.

They were firmly behind Hillary Clinton and plotted out strategy to bolster her strengths – or, more accurately, emphasize Sanders’ weaknesses. We’re hearing yelling and screaming from the Bernie people about how unfair it was. Some even go so far as to imply the party’s actions are a criminal conspiracy in and of themselves.

Which is a load of nonsense. Political parties exist to coordinate elections, campaigns and candidates. It would be expected for them to favor a candidate who has been tied to the party for the past four decades – rather than someone who until this election always made a point of running for office as a political independent.

Why would they have considered siding with Bernie? It would make no sense! I'm actually amazed at how convoluted the resistance was toward him; compared to what it could have been!

IT SEEMS PEOPLE are upset that the Democratic Party political structure is not as weak and uncoordinated as the Republicans were. Because let’s be honest, if they could have got their act together there’s no way that Trump would be the GOP nominee now.

Of course, considering that the ideologues of our society have always wanted to spew the thought that the Republicans represent the establishment and that the Democrats were the threat to the natural order, perhaps it is just ironic that in this election cycle perceptions are reversed.

Either that, or we have an upcoming election in which the one-time schoolyard bullies are hoping to restore what they perceive to be a natural order for our society.

Which could make this the election about the serious split in Hillary perception – with many believing she’s some old lady whose time has passed while others are determined to view her as liberalism incarnate. That question will be the real issue to be resolved come Election Day.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Is 'City Series' shifting to off-field issues; is Sale or Chapman Chicago's biggest baseball off-field flake?

The Chicago White Sox take on the Chicago Cubs this week for their annual head-to-head competition that is more about bragging rights than anything else.
Will he challenge for flakiest Chicago ballplayer?
But this year, it seems we’re going to be in a competition more to see which team has the flakiest ballplayer bearing a Chicago uniform.

WILL WHITE SOX pitcher Chris Sale’s recent outburst over a throwback uniform, when combined with his defense of former would-be slugger Adam LaRoche for wanting to have his son hang around the clubhouse all the time, give him top billing?

Or did the Chicago Cubs manage to give themselves the bigger baseball head case with their acquisition of top-notch relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman on Monday from the New York Yankees?

There are those who think Sale is the best American League pitcher these days, while there are those who think Chapman is the key to ensuring that 2016 will go into the books as the first season in 71 years that the Cubs won anything of significance!

While others wonder if the flakier natures of these particular ballplayers is what will keep their teams out of contention.

FIGURE THAT IT was just earlier this season that the Yankees acquired Chapman knowing that he was facing a suspension that would cause him to miss the first month of the ’16 baseball season.

He supposedly was so good that his problems were worth having him around.

Except that the Yankees have been so mediocre this season – playing at about the same level as the White Sox are – that the Yankees were more than willing to give him up in exchange for several ballplayers who could have been the future of the Chicago Cubs franchise.
Will Sale retain his 'title/"
The Cubs, after all, believe they can win something now, and were willing to take the chance on giving up the 2018 World Series victory in exchange for a chance at winning something this year.

AND CHAPMAN, ALONG with Sale, is proof of that old baseball adage, “You’re Only As Smart As Your Batting Average.”

A ballplayer who can produce on the playing field will be tolerated no matter how ridiculous or absurd his quirks are. A ballplayer who is merely a nice guy will find himself traded away or released in an instant.

It is those 14 (league-leading) wins and respectable 3.18 earned run average that have Sale being tolerated even though he was the guy who threw a hissy fit over being asked to wear a throwback uniform jersey that would have made him look like Ken Kravec.

It is those 20 saves in 21 chances with an outstanding 2.01 earned run average this season that have the Cubs all too eager to have Chapman – he the guy who got a suspension for an incident involving domestic violence against his girlfriend.

WHICH WAS THE reason his former team, the Cincinnati Reds, were willing to give up on him and ship him off to the Yankees – who let him go when he did not immediately become the on-field salvation of the ’16 season. He lasted so little in New York there are very few baseball cards depicting him in Yankee pinstripes.
How many reading this wondered "Who's Ken Kravec?"
Which makes me wonder what the mood will be on Thursday at Wrigley Field – which is the day the White Sox and Cubs play the last of their games against each other this season. It also is the day that Sale’s suspension for jersey vandalism is up and he can play ball again.

Could Thursday be the day we get a Sale start for the Sox, and a chance to see a blown save by Chapman for the Cubs?

While the fans in the stands speculate about which guy is flakier and also engage in their usual city series silliness of trying to out-shout each other in their chants over which team sucks the most!


Monday, July 25, 2016

No sale for Sale, even though many Sox fans liked the jersey giveaway

I find it ironic that the Chicago White Sox got themselves into a funk concerning their promotional giveaway from Saturday night.
The 'controversial' jersey
The ballclub had as its ballpark giveaway meant to attract fans to the game replica jerseys such as the team wore in the late 1970s. The ones of dark blue and white with the funky collars that were a ‘70’s take on what the team wore back when they were first created in the early 20th Century.

I WAS AMONG the people who went to the ballgame (although I didn’t put up with the heavy rain that caused the game to be halted three times before ultimately being postponed until Sunday).

I saw for myself how there were several fans who were there specifically for the jersey giveaway (although to tell you the truth the jerseys being given away were cheap knockoffs of what the team actually wore in those days some four decades ago).

There were many people who, upon being handed the package containing the jersey couldn’t wait to open it and wear it – stripping themselves as quickly as possible of whatever shirt they were really wearing so they could change into their new freebie giveaway jersey.
This uniform has some interesting detail,...
For a team that perennially faces attendance issues (although the reality is that no team has a right to think they’re entitled to capacity crowds for every ballgame), the mood was a plus.

DESPITE THE HEAVY rains that came off and on, and the presence of Detroit Tigers fans who made sure to wear their own gear while working their own way around the ballpark.
...unlike this garish predecessor...
There just seems to be one person who couldn’t get with the program, so to speak. And that was White Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale – who probably was the other big reason that some fans chose the Saturday night game to show up at U.S. Cellular Field.

For he is arguably the best pitcher in the American League these days, and is one of the few assets the White Sox can claim as their own, and a reason to not totally count out their chances of competing for something resembling a championship this season.
...or this truly tacky successor
The plan was that the White Sox were going to wear the late ‘70s uniforms as well during the Saturday game – bringing to memory for those of us old enough to have see it such ballplayers as Francisco Barrios, Bill Nahorodny and Harry Chappas.

BUT DEPENDING ON whose report one reads, Sale either didn’t like the look or the feel of the uniform. He didn’t want to wear it.

And when team officials responded to his tantrum by telling him to just take the ball and pitch, he sliced up the special promotion uniforms with a knife. Meaning nobody was able to wear them.

The White Sox wound up wearing their uniforms they usually use for Sunday ballgames – the ones copied from the 1980s with the big red-white-and-blue stripe across the chest reading “SOX” that some have sarcastically dubbed as the “license plate” uniforms.
Maybe he didn't want to pitch in rain?
Now I know some White Sox fans don’t think much of the uniforms from the second coming of Bill Veeck (his wife, Mary Frances, designed them). They may well be willing to brand Sale as a hero for preventing the ball club from making a horrendous fashion statement.

WHILE OTHERS ARE quick to denounce him as a whiny baby – yet another ballplayer who thinks that what he does has some inherent value to society, rather than just serving as entertainment for the masses.

Personally, I always thought the lettering across the jerseys had some interest. The fact that the uniform has the White Sox wearing white socks also is a plus.

It will be interesting to see what kind of fan reaction he gets when he returns to play. Suspended for five days, he won’t be available to pitch again until Thursday which is the final game to be played in this week’s “city series” against the Chicago Cubs.

It could be more intriguing than the actual games – what with the way the Sox are struggling for that .500 winning percentage and would consider it a plus if they could be the team that knocked the Cubs off-stride in their own drive for a first National League pennant in 71 years.