Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Some people determined to move us all backward; it's the only way they gain

We used to regard certain individuals in our society as being worth only three-fifths of a person. We used to think it natural that certain-gendered people didn’t have full citizenship – including the right to register to cast ballots in elections.

But we have moved forward in ways meant to include as many people as possible in our society. Which is a concept that offends some ideologically-minded people who want everybody who isn’t exactly like them to be excluded.

Will the high court take us back in time?
NOW THEY’RE TURNING to the Supreme Court of the United States, which this week said it would hear a case later this year that seeks to alter the way that determines the number of people included in political districts.

Currently, we undergo the redistricting process every decade, when local government officials take into consideration changes in population – then redraw political boundaries to try to make districts as equal in population as is possible.

Of course, the fact that political people are involved means a sense of self-interest gets worked into the process. Illinois has Democratic Party-leaning government because da Dems ruled in 2011 – and still have huge influence now, as Gov. Bruce Rauner is learning first-hand.

Just as a place like Texas had its boundaries drawn to maintain as much political influence as possible in the old white establishment of the state because Republicans dominate the state.

THERE PROBABLY IS no perfect way to draw boundaries – not even for those people who have fantasies about computers drawing arbitrary and neutral boundaries that ignore partisan political considerations. I’d wonder about the political leanings of the people programming the computers.

The nation’s high court is going to be asked to consider another means – the Austin, Texas-based Project on Fair Representation (which is most certainly unfair) wants only people registered to vote to be counted.

Which in a nation whose population is growing due to immigration means many people with a fully-legitimate reason to be here means there would be significant numbers of people who wouldn’t be counted.

That would wind up altering the composition of our government officials, reducing the numbers of non-Anglo officials in places like Texas and California – which is the very point that these people are pushing for, and which they’re hoping the Supreme Court will uphold sometime early next year.

I’LL BE HONEST – I could almost understand giving non-registered (to vote) people less say, but only if it were those native-born people who voluntarily choose not to cast votes. Except those aren’t the people being targeted by such an initiative!

Besides, the fact is that all people living here are covered by this nation’s laws. We’re all expected to follow them. We can’t be exempted from them by the fact that we don’t bother to vote, or that we’re not yet a U.S. citizen.

Nor should we be.

Which means we all ought to have some sense that our views are being represented in this government. Unless we really are determined to head backwards to the days when women couldn’t vote. Or when those of African origins were considered less than a full human being for census purposes.

NOBODY WOULD SERIOUSLY try to undo those changes in our society. At least not so bluntly. Although I wonder how much of an impact this particular measure would have on such people.

Also, I can’t help but think that this measure would merely slow down political progress. Because many of those non-citizen residents will eventually become U.S. citizens and take part in the electoral process – unless the ideologues plan to follow this up with measures restricting voting only to those who will cast ballots for their preferred candidates!

I believe that we as a society are better off taking measures that try to include more individuals. This particular measure is one headed in the absolute wrong direction – and one that the Supreme Court ought to reject out-of-hand.

But the court didn’t do that. They decided to hear the case, some time during the autumn months. Which means there’s always the chance that the ideologues of our high court will manage to get a majority ruling in their favor.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Holiday ‘blues’ leaves many for dead; but not in a way we’d honor and respect

It was Memorial Day on Monday, and we were supposed to be paying tribute to those people who served in the military and wound up making the “ultimate sacrifice,” as some people like to phrase it.

Yet I wonder if we’d have been better off paying some sort of tribute to those of us Chicagoans who wound up getting caught in the crossfire, so to speak, and being shot – if not outright killed.

FOR WHILE MANY people wanted to talk about long-ago casualties in places like Khe Sahn, Normandy Beach (we’re only a couple of weeks shy of the 71st anniversary of D-Day) or Fallujah, certain of our own streets seem to be just as deadly.

For it seems that during the holiday weekend, there were nine people killed by gunfire and at least 34 others wounded. Unless you prefer to believe the Chicago Tribune, in which case, it was 41 people.

There’s always the chance that the figures could go higher by the time you actually read this, since one of those wounded may wind up becoming a fatality.

Now I’m not implying there’s something special about these holiday weekends that causes more people to become fatalities. I recall my own days of full-time police reporting back when I was with the now-defunct City News Bureau. It was back then that I learned to dread holiday weekends.

NOT BECAUSE I cared about the fact that one year, I worked every single major holiday that “real people” were given off as paid holidays.

But it was because of the tendency to pay extra close attention to every single incident of mayhem that occurs at such times. Not only running totals of every single auto accident, but of just about any incident that occurs in someone’s death.

Sometimes, I wonder if such attention somehow causes higher numbers of incidents. Or maybe we’re just made more aware of how deadly conditions can be in certain parts of Chicago.

Because it becomes way too easy to ignore for those of us who don’t live in certain parts of Chicago – which a Tribune story on Monday managed to define as being from the north end of the Bronzeville neighborhood south into the Englewood neighborhood.

THE PLACES WHERE the “Chiraq” label isn’t all that much of an exaggeration, and where our city officials wish they didn’t have to devote so much time and attention.

The image many of us want of Chicago
Better for them if they could think the seedy side of Chicago is the so-called “Bundy Fountain” that foreign tourists ask to see, and which the rest of us know as Buckingham Fountain.

It would be sad if it turned out that Memorial Day went into the mindset of a significant number of Chicagoans as a bloodbath. Since it seems several of the shootings and at least two of the fatalities were on Monday proper.

The day that some people are devoting to trying out a special sauce to go with their holiday barbecues will be the day that some families remember as the one where a loved one died.

ALTHOUGH I’M SURE it won’t be thought of that way. In fact, I’m sure some people will want to think of such a thought as being overly morbid. Perhaps even subversive.

They’d rather think of death on this holiday weekend in the abstract – as in something that occurred on a battlefield overseas and where noble words about “honor” and “duty” can be tossed about.
 
The great shame of the bloodshed that occurred in Chicago this past weekend is that many of these were young people – the fatalities were as young as 15 and the wounded included a 4-year-old girl.

The way some view holiday's death
People whose lives were cut off prior to reaching their prime; before they could even have a chance to serve their country and possibly make that “ultimate sacrifice” that would probably be the only way that would cause some in our society to recognize their worth as human beings.

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Monday, May 25, 2015

EXTRA: May I have my 2 ½ hrs back?

I’m not sure what to think of the new Decades network (Channel 338 on my television set) that purports to give us programming that will fulfill our sense of nostalgia.

The effort seems to be led by the personality of one-time WBBM-TV news anchor Bill Kurtis, with former WMAQ-TV reporter-type Ellee Pai Hong and former WBBM-TV persona Kerry Sayers also along. It’s good to see them continue to be employed on television in some form.

YET THE IDEA of another channel loaded with re-runs of old television programming just doesn’t seem to be a need in need of fulfillment. Doesn’t ME-TV and its sister stations (which I must admit to watching to see “All In The Family” and “Sanford and Son” reruns) give us plenty of that?

Being able to spend my Memorial Day watching the first two episodes ever of “Hogan Heroes” was amusing – to a degree. Yet seeing the film adaptation of “Hair” for the first time ever definitely qualifies as two-and-a-half hours of my life that I wish I could get back.

It definitely doesn’t make me want to tune in later this week to see the film “Rio Lobo” or old Doris Day or Beverly Hillbillies reruns – no matter how lovely the late Donna Douglas’ “Ellie Mae” character looked while lounging around the “cement pond.”

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Memorial Day “Massacre” a bad memory of how ugly labor tensions once were, and don't need to go back to

Perhaps it’s all appropriate that this Memorial Day holiday weekend comes right as tensions between organized labor and Illinois’ new Republican governor have reached a height that we don’t have a clue when our state officials will be able to put together a balanced budget for Illinois government.


Police attack? Or self-defense? Photo provided by AFL-CIO
We have a governor who seems determined to undermine the influence of labor unions (even if he realizes that “right to work” legislation is mere fantasy) to the point that the Democratic majority in the General Assembly is digging in politically on so many
issues.

SO MANY POLITICAL hotheads. The only thing I feel safe in saying is that there won’t be a state budget enacted by the Legislature by the Sunday deadline.

But how hostile are our labor/management relations these days?

This seems like a time to remember the Memorial Day holiday of 1937. On that day some 78 years ago (the actual holiday that year came on May 30), labor/management relations reached a low point; one that we ought to feel fortunate we haven’t sunk to this far.

That was the day that labor union members picketed outside the Republic Steel plant that used to exist at 119th Street and Avenue O in the East Side neighborhood.

Who doubted this account 78 years ago?
REPUBLIC STEEL OFFICIALS were adamant about not letting their employees have labor union representation – even though U.S. Steel had given in.

When protesters refused the steel mill management’s orders to go away, they called the police. Who eventually opened fire, then chased away and beat many of the protesters. In all, 10 mill workers were killed and more than 60 people wound up in area hospitals.

If not for the 1968 police activity against protesters of the Democratic National Convention, we’d probably still be talking about this act of police brutality every time a cop does something silly.

Does this poster pay tribute to workers? Or subversives?
It’s fortunate that the Illinois Labor History Society has managed to get ahold of and preserve the newsreel footage that was shot that day. Or else some of us might be inclined to believe the management line that claimed the union-sympathizing protesters were attacking the police – who were merely trying to defend themselves from an unruly mob!

BECAUSE MANAGEMENT WAS merely trying to protect their ability to make the highest profit possible – and ought to be entitled to think of anything that cuts into their bottom line as something subversive that needs to be eradicated.

Some of the nonsense rhetoric we hear these days bears a resemblance to the anti-labor rhetoric of old. It would be overly simplistic to say that nothing has really changed, and that this is merely management trying to get government to give back its old authority over its workers.

Although I’m honest enough to concede that it is highly unlikely that Gov. Bruce Rauner has the Illinois State Police all lined up and prepared to attack anybody who speaks out against his negative labor union talk.

Even though I’m sure there are some ideologue-types who fantasize about such actions, wishing they could “get medieval” on all that organized labor talk.

I SAY THAT because I have noticed in the past how people try to discount the violent activity of that “Memorial Day Massacre” whenever the local neighborhood residents hold their annual service to pay tribute to those workers who were killed.

I have covered the East Side event a couple of times as a reporter-type person (although I didn’t go to this year’s event held two weeks ago), and people from outside the neighborhood always want to think there was something subversive at work on that day.

His poor play that day caused the 'massacre'
Instead of accepting the fact that these were neighborhood residents whose bottom line was to work at their jobs to try to earn a living! Anybody who finds that to be subversive is really ever-so-un-American themselves; and definitely not espousing ideals that those soldiers who made the "ultimate sacrifice" actually fought and died for.
 
Either that, or they’re clueless enough to think that “Memorial Day Massacre” merely means Game One of the 1985 NBA Championship Series when the Boston Celtics beat the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers 148-114.

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Hilding Anderson, Alfred Causey, Leo Francisco, Earl Handley, Otis Jones, Sam Popovich, Kenneth Reed, Joseph Rothmund, Anthony Taglioni and Lee Tisdale. Working stiffs, or criminals? Depends on who you talk to.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

How bad does behavior have to get before ball club becomes responsible?

It has been 36 years since I first attended a ball game in Chicago, and the closest I ever came to having an incident was one White Sox game I went to with my brother and cousin when I was in high school.

Sometimes, the beatings come outside the ball park
It was the end of the game and the three of us were waiting outside Comiskey Park for our pre-arranged ride home to show up. We became aware of the fact that a couple of guys appeared to be eyeing us a little too closely.

BEFORE ANYTHING COULD happen, the three of us decided to walk around and mix in with the crowd that was leaving the stadium. We literally took a lap around the ballpark – which put us right back in the same spot.

By then, our potential attackers had moved on. Our ride wound up arriving a couple of minutes later, and the night ended without incident.

It stands out in my mind solely because it reinforces the fact that the stadium crowds usually are harmless. Some people overserve themselves. But, by and large, they are a hazard solely to themselves.

So what should we make of an incident that occurred at U.S. Cellular Field last season that has resulted in a lawsuit recently being filed.

FOR IT SEEMS that a couple attending a ball game last year left the ballpark, only to find that a trio of men were publicly urinating in the parking lot – and chose their car as the place to spray their piss.

When the couple tried telling the men to get lost, the men allegedly took offense and started beating up the couple.

As it turned out, the three men were arrested a couple of days later. They all now face criminal charges in Cook County court. Those cases are still pending.

Where the legal fight is now taking place
But the couple has now filed their lawsuit against the White Sox and the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority – the state agency that owns the stadium. Admittedly, they’re also suing the men who allegedly did the beating – claiming they incurred medical expenses because of the incident.

THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE reported that the couple said in their lawsuit that the ball club’s security did absolutely nothing to try to intervene to prevent the beating from taking place. They argue that since it was ballpark property, the ball club is responsible.

Now aside from those whiny losers who look for any excuse to take a White Sox pot shot, what amazes me is to read some of the (anonymous, of course) Internet commentary that implies the couple themselves should have known better.

As though they should have let the trio finish their public urination and go staggering away, then drive their vehicle to the nearest car wash to have the stink of piss removed.

There are those who think the couple got what they deserved.

OF COURSE, THERE also were those who felt the need of the multiple stories of public urination that has taken place throughout the decades outside of Wrigley Field. Which is about as irrelevant to this incident as is possible.

Personally, I’m inclined to think of anyone who can’t control where they piss as something of a loser. Particularly at U.S. Cellular, where there are actually public restrooms accessible from outside the stadium.

I can see where a couple would be upset to see nothing being done about such a scene being made all over their automobile. Why security would deliberately ignore such actions is beyond me. But it will be intriguing to see how the courts ultimately rule with regards to this lawsuit.

Do we need to have the Piss Police patrolling the areas outside of both of our ballparks? Or is an occasional coating of urine on our automobiles now an occupational hazard, so to speak, of attending a ball game and watching our hometown teams get their butts whomped once again?

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Friday, May 22, 2015

EXTRA: Blagojevich inactivity on clemency lingers into Rauner years

One of the quirks of the time that Rod Blagojevich was governor of Illinois was that, while he had the perk of being able to grant clemency as he saw fit, he chose not to use it that often.

BLAGOJEVICH: Slacked off on clemency
Gov. Bruce Rauner on Friday granted clemency to seven people with criminal records, while also rejecting the requests for another 144 people. The seven who had their requests approved can now file legal actions that could have their criminal records expunged.

A CHANCE AT a clean slate.

It is one of the powers that governors get.

Yet it was one that Blagojevich didn’t think much of using. Rauner says there are some 3,000 clemency petitions pending from previous administrations, and some of them date back to Blagojevich’s final year in office.

I suppose with all the legal hassles that Blagojevich endured during the end of his gubernatorial stint, it could be excused. Then again, maybe he was just someone who didn’t care about fulfilling his full duties – which included being a final check in the legal system.

WHEN ALL ELSE fails, there’s always the chance that a governor can fix a mistake. It’s the reason that clemency is a legitimate power for a governor to have.

RAUNER: Still working on Blagojevich mess
For the record, Pat Quinn had to work his way through the Blagojevich inactivity. He made decisions on 3,358 cases, approving pardons for 1,239 people.

But there’s still quite a few cases that still need to be addressed.

It will be interesting to see how frequently Rauner chooses to act on closing the backlog. This is the second time in his five months as governor that Rauner has made a decision, and his office says it has developed a process to ensure the issue does not continue to linger.

QUINN: Worked his way thru backlog
IT WILL BE nice when there isn’t any backlog to process.

Although the ultimate sense of justice may come if Blagojevich himself has to wind up seeking clemency – although his case being in the federal court system, he has to rely on the president himself to decide whether there’s a need for sympathy.

Which could mean that Barack Obama winds up having to decide whether to bother deciding on the case, or just deciding to pass it off to a future president while Blagojevich continues to rot in that federal correctional center in Colorado.

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A political cockfight?!?

It almost feels like we’re in some dingy, hidden-away structure where a batch of grungy men are gathered around, ready to plunk down their cash as bets on which of two wild roosters are about to win the fight they’re being thrown into.

The mood is gloomy once again at the Illinois Statehouse
The cocks themselves are snarling and squawking, readying themselves for the attack – which is about to occur any second.

NOW IF OUR cocks were named “Bruce Rauner” and “Michael Madigan,” we’d have a sense of what we’re about to experience in coming weeks – if not months.

It’s going to be a partisan political battle to the death, so to speak. And the people of Illinois are the ones who will inadvertently be thrown into the middle because there’s always the chance that the political battle will draw the state into the shutdown status IF they can’t agree on a budget for the upcoming fiscal year by July 1.

We’re at the point now where we’re one week away from the end of the 2015 spring legislative session. In typical years, there might still be some significant disagreements about what the state budget should be.

But there ought to be hope, and even some signs, that the sides will come together and hammer out some sort of agreement.

NOT THIS YEAR!

Rauner is making it clear he has his ideological agenda in mind, and he’s not about to take any guff from legislators who want to oppose him. Likewise, legislators want to make it clear they’re not about to let the new governor who got elected because of his anti-organized labor leanings just ram his desires down their throats.

RAUNER: The new guy?!?
And Illinois House Speaker Madigan wants it to be known that HE is the long-time, almighty boss of state government, not Rauner.

That sentiment is what has been behind the various bills the Legislature has rejected in recent days that theoretically advance the Rauner agenda – Madigan is letting it be known that a majority of legislators don’t approve of the “right to work” rhetoric that Rauner is fond of spewing.

RAUNER’S DESIRE TO fight back is what was behind his own statement, which his aides likely wrote for him and was published Thursday in the State Journal-Register newspaper of Springfield.

After ranting that political interests at the Statehouse are more entrenched than he ever envisioned during the 2014 campaign cycle, he made it clear he’s not about to compromise anything.

MADIGAN: The ol' pro!?!
“I might be new around here, but I understand what I was sent to do,” he said, adding that legislators ought to, “expect a very long extra session.” His aides were so eager to make sure I saw this statement that they e-mailed me a message Thursday morning to point it out.

So will our state’s General Assembly finish up its business by the end of next week, thereby sparing us a mass of political drama during the summer months?

FAT CHANCE. WE’D have a better chance of expecting the Chicago White Sox to rise from fourth place to first by season’s end.

All of this is so reminiscent of the 1991 legislative session – which was the first one in which Jim Edgar was governor. He wanted to run a sparse government in hopes of building up reserves for the future, while Madigan had his own vision.

The legislative session, which back then ran through the end of June, ended without a budget, and we reached a point where some government agencies had to shut down until a budget was in place. It became an Edgar/Madigan stalemate; where Edgar prevailed in the short-term by showing he wouldn't meekly back down.
 
EDGAR: Could he advise Rauner?
I still remember the matter not being resolved until the early hours of July 19 – which was a record back then. Although there have been other stalemates since then, including some of the ones brought about by then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s desire to show Madigan who was boss.

ONE CAN ARGUE that Madigan is the ultimate winner; Edgar is long retired and Blagojevich remains incarcerated. Now, it seems that Rauner will be the latest person who works his way onto the list.

It seems that Rauner has the will for such a political battle. Madigan has long shown us his ability to be pig-headed and stubborn for political reasons. I don’t know who will win.

But I’m pretty sure that such a battle will catch all of us in the middle, and make us the ultimate losers!

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