Friday, September 19, 2014

No ‘Obama High’ anytime soon, at least not one within Chicago proper

It seems there won’t be a high school any time soon in Chicago named for President Barack Obama.


For months, Mayor Rahm Emanuel had made such a suggestion, saying that a new school building to be constructed near the site of the former Cabrini-Green public housing complex would get the president’s name.\


OF COURSE, THAT aroused the anger of those individuals who don’t want anything that could be perceived as a tribute to the current president. But it also outraged the majority African-American population of the city’s South Side; who believe that any school bearing the current president’s name ought to be located somewhere south of Roosevelt Road.


It certainly shouldn’t be located in an area so close to the Gold Coast where the perception was that the demolition of Cabrini-Green was done more to chase black people away from the wealthy part of Chicago, rather than any concern for the area’s future development.


It probably would result in a majority white enrollment at such a school named for the nation’s first president of African-American racial origins.


The perception was that Emanuel was offering up the idea of an Obama school as a gesture of sorts to African-American voters, many of whom are still disgusted at the notion that many of the school facilities that were closed in recent years were in their neighborhoods.


AS THOUGH THE problems with Chicago schools exist because of the high black enrollments, rather than neglect of such schools by past and present administrations.


Black voters seem to have saw through the tactic. At least one alderman wondered why the mayor didn’t try to focus on getting a decent supermarket into some of the more impoverished neighborhoods of the city – ones that such chains often avoid like the plague.


Others wonder why city officials couldn’t build a new high school with college preparatory programs somewhere on the South Side, rather than the near north where some think there already are enough quality schools – this one would be just a few blocks from the Walter Payton College Preparatory School in the River North neighborhood.


Although it should be noted that while Emanuel is backing off his talk of naming a school for Obama, he’s not giving up on building a school near north in Chicago – a facility that supposedly will accommodate about 1,200 students and will be built by 2017.


NOT THAT THERE won’t be school facilities in the Chicago area bearing the Obama monicker. Officials with Park Forest-Chicago Heights School District 163 in the south suburbs announced recently their plans to rename a couple of existing schools.


One will be called the Barack Obama School of Leadership and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, while the other will now be the Michelle Obama School of Technology and the Arts.


Perhaps Emanuel’s real mistake was in not including the first lady in his plans to pay tribute to his former boss (the mayor is the former White House chief of staff).


Maybe South Side Chicago would have been more receptive to paying tribute to the South Shore neighborhood native than to the guy who came to us following a childhood in Honolulu?


PERSONALLY, I’M WARY of naming buildings or streets for people. It can result in too many trivial types getting honors. How many Carol Moseley-Braun schools are there in existence that wish they could “take back” their choice of a name that a couple of decades ago seemed like a natural tribute?


Then again, I went to elementary schools named for World War II generals George S. Patton and Dwight Eisenhower (along with a junior high school named to be a memorial to that war’s soldiers). Perhaps I’m just too engrained to think that the modern-day politicos whom I have written about can’t possibly be old enough to be worthy of such a designation.


Just as I can already envision the political fight of the future when somebody proposes naming a school for Emanuel himself!



Thursday, September 18, 2014

Who knew Flying Wallendas were still around? They’ll be in Chicago soon

Perhaps it’s because I’m not 9 years old any more,


But the word this week that a member of the Flying Wallenda family (of generations of circus fame) will walk across a high-wire erected over the Chicago River just doesn’t raise me to the levels of amazement that some would expect.


IT SEEMS THE Discovery Channel is planning a live broadcast for Nov. 2, with that high-wire erected from one of the buildings of the Marina Towers (the corn cobs just north of the river) across the river to the Leo Burnett Building (which was where some of the real-life ‘Mad Men’ worked back in the day).


To make the event seem more daring, we’re told that it will be an uphill walk, and not during any ideal weather conditions. It will be the heart of autumn by then. It will be windy. It will be chilly.


Nik Wallenda – who is seventh generation performer from the Wallenda family – could easily have something go drastically wrong, which could result in him plunging into the Chicago River.


Even if he survived the fall’s impact, exposure to the contamination in that river alone would be enough to kill him.


PROMOTERS ARE MAKING a point of saying there won’t be any safety nets or harnesses to protect him if he should slip. The Discovery Channel, I’m sure, is counting on getting significant exposure. Particularly since officials say the program will be broadcast in 220 countries around the globe.


Great. The whole wide world will know of the nonsense taking place in Chicago.


I don’t doubt that Nik Wallenda is putting himself at some physical risk by undertaking such a stunt. I’m also sure he has the training (whatever that may be) to attempt such a stunt and have hopes of completing it still alive.


But the idea of walking a wire across the river at significant height doesn’t move me.


IN FACT, IT just seems so retro. My initial reaction to learning of the stunt was that it seemed like something from the past.


As though something a daredevil-type would have tried back in 1914, to the amazement of the crowds below – many of whom would have been anxious to see him fall and plunge to his demise, while thinking to him (or her)self. “Fool got what he deserved.”


Maybe I’m just too old – a year shy of 50 – to appreciate the “thrill” of the moment.


It certainly seems to fall far short of the stunt I remember from childhood – back in 1974 when motorcycle stuntman Evel Knievel tried to jump the Snake River Canyon in Idaho.


KNIEVEL, WHO ATTEMPTED 75 ramp-to-ramp jumps and suffered 433 bone fractures during his career as a stunt-man, failed in that stunt – even though he was flying in a steam-powered rocket. I still remember the over-hype of that particular moment.


It seemed so incredible back then. Then again, it was my generation that also got all worked up when “Fonzie” jumped his motorcycle over all those garbage cans (only to crash into the Arnolds’ chicken stand). Watching those “Happy Days” re-runs comes across these days as more insipid than these daredevil stunts.


Personally, I’ll wish this Wallenda all the success in his stunt, but mostly because I don’t want my home city to become known as being the site where Nik met his demise.


We already have too many knuckleheads who came to their end in our fair city; all in an attempt to amuse the locals on a slow Sunday. It’s just a good thing the Chicago Bears have that particular weekend off, because otherwise nobody would care about the Wallenda stunt.



Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Recalling Hale’s violin

It has been quite a while since I have given Matt Hale any thought.


But the native of East Peoria, Ill., is back in the news because of his violin, the instrument he tried to use many decades ago to try to give himself a sophisticated image – or at least sophistication compared to the usual ranks of white supremacist activists trying to peddle their image of what our society ought to be like.


FOR THOSE OF you who have forgotten, or are too young to remember, Hale was a product of the 1990s who managed to get himself into the national news because he was a law school graduate who was denied the chance to get a law license in Illinois.


The state officials who handle such licensing matters for the legal profession ruled that Hale’s racist views, which he didn’t try to conceal., were inconsistent with someone who was an officer of the court and supposed to uphold the law.


It was one of those freak stories. Hale, who said he wanted to be a lawyer who represented other white supremacists when they ran afoul of the law, was kind of a sad joke. But he took the attention to mean that he had something significant to say to society at large.


He kept pushing his image into the public eye until he eventually got caught up with what federal prosecutors said were his attempts to try to arrange the murder of a U.S. district judge in Chicago. He was found guilty and got a 40-year prison sentence, which he is still serving at a closed-security facility in Colorado.


MEANING HE SPENDS the bulk of the day locked in his cell, and has only minimal contact with other people.


I suspect the isolation is for his own good. I could envision many other inmates thinking they could bolster their jailhouse ‘cred’ by trying to kill him.


But being locked away from other people is bound to do something to the mentality of just about anybody who has to endure such treatment. Hale claims his treatment in prison violates his civil rights.


Which has led him to file a lawsuit against the federal government seeking $19 million in compensation for the harm being done to him. Or so he claims!


ALTHOUGH THE CHICAGO Tribune reported Tuesday how Hale offered to drop his lawsuit in exchange for one personal concession. He wants his violin back. He wants to be able to play it while in his cell.


There could be a cell block in Colorado where inmates would have to endure his rusty playing (who knows how long it has been since he has held an instrument?).


Then again, maybe not.


For the newspaper reported that federal officials rejected his request. They’re also not offering up anything in the way of explanation as to why he can’t have a violin.


IS IT POSSIBLE that the bow could be construed as a weapon? Or converted into something that could cause harm? It wouldn’t shock me to learn that federal officials try to make that claim. Then again, prison inmates are people with a lot of free time that they can use to concoct assorted schemes.


Imaginations run wild can cause great harm if not closely watched enough.


Although that violin reminds me of the old days when Hale first cropped onto the public scene. I still recall every television reporter who felt compelled to interview Hale had to include two images in particular – the toilet bowl in Hale’s father’s home that had a Star of David inside it, and the sight of Hale playing his violin.


Maybe Hale thinks if he gets his violin back, he can somehow turn back the clock when he was a young man with potential for a future – instead of just another inmate who has more than two more decades of time to serve before he can dream of freedom!



Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Polling the polls for November 4; who’s to say if any of them are correct

The Chicago Tribune, that one-time voice of Midwestern Republicanism, is giving Democrats reason to be downright giddy.


The newspaper commissioned a poll for the U.S. Senate race and found incumbent Richard Durbin with a 23-percent lead over challenger James Oberweis, the perpetual candidate who should have been content to remain a state senator rather than try to move up so quickly.


THEY ALSO DID a poll of the governor’s race and found Gov. Pat Quinn with an 11-point lead over Republican challenger Bruce Rauner.


Which sounds downright incredible considering that just about every other poll taken by some group or other has found Rauner in the lead – albeit a lead that seems to be shrinking with time to the point where everyone else thinks this political fight amounts to a statistical tie at this point in time.


I may have Democratic Party leanings. But I’m not foolish enough to think that something has suddenly shifted in our society to create these big leads. Meaning I’m skeptical of these polling results.


Particularly since it was just a few days ago that the New York Times and CBS News commissioned a poll that had Rauner with a 4 percent lead over Quinn. They also had Durbin with an 11 point lead over Oberweis.


BUT LAST WEEK, the Chicago Sun-Times came up with a poll result showing Durbin with merely a 7 percent lead over Oberweis, and evidence that Oberweis was managing to close the gap that exists between him and the incumbent senator from Springfield.


A gap that the Tribune would have us think is actually growing, based on their poll results.


All along, I have been confused about this particular election cycle. Not that there are people desperate to dump Pat Quinn. That was predictable. There are those who wanted nothing to do with him in the 2010 election cycle, and I’m sure their hostility has only grown.


But I’m not about to predict how this election cycle will turn out; although I will admit to telling someone last week who asked me my thoughts that I would not be surprised if Quinn managed to pull out a victory come the evening of Nov. 4.


HE COULD EASILY wind up giving yet another victory speech in a record-setting close election.


It is why I’m trying not to take any group’s polling results all too seriously.


For one thing, some of the results come across as so biased – someone is trying to concoct results meant to make their specific interest look good (or at least not totally pathetic).


For another, it’s just way too early. It’s more than a month until the point where people can start showing up at early voting centers to cast ballots (I’m likely to be one of them, so that I don’t have to take time out from working on Election Day).


AND IT’S SEVEN weeks until the aforementioned Election Day when we can actually show up at the polls (I’ll admit the experience of voting loses something when one doesn’t take time out on that day to cast a ballot).


The reality is that this election cycle in Illinois is going to be decided by those people who do not know right now who they support. Some of them may well not make up their minds until they walk into the voting booth (and some of them may kick themselves as they walk out for the “stupid” choice they just made).


That is why the polls are all over the place these days.


Illinois’ political leanings for the near future will be decided by those indecisive and wishy-washy enough not to be able to make up their minds right now. What a pleasant thought!



Monday, September 15, 2014

September 16 just doesn’t have the same ring as Cinco de Mayo

For those of you who still haven’t figured it out yet, Monday night into Tuesday are the real dates of the holiday you thought you celebrated (mainly by consuming too many Coronas or cut-rate margaritas) back on May 5.


Those are the dates back in 1810 when Father Hidalgo climbed to the top of his church, rang his bell at midnight, and proclaimed a statement of independence from Spain that is as significant in Mexican history as the Declaration of Independence is to the story of the United States because of the way it inspired the people to take up arms against their colonial masters.


OF COURSE, IT wasn’t immediate freedom. It took some 12 years before the Spanish royal family acknowledged independence for the most significant of the American colonies that comprised “New Spain.”


By comparison, the British royal family virtually bent over backward to give the fledgling United States its freedom and sense of itself as a new nation on this planet.


If anything, I often wonder if the history of Mexico and its attempts to establish itself as a Democracy are a perfect example of the old saying, “If something can go wrong, it likely will.”


Mexico has had to do many things the hard way during its two centuries of existence. It ought to make those of us of the United States more thankful for the relatively easier path we have traversed to get where we are today.


I FEEL THE need to think about this because I’m sure most people not only don’t give it a thought, they’re not even aware it is something they ought to consider relevant.


But our two nations are so intertwined in so many ways, and not just because of those Southwestern states that once were the northernmost outposts of the Spanish colonies/Mexico itself. If anything, I wonder if the exception to our nation are those far northeastern states who have a significant international border with Canada.


Which is why I’m not particularly interested in hearing from those people who are going to complain about the many celebrations that took place in this country related to Mexico’s Independence Day.


In Chicago alone, I’m aware of two parades – in the South Chicago and Pilsen neighborhoods – along with various parades in outlying areas including Cicero, West Chicago and East Chicago, Ind.


THE SOUTH CHICAGO parade has been ongoing for more than 75 years, while the Pilsen parade is the one that has garnered the public attention.


Candidates for the Nov. 4 and Feb. 24 election cycles all felt compelled to show up and march through the one-time eastern European enclave that turned Mexican and now threatens to become a place for artsy people to live near downtown Chicago.


After all, those people vote. Both Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican challenger Bruce Rauner were there, along with mayoral hopefuls Karen Lewis and Bob Fioretti – with Mayor Rahm Emanuel making an appearance at an Independence Day breakfast event prior to the parade.


Although that threatens to trivialize the event, if it winds up that Mexico’s Independence Day becomes nothing more than a chance for political people to pander for the Latino vote.


BUT WITH ONE out of six Chicago residents being of Mexican ethnic origins, this becomes too big of an event to brush aside. Chicago is now just as significantly Mexican as it is Irish or Polish – the two other ethnicities that like to think they’re almighty and dominant in the city.


And yes, it’s a bit odd to have all these public celebrations on Sunday; a day early before the actual event – which could become an afterthought.


Except for those of us who are desperate to take what already has become a two-day celebration in Mexico (think Christmas the way some people just can’t wait until Day and feel the need to go all-out on Eve) and make it a three-day fest.



Saturday, September 13, 2014

Our friends, the Mexico drug cartels? Or will ISIS soon be at O’Hare?

I got my laugh Friday from The Inquisitr, a website that I suspect likes to think it’s giving us serious news but seems to have a sense of the garish in terms of how things get reported.

What I found humorous was their story headlined, ISIS Plans to Invade United States through Mexico, But Drug Cartels Could Fight Back.

THEY’RE CLAIMING THAT the militant Islamic State organization that is the newest troublemaker in the news is slowly, but surely, building up their forces by getting people into Mexico.

One day, those people will be large enough to be a military-like force who will then move north into the southwestern United States – then beyond.

First, Truth or Consequences. Then Phoenix and Albuquerque. Pretty soon, they’ll be marching down Michigan Avenue and desecrating the lions out front of the Art Institute of Chicago and camping in Millennium Park – while pondering the “decadent Western” mind who created the concept of “the Bean.”

Of course, the web site threw the potential oddball factor into the equation. To get to the United States, they’d have to go through those northern regions where drug cartels have been fighting for control with the Mexican military for many years.

WOULD THOSE DRUG dealers object so much to anyone trying to come through their “turf” that they’d wind up providing resistance? It almost reminds me of that 1990 film “The Rocketeer,” which had a scene where gangsters suddenly found themselves fighting alongside FBI agents against a common enemy – Nazis.

Would the future security of the United States wind up being supplemented by the same people who are spreading so much of the illicit drugs that are causing so many social problems in our society?

Writing these past few paragraphs has been unusual, because what I have basically spewed is a nonsense theory – albeit one that I’m sure the conservative ideologues of our society are way too eager to believe. Just look at the way Texas Gov. Rick Perry has made claims that some Islamic State agents already have entered the United States through Texas!

They have been spreading for years the idea that these subversive elements of our world would use Mexico to try to get at the United States. Usually as part of their cockamamie idea to fortify, and militarize, the U.S./Mexico border – while also deporting everyone who doesn’t fit their image of who ought to be allowed to consider themselves an “American.”

IF ANYTHING, THIS ought to be evidence enough of why we ought to be encouraging of friendly relations with Mexico, so that our interests and theirs remain as one. Unless we want to have to count on a real-life scenario like the 1942 film “Soy Puro Mexicano” (where a man at his local bar overhears talk at another table, realizes the people are Nazi agents with plans to enter the United States, then spends the rest of the film fighting them off – because no self-respecting Mexican would want to be a Nazi!).

On a more serious note, it is encouraging to learn that a Department of Homeland Security official testified this week before a Senate committee that the current intelligence level and capability along the border is capable of handling a threat – should it occur.

Many news organizations (including the New York Daily News, CNN and the Daily Mail, to name a few) have reported that this is more the latest topic for the kind of people who take Twitter too seriously! It also should be noted that federal officials are more concerned about those people with ties to the Islamic State organization who manage to get passports, then catch airplane flights into a U.S. airport – just like any other international tourist.

Does this mean that if there is an “invasion,” it’s more likely to be with a group of these people flying into O’Hare International Airport?

I CAN JUST see it now. They get off their flight, seize control of the food court (where they declare the concept of stuffed “Chicago-style” pizza to be “decadent”) and work their way to taxicabs that they commandeer.

Where they then proceed to get stuck in rush hour traffic on the Kennedy Expressway.

Be honest; that scenario is about as legitimate as the notion that an ISIS “army” is going to be wading through the Rio Grande any time soon!


Friday, September 12, 2014

Endorsements a matter of support? Or demand for future government perks?

It's endorsement time; that point in the campaign cycle when organizations and special interests will come out with grand pronouncements meant to make it sound like they're throwing their weight into the mix so as to influence the outcome of the elections.

Usually, these endorsements are so blah. All they really do is state the obvious -- groups picking the candidate that we could all predict they would support. Reinforcing the idea that about 93 percent of the electorate knew back in March who they were going to vote for come Nov. 4.

THE PAST FEW months have been about nothing more than influencing the remaining 7 percent; and hoping they can scare enough of them into NOT voting so that their existing support can be large enough to actually win come Election Day.

Just as in two of the endorsements made Friday in the campaign for Illinois governor. Surprise, surprise!!

The National Federation for Independent Business is backing Republican Bruce Rauner, just as they typically back Republican candidates for competitive offices.

While the Chicago Chicago Teachers Union says it supports Gov. Pat Quinn for re-election.

CONSIDERING HOW THE organized labor interests have made it clear since back before the primary election how much they despised the concept of Rauner as governor, it is no wonder they're going to side with Quinn.

My point in writing this is to say I don't expect anybody to be swayed by these endorsements. They will get people who already made up their minds to get off their duffs and actually cast ballots for governor, and whichever other offices they choose to take a stance on.

Considering that I stumbled across a weblog earlier Friday where someone wrote about how she's refusing to vote for either Quinn or Rauner (too much baggage for Quinn and running mate Paul Vallas, and Rauner is just too unacceptable to be a credible alternative), there could be a very real possibility of the people who choose not to vote this year influencing the election.

So everybody wants to ensure that the predictable voters do turn out in force.

OTHERWISE, IT BECOMES just a great big yawn that we're going to endure in coming weeks when group after group makes their predictable stances known. It will be news if someone chooses to endorse nobody. But I don't really expect that to happen much.

Because all these endorsements really amount to is groups making a public statement now so that, if by chance their preferred candidate wins and takes office come mid-January, they'll be in line to start making their demands of what they want from government in the future.

Which means that the legendary newspaper columnist Mike Royko probably had it right when he came up with a Chicago city motto, only that perhaps it should be extended to all governments.

As in, "Where's Mine?"