Friday, July 21, 2017

Does GOP in Illinois of Rauner era not take candidate recruitment seriously?

I’m not sure whether to be intrigued or offended by the rumor mills that say the Illinois Republican Party is contemplating running black people for the posts of Attorney General and Secretary of State come next year’s elections.

GRIFFIN: Is that medal his sole credential?
I’d like to think it means that Republican officials in our state have reached a certain level of enlightenment, and perhaps have even managed to look past a person’s melanin content to see the whole person. But then I think realistically, and snicker at the very notion.

BECAUSE THE CYNIC in me thinks the particular individuals allegedly under consideration for the posts were picked because of specific characteristics in their backgrounds that somehow makes them acceptable to the hard-core of GOPdom who otherwise wouldn’t consider casting a ballot for such a person.

For attorney general, the Republicans reportedly are considering Erika Harold (the one-time Miss America from Illinois) to run against incumbent Lisa Madigan. She is, indeed, a graduate of Harvard Law School (just like Barack Obama).

While for secretary of state, 19-year veteran of the post Jesse White may be challenged by Josh “J.C.” Griffin.

Who’s he?

IT SEEMS HE served five years in the Air Force, served a combat stint in Iraq, and worked a little bit for state government during the era of Pat Quinn as governor.
HAROLD: Rumored to challenge Madigan, L.?

But Republicans seem willing to disregard that potential character flaw (at least that’s the way they’d perceive it) because Griffin, a one-time native of suburban Olympia Fields, declared himself a Republican when registering himself to vote following his military service.

So what we’re basically saying is that Republicans are putting up Miss America and G.I. Joe to challenge two long-term state officials. They’re putting up stereotype images because they don’t necessarily have candidates in mind who could run credible campaigns for those particular posts.

Republicans will be asked to cast ballots for those images, and against any kind of government experience (although I’m sure that at age 83, they’re going to make a serious argument that the people of Illinois ought to send the one-time Cubs minor league ballplayer into political retirement).
WHITE: Will GOP make age an issue in '18 campaign?

IF ANYTHING THIS may be the evidence of how low the Republican Party has declined in Illinois. They have the governor’s post, and Bruce Rauner seems determined to blow a large chunk of his personal wealth to remind us to “Blame Madigan!” for everything and vote for him.

Beyond that, what are Republican-types casting votes for? The same old nonsense pitting Chicago against the rest of the state? Which really does little more than to persuade Chicago voters to cast ballots against the rest of Illinois?

Which means we all lose with that line of logic. To really revive Illinois, we have to move beyond such parochial ways of thinking.

As for Harold, I’ll say the same thing I’ve written before. It’s a shame she isn’t developed into a credible candidate – instead of one who has to rely upon the fact she wore a sash and tiara some 15 years ago.

AND AS FOR Griffin, I can’t help but think that his so-called credentials (five years of military service and a stint in a combat zone) actually matches up with my own cousin Carlos, who did five years in the Army and had his combat stint during that “first” Gulf War (remember 1990 in Kuwait?).
RAUNER: Does he like being lone GOPer?

Somehow, I don’t think anybody would take seriously the notion of my cousin returning to Illinois to run for elective office. I suspect the snickering would be deafening.

So here’s hoping that the rumor-mill (for what it’s worth, Griffin was non-committal when he was interviewed on the subject by WCIA-TV in Champaign) turns out to be erroneous.

Unless the GOP really is surrendering any chance of winning government posts other than that of governor. Does Bruce Rauner fantasize about a government where he’s the lone official – and everybody just shuts up and does what he says?


Thursday, July 20, 2017

EXTRA: O.J. vs. “Sweetness” – several hundred dollars difference these days

A couple of bucks for his cardboard
I remember back when O.J. Simpson was a big deal as an athlete – an All-Pro football player with the Buffalo Bills who also had charisma and charm and was well on his way to a celebrity lifestyle.

Now, he’s the guy who did nine years in prison (for supposedly threatening to harm people whom he says stole sports memorabilia from him even though many will forevermore think him guilty of the other crimes for which he was acquitted), and apparently became lucky enough this week to learn he qualified for parole from a Nevada corrections facility. He could be released by October.
Worth $1,000 if authentically autographed

I COULDN’T HELP but look up a little bit of data on the sports memorabilia market – particularly that involved with the trading cards that used to be a kiddie-thing, but now get treasured by people wishing to relive their sporting memories.

For what it’s worth, the book value for an O.J. Simpson card from the 1976 set produced by Topps Chewing Gum is $5.63, but only if it’s in prime physical shape. For anything less, a buck or two is about all O.J. is worth these days, according to

By comparison, there’s another card from that same set – one portraying Chicago Bears superstar Walter Payton. Admittedly, that card (which I remember actually owning as a kid) gets value added because it was the “rookie” card for Payton – he was a fresh prospect from Jackson State University who was just beginning his days of trying to make the Bears a respectable team. Fantasies of a Super Bowl were still a decade away in the future.

The same price guide gives a book value for the Payton at $207 – and for what it’s worth, I found one person Thursday on eBay who had such a card and already had bids of $449.99 for it.
Book value: About one dollar

QUITE A DIFFERENCE for pieces of cardboard from the months following the Bicentennial whose only real difference is the image they depict.

And also an example of just how far the mighty are capable of falling in life. A point we should all keep in mind on those occasions when we’re tempted to do something stupid.

Although those of us who remember the Naked Gun movies that included Simpson as an actor know that the “real” villain amongst athletes is Reggie Jackson. After all, he was going to kill the queen!


White Sox rebuild progressing, but will Yankees 'will to win' get in the way?

The great rebuild of the Chicago White Sox into a pennant contender progressed a step further Wednesday when the great young talent Yoan Moncada (supposedly the best ballplayer in the minor leagues) was promoted from Charlotte, N.C., to the big club on Chicago’s Sout’ Side.
Did the White Sox' future begin Wednesday?

Yet there also was a related move that could portend the reason why the White Sox ultimately will not prevail in winning a World Series, or even an American League championship in coming years.

IT ACTUALLY IS an old phenomenon in baseball, familiar to every fan of an American League ball club (although those of you Chicagoans who think you’re baseball fans but actually pay attention only to the Cubs and the National League wouldn’t know this).

It is the New York Yankees.

One of the realities of the Yankees having won 27 World Series and 40 American League championships is that there have been many other ball clubs that had solid teams and seasons that “might have won” in other years, but wound up falling short to the ball club from the Bronx.

Even the White Sox experienced this same phenomenon back in the 1950s and 1960s when they had those 17 straight winning seasons and a ton of second place teams. With the Yankees finishing ahead of them so many times.
Sox' Robertson returns to pinstripes ...

YET THE FACT that there is now a roster spot for Moncada on the White Sox is because of the trade that the White Sox made with the Yankees to help rebuild New York’s American League ball club into a contender this year.

Todd Frazier, who played third base for the White Sox, is likely to become the Yankees first baseman (a spot where they have been weak this season) and top Sox relief pitcher David Robertson is likely to become a set-up pitcher who becomes the guy who pitches right before top relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman – who isn’t pitching as well this season as he did last year in his half-season with the Chicago Cubs.
... after Chapman fails to match Cubbie ways

The Yankees could easily turn Robertson into their top relief pitcher if Chapman doesn’t get his act together soon. Which is what makes this trade so significant – the Yankees were able to go out and get a replacement whereas many other ballclubs would be stuck with the big-bucks Chapman contract and couldn’t even think of finding a replacement.
Lopez managed many 2nd place teams

The Yankees, who haven’t won a World Series title since 2009 and haven’t been in the playoffs for three years, are serious about wanting to contend now – and likely will make moves to keep in contention for future years.

MEANING ANY EFFORTS by the White Sox to ride a “Cuban revolution” of Moncada, Jose Abreu and Luis Robert (still in the minor leagues, for now) and other top minor league ballplayers acquired from other teams in trades this year could wind up being thwarted by the resurgence of the New York Yankees.

Which would be oh so predictable.
Ichiro's best ball club fell behind Yankees

There are too many American League ball clubs that have had their dreams of championship play halted by the Yanks.

Not only the White Sox of 1964 (98 wins, including a winning streak of the last 10 games of the season – which fell behind the 99 wins the Yankees had that year).

BOSTON, CLEVELAND AND Detroit fans can also claim horror stories about wonderful ball clubs that couldn’t get beyond second place, or the first round of the American League playoffs.

And let’s not forget the Seattle Mariners, who have never won a championship of any kind during their 41 seasons of existence, largely because their glory years of the late 1990s coincided with those Yankees teams of Derek Jeter that won four of five World Series titles in the same time period.
Will White Sox improvements be enough to match Yankee upgrade?
Then, in 2001, those Mariners managed to tie the baseball record for the most wins during the regular season (116, by the 1906 Chicago Cubs that lost the World Series to the White Sox), only to lose in those playoffs to the very same Yankees.

Is that the same fate to befall the White Sox of the late 2010s and 2020s – to finish behind New York? Once again turning the phrase “Damned Yankees” into an epithet meaning more than just a long-ago Broadway show!


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Will ballots cast for familiar names be enough to overcome self-spending?

Will the son of Richard J. ...
Looking at the campaign finances for the candidates wishing to become Illinois governor, it was interesting to see that fringe candidate Daniel Biss raised more money ($1.015 million) than both Chris Kennedy AND Ameya Pawar combined.

But Biss’ campaign fund doesn’t even come close to that of J.B. Pritzker, who barely raised a dime. The 9-1 fundraising advantage Pritzker held over Biss during the past three months was solely because Pritzker was wealthy enough to pay for his own campaign efforts.
... be able to provide this Kennedy nephew ...

WHICH MEANS DEMOCRATS may well have a candidate who won’t get totally buried by the self-funding efforts of Gov. Bruce Rauner, who himself outspends Pritzker by a 6-1 ratio with the money he provides – although much of the governor's efforts will go toward trying to get more Republicans elected to the General Assembly.

Rauner wants allies who will support his gubernatorial desires and follow orders!

There’s going to be a lot of money spent by candidates wishing to spread their messages of ill-will toward their opposition. We’re going to be flooded with negative messages about how we’d be completely stupid to consider casting ballots for certain candidates.

Better we should go with THE OTHER guy. Nobody’s going to really tell us why we should vote for them. It will be an ugly campaign.

THAT IS WHY I find it interesting to see that Kennedy’s campaign has hired a new finance chairman – it’s Bill Daley, as in brother of Mayor Richard M., former chief of staff to President Barack Obama, Commerce secretary under President Bill Clinton.
... with similar political aid as in '60 cycle?

And let’s not forget that he was chairman of Al Gore’s failed presidential campaign of 2000.

Of course, as a former chairman of Amalgamated Bank, he has ties to many of the “big money” people of Chicago and can sway them into making significant campaign contributions to his candidate.

Which may well be the reason why Kennedy picked him. His is the campaign that raised $703,767.10 during the last reporting period, and spent $652,523.79 of it. This is not a campaign swimming in cash.

KENNEDY PROBABLY DREAMS that Daley can turn to his political contacts and get them to write out the significant-sized checks that would enable his campaign to come close to fully competing with the Pritzkers and Rauners of the political world.

Although it may be the general mood of this campaign season that we, the people, are too disgusted with government officials to want to make any kind of sizable donations. It may be that only the self-funded will be able to do much of anything.

That does seem to be the mentality of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, who while he hasn’t made an official endorsement seems to like the idea of a Candidate Pritzker because he could afford to pay his own way.

Consider that Pritzker spent some $9 million during the past three months, and $14 million total thus far – all of which came from his own bank accounts.

BUT IT ALSO would be ironic if it turns out to be that a Daley winds up making it possible for a Kennedy to win voters in Illinois. You just know we’re going to get a ton of sarcastic comments from people recalling the rumor mill of the 1960 presidential election cycle.
BISS: Raised more than anyone, but nobody cares?

Can the son of Richard J. find a way to make the nephew of JFK the governor, similar to how old man Daley led the effort that got Jack Kennedy the Illinois Electoral College votes that helped him beat Richard Nixon for president?

Or is Kennedy just too far behind (even outraised by the state senator from Evanston)? Although we should acknowledge the polls that have shown at this early stage Kennedy still leads Pritzker and other candidates in voter support – the name does appear to mean something.

Particularly when one considers the most recent Morning Consult poll that showed Rauner with 49 percent disapproval rating (and only 40 percent approving of him). If he keeps that up, it may not matter how much money he spends on himself – a Democrat could wind up prevailing come that Nov. 6 of next year.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Budget battles linger on, only this time we use our schools as the battlefield

For those of you people who for whatever partisan political reason want the fight over a state budget to continue, take some pleasure in the fact that the political wars aren’t completely over.
RAUNER: "Blame Madigan!' Still!

For we still have to consider the portion of the budget that goes toward funding public education in this state. Technically, the General Assembly and Gov. Bruce Rauner still have the education funding bill to fight over.

THAT BILL APPROPRIATES the money that is meant for public education. Technically, it is still pending.

Although Rauner has made it clear that he intends to use his amendatory veto powers to alter the measure – which means it can’t take effect immediately.

To thwart the governor, the Legislature is holding off on sending him the bill. Even though they already have approved it, they won’t let Rauner act. He can’t reject it if he technically doesn’t have it in his possession. We're at the point where the governor on Monday insisted they send him the bill, just so he can amendatorily veto it -- he can't wait to get at it!

It seems the Legislature is hoping that by stalling, they can cause pressure to be built up by educators against the governor, who would then be inclined to blame him for the fact that they might not get the state funding they usually are entitled to and are most definitely counting on in order to get through the upcoming academic year.

PERHAPS THEY THINK they can “blackmail” the governor into feeling too guilty to interfere with school funding if he’ll be the one who gets blamed for the politicking.

Which most likely was behind the public appearances Rauner made in Mount Zion and in Rockford, where he made it clear that it will be Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s fault if something happens that causes the state to be late with the aid payments it provides to public school districts.

“The General Assembly under Speaker Madigan have failed to adequately or equitably fund our schools for decades,” the governor said. “It has hurt generations of Illinois children who live in low income communities.”
MADIGAN: Not waving white flag yet

Whether this would work is questionable. Since I have heard from many school administrator types during the past two years who have made it clear that when it comes to the problems related to school finances, they blame the governor!

EVEN NOW, WHEN there is a state budget in place, many say they’re having their attorneys study the situation, and won’t be fully comfortable until they see the education funding bill signed off on and they get their initial aid payments.

If the governor thinks many people are going to suddenly switch to his side, he could be mistaken. Since many perceive the problems as having begun with the partisan initiatives and the desires that Rauner has tried to bring to state government under the guise of “reform.”

The governor’s main objection to the education funding measure is that it includes provisions for altering the funding for pensions for retired teachers in the Chicago Public School system – a provision Rauner is quick to label as a “bailout.”

He’s quick to say that he could provide even more financial assistance to school districts across Illinois – if only we could ignore the problem of that one pesky district that is, by far, the largest in the state.

MEANING THIS IS the same regionalism and nonsense of trying to pit the rest of the state against Chicago, which only serves to build up the hostility and resentment that Chicago voters will feel towards the governor.

Considering the degree to which Rauner has made a series of staff changes by hiring political partisans of the Illinois Policy Institute, it would seem this “urban vs. rural” tone is going to predominate for as long as Rauner remains in office.

Which, if Dems aren’t careful, could easily extend beyond the Nov. 6, 2018 general elections. It could easily extend into “four more year” of stalemate and nothingness.

Since I don’t doubt that Rauner and his minions are miffed at not prevailing on the budget fight, it will be remarkable to see the amount of partisan bloodshed that will occur on the Statehouse Scene in coming years – and the degree to which we all get caught up in the crossfire.


Monday, July 17, 2017

EXTRA: Now 56 shot, 11 dead, but I still say the 10-year-old most tragic

The Chicago Tribune felt compelled up update the story they published for Sunday with a Monday report telling us of more dead in the city this weekend. One of the deceased is an activist-type who had dedicated her life to trying to combat the problem of urban violence.

Although I still say the most tragic of the deaths is that of 10-year-old Gustavo Garcia, who was merely sitting in the back seat of an automobile when another car pulled up alongside and gunfire occurred.


Gone before they ever had a chance

30 people shot, 3 fatally, in 18 hours in Chicago

10-year-old boy killed in Southeast Side shooting


Which of these headlines (both of which appeared Sunday on the website of one of our city’s major newspapers) bothers you most?
Struggling to cope with situation

For what it’s worth, the Chicago Tribune gave prominent play to the former; making it the lede story for those viewing the one-time World’s Greatest Newspaper on the Internet, and giving the impression that the time period from Saturday evening and spilling into the early hours of Sunday was some sort of historically-grotesque moment in Chicago history.

YET I’M ACTUALLY creeped out by the latter story more, and not just because the victim was someone who barely was into an age with two digits in it.

Even the Tribune itself acknowledged that this particular death was the fourth child to die in a shooting incident in Chicago this year, with another eight suffering from gunfire but managing to survive their wounds.

Those “30 people shot, 3 fatally” were in separate incidents occurring in various parts of the city. If not for the time element, no one would bother thinking of them as being related in any way.

And there is a part of me that wonders about playing up the story of the “body count” every weekend where there happen to be casualty totals in multiple figures does nothing more than satisfy the ghoulish mental desires of the kind of people who are determined to view our city as some sort of hell-hole – the kind of place where the real Hell might actually be a step up in improved living conditions.

IN SHORT, LIKE every time President Donald J. Trump spews out one of his oft-erroneous tidbits because it satisfies the politically partisan desires of the kind of people who actually voted for him?
EMANUEL: Not only mayor coping w/ violence

I’m not exactly saying a “30 people shot, 3 fatally” type of story is ho-hum and makes my shoulders shrug. But there have been bloodier moments in our city’s history. Both single incidents where more people suffered and combinations that gave us far greater tallies amongst the dead and wounded.

Whereas in the case of “10-year-old boy,” it brings to mind the potential story of lost potential. What could have been? What would have occurred if that child had gone on to live a full life?

I’m sure there are some smart-alecks who are viewing the fact that this particular kid was from the city’s South Chicago neighborhood and suffered his wounds in the adjacent East Side neighborhood is evidence that he was going nowhere.

THEN AGAIN, PART of why this story caught my attention is that I come out of that southeastern corner of Chicago. Born in South Chicago and lived for a short time in the East Side before my own parents moved along further.

Or is someone out there going to be warped enough to think that nothing can come out of that part of Chicago, and that such violence is supposed to be limited to certain parts of the city. Which may be what makes such stories as “30 people shot, 3 fatally” all the more pathetic.

Because they inevitably include the line within the copy that all the incidents were limited to select neighborhoods on the South and West sides of the city. As though the fact that they didn’t occur in the neighborhoods with certain select economic and racial demographics somehow makes them acceptable!
TRUMP: Nothing he says will make things better

They only add to the warping of the young people who happen to live in those neighborhoods into believing that somehow, this kind of conduct is acceptable.

THERE IS ANOTHER factor; one brought up recently when in Gary, Ind., there were multiple children shot in separate incidents in the same neighborhood of that Hoosier city.

One government official said he was particularly bothered by the fact that there were now children who, when they return to school in September, were going to have to write as their “What I did this Summer” assignment an essay that began with the words, “I got shot this summer.”

As much as the loss of a life with potential hurts, the fact that all those surviving around them will have to have such thoughts may well be worse.

Because until we can snap people out of thinking that such violence is a part of life, we’re going to keep reading such body count stories – and there’s nothing our current president would say or do that could resolve the problem.