Saturday, April 19, 2014

GOP upset they didn’t get a chance to vote “No” on something Obama-related

There is a stink going on these days with regards to the way an Illinois House of Representatives committee gave its recommendation to a bill providing some state funds to the eventual development of the presidential library and museum that honors Barack Obama.

Someday to be on display?
The committee gave its approval to the idea, which sends the bill to the full Illinois House for consideration. No big deal, right?

OF COURSE, IT’S a huge deal!!! But only for the ideologues who are upset that the political maneuvering deprived them of a chance to rant and rage about how Obama is unworthy of ANYTHING showing him respect.

For sparing us that, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, deserves our respect and admiration.

We certainly shouldn’t be getting all worked up over it. The conservative ideologues will get their chance to complain and make their views known later this spring – because the Illinois Senate also will have to review the measure as well.

There will be ample chance for ideologues to spew their venom against Obama.

ALTHOUGH I’LL BE the first to admit that the means by which Madigan got a recommendation for the Obama library bill was an intriguing one – and a bit sneaky, as well.

What happened was that on Wednesday, the Illinois House executive committee (the one whose members are picked by leadership because they can be trusted to do what the party leaders want done) held a hearing in Chicago to discuss bills related to expanded gambling opportunities.

Considering that the focus of this particular hearing was to study the idea of a Chicago-based casino, perhaps it made a lot of sense to hold the hearing outside the Statehouse in Springfield.

Upset because they were silenced for a day?
When the hearing ended Wednesday, instead of adjourning, it was “recessed to the call of the chair.”

WHICH IN THIS particular case was Thursday. Committee members reconvened the very next day, heard talk about an Obama library, then instead of a vote, they decided to take an “attendance” role call – meaning everyone recorded as being present was an “aye” vote.

The only problem is that the Republican members of the committee, particularly those who came to Chicago from outside the metropolitan area, left the city immediately after Wednesday’s proceedings.

They claim they didn’t know the committee would meet again Thursday, so they went home. But because it was a “recessed” hearing, they were still considered “present.” Personally, I heard Wednesday afternoon they'd be returning to action the next day.

So there are now some Republican legislators who are on the record as having supported the idea of state funding for an Obama library. Which for some of them will not be a popular vote back home.

THEY’RE GOING TO get trashed by their constituents for letting such a thing happen. And if the best explanation they can offer is that they weren’t there, they’re going to get trashed for being dumb enough to let something like this happen to them!

That’s what the anger is really about. I suspect the only difference if the GOP members had been present is that the debate would have been rancorous, and it would not have been unanimous in favor of it.

It would have been a partisan vote that still would have recommended the bill because, after all, it is a Democrat-run state Legislature.

If there were Republican leadership of any significance, then it would have been rigged to make for a vote against Obama, which merely shows that Illinoisans are as politically-motivated as officials anywhere else in the country.

HOW ELSE TO explain the fact that the “$100 million” figure suggested as the appropriate state level is the same amount of money spent to develop an Abraham Lincoln museum and library in Springfield?

Equal time? Political parity? Regional balance?
 
Statehouse debate will be heard in Chicago
The reality is that the Obama library and museum is going to be a contentious issue – no matter what happens. There’s also the reality that most of the money for the project will come from private fundraising overseen by Obama himself.

The reason state officials are willing to put some government money into the project is that they want to ensure it gets located in Chicago – instead of the counter-proposals from New York and Honolulu officials.

BECAUSE WITH CHICAGO being a place of significance, and Obama library and museum has the potential to be a significant draw – unlike the libraries of presidents such as Gerald R. Ford that are so isolated they just don’t draw.

It could be a tourist attraction of significance – one that Madigan is trying to ensure comes here. What’s wrong with that?

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Friday, April 18, 2014

What do Obama/Yoda have in common

I realize life in government isn’t all serious. But seeing our elected officials on Thursday focusing their attention on museums?

I suppose they justify it by saying they’re trying to create tourist attractions of the future – even more reasons why people might want to visit Chicago and bolster our local economy by spending their money here.

BUT THAT’S WHAT we literally got on this day – state government officials spent time talking about the possibility of the future presidential museum and library that will pay tribute to Barack Obama.

While Mayor Rahm Emanuel created a new task force that will study the possibility of moviemaker George Lucas developing a museum in Chicago to pay tribute to his work – primarily “Star Wars” and all its declining-in-quality sequels.

Could we literally get the day someday when tourists make stops at museums paying tribute to the first non-white U.S. president AND the Jedi Master whose command of “the Force” doesn’t overcome the fact that he sounds just like Grover from Sesame Street?

Quite a difference from the days of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Field Museum being the places people felt compelled to visit (along with the Museum of Science and Industry, if they had kids in tow) when they stopped off in Chicago for any length of time.

NOT THAT WE’RE anywhere near getting either museum. This is literally the first stage in the process, and it is still very possible that both museums could wind up elsewhere – particularly in the case of Lucas, although I’m not underestimating the concept of Obama wanting to retire to Honolulu and have his museum nearby.

To that museum’s end, an Illinois House committee meeting in Chicago gave its recommendation to the idea of spending $100 million someday on an Obama museum – with Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, saying that’s comparable to the amount of state funds that went toward developing an Abraham Lincoln library and museum in downtown Springfield some nine years ago.

Not that this latest action, which still needs approval by the full Illinois House, the state Senate and Gov. Pat Quinn before it becomes official, tells us where such a museum would be located.

Since we’re still nowhere near deciding where, in Chicago, would be the best site to remember the eight-year period in which a one-time community organizer from down around the Altgeld Gardens public housing complex became the most feared (by the conservative ideologues amongst us) element of our society.

FOR HIS PART, Emanuel said he does not think the fact that Obama still owns a home in Chicago and may come back at some point to live part of the rest of his life here does not ensure Chicago would get the museum.

He wants to see serious politicking on the issue. Similar to what we’re likely to see to get the Lucas museum.

Similar to the task force that he created to try to bring a Lucas museum to Chicago. Long live the imagery of “Star Wars,” although I’d be more interested in seeing relics of “American Graffiti” – which gave us “Happy Days” before “Happy Days” existed on television.

How about that souped-up yellow car that actor Paul LeMat’s “John Milner” character drove about all throughout the film, before beating Harrison Ford’s character in the film-ending drag race?

Check out the car!
THEN AGAIN, FORD went on to become “Han Solo,” and ride around the galaxy in the Millennium Falcon with a walking carpet named “Chewbacca.”

It seems Chicago is amongst the cities being considered because Lucas’ wife is a Chicago native, and he actually has a home here, along with in San Francisco.

And if we get it, we run the risk of having people suddenly think that a museum makes the “Star Wars” saga real-life history – just the opposite of those people who think “Titanic” was a story about Leonardo DiCaprio and some rich chick!

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Will Bruce Rauner wind up being “da winner,” or the guy who spends the most per vote in a losing campaign?

This is what our election cycle for governor of Illinois has devolved to – it is between two guys who have differing ways of wanting to be perceived about the kind of campaign cash they’re actually raising.

Far in lead financially, for time being
We have one guy who’s more than capable of self-funding his campaign, yet he seems to want us to think that he’s actually raising the nickel-and-dime donations from the general public, so as to create the impression that people like him, they really, really like him!

BECAUSE IF WE truly comprehended just how wealthy Republican nominee Bruce Rauner was (he wasn’t exaggerating with that self-description of being in the 0.001 percent of society), we might actually think less of him.

We might figure that for all his money, he should find something better to do with his life than try to buy a government office.

Then, we have another guy who’s going to go out of his way to brag and boast about every dollar he manages to raise.

Because the perception some people want to have is that Gov. Pat Quinn is such a schnook that he can’t possibly come up with the kind of campaign cash to be competitive against Rauner’s personal wealth.

THE BOTTOM LINE is that we have two truly different men, and we have a clear-cut choice when we have to make our pick Nov. 4 as to who will be the chief executive of Illinois government.

Which has me wondering if Rauner, deep down, would like to proclaim himself the CEO of Illinois, rather than using such a mundane title as “governor?” But that’s a debate for a different day.

I make this observation in part after seeing the statement Rauner’s campaign released earlier this week about his campaign finances for the first three months of 2014.

RAUNER: Carhartt coat appeals to 60 percent?
Rauner highlighted the fact that 60 percent of the people who made donations to his campaign were individuals who gave $100 or less. In short, the Joe Schnooks of the world who decide to make some sort of symbolic political statement – rather than coming up with the kind of cash that gets a political person’s serious attention.

BUT WHEN ONE considers how much more money the remainder were donating, it makes that 60 percent majority seem so insignificant.

In fact, with Rauner raising not quite $9 million during those three months, it should be donated that $5.3 million were the donations Rauner – a venture capitalist who turned himself into an extremely wealthy man – made to himself.

That’s the part Rauner doesn’t want us to look at. In his best “Mighty Oz” impersonation, he tells us not to look behind the curtain that contains his personal checkbooks.

All I know is that while I do have a personal interest in public policy and government, if I had that kind of wealth, I could think of a lot more worthwhile things to spend the money on than trying to win an election.

THEN, WE GO to Pat Quinn. He’s the guy who had about $5 million raised previously, and raised about another $5 million during the past three months. Not bad for a guy who’s going to have a larger percentage than “60 percent” of Joe Schnook-type guys making campaign contributions for him.

The Chicago Sun-Times, however, pointed out what may be the intriguing part of the whole equation. Both candidates began the second quarter of this year far apart.

Rauner spent so much money to win his primary that his campaign account had about $1.3 million on April Fool’s Day, while Quinn had $8.8 million to work with. Largely on account of the fact that he didn’t have to do a thing in order to beat Democratic challenger Tio Hardiman.

Quinn is loving it these days, now that he’s the “big money” guy – although not really.
 
Would either candidate actually live here if they win?

FOR RAUNER HAS the kind of personal wealth that he can give himself yet another loan to catch up to that $8.8 million. And Quinn is going to have to start spending that cash in order to rebut all the knockdown allegations Rauner will try to offer up against him.

Although I’m sure Quinn will have his own share of political bodyblows – as I’m sure the labor union political action committees will be more than anxious to keep Pat adequately funded to cope with Bruce.

Which means the next seven-plus months will be headache-inducing, what with all the nonsense we’re going to hear spewed by the candidates and their lackeys toward each other.

The only winners? Those people who get their joy after Election Day from calculating who spent the most money per vote they actually receive! Even money on whether Rauner will be the big winner, or the most foolish man ever to try to get into Illinois politics, come Nov. 5!

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

He did his time. But will critics “let it go” with regards to Vanecko’s offense?

VANECKO: Debt paid to society?
Time passes. Eventually, it will quit snowing.

Although evidence that all things come to an end may well be Richard Vanecko, the nephew and grandson of Chicago mayors who earlier this year pleaded guilty to criminal charges that said he was involved in a drunken brawl that left another man dead.

VANECKO GOT A 60-day jail sentence, and even was able to make arrangements so that he didn’t have to do his time in Cook County Jail (where he would have had the perpetual bulls-eye on his back). Earlier this week, that sentence ran its course.

Vanecko is a free man. He still has a period of home confinement to complete – he’ll be wearing one of those ankle bracelets – along with a couple of years of probation.

He’s still going to have the eyes of law enforcement and the court system on him for a bit. But the hard part is over – in one sense.

But just like the snowfall that doesn’t seem to want to stop even though the calendar says winter ended several weeks ago, there’s no way that some people will let things go with regard to this case.

THIS IS ONE that Vanecko truly is going to have to live down for the rest of his life, and that some people are going to forevermore be convinced that he got off lightly. They’re the ones who are going to want to believe that we should find ways to hound the man for years to come.

Which means we have to figure out for ourselves when to let things go. How long should we continue to be obsessed with Vanecko himself? When do those of us who are upset need to just get over it?

Now before you accuse me of being a Daley family apologist (although I’m sure some of you are going to do so regardless), I’ll be the first to admit I’m disgusted by the fact that Chicago police and the state’s attorney’s office in this case seemed little interested in figuring out early on (when a prosecution might have actually meant something) what actually happened in the April 25, 2004 incident on Division Street that resulted in the death of David Koschman.
 
Will it ever all melt away? Photograph by Gregory Tejeda

I sympathize with Koschman’s mother, who had to endure several years of knowing the system cared less about her son – and considered “justice” to be the protection of Vanecko.

BUT SHE HAS a personal stake in this case. It is the other people – the ones who are looking to score political points for their own ideological beliefs – who have the potential to bother me in coming years.

Because they’re going to obsess over every minute detail to the point where we all get sick of hearing of this case. They have the potential to turn this into something that we shouldn’t have to ever hear.

I’ll be the first to say that getting a 60-day jail sentence for an incident where a man was killed does sound a bit light. Perhaps if this had been prosecuted in a timely manner, a more legitimate penalty could have been reached.

But it wasn’t. What we got was ultimately the ruling of the legal system we have – which despite its flaws at least has the potential to correct itself. A truly unjust system would have prosecuted Koschman’s mother for not letting the issue go all those years ago.

WHICH IS WHY I’m inclined to accept that Vanecko has done his time. Or at least as much time as the system will ever ask of him.

What was that old cliché – he paid his debt to society? He has a clean slate with “the state.”

Those people who are going to continue to rage about this case come across as the equivalent of the collection agency whose computer has made a glitch and is trying to overcharge someone. They need to let it go, already.
 
Maybe then, it will finally stop snowing for this winter season.
 
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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

EXTRA: Who won’t Pat Quinn pay tribute to? Remembering a 67-yr-old Opening Day, and who made it unique

I’m used to the idea of political people finding off-beat things to pay tribute to – reflecting in the glory of others.

But Gov. Pat Quinn trying to gain himself some attention off the memory of Jackie Robinson? That’s a stretch!

BUT IS what Quinn chose to do on Tuesday – which is the 67th anniversary of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Opening Day in which Robinson made his appearance in the line-up as the first openly-black ballplayer in the U.S. major leagues in modern times.

“Jackie believed that ‘life is not a spectator support,’ and he lived his life with that in mind,” Quinn said, in his prepared statement. “He broke the color barrier in the major leagues, became the first black (Most Valuable Player) and took his team to the World Series” six times in 10 seasons as a ballplayer.

“At the same time, he fought for black athletes and Americans of all colors and creeds to be treated equally,” said Quinn. “This is why his number was retired by (Major League Baseball) and why he received two of our nation’s highest honors – the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.”

Impressive, in its own way, and worthy of honors. Although I'm not sure how much is added to the Robinson legacy by having Quinn try to attach himself to it. Or how ridiculous the governor comes across for doing so.

Check out the pants number
ALTHOUGH I SUPPOSE things could be more ridiculous -- particularly if Quinn were trying to give such glory to the athletic legacy of one of our city's ballplayers. Who would he pick? Carmen Fanzone? Harry Chappas?

Or did you think that “42” that the Chicago White Sox have posted along with their other retired player numbers was meant to honor the memory of Ron Kittle?

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A political statement? Or just someone who has no business with a firearm?

Is Nahshon Shelton now the idol of all the anti-tax and firearms fanatics who exist in our society?

SHELTON: In jail over 22 cents?
I’d hope not. Although considering how rigid they are to their causes without regard to how their rhetoric actually fits in to our daily lives, you never know.

FOR THE RECORD, Shelton is a Garfield Park neighborhood resident who is going to be spending the next few months/years living without the option of bond at the Cook County Jail – depending on how long it takes Cook County state’s attorney’s office to prosecute his criminal case.

He got arrested on Saturday when he pulled a blue-steel Intratec .22-caliber automatic weapon out of a Gucci bag he was carrying. The Chicago Sun-Times reported Monday that Shelton threatened to kill everyone in the store.

What was it that ticked Shelton off?

It seems he was at a store on Madison Street near Pulaski Road, and objected to the fact that the store wanted to charge him more than the $1.79 list price for a two-liter bottle of Pepsi cola.

TWENTY TWO CENTS more, to be exact. Because that’s how much all the assorted taxes came to on that bottle of pop.

“This is my neighborhood. I’m tax-exempt,” is what he supposedly told the police when they questioned him about the incident.

I’m not trying to make light of a criminal act, or the alleged behavior of Shelton, a 36-year-old with a prior criminal record (which means he never would have got a concealed carry permit for his power-packed Gucci satchel).

But in reading about his incident, I wonder how many of those anti-tax types (particularly the ones who have a penchant for firearms of all types) wish they could do something exactly like what Shelton did?


They had a busy weekend
I THINK AN incident like this puts the nonsensical nature of their views into a proper perspective. Just nuts, rather than any kind of revolutionary thought process that would benefit our society.

You can complain all you want about excess taxes – and being appalled that Gov. Pat Quinn is in a position this spring where he’s calling for an extension of an increase on the income tax while also being asked to sign into law a measure that could raise local property taxes (in Chicago-proper, at least) as well!

But the idea is that governments do have some services they must perform, and there needs to be a source of funding to cover the ever-increasing costs of things (unless you want to complain and rant about how cheap – I remember when newspapers were 20 cents, and not the current $1-1.50 per day – things used to be.

A part of me thinks of all these anti-tax types as being as ridiculous as what Shelton is alleged to have done.

WE CAN ONLY be thankful that police happened to be in the area of the store at the time of the incident. Because Shelton, according to police, was carrying a weapon with a round of ammunition in the chamber, eight more rounds in the magazine, and five rounds in yet another magazine.

He could easily have become the lede story of what was a particularly violent weekend – there were 36 people shot in Chicago during one 36-hour time period from Saturday into early Sunday. Four of those people did die, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Pay up!!!
And the over-swamped Police Department had to cope with all of this violence. Just think how much worse things would be if the anti-tax types (some of whom are incredibly unbending in their view on the issue) were to ever get their way and we got the kind of police department they would want us to be able to afford?

Just a thought to keep in mind for those of you ranting and raging about Tax Day and the size of the checks you had to write out to be in compliance with the governments on your share of the tax bill.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Is Sun-Times censoring its readership? Or just weeding out the nit-wits?

The Chicago Sun-Times let it be known this weekend that they’re going to follow a trend a lot of newspapers have undertaken when it comes to their websites – you won’t be able to post anonymous comments any more at the end of stories published at suntimes.com.

Getting w/ the program on anonymous commentary
The newspaper says that the comments meant to give readers a chance to express their views instantly have become a, “morass of negativity, racism, hate speech and general trollish behaviors” that do no good.

NOT THAT PEOPLE won’t be able to let their views be known about the stories the Sun-Times chooses to publish.

Because like many other publications – including the Chicago Tribune – already do, their sites are connected to Facebook in ways that make it very easy for people to post links to the newspaper’s stories on their Facebook pages.

Then, people can easily post their responses on those pages, while also saying whether they “like” the story in question – which in no way means they actually approve of what was reported.

In fact, the Sun-Times let it be known that’s exactly what people can still do – connect to the newspaper’s content on Facebook and Twitter.

SO THE FACT that the nasty comments will no longer be directly attached to the Sun-Times stories themselves won’t stop them from being made. Plus, there will always be the possibility of someone else using a different website to attack the newspaper in some form.

I know that firsthand, because I do some work for one of the suburban-based daily newspapers – the Times of Northwest Indiana – which actually made the same move more than a year ago that the Sun-Times is undertaking now.

In fact, reading the Sun-Times’ statement about the elimination of Internet comments, I was struck by the similarity. The Sun-Times says its change is temporary, while a new method of permitting commentary to editorial content is devised.

That’s the same thing the Times said it would do, and has not done yet. Although it’s always possible that I’m the last to know of an impending change.

ALTHOUGH THE REAL point is that I don’t think the Times lost much of anything when it did away with the strings of comments that would accompany many stories – with it turning out that there were a few people who seemed to feel the need to make a hostile comment about everything.

And many of those comments often had nothing to do with the actual story itself, but were rather about personalities and someone’s need to take a pot shot at someone else.

Anonymously, of course!

Personally, I feel sorry for such people that they seem to have so little in their lives that they ranted more than a year ago that the Times was censoring their views, just as they’re now complaining that the Sun-Times is engaging in CENSORSHIP!!!!

WHICH IS NONSENSE. It is censorship if they create their own site and write hostile comments, and someone tries to shut them down. That is un-American, and I would defend them, no matter how stupid and trivial their comments actually were on their own sites.

This is a case of going onto someone else’s site, and trying to tell them what they MUST publish. If anything, I consider those anonymous commenters to be more akin to censors than anyone else.

But I’m not going to get too worked up over them. They’re going to find other places to go to make their hostile, mean-spirited and petty comments.

While the bulk of us will feel compelled to ignore them because, after all, we have lives!

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes, I permit commentary here. I’m also pretty loose about what I permit. Stay away from the profanity, and I’ll permit just about anything – no matter how ridiculous it makes you seem for thinking that way.