Saturday, October 20, 2018

How enamored ought we be of pseudo-celebs who set foot in Chicagoland

Every time I think that Chicago has the potential to be one of the most sophisticated cities on the face of Planet Earth, I stumble across something that reminds me of a St. Louis native I once knew who described Chicagoans as “hicks in nice suits.”
WINFREY: Sold her home she never lived in

As much as I’d like to punch him in the mouth for suggesting such a thought, I have to admit there are times he may well have hit our Midwestern populace right on the mark!

FOR I COULDN’T help but notice the names of Oprah Winfrey and Kanye West popping up in the news Friday, just one day after I saw the moniker of Michael Jordan pop up as a Chicagoan

Which anybody who has been paying attention knows really isn’t the case anymore. The one-time Chicago Bulls star has long ago broken his ties to the Second City.

As has Winfrey, the queen of daytime talk show television programming – who long ago stopped producing her show at a studio on the near West Side. She’s now a California girl – as in a part of the entertainment industry that views “the world” as not extending much beyond the greater Los Angeles area.

Any ties she had to our city streets are nothing more than history.

SO IT WASN’T a surprise to read a Chicago Tribune report about how Winfrey sold off what it calls her “final piece of Chicago-area real estate” – as in a house in suburban Elmwood Park.
WEST: Finding dining in suburban Naperville

Which she bought for $298,000 back in 2001, never actually lived in herself, and managed to sell off for a $72,000 profit over what she paid for it all those years ago.

The downtown condo where Winfrey actually lived, along with a high-rise apartment she had in the Gold Coast for awhile, were long-ago sold off. As the Tribune reports, Winfrey still has a house in Merrillville, Ind.; which technically could be regarded as a part of the greater Chicago area.

But the one-time “World’s Greatest” newspaper apparently wants to view State Line Road and the Cook/Lake, Ind. County line as an impenetrable barrier. So Oprah is history as a Chicagoan.
JORDAN: Still trying to sell suburban home

AS IS, ONE could argue, Michael Jordan, whose one-time home in suburban Highland Park was included in a story I recently saw about luxury homes that celebrities own – which clearly identified Jordan as a Chicago resident.

Even though he has been trying to sell that mini-mansion of his for more than five years now. It seems the kind of people who could afford such a garish structure want something built to custom for their own desires – not something that was meant to cater to the whims of Jordan when he was the world’s biggest celebrity professional athlete.

Yet there are those who continue to cling to the images of Winfrey and Jordan as though they’re ordinary people who we run into every time we go to the neighborhood supermarket, or pump gas into our cars.

Perhaps we fantasize that Oprah came up a couple of bucks short while grocery shopping, and we just happened to be the ones who were there who could give her some cash to fulfill her tab.

OR MAYBE WE want to think of Kanye West, who was in the news last week to meet with President Donald Trump about public policy issues, then managed to catch the attention of the Naperville Sun newspaper when they found out he was at a Pepe’s Mexican restaurant in suburban Naperville on Thursday.
TRUMP: Thank goodness he doesn't come here

For the record, Kanye ordered chicken tacos for dinner, then went to the pool table set up in the restaurant, and shot some billiards, while also signing autographs and generally playing the role of celebrity for the restaurant patrons.

It’s good that there are people out there who had a pleasant time. But really, I would think interrupting someone when they’re trying to dine is boorish behavior. It’s downright rude.

It’s the kind of thing I’d expect in Indianapolis. Then again, perhaps even people in “Nap-town” would conduct themselves better than that. After all, if West really thinks Pepe’s is decent Mexican food, he has bigger issues in life than his nonsensical babbling with the president in the Oval Office.

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Friday, October 19, 2018

EXTRA: A political language lesson

It's lawn-sign time, and most of the ones we'll see in coming days will be rather ordinary, if not downright dull. So I couldn't help but get a kick out of this one that I stumbled across on the Internet.

Personally, I think this sign's meaning goes beyond needing to know Spanish. Although this weblog does offer a translation function, if you feel compelled to look up the word.
A double-blow, en Espanol

MY EXPERIENCE IS that this was one of those words for which my mother would have slapped me across the face, if she had heard me using it as a child. Of course, that didn't stop her from often using the word to describe people who were behaving in a particularly stupid or annoying manner.

Political payback for Trump trash talk?
Just as here's another word that would have got me in trouble when I was a child, but I also recall it being one my grandmother would use -- fi she thought I and her other grandchildren weren't listening closely to her.

The scary part? Donald Trump probably thinks HE'S the one being unfairly picked upon by people expressing such thoughts about him.

Although trust me, none of it is nowhere as bad as any of the rancid remarks Trump has made about the nation's Mexican-American (and Latino in general) population.

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H.H. Holmes a hotel theme; will Speck, Gacy someday get similar treatment?

Reading a Chicago Tribune report of the Acme Hotel Company’s plans to convert rooms in their River North facility into something paying homage to one of Chicago’s early serial killers is putting creepy thoughts into my mind.
HOLMES: Eventually executed for his crimes

Such as will the day come when enough time has passed that someone will think they can make money off of housing paying memory to Richard Speck? Or John Gacy?

BOTH OF THOSE men committed excessively violent crimes, and I’m sure there will be people out there who will try to claim I am sick and twisted for even suggesting such a thought?

The Richard Speck apartment complex? The John Gacy suite at a luxury hotel?

Personally, the very thought turns me ill. I don’t think I’d want to stay in such a facility – even if it is something someday being done up in a gaudy manner as the Acme Hotel’s rooms that will contain items remembering people of the crimes Holmes committed back during the Columbian Exposition of 1893 – the World’s Fair held in Chicago to pay tribute to the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus.

Back from the days when Columbus was the “man who sailed the ocean blue and discovered America,” rather than the modern image some try to present of him as a slave trader who was the worst possible thing that ever could happen to the native peoples of this continent.

HOLMES WAS A man who confessed to killing some 27 people, even though only nine of those slayings were confirmed – and some of the people to whom Holmes said he killed actually turned up alive.
Book could become a Leo DiCaprio film

What the crime spree had as a theme was that it occurred during the World’s Fair, with many of the slayings taking place in what was described in the news coverage of the day as the “Murder Castle” at 63rd and Wallace streets that Holmes (also known as Herman Webster Mudgett) built for himself.

It was a rooming house where fairgoers stayed, and some of them never checked out – so to speak.

Reports of the era say the facility had trap doors, hidden passageways, padding to muffle sounds and even a crematorium on the premises. So as to get rid of the evidence.

NOW, THE ACME Hotel is offering up suites next week through Halloween. For $229 a night, one can stay in a place with Holmes memorabilia and news clippings on hand, and even pictures of Holmes himself appearing to peer in at you from an outside window.
Murder Castle was long ago demolished

Kind of creepy, ain’t it?

But it really seems like so much time has passed (125 years since the Columbian Exposition) that the name H.H. Holmes doesn’t readily ring a mental bell for many people.

Unless, that is, if they have read the book “Devil in the White City,” which is a novel published 15 years ago that was set in Chicago during the World’s Fair and is a fictionalized account of the things that Holmes is said to have done.
Will these long-deceased criminals … 

DOES THIS MEAN that some time around the year 2100, someone will want to think it would somehow be “cool” to have something paying homage to Speck and his bloody night of killing eight student nurses (he got caught because a ninth nurse hid under the bed, and he lost count), or to the nearly three dozen young men whom Gacy was executed for by lethal injection back in 1994?

I’m sure that if someone had tried to say a “Murder Castle” theme, even if just for Halloween, would be a novel idea back around 1910, I’m sure the bulk of Chicagoans would be repulsed.
… someday become entertainmen themes?

But I can’t think of anybody who was alive in Chicago back in the 1890s would still be with us in this realm of existence. So the hotel can get away with passing off this Halloween holiday suite as a homage to a novel

All I can say is if that is what happens to the memory of Speck or Gacy or anybody else who has committed a string of crimes, I’d find it horrid. It is my “scary” thought for Halloween this year.

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Thursday, October 18, 2018

Racial lawsuit against Pritzker a lame attempt at political misdirection

What kind of world is it where a political aspirant can put $88 million of his own money into his electoral campaign, and be grossly outspent?
PRITZKER: Under fire from own staff

That’s the case these days for Bruce Rauner. The Illinois governor tried the same tactic that worked in 2014 when he first ran for office – he invested his own money into winning.

BUT NOW THAT he’s seeking re-election, it doesn’t seem to be enough. It’s now plainly obvious why Democratic establishment types were eager to have J.B. Pritzker as their gubernatorial nominee. He has put $146.5 million of his own money into an opposition campaign – which is a record for political spending.

So the Republicans who want to avoid becoming politically irrelevant in Illinois following the Nov. 6 elections are now behaving like magicians – to whom the secret of their acts isn’t any real magical powers, but a strong ability to misdirect.

Get people to focus their attention on one issue or aspect – and not notice some action that really explains their trick.

In this election cycle, it seems that “discrimination” will be the issue that Rauner-backers will want us all to pay attention to.

A LAWSUIT FILED late Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Chicago tries to make it claim that the Pritzker gubernatorial campaign is discriminating against its workers who happen to be black, or of Latino ethnic origins.
RAUNER: Can this lawsuit help him?

“J.B. Pritzker for governor has a serious race problem,” the lawsuit states. As though we’re supposed to believe that all non-white voters ought to cast ballots for Bruce in order to look out for our interests.

It seems that the bulk of non-white campaign workers are used by the Pritzker campaign in non-white neighborhoods. The campaign supposedly has but one actual field office based in such a neighborhood, and it supposedly is so unsafe that Pritzker himself has yet to visit.

All of this may actually be true. But it strikes me as being a batch of hooey, rather than any kind of legitimate campaign issue.

IF ANYTHING, I’D be surprised if the Rauner campaign has any stronger physical presence in similar neighborhoods. Or actually, if ANY Republican running for office is bothering much to campaign in ways to try to appeal to non-white voters.

OBAMA: His old staffers amongst those suing
I suspect the Republican strategy in general is to make electoral politics as unappealing as they possibly can to non-white voters. If not many actually bother to vote, then the GOPers can focus on their preferred element of the electorate – and it could possibly be large-enough to win an election.

In this case, stirring up some doggie poop to try to build resentment against the Pritzker campaign won’t get any significant number of votes for the Rauner re-election bid. But I’m sure he hopes it will make his hard-core GOPers a large-enough faction to prevail on Nov. 6.

So when I read the statement from Illinois Republican Party executive director Travis Sterling that says, in part, “Pritzker’s actions don’t back up his words. Here we have his own staffers, seasoned political operatives, alleging racial discrimination and harassment,” I can’t help but be skeptical.

AND WHEN HE says, “It’s finally time for J.B. Pritzker to answer for his actions,” I have to cackle sarcastically.
How many lawsuit fans are also Trump backers?

For many of these Republican operatives are the same kinds of people who are desperately trying to ignore so many of Donald Trump’s inane comments and actions that are nothing more than appeals to the bigoted nature of a segment of the electorate. In large part because they have little objections to such ideals themselves.

Now I’m not going to be naïve enough to claim J.B. Pritzker is high-minded and moralistic; although I have noticed that throughout the years of his political financing, he tends to give his money to candidates who do fight for such ideals.

We can only hope that gives him some sense of what is right and what he should strive to achieve if he actually wins political office himself. Irregardless, we still need to dump Rauner, who can’t even appease the ideologues amongst us and still has all those anti-labor hang-ups that brought about his stubborn actions that have made a total mess of Illinois’ government in recent years – a fact that no amount of money can cover up.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Is Chance sufficient enough to make Enyia more than “Miss One Percent?”

Amara Enyia is one of the dozen or so people who got into the race for mayor in next year’s election cycle even before Rahm Emanuel withdrew.
She has run for office before, but she’s always been one of those fringy sort-of candidates, as in someone who – when all is said and done – either withdraws prior to Election Day, or else takes about 1 percent of the vote. Getting the support of those who want to cast a ballot for somebody, but can’t bring themselves to back one of the more established candidates.

SO I CAN’T help but wonder if Enyia just had the best day of her political life on Tuesday, or if the entertainer known as Chance the Rapper truly has an over-bloated ego.

Chance, the son of Ken Bennett, who was a federal government official during Barack Obama’s presidential terms, has become a person taking interest in public policy and Chicago’s future.

Which is what caused him to show up at City Hall on Tuesday along with a gathering of his followers to let it be publicly known he supports Enyia for mayor come the Feb. 26 elections.

Can Chance, who in recent months purchased himself rights to a website to make himself a publisher of sorts and who also has offered financial support for projects meant to benefit the Chicago Public Schools, provide Enyia’s political dreams enough of a jolt so that she can compete with the William Daleys, Gery Chicos and Toni Preckwinkles of the political world?

OR DID HE just give her an ego jolt that won’t last much beyond Tuesday and will result in her once again taking 1 percent of the ballots cast come Feb. 26?

I found it interesting to read the Chicago Tribune, which reported Chance said, “I probably won’t ever be running for mayor of this city, but I believe that me and Amara share a vision of what Chicago should be.”

While the Sun-Times had Chance stating to Enyia the much more egotistical, “I’d like to say very narcissistically, if I back you, you have a chance – absolutely.”
ENYIA: Will political dreams become real?

Chance could be an influence if he were to make significant campaign contributions to Enyia in the way that other government officials get themselves prominent financial backers.

WHICH IS WHY it may be more relevant to read Chance saying, “I got a lot of money, so it would be very scary” if he were to donate.

As for Enyia, she is the founder of the Institute for Cooperative Economics and Economic Innovation. The Chicago-raised daughter of Nigerian immigrants, she has bachelors and masters degrees, along with a PhD, and also is a law school graduate.

If anything, Enyia is exactly the kind of hard-driven, enthusiastic and dedicated person that any government official would want to have on their staffs. Someone with knowledge and skills who could get things done and make the elected official look good in the process.

As to how much of that translates into being an actual elected official, that is questionable. We all too often get lesser-minded officials who rely on their cult of personality to sway voters into supporting them; perhaps with the notion that those people will hire qualified staffers to actually do the work.

SO IT WILL be interesting to see if Enyia is capable of rising from the ranks of “staff” to “elected official.”

Could the cult of Chance’s personality give her a boost? Or will the people who showed up at City Hall on Tuesday to cheer her on follow him to some other cause next week, or month or year?
She has been campaigning since August. Is this a big boost?
One other thing. I couldn’t help but notice that Chance’s father is already publicly on board as backing Preckwinkle for mayor. Chance himself says there is a generational split that could cause younger voters to turn on Toni (who is 71).

Will it be a “tense” Thanksgiving this year – one in which Bennett family members go out of their way to avoid political talk? Or will there be a meeting of the minds that unites the family, and many voters, behind a lone candidate?

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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Sears seems like it faded away long ago

People woke up Monday to the news reports about Sears filing for bankruptcy. And not the kind that allows a company to skip out on its debts while restructuring itself so it can stay alive.
Sears was Amazon.com before Amazon.com existed

No, it seems like this may be the end for the historic retail giant that has been with us for 125 years, and for many of them was a dominant presence in terms of where we all shopped for goods.

EVEN IF YOU didn’t have a Sears store nearby, there was always the Sears catalog. Which in rural parts of the nation was a dominant presence. It really isn’t a stretch to say that Amazon.com was the same basic business model as Sears – except they use the Internet to make goods available, while Sears went to the expense of publishing hard-copies of catalogs advertising their goods.

But Sears most definitely is a part of the past!

One that I suspect most of us won’t mourn in the least. Unless you happen to think like my step-mother, whose reaction to hearing the news would be to wonder what kind of bargains would be available at the inevitable “Going Out of Business!” sale.

I don’t doubt there are some other people who will have the same reaction. Although I have to confess to being confused, since there have been so many cutbacks and reductions in recent years by Sears to try to buy more time for the company to survive that I don’t even know where there is a Sears store anywhere near where I’m living these days.
Sears stores of my youth … 

I KNOW WHERE all the Sears locations within Chicago proper were. As in “used to be.” We don’t have Sears any longer in the Second City that was the corporate headquarters to the one-time retail giant.

Even many of the suburban locations have long-since closed.

Personally, I might be inclined to want to take a trip to the Sears store where my family often shopped when I was a child, which was the Sears that was an anchor to the River Oaks shopping mall in suburban Calumet City.

Except that store closed some five years ago. I’ve heard countless schemes and proposals for how the city wishes to reuse the building, but none of them have managed to come about.
… are already long-gone from the retail scene
ON THOSE OCCASIONS when I happen to be in the area and drive by it, I see a huge vacant structure begging either for a new tenant or for someone to come along and tag it with graffiti. Of which I fear the latter is the option more likely to occur.

The Sears I remember of my childhood was a place where one could purchase just about anything. A “One-Stop Shop” for all of life’s needs.

But then, our society’s desires changed. Perhaps we think we outgrew Sears. Or perhaps some of us wanted the impression of purchasing higher-quality merchandise and were willing to pay a premium for it.

Although I suspect the majority of us were more interested in finding the financial bargains they could find shopping elsewhere. Just as those old neighborhood retail shops are gone because someone else could provide similar goods cheaper, Sears also got undone by the same basic premise.
The original Sears corporate complex

AFTER ALL, IT would cost a lot of money to keep a fully-staffed store with many departments – including many with specialty salespeople who actually understand their product.

From a business end, it’s cheaper to have the big-box model staffed with retail clerks who know nothing and provide next-to-no service or assistance. Something to keep in mind the next time you shop there and can’t get anybody to help you. You’re getting what you pay for.
The 'tower' no longer caries Sears brand name

Some of us will mourn the memory of Sears. We’ll stubbornly insist on using the Sears moniker to ID the building bought by the Willis Group. But then we ought to think of just when was the last time we bought anything from one of their stores?

In my case, I can’t even remember. I suspect I’m not alone. That’s why they’re soon-to-be no more.

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Monday, October 15, 2018

Moving up politically? Or not enough Latinos to run for political office?

It seems the people who were trying to get Jesus Garcia to give up the seat in Congress he’s likely to win a few weeks from now to run for mayor have a new focal point for their ethnically-oriented political efforts.

Should Mendoza be eager to return to City Hall in '19?
They’re now trying to get Susana Mendoza, the Illinois comptroller who’s trying to win re-election to a full term of her own come Nov. 6, to seek the mayor’s post come the municipal elections to be held Feb. 26.

IT LITERALLY IS the same Latino activists who were trying to persuade Garcia to move up(?) to Chicago mayor who are now behind the effort to get Mendoza – who once used to be Chicago city clerk before becoming the woman in charge of Illinois state finances – to want to give up all this Springfield nonsense and return to City Hall.

Which I know some people regard as the focal point for all politics that matters!

Or could just be the point that some people with lesser ambitions think is the place where government has an impact on the daily lives of people. Either that, or they think the idea of having to live in Springfield (state constitutional officers such as comptroller are required to maintain a mailing address in the state’s capital city) is so dreadful.

Anyway, we literally now have people out in the streets of Chicago circulating the nominating petitions gathering signatures of support so that Mendoza could run for mayor in next year’s election cycle – should she decide to do so.

GARCIA: Headed for D.C. -- NOT City Hall
FOR THE RECORD, Mendoza has been consistent in saying she’s focusing her attention on winning election to the post she has held for the past couple of years. The one she won originally in a special election against Leslie Munger – the Republican woman whom Bruce Rauner appointed to the state post when the elected official, Judy Baar Topinka, died just after being elected in 2016.

There are those Republican-type who feel the comptroller’s post was “stolen” from them, and they’d love to be able to claim that Mendoza is more interested in running for another government office, rather than focus on the post she now has.

Which is why Mendoza won’t say publicly she’s interested in running for mayor – she’d be giving her GOP opponent, Darlene Senger, a campaign issue.

SENGER: Can she stand in Mendoza's way?
Although there’s a part of me that really would want to see Mendoza finish out this four-year term for the office she’s now seeking.

YES, I HAVE an interest in Latino political empowerment. I’d enjoy seeing more Latino persons running for government office, and winning. Having the Chicago mayoral seat on a list of positions held by Latinos would be significant.

Particularly since it would offend the sensibilities of those kinds of people inclined to want to take Donald Trump seriously every time the president uses his Twitter account to engage in another one of his nit-wit rants.

But it almost seems like we’re inclined to keep re-using the same couple of names over and over again to have Latino officials run for political posts. When the goal for people interested in Latino political empowerment ought to be to have MORE Latinos in government offices.

It shouldn’t be about getting a couple of people already elected into as high-ranking of posts as possible! That seems rather limiting, and would play into the hands nativists who are determined to think Latinos “don’t belong.”

YES, I’D RATHER see Jesus Garcia, a Mexican-born naturalized U.S, citizen work the Halls of Capitol Hill and have an influence on our federal government.

While Mendoza, a Chicago-born and suburban Bolingbrook-raised daughter of Mexican immigrants, perhaps could someday be Illinois’ first female governor (she’s only 46), and perhaps be the one who frustrates the Republican desires to have an Illinois predominated by the 96 counties that, at best, comprise one-third of the state’s population.

Activists ought to try to grow the ranks of Latino government officials – or else they could wind up with a Chicago run by Latinos that has its every desire overruled by hostile federal and state political interests.
Besides, Mendoza has youth in her favor and could still get that future run for mayor – where (based on the video from her latest campaign ad) she could be the mayor who can handle a “real” football better than anybody playing professionally for the Chicago Fire.

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