Saturday, August 27, 2016

Even nonpartisan attempt at redistricting reform was partisan effort

I can’t get too upset over the Illinois Supreme Court’s actions this week that killed off an attempt to force the issue of redistricting reform on the ballot for voters to decide.

Yes, it’s true that the people who were opposed to it were the ones who benefitted the most from the current system. Then again, the people who were leading the effort to “reform” it were really doing so because they couldn’t win political control on Election Days past.

TO ME, THEIR attempt to redo the rules of how boundaries are set for the political districts that comprise the Illinois Legislature and our Congressional delegation reeked just a bit too much of that sore-loser little kid who – upon realizing he’s about to lose the board game – decides to just knock over the game table.

So the idea that the effort backed with the personal fortune of Gov. Bruce Rauner has failed yet again? It seems that Rauner is learning that even though he was able to buy victory in the 2014 election cycle, he can’t necessarily buy a sympathetic Legislature that will rubber-stamp his every desire.

Most of which are geared toward undermining organized labor and the influence it has within government.

Seriously, Rauner doesn’t get all goofy with the rhetoric about assorted social issues as does Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. But otherwise, the two do come off as rich guys who want a government post to benefit their own financial interests.

THAT ATTITUDE IS why I have had trouble trusting the various Independent Map Amendment initiatives that have cropped up in recent years – only to be ignored by the General Assembly and dumped upon by the courts.
RAUNER: For now, the loser

Including the Supreme Court of Illinois, which late Thursday issued a ruling that reeks of political partisanship in and of itself.

The four high court justices who have political sponsors of the Democratic Party persuasion were a majority that upheld the lower court decisions that have thwarted the issue.

While the three justices with Republican political sponsorship were hard-core in favor of the issue – which would have placed a referendum question on the ballot come the Nov. 8 elections that theoretically could have undermined the current system of political boundary setting.
MADIGAN: Da winnah, and still champeen!!!

LET’S BE HONEST. If there were just one more justice coming from a Republican-leaning part of Illinois, we’d have had a high court that would have gladly given Rauner what he wants on this issue.

Instead, we have the four justices that come from the Chicago and St. Louis metropolitan areas – which make up about 70 percent of the state’s population.

So I can’t say I’m particularly swayed by the dissenting opinion of Supreme Court Justice Robert Thomas (of GOP-leaning DuPage County), who called the high court’s latest action, “a fait accompli, nothing less than the nullification of a critical component of the Illinois Constitution of 1970.”

It strikes me as being the angry ramblings of someone who came up on the short-end of the stick and presumes that God, so to speak, is with him and would naturally prevail on his side – in any just society.

THE TRUTH MAY well be that neither “side” in this fight has any moralistic claims to make. It really is a numbers racket. Whichever side has the numbers will prevail. And yes, I acknowledge that much of the problem with the current set-up is that it encourages the greed of politicians and their desire to "screw over" their partisan opposition.
Too bad justice couldn't resort to Bears-days tactics

If that sounds a bit too much like “winner take all,” keep in mind that the very concept of democracy is one in which the majority rules.

Which, in a sense, is what is happening in Illinois, where an urban majority of the population is managing to overcome the desires of a more rural minority with a different vision.

They may think these legal actions are some sort of God-given claim for supremacy. But they really reek of that kid kicking over the game table that is the General Assembly, sending all its pieces (which currently provide veto-proof majorities in his opposition) scattered about the floor in order to force his preferred outcome.


Friday, August 26, 2016

Presidential insults; what else is new?

One of the most intriguing parts of the museum and library in Springfield, Ill., devoted to Abraham Lincoln is the exhibit showing samples of all the hostile rhetoric used to denigrate “Honest Abe” back when he was alive.
OBAMA: Would he let insults stop him?
With such harsh and hostile sentiments existing about the man, it’s no wonder his election resulted in people taking up arms against the nation – something that has not happened in recent years even though there are people who detest the very concept of “President Barack Obama.”

THERE HAVE BEEN so many slurs uttered by so many people of varying beliefs about Obama that I honestly have lost track of them. And it’s not just the conservative ideologues – let’s not forget the many Latino activists who voted for him but refer to him as the “deporter-in-chief” because of his inability to change the federal policies that have resulted in many individuals being removed from this country.

It is in that context that I have to admit to not getting so worked up over the recent wisecrack by Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., who referred to Obama as the “drug dealer in chief.”

It was Kirk’s attempt to criticize the dealings our federal government under Obama has had with Iran, while also trying to appeal to the hard-core ideologues who otherwise might think Kirk is too wimpy to represent their interests.
KIRK: Merely the latest of trash-talkers
People who likely would be happier if a Trump-like person (as in spewing rhetorical nonsense about so many issues) were on the Republican ticket for the U.S. Senate seat from Illinois.

KIRK’S CHALLENGER, DEMOCRAT Tammy Duckworth (herself a member of Congress from the northwest suburbs) has said such trash talk is unbecoming a U.S. senator. Yet there are times when I wonder if the standards for political talk have declined so much that the idea of something being unbecoming is a quaint concept.

For the record, Kirk refused to apologize during a candidate forum in Normal, Ill., on Wednesday. I suspect if he had been apologetic, the crowd would have turned on him something fierce.
LINCOLN: What president hasn't been insulted?

As though he was better off keeping his mouth shut and not causing even more damage for himself. Because we're in an era where such hostility is what passes for political talk -- why else would we take Donald Trump seriously?

Which is why I can’t get too worked up. I don’t doubt that Kirk is representing a viewpoint held by a certain segment of society – and he wants their votes. Because it’s pretty clear that the kind of people who oppose such a viewpoint will never vote for him come Election Day.

BESIDES, I COULDN’T help but notice an e-mail message I received Thursday from the Duckworth campaign. She wants to make sure we know just how offensive she thinks Kirk’s comments were. “Illinois deserves better than a senator who employs such extreme, offensive rhetoric,” her political director, Cameron Joost, wrote.

Of course, Joost then got to the point of the e-mail – the Duckworth campaign wants my money.

In fact, the e-mail was set up in such a way that I could just click on a link and make a campaign contribution. Show my outrage by kicking in a few bucks that can add up into a significant amount of money to support her election bid.

Somehow, the appeal for campaign cash comes off as just a bit crass. I have a feeling similar to that of “Ralphie” in “A Christmas Story” when he realized his newly-acquired Little Orphan Annie decoder ring was just a means of sending messages advertising Ovaltine.

“A CRUMMY COMMERCIAL!,” he said, before uttering an epithet that would have got many of us a bar of soap in our mouths from our mothers.

So much for the noble appeal to our higher ideals. Not one likely to get me to reach into my wallet, because like I’ve said before hostile political rhetoric is oh, so common. If Obama is a big boy, he can take it.

Besides, the kind of people who indulge in such trash talk wind up invariably hurting themselves my coming off as so lowbrow.

And in the end will come off making those people look as ridiculous as those who tried to label Lincoln as, “Abraham Africanus the First.”


Thursday, August 25, 2016

EXTRA: NY Times says Trib is wrong

The New York Times came up with their own story Thursday about how the Chicago Tribune took its crack at revealing the actual recipe of Kentucky Fried Chicken’s “original recipe” brand.
An actual ad, rather than Page One space

I found it interesting that the nephew of Col. Harlan Sanders, who was the basis for the Tribune’s story, ignored the Times’ own telephone call request for an interview.

HENCE, THE NEWSPAPER that gives us “All the news that’s fit to print” wound up having to rewrite what had already been published by the one-time “World’s Greatest Newspaper.”
A holiday lid from days past

Although while the Tribune had to publish a non-committal response from the YUM! Brands corporate officials who now own the Kentucky Fried Chicken brand, the Times was able to get them to say that the recipe published by the Tribune in Sunday’s newspaper is NOT the one used in franchises around the globe to produce their chicken.

Regardless, I stand by my original viewpoint that all these stories result in a lot of free publicity for the company – more valued than if they had decided to actually spend money for the advertising space.
Fried foods are in the news, apparently

And certainly a lot cheaper for the company! Although still quite a waste of newsprint space for the publications themselves.


Could Trump solve Chicago’s problems within a week? Only in his mind!

It seems that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s failed attempt to hold a campaign rally last spring at the University of Illinois at Chicago made a bigger impression on him than we would have envisioned.
Has Trump ever really been in Chi outside his tower?
But in true Trump fashion, the event has become a distorted twist of fantasy that makes no sense on just about any level.

FOR MEMORIES OF that time came up during television interviews on the national cable news channels as Trump and his allies tried to seriously twist the happenings of that Friday night into something it was not.

The reality was that the would-be rally Trump wanted to hold on the Near West Side campus wound up being cancelled because the unruly crowds of spectators got out of hand – although Chicago Police have since said they never advised Trump to cancel the event outright.

It was Trump himself who didn’t have the backbone to face off against people inclined to be critical of him. It is to be expected considering that most Trump rallies are programmed to devolve in the true faithful harassing, intimidating and even beating on the candidate’s critics.

Which is what made the comments by Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, during an interview with CNN all the more laughable.

HE TRIED TO describe that Chicago appearance as one in which Trump tried to speak out to African-American voters, only to be rebuffed by them.

As Lewandowski said, Trump, “went to the heart of Chicago to go and give a speech to the University of Chicago in a campus, which is predominantly African-America, to make that argument. And you know what happened? The campus was overrun, and it was not a safe environment.”

It seems to me that Trump, if he really believes this, didn’t have a clue what was going on – and not just because he wasn’t anywhere near the Hyde Park neighborhood that actually has the University of Chicago.

Or that the University of Illinois at Chicago is in a neighborhood bordering on upscale that has more white people living in it than any other type.

PERHAPS TRUMP THOUGHT he was at Chicago State University? Then again, probably all Chicago college campuses look alike to Trump because they’re not a part of Trump University.

The reality is that Trump wasn’t anywhere near the “ghetto” that he envisions all of Chicago is. Perhaps he has spent too much time watching reruns of “Good Times” and comedian Jimmie Walker’s humor-tinged vision of life at the old Cabrini-Green.

But if that wasn’t ridiculous enough, Trump himself had to open his mouth during a Fox News Channel interview, saying he had met with high-ranking Chicago Police Department officials who he says told him they could “stop much of this horror show that’s going on” if they were let loose to actually enforce the law.

As Trump then put it, the officer said, “I’d be able to stop it in one week.”

GEE, ONLY ONE week to resolve the problems confronting Chicago? It’s just too bad that the likely solution suggested by this mythical cop is use of more force that would actually enhance the real problem law enforcement has in dealing with people.

Plus, there’s also the fact that Chicago Police officials on Wednesday insisted that no department officials ever met with Trump. Which leads me to believe this may have been a lone cop who was present at the University of Illinois at Chicago that night who was just shooting his mouth off.

Similar to how Trump often engages in that phenomenon known as “diarrhea of the mouth.” Saying whatever thoughts come to mind without regard to whether they make any sense.

Which is why those people who get all worked up over the violence level of Chicago (personally, I remember the late 1980s when it was much worse) are living in the ultimate fantasyland if they think a vote for Trump means a thing!


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

EXTRA: “The Cell,” (2003-16)

The Chicago White Sox have spent the past 14 seasons playing their home games in a building known for short as “the Cell.” But with the name change announced Wednesday to Guaranteed Rate Field, does this now mean the Sox play at “the Rate?”

From "New Comiskey" to "the Cell" to "the Rate?" Photograph by Gregory Tejeda

THEN AGAIN, GUARANTEED Rate Field, named for the Chicago-based national mortgage lender that bought the naming rights to the stadium through the 2029 season, isn’t any more stupid than any other corporate-motivated name for a sports arena.

I question what companies really get out of paying millions of dollars to sports teams to have their brand put on the building.

Particularly in a case like with the White Sox, where the fan base is stubborn enough to resist using the new name. This could well be the inspiration for fans to deliberately go back to using the old “Sox Park” name that was on the ballpark they played in during the 1960s and early 1970s.

Although with a building of the physical scale of the current stadium, I’d argue for calling it “White Sox Stadium,” just like Yankee or Dodger, or perhaps Kansas City’s old Royals Stadium – which was the inspiration for the White Sox’ ballpark when it was built in the early 1990s.

SO FOR WHAT it’s worth, the reign of the building that began its life as “New Comiskey Park” may wind up being able to say its glory days came when it was named for a company that once used actress Joan Cusack as its face (that is, when they weren’t using a pink space alien).

For it was during its time as U.S. Cellular Field that the World Series was played in Chicago – a first in 46 years and the only one in recent years played by a Chicago team.

No matter what the Cubs accomplish this year, history will record it was the White Sox that won an ultimate championship first any time in this century.

It also was the payout from the U.S. Cellular interests that covered the cost of a renovation that enhanced much of the character the building currently has.

BU IT’S NOT like the “U.S. Cellular” name could have continued for much longer. If anything, it’s a wonder it lasted as long as it did.

Considering that U.S. Cellular doesn’t even exist anymore in Chicago or Illinois. The building essentially became advertising for a company that local people couldn’t use – even if they wanted to.

And considering that the company withered away locally, it didn’t likely do much business when it was here. So the days of “the Cell” are no more. Let’s just hope that someone can come up with a new moniker so that we don’t wind up calling the building “the Rate.”
One last task before retiring -- name park
Perhaps Sox broadcaster Ken Harrelson can use his skills at brandishing nicknames (he being the guy who came up with, among others, “The Big Hurt” for Hall of Famer Frank Thomas) to come up with an appropo label for the ballpark at Shields Avenue.


EDITOR’S NOTE: People were just as upset 14 years ago when the “U.S. Cellular” moniker was applied to the White Sox ballpark.

It doesn’t matter what Trump really thinks; he’s stirred up nitwits real good!

I don’t doubt that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump isn’t really as ridiculously over-the-top on immigration policy as the image that has been concocted for him during his campaign.
Will there be fewer Trump pinata parties?
But the fact is that Trump decided early on which segment of our electorate he wanted votes from, and those are the people to whom anything resembling immigration reform had better include increases in deportation and set restrictions against people who aren’t exactly like themselves.

IN SHORT, TRUMP sought the bigot vote. That’s what he’s going to get (and being bigots, they think their votes are the only ones that ought to count).

So what do I think of the news reports Tuesday that say Trump really doesn’t want to boost deportations? He merely wants to enforce the immigration laws as they currently exist now.

That’s probably correct. Although one should keep in mind that the current federal immigration policy is a bureaucratic mess – one in serious need of reform. The kind of reform that President Barack Obama has hinted at wanting to implement, but the Republican majority that controls Congress has repeatedly thwarted his efforts.

So is it accurate to say that Trump would merely maintain the Obama way of doing things? Yes, but only if you fail to take into account that it was the system that Obama inherited – and has been unsuccessful in his attempts to alter.

THERE’S A REASON that Latino activists with a particular interest in federal immigration policy refer to Obama negatively as the “deporter-in-chief,” acknowledging the fact that more people have been removed from this country for immigration policy violations than during any other presidency.

The idea spread amongst activists is that Obama was too weak and ineffectual to stand up to the people who were the problem. A Trump presidency likely would put those people in full control of any change that occurs in the near future.

So while Trump may think he’s going to be able to tone down his rhetoric in ways that a few more people in the Latino segment of the electorate will consider voting for him, it’s not likely to occur. Those opening campaign wisecracks about Mexicans being rapists and drug dealers will likely work their way into his eventual obituary!
OBAMA: Big difference between Barack and Trump

Because the real changes desired to make sense of our nation’s immigration policy are ones that acknowledge the fact that many of the people who are trying to come to this country do have a worthy contribution to make to our society.

IN FACT, IF we really wanted to judge a person’s right to U.S. citizenship based on what they offer to society as a whole, we’d probably find that many of these nativists and their xenophobic thought processes would be the first people in line for deportation – regardless of how many generations ago their families arrived on this continent.

Besides, my own thoughts about immigration policy are set largely based on the reality that there isn’t any difference between the newcomers of today and my own grandfathers – both of whom settled in the same neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago about 90 years ago.

A time either before there was a specific federal immigration policy or when the rules were loose enough that the restrictions of later didn’t apply to them.

Of course, I don’t doubt that the Trump-ites will dismiss any such claim. They don’t really seem to care about facts. In fact, I think the fact that Trump doesn’t burden their thought processes with “facts” is a major part of his appeal to them.

BESIDES, IF TRUMP were to go too far in softening his rhetoric on immigration policy, it probably would hurt him.

Because the kind of people who are determined to cast ballots for him come Nov. 8 are the ones who want these kind of absurd immigration policy changes to become real. They want someone who is willing to ignore sense because it fits with their own view of our society.

There’s no way he can say anything that will get him significant Latino support – heck, he’s going to do worse than the John McCain of 2008 or Mitt Romney of 2012. He’s going to create the false impression that Latinos love Hillary Clinton.

When in reality, our regard for Trump is that we Latinos think he’s lower than any soccer goaltender who faces off against the Mexico national team in a match at Mexico City’s Aztec Stadium.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Here’s what fanaticos de Equipo Mexico think of those visiting team goaltenders.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

What about the ‘special sauce?’ Is Kentucky Fried really a secret

I must confess to being in amazement of the Chicago Tribune, which made a front page story this weekend with full pages of content inside, out of the story that was little more than an advertisement for Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Did Chicago Tribune really reveal that bucket's contents?
For the Tribune devoted significant space on the front page and inside the front section to stories and sidebars implying they had cracked the code – so to speak – as to how the chicken joint makes its original recipe chicken.

EVEN THOUGH PERSONALLY, I have to wonder how few people really care to know.

Many people I know who want fast food chicken either avoid Kentucky Fried (I refuse to use the KFC acronym) or go out of their way to order the extra-crispy style.

Just something about that original recipe style that, while it might once have been a unique blend of ingredients to make for a flavorful batter now comes off as just too greasy to eat.

So if the Tribune really managed to “break” the story of what is in the batter that makes for the outer skin, I wonder, really wonder, who cares. Will we next get a story purporting to tell us what the “special sauce” is that goes on the McDonald’s “Big Mac?”

I JUST CAN’T envision many people feeling compelled to try cooking up a batch of chicken at home. Because fried chicken really has become one of those dishes that one either just orders out because it’s too difficult to get right at home, or else they’ve given up up on the idea of fried food in general.

It really is something we should eat only in moderation.
Is this the next 'secret' to be revealed?
The one thing that most amused me about the Tribune’s coverage this weekend of a story that I envision newspaper officials probably thought was a major national exclusive that would draw significant public attention to the Colonel’s (McCormick, not Sanders) newspaper was that for all the space (nearly three full broadsheet pages) devoted to the story, they can’t claim to have the recipe right.

CORPORATE TYPES WHO control the legacy that is the recipe of the original Harlan Sanders would neither confirm nor deny the accuracy of what the Tribune claimed was the original recipe – contained on a handwritten note the newspaper managed to gain possession of.

In fact, we got to learn details of the extent to which corporate officials go to keep the recipe stored in a safe with so many security precautions that it is impossible for one lone person to get in and see the recipe for themselves!

Which is funny, in light of the fact that we also learned that at the original chicken shack that Sanders operated at his gas station along the highway in Kentucky (while also feeding hungry motorists), the recipe used to be posted on a signboard inside the store.

Meaning this so-called secret used to be as public as we can get. A shame nobody bothered to take a picture of the signboard, or think to write it down.

PERSONALLY, I THINK the Tribune’s coverage of the revealing of the secret is little more than free advertising for Kentucky Fried – even more pathetic than the level of free media that the Donald Trump presidential campaign gets every time he says something stupid!

For as much space as the Chicago Tribune devoted to this story, I’d like to think they got something serious in the way of compensation. Otherwise it was a waste of space.
Really the best, if not easiest to access
Particularly since anybody in Chicago ought to know that Kentucky Fried is about the last place to go for one in need of a fried poultry piece meal.

For anybody with any sense in need of fried chicken ought to just make the journey to 104th Street and Torrence Avenue in the South Deering neighborhood. Hienie’s Chicken (particularly when served with the “hot” sauce) is truly the best.