Monday, October 20, 2014

It’s that World Series time of year – which ballclub do we follow in Chi?

I’m amused by the knowledge that Jake Peavy is scheduled to start the second game of the World Series on Wednesday, pitching for the San Francisco Giants as they try to win their third World Series title in the past five years.

For let’s not forget that Peavy also was active this time of year one year ago – he was with that Boston Red Sox ballclub that managed to slip an American League championship in between two last place seasons. He got to pitch in the 2013 World Series.

TWO YEARS IN a row, Peavy is a starting pitcher for ball clubs that have a shot at the top title in professional baseball.

Of course, during the parts of five seasons that Peavy was a starting pitcher for the Chicago White Sox, he was supposed to be the big game pitcher who would lead the Sox to a World Series appearance.

Only it never happened. The White Sox flirted with playoff baseball during his time in Chicago. But it never was fulfilled for the South Side ballclub and its fans.

So what should we think when Peavy pitches on Wednesday. Are we going to secretly be rooting for him? Or wondering why the big bum couldn’t get his act together for Chicago (a 36-win, 29-loss, 4.00 earned run average record was far from what the White Sox expected).

NOW I’M NOT necessarily wishing ill will on Peavy. I’m just pointing out he’s one of the few ballplayers who will be taking the field beginning Tuesday in this year’s World Series matchup between American League champion Kansas City Royals and the National League champ San Francisco Giants that has a Chicago connection.

One of the few for whom we can scream at our television sets “Why couldn’t you do that here!!?!?” while watching him play the summer game in the days leading up to Halloween.

He’s not the only one.

There’s also Jason Frasor, a relief pitcher who’s on the roster of the Kansas City Royals.

SOME MAY REMEMBER he pitched part of a season (the second half of 2011) with the White Sox. It wasn’t all that substantial.

His connection is more home-bound. He was born in Chicago, raised in suburban Oak Forest and played college baseball at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale – before going into the professional ranks that has seen him pitch in Toronto and Arlington, Texas, along with the Royals and the White Sox.

It will be a first World Series appearance for Frasor – in fact, this is the first time he’s ever played for a ballclub that managed to get into the playoffs.

Thank goodness for all those wild cards that now permit lesser ball clubs to have a chance at a league championship and World Series appearance. Otherwise, the Royals would all be sitting at home, on account of the fact that the Detroit Tigers were one game better than they were during the regular season.

BUT WE DO have these expanded playoffs in baseball, and some people like the idea of these almost-good enough teams getting a second chance. Which the Royals have take advantage of – having not lost a single ballgame during the playoffs. While also giving us the all-Wild Card World Series for 2014.

Beginning with that wild card qualifier game against the Oakland Athletics – who had the guy who many thought was going to be the Chicago connection to this year’s World Series.

After all, the White Sox’ Adam Dunn was traded to Oakland in early September, giving them a big bat (home runs, plus many strikeouts) to bolster the team in October.

Yet his “Super Whiff” characteristics kept Dunn from even playing in Oakland’s one playoff game – in which Kansas City overcame the rest of the team, got hot at the right time and has given us countless moments on television of watching one-time Royals third baseman George Brett cheer on the boys in baby blue as they try to win their first World Series title since that ball club Kansas City had in 1985.

MUCH HAS BEEN made of the fact that Kansas City hasn’t won anything since the middle of the Reagan Administration. Although those of us who will be watching the World Series on television this week and next will snicker at the idea of 1985 being all that distant.

Particularly for North Side baseball partisans – where despite playoff appearances in recent years, there hasn’t been a World Series victory since the days when the U.S. flag only had 46 stars.

Nor even an appearance since (with apologies to Steve Goodman) “the year we dropped the bomb on Japan.”


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Do they think everybody’s rushing to the newsstand to buy a Sun-Times?

I’ve gone about mocking the Chicago Sun-Times for its policy of non-endorsement editorials – particularly since everybody else is still persisting in taking official stances on how people should vote.

Now, it seems I’ll have to go back and mock the Sun-Times for taking lame-brained editorial stances. Because the newspaper put a notice on their website Friday night telling us there will be an official endorsement in the Sunday newspaper – the one whose early editions are for sale Saturday morning – governor.

CONSIDERING THAT THE newspaper published an editorial earlier this week that said Rauner is the preferred candidate for Illinois governor because of the financial problems the state faces – and that no other concerns are relevant – it would be extremely difficult to think there’s a way the paper would officially back Gov. Pat Quinn’s bid for re-election.

Unless they’re really willing to open themselves up to ridicule!

Now I don’t have first-hand knowledge about the goings on of the Sun-Times editorial board. I know what I read in the paper.

Although a part of me wonders if the current Sun-Times ownership saw all the fun being had by all the other newspapers who in recent weeks have written editorials saying people should vote for Rauner.

THEY WANT TO “play” too. What’s the point of owning a major metro news-oriented publication and any Internet-based venues that go along with it if one can’t throw their muscle around and pretend that the political people are actually swayed by such thoughts?

I’ll give the newspaper the benefit of the doubt when it says it’s not being influenced to back Rauner because of the owners’ ties to the man – he was once a minority partner in the company that currently runs the newspaper, although he sold it off when he started thinking of running for government office.

Which makes me wonder if Rauner is a guy who once had dreams of being a media mogul, but decided instead to be a governor instead? What next; will he want to be a fire chief?

Or maybe he’ll start wearing a cape and go running around Chicago pretending he’s some sort of superhero – saving the souls of Chicago from evil super villains who would wreck havoc upon the Second City.

JUST AS A side thought – what kind of evil villain character could be created out of Pat Quinn’s persona?

But back to the Sun-Times editorial policy – which seems like it will be limited to governor come the Nov. 4 election cycle. Although the newspaper wrote Friday that they would make endorsements for the February and April election cycle for municipal office.

Will the Sun-Times throw its support to a mayoral challenger? Or will they convince us that the Dynamic Duo of Emanuel and Rauner is the key to running city and state governments in a way that will bring about the most in reform?

That is a thought that I’m sure would offend many Chicagoans these days. If the Sun-Times’ intent is merely to back people of means whose world view would be oriented to certain upper-crust individuals, they may wind up doing themselves harm in terms of alienating their readership.

THE IDEA OF a Sun-Times editorial endorsement that says Quinn needs to go because none of the business objections brought up by the governor are relevant just seems too similar to the endorsement the Chicago Tribune already gave to Rauner.

But I wonder if some people are going to speculate more about the “Dynamic Duo” concept I threw out there earlier – if Rauner is “Robin,” how ridiculous would he look in those green shorts and yellow cape that actor Burt Ward made ever so popular a half-century ago?


Friday, October 17, 2014

Let’s not panic, okay?

I’m not trying to downplay the significance or risk of the Ebola virus that is starting to show traces of cropping up in the United States.

But I also sense that there are some people who are way too eager to panic and predict an epidemic of the virus that can kill. When we start to panic, we look for people to blame for the problem.

AND THAT’S WHEN we as a society become inclined to act stupid. Please people, let’s not be stupid; particularly when there’s potential for illness and fatality.

For the record, the virus was once thought to be a product of the nations of the western portion of the African continent. Some 4,500 people are known to have died from Ebola.

Of course, many of us cared less about this fact. It wasn’t until recent weeks when U.S. citizens who are doctors who were on humanitarian relief efforts in Africa started showing signs of the virus that many of us even gave Ebola a second thought.

Now, we have one person dead, and two nurses infected. One of those nurses had direct contact with the person who died. While another supposedly was on a flight from Cleveland to Dallas, and has now been isolated at a medical facility far from either locale. It has people panicking about how easily this virus could spread.

IT HAS HAD some people wondering how long it will be until this spreads beyond Dallas and winds up in Chicago – along with the rest of the country. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide (or so sang Martha and the Vandellas, could that be the new theme song for those inclined to panic?).

I couldn’t help but notice the Chicago Tribune, which reported about how nurses across the Chicago area are skeptical that their hospitals are equipped to deal with Ebola. They’re wondering if the so-called safety equipment isn’t safe enough to protect them from the fluid-spread virus.

Although I have heard reports indicating that the infected nurse with contact might not have been wearing the proper gear.

It also was interesting to see the Chicago Sun-Times report that officials are considering designating Rush University Medical Center as the official treatment center for Ebola.

AS IN ANYBODY anywhere near Chicago who shows signs of the virus and can document that they were in contact with someone who had the virus would wind up at Rush, rather than having them scattered around the dozens of hospitals in the Chicago metro area.

A concentration would reduce the likelihood of more people being exposed.

It was interesting to see President Barack Obama on Wednesday create the image of taking on the issue – he spent a couple of hours meeting with Cabinet members to try to figure out some sort of national strategy for addressing Ebola in this country. On Thursday, he gave authorization for National Guard units to be called into action to serve in west Africa to support U.S. operations that are trying to control the virus.

It also was curious to see the Washington Post report that Obama acknowledges a need to help try to deal with Ebola at its root – meaning the west African region where we once thought the virus was contained.

THAT DOES MAKE sense. But I wonder how long it will be until we hear the ideologues screeching and screaming about how we ought to focus on our own ill, instead of someone else’s.

The grandchildren of the isolationists of old can rant and rage as loudly and strongly as their ancestors. Even when it is that isolationist strain of thought that can cause panic that leads to short-sighted actions.

For now, I plan to try to relax. There isn’t much we can do, other than try to avoid irrational exposure that we probably wouldn’t do anyway. That, and turn down the dial for the mental volume I have set for the rest of the world – including when our own City Council feels compelled to hold (as yet unscheduled) hearings about Ebola virus spread.

Talk about the ultimate in individuals who will want to scream and panic when it is fairly certain they have a clue what they’re talking about!


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Rahm’s ‘bosom’ buddies?!?

It’s safe to say that Mayor Rahm Emanuel knows how to make enemies.

It seems no matter where he looks or what he does, there will be someone more than willing to take a pot-shot at him.

TAKE THE FACT that Emanuel presented a city budget proposal for the municipal upcoming fiscal year. Much of the news coverage focused on the fact that the budget doesn’t try to do anything to resolve the city’s problems in providing for adequate funding for its pension programs.

As in they will be dealt with in the future – specifically some point following the February and April municipal elections. A newly-elected City Council will wind up having to address the issue; in hopes that enough time will pass between their actions and the 2019 elections that voters won’t hold it against them.

Although I couldn’t help but notice that Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey was quick to trash Emanuel for a budget that they contends favors the wealthy interests of Chicago rather than regular citizens.

“This budget continues a top-down imposition of two distinct cities, one for the privileged and one for everyone else,” Sharkey said. “Balance comes through savage cuts to public service and accounting trickery, as there is only minimal revenue generation in this budget.”

HE GOES ON to say, “The reality on the ground is that neighborhoods on the South and West sides of the city continue to struggle with daily violence. Budgetary allocations for police only cover positions lost to retirement and are nowhere near what the mayor promised during this first campaign.”

The tone of the rest of Sharkey’s comments is just as hostile. It seems that the loss of Karen Lewis at the top of the Chicago Teachers Union is not going to result in any more favorable body of people for Emanuel and city officials to deal with when trying to address issues related to the Chicago Public Schools.

It also is written in such a tone that I wonder how much it is inspired by the rhetoric of Gov. Pat Quinn – whose own campaign talk is now on auto-pilot to imply that Republican challenger Bruce Rauner is just a rich guy who doesn’t care about average people.

It’s no wonder that Emanuel and Rauner are actually friends on a certain level, and that perhaps deep down Emanuel wouldn’t object to a Quinn defeat come the Nov. 4 election cycle – even though he’ll never publicly admit to that fact.

BUT IT’S NOT just the teachers union that’s bad-mouthing Emanuel these days. There’s also William J. Kelly, a Beverly neighborhood resident who is running a fringe campaign for mayor and differentiating himself by claiming to be the lone Republican in the race.

Kelly wants to be taken seriously by pointing out that he has come up with $100,000 for his campaign, which actually has caused the limits on self-spending for campaigns to be shot to pieces.

Emanuel can now come up with as much cash as he wishes to drown out anyone who has the nerve to challenge him come next year’s municipal election cycle.

Although I’ll give Kelly credit for one bit of honesty – he says he’s hoping that the national Republican organizations will see his campaign and flood his coffers with so much cash that he could compete with Emanuel’s millions.

ADMITTEDLY, THERE ARE GOP political interests that would like to see Emanuel suffer a political humiliation. Then again, when they tried to beat him when he ran for Congress and for mayor the first time, their efforts just weren’t all that successful.

I suspect they’ll conclude that Kelly is too insignificant on his own to warrant their help. Besides, I suspect they like the idea of gaining political majorities in other places to try to drown out the influence of Illinois and Chicago led by Democrats.

Which may well be the reason that our local people should focus on being as strong as they possibly can be. And why the upcoming elections for state offices are probably way more important than anything that happens at City Hall beginning next May.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Remembering what never was

Consider this commentary a moment of silence for the most memorable political campaign that never will be – the challenge of Chicago Teachers Union head Karen Lewis against Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

On account of her illness (a Chicago Sun-Times “Sneedscoop” tells us it’s a brain tumor), it seems Emanuel will get a batch of lukewarm to nothing challengers, and we will get the reign of Rahm II. For all those who were viewing the gubernatorial election as a prelude to next year’s mayoral brawl, this will be the biggest letdown!



















































And as for Lewis, here’s hoping she recovers in full from the “Brain Tumor Battle” that the Sun-Times splashed all over Tuesday’s front page.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

EXTRA: “You are the worst governor in America,” so Rauner says to Quinn

That was Republican gubernatorial hopeful Bruce Rauner trying to excoriate Gov. Pat Quinn, who seemed (to me, at least) to be holding back the urge to laugh in Rauner’s face at the ludicrosity of that statement.

It came toward the end of the Tuesday night debate sponsored by the Chicago Urban League, and was the event in which Rauner tried to make a direct appeal to African-American voters to dump the Dems and not hold it against him that he’s a Republican.

ALTHOUGH WHAT LITTLE public reaction there was during the debate at the DuSable Museum seemed to be more sympathetic toward Quinn than toward anything Rauner had to say.

By and large, the candidates seemed to use the typical rhetoric of this campaign cycle. Having followed the process of multiple campaign events and statements, there wasn’t anything that was said Tuesday that I hadn’t heard before.

So excuse me if I don’t think either candidate did an exceptional job of grabbing the mood of the electorate and gaining its support for themselves.

The talk about the minimum wage did delve into comic relief, as both tried to claim to be the one who would seek to get higher wages for the lowest-paid of our state’s citizens.

RAUNER SAYS HE’D back a minimum wage hike if there were at least three pro-business measures enacted into law. While Quinn reminded us of Rauner’s past opposition to the idea, and claimed he’s the only candidate who’s not about to put conditions on the idea of bolstering the minimum wage from its already-exceeding the level of the federal minimum wage.

Which is why countless people living in Northwest Indiana communities along the Illinois/Indiana border commute to work in Illinois – they’ll get paid better.

Then again, Rauner is a business-oriented person who’s more concerned about the management, rather than the working stiffs.

And as far as Rauner’s attempt to lambast Quinn, I’m sure he thinks video of that moment will somehow become viral – being played over and over and over again on YouTube.

BUT THERE’S FAR too many goofs in government across the country for Quinn to be notable in that way. It just made Rauner look like a blowhard (although, to be honest, Quinn has more than his share of moments during his political life when he has been just as full of himself).

So what does the debate mean? It probably did little more than bolster WBBM-TV’s ratings by attracting government geeks to watch Channel 2 rather than reruns of M*A*S*H during the 6 o’clock hour.

And it probably proves that Quinn was correct when, earlier in the day Tuesday, he said, “”You can’t presume anything until the day of election.”


Whole lotta hyperbole goin’ on!

I expect nonsense to be spewed during the weeks leading up to an election, and usually know enough to disregard anything said by a candidate of any political persuasion.

They want, after all, to get themselves elected. They’re counting on the fact that few people will ever bother to check reality.

BUT AS I write this commentary, I’m getting slammed with some nonsense that just needs to be called out.

It was Sunday night while watching television that I stumbled across Republican gubernatorial nominee Bruce Rauner and his latest broadcast campaign spot – one that talks of Gov. Pat Quinn planning to slip a tax increase past us in secret the moment the Nov. 4 election has passed.

There’s just one problem – there’s nothing secretive about Quinn’s intentions. Anybody who didn’t realize what could happen come the General Assembly’s fall veto session next month is incredibly absent-minded.

For we’re talking about that increase in the state income tax that was approved a few years ago as a measure that would expire at the end of this year.

QUINN TRIED DURING the Legislature’s spring session to get them to approve a permanent extension of the increase; but legislators of both major political persuasions were hesitant to do anything.

It is why the General Assembly wound up approving a budget for state government that only has enough money to get Illinois through about January or February. It has always been known that the Legislature either was going to have to give in to Quinn’s extension preference, or else be prepared to make severe spending cuts throughout state government that will leave people even more ticked off than any income tax extension would have.

Quinn hasn’t been secretive about anything along this line. Heck, he told the Arlington Heights-based Daily Herald about this when he appeared before them for an endorsement session – which the newspaper wound up giving to Rauner (no surprise there)!

So to hear (and read the following morning in an e-mail message from the Rauner campaign) about secrecy and “a massive tax hike right after the election” just makes me ill.

IF ANYTHING, STUFF like this is inclined to make me think less of Rauner. Probably about as little as the Democratic Party-leaning operatives who sent me another e-mail message; one that suggests that the Ebola scare and the threat it poses to the public health of this nation is somehow a Republican Party plot.

The Agenda Project Action Fund is proud of the fact that it has its own advertising spots laying blame on the GOP for Ebola, contending that cuts in federal funds for health care initiatives have made us more vulnerable to a disease that some once wanted to think was limited exclusively to nations in west Africa.

“Republican Cuts Kill” is what this newest advertising campaign is called.

“Like rabid dogs in a butcher shop, Republicans have indiscriminately shredded everything in their path, including critical programs that could have dealt with the Ebola crisis before it reached our country,” the group wrote.


While I don’t doubt there is a way of twisting facts to make the problem so simplistic, the idea that either political party is to blame for the death that has occurred already – and the nurse who has turned ill despite wearing protective gear – is just nonsensical.

It’s got to the point where I dread television or e-mail – which the campaigns seem to like to use to send me their campaign ads, just in case I miss them on television.

Although I did find it amusing to get an e-mail Sunday from “Robert Redford,” telling me how I should support Sen. Tom Udall’s re-election bid in New Mexico – as though we’re all just the best of buds.