Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Disposing of a loved one’s life

There are going to be some very well-dressed gentlemen who choose to shop at Goodwill, on account of my brother.
My brother, in one of the many shirts and ties I disposed of

That’s the conclusion I must come to on account of all the items I disposed of by donating them to the place that operates those second-hand shops meant to help the less fortunate find worthwhile goods at an affordable price.

MY BROTHER, CHRISTOPHER, passed away the day before Halloween last year. While some of his belongings were given to various friends and relatives, I must admit to not rushing into disposing of the bulk of his stuff.

Until now, when I’m forced to. On account of the fact that I’m going to be moving out of the apartment I was sharing with him.

Which is why I spent a good chunk of my day on Monday going through his closet to decide which of his clothes have potential for someone else, and which were merely worn out to the point that the garbage man is the only person who will see them again.

I actually wound up finding some articles of clothing, particularly several pairs of pants, that had been purchased, but never worn. They still had the tags on them, indicating how long ago they were purchased.

SO NO, I’M not going to try to return them to the stores where they were purchased from to try to get a refund. That would just be tacky.

I must admit to having some help from my father, who got a little emotional at times going through his younger son’s belongings. Although I must admit he took it well when he was the one who stumbled across a backpack filled with, what could politely be referred to as, dirty pictures.

Those went into the trash, along with certain other items that just weren’t likely to be in demand. But there were some suits and rather stylish shirts that were totally usable. I got to pack those away for future purchase by someone else.

It makes me wonder if I’m going to stumble across my brother’s clothes on total strangers who, somehow, just won’t carry them with the same sense of style as Chris would have, if he were still with us.

NOW IN MY brother’s case, he had accumulated quite a collection of recorded music, particularly of the pressed vinyl variety. The LPs and a turntable or two are among the belongings I plan to keep.

Perhaps I’ll even learn to associate the song “Little Latin Lupe Lu” with my brother’s memory – on account of the fact that I know he has a copy of the 45 rpm recording. In fact, he has several hundred singles, to go along with LPs and CDs accumulated through the decades.

Yet I’ll admit it is the stuff that I had to make the decision to give away or throw away that most caught my attention on Monday.

While I wasn’t operating under any delusion that my brother was still amongst us, it seemed like on Monday that he departed me yet again

IN FACT, THIS now puts another decision solely into my hands. When our mother passed on, she was cremated – which was her wish. Yet we never could decide the proper way to dispose of the ashes.

We figured we had time to think about this and come up with something appropriate. Now, it’s my call – particularly since the scattering urn is also amongst the possessions I have inherited.

So I’m going to be busy for the next few days, what with trying to move my belongings, weed through my brother’s possessions and decide the final resting place for my mother’s remains.

Which is why I’m taking the rest of the month off from the duties of publishing commentary on this weblog. Somehow, the ineptitude of Gov. Bruce Rauner and Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, to put together a state budget seems a little less important during the next few days.


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Monday, May 23, 2016

Emanuel likely to have to ‘take the stand’ in lawsuit filed by pair of cops

It will be interesting to see just how it plays out when, and if, Mayor Rahm Emanuel winds up having to testify during court hearings related to a lawsuit filed by a pair of police officers.
 
EMANUEL: Will he testify, so help him God?
The two cops in question are suing the city for what they claim is harassment they suffered within the Police Department when they cooperated with federal prosecutors who were investigating corruption within the city police Narcotics Unit.

THE TWO OFFICERS say they were penalized for violating the “code of silence” that supposedly says police do not talk about their own internal workings or against each other.

During the squabbling over various police-related shootings, Emanuel made public acknowledgement of the “thin blue line” of silence that cops are supposed to observe.

Which is why the two officers now want Emanuel to have to testify on behalf of their case. They figure if he publicly confirms that police are supposed to keep quiet about each others’ improprieties, it will give their case more legitimacy.

Because then they can claim it proof that police officers really were penalizing the pair because they dared to speak out against colleagues who acted improperly.

ATTORNEYS FOR EMANUEL went so far last week as to offer to make a public statement confirming that a code of silence exists, provided that it meant Emanuel wouldn’t have to participate in the lawsuit in any way.

U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman wouldn’t go along with such a deal. In fact, he implied during a hearing in his federal courtroom last week that he may still order Emanuel to have to testify during the trial – which is expected to take place during the month of June.

Personally, I’m skeptical that the tactic will work, particularly since Emanuel likely would be perceived as a hostile witness of sorts. He’ll probably go out of his way to say as little as possible, while also doing nothing that would cause a judge to find him in contempt of court.

Although I suspect there are those people who are so eager to bash Rahm Emanuel that they would gain great pleasure from the thought of Emanuel being found in contempt and getting tossed in a jail cell – even if for just a few hours.

THIS ACTUALLY REMINDS me of a nearly two-decade old trial in U.S. District Court in Springfield, Ill., when then-Gov. Jim Edgar had to spend a day testifying in court in a criminal case involving executives with Management Services of Illinois who eventually were found guilty of bribing state officials to get an overly-generous contract to do work for the state Public Aid Department.

Defendants tried to get Edgar to say he was unaware of any connection between the executives and state government officials – which defense attorneys then argued meant there couldn’t have been any intent to bribe anybody.

A jury back in 1997 didn’t buy the argument then – the defendants were found guilty and wound up doing some prison time.

Why do I suspect that anything Emanuel would say wouldn’t wind up providing any benefit to the lawsuit by the pair of police officers?

IT MAY WELL come out that Emanuel, in talking of how police tend to “clam up” when publicly discussing their own activities, was merely talking in a general sense, and wouldn’t know of specific incidents.

Even though the idea that police tend to keep quiet about each other isn’t a unique concept. It’s just one that’s incredibly hard to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the law requires as proof for a legal case.

Just like it’s also next to impossible to prove that a police officer behaves in a racist manner when engaging in acts that, on the surface, are abhorrent!

Which could mean the only ultimate winner from the idea of forcing Rahm Emanuel to take the stand and testify will be the political pundits – on the off-chance that Hizzoner happens to say something particularly foolish while supposedly offering to tell us, “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

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Saturday, May 21, 2016

Genderless restrooms work way to Chicago? I think they're already here?

It seems we’re in for some pre-emptive political action, as Mayor Rahm Emanuel this week had an ordinance introduced to make it clear that Chicago has no problem with the concept of gender-less restrooms.

As in ones that can be used by either men or women, or those individuals who are confused about what their orientation is.

PERSONALLY, I DON’T see the big deal; except that some people are determined to use “the law” as a way to harass those individuals who aren’t exactly like themselves.

Which is the motivation of states that have gone out of their way to pass laws that would require people who may have changed their gender to use the restroom appropriate to their gender of birth.

So all that Emanuel has in mind in terms of pushing this ordinance that would forbid entities from restricting restroom use based on gender is trying to show that we’re not Mississippi or North Carolina or Georgia.

A fact I’d have thought was already apparent. Or, more importantly for Emanuel, to get someone on his side without first taking his name in vain!

IN FACT, I wonder if when this ordinance comes up for debate we’ll get any of the religiously-inspired hokum about an abomination about to take place, or how our daughters are going to be at risk by being in the same rest room as some pervert man who wants to pretend he’s a woman.

I’d hope that Chicagoans would have enough sense to ignore such nonsense talk. That in fact we’d present a political environment in which people who spout such trash talk would not be made to feel comfortable.

Of course, then they’ll complain they’re the ones being discriminated against because we’re refusing to legitimize their own efforts to write discriminatory behavior into our municipal code.
 
EMANUEL: He wants somebody on his side
They likely will even be the ones who will believe they want to “make America great” by restoring the old days when certain people had to face harassment in their daily lives.

YEAH, FOR ALL I know they’ll wind up being the minority of Chicagoans who will back the Donald Trump presidential aspirations – even though Trump himself has called out as nonsense this very issue.

Perhaps as a big-city type he realizes that people are people, and anyone insistent on preserving older ways of thought are the real problem our society faces.

As I started to say earlier, I really don’t comprehend why this issue has to be controversial – except that some people have the ability to over-complicate everything.

Just the other day when I was at a Jewel supermarket, I happened to walk past the public restrooms when an older man in need of a urinal seemed confused.

HE COULDN’T FIGURE out which of the two rooms he could use. As it turns out, both rooms were built for single occupancy and had doors that locked behind their user. Meaning that either a man or a woman could use either room, depending on need.

Somehow, I think if my neighborhood supermarket (and something as Chicago-oriented as “da Jewels”) is capable of figuring out how to implement a unisex restroom without bringing down society, it ought to be capable of achievement by other entities.
 
SIRICO: The world according to Paulie Walnuts
Let’s hope a level of sense prevails when the City Council’s Human Relations Committee reviews the issue. Then again, presuming that common sense will prevail in the halls of City Hall is always a risky gesture.

We could easily get a level of conversation that devolves down to the level of “The Sopranos,” where actor Tony Sirico’s “Paulie Gualtieri” character told us the essential difference between men’s and women’s restrooms – the former were disgusting while the latter were clean and sterile enough you could eat off the floor.

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Sanders’ stubbornness cosmic payback for Hillary of ’08? Or prep for Trump?

Personally, I’m not surprised to see that would-be presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders is determined to carry out his campaign to the bitter end – and possibly longer!
 
SANDERS: He won't back off!
He’s a stubborn guy. He’s hard-headed and more than willing to argue out a principle even if he has no realistic clue as to how to achieve it. Heck, there are times I think the senator from Vermont is more unfit to be president than Donald Trump.

BESIDES, THE FACT is that the man is not a part of the Democratic Party.

Whether one wants to use the Democratic socialist label to describe him or the Independent tag (as in those news organizations that insist on IDing him as being I-Vt., because they don’t know what to make of someone who isn’t a Democrat or Republican), he’s not a part of the party establishment.

It shouldn’t be any surprise that the man could care less what party officials think about wanting to have an orderly political process in which likely Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton turns her attention to beating up on Trump’s Republican campaign.

Instead, she’s having to fight continued squabbles over Bernie, who just won’t play nice and fade away.

OF COURSE, IT also shouldn’t be any surprise that the Democratic party establishment (or party hacks, if you prefer) have been so solidly opposed to Sanders throughout the primary election cycle to the point where the superdelegates are going to ensure the man has no chance of prevailing come the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

Since Sanders was never interested in being a Democrat all these years, why should they suddenly decide to want him to be the standard-bearer whose presence atop the ballot will influence the chances of re-election for many party officials in assorted offices across the nation?
 
CLINTON: How progressive is she?
It is why they’re going to go along with the person with whom they feel most comfortable; particularly since to a certain generation of people Hillary IS the voice of liberalism. She IS the one who stands for progressive change.

Even though she really has been moderated by age. And young people probably think it's a tacky joke that she ever was thought of as liberal! She’s still by far the one most likely to support certain ideals for society, particularly when compared to Trump who these days is trying to alter his own image to convince the conservative ideologues of our society that he can be “conservative enough” for them.
 
OBAMA: Was Hillary as stubborn in '08?
AS ONE WHO cast a ballot for Clinton back when my home state had its primary election in March, there is a part of me that is dismayed that Camp Hillary hasn’t been able to wrap this up by now.

It really comes off as a sign of her own political weakness that she can’t crush a little-known senator from Vermont.

Although I also remember back to the 2008 primary election cycle when Clinton carried out her presidential dreams all the way to the end of the cycle. She wouldn’t give up – even when it became clear she couldn’t get the proper number of delegates to be successful at the convention.

Could it be a matter of bad karma that Clinton’s own stubbornness back then will be repaid by her having to endure a harsh political fight?

AND WHAT WILL come of this. Could it be that Hillary will be toughened up for what inevitably will be the classless and tacky cheap shots that the Trump campaign will devolve down to in its own efforts to gain every last vote possible from that segment of society that views Hillary as “that broad” and would do anything possible to ensure she NEVER wins the presidency.
TRUMP: Will beat on Hillary worse than Bernie

Because as much as Trump repulses some in our society, Hillary comes off as harsh and shrill to an equal degree – particularly those who aren’t all that offended by the way Trump treats women in general.

In the end, Sanders’ place in political history is going to be the degree to which he batters on Clinton – giving her enough calluses to blunt the blows she’ll get eventually from Trump?

Or softening her up to the point where Trump could land a lethal blow – which means many people will wind up laying blame on Bernie if we really wind up with a first lady Melania; along with exes Ivana and Marla. It would make for quite the first family holiday card come Christmas!


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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Trump picks a side he wants to be on ideologically. Hillary will have to do the same soon if she wants to win

It has become a common rant by more liberal-minded groups trying to stir up opposition to Donald Trump’s presidential dreams – he’ll appoint a whole slew of justices to the Supreme Court of the United States who will undo everything we have done.

Of course, there are conservative ideologues who don’t trust Trump – they think he’s just a little too big-city Manhattan-oriented to truly represent the concerns of the political party that likes to believe that big cities represent everything that’s wrong with this country.

SOME OF THEM even think Trump can’t be trusted to pick the kind of high court justices they want – the kind who can be counted on to rig the legal system to benefit their partisan political beliefs.

So it wasn’t a surprise that Trump this week made public a list of 11 judges whom he said would be his picks for the Supreme Court – should he get elected in the November general elections.

All 11 are judges who typically come up on the list of conservative political operatives when they dream about having courts that would view liberalism as some sort of crime.

It would seem that the list is part of a tactic by Trump to gain, if not the love, at least the tolerance, of the conservative ideologues whose preferred presidential candidates all were defeated by Donald back during the primary season.

IT IS A tactic to appease the people who might seriously give thought to backing a third-party presidential candidate or, worse yet, not even bother to vote at all.

Which actually is the strategy of the campaign of Hillary Clinton for president. Hope that the American people are so repulsed at Trump’s garishness that they don’t bother to vote – which could make their faction just large enough to win the general election.

I really don’t know how the election cycle will shake out by autumn, although I don’t think there is anyone who is really enthused about picking from either Trump or Clinton.

Then again, maybe I wasn’t alone in thinking that there wasn’t anyone in the running for president during any primary season who was worth my vote. It really was quite the collection of mediocrities that led us to this point of deciding to vote for the candidate less likely to make us spew chunks!

AS FOR TRUMP’S list of judges, it is predictable – a collection of names that only legal geeks would recognize. We’re going to have to take the word of political observers that the legal minds assembled here are truly ideologically hard-core enough to appease the kind of people who want rigid adherence to a law that favors them, and only them.

I don’t think the list means much, in and of itself.

But it is a gesture of the type that could get more people interested in bothering to cast a ballot for Trump. Get enough supporters, and Donald wins the right to live and work in the Oval Office for a four-year period.

Or perhaps it will be Clinton who will wind up having to make more gestures to try to appease enough would-be backers to bother to turn out to vote.

SOMEONE IS GOING to have to give the American people something in the way of a reason for people to bother to turn out to vote.

Because despite all those silly hats about “making America great again,” this is not an election cycle that will get the public all worked up.

This is one where I suspect many people are going to hold their noses pinched shut while casting their ballots, and others will spend their lives living down the shame over just how they will cast their ballot just over six months from now.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

EXTRA: Gov. Bruce “No Budget” Rauner??? Is it possible?

"We might not have a budget during the term of Bruce Rauner”—State Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie.

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LANG: Harsh talk?!?

What if it comes true?

A part of me wants to believe it’s political nonsense being spewed by a Democratic partisan – which certainly is a role that Lou Lang plays within the General Assembly.

HE SAYS THE ‘over the top’ things too ridiculous for Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, to say.

But we’re approaching the end of the fiscal year without a budget, which in and of itself is a concept that once would have been unthinkable.

What if we have a governor who buys into his political baloney of shaking up government so much that he doesn’t care about the many services and functions the state is supposed to perform, but isn’t right now because of the lack of a specific spending plan dictating how state funds are to be spent?

To me, it sounds downright irresponsible. Impeachable, almost. The kind of negligence for which we ought to think of removing a person from office.

NOT THAT I expect anyone to seriously lead an effort to impeach Bruce Rauner. In the end, Rod Blagojevich got booted from office because he had an arrogant attitude that caused the people who were supposed to be his political allies to turn on him.

Whereas while they might be somewhat embarrassed by their behavior, Republicans in the General Assembly see Rauner’s actions as the only reason they have a voice in these days of the veto-proof majorities that rule both the state Senate and Illinois House of Representatives.
 
EDGAR: What would Jim have done?
Nobody’s going nowhere at least until the next statewide election cycle of 2018. Even then, we might wind up with the same split. So I don’t see any change, and Lang’s rant from an organized labor rally held in Springfield on Wednesday is something that ought seriously be contemplated.

Still, I am someone who came into following state legislative antics in the days of Gov. Jim Edgar, who himself was the ultimate Springpatch-oriented geek. The idea of not doing a budget is something he could have never envisioned – even though his constant opposition to then-Mayor Richard M. Daley made him the original “Gov. No.”

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Are we 14 days shy of deadline? Or did we miss it by 10 ½ months?

In two weeks, we will be at the beginning of June. The General Assembly will have finished its business for the current fiscal year and our legislators will be engaged in what I’m sure they will claim to be a well-deserved summer break.

Phooey!!!!!!!!!

BECAUSE THE REALITY is that we still don’t have the budget proposal for the 2016 fiscal year that began back on July 1, 2015, nor do we seem to be anywhere near to having a budget plan for the upcoming fiscal year that will begin this July.

We have a Legislature that’s trying to take on a very difficult task of compiling spending plans for two fiscal years; one of which is nearly complete and because money has been spent already there just isn’t much leeway for creating budgetary actions.

There are some people who remain optimistic, but a part of me wonders if we’re going to seriously go at least part of the way into Fiscal 2017 with unresolved financial issues from the previous year AND the current year.

All of this pops into my mind because Gov. Bruce Rauner met privately with Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, and the other legislative leaders on Tuesday so the sides could talk about what can be done to make sense of state government finances.

SOME WORD EMANATED from the Statehouse in Springfield that there will be further talks about property tax freezes, pension reforms and worker’s compensation changes.

Of course, it could be merely talk. No promises that any actions will be taken on those issues.

It also shouldn’t be ignored that Madigan insisted on issuing a written statement that continues to lay blame for the ongoing dispute on Rauner, what with his desires to undermine organized labor in Illinois and demand that changes be included along with the budget talks.

“The governor’s continued insistence on passage of his agenda that hurts the middle class is a clear indication he is not interested in passing and implementing comprehensive, full-year budgets that do not decimate needed services relied upon by the people of Illinois,” the speaker said.

OF COURSE, THERE also were activist-types at the Statehouse determined to lay blame on Madigan for his defense of the organized labor interests that, admittedly, are the reason why he is in a position of authority in the first place.

We have a stalemate because everybody is convinced it’s somebody else’s fault. Everybody seems more interested in scoring political points, rather than trying to put together the budgetary plan that would allow state government to operate at full strength.

Instead of under the court orders that allow some agencies to operate out of necessity while others sputter to a halt due to a lack of funds.

If anything, the Capitol Fax newsletter out of Springfield may have summarized the political situation best when it quoted soon-to-be former state Rep. Jack Franks in saying, “both sides suffer under the delusion that it’s okay that real people get hurt as long as the other side gets blamed for it.”

WHICH COULD BE part of the reason why long-time legislator Franks is leaving the Statehouse scene – hoping to become a member of the McHenry County Board in the far northwest suburbs.

You kind of have to wonder what kind of person wants to stick around state government when it’s caught up in an inability to get anything done.

It is the current situation that has driven down Rauner’s approval ratings, along with those of Madigan and the Legislature as a whole

It’s an unending cycle without a light at the end of the tunnel. Not even one from the freight train headed their way to plow them over!


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