Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving – a holiday diminished?

Thanksgiving Day! Our national festival where we’re supposed to be thankful for what we have, and can gorge ourselves to gluttony with promises that we’ll exercise or diet of the excess poundage in coming weeks.

Wishing my brother and I could be together again
I’m never quite sure what to make of this date, and not because I’m someone feeling the need to identify with the saga of native peoples to this continent having their land stolen from them by the white man!

PERSONALLY, A PART of me wants to take a can of cranberry sauce and shove it down their whiny throats when they start spewing out this tale. Then again, I say a can of cranberry sauce and not a turkey leg because I despise cranberry sauce (whether canned or made fresh) and because, personally, the leg is my favorite part of the bird.

I often hear of people for whom Christmas or Easter or other holidays get diminished for them because of the loss of someone in proximity to the so-called festive day.

For me, that has become Thanksgiving during the past seven years.

My mother, Jenny, died in early November 2010. I still remember the last time I heard her voice – my brother (also since departed) had taken her to a hospital because she wasn’t feeling well and he called me via telephone to tell me they were actually sending her home.

DURING THAT PHONE call, I could hear my mother’s voice in the background almost haranguing him with a list of stores she had to visit and tasks she would have to do in order to prepare for a Thanksgiving Day meal with my brother and I.

For all I know, her last thoughts may well have been of all the work she would have had to do for the upcoming holiday. Because on the car ride home, she suddenly lost consciousness (her final words, I’m told, were “I’m going to pass out”).

She wound up never regaining consciousness, and was pronounced dead a couple of hours later.

This Munsters mutant almost seems appetizing
Since then, Thanksgiving has become a holiday I have spent with my step-mother’s family – specifically, her sister lives in the Beverly neighborhood, and I expect to convene there with my father and others as we try to express what we’re thankful for.

ACTUALLY, THINGS USED to be worse on Thanksgiving. Because not only would I have to juggle both of those events on the actual Thursday, my father would always insist on having a post-Thanksgiving meal on the following Saturday.

Which he said was necessary so we could have all of our own personal favorite dishes – although I mostly remember them as dishes he liked that nobody else was particularly fond of.

The point being that in past years, these next few days would have been an edible orgy of heavy, fattening foods. I most assuredly would have felt more stuffed than the turkey by the time the weekend was over.

But perhaps it’s evidence my father is getting up there in years – even he doesn’t seem to want all the hassle of a post-Thanksgiving meal.

NOT THAT I’M complaining. It actually feels like a relief not to have to ration out how much I eat at each stop so that I don’t make myself ill from over-eating.
How many people really identify with this version of the Thanksgiving tale
I’ll be able to enjoy the meal, which my step-mother’s brother-in-law will prepare. And with the exception of one year when his turkey came out incredibly dry, his past experiences are such that I’m expecting to enjoy myself in a culinary sense.

Although I have to make a confession – there’s a part of me that wouldn’t mind enduring a bit of overeating if it meant I could have a few more moments with my mother.

On this day, more than most others, I find myself missing my mom.


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

‘Give it back! as ridiculous a command from GOPers as ‘Lock her up!’

Are Durbin and Duckworth (below) ...
The Illinois Republican Party is trying to do its part to overhype the degree to which Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., is thought of as the ultimate pervert when it comes to political people, rather than Ray Moore of Alabama.

While I understand why they would engage in partisan politics on this issue (I don’t expect them to come to the defense of a Democrat), I can’t help but think of the tactic as one that reeks of absurdity.
... really obligated to give back anything?

HEARING REPUBLICANS ARGUE that Sens. Richard Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, both Illinois Democrats, are obligated to get rid of any money that was raised for their campaigns through Franken’s celebrity status is just ridiculous.

Hearing them say the two should give it back is as ridiculous as a year ago when they were constantly getting themselves all worked up in frenzied chants of “Lock her up!” whenever the name of then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton came up.

About the only thing those chants really accomplished was angering the segment of the electorate not disposed to back Donald Trump’s presidential dreams – to the point where Trump had better hope he never actually gets caught doing anything illegal.
FRANKEN: Is he really Moore's equal?

Because you just know there will be some people inclined to show up at a future Trump sentencing and chant “Lock Him Up!” at the moment punishment is imposed.

BUT THAT SEEMS to be the way the Republicans think these days – even the ones in Illinois who like to think they’re not quite as extreme as the Trump mentality, but would have withered away into insignificance if not for the personal money of Gov. Bruce Rauner.
Is Moore really as believable ...

Which often makes me think I should clarify in copy that the “R” following the name of GOP elected officials ought to stand for Rauner Party, rather than Republican Party.

So what’s the latest issue that’s getting the Illinois Rauner Party (I’m sure seeing what happened to the entity once thought of as the “Party of Lincoln” would make Honest Abe roll over in his grave more than anything that Rod Blagojevich ever did) soiling their drawers?
... as Trump would have us think he is?

It’s the fact that Franken is not a standard issue elected official. He has a certain celebrity status that he has used to help his colleagues in politics raise money to support their campaigns.

SEVERAL OFFICIALS HAVE to admit to having received contributions from Franken – who now has a couple of women claiming he behaved in a manner that was probably worthy of the response of a slap across the face.

In the case of Durbin, who has been a D.C. public official from Illinois for 30-plus years, it comes to $21,000. Which isn’t the largest amount in the world. Although it’s tremendously huge compared to Duckworth, who only has $5,000 to account for with Franken connections.

Neither one of those amounts of money are huge. Yet that’s not the point of the Republican actions.

It’s a matter of distraction, trying to get people to think that Franken’s heterosexual behavior is worse than any of the teenage girls that Moore is now alleged to have been involved with back when he was in his early 30s (he’s now 70).
CLINTON: Will Hillary get last laugh?

THEY’D LIKE IT if people would focus attention on Franken, but would probably settle for it if they would think of him as the Democratic Party equivalent of Moore.

Which is just too ridiculous a claim to take seriously.

Now as for Durbin or Duckworth giving back money (or actually, making charitable contributions of an equal amount), I stand by my belief that doing so doesn’t mean a thing. But here’s a thought – how about looking into the financial records to see which people or groups are giving campaign money to Moore, despite knowing of his proclivity for young girls?

Those people are the ones whose political and moral judgments ought to be questioned.


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Make up your mind, Todd

I’m sure some political watchers choked on their own phlegm when Todd Stroger, the one-time Cook County Board president who has become the ultimate example of someone who got into politics due to family connections, said he plans to seek re-election to the post that he lost some seven years ago.

STROGER: Changing his mind
Stroger, who also served as a state legislator before becoming the county’s chief executive, told WFLD-TV he will challenge incumbent Toni Preckwinkle come the March 20 primary.

IF STROGER REALLY does take such actions, he will be one of three people in the Democratic primary next year. Since one-time Alderman Robert Fioretti also has said he wants to run for the post.

And like Fioretti, Stroger indicates he plans to beat up on Preckwinkle over her effort to impose a “pop tax” that caused a massive public stink. The tax that will cease to exist at the end of next week was capable of boosting the price of a can of Coca-Cola by a notable amount.

Yet Stroger is the guy whose own political unpopularity rose to ridiculously high levels when he tried balancing the Cook County budget many years ago with a sales tax increase – the one that when piled on with all the sales taxes that local governments charge rose the overall tax to over 10 percent in Chicago.

It will be interesting to see just how capable either Fioretti or Stroger will be in terms of challenging Preckwinkle.

BOTH OF THEM are convinced that she is so unpopular because of the pop tax that anybody can beat up on her.

I don’t doubt that Toni could be defeated by the right challenger. But I’m skeptical that either of these guys is capable of filling that role.

In the case of Stroger, his unpopularity is so intense even now. The thought of Stroger running for any government post is usually enough to outrage political watchers – particularly if they have their hang-ups over the way that Todd got into office to begin with.

PRECKWINKLE: Seeking a third term
His father, John Stroger (the namesake of the Cook County Hospital) was the county board president when his own health took a turn and he had to step down. He orchestrated his son being chosen to replace him in a way that made many feel Todd was forced down their throat.

OF COURSE, IT should be noted that the Chicago political scene has had so many multi-generation families holding elective office so that it shouldn’t have been strange that John would turn to Todd to replace him.

I don’t doubt that for some people, the fact that John Stroger was a black public official somehow aroused their ire. As though white pols can get away with semi-sleazy behavior while we expect our black pols to be on the straight-and-narrow.

But that’s the situation we’re going to be in – that is, if Stroger really winds up getting himself on the ballot to run for Cook County Board president. I’ll be curious to see if he can get the necessary nominating petitions filed by the Dec. 4 deadline.

And let’s not forget that Stroger for a while was the guy talking about a political comeback by running for a seat on the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. Not the most public of posts, but it would put Stroger on a public payroll and give him a title that would allow him to think of himself as a government official again.

WE’LL SEE WHICH post Stroger winds up running for. Will we really get a three-way fight for the Cook County Board’s boss?

FIORETTI: Seeking a political comeback
And if so, will it be truly competitive? Because a part of me wonders if Fioretti and Stroger will be the long-shot guys who take votes from the Anybody But Toni voters, while a plurality of more sensible people will wind up picking Preckwinkle – who until the pop tax came along was regarded rather highly by the electorate.

Largely, of course, because she wasn’t Todd Stroger. Does anybody seriously think that voters would return to Todd to replace Toni?


Monday, November 20, 2017

What should we think of homicide tally – on the rise, decline or nonsense?

The partisanship of politics is going to be played with the violence tallies for Chicago – regardless of how many people are killed and whether that’s less or more than in the past.
Homicide tallies on decline in Englewood neighborhood this year -- will it last?
We’re going to hear tons of rants from all sides over the fact that some 600 people have been killed in Chicago this year. That total was reached last week, and some are more than eager to say that means Chicago remains as violent a place as ever.

ALTHOUGH I COULDN’T help but notice the official Chicago Police Department spin that was placed on the tally. They pointed out the fact that in the Englewood neighborhood, the number of murders during 2017 was only 45.

Which is far less than the 79 murders that took place in that neighborhood’s police district during the same time period last year – a year in which Chicago had 780 slayings, more than in any year during the 21st Century.

The point being that the neighborhood often thought of as the most violent in Chicago (unless you want to hang on to old memories of the West Side’s North Lawndale neighborhood being the “American Millstone”) is experiencing a decline in urban violence.

A fact, I’m sure, that the conservative ideologues amongst us who want to believe that Chicago is all that is wrong with our society will not want to believe. They’ll want to emphasize that 600-plus tally. Then again, they’ll only want to believe the worst.

JUST AS I’M sure they’ll want to continue thinking of the city to the east, Gary, Ind., as the “murder capital” of the country – even though a raw reading of the numbers don’t back that up (there are more violent places than the one-time “City of the Century”).

Then again, in this era where the “fake news” label is thrown about, they’ll believe what they want.

The reason I bring up Gary is the fact that their homicide tally thus far in 2017 is also 45. As in Gary being as violent in a technical sense as the Englewood neighborhood.
New downtown Gary mural doesn't erase "murder capital" image. Photo by Gregory Tejeda
Should this mean we should disregard claims that Englewood is getting better because it has the same tally as Gary, Ind.? Could bringing that Whole Foods supermarket into the neighborhood be having a slight impact on making the South Side neighborhood a more livable place for its residents?

OR COULD IT mean that numbers can be used to make just about any claim one wants to do? That without context, no homicide tally really means much of anything!

Keep in mind that I’m not trying to downplay the level of violence we’re experiencing in Chicago. Any one death is a tragedy; it certainly isn’t something to be celebrated.

Yet I can’t help but think that many of the people who get obsessed about keeping track of the death tallies for Chicago are more interested in perpetuating the image of Chicago as an excessively violent place that no self-respecting person would want to live in.

Which in my mind is an attitude that discredits itself, and not just because I often view Chicago as being the Greatest City on Planet Earth. I sense that the people most eager to spew such talk are the ones who have no interest in actually resolving the problem of our violence level.

THEY CERTAINLY WOULD be disappointed if our incidents of violence actually declined. They want to keep the image of a “hellhole” alive, and it won’t really matter what the actual numbers are for the homicide rate.
TRUMP: Should we care what his fans think?

My point being that I’m not going to get obsessed with that “600” total that we surpassed last week – other than to admit it is sad to have so many incidents that resulted in families out there losing loved ones.

Nor am I going to over-exaggerate the significance of that 57 percent drop in slayings within the Englewood neighborhood; unless we can see it turn into a trend that lasts for several years.

The real story will be what occurs in 2018 and 2019 and the coming years in Chicago – a long-range view that I’m sure the ideologues amongst us will find to be “boring!” but is more relevant than any of the nonsense they prefer to spew.


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Ever-changing scene that is Chicago

This is most definitely a scene from Chicago’s past.

Chicago's appearance is ever-changing. Photograph by Chuckman's Chicago Nostalgia
This particular photograph depicts what used to be in terms of the proximity of our city’s newspapers being published so close to each other.

THE PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS the old Field Enterprises building that housed the Chicago Sun-Times until they sold it off about a decade ago to Donald Trump – who erected that ugly tower that looms over downtown Chicago in an ominous fashion.

Which is particularly notable because people used to become amateur architectural critics in bashing about the old Sun-Times building (it looked like a barge or garbage scowl, they’d say).

It seems Trump has come up with something even more despised in appearance than the old Sun-Times building.

To the right, just the other side of the Wrigley Building that Frank Sinatra made reference to in his unofficial city anthem, “My Kind of Town, Chicago Is,” is the Tribune Tower.

THAT EDIFICE ERECTED back in the mid-1920s from which Col. Robert R. McCormick ruled his newspaper empire and his vision that “Chicagoland” (stretching from Detroit to Kansas City) was a unique version of our nation that made far more sense than anything occurring on any coastal point of the United States.
Tribune's new home come '18. Photos by Gregory Tejeda

It used to be from these points about one block apart along the Chicago River that our city’s two major newspapers (and as you can see from this particular photograph, the Chicago Daily News was part of the mix as well) did their part to help create the character of our city – for better or for worse.

Soon, it’s only going to be a memory that either newspaper was ever in such a prominent place along the riverfront.

The Sun-Times, of course, moved a few blocks west along the river several years ago to the building that was the annex to the Merchandise Mart. Even that building is becoming history.

THIS WEEKEND IS when the newspaper is leaving the location for a site in the West Loop. At 30. N. Racine Ave., they’ll be out of downtown altogether.
What will become of Alamo, Comiskey Park bricks?

While the Chicago Tribune reported Friday that they, too, are leaving a riverfront site. As part of the many actions of corporate restructuring, they sold their nearly century-old building to a Los Angeles developer who envisions turning the tower on Michigan Avenue into retail and luxury residences.

The newspaper confirmed they’ll be moving sometime early in 2018.

They will be relocating to the Prudential Building – which may be just a few blocks south of the Tribune Tower on Michigan Avenue. Which could give their newsroom a prime site overlooking the Millennium Park.

BUT I CAN’T help but think that the Chicago River is going to be a little less active with two such prominent residents moving away from their riverfront locations. Even though I understand that riverfront land is so precious and valued from a real estate standing that it probably makes more sense to sell it off and take the money – rather than use it for newsroom space.

One other thing does amuse me about this particular photograph. Notice off in the background that the Hancock Center building is under construction. Which means if one had turned around and looked to the south, the Sears Tower would be non-existent. Chicago’s “twin” towers (only Trump thinks Chicago has three towers, with his building completing the trio) were not yet to be.
Lake St. location won't be the same as Lower Michigan Ave.
I do have one question, though. That is the main site of the famed Billy Goat Tavern, which used to draw a significant share of its business from reporter-type people (I myself have had too many drinks there throughout the years, although it has been a couple since I last ventured to Lower Michigan Avenue) for a “cheezbugga” and a beer) from its proximity between the two newspaper buildings.

Now, that clientele will be gone. Where will they move to, to ensure their future in 21st Century Chicago?


Friday, November 17, 2017

EXTRA: Degrees of boorish behavior? or, Are we still acting like high school?

Let’s be honest. When now-Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., groped that broadcaster by her breasts (and had someone take a picture of the moment), he was being a boor.

FRANKEN: A first-class boor?
That was just tacky, acting as though he were in a frat house with a girl who passed out from too much liquor consumption. LeeAnn Tweeden, the woman who didn’t realize at the time what was being done to her, is justifiably p-o’ed.

SHE’D BE JUSTIFIED if she were to walk up to Franken and give him a smack across the jaw. Or maybe a knee to the groin!

But for those people who are trying to use this incident as a way of downplaying the significance of the Senate candidate from Alabama, that’s just disgusting. The fact that President Donald J. Trump himself is going out of his way to bash Franken while saying as little as possible against Roy Moore merely shows just how ridiculous such a stance is.

The fact is that they’re two separate issues. LeeAnn Tweeden has every right to be upset about her encounter with Franken just over a decade ago when both were participants on a USO tour in Afghanistan and the now-senator (then former Saturday Night Live entertainer) used the moment to get kisses she otherwise wouldn’t have given him – and that moment later when she was asleep and got “felt up” by Franken.

I’m inclined to believe Franken’s claim that he thought it was a “funny” thing to do. Although in retrospect, it was more tacky than humorous.

MOORE: Should have known better
BUT MOORE’S BEHAVIOR with teenage girls, particularly the one who was only 14 at the time of the incident nearly 40 years ago, is much more despicable. And the fact that Alabama state law thinks there are circumstances in which girls as young as 12 can consent to sexual behavior doesn’t make it any less creepy.

By comparison, Tweeden is now 44, which would have put her in her early 30s at the time of the incident. She has a right to be upset. But she was capable of defending herself in a way the 14-year-old wasn't.

Moore, who at the time was a criminal prosecutor and most definitely should have known better, did something more repulsive – even though some of those of Republican partisan leanings seem to want to believe that Moore is somehow forgivable whereas Franken needs to have the long arm of the law sicc’ed on him.
Is title why some think Franken worse?

Seriously, some want Al prosecuted (at the very least, Sens. Richard Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, both Illinois Democrats, are getting calls by GOPers to give away any campaign money Franken ever helped them raise), whereas they make excuses as to why talking about "statutory rape" with regards to Moore is wrong!

PERHAPS IT IS because they have read the reports of Moore’s actual actions with the 14-year-old girl. One such report indicates he undressed her to her underwear, then groped her. Almost like a stumbling teenage boy who doesn’t really have a clue what he’s doing when with a real-live girl!

Does that make him the equivalent of a teenager at heart? Which ought to bring up the question of whether he’s mature enough to be a public official.

Then again, Franken’s behavior is reminiscent of those moments when I was in junior high school when we thought the most awesome thing to do to a girl is pull through her blouse on her bra straps.

Which may be the ultimate problem – too many people behaving in boorish ways that you’d have thought they’d have given up on after leaving the halls of high school. For those of us with sense, we realize that was the moment real life began.


Cards Against Humanity has right smart-aleck attitude toward border wall

I must confess that until Thursday, I had never heard of Cards Against Humanity – a game put together by a company that seems to have a smart-alecked approach to viewing life.

Trump's border wall the target of Chgo co.
Which is also why the company likes to engage in attention-seeking gags to promote itself. Their latest gag is one whose spirit I totally approve of, makes me totally pleased to be able to say this company is based out of our very own home city of Chicago.

WHICH IS PROBABLY all the more reason that President Donald J. Trump will denigrate the Second City’s reputation, but may be the ultimate proof that our president is a poo-head when it comes to so many issues.

Specifically, the company is taking a stance against one of the issues that Trump made a priority during his election cycle. Immigration reform, or the refusal to do anything with it.

More specifically, instead of trying to eradicate the bureaucratic entanglements of our current immigration policy, he’s touting construction of that wall along the more-than-1,900 miles of border that separate the United States from Mexico.

Most of which is fairly uncrossable desert. But hey, Trump wants to say he built something that’s going to keep those friggin’ foreigners out of this country. Even though construction of a wall is likely the most inefficient thing one could do to keep people from entering this country at its southwest border

WHICH IS WHERE Cards Against Humanity comes in. The company says it wants to purchase a plot of land right on the U.S./Mexico border – and will refuse to cooperate with plans to use its land to let the border wall be built.

Admittedly, there are ways the government can seize land if it can argue that a project is of sufficient merit that one’s personal property rights should not be allowed to stand in the way!

But that does involve the courts and having to work one’s way through the legal process. The company, which won’t say where exactly out in the deserts of the southwest it is buying a plot of land, does say it will retain attorneys who are used to fighting such cases.
Trump's border wall bears too much resemblance to Berlin Wall of old

They’re prepared to drag this out in the courts so as to make the entire process a miserable ordeal for all involved.

WHO KNOWS? THEORETICALLY, the case could drag on so long that Trump won’t even be president any longer when it finally is resolved. Which means a future president of significantly more common sense (be honest, ANYBODY who gets elected will have more sense than Trump) will wind up trashing the border wall project.

The company, if it follows through with its threats to become a pain in the behind on this issue, will wind up performing a significant public service.

Since there is no such thing as a physical barricade that cannot be circumvented. This wall is literally a waste of money, and could wind up becoming an even more significant embarrassment than the Berlin Wall ever was!

It will be nice to know that such a project thwarting the embarrassment from becoming reality will have its very own Chicago tie.
Trump more a Frankenstein ...

I ALSO HAVE to admit to enjoying the company’s comment justifying their action, saying, “Donald Trump is a preposterous golem who is afraid of Mexicans.”

Those of us who remember “The Sopranos” will remember that episode where Shlomo Teittleman, owner of the Fly Away Motel, winds up denouncing Tony Soprano as such when Tony extorts him for a large share of the motel’s control.
... or a Gossamer?

For those who don’t remember, a “golem” is a “Frankenstein-type monster.”

Although that brings up the issue of whether Trump, with the puffy hairdo and orange tint his skin has taken on in recent years, is too ridiculous-looking to be a Frankenstein and is more like a Gossamer – the old Looney Toons character.