Saturday, April 29, 2017

EXTRA: Enjoying while it lasts! White Sox in 1st AND better than Cubs

The baseball fan of Chicago in me couldn’t help but get a kick out of Saturday.
Dos jonrons against los Tigres de Detroit

The Chicago White Sox continued the winning streak they seemed to have slipped in and finished the day with a record of 13 wins, 9 losses. Which, by the way, puts them in first place in their American League division.

CERTAINLY NOT A place that some baseball pundits would have expected the White Sox to even experience a taste of this season. Particularly those who were determined to believe Chicago’s Sout’ Side ball club is the worst in the game.
Created a souvenir for Boston baseball fan

It also is a place that Chicago Cubs fans would despise, because it’s supposed to be their ballclub that is on the verge of a dynasty that will win championship after championship for Chicago. But on Saturday, following their win over the Boston Red Sox, the Cubs have a record of 13 wins, 10 losses.

It’s early in the season; nobody should be paying serious attention to standings until the Memorial Day weekend at the earliest. And yes, things could change drastically (and completely) by Monday.

But for the one day, those people who find Chicago Cubs fan braggadocio to be arrogant and annoying can take some joy in a White Sox team is superior. Though they should also note that, for the day at least, the New York Yankees at 15-7 are the best in the game.

AS FOR SATURDAY’S ballgames, I managed to watch both because I have a step-grandmother who, at 95, really shouldn’t be left alone anymore. She also has a new television (HD and all) and cable, and often likes to wile away her time with ballgames.

So I got to see Jose Abreu’s two home runs, and the extra inning shot by Melky Cabrera that gave the White Sox a 6-4 win, despite relief pitcher David Robertson’s best efforts to give away the game to the Detroit Tigers.
A fan in the stands

I also saw that Anthony Rizzo home run that I’m sure made Cubs fans happy despite the 469-foot home run hit by Hanley Ramirez -- the longest-ever at Fenway Park during the Statcast era of measuring such things. Which it turns out dates merely back to two years ago.

Although I have to admit to getting my kick from seeing one-time White Sox all-star Carlton Fisk sitting in the stands in Boston and watching as the other ball club that once employed him took on the allegedly high-and-mighty baby blue bears of the north lakefront!


We made it through the 100-day mark; only 1,360 more to go for Trump

New York real estate mogul Donald J. Trump is no longer beginning his new venture as U.S. president; he has completed the time period during which he supposedly is filled with so much vim and vigor that he’s able to get things done.
TRUMP: He's no longer new, he's just incompetent

Of course, there is nothing typical about the way Trump has handled the political post to which a vocal minority of the electorate chose him to fill back in November.

SO TRUMP ISN’T exactly wrong when he says the 100-day standard is kind of trivial, and really shouldn’t mean much of anything.

But then again, he’s accomplished so little that the Trump presidency is bordering on truly pathetic – even though Trump’s view of the world claims he has achieved significant goals that will forevermore change mankind. There are those who say he has the worst presidential start ever – although most would have said that regardless of what Trump actually accomplished.

Then again, even Trump can’t really be specific about what those goals were!

The one thing we do have to credit the Trump administration for is that it managed to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court of the United States – one that had been open for more than a year.

THE NATION’S HIGH court is now up to a full compliment of nine justices, with a slight partisan lean toward the conservative ideologues of our society.
OBAMA: His health care reform still stands

That is a fact that has the more progressive segments of our society terrified, but then again some of them were among the lazy ones who didn’t bother to turn out to vote in the Great Lakes region – resulting in the Trump political victory by which 46 percent of the popular vote and 2 million fewer than his opponent was enough to win.

Of course, with both the Senate and House of Representatives containing Republican majorities filled with politicos who view the ideologues of our society as the only ones who matter, it would have been downright pathetic if Trump couldn’t get his nominee for the Supreme Court confirmed.

It is a rigged process of people who will benefit no matter how incompetent or crazy Trump behaves as president. That truly is the scary part about this era we’re now in.
LINCOLN: Now HE had a tough 1st 100 days

OF COURSE, TRUMP also can claim to have authorized a military action involving Syria – which may make his bloated ego feel particularly satisfied. In fact, I suspect Trump is eager to find a war that he can engage the United States military in.

Perhaps he thinks that being a war-time president is the one way in which his approval rating can shoot up to a majority standard.

Although the truly great leaders of our society are the ones who manage to figure out ways around armed conflict – acting like diplomats rather than armchair generals.

Heck, Abraham Lincoln’s presidency is acknowledged for the way it kept a country from splitting in two, but let’s be honest. Lincoln himself would eagerly have done whatever he could to avoid war – to the point where some of his thoughts cause the pundits of today to accuse him of being a closet bigot.

PERHAPS AS OPPOSED to Trump, who wants to publicly be thought of as someone sympathetic to those who want public policy set by their racial and ethnic hang-ups.

That’s what gets us talk about foreign travel restrictions, walls along the U.S./Mexico border and immigration restrictions in general, including the elimination of sanctuary cities and the erasing of the Affordable Care Act– all of which are among the failures Trump has achieved because he inherently is a political amateur outclassed by the public officials with whom he must deal. Which benefits our society as a whole.
Now water ringed?

Although personally, I think the most appalling aspect of Trump is the little news nugget that the Reuters wire service uncovered in a presidential interview – that red button rigged up on his desk that calls for a uniformed servant to bring him a Coke at his Oval Office desk.

That’s the famed Resolute desk that John F. Kennedy used to work at (and John John played under), and that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama also used as a tribute. I wonder if Trump has the sense to use coasters, or if he’s defiling that famed desk with little rings of water from his drinks?


Friday, April 28, 2017

EXTRA: A Canine curse for Cubbies?

I ventured up to the Lake View neighborhood on Friday and spent some of my time checking out the construction taking place to turn Wrigley Field into a baseball-themed amusement park that allows them to justify the excessive ticket prices being charged these days.
New 'curse' source? Photograph by Gregory Tejeda

But what caught my attention about the park-like atmosphere of the grounds surrounding the ballpark itself were signs erected on grassy areas; informing people that pets aren’t a welcome part of the Chicago Cubs experience.

“NO DOGS ON The Grass,” we’re told.

Which to my mindset is virtually an invitation for a crackpot with a pet to let it do it’s business. Who knows, maybe some crotchety ol’ White Sox fan will venture up north to walk his (or her) dog outside the Cubbies’ home ballpark.

Could this be the invitation to the new curse that can afflict Cub-dom?

Somebody with a Chihuahua or a Cocker Spaniel, or maybe a Pit Bull, will claim they were denied their chance to enjoy the Chicago Cubs, similar to how “Billy Goat” Sianis got miffed that day in October 1945 when he couldn’t bring his goat into the ballpark for a World Series game.

CUBS FANS RETIRE the goat, only to bring on the Curse of the Canine, while also providing a contrary image to their crosstown baseball competition.
Goat curse lasted 71 years -- replaced in a single season?
Where the Chicago White Sox have made an annual promotion of its “Bark in the Park” event when fans are encouraged to bring their dogs – and where they claimed to have set a world’s record – the Most to Ever Attend a Sporting Event – in 2016 by having 1,122 dogs sitting in their seats during the third inning of a ballgame.
Set for Sept. 6 this season

Now I’m not seriously claiming to be some sort of pet fanatic who can’t envision not having a dog at my side when I’m at the ballpark. In my mind, there’s another reason why the Cubs deserve to be cursed.

Seriously, $155 for a single seat in the outfield bleachers (for one of next week's interleague games against the New York Yankees)? Isn’t the whole point of having bleachers to provide cheap seats – with the high prices charged for those seats right on top of the infield?


Why do we have no Illinois budget? It’s the other guy’s fault, of course!

I get that Gov. Bruce Rauner has his politically-partisan hang-ups with organized labor and wants to use his time as a government official to try to undermine their influence.

Such thought offends me personally, but I get it. And if it were merely a matter of the governor trying to use his influence to alter the General Assembly’s composition following future elections to come up with a body more sympathetic to the ideas he tries to pass of as “reforms,” I’d say that’s his right.

EVEN THOUGH MOST likely I’d be voting against any Rauner-backed candidates.

But what I, and many other residents of the Land of Lincoln, find repulsive is the way that the governor is so inclined to interfere with the operations of state government – which does have responsibilities to fulfill.

Certain services to provide. Certain tasks that must be performed.

In that regard, thinking there is anything appropriate with going through two full fiscal years of government activity without a budget plan in place is totally absurd.

PERHAPS IT IS because I’m old enough to remember back a quarter-of-a-century to when Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and then-Gov. Jim Edgar got into a budget spat that saw the new fiscal year begin July 1 without a budget, and the two sides didn’t come together until the early hours of July 19.
In this fight, which one's Rocky...

Oh, the horrors! We went nearly three full weeks without the budget! I remember how ticked off people were that government was willing to ignore its responsibilities – just so the head Dem and GOPer could engage in a game of political chicken to see who would flinch first.

But by the standards we’re setting in the 21st Century, that was chicken feed. A mere flesh wound. Just like the Black Knight from the “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” film claimed, even after both of his arms had been cut off by actor Graham Chapman’s comical take of Arthur, King of the Britons.

Which is to say the financial situation of this state – tempered by the fact that without a budget plan in place, there are portions of government that cannot operate – is becoming as absurd as any Monty Python film.
... which one comes off as Mr. T?

ONLY ABSURD IN a horrifying way. Not anything even mildly amusing like “the Lumberjack Song.”

Seeing news reports on Thursday about how Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza’s staff is relying on the sudden upsurge in revenue from people who recently paid their state income taxes to be able to pay state bills is terrifying.

Because the upsurge will soon be spent, but the expenses will not disappear.

And for those people who are now going to rant and rage that we should only spend what we have and do away with what we cannot afford, keep in mind the responsibility does not disappear. We need to figure out ways to come up with the income to cover our expenses.

JUST LIKE IF someone goes into personal debt, we’d say they need to get off their lazy arse and get a job or two. We wouldn’t excuse their debt! Just like we don't excuse Illinois now.
Who's who?

But I have to admit that this situation Illinois is in (and could well remain in beyond the November 2018 election cycle if there is no change in the current political structure) is one of stubbornness all around.

I couldn’t help but be repulsed by the statement put out by Madigan on Thursday – the one about the meeting the two had to talk about the state budget predicament. It came across as being little more than Madigan trying to absolve himself of any blame for the current situation. It’s Rauner’s fault – just as pathetic as all the Madigan-bashing that GOPers engage in as they desperately want to think their political gamesmanship makes them appear heroic, instead of negligent toward the state’s responsibilities.

About the only thing worse was the statement that Rauner felt compelled to release, the one where he tries to claim the delays are all Madigan's fault. Two men who truly are determined to make sure that history records the other guy to blame.

FOR THIS SITUATION to get dragged on this long with no end in sight is one caused by too many people willing to look the other way while the public was suffering.
And while Madigan says, “I ask the governor to turn his focus to the budget,” I’m sure there are those who could legitimately think that the state’s long-running “Mr. Speaker” ought to do the same.

Since I seem to have fallen into a Monty Python kick I feel the need to recall a personal favorite sketch of theirs -- the one with German versus Greek philosophers playing soccer as they ponder the notion of deep thought versus actual activity.

How would Confucius rule in a Rauner/Madigan match?


EDITOR'S NOTE: The dueling statements Thursday by Illinois government’s “leaders” truly were meant to do nothing other than try to absolve themselves of blame.

First, from “Mr. Speaker”: “I requested a meeting with Governor Rauner to ensure he understood my desire to pass a full-year budget and discuss the urgent need for a resolution to the state budget impasse. Throughout the governor’s time in office, we have agreed to seven compromise budget bills when negotiations are allowed to focus on the budget. Schools, human service providers, rating agencies and thousands of others have asked us to do one thing – pass a budget.  I ask the governor to turn his focus to the budget.”

Then, the gubernatorial retort, whom we’re supposed to attribute to spokeswoman Eleni Demertzis (a person I must confess I’ve never actually met):  “For the first time in more than two years, Speaker Madigan today hinted that he may be willing to enact a truly balanced budget with changes that will help create jobs, properly fund our schools and lower property taxes. It's too soon to tell if the Speaker will ultimately agree to follow through, but the governor remains optimistic that all sides can work together to enact a balanced budget with changes that fix our broken system and restore balanced budgets for the long-term through strong economic growth."

Thursday, April 27, 2017

EXTRA: Is United Airlines the Wizard of Oz in telling us to 'Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain?'

This is the image that we’re all expected to forget about.
Should we pretend it didn't happen?

The sight of David Dao, a Kentucky doctor, who didn’t want to be removed from the Chicago-to-Louisville flight he paid in full for, thereby causing the flight crew to call in the cops to have him forcibly removed.

MANY PEOPLE ON board that flight felt compelled to pull out the cheap video cameras installed on their portable telephones to record the moment back on April 9. Which is the only reason we have so much visual evidence of the way the doctor was roughed up. Although I wonder how many thought they were merely shooting some “crazy video” they could share with friends for a laugh.

Otherwise, I suspect that United Airlines, which had an agreement with the subcarrier that was actually running that particular flight from O’Hare International Airport to a lesser aviation market would not be so eager to “pay up.”

Dao suffered a broken nose, a concussion and had two teeth knocked out from the incident, but there are those people who want to believe he somehow brought this incident on himself. They are the ones who are going to be ranting and raging that it’s an injustice the airline paid Dao a cent and they should have fought for their “good name.”

Although I have trouble accepting that line of logic, largely because of the reality of the way these cases are settled.

FOR SURE ENOUGH, it was announced Thursday that the airline reached a legal settlement with Dao. His threat of a lawsuit will go away. He promises to not take any action that would be perceived as negative against United Airlines. In fact, he promises not to talk about the incident any more.

The airline won’t say how much money they wound up paying to him, and, of course, there is the obligatory statement by which the airline says it admits to no wrongdoing with regards to its conduct from the incident.

That really is what is most important to the airline. They don’t want any kind of written record being built up indicating they screwed up or did anything wrong.

They probably want the impression being created that Dao (or anyone who files a lawsuit) is just out for money, and that if they were really wronged, they would not have been so quick to take a cash settlement.

IF ANYTHING, THE most significant action out of this whole affair is that people now have a better idea of what airline policies are with regards to kicking people off of flights – which apparently is something they believe is their right to do.

You don’t have to be a threat or misbehaving to get the boot. I still think I’d probably react in a similar manner to Dao if I had been in his situation – needing to get somewhere by a certain time and paying good money for my ticket!

But I’m sure the airline thinks they are buying silence on the issue – which I’m sure they hope now fades away into the depths of our memories so that by year’s end, we’ll have forgotten that United ever did anything so crass. They’ll regard him the way the mighty Wizard of Oz wanted us to view that man behind the green curtain.
And if anybody takes the time to look up Dao, they’re more likely to find those sordid stories about his questionable practices as a doctor or his gambling habits than about anything that actually happened to him on board United Express flight 3411.


Trump, ideologue allies suffer immigration defeat (for now, at least)

If Donald Trump were truly interested in “making America great again,” he’d never have tried becoming president. One can argue it is his combative nature on behalf of conservative ideologues that IS what’s wrong with our society these days.
Will Supreme Ct save us from Trump excesses?

Our inability to work together on issues despite our differences about the details is what ultimately will cause a chasm that splits our society beyond repair. Compromise is the “American Way,” even though many of the ideologues refuse to accept that notion.

IT IS BECAUSE of this that we’re going to have to turn to our court system to ensure that havoc is not wrecked upon us all. Which the ideologues will contend is unjust and evidence of unelected judges imposing their will upon us all.

Although it really is the way the system of checks and balances is supposed to work – Congress creates laws, the president approves them and the courts are there to ensure that if the politicos screw up, the damage will be repaired.

Which is what’s happening with regards to immigration and the concept of “sanctuary cities” – places where the local police don’t automatically share all the information they come across with federal Immigration officials.

Trump, in his bid to appease those individuals amongst us whose idea of immigration reform is a mass increase in the number of people deported from the United States, wanted his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, to crack down on the federal funding his office provides to police departments in such cities – including Chicago.

MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL (who as a former member of Congress and White House chief of staff has a few clues about how to manipulate the federal government process) made it clear earlier this week Chicago wasn’t going to do anything to change the way it conducts itself on this issue.

That now has the backing of a federal judge – U.S. District Judge William Orrick issued an order Tuesday preventing the federal government from cutting off such funding for police.

Ironic in that Trump always goes on about the crime rate in Chicago and the violence, but then would want to take a whack at the funding the Chicago Police Department has available to him.
ORRICK: Will his ruling stand?

Trump on Wednesday turned to his Twitter account and began tweeting like a twit – lambasting the U.S. Court of Appeals based in San Francisco. That court is the one that will wind up hearing whatever challenge is filed to Orrick’s injunction, but it hasn’t acted yet.

ALTHOUGH I SUSPECT that to Trump, one judge looks just like another judge – they’re all interchangeable and that, in his mind, they’re all supposed to rule in his favor.

But a part of me also thinks Trump is just more interested in being a grump. Complaining about sanctuary cities, complaining about courts, ranting about that wall he wants built along the U.S./Mexico border but which action will not occur until at least autumn.

Trump is of the political type that wants to tell you that everything you think is “wrong” (because it’s not exactly like yourself) is “somebody else’s fault,” Support him, and he’ll commiserate with you. On this issue, it's the fault of the "flakes" in Frisco who won't follow his commands!

But he certainly doesn’t have solutions to the problems that face society. That’s hard work – as evidenced by the lack of much significant activity during the president’s symbolic First 100 Days. The time in which we determine if he gets off to a good start.

ADMITTEDLY, TRUMP GOT a Supreme Court justice appointed to fill a long-festering vacancy on the nation’s high court. But with the current political circumstances, the process was geared in his favor. It would have been the ultimate evidence of incompetence on Trump’s part if he had failed.

Which be the key to comprehending whether anything of lasting significance will be accomplished in the next roughly 1,360 days.
BARRON: Will his dad behave?

A rigged Supreme Court that overturns any lower court that dares rule in ways contrary to the desires of The Donald may be the only way Trump can get government to do anything.

Then again, we may find that even those justices on the high court will turn out to surprise us and for that, we should be grateful, even though we’ll inevitably get reports emanating from the White House about all the temper tantrums being thrown by Barron’s dad!


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Would you live in the Trump Chgo?

Perhaps it shouldn’t be a shock that vacancies are on the rise at that gaudy tower erected on the banks of the Chicago River that stands as a focal point for all the local protest conducted against the name of one Donald J. Trump.

Space is available, if you want to live here
I could be pompous and arrogant and make a statement saying I would NEVER live there. But then again, the need to be honest overcomes me and I have to confess I’ll likely never have the kind of income that would make it possible for me to even think of living there.

TO BE HONEST, just walking past the Trump Tower Chicago feels like an alien experience – particularly when I recall the pudgy, tugboat-like building that once housed the Chicago Sun-Times on the very same site.

So the Chicago Tribune report Tuesday about how 11 percent of the building’s 486 residential units (scattered amongst its 98 stories) are for sale. The going price, depending on exactly which unit one buys and what kind of high-rise view it offers of Chicago and/or Lake Michigan is $1.5 million.

Generally, the kind of people who can afford that expect to have a certain exclusivity. Or perhaps it’s isolationism, from the riff-raff of life.

And I suspect that many of them view all the people who now feel compelled to have their pictures taken making obscene gestures in the presence of the Trump Tower Chicago as the ultimate in riff-raff.
Dodgers star won't stay here

WHO KNOWS, THEY may be right.

All I know is that I’m sure that when real estate developer Trump got involved in the idea of building one of his namesake structures in Chicago, the idea was that it would become some sort of prime address.

One that people would fight for the right to live in, and would consider it a sign of their arrival amongst the hoi polloi that they could live in something bearing those 40-foot-high letters spelling out Trump’s name for all of Chicago to see.

Which makes it impossible for anyone to possibly confuse the Trump Tower with any other high-rise building in Chicago.
LeBron won't stay at Trump N.Y. hotel

SO WHAT DOES it say about the fact that some tenants, according to the Chicago Tribune report, have been able to negotiate rent decreases (for those who didn’t buy their units), and that there are a significant number of units (36, according to the newspaper) that can be had if you’re looking for an apartment that will allow you to look down upon Chicago.

Just so you don’t mind the protesters who feel compelled to stroll by and show their contempt for your choice of a home address.

The condominiums in the building don’t sell well these days, and the apartment units for rent can be had. As for the portion of the building that’s a hotel, it seems like we’re constantly getting new reports of professional athletes who refuse to stay with their teams (Adrian Gonzalez of the Los Angeles Dodgers and the entire Milwaukee Bucks basketball team, to name just a few) at the Trump hotel here in Chicago.

Then again, this is Chicago, where we led a solid Electoral College opposition to Illinois going into the Trump column on Election Night – unlike certain other Great Lakes states where the rural portions of the population led a shift rightward.

EVEN NOW, A new poll by Personal PAC puts Trump’s “approval” rating in this state at 39 percent – with a majority 53 percent not approving.
Trump 'vibe' makes Marina 'corncob' look luxurious

Not the same impression as that cockamamie study that claims many people who voted for Hillary Clinton back in November now wish they could change their votes – enough that Trump could now win a popular vote, in addition to an Electoral College tally.

Which may make some out-of-towners want to think less of us Chicagoans. Not that many of us would particularly care, since we’re convinced the rest of the world isn’t lucky enough to call Chicago home.

And, I’m sure, many of those who eagerly backed Trump and are still among his most vociferous supporters will probably never be able to afford to live in his building either.