Friday, August 17, 2018

Partisan politics run amok at all levels

Trump has one thing in common with Rauner, … 
It may well be my generation’s contribution to the electoral process – we not only tolerate the overly partisan nature that prevents things from occurring, we encourage it.

The notion of people of the opposition political party being demonized because they have the unmitigated gall to think differently. How dare they!?!

PERSONALLY, I ALWAYS have thought the partisan nature of our electoral set-up has the advantage of preventing either “side” from running amok; from being out-of-control.
feeling the need to demonize an opponent

Literally for letting them behave as though politics is an “all or nothing” game with the loser needing to learn to shut up and take it – as in whatever abuse the political opposition feels like dishing out.

We’re at a point now in this Age of Trump in which our nation’s chief executive is determined to demonize everyone in the majority of society who is embarrassed by his garish behavior.

Take his behavior Thursday, when he responded to the joint effort by dozens of daily newspapers across the country to choose as their editorial subject for the day the notion that the president is literally sitting on his brains every time he goes off on a tangent about news organizations being the “enemy of the people.”

TRUMP USED PHRASES such as “collusion” to take shots at the joint action – which usually is a term that implies some form of criminal conspiracy. As though he thinks federal prosecutors ought to be working on a joint prosecution of all the publishers and editorial writers who did work on putting together a joint statement.

Which basically amounts to saying that the newspapers so often being dumped on by Trump aren’t going to take it being smacked about anymore.
For the governor, it's "Blame Madigan!"

Far from being criminal in intent, it feels more like the schoolyard bully gets his keister kicked in by the very people he has been taunting, then goes about complaining that the people he has been terrorizing have no business thinking about fighting back.

Personally, I’m viewing my own retribution as coming in 2020 – when we as a society have our chance to considering a collective Trump Dump! If we can’t get ourselves organized to pick somebody else (there were 3 million more of us who wanted the concept of “President Hillary,” remember?), then perhaps we deserve what we get.

YET IT’S NOT just at the federal level where such nonsense talk takes place.

Take our very own Illinois, where Gov. Bruce Rauner is trying to turn the political unpopularity he has into some sort of statement about Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago – whose actual “offense” is that he has refused to cooperate with Rauner’s partisan desires to undermine the influence of organized labor within state government.

On Thursday in Springfield as part of the Democrat Day activities at the Illinois State Fair, there was a line of questioning amongst some reporter-types about whether Madigan is a “liability” to Democrats.

The state legislator who is now executive director of the state Democratic Party says this election should not be about “individual personalities.” While Kwame Raoul (the Dem seeking election as Illinois attorney general) merely responded “My name is Kwame Raoul, Next question?”

PERHAPS TRUMP WOULD like the kind of press questioning that presumes his partisan political principles have a basis in truth, just like Rauner got on Thursday. Although I’ve also seen speculation that the “questions” came from political operatives trying to spin the line of rhetoric.
For Trump, it's the content of what is published in all those little boxes
So what should we think? Do we have people openly hostile to the partisan stances of our elected officials?

Or do we have elected officials openly hostile to the concept that not everybody in our society agrees with what they think?

The cliché says that “Everybody has a right to be wrong.” The reality is that a society where everybody agrees would be not only an un-American concept, it would be a downright dull place in which to have to live.


Thursday, August 16, 2018

EXTRA: Aretha at rest; or Give the Lady some R-E-S-P-E-C-T

It was not long ago I felt compelled to write a little ditty concerning the death of Matt "Guitar" Murphy, the blues musician who had a classic moment in the 1980 film "The Blues Brothers" with the Queen of Soul herself, Aretha Franklin.
Now, Aretha herself has departed this realm of existence. Reports of her pancreatic cancer became public earlier this week, and her people say she died early Thursday. She was 76.

I SUPPOSE I could make quips about the reunification in Heaven of Franklin and Murphy -- running a soul food joint on Chicago's Maxwell Street in the hereafter. Perhaps even John Belushi would stop by and try to order his "four fried chickens and a Coke."
Only to get thrown out on his keister by Franklin for being blasphemous.

But the career of Franklin went so much further beyond that film based off the old Saturday Night Live sketches by Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. They also went so much further than the song "R-E-S-P-E-C-T," which is one I fear many people are going to play to death in coming days as they try to do video tributes to Aretha's life.

Personally, a favorite Franklin song of mine is her take on "Chain of Fools" It is one I suspect I'll enjoy hearing until the day I depart this lifespan.

OR THERE'S ALSO this video snippet off television in Nigeria. What's more memorable -- Franklin's take on "You Make Me Feel (like a natural woman)?"
Or seeing then-President Barack Obama tear up at her performance? Who also got to hear her perform when she sang as part of the Inauguration ceremonies when Obama was sworn in as president back in that long-ago day in 2009.


A Hoosier to speak to Illinois Dems at partisan rally of Illinois State Fair?

My initial reaction to learning of the replacement speaker at the Democratic Party’s annual brunch held in conjunction with Democrat Day was a touch of surprise.
Is Buttigieg really a step down as speaker...

Former Vice President Joe Biden was supposed to do the honors, which had some partisans speculating how this could be the beginning of his own dreams of running for president come 2020. It was stirring up significant response.

BUT THEN BIDEN became ill, and had to cancel. Which led to the mayor of South Bend, Ind., being called upon to do the keynote speaker duties. A Hoosier? In Illinois!

Of course, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg isn’t your standard issue municipal official of absolutely no significance beyond the boundaries of his particular city.

Buttigieg is among the few politicos in this country who is open about his sexual orientation. In fact, his marriage earlier this year to long-time partner Chasten Glezman warranted a write-up in the New York Times – usually an honor reserved for the old money elite; who all-too-often are amongst the Republican ranks.

Albeit the types of Republicans who find themselves repulsed by the vulgar behavior of our current president.

SO PERHAPS BUTTIGIEG is appropo to speak to a rally meant to get Democrats in Illinois all riled up enough to care about voting come the Nov. 6 Election Day and in election cycles of the future.

For Buttigieg, who has been mayor of the city many of us think of merely as the home of the University of Notre Dame (even though the school technically is in the nearby municipality of Notre Dame, Ind.) since 2012, is a name that often gets thrown into the mix of people who may be challenging Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election. Barack Obama himself has included Buttigieg as a part of the "future" of the Democratic Party.

Always with the addition of a sentence saying Buttigieg would be the “first openly-gay U.S. president, if elected.”
… compared to Biden, who may be too old

I’m sure those who attend the Democratic brunch will try to claim they’re partaking in history by witnessing the event. While I’m sure those attending the state fair proper will go out of their way to ignore anything Buttigieg has to say, preferring to focus attention on the Butter Cow.

I COULDN’T HELP but notice one person who bothered to post a link on Facebook to the Buttigieg wedding story as a way of letting people know just what kind of person Democrats were using to speak at their big rally.

Even though the part I find ironic is that we’ll be hearing from a Hoosier; a species of Midwesterners who oft like to think they’re somehow going to get all of Illinois’ assets to move east across State Line Road.

Now, we’re going to be asked to cheer for one of those people, who can’t even seem to agree on an explanation of why they’re called “Hoosiers” to begin with.

But it could make for an interesting Thursday in Springfield, particularly compared with the Governor’s Day activities that occurred at the Illinois State Fairgrounds on Wednesday.

WATCHING GOV. BRUCE Rauner try to appear to be everyman at a time when many of the rank-and-file partisans of the Republican Party are eager to dump his keister (while also trying to figure out a way of keeping Democratic gubernatorial nominee J.B. Pritzker from prevailing) wasn’t anywhere near as amusing as one might think it is.
Buttigieg will offend those who like Age of Trump

Besides, it kind of fit in with a Chicago Tribune story published Wednesday about the Tuesday primaries held in several other states.

Ones in which Vermont Democrats picked a transgender person to run for governor, Minnesota Dems chose a woman who is of Somali ethnic origins to run for Congress, while Connecticut nominated a black woman to go to D.C. on their behalf. Diversity all dominant.

Compared to Republicans, who managed to nominate several people fully in line with Donald Trump, including in Minnesota, where Tim Pawlenty’s desire for a political comeback failed – and he’s now the man who once dreamed of being President of the United States, only to become yet another casualty of the Age of Trump.


Wednesday, August 15, 2018

What’s an Omarosa?

Remember back to 1985 and the film “Back to the Future,” where the “Marty McFly” character informs the 1955 version of “Doc Brown” that Ronald Reagan was the president, which inspired the response, “Who’s the vice president? Jerry Lewis!”

The punch line being that one entertainer (remember “Bedtime for Bonzo”) would turn government into a whole crew of entertainers. How ridiculous!

OF COURSE, IT would seem that the ludicrousness of three decades ago is all-too much our modern-day reality. Things we never would have thought credible are the norm of now.

That’s how I’m regarding this whole ongoing situation regarding President Donald Trump and one-time staffer Omarosa Manigault-Newman. The one who these days supposedly says tape recordings exist of Trump using racial slurs, which causes The Donald to now openly refer to her as “that dog.”

The connection between the two goes back to the days when Trump was host of reality television shows, and Manigault was one of the contestants. From what I can tell, her character was the sort-of nasty personality on the program – which I suppose fits some role in the overall show.

I write “from what I can tell” because I have to admit, I never actually watched the show. I never heard of Manigault in those days, and even after I learned that the Trump presidency gave a job to someone who had been a character on his show, I didn’t care enough to really find out who she was.

MEANING I HAD to do some instant research on Tuesday to try to figure out what the big deal was with this instance where Manigault felt compelled to tell of secret tape recordings of Trump and also took the non-disclosure documents she was asked to sign in order to get a job working for Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign and provided copies of them to the Washington Post.

I went all this time without bothering to find out who she was because I really didn’t care. I would have presumed that the idea of anyone affiliated with the Trump presidency back in the days when he played television show host would not have been considered a credible persona to be working in the White House.

Shows you how little I know.
Although to tell you the truth, it shouldn’t be surprising that someone as much a political amateur as Donald Trump would put a whole crew of amateurs into positions of power and authority.

SUCH AS MANIGAULT, who may have been a government staffer back in the days of Al Gore as Vice President (personnel people from back then now say she was “the worst hire we ever made”). But her real credentials are the fact she was on The Apprentice and The Ultimate Merger television programs.

So is she really now as incompetent as Trump is trying to make her out to be? She may be. He may be telling the truth, for once!

But why should he have any reason to be shocked? Who did he think he was hiring when he picked her for a spot in the White House Office of Public Liaison (which basically means she was responsible for presenting Trump’s image to the public)? He certainly had no reason to think she had any real credentials for a public service job.

I’d take this whole controversy (yes, I think it sleazy for someone to go about secretly tape-recording their boss to slip him up) as further evidence of how grossly unqualified Trump is to be this nation’s chief executive and how the 2020 election cycle can’t come soon enough to give the electorate the chance to replace him.

ALTHOUGH THERE HAVE been so many more incidents during this Age of Trump to show us how unfit he is to hold public office – and how delusional that segment of our society is that still, to this day, thinks his election in 2016 was a good thing for the country.

Meaning now that I have bothered to look into this, I wish I could undo it. For I fear that bothering to learn who Manigault is has managed to squeeze some more essential (or interesting) knowledge from my memory.

And as for that old “Back to the Future” joke, it doesn’t seem quite so funny anymore.

Because compared to all the level of nonsense that has occurred in this Age of Trump, the idea of Jerry Lewis as Vice President doesn’t seem anywhere near as absurd.


Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Will we get equivalent of Trump's “lock her up” from Rauner about Madigan?

Is Gov. Rauner's re-election bid … 
Anybody with any degree of sense realizes that Gov. Bruce Rauner is full of it, so to speak, when he implies that Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, is engaged in criminal activities.

For if the governor really had the goods on Madigan, he’d be contacting the proper authorities in a position to do something; rather than wasting his venom on campaign tactics. He’d be pushing for something to happen prior to the Nov. 6 Election Day!
… going to try to treat Madigan … 

INSTEAD, WE’RE GETTING the rancid rhetoric as the campaign cycle heats up. We’re already getting tastes of it now, and it will continue to ramp up once we get past the Labor Day holiday.

For Rauner, who last week went on the attack during an interview with a radio station in Southern Illinois, engaged in similar trash talk during an appearance in the Chicago suburbs on Monday.

The “line” that gets all the attention?

“Clearly, he’s been doing unethical things. I hope he’s been doing something illegal, and I hope he gets prosecuted.” With Rauner speaking of the man who is approaching the half-century mark of service in the Illinois General Assembly.
… similar to all the 'lock her up' trash talk … 

THIS IS GOING to be the theme from here on through Election Day. Almost as though Rauner is trying to give us the political sequel to all the “Lock Her Up” trash talk and chants that the Donald Trump presidential campaign gave us in 2016.

To the point where, even though Trump quickly backed away from such talk following his election, there are still many of his backers whose only complaint about The Donald is that Hillary Clinton didn’t immediately face criminal indictment upon his election.

Rauner seems to want to get voters all riled up at the prospect of Madigan getting the traditional “Oxford education” (a stint at the federal correctional center in Oxford, Wis.) as a tactic to spur on voters and boost the turnout.
… Trump dished out to Hillary?

Perhaps it’s because Rauner has little to nothing in the way of accomplishments for himself that he thinks this is the only way he can win – particularly since Rauner’s record as governor includes several acts that have offended the ideologues he’d normally be counting on for support.

“PROSECUTE MADIGAN!” IS a phrase we’re likely to hear over and over again. And not just from Rauner himself about the House Speaker, who also doubles as the Illinois Democratic chairman.

For it is on Tuesday that Illinois attorney general candidate Erika Harold is coming out with her first statewide television campaign spot – one that highlights the notion of Madigan’s “corruption” (and even shows her standing out front of the offices used by Madigan’s law firm – the one that makes its money off tax law and allegedly getting its clients tax breaks that wind up costing the rest of the state more money).
Harold is running against Kwame Raoul, the state senator from the Hyde Park neighborhood whom Harold labeled in her ad as a man whose top financial donor is Madigan himself. Of course, Madigan is a top donor for many legislative candidates – since Madigan is a legislative leader.

I also find it ironic that Harold would have the nerve to complain about Raoul’s “top donor” since her top donor is the governor himself. This very spot we’re going to be inundated with in coming days is likely only available because of that $1 million contribution to Harold that Rauner made mention of last week.

THE ONE HE’S making because he wants a state attorney general who will “prosecute” Madigan – even though Harold would not really have any such authority to do IF she actually wins.
MENDOZA: Had the nerve to win in '16

It’s probably just a matter of time before Illinois comptroller candidate Darlene Senger comes up with her own spots tying incumbent Comptroller Susana Mendoza to “corruption and “Madigan!!!”

Mendoza did, after all, have the nerve to defeat Leslie Munger for the position back when it was up for grabs in a 2016 special election, thereby knocking off Rauner's lone GOP ally. How dare she!?!

Which is why Rauner is all by his lonesome these days within the state government structure – surrounded by Democrats eager to Dump Bruce! and put an end to the notion that being a Democratic partisan is, in and of itself, a criminal act!


Monday, August 13, 2018

Is this the calm before the storm?

VAN DYKE: Protector of the public?
The idea of August as being the summer doldrums gets reinforced all the more this year – what with the trial of the Chicago cop who faces criminal charges for the shooting death of a teenager back in 2014 finally scheduled to take place.

Come Sept. 5, the Cook County courts will finally get around to holding the trial that will decide the fate of officer Jason Van Dyke – the man who got captured on crude video firing 16 shots into the body of a 17-year-old who may, or may not, have been acting irrationally.
McDONALD: Could he have been a scholar?

THERE’S NO DOUBT that Van Dyke fired the shots that killed Laquan McDonald. The issue in this trial is going to be whether his actions were justified as part of his duties “to serve and protect” the people of Chicago.

Which is going to be a judgment call. It’s clear that no matter what, the public perspective will be such that Chicago will be seriously split. This verdict is going to leave the populace of Chicago seriously p-o’ed.

For every single person determined to believe this is an instance of a police officer committing cold-blooded murder, there’s going to be another individual wanting to believe that McDonald got what he deserved – and that perhaps we ought to be thinking of giving him a medal.

A concept that will seriously offend those who have been outspoken in their rhetoric that Van Dyke belongs in prison. They probably won’t be happy until they hear word that “inmate” Van Dyke was assaulted by fellow inmates while in prison.

THESE FACTIONS OF people are going to be going at each other once the trial gets underway. Which means we ought to regard the next few weeks of August as being the calm before the storm.
How will their reputation be altered?

Before the sides start going at each other with full force. Before the rhetoric gets ultra-ugly, and before things get said and done that manage to bring embarrassment to the public perception of Chicago.

I say full force because we got a little taste of what will be forthcoming this very weekend.

It was the Bud Billiken Parade, and the parade’s co-grand marshal, rap singer Vic Mensa, managed to ruffle the sensibilities of police. Mensa on Saturday carried a “Convict Jason Van Dyke” banner. Police officers on duty to maintain order during the parade gathered around him.

WORDS WERE SPOKEN between the two sides, and Mensa at one point taunted the police to arrest him. Daring them to make a national story out of the event by taking him into custody!

Police maintained enough professional restraint to avoid escalating the incident. But it is likely once the trial gets underway and we begin getting the daily dribble of testimony, we’re likely to learn something that offends the public sensibility to the point the outbursts will get out of control.

I’m not making a judgment, as the outburst could easily come from either side of those in our society who are going to take offense.

It could easily come from those people who are offended by the testimony that will be presented in the form of animation.

FOR IT SEEMS that the Van Dyke legal defense team wants to give us a very technical version of what happened – depicting some 5 of the 16 shots, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Even if relocated, Cook will get tainted by trial

Perhaps they think that an overly technical visual version of what happened will somehow make the incident seem less offensive and brutal.

Which is a concept that will offend those inclined to believe the worst about police and their brutality towards the people, particularly the segment that could never be described as Anglo in complexion.

I don’t know if it will become (I hope it doesn’t turn out to be) a race riot. But I suspect the next few months will provide anecdotes that will embarrass our city’s public perception – and we’ll all be very grateful come the arrival of 2019.


Saturday, August 11, 2018

Is Chicago 2/3rd of Illinois; or merely one of the state’s 13 metro areas?

Chicago’s share of Illinois’ population is just over 20 percent; although if one takes into account the entirety of Chicago metro it becomes about two-thirds of the state – with nearly half the state’s population living in a Chicago suburb.
All too absurd, but also accurate, a perception we have of our state
Yet I can remember my days as a Statehouse reporter-type person with officials from the “rest of Illinois” going out of their way to make references to the Chicago-area as “northeastern Illinois” (to make it sound no different than any other region) and making mention of the fact that the state technically has 13 metro areas.

WITH CHICAGO BEING merely one of them, and trying to act as though we don’t acknowledge the other “cities” that exist in Illinois.

That mentality is what largely is behind the measure signed into law this week by Gov. Bruce Rauner – one that says state agencies must regard Springfield as the default location for where employees on the state payroll are based.

Even though the trend of the past couple of decades is to recognize that the bulk of people who live in this state are up here along (or near) the shores of Lake Michigan.

Which causes griping amongst the people based in the Springfield offices of assorted state agencies because they want to be thought of as the home base – rather than just a distant outpost some 200 miles from the focal point of our state’s activity.
RAUNER: Gaining political points for self

THIS BECOMES A political tactic in that it is an act Rauner can point to in his efforts to gain enough votes from the partisans of central and Southern Illinois come the Nov. 6 elections that he can dream of overcoming the many Chicago-area voters who likely are determined to turn out to the polls to vote against Bruce (amongst others).

Rauner, who himself includes a Chicago city-based condominium among the several residences he owns (he’s that wealthy), is taking sides in the perpetual split between Chicago and rural Illinois.

Which actually is similar to the chasm that exists nationally between urban and rural – with those people who prefer the isolated lifestyle unable to comprehend that they’re in the minority of our society; largely because they don’t know many people different from themselves.
BLAGOJEVICH: Pot shots at former gov

The new law says every job title would have to have a location attached to it – and any position to be based in an office outside of Springfield would have to have a justification attached as to why it shouldn’t be a part of the Statehouse Scene.

A STUDY CONDUCTED for the Illinois Department of Central Management Services (essentially, the personnel department for state government) suggested that several hundred jobs currently based in Chicago ought to be relocated to Springfield.

Personally, I think it would be our state government’s loss if it were to carry this line of logic to an extreme. I suspect they’d find a loss in the quality of employees they’d find willing to take a state job if it meant having to endure “capital punishment” – which in political slang means to have to actually spend time in Springfield when the General Assembly itself isn’t in session.
The river IS why Chicago became what it is. Photo by Gregory Tejeda
Which means passing a law like this truly is a partisan act. Particularly since Rauner, in signing the bill into law, made a point of referring to many of the job location changes being made 15 years ago – as in the exact point when the always-despised Rod Blagojevich took office.

Blagojevich, of course, was the governor who was so unenthralled with showing up at state facilities that he eventually came to do the bulk of his work at an office in his Ravenswood neighborhood home – or at one set up in his ward, almost as though he were just a local political boss.

PERSONALLY, I THINK these regional spats have the potential to hold us back – since Illinois’ greatest advantage truly is that it has elements of all the parts of our society as a whole.
Would Abe have become a White Stockings fan

We ought to try to feed off our knowledge for the collective good.

Instead of thinking there’s something special about promoting the idea of our capital city – which itself is truly a product of 19th Century mentality. After all, we are a state whose settlement originally began in Southern Illinois, with people presuming that a city like Cairo (where the Mississippi and Ohio rivers converge) would be our pride and joy. We evolved into a place that emphasized Chicago because of its Lake Michigan/Chicago River location (while Cairo has withered away to a town of merely 2,000 people).

There’s even the fact that the family of Springfield’s most famed resident (none other than Abraham Lincoln) eventually moved on to Chicago itself. Would “Honest Abe,” if he had lived long enough to be a retired president, have wound up praising the joys of life in what came to be known as the Second City?