Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Hoosiers eating crow?!? The race to backtrack from “religious freedom”

I must admit to being surprised at how quickly Indiana government officials are backtracking themselves concerning the alleged “religious freedom” law enacted last week.

Indiana Gov. Dan Pence said Tuesday he expects the Republican-dominated Indiana General Assembly (the negative image of what we have in Illinois) to pass some measure by week’s end that will clarify the intent of the new law so as to make sure that people can’t wind up being discriminated against based on sexual preference.

WHICH IS THE fear of many of those who are now lambasting the Land of Hoosiers for having felt the need to lead the nation in passing such a law to begin with.

It was interesting to hear Peter Breen of the Thomas More Society speak earlier this week on WTTW-TV’s “Chicago Tonight” program about how the law doesn’t really make Indiana much different from Illinois in terms of the way people’s rights are protected.

Although the difference appears to be that Illinois has laws including sexual preference as a category of person whose rights are protected. Indiana has never felt the need to offer such protections within their state law. Which is a big difference, no matter how much some try to downplay it!

That is why some wonder if the law is meant to let people who have hang-ups with regards to gay people (particularly on the marriage issue) claim that their religious beliefs are somehow being violated.

AS THOUGH THOSE beliefs somehow permit people to act on their prejudices toward those they don’t like.

It actually reminds me of a “Sunday school” moment when I was a kid of about 8 when we were told that being a “good person” had nothing to do with whether one went to “Heaven” after death – it was about how strong one’s religious faith is.

Perhaps some people think being the last hold out against gay marriage is what will assure them a place in the hereafter; while presuming that everybody else is Hell-bound.

As though God is the ultimate bully who backs those who bully everybody else not like them. I’d like to think that if there really is a hereafter, certain people are in for the shock of their existence when they find out how wrong they truly have been in life!

BECAUSE THE WAY that Indiana’s political actions of last week made any sense was as a political statement; letting it be known they did not approve of having “gay marriage” forced upon them by a federal judge – as opposed to Illinois where the Legislature and governor enacted changes in the relevant laws.

Which themselves were only a couple of decades old and were part of an effort by a then-Republican-dominated Illinois government to make its own statement against gay marriage.

Now, Indiana officials have to back away from their hard-headed statement. Perhaps it was all the public condemnation they were receiving that caused the change of heart.

Not just that the band Wilco cancelled an Indianapolis concert, or that the NCAA was talking about never again holding the men’s basketball tourney in the Indiana capital city (the Final Four will be held there this weekend, and it wouldn't be practical to relocate the event at this late date).

NOT EVEN THE fact that several states (including New York) rushed to enact legislation saying they were prohibiting non-essential travel by their officials to Indiana so long as the new law remained in place. Not that it would have cost much. Because how many people make non-essential trips to Indiana at all!

Or even the fact that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is now hitting back against all those vapid “Illinoyed” ads that Indiana has concocted trying to claim that businesses should jump for the chance of a Hoosier mailing address so as to get lower tax rates.

The lower taxes might just be evidence that the state government doesn’t do as much as Illinois does, and that the public embarrassment of having the Indiana address might not be worth the cost savings.

And we can all think of State Line Road as being just another municipal boundary like Howard Street to the north – rather than the barrier beyond which oddball things happen when one ventures too far to the east!


EDITOR’S NOTE: It may be nothing more than fantasy, but there are times I wonder if those northwestern Indiana counties ought to just shift themselves over to Illinois. While some Hoosiers would probably wet their pants with glee at the thought of being rid of Gary, we in Illinois would gain additional Congressional representation (and Electoral College votes) at the expense of Indiana. We’d see how quickly Indiana would quit wanting to live in such isolation from the rest of the Great Lakes states.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

EXTRA: Are gangs a worthy question?

Mayoral hopeful Jesus Garcia got hit with a question during the final debate held Tuesday that I’m sure he thinks was a personal attack – is his son, Samuel, still a member of a street gang?

WTTW-TV news person (and debate moderator) Phil Ponce came up with the question for Garcia, citing Chicago Sun-Times reports indicating his repeated arrests (although Garcia says his son’s criminal record amounts to two misdemeanor convictions).

FOR HIS PART, Mayor Rahm Emanuel quickly came in and said he thought such questions were inappropriate – although I suspect it was less about Emanuel feeling sympathy for Chuy and more about realizing the damage was done by the question. Rahm didn’t need to “pile on,” so to speak.

I actually found part of Garcia’s answer to be intriguing; and could be an issue that people debate for many years – the part where he said the reason he remained devoted to the Little Village neighborhood where he has lived for the bulk of his life is because of the problems caused by gangs.

He said he and his wife are so devoted to making Little Village (and neighboring Pilsen) better that they weren’t going to flee to somewhere else, just because of the gang influence.

Does that make the bulk of us who deliberately seek out places where we can ignore such problems (or pretend that they only exist somewhere else, and never near us) some sort of wimp?

AS THOUGH WE are the cause of the problem refusing to go away because we try to ignore it?

There was one part of Garcia’s answer that comes across as so true – the fact that the gang influence can be so strong that many young people feel they have no choice BUT to pick a side, so to speak.

As though trying to remain above it all merely means that everybody in the community would single them out for abuse – rather than having somebody who might watch their back.

I’m not defending gang life, by any means. But I’m also aware that many of us try to think of it in such an overly simplistic way (“The Warriors” isn’t a documentary by any means) because we really don’t want to have to think about it at all.

SO IS GARCIA nothing more than the father of a “gangbanger” who couldn’t even control his own son, let alone be capable of doing anything to resolve the problem city-wide?

Or is he someone who may have a more realistic view of the problem, and for what it seems has a son who appears to have got away from the gang life (and now works as a chef, according to his father).

It certainly is a more interesting issue than Emanuel’s repeated claims during the debate (the final one prior to Election Day seven days away) that, “I didn’t cause the recession.”

A claim that was barely amusing the first time Rahm said it, yet which he kept getting laughs from the debate audience every time he opened his mouth.


Wounded war vet; or “Rod Blagojevich protégé?” It’s gonna be ever so ugly!

One thing is for sure – the 2016 campaign for U.S. Senate from Illinois is going to be an ugly campaign from Day One.

Which literally was Monday; Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., wants to go from representing the far west suburbs in Congress to representing the entirety of Illinois in the Senate.

SHE MADE THE announcement that she will take on Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., who is seeking re-election to a second term following a lengthy stint representing the North Shore suburbs in the House of Representatives.

I was aware that she had an announcement stunt planned, yet still have to admit to being caught up by the spin being put on the event by the various sides in this upcoming election cycle.

We haven’t even chosen a new mayor (or a sequel to the old mayor) yet, but already we’re being asked to get into the heat of things for 2016 in what could turn out to be the nastiest campaign that will take place in Illinois (we’re just not going to care as much about president this time around since we won’t have a ‘favorite son’ to root for, or against).

As expected, Duckworth kicked off her campaign by reminding us of her military service and the fact that she was a helicopter pilot who suffered severe injuries that cost her a leg. “Ten years ago, I nearly lost my life when an RPG tore through the cockpit of my Black Hawk helicopter in Iraq,” was how her campaign statement begins.

NOTHING NEGATIVE TO say yet about Kirk (who suffered a stroke shortly after getting elected to his current term in the Senate).

Although Duckworth did say in her introductory statement, “We deserve elected officials who will do for our fellow Americans what my crew did for me in Iraq; look out for our hardest hit and most vulnerable, work together for the sake of our mission and refuse to give up until the job is done.”

I’m not sure if she’s just saying that she’s a tough broad, or that Kirk is somehow less than capable. I’m sure there will be countless future statements and actions that will further elaborate on what we’re supposed to think of Kirk – who served for many years himself in the Naval Reserve.

Yet the Republican opposition that is determined to keep the Illinois post in the GOP column for partisan purposes has its own share of shots it will take at Duckworth, starting with the first three words of the statement issued by Illinois Republican Chairman Timothy Schneider in response to Tammy.


Literally, we’re told that Duckworth, “is not the kind of partisan politician Illinois families want to represent them in the United States Senate.” For she’s allegedly the, “extreme wing of the Democratic Party,” according to the party hacks.

Aside from reminding us of the Blagojevich tie – which was that she served as director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs for three years back when Rod responded to the title of “governor” rather than “inmate” – we’re also told that Tammy voted “92 percent” in line with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

Although considering how often rank-and-file members of Congress vote along with their respective party leaders, I’d wonder if the truth is more that she differed from Pelosi some 8 percent of the time!

IT’S ALL POLITICAL trash talk. None of it should be taken too literally.

Particularly since in my case, the statement from Schneider showed up in my e-mail box some 40 minutes before I got the Duckworth statement telling me she was running. Tammy was slow on the draw, it seems.

It wouldn’t have mattered what she said or did; the key was to get the names “Blagojevich” and “Pelosi” into the political discourse. Just as Duckworth wanted to remind us of her personal tale – which offends the conservative ideologues who want to believe anyone with military experience is naturally a Republican.

“How dare she be a Democrat!?!,” is what the GOPers think. Just as da Dem partisans are sputtering with disgust at the mention yet again of Blagojevich. And the rest of us will stock up on Tylenol for the statewide headache we’re going to experience between now and Nov. 8, 2016.


Monday, March 30, 2015

EXTRA: And people wonder why I’m skeptical in thinking the Chicago Cubs are going to win anything anytime soon

From a baseball business perspective, the demotion of Kris Bryant from the Chicago Cubs to a minor league roster isn’t a surprise.

Despite the fact that he’s having a terrific spring (.425 batting average and nine home runs during March), Bryant was reassigned to minor league camp, and likely will play the bulk of this season with the Iowa Cubs.

CUBS MANAGEMENT HAD been forthright in saying that it didn’t matter how good a spring training Bryant had – he wasn’t going to be with the Cubs when they start the season against the St. Louis Cardinals this weekend.

It’s about the fact that major league rules allow ball clubs to have control over players for six full seasons before they can try to become free agents (which gives them the chance at the big-money contracts they dream of).

By not having their top minor league prospect on the major league team at season’s start, it will mean Bryant’s six-year countdown won’t begin until next year. From a business perspective, the ball clubs view it as essential. Heck, the Chicago White Sox routinely pull such moves so as to delay the amount of time that must pass (two seasons) before a ballplayer can be eligible for salary arbitration.

So the fact that the Major League Baseball Player’s Association is upset and is threatening legal action to force Bryant into the major leagues isn’t going to mean much.

IT’S THE CUBS putting business ahead of the on-field product. Which is something they have done for so many decades that it’s no wonder the team hasn’t won a championship of any kind since, in the words of troubadour Steve Goodman, “the year we dropped the bomb on Japan.”

But this is an era in which we have been hearing countless rhetoric about how talented the Cubs franchise is because of all the top baseball prospects the organization has. The most insufferable of Cubs fans would have you think the team is already of championship caliber.

Maybe Bryant is destined to be the star who leads the team to the championship that eluded Ernie Banks, Ryne Sandberg and Sammy Sosa – to name just a few.

Or maybe he’s the guy who will give Des Moines baseball fans a few kicks because the (alleged) major league-level Cubs are more interested in denying Bryant a financial payday that – if he really is as good a ball player as is claimed – he will get someday.

PERHAPS FROM ANOTHER ball club that he chooses to go to after seeing the Cubs organization for the third-rate outfit they historically have been.

Which could make the big baseball story for 2015 whether or not Jose Abreu (the American League rookie of the year) is capable of having another season resembling his star-studded effort of ’14.


Kentucky vs. Rahm – whose “victory” was likely more predictable?

Which storyline is more likely to be remembered for time to come – the near victory of Notre Dame over Kentucky in the NCAA men’s basketball tourney or the possibility that next week, mayoral challenger Jesus Garcia will come close to beating up on Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Election Day.

I say possibility because we don’t know for sure at this time how Emanuel will do come April 7. Will his political operation turn so many people off to the concept of “Mayor Chuy” that they turn out to vote for Rahm?

OR CAN GARCIA pull off a political upset that would likely be a bigger story than when Harold Washington managed to win the mayoral elections back in 1983?

My gut feeling says it won’t happen, and we’re likely to get “Four more years!” of “Mayor Emanuel,” just like in the end it was totally predictable that Kentucky (the number 1-ranked school in the tourney) beat the Fighting Irish squad that some people want to believe had no business being on the court Saturday night against the Wildcats.

But if Notre Dame had managed to hold on to the lead they had in the second half, or for that matter had not managed to let Kentucky take the lead with just a few seconds left (it was 66-66) – you just know there are Fighting Irish sports fans who will dream forevermore about “What could have been” if Notre Dame had won, and advanced to the Final Four of the NCAA Division I tournament.

Somehow, I suspect that following next week’s Election Day, Garcia will slink back to his post on the Cook County Board (his current term runs through 2018) and only the hardest-core of political geeks will bother to remember his mayoral bid.

PART OF WHAT discourages me about the idea of a Garcia bid succeeding – even though I don’t doubt the sincerity of the segment of Chicago’s population that absolutely detests Emanuel – is the sight of 2nd Ward Alderman Robert Fioretti feeling the need to endorse Hizzoner.

This comes following four years of Fioretti being the most outspoken critic of Emanuel on the City Council. This man spent the past four years finding just about every excuse he could think of to trash Emanuel’s professional reputation.

But the thought of Garcia as mayor supposedly is what it takes to make Fioretti think twice about Rahm and come to the conclusion that maybe he’s “ready and able to take on the tough financial challenges this city faces.”

It plays off the idea that, somehow, Garcia just isn’t capable of overseeing municipal government. Even though he is a former alderman (just like Fioretti) and, state senator, along with current county board member, none of those three decades of public service have taught him much of anything.

NOW I’M NOT going to come out and say this is some sort of ethnic hang-up; as though would-be voters simply think a “foreign” (born in Mexico, but lived the bulk of his life right here in Chicago) guy is naturally less qualified. But it does seem to be an element of the debate.

There is something about the tone of these claims that Chuy isn’t up to the task that seems reminiscent of the way certain people used to talk about why they didn’t like the idea of “Mayor Harold Washington” – but didn’t want it attributed to “racial” hang-ups.

He just didn’t have the kind of background they desired, even though Washington was just as much a part of the Chicago political organization as anybody else. Just as is Garcia!

Of course, there’s also the fact that the Democratic Party is (has been for a couple of decades, since the days of President Bill Clinton) in its own fight for its character. It’s the ‘60s activists grown older versus the activists grown up – as in having outgrown their cantankerous character and now expressing a desire to be the establishment.

THAT IS A good part of why the retirement in two years of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., will result in Number Two Democrat Richard Durbin, D-Ill., (he who bad-mouthed Walgreen’s) being passed over for the leadership post for Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. – who is perceived as being more sympathetic to “Wall Street” types.

Just as I’m sure those who say Garcia isn’t qualified to be mayor are really saying they define “qualifications” as being more like Emanuel. It is why it is likely that a Garcia near-victory next week will be written off as nothing more than a loss to soon be forgotten and the masses will go back to thinking that “Chewy” is a Star Wars character.

Unlike the Notre Dame near-victory that some people will never want to forget about. After all, just think of how crushed country singer Ashley Judd (a prominent Kentucky basketball fan) would have been if the Fighting Irish had actually won?

I can’t envision anyone (not even Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, an outspoken Rahm-basher) getting that worked up if Emanuel wins.


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Are we being teased by all these early ballots being cast in upcoming election?

With the exception of Monday’s snowfall, the weather this week has been fairly mild – which could make it less unpleasant for people to actually go out and cast ballots for the upcoming municipal elections.

That may account for the fact that the early voting centers open this week in Chicago have seen significant numbers of people show up.

THE CHICAGO BOARD of Elections indicated that through Thursday, there had been 44,291 people who had showed up to vote – more than the 21,557 people who cast ballots in the first four days of early voting prior to the Feb. 24 municipal elections.

Now I know some are going to point out that the early voting for that February election wound up being higher than any other early voting for city government posts – so it must be a sign that there is intense interest in the upcoming mayoral election.

Which I’d like to believe, but I’m not sure I do.

The fact I remember is that most of the early voting for those elections came in the final days of the two-week period in which people could cast ballots prior to Election Day. So being ahead of the pace for now isn’t that difficult.

THERE ALSO IS the fact that in the November 2014 elections for state and county government posts, there were a high number of early voters who participated.

Yet let’s point out that the overall percentage of people who voted for governor and the other posts last year wasn’t all that high. And the total number of people who bothered to cast ballots for mayor back in February stunk – it came within a few hundredths of a percent of being the lowest mayoral voter turnout ever.

What we’re seeing are the hard-core types who – for whatever reason – are capable of taking a day off during the week, and include a trip to the polling place amongst their daily errands.

These are the people who have that Rahm “hatred” that is getting them all worked up so they feel the fire in their bellies to partake in this political crusade – which has the potential to disappoint them come April 8 when they realize that perhaps the bulk of Chicago doesn’t care.

NEARLY TWO-THIRDS OF registered voters didn’t bother to vote back in February. It may turn out that the overall percentage of voters who bother to vote come 10 days from now won’t be any higher.

Which is a shame, since I really think people ought to express themselves politically – it is their government and they have every right to let it be known what they want, and expect.

It is this kind of apathy that ultimately makes political people think they can do what it is they want, without having to pay much regard to “We, the People” (remember that blasted U.S. constitution?), for whom the political people supposedly work for.

It also is the reason why I bothered to take the time Friday to get my “I voted!” sticker, which means I cast my actual ballot.

IN MY PARTICULAR part of the Chicago area, the elections aren’t that thrilling. Most of the votes I cast were for unopposed candidates. There were a couple of picks, but I was able to work my way through the whole ballot in a matter of a few minutes!

In fact, it took more time for the election judge to find my name in the voter rolls and program the card so I could use a touch-screen to cast my ballot than it did to actually vote.

Although the sun was shining and it wasn’t extremely freezing outside. Because I went in mid-day, there was no line. I was able to walk right up, cast my vote, then go back home within minutes.

Thereby reclaiming my Constitutionally-given right to complain about my elected officials and their actions; which are, after all, known to many political operatives as, “the People’s business.”


Friday, March 27, 2015

Hoosiers determined to go down w/ sinking ship of opposing gay marriage?

When it comes to the concept of gay marriage being legal, we in Illinois had it implemented into our law by the General Assembly and a governor. While in neighboring Indiana, it was the federal courts that wound up striking down the Hoosier laws that made such marriages illegitimate.

So in learning Thursday that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence went ahead (like he had said he would) and signed into law a “religious objections” bill, all I can figure is that some people are determined to be the last holdouts to accepting the reality that such marriages are here to stay.

THEY’RE PROBABLY THE ones who secretly are praying that conservative ideologue Supreme Court justices such as Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas can convince a slim majority of the nine-member high court to rule later this year that all these federal appeals courts (including the seventh circuit here in Chicago) were wrong to rule in ways that legitimized gay marriage.

Personally, I think the new Indiana law – and the bills being considered in about a dozen other states – is a whole lot of nothing.

Its intent is to say that Indiana people and business interests can’t be forced into doing something that would violate their own religious beliefs.

As in those clergy members who might be asked to perform a wedding ceremony for a gay couple, or all those businesses that cater to weddings for their livelihood now being able to say they don’t want to deal with gay couples.

IN CERTAIN RURAL parts of Indiana, that might well make it impossible for a couple to be married locally if there aren’t a lot of alternatives readily available.

But the Illinois laws that former Gov. Pat Quinn gave approval to included clauses that exempted religious organizations from being forced into performing such marriage ceremonies.

In fact, the bulk of gay activists I have spoken to about this issue have conceded that many such couples would be more likely to seek a civil service and a trip to a friendly judge when seeking to be married. There really isn’t a problem.

As for the others, I can’t help but think they will be the ones who suffer by refusing to accept such wedding business. It’s their loss of income, and if they get branded as some sort of ideological nutcase who tries to spread his (or her) view onto others, it will be them who ultimately go out of business.

ALTHOUGH I HAVE to wonder about a florist who thinks it offends his sense of self to be involved in a gay wedding. Does he think that standing up against certain marriage somehow makes his (or her) line of work appear less effeminate? Or are they merely covering up their own leanings on the issue?

It’s nonsensical, and I can’t help but think that those people living east of Indianapolis Boulevard (the part of Indiana west of that street really does feel like an extension of the Chicago area) are envisioning problems that simply don’t exist – all because they want to be on the record as opposing what is happening with regards to marriage!

A view that isn’t shared by many. Reading the local press makes it seem like a lot of businesses are opposed to this change – and, in fact, are making sure potential customers know of.

As though they think making their services or goods available to all is the ultimate way to make a profit in business.

OF COURSE, THE supporters of “religious objections” are probably ranting right now about how “liberal media!?!” (their favorite target) is distorting their idea of truth by paying attention to the elements they’d rather discriminate against!

It further reinforces the notion that the ultimate losers in this Hoosier way of thinking (which I’m sure there is a minority of Illinoisans who sympathize with them) will be the hard-core ideologues who want to live in their own, small-minded world.

That wouldn’t be so bad, except they also think the rest of us are supposed to live there with them in a subordinate role!