Thursday, July 18, 2019

One-time ‘South Works’ steel mill could remain a ridiculously-large lot

The one-time site of the U.S. Steel plant on the South Side, known as South Works, has sat vacant for decades, and there have been so many bits of speculation that have been made about what could be done with the site.
The old 'South Works' plant
Because as a spot right on Lake Michigan stretching from 79th to 91st streets, some make note of the fact it is larger than downtown Chicago.

THERE’S DEFINITELY ENOUGH room to build something of significance. Which may well be why Mayor Lori Lightfoot included the site amongst the five spots in various parts of Chicago that are under consideration for the casino officials want to build so as to help jolt the city’s economy further.

Which might make sense, except for the fact that throughout the years since U.S. Steel gave up on the idea of making steel at the plant there have been so many suggestions for what ought to be done.

A factory for Solo Cup. Development of an entirely new upscale neighborhood in between South Chicago and South Shore. Building a housing development that would incorporate unique building techniques so as to create more affordable housing.

And now, slot machines and roulette wheels galore. People could literally come to the shores of Lake Michigan and lose their shirts big time on the site where the steel that was used to build this country was actually produced.

THEN AGAIN, MAYBE this is just another idea destined to become a mere fantasy. It could be that a decade from now, the land along the lakefront in the 8000s could still sit vacant – with only that giant concrete barricade standing.
Tearing down that wall would be tough

A remnant of the old steel mill that remains only because trying to tear it down would be ridiculously costly. Not at all practical.

Better to build whatever you want to do around it and leave the barricade in place as some sort of historic remnant to the kind of people who think certain things ought never to change.

Now personally, I have always taken an interest in the site largely out of a sense of family interest. My own parents were born and raised around the South Chicago neighborhood and both my grandfathers were workers in the steel mills.

WITH ONE GRANDFATHER literally working at South Works because his neighborhood home was within walking distance of the old steel mill. My father can tell tales of the past when the steel mill was thriving, and all the grime and pollution it caused were tolerated because the filth was perceived as evidence that people were working.
What will someday fill this space?

Jobs were available. Times were good!

Now as I understand it, much of the difficulty in actually turning this site into something of future use is because of all the environmental contamination the site endured from the steel mill presence.

Anybody who tries to build something of use there is going to get stuck with the cost of environmental cleanup. And it ain’t a gonna’ be cheap to do – to put it mildly.

WHICH COULD BE why that site winds up not being taken too seriously by those people who want to see the big bucks generated by gambling – which they’ll insist on calling “gaming” because they think it has a less-sordid ring to it.

And they’ll go about lambasting anyone who insists on including the “b” even though I’d argue it’s merely being honest about what exactly casinos bring to a community.
So I don’t doubt Chicago city officials eventually will get around to locating a casino somewhere. They’re not going to let other communities have their gambling without getting their share – even though I’m inclined to think that we’re reaching the point of having too many casinos and that they’ll all manage to cannibalize each other.

But it could well be that the filth and grime that my grandfather would have viewed as evidence of ‘progress’ is really the factor that keeps the site from ever becoming a significant boost to the neighborhood, and to Chicago as a whole.


Wednesday, July 17, 2019

EXTRA: ¿La segunda guerra civil?

It shouldn’t be a shock – our society’s demographics are changing, and some people are determined to ensure that nothing changes.
Let's hope that rallies such as these don't devolve … 
It’s the most obvious explanation for why a certain segment of our society supports Donald Trump, no matter how moronic his behavior as president is or becomes an embarrassment to all of us.

SO THE RESULTS of a series of polls that came out this week shouldn’t be a surprise.

Yes, the growing Latino population of our nation is grossly offended by Trump, and his behavior threatens to cause harm to the political backing they might otherwise have been expected to provide to Republicans, at-large.

Yet it also seems true there are those people who don’t give a rat’s culo about that. They see their continued support for Trump as a way of fighting back against what they would view as a “takeover” of our society.

Take the Morning Consult poll for the Politico newspaper, which found that 51 percent of those surveyed actually approved of the notion of mass raids in large cities across the country to get “those frickin’ foreigners” out of the country.

YES, ONLY 11 percent of those who call themselves Democrats strongly supported the idea, but some 46 percent of those people who refuse to pick a party label also favored the action – which withered away into a nothingness that did little but scare up a segment of our society.
… to gruesome carnage such as this of a century-and-a-half ago?
But then there were the polls done by Miami-based Latino Decisions, which found 51 percent of Latinos think that racism against the Spanish-speaking enclave of our society is a “major” problem, while another 35 percent think it’s “somewhat” of a problem.

And as for the statement, “I am frustrated with how President Trump and his allies treat immigrants and Latinos, and I worry that it will get worse if Trump is re-elected,” only 11 percent of Latinos surveyed did NOT agree.We definitely don’t see eye to eye – the segments of our society whose ethnic origins lie in Latin America and those who are of Irish/Scottish mix but would insist on use of the “real Americans” label to describe themselves.

We definitely don’t see eye to eye – the segments of our society whose ethnic origins lie in Latin America and those who are of Irish/Scottish mix but would insist on use of the “real Americans” label to describe themselves.
The ultimate Trump legacy?

THE FACT IS that the national outcome ultimately will be a “numbers” game – similar to how the original U.S. Civil War outcome ultimately came down to a matter of the Union North having some 20 million people and the Confederate South having only half as many – with some 4 million of those being the slaves whom the South didn’t want to regard as full-fledged human beings.

Considering that many of the people now determined to revere the memory of that Confederacy of old are the same ones eager to embrace Donald Trump, it would seem that some of us haven’t learned. Or are determined to fight the same ol’ battles.
Still peaceful, for now

Which is the real shame befalling us as a society. I’m optimistic enough to think the day will come when those of us who will be the descendants of Trump-ites will wonder how they could ever have been deluded enough to believe such nonsense.

Or how much of our lives were wasted away by our inability to see past our differences?


Will U.S. ballplayers resemble the peloteros of the Mexican League?

It’s always a bit of a jolt whenever I stumble across the baseball played in the Mexican League or any of the other professional leagues of Latin America – the ballplayers themselves are walking billboards.
No, they're NOT all named 'Coca-Cola'
Heck, in some cases the spot on a uniform jersey where we would expect to see a ballplayer’s name winds up being the brand-name of some company instead.

UNLESS YOU HAPPENED to believe that everybody playing for the team representing the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean Series was named “Orange.” Which, in actuality, is a company that provides wireless services and also sells the SIM cards that are often used by people in Latin American countries to make international telephone calls.

My point being that there already is a portion of baseball that views the uniforms their ballplayers wear as yet another place where advertising can be placed – thereby generating even more revenue for the respective ball clubs.

That trend is coming to the United States.

For it seems that Major League Baseball officials are calling it “inevitable” that the uniforms of the Cubs and White Sox – and all the teams they play against – will have advertising patches placed upon them.
Diablos Rojos de Mexico? Or Banamex?

IT’S NOT KNOWN whether they’d be on the shoulder or across the chest, or if there’d be an effort to make them subtle or incredibly garish so that they are the predominant image. Reducing the Old English “Sox” logo or the interlocking “NY” of the Yankees to an afterthought.

It seems like this can’t happen before 2022 because the players’ association would have to give their approval to having their million-dollar ballplayers be reduced to serving as walking, running and throwing billboards for whichever corporate interest pays the teams the most money.
The Elgin watch 'clock' atop Comiskey, … 

Now I know some people are insisting the idea of advertising across the chest of Mike Trout is somehow blasphemous. Would we have ever dreamed of Babe Ruth becoming a pitch for a product?
… or the Budweiser 'rooftop'' outside of Wrigley?

But to me, I can’t help but wonder why this hasn’t occurred long ago.

BALLCLUBS HAVE ALWAYS used their ballparks as a source of advertising income – allowing companies to place tacky billboards all over their outfield walls and scoreboards.

In some cases, creating images that are regarded as a part of baseball’s history.

Who can forget the old “Schafer” beer sign on the scoreboard of Ebbets Field in Brooklyn (the “h” lit up for a hit and the “e” for an error)? Or the old right field wall at Baker Bowl in Philadelphia, where the ad told us in no uncertain terms that “the Phillies use Lifebuoy” soap.

And any baseball fan worth their salt knows exactly what phrase was added on to the ad by a graffiti-ist.

HECK, EVEN IN Chicago, the old Comiskey Park scoreboard clock was an ad for Elgin watches. While one of my own memories of the first ballgame I went to as a kid was seeing the ad for Carta Blanca beer (which made the first time I actually tasted that cerveza brand a complete letdown).
To this day, baseball fans know the Phillies 'still stink' despite Lifebuoy
And while Wrigley Field denizens used to try to claim their ballpark maintained some sort of purity with no ads on the outfield walls, one can’t ignore that house across the street from left field that was turned into a giant Budweiser ad that everybody in the ballpark could see.

The point being that advertising is part of the character of baseball. And seeing how teams are eager to sell the naming rights to their stadiums themselves to the highest bidder, it probably is inevitable that the uniforms themselves will become space to be sold.

Which means we’ll probably get the day when fans will debate which players bear the most interesting advertising logos. And some smart-aleck will probably speculate that Ernie Banks couldn’t have been that special – nobody ever used his jersey for product placement!


Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Send Trump back? Who’d want him!

President Donald Trump is an ethnic mixture of Scottish and German – the latter of which cause some people to deride him by reminding us at every chance they get that the family name originally was ‘Drumpf.’
TRUMP: Deport Donald? Who'd want him!

Back in the days when they were the immigrants, and the name change was made to come up with something they thought sounded more “American.”

SO NOW THAT the president is on a rhetorical kick of wanting to deride members of Congress whom he thinks aren’t American-enough to belong in this country – literally saying they should “go back to the broken and crime-infested countries they came from” – perhaps we ought to give it a thought.

Should we take this sorry excuse of a U.S president, revoke his American citizenship, and ship him off to either Scotland or Germany? Send him back “home,” so to speak!

Actually, that would be a ludicrous fantasy – and not because of the fact that Trump by birth is a Noo Yawker from the borough of Queens (even though he’d like us to think he’s the ultimate in Manhattan sophistication).

More it’s ludicrous because I suspect that neither Scotland nor Germany would want anything to do with The Donald or anyone in his pompous, egotistical family. They probably think they dodged a bullet of sorts by having his family emigrate away from them all those generations ago.
OCASIO-CORTEZ: Not easily silenced

EITHER THAT, OR maybe they’d concoct some sort of scheme by which they could confiscate his immense family wealth for themselves – thereby reducing the Trump family to penniless status.

Not that I expect this to happen either. I suspect our society is stuck with the Trump ego – and is going to have to live with the shame of knowing it really was possible for a vocal minority of voters to actually prevail in the 2016 election cycle.
PRESSLEY: Deport her to … Cincinnati?

A vocal minority that probably thinks it is entirely clever for Trump to go around using his Twitter account to spew nonsense like he did this past weekend – where he derided four outspoken members of the Democratic caucus of Congress for, basically, not treating their own ethnic and racial origins as something they ought to be greatly ashamed of.
TLAIB: Serving Michigan proudly

For what it’s worth, he was talking about Rep. Ilan Omar, D-Minn., who was born in Somalia and lived in a refugee camp in Kenya before coming to this country as a 12-year-old and ultimately settling in Minneapolis.

BUT THEN HE lumped in three other members of Congress – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan – as others who don’t really belong here.

All are U.S.-born, and in the case of Ocasio-Cortez may be Puerto Rican-ethnic but was raised in the suburbs of New York City. Only in the mini-mind of Donald Trump would they somehow not belong here, where I suspect his real objection to them having a prominence in society is due to the fact he regards many women as being decorative objects – and nothing else.

Think about it seriously. What are we going to do – deport Pressley back to her birth city of Cincinnati? It’s nonsense-talk like this that causes many to deride him as the “twit who Tweets” and to regard his constant use of Twitter as a true social embarrassment on our society – far worse than anything that any of the Congressional women has had to say.

ALTHOUGH IF YOU really want the truth, I suspect his attack on the Congresswomen was a deliberate tactic in its’ timing – as in Sunday, the day that was supposed to see federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials conducting many raids to deport all kinds of foreigners whom he also thinks don’t really belong “here.”
OMAR: Learned English off American TV

It seems the raids fizzled out, and really didn’t amount to much of anything.

Yet instead of now wondering how full of hot air Trump is for all his immigration raid trash talk, the focus is instead going toward Trump wanting to kick Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez out of the continental U.S.

Although even that wouldn’t achieve much – because Puerto Rico is a U.S. commonwealth. Meaning even if she were sent back to the Caribbean island, she’d still be within U.S. reach and more than capable of speaking out against Trump nonsense on oh so many issues. Nobody silences AOC that easily!


EDITOR'S NOTE: It's worth pointing out that everybody here is standing before, and serving the interests of, the very same U.S. flag.

Monday, July 15, 2019

71 years later, and yet the Woody Guthrie tune remains ever-so relevant

Good bye to my Juan/Good bye Rosalita
Adios mis amigos Jesus y Maria
You won’t have a name/When you ride the big airplane
All they will call you/Will be ‘deportees’
--Plane Wreck at Los Gatos/Woody Guthrie (1948)

It’s kind of scary to think that a song composed some 70-plus years ago remains so dead-on accurate this far into the 21st Century. Yet that seems to be the case with the famed protest tune “Deportee.”
Composed and originally performed by Woody Guthrie, the same man who gave us “This Land is Your Land,” the tune has come to be associated with folk singer Pete Seeger and has been covered by so many differing artists – including some such as Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash whom I’m sure many would think fit the profile of the “real America” the ideologues claim they support.
THE SONG WAS motivated by Guthrie being offended by the New York Times account of the Jan. 28, 1948 plane crash near Los Gatos Canyon – not far from Fresno, Calif. Guthrie was bothered by the fact that the report clearly identified the members of the flight crew , while merely dismissed the 28 migrant farm workers on their way back to Mexico as “deportees.”
Which, I would suspect, is exactly the way that the proponents of the immigration raids that President Donald Trump has been screeching and screaming about for months would like to see happen yet again.
The raids were supposedly (or at least according to the rumor mill that Trump is openly encouraging) set to occur Sunday – possibly in the early hours. Many hundreds, if not thousands, of foreigners whom the ideologues are determined to think of as criminal just for their very existence in this country will be woken up from their sleep, hauled off by authorities, and eventually put onto an airplane taking them to Brownsville, Texas – where a bus will then transport them across the border to Mexico.

The last thing we’re supposed to think about is the fact that these individuals are human beings, with lives and individualities. Who probably are doing work in this country that make a worthwhile contribution to our society.
NOT THAT THE ideologues want to hear any of this kind of talk. It was just a week ago I encountered someone (who actually is a decent-enough human being) who tried to justify his nativist thoughts by saying he’s really only against Somalis – whom he claims are absolutely refusing to assimilate to the ways of life of our nation.
I don’t doubt that any effort to do reporting on the actual deportation process to bring humanity to these people will be regarded as somehow being un-American. Although to me, the actual “un-American” conduct is having the authorities bust down people’s doors and haul them off – possibly before anyone is truly awake and aware of what is happening. Just like in the modern-day Russia or North Korea whom Trump claims aren't really all that bad!

Now it’s always possible that the anticipated deportations won’t be as extensive as some fear – and are merely trash-talk meant to feed the mini-mentalities of those people who want to think Donald Trump is a true patriot – rather than just an egotistical buffoon with a bloated view of his self-importance. Maybe Monday will feel like a relief.
But the way in which the Trump-types keep insisting they’re targeting people with arrest records in this country (and could accidentally pick up others in the process) makes it seem like Guthrie was on to something all those years ago when he wrote: “They chase us like outlaws/Like rustlers, like thieves.”


Saturday, July 13, 2019

Loyalty? Or selfishness?

Watching the Chicago White Sox these days, a part of me can’t help but wonder who’s smoking what with regards to the ballclub’s best player these days – Jose Abreu.
Potential Sox all-time star?

Yes, I know the team has several youthful ballplayers who have the potential to be stars that lead the White Sox to potential championships in coming seasons.

BUT THE FACT is that Abreu, the Cuban exile who came to Chicago back in 2013, has been THE significant part of the White Sox during this past decade. He’s also achieved enough in recent seasons that his name has to come up in any discussion of White Sox history.

Abreu, at 167 home runs is already amongst the top home run hitters in Sout’ Side baseball history. Wouldn’t it make sense that people would want Abreu to be the BIG BAT at the lead of the potential White Sox championship teams of the 2020s?

Yet the fact is that there is a significant share of White Sox fandom who would just as soon see Abreu depart. It seems the contracts he has had to play in Chicago come to an end after this season.

If the White Sox want to keep him, they’re going to have to come up with some sort of financial bonanza to make it worth his while to want to stay in Chicago.

BUT THERE’S THE fact that Abreu now is 32, which in traditional baseball thought, is the point in time when a ballplayer crosses over from his physical athletic peak and starts to become over-the-hill.
Also an Indian, Cardinal and Senator

Do the White Sox really want to pay big money to keep Abreu for a few more years to see if he can be a part of the White Sox’ next World Series title-winning team?

Would the team be better off letting him go to some other ball club, while relying on the big name peloteros such as Yoan Moncada, Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez to be the stars of the Sox?

For his part, Abreu says he wants to stay with the White Sox – going so far as to say he will sign himself to stay with the Sox even if the Sox themselves don’t make him a contractual offer beyond this 2019 season.

SO IS ABREU truly loyal to the Sout’ Side baseball scene? Or is he just being selfish in thinking about himself?
An Orioles team Hall of Famer

Actually, it’s the reason why I think old-timer fans who complain about modern ballplayers having no loyalty are full of it. The so-called loyalty of the past was usually one way – players were expected to give all to the teams, who would think nothing of trading away or releasing a player when it was to the team’s self-interest.

Heck, I remember when Frank Thomas (the White Sox’ most recent Hall of Fame player) expressed thoughts of wanting to play in Chicago his whole career. But the White Sox let him go willingly – and he wound up finishing with stints in Oakland and Toronto.

Even such White Sox notables as “Minnie” Miñoso and Harold Baines played for other ball clubs – with Miñoso also playing for Cleveland and Baines playing well-enough for Baltimore that he’s also a member of that team’s personal Hall of Fame. Or even legendary Sox like Luis Aparicio or Nellie Fox, who also played for Baltimore and Boston, along with Philadelphia and Houston respectively.
Sox combo also had their moments with Athletics and Orioles
SO MAYBE IT wouldn’t be the most outrageous deal if Abreu became a Yankee or a Red Sox for a few seasons. Who knows; that might be his best chance to actually be on a championship team.
One of the few life-long Sox

It’s not exactly out-of-line to think that the White Sox of the 2020s could find their championship dreams thwarted by the up-and-coming teams the New York Yankees are putting together these days.

Which actually would be in character with White Sox history, as the “Go Go” teams of the 1950s wound up finishing most seasons in second place behind the Yanks.

And we’ll have to see for ourselves just how much a part of White Sox history Abreu himself (will number 79 be the next uniform digit retired) is destined to become.


Friday, July 12, 2019

Trump seems determined to use immigration trash-talk to get re-elected

President Donald Trump wants another term in office, and seems determined to create the impression of himself as the guy who kicked all those frickin’ foreigners out of this country.
TRUMP: National equivalent of playground bully?

He’s the guy who wanted a series of national immigration raids to create a sudden boost in the actual number of deportations.

OF COURSE, SO many details got out about where and when these raids would take place that Trump put a hold on the plan – while insisting he did it as a courtesy to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who was working to put together a border aid package in Congress.

Not that anybody believed Trump would do anything out of courtesy to anybody but himself. Which is why the talk is starting up again that raids of a sort will start Sunday.

With activists saying they’re planning a protest rally in Chicago for Saturday, hoping to get several thousand individuals to publicly express their disgust with The Donald and his immigration desires.

This comes as Trump made his announcement Thursday of his latest desire to get information about non-citizens living in this country. He contemplated an executive order that would require a Census Bureau question as in being able to enact his desires without having to get Congress to sign off on them first, which truly is the “American Way” of doing things.

TRUMP, WHO HAS tried to get the 2020 Census population count altered so as to include questions about the citizenship status of those reporting, now says he’s going to require federal government agencies to turn any information over to the Commerce Department so it can be compiled into incriminating information.

He’s not concerned with the several court rulings that have found there to be no legitimate purpose to having such a question as part of the Census. Because the purpose of the Census is to get as accurate a count as possible of the U.S.’s actual population on April 1, 2020.

And Trump is determined enough that his way MUST prevail that he’s going to get his question included in some form, so as to gather up as much information as possible as to who exactly is here.

Which has some concerned that all Trump is doing is trying to gather intelligence that could someday be used to single out even more people for deportation. Trump backers try to claim that it’s overly cynical and paranoid to think ill of the presidential intentions on this issue.

BUT IT PROBABLY says much about the lack of trust the majority of our society has in the executive abilities of Trump that we don’t fully trust him. And for good reasons.

Because this is the man who started off his political portion of life by letting it be known he was more than willing to single out for abuse certain types of people – and was more than willing to kowtow to the segment of our society that has a strong xenophobic streak running down its spine.

The kind of people who will wet their pants with glee at the very thought of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents working overtime on Sunday to weed people out, arrest them, then deport them.

And those who are willing to think that the courts’ refusal to go along with Trump’s desires for a Census Bureau question that some in our society would not feel comfortable answering is merely evidence that the courts themselves ARE the problem.

IT WILL BE curious to see if this becomes a winning strategy; letting the ideologues amongst us think they are succeeding in reclaiming our country from those of us who’d prefer to see American ideals prevail in the way things are done.

Which is why I found interesting the results of a Morning Consult poll that shows one-time Vice President Joe Biden holding slight leads over would-be presidential challengers Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren.

But that is amongst people who identify themselves as most likely to actually vote. Which means it could well be in the hands of those slightly-more apathetic about casting ballots to decide whether we actually replace Trump come November of 2020.

Which may well be part of the Trump strategy as well – stir up so much trash that the bulk of people will be dismayed enough to not bother voting. Truly a sad strategy that says little about the man’s inherent character.