Thursday, September 30, 2010

Heart attack gets Curtis where “Spats” Columbo couldn’t all those decades ago

There have been many attempts throughout the years to use the Feb. 14, 1929 slayings of seven men at a Lincoln Park neighborhood garage on film and television. Yet I have to admit that my favorite take on the “St. Valentine” massacre by the Capone mob was a silly little farce that showed us just how ugly of women actors Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon would have made.

I’m referring to the 1959 film “Some Like It Hot,” which I must admit was the thought that popped into my mind when I learned that Curtis died this week at his home near Las Vegas. He was 85. Funeral services will be held Monday.

THAT WAS THE comedy that had Curtis and Lemmon playing the part of down-on-their-luck musicians who, while on their way to get a car so they could get to Urbana so they could play at a University of Illinois frat party, happen to witness the slaying of the seven men.

Which had mob boss “Spats” Columbo (played by the legendary actor George Raft, who made a career of playing gangsters) put out a hit on both of them. The film, then, tells the story of the wacky antics they resort to so as to avoid getting gunned down by gangsters.

That included joining an all-girl band (Sweet Sue and her Society Syncopaters), joining them on board a train ride to Florida where they play at a resort. It is there that Curtis in drag meets up with Marilyn Monroe’s “Sugar Kane,” whom even all these decades later remains as sexy a presence as ever. Although anyone who dismisses her as an untalented actress has never seen this film.

This could have easily been a forgettable film about a lecherous perv stuck wearing a dress. Instead, it becomes a laughable farce. Personally, it is a film I pop into the DVD player whenever I need a chuckle.

AS FOR THOSE who think “Caddyshack” is a funny film for the ages, I’d argue that you have never watched “Some Like It Hot.” If you had (and if you have any sense), you’d realize how over-rated that film has become.

Now I know that this film offers nothing in the way of fact or history in terms of telling of Chicago back in the 1920s, or the famous slaying at 2122 N. Clark St. Of course, a lot of the films that put on pretentions of telling us the “true” story manage to mix in fictional elements – including 1967 self-titled film directed by Roger Corman (and starring actor Jason Robards, which always makes me wonder when did Ben Bradlee become Al Capone?).

In fact, it is only those first few minutes that are even set in a fictional Chicago. Once their train leaves Union Station, the rest of the film is either train-set or Florida set.

But it is because of that, I think, that the film remains entertaining all these years later – instead of deteriorating into a period piece that becomes unwatchable in the 21st Century (which is pretty much what I think of the 1931 film, “The Front Page”).

NOW I KNOW that Curtis’ career consists of much more than this one film released 51 years ago. I’m sure there are those who will claim that his performance as Joe/Josephine/Junior was not even the highlight of his career.

But like I wrote earlier, it was the film I thought of when hearing of Curtis’ demise. Considering that “Some Like It Hot” was chosen in 2000 as the greatest comedy of all-time by the American Film Institute, I can’t be alone with my sentiment.

So there is a part of me that now wants to give another viewing to the film, which in my opinion has the funniest final line of dialogue of any film ever.

Actor Joe E. Brown’s Osgood Fielding III telling Lemmon’s “Daphne” that “Nobody’s perfect” in response to his revelation that they can’t get married because she’s really “a man” never fails to crack me up.

  -30-

Does college enhance cop credentials?

It should never be a shock to us when an elected official says something that  essentially is knuckleheaded in nature.

But a part of me is still trying to comprehend the logic (or lack thereof) that went into Ninth Ward Alderman Anthony Beale’s recent comments with regards to the way in which the city hires police officers.

CITY OFFICIALS EARLIER this week let it be known that they will administer another entrance exam (the first in four years) so as to create more potential police officers who can be hired and assigned to police districts that could use more staff to try to fight crime.

That led Beale to spout off about how he thinks the pool that will be created will be a flawed one.

Now let me state up front that I admire, and agree with, Beale’s goal of a potential cop pool that isn’t a bunch of young white Irish guys who will grow up into veteran white Irish cops. The alderman from the far South Side ward (the Roseland and Pullman neighborhoods) wants to ensure that there will be a significant number of people of various racial and ethnic backgrounds among the new hires.

Which only makes sense because Chicago is a city comprised of people of various racial and ethnic backgrounds. Our police should look like ourselves, not what the city’s composition looked like some 75 years ago.

MY PROBLEM IS with the idea Beale came up with to achieve it. One of the ways in which police departments have tried to upgrade their image and the skills of their officers is by seeking out people who have at least some college education in their backgrounds.

Currently, the city requires that someone have at least the equivalent of two years of undergraduate work. That could either be an associate’s degree from a community college, or two years worth of work towards that bachelor’s degree.

It doesn’t mean that anyone is requiring a college degree to become a police officer – although some of the more technical positions within law enforcement that an officer with ambition might aspire to probably do require significant technical knowledge and far more education than two years of undergraduate studies.

It’s not like anyone is even requiring that people wishing to work for the Chicago Police Department go to elite universities to obtain this education. It can literally be studies done at the City Colleges of Chicago, which probably would result in more people from the neighborhoods getting involved in local law enforcement.

BEALE SAYS HE wants to eliminate the college requirement because it discourages racial minorities from thinking about law enforcement. To me, it comes off as him claiming that black people somehow shouldn’t be expected to think in terms of higher education, if they want to advance in certain facets of our society.

I will be the first to admit that not everyone is cut out to attend a college. Then again, not everyone is cut out to be a police officer.

I don’t like the idea of lowering the bar of what we expect from potential police officers just because one alderman gets it into his head that somehow, college educations and racial minorities aren’t synonymous, or that college and cops don’t mix.

I think they do, and not just because much of the skills of law enforcement are so much more advanced than they were all those decades ago.

WHETHER WE CAN accept this fact or not, our society has become more technologically skilled in ways that require just about everybody to get some sort of advanced education. I’m not saying everybody needs a Master of Arts degree, or a Ph.D.

But just as we are now requiring more education of just about everyone in our society who does not want to be left behind, it only makes sense that our police officers should be treated no different.

At the very least, it exposes those potential new police officers to experiences with people in our society that they might not otherwise encounter. Which actually is what I consider to be a college education’s chief benefit.

People get exposed to others with differing experiences whom they might not otherwise encounter. Perhaps the military once served that role, but I wonder at times if the all-volunteer army we now have consists of limited types of people?

ONE OF THE last things we want is for our police officers to return to something resembling the old stereotype of the flatfoot cop walking his beat and having his knowledge amount to little more than knowing when it is appropriate to pull out his nightstick and use it on someone who is threatening to cause trouble.

I agree with Beale that I’d like to see more racial and ethnic groups represented in the Chicago Police Department. Yet perhaps the real solution is to make it more feasible for people in those groups who have interest in working in law enforcement to think in terms of obtaining a higher education.

Any time we get people to think in terms of setting the bar higher for themselves to achieve a goal in life, we are better off as a society.

  -30-

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Chicago’s biggest “character” in 2011 – a brawl, of sorts, between Rahm and Ozzie

The sarcastic side of me wonders if 2011 is going to be the year that we Chicagoans have a challenge for who has the brassiest, hard-edged, tell-it-like-it-is mouth in all of the Second City.

What makes me wonder that is the word earlier this week that Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen definitely will be back at his job for next season, combined with the reports that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel may announce on Friday that he’s leaving his current post.

THEORETICALLY, THAT IS so he could move back to Chicago in time to establish residency and put together a campaign so that he could run for his alleged “dream job” – that of Mayor of the city of Chicago.

Of course, Guillen in the past has also referred to the White Sox managerial post as his “dream job” – running the ballclub for which he was once an All Star shortstop.

So 2011 could literally become the year that we get a couple of dreamers assuming posts of prominence in the city (why do I suspect that if Richard M. Daley could ever have had a White Sox job,  he would have thought long and hard about abandoning city government aspirations?).

There also is the obvious.

BOTH MEN HAVE reputations for being blunt-spoken; hard-edged in ways that occasionally border on the profane. Which literally could mean it would become a competition to see who has the bigger mouth – that is, if Emanuel is able to overcome the many political interests in Chicago that right now are repulsed at the very thought of him being mayor.

Just like there are some delusional people in this city who have problems with the idea of Guillen being a baseball manager (most of whom are crackpot Cubs fans of a certain age who can’t get over the fact that Ozzie was a better shortstop than Shawon Dunston).

All I can say is that if we really get these two public personas in Chicago, it will make for interesting copy. Because they both strike me as being underachievers on the job. Both can appoint to a significant accomplishment, but also have their share of failures in their records.

Guillen has that one World Series win in 2005 and a division title in ’08, yet many fans are going to focus their attention on the failures of this season and 2007.

BY COMPARISON, RAHM is the guy whose hardball tactics overcame the hardcore Republican opposition to healthcare reform so that President Barack Obama ultimately was able to sign something into law.

Yet the GOP partisans are determined to spin his likely departure as a sign of his political failure to overcome their obstructionist tactics – ignoring the fact that the timing of the election cycle seems to be setting this policy.

Just as I’m sure Guillen would view an American League championship in 2011 as a way of shutting up his critics, I’m sure Emanuel will engage in hardball tactics to try to win the mayoral post so as to silence his enemies who want to think he’s politically deceased.

There is one significant difference.

GUILLEN’S ANNOUNCEMENT THAT he’s definitely returning to Chicago next year (despite months of hints that he was feeling unappreciated enough to consider leaving) brings his “story” to a close. Now the ballclub can focus on improving for next season.

By comparison, Emanuel’s saga in Washington is merely starting, as the reports already are circulating about who would replace him as White House chief of staff (and some seem eager to discount the early reports that Daley/Obama loyalist Valerie Jarrett was a front-runner for the post).

Ozzie can sit back and relax this winter, while Emanuel will be in for the fight of his life to try to distinguish himself from the many other political minions who these days think they have a shot at winning the 2011 mayoral election.

At least they all have houses to live in, while (if we believe Chicago Sun-Times gossip columnist Mike Sneed) Emanuel has rented out his house to a man who is now refusing to leave the premises – meaning that Rahm doesn’t yet know where he will live upon returning to Chicago.

ALL I KNOW is by next spring, Emanuel could be so frazzled out that he will need to find a way to relax. I’d suggest taking in a White Sox game, and checking out Guillen’s performance on the field.

Except that Emanuel is a former Northwest Side member of Congress, which theoretically makes him a potential fan of the Cubs. But Emanuel also is the guy who is on the record before a Congressional committee (in 1996) as saying, “I hate baseball.”

Perhaps we ought to lock Emanuel in a room with Guillen, where Ozzie could attempt to educate Rahm on the finer points of the game whose professional ball clubs during the past century have become an integral part of the city’s character.

Then again, we’d run the risk of Ozzie emerging from that room thinking he has what it takes to be a political consultant. Yet another political person with a big mouth, even though his candidates would run campaigns that would be interesting – even if they lost.

  -30-

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What did they think he’d say?

Perhaps it is only appropriate that a one-time member of the comedy troupe at Second City managed to get Congress all worked up into a frenzy with his recent appearance before a House of Representatives committee studying issues related to migrant laborers.

The last time that a Chicago-connected person managed to get a committee all worked up was probably back when Sammy Sosa said he didn’t speak English well enough to answer their questions about steroids use.

IF ONLY STEPHEN Colbert had taken the same silent treatment, nobody would be upset. Instead, Colbert showed us what a big mouth he has, and how he at heart is an entertainer – even when testifying before Congress.

Colbert, of course, is the guy whose career has peaked with the persona he plays on television – that of a parody of a conservative ideologue television talk show host who spouts off all kinds of stupid remarks that only a nitwit could agree with.

It is his schtick, just like his Comedy Central partner, Jon Stewart, plays the part of a television news anchorman as the forum for his own jokes.

So when I learn that Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., is seriously upset by Colbert’s appearance last week before a House committee (calling his comments “inappropriate”), I have to wonder what Steny is thinking.

GET A CLUE, Steny. Colbert did exactly what one should have expected of him. He played his part of a Republican blowhard who is willing to back anything that has the GOP label attached to it, and if it plays to the segment of the population that wants to think of migrant labor issues in terms of being “foreigners stealing jobs from real people,”

Anybody who thought that Colbert was going to give serious responses to questions put forth by the committee is ignoring two factors.

One is that he is the star of The Colbert Report, in which he plays a character. That character is what was brought before Congress. Two is that, what would Colbert know about migrant workers?

Even if he wanted to be seriously, he doesn’t have anything real to say.

IT MEANS THAT the real disgust on this “issue” ought to be directed (if anywhere) at the person who invited Colbert to appear before the committee, which he used as a chance to further his public persona.

For the record, that person was Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., who chairs the House Judiciary Committee’s immigration subcommittee that Colbert allegedly defiled with his physical presence.

The Christian Science Monitor newspaper reported that Lofgren had hopes that bringing in Colbert would create enough buzz that people would pay attention to the subcommittee, and perhaps even give some thought to the issues confronting migrant farm workers.

Instead, what will be remembered is the sight of Colbert testifying, under oath, that, “I endorse all Republican policy without question.” Which actually is something that would come from the mouths of those right-wing cable television blowhards who defile the airwaves every night much more than Colbert did for one afternoon last week in Washington.

NOT THAT LOFGREN has anything to worry about in terms of political backlash. She is liked in her congressional district, and faces only token opposition. She is returning to Washington following the Nov. 2 elections.

Of course, that goes to show how various members of Congress who are politically safe differ from each other.

People such as our own Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., do things such as file motions that could allow the DREAM Act (the measure relevant to the children of immigrant parents who don’t have a valid visa) to have a chance to come up for a vote some time this year.

Whereas Lofgren goes for the laugh, and lets the one-time Second City understudy to Steve Carell (remember “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”?) mock the Congress on its own turf.

POLITICALLY-INSPIRED COMEDY has come a long way from the days of Rich Little and Vaughn Meader, both of whom were impressionists whose routines were meant to get a chuckle (envision Meader as J.F.K. running through a list of bathroom toys for the first children, ultimately declaring that the inflatable rubber swan belongs to him).

Now, we get actual cracks on the policy questions and the ineptitude in which our elected officials conduct themselves.

What hasn’t changed is that the primary goal of a Little (who did so many impersonations of Ronald Reagan that I know find that schtick annoying) or a Colbert is that their primary goal is a laugh. They’re trying to entertain us.

Only instead of standing in front of a brick wall with a spotlight on himself while telling jokes, Colbert plays the part of a talk-show host who acts like a blowhard. Which is fine. It serves a purpose. But it also is why anyone who thinks they get their “news” from The Daily Show or Colbert Report is almost as big a fool as the members of Congress who thought Colbert was being serious last week.

I CAN’T HELP but think that the political people who are continuing to talk about this and rant and rage about how Colbert “embarrassed America” are going out of their way to grab sufficient lengths of rope by which to hang themselves.

Because you know Colbert, if not Stewart also, will take those snippets, edit them accordingly, and play them over and over for the cheap laugh that they’re worth.

  -30-

Political battle for immigration reform just developed a new front – Chicago mayor

If it is true that potential mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel is snubbing potential opponent Luis Gutierrez, then we can be guaranteed that immigration reform’s failure to advance this year will become an issue in the 2011 mayoral campaign.

If Luis Gutierrez is willing to talk up immigration reform across the nation, what makes you think he won't use it as an issue on his home turf?

WMAQ-TV used its website to report that Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, has not included Gutierrez, a Congressman from Chicago’s Latino neighborhoods, in his talks with local people who might be of use to him.

THEN, WLS-TV QUOTED Gutierrez as saying that Emanuel is to blame for President Barack Obama’s failure to act on immigration reform. “I don’t believe that he has helped facilitate the process to get us comprehensive immigration reform.”

The folks at Eyewitness News declared Gutierrez’ shot at Emanuel to be the first direct shot taken by one political candidate against another in “Mayor ‘11 – the Race to the Fifth Floor.”

This comes after another potential candidate of Latino ethnic origins, Miguel del Valle, became the first mayoral hopeful to put television commercials on the air promoting himself and the job he has done as city clerk.

Could it be that all these political pundits who are anxious to frame the upcoming mayoral campaign as being between a bunch of white guys (Emanuel, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart) and maybe a black guy for some diversity (Rev.—and state Sen. – James Meeks) had better start paying some attention to the Latino candidates as well?

AT THE VERY least, Gutierrez will be hard to ignore if he becomes Emanuel’s most outspoken critic on the campaign trail. He may wind up making Emanuel wish he had allowed Obama to take a shot at advancing immigration reform.

This weblog’s sister site, The South Chicagoan, offers up more details about how bitter the divide could get on this issue.

  -30-

Monday, September 27, 2010

Thome didn’t ‘do in’ the White Sox

It is a vivid memory from recent baseball seasons past. The two big bats of the Chicago White Sox – Paul Konerko and Jim Thome – both managed to get base hits and are on base hoping that someone can follow them up with a hit that will allow them to score runs.

The problem, however, is that both Thome and Konerko, particularly Paulie, are dreadfully slow. They can’t run worth a squat. They’re the kind of guys who have trouble scoring a run from second base if someone hits a single.

IN SHORT, THEY clog up the bases. Several potential rallies that could have resulted in a few runs scored by the White Sox turned into a run or two – or a pitcher managing to get out of the inning with both Konerko and Thome stranded on base.

It was frustrating to watch. But it is the type of baseball that one gets to see too often when a team thinks that deep fly balls hit over the outfield fence are the key to success. Heck, Chicago Cubs fans know this better than anyone else.

It was the reason why when I learned just under a year ago that the White Sox were not going to bring back aging home run hitter Thome in 2010 for a fifth season on the South Side, I didn’t immediately have an outburst of anger.

When I heard manager Ozzie Guillen say how he wanted some flexibility and some athleticism in being able to put together lineups from game to game, I got where he was coming from. He was sick and tired of the base-clogging that took place in recent years just like many others were.

BUT IT SEEMS that “logic” is being ignored, because way too many people (including too many sports-related pundits) are quick these days to come to the conclusion that the reason the White Sox fell short of winning at least a division title is because they let Thome go.

What makes it worse, as they see it, is that Thome managed to latch on for the 2010 season with the Minnesota Twins, who last week DID clinch the division title. Twins baseball fans are quick to say it was Thome’s hitting that helped them fill the gap when star Justin Morneau was knocked out with a back injury for the entire second half of the season.

There are those people who for years have been getting on Guillen’s case who now want to claim this is the ultimate evidence that Ozzie doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing in running a baseball club on the field.

Sports Illustrated’s latest issue features a photograph of Thome at bat in the act of hitting a home run for the Twins, with a subhead saying that Thome “has the power to bring October magic to Minnesota.”

I’M SURE THE central Illinois native would be happy. If it happens (I’d favor either the New York Yankees or Tampa Bay personally), it would be a first World Series appearance for the slugger approaching 600 home runs in his career for the first time since 1997 when he was a young star with the Cleveland Indians.

But when I look at this year’s White Sox team, I honestly don’t think Thome would have made a difference. In part it is because Konerko has managed to come up with a season where he may wind up with 40 home runs (38 as of Sunday) and over 100 runs batted in. He still provided the team with the big bat that would have been essential to a legitimate contender.

What I see as the White Sox shortcomings is the fact that they lost the pitcher who was supposed to become the team ace half way through the season. If Jake Peavy were still pitching, I think we’d still have a competitive race – instead of a final week of the season that means little.

There also is the fact that those relief pitchers all managed to seem to lose it come August. Not just Bobby Jenks. I still remember the appearances of J.J. Putz back in mid-August – which is the point where in my mind the season really ended because that is where the gap between the two teams became big enough that it would have taken a miracle collapse by Minnesota (something along the lines of what the White Sox did when the two teams played in mid-September) for there to be playoff baseball on the South Side this October.

IF ANYTHING, THE difference between Minnesota and Chicago this season is that when Morneau suffered an injury that could have devastated their chances, Thome was in a position to fill the gap. When Jenks became unreliable in relief pitching, the White Sox came up with guys who became even more unreliable.

Which is my way of saying that had Thome somehow come back to the White Sox in 2010 and paired up with Konerko and the two of them had the kind of seasons they had this year, it wouldn’t have mattered.

The pitching problem would have overcome it.

We’d still be complaining about the White Sox’ inability to hold onto a lead in late innings And we’d definitely be griping about how ridiculously slow Konerko and Thome are on the basepaths – bringing a premature end to way too many a rally.

   -30-

Saturday, September 25, 2010

You’re being watched!

Buckingham Fountain, from the days when its physical condition was less delicate than it was this week when three women went for a wade, only to get arrested. Photograph provided by Library of Congress collection.
 Perhaps that is something we must all keep in mind with all the security cameras that police have erected around Chicago. You never know just when you’re being observed by the police.

That eerie feeling is the one I got from learning that three women got themselves arrested earlier this week for climbing into Buckingham Fountain, wading in the cold water, then climbing onto the fountain proper.

I’M NOT ABOUT to defend (or attack) these women, who appear to have got caught up in the spirit of summer’s end. They were at the fountain, got the urge to do something silly and fun, and now face a misdemeanor charge each of reckless conduct.

How did police catch them?

It seems that the security cameras erected around the city also are set on Buckingham Fountain – one of our city’s landmarks. Which means that an officer at the Police Department  headquarters at 35th Street and Michigan Avenue (about 3.5 miles away) saw the women get into the water.

That officer was then able to alert police officers in the downtown area to get over to the fountain and “deal” with this problem.

WHICH IS WHY when the women were ready to get out of the fountain on their own, they found two police officers on hand – with 10 more cops quickly following them up.

Regardless of what one thinks of how stupid it was to go wading in Buckingham Fountain, there is something about the image of a dozen police officers converging on three women – one of whom is still a teenager – that is a combination of comical and oppressive.

It sounds like a Saturday Night Live sketch about bumbling bureaucratic “boys in blue.”

Whereas the image of an officer at police headquarters being able to watch so many parts of the city nowhere near himself comes off as downright oppressive. It’s eerie that we literally have no clue when we are being watched, or which of our petty actions may catch someone’s suspicion.

FOR WHAT IT’S worth, the Chicago Tribune reports that the women don’t seem too apologetic for their stunt, which Chicago Park District officials say should be illegal because Buckingham Fountain is 83 years old and could easily have been damaged by their behavior.

One of the women literally talked about “youth” and how free spirits lead to “a transformation of a society and an individual for the best.”

Which strikes me as a lot of empty-headed hooey. When combined with the fact that I’d question how clean the Buckingham Fountain water is and whether I would want to wade around it it, I can’t help but think she may be a goof, but the police reaction still strikes me as a bit much.

But this is the trend in our city. Too many people seem willing to accept these cameras.

WHICH REALLY ARE all over the place in certain parts of the city.

The other day, I had a reason to drive through the South Side – specifically along 79th Street from the Dan Ryan Expressway west until I got to Damen Avenue. I lost track of how many times I looked up at a lamp-post and saw one of those boxes with the Chicago Police Department logo and the flashing blue lights replicating a squad car Mars bar – letting people who live in those neighborhoods know what the women at Buckingham Fountain apparently did not.

You’re being watched.

Seriously, I think it was six such cameras erected in that 20-block stretch of Street, although I may have missed some. I feel like my drive along 79th Street has been preserved for posterity – should the police suddenly feel the whim to look at it.

IT MAKES ME wonder just how many people the Chicago Police Department employs to sit in front of video screens and watch the content being produced by all those security cameras. It must be a virtual army of officers.

Either that, or more likely there is a good chance that much of what is being filmed never gets seen.

Which means that these three women who will have to go to court in coming weeks to learn just what the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office intends to do with them likely just had the dumb luck of having a police officer catch a glimpse of their particular camera at the exact moment they decided to take their dip.

A moment sooner (or perhaps later), and their wading in the murky water in the fountain would have gone unnoticed.

  -30-

Friday, September 24, 2010

They’re all a team, whether the Dem hopefuls for Illinois office like it or not

I almost feel sorry for David Miller and Robin Kelly. I say “almost” because no political official is truly worth our sympathy – they chose the political life, and the hassles that come along with it. 
Robin Kelly

But the Democratic party nominees for Illinois comptroller and state treasurer, to the degree that anyone has paid any attention to their races, are lagging behind their Republican opponents, Judy Baar Topinka and Dan Rutherford, respectively.

IT IS NOT because of anything Miller, a state representative from south suburban Lynwood, or Kelly, a one-time staffer to Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, has done wrong. Nor is it because either Topinka or Rutherford has done anything right.

It is just that in this election cycle, there is a Republican momentum that is going to cause them in all likelihood to take control of more government posts than would be standard on an Election Day.

People are focusing their attentions on the Illinois campaigns for U.S. senator and state governor. In many cases, they are going to work their way down the ballots by picking the candidates who are perceived as being allied with their picks for the top posts.

Which means many of the people who are so determined to dump on Chicago-oriented Democrats that they want William Brady for governor and are willing to stomach for one term the idea of Mark Kirk for U.S. Senate are going to wind up casting ballots for Topinka and Rutherford when they get down to the elections for comptroller and treasurer.

IT IS WHY I thought it was a big smug for Rutherford to use Facebook a few days ago to point out the fact that internal polls show him with a 10-point lead over Kelly, and ample funds in his campaign account to pay for campaign advertising that will further enhance his name recognition.

David Miller
 It’s as though Rutherford, a long-time state legislator from the area around Pontiac in central Illinois, thinks people are actually backing him, instead of just associating his name with that of Brady, the state senator from Bloomington. Just like the old cliché about George W. Bush – “born on third base, but he thinks he hit a triple.”

The reason I almost feel sorry is that there really is nothing that either Miller, who on Thursday had his wife sent out e-mails on his 48th birthday asking everybody to donate $10 to his campaign, in hopes that it will build up into a significant amount, can do to better his situation.

Neither can Kelly, who back in February paired up with Miller to give the south suburbs a significant place on the Democratic ticket, but now threaten to leave that region irrelevant if neither one can win.

FOR THEM TO bolster their chances of success on Election Day, it is going to have to be up to Pat Quinn to get off his campaign duff and start taking actions meant to bring down his Republican opponent a notch or two.

For the reality is that too many Democratic operatives have been waiting for Brady to “self-destruct” by having his ideological stances – largely conservative Republican and willing to advance an agenda desired by the ideologues – become more publicly known.

They’re going to have to accept that the mind-set of much of the Chicago-area electorate these days is that they don’t care, and they’re not going to take the time to learn about Brady’s flaws. Quinn has to go on the attack, both for himself and to bolster his party colleagues.

If he doesn’t, then Topinka gets her political comeback after losing the 2006 gubernatorial election to Rod Blagojevich, and Rutherford finally gets to move up from being a state legislator (having lost the ’06 election for Illinois secretary of state to incumbent Jesse White).

SO A LOT of people are going to be focusing their attention on Miller and Kelly to determine the long-range damage to the Democratic Party, and whether or not the Illinois Republican Party has truly regained influence, or if this truly is a bizarre fluke year for what is essentially a state of suburbs to the city of Chicago.

If anything, I think people should be paying attention to the campaigns of Lisa Madigan for Illinois attorney general and the re-election bid of White. The assumption is that the two incumbents both have significant political operations of their own and can win re-election against their GOP challengers – Steve Kim against Madigan and Robert Enriquez against White.

I’ll repeat now what I have written before – I think it was a cynical attempt by Illinois Republicans to make it appear to have an ethnic character (Kim is of Korean ethnic background, while Enriquez is from Eucador), but picking ethnic candidates for the slots they were convinced they had no chance of winning.

If even Enriquez and Kim manage to get significant numbers of votes – perhaps even enough that White gets pushed into retirement or Madigan winds up running for mayor of Chicago next spring because she has nothing else going for her – then perhaps there is something truthful about the idea of an ideological shift in Illinois.

UNTIL THEN, MILLER and Kelly are the people whose drawback is that the guy on top of the ticket is acting lame, particularly when he appears in their very own home region of south suburban Cook County.

Quinn didn’t help much by showing up at the long-defunct Dixie Square Mall in suburban Harvey – making jokes about how John Belushi is looking down from Heaven and saying “See Ya Later, Old Dixie Square” just because officials are finally getting off their duffs and moving forward with plans to demolish the mall that Belushi and Dan Ackroyd did a good start on back in 1979.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Is ‘Jesse Jackson, Jr., for Mayor’ done before the meat even starts a cookin’?

There is one plus side to the reports we have been getting from the Chicago Sun-Times in recent days. With any luck, we can now disregard one name from the list of prospective candidates for Chicago mayor.

Only a complete fool would think that Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., will be capable of undoing the smear he was hit with this week by next spring’s municipal elections.

OF COURSE, I was starting to wonder if the Congressman fell into that category, since just before these reports came out, Jackson’s wife, Alderman Sandi of the 7th Ward, was publicly saying her husband would likely declare his mayoral candidacy soon, and that she was backing away from her own dreams of running for mayor in 2011.

On a serious level, one should always have been skeptical about Jackson – who has long let it be known that he might like to be mayor of Chicago someday. The fact that his name got thrown about during the whole Blagojevich affair (and could still come up if Milorod decides he wants to mess with Jackson during his second trial early next year) means he is too toxic to win such a prominent political post at this time.

With the passage of time, he may overcome all of this to the point where it becomes ancient history. He also is young enough (only 45) that he can afford to wait another decade or so and still run a viable campaign.

The only difference is that instead of being a “mayor for life” that he would have dreamed of (the way that Harold Washington used to boast he’d be mayor for 20 years, instead of barely making it past four), he may only get a term or two in some future elections.

WHAT THE SUN-TIMES gave us in various published reports this week were more of the salacious details that will ensure that Jackson just isn’t going to crawl out of the muck of candidates that will make an effort to try to get themselves elected mayor this time around.

The Sun-Times told us of the extent to which Jackson wanted to be picked to replace Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate, even though he knew Blagojevich (who had the power to pick a replacement) would never give it to him.

Even if an explanation to show how his conduct is legal does manage to come up, the public perception is that he was willing to engage in funky behavior. Which is a shame because he may well have been the best qualified of all the local political types to get the post (although I still say that giving it to Roland Burris ultimately worked out because I wouldn’t have wanted anyone to get the benefits of incumbency through a political appointment).

If anything, I think the more titillating factor may be “the blonde” whose picture we got to see on the front page on Wednesday.

IT’S FAR FROM former Sen. Gary Hart photographed with blonde Donna Rice sitting on his lap while wearing the “Monkey Business” t-shirt, but it is enough that it will create the sordid image that will take Jackson years to live down.

In all fairness to Jackson, I will republish his response about Giovana Huidobro, a restaurant hostess from the District of Columbia whom the congressman refers to as a “social acquaintance” and the newspaper reports Jackson paid for travel expenses so she could visit Chicago on behalf of the suburban business executive who reportedly was helping Jackson make contact with Blagojevich to set up a Senate appointment – with a possible donation of up to $6 million in return.

He says she is a “private and personal affair between me and my wife that was handled some time ago,” adding, “I ask you to respect my privacy,” which few people will.

It’s convoluted. It’s crazy. I’ll bet most people who read the reports won’t fully comprehend what is being said. They will just pick up on images and general ideas.

THOSE IDEAS WILL be enough to force Jackson – who is strong enough politically that he doesn’t have to worry about losing come Nov. 2, he was one of the few Freshman Democrats to come out of the 1994 elections that GOP types like to think they dominated – to have to postpone his mayoral dreams.

It almost makes me wonder if White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who considers himself to be a formidable mayoral candidate, now regrets his meeting earlier this month with Jackson to discuss the campaign – fearing he might get tainted by association with J.J., Jr.

The man who already has been elected to Congress eight times may wind up making it 16 or 20, because he’s not moving to any other political post anytime soon.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How does Quinn deserve to be bashed?

It seems to be the political flavor of the week. Bash Pat Quinn for the sleazy, borderline crooked, deal he worked out with the labor union that represents many state government workers.

Nobody from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees will get laid off during the next two years. It doesn’t matter whether Quinn is governor, or whether he gets replaced after the Nov. 2 elections.

IT WAS AROUND the same time that the deal was completed that the labor union decided that it believes Quinn to be best qualified for governor. They gave him their endorsement. Considering that they also decided to snub Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, by ignoring endorsements for the legislative seats needed to maintain Madigan’s control, it has the appearance of something flawed.

Quinn is getting bashed about, most vocally by the people who want state Sen. William Brady, R-Bloomington, to be the next governor of Illinois.

Brady is the guy who talks in vague terms about how he’s going to cut costs within state government in order to close the deficit that has confounded officials for years. He won’t offer specifics, because he knows that if he does he will turn off so many potential voters that Quinn will be a shoo-in for election to his own gubernatorial term.

Layoffs likely would have occurred if we got a “Gov. Brady.” Now, Quinn has taken that option away from him. Which is why Brady is engaging in the rhetoric about “pay to play,” the government-speak term for “bribe” that is used when one has no evidence that anything illegal actually occurred.

CONSIDERING THAT THE state’s financial problems are of the level of severity that only a fool would think we can cut our way back to solvency, perhaps it is a good thing that this option has been taken off the table. Now we won’t have to endure any nonsense rhetoric that the budget would be balanced – if only we didn’t have those greedy state workers and their corrupt labor unions.

If we get a “Gov. Brady,” he’s going to have to address the issue a little more seriously, instead of engaging in the nonsense rhetoric that the conservative ideologues want to hear – but is totally unrealistic.

Personally, my hope is that with the election cycle past, the Illinois General Assembly will be in a mood next spring to start dealing with the state’s finances in a serious manner – instead of the way they have been handling the issue.

A desire to dump all over anything that might make former Gov. Rod Blagojevich look good, combined with political cowardice, is what has caused all the short-term measures that have done nothing but pushed the problem into the future, while also increasing the size of the debt.

I KNOW THAT some political observers are mocking the provisions of Quinn’s agreement with the labor union that call for spending cuts. They claim it is way too insignificant to matter.

Yet when one considers that this is a problem that is going to take years to resolve (why not, it took years to develop), I say every little financial bit helps. Anytime one can get a labor union to concede anything, it is an accomplishment – because technically, they’re not obligated to give back anything.

The fact that they were willing to make some concessions means they probably should get something in return. That’s what’s called negotiation. Imposing one’s will on someone else isn’t acceptable.

For the record, Crain’s Chicago Business reported this week that the labor union is going to have to come up with some legitimate cuts of at least $50 million, and up to $100 million. Those cuts could be less overtime, more unpaid furlough days and possibly a delay in pay raises the workers were supposed to be receiving come Jan. 1.

I CAN UNDERSTAND Brady being upset. He got one-upped. Of course, after a campaign season where Quinn has been dinged over and over, perhaps it was overdue for Quinn to get a blow in.

But I can’t help but think that the only people who are truly going to be upset are the ones who think government officials ought to be doing everything within their power to mess with organized labor. Any official who regards them as a part of government that is best cooperated with to avoid hassles is thinking too logically for the ideologues to accept.

So what do I think about this endorsement? It doesn’t seem too unreasonable. It is not shocking.

I always expected that AFSCME was going to endorse Quinn, which means that the labor union leaders will use their influence to get the rank-and-file of state workers to think that re-electing Quinn is in their best interests. What a surprise! The Chicago Tribune is favoring Republican William Brady when it comes to the latest "issue" in the gubernatorial campaign.

THEN AGAIN, AFSCME usually backs Democratic Party candidates for state government posts. The shock would have been if they had given Brady any serious consideration.

Brady, after all, is the candidate who has talked about lowering Illinois’ minimum wage, and has even used rhetoric that implies he wishes Illinois were a “right to work” state (meaning people cannot be required to join a labor union as part of their employment).

I would think that keeping Brady away from the Executive Mansion is the real motivation for AFSCME officials to endorse Quinn.

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