Monday, April 30, 2012

Some things just never change

Why do I suspect these '68 Democratic delegates were as oblivious to their protesters as NATO officials will be later this month to theirs.
In the course of my duties for a suburban daily newspaper, I happened on Friday to attend a Catholic mass performed by Chicago Police Chaplain Daniel J. Brandt and that bounced around my brain all weekend

While most of the service was a tribute to public safety workers (ie., cops and firefighters), Brandt also gave a mention to the upcoming activities that will take place when officials with NATO meet in Chicago during May.

FOR BRANDT ASKED those people in attendance to say extra prayers for those public safety people who wind up getting assigned to security details connected with NATO (meeting at McCormick Place) or any of the sites where demonstrations against NATO are expected to take place.

Now coming from Brandt, I realize he’s not an “objective” perspective. He has his view influenced by his job, and he has his right to his opinion. Yet I, and everybody else, have a right to our opinion too.

So here’s mine.

I couldn’t help but be a bit appalled at Brandt’s characterization of the people who will come to Chicago to protest (they will be here from around Planet Earth) as those who are here to cause, “trouble, havoc and mischief.”

AS THOUGH THE individuals who have their objections to the U.S. military might being used for what at times seems questionable purposes have no legitimacy to such a view.

As though on a certain level we ought to be hoping for a repeat of 1968 and the treatment given by Chicago police to the demonstrators who were in the city for the Democratic National Convention – the treatment later labeled by an official investigation as a “police riot.”

If we have officials maintaining this kind of a rigid, stubborn approach to viewing the issue, that is going to be what causes tensions that escalate into violence and vandalism.
We have history of siding w/ police in protests
 It certainly won’t be that “wannabe hippie freaks” came to Chicago just to cause trouble.

I DON'T GET as worked up about the sentiments that will be expressed by the activists who are determined to make their views known while NATO officials are in Chicago.

I am sympathetic to their viewpoint, but I’m not convinced that the “in your face” tactics being considered by some will do anything to sway anyone who attends NATO conferences being held here. As for those who are hostile to their viewpoint, they’re just looking for excuses to complain.

In fact, I won’t be surprised if those people are so isolated from the city’s daily life that they will be completely unaware of any protests being done against them. Just like the Democratic convention from 44 years ago – where many of the delegates didn’t learn of the violence in the streets until after they left town at the end of the event.

Yet that doesn’t take away from the legitimacy of their views, which ought to be heard. It is the failure to listen that will cause problems.

IT STRIKES ME as being ironic that I’m having these thoughts now, as we go into Tuesday – which for some people is May Day (a holiday that in part memorializes the deaths of labor activists in Chicago on May 4, 1886, although the city’s initial reaction was to build a memorial to the police officers who killed them).

Of course, there are those who prefer to think that Tuesday is Loyalty Day – the holiday made up in the 1950s to undermine anyone who might want to pay tribute to labor.

NATO protester instruction?
For all I know, they may be the same people who will follow Brandt’s request and add extra prayers for all the cops(who literally are being borrowed from suburban police departments across the metro area to supplement the Chicago police regular staffing) who have to work extra hours three weeks from now. As though the overtime pay they wind up receiving won’t be a sufficient reward in and of itself.

Personally, I take some joy in the fact that “real” people (most of us, that is) aren’t acknowledging Tuesday as any kind of holiday. It’s just another work day, and in a few weeks some of us will have our daily routines disrupted for a week or so (the time that NATO is in Chicago), before things revert back to the norm.

FOR WHILE I think those people are a little bit guilty of trivializing the greater issue by trying to claim that all these people will make it harder for them to go shopping or run other errands for a couple of days, I like the thought of those who aren’t eager to latch themselves onto a bandwagon that starts demonizing someone else.

Perhaps the legitimate way to view the upcoming events is to realize that come Memorial Day weekend, it will all be over and we’ll be able to look back on the experience as one of those moments that makes life in Chicago unique from elsewhere in the Midwestern U.S.

And it is why I personally prefer to do my celebrating on Monday, rather than Tuesday.

It is, after all, International Jazz Day. Listening to Billie Holiday or Herbie Hancock (the Chicago native who helped inspire UNESCO to create the holiday) sounds much more pleasurable to me than obsessing about a riot that may well never occur.


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Is this the new political trend – out with moldy incumbents cause they’re old?

With the primary elections in neighboring Indiana coming up in less than two weeks, a part of me would like to say that I’m finding some humor in the battle for the U.S. Senate seat up for grabs in that state.
LUGAR: Too statue-like?

Then again, there really isn’t anything humorous about blatantly-partisan political brawls. Because invariably, someone – if not everyone – is acting irrationally.

IN THE HOOSIER state, long-time Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., would like to think he’s such an institution in the U.S. Senate that he’s unbeatable. He may turn out to be.

But there’s no way that Lugar will get through this primary election without a brawl that will leave many bloodied – including himself.

Lugar may have to campaign more aggressively than Rep. Jesse Jackson, D-Ill., -- who managed in the Illinois primary to defeat former Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson by a good margin  but had to campaign aggressively for every vote.

And in the end, the impression in Illinois was that it was Halvorson’s short-comings that caused her defeat – rather than any sense that people really wanted Jackson back in Washington on their behalf.

THAT MAY WIND up being the same explanation that gets used for a May 8 electoral victory for Lugar over his primary election opponent – Richard Mourdock, who is the Indiana state treasurer.

Yet the Mourdock backers are really nothing more than ABL’s – as in they want to ensure that Anybody But Lugar gets the Republican Party’s nomination for the Senate seat come the Nov. 6 general election.
MOURDOCK: Too many scary 'friends'?

Seeing that Indiana is likely to revert back to its usual Republican ways (unlike 2008 when a majority of Hoosiers were willing to back Barack Obama), they probably feel that this upcoming primary IS the general election.

And the ideologues who want to believe that “Tea Party” is permanent (rather than just the fad of ’10) would like to think that if they can get their ideologue-sympathizing official through the primary, they can have another seat in the U.S. Senate seat.

WHICH MEANS MORE gridlock for a “President Obama,” or the ability to ram through a blatantly partisan agenda without having to regard the concerns of the masses if, by chance, a GOPer were to win a future presidential election!

Such an attitude may well be the Democratic Party’s biggest dream, since their candidate, Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., (who represents the area around South Bend and can reach out to all those Notre Dame alums scattered around the world) has gone so far as to do some fundraising in Chicago.

Politically-connected people in Illinois have been willing to write out their own checks in support on the off-chance that it would mean one-less member of Congress who is openly hostile toward urban interests (which is what most of the Tea Party types truly are).

It is why I found it humorous to read stories on Friday putting great stock in the idea that the 2008 Republican pairing of John McCain and Sarah Palin are split on Indiana.

McCAIN SUPPORTS HIS Senate colleague Lugar, while Palin prefers Mourdock on ideological grounds. Which should have been blatantly apparent from Day One of this election cycle. That’s what this whole election cycle taking place just east of State Line Road has devolved into.

What I found more interesting is the way in which the two announced their support – McCain with a statement issued live, while Palin put a blurb on her Facebook page for people who want to live in her world and don’t want to be reminded about reality!

So can Lugar’s establishment credentials fight off the ideologues, many of whom argue that Lugar has been around for so long (John Travolta as “Tony Manero” was the pop icon image back when Lugar first got elected to the Senate, and Farrah Fawcett still was a “Majors”) that it’s time for him to go.
DONNELLY: Can he 'slip' by?

I’d like to laugh at the idea of Hoosiers being so short-sighted.

BUT THEN, I’D have to admit we, in Illinois, pulled a similar maneuver back in March.

Remember long-time Rep. Donald Manzullo, R-Ill.? He wound up getting dumped into a primary fight with rookie Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill. – and Kinzinger won!!!

Evidence indicates many people in that district thought of it in terms of age, and preferred the image of a young guy over an old coot, no matter how experienced he was or how ideologically in-line to the residents of his district he truly was.

Because I really think that the people who rant and rage about Lugar being some sort of liberal freak are seriously misguided. They’re showing their own short-comings by engaging in such trash talk.

THE FACT THAT Mourdock is willing to let himself be aligned with such people makes me wonder about him – even though I know there are Dems who will argue that I should “Shut up!” and let him win, so that their guy can prevail in November.

Will that happen? I don’t know. Personally, my ‘gut feeling’ says Lugar will win the primary and general election, and come Nov. 7 will feel so battered that he’ll wonder if “six more years” in Washington was worth it.


Friday, April 27, 2012

EXTRA: Skowron (sort of) overcame Yankee status among White Sox fans

It is a common trait among baseball fans of many generations in the cities that comprise the American League – they hate the Yankees.

Anything associated with the New York Yankees gets their repulsion – no matter how irrational, absurd or irrelevant their objections may be.

ANY BALLPLAYER WHO actually wore the “real” pinstripes (as opposed to any other ball club whose uniforms happen to have pinstripes on them) gets derision – usually in inverse proportion to their actual talent.

The better they were, the more abuse they draw.

Which is why I always found the local reaction to Bill Skowron to be amusing.

For Skowron is about as “Yankee!!!” as a ballplayer can get – having been a significant part of those 1950s-era into the 1960s Yankees teams that were ever so dominant.

THAT 1961 TEAM of Mantle and Maris is also known for having six ballplayers who managed to hit at least 20 home runs that season. One of them was Skowron – who hit 28 that year even though – as a right-hander – his “power alley” was the deep left field of the old Yankee Stadium that could easily gobble up 430-foot fly balls.

The one that would have robbed of home runs some shots that made it into the upper deck at the old Comiskey Park – making it look downright dinky, by comparison.

Yet the word about Skowron’s death on Friday at a hospital in suburban Arlington Heights is going to get the sympathy from Chicago sports fans. Skowron may well be the one lone Yankee who isn’t held in contempt.

Of course, it helped that Skowron was a Chicago boy who graduated from Weber High School, and even played a bit of Big Ten college football with Purdue before signing on to play baseball with the New York Yankees after being seen by scouts playing Chicago-style slow-pitch softball and smashing the ball like crazy.

AND IF ONE would think that being a North Sider would limit his appeal, it helped on the South Side that he played a stint for the White Sox – including that year in 1964 when the Sox came so close to actually beating the Yankees for a league championship.

And in more recent years, there was the fact that Skowron was among the retired ballplayers kept on the payroll by the White Sox (Minnie Miñoso and Bill Melton are a couple of others) to make public appearances on behalf of the team.

It’s almost as though some people can forget the fact that the Moose achieved his baseball greatness in the Bronx, rather than in Bridgeport or Lakeview.

By the way, the nickname wasn’t because of his size. It was given to him after a childhood haircut that some thought made him look like Benito Mussolini – the fascist dictator.

IT CERTAINLY WASN’T because of his size, because I still remember the first time I met the man and was able to compare myself physically to him.

I’m just average sized, height-wise, although my gut protrudes just a bit too much for me to ever claim I was much of a ballplayer.

But I can recall being in wonder that I was about an inch taller and a bit broader shouldered than the so-called Moose.

Which means it’s not purely about physical ability to play sports at the highest levels. I have no doubt that even at his advanced age (he was in his early 70s when I met him), he could probably still swing the bat better than I ever did.

IN HIS TIME, he was a winner on the athletic field. Among the “facts” I find most amazing were his being a part of the New York Yankees teams that won World Series titles in 1961 and 1962 and the Los Angeles Dodgers team that beat the Yankees in the 1963 World Series.

Then, he came to Chicago. If only that team had not finished one game behind the Yankees in ’64, he could have had a chance to be on four straight World Series-appearing teams – with three different ball clubs.

Which makes me think that perhaps Skowron was just as significant a player in New York as the Yankee legends like Mantle and Yogi Berra (whose nickname may well rival Skowron’s for childhood absurdity that won’t wither away with age).

And this may well be the occasion upon which Yankees fans and Yankee-haters manage converge.


Somebody ‘splain this to me!

Who’d have thought that Rod Blagojevich (or his image, actually) still has the ability to sell?
Who thinks this image sells?

Because it seems that for as many people who claim they can’t stand the former Illinois governor-turned-federal inmate, perhaps there are those who will find some appeal in him.

MAYBE IT’S THAT hair? I honestly don’t get it.

Because what got me to start thinking in these terms was while I was out driving Thursday night. I was headed through suburban Calumet City north on Burnham Avenue (which city-dwellers know is really named Avenue O) when I stumbled across an advertising billboard for the Chicago news-oriented radio station WIQI-FM.

Actually, it is one of those stations that doesn’t seem to like to think of itself in terms of call-letters. It calls itself FM101.1 – which my guess the letters IQI are meant to look (sort of) like the numerals 101.

As for why they didn’t just go for the call letters WIOI, it seems a radio station in Portsmouth, Ohio (which plays the “music of your life” for people across Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia) has beaten them to it.

ALTHOUGH PERHAPS THE “Q” can also be perceived as a “tribute,” of sorts, to the days when the 101.1 frequency in Chicago was used by the old Q-101 pop music-oriented station that also gave us Mancow Muller (whatever became of him?)

But back to the point of the billboard. I nearly lost control of my automobile when I saw Blagojevich’s pre-prison image (his hair was still dyed jet black, rather than the shades of brown that it has supposedly turned to since his incarceration began earlier this year).

Along with the slogan, “He NEVER listens to FM101.1 News!”
These people do!

I suppose being out in the suburbs of Denver, it would be difficult for Milorod to pick up the signal on any radio he might be permitted to own.

AND INSOFAR AS trying to listen to the station through its website, I’m not sure how much Internet access federal inmates get. Considering that it might not be much, I’d hate to think he was wasting his time tuning in to Chicago news-oriented radio.

It’s just that I find the combination of these images to be a bizarre one. I’m not sure what message the station is trying to send.

I’m serious when I say if anyone can explain it to me, I’m willing to listen.

I would think that the Blagojevich mug on the billboard would be enough to turn off so many people. Even for those news-oriented geeks who want to know every trivial detail that is happening, who cares much about Blagojevich these days.

HE’S NOT GOING to be making much in the way of real news, unless we literally get a prison riot and he somehow gets hurt (which is something that I’m sure a few twisted individuals in our society are too eagerly hoping for).

Of course, there’s also the smart-aleck in me that reads the “He NEVER listens” portion of that slogan and says something along the lines of, “Nobody EVER listens” to that station.

Seriously, I haven’t heard anything to indicate that it’s doing much in the way of ratings. Then again, just about every radio station is down, ratings-wise, because so many young people are so determined to listen to their iPods or other portable devices that making them turn to a radio seems, to them, quite quaint -- even more so than picking up anything printed on paper.

There’s also the fact that the station (in my opinion, at least) seems a bit trivial. I have heard some say they are trying to put a “hip-hop” spin on the news of the day. Which strikes me as being an odd characterization.

ANYBODY WHO SENSES “hip-hop” in listening to the station probably thinks Vanilla Ice is cutting edge in urban pop.

And apparently, they also are deluded enough to think that Blagojevich’s face will encourage anybody to tune in to listen to the news headlines.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Burial for two dozen of the indigent deceased. Too bad we can’t do more

I’m not much of a fan of the “Star Trek” series of programs and films, but there are times that I wonder if the Klingons are on to something we could all learn from.

Klingons, for those who don’t know, are a species of warriors who are prepared to, if not all too eager, to fight to the death, and find great honor in such activity. But as for the corpses themselves, they are merely “empty shells” with the essence of what made that individual unique having been removed.

THE IDEA IS, that while they have their rituals related to death, they don’t put much stock in the idea of the body being all that important – once life as we know it is complete.

I’m not saying that corpses in that television world get disposed of like trash. But there are times I wonder if we put too much attention on the rituals related to our own deaths.

I couldn’t help but think of this when I read the stories being published about how some two dozen bodies of indigent people who died with no one to claim them were finally given a burial on Wednesday.

Those bodies were among the nearly 400 that were backed up at the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office, with some allegedly being stacked in the halls because the giant freezers meant to slow decomposition of the flesh while the bodies are in county custody were over-packed.

EARLIER THIS YEAR, the Chicago Archdiocese of the Catholic Church went so far as to offer up to 300 graves at Catholic cemeteries so that the bodies could at least be put into a proper grave.

Like I said, that offer was made months ago. Yet it is only now that only two dozen were actually buried – specifically at Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery on 111th Street near the Mount Greenwood neighborhood, the first cemetery meant to service the South Side.

Cook County government officials would have liked to have taken up the offer much sooner, and for many more of the bodies that were never claimed – or where the next-of-kin were too poor to afford the cost of a funeral.

But it literally came down to the concerns among Cook County officials that they would be attacked in the future by putting indigent people into graves at a Catholic cemetery.

WHO’S TO SAY some indigent Protestant (or maybe Muslim) wouldn’t have some family come forth at a later date, all upset that they weren’t with their “own kind” in the after-life?

County officials literally had to spend time checking, as best they could, into the religious beliefs of these people – many of whom were so cut off from the mainstream of our society in life that I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to try to verify now if it would be acceptable that they were put into a grave next to Catholic people.

Now I respect the idea that some people have very intense religious beliefs that extend to the specific circumstances under which they want their dead treated. I’m not, in any way, looking to violate the concerns of such individuals.

But those are the people who do come forth and claim their deceased loved ones.

I CAN’T HELP but think that in cases where there is no one, accepting such a plot is only too practical for county government. It also sounds so much more respectful than some of the practices that have occurred at African-American-oriented cemeteries on the South Side – where there are people who literally don’t know if their loved one’s graves truly contain their remains, or those of somebody else!

So I can only think it encouraging that Cardinal Francis George was able to take the time to lead a graveside service for two dozen people whose remains should have been put to rest months ago. It’s only a shame we don’t know, in some cases, whose minds those dead individuals continue to live on in.

Because I honestly believe that the dead live on in the memories of the living – just as there are times when I can hear my own mother admonishing me if I’m about to screw something up (or offering her praise if I get something right).

All the rants about ritual just seem so trivial in that context.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Was that really so difficult?

It was encouraging to learn Tuesday that Sen. Mark Kirk’s recovery from a stroke he suffered earlier this year is progressing well.

The senator these days, in an image provided by his staff

I found it particularly interesting that Kirk will be participating in a research trial at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago during the next several weeks that is meant to improve his gait pattern (ie., the way he walks).

SOMEHOW, I SUSPECT the old Navy guy in Kirk will respond well to being challenged with a daily regimen of continuous walking over flat surfaces, on stairs and on a treadmill.

All of this is based off information provided by Kirk’s Senate staff, which provided an update to the Illinois Republican’s website on Tuesday to give us a three-paragraph statement from Dr. Richard L. Harvey, who is director of the Institute’s Center for Stroke Rehabilitation.

In that statement, we learn that Kirk has managed to walk just over 10 miles total since his stroke. Which is about as much as many of us manage to walk in a week.

But considering what Kirk endured, I’d say it’s a great accomplishment.

IF ANYTHING, SEEING this statement, along with a link providing more information about the research trial that Kirk will endure in the near future, was encouraging.

For his personal sake, he’s making progress toward recovery. For professional sake, we the people who elected him to a six-year term that runs through early 2017 have a right to know that only the most politically partisan amongst us should be thinking of trying to pick a replacement for him.

While I personally would be surprised to see him anywhere in Washington, D.C. anytime during the 2012 calendar year, it would seem for the long-run that we still have the senator whom a majority of the Illinois electorate picked two years ago.

And since he is in nearly daily contact with his staff, it would seem that they truly are acting on his behalf and with his instruction. We don’t have some rogue staffer playing “senator” with his boss’ title.

THE ONLY QUESTION I really have is, “Why did it have to take so much squabbling in order to get this kind of information.”

For it is pretty clear that the senator’s staff used their website to get this word out, largely to shut up that segment of the public that was starting to construct all kinds of conspiracy theories about the lack of health-related data concerning Kirk’s condition.

Considering that in the days right after Kirk suffered his stroke, he and his staff were very forthcoming about what was happening.

Then, we got week upon week of nothing. Which really did have some people starting to think that something was being covered up. (I’m sure some will still think these details from Tuesday are a lie, but some people are just determined to believe the worst, and should probably be disregarded by the masses).

LIKE I WROTE earlier, I expect Kirk to undergo a lengthy recovery process. We all realize that. I’m also fairly confident that to the degree it is possible for one man to do so, Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., is handling the interests of Illinois residents in the U.S. Senate.

I don’t think we’re being neglected that much – even though in recent days there have been news reports about how lacking in influence and charisma the Illinois congressional delegation is now, compared to past years.

I know some people have argued that Kirk should be allowed to recover in peace. Yet I’d argue that we elected Kirk to a public post on our behalf. I have no problem with him taking all the time he needs to recover. The political post will still be there when he’s ready to return.

He just needs to open up with the details so we know how long the wait is and so that the "conspiracy theory" types can find something else to obsess about. Just like he did on Tuesday, and hopefully will continue to do so while his recovery process continues.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Rather bold talk from people who like to think they’re the ultimate “goo-goos”

In my experience, I have always found Wisconsin political people to be a bit off. They relish the image of themselves as the ultimate good government-types.

They want to believe that they not only play by the rules, they take the rules to a higher plane. I have known some Wisconsin political types who are among the most obnoxious, self-righteous people ever.

WHICH IS WHY I found it amusing to read an Associated Press report on Monday that relates to the upcoming recall elections that are meant to cut off the gubernatorial term of Scott Walker.

For it seems that the people who are eager to defend Walker are resorting to one of the oldest tricks in the political book. They’re trying to undermine the opposition by having candidates run against Walker who really aren’t his critics.

“Fake” Democrats, is the phrase used by the Associated Press to describe this tactic.

Gee, putting up token opponents to undermine the opposition, causing them to split up their support rather than converge on one real challenger.

IT SOUNDS LIKE something the Wisconsin people would lambast Illinoisans for doing. And let’s be honest, it has been done in Illinois. Now, it’s being done in Wisconsin, and by the ideologues who like to think they’re superior to us all to the point where they think they should be able to create the world in their image – and the rest of us should be forced to live in it under them.

Not that I ever thought Wisconsin people were superior politically.

I always find it laughable when other states try to lambast Illinois as being corrupt politically, or when rural people try to claim that the matter of political corruption is somehow a trait caused by urban government officials.

Or have we already forgotten the official in rural Dixon, Ill., who supposedly used (at least prosecutors say so) municipal funds to prop up, and enhance, her horse ranch?

NOW, WE HAVE Republican officials in Wisconsin openly urging their counterparts to consider voting for Democratic candidates who aren’t really serious – in hopes that Walker ultimately will have a weak challenger in the effort to knock him out of office.

I’m not going to get all worked up and start condemning Republican officials for even thinking of doing such a thing. It happens.

Quite frankly, if the Democratic Party in Wisconsin is so weak that it can’t fight off such a cheap shot tactic, then perhaps they deserve to “lose” and Walker should remain as governor for the remainder of his term in office.

Heck, there were those in Illinois back in the March primary who talked of flipping over from Democrat to Republican just to vote for a presidential candidate other than Mitt Romney – so as to weaken his support in the Land of Lincoln.

NOT THAT IT mattered much. Romney solidly won Illinois’ delegates to the Republican National Convention.

If there are competent political people in Wisconsin, they will be able to succeed in their efforts to depose Walker – which would be a worthy punishment for the guy who tried to use his government authority to strong-arm organized labor because they were cutting into the profit margins of corporate interests.

I should point out, as I have written before, that I don’t care much for the concept of “recall” elections. They strike me as the tactic of the sore loser. And if the official is really that bad, perhaps the state should have to live with the shame of him for his (or her) term in office (for Walker, that’s early 2015).

But it seems that Wisconsin-ites aren’t really any different than you or I who live in Illinois – or likely any other state in the nation. Except for the fact that their state did away with a death penalty in 1853 (even though Walker ideally would like to bring it back), while it took us in Illinois until last year to catch up.


Monday, April 23, 2012

‘Blue’ versus ‘Red’ way too simplistic

The concept of the “blue” and the “red” as Election Night map colors has become so ubiquitous that it might as well be considered a cliché.

“Blue,” of course being used to color in the states that swing toward Democratic Party candidates, while “red” winds up being the color of choice for those states that prefer the Republican Party.

OF COURSE, YOU’LL invariably get some political pundit who will try to make a deep point about how we’re not really ‘red” or “blue,” but really purple. Many states have pockets of voters who cancel each other out. There really is a mixture.

Although I’d argue that we really have hard-core factions who view elections as a chance to one-up each other and gain control for four-year periods of time.

The only real “purple” that exists is that by the time the “red” and the “blue” get through beating each other up, we all feel like we’re bruised and battered.

I couldn’t help but have this thought come to mind when I saw a recent cover of The Economist – the news magazine of choice for people who think that Time is becoming so ridiculously trivial because their latest issue teased on its cover a story about the “fight over cheerleading.” (although a part of me must confess to preferring the idea of a short-skirted cheerleader photo on the cover rather than the shot they gave us of the backs of presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

THE ECONOMIST COVER featured a completely serious story that anticipates the hostile political tactics that both Obama and Mitt Romney are likely to use against each other during the cycle leading up to the Nov. 6 general election.

The cartoon art used for the cover even gave us a baseball theme – with “pitcher” Romney preparing  something for “batter” Obama (who’s in such a deep crouch at home plate that you’d think he was doing a “Pete Rose” impersonation).

Romney, of course, is wearing a “red” uniform, while Obama is in blue – right down to his batting helmet with the “Obama for America” logo on its front.
NETSCH: Ill. version of Mitt Romney?

Of course, the gimmick to the cartoon is that Romney is preparing to pitch a hand grenade. While Obama’s bat has all kinds of nails and blades drilled into the meaty part. This Obama is brandishing a very deadly weapon that would get him arrested if he (or anyone) were to try to take such a club out in public.

STILL, IT’S THE “red” versus the “blue” facing off against each other – just as they have since the 2000 election cycle when Bush in red managed to beat former Vice President Al Gore in blue (with help from the men in black – the Supreme Court, not the umpires).

That Election Night – and the month-long process afterward in which officials tried to challenge the Electoral College results to get them to match up with the popular vote – burned those colors in our brains.

Which is why it amuses me that it was once thought that the Republican candidates were “blue,” with Democrats in “red.”

Because originally, blue was the color usually used for the incumbent running in an election. And we did go through a streak from Richard M. Nixon through Bush’s father (George H.W.) that we had a lot of Republican presidents.

I KNOW THERE are some GOP-leaning people who are so intense that they will argue that Democrats “stole” their Election Night color in 2000! Of course, there are those Dems who will argue that Republicans “stole” that election.

But that is a topic for another day’s commentary. I’d rather we look forward , than back.

Insofar as The Economist, their story is rather straightforward – Obama has an advantage because Romney has had to blow all of his campaign money just to win a primary cycle in which many of the GOP backers would have wanted Anybody But Mitt.

The president, by comparison, has raised a lot of money that has been sitting in the bank, and is now available for Obama to hit at Mitt early and often (just like the GOPers will claim that Democrats in Chicago cast ballots).

COULD THAT PUT Romney out of the running before he can get started with a round up campaign cash that he has yet to raise?

We in Illinois know it’s possible. Just remember the 1994 election cycle in this state, when Dawn Clark Netsch struggled to win the Democratic nomination for governor, then got hit with a barrage of campaign ads by Gov. Jim Edgar (the one with the big bucks that year) early on.

By the time Netsch raised money to start seriously campaigning, it was effectively over. Edgar created a Netsch image that was so lousy she could never shake it off.

Is that Mitt’s fate? It seems all too possible. He could be the latest candidate to rack up not quite enough “red” on the Election Night map come November – even though the national economic struggles of recent years ought to be the millstone around Obama.

SPEAKING OF LOSING, I must confess to not liking The Economist cover for one other reason – that “blue” batting helmet along with the blue, pinstriped uniform looked at first glance so much like a Chicago Cubs uniform.

Aside from the fact that we all know Obama roots for the Chicago White Sox (no word on whether the president made a congratulatory telephone call to pitcher Phil Humber for the “perfect” game he pitched Saturday), seeing Obama look so Cub-like made me wonder if someone, subconsciously, is trying to taint him with the image of a loser?


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Some people hear “Islam” and want to think the worst – no matter the facts

I stumbled across a pair of stories Friday that really have nothing in common – except they show how some people will get all freaked out at the mere mention of the word “Islam.”
A tarbush; worth extra scrutiny?

Some people just want to have their hang-ups, which is the real problem that confronts our society.

BOTH OF THESE incidents – one at the Statehouse in Springfield, Ill., and the other just across State Line Road in Hammond, Ind. – had the effect of making me feel a funk as we go into this weekend.

In the latter incident, a man who lives in suburban Midlothian is suing the federal government, in particular the Secretary of State’s office, because he couldn’t get a passport (which would confirm his U.S. citizenship when he travels overseas).

His lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for northern Indiana because he made his passport application at a post office in Hammond – where he used to live until he moved across the state line into the south suburbs.

The Times of Northwest Indiana newspaper reports that the man believes the reason his passport application got tangled up in the bureaucratic maze that eventually shot it down was because the photographs of himself that he submitted depicted him wearing a tarbush – a red, brimless cap with a tassel that is considered religious garb by some Middle Eastern men.

THE MAN HIMSELF described the hat in his lawsuit as religious headware, and he wasn’t about to take it off for a photograph.

His lawsuit says he wants financial damages to compensate him for the delay, along with issuance of the passport itself.

Reading about the legal case, I couldn’t help but think this might be more an instance of bureaucratic bungling, rather than religious-motivated bigotry.

For it seems that when the passport application initially was denied, the federal government asked the man to provide additional forms of identification. But he had trouble getting copies of some of the documents that the federal government wanted, and that caused the United States of America to tell the man he would have to start the process all over again.

YES, THAT WOULD be frustrating. I don’t blame the man for being irritated.

And yes, there is a part of me who wonders if the sight of a man wearing a “foreign-like” hat caused him to pay special attention to the passport application.

Considering that the man in question is a U.S. citizen by birth, there should really be no complicating factors in him getting the one official document that confirms his citizenship.

Someone’s religious suspicions should not be enough reason to create a bureaucratic nightmare.

I CAN’T HELP but sense the same sentiment about the Illinois state Senate, which these days is considering whether to confirm various appointments made by Gov. Pat Quinn.

One of those appointments is that of Munir Muhammad. The Chicago resident was chosen by Quinn to serve on the Illinois Human Rights Commission.

Actually, he has been on the commission since 2003 and no one has brought up any complaints about his performance.

But it is Muhammad’s affiliation with the Black Muslims that has some people suspicious – although I suspect that it was that affiliation that originally got him appointed to the state commission in the first place.

SPECIFICALLY, THE COALITION for the Remembrance of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad is a group that Muhammad co-founded to pay tribute to the founder of the Nation of Islam (now headed by Louis Farrakhan).

Now I know there are people who don’t agree with the Nation of Islam (and I know some Muslims who insist that the nation really has nothing to do with “Islam”). I don’t exactly agree with them on some issues.
E. MUHAMMAD: Supporting him causes concerns

Then again, I never understood those Pentecostals who believe that snake handling is a part of legitimate religious practices. But so long as no one tries to force their thoughts on me, I really don’t care what they do on their own.

Besides, like I implied earlier, I suspect that Muhammad’s differing perspective was the reason he got picked for the commission that investigates complaints of discrimination, and probably should remain on it so long as Quinn desires his presence there.

DOES ANYONE REALLY think that a commission concerned with discrimination should consist solely of like-minded people who can’t perceive those who are different from themselves?

Does anyone really think that a fez-like hat ought to warrant additional attention?

And where’s the aspirin? These incidents are giving me more of a headache than that White Sox loss from earlier this week – the one that turned a 4-1 victory to a 10-4 defeat in a matter of one inning.


Friday, April 20, 2012

What the airlines want – more at O’Hare International rather than new elsewhere

The ongoing debate over the status of Chicago’s airports is so old that even the talking points are now repeating themselves.

Which is what I sensed when I read a Crain’s Chicago Business account of a Thursday business forum in which the CEO of United Continental made it clear that the airline doesn’t think much of talk of building a new airport in rural Will County between Peotone and Beecher.

CEO JEFFREY SMISEK said that he believes that O’Hare International Airport  would be totally adequate for Chicago’s aviation needs in its current form – IF more modern GPS technology were installed to improve air traffic control facilities.

Such technology would make it possible to get more flights into the one-time World’s Busiest Airport into the existing number of runways. The improvements made during the era of Richard M. Daley would be adequate.

And there certainly wouldn’t be any need to build a new facility anywhere. Specifically of an airport near Peotone, Smisek said, “there’s no demand for it.”

Now I’m sure the local residents who live in homes scattered apart from each other and surrounded by acres of cornfields will be pleased to hear that. I wouldn’t be surprised if when they gather on Saturday to engage in a counter-demonstration to a group of South Side and suburban pastors who want to “bless” the ground upon which an airport may someday be built, they will recite Smisek’s rhetoric as some sort of “empirical evidence” of the righteousness of their cause.

WHICH IS NONSENSE. But then again, this is an issue where all the sides are capable of spewing self-serving rhetoric. It is all too easy to get a headache after listening to airport-related debate, because the decades have hardened everybody’s position so much.

There is no give-and-take. We might as well be talking about abortion rights!

Personally, I have never been swayed by the argument that “the airlines don’t want it.”

Because I realize that what the airlines want is as many flights as possible squeezed into O’Hare, with whatever expansion efforts necessary being undertaken to allow more-and-more-and-more.

I REALIZE THAT the suburban towns such as Park Ridge, Elk Grove Village and Wood Dale (the ones that border directly against the airport) could become unbearable places to live if that facility gets to be too big.

No amount of noise-proofing could comfort those residents. And the argument that “they knew they were living near an airport when they moved there” just sounds insipid in such cases.

And as for those people who want to argue that “Peotone’s too far away,” the reality is that Will County has long been a part of the Chicago-area – a fact that is becoming more-and-more apparent in recent years.

All the people moving further south from Chicago are the reason that Will County’s 39 percent population increase during the past decade is the largest percentage increase of any county in Illinois.

A LOT OF the resistance to a new airport is coming from people who object to this fact and think they can fight it off. And while I’m not saying that all of the Peotone critics are like this, I do sense the fact that some of these rural-oriented people have their hang-ups with the fact that the South Side and suburbs whose officials want an airport as a possible economic jolt for their area are African-American.

Although I must confess that when the airport proponents focus so intently with talk about “jobs,” they miss the point to. An airport’s primary purpose is to handle the air traffic. Any economic activity created around it is secondary.

Considering that it has been three decades since the Federal Aviation Administration said Chicago would need a new airport to accommodate air traffic expected in the 21st Century (and plans to build a new airport near Lake Calumet have been dead for more than two decades), I can’t help but wonder how negative the partisan politics has been.

We’ve gone this long without a new facility that the Ronald-Reagan era officials decided we need. How much longer will we have to wait before some activity really takes place?