Friday, August 31, 2012

No surprises this week in Tampa, Fla. None likely in Charlotte, N.C. either

I have a confession to make. I didn't even bother to watch the speech Thursday night in which Mitt Romney formally accepted the Republican nomination for president, knowing full well that its content wouldn’t make much of a difference in the overall tone of the convention.
ROMNEY: Let the campaigning begin

The Republicans wrapped up their nominating convention Thursday night making it clear that this is the anti-Obama campaign for all the people whose hang-ups are such that they’d vote ABB.

CONSIDERING THAT THE Anybody But Barack people have been raging for the past four years, as far as I’m concerned the past week has been just more of the same.

If anything, the most interesting thing to happen this week was the comment by a pollster that tried to discredit the people who have been pointing out the factual errors espoused by Romney supporters.

“We are not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers,” was what that pollster said, sort of. It’s actually a truncated take on what he said that kind of exaggerates what he literally said. But in a way isn’t that far from what he actually meant.

Kind of like whenever someone quotes Baseball Hall of Fame manager Leo Durocher as saying, “Nice guys finish last.”

POLITICAL SPIN HAS become so much a part of the campaign scene that some people just can’t envision doing without it. They’re certainly not going to listen to any version of reality other than their own.

So I didn’t need to really hear what Romney had to say to know it will follow the party line. Which means his speech given Thursday night was just the capstone to the abbreviated schedule of events that really amount to nothing more than an over-glorified political pep rally.
OBAMA: Gets his chance next week

We’re all hearing now about how the speech given Wednesday by Romney running mate Paul Ryan was nothing more than a series of exaggerations meant to make Obama look so bad that everybody in the convention hall would get all riled up and go back to their home districts and turn out the vote as heavily against Barack as they possibly can.

Although it seems that in Ryan’s case, the exaggerations were more a matter of omission – leaving out the factual details that would have made an anti-Obama argument much less convincing.

ALL OF WHICH should have been expected. The reason I can’t get all excited and angered about these tactics is that it is fully what I would expect from a Republican nominating convention being held in today’s political climate.

I’m not even all that upset by the moment when delegates persisted with drowning out a Republican official from Puerto Rico; chanting “U.S.A.” and “Get them out!” so that nobody would hear her speak. Or the incident involving convention attendees who threw peanuts at an African-American camera operator for CNN as though she were a caged animal

 It’s just more of the nonsense that comprises the modern-day nominating convention. I didn’t expect anything better. To tell the truth, I’m not expecting anything of any more substance next week when the Democratic National Committee holds its nominating convention in Charlotte, N.C.

We’ll get a bit of the Obama love-fest (although nowhere near the level of “Hope and Change” with Greek columns in the background that we heard and saw in 2008), and constant reminders of how a Romney victory would result in a massive undoing of every single policy measure that Obama has tried to implement.

THERE IS AN element of truth to that. There are some GOPers who are viewing this as an attempt to erase the Obama presence from our society (and, quite possibly, our history books).

But the point being that neither convention is going to give us anything resembling “high-minded” rhetoric. It’s all going to be a batch of trash talk – leading us into the two-month period leading up to Election Day when the campaigning kicks into high gear.

As if it hasn’t been intense enough to date.

This week’s nominating convention, along with the one coming up next week, are both going to fit firmly into what has become the theme of Election ’12 – Which candidate do you hate the most?

  -30-

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Most Illinoisans couldn’t “fire” Madigan on Election Day even if they wanted to

MADIGAN: Soon to be "fired?"
It seems to be the common theme being touted by Republicans leading up to the Nov. 6 elections.

When they’re not getting all worked up over who they want to have run against Gov. Pat Quinn come 2014, they’re whining about how they want to dump Democrats from power come this year.

WHAT THIS REALLY comes down to is an anti-Chicago line of rhetoric. After all, the city dominates Cook County – which accounts for about 45 percent of the state’s population and an overwhelming share of its voters.

It is the reason that we have Pat Quinn as governor even though the Republican campaign of Bill Brady was dominant in the rest of Illinois.

So the idea being burned into the brains of many a non-Chicago voter is to think of any Democratic candidate as somehow being a Chicago hack (and I don’t mean a taxicab driver).

But voting against “Chicago” is an abstract concept, and one that can be hard to put into a catchy slogan.

WHICH IS WHY we’re getting the use of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, as a euphemism for all that is Chicago. That is why we’re getting all those “Fire Madigan” buttons and bumper stickers and t-shirts and whatever else the GOP marketing people can come up with to push their idea that comes across to urban ears as petty whining.

The “problem” is that we can’t literally “fire” Mike Madigan.
Worth your hard-earned money?

He can be voted out of office come Election Day. But he is so overwhelmingly dominant in the Southwest Side wards that comprise his legislative district that the bulk of the voters will NEVER dump him.

Even when fringe candidates try to stir up resentment among those locals, they fall flat on their faces. Mike Madigan ain’t goin’ nowhere!

THAT’S JUST A fact. The people who live there are probably proud (in a perverse sort of way that they’d never admit to) that their local legislator is the boss of state politics who can get away with telling the governor where to stuff it, and only occasionally has to answer to Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

And when you come down to it, the idea of a “fire Madigan” slogan is quite trite. Because most of us don’t live in that legislative district. Telling someone who lives in Leland Grove, Ill., (just outside of Springfield, for those of you whose geographical knowledge doesn’t extend any further south than 119th Street) to “fire Madigan” is pointless.

In fact, many of the places where this “fire Madigan” rhetoric is becoming popular are places that haven’t elected a Democrat to the Illinois House of Representatives since the days of cumulative voting when people picked multiple legislators and were required BY LAW to have representation by officials of each major political party.

This is truly a matter of preaching to the choir. Getting the already converted to whine about the fact that Chicago metro accounts for two-thirds of the state’s people and is asserting that influence on Election Day.

PERHAPS I’D BE a little more appreciative of the fact that some parts of Illinois feel neglected if it weren’t for the fact that I remember the bizarre 1994 elections and the two-year period in which Republican officials held control of every state government post of significance.

We actually had “Illinois House Minority Leader Michael Madigan, D-Chicago,” for a two-year period, and the majority party went out of its way to run an agenda that was even more blatantly partisan and as self-centered around their part of the state as they now claim Democrats are doing to favor Chicago.

Sentiments like “fire Madigan” come across as sounding like a repeat to those bad-old days when we had public officials who seriously believed that the key to Illinois’ economic success was to put a muzzle on the influence of its only city of significance.

Then again, petty whining probably is easier to do than trying to put together a credible political organization that could actually compete on Election Days of the future against Democrats for office in the Chicago area.

DO YOU SERIOUSLY want to send Mike Madigan into political retirement on your terms, rather than his own?

Perhaps a little more of an attempt to appeal to people outside your segment of the state would get you some credibility – instead of coming up with t-shirts and lame marketing slogans that probably will give the speaker himself something to chuckle about on the day after Election Day when Madigan’s party still holds a majority of the Illinois House seats.

  -30-

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Fed judge sees sense with religious institution lawsuits about contraception

A lot of religious-oriented colleges have been taking their own stance against the federal government, filing lawsuits claiming that their religious beliefs are being violated if they have to offer health insurance policies to their employees that cover the cost of contraception.

Among the most prominent of these schools is the University of Notre Dame, which filed such a lawsuit back in May just a couple of years after it attracted controversy from the ideologues when it got President Barack Obama to be its commencement speaker.

BUT IT WAS a bit of a pleasure to learn that these lawsuits are starting to be dealt with – and in a way that recognizes them as the politically partisan attacks that they truly are.

The Chicago Tribune reported that a judge in U.S. District Court in Washington dismissed the lawsuit filed by Wheaton College – the evangelical Christian college in the DuPage County suburbs that likes to boast of its ties to Billy Graham (Class of 1943).

Officials cite their religious beliefs for opposing contraception, and they claim the federal policies meant to bolster access to health care will force them to provide things they would rather pretend don’t exist.

That is an argument that always struck me as being a bit nonsensical. Nobody forces any of those employees to use any particular benefit in their health care package.

IF THEY REALLY have employees who have moral objections, they probably won’t be using them to begin with.

Which means this issue always struck me as being a case of these religious institutions trying to force their views on others, almost as bad as those ideologically-tainted textbooks that get published to appease the views of school board types in Texas.

Perhaps the federal government ought to be suing these religious organizations for trying to deny health care benefits to other people? Nah, I’m not that hard-core. I’d like to think that the federal government has better things to do than go around suing church-related groups.

Just as I’d also like to think that those groups have better things to do than to go around suing the United States of America! Only it seems that some either don’t have better things to do, or the streak of bullying in their personality is just a bit too strong.

WHICH IS WHY I was pleased to learn of the opinion issued by federal Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle, who tossed out the Wheaton College lawsuit because the federal government itself had said it was not going to start enforcing its new insurance regulations until August of next year.

Federal officials have even said they’re willing to consider some sort of exemptions to accommodate religious organizations. Which strikes me as a federal government willing to make some sort of compromise on this issue.

Which means the lawsuit itself was the position of NO compromise – which all too often IS the problem that confronts our society.

“Tilting at windmills” is how Judge Huvelle described the lawsuit. A comparison to Don Quixote is never a positive – unless one is in a literature class and the name of Cervantes is taken into account.

HERE’S HOPING THAT this ruling is a harbinger of things to come (time to bring out the clichés) for how these other lawsuits will be handled.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops may have put a coordinated effort into getting all these institutions to file their lawsuits. There may be a lot of religious muscle involved.

But I can’t help but think that while God himself may be infallible, man (even the men who claim to represent the thought of God) is not.

And this may well be one issue where these church leaders (and the heads of universities that offer a religious-inspired education) are missing the greater point.

  -30-

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

EXTRA: The long-awaited veto

When the General Assembly gave its approval last year to a measure that would allow for the creation of a casino in Chicago, four other casinos across the state and other assorted opportunities, that bill ultimately got stuck in a drawer.

It never was sent to Gov. Pat Quinn for approval. The Legislature’s leaders wanted to work out a side deal with the governor, but it never happened.

WELL, THE ILLINOIS Legislature gave it a second shot this year, voting to approve a bill that adds to the amount of gambling opportunities across the state.

And finally, on Tuesday, Quinn got a chance to express his opinion.

No!!!

A big fat veto.

QUINN USED HIS veto authority to reject the gambling expansion bill. And what is most notable about it is that it is really un-notable.

The reasons that Quinn gave for rejecting the bill are the same reasons he has been spouting out all along. Which means this is an outcome that should have been perceived all along.

And the General Assembly seems to have rightfully been justified in its bizarre actions last year. Although all they seemed to have done was delayed the outcome for a year.

Which really means that the status quo of recent decades will remain in place. Because House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, has said it is unlikely the General Assembly can get together enough opposition to override the gubernatorial veto.

I’M SURE THEY will make the token effort to dump on Quinn when the Legislature reconvenes in November. But it most likely means that, come spring of 2013, there will be yet more government rhetoric about the desire for more casinos across the state.

We’ll hear about how desperate our government is for the share of the proceeds that it can command as a tax.

And we’ll hear all about how those devious sharks over in the land of Hoosiers (a.k.a., Indiana) are costing Illinois so much money by attracting our residents to those casinos in places just across State Line Road like Hammond, Gary and East Chicago.

Which is why I found it interesting that Quinn, in his veto message, said there’s one thing that Indiana does that he’d want Illinois to do as well – a ban on campaign contributions from the managers and owners of casinos.

“WE MUST PREVENT campaign contributions by gaming operators from infecting our political process,” Quinn wrote.

Although considering how strong the itch is in some legislators to have more casinos in Illinois, I’d say the “infection” has already occurred. Inoculation may well be futile by this point in time.

I also found it amusing to learn that Quinn was upset that the oversight of a casino in Chicago proper would be different from the oversight by the Illinois Gaming Board that applies to all other casinos.

“Permitting the Chicago casino to operate without the appropriate oversight of the Gaming board is not good for Illinois,” Quinn wrote.

WHICH WOULD PROBABLY be appreciated in those segments of the state outside the Chicago metro area, except that many of those people think so low of Quinn these days that he won’t get many bonus points.

Although it will tick off that segment of Chicago that fully expects any Chicago casino to be operated differently because it will be on a larger scale than any of the existing operations that began their lives as riverboats offering cruises while people gambled their money away.

Which means my guess is that all day today, there are going to be all kinds of people taking the name of Quinn in vain.

Then again, that has been the life story for the Mighty Quinn. So what else is new?

  -30-

Will we care what John Walker Lindh thinks about prison prayer? Should we?

I must confess to having lost track of John Walker Lindh. Until reading the accounts on Monday about how he’s suing for the right to practice his religion freely, I didn’t realize he was an inmate at the federal correctional center in Terre Haute, Ind.
LINDH: From a decade ago, just after his capture

Not that anybody should get any delusions of Lindh and former Gov. George Ryan associating with each other. The latter is in the minimum-security work camp that helps service the maximum-security prison, while Lindh is in a special unit within the prison that keeps him out of circulation from the violent criminals who populate the place.

LINDH, FOR THOSE who have forgotten, is the alleged “American Taliban.” While some people like to use that phrase to denigrate Tea Party types (comparing their extremist, uncompromising behavior to that of the religious fanatics whose behavior taints Islam), Lindh is the U.S. citizen who converted his religious faith, then left this country to be among his new believers.

And back in late 2001 when U.S. troops started going into Afghanistan out of a sense that they were avenging the people who were killed when airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center, Lindh was captured by local forces being propped up by the U.S. military.

For he literally was fighting in opposition to the U.S. allies and alongside the people to whom Taliban is not an epithet, but merely a label of who they are!

The rest of those people could be regarded as prisoners of war and become faceless beings whom nobody ever gave much thought.

BUT LINDH, BECAUSE of that U.S. citizenship, wound up getting criminal charges in this country and the lengthy prison time. He’s getting treated more harshly than others because he’s the white face, a northern California kid, who’d have the gall to wear a keffiyeh and not think it looks absurd.

Which is why while it surprised me to learn that Lindh is so close to Chicago (Terre Haute is about a three-hour drive by car), it didn’t shock me to learn that Bureau of Prisons officials are giving him a hard time about his religious beliefs – which I have no reason to doubt are sincere!
Who remembers the "John Walker Blues?"

It seems that Lindh, due to the security restrictions of his particular unit within the Terre Haute Correctional Center, is being denied access to group prayer, which his particular faction within Islam believes is essential whenever possible.

But Lindh is not allowed to pray while in his once-a-week group sessions. Prayer would be regarded as subversive toward proper prison conduct.

ALTHOUGH I SUSPECT if it were Christian prayer of a specific denomination approved of by the warden, then somehow the rules could be bent.

Lindh filed a complaint asking for the right to group prayer. The part that caught my attention the most was his explanation of what is wrong with him being allowed to pray in his cell whenever he wants to.

It seems that having to kneel in the presence of a toilet in order to pray would be regarded as disrespectful to Lindh and other Muslims.

For those people who are reading this and saying “So What!?!,” and shouting that a prison inmate has no right being picky, I wonder how irritable they’d be if someone in another country wanted to engage in Christian prayer, and was being forced to use the toilet for their faith.

WE’D BE ARGUING that it is disrespectful. We’d probably be looking for every euphemism we could think of to describe it.

And yes, I am a firm believer in showing respect for all beliefs. That ultimately is what gives our society the moral high ground on such issues.

When we give up such tolerance, we become no better than the opposition that we’re all too eager to demonize.

So as Lindh appears this week in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis to argue his case, we ought not to be getting all high and mighty in our outrage toward him. It only brings us down to a level that we should be ashamed to drop to.

BESIDES, EVEN IF he behaves like the perfect angel while in the misery of a federal prison, he still has another seven years to go before anyone can even think of early release for him.

And if he’s being nitpicked over aspects of his prison life such as prayer, I’m sure the rest of his life isn’t any more pleasant.

  -30-

EDITOR’S NOTE: I realize that in this commentary, I provided a very truncated account of what Lindh did to warrant prison time. Much more detailed information can be found elsewhere, although one has to be wary of the partisanship of whomever chose to write any particular given account of his story.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Somebody out there likes Pat Quinn

Gov. Pat Quinn used his veto power on Sunday to formally reject a measure that would have restricted municipalities that wanted to ban plastic bags in their communities.
QUINN: The 'green' gov?

Which on the surface will result in wisecracks about how eager Quinn was to please a pre-teen girl who led an effort to lobby on the issue that actually resulted in some 175,000 signatures of support on her petitions.

NOT BAD FOR anyone, particularly a 13-year-old.

But it’s not just Abby Goldberg of the northwestern suburbs who is pleased these days. Because in reading the press statement Quinn issued to explain his veto of the “plastic bag” bill, I couldn’t help but notice a quote issued in the name of Jennifer Walling, who is director of the Illinois Environment Council.

“With this veto, Gov. Quinn has completed the 2012 legislative season with a perfect record for the environment,” Walling said, in the prepared statement.

At a time when many people like to point to high “unfavorable” ratings for Quinn in the 40s (of percentile) in various polls and approval ratings significantly below that of Dick Durbin, Rahm Emanuel or Barack Obama (the other big political names on our “local” political scene), it seems that at least one group of people is willing to say something nice about the “Mighty” Quinn.

I DIDN’T FOLLOW every single bill of interest to the environmental lobby. But there were a couple of issues I did monitor during the summer months, and as it turned out the environmental activists did wind up getting their way.

One was a bill that made landfill creation or expansion within Cook County against the law – which went directly in the face of what the Land & Lakes Co. of suburban Park Ridge wanted to do in annexing a landfill currently split between Chicago and suburban Dolton entirely into Dolton.

Now, it’s just a shuttered property, and Land & Lakes is going about issuing statements about how irresponsible Quinn was (and trying to shift the blame for Dolton having to find a new place to dump its own trash onto the governor).

There was another bill of environmental interest – one that would have made changes in the state law to encourage continued development of a portion of the old Republic Steel site in the East Side neighborhood into a plant that would use the gasification process to turn Southern Illinois-mined coal into a synthetic gas that could then be sold to utility companies.

ORGANIZED LABOR LOBBIED hard and heavy for this bill. They liked the idea of the thousands of construction jobs that would be created to build the plant, and the couple-hundred it would create to operate the plant once it was built.

Union officials were very clear in siding with the business interests and local political officials, including 10th Ward Alderman John Pope, who also wanted this bill signed into law.

Yet Quinn wound up siding with the environmentalists from organizations such as the Sierra Club, who devoted their time and effort to helping the local residents who objected to the idea because they didn’t want another industrial plant located near their homes.

Even though the business interests that wanted the plant always claimed the local residents didn’t truly appreciate how modern technology reduce the potential for pollution.

I REMEMBER THINKING back then that Quinn was likely to sign that particular measure into law. I thought he’d view it as a balancing act – giving environmentalists the landfill ban and giving his organized labor allies the gasification plant.

Even though the environmental activists contended they weren’t surprised that they won both issues on the grounds that the governor was determined to do the “right” thing – at least as far as how they perceived it. So they are happy – even though many others are miffed. I can’t help but wonder what kinds of things are being said at union halls these days – particularly after those union workers get a drink or two in them.

And maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that Quinn went along with the “plastic bag” bill. I’m sure Quinn could have managed to make himself look completely ridiculous if he had tried to explain why he wouldn’t give in to Goldberg.

He could have come across as looking like a complete oaf.

  -30-

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Knee-jerk reaction bill becomes law, creating more attention than she’s worth

Call it ironic. Call it cute, except that I doubt Gov. Pat Quinn has the sense of humor to deliberately do what he did on Friday.
Now a reality in Illinois

For among the dozens of bills passed by the General Assembly this spring that he signed into law on Friday was the one that creates an Illinois version of “Caylee’s Law.” This on the very day that the nitwits of our society are getting all worked up because of the fact that down in Florida, Casey Anthony has managed to complete her probation.

SHE’S A FREE woman. She no longer has to report her presence to the state. And worse yet, the Orlando Sentinel newspaper reported that the state has consistently respected the fact that there are people in our society screwy enough to want to go after her.

Which means Florida won’t give up the address at which she’s living. Our lynch-mob sensibilities will NOT be fulfilled.

So we’re going to have to accept the fact that Anthony’s criminal case isn’t going to give us anything – other than a law named for her young daughter whom Casey was acquitted of charges that she was responsible for her death.

If one believes the evidence that came out during her trial, it says that Casey no longer wanted to be a mother. Therefore, she put duct tape on her daughter’s mouth, dumped the body in a nearby swamp, then spent the next month pretending that there was a chance her daughter was still alive somewhere – just missing.

THE JURY DIDN’T believe it. So she was acquitted.

In fact, the only reason she has spent the past year on probation in Florida is because prosecutors got her on an unrelated case involving check fraud (ie., bad checks).

That probation period ended at the end of Thursday. Friday really was the first day of the rest of her life. And we still don’t know where she is.

Although personally, I don’t really care. Her trial didn’t interest me back when it took place, no matter how much CNN’s Nancy Grace tried to hype it into the most inhumane of crimes. Personally, I have been amused by the HBO drama “The Newsroom,” which features a cable news network that was trying to show its superiority by deliberately ignoring the whole Anthony affair (but then gave in when a sniveling succophant started whining about ratings declines).

WHICH GOES A long way toward explaining why television news feels like such a sinkhole at times, because there are broadcast news operations that think in just such a manner.

Too many people felt the need to pile onto the whole mess.

Including our beloved political people in Illinois; who this spring were incapable of doing anything to resolve the problems related to the proper funding of pension programs.

But they were more than capable of coming up with a version of “Caylee’s Law,” which is supposed to ensure that nothing even remotely resembling the alleged behavior of Casey Anthony could occur in the Land of Lincoln.

UNDER THIS NEW law, which will take effect Jan. 1, it becomes a felony to fail to report the death of a child within 24 hours – if the kid is under 13. If the kid is younger than 2, it becomes a felony to wait more than an hour to report the death. It’s not even original to Illinois. It was a knee-jerk reaction by many Legislatures.

If such a law had been in effect in Florida, Anthony could have been found “guilty” of that offense alone and been sent to do time in a state corrections facility.

Except that such laws ignore the fact that the cases of a Casey Anthony “case” are so bizarre that crafting laws to deal specifically with them results in merely clogging up the state statutes with measures that will never be used again.

That measure, passed unanimously by the Illinois House of Representatives and overwhelmingly by the state Senate, was about nothing more than political people trying to make themselves appear to be “tougher” than they ever could be in their real lives.

WHICH ALSO MEANS that the people who got all worked up over her criminal case can feel something positive came out of it – other than higher ratings for the television outlets that felt compelled to give us every single second of the melodrama.

Personally, I could have done without it then, and I didn’t need the reminder from Quinn’s approval of the bill now.

Because in my “fantasy” world, the now-26-year-old Anthony becomes a complete anonymity whom we have to pay no more attention to for the rest of her potentially lengthy life.

Somehow, I suspect that would hurt her more to her ego than any of the physical blows that some blood-thirsty types in our society fantasize about administering to her – should they ever encounter her in the streets.

  -30-

Friday, August 24, 2012

EXTRA: A bizarre little twist

Could we be seeing the concept of “state Rep. Derrick Smith, D-Chicago” once again in the near future?
SMITH: Will he be back?

I’m not quite sure what to make of the fact that the political powers-that-be on the West Side have picked a replacement to finish out the rest of Smith’s term – which runs through January.

EDDIE WINTERS, WHOSE career is as a Chicago police officer who has run token campaigns for the Legislature, was picked to be the Illinois House 10th District state representative. Not that it’s going to take up much of his time.

He’ll have to be in Springfield come November when the General Assembly reconvenes for a couple of weeks for the fall veto session. Then, he’ll have to show up in January for the last couple of days of the current legislative session.

Then he gets to go back home, and will be able to add the line to his resume that he was an Illinois state representative – albeit one that no one will remember years from now.

What is strange about this is the fact that this is the campaign where Democrats in the district are throwing their backing behind an independent candidate to try to keep Smith from winning re-election on Nov. 6 – just three months after he became the first legislator to be expelled in more than a century.

THAT CANDIDATE IS Lance Tyson (a former aide to Todd Stroger when he was Cook County Board president), and it would have seemed ever-so-logical for Tyson to be picked as the replacement legislator so as to give him the image of incumbency.

Any advantage that would allow Tyson to actually gain votes from people in a district that goes knee-jerk Democrat (and likely won’t put much thought into the idea of Smith being too tainted by the federal indictment pending against him to get their vote) would have seemed natural. And yes, the only token Republican was too weak to even stay on the ballot.

Besides, picking the desired replacement to complete a predecessor’s term is the way it often gets done in Springfield. When Constance Howard resigned her seat months before her planned retirement, it was a no-brainer that Elsie Sims would get to add the “state Rep.” and “D-Chicago” to his name five months earlier than he originally anticipated.

Could there be some serious hesitation about Tyson getting too comfortable? Or could it be clueless political operatives who aren’t too clear about what they’re doing?

WHICH WOULD MAKE me wonder if they’re really up to the task of letting the voters of the legislative district to vote a nearly-straight Democratic ticket on Nov. 6 – all except for the state representative candidate?

All in all, it makes me incredibly pleased to be of South Side origins, rather than coming from the West Side. It would be headache-inducing for me, at least, to have to cope with this voter decision personally.

  -30-

Quinn can cause weekend controversies

Pat Quinn has always been the type of person who had a knack for offending the general populace. So from his perspective, the fact that his weekends recently have managed to offend people probably doesn’t seem at all unique.
QUINN: Upsetting everybody?

But Quinn is bound to irritate many people this weekend, as he says he’s going to use the time to figure out exactly what he’s going to do with the bill that would expand casino gambling (and other gambling opportunities) throughout Illinois.

THIS COMES AFTER his appearance last weekend at an end-of-Ramadan event held at the Toyota Park stadium in suburban Bridgeview that has some ideologues offended that Quinn would “dignify” Islam, and even has some nitwits convinced that he “inadvertently” was converted to that religious faith.

You can guess how absurd the rhetoric has become. I wonder if accidental conversion to another religious faith is anything like the idea of “legitimate rape” and the idea that a woman can’t truly be impregnated against her will?

But the offense caused by Quinn’s participation in that event may be minor compared to the offense that will be caused by Quinn this weekend when he decides what to do with proposed gambling expansion.

Because at least some of us are sensible enough to realize that the people getting worked up over Quinn and Islam aren’t rational.

THERE ARE A lot of otherwise-rational people who will be offended by whatever Quinn does with gambling.

For the truth is that Quinn probably is anxious to veto the bill in question. He has made it known for years that he thinks the plan to add five more casinos, and also allow slot machines and other gambling opportunities, goes too far.

Yet he knows if he does that, he will face the wrath of the General Assembly, and all the people who are anxious to have a casino closer to them than the 10 existing riverboat casinos (that really aren’t riverboats anymore, but that’s an issue for another day).

Which is why the speculation exists that he’s going to push for an amendatory veto – by which he gives his approval to the concept with some alterations.

THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY would get their chance to undo those changes when they reconvene in November. But House Speaker Michael Madigan has told reporter-types the answer is “No!” to the question, “Does the Legislature have enough votes to override a gubernatorial veto?”

Which means Quinn, when he acts on the bill (he has until Tuesday, the deadline for all the remaining bills approved this spring by the General Assembly), is going to have a lot of ticked off people.

For these are the people who are anxious to have more gambling opportunities. They argue it is about the economic struggles the state currently faces.

Yet there are many officials supporting this who have wanted it for many years – going back to the times when Illinois was doing well financially.

WHICH MEANS IT’S not really about bailing out Illinois’ fiscal status as much as they just want every municipality to have a casino – if the community wants it.

That ignores the fact that having so many casinos would cause them to drown each other out and be rather worthless financially. We may be at a position where we have about as much gambling opportunity as the state can handle without undermining itself.

Quinn’s opposition can be seen as a realistic understanding of that fact, rather than him being a malcontent who can’t get with the program – which is what many people are going to claim when he acts on the bill. Just as his appearance at a Ramadan event also shouldn’t be something perceived as controversial.

Which probably puts me in the minority of Illinois – someone who isn’t offended by the actions of Pat Quinn.

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

A view from behind the foul pole. Or, is Jeter the next Paul to invade 35th St.?

Chicago White Sox versus New York Yankees always takes on a certain air. Some fans get a little more hostile, and the hoards of Yankees fans who don’t live in New York turn out and wind up inflating the crowd.

Which is why I couldn’t help but notice the tug-of-war of sorts that occurred Wednesday night, when the White Sox managed to beat the Yankees 2-1 to complete a three-game sweep that enabled them to maintain a 2-game lead in their division (the Detroit Tigers just won’t lose).

THE YANKEES’ MARQUEE ballplayer, shortstop Derek Jeter, got much of the derision that would be expected from fans of the other ballclub.

But as I sat in my second-row seat directly behind the left field foul pole (don’t get started on the age-old debate about why it’s not called the ‘fair’ pole), I couldn’t help but detect that the “boos” were being drowned out by squeals of joy.

There were many Yankees fans in the ballpark. I sat just down the row from one pair with a father wearing a Number 7 jersey for Mickey Mantle, and his grown son wore a number 44 jersey for later era star Reggie Jackson.

But it seems the female contingent among them let out in squeals that likely haven’t been heard around 35th Street and Shields Avenue since that day some 47 years ago when The Beatles performed a concert at the old Comiskey Park located in what is now the parking lot directly north of the stadium.

A PART OF me wondered if this was sort of what it was like when Paul McCartney took the field to run out to the stage set up behind second base to play a set of music that likely was inaudible due to all the screaming.

Is that what Jeter has become these days? It’s not enough that he’s a likely future member of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. The athlete who has dated so many sexy celebs that I can’t keep track of them all is now the pop idol.

Particularly when he managed to drive a fly ball into the left field seats for the Yankees’ lone run on Wednesday – one that briefly tied up the ballgame.

Paul standing on a stage not far over where shortstop once was

Jeter fans definitely overpowered the Yankee-bashers for that one moment, particularly all the young women I saw at the ballpark wearing their Yankees Number 2 jerseys in ways that no ballplayer ever could get away with.

THOSE MOMENTS ARE now gone, just like the Yankees, who on Thursday are on their way to Cleveland for a three-game series and will not return to Chicago this year unless – by chance – the two teams both wind up qualifying for the American League playoffs and get pitted against each other.

A final round of playoffs between New York and Chicago for the American League championship and chance to go to the World Series sounds intriguing.

But for any White Sox fans licking their lips at the thought of another series, perhaps they ought to gain some perspective. A three-game sweep against the Yankees isn’t something that happens all too often for a Chicago ballclub.

Historically, the arrival of the Bronx Bombers in Chicago is supposed to be the blow that puts to rest any delusions of winning anything resembling a championship.

IT LIKELY MEANS this could be the highlight of the Chicago season for 2012.

After all, I couldn’t help but notice that the operators of the scoreboard at U.S. Cellular Field kept putting up various bits of trivia related to the New York/Chicago connection in baseball.

It’s not a pretty picture. The overall record dating back to 1903 is 806 victories for the White Sox – and 1,043 wins for Noo Yawk!

Even with the Wednesday win boosting the Chicago total to 807, there’s still a long ways to go before the two ball clubs are on equal footing.

AND I’LL HAVE to admit to enjoying being among the people who bought 26,319 tickets to Wednesday’s game – even if my seat gave me a crummy view of the cause célèbre that was Jeter.

That smudge in the mesh is a Hall of Fame celebrity athlete

For every time I looked straight forward, the foul pole was positioned so as to block the part of the infield where the shortstops stand.

For me, Derek Jeter on Wednesday was a blur who kept popping up in the mesh part that extends from the pole.

  -30-

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Teachers stepping up their fight

It has been intriguing to watch the e-mail messages flowing into my inbox in recent days. For it seems the unions that represent teachers are stepping up their own efforts to protect their own financial interests.

From the Chicago Teachers Union, which may well wind up walking the picket lines in coming weeks to try to force the Chicago Public Schools to give them a contract worthy of their work.

ALTHOUGH EVEN THE Illinois Education Association is joining in the effort, seeking to protect the interests of teachers in public school districts across the rest of the state.

They have come up with a poll concerning all the pension reform talk, which some people think could easily be fixed if only those school teachers weren’t so greedy.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been more publicly outspoken in trashing teachers and their unions than state officials have been. But the end result is the same. There are people who want to view school teachers as a problem.

Which is why I can’t get terribly offended at the idea of the teachers retaliating. What’s wrong with self-defense?

EVEN IF THAT self-defense includes cluttering my e-mail in-box with all kinds of messages meant to give me the impression of a union ready to go to war.

From the notice letting me know how I can contact the printing company that is preparing all the picket signs that might be needed IF the union actually takes a strike vote, to the news that there is a “confidential e-mail” that says the union members are being wrongly monitored for their union activity.

They even informed us of the informational pickets they did this week, while reminding us that the strike vote has NOT been taken.

“Students come first, but you can’t have a quality school district by putting a fair and equitable labor agreement last,” teachers union President Karen Lewis said, in one of her several prepared statements she issued this week.

“AFTER LABOR DAY, we want to be where we belong, in the classroom,” she said. “However, if talks continue as they have been, we will be where we need to be (and that is) on the (picket) line.”

Now it might be hard to get away with that kind of attitude IF the general public were really buying into the rhetoric that teachers are a batch of overpaid hacks pretending to be performing a worthwhile service.

In short, some people don’t want to have to respect educators, and they want the rest of us to listen to their rhetoric. But the Illinois Education Association has a new poll that would seem to indicate that we’re not buying it.

That poll says 68 percent of all teachers should get the pension benefits they were promised, and 58 percent think that talk of cutting retirement benefits to teachers to try to resolve pension funding programs would be a bad move.

WHEN IT COMES to blame, there are 58 percent who think the pension funding problems are the fault of the General Assembly, while ONLY 5 percent think the teachers are to blame for the situation.

When it comes to the pension situation, I realize that a large part of resolving the problem is determining what will be done to close the funding gap for the program that provides retirement benefits for teachers in the suburbs and rural Illinois.

It is likely that if the school districts have to assume a larger cost of covering those benefits costs, those officials are going to shift blame to teachers.

They’re already going out of their way to claim that any such shift would result in higher property taxes for local homeowners.

IS THIS POLL merely an attempt to pre-empt the eventual argument that, “Your property taxes wouldn’t be so high if those teachers in your school district didn’t expect so much in retirement benefits!”

Which is about as over-the-top a comment as some of the rhetoric we’ve been hearing from Emanuel when it comes to bashing the Chicago Teachers Union.

And my e-mail in-box may well be cluttered in the future with the rhetoric in response.

  -30-