Saturday, September 29, 2012

Let the blowhard leave!

It’s been creating quite a stir – the founder of Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches likes to go out of his way to say that he’s leaving Illinois (he lives in Champaign) because he’s offended by Illinois taxation.
Would Romney chance in Ill. make Jimmy like us more?

He wants to claim that Illinois is so egregious in the way it conducts itself that it is driving poor little Jimmy John out of the state. In his case, he’s going to Florida.

WHICH MAKES ME suspect he really just wants to move there, and is looking for cover – while also trying to score some cheap political points (Jimmy Liautaud himself was one of Mitt Romney’s delegates to the Republican National Convention).

Liautaud has been making these kind of statements for the past couple of years, threatening to leave.

That stink was stirred up this week when Crain’s Chicago Business reported about an Illinois Policy Institute conference at which Liautaud spoke, saying he’s likely to leave come 2013.

He’s headed to Florida, which he wants us to believe is a business-friendly state that will not be as oppressive as big, bad, old Illinois. He wants us to think that we’re all going to be losing out on something significant once he leaves – and takes his company’s corporate offices with him.

IT SEEMS HE has rented a house somewhere in “south Florida” (he won’t be more specific, but I suspect it’s a Miami suburb – the city proper likely would not appeal to someone of his ilk).

I say everybody has a right to live their life as they wish. If he wants to live amongst those people (I have one cousin who does, but I personally don’t find the thought appealing), let him go.

But what caught my attention about this whole sorry saga was when I saw a summary of the issue that was put together by the Capitol Fax newsletter.

For it seems that Rich Miller, the newsletter’s publisher, found a tidbit that I haven’t seen turn up in any of the stories that are being rewritten based off the Crain’s story published this week.

THE TIDBIT IS that Liautaud’s children are still enrolled in schools in Champaign – even though he had hinted they would transfer to somewhere in Florida.

Also, Liautaud’s wife is going to continue to live in Champaign with the kids. Only little Jimmy John is moving.

Now to ensure that the couple doesn’t do anything that could be construed by the Internal Revenue Service and a U.S. attorney somewhere as a federal offense, the couple is going to file separate income tax returns.

Which means Liautaud will lose the tax benefits of having a wife. But I’m sure he figures to gain something from relocating his business interests to a southern state that he will make up for it.

ALL IN ALL, it sounds to me like all this blather is more about Liautaud not wanting to pay taxes, and trying to find the legal way of getting around it. Which may be in accordance with the “letter of the law,” but sounds an awful lot like a tax dodge to me!

More power to him if he can do all this without running afoul of the law. I just wish he would quit all the moralistic handwringing that claims this is an Illinois problem with regards to our behavior – rather than just his hang-up in his dealings with the Illinois Department of Revenue or the fact that he wishes he resided in a “red” state (which is what this whole issue is probably really all about).

Liautaud has the right to say, and think, whatever he wants. I just wish he’d admit that all these rants he has engaged in are nothing more than politically partisan blather that have become quite old from repetition.

Besides, I really think that few people really care where the corporate office, so to speak, is located when they go to a business that is part of a chain.

UNLESS THE COMPANY plans to pull its actual stores out of Illinois, we’re not going to miss Jimmy John himself.

And he’s not about to move the stores – he wants our money. I’m even sure he realizes that if he really did make such a nonsensical move as moving, the bulk of us would have no problem finding a good deli or some other place where we could find a superior sandwich.

  -30-

Friday, September 28, 2012

To listen to the “Bard” named Berra, “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over”

So is it over?
Did the 99 percent win, or will it be undone?

I’m referring to the fact that a Cook County judge this week made a ruling that I’m sure has Mayor Rahm Emanuel tearing his hair out, has the Police Department perplexed, and has people talking about legal appeals.

AND ALSO LIKELY has the conservative ideologues of the world ranting and raging about “activist courts” and “damn liberals in Chicago.”

Even though when one looks at the ruling and the circumstances, it actually makes a lot of sense. Almost too much sense for me to believe that an official came to this conclusion all by himself. But will some future judicial panel decide to undo what happened on Thursday? Is it over now, or will it be over later?

For what it’s worth, the ruling is going to cause criminal charges against 92 protesters to be tossed out of court. These particular protesters were of the “Occupy Chicago” breed – those activists who go about complaining that 1 percent of the populace is pocketing all the wealth for themselves; leaving the remaining 99 percent with nothing.

Remember last year when those protesters were taking to camping out in public locations all over the country to try to force the masses to pay attention to them?

WELL, IN CHICAGO, they were setting up in Grant Park – the same place where the Chicago Police of ’68 were beating up protesters against the Vietnam War who came to the Second City because it was hosting the Democratic National Convention.

The beatings and other use of force last year wasn’t anything as intense as what happened all those decades ago.

But there were mass arrests. Emanuel would have preferred to not have these people screeching and screaming in the public park that Chicago likes to think of as its front lawn. After all, they made the neighborhood look so gross!

The “excuse” used by Emanuel to have police go into the park were the curfew laws that exist on the books. Technically, people aren’t supposed to be in the park after 11 p.m.

EMANUEL CLAIMED PUBLICLY at the time the fact that the activists were told in advance that they couldn’t stay after 11 p.m. was evidence of a new, humane approach to the Chicago Police Department – harassing the “hippie freaks” without appearing to be harassing them.

Except that Associate Judge Thomas More Donnelly didn’t quite see it that way. He ruled that the way the city handled the situation amounted to violations of a person’s right to assemble freely.

Or, as Donnelly put it, the city’s enforcement of the curfew is way too erratic. Too many other people get to hang around the park in the late hour of the day (and wee hours of the following day) without having to fear they’re going to be picked up by the police and tossed into a jail cell.

They may face a fair chance of getting mugged, but that’s a different issue altogether.

DONNELLY EVEN WENT so far as to point out that night in early November of 2008 when all those people packed Grant Park to hear Barack Obama give what turned out to be his victory speech upon learning he had, in fact, been elected as U.S. president.
His advice, even if never said, often works

That wonderous night when Chicagoans got to regale in the mood of knowing that “one of ours” (even if he really is a Hawaii native) had managed to achieve the goal that local people like Sen. Paul Simon and the Rev. Jesse Jackson had strived for – but failed to achieve.

But technically, when they didn’t all go home before 11 p.m., they were curfew violators. Should the Chicago Police Department have tried to bust some skulls open in order to chase people out of the park?

Maybe the ideologues would enjoy that image in their wildest fantasies. The rest of us, including the judge, see the folly in such thoughts

  -30-

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Stroger ‘eradication’ more important to county pols than a simple policy

We’re coming up on that time of the year when the Cook County Board has to put together a budget for the upcoming year, and officials seem determined to want to say that they’re erasing the memories of former board President Todd Stroger.
STROGER: The contempt remains

Even if that winds up complicating their best efforts to approve a spending plan for county government that comes close to being balanced.

FOR BOARD PRESIDENT Toni Preckwinkle’s budget director told the City Club of Chicago this week that there may be a combination of fee increases and select tax hikes to raise more money for county government.

But this will come as Preckwinkle is determined to be able to say she erased from the books that increase in the sales tax in Cook County that Stroger pushed for during his time in office to try to balance out the books.

That was the increase that pushed the overall sales tax in Chicago to over 10 percent, and was the continual rallying point for Stroger’s opposition – most of whom were really opposed to him because of the way he got elected and were never willing to forgive him for it.

County officials have been decreasing their share of the sales tax in recent years, and this is the year that the last 0.25 percent of Stroger’s increase is supposed to be removed.

AFTER THIS YEAR, our government officials will be able to boast that they rescinded a tax increase that was incredibly unpopular (not that any tax increase is ever considered desirable).

But it seems that perhaps Stroger and his allies (he does have them, whether you want to believe it or not) were right in thinking that the revenue from that increase was necessary if there is to be a balanced budget for Cook County government.

We may well be in a situation where our county officials do away with a portion of the sales tax so they can claim they’re looking out for our best interests and will have something solid to show for it.

But then we’ll be told the equivalent of not looking too hard behind the curtain, on account of the fact that there may be other tax and fee increases that will get passed to make up for the lost revenue.

EITHER WAY, IT seems we’re going to have to pay. It’s just a matter of which fund our money gets paid into. From our perspective, it all comes out of the same wallet.

Which makes all of this seem like a lot of partisan bumbling that won’t save us anything of significance. Except that those of us whose political hang-ups concerning Stroger will be appeased.

A minor concession, if we still have to pay more.

Although I’ll concede that we don’t know how much more, since county officials are refusing to be specific about what they have in mind. We’ll probably learn for sure what will be done come that date in December when the county board gives its approval to an actual budget.

WE’LL BE KEPT in the dark until then, in all likelihood. I’m not sure that any ding to Stroger’s reputation is worth this trade-off.

Then again, it seems that almost anything is acceptable to people, so long as Todd comes off on the bad end.

Take the legislative election taking place on the West Side, where former state Rep. Derrick Smith (the representative who was expelled from the Illinois House) is the Democrat on the ballot who faces an independent challenger.

That challenger, recruited by Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, turns out to be a former chief of staff to Stroger.

WHICH HAS SOME (including Preckwinkle herself) thinking that having a legislator who faces charges of soliciting bribes in U.S. District Court is less embarrassing than backing someone with ties to Stroger.

Either way, the situation comes across as embarrassing to all.

  -30-

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Let’s hope Quinn doesn’t get any ideas

I have been amused in recent days as I see the daily updates from the staff of Gov. Pat Quinn – informing us all of how the Mighty Quinn is in Brazil to do good things on behalf of the people of Illinois.
Will one of these Brazilian ladies soon be a student at an Illinois-based university?

It seems that the “State of Illinois Trade Mission” running from Sept. 22 through Friday even has its own official logo – almost like it were a rock concert. Will there soon be “Quinn does Brasilia” t-shirts available.

EXCUSE ME FOR wondering if this particular trip is just an excuse for Quinn to get away from the beginning of the autumn chill by going to a land where it is the beginning of spring.

Or maybe he just doesn’t want to be around this week while the Chicago White Sox seem incapable of putting away a division title, and appears to desire a long, drawn-out battle to the very end of the regular season.

Actually, that latter point is one that would make me want to be somewhere other than Chicago these days. But the biggest thing is that it amazes me the way in which the Quinn compadres seem determined to play this trip out to be one of the most significant actions of his time as governor.

Then again, in a place like Brazil, it would seem that Quinn gets the respect that a public official is supposed to receive due to his title. As opposed to Illinois, where way too many state legislators think he’s an unreliable and untrustworthy guy and too many city officials think he meddles in matters that are none of his concern.

WHICH IS HOW they probably do view the idea of casino expansion – which has fizzled because of Quinn’s opposition.

But it seems to make Quinn want to engage in a lot of overhyped statements, such as the one that was issued Tuesday. It seems there will be a new program meant to encourage Brazilian students wishing to attend a university in the United States to consider a Chicago- or Illinois-based school.
A Brazilian jolt to Fire futbol?

Perhaps there will someday be thousands of Brazilian teens doing their best Joel Goodson (Tom Cruise’s character in “Risky Business”) impersonation of, “Looks like University of Illinois.”

That would be good for bolstering Illinois’ image and recognition level.

BUT IT DOESN’T quite leap up at us as a major event worthy of the ‘front page’ of old. It reads more like a dinky brief in a corner of page A15 – filler material.

Which has me wondering what Quinn is really accomplishing with his trip south of the equator?

It’s not like he can attend Carnaval – which doesn’t take place until February (the 8th through the 12th of 2013, for those of you who care). Then again, it would seem appropriate for the Quinn administration to be just a bit off in its timing.

Perhaps he has soccer in mind, and would like to see some quality play – rather than the middling level we get to see with Major League Soccer and the Chicago Fire.

GOING TO THE land that dominates the World Cup (and gave us Pele – the one soccer player most people have heard of, even if they don’t comprehend exactly who he is) would be the place to go. Perhaps he could engage in some sort of deal that could help bolster the Fire with some young Brazilian talent. Quinn could play an instrumental role (sort of) in bringing another sporting championship to Chicago.

Or perhaps Quinn just wants to check out the famed Brazilian beaches packed with the young (and some not-quite-so-young) ladies wearing butt-bearing bathing suits.

Let’s only hope that the governor doesn’t get himself any ideas about joining in.

Because I don’t care how many “Brazilian butt-lift” exercises Quinn were to do – I just can’t envision the resulting sight would be a pleasant one for anyone to have to view.

  -30-

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Cameras in ctrooms encroach on Chgo

They’re not quite within the city limits. Not yet, anyway.

But it’s just a matter of time now before those among us who gather their news by relying on the resources of local television (whether you watch the actual newscast, or just watch video snippets off of a website after-the-fact) will be able to see real live moving pictures of what happened at the Criminal Courts building or other courthouses scattered across Cook County.

FOR THE PAST year, the Supreme Court of Illinois has been experimenting with the idea of permitting video to be shot of court activity so that it could be used on local newscasts.

This experiment is being done judicial circuit by judicial circuit, and has started in the rural parts of Illinois. It would seem they want to see how it works in the smaller court systems of the state, before unleashing the idea on the bureaucratic mess that is the courts in Cook County.

Thus far, five judicial circuits in 13 counties have been trying the concept of shooting video of their court activity. On Monday, court officials added the 18th Circuit to the list.

That circuit includes the far western suburbs of DuPage County. Which invariably means that the DuPage County court system is going to get extra-heavy television coverage in coming months – all because pictures will be available to go with the reporter’s observations.

IT’S THE REALITY of television news – things that really don’t mean all that much get covered if there is video depicting the “moment of truth.” And if the video is particularly clear, the “story” will get major play on the newscast.

Eventually, the “fad” nature of courtroom video will phase out the idea of feeling the need to cover this stuff – particularly when this concept gets to all 102 counties of Illinois.

Including our very own Cook! Supreme Court officials have said more circuits will be added by the end of 2012, and Cook County Chief Justice Timothy Evans has told reporter-types that he’d like to see the program expand into Chicago by that date as well.

Although I get the sense that Cook County officials may start the concept locally in the suburban courthouses – giving us audio and video of court activity from places like Markham, Skokie and the Maybrook district in Maywood.

IT MAY TURN out that the last place we get to see anything from is the Criminal Courts building out near the Little Village neighborhood.

Although I can’t help but think that the public is going to be disappointed by the sight of real, live courthouse activity on television.

For they are going to learn just how buried in minutia and legalese much of what happens in a courtroom really is. They’re going to learn how important the reporter-type person is in terms of being able to explain what a certain legal motion meant.

It’s going to come across like a foreign language, and we’re in need of an interpreter. It’s definitely not a place conducive to visual-looking stories, no matter what some people might believe after watching too many episodes of “Judge Judy” or some true-crime drama program on television.

AND A PART of that is because of the oppressive atmosphere of most courtrooms. Whether they’re decades old, or date back to a more recent era, most of them are intended to be intimidating places with a deadly-dull look to them.

Anybody who thinks that such video will create a constant flow of “Drew Peterson”-type stories to watch every night is going to be in for a shock.

The true “feel” for a courtroom is sitting in a seat with torn upholstery with a sheriff’s deputy watching you like a hawk for any signs you’re going to act up (so he can eject you from the courtroom) and an aroma caused from decades of bad food, certain individuals who might not have bothered to bathe properly and poor air circulation in the in buildings.

The true feel is something that cannot be captured on video. You have to be there – although court is the last place that any decent human being wants to have to be in.

  -30-

Monday, September 24, 2012

EXTRA: What do we do with Sosa?

When I think back to the baseball playing career of Sammy Sosa, a pair of other ballplayers come to my mind – Babe Ruth and Sandy Koufax.

Now this isn’t one of those stat-guided similarity things (one such list says that Sosa’s comparable ballplayers are guys like 1970s-era stars like Mike Schmidt and Reggie Jackson). I’m talking about ballplayers whose careers bear some strong similarities to the Sosa phenomenon that was the ONLY reason the Chicago Cubs got national attention a decade ago.

IT’S JUST THAT when I think back to the six-season time period (1998-2003) that Sosa was hitting all those home runs (including three seasons when he managed to hit 60 or more, and one other season when he led the National League), you literally have to go back to Babe Ruth at his 1920s peak with the New York Yankees to find another ballplayer who could pop the ball out of the ballpark at a greater rate.

Slammin’ Sammy was downright Ruthian at his peak.

And yet, I fully appreciate the fact that it took Sosa a full decade of hanging around the major leagues (bouncing from the Texas Rangers to the Chicago White Sox to the Cubs) before he finally did anything notable.

You could argue the only reason he managed to last long enough to do anything special is because he was playing for mid-1990s Cubs teams that were so god-awful that they could afford to keep him on the roster.

OR PERHAPS THOSE teams were so god-awful because they had ballplayers like Sammy Sosa.

The very idea of a ballplayer in his 10th season rising to superstardom (as he did back in June 1998 when he managed 25 home runs that month, and 66 for the season) is just so unheard of.

You literally have to look to the 12-year career of Sandy Koufax as a pitcher for the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers to find anything comparable.

Through his first six seasons, Koufax was a wild-throwing pitcher with a losing record. In seasons seven and eight, he settled down and became respectable.

IT WAS THE final four seasons that Sandy Koufax became SANDY KOUFAX!!! and did all the things that we now remember him for and wrongly assume he was doing for his entire career as a professional ballplayer.

These are the thoughts that popped into my head when I learned that former Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood said Sunday during ceremonies at Wrigley Field that he wishes the team would retain its former star ballplayers – including Sosa, whom Wood said did “special” things while wearing the Cubby bear blue.

Just like Sammy’s six-season Ruthian stint, which whipped this city into a frenzy that could match up with anything Michael Jordan accomplished in basketball with the Chicago Bulls.

I remember being at Wrigley Field for the next-to-last game of the 2001 season – one in which Sosa hit 64 home runs. In that game, Sosa hit number 62, and I still remember the man sitting in front of me turning to a group of kids and telling them, “That’s what makes it worth skipping school.”

I CAN REMEMBER when the only people who bashed Sosa were White Sox fans – whose comments were dismissed as being bitterness that Sosa never amounted to anything during the 2 ½ seasons he played on the South Side (and later complained that the ballpark was in part to blame because it was “too big”).

Now, everybody seems to want to join in the Sosa-bashing party. I don’t buy that it’s because of steroids. Heck, anybody back then could have seen what was happening. They chose to turn their heads.

I’ve even heard the line of logic that it was because he “walked out” on his ball club in the last game of 2004 (which also was his last with the Cubs, who traded him away shortly thereafter). Although the idea of a ballplayer on a losing ballclub having a hissy fit certainly isn’t unique to Sosa.

Which makes me think that the people who are now dumping on Wood for suggesting image rehabilitation for Sosa ought to lighten up.

BESIDES, I EXPECT they’ll get their chance to fully rejoice come next year when the Baseball Hall of Fame announces its vote tallies – and Sammy falls short of induction in what is his first year of eligibility for baseball’s take on immortality.

It’s going to take a lot more than Kerry Wood for anybody to seriously want to rehabilitate the name of Sammy Sosa.

  -30-

Not sure who gets to “championship” level first – Guillen or Ventura

I’m starting to wonder if the Chicago White Sox are determined to make me look like a “genius” when it comes to baseball prognostication.

For I’m the guy who used this very weblog last November to predict that Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen would have a championship-level ballclub before either Chicago team would.

THE CHICAGO CUBS have done their part to make me look like I know what I’m talking about. But it has been the White Sox who threatened to make me look bad.

For while the Marlins are in last place in their division, and there is speculation in Miami that Guillen could lose his job at season’s end because of the dismal performance, the White Sox are in a pennant race.

Sort of!

I don’t know what to make of this ballclub that seems absolutely determined to throw away what could be a playoff-bound team and turn itself into a second-place team that nobody will remember.

AND NO, WHITE Sox fans aren’t like those of the Cubs. Nobody will remember 2012 with the same “aura” that Cubs fans think the 1969 team deserves for collapsing in September to the New York Mets.

This was literally a team that managed to go from a 3-game lead over the Detroit Tigers one week ago Monday to a team that is on the brink of baseball destruction -- they've literally lost their last five ball games.

A 3-game lead with 2 ½ weeks in the regular season to go ought to be safe. It ought to be a case of just running out the clock, so to speak. Just keep playing winning ball.

Which certainly didn’t happen this weekend with the White Sox this weekend in Anaheim, Calif., with the Los Angeles Angels showing why they still deserve to be thought of as contenders in their division while the White Sox have us scratching our heads wondering, “Wha’ happened?”

TWICE THIS SEASON, the Tigers have managed to “catch” the White Sox and tie them, only to have the White Sox suddenly surge back into the lead. Could the third time be “the charm” for Detroit? Or do the White Sox really have what it takes to put Guillen’s spirit in their past?

The only reason Detroit isn’t in first place all by themselves right now is because the Minnesota Twins managed to whomp on the Tigers in the first of two games they played Sunday, then pull off a second victory in extra innings. Thank the almighty for the Twins that the White Sox can claim to have a one-game lead over the Tigers.

My prediction would turn out to be completely wrong if the White Sox win their division this season, while the Marlins lose so badly and Guillen winds up having to take the blame for a dismal season (which really shouldn’t be blamed on him, but will be anyway).

I make that latter comment not because I’m an Ozzie-apologist, but because I comprehend the scattershot approach to baseball often taken by the Marlins’ organization.

THIS IS THE team that employed one-time Chicago Cub catcher Joe Girardi as their manager for a season and he did well enough to be National League manager of the year. Yet he got fired for displeasing owner Jeffrey Loria – the same man who now is looking for someone to blame for the crummy ballclub that likely turned off people from wanting to visit their new stadium.

And as for those who will want to claim that Guillen will be gone because of what he said earlier this season about Fidel Castro, that’s nonsense. A 66-87 won-loss record as of Sunday is more significant than anything else. It’s the old baseball adage proven true – you’re only as smart as your batting average (or earned run average, or winning percentage).

But what about the White Sox and if they manage to fall short this season?

One-time third baseman-turned-manager Robin Ventura will be back in 2013 regardless of what happens – although many of the veteran ballplayers likely will be let go as part of a cost-cutting/youth movement.

WHICH COULD COMPLICATE Ventura’s chances of overseeing a winning ballclub in future seasons. This season may well turn out to be Ventura’s best chance of turning his White Sox stint into a winning ballclub.

That makes me wonder if there’s still a chance my 2011 post-season prediction can come true!

For Joe Girardi went on to manage the New York Yankees, who won a World Series title under his leadership in 2009 and remains the head of a perennially-contending ballclub.

Could Guillen wind up going somewhere else and leading that team to a championship before the White Sox can finally get their act together for an entire season – instead of five-sixths of one like they seem to want to do in 2012?

  -30-

Saturday, September 22, 2012

How ‘nothing’ would this be now, if only Mitt’d given info up previously?

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney had an income of $13.69 million for last year -- of which assorted governments snatched up $1.9 million of it as his share of income taxes.
ROMNEY: Not like you or me, financially

No big deal, when you think about it. Many government officials try to make themselves seem “human” around Tax Day by making their tax returns public. They want us to know that they, too, had to make good with the Tax Man on April 15 – just like the rest of us.

IF ROMNEY HAD been like these other officials and made all this information publicly known some five months ago like everybody else, it wouldn’t have been an issue.

If anything, we might have said “Wow!” to the “$13.69 million” figure for a couple of seconds, would have laughed at the concept that Romney makes far less than a top-notch pro athlete, and would have moved on.

It certainly wouldn’t be any kind of issue now. We probably would have long forgotten the figure. We certainly wouldn’t care some six weeks prior to Election Day (even less time, if your plans are to use an early voting center to cast your ballot).

But it is an issue – because Romney made it one.

FOLLOWING MONTHS OF trying to claim that his personal privacy was being invaded by this now-standard political maneuver, Romney gave in on Friday. He made his financial information publicly known for 2011 – while also providing a summary of his effective tax rates (the percentage of his income that went toward taxes) for every year back to 1990.

Which means all this information has the potential to be fresh as we move into the intense portion of the campaign cycle.

When combined with the “47 percent” comments that make Romney sound like a pompous rich guy, this information makes him look like the ultimate pompous rich guy.

Does Mitt Romney think his tax returns now will get him a chance to work in this office for the next four year? Photograph provided by the White House.

Even the fact that (according to the Washington Post) Romney and potential first lady Ann donated just over $4 million to assorted charitable causes comes across as suspect.

FOR THE NEWSPAPER reported that the Romneys only claimed tax deductions for $2.25 million of their contributions. It seems that the Romneys wanted to ensure they paid a tax rate of at least 13 percent of their income during each year of the past decade.

Which makes us wonder if the Romneys have concocted a financial image for themselves – rather than handled Tax Day like the rest of us and given an honest accounting of how much money we took in for the previous year.

In all, this information and the way in which it was made public creates potential for so many questions that will linger in the minds of potential voters.

None of which would have cropped up if only Romney hadn’t taken the pompous route and tried to keep it all private. It really would have been a non-issue by now.

IN FACT, THIS disclosure may be even more ridiculous than when President Barack Obama tried to put a rest to all the “birther” nonsense by coughing up documentation to indicate he really was born in Honolulu, Hawaii.

After all the years of not providing information, what made him think that his disclosure was going to silence anyone? Obama just drew more attention to a stupid, non-issue. He may have given it credibility it didn't deserve.
OBAMA: Believe what we beleive

If anything, it would merely convince the conspiracy-theorists of our society that this was somehow the ultimate conspiracy. They don’t want to see anything that would disprove what they want to believe. That disclosure didn’t change the perspective of anybody.

Just like Mitt Romney didn’t do a thing on Friday that would convince anybody that he’s anything other than a rich guy who doesn’t have a clue about what kind of daily lives the rest of us live.

  -30-

Friday, September 21, 2012

“47 percent” versus “redistribution”

We’ve heard in recent days of the tales of the tapes – videos of the presidential candidates saying things that are being put in a context meant to make them appear as though they are grotesquely out-of-touch with “real” people.
OBAMA: The same old criticisms

Mitt Romney’s alleged gaffe has become a national stink – the bit about 47 percent of the people of this country likely never to consider voting for him because they’re too attached to welfare and government programs to make it on their own.

THAT HAS CAUSED the Romney camp to dredge up an old video of then-state Sen. Barack Obama speaking at Loyola University back in ’98 and making a comment about supporting “redistribution.”

We’re supposed to be outraged by whichever one of these guys doesn’t agree with what we already believe. Although the only thing that really outrages me about any of this is that these campaigns think we, the public, are nitwitted enough to fall for any of this.

Because when you think about it, these “tapes” aren’t showing us anything new. They’re just the same old rhetoric, only given to us in a new instance.

If anything, the Romney moment is having more impact; as evidenced by the fact that Mitt has had to make many mea culpas in recent days – even though he really doesn’t want to say he was wrong or apologize for what he said.

WHY SHOULD HE? He was just being honest about what he really believes. I also don’t doubt that the kind of people who are eager to vote for him have no problem with someone who wants to write off a segment of the U.S. population and focus all their attention on the remaining people!

Call this a moment of a Republican speaking bluntly, rather than trying to cadge his thoughts in “code” that are meant to get their point across to a select few – while leaving the masses scratching our heads and wondering, “Huh??!?”

So the truth of the matter is that I would be more offended if Romney were to suddenly try to “take back” what he said. He might as well stick by it and accept the few supporters such comments will get him.
ROMNEY: Merely being honest?

Besides, Romney has already managed to tick off so many different segments of society with his talk on so many points that what is another group – one that likely wouldn’t have voted for him anyway.

BECAUSE THOSE INDIVIDUALS whose incomes are so low that they don’t have to pay federal taxes (my mother was in that bracket of society in the final years of her life on account of the fact she was on a fixed income) really are in a different plane of existence from somebody like Romney.

That may well be the reason he falls short of victory on Nov. 6, even though the economic struggles of recent years are intense enough to take down any candidate.

Which is what the ideologues want to do to Obama in another 47 days, and why they’re countering the image of a “rich guy” Romney with that of a “socialist” Obama.

That’s what the harping on the “redistribution” line is really meant to mean. Big bad Barack will come along and take everything away from you. Worse yet, he’ll give it all to a batch of undesirables who don’t deserve to have anything in life!

BECAUSE ANYTHING THEY gain is something that you could have put to better use.

Writing those two lines of rancid rhetoric was such an absurd experience that it makes me wonder how anyone could take such thoughts seriously. But I realize it is true that some people in our society seriously want to believe that.

They’re the ones who have been using “socialist,” “Communist,” “un-American” and continue to spew the bit about Obama not really being a natural-born U.S. citizen.

Which means the fact that this latest tape is not catching on as much as an issue may well be the ultimate evidence that the real majority (the one that the ideologues wrongly want to believe they comprise) sees through the nonsense-talk that has dominated this campaign cycle.

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Can we end this “controversy” now?!?

We got the encore this week to what may well be the ‘stupid’ scandal of the summer. Anybody else remember Chick-fil-A?
MORENO: Back in the news because of pollo

All across the country, government officials have been expressing their opposition to the chicken chain, which is an Atlanta-based company whose owners like to claim they believe in morals, decency and respect – but go out of their way to express hateful attitudes toward gay people.

THEY MAY HAVE the right to think such thoughts. But what arouses the ire of many people is the way this particularly company’s management likes to use its financial muscle to push for politicians who will promote their warped ideals.

So naturally, when the company decided it was going to start trying to set up their franchises in Chicago, it was all too likely that one of our local officials would take offense.

That came in the form of 1st Ward Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno, who decided that he didn’t want the company locating a store in the portion of the Logan Square neighborhood that lies within his ward.

He went after the Chick-fil-A people, claiming their views didn’t represent those of Chicagoans. For a short while, he even had Mayor Rahm Emanuel on his side.

BUT THEN, THE ideologues came crawling out of the woodwork, and this whole issue seriously devolved to the level of stupidity.

The same people who made a point of deliberately eating at Chick-fil-A franchises because the food is “delicious, and non-gay” (their words, not mine) took up the cause of “freedom of expression.”

They wanted someone to be permitted to express such nonsense-talk. Which may well be within their right – we do have the right to be wrong.

But what I never understood about the way this turned into a crusade to shut Moreno up was the idea that, somehow, Chick-fil-A was entitled to the “last” word.

AS THOUGH THE company could not be challenged on their beliefs. That is pure nonsense. Freedom of expression really means that we can devolve into a batch of whiners with everybody expressing their thoughts equally.

Any other belief is just downright un-American – which is what I think of the people who are going to be determined to believe that Moreno “lost” this brawl, which hopefully is now resolved on account of the fact that the company has come up with some sort of statement that will be interpreted by some as a shift in their attitudes on the issue of gay marriage and homosexuality.

The statement, supposedly sent to all franchises from the corporate headquarters, tells the managers that they’re not to disrespect anyone based on sexual orientation. It also says the company’s not-for-profit foundation will stop giving financial contributions to groups that oppose gay couples being able to marry.

In exchange for that, Moreno says he’ll now stand back and do nothing to thwart a Chick-fil-A franchise from setting up in his neighborhood. Although one of the "golden" rules of the "Chicago Way" of doing things is that aldermen reign supreme over what goes on in their wards.

PERSONALLY, I THINK the statement is cheap talk. I read the rhetoric and wonder what the loophole is that will still allow for hostility toward gay people and support for those who act against them.

Will it literally be just the company’s executives making private contributions to the politicians of their choice? This may not change anything. Which would make the whole summer’s worth of flare-ups a whole lot of rants about nothing!

Personally, I was glad when this story withered away in the news cycle during the summer. Having it crop up again this week is kind of annoying. Because I don’t think of a Chick-fil-A store as a place worth much attention either way. The one time I ate there (a store in Springfield, Ill., that no longer exists), I was distinctly unimpressed with my sandwich.

The one good thing I can think of coming out of all this is that we can quit thinking of Chick-fil-A as being a place to make a political statement, and can go back to thinking of it as merely a franchise that serves mediocre food.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

EXTRA: Jr. relegated to office couch?

When I learned Wednesday that Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., D-Ill., was putting his house in the District of Columbia up for sale, the first thought that came to mind was that of the representative for Chicago's Far South Side and surrounding suburbs joining that “fraternity” of congressmen who literally live in their Capitol Hill offices so they can save themselves money.
JACKSON: Needs a new place to live

Could we someday get the sight of Junior in a t-shirt and shorts, lounging on the couch at 1 a.m., watching something trashy on television because he’s having trouble getting to sleep?

HOW ABOUT JUNIOR opening his office door in the morning to pick up his paper, encountering the janitors who keep the Capitol building clean?

It is one of the quirks of life for the members of Congress that some of them choose not to get themselves a house or apartment to live in during the time they must spend in Washington, D.C. They literally live in the offices.

Some do it because Washington is an expensive urban area, while others are trying to score political points by being snotty about the idea of actually LIVING in the District of Columbia.

Jackson had long ago moved beyond that, getting himself a house (that he’s now asking $2.5 million for) in the district to go along with his Chicago residence.
DURBIN: Will Jackson follow his lead?

OFFICIALLY, HE LIVES in the district during the week and returns home to Chicago on weekends and other congressional breaks – although the cynics claim that the D.C. house is HIS and the Chicago house is the residence of spouse Sandi Jackson – who uses that address to justify her political post as alderman of the 7th ward.

But I also noted that the reports on Wednesday indicated that the couple’s children use the D.C. address to justify their enrollment in private schools in Washington.

That address is to become history, because Jackson aides say the congressman needs the money to help cover the medical bills he’s incurring from his treatment for a bipolar condition.
BLAGOJEVICH: Had a 'home' for sale

It also has me wondering what the living conditions will be for Jackson in coming years (since he probably can remain in his congressional post for as long as he likes – even though circumstances make it likely he’ll never be able to get elected to any other government office).

WILL HE LITERALLY become like that breed of representatives and senators who sleep on the office couch – unless they feel like splurging and buying themselves an air mattress so they can sleep on the floor in semi-comfort?

He wouldn't be the only Illinoisan go go that route.

Or is he going to become more like Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., who in political circles became famed for the “frat house-like” atmosphere of the home he and several other senators rented so they would not be homeless in the District of Columbia?

It’s too bad Jackson couldn’t have made the decision to sell and cut his living expenses a bit sooner. Let’s not forget that the Blagojevich family had a condominium for sale REAL CHEAP from Milorod’s days as a member of the House of Representatives.

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