Monday, December 31, 2012

What does it mean that Obama wants to see gay marriage approved in Ill.?

It is the fantasy of many an activist trying to persuade Chicago or Illinois government officials to approve their pet cause – get President Barack Obama to say something in support.
OBAMA: Influencing, or meddling in, Ill.?

After all, being able to say that the influence of the White House and Illinois’ political “big guy” (even though Rahm Emanuel thinks that niche belongs to him, it doesn’t) is on your side is a mighty weapon.

FOR OBAMA WOULDN’T be likely to do anything if he thought the cause was a loser. After all, should the president be getting involved in local matters? If he wanted to be a local power-broker, he would have sought a seat in the City Council after serving eight years in the Illinois Senate – instead of going “up and out” to Washington.

So what should we think of the fact that Obama operatives told the Chicago Sun-Times this weekend that the president himself wants the General Assembly to change state laws so that gay couples can be married.

The aide who spoke to the Sun-Times also said that if Obama were still in the state Legislature, he would be a “yes” vote for any bill “that would treat all Illinois couples equally.”

Yet when I speak to people who are on the Statehouse scene, it seems that uncertainty prevails. Gov. Pat Quinn has said he wants the General Assembly to use the few days it has before the transition to a newly-elected Legislature on Jan. 9 to pass something (anything!) that could allow officials to say they have resolved the pension funding problem that has lingered in Illinois for decades.

WILL THERE EVEN be time to consider anything else during those three days that the Senate and House of Representatives will be in session?

And if there is time, will the personal hang-ups of certain legislators (and political fear from others of actually having to take a stand on an issue) keep this particular issue from getting enough support to advance to Quinn for final review – and most likely, its approval?
A busy, or slow, Statehouse? Photo by State of Illinois

During my own education, I did a stint at the American University in Washington, D.C., where I recall several lectures trying to get us to comprehend the very reasons why people “leak” information to news media.

For some, it is their ego at work – “I know something important.” This is more likely a trial balloon.

IF IT TURNS out that the public response to what the Chicago Sun-Times has published is negative, Obama and his aides can always backtrack away from it. Perhaps they’ll even try to deny the president ever said such a thing (the newspaper quotes an aide).

This feels more like a test. It lets people who have an interest in the “gay marriage” issue gauge the support level and figure out if the backlash will be too intense to allow the issue to move forward now.

Although I know some legislators who say that bringing this issue up now on a short time period could be the best way to pass it – since there won’t be all kinds of time for the issue to linger and have its critics poke and prod at it until it deflates into nothingness.

And as the Sun-Times pointed out in their story, some of the political people who might otherwise be afraid of touching the issue can now use the president’s support as political cover for themselves.

I DO BELIEVE this is an issue that will come to Illinois. Considering that I’m old enough to remember the 1996 moment when the then-Republican General Assembly passed a measure that specifically said gay marriages were NOT legitimate in Illinois, it shows just how much we have changed.

But when? I don’t have a clue.

Perhaps Barack Obama is a signal that the time is now in the next week-and-a-half. Then again, the sense of political inertia that tells legislators, “Never put off ‘til tomorrow what you can do next session” may well be strong-enough to tell the president “Pipe down!” for now.

  -30-

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Bears win, but Packers lose. So now, it’s “Go Huskies!” for gridiron fans

26-24 was good. But the 37-34 score on Sunday was bad, very bad – at least for those individuals who derive any joy from the game of football and the "Monsters of the Midway" (who make the Cookie Monster look terrifying by comparison).

The end result being that the Chicago Bears’ season came to an end. No playoff appearance. The one time that Bears’ fans wanted the Green Bay Packers to do something, they blew it.

CAN’T COUNT ON a “cheese head” to do anything. It seems that even the Hoosiers are more reliable (the Colts managed an end-of-season victory over Houston).

Personally, I can’t get too worked up – and not just because I have never gotten into the game of football (futbol is a totally different story).

Let’s be honest. Even if the Bears had managed to creep their way into a playoff slot, they would have been the team that deserves to lose in the first round. Now we can all move on to more sensible (only 52 more days until the first exhibitiongames of baseball spring training) pastimes.

Although for those of you who have to have more of the gridiron activity, let’s not forget the Orange Bowl game on Tuesday.

NORTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY’S Huskies have spent the past few days in Florida acclimating themselves to the surroundings before they take on Florida State University.

Personally, my only tie to NIU is that I have a step-brother and two cousins who received an education there. Also, my step-mother’s father, Meyer, was an alumnus and long-time fan of the University of Florida. I remember the most angry he ever was at me was one time when I said something that besmirched the image of the Gators.

So somewhere, I suspect his spirit will be watching the bowl game on Tuesday, and eagerly rooting for the Huskies to defeat his arch-rival Seminoles. Maybe all of Chicago ought to join in rooting for the boys from DeKalb. It’s not that far from us.

So come Tuesday, the call goes out. “Go Huskies!!!!”

  -30-

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Police playing about with crime stats? We’re still likely to reach 500 homicides

It’s almost comical when you think about it.

Chicago on Thursday officially reached its 500th homicide of the year (keep in mind that not all homicides are murder). A dubious statistic.

YET IT SEEMS that some people want to keep us under the 500 mark – and are determined to doctor the books.

Because a man was shot to death in the Austin neighborhood Thursday night. That would appear to make him Number 500 – the first time since 2008 that Chicago reached that mark (it had 513 homicides that year, with 2003 being the last time the homicide total exceeded 600).

Yet now, a previous homicide has been reclassified as an ongoing death investigation in which we don’t officially know the cause of death.

So it is premature to count it. So we were as of Friday morning back at 499.

I FIND IT laughable in part because I remember my own days as a police reporter-type person in the late 1980s.

Back then, Chicago routinely had over 900 homicides per year – averaging out to 2 ½ per day. Although in reality, it usually meant there were occasional weekends where 15 or 16 people would be killed in separate, and random, incidents.

Those would make up for the fact that we might go a few days in Chicago without anybody being killed.

So to think that some people are getting all worked up over the number 500 when the record-highs are 970 (in 1974, when the population of Chicago was still over 3 million people) and 943 (in 1992, when we had dipped to just under 3 million).

THERE ARE THOSE people who argue that the current levels are worse because the total Chicago population is about 2.7 million – which makes the murder rate per 100,000 people absolutely atrocious.

Still, I can’t help but think that obsessing over a total number misses the point.

The total number of people who are dying due to the deliberate actions of their fellow human beings (which is the very definition of homicide) is down considerably to what it used to be not all that long ago.

The fact that the homicide total in recent years has been on the decline (as low as 433 last year) is always a good thing. Yet there are no guarantees in life.

THE FACT THAT the number is on the rise this year so much is not an easy thing to explain.

Personally, I’d like to think this year is like 2008. The year before, the homicide total was 448. The year after, it was 459. Yet in the year that both the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs managed to make it to the baseball playoffs before doing their own dying act on the field, the homicide rate shot up over 500!

There probably wasn’t any hard-and-fast reason for it that year, just as there isn’t a simple explanation for this year’s sudden increase.

Which, when you come right down to it, could be considerably worse – even though in an ideal world, one homicide would be one too many.

SO IS SOMEBODY with the Police Department playing with the homicide statistics?

I would rather believe they’re not. Mainly because such an effort would be in vain.

We still have one more weekend to go through, then the prospect of the New Year’s Eve holiday.

There’s just too much potential for somebody to do something idiotic that provokes somebody else into committing the ultimate act of stupidity – the taking of another human life!

I’LL MOURN THE loss of the deceased. But I’m not going to think it’s any more tragic because we still managed to surpass the “500” figure in Chicago.

Viewing the issue from that perspective is trivial, and also downright morbid!

  -30-

Friday, December 28, 2012

EXTRA: $1 Billion?!?

Falling from the 'fiscal cliff' ...

Crain’s Chicago Business came up with an intriguing figure Friday.

If our national government falls over the so-called “fiscal cliff,” Illinois stands to lose $1 billion.

AT LEAST THAT’S what state Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka thinks.

She told the business publication that if the federal government has to impose a series of financially harmful measures because of the inability of political people to reach a deal on their own, the state will lose about $500 million in federal grants.

After all, something will have to be cut. Also, Illinoisans would lose some $500 million collectively in income taxes – because we’ll have to pay more.

Just a little more catastrophe to have to cope with, at a time when our state’s Legislature is supposed to be returning next week for a few final days of action and they’re supposed to try to resolve the pension funding problems that Illinois has long been confronted with.

THAT IS ANOTHER problem where political people seem to be incapable of reaching agreement.

For as state Rep. Thaddeus Jones, D-Calumet City, said recently, there are several options under consideration by the General Assembly that could work. “Some of them aren’t even completely draconian,” he said.
 
... and into the state pension morass

Yet our legislators can’t seem to come to agreement on what option to consider. It makes me think the Illinois Legislature is a perfect training ground for our Congress – particularly when it comes to political procrastination!

  -30-

Four days ‘til we fall off the cliff?

Will these people be able to reach agreement with the President?

We’ve had a lot of rhetoric in recent weeks about how we’re doomed financially. Our government in the District of Columbia is incapable of doing much of anything when it comes to compromise.

The dreaded “fiscal cliff” is just a few days away (Monday into Tuesday, to be exact). We’re going to see actions forced upon us that will drive our economy back into recession.

OF COURSE, THE ideologues (many of whom are among the hardest-core of those refusing to do anything) will try to claim it’s all Barack Obama’s fault! Which seems like what they really want to do – place blame on the president whom they didn’t vote for either time and are determined to see end his time in office in utter failure.

Those of us who are a little more rational in our thought process will realize that blame needs to be placed all the way around.

Yet I have to admit that my quarter-century of watching politicos as a reporter-type person has given me a perspective that has me thinking that all is not lost yet.

Because government officials tend to behave like “C-level” college students who insist in majoring in procrastination. How many papers do they write on the final weekend prior to its being due?

NOW THAT WE’RE approaching the final weekend before the deadline, this is the time period in which I expect to see any serious movement toward trying to reach a financial deal that would avert the significant tax increases that would be mandated unless officials can reach agreement on spending cuts.

The fact that any solution concocted during the weekend and voted on by Congress on Monday prior to that ball dropping in Times Square will be a rush-job will make it the equivalent of that college paper that ultimately got a “C” because nobody put any serious long-term thought into it.

Instead, it is just a short-term solution that likely will cause more problems than it resolves – even if it technically averts the fall off the cliff!

Not that I’m saying we should take the plunge and accept whatever hit comes along with it. We’re not Wile E. Coyote in the cartoons – we can’t get hit with an anvil and just bounce back into shape.

SO WE’RE LIKELY to get a mediocre solution put together – one bailed together with scotch tape (perhaps purchased from the “Scotch Tape store” from that old Saturday Night Live sketch?) that will make those of us who pay attention shudder.

While the masses just sort of shrug their shoulders and try to figure out how they’re going to pay off all those charge card bills they incurred during the soon-to-be complete holiday season.

Although I suspect the real motivation for many of our government officials will be to reach a solution that allows them to be out of D.C. and back home in time for whatever New Year’s Eve celebration plans they had in mind.

The only real fear is those people who are so stubbornly determined to do nothing. Because some of those ideological nitwits are more than willing to see everyone suffer around them.

THE THING IS the concept of the “fiscal cliff” is supposed to be a deterrent. It is supposed to be something so incredibly awful and horrid that political people would fear it. They would do anything to avoid it.

Yet those of us in Illinois see the way our redistricting goes – the process that ultimately gives control of the process to the winner of a random lottery.

Instead of fearing the prospect of getting nothing, political partisans greedily stand by their principles because they think they can win the lottery and TAKE EVERYTHING!!!!!

That same mentality is at work among some in Washington these days – and I’m sure they’re the only ones who enjoyed the New York Post front page on Thursday. That’s the one that figured out a way to get a picture of a girl in a bikini to illustrate the “fiscal cliff” story. Ugh!!!

  -30-

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Change isn’t always for the better, or worse. It just sometimes happens

The faces of the two major metro newspapers that are the skeleton of much of the information we get in the Chicago area are on the verge of changing significantly in coming months, and I’m trying to figure out if it’s evolution – or degradation.

The kind of people who are all too eager to see newspapers wither away because they think the Internet will offer sufficient replacement for information are enjoying this – they want to believe it is evidence that the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times will soon die off.

THEY’LL ALSO CLAIM that this is all natural in the way that people change with the passage of time – accept it!

But I can’t help but think many people don’t really get what is happening with the changes; the fact that the Chicago Tribune will drop use of the Associated Press and that the Chicago Sun-Times plans to have all the editors of its suburban newspaper publications centrally located on the banks of the Chicago River.

Personally, I’m not bothered by the fact that the Tribune is dropping a wire service – although I’ll be the first to admit that my personal bias (I’m a former United Press International newsperson and bureau manager who thinks that AP is overrated) may be coming into play.

Many newspapers are overly-reliant on AP wire copy to fill their pages. Yet the Tribune is the newspaper that has the largest (by far) staff to write stories, and also subscribes to so many other wire services that they’re still going to have a plethora of copy to pick from when putting a paper together.

I’M SURE THE massive AP ego that thinks it is all important is hurt. But I honestly don’t see the loss. In fact, the part of this move that I don’t comprehend is that the Los Angeles Times (also a Tribune Co. newspaper) feels the need to keep the wire service – even though they use it less than the Chicago Tribune does.

So I don’t believe all the reaction that has arisen on the Internet to this move – the idea that the Tribune will be sold off to a new owner who will immediately renew a subscription.

I fully expect that whoever owns the newspaper in the future will see that the pages get filled without all those wire service bugs (ie., AP) in the paper, and will see the expense as one that could be done away with.

If anything, it is the other move that I find more troublesome – the restructuring of the Sun-Times and all of its sister newspapers. Although I concede that it really does nothing more than take the actions of recent years to the next step.

FOR THE SUN-TIMES and the suburban newspapers have been sharing stories to the point where the bulk of the Sun-Times these days is filled with suburban briefs. Those suburban publications have the feel of suburban-zoned editions of the Sun-Times.

It’s like we don’t have to read anything like the Post-Tribune of Merrillville, Ind., or the Herald News of Joliet because if they come up with a worthwhile story, it will run in the Chicago Sun-Times as well.

Now, the editors of those suburban papers will be working out of the Sun-Times offices downtown. The reporters will still be in the suburbs, but there won’t be newsrooms. A lot of suburban reporters are going to feel incredibly isolated from their publications – which never does any good.

It all has the feel of the Chicago Sun-Times using its suburban publications (some of which have a century-plus of history in their communities) to prop itself up – such as trying to perpetuate the nonsense that the Sun-Times has a larger circulation figure than the Tribune.

PERSONALLY, IT FEELS like a mismatch and that the assets being shifted to downtown will wind up not fitting in.

Of course, considering how Sun-Times leadership always likes to talk about the need to shift to an emphasis on digital sources for information, perhaps they’re not really concerned about the mish-mash they’re going to create.

Because I suspect that when it comes to news media organizations, there are too many people who look to Newsweek – which published its last edition, but plans to continue to exist as a website – and are trying to think happy thoughts.

I wonder how long such a website can continue. Just as I’m curious to see how long the DNA Info and Reboot Illinois websites can survive economically – even if they do manage to create worthwhile news reporting.

THE SAD PART is that too many people don’t realize how inferior, or third-hand, the information is that they’re getting free-of-charge from other websites that don’t have their own newsgathering resources.

Let’s not forget the Chicago News Cooperative, which did very high-quality reporting and commentary during its two-plus years of existence – only to have it wither away because people weren’t willing to pay what it was worth.

  -30-

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

What is fair, when it comes to pension reform? Can Lege figure it out?

We have two weeks before the newly-elected Illinois General Assembly gets sworn into office. Although the real question is going to be if the current state Legislature will be capable of coming up with a solution to the problem of inadequate funding of pension programs.

Pension reform rhetoric will fill the air around the Statehouse in coming days. Whether that means a solution will be found remains questionable.

We have been told so many times that the pension problem threatens to take down all of state government because the shortfall has grown way too big. We fixed too many financial problems in the past by underfunding the pension expenses!

PERSONALLY, I THINK many legislators have grown immune to the harsh talk. They think, just like they do on many other issues, that the world can operate at their own snail’s pace. The fact that the General Assembly cut back the number of days it will convene before the transition shows it would prefer to do as little as it has to.

So I won’t be surprised if it turns out that nothing is accomplished on this particular issue prior to Jan. 9 – even though Gov. Pat Quinn has made it clear he wants this issue to be THE priority for the final few days of the old Legislature; which begin a week from Wednesday in the Illinois Senate.

A large part of the problem lies with the pension program that covers the retirement benefits of school teachers who worked for districts in suburban and rural Illinois areas.

Because a logical part of any solution probably is that the school districts should be providing for the pensions offered to the teachers who worked there – instead of having the state do it.

OF COURSE, THAT does not really fix the problem. It just shifts it off onto someone else!

And the school district officials across Illinois have made it clear they hate the idea. They are convinced (rightfully so, probably) that their own tax levies would have to be increased significantly for them to be able to have enough money to cover those expenses.

The Teachers Retirement System program estimates that taxpayers would have to come up with about $800 million more per year if such a shift were suddenly imposed.

That means property tax increases in the mid-2010s for many homeowners who think they’re already being overtaxed. It also means increased outrage from the public, which is the last thing many of our legislators want to incur.

SOME PEOPLE THINK that this can be imposed gradually – over a period of years. Which would create the illusion that property taxes are not increasing so quickly.

Even though the end result would be that $800 million hike by the time it’s all over.

I honestly think this is the factor that will keep legislators from doing anything. It won’t be “courage” to prevent a tax increase on their part. It will be “fear” of infuriating the constituents!

This is one of those instances where sitting back and doing nothing has the potential to cause problems. But political inertia is, all too often, what the Illinois General Assembly is all about.

OF COURSE, I also get amused whenever I hear the state legislators from Chicago proper complain about the REAL problem. That being that the Chicago Teachers Union came up with a separate system for funding pensions for retirees of the Chicago Public Schools.

Local property owners already cover those expenses as Chicago residents. But since they’re also Illinois residents, they also get hit with a tax levy that asks them to cover the suburban/rural teacher retirees as well.

Everybody wants to see themselves as a victim, and everybody else as the bully in this case. Although I’m sure if city teacher retirees were to get “their way” and the state had to cover city retirees too, we’d have all those rural residents claiming this as another example of Chicago “bullying” the rest of Illinois.

Confusing? Of course it is! I’m sure the legislators preparing for a return next week to the Statehouse are equally confounded – and unlikely to reach agreement on a solution to the overarching problem.

  -30-

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Holidays are meant to be enjoyed in real world, not on the Internet

Chicago's official Christmas tree. Photographs by Gregory Tejeda

If, by chance, you are reading this on Tuesday, all I have to say is, “Get a Life!” It's Christmas!

You need to log off your computer, or whatever other device you happen to be reading this weblog on – and get out into the real world on this holiday.

MAYBE I’M A bit too much of an “analog-type guy who sees all the flaws of the digital world that we’re all too rapidly becoming. But this ought to be that one magical time of the year when we get away from whatever screen we read or watch things off of to reflect upon the enlightened spirits in our lives.

The New Year holiday could be that moment of reflection – except that too many people are concerned with showing how much alcohol they can imbibe in to take such action seriously.

So for those of you who are celebrating, here’s hoping that you have a “Merry Christmas.” For those who don’t, I’m sure you could use a day off from the daily routines we all get stuck in.
 
The city's official Menorah remained in place even after Hanukkah was complete

For those who had their Hanukkah celebration a couple of weeks ago, I hope it was a very joyous occasion. I know it was for my father and step-mother and the other portion of my overall family who are Jewish.
Even political people felt the holiday spirit

AND FOR THOSE who came here to this weblog in search of commentary or analysis of Chicago, be rest assured that everything wrong with this city will still be here on Wednesday.

Any thoughts that could have been expressed here on Tuesday can wait a day!
 
I'm sure the people who want to go through life ranting against Rahm Emanuel or Barack Obama -- or crying over how the Chicago Cubs could be so awful for a century-and-still-counting -- will still feel their gripes just as intensely.

  -30-

EDITOR'S NOTE: For those of you who feel compelled to re-see Suzy Snowflake (my brother, Chris, usually makes a crude remark about her) and her black-and-white animated Christmas holiday friends, the Capitol Fax newsletter offers up a chance to reminisce about seeing them while watching Ray Rayner on early-morning television.
 

Monday, December 24, 2012

What kind of “God” do we back?

I wonder if the conservative ideologues of our society envision “God” as packing some sort of powerful pistol (or maybe an assault rifle) underneath his robes, with which he uses as part of his efforts to punish the wicked amongst us.

Personally, I find that image to be appalling – bordering on sacrilegious! But some of the nonsense-talk I hear on many issues makes me wonder.

WE DEFINITELY HAVE a difference of perspective amongst us when it comes to the concept of God and organized religion and its role on so many issues.

For when it comes to anything related to gay people, we often hear how religion is the reason why we should be opposed. Their behavior is an abomination, we’re told. It is the factor that will bring down the very fabric of our society.

Because, as we always hear from the Rev. Fred Phelps at his group’s outrageous protests and pickets outside of funerals, “God hates fags!”

Which is why I was pleased to learn of a group of clergy members – including many from Chicago – of many denominations who on Sunday came out in support of having the Illinois General Assembly pass changes in the law to allow gay couples to marry just like straight ones have been able to for generations.

THEIR LETTER, AS reported by the Chicago Sun-Times, said, “We dedicate our lives to fostering faith and compassion, and we work daily to promote justice and fairness for all. Standing on these beliefs, we think that it is morally just to grant equal opportunities and responsibilities to loving, committed same-sex couples.

“There can be no justification for the law treating people differently on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity,” the letter read.

Yet I notice that some of the responses I’m reading on the Internet to this action implies that these religious leaders are not being legitimate. If they were, they’d be opposes – is what the ideologues seem to want to believe.

It actually reminds me of an old Doonesbury comic strip in which the “B.D.” character is arguing with the “Rev. Scot Sloan” character about whether a “God of Compassion” or a “God of retribution” is more legitimate.

I’M NOT ABOUT to get into a theological dispute over whether God exists to punish the wicked. Although a part of me thinks that such a god is not one really worthy of our respect or worship. Maybe our fear and/or contempt, but little else.

But it has me wondering how the role of the clergy will play in the upcoming political debate concerning gay marriage – which in Illinois is likely to be a hot-button issue at some point during 2013.

I’m not about to say that only the absurd people who have managed to get themselves ordained as ministers are going around speaking out against homosexuality. We’re far from that point.

I don’t doubt that many of my fellow Catholics will come up with their own arguments – although it should be noted that there are many Catholics who disagree with the church’s official teachings on the issue.

BUT THE IDEA that the masses among the clergy are a little more concerned with equality, rather than punishment, is a sign that we really are changing as a society.

And maybe the Illinois legislators who are preparing to bring up gay marriage as an issue will actually have a chance in the near future of getting a favorable vote on the cause – which many people really view as being solely the business of the individuals involved; and no one else!

It may also be the reason why the ideologues who also are concerned about firearms and their all-consuming “right” to possession may be taking to that issue so much in recent days.

Why else would we have National Rifle Association officials going around talking about the need to have armed guards in the public schools, if not arming the educators themselves?

THEY REALLY DO think it would be an “ideal” if a teacher could pull out her pistol and shoot dead the mentally ill individual such as the man who walked into a Connecticut school building earlier this month and caused the deaths of 26 individuals.

Somehow, I’d like to believe that God almighty (in whatever form you conceive of him to be) finds that image to be as horrific as I do.

  -30-

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Daley for governor? I guess it’s time in the election cycle to spew this tale

DALEY: All talk for governor
I deliberately held off on considering William Daley for a day.

For I’m not swayed by the idea that the one-time Commerce secretary and White House chief of staff is actually going to run for governor of Illinois.

EVEN THOUGH HE told a business gathering this week that he’s “thinking about it seriously,” all I can help but think is that Bill Daley ALWAYS says he’s thinking about running for governor.

He lets the idea fester about for a bit. Then, he backs away. Between the son and brother of long-time Chicago mayors and Chris Kennedy (the JFK nephew who used to run the Merchandise Mart), I’m not sure which one gets his name tossed about more in the rumor mill as a prospective candidate for high political office.

It may well be Daley, since it always seems to be political operatives who drag Kennedy’s name into such discussions – as though we need to have the Kennedy “aura” in our local political scene.

Either that, or we want to cover up the fact that Rod Blagojevich came close to starting up a familial political dynasty of sorts. Ugh!!!

THE BOTTOM LINE is that I have lost count of the number of times that I have heard Bill Daley’s name tossed into the mix for Illinois governor. I remember hearing it back when I was a part of the Illinois Statehouse scene – and I made my return from “Springpatch” more than a decade ago.

At the time, the idea had an intriguing twist. Richard M. was Chicago mayor, and John had just returned to Chicago from an Illinois Senate stint of his own to serve on the Cook County Board.

What if John were to run for county board President, and William were to become governor? We’d have Daleys all over the place.
 
Patrick Daley Thompson (left) is more likely to be the next "Daley" to rise to high political office. Photograph provided by Metropolitan Water Reclamation District

More direct political control than old man Richard J. could ever have dreamed of having! It would be the ultimate fantasy for political geeks whose view of the world doesn’t venture any further south than Beverly.

ALTHOUGH I’M SURE there would have been those politically active people in other parts of the state who would have found the concept of a Daley-fest to be atrocious.

Heck, I’m sure Michael J. Madigan would have been equally repulsed. Because the long-time Illinois House speaker’s role in the Chicago political universe is to be the guy who keeps state government in line with the city’s needs.

And having so many Daleys would have interfered with the dreams of daughter Lisa to rise to a new level of political status. Although I have to admit the idea of a Daley versus Madigan primary for governor (if both of them actually went for it in 2014 would be intriguing.

A lot of political people would be forced to take sides in a way they never envisioned. The idea of having to pick between Obama and Hillary (like they had to in 2008) would be minor by comparison.

BUT IT’S NOT going to come to that. I’m pretty sure of it. Those of you who are desperate to have a “Daley” in a position of political authority probably should be following the governmental life of Patrick Daley Thompson – he of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District who may well rise to unheard of heights.

For the key is that we’re just a month past the 2012 election cycle. We’re as far away from 2014 as we can get. Which is why it is appropriate for Bill Daley to talk this fantasy. It’s the right time.

Once things get to the point where he’d have to actually do something real to achieve the goal, he’ll come to the same realization he always does – that he has bigger priorities than hustling for a political post that may come with a mansion.

But a nice house to live in just isn’t enough to entice him into the minutia of Illinois state government. I honestly believe Lisa Madigan is a more likely person to challenge Pat Quinn for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination come the ’14 election cycle – and even she may not want to tackle a primary fight that would definitely get ugly.

SO WHERE WILL Bill Daley be come Election Day 2014?

Probably tossing out hints about how he’s “seriously considering” a run for governor in 2018!

  -30-

Friday, December 21, 2012

End of the world? We can't be so lucky

Where do you read the date Dec. 21, 2012 in this?

If the conspiracy theorists (a.k.a., tin foil hat wearers, paranoid wackos) are correct, this is the last piece of copy I ever will write.

For the day has finally arrived on Friday that our society, our planet, our very sphere of existence, will come to an end.

FOR ALL I know, I wasted my time writing this, because you won’t be in any position to read it.

But I did take the time to write it, because I fully expect you to have plenty of time to read it. Along with all the other thoughts I plan to express during what remains of my life. Which I don’t expect to end anytime soon!

In short, I have always found a certain level of absurdity to those people who actually take seriously the idea that many centuries ago, the Mayans (one of the societies that have melded into the modern-day Mexicans) predicted that our world would end as of Dec. 21, 2012.

Of course, the people who interpret those round Mayan (whose own demise as a separate people came long ago) calendars to come up with Friday’s date are probably the same ones who can’t really read those Egyptian hieroglyphics. So we really don’t know much of what all those pharaohs of old were thinking.

BESIDES, IT WAS never really clear to me exactly what is supposed to happen Friday that will bring our society to its demise.

Earthquakes? A massive meteor smashing into our planet to knock it off its orbit just enough that it becomes uninhabitable?

And how long will it take? Will we suddenly just cease to exist? Or will it be one of those things that is nothing in the overall scheme of time, but seems like an eternity to us?

Which means that when we are still alive and thriving come 12:01 a.m. Saturday, the conspiracy theorists among us will probably come up with some picayune event that they say proves the truth of their beliefs – and that the end of the world has begun.

PERSONALLY, THERE WOULD be one advantage to having the end of the world at hand – we wouldn’t have to listen any longer to these paranoid people with their doomsday predictions. Because it’s not like they have some sort of secret rocket ship that will allow them to escape the demise of Planet Earth.

The idea of people who want to believe that one of those “X-files” movies gave their paranoid delusions credibility (by claiming that David Duchovny’s “Fox Mulder” character found the evidence that our government knew about the reality of Dec. 21, 2012 and was deliberately covering it up as part of a plot to hide the reality of extraterrestrial life) is something I could do without.

In fact, reading back that last sentence and what was forefold in that film shows just how absurd all this rhetoric is.

Because that film’s storyline is about as absurd as the reality espoused by the individuals who really believe that Friday has any real significance. Personally, the only significance to this date is that this weblog made it to the five-year mark in its existence.

BUT IF THIS date truly is the “end of the world,” then what’s the point? Somehow, I doubt the content of this weblog will be the one aspect of life on this planet that survives to be found by some future concept of life in this universe.

Which means that my real point is to mock the doomsday predictions, particularly in that no one followed the lead of “Dr. Strangelove” and came up with an underground bunker containing 10 women for each man to protect us!

Even that schpiel that computers would crash en masse on Jan. 1, 2000 had a tiny bit of truth to it – in that computer software can be so temperamental at times that nobody really knows what triggers a crash.

In reality, I expect Friday to be as uneventful a day as that one was (so uneventful that I can’t even recall what I did). Although it will be ironic for those people who pass away on Friday – because it WILL be the end of life as they knew it.

AND JUST IN the oft-chance that something cataclysmic does occur on Friday, I’ll leave you with R.E.M. and their song, “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I feel fine).”

It will probably be the only time in my life that I don’t find that song completely annoying to listen to.

  -30-

EDITOR'S NOTE: This commentary also will be published at The South Chicagoan, a younger sister (by three months) weblog of this site.
 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

EXTRA: How old is 5 in Internet yrs?

I enjoy this postcard image of the Chicago skyline, and think it a shame that modern-day shots of the skyline feel compelled to go out into Lake Michigan and shoot toward the west -- rather than look along the Chicago River to the east

This weblog turns 5 years old Thursday night – the “wood” anniversary, I’m told.

With this being the 1,847th post, I have to confess that the Chicago Argus has become a more substantial thing than I ever envisioned it would be on that evening a half-decade ago when I first created the site.

I THOUGHT I’D be doing the “semi-regular” posts that I alluded to in the introductory commentary on this site, and I figured it was a way to teach myself some new “computer-type” skills. I wasn’t sure if I could even keep the site going for a full year.

But from a personal standpoint, this site has helped keep me apprised to what is happening in Chicago largely because it requires me to pay attention to detail in a way I might miss otherwise.

And if any of my analysis has actually helped a reader comprehend why things happen the way they do, then perhaps there has even been a public benefit as well.
How little some things change, ...

I know for a fact that the biggest days I have ever had in terms of readership are the dates that coincide with the significant happenings in the investigation and prosecution of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

PEOPLE ON THOSE days were typing in his name to whatever search engine they could find in an effort to learn whatever they could about the man with the hair-do and the over-bloated ego whose judgment went al awry. Many of them were directed here!
... while others disappear completely

I also have to confess that the coming of Barack Obama (an official I first met on his first day in the Illinois state Senate) has helped to extend the life of this site. Because it gives the “Chicago” angle to many a national and international story.

So I’m not the only Chicagoan to benefit from having our city’s adopted son in the Oval Office. I don’t know what I’ll do four years from now when he finally steps down and has to focus attention on his presidential library.
I once parked atop 1st Base

Perhaps that will become a fight between interests on the South Side and Honolulu, and I’ll have to resort to following that. Along with the antics of Rahm Emanuel, the ongoing fight to replace Jesse Jackson, Jr., and whatever other scandals emerge from our public officials.

BUT CONSIDERING THAT this is Chicago and we can always count on an act of public policy insanity on the shores of Lake Michigan between Evanston and East Chicago, Ind., I’m sure I can keep this weblog running for as long as I have the energy.

So for those who actually bother to check in on a regular basis, I say thank you and hope you enjoy the historical video snippet featuring Gypsy jazz guitar player Django Reinhardt playing what is really our city's theme song (forget Frank Sinatra). For I know there have been many other websites that thought themselves serious news-related efforts that have come and gone during the time I have published this site about what I still consider to be “the greatest city on the planet.”

I feel fortunate to know that this weblog still has a life at 5. Although I’m wondering what that constitutes – Middle age, perhaps? – in Internet years.

  -30-
video
 

Political people all ‘talk’ these days about Connecticut. But will they learn?

One of many at half-staff
I’m having a hard time getting all worked up over the tragedy that occurred last week in Newtown, Conn.

Honestly. I hear all the political people at every conceivable level of government going out of their way to make statements about how horrific it is to have in excess of two dozen people (most of them young children) dead, and my initial reaction in every case is to think that the political people are being shameless in their efforts to gain themselves some favorable attention.

SOME MAY TAKE comfort in the idea that a government official who lives nowhere near Connecticut and has no votes to gain from the locals whose lives are directly impacted by the actions at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

But I see it as tacky, if not overkill.

A part of me wants to tell every politician who feels the need to build up their good will by drawing attention to the suffering of others to “stifle” themselves. Who said the “Archie Bunker” character didn’t have some redeeming value?

I’ve seen so many flags flown at half-staff, sat through several “moments of silence” prior to government board meetings, and heard several of the candidates wishing to replace Jesse Jackson, Jr., in Congress make their own appeals to remember the deceased in Connecticut.

I EVEN HEARD a clergy member start off a Cook County Board meeting this week with a reference to the Dec. 14 tragedy. “Today, we pray that we never see a day like last Friday,” said Monsignor Dan Mayall of Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral.

I fully agree. I hope we never see such a day again, as well. Then again, I’m honest enough to realize we probably will.

To the point where the name “Sandy Hook” is going to recede in our collective memories as a label that we know bears some significance – something “bad” happened there.

But we’ll probably have to look it up to retain the specifics. Just like “Aurora, Colo.,” “Columbine High School,” and “Hubbard Woods Elementary School.”

I THREW THAT last label in on purpose.
DANN: Too many similarities

Because it was at the school in suburban Winnetka that my mind initially revisited when I first heard last week of what happened in Connecticut.

For back in 1988, that was the school entered by Laurie Dann, a nice, sweet Jewish girl from the North Shore suburbs who – it turns out – was mentally unstable.

Her problems, however, were overlooked, and her actions rose to the point of entering that school building, walking into a second grade classroom and firing her weapons.

LATER IN THE day, she shot at another man she encountered, before she ultimately shot herself to death. Although her “reign” continued for days as packages started arriving at various places, loaded with edibles that had been laced with arsenic or other poisons – all put in the mail by Dann.

Laurie’s mindset on that fateful day (I was a reporter-type for the now-defunct City News Bureau of Chicago that day) was bent on a killing spree on so many fronts. Perhaps we should feel fortunately that she failed so badly.

I know some people are going to try to claim that these incidents have nothing in common.

Laurie only killed one student (while wounding about a half-dozen others), while in Connecticut, the body count of children is 20!

BUT THE SPIRIT is the same – a person with alleged mental instabilities walking into a school with firearms and deciding that children whom s/he had no personal tie to were somehow worthy targets.

The fact that Adam Lanza appears to have had access to a larger arsenal of weapons than Laurie Dann did doesn’t really make it any different. That is just quibbling over details.

Listening to political people try to speak about the issue in recent days has caused me to hear many officials talk about the need for greater restrictions on people with potential mental problems.

Particularly when it comes to their ability to obtain a firearm legally.

YET I RECALL the exact same talk occurring in the months following Dann.

Maybe I’m getting old. But it seems like all the handwringing we went through 24 years ago is resurrecting itself these days. The cynic wonders if we learned nothing from what happened in suburban Winnetka – assuming, that is, there is anything we could learn that could prevent such tragic incidents from occurring.

Which makes it seem like all the political posturing might be well-meaning rhetoric, but ultimately all for naught. More evidence that "talk is cheap" when it comes from a government official.

  -30-