Thursday, January 31, 2013

One more month for the “War of the Women” in Ill. 2nd Congressional

The political fight to replace Jesse Jackson, Jr., in Congress has really turned into a battle of women wishing to move up to the political world of Washington – although in one case it really is a desire for a political comeback.
HUTCHINSON: Big backing?

State Sen. Toi Hutchinson of Olympia Fields? Former state Rep. (and Cook County official) Robin Kelly of Matteson? Or former Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson of Crete?

NOTE THE KEY to their backgrounds is that they’re all suburban-based – which is really what the bulk of this particular congressional district is about. The fact that it was represented by a Chicago resident like Jackson for so long is the real anomaly.

Now I know some people who are following this particular campaign are going to complain that I’m missing the point in reducing the race down to these three candidates.

There will be 17 people to pick from for those people who show up at a polling place for the Feb. 26 Democratic primary special election (with another five people to pick from for those individuals who persist in using a Republican primary ballot).

And yes, there are some men who are worth taking seriously, on a certain level.

YET THE BIG surprise of this particular election cycle is that none of those men have done much to put themselves forward.

Personally, I thought state Sen. Napoleon Harris, D-Flossmoor, would have been more of a factor, in part because he has an ego and because he is the professional athlete (he played football with Oakland, Minnesota and Kansas City) with business interests who is capable of self-financing a campaign.
KELLY: She needs a political post

He could easily have forced his face into our political awareness, thereby giving himself name recognition. But he hasn’t. His silence (although some might consider it political good taste) has kept him from being a factor, and it wasn't the world's largest surprise when he dropped out on Wednesday to back Kelly.

Then, there’s 9th Ward Alderman Anthony Beale – whose campaigning has tried to make much of the fact that he’s the only candidate of significance who comes from Chicago.

AS THOUGH HE wants the Chicago portion of the Illinois Second Congressional district to turn out in such force that it overwhelms the rest of the district – which stretches from the Hyde Park neighborhood south to the Kankakee/Iroquois county line.

Just two problems. One is that the district’s population, at best, is 25 percent Chicago-based. It is true that the just over half of the district that is suburban Cook County based is more likely to be aligned with Chicago than rural Will or Kankakee counties.

But there’s a good chance that Beale – if he survives the ballot challenge now pending before the Illinois State Board of Elections – will be irrelevant outside of Chicago.

There’s also the fact that he gets bashed for his part of Chicago, which consists of the Roseland and Pullman neighborhoods; both of which are among the parts of the city that only locals bother to visit.

I KNOW ONE suburban official who openly says any political official from Roseland has no business representing anywhere else – on account of how much that neighborhood has declined.

And as for Mel Reynolds, I seriously doubt that former Congressman gets much more than the 1 percent of the vote that the bulk of the 17 candidates would consider a sign of overwhelming support.

Which is why we’re down to Halvorson, Hutchinson and Kelly – the latter of whom has some significant backing from Obama-type political people (although not the president himself).
HALVORSON: A comeback?

While Hutchinson managed to get the endorsement this week of Kelly’s former boss in Cook County, board President Toni Preckwinkle herself.

HUTCHINSON EVEN MANAGED to name six fellow state senators who support her, although that was likely in response to the fact that one-time congressional candidate Donne Trotter gave his support to Kelly – who is trying to turn this campaign into a single issue (firearms) one, but may find that she makes herself equally as irrelevant outside of her home base as the Beale campaign likely will be.

There also are people who are more than willing to give their support to Halvorson – not so much for the angle that many want to believe (the only white candidate in a 17-person field) because they actually like the idea of a member of Congress who wouldn’t be the ultimate political freshman.

Although a part of me still thinks that her support would have to come from the very people who dumped her from Congress in 2010 – most of whom think they achieved something of significance with her electoral loss and aren’t about to send her back to Congress under any circumstances.


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

EXTRA: Ryan released, sort of. His reputation is still on trial

“He has paid a severe price. The loss of his wife and brother while he was in the penitentiary, the loss of his pension, his office, his good name and 5 ½ years of imprisonment. Now near 80 years old, that is a significant punishment.”

Former Gov. James R. Thompson, speaking about former Gov. George Ryan


RYAN: His freedom will infuriate some
Why do I suspect that Gov. Thompson, now a high-priced attorney who has devoted a significant amount of his professional life in recent years trying to cleanse the reputation of his one-time running mate, is going to take more than his share of ridicule for that comment he espoused Wednesday morning?

Not that Thompson isn’t correct when it comes to the life of George Ryan, who has spent five-plus years in a federal corrections center, but was released to a half-way house in Chicago early Wednesday.

THE EARLINESS OF the hour of release was done most likely to avoid the circus of television cameras trying to capture the exact moment of release from prison for posterity.

So instead, what we’re going to get to see all day on television is the moment that Ryan surrendered himself Wednesday morning to the half-way house, a Salvation Army-type facility that is supposed to help prison inmates adapt back to life on the outside -- although Ryan himself was later released the same day; which is likely the ultimate evidence that he is NOT a hardened criminal element the way some people want to believe.

Of course, there will be those who will note that the official release date for Ryan is July 4, and they’re going to wish that he could spend every possible second in a prison cell.

There also will be others who will complain that even that date is too early for Ryan’s release. In short, there are some people who are just determined to be malcontents when the name of “George Ryan” is mentioned.

THOSE PEOPLE ARE the ones that Thompson was trying to get through to when he made his comment – which was the only spoken word Wednesday morning, since Ryan insisted on walking into the half-way house, accompanied by son George H., Jr., without saying  a word on his own behalf.

That’s probably to be expected. I don’t expect Ryan to be all that talkative in the near future. Certainly not as much as his gruff-spoken style when he was governor – where I secretly suspect he enjoyed the public attention that would swarm around him even though he would throw out the “grouchy grandpa” routine.

I write this particular commentary now to put myself on the record, of sorts, in opposition to all of the political trash talk that we’re going to read and hear on Wednesday and in future days.

For I’m sure there are those who will devote significant amounts of time to trying to ensure that Ryan’s reputation is never rehabilitated.

THEY HAVE THEIR own reasons, most of which I suspect are politically partisan, for needing Ryan to be the arch-villain of their lives. Even though I’d like to believe most people will see through this and grow tired of constantly being reminded how “venal” the former governor is.

Because no matter what the bulk of us believe about Ryan or his actions or whether they crossed over the line into criminal behavior, I’d really like to believe that we have our own lives to worry about.

And that the people who are going to persist in trashing George Ryan are probably telling us more about what is lacking in their own lives, rather than anything that is flawed about Ryan.


Will Lt. Gov. pairings resolve anything?

For a position that some people think means little and perhaps ought to be abolished, that of lieutenant governor often comes into play come Election Day.
QUINN: One of few to move up

Perhaps the true role of a second-in-command of state government (which in many ways overstates the position's place in electoral politics) is merely to muck up the election cycle and create headaches.

THE CLASSIC LIEUTENANT governor mess of Illinois government involves the 1968 election cycle when Republican Richard Ogilvie was elected governor. But back in the old days, there was no effort to pair up the top two positions in any way.

Which is how Democrat Paul Simon managed to get elected lieutenant governor.

People joke about how Rod Blagojevich went for years without speaking to his lieutenant governor (and now our current governor, Pat Quinn). But the Ogilvie/Simon years weren't exactly a warm, loving relationship either.

Some people bring up the most recent statewide elections, in which Scott Lee Cohen got the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor to run along with Quinn -- only to be pressured by the political powers-that-be into renouncing the post.

THAT'S WHAT HAPPENS when a divorce gets ugly and the stories start flying about -- as they did with regards to Cohen (who tried to run an independent campaign for governor later in the 2010 election cycle, but that went nowhere).

All this has our state's political people thinking that perhaps a change in policy needs to be made from the current status -- where a lieutenant governor hopeful runs on his own in the primary, but then gets paired up with the governor candidate of his party come the general election.

That change was made following the Ogilvie/Simon fiasco, when the candidates used to run separate all the way through.

The change being considered is that governor candidates would have to follow the lead of presidential hopefuls -- they would have to declare a running mate during the primary, then have that person's name appear on the ballot alongside theirs come Election Day.

THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY actually slipped this change into state law with few people noticing. In fact, I have to confess that I didn't catch on to the change until I happened to notice a recent column in the Springfield State Journal-Register newspaper that mentioned the change.

I'm sure some people think there is a logic to this change. A running mate is declared early on -- and everything is nice and clear.


I'm curious to know where we're going to come up with enough people to fill all the lieutenant governor candidate slots that inevitably will be created. Would we wind up with ballots with so many names on them that they'd resemble the chaotic mess of 17 names that currently exist on the Democratic primary ballot for the special election to replace Jesse Jackson, Jr., in Congress.

IN THE DEMOCRATIC primary, there's already talk that both Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and former White House chief of staff William Daley will challenge Quinn -- along with any other ambitious Democrat -- come the 2014 election cycle.

For the Republicans, we're likely to get a repeat of the half-dozen candidates who tried running for governor in 2010. Are there enough people willing to tie themselves to a specific candidate for a political position whose only duty is to be on hand to serve -- in the rare event that the "big guy" gets incapacitated, or impeached like Blagojevich?

Although such a change would eliminate the confusion of the 1994 Democratic primary when two women (Sheila Smith and then-state Sen. Penny Severns of Decatur) ran for lieutenant governor, with three major candidates going for governor.

Two of the governor candidates chose to align themselves with the women (Roland Burris and Smith, Richard Phelan and Severns), only to have the third major candidate, Dawn Clark Netsch, win the primary.

AMONG THE MANY problems that Netsch confronted during her eventual general election loss to Gov. Jim Edgar was that she was never able to shake the thought among many that her running mate Severns couldn't truly be supportive of her -- if she had aligned herself with the Cook County Board president's gubernatorial aspirations first.

Perhaps this change would eliminate the headache caused by such a result. But I can't help but wonder if this "remedy" is the equivalent of treating a headache with a baseball bat to the forehead?


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

EXTRA: Infuriating the ideologues

I always got a kick out of the presence of Ray LaHood in the cabinet of President Barack Obama -- largely because I knew how much his presence infuriated the conservative ideologues.
LaHOOD: A rarity in partisan politics

LaHood was supposed to be Obama's gesture of bipartisan cooperation when he put together his cabinet for his first term in office. He was, is, and likely always will be, a member of the Republican Party.

AND HE WAS a downstate Illinois presence in what some considered to be Obama's overloaded Chicago influence amongst his top advisers.

But the one-time member of Congress from Peoria who went on to serve as Transportation secretary was never the rigidly ideological type who would appease the conservatives.

Heck, he is a Republican official whom I have actually voted for (during my time working and living in Springfield, Ill., he was my member of Congress, as opposed to Bobby L. Rush now).

But he also was a chief of staff to Robert Michel back in the days when the congressman from Peoria was leader of the entire Republican caucus in the House of Representatives.

OF COURSE, MICHEL was never Speaker of the House of Representatives. He was the long-time minority leader, and it was his retirement that opened up the vacancy that allowed Newt Gingrich of Georgia to become House speaker.

Remember the Contract with America that pushed the ideological  agenda down the throats of the rest of the country? LaHood as a member of Congress thought there were portions that made sense, but others that did not.

He was one of the few Republicans back in that era who didn't sign the deal, and tried to be a little more rational rather than the rigid partisanship that Gingrich tried to enforce.

The result is that I know the ideologues who despised Michel always thought just as little of LaHood.

THAT SENSE OF having to acknowledge that not everyone is just like you, and that those people have just as much a right to expect something of the government as you do. It is an attitude that has been lacking in our political people in recent years.

Which is why I have been pleased with the idea of LaHood in the transportation position. Considering that Chicago, because of its location, is such a transportation hub, it has come across as pleasing that someone who comprehends our Midwest region would have a say in determining federal aid for highway and other transit projects.

But now, LaHood is leaving. He's 67, and it seems would like to retire. Besides, the mid-point of a presidency is usually when a lot of transition takes place (nobody except for Obama himself stays the entire eight years).

So learning that LaHood made it official on Tuesday that he wants to step down isn't a surprise. Particularly since he tossed hints out right after Election Day and Obama's victory last year.

LAHOOD WILL BE missed, even though I'm sure the ideologues will find a way to spew rancid rhetoric and trash his reputation.

Let's just hope that the real majority of our nation have enough sense to see through such nonsense-speak. And let's hope that Obama can come up with a new transportation secretary who can handle himself in as professional a manner as LaHood -- who has referred to himself as one of the highest-ranking Lebanese-American officials in government.


How reliant we are on computers

If you're one of those rare people who actually checks into this weblog on a regular basis, you will have noticed there was nothing fresh on Monday.

My days-old commentary about the coming of winter-like weather had to suffice for an extra day.

IT IS BECAUSE I experienced technical glitches so severe that I had to break down on Monday and spend some money in order to buy myself a new computer. My now-former laptop computer developed a glitch so severe that I could no longer rely upon it to write copy.

I could still scan the internet. But there were certain letters on my keyboard that no longer functioned properly.

Such as the letter "o," which everytime I hit that key would cause the keyboard to start spewing out an endless supply of o's that would have turned my thoughts into even more gibberish than they already were.

And yes, in this particular case, I know exactly what provoked my 3 1/2-year-old computer to crash. A few drops of Coca-Cola got spilled into the part of the keyboard where O, L and P congregate.

IT WAS ENOUGH to make my old device functionally useless and require me to buy my new HP-brand computer, which came already loaded with Windows 8 -- so I get an upgrade technologically for my moments of clumsiness last week.

As it was, I filed the commentary about winter weather from a computer at a public library -- which isn't something I relish the thought of doing on a regular basis.

Besides, too much of my living as a freelance writer requires that I have a functioning keyboard to grind out copy -- along with a reliable way of transmitting it via e-mail.

Which is a condition I suspect most of us deal with in our lives these days. In fact, it amazed me just how cut off I felt from the rest of the world during this past weekend with an inability to just log on to my laptop computer and check things out.

ADMITTEDLY, I STILL had a functioning smart-phone (one of those Nokia Lumia devices) that allowed me to continue to check my e-mail (which I rely on for work-related messages) and to do limited checking of the Internet.

Although off those dinky little screens, it becomes a pain in the buttocks to try to read anything of any length on any particular website.

As it is, this is the first piece of copy I am writing on my new machine. I'm trying to get the feel of how it functions, and my ability to grind out copy is definitely slowed as I try to figure out how all of this works.

Because this particular laptop computer actually looks more like my smart-phone. It seems like it is designed for people who want to view their machines as something to play with -- rather than just a tool to do actual work with.

THEN AGAIN, I always suspected that I was different than many people (particularly the younger generation) in that I'm interested in the actual content I'm viewing on this machine -- rather than spending time on the machine itself.

If all of this reads like I'm some sort of aging malcontent who can't quite get with the program, perhaps you're right. Because a part of me wonders how much different the next laptop computer I purchase will be from this machine.

It definitely makes me reminisce fondly of the first laptop I ever purchased -- one that I managed to get seven years worth of use out of. That is a statistic that manages to amaze every technological geek I ever encounter.

They seem to be too used to the idea of replacing something every couple of years.

ALTHOUGH I DO have to admit to one bit of pleasure from my new purchase -- the price.

For someone who can be a cheap as I can be at times, I was amazed at how inexpensive these devices have become.

Particularly since that aforementioned first laptop cost just over $1,000, while the second one (the one that died last week due to Atlanta's finest soft drink) cost me just over $600.

This one was about $475 -- and that includes a couple of upgrades to add memory, along with all the taxes that assorted county, state and federal entities added to my purchase.

WILL THE DAY come when I can get one of these overelaborate typewriters (I am old enough to remember when professional copy was typed out on actual paper, then mailed to a publisher via the U.S. Postal Service) for a couple hundred bucks?

Perhaps. But I'm also wondering if the day is coming when the machines will be designed to take my oral dictation and convert it into printed words; including all the "uhs," "ums" and "you knows?"

Somehow, it doesn't sound like progress to me.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Beginning to look like winter

When I got into my car and began driving Friday morning, I had an "experience" I hadn't felt in quite a while.

I tried making a left turn, only to find that I was out of control of my vehicle. I was slipping and sliding on the snow.

I'D LIKE TO think my driver education teacher of some three decades ago would have been pleased to see my reaction -- I took my foot off the gas pedal and kept my hands firmly on the steering wheel.

All the while trying to turn against the direction the car was sliding in, until I was finally able to straighten myself out. The whole thing took a few seconds, I didn't hit anything (or anyone) and I felt like I was in control of my car even though -- technically speaking -- I wasn't.

My point in reciting this moment from my life isn't that I'm one of these people who thinks the whole world ought to be obsessed with my life's every minute happening.

It's just that I can't remember the last time I slid on snow. Which means it was actually snowing.

ALL OF THOSE snowplows were out, public works crews of every sort were busy. Those stockpiles of salt were put to work.

Because early Friday, for the first time in 335 days, we got a measurable amount of snow -- 1.1 inches, according to the National Weather Service types based at O'Hare International Airport.

Heck, even the lovely ladies of The Weather Channel were astounded Friday morning to see actual snow in Chicago. We haven't had a measureable amount of the white, fluffy stuff since last February.

We definitely didn't have a "white" Christmas. All we've had are light traces that barely lasted a few hours, let alone the entire cycle of a day.

A PART OF me has been feeling paranoid because of the lack of snow this winter. This is the Great Midwest. It's supposed to snow.

WGN-TV's renowned meteorologist Tom Skilling told the Chicago Tribune that we'd have 18 inches of the fluffy (or sometimes slushy) stuff by this point in winter.

It all makes me wonder if we're going to get whalloped with a monster storm later this winter season that will do massive devastation to Chicago.

Maybe something along the lines of that Feb. 2, 2011 storm that dumped a foot of snow on us in a 24-hour period. Or perhaps worse, something that would make the story seem like gentle kisses on a cool, spring day.

I'D LIKE TO think the fact that we got hit with a noticeable snowstorm somehow lessens the chance we're going to suffer come February or early March.

I can handle my car sliding about a bit now. It's the way things are supposed to be this time of year. What we have experienced in recent weeks has been downright unnatural.

Heck, I haven't even minded the sub-freezing temperatures of recent days just because I realize if I had to have a mild winter, I'd give serious thought to relocating myself to Florida.

Where at least I could be on hand for the March ritual of baseball spring training -- which will be combined this year with the playing of the World Baseball Classic tournament.

COME EARLY MARCH, I likely will be intrigued by the performances of potential powerhouse teams from Cuba and the Dominican Republic, wondering how Mexico's national team will fare, seeing if the United States can finally prevail in the game invented here -- and wondering above all if anyone can defeat Japan (winners of the tournament the two times it has been played).

The last thing I'm going to want is to wish I were in Puerto Rico or Arizona -- all on account of being snowed in here in Chicago.


Friday, January 25, 2013

11 or 12 inches? It’s just a sandwich

I once worked in a bookstore – one of those places that stocked nothing but remaindered books.

The newest hassle?

Which meant that everything was marked down significantly in price compared to what it cost when it was brand-new and had promise of significant sales. In fact, the store (which has long since shuttered) had a giant sign on the front window promising up to “70 percent” off the book price.

NOW TO SOMEONE who enjoys books and the process of scouring for them, the joy of such stores is that you might actually find an interesting volume amidst all the junk that nobody wants – priced for about $6, compared to the $25-30 that new books go for these days.

That’s not a bad bargain!

Yet there’s always someone who’s going to find something to complain about with regards to just about anything. And I still remember the one customer who came into the store with a couple of books that were marked down to about $4 each, then tried to argue that the “70 percent” discount ought to be on the $4 price – not on the original price of the book.

In short, someone who had a chance to buy something for $4 (plus tax) was complaining because he couldn’t get it for $1.20.

THAT’S JUST BEING cheap and petty. I still remember the hysterics he went into when I refused to buy into his tightwad line of logic.

And somehow, that same sentiment is popping into my head when I read the reports in recent days about people complaining that a Subway Sandwich foot-long isn’t really a foot-long.

It seems somebody actually felt the need to take the tape measure to the completed sandwich – and came up with an 11-inch measurement.

There is now even a lawsuit pending in the Cook County Circuit Court, and attorneys are trying to get as many people as possible to sign on to make it a class action suit – in which Subway would ultimately have to pay out some huge sum that would be split equally amongst the participants.

THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES reported that an attorney actually believes customers are owed a refund for the one inch of sandwich they did not receive.

So for the $5 foot-long sandwich that Subway sells, that comes to about 42 cents per inch.

It sounds more like a bad Saturday Night Live sketch – a Subway executive being forced to write out $0.42 checks to people to reimburse them for the inch of sandwich they did not receive.

Or $0.21 checks if all they had was a six-inch sandwich that was probably closer to 5-1/2 inches long.

I UNDERSTAND THE concept of “Truth in Advertising” as well as anyone else.

But this seriously strikes me as somebody being excessively petty in the way they approach life.

Besides, anybody who paid attention during school ought to know about certain levels of shrinkage – which is why that bag of potato chips often appears only three-quarters full when you first open it.

And why a loaf of freshly-baked bread is never going to come out to a precise length – which, it seems, is the line of logic that the company is trying to use to defend itself against this talk.

PERSONALLY, THERE ARE other places I would go to if I wanted a fresh deli sandwich with all the trimmings. I’m fortunate enough to live near a real nice Italian-themed grocery store where I could get a good Italian-style sub, or an Italian beef, sausage or meatball sandwich – if I so desire.

But I actually worked in a Subway Sandwich franchise back when I was in high school, and the product they put out is passable – a mass-produced sandwich made to order.

With relatively fresh bread; although I understand that most Subway franchises no longer have someone doing what I did some three decades ago – standing in a back room at the meat slicer turning logs of genoa salami or entire hams into perfectly-thin slices for someone’s edible edification.

Still, how much can one expect if the primary appeal of Subway is that they’re promising you a $5 price above all else?


Thursday, January 24, 2013

How much is too much?

There used to be those occasional political fantasies about what our local scene would be like if Richard M. Daley were mayor, William Daley were governor and John Daley were in charge of the Cook County Board.
DALEY: Path finally clear for campaign?

Only the most politically parochial of Bridgeport neighborhood natives didn’t gag at the very thought of so much power being put in one family.

IN FACT, THE people who take seriously the thought that William Daley will run for governor of Illinois come the 2014 election cycle use as their primary talking point the fact that Rich is no longer mayor.

As though now it would be appropriate for the one-time Commerce secretary and White House chief of staff to assuage his own ambitions for an elective office (all of his political posts have been by appointment from Bill Clinton and Barack Obama).

So if even the Daley types realize there is only so much power that can be put into one person’s hands, then perhaps that ought to be a lesson that we all ought to learn from.

Such as the thought that Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan may be considering her own gubernatorial bid next year out of a belief that having a governor whom Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, would not see as a threat would mean we’d have a combination that would be capable of accomplishing things for the good of the people of Illinois.


This particular commentary was motivated by the Capitol Fax newsletter out of Springfield, where publisher Rich Miller used his website this week to askpeople if they thought a Madigan/Madigan combination was good for the state.
MADIGAN: Could '14 be a political family feud?

As of the last I checked, two-thirds thought it was not good, while one-third thought it was. And rather than post a comment on his site, I’m using my own weblog to issue my wordy, overwrought response.

The very thought of those latter people scare me even moreso than the guy whom the Springfield State Journal-Register newspaper captured on video at a recent Statehouse gun rally saying, “I am a gun-toting, God-fearing, Bible-reading Christian, let’s make that clear.”

THAT’S A LOT of contradiction crammed into one expression – which may mean he doesn’t have a clue as to what he really is.

But back to political power. Quite frankly, if the only way our government can work is if the deck is stacked, if the game is rigged, so that all opposition is weeded out, then it is a failure.

If anything, that is the very reason why I have always mocked that period from 1995-96 when all of the state constitutional officers and the General Assembly’s leadership were Republicans.

Because it became obvious back then on so many issues the only way they could operate on anything was if anyone with a difference of opinion were forced to just shut up about it!


And the idea that the only way the speaker of the House of Representatives will behave responsibly is if he has a vested interest in making his eldest daughter not look weak and foolish, then perhaps we ought to be looking twice at the long-time speaker’s conduct.

Even though he often acted like a buffoon, perhaps Rod Blagojevich wasn’t completely in the wrong with the way he tried to stand up to Madigan during their political brawls of the mid-Aughts that often bordered on deranged.

And perhaps instead of going around denouncing Gov. Pat Quinn as the least popular governor in the nation, we ought to consider that interference from his own political party ally is just as responsible for much of the nothingness our state government accomplishes these days!

THE IDEA OF a pair of Madigans is just a bit much – which may well be the reason why Lisa has not tried running for anything more than the attorney general post that she has held for three terms already.

Perhaps even she sees that the appearance of too much power in one family is gaudy.

Then again, there are some issues (including many of the social ones) in which the two Madigans disagree. It would be tragic if some of those causes were to suffer because “Mr. Speaker” felt compelled to let his governor-daughter know who the real boss is.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Electoral politics brings out the tackiest of gallows humor in some people

The next week is going to provide certain people amongst us with a field day for their sick, twisted jokes about our political state.
RYAN: Soon to be free (sort of)

You know who you are. The ones who can’t resist a chance to take a pot shot at former Gov. George Ryan and anyone else whose name they can manage to tie into his.

HOW MANY PEOPLE have derived a gag (and an attempted laugh) at the thought of Ryan and our other convicted former Governor, Rod Blagojevich, being cellmates or being assigned to some miserly duty in the prison yard?

That never happened – what with Ryan doing his time at the minimum-security work camp connected to the maximum-security federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., and Blagojevich winding up at that facility out in Colorado!

But it was this week that former political powerbroker William Cellini finally surrendered himself to federal officials, where he was then sent to the very same minimum-security facility where Ryan is being held.

For the time being.

YOU PEOPLE CAN have your jokes about how the mighty-and-powerful have fallen and are now sharing space in the same federal facility.

Perhaps it is a sign of how far the Republican Party has fallen, since back in the days when they were significant and Mighty! and capable of actually getting things done, it was with people like Ryan in charge, with people like Cellini using his business acumen to raise the money that those candidates used to pay for their campaigns.
CELLINI: Soon to be prison power-broker?

Which then made them indebted to Cellini – which was the source of his power. He had the ability to tell people with power how they should use it.

Now, they two of them are a punch line, rotting away at a Bureau of Prisons facility in a southwestern Indiana community where “God” is spelled “L-A-R-R-Y B-I-R-D.”

HE DID, AFTER all, play his college ball at nearby Indiana State University.

But back to Ryan and Cellini – who aren’t going to be prison-mates for long. For Ryan is on the verge of leaving the facility where he has spent nearly six of what should have been his “Golden” years.

Ryan’s prison term is scheduled to end July 4. But in accordance with standard prison policy, inmates can be released to a half-way house a few months early as part of an effort to re-acclimate those individuals to the outside world – which has changed quite a bit since Ryan went away.

And the Chicago Sun-Times reported recently that Ryan’s date for release – possibly to a facility on the West Side – is one week from Wednesday.

ALREADY, I HAVE been reading the gripes from those individuals who are determined to believe that any sort of release for Ryan is a political favor of sorts.

As though the only way those individuals will be pleased is if they learn of a report that Ryan was killed during a prison riot. Then again, they’ll probably gripe that it wasn’t violent enough.

If it sounds like I hold a lot of Ryan’s critics in contempt, you’d be accurate.

It just seems like certain people are determined to let their venom flow to extraordinary levels when it comes to our former governor from the Kankakee area. Which kind of saddens me.

THAT IS A lot of hatred they have built up, and it likely is preventing them from getting on with their own lives and achieving something of significance.

And while I’ll admit that even all these years later, a part of me is skeptical about the nature of the charges for which Ryan was convicted, I accept that a jury reached its verdict that has been upheld by various appeals courts.

Ryan did his time. Just as Cellini is about to do his (he owes the federal government about one year, and should be free by 2014). Those of us who feel compelled to spew disgust about this situation ought to look more intensely at ourselves.

For while I’m the first person to admit I can appreciate the humor of a tacky situation, the overkill we’re going to hear in coming weeks and months is something that will leave me in dismay.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Did Obama learn from 1st term?

The party’s over. It’s time to get back to work!

Literally, the inauguration that got spread over a two-day period is now complete. All of our Illinois public officials who felt the need to take a trip to the District of Columbia so they could bask in Barack Obama’s glory (including Gov. Pat Quinn and his possible 2014 challenger state Attorney General Lisa Madigan) need to return to the real world.

PRESIDENT OBAMA HIMSELF is going to have to jolt himself back to the concerns of public policy – because there are serious issues that need to be done.

Firearms seem to be a priority for everybody. For our state Legislature (or maybe even our City Council) may wind up having to take some action if it turns out that Congress is incapable of doing anything of significance.

Which will happen if Obama winds up letting himself get pushed by his ideologue opposition like he did for much of his first term in office.

For all the stupid-talk from those ideologues that Obama is some sort of subversive who stands against every ideal they want to believe this country is about, Obama’s real weakness was that he was at times too willing to make compromise with people who weren’t interested in it.

OBAMA THOUGHT HE’D be buying political good will from people who would then owe him something when serious policies came forth.

Instead, he only got those people all riled up because they took his talk of compromise and showed just how far removed it was from their ideal where they get all. And they weren’t about to credit him for anything he was willing to give that they desired in the first place.

Personally, I have always felt that Obama’s weakness is that one of his closest allies when he served in the Illinois state Senate was Kirk Dillard – the DuPage County pol with a sense of moderation on certain (but not all) social issues.

Perhaps Obama thinks that all Republicans are like the man who couldn’t even win the 2010 GOP primary for Illinois governor. Heck, not all Illinois Republicans are like that.

THIS LINE OF thought caused Obama to have to push aside certain issues and causes that were of a high priority to the people who actually voted for him in 2008 – and again last year.

Obama needs to “Praise Jesus!” that those people despised his Republican opposition so intensely in both election cycles. Because there are those who aren’t in love with the man, and are going to need to be swayed that their vote wasn’t a waste!

Such as the growing Latino population, which is going to be scrutinizing the president closely in coming months to see what he’s willing to do with immigration reform (he can’t postpone it indefinitely any longer) and with his cabinet appointees.

Since he’s now in a situation where he has no Latinos advising him in those top posts. That is a situation he’ll have to rectify – or else!!!!!

AND BACK TO firearms. I realize that the National Rifle Association is spending big bucks on its lobbying efforts to encourage political people to ignore the realities of violent outbursts in public and buy into the reality that a hunter needs to have an automatic rifle when searching for game.

I always thought the point of hunting was to show one was such a good shot that they could kill an animal with one clean shot – instead of needing all 30 rounds in the clip of an AK-47 in order to get one good shot!

But nobody wants to hear that the NRA can’t be overcome. If anything, the majority that twice has put Obama in office did so specifically because we want him to stand up to such people.
ROMNEY: Does anyone care what he did Monday?

There are so many issues like this that will confront our federal government in coming years.

FOR AS MUCH as I often rant and rage about the need for bipartisan compromise, the reality of today is that the ideologues who tried to write history so that the 2010 election cycle (all that trite Tea Party talk) was NOT the aberration that it truly is are going to have to have someone stand up to them.

You had your parties on Sunday and Monday, Mr. President. The quirk of Inauguration Day coming on a weekend gave you an extra day of celebration.

Now, it’s time to see the president and his advisors get back to work. The people are counting on it.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Will the Chicago Cubs try playing nice with image of Sammy Sosa someday?

I must confess to always having been confused about the way Chicago Cubs fans react toward Sammy Sosa and the memory of his career as a professional ballplayer.

He was “God” in this town at one time, second only to Michael Jordan. He was even the big superduperstar of Chicago who brought glory upon all of our city from baseball fans around the globe.

THERE WERE THOSE who back then talked trash about Sosa’s legacy – although those people were usually dismissed as bitter Chicago White Sox fans who couldn’t stand the fact that Sammy’s home runs and Chico Escuela-inspired routines were putting all the attention on Chicago’s other ballclub.

Now, just about everybody wants to talk trash about Sosa – who in his first round of being on the ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame only got 12 percent of the vote (far short of the 75 percent standard required for induction).

The annual Cubs Convention held in January to build up interest and inspire people to keep buying tickets to ballgames hasn’t included Sosa in its program since he left the ballclub after 2004 – or baseball overall following 2007.

Which is why I found it intriguing that Cubs team Chairman Tom Ricketts made comments on Saturday implying that the day will come when Sosa will be rehabilitated enough to be allowed to appear in public on behalf of the ballclub.

HE TALKED OF “put(ting) this chapter to rest” and “welcom(ing) back” the guys who played professionally back in the era of a decade ago – which is one we now suspect involved many ballplayers using anabolic steroids to bolster their strength and skills on the playing field.

Ricketts even told reporter-types how “maybe it’s an issue we pick up this year” to make it possible for Sosa to be seen in Chicago without inspiring the contempt of Chicago fans.

Or at least those who persist in root, root, rooting for the Cubbies. White Sox types are going to grouse no matter what anybody says – in part because they remember just how mediocre and ego-bloated he was during those couple of seasons he played at Comiskey Park (and later complained that the ballpark was too big for his style of play).

Personally, I believe the White Sox are going to be a factor in how seriously the Cubs go about trying to rehabilitate Sosa’s “good” name.

FOR NEXT YEAR will be the first season that the other BIG name of Chicago baseball from the 1990s gets consideration for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

That would be “the Big Hurt” himself – Frank Thomas – who may never have hit 60 or more home runs in a single season three times like Sosa did, but had his share of power combined with the ability to hit for a decent batting average AND not strike out so often.

There are those who think Thomas, along with Atlanta Braves pitcher Greg Maddux are the likely Hall of Fame inductees for 2014.

You just know the Cubs-types are going to become infuriated at so much attention being paid to a White Sox star (and two-time Most Valuable Player), along with the reminders of how Maddux got away because the Cubs didn’t want to pay him – allowing the Braves to get all those seasons of Cy Young Award-quality play as they repeatedly contended for championships.
Who was Chicago's big baseball star of the '90s?

THE CUBS ARE going to need to resurrect what WAS unique about them back in the 1990s to counter that. And that is going to mean looking back fondly on the “fun” of that era when Sosa put on such a spectacle that people felt the need to go to Wrigley Field.

I don’t expect the Wrigley crowd to start openly admitting that the best Chicago ballplayer of the ‘90s played the bulk of his career at 35th Street and Shields Avenue.

A fact that, for the time being, too many people seem determined to cover up in the same way the Soviet Union of old used to like to rewrite their history to get rid of the moments that didn’t fit in with the image they preferred to project.

Let’s be honest. There is a whole generation of people who felt compelled to go to Cubs games solely so they could say, “I saw Sammy Sosa hit a home run!” A fact they now utter with a mere whisper.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

And da winnah is, Da Sun-Times?!??

I can remember being a brand new reporter-type person back in the late 1980s and talking with some of the long-time (and now retired, and in some cases, deceased) veteran reporters of the Chicago Sun-Times when they would speculate on their publication’s fate.

Whose news box will prevail?

They seemed to think back then that the Sun-Times would be a product of the 20th Century that would no longer exist once we passed over into the new millennium.

YET NOW WE’RE one-eighth of the way into the 21st Century. All that transition into a new millennium talk seems like a life-time ago. And yet, we still have the Sun-Times with us – albeit in printed editions that now only get as fat as the paper used to be scrawny in the old days.

And I wonder how those old Sun-Times vets would react to not only seeing the newspaper still alive, but to the Crain’s Chicago Business report on Friday that indicated the Sun-Times ownership was talking about purchasing “assets” belonging to the Chicago Tribune.

Of course, Crains’ report was purposely vague as to what was meant by “assets.” That could mean anything from some websites that deal primarily in advertising to some of the newspaper or broadcast properties that Tribune officials are expected to try to sell off later this year as part of their way of becoming a financially-solid company.

Could we really get the day when WGN (either television or radio) is a sister property of the Chicago Sun-Times? Would they take on the monicker of the World’s Greatest Newspaper that those broadcast call letters perpetuate?

OR WOULD WE really get an effort by the Sun-Times to purchase the Chicago Tribune itself?

Sister newspapers published in coordination with each other? Or just buying the Tribune so as to fold it and eliminate the competition?
Whodathunk a quarter of a century ago that the great winner and new heavyweight champion (or are modern newspapers bantamweight instead?) of the Chicago newspaper wars would be the Sun-Times? It’s a thought that leaves me staggering with a headache.

Talk about an unpredicted outcome!

NOW LIKE I stated before, the report in Crain’s was purposely vague because Sun-Times officials are being vague. In fact, it may well be possible that this is just cheap trash talk by Sun-Times executives who want to make the Tribune types wet their pants a bit at the very thought of becoming merely a part of Wrapports – the Chicago-based company that now owns the Sun-Times and always engages in high-minded talk about how they’re going to turn the newspaper reporting assets to bolster a digitally-based media company.

This may be the ultimate evidence of talk being cheap.

Although it also has me wondering what will become of the high and mighty Tribune – whose cornerstone of the gothic tower along Michigan Avenue reminds us that it has been in place since 1847 and probably thinks it will outlive the city of Chicago itself!

Sold to the Sun-Times? Or is there anything to all that rumor-mill rumblings that Rupert Murdoch might actually consider purchasing the newspaper.

HE IS THE man who already owns the Wall Street Journal (along with his New York Post) and who allegedly believes that having the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune all aligned together would give him the basis of a truly national news brand in this country.

Which was the reason that the Tribune types themselves bought the old Times-Mirror Co. a decade ago – thinking that having the Times and Newsday in New York’s suburbs would give them a combo in the top three U.S. media markets.

Would that be enough to get a whole slew of Tribune types to jump ship and try to hook on at the Sun-Times – to avoid having to work for a Murdoch-owned publication? Or have times changed enough that no one would care that the Tribune would shift from being the sister newspaper of WGN-TV to being the sister publication of WFLD-TV (which originally was created to be the television counterpart of the Sun-Times).

I don’t know what the outcome of all this is going to be. Although it won’t surprise me if whoever does wind up taking on the Chicago Tribune will have some vision similar to the Sun-Times types – taking all those reporting assets and archives and trying to put them to use on the Internet.

THERE IS VALUE in all that information – no matter how many advertising-oriented dinks want to view the news “content” of a newspaper as space-filler in between the girdle ads.

About the only thing I am sure of these days is whatever the outcome of the Tribune (and Sun-Times) ownership situation turns out to be, it will be some status that – back when I was a beginning reporter-type for the now-defunct (and sorely missed) City News Bureau of Chicago – none of us could have dreamed of a quarter-of-a-century ago.