Saturday, May 31, 2014

Did someone collect $ off my mother?

I remember when my mother died just over three years ago, my brother and I took it on ourselves to contact as many entities as we could to inform them of her death.

Since our mother had serious health ailments and her medical expenses were covered by Medicaid and Medicare (the last decade of her life, she was kept alive by three-times-a-week kidney dialysis treatments), that meant calls to federal and state entities.

WHO TOLD US it would be unwise to immediately cut off any accounts related to her. After all, she received medical treatments literally up until the day she died.

There were bound to be some medical bills not yet submitted that would have to be covered. Unless my brother and I were prepared to pay for those treatments (which I seem to recall had a price tag of about $1,000 per each three-hour treatment, plus the unexpected costs).

For several months thereafter, a card would come every month in the mail addressed to my mother – the card that gave her account numbers for Medicaid and Medicare and showed she was covered.

Even though our mother was gone. She remained “alive” in the system for technical purposes.

I HADN’T THOUGHT much about it in recent months. At least not until this week, when I learned of the Illinois auditor general’s office’s review of the Illinois Department of Health and Family Services.

Each state agency and program gets audited every two years. This time, they found that some 8,232 people were still on Medicaid rolls – even though they were deceased.

In some cases, people who were already dead were signed up for benefits through a state managed care program.

The audit found 561 cases of dead people for whom benefits totaling $7 million were paid out.

THE AUDITOR DID its study by comparing the Medicaid rolls as of last June to the list of Public Health death records dating back to 1970.

In one case, they found someone who died in 1989, but received $29,860 in benefits for hospital, lab and dental bills incurred between 2005 and October of last year.

To the state’s benefit, they’re now contacting the entities that were paid the money, and they say some $11 million will be repaid by the end of this year – with about two-thirds of that money already repaid.

Yet the whole thing does make me wonder.

NOW AS FAR as I know, nobody made any money off my dead mother that they weren’t entitled to for the medical care she received during her lifetime.

Although the whole process and how it could linger on for so long gives me reason for concern. To this day, there are bits of mail that come addressed to my mother, including the one that showed up Friday from the Globe Life and Accident Insurance Co. that offers her a chance to buy a $50,000 life insurance policy for as little as $2.17 a month.

Most of them are like that; junk mail solicitations that I suspect she would have laughed at before throwing away, if she were still here with us.

But even by scam standards, trying to make some money off the rolls of the dead is just a bit too garish to contemplate.

IT WAS HARD enough to have to watch my mother at the end, particularly when her eyesight got worse, she had problems walking (my brother and I still have the walker she used occasionally).

The idea that I’d have to relive those memories of her physical deterioration because someone might still be getting a few bucks off of it is just too much to bear.

And even if it turns out (as I suspect) that my mother isn’t among the people whose records got searched by the auditor general’s office, it must come as a blow to those people whose loved ones are on the “list,” so to speak.

We ought to just let them Rest In Peace, even on future Election Days when some might try to rely on their ballots for political victory.


Friday, May 30, 2014

EXTRA: From 3-1 to 3-3; What a difference three days can make!

Wednesday night, the Chicago Blackhawks had just a few minutes left of play and were down to the Los Angeles Kings – who may be a completely-competent hockey team.

It looked like the end was near. The shame of it all to have the mighty Blackhawks of the 2010s have their dreams of being remembered as one of the elite hockey teams of all time get squashed by such a sissy city – one where hockey isn’t even part of the social equation.

BUT WE ALL (or those of us who care) know that the Blackhawks managed to tie up that game, then win in double-overtime. The Blackhawks then came back Friday night to again beat the Kings.

4-3, with the winning goal coming with about three minutes left in the final period.

The final game of this round of the playoffs will be Sunday at the United Center. Any advantage the Kings had with a 3-1 edge is gone. The two teams are tied. Sunday is a winner-take-all situation.

If anything, this is one of those moments where I wish we could have the stadia of old. Just think how raucous the scene would be at the old Chicago Stadium. The echoing of the capacity crowd and that old pipe organ built right into the structure would have created a truly intimidating production.

ONE THAT I just don’t see being fully created at the United Center, which in some ways feels more like it belongs in a floofy city such as L.A.

Now I’m not the biggest of hockey fans. I’m sure anyone who really comprehends the game would quickly come up with enough trivia questions to expose my ignorance.

But I can appreciate how special it would be for the city’s pop culture image if the Blackhawks were to win their third Stanley Cup championship of this decade. And for that of the Blackhawks, who despite being an 88-year-old franchise and a part of the “Original Six” of the National Hockey League had only three league championships (1934, 1938 and 1961) during the rest of their history.

It is something to be enjoyed. Because this may well be the highlight of the Blackhawks franchise during our lifetimes.
The old building will be missed Sunday

AND IF IT turns out that we get a Stanley Cup finals this year of the New York Rangers (who have already qualified) up against the Blackhawks, it will be a good ol’ fashioned Chicago/New York brawl.

Do you really think New York/Los Angeles would be any more intriguing? Except that it would show us the degree to which the sporting fans of that California city are more interested in the Laker Girls than anything else!


Getting fined for posts on Facebook? Could be the wave of the future

A woman living in suburban Bolingbrook could be the first of many who will face fines because they couldn’t control what they decided to post about themselves on Facebook.

Actually, in this instance, the woman won’t face a fine because officials with the Will County Forest Preserve District decided to rescind the ticket they initially issued her – one that called for a $50 fine.

BUT THE FACT that someone reading a Facebook page who was in a position of authority decided that something posted there could be worthy of some form of discipline could be something we see more of.

And it’s likely that in the future, some official won’t back down from insisting on collecting a fine. Some municipality is bound to think they need the money badly enough to want to have someone scour through Facebook in search of something that could hint at a violation.

One that needs to be punished!

“Big Brother” really is watching you! Even all the stupid, trivial things you elect to post on your Facebook account page.

PERSONALLY, I ONLY use Facebook to promote this weblog and its sister site. Anybody reading my page is only going to get tidbits about what is published here. Along with the occasional comment my aunts in the greater Minneapolis, Minn., area decide to post.

Although I suppose someone offended by my opinion could try to harass me in the same way. Not that I’m overly concerned about what some anonymous crank thinks of what I choose to write.

But the larger lesson is that Facebook does put our comments out there to a wide audience – many of whom are people we don’t know. That’s kind of the whole point of the concept – which is why I don’t post much personal material beyond what I write here.

It’s kind of like asking the local police to prod in your life, which is what happened to the Bolingbrook woman.

THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE reported Thursday now the woman got a $50 ticket on May 20 because of a comment she posted on a page related to the Whalon Lake Dog Park in Bolingbrook.

There have been problems at the dog park related to “kennel cough” being passed around area dogs. The woman, according to the Tribune, posted a comment saying she hadn’t bought a permit to use the dog park this year, but wrote it in a vague way that could be interpreted to say she had used the park.

One forest preserve district read the comment, passed it along to a superior, and then the ticket was issued.

It seems the woman hasn’t been at the dog park this year, so the ticket for using the dog park without a permit turned out to be premature.

THE DISTRICT’S POLICE department said it is reviewing its policies, while saying it does not plan to routinely monitor social media accounts. They also say there are no plans to discipline the officer who issued the citation, or any others involved, because they tell the Tribune there were “good intentions” involved.

But what happens when we get a governmental entity that isn’t quite so understanding about the concept of social media and a person’s desire to express themselves?

Will we someday get overzealous officials who view social media comments the same way they now view traffic violations – as something to be routed out in great numbers so that citations can be issued and fines can be collected.

People should keep this in mind, and perhaps learn to be overly precise in what they write. Because even though they think they’re writing for a select audience of like-minded people, other people are reading. And reacting.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

State budget issues likely to linger, but pop and cupcakes get addressed now

The best I can tell as of now, the Illinois General Assembly is going to approve a financial concoction for a state budget that will require them to come back later (perhaps during the fall veto session) to take actions that will prevent the state from developing long-term difficulties.

Pay off the Legislature in cupcakes
The bottom line is that our state officials are too preoccupied with Election Day factors to want to take a firm stance now. They want to put off until tomorrow what they should have addressed years ago.

NOW HAVING FOLLOWED the activity of state government for just over two full decades, I’m used to the concept of the Legislature thinking it can postpone problems until it is more comfortable dealing with them.

Which is why I find it comical to see what issues do become priorities for the General Assembly to deal with.

It literally came down to pop and cupcakes earlier this week. Both came before the Legislature, although the issue of carbonated soft drinks is one that will continue to come before the Springpatch set in future years.

These are the issues that the legislators are comfortable dealing with, while pushing off the complicated stuff that is going to get them negative attention no matter how they vote.

ALTHOUGH I SUSPECT that even doing nothing will get them a negative blast.

But back to cupcakes and pop. The state Senate addressed the former issue, while the Illinois House of Representatives became involved with an overly complex handling of the latter.

Art? Or new source of income from taxes?
The whole cupcake issue was motivated by a kid in the Illinois-based suburbs of St. Louis whose attempt to sell cupcakes got shut down by county health authorities because she was baking the products in her home kitchen that was never inspected to ensure there were no health code violations.

The bill sponsored by state Sen. Donne Trotter, D-Chicago, would have set up certain requirements so that people could operate bakery-type businesses from home if they register their kitchens and take a course in food sanitation.

BUT THAT GOT the ideologues amongst us all upset, saying they didn’t like the idea of requiring little kids to license their lemonade or cupcake stands. They banded together to kill the bill.

Statehouse priorities?
Which had some people saying the Legislature was abusing those kids with their stands. State Sen. James Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove – who also is Republican nominee for U.S. Senate – said he saw such kids as entrepreneurs. Which would make the concern for health issues an anti-business bill.

That caused the Illinois House to reconsider the bill with various amendments stripped out.

That finally got passed! Our Legislature took up the cause of a 12-year-old from Troy, Ill., so she can peddle cupcakes. Good for her.

THEN, THERE WAS the Illinois House, where a committee studied the issue of taxes on pop. A bill called for a one-cent per ounce excise tax increase on carbonated beverages. Which would drive up the cost of a bottle of pop.

It seems there are those people who want to treat pop the same way that cigarettes get treated – tack on so many taxes that the price shoots so high. If it winds up discouraging people from reaching for that extra can of pop like it sometimes keeps them from buying an extra pack of cigarettes, they see a purpose.

The House committee rejected the bill. Which means the idea is likely on the perpetual cycle of issues that will come up each year before the state Legislature.

Just like the budgetary problems that are likely to be deferred. Although why do I suspect that pop taxes will be solved before the state’s financial problems?


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Smith trial; it’s about time!

Wednesday’s the day that jury selection is supposed to start for state Rep. Derrick Smith, D-Chicago.

SMITH: Dirksen Bldg., rather than Capitol
He’s the West Side-based legislator whose presence in the General Assembly has been an embarrassment to the powers-that-be, and whose timing of his trial has also managed to complicate things.

DERRICK SMITH IS going to be remembered by political observers far longer than his accomplishments in the Legislature would merit.

Smith is the legislator who faces federal charges in U.S. District Court because of a letter of recommendation he wrote on behalf of a day care center operator who had applied for a $50,000 state government grant.

Prosecutors contend the only reason he wrote such a letter was because he was given a $7,000 cash payment. A simple matter of bribery – although Smith contends he was merely offering support to someone who wanted to locate a needed service in his district.

It will be up to a jury that has yet-to-be-picked to decide whether Smith’s account has any legitimacy, or if he was just trying to enrich himself with some extra pocket cash.

THE ACTUAL CRIME for which Smith is alleged to have committed is petty. Even taking into account that the actions for which political people often are convicted don’t amount to large amounts of money, this incident is unmemorable.

But Smith will get remembered because he just won’t wither away.

COLEMAN: Will have Smith's attention
He’s the guy who got kicked out of the Legislature back in 2012 – just over a year after he was originally appointed to fill a vacancy in the Illinois House. His colleagues overwhelmingly decided he was a disgrace to their collective reputation – which is saying something significant considering some of the clowns who have served there.

But he managed to get re-elected in the 2012 general election cycle – on account of the fact that his name was already on the ballot. And for whatever you want to think about idiotic voters in the district casting a knee-jerk vote for the Democratic Party’s candidate, the other candidates on the ballot really weren’t any better.

THE VOTERS CHOSE to stick with the political organization they were used to, rather than let Republicans play ideological games with their West Side legislative district.

MADIGAN: Down a vote
But it still creates the laughable condition of an indicted man getting re-elected to office. The pathetic part, however, was that it took federal prosecutors so long to get this case to trial that he served just about the entirety of that term in office.

He was even on the ballot back in the primary. We could have repeated this whole condition.

Insofar as Smith himself, he falls into the masses of the Legislature. I generally find that there are about 20 to 30 members of the General Assembly (177 members total) who have some special skill or knowledge to be notable. The rest, like Smith, take up space, and cast votes when needed.

WHICH EXPLAINS WHY Smith’s name cropped up into the news in recent weeks. He actually wanted a delay in his Wednesday trial date. The Legislator’s leaders wanted him to be available for the entire week so he could cast his vote on efforts to pass a state budget and determine how funds will be raised to pay for things.

It was presumed that Smith would be a reliable vote for whatever it was that Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, wanted done.

But that’s not going to happen. U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman made it clear she expects Smith to be in her courtroom on Wednesday. Although considering how confused the political people are as to what they will do, I don’t think Smith’s absence will make a difference.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Is Chicago a tyrant for wanting to ban the taking of up-skirt images & video?

It is an argument I hear occasionally from people with conservative beliefs on social issues – the problem with government trying to regulate our lives is that every time they pass a new law, they manage to steal another piece of our freedom.

Protecting us from perversion? Or hurting our rights?
As though the theoretical version of paradise is no government, and people having the ability to do whatever they want without risk of prosecution.

OF COURSE, THE more rational of individuals realize that government serves as the balancing act, of sorts, to ensure that one person’s pleasure isn’t someone else’s horror.

That certainly is what will be at stake when the City Council meets on Wednesday and includes among their activity a measure meant to protect the women of Chicago (and those ladies who choose to visit our fair city) from having their most private parts placed on the Internet for perverts of the world to view.

It got some ridicule and derision last week when a council committee reviewed an ordinance that includes up-skirt photographs and images among the list of things that can be considered an invasion of privacy.

Some may want to think that this is political people getting worked up over a non-issue. Others may actually think it is their right to take pictures up the skirts of women who happen to catch themselves in a moment of indiscretion.

ACTUALLY, IT’S ABOUT taking into account the fact that some people who try to get these pictures are of the approach that they’re somehow entitled to make some money off of someone else’s exposure.

These are the people to whom I want to scream, “Get a Job, you Loser!!!!” Of course, they probably think the rest of us are “suckers” for working for a living.

Aldermen in recommending the measure pointed out the fact that these up-skirt pictures that will soon become a criminal act have value for the people who take them.

Sure enough, look up “Chicago upskirt” on a search engine and you’ll find a string of websites that feature video snippets and still photographs that seem to be taken by people who hang around underneath staircases (think “el” trains and the stairs leading to lower Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive) with cameras ready.

PERSONALLY, I FELT a tad sleazy looking at these images, which seem to grasp the attention of those amongst us who get a rise out of a few seconds glimpse of panties – or no panties in some cases.

Then again, being in the news-gathering business, most of the up-skirt shots I have seen in my lifetime were those taken by photographers at basketball games who happened to be positioned near the cheerleaders. The pursuit of the perfect view of a player stuffing a ball also produces the occasional shot of a cheerleader with her skirt flopping up over her waist.

Those, of course, become images that never actually make the newspaper.

Personally, I feel a bit stupid that our City Council is compelled to have to pass an ordinance on this issue. It ought to be a common-sense idea that taking pictures up a woman’s skirt without her consent is downright creepy.

THEN AGAIN, WE have a society with some fairly creepy elements. Let’s hope we’re able to get this particular measure approved by the aldermen without anyone making some sort of stink that claims supporting the would-be photographers amounts to “freedom” and the “American way.”

But I’m also realistic enough to know that some people will try to find a loophole to try to get around it.

What happens on windy days when a sudden gust blows a woman’s skirt up in public and we get the perfect glimpse of her panties? Will we now get would-be photographers whipping out their camera-equipped phones in search of the “money shot?”


Monday, May 26, 2014

EXTRA: It’s all a matter of perspective

Five dead. Or was it six?

Fifteen wounded. Or was it really 10? Or should we be adding another three people who took hits Monday morning?

IT’S ALL ABOUT being able to offer up a holiday body count this Memorial Day holiday weekend. As though people will find it significant to know how many people got caught up in the crossfire; and how fortunate they were to not be among them!

It actually reminds me about my old City News Bureau days knowing that holiday weekends required a special duty – calling up assorted police departments every three hours to put together a running list of how many auto accidents had occurred, along with how many people had actually been hurt or killed.

It makes me wonder if I were a City News kid today, if I’d be doing a body count story instead.

At the very least, we’d have more definitive numbers to rely on.

BECAUSE I COULDN’T help but notice the Chicago Sun-Times story that had five dead and 15 wounded. Compared to the Associated Press dispatch that had six dead and 10 wounded.

Although I found it odd that the AP dispatch attributed information to the Sun-Times story.

The one fact to consider is that those figures were supposedly just for Chicago, the city proper – with one of the shootings being someone who got hit by the police. Published reports gave us accounts of three more shot Monday morning in suburban Dolton.

Literally people who were outside their homes trying to enjoy a Memorial Day holiday when they got caught in crossfire from two other people who happened to be passing through the neighborhood – one in his car and the other on bicycle.

Focusing on different casualties
I’M NOT SURE who to believe in terms of totals, although I’m not sure it really matters. Focusing on the totals has the effect of trivializing the violence. Does it really matter if it’s five or six?

There’s also the fact that the overall total is less than the totals we got a few weekends ago – remember the 36 people shot in a single weekend?

Do you think it consoles the family and friends of any of this weekend’s victims that this weekend’s total came to less than that weekend?


Sox as mediocre, Cubs as dreadful, as we should have expected for ‘14

We’re at Memorial Day. Which in addition to giving us countless excuses for political people to pay tribute to military veterans (in hopes they’ll vote) is the perfect time to look at our city’s baseball clubs to figure out what they’re worth.

The highlight for '14
The White Sox have played 52 games thus far, while the Cubs have taken the field for 48. Finally a large enough sample for us to start talking intelligently about what the teams are worth.

THE WHITE SOX are winning about half their games, while the Cubs have the worst record of any team in the National League (18 wins, or a .375 winning percentage).

Which is what should have been expected – except from those more delusional Cubs fans who desperately wanted to believe the White Sox would be just as bad as they were. In short, that we’d relive 2013 all over again.

As for those Sox, the presence of Jose Abreu has turned out to be as good as anyone had a right to expect. He hasn’t played in a little over a week because of an inflamed left ankle, yet he still is among the American League leaders in both home runs (15) and runs batted in (42). He’s up there with Nelson Cruz of the Baltimore Orioles in both categories.

Abreu, a Cuban defector, likely will be the highlight of the season for Chicago baseball for 2014 once he returns to play some time next week. And that’s taking into account the fact that he’s bound to have a slump at some point this year.

IT IS GOING to hurt that we’re now just approaching the time of year that weather gets better and attendance starts to shoot up.

No longer No. 2 at position No. 6
Yet the White Sox, who are averaging just over 19,000 tickets sold per game (who knows how many are actually showing up?), have the drawback of knowing that the teams whose games usually draw larger crowds (the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and those cubbie bears) were scheduled for the dreariness of April and May.

W. Bush and Mantle weren't really there
And as for the fact that the Yankees spent all of last week in Chicago (playing both the Cubs and White Sox), the highlight games may well have been the two games where the Yankees came from behind to win in extra innings).

White Sox fans are going to get a lot of second-rate games scheduled for the prime of the season. It may well be that only the hard-core fans show up the rest of 2014. And we’ll get nit-wit Cubs fans who will claim that’s evidence the White Sox have no fans – instead of evidence that the fair-weather fans turn out at Wrigley Field.

Not about to be caught any time soon
IT ALSO TURNED out this past week that Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter played his 2,584th game at his position, surpassing legendary White Sox shortstop Luis Aparicio. Although with Omar Vizquel still being a couple hundred games ahead of Jeter, the one-time White Sox shortstop (along with Cleveland and Seattle) will keep his mark of 2,709 games played there.

Where the crowds aren’t what they were back in the days of Sammy Sosa and all those home runs. But they’re still averaging just over 32,000 tickets sold per game, and in the Top 10 of Major League Baseball games.

When will he return?
Who’s to say why? All I know is I hear the talk about how the ballplayers in places like Des Moines, Iowa; Knoxville, Tenn.; and suburban Geneva are going to develop and turn the Cubs into legitimate contenders someday.

Yet the decades during which I have followed professional baseball have taught me there are many talented minor league ball players who, for whatever reason, don’t make the major league adjustment.

I ALSO COULDN’T help but be amused by the new hitting coach the Cubs hired for their top minor league affiliate in Des Moines – one-time Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez.

Is David Ortiz next for Cubs?
He’s also going to be a ballplayer for the Iowa Cubs, although Cubs executive Theo Epstein says Manny won’t be in Chicago anytime soon.

Epstein was general manager back when Ramirez was part of the Red Sox’ powerhouse that won a couple of World Series titles. Which makes me think Epstein – for all his talk of looking to the Cubs’ future – is firmly planted in the past.

Which means it could be a long, long time before the Cubs amount to anything worth talking about. Maybe around the time that Sosa himself is welcome back in Wrigley Field.


Saturday, May 24, 2014

Statehouse resembles Fantasyland; legislators need to make up minds

There are times I seriously wonder just what world do the members of the Illinois General Assembly live in?

Because it certainly isn’t the one in which you and I are forced to exist in – one in which the problems of real life need to be confronted, or else risk serious consequences for trying to ignore them.

OUR STATE’S LEGISLATURE seems to think that if they close their eyes tightly enough, the financial problems confronting the state will just go away.

Or maybe they view it the same way they view gambling expansion, new airports or many other issues that linger for years (if not decades) on end because legislators just don’t think the time is right to finally address them. They don’t want to be bothered!

What has me worked up are the votes taken this week, particularly on Friday, with regards to the state’s budget.

Based off assorted news reports, it seems that only 34 Illinois House members (all Democrats) are willing to support the desire of Gov. Pat Quinn to make permanent the increase in the income tax approved a few years ago.

THE ONE THAT was crafted in a way that it lapses after year’s end, and we’d go back to the old state income tax rate.

Which means a significant drop in the amount of money available to state government for its operating expenses this year. And it’s not just state government itself.

Let’s not forget that many public service entities rely heavily on state government grants and other funds for a significant share of their own operating budgets. That includes public education, which would take a significant hit beyond the ones they have taken in recent years in terms of the amount of money they would have to operate schools.

Yet what is annoying is the vote that came Friday – one on a budget proposal that assumes the income tax boost will not remain in place, and that there will be major cuts required in state government operations.

THAT IS THE bill that received a 5-107 vote. As in only five legislators – House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, and four other Democrats – being willing to support it.

We'll all be in the gloom 'n' doom of the Statehouse if legislators can't make up their minds by month's end
Now I’m sure the masses of those 107 voting against are going to claim they’re being responsible. They’re looking out for the schools. They’re protecting other public service programs and agencies that would be devastated if they took a major cut in funding.

But that’s nonsense.

Because like I pointed out before, there are only 34 (out of 118 Illinois House members) who are willing to support the cuts.

WHAT WE HAVE are legislators who don’t want anything cut, but don’t want to do anything to come up with the money required to avoid serious cuts.

Actually, what I suspect is that most of those legislators don’t want anything cut that impacts their legislative districts. They want the cuts to be made in programs affecting everybody else’s district.

A greedy little sentiment, which is in total character with the mentality of the typical General Assembly member.

Like I have written before, I don’t like the idea of the income tax remaining at a higher rate. Nobody does. Although I suspected back when it was temporarily increased that it would become permanent out of necessity.

SO EXCUSE ME for accepting reality, and the need to use the schools in particular to try to score some cheap political points meant to appease the anti-tax crowd – the ones who believe they have no obligation to support their government in any way.

Although maybe their problem is they don’t like the way it supports certain people whom they’d prefer to ignore.

So what’s going to happen between now and next Saturday, which is when the General Assembly is supposed to complete its business for the spring session and go home until November?

MADIGAN: How hard can he hit?
I don’t have a clue! Several somebodies in the General Assembly are going to have to undergo serious changes of heart in their feelings. They’re going to have to pick a side – more money, or more cuts.

WE MAY WIND up seeing some classic use of power by Madigan to make people wind up doing the right thing. We could learn just how hard the “Velvet Hammer” of old still hits.

Trying to play both sides and avoid offending anybody is what is going to cause serious financial problems to develop and linger on long after this spring session is nothing but a distant nightmare.


Friday, May 23, 2014

Oberweis doesn't want Durbin/Quinn to get African-American vote on Nov. 4

It must be true if the Chicago Tribune says it is (slight sarcasm dripping). But Republican Senate nominee James Oberweis has a vocal African-American pastor working to turn out the vote on his behalf come the Nov. 4 general election.
OBERWEIS: Seeking support?

The Tribune reported Thursday that the Rev. Corey Brooks, clergy at the New Beginnings Church of Chicago, is coming out publicly in support of Oberweis -- who faces Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., in the general election cycle.

ACCORDING TO THE Tribune, Brooks is discouraged by Democrats, whom he says take the African-American segment of the electorate for granted.

He says he doesn't want to be bound by any political party, and he says he is impressed that Oberweis (who lives in the outermost western suburbs) has actually been willing to make campaign stops on the South Side.

Brooks says that Oberweis listens to him, while he claims to have never actually met Durbin. Hence, an endorsement.

Now all of this may well be true. There certainly isn't anything wrong with people wanting to have options when in the voting booth on Election Day. No one's vote should be automatically determined by their race.

BUT EXCUSE ME for thinking there's something a bit funky about this particular endorsement, and that I don't believe we're about to see some massive shift in the voting tendencies of Sout' Side Chicago.

I suspect that Brooks' backing for Oberweis is very similar to the African-American pastors (including one-time state Rep. and Rev. James Meeks) who say they're publicly backing Republican nominee Bruce Rauner for governor -- rather than Gov. Pat Quinn.
RAUNER: Seeking apathy?

There are the rumors going about that both of these GOP candidates (who have significant financial wealth) are throwing about their money in ways to support the pet causes of the assorted pastors.

If that makes them appear more sympathetic, then so be it.

BUT WHAT I honestly believe the candidates are going to get from these efforts to "reach out" to the African-American vote is a sense of apathy.

Which is exactly what the Republican candidates want to create.

It is a unique factor of the African-American segment of Chicago that pastors can carry significant amount of influence over their congregation members.
DURBIN: Needs to do more for black vote?

It is why political people always are willing to make stops at black-oriented churches in an attempt to get the vote. Get the pastor to extend his influence, and you could wind up with a lot of voting booth touch-screens being touched in your favor.

LIKEWISE, GET THE pastors to promote a sense of apathy and the idea that it really doesn't matter much who you pick, or even if you bother to vote at all, and you drive down the overall vote totals.

Do that in an area such as South Side Chicago where it is likely that 90-something percent of the votes will be  for Democratic Party candidates, and you have the effect of making Republican-leaning areas all the more important on Election Day.

Personally, I'm offended that pastors, if this is so, would promote such an idea. Largely because I believe people express themselves politically when they cast ballots, and that people who don't vote lose any right they have to complain about the way government behaves.

Seriously, why should political people care about those who can't even be bothered to cast a ballot?

TO THE DEGREE to which this particular election cycle in Illinois is turning out to be the rich guys (a venture capitalist and a dairy magnate) trying to use their financial resources to buy themselves into political office, should we really be apathetic?

Because if they're willing to spend so much money of their own to get the office, I wonder to what degree they will go to entrench themselves to remain in office in future election cycles.

Would you willingly leave something you spent millions of dollars to "buy," just because the voters decreed otherwise?


Thursday, May 22, 2014

It ain’t over ‘til it’s over

If he hadn’t been a guru, of sorts, to the New York baseball scene, Yogi Berra could have had a career as a political observer to our local officials – perhaps the guy whispering his words of wisdom into their ears.

The Tao of Yogi?
Because that particular Berra-ism about declaring victory too soon is one that perhaps the people trying to lead a movement to change the way we draw our political boundaries should have learned a long time ago.

I STILL REMEMBER reading the reports about how the movement (calling itself Yes for Independent Maps) was crowing a month ago when they submitted nominating petitions that demand the issue be put on the ballots for the Nov. 4 elections in the form of a referendum question.

Let the people decide. “Yes,” or “no.” They had 532,264 signatures of support that they filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections

That is well in excess of the minimum number of signatures needed in order to actually get an initiative on the ballot across the state. They won. They declared victory. They made smug statements about how this, alone, showed the moral high-ground and desirability of their cause.

There was no way they could be stopped now!!!

READING THOSE ACCOUNTS, I recalled thinking they were premature in declaring victory. Way too cocky, as a matter of fact. Somebody was going to wind up eating some serious crow.

Which is what seems to be happening now.

Reports this week indicate that the State Board of Elections is finding that the 532,264 signature figure is off, way off.

Yogi 'plays' better on TV than most pols
For one thing, the elections board says it counted all the signatures, and only came up with 507,467. Which is still well ahead of the 298,400 valid signatures required this year (it’s based on voter turnout in recent election cycles, so it changes) to succeed.


The state Elections Board handles the process by doing a thorough review of a randomly-selected share of petitions.

Petitions containing 25,375 signatures were scrutinized – and 11,568 signatures were found to be legitimate. That’s less than half!

At this rate, the petition drive is going to turn out to have produced a lot of junk (that’s a lot of times that “Mickey Mouse” signed his name to these documents). May 31 isn’t only the deadline for the General Assembly to conduct its business. The end of the month (actually, May 30, the last business date, since May 31 is a Saturday) is when the process must be completed.

SO UNLESS SOMETHING shifts dramatically in the next week or so, this is going to wind up being a failed effort.

Like many pols, son followed him into family 'business'
Admittedly, the Yes for Independent Maps group is trying to fight back, although their route seems to be one more of whining about the review process being “hasty,” and the Chicago Tribune reporting about “personal advances” made by state Elections board officials to the group’s official watchers.

It sounds like this could be a cause that falls by the wayside. Which doesn’t surprise me because the whole process of nominating petitions is such a subjective one. There is so much leeway by officials to declare what is, and isn’t, valid.

Nobody should presume this is over until they actually walk into their polling place and see the question printed on their ballots.

IT MAY COME across that I’m enjoying this lesson in political reality being taught to the Yes for Independent Maps group – which at times behaves in ways that make it seem more like a cause funded by Republican gubernatorial hopeful Bruce Rauner so he can have something to talk about, rather than an actual concern for the issue.

Yogi comes equipped w/ his own 'yes' men
It’s actually funded in part by Chicago Cubs part-owner Tom Ricketts (he gave $50,000 back in March). Which makes me wonder why he’s not focusing more on his ball club.

Perhaps Yogi could come to Chicago and give the Wrigley Field set some advice on what constitutes a real winning ball club (he would know, 14 World Series appearances, with 10 of them on the victorious side).

Although reading through the various lists of Yogi-isms, I came across another one that I suspect many of our local political people would find applicable – “Half the lies they tell about me aren’t true.”


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

EXTRA: Judgely?

SIMS: Judgely?
I’m sure she meant well, but listening to Cook County Commissioner Deborah Sims, D-Chicago, pay tribute Wednesday to one-time county Sheriff and Judge Richard Elrod couldn’t help but give me the quip of the day from a politico.

How else to explain, “I don’t know how you define a judge, but he was as judgely as a judge could be.”

ELROD, WHO SERVED four four-year terms as sheriff before moving up the ranks to serve as a judge for a quarter of a century, died last month. He was 80, and suffered from complications due to cancer of the liver.

ELROD: Long career after injury
Elrod, whose father, Arthur, was once a Cook County commissioner himself, had an incident in his life that would have traumatized many – a broken neck during a 1969 altercation during the “Days of Rage” Vietnam-era anti-war protests that left him with limited mobility.

Yet other commissioners who paid tribute to Elrod on Wednesday during the county board’s meeting made mention of how he did not let that injury get the best of him – and was literally still on the Cook County bench at the time of his death April 19.

And as for Sims, her quip is notable, although not quite on the level with the elder Richard Daley once telling us the police were there to "preserve" disorder.