Monday, November 30, 2015

EXTRA: What is point of $1M bond?

When I was a regular court reporter some quarter-of-a-century ago, one of my regular duties was covering Violence Court – the bond hearings held daily at noon at the Criminal Courts building.

VAN DYKE: To be free by day's end?
Every day, a daily dose of people charged with murder or sex crimes being dragged before a judge – who would hear the sketchy details of what was known to have happened, then he (or sometimes, she) would set a dollar amount.

AS IN THE amount of cash a defendant would need to come up with in order to avoid having to await trial inside the Cook County Jail.

Admittedly, there were sometimes the “no bond” cases ever so severe that the defendant had to stay in jail. But usually the most severe cases were the “million dollar bond” ones.

As in a judge would set bond at $1 million, or $1.5 million. I once remember a defendant charged with murder who got a $3 million bond set.

The point was that a judge knew there was no way the particular slug standing before them could possibly come up with 10 percent of that figure. Meaning it was a given they’d have to stay in jail.

YET IN RECENT days, there were a pair of cases where defendants got million dollar bonds. Only to show us that 1 million dollars just isn’t as significant as it used to be.

Perhaps we ought to envision Michael Myers as “Dr. Evil” telling us “One Million Dollars!!!” as he did in the “Austin Powers” films, only to have everyone around him laugh at the insignificance of that number.
MYERS (as Dr. Evil): $1 M has become chump change!

There was the guy who got a $1 million bond, in part because he was a suspect in the case of Tyshawn Lee – the 9-year-old who got caught up in gang wars and was shot to death.

Yet he was released because his girlfriend had recently won a lawsuit against a hospital, and she put up $100,000 of her financial settlement to enable him to be released from jail.

NOW, WE HAVE Jason Van Dyke having bond set for him Monday at $1.5 million.

He’s the cop who spent the past week with no bond in the county jail (under very heavy security to ensure no one would target him for extra abuse because he was a cop) for the shooting death of LaQuan McDonald.

That is a high profile crime gaining international attention upon Chicago. City officials now want to create the impression they’re cracking down on the perpetrator – so to speak.

Yet the news reports from the bond hearing, which indicate that Judge Donald Panarese made a point of watching the video tape that has been seen over-and-over again of McDonald’s shooting death prior to setting the high bond, indicate that Van Dyke is likely to be free by Monday’s end.

HE’S EXPECTED TO come up with something valued at $150,000, which makes me think that the ideologues determined to believe that a cop is being singled out for abuse for doing his job will tap into deep pockets to ensure he remains free.

Rather than having to live off jail inmate rations for the next couple of years – which is still roughly the time period it takes for a case to work its way through the court system.


Political apathy? Or will they commit a late rally and do something stupid!

I’m not complaining; but it does amaze me how calm – relatively speaking – the reaction has been in Chicago to the death of the teenaged boy who now has a police officer facing criminal charges as a result.

Note the lack of bloodshed ...
I know, I know. Some people are reading that sentence and saying, “Are you freakin’ nuts!”

ALL WE’VE BEEN getting are the tales of protest after protest – particularly those timed for Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, where it seems they went out of their way to disrupt all of that “Beginning of Christmas holiday shopping” season.

But when you think about it, what we have had are some rallies and protests that showed us people shouting and screaming and expressing their contempt. Yes, there have been some individuals who wound up getting arrested and now face minor criminal charges themselves.

But there were those who feared the release of video tapes taken by police that depicted the homicide of Laquan McDonald would cause violent outbursts along the line of what occurred in places like Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore (remember the White Sox playing a game against the Orioles in an empty ballpark because police said they couldn’t ensure the safety of fans attending a ballgame).

There were those who wondered if South Side neighborhoods would wind up being the scene of violence and acts that would rival anything that happened in those cities.

... on these newspaper front pages
IF ANYTHING, THE speculation was also on whether such outbursts would spread into the downtown area and into the parts of Chicago where the crime rates are so low – would the activists “take” their outrage to the people who often act as though urban violence isn’t a problem that affects their lives.

Yes, there have been actions. Many of the reports from Friday indicate that people merely wishing to shop for Christmas presents were forced to give thought to what happened – even though most came to the conclusion that the protests were an inconvenience, and something they’d prefer to ignore.

But by Saturday, those crowds died down.

Still front page in central Illinois
The Chicago Tribune reported Saturday about the several protests that occurred throughout the city. Yet they also noted the declining crowds, even at a rally outside of City Hall where protesters brought the physical image of a casket meant to symbolize the body of Laquan – who himself was planted into the ground more than a year ago.

WE ALSO HAVEN’T had the violent outbursts; the additional bloodshed caused by people who think someone should give their live up as payback for Laquan.

We’ve heard a lot of cheap rhetoric from some activist types (and black aldermen in the City Council) about how some people deserve either to be fired (such as the police chief) or lose an election (the state’s attorney, perhaps the mayor himself).

Nobody has got his head cracked open, at least not as of when I write this particular commentary during the weekend.

Of course, that’s the tricky part. All it would take is one stupid incident that results in bloodshed for all the restraint of past days to get flushed down the political toilet.

AS MUCH AS I want to believe Chicagoans are capable of showing restraint, I’m actually aware that we’re just as capable of displaying our stupidity and shortsightedness as anyone else on Planet Earth.

Just a corner tease in Springfield
So while we’ve gotten off to a good start, I’ll be watching closely in continuing days to see how well our city continues to behave.

Even though we’re in the dead of winter, I can’t help but feel a baseball analogy is appropriate in saying we haven’t won the game of avoiding violence in the name of political rhetoric.

I feel like this particular “game” is in the sixth inning, and some fans like to talk about how the team that takes an early lead usually winds up winning. But any fan of Chicago baseball knows how capable our local teams are of blowing a lead in the ninth inning.


Saturday, November 28, 2015

Dueling pair of children being used to fight for attention of Chicago, world

Why does it feel like we’re in a fight between the images of two boys – both now deceased – to try to determine what is the appropriate image of what Chicago stands for.

By mid-day, Tyshawn had taken over
That’s literally what it felt like Friday as I read the latest accounts of how Laquan McDonald and Tyshawn Lee were being mentioned as people tried to show how violent they want us to believe Chicago has become.

YET THE TRUTH is that the people touting McDonald and those touting Lee are not the same individuals. In fact, I suspect there are those who view the opposing child as some sort of enemy kid who threatens to steal attention away from their pet cause.

McDonald being the teenager who was shot to death by police officer, and whose backers are trying to promote the idea that we have a whole department of “killer cops” in the Second City. They’re the ones who have already convicted the officer in their own minds, and aren’t going to settle for anything less than a natural life prison term.

But then, there’s Lee. He’s the 9-year-old who got shot to death by gang members, with officials saying the boy’s father was a rival gang member. As in a child who didn’t even make it to teenage-hood got caught up in the urban violence.

There have been some reports that the rival gang killed off the boy because he was signaling his father’s gang in some way, trying to warn them about an imposing threat.

THE BOTTOM LINE is that both Laquan and Tyshawn got cheated out of life – they didn’t make it to adulthood. Both of them are going to be nothing more than speculation and tales of “What could have been?” and “If only they’d had the chance” at a full life.

McDONALD: Blame the police!
But they are rival tales, and I couldn’t help but notice that for the Chicago Sun-Times on their website on Friday, Tyshawn’s tale had overtaken Laquan’s as the “big story” coming from Chicago.

Whereas the Chicago Tribune stuck with Laquan – largely because his backers were trying to force their way into the public’s eye by blocking off the big shopping district on Michigan Avenue that day.

Although it seems the public reaction to those people was largely bemusement. Some people even feeling the need to take out their telephones with cameras to get pictures of all those crazy people on the loose in Chicago. Just think of what the folks back home will say!

LEE: Blame the street gangs!
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN the two is that with Laquan, we’re forced to confront the degree to which our police officers and other public safety officials are not trusted by certain segments of our society (particularly those with a darker pigmentation hue) to offer up protection.

Whereas with Tyshawn, the tale being told is how those crazy people are killing each other off. It makes me wonder if some people will think it’s no wonder the police take such a hard line and assume the worst of a Laquan McDonald.

Personally, what I’m inclined to think of the whole McDonald affair is that of all the cops who arrived at that scene, it was only one of them who allegedly fired all those multiple shots. Others held their control.

Although it only takes one person and one well-aimed shot to kill another human being.

What some would like to prioritize!
WHILE WITH TYSHAWN, it seems no one is truly safe if they happen to live in the portions of Chicago that our society seems to think are worthy of such violent behavior.

We can say to ourselves what a tragedy his death is, but I doubt that people would be getting so worked up if not for the fact they want to detract attention from the story that truly makes them uncomfortable – the one that makes the police look bad.

Because that one brings into question many of the premises upon which we view our society – particularly those who think the REAL story for the day is the Chicago Bears victory Thursday night over Green Bay!

Although the way in which our society ultimately is going to get its act together with regards to such actions is when we’re forced to confront our beliefs and realize that – just perhaps – some of the things we’ve been thinking have been a bit too selfish and clueless to stand up to truth.


Friday, November 27, 2015

‘It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas,’ several weeks ago!!!

Excuse me for not getting all worked up that we’re finally in the Christmas holiday season.

Sometimes I wonder if government buildings compete to see who can come up with the most garish holiday display
For the Grinch in me has been in force for the past few weeks, snapping in disgust at holiday displays from people who just seemed absolutely determined to begin celebrating Santa in the days before Halloween. I literally found myself being offended by a Salvation Army kettle worker I encountered a couple of weeks ago.

THEN AGAIN, MAYBE that Santa I saw was just a trick-or-treater? Who’s to say!

Now I’m not against Christmas as much as I’m against those people who think it’s their duty in life to ram it down everyone’s throats. Which is part of my ideological problem with the so-called “War on Christmas,” which really is someone’s attempt to use Christmas to commit war on everyone around them.

A sick and twisted thought, if you think about what the true meaning of Christmas is about (and yes, I’m thinking too of that same animated snippet of Linus telling us the true meaning of the holiday).

Yet let’s be honest. That “true meaning” is little in evidence these days, nor has it been a part of what we’ve been seeing in recent weeks – as government buildings galore go out of their way to erect whatever holiday displays they can get away with without provoking the American Civil Liberties into supporting someone’s lawsuit.

NONE OF THIS is about the birth of Christ as much as it’s about having Rudolph and his reindeer motivate us into being guilted into buying many more presents for the people we know in a fake way to show our affection.

Just throw money at a potential problem, and it goes away.

As it turns out, just this week I happened to be at the City Hall in Gary, Ind., to find the building’s lobby had been covered in wreaths and tinsel and pseudo-Christmas presents – along with an official holiday tree.
Now nothing but a historic scene in Chicago
It might be dinky compared to the giant holiday tree erected in Millenium Park and officially lit on Tuesday (even Chicago couldn’t wait for Thanksgiving to pass before lighting the tree).

BUT WE’VE HAD our eyes assuaged with holiday displays, and some of the radio stations began their aural assault upon us with all the tacky pop Christmas songs they can give us.

I’m taking on a challenge this holiday season – I’m going to avoid those barking dogs at all cost. I’m determined not to hear them give us their take on “Jingle Bells,” just as I also don’t want to hear about that dead grandma who got run over by Santa’s reindeer.

It won’t be easy. I probably have to avoid the radio altogether, while also hoping I don’t hear snippets in someone’s commercial for a holiday-oriented sale!

Besides, anybody who knows me knows that the only real holiday pop song worth listening to is famed salsa singer Celia Cruz’s take on Jingle Bells en Español – that and Eartha Kitt’s sultry version of “Santa Baby.”

PERHAPS THE HOLIDAY season would be all the more special if we hadn’t been in such a rush to bring it on. Let it come in its own time-frame, instead of trying to convince us that Halloween candy displays aren’t out of place with all the Christmas images.

Personally, this holiday season is going to be significant because of the fact it will be the first I celebrate without my brother who passed away just before Halloween (and I swear the Christmas decorations already were erected in some stores already back then).

In tribute to him, I’ll give you what he considered to be the ultimate Christmas-oriented holiday tune – totally in character for anyone who knew his sarcastic side.

Merry Christmas, Chris, wherever you are!


EDITOR'S NOTE: It will be interesting to see how many Laquan McDonald-motivated protesters show up Friday to try to disrupt holiday shopping downtown. Personally, I think such a tactic merely reinforces those people who are inclined to think of the police sympathetically, and will fail because the shopping centers where such people congregate are not likely to be the ones where protesters show up.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

It seems like it’s everywhere, that video of the final moments of Laquan’s life

I literally couldn’t escape it late Tuesday.

McDONALD: He's now viral for wrong reasons
When I finally broke down and used my laptop computer to check out the website to see the full video of what is purported to be the death of a black teenage boy at the hands of a white Chicago police officer, I literally got to the “money shot,” the moment of truth – so to speak.

WHEN I HAPPENED to look up at a television set that was turned on, only to see that the BBC was also reporting the story and was showing the exact same shot to their international television viewing audience.

This story has gone global! Chicago’s outrage, or shame – depending on how you want to perceive it – is international.

It probably is a good thing I had the BBC oversight to point out the key moment of the video – because I have to confess that I missed it initially.

The fact is that this video, shot by a camera installed on the dashboard of a Chicago police squad car, is perfect evidence of how pictures can lie. Because it is raw video meant to be unedited, it is lengthy.

ACTUALLY, THE VIDEO I saw was more than six minutes long – although only the final minute or so is relevant to the death of Laquan McDonald.

What most of the video consists of is the sight of the squad car containing the officers racing to the scene, so to speak. We see reflections of the lights atop their squad car flashing and also get the sight of other motorists pulling to the side of the road to make way for this particular squad car.

My gut reaction to watching this was something along the lines of “What’s the point?!?”

VAN DYKE: Legal troubles, but no one willing to help
Then suddenly, we come upon a figure walking in the middle of the street for a few seconds before collapsing. That figure, it turns out, is McDonald. Although my initial thought was that it was a staggering drunk.

YOU DO GET the sight of the body twitching a bit, and at one point a puff of what appears to be smoke coming up from the body.

But keep in mind there’s no audio. Unless you’ve been told in advance what to expect, it’s not clear what is happening here.

That may be the key to comprehending the significance of the video that provoked protests Tuesday night and still has officials fearing the potential of a race riot in Chicago in coming days.

You really have to have someone explain to you what it is you’re watching. Which means this video will merely reinforce the beliefs one already has. And I already can envision the many people who will take this vagueness as evidence that there isn’t any criminality taking place here.

BECAUSE THEY WON’T want to believe a police officer could do wrong – or maybe they just really want to believe that a black teenager would!

The shock to me about this video is that I was expecting the sight of a police officer actually shooting somebody. The officers at this scene were all out of range of the camera – only McDonald is seen throughout.

Except for one point when an officer steps into the view of the camera to kick away from McDonald’s now-likely dead hand the knife he was holding – the weapon that police initially tried to claim was evidence he was a danger to them.

Although the video also shows that McDonald never charged at officers like was originally claimed – and in fact was trying to get away from them!

WHICH I’M SURE law enforcement-oriented types will claim is evidence enough he was doing something wrong. The same types who were eager to donate money to a legal defense fund for the officer now being held at Cook County Jail without bond on a murder charge – and probably think it unfair that some people are criticizing their support.

My point is that for all the promises of a pretty gruesome video that would be offensive to the sensibilities of the general public, this one actually doesn’t produce. For a generation raised on violent graphics in video games, this is going to be so tame.

Except to the type of people who were looking for an excuse to riot to begin with. And those people who have their illegally-owned weapons stored away in their homes in anticipation of the day in which “those people” started trouble.

On this Thanksgiving, we ought to be wishing we could be as far away as possible from these loons of both persuasions.


EDITOR’S NOTE: It’s my understanding that WLS-TV, the ABC-owned Chicago television station, was leaked a copy of the video prior to its official release Tuesday night, and that their version was edited into something shorter – perhaps to enhance its potential for graphic detail. Perhaps this is a video that needs subtitles to bolster its comprehension level.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

EXTRA: Who pays politically for death of McDonald at hands of cop?

One of the first pieces of copy I read Wednesday morning was a rant pointing out the great injustice of the death of Laquan McDonald and the fact that no one was charged until this week – the fact that Rahm Emanuel got re-elected as mayor.

ALVAREZ: Will she pay for McDonald death?
For if we had known back in 2014 when the slaying by a police officer (a cop definitely shot McDonald, what is in dispute is criminal intent) actually occurred, the public would have been so outraged that it would have punished Emanuel.

THERE’S NO WAY anyone would have seriously voted for him (except for the nitwits who like the idea of ‘law and order’ being the killing off of people not exactly like themselves).

We’d have “Mayor Chuy” these days. It would be Jesus Garcia having to cope with the partisan nitwit show taking place at the Statehouse in Springfield, and all the other financial problems the city faces these days.

That may be part of the problem. Instead of trying to address the real issue of why a segment of our society has such a serious distrust of law enforcement, we have some people wishing to place political blame.

As in “throw the bum out” on Election Day will seriously solve anything.

SINCE IT ISN’T possible to punish Emanuel (at least not until 2019), now it seems we’re looking for someone else to blame.

That person could well become Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez – who has never really been that popular with the public. She’s too Latina to satisfy the “law and order” types, while she’s a life-long prosecutor – which offends the activist types.

Can Donna More be the one to beat Anita,...
Which makes me wonder if she’s destined to be the “fall guy” (so to speak) for the death of McDonald.

Alvarez has challengers for next year’s Democratic primary (whose winner likely will go on to whomp all over the GOP nominee in November, it’s not like Gov. Bruce Rauner has really created a strong Republican apparatus in Illinois), and they’re likely to use this issue to beat on her.

KIND OF LIKE the way Redd Foxx’ “Fred Sanford” character used to say someone beat up on “Aunt Esther’s face” with an ugly stick. With apologies to LaWanda Page, it wasn’t pretty.

... or could it be Kim Foxx?
Neither will next year’s election cycle.

Already amongst my motley crew of Facebook-type friends are political people touting the merits of Donna More and Kim Foxx (no relation to Redd that I’m aware of).

As it is, More already is using Facebook to be critical of the fact that a criminal indictment didn’t come more quickly. “While I take some solace in the fact that some action was finally taken, why has it taken Anita Alvarez and the state’s attorney’s office 13 months to indict?,” she wrote.

ALTHOUGH I’M WONDERING if it will turn out that having two women challenging Alvarez will mean the opposition vote (the “Anybody But Anitas”) will split and she winds up winning re-election despite the public outcry from people desperate to point to a political loser as the outcome of the whole McDonald affair.

Could Laquan have cost Rahm the post?
Personally, I’d be more concerned about the criminal trial of the officer himself involved in the incident. No criminal case is ever as open-and-shut as some want to believe that Laquan’s death is.

And it would wind up looking ridiculous to our city’s public image if we were to dump Alvarez, only to have the officer in question wind up being acquitted eventually.


A violent overtone to this week of thanks; will it be ugly Black Friday?

Perhaps it’s only fitting at a time when filmmaker Spike Lee is preparing to put Chicago on public display for its level of urban violence that the reality of the situation is more ugly than any fantasy that anyone could concoct.

We had one of Chicago’s “finest” facing an initial court appearance on Tuesday on a charge of murder related to the death last year of a teenager. It seems that boy was shot repeatedly by the officer, and the judge was so repulsed that he denied bond for the police officer.

OR AT LEAST that’s what the video camera on the dashboard of the officer’s squad car appears to indicate in a video snippet that was made public late Tuesday – and has some fearing that this year’s Black Friday will be more than just a retail designation.

That incident alone would be enough to put a damper on this week in Chicago’s history.

Yet we also got the word earlier this week that Chicago police intend to dismiss a police detective for the 2012 shooting death of a 22-year-old woman whom activists say the detective shot to death while off-duty.

To see our newscasts, you’d think we had nothing but killer cops roaming our streets – and a whole lot of white faces wearing badges giving them the legal authority to use violent actions on people they think are breaking the law.

WHICH IT WOULD seem is an authority that gets used all too often on people with natural black faces (and not just some clowns putting on an Archie Bunker-like minstrel show).

Although what’s going to enhance this particular debate is the fact that some people in our Chicago world are going to want to believe that these officers were just in their use of deadly force.

There will be those who will jump to the conclusion that people like Rekia Boyd and LaQuan McDonald must have done something wrong – something to deserve whatever deadly force was inflicted upon them.

For the reality is that we do give police officers the authority to use force on people; and we hope they don’t over-step that authority. Only we as a society don’t seem to agree on what the limits of that authority ought to be.

THEN AGAIN, THERE may be the tendency to take these two extreme instances and try to equate them as the norm of our society in Chicago. Which itself would be a tragedy.

Although the fact that some will use the fact that these incidents were aberrations as some reason to justify them is itself a sad commentary on our Chicago mindset.

I understand why people are upset about these deaths and the fact that some people amongst us want to downplay them. Although I also comprehend that some are too eager to jump to conclusions.

Because the reality is that this damaging video that allegedly has the potential to stir up Chicago into a massive Thanksgiving Day race riot hasn’t been seen by anybody outside of a few prosecutorial and law enforcement types who are going to bring their own emotionless perspective to the sight of someone being shot and killed.

OF COURSE, THESE two killings weren’t the only ones adding to the public outrage this week. There’s also the case of Tyshawn Lee, who was the 9-year-old who was killed in a gang-related shooting because it was believed (rightfully so, it seems) that his father was a street gang member.

Someone is actually facing unrelated criminal charges for weapons possession, and had a $1 million bond set in part because he’s a person of interest in the Lee death. Usually, that’s enough to ensure someone stays in the Cook County Jail while the case is pending in court.

But the Chicago Tribune reported that the suspect has a girlfriend who recently won a huge financial settlement against a hospital – and she put up the money for bail that will allow him to be free for the time being.

Some are going to argue he’s not charged with the Lee slaying. But I’m also sure many people in Chicago will think his being able to post bond is a bigger outrage than anything the officers are alleged to have done.


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Losing an auto feels like a limb loss

A part of me went through Monday feeling like I had lost a limb.

As in the automobile I was relying upon to get myself from place to place conked out, and may well be beyond repair.

My current incarnation of an auto in the hours before it likely gets hauled for scrap. Photograph by Gregory Tejeda
UNLESS I’D BECOME foolish enough to throw several thousand dollars that I don’t have into rebuilding a 15-year-old auto that already has the appearance of a pile of junk. For the time being, I’m stranded!

For the record, I had wound up with a 2000 Pontiac Grand Am that once belonged to my brother – for whom we had a memorial service on Sunday to mark his passing.

Perhaps the vehicle has a mind of its own and now that its primary driver is gone, so is the essence of the car.

Literally, the car’s last trip was to enable me to attend my brother’s tribute on Sunday, then visit my father where I spent the night.

WHEN ON MONDAY I tried to start the car up for a day’s worth of assorted activities, there was nothing. The thing was completely dead. As in it would not start.

My initial reaction was to think that the car was merely suffering from the type of glitches that get caused by wintry weather. Even though this weekend’s winter weather was weak.

But an attempt at a jump start didn’t do a thing to start the car up. My father offering me a trip to a Pep Boys shop nearby to buy a new battery also was unsuccessful.

Putting in the new battery produced even less reaction from the motor than did my initial jump start attempt. Although the people at Pep Boys did confirm that the old battery truly was dead and in need of replacement.

WHICH MADE THE Pep Boys people more than eager to take $153 from my wallet as they sold me a new battery.

But while the old dead battery generated a few clicks (but no action) of sound, the new live battery wound up being totally useless.

Fortunately for me, Pep Boys took back the new battery and refunded my money – although not before putting me through a series of questions meant to imply it is my own incompetence and nothing wrong with the battery that was causing me to have a dead car.

As I write this, I’m facing the prospect that this old car (which I already knew was leaking engine coolant and couldn’t retain steering fluid – even though two different mechanics claim there’s no leak) is gone.

AND THAT I’M finally going to have to give in to something I have tried to avoid for years – both when I was driving a used Saturn SL2 that now rests in parts in a junk yard somewhere and in occasionally using my brother’s old auto.

A car payment!

That monthly memo that would eat even further into the scrawny living I earn these days as a freelance writer – which is a fact that annoys the car dealers who’d love to sell me a new vehicle because it means I don’t have the absolutely reliable income they’d love to see from my credit.

Telling someone that my employer is sometimes late in processing the invoice that requests my payment, and that my income fluctuates from week to week depending on how much copy I can generate for someone else, doesn’t build up much good will.

OF COURSE, THE ultimate insult to injury may be the fact that when the car didn’t start, I had to push it out into the street so as to allow another vehicle parked in the same driveway to get out. I can’t screw up everybody’s day just because my own on Monday was chaotic.

Yet it seems that I pointed the vehicle in the wrong direction on a residential street. Meaning that when I came back from the Pep Boys store with the new battery, a friendly neighborhood police officer had issued me a citation – and a $35 fine, if I pay it within 10 days without a fight!

This definitely won’t be a moment I mention come Thursday when I’m asked what I’m thankful for.


Monday, November 23, 2015

We got hit with our first winter snow a month shy of winter weather season

We won't be seeing this sight on Lake Michigan anytime soon
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. And here, it isn’t even Thanksgiving yet.

Sure enough, we in Chicago got hit with our first snowfall – enough accumulation that some of us can claim nearly a foot-and-a-half of snow and even the lesser among us could claim a couple of inches.

I HAPPEN TO be in the latter category – living down in southern Cook County as I do, and can also claim to have been visiting my father in suburban Homewood Friday night when the snowfall began to hit.

In fact, for me the story will be how I got roped into running a family errand that had me driving around all over the place at the time the snowfall began.

My nephew had a date (took her to a movie), and because he’s at that age where he’s still in driver education and too young to have a license, he needed to have someone give him and his lady friend (he claims she’s not formally his girlfriend, not yet) a lift.

Yet because of some confusion and curfews at the movie theater, I had to take then to two different theaters before they found one that would let them see a movie without an adult presence. And for the record, I had no intention of being their adult chaperone while they watched “The Hunger Games.”

SO WHILE THE sloppy weather conditions began developing, I was driving around in a frenzy trying to ensure they could get to their movie on time. Then, when their ride home fell through, I had to go pick them up.

So excuse me for thinking of the first snowfall as a frustrating experience – one that it probably shouldn’t have been based solely on the couple of inches that were on the ground at that time.

I also was fortunate to manage to avoid having to drive much this weekend until after the snowfall fell – although as it turned out, I got to relive a childhood chore I hadn’t done in years.

We will see this sight on Lake Michigan very soon
As in grabbing a shovel and helping to clear my father’s driveway! And no, I can’t claim any kind of allowance payment for such duty.

IT WOULD HAVE been worse, I realize, if I had been in a part of the Chicago area where they got hit with significant snowfall. So heavy that the Chicago Tribune proclaimed the snowfall to be an all-time record for the city for a storm in November.

The amount of snow depended on how far north one lived – with the closer to Wisconsin one was resulting in more snow. Does this mean the good Lord willing felt compelled to dump all that snow on Chicago Cubs fans?

Either that, or he just enjoyed seeing the sight of Wisconsin Badgers cheerleaders getting pelted with snowballs by their team’s fans.

Of course, all of this is trivia, since the National Weather Service records weather totals at the airports. And at O’Hare International, there was 11.2 inches of snow that fell Friday night into early Saturday.

EVERYBODY ELSE IS highly unofficial. Even if, for them, their local total is the only one that matters.

All of this is interesting because we won’t have the speculation about a ‘white’ Christmas, since we have the white already even though we’re not yet at Thanksgiving.

Officially, we’re still shy of winter. Four more weeks until we can officially claim “Ol’ Man Winter” has arrived.
Weekend snowfall turned cheerleaders into targets in loss to Northwestern
Just think of this weekend’s weather blast as one of those aberrations that occurs that makes Chicago ever so unique.


EDITOR’S NOTE: How long until we begin the annual debate over parking and ‘dibs?’

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Sickening video to air just before we stuff faces for thanks and shop for glee

What are the chances that a police video camera depicting the death of a teenager at the hands of a Chicago police officer will be the common topic of discussion amongst Chicagoans come Thanksgiving Day?

Very likely. Although to be honest, I’d be surprised if we are capable of reaching any consensus about what it is that we will be able to see once the video goes public – which officials indicate will be Wednesday.

OR THE DAY before we all gorge ourselves to the point where we blow any diets we may be trying to stick to.

My guess is this uncertainty/differing of opinion is why city officials gave in and decided not to file any legal appeal challenging the judicial ruling earlier this week that said the video (shot with a camera on the dashboard of a squad car) must be made public.

Even though attorneys for the officer who pulled the trigger repeatedly and let 16 bullets fly at Laquan McDonald’s 17-year-old body say that making the video publicly accessible will ensure he won’t be able to get a fair trial should criminal charges ever be filed against him.

As it is, the video would have been incriminating enough that city officials felt compelled to offer the McDonald family a significant financial settlement up front – rather than risk having a judge approve an even bigger one if a civil lawsuit had been filed.

NOW OBVIOUSLY, I haven’t seen the video, although news reports indicate it shows the officer in question feeling threatened enough to file repeated shots at the teenager while other officers were capable of showing restraint in their actions.

I’m sure some people will watch the video of a teenager being killed by a uniformed officer and will be repulsed. It will reinforce every ill thought they have ever felt toward law enforcement officers.

There is the fear amongst some that those people will feel the need for retaliation, which had the Chicago Sun-Times reporting how police are gearing up for a stronger-than-usual police presence this coming week. While also realizing that THEY THEMSELVES may well be the target of any attacks.

This Thanksgiving holiday could become Chicago’s response to Ferguson, Mo., or Baltimore or any other place where certain people felt compelled to take the law into their own hands when they feel the “law” is deliberately targeting them for reasons no more significant than their complexion.

YET LET’S BE honest. There are also going to be significant numbers of people who are going to desperately want to believe that such a line of logic is a crock!

I’m already braced mentally for the people who will over-analyze the yet-to-be-released video and find minute actions that they will claim made McDonald a threat and thereby justified the hostile response that was directed toward them.

There are certain families who probably ought not to be allowed to commingle come Thanksgiving Day, or else run the risk that the holiday meal carving knife will wind up being plunged into someone’s chest.

I don’t know that we’ll get such a blatant split as the sentiment from the criminal trial of football Hall of Famer O.J. Simpson – where more than two decades later some people will still quarrel with each other over whether “O.J. did it!” or not.

BUT IT’S NOT going to be pretty, either in sight or in sound.

It’s also not going to be something we can ignore. I wonder if it’s going to be aired on so many newscasts and put on so many video-oriented websites that it is something that will linger on and on for decades to come. Something similar to that tacky Tonya Harding wedding night video that some perverts still feel compelled to watch when they need to get their jollies.

Although I wonder if this video’s sordid aspects will be more reminiscent of that prison-made videotape that showed mass murderer Richard Speck wearing panties and performing sex acts on other inmates while also boasting of the acts that got him sent to the Joliet Correctional Center in the place.

All video snippets I wish I could say I’d never seen in the first place.


Friday, November 20, 2015

EXTRA: Somebody wasn’t paying close enough attention to film

I’m not going to get all worked up over the nonsense being spewed down in Urbana-Champaign by those people purporting to be the White Student Union, who are ensuring that the views of white people are not overpowered by those of black people.

It’s too stupid to take seriously, for one thing. For another, I find one of their supporting arguments to be total nonsense.

THIS UNION ISN’T an actual group. It’s a Facebook page that was put up this week, then taken down, then restored and is now the subject of a fight over University of Illinois officials.

For it seems that one of the items that got posted on the page in support of their arguments that black people ought to just shut up and quit their whining was a video snippet from the 1998 film “American History X.”

In that film, actor Edward Norton’s “Derek Vinyard” character goes on a rant about how black people have no right to think of themselves as being hurt by slavery.

“Lincoln freed the slaves some 130 years ago. How long does it take you to get your act together,” his character said.

YET THAT IS such a weak argument because the film doesn’t support it. Actually, that film has Norton playing a character just released from prison following a two-year stretch for killing a black man.

During his time, he came to see the hypocrisy of his racial rhetoric and the people who espoused it, and upon prison was desperately trying to get himself and his brother – played by actor Edward Furlong – out of the white supremacy movement.

That particular scene was meant to be a flashback showing just how far gone and stupid the Derek Vinyard character was. It seems someone with this alleged group has no sense of context.

Either that, or they ought to be forced to write the paper about race relations that Furlong’s character was assigned to write at the film’s beginning. Perhaps they’d learn something and realize how nitwit-ish their White Student Union truly is!


Cantankerous Chicago? Or just Second City’s common sense showing through?

It shouldn’t be a shock that the City Council felt compelled to make a statement against the fact that our state’s Republican governor felt compelled to go along with the partisan nonsense of other GOPers with regards to Syria.

The City Council felt compelled this week to dump on Gov. Bruce Rauner
They’re all feeling the need to “talk tough” and claim they’re going to bar any refugees of Syrian nationality from being able to enter their states – because supposedly it was the Syrians who were behind the plot to cause so many attacks on Paris last week.

OF COURSE, THAT’S nonsense. But then again, there’s rarely ever any logic behind purely political partisan rhetoric.

So with Illinois officially on the side of the ideologues, Chicago felt compelled to take the opposite side.

Which is why the City Council passed a resolution that says the “sanctuary city” status that already applies to immigration matters also applies now to Syrian citizens.

If they come here, they will be welcomed. Or at the very least, they won’t be harassed.

NOW I’LL BE the first to admit this sanctuary city status is as cheap a political statement as all the talk of refusing to permit Syrian refugees to enter the state.

Just as how state governments really don’t have the authority to close their borders to anyone, the city doesn’t really have the power to grant services to those refugees in need – particularly considering how financially strapped the city is in offering the municipal services it already is obligated to provide.

RAUNER: Envision his irate call to Rahm
This is all pure symbolism. Our city officials are letting it be known publicly how full of it they believe the governor to be for getting Illinois mixed up on this particular political issue.

The fact that it merely enhances the regional split between the urban and rural parts of Illinois (the latter of which account for roughly one-third of the state’s population – even though they prefer to think of it as 96 of the state’s 102 counties) is just a side benefit, I’m sure.

ON A PERSONAL level, I’m pleased with the City Council’s stance – even though I admit it changes nothing (except allowing President Barack Obama to excuse his home city from the nonsense his home region is participating in).

EMANUEL: Envision a wicked cackle in response
In that with all the Great Lakes states’ governors (except Minnesota) feeling the need to take this anti-Syrian stance and turning the region into a collective of nitwit-ish behavior, it is nice to be able to state the obvious difference that Chicago has.

And considering that I suspect most refugees who head this way would likely be headed for Chicago (I doubt they’re going for Cairo or Thebes – the Southern Illinois versions), we ought to make the collective statement of our sympathy for those people who are trying to escape the nonsense of their home nations that we are legitimately opposed to.

As for the fact that those conservative ideologues will now want to trash Chicago, well what else is new? Those kind of people are the ones who always want to isolate themselves in pockets of the state and nation that are cut off from the real world.

THE FACT THAT they see us as different is probably all the more evidence that we in Chicago are doing something right!

As for sanctuary city status, all it means for immigration is that the local authorities don’t join in with federal immigration officials in scouring out people for the feds to initiate deportation hearings against.

Which I suspect is what it also means for those Syrian nationals who wind up in Chicago. So long as they cause no trouble and merely try to integrate themselves into the larger mass that is Chicago, they will not be harassed by authorities. They will be left alone.

Isn’t that what the “American Way” of life is supposed to be about?