Thursday, December 31, 2015

Tasers can be lethal, too!

I don’t know that I really feel any less threatened by police officers following the Wednesday announcement saying that efforts will be made to equip all of them in Chicago with tasers – a device giving an electric shock that can knock someone unconscious.

Could this someday become a common sight?
Which some want to believe is a preferable alternative to having police officers resort to using their service revolvers to kill the would-be criminal suspect. Just like how Captain Kirk will someday in our future always order his men to set their phasers on “stun.”

WOULD IT HAVE been better off if Laquan McDonald had merely been knocked off his feet a year ago when police officers felt threatened by the way he was wielding a knife? Would he still be alive?

I really wonder. Because the honest truth is that a taser, particularly if used by someone determined to deliver a severe blow, can be a deadly weapon.

And a taser in the hands of someone with a sadistic streak could wind up being a weapon capable of delivering intense and severe pain that could ultimately have someone suffer an agonizing death.

So excuse me for not being overly swayed by the announcement made by a newly-refreshed-by-a-Cubano vacation Mayor Rahm Emanuel that every single police officer in Chicago will carry a taser amongst his gear on the Sam Brown-type equipment belt.

ONE OF THE facts that has shocked some people in the weeks since the death of McDonald became an internationally-discussed tragedy is that many Chicago police officers don’t have tasers and wouldn’t have a clue how to properly use them.

Back in 2010, then-Superintendent Jody Weis issued a memorandum detailing the types of tasers an officer could carry, the proper way to wear them (on an officer’s support side – opposite of his pistol – of the equipment belt), and even their appearance (black, free of wrinkles and no high-gloss finishes).

Did 'Star Trek' past give us weapon of future?
It also says officers must have completed a department-conducted training course in their use before they can carry them. That is the rub.

For the department has not had the money to buy enough tasers to properly equip every officer now patrolling the streets. So there hasn’t been much pressure on police to take the training course.

SO THIS COULD easily turn into an instance where we’re pressuring already-overburdened police officers to have to carry another piece of gear. And a piece of gear that could easily wind up inflicting torture-like pain in the process.

Have we merely created future situations where we’ll be reading news accounts of police using their tasers to inflict bodily harm on people who don’t look exactly like them when it comes to skin complexion?

You just know some will prefer the feel of the .29 S&W or its equivalent
That attitude being all-too-prevalent amongst our law enforcement personnel is the real problem that must be overcome. All other issues are secondary. Concern over more use of tasers almost misses the point.

We’d still have to ensure we have officers capable of making a distinction of when the taser ought to come into play and when there’s the need for a pistol or whatever other firearm we permit our police officers to have is just absolutely essential!

CONSIDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES surrounding McDonald’s death, where it seems police wishing to subdue the 17-year-old had called for a taser – meaning someone had to find one of the officers who had completed the training course and was armed with such a weapon to come to the scene.

Yet whether it was impatience or constantly-changing circumstances, that scenario was taking too long to complete, and it would seem that officer Jason Van Dyke fired those 16 shots that are now the subject of the taunt activists like to direct at Emanuel’s way whenever they get the change.

There are bound to be similar circumstances in future instances. Similar judgment calls to be made.

Anybody who thinks this change in police equipping all police with tasers by summer is going to cause police to inflict less pain and suffering on certain people is living in the same fairyland that makes some people think there’s anything worthwhile about watching the Chicago Cubs.

  -30-

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

EXTRA: Could racial split boost Anita?

It was a common theme I read expressed on the Internet on Wednesday; Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez is despicable because it took her office two years to figure out that a cop who hit a handcuffed suspect warranted criminal charges.

Will suburban incident ...
I saw countless people use this incident to claim it as all the more evidence of why we should dump Alvarez when we get the chance come the March 15 Democratic primary.

BUT THERE ALSO was another common theme I noticed, and it is the reason I wonder if we’re going to have a whole mess of peeved voters come March 16 who are going to say they voted against Anita, only to have her get re-nominated.

... impact state's attorney's election?
For there are two challengers to Alvarez for the Democratic nomination for state’s attorney – and this threatens to become a campaign with a racial split that could see Anita get more votes than either; even if not enough to claim a voter majority.

There are some people who say Alvarez’ incompetence is all the evidence we need to justify a vote for Donna More. She seems to have some political people of electoral influence on her side, and prominent criminal attorney Sam Adams, Jr., came out publicly in her favor.

ALVAREZ: Benefits of incumbency
Yet there are other political people of an African-American racial flavor who seem to be equally vociferous in claiming that Alvarez’ incompetence is all the evidence we need to justify a vote for Kim Foxx.

FOXX IS A former chief of staff to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who is the big cheese giving her political backing enough to think seriously of running.

FOXX: Is Preckwinkle backing enough?
While More is a former assistant state’s attorney and prosecutor herself who can claim the potential financial support of Gov. Bruce Rauner and the other wealthy people who backed his campaign.

In short, she could have the kind of money that allows her to be competitive.

MORE: Could she be the North Side's favorite?
While I have heard some observations (which are predictable) that Foxx’ political reach doesn’t extend beyond the South and West side neighborhoods in Chicago, and perhaps those southern suburbs (Foxx herself lives these days in suburban Flossmoor) that have majority African-American populations.

THIS COULD BECOME the election where all the white people who want to dump Anita Alvarez go for More, while all the black people pick Foxx.

As for the Latino segment of the electorate, nobody is going to dominate them. Not even Alvarez, whose own background as a career prosecutor in the state’s attorney’s office who gained the top post in the 2008 election cycle makes the more activist of Latino voters suspicious.

It really could turn out that if one candidate cannot ultimately dominate the Alvarez opposition (I don’t doubt that many people upset over the death of Laquan McDonald blame her even more than they blame Mayor Rahm Emanuel), the challengers could split about 65 percent while Anita could wind up winning with about 35 percent of the vote.

And the fact that a videotape exists of suburban Lynwood police officer Brandin Frederickson cold-cocking a criminal suspect in cuffs inside the police station won’t matter all that much.

  -30-

Would anything be accomplished by a ballplayer choosing to take a “stance?”

Who knew?

All those seasons and all those games that Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls chose not to play, he was being a revolutionary. He was making a bold statement toward justice and racial equality for all!

AT LEAST THAT seems to be what certain activists in Cleveland would have us think, what with the way they say it would mean something if LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers chose to not play in the next few games his NBA team plays – as a way of showing his outrage over the fact that prosecutors in Cleveland will not be seeking criminal charges against the local cops who killed a 12-year-old black boy.

That decision was made Monday, and the outcry on Tuesday was trying to make James himself a visible part of their contempt for the police and for society as a whole.

Now as of my writing this, James himself has kept his mouth shut. He hasn’t given any indication that he’d even consider the request of the activists.

A part of me suspects that he, and most other professional athletes, live in their own little world and certainly don’t want to be bothered by anything that doesn’t happen directly on the court.

CHECKING OUT THE gams on the dance squads that many sports teams use as half-time entertainment is about as much of a statement as many of these guys want to do.

So when I hear of James being asked to make a political statement, I can’t help but think back to the days when Michael Jordan was predominant and he was asked to get involved in electoral politics – particularly to make statements against some of the most outrageous nonsense being spewed then by the ideologues on the Republican side.

Jordan, we recall, refused. He kept quiet, although he made a brief statement about how “Republicans buy shoes too,” referring to the “Air Jordan” brand of athletic shoes. He wasn’t about to risk his financial bottom line by doing anything that would offend potential customers of a product being his identity.

Why do I suspect LeBron James will be inclined to take the same attitude, no matter how much pressure any activist types decide to try to push on him. He’ll say as little as he has too.

BESIDES, I CAN’T help but think that the idea of a ballplayer deciding to sit on the bench for a few games would not have the desired result. Particularly since many sports fans most enjoy it when their professional athletes behave like dumb ballplayers who know even less than the sideline cheerleaders.

It’s why I joke about the concept that Rose was being a revolutionary when he refused to play. We all know that just isn’t true.

He may well have been recovering from surgery and decided not to rush his attempt to come back to play. But the only cause he was touting was himself and his lazy streak.

Of course, my own attitude about this issue may be swayed by the fact that I’m from Chicago, and there are many of our own professional athletes we’d rather see less of because they manage to stink up the field every time they take too it.

TAKE JAY CUTLER for instance. The quarterback of our Chicago Bears ought to be the ultimate sports figure in the Second City. Yet for as much as he manages to infuriate us, what would happen if someone were to suggest that Cutler sit out a few games to show support for those who want police punishment for the death of Laquan McDonald?

It would probably have the reverse effect of driving up support for the Chicago cop who now faces six counts of murder for McDonald’s death! Heck, we local sports fans would probably support anything if it meant that Cutler were to just wither away.

Somehow, I doubt that sports fans in Cleveland are all that much different.

Besides, any city that actually defends the image of Chief Wahoo by its baseball club isn’t going to be a place that feels the need to influence police/black people relations on its ball fields and athletic courts.

  -30-

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

No charge in Cleveland. No guilt in Chicago? Problem remains the same

There are people now peeved in Cleveland, what with the fact that prosecutors along the Cuyahoga River think that the shooting death of a 12-year-old boy by police officers is not murder.

Another ugly scene headed Tuesday. Although when is the Criminal Courts Building ever a pleasant place to be?
I’m sure it will be their ideological cousins in Chicago who will be gathered outside the Criminal Courts Building on Tuesday when Jason Dan Dyke shows up in court and either he or his attorney says the words they don’t want to hear.

“NOT GUILTY. YOUR honor.”

For it will be the Chicago cop’s arraignment in which he and his attorneys will begin the process of fighting back against the people who have spent the past month with the videotape that they say shows Van Dyke killing a 17-year-old in cold blood.

Even though the video shows the gunfire coming from off-screen. It is other testimony in combination with the video that led the Cook County state’s attorney deciding they could charge the cop with a criminal charge – six counts of murder, to be specific.

Which is what people in Cleveland wanted to happen to two police officers who were involved in the shooting death of Tamir Rice – who was killed when police mistook the pellet gun he pulled from his waistband and pointed at them for a weapon that could have caused them bodily harm.

OF COURSE, THE activists in Cleveland are arguing that police should not have cared about such an act, and should have realized it was coming from a child. Which kind of reminds me of an old “Hill Street Blues” episode in which one of the often-noble Hill Street officers shot and killed a boy who pulled out a toy pistol at the wrong time.

Laquan could easily be ...
That cop was supposedly traumatized and the episode told of how his act ultimately devastated his career.

But the modern-day reality may be that some people were so eager to point out the legal justification for the two officers in Cleveland that they’re too willing to ignore the loss of a child’s life.

And some may also be willing to accept the acts of Van Dyke, whose attorneys told the Washington Post about how they intend to punch holes in the credibility of the video because it lacks audio.

PARTICULARLY OF THE information that police were provided during all those moments of driving in the squad car prior to encountering Laquan McDonald. Meaning they may really have seen him as some sort of major threat, particularly when he tried to get away from them on first encounter.

... Tamir's Chicago 'cousin'
Which activists like to think was McDonald trying to walk away from a conflict. But I am aware that the law gives police the legal right to stop people. That and the dinky blade could wind up providing some sort of legal justification.

I bring this up because I remain suspicious of those who want to believe this is such an open-and-shut legal case – one in which the officer will someday find his head being stuffed into a jail cell toilet bowl while being sodomized.

A grotesque image, but one I’m sure some people would take perverse pleasure out of its occurrence.

YET IT WILL be a long legal fight either way. Take the Washington Post, which recently did reporting about police violence in this country and found that during the past year, there were at least 975 people shot to death by police officers.

Only eight ever got charged with a crime. Which truly puts Van Dyke in rarified air if he was one of the few so over-the-top outrageous that he couldn’t escape a criminal indictment.

We’ll have to wait and see what ultimately happens with Van Dyke, who during his 14 years as a Chicago police officer had some 20 complaints filed against him – complaints that he somehow managed to be cleared of in all cases.

Although in one aspect, it doesn’t matter. Regardless of the verdict of some future jury, both Laquan and Tamir are dead – cut short before the prime of their lives was even close to coming.

  -30-

Monday, December 28, 2015

It may have been Hoosier lame, but it was more than Fighting Illini gave us

I’m not much of a football fan, and have a tendency to think the surplus of college bowl games tends to cheapen the whole affair.

Blue wound up beating on Red
Yet I couldn’t help but be amused by the mighty attempt of the city Gotham to impose its will on the glory of college football – what with the Pinstripe Bowl being played this weekend.

THE GAME PLAYED at Yankee Stadium that tries to impose the aura that the New York Yankees bring to baseball onto the world of college football would up having to turn to the Big 10 to find a recipient.

But while the Rose Bowl will have Iowa take on Stanford and the Big 10 team that likes to think it represents Chicago (Evanston-based Northwestern) will get to partake in the Outback Bowl, the Pinstripe Bowl wound up resorting to inviting the Indiana Hoosiers for a participant.

They got to take on Duke University.

Think about it – Indiana vs. Duke. It sounds like a competitive college basketball matchup; one that would legitimately be worth the hype and spin that the Pinstripe Bowl types tried to put on the football game.

FOR THE RECORD, Indiana almost managed to bring glory to the Midwestern U.S. – falling short in overtime on a field-goal kick that I’m sure Hoosier football fans will forevermore claim was something they got cheated on.

They may well think they should have won – instead of taking a 44-41 loss.

Although the fact that Indiana qualified for its first bowl game appearance in nearly a decade with a team that had a 6-6 won/loss record makes me think that Hoosier fans ought to be grateful their team got to spend a Christmas holiday break in New York City – certainly more entertaining than the Christmas Day I spent in Hammond, Ind. Breathing in cigarette-infested air while trying to keep from letting slot machines take all my money.

The relevant Rodriguez
Personally, I watched the game more out interest of seeing how Yankee Stadium plays as a football facility. For the record, it worked much better than that 2010 football matchup at Wrigley Field between Illinois/Northwestern.

PERSONALLY, I WAS hoping that when freshman running back Alex Rodriguez scored a touchdown that briefly gave Indiana the lead, somehow that lead could have held up and that the story would be how Alex Rodriguez scored the winning touchdown in a bowl game at Yankee Stadium.

Just because I know many baseball fans who would wretch at the very thought – what with the way they want to rag on the baseball version of Rodriguez every chance they get.

The bigger name after today
I’m sure they would have choked on the very thought of it!

But that storyline didn’t hold, nor did any Indiana lead. Those of us with Midwestern loyalties will now have to suffer the shame and humiliation of losing in football to Duke University, of all teams.

ALTHOUGH BEFORE THOSE of us from west of State Line Road start gloating that this is merely Hoosiers showing their incompetence, we must admit that our own state university’s Fighting Illini couldn’t even qualify for a bowl game this year.

Those boys in the orange and blue (who inspire the Bears of the blue and orange) probably wish they could have escaped the environs of Champaign/Urbana this past week for some time in Manhattan (and not the one in east central Illinois).

Let’s only hope that those boys in purple can do something significant come Friday when the Northwestern Wildcats take on Tennessee in that Outback Bowl – which is nothing to the locals in Tampa, Fla., but a game played in the stadium where the Buccaneers play during the fall.

We could have used more glimpses of the cheerleaders
Or else on Friday in the Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium when Notre Dame takes on Ohio State. All in all, a slew of football matchups that eagerly have me counting down the roughly seven more weeks until baseball spring training.

  -30-

Saturday, December 26, 2015

How long until we tire of McDonald?

I have my own personal barometer for news stories and their public interest – and I call him “dad.”
Protesters in the shadow of the clock

My father isn’t a news geek by any means; a part of me wonders if he thinks he went wrong somewhere because I turned out to be news-oriented. But he pays some attention to public happenings.

HE’S AWARE THAT a black teenager was killed last year and that there are people who are upset it took more than a year for anything to happen in the way of criminal charges being filed.

My father also comprehends that the police were involved, and that there’s a very real chance a police officer will be found guilty of a crime in connection with the death of Laquan McDonald.

But just this week, my father asked me about the goings on and details of the saga, and I could tell he’s reached the point where he thinks the essence of story has been reported and the rest is merely nothing more than too much detail.

For he didn’t seem pleased with my own opinion that this was going to be a story for at least as long as the legal proceedings in Cook County court keep it alive. Considering that court proceedings can easily stretch a routine criminal case for two or more years, this could last longer.

A THOUGHT THAT seemed to bother him, although his outrage was far from the most intense I have ever heard from him (I remember how he swore and screamed at a car radio once after about two months of stories detailing the cannibalism involved with Jeffrey Dahmer’s saga of the early 1990s).

Now I know some people are going to rant and rage that I’m giving my father way too much credibility and that perhaps his view (he’s the son of a Mexican immigrant who worked his way up to middle-class status; I’m the grandson of one who gained from the advantages provided by my father’s hard work) isn’t the one that matters most.

This is, after all, an incident involving a racially-tinged death of a young man whose life was cut off before he could even try to make something of himself.
How long until public stain on police washes away?

Yet I do think my father is typical in terms of attention-span, which can be brutally short in our society? And those of us in the news business are supposed to be writing for the general public (oft clichéd as the Kansas City milkman).

HOW LONG UNTIL the continuing flow of copy about McDonald’s death becomes perceived as overkill? How long until people start lashing out against anyone who tries to keep the story alive.

Now as I write this (a day early because I want to avoid having to write anything on Christmas Day), there are activists trying once again to disrupt downtown Chicago holiday shopping. In fact, I have a step-sister who felt compelled to join them on Thursday along with my niece and nephew.
McDONALD: Soon to be so yesterday?

Punishing society by making it impossible for someone to make that last-minute purchase of a holiday gift so they don’t come across as looking cheap or Scrooge-like! It was a repeat of the Day after Thanksgiving when activists caused enough problems for consumer flow that some businesses reported a financial blow.

Which may also be the way to get results on a social issue like this – because some people will only look at a financial bottom line and will disregard any attempt to appeal to one’s better self or conscience.

BUT THEY DIDN’T seem to cause as much disruption, but seemed to offend more holiday shoppers who may start to show hostility toward the McDonald saga. Heck, one of those people was my 12-year-old niece, who thought she was going on a downtown shopping spree but instead got an up-close view of how professional the police can be when they want to be.

What happens now that the holiday shopping season is over; do the activists continue to show up and try to cause traffic disruption? Do they just become something viewed as an urban annoyance like many of the downtown street musicians whom they try to tune out of their consciousness?

My own view, as I have often expressed, is that I’m more interested in the criminal proceedings than the politicking taking place to try to penalize Rahm Emanuel or other government officials – who I’m sure all knew all along they could merely wait out the trend for calmer days.

Because I don’t doubt that much of the hostility now felt toward the mayor will fade away by Easter. While a criminal proceeding will be more lasting, and immune, to the tendencies of the public to quit being quite so offended because something else will come along to bother them.

  -30-

Friday, December 25, 2015

Hope you have (or had) a happy holiday

This year, more than ever, I feel compelled to take my annual holiday advice and ditch this stinkin’ computer of mine to go enjoy the world out beyond the Internet.

In fact, I worry about anybody who’s actually reading this notice on Friday (and if, by chance, you’re stumbling onto it a couple of years from now, you didn’t miss a thing).

FOR THIS OUGHT to be a day in which we log off any electronic devices that we have made too prominent a place in our lives for. Go out into the real world and do something on this glorious Christmas Day. You aren’t missing a thing if you decide that anything on the Internet you’d be reading today can easily wait until Saturday (or next week, or month, most likely).

An analog world had its share of beauties, and we ought to try to enjoy them more often. Or for those of you who are Jewish, that you enjoyed them a couple of weeks ago during Hanukkah – a holiday that has its own charms and not at all like Jon Lovitz' "Hanukkah Harry" character on Saturday Night Live.

As for enjoyment, this is a particularly unusual holiday season – the first holiday season I have had in 46 years without my younger brother. Although my loss there has had the effect of bringing me closer to my father – and its most likely the two of us will wind up spending time together on Friday.

So before you log off your computer or whatever device you’re using to read this, let me be Venus Flytrap playing a sweet little holiday ditty to all the Jennifer Marlowes of the world. And yes, you get bonus points from me if you have a clue what it is I’m referring to.

  -30-

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Hiding police violence out in the open

It seems that law enforcement has learned a lesson from computer geeks and conspiracy theorists the world over – if you really want to hide something, do it out in the open.

Literally put all the raw data concerning your biggest secret onto a website so poorly designed and unpromoted that most people don’t even realize it exists – or perhaps don’t realize its significance if they happen to stumble into the site.

AND IF BY chance people do happen to find out what is going on, you can claim to have been fully honest about your information the whole time!

You’d be amazed at some of the stuff you find if you scour the Internet’s depths (and not just using Google to search for “naked cheerleaders” or stuff like that).

That same attitude seems to prevail with law enforcement and their attitude toward technology meant to record their activity – which theoretically is supposed to show that our police officers behave in completely professional manners at all times.

Those recordings are supposed to show how guilty those perpetrators truly are; and those are the videos we get to see freely.

BUT THE CHICAGO Tribune reported this week how there are many other instances of videos that aren’t quite so easy to find, and those are the ones where there are questions.

And in many cases, what turns up in those videos really isn’t so clear-cut. Or maybe there’s no audio to go along with the video. So what you really get is an out-of-context mess of fact that no one truly understands.

Yet the police will claim that the video cameras mean everything is being done on the up-and-up. Even though I have stumbled across reports of how the reason there is so little audio to go with video is because of police officers who, on their own initiative, wound up losing the microphones that would have recorded what was actually being said.

We’ll get the official pronouncements from law enforcement officials claiming that it is a crime to knowingly tamper with the recordings. Yet I’m sure proving criminal intent becomes difficult to do.

JUST LIKE PROVING that a law enforcement officer’s use of physical force (sometimes deadly) elevates to the level of criminal – considering that we give police the legal power to hurt people at times.

So all those people who want to file lawsuits against Chicago and the police department thinking that there’s a video in existence that will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt what happened are fooling themselves.

What they’re more likely to find out is that the video is vague and open to interpretation.

Even that now-internationally renowned video of the death of Laquan McDonald is much more vague than was originally thought – the only sight of a police officer is the one who kicked the knife out of Laquan’s cold, dead hand and the shots fired into his body come from off-screen.

WHICH IS WHY I still wonder how solid the criminal case is against the police officer who now faces multiple murder counts for McDonald’s death. And think the ultimate tragedy would be if people (including Rahm Emanuel) were to suffer politically while officer Jason Van Dyke were to be acquitted!

That might be the result that would cause rioting in Chicago – an outcome that our city has managed to avoid thus far, unlike places like Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo., to name a few.

And all those police videos?

For all we know, they’ll wind up taking up space on YouTube someday – going largely unwatched except by people who are looking for something stupid to view after watching video of kids on skateboards deliberately crashing their bodies into inanimate objects.

  -30-

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

EXTRA: Bernie ignores Rahm while doing Chi with batch of out-of-towners

Usually, somebody wishing to become president who passes through Chicago makes a point of seeking the mayor’s backing – or at least not his indifference.

SANDERS: Taking tourist approach to politics
Yet Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont who is taking on Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, made his Chicago campaign appearance at a point in time when Rahm Emanuel isn’t even in the country.

AND IN FACT is going out of his way to include an event Wednesday with Emanuel’s mayoral challenger – Jesus Garcia, the Cook County commissioner whom Rahm beat up on in this year’s election cycle.

It’s not like Garcia could be in the running for interim mayor if Emanuel were to depart (only the aldermen can be considered for that post), but I’m sure the images to result of Sanders with Jesus will stir up the resentment of those who wanted to Dump Rahm back in April.

Then with Sanders being sure to speak later in the day about the law enforcement issue that Emanuel gets hit with at every possible occasion. Bernie is bound to use Chicago to score points for himself at Rahm’s expense!

I find it interesting to see the crew of characters who will appear in Chicago with Sanders – including Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream brands to go along with assorted activist-types, none of whom are from Chicago and reinforcing the image that all the Rahm-trashing comes from out-of-towners!

I’M SURE THAT for some people, the chance to be associated with free ice cream will be enough to sway them. Although I’d have to wonder if that were the goal, why couldn’t Sanders have enough sense to associate himself with a Chicago-based ice cream maker?

There are, after all, many besides those ice creams made by Republican political dreamer James Oberweis (then again, maybe GOP dreamer Oberweis and Dem fantasizer Sanders is a perfect pair).

The original Gayety's, destroyed by a 1980s fire, remains in spirit, which Sanders could have played off of
I’d recommend Bernie consider throwing some attention to Gayety’s chocolates and ice cream – which has been in business nearly a century beginning in the South Chicago neighborhood and now based out of suburban Lansing. (And yes, I have childhood memories of being able to convince my father to stop at that old Commercial Avenue storefront whenever we’d visit grandma, who lived nearby).

Heck, if Bernie had given this stunt that much local thought, I’d probably be willing to be swayed to actually consider casting a ballot for him come the March 15 primary.

  -30-

Governor, Ill. House speaker should drop to knees and praise Rahm for detracting negative attention

Rahm Emanuel may have his share of outspoken enemies determined to take him down, and that is all the more reason why Bruce Rauner and Michael Madigan ought to drop to their knees and kiss the ground he walks upon.

EMANUEL: Number 26, says GQ
Almost as though Rahm were “his holiness” himself – the pope.

FOR EVERY BIT of attention paid to Rahm Emanuel these days by people determined to spin his story into the ultimate master-minded criminal conspirator, that’s one bit less time spent contemplating the fact that we’re nearly halfway through Illinois Fiscal ’16 without a budget.

And that some people are seriously having their livelihoods threatened because of the inability of certain state agencies and programs (the ones that don’t have the clout of a federal judge insisting they remain operational) to continue without impediment.

Yes, eventually we’re going to get the tale of someone who died because of the lack of state services that they relied upon to remain alive. The sheer stupidity of it (it may already have happened, yet we just don’t know about it yet) is amazing.

So I don’t want to hear that the Rauner/Madigan dispute is purely political while Emanuel’s alleged inaction nearly covered up a police killing.

NOT THAT I’M trying to defend anyone It’s just awesome this era we’re in during which we really despise our elected officials whom we picked o the last Election days.

Who do we hate more – Rauner or Emanuel? Or is the eternal despising of Michael Madigan by everyone who doesn’t actually live in his Southwest Side legislative district overcome all of them?

RAUNER: Is he falling into background?
The simple answer to those questions is that we hate Emanuel more. Because he’s “da Mare,” the head of city government, which is the only one that really matters (to the quintessential Chicago mindset).

The state and its officials are supposed to be subservient and go along with what they’re told to do. So naturally any hostility toward Emanuel (particularly by those who have never been able to defeat him at the ballot box) is more intense!

I DON’T SEE GQ magazine declaring any of our state officials amongst the worst people in our society of 2015 (Rahm ranks number 26, higher than football player Johnny Manziel but not nearly as bad as Kim Davis or Bill Cosby).

MADIGAN: Overshadowed?!?
Although I can’t help but think all of this will wither away into a generic sense of loathing that will linger, although we won’t be able to remember any of the details (“Gee, why do we ‘hate’ Rahm?,” we’ll wonder to ourselves a few months from now).

It’s our short attention span – it makes it tough for anything to linger. Heck, many of us probably can’t remember the details of why we’re upset with either Madigan and/or Rauner – only that they must have done something wrong because they’re elected officials.

Which usually is a good rule of thumb for us to follow, regardless of who the official is or what political party they’re allied with!

OF COURSE, THERE also is the fact that our mayor has a wonderfully-timed sense of vacation. He’s in Cuba with the wife and kids on what his staff insists is an educational sojourn – he’s not just enjoying the Cuban beaches and cigars (he probably doesn’t care about Cubano beisbol, getting his fill of it on the rare occasions he sees the White Sox play ball).

With all the government rigamarole involved, a trip to Cuba has to be plotted out well in advance. No one, not even a former White House chief of staff, can just catch a flight out of O’Hare International (or Midway, if they’re looking to be cheap) straight to Jose Marti Airport in Havana.

The sarcastic side of me wonders if Rahm Emanuel is considering going into exile now that he’s in Cuba – just like all those revolutionaries of the early 1970s who fled the U.S. to escape the hostile environment that existed in this country toward their activities.

Although it wouldn’t shock me to learn that with the worldwide spread of this story, that even in Havana there are those who’d want to run Rahm out of town for his inactivity!

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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Mayor remains tainted, but that doesn’t mean dumping Rahm fixes anything

It’s true that I have not been among the ranks of those calling for Rahm Emanuel’s removal from office as mayor in response to the death of a teenage boy at the hands of a police officer.

EMANUEL: Legacy??!?
It’s not that I think Emanuel is above blame. It’s just that I think it a bit simple-minded to believe that removing Rahm in any way resolves the situation or fixes the problem that our society has with regards to the police and the way they perceive many non-white people.

MY OWN ATTENTION is focusing more on the legal battle that will take place in the courts concerning Jason Van Dyke, the police officer who last week learned he was indicted by a grand jury on six counts of murder for the death of Laquan McDonald.

You can fire all the police officers and remove all the political people you want. But if Van Dyke winds up being acquitted of those criminal charges, that will be the ultimate blow to the activists. They want to dump the status quo – where the problem lies within the very culture we have created for our law enforcement.

To me, the people who are now shouting the loudest to dump Rahm Emanuel seem like the same people who were screaming during the election cycle earlier this year – but weren’t numerous enough to actually defeat him at the ballot.

They come across like sore losers who could never defeat Emanuel when he ran for those Northwest Side congressional seats or mayor in the past. By having people disrupting Rahm appearances with screams of “16 shots” (the number of bullets supposedly fired into McDonald’s corpse), they come across as ghoulish sorts who are trying to take advantage of a teenager’s tragic death for their own purposes.

THAT IS SOMETHING I just can’t get into. It has pushed me into appearing to be in the Emanuel camp – even though I can appreciate the degree to which the police department’s management is under the control of the mayor.

WASHINGTON: Does he also draw blame?
But if we’re going to blame Rahm, we also have to blame both Daleys, Byrne, Bilandic, Kennelly and probably every single person who has ever held the post of Chicago mayor.

For that matter, the list also should include Washington and Sawyer. For although those African-American men picked African-American officials to head the police department during their eras, they obviously were unable to rid our law enforcement of the idea that they serve to protect us FROM the African-American segment of our society.

Which if we’re to be honest, is an attitude that we will see in police departments across our country – although more pronounced in some communities than in others. Thinking that picking a black man to be the new police superintendent in Chicago isn’t enough to resolve the situation.

DALEY: Has Rahm matched 'shoot to kill'
NOT THAT I don’t doubt this will influence the legacy of Emanuel as our mayor. This is going to be one of the issues for which his time as mayor will be remembered.

Heck, some people will want to go out of their way to think of it as the dominant issue – just as their grandfathers likely are the people who think of Richard J. Daley as nothing more than the mayor who gave the “shoot to kill” order to police back in 1968 or enjoy hearing over and over Dick Daley’s verbal gaffe that the police exist to “preserve disorder.”

It may well be that the tension remains enough that Emanuel never does advance to a higher-level political post.

Although in all honesty, that is just the nature of the mayoral post. There is a reason why Chicago mayors never go higher – and not just because most of them lack a certain level of ambition for other levels of government that they believe being Chicago mayor IS the ultimate post!

IT AMUSES ME back to remembering when Emanuel tried to avoid taking the White House chief of staff post because he enjoyed being a Congressman and had dreams of someday becoming House speaker.

That dream is so long dead and buried that I wonder if Emanuel himself ever wonders if he should have been more stubborn and held out, rather than give in to Obama and put himself on the track that led him to City Hall.

  -30-

Monday, December 21, 2015

Some of us don’t want to consider anyone unlike us. I say it's their loss

Perhaps it is because I come from an ethnic origin that would never be mistaken for the stereotypical WASP – I tend to view Arabs and those of the various ethnic origins of the Middle East as just another group of people.

Yet another language in our societal mix, and let’s be honest, some of their foods are quite good.

SO WHEN I hear people get all worked up over Islam and Muslims, I can’t help but think the over-reaction rating is kicking into over gear. Don’t people realize that over-reacting so much isn’t good for their health?

Such useless stress.

Such as all the stink created last week with that now-suspended professor from Wheaton College who offended the higher-ups at the place that likes to think of itself as evangelist Billy Graham’s alma mater.

Her offense? She made a point of wearing a hijab to class, while also saying that Christian and Islamic religious faiths have a common basis. The oft-claimed statement made by people who don’t let ideological leanings dominate their thoughts that we all ultimately pray to the same god.

COLLEGE OFFICIALS HAVE since elaborated to say they don’t care about the headscarf she wore to class. It’s her comments that bother them.

Because the college that likes to believe it is a place where people can seriously study religious faith seems to have its own ideological leanings it wants to spew. And yes, I choose the word “spew” such as is done with garbage because I can’t help but think the college’s action is something they ought to know better than to resort to.

Or maybe it’s just that I’m an Illinois Wesleyan alum and remember Wheaton College as one of our athletic rivals.

But I can’t help but think the college has created a whole mess upon its own reputation; and one that is particularly sad because it was avoidable. All it would have taken was to accept that a professor was trying to make a larger point.

WHICH, IF YOU think about it, is what a serious place of higher learning is supposed to be about. I don’t know how this situation will turn out, other than that I’m sure Wheaton officials are ensconced in their own little world (most universities are) and think they’re really not accountable to anyone else.

Similar, I’d say, to the incident in rural Virginia where people are sending hostile e-mails to officials in the school district where parents are offended by a calligraphy lesson.


The offensive assignment
Students were asked to copy Islamic writing – not with any sense of comprehending what they were writing, but to try to copy the form of the various letters and symbols.

No one was trying to teach the meaning of the Shahada, that prayer that includes the line, “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of God.”

BUT YOU HAVE some people out there who already are peeved that they’re not allowed to impose Christian prayer on all students as a part of the regular classroom activity feeling that someone is now trying to force Islam down their children’s throats.

Probably because they presume everybody else in the world will behave in the same bad way they want to behave.

I’d like to say those people are just too isolated from the real world to realize how nonsensical their behavior is. But we have to be honest enough to realize this kind of widespread hostility exists elsewhere – why else isn’t Donald Trump the ultimate joke of the campaign trail?

And so long as we have a government that doesn’t go out of its way to reinforce the racial and ethnic hang-ups some in our society have, that’s probably the best we as a people can hope for.

  -30-

Saturday, December 19, 2015

What becomes of old family photos? Do we wither away into history?

It was recently that I attended a party when one of my cousins gave her brother what might appear to be an odd gift – a giant frame containing more than a dozen family photographs.
My father (right), uncles and aunt as kids at Riverview

Before one presumes this is a home-made gift with meaning, consider that the people in those photos are someone else’s family.

FOR IT SEEMS this cousin found these framed photos at a second-hand store, and she bought it because my other cousin apparently has an interest in the way people pose for those shots meant to preserve the family for posterity.

Particularly in the older days, but he also enjoys a contemporary shot or two as well.

Now that night, we were going back and forth having fun mocking this off-the-wall holiday gift, for it seems the family in the photographs is Filipino (or maybe Chinese, the captions written on the back of the photos were sort of vague). Such as the idea that when my cousin turns old and begins to suffer from dementia, he’s going to presume THESE people are his family.

Bye Bye to all of us!

BUT IT DOES have me wondering what should we really expect to happen to all of those alleged family mementos – particularly since nothing truly lasts forever. And there’s always the possibility that some knucklehead down the road will decide these “mementos” are little more than trash taking up space.
My maternal grandparents upon birth of twins (my mother's the baby on right)
That seems to be what happened to this particular family’s photographs – which were nicely framed and organized in a way that you literally could follow this woman’s story from being a Filipino immigrant to the graduation of her grandchildren.

Somebody’s life became someone else’s space-taking nuisance. Is that what is destined to happen to all of us?


My paternal grandparents in front of their (then) new home
Perhaps I’m thinking this too deeply because, with the death of my brother not long ago, I wound up becoming the family member in possession of the old family photographs.

WHICH NOT ONLY document my own childhood and that of my brother, but also contain the shots that were taken throughout the lives of my father and mother during their respective childhoods.

In fact, I know one of the things I was able to do to make my father happy in the days following the death of his other son was to give him some five dozen prints of photographs from his own childhood that had somehow passed down to us.

My father and Uncle John (my mother's twin)
I know he’s planning on taking actions meant to preserve those photographs – some of which already have had some significant fading and deterioration (what with being five or six decades old by now).

But what happens after that? What happens if the day comes when this big, clunky photo album that my now-late mother started to put together when I was a baby winds up being stray stuff.

DOES IT WIND up being put up for sale in a second-hand shop as a potential antique? Or worse yet, in one of those landfills near Pontiac where much of Chicago’s trash winds up these days!

It would be all too easy for me to see how such a scenario could happen – even though I’m sure someone is going to retort that by such a time, I would be deceased and it wouldn’t really matter to me any longer.

Me, with my Uncle Art, when I had a whole life ahead of me
So perhaps some of these old photographs ought to be seen now, what with the idea that I could at least try to pass along their significance.

Otherwise, they could all become just dusty images that wind up being someone else’s conversational piece before they move along to more “revelant” topics such as the weather or whether the Chicago Cubs will manage to go two full centuries without winning a World Series title.

  -30-