Saturday, April 30, 2016

Illinois is normal to the United States, and not just because of Normal, Ill.

Some people want to quantify everything with numbers, and that has led the website to do some mathematics comparing the populations of various groupings to see how they compare to the United States as a whole.
Illinois a little of everything, just like U.S.

How representative are they of the nation? Do they truly deserve to be thought of as being just like us?

FOR WHAT IT’S worth, the Chicago metropolitan area (which by their definition stretches north to Kenosha, Wis., and east to Gary, Ind.) is the seventh most like the U.S. city in the nation.

Also, Illinois is the state most like the United States as a whole. We’re what this country is all about.

Personally, I don’t find this unusual one bit.

For the fact is that Illinois is a place consisting of so many different types of people that it is a wonder we can seriously think of ourselves as a single state. And Chicago truly is the kind of place that has a little bit of everybody.

THE FACT IS there is no “typical” American, and our populations reveal that all too well.

Considering there are times when I think northern Illinois communities would be more comfortable as a part of Wisconsin, while central Illinois municipalities might well think of either Indiana or Iowa as a better fit.

Unless they happen to live near East St. Louis, in which case they align with Missouri.

And when it comes to the 30 or so southernmost counties of the state, Little Egypt probably really does think more highly of Kentucky and wonder how their home state isn’t a part of Dixie.

OF COURSE, those in metro Chicago often joke about how we’d be a better state if we didn’t have to carry all those other rubes who probably wish they were a part of some other state.

From Chicago to Cairo, ...
 We don’t have a common identity in Illinois like they do in, say, Texas.

Just like we don’t have a common identity for our nation. We are a collection of regions, each with their own character. We manage to come together to amass a single nation – but that doesn’t mean any single region is willing to subvert itself to the character of the whole.

So Illinois’ split really does make us a microcosm of the nation as a whole. We have a little bit of everybody that makes up the nation.

HECK, THE NEW York Times came up with a study of how the 50 states should be done away with and replaced by seven regions – which would unite those of similar character.

As it is, Illinois would be split in that study into three regions – Great Lakes, Great Plains and the Southeast Manufacturing Belt.

Our Chicago would be in a “state” with Detroit, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Kansas City and Minneapolis.

Which I’m sure some would say have more in common than being in a state with Rockford, the Quad Cities and Marion.

NOW I’M NOT calling for any split like this. Personally, I always found the distinct regions that felt like separate places in and of themselves as being what made Illinois a unique place.

I enjoy sharing a boundary with a place like Champaign or Bloomington (where I went to college), or even the afore-mentioned town of Normal (which is a nice place to visit, but with 85.1 percent white people living there is not the norm for the United States).
... we have quite the variety in Illinois
Besides, I found it interesting to see that while Illinois was the state most like the nation as a whole, Indiana was a place third-most like what the U.S. was like back in the 1950s.

We in Illinois have progressed while our Hoosier neighbors haven’t. Which may be why no amount of political rhetoric about the superiority of Indiana will ever be believable.


Friday, April 29, 2016

Does Rauner think only rich need apply?

I suppose it is the money that particularly bothers me about Bruce Rauner being our governor.
RAUNER: Money buys legislative results?

The man is engaged in a battle with the General Assembly over putting together a budget for the fiscal year that almost is over, and it is good to hear him this week talk about the need to tie those talks into discussions over a budget for the upcoming fiscal year that begins July 1.

IT WOULD BE pretty stupid to approve a budget for the current fiscal year, only to have the same financial problem recur come summer.

But what got to me was Rauner’s talk about how he wasn’t sure that the discussions could be complete by the time the General Assembly adjourns at the end of May for a summer break.

Not to worry says Rauner. He’s prepared to dig into his own wallet to come up with the cash to keep the Legislature in session (per diem living expenses for the full Legislature totals just under $20,000 per day) until talks could be complete. Because he absolutely does not want taxpayers to have to take on the overtime expenses of keeping the General Assembly in place at the Statehouse in Springfield until action could be taken.

Which won’t be until the governor and legislative leaders come to some agreement that the full Legislature can vote for. Our General Assembly truly has been one of the most useless government bodies while this political stalemate has been ongoing.

I WANT OUR government officials to get their acts together and figure out how to put together the budgets for 2015-16 and 2016-17 and not figure out schemes to try to buy themselves even more time.

Besides, it makes me wonder if our governor seriously believes that if he’s paying the tab for a special session, he has the right to demand it’s outcome.

Maybe he thinks he gets a “money back guarantee” if the General Assembly comes up with the “wrong” solution. He can return it and force them to come up with the measure he wants.

Which in Rauner’s case is a whole series of measures whose purpose is meant to undermine the authority of organized labor within state government.

ADMITTEDLY, THE MAN campaigned on that very premise back when he ran for governor in 2014. Nobody should be surprised that this is the way the man feels. He may even have a significant segment of Illinois’ populace willing to give him such a government.

But they wouldn’t be a majority, as evidenced by the fact that the Democratic majorities in the Illinois House and state Senate aren’t exactly facing backlashes for their opposition to Rauner during the past 10 months.

If our governor truly believes he can “buy” the results he wants on government, that truly is despicable. It’s not quite bribery – but it comes across as someone who thinks his wealth entitles him to order people about.

Which may well be what is most irritating about the concept of the Republican presidential campaign of Donald Trump – who acts as though he can bark orders at people and be entitled to meek compliance.

WHICH IS SOMETHING our legislators definitely haven’t given to Rauner.

But we do need a budget in place. It means the labor talks really do need to wait for a future year – particularly if Rauner is capable of such wealth that he could alter the Legislature’s composition to be more favorable to his desires.

Because if Democrats wind up losing influence and Rauner gains, it becomes their own fault. If they really have public support, they’ll keep their influence.

Rauner trying to “buy” a special session would be more frustrating to him than just trying to get more Republicans in the General Assembly.


Thursday, April 28, 2016

EXTRA: How about Bob Knight for Prez? Nah, he'd get whomped by Ditka!

I’m not the kind of individual who thinks it’s cute or interesting or in any way appealing for non-political people to start mouthing off about government, something they usually don’t have a clue about!

So the idea that one-time Indiana University basketball coach Bob Knight came out in support of Donald Trump’s presidential aspirations seemed nothing but silly to me.

IN ALL HONESTY, it would have made more sense if Trump, the New York real estate developer nationally reknowned for his garish public behavior, had been on hand to endorse the presidential aspirations of Bobby Knight.

That would make about as much sense, since I suspect Knight is beloved enough amongst the Hoosier crowd that he’d still be the Indiana basketball coach if not for that 2000 incident where he is alleged to have choked one of his ballplayers.

Not that Knight, who called Donald “the best man for the job,” is the first sports celeb to get behind Trump. One-time Chicago Bull Dennis Rodman has backed him publicly.

Let’s also not forget earlier this year when one-time Chicago Bears player and coach Mike Ditka bad-mouthed President Barack Obama and said he’d gladly vote for Trump as his replacement.

PERHAPS WE COULD put some sort of head-to-head battle between Knight and Ditka, to see which one would be a more favorable fantasy candidate for public office.

Knight may well take Indiana’s 11 Electoral College votes.

Yet I somehow suspect that “Da Coach” would clean Bobby’s clock – much to the disgust of those of us who prefer to take this presidential election process seriously.


EXTRA: Can we move on from Hastert?

I hope the general public, or at least the segment of our society that was obsessed with knowing all the sordid details of what it was that one-time Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert did, is satisfied.
How long 'til portrait viewed sympathetically

For on the day this week that Hastert had to appear before a judge (being permitted to sit in his wheelchair even though he tried to stand himself up at the crucial moment), it seems we finally got to know what it was the one-time high school wrestling coach “did” with his boys all those decades ago.

IT SEEMS HE’S a groper. He likes to touch them. He probably justified it in his mind as harmless fun. Just being one of the guys.

But one of them died carrying what he considered to be a shameful secret, and others also felt like they were abused. Which ultimately is the key to understanding such cases.

Hastert may not have intended as such, but it is what he caused.

Which is why the judge in U.S. District Court rejected his statement that he “mistreated” his athletes, and wound up referring to Hastert as a “serial child molester.”

WHICH IS A moment I’m sure made Hastert wince inside. I’m sure he realizes the lede of his obituary is no longer “one-time House Speaker” but instead the words that Judge James Durkin spoke.

It was curious that it all came out this week. Because for the more than a year that this case has been pending, prosecutors have resisted getting into the details of what it was that Hastert did back at Yorkville High School.

For Denny, who in the years after his service in Congress became a lobbyist and finally accumulated some wealth, was using it to pay off at least one person from the past to keep their mouths shut. In fact, one person claims Hastert reneged on the agreement, and now wants their money.

The charges to which Hastert pleaded guilty to and were sentenced for this week were financial violations – he withdrew so much money from his bank accounts and did not report it to the federal government, as is required.

IT’S A LAW meant to go after organized-crime types who deal so much in cash. As a fictional example, remember that episode of “The Sopranos” where we learn Tony has bundles of cash hidden in the bird feed, with the amounts just below the dollar figure that would have to be reported.

There was the sense that the U.S. attorney’s office people who prosecute financial crimes were so eager for their case to not get emotional or sloppy that they were willing to downplay what the money was for.

I’m sure there were many people who were disgusted with the legal proceedings until this week, when the case, according to a Crain’s Chicago Business headline, “live(d) down to all expectations.”

Personally, I wasn’t obsessed with knowing every sordid detail because that’s not what he got the 15-month sentence. I try not to get my kicks from other people’s unseemly moments.

BESIDES, I HAVE covered too many capital crimes proceedings where everybody claims that only execution will ease the pain and suffering. Only to realize it doesn’t. The suffering will be the same for the "victims" regardless of what happened to Hastert. It certainly doesn't matter what that wrestling Hall of Fame does with Denny's memory of his athletic days.

He got the prison sentence that will keep him locked away for just over a year (presuming he behaves himself and doesn’t become a prison disciplinary case). It was even said that federal prisons are equipped to handle older inmates with medical conditions that Hastert’s attorneys tried using to justify a sentence of purely probation.

So now Hastert goes away, so to speak. He does his time. With any luck, he lives out his sentence even though, as Judge Durkin said, his “good name is gone.”

Because it’s a sex-related crime instead of merely financially-related, does this mean the collection of political bribe-takers, shake-down artists and other corrupt politicos we have here in Illinois will think they can look down upon Denny?


EDITOR'S NOTE: I deliberately held off a day before trying to write anything about the Hastert predicament; for fear I'd write hysterics I'd later regret. Besides, both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz acted like goofs on Wednesday, making it possible to take a pass on Denny.

War of the women truly going to take down the GOP, no matter what they do

So Donald Trump decides to stomp all over what should have his big day of East Coast electoral victories by insisting the only reason Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton is doing well is because of her gender.

Trump’s chief GOP challenger, Ted Cruz, retorts with an act of desperation by giving us his choice of a vice-presidential running mate – Carly Fiorina, the former HP CEO who had her own presidential dreams back in the days when there were 18 or so Republicans in the running.

I REALLY HAVE trouble figuring which of these two clowns comes across as more pathetic and which would be the most truly unpresidential person our nation could have as a choice for someone who deserves to legitimately live in the White House.

I’m inclined to think it’s Trump, just because he seems to have a lock on buffoonish behavior.

But you have to admit that the junior senator from Texas has truly adopted his state’s reputation for over-the-top behavior. He’d probably conduct himself with more decorum if he truly were a Canadian!

For it seems that as the Republicans are on the verge of having to admit failure in their effort to deprive New York real estate developer Trump of the ability to use their party’s presidential nominating convention in Cleveland into a personal pep rally for himself!

SO CRUZ COMES up with this image of his presidential campaign as something truly historic – a chance to have a top-of-the-ticket pairing that could put a woman in a place of significance.

It might, in their minds, make some people give up on the idea of voting for Hillary because her gender would be a political statement.

Reading through this probably makes you wonder what kind of medication I’m using to come up with such addled thoughts, and maybe the newly-prescribed blood pressure pills I have started taking is doing something.

But Cruz’ efforts to use the Fiorina image to bolster his own does little but drag him down.

FOR ONE THING, there were a few people who thought Carly would be fit for president. They may wind up provoking the concept that the wrong person was on top – just like it would have been a stupid mistake if Barack Obama back in 2008 had picked Clinton as a running mate.

Besides, we really don’t want to think about running mates until we know who the nominees are! I can’t believe Cruz thinks he can use Carly to bolster what has become his long-shot chances of stopping Trump from becoming the nominee.

Face it, 2016 will wind up being the year of Who Do We Hate More?!? Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. It really makes me wonder if a viable third candidate will emerge who can take the votes of people who can’t bring themselves to cast ballots for either one of them.

And as far as the Republicans are concerned, I have to confess that back in the days when there were 18 candidates, Trump and Cruz were always the two who stood out in my mind as the absolute last ones I would want to see get the nomination.

THE FACT THAT they are the ones who have prevailed and that Cruz, the ultimate knee-jerk ideologue, is considered the more sensible of the two is – in my mind – the evidence as to why I can’t take seriously the modern-day Republican Party.

And why I wind up siding myself with a mediocrity like Hillary – who’s going to bring back the two-decade old lame gags about her husband.

I have to confess one potential joy to the notion of Trump feeling compelled to take pot shots at Hillary’s gender at a point when he’s on the verge of primary victory.

The fact that he feels this way means his defeat come November (losing to ‘that dame’) will probably hurt him deep down all the more.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

How long until Chicago Tribune becomes merely “the newspaper?”

I’m remembering back to an idle conversation I had with one of my colleagues back in the days when I worked for United Press International – we noticed the large number of banks that had merged with one another.
A boast that soon may no longer be possible to make

Would it someday reach the point where only one company would control the industry – and we’d all wind up being consumers at “The Bank?”

I COULDN’T HELP but remember that moment when I learned this week of the fact that Gannett newspapers (the founder of USA Today and gobble up-er of many local papers across the nation) is interested in buying Tribune Publishing.

Particularly the Chicago Tribune itself. The newspaper that long-time Gannett boss Al Neuharth praised as one of the nation’s best could someday wind up as a part of the company.

A cog in the overall machine that gives news and information to people across the country. Because I suspect if current ownership tries to resist a sale, stockholders interested only in the financial bottom line will wind up stringing them up outside of Tribune Tower, and dumping their carcasses in the heavily-polluted Chicago River.

Yet the image of a Gannett-owned Chicago Tribune bothers me in particular, even though I realize that modern-day newspapers are nowhere near as individualistic as they were in past generations.

PARTICULARLY WHEN ONE ventures outside of Chicago or metropolitan areas, there is a tendency for the “local” papers to carry the same stories – usually written by the Associated Press (and I don’t want to hear from any current or former AP snobs about how the “t” in ‘the’ is capitalized; the one-time Unipresser in me says “Shove it!”).

Even the larger metros are losing their character and becoming merely bigger (and more costly, which cuts into the financial bottom line) versions of ink-on-paper distribution of information.

Which is a medium I am going to prefer until the day I die – reading off a screen gives me a headache after too long a time.

But back to the future of newspapers, particularly the Chicago Tribune – which in the interest of disclosure I should admit I do some work for on a freelance basis. I have an interest in what becomes of Tribune Publishing, because I think about the only other newspaper in the Chicago area left that I could write for would be the Herald-News of Joliet (Shaw Media).

EVERYTHING ELSE IS gobbled up, and now someone else wants to gobble up the Chicago Tribune – which historically wanted to think of itself as the high-and-mighty voice of the Midwestern U.S. But if it becomes a part of Gannett, it would be a sister paper to the metro dailies in Indianapolis, Detroit, Des Moines and Milwaukee.

With the St. Louis Post-Dispatch owned by Quad Cities-based Lee Enterprises, it could very well wind up that the Chicago Sun-Times becomes the lone independent voice. Either that, or an isolated voice that nobody listens to.

Because the strategy behind all this consolidation is that newspapers have to grow into as large of groups as possible so they can consolidate as many of their costs as possible.

The idea that the Chicago Tribune would remain significantly different from the Indianapolis Star, the Detroit News, the Des Moines Register or Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel would be laughable. It would defeat the purpose of combining into one large company, which would require the publications to become mere versions of one another.

THE SCARY THING (to me, at least) is that I don’t think many people would notice a difference. Particularly because television news already shares so much from city to city and there often is little to distinguish (one male news anchor has a particularly ridiculous-looking toupee, while another station’s meteorologist likes to show more cleavage) one television station from another.

For all I know, there may be people who think the idea of “the newspaper” that provides the same product regardless of what city it’s being purchased in is something good.

Just like how they think being able to get the identical product from a Subway sandwich franchise regardless of where one is makes for a good business plan.

I honestly think this viewpoint is something we won’t appreciate the flaws of until it’s too late to do anything about it.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Rauner comes off like would-be segregationists still fighting Civil War

That civil war is long over

That’s the mind-set these days of Gov. Bruce Rauner, who went about giving his support on Monday to a measure meant to ensure that public colleges across the state will continue to operate at least for the rest of the current academic year.

THE STATE’S LACK of a budget has been particularly harsh on public education. They’re not getting the levels of state funding upon which they rely for operations. They’re actually having to rely upon the tuition paid by their students – which isn’t enough to keep classes open in full.

At Chicago State University, a school that traditionally is a little more messed up financially than other schools, there was actually fear that there wouldn’t be enough money to finish the current academic year.

The school might have to close down and students would find their academic work for the year all a waste.

Other schools might have to start cutting certain programs, leaving students out in the cold.

BUT THE GENERAL Assembly, that body whom Rauner thinks deserves all the blame for the state’s financial situation because they’re Democrats unwilling to see organized labor as “the enemy” like he does, last week gave its support to a measure that comes up with some $600 million to allow public higher education to keep going in full at least through September.
This 'civil war' ...
That’s the beginning of the 2016-17 academic year, which theoretically the state Legislature and the governor are working on already. Except they still haven’t figured out 2015-16 for real!

Now why would Rauner be so willing to make this move, which he said in a statement on Monday would, “represent a first step toward compromise between Democrats and Republicans” toward putting together the overall budget that would keep state government operating in its entirely.

Probably for the same reason that Rauner, as his one budgetary action last year, enabled elementary education programs to have a budget.
... should also end
FOR THE PUBLIC grammar schools and high schools are the one entity that have received their state funding during the state fiscal year that began back on July 1.

Try denying a child the chance to be in the classroom supposedly learning something, and you’d see how quickly that child’s parents would turn on Rauner and wind up voting en masse for anybody with the nerve to run against him.

Now that college students, whose financial aid was threatened by the lack of state Monetary Award Program grants, could wind up losing the chance to be able to attend classes and try to make something of their future lives (seriously, how many people can actually afford the modern-day cost of college without some financial aid?), we’d see how quickly they’d become motivated to register to vote and become a force that supports something other than the sweet-sounding-but-impractical rhetoric of presidential dreamer Bernie Sanders.

Rauner, in his Monday statement, talks of the need to build upon bi-partisan political rhetoric. As though he thinks he is making the initial gesture to a hostile pro-union political force more interested in looking out for organized labor interests than those of the people.

WHICH SOUNDS A bit as ridiculous to me as those people who like to pretend the U.S. Civil War was truly a conflict over state’s rights with civil rights issues being completely irrelevant to the struggle.
Would Abe be ashamed of Ill. today?

I’m not even getting into the fact that the issues upon which certain people tried to rely upon the concept of state’s rights to defend were despicable and immoral. It just seems like Rauner is determined to view our financial situation through as narrow a lens as the Confederacy-apologists try to view that century-and-a-half old war.

Although it’s likely purely coincidental that it means Rauner is fighting against “union” the same way those Southerners were. That war is over, and the fight for a state budget ought to be.

It’s time for the sides to come together and compile the budget agreement that keeps government going. After that, Rauner can resume his organized labor fight – perhaps gaining enough Legislature support after the next elections to have a chance of legitimately reducing labor union influence.


Monday, April 25, 2016

I'm getting old(er) and ill(er)

PALOS PARK, Ill. -- I spent this past weekend lounging around, watching television, having my meals brought to me special order and having my every whim catered to.

I'd have rather spent the weekend at the ballpark, than in bed watching the ballpark on TV
Of course, I also had to put up with doctors prodding me and poking me with needles periodically while trying to figure out my problems (aside from my usual grouchy temperament).

FOR I SPENT the weekend in a hospital (Palos Community Hospital in suburban Palos Park, to be precise). I was diagnosed by a doctor last week with asthma and it also was discovered my blood pressure was running high. So I spent Friday night through Sunday afternoon under observation, while making sure I don't have some sort of kidney disease that could take me down permanently (I don't).

The bottom line is that doctors spent the weekend trying to calculate the proper mixture of medicines that I'll have to consume in order to keep me alive and thriving.

Blood pressure pills and a combination of inhalers. I'm only 50, yet it seems like this is the new routine of my life.

Yet as I laid in that hospital bed, I couldn't help but think how typical I have become. So many of us now have our medications we must take for various ailments. Whereas past generations would have just accepted complications in life and presumed it was evidence we're getting old(er)!

IN FACT, I recently attended a family function where the conversation turned to health and the medications we all were taking. It turns out I was the only one not taking anything.

Not any more. So was I really healthy? Or just oblivious to my own well-being?

So what was hospital life like?

My hospital room was similar, but my window view looked out onto a courtyard where I could look into the windows of other hospital rooms. And no, I didn't catch a glimpse of another patient half-naked. Image provieded by KJWW Engineering Consultants.
I got admitted late Friday and wound up being able to watch the entire weekend of Chicago White Sox baseball (that Saturday game was frustrating as the Sox should never have needed 12 innings to win). I even stumbled across reruns of "Hill Street Blues" (which a nurse's aide mistook for that "Chicago PD" cop show, as she called it), while I flipped through several cable news channels.

I ALSO WAS able to meet one nurse who took a blood sample who says she shares my exact birth date in 1965. I never would have guessed -- she looked significantly younger than myself.

Hill Street's "Hill" and "Renko" characters still amuse
I got to see how small food portions could be made and still be thought of as a meal (and they wouldn't let me have a pickle to go with a turkey sandwich -- too much sodium).

In short, a mind-numbing weekend whose end I anxiously awaited. Returning to work this week will be a relief. I'm even eager to make the trek to Gary, Ind., to cover a (non-)scintillating hearing of the Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority for a local newspaper I do some work for.

Although the moment I may most remember from my weekend of hospitalization occurred Sunday morning when another nurse brought my medication. She noticed me watching CNN where Donald Trump, Jr., was talking about his father's presidential campaign -- while also saying opponent Ted Cruz' only chance of victory was if he bribed delegates at the upcoming Republican Narional Convention.

Our future president?
THE THOUGHT OF Trump, the elder, as president caused my nurse, Greta, to say Trump was scary, but add, "twenty years from now, it will be (entertainer) Kanye West running for office. That's the direction we're headed."

My fear is that Greta is right -- superficiality above all else will prevail in future politics. That thought scares me more than anything I heard from a doctor this weekend.


Saturday, April 23, 2016

Tribute to nurses instead of Speck would be a welcome relief for neighborhood

It was with a personal touch that I read the Chicago Tribune account of Dr. John Schmale, who discovered a stash of slides in a water-flooded basement bringing back to life his little sister Nina Jo.

Who was one of the eight women who died nearly 50 years ago when she was in an apartment being shared by several student nurses at the old South Chicago Community Hospital nursing school that happened to be stumbled upon by Richard Speck.

HE WAS A commercial seaman whose ship happened to dock in the ports along the Calumet River, and he got drunk in a tavern that now is a vacant lot, when he got the urge to find those young girls.

One got raped, while eight were stabbed and slashed to death. One nurse had the temerity to hide under a bed and would up surviving the attack.

Schmale talks of wanting to create a memorial to the July 1966 incident that would remember the young women and let us know of the potential human beings they never got the chance to become.

Which would be a relief, since much of what gets remembered of that long-ago mass murder was of Speck – both in his gruesomeness that night, the way that death penalty law got altered in the 1970s so that his own death sentence was never carried out, and that crude prison-made (it appears) porno film featuring Speck himself.

NOT THE MOST pleasant of accounts to recall. Something I wouldn’t even bother to acknowledge if not for Schmale.

For I am a South Chicago neighborhood native, although I haven’t lived in the neighborhood proper in a long time.

But my usual route to get there includes a trip on the Bishop Ford Freeway to 103rd Street, where I then venture east. Which takes me through the neighborhood where the crime took place.

I can actually venture up toward 100th Street to check out the townhouse where the slayings took place, if I’m in a particularly ghoulish mood. I most definitely venture past Trumbull Park.

WHICH IS ONE of those assets that theoretically could help make the South Deering neighborhood a nice community to live in. Although I recall the news reports that came out at the time of the crime that acknowledged the initial Chicago Police Department reaction was to roust all the would-be delinquents who were hanging around the park at the time to see if any of them were involved in the brutal slayings.

It’s something of a daily reminder of what once happened there. Although I’m sure that with the passing of a half-century, there probably are way too many people too young to know. And some who probably could care less what happened before they arrived in the neighborhood.

They may figure there have been countless crimes committed in the area since then, so many that getting worked up over this one is somehow a waste of time.

Which may be why shifting the focus off Speck (he wound up dying in prison nearly a quarter of a century ago) would be a plus. The real crime of murder isn’t so much the violent act itself, but that it causes a loss of life that could have contributed something to society.

PARTICULARLY IN THIS case, where potential medical personnel were involved.

I also recall a moment in high school where I had to give a speech – mine was about the death penalty, and I used a lame argument for capital punishment that Speck didn’t deserve to live after what he did.

Although now that I think of it all these years later, I’m inclined to think the Speck punishment (spending the last 25 years of his life locked up) was most appropriate – particularly because of that porno-film incident – which I recall seeing along with several General Assembly members in Springfield who used it as a chance to investigate prison security.

Seeing Speck showing off his pair of blue panties and babbling about how his incarcerated life turned out made him such a pathetic joke – one that truly isn’t worth paying too much more attention to.


Friday, April 22, 2016

A matter of news judgment: Whose celebrity death matters more? Does Trump get trumped by Prince?

As someone approaching the three-decade mark of having worked in the news business, news judgment at times becomes second nature. As routine as watching a quality shortstop gobble up ground balls even if they took a bad hop off a pebble.

Purple Rain tops Playboy ...
But there are times when the calls made by editor types create some unique circumstances.

WHEN I WOKE up Thursday morning and checked around the Internet, it seems that the potential was for a celebrity death to dominate the nation’s news reports. Joanie Laurer, a.k.a. Chyna, was found dead in her Los Angeles-area apartment

She was a part of the crew of the World Wrestling Federation of old, and gave off the impression of a semi-attractive woman who was so muscular that there was no doubt she was capable of beating the caca out of anybody who messed with her.

Now I was never much of a fan of professional wrestling. But my brother, Christopher, was. He acknowledged the “fake” status of wrestling – not really a sport, but instead an overly-physical show in which the “entertainers” do their own stunts.

And to help enhance those stunts, she wasn’t shy about admitting her use of steroid substances that bolstered her muscular bulk.

QUITE THE FREAK show, and one that I’m sure some people remember fondly. Enough that I’m pretty sure they were pissed when later Thursday morning publicists for the entertainer Prince (a.k.a. Prince Rogers Nelson) announced that he was dead.

Found at his home near Minneapolis, a city of which he was a native.
... in terms of topping Prince over Chyna.

Chyna might have gone on to appear in movies and do a spread for Playboy magazine. But it seems the film “Purple Rain” and the song “1999” are a longer-lasting legacy than the sight of a scantily-clad Chyna whom not even Hugh Hefner would publish these days (because we’re really supposed to read Playboy for the articles these days).

Prince wound up being the big celebrity death. Chyna quickly got relegated to second-class status, and I’m curious to see how her death actually gets played in the Friday newspapers.

I WONDER IF we’ll get the same type of sniping as occurred back on May 17, 1990. That was the day after both Jim Henson (the Muppets creator) and Rat Pack singer Sammy Davis, Jr., died.

Many newspapers (including the Chicago Tribune) took their share of grief for thinking that creating characters such as Kermit the Forg and Big Bird was more important than singing “The Candyman” or being Frank Sinatra’s party buddy.

Personally, I don’t think Chyna or Prince would top either Davis or Henson on the overall society contribution checklist. But obituary placements often are a matter of timing.

Chyna might have got bigger overall play if Prince’s publicists had had the decency (some might think) to hold off another day in announcing his death – which came just a few days after reports of his emergency hospitalization in the Quad Cities.

I’M SURE SOME people are going to want to take on a “conspiracy theory” mode in thinking that something suspicious exists about the singer’s death.

Now some might think this is celebrity overplay. Although I have to admit those deaths do catch a certain level of interest that the rest of the news report fails to do with its presidential campaign obsessions.
Trump's appeal isn't orange, it's green

As I look at the newspapers in front of me, I see the lede story headlines of “Trump Stumps in Indy” (say that three times quickly) and “Russia Expands Submarine Fleet, Fueling Rivalry.” The latter came from the New York Times, which relegated their Trump-related story to Page Three. Although that story told us of the potential for the upcoming Indiana primary elections (May 3) could be the ones that make it inevitable that The Donald will be the Republican presidential nominee.

As far as I’m concerned, that is all the more reason to think there’s something funky in the polluted part of Lake Michigan water that those Hoosiers are consuming in the land east of State Line Road!