Tuesday, December 12, 2017

How some can rationalize anything to benefit their own political partisanship

We as a society are going to learn something about ourselves Tuesday, regardless of the outcome of the special election in Alabama to fill a U.S. Senate vacancy from that state.
MOORE: Will one-time 22 point leader prevail?

That, of course, is the one in which Republican Roy Moore (a one-time judge of right wing sensibilities) ought to be the favorite to win. Yet the disclosures of Moore’s past attractions to teenage girls extending well into his adult years have some wondering/hoping/praying that Democrat Doug Jones can prevail.

WHICH WOULD HELP Dems extend their efforts to undermine the amount of Congressional support President Donald J. Trump can count on for his goofy whims of political fantasy.

Trump is fully aware of that, which is the reason why he has publicly endorsed Moore – saying the need to keep a congressional seat Republican is more important than any repulsion that one may feel toward Moore’s attraction to a 14-year-old girl back when he was 32 (he’s now 70).

Just as “the whole world is watching” back in 1968 when protests in Chicago became violent due to police behavior, the world will be watching Alabama on this day to see whether the political party that usually likes to think of itself as overly moral (it’s not, but that’s a debate for a future day) will back someone who, if he’d been caught at the time, could have faced statutory rape charges.

Considering he was an assistant district attorney in his home county at the time, that would have made it particularly repulsive. Moore ought to have comprehended the law well enough to know better.

WE’RE GOING TO see how intense political partisanship is over any true sense of morals amongst the portion of our society that lives in Alabama.

As it stands, the Birmingham News reported Monday on two polls – both of which show Moore with solid leads. A Trafalgar Group report shows 51 percent of people planning to or leaning toward voting for Moore, compared to 46 percent siding with Jones.

JONES: Can former KKK prosecutor overcome?
Another poll by Gravis Marketing showed 49 percent for Moore compared to 45 percent for Jones.

We’ll know by the end of Tuesday how close these polls are to reality, particularly since the ideologues most likely to put partisanship ahead of morals are more willing to cite a new poll done for the Fox News Channel – one that shows Jones leading Moore 50 percent to 40 percent. Which strikes me as a large number of undecideds still; and whose intent most likely is to scare right-wingers into turning out to vote for Moore!

MY OWN EXPERIENCE in watching government and politics is that every now and then, public officials and voters surprise us by doing the right thing. Putting aside their own personal interest and doing what is for the good of the people.

But those moments truly are rare and come as a surprise. So I’m not about to predict how Moore will do in Tuesday’s vote down in the Cotton State. As much as I’d like to think Alabamans would like to put an end to the number of nasty stories about how intolerant their region of the nation is, I’m sure some will be more than willing to add to it by giving Moore an electoral victory.

Now some in Washington, D.C., have said they consider Moore to be unfit to serve in Congress. Perhaps that has some thinking that even if Moore wins, he’ll be rejected and this vote is about deciding which political party will get to pick his replacement.

Although I’d argue that continuing to back someone like Moore (who with all the right-wing nonsense he’s spewed throughout the years was unfit for office even before all the stories about young girls started cropping up) shows Republican leadership in Alabama is unfit to have any say on the issue.

OTHERS, I’M SURE, have their own odd rationalizations. Such as one I read in a public comments section of the Birmingham News.
Are Alabamans eager to add to list of absurdities built up during Civil Rights era?
One reader says everybody needs to vote for Moore because a vote for a Democrat is just too harmful to our societal morals. “Pedophilia will be legal if Democrats have their way! It will become a Civil Right and be protected by Title IX,” one wrote.

Now if one looks up the definition of pedophilia, one learns that it relates to people who have sexual attraction to children 12 and under. Which means that for them, Moore’s okay because his attraction was to girls 14 and up. He's in the clear, morally!

That’s quite a rationalization some are willing to make just to win an election with an unfit official. One whose stain will be smeared over the nation as a whole if he prevails on Tuesday.


Monday, December 11, 2017

Reminiscences of childhood, and how bad Chicago baseball once was

The Baseball Hall of Fame’s veterans committee gave its consideration Sunday to ballplayers from the 1970s-80s who deserve a second glance at membership, and hearing of the nine ballplayers under consideration brought back one depressing memory.
White Sox traded Hall of Fame possibility ...

Chicago baseball was pretty putrid back when I was a kid. I was 14 back in 1979 when the Pittsburgh Pirates won the World Series to the tune of Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family.” It was a wonder I didn’t get turned off on the game by the mediocre-to-lousy teams that existed back in those decades.
... for the decade's best Chicago ballplayer

PARTICULARLY THE 1970s, when the Cubs had sort-of decent teams in 1970-71, while the White Sox had a near championship in 1972. Both teams were respectable enough in 1977 that I still remember the dreams that the year of “Saturday Night Fever” and “Star Wars” would be the year of an all-Chicago World Series.

Of course, it didn’t happen. It was a possibility in 2008 when both ball clubs won division titles, but then both got knocked out in the first round.
Did Garvey cost Cubs '84 championship?

Otherwise, the decade was pretty dreary -- with the year of the Bicentennial possibly being the worst. While the rest of the nation was celebrating 200 years of the United States, and the National League hit its own 100th anniversary, 1976 was dreadful in Chicago – even though future Hall of Famers Rich Gossage and Bruce Sutter played here that season.

The Cubs had a losing record of 75 wins, 87 losses, with both the St. Louis Cardinals and Montreal Expos worse. While the White Sox were 64 wins, 97 losses. Dead last in their division.
Too good to play in Chicago back then?

LOOKING AT THE ballplayers who were under review Sunday for the Hall of Fame -- with two, Alan Trammell and Jack Morris of the Detroit Tigers -- explains the situation perfectly.

None of the nine had a strong connection to a Chicago ballclub. Only Tommy John pitched for the White Sox back in the 1960s, and by the early 1970s was one of the ballplayers they sent to the Los Angeles Dodgers to get Dick Allen – the American League MVP for 1972 who nearly single-handedly led the White Sox to a championship dream that year.
Thwarted White Sox '84 chances?

If anything, the other Hall of Fame considerees were ballplayers who created local memories of beating up on our ball clubs.

How many Cubs fans are still bitter about how an aging Steve Garvey, later in his ballplaying career in 1984, got some of the big hits that led the San Diego Padres to a National League championship over the Cubs in the playoffs that year.

HE MIGHT NOT be public enemy number One like Tim Flannery (who got that base hit beneath the glove of Cubs first baseman Leon Durham that was a premonition of former Cub Bill Buckner’s game-losing error against the Boston Red Sox two years later in the World Series).
One of baseball's most unique pitchers

Or the Detroit stars like shortstop Trammell and pitcher Morris – who led the 1984 Tigers team to 104 wins and a World Series title. One that squashed all over the White Sox dreams for that year.

After all, the White Sox won a division title and went to the playoffs in 1983, only to fall short to the Baltimore Orioles (remember Jerry Dybzinski?). But they thought the acquisition of future Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver would be the key to put them over the top.
Future Hall of Famers Gossage ...

Instead, they fell short of Detroit, and the South Side had to wait another 21 years before finally getting a World Series victory.

AS FOR THE rest of the considerees, Dale Murphy of the Atlanta Braves, Dave Parker of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Ted Simmons of the St. Louis Cardinals were among those who gave Cubs fans bad on-field memories – although many of those fans learned to take their pleasure from having all-day games and a chance to play hooky from work or school.
... and Sutter didn't rise quality of ball clubs

While Don Mattingly of the New York Yankees and Luis Tiant of the Boston Red Sox did more than their share to tick off the boo-birds throughout the years at Comiskey Park because of the way they beat up on White Sox pitchers like Britt Burns or hitters like Bill Nahorodny.

All of those players give me memories (Tiant’s herky-jerky windup when pitching was unlike any others, while I’ll never forget Parker’s throw from deep right field to home plate during the 1979 All Star Game that nailed former White Sox catcher Brian Downing) not necessarily tied to the Second City.
Which means that those of us who came of age during the 1970s and remember how bad baseball here used to be (along with first-hand memories of Disco Demolition from '79) were probably the ones who most appreciated that 2005 White Sox’ World Series win – or even the 2016 title that the Cubs managed to bring back to Chicago.


Saturday, December 9, 2017

Does Kennedy have right to make same ol’ accusations against Joe Berrios?

I comprehend why Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Chris Kennedy feels compelled to do something to jump-start his campaign this electoral cycle.

KENNEDY: Will he gain from Berrios bashing?
The man who early on was supposed to be the one legitimate challenger to J.B. Pritzker and his millions is fizzling out to the point where he maybe as much a fringe candidate as Daniel Biss – who likely will win the vote in his home suburb of Evanston but will be unknown elsewhere in Illinois.

HE NEEDS TO do something drastic to draw attention to himself, although perhaps not as drastic as 2008 presidential hopeful John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate. That was just politically suicidal.

Although I’m wondering if Kennedy’s attempt at an attention-grabber this week is going to have a similar backfiring effect – did the man who can claim a senator for a father and a president and senator as uncles come across as some out-of-town goof who has the nerve to criticize our local political people?

I wonder if Kennedy’s attempt to call for the resignation of Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios will offend the local types who would figure this Kennedy kid (who has never held elective office before) ought to mind his own business.

Even though, to be honest, the accusations he made against Berrios are the same exact bad things that many local people say about Joe – he operates his office that assesses property tax rates for the benefit of people who make prominent financial donations to Democratic candidates. Oh yeah, he also stocks his government payroll with every relative and political friend he can find.
BERRIOS: Always under fire politically

KENNEDY, AFTER ALL, is a Boston-born type who was raised in the suburbs of the District of Columbia. He’s not native Midwestern by any means, let alone a life-long Chicagoan.

He did eventually get an MBA from Northwestern University, but his local tie is because of the fact the Kennedy family for many years owned the Merchandise Mart property. The family has since sold it, but during the time in the 1990s and 2000s that they owned it, Chris Kennedy was the family member they sent to Chicago to run it for them.

During those years, Chris Kennedy became the Chicago connection to the Kennedy political family and also a fairly solid financial contributor to our local politicos. He often talked about running for higher office himself, but always managed to find excuses for which to drop out.
MADIGAN: Will he back Berrios?

Giving some the impression of a political dreamer who doesn’t actually have the nerve to put his own name on the ballot for voter scrutiny.

HECK, THERE ARE some people who are still convinced he’ll find a reason to drop out of this election cycle – even though by filing nominating petitions, he’s already carried out more of a campaign than he’s ever done previously.

The point is I can envision local politically-interested types who will agree with Kennedy’s comments about Berrios running a “racket” in the way property values are assessed in Cook County. But perhaps by being a candidate for governor, it is questionable whether he’s the one who should be saying such things.

For the record, Kennedy responded to a report by the ProPublica.com study of the assessor’s office (which the Chicago Tribune says it will publish in the Sunday paper whose early editions will be for sale come Saturday) by issuing a critical statement.

“Berrios has used the property tax system that is defunding our public schools, defunding our social safety net, and defunding efforts to end gun violence as means to keep the political machine in power and enrich the entitled, politically connected few at everyone’s expense,” Kennedy said.

THOSE ARE FIGHTIN’ words, to some. Particularly to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, who in his day job as a tax attorney downtown often gets his name dragged into any criticism of Berrios.
BISS: Has he become stronger fringe candidate?

After all, it is likely that Madigan’s support is the reason Berrios has been able to survive years of similar criticisms from local people. Now instead of inspiring Berrios critics to support him, Kennedy may have merely offended the powers-that-be (most of whom already are lining up behind Pritzker’s campaign) to make a special point of defeating him come the March 20 primary.

That is, if they don’t get all politically vindictive and try to have him knocked off the ballot before that date.

Because in the end, Chris Kennedy may well have a legitimate point to make. But he may not be strong-enough politically to be the one to make it.


Friday, December 8, 2017

Are we overreacting? Or do we really need to quit living with past hostilities?

There’s a site on Facebook I enjoy checking out from time to time called Original Chicago. Basically, it’s a place where long-time city residents (and others who no longer live here) can reminisce about the way things used to be.
The Maxwell Street of old, as memorialized in this pre-World War II postcard. Image provided by Chuckman's Chicago Nostalgia

Favorite roller rink? Is the novel, “The Devil in the White City” (set during the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1892) accurate? Things like that.

BUT THINGS GOT a little more serious Thursday when the site’s administrator felt the need to post a critical note about people who referred to the old Maxwell Street district as “Jew Town.”

It’s a sign of “racial disrespect” that “will not be tolerated” at the site, the administrator wrote.

Which is an attitude I can respect because I often think it cowardly for website operators who refuse to control the content of their own sites – trying to claim that letting people randomly post their often stupid and ridiculous comments encourages free expression of thought.

Actually, it just encourages the idiots of our society to engage in bullying behavior. My own thought to people who want to make such rants is they ought to create their own sites (I’ll gladly offer them technical advice on how to do so). Although I suspect what they really want to do is undermine other peoples’ activity online.

BUT BACK TO “Jew Town,” which triggered an extensive series of responses from people who want to think the phrase has significant historic character to Chicago. Of course, most of them will go on to tell tales of all the stolen goods that wound up being resold there.

How dare we want to think it is wrong to use the phrase to describe a part of Chicago that once upon a time contained a heavy presence of people who were Jewish in religion and were the operators of the original businesses that existed in the area (which now is an upscale area by the University of Illinois at Chicago campus).

Some people literally are claiming that “Jew Town” is no different than “China Town” or any of the nicknames given in the past to enclaves of Polish immigrants (don’t forget Chicago used to brag there were more Poles, not Polacks, living here than in any city on Earth except Warsaw – the capital of Poland).

I don’t doubt that people in the past used “Jew” freely when referring to Jewish people, the same way that “Jap” used to be openly used when referring to Japanese.

THE LATTER ALSO is a slur that was meant to make those from the Asian island nation sound less than human – which I’m sure seemed right to those who came of age during the Second World War and wanted to forevermore think that Japanese people were worthy of derision.

But just as now we think it ridiculous whenever some old coot complains that we need to “Remember Pearl Harbor!” because they’re not willing to let go a war our government ended many decades ago (and rebuilt Japan in our own capitalist image), somehow, the idea of somebody thinking that “Jew Town” isn’t absurd is the real ridiculous notion.

The notion is that we need to let go our old obsessions and terminology that we used to justify them. It’s called advancing as a society. Even though some are going to complain it’s “political correctness run amok.”

The latter concept always struck me as being the thought process of old bigots who don’t want to be called out for the stupidity of their thoughts.
Is Chinatown similar to Maxwell Street in history, meaning?
SERIOUSLY, WHEN WAS the last time you ever heard anybody call a police squadrol a “Paddy wagon?” Even though I can recall that once was a commonly accepted term for the vehicle used to haul large loads of arrestees (a batch of drunken Irish?) from a crime scene – or take corpses to the morgue.

It’s time for some people to get with the program. Jewish people are “Jewish,” and “Jew” is only used by people who feel the need to think derogatory thoughts. Consider the dictionaries that give an alternate definition for “Jew” as “someone tight with their money or not very generous.”

Who still uses the old slur?
That certainly doesn’t sound like somebody trying to think seriously about an issue. It sounds like pure religious-motivated bile to me, which ought to be further reason to dump “Jew Town” from our city’s lingo. It’s embarrassing to our civic memory, and it’s not like people using the term now are trying to illustrate how absurd we used to be.

Better to get back to debates such as the man who asked Original Chicago readers what to do about the girlfriend who persists in putting ketchup on her hot dogs. Largely because I don’t put ketchup on anything, I say, “Dump her!”


Thursday, December 7, 2017

EXTRA: Dems resigning while GOP still in denial about sexual harassment?

Let’s be honest. We’re not in an age where sexual harassment has become more prominent. There’s just as many women getting their fannies groped now as in the past. It’s just that now, we’re not laughing it off the way we once did.

FRANKEN: Decency to resign
Yet there is one difference, when it comes to the issue and partisan politics.

JUST ON THURSDAY, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., said he would resign in coming weeks – what with the total of women who say he groped them inappropriately rising to eight. Just a few days ago, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., also resigned his Congressional post amidst similar allegations.

Which I’m sure the Republican political operatives are going to claim is evidence that Democratic political people are perverts. Dump them all from office – a Republican-dominated government is what we need to restore morals to our society!

Although the fact is that there are gropers and horny bastards at heart amongst all government officials. All people in general, to tell the truth.

We still have the case of Roy Moore, the former judge who now is running in a special election in Alabama on Tuesday to fill a U.S. Senate vacancy in that southern state.
MOORE: Still fighting for political life

MOORE IS THE guy who faces claims he sexually propositioned many young girls – including one as young as 14 – back when he was in his early 30s (he’s now 70 and married – to a woman he originally met when she was still a teenager).

There are indications he could win the special election and get sent along to Congress, even though people in D.C. have indicated they think Moore is unfit to serve in the federal government.
TRUMP: A Leo Durocher fan?

But President Donald J. Trump has given Moore his endorsement; admitting as much that it’s because he wants the Senate seat to remain in Republican hands. He does not want Democrats gaining extra influence prior to the 2018 elections – or even then.

Trump, like many other political people, is more concerned about partisan politics than an official’s actual behavior.
SANDERS: Trump should resign

THEN AGAIN, TRUMP is the guy who had his own accusations of sexual harassment made by many women. He’s the guy who got caught on tape talking about how his technique for attracting women involved grabbing them by their genitalia.

It sounds similar to the old baseball fan stories told about Leo Durocher, the one-time Brooklyn Dodgers manager who once was suspended for a full season because of his adulterous behavior. Particularly his technique for figuring out quickly whether a woman was willing to be with him -- it bears a remarkable resemblance to that of Trump.

Let’s be honest. While Durocher may have been a “baseball genius,” he isn’t someone whose lead you follow on moral matters.

Then again, Trump has shown his own immorality, along with his political ineptitude.

I FIND IT amusing to learn that Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Democratic Socialist who failed in his own presidential aspirations last year, says Trump himself ought to consider resigning on account of the sexual tales told about him.

I don’t expect Trump to even consider resignation. It would make too much of the nation happy, while discouraging the misfits who are prepared to support him to the very end. The same people who are going about talking about Franken’s acts of perversion.

Was Durocher's '69 Cubs result inept like Trump
Although if we want to be blunt about it, Franken offered up a resignation and stepped down for the good of Congress as an institution, compared to people like Moore who are prepared to fight to the death to defend themselves – regardless of how ridiculous it makes Congress look in the end.

Who’s really showing more signs of class and morality on Capitol Hill these days?


Interested in truth? Or only politicking?

It will be interesting to see how (if at all) the Supreme Court of the United States reacts to a brief by several current and former local politicos asking the high court to issue a definitive ruling as to what constitutes bribing a government official.

Only Blagojevich image that interests some
What’s bringing this issue us is Rod Blagojevich – as in the former Illinois governor who is now into serving the sixth year of a 14-year prison term on charges that he tried to solicit bribes in exchange for political appointments.

BLAGOJEVICH, OF COURSE, claims he didn’t have criminal intent. He claims any money given him was purely political contributions made to Rod by his supporters.

An excuse that some may snicker at (Political contributions?!? Yeah, suuuuuure!”) and find absurd.

But to the 19 political people (including one Republican, former state Rep. Angelo “Skip” Saviano who now is village president of Elmwood Park), they wonder if there is enough confusion that exists as to what is a legitimate campaign contribution and what is a bribe.

In their brief, they say they think the Supreme Court ought to take up the Blagojevich appeal on the grounds that it would allow them to issue a legal opinion that, once and for all, establishes what is a campaign contribution and what is a bribe.

THEY WANT THERE to be a definitive ruling that says just what a government official is obligated to do for his financial backers, and what do those backers have a right to expect in exchange for the checks they write out to political people.
Several current and former Illinois members ...

Which are legitimate questions that ought to be resolved. Although I don’t doubt that some people will not want to hear of such talk. They’re the ones whose distaste for Blagojevich is so intense they don’t care if he was grossly over-sentenced for his offense.

Just so long as he gets punished, they’re happy.

Heck, Illinois Republican Party officials on Wednesday were using the legal brief filed by so many Dems as reason to lambast likely Democratic gubernatorial nominee J.B. Pritzker and tie him to Blagojevich.
... want high court to rule on what's a bribe?

HOPING THAT THE mere mention of the boogeyman they call Rod will be enough to ding Pritzker even further. For them, Blagojevich serves a political purpose that is far more important than any serious interpretation of a legal issue.

The tie is that so many current Dem officials signed off on this brief – including Congressmen Danny Davis, Bill Foster, Luis Gutierrez, Mike Quigley, Bobby Rush and Jan Schakowsky. Along with former Congressmen Bill Lipinski, David Phelps and Glenn Poshard.

This issue will become so overburdened with partisan politics that the fear is any legitimate legal ruling will become drowned in political slop. Because being able to ding somebody with the Blagojevich label is all-important to some people.

These politicos who put their names on this brief probably are right that the high court is going to have to be the final arbiter on this issue. That is, after all, the reason for the Supreme Court’s existence.

ALTHOUGH THERE ALSO are those individuals who think the high court itself ought to be the rubber stamp to implement their partisan ideals (while squashing anything the opposition party might try coming up with).

In this Age of Trump, it might be asking too much to expect the Supreme Court to stick its neck out and establish a stance on a crucial issue that could wind up restricting Republican fundraising efforts as well as Democratic ones.

Is Sosa the Blago equivalent?
It’s almost as confusing as the ongoing quandary concerning Baseball’s Hall of Fame and whether ballplayers caught using steroids are worthy of admission. Sportswriters who make that decision have sought advice from the Hall of Fame – only to be told it is their issue to resolve.

Will the Supreme Court ultimately ultimately take the same attitude; thereby reducing the issue of political bribery to the same confusion as to whether one-time Chicago Cub Sammy Sosa deserves his bronze plaque in Cooperstown, N.Y.?


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Cubs still in the running for baseball ambidextrous (sort of) man from Japan

Shohei Ohtani shook up the world of professional baseball this week when he let it be known that he’s not the least bit interested in playing for the New York Yankees, or just about any other ballclub along the East Coast.

Can Ohtani continue to do it all in U.S.?
But among the few teams that the 23-year-old Japanese native is willing to consider is the Chicago Cubs – a move that still shocks me, even though there’s really nothing about the whole Ohtani process that ought to be considered predictable.

OHTANI, FOR THOSE not in the know, is the star of the Nippon Ham Fighters of Fukuoka who now wants to take a crack at playing professionally in the United States (a move that, if it works out, will result in Ohtani making many millions of dollars more in coming years than he would playing ball in Japan).

What makes Ohtani different from all the other Japanese ballplayers who have come to this country during the past two decades is that Ohtani is a pitcher who also is capable of hitting. A move that the Nippon Ham ballclub has indulged him in, and one that Ohtani has said he expects any U.S. team he plays for to do as well.

As I understand things, the list of ball clubs that Ohtani is interested in considering are all the teams along the West Coast (except for Oakland, Calif.). Although he’s also willing to contemplate the Texas Rangers, and our very own Cubbies.
The Babe a one-time star pitcher ...

Under the rules that exist in which U.S. ball clubs are limited as to the amount of money they can spend on trying to acquire foreign talent, the Rangers are the team that could actually offer Ohtani the largest salary.

WHEREAS CUBS MANAGER Joe Maddon has enough of a reputation for screwball on-field tactics that perhaps Ohtani feels he’d get the least bit of resistance pitching and hitting for the Cubs than he would any other team.
... who gave it up to be a slugger

It certainly wouldn’t be because of the money. Those rules in place would limit the Cubs to a $300,000 bonus they could offer Ohtani for signing with them. Which would be the same amount the Chicago White Sox could have offered.

But the White Sox have blown much of their international money on acquiring Cuban talent. Perhaps that made the White Sox seem a little too foreign to a Japanese kid. Although perhaps it means the Sox will be the team of choice amongst the Havana baseball set?
Can Ohtani match feats of Double Duty?

How much would the Cubs – a team that still thinks it’s a legitimate contender for a National League championship following their 2016 success, even though they fell short in 2017 – be willing to muck up the structure of their team just to accommodate Ohtani?

THEN AGAIN, WITH the Cubs expecting to lose pitcher Jake Arrieta, perhaps they think Ohtani is his replacement in the starting rotation – while also serving as a spare outfielder.

It will be curious to see if Ohtani is capable of pulling off his double duties of pitching and hitting. Considering that most pitchers stink with a bat and that American League teams don’t even let their pitchers touch lumber (they have the designated hitter), it will be a radical move.

Consider that even the great Babe Ruth (whose name is repeatedly brought up by people discussing Ohtani) ultimately gave up pitching so he could focus on being the big bat in the Yankees lineup. Is Ohtani really unique enough to pull off this move? Or will Ted Radcliffe of the old Negro league Chicago American Giants, who was both pitcher and catcher, retain the uniqueness that gave him the nickname “Double Duty?”

Will we wind up seeing him make a decision come June to focus on one side, or the other, of baseball?

THERE IS ONE aspect I’m pondering about the whole Ohtani affair. Many have speculated that because of the designated hitter, he’d be better off playing for an American League team.
How harshly will Yankee 'bleacher creatures' react?

Yet I’m wondering now with Ohtani having openly snubbed the Yankees, if he winds up playing for another American League team (Seattle or the Los Angeles Angels?), will he wind up receiving the ultimate razzing from the ballpark boo-birds if he shows up at Yankee Stadium.

He could wind up receiving equally hostile reactions from Oakland fans who would be disappointed that they were the one West Coast team he wants nothing to do with. Or the Boston Red Sox faithful who, while enjoying the Yankee snub, probably resent that he doesn’t think they were worthy.

Or, for that matter, the White Sox, whose fans may wonder why this young punk ballplayer would consider the Cubs, and not them, particularly since neither team is capable of offering him much in the way of money. Ohtani may wind up being better off playing in the National League, as he’s likely offended too many American League people.


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Ego brought down to Earth – Stroger to seek water district, not county president

Todd Stroger, the one-time state legislator and alderman who will forevermore be remembered for his stint as Cook County Board president and his effort to raise the county portion of the sales tax, will go about thinking to himself that he could have been re-elected to that post – IF ONLY.

STROGER: Water dist., sted of president
Stroger on Facebook this weekend was boasting of the Sunday night campaign event where his nominating petition circulators would gather together the results of their work.

THAT WOULD ALLOW Stroger himself (or more likely some flunk on his behalf) to file the petitions Monday to get him a place on the ballot for county board president come the March 20 Democratic primary.

But instead, Stroger on Monday decided to instead file the nominating petitions he had originally collected to get himself on the ballot for a seat on the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.

Which under typical circumstances could be considered a government post of some significance – one that would allow Stroger to go around thinking of himself as a government official. Rather than a political has-been – which is what he’s been in recent years.

Stroger aides were honest in admitting he was unable to get enough signatures of support to get himself a place on the ballot with just over 8,200 valid signatures of support. There wasn’t enough time, since he only began his county board president talk just over a week ago.

WHEREAS HE HAD been using the past several months to gather signatures for the ballot slot for the water district.

If Stroger had gone ahead and sought the county board president post, there’s a very good chance that his petitions would have had the appearance of a rush job; as in sloppy and flawed.

It happens, particularly since the rules governing the process are so vague that who’s to say what will ultimately be determined to be a flawed signature.

PRECKWINKLE: One less primary challenger
Meaning it would have been likely that some supporter of incumbent Toni Preckwinkle would have filed a challenge to Stroger – and he likely would have suffered the ignominious embarrassment of being kicked off the ballot!

IT’S MORE LIKELY that his water district petitions are more legally sound and less likely to be challenged.

Although it’s always possible that someone motivated by spite will go ahead and challenge Stroger’s water district candidacy on the grounds that he had a hell of a lot of nerve to think he could run against Preckwinkle.

If that line of logic sounds incredibly petty and absurd, keep in mind we’re talking about electoral politics. It’s all about the egos for these people.

Including for Stroger, who probably has some resentment that voters dumped on him for his sales tax initiative that was meant to stabilize the county government finances – but instead caused resentment because the increase in the county portion of the sales tax caused the overall tax in Chicago to exceed 10 percent.

THEN AGAIN, THERE are others for whom Stroger’s real offense was being picked by his father, the late John Stroger, to succeed him as county board president.

Todd may have been a one-time state legislator and alderman, but the people who were somehow willing to accept all the generations of Daleys, Madigans, Cullertons, Lipinskis, etc., who have been a part of the local government scene were somehow unable to accept it when the Stroger family tried to follow suit.
John Stroger must settle for county hospital named in his honor, rather than being a political family like the Daleys
I don’t doubt that a Stroger candidacy for Cook County Board president would have drawn a certain amount of negative energy. He would have been a long-shot to win, regardless of what he thinks about Preckwinkle and her ‘pop tax’ effort to balance the county budget.

Although I wonder if his couple of weeks as a Preckwinkle challenger will merely elevate Todd’s profile to the point where the people who eight years ago chanted “Don’t Vote for the Son” as their mantra will suddenly take an interest in the water district race to ensure he doesn’t win that seat either.


Monday, December 4, 2017

Only 364 more days to Ill. Bicentennial, so I’m contemplating a journey

I know it’s a month early to be making New Year’s resolutions, but the fact that Illinois is now officially beginning the process of celebrating our state’s 200 years of existence makes me want to make one.
I hope to see (finally) the red dots at Ill. extremus

In my case, I want to make trips sometime during 2018 to Galena and Cairo.

NOW I’M SURE many who are reading this are wondering how rattled is my brain. What could possibly make me think those small cities at the far northwest and southernmost tips of Illinois are worth seeing?

It’s just that in my case, I have spent years making a joke out of the fact that I have never actually seen either of those Illinois municipalities. I’m a Chicago native who was educated in Bloomington and also lived and worked in Springfield.

And in my duties as a reporter-type person, I have visited much of the state of Illinois – which is in its own way a unique place.

Now for those who think the downstate (as in “not Chicago-area”) portions of Illinois are too radically different from us to take seriously, I’d say get real.
This flag will fly across Illinois
CHICAGOANS HAVE MORE in common with places like Peoria or Rockford or East St. Louis than we do overly-haughty Noo Yawkers who forget that Staten Island is more true to their image than Manhattan, or snooty Bostonians who think they have a monopoly on our American history (although I confess I enjoyed Boston the one time I visited it).

But the joke is that Galena and Cairo are the only two places of significance across Illinois that I’ve never had an excuse to be in – although I was close to Cairo on occasions when I had to visit the state corrections facility in Tamms (about 12 miles to the north of Illinois’ southern tip).
From the sesquicentennial of '68

I feel like I ought to complete the journey and say I’ve seen all of my home state. Life doesn’t go on forever.

And in a year when we’re supposed to be highlighting our state’s history, I can’t envision a better time to do so.

I KNOW SOME people will joke that Galena (about 3,200 population) is nothing but a batch of antiques shops, although it has a prime location near the Mississippi River (and is the one-time home of a future U.S. president Ulysses Grant, just like the Hyde Park neighborhood is for Barack Obama) and probably is something close to the vision of Illinois that the state’s founders had back on Dec. 3, 1818 – the date upon which Illinois officially became a state in its own right within the United States. Chicago’s post-Fire development is something no one ever would have dreamed of).

While I also know from experience whenever I’ve told Southern Illinois natives I’d like to see Cairo, they look at me like I’m nuts.

Largely because Cairo is the city they have fled out of their own racial hang-ups. Cairo, the city right at the point where the Ohio River converges with the Mississippi River to flow southward to New Orleans and into the Gulf of Mexico. A point I truly would be curious to see, even though I’m sure it will forevermore make me wonder why Cairo’s prime spot never developed into a major Midwestern city.
Which one should I check out first?

Cairo is a place that at its peak a century ago had a 20,000 population with black people living in segregated communities nearby. But it is now a city of about 2,600 people with an overwhelming majority of them being African-American.

NOT THAT I’M bad-mouthing Southern Illinois – heck, there are Chicago neighborhoods (particularly on the South Side) that used to be lily-white but where “white flight” was so thorough that the locals now have no clue white people ever existed there.

So these are thoughts I’m having as I contemplate Illinois’ intent to lead up to the actual state Bicentennial date next December. Those celebrations are kicking off with ceremonies Monday to be held at McCormick Place and at municipal buildings across the state.
Are these suggested sites?

There will be a noon-hour flag raising ceremony across Illinois where a specially-designed Bicentennial flag will take place. Let’s hope that this ceremony, and the assorted proclamations that municipalities have been approving in acknowledgement, aren’t the extent to which most people pay tribute.

For as one proclamation read, “Illinois Bicentennial is a once-in-a-lifetime invitation to fall in love with Illinois all over again, and together we can inspire pride in Illinois and show the world what makes this state so great.”


Saturday, December 2, 2017

Baseball taught me about differences between people’s skills, character

We’re at the point now where it seems we get nearly a daily addition to the list of people in prominent posts who think that women are supposed to swoon over the very thought of their sexuality.
Ultimate gap between skills, character?

Personally, I’ve lost track of who’s actually on the list – and tend to notice many people go out of their way to highlight those individuals whose politically partisan leanings are counter to their own.

AS THOUGH PEOPLE who agree with them on other issues can get caught up in what some have dubbed “perv-gate” and be forgiven.

But for those whom their real hang-up is something unrelated – a professional death to them, and perhaps a fantasy vision of castration as well.

We’re at the point where I’m giving up on trying to keep track as to who got a little too handsy with a female colleague, or who felt it absolutely essential to expose their genitalia out of some delusion that the lady would think of the sight as the highlight of her life.

And, in fact, I’m starting to think that it’s a good thing I’m a big fan of professional baseball.

BECAUSE IT HAS exposed me to the reality that these ballplayers who use their physical skills to play a boy’s game often have mental hang-ups that make it seem as though their emotional development was arrested at about age 13.

Still some humor in old Franken bits
I remember the way I behaved back when I was that age, and in retrospect I wonder how those fellow-13-year-old females managed to put up with us overly-horny (but mostly incapable of doing anything about it) slobs.

Although it’s not necessarily limited to sexual thought.

My point is that I realized a long time ago that the guys who were more than capable of making a diving stop of a hard-hit ground ball to prevent it from getting through the infield for a base hit often were equally unskilled at the subtleties of life itself.

PERHAPS THE ULTIMATE example of this is Pete Rose, the one-time Cincinnati Reds star from their championship days of the 1970s who was an addicted gambler and whose habit got to the point where he was taking in so much money; while not reporting the extent of his winnings to the Internal Revenue Service.
Perhaps a Curry/Lauer confrontation justified?

He’s a convicted tax cheat, so to speak, who did a few months in prison. He continues to be denied admission to Baseball’s Hall of Fame – usually the ultimate recognition of athletic greatness. And for that matter, I remember the stories from when he was a ballplayer about the adulterous behavior on his part.

Then again, a lot of ballplayers I have heard of play around on “the road.” As in they’re young men traveling about from city to city, and fill the void of loneliness with whichever young lady happens to be available (and often willing).

The ability to hit .333 or smack 40 or so home runs on a regular basis doesn’t automatically make one a quality human being. Keep that in mind, and it makes it possible to keep following baseball.

IT MAKES ME wonder if a similar attitude ought to be applied to other people. Comedian-turned-Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., has his humorous moments (although I’ll admit to always finding his “Stuart Smiley” character annoying). I can’t really think less of his performing because he gets handsy with women.

Judicial robes add layer of creepiness to Moore instances
I actually think it is an issue where the women who were offended by someone else’s character toward them ought to deal with the issue themselves. I semi-seriously say they would have been justified in administering a knee-to-the-groin at the time of the incident.

I’d say that also applies to the work of now-former Today Show host Matt Lauer, or even that of Lake Wobegon creator Garrison Keillor. Why should we have ever thought of them as superior at anything – other than their work? And as for our president’s boorish behavior with women throughout the years, we all know he’s deficient as a human being. It didn’t stop him from winning an election!

We’ve all got our strengths and all got our flaws. Unless we cross over the line into criminality (which is potentially what U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama did with those underage girls all those decades ago). But that’s a different issue.