Friday, July 21, 2017

Does GOP in Illinois of Rauner era not take candidate recruitment seriously?

I’m not sure whether to be intrigued or offended by the rumor mills that say the Illinois Republican Party is contemplating running black people for the posts of Attorney General and Secretary of State come next year’s elections.

GRIFFIN: Is that medal his sole credential?
I’d like to think it means that Republican officials in our state have reached a certain level of enlightenment, and perhaps have even managed to look past a person’s melanin content to see the whole person. But then I think realistically, and snicker at the very notion.

BECAUSE THE CYNIC in me thinks the particular individuals allegedly under consideration for the posts were picked because of specific characteristics in their backgrounds that somehow makes them acceptable to the hard-core of GOPdom who otherwise wouldn’t consider casting a ballot for such a person.

For attorney general, the Republicans reportedly are considering Erika Harold (the one-time Miss America from Illinois) to run against incumbent Lisa Madigan. She is, indeed, a graduate of Harvard Law School (just like Barack Obama).

While for secretary of state, 19-year veteran of the post Jesse White may be challenged by Josh “J.C.” Griffin.

Who’s he?

IT SEEMS HE served five years in the Air Force, served a combat stint in Iraq, and worked a little bit for state government during the era of Pat Quinn as governor.
HAROLD: Rumored to challenge Madigan, L.?

But Republicans seem willing to disregard that potential character flaw (at least that’s the way they’d perceive it) because Griffin, a one-time native of suburban Olympia Fields, declared himself a Republican when registering himself to vote following his military service.

So what we’re basically saying is that Republicans are putting up Miss America and G.I. Joe to challenge two long-term state officials. They’re putting up stereotype images because they don’t necessarily have candidates in mind who could run credible campaigns for those particular posts.

Republicans will be asked to cast ballots for those images, and against any kind of government experience (although I’m sure that at age 83, they’re going to make a serious argument that the people of Illinois ought to send the one-time Cubs minor league ballplayer into political retirement).
WHITE: Will GOP make age an issue in '18 campaign?

IF ANYTHING THIS may be the evidence of how low the Republican Party has declined in Illinois. They have the governor’s post, and Bruce Rauner seems determined to blow a large chunk of his personal wealth to remind us to “Blame Madigan!” for everything and vote for him.

Beyond that, what are Republican-types casting votes for? The same old nonsense pitting Chicago against the rest of the state? Which really does little more than to persuade Chicago voters to cast ballots against the rest of Illinois?

Which means we all lose with that line of logic. To really revive Illinois, we have to move beyond such parochial ways of thinking.

As for Harold, I’ll say the same thing I’ve written before. It’s a shame she isn’t developed into a credible candidate – instead of one who has to rely upon the fact she wore a sash and tiara some 15 years ago.

AND AS FOR Griffin, I can’t help but think that his so-called credentials (five years of military service and a stint in a combat zone) actually matches up with my own cousin Carlos, who did five years in the Army and had his combat stint during that “first” Gulf War (remember 1990 in Kuwait?).
RAUNER: Does he like being lone GOPer?

Somehow, I don’t think anybody would take seriously the notion of my cousin returning to Illinois to run for elective office. I suspect the snickering would be deafening.

So here’s hoping that the rumor-mill (for what it’s worth, Griffin was non-committal when he was interviewed on the subject by WCIA-TV in Champaign) turns out to be erroneous.

Unless the GOP really is surrendering any chance of winning government posts other than that of governor. Does Bruce Rauner fantasize about a government where he’s the lone official – and everybody just shuts up and does what he says?


Thursday, July 20, 2017

EXTRA: O.J. vs. “Sweetness” – several hundred dollars difference these days

A couple of bucks for his cardboard
I remember back when O.J. Simpson was a big deal as an athlete – an All-Pro football player with the Buffalo Bills who also had charisma and charm and was well on his way to a celebrity lifestyle.

Now, he’s the guy who did nine years in prison (for supposedly threatening to harm people whom he says stole sports memorabilia from him even though many will forevermore think him guilty of the other crimes for which he was acquitted), and apparently became lucky enough this week to learn he qualified for parole from a Nevada corrections facility. He could be released by October.
Worth $1,000 if authentically autographed

I COULDN’T HELP but look up a little bit of data on the sports memorabilia market – particularly that involved with the trading cards that used to be a kiddie-thing, but now get treasured by people wishing to relive their sporting memories.

For what it’s worth, the book value for an O.J. Simpson card from the 1976 set produced by Topps Chewing Gum is $5.63, but only if it’s in prime physical shape. For anything less, a buck or two is about all O.J. is worth these days, according to

By comparison, there’s another card from that same set – one portraying Chicago Bears superstar Walter Payton. Admittedly, that card (which I remember actually owning as a kid) gets value added because it was the “rookie” card for Payton – he was a fresh prospect from Jackson State University who was just beginning his days of trying to make the Bears a respectable team. Fantasies of a Super Bowl were still a decade away in the future.

The same price guide gives a book value for the Payton at $207 – and for what it’s worth, I found one person Thursday on eBay who had such a card and already had bids of $449.99 for it.
Book value: About one dollar

QUITE A DIFFERENCE for pieces of cardboard from the months following the Bicentennial whose only real difference is the image they depict.

And also an example of just how far the mighty are capable of falling in life. A point we should all keep in mind on those occasions when we’re tempted to do something stupid.

Although those of us who remember the Naked Gun movies that included Simpson as an actor know that the “real” villain amongst athletes is Reggie Jackson. After all, he was going to kill the queen!


White Sox rebuild progressing, but will Yankees 'will to win' get in the way?

The great rebuild of the Chicago White Sox into a pennant contender progressed a step further Wednesday when the great young talent Yoan Moncada (supposedly the best ballplayer in the minor leagues) was promoted from Charlotte, N.C., to the big club on Chicago’s Sout’ Side.
Did the White Sox' future begin Wednesday?

Yet there also was a related move that could portend the reason why the White Sox ultimately will not prevail in winning a World Series, or even an American League championship in coming years.

IT ACTUALLY IS an old phenomenon in baseball, familiar to every fan of an American League ball club (although those of you Chicagoans who think you’re baseball fans but actually pay attention only to the Cubs and the National League wouldn’t know this).

It is the New York Yankees.

One of the realities of the Yankees having won 27 World Series and 40 American League championships is that there have been many other ball clubs that had solid teams and seasons that “might have won” in other years, but wound up falling short to the ball club from the Bronx.

Even the White Sox experienced this same phenomenon back in the 1950s and 1960s when they had those 17 straight winning seasons and a ton of second place teams. With the Yankees finishing ahead of them so many times.
Sox' Robertson returns to pinstripes ...

YET THE FACT that there is now a roster spot for Moncada on the White Sox is because of the trade that the White Sox made with the Yankees to help rebuild New York’s American League ball club into a contender this year.

Todd Frazier, who played third base for the White Sox, is likely to become the Yankees first baseman (a spot where they have been weak this season) and top Sox relief pitcher David Robertson is likely to become a set-up pitcher who becomes the guy who pitches right before top relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman – who isn’t pitching as well this season as he did last year in his half-season with the Chicago Cubs.
... after Chapman fails to match Cubbie ways

The Yankees could easily turn Robertson into their top relief pitcher if Chapman doesn’t get his act together soon. Which is what makes this trade so significant – the Yankees were able to go out and get a replacement whereas many other ballclubs would be stuck with the big-bucks Chapman contract and couldn’t even think of finding a replacement.
Lopez managed many 2nd place teams

The Yankees, who haven’t won a World Series title since 2009 and haven’t been in the playoffs for three years, are serious about wanting to contend now – and likely will make moves to keep in contention for future years.

MEANING ANY EFFORTS by the White Sox to ride a “Cuban revolution” of Moncada, Jose Abreu and Luis Robert (still in the minor leagues, for now) and other top minor league ballplayers acquired from other teams in trades this year could wind up being thwarted by the resurgence of the New York Yankees.

Which would be oh so predictable.
Ichiro's best ball club fell behind Yankees

There are too many American League ball clubs that have had their dreams of championship play halted by the Yanks.

Not only the White Sox of 1964 (98 wins, including a winning streak of the last 10 games of the season – which fell behind the 99 wins the Yankees had that year).

BOSTON, CLEVELAND AND Detroit fans can also claim horror stories about wonderful ball clubs that couldn’t get beyond second place, or the first round of the American League playoffs.

And let’s not forget the Seattle Mariners, who have never won a championship of any kind during their 41 seasons of existence, largely because their glory years of the late 1990s coincided with those Yankees teams of Derek Jeter that won four of five World Series titles in the same time period.
Will White Sox improvements be enough to match Yankee upgrade?
Then, in 2001, those Mariners managed to tie the baseball record for the most wins during the regular season (116, by the 1906 Chicago Cubs that lost the World Series to the White Sox), only to lose in those playoffs to the very same Yankees.

Is that the same fate to befall the White Sox of the late 2010s and 2020s – to finish behind New York? Once again turning the phrase “Damned Yankees” into an epithet meaning more than just a long-ago Broadway show!


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Will ballots cast for familiar names be enough to overcome self-spending?

Will the son of Richard J. ...
Looking at the campaign finances for the candidates wishing to become Illinois governor, it was interesting to see that fringe candidate Daniel Biss raised more money ($1.015 million) than both Chris Kennedy AND Ameya Pawar combined.

But Biss’ campaign fund doesn’t even come close to that of J.B. Pritzker, who barely raised a dime. The 9-1 fundraising advantage Pritzker held over Biss during the past three months was solely because Pritzker was wealthy enough to pay for his own campaign efforts.
... be able to provide this Kennedy nephew ...

WHICH MEANS DEMOCRATS may well have a candidate who won’t get totally buried by the self-funding efforts of Gov. Bruce Rauner, who himself outspends Pritzker by a 6-1 ratio with the money he provides – although much of the governor's efforts will go toward trying to get more Republicans elected to the General Assembly.

Rauner wants allies who will support his gubernatorial desires and follow orders!

There’s going to be a lot of money spent by candidates wishing to spread their messages of ill-will toward their opposition. We’re going to be flooded with negative messages about how we’d be completely stupid to consider casting ballots for certain candidates.

Better we should go with THE OTHER guy. Nobody’s going to really tell us why we should vote for them. It will be an ugly campaign.

THAT IS WHY I find it interesting to see that Kennedy’s campaign has hired a new finance chairman – it’s Bill Daley, as in brother of Mayor Richard M., former chief of staff to President Barack Obama, Commerce secretary under President Bill Clinton.
... with similar political aid as in '60 cycle?

And let’s not forget that he was chairman of Al Gore’s failed presidential campaign of 2000.

Of course, as a former chairman of Amalgamated Bank, he has ties to many of the “big money” people of Chicago and can sway them into making significant campaign contributions to his candidate.

Which may well be the reason why Kennedy picked him. His is the campaign that raised $703,767.10 during the last reporting period, and spent $652,523.79 of it. This is not a campaign swimming in cash.

KENNEDY PROBABLY DREAMS that Daley can turn to his political contacts and get them to write out the significant-sized checks that would enable his campaign to come close to fully competing with the Pritzkers and Rauners of the political world.

Although it may be the general mood of this campaign season that we, the people, are too disgusted with government officials to want to make any kind of sizable donations. It may be that only the self-funded will be able to do much of anything.

That does seem to be the mentality of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, who while he hasn’t made an official endorsement seems to like the idea of a Candidate Pritzker because he could afford to pay his own way.

Consider that Pritzker spent some $9 million during the past three months, and $14 million total thus far – all of which came from his own bank accounts.

BUT IT ALSO would be ironic if it turns out to be that a Daley winds up making it possible for a Kennedy to win voters in Illinois. You just know we’re going to get a ton of sarcastic comments from people recalling the rumor mill of the 1960 presidential election cycle.
BISS: Raised more than anyone, but nobody cares?

Can the son of Richard J. find a way to make the nephew of JFK the governor, similar to how old man Daley led the effort that got Jack Kennedy the Illinois Electoral College votes that helped him beat Richard Nixon for president?

Or is Kennedy just too far behind (even outraised by the state senator from Evanston)? Although we should acknowledge the polls that have shown at this early stage Kennedy still leads Pritzker and other candidates in voter support – the name does appear to mean something.

Particularly when one considers the most recent Morning Consult poll that showed Rauner with 49 percent disapproval rating (and only 40 percent approving of him). If he keeps that up, it may not matter how much money he spends on himself – a Democrat could wind up prevailing come that Nov. 6 of next year.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Budget battles linger on, only this time we use our schools as the battlefield

For those of you people who for whatever partisan political reason want the fight over a state budget to continue, take some pleasure in the fact that the political wars aren’t completely over.
RAUNER: "Blame Madigan!' Still!

For we still have to consider the portion of the budget that goes toward funding public education in this state. Technically, the General Assembly and Gov. Bruce Rauner still have the education funding bill to fight over.

THAT BILL APPROPRIATES the money that is meant for public education. Technically, it is still pending.

Although Rauner has made it clear that he intends to use his amendatory veto powers to alter the measure – which means it can’t take effect immediately.

To thwart the governor, the Legislature is holding off on sending him the bill. Even though they already have approved it, they won’t let Rauner act. He can’t reject it if he technically doesn’t have it in his possession. We're at the point where the governor on Monday insisted they send him the bill, just so he can amendatorily veto it -- he can't wait to get at it!

It seems the Legislature is hoping that by stalling, they can cause pressure to be built up by educators against the governor, who would then be inclined to blame him for the fact that they might not get the state funding they usually are entitled to and are most definitely counting on in order to get through the upcoming academic year.

PERHAPS THEY THINK they can “blackmail” the governor into feeling too guilty to interfere with school funding if he’ll be the one who gets blamed for the politicking.

Which most likely was behind the public appearances Rauner made in Mount Zion and in Rockford, where he made it clear that it will be Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s fault if something happens that causes the state to be late with the aid payments it provides to public school districts.

“The General Assembly under Speaker Madigan have failed to adequately or equitably fund our schools for decades,” the governor said. “It has hurt generations of Illinois children who live in low income communities.”
MADIGAN: Not waving white flag yet

Whether this would work is questionable. Since I have heard from many school administrator types during the past two years who have made it clear that when it comes to the problems related to school finances, they blame the governor!

EVEN NOW, WHEN there is a state budget in place, many say they’re having their attorneys study the situation, and won’t be fully comfortable until they see the education funding bill signed off on and they get their initial aid payments.

If the governor thinks many people are going to suddenly switch to his side, he could be mistaken. Since many perceive the problems as having begun with the partisan initiatives and the desires that Rauner has tried to bring to state government under the guise of “reform.”

The governor’s main objection to the education funding measure is that it includes provisions for altering the funding for pensions for retired teachers in the Chicago Public School system – a provision Rauner is quick to label as a “bailout.”

He’s quick to say that he could provide even more financial assistance to school districts across Illinois – if only we could ignore the problem of that one pesky district that is, by far, the largest in the state.

MEANING THIS IS the same regionalism and nonsense of trying to pit the rest of the state against Chicago, which only serves to build up the hostility and resentment that Chicago voters will feel towards the governor.

Considering the degree to which Rauner has made a series of staff changes by hiring political partisans of the Illinois Policy Institute, it would seem this “urban vs. rural” tone is going to predominate for as long as Rauner remains in office.

Which, if Dems aren’t careful, could easily extend beyond the Nov. 6, 2018 general elections. It could easily extend into “four more year” of stalemate and nothingness.

Since I don’t doubt that Rauner and his minions are miffed at not prevailing on the budget fight, it will be remarkable to see the amount of partisan bloodshed that will occur on the Statehouse Scene in coming years – and the degree to which we all get caught up in the crossfire.


Monday, July 17, 2017

EXTRA: Now 56 shot, 11 dead, but I still say the 10-year-old most tragic

The Chicago Tribune felt compelled up update the story they published for Sunday with a Monday report telling us of more dead in the city this weekend. One of the deceased is an activist-type who had dedicated her life to trying to combat the problem of urban violence.

Although I still say the most tragic of the deaths is that of 10-year-old Gustavo Garcia, who was merely sitting in the back seat of an automobile when another car pulled up alongside and gunfire occurred.


Gone before they ever had a chance

30 people shot, 3 fatally, in 18 hours in Chicago

10-year-old boy killed in Southeast Side shooting


Which of these headlines (both of which appeared Sunday on the website of one of our city’s major newspapers) bothers you most?
Struggling to cope with situation

For what it’s worth, the Chicago Tribune gave prominent play to the former; making it the lede story for those viewing the one-time World’s Greatest Newspaper on the Internet, and giving the impression that the time period from Saturday evening and spilling into the early hours of Sunday was some sort of historically-grotesque moment in Chicago history.

YET I’M ACTUALLY creeped out by the latter story more, and not just because the victim was someone who barely was into an age with two digits in it.

Even the Tribune itself acknowledged that this particular death was the fourth child to die in a shooting incident in Chicago this year, with another eight suffering from gunfire but managing to survive their wounds.

Those “30 people shot, 3 fatally” were in separate incidents occurring in various parts of the city. If not for the time element, no one would bother thinking of them as being related in any way.

And there is a part of me that wonders about playing up the story of the “body count” every weekend where there happen to be casualty totals in multiple figures does nothing more than satisfy the ghoulish mental desires of the kind of people who are determined to view our city as some sort of hell-hole – the kind of place where the real Hell might actually be a step up in improved living conditions.

IN SHORT, LIKE every time President Donald J. Trump spews out one of his oft-erroneous tidbits because it satisfies the politically partisan desires of the kind of people who actually voted for him?
EMANUEL: Not only mayor coping w/ violence

I’m not exactly saying a “30 people shot, 3 fatally” type of story is ho-hum and makes my shoulders shrug. But there have been bloodier moments in our city’s history. Both single incidents where more people suffered and combinations that gave us far greater tallies amongst the dead and wounded.

Whereas in the case of “10-year-old boy,” it brings to mind the potential story of lost potential. What could have been? What would have occurred if that child had gone on to live a full life?

I’m sure there are some smart-alecks who are viewing the fact that this particular kid was from the city’s South Chicago neighborhood and suffered his wounds in the adjacent East Side neighborhood is evidence that he was going nowhere.

THEN AGAIN, PART of why this story caught my attention is that I come out of that southeastern corner of Chicago. Born in South Chicago and lived for a short time in the East Side before my own parents moved along further.

Or is someone out there going to be warped enough to think that nothing can come out of that part of Chicago, and that such violence is supposed to be limited to certain parts of the city. Which may be what makes such stories as “30 people shot, 3 fatally” all the more pathetic.

Because they inevitably include the line within the copy that all the incidents were limited to select neighborhoods on the South and West sides of the city. As though the fact that they didn’t occur in the neighborhoods with certain select economic and racial demographics somehow makes them acceptable!
TRUMP: Nothing he says will make things better

They only add to the warping of the young people who happen to live in those neighborhoods into believing that somehow, this kind of conduct is acceptable.

THERE IS ANOTHER factor; one brought up recently when in Gary, Ind., there were multiple children shot in separate incidents in the same neighborhood of that Hoosier city.

One government official said he was particularly bothered by the fact that there were now children who, when they return to school in September, were going to have to write as their “What I did this Summer” assignment an essay that began with the words, “I got shot this summer.”

As much as the loss of a life with potential hurts, the fact that all those surviving around them will have to have such thoughts may well be worse.

Because until we can snap people out of thinking that such violence is a part of life, we’re going to keep reading such body count stories – and there’s nothing our current president would say or do that could resolve the problem.


Saturday, July 15, 2017

North vs. South sides not just an excuse for baseball brawl; weather differs too

It’s just more evidence of how physically huge the Chicago metropolitan area is – we don’t even get the same weather!
Vacuums, fans put to work to dry out No. Chgo.

I was reminded of that while reading the news coverage of the massive rainstorms that hit the Chicago area and caused severe flooding for some people. In some cases, the floodwaters continued to rise even after the heavy rain quit falling.

BASEMENTS FLOODED. CARS seen floating down the streets. There is one report of an entire public park that found itself completely under water overnight, causing severe problems for everybody who happens to live nearby.

This is one of those major storms that will be remembered for years to come – even though to the best of my knowledge there were no fatalities as a result of the inclement weather.

Yet all of this is true only if you happen to live in the northern part of the metropolitan area. Specifically, the north suburban part of the Chicago area. That’s where the heavy water fell. That is where problems arose. That is where Gov. Bruce Rauner joined state and Lake County officials on Friday to survey the damage due to inclement weather, then declare Kane, Lake and McHenry counties to be state disaster areas.

Those of us who lived in the city proper saw some rain, but none of the horror stories of flooded basements or other severe property damage.

FOR THOSE PEOPLE in the southern part of the county of Cook? Yeah, it rained overnight. Even a bit during the day. But by that point, the rain had dwindled down to a drizzle.

I’m not about to call those people living up north “sissies” who can’t handle a little water. But down around the parts of Chicago and suburbs that affectionately refer to themselves as the “Sout’ Side,” the Chicago Tribune headlines such as, Flooding of this magnitude has not been seen before seems like such an exaggeration.

I know in my own case on Wednesday, I happened to be downstairs in a basement of my father’s home when I happened to notice some water trickling into the basement.
Gov. Rauner surveyed Gurnee flooding, ...

When I went outside to check, I found that an outside drain had been clogged with leaves – meaning that the water had no other place to go but inside.

THE MOMENT I reached into the drain and pulled the leaves out, all the water immediately got sucked down the drain. It quit going into the house. End of problem, although my father then pulled out his handy “shop vac” and used it to suck up the dribble of water that had got inside.

Basically, the mess was cleaned up even before the rain stopped falling. And yes, I helped my father maintain a watch over the basement and drain to ensure it didn’t get clogged again.

It didn’t.

No more floodwater in that basement. At least for this storm. Although I don’t doubt there will be a future storm that will direct its wrath at the southern part of metro Chicago – and it will be all those northernmost residents who will claim there wasn’t anything worth noting in that day’s “storms.”

THIS PHENOMENON ISN’T unusual. The six counties that officially comprise the Chicago area truly are big enough that one end of the area can have totally different weather than another.

This week’s storms (severe in one part while non-existent in another) reminded me of a long-ago rainfall – an incident back in 1987 when I was a beginning reporter-type person in suburban Chicago Heights. I did a story about that day’s particular flooding up north where the rainfall didn’t extend to anywhere south of 55th Street.
... while Labrapoodle Carmelo sees nicer weather in his part of Cook Co.
As one local firefighter put it when I questioned him about the lack of emergencies his department had to respond to that day, he quipped of the bad weather elsewhere, “We don’t allow that sort of thing in Camelot.”

Probably the only time anybody’s used the reference to King Arthur’s court to describe the South Side. Yet I’m sure there are some water-soaked people living up north these days who would view the dry turf down south these days as a bit of paradise.


Friday, July 14, 2017

Is Jose Quintaña trade the next Jon Garland deal? Or next Sammy Sosa?

The only surprising part about the Chicago White Sox trading away their top pitcher on Thursday is where he wound up – many baseball fans were convinced Jose Quintaña would wind up wearing the pinstripes and interlocking “NY” logo of the New York Yankees.
Changing uniforms, but not his home city

Instead, Quintaña is going to the Chicago Cubs; who gave up four ballplayers in their minor league system. Including the two who supposedly were the top prospects they had for their future.

IT’S ONE OF those deals that could come back to bite the Cubbies on their behind if any of those young ballplayers develops into a key to the White Sox’ next championship ballclub – whenever in the future that may occur.

It would be the Cubs’ luck that the “Cuban revolution” taking place on the Sout’ Side will win a pennant, and one of these no-longer-a-Cub players will get the key hit to win the Sox their second world series of this century.

Of course, baseball fans know there always is uncertainty.

For it also could turn out that Quintaña could be the key to gives the Cubs a jolt this season and helps them return to the form that enabled them to win their first World Series of this century just last year.

IN WHICH CASE, it would be just like the White Sox to provide the key piece to enable the Cubs to be able to claim to have more World Series titles in recent years (’05 for the White Sox and ’16 for those baby blue bears) than they do.
Cubs fans' fantasy all-Chicago trade?

So this trade is a gamble, as much of baseball always is. No one knows for sure how things will turn out, and we’ll probably need to wait a couple of decades before we can definitively say if somebody seriously screwed up with Thursday’s deal.

Could this wind up like the 1998 trade where long-forgotten pitcher Matt Karchner went to the Cubs for a minor league ballplayer who turned out to be Jon Garland – one of the starting pitchers who led the White Sox to that ’05 World Series championship.
The White Sox fans' retort

I’m sure that’s the dream from the perspective of 35th Street.

ALTHOUGH UP AT Clark and Addison streets, they’re probably thinking more along the lines of that 1992 trade where the Cubs gave up an aging (but still capable) George Bell in exchange for a young outfielder whom the White Sox had written off as too stubborn to learn new ways of improving himself as a ballplayer.
Both of these Steves pitched better ...

Some six years later, Sammy Sosa hit those 66 home runs in a season and began that six-season streak in which he began bashing home runs at a pace only matched by Babe Ruth at his 1920s peak.

Which for a while made Cubs fans want to think of this trade as some sort of ultimate steal. Except that with all the steroid speculation that the rumor mill insists on tagging to Sosa, there are many White Sox fans who feel nothing but relief that their favorite ballclub doesn’t have to live with that albatross around its neck.
... for the other Chicago ball club

According to the Chicago Tribune, this is the 15th time the two Chicago ballclubs have made trades with each other. We’ll have to see how things pan out.

THERE WILL BE some White Sox fans who will give extra scrutiny to outfielder Eloy Jimenez and pitcher Dylan Cease – who are now part of the Sox’ future rather than the Cubs. Although considering that the Cubs had these ballplayers this season at teams in South Bend, Ind., and Myrtle Beach, S.C., it would seem that maybe 2019 is the soonest we’ll see them in Chicago.
Still a freakish image to contemplateS

Although it wouldn’t be unheard of for one team’s player to have better luck on the other side of Chicago. I still remember former Cub Steve Stone (yes, the broadcast guy) being a key pitcher for that 1977 White Sox team that seriously contended for a championship, while Steve Trout (a local boy from suburban South Holland) missed being a part of the ’83 White Sox team that went to the playoffs but made up for it the following year by being a part of that ’84 division-winning Cubs ballclub.

So what’s it going to be for Quintaña?

Will Thursday go down in baseball history “infamy” for this trade? And on which side of Chicago will it wind up being detested, while beloved by the other part of the local baseball fandom?


Thursday, July 13, 2017

EXTRA: Postponing the inevitable?

It’s kind of pleasing to see that the Chicago Sun-Times will continue to exist as a separate entity – and not just some division of the company that gives us the Chicago Tribune.
Union paper gives good play to union corruption story?

No matter how much corporate types said they would maintain a separate staff to continue publishing a second newspaper, the reality is that corporate types would ultimately realize that they are better off putting the resources of the company into a single publication.

MEANING IT COULD have meant the death of the Sun-Times in a year or two.

Then again, there’s always the chance that the Chicago Sun-Times will remain an underfunded and understaffed publication that will meet its professional maker in that year or two anyway.

Could this move by which a group of investors led by former Alderman Edwin Eisendrath and which will get much of its funding from organized labor be merely postponing the Sun-Times’ eventual demise? And yes, I find it cute that another financial investor is now-retired Channel 7 news anchor Linda Yu,

Could it be that the only real difference  between this ownership and the proposed tronc, Inc. ownership will be a slightly feistier competing paper to go against the Chicago Tribune in the next couple of years? In which case, maybe it is a good thing in that we’ll get to enjoy a couple more years of a sense of competition in the newsgathering process before the sense of inevitable occurs.

AT THE VERY least, it will be interesting to see the editorial processes of the competing papers as we go through the electoral cycles leading to the Nov. 6, 2018 general election for governor.
Tribune downplays failure to buy competition

For the Tribune is making it clear they’re backing the actions of Gov. Bruce Rauner and would be overjoyed if all his “Dump Madigan!” trash talk were to have an impact.

Could the Sun-Times become the Voice of Labor, of sorts, against an official who has made it clear his priority is to undermine organized labor’s impact on our government? The anti-Rauner, which is humorous considering that Rauner himself was once a financial investor in the Wrapports company that no longer owns the newspaper.

Or will the real impact be that there will continue to be a place for comic strips that the Chicago Tribune has deemed unworthy of its own pages. “Sally Forth” and “Arlo and Janis” live on!


Saving jobs? Or cheap pop!

Are we really on the verge of putting some 1,100 people out-of-work because we want to keep the price of pop and other sweetened drinks as low as possible?
Is this worth 20 more cents?

That’s the line of logic being offered up by Cook County government these days, where officials say layoff notices will have to be issued in coming days to a significant number of county employees.

THAT IS BECAUSE the penny per ounce tax increase on the carbonated drinks too many of us consume at too high a rate has been stalled by the courts, meaning it can’t be charged and Cook County government can forget (for now, at least) about raising the revenue it mentally had already spent to maintain its operations.

For the record, the county was expecting some $67.5 million for the rest of their fiscal year (through Nov. 30) and more than $200 million for the next fiscal year – which begins Dec. 1.

That’s a big hole to suddenly have crop up in the budget. I can see where county officials would be dismayed at the various restraining orders that have prevented them from charging the penny per ounce fee they wanted to start collecting back on July 1.

Those restraining orders, as of now, run through July 21 – at which time there will be more hearings in the Cook County Circuit Court and a judge could eventually issue an order that strikes down the pop tax outright.
Will county government services need to be cut?

NOW AS ONE who has experienced the “wonders” (sarcasm most definitely intended) of job layoffs, I’m not thrilled about the idea of any worker being let go for any reason – particularly one that isn’t their fault.

But I also don’t doubt that many people aren’t terribly sympathetic to the idea of the county wanting to preserve its operations – which some may have their own ideological hang-ups about in thinking have grown too big.

If you really are the type of person who thinks it’s a good thing that the county will have fewer workers, I’ll say you’re a cold-hearted person.
Having a pop not the same experience of old

But there may be those who view the tax bills they’re already paying and figure they don’t like the idea of paying one penny more.

WHICH IS WHY the notion of this particular pop tax being only one cent per ounce may sound terrible. Besides, that’s about a 20-cent increase in the typical plastic bottle of pop meant to evoke the image of the old glass Coca-Cola bottles we all used to drink from.

And as for the 2-liter bottles that are all so popular, that’s another 65 cents added to the price.

Personally, I don’t that’s overly excessive – although I’ll also admit that I have been making an effort during the past year to reduce the total amount of carbonated beverages I consume.

I still enjoy an occasional Coke, but have to admit to finding ice water equally refreshing, Maybe I’m just getting boring in my old age.

BUT SERIOUSLY, IT would not be the worst thing in the world if people would think twice about the amount of carbonation they feel the need to consume. Which, if you think about it honestly, can create a gassy condition that can’t possibly be good for any of us.

If you think I’m somehow trivializing this issue, keep in mind that this is the essence of all the legalese that eventually will be spewed in open court as attorneys argue on the merits of the county being able to use a pop tax as a revenue-raising source.

At some point, a judge is going to have to decide on the merits of carbonated beverages in general, and the right of an individual to have a Coke (and a smile, according to the old jingle) for as cheap a price as possible.

Is that really a right? In order to properly express my thoughts on that concept, I’d have to guzzle down a Coke or two in order to get the proper tone to my belch!


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

EXTRA: No ‘junk bond’ status for Ill. – does it bother anybody except Rauner?

It’s a bit of good news financially for the entity otherwise known as Illinois government. We're not junk!!!!!
RAUNER: Who else wanted Ill. to be 'junk?'

The Standard & Poors bond-rating agency on Wednesday let it be known that our state is no longer listed on their negative credit watch list. We’re not going to face the prospects of having our state credit rating reduced to junk.

THE BOND RATING agency that is one whose potential actions against Illinois for being so inept that we went through just over two full fiscal years without a full-fledged budget in place now says we’re “much closer to structural alignment” what with the way we managed to put together a budget for the state fiscal year that began July 1.

That budget, of course, includes the permanent increase in the state individual and corporate income tax rates that Gov. Bruce Rauner is determined to lambast from now through Election Day 2018 as a “32 percent tax hike.”

There were those who really believed the state would have been better off prolonging its financial ineptitude so as to avoid the increase – even though it can be shown the state needs the money in order to meet its financial obligations.

We were hearing the speculation that even with a budget in place, the state’s bond rating might still be dropped to junk status – which would mean the professional financiers were writing off the state’s future and saying our fundraising bonds would be virtually worthless.

A VERY BAD financial investment not worth making.

But with the Standard & Poors statement, it makes it clear that only the hardest-core of Republican ideologues are going to be able to spew out the Rauner campaign line. The irresponsibility and recklessness of the state’s actions during the past two years are going to wind up being a part of the gubernatorial legacy.

Rauner, I’m sure, will remain in “Blame Madigan!” mode for the next 16 months – but only the silliest of voters will take any of that seriously.
MADIGAN: Gained from S&P move

Madigan, of course, will enjoy every bit of this. Both with Standard & Poors, and the likelihood that Moody’s Investors Service will follow up with similar statements in coming days.

IT WAS MADIGAN himself who put out the word to the Statehouse Scene on Wednesday that he had achieved a sense of victory – or that Rauner rhetoric was exposed as being a little bit more phony than it previously was regarded.

“It’s clear from (Standard & Poors) statement that ratings agencies, like all Illinois residents, are hoping Governor Rauner will work in good faith with legislators to address those challenges rather than rejecting compromise by turning further to the extreme right,” the Speaker said, in a prepared statement.

Or will the Rauner types, whom I think are really just anti-Madigan rather than caring one bit about Gov. Brucie himself, continue to spew their trash talk – all desperately hoping for an Illinois version of what we have nationally.

A government meant to appeal to the same types of people as the 46 percent who actually voted for this Age of Trump. Perhaps they view a Reign of Rauner where only certain Illinoisans matter as being desirable – although I think they’ll be disappointed with the election results come Nov. 7, 2018.


How likely are we to see a Madigan/Harold political brawl in '18?

How likely are we to see ...
There once was a time when political observers took seriously the possibility that Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan would make a credible attempt to run for governor.

But the presence of her father, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, creates so many potential headaches that Lisa has had to postpone her own political ambitions – to the point where 2018 likely will be her effort to seek re-election to a fifth term as the head attorney for state government.
... this political matchup on Nov. 6, 2018?

NOW, FROM THE land of academia (and crummy Big Ten football teams) known as Champaign-Urbana comes the potential for the most visible Republican challenger Lisa Madigan has ever had (does anyone really remember Steven Kim or Paul Schimpf?).

Reports starting with WCIA-TV in Champaign and spreading elsewhere indicate that local attorney Erika Harold is being contemplated for the GOP nomination for the post.

For those of you whose memories are faulty, Harold is a young woman who twice has tried running for Congress from her central Illinois district – only to lose both primaries.

Although the line that will get Harold national attention, and is the bit that Republican operatives are hoping gives her a chance to actually win against Madigan, is that back in 2003, she was Miss America.

AS IN A former Miss Illinois who bumped up to win the big prize of what officially is a scholarship pageant (and which enabled Harold herself to complete her Harvard Law School education) and spend the year wearing a tiara and making public appearances while looking glamorous at every opportunity.

For what it’s worth, she now practices law out of an office in Champaign (she probably realizes she’d be totally irrelevant if she tried moving to Chicago and becoming a part of the political scene here).

She has political ambitions. But she’s never been able to succeed. She can’t even win Republican primaries – although part of that may well be that the kind of people who vote in Republican primaries are just the type who would have a hang-up over another defining Harold characteristic.

Sexist to publish this old Harold image?
She is a light-skinned black woman. Which ought to be completely irrelevant. But in today’s Age of Trump, a political climate where people who have racial hang-ups are given a certain sense of credibility, it does.

THE TRICK WILL be to see if Harold can get a free ride through the Republican primary process in order to gain the party nomination and a chance to run against Madigan.

In which case, I’m sure Republican types will go overboard with talk about how Lisa’s time has passed (and probably never should have come about to begin with due to her father). We’ll probably also get an overdose of the glamour shots – perhaps to create the image of a more desirable woman in a political post?

And before anyone claims that’s a sexist image to create, I can’t help but notice that Harold herself uses a Facebook page to promote herself, and often digs up old photographs of herself from her Miss America days – such as the photos of herself she published just last week on Independence Day, signing autographs for soldiers at Fort Belvoir while wearing her tiara.
Recent images used on social media by Erika Harold ...

Of course, the fact that Harold has never won a thing politically means she has little else to run on other than this image that a segment of our society will find attractive – and another will find trivial.

IF ANYTHING, I find it sad that the Republican Party operatives have such a cynical view that they contemplate the need for Harold’s image – figuring that to beat a woman, they need to find one of their own. Nothing about a person’s actual qualifications for the post.

Which also is sad, because I don’t doubt that Harold has certain intellectual qualifications and probably could have been developed into a credible candidate for political office if she were treated seriously – rather than as eye candy for the electorate.
... and Lisa Madigan

Of course, as I already stated, the key will be whether Harold gets a free pass. Because if there’s some ambition type with a law degree who decides HE wants to run for Illinois attorney general, I don’t doubt that many Republican primary voters will prefer him to Harold. So we’ll have to see if a Madigan/Harold brawl ever occurs.

Although considering the anti-intellectual strain that runs through a segment of the GOP electorate these days, Harold may have to sacrifice her best credential of being a Harvard Law grad and emphasize her undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois – crummy football teams and all!