Monday, July 31, 2017

McCain, Rauner taking opposite ends on Trump ties – who will prevail?

Who’s to say just what is the appropriate tie that a political person ought to maintain to the doofus whom we, the people of this nation, have given the title of president and commander-in-chief of our military forces?
 
TRUMP: Political millstone, or savior?

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is getting his share of praise these days for being one of a few Republican political people who voted “no” to the latest crazy scheme by which President Donald J. Trump wanted to do away with the health care reform proposal whose biggest drawback was that it was an accomplishment of former President Barack Obama.

YET JUST AS some political operatives are wanting to say that Republicans will now start distancing themselves from the president (the Chicago Tribune went with a front-page story Sunday headlined Republicans rethink their reticence to resist Trump), there are those political people who seem to be making their moves to a hard-right in hopes of ensuring their political future.

Take Gov. Bruce Rauner, whose hard-lined ideologue moves are managing to offend the large segment of Illinois’ voters who live in or near Chicago.

Rauner in recent weeks (ever since losing his two-year fight to pressure the Democrat-led General Assembly into backing his anti-organized labor desires) has canned many of his gubernatorial staffers.

In many cases, they were replaced by people who had spent the past couple of years working for the Illinois Policy Institute – a conservative activist group that was about the only portion of the Illinois electorate who thinks Rauner was being responsible in putting state government on hold just to try to score a partisan victory.
RAUNER: Soon to engage in Trump talk?

MANY OF THESE Institute types are from the segment of Illinois that gave its support in the 2016 election cycle to Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton for U.S. president. I have no doubt it means many of the people who now will be the basis of Rauner’s voter support for re-election come 2018 will be the kind of people who want to see Rauner move closer to Trump on various points.

Which is a radical change, since Rauner during his two years as governor has gone out of his way to distance himself from the president. He doesn’t come out and criticize him, or praise him, on anything!

Even when Illinois-based interests come out and criticize Trump for his latest nonsensities, Rauner maintains silence – almost like a submarine in wartime goes quiet so as to try to avoid being detected by the enemy's sonar equipment.
McCAIN: Voting his conscience?

But it could turn out that with the Chicago metro population (about two-thirds of the state’s people) potentially turning more and more hostile to Rauner, he’s going to need all the ideologue Trump-ites he can find so as to avoid an Election Day blowout come next November.

WHICH COULD BE just the opposite of McCain, who is now getting the praise of many people who were eager to lambast him back in 2008 when he ran unsuccessfully for president against Obama.

Back in that campaign, McCain made the hard-right adjustments so as to try to get the votes of the conservative ideologues. Particularly with regards to immigration, where he had been a GOP supporter in the past of some serious reform measures but in that campaign backed away from his past talk on those issues.

Now, he’s willing to express some support for serious immigration reform (which excludes anything whose prime focus is to increase the number of deportations from this nation). And he went ahead and took the vote last week that keeps some people (possibly even myself) remaining with some form of health insurance.

There are those who say that the bout of cancer that McCain is coping with these days (he made a special trip to Capitol Hill to be on hand for the negative – from Trump’s perspective – vote) gives the senator the ability to vote his conscience on the issue.

WHILE IT ALSO is leading to many snide comments on the Internet from people whose idea of a sense of humor is to say that McCain can’t die fast enough – on account of him selling out the ideologues on this particular issue. I’m not about to become a McCain apologist. I was offended enough by his reversal back in ’08 on immigration reform that I will forevermore be convinced I made the right choice in backing Obama.
OBAMA: Trump trying to erase his memory

But it was impressive to see that some people were capable of putting aside their politically partisan ties to vote in a way that the bulk of the people wanted. Only the ideologues are all that worked up about repealing the Affordable Care Act.

After all, if it has its flaws, they’re mostly because of the ideologues who have spent years trying to thwart its implementation and who probably deserve the blame for not trying to revamp it into a more formidable policy.

Those ideologues will have to settle for the electoral chances of Rauner in Illinois – who could always wind up victorious if problems arise amongst his Democrat challengers. We’ll have to see whether backing, or backing away from, Trump is the appropriate stance for the future.

  -30-

Sunday, July 30, 2017

’05 White Sox get their second (sort of) Hall of Famer during Sunday induction

(Not in) COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – The 2005 Chicago White Sox can now claim to have two of its uniformed members inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and perhaps it’s all so appropriate.
The newest baseball immortal

One of them was Frank Thomas, the star hitter who got inducted three years ago. While the other is newly-inducted member Tim Raines.

WHO WE MAY have forgotten by now was the first base coach under manager Ozzie Guillen that season whose memories of ultimate victory make the ongoing annoyance of a Chicago Cubs championship from last season just a little bit bearable.
 
Ouch!

During induction ceremonies held at the Baseball Hall of Fame in upstate New York, Raines managed to give a plug to Thomas – although not perhaps one that “the Big Hurt” would have wanted to hear.

For Raines also played for the White Sox the first half of the 1990s, which made him a Thomas teammate. Which also made Raines fully aware of the college football injury that Thomas suffered that made him incapable of throwing a baseball worth squat.

Raines said Thomas taught him of the importance to paying attention to the ballgame at all times because any time the pitcher tried to pick off a base runner at first base and a rundown resulted, there was always the chance that Thomas would throw the ball over the second baseman’s head into left field – which means Raines would have had to chase it down from his outfield position.

NOT THAT IT’S because of Raines’ player and coach stints with the White Sox that he got into the Hall of Fame. He was one of the best base stealers during the 1980s while playing with the Montreal Expos, and it’s because of the 808 bases he stole during his career (among the highest totals ever, except some nitwits want to think he's second-rate because Rickey Henderson stole more) bthat he gained the right to have a bronze plaque bearing his image.
 
From the days of youth

One that will bear the stylized “eMb” logo of the long-defunct Expos, rather than the Old English script spelling out “Sox.”

But Raines helped bring some pleasant baseball memories to Chicago both in 2005 and in 1993, when the team he played for won a division title. That same team nearly had a chance at winning something in 1994 – if not for the labor stoppage that wound up wiping out a season, its playoffs and resulting World Series.

There are those Sox fans who will forevermore believe that World Series would have been one between the White Sox and the Expos – which Raines has said would have been a matchup of great personal interest to himself.

  -30-

Saturday, July 29, 2017

‘Pop’ goes the soda, tax to take effect

Interesting to see that Cook County government officials were quick to praise the judge who on Friday issued the order that allows the county to start taxing sweetened beverages as of Wednesday.
People will soon have to start taking tax into account

That tax was supposed to take effect July 1, and county board President Toni Preckwinkle said that Cook County lost some $17 million for not being able to charge the one cent per ounce tax on pop and othered sugared drinks.

COUNTY OFFICIALS HAD said that if the tax were not eventually implemented, county government’s finances would come up short this year and next – and some 1,100 people would have to lose their jobs. As things went, some 300 people were given layoff notices earlier this month.

So does this mean with Judge Daniel Kubasiak ruling that the tax can take effect and cannot be construed as being too confusing for people to comprehend that county government workers jobs’ are safe?

Not so fast!

As Preckwinkle put it, “until we are able to fully implement and collect revenue from this tax, we will continue to review our financial position and make adjustments accordingly.”

COUNTY OFFICIALS HAD said the tax would raise some $67.5 million through Dec. 1, and some $200 million during the county’s 2018 fiscal year. Will it be just a matter of subtracting the $17 million loss – or will other factors come into play?

Who’s to say just how long it will take before things stabilize. Or if it turns out that the tax shortfall will turn out to be merely an excuse, and if some people on the county government payroll will wind up losing their jobs regardless?

Personally, I found it interesting the way various groups were ready to rant with their pre-formed statements of praise or outrage. It makes me think what would have been most interesting is if someone had inadvertently hit the wrong button on the computer and sent out the statement that was intended to express themselves in the event the “pop tax” had withered away for good.

For what it’s worth, the Illinois Retail Merchants Association says it’s “disappointed,” and they’re “exploring all legal options.”

WHILE THE ILLINOIS Public Health Institute says it is “gratified” to see the tax take effect – but for quite the back-handed reason. They hope that adding about 20 cents to the cost of a single-serve plastic pop bottle, and about 65 cents to the cost of a 2-liter bottle, causes people to think in terms of consuming less in the way of carbonated beverages.

“The sooner people stop drinking sweetened beverages, the sooner we expect to see a decline in the chronic diseases caused by too much sugar,” institute officials said, in a prepared statement.

Which I suppose makes sense in theory – I know I have tried during the past year or so to reduce the amount of carbonated drink I consume (although I still enjoy the occasional can of Coca-Cola).

But I also note the number of times I have waited in line at a cashier to purchase that can of pop – only to have people ahead of me making their purchases of cigarette packages.

WHICH ALSO FACE many significant taxes that are supposed to discourage people from smoking, but instead just create intense levels of grumbling about how much a pack of “smokes” costs these days.

That might also make the ultimate beneficiary a business I remember from when I was a kid living near the Illinois/Indiana border – they sold cheap pop, cartons of cigarettes and fireworks. It was right on the state line – making it alluring to those who felt compelled to have such items.
Will 'cheap pop' attract more people to these border businesses?
There are many other such businesses in existence in the border areas surrounding Cook County, and there always will be certain people eager to save a few pennies on these particular purchases.

But if it turns out that the surrounding counties claim some sort of financial benefit from the Cook tax, I’d have to say they can have that form of “economic development” if it means we can reach some sort of higher purpose.

  -30-

EDITOR’S NOTE: Just a thought – the kind of people who enjoy a “soda” with their hot dog are the same kinds who are probably eager to rush out to the grocery store and start buying Heinz-brand “Chicago Dog Sauce.” And we all remember what “Dirty” Harry Callahan thinks about people who put ketchup on their hot dogs.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Rauner getting desperate to change the story we’re all talking about these days?

I don’t expect political candidates to say nice things about their opponents, but I couldn’t quite get over the level of ludicrousness expressed Thursday by the Illinois Republican Party on behalf of Gov. Bruce Rauner.
RAUNER: 57 days, or 63 percent?

Until, that is, I saw the level of unpopularity Rauner is sinking to in a new survey by the Democratic Governors Association – which isn’t exactly an unbiased source.

BUT IT SEEMS that Rauner has desperately to do something to shift attention away from the fact that his actions as governor are creating scenarios by which Election Day of 2018 can’t come too soon for many people as they eagerly wait for their chance to vote Bruce out of office.

It’s about the only explanation for the nonsense-talk spewed by the state’s GOP where they emphasize 57 Days Madigan Machine Holding Schools Hostage.

Their line of logic is that Democrats who run the General Assembly should have sent the education funding bill (the one that is at the heart of the latest round of partisan bickering in Springfield) to the governor for consideration immediately upon its approval May 31.

That bill is still pending even though already approved by both the Illinois House and state Senate; where President John Cullerton has hinted he may send it along to the governor come Monday.
Which of these political entities ...

WHICH HAS RAUNER claiming that Democrats, particularly Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, are to blame for the potential threat to public schools across the state being able to open for the new school year come mid-August.

GOPers literally have created a clock ticking down the amount of time since then that Dems are supposedly to blame – even though most public school officials I have talked to in various districts are more inclined to blame Bruce Rauner for the fact that public school funding for the upcoming fiscal year isn’t set in stone yet.

It’s why we’re getting nonsense-talk such as “It’s a blatant assault on our democracy in order to create pressure for their Chicago bailout.” Even though his “Chicago bailout” is really just a measure long needed to specify the way in which the state ought to be involved with the retirement benefits for public school teachers in Chicago the way they are with teachers in any other district across Illinois.

OF COURSE, THE bill that supposedly has a 57-day countdown means nothing. It wouldn’t have meant anything until a budget for the state was put in place in early July. Which makes any 57-day tally as of Thursday nothing more than pure nonsense.
... warrants more credibility these days?

But Rauner wants to tar Madigan with a count similar to the 735-day count that was done during the budget talks (as in just over two full years without a state in budget in place, a figure that was used to blast Bruce repeatedly).

It’s also meant to detract from the latest poll by the governor’s association – one that shows 63 percent of Illinoisans thinking Rauner has done a “poor” or “not so good” job as governor.

Only 34 percent of those surveyed think Rauner is doing well as governor – which is actually worse than the 39 percent approval rating that the Gallup Organization gave to President Donald Trump on Thursday.
CULLERTON: Will bill advance Monday?

MUCH OF THE politicking is meant to stir up outrage amongst voters in the rural parts of the state; making them think that Rauner is their protector against the urban monstrosity known as Chicago. He hopes he’s stirring up voter support in the other third of Illinois.

For his sake, he’d better be. Because the same survey shows Rauner with a 68 percent negative rating in Chicago and 54 percent in the collar counties that make up the outer Chicago suburbs – usually the one part of metro Chicago where a Republican can count on some support.
MADIGAN: What will next move be?

The scary part of all this is that we have just over 15 months to go until the 2018 gubernatorial election cycle. We’re going to have to endure a lengthy period of this spiel – particularly since the poll shows Rauner losing to any unnamed Democrat.

For even long after this current partisan spat over the opening of the school year is settled, we’re going to hear the details repeated over and over and over yet again until the level of nausea reaches a record peak.

  -30-

Thursday, July 27, 2017

How much is really gained from having public participation during govt mtgs?

The City Council in Chicago began Wednesday to permit public comment during its meetings, which really shouldn’t be a big deal.
 
Hot air emanates from da Hall, although not from pols

Illinois law actually requires municipal entities to set aside a portion of their meeting time to allow people to make statements about what their officials are doing. So the City Council really is just complying with the law.

IN FACT, AS reported by the Chicago Tribune, the City Council’s action was motivated by the courts – a lawsuit was filed and a judge issued an order requiring Chicago to permit some sort of public comment.

But as I have learned in writing about other government entities where public comment questions arose, Illinois law actually does not dictate what form the public comment must take.

Government entities are allowed to set their own rules.

I know that in my years as a reporter-type person, I have covered entities that strictly limited people to 3 minutes of talk and only on issues that were already on the council’s agenda. No trying to bring up anything else that might be of public concern, but that officials didn't want to discuss.

OTHERS HAVE PERMITTED people to bring up issues not on the council agenda, but usually in a portion of the meeting held at the end once all the actual business is complete and public officials are feeling antsy and are more interested in adjourning so they can go home.

I also know of one entity that requires people to submit their questions in writing, so that theoretically city officials can have their attorneys review them so that a proper answer can be provided. Although they’re not always rigid in enforcing that.

In Chicago, it seems the significant rule (as evidenced by Wednesday’s conduct) is that up to 30 minutes will be provided for public comment – with individuals allowed up to 3 minutes each.

If, by chance, there are too many people to fit within that half-hour, then it’s ‘tough luck’ for those individuals who lose out. We’ll have to see whether the courts accept this limit, since the people who filed the original lawsuit against the City Council indicate they intend to continue their court fight over this issue.

FROM MY OWN experience, I know that these government hearings usually attract characters. People who actually work for a living don’t have the time to spare to express themselves publicly.

We often get people who see it as their place in society to be the verbal pain in the political behind. I know one person who routinely shows up at Common Council sessions in Gary, Ind., who thinks his public comments are just as significant a part of the municipal process as the votes the council members take.

At the City Council, the Tribune reported that the first person to make a public comment to the City Council was George Blakemore. Although anybody who pays attention to local government knows Blakemore isn’t a stranger to speaking out.

Back when I used to write for a different newspaper, I covered the Cook County Board (amongst other things) and Blakemore’s presence was a given. He’d always have something to complain about. It would have been newsworthy if he hadn’t spoken.

PERSONALLY, I REMEMBER a time his rant turned into a diatribe against Latinos and how he saw them taking from black people – which caused President Toni Preckwinkle to cut him off and publicly denounce him for making racist remarks.

Of course, he insisted on perceiving the issue as one of being censored by the county board president. I suspect we’ll get lots more rants like this in coming weeks and months.

Personally, I have no problem with the idea of people being able to express themselves at a government meeting. Those officials, after all, are doing “the people’s business,” and the people ought to have a chance to say just what they think.

But now that we have public comment at the City Council sessions, we’re going to learn that the act of being a bloviated buffoon in public isn’t something necessarily limited to the elected officials.

  -30-

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

EXTRA: Guv withholds allowance?

I got my chuckle for the day Wednesday from reading Gov. Bruce Rauner’s public schedule of events for the day.
 
RAUNER: He tampered w/ Lege money

Among the three events either he or his spouse, Diana, will do during the day is to sign a bill “freezing legislative per diems.”

AS IN THE $111 daily payments that members of the General Assembly receive when they are at the state Capitol. The money is meant to cover the cost of their meals while in Springfield (not that the Illinois capital city has much to offer in the way of fine dining) and housing – whether they choose to rent an apartment or stay at a hotel.

Since another Rauner public event for the day will be to offer up public comment when the General Assembly completes its activity on what is supposed to be the beginning of another special session related to the education funding bill, it really comes across as though the governor is docking legislators their allowance because they’re being bad.

As in refusing to advance the education funding bill to him so he can impose the amendatory veto that Democratic leadership of the General Assembly is trying to thwart.

Now I’m not necessarily feeling sorry for legislators losing some money (although I know if I had a job requiring me to travel to another city, I’d expect some financial help in coping with the added expense).

BUT THIS MOVE really does come across as being so petty a gesture.
 
MADIGAN: How will Lege retort?

It almost makes me wonder if Rauner is trying to show he can be more petty and juvenile than our president – the guy whom his campaign has desperately tried to keep distance from for the past year.

Does this mean our legislators will feel compelled to behave in an equally childish manner as a retort to losing their money?

And then we wonder why the non-ideologue segment of the electorate (a.k.a., real people) just shudder in disgust at the very thought of the nitwits who they sent to the capitol to do “the people’s business.”

  -30-

Should we still think it a novelty to play night baseball at Wrigley Field?

I’m old enough to remember Citizens United for Baseball in the Sunshine – the activist group of Lakeview neighborhood residents who resented the notion that the Chicago Cubs wanted to erect light towers at Wrigley Field so as to make obsolete the concept of a Game Called on Account of Darkness.
That baby-blue sky could become a rarity. Photos by Gregory Tejeda

Those people fought tooth and nail (to dredge up a cliché) against Cubs management, which put its political pressure on City Council officials to ease up on the laws that specifically prevented sporting events from being held after dark at certain specific locations in Chicago (ie. Wrigley Field).

SO I’M SURE there are some aging residents of Lakeview (assuming they haven’t long been priced out of the neighborhood) who are feeling like the world they fought to preserve has gone down the tubes.

Or maybe their time has passed them by, and they’ll find out the outrage just doesn’t exist anymore.

For the Cubs this week asked the City Council for a change in the limits on night games in their ballpark. They want to be able to play up to 54 games after dark out of the 81 games they play at home each season.

That figure was derived from the fact that the 29 other major league ball clubs play an average of 54 night games per season.

TO THE POINT where professional sporting events are ones that take place at night. Day games are truly the exception – unless you’re a denizen of Wrigley Field and want to believe that it’s natural to have time on a Tuesday afternoon to go to a ballgame.
People who work for a living can take in a ballgame after hours

As many did the past two afternoons to see the Cubs take on the Chicago White Sox. The Crosstown Classic – which resumes Wednesday and Thursday with night games to be held at Guaranteed Rate Field.

That’s actually a key point – White Sox fans have always thought the whole debate over day vs. night baseball was stupid, and further evidence of the illogic of those individuals who persist in rooting for the Chicago Cubs.
Sign one of few relics of Wrigley old days?

The White Sox have been playing night games since 1939 – the Sox beat the St. Louis Browns 5-2 in that first game after dark at Comiskey Park on Aug. 14. It seems absurd that it took the Cubs until 1988 to finally get around to installing light towers (the Detroit Tigers were next-to-last, and they lit up Briggs Stadium in 1948).

PERSONALLY, I THINK it just makes sense to play a ballgame in the evening, particularly for baseball since teams play virtually every day (it’s not like football with their weekly games every Sunday). People do have to work for a living, and unless you happen to be on a nightshift or have some sort of job where you can get away with taking a day off, a regular diet of day games is a relic of a past way of life. Then again, Bill Veeck in the books he wrote about his time in baseball once said this attitude was the very essence of the difference between White Sox and Cubs fans.
Light towers on Sout' Side ...

Which is why in modern times other teams reserve day games for weekends. And why the Cubs are viewing this as an issue of being able to run their ball club the way other teams do.

The Chicago Tribune reported how Cubs management talked of other teams questioning how a city had the right to impose restrictions on when a team plays, with business operations President Crane Kenney saying, “We’re one of the few teams that not only has to beat everyone in our division, we also have to beat the city that we play in to try to win games.”

Aw, poor babies! Everybody picks on the Chicago Cubs. Even though the Cubs have made their unique circumstances into such a novelty that they benefit at the box office – they do draw well, as Cubs fans insufferably state over and over whenever discussing the state of the White Sox in Chicago.
... and their lack of existence up north

IT WOULD SEEM like the days of the Cubs having just a dozen or so night games per season (the way it was in the early 1990s) is gone. Those people who chose to live near a sports stadium will have to learn to cope with the crowds of people cramming into their community on game nights.

In short, the Cubs have come fully into the 20th Century – and it only took about one-fifth of the 21st Century for them to do so!

Personally, I can’t help but be reminded of one-time Cubs manager Lee Elia, who once gave us an obscenity-laced tirade about those weekday Cubs fan crowds. Remember, “85 percent of the world works for a living, the rest of them come out here.”

Another element of the baseball past – which also includes a Wrigley Field where the people in apartment buildings across the street can easily see into the ballpark on game days. And where the frosty malt was about as exotic as the Wrigley concessions offerings became.

  -30-

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Here we go again playing Blame Game

It took Gov. Bruce Rauner about one hour following his drop-dead date threat of Noon on Monday to issue the order saying the General Assembly will have to return to Springfield on Wednesday and remain until they follow his demands.
Not happy unless there's infighting?

Those demands are to allow him to put his grubby paws all over the education funding bill that he's made it clear he hates, and wants to alter through his amendatory veto powers – something the General Assembly most certainly doesn’t want to have done.

RAUNER LAST WEEK set the Monday at Noon deadline, with the threats that there’d be a special session of the Legislature called to force them into action.

Monday morning, he said such session would begin Wednesday and could run through July 31 if legislators don’t act promptly.

Not that I don’t doubt Rauner was sincere in his threats. It’s just that they seem so ridiculous.

Because as we saw during the end-of-June special session mandated by the governor over the budget dispute, just because Rauner orders their presence in Springfield doesn’t mean that anything will get done.

HECK, EVEN AFTER the sides reached agreement (over Rauner’s objections) on the budget, the final action still had to wait a couple of days because not enough legislators were present for them to legally do any government business.

So the idea that something will happen by July 31 just because Rauner says it must? Hah! That’s such a laughable notion.

The fact is that Rauner wants alterations to the proposal for education funding spending because he officially claims it gives too much to the Chicago Public Schools – particularly in the aid it provides to help cover costs of pensions for retired school teachers from the city.
Are they really at fault?

Not that I think he really cares much about any such inequity. He’s playing the typical urban vs. rural game of Illinois politics, going around to rural communities and claiming he’s merely trying to keep Chicago from taking too much. Implying they’d get a little extra in funding if he succeeds.

THAT MAY GET him a few extra votes come Nov. 6, 2018 when he seeks re-election. But it will also harden the desire of Chicago voters to dump his sorry behind come next year’s Election Day.

Although one has to admit the touch of politicking being played by Democratic leaders of the Legislature with regards to holding back on the education funding portion of the budget, where the money exists but it is a matter of approving a measure allocating how it gets spent.

Schools are going to be desperate to have their funding by Aug. 10 if they’re to open for the new school year come mid-August. Legislators are hoping that by delaying Rauner’s ability to act, they will give him so little time and the pressure from public schools will be so intense that he’ll have to just go ahead and sign the bill regardless of what he really thinks.

Anybody who thought the politicking was over early this month when a budget agreement was finally put in place for the first time in over two full fiscal years is seriously misguided.

THE FACT IS that our political people, at times, only seem happy when they’re in a crisis mode and all hell threatens to break loose if they don’t act promptly on something – even though the crisis is usually one of their own making.

So for as much as I want to blame Bruce Rauner for being a hard-head and a pathetic ideologue, I also have to confess that the politicking is being aggravated by the people he opposes. Or maybe they’re being driven to their own hard-line stances by Rauner’s ideological leanings.

Or maybe it’s just like in that song “Blame Game” that includes the lyric, “At the end of it, you know we both were wrong.”

You have to admit we’re in a pretty sorry state of affairs when one can find words of wisdom in the lyrics of Kanye West.

  -30-

Monday, July 24, 2017

A DAY IN THE LIFE (of Chicago): Ice Cube needs to make up his mind which Chicago ball club he backs in public

Ice Cube, the rapper and actor, now has a place for himself in local musical lore – but not one he’d want to have.
 
Cubs fans offended by singing, or wearing this jersey

He managed to blow it big-time Saturday at Wrigley Field when he took on the niche of filling in for Harry Caray (who has been gone from this mortal realm of existence for some two decades now) in singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during a Chicago Cubs game.

CARAY HIMSELF WAS pretty awful at singing in public, so it’s not a requirement for someone to have any talent in performing the little ditty (which actually just requires one to sing the chorus – since nobody knows all the actual lyrics about “Katie Casey” being “baseball mad” and all that other jazz.

But Ice Cube was so out-of-tune and off-key that his performance in mid-seventh inning is being considered the worst take ever. Worse than the time former Chicago Bears Coach Mike Ditka showed up. Or the time that heavy metal rocker Ozzy Osbourne was present in the ballpark. The Chicago Sun-Times says he “completely destroyed” the song.

The only real question may be whether Ice Cube’s performance was more obnoxious than the time actor Roseanne tried singing the National Anthem prior to a San Diego Padres game and gave such an obnoxiously-screechy performance that she was booed and heckled by the crowd.

Causing her to grab her crotch and storm off the field in response.

AS FAR AS I can tell, the Cubs crowd on Saturday wasn’t quite so rude. They seemed more amused by how bad Ice Cube was. Laughter, of a slightly derisive tone, seemed to be the mood of the afternoon.

Actually, I suspect that the Wrigley scene was probably more offended by the idea that Ice Cube, when he appeared in those “Barbershop” films, was clearly a Sout’ Sider who even, on occasion, wore Chicago White Sox jerseys and back in his early days of rapping would wear the Old English style cap of the White Sox.

While Sox fans will wonder what Ice Cube was doing hanging around that “ivy-covered burial ground” (remember Steve Goodman) in the first place. They might consider it gaudy along the lines of the late actor Bernie Mac, who always claimed to be a White Sox fan but attended the playoff games of the Cubs in 2003 and said he switched allegiance because of disappointment with the Sox.

What else was noteworthy as we felt the “hot time, summer in the city” on the shores of Lake Michigan? And how many remember it was the Lovin’ Spoonful who came up with that lyric?

Trading political epithets
WHO SINKS LOWER ON THE POLITICAL SCALE FOR VENALITY?: We’re now waiting until Friday to see if a Cook County judge will allow for the penny per ounce tax on sweetened beverages to take effect.

A lawsuit is pending that challenges the legitimacy of the tax, and the courts have issued assorted injunctions against the tax’ implementation – which was supposed to be back on July 1.
... across Illinois

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has said the county needs the money from the tax to avoid having to lay off some 1,100 county employees – and some 300 layoffs already have been announced. Actions that some consider to be particularly venal on Preckwinkle’s part.

Although Preckwinkle herself told the Chicago Sun-Ties recently how she considers Gov. Bruce Rauner to be “profoundly inept,” “mean-spirited” and “evil” for the way he imposed cuts in state programs for people with autism on what was National Autism Day. Much of that funding has since been restored.

THE CHI-TOWN WEEKEND BODY COUNT: Some 24 people were shot between Saturday morning and early Sunday, with three of them being killed.

The Chicago Tribune indicates the fatalities occurred in the neighborhoods of Humboldt Park and Marquette Park – the latter of which is a place known to a generation of Chicagoans for the racial hostilities that occurred there.

In fact, all of the fatalities and even those merely wounded by gunfire were in neighborhoods that often get ignored by those people who are more than comfortable dismissing the city’s level of violence because it merely happens to “other kinds” of people.

Then again, the Chicago Sun-Times came up with its own report about how police once tried paying extra attention to a police beat north of Roosevelt Road on the city’s West Side because it had the highest rate of violent crimes. The extra attention did cause the rate to drop – but the high crime rate wound up shifting across the street to south of Roosevelt Road.

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Saturday, July 22, 2017

For Ill. government, it’s time to play another episode of, “Who’s to Blame?”

I almost feel like I’m a kid again watching daytime TV and one of those tacky old game shows. Maybe “Let’s Make a Deal” with Monty Hall – the only thing is that we, the people of Illinois, are the ones getting “zonked.”
RAUNER TO LEGE: Back to Springfield?!?

Remember the “zonk,” the booby prizes that were hidden away amidst the real gifts, and if one wasn’t careful they’d give up that all-expenses paid trip to Hawaii and get stuck with something like a rotted, old Model T Ford.

THAT’S WHAT I feel like we’re about to get hit with in Illinois, what with the way the ongoing battle over a state budget has managed to find a way of continuing on – a sequel, so to speak.

When the General Assembly approved a budget that Gov. Bruce Rauner tried to veto – only to have the legislators override him – there was one piece of the puzzle that was put aside.

It was the measure that outlines the portion of state funding provided for public education. Known this year as Senate Bill 1 (nice symbolism), it has been approved by the General Assembly, but hasn’t been formally sent to Rauner for his consideration.

With the budget approved, the money for the schools for state Fiscal Year 2018 exists. But without the separate bill’s approval, it hasn’t been settled how it will be allocated.

SO UNTIL THAT happens, the schools remain unsettled. Having talked with a few school administrators in recent weeks, I know they are wary of what could happen. They know there is a possibility the state funding that local school districts rely upon for their operating expenses could get caught up in a partisan political squabble.

Now the reason why the General Assembly’s leadership (ie., Democrats, as in Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago) are holding off on sending the bill along to Rauner is that the governor has already made clear his intentions.

MADIGAN: How little could Lege do?
Veto!!!!!

The governor objects to provisions included in the bill to have the state try to make sense of the mess that is the pension program for retired Chicago Public School teachers. Dems representing Chicago interests don’t want to give Rauner a chance to issue such a veto.

INSTEAD, THEY WANT to hold off on giving him a chance to act until later this summer, when the beginning of the new school year (about mid-August for most districts) will be so imminent that the governor would feel the pressure to back off his veto threat.

Rauner, of course, is on what he’s calling his “downstate tour” of rural municipalities where he’s going about claiming the bill is nothing but a “Chicago bailout” and that all he’s trying to do is provide a little extra funding for the school districts in those rural communities.

The usual urban vs. rural, or Chicago vs. the rest of Illinois brawl that all too often is what issues devolve down to in this state.

To Rauner, it’s greedy Chicago trying to stall things, while I know from my talks with those local school officials they’re going to be more than willing to “Blame Bruce!” if something occurs that causes state aid payments to schools to be delayed so long that the public schools won’t be able to open on time.

ONE INTERESTING MOVE is that the governor is now saying he’s giving the General Assembly until Monday at Noon to send him that bill so he can veto it – or else he’s prepared to issue the order for a special session.
Is this what Ill. in for in coming days?
Meaning back to Springfield for the legislators, as though he thinks a dose of “Capital punishment” (ie., having to spend time in Springfield during the otherwise lazy days of summer) will force the rank-and-file of the General Assembly to hand him the bill.

Of course, we saw during the final weeks of the budget debacle that just because the Legislature is in session doesn’t mean they’re doing anything meaningful. It’s only when the two sides come together that things get done, and Rauner is making it clear he’s not coming together with anybody.

So if the General Assembly winds up back at the Statehouse next week, why do I suspect we’ll get a lot more action on measures such as the one approved earlier this month that renamed a portion of Interstate 55 for former President Barack Obama? At a time when we have serious issues to address, that would be our “zonk!”

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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?

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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 SportsLots.com.

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!

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