Friday, August 18, 2017

A fitting result for would-be Confederate memorial on South Side

The national stink over removing all those statues erected across the South to pay tribute to the leaders of the one-time Confederate States is taking on a unique Chicago angle.
They rest in a changed neighborhood and under a U.S. flag. How appropriate for old Confederates

I’m talking about the statue that exists at the Oak Woods Cemetery in the Grand Crossing neighborhood. It marks the spot known as Confederate Mound, which actually is a mass grave for thousands of prisoners of war during the Civil War who were shipped to Chicago, held here and wound up dying here without ever seeing their native South again.

MANY OF US probably don’t realize that the one-time Camp Douglas in Chicago wound up being a prison camp for those southern sympathizers whom U.S. interests wanted held in as remote a place from the actual fighting of the Civil War as possible.

That, and the fact there were business interests based in Chicago that sold the goods to the U.S. military that kept the war going, are the local connections to that long-ago conflict over secession that some of us seem determined to want to revive.

Because those men died here, their remains wound up being buried here. They were denied what they most likely would have desired – a return trip home.

It’s not like we have individual graves paying tribute to those men who were willing to fight for the concept of splitting the United States in two – even though many of them probably had no personal interest in such a concept.

WHICH IS WHY I personally don’t get too worked up over this memorial. It’s a grave marker – as opposed to the statues paying tribute to Lee, Davis, Longstreet or any of the others who had leadership roles in the attempt at creating a new nation based on the concept of white supremacy.

Which is why certain people of today are more than eager to refight its battles – they likely do carry a distorted view of what the Confederacy was and think it somehow legitimizes their own racial nonsense.
Another Oak Woods resident who in life shot down the racial ideals the Confederates held
Which also is why Trump is providing aid and comfort to that twisted element of our society when he talks about "the beautiful statues" that are being removed.

But let’s be honest – the Confederate attempt at creating a constitution bore some similarities to what the United States had at the time. But it included provisions ensuring the continued existence of slavery based on race.

THERE WERE THOSE men who gave their lives maybe because they thought they were fighting to protect their homes. But also because their leaders were protecting their rights to keep other humans enslaved for physical labor.

It may have been an economic issue. But not really.

So for those men who died in prison camp conditions, many due to small pox and cholera, their time in life was miserable enough. But I wonder if their “eternal rest” is something that would disgust them even more.

Because the Grand Crossing neighborhood, like much of the rest of Chicago’s South Side, has undergone a significant change in composition. It’s majority African-American, and most people living there now don’t have a clue that white people ever used to call their homes home. Which creates the oddity of a Confederate grave in a black neighborhood.

AND IN A cemetery that contains, amongst others, the remains of one-time Mayor Washington, Olympic athlete Jesse Owens and Ida B. Wells, who during life campaigned against the practice of lynching.
A front page worth framing?!?

In fact, Oak Woods has become known as a cemetery where many African-American people wish to be buried. If there is an after-life, I’m wondering if those wretched old souls are complaining about the “neighbors” their earthly remains now have.

So as far as whether the grave market depicting a southern infantry soldier with crossed arms ought to be removed, I question whether it’s worth the hassle. Having that marker where it is serves as a reminder of just how out-of-place the whole Confederate cause truly is in our society.

Considering how repulsive that cause and what it truly stood for was, maybe it’s all the more appropriate.


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Justifying white supremacy? Their efforts to do so further taint the concept

I almost find it amusing the degree to which people try to justify the actions of those in our society who are determined to let their bigotry and prejudice dominate their lives.
TRUMP: At the center of it all
The nation’s president, Donald J. Trump, is amongst them, with his daily changes in statements where he’s determined to give the impression that the people who protested against the racists in Charlottesville, Va., are just as much to blame as the bigots who caused the action that resulted in a fatality and many injuries.

I RECENTLY STUMBLED onto a conversation by some individuals about that incident (I wasn’t a participant; but they knew who I was, that I was there and could hear what they said) who seemed to see a significance in the fact that the white supremacists got a permit from the city for their protest.

But the counter-protesters did not!

Does it really matter that someone took the time to go to City Hall and deal with the bureaucracy to obtain a permit for a public gathering that was intended to rile up the citizenry?

Should it matter that those who were angry went ahead and expressed their outrage? Which is, after all, one of those legal rights our society is based upon. Or do we only permit people to speak out with the appropriate permit in place?

THESE THOUGHTS POPPED into my head after learning of the Tuesday night protest that occurred outside the Chicago Police Department area headquarters at Belmont and Western avenues – three people wound up being arrested.

One tried to strike a police officer while another tried interfering with police when they were arresting someone else. A third insisted on trying to walk during the protest in the middle of the street – instead of the sidewalk as police requested/demanded/insisted.

This protest was meant to express the idea that police were just as much a part of the white supremacist structure of our society.

I have no doubt that some in our society will want to view these people as being the real problem, and not those people who choose to wear swastika-bearing logos or the blood-drop symbol of the Ku Klux Klan or any of the other myriad symbols that exist for fringe groups whose only purpose is to make those white people who join them feel less insecure about their place in life.

THESE PEOPLE WHO are more than eager to shift the blame are the ones to whom Trump is speaking with his continually-changing comments that relate to the happenings of Charlottesville.

Just as Trump knows he got elected president despite the political opposition of a majority of the population who bothered to vote, but doesn’t concern himself with that fact, he’s now focusing on appeasing that segment of society determined to live their lives in some sort of fantasy existence.

One in which it’s still the 19th Century and certain types of people can be marginalized with full legitimacy.

I’m sure in the mindset of Trump and his staffers, the 46 percent of the electorate who voted for him are the only people who matter – and a majority of them probably have no problem with the presidential double-talk and inability to pick a side against bigotry with regards to this issue.

ONE OTHER POINT that some like to try to make is that the original protest by the supremacists last week was meant to be a statement against the removal of century-old statues (in many cases) commemorating the leaders of the failed Confederacy.

Statues that, in many cases, were erected by government officials wanting to make a public statement about which “side” of the racial equation they were backing.

If anything, the latest outbursts may well wind up scaring enough public officials into wanting to remove those statues because of the stink they impose on our society as a whole.

Which would be a societal plus if the outcry winds up becoming the impetus to removing those memorials to a cause that advocated treason against our nation – and ought to have been eradicated so many decades ago.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Dem ‘top of the ticket’ that 99 percent of voters likely know nothing about

The jokes already are starting up about gubernatorial hopeful Ameya Pawar’s choice for a lieutenant governor running mate – he picked a mayor from the southernmost tip of Illinois.
PAWAR: Went far beyond Sout' Side for running mate
Which certainly gives a geographical sense of balance; an alderman from the 47th Ward up on the Northwest Side of the city and a mayor from the town where both Kentucky and Missouri lie on the other side of the rivers that create Cairo’s location.

BUT JUST AS most people don’t have a clue who Pawar is (the first Indian-American individual to serve in the City Council), I suspect most are going to be equally clueless about Tyrone Coleman – who is in his second term as Cairo mayor and also cites that he used to be a full-time Baptist minister (he's now an interim minister of a different congregation) and is founder of a community organization that serves young people as being amongst his credentials.

Although the Internet already is buzzing with the snide remarks of some who point out that Coleman is one of those African-American individuals who cites his religious faith as justification for snubbing (to put it mildly) gay people.

Which could be a factor that tanks this particular ticket amongst the kinds of people who vote in Democratic primaries. Although I’m sure others will look at this non-white ticket and be skeptical of its chances for succeeding.

It will be interesting to see just how many people do wind up casting votes for Pawar/Coleman – since I’m not kidding when I say that many would-be voters are not aware of the pair, who had their first public appearance Tuesday night at the German/American Cultural Center near Pawar’s home neighborhood.
Will we get a Coleman/Stratton ...

IT SEEMS THAT many people are thinking of this as the J.B. Pritzker/Chris Kennedy campaign, with those aware enough to want to have a third option focusing their attention of Daniel Biss – the one-time math teacher from Evanston who serves in the General Assembly and is willing to openly criticize Dem leadership.

Which could be the reason that Pawar felt compelled to publicly name a running mate. It creates the impression that his campaign has something resembling a full structure and ought to be taken seriously.

Compared to everybody else except for Pritzker, who as of yet have not paired up with anyone for the second spot within Illinois government.
... debate for lieutenant governor?

Biss’ big move for Tuesday was to announce his “The Road Forward” tour that is meant to be a 2,000 mile trip across the state so he can meet with people everywhere.

A NICE GESTURE, to be sure. But there are those same snide Internet commenters who are saying that Pawar has just one-upped Biss and shown himself to be the guy whom voters ought to focus their attention upon if they absolutely can’t stomach the thought of voting for either Kennedy or Pritzker.

Could this be what gives Pawar’s campaign chances a jolt of attention – even if just for a few days?

He is the guy who has been going about this campaign continuously offering up what he calls his own “New Deal” of ways to improve the quality of life in Illinois. Although I really doubt anybody thinks he’s the Second Coming of FDR.

They’re probably not thinking of him much at all. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn if down in the land of Southern Illinois, Tuesday’s announcement by Pawar about Coleman was the first time they ever acknowledged his existence.

BUT THEN AGAIN, the fact that Pawar may be able to take the majority of votes in Cairo may not mean much. Because Cairo is a shrinking community – largely due to the historic racial hang-ups of area residents.
BISS: Is he now lagging behind Pawar?

The one-time city of some 20,000 people had, in 2016, an estimated population of 2,359 – with 69.62 percent of its population being African-American. Much of the white population of Southern Illinois fled the city long ago and is content to let it rot – similar to the attitudes felt by some Chicagoans toward select South and West side neighborhoods.

So maybe Coleman has a life experience (he was born-and-raised in Cairo, left for 10 years to serve in the military, and says he was shocked by how decrepit his home city had become during his absence) that some in Chicago can identify with.
For those of you not quite sure of Cairo's location
At the very least, Chicagoans may finally figure out the local pronunciation of the municipality named for the Egyptian city on the River Nile. Because it sure ain’t “KY-ro.”


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A half-century later, and we still don’t have a clue what Picasso statue is

It’s Oh, So Fitting of Chicago’s character that one of the most prominent landmarks our city has – the statue created by famed artist Pablo Picasso – is something we don’t have a clue what it’s supposed to be.

A daily sight in Daley Plaza
It has been 50 years to the day since the Picasso, as we simply refer to it, since Pablo himself never gave his creation for the city a proper title, was unveiled to the public.

OF COURSE, AS also is so befitting of Chicago’s character, city officials chose to celebrate the half-century mark of the statue last week.

As in the official ceremonies marking 50 years of the statue’s presence in the Daley Plaza were held Aug. 8, rather than on Tuesday.

I’d like to joke that the reason the ceremonies were held a week early was because we wanted to detract from the pair of events that otherwise would have had their anniversaries on Aug. 8.

As in the 29th anniversary of the Chicago Cubs’ first attempt at playing a night game at Wrigley Field (it was rained out, and the first actual game didn’t occur until the following day), or the 41st anniversary of the time the Chicago White Sox tried playing an official major league ballgame in shorts.

INSTEAD, WE CHOSE to jump the gun on the Picasso structure, which now is such a part of the city’s composition that we don’t really notice it. We walk through the Daley Plaza in the shadows of the Daley Center courthouse or the County Building/City Hall where the real Richard J. Daley prevailed and we expect to see it.
Would something like this really be better?

It’s just there.

Personally, I’m not going to take a crack at guessing at what it was Picasso was trying to portray when he created the statue on commission for the architectural firm that designed the Daley Plaza for Chicago back in the mid-1960s (although I do get a kick out of the White Sox warmup jacket he occasionally was photographed wearing).

Although the artistic experts who say it is a profile of a woman (if viewed from behind at just the right angle) may be on to something. Personally, I think the confused perception it creates amongst so many people may be totally befitting of Chicago.
Celebrating the shorts?

A PLACE THAT outsiders may find bewildering, but that we locals accept for all its flaws and complications.

In fact, I wonder if a more conventional attempt at public art would have created something that would be oft-ignored and long-forgotten. Or wind up creating an image that would totally tick off a segment of the city.

Such as the ideas that were tossed about publicly back in 1967 by those who were offended by Picasso’s effort to create an image that would come to personify Chicago. Then-alderman John Hoellen (I knew him later in his professional life as a CTA Board member) was the guy who suggested a statue of Chicago Cubs slugger Ernie Banks.

Which I’m sure would have gone over terribly with the segment of Chicago that has no use for the Cubs, or baseball in general.
Says about Chicago?

ALL I KNOW is that the Picasso (which actor John Belushi’s character made reference to in “The Blues Brothers”) is now a common backdrop – particularly for all the activist-types who choose the Daley Center for their protests against local government.

I suspect Picasso himself would have appreciated that idea, since the artist himself had Communist leanings (but that didn’t stop him from accepting payment from the city for his work).

Besides, perhaps it’s a good thing that Picasso’s work of vague perceptions exists for Chicago.
Picasso used to be part of the holiday festivities when city tree was in Plaza
Otherwise, our city’s most prominent work of public art might very well turn out to be the Bat Column statue by Claes Oldenburg (whom the now-defunct City News Bureau used to like to boast was one of their former reporter-type people) that exists outside of the Social Security Building on Madison Street. Just think of all the confusion that image could cause!


Monday, August 14, 2017

What kind of twisted twerp thinks white supremacy is the “American” way?

There is one positive aspect I can think of related to the white supremacist rally in Virginia that resulted in fatalities – maybe now we’ll stop thinking of such events as a laughable spectacle.
Popular spot to express Trump contempt

Because that is what happens all too often whenever these people with their racial hang-ups insist on exercising their right to free expression (their ‘right to be wrong’) – the end result is usually something so laughable.

WE GET OUR chuckle at the thought anybody could be deluded enough to think such thoughts. We comment about third-rate brown shirts who likely would have been rejected by the real Nazi Party had they tried to join back in 1930s-era Germany.

Or maybe we joke about wondering just how those Klansmen get their sheets so white.

We laugh them off because the spectacle usually is ludicrous.

Like the time I once covered a Klan rally held outside the Illinois Statehouse in Springfield – the Klan chaplain (I forget the goofy K-laden title they gave him) led the protesters in a “prayer” that God strike Planet Earth with a plague that would wipe out all the undesirable life forms and leaving the globe free and clear for white people.
ROCKWELL: Brought Nazis to United States

OR ANOTHER RALLY I once covered outside the Bloomington, Ill., hospital where American Nazi Party founder George Lincoln Rockwell was born. They laid a wreath to pay tribute to their founder, and the followers who came uniformed in swastika armbands and helmets took a public pledge that bore some resemblance to the one that the “Illinois Nazis” took in the film “The Blues Brothers.”

Remember? They pledged allegiance to Adolf Hitler, only to see the one-time Mount Prospect police car driven by noted scofflaw Elwood Blues come roaring at them – forcing them to all dive into a nearby river.

The rally held recently in Charlottesville, Va., had no such laughable moments.
TRUMP: Election emboldened modern-day Nazis?

What wound up happening was that a white supremacist backer drove his car into the group of counter-demonstrators who wanted to make their opposition known.

WE NOW HAVE fatalities caused by these people whose insecurities about life cause them to want to think the accident of Caucasian conception makes them a superior form of life.

One-time Klan leader and Louisiana politico David Duke described the events as being one of, “We are determined to take our country back.” President Donald Trump has taken some abuse because his initial statements about the matter came so many hours after it occurred, and were lukewarm as though he were trying to shift blame to the counter-protesters – who are the ones who suffered a casualty in all this.

When Trump tried making a harsher statement that acknowledged the absurdity of the white supremacists, Duke retorted by telling the president, “I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror and remember it was white Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists.”

These are the racist ideologues who were the bulk of the 46 percent of the electorate that was able to give Trump an Electoral College victory making it clear they won’t be ignored.

IT’S GOING TO be hard for Trump to continue to deny he’s president because of the bigots amongst us who saw his repeated ridiculous rhetoric as backing of their own racist ideals. Particularly since the gaudy tower that contains the hotel he operates in Chicago is now a popular gathering place for the protesters.
Friday's incident not comical like this Blues Brothers scene
That may be the significance of the counter-protests held Saturday and Sunday in Chicago, amongst other cities, in which people were able to peacefully express their outrage over the racist radicals who think this Age of Trump is their age of empowerment!

Many of us who would have dismissed Friday’s event for the Wal-mart-purchased Tiki torches carried by the white supremacist protesters or the ridiculous attempts at being clad in paramilitary gear are going to have to take a more serious look at this segment of our society.

Which may be a minority going about chanting “You will not replace us.” But it is one with an un-American ideal in that they’d want to use their freedom of expression to overpower everyone not like themselves into a position of submission.


Saturday, August 12, 2017

For way Dems backed J.B., we might as well have been at Bismarck Hotel of old

We’re several years into the 21st Century and we’d like to think we’re urbane and sophisticated. Yet when it comes to electoral politics, the spirit of the smoke-filled room and political party hacks gathering together to tell us what is for our own good come Election Day still prevails.
PRITZKER: The officially-preferred Dem gov hopeful

For the Cook County Democratic Party, the heart and muscle of Democratic organizations in dominating Illinois, decided Friday amongst themselves that the gubernatorial campaign of J.B. Pritzker is the officially-preferred choice come the March 20, 2018 primary.

FORGET CHRIS KENNEDY and his family aura, or the idealism of Ameya Pawar or Daniel Biss, or the political delusions any of the other gubernatorial dreamers may have.

The party will put its money, so to speak, on the member of the Pritzker family whose wealth originates with the Hyatt Hotels chain, betting he is the most likely to have a chance to defeat Gov. Bruce Rauner’s dreams of re-election come the Election Day on Nov. 6.

Actually, that phrase about “put its money” is a misnomer, since the party hacks largely see the advantage of a Pritzker campaign is that he has a large private fortune and has expressed a willingness to make many large donations to himself in order to pay the costs of a political campaign.
Political spirit of the one-time Bismarck Hotel ...

Democratic Party organizations won't have to make a priority of trying to raise money for a governor's race where they will be outspent overwhelmingly by Rauner's own personal fortune.

DEMOCRATIC REGULARS SEE that as absolutely essential to compete with the significant private wealth that Rauner is prepared to spend to try to get himself re-elected, and also to alter the General Assembly composition in ways to create political allies for himself.

Because it has been a hostile Legislature run by urban Democratic Party interests that has been the buffer between the public interests and the many anti-union fantasies that Rauner repeatedly tries to portray as “reform.”

Cook County Democrats gathered Friday at the Erie Café restaurant (Italian food, but the prime rib looks scrumptious) to come to their decision to officially slate Pritzker’s campaign over all others for governor.
... carries over to a Near North restaurant

But the spirit may well have been that of the one-time Bismarck Hotel where politicos used to merely have to walk across the street from City Hall to gather in those aforementioned smoke-filled rooms to decide which candidates were worthy of political support.

THAT ACTUALLY IS the key to comprehending what the value of the party’s slate truly is.

It means the party regulars are now bound to back Pritzker for governor. They’re bound to have their campaign workers out on the streets trying to stir up the vote for J.B.

If by chance they are absolutely appalled at the thought of a Pritzker as governor, they’re required to keep their mouths shut about it. They can’t go off and offer support for anybody else – unless they want to be viewed as renegades.

Although Pritzker’s preferred status by the party isn’t really surprising – he did have a sister, Penny, who served as Commerce Secretary under President Barack Obama. The family isn’t new to electoral politics.

AS FOR WHAT the other gubernatorial candidates wanted was for the party to slate no one. Which would have given the individual party regulars the ability to make up their own minds and allow their campaign workers to push for votes for whomever they truly supported.

Now, J.B. has something of a political army willing to do the legwork to try to gain him more political support beyond what he hopes to buy during the election cycle.
BAULER: Some sentiments never change

Dems may think this is a strength, but it also is potentially the Pritzker weakness – one that Biss already is trying to play off of. He says that a “Gov. Pritzker” would be no different than a “Gov. Rauner,” just another rich guy who won’t have the public interest in mind.

So while we might be nearly two full decades into the current century, there’s just enough of the old sentiment remaining that the idea of letting political people pick which pol they prefer may just be too modern a concept and the decades-old ideal of one-time alderman/saloon-keeper Mathias “Paddy” Bauler (“Chicago ain’t ready for reform”) still applies.


Friday, August 11, 2017

EXTRA: Could Kaepernick have borne down for Chicago Bears in ’17?

It’s going to be interesting to see how the Chicago Bears’ quarterback situation shakes down this season – although after the first preseason game, the delusional parts of Bears fans want to believe that rookie Mitchell Trubisky could just wind up being the team’s salvation.
Could he have helped the 'pride and joy of Illinois?'

Although anything would be an improvement following the several seasons of sub-par play from Jay Cutler.

THE POINT IS that the Bears went into this season desperately searching for a quarterback, and they wound up offering some big bucks to free agent Mike Glennon, who is competing with Trubisky for the spot – although none other than Hall of Fame coach Mike Ditka is touting Trubisky for the job these days.

One thing the Bears definitely did NOT do was give any consideration to former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who as of now still has no ties to a professional football team.

He was released, and nobody in the National Football League wants anything to do with him.

Kaepernick, of course, is the guy who made a point of refusing to stand at attention with other players during the playing of the National Anthem prior to each game. He didn’t do anything to disrupt the anthem’s being played. He just refused to make the token gesture of support that many ballplayers do as part of the pre-game ritual, in part as a statement on the current state of racial relations in this country.
One of these guys had better work out ...

SAN FRANCISCO GOT tired of the constant coverage of Kaepernick and let him go. The perception out there now is that he’s being ignored despite his athletic talents by football clubs more interested in making conservative political statements of their own.

Now I’m not necessarily arguing that Kaepernick would have been a better Bears option that Glennon, Trubisky or anybody else they could have gotten this year. But they had better hope one of these guys plays well enough that the Bears don’t become the poster child for a sports team more interested in maintaining a certain societal image rather than winning games.
... if the Bears to avoid looking foolish in 2017

The Bears will look foolish if by mid-season they still have significant flaws at quarterback, and the people who are now deriding professional football in general for Kaepernick’s continued unemployment start deciding that “da Bears” in particular were the team that could have benefitted from his presence.

Insofar as Kaepernick’s status is concerned, it wouldn’t shock me if football teams are skittish enough to not want Colin around – with probably a team or two owned by some ideological nitwit who would ignore talent.

IF ANYTHING, IT shows that the situation in athletics hasn’t changed much since the late 1960s when then-pitcher Jim Bouton wrote his baseball season diary, “Ball Four.”
Some things never change, nearly half a century later

In it, he wrote sarcastically that ballplayers were free to say whatever they wanted on high-minded social issues, provided the things they said were of a conservative leaning, because that would mean they were “right” about the issue.

Saying something more liberal would mean they were “wrong” and should pipe down.

Although the Major League Baseball of that era and sports of today still bear evidence that Bouton was correct when he wrote of the typical ballplayer’s view of his colleague – “He’s a great guy. Wouldn’t say shit if he had a mouthful.”


Can Stratton help Pritzker jump ahead of pack to take governor’s post in '18?

I’ve always had my own theory about Illinois state government posts – Democrats win them when Chicago city voters are motivated enough to care about who wins.
STRATTON: Illinois' next lieutenant governor?

Which can be a challenge. Because the city perspective is that the mayor and aldermen are all-important, while there’s some attention as to who gets sent “up and out” to Washington.

BUT AS FOR the clowns in Springfield? It’s easy for those elections to become after-thoughts to Chicagoans, while they’re way more significant to those in the rural parts of the state. Whichever one of the half-dozen or so Dem candidates dreaming of becoming governor needs to do something to get city residents to care, or else we'll get "four more years" of Gov. Bruce Rauner -- regardless of how much that thought appalls some urban voters.

Which is the reason why candidate J.B. Pritzker’s announcement Thursday that he will have state Rep. Julianna Stratton, D-Chicago, run with him as a lieutenant governor makes any sense.

It’s actually way too early to be thinking about running mates. Besides, the lieutenant governor candidates actually runs separately during the primary election cycle. So anyone who votes for Pritzker in the March ’18 primary could easily decide to ignore his choice of a running mate.

But Pritzker is trying to give Chicago voters, particularly that segment of the city that lives on the South and West sides, a reason to care about whether or not he winds up winning the election.
PRITZKER: Trying to jump to head of Dem pack

THERE MAY BE some city voters who will be motivated merely by the fact they want to dump Bruce Rauner as governor. But their contempt for the governor and the alternative being yet another rich billionaire who thinks it’s a strength he can pay for his own campaign is a perfect recipe for voter apathy!

Stratton is the legislator who has already been through a tough, big-money campaign. She was the woman who defeated Ken Dunkin, the South Side legislator who got challenged for his Illinois House seat because House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, was disgusted with Dunkin’s continual undermining of his authority. She’s also the one who can claim a personal endorsement from Barack Obama himself in that election cycle.
RAUNER: Counting on rest of Ill. to back him

Plus, she is a black woman – which could have an impact in making the African-American segment of the electorate care enough to vote for somebody. Would they really care about two rich white guys?

There are those political observers who think former Gov. Pat Quinn’s biggest mistake in his failed re-election bid of 2014 was dissing black voters by picking a white guy (former Chicago schools CEO Paul Vallas) as his running mate instead.

SO COULD THIS be a move to try to make Pritzker stand out further in the Democratic field? Then also to stand above Rauner come the November 2018 general election?

At this point, anything that gains him attention over the crowd could help. Because I sense many voters just see a mass of candidates, with nothing that really distinguishes them.

I recently had a conversation over dinner with relatives about the upcoming election, and the consensus was that Chris Kennedy was kind of flaky, Daniel Biss might have some potential and everybody else was kind of bland. Except for Ameya Pawar, of whom I was the only person who even knew who he was.
BISS: Maybe?

Stratton could be the jolt that helps Pritzker leap above being bland.

NOT THAT IT should be thought I’m saying she’s unqualified. She may have only one term in the Illinois House of Representatives. But she’s a former head of the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Center for Public Safety and Justice, and also with the Cook County Justice Advisory Council and Justice for Children.

She certainly has qualifications for a public post, and it is the lieutenant governor’s position – where she is the person to be on-call in the event that a “Governor Pritzker” were to become incapacitated. Take the current lieutenant governor, Evelyn Sanguinetti, whose qualifications prior to the post were being a municipal official in suburban Wheaton.

So now Democratic voters have a ticket of “Pritzker/Stratton” to consider, along with a batch of other stray candidates. I’m sure Pritzker will want us to think that means he’s better organized than his opponents.

As to whether the voters believe that sentiment, we’ll see come March and November following Election Day.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Wishing we, the people, could pick up a history book every now and then

I don’t doubt that North Korea leader Kim Jong-un has a screw or two loose in his
Wishing this were just a debate ...
mindset – he may very well believe his place in history is to be the guy who gives the “go” order that unleashes a nuclear weapon on a city or two within the United States.

Although when I hear our nation’s president, Donald J. Trump, spew out rhetoric about “fire and fury” being unleashed against North Korea, it makes me wonder which world leader’s instability is more likely to cause the problem?
... over who has the sillier haircut?

AND I DON’T particularly care if such rhetoric plays well with the 46 percent of the U.S electorate that actually voted for Trump to be president. That only proves our overall ignorance of history and world events.

For all I know, Trump may well want to give the order to unleash an attack on some part of the world so as to enhance his credentials as a world leader in the same way that Kim thinks he’s appeasing the rest of the world by saying he’d only consider use of nuclear weapons on the United States.

I also don’t doubt that Trump’s rhetoric is being played in such a way that Kim is making sure everybody currently trapped into living within North Korea thinks that Trump is the ultimate demon who is threatening to annihilate their country.

Similar to how Fidel Castro had a generation of Cubans thinking the reason their nation had become so impoverished was because of generations of U.S. presidents imposing imperialist policies through the trade embargo that in the end wound up depriving our nation of economic opportunities more than it hurt Cuba.
Kim trying to top Fidel on crazy scale? Image provided by Library of Congress collection
YES, I’M VIEWING this whole situation developing between the United States and the nation with which we technically have been at war with for nearly seven decades with some trepidation. Although the broadcast pundits who now are spewing cheap talk that we’re approaching a sequel to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 may be overstating it.

We’re not there, yet. Although I’m wondering if the cooler heads who need to prevail for such a situation to never develop will wind up being drowned out by the nonsense talk of Trump and Kim.

I heard one such pundit make a comment Wednesday about how it is possible that U.S. military interests could “take” North Korea in a fight. It’s just a matter of how much carnage we’re willing to put up with, and how much we’re willing to sacrifice South Korea (our ally and a nation in which we have a military presence) in the process.

I think too many people are willing to ignore that last aspect, even though they shouldn’t.

BECAUSE IF WE want to be realistic, we would have “taken” North Korea a long time ago if it were at all practical. But the fact that China would not want to see a reunified Korea if it means that the part of it historically allied with itself were seen as the “loser.”

And I definitely don’t want to see a situation where we have a U.S./China conflict provoked by a long-forgotten military conflict of the early 1950s. Cold War politicking has the potential to create too many headaches.

Yes, I use the phrase “long-forgotten” to describe the Korean conflict because I really don’t believe most people have a clue about it. They either get it confused with the later actions in Vietnam, or they think it’s something about hospitals and “M*A*S*H” on television.
NOT what Korea was about!

Which means they’re dredging up comical images of actor Jamie Farr in his Scarlet O’Hara dress or swinging a purse while carrying a rifle on guard duty.

CERTAINLY NOT AN image with any bearing in reality. And certainly not one that should be taken into account by anybody with a hand in setting our public policy.

Which is why I do take some comfort in the comments of people like Defense Secretary Jim Mattis who says North Korea needs to “stand down” in its desire to get a usable nuclear weapon. We can only hope that such sensibilities prevail, and that fantasies of South Korean military troops marching in to Pyongyang to occupy the capital of the North do not.

It reminds me of a professor I had in college who liked to say of Harry Truman’s use of atomic weapons to end the Second World War that it was “Harry Truman 2, Rest of the World 0.”

I’d hate to think that we’re headed for a day when his line will have to be amended to read “Truman 2, Kim 1 and Trump 1.”


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Nobody wants to pay taxes, but they’ll also complain about lack of services

There’s a scene in the 1995 film “My Family” in which actor Jimmy Smits’ character marries a woman from El Salvador to bolster her efforts to avoid deportation, then tries to dismiss his parents’ disapproval of such cynical behavior against the sacred institution of marriage by sarcastically saying, “I’m a god---n revolutionary.”
Who'd have thought political statement being made?

I can’t help but think the same sarcasm applies to many of the people who these days are getting offended over taxes – particularly the one that is drawing the national attention to Chicago in the form of the pop tax.

JUST ON TUESDAY the Chicago Tribune reported about one of the latest lawsuits filed in Cook County Circuit Court. There’s a man from suburban Schaumburg who’s upset that when he went to his local Walgreens store to purchase bottled sparkling water, he was hit with the tax.

He argues the packaging clearly indicates the water is unsweetened, while the so-called pop tax applies to sweetened beverages.

The man who filed his lawsuit last week said he wants a jury trial (probably because he wants a court ruling based in public sentiment rather than the technicalities of the law) and class-action status, which would allow for other people who have objections to the Cook County pop tax to pile on.

Why have one lone person suing someone over the penny per ounce fee the county wants to charge on pop and other sweetened beverages if you can have many?

THIS IS ABOUT people wishing to make a stink over an issue which basically amounts to them feeling a bit cheap and not wanting to pay an additional cost every time they buy their 2-liter bottle of pop (which can come to about $0.65 more).

In the case of Walgreens, the Tribune reports that the company admits it screwed up when coding the products it sells – which means that when the cashier swipes the water bottles at the register, it comes up with the pop tax added on even though it’s not supposed to.

And since it’s programmed to do that, the cashier has no authority, or ability, to take it off. Walgreens officials say they’re working to fix the situation. Which is about all we should expect to happen.
PRECKWINKLE: Arousing cheapskate anger?

I think the people who are hoping to go after Walgreens as a way of attacking the pop tax itself are just more interested in hearing themselves yell and scream. Of course, they’ll scream even louder whenever government fails to provide the services they expect as part of their life’s routines.

THEY’RE BEING ‘REVOLUTIONARIES’ against the issue of about 20 cents being added on to the cost of a single-serving sized plastic pop bottle. All of which is meant to help balance out the Cook County government budget.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been making an effort for the past year or so to reduce the amount of carbonated beverages I consume (I enjoy an occasional Coca-Cola too much to totally give up the habit, but it certainly doesn’t have to be a daily purchase), but this particular pop tax just strikes me as being yet another increase in the cost of daily life. Nothing is as cheap as it used to be when I was younger.

Yet some people are determined to carry out this petty fee and their disagreement to an extreme. Maybe it’s because the more serious taxes are too complex for them to go after.

Similar to how some Chicago residents get all worked up over being charged 7 cents for the cost of a plastic bag whenever they buy something.

PERSONALLY, I VIEW that fee as a cost of convenience for not having to carry my own bags to the store. Although for those who have their own canvas totes or whatnot to bring with them when they shop, more power to them!

Yes, I’m aware of the new poll showing 87 percent of those questioned hate the pop tax. Then again, how many people are going to do anything about it? This is one tax that gradually is going to become a part of the daily routine – no matter how much some retail groups try to challenge it in court and how petty Cook County gets with their counter-lawsuits against them.

Personally, I’d feel like a phony revolutionary if I claimed I was opposed to either of these taxes (pop or plastic bags) on some high-minded principle involving the legitimacy of taxation.

It would be more honest if the people who are complaining were to just come out and tell the truth – they’re feeling cheap!


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

On Asian carp issue, does Illinois really have faith? Or is state just cheap!

The Asian Carp, a species of fish that devours everything in its path and whose presence in the Great Lakes would likely kill off all the species of fish and plant life that are native to our area, are an issue that we’re supposedly desperate to find a solution to.
Army Corps of Engineers has new plan for Asian carp

For we have evidence that the carp have managed to creep their way up into the Calumet River and are extremely close to the mouth of Lake Michigan – which would feed them into the Great Lakes as a whole.

CATASTROPHE TIME, OR at least that is what we’ve been led to believe.

Yet I find it interesting that Illinois government officials, or at least those in positions of authority within the governor’s office, are skeptical of the latest proposal by the Army Corps of Engineers meant to keep the carp away from the lake.

They talk about an upgrade of the Brandon Road lock and dam near Joliet to include high-power water jets and loud noises – all of which would create enough of a barricade to keep the carp who have swum up the Mississippi and Illinois rivers to be up around Joliet from getting any closer to Chicago.

Currently, officials have relied upon electrifying the area on the Des Plaines River so that any carp who try to swim through the area get killed – thereby preventing them from getting any closer to Chicago than they already are.

YET ILLINOIS OFFICIALS made it clear Monday they don’t think much of the Army Corps of Engineers’ proposal.

In a prepared statement that state officials say is to be attributed to Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti (she doesn’t do much else), “this new approach is neither cost-effective nor environmentally sound.”

Illinois officials go so far as to say, “Science tells us our comprehensive strategy is working.”
SANGUINETTI: Gets to make carp stance for state

Although I’m sure those people who found evidence of the carp existing in the waters of the Calumet River (which puts them within the Chicago city limits – much too close for comfort to Lake Michigan for some people) don’t have the same faith in the existing measures.

I’M GUESSING WE have to figure out just how much faith do we have in Gov. Bruce Rauner and the judgment of his people to not want to consider taking the additional measures to try to keep the carp out of Chicago.

Because I am fairly certain that if the carp do manage to get to the Great Lakes, there are many people across the region who will be more than eager to blame Chicago for the mess. There are those who always like to bring up the late 19th Century reversal of the flow of the Chicago River as somehow being responsible.

Because if we had let Mother Nature exist as she intended, we might not have such problems. A though of which I’m skeptical.

The point being we probably can’t rule out any solution, although I also appreciate much of the reason for Illinois’ official skepticism is the cost.

THE ARMY CORPS of Engineers’ plan has a $275.4 million price tag – of which Illinois would be on the hook for $95 million in construction costs and another $8 million per year for operations and maintenance expenses.
Could Asian carp have already made it to waters of Calumet River? Photograph by Gregory Tejeda
I know Illinois government is not flush with extra cash these days. Yet there are some expenses we’re probably going to have to just knuckle down and accept. Could this be one of them?

Because while Illinois talks about the disruption of native fish migration patterns that would be caused by noise barriers and water jets, I’m wondering.

How much more will it wind up hurting Illinois financially if the carp do wind up making it all the way into the Great Lakes? A whole lot more than some dead fish carcasses washing ashore on Oak Street Beach!