Thursday, March 30, 2017

Chicago calling Trump’s bluff when it comes to matter of sanctuary cities?

The Chicago City Council is showing no signs of giving in to xenophobic-motivated pressures to give up its self-appointed designation as a “sanctuary city,” which means our local police and other officials won’t turn over information they acquire about people to federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
 
EMANUEL: Calling presidential bluff?

A non-citizen whose immigration status is less than certain won’t have to face the prospect of deportation because they got caught speeding or making an improper right turn. In fact, city officials on Wednesday announced an intent to create a new kind of identification card that would give legitimacy to all Chicago residents, regardless of their citizenship status.

NOW WHY DOES it matter that Chicago, a sanctuary city for decades, is keeping this status – along with Cook County and suburbs such as Cicero, Evanston and Oak Park?

It is because we’re in the Age of Trump where we have a presidential-type who made it clear early on he wants to use immigration as a way of scoring cheap political points for himself.

Not that he’s interested in doing the serious reform that would make sense of our nation’s immigration regulations. Heck, that would be even more difficult to fix than trying to redo health care reform. And we all have seen how incompetently the Trump types handled that issue.

But Trump has said he wants municipalities to knock off this “sanctuary city” nonsense; as he views it. If they don’t, he’s prepared to crack down on them. Earlier this week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions talked of “clawing back” the funds the federal government provides to support law enforcement efforts.
TRUMP: Will he unleash his wrath?

THAT’S MANY MILLIONS of dollars, depending on whose analysis one chooses to trust.



Mayor Rahm Emanuel seems to be basing his continued resistance on the premise that it would be unconstitutional for the federal government to withhold funding for these purposes. There are many attorneys who would agree with him. Municipal officials in Seattle on Wednesday filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration's actions.

Although the key will be if the Trump types can find a judge who’s willing to find a legal basis to go along with the withholding. Just because Trump has yet to find a sympathetic judge for his travel restrictions doesn’t mean he will give up on this issue.

The tricky part of all this is that Trump, when he’s not bashing Mexicans as “rapists” and “drug dealers,” is going about smacking around Chicago as the place where endless murders take place. Even though if you look at the crime statistics, there are other places where one is more likely to be at risk of physical violence.

THE PRESIDENT HAS threatened to take action to have the federal government get involved in Chicago, which has led to some local types trying to pre-empt Trump trash talk by welcoming federal involvement.

Send more federal funds to support efforts that could reduce the flow of handguns and other weapons amongst the public and also the presence of narcotics – which often are the motivation for people resorting to such violence.

So what’s it going to be?

Will Trump really start cutting off funding to Chicago at a time when some people think that a serious approach to dealing with the city’s urban violence is to give it a boost? I notice that Trump met this week with Fraternal Order of Police Chicago chapter President Dean Angelo (and NOT police or city officials), who afterwards made vague statements about how “the administration is going to work with us.”

IT WOULDN’T SURPRISE me if Trump made some sort of cut, because I always was skeptical that Trump really cared about the situation in the parts of Chicago that never would have had any contact with his riverfront hotel. Chicago is something he can use to take rhetorical potshots and work up his rural base of supporters.

Nothing more.

If anything seeing Trump make such cuts based on “sanctuary cities” would prove how unserious the man is about dealing with issues. Because dealing with issues is hard work.

All the Trump presidency seems to be about is that old orange guy continuously bellowing about how your (you being a grouchy, middle-aged white guy) problems in life are somebody else’s fault! While we don’t do a thing to resolve them.

  -30-
FREEMAN-WILSON: Sympathetic

EDITOR’S NOTE: Gary, Ind., is NOT a sanctuary city, yet Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson expressed a sympathetic attitude on the issue – or at least one that will be bound to offend the sensibilities of the nativist elements of our society who can't comprehend anything that deviates from their narrow vision of what things should be like.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Chicago’s self-segregation hurts city’s chances of gaining future success?

I’m never sure what to think of people who want to point out the fact that Chicago is a racially- and ethnically-segregated city.
In this Chicago map, black people are blue, the whites are orange, and Latinos are the greens interspersed throughout. Map provided by Metropolitan Planning Council 

Oftentimes, the people who bring this argument up come from places that are so overwhelmingly white (compared to Chicago’s roughly one-third equal split between white, black and Latino) that the only reason they don’t have separate black enclaves is because they don’t have black people living there at all.

BUT I’M NOT going to deny the reality our city exists in a way in which people can avoid contact with individuals who aren’t exactly like themselves – unless they happen to wander into a nearby neighborhood to try out an ethnic restaurant.

Dinnertime may be the only time we integrate, before rushing back home to our fortress-like neighborhoods meant to keep out those not like ourselves.

This issue was the focus of a study by the Metropolitan Planning Council and the D.C.-based Urban Institute, which released a study Tuesday saying that Chicago is the fifth-most segregated metropolitan area in the nation.

I suppose we can take some joy in the fact that we’re better than the Milwaukee metro area (number four) and that places like New York or Cleveland are comparable, but it doesn’t really mean much.

THE STUDY, FUNDED in part by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation that we often hear about if we pay attention to public television, tries to make an economic argument for increased integration of the multitude of groups that reside in Chicago.

A better-integrated city would mean more economic opportunity for all residents, implying those segments of our city’s society that now could be perceived as a financial drag on us all would actually provide a boost.
NEIGHBORHOODS: Chicago strength, or impediment?

Chicago-area residents would earn an extra $4.4 billion per year in income, the gross domestic product for the area would boost by $8 billion and we’d have 30 percent fewer homicides – but 83,000 more residents with bachelor’s degrees. Or so the study predicts.

Of course, achieving this theoretical economic growth would require some serious changes in the way things are perceived in Chicago.

FOR ONE THING, the concept of various ethnic groups each having their own unique neighborhood is something that often is thought of as a strength of our city – you can find people with ties to just about every place on Planet Earth in an ethnic community somewhere in the city.

I suspect if extraterrestrial life ever were found elsewhere in the galaxy, it would be just a matter of time before those outer-space lifeforms would immigrate to Earth, and set up residence in their own Chicago neighborhood.

Although would that add to the mixture of diverse Chicagoans? Or to the idea of segregation, since they’d be living off by themselves?

Chicago wouldn’t be Chicago, or at least the city we now know and many of us love, if we truly pushed for increased integration on racial grounds.

PERSONALLY, I ALWAYS thought one of the most interesting parts of “Boss,” the biography of former Mayor Richard J. Daley by newspaper columnist Mike Royko, was where he described the “ethnic state” nature of Chicago’s composition and how it affected the way we perceive things.

“You could always tell, even with your eyes closed, which state you were in by the odors of the food stores and the open kitchen windows, the sound of the foreign or familiar language and by whether a stranger hit you in the head with a rock,” Royko wrote.

That was Chicago of perhaps three-quarters of a century ago, yet in some ways, it hasn’t changed much. Except for the fact that black people used to be penned up into a single neighborhood (Bronzeville), rather than occupying much of the city’s South Side. With white and black neighborhoods often separated by Spanish-speaking enclaves to serve as a racial-tension reduction presence, of sorts.

A status that the study says “we need more deliberate interventions to accelerate our progress.” Although I don’t doubt that some knuckleheads amongst us would perceive those “interventions” as somehow being unnatural and against Chicago’s very character.

TAKE THE MOST recent presidential election results.
 
TRUMP: Has his Chicago backers

While Donald Trump may only have received 12.41 percent of the city’s vote, consider that some of the most intense white enclaves had precincts that gave him nearly 70 percent of the vote, compared to overwhelmingly black neighborhoods where he was lucky to get just over 1 percent.

Maybe it means the Trump mindset has established its niche in Chicago, and any effort to “desegregate” is going to be a long, drawn-out process that I likely won’t live long enough to see complete.

  -30-

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

EXTRA: Blame being spread all about

Why can’t our state government officials get their act together to put together an operating budget that would permit it to conduct itself the way it’s supposed to? Largely because it seems we have government officials who are the equivalent of five-year-olds.
 
Will Bilandic bldg. have longer life than Thompson?

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, had a letter delivered Tuesday morning to Gov. Bruce Rauner addressing the topic of talks concerning the proposed sale of the Thompson Center state government building.

MADIGAN LET IT be known he is willing to cooperate with the governor’s staffers to try to make the deal happen, but couldn’t help but take his own fair share of potshots at Rauner. Which he thinks are fair game for the disrespect he thinks he has been shown on the issue.

“With all due respect, I think it is disingenuous of you and beneath your office to make such false statements to the media when you know or should have known that I have pledged my cooperation, that our staffs are working together on this initiative and that we are working toward the same goal … and in good faith,” Madigan wrote.

He later added, “Despite your inability to provide an accurate account of the facts or acknowledge my public and private comments, my staff will continue working cooperatively with your staff and (Central Management Services) to develop a plan to maximize the ability of the State to sell the property.”

As though Madigan is doing everybody a favor by participating in these talks. With this tone, his signature, “With kindest personal regards, I remain sincerely yours,”… might as well have contained an illustration of a middle finger protruding into the air.

ALL I KNOW is with this mentality, it will be a miracle if the sides can work out the details by which the state government building could be sold off (which includes a significant side issue in that any future development would interfere with the CTA ‘el’ station at the building).

Particularly since the governor’s people responded to the Madigan letter by telling the Capitol Fax newsletter that the esteemed Mr. Speaker “has held up every proposal to create jobs, provide property tax relief, balance the budget and improve education.”

And with us now moving into the re-election mode from now through November of 2018, it’s going to be a miserable period of nothing occurring, but everybody seeking to use that nothingness to their advantage.

While we all lose!

  -30-

Is toll road rejection the payback for governor’s refusal to do a budget?

Illinois’ governor has been pushing an idea meant to ease traffic congestion in the Chicago-area portion of Interstate 55, only to have the General Assembly refuse to give it much consideration.
RAUNER: Wants his toll road addition

Yet the project is likely to wither away for financial reasons, since it seems there is a deadline of Saturday for our state’s Legislature to approve a resolution supporting a partnership that would get private business interests involved in financing the project.

THAT, OF COURSE, has Bruce Rauner all worked up, as he held a press conference Monday to rant and rage about the refusal of Democrats to cooperate with him.

Which resulted in the retort by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, that they refuse to take the project seriously because Rauner won’t cough up certain specific details about the project that they would want to know before approving anything.

Which means this project – which may or may not have merits toward easing congestion – is becoming yet another front in the ongoing battle between our state’s governor and our Legislature.

And yet another sign that our state’s governmental structure is incapable of accomplishing anything. Which, at the rate things are going, is a condition going to continue through November 2018.

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF which is the election cycle in which someone potentially could be dumped by the electorate from political office. Until then, we’re in for a lot of nothing.
MADIGAN: Not likely to give it to gov

This particular project being touted by Rauner involves building more lanes along the interstate (a.k.a., the Stevenson Expressway) between the Veterans Memorial Tollway (more commonly, the North/South Tollway, I-355) and where it meets up with the Dan Ryan Expressway.

Those new lanes would be operated as toll roads – which means you could use them if you’re willing to pay. Even if you’re not willing to pay, there’s the chance that others will, which would clear up traffic for your cheapskate mindset.

I mockingly refer to those drivers who won’t pay as cheapskates, because I suspect I wouldn’t be willing to pay either. I think many would refuse to use the new lanes.

BUT BUILDING THEM is bound to be a construction perk for somebody – a nice, sizeable contract that could make some people rich.
KENNEDY: Says Rauner needs achievement for prez bid

Which is the concern that Madigan publicly expresses as the reason for the legislative reluctance to do anything with the idea. “Our concern with private investors being involved in a toll lane is that, once again, it seems as though Governor Rauner is more interested in helping his wealthy friends,” he said.

Yes, this project would be financed ($400 million) by these “private investors,” not the Illinois Department of Transportation, which says it couldn’t afford to do this on its own. Because these investors (17 companies located around the world) have set an April 1 deadline for wanting to know if they can count on the state (they want to make sure they get paid, and not put on a list of debtors who might get their money eventually) to cooperate, this issue is coming to a head.

Which means this week is likely to pass, and an opportunity will be lost on Saturday.

I MIGHT FEEL a touch of sympathy for the governor’s stance, if not for the fact that he has been such a hard-head with regards to our state’s budget – a situation causing so many more problems for our state’s operations.
STEVENSON: Would Adlai pay namesake road's toll?

I have no doubt it is the ill-will brought about by the months of non-negotiation that is causing Democratic leadership to dismiss this idea without giving it serious thought.

I also noticed that on Monday, Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Chris Kennedy said during a forum by the Cook County Democratic Party he thinks Rauner’s whole motivation for being so stubborn on budgetary issues is that he wants to run for U.S. president someday, and wants to be able to claim as his accomplishment that he “broke” labor unions and pensions in Illinois.

In his mind, Rauner needs to ultimately “win” this budgetary brawl, no matter how many years it takes or what gets caught up in collateral damage – even if that winds up including this road project that might (or might not) have some merit.

  -30-

Monday, March 27, 2017

EXTRA: “Claw back?” Who taught the Trumpites how to think about issues?

So THIS is the way that President Donald J. Trump will respond to losing so badly on his attempt to repeal the healthcare reforms of former President Barack Obama – go back to the foreigners, specifically Mexicans and “sanctuary cities.”
 
SESSIONS: Will 'claw back' be in his obit?

Because we all know from his earliest nonsense rhetoric from his campaign that Mexicans are nothing but “rapists” and “drug dealers.”

IT DOESN’T SURPRISE me in the least that in his desire to shift gears and make people think of him less as a loser that he’d focus attention on an issue where many of those people inclined to vote for him will want to bring up the whole U.S./Mexico dynamic that has arisen in our society.

Specifically, he had his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, on Monday bring up the issue of sanctuary cities again. He talked of how the federal government will take back the money it has provided and cut off future grants related to law enforcement to such communities if they persist with the special designation they have chosen to give themselves to indicate their local police officers are not going to blindly cooperate with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

Not that immigration doesn’t have its own people in places like Chicago to enforce the federal law. They’re just not going to be able to “dumb luck” their way into finding people who might have been caught by local cops driving through a red traffic signal (“It was yellow, sir”) to add to the ranks of those to be deported from the United States.

I find it most pathetic, but perhaps accurate, Sessions’ use of the term “claw back” to describe how they’re going to take back the money.

BECAUSE THERE ARE serious legal questions as to whether the federal government has such authority. I know of attorneys who already are saying that any attempt by the Trump administration to recover money is going to wind up in failure.

While adding to the nationalist tensions that exist; something for the nativists to keep in mind is that many of those Mexicans and Mexican-Americans think even less of you than you do of them!
 
TRUMP: Will he ever win?

Which would be the truly pathetic part – if Trump’s latest effort to “get tough” while trying to save face winds up with him merely covered with more egg on his face and increased hostilities that will take decades to overcome.

It could be that the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court of the United States can’t come soon enough – Trump desperately needs a political victory of any kind. Although considering his current streak and the Democrats’ intent to filibuster, I have to wonder if Trump is destined to blow it on that issue too.

  -30-

Trump needs new target; will it be the nation's Mexican-American population?

No matter how much President Donald J. Trump wants to say that Democrats will take the blame for the failure of his version of health care reform to pass, the masses are fully prepared to blame the Trumpster himself.
Will we soon see uptick in Trump piñatas?

And since in the world of The Donald, he is all knowing, all wise and never fails at anything, I’m sure that Trump is now scouring the scene for another issue that he can score a quick victory on.

ONE THAT WILL allow him to rebound with something resembling success. Something that he hopes will be considered more important than any mere loss with regards to health insurance access.

Which is an overly complicated issue that no one should have expected the Trumpites of the world to achieve any level of success. Even the brightest of minds have trouble with the nuances of insurance and health care. And let’s be honest, we don’t have the brightest of minds in charge of our government these days.

We have the most egomaniacal of ideologues, and ones with a nativist streak that tends to outright xenophobia.

Personally, I can’t get around the fact that the Trump presidential fantasies (nightmares for the majority of us) began with the attacks he made on Mexico and those people in this country with ethnic ties to the land down south – although in some of our cases, it was the border dropping south so that our great-great grandfathers went from being Mexican to “American.”

ALBEIT A SECOND-class status of American, because the Anglo types who settled the Southwest likely would never have done so if they had thought all those people already living there would be treated equal to them.
Will this site become common?

In my mind, the failure of Donald Trump and his pathetic band of backers to erase former President Barack Obama’s version of health care reform from the books means he’s going to try to revamp his persona with a political victory of sorts against the foreigners.

And since he has now repeatedly failed in his efforts to pass travel restrictions against people from nations where Islam is a predominant religion, he may decide that he needs to get his victory at the hands of Latinos.

Whom he’ll probably proclaim to all be Mexicans. Even the ones of Puerto Rican ancestry who have U.S. citizenship by birth, or the ones from Cuba who still get preferential treatment because of the old desire to do things that humiliate the now-deceased Fidel Castro.

I KNOW THAT in a lot of Spanish-tinged enclaves and neighborhoods in this country, including in Chicago, there is the increased sense of paranoia that immigration agents are on the verge of being unleashed for mass rounds of deportation.
Can this wall really be made to look pretty?

Which may even pick up a few U.S. citizen-types of Latino backgrounds, because the bulk of Trump backers really are clueless when it comes to distinguishing people – except to be able to say who isn’t exactly like themselves!

Could Trump’s wrath take the form of some dramatic action to try to force a confrontation about “the wall” that the president has said he wants erected along the 1,900-mile U.S./Mexico border?

The one that supposedly will be 30 feet high and beautiful to look at, from the U.S. side. Although I can already envision the graffiti marring it, along with the tunnels that will wind up underneath. Why do I suspect that any border wall will be as secure as Stalag 13 from that staple of 1960’s television “Hogan’s Heroes?”
If Trump is Klink, who's playing the part of Col. Hogan?

DOES THAT MAKE White House strategist Steve Bannon the equivalent of actor John Banner’s “Sgt. Hans ‘I know nothing’ Schultz?” With Trump himself as the immortal Col. Wilhelm Klink – making ridiculous boasts about how “No one escapes from Stalag 13” – which was about as accurate as all the “fake news” that Trump now spews on ever so many issues.

Or are we really in line for some immigration raids so we can get a few busloads of people being driven back across the border into Mexico – and in the process, probably a kid or two who gets mistaken for Mexican (and probably will wind up having parents who voted for the Trumpster)!
Winnah, and still Champeen?!?

President Trump has just shown too much incompetence, but has too big an ego to let it go and try to think the issue through rationally. Like in the 1978 film “Animal House,” when the Delta fraternity responds to their being expelled from college with “a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part.”

The best we, the true majority of our society, can hope for is that their streak of political incompetence continues. Although the one sad truth is that real people will wind up getting hurt – all to salvage the ego of the man who couldn’t beat Obamacare!

  -30-

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Maybe it’s not murder by a cop? Nor will health care be “reformed” at all!

Somebody’s failure, particularly if it is with regards to actions that impact all of us, is always a standard for news judgment. Although I have to admit the degree to which the Friday news reports relied upon ineptitude and incompetence was truly depressing.
 
VAN DYKE: More, or less, likely to be found guilty?

It’s not just the lingering uncertainty over whether President Donald J. Trump will be able to repeal the health care reform proposal enacted a few years ago by then-President Barack Obama. He's failed, for now. But likely to be conniving enough to concoct another scheme in the future.

BUT WE’RE SEEING uncertainty in that criminal case some people were determined to believe was open-and-shut – the 2014 shooting death of Laquan McDonald by a Chicago police officer.

An officer who now faces additional criminal charges that were filed to show great symbolism and appease those people who like symbolic gestures. Yet to those of us concerned with the bottom-line verdict, it shows that maybe the handling of this criminal prosecution to date has been uncertain enough that the outcome is far from definite.

We may very well get the day when officer Jason Van Dyke is acquitted of the murder charges he has faced for more than a year now. A result that may upset many of the same people who now are uncertain how much longer they will have health insurance – all because the Trumpites of the world don’t like the idea of Obama having anything on his legacy for which he can be praised.

And providing a plan that gave many people access to health insurance (myself included) is something for which Obama would be favorably remembered.

BUT BACK TO the McDonald situation, where it was learned in court this week that Van Dyke now has charges of aggravated battery added to the murder and official misconduct charges he already faced.

The Cook County state’s attorney’s office decided to get cutesy with the new charges, filing 16 counts of aggravated battery. One charge for each of the 16 shots that police video shows were fired by an officer into McDonald’s body on that night when he was running around acting crazy and refused an officer’s order to stop and be questioned.

Reading around the Internet, I have read countless comments posted from people who like the “16 counts” touch. As though it could result in a few extra years in prison for Van Dyke for each shot fired.
 
TRUMP: More, or less, likely to repeal healthcare reform?

But others, myself included, wonder if the aggravated battery charge is merely an excuse for a future judge to find Van Dyke guilty of something, anything, because it may well turn out that as a police officer, Van Dyke did have the legal authority to use some force in this particular situation.

THAT IS AN attitude that I’m sure McDonald’s activist supporters in the Black Lives Matters movement will refuse to ever concede. But it is a real factor to consider as this criminal case proceeds.

Just as Trump and his alleged Republican allies in Congress were desperately trying Friday (but ultimately were unable) to configure their American Health Care Act into something that could get a vote of approval, the state’s attorney’s office is now trying to configure criminal case that will result in a “guilty” verdict.

Absolute failure for Trump and the conservative ideologues who for years have been engaging in “Repeal Obamacare!!!” rants is to be exposed as “all talk and no action” on this particular issue. Just as the sight of Van Dyke being able to someday walk out of the Criminal Courts Building with a smile on his face and a “not guilty” verdict would be considered an even bigger loss for society.

Personally, I view the healthcare reform debate as the ultimate politically partisan whine. Because there are those whose ultimate idea of victory would be for nothing to happen. As in the old Affordable Care Act of Obama would disappear, to be replaced by nothing. For now, "Affordable" remains, but with an uncertain future.
OBAMA: Some wish they could erase his presence

OBAMA’S REFORM MEASURE was “Affordable,” and not “American” like the Trump plan that is filled with enough gobbledygook and legalese to confuse just about all of us.

While in the pending criminal case of “People vs. Van Dyke,” we’re going to have to seriously contemplate just how much physical force a police officer is entitled to use in the commission of his job.

I suspect many of us aren’t going to like the outcome of either issue.

Because they'll reveal the degree to which the "politics of nothing" prevail over our society, and are the reason why so much never gets accomplished.

  -30-

Friday, March 24, 2017

Some of us don't have the sense to see Chicago's wonders; we're losing people

It seems not everybody shares the love I have for this magical land built along the southwestern shores of Lake Michigan – the Census Bureau reported this week the Chicago metropolitan area is nearly 20,000 residents smaller than it was a year ago.
Long-standing cultural institutions not enough to bring people to Chicago, ...
That would be the equivalent of an entire suburban community being suddenly obliterated from the map – although I’m sure urban development types would tell me it is people fleeing the city proper to go live in those suburbs.

FOR THE RECORD, the Census Bureau estimates that the Chicago-area population (including the portions that spill over the state lines into Indiana and Wisconsin) is 9.513 million.

Officially, the last Census count in 2010 showed the Chicago area at 9.461 million people. So we’re still bigger than we were a few years ago.

But the reality is that the estimated population count for this year is a 19,570 person drop compared to last year, which was an 11,324 person drop from the year before that.

It seems that when compared to other cities across the Great Lakes region and Midwest, we’re typical. Technically, the word out of Detroit, Cleveland and St. Louis is worse.

BUT WE IN Chicago have always thought of ourselves as worthy of being held to a higher standard. Hence, we notice that places like New York and Los Angeles experienced population hikes of 2-3 percent.
... nor are the newer novelties such as 'Cloud Gate'

Not huge, but not insignificant either.

Now I’m not about to claim that the Midwest is somehow dragging Chicago down, making the city that blue dot on a red sea as way too many politically-motivated maps depict these days. If anything, I always thought Chicago was the spiritual capital of this vast region that thinks the Atlantic and Pacific oceans have nothing on that great body of water known as the Great Lakes, and that one-time Chicago Tribune publisher Robert R. McCormick sort of had the right idea that “Chicagoland” was truly unique – even if his reasons why were a little half-cocked (or maybe were ahead of his time in predicting much of the region's political support for Donald J. Trump).
Corncobs along the Chicago River ...

I did notice the one demographer who told Crain’s Chicago Business that the Chicago area population is “flatlining,” as in we’ve dropped about as low as we can get and this is the bottom.

ALTHOUGH ANYBODY WITH sense knows we don’t bottom out until we literally become a ghost town – a place of long-abandoned structures just waiting for Mother Nature to whack the one-time site of the Second City with a massive tornado that causes everything to come tumbling down.
... and a gaudier structure located upstream

Now I’m sure some people are going to want to claim the politically partisan bickering that has occurred the past few years is somehow scaring people away.

I doubt it.

Largely because I think many people have enough sense to disregard the blowhard tendencies of the government officials they elect. Besides, most of the people who want to make that line of attack are more interested in blaming the “other side” for the population loss.
This shoreline of Lake Calumet is firmly located within the city limits
THEY WANT TO lambast somebody, rather than try to figure out the solution to our problems; which, admittedly, do include the fact that a significant number of people are willing to up and leave what I will always regard as the most wonderful city on Planet Earth.
Where else will you find streets named for Goethe?

Even if there are some people, particularly of African-American persuasion, who’d rather move back South to the lands their grandparents fled. Segregation isn’t what it once was down there, and our land of opportunity has fallen off as well.

Or there may be all those other individuals who push themselves out further and further away from Chicago’s downtown core to the point where they don’t want to think of themselves as being part of the metropolitan area.

Although I’m always inclined to think those people ultimately will be “punished” for their lack of faith by finding themselves so far out in the middle of “nowhere” that they’ll wind up longing for the days when they were a part of that wondrous urban area that gave us deep dish pizza, electrified blues music and a century’s worth of mediocre-to-bad baseball – both South and North sides!

  -30-

Thursday, March 23, 2017

EXTRA: The Green-era Cubbies, or Gene, Gene the Dancin’ Machine

A pair of “celebrity” deaths this week managed to catch my attention.

Dallas Green, the hard-core baseball man whom the Tribune Co. hired when they first purchased the Chicago Cubs in the 1980s to be general manager, died at age 82.
WHILE CHUCK BARRIS, the creator of so many schlocky television game shows, including the Gong Show, was 87 – leaving us the eternal question of whether there was any truth to the tale he once tried peddling about himself that he was a professional assassin for the Central Intelligence Agency.

Green’s death made me remember those days of the ‘80s when decades of Cubbie losing ways were supposed to end. Green’s stint as head of the Cubs did produce a division title in 1984 and arrival of future Hall of Fame infielder Ryne Sandberg, but little else. Unless you really get worked up over lights at Wrigley Field.

Other than to laugh at the television spots the Cubs ran back then saying the team was “coming out of hibernation.” Which likely are the most memorable aspect of the Cubs from that era.

It may be true the losing ways are done, what with that 2016 World Series championship – although taking 35 more years kind of diminishes the impact that the Green people would have wanted to have.

TO THE POINT where I couldn’t help but notice that most of the headlines on stories about Green’s death identified him as the Phillies, Yankees and Mets field manager – as though his Chicago stint were an afterthought!

Admittedly, he was the guy who was in charge when Philadelphia and the Phillies got their first World Series victory ever in 1980, but I certainly don’t know of any Yankees fans who long for the days of Dallas Green – which were truly dreadful in the Bronx.
Light towers are Green's Cubs legacy

A below-.500 winning percentage in 1988, and dismissal before season’s end for publicly insulting team owner George Steinbrenner.

Dreadful in a truly depressing way, and not anything remotely funny like the television programs that Barris gave us to watch on those off hours when the Cubs weren’t stinking up the airwaves with their mediocre-to-pathetic play.

BARRIS GAVE US shows like “The Dating Game” and “The Newlywed Game” but perhaps it was his pure dive into schlock with “The Gong Show” that gives us our most intense memories.

Did we really have to know that?!?l
Creating a show where no-talent people get to show off how unexceptional they are – with the worst of them suffering the humiliation of being “gonged” off the air by a crew of celebrity judges who were as mediocre as the talent.

Or do you believe that Jaye P. Morgan was an immortal talent in her own right?

I wonder at times how much of the contemporary mentality of people thinking there’s anything legitimate about “reality” television was inspired by the Gong Show thought process that anybody could be worthy of being televised – no matter now pointless they are.

I ALSO STILL remember the “Unknown Comic” with his tacky jokes and bag over his head – wishing someone could have taken the gong to him! Just as we could have taken the “gong” to Cubs baseball at times.
I’ll end this little reminisce with the remembrance to Gene Patton, who himself died just over two years ago at age 82 and will forevermore be remembered to Gong Show aficionados as “Gene, Gene the Dancin’ Machine.”

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Does our Legislature need to regulate our behavior at funerals? Maybe!

About the screwiest incident I ever encountered as a reporter-type person involving a funeral was a moment a few years ago at a cemetery in suburban Calumet City where an interment turned into a brawl that some people tried to claim was gang-related.
 
HARRIS: Crafting bill on proper funeral conduct

What really happened was that the deceased person was involved, in life, with multiple women.

FOR HIS FUNERAL, several of them showed up – thinking they would be playing the role of the “grieving widow” (he wasn’t married). When the women discovered each other’s presence, things became heated.

People attending the funeral began taking sides with the individual women, and yes, a few of those individuals had gang ties.

Anyway, a brawl broke out at gravesite, which caused someone to call the police. The sounds of sirens in the distance wound up being sufficient to break this incident up.

When police arrived, there was hardly anybody left. Police wound up arresting nobody because anybody who would have done anything worth a criminal charge was gone. Which is why my editor at the newspaper I wrote for back then ultimately decided to ignore this incident, and this here is the first time I have written anything about it.

IT’S ALMOST FUNNY. That is, if anything about a funeral service can be somber. The deceased who, if he hadn’t already been dead, likely would have faced a serious tongue-lashing (and maybe a few physical blows) from the multiple ladies he was loving during life!

The scary part is that it seems such behavior is becoming more commonplace in certain quarters – to the point where state Sen. Napoleon Harris, D-Harvey, now feels compelled to put together a bill that could create tougher criminal penalties for such behavior.

He is working with funeral home directors to create laws that would have harsh penalties for using a firearm or other weapon while attending a funeral.

In theory, it’s the same as saying crimes near schools are more severe, or that using a weapon in general in a menacing manner that is worthy of a harsher punishment.

MUCH OF THE problem, however, is that these incidents often are occurring in neighborhoods where street gangs have accumulated significant influence – often through intimidation.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported this week that funeral directors in certain South Side neighborhoods often wind up turning over the guest books they put together for mourners over to the police – who use them to try to figure out if gang members are attending the funerals of rival gang members for the explicit purpose of causing a violent ruckus.

For the record, activists at a press conference this week say they know of at least 17 funerals that were disrupted by gang-related violence. In some cases, it’s the people working in the funeral homes who wind up getting caught in the crossfire.

Yes, it’s an ugly situation. Although it’s also one that I’m not sure can be addressed with tougher penalties – largely because I wonder if anyone who thinks he’s carrying out an act of vengeance at a funeral is capable of thinking straight.

THEY MAY THINK they’re above the law. Or maybe they think they’re the ones who will get away with it. Actually, it will be when communities rise up to let gang members know how uninfluential they truly are that anything happens to eliminate occurrences as stupid as these.

I’m also wondering if the “gun nut” crowd will have the nerve to claim that such restrictions impose on their right to bear arms. As though in their minds the solution to this problem is to let everybody else carry a pistol so they can fire back.

All I know is that times have changed from an incident I covered at a cemetery on the Northwest Side back when I worked for the now-defunct City News Bureau of Chicago. Back then, several men of Serbian ethnic origins conducted an informal “21 gun salute” at the gravesite of a friend – firing off pistols into the air.

I still remember talking to the daughter of one of the men arrested who couldn’t comprehend why there was an issue. Doesn’t everybody do this? Perhaps she was just three decades or so ahead of her time in her way of thinking.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Time passes on, but is it really for the better? Or, I wanna make a phone call!

The Illinois General Assembly is considering a change in law that I’m sure some people are going to think is long overdue – the “phone company,” so to speak, wouldn’t have to give you the option of a real-live telephone in your home.
 
This 'phone' would definitely freak out the kiddies

As in the landline, the one that’s actually hooked up to cables and theoretically provides your phone calls with a sense of security that our cellphones don’t.

SERIOUSLY, THE LEGISLATURE is considering a request that the laws obligating AT&T to make landline phone service available to everybody in Illinois should be abolished.

The entity we used to jokingly refer to as “Ma Bell” (a reference that may, in and of itself, age me) says so many people now rely on cellphones exclusively for their phone service that the old requirement is a financial burden because it requires them to maintain an infrastructure of cables that is no longer necessary for people to speak to each other via the “telephone.”

Now before I proceed, I probably should point out that I gave up a landline about one year ago. I rely exclusively on the “smart phone” (which often makes me feel dumb) for the ability to make calls, and also keep up with the work-related e-mails I get from people who think the best way to get my attention is to tap out a few characters of the English alphabet, then hit the “send” key.

Yes, I get those e-mails, but I often am astounded at how atrocious their spelling and grammar is. I also have to admit that many of the e-mails I get wind up being deleted unread – particularly the ones that are blatant appeals for me to donate money to yet another political gasbag of a candidate.
Confounding telecommunications?!?

BUT I HAVE to admit that even though I gave up a landline (I found that the people who were calling me were overwhelmingly using my cellphone number), I miss it. Particularly when I see other people who use the “freedom” of not having a phone cord to deal with to become so meandering and thoughtless that they lose track of what is going on around them.

Besides, I also wonder what it is with our contemporary society that they don’t fully appreciate how much of their privacy they give up when they do away with a cord. Because the reality is that there is no assurance that people aren’t listening in on all our cellphone calls, or reading every single e-mail sent to us through that “phone.”

Doing away with landline requirements might be accepting a certain reality, but it also means our reality is getting a little less logical.
Just trying paying a phone bill in this box!

Then again, I’m becoming an old man, and I know watching younger people, particularly my teenage niece Meira. I could go on and on about all the stupid, trivial things she looks at (mostly video snippets of people doing pointless things) when using her phone.

BUT THE CONCEPT that most catches my attention is that she seems to resent it whenever anyone actually “calls” her and expects to have a traditional phone conversation.

She and her friends don’t even bother to pick up on those calls, and ignore the messages that get left. Although they don’t seem to mind having conversations where they can look into their “phones” and see each other – usually in such close-up that their facial features become freakish and unrecognizable.

The “phone” truly has become a toy, one used for video games and watching video snippets and, occasionally, to talk to each other. I’m sure the loss of the cables that maintain “real” phone service won’t be missed.

Except by those cranks such as myself – the kind of people who looked at the Tuesday morning news reports in absolute astonishment that the Chicago White Sox signed their shortstop, Tim Anderson, to a contract providing $25 million during the next six seasons.

The high price of competence
I’M OLD ENOUGH to remember when a salary in the millions was considered unthinkable, then something reserved only for the elite of professional baseball. Not for the journeyman who barely meets the league average!

Although I suppose there are those people who will say I ought to take my out-of-date complaints and make them to someone with a landline phone so we can rant and rage about how the world has gone amok.

  -30-

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Whose money is truly tainted? Or, Are Rauner bucks really holier than thou?

We’re only at the first day of spring 2017 on Monday, while Election Day for Illinois governor won’t take place until we’re close to winter of 2018. Yet the level of doggie waste being generated on behalf of the campaigns truly is astounding.
What would 'Honest Abe' think of Daniel Biss, Bruce Rauner, or any of the Illinois officials now involved in creating Illinois' financial mess? Photograph provided by State of Illinois

Monday was the day that state Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston, formally declared himself a candidate for governor, and made a point of taking pot shots both at Gov. Bruce Rauner and Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago.

AS THOUGH HE wants to create an impression that he’s somehow separate from the process of Illinois government. While everybody else is fighting, he’s the guy who would like to do some serious work toward getting our government operating properly again.

Which is nonsensical – he’s just a state senator from the North Shore suburbs, which makes him a complete unknown to everybody else in the state. And it’s questionable whether he has the resources to become better known.

In short, he’s a non-ethnic Amaya Pawar – the alderman from Chicago who has his own political dreams of running for governor.

The Illinois Republican Party, of course, went on their usual line of attack – instantly declaring him to be a party hack who does whatever it is that Madigan tells him to do.

“DANIEL BISS IS the North Shore branch of the Madigan machine,” state GOP spokesman Steven Yaffe said, in a prepared statement, adding later, “Daniel Biss is a willing Mike Madigan accomplice who would give the governor’s office back to the Chicago machine.”

Which is pretty much the standard line of rhetoric Republicans try tossing out – just fill in the blank with the name of the candidate. The rest stays the same, no matter how little it makes any sense.

If anything, there was one part of Yaffe’s statement Monday that made me laugh – the part where he produced what he wants us to think of as a dirty little secret that taints Biss. “Financial records reveal that Biss has taken over $260,000 in tainted Madigan money” (emphasis added).
 
RAUNER: Is his money holy?

Yet only four minutes before I received the Yaffe e-mail, I got one from Rauner himself. One that says he will match, dollar for dollar, any contribution people make to Citizens for Rauner (his campaign committee) to help boost his own re-election campaign.

RAUNER, OF COURSE, is the guy who already has pledged to spend some $50 million of his own money toward his re-election bid AND those of Republican candidates for the Legislature whom he would expect to become his political allies.

In short, the Rauner vision is to be able to operate like a strongman with legislators who rubber-stamp his vision – which largely is one meant to undermine the authority of organized labor.

There are going to be a ton of Republicans running for office in 2018 (can’t we just declare the April 4 municipal elections over and done with already so we can move on to the process next year some people might actually care about?) on Rauner bucks.

Or are we supposed to truly believe that only Madigan money is tainted, while Rauner’s finances are the equivalent of being blessed by His Holiness himself. Does Bruce Rauner see himself as the political equivalent of the Pope? Should we all genuflect and kiss his ring?!?

BUT BACK TO Biss, who wants us to believe he’s some sort of political virgin, saying to reporter-types Monday, “I’ve been clear for a long time that Madigan has been there too long.”

Yet he also has led fundraising efforts to produce money meant for anti-Rauner advertising to try to sway voters – which, in Rauner’s mind, is the true offense of which he’s guilty and must be put to a political death! That, and he publicly blames Rauner for the state’s inability to come up with a budget for the past two fiscal years.
Candidates won't ever come across this charming

Considering that we have nearly 20 months to go before the Nov. 6, 2018 date upon which we actually pick a new governor (or decide that Rauner is worthy of another term), all I can say is that I dread the endless rounds of nonsense we’ll be subjected to – particularly since that recent SIU-Paul Simon Institute poll showed people don’t like Rauner just as much as they don’t like Madigan.

I took my father’s dogs, Rocco and Carmelo, for a walk Monday just before writing this commentary, and Carmelo (the light brown one) left a steaming pile of a certain substance that is going to prove as unappetizing as anything the candidates have to say.

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