Saturday, August 3, 2019

St. Louis Cardinals are like the Fighting Irish in their local fans amongst us

The Illinois secretary of state’s office has come up with what is, in some ways, just another money-making scheme – license plates allowing baseball fans to show their love of the St. Louis Cardinals.
For the set surviving around Effingham
Meaning one can get an official plate for their automobile that includes the famed “birds on bat” logo that the Cardinals have used for nearly a century. I can envision many residents of Southern Illinois choosing to identify their automobiles with such a plate.

PARTIALLY, IT MAY be a further way of identifying one as not being a part of Chicago.

But considering that the secretary of state’s office has offered specialized license plates identifying with colleges and sports teams for decades, it’s kind of shocking that they didn’t sign up with the Cardinals a long time ago.

For the Gateway Arch that is the prominent symbol of downtown St. Louis is visible for miles around into Illinois. Heck, Illinois includes a piece of the St. Louis metropolitan area amongst its residents – even though I don’t doubt that many Missourians wish they could somehow distance themselves from East St. Louis.

And some do think it bizarre that Illinois government would be willing to recognize a Missouri-based sports team.

BUT IF THE Secretary of State’s office has acknowledged both the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs with official license plates and there is a significant chunk of Illinois where the locals don’t pay much attention to either team, then I suppose it’s only common-sensical to include the Cardinals in the sporting mix.
For sensible baseball fans

For what it’s worth, the state uses the money from the $69 fee charged of motorists who can’t just have a generic number identifying their automobile to support a state fund meant to benefit public schools.

Which almost sounds a bit like the rhetoric we’ve heard for so many years about Illinois Lottery money supporting education. We’ll see someday if there are merits to the rhetoric.

Or is this just an ego-boost to sports fans who want to say “shove it” to the fans of other teams.

NOW I KNOW the state is claiming this is the first sports team from out-of-state they’re acknowledging with their own license plate. Although I’d question the accuracy of such an over-statement.
For Fighting Irish faithful

Because the state also has a series of license plates acknowledging assorted public and private colleges. One of the schools included is none-other-than Hoosier-based University of Notre Dame. Where Fighting Irish football rules, regardless of which side of State Line Road one happens to live upon.

Is it really any more unusual for someone in Illinois to root, root, root for the Cardinals any more than the Irish football?

Besides, I personally will get a bit of a kick out of watching Chicago Cubs baseball fans be forced to acknowledge the fallacy of their biggest myth – that the entirety of the world roots for the Cubbies.

JUST THINK OF when Southern Illinois residents feel compelled to make the drive to Wrigley Field to catch a ballgame, and Cubs fans will see just now many people are present to root against them.

There is, however, one gripe I still have about such license plates – mainly that even though it has been a couple of decades since the collegiate plates were created, they still haven’t gotten around to offering up one in the green-and-white colors of my Illinois Wesleyan University alma mater.
For those who are just determined to be different
One can literally show their support for Milliken University in Decatur or the West Side’s Malcolm X College, And now even for the Cardinals.

Yet I’m still waiting for the day I can proclaim Fighting Titan loyalties while driving my car. Even though, to be truthful, I might well turn out to be too cheap to shell out the $69 fee (charged on top of the regular cost of registering a car) to actually buy the plate!


Friday, August 2, 2019

EXTRA: A Cullerton, but not THE Cullerton, gets indicted by the feds

I have no doubt that some people are wetting their pants with glee at the word that a Cullerton, one of the most prominent of political families in Chicago history, got busted by the feds.
CULLERTON -- The federally-indicted one

Sure enough, officials announced that state Sen. Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park, faces a criminal indictment on some 41 criminal counts. The kind of people who are eager to see a Chicago politico get busted because it fits into their own ideological hang-ups are the ones all excited.

THERE’S JUST ONE problem. The Cullerton who’s the big name these days is John, who serves as president of the Illinois Senate. He’s also the one who’s a direct descendant of the many Cullertons who have been prominent on the Chicago political scene – both within City Hall and Cook County government.

Tom is actually a distant cousin to John, and from a different branch of the Cullerton family tree.

Anybody who thinks they FINALLY nailed a Cullerton ought to relax This isn’t the major deal you might want to fantasize it is.

Just to give you a clue, Tom is actually a DuPage County resident, and once served as mayor of suburban Villa Park. Not exactly a City Hall denizen!

HE’S NOW A part of the DuPage legislative delegation – which is a fact I’m sure infuriates the long-time DuPage residents. The ones who remember back when DuPage County was the base of the Illinois Republican Party and when DuPage was one of the most Republican of counties that could be found anywhere in the United States.

Now, a Cullerton (which in Chicago political circles is a name almost as prominent as “Daley” itself) has a seat in DuPage. Which, I’m sure, is a prominent motivation for locals to want to tag Tom with some wrongdoing.

Mess him up, and maybe dump him do they can replace him with a good ol’ fashioned GOPer (the kind of Republican who reveres the memory of Abraham Lincoln and the days before the Party of Lincoln sold its soul out to the ego of Donald Trump).

I’m not saying that’s the only reason Tom Cullerton got himself indicted. But you can’t underestimate the significance of that element.
CULLERTON -- The prominent one

NOW WHAT ACTUALLY is Cullerton (Tom, not John, although I don’t doubt there are those who will openly encourage any confusion about who’s who within the Cullerton clan) to have done wrong.

It seems from March 2013 to February 2016, Cullerton received a salary as a Teamsters union official, along with bonuses, and allowances to cover the cost of his cellphones and automobiles. He also received health insurance and pension benefits for his “work” with the labor union.

Which prosecutors contend was minimal. He didn’t really do work for the union – although he took their money (more than $252,000). Which has prosecutors insisting it’s criminal, and worthy of embezzlement charges.

It seems the fact that Cullerton took a pass on health insurance benefits he was entitled to as a state legislator (accepting the union’s health plan instead) was not enough to keep him in the clear legally.

HE’S NOW GOING to have to face criminal charges, and likely will be added to the “hit” parade of politicos who got themselves busted. The political prominence of his moniker will add to the impact.
What would feds do for Daley descendant?

Although it should be noted that Cullerton’s indictment came just days after the guilty plea of Teamsters boss John Coli, who supposedly demanded payoffs from a film studio. In exchange for legal considerations, it seems Coli is now talking about union business – including his ties to Tom Cullerton, whom he allegedly set up with the no-work job to begin with.

Could Cullerton be the fish Coli tosses up to prosecutors who figure they get a bigger case if they can bust a “Cullerton,” even if it’s not one of the really big-name Cullertons whose own activities may be even worse?

It makes me wonder how much the federal prosecutorial types would give if they could build up a case against someone with the “Daley” name – no matter how small-fry the actual individual is?


Sears Tower no longer has name, nor any height designations of significance

The one-time Sears Tower, which clings to that name in the mindset of many Chicagoans, is truly a piece of the Second City’s past.
One-time Sears Tower still towers over rest of Chicago
It has been some 23 years since the building was the “world’s tallest” structure, and five years since it could claim to be the tallest towering hulk of architecture on the North American continent.

NOW, IT CAN’T even claim to have the highest ceiling.

For it seems that New York, which had its One World Trade Center knock the former Sears from the continent’s tallest building now has another new skyscraper that will knock former Sears down another peg.

For it seems the new Central Park Tower will have a ceiling at 1,550 feet – compared to the 1,451-foot ceiling of the building officially known as the Willis Tower.

But which many of us still cling to the old name, and also like to pretend that somehow, on some sort of level, it’s still really the tallest something or other in the world.

FOR THAT WAS the designation it held from its opening in 1973 until 23 years later, the Middle Eastern countries in desperate need of something of significance elected to build taller structures for office space.
Trump Tower looms over da Loop

And then the World Trade Center got replaced with a towering structure in 2014 that technically is only bigger than former Sears because of the spiraling tower that puts its peak at 1,776 feet high. As in a political statement – even though the top 400 or so feet don’t actually add any space of use to people.

Of course, there is one plus – former Sears is still the tallest in Chicago. It didn’t get topped by the Trump Tower with its roof at 1,171 feet high and a spiral peaking at 1,388 feet.

Don’t forget that Trump originally envisioned his tower in Chicago to be a new “world’s tallest” structure – only to have activity that destroyed the original World Trade Center cause him to scale back his vision.

WHICH ALWAYS MADE me thankful that Trump himself didn’t try to erect a statue of himself atop the spiral’s point. It would be just like The Donald himself to want his image sky-high and looking down upon the rest of us.

Making it susceptible to the next tornado that inevitably touches down within the downtown city limits – something that hasn’t happened in some 200-plus years.

Just envision Trump’s image being ripped from the roof and sent flying through the skies – perhaps out into Lake Michigan where it gradually sinks to the lake’s deepest point of 922 feet.

However apropos that would be.


Thursday, August 1, 2019

Is anyone shocked by ‘the Gipper’s’ quip? It explains so much trash talk

The latest bit of historical trivia to make it into the “news” – former President Ronald Reagan said something racially offensive.
REAGAN: Would he be proud of old quip?

It was back in the days when Reagan was governor of California, and when he made a telephone call to then-President Richard M. Nixon – which means it was one of many that got captured on audiotape.

SO WE KNOW that Reagan was calling to tell the president the United States ought to drop out of the United Nations. Specifically, he was upset with a U.N. vote that sided with mainland (as in Communist) China over the island of Taiwan.

Which it seems members of the Tanzania delegation began dancing about when the vote was taken in 1971 (a year before Nixon made his own visit to mainland China to try to restore relations).

And resulted in the Reagan-esque line, “to see those … monkeys from those African countries – damn them, they’re still uncomfortable wearing shoes.”

To which Nixon chuckled, according to the tapes that are the source of reports in The Atlantic, which told of how the quip originally was withheld due to privacy concerns – which Reagan’s death in 2004 made a moot point.

THERE ARE THOSE acting as though this disclosure is some sort of revelation of great significance. As though we ought to be shocked and appalled that a public official could say or think anything quite so vulgar.
But let’s be honest; this was Ronald Reagan – the one-time actor who probably wishes we’d all remember him solely for playing the part of one-time Notre Dame football player George Gipp.

Remember that line about “Win one for the Gipper” that supposedly was a motivational speech to get future Fighting Irish gridiron guys to march to victory? And was one that Reagan fanatics used to like to play off of to describe their own attachment to the man?

But Reagan also is the guy who used to use the line on the California campaign trail, “A hippie is someone who looks like Tarzan, walks like Jane and smells like Cheetah.” Which was always good for a laugh amongst ideologically-inclined supporters who might then write out a campaign contribution check.
The 'trio' that made Reagan politically

WHICH CERTAINLY SOUNDS like it’s in the same spirit as claiming Africans were barefoot AND monkeys.

Heck, I suspect that if the line had become as publicly known as his “Tarzan” quip, the same people who thought that funny would have found the “Africans” line hilarious! And quick to dismiss people who are offended as being overly touchy.

Something to keep in mind whenever we’re forced to contemplate the legacy of the Reagan presidency – and the 1980s, in general.

For the real Reagan wasn’t anywhere near as polished as the cinematic image. Perhaps he should have had Robert Buckner, the writer of “Knute Rockne, All American” to script out his political life, as thoroughly as he did that film, which is recognized by the Library of Congress as a classic of American cinema.
Reagan's highlight? Or lowlight?

ALTHOUGH I MUST admit to always finding it a bit ironic that Reagan would mock “hippies” with Cheetah the chimpanzee.

Since the future president’s most prominent role as an actor was in the 1951 comedy film, “Bedtime for Bonzo,” where he was a college professor who helped to try to raise the namesake chimp with human morals.

Did Bonzo grow up to be a Republican ideologue spouting off much of the rhetorical nonsense we hear passing for political theory these days?

That would certainly explain a lot of 21st Century trash talk!


Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Is college getting too costly to expect anybody to afford the tuition bills?

It seems there’s a new “scam” involving ways that parents make their children out to be indigent so that they can qualify for extensive financial aid to help pay for a college education.
Their reporting may motivate the feds to act

Which some view as a problem in that there is only a limited amount of money available with which to help lower-income families in need, and these students of wealthier families theoretically are taking funds away from others who might also need the money in order to pay for college.

ALTHOUGH THE REALITY may well be that college has become so costly that just about everybody thinks they’re amongst the financially needy who need help in covering the cost of tuition bills.

I suspect many of the families whose activity has been uncovered by the ProPublica Illinois non-profit news organization think they’ve done nothing illegal, and probably think they’re the ones who are being harassed for trying to ensure that their children will have the opportunity to obtain a higher education – thereby giving them a chance to succeed in life.

They may also think that it’s not their fault they figured out a way to qualify for more financial assistance.

What the news organization, whose reports are being picked up by newspapers everywhere, has found is that there are instances where parents deliberately turning their teenaged children over to legal guardians.

WHO THEN ACKNOWLEDGE they’re doing nothing to provide for the 16- to 17-year-olds financial well-being. Which means that when the students fill out forms seeking financial aid, they can claim to be indigent and in need of help in terms of covering the entire cost of tuition.

Putting them in a much higher-priority financial aid status than they’d be able to claim if they had to admit their parents were still supporting their living expenses. Which isn’t technically illegal – although University of Illinois admissions officials called a “scam” because it alters the perception of who is indigent and who is not.

But I have to admit to sympathizing with anyone who’s trying to deal with the cost of a college education in today’s day and age. Personally, I don’t know how I’d be able to afford the cost if I were having to deal with it now.
Is this the real problem?
Heck, it seemed excessive some three decades ago when I actually was in college.

SO IT WILL be intriguing to see just how this issue plays out in the arena of public perception. Will these parents become some sort of equivalent to the actress Lori Loughlin – who now faces criminal charges for allegedly paying bribes to college admissions officials in order to get her children into the University of Southern California?

With several wealthier parents facing such charges, but prosecutors seeming to focus their attention on Loughlin because of her so-called celebrity status.

Or will this become a case of college costs having grown far out of control – to the point where perhaps we need a serious review of just what an education ought to cost and what it is worth.

Because maybe people wouldn’t be eager to “give up” their children (theoretically, that is) if tuition hadn’t skyrocketed so high that it’s a wonder anybody seriously thinks anyone is capable of paying a tuition bill without some financial help.

WHICH, OF COURSE, then gets us into a conversation into just what kind of help ought to be available. With some people touting the ideologue argument that college isn’t for everybody – and that some ought to set lower goals in life.
LOUGHLIN: No longer into noble causes

That wouldn’t be such a cheesy argument to make EXCEPT that it reeks too much of certain people arguing that the purpose of colleges ought to be to weed out certain elements of our society from trying to advance their lots in life through higher education.

An attitude that we need to advance beyond for the good of our society.

Unless you’re of the sort who thinks there’s some truth to the old gag about people who can’t get their way through college by saying, “Somebody’s got to deliver pizzas.”


Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Oh, be quiet, J.B. You're confusing us!

All the more reason we ought to hear less chatter from officials about presidential impeachment who aren’t directly involved in the process. Because it all too often seems like they don’t have any comprehension what it is they’re talking about.

Everybody has opinion on Trump outcome, … 
Take the case of Illinois’ governor, J.B. Pritzker, who back in April engaged in rhetoric that tried to make it seem as though he has long been a supporter of those people who want Donald Trump removed from office by force of Congress.

BUT THEN LAST week, the Politico newspaper published a Pritzker interview in which it seemed our governor was not quiet as hard-line on the impeachment issue. Perhaps he’d rather see Trump lose the 2020 general election and be removed from office that way.

But now, the Capitol Fax newsletter points out that J.B. may be backing away from that stance. Or as the Springfield-based newsletter phrased it, he’s “backing away from backing away.”

As the newsletter quotes the governor, “I think he should be out of office as soon as humanly possible. The only question to me is, is that gonna happen with an impeachment process or is that gonna happen with an election?”


IT SEEMS TO me that Pritzker wants to be in the camp of people who don’t think much of Donald Trump (which according to the most-recent Gallup Organization poll includes 51 percent of the country). But the ranks of people who think it a national embarrassment that The Donald was ever permitted to occupy the Oval Office are split on this issue.

Pritzker not being able to take a definitive stance on presidential impeachment does nothing more than clutter the public discourse with more vague pronouncements that don’t do a thing to make the issue more clear to the public.

Personally, I’m amongst the ranks of people who’d see the impeachment process as a complete waste of time – largely because even if the House of Representatives with its Democratic Party majority votes to impeach the man, he’d still have to go on trial before the Senate.

… but does Pritzker know enough for it to matter?
Which has a Republican Party majority loaded with officials who are determined to protect the presidential reputation no matter how stupid he gets.

I REALIZE THAT the pro-impeachment types argue they’re making a political statement and that they want to be on the record as wanting to Dump Trump from the White House. They talk of putting the Senate on the record as being for The Donald, because they want to believe it will hold the GOP up to shame and ridicule.

Which, if you want to be honest, is nonsense. Largely because I’m convinced the Trump political backers have no shame. They’re also more than willing to spin the process into a claim that Trump has been vindicated – a word they’d prefer to use over “acquitted.”

Which they’ll hate to use because it would imply there was legitimacy to the charges against Trump to begin with.

Pushing for impeachment could do little more than create a lengthy process that ends with Trump remaining in office – and further motivating the ideologues into thinking they’re morally superior for backing Trump to begin with.

IF ANYTHING, IT’S going to take an outright electoral defeat to actually get Trump out of office (although it wouldn’t shock me if Trump backers were to think in terms of a coup ‘d etat to remain in office beyond January 2021, regardless of what the people say).

Yes, these are irrational political times, and we have to think in such terms, which are appalling but honest and truthful.

So Pritzker might have been right when he told Politico that there might not be enough time to work our way through the impeachment process and actually remove Trump from office. It doesn’t help matters if his stance keeps switching on the issue.

Could Trump return just like Smith did?
But if we look at Illinois political history, there’s an even more-embarrassing scenario – take the case of former state Rep. Derrick Smith, D-Chicago, who was expelled from the Illinois House in August 2012 following a criminal indictment. Only to get re-elected in the November election that year. Don’t put it past the Trump-ites to vote for the man out of spite to any impeachment attempt!


Monday, July 29, 2019

So is this now the Denny Hastert law?

J. Dennis Hastert of Yorkville used to be thought of as one of the few Illinoisans to ever rise all the way to the rank of Speaker of the House of Representatives, and is actually the longest-serving Republican to ever hold that all-powerful political position.
HASTERT: Is this now lis legacy?

One that actually puts its occupant in line for the U.S. presidency in the event of an emergency that takes down both the president and vice-president.

BUT JUST AS Dan Rostenkowski fell from grace and the notion he was the all-powerful chairman of House ways and means, Hastert also took a plunge in reputation.

To the point where he probably has experienced an even bigger fall. Which is illustrated by the new law in Illinois approved by Gov. J.B. Pritzker that relates to statute of limitations for people to be charged with sex crimes.

It now seems that aggravated criminal sexual assault and abuse are now the equivalent of murder – as in there’s no amount of time that can pass without someone running the risk of criminal prosecution.

Come Jan. 1, anybody facing criminal suspicion can face prosecution if state’s attorney officials somewhere are capable of putting together a criminal case. Whereas it used to be that prosecutors had 10 years to put together a criminal case – AND the case had to be reported to police within three years of the alleged incident’s occurrence.

THIS LAW WAS enacted because of political people who wanted to appear to be doing something significant in response to the predicament caused by Hastert – who once was a high school teacher and wrestling coach who later in life had some of his former students claim he took liberties with them of a sexual nature.

The incidents supposedly occurred back when Hastert was their teacher and coach in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but it wasn’t until the mid-2010s that the allegations became public.

Which meant that even if sufficient evidence could be procured, so much time had passed that Hastert was never in danger of criminal prosecution.
PRITZKER: Signed the measure into law

But it was because of actions that Hastert took to try to keep people from talking about things that eventually resulted in J. Dennis being found guilty of something criminal – which resulted in him getting a prison term (he’s been free for a couple of years now) and becoming the highest-ranking government official to ever have to serve time for a crime. While also proving the notion that it's the cover-up, and not the crime itself, that gets you in the most trouble!

WHICH HAVE SOME people convinced that something wasn’t fair. Which also is what motivated legislators of both Republican and Democratic partisan leanings to sponsor the bill that passed overwhelmingly this spring before getting Pritzker’s approval last week.

So now, theoretically, we could have prosecuted Hastert for the crime, instead of the technicality. Although I have to admit to being a bit wary of such incidents.

Usually because the passage of so much time means the actual evidence becomes weaker, more heresay, to be honest.

To be honest, the strongest criminal cases are the ones whose defendants literally are caught in the act right at the time of their alleged criminal occurrence.

WHICH IS THE point of statute of limitations laws – acknowledging that there are some instances where it is not practical to punish someone for something that happened many years ago and where people might have been too ashamed to talk about it at the time of occurrence.

Although some see that as a good thing (it means sexual predators cannot escape their actions ever) and a bad (people may wind up getting prosecuted and convicted based on testimony from people whose memories may not be quite as accurate as they once were due to the passage of time).

Not that I don’t doubt some people aren’t going to let that possibility concern them – they may want more prosecution, regardless of how solid the charges may be.

And Hastert’s contribution to our public discourse may well be something he did long before his 8 years as House Speaker (and 20 years in Congress overall) back in the days when he was a nobody to the masses – and “coach” to a select few individuals living out in what some of us would have dismissed as “the boonies” of the Chicago area.