Friday, November 16, 2018

A sultan, a king and a judge who once played for the Chicago Bears

President Donald J. Trump will be trying to buy our love on Friday, what with his presentation of Presidential Medals of Freedom to seven individuals, including some long deceased whose celebrity status is too great to be ridiculed.

Superimpose Trump's face over that of Nixon?
Seriously, who’s going to bad mouth Babe Ruth or Elvis Presley. The cultural celebrities of baseball and rock ‘n’ roll whose levels reached so high that they remain exalted even though they’ve both been deceased for decades.

AT THE VERY least, there’s no chance that either man will show up at the White House and express sarcastic thoughts at the White House. Seriously, if “the Babe” were still alive, I think he still was having a better year than the president.

And maybe Trump thinks he can have those old photographs of Presley at the White House with then-President Richard Nixon digitally altered, with his own face (and always-tacky hairdo) superimposed over that of Nixon so that Trump is now shaking hands with “the king of rock ‘n’ roll.”

Whether Chuck Berry is the one who really deserves that label because he went to jail for his musical art (as comedian Tommy Chong once suggested in one of his films with Richard “Cheech” Marin) is a topic of discussion for a future commentary.

But seriously, Trump thinks we need to have his official recognition granted to Ruth and Presley for them to have any cultural significance. Which is more about the pomposity of the Trump ego than anything else.
Had better years than just about all presidents

BESIDES, TRUMP IS more than willing to use these ancient celebrities to try to give himself a good day in the news cycle.

Not that it’s unheard of for this honor, which has been given out since the days of John F. Kennedy as president, to be awarded to athletes. In recent years, Barack Obama gave it to basketball stars Michael Jordan and Kareem-Abdul Jabbar.

And as far as baseball players are concerned, former President George W. Bush (a former owner of the Texas Rangers ball club) gave the medal posthumously to Roberto Clemente, the Pittsburgh Pirates star who was killed in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve 1972 while trying to deliver medical supplies and other relief to victims of an earthquake in Nicaragua.
George W. Bush honored Clemente's greatness

So it may be technically accurate to say the award has been given out posthumously. Although one has to admit, Trump honoring Ruth (who I suspect would have viewed as Trump as some little pygmy trying to bloat his own ego off of Ruth’s aura) feels different than when Obama in 2014 gave the medals to James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner – Civil Rights activists who in 1964 were murdered in Mississippi because of the local sentiment that they were “damn Yankees” meddling into something that locals thought was none of their business – as in challenging the Southern “way of life” that thought segregation was acceptable.

FOR ALL I know, Trump probably wishes he could rescind those medals because they would offend the sensibilities of many of those who wear the ridiculous red caps that publicly identify themselves as backers of this “Age of Trump” we’re now in.
Page a Chicago-tied medal recipient

Of course, there will be other medal recipients on Friday, including Alan Page.

Remember him? He’s the former pro football player who actually finished up his career with the Chicago Bears, and also played his college football at Notre Dame. He went on to a legal career, and in fact wound up being elected a judge to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

But considering how much Trump likes to dis anything connected to Chicago, it wouldn’t shock me that his stint at Soldier Field will be amongst the last things mentioned when Page accepts his medal.

IT SHOULD BE remembered that this medal is meant to give presidents a chance to share in some celebrity glamour. Trump would hardly be the first president to try to score political points with people for non-political actions.
SCALIA: Bigger than 'the Babe' or Elvis?

Heck, when Obama gave the medal to Jordan in 2016, he made a point of mentioning how he was now in the presence of a star of the movie “Space Jam.” Even though anybody who actually remembers the film knows that Bugs Bunny was the real star of that partially-animated flick.

Or there’s another posthumous recipient whom Trump will honor – former Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, whose long-time stint on the high court may be worthy of historic recognition.

Although I’m sure that Trump thinks Scalia’s significance is that his death, along with the partisan political battle that ensued, enabled Trump to have a Supreme Court vacancy to fill on Day One of his presidency!


Thursday, November 15, 2018

Any worthwhile reporter doesn’t want to be friendly w/ Trump and his toadies

There are times when I think one of my professional strengths is that personally, I’m an anti-social sort of individual.

TRUMP: He wants to be worshipped
I can be rude and pushy when need be, and I certainly don’t get offended when a person whom I deal with in my work as a reporter-type person decides they didn’t like something I wrote.

IT’S AN OCCUPATIONAL hazard that there are going to be people who are going to take offense to the notion that you’d bother to report something they’d just as soon downplay. Personally, I’ve lost count of the number of government-type geeks who have told me they’d never speak to me again!

For what it’s worth, most of them got over whatever caused them to have a tantrum in the first place. And for the ones who really did cut me off, I found they were usually the ones so interested in feeding me nothing but political “spin” that I was better off not hearing from them anymore.

They really didn’t have anything worth saying in the first place. Which some might argue applies just as much to President Donald Trump.

These thoughts have been running through my mind in recent days, as some people seem determined to make an issue out of the post-election hissy fit that Trump had in dealing with a CNN broadcaster.

THE REALITY IS that I suspect Trump was eager to want to dump all over someone that day. Election 2018 results weren’t a total loss for Trump, but they also revealed that a certain segment of our society continues to think of “the Donald” as an insipid buffoon.

And there’s nothing more that Trump thinks he has a right to demand of the American people than our eternal respect. As in we all should kneel before him – just like in that “Superman” movie where “General Zod” forces the U.S. president in the Oval Office to pledge loyalty to him.

I suspect Trump watched that film all those years ago, thought it a cool bit, and then figured Zod would kneel before he and all his money!
So should the reporter take Trump’s rant the least bit seriously? It was so staged by him that I think it shows all the more how unfit for political office he truly is.

WHEN I HEAR people try to make an issue of it, and whether or not a reporter was disrespectful toward our national “commander in chief,” I can’t help but snicker.

it is all pure theater meant to play to those ideologues who are the outspoken minority who cheer on his every idiotic comment on just about every issue.

I couldn’t help but snicker when I received in my daily e-mail load the latest poll being taken by the Trumpsters – asking us if we approve of the presidential behavior in all this issue. But going so far as to tell us outright that, “President Trump will NOT put up with the media’s liberal bias and utter disrespect for this Administration.”

This quickie poll by Trump will be as ludicrous as all the previous ones he has taken where he asks people if they merely approve of his job performance, or if they absolutely admire him.

THAT LINE ABOUT Trump not liking bias and utter disrespect truly shows the man has no clue about what is going on. Here’s the blunt truth – a reporter-type is going to refuse to be submissive toward anyone in a position of power; which us what Trump thinks he's entitled to. Anybody who thinks that’s the way it ought to be is being downright ridiculous, if not un-American.

I don’t know of any government official at any level or of any political party who thinks the reporter-types they encounter are “friends.” I don’t know of any serious reporter-type who’d want to be too friendly with government officials.

If anything, Trump needs to learn that questions about his policies aren’t personal. It’s informational, and the impression he gives off with his behavior (and making an issue of revoking access to the White House, even though I know many reporter-types who think White House access is oh so overrated) is of a sniveling, whiny child.

Butch and Woim -- Trump's idea of a great America?
With the people who want to support him coming across as toadies overly-anxious to be aligned with the schoolyard bully. Think of the old “Little Rascals” film shorts, with Trump as bully “Butch” and his supporters being the equivalent of “Woim.” Is that really the image we want for our society?


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

New governor to live in Springfield, while family remains in Chicago

Excuse me for thinking it a non-issue in terms of recent reports that Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker says he intends to live in the Illinois capital city while serving in office.
PRITZKER: Moving to Springfield

The state does, after all, provide an official residence for the governor – the Executive Mansion, located one block away from the Capitol building in Springfield.

IN FACT, THE state in recent years performed significant renovations on the governor’s mansion, with some people going so far as to point out rather sarcastically that soon-to-be former Gov. Bruce Rauner kicked in some of his own money for the project, just to improve a house for his successor.

As though that makes the current governor the ultimate sucker!

But Pritzker says he’ll move to Springfield, although he admits his wife and two sons will remain in Chicago – they’re still in school and he doesn’t want to disrupt their lives, he says. Besides, the mansion is actually a series of formal ballrooms, with a private quarters on the top floor. Basically, it’s an over-glorified apartment.

Which is a fact I’m sure will manage to offend many of the people whom Pritzker was probably hoping to pacify with his residential announcement. Because there are people who are going to think anything short of the entire Pritzker family loading up the moving van to haul their belongings to Springfield is nothing more than a snub of the Illinois capital.
A Lincoln Park resident while governor

IT IS ONE of the laughable issues I recall from my days as a Springfield-based correspondent – downstate people convinced that everything had to be based downstate, and who resented those state agencies that maintained significant Chicago presences.

These are the people who were bothered by former Govs. James Thompson living with his wife and kid in a Lincoln Park neighborhood mansion, Rod Blagojevich eventually trying to run the entire state from a private office he maintained in his Ravenswood Manor neighborhood home, and Pat Quinn only occasionally staying in the mansion when not at home in the Austin neighborhood.
He rarely left Ravenswood Manor

Of course, even Jim Edgar wound up having a home in the Springfield suburbs (the “log house,” a home done up in a log cabin motif), while also maintaining an apartment in downtown Chicago for those days when his work brought him to the city.

If anything, George Ryan may have been the recent governor who made the best effort to get around the state – living in a Chicago apartment, the mansion in Springfield and spending weekends at his family home in Kankakee.
A West Sider (Austin neighborhood)

MEANING HE’D MAKE a complete circle around Illinois every single week!

As for Pritzker, he’ll use the mansion as a job-related residence, although we probably should expect he’ll be making many back-and-forth trips between Chicago and Springfield.

Which will bother those who want to think Illinois centers around Springfield – even though I’d argue the realities of the modern world mean we probably should have governors who are mobile and traveling about the state. The idea that he’s supposed to sit behind a desk inside the Capitol and never leave Springfield would be evidence of a governor not doing his job.
RAUNER: Helped renovate the mansion

Just as it can be argued that having a governor like Blagojevich who would have preferred never to have left his house was evidence alone that the job was not being done properly back in his gubernatorial era.

WHAT AMAZES ME is that some people will be willing to make an issue of all this – either that the governor never spends time in Springfield, or else is there far too often and neglecting the rest of the state’s needs.
RYAN: Actually lived around Ill.

You’d think with all the issues, financial and social, that confront Illinois government these days, there’d be far more important things for people to concern them about.

But then again, some people will want to find something to gripe about – no matter what.

Just as they’ll want to move along to the other statewide constitutional officers, who are required by law to maintain a residence in Springfield – even though the state makes no provision for their own housing. Just think how they’d moan if the state budget also included provisions for, say, an Illinois attorney general mansion?


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

EXTRA: No more Oriental Theater? Amazed change didn’t occur years ago

Reports of the Oriental Theater in downtown Chicago planning to change its name made me thankful that this change is not being made amidst a stink of controversy.
Marquee to be replaced. Photo by Gregory Tejeda

For it seems the theater, built on the site of the old Iroquois Theater that was the location of a major catastrophic fire in Chicago history, is now going to take on the identity of its owners.

THE ORIENTAL WILL now become the James M. Nederlander Theater. As in for the family long involved in live entertainment that operates the Nederlander Organization.

It takes on an identity that people with knowledge of theater and drama in general will recognize while also replacing a label that some people will manage to find great offense with as an ethnic insult.

“Oriental,” of course, referring to the Far East and anything Asian. As opposed to “Occidental,” which refers to the Far West. Occidental University, for example, is in Los Angeles.

Some people find Oriental to be offensive on the grounds that it tries to put a generic label on all the assorted cultures that comprise the totality of Asia. Whereas rarely do people try to dismiss the entirely of Western culture as Occidental.

WE TRY TO acknowledge the great differences on what makes up the “other” half of this planet we all call home.
Interior of Iroquois, following fire of more than a century ago
But you just know there will be the kind of people, particularly in this Age of Trump in which we’re now all caught up in, who will want to take great offense at being told their generic label is too generic to apply to modern-day life and society.

If this is one name change that can take place without a large amount of controversy and complaints about political correctness run amok (which usually means whoever is saying it does not want to be called out about their own bigotry and ignorance), that would be a plus.

The last thing we need is another controversy about the name of a place that I suspect many of us Chicagoans rarely find time to visit.


Who’s the boss (and I don’t mean that old television program) of Illinois?

Will new governor have to take marching orders … 
J.B. Pritzker has been governor-elect for a week now and has already created a team of advisers (including Republicans such as former Gov. Jim Edgar and former Illinois Senate leader Christine Radogno amongst them) to advise him on how to go about actually running Illinois government.

Yet there are those who are persisting with such political rhetoric as to say the only person who’s really going to influence him is the guy who will actually run the state.
… from Mr. Speaker himself?

NONE OTHER THAN Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago. As though they can’t let go of all the trash talk that they tried to use to tie everybody in sight to Madigan so it would cost them re-election.

It didn’t work. Yet we’re still hearing the trash talk.

I got my kick out of the Daily Herald newspaper account where Jeanne Ives, the ideologue who tried (but failed) to beat Bruce Rauner herself, said she thinks Illinois is safe from any sort of progressive tax hike.

Although state government certainly could use the money to make real progress toward paying off all the bills it accumulated during Rauner’s partisan efforts to undermine organized labor’s influence, Ives said she believes Madigan won’t let the Democrat-dominated General Assembly approve any such thing.
Radogno and Edgar (below) … 

SHE SAYS MADIGAN is political astute enough to realize a large segment of the population would disapprove, possibly even revolt, and would start electing Republicans again if Democrats get to brazen.

“I think Mike Madigan will still run the state,” Ives told the suburban-based newspaper. “He is savvy and knows the state can’t withstand another tax increase.”

So is J.B. really nothing more than Madigan’s puppet; expected to sign off on whatever bills Madigan (with state Senate President John Cullerton’s cooperation) allows to get as far as the gubernatorial desk?
… are among those advising J.B. these days

Or is Ives, the state senator from Wheaton (no longer a bastion of the Republican Party) merely trying to maintain a semblance of relevance in today’s Illinois political age?

THIS IS A debate I have heard often – trying to figure out who’s really in charge these days! Because it is likely (if not downright predictable) that there will be a falling-out between Pritzker and Madigan. A rivalry will develop within the party over who ought to be listening to whom. Which is why people used to think Illinois would never have Democrats as governor -- Madigan wouldn't permit anyone who could undermine his influence!

Pritzker may well adopt the attitude that the people picked HIM to be governor, while Madigan may well feel J.B. is a political amateur who’s never run NOTHING and who ought to leave the governing to the big boys who have been doing this for awhile.

I’ve even heard it said that Pritzker is in a unique position to challenge such incumbent thought because he’s so wealthy. Similar to how Rauner tried to buy the Republican Party political structure to support his own desires, Pritzker has the kind of money to where he could be the guy that Democrats turn to for political support, instead of having to rely on Madigan’s labor connections to raise their political funds.

Particularly since within the Democratic Party structures across the nation, there are splits between establishment types supporting the current structure, and those who want a more politically progressive structure.

AFTER ALL, WHAT’S the point of having a not-so-liberal Democratic Party? You might as well be a Republican, is their attitude. Madigan himself is most definitely of the party’s establishment – a guy who backs the Democrats because of his support for organized labor and its interests.
IVES: Trying to retain relevance

There are times when he seems to dread having to deal with more liberal elements and social causes. Only backing them when he can figure a way to turn them to his own interests. But that may be the relevant point – Madigan is a political mastermind who can figure ways to use issues for a greater good, so to speak.

We all saw how Rauner’s efforts to use his money to buy a political party for himself failed to the point where some now wonder if the Illinois Republican Party has anything left worth use! Could Pritzker be just as inept without Madigan’s mindset on his side.

Could it be in everybody’s interest that the two men figure out a way to cooperate? Which could mean the true threat to the people of Illinois is that Democrats are not really the united force for liberal causes in the way that elements of the modern-day Republicans have become the party wishing to force conservatism down all our throats.


Monday, November 12, 2018

Chicago trying to figure how to attract as much retail opportunity as possible

Where does Chicago go shopping?
Leaving the South Side

There’s time when it appears we don’t have much of a clue. As much of it may well depend upon which demographic we happen to have been born into – and whether retailers are all that anxious to have our business.

A PAIR OF stories in the news of late would impact the ability of us to purchase the goods that enable us to get through our lives.

For some of us, that has now become something we do on the Internet from our homes, with items shipped to our homes (or what other address they happen to find most convenient).

While others of us still prefer the concept of a physical store to shop at. Which is why interest is being paid to municipal government trying to figure out how to get Target to back of off its intensions to close two of its stores in South Side neighborhoods.

Specifically in the Morgan Park and Chatham neighborhoods, both of which are majority African-American populations. Which has some people convinced that Target is dumping those locations because they’re not interested in selling goods to black people.

AFTER ALL, IT’S not a cutback by the retailer whose fanatics like to mockingly think of it as a French-like outlet. Because Target has plans to open new stores in the Rogers Park and Logan Square neighborhoods. Along with various other locations throughout the suburbs.

But none of those are majority non-Anglo like the locations of the two stores that are to be closed.

Target supporters try to argue that the retailer will still have South Side locations. Although you have to admit, the Hyde Park neighborhood is noted most for being so unlike the rest of the South Side in so many ways – including in its racial composition.
Putting Chicago off to the side

I won’t be surprised if Target decides to merely ride it out, and figure they don’t have to do anything to change their stance on store locations.

SO IT MIGHT be in vain the city’s efforts to offer millions of dollars in tax increment finance benefits – which allow the property taxes the company pays to be put into a special fund by which they could get it back to pay for future improvements.

It might not be enough to sway Target officials, who likely will tolerate the racial rhetoric of the next few months that claims the retailer is deliberately snubbing people based on race.

Even though I’m sure they’ll claim it’s mere demographics – even though I often wonder if such talk is merely a way of covering up a desire to be more selective about how they do business with.

Not that Target is the only retail issue that has city officials concerned. There also are concerns over the second corporate headquarters that wants to have beyond Seattle, Wash.

THE REPORTER RUMOR mill of recent weeks says that Amazon is about to choose a site – and it ain’t Chicago.

Supposedly, Amazon is interested in the Virginia-based suburbs of Washington, D.C., and the borough of Queens in New York. Which some will try to say means they want to be in D.C. and Noo Yawk. Although it’s really more like they want to be on the fringes of those two major cities where they can escape the grittier aspects of urban life.

Which might well include people of the same types of economic demographics that Target is trying to avoid by pulling their stores out of Morgan Park and Gresham.

The key to comprehending businesses and where they choose to locate is that they usually pick locations where their self-interest is fulfilled, with the underlying idea being that the day will eventually come when their self-interests are better served elsewhere. Meaning even if were to pick Chicago, it’s likely the day would come when they’d decide to move elsewhere.


Saturday, November 10, 2018

We can all dream about Bryce Harper wearing our favorite team’s laundry

We’re in the off-season, with some of us intrigued by that U.S. All Star team now traveling across Japan to promote the game, while others of us are intrigued by the Silver Slugger awards for the game’s top hitters.
Tired of playing for 'Walgreens?'

Jose Abreu of the White Sox was amongst the winners, making him truly the highlight for the team as they enter Year Three of an alleged rebuild.

YET I SUSPECT most fans are getting worked up over the “free agents,” as in the ballplayers whose contracts have expired – making them free to negotiate with any team they want.

Star Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals apparently is fed up with the notion of being the capital’s sports celebrity, and is the guy that every team wants to fantasize will head for their city to play beginning in 2019.

That even includes both Chicago teams. The speculation has put both the Cubs and the White Sox on the list of teams intrigued at the thought of having Harper play in their outfield.

There actually once was a time when people seriously were saying that Harper himself fantasized about playing for the Chicago Cubs someday. Harper as a kid grew up in the Las Vegas area, as did Cubs star Kris Bryant.
Childhood/star pairing not likely for Wrigley

THE TWO KNEW each other as kids. They considered each other friends, and both went on to play professional baseball at high levels.

The notion being that Bryant and Harper would unite on the North Side, giving the baby blue Bruins a pair of stars to go along with some of the other talent they have amassed in recent years. A Bryant/Harper pairing could become bigger than the Jordan/Pippen pair that led the Chicago Bulls to basketball stardom back in the ‘90s.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that the very notion was wishful thinking on the part of Cubs fans who have always carried the delusion that EVERYBODY deep down wants to be a Cub or root for the Cubs or have some sort of association with the Cubbies. With that kind of arrogance, you'd think they were the Yankees!
Negotiation prep? Or prank of the Sox?
Now, there’s talk that the Cubs’ payroll obligations are so high that they can’t afford the kind of money it would take to sign him (just to give you an idea, Harper recently turned down an offer of $300 million spread over 10 seasons to remain in Washington).

IN FACT, IT may be that Bryant is too big a financial obligation to the Cubs in the future for them to afford more big name ballplayers. The idea of a Bryant/Harper pair may be too fantastical for the Wrigley Field scene.

Yet in recent days, there has been speculation arising that the White Sox may try to juice up interest in the ball club by spending the big bucks it would take to add Harper to the Sout’ Side scene.

It was spurred on by photographs that were made public of digital images at the United Center depicting Harper’s name, uniform number of 34 (the same as one-time Chicago Bear Walter Payton) and the White Sox’ Old English script logo.

Some say the White Sox (who share the same ownership as the Chicago Bulls) were preparing some sort of video display that could be used as part of a marketing effort to make Harper realize Chicago has two teams -- and that he could become extremely wealthy being Bryant's crosstown rival.

OTHERS SAY IT may have been someone messing around and trying to get White Sox fandom worked up over a ballplayer they can’t have. Although if that was the intent, it flopped. Most White Sox fans are actually ridiculing the notion of Harper playing ball on 35th Street.
Remains D.C.'s star baseballer of all-time

It may well be that the idea of Harper coming to Chicago on either side of town is too outlandish an ideal. Philadelphia Phillies fans in particular are being fed loads of information implying he’s headed for their team, But it is the time of year where everybody can dream they’re going to get the stars that will make them winners!

But a part of me thinks Harper is being a big short-sighted in not staying in Washington. Admittedly, the Nationals of recent years have been a team with playoff dreams who consistently have managed to fall short.

But could Bryce have become the biggest-name ballplayer ever (topping Hall of Famer Walter Johnson?) to wear a “W” for Washington on his ball cap? Or is he just that tired of having people mistake the curly-cue “W” for a “Walgreens” logo?