Saturday, September 22, 2018

Baseball has found a way to make the Chicago ‘city series’ feel lame

Remember back a decade or more ago when Chicago White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski wound up getting popped in the jaw by Cubs catcher Michael Barrett when the former went sliding hard into home plate to try to knock the ball free and score a run?
Remember how after being ejected from the game, Pierzynski tried getting fans at then-U.S. Cellular Field all riled up against the Cubs?

THAT MAY HAVE been a high-point in the intensity level for the so-called Crosstown Classic that has been played every year since the mid-1990s between Chicago’s two major league ball clubs.

But there’s one thing I can say definitively – we’ve hit the low point now.

Major League Baseball may be trying to shake up the way it does things, create a little controversy and maybe even rile up the fans. But the way the White
Sox/Cubs matchup this year was handled practically guaranteed it would come off as irrelevant.

This year, the two teams played a three-game weekend series back in May at Wrigley Field. Which means there need to be additional games between the two teams at Guaranteed Rate Field.

THOSE GAMES HAVE finally come upon us now – in the third weekend of September when many people already have written off baseball for the season.

Seriously, after this weekend, the White Sox have three more games to play in Chicago (against the Cleveland Indians), before finishing the 2018 season outright in Minneapolis against the Twins.

I know some people have tried to stir up interest from the White Sox perspective by pointing out that wins against the Cubs could become the ones that ensure the ’18 Sox don’t lose 100 ball games this season.
There also are those who take a bit of joy out of the idea that the White Sox could “pour it on” hard and sweep a series – and quite possibly could be the ball club that screws up the Cubs’ chances of taking a playoff spot, thereby ensuring that there won’t be a chance at a World Series in Chicago this year.

AS MUCH AS I personally have little use for the Cubs, or anything connected with the National League, I can’t quite get all worked up over this match-up so late in the season.

This is the time that many sports fans in the Second City get all absorbed with football and the Chicago Bears and fantasies that “da Bearz” could win a Super Bowl for the first time in 32 years.

Has it really been nearly a third of a century since the days of “Sweetness,” “Danimal” and “the Fridge?”

To derive any excitement from baseball this weekend, one is literally going to have to look back nearly as long ago for the days when Bridgeport vs. Lake View seemed like a grudge match.

NOT THAT FANS of the two teams have any love lost for each other. But it just seems the baseball feud has mellowed out a bit – at least until we get some lasting evidence that the rebuilt White Sox will provide worthy competition and smack the baby blue bears back into a role of submission.

Despite that, I couldn’t help but notice the crowds expected for this weekend’s ballgames.
I contemplated attending one of them (possibly the Saturday night game where Sister Mary Jo Sobieck again does first-pitch duties to try to once again unleash the wrath of God himself upon the Cubs), only to see that Guaranteed Rate Field was offering up standing room-only tickets.

And even those were at a cost of $75 – which to me seems like a ridiculous sum to pay to stand in the outfield concourse behind the outfield seats, as we move yet another year away from 1906; the season that baseball came down to a White Sox/Cubs brawl and one that Cubs fans will never be allowed to live down.

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EDITOR'S NOTE: 10-4 on Friday, and a White Sox Winner! The beginning of a Sox sweep that makes them the Cubbies' spoilers, or a lone victory that will be the highlight of an otherwise dingy 2018 season?

Friday, September 21, 2018

Edgar an old-school “real” Republican, instead of an "Age of Trump" character

It shouldn’t be surprising to learn that Jim Edgar (the Illinois governor of the 1990s) doesn’t think much of incumbent Bruce Rauner, and is actually offering up some advice to Democratic challenger J.B. Pritzker.
EDGAR: A political adviser to all

That was the BIG STORY offered up this week by WCIA-TV in Champaign, that Edgar won’t endorse Rauner’s re-election and is almost something of a counselor for Pritzker – whom it seems he knows firsthand from when the two of them served on a board over a decade ago promoting gambling interests connected to horseracing.

IT IS THE kind of political tidbit that will get the conservative ideologues who have taken over the Republican Party all worked up. They’ll spew a whole lot of nasty names – the nicest of which may be that he’s a “RINO” (a so-called “Republican in Name Only”).

As in one of those people whose refusal to be ideologically rigid is what is wrong with politics these days.

Yet I can see where Edgar is so different in background compared to Rauner – and most definitely to President Donald Trump that the real news would be if Edgar could find a way to be supportive of either man.

Or any of the ideologues determined to use party politics and government for the sole purpose of wiping out the opposition on just about any issue.
RAUNER: Lost the leanings of Gov. Jim

THE TRICK TO comprehending The Edgar Years (which coincide closely with the Bill Clinton era) is to remember that Edgar was a man who worked the bulk of his professional life collecting paychecks from Illinois state government.

He was a guy who went from being an intern within the Illinois Legislature all the way up to two terms as governor. I remember I used to joke to people that Edgar was the equivalent of the mythical guy who went from working in the company mailroom to being CEO – except that his company was Illinois state government.

He also served as an Illinois House member(from his hometown of Charleston, the college town that gives us Eastern Illinois University), on the staff of Gov. James R. Thompson and also as Illinois secretary of state.
PRITZKER: Will he listen to Edgar advice?

Edgar was definitely someone who worked his way up through the system, learned how it works and took a strong interest in preserving it.

I CAN SEE where a person like that would find someone like Bruce Rauner distasteful.

With Rauner being the venture capitalist who developed significant personal wealth, then decided to run for a top government post (none of that working his way up politically) because he thinks government made things difficult for his business-self entity.

Just like I’m sure a significant part of the Trump presidency is about trying to change all the government regulations that see sees as having interfered with the business interests of himself, and people like him.

Never mind the fact that many of those regulatory functions were meant to protect the public from the harm that could be caused by Trump’s every little precarious whim.

SO IS THE fact that Rauner let state government go for multiple years without a balanced budget in place an act of irresponsibility that would lead Edgar to say he’s endorsing nobody this year – and certainly not Gov. Bruce? Very likely yes!
Edgar an antique in this Age of Trump

Does the fact that Edgar has always had a strong interest in horses and racetracks and the fact that he got to know Pritzker mean he’s willing to sit down and advise him on how to conduct himself responsibly during a campaign? Probably.

So for the Champaign-area CBS affiliate to report that there have been meetings between Edgar and Pritzker – with the former governor advising J.B. not to get too tied into details now because the realities of governing could cause him to have to change his stance on issues – shouldn’t be shocking.

Because I don’t doubt Edgar is a “Land of Lincoln”-style Republican at heart, and he’ll probably be the first to publicly lambast a “Gov. Pritzker” the first time J.B. screws something up.

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Thursday, September 20, 2018

EXTRA: Has the FOP made Burge & Van Dyke into the cop Odd Couple

It has been a full day since Fraternal Order of Police officials chose to make a spectacle out of the death of one-time Chicago Police Cmdr., and I’m still trying to figure out what they think they’ve accomplished.
Why would Jason Van Dyke want his name … 

Because if I were connected to the criminal defense of Jason Van Dyke, a police officer currently on trial for murder involving the shooting death of a teenage criminal suspect, the last thing I’d want anyone doing is bringing up the name of Burge in any sort of pairing.

YET THAT IS what was done on Wednesday, when FOP union officials showed up at the Criminal Courts Building (where they knew a slew of reporter-type people would be present to cover Van Dyke) and let it be known that Burge – who retired to Florida with his full police pension benefits – is dead. He was 70.

Dean Angelo, the one-time FOP president, said (amongst other things), “I don’t know that Jon Burge got a fair shake based on the years and years and years of service that he gave to the city.”

As though we’re supposed to think Burge was the ultimate victim because he wound up serving prison time for perjury committed while testifying in lawsuits filed due to his actions as a police officer.

He never was convicted for those acts, which consisted of countless incidents of brutality by he and the officers under his command. One could joke that Burge is just like Al Capone, the ‘20s era gangster whose tax evasion conviction seemed downright petty compared to the bloodshed that occurred in Chicago during his lifetime.

OF COURSE, IT was the people of Chicago who ultimately paid for Burge’s behavior. The city had to pay more than $100 million in legal settlements and reparations to those men who wound up doing prison time because of the confessions that Burge is said to have beaten out of them.
… tied to that of Jon Burge?

I’m sure Angelo wants to believe Burge was a decent cop who got criminalized by people who were “human vermin” themselves. Perhaps he thinks we’re on the verge of doing something similar to Van Dyke – whose offense was the repeated shooting of a teenager with a knife who could have become a threat to the public.

I’ll be the first to admit that Van Dyke may have a legitimate claim to self-defense in his case. That's what his ongoing trial is all about. Which is why I find it odd that anyone acting in his defense would want to bring up Burge.

Just hearing the name will bring up bad memories from Chicago’s past and create an association by guilt for Van Dyke. Something I’d think they’d want to avoid. Instead of putting our collective Burge memories into the city’s past.

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Some in Catholic church want to attach “exorcism” label to homosexuality

An exorcism, of sorts, took place just last week in the Avondale neighborhood.
A 'Page One' controversy

There, officials with the Resurrection parish held a ceremony where they burned a decades-old banner; as part of their desire to express their opposition to homosexual behavior of any sorts.

THE BANNER THAT was burned is one that belongs to the church. It’s their own property, which means that the letter of the law says they can do what they want with it.

The banner is one that used to be prominently displayed in the church – it incorporates a Christian cross with a colorful rainbow. It most likely was intended to be a peaceful image. As in, “Love of Christ” and all that kind of talk.

But in today’s mentality, the ideologues determined to put a hostile spin on just about everything see a similarity between their banner (which had been in storage in recent years) and the multi-colored rainbow-motif flags that gay rights activists often unfurl on behalf of their own cause.

Which led church officials to hold the ritual of exorcism to chase the demonic influence away from their church building.

SERIOUSLY!

Church officials said they viewed their peaceful banner as having evolved into something by which pro-gay propaganda was trying to express itself within their allegedly hallowed halls.

To me, I can’t help but see the activity at Resurrection Church as bordering on grotesque. People with far too much free time on their hands trying to come up with yet more ways to taunt those who aren’t like themselves.
CUPICH: Being challenged by his priests

I’d be willing to dismiss it as too petty to be taken seriously, except that it seems these church officials are eager to look to their past to find ways of justifying their backward thoughts.

ALL THE MORE reason why I find the idea of “Make America Great Again” to be inherently false. I suspect these parishioners think they’re merely making their church ‘great again’ by seeking out absurdly-outdated ideology.

Then again, these people probably are the same ones going about wearing their red caps in hopes of intimidating others around them. It’s embarrassing that too many church officials have the same mentality of the schoolyard bully of old.

What scares me is that this rhetoric, which officially is being denounced by Chicago Archdiocese Cardinal Blasé Cupich, is too similar to the acts back in 2013, when the Bishop of the Springfield, Ill., Catholic diocese decided to express his opposition to then-Gov. Pat Quinn approving the law that made gay marriage legitimate in Illinois by holding an exorcism on behalf of the whole state.

Are we literally going to have church officials holding their ritual to chase the Satanic spirits they see around every corner? Which to the masses merely brings up tacky memories (Ragen’s head twisting completely around?) of that 1973 horror film, “The Exorcist.”

I SUSPECT THAT most people don’t understand a thing about what exorcism really was. Just as many people probably have the whole of their religious knowledge coming from scenes of the 1956 film “The Ten Commandments.”
Extent to which most comprehend exorcisms

Is actor Charlton Heston really their vision of a holy man?

My comprehension of exorcism is that it was often used in olden times as a way of dealing with ailments we now comprehend as evidence of mental illness. It’s not a process anybody turns to these days, unless they’re desperately determined to live in the past.

Although I suspect many of those who approved of the banner burning that took place last week are amongst those who would be grossly offended if the banner had been the Stars and Stripes, and who have holy-like visions in this Age of Trump when they think of our nation’s current commander-in-chief.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Only 49 more days ‘til “real” election cycle begins – the Chicago mayoral

Is political matchup between Preckwinkle … 
Seven weeks from Wednesday is a date that I’m sure many people will be awaiting, depending on their own political perspective.

It is either seven more weeks until the current election cycle – the one that will give Illinois a governor, legislators and other constitutional officers – is over and done with. Or it is seven more weeks until we can forget about this layer of government and get on with what they want to believe is the real government.
… and Daley more intriguing … 

AS IN THE election for mayor and the 50 members of the City Council who will oversee the municipal activity of Chicago.

Yes, it is an overly parochial attitude to take that people who live outside of the Chicago city limits have government that doesn’t mean a thing. And that our state officials ought to be subservient to those officials from the city.

But I also don’t doubt there are people who are tired of the rhetorical trash talk coming from the governor candidates and will never get intrigued by who is running for attorney general or comptroller.

They probably don’t have a clue who their state legislators are.
… than the 'millionaires' brawl … 

FOR THOSE PEOPLE who want to think the state government doesn’t matter, just keep in mind that Bill Daley has kicked off his own campaigning for mayor in the Feb. 26 elections (with possible run-offs April 2) by saying he expects newly-elected Gov. J.B. Pritzker to be supportive of initiatives that will help Chicago resolve some significant financial issues the city has.

A concept that I’m sure grossly offends Illinoisans from that one-third of the state’s population lying outside the Chicago metropolitan area’s boundaries.

I actually wonder if Bruce Rauner’s lone chance of prevailing on Nov. 6 and getting himself re-elected to a second four-year term as governor is if enough non-Chicago voters decide to band together and Vote for Bruce to keep the city from becoming – from their perspective – too powerful.
… we're now getting between Rauner/Pritzker?

So long as ideologues getting all worked up about social issues such as abortion or immigration see flaws in Rauner because he hasn’t been hardline right-wing enough to appease them, then Pritzker is likely to prevail.

WHICH IS WHY many voters are acting as though Nov. 6’s Election Day is already a done deal; and why they’re probably waiting for the activity that decides who will be the replacement as mayor for Rahm Emanuel – who already has made public his first act.

He has a book deal – one that will let him settle scores against everyone who he thinks has wronged him during his eight years as mayor and will keep his name in the public eye while he decides what he wants to do with the rest of his life.

That book, which Emanuel has yet to write, is expected to be published by the year 2020 – around about the same time that Chicago White Sox fans think their favorite ballclub will morph itself into a contending ballclub.

Which may, or may not, be a fantasy in its own right.

WITH THE MAYORAL election cycle turning into a brawl between Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and former White House chief of staff Bill Daley, with former school board President Gery Chico saying Tuesday he’s interested in getting into the mix and others speculating about likely Rep. Jesus Garcia, D-Ill., and Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza becoming involved, the upcoming political fight is taking on a heft that will make many eager to see this “governor nonsense” over and done with.
What if Mendoza  swings ahead of all?

It definitely has taken on more heft than it had just a couple of weeks ago when it was Emanuel likely running for re-election against a dozen or so lightweights whose only real strategy for winning was that they could force Emanuel into a run-off election and beat him by taking the “Anybody But Rahm” vote.

Now, it’s more likely the Chicago city elections will produce a mayor who actually has people intrigued by his/her qualifications for the office – instead of feeling like a default choice.

And as for governor? It would amuse me if Pritzker wound up spending all those millions of dollars of the family fortune to buy himself a political post, only to have someone like Mendoza (who currently holds a post four notches below his in the state pecking order) somehow swing around him and gain the more prestigious (to some) political post for herself!

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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Do we really give police officers this much authority to use physical force?

Perhaps it is only appropriate that on the first day of activity in the criminal trial of police officer Jason Van Dyke, attention was brought to the concept that the alleged criminal activity was captured on video.
Serving and protecting us? Or harassment?

Let’s be honest – if that video from a police officer’s own camera didn’t exist, it’s very likely that there would be no trial and Van Dyke would have spent the past four years continuing to work his beat and be one of the officers allegedly enforcing the laws for the people of Chicago.

WHEN OPENING STATEMENTS were made Monday at the Criminal Courts building (Judge Vincent Gaughan ultimately rejected all notions of moving the trial outside of Chicago), special prosecutor Joseph McMahon emphasized the video and the number of shots (16) from his pistol that Van Dyke fired into the body of Laquan McDonald.

In a touch of hamming things up a bit, McMahon literally pounded his fist on a lectern to do a count-down of each shot, and even emphasized the point when the eighth shot was fired – so as to imply that Van Dyke wasn’t even close to finishing his gunfire at that point.

Almost as though he thinks (and wants the jury to believe) that everything else is irrelevant, and we all ought to just issue the “guilty” verdict right now – saving us all time and hassle by carting Van Dyke off to prison right now.

But the legal process instead will be spending the next few weeks trying to establish whether there was any justification for the police officer’s actions.

WHICH ACTUALLY MADE another remark McMahon made all the more interesting.

He tried to summarize the incident of Oct. 20, 2014 (the night McDonald died) as one where Van Dyke saw, “a black boy (McDonald was 17) walking down a street with a chain-link fence with the audacity to ignore the police.”

But the reality is that we do give police significant authority to stop people. While they’re supposed to have “probable cause” to justify their actions, the reality is that it really doesn’t take much to give a cop the ability to question someone they find suspicious.

Trying to walk away from the police can be construed as resisting arrest. And if McDonald really was carrying a knife (as has been reported), that may well make this an “open-and-shut” case of a police officer being justified in using force – which would make the case one of justifiable homicide.

NOT THE “MURDER” that many have spent the past few years decrying the death of McDonald as being.

Now I’m not in the courtroom to see any of this. I don’t doubt that the jury is going to manage to offend some people – no matter how they choose to interpret any of this. I don’t expect anyone will be satisfied by the ultimate outcome of this trial.

I suspect the eventual verdict will offend the beliefs of everybody who wants to think this is a clear-cut case.

In reality, there is only one definitive “fact,” Jason Van Dyke did fire 16 shots from his weapon that killed Laquan McDonald.

THE REST OF the story? We’re going to get an up-close lesson as to just how much force police are allowed to use in the act of doing their jobs; which amount to that old cliché about “serving and protecting” the public.

On the one hand, we wouldn’t be issuing police officers those pistols and other countless weapons if we didn’t expect there would be circumstances upon which they would have to use them.

Then again, we do need to have some sense of restraint – otherwise our “protectors” would be nothing more than the official city-sponsored goon squad. Certainly not something anybody with sense would want to see.

Where is the “line” between force and abuse? That question really is the key to comprehending everything that we’ll see and hear during the trial’s coming weeks.

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Monday, September 17, 2018

It’s gonna be a long, long, long strike

It never fails to amaze me the degree to which some people have no respect for those individuals amongst us who actually have to work for a living. 
Picketers could be in for a long-drawn-out dispute over insurance benefits for hotel workers. Photographs by Gregory Tejeda
As in doing forms of labor that are tiring, grueling and are the kind of jobs that nobody really willingly takes on for themselves.

I’M REFERRING TO the people who are part of the UNITE HERE Local 1, the union the represents hotel workers at various establishments around Chicago.

They’re the ones who have been picketing for the past 10 days outside all of the upper-crust hotels, trying to make a nuisance of themselves in hopes that they’ll shame the hotel owners into meeting their demands.

Yet I get a sense from the complaints I have been reading in recent days that most people who stay at those hotels are going to be merely appalled by whatever amenities are being tampered with as a result of the striking workers.

Heaven forbid that some hotel patron who was too lazy to go outside missed a meal because they couldn’t get room service. Or that someone had to wait a little while longer while checking in to their hotel because the short-staffed businesses are behind on having their rooms ready for them.

YOU’D THINK HOTEL management would see the activity of the past week-and-a-half and come to the realization that their staffs are essential parts of being able to provide the quality of service they think they offer – and ought to be offering for the absurd rates they often charge for a room there.

Instead, they’re more than willing to try to shift blame to those workers for not doing work.
Did any of these people care at all about the picketing taking place just blocks away?
Which may be appropriate since we’re now in an Age of Trump, with a president who made his personal fortune by building all those allegedly-upscale hotels that egotistically bear his name.

I don't doubt that Donald Trump himself views the staffs of all his Trump Hotels as being totally-replaceable minions who ought to be grateful to wear work uniforms bearing the “T” (for Trump) and think their affiliation (no matter how superficial) with his name is compensation enough for their grueling labor.

I FULLY EXPECT it’s just a matter of time before the public turns on those hotel workers who are now making a racket outside the so-called elite hotels.

Just as how whenever the issue of the minimum wage and the notion of raising it to $15 per hour comes up, some people are quick to go on rants about the unmitigated gall those people have thinking their labor ought to be compensated appropriately.

We’ll also hear arguments made about how keeping employee wages and other compensation is absolutely essential to maintaining the current status of the economy. Almost as though they think underpaying the hired help is essential to preserving the “American Way” of life.

Personally, I’ve always felt companies that manage to keep their employees satisfied are the ones that have the most productive workforces – and often have people wanting to work for them.

NO COMPANY THAT thinks its workers ought to be thankful anybody bothers to employ them in any capacity is going to achieve much in the way of success. Of course, their management later will “blame the workers” for not properly producing.
What if Trump workers tried striking?

Part of the reason I can sympathize with these hotel workers is because this particular strike isn’t about salaries (although I’m sure they wouldn’t object to a raise). It’s about health insurance – as in many of these hotel companies like to lay off staff during the winter months, which results in them losing health coverage.

You’d think that management would want to have a healthy workforce. At the very least, they wouldn’t want to encourage concepts that their workers could be carrying something that could be passed on to their customers.

And in the end, it’s the notion of serving those customers properly that is the reason those hotels are in business to begin with. Particularly at a place like the Palmer House hotel downtown – where the absolute cheapest room one can get there is $169 per night. Because if one is just looking for a night’s sleep that isn’t on a park bench, there’s always Motel 6.

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