Saturday, December 31, 2011

Will closing boost brand's profile?

The Calumet Meat Co. for decades operated grocery stores that appealed to the African-American portion of Chicago – so much so that the “Moo & Oink” brand is an icon to that third of the city.

But it also means that it was a complete unknown to the rest of Chicago. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that some people had never heard of the cartoon cow or pig that were the symbols of the chain of grocery stores on the South Side and in south suburban Hazel Crest.

SO LEARNING THAT it is now official that the Moo & Oink stores drew no interest, and that the only thing that got any bids at public auction was the cow and pig logo, makes me wonder if this is the chance for the company to get a higher profile.

Which would be the most ironic part – in death, it lives on bigger than in life.

Personally, I didn’t really come into contact with the company until I became a reporter-type person. Back when I worked for the now-defunct City News Bureau of Chicago, I got to see so many of the city’s neighborhoods that I hadn’t paid much attention to previously.

At first, learning of the Calumet Meat Co. stores being the “Home of Moo & Oink” just sounded cute. Although it became apparent that this company had survived for as long as it did because it was one of the few companies willing to do business in the black-oriented neighborhoods of Chicago.

OTHER SUPERMARKETS SEEMED determined then (and still do now) to stay out of those areas of the city. There are times when I think the most common sights one can find in a South Side neighborhood with a sizable black population is a one-time Jewish temple that now houses a Baptist congregation AND a one-time Jewel supermarket that now sits vacant or has been converted into something like one of those generic “dollar” stores.

But even Moo & Oink stores couldn’t compete in such isolation, which is what caused them to declare bankruptcy earlier this year and for no one to express interest in maintaining them as stores.

Which is why it’s fate is to become a “brand name” owned by the Best Chicago Meat company. That West Side meatpacker will now have the rights to use the cow and pig logo and slap them on some of their own products – which they will then offer up for sale in supermarkets.

Who knows? We may now be able to buy Moo & Oink sausages or chitterlings at the local Jewel (although I suspect more Anglo-oriented supermarkets will try to avoid carrying the brand – or will downplay its placement in their stores). But company officials are saying they’re envisioning creating something along the line of Moo & Oink-brand barbecue sauce and other seasonings.

WHICH IS WHY I wonder if Moo & Oink will get a higher profile now that their logo and brand can be found in places other than their three stores that apparently weren’t drawing enough business to remain open on their own.

There also is the talk by Best Chicago officials of using the Moo & Oink brand in places outside of Chicago – such as Birmingham, Memphis or Atlanta (the latter of which has a fast-growing African-American population).

The brand has the potential to get recognition beyond the South and West sides of Chicago – even though the “old-timers” are going to see the vacant storefronts (I stumbled across the suburban location sitting empty just the other day – a one-time Dominicks’ turned Moo & Oink to become who knows what) and think about what has been lost.

And which most of Chicago never knew we had.


EDITOR'S NOTE: These two-decade-old television spots (for all their campy value) show a company that understood perfectly who its customers were.

Friday, December 30, 2011

We shouldn’t be surprised that Sears closes stores after getting tax break

There are many people these days who are outraged with Sears, using the Internet to vent their rage at the fact that the retailer had the gall to demand a serious tax break from the Illinois General Assembly, then announce that it plans to close stores across the country.

Personally, I can’t get upset – largely because it is exactly the kind of conduct I would have expected. I’m dismayed that conditions are like this, but not the least bit surprised that it could happen like this.

BESIDES, IT ISN’T like any agreement was violated. The actions that happened this month are completely within the “letter of the law.” If anything, Sears’ behavior is perfect evidence of the fact that not every bad thing that happens is illegal.

So let’s look at what happened with Sears, which used its political clout to pressure the Illinois Legislature and Gov. Pat Quinn to back a measure giving the corporation some serious tax breaks.

At a time when Illinois government is looking for every bit of income it can get its hands on, the idea that it would be willing to “give back” some money is a significant act on its part.

But Sears Holding Corp. used political blackmail, so to speak, to get what it wanted. They threatened to leave their northwest suburban corporate headquarters and relocate to some other state (possibly North Carolina, in Charlotte) if they weren’t given financial incentives to stay.

ILLINOIS GOVERNMENT, NOT wanting the national “black eye” of having a company with such history leaving our boundaries, gave in. They got their tax breaks, although it took the General Assembly several tries to get it done.

And some legislators prefer to think that they voted to grant some tax relief to low-income people. Although anyone who is being honest admits that no one would have cared about the low-income people if not for the need to address Sears.

But this week, saying that the Christmas holiday season was nowhere near as good financially as they would have wanted, Sears said that about 120 stores across the country will have to be shuttered. On Thursday, they went so far as to identify 79 locations – with the implication being that another 40 or so yet-to-be-identified stores will also be closed in the near future.

Now this deal doesn’t, in any way, affect the fact that the corporate headquarters will continue to be in Hoffman Estates – which was the only condition of the tax break.

NOBODY EVER PROMISED that all the stores would stay open. So nothing legally improper (a.k.a., criminal) has occurred.

I’m sure the fact that no Sears stores (or their sister K-mart stores) in Illinois are being closed is solely because no one wants to tick off the political people here. But when a little more time passes, there could well be Illinois-based Sears stores that get closed.

In fact, the only Chicago-area store affected by this week’s announced round of closings is a K-mart in St. John, Ind.

That store at the far southeast corner of the Chicago metropolitan area likely is cost some jobs and some will be hurt. But it is on the other side of State Line Road. I’m sure that Sears officials are justifying this one local closing by thinking to themselves, “What has Indiana done for us lately?”

WHICH MAY NOT be an illegal viewpoint for them to have. But it is one that bothers me that we have to accept it as just the way things are done.

It is the reason why I have my problems with the ideologues of our society who like to rant that our governments in Illinois and Chicago are anti-business. We supposedly tax so excessively that no reputable business would want to locate within our area.

Ignoring the fact that access to the Chicago-area, with all its perks and joys, is something of significant value to a business in-and-of itself.

The kind of people who want to think they’re being “pro-business” are really just too eager to give in to the corporate whims that would just as soon believe they should not have to pay any kind of tax.

ALL-TOO-OFTEN, THEY’RE THE same entities that rant about how profitable they could be – if only they didn’t have to pay such ridiculously-high wages to their employees. As though they’d have any kind of product or service to sell for profit if NOT for their employees.

Which means the next time I hear that someone is complaining about how “anti-business” Illinois and Chicago are, I’m going to wonder if they’re the kind of person who thinks it is somehow proper that Sears would whack away at stores and jobs just a couple of weeks after getting a significant business break from state government.

The fact that anyone could think this is acceptable is what I find offensive – much more than the business’ act itself.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

City split caused by Chicago baseball gains national attention this holiday

The Chicago Bears are now officially a disaster, and the hopes of many a local sports fan is banked on the idea that the Chicago Bulls might be worth something.

Yet to the nation at-large, the attention seems to be going to the split between our city’s professional baseball clubs that has become a part of the very character of Chicago.

ALL BECAUSE OF a twisted, little video snippet less than two minutes long that was shot Sunday morning when children all across the country were ripping open Christmas presents.

One mother made a point of putting her daughter’s shock, awe and disgust upon receiving a present of a pillow designed to look like a bear cub in Chicago Cubs uniform.

For that girl, it seems, is a fan of the Chicago White Sox. She reacted like the six-year-old that she is in expressing the fact that this was a horrible present (while we can see her slightly-older brother off to the side dancing around in joy, and mocking the fact that she wanted a White Sox pillow).

In the end, the mother admits the pillow is a present for her brother, and that her REAL present is in another package – which turns out to be a White Sox mascot pillow.

THE GIRL WAS pleased. All was right with the world. Even with the Bears as awful as they are, and nobody really sure if the Bulls are for real.

This video has been copied over onto many different sites on the Internet, and I saw it over and over Wednesday on CNN Headline News. I even got to hear sports anchor Carlos Diaz take a “dig” at the White Sox by mocking team mascot Southpaw.

For in his view, the Cubs’ pillow depicts a cutesy bear cub. Whereas what exactly is Southpaw – other than a green, fuzzy blob wearing the black and white (with silver trim) of the White Sox?

He may have a point. There are many White Sox fans who will bash Southpaw’s existence on the grounds that they don’t know what he’s supposed to be.

ALTHOUGH I COULDN’T help but notice in the video that is drawing so many laughs and guffaws these days that the White Sox pillow’s depiction of Southpaw makes him bear a strong resemblance to Oscar the Grouch. (Does that make the Cookie Monster a potential Cubs fan?)

Which if a resemblance to a Sesame Street character were true would give Southpaw the most distinct appearance of any major league mascot (a distinction that probably goes to Friar – the bald-headed and robed Catholic padre who dances at San Diego Padres games).

But I honestly can’t say that anything about the girl’s reaction shocked me. It only means that the baseball “bug” has infected a younger generation. It may well be the reason why professional baseball lives on generation after generation – despite the best efforts of baseball people to take down the game with their greed.

There have been some jokes floating around the Internet about the state Department of Children and Family Services being called in on account of a parent allowing their children to be split between White Sox fandom and Cubs backing.

ALTHOUGH I PERSONALLY found it to be more cruel to try such a prank on the girl – making her think that she was getting one of those cutesy-poo teddy bears for a holiday present.

Then again, I’m sure this will be the hilarious home movie that the family will show year after year – and that the girl will have to live down for as long as it comes up on the Internet.

But the idea that a Chicago baseball fan of any age would react so negatively to a “gift” depicting an image of the “other” ball club? It’s not the least bit surprising. And I would expect a Cubs fan (in all their misguided sentiment) to react just the same.

For I know some White Sox fans who, upon seeing the girl being given a Cubs pillow, were probably chanting for her to feed it to that dog that was sniffing around her while opening the “present.”


Will Chicagoans care for shorter Taste?

It is no secret to people who read this weblog that I don’t think much of the Taste of Chicago.

The annual food fest has always struck me as grubby people sweating it out in a Chicago summer eating overpriced, greasy foods.

THE SIGHT OF someone chomping on a turkey leg bigger than their head while walking through Grant Park has become such a Chicago cliché, as well as a distasteful sight!

So in theory, I ought to be pleased that city officials on Wednesday indicated that they will scale the annual food fest back. It will now be a five-day long event, half the length that it has run in recent years.

Yet a part of me wonders if city officials are symbolically shooting themselves in the foot by cutting back on the event that has become one of Chicago’s primary public events.

Scaling it back could wind up having the effect of making it appear to be cheaper and lower-key – which would take away from the unique character that makes some people (if not myself) WANT to go to it every single year.

IT STRIKES ME as similar to the service cuts that have hit mass transit in recent years. Lesser hours and fewer routes have the effect of making it more difficult for people to use buses and trains (the el and subways) to get where they want to go.

Which further reduces the willingness of people to use the Chicago Transit Authority to get where they want to go. Which causes ridership figures to go down.

Which then makes Chicago Transit Board officials convinced that the only way to maintain the system without losing money is to cut it back even further.

How many years until the Taste of Chicago gets reduced to a couple of booths near Buckingham Fountain?

In short, an endless cycle of cuts that ultimately fail to maintain the system’s ability to fund itself.

I’M WONDERING IF that is what we’re going to see in coming years with the Taste of Chicago – a steadily-shrinking event that city officials will pretend still maintains the aura of its glory days of the 1980s and early 1990s.

That is, until the day when it just fades away altogether. As it is, the Taste of Chicago for 2012 will be held in mid-July, which means the Independence Day holiday will already be complete when it takes place.

The idea of a million people showing up at the Taste of Chicago on July 3, then sticking around to see the lakefront fireworks display for the holiday, had become something that was a part of the Chicago character to celebrate U.S. independence.

Now, it’s a thing of the past – just as much as the Chicago Sting, the Daily News and Goldblatt’s department stores. How long until the “Taste” as a whole joins the list?


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Top story; new mayor, or old gov?

It’s coming up on that time of year when newsgathering organizations are going to feel compelled to give us the “Top stories” of 2011.
EMANUEL: Does Rahm rule?

A “year in review” story, if done properly, can offer up a punchily-written take that tries to put a complete calendar year in perspective. If done hastily or dull-ly, it is nothing more than a waste of space surrounding all the girdle ads.

YET I CAN’T help but notice a bit of spin being placed on these lists as they come up this year.

For I watched the “Chicago Tonight” program that aired last Friday, and saw a panel of reporter- and broadcast-types make it clear that the BIG STORY for ’11 was the departure of the Daley family from City Hall – resulting in the arrival of Rahm Emanuel from the White House to be our mayor for the next four years.

He has used his influence in subtle ways to impact public policy from both Washington and Springfield – as well as in brash ways to affect people locally.

Yet the Associated Press came out with its own take on the Top Ten stories for the year, and made it clear that Rahm Emanuel at City Hall is ONLY Number Two.

FOR THE TOP story in Illinois (the “near-unanimous choice” according to that wire service) was the whole second trial of Rod Blagojevich – the former governor who now faces the prospect of going to prison some time in March to serve a 14-year sentence (which could translate to 11 years, 10 ½ months if Milorod behaves himself while enduring incarceration).

Now in the interest of personal disclosure, I should remind you that I am a former United Press International reporter – having worked both at the Statehouse in Springfield and in Chicago for the wire service. Which means I have no personal qualms about writing something that says the Associated Press is full of it.
BLAGOJEVICH: Who's to blame?

And I also realize that “year in review” stories are basically space-filler for the week when there is real little news.

Yet the idea of elevating Blagojevich to the top slot is just absurd. I really suspect that the kind of people who compiled this list are probably the same ones who think that Reps. Bill Mitchell and Adam Brown have a clue with their ridiculous resolution to break the rest of Illinois away from Cook County.

MAYBE THEY THINK that making Blagojevich the BIG story somehow brings a sense of shame to Chicago politics.

It doesn’t – in part because Chicago political people have no sense of shame. It doesn’t factor into the equation.

Although whenever I hear the people from rural Illinois talk about Blagojevich and a legacy, it astounds me how they have forgotten how much of a role they themselves played in his becoming governor.

Remember that Blagojevich was the guy who won the 2002 primary BECAUSE of the fact that he got downstate Illinois voter support. The other candidates were too Chicago-centric to those voters, so they picked Milorod in overwhelming numbers.

IF THE WILL of Chicago, the city proper, had prevailed in that 2002 Democratic primary, we in Illinois would have experienced the concept of a “Gov. Roland Burris,” whose campaign was dominant enough in the African-American wards that he won the overall city vote.

If it had been the people of Chicago and its suburbs prevailing, we would have got a “Gov. Paul Vallas,” who truly was the one who appealed to the suburbs that comprise about 45 percent of the state’s overall population. It is likely that the only “Bridgeport” in his life would be the Sout’ Side neighborhood – not the Connecticut city whose school system he recently was hired by state officials to operate.

“Rod R. Blagojevich” is NOT some entity imposed by Chicago on the rest of the state. Which is what I think that surveys such as this AP thing try to reinforce.

Perhaps I’d take the idea of the federal government’s legal proceedings against Blagojevich more seriously if it could be argued that what is really being done is a crackdown on government corruption. Yet I couldn’t help but notice that the AP listings didn’t even include the trial of political operative William Cellini in their Top 10.

ANYBODY WHO KNOWS anything realizes that the Cellini trial – in the long-term – is more important than anything done to Blagojevich, who during his government service distinguished himself as a loud-mouth more than anything else.

Not that I’m necessarily arguing for Emanuel to get top billing – he can be just as much a blowhard as Blagojevich was.

Because I actually think the “Top story” for the year is the Illinois General Assembly – which gave us civil unions and the abolition of the death penalty. Those are two issues where a part of me believed our legislators would never have the nerve to do what was proper.

But they did, and they made major changes in the way Illinois will operate for the foreseeable future – while also ensuring that we advance further into the 21st Century, rather than lag backwards into the 19th.

And the silly resolutions that some downstate legislators concoct in response can serve a legitimate purpose -- they giver us all comic relief.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Who will the alleged “Party of Lincoln’s” home base choose from?

I must admit to being curious who will even make the ballot come March 20 for Republican voters to pick from for their political party’s presidential nomination.
GINGRICH: Will Newt be moot?

Just because someone says they are a candidate does not mean you’re going to have a chance to cast a vote for them. Not even if they have a big, shiny bus that has taken them from place to place about the country in pursuit of the goal of who can shake the most hands without catching some sort of virus.

SO IT IS LIKELY that when the Illinois operations of the various presidential campaigns get around to filing their nominating petitions with the Illinois State Board of Elections to get their ballot spots – along with slots for their delegate slates (the vote that actually matters) at least a few of the now-candidates will be gone.

That is most likely the lesson we should learn from Virginia – where only two campaigns were able to get ballot spots.

Virginia voters will be asked to pick between Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. All of the rest of the candidates are pretenders, as far as the Commonwealth of Virginia is concerned.
ROMNEY: Winner, by default?

Will Illinois have an equally-restrictive list of people to pick from when we get around to casting our votes?

I’LL BE THE first to admit that this exercise will be largely theoretical for me. It is likely that I will take a Democratic Party primary ballot, which means my presidential “choice” will be to make my mark next to the name of Barack Obama, and the slate of delegates that he sends to the Democratic National Convention (Sept. 3-6, in Charlotte, N.C., to be specific).

Only if I want to believe the conspiracy theories being peddled by the Weekly World News (which is running a headline claiming that Bill Clinton is urging spouse Hillary to challenge Obama come ’12) will there be a choice for me, or the bulk of Illinoisans who WILL choose a Dem ballot come March.
LaHOOD: Still speaking to his son?

But for the GOP faithful (which means largely the one-third of the population that likes to think itself more significant than it really does because it is spread across 96 Illinois counties), it will be curious to see how many of the candidates will fail to get on the ballot.

Will Newt Gingrich throw another hissy fit if he fails to get on the Illinois ballot, similar to how he did when he failed in Virginia? What about Michele Bachmann!

I THINK HIS line about his failure being equivalent of “Pearl Harbor” (as in both were allegedly surprises that were distressing to the American people) is way over-the-top. Will he manage to come up with even more ridiculous rhetoric if he fails in Illinois?

We’ll have to wait and see. For if a recent Chicago Tribune report is at all accurate, it would seem that Gingrich doesn’t exactly have the largest base of support in Illinois – and may NOT have enough time to build one up among our state’s residents. Newt may be moot in the Land of Lincoln.

Although I did get a kick out of learning that state Sen. Darin LaHood, R-Dunlap, is among those willing to be a Gingrich delegate. It’s not amusing because his father, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, is a part of the Obama administration.

It’s absurd because of the fact that LaHood, the elder, was chief of staff to former House Minority Leader Bob Michel of Peoria – a man whose sense of moderation was so thoroughly denounced by Gingrich’s rise to House speaker in the mid-1990s.

TO HAVE A “LaHood” now backing a “Gingrich” is just too much to take in all in one fell swoop – although it isn’t completely unheard of for a political sibling to disagree with the parent. Ask Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, and daughter Lisa (a.k.a., Illinois attorney general) where they stand on abortion – if you want an equal-sized ideological gap.
OBAMA: Is GOP primary his 'wish come true?'

But this may be all a moot point if Gingrich can’t get on the Illinois ballot. In fact, what if that Illinois ballot winds up only having a couple of names on it just like in Virginia. It would really make the whole Republican primary seem like such an afterthought.

Particularly if it turns out that Romney winds up being about the only candidate who can get on the ballot in all 50 states.

Because the sense I get from watching campaign-type activity across the nation is that there probably is about 25 percent to 30 percent of the people who will vote Republican who want Mitt to be president.

THE REMAINDER OF the GOP electorate desperately wants Anybody But Mitt, and I’m not sure how enthused they’re going to be if he winds up being the only choice (which is how one reader of the State Journal-Register newspaper wound up colorfully phrasing it recently).

This has become the electoral cycle where the people will vote for who they hate less. But what happens if we go to the polls on March 20, then again on Nov. 6, and decide that we don’t like anybody?


Monday, December 26, 2011

Retail returns a torrid experience – the memories last all these years later

It has been nearly a quarter of a century, yet the memory is vivid enough that it feels like just last year.

I’m referring to a period when I was a rookie reporter-type person and the money I was bringing in was so poor that I supplemented it by working in retail. Specifically, I was in the men’s clothing department at a Carson, Pirie Scott department store.

I HAD THE experience of working for Carson’s for a few months, including a Christmas holiday season. I remember the joy of knowing that during the month of December, the paychecks got supplemented by the commissions I received on items I sold.

Although in honestly, I remember that my commissions weren’t as good as some of my colleagues – the ones who really had a knack for selling and made me realize that I was better off trying to earn a living banging away at a keyboard producing news copy.

But my most vivid memory of that time period came in the month after Christmas – by which point I was so tired of the job I quit (and shortly thereafter, the news reporter pay improved just enough to make it worth my while).

It was the week after Christmas flowing into the first couple of weeks of January that I detested because all of those items I sold during December (it seems) got returned by dissatisfied gift recipients during January.

WHICH MEANS THAT Carson’s docked the cost of any return to the sales associate (I think that was my title; the actual work wasn’t that impressive). There also was the fact that most people in the store during that period were more interested in returning or exchanging – and not buying anything new.

It wasn’t the least bit unusual to complete a workday in which you struggled to find any customers whose purchase could be credited to you – only to find out that your sales total for the day was in negative figures.

In short, all your returns ate up any sales that you might have received a commission on.

I suppose if Carson’s wanted to be miserly about things, they would have docked our pay to make up for negative figures. They didn’t do that.

BUT WHAT HAPPENED was that for the final month on that job, I basically was working a minimum-wage job with no extra push from commissions. Even the top sales people were barely able to come up with anything to supplement the minimum-wage salary (which back then was less than $4 per hour).

If anything, back then was the era when I did better financially than my retail colleagues because I had another job banging out news copy for one of the suburban newspapers.

When a smaller-circulation newspaper salary (of a few decades ago) became the reason I was still able to pay bills, you know that the retail gig wasn’t paying off.

Anyway, that feeling of finishing a day’s work in negative dollar figures and knowing that my pay for the next few weeks was going to be atrocious is one that I couldn’t help but recall as I received gifts in recent days.

ALTHOUGH I MUST admit that none of my gifts need to be returned – I find them all enjoyable (and keep-able).

So my point in remembering this experience and sharing it with you?

Keep it in mind when you make those returns. Whoever the sales clerk is who is dealing with you is probably swamped with nothing more than returns, and is probably seeing his (or her) own pay taking a hit for the next few weeks.

Be patient.

AND FOR THOSE of you who want to start spewing some take on the “Give the Lady What She Wants” cliche (the old Marshall Field’s slogan), I’d argue that part of the reason that your sales clerk is not working up to your satisfactions is BECAUSE you’re coping some sort of attitude.

Lighten up in coming weeks, and you might very well find yourself getting better customer service. Then again, that rule usually works year-round.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Does Rahm like Jingle Bells?

I’m going to repeat my traditional holiday message in hoping that all of you (whether celebrating Christmas, the fifth and sixth days of Hanukkah, making preparations for Kwanzaa, or doing something else) have a pleasant weekend.
EMANUEL: What would he sing to Occupy-types?

Log off your computer, or whatever kind of device you happen to be using to read this weblog or anything else on the Internet. Enjoy a weekend away from all the nonsense that pollutes the alleged information superhighway (does anyone even use that phrase anymore?).

GET OUT INTO the real world with other people. It will definitely be a more rewarding experience for you. Serious commentary will return to this weblog on Monday.

But if you absolutely feel compelled to check out something, view this video of a most unique take on “Jingle Bells.” I promise that I’m wishing you a happier holiday than the “Occupy Wall Street” types based in Chicago wish Mayor Rahm Emanuel to have.

Because singing Christmas carol parodies for Chicago’s first Jewish mayor (even if you agree with the sentiment expressed in song) almost sounds like a twisted parody, in and of itself!


Friday, December 23, 2011

Dragging the Klan into the mix is nothing but foolish for Cardinal

Cardinal Francis George is correct in saying that the Ku Klux Klan has a history of being just as anti-Catholic as it has been anti-black.
Does anyone seriously believe ... 

In fact, if one goes back to the late 1910s and early 1920s when Klan chapters expanded beyond the Deep South and it almost became respectable to be a member, there were some people who joined because of their religious bigotry more than any hostilities felt toward black people.

THE REALITY WAS that some parts of the country had very few black people. The Catholics, however, were a foreign conspiracy that was taking over the world. Or so the nitwits of that era wanted to believe.

But the Cardinal made himself look like the nitwit earlier this week, and he had to go ahead and do it on television. People across the Chicago metropolitan area who happened to watch WFLD-TV’s evening newscast on Wednesday got to see and hear George when he compared the gay rights activists upset about a Catholic parish’s objections to the route for the 2012 gay pride parade to the Klan of old.

As George put it, the “Gay Liberation Movement” has the potential to “morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan” for daring to suggest that Catholic officials might be mistaken.

This makes the Cardinal sound as ridiculous as Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., who got himself international attention for his wisecrack about how low approval ratings for Congress reflect badly upon its Republican members, saying, “if Josef Goebbels was around, he’d be very proud of the Democrat(ic) Party because they have an incredible propaganda machine.”

NAZI PROPAGANDA IMAGES for speaking the truth about Republican partisan political tactics? Just like thinking ill of the Catholic church. It all sounds like people who are way too touchy; perhaps because on a certain level they realize their side is wrong on a certain issue – but don’t want to admit it.

Of course, just as the Republican-controlled House of Representatives shot down an attempt to censure West for his over-the-top rhetoric, I suspect a lot of Catholics are going to be quick to jump on the bandwagon of support for the Cardinal.
... these people are comparable?

Which is a shame, because this is a case where everybody would be better off if this issue withered away – instead of being prolonged by defensive talk. Which all winds up being a defense of a ridiculous position.

Now the fact that the Catholic Diocese for Chicago is concerned about the gay pride parade next year isn’t new. Parade officials altered the route through north lakefront neighborhoods, and also wanted to start the event earlier.

THE END RESULT was the potential for the parade to pass by a Lakeview neighborhood Catholic church right as Sunday morning mass was starting. There may have been some parishioners who would get offended, but there also was the potential for an area traffic jam as a large-scale parade passes the Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish (although church officials had hinted that many passengers might just skip church that morning in protest of the parade).

Which is why parade officials have agreed to alter the starting time. Now, it should pass the church a couple of hours after the Sunday morning mass is over. Which, to my mindset, makes it sound like the parade organizers are trying to be reasonable.

But the rhetoric we got from the Cardinal makes it seem that being reasonable isn’t good enough. They’re upset anybody challenged their opposition at all. And now, they want to resort to Klan analogies – hoping desperately that they will capture the support of the “middle” of our society.

Which I’m skeptical would happen, because the imagery of gay rights activists being aligned with the Klan is just too absurd to take literally. It’s even more ridiculous than the concept of a “World Series champion Chicago Cubs” team.

BESIDES, IT REMINDS me of the occasions when, as a reporter-type person, I have covered rallies involving the Klan. I have seen the robes and the hoods up-close, and I also have read their literature that attempts to make them out to be an organization promoting “American values.”

One thing I noticed is that the modern Klan, in stating who it does not want, has altered its rhetoric slightly. Catholics are no longer forbidden. Catholicism has become so mainstream in our society that many of its members now qualify as ordinary white people – in the Klan’s eyes.

Although I’m going to stop short of stating that George may well have given verbal comfort to real-life Klan members by making statements that indicate opposition to gay rights activists. I’m sure real Klan members don’t object to what he said.

But I do, and I’m sure there are many other people (both Catholic and non) who do object – particularly in these days leading up to the holiest of all holy days. The concept of bringing up the Klan at Christmas-time seems particularly venal.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Walsh opponent drops out to avert the hostility of Illinois Republican Party

A part of me feels like I administered the “kiss of death” to the Republican official whose dreams of running for a seat in Congress were quashed by the fact that the GOP wants to avoid primary political fights whenever possible.
RUSCITTI: Got her  reward now

I tossed out the line on Wednesday about wishing for a Darlene J. Ruscitti victory in the March 20 Republican primary, and still wish it was possible so that we could avoid the nonsense we’re going to get from the Joe Walsh for Congress campaign in 2012.

BUT IT WON’T be. For Ruscitti on Wednesday decided to drop out of the campaign for the Republican nomination for the Illinois Eighth congressional district.

That is a district that doesn’t have an incumbent member, but was drawn to focus on the inner ring of suburbs to the northwest of Chicago. It is a Democratic-leaning congressional district.

The conventional wisdom says that the winner of the Democratic primary will eventually go on to win the seat in Congress. Either Tammy Duckworth or Raja Krishnamoorthi.

It means that Ruscitti, at best, was running a token campaign for Congress.

HER BIG HOPE, it would seem, was to conduct herself in as professional a manner as possible so that Republican Party officials in Illinois would take her seriously in the future.

Being the GOP token in 2012 could mean a serious campaign run for electoral office in 2014 or 2016. It means she has a chance to be something other than her current post – the regional superintendent of schools for DuPage County.
WALSH: Finally unopposed?

But Walsh, an ideologue of the Tea Party persuasion, decided that his chances of getting re-elected to Congress next year were better by considering a move to the Illinois Eighth district, rather than the district in which his McHenry home is located – the Illinois Fourteenth.

Running in the district in which he actually lives would make him have to run against Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Ill., in a primary election.

EVEN FOR THOSE Republican Party officials who privately think Walsh is an embarrassment to the GOP, they would just as soon not have to see Republicans fighting against Republicans for votes.

Having Walsh shift districts opens him up to charges from Democrats of being a “political carpetbagger,” but it also makes it likely that the two incumbents will have only token challenges in the primary election season and can focus all of their fundraising efforts and energies toward the general election cycle.

Which will boost Walsh somewhat – although he still likely has the drawbacks of running in inner-ring suburbs where the Democratic Party does not get demonized.

But what about Ruscitti?

SHE’S BEING A “good girl,” so to speak, by not creating a primary fight with Walsh – which could have become credible because of the segment of the GOP who think Walsh embarrasses them by association.

At least a few of them likely would have cast a ballot for Ruscitti as an “Anybody But Walsh” vote. Which means the party establishment had come to view her as someone who could only stir up embarrassment for the party.

So perhaps it shouldn’t be a shock that she dropped out; and that the party gave her a reward. She now has a title of “co-chair” of the Illinois Victory Program – an initiative that is meant to drum up support for Republican candidates in general.
HULTGREN: Avoids a challenge

Considering that the whole point of a Ruscitti campaign in the first place was to build up support for some future reward, it would seem she has already achieved that goal.

SHE GETS A position that could let her make the same contacts that could result someday in her having a serious chance to win election to a higher government post than being a top educator in DuPage County.

She was never going to be Rep. Darlene J. Ruscitti, R-Ill., as a result of this election cycle. Perhaps she’ll get that chance sometime in the upcoming decade.


Will Latinos gain in small City Council?

I’m not convinced that Latino political empowerment will really be advanced by cutting the size of the City Council.
SOLIS: Is fewer better?

That is the line of logic being offered up by 25th Ward Alderman Danny Solis these days, who says that if all the existing boundaries have to be scrapped and we start over then it becomes easier to give Latinos a “fair” share.

WITH “FAIR” BEING dictated by the concept of Chicago’s “official” population of 2.7 million people being 33 percent black, 32 percent white and 29 percent Latino (with the remaining 6 percent being mostly Asian). He says it could result in eight white wards, eight black wards, seven Latino wards and two other wards that could flop around from ethnicity to ethnicity.

I wonder if it just increases the potential for gerrymandering because multiple neighborhoods would have to be combined to create 25 wards (there are roughly 120 neighborhoods and sub-neighborhoods within Chicago).

But the move also is being portrayed by some people as Latinos “calling the bluff” of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who has said that he will push for a reduction in the size of the City Council if aldermen can’t get their act together and agree on new boundaries for the existing 50 wards.

Those wanting to know more need to check out this weblog’s sister site, The South Chicagoan, for more details.