Wednesday, November 30, 2011

No legal surprises from Zagel. Is that what Cellini, Blagojevich counting on?

U.S. District Judge James Zagel issued two rulings in recent days that favored prosecutors in government corruption cases involving William Cellini and Rod Blagojevich.
ZAGEL: No legal surprises?

Yet somehow, I don’t think either politically high-powered defendant is all that surprised, or upset, at the unfavorable rulings to their motions.

BOTH MEN WERE trying to get Zagel to rule on motions that would have benefitted them – and “da judge” refused.

In the case of Cellini, the fundraiser who tells politicians what they should do with their positions of authority, his attorneys wanted a ruling that would have struck down his “guilty” verdicts on the grounds that one of the jurors was tainted.

The “taint” coming from the fact that the juror didn’t admit upfront that she had a prior criminal record.

Whereas Blagojevich was once again trying to get excepts from the tape recordings made by the G-man wiretaps – ones that prosecutors didn’t use in their trial against the former governor but that he claims would put him in a favorable light.

ZAGEL WASN’T “BUYING it” in either case.

For Cellini, he ruled that defense attorneys are going to have to prove that the so-called tainted juror had some bias against their client. The fact that not all information came out prior to trial isn’t enough to warrant tossing out a criminal verdict.

For Blagojevich, Zagel said that defense attorneys should have tried to bring this issue up a long time ago – rather than thinking it could be used to ambush a sentencing hearing. One could argue that Blagojevich HAS been trying to get these tapes in the public realm for so long, and that Zagel has been the one who has stood in the way.

So now, we have sentencing hearings coming up – ones in which both men are looking at the possibility of a decade or more of prison time as their punishment for their improper acts that cheated the public out of the service they should have a right to expect from their government officials.

WHICH IS A statement that lays it on a little thick. But then again, that is the way many prosecutors (particularly at the federal level) tend to think. We may well get some variation of that line when it comes time to sentence the two men.

I don’t believe either man expected Zagel to rule in their favor. In fact, I think it would have screwed up their long-term strategy if the judge HAD given them what they were asking for.

What I suspect all of this was about was getting the judge to rule negatively, so that the attorneys can argue on appeal that THIS is the critical error made by Zagel – and one that would warrant having their convictions tossed out and new trials being held.

Albeit under conditions where prosecutors were restrained in ways that they were not during their most recent trials.

THE LEGAL ARGUMENTS made for Cellini against the juror and for Blagojevich in favor of the tapes are more intended for that eventual appeals court panel that will hear these cases sometime during the next couple of years.

I’m sure the attorneys for both men are envisioning the day when a legal panel will issue a ruling (perhaps 2-1) that is more to their liking, and one that would allow both of these men to go through the rest of their lives contending that they were the “victims” of an overbearing prosecution in these legal matters.

Then again, it’s always possible that the 2-1 vote will go against them, with the “1” being the lone judge who thinks their argument has any credibility.

That is, after all, what became of the appeals filed on behalf of former Gov. George Ryan. At every level of the appeals process, there were judges who thought there was merit to the arguments he made in his own defense.

UNFORTUNATELY FOR HIM, Ryan could never get a majority – which is why he looks at the possibility of another 20 months  at the work camp located near the maximum-security Terre Haute Correctional Center in Indiana.

And the real issue at stake these days with regards to either of these government corruption cases is whether the arguments being made now to a judge who most likely just wants to put an end to these legal proceedings will be viewed more favorably by fresh ears in the future?


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

EXTRA: How typically Springfield

There are times when I think the greatest political genius we have in Illinois is the Chicago White Sox.
CULLERTON: Will they REALLY wait?

By that, I mean their threats to leave the South Side for St. Petersburg, Fla., were serious enough that the General Assembly was forced to consider their late 1980s demand for a new stadium right then-and-there – resulting in the 1991 opening of the building we now call U.S. Cellular Field.

LEAVE IT TO the Illinois Legislature to get around to you, and you will wait a very long, long time for any results to come about.

That was on evidence Tuesday at the Statehouse in Springfield, where large numbers of political people were eager to cast votes indicating they supported the idea of giving significant tax breaks to Sears Holding Co., along with the Chicago Board of Trade and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

Yet the Illinois House and state Senate persisted in passing their own versions of such tax breaks (the Senate version included more tax relief for lower-income individuals, in addition to the corporate tax reductions, which is why Gov. Pat Quinn prefers it).

When asked about this conflict that could prevent any bill from being approved in the immediate future, Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said that the General Assembly could easily spend the months of spring 2012 resolving the political differences between the two bills.

CONSIDERING THAT THIS corporate tax relief measure WAS the reason the General Assembly felt compelled to extend the length of the fall veto session (which should have ended two weeks ago), the idea that they can now just take their time on the issue sounds a bit absurd.

They came back for an extra day at the Statehouse (trust me; life in Springfield, Ill., during the Christmas holiday season isn’t that exciting) to do nothing.

I can’t envision their per diem fee ($132 per day for housing and meals) is worth the time and effort to make the trip to the capital city.

Cullerton also said he thinks the corporate entities that want these tax breaks should be willing to wait because their basic legal language is getting approved by the different legislative chambers.

YET I CAN’T help but be skeptical – even though a part of me thinks it might be good if these particular tax breaks don’t go through and become state law.

Perhaps those corporate entities will be impatient. Or fearful that they’re going to become one of the “perpetual” issues that comes up before the General Assembly. How many decades have we pondered the idea of a new Chicago-area airport? Or expanded casino opportunities?

Even in cases where the General Assembly eventually acts, how many more years after the White Sox deal did it take for the Chicago Bears to get a political agreement for the renovation of their stadium?

For the record, it was 14 years. That was their “reward” for being patient and waiting, instead of playing political hardball like the White Sox.


Corporate tax breaks is reason the Legislature is bothering to come back

There has been a lot of speculation about whether the General Assembly will manage to give its approval to a casino expansion measure that Gov. Pat Quinn will be to sign into law.

There also are other measures desired by various interests, all of which will get a chance to come to life when the Illinois Legislature convenes again on Tuesday for yet another day of its fall veto session.

YET NONE OF this would have been possible, except for a bill that would appear to go to the very heart of what all these Occupy Chicago/Wall Street/wherever types claim is wrong with our society today.

For the reason that our Legislature felt compelled to add another day to the fall veto session (which was scheduled to end a couple of weeks ago) was a measure related to tax breaks for business interests.

The Chicago Board of Trade and Chicago Mercantile Exchange have claimed they are overtaxed, and that they want changes in state laws that will reduce the amount of money they would have to pay for doing business in Illinois. They also have threatened to leave our wonderful city – using the claim that modern technology no longer requires them to physically be IN Chicago in order to do their global trade.

THAT is the reason we’re coming back today. The fact that a whole lot of other issues will also get a chance to gain approval is just a secondary benefit.

NOT EVEN THE idea of casino expansion would have been enough to bring the General Assembly back to Springfield prior to their next official dates of business in January.

So if you are of the type who seriously wants to have more gambling opportunities across Illinois, you should be thankful for the Board of Trade and Mercantile Exchange. Otherwise, you’d be waiting until next spring for any more consideration.

Of course, that’s assuming that anyone has changed their stance on gambling. For all I know, nothing may happen on Tuesday regarding casinos, and we could still be addressing this issue come spring.

So what should we think of this measure meant to benefit those agricultural commodities traders?

ACTUALLY, IT AMUSES me that whenever I hear legislators talk about this issue, they describe it in different terms. For state lawmakers used this same bill to also add in some changes in tax law that relate to Sears Holding Inc. – which has threatened to move its corporate headquarters from the northwest suburbs to some other state if they don’t get tax breaks.

Legislators talk about this bill as the “Sears tax break.” They say they’re just trying to be business-friendly to a corporation that has more than a century of history in our state.

It just sounds better to say “I’m helping Sears” than it does to say “I’m helping the Board of Trade.” The latter really reeks of confirming the suspicions of activists these days that our government officials are only interested in helping the 1 percent of wealthy corporate interests – while maybe the 99 percent of the rest of us shop at Sears.

I suspect if they really wanted to reflect the modern-day consumer, they’d offer up some sort of aid to Target and Wal-mart (where many of us are more likely to shop).

ANYWAY, THIS BILL will be the one that comes up Tuesday in the Illinois House of Representatives and the state Senate. As it was, an Illinois House committee gave the measure its recommendation during a hearing held Monday.

The General Assembly will be asked to provide tax breaks of up to $250 million – with about 40 percent of that going to the Mercantile Exchange, the Board of Trade and Sears.

To try to appease those Occupy protesters (and the regular people who sympathize with them), there also will be $100 million in tax breaks for smaller companies, and another $50 million to cover the cost of expanding the earned-income tax credit for the working “poor.”

In short, we’re seeing that our state does have a sense of being willing to offer aid to corporate interests – despite the claims of certain states with their “Illinoyed” marketing campaign that is trying to draw businesses out of our state and away to theirs.

PERHAPS OUR STATE just has a sense that the interests of corporate and personal interests need to be balanced off – while others (including our neighbor to the east – Indiana) are too willing to play partisan politics (such as persisting with legislation to turn themselves into a “right to work” state) with the issue.

This is the reason our Legislature is back in session. We feel the need to give business interests some aid – even though school officials in the area surrounding the Hoffman Estates corporate headquarters for Sears claim they will lose significant amounts of tax revenue they were receiving from having the retail company in their community.

Even if the Legislature manages to leave town without expanding casino gambling, there likely will be plenty of action that will manage to tick people off -- even though a part of you should be greatful that this issue enabled the Legislature to return to the Statehouse this week to consider your pet cause.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Would we in Illinois regard the meme-d pepper-spray cop as the victim?

It’s the Chicagoan in me that caused a certain reaction to a CNN report I saw Sunday morning – one about how people are taking the image of  a police officer using pepper spray on students at a University of California campus and spreading it all across the Internet.
Who thinks cop is the victim? Image provided by

How many people here believe that the police officer (since identified as Lt. John Pike) is the victim in all of this, and that the people who are creating such images are somehow doing him wrong?

BECAUSE THAT CERTAINLY is the attitude that is spawned by Illinois law. I’m referring to the law that says that people who take video of police officers in action without their advance knowledge and consent are committing a crime.

If this had happened in Illinois, I’m fairly sure that someone would want to believe that the person who took the original images that are now being doctored-up into everything from a police officer spraying Bambi to Jesus Christ himself at the Last Supper would be worthy of prosecution.

Personally, I have always thought the Illinois law against such images was some sort of gross overreaction by conservative ideologues who don’t want anything done by their police to be used against him.

Even, and perhaps in particular, images of a police lieutenant using pepper spray to knock the sense out of Occupy Wall Street-type protesters who were peacefully sitting.

MY REACTION TO the Sunday morning news report was to wonder how quickly the state’s attorney’s office in Cook County would have sought to prosecute somebody for taking the image – had it involved the Chicago versions of the “Occupy” protesters and had it occurred in our fair city?

Which to me is such a gross over-reaction. Yet it is in character with the way that similar cases have been handled by police in Chicago. And I’m wondering how many people will want to believe that this is somehow disrespectful toward law enforcement personnel in general.

I know that some people are going to claim that this type of commentary is, in and of itself, somehow disrespectful or anti-law enforcement. Even though I do not believe it to be.

It is just that I have always thought that law enforcement personnel of all types should be held to a higher standard than the masses of our society. We do, after all, give these people considerable power to make judgment calls in cases that can result in the arrest and detention of individuals.

IF ANYTHING, A part of me wishes that it were possible for every single moment of a police officer’s on-duty activity to be video-taped. Perhaps if police realized that we were watching and that their professional conduct would be assessed in a blow-by-blow nature, there would be fewer incidents of official misconduct.

Actually, such an attitude could go to the benefit of the police, since if we could see them in action we might well gain respect for those incidents where they manage to show professional restraint in the handling of an individual whose own conduct crosses the line into “despicable.”

It also would serve as further evidence in their own cases – since I have seen in court proceedings how much credibility video gets from people where they can see what, and how, something actually happened.

But for that credibility to be maintained, we really can’t have a situation where police control the cameras and can keep us from seeing the screw-ups that occur all too often.

SO WHAT DO I think of the CNN report that was one of the first images I woke up to on Sunday morning?

I thought it was a bit trivial – and little more than an excuse to put on the air some image of Spongebob Squarepants getting blasted in the face with pepper spray.

But sometimes, it is the trivial details that, when put together, can illustrate a larger point of some seriousness. And the idea that our laws somehow would elevate triviality to criminal status makes me wonder how long it will be until the people put pressure on such laws to change.

Because the current law on such videotaping (particularly at a time when our society has become one where real people have less and less privacy) is one that only the 1 percent of society could truly support because they think it will be unleashed on the other 99 percent of us.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

How many people will turn out for Maggie Daley’s Sunday service?

I offer my condolences to the Daley family. And I don’t mean just the former mayor himself.

For while we all knew that Maggie Daley’s health was in decline and newsrooms everywhere were aware that it was time to get their pre-written obituaries of Chicago’s former first lady prepared for publication, it still was a blow for her to die on Thursday.

WHICH FOR THE rest of us was the day that we all stuffed our faces with too much heavy food and sat on our duffs watching too much out-of-town football for anyone’s benefit.

It was Thanksgiving. A holiday we’re supposed to celebrate.

Yet for the Daleys, Thanksgiving will now forevermore be the day they lost their wife/mother/aunt/etc.

That applies even though Thanksgiving does not fall on the same date each year.

SO NEXT YEAR’S Thanksgiving will not literally be the one-year marking point of the date of her death. But I’m sure the holiday itself will forevermore carry a bit of a taint that will make it just that much harder for the family to think of celebration.

I know in my case, it felt just a bit like that – even though I didn’t have anyone die on a past Thanksgiving.

In my case, my mother died last year about a week-and-a-half prior to Thanksgiving. I remember this time last year celebration was about the last thing I cared about. Actually, I don’t really remember much about one year ago – it is just a haze.

This year on Thanksgiving, my mother maintained a place in the back of my mind. In large part, it is because I have been told that among her final thoughts before she suddenly lost consciousness and died within an hour was to think aloud to herself about all the last-minute preparations she would have to do in coming days to prepare herself for Thanksgiving.

FOR SHE HAD it in her mind that my brother and I would spend that holiday with her and she wanted to be prepared for it.

Those preparations, of course, never came to be.

This was, and likely will always be, the one holiday that carries a bit of a taint for me in that I will notice my mother’s absence (periodically, I find myself blurting out to no one in particular, “I miss you, Mom”) moreso than usual.

Which is what I expect will be the same reaction that the Daley family will also experience – although I will be the first to admit that I don’t have any first-hand knowledge of what the Daleys actually did on Thursday or what they are feeling right now.

THIS IS MY attempt at an intelligent guess. Although I don’t think it is much of a stretch of logic to come to this conclusion.

One thing I will state right now is that I was pleased to learn of a public service to be held Sunday at the Chicago Cultural Center for those who feel compelled to turn out in public to pay their respects.

It will be separate from any funeral services held for Maggie Daley, which actually is something I think is admirable. A part of me always thinks it is gaudy for people who weren’t personally connected to the deceased to be showing up for the funeral and turning it into a virtual circus production.

This way lets the family pay their respects in some degree of privacy. And a big overblown funeral service is probably the last thing that the subdued first lady (until May, that is) would have wanted for herself.

I’M CURIOUS TO see just how many people turn out to show their respects for the Daley legacy (even though the Washington Post thinks the “big” story in Chicago on Friday is the Obama presidential re-election campaign locating here). It has me wondering if it will come close to the thousands who felt compelled to be a part of the atmosphere when former-Mayor Harold Washington died back in 1987.

And, oddly enough, he died on the day BEFORE Thanksgiving that year – which meant those holiday ad-stuffed newspapers we bought on Thanksgiving that year had word of Harold’s demise all over their front pages. Not exactly the most festive of events.

Maybe it’s just that the Thanksgiving holiday weekend is not a good time in general for people with Chicago political ties.


Once O’Hare to Havana shuttle in place, we need to send a softball team to Cuba

The Associated Press is reporting about a company that will soon offer once-a-week shuttle flights directly from O’Hare International Airport to Havana.

Which is a good thing, on account of a report I read in the New York Times about a Massachusetts-based softball league that sent a team to Cuba to play a series of matches against Cubano athletes.

IT SEEMS THE Massachusetts boys got smacked around by the Cubans. But my real objection is the fact that these guys, despite the fact that they were playing slow-pitch softball (rather than the fast-pitch game that usually is played competitively around the world) were using fielder’s gloves.

Which any Chicago-based fan of the game (which was concocted here) knows is anathema. The whole point of slow-pitch softball is that you only need one ball and one bat – and NOTHING else. It can be played anywhere at any time, and managing to play one’s defensive position with a fractured finger is seen as a sign of toughness.

Why do I sense that any of the aging beer-bellies who hang around public parks or Thillens Stadium and try to pretend that they could ever hit like Dick Allen could go to Havana and give Cuban softball players a harder run for the money than they got from the gloved, cigar-chomping seniors from New England?

Those who want to know more about the abomination that took place in the name of “slow-pitch softball” should read the commentary published at this site’s sister weblog, The South Chicagoan.


Friday, November 25, 2011

It’s beginning to look a lot like a four-day holiday weekend to start off the Christmas/winter holiday celebration

There was one moment last week when the Cook County Board was going through its excruciating process of searching for places in the county budget to cut costs when I felt like standing up and cheering.

These still-standing halls will be vacant a year from now

Except that my legs were so cramped up for sitting for hours on end that I suspect I would have pulled a muscle or done something else to seriously hurt myself.

THAT WAS WHEN the county board came up with a day they believe they can get away with shutting down the entire apparatus of Cook County government (except for those few all-hours people who work at the county hospital or for the sheriff’s police).

I’m talking, of course, about today. This unique day that comes up every single year. It’s the Day after Thanksgiving, which because that food-fest holiday falls every year on Thursday means this one comes on Friday.

Which means they both come before the Saturday/Sunday weekend that would see them take off.

The county budget for the 2012 fiscal year was balanced in part because beginning one year from now, county government will no longer even pretend that it is open and functioning on a regular basis on this day.

WHICH FAR TOO many people have either turned into an unofficial day off, or become the work ethic-equivalent of Homer Simpson if by chance they do have to show up at the office on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

It seems that nothing of any practicality gets done.

So perhaps we should just acknowledge that there’s no point to the first official day of the winter holiday shopping season should be anything more – except to those people who work in the stores that are selling all those goods.

Those people get to endure a true “Day from Hades” on Friday, having to endure the crowds AND the fact that too many stores seem determined to boost their profits from the day by being open at ridiculous hours in the early morning.

BY THE TIME most of you (those of you who are sane individuals) will have read this, there will already be some people who will have started their holiday shopping (and at least a few of those people will be of the type who will be grossly offended at my use of the word “holiday” in place some something with a “Christ” in it).

There have been times in my work as a reporter-type person where I have had to work on this day, and have wound up spending it chasing down holiday shoppers on State Street or Michigan Avenue.

As though that was the only serious work being done on the day.

For even the people who are pretending to work, it seems, are just looking for a chance to step out of the office for a “break” that will allow them to do a bit of shopping of their own.

NOW, WE WON’T have to endure the sight of county employees cheating in such a way. The county will be closed on Nov. 23, 2012, except for those emergency workers who do their jobs in large part out of a sense of public dedication as much as the actual paycheck.

Which will wind up taking a hit. Because the Day after Thanksgiving won’t be a paid holiday.

The budget amendment crafted by staffers for county commissioners Jerry Butler and Jesus Garcia decrees that all workers (both union and non-union) will get their salaries reduced by 1/261st to account for the fact that they won’t be coming in to work a year from now.

It also says that managers will have to monitor their employees’ hours during the Thanksgiving holiday week to ensure that someone doesn’t wind up hitting 40 hours and getting overtime pay, in addition to the day off.

I MUST CONFESS that I despise the idea of furloughs – those days that county officials have used in recent years to get away with unpaid days for their workers. For in some cases, those workers wind up having to put in extra hours some other time to make up for the undone work on the day off.

To my sensibility, it comes across as asking workers to work a few hours for free.

Even 70 years later, State Street will have some hustle and bustle and holiday activity on Friday. Image provided by Chuckman's Collection.

But this one bothers me much less because it’s coming at a time when there just wasn’t much work being done. It’s a reflection of reality, and I’m sure it will be appreciated because it will mean that we won’t have workers trying to get themselves enthused about one more workday before the weekend – right after that day in which they stuffed themselves silly.

Better to have them stay at home. Perched in front of the television for a bit, where they can watch the overzealous (and ultimately trivial) reporting being done about all those crazy shoppers – the kind of people that make me NOT want to set foot near a shopping mall for the next month.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Be thankful for Da Bears – Decatur’s lone “contribution” to our society

Bill Mitchell and Adam Brown are a pair of Illinois legislators from the area around Decatur, Ill. – that central Illinois city that can account for one contribution that many in our society dearly appreciate.

If they want us to secede, why do they claim ties to our city's team?

I’m referring to the Chicago Bears. The professional football team that began its life as the company team of the A.E. Staley Co. and, after one year of existence in Decatur, came to Chicago and took on their current identity.

ASIDE FROM THAT, however, I don’t know where anyone from Decatur gets off being so snotty as to come up with a resolution for consideration by the Illinois General Assembly that would break Cook County away from Illinois and turn it into its own state.

Of course, considering that almost half of Illinois’ population resides in Cook County and is the home of many of Illinois’ greatest assets, one could make an argument that a state of Cook (or a state of Chicago, if you will) would be more significant than what is left of Illinois.

When one considers that the five surrounding counties, along with some of the extra areas on the fringe, are so tied into the Chicago area that they would find it in their advantage to become a part of the state of Chicago rather than remaining with Illinois, one wonders what these people could seriously be thinking.

If this were to ever happen (and I’ll predict now that it has a 0.000000001 percent chance of becoming reality), Illinois would find itself dropping in significance so far down that the people who pushed for this would rue the day that they ever seriously got secession talk flowing.
MITCHELL: National attention ...

BUT IT’S NOT going to happen, and the two legislators who are sponsoring this measure know full well that is the case.

This is one of those ideas that gets brought up by people who want to complain for a day or two and vent their rage – before piping down again to fight another day.

Perhaps it is the perpetual odor that emanates from the A.E. Staley plant on the edge of town (the soybeans that give Decatur its unique form of stink) that have somehow addled their judgment.

BROWN: ... of the wrong kind

Or maybe I just look down on Decatur because I know my collegiate alma mater, Bloomington-based Illinois Wesleyan University, can kick Millikin University’s collective butt (the two schools are arch-rivals) any time at anything.

BECAUSE INSTEAD OF trying to figure out how to unify the parts of Illinois and use the assets of having the most significant Midwestern U.S. city within their state’s boundaries (which is what makes Illinois a more important place than states such as Indiana, Iowa or Michigan, to name a few), they want to cut themselves off from reality. They're as ridiculous as those baseball fans who think that the key to restoring "balance" to the game is to impose restrictions on wealthy clubs so that everybody is reduced to the level of a Pittsburgh or Kansas City.

Now as one who, between college and working in the capital city, can claim to have lived in “the rest of” Illinois for 11 of the total years of my life (just under one quarter), I realize that a lot of the jokes that get told by urbanites (not Urbana-ites) about “downstate Ilinois” miss the point.

Then again, I also realize that there are some people who choose to have their lives down there because they like the sense of isolation that one can feel living in one of those places that thinks Decatur (pop. 76,122) is a Big City.

But then they resent the fact that their isolation cuts them off from influence. Chicago’s mentality has come to dominate the state because of the fact that 45 percent of the state’s people live in Cook County, and that about 65 percent of Illinoisans are Chicago-area, first and foremost.

I’D ARGUE THAT if people like Mitchell and Brown want seriously to have more influence, let them move up our way. We’d welcome them, and help them “see the light,” so to speak.

And if they decide they’d rather enjoy the benefits of their rural Illinois isolation, then I want them to pipe down and quit complaining about its drawbacks.

Because all this really does is manage to create a sense of embarrassment for our public image.
Even Green Bay, Wis., kept the NFL longer than Decatur


WHEN ROBIN MEADE, the one-time WMAQ-TV cutie who now anchors the CNN Headline morning newscast, spends her time on-air taking potshots at our politics (as she did Wednesday morning), then you know that a new low has been reached.

Even lower than Blagojevich (as in Milorod).

So as far as what the “Gentlemen from Macon” (as in county, the home of Decatur) think, I may actually care less than what they think of what my Chicago brethren think.

Maybe they should follow the one-time Decatur Staleys, who decided some 90 years ago that life was brighter in the Illinois metropolis on the shores of Lake Michigan.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What were they thinking?

In the world of covering ‘cops and robbers,’ it is all too easy to stumble across incidents where one’s initial reaction is something along the lines of “What was this fool thinking?”
The coach's wife

It even occurs on occasion that a story crops up that somehow manages to spill over into the world of sports – which somehow manages to attract attention on the grounds that something involving a ballplayer must be more important than something affecting a “real” person.

YET I COULDN’T help but chuckle at the pair of stories that cropped up Tuesday on the Chicago news scene – both of which have me thinking there’s a new couple that ought to be kept as far apart as possible to ensure they never spawn and create young’uns who would be a combination of themselves.

Of course, the woman in this pairing is already married – and her husband is the one who comes off looking somehow absurd because of her actions.

I’m referring, of course, to the spouse of the football coach at Antioch Community High School – who also happens to be a teacher (special ed) at that school. She now faces criminal charges (misdemeanor) related to computer hacking.

Not that hers is any kind of conventional case of someone who thinks they are entitled to break into someone’s computer system and tamper with materials.

FOR PROSECUTORS IN suburban Lake County say she got ahold of an administrative password and used it to start altering the grades of students. Some 64 young people in all. Coincidentally, many of them were members of the football team that her husband coached.

Although it seems that she is telling police he had no involvement in the matter, and prosecutors haven’t come up with any evidence indicating that he should also be facing criminal charges.
Not exactly KW 'clone'

Which is something that confuses me. It makes me suspect that there is some significant fact we do not yet know, and that when it does come out we’re going to wind up viewing this whole debacle in a completely different manner.

I also find it interesting to read the various statements that indicate the students’ actual grades have been restored, and that it wasn’t a matter of academically-ineligible students playing football, but one of trying to bolster students with mediocre grades into slightly higher ones.

AS THOUGH THERE really is no problem aside from one teacher-turned-alleged hacker – who now faces criminal charges, the likelihood of a fine and the near-certainty that she’s going to lose her own teaching position.

By comparison, the Kenny Williams burglary seems so logical and straightforward. For it seems that someone broke into the home of the Chicago White Sox general manager.

That person took a nap, heated up some pizza for himself, defrosted a lobster, and eventually left wearing one of Williams’ suits AND the big gaudy ring that the White Sox gave to everyone who was connected to their World Series champion ballclub from 2005.

That alone would have been a prize that would have caused the sports memorabilia market to go berserk. EXCEPT for the fact that the burglar managed to drop an identification bracelet in Williams’ residence. Police knew who they were looking for.

AND THEY MADE the arrest when the man actually returned to the Williams residence and gave police his real name when they caught him trying to peek into the windows.

It seems the man has a prior criminal record – a whole string of arrests for knuckleheaded moments. Although the idea that he returned to the scene of this particular moment makes this one stand out.

That’s not usually what someone does if their intent is to commit some sort of felony act or gain some goods that could be sold off for medium-sized bucks.

It actually makes me wonder if we’re going to find out someday that the man involved in this particular incident is not mentally stable enough to stand trial on the residential burglary charge he now faces. The fact that his identification bracelet was from a hospital may be some evidence in that direction.

ALL OF WHICH manages to make people like Antoin Rezko look like even more of an afterthought; even on a day when U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve blatantly rejected his request to be sentenced to time served.

Ten-and-a-half years in a federal correctional center. Even with his roughly four years of real time already served, that will involve another few years of being locked away. Yet so boring compared to the other two who came up Tuesday.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

It’s beginning to look a lot like a campaign season, ev’ry where you go

Somewhere, amidst my collection of junk, I have a couple of calendars from 2008.
OBAMA: Enough 'counting down the days' to beat him?

They were presidential campaign-themed. One was loaded with photographs of would-be Democratic nominee Hillary R. Clinton, while the other gave us multiple illustrations of eventual nominee Barack Obama. Both calendars counted down the number of days until that January ’09 date when they were to be “sworn in” as the 44th U.S. president.

FOR THOSE WHO think these were overly partisan publications, they really weren’t. Because the same company also had a version that counted down the number of days until Republican nominee John McCain took the presidential oath of office.

So it was purely a commercial money-making venture. Pick your favorite candidate and count down the months and days until Inauguration Day. The Obama version comes off as prophetic, while the Clinton and McCain versions (there may also have been one for Rudy Guiliani) wind up being wishful thinking.

Like those t-shirts for the World Series champion Texas Rangers that are now being worn by kids in isolated pockets of the globe.

What made me think of these calendars was the evidence I have seen about how hostile the mood is going to be for the 2012 election cycle. All those people who opposed Obama in ’08 have had three years to have their anger boil over.


And those of us who see this hostility as the reason that nothing can get done (Did anyone seriously expect the Congressional “Super-committee” to come up with a solution?) are just as angry.

Which is now being reflected in those same calendars now being sold for the upcoming year (and election cycle).

I happened to be browsing in a Barnes & Noble bookstore when I saw two different calendars with the same theme – counting down the days until the Obama presidency is finished.

THEY GIVE A summary of the rest of 2011, have a month-by-month offering of how many days remain in Obama’s presidential term during 2012 – and even include a partial calendar for January 2013.

One which comes to an abrupt halt on Inauguration Day – which these calendars bill as the day we get to Dump Obama!!!!!!!

Yet just as there were alternatives in 2008 so that everybody could pick a calendar that matched their ideological hang-ups, there will be choices for 2012 as well.

In this particular bookstore, they also had a calendar devoted to the concept of trashing the persona of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin – with day-by-day quotations of the more vapid statements she has made since McCain turned her into a nationally-renowned figure.

JUST IN CASE you want a reminder of the kind of people who present themselves as the alternative to Obama.

This is going to be the election cycle where people don’t talk of Hope and Change (or mock it as that Hope-y, Change-y stuff). This will be the cycle where we decide who offends us the most – and we rush out to the polling places to vote for somebody else.

Take the Washington Post, which on Monday used its website to write about a new poll analysis that contends Obama’s backers still like him.

They may be disappointed with how little he has been able to accomplish, which gets reflected in those approval ratings. Yet the Post contends that few people are thinking seriously in terms of switching sides to vote against Barack come next year.

THAT ANALYSIS NOTES a 44 percent Obama job approval rating in a Wall Street Journal/BC poll, with 45 percent personal approval ratings and the same 45 percent saying they “probably” will vote for Obama in 2012.

A simple way of viewing the situation is to say that Obama already has 45 percent of the vote, and has nearly a full year to figure out how to get the remaining 6 percent that gives him a majority.

Considering that the GOP opposition still doesn’t seem to know who it will put forth, their “frontrunners” are people who now get about 20-something percent of the primary vote, and have to gain about another 30 percent overall in order to have a chance to win come the November 2012 general elections.

There may be some people who are hell-bent on voting ABO, but their “Anybody but Obama” stance didn’t work well in ’08, and may not be successful this time around because of the numbers of people who are getting upset enough to say they’re ABGOP (as in, “Anybody but a Republican).

IT’S AN UGLY mood we’re going to see. As evidenced by the Spirit Cup NASCAR race held this weekend. Both first lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden (the vice-presidential spouse) showed up for the ceremonial start of the event – and got “boo-ed” by the crowd.

I wonder how many of those people would be an Obama countdown calendar should they ever get sold by their local Wal-mart store?

There are those who are appalled because the first lady and her potential replacement were on hand in Florida for the event to also partake in a military tribute. But it shouldn’t be much of a shock that some people don’t want to believe that anybody who isn’t exactly like themselves can be sincere in participating in a military event.

Although I will give a few members of that crowd the benefit of the doubt. Because one phenomenon I have seen at sports events is a crowd that boos any political person who shows up.

PARTICULARLY IF THEY come across as self-serving with their appearance.

Which is why it always amuses me to hear former President George W. Bush tell the story about his own appearance to throw out the first pitch of a 2001 World Series game – the ballplayers warned him that if his throw was weak, the New York crowd would boo him too.