Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Do we have our priorities confused?

It is on days like Monday that I wonder the point of reporting the news, since the priorities for what is significant can become so convoluted.
PETERSON: Too much attention!!!

For there are many of us in the newsgathering business who are wetting our pants in anticipation of the fact that Drew Peterson (the suburban Bolingbrook cop whom many suspect keeps killing his young wives) is going on trial.

IT BEGINS TUESDAY in Will County Circuit Court in Joliet, and the downtown area is going to become a madhouse for the next few weeks – primarily because the small city really isn’t designed for the scale of the lunacy that is going to crop up in coming weeks.

Personally, I’m glad this case is finally going to trial. It has bothered me that it took sooooooo long (nearly three full years) before we got to this point. But I also feel fortunate NOT to be covering this particular story.

Because it will be way too easy to get caught up in the hype and the ill-will,, as there are many people who only view this case as a legal travesty because Peterson wasn’t found guilty a long time ago of the death of wife number three.

These are the people who aren’t the least bit bothered by the fact that this case will rely on so much circumstantial evidence that there are many legal scholars predicting that it might not hold up.

WE SHOULD ALL brace ourselves for the fact that a “not guilty” verdict is very possible, along with the eventual sight of a smug Drew Peterson sauntering out of the courthouse proclaiming victory, innocence, and perhaps even revenge against those who “did him wrong!”

Although even if prosecutors are able to take all the hearsay and third-party evidence and use it to convict Peterson (thereby officially turning him into a corrupt cop who went to prison), then we’d have to put up with the insufferable cheering of people whose mentality is only one level (maybe a level-and-a-half) removed from a lynch mob.

It won’t be a pretty tale that will emanate from Joliet in coming weeks. It will bother me even more than the whole disappearance of Stacey Peterson always has.
QUINN: Bad timing?

There is a part of me that really wishes she were alive and merely hiding from a husband who (from all glimpses) was an overbearing jerk.

BECAUSE THAT WOULD mean Stacey came to her senses and dumped Drew – which I’m sure is such a blow to his ego that he won’t ever fully recover from. Even if he winds up leaving the Chicago area for some rural Florida community near a beach where he eventually takes up with Wife Five (and maybe even Six), getting younger and younger as the years progress for him.

That tawdry end is probably what the Drew Petersons of the world really deserve. Not the attention of the world that he’s going to get in coming weeks.

Although there is a story that I wish could get such attention. But it won’t.

It is the tale concerning Illinois state government and the flawed way in which it funds the programs that cover pensions for retired employees and public school educators outside of Chicago.

IT IS A mess. It is a significant part of the reason why the state’s finances are a mess. Yet officials didn’t bother to do much of anything during their spring legislative session, and they knew they could get away with it because the average public didn’t care.

So when I learned that Gov. Pat Quinn on Monday issued the order saying that the General Assembly must return to Springfield on Aug. 17 at 1 p.m. to consider (and approve) a solution to the mess, I became skeptical.

Because unless there is a solution negotiated by Quinn and the legislative leaders, all that the legislators will do is sit around for a few minutes, then go home. They’ll claim there’s nothing for them to do.

And I’m not the least bit convinced that the legislative leaders are anywhere near close to having a solution in place that the rank-and-file of the General Assembly could even consider voting on.

IF ANY OF you think that the mere presence of the legislators at the Statehouse will force something to be done, you probably also believe that there’s a decent human being lurking somewhere in the body of Drew Peterson.

It won’t happen. If anything, Quinn may have made a mistake by picking that date.
SMITH: More interesting than pensions?

Because Aug. 17 is already the date that the Illinois House is supposed to come back to Springfield to consider the fate of state Rep. Derrick Smith, D-Chicago, who faces federal charges alleging he took bribes in exchange for his government services.

That issue, and all of its rants and rages and cheap rhetoric, will dominate the Legislature’s attention span.

I’D BE WILLING to bet anything that what little public attention is paid to state government that day will go toward whether or not Smith got kicked out of the Legislature. Nobody’s going to care whether or not the pension problem got fixed that day.

And in all likelihood, if the activity in the Drew Peterson trial is particularly feisty that day (it may still be going on by mid-August), even Derrick Smith will be an afterthought.


Monday, July 30, 2012

A Polaroid on the wall behind the cash register counter? How passé, it seems!

It seems that people who get caught shoplifting won’t have their pictures taken with a Polaroid camera so that the resulting quickie image can be pinned to a “Wall of Shame” of people who are no longer welcome.

That is as much of an image of the past as basketball players in gym shorts --  instead of those baggy things they now wear that look more like a skirt!

THAT IDEA GOT reinforced in my head when I read the reports about the alleged “flash mob” that coordinated their large-scale shoplifting of a store on Milwaukee Avenue that specializes in overpriced jeans.

Some 20 people walked into the store at once, in unison, then proceeded to grab what they wanted before trying to storm their way out of the store.

Various news reports indicate that the store’s owner was suspicious when the people walked into his Wicker Park neighborhood store, and actually slammed the door shut and locked it – thereby keeping even more would-be thieves from getting in to swipe some merchandise.

But what catches my attention about this incident is less the idea that it was a “flash mob” of young people using their tactic to rob, rather than to commit some act of public art such as dancing in unison.

BUT RATHER, THE reaction of the store owner. The security cameras in his store were operating, and they captured several minutes of footage of people milling around snatching whatever items captured their attention.

The store owner took the video and has made it about as public as one can do. It is now on YouTube. Anybody who cares can watch it.

The YouTube video contains a caption advising people that if they recognize anyone in the video, they should call the Chicago Police Department at (312) 744-8290 and say they have information with regards to case number HV-404817.

The store owner says he hopes his action helps police find the people who robbed him, and may even cause enough parents to be so ashamed of their kids that they turn them in.

WHICH MAY BE wishful thinking on his part!

Because I think the kind of people who like to watch this kind of nonsense on the Internet are the same kind who go to YouTube and search for “fighting” or “brawls” just so they can see something stupid.

It’s some sort of cheap thrill that I’ll be the first to admit I don’t comprehend.

If anyone who is even inclined to view this video were to recognize someone in it, would they bother to tell? I suspect at least some people wouldn’t, perhaps because they somehow approve, or maybe they just buy into the “Stop snitching” mentality that truly is the basis of some of the problems our society confronts.

SO IN THE end, did this store owner just give Internet video viewers another means of giving themselves a cheap thrill?

Although in the end, this might actually be the perfect punishment for this particular batch of knuckleheads who we see ripping off jeans priced at $200 per pair.

Just envision if anyone who gets arrested winds up having their name attached to this particular video, and it were to keep cropping up forevermore any time anyone does an Internet search of their name.

That would be something that could cause future embarrassment!

ALTHOUGH IT WOULDN’T shock me to learn that if it did happen, somebody would sue.

Just as it was determined all those grocery stores that used to love to tape up copies of bounced checks near the cash register in a place where everybody could see were actually violating the privacy of those who wrote the bad checks, would that same line of logic wind up applying to this case?

And would the person who claims this video invades their privacy have the gall to show up in court wearing the jeans they gathered this weekend?

In today’s society, nothing truly shocks me.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

EXTRA: What is this, Miami?!?

Something needs fixing. Photograph by Gregory Tejeda

CALUMET CITY, Ill. – I couldn’t help but get my chuckle for the day while driving Saturday morning through the town in which I grew up.

This Pete’s Fresh Market store was a Dominick’s back in the days when I lived there. It is a nice supermarket, in and of itself, with a particularly nice produce section and ample numbers of foodstuffs for those who are into cooking various ethnic dishes.

BUT THINK ABOUT it. When was the last time we in the Greater Chicago Metropolitan Area had a “January 4” with temperatures anywhere near 73 degrees?

Obviously, there’s a computer glitch of sorts (the real time was somewhere around 10:50 a.m.). Either that, or somebody thinks we live in South Florida these days along with Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen.

Here’s hoping they get their clock fixed soon. Or maybe we should just be thankful they got the temperature right – which means that we got a break Saturday from the maddening heat we have experienced this summer?


EDITOR'S NOTE: For what it's worth, a typical January day in Chicago reaches a high temperature of 31 degrees, just barely below the level for freezing water.

If Jackson was this open from beginning, it would have been non-issue

By pure chance, I encountered Brian Woodworth Friday morning.
WOODWORTH: Was he gaining traction?

For those of you who are scratching your heads and pondering “Who????,” he’s the guy who managed to win the Republican nomination back in March for the right to be the token challenger to Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., D-Ill.

I ASKED THE token question I usually ask a fringe candidate for elective office – “How’s the fundraising going?” Basically, I try to sense if ANYONE has been willing to give a dime of their cash to his political effort.

By his own admission, his fundraising was negligible until the whole fiasco arose concerning Jackson’s health and speculation about whether he was physically capable of serving any longer.

Woodworth seems to think this move gives his campaign new credibility, saying, “A lot of people were skeptical about the chances of any Republican until certain circumstances popped up,” he said, leaving those circumstances unnamed because we all know he was speaking of Jackson’s “mood disorder.”

Personally, I’d be inclined to think of Woodworth’s rhetoric as just cheap political talk. The kind of answers that one would expect a candidate to give to a reporter-type person.

EXCEPT THAT WHEN I learned that Jackson’s people were suddenly being more forthcoming with information about what ails him, it couldn’t help but make me think that maybe Woodworth was on to something.

Could it be that Jackson hopes a bit of honesty with the people of his South Side and surrounding suburban congressional district will be what overcomes the skepticism some people are developing about his physical fitness.
JACKSON: Finally, some detail

For what it is worth, the Chicago Sun-Times Friday afternoon reported that Jackson was transferred on Wednesday to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and that his wife, 7th Ward Alderman Sandi Jackson was with him at the time.

No wonder she wasn’t present at the City Council meeting held that morning.

ADMISSION TO THAT clinic carries quite a bit more weight than the “unnamed clinic somewhere in Arizona” story that the Jackson camp had been trying to push for the past few weeks.

Later on Friday, the Associated Press moved one of their news blurbs that said doctors at the clinic said they were evaluating Jackson for depression, and the Chicago Tribune added gastrointestinal issues to the mix.

Could we really be getting this kind of detail now because on some level, Woodworth (who is like many other token political candidates in that he’s never held electoral office) was threatening to gain some traction.

Give out a dose of information now, and perhaps the Jackson people can said the attorney and professor at Olivet Nazarene University (the school known by most Chicagoans only because the Chicago Bears use the athletic facilities for their pre-season training camp) withers back into the anonymity.

I’M SURE BOTH Woodworth and Jackson would disagree with this characterization. He probably thinks he has some staying power, while Jackson probably wants to think he’s politically invincible, particularly after his solid defeat in March of Debbie Halvorson in the Democratic primary.

Then again, perhaps the thought that he could actually get beat in an election even though he has a congressional district drawn to order so that his South Side neighborhoods overwhelm the desires of the Will and Kankakee county residents at its far southern tip, perhaps that is what made Jackson depressed in the first place.

Now I don’t mean to demean the seriousness of Jackson’s physical or emotional health. He is in a stressful position, and I’m sure there are times when the hassles are hard to cope with. It just makes me wonder how less stressful this situation could have been for him in recent weeks if his camp had just come forth with some details up front.

Yes, the kind of people who want to believe that all this talk about depression is just cover for alcoholism would still have found something to obsess about. Yet it would have been so much easier to dismiss them as irrational if Jackson had been open.


Friday, July 27, 2012

Not a good week for the police image

This is the week that settlements got approved that local officials, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel, hope will put to rest the blot on the Police Department image caused by the activities of one-time police Commander Jon Burge and his Pullman Area crew of detectives.

Yet it seems there will always be something, somewhere, that causes a bit of embarrassment for our city’s law enforcement agency.

WHICH PROBABLY GOES for every profession or vocation. Somebody, somewhere is going to do something stupid.

Take the case of the federal prosecutors who work just the other side of the state line in Hammond, Ind. They have been engaged in an investigation of streetgang activity that manages to stretch into both states – a subtle reminder that the Chicago-area is a bi-state region.

Among several individuals who signed plea agreements that were made public in court filings made public Thursday was a former Chicago police officer.

Alex Guerrero of Chicago was supposedly singling out drug dealers, which in theory sounds like he’s doing his job.

BUT FEDERAL PROSECUTORS say that what Guerrero was actually doing was robbing the dealers, then giving the money over to people affiliated with the Latin Kings gang.

The dealers may have thought they were fortunate in that they weren’t really arrested, and just lost some cash. But it means that the image of the police got thrown into the mix of the fight against the spread of illicit drugs.

For prosecutors say Guerrero and his partner were using their unmarked police vehicle, their body armor, weapons and police credentials to bolster their robbery efforts.

This case, if ultimately resulting in a conviction, is truly one of a cop wanting to be a crook – and thinking that his badge gives him the authority to harass at will!

PROSECUTORS SAY THAT Guerrero enriched himself by about $10,000, which may have seemed like ample extra cash at the time he got it. But it must sound like petty cash now that he is confronted with pleading guilty to conspiracy to participate in racketeering, conspiracy to distribute, interference with commerce by threats of violence, and carrying a firearm during a violent crime.

The Times of Northwest Indiana newspaper reported how Guerrero faces the likelihood of a 19-year prison term; which even after early release for good behavior is factored in still comes to more than 16 years of real incarceration time.

Not a good day for the police, when they have to cope with the public wondering if the cop who is approaching them at any given moment has his own agenda that may be more criminal in intent than anything done by a real criminal.

As if that isn’t bad enough, there’s also a lawsuit that got filed in Cook County Circuit Court this week.

THE CHICAGO CRIME Commission is being sued by Edward Arroyo because a new book they publish identified Arroyo as a suburban Roselle resident who leads the Spanish Gangster Disciples.

Which, he says, he doesn’t!

Mistaken identity? Somebody thinks all Latinos look alike? Who’s to say!

Arroyo’s attorney says that the damage to his reputation is so severe that a mere correction or retraction by the crime commission would not be sufficient.

HE WANTS CASH. Even though I’m sure some people are going to want to believe that he’s merely being greedy and seeking a financial payday.

Although I couldn’t help but be amazed at the crime commission’s explanation to the Chicago Tribune for what went wrong – bad information. Which, regretably, is something that has cropped up from time to time in my own reporting.

They merely compiled information in the Gang Book that was taken directly from police department records. Does Arroyo have a beef with his local police department for thinking that he’s a thug?

Is the fact that some police can’t tell the difference of who’s who something we all should be concerned about? It definitely doesn’t put law enforcement in the best light.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Don’t we have enough chicken joints in Our Kind of Town, Chicago is?

Somehow, I doubt that the Atlanta-area officials who run the Chick-fil-A chain of sandwich shops are getting all worked up over the fact that one of our aldermen doesn’t want the company setting up a store in his ward on account of the fact that the company head has said he opposes gay marriage.
MORENO: Not the first fil-A critic

For it seems that this particular company is getting bashed about in so many places because of this issue.

IT WOULD SEEM by now that they are immune to such attacks. For all I know, perhaps they figure they can feed their sandwiches to an alternate universe – as in the one where everybody is either just like them, or if they’re not then they know their place and stay in it!

That certainly isn’t Chicago, where 1st Ward Alderman Joe Moreno is making a point of saying he doesn’t want the company doing business in his neighborhood.

He doesn’t think the people of his ward will patronize such a shop because of the attitudes of its management, even though the company says it does not plan any discrimination at their stores.

They’ll sell chicken sandwiches to anyone with valid U.S. currency, Maybe they’ll wait until the customer walks out the door with their food before the employees make fun of them.

THEN AGAIN, PERHAPS in that neighborhood it would be the residents who would mock such a Southern-oriented joint. Personally, I don’t see the appeal. There are enough other places for the rest of us to get chicken.

Although that likely is because the only time I ever ate a Chick-fil-A sandwich (back in the days when I lived and worked in Springfield, Ill., and that particular store doesn’t even exist any more), I can’t say I was impressed.

But like I wrote already, it seems that Moreno is merely piling on to a list of people across the country who think very little of the Chick-fil-A company. The mayor of Boston has sent corporate types a letter telling them to "stay out" of his city.

I couldn’t help but notice that earlier this year, an attempt by Chick-fil-A to get back into the state capital city ran into opposition. They wanted to put one of their outlets on the University of Illinois-Springfield campus, only to hear opposition from people who don’t like the fact that corporate types with the company donated more than $3 million between 2003 and 2009 to “rabidly anti-gay” organizations.

MORENO IS PEEVED about the fact that company President Dan Cathy calls himself “guilty as charged” for opposing gay marriage – as though he thinks we all ought to be proud of him for it.

The Chicago Tribune reported that Moreno has the backing of Mayor Rahm Emanuel in taking such a hard-line stance, telling the newspaper, “Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values. They disrespect our fellow neighbors and residents. This would be a bad investment, since it would be empty.”

It wouldn’t be surprising to me if such a store would be patronized only by people who think that by eating one of their sandwiches, they’d be making a political statement.

Which strikes me as being as ridiculous as those people who used to go out of their way to eat California-picked grapes to spite the boycott desires of Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers of America desires of better working conditions for the migrant farm workers.

BESIDES, WE HAVE to concede that the ultimate political statement on this particular issue was most likely made by Jim Henson Co., which was using its Muppets characters to come up with a line of products to be included in kids meals.

But the people who gave us Kermit the Frog are repulsed enough by the Chick-fil-A views on this issue that they say they’re breaking their contract – and taking what money they’ve already been paid and donating it to the gay rights organization GLAAD.

Be honest. Who’s going to get your attention first – a Chicago alderman, or Miss Piggy? Particularly if she starts wielding her purse in anger.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

‘Confused politician’ truly redundant. Or, does 'slammer’ serve good beef?

“This isn’t a double-negative?”
GORMAN: Making sure she doesn't vote wrong

That bit of skepticism and concern came from the lips of Cook County Commissioner Elizabeth Doody Gorman, R-Orland Park, when she and her colleagues were voting on a measure Tuesday that had instigated hours of debate at a previous meeting.

GORMAN WAS CONCERNED she was about to vote the “wrong” way on something because maybe the issue was worded in a way that she’d have to vote “no” to support something.

In fact, she wasn’t the only person confused. It took nearly 15 minutes to take a roll-call vote of 16 individuals (county Commissioner Earlean Collins, D-Chicago, was absent) because everybody was clueless about what was happening at that moment.

Commissioner William Beavers, D-Chicago, engaged in a back-and-forth repartee with the board secretary to ensure that his “yes” vote really was an affirmative one that meant exactly what he intended it to mean.

I would say it was amusing to watch. But the fact that it was our tax dollars at work made it most-definitely a chore.

WHAT WAS AT stake was the food service contract for Cook County Jail (yes, if we incarcerate people, we have to feed them).

Aramark, based in Philadelphia, had the contract.

But the county is now going to transfer over to Sioux Falls, S.D.-based CBM Managed Services, which has a division that specializes in food service at correctional facilities across the country.

It seems that one of the potential perks is that CBM is capable of offering the inmates a culinary treat – if they’re willing to pay for it themselves.

ONCE THE TRANSITION is made and things are up and running, inmates being held at the county jail will get one night a week where they can have an Italian beef sandwich for their dinner (a Buona Beef brand sandwich, I’m told).

Before you start getting all worked up about inmates being coddled, keep in mind that the only ones who will get such a sandwich will be those who have enough money in their jail inmate accounts to cover the cost.

But I can envision the rants and rages of the alleged “law and order” types, and perhaps that fear of instigating these people is what caused the county board members to be overly cautious about casting their votes.

Because this is exactly the kind of issue that gets distorted into a nasty attack ad or the subject material for a campaign mailing by some future opponent who figures real people don’t have time to figure out the “truth” behind the attack.

THEN AGAIN, THIS probably was the ultimate example of “fear and ignorance” combined in our government officials. It definitely wasn’t a pretty sight.

In the end, the measure got a 13-1 vote, with county Commissioner Joan Patricia Murphy, D-Crestwood, being the lone “no” vote. Two other commissioners cast “present” votes – which probably means they couldn’t figure out at all what they should do when they were finally confronted with the roll call.

And soon, the inmates of our county jail will have a food option that might make their incarceration while awaiting trial (or serving a short sentence for a minor offense) just slightly more bearable.

Not that I would want to be held as an inmate for any length of time. Getting a sandwich stuffed with something other than bologna just doesn’t seem worth it.
AYKROYD (as Blues): Not a fan of the oatmeal

EVEN IF THE Cook County Jail develops a reputation for serving a quality beef sandwich!

I suspect that for most of us, all we’re going to know about the food at the jail is what we learned from The Blues Brothers film – namely that the oatmeal is lousy.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Should this have lasted a little longer?

There’s a chance that we will stop officially thinking about Jon Burge, the one-time police commander on the city’s Far South Side who has long been accused of using brutality against those who wound up at the old Pullman Area police headquarters.

A City Council committee on Monday recommended a $7 million payment to settle a lawsuit filed by two men who claim they were tortured while in police custody by officers who were merely following the lead of Burge.

THAT SETTLEMENT IS likely to get final approval come Wednesday. The City Council could put an end to this fiasco that has lingered over Chicago for so many decades.

Burge himself could soon become just another inmate of the Federal Bureau of Prisons system – where he is serving time not for his violent actions as a cop but because he denied them during testimony he gave in a federal court case.

In short, perjury. Just like how Al Capone did his time in prison for income tax evasion – rather than anything he or his racketeers actually did in ratcheting up the violence in Chicago back in the 1920s (an image our city still is trying to live down).

The part of Burge himself becoming just another schnook serving time in prison doesn’t bother me.

YET AFTER ALL these years, I have to admit that a part of me is bothered to see this lawsuit get settled. Just like the Cook County Board earlier this year was eager to settle the lawsuit filed against it because a Felony Review officer working for the state's attorney's office didn't realize how flawed the evidence was in these cases.

For it seems that city officials were more concerned about preventing a deposition from being given in the lawsuit by the man who was Cook County state’s attorney back at the time that Burge and his cop crew were at their peak.
DALEY: What would he have said?

None other than Richard M. Daley, who went on to become the longtime mayor of Chicago and is now an attorney with serious connections (not bad for a guy who had to try repeatedly before he could even pass the bar exam in Illinois so that he could call himself a lawyer).

It really seems that city officials were more concerned about keeping Daley from embarrassing himself (and the city by association) than they were in providing the defendants with compensation for their ordeals.

WHICH INCLUDED NOT only their moments of police torture but the ordeal of a criminal conviction and decades in prison – before it was determined that the police conduct tainted the whole process to the point where it had to be undone.

Since the lawsuit is being settled, there’s no longer a reason for Daley to ever have to open his mouth and talk about the matter while under oath.

Which probably means we’re never going to truly know what happened all those years ago. The Burge name will forevermore cause certain people to smirk, and others the scowl.

The former will be the ones who enjoy the image of a cop “getting what he deserves,” while the latter will be the ones who think that whatever Burge and his crew did is somehow justified – and that the people who suffered somehow “had it coming.”

AS THOUGH ANYONE deserves to have a plastic bad placed over their head by someone who wants the threat of suffocation to serve as the impetus to providing a self-incriminating statement that made a cop’s job of getting a criminal charge against someone, anyone (who cares who really did it) all the more easier.

If anything, that latter attitude is going to linger for years. It may be one that we will never shake off.

Some people will be convinced that the real injustice was committed against the police, and that somehow the money that will be paid out in the settlements is somehow being wasted.

Which is nonsense. But it is the outcome that we’re going to face because our city officials seemed more interested in not doing anything to resolve this ugly situation, and were more concerned with just making it go away!


Monday, July 23, 2012

Talk about a non-issue

I have to confess. My initial reaction to learning that Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill., will not be in Tampa, Fla., next month to attend the Republican National Convention was something along the lines of, “Who cares?”
WALSH: Passing on Tampa, Fla.

Perhaps it is because I view Walsh (as in the one who can’t play a guitar worth squat) as a no-name political hack, I just can’t envision that anybody is going to miss him when the Republicans gather from across the country to officially make Mitt Romney their political party’s presidential nominee.

YET WALSH WENT out of his way to try to make it sound like the American public would be deprived of his presence by not showing up at the nominating convention.

Which makes me wonder if it is really the party leadership that would rather not be bothered with him and his nitwit ways. Causing Walsh to uninvite himself before he could officially be dumped from the roster of people welcome at the convention.

Officially, Walsh is not part of the Illinois delegation that is required to be present (unlike his Democratic challenger, Tammy Duckworth, who will be an official part of her political party’s gathering in Charlotte, N.C.).

But incumbent congressmen are never turned away. They are encouraged to show up and join the political  gathering, which can also help them make even more contacts that will help them with the fundraising that boosts their chances of victory.

WALSH IS MAKING statements claiming he wants to show his independence of such people, claiming it will make it appear as though he’s a real person – instead of a political hack!

In fact, there probably are a few individuals who will want to believe such a ridiculous line of logic. Then again, these are the people who are so intimidated by the concept of government that they rant and rage against it.

These few crackpots, so to speak, already are inclined to vote for Walsh. All he’s doing is ensuring that his minority (as in numbers of people, not types of people) will show up and vote for him come Nov. 6.

Which means he may increase by 1 or 2 percent his share of the vote, making his eventual electoral defeat just slightly closer than it would be if he were to show up in Tampa.

BECAUSE WHAT WE’D see if Walsh were to show up at his party’s convention is just how out-of-touch he is with people who are serious about governing. The ones who are more interested in coming to consensus on issues.

The ones who appreciate just how stupid and irrational it is for ideologues to prevent any solution from occurring just because one wants to score partisan political points for themselves.

Even if they, in a truly offensive manner, use labels from our history to try to grant greater credibility upon themselves. Tea Party, my tuchus!

If anything, Walsh would find himself rather lonely if he were to venture down to Florida. He’d find that many of his alleged political allies wouldn’t want to be seen standing too close to him. Perhaps even those who have ever worn a military uniform.

SO PERHAPS HIS ego is less likely to be shattered if he stays in the newly-drawn boundaries of the Illinois Eighth Congressional District.

He can pick out a crowd or two of people who will chant on command for him and make him feel like he is special. Then again, that is all that any of the events he now does amount to. Staged chatter from people who will cheer him on and not listen all too closely when he starts sounding like a borderline loon.

In fact, I can already envision Walsh chanting over and over, to boost his own ego, “I am, somebody.”

I’d be willing to bet that none of the people who would show up at a Walsh event would have ever heard the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who uses that line all the time to boost the egos of those people around him.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

EXTRA: Clock ticks ever so slowly

President Barack Obama allegedly will receive one of those ceremonial gubernatorial pens to acknowledge his contribution nearly 25 years ago toward a new law banning landfills from operating in Cook County. Photographs by Gregory Tejeda

How long can it take for issues to get resolved once they enter the alternate universe of Chicago politics?

Take the case of all those landfills that exist at the far southern end of the city, where local residents used to have to accept the stench of decaying trash as just the normal aroma of their home neighborhood.

ACTIVISTS LONG WANTED restrictions imposed. And the ultimate restriction, of sorts, got imposed on Sunday. Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law a measure that bans landfills anywhere in Cook County.

The existing landfills have been sitting idle for decades, on account of city restrictions, despite the desires of the landfill owners to get around them. Now, they will remain dormant forevermore – unless the courts somehow find a way to justify striking down the new law.

But activists down around the Altgeld Gardens public housing complex, along with residents of such 10th Ward neighborhoods as Hegewisch and the East Side, say they’ve been fighting the fight for decades.

Quinn went so far as to dig up an old 1988 newspaper clipping from the Chicago Tribune about how local activists were trying desperately to get restrictions enacted to shutter landfills.

THOSE ACTIVISTS INCLUDE a skinny, big-eared guy who back then was a newcomer to Chicago and had taken a job as a community organizer fighting the good fight on behalf of Altgeld Gardens residents.

None other than Barack Obama himself!

Quinn said he plans to acknowledge the fact that Obama was once a part of this particular political fight nearly a quarter-of-a-century ago. One of the pens he used during bill-signing ceremonies to approve the new landfill ban is White House bound.

Obama will get a state government souvenir acknowledging that one of his causes from back in the day has now become a reality.
Now that they're dormant, landfills look serene

WHICH AMUSES CHERYL Johnson, a longtime Altgeld Gardens activist who picked up on the work of her mother, Hazel, who she said deserves the credit for being the one who “educated” Obama about landfill issues right at her kitchen table.

An image that I’m sure will amuse many.

Although I must concede that this isn’t even close to being the longest-running issue in Chicago politics.

Let’s not forget the whole mess concerning a third airport, which was originally suggested by the federal government back in the late 1970s, stepped up the process in the late 1980s, was supposed to have its first flights by 1999 and by now should have been fully constructed.

WE’RE NOT EVEN close to the first turning of earth toward construction – regardless of what one thinks of that “symbolic” groundbreaking done by Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., D-Ill., just before he developed his “mood disorder.”

And those people old enough to remember the battle of the Crosstown Expressway (a fantasy of late Mayor Richard J. Daley) know that the rhetoric can last for decades before it is ultimately decided to do nothing at all.


A second Hall of Famer for 80-80 Sox?

When Ron Santo’s surviving spouse gives the speech Sunday to accept his membership in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., he will become the second member of the 1974 Chicago White Sox to gain such immortality.

The first, of course, came a few years ago when relief pitcher Rich Gossage gained admission to the Hall of Fame. Gossage was in his third year in the major leagues that year, although showing signs already of how overpowering he could be.

WHICH WAS THE exact opposite of the Santo career in baseball – which spent so many years with the Chicago Cubs, then gained one last season playing in Comiskey Park.

Where the White Sox faithful greeted the ol’ heel-clicker with banners reading, “Welcome to the Major Leagues, Ron Santo!”

It was a final year of a career that may or may not have ended prematurely due to what we now know was Santo dealing with the physical effects of diabetes.

It should not be a shock that he was basically a utility infielder for the White Sox – backing up Mexico Baseball Hall of Fame member Jorge Orta and Bill Melton. A .221 batting average, only 5 home runs and 41 runs batted in, and 72 strikeouts in 117 games played.

HIS WHITE SOX stint has nothing to do with him being in the Hall of Fame. Which is a large part of why I personally have problems getting all excited about his candidacy, and will be glad to see the Santo hoopla come to an end.

For what I remember firsthand was that final season, which came at about the time I started following professional baseball on a regular basis. Much of the Cubs time was just before my time, and from what I read it seems that the Boyer brothers (Ken of the St. Louis Cardinals and Clete of the New York Yankees) were regarded as the top third basemen of that era.

I don’t see either of them getting admitted to the Hall of Fame anytime soon.

But Ron’s in. I’m sure it’s the highlight of this year for Chicago Cubs fans, and personally I’m more curious to see if the White Sox can snatch back first place on Sunday with a  win against the Detroit Tigers.

AND PERHAPS I’LL reminisce a bit more about that ’74 ballclub, which was one of the first I remember following. 

For as it turns out, that ballclub had another player whom the new-school stat geeks like to tout as a potential Hall of Fame pitcher. None other than Jim Kaat, who in that season had a 21-win, 13-loss record with a 2.92 earned run average and 142 strikeouts in 277 1/3 innings pitched.

Whodathunk that the 80-win, 80-loss ball club (compared to 66-96 for the Cubs that season) would have the potential for three Hall of Famers – and none of them would be named Dick Allen?