Thursday, February 28, 2013

A DAY IN THE LIFE (of Chicago): Selective editing of first lady?

President Barack Obama has been pushing for Congress to pass federal laws restricting firearms, particularly those types of combat-intended weapons that can spew the rounds of ammunition faster than most people can count.
OBAMA: Self-preservation?

So perhaps first lady Michelle Obama thought she was doing her part to support “the cause” this week when, during an interview with the “Good Morning America” program, she pointed out that the recent shooting death of Hadiya Pendleton was caused by an “automatic” weapon.

JUST ONE PROBLEM. Chicago police have said they don’t have the weapon, and based on evidence at the crime scene, they think it was more likely a pistol used when two young men trying to shoot at someone else wound up hitting Hadiya instead.

So when the interview aired on ABC affiliates across the nation, Michelle’s answer had a line blipped out of existence. The bit about “automatic” weapons.

The ideologues are convinced this is some sort of effort to protect the first lady from her own mistake, although broadcasters said it was merely a matter of making her answer fit into the couple of seconds of time that was available.

I’m not sure whether there’s any truth to that, although the idea that the ideologues are p-o’ed strikes me as a whole lot of hooey. Those people are always upset. I can’t take them all too seriously, particularly when their obsession is Obama-related.

PERSONALLY, I LIKE the idea of a quotation with a factual inaccuracy being deleted. I know there are times I have refused to use comments from people because they didn’t fully comprehend what they were talking about.

But I doubt that ABC editors were thinking in such high-level terms when they edited this particular interview. Editing on deadline often arouses the practical over the proper.

So Michelle Obama being spared the embarrassment of having said “automatic” weapons were involved in the death of Pendleton? Not a conspiracy by any means. More dumb luck than anything else!

What other issues are of concern along the shores of Lake Michigan?

A DELAY? OR HARBINGER OF THINGS TO COME?: I’m wondering if the conservative ideologues amongst us thought they achieved a victory of sorts this week when an Illinois House committee didn’t act when it was supposed to on the issue of gay marriage.

The matter was postponed for several hours, although the Illinois House executive committee (a committee whose membership consists of party leadership and is the place where bills of special interest to House Speaker Michael Madigan are sent) eventually reconvened and gave their recommendation late Tuesday.

Officials say that when the issue of gun control came up before the full House of Representatives on Tuesday, it wound up angering Republican types so much that committee officials felt that pushing for an immediate vote on gay marriage might backfire.

Yes, political people have been known to base their votes not on the merits of the issue, but on a willingness to “get back” at someone or something totally unrelated. Now, the full House of Representatives will get its say in coming weeks. And the Republican Party will consider dumping their chairman because he implied that perhaps the ideologues are wrong.

COURT’S CLOSED?!?: We’re getting a lot of “scare tactics” reports these days about the local effects of sequestration – the mandated federal budget cuts that will have to take effect Friday because our political officials can’t reach a long-term agreement through negotiation.

The one that caught my attention the most was that the U.S. District courts in Chicago would have to scale back and would only be open four days a week (instead of five). I’m sure that would do devastation to the already-crowded courts.

I also noticed a report saying that the control tower at Gary/Chicago International Airport would have to be shut down. The air traffic controllers would be laid off.

Which sounds scary, until one realizes that most smaller airports (the “International” in the airport’s name is so distortive) do not have controllers, thereby putting pilots on their honor to regulate themselves and control their own landings and takeoffs.


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Testing the Lege for firearms

I wish I were in Springfield on Tuesday, when legislators were put through a series of votes to determine the degree to which the actual members of the General Assembly support the idea of firearms in public.

A busy place Tuesday, and later this spring, for gun control measures

It would be comical to see our legislators have to think for themselves – since the whole point of Tuesday’s exercise was for Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, to figure out just how restrictive a bill could he craft for consideration this spring. Instead of waiting for Madigan to give them "hints" about how they're supposed to vote.

FOR WE HAVE the issue of “concealed carry,” by which people could carry a pistol on their person in public out of a sense of being able to “protect” themselves from potential violent outbursts.

We have a Court of Appeals based in Chicago telling the state Legislature that they have until June to come up with some sort of law permitting such firearms possession. But they’re not telling the state just how open (or restrictive) such a measure needs to be.

Because for all the cheap rhetoric about how Illinois is the only state that does not permit “concealed carry” in public, it really is wrong to claim that our state is some sort of “lone wolf” objector when it comes to firearms use in public.

While there are a few states that take the concept of a person’s right to bear arms everywhere to the extreme, most states have restrictions on who can actually gain the permits that would make the pistols tucked in their shoulder holster or purse legal – and not automatic reason for their arrest.

OFFICIALS IN CALIFORNIA and New York have laws that are so restrictive of who can gain a permit that you could argue that they might as well have an “outright” ban. That certainly is the spirit of their laws.

And we in Illinois have more in common with those states than we do places like Mississippi or Texas.

So for those firearms proponents who think the Illinois Legislature is about to craft a bill that would make it easy for just about everyone to carry that pistol of theirs in public, it’s not likely.

We have state officials who might like to impose every restriction they could think of. While a few others might want absolute minimalist restrictions -- and some of those on Tuesday tried their best to be obstructionists to the process, since they claim they want just an "up" or "down" vote on a single bill; preferably one that gives them everything they want and tells the opposition to "shut up" and get over their opposition.

TUESDAY WAS ABOUT trying to figure out which restrictions would be approved by legislators, and which ones would be absolutely despised.

Those people who are determined to be able to carry pistols when they get on board a bus? To me, and to anyone who actually uses mass transportation on a regular or semi-regular basis, the idea is ludicrous.

The same with the idea that some people have a problem with already existing bans that prevent firearms from being possessed anywhere on property belonging to public universities.

But the firearms rights people seem to want the idea – although I suspect it is more out of a sense of principal that they want something resembling an absolute “right” to have that pistol on their person at all times.

EVEN WHILE INSIDE the grounds of a sports stadium? Perhaps they think they can pull out their pistol and shoot the nitwit sitting in front of them who thinks he can stand all game and block the views of those behind them.

Or perhaps losing quarterbacks will now face the option of a hail of gunfire from the stands when they make a bad pass?

That’s a bit over the top. I doubt anyone would want that to happen – although sports fans have been known to let themselves get caught up in the emotion of the event. Which is why many people would not want minimal-to-no restriction. Life has too many opportunities for people to get caught up in themselves and over-react.

And we’re going to learn how supportive our legislators are of the concept as they practice their way towards voting at some point this spring on a real bill.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

EXTRA: Kelly a big winner; urban vote crushes rural political aspirations

Why was it such a done deal that one-time state Legislator Robin Kelly will get to be a member of Congress – replacing Jesse Jackson, Jr., following an April 9 special election?
KELLY: The new member of Congress?

It was all a matter of population.

THE ILLINOIS SECOND Congressional District may stretch from 53rd Street south to the Kankakee/Iroquois County border. But the bulk of the people living in the district are in Chicago and the inner suburbs of Cook County.

Those people who live in the rural portions of Will and Kankakee counties that got lumped into the district just don’t have enough people to counter the urban mass that the district’s boundaries were drawn around!

Look at it this way. Suburban Cook County, which accounts for about 60 percent of the registered voters of the district, gave former Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson some 5,924 votes (according to unofficial tallies from the Cook County clerk’s office) in Tuesday's special primary election.

By comparison, Kankakee County gave the resident of Crete 3,999 votes.

YET HALVORSON’S KANKAKEE County total was good for 64.51 percent of the vote. Her suburban Cook tally? A mere 19.13 percent – which was only good for second place amongst the inner suburban voters.

When countered with the fact that Kelly managed to take 58.08 percent of the suburban Cook vote and 57.8 percent of the Chicago vote, the Kelly camp became a vote-rich juggernaut that nobody whose primary appeal is to the rural voter was going to overcome.

I did get one giggle from the preliminary election results I saw Tuesday night. The congressional dreams of 9th Ward Alderman Anthony Beale were dependent on him dominating the Chicago portion of the district.

Instead, all Beale got was 20.5 percent of the city vote – compared to the majority of the Chicago vote that went for Kelly.

THE LADY FROM Matteson cleaned Beale’s clock in the city, and thoroughly dominated in her home portion of the Cook County suburbs.

That is why Kelly is going to Washington and Halvorson (who got 8.91 percent of the Chicago city vote) gets to remain in Will County. At least she had the sense to concede this election early on – instead of stubbornly keeping people waiting late into the night in some desperation play to dream of victory.

A couple of other tidbits. It seems that 866 people in suburban Cook spoiled their ballots by voting for state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields. She had killed her campaign and backed Kelly, but her name was still on the printed ballots and some people voted for her anyway.

And I’d like to meet the Will (0.09 percent) and Kankakee (0.1 percent) county residents who actually cast ballots for candidate Fatimah Muhammad – a onetime television broadcaster (for the Univision affiliate in Chicago) turned activist and a member of Minister Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam church.


An Election Day most of us will ignore

For most of us, Tuesday is nothing but Tuesday.

Even for those of us whose communities have municipal elections (or those of us on the Far South Side) who have a chance to have a do-over election for a member of Congress, it will be thought of as just another Tuesday.

THAT’S BECAUSE WAY too many of us have that bit of Archie Bunker in us – as in actor Carroll O’Connor’s character whose many traits included a reluctance to vote for anything other than president.

Voter turnout for the special election to replace Jesse Jackson, Jr., in Congress is expected to be down.

One such report indicated that of the roughly 250,000 registered voters in the district (which stretches from 53rd Street in Chicago to the Kankakee/Iroquois county line), at most maybe 50,000 of them will actually bother to cast ballots.

Kankakee County officials say they expect about 10 percent of their registered voters to actually bother to turn out at the polling places.

I’M SURE THE weather forecasts calling for a 90 percent chance of rain on Tuesday that turns to snow with temperatures just barely over 30 degrees (which means freezing) will do more than their part to persuade many people who have the chance to cast ballots to think it’s not worth the bother.

This is an odd election cycle.

We have a campaign that is attracting national attention. It involves the replacement of a nationally-known name in Congress. It has gained the attention of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg – who sees it as a chance to undermine the political influence brandished by the National Rifle Association.

Yet I can’t help but wonder; do Noo Yawkers care more about this campaign than most people here?

THIS ELECTION CYCLE also is odd because we don’t have an Election Day mode going across the Chicago area. Some suburbs have municipal offices up for grabs – but most of those are non-partisan elections taking place come April 9.

As for Tuesday, there are a few towns such as Cicero or Calumet City where there is feisty attempts at campaign activity taking place. But a few stray towns just doesn’t get many people to believe that the future of our Republic is at stake on this day.

As for me, I didn’t cast any ballot for Tuesday. I live just outside of the Illinois Second Congressional District, which means I voted for my member of Congress (Bobby L. Rush) back in November. I don’t have to think about this until next year.

So in Chicago proper, this IS the only election going. Federal and Cook County posts were up for grabs last year, while state government offices will have their day come next year.

AS FOR THE city government positions, we picked Rahm Emanuel to be our mayor two years ago. He and the aldermen will have to regain our support in 2015. So 2013 is the year Chicago voters get a break.

Unless they have to pick from amongst 9th Ward Alderman Anthony Beale, former Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson from Crete, former state Rep. Robin Kelly from Matteson or any of the other minions who comprise the more-than-a-dozen people wishing they could get the Democratic nomination for the post on Capitol Hill.

I’m sure whichever candidate winds up being able to make a “victory” speech Tuesday night will claim to be expressing the “will” of the people. Yet with all the people who likely will sit on their duffs and do nothing, perhaps we ought to consider that the true “will” of the public.

We thought so much of this election that we couldn’t be bothered to vote. Perhaps that’s why we jokingly call it the Election Daze.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Bring on the G-men? I don’t think so

In the quarter of a century that I have been observing and writing about electoral politics, I have developed a few “rules” for myself as to when to write off a candidate as a “Loser!”

Too much like Facebook? What do you think?!?

The first person to don a sombrero to try to get the Latino vote. The first person to complain, “My opponent won’t debate me.” And anyone who wants to rant and rage in generic terms about the “corrupt Chicago machine.”

THE LATTER ALWAYS means that they merely want to demonize their opposition, and can’t even come up with anything original to use against them.

So we get to hear venal tales of corruption, as though the (usually a) political no-name is somehow different and is the person who can save us from ourselves – even though they usually have no background or experience to indicate that they should be regarded in that context.

So it is with that “rule” in mind that I scoff at the e-mail message I received Sunday from Ernest B. Fenton’s campaign for Congress.

He’s one of the people who has dreams of replacing Jesse Jackson, Jr., on Capitol Hill, and he’s the one who has been using the Facebook logo in his campaign fliers – telling us we should “like” his campaign while using the Facebook “f” in a blue box to help spell out his last name.

PERSONALLY, IF I were the Facebook people, I would sue him for misusing their logo. I doubt they want his campaign dragging their image down, and I doubt he’s paying them any kind of fee for use of their logo.

But I’m not the Facebook people. I’m just a person who was born and raised (although I no longer live) in what is now the Illinois Second Congressional district. I have a personal interest in what has become of my “old neighborhood,” even though I won’t be casting a ballot on Tuesday.
Election gaining attention far outside the district

Fenton is the guy who tipped off reporter-types that he plans to make an announcement on Monday – one in which he wants the Justice Department to monitor the elections.

He’s convinced that it will be stolen away from him – on account of all that money spent by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s committee that is trying to undercut the National Rifle Association influence on politics.

AS THOUGH HE’D be at all significant in this campaign even if Bloomberg had done an Edith Bunker and stifled himself with regards to our special election.

Fenton claims, “The election is meant for the people and it should be decided by the people and not an outside source.” Yet his “solution” is to bring in an “outside source” to influence the election.

Could it be that Fenton just did a terrible job of trying to distinguish himself from the pack of just over a dozen people who want the Democratic Party nomination for the congressional seat? I say that because of all the candidate forums I attended, I cannot recall a single answer he gave to any question.

I know he was present, and my notes indicate he spoke. But there is nothing about him that we can’t find in any of the other candidates.

YET RATHER THAN acknowledge that he’s just one of the masses who didn’t attract any significant level of attention, he wants to rant and rage about corruption and how this election was “stolen” from him!

But without real details of corruption, it comes across more as sour grapes. I'd say that Republican candidate Paul McKinley is more ridiculous with his constant use of the phrase "corrupt Chicago machine" to answer every question, no matter what the topic. But nobody's seriously looking to the GOP for a new member of Congress in this election cycle.

Although I suspect that by writing this commentary, I have just played myself right into the Fenton campaign’s hands – he gets public attention that he otherwise wouldn’t be worthy of.

Not that I think it will matter much. The real “mood of the people” with regards to replacing Jackson in Congress is apathy. I suspect many people who voted for Jackson last year figured that someone better would come along in the special election that inevitably would have to be held.

NOW THAT WE’RE at the point of that special election, the field of candidates has been so big, so massive that it seems like a lot of deadwood – even amongst the so-called favorites.

Perhaps that’s the real reason that voter turnout for Tuesday is expected to be low.

So low that some are figuring it could take as few as 12,000 votes to win – presuming that only about one-fifth of the district’s registered voters actually bother to cast ballots.

What a shame. My old neighborhood deserves better!


Saturday, February 23, 2013

EXTRA: Polls; Take them for what they’re worth come Election Day

KELLY: An 18-point lead?
I couldn’t help but be amused by the pair of polls I stumbled across Saturday morning with regards to the Illinois Second Congressional district campaign.

For a poll taken by the We Ask America group (one whose surveys I have found questionable in the past) has former state Rep. Robin Kelly of suburban Matteson leading solidly 37 percent to 19 percent for former Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson of suburban Crete.

NINTH WARD ALDERMAN Anthony Beale gets a third place with 11.5 percent – with the remaining third of the vote either undecided or split up amongs the other dozen or so candidates with dreams of serving on Capitol Hill as a Democrat.

But then there’s the poll that the Daily Journal newspaper of Kankakee felt compelled to write up – one taken by Victory Research for Chicago’s WCKG radio.

They want to believe that the one-time member of Congress seeking a political comeback is in the lead – 21 percent to 17 percent for Kelly.

Obviously, somebody is significantly “off” and is going to look incredibly stupid come Wednesday morning.

ALTHOUGH MY GUT reaction is that both of them don’t quite have it right.
HALVORSON: Enough Will county votes?

The pollsters who did the Halvorson-leading poll are telling reporter-types that there is evidence that gun control critics are piling on their support to the Lady from Will – although I seriously doubt there are enough people living in the rural portion of the county that is in the Illinois Second to swing it that much.

If there were, we likely wouldn’t be having a special election, because we’d be watching the antics of freshman Rep. Brian Woodworth, R-Ill., instead as he would have beaten Jesse Jackson, Jr., in last year’s general election.

But an 18-point lead in a 15-candidate field? I doubt it. Anybody who thinks Kelly will win by that much probably is convinced that ’13 is THE year for the Chicago Cubs to win it all.


The ugly mood of firearms becomes more and more intense in Illinois

These cheery faces ultimately will decide Illinois' firearms laws. Photograph provided by Supreme Court of the United States

Where do we start?

Probably with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago, which on Friday rejected the request of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to have the court meet en banc to consider the issue of whether Illinois must approve a law that permits at least some people to carry firearms concealed on their persons.

IT WAS A three-judge panel of that appeals court that ruled earlier this year (by a 2-1 vote) that Illinois ought to create some sort of “concealed carry” law – and set a 180-day deadline (ending in June) for the Illinois General Assembly to act.

The hope by people who detest the idea was that the entire appeals court would come in, review the case, and overturn the panel’s ruling. Thereby eliminating any legal pressure to have to act.

But the court isn’t going to do that. Which means the next step is taking the issue to the Supreme Court of the United States, where justices such as Scalia and Thomas are likely to not be sympathetic to the interests of Chicago-oriented government that would prefer to have tough restrictions on firearms within the community and don’t want the sparsely populated rural parts of Illinois to prevail.

So I’m sure there are some people who are convinced that this issue is over, and that the Legislature will now get on with the business of trying to pass something resembling concealed carry so that the guy who’s convinced he will be able to protect the world from the “bad guys” with that pistol tucked in his waistband will no longer be a criminal every time he sets foot outside his house.


I still believe the will of the majority of the General Assembly will be something equivalent to “contempt of court.” I really believe our state’s Legislature will ignore the so-called 180-day deadline and do nothing with regards to “concealed carry.”

After all, there are more important issues such as pension funding reform that need to be addressed. Or at least that’s what the conservative ideologues tried claiming when the Illinois Senate considered (and approved) gay marriage just last week.
ALVAREZ: Her office not willing to give in

Let’s be honest. It was Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez has a policy director who told legislators they could ignore the deadline – on the grounds that only the Supreme Court of Illinois could strike down an Illinois law.

WHICH, FOR ALL I know, will be the sentiment that will further encourage the U.S. Supreme Court to take this case on and rule in a way hostile to the beliefs of the many of Illinoisans.

Because that is another factor that is going to have to be taken into account. I honestly believe a majority of Illinoisans have little or no problem with the restrictions our state now has, and that the ideologues who shout from the rooftops are being given too much credit for the volume of their views.

How else does New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg get away without much of any criticism whatsoever for his political action committee’s meddling in a Chicago-area election for Congress?

Because many of us agree that the National Rifle Association has way too much influence in political matters and needs to be put in check.

SO AT A time when the firearms proponents are convinced that the will of law is determined to give them their way across Illinois (and impose their will on Chicagoans), they’re eventually going to find out how radical and offensive a thought that is to the bulk of us.

Because too many of us realize how realistic is a description put forth in a dissent to the appeals court rejection of the en banc hearing – a situation in which police in New York were within the letter of the law last year when they shot and killed a gunman who was a public threat.

But in that incident, nine other people who happened to be in the area also got shot by stray gunfire from police.

Somehow, I don’t believe that the people who most want to be able to “pack heat” are as good of shots as the NYPD. Or as knowledgable of the law about when it is appropriate to "open fire" in public.


Friday, February 22, 2013

No more anonymity? Count me in!

I write this commentary knowing full well that somebody out there, most likely someone who didn’t have a clue I existed previously, is going to become extremely infuriated.
SILVERSTEIN: A good idea, or just an attention-getter?

For all I know, I may make some permanent enemies.

BUT WHEN IT comes to a bill introduced in the Illinois General Assembly by state Sen. Ira Silverstein, D-Chicago, that would eliminate a person’s ability to post anonymous comments in response to Internet postings, count me in!

I would have no problem with a new law that would require anyone wishing to put their views on this weblog at the end of my daily efforts to have to identify themselves.

Not that I’m interested in publishing the IP and mailing addresses of any of my commenters. But I actually believe that people having to take credit for their thoughts is more likely to make them more responsible – and reduce the amount of borderline literate trash talk that pollutes the Internet and chips away at its credibility.

A similar effort was tried in the state Legislature in New York, but went nowhere. Personally, I suspect Silverstein’s effort will meet the same legislative fate.

OUR LEGISLATORS MAY well conclude that they have more important things to deal with than the nonsensical posts that all too often criticize everything in sight – and occasionally do so in such a crass and vulgar manner that I always wind up feeling more stupid for having wasted a few seconds reading them.

Anything that eliminates waste and stupidity is a good thing. So Silverstein gets my praise for his effort – even though I know he’s mostly trying to get himself some public attention without having to do any of the heavy lifting of actually getting a bill through the legislative process toward becoming a new law.

Now I know this is not a popular idea amongst those people who spend (in my opinion) way too much time posting comments on various Internet sites to the point that I wonder if they have any lives beyond (most likely) using their work computers to write their ramblings.

I’d think it a better use of their time if they went back to playing Solitaire on their computers!

THE RESPONSES (ALL anonymous) that I have read try to make this out to be some sort of censorship issue – one in which their Constitutional right to freedom of expression is being threatened.

All “red-blooded Americans” ought to be prepared to “defend to the death” (often attributed to Voltaire) their right to anonymously post a hateful rant that basically amounts to them telling the original writer to shut the hell up and NEVER disagree with their (often close-minded) thoughts in public again.

Yes, I find way too many anonymous posts to be about trying to stifle debate. They’re not about expressing one’s thoughts. Which makes the whole concept that this amounts to censorship to be a whole lot of nonsense!

Which is why I consider myself generous in that I permit just about all comments on this weblog – except for those people who persist in delving down into profanity to express themselves.

IF ANY OF these people were to want to create their own sites on the Internet and use them to express their thoughts on issues, I have no problem with that. If they want to engage in hateful rants, that’s their business.

I’m not going to bother spending time to read them. But they are free to express themselves in such a way if that’s the best they can do. Heck, I’ll even offer them technical advice or any other support in the creation of such Internet sites.

Just don’t think you have a right to come onto my weblogs (or anyone else’s sites) and impose yourself. Because if anyone is trying to engage in censorship, it is you – the anonymous one.

And perhaps the reason you’re so desperate for anonymity is that old Mark Twain saying; the one about opening your mouth and “removing all doubt” that you’re a fool.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Sorry. But will public buy Jr.’s apology?

“Tell everybody back home, I’m sorry I let them down, okay?”


JACKSON: Accepting his apology?
Those were the words of wisdom uttered Wednesday by Jesse Jackson, Jr., following his court appearance in the District of Columbia at which he formally entered a “guilty” plea to the criminal charges based off the fact that he spent significant amounts of his campaign contributions on celebrity memorabilia for himself.

Which must be a disappointment for those ideologues who for months, if not years, have been ranting that “Junior” is on his way to prison for trying to “buy” himself a seat in the U.S. Senate, or a series of political deals they desperately want to view as corrupt because they don’t comply with their own ideological hang-ups.

INSTEAD, JACKSON FACES the possibility of about five years in a federal correctional center of some sort (probably a minimum-security work camp) because he absolutely needed to have a fedora once worn by singer Michael Jackson.

Too bad the Congressman couldn’t have used his campaign cash to buy that famed white glove – that would have been too perfect!

The court appearance Wednesday morning (wife Sandi had her own court appearance in the afternoon) was unique because few of us have seen the now-former Congressman in public anywhere.

Personally, the last time I encountered him was back in May (or was it late April?) when he made an appearance in suburban South Holland to talk up the concept of a new airport in rural Will County – a project that many other political officials may steer away from just because it is so associated with Jackson’s name.

IT IS THE airport tentatively given the International Air Transport Association code of “JJK” (to go along with “ORD” for O’Hare International and “MDW” for Midway airports). How quickly will those officials now try to erase any evidence that they ever considered making the likely Chicago Southland International Airport a tribute to Jesse, Jr.?

Perhaps it is with that thought of self-preservation in mind that Jackson himself felt compelled to issue the apology. Because most officials in those moments just after having to enter the “guilty” plea (which forecloses any attempt to defend themselves legally) don’t worry about such concerns.

Or else they try to come up with some line that, in their minds, diminishes their guilt.

Instead, Jackson wants us to not hate him for his actions; which technically, if handled in a different manner, could have been construed as legal – if not still a tacky waste of cash that could have gone to something more worthwhile.

THAT IS WHAT makes this whole Jackson affair so laughable!

We were supposed to think that Jackson was conniving with former Gov. Rod Blagojevich to get himself appointed to a U.S. Senate seat – even though the reality was that Blagojevich himself was petty enough that he NEVER would have given Jackson such an influential post.

Despite the fact that Jackson probably would have been the best qualified of all the people in serious running for the post. The fact that Roland Burris ultimately got the appointment was more a “drop dead” gesture from Blagojevich to people who had a problem with the governor himself being enriched in any way.

I suspect that the people who wanted to believe the worst are going to continue to still do so. They are the ones who I suspect are going to refuse to accept anything in the way of apology.

HECK, THEY’RE THE ones who already are on the Internet ranting and raging that Jackson wasn’t immediately sent to prison (he’s scheduled for sentencing in June).
RYAN: Replaced by Jackson for public contempt?

It has me thinking that the people who for years have let their venom build up against former Gov. George Ryan will now transfer their hate to Jackson – he’ll be the guy whom they make tacky jokes about and will probably wish has something horrible happen to him during his incarceration.

Personally, I can’t comprehend such hate. The fact that Jackson felt the need to own items that once belonged to martial arts expert Bruce Lee is more laughable than criminal.

So as far as I’m concerned, accepting Jackson’s “apology” ought to be a no-brainer. Rather than linger in a pool of political bile, it allows all of us to get on with our lives.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

How outraged are we when it comes to firearms amongst the public?

Debbie Halvorson has tried to make an issue in her bid for a Congressional comeback that an outsider – in the form of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg – is meddling in ways meant to hurt her Election Day chances.

BLOOMBERG: Concerned citizen? Or meddler?

Yet it doesn’t seem like the locals are all that upset. Somehow, I suspect if Mayor Rahm Emanuel were to try to influence a New York election, we’d hear the cry from the Bronx to Brooklyn to Staten Island – “Shaddup!!!”

HE'D BE DEMONIZED. He’d get trashed for meddling. We’re not hearing anything like that against Bloomberg. Is it because the bulk of us approve of his message?

Specifically, Bloomberg has used his personal wealth to create one of those Super PAC organizations that can pay for campaign advertising related to issues (instead of candidates).

For Bloomberg, the issue he wants to promote is gun control. He also wants to take down the political influence that the National Rifle Association. So he’s making much of the fact that the NRA did not find Halvorson completely repulsive back when she was in Congress (and before that, in the state Legislature).

Bloomberg is even endorsing former state Rep. Robin Kelly in the campaign to replace Jesse Jackson, Jr., in the House of Representatives – on the grounds that her “F” grade from the NRA makes her ideal!

YET KELLY DOESN'T seem all that concerned. She goes around citing her “F” as an accomplishment. She seems to think the legislative district is so overwhelmingly urban (about 85 percent of its voters are from either Chicago proper or the inner suburbs) that the rural residents at the district’s southern end won’t be able to hurt her – no matter how much they object to her stance on firearms-related issues.

She may be right, although I encountered a suburban mayor this past weekend who supports Halvorson, and said he thinks all those rural voters will turn out so strongly for her BECAUSE they will want to send a message to Bloomberg that they don’t want his firearms restrictions into law.
HALVORSON: The target?

Yet there probably aren’t enough of them to shift the results of the Tuesday Democratic primary election (also because I think most of those people will be looking to the Republican primary and its five candidates).

But for the bulk of people who live in the Illinois Second Congressional district, it would seem we’re seeing these Bloomberg television spots and not getting all that upset by the message.

MANY OF US may even agree with them.

I couldn’t help but notice on Tuesday the results of a new poll by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute – 59.5 percent of those surveyed think controlling gun ownership is more important than protecting the right to own guns (31.3 percent).

And some 72.3 percent said they think laws concerning firearms sales should be made more strict – compared to the 2.2 percent who want them to be less strict.

In Colorado this week, the state Legislature gave its approval to a series of restrictions on firearms and ammunition – including the latest fad of banning ammunition clips that can hold dozens of rounds of bullets at once.

SOME 62.8 PERCENT would like to see such a measure in Illinois, according to the poll.

All of which makes me wonder about the political fight we’re going to see in our own Legislature this spring. Don’t forget that there’s an appellate court ruling that indicates Illinois has to create some sort of measure that allows people to carry pistols on their person in public.
KELLY: The beneficiary?

The firearms rights advocates are going about with a sense of confidence that they don’t have to concede anything, and that a lot of the talk of restrictions they have had to fight will now be on the defensive.

But if that were true, wouldn’t we have more public outcry in Halvorson’s defense? Wouldn’t we have people publicly denouncing the effort – instead of sitting quietly on the sidelines with a little smirk on our collective faces?

ONE OTHER FACTOR from that poll I couldn’t help but notice – 49.7 percent of those surveyed don’t think the Constitution’s Second Amendment includes “concealed carry,” compared to 39.5 percent who say “yes.” Some 71.3 percent think there should be exceptions to concealed carry, as in places where firearms can be banned absolutely.

That brawl we’re going to see in coming months will be ugly. It may wind up making the rhetoric against gay marriage look weak and tame by comparison.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Baseball coming back, even if it's not quite in the same form as we’d like

The Caribbean Series stoked the fire in my belly for baseball, and the fact that workouts are taking place now is keeping the flame a smoulderin’ to the point where I can say I can’t wait for April to come about.

I can't wait to see the scoreboard again live, even if its fireworks and lights display isn't anywhere near as intimidating as the old ballpark's scoreboard was. Photograph by Gregory Tejeda

Forget “March Madness.” I want to get out to the ballpark this season to see live baseball being played professionally.

AND I’M NOT up to waiting ‘til July or August (the latter of which is when the New York Yankees will make their annual visit to Chicago). A part of me wants to sit in the chill of April and see a ballgame. People who live in the south or west don’t know what their unnatural weather cycles are depriving them of.

All of this has me scouring any information source I can find for any tidbits of information about what 2013 and beyond will be like.

Which is how I happened on Monday to stumble on a pair of stories that make me realize just how much times change, even if certain elements remain in some form.
Coasters may be completely obsolete next year

Take the Chicago Cubs, who in the minds of so many Chicagoans are aligned with WGN, both television and radio, to the point that whenever a Chicago White Sox game airs on Channel 9, I know of some people who rant and rage that the Sox should go find their own station and stay off the Cubs’ station.

SO HOW ARE those people going to react come next season, IF it turns out that the Chicago Tribune got it right on Monday when they reported there’s a chance that the Cubs will not renew a contract that goes back to 1948. You’ll probably have to have some form of pay television in order to see the Cubs bumble their way through another season.

I wouldn’t pay good money for it, but I know many people who would.

The Tribune report indicates that Cubs ownership is being vague and refusing to say much of anything, other than hints about how they’d like to have their own station to broadcast their games and market their product and bleed dry for as much money as they could get.

Heck, when Tribune Co. owned the Cubs, they turned them into the big programming source that they made so much money off of – no matter how bad the ball club played.

NOW WE’RE LIKELY to get a Chicago Cubs’ channel, similar to the Yankees and their YES Network that gives people all the baseball-related programming they could ever dream of.

So no more bothering with Channel 9, which may well revert back to what it once was – a place where you could watch all those “Andy Griffith Show” reruns – except that in the modern era of television programming, there are many channels broadcasting Don Knotts’ “Barney Fife” character carrying his lone bullet.

Not that this is the only change. It seems some fans don’t have a clue that being at a ballgame can be a risky adventure.

For the Times of Northwest Indiana newspaper reported Monday about an Indiana Court of Appeals ruling in favor of the Gary Southshore Railcats (the ball club owned by the family of one-time Republican politico Al Salvi) – who were being sued by a fan who on Opening Day in 2009 was hit in the face by a foul ball that went into the stands.

MOST FANS I have ever known are aware of that tiny print on the ticket that says you should be wary of foul balls – which are rarely softly arching pop ups that you can catch barehanded.

While I sympathize with the fan who had several bones in her face fractured and also suffered some vision loss, I’m not surprised to learn that the Hoosier court rejected the lawsuit, saying that baseball fans ought to know enough about the game to protect themselves.

Although it has me wondering if the day will come eventually when some ballclub is going to feel compelled to extend the backstop screen from just behind home plate to all the way around the foul lines.

I was once in a minor league ballpark in Peoria (not their current stadium, but the old one) where there was such a screen, and it gave me the sense that the fans were somehow being caged in away from the playing field.

CERTAINLY NOT THE ideal for someone who has shelled out good money (and significant amounts, if it is a major league ballgame) for the live experience.

Perhaps the people who want such an environment are the ones who ought to stay home and watch the ballgames on television. Although they’d probably wind up filing a lawsuit claiming they can’t find the new Cubs’ television channel amongst the hundreds of channels that already are out there.


Monday, February 18, 2013

EXTRA: Halvorson ideological “flip flop” is headache-inducing for us all

HALVORSON: Which extreme is she?
Am I the only one who thinks the trash-talk being spewed these days against the Congressional campaign of Debbie Halvorson is just a tad absurd?

To listen to the rhetoric being inspired by the political action committee headed up by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg – whose interest is in fighting for tougher gun control measures and against the political influence of the National Rifle Association – Debbie is Illinois’ answer to Sarah Palin.

HALVORSON, DURING HER two years (2009 and 2010) as a member of Congress, had a voting record that wasn’t totally despised by the NRA (compared to the “F” grade they gave to one-time state Rep. Robin Kelly).

But now we’re supposed to believe that Halvorson is some sort of gun nut. Maybe she’s out there in a corn field near her home in Crete at the edge of the Chicago suburbs with an AK-47 shooting at deer – just like Palin encouraged the image of herself hunting moose in the wilds of Alaska?

That image of Halvorson is just too ridiculous to take seriously.

It’s true that Halvorson says firearms restrictions alone won’t reduce urban violence – she also says we ought to have more funding to create vocational programs in hopes that non-college bound people will find some skills of use that will detract them from the streets and gangs and violence.

BUT THERE ARE people trying to push Debbie so far to the right that it’s downright absurd. She's probably somewhere in the middle; we agree with her on some points, and disagree on others.

Actually, it’s just as ridiculous as the rhetoric she faced back in the 2010 election cycle. That was when the residents of rural Will County turned on Debbie despite her life-long residency in the old Congressional district to send Republican Adam Kinzinger to Congress.

She was one of the targets of the “Tea Party” types who thought Halvorson was some sort of liberal urban freak (a graduate of Bloom High School in Chicago Heights and a Democrat who took marching orders from then-Senate President Emil Jones). In fact, those people who live in her newly-crafted Congressional district are the ones who are still going to dump on her for “liberal” tendencies – while others will trash her for “conservative” leanings.

Halvorson just can’t seem to win! No matter what she says or does.

NOW THIS IS not meant as any kind of Halvorson endorsement. Personally, I think circumstances are such that her time as an elected official has come and gone. Twelve years in the Illinois Legislature and one term in the House of Representatives is more time than many political dreamers ever get.

In fact, I fear she could become the female version of Roland Burris (who spent a decade’s worth of time in the 1990s and 2000s unsuccessfully running for office and gradually making himself look more and more foolish with each campaign).

Although I wonder if some sort of appointed post is in her future – particularly since the man (Jesse Jackson, Jr.) who was so vehemently opposed to her getting an Illinois transportation appointment is now gone from the political scene. Unless she persists with future campaigns that chip away at her public perception.

It’s all in her own hands!

EDITOR'S NOTE: Insofar as the Bloomberg-inspired ads that Halvorson complains about, I just have one thought. How vehemently would New Yorkers react if Mayor Rahm Emanuel did or said anything to try to influence it? How quickly would they tell Rahm-bo to "stuff it!"