Friday, May 31, 2013

EXTRA: Who sez Chgo runs Ill.?

This century-old gloomy mood is being felt by much of the Statehouse scene

·        No new law permitting for legitimate marriage between gay couples.

·        No measure providing for reform of the way the state covers the cost of public pensions – even though both Democratic leaders from Chicago wanted it.

·        No casino for Chicago, or for south suburban Cook County either.

·        No new law banning ammunition magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds at a time – despite the fact that Gov. Pat Quinn shamelessly brought in the families of children killed in Newtown, Conn., last year to try to appeal to public sentiment.

·        The state IS going to provide some funding for Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s desire to build a sports arena near McCormick Place – but ONLY because it got tied into a bill along with the long-proposed airport in the farmland lying between Monee, Beecher and Peotone, along with a project near rural Tuscola (where the locals think the “Big City” is Champaign and Urbana).


In fact, what the Illinois General Assembly’s now-completed Spring '13 session is going to be remembered for is the fact that Illinois got pressured into adopting a “concealed carry” measure – although the rural interests that were demanding their viewpoint on firearms prevail across all of Illinois fell short.

So the "urban" victory is that the concept of “home rule” prevailed – and we’re likely to have a mish-mash of policies where firearms owners ARE going to have to pay attention to where they are when they go out in public with that pistol tucked in a waistband or shoulder holster.

SO MUCH FOR the idea that this veto-proof Democratic majority in both the Illinois House and state Senate was going to result in Chicago running amok over everybody in Illinois. There hasn't been any legislative roughshod-running since 1995-96 -- back in the days when the Republicans dominated everything!

Although Quinn made a point Friday night of issuing a statement on “marriage equality” saying, “This is not over. The fight goes on.” We’ll have to wait and see.


EXTRA: Perhaps Illinois legislators need a lesson on how to cast a vote

Both the Illinois Senate and House of Representatives gave overwhelming votes of support on Friday for a measure permitting “concealed carry” – the practice of carrying a pistol on one’s person in public for self-defense.

JONES: Meant to vote "yes"
Yet it seems that some legislators don’t want to have to take criticism for how the official record will record their stance. In the Illinois House, the final vote was 89-28.

ONE OF THE people who did not vote was state Rep. Thaddeus Jones, D-Calumet City. Is he really position-less on the matter?

Or is he telling the truth when, as he explained after the vote was taken, he meant to vote “yes” but that the device on his desk that allows him to vote on bills did not function.

Did someone really “turn off” his device to prevent him from being vote number 90? Who’s to say!

Although his explanation bothers me less than that of state Rep. Edward Acevedo, D-Chicago, who is recorded as voting “yes” for the bill, but says he wants to be thought of as having voted “present.”

NOT THE BOLDEST of actions – although it prevents the National Rifle Association-types from being able to criticize him on the issue.

So now, the issue goes to Gov. Pat Quinn – who likely will sign it to avoid legal catastrophe from being imposed by the federal appeals courts. Although this is a man who has been willing to say “no” to the gambling interests who dream of more and more casinos across Illinois.

ACEVEDO: Pushed the wrong button
And we may soon have a law that allows those people in rural parts of the state to carry pistols for use against anyone they feel threatens them – although the larger municipalities with Home Rule powers will have the ability to push their own restrictions on firearms.

Which will tick off the rural interests; for whom a large part of this whole issue was imposing their perspective on firearms onto Chicago and the whole state.

SO FOR THOSE who are upset that Illinois won’t be in a group with California and New York (states that give their local police great authority to reject applications for firearms permits), keep in mind that the law could have wound up much worse!

Although I’m still waiting for the first incident where someone who is armed gets crocked in a restaurant that serves liquor, then feels threatened by the presence of another patron in the booth two seats away.


People won’t realize until too late that quality costs more, but also means more

I managed to miss the gathering of a couple dozen people who picketed briefly this week outside the Tribune Tower to express their disgust with the very notion that the billionaire (and highly ideological) Koch brothers could wind up as the new owners of the Chicago Tribune.

But while I don’t doubt the Kochs would do funky things with the content of our city’s larger newspaper (I don’t buy into the concocted math that the Chicago Sun-Times uses to claim it is bigger), I think those people who are concerned about the quality of the news reports we get ought to be more concerned about what’s happening these days at the one-time “Bright One.”

AS I WRITE this, I’m still trying to accept the Sun-Times’ announcement that it found another 20 to 30 people it can lay off from their jobs – the Chicago Sun-Times no longer employs photographers.

Which strikes the historian in me as ironic in that one of the Sun-Times predecessors (the Daily Times created in the 1920s) billed itself as the first Chicago newspaper to rely heavily on photographs to tell the news.

Not that there won’t be photographs in the Sun-Times. The newspaper (along with its websites and any other products the Wrapports company decides to create) says it will rely on freelance photographers, along with the possibility of its news reporters being expected to take a camera of sorts with them to assignments.

A reporter trying to comprehend the intricacies of public policy so as to explain it properly to the public will have to take pauses in their mental process to snap a picture.

AND IF THEY wind up having to spend too much time getting that exact right shot, they’re likely to miss details.

Trust me when I say that it is going to impact the quality of images in the newspaper/website/whatever, it will hurt the reporting as well.

I write this knowing full well that I am not capable of doing both, and I know I’m not unique. I realize there are some professional newspeople who can point to times in their careers where they worked for publications that expected them to do double duty.

But that is evidence of the fact those people worked for cheap publications – ones that were small-staffed enough because they didn’t expect to publish anything of any substance.

SOMEHOW, I DOUBT that the Sun-Times’ key to financial success is to publish a less substantial newspaper – which would lead to less substantial websites and other information-oriented products.

Because the reality of our news is that while an increasing number of people may want to read their stories on the Internet, the websites that are the most highly-read are the ones that are affiliated with existing newspapers or television stations or other newsgathering outfits.

They are the ones that can reappropriate the content for the Internet. And in cases where they first publish a breaking story on the website, it can be updated and rewritten for the following day’s newspaper.

Which can result in better copy – except in cases where editors think the printed word is supposed to be less substantial than what turns up on the website.

I DON’T DOUBT that some, if not most, of the freelance photographers the Sun-Times winds up relying upon will be the same individuals who were, until Thursday, gainfully employed by the newspaper.

Some of them may even draw so many assignments that the amount of money in their paychecks will be about the same as they were taking home before. But freelancers don’t get the benefits or job security that usually inspires an employee to take his company’s product seriously.

What this all comes down to is an attempt to reduce the budget by not having to cover health insurance benefits. Because these workers are now going to have to figure out how to get themselves coverage.

Which means that it would be a heck of a lot of nerve on the Sun-Times’ part if they take up the cause of ranting and raging against “Obama-care,” because they’re adding to the number of uninsured who will have to take advantage of federal benefits – all so they can try to bolster their financial bottom line.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Different location; same objections

How much griping and grousing will it take before the powers-that-be who want to build special detention facilities to hold people facing immigration-related violations realize that the idea stinks?

Apparently, some people aren’t listening.

BECAUSE IN READING a Chicago Tribune report about the objections to a proposal to build such a facility near Joliet, I couldn’t help but notice there was nothing new in the debate.

The exact same arguments were made last year when officials were focusing their attention on building a facility near suburban Crete.

No matter where one wants to put this facility, the people are going to object. There’s no way to make this look pretty.

At stake is a series of facilities that Corrections Corp. of America want to build across the country. They envision five facilities – one each in various parts of the United States.

THE FACILITY BEING proposed for near Joliet would be the Chicago-area facility in their plan, and likely would be used to detain people suspected of immigration law violations in the Midwestern U.S.

Last year, the attention focused on a site near Crete – which is a Will County town that is about as far south as one can go and still claim to be in the Chicago-area. The actual site of farmland that would have been turned into the facility is pretty much the edge between urban and rural development in Illinois.

But the locals hated the idea of having any facility that even remotely resembled a jail near their community. When combined with the immigration rights activists who despise the idea of these privately-owned facilities being used to detain people, it was enough to get local officials to back away from the project.

Now, the supporters still want their Chicago-area facility for alleged immigration violators caught in the Midwest. So they’ve merely moved to the other end of Will County.

INSTEAD OF FAR south, it will be far southwest. Although that would put it near some brand-new residential development that is the very reason why Will County is the fastest-growing county in Illinois.

Which means even more people will be disgusted at the thought of a jail-like facility near their brand-new homes!

Personally, I hate the idea of outsourcing this, so to speak, to private entities. If Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials really want to detain these facilities, they ought to operate the facilities themselves.

Contracting out to private companies is more about try to undermine any unions that would be involved in representing employees at a federal facility.

ALTHOUGH I WILL agree the current situation is unacceptable. Federal officials have been turning over the people awaiting deportation hearings to the McHenry County Sheriff’s department – which has been putting them in its county jail.
All mixed in with that far northwestern suburb's criminal element. That's abhorrent -- no matter how far to the "right" one is!

As some will say, we’re talking about some people being put in jail indefinitely (the feds have a backlog when it comes to deportation hearings) because they might have been caught running a red light and couldn’t immediately satisfy a local cop about what their immigration status was.

The immigration violations themselves aren’t “criminal” offenses (no matter how much the conservative ideologues want to believe they are!). Jail is a miserable fate for them.

THE REAL SOLUTION to the problem is to get the feds to start moving along at a quicker pace when it comes to addressing immigration cases. Maybe the money that would be paid to Corrections Corp. ought to be put into hiring more hearing officers to reduce the backlog.

Although there also are the occasional incidents where someone gets picked up by immigration, then finds themselves back in a foreign country within days. Our system can move along properly, when it feels properly motivated.

But more often than not, it doesn’t.

Which is why some people think it a smart thing to pay millions to a Nashville, Tenn.-based company to operate jail-like facilities for “foreigners.”

I THINK THOSE ideologues just like the concept so much they’re willing to waste federal dollars on construction, piled on to the millions that has been wasted in recent years to build up a wall along the U.S./Mexico border.

And there’s no place within metro Chicago that’s going to want to be associated with this stinker of an idea!


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

EXTRA: Shows how little I know about hockey – the Hawks actually won!

I was amazed the Chicago Blackhawks even managed to create a Game Seven – I thought they’d flub out earlier. Then to take that final game into overtime before finally winning; it’s more drama than I would have thought possible.

Chicago's newest sports hero

Although you have to admit that having a lead, then blowing it in the final period of regulation play, and failing to take it back in the final two minutes, is so in character for a Chicago sports team.

BUT BRENT SEABROOK’S goal that put the Blackhawks back in the lead in overtime may have erased those memories. At the very least, there is a segment of the city that will forevermore consider Seabrook an honorary Chicagoan for life!

For those feeling a little bitter toward Detroit for even making it a competitive playoff, who knows? Maybe the White Sox will somehow beat up on the Tigers later this summer. Hey, anybody can dream! Because it’s more likely that the Tigers will give Detroit their payback against our sports scene when it comes to who even qualifies for the American League playoff scene.

All of this makes me wonder what Barack Obama was thinking about having a political fundraiser in our fair city on a day when many of us are more sports-obsessed – either for the Blackhawks or for the “Crosstown” baseball match-up.

He may have kept his remarks short. But he should have known better than to try having an event at all Wednesday night.

AND YES, WHILE waiting for a commuter train this morning, I saw one trio of people headed together for Wrigley Field – wearing Blackhawks jerseys with baseball caps for varying ball clubs. Although the well-figured girl with them had the skin-tight White Sox tube top to break the baseball partisan mix.

An old-time hockey example?
Insofar as my own thoughts about the Blackhawks, all I know is that after watching Chicago battle Detroit and Boston play New York, all that “Original Six” atmosphere made for an interesting round of playoffs.

Somehow, it just seems so wrong that Chicago now has to play the Los Angeles Kings!

Let’s all hope for a Chicago victory over L.A., combined with a Boston Bruins victory over Pittsburgh. A good ol’ fashioned Stanley Cup would be quite a sight.


Separate Chicago for gambling? Legislators don’t trust enough to do it

I’m sure there are some people who heard what Illinois Gaming Board Chairman Aaron Jaffe said about a Chicago-based casino and think he makes total sense.

QUINN: Soon to be in his hands

That is, to put the concept of creating a new Chicago casino in one bill, and have completely separate legislation for the General Assembly to approve with regards to expanded gambling opportunities in the rest of the state.

IT WOULD OVERCOME, in a sense, the idea that there is too much crammed into one bill. What with five new casinos, along with more slot machine opportunities and gambling benefits for the racetracks – which can’t seem to survive financially just by offering horseracing.

The so-called Sport of Kings is nothing more than a racket for guys who don’t want to work for a living. Think of the late actor John Candy’s “Uncle Buck” character – without the adorable kids at his side.

It’s bad enough that even they want a piece of the casino action.

Which adds to the interests that want a share! Which makes the bill bigger and bigger and bigger.

SO WHEN JAFFE told the Associated Press this week that he’d like to see all this activity split up into separate bills, I’m sure he was well-meaning. He may even have been sincere.

Although I’d like to think he’s been around the Chicago political scene to know there’s no way this issue will ever be split up. Perhaps this is his way of trying to drive a political stake through its heart.

For Jaffe has made it known before that he’s not too enthused about all the expanded gambling talk. His board already oversees the 10 casinos located in outer suburbs and rural towns across Illinois. He thinks they have enough to do already.
Horseplayers wish they were this cute

Although the people who want a Chicago casino don’t want to add to his workload. They’re the ones who want any city-based casino to be put into a different category – one that would be regulated by the city itself.

WHETHER YOU TRUST that depends on whether you believe that Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his successors would be inclined to appoint a serious regulatory authority of their own to ensure no funky stuff takes place at a Chicago casino.

Or perhaps you’re more the cynical type who views this as an attempt to get pesky regulators away from a Chicago casino – thereby allowing it to operate in a “business-friendly” manner.

In circumstances like this, I’m inclined to think of “business-friendly” as synonymous with no regulation whatsoever. So count me amongst the critics!

Which puts me in the same category as Pat Quinn, since the governor has used this “too much on one bill” logic to justify his two vetoes of the issue. Without any significant change in approach, he’s likely to issue Veto Number Three. But it won’t happen – because the reason things get lumped together in Springfield is because nobody trusts anybody else to vote to support something, unless it’s all part of a package. Everybody would fear the double-cross if there were separate bills.

QUINN ALSO HAS said he considers other issues before the General Assembly to be just a tad bit more important this year – meaning he’s threatening to reject more gambling outright if those issues (pension funding reform?) are not addressed.

Personally, I’m inclined to think this is a non-issue for now. There is just too much in the way of other business that needs to be taken care of. Ignoring all that stuff (concealed carry, gay marriage, to name a couple) while obsessing over the idea of a lakefront casino would just make the Legislature look too out-of-touch.
EMANUEL: He really, really wants that casino

Although if the casino were to be considered for the area south of the Loop, perhaps near the McCormick Place convention center, then the whole idea of building a 10,000-seat arena to draw more sports events to Chicago almost starts to make sense.

It makes me wonder what the people at DePaul University will think, if their men’s basketball program winds up becoming nothing more than bait to lure even more people to the area, and it’s casino, to lose their money!


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Is it proper to pardon the “criminal” amongst our political people?

Back when I covered the General Assembly on a full-time basis, there was a member of the Illinois House of Representatives named Coy Pugh.

PUGH: No better, or worse, than colleagues
He served about a decade representing assorted West Side neighborhoods in the Legislature, and probably wouldn’t have stood out in my mind at all except for one fact.

PUGH HAS A criminal record. He served stints in both federal and state prisons, and also knows what the inside of the Cook County Jail is like. But in his early 30s, he “found religion” and managed to clean up his act, getting himself an education and getting off the drugs that had led him into many improper acts.

Now I’m not trying to offer up any apologies for Pugh – whom I haven’t seen since the day that then-Gov. George Ryan commuted all those death row sentences and Pugh happened to be in attendance for the announcement at Northwestern University.

But the memories I have of Pugh as a legislator are that he wasn’t any more, or less, competent than anyone else who served in the General Assembly at the time.

There were those who had hang-ups about his presence at the Statehouse. But it always seemed motivated more by partisan politics and ideological concerns than anything legitimate.

PERHAPS IT IS because of this factor that I don’t get as worked up over a set of stories that have cropped up in recent weeks concerning people with criminal records who have managed to get themselves elected to office. I wouldn’t want a Legislature or City Council full of felons (insert your tacky joke here about the politicos being felons-in-training).

But there may be a few who have learned from their experience and are capable of serving in the representative bodies of government. Particularly if the voters in their respective districts are willing to put them there.

QUINN: Complaints about pardons
Just on Monday, the Chicago Sun-Times published a recent study by the Better Government Association concerning Juan Elias. He works for 1st Ward Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno, had criminal convictions and was less-than-upfront about them when he first applied for a city payroll job.

There are those who’d like to see him fired just for that factor. But Gov. Pat Quinn threw a wrench into those works when he approved a pardon for Elias. Which means his criminal convictions aren’t supposed to be held against him any longer.

THIS ISN’T EVEN a new move.

For in suburban Harvey, there is District 152 school board President Janet Rogers with a pair of felony convictions – which has the Illinois attorney general’s office trying to figure out how she can be removed from office. But Quinn gave her a pardon as well.

In her case, one of her convictions related to her providing false information about her finances when her son tried to get a financial aid package to go to college.

But she was able to get into political office (school boards are as political an animal as any other) first through appointment, then through election. Part of what allowed her to slip through is that her conviction was done under her maiden name.

SO SOMEWHERE ALONG the line, people didn’t realize at first that she had a record. Although considering that she keeps getting re-elected, they don’t seem to care (although it should be acknowledged that in many suburban boards, there are barely enough candidates to fill them. People often run un-opposed).

At the time of the pardon for Rogers, Quinn aides did not offer specific explanations for her case – preferring to talk in generalities about the pardon process.

ROGERS: Keeping her school board post
It may well be that Quinn believes in a second chance, or saw that these officials weren’t any less inept than the non-felons who got elected to office. Or that it is questionable to dump someone from office whom the voters put there – which is Rogers’ case. Or in the case of Elias, not forcing someone out just because the critics might be offended at his superior (Moreno is the alderman who previously got into the public spat with the Chick-fil-A people when they wanted to locate in his ward over his objections).

Or maybe he just saw how ridiculously absurd the pardon and clemency process had become in Illinois.

BECAUSE QUINN HAS a backlog of cases from the days of Rod Blagojevich – who appeared to want to NOT grant pardons, but also wasn’t terribly interested in rejecting them either.

Which will make any future apathy with regards to his own legal appeals or pardon requests all the more ironic.

He preferred to ignore the cases. I’ll credit Quinn for at least having the nerve to address the issue. Or for realizing that dumping these people from office just because of decades-old criminal cases would seem like a technicality that goes against the will of the people.

Get the courts to dump them, on account of the fact that they couldn’t be beat at the ballot box.


Monday, May 27, 2013

A Blackhawks rebound? Or is it time to pay attention to baseball for few weeks?

I’ll confess up-front; I have never attended a Chicago Blackhawks hockey game.

Still a precious hockey memory

It’s not that I have anything against hockey. It’s just one of those events that, for whatever reason, I have never had as a high-enough priority to want to be a part of.

IN FACT, THE only professional hockey game I ever attended in my life was back as a kid when the old Chicago Cougars were still alive. My pervasive memory of the event was the long haul to the cheap seats of the old International Ampitheater and being amazed at how decrepit the building had become.

So I’ll confess that the people to whom the fate of the Blackhawks this year is causing them to twist and turn and tying their stomachs into knots are taking the team to a level I’ll never appreciate.
Does anyone remember them?

Because personally, I can’t help but think that having a team that started out this season so overwhelmingly dominant, only to wind up getting smacked about by the Detroit Redwings, seems so incredibly in-character with the city of Chicago.

It seems all of our sports teams manage to give us the down moments more often than they give us the cheers.

AFTER ALL, WE got a Stanley Cup champion for Chicago just a few years ago. It might well have been greedy of us to think we were going to see another one any time soon.

We’ll find out Monday night. Because it’s always possible that the Redwings will manage Monday night to beat the Blackhawks – thereby taking this round of the playoffs leading up to the National Hockey League championships.

At least it would turn into Detroit beating Chicago four games to two – not exactly devastating. Which it would have been if the Redwings had come up with a Saturday night victory – to beat the Blackhawks by a 4-1 margin.

It would have turned those memories of the start of the season – when the Blackhawks seemed unbeatable for two dozen games – into something that the sporting gods allowed only to mock us.

NOW IF CHICAGO actually pulls off a victory Monday, then one more later this week, to WIN this round of playoffs? That’s unthinkable. That’s so un-Chicago. If it happens, then it has to be a harbinger of a future sweep.
Likely not returning to Chicago for many years

Ugh. Just what the Chicago sporting populace needs. Another embarrassing loss. Maybe it makes the memories of a ’05 World Series victory seem all the more previous. But it still causes its share of pain and agony.

Which is why on this Memorial Day, I’m not getting all worked up over whether the season will end Monday for the Blackhawks. Nor am I all aflutter about the Indianapolis 500 – which as far as I’m concerned was just a few dozen freakishly-tricked out automobiles going around and around and around the track a couple hundred times.

I find myself following my usual sporting trend of paying my first serious bit of attention to professional baseball. For it is only now that we’re one-third (roughly) of the way through the season that enough games have been played for us to see what these ball clubs that wear “Chicago” across their jerseys are capable of doing.


For all those people who wanted to believe that the White Sox were pitiful, it seems they’re merely mediocre. Sunday’s 5-3 victory over the Miami Marlins made the White Sox a .500 ball club. Exactly 24 wins and 24 losses. That 2 ½ game deficit behind Detroit and Cleveland says less about the White Sox being in a pennant race and more about the division itself being average.
Some may have been excited about auto racing

And as for the Chicago Cubs? Their 19-30 record is about the level anyone should have expected them to play at during 2013.

Which is why most Cubs fans seem more concerned with following talk of “jumbotrons” and new stadium clubs, rather than the activity on the playing field. And would view it as the highlight of '13 if they can manage to avoid being humiliated by the Sox come this week's four-game series!


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Are Boy Scouts making themselves irrelevant to modern-day youth?

My brother, Christopher, and I both did the Cub Scout thing some four decades ago. Speaking for myself, my memories are largely pleasant.

Where the Boy Scouts met

It was because my “den mother” was my youthful best friend’s mother (and also one of my mother’s best friends) and I didn’t have people trying to put any ideas in my head – or shove them down my throat!

HECK, I’VE EVEN come to remember as humorous the pain I suffered following a 13-mile hike we took (yes, we got lost along the way) through the woods.

So I have some problems reconciling the nonsense-talk I’m hearing from Boy Scout types (maybe there’s something about a 12-year-old wearing a parody of a military uniform that makes them all behave that way) when it comes to the issue of gay people.

The Boy Scouts, of course, showed this week that they were as capable of being as lame as former President Bill Clinton was when he came up with the whole “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy to deal with gay people in the U.S. military.

Let’s hope that the Boy Scouts can put to rest their new nonsense policy more quickly than the military can come to its senses with regards to dealing with gay people.

FOR THOSE WHO went out of their way to not pay attention, the Boy Scouts said it will now accept gay boys into the scouting ranks. But they’re not about to put up with any gay men as scout leaders.

I stumbled across one person who tried to explain this decision by saying it was a gradual step toward overall acceptance, since it would mean the gay boys who were scouts would grow up with sympathetic memories of the experience and someday would be ready to be proper Scoutmasters when they were adults.
The way it looks in the news box

That’s wishful thinking, if ever I heard it.

I can’t help but think that somebody thinks if they get the gay boys into the scouts, that perhaps they can smack it out of them. I’m not literally implying physical abuse. But maybe someone is delusional enough to think that a group camp experience or two will somehow make someone less likely to be gay.

IT SOUNDS LIKE somebody envisions the Boy Scouts as the equivalent of a religious camp where they convert gay people back into normal ones.

Which is such a nonsense statement on its very premise that I had a hard time keeping a straight face while writing that last sentence.
The subdued approach to story play

Besides, I suspect what this policy really means is that some uptight scoutmaster will now go singling out the boys who don’t fit his vision of “manly” – regardless of whether homosexuality is an issue. And in many cases, it probably won’t be.

What this week’s Boy Scout actions show is a group that is desperately eager to avoid a social change! Even though, by all evidence, it is one that most people in our society have no problem accepting.

MAYBE THESE PEOPLE like the idea of being isolated from the masses. Although I find that isolated groups usually wind up so cut off that they wither away and die.

Which makes me view this latest action as something akin to suicide. It’s totally self-inflicted.
Not sufficient

I know for a fact that I have two nephews who never did the scouting thing, in large part because their grandmother (my step-mother) came to see it as too cut off from any type of persons she wanted her grandsons to be.

But they were involved in other types of activities growing up, and seem to be turning into human beings with great potential. My older nephew, Caylon, is going to be a Leatherneck (no, he didn’t enlist, he’s headed for Western Illinois University in Macomb) come autumn.

WHILE MY YOUNGER nephew, Tyler, seems to have serious potential both academically and in terms of music talent as he gets ready to attend high school. I don’t think either one feels deprived in life about never having worn any kind of scout uniform.

I’m sure the assorted ribbons and trophies they have won for activities in their youthful lives that their grandfather has on display at his house mean as much to them as the other trophy he set up aside them – from the year I won the Pinewood Derby!


Friday, May 24, 2013

EXTRA: Does Ditka number retirement mean Ozzie must wait a few decades?

I find it intriguing that the Chicago Bears finally felt compelled to retire jersey number 89 – which was worn by Mike Ditka back in the days some five decades ago when he was a tight end for the Monsters of the Midway.

It has been a looong time since he actually wore the jersey, and it has been more than 20 years since his days as a Super Bowl-winning coach – which is the reason most Bears fans remember him anyway.

DITKA, OF COURSE, left the team’s actual employ having suffered the fate of just about every professional athletic coach or manager – He was fired!!!

Meaning there was a time in which no one would have wanted to think about honoring him. But the passage of time has allowed for his athletic accomplishments (coaching the only Super Bowl-winning Bears team, and playing for the last NFL champion Bears ball club before that) to stand above the personality conflicts.

Many of us probably don’t remember what provoked Ditka’s dismissal, and really don’t care anymore.

He’ll get his honor, meaning that he’s one of the most interesting personas in the history of the Chicago Bears – for what that’s worth.

WHICH MAKES ME think to the Chicago White Sox, who this very weekend are playing the Miami Marlins. I think it’s a shame that we don’t have their former manager, Ozzie Guillen, at work at U.S. Cellular Field this weekend.

Because the very act of Ditka’s tribute could have stirred up talk of how long it will be until the White Sox put jersey number 13 on their retired list – and put Ozzie’s grinning visage on their outfield wall?

Ozzie, of course, came out on the short end of a personality dispute with then-General Manager Kenny Williams, causing his own dismissal even though he is a former All Star shortstop for the White Sox AND manager of the only White Sox team to win a World Series in the past eight decades.

One can easily argue his persona is as significant to the White Sox organization as Ditka is to the Bears.

HECK, ONE COULD argue that Ozzie personifies the White Sox – that aggressive attitude that can easily spill over to obnoxiousness to the point where many people wish they could just ignore him.

But they can’t. Which really does describe the White Sox franchise that so many Chicago Cubs fans like to pretend doesn't exist at all in so many ways.

But even though Williams is also gone from his position, we probably still need the passage of more time before the moods have settled to the point where the idea of honoring Ozzie seems befitting.

If it takes as long as the Bears took to honor Ditka, we may well be talking about the year 2033.


An aging Ozzie (he’ll be 69 that year) getting his youthful mug on the outfield wall at the same time the White Sox are likely hosting the All Star Game – which will be celebrating its 100th anniversary of the first all-star game ever, held at Comiskey Park.

Let’s just hope that spouse Ibis is on hand to give him a silencing nudge when his “speech” that day becomes so long-winded that they can’t get in the All Star game itself any other way.
And if White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf is to be believed, even he'll be on hand to see the great moment.


One more week to go, and Legislature likely will use every single second of it

Next Friday will be the political equivalent of Tax Day

We’re one week away from the scheduled end of the Illinois General Assembly’s spring session, and we still have quite a gap on the so-called “major” issues pending before our legislators.

Of course, I fully expect that come a week from today, we won’t be any closer to resolving these issues than we are now. We will see that our state Legislature will begin the morning of May 31 with significant questions to be resolved – and uncertainty over whether any solution can be found.

THOSE ISSUES INCLUDE whether marriage should be a legitimate option for gay people, whether people should be allowed to carry pistols on their persons for defense in public and that ongoing crisis that threatens to destroy government as we know it – a reform of pension programs overseen by the state.

I’ll concede that some action has occurred this week on the firearms issue – the differing sides are coming up with their own bills, with a state Senate committee giving its support to a measure preferred by those people who’d rather have as few pistols amongst the populace as possible.

While the Illinois House of Representatives will consider a bill by state Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg – who is trying to appeal to the people who feel threatened to the point where they want to carry a pistol on them “just in case.”

Personally, I don’t know that giving in to that kind of fear is good for society. But this is the question that our Legislature will have to confront; and may well wind up ignoring if they become unable to put aside their inherent distrust of each other to agree on anything.

IT IS TRUTH that this desire to carry pistols in public is felt most strongly in the rural parts of Illinois – the ones whose residents feel that the population of the Chicago area (two thirds of our state’s people) is ramming our viewpoint down their throats.

A part of me has wondered if their vehemence for this issue is a reaction to the fact that they’re turning up in the minority on the gay marriage issue – which made it through most of the legislative process early on, but remains stuck before the full Illinois House. Whether the factions will be able to agree on this issue is as uncertain as whether they can agree on the “concealed carry” issue.

Some legislators are now going about expressing the thought that this issue should be postponed until the fall veto session. Which sounds like their way of derailing the issue – hoping that the summer months will cost the momentum that has built up – without having to actually vote “no” and come across as a bigot.

Then, there’s the pension funding issue. The leadership of both the Illinois Senate and House of Representatives have their own proposals, and the state Senate claims their deal is better because the bulk of the labor unions that deal with the state have said they won’t sue Illinois government if it becomes law.

WHEREAS THE ILLINOIS House measure, which makes more in cuts, will definitely bring about legal challenges that will tie the issue up in the courts for years to come.

Then again, this issue is going to find someone to sue regardless of what gets passed. So perhaps the legal threat is an irrelevant issue for legislators to consider (although the newfound love the Chicago Tribune has found for Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, because of this issue remains laughable).

Will our legislators finally see the threat of underfunded pension programs as an issue that MUST be dealt with now? Or will this issue, too, get pushed off until future years?

It’s going to make for a chaotic night come May 31 – more intense than what we feel when we wait until April 15 to file our tax returns!


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Chicago school closings are all about a political power trip, nothing more

There is nothing concerning the quality of education involved in the proposal to close several dozen school buildings in the Chicago Public Schools system.

EMANUEL: A school board power-play
It’s all about political power. The Board of Education is trying to reassert its control over the system. And since that board is controlled by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, he is the one who stands to gain from this.

OR LOSE. BIG time!

Closing down 56 schools would give Emanuel interests significant control over the teachers’ union – what with the fact that it creates a body of unemployed teachers who might want to shift to other schools.

And the fact that officials this week said they were going to “spare” four of those 56 schools -- and in the end voted to close only 49 elementary schools immediately? It means those people who work at Marcus Garvey, Mahalia Jackson, Leif Ericson and George Manierre and the other schools that got spared are now supposed to feel relieved.

As though the almighty Rahm is their savior. Their jobs are spared. Their livelihoods (for the time being) will continue.

PERHAPS HE THINKS they now owe him some sort of tribute for letting them keep their jobs at schools that are economically deprived and struggling in so many ways.

That may sound cold-hearted. But it particularly describes the George Manierre school on the Near North Side. Which is being kept open because of concerns that the students there being mixed with those at the nearby Jenner School would provoke some serious street gang tensions.

As though the gangs now dictate school policies. The fact that such a statement has a bearing of truth to it is more pathetic than anything else that comes out of this whole school closing fiasco.

Even worse than the fact that I have always thought the whole issue was pathetic because it involved people having to fight to preserve schools that were struggling and perhaps ought to be shuttered.

IT TOOK ADVANTAGE of the fact that some people in our city have so little in their lives that they feel compelled to cling to what they have – even if what they have is old and decrepit and worn out.

When our officials ought to be trying to figure out ways to give those residents something better, we’re instead putting them into positions where they feel they have to be thankful for what scraps they have.

I’m sure some people will try to turn this statement into some sort of greedy viewpoint – inner-city residents wishing they could have more. But it isn’t!

There are certain things that all Chicagoans ought to have some access to. If they choose not to take advantage of them, then that is their loss.

BUT MAKING THEM go all out fighting to keep inferior neighborhood schools is something sad.

All of this was supposed to be settled on Wednesday, when the Board of Education was to give final approval on the great school closings plan that has been in the news for months.

It’s all about people being put in positions where they are supposed to feel like the school board and Emanuel are doing them favors if, by chance, there was a last-minute decision to spare another school or two from the symbolic chopping block.

It has me wondering how long the backlash to all of this will linger. It is exactly the kind of issue that could cause a stink come the 2015 municipal election cycle.

THE ONLY REAL trick is if there is anyone out there who could feed off it enough to run a credible campaign to challenge Rahm.

There probably isn’t. Which is why Emanuel thinks he can get away with this kind of a political power play involving the public schools.