Thursday, October 31, 2013

Does Chicago need military school?

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has plans to turn a public school in the Logan Square neighborhood into a military-themed academy.

EMANUEL: Developing an "army?"
Students in uniform, marching in formation. Learning some semblance of discipline that supposedly will make them better people in life.

I DON’T DOUBT that some people could better their lot in life through some form of regimentation. Although I’m skeptical that having people march about is necessarily going to accomplish much – unless the resources are put into the school to make it a worthy educational facility.

And that could just as easily be done without the military theme.

The key to comprehending this idea for a revamped school (currently, it is the Ames Middle School up on North Hamlin Avenue) is that it is NOT a military academy.

Its students won’t have any military obligation upon graduation. The kinds of activities offered at the school are, theoretically, the same as at any other high school.

OR AT LEAST any other high school that is underfunded and is in a community that is borderline struggling!

Under Emanuel’s plan, the Ames School would be expanded to make it into a full-fledged high school (not just the 7th and 8th grades anymore). Supposedly, there is about $7 million available through funds from tax increment finance districts that could pay for the cost of the transition.

The Chicago Sun-Times this week reported on the fact that some parents in Logan Square are upset about the change. They think it was just sprung on them. They would have liked some input into the decision.

Although being a “take charge” kind of guy is the image that Emanuel likes to portray of himself. Not exactly the kind of person who wants to spend time sitting in committees with parents who want to start micro-managing the number of stripes that will be worn on students’ uniforms.

IT SEEMS THEY have the support of the Chicago Teachers Union. Although the fact that union President Karen Lewis would be critical of Emanuel is so non-surprising.

The only real question is why didn’t she take the lead of this particular crusade?

In making his argument, Emanuel has officials who say that many parents in Chicago want the military school option. The Sun-Times reported there has been a 237-percent increase since 2005 in the number of Chicago Public Schools students who try to get themselves into a military-themed academy.

I don’t doubt that is true. The reality is that there are many mediocre- to poor-performing schools in the Chicago Public Schools system. The number of worthy students is larger than the number of slots in the school facilities that really do offer high-quality programs.

THERE PROBABLY ARE parents who will send their children anywhere except the neighborhood school that suffers the same problems as its surrounding community.

Even if it means putting on a uniform that is more detailed than khaki-colored pants and a button-up shirt.

Perhaps it is the image too many of us have received from years of watching television programs where a kid who misbehaves is threatened with the “punishment” of being shipped off to military school. Remember the episode of “The Sopranos” where actor Robert Iler’s “A.J.” character hears the school commandant go on and on about the marching and the drill and the lack of television time?

I’m just not convinced that it makes THAT much of a difference for the students who wind up at such schools.

IF ANYTHING, THERE are students who might need more discipline (and by that, I don’t mean being smacked around) in their daily ritual. Although I think that is something that best should come from the parent(s); not from the school.

If Emanuel thinks he’s about to revamp our future by having more school children marching about, I’d say he overestimates conditions. About all he’s likely to get is a batch of future parades where the military veterans watch these kids and say, “They can’t march worth squat!”


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

EXTRA: The price Dems pay for being all-dominant in Illinois government

I know one Illinois House of Representatives member whose contempt for the Better Government Association is such that he always manages to work in a dig against the group just about every time I encounter him.

MADIGAN: Angry? Or whining?
Then again, state Rep. Thaddeus Jones, D-Calumet City, was the focus of one of the BGA’s studies for a trip to Miami he took over a year ago to attend a filmmakers conference. He came across looking ridiculous!

NOW IT SEEMS that Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, is taking on a similar attitude toward the government watchdog group headed up by one-time WLS-TV political reporter Andy Shaw.

Madigan recently sent a letter to all the members of the Democratic caucus that makes him all-powerful, along with members of the Democratic State Central Committee, taking shots at the BGA for doing so many reports that focus on Democratic Party-aligned government officials.

He’s most recently upset with the BGA study that shows most of the people who circulated his nominating petitions have government jobs. Implying that the job itself is some sort of payoff for political work.

Now I’ll be the first to admit there are times when I find the BGA reports a little over the top, although they do take the time to look at the details behind the day-to-day gristle that comprises the typical news report!

BUT THE POLITICAL rants we’re hearing from Madigan are embarrassing to him. He should know better.
JONES: Sure he agrees w/ speaker

If it seems like the BGA investigators are focusing their attention on Democratic Party officials and politics, perhaps it’s because they’re so all-dominant!

There just isn’t much activity in the Republican Party amongst its officials that is worth intense scrutiny. They just don’t matter as much. When they start winning more significant offices, then investigative efforts will focus back on their work.

Call this scrutiny the price da Dems pay for their dominance over Illinois state government these days. If we ever get a repeat of 1995-96 (the era of Republicans running roughshod over Democratic officials concerns), then there will be equal scrutiny of the GOP. I don't think Madigan wants to revert to that era.


Did you hear the one about the felon who was turned away from prison?

Only Jesse Jackson, Jr., could pull off a moment like this.

JACKSON: He'll be back in 2 years
Most people who get convicted of a political corruption-type of offense have their day where they enter prison, then they get forgotten about in the public eye for some time.


It seems he showed up on Monday at the Butner Federal Correctional Complex near Durham, N.C.  I lost track of the number of newspaper and television-based websites that went ahead and published the story about the former Congressman and namesake son of the famed civil rights leader now being just a number among all the other prison inmates.

It wasn’t to the extreme of when Rod Blagojevich went to prison and had helicopters and news trucks following him – so we could see the moment when he stopped off at a fast-food joint for a final hamburger and how we saw him get snubbed when he tried to shake the hands of the guards who “greeted” him at his prison facility in Colorado.

But Jackson wound up becoming newsworthy in his own way.

BECAUSE IT SEEMS the prison officials in North Carolina refused to admit Jackson to their facility.

For an extra day, Jackson remained free (to the dismay of his ideological critics who have drawn way too much pleasure from his ordeal, but that's a subject matter for another day)!

Prison officials are being very vague about what exactly went wrong, although the Chicago Tribune reported that one prison official called “very accurate” the description by Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., that there were paperwork problems.

It also seems that Jackson was told by the federal judge in the District of Columbia who sentenced him to a 30-month sentence (which will become something just over two full years, presuming he earns all the “good time” possible) had told him he had until Friday to report to prison to avoid becoming a federal fugitive from justice.

DID JACKSON REALLY think he could show up early and perhaps get a head start on doing his time? The one thing I have come to know from years of being a reporter-type person dealing with federal bureaucrats is that they are the types who have their regulations.

They want them followed strictly. And they’re not about to let anyone tell them what to do.

Which is probably the reason why they’d turn him away. There probably are people who work in the federal Bureau of Prisons who are thinking these days that Jackson, Jr., is some sort of an arrogant sort for thinking he could dictate to them when his prison time should start.

Of course, there is the very legitimate point that the Bureau of Prisons ought to be strictly regulated in terms of whom they can hold. Without a specific court order saying he should be there, they really do have no right to hold Jackson in their custody before his sentence formally begins.

SO THE OUTCOME of all of this was just a delay. It wound up that when Jackson tried again on Tuesday to check into prison, he was accepted. His final day of freedom was spent in the greater Durham area (not that he was able to see the Durham Bulls play ball, their season’s over) before he began to serve his time.

In the end, prison officials were more than willing to suck him into their system and begin the process of intimidation that is meant to let he (and all other inmates) know who is boss.

But Jackson will wind up earning his place in the Chicago Corruption Hall of Fame for the way in which he was refused a place in prison – at least for a day or so.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Petition flaws; a campaign fatal error

RUTHERFORD: Cleaning up mistakes?
Remember Alice Palmer?

I don't know if Republican gubernatorial hopeful Dan Rutherford does. But his actions of late indicate he doesn't want to suffer her same political fate.

FOR RUTHERFORD IS the candidate who realized his nominating petitions, the documents that are meant to officially get himself a spot on the GOP primary ballot come March, were flawed enough that he could have been kicked off.

His campaign could have died before ever taking place – and Republican-leaning voters would have had to pick between the trio of William Brady, Kirk Dillard and Bruce Rauner.

The state treasurer who served in the Legislature for nearly two decades representing the Pontiac area would not have been a presence on the ballot.

Now his circumstances are far different from those of Palmer – the one-time state legislator from the South Side who would up getting tripped up (and kicked off the ballot) when she tried seeking re-election in the 1996 election cycle.

PALMER’S PROBLEMS AROSE when she got dreams of running for Congress. She wanted a promotion. But it became apparent to her during the campaign cycle that her chances of actually winning were nil.

So just before the deadline for filing nominating petitions, she changed her mind and went for re-election. Which required a whole new set of petitions – the others had people supporting her for Congress, NOT the state Senate.

But because they were put together on the rush to meet a deadline, they were sloppy. There were flaws. Enough flaws that she didn’t have enough valid signatures of support.

PALMER: Historic gaffe
Now had there been politeness and courtesy, no one would have brought up these flaws. If no one challenges the petitions, they automatically become legitimate – regardless of the flaws.

BUT THEY WERE challenged, the flaws were found, and Palmer got kicked off the ballot. She never again held elective office. That is how a community activist named Barack Obama began the 12-year trek that wound up at the White House.

It seems Rutherford’s own petitions had flaws – ones even his most ardent backers acknowledged. We just know that the Republican opposition would have ganged up on him to get a credible candidate knocked off the ballot.

Anything to make their own campaign effort easier.
OBAMA: Took advantage of a fluke?

Which is why the Rutherford campaign these days, according to Crain’s Chicago Business, is taking it upon themselves to circulate all-new nominating petitions – which did not include a notarized statement specifying when the petitions had actually been circulated.

THAT’S EXACTLY THE kind of technicality that election law attorneys love to exploit to knock around the opposition.

For Rutherford’s sake, let’s hope that none of his people are feeling particularly rushed. Because that could lead to further errors of sloppiness that could still harm him.

My guess is that Rutherford’s petitions (in whatever form they get submitted to the Illinois State Board of Elections) are going to be scrutinized to the “n’th” degree by people looking for anything they can try to claim is a flaw.

The outcome, if a flaw is found, can be worth the legal battles and hurt feelings – although I can’t say I see any of the GOP gubernatorial dreamers as anyone with potential to become president come 2028.

I DOUBT THAT history will repeat itself in quite that way.

Although it does seem odd that a petition flaw would occur this time, since there were also questions about the nominating petitions that put Mitt Romney on the ballots in Illinois for U.S. president.

ROMNEY: Didn't learn from mistake?
The only reason there weren’t serious challenges to that (which would have been embarrassing to the Romney campaign if it couldn’t get on all 50 states’ ballots) was because of potential for flaws in the petitions of opponent Rick Santorum.

Both sides ultimately decided to “play nice” and not pursue the issue. That won’t happen again if anybody thinks Rutherford is vulnerable to a technicality that could undo him before the voters get a chance to.

EDITOR'S NOTE: It strikes me as being quite pathetic that the people most willing to denounce Barack Obama for using flawed petitions to eliminate his opposition are the same ones who would eagerly have pounced on Dan Rutherford petition flaws to undo his campaign if it would gain them an ideological ally.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Will we, the people of the United States of America, ever get reimbursed for the losses Jackson, Jr., allegedly cost us?

There may be only one thing more bizarre than the load of kitschy items former Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., allegedly violated the law with when he used campaign funds to buy them.

JACKSON: Will we ever see money?
That would be the inability of the federal government thus far to get much restitution from Jackson for the financial losses – supposedly, $750,000 – our society suffered.

THAT IS THE reason this is considered a criminal act – the fact that money donated to a campaign fund ought to have been used strictly to support Jackson’s re-election bids, and not to pay for personal purchases.

Even though one could make a serious argument that the token opposition Jackson would get from the Rev. Anthony Williams (sometimes a Democrat, or a Republican, or a Libertarian or a Green – if not an independent) wouldn’t have required much of any money for “Jr.” to win.

Does that mean any campaign spending on Jackson’s part was wrong?

Jackson popped back into the news on Friday when officials let it be known that they wanted the congressman’s home in the Adams-Morgan section of Washington (think of something not quite as tony and upscale as Lincoln Park in Chicago) sold – with the federal government keeping the money as reimbursement for what he supposedly owes.

IT HAS BEEN reported that the home once had a $2 million-plus value on it. Even in today’s real estate market where it is unlikely Jackson would get full value, he ought to be capable of coming up with enough to pay off this particular expense.

Unless it turns out that officials would rather NOT have him be able to come up with the money. Would they really rather keep him indebted to the United States for many years to come – so as to inhibit his ability to ever fully recover in life?

I don’t know what to think.

But it does strike me as odd that the auction that was supposed to occur of all the actual items Jackson purchased was never able to take place.

I UNDERSTAND THAT there is reason to question the legitimacy of some of the items that qualify as memorabilia (a guitar once played by Eddie Van Halen back when he cooperated with Michael Jackson).

It may be enough of a taint to prevent any of the items from being able to get full value from the collector-types who will pay the big bucks to assuage their egos by saying they own the actual item that was used in some pseudo-significant moment.

But I notice that the feds say they have no intention of giving back any of the items that were confiscated – even though they’re not going to sell any of them.

So what happens with the alleged Muhammad Ali boxing gloves or the hat worn by Jackson – or even the pricey gold-plated Rolex watch or multiple fur coats, whose memorabilia value would have been that they once belonged to Jackson himself?

SOMEBODY COULD GET a laugh that they now own the watch that got Jackson put in prison – particularly if they wound up paying far less than the $43,350 that the former Congressman himself allegedly paid to get it.

Does this literally wind up being packed away in a federal warehouse reminiscent of that final scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark? It would be a waste if that happened – although it would be even more appalling if some federal bureaucrat somehow wound up with the items.

That would be more criminal in nature than anything Jackson might have done to warrant the 2 ½-year prison term that he will have to start serving (in North Carolina, it seems) in coming weeks.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

The week’s non-news: Emanuel endorses gov for re-election

A great big yawn was about the only reaction I could feel when I learned of the reports that Mayor Rahm Emanuel WILL offer his support to Gov. Pat Quinn’s upcoming bid for re-election.

QUINN: Knows who his friends are
Emanuel said so to Crain’s Chicago Business, where the Associated Press then picked up on the report – disseminating it into little space-filling briefs that appeared in newspapers across the state.

CONSIDERING THAT QUINN appears to be the only candidate of consequence who will seek the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor in the 2014 election cycle, what choice does Emanuel really have?

The fact that Emanuel said he and Republican gubernatorial hopeful Bruce Rauner have serious disagreements about politics and government’s role in our society doesn’t mean that the two are in a mortal feud that cannot be resolved.

The two are friends of a sort, because Emanuel is the type of Democrat who has his comfort level with the corporate set and doesn’t view them as life-long enemies.

If anything, Emanuel has always had his problems with the segment of the Democratic Party that relies on their government officials to defend their liberal social ideals.

JUST AS RAUNER’S problems in the primary is going to come from the large swath of GOP voters who want to have elected officials who will turn the government into an entity that will uphold their socially conservative ideals over all other people in our society.

The fact that the two men use differing political labels (the “D” versus the “R”) doesn’t mean they wouldn’t find ways to work together. A “Mayor Emanuel” may well find he’s more comfortable with a “Governor Rauner” than he has ever been with Quinn.

But the mayor is giving the official backing to Quinn because of the party label.

EMANUEL: Backing Quinn publicly. But privately?
But it is just talk if it doesn’t come with the mayor using his political muscle and strategically conniving mind to come up with ways to turn out the Chicago vote en masse for Quinn.

WE COULD EASILY get an election cycle where Emanuel doesn’t do a thing to undermine a Rauner campaign – which could result in it having a chance to gain support against a Quinn re-election bid!

It is kind of reminiscent of the 1998 election cycle in which then-Congressman Glenn Poshard got the Democratic Party nomination for governor, but never erased the public perception that then-Mayor Richard M. Daley was more comfortable dealing with George Ryan – who went on to win that particular election.

Could Quinn get the same private undermining that Poshard got? He barely won a majority of the Chicago vote for governor, which allowed Ryan to prevail with the more traditional vote in GOP-leaning parts of the state!

Now Quinn and Poshard are hardly alike. Ryan and Rauner also are extremes.

BUT THE POINT being that an endorsement proves the accuracy of the axiom “Talk is Cheap!” Just because Emanuel publicly says he’s not opposed to Quinn does not mean he really is all that enthused with the idea of having him as governor for the rest of his time as mayor.

For Emanuel definitely seems to view the political set-up the way other public officials do – that state government is meant to be subservient to the interests of local government and that a governor ought to be interested in propping up Chicago so that its problems don’t spread over to the state as a whole!

On casinos alone, Quinn has been unacceptable to that viewpoint.

It’s also good to see that Quinn seems to realize that his allegiance with Emanuel only goes so far.

FOR IT WAS reported on Friday that the governor has a new person on his staff to help deal with communications and his public image.

RAUNER: Emanuel's real backing?
That person is Stephanie Gadlin, who until now has been the spokeswoman for the Chicago Teachers Union. As on the public mouthpiece for union boss Karen Lewis – the outspoken (in her own right) critic who has made her distaste for Emanuel well known.

I’m sure a lot of the things that Gadlin has said publicly about Emanuel were influenced by her employer.

But if Emanuel’s support for Quinn turns out to be fairly lame, at least the governor will have someone on his payroll (whether the state or the campaign) who won’t blush at the thought of saying something nasty about Rahm-bo.


Friday, October 25, 2013

EXTRA: Chicago native “integrates” Utah TV news; a long overdue move!

CROW: Will she return home?
Nadia Crow might not have been born in Chicago, but she grew up here and is as much a native as anyone else.

And like a lot of people trying to get into the news business, she has shown a willingness to move to wherever work is. Her career path includes a stay in South Bend, Ind., and it now has her as an anchor of the local newscasts for KTVX-TV, an ABC network affiliate in Salt Lake City.

BUT WHAT MAKES the 27-year-old unique? She’s African-American, and it seems she’s the first black person to be an anchor for a television newscast in Utah. Who’d have thought such a “first” would still be possible this late into the 21st Century.

But it’s true. The Salt Lake Tribune newspaper gave Crow a decent write-up. It also is encouraging to see that station management acknowledges that her hiring has been a positive and there hasn’t been open resistance to the idea of a black woman being the face of the news.

Even though Utah (at 2.76 million people, only 29,287 of whom are African-American) isn’t exactly a place loaded with black faces. The Latino (358,340 people), Asian (55,285 people) and American Indian (32,927 people) populations are larger.

Although it would seem that there were more black people living in Utah in 2010 (according to the Census Bureau) than there were native Hawaiians (24,554 people). So there!

AND INTERESTING TO read her observation that Chicago television news could have used more black females as role models when she was growing up here, considering how the city itself (at 2.7 million people, the whole state of Utah is barely bigger) has so many differing ethnic groups that no one group can claim to be an all-dominating presence.

Perhaps what we get to look forward to in the future – should Crow decide she ever wants to come back to Chicago. She certainly couldn’t be worse than some of the television knuckleheads we now endure on our nightly newscasts!


What should we think when political people conflict on what they say

Learning of the latest dispute involving the Republican distaste for President Barack Obama reminded me of an old incident right here at City Hall – one in which then-Mayor Richard M. Daley didn’t come across as looking that good.

DURBIN: Says somebody insulted president
I recall that the Chicago Sun-Times came up with a story related to the McCormick Place convention center that infuriated Daley!

HE MADE PUBLIC statements to the press corps at City Hall about how the newspaper was so wrong and must have shown its complete ignorance by taking comments so far out of context that they made no sense.

There was just one problem – the on-the-record source for that particular story (whose minutia was so intense that I must confess to not even remembering the specifics) was then-Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority director John Schmidt.

I specifically remember calling Schmidt that morning (I worked for the now-defunct City News Bureau of Chicago back then) to talk to him about the story, and he told me that the Sun-Times had quoted him accurately – and gotten all its facts right.

It’s a minor dispute of facts. It wouldn’t shock me to learn that I’m the only person who even remembers this particular story.

BUT IT WAS a lesson I learned about how seriously we should take it when people start attacking the legitimacy of what gets reported.

Sometimes, the denials shouldn’t be taken that seriously. Some people just want to be able to say something didn’t happen.

OBAMA: Ignoring the slur
While others are willing to let the word about something get out, while having their own reasons for not wanting to publicly stand behind it later.

And sometimes, there are just conflicts amongst the various officials. It doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

ALL OF WHICH is relevant to comprehending the dispute concerning Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., who had his people put something on his Facebook page about the Republican official who supposedly told the president to his face, “I cannot even stand to look at you.”

Aides to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, quickly made a point of saying they want a retraction and an apology for what they say is a, “reckless allegation.”

Obama’s official spokesman said he looked into the incident, and couldn’t find any evidence that anybody had the nerve to say that directly to the president.

BOEHNER: He's outraged!!!
“It did not happen,” spokesman Jay Carney told reporter-types at the White House, with officials later using the word "misunderstanding" to describe why it was thought something bad was said.

YET DURBIN STILL says it did, going so far as to use the incident in a fundraising pitch. He's definitely not going along with the rants coming from House Republicans who are demanding that Durbin cough up his source for the tidbit and apologize for besmirching their reputation – which in the overall scheme of things isn’t all that important.

Is anyone shocked to learn that the distaste for Obama is so intense in certain quarters that there are people who don’t want to work with him? The underlying premise of this tidbit is so apparent that it is beyond dispute!

Personally, I don’t have any first-hand information about this moment. I don’t know who said it, or exactly when. Or what Durbin’s motivation for passing along trivial gossip would be if that is what truly has occurred.

In fact, I’m not about to take it as any sign that Obama and Durbin are in some sort of long-term political split. I don’t think the Daley/Schmidt dynamic was impacted much by the long-ago difference in public statements.

IF ANYTHING, I’M inclined to think the Obama camp wants to downplay this particular incident because it supposedly occurred during the now-complete talks to end the federal government shutdown that lasted for 16 days.

What’s the point of dredging up old trivia about how people don’t like the president and let their personal taste influence their politics. He’s forgiving, in that sense. Maybe he realizes there will be many more insults in the future for him to get worked up over.

Or maybe Obama is just following a pair of axioms given to us by the fictional Don Vito Corleone. “It’s business, not personal.” And, “Revenge is a dish best served cold.”


Thursday, October 24, 2013

How some people choose to expend energy; on warpath for pseudo-Chief

I’m not a University of Illinois alumnus, so I always have trouble identifying with the people who want to view it as a holy crusade, of sorts, to fight for the image of Chief Illiniwek.

The old stomping grounds of generations of pseudo-Chiefs
My alma mater’s mascot/honored symbol/whatever label you try to tag it with, was a student in a Titan costume – and a cheap one at that. It wasn’t something somebody would get upset over.

YET TO THIS day, there are people who want to view it as a travesty that the university did away with the image of a white student doing what was supposed to be a sacred native dance while wearing a tribal costume that was supposed to be distinctly authentic to the tribes native to what is now Illinois.

Of course, the matter that was bringing out all this imagery? The notion that the Fighting Illini sports teams might get their butts kicked a little less viciously than they usually do.

In all, not exactly something that the real natives would have ever used such sacred imagery for. Which is the point that the non-Indian tribal people always miss when they try to defend such things as Chief Wahoo in Cleveland or the Washington Redskins football team!

The distortion of native images is so laughable. It is more ridiculous than the distortion that occurred when the hippy-dippy types of the 1960s got themselves all into the images and cultures of India.

BUT IN A comical way that no real Indian person would ever do. Just like no real person whose ethnic origins trace back to the indigenous tribes of this nation (a fake Indian, because of the fact that Christopher Columbus was not so much a discoverer of nations, but was lost!) would ever think there was anything real about Illiniwek.

Which is what makes their fight seem so trivial.

Ever since Illiniwek (I actually once met a former Illiniwek back in the days when I worked at the state Capitol in Springfield – he’s now a corporate executive for railroad interests) disappeared in 2007, there has been a group calling itself the Honor the Chief Society.

Chief as long-gone as this melted ice sculpture
They are a batch of disgruntled student types who want to think the hippy-dippy types have taken over the world from decent, respectable types like themselves! Which means they think the rest of the world should shut up and do what they tell them to do.

THEY WENT SO far as to try to register the Chief Illiniwek logo for themselves, claiming the university had abandoned it.

Which has resulted in lawsuits, legal action and attorneys getting richer and richer – because the university didn’t want anyone doing something with the logo that would have reflected negatively on the Urbana-based college.

The two sides came to an agreement this week that really maintains the status quo. They can’t create an Indian mascot and call it the New Chief Illiniwek. They can’t make any merchandise of their own with the Illiniwek logo.

They can make their own merchandise with the phrase “Honor the Chief.” Although their website and promotional materials will be required to contain the phrase, “The Honor the Chief Society is not sponsored, licensed, approved or endorsed by the University of Illinois.”

IN SHORT, THE great Illiniwek legal battle resulted in the group being treated like a pack of cigarettes – they have to have a warning label of sorts to let you know that something bad exists here.

And in return for accepting a warning label, the group will get to sell t-shirts and perhaps a coffee mug or two. Is this really a fight about merchandising?

All of which I suspect will only be purchased by people more interested in making conservative ideological statements. While the student body will shrug off the issue as a whole lot of nonsense about nothing.

Because the rest of us who attended a college and that type of experience remember the parties, the pressure of classes, the intellectual rewards and even some of the ballgames – not the student who wore a funny costume because he wasn’t good enough to actually play on one of the athletic teams.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

No memories of Medwick, but a World Series pair Cobb could comprehend

I was disappointed a couple of days ago when the Boston Red Sox managed to win the American League championship – I was hoping that the Detroit Tigers would prevail.

Because that would have meant a Tigers-St. Louis Cardinals matchup in the World Series beginning Wednesday. Considering that part of a World Series coverage includes a historical review of all the other times the two teams have played each other, we invariably would have been able to review 1934.

THAT WAS THE World Series between St. Louis and Detroit in which Tigers fans – outraged at the way Cardinals star Joe Medwick was kicking their behind on the field – started pelting him with fruit and vegetables and pop bottles, then turned to hot dogs and newspapers when they ran out.

The situation became so bad that then-baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Landis ordered Medwick removed from the game – which the Cardinals won anyway.

I still think Medwick’s after-game response was one of the funniest (and honest) things I have ever heard from a ballplayer’s mouth – he said he understood why Tigers fans were upset, but couldn’t comprehend why they had brought all those fruits and vegetables to the ballpark in the first place. It would have been fun to relive.

But we’re not going to get those reminisces. Instead, we have 1946 (Enos Slaughter’s unbelievable game-winning run scored from first base), 1967 (when pitcher Bob Gibson “owned” the Red Sox) or 2004 (when the momentum of defeating the New York Yankees in the American League playoffs enabled Boston to defeat a superior Cardinals ballclub in the World Series).

NOT AS FUNNY as Medwick’s moment. But I have to admit to not being offended by a Boston-St. Louis matchup, particularly because it means that the ball clubs with the best regular-season records in the American and National leagues respectively actually went on to win their league championships.

It really will be the two top ball clubs playing for the championship of U.S. baseball (what would constitute a real “World” Series is a subject best written about for another day).

There is a part of me who doesn’t mind when a pair of traditional ball clubs makes it to the World Series. An Atlanta-Tampa Bay matchup in the World Series (which could have happened) just doesn’t have the same “aura” about it! What would a reincarnated Ty Cobb think?!?

Besides, it doesn’t directly involve Chicago – the World Series rarely does.

THIS COULD BE the year that Chicago Cubs fans wind up rooting for Boston, because there’s no way that they’d think of rooting for their arch-rival in St. Louis to win yet another championship.

Meanwhile, Chicago White Sox fans will be watching the performance of Red Sox pitcher Jake Peavy, and will likely tear their hair out of their heads if he winds up being spectacular. A Cy Young Award winner for the San Diego Padres and potential World Series star for the Red Sox who got paid big bucks by the White Sox for injury-prone seasons on the Sout’ Side.

Would Sox fans prefer it if the Cardinals knocked Peavy on his keister for a game or two?

Or will this World Series follow the trend of other World Series played in recent years – nobody outside the home cities of the two teams involved cares much?

Nobody attending Wednesday night's World Series game is getting into the ballpark for $1.20
IF SO, IT would be a shame. Because this still is for a championship, and the next week to 10 days could wind up creating moments that will be remembered forevermore.

At least during those times in the future when there is a rain delay and somebody thinks that past highlights shown on the stadium video boards will help pass the time.

Although somehow, I doubt it if anyone in Boston or St. Louis brings fruit and vegetables to pelt their least-favorite player on the opposition. Medwick’s memory will likely remain unique!


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Despite rhetoric we get about Amazon “tax,” it’s really about cheap people

Whenever I read about, or hear, people who view it as their inalienable right to not have to pay taxes when they buy something through, I can’t help but recall one of my high school teachers.

Specifically, a moment when – during some down time in class – she told us about a refrigerator she had just bought that past weekend some three decades ago.

THIS TEACHER LIVED in Indiana, but commuted to her job teaching at a high school based in suburban Cook County.

She specifically bought the refrigerator from a department store on the Illinois side of State Line Road, but then arranged to have it shipped to her Indiana-based home.

As a result, she got out of having to pay any sales tax on the purchase. The way she went on about this, it was clear she often did this to save herself the few bucks that otherwise would have gone toward the tax payment.

I’m not about to describe this teacher as being a “cheapskate.” But let’s be honest; this was a dodge to save some money. There’s no real high-minded, moral principle involved here.

WHICH IS SIMILAR to what I have to say about those people who think it is an affront to all that is decent about society that anybody thinks they could pay a sales tax of sorts for whenever they make an Amazon purchase.

Although for what it’s worth, the degree to which they try to moralize about this issue disgusts me to the point where I will use the word “cheapskate” to describe them.

Which is why I was concerned when the Supreme Court of Illinois last week issued a ruling that struck down the attempt by our General Assembly to have a state Internet sales tax.

As in you’d have to pay something to Illinois if you live here and bought something – regardless of where the physical entity that ultimately provides the object (Amazon itself isn’t a store or a manufacturer or much of anything).

THESE CHEAPSKATES ARE going to try interpreting the state high court’s ruling as some sort of justification for their tightwad ways!

Of course, anybody who actually reads the ruling will see that the state court’s ruling was based on the fact that Congress in recent years passed its own measure that prevents the implementation of state or federal taxes on Internet-based retailers.

It seems the cheapskates have their own supporters in Congress who passed the measure – which is NOT a permanent change in federal law. For it seems the measure is scheduled to expire next year.

It also means that federal law overrides local and state measures (a fact that ticks off the conservative ideologues to no end). Which is why the state Amazon tax is dead. For now!

THERE ARE THOSE who already are speculating that this means once the federal measure expires, the state Amazon tax can take effect again.

Unless our Congress gets into a partisan spat over whether to not to extend their prohibition on taxes so people can continue to order music, video and books on the cheap – although personally, I’ve never seen that much difference in price on the few occasions when I have used Amazon to buy something.

Maybe I’m just buying the wrong items (not exactly the kinds of things that would sell in such mass quantity that Amazon could afford to make them available at a significant discount AND still make itself a profit).

Enough of one, it seems, that its owner, Jeff Bezos, could afford to buy the Washington Post – even if no one has really made it clear what he intends to do with all the assets that come from having an extensive newsgathering team in the nation’s capital.

I’M ACTUALLY INTERESTED in seeing just what stances the Post takes on this issue in the future – although the idea of a publisher using his newspaper to tout his other business interests is such an old-fashioned concept that we certainly shouldn’t be surprised.

But if they start spewing rhetoric about a person’s right not to be overtaxed when they make such purchases?

Let’s not forget that it all comes down to a defense of the cheapskate. Nothing more!