Saturday, November 30, 2013

Could Beavers be political equivalent of ‘Goodfellas’ gangster Henry Hill?

My imagination is running amok about what this weekend will be like for one-time political person William Beavers – who has until Monday before he must report to a federal corrections institution unless he wants the label “fugitive” attached to his name.

BEAVERS: Counting down the days
Somehow, I just don’t see the man and his ego spending these final days of freedom in prayer and quiet solitude.

I DON’T KNOW if he’ll have the nerve to show up at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Ind. – the place where he got into his legal trouble because he used money from his campaign contributions to gamble with.

The gambling isn’t what technically got him into trouble with the IRS. It was the fact that he didn’t report the contributions as income; which would have made it legal, but also would have required that he pay more in federal taxes.

But the idea of a weekend of gambling and some booze – a wild bash before climbing into the back of a limousine Monday morning and telling the chauffeur, “Now take me to jail” (a la actor Ray Liotta’s “Henry Hill” character in the film “Goodfellas”).

Be honest! It would be totally in character for the man whose stylish suits (“finely tailored” was the way he would describe his attire) were among his characteristics – along with an ability to verbally take on anybody about him with whom he did not agree. Although I'm not claiming to have any hard-fact as to what Beavers did with his final days of freedom.

BUT THE OVER-THE-TOP nature of this situation would be worthy of this entire case, where Beavers will get to spend the next few months in a minimum-security correctional center.

He’ll be free by Independence Day. In fact, he may well be free by Memorial Day. He can celebrate his freedom with a picnic somewhere that theoretically is meant to pay tribute to those who died while defending the concept of our nation’s continued existence.

The real-life Henry Hill
Attorneys for Beavers did try to persuade a federal appeals court to let the one-time Chicago Police officer, 7th Ward alderman and Cook County commissioner to remain free while the legal appeal of his criminal conviction is pending.

Those justices who heard the argument ruled this week against Beavers’ request, although they did agree to put Beavers’ appeal on an expedited schedule. There could be a ruling on the legal merits by sometime in February.

WHICH COULD MEAN Beavers could be free sometime around Valentine’s Day – if the court is at all sympathetic! If not, he’ll have to serve the entire six-month sentence, which would mean freedom sometime in the spring.

Six months isn’t the longest period of time. Although having to serve it in a prison facility, even one that is minimum-security, isn’t the most pleasant experiences one can have.

Particularly if/when his fellow inmates get word of the fact that he was a cop for just over two decades.

Liotta's 'schnook' take on Hill
For those people who are somehow convinced that Beavers is getting off lightly with such a sentence, I’d retort that he’ll still suffer. Particularly since I’m sure the man who turns 79 come Feb. 21 will wind up having the IRS on his case for the rest of his life – ensuring that the federal government gets its fair share of whatever future income he generates in the future.

THAT MAY WELL be the hardest part of the rest of Beavers’ life. He’s the flashy, outspoken guy who thrives on the public attention. Yet he’s not going to get any of that any more. He has become the political equivalent of gangster Hill.

For as Liotta’s “Hill” character described his post-organized crime life in "Goodfellas," “I’m an average nobody. I get to live the rest of my life like a schnook.”


Friday, November 29, 2013

Was it Thanksgiving? Or merely the first official shopping day of X-mas?

I don’t much care for what the Thanksgiving holiday has become.

Christmas on State Street ...
Because as much as I’m sure some people are going to respond to me by saying it was a chance to spend time with family while enjoying an elegant, overly-fancy meal together, I can’t help but sense that some people thought of it as merely the food they ate to give them sustenance before they went shopping.

YES, I REALLY believe that the Thanksgiving holiday is at risk of being overtaken by all the holiday shopping gimmicks meant to get people into the stores so that they will spend more money than they had planned to.

I don’t mean to be a downer. But I was always the reporter-type person whose least favorite work day was the day after Thanksgiving.

I have many memories of people engaging in ridiculous behavior because they thought the day after Thanksgiving was when they were supposed to go shopping for all those Christmas-related presents. Interviewing the guy who was selling velvet paintings of Elvis Presley from a van parked along Wabash Avenue near Randolph Street is probably the most garish.

But my point being I never comprehended the people who felt the need to rush into the holiday shopping mess. It makes the process of picking out gifts all the more hectic. Why turn it into a hassle?

FRIDAY WAS ALWAYS the day I went out of my way to avoid anything resembling a shopping mall or other place where retail was being performed. A part of me will even be reluctant to set foot in a supermarket on that day.

But now, with the trend of stores opening up on Thursday, it seems that I have a pair of days in which I will need to be careful – less I get sucked into the madness of crowds of people who don’t really have a clue what they want, but are looking to pick out things that will make them appear not to be cheap.

... has a certain character, regardless of when ...
Even though, in reality, they’re probably counting every penny they have (and some they really don’t have) all so they can be tightwads without looking the part.

It’s not so much that I don’t like crowds. I just don’t care for the vibe that comes from these people who feel that holiday shopping is a mission.

IT MAKES THEM all too susceptible to the deals that aren’t all that special. It is a scene I’d just as soon avoid. Even if that makes it seem as though I’m spouting a “Bah, Humbug!” or two.

... it occurs. Photos by Chuckman Chicago Nostalgia
In fact, if there’s anything about this particular holiday season that catches my attention, it’s the fact that Hanukkah is coming earlier than usual this year – and won’t coincide with Thanksgiving again for another 77,000 years or so.

Friday will be the third night (out of eight) of that Jewish holiday, and it is going to be long complete by the time the Christmas madness gets underway.

In my case, my step-mother is Jewish, and our Thanksgiving meal Thursday included a lighting of the candles at sundown that mark each day of the holiday. For some people, the concept of “Thanksgivikkah” was the reality.

ALTHOUGH FOR US, we’ve actually had enough family conflicts in schedules that the decision was made to postpone Hanukkah until mid-December.

So I have a couple of weeks to fret over finding the perfect presents for my Jewish nephews and nieces. Whom I care for too much to snub outright.

Which means I’ll have to wind up plunging myself into the retail madness of this holiday season.

My warning to you now; get out of my way, unless you want my elbow in your ribs!!!


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Problem solved? Or is pension funding mess just stepping up to new level

It seems that Illinois state government will actually manage to resolve the long-standing pension funding shortfall it has faced for years. The Legislature is scheduled to meet Tuesday, and officials say they expect a vote on that day.

MADIGAN: Reached a pension funding deal
Then again, it could also be that the Legislature (and later, Gov. Pat Quinn) will merely declare “Victory!” and move on from considering this issue – leaving it to the courts to ultimately decide whether whatever solution gets approved is actually valid.

YES, IT’S VERY true. The courts could find whatever gets approved next week to be unconstitutional – which means we could be back in trouble come the future.

Possibly sometime after Monsieurs Madigan, Cullerton and Quinn are around the political scene.

Now I’m not saying I know for sure that the compromise that the General Assembly’s leaders said they reached Wednesday is doomed to failure. In part, because I don’t know exactly what the agreement entails.

Other than the Capitol Fax newsletter reporting that Illinois House Minority Leader James Durkin, R-Westchester, said it would include a change to the cost of living adjustment, a defined contribution plan and altering the retirement age.

WHICH IS ABOUT as vague a description as one can give. Although Crain's Chicago Business reported late Wednesday that the COLA would drop and state employees would have to work up to five years more before qualifying for retirement in order to cut $160 billion in costs during the next 30 years.

DURKIN: Offering up "details"
From the reports that emanated from the Bilandic Building (the one-time State of Illinois Building now named for the former state Supreme Court justice and Chicago mayor), the leaders say they reached an agreement Wednesday on something they can all support.

They plan to let the rank-and-file of the Legislature know the specifics on Friday, with the legislators actually meeting at the Statehouse for the one-day special session that was previously scheduled.

CULLERTON: Working to get votes
Which means that a bill could then go to Pat Quinn – the guy who originally tried cutting off the Legislature’s paychecks until they got their act together and sent him something he could sign into law.
IT WAS NICE to see that Quinn on Wednesday was willing to put aside their past snubs of him and say he wants to work with the legislators to get something approved – even though it would seem he doesn’t know exactly what they’ve concocted in the name of “reform.”

RADOGNO: Also in on deal
“I look forward to working with the leaders and members of the General Assembly over the coming days to get this job done for the people of Illinois,” Quinn said, in a prepared statement.

Such a statement was the best Quinn could do to be included in the process, since it appears that at the time the legislative leaders were meeting in Chicago to hash out details, Quinn himself was in Washington, Ill.

Along with the Chicago Blackhawks – who ventured to the central Illinois community that was devastated by tornado earlier this month. Quinn, the Blackhawks and Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., to host a Thanksgiving holiday luncheon.

I SUSPECT THIS will be the last time that Schock (who has hinted about his own gubernatorial aspirations someday) will want to be seen in public with Quinn.

In fact, I suspect that the legislative leaders handled this the way they did because they weren’t about to share any more of the credit with the governor than they had to.

There’s also the fact that Bruce Rauner, the millionaire Republican gubernatorial challenger was quick to jump all over the plan, saying he opposes it even though he doesn’t really know what it consists of either. He’s just being contrarian, since his campaign seems meant to appeal to people who are ideologically inclined to despise organized labor.

It seems he wants to believe it doesn’t go far enough, even though the unions that actually represent state government workers are now complaining that they weren’t included in the talks. They believe it will be too harsh!

QUINN: Excluded from the "fun?"
VERY FEW OF us have a clue what to expect come Tuesday, and whether it will someday be found acceptable by whichever court winds up getting the inevitable lawsuit challenging “reform.” This is an issue that isn't going to go away, no matter how much our political people want to pretend that it's now resolved.

The very thought of all this makes me sleepy – even more so than the tryptophan I will consume Thursday in my holiday meal.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

EXTRA: A Hannukah wedding?

Vernita Gray and Patricia Ewert on Wednesday became the first same-gender couple in Illinois to marry – with the ceremony being performed at their home by Cook County Associate Judge Patricia Logue.

The couple were the ones who were able to get a marriage license just over seven months before the law permitting such marriages to occur because Gray has brain tumors and breast cancer – and it was considered unlikely she would survive long enough to have a wedding in June 2014.

ALTHOUGH THE COUPLE had the legal benefits of a civil union – which was the political maneuver approved two years ago to try to appease those people who will argue that some people should not be permitted to have their relationships legitimized by the concept of marriage.

For what it’s worth, society as we know it did not immediately crumble into dust the moment two women were permitted to marry. Nor will it do so once such marriages become commonplace later in 2014. This really will be an issue that future generations will wonder why we made such a big deal out of it!

For those who like wedding trivia, the couple had their first dance to a friend who sang “At Last,” the ballad made famous by Etta James, but who some people think Beyonce invented.

So here’s hoping that Gray and Ewert enjoy what is left of their lives together. Also consider that it may be appropriate that the wedding took place on the date of the first night of Hanukkah – which inherently remembers the ongoing survival of the Jewish people in the face of forces that would just as soon have seen them disappear.


Rose, Ventra tops 1st gay marriage

I’m not surprised by the news judgment used by Chicago’s two metro newspapers on Tuesday.

Rose tops marriage, ...
The fact that the first legitimate marriage of a gay couple will take place sometime this week – about seven months prior to the date the new law goes into effect – made Page One of both the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times.

BUT IT WASN’T the lede story. In fact, if one didn’t pay close enough attention, you’d have missed the marriage story altogether.

For the record, the Sun-Times on Tuesday thought that the BIG DEAL of the news lineup came from the world of sports – specifically the fact that Derrick Rose has suffered an injury so severe that he’s going to miss the entire season.

As in again. It’s starting to appear as though the man that Chicago Bulls fans were counting on to be the big star of teams that would win a slew of championships will be nothing more than a “never was” – as in we’ll forevermore speculate about what could have been IF ONLY he hadn’t gotten hurt.

As for the Tribune, they gave a banner headline to the latest story about how messed up the Ventra card system is. Which appeals to the people who use the Chicago Transit Authority trains and buses on a regular basis.

BECAUSE IT WOULD seriously stink if one couldn’t get to work because their fare card didn’t function properly.

Yet the occurrence this week related to gay marriage is one of those bizarre moments that it is something we all ought to be interested in – particularly if you’re one of those people who wants to wish that the issue would just go away!

... as does Ventra
For the record, the General Assembly passed a bill making marriage a legitimate option for gay couples in such a way that it can’t take effect immediately.

There was no way that 60 percent of legislators were going to agree on this issue so as to allow it to take effect immediately. It had to settle for the bare majority (60 of 118 votes), which means the new law will take effect June 1, 2014.

EXCEPT THAT A federal judge (U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin, to be exact) issued a ruling Monday that requires the Cook County clerk’s office to issue a marriage license to a pair of women who wish to marry immediately.
Derrick Rose may be gone for good

The women are not a youthful couple, and it seems they have been together for five years and got a civil union in 2011. But one of them has breast cancer severe enough that they’re not sure she will survive long enough for the couple to have a June wedding.

County Clerk David Orr has always said he supports the idea of marriage being available for all; so much so that he didn’t even fight the lawsuit the couple filed last week.

He seemed to be pleased that Judge Durkin issued the order that forced him to issue the marriage license that took effect Tuesday (the couple says they’ll marry this week).

NOT THAT I’M really bothered by the fact that the couple will marry now, rather than later. I’m sure the fact that the law didn’t take effect immediately was one of the few “victories” the conservative ideologues were feeling these days.

But it does make me wonder about the long-term effect on the provisions of state law that require a higher level of support for bills passed after the General Assembly completes its spring session.
Some wish these cards would go away instead

I recall one time that Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, specifically thwarted the interests of firearms advocates by requiring one of their bills to get a 60 percent majority – a vote total they could not possibly achieve.

Officials say the ruling by Durkin is so narrow that it shouldn’t impact other cases – or other couples wanting to get married before June 1. But have we managed to undo some sense of our legal procedure? Yet another reason we’ll be confused in the future!


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

It’s campaign time – ’14 cycle begins

I didn’t venture down to Springfield early Monday, although I wish I could have. For there was the occurrence of a key moment in an election cycle.

The ticket of Tio Hardiman/Brunell Donald-Kyei filed its nominating petitions Monday so it could challenge Pat Quinn/Paul Vallas come March 18. Photograph by The African Spectrum
The filing of nominating petitions; the documents required of any candidate to show that he has any kind of support that makes him (or her) worthy of a spot on the March 18 primary election ballot.

EVEN IN MY absence, however, the usual spectacle took place – hundreds of people lined up outside the offices of the Illinois State Board of Elections to submit their petitions in hopes that they can be the first to file for their desired office so as to qualify for the top slot on the ballot.

In some cases, the actual candidates came out to wait their turn in line. While others sent their political operatives to do the dirty work of bearing with wintry-like weather.

It seems this year, there were a few people who camped out beginning last week to ensure they were they absolute first people in line when the state Board of Elections offices opened at 8 a.m. Which is always the case. I’ve seen it in the past – only the names have changed, ever so slightly.

According to the Chicago Tribune, they were people who worked for Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago. Personally, I’d have been more impressed if Madigan himself had shown up to file his petitions.

William Brady gets credit for filing ...
INSOFAR AS THE Republican brawl for the gubernatorial nomination, it seems that William Brady and Kirk Dillard to file the petitions that their campaign aides put together for them.

While Bruce Rauner sent aides to do it for him, and Dan Rutherford sent Steve Kim – his running mate for lieutenant governor, to do the paperwork that gets the two of them on the ballot.

Since all were on hand when the Elections Board office opened, there will be the lottery sometime next month to determine who actually gets the top ballot spot (which according to political superstition can be worth as much as 5 percent of the vote).

Won’t it stink for the candidate who froze his tushie off on Monday, only to lose the lottery and wind up last or next to last?

... own petitions, as did Kirk Dillard
THERE’S ALSO THE Democratic Party brawl, so to speak, for governor.

Tio Hardiman filed his petitions to get on the ballot, meaning that Gov. Pat Quinn will have an actual challenger for the primary. But now we know the actual name of Hardiman’s lieutenant governor running mate.

She’s Brunell Donald-Kyei, an attorney who according to the Capitol Fax newsletter once worked in the Public Guardian’s office before going into private practice, where she was the attorney for Eugene Mullins – a friend of former Cook County Board President Todd Stroger who was found guilty of corruption charges for allegedly taking kickbacks related to county contracts.

We can joke about a possible Paul Vallas/Donald-Kyei debate, although it probably says a lot that the State Board of Elections website botched her name. We may have some voters searching for “Donald Brunell” on the ballot.

THAT IS IF they don’t just ignore the Hardiman/Donald-Kyei slot and cast their vote for Pat Quinn.

I’m focusing primarily on the governor’s races for now, because I suspect they’re about the extent that anybody is paying attention to political campaigns at this point.

Other elections will get their day in the sun, although it probably will be a cloudy, overcast day and few will pay attention. It always causes me to feel dismay the degree to which many people don’t pay attention to their elected officials – then want to rant and rage when their ineptitude comes through.

Although I found it intriguing to see state Rep. Derrick Smith, D-Chicago, filed his petitions Monday for re-election. Smith, of course, was the freshman legislator whose colleagues kicked him out of the Legislature when he was indicted on federal charges that amount to soliciting bribes.

SMITH: The political thing that won't go
BUT SMITH GOT himself re-elected in the very next election cycle. And it seems the U.S. Attorney’s office is taking so long to get around to Smith’s trial that he may well finish out his current term and get himself picked to another!

For those who are repulsed at the notion, his conviction would eventually remove him from office. But the Smith shadow will continue to cover the General Assembly.

It is why political observer geeks such as myself find days like Monday to be something special. It literally is a day when everybody who wants to run for office has to make their physical presence in Springfield – or at the County Building downtown if their desired dream post is a Cook County government position.

It’s not quite the same as those people who line up to ensure they get any seat for a rock concert or major sporting event. Even though it ought to be regarded as more important -- considering the influence these people have to dictate how the tax dollars generated from our incomes actually gets spent.


Monday, November 25, 2013

How ugly with eCig war become?

I’m wondering these days if we’re destined to have a “war” of sorts between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Jenny McCarthy.

The latter, of course, is the Playboy centerfold from the Southwest Side turned actress/model/activist /talk show host (for now) who seems to have found herself a new cause.

SMOKING, PARTICULARLY THAT of so-called Electronic Cigarettes. They’re a device that allow people to get their nicotine fix without generating the smoke that causes the stink that makes cigarette smoking so repulsive to anyone who has to be near an actual smoker.

During the past week, I have seen a commercial keep cropping up on television in which McCarthy touts the “blu” brand of e-Cigarettes. She claims she can now smoke without causing everybody about her to give her the “stinkeye.”

Her ad ends with her using a variation on what appears to be blu’s tag line; she’s, “taking back my freedom” to smoke in public.

As though the people who don’t want to have to cope with the health hazard of being exposed to smoking are the oppressive tyrants for trying to deny her some unalienable right to rot her lungs out with tobacco products.

I’M KIND OF offended at her perception of the issue in that fashion. But I know she’s not alone – there are too many people who think they have the right to force themselves on us – as though a bully thinks it is the “American Way” for them to bully other people.

Now what does any of this have to do with our less-than-beloved mayor?

Will he get into a brawl w/ McCarthy?
McCarthy’s commercial was what first popped into my mind when I read the news reports about the City Council’s latest cause – Aldermen Edward Burke and Will Burns will be pushing for an ordinance that will more strictly regulate the eCigs.

Based on the perception that young people are able to purchase them legally, and are using them as a way of developing a tobacco habit. As though this is the entryway to cigarette smoking.

UNDER THE ORDINANCE, e-Cigs would be regarded as identical to “tobacco products.” That would make them the same as cigarettes, and anybody using them to inhale nicotine would have to behave in the same way they do when the light up a traditional cigarette.

That means having to take the ugly habit outside – even though proponents of e-Cigs argue that their devices only generate a vapor that is odorless; rather than the smoke of a cigarette.

There’d also be regulations against selling eCigs anywhere within a 500-foot radius of a school building. That compares to current ordinances that prohibit traditional cigarettes from being sold within 100 feet of a school.

The measure, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, is to be introduced this week before the City Council, which also is considering a significant increase in the taxes assessed by city government on tobacco products.

ALL IN ALL, it is not a mindset sympathetic to people who have developed a nicotine addiction.

Seeing as though Chicago-area celebrity McCarthy (I’m really not sure how to accurately describe what the star of the “Santa Baby” films that we’ll get to see in upcoming weeks has become professionally) is now the public face of e-Cigs, will we get the sight of McCarthy at City Hall – prepared to tell off Emanuel (who has said he supports the proposed ordinance)?

Will she use the same vehemence that she has turned to in her claims that certain vaccines cause kids to become autistic to say that Emanuel should take his ordinance and stuff it?

Soon to make annual TV reappearance
Will Emanuel turn to his blunt-spoken way with words that he often used on political opponents of Barack Obama back when he was White House chief of staff to try to put McCarthy in her place?

I CAN’T ENVISION McCarthy butting out of a fight in her own home town. Nor could I dream of a situation where Emanuel would show some tact – even if he did manage to avoid offending the French when they spoke of what parts of Chicago (including McCarthy’s old Sout’ Side neighborhood) are best avoided.

All I know is that the fight, if and when it does occur, has the potential to get even uglier than a “Sox vs. Cubs” brawl.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Doing business elsewhere for tax benefits not legal; why should it be acceptable for electoral purposes?

Perhaps I’m the only person who finds it ironic we learned this week that the wife of now-U.S. Senate candidate James Oberweis specifically moved out of Illinois for tax purposes at the same time that the Supreme Court of Illinois ruled against business interests that tried to pull off a similar maneuver.

OBERWEIS: Still Illinoisan, but not spouse
Specifically, the court ruled that the companies that deliberately tried to evade paying Cook County tax rates by locating an office in some low-tax rate rural county were behaving improperly.

THOSE COMPANIES ARE now going to have to start admitting that they’re Chicago-area businesses and pay the local tax rate. No more trying to claim they’re Kankakee-area companies!

So what should we think of Julie Oberweis, who apparently officially moved to Florida three years ago and has taken actions to set herself  up as a Florida resident who just happens to spend time in Illinois – where her state Senate member husband still claims his residency.

When the word got out earlier this week (reported by the Chicago Sun-Times), it brought up an issue that is bound to be used over and over during the upcoming campaign season by those wishing to trash the man who is making his third attempt to run for the U.S. Senate.

Oberweis admits his wife did the move so she could qualify for lesser tax rates on her income.

SHE’S JUST LIKE the companies that try to create a rural office for themselves (in some cases, just a little storefront used to maintain an address, while all the real work is done at the so-called subsidiary office in the Chicago area).

It comes across as an attempt to dodge taxes. Which many of us would regard as someone thinking they’re not supposed to pay their fair share.

Ct said businesses can't claim fake offices
Except to those with the corporate mentality who honestly believe their fair share is nothing – and that any government official who can’t accept that viewpoint is “anti-business.”

Personally, I’m not terribly offended by the Oberweis maneuver – so long as the letter of the law is complied with strictly.

IF THEY WANT to go through the hassle of filing separate state tax returns (he in Illinois and she in Florida), that’s their business. Their federal return is a joint effort, according to the Sun-Times. But it has to be prepared to acknowledge their split life.

DURBIN: Will he use tax issue in campaign?
I believe it’s a lot more effort than its worth, just because one wants to believe they’re being over-taxed in Illinois and they don’t want to pay the going rate. And if there's even one technical slip-up, the feds will be sure to get themselves involved.

Which I honestly believe is because one gets more benefits from being in Illinois, and in the Chicago-area portion of the state. You get what you pay for. Places that go out of their way to boast of their low tax rates usually offer up next-to-nothing for their local residents and corporate interests.

Take the tax avoidance situation.

A COMPANY SUCH as Hartney Fuel Oil, Co., which tried claiming it was based in Mark, Ill., rather than its real corporate offices in suburban Forest View, wouldn’t hesitate to ACTUALLY move to Mark (population, 550) if they thought they could gain real benefits or savings from being located in the Putnam County village.

It will be intriguing to see how this particular issue plays out, and if it will be added to the litany of gaffes Oberweis (the candidate, not the spouse) has made in past campaigns. A helicopter circling Soldier Field, anyone?!? Will she have to “move” back to Illinois so her husband can run, yet again, for federal office?

One other point should be made. Oberweis tried to minimize the idea of his wife being a Florida resident by implying that Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., has the same situation – his spouse, Loretta, is a lobbyist in Springfield.

Except that, technically, so is Durbin, the senator, whose D.C. living situation is that of the famed four Congress-members who live in a grungy frat-house style home (inspiring the new program “Alpha House”) because they’d rather not maintain real homes in the District of Columbia along with their REAL houses back home.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Kennedy niche in our collective memory only now coming into focus

We’re at the half-century mark – 50 years Friday since the moment when someone with objections to then-President John F. Kennedy’s existence decided to take the matter into his own hands with a rifle.

Half century-old newsprint ...
Yet in the very acknowledgement of the fact that it takes time for the people to figure out what they think about anything, it is not the least bit surprising that it is only now we’re starting to figure out what we think of those two-and-a-half years that Kennedy was president.

WE’RE ALL NOW realizing that those ideologues of the 1960s who screeched and screamed that Kennedy was a subversive were just being ridiculous. A pair of recent polls by the Gallup Organization shows that not only does Kennedy get the highest-overall approval rating of 20th Century presidents, he also has the closet partisan split.

Both people of Democratic and Republican partisan leanings look favorably on the days of JFK. By now, enough time has passed that the trash talk of the past has withered away.

Now my point is not to present a Kennedy love-fest of any kind. Personally, I think the man died way too soon before he could accomplish acts that would have given his presidency a lasting legacy.

JFK and the whole concept of the “New Frontier” and “Camelot” is all about a promise that went unfulfilled.

BUT IT SEEMS to take us time to make that realization. As evidenced by another recent Gallup poll – one that judged the most recent presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Republican partisans are determined to believe that Obama will ultimately be judged by history as the worst president.

... making somebody rich on eBay. But, ...
Although if the experience we had in Chicago in coping with the “Council Wars” of the mid-1980s is any evidence, it seems that the people who ultimately will be remembered as the “worst” are the ones whose ideological taint is such that they devoted all their time to thwarting Obama.

There are those people amongst us who are going to have to come up with some serious apologies for their current actions – or else live with the permanent taint of scuzziness that they’re painting themselves with now!

... how much of its "fact" ...
IT MAY WELL turn out to be the worst thing we will be able to say about Obama is that he was too weak and ineffectual to crush his political opposition – thereby preventing him from achieving his accomplishments.

Of course, this isn’t a one-way political game – those with Democratic Party leanings are determined to believe the years of Bush, the younger, will turn out to be remembered as the “worst” presidency of our time (too many of us don’t pay attention to anything before our time).

Some are determined to believe he will rank worse than Richard M. Nixon – although that would be an accomplishment since Gallup found evidence that he’s the one presidency that can unite the parties in the ill-will they remember of it.

Although my own comical memory of the demise of Nixon was that on the day he resigned, an encyclopedia salesman literally showed up at my parents’ doorstep. He literally had a display book to tout his product that included the fact that Gerald R. Ford had risen to replace the president – even though that had become official just a few hours before!

BUT AS FOR the Nixon/Kennedy campaign prior or the events of 50 years ago Friday, I can’t play that “game” some people like to talk about – the one in which they reminisce about where they were at the exact moment they learned Kennedy was shot.

I didn’t exist. My mother used to reminisce about the day (and when I was a kid used to keep Kennedy memorial tribute issues of Life magazine tucked away in a drawer). But it was another nine months before she and my father married – and nearly two years before I was born.

... still holds up today?
I actually wonder what she would have made (she passed away just over three years ago) of all the hoo-hah being spread about Friday. Here’s hoping that those of us still amongst us who remember the day have goals of what could have been achieved had Kennedy survived actually become reality someday.

And that the day will come when we can reach a non-ideological view of what our most recent presidents have meant to us.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

French don’t think much of non-touristy areas. Do Chicagoans think any higher?

Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined the ranks of those people who want to tell the French government to “stuff it” with their objections to large swaths of our wonderful home city.

Oh, be quiet!
Yet a part of me can’t help but think there are people amongst us who ought to stifle themselves with their own objections. Because the French official stance toward Chicago isn’t really any different than what is often expressed by our own residents.

THE WHOLE MATTER became public when the Washington Post reported about the guidelines the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issues to French citizens who travel abroad.

When it comes to Chicago, it advises French tourists that they should avoid everything about the West Side, or anything south of 59th Street on the South Side.

If you must know the truth, the only part of that assessment that surprises me is that the French didn’t advise their citizens to avoid everything south of Roosevelt Road!

The French ministry didn’t give specific reasons for avoiding those areas. Although I’d suspect the overabundance of African-American people who live in those neighborhoods to the west and to the south make them think there just isn’t much for tourists to see.

BECAUSE THE PLACES in Chicago that promote themselves as attractions people from around the world ought to go to tend to be congregated along the northern stretch of the city’s Lake Michigan border.

It can be very easy to think that nothing of interest exists to the south or west (even if the reality is that those are the oldest neighborhoods of Chicago, they’re where the heart of the city lies).

It certainly is an attitude that gets expressed all too often by people promoting our own city. And if you think I’m exaggerating, just check out some of the Internet commentary on this issue where countless numbers of people (anonymous, of course) are saying they agree with the French.
EMANUEL: Weak defense against French attack

They’re the same types who point out that the United States has its own travel guidelines advising – amongst other things – that people don’t travel to Ciudad Juarez along the U.S./Mexico border while MISINTERPRETING it to mean that they shouldn’t travel to anywhere in Mexico!

BE HONEST. THERE are those north lakefront neighborhoods filled with younger people who came to Chicago so they could claim to be “urban” who never venture outside of their particular neighborhoods – and who then insist on moving OUT of Chicago once their kids hit the age of 5 (because they don’t want to be involved with the Chicago Public Schools).

Personally, I’m by birth from the land where the eastern boundary isn’t Lake Michigan, but State Line Road. Down in the 10th Ward, the locals are used to having the rest of Chicago forget we exist.

Or perhaps we’re just buried under all those mounds of petcoke that are accumulating along the Calumet River – and having their dust blown about to make mess of the environment.

Regardless, we’re talking about some areas that have done little to tout their perks and bits of interest that ought to attract the curious from amongst us around the world. And not just the sights in the South Chicago neighborhood that served as background scenes (the 95th Street Bridge, anybody?) in “The Blues Brothers” film.

HOW MANY TIMES can we check out the Water Tower? Or venture to the top of the Willis Tower – and claim we saw the whole of the South and West sides from that glass ledge that allows one to look straight down from more than 100 stories in the sky?
A cinematic moment 1/3 century ago

So listening to Emanuel say, “Don’t get me started on what I think of the French,” it comes out as outrage reeking from a touch of phoniness. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that many of the people who voted for him two years ago are the same people who never venture to the South or West within Chicago.

And as for the French, I’d tell them to stuff it! Because they won’t have a clue about Chicago if they merely go to Wrigley Field and don’t check out the one-time Pullman Rail Car Co. remains – the site that Emanuel himself touted.

After they check it out, they can venture over to the South Deering neighborhood for a lunch at Hienie’s – which has one of the most intriguing hot sauces for its fried food that one will ever experience.