Friday, February 28, 2014

Fortunately, we’re not Detroit. But could we have this year’s Tigers team?

I got my kick from reading the Standard & Poor’s study that says Chicago’s financial situation isn’t anywhere near as bad as that of Detroit – which officially qualifies financially as “bankrupt.”

DALEY: Our financial savior?
For among the factors that it says makes Chicago more sound is the long political reign of Richard M. Daley. The study by the financial agency says the fact that Chicago had one leader for 22 years is much different from Detroit’s constantly-changing leadership during that same period.

NOT THAT I’M ready to erect a monument to the memory of Richard M. anytime soon.

But it seems that most of the people who in recent months have been eager to lambast Chicago’s reputation by saying we’re on the verge financially of becoming the next Detroit are doing so for political reasons. They'd have us think that it was having Daley around for so long that put us on this economic path the city is on.

It becomes easy to dismiss their rants against the Second City because they’re so ideologically overloaded.

These kind of people probably want to believe that it was the city administration under Daley that somehow put us on the path to becoming a Detroit – while also dragging Illinois down to the status of another Michigan.

WHICH, BY THE way, seems to be a state that people who were raised there are eager to leave – to come live in Chicago for at least a stint.

That trend is obvious enough. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder recently tried deriding Chicago as a place for “yuppie(s),” while saying that Michiganders who want to be substantial should stay in Detroit.

SNYDER: Jealous of Chicago?
Which reeks of a sense of desperation from an official who realizes his place has become secondary in the Midwestern U.S. to that of Chicago (which gives Illinois a boost as well). Just as desperate as those Indiana government officials who get all excited whenever an ice cream stand in an Illinois border community moves over one town to the east to be amongst the Hoosiers.

But back to Standard & Poor’s, which said it did the study released Thursday because it heard all the comments coming from politically-partisan people about Chicago becoming Detroit and wanted to figure out for itself whether there was any truth to them.

FOR THE RECORD, the study contends that there are significant differences between Chicago and Detroit, to the point where it’s not really right to say that city number three (in population) is about to become city number 18!

Is the Asian Carp 'invasion' Chicago's fault?
The city has a higher median per-capita income than Detroit, along with higher housing values, less of an unemployment rate and a slower rate of population decline in recent decades.

Although on the latter point, it should be noted that while the city proper has dropped, the overall metro area has grown. Back when Chicago had about 3.5 million people, the entire state of Illinois was about 8 million.

Compared to the current 2.7 million living in the city and another 5.5 million in the Chicago suburbs. The rest of the state remains about the same in the just over 12 million.

NOW I HAVE relatives who live in Detroit and its suburbs (although I personally haven’t visited them on their home turf since nearly 30 years ago). I’m really not up to bashing about Detroit – or any other Great Lakes state. We are a region of the nation in and of itself and ought to be trying to find our commonalities.

It’s just that the rhetoric we often hear becomes so partisan as to be pointless. Just as much of the debate over the Asian Carp getting into the Great Lakes and ruining its ecosystem seems to become a matter of other states wanting to blame Chicago for somehow allowing this to happen.

We get nowhere when we let ourselves get split up. Although I would much prefer to be associated with Chicago than just about anywhere else. The bottom-line when it comes to Standard & Poor’s ratings is that Chicago’s debt is ranked “A+” with a negative outlook, compared to a “D” ranking for Detroit – how clear could that comparison be?

Could this be the Tigers' home for a season?
Except for maybe this particular baseball season, where I have to confess I wouldn’t mind if this year’s version of a Detroit Tigers ball club were based on the Sout’ Side, so as to spare us the mediocrity we’re likely to see this season.


Thursday, February 27, 2014

EXTRA: Jail not a pleasant place. That doesn’t make lawsuit’s claims proper

I find it odd that a television in the background while I write this is showing the 1997 film “Pleasantville,” which tells the tale of a 1950’s-era community where everything is pristine and pleasant.

Just because Cook County had a miserable jail back in 1910 doesn't mean we have to strive today to be even worse

Of course, that film shows us the dirty underside of such a white-washed community. And a lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court shows us the dirty underside of Chicago these days.

AS IN THE Cook County Jail.

The lawsuit says that the county’s management of the jail amounts to “sadistic violence and brutality.” What with the way guards use physical force to maintain order, or turn their heads to look away from brutal acts committed by inmates on themselves.

Now I know the reality I have heard from corrections officials that they are outnumbered by inmates within a jail or prison facility, and how any attempt to impose order by total domination would likely provoke the inmates into a riot.

So they tend to let the inmates have a sense of policing themselves.

THIS LAWSUIT BY the MacArthur Justice Center and the Uptown People’s Law Center gives a horrific image of incarceration that ought to make us ashamed that we could permit such a thing to happen within our society.

Although I’m also sure there are those amongst us who will read the reports about the lawsuit and merely shrug their shoulders, thinking to themselves, “Prison isn’t supposed to be pleasant.”

I’ll agree. But I also tend to believe that how we treat our most vulnerable (or choose to ignore them) also says a lot about us as a society and how seriously we deserve to be treated.

Personally, I’d like to think we deserve better than any reputation we’d get from letting the violence run amok out there at the jail in the Little Village neighborhood.

EVEN IN PLEASANTVILLE, in that scene where Toby McGuire’s “Bud” character spent time in a jail cell (charged with actions that made life “less pleasant”), nobody was threatening him with “an elevator ride.”

As in a place where he could be beaten up without being recorded on any security cameras – according to the jailhouse code included in the lawsuit.


Baseball’s back! But does it really warrant a holiday for the mailman?

A federal government holiday would do nothing to enhance baseball's stature. Particularly compared to the concept of a presidential 'Opening Day,' which is the federal government's true contribution to baseball.

The spring training camps of Major League Baseball clubs are now up and running, with teams in preparation for the 2014 season.

The Chicago Cubs will play their first exhibition of the year on Thursday (against the Arizona Diamondbacks, with WGN-TV carrying the afternoon ballgame), while the Chicago White Sox will have their first exhibition Friday against the Los Angeles Dodgers (with whom they share a suburban Phoenix-based training camp).

COME THE END of March and early April, the regular season will be up and running (and we will find out if there really is any reason to think the long-range future for the Cubs, and the short-range future for the White Sox will be any bit of an improvement compared to 2013.

Yes, I feel a bit of excitement at this prospect (and not just because it is circumstantial evidence that the Arctic-like weather we’ve experienced this season can’t last forever).

But I don’t know that I think baseball warrants a federal government holiday. Which is a concept that some people are seriously pushing.

Baseball and beer have ...
The Washington Post reported this week about how Budweiser-brand beer’s owners are trying to get at least 100,000 adults to sign a petition at that would officially designate a spring day each year as Baseball Opening Day – as in a federal holiday on which the government would close.

THEY ARE USING the initiative created by the president’s staff that give the illusion that the president will listen to their ideas on just about any issue. The petition, if it gets sufficient signatures, will require the president to issue an official response to the idea.

... a lengthy tie to each other. ...
Most of the people who have used it have had far-right ideological issues they wanted to tout. By no means does this obligate the president to do anything about the given issue.

So in that sense, the fact that somebody wants to say baseball’s Opening Day ought to be a holiday? Cute! But it’s not going to happen.

... Does it need a federal holiday too?
What bothers me about this is the fact that it’s not some movement arising from the people – who already know how to enjoy the return of spring and the start of a new baseball season without giving U.S. Postal Service mail carriers another day off from work.

IT’S ANHEUSER-BUSCH. AS if it’s not bad enough that the ballpark in St. Louis continues to bear the Busch name even though the brewery sold the Cardinals ball club years ago, they want to continue to brand their type of alcoholic swill over the very game.

Do we really need to enable more Budweiser to be sold to realize just how wonderful a sport baseball can be?

The 'face' of fed holiday for baseball
It’s enough to make me think I should respect any ball club that chooses to serve something other than Bud in their ballparks. Although not enough to make me think that the Cubs were somehow noble in past years by offering up Old Style.

Perhaps part of the reason I’m so cynical about this holiday business is that we just had a federal holiday that nobody quite comprehends the purpose of. Remember President’s Day? Did you rush out and buy a discounted mattress to pay tribute to the memories of Washington or Lincoln?

What is Chicago's Ozzie the face of?
I’D HATE TO see something similar happen to baseball – which has its own beauties that I’d rather not see associated with beer or Ozzie Smith (the one-time Cardinals’ shortstop is being used as a pitchman for the holiday campaign, even though we in Chicago know the only “Ozzie” in baseball is “Guillen”).

I’d rather appreciate the ballpark for the intensity of the head game – the duel between a pitcher and hitter to see who comes out on top each at-bat.

Although to me, the joy of baseball is in the fact that it is such a long season – a daily routine stretched out over six months of joy. Each and every time I can get out to a ballgame feels special; even without a federal holiday declaration.

Besides, real hard-core baseball fans know that one of the highlights of the season is the second home game of the season. It’s equally as early in the season, and you don’t get all the amateurs showing up at the ballpark just to be seen!


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Aldermanic take on a bachelor party, what will Stephen Colbert do w/ this?

Not exactly something Jason Ervin wants to put on his campaign mailings

Be honest! Prior to a couple of days ago, who amongst you had actually heard of Jason Ervin? Or could have picked him out of a group shot of Chicago's 50 aldermen?

But now? Ervin may be the biggest-name member of the rarely-illustrious Chicago City Council, all because of that bachelor party he attended a couple of years ago -- the one that turned up on YouTube video and has some people trying to imply that he's using taxpayer dollars to pay for such sex parties!

PERSONALLY, I'M NOT all that offended. Not so much because I enjoy pornography (I find most of it tedious). But because insofar as bachelor parties go, it wasn’t that big a deal.

Scantily-clad girls exposing themselves and mimicking sexual acts. A batch of guys standing around, acting borderline stupid. (And the answer is “Yes,” I am "sworn to secrecy" about a few bachelor party activities I have witnessed during my lifetime). If it weren't for the political connection, involving an alderman who's going to be seeking re-election in next year's municipal cycle, we wouldn't care in the least.

But with WMAQ-TV and the Chicago Sun-Times reporting about this moment, we’re all supposed to get so offended at the very concept. We’re supposed to think that the “honorable” Jason Ervin of the 28th Ward is now doomed to defeat – even before his re-election bid even begins.

For the record, it seems that back in November 2012, there was a bachelor party, held in the same building in which Ervin maintains his ward office. Not in the office, but two floors upstairs.

WHICH ISN'T UNCOMMON. Political people often rent multiple spaces within a building, with one designated the official government “office” covered by taxpayer dollars, and another space for private events. It’s part of the idea of keeping government funds from paying for non-government activities. Which this particular party most definitely was.

Like I already wrote, this party seems fairly innocuous. No acts of prostitution took place. No illicit drug use. Which we know because of the video snippet (a couple of minutes) that exists because someone decided that naked dancing girls was exactly the moment to pull out that cell phone and take some cheap video.

Which is really the only interesting aspect of this whole tawdry affair.

An alderman is seen having a naked girl dance suggestively before him. The video snippet, according to news reports, ends with a woman telling the guy to quit shooting video because it could turn up “on the Internet.”

IT SEEMS SHE was right. It did. And now, we’re supposed to be shocked and appalled. Even though by Internet standards, this video isn’t all that graphic. Video snippets on the Internet of bachelor and bachelorette parties (particularly those involving male strippers at women’s parties get more explicit to the point that I’m convinced they’re the male fantasy of what a bachelorette party ought to be like) are so graphic that I wonder how they get disseminated without violating laws against public pornography.

As for Ervin. It all seems so tame, by comparison.

Part of my problem in terms of dealing with this particular happening is that I regard the idea of pornography on the Internet to be monotonous.

Even the not-quite-classic porn films of the 1970s could be entertaining for their cheesiness factor. The repetitiveness of these things -- particularly if you are watching from the privacy of your computer right after reading this commentary -- is just mind-numbing, rather than erotic.

THEN, THERE’S THE factor of the need for someone to whip out their phone to take pictures. It is something I just don’t get.

I have a smartphone and have used it on occasion for pictures and video. But most of what I see people shooting images of is just so pointless. I can’t quite figure out why anyone really felt the urge to take pictures of Ervin’s moment.

I noticed the Capitol Fax newsletter out of Springfield pointed out that Ervin himself has engaged in political attacks on people the border on outrageous, and that perhaps this video is some sort of karmic payback.

This really does seem to be an incident where the only person thinking logically was that aforementioned woman who coordinated the strippers at the bachelor party. This moment is now a part of our political lore. Ervin won't be forgotten because the tale is being spread.
How cheap a gag will Colbert get?
BY CHANNEL 5 News, the Chicago Sun-Times, many other news outlets, then the fake news shows. Not exactly the kind of attention a political person usually desires.

Just think of what the Daily Show (or Colbert Report) crews will do with this on Comedy Central? Or maybe Evans will warrant a full-fledged sketch on Saturday Night Live.?

So much for the idea that one needs to do something of substance politically (or even criminally) to gain their moment in the public eye!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Go look up the YouTube video of this party for yourself. I seriously believe that if you do take the time to watch it, you’ll wind up wishing you could have those few moments of your life back.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ramis – the eternal ‘straight man’ who made Bill Murray funny – dies

It was a bit of a blow to learn Monday that actor, comedy writer and film maker Harold Ramis – who started out at Chicago’s Second City comedy troupe – is dead.

Because he’s the guy we didn’t notice as prominently as people like Dan Aykroyd or Bill Murray, but whose sense of how to play the “straight” role made the characters those other two played seem all the more off-the-wall, funny and entertaining.

RAMIS, WHO DIED early Monday at age 69 from a condition that caused his blood vessels to swell, was one of the Ghostbusters, along with Aykroyd and Murray.

He also was the friend of Murray’s “John Winger” character who got conned into enlisting in the U.S. Army along with him, thereby giving him somebody to watch his back – and join him when the two have to go into then-Communist-controlled Czechoslovakia to retake their army unit.

Who, by the way, were only captured because they were searching for the Murray and Ramis characters – who had taken the Army’s experimental prototype of a combat-ready recreational vehicle out for a spin to pick up some girls.

It literally is a line from Stripes (along with Murray’s quip about how Tito Puente was unappreciated in life) that still gets quoted by my brother.

WITH MURRAY’S CHARACTER telling Ramis’ role: “Come on, it’s Czechoslovakia. We zip in, we pick them up, and we zip right out again. We’re not going to Moscow. It’s Czechoslovakia, it’s like going to Wisconsin.”

To which Ramis’ “Russell Zitsky” character responds, “Well, I got the shit kicked out of me in Wisconsin once. Forget it!

Much of the humor was in the timing. It’s funnier on film than it is on the written page. Although I’m not about to reduce Ramis’ working life to a single quip about the cheeseheads to the north of us.

It was just this past weekend that I happened to be stumbling my way through television channels when I came across “Meatballs,” a Bill Murray comedy from back in that period right before I began high school.

WHICH MEANS ITS overly-horny prepubescent characters and trivial nonsense were at about my age level (I drooled back then over the blonde who, looking at her now, makes me feel like a dirty old man). With Murray as the out-of-control camp counselor who befriends a particularly vulnerable summer camper.

Ramis co-wrote that script.

While I don’t doubt that Murray can improvise with the best of them (the film was basically Bill Murray saying and doing outrageous things), it was Ramis who put the thoughts and images onto the page of a script so they could be turned into something resembling reality on the movie theater screens (and now our television screens every time we watch it).

Although I thought that the repeated running gag about the head camp counselor repeatedly finding his bed moved in the middle of the night (with him still in it) to various locations (up in a tree, alongside a lake, at the entrance to the camp) was a bit overdone.

THEN AGAIN, THIS is the man who also wrote the script for Ghostbusters who envisioned the idea that all of mankind could be threatened by a gigantic Stay-Puft Marshmallow man.

Which brings to mind Murray’s celluloid response of a quip, “Now that’s something you don’t see every day.”

Although it’s not just these moments that Ramis gave us. He also was the director of “Analyze This” (and the sequel, “Analyze That”), which purported to give us the concept of an organized crime boss (played by Robert DeNiro) having to see a psychiatrist (portrayed by Billy Crystal).

Which is very “The Sopranos” sounding. Although we should remember the Sopranos scene where the late actor James Gandolfini appears like he wants to smack upside the head the psychiatrist who tells his “Tony Soprano” character that he understands “the mob” because he saw “Analyze This.”

THESE ARE JUST a few of the career moments that have given us humor. It is why we’re better off that a one-time Rogers Park resident who actually once wrote freelance stories for the old Chicago Daily News decided there were better things to do with his life than try to report the news.

He’s given us moments to brighten our day, for so long as all those DVDs of his films continue to function properly.


Monday, February 24, 2014

It’s going to get ugly – as in the ’14 campaign cycle for Illinois governor!

RAUNER: Can he take a punch?
I’m sure that Bruce Rauner, the venture capitalist-turned-political rookie, is feeling pretty cocky these days.

With just one week to go before people can start casting their ballots (through Early Voting measures), the polls show him with a solid lead.

NONE OF HIS challengers has the kind of financing to close the gap. And probably the only way that Rauner blows the Republican primary is if EVERY SINGLE UNDECIDED VOTER were to unite behind one challenger AND if another candidate were to drop out.

It’s an unlikely combination.

There’s just one thing that ought to keep Rauner backers (who really are just those who have become so malcontent with the past decade of Democratic Party influence over state government that they’ll vote for anyone with an “R” after his name) from getting too giddy these days.

The reality of the Republican primary is that it consists of Rauner’s personal cash allowing him to buy public attention against two past gubernatorial losers AND a guy whose statewide profile was so low that he can be taken down with all the cheap talk going about these days about “sexual” harassment.

RAUNER ISN’T EXACTLY beating a top quality field of candidates in his primary. They might be more reputable than Gov. Pat Quinn’s lone challenger in the Democratic Party primary, but not by much!

If anybody thinks that the Rauner campaign can coast on the momentum it seems to be building now, they’re misguided.

It’s not that I think Pat Quinn is some overly-tough persona. He can be as mealy-mouthed as any other political person, particularly when he tries to lay on the populist rhetoric that claims he’s a man of the people and everybody else is the political "hack."

QUINN: Lacing up the gloves
But I got my share of amusement from learning Saturday that Quinn has hired for his campaign Bill Hyers, a political operative whose most recent accomplishment was getting Bill DiBlasio elected as mayor of New York.

ALONG WITH PAST victories that helped get Barack Obama elected as president – particularly running the Pennsylvania for Obama effort of 2012 that ensured the president had enough of the Electoral College votes to actually win. And yes, he's an Illinois native -- albeit not one of Chicago.

Quinn is putting his political future in the hands of people who know what a competitive campaign is and how to win them. There won’t be any talk about “fighting the good fight” in a noble defeat.

It’s fortunate for him that Rauner has a significant personal financial wealth, because he’s probably going to have to go through a lot of his own money just to keep up with the attacks he’s now going to get.

In fact, I wonder if Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis summarized the theme last week when she criticized Rauner as “egotistical and rich.”

SO AS TO differentiate him from herself. It could be the line whose essence gets repeated over and over until by November we’re so sick of hearing about the pompous boob that we vote against him just to be rid of him.

It doesn’t help that Rauner seems overly touchy to criticism; such as the instance involving campaign ads by the Illinois Freedom PAC. Rauner’s is the campaign that sent intimidating-reading “cease and desist” letters to area television stations carrying the commercials.

Personally, I think WLS-TV should be commented for immediately having their attorneys send Rauner’s campaign a letter refusing to give in to his request.

It makes me wonder how intensely Rauner will blow up once the Quinn people start smacking him about in ways that his Republican challengers never had the kind of campaign cash to dream of doing themselves.

COMBINED WITH THE fact that for many of the people backing the other three candidates in the GOP primary, Rauner is the absolute last guy they want to see get their political party’s nomination.

Even if he is the one who has the kind of finances on his own to deliver political blows – which will come across as the usual partisan tripe – to the incumbent governor.

He is perceived as being way-too Chicago oriented (a friend of Rahm Emanuel, and he willingly had his daughter attend a school in Chicago). Much of the desire to dump Democrat Quinn of Chicago’s West Side comes from those whose focus is on rural Illinois.

The fight for Illinois governor in the Nov. 4 general election could easily be perceived as the Chicago battle – which Quinn wins easily because Rauner won’t take enough votes from the governor in the city, and all those downstate GOPers just won’t be able to get excited about to cast enough ballots for him to win!


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Are we going to achieve equality over somebody’s “dead body?”

Heston more humorous here
I realize there is an opposition in our society to all the various states that are trying to make conditions more equitable for those individuals who are gay, and that there are some people who even take a perverse sense of pride in being opposed.

I’m just waiting for someone to make some arrogant statement the equivalent of the late actor Charlton Heston waiving about a musket and saying, “From my cold, dead hands.”

BECAUSE THAT’S THE direction we seem to be headed.

At a time when Illinois is among the 17 states and District of Columbia (about one third of the nation) that have approved measures to let gay couples marry, other places just seem to want to be hostile.

Indiana’s Legislature recently gave its approval to a measure that could, in 2016, let the voters decide the issue of a ban on gay marriage into their state Constitution. It knocked out a few lines that would have made the referendum more hostile – which is supposedly the concession to society as a whole.

Although its intent remains the same – they want to mark themselves as being apart from the direction of the 21st Century. As though State Line Road wasn’t enough of a barricade – how long until the Hoosiers decide they want a “Berlin-like” wall erected?

I DON’T MEAN to pick on Indiana. Because they’re far from alone. In Arizona this week, both chambers of the state Legislature approved a measure saying that people can refuse their business services to gay people if they really believe that providing such services violates their religious beliefs.

Gov, Jan Brewer – who a few years ago was more than willing to back a flawed measure giving her local cops the authority to meddle in matters of immigration law – now has this issue in her hands.

What side would Indiana take today?
Her political allies are screeching that they’re looking out for the religious beliefs of people. Even though in this instance, what it really comes down to is that some people think their religious beliefs give them a right to single out other individuals for abuse.

Nobody forces anybody else into a gay marriage. How someone else’s marriage interferes with one’s own life is just absurd!

CONSIDERING THAT STATES ultimately are supposed to acknowledge marriages performed elsewhere in the nation, this idea of a split status within the United States just can’t work (unless we’re prepared to have the Second Civil War, which I suppose would amount to the ideologues contending it’s a matter of “state’s rights” to decide who can marry, against the cause of equality for all).

Now some might argue that somebody in Illinois with an interest in this issue ought not to get all worked up. After all, our state’s Legislature and Gov. Pat Quinn already acted – and even got the Catholic bishop of Springfield, Ill., to perform an exorcism, of sorts, in response.

But I couldn’t help but notice that poll commissioned by the Chicago Tribune – the one that says that in rural parts of the state, some 74 percent of those polled want the law repealed. Just like those who are continuing with increasingly absurd efforts to repeal health care reform in Congress.

The newspaper’s poll was of likely Republican voters – who weren’t exactly among the backers of the bill when it came before the Legislature last year. So this isn’t a shock.

IT ALSO ISN’T surprising that once you get into the Chicago-area, only 49 percent of Republican would-be voters want the matter repealed. Which is why there won't be much backlash to the Friday ruling in U.S. District Circuit Court to affect Cook County only that that says gay couples can marry immediately -- even though the state law says the change does not take effect until June 1.

Hasn't Arizona had enough?
It’s just more evidence of the depth of the urban-rural split that our society has devolved into – one that, at times, I don’t know how we can truly overcome.

This likely will turn out like much of the legal action taken a half-century ago as a result of the Civil Rights movement – the proper actions were put into law, but they also created a strong resentment amongst a segment of our society that has yet to completely wither away.


Friday, February 21, 2014

EXTRA: He’s coming back home! But do we really want Mel to return?

It would seem that one-time Congressman Mel Reynolds is NOT some form of international pornographer.

He’s just a guy who overstayed his visa, and is about to get kicked out of the country. Zimbabwe, that is.

FOR IT SEEMS that the one-time representative from the Far South Side and surrounding suburbs who got caught using the camera on his personal phone to take pictures of women in compromising pictures is not going to face a criminal charge on that, after all.

A judge in Harare dismissed that charge of pornography possession – which is a felony in Zimbabwe.

But Reynolds did plead guilty to a charge that he was in Zimbabwe on an expired visa (he’d been there since November, theoretically so that he could make contacts to benefit U.S. corporate interests that want to do business in Africa).

So for that, a judge ordered Reynolds to be deported.

THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE reported Friday that attorneys for Reynolds say they expect him to return to the United States next week, although they’re not sure if he will wind up back in Chicago proper (he had been living in the Bronzeville neighborhood in recent years).

Although the part that most intrigued me was the claim by the hotel manager to the Tribune newspaper that they had nothing to do with Reynolds’ arrest. He had something like a $24,000 hotel bill he had run up. Who knows if they’ll ever get the money?

I still wonder if this was more about Reynolds offending some local persona, and then falling into a trap of his own making by having all those girls up to his hotel room so he could try making himself a personal film.

All of which makes this week’s Reynolds saga -- which was already so overloaded with tacky incidents -- a self-inflicted wound!


A DAY IN THE LIFE (of Chicago): Spouse says ‘no’ on mayoral bid

It usually becomes the gag of a campaign season when someone says he’s not going to run for electoral office because his spouse said “no.”

The influence of political spouses
It creates speculation about what it was the would-be candidate wound up having to do to get the spouse to go along with the thought of a campaign.

IN FACT, ONE of the few campaigns I can think of where a candidate actually listened to his wife was back in 1998 when Jim Edgar was contemplating a third term as Illinois governor, or perhaps running for the U.S. Senate.

Then-first lady Brenda Edgar made it known she didn’t want to be part of the Washington scene, and was somewhat tired of Springfield as well. Edgar (as in Jim) wound up running for nothing, and hasn’t held a government post since.

So it was interesting to learn that Chicago Teachers Union boss Karen Lewis made it clear this week that there’s no legitimacy to the speculation that she herself would take on Rahm Emanuel when he seeks re-election as mayor in next year’s election cycle.

Lewis let it be known that her husband, John, “has said ‘no’.”

WHICH MAY BE the part that gets taken more seriously than the Chicago Sun-Times reporting that Lewis said of herself, “I clearly am not a politician.”

Although I don’t doubt that Lewis will use her influence as head of the Chicago Teachers Union to try to affect the outcome of Emanuel’s campaign next year, or that of Emanuel’s friend, Republican gubernatorial hopeful Bruce Rauner, in this year’s election cycle.

Whom Lewis couldn’t help but take a wisecrack at during her own denial of running for office, saying that comparing her to Rauner is wrong because, “I’m not egotistical or rich.”

What else is notable these days as we recover from months of sub-zero, Arctic-like temperatures that have literally caused 81 percent of Lake Michigan to freeze over?

OUT WITH THE OLD; IN WITH THE NEW?:  Former Cook County Board member Joseph Moreno, who got caught up in the same federal prosecution that turned one-time Alderman Ambrosio Medrano into a repeat political corruption offender, got whacked with an 11-year prison term, just slightly more than the 10 ½ years that Medrano got.

He got the lengthy sentence from U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman even though he pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit extortion. He’ll be back in public circulation some time about the year 2023.

Meanwhile, aspiring county board member Richard Boykin is being challenged as to whether he’s even eligible for the post he’s running for. Critics say he and his wife actually live in Bolingbrook (in Will County).

Boykin backers say he has lived in Oak Park since 2005, and that he and his wife are estranged, although there has been no legal effort headed toward divorce. Boykin is among those who wants to replace long-time politico Earlean Collins, who is not seeking re-election this year.

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE OLD DAYS OF A PHONE NUMBER SCRAWLED ON THE MEN’S ROOM WALL?:  The state Legislature gets to consider the concept of “revenge porn” this spring.

A state Senate committee gave its support to a bill that would make it a felony to put compromising pictures of someone else on a web site without their consent. It would also make it a crime for the website owners to demand a fee to have such pictures removed.

That support came despite the fact that the American Civil Liberties Union said they regard such conduct, even if it is caddish, as amounting to freedom of expression – which is covered by that first amendment to the Constitution.

Which makes sense if you consider that our freedoms include the right to be stupid and ignorant at times. Somehow, I don’t expect the Illinois Legislature will feel the same way this year.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

How sleazy is Bruce Rauner? Really!!!

During my time as a reporter-type person, I have done my share of stories that hinted on inappropriate conduct toward the residents of nursing homes or other facilities for the elderly.

RAUNER: Corporate exec? Or sleaze?
I am more than capable of coming up with disgusting anecdotes about mistreatment of people. Although I’m also aware there are facilities that operate properly and give respectable care to their residents.

BUT THE OPPOSITION to gubernatorial hopeful Bruce Rauner is counting on people to have the image of the sleazy, crooked nursing home in their heads.

And they’re hoping we’re more than willing to buy into the idea that the venture capitalist (it means he puts his money into anything he thinks he can make a buck off of) is somehow connected.

The Illinois Freedom political action committee is taking credit for a new campaign spot; one that says Rauner’s company “was accused of draining money” from nursing homes, with residents “suffer(ing) from malnutrition and dehydration” as a result of Rauner being more interested in having his investment make a respectable financial return.

Rather than let some of that money be put back into the facility to maintain proper care.

OR AT LEAST that’s the line of reasoning we’re supposed to come to about Rayner.

How else to explain a campaign ad that ends with the line; “His companies’ nursing homes made over a billion dollars while seniors paid the ultimate price.”

Yes, death!

The Illinois Freedom PAC, in a prepared statement, cites lawsuits in which juries found that a company founded by Rauner’s investment firm (called Trans Healthcare) bought nursing homes, boosted their profitability by cutting staff and other treatment, and also piled on debt and did other financial maneuvers to try to get around legal liability from any lawsuits that might result.

IT’S JUST THE kind of legal action that puts enough distance (in a technical sense) between Rauner himself and the activities at the nursing homes. Which is why I’m sure it is truthful that Rauner himself never did anything inappropriate.

Which also is why Rauner, the candidate, responded with a statement that lambasts Gov. Pat Quinn for putting out the ad and calling it “desperate” and “disgusting.”

Of course, it can be argued that the Illinois Freedom PAC is not the Quinn re-election campaign. In exactly the same way it can be argued that Rauner himself did nothing inappropriate with those nursing homes.

I learned a long time ago that campaign ads are not to be taken literally. Which is the mistake most people make.

SO DO I think Quinn is “desperate” and “disgusting?” Not really. Just as I don’t think Rauner literally is responsible for killing elderly people by having them live in substandard housing – just so he can make a buck! Although it should be noted that there always is an element of truth from all the sides involved in any campaign spot.

Are the people who would like to see Quinn re-elected to another term as governor willing to play hardball by trying to turn Rauner (the only GOP campaign thus far that has gained any traction amongst the public) into some sort of sleaze that they’re hoping the Republicans will regret nominating come November?

And are the business exec types like Rauner (who when you ask them “What do you do for a living?” come up with an answer that sounds like gobbledygook to 99 percent of the populace) so focused on the financial bottom line that bad things can often happen because they’re not focused on the actual output of their business interests?

It’s sad to say that the answer to both is most likely “Yes!”


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Reynolds, the one-time “lotto” winner, faces sex-related charge in Africa

No, one-time member of Congress Mel Reynolds never actually won the Illinois lottery, or any other game of chance.
REYNOLDS: Won't go away!

It’s a reference to Reynolds’ alleged response (which came out during his criminal trial on charges that he had sexual relations with an underage girl) to the idea of getting involved with a Catholic school girl.

WHICH CREATES THE image in all of our minds of an adult male who can’t keep his hands off the young girls. An image that Reynolds seems to have reinforced this week with his arrest in Zimbabwe.

It seems that Reynolds, who represented the Far South Side and surrounding suburbs in Congress from 1993-95, got himself arrested in Harare. Local newspapers reported that Reynolds brought models and other women to his hotel room, where he used his camera to take pictures and video of them.

Technically, he has run up a hotel bill totaling the equivalent of $24,000 since arriving in Zimbabwe back in November. And his visa wasn’t authorized for such a lengthy visit.

But the charge that will draw the international attention will be the pornography possession charge – which is particularly harsh in Zimbabwe because the laws prohibit any kind of material that could be construed as sexually explicit.

FOR ALL I know, this very weblog has published things that could be construed as pornographic – under the standard that is being used in this particular case. Where it is questionable as to how consistently it is enforced by local officials.

A part of me wonders if local officials think Reynolds is trying to get out of paying his hotel bill, and they turned him in to ensure that he coughs up some cash.

A part of me also expects that he’ll spend a couple of days in a jail cell in Zimbabwe, before ultimately being deported from the country.

So much for the idea that he’s some sort of U.S. business executive who is advising other officials in this country about how to make money in Zimbabwe. He’s now going to be the U.S. sex offender who used an African sojourn as an excuse to take dirty pictures.

THE SAD PART of all this is that Reynolds seems to walk right into these incidents. You’d think he’d realize he’s in a life situation where his every miscue is going to get international attention.

We may not really care much about what happens to the one-tie Oxford-educated man who rose to a brief stint in Congress before his downfall in Chicago. But we are the type of people who will gladly use his gaffes to give ourselves a cheap giggle.

Which is what this latest story is about.

Personally, I think the story in and of itself is cheap, and that Reynolds wasn’t a significant enough figure (barely one term in Congress, would we care as much if it were Michael P. Flanagan who got arrested for something?) to deserve to last in our memory so long.

EXCEPT THAT IT allows us to recall his trial in Cook County Circuit Court, where the most interesting aspect was that the girl in question tried to refuse to answer questions about her involvement with Reynolds – which led the state’s attorney’s office to play legal hardball and have her put in jail for a few days for contempt of court; before she finally admitted what the Congressman did to her when she was younger.

There also are those of us of a certain generation who will always get a giggle from the phrase “Peach panties.”

All of which is why it becomes impossible for Reynolds’ memory to wither away into nothingness – which is what we really wish were possible.