Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A DAY IN THE LIFE (of Chicago): Suburbanizing the city? Political heavyweights? Or twin mediocrity?

I remember once being in the now-former Borders Books store at Diversey, Clark and Broadway when I overheard what appeared to be a rural couple approach a sales clerk and ask if there was a Wal-mart store anywhere nearby.


That clerk explained to the couple that Wal-mart wasn’t exactly the kind of business that located in such a community as the Lakeview neighborhood. The tone of his voice made it clear he held the couple in some sort of contempt for even thinking of shopping at a Wal-mart.


I COULDN’T HELP but think of that clerk (whom I don’t believe I have ever seen or heard from since that moment) when I stumbled across the press release Gov. Pat Quinn put out on Monday – one that boasted of something that Quinn wants to think is a major business accomplishment during his administration.


Chicago, the city proper, is getting its first Olive Garden restaurant!


Officials say the restaurant on Addison Street will employ 170 people in all. Those new jobs are among 13,800 new private sector jobs created across all of Illinois during the month of August.


What would that clerk think of the concept of an Olive Garden – mass produced Italian food for those people who claim they like Italian, except for the garlic – being located within the city limits?


THIS COMMENTARY IS not about to turn into a rant about generic businesses being located in Chicago. I’m not about to claim the city is a bastion of sophistication.


I’m sure there are many city residents who would patronize an Olive Garden if it was located near their homes. It’s not the kind of place they’re going to make a lengthy trip for.


Yet the idea of boasting about this particular business accomplishment. It makes me wonder what’s next – will Quinn get all worked up at the thought of a Steak ‘n’ Shake being located within the city? Or maybe an International House of Pancakes winding up in Chicago?


Small businesses might well be an important part of our local and regional economy. But it takes a lot of them to create benefits that are noticeable to the masses.


POLITICAL REINFORCEMENTS: Gov. Pat Quinn is going to get the reinforcements to bolster his campaign during the next week-and-a-half.


Both President Barack and first lady Michelle Obama will be in Chicago at events on his behalf. And one-time suburban Park Ridge native Hillary Rodham Clinton will be in Chicago to tell people why they should get off their keisters and cast ballots for Quinn.


That’s some pretty heavy-duty political power to be able to wield. When combined with the fact that Republican opponent Bruce Rauner isn’t the kind of guy who inspires people to vote for him (GOP backers are voting against Quinn, by and large, the incumbent governor is looking like he’d better win come Nov. 4.


For if he can’t turn out the vote in Illinois, particularly the urban parts of the state, in strong enough numbers, he’s got no one to blame really but himself.


73-89 SQUARED: The professional baseball season is over in Chicago. Both the White Sox and Cubs finished with identical won-loss records that say they improved from being absolutely dreadful last year (99 White Sox losses compared to 96 for the Cubs) to being mediocre in ’14.


It has some wondering if the improvement will continue to the point where we might have dual pennant races within a couple of years. I’m not rushing to any judgment. Serious contention is a big leap from the mediocrity we saw this past season.


So while I joke about that upcoming all-Chicago World Series, I realize there is much development (and many quirks that must break just so) for that to become a reality – and it may never occur.


So now we count down to 2015, and the possibility of Jose Abreu improving on his 36-home run performance – more home runs than any other White Sox rookie (and good enough for third best in the American League).



Monday, September 29, 2014

Will we EVER get new A.G.?

One of the things I remember from the days of Harold Washington and Council Wars is that the aldermanic opposition to Harold was so intense that they rejected just about everything he proposed.


To the extent that there were political appointments of individuals who didn’t get confirmed until after the end of the time period to which they were originally appointed.


MEANING THAT A lot of positions sat empty and in a holding pattern – nothing was really able to go forward.


Why do I expect that the Congress is more than willing to have the same happen with regards to the position of Attorney General? Eric Holder, who was one of the few original Obama Cabinet members to remain in place the entire six years that Barack has occupied the Oval Office, let it be known he’s stepping down.


Obama now has to come up with a new attorney general to finish out the remainder of his presidency – running through January 2017.


Because of the process involved in finding a prospective nominee, there likely won’t be a “name” for anyone to consider until late this year. By which time, we could have had the Nov. 4 elections and there may be a Republican majority in the U.S. Senate.


WHICH WOULD MEAN open hostility toward anyone that Obama put forth. Heck, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, already is going about hinting that the Republican caucuses in Congress will be as obstructionist as the “Vrdolyak 31” in the City Council of old.


Would they really have the nerve to oppose anyone for just over two more years? Thereby waiting for the next president (whomever that turns out to be) to pick a new A.G.? Would they leave the legal office of the federal government in limbo?


I don’t doubt for a moment they fantasize about such an action; probably justifying it in their minds as the “tearing down” of a government they don’t trust. Although such actions are exactly why real people don’t trust the ideologues of the Tea Party movement.


I do find it amusing that the Chicago Sun-Times already has put forth the idea of Patrick Fitzgerald as a potential Obama nominee. The idea that he prosecuted both George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich while serving as the Chicago-based U.S. attorney allegedly would make him acceptable to all sides of a partisan argument.


ALTHOUGH I WONDER if it really makes him untrustworthy to all political people who would fear that he would go after their particular political interests and not focus attention solely on the “opposition,” whomever they might consider that to be.


I find it amusing that if he were to somehow get the post, he’d be the second-straight Attorney General with a record of going after Chicago-type political interests. Let’s not forget that Holder was once a U.S. attorney who handled the prosecution of Dan Rostenkowski – turning him from the mighty Ways and Means chair to a federal inmate.


But it should be noted the Sun-Times seems to be the only entity that believes Fitzgerald is in the running. The Washington Post recently came up with a half-dozen or so names of people who seem to have more direct Washington political ties.


They include Solicitor General Don Verrilli, Jr., who was the one who defended the Affordable Care Act when it was argued before the Supreme Court of the United States.


I CAN ALREADY hear the rants and rages from the individuals who can’t accept the reality that having so many people without health insurance in our society is a significant burden to us all.


That debate might even get more stupid than anything that occurred at City Hall during the Washington era.


All of which makes me think that there are political people destined to permanently taint their reputations in coming months with their actions. Just like Vrdolyak did all those decades ago.


It’s too bad some people can’t think before they open their mouths!



Sunday, September 28, 2014

Staging the end of baseball eras

It was some time about 1:25 p.m. Sunday (Central Time, depending on how accurate my time piece was) when New York Yankees star Derek Jeter came to bat at Boston’s Fenway Park.

While at U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago White Sox star Paul Konerko had his first plate appearance for the season’s final game against the Kansas City Royals.

BOTH THE YANKEES and White Sox are out of the pennant race. Neither is going to the playoffs, or has a chance at a league championship and World Series appearance.

But both Jeter and Konerko are long-time players of some prominence who have said that 2014 will be their last season as professional ballplayers – although Jeter was the one whose farewell made the cover of Sports Illustrated. So Sunday was it.

I wasn’t at a ballpark. I was parked in front of a television set, and was flipping my set back-and-forth between the two games – going from listening to Jerry Remy narrate the Jeter hoo-hah, while Ken Harrelson gave us the accounting of the Konerko finale.

It literally turned out that the two men came up to bat simultaneously – leading to a pitch-by-pitch flip back-and-forth between the Comcast Sports Chicago broadcast and the carrying of a New England Sports Network broadcast of the Yankees/Red Sox affair.

BOTH OF THE announcers played into the storyline that the ballclubs wanted their stars to go out with a bang – both were prepared to immediately remove their player if he managed a base hit of sorts. Let him go out on a high note.

All throughout “the Cell,” the chants of “Paulie, Paulie” could be heard for Konerko, while Jeter got to hear Red Sox fans do their imitation of that “Der-ek Jet-er, clap-clap, clap-clap-clap” chant that Yankee Stadium crowds regularly give him.

Which is quite a concession from the Boston crowd, since I can remember when Red Sox fans used to taunt Jeter with the chant of “No-mar’s Bet-ter,” in reference to their own almost-as-good shortstop Nomar Garciaparra.

Jeter had already managed one at-bat in his game (those East Coast games start earlier than Midwestern ones), and had cracked a hard line drive that the shortstop had to make an amazing leap to catch.

SO COME THE third inning, Jeter tried again, and managed to get a relatively weak single past the Red Sox’ third baseman that drove in a run. It’s not exactly the “Kid Bids Hub Adieu” of Ted Williams’ home run in his final at-bat in 1960, but it sufficed for Yankees fans who got to see Jeter trot all over the field to congratulate everybody in sight  (including Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz) before leaving the field.

Somehow, I don’t think any body’s going to lambast Jeter for leaving early the way they still do Sammy Sosa’s Cubs departure of 10 years ago.

Just a few seconds later in Chicago, Konerko’s first at-bat of his final game ended with him suffering the same fate of the Mighty Casey – he struck out to Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura, and wound up striking out a second time, then grounding out to third base before being removed from the game in the sixth inning.

White Sox fans wound up giving him a standing ovation even though he didn't get that final base hit and Jeter-type finale that would have got him a couple of seconds worth of air time on ESPN Sunday night.

ALL BEFORE BASEBALL moves on to its rounds of playoffs that make the season seem endless and always create the potential for an early-season snowfall to knock out a game or two of the World Series.

Which might well be the only reason fans ought to root for an all-Los Angeles (suburban Angels versus city-based Dodgers) matchup come World Series time. Better weather -- even though a Baltimore Orioles/Washington Nationals matchup would give us "true" World Series-type weather.

One plus is that it would make the rest of the baseball world appreciate how superior an all-Chicago World Series would be by comparison if the improving White Sox win a league championship in the next few seasons – and if the Cubs actually do amount to anything close to all the hype their fans are falling for these days.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

'05 memories all the more distant w/ Konerko departure from baseball ranks

I'm not going to make it out to U.S. Cellular Field this weekend -- so I won't get a first-hand glimpse of all the Paul Konerko hoo-hah.

The White Sox slow-but-hard-hitting first baseman/designated hitter has been with the Sout' Side ballclub since 1999, but has let it be known he's not going to play any more following this season -- which ends Sunday.

I DID MANAGE to catch a ball game just over a week ago; seeing Jose Abreu (Konerko's replacement) hit one of his many home runs this season but otherwise watching the Minnesota Twins beat up on the White Sox on what was a sunny Sunday September afternoon.

If anything, the repeated video tributes and bits of Konerko-related trivia were dominant throughout the spectacle. And this was just a routine late-season game in which Paulie didn't even play. I can just envision how over-the-top the tributes will be this weekend. Particularly on Sunday -- Konerko's last home game.

Although I doubt it will get as over-the-top as the "final home game" mania that surrounded the Thursday-night ballgame at Yankee Stadium, where long-time shortstop Derek Jeter got in his final home game of a career ending on a downer because the Yankees didn't even make it to the playoffs this season.

But still, there's just something about all this ending-of-a-career hoopla that seems to get ridiculously over the top. I realize that without this, these games Saturday and Sunday against the Kansas City Royals would otherwise just be the end of a mediocre season -- one in which the White Sox' highlight took place in Cooperstown, N.Y., when one-time star hitter Frank Thomas got inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

INSOFAR AS KONERKO, it is intriguing to see a ballplayer last so long at the professional level and stay so long with the White Sox -- to the degree that most fans forgot he was once a Los Angeles Dodgers star prospect and also had a stint with the Cincinnati Reds before he ever envisioned that Chicago would become a significant part of his life.

Although when I think of his career, I have to note he is the final ballplayer from that 2005 World Series-winning team. Now, those of us who want to relish in nine-year (and counting)-old memories will have to watch the on-field antics of pitcher Mark Buehrle when the Toronto Blue Jays come to town, or those of Juan Uribe when the Dodgers play in this year's playoffs (and perhaps the World Series itself this year).

Or maybe we'll have to wait and see if there's a ball club out there that wants the former White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who becomes a free agent at season's end.

The rest of the guys from that ball club are gone from the major league playing ranks. Now the '05 White Sox are as much of the past as the '59 version of the ball club, or the 1977 "South Side Hit Men" version that some people forget wound up being merely a third-place team.

PERHAPS ONE REASON to turn out at the ball park this weekend would be to try to wring out one last memory of that '05 team that finally brought a World Series to Chicago in my lifetime.

Although the idea of sitting through the "Hispanic Heritage Night" festivities planned for the Friday night game against the Royals (or should I say, "Los Reals") was a bit too much. Particularly since it seems a large part of the" festivities" was that music by Shakira, Daddy Yankee and Cristina Aguilera was to be played throughout the game.

I don't want to pay "big league" ticket prices to have to endure that much racket over the public address system.

Although I will admit that not having Konerko around with the team is going to take some adjustment. Particularly since he was so big and slow and the total antithesis of what a traditional White Sox player (think Luis Aparicio and/or Nellie Fox) was supposed to be.

IT IS WHY one of my favorite Konerko memories remains the time I attended the next-to-last White Sox game of the 1999 season. It was a Saturday night, and the stands were virtually empty by the final third of the game.

But Konerko managed to get on base, then started chugging along toward second base. The idea of super-slow Paulie trying to steal a base caught everybody off-guard. The catcher made a terrible throw to second base. Konerko was safe!!!!!

Back then, the White Sox flashed a graphic on their video board every time there was a stolen base that read "(INSERT PLAYER'S NAME) has stolen _____ bases this season." With the ballplayer's name and theft total to fill in the blanks.

This particular moment in game number 161 of a 162-game season wound up getting a "Paul Konerko has stolen 1 bases this season." Which wound up stirring up a loud laugh from the dwindling crowd.

IT'S NOT SOMETHING you see every day.

And be honest. That thought is more entertaining than someone who says his favorite Konerko moment was that Grand Slam home run in Game 2 of the 2005 World Series. Which wound up getting overshadowed by the game-winning home run by Scott Podsednik (a real-life base thief whose home run was almost as rare as the Konerko stolen base).


Friday, September 26, 2014

We see terrorist attacks everywhere, particularly where they don't exist

It was just the other day I was sitting in the waiting area of an auto repair shop when the television broke away from the ladies of the View to tell us of a crucial breaking news story.


An incident at O’Hare International Airport. Security was beefed up significantly. Terminal One (the United Airlines terminal, a very significant part of the airport that once again believes it is the world’s busiest) had parts of it completely shut down.


THERE WAS ABSOLUTELY no detail given out by police about what exactly was going on. But news anchor Alan Krashesky gave us some information, purely on background, that implied something may have happened that could be construed as an attempt at a terrorist-motivated incident.


In the end, it turned out that a piece of luggage went unclaimed. Somebody took it to be suspicious. All the authorities were called in.


All for a bag that ultimately had nothing in it that could have been considered threatening!


A great big “Whew!” We can relax. No terrorist threat there.


NOR WAS THERE one on Friday, when a fire broke out at an FAA radar center in suburban Aurora. That center is an integral part of the communications that allow officials at O’Hare and Midway airports to keep track of which airplanes are coming and going from their respective facilities.


In this incident, officials knew right away about the fire.


But there were those who were convinced early on that this had to be some sort of terrorist-motivated attack on the United States (which makes sense since anything that impacts O’Hare and Midway has a backlash affect to airports across the country).


That fire managed to disrupt more than 1,800 flights into or out of Chicago, and Southwest Airlines wound up cancelling all its flights on Friday out of Midway. Which is a big deal because Southwest is the airline that essentially props up Midway. All those cheap, no-frills, flights wound up being cancelled.


MY FAVORITE ANECDOTE was to learn that the Valparaiso University football team over in Indiana had to scramble to get a charter flight out of South Bend, Ind., so that they could be in North Carolina on Saturday for their scheduled game.


They were already on the way to Midway when they learned of the chaos that passengers were being confronted with. Meanwhile, activist Gloria Steinem couldn't get a flight from New York to Chicago to appear at a campaign event on behalf of Gov. Pat Quinn's re-election desires.


For purposes of this commentary, it should be noted that FAA officials found out the fire was caused by a now-former 36-year-old employee of the facility who was upset about a job transfer to Honolulu. Nobody with ISIS or Al Qaeda or anyone else along those lines had anything to do with the incident.


Although I’m sure some people over there would love to be able to take credit for causing such havoc. It would play into their agendas.


WHICH IS WHY I’m bothered by all the paranoia that crops up whenever there is some sort of incident that people with certain ideological hang-ups will want to blame on people of Arab ethnic backgrounds.


It gets those of us who ought to know better all freaked out. We should be more rational, particularly in a moment of crisis. It is the people who panic and over-react and make misjudgments who wind up making mistakes that cause lasting problems.


It makes me suspect that the people who are quick to assume “Muslims” did it every time something bad happens are inadvertently giving aid and comfort to the terrorist-types who they think they’re attacking.


A moment of rationality every now and then would help us to put these incidents into a proper perspective – particularly the Aurora fire; which makes me think the offender is going to get the real punishment by being forced to endure future Midwestern winters instead of the balmier climate of Hawaii.



Thursday, September 25, 2014

Would Harold still hold a grudge against the Mighty Quinn?

“I would never appoint Pat Quinn to do anything. Pat Quinn is a totally and completely undisciplined individual who thinks this government is nothing but a large easel on which to do his PR work.


“He was dismissed; he should’ve been dismissed. My only regret is that we hired him and kept him too long.”




Those were the words of then-Mayor Harold Washington back in 1987 to explain the dismissal of the city’s director of revenue following only an eight-month stint in the job.


That director, of course, was Pat Quinn – who by that time had already been involved in the “Cutback Amendment” that reduced the size of the Illinois House of Representatives by one-third. He had yet to be elected to the post of Illinois treasurer, lieutenant governor or governor, nor to run any of the unsuccessful campaigns he tried in the late 1990s for the U.S. Senate or Illinois secretary of state.


THOSE WORDS ALSO are being used these days in a campaign ad that uses video of Washington speaking, then tells the voters we should “fire” Pat Quinn come Nov. 4 (a.k.a., Election Day).


This particular advertising spot came a couple of days after Republican gubernatorial nominee Bruce Rauner touted his endorsement by a collection of African-American ministers – many of whom had previously offered their support to Rauner individually.


It is part of the continuing effort by the Rauner campaign to hurt Quinn’s standing amongst African-American votes (where theoretically he could get up to 90 percent support).


Create a sense of apathy amongst black voters, and perhaps Rauner’s coalition of rural residents and business-type executives can be large enough to win the election for Illinois governor.


THERE’S JUST ONE problem with this strategy; the tidbit being used this time to motivate this line of thought is so old and unimaginative.


For all Rauner’s campaign has done is recycled the theme of one of the campaign ads that Dan Hynes used in his 2010 Democratic primary campaign against Quinn for governor.


He also reminded us of what Washington once had to say about Quinn.


For that matter, I have heard many political people of both major party persuasions use the fact that “Washington fired Quinn” as one of their talking points about how Quinn is somehow less-than-legitimate.


ACTUALLY, IF YOU study what Washington actually said (particularly that line about the “large easel on which to do his PR work”), it is so in line with what so many political people said about Quinn – he puts the “causes” he touts front-and-center, and isn’t afraid to embarrass his alleged colleagues if it helps bolster himself.


A “phony reformer,” is a phrase I have heard used to describe Quinn by so many people I can’t even begin to recall them all.


This is an old attack. It is why Quinn had little to no trouble swatting it aside when he started to get questioned about it on Wednesday. Heck, Quinn should probably have put a response to this on tape years ago. Then, he could just play that segment in response to the Washington attack whenever anyone tries to resort to using it against him.


All of this is to say that my response to learning of the latest Rauner campaign rhetoric was to wonder why his people couldn’t come up with something original. Unless they want to believe that black voters will mindlessly follow their “leader” when they cast ballots on Election Day.


SOMEHOW, I JUST don’t see that happening.


And as for the debate some are taking now as to whether Washington would have ever forgiven Quinn (the mayor died shortly after this firing occurred), I can’t help but think that Washington would have been like many other people will be come this election cycle.


He’d hold his nose and vote for Quinn against the “rich guy” who seems to think all the money he can afford to put into his own campaign gives him a sense of intelligence and know-how.



Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Attitudes change, but we’ll still get fight over marijuana decriminalization

I recall a quarrel I once got into back when I lived in Springfield, Ill. The topic was decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana, and the person I spoke to was determined to believe that this was identical to legalization.


A concept that totally offended this particular person.


FOR IT INVOLVES taking the offense of possession and removing the stigma, and accompanying criminal penalties that can occur when police find someone in possession of the proverbial “joint.”


Now I personally don’t smoke. Although I have always thought that too much of the opposition to marijuana was inspired by the concept that it was punishment for people of a certain ideological type – based largely on a notion that is some 50 years old and ridiculously out-of-date.


So to listen to people getting worked up over medical marijuana (the state has begun the process of licensing marijuana dispensaries, and many municipalities have amended their ordinances to regulate where such facilities can be located) always struck me as more political and ideological, rather than any concern over whether marijuana has any legitimate medical purpose.


So while the Chicago Tribune reported that Mayor Rahm Emanuel could benefit politically by coming out on Tuesday in favor of marijuana being decriminalized across all of Illinois, I can’t help but wonder about the drawbacks.


THERE IS A segment of our society that is loud and outspoken who will be more than eager to demonize Emanuel for backing, as they’ll want to perceive it, the legalization of marijuana.


They’ll want to believe that teenage kids will be smoking pot in the high school restrooms, and the teachers won’t be able to do anything about it. Then again, they’ll probably envision the teachers of a certain age (the ones pushing close to retirement with distant memories of being “flower children”) smoking along with them.


Which means we’re going to hear a whole lot of nonsense being spewed in coming weeks and months. People are going to want to rant and rage about this, just as they want to rant and rage about just about anything that Emanuel supports.


This was, after all, the man who was a Clinton White House aide whose running for Congress back in the early 2000s was supposed to make him un-electable. Instead, he won.


THEN, HIS TIES to Barack Obama (serving as his White House chief of staff for a stint) was supposed to make him the ultimate piece of damaged goods.


Yet Emanuel keeps winning. Which is why I’m not counting out his re-election desires come 2015.


Although the fact that he’s going to ask the Illinois Legislature to get in line with his desires for decriminalization means he’s going to be setting himself up for attacks from people who aren’t going to be inclined to view the issue the same way he does.


This issue could well be yet another one that causes people to view Illinois as a severely schizoid state split into factions that just can’t seem to agree on much of anything.


I HAVE NO doubt that outside of the Chicago metro area, the other third of Illinois’ population still thinks that the gay marriage issue is one that the state got “wrong,” and they wish we were allied with Indiana and Wisconsin in fighting legalization to the very end – instead of being amongst the first third of the nation to adopt it.


Are we bound to hear similarly-inspired arguments about marijuana and how the “hippies” have taken over and turned the state into a batch of freaks? Just writing that line, it reeks of ridiculousness.


So Emanuel, in pushing now for decriminalization, probably has some logic and sensibility on his side. It really would benefit our law enforcement agencies if they didn’t have to devote so much time and effort to fighting petty crime.


That ought to be something all of us would desire.



Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Maybe we can fight over pies?

I can envision already the fight that’s going to occur next spring. There’s bound to be someone who gets all worked up over the state’s financial problems being ignored because our state legislators are quarrelling over the merits of pumpkin pie.


The dessert that’s supposed to be a part of every Thanksgiving Day meal (to the point where I wonder if anyone really eats it any other time of the year?) is going to be the focus of a bill now pending in the Illinois House of Representatives.


STATE REP. KEITH Sommer, R-Morton, says the bulk of canned pumpkin used to make many pies in this nation is produced in central Illinois. Hence, he wants the designation of the pumpkin pie as the Official State Pie of Illinois.


He told the Associated Press that it will promote the business interest of the Nestle plant in his legislative district, and is universal enough that the whole state ought to take pride in this fact!


Personally, I always thought some people took such designations too seriously. I don’t see that it makes much difference on any level that popcorn is the Official State Snack of Illinois.


Although discussing the merits of popcorn or pumpkins is bound to be easier than trying to figure out the intricacies of how the state needs to fund the pension programs in a way that won’t drive Illinois both bankrupt and financially destitute.


FOR WHAT IT’S worth, only one other state has an Official State Pie – Florida, which takes claim to giving us key lime pie.


But Maine has as its Official State Dessert blueberry pie, provided it is made with wild Maine blueberries – which happen to be the Official State Fruit. While Massachusetts has the Boston Cream pie as its Official State Dessert, while Vermont has apple pie and both Texas and Oklahoma claim pecan pie.


Is that the focus of the next interstate brawl?


For the record, Utah’s Official State Snack is Jell-O, but that’s a topic for another day’s commentary.


ALL THE TIME and effort that went into making such designations – couldn’t it have been used more productively? Then again, political people will always go for the trivial if it gives them potential to pontificate on a subject without putting anyone at risk.


I remember a couple of decades ago an actual political brawl at the Illinois Statehouse when a Springfield-based legislator tried to give recognition to chili (which is the Official State Dish of Texas). Only she used a local quirk in spelling it “chilli” (remember Dan Quayle’s “potatoe”?), which provoked a debate intense enough that you’d have thought life on Planet Earth as we know it was about to end.


But back to the pumpkin pie, which I have noticed seems to have an overrated rep when it comes to its edibility.


Personally, I don’t mind it. I’ll have an occasional piece (if I ate other fattening foods as infrequently as I do the pumpkin pie, I probably wouldn’t have the gut I have developed throughout the years).


ALTHOUGH I HAVE seen Thanksgiving celebrations where people acknowledge the presence of the pumpkin pie, then refuse to eat any of it. Too much of it gets thrown away uneaten.


Is that really what we want to honor?


I also stumbled across a story published last month by the Slate.com website that picked a dessert for each state, and said that Illinois’ state dessert, so to speak, is brownies – which originally were created for the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893.


Although I can think of another potential brawl over an Official State Pie for Illinois. Let’s not forget that pizza is technically a “pie.” It might not be dessert, but we’d probably be better off if we laid back on the sweet stuff.


THERE CAN BE no more filling of a meal than a slice of stuffed pizza, particularly if you have a decent salad to go along with it.


Perhaps that’s the direction our officials ought to focus on in terms of making designations about what we eat.



Monday, September 22, 2014

Who really benefits from Rauner’s donations to GOP organizations?

Much is being made of the fact that Republican gubernatorial hopeful Bruce Rauner is making regular donations to the Illinois Republican Party; supposedly to build up the party organization so as to bolster the chances that a “Gov. Rauner” wouldn’t be a lone Republican in a sea of Democratic officials with the appetite of piranhas.


Although it seems to me that the real effect of that money is going to be to bolster the chances that voters sympathetic to Rauner (actually, they’re openly hostile to Gov. Pat Quinn) will actually get out to vote.


OR ELSE, THE fact that this has become a solidly Democratic-leaning state will send Rauner to the same fate as Jim Ryan, Judy Baar Topinka and William Brady.


For the record, records indicate that Citizens for Rauner gave $750,000 to the state Republican Party last month, and has donated $2.775 million to the state party since June.


Its money meant to bolster the organizations across the state that have become decrepit in recent years (1995-96 when the GOP was all dominant in Illinois seems like such a fantasy; did it ever really happen?). It is a step that will need to be taken if the Republican Party is ever to be a serious player in statewide electoral politics.


The Chicago Sun-Times did report recently that some $577,000 has been donated by the state Republican Party since June to the House Republican Organization.


THAT IS THE group supporting legislative candidates of the Republican persuasion in hopes that they can elect enough GOPers to make Michael Madigan a minority leader for only the second time (the aforementioned ’95-96) in the past four decades.


Although a more realistic goal would be to knock off just enough Democratic legislators so that Dems couldn’t automatically override any vetoes a “Gov. Rauner” would try to impose.


But it really is more about getting people to vote for Rauner, first and foremost. I suspect Rauner is more interested in getting himself elected, rather than worrying about whether he’ll have any Republican allies alongside him.


This could easily be a state government where the only GOPers are Rauner and Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka (whom some Republicans regard as their party’s “crazy auntie Judy” whom they wish they could disown).


I COULDN’T HELP myself but laugh when I received a pair of e-mail messages on Friday from the James Oberweis for Senate campaign. He’s crying broke. He needs our campaign contributions to pay for more broadcast ads to spread his message that we need to dump Dick Durbin at all costs!


“If you want to make sure that the Federal government and the State of Illinois stops raising your taxes, starts protecting our borders, begins implementing  Medicaid reform and stops spending more than they take in every year, then you need to get involved,” said the message signed by Oberweis himself.


Apparently, none of that Republican money being donated by Rauner is working its way up to the election that, theoretically, is the TOP of the ticket in this year’s election cycle.


Perhaps it also shows the difference between the wealth of Oberweis, an investment manager who also runs the Oberweis family dairy business, and the venture capitalist Rauner – who admits he’s in the top “0.0001 percent” of society’s wealth.


OR MAYBE IT means that Oberweis has the sense to realize that trying to “buy” a political office gives off the impression of sleaze that takes from any credibility one might have if they were actually to win on Election Day.


Regardless, Rauner seems well on his way to spending so much of his own money to prop up his campaign that he’ll set a record for the most money spent per vote – regardless of whether he wins or loses.


If it turns out to be the latter, that’s going to be one heck of a binge Bruce will go on come Nov. 5.



Saturday, September 20, 2014

Cubs pick up yet another ex-Sox minor league affiliate for organization

I couldn’t help but chuckle when I learned this week that the Kane County Cougars of the Midwest League were no longer going to be a minor league baseball affiliate of the Chicago Cubs.


It was with such fanfare that the far west suburban-based ballclub announced it was going to be a part of the Chicago Cubs organization. It would be a chance for Cubs fans to see the future stars of the organization. It would strengthen the brand of the Cubs in the metro area.


YET AFTER JUST two years, the Cougars have decided they are better off with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Cubs didn’t renew their agreement, but instead have chosen to be affiliated with the South Bend Silver Hawks – also of the Midwest League.


Which amuses me because I can remember when professional baseball returned to South Bend, Ind., in 1988 – as an affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. In fact, for eight seasons into the mid-1990s, South Bend was a part of the White Sox organization.


I can remember when the talk about how decrepit Comiskey Park had become centered around the fact that South Bend’s Coveleski Stadium had nicer clubhouse facilities than the allegedly “major league” ballpark.


Many White Sox fans would make the trip to South Bend to catch an occasional game; which is what I’m sure the Cubs are hoping will happen. They want to think it will help them cut into the one part of the Midwest – northern Indiana – where the White Sox have a fan base.


WHAT I FIND funny is that this now makes the Cubs an organization with a top-level minor league team in Des Moines, Iowa (the Iowa Cubs) and another affiliate with the Tennessee Smokies of Knoxville, Tenn.


I recall the 1970s when it was the White Sox who were affiliated with Des Moines (the team was called the Iowa Oaks back then) and the Knoxville White Sox (the Knox Sox for short, to local baseball fans).


It makes me wonder if the day will come that it will be the Cubs will be the ones with affiliates in Charlotte, N.C. and Birmingham, Ala. – which have been combined as a part of the White Sox system since 1997.


It also makes me wonder the logic of the Cubs organization – which thought it was making a significant move for the organization by ditching their long-time affiliate with the Peoria Chiefs two years ago.


HAVING A MINOR league ballclub in Peoria benefitted the Cubs by appeasing those fans living in central Illinois. It gave them a sense that they could catch live baseball without having to make the trek all the way to the Lakeview neighborhood.


They gave that up for Kane County, where the Cubs already had a strong fan base. They gained little to nothing with that move. Although I’m sure if the Peoria Chiefs weren’t completely satisfied with their St. Louis Cardinals affiliation, they’d be eager to have the Cubs back.


Instead, the Cubs are now setting up a system that they say is meant to build championship ball clubs, but instead is seeming to be one consisting of White
Sox cast-offs.


How long will it be before the Wrigley Field scene includes a shower head or two erected in the bleachers, or long-time (and now retired) White Sox organist Nancy Faust to play at selected games?



Friday, September 19, 2014

No ‘Obama High’ anytime soon, at least not one within Chicago proper

It seems there won’t be a high school any time soon in Chicago named for President Barack Obama.


For months, Mayor Rahm Emanuel had made such a suggestion, saying that a new school building to be constructed near the site of the former Cabrini-Green public housing complex would get the president’s name.\


OF COURSE, THAT aroused the anger of those individuals who don’t want anything that could be perceived as a tribute to the current president. But it also outraged the majority African-American population of the city’s South Side; who believe that any school bearing the current president’s name ought to be located somewhere south of Roosevelt Road.


It certainly shouldn’t be located in an area so close to the Gold Coast where the perception was that the demolition of Cabrini-Green was done more to chase black people away from the wealthy part of Chicago, rather than any concern for the area’s future development.


It probably would result in a majority white enrollment at such a school named for the nation’s first president of African-American racial origins.


The perception was that Emanuel was offering up the idea of an Obama school as a gesture of sorts to African-American voters, many of whom are still disgusted at the notion that many of the school facilities that were closed in recent years were in their neighborhoods.


AS THOUGH THE problems with Chicago schools exist because of the high black enrollments, rather than neglect of such schools by past and present administrations.


Black voters seem to have saw through the tactic. At least one alderman wondered why the mayor didn’t try to focus on getting a decent supermarket into some of the more impoverished neighborhoods of the city – ones that such chains often avoid like the plague.


Others wonder why city officials couldn’t build a new high school with college preparatory programs somewhere on the South Side, rather than the near north where some think there already are enough quality schools – this one would be just a few blocks from the Walter Payton College Preparatory School in the River North neighborhood.


Although it should be noted that while Emanuel is backing off his talk of naming a school for Obama, he’s not giving up on building a school near north in Chicago – a facility that supposedly will accommodate about 1,200 students and will be built by 2017.


NOT THAT THERE won’t be school facilities in the Chicago area bearing the Obama monicker. Officials with Park Forest-Chicago Heights School District 163 in the south suburbs announced recently their plans to rename a couple of existing schools.


One will be called the Barack Obama School of Leadership and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, while the other will now be the Michelle Obama School of Technology and the Arts.


Perhaps Emanuel’s real mistake was in not including the first lady in his plans to pay tribute to his former boss (the mayor is the former White House chief of staff).


Maybe South Side Chicago would have been more receptive to paying tribute to the South Shore neighborhood native than to the guy who came to us following a childhood in Honolulu?


PERSONALLY, I’M WARY of naming buildings or streets for people. It can result in too many trivial types getting honors. How many Carol Moseley-Braun schools are there in existence that wish they could “take back” their choice of a name that a couple of decades ago seemed like a natural tribute?


Then again, I went to elementary schools named for World War II generals George S. Patton and Dwight Eisenhower (along with a junior high school named to be a memorial to that war’s soldiers). Perhaps I’m just too engrained to think that the modern-day politicos whom I have written about can’t possibly be old enough to be worthy of such a designation.


Just as I can already envision the political fight of the future when somebody proposes naming a school for Emanuel himself!