Saturday, January 31, 2015

No Romney for president in ’16; may we dump all the other recycled dreams?

Call me relieved to learn Friday that Mitt Romney has no intention of actually running for the Republican nomination for president in the 2016 election cycle.

Now if we could only get all the other past presidential candidates to give up their fantasies of working in the Oval Office someday and focus attention on trying to find someone new and forward thinking, then perhaps there’s a chance that Election ’16 won’t turn out to be a complete dud.

THAT ACTUALLY IS the sense I’m picking up at this admittedly early juncture about the people who want to succeed Barack Obama when he leaves the White House in early 2017.

A batch of rejects whom we didn’t think much of before, but who seem to have nothing better to do with themselves than make another bid for the highest office.

Apparently, it didn’t register with them when we, the people who make up the electorate, told them “No!!!!!” before.

They seem to think that if we see them once again, we’ll somehow think they’re more qualified than when they ran before.

WHEN REALLY, THESE repeat candidates remind me of the debate that often takes place when reviewing former professional ballplayers year after year after year for possible inclusion in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The player’s statistics don’t somehow magically improve in his athletic retirement. He’s no more qualified for Hall of Fame admission 20 years after he retires than he was when he was first eligible five years after retiring.

So when I look at polls with names such as “Huckabee,” “Paul,” “Perry” and “Santorum” on the Republican side, I think the same thing I felt for the possibility of a Romney campaign.

“You lost!” and “Get on with your life.” There’s nothing new about any of you that the public at-large didn’t previously dismiss. Your perennial presidential aspirations have become about as pathetic as the fifteen years that one-time Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins pitcher Jack Morris kept cropping up on the Hall of Fame ballot – only to fall short every single time!

I DON’T THINK much higher of the possible campaigns of the governors of New Jersey, Louisiana and Wisconsin – all of whom have hinted they might prefer D.C. to their respective Statehouse scenes.

But at least they’d be fresh faces of people to consider for the Republican nomination for president. So I really don’t want to hear anything about one-time Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin either!

Before any of you try to dismiss this as the rant of someone who just isn’t interested in Republicans, I have to admit to feeling something similar for the possibility of Hillary R. Clinton as president.

For what it’s worth, she had her serious bid for the White House in 2008, and she fell short. She came oh so close, but failed to win the Democratic nomination. Do we really need a repeat?

ALTHOUGH I WONDER if from the perspective of developing a political legacy, she achieved more in a career that saw her serve as a senator from New York and as secretary of state than she would have had if she had become president.

After all, she wound up gaining some respect for her performance in those roles, whereas if she had become president she merely would have become the target for all the ideological buffoons who hated her husband as president and would have been determined to “take her down” too.

Having to speculate about whether Hillary will run again for president is merely a reminder that the Democratic Party doesn’t seem to have anyone else with enough ambition to want the top post in federal government.

Particularly since the one candidate whom some Dems are eager to see challenge Hillary in a primary (Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.) has already hinted she’s probably not interested in doing so.


Friday, January 30, 2015

How long will it take for O’Hare to Havana Marti becomes a daily flight?

President Barack Obama announced his intentions to restore relations between the United States and Cuba and diplomats from the two countries have already had their first sit-downs in hopes of the eventual reopening of an embassy in Havana

And it was on Thursday that a bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate – with co-sponsorship of Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill. – that would ease the restrictions that prevent U.S. citizens from being able to travel to the Caribbean island nation for personal reasons.

YET I’M NOT deluded enough to believe that the past half century of hostilities between the two nations is at an end, nor that I’ll be able to spend a wad of cash on Cuban-made cigars as a gift (I personally find cigar smoke to be repulsive) for anyone anytime soon.

Even though I have been long of the belief that a restoration of relations between the United States and Cuba makes only too much sense for both nations, and that the only reasons for maintaining the tensions is the ideological hang-ups whose time has long passed.

There are many Midwestern agriculture interests and other companies that would love to do business with Cuban interests – their financial bottom line would stand to benefit from easing the restrictions placed by our government out of the belief that they would cause the economic downfall of the regime maintained by the Castro brothers.

They haven’t; not really!

CUBA IS AN economically strapped nation; but the hardships have done nothing but feed into the propaganda that places blame on the United States for the poverty endured by many Cuban natives.

Or at least those Cubans who haven’t managed to slip out of the country and into the United States, where they now put up with myriad restrictions on what they can send “back home” to their relatives remaining on the island.

Currently, the only travel back and forth between the two nations is for people with special purposes, and there are limits on the amount of money they can spend on such trips.

So it is with all that in mind that I find the Freedom to Travel to Cuba act to be refreshing. It was introduced in the Senate, with Durbin being one of eight sponsors – four each from the Democratic and Republican caucuses.

A SIMILAR BILL is expected to be introduced next week in the House of Representatives, according to the Washington Post, which also reports that the bill would not do away with the trade embargo that has been in place for 50-plus years.

And with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, saying the Republican House majority has no intention of lifting that embargo anytime soon, it means the full restoration of relations truly is decades away.

It definitely will not be something that occurs during the Obama Administration. Heck, I’m coming up on 50 years of age, and I wonder if I will still be alive to see the days when I can theoretically catch a flight out of O’Hare and go straight to Jose Marti International Airport for a Caribbean vacation.

Or perhaps the day when the Cuban government, with an embassy in Washington, D.C., may also decide it needs a presence in the form of a Chicago consulate. Heck, if the mainland China government can have a consulate (at 1 E. Erie St. in the upscale River North neighborhood), why can’t Cuba?

I’M NOT SAYING I’m intending to be on the first regular flight out. But it always just seemed odd that a government that is able to get along with the bulk of the rest of the world remains a pariah to the United States.

Particularly when about the only thing most of us know about Cubans for real is all the quality ballplayers who have slipped into this country to play professionally here – including Chicago White Sox slugger Jose Abreu, who could wind up being the ultimate nightmare of Chicago Cubs fans if his hitting leads the White Sox to another championship before the Cubs can achieve anything!


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Immigration reform too strong an issue for ideologue resistance to endure

The new Republican-oriented Congress that took control earlier this month has made it clear it is prepared to resist at all costs the efforts of President Barack Obama to impose the reforms of national immigration policy that are desperately needed in this country.

Every opportunity they get, they engage in trash talk about the reforms that would accept the fact that there was no legitimate reason to deny valid visas to many millions of the people who are now living in this country without official status.

BUT I CAN’T get too worked up about these people whose political morals are repulsive – largely because I realize the momentum is working against those individuals. Come another three or so decades, and these same people are going to be the ones engaging in doubletalk to explain how they ever could have been quite so vacuous with their current rhetoric!

Kind of like now how the surviving people who once were critical of Mayor Harold Washington now try to claim it was a misunderstanding and they were really, really on Harold’s side way back in the 1980s.

Easing the restrictions on people wishing to come to this country and realizing the ones who are already here are making worthwhile contributions to our society is going to seem so blatantly obvious someday.

Now in my family’s case, it was my grandfathers who were the immigrants from Mexico who ultimately settled in the South Chicago neighborhood, where they wound up working in the steel mills that used to be all over the place near the Illinois/Indiana border.

ONE OF MY grandfathers came prior to the first federal immigration policy being put in place, while the other came during the period when Mexican citizens were specifically exempted from immigration restrictions (because the ideologues of that era were more concerned with keeping “the Jews!” out of this country).

Yet when I look at the modern-day people who are allegedly in this country “illegally” (that’s INS bureaucrat-speak, because people are NOT illegal by nature), I don’t see any real difference from my grandfathers – who came here because they saw an opportunity to work toward a better life.

The only people who see a difference are those people with ethnic-inspired hang-ups that shouldn’t be allowed to influence our nation’s laws.

That is why I was pleased to learn how Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., is working the nation, so to speak, to try to influence people everywhere to lighten up on their hostility toward newcomers to this country.

GUTIERREZ IS IN Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday and North Charleston, S.C., on Friday, before returning to Chicago Saturday for an event at the Rebaño Church in the Humboldt Park neighborhood.

In coming weeks, he will speak to groups in Minneapolis and Houston, and also a Valentine’s Day event in suburban Des Plaines, where he is scheduled to appear with Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., to talk about the issue.

Although I’m sure there are those who will quickly dismiss anything Gutierrez has to say. Their hang-ups are that strong.

It is with them in mind that I’m wondering what they’ll think of statements earlier this month by Pope Francis, who is scheduled to make an east coast tour of the United States (New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.) later this year.

THE POPE SAYS he’d also like to include a stop in northern Mexico in which he would go to the Rio Grande and cross over the river into south Texas – replicating the same image that the bigots of our society would have you think was made by many millions of people who snuck into the United States to subvert our society.

Which is such a nonsense statement that it makes me laugh just to write it!

Perhaps one of those “Minutemen” nincompoops along the U.S./Mexico border (whose use of historic images is even more gross than those ‘Tea Party’ types) thinks it will be cool to be the guy who “stops” the pope from crossing the river into the United States.

Then again, it probably would take that blatant of an image to make the bulk of people realize how obscene much of the anti-immigrant rhetoric truly is.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

When it comes to elections, didn’t we learn the first time around?

The presidential election cycle of 2016 is starting to take on the character of “Groundhog Day.”

Remember the film starring Bill Murray where he played a weather forecaster who had to keep reliving Groundhog Day until he managed to get it right (as in get the girl, played by Andie McDowell)?

WELL LOOKING AT the data available thus far for the election to determine who succeeds Barack Obama when he steps down from office in January of 2017 makes it seem like we’re going to relive all the past presidential elections of recent years.

We’re going to see which candidate finally “gets it right,” and which candidates are doomed to yet another presidential failure.

There are the Rasmussen Reports polls that came out in recent days that would indicate we’re going to see Hillary R. Clinton run for the Democrats against GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

The Democratic primary poll indicates that Hillary has this thing already wrapped up – even though she has yet to actually declare herself to be a candidate for president come next year!

WHILE ROMNEY HAS more support than any other Republican whose name is being bandied about for the GOP presidential nomination.

Although with Romney supposedly at only 24 percent support in that poll and 10 other people also getting support on the Republican side, it really feels like the 2012 presidential election cycle all over again.

Remember how each of the other candidates had a stint in which they were the favored candidate, until finally support convalesced behind Romney. Almost as though Republicans were desperate to find someone, anyone, who they could support instead of Mitt.

His presidential nomination that year ultimately felt like an act of desperation, rather than a sense of anybody that the public had any faith in to run the country. No wonder he wound up getting his clock cleaned, so to speak, by Obama.

WHILE HILLARY IS the overwhelming favorite of Democrats, what with 59 percent support and six other candidates all lagging way behind.

The sense of Hillary being inevitable, which was the attitude she tried to portray in 2008 until Obama himself managed to win enough primaries early on that her primary coronation turned into a brawl that she ultimately fell short at.

The part of that poll I find amusing is that Vice President Joe Biden only gets 6 percent support – even though he holds the title that usually enables a candidacy to be the pre-emptive favorite.

It seems his chances of success depend on Hillary deciding she doesn’t want to be bothered (which is always a possibility) with the ordeal of a campaign. Then, Biden can beat up on people like Mario Cuomo’s son – who it seems takes 2 percent presidential support at this time.

ALTHOUGH I CAN remember past election cycles in which the late New York governor would tease us beyond belief before deciding that he wasn’t about to run for governor, after all!

Will the younger Cuomo (also a New York governor) be just like his father?

It is interesting to see how the campaigns are likely to try to differentiate themselves this time around. The Washington Post published a pair of stories – Clinton may become the first woman to achieve the presidency, but her campaign backers are a collection of stodgy old white guys.

While Romney, the one-time governor of Massachusetts whose father was once governor of Michigan, has decided to relocate to a state with a more favorable political climate for a candidate who wants the votes of conservative ideologues.

HE’S NOW A native of Utah, which may work out well for him since his Mormon religious faith is not so exotic there. Perhaps he’ll claim he never really fit in with his Midwestern or New England roots.

Just as how the George Bushes (both H.W. and W.) would have us think they are Texas natives, rather than a pair of Ivy Leaguers at heart!


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Get off your lazy duffs to make sure you’re registered to vote come Feb. 24

It’s my oft-stated belief that people who don’t bother to show up to vote come Election Day lose their right to complain about the ineptitude of their government officials.

Particularly since recent changes in electoral procedure now allow people to vote in advance of Election Day. You don’t necessarily have to wait in line for hours at a time on the big day in order to cast your ballot.

WHICH IS WHY I’m particularly worked up about Tuesday – which is the final day for people to make sure they’re registered to vote IF they want to be eligible to cast ballots in the mayoral election.

If you wait a couple of weeks, you could still be eligible to vote in the April 7 run-off elections that may well be necessary (the most recent poll I saw indicated no one is likely to win outright a month from now, and it will be Mayor Rahm Emanuel being challenged by Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia in a run-off).

But not being registered properly to vote will ensure that you would be committing a criminal offense if you were to try to cast a ballot come Feb. 24.

That would be truly a sad situation if it were to come about next month.

MY OWN BIAS is that I always want as many people as possible to turn out to cast ballots – and not just because I do think it is a civic obligation to take a few minutes to use one of those touch-screens that now serve as voting booths to express your opinion of who should serve in government.

Both as mayor, the clerk and treasurer positions, and who gets to represent your ward in the City Council.

I know there are some wards where the incumbent is unopposed, which gives people no choice for who will be their alderman. But there are others where there are ample choices.

Those residents ought to look at this as an opportunity to express themselves – to speak out in a way to make their pleasure (or displeasure) about City Hall known.

NOT BEING ABLE to do so because you were too lazy to even bother to register to vote is more of a negative statement about yourself rather than a wisecrack about the quality of government and its public officials.

Although I wonder how this upcoming municipal election cycle will turn out.

Because while I believe there are people who are appalled and disgusted by the current administration (particularly that of Emanuel) and who are screaming at the top of their voices to be heard, I also wonder if the apathy factor is going to cause many more people to care less.

Even if they are registered, they may not vote. And if they’re not registered, then activity on Feb. 24 (with a possible April 7 follow-up) is a moot point.

THERE ALSO WILL be conflicting perceptions because of the fact that so much of metro Chicago is suburban – about two-thirds, to be exact. In those communities, the municipal elections don’t come until April 7.

Within Cook County, only suburban Dolton and Morton Grove have any offices up for stake next month. Everybody else will wait until April to decide who should be the leaders of their local governments.

And if past elections are any example, few suburban people will bother to turn out. City elections are different in that politically-aware people take them more seriously than the state or federal elections. Some of the same city residents who couldn’t be bothered to vote for governor last year will think mayor means more.

But how many of last year’s lazy people will care less this year? And how many of them will scream the loudest come early May when the new local officials are sworn in for the next four years of service?


Monday, January 26, 2015

Can Obama’s “Rahm plea” overcome Wilson’s millions in campaign cycle?

It will be interesting to see how the airwaves war in South and West side Chicago plays out in coming weeks.

Willie Wilson, the one-time McDonalds operator who turned those franchises into a fortune, has made it clear he plans to spend some millions of dollars of his own money to buy airtime on the radio stations appealing to inner-city Chicago – in hopes of being able to achieve the old days where a black mayoral candidate could take 98-99 percent of the African-American vote.

BUT IT SEEMS Mayor Rahm Emanuel is fighting back in his own way to try to get at least a sizable segment of black voters to cast ballots for him – he’s trotting out the president.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported how Emanuel’s campaign will have spots on black-oriented radio featuring Barack Obama, telling us how much better off Chicago will be if we get “four more years” of Rahm as mayor.

Can the one-time Hyde Park neighborhood resident and far South community activist still have enough support amongst black Chicago that enough African-American voters will vote for Emanuel and Wilson won’t have a dominant slice of the overall Chicago electorate? Considering that a recent poll by Lake Research Partners shows Wilson with only 5 percent support overall (with 30 percent still undecided), he has to dominate black voters to avoid electoral embarrassment.

Anything is possible, I suppose. Although a part of me wonders if we’re now going to start hearing the same whispers that initially came up back in 2007 when Obama let it be known he was even interested in running for president – he’s not ‘black’ enough.

WILL WILSON BACKERS – who include the outspoken one-time alderman and state senator Rickey Hendon – be willing to engage in trash talk against Obama; implying that a man with a seventh-grade education like Wilson is more in touch with their lives than is the Harvard Law-educated Obama?

Heck, it was that kind of attitude that caused Obama to suffer the one political loss of his life – getting his behind whupped by still-Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., when Obama had visions of serving in Congress.

I don’t believe the “Obama” name automatically draws support for Emanuel in any significant number – although it could mean that Wilson’s support drops to about three-quarters of the African-American vote (and complete irrelevance in the rest of Chicago).

So I’m waiting to see what the reaction will be, and just how strong a factor race will wind up being in this particular election cycle.

TIMES HAVE CHANGED during the past three decades since the days of Harold Washington fighting for his seat in City Hall. I don’t expect there will be quite the blunt-spoken attacks on either man.

Even in Washington, Obama doesn’t get quite the rhetoric from his GOP enemies that Washington got from Edward R. Vrdolyak during the “Council Wars” days of the mid-1980s!

But how much will it help Obama in his possible return to the Chicago scene if he gets so publicly identified as not being with the people who are determined to “Dump Rahm!!!” at all costs. Although considering that Obama is relying on Emanuel to push through a proposal that will result in the eventual presidential library and museum to be located in Chicago, the two men are already tied together.

I don’t doubt the sincerity of those people who are still peeved that their neighborhood schools got shut down in a cost-cutting measure – although I still think those people would have been better off fighting for improved education opportunities, rather than to keep existing schools that had become quite third-rate!

WILL WILSON HAVE the nerve to take on the president? Or will it be his operatives; some of whom have histories of being willing to engage in trash talk that allegedly respectable people would never say publicly?

I’ll be honest; this election cycle has been quite a dud thus far. Sure some people are upset with the incumbent, but I haven’t really seen anything to indicate any of the challengers are capable of taking that discontent and turning it into political support.

This almost has the feel of an election where people decide not to bother to vote – rather than turn out in force for someone else. In short, Emanuel wins due to political apathy!

And we have to put up with “four more years” of whining and screaming about who’s to blame.


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Banks finally makes it to Daley Plaza

Somewhere in another realm of existence, John Hoellen is either smiling, or laughing his head off.

Hoellen is an alderman from long ago remembered because he was one of the few people who would publicly say when he believed Mayor Daley (as in the old man Daley, not the son of more recent years) was “full of it” on various issues.

OF COURSE, HOELLEN was often the lone Republican serving in the City Council during his time in public service. So being a malcontent to the majority came naturally.

Why am I bringing up Hoellen now?

It is because he came to my mind when I learned Sunday of the intent by city officials to pay tribute to one-time Chicago Cubs ballplayer and Hall of Famer Ernie Banks by putting his statue in Daley Plaza. Literally, the statue that has been outside of Wrigley Field for the past seven years will be moved this week to outside of the county courthouse that has the famed Picasso statue. Banks died Friday night following a heart attack.

Anybody who knows their local history remembers that many local people initially didn’t like that Picasso statue. It looked freakish. What is it? There are still people who can’t tell you what it is supposed to represent.

HOELLEN WAS THE public official who was so critical of Pablo Picasso’s design that he said city officials should have erected a statue of Ernie Banks instead, if they wanted to capture the true Chicago spirit.

Now I don’t know if I agree with that sentiment. In fact, I remember Hoellen from my reporting days with the now-defunct City News Bureau – at one point, I covered the Chicago Transit Authority and Hoellen was the board member who could always be counted on to complain (often for legitimate reasons) about what the majority of the CTA board wanted to do.

Personally, I think the Picasso statue is so unique and gives our city a distinct monument outside the building where so many lawsuits get resolved – and across the street where our city and Cook County politicos continue to concoct so many deals that aren’t necessarily in the public interest.

But for a four-day period, at least, people will be able to show up to pay their tributes to Ernie Banks. Hoellen’s vision, or lack thereof, gets to come true.

THEY’LL BE ABLE to go on and on about how we should all “play two” today and whine about how it’s a shame that Banks never got a chance to show his stuff in a World Series OR be alive to toss out the ceremonial 'first pitch' at their fantasized Cubs World Series in 2015.

While all those pigeons who converge on Daley Plaza regularly will be able to do their business, so to speak, all over Ernie’s image. It’s too bad they couldn’t aim for the political people located across the street.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

EXTRA: Muerte, baseball-style?

Chicago Cubdom will be in mourning mode for some time now, after it became known publicly late Friday that long-time star player Ernie Banks died.

Banks, a two-time Most Valuable Player for some of the worst Chicago Cubs teams ever back in the 1950s, will be forever remembered for his ability to play ball with cheer and fun even if the end result was a collection of losses.

HE REMAINS THE image of “Mr. Cub” forevermore, particularly since the other Cubs stars who might usurp that label – 19th Century star Cap Anson whose racial hang-ups were the reason baseball went for so long as a segregated sport and Sammy Sosa whose alleged steroid experimentation taints all those home runs – are people that many Cubs fans would rather forget.

Banks was just a week shy of turning 84, and didn’t seem to have regrets about his life – which essentially amounted to living off his reputation as a ballplayer that ended some 44 years ago. Although it was intriguing to see back in 2013 when President Barack Obama presented Banks with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

How many times have we seen rain-delay video of grainy footage of Banks’ 500th home run back in 1971? How many more times will we see it recycled in coming days?

For the record, Mayor Rahm Emanuel was the first politician to try to gain himself favorable attention by issuing a statement praising Banks’ memory. Although I expect many more statements to come flowing from the egos of political people in coming hours.

WITH REGARDS TO death, I couldn’t also help but notice Chicago White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, who used the team’s fan convention this weekend to say on Friday that he wishes the Cubs a World Series success, “after I die.”

The Chicago Sun-Times speculated it might have been a pot shot at the Cubs on account of Cubs owner Tom Ricketts using his team’s fan convention last weekend to wisecrack about White Sox attendance.

But it has me wondering how many Cubs fans will now be wishing for the passing of Reinsdorf – who is 78. Or maybe it's a sign that Reinsdorf will live on and on to the point where even White Sox fans will be eager to see him move on?

Meanwhile, the concept of the sunniest disposition former ballplayer in Chicago now passes to “Mr. White Sox” himself, Minnie Minoso – who at age 89 is probably still up in his mind for an at-bat or two! Too bad he won’t be able to contemplate Hall of Fame induction come July.


When beisbol becomes baseball, all our snow melts away and joy returns to Chicago (We certainly hope and pray!)

Saturday is special in my mind for one reason – it means it is merely one month until the beginning of spring training for the Chicago White Sox, and roughly one month for other professional baseball teams.

Just 30 more days and we’ll be at the unofficial point where we can start thinking springtime, and not about the dreariness of winter cold and slush laced with filth from passing pedestrians and motorists.

I’LL ADMIT THAT I’m among the people getting a baseball fix these days from the activity in the various professional leagues of Latin America – which will culminate in a couple of weeks with the Caribbean Series.

I’m anxious to see whether the Jalisco Charros (my maternal grandfather was from the Mexican state of Jalisco) can beat the Culican Tomateros this weekend to win the Mexico Pacific League championship, then go on to challenge the champions of the leagues in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela for the Latin American bragging rights by winning the Caribbean Series!

But as interesting as the sport is in those leagues, it pales to the coming of springtime when the American and National leagues resume their activity with late-February and March training camps, coupled with the beginning of seasons in early April.

I really don’t doubt that there will be many Chicagoans who will be more interested on April 7 (the possible date for a run-off election) in their favorite baseball teams, rather than which clown becomes mayor for the next four years.

ACTUALLY, THE BEGINNING of spring training on Feb. 24 may cause more joy for Chicagoans than the municipal elections scheduled for three days later. Rahm Emanuel himself may be the only one who doesn’t feel that joy!

So what should we really expect for 2015?

I know the one-time “Bible of Baseball” (the Sporting News) has predicted a Chicago Cubs victory in the World Series. Which reminds me of the year that Sports Illustrated made that same prediction a decade ago, only to see the Cubs fail again as usual.

I was more intrigued by the prediction that the White Sox will also qualify for the playoffs – and survive into the second round before getting knocked out of the running!

SO THE SPORTING News is buying into the notion that both Chicago ball clubs are significantly improved and capable of being in the running for a league championship and World Series title.

If it were to happen, it would be only the third time that both teams had successful seasons in the same year. We all remember 2008 when both made it to the playoffs, then got knocked out in the first round.

While White Sox fans are forever bringing up 1906 – the one year of an all-Chicago World Series where the allegedly greatest team ever (they won 116 games that season) lost to the Sox four games to two.

It would be nice if there could be a city series out of Chicago some time in our lifetimes – although I suspect that for Cubs fans such a World Series would be the ultimate nightmare. It would mean their team FINALLY wins a championship (for their league), yet STILL falls short to the one team where defeat would be personal.

HONESTLY, I DON’T think 2015 is that year. I’m not sure any year in the next few seasons is going to be that year.

Because while I think both ball clubs have improved, I think they are merely in the running. Neither Chicago ball club ought to have fans thinking that they are dominant.

The Cubs may have picked up a “big name” pitcher in Jon Lester to go with the minor league prospects who may turn into solid ball players in coming seasons.

But none of those has produced at the major league level as much as someone like Jose Abreu, who is now the undisputed big bat of the White Sox and is on a ball club that picked up its own share of veterans to improve starting and relief pitching.

I THINK IT would be hilarious if Jeff Samardzija, the pitcher from Valparaiso, Ind., and Notre Dame University who was supposed to be the key to future Cubs championships wound up being the piece the ultimately led the White Sox to a title!

Although what I think is most likely to happen in 2015 in Chicago is a pair of third-place ball clubs; which is certainly better than two years ago when both teams flirted with losing 100 games that season.

I don’t care what the gamblers (with their 12-1 odds for the Cubs, compared to 20-1 for the White Sox) think – they’ve probably spent too much time watching the “Back to the Future” sequel (with the Cubs beating Miami in the World Series) while also waiting for the release of the film “Jaws 19.”


Friday, January 23, 2015

EXTRA: O’Hare to Atlanta Hartsfield – We beat you!!! (For now, at least)

Chicago Aviation Department officials seem to be enjoying themselves these days – statistics released this week show that O’Hare International Airport had more flights during 2014 than any other airport in the world.

Including Hartsfield/Jackson airport in Atlanta – which for the past decade has acted as though having the “world’s busiest airport” title somehow makes their city more significant than it truly is.

OF COURSE, I’M old enough to remember when it was just a standing statement that O’Hare was the “world’s busiest” by whatever standard was used for measuring such things.

There are those Chicagoans who think the loss of that title to Atlanta hurts just as much as New York City being able to claim the “nation’s tallest building” title away from the one-time Sears Tower.

For the record, the Federal Aviation Administration reported that there were just over 881,000 flights to and from O’Hare last year, compared to 868,000 to and from Atlanta’s airport.

If one prefers to use the standard of the number of passengers who pass through the airport, then Hartsfield remains atop O’Hare.

PERSONALLY, I THINK it is important to keep in mind that this “busiest airport” standard really shouldn’t reflect upon the cities themselves.

Keep in mind that Chicago has so many flights in and out of O’Hare because this is a big nation and people needing to get from coast to coast have to transfer from one plane to another in order to make that trip.

Chicago had the busiest airport for so many years for the same reason that Chicago is the nation’s railroad hub and a center for transportation in general – our centralized location.

Which could have just as easily wound up in St. Louis – if our municipal neighbors to the south had had enough ambition to develop a sizable airport for themselves.

THERE ARE MANY generations of people who traveled by flight whose only “sight” of Chicago was the terminals of O’Hare in between flights.

Just as I’m sure there also are many people who now only pass through Atlanta – I still remember my nephew taking a flight last year from Midway Airport to Washington, D.C., that had a connection in Atlanta.

Which still strikes me as a ridiculous route to take – but I’m sure (at least I hope) some money was saved in the process.

So for now, Chicago gets to claim “Number One” status in airports. Although it won’t shock me to learn that numbers released next year for 2015 show the two airports flip-flopping back again.

I'M SURE THERE are some people who will use whichever title fits their needs at the moment -- such as one newsroom quarrel from over a decade ago back when I was with United Press International.

A Washington-based reporter wrote a story saying that Atlanta's airport was busiest. When Chicago-based correspondents challenged the accuracy, the D.C.-type said his story's premise was based on Atlanta having the title, and he didn't want to be bothered with any outside facts.

That doesn't make Atlanta superior to Chicago by any means.

Heck, even though one-time pitcher Greg Maddux ditched the Cubs for the Atlanta Braves for the bulk of his all-star baseball career, he couldn’t bring himself to pick the Southern City over the Second City when it came time for his cap "logo" for the Baseball Hall of Fame induction last year!


Will Illinois Legislature have nerve to do away with red light cameras?

We have the chance to see a classic political battle this spring in the Illinois General Assembly; will the state Legislature have the nerve to irritate all those communities that are rushing to erect the cameras on their traffic signals to boost their enforcement efforts.

I’m talking about those cameras that can take pictures of offenses as they occur, with the pictures being used as evidence against the motorists who can receive a ticket in the mail shortly thereafter.

I SUPPOSE I should confess that I once received such a ticket – while driving through the suburb of Riverdale a few years ago, I supposedly stopped at a traffic sign and made a right turn without waiting for a long-enough time period before making the turn.

Because I was able to make the charge go away with an appearance in traffic safety school (a four-hour session to remind me of the Rules of the Road), I pleaded “guilty” even though I still think I came to enough of a “stop” before making the turn.

It was irritating, and I know I’m not alone. Way too many people scream out a stream of obscenities when they check their mail and find one of these tickets in their box.

It does come across as an attempt by the local government to extort another fee in the form of a fine to the municipality.

THAT IS WHAT inspired state Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, to sponsor a bill this spring session that would forbid any municipality from having such cameras installed in their community.

He cited a Chicago Tribune report about how such tickets were overbearingly issued within Chicago as evidence of how they shouldn’t be permitted anywhere in Illinois.

Yet I have heard way too many municipal officials across the state talk about these cameras as a financial savior not only because of the fines they attract, but also because they allow their local police departments to reduce the amount of officers on details for traffic enforcement.

I also know at least one former suburban police chief who thinks people have no right to complain about tickets that result from the cameras, on the grounds that signs are installed informing motorists exactly where the cameras are.

MEANING PEOPLE OUGHT to read those signs and use extra caution in the way they drive, unless they’re absolutely determined to get themselves a fine!

Still, I’m sure McSweeney will get himself his share of favorable press – the legislator who’s willing to do away with those cameras that they feel trap people into paying fines for questionable offenses.

Although will that press make up for the many municipal officials who will now deem him, and anyone else who publicly supports this measure, as the enemy who’s threatening their financial bottom lines?

Those fines, after all, do wind up totaling fairly significant sums. I know of some municipalities that really do rely on those fines in order to cover their essential government expenses.

THIS MEASURE COMES at a time when the City Council is considering restrictions on traffic enforcement camera use within Chicago. I’m sure there will be those who argue those restrictions are a sufficient change in public policy.

While others will argue this is one of those “local” issues that a higher form of government ought to “butt out” of – although it usually is state officials whining about the federal government who make that line of logic in their political arguments.

But if the public were to have its way, this probably would be a slam-dunk issue that would demand a 118-0 vote in the Illinois House and a 59-0 vote in the state Senate.

We’d wind up with the masses making a mad rush to their traffic signals to tear down those cameras with the same vehemence that Iraqis once used to rip down statues of Saddam Hussein following his downfall!


Thursday, January 22, 2015

My ‘isolation’ is over; it's great to be back in touch again w/ the masses even if much of their talk is trash

You don’t know how grateful I feel to be able to post this commentary and reconnect with the few of you who have nothing better to do than check out this weblog.

If you were reading it, you’d notice there were no updates for Tuesday or Wednesday. It’s not that I couldn’t have come up with issues to rant and rage about.

IT’S THAT I experienced a level of technical difficulties that made it complicated to try to comment to the point where I figured it wasn’t worth the while. So I’m back, and now more fully appreciate how just much we as a society have become tied in to our communications technology.

I’m trying to figure out whether that is a plus or a minus.

What happened was that my cellphone developed technical difficulties with its connections. For the past couple of days, it was just a piece of junk that couldn’t do anything other than tell me what time it was.

My ability to make phone calls on it conked out during the weekend, and my ability to receive and send e-mail messages (along with access anything on the Internet) died when I woke up Monday morning.

IT WASN’T UNTIL Wednesday morning that I was able to work out the kinks of the system and get my device fully restored to all the little services it provides that I apparently have become attached to.

Now there was one plus to my situation; I never lost access to the land line telephone at home. But for the past couple of days, that was my sole connection to the outside world.

Suddenly, I had to recall exactly what my home telephone number was, and I have to admit it took me a minute or so to do that. I’ve become too accustomed to thinking in terms of my smart phone number when I give out a contact for myself.

The inability to get on the Internet from home made it impossible for me to easily post new commentary here. Although I suppose I could have written it, stored the copy on the hard drive of this computer I’m now using, then send it all out when full service was restored.

ALTHOUGH I DOUBT anybody would care about my pre-State of the Union thoughts in this post-State time period. So I’ll spare you.

Or I could have traveled to my local public library and used one of their computers to file copy. Although that would have been a hassle, and I must admit to feeling a little more compassion for those individuals who are in situations where they have to rely on public computers in order to take care of any personal business.

I must admit that Tuesday was a particularly nerve-wracking period because the paranoid portion of my personality was starting to wonder if this lack of contact was going to stretch out indefinitely. I was wondering if I’d ever get restored, or if I was going to have to seriously adapt my daily routine.

As it turned out, I was at a restaurant Wednesday morning with my brother having breakfast when the quirks got worked out. It was something of a relief to “refresh” my cellphone and see a flood of e-mail messages come in – some 95 on my personal e-mail account and 46 on the g-mail account whose address is published on this weblog.

ALTHOUGH I MUST confess to realizing how little I had actually missed – I’d say I deleted about 90 percent of the messages unread because they were just too obsolete.

So all those political operatives who sent me their statements reacting to the State of the Union Address Tuesday night will have to learn that their attempt to influence my thoughts were unsuccessful.

I am not the least bit dizzy from their political spin, although I’m sure they will continue to try to influence me on future issues with their rhetorical junk.