Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Will lack of license renewal notices irritate public about lack of Ill. budget?

It shouldn’t make any difference that the state of Illinois will not be able to send out written notices via mail reminding people that their driver’s licenses are on the verge of expiring.

It includes an expiration date!
After all, the date of expiration is printed on every single license. It is spelled out for you right on the card. And it falls on your birthdate every four years!

THE ONLY REAL trick is to remember whether this year is the year you have to make the trip to a secretary of state facility to do the renewal, and whether this year is one of those where you have to submit to a written or actual driving test to show the state that you’re still qualified to be capable of operating an automobile.

But I can already imagine the complaints we’re going to hear from the public; or at least those who won’t receive a notice of renewal in coming weeks – all on account of the fact that the state is running low on cash it has authorization to spend.

It’s that dreaded lack of a budget for state government – something that is required by the state Constitution for the government to operate at full services.

Both the Chicago Tribune and State Journal-Register newspaper of Springfield reported that the secretary of state’s office will have to stop sending out the notices because the cost of postage is too much.

THE STATE HAS been sending out notices the past three months because there was some money left over from the past fiscal year (the one that ended June 30).

RAUNER: You'd think he'd be ashamed by now
The bit that still remains will now be used by the state to mail out license renewal stickers, along with license plates themselves. Although if the politically partisan-motivated stalemate between Gov. Bruce Rauner and Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, continues much longer, even those services may have to be cut.

Personally, I feel lucky. My license expired at the end of August – meaning I got my notice back in June. Aside from complaining that my new driver’s license photograph makes me look old (then again, I did just turn 50), I can’t complain.

Could Cullerton and Ragodno ...
Just as my brother is due to renew the license plates on his automobile by Wednesday.

I GUESS THIS means we beat the rush. By the time we have to deal with these duties again, I’d hope our state would be in a position to have an actual budget.

At which time, things would resume the way they’re supposed to within state government.

... resolve budget crisis themselves?
Personally, I find little details such as this to be laughable because they show just how ridiculous the financial status of Illinois has become; so precarious that something as basic as one’s driver’s license can be threatened by the inability of public officials to fulfill one of their most basic duties.

Considering that the conservative ideologues of our society believe that state government ought to pass its budget, and do as little else as becomes necessary, it makes me think that the Republican caucus is the ultimate failure in this situation by putting their desire to bash organized labor ahead of their official duty.

THEY’RE NOT EVEN fulfilling their basic responsibility. Which makes me wonder if they’re more derelict in their duties than that rural Kentucky clerk who wants to thwart a basic duty of her own office (marriage licenses) to make an ideological point about the legitimacy of gay marriage.

DAVIS: Who's more embarrassing; her or gov?
Now I’m fully aware that Madigan is just as capable of being stubborn, although I get the sense he’s at least interested in moving forward on the budgetary issue.

Which also makes me note the interviews that Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, and Minority Leader Cristine Radogno, R-Lemont, gave to WTTW-TV’s “Chicago Tonight” program earlier this week – saying that if it were just the two of them, they’d be able to approve a budget that would allow the state to move forward.

It makes me wonder if we need to dump all our leadership – and if it will be something as petty as driver’s license notification that will ultimately irritate the public enough to put the pressure on political people to get them to actually do something.


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Good, or bad, that Hastert may never actually go to trial on his charges?

I can already hear the rants and rages that will come about due to the word that one-time House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert is considering a “guilty” plea to the charges that claim he made financial payoffs to keep a one-time student of his quiet about alleged sexual misconduct.

HASTERT: May learn next month if trial required

For it seems that Hastert’s attorneys on Monday (Hastert himself wasn’t in court) told U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin that they wanted a continuance because they believed they were very close to negotiating a plea deal with the U.S. attorney’s office.

WHICH WOULD HAVE Hastert shift his “not guilty” pleas on at least part of the charges, in exchange for eliminating the need for a criminal trial at which time evidence would have to be presented about the alleged wrongdoing.

If there is never a trial, then the general public will never get more than the speculation that currently exists about what exactly it was that Hastert did wrong.

Federal prosecutors have said that Hastert, after he ceased being the House speaker, made an agreement with one of his former students back when he was a wrestling coach at Yorkville High School to pay some $3.5 million.

Prosecutors say he made withdrawals of his own money in ways that were meant to evade detection – which is a technical violation. Although one can argue that Hastert has the right to spend his money however he wants – no matter how strange it seems to pay it to a former student.

WHAT WE DON’T know specifically is why Hastert would want to do so. Although the Chicago Tribune reported claims that Hastert had taken advantage of the student in a sexual manner, and now wanted to make sure the one-time student kept his mouth shut.

But that is speculation. We don’t have that “on the record” in any way.

And there are people who are eager for that to come out publicly in the form of a trial. They want to know sordid details of whether Hastert really did do something wrong with one of his students.

Mostly for their own cheap titillation factor. Although I’m sure some political operatives will find ways to use the fact that a one-time House speaker who was Republican somehow reflects upon all of his GOP colleagues.

WHICH MAY WELL be why Hastert would consider entering a “guilty” plea, particularly if his legal counsel is capable of working out an agreement that would put the potential for incarceration at a minimum.

Perhaps even no prison time, but some sort of significant fine. I don’t know for sure what is being considered. Although I’m sure Hastert is most concerned with reducing his level of shame to the bare minimum – as in no more than he has already suffered.

While those people eager for a trial are most concerned with bolstering the shame level to the maximum – even if it means playing off the homophobic fears and thoughts that some in our society are determined to cling to.

Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing this case go away – largely because the offenses that might be considered the most serious aren’t going to be the key to any criminal prosecution of Hastert. The statute of limitations on any acts committed against students is long past – they’re so old.

THIS WOULD TURN into a technical trial on financial matters that some will try to exaggerate into titillation for their own benefits.

There’s also the fact that Hastert is a retired politico – similar to Edward R. Vrdolyak when he was finally caught and wound up doing about one year at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind.

Is that going to be Hastert’s fate as well?

If so, we need to realize that it won’t change anything – people who back Hastert will continue to do so, while those who want his “head on a pike” so to speak will forevermore be displeased by the outcome of any legitimate trial.


Monday, September 28, 2015

EXTRA: ‘Kirk’ nowhere to be found

So much for the guess that the big “hit job” on Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., merely got delayed a day in the pages of the Chicago Tribune.

Monday’s paper has come, and there’s nothing resembling an “exclusive” about the state’s junior senator who has to face re-election next year if he wants to remain in Washington for another term.

OF COURSE, THERE was merely a wire service account published on Sunday of the stink that has arisen among political people – as Kirk’s camp seems to be so fearful of this story that they’re going to extremes to undermine it before it becomes reality.

Which makes me wonder about the rationality level of the Kirk camp.

For if this story really were as flawed as Kirk and his people want to believe it to be (supposedly, the Tribune is preparing to write about how obnoxious Kirk’s behavior can be when dealing with his own staff), they’d let it be published – then deal with it once it becomes a reality.

Drag the Chicago Tribune into court, let the lawsuits ramble and let the judicial system find the degree to which the newspaper (allegedly) acted irresponsibly.

THAT WOULD SWAY the general public (and humiliate the newspaper) more than any effort to undercut the story in advance. This merely appeals to the hard-core who already are determined to vote for Kirk (or, in reality, against anyone who carries a “D” after his – or her – name).

I’m sure the Kirk camp is now going to boast about how they subdued the newspaper into backing off of something. Which makes me think that once the story does wind up being published, it’s going to have a harder edge than was originally anticipated.

And if the Kirk camp winds up being hurt by all of this, one could argue they merely brought it on themselves.

Besides, when it comes to Monday morning “news,” I’m sure the Tribune’s decision to play up big on Page One the Chicago Bears is a more popular decision than running any politically-oriented story.


Is Kirk obnoxious jerk toward his staff? Maybe Chicago Tribune will tell us

The Chicago Tribune did wind up publishing a story in their not-quite-as-fat-as-they-used-to-be Sunday editions about Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., but not the one that many people were led to expect.

KIRK: Killed criticism? Or delayed it?
For what the newspaper wound up publishing buried on Page 14 of the front section was an Associated Press story that turned up in other newspapers across the state – one about how Kirk’s campaign manager engaged in tactics meant to cut off an anticipated Tribune story.

IF WE’RE TO believe the Kirk people, the Tribune was threatening to expose a story that would show how obnoxious and bordering-on-tyrannical the senator could be toward his staff.

Supposedly, he verbally harassed four people who worked for him. Which led the Kirk people to come up with affidavits from those staffers saying they never said the things that the Tribune was supposedly going to report they said about their boss.

Kirk people even went so far as to accuse a Tribune reporter of harassing the senator’s 79-year-old mother in efforts to gather information for this story that we have yet to see.

As it turned out, the Kirk people turned to the Capitol Fax newsletter, which on Friday published details provided by Kirk meant to undermine the story and portray it as some sort of personal vendetta by a particular reporter (whom I must admit to not knowing personally, even though there are some Chicago Tribune people whom I do know).

THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES published their own account – one that included a response by Chicago Tribune management that basically said they stood by their reporter’s reporting without elaborating further.

That caused the Associated Press to pick up on the Kirk peoples’ tactic and make it news – which is what the Tribune published on Sunday.

I don’t know how odd this particular tactic ought to be regarded as – because it isn’t odd for someone to try to undermine a story they have concerns about.

Story on hold? Or spiked?
During my time as a reporter-type person, I have had enough political people try to intimidate me into not writing something (a bit of advice to those who want to bully, it usually motivates me all the more to write something). Or maybe they scream to my editor in hopes she/he will give them what they want in order to make the rant go away!

IT ALSO ISN’T odd for someone to want to hurt a news media outlet with a potential story by peddling it somewhere else – usually somewhere where they think it will be written up more sympathetically.

Meaning the person who had hoped for some sort of “exclusive” story winds up having that ego-perk undermined.

Kirk people said they timed their response out of the belief that this “story” would be in the Tribune on Sunday – which it wasn’t. Although for all I know, it may wind up in the Monday paper and you may have read it before you even saw this commentary.

Personally, the tactic strikes me as being petty – and probably reflects poorly on the Kirk people. Because coming up with that many statements from people saying they didn’t say what the newspaper may have said they said makes me wonder if they bullied their staff into “taking back” their thoughts.

WHICH MAY WELL play into the theme of the alleged story (I haven’t seen it yet, so maybe it doesn’t exist).

Could this be from someone who just wants to garner support from those people who will believe anything they’re told – so long as it starts out as an Internet rant? Which usually is the path toward collecting information that is total junk!

My own opinion is that a story claiming a political person engages in tyrannical behavior isn’t that newsworthy – most people who run for office have over-bloated egos and think (on a certain level) that no one ought to be questioning them. It seems to me to be more the material for an item that the Chicago Sun-Times' Michael Sneed would write.

But after reading how much the Kirk people don’t us to read this, it makes me (and I suspect many others) want to see the end result to figure out for ourselves what the big deal was.


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Does video poker, slots have potential to become the “blob” that ate Illinois?

I felt a bit of relief this week when I read the reports that the Illinois Gaming Board rejected the desire of officials in suburban Hometown to establish a strip mall filled entirely with businesses that have video poker machines on the premises.

Gamble, or eat?
We’re talking about the laws from a couple of years ago that permitted businesses such as restaurants and taverns to install up to five gambling machines so as to help bring in more business.

PERSONALLY, I THINK they’re gaudy. I know of a half-dozen such businesses within a half-mile of where I live – including one Mexican restaurant just one block from home.

It’s not a place I regularly ate at (I know of other places where I can get better Mexican edibles). But the sight of those machines and the flashy lights and noises they emanate can make eating there a more tacky experience.

Although I am aware there are people who feel exactly the opposite – to the point that they go to that restaurant and other businesses SPECIFICALLY SO THEY CAN spend some time playing the slots.

They want to gamble, and like the idea of not having to make the trip to a casino.

WHAT INSPIRED THE idea of a gambling strip mall was the idea of expanding on the idea of legal gambling taking place within walking distance of home – at least if you happen to live in Hometown or its neighboring suburb of Oak Lawn.

If anything, the storefronts in this strip mall would have been less concerned with having to maintain a restaurant or a tavern because it turns out the kind of people who go to gamble at these places aren’t the least bit interested.

They view the primary business as being a distraction; something that would cost them money they’d rather stick into the slot machine out of a deluded belief they’ll walk away with more money than they entered with.
More likely, those people will leave with less. Possibly nothing at all. Which is a concept I just don’t understand. I work too hard for what little cash I have to lose it to the appeal of spinning wheels, digital symbols or flashing lights.

IT WAS ENCOURAGING to see the Gaming Board take the attitude that such a strip mall amounts to a casino – which have their own sets of regulations that must be followed to be licensed by the state of Illinois.

Honestly, I think we have plenty of those riverboat casinos scattered around the state for those people who absolutely feel compelled to put their money at risk in exchange for a cheap thrill.

And I think those establishments made a serious concession when they pretty much gave up on the requirement that the gambling take place on board boats that sailed around bodies of navigable water – because the same people who just want to play a slot machine without the distraction of a restaurant also didn’t want to have to take a gambling “cruise” (not even one that was just a lap around a river of sorts).

Now I know that some people claim these places aren’t casino-related. They’re just slot machines – none of the other, more hard-core games of chance are being played. No black jack. No roulette wheels.

JUST A CHANCE to pull a rod or push a button and hope you can get something other than three lemons – followed by the sight and sound of flashing lights and sirens and a flow of coins spewing from the machine.

Sounds kind of lame to me. Particularly since I remember one time I went to that previously-mentioned Mexican restaurant to place a takeout order and had the cashier suggest I play some slot machines to try to win the money to pay for the meal.

Why do I think the end result would have been losing $50 or so, in addition to the $20 I spent on food?

And that going to a gambling-oriented strip mall would merely change that to a $70 loss from gambing, and nothing left to grab a bite to eat later on?


Friday, September 25, 2015

The “I” word

Believe it or not, the thought of impeachment for Gov. Bruce Rauner actually creeped its way into the conversation at the Statehouse in Springfield.
RAUNER: Impeachment ain't happenin'

Not that anyone who is serious about government is thinking of using the Democratic supermajority in the General Assembly to actually kick Rauner out of office.

THIS RANT CAME from Rob Sherman, the long-time activist who is an atheist and pushes to ensure that no traces of organized religion creep their way into government operations.

It seems that Sherman on Thursday showed up at the Illinois capitol building to appear at a hearing related to government operations, then brought up the notion that Rauner ought to be kicked out of office because of his office’s interference (for purely partisan political reasons) with the passage of a budget for the 2016 fiscal year.

I’m equally appalled that we’re going to hit the three-month mark next week – that’s literally one-quarter of the current fiscal year without a constitutionally-mandated budget to dictate how government spends its money.

But bringing up the “I” word manages to harm the cause of those people who think the governor is at fault in his budgetary negotiation behavior. It reduces the issue of budget talks to a clown show. Which does no one any good!

THE IDEA THAT Sherman would be willing to reduce the issue to a level of ludicrousity ought not to be a surprise. I still remember the first time I ever met the man (he showed up at the old City News Bureau offices at about 3 a.m. one overnight to play a tape of, then complain about, then-President Ronald Reagan making an insensitive remark) to know he’ll do anything to draw attention to his causes.

So showing up at the Statehouse to complain about the governor? It’s probably one of the most rational actions he’s ever taken.

But it scares me that anyone would think seriously to bring up impeachment, particularly since we have to admit that all Rauner is doing is taking a hard line against the concerns of organized labor.

If we were paying any attention during the primary and general election cycles of 2014, we’d know that Rauner fully intended to do such things. Anybody who is surprised by his attitude wasn’t paying attention during the gubernatorial campaign.

MADIGAN: Won't lower self to ideologue level
EITHER THAT, OR else they’re so clueless that they deserve any agony that is being brought upon them.

My point is that I don’t think the governor’s actions even come close to the level of “high crimes and misdemeanors” that are usually the standard for having the Legislature seriously consider acting to undo the results of a statewide election.

We voted for this good, and we probably have to live with that mistake through 2018. Perhaps in the future, we’ll give more serious thought to slacking off of support for the opposing candidate. Political apathy, such as was shown by many Democratic partisans in 2014, can be painful.

Besides, the mood of the electorate is that it takes a lot to get them worked up to the point where they want their officials thrown out of office. They may want to dump the opposition, but it shouldn’t be so easy.

INSOFAR AS TO whether or not impeachment is possible for Rauner, I’m pretty sure it isn’t. Because if it were, I’m pretty sure that Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, would have had his political operatives begin the proceedings the instant the fiscal year began without a budget in place.

Or maybe sooner (the day after Inauguration Day?).
OBAMA: How quickly would some impeach him?

Because for one to seriously talk in terms of impeachment would reduce Madigan to a partisan level even lower than anything Rauner has engaged in. It would trash any trace of the moral high ground that the esteemed Mr. Speaker currently has and lower him to the level of the Republicans in Congress who cast all their votes in accordance to what most opposes the desires of Barack Obama.

And probably reduce him to a level of respect even lower than what Sherman gets for his continued rants against the existence of God – who if he does exist ought to start shooting down lightning bolts on our political people any time now because of the lack of a state budget!


Thursday, September 24, 2015

How clueless can some people be?

Dan Piraro's 'Bizarro' strips occasionally hit too close to home
Admittedly, I have a bias – I spent my time in college studying history (that is, when I wasn’t writing copy for assorted newspapers) and got my B.A. degree studying the foreign policy of the United States.

But it always manages to amaze me when the historical cluelessness of the masses is exposed.

WE LITERALLY ARE in danger of being sentenced to relive our mistakes because we didn’t study our history. Or so said the Italian philosopher George Santayana.

Take WGN-TV, which earlier this week wrote up some copy for a news anchor to read about the start of the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.

Rather typical coverage that would fill a few seconds of airtime. The presentation was supposed to be enhanced by an on-screen graphic beside the news anchor’s head depicting the Star of David – the universal symbol of the Jewish religious faith.

Except that someone, in picking through assorted stars of David to find one to use on-air, managed to screw up by picking out an illustration of a yellow piece of felt cut into the shape of the Jewish star, with the German word “Jude” on it.

IN SHORT, THE badge that the Nazi-era German government used to require Jewish people to wear so as to make them stand out in the general public – and therefore more open to harassment from what that government considered to be the “real” people.

What WGN-TV intended
Not exactly the symbol that Jewish people want to be reminded of on one of the holiest of holidays in all of Judaism, although the resulting WGN apology was certainly an act of atonement.

Now I don’t think that WGN-TV is employing anyone with neo-Nazi sympathies or who is interested in pushing the idea of an Aryan master race. No one there is pledging allegiance to Adolf Hitler (or not even propagandist Josef Goebbels).

It’s someone who was vacuous enough to think that anything connected to a six-point star somehow is symbolic of Judaism. By that line of logic, many law enforcement officers are Jewish.

What WGN-TV gave us
ADMITTEDLY, THIS IS a symbol of Jewish harassment. But once again, not the concept that was meant to be pushed. All because someone probably took as few history courses as possible while being educated, and probably thought even those were too many.

Of course, this kind of vacuous thought isn’t a one-time incident.

I still recall a moment from a couple of decades ago when the Northwest Herald newspaper in suburban Crystal Lake ran a story about an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., about the use of the atomic bomb to bring an end to the Second World War.

The first of those bombs was dropped on Hiroshima in Japan by an Army Air Corps bomber called the Enola Gay – named as a tribute to the pilot’s mother.

BUT SOME COPY editor had no clue what Enola Gay was, and the resulting headline referred to the “Enola Homosexual.” Probably based on some higher-up’s editorial decision that gay people aren’t gay, they’re homosexual. Or a whole bunch other pejorative slurs too crass to put in the newspaper.

The reality that somebody forgot
Aside from the fact that it was intended to not put a positive spin on gay people, it bothers me that someone was so unaware of what brought that world war to an end. A little more attention to our past would have allowed for better comprehension.

The sad part of all this is that I fully comprehend that such gaffes are going to occur again. Our attitude toward the past – many think something happening in 2001 is ancient – can be downright depressing.

We’re in for a lot of misery as a result, all because too many people think we, ourselves (that is what history is about) are too boring to study in depth.


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Trump’s money may serve one positive purpose – chasing out fringe opponents

I haven’t made it a secret that I don’t think much of the presidential candidacy of New York real estate developer Donald Trump, and wonder seriously about the mental stability of those people who think there’s anything presidential about him.

FIORINA: Could she really be the GOP nominee?
Yet I’m now thinking there’s one very positive aspect to the Trump candidacy – one that ultimately will benefit the electoral process in this presidential campaign cycle.

HE’S A WELL-funded (he can afford to pay the campaign bills out of his own pocket) candidate who will chase away the weaklings who probably had no right to have dreams of someday working at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, N.W.

In a candidate field that has reached as large as 17, two potentially-serious candidates have already dropped out because they couldn’t even fake being competitive against the Trump juggernaut.

Those are former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and current Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker – the latter of whom announced this week he’s dropping out.

Both of those governors had the paper “credentials” to be taken seriously. Yet neither could get their act together enough to beat a guy who’s never held elective office and has such a blowhard ego that he’s likely to be an embarrassment if he were actually at the White House.

WALKER: Fell by the wayside
AND A GUY who’s got such a girl-chasing reputation that he makes Bill Clinton look like a prude. Perhaps it wasn’t that the ideologues of our society weren’t really offended by Clinton’s behavior with women – they were just upset he had that “D” connected to his name.

Walker thought he could take his union-bashing tactics in Wisconsin and apply them to the federal government. Yet it isn’t going to happen.

PERRY: Will his ego make him run again in '20?
Perhaps someone like Gov. Bruce Rauner ought to keep that in mind. He acts as though he wants to bring Wisconsin-style politicking to Illinois. But it would seem it’s not a universal trait.

Walker’s failure could become Rauner’s failure on a different scale. He could wind up an equal failure if he doesn’t back off.

BUT BACK TO the presidential campaign, which is now down to 15 candidates all scratching and scraping for a lead while the actual leaders wind up having something like 20 percent or so support.

Will we get this type of gaffe in '16?
There are bound to be more political dreamers dropping out, following the lead of Walker and Perry – who ought to learn that his serious presidential bid was in 2012 when there was a brief time period when HE was the GOP front-runner.

Of course, I remember back to all the times that Ronald Reagan ran for president before he finally caught on in 1980 – remember that Chicago Sun-Times headline saying that Reagan would take former President Gerald Ford as his V-P pick?!

So I’m sure his ego is determined to try again, and again and again yet again.

ALTHOUGH PERRY MAY be the polar opposite of Vice President Joe Biden, who now says he may hold off his own presidential aspirations to 2020. His time, if it is ever to come, IS now. Waiting could turn him into a “never was” with ease.

So what should we think of the presidential field on the Republican side? It could wind up that Trump, retired cardiologist Ben Carson and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina become the serious candidates – they’re the ones who show something beyond 1 or 2 percent support in the polls.

TRUMP: When will his $$ wither away
I can’t say I’d support any of them (if you ever meet my step-mother’s brother, he’s a California resident who still thinks Fiorina is a loon on account of her 2010 campaign for U.S. Senate from the Golden State). But the sooner the Republican field gets whittled down to a manageable number, the sooner people can figure out who to seriously vote for.

And then, people can start thinking for real in terms of whom the Grand Old Party can nominate for president – at which point, the Trump bluster withers away into the nothingness it deserves.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A DAY IN THE LIFE (of Chicago): Past visions; how much has survived?

I stumbled across a roughly 5-minute video that now exists on YouTube – one that compiles various snippets that aren’t worth much in-and-of themselves.

But when put together, they become a pseudo-documentary by a company called Yestervid of what Chicago was like about one century ago.

THEY INCLUDE WHAT is being billed as the oldest existing footage of Chicago – a September 1896 parade of police officers as they passed by Michigan Avenue and Monroe Street.

Although my own favorite moment was seeing the circus elephants being ridden down Dearborn Street while Chicagoans stood by. It’s not something we’d see ever again – largely because Dearborn is over-congested by auto and foot traffic. It would be too cluttered.

Likely the reason why modern-day parades for downtown Chicago cut through Grant Park on Columbus Drive. Although it’s not like Chicago has changed entirely since the days when we weren’t sure what the 20th Century would amount to.

The Willis Tower and Hancock Center are missing from the skyline shots – much much else is recognizable. As for the Trump Tower, we’d be better off if that tacky structure were to disappear.

VIDEO OF STATE and Madison streets show a very congested intersection with the very same “el” station just a block to the east. This has been a packed place with people – and with livestock. Check out the bits of video shot at the old Union Stockyards near the (logically enough) Back of the Yards neighborhood.

There is the “oldest” bit of audio – Gamelan (think Indonesia) music from the World’s Fair of 1893.

And even the sight of Comiskey Park before the upper decks were extended to cover the outfield seats. Although it seems the film producers can’t tell the difference between the 1917 World Series (the White Sox beat the New York Giants) and the 1919 version that is best left undiscussed.

So what else is notable about the modern-day Chicago?

‘SECOND CITY’ DEATH TALLY: Eight people were killed this weekend – making it a particularly ghastly weekend for 2015 in Chicago.

It also seems we’re now at 365 murders in the city for the year – enough to average one per day if we were to somehow go the next three-and-a-half months without a fatality due to another human being’s deliberate actions.

It’s also roughly the annual death tally Chicago experienced back in the “good ol’ days” of the 1920s when the Irish and Italian mobs fought it out for control of the city’s criminal rackets – a time period we like to glamourize now despite its bloody nature.

Although it also should be noted that Chicago of today is still far behind the death tallies of the late 1980s when for a few years, the city would push close to 1,000 murders per year. We’re most likely not going to come close to that total for 2015 – a fact that many of us should keep in mind before griping about the homicide rate being out of control these days.

WHO’S REALLY STONED?: Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump is going after the guy who was supposed to be the GOP front-runner, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, with campaign ads that semi-seriously imply the brother and son of former presidents is still using marijuana.

Bush was the guy who during a recent debate admitted to trying pot when he was in college, and even issued an on-camera apology to his mother! But he also has run a mediocre campaign with its share of gaffes.

Which led to the Trump ad that asks us, “Are we sure it was only 40 years ago?” that Jeb lit up a joint. Which is nonsense, and even Trump knows it.

Which leads us to ask of the public, “How stoned do you have to be in order to think that there’s anything ‘presidential’ about Donald Trump?” One look at his tower on the Chicago River ought to convince you the answer is “Absolutely nothing!”


Monday, September 21, 2015

EXTRA: R.I.P. to the Rep.

Esther Golar was a life-long Chicagoan who spent the last decade of her life representing a chunk of the South Side in the Illinois House of Representatives.

GOLAR: Dedicated to the end
One of the rank-and-file, she passed away this weekend. Yet her dedication came out in what turned out to be her last Capitol appearance. Even though she was hospitalized, she made a point of showing up at the Statehouse for the vote in August when Democrats tried overriding Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto on the “no strike” bill.

THE ONE THAT fell a couple of votes short of override in large part because state Rep. Ken Dunkin, D-Chicago, was busy in New York – leaving the “veto-proof” Illinois House a vote short in strength.

Golar could easily have used her health as an excuse to not show up. Yet she was dedicated enough to her legislative duties that she had herself brought to Springfield, wheeled into the building in a wheelchair, then being present to cast her "aye" vote.

The ordeal left her so weak that the Capitol Fax newsletter’s Rich Miller later reported that she had to be taken to a Springfield hospital on that legislative day.

But Golar was able to cast one of her final votes by siding with Madigan – which I’m sure some people will use as an excuse to demonize her. Although I wonder how many legislators would have felt that much of an obligation to their constituents to show up under such circumstances.

I ALSO FOUND it encouraging that Rauner himself was able to issue the standard statement of condolence upon learning of her death even though she was among the 68 who voted against him that day.

“Rep. Esther Golar served the people of Illinois and her constituents in Chicago admirably, while advocating for some of our most vulnerable citizens,” the governor said. “She championed change in the areas of housing, education, restorative justice and mental illness.

“She was a pillar of strength in her community and represented the people of the 6th District with tenacity and grace,” he said. “Diana and I hold her family in our thoughts and prayers as they navigate this difficult time. We thank her for her service.”
It's too bad he couldn't be as big-minded and gracious with regards to the underlying issues that are keeping he and the Legislature from reaching agreement on a state budget.


Can native American imagery ever be used tastefully by non-Indian masses?

I couldn’t help but wonder this past weekend about the use of Indian (I don't mean anyone from India) imagery by the masses.

How offensive are the Guides ...
The Chicago Tribune reported a story about a suburban LaGrange-based youth program that uses native imagery (including costumes, chants, drumming, etc.) in an attempt to teach the area’s young people proper moral values.

IT SOUNDS NICE, except that the Indian symbols are not real. They’re generic. And now, some people who really are of American Indian ethnic origins are taking offense, saying this group’s attempts at cultural education are meaningless and potentially harmful.

... and their Princess counterparts
This is bound to spur the debate from people who claim the Indians are overreacting to harmless fun because they don’t like having their own long-established beliefs challenged.

But does it have to be?

With all the athletic teams (including our city’s very own Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup championship team) that rely on Indian-implying names, could it be possible for such images to be used in a way that they really do pay tribute to the people whose ancestors really are native to this country?

Decades of absurdity in the name of baseball
PERSONALLY, I THINK the answer is “yes.” But I also think that respectful images would be so unrecognizable to the masses that they wouldn’t get it.
Because there wouldn’t be any of that “Tomahawk Chop” nonsense (think Atlanta Braves or Florida State Seminoles). Those headdresses and face paint worn by certain Blackhawks fans would wither away.

And as for Chief Wahoo (the Cleveland Indians this weekend wore the block-letter “C” on their caps when they fought the Chicago White Sox to see which team will finish this season in Third Place, rather than Fourth, although the logo could be seen all over Cleveland’s Progressive Field) and the Washington Redskins (a phrase always meant to be a slur implying that those Indian people weren’t really human), those would be so blatantly offensive that only the biggest nitwits would support them.

An attempt at respect in Washington state
It’s a shame they’re only at the minor league level, but I actually think the Spokane Indians (a long-time franchise in Washington state that currently plays in the Class A Northwest League) are on the right track.

THE CITY ITSELF is named for a tribe once native to the area, and when making sure their team logos weren’t offensive, they worked out a deal with the Spokane Nation.

That deal included an alternate team logo that includes writing in Salish – the tribe’s native language. It shows a certain respect for the tribe, which also is significant to the non-Indian population of Spokane (86 percent white, and only 2 percent American Indian) since it tells about their city’s origins.

Although without any feathers, tomahawks or other generic images, I’m sure some people are too clueless to realize what is happening.

An attitude that I’m sure is common to Chicago, where I wonder how many people realize the significance of Black Hawk.

What would Chief Black Hawk think?
HE WAS THE chief of Sac and Fox tribe (whose survivors are now heavily located in Oklahoma) who actually led a war against U.S. troops because he resented the idea that his people were being told they had to leave their native home along the Mississippi River in Illinois and Iowa.

His forces were defeated (largely because even his own tribal people weren’t unified about what should be done), and after a short prison term, but was eventually turned into a symbol of unity of Indians being subservient to their white neighbors.

By now, he’s nothing more than an Indian head that symbolizes generations of bad hockey playing – three Stanley Cup championships in six years doesn’t erase decades of failure. The actual image of an Indian head doesn’t come across as comical as some (he’s no Chief Wahoo).

But I’m sure the people who will defend the Blackhawks to the death are the same ones who want to believe the Indian Guides program (which even its one-time YMCA sponsor now backs away from) is worth an equal battle.


Sunday, September 20, 2015

No sweep! Did Maddon's Sopranos wisecrack set up Cubs cosmic payback?

The Chicago Cubs ought to be happy – they managed to win a three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals even though the dream of a sweep against St. Louis fell short Sunday with a 4-3 loss.

It's a good thing I didn't feel compelled to buy this t-shirt Sunday; it wasn't necessary. Photograph by Gregory Tejeda
They gained ground on their hopes to clinch a playoff spot this season – even though the Cardinals already have clinched theirs.

BUT THERE WERE the beanball wars that gained so much attention during this weekend of baseball at Wrigley Field. Beginning Friday when there was an exchange of ballplayers on each team who got hit with pitched balls.

Leading to Cubs manager Joe Maddon insisting his ballplayers were singled out for abuse (even though some fans contend the Cubs started the whole thing). The Cubs’ manager went so far as to compare the Cardinals to cable television mobster Tony Soprano.

As he put it, “I don’t know who put out the hit. I don’t know if Tony Soprano is in the dugout. I didn’t see him in there. We’re not going to put up with that from them or anyone else.”

Which makes me wonder – if the Cardinals are the Sopranos, does that make the Cubs the athletic equivalent of that loser mob from the still-memorable HBO show. You know – the one whose boss ultimately got killed and had his head crushed by the tires of his own moving vehicle?

First 'victim' in beanbrawl weekend?
IS JOE MADDON nothing more than “Phil Leotardo?”

Is a sporting equivalent of that image going to be the ultimate fate of the 2015 Chicago Cubs – making it 108 seasons and counting since the Cubs were able to win a World Series (or 70 years since they were even able to get in)?

The fact that Cubs pitchers carried this on beyond the Friday game of the series and in fact had one of their pitchers ejected on Saturday for engaging in beanball wars makes me wonder if the pressure ultimately will get to the ball club – making them crack!

Not exactly the overwhelming powerful image that  true championship-quality ball club would want to exude at a point in the season when they could either wrap things up – or have it all collapse upon themselves.
WHO’S TO SAY how this season – with but two weeks left before playoff baseball begins – will wrap up? It’s certainly more intriguing than anything the Bears did Sunday in their loss to the one-time Chicago Cardinals: not even losing quarterback Jay Cutler for most of the game due to a hamstring injury.

Highlight of rest of Sox' season?
Or the White Sox, who went into the final two weeks of 2015 (for them, at least) by taking only one of three games from the Cleveland Indians – creating less of a situation they will overcome the Indians for Third Place and more of one they could fall behind the Detroit Tigers to finish in Fifth.

Which could be the only reason the die-hard fans of the ball club bother to show up for the season-ending three-game series (either that, or they really want to see Hispanic Heritage Night festivities on Oct. 2).

Although it’s still a Cubs team likely to finish in Third Place themselves and qualify for the playoffs only because of the modern trend to get as many teams as possible into the mix – rather than have the best ball club overall in the National League be the one to qualify for post-season play and the right to get their heinies kicked by the ultimate American League champs!