Thursday, March 31, 2016

‘Day of Action’ more like expanded effort to get teachers’ union on TV

It will be interesting to see how the public reacts to Friday – the day that the Chicago Teachers Union has a one-day strike, of sorts, planned.

Looking to build up friends
The union has its gripes with the Chicago Public Schools (what else is new), and the hope is that a one-day lack of teachers in the schools somehow scares the board of education into taking their concerns more seriously.

THE IDEA BEING that a one-day work stoppage could avert a lengthier strike at some point in the future.

Yet I must admit to being skeptical – in part because I realize the Chicago Public Schools are run by people who have their own stubborn streak and if there was an easy solution toward achieving a new contract for the public school teachers it would have been negotiated a long time ago.

But also, I can’t help but note the large amount of activity planned for Friday that seems not all that concerned with public education.

The ‘Day of Action’ is intended to be a whole day on Friday of activities meant to show the teachers’ union solidarity with other organized labor interests. As in the teachers union wants to be sure that if there is a future strike, they will have the backing of labor unions in other industries.

LOOKING AT THE tentative schedule the union put together (it could always change and Friday could turn out to be completely different), there will be teachers in places ranging from the Nabisco cookie manufacturing plant at 73rd Street and Kedzie Avenue to the Cook County Jail (as part of a stunt meant to encourage increased education funding to avoid children growing up into inmates).
From a visit to the Cook County Jail ...
There will be teachers partaking in events at Chicago State University (where financial conditions are so strapped officials recently demanded the return of keys by employees in case the school has to shut down) and at Northeastern Illinois University.

Where officials there have planned their own protest events to show support for the Chicago Public Schools teachers. Which is relevant because many of the students at the Northwest Side public college came out of the Chicago Public Schools.
... to a solidarity visit to a McDonalds, ...
Heck, there even will be an early morning rally of some teachers outside a McDonalds – got to show support for an increased minimum wage, and what is more symbolic of someone stuck working at the bottom of our society’s economic scale than someone earning some money by working the grill or the cash register while serving up Big Macs.
... teachers could wind up their Day of Action downtown

THERE’S A GOOD chance that if you’re out and about throughout the city on Friday, you’re going to run into a teacher or two (dozen or so). They want to build up support for the strike they’re likely going to take on in coming months.

The one that will cause classes to be cancelled for more than just a day like they will be on Friday.

Because the simple fact is this – parents may be able to express a symbolic support for the teachers union when the issues are all theoretical.

But the moment it turns into those parents having to arrange for special day-care to watch their kids while at work because classes are cancelled, it becomes a massive inconvenience.

AND YES, THERE will be some (many, actually) parents who will just as soon blame the teachers for not showing up for work.

This pre-strike, so to speak, is meant to build up enough good will with so many interests that they will have their friends all geared up for the good fight that could come.

Ultimately, it's all up to Rahm
And who knows? Perhaps the sight of an afternoon rally from the University of Illinois at Chicago campus to the Thompson Center state government building (where they’ll ride the subway to get from college to the government building) will be enough of an intimidating spectacle.

One that would actually persuade the Chicago Public Schools officials (and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, their spiritual leader) to make the kind of concessions that would actually urge the union not to walk off the job sometime later this year.


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Who in their right mind wants to be the police superintendent in Chicago?

Rahm (left), the tyrant mayor?
I have to wonder about anyone who winds up being in charge of the Chicago Police Department in the near future.

It is a thankless job for which everything that goes wrong will be blamed on you. And there likely won’t be anything that goes right that you can take credit for.

YOU’D BE WALKING into a situation in which there is the potential for record levels of violent activity to take place this year.

George, the baseball equivalent to Rahm?
What will make it worse is that the violent activity will be contained to select neighborhoods – making it extremely easy for much of Chicago to ignore its existence altogether.

And as for those poor souls who live in those violent neighborhoods, they’re going to be the base of people who will be watching your every move and are already preparing themselves for the vocal campaign to denounce you as Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s puppet cop and to demand your ouster from office.

You also have as a boss a man who’s the political equivalent of George M. Steinbrenner – the late owner of the New York Yankees known for his erratic temperament that would fire people at a moment’s notice; which resulted in the iconic baseball team going through a decade of mediocrity-to-suckiness. Is that Chicago’s fate?

Martin became Steinbrenner's whipping boy as manager
THE ONLY REAL question is if Emanuel is Steinbrenner, who is the political equivalent of Billy Martin – the Yankees manager whom Steinbrenner hired and fired five times; and probably would have hired and fired yet again had he not been killed in a Christmas Day auto accident.

In short, I don’t envy the situation now faced by Eddie Johnson, the man who is now interim superintendent of the Chicago Police Department.

The man whom the Chicago Police Board will have to figure out a way to recommend to Emanuel so that he can officially give him the top cop job on a permanent basis.

The question, of course, is what kind of sucker would allow themselves to be used by the Chicago Police Department as a possible superintendent, just so the police board can offer up three names to allow Emanuel to pick Johnson and reject the other two.

Would Johnson let Emanuel treat him similarly?
OF COURSE, WE shouldn’t presume that Johnson would be a lock on getting the permanent post.

Let’s not forget that when the police board originally came up with three candidates for the superintendent’s post, Emanuel favored among them Cedric Alexander of Cobb County, Ga. – as in suburban Atlanta.

Depending on whose report one wants to believe, Emanuel either offered the job to Alexander or was on the verge of doing so when he rescinded the offer. It seems that Alexander talked too much before the appointment could formally be announced.

Who’s to say that Johnson won’t somehow find a way to peeve Emanuel during his time as interim superintendent – thereby ensuring a need to find yet someone else? Could it turn out that the Chicago police superintendent position becomes one that no self-respecting law enforcement official would think of taking?
Truly independent? Or absurd like Billy & George?
BESIDES, IT WILL come back to the rate of violence. I have often pointed out the fact that back in the late 1980s Chicago had a homicide rate that approached nearly 1,000 dead people per year. We’re at about half that rate now.

Although I’m sure to the 500 or so people who are killed and to their families, that is high enough to be intolerable.

As it is, the site for Chicago reported Tuesday about the 775 people shot thus far in 2016 – 80 percent more than the number of people shot (although not necessarily killed) during the first three months of 2015. Will the summer heat we’ll soon be receiving wind up giving that figure a record-setting jolt?
It only makes me wonder what kind of perks the police superintendent post provides in order to make it worth anyone seriously considering.


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

What choice did they really have? Emanuel strong-arms critics into backing him on superintendent

It seems like unity – but only if you don’t look too closely at the details.

EMANUEL:  The winner, for now
For Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday formally made it known he wants Chicago Police chief of patrols Eddie Johnson to be the department’s new superintendent.

BEFORE HE COULD make the announcement official, the black and Latino members of the City Council – who comprise 30 of its 50 members – came out with their own statement saying they support the idea of Johnson, an African-American male with nearly 3 decades of experience within the department, getting the top job.

There’s a lot of politicking that has yet to take place in order for Johnson to get the post on a permanent basis. But it would seem that he’s not going to get any significant opposition from the City Council in confirming his choice.

So Rahm Emanuel has brought peace and unity to Chicago; he has managed to bring together the various factions of Chicago’s populace to unite us all on the process toward truly being one people.

Yeah, right. And I suppose you also think 2016 will be THE YEAR that we get the all-Chicago World Series (with the White Sox defeating the Cubs 4 games to 1). It ain’t gonna happen.

FOR WHAT EMANUEL truly did was put the black caucus, which already had been critical of the process of picking a new police superintendent, into a position where it couldn't credibly complain. Even though Emanuel didn’t give in to a single of their demands about who the new superintendent should be.

Don’t forget, they wanted prior approval before a nomination was made. They also wanted a specific person to get the post – and he didn’t get it.

As for the City Council’s Latino Caucus, they had their own concerns about being ignored during the process. Interim Superintendent John Escalante was never seriously considered for the permanent appointment. No Latinos were. If they were to continue with those gripes, it would be easy for people to put the political spin that they were being contrarian – and perhaps trying to trigger some sort of Latino vs. black battle within city government.

In the end, Emanuel will get to have his say over who becomes the new head of the Chicago Police Department.

AS FOR WHETHER that is good or not, we’ll have to wait and see. For the real truth to all this is whether the public is accepting enough of Johnson in charge that they’re willing to get off Emanuel’s back that he step down and resign as mayor.

That’s never going to happen, but there are some hard-core activists who will not stop making such a demand. They’re going to be the ones who continue to stir up resentment about the way this process has taken place.

While I suspect much of Chicago is more interested in trying to move forward in resolving a problem that is not unique to our city. The idea that law enforcement personnel are hostile toward African-American populations is one that municipalities across the nation ought to deal with!

It burst out into an open, festering wound with the outcry concerning the shooting death by a Chicago police officer of a 17-year-old boy, and other incidents in which young black men wound up being harassed by police.

IT COST THE former police superintendent his job, resulting in Garry McCarthy spending some time earlier this year in London trying to pursue a position with law enforcement there. It gave us the defeat of the state’s attorney just a couple of weeks ago.

But to some people, the departure of Emanuel is the only true solution. I’m sure they’re going to be peeved at the perception that Emanuel managed to control the process of picking the new superintendent.

I’m sure what they truly want is the mayor slinking off in failure – similar to how some people kept up so much political pressure on then-Cook County Board President Todd Stroger that he ultimately left office in disgrace following the 2010 election cycle.

Can the same be achieved in the 2019 election cycle when Emanuel faces re-election, and certain people go all out to try to achieve the same goat – Beat Rahm! – that they couldn’t achieve on Elections day in either 2011 or 2015?


Monday, March 28, 2016

EXTRA: Supreme Court can’t be bothered to hear Rod Blagojevich pleas

It really shouldn’t be a surprise – the Supreme Court of the United States usually hears arguments on about 100 of the thousands of appeals it receives each year.

BLAGOJEVICH: From back in better days
Meaning most people who have dreams of the Supreme Court ruling in their favor and overturning some lower court’s “mistake” wind up disappointed.

COUNT AMONG THE disappointed one federal corrections center inmate named Rod Blagojevich – who currently is about four years into a 14-year prison sentence for some of his actions committed while serving as Illinois governor.

The high court reportedly gave the Blagojevich case a cursory review, decided there were no great legal issues that needed to be resolved, and therefore no need for the court to give it any public attention.

No hearings. Definitely no ruling. The court let stand the ruling of the Court of Appeals based in Chicago – which was the one that struck down five of Blagojevich’s criminal convictions, but also implied that the remaining convictions were severe enough that they could still warrant the lengthy prison sentence he received.

There are those who dream that Blagojevich’s prison sentence could be significantly reduced to something like about four years – which, coincidentally, is the amount of prison time already served.

THAT WOULD BE the nightmare for many others – the idea of Blagojevich returning to Chicago for a re-sentencing hearing and learning that his prison time is done!

Not likely to happen. Because my prediction is that Blagojevich gets a year knocked off the overall sentence. With early release for good behavior (which isn’t much in the federal correctional system), he could be free by 2023.

Another seven years without Milorod in our presence. Although I suspect the only person who truly will miss him will be one-time Illinois first lady Patti Blagojevich.

Although Judge James Zagel will make the final decision on Blagojevich’s fate when he holds the re-sentencing hearing – which has yet to be scheduled. Something we all get to look forward to.

I DO HAVE to admit one potential disappointment in the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the Blagojevich case.

What if the legal merits had caused a split in the high court that would have resulted in a 4-4 decision? One in which the current vacancy caused by the Senate’s refusal to consider President Barack Obama’s appointment of Merrick Garland to the court became an issue.

Because a 4-4 decision would mean a failure to get five justices – it would mean upholding the Court of Appeals’ decision, and nothing would change.

Somehow I suspect the now-greyed Blagojevich would get a kick out of the ability to cause such chaos with his legal case. While the rest of us are on the verge of forgetting that the man ever existed – we’ve moved on to new layers of political people (Rauner or Madigan, depending on one’s partisan hang-ups) whom we’d like to see incarcerated!


I’ll pick my own black man to be police superintendent; thank you very much

This weekend was the quintessential Rahm Emanuel at work; as the mayor let it be known who his preference was to be the new superintendent of the Chicago Police Department while also making it clear he’s not about to give in to pressure from ANYBODY interested in influencing his pick.

JOHNSON: The new superintendent. Maybe
For the record (or at least according to various news reports starting with the Chicago Sun-Times that began cropping up Saturday night and into Sunday morning), Emanuel wants to pick Eddie Johnson, a veteran Chicago cop who currently serves as chief of patrol for the department.

WHAT MAKES THIS pick intriguing is that Johnson is NOT one of the three people proposed by the Police Board for Emanuel’s consideration.

Heck, technically he didn’t even apply for the job earlier this year when then-Superintendent Garry McCarthy got canned to appease those people who wanted someone to lose their job because of the shooting death of teenager Laquan McDonald by a police officer.

But Johnson is an African-American man with experience within the department, and it was reported that Emanuel thinks he can help calm the mood of Chicago – some of which would love it if Rahm himself were the one in danger of losing his job.

Which, technically, is what the black caucus within the City Council has said it wanted in terms of a new police chief. To the point where last week, black aldermen demanded the right to interview superintendent candidates themselves before the mayor took any action.

THEN, THEY EXPECTED Emanuel to go along with their recommendation, whom the full council would then get to advise and consent on. There also was the fact that the black aldermen had also made it clear already who they wanted to get the job – deputy superintendent Eugene Williams. Forget about those two out-of-town clowns under consideration!

ALEXANDER: Should have kept quiet!
That is the real reason for Emanuel’s actions this weekend. There was no way he was going to let a batch of bush league aldermen order him around. Not on a police superintendent pick, or anything else, for that matter.

What’s the point of being the “Boss!” if you have to take orders?

By doing things this way, the black aldermen get nothing. But Emanuel will have picked someone who is black and experienced in the ways of Chicago – which technically is what they wanted in a new superintendent.

IF THEY DECIDE to gang up and vote against Johnson’s eventual confirmation, guaranteed that the mayor will be the one accusing them of playing politics with the process.

EMANUEL: In the end, it's all about him
Technically, this pick complicates things because the rules say Emanuel is supposed to make his appointment from amongst the three people recommended by the Police Board.

The scenario that could happen, according to news reports, is that Johnson gets the nomination on an interim basis, the mayor rejects all three official candidates and the Police Board comes up with new candidates.

And if the Police Board knows what’s good for it, one of their new candidates had better include Johnson so his appointment can be made permanent.

OR AT LEAST as permanent as any political appointment ever is!

One other interesting angle to this process – Emanuel originally favored Cedric Alexander, a high-ranking law enforcement official in suburban Atlanta, to get the superintendent’s post (WMAQ-TV reported the mayor actually offered him the job). But it seems Rahm became very offended when Alexander told people back home he was likely to be offered the job; which hadn’t yet been offered.

Meaning Emanuel could yet change his mind again and Johnson could find himself out-of-a job before he ever got in.

This could turn into an ugly process – perhaps uglier than the partisan bickering taking place over the Supreme Court vacancy. Chicago political infighting truly has the ability to make the activity in Washington, D.C., look like a batch of sissies at work.


Sunday, March 27, 2016

Sanders still lagging, dragging behind

Yes, it’s true. The presidential aspirations of Bernie Sanders had a good day Saturday – he managed to win caucuses or primaries in three states, picking up 55 more delegates to the Democratic National Convention.

SANDERS: Enough time for a victory?
By comparison, Hillary Clinton’s campaign only gained 20 more delegates. And when combined with the week before when Bernie picked up wins in Idaho and Utah, it gives him a streak.

MOMENTUM, IS THE word he’ll want to screech and scream to the world. He has it, she doesn’t. He is destined for the presidency, he’ll want us to think. I'm sure his response to the Progressive Turnout Project's Internet survey of whether he should withdraw from the race is to complain there's no "Hell, No!!!" option to pick from.

Yet the problem for Sanders, the senator from Vermont, is that his momentum may have come a tad too late.

It could wind up like the 2008 election cycle when Barack Obama’s presidential aspirations built up an early lead that Hillary was never able to fully close the gap on.

Only this time, the Democratic Party establishment has given Hillary the early lead, and Bernie is the guy who is merely dragging out the process without a real chance to win.

THE PROBLEM FOR Sanders is that all 50 states are not created equal. Some states matter more than others. And rightfully so, because they’re the ones that have significant numbers of people living within their boundaries.

Yes, it’s true that Bernie gained 55 more delegates on Saturday. Then again, when Illinois had its primary a couple of weeks ago, Hillary won 73 delegates in the Land of Lincoln alone.

Heck, even the other day when Bernie won in Utah and Idaho and gained 43 more delegates, Hillary won in Arizona and took 44 delegates for her own campaign.

Yes, I’m reducing all of this to cold, hard numbers. Because that ultimately is what the nominating conventions are all about – particularly when the campaign is down to two candidates (Martin O’Malley’s bid pops up on a few ballots, but he’s gaining nothing).

AS OF NOW, Hillary has 1,712 delegates committed to supporting her, short of the 2,383 needed at the nominating convention to be held in Philadelphia. While Bernie has only 1,004. He has to start running up overwhelming win streaks, including in places that have significant numbers of delegates to offer.

Or else he’s going to lose.

As for those young kids who think it’d be “cool” to have a Democratic Socialist as the party nominee instead of some old party hack like Hillary (a ridiculous image, to be sure, but the one many of them have of her), perhaps a math lesson is the best way to explain how their enthusiasm is not catching on with the rest of the country.

It’s all about the numbers. It’s why the Republican Party establishment that despises the very existence of Donald Trump on their ballot (but they love it when he gives money to their political candidates) is focusing its own attention on keeping Trump’s delegate count below the minimum required.

THEN THEY CAN engage in some hard-core politicking to pick a different presidential nominee.

As for whether it is fair that larger, urban states will wind up dominating the Democratic nominating process, I’d argue what else is new. The Dems are the urban-influenced political party of this nation.

Sanders’ ultimate problem is that many of the states where he is prevailing now are ones not only with few delegates but also ones where the Democratic Party organization is weak and not likely to back him come November.

Those same states likely will wind up in the Republican column come the general election. That is, unless they rebel against the idea of a “President Donald Trump” and wind up making their mark on the ballot next to the name of Hillary!


Friday, March 25, 2016

I’m on break

I’m not overly devout, but I have decided to give myself a holiday from this weblog – an Easter break, so to speak.

Bound to be re-enacted at an area church, if you look hard enough
Admittedly, I haven’t had an Easter break since grammar school. My spring-time vacations since then usually carried more the image of hanging around a beach surrounded by skimpy bikini-clad women.

THE PROBLEM BEING if I tried to do that now, I’d probably have those ladies calling the cops to report me as the lecherous type who’s paying too close of attention to them.

So I’ve decided to take a couple of days off – fresh commentary will return here on Monday. Maybe I'll find myself a place that will serve me a drink or two with a little umbrella sticking out of it.

Perhaps a couple of days of rest around the time of the holiest of holidays in Christianity will do me some good. Although I think what will truly do me some good is not having to think of our political geeks for a couple of days.

If only we could all do that.

ANYWAY, IF YOU are celebrating Easter, I say happy holiday. If you’re not, I hope you still have a relaxing weekend.

And if you’re the overly devout type to whom this weekend isn’t funny business, I wish you well. Particularly if you’re one of those types who will partake in a Good Friday service out in the Pilsen neighborhood where they’ll do a Stations of the Cross service.
Is this more your vision of Easter?

You’ll literally get to see Jesus Christ severely beaten, then strapped to the cross.

The last time I saw one of those services, it literally turned my stomach, as the parishioners portraying Roman soldiers did such a convincing job of administering their torture that it was a wonder “Jesus” was able to walk home at night in one piece, let alone enjoy the following Easter holiday.


Thursday, March 24, 2016

A one-on-one Rauner/Madigan confrontation? Or whole lot of nothin'?

We’re now almost completely through Month 9 of Illinois Fiscal ’16 – the year without a budget.

The year that is bizarre enough that we can’t tell if the parties involved are doing anything to try to seriously resolve the financial issue that has ground certain parts of Illinois government to a halt!

SUPPOSEDLY, GOV. BRUCE Rauner made a telephone call recently to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago. The subject matter? The budget.

Allegedly, the governor wants to talk, one-on-one, with Mr. Speaker. None of the other legislative leaders are invited. He wants it to be a direct confrontation – which makes a certain amount of sense, in that many people are perceiving this political spat as a head-to-head fight between the governor and the speaker.

Perhaps a direct battle between the two could be the key to trying to resolve the situation – although the fact that at least three-quarters of a 12-month fiscal year were allowed to pass without a budget in place means the collateral damage is severe.

There’s no way to truly repair the damage that has been done – just try to keep it from spreading any further than it already has. Although some entities have sustained permanent damage. That’s just the fact, Jack!

NATURALLY, THE STORY going about is how Rauner couldn’t reach the speaker. Just like on Election Night when the then-governor-elect said publicly he tried to talk to Madigan about bipartisan cooperation, but it really turned out he called the cell phone of a low-ranking Madigan aide who didn’t pick up the phone that night.

Officially, it seems that Madigan is on a vacation – a spring break, of sorts, on account of the fact that the Illinois House hasn’t been scheduled for session for the past several weeks. Why not take some time off; get away from all the nonsense –even if you’re a part of its cause!

I first heard about this call for a meeting Monday night. In the course of my duties for suburban newspapers, I happened to be at a suburban high school board meeting where the local board president told his colleagues the story – and cited it as a potential breakthrough.

Of course, the punchline to his humorous account was that Madigan didn’t get the phone call because he doesn’t carry a cellphone.

THERE ALSO WAS the observation made that the reason Rauner tried to reach out to Madigan was that he saw the results of Election Night – which a lot of political observers are trying to interpret as a rebuke of Rauner and acceptance of Madigan.

Personally, I think it’s a little overly simplistic to think in those terms.

The fact is that trying to campaign during an Election cycle by spinning an election as being all about Mike Madigan is next to impossible. The number of people who actually can vote for or against Madigan himself is small, and those people like his presence. Jason Gonzales never had a chance.

And the rest of us realize there are more important concerns to take into account when making a political pick.

AS FOR SAM McCann, he was serving the desires and needs of his constituents so that his voters were willing to overlook Rauner’s objections to him, in a way that Ken Dunkin was not serving his constituents – who were then more than willing to dump his keister by a 2-1 voter ratio.

So how will all this play out. Will that message Rauner allegedly left eventually get to Madigan? Will somebody call his vacation hotel? Or scrawl out a message to be left on his desk when he returns to work?

Would it really work if it were only the two of them locked in a room together? Perhaps if you cut off food and refused to let either one of them out until a budget deal was reached.

Or does it really make a difference any more if a budget is ever achieved for Fiscal ’16? You have to admit it would turn out to be rather stupid if, at some point at the end of May the two sides finally reached some sort of deal – only to have to do it all over again for Fiscal ’17, which is now only 99 days away.


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Donald Trump thinks he can score political points off the Chicago Cubs?

Whodathunkit?!? The great minds of political strategy can be found sitting in the stands at U.S. Cellular Field.

TRUMP: Taking advice from Sox fans?
It must be. Because to listen to the presidential campaign strategy of Donald Trump, he’s going to engage in political payback against the obscenely wealthy Rickets family, which helped fund the unsuccessful effort to try to defeat Trump in the Florida primary earlier this month.

AND WHAT WILL that payback be? Possibly television spots that remind us of how unsuccessful one of the Ricketts family’s business interests has been – as in the Chicago Cubs.

Basically, Trump is going to devote his time and energy to tell us that the “Cubs Suck!” Which is what any devotee of Chicago White Sox ball games has been saying for generations.

It was last month that Trump used a Twitter account to imply the Ricketts family was somehow conspiring against him with their political contributions and tried to intimidate them by saying “they’d better watch out.”

Now, Trump used an interview he gave to the Washington Post to say the Ricketts family “ought to focus on the Chicago Cubs.” He also said, “I’ll start taking ads telling them all what a rotten job they’re doing with the Chicago Cubs.”

OOH, THAT’S REAL hard-hitting stuff. What’s next, he’s going to tell us that Domino’s pizza stinks as well?

Now I know some political observers are mocking Trump because of his timing – after all, there are some baseball people who want to believe that 2016 is THE YEAR that the Cubs will finally be a championship team.

Donald’s so dumb, he doesn’t know the Cubs are good – is what they’re thinking. I’m not willing to go that far. The Cubs may have come close last year to doing something, but they still fell short. And it’s always possible that 2015 will be the closest the Cubs come to achieving anything.

Am I the only one who thinks Tom Ricketts ...
2016 could turn out to be a near miss.

SO I’M NOT going to ridicule Trump because he said the Cubs stink. Heck, they have been terrible for so many years, including several of the years that the Ricketts family has owned the team.

What I’m going to ridicule Trump for (not just his hair) is his thought that the Cubs in any way are relevant during a political campaign. There are many people who turn to following baseball (or any professional sport) as a form of escape from the daily details of life.

... bears a resemblance to Ted Cruz?
Now, Trump wants to merge them in a way that is bad. He could wind up turning people off. He could wind up being the person who makes the Ricketts family look downright sympathetic!

Heck, for his own sake, Trump ought to hope that the Chicago Cubs aren’t the national phenomenon that many of their fans believe the team is. Because if so, I could easily see where Cubs fans would be so disgusted at their choice of a favorite ball club being singled out to score political points that they turn on Donald.

CUBS FANS WHO had thought of backing Trump would change their minds and vote for somebody else. And those who were supporting someone else before will now become vehemently in favor of that someone else.

Trump thinks he’s bigger than the Cubs? Bigger than baseball? No politician is bigger than pop culture. The Cubs could easily become the factor that takes down The Donald.

Now I don’t know how much Trump knows, or cares, about baseball. I’ve heard those reports claiming that back when he was in prep school he played first base and was scouted by the Philadelphia Phillies.

I also remember that late New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner used to like to invite pseudo-celebs like Trump to Yankee Stadium to add to the ball club’s aura.

BUT I’D SAY all the Ricketts family has to do in response to any baseball-related attack on themselves is release the video of Trump and television commentator Bill O’Reilly doing “The Wave.”

That sight alone ought to show us just how un-presidential Trump truly is.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Obama does Cuba; does it make much of a difference in our relations?

I’m sure there are some people to whom the only part of President Barack Obama’s three-day sojourn to Cuba that matters is the ballgame being played Tuesday between the Tampa Bay Rays and Cuba’s famed national baseball team.

Will there be lasting benefits?
Others, I’m sure, are going to downplay even that factor – it is, after all, just a pre-season exhibition (although the Cuban squad is filled with players who have been active in a winter season for several months, they’re going to ‘give game’ and play to win).

BUT WHAT REALLY is the significance of the fact that Obama felt compelled to arrive in Havana on Sunday, and spend the day at several sites around Havana of cultural importance? And also include a couple-hours session meeting with the brother of Fidel Castro?

I have long been a supporter of the idea of closer relations between the United States and is neighbor nation in the Caribbean. I have always thought the trade embargo our nation imposes on Cuba to be a failure – primarily because it has not achieved its goal of breaking the Cuban economy.

Granted, Cuba’s economy is in the gutter. But the powers-that-be there have managed to use it as propaganda material to inspire distaste for the United States. We play right into the stereotype of the “Ugly American,” and our business interests lose out on the chance to gain from Cuba’s assets.

Which is why I found it interesting to read the news accounts of Obama’s arrival on Sunday, to find crowds chanting and cheering “U-S-A, U-S-A” as enthusiastically as any sports crowd watching a United States team beating up on some batch of foreigners!

COULD WE BE on the verge of a significant thaw in the ice that has developed between the two nations? Or will the partisanship motivated by too many generations of ideologues be enough to keep things a mess for years to come?

The Tuesday highlight to end this particular presidential sojourn
Will the laying of a wreath at the monument to 19th Century Cuban patriot Jose Marti (who actually lived a large chunk of his life in exile in New York City) be seen as a magnanimous gesture? Or as some sort of social surrender by a U.S. president?

I can already envision the rants that will come from some political people – those determined to see that nothing changes; likely because their own livelihoods depend on continued hostilities and keeping the image of Fidel Castro alive and thriving to frighten our masses.

Not much has changed since Ryan met Castro
Just think of how little has changed since that day in 1999 when then-Gov. George Ryan led a delegation to Cuba in hopes of putting Illinois at the head of the pack when the day came that the trade embargo was lifted.

THAT EMBARGO STILL remains, even though Obama has taken actions to ease relations between the two nations – such as restoring the U.S. Embassy in Havana and permitting an exhibition such as the Tampa Bay ball club getting a spring training sojourn to Cuba.

Although a part of me still thinks it would have been more interesting if it had been the Chicago White Sox and Cuban star Jose Abreu doing Havana to play the Cuban national team!

But back to our relations, which remain unsettled because of those people determined to undo anything Obama has done during the past seven years, One of those people is Republican presidential dreamer Ted Cruz – who is one of those eager to keep alive the image of Fidel as a tyrant threatening world freedom; instead of the third-rate, penny-ante, sorry excuse of a dictator he always has been.

U.S. foreign policy has done much (even more than those Soviet Union subsidies) to keep alive the Castro regime in Cuba, and it likely is a step (or several) in the Obama direction for us to truly give Cuba the boost in the direction toward the freedom we’d like to see them have. A significant part of that is gestures such as the one where Google will set up improved Internet access on the Caribbean island nation -- which will go a long way toward making the people desire a U.S.-influenced lifestyle.

OR AT LEAST something not so openly hostile to our nation’s interests as what currently exists.

Because I do realize what our nation’s primary interest will be is in creating economic opportunity for U.S. businesses in Cuba. Whether the Cuban people gain a less-oppressive government isn’t something we really care about.

It’s nice if it happens, but we’ve been willing to do business with tyrants in the past. Let’s not be hypocritical about that point. We’ll have to see if Obama’s presence in Havana these past few days will do anything to make a difference, and perhaps push Cuba in the right direction.

Lincoln's memory still revered in Havana -- even if his brand of cigars is a thing of the past
It makes me wonder if, a century from now, Obama’s legacy in Cuba will be remembered somewhere close to the way Cubans actually revere the memory of Abraham Lincoln – a thought I’m sure infuriates the ideologues of U.S. of today.


Monday, March 21, 2016

EXTRA: Illinois not among those out to plot for Trump’s removal from ballot

It seems that our Republican establishment in Illinois is inclined to go along with the notion of Donald Trump as the GOP nominee for president come the November elections.

RAUNER: Not putting self into Trump trap
Either that, or we have a governor whose idea of “vision” doesn’t extend beyond the notion of undermining organized labor!

FOR BRUCE RAUNER told reporter-types on Monday that he’s inclined to accept whomever the Republican nominating process picks to run for president. The Chicago Sun-Times got Illinois House Minority Leader James Durkin, R-Western Springs, to say the same thing.

Which goes along with Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., who may be a party renegade for suggesting that his Senate colleagues be fair in considering Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, for the post. But he’s not about to be a part of a plot to undermine Trump’s chances of winning the presidential nomination at the party’s nominating convention to be held in Cleveland.

It seems the only person in a political leadership position amongst the Republicans who’s not surrendering to the inevitability of Trump as the GOP candidate is state Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont.

Officially, she backs the idea of Ohio Gov. John Kasich as the next U.S. president.

ALTHOUGH I FIND it intriguing that Kasich himself is nowhere as accepting.

Go listen to the recordings available on the Internet for the “Meet the Press” program on NBC, where Kasich on Sunday said there’s no way that Trump gets the nomination.

For Donald Trump to lose nomination now ...
He seems to believe there are too many people who despise the idea of the New York real estate developer using the political party to appease his political ego by running for president. He seems to think the Republican strategy of undermining Trump’s political desires will succeed.

It’s not clear if Kasich thinks he’s going to be the Republican nominee, or if someone else will be.

ALL I KNOW is that if Trump fails now after having prevailed this far, it would be the ultimate in political collapses. Perhaps somewhere up there with the 1964 Philadelphia Phillies team that blew a 6 ½ game lead with only 12 games left in the season.

It certainly seems that Illinois Republicans won’t be a part of any such revolt against Trump.

... would be as weak as '64 Phlllies loss
Perhaps it’s just that Trump managed to win the Republican primary held last week in Illinois – even though he failed to take a true majority. He still got more political support than any of the other candidates with presidential dreams.

Rauner and other Republicans already are in a precarious-enough position in this state. Anything that would stir up resentments that would fracture their supporters is something they most definitely do NOT want to endure.

PARTICULARLY if one is most primarily concerned with getting themselves re-elected, and the presidential post (while most important to some) is nothing more than a political catfight for a level of government outside of their realm of interest.

It may be that the legislators are most concerned with seeing that their GOP caucuses don’t shrink even lower than their current levels – ones that already see them on the wrong end of the “veto proof” majority.

Letting the Trump spat drag them to further levels of irrelevance is the ultimate nightmare come true.