Saturday, December 30, 2017

Homicides on the decline, but the ideologues will still rant about Chicago

It seems the number of murders in Chicago will be significantly less this year than last – which actually was a year of historic significance for Chicago when it comes to violence.
Almost ready to punch out on 2017

A year ago, it was being reported how the number of slayings took a significant rise compared to recent years. Some 760 slayings in Chicago – which may be less than the days of the late 1980s when the city could have nearly 1,000 killings in a year.

BUT CONSIDERING CHICAGO had experienced a significant drop in murder during the 1990s and 2000s, it had some of us concerned that the bad ol’ days were coming back.

And also gave ammunition to those ideologically-inclined to want to use Chicago as their example of a hellhole that they could use to blame for everything!

The Chicago Tribune reported Friday that 2017 is likely to see about 100 fewer slayings in the city compared to the year before. That’s about a 15 percent drop.

Although it should be noted we won’t know the final murder tally until some time next week most likely – on account that anybody who gets shot before Sunday night but doesn’t die until after Monday morning will still be counted as part of 2017 violence, rather than 2018.

ALSO, THE NEWSPAPER noted that arrests for gun crimes were up 28 percent this year, compared to last.
This kind of nonsense will still be spewed in 2018

Perhaps we’ve just been luckier in surviving the wounds inflicted upon ourselves in various incidents scattered around Chicago. Or maybe the Chicago police are correct when they imply that changing technology is making it possible for them to keep better tabs on what is happening on the streets – making it possible for them to fight violent crime more efficiently.

Not that I believe any of this will matter one bit to the ideologues of a conservative bent. We still have Donald J. Trump as our president, and I won’t be surprised if he manages to find some reason this weekend to issue one of his Tweets from a Twit-type messages to further lambast Chicago.

We’ve become a punching bag for a man whose literary style doesn’t extend beyond the 280-character limit of Twitter – which is perfect for espousing the incredibly trivial aspects of life.
Were still busy despite apparent homicide drop

PERHAPS THIS MEANS there’s legitimate reason to think in accordance with the results of a new Morning Consult poll – one that shows many of us are pessimistic about our government officials as we enter a new year.

The poll shows some 48 percent don’t think positively about government these days, with both Democrats (54 percent) and political independents (50 percent) having negative thoughts.

It seems only 37 percent of Republicans are pessimistic about government, but then again they’re the ones going about spewing the rhetorical nonsense about the majority of us.

Perhaps going on rants such as about how violent and decrepit Chicago has become is what makes them feel better about their lot in life.

PERSONALLY, I’D FIND such a line of thought to be depressing. But perhaps we’d all be better off ignoring the nitwits of our society as they try to drag us all down to their level.
ORR: Soon to perform 'first' for final time

Not that it means I think we ought to ignore the conditions that create violence in our urban area. Just that we shouldn’t exaggerate them for personal or political gain. That’s just sick!

So here’s hoping that when we get the final death tally for Chicago some time next week, it will be the beginning of a declining trend in the city’s body count. That would be a pleasant New Year's thought!

Then, we could move on to the other official stats for Chicago – the first baby born in the new year and the first couple to be issued a marriage license. Which Cook County Clerk David Orr says will be the last “first” license he issues, since he is not seeking re-election and plans retirement when his term ends next December.


Friday, December 29, 2017

Brrrrrr! It’s cold outside. Or, only 90 more days till baseball Opening Day

As I write this, it’s 10 degrees outside, with the potential to rise to 14 degrees. Wind chill will create conditions that supposedly will make it feel more like 1 or 2 degrees temperature.
Rocco, Carmelo cope w/ winter weather

In short, this lull of a week between the Christmas and New Year’s holidays is friggin’ freezing. This week during which many people will look for any excuse they can find to get out of work is provided with a perfect excuse by Mother Nature.


There’s no reason why human beings should be outdoors if they can possibly avoid it. The perfect time to do as little as is humanly possible.

For some people, it’s the perfect excuse to contemplate finding some other region of the globe to live in – some place where the idea of the temperatures ever dropping below 32 degrees (the official standard point at which water freezes into ice) is just a bad nightmare.

I’m not necessarily talking about some place with sunshine and perpetual 70 degree temperatures. Just some place where taking the dogs out for a walk doesn’t put one at risk for hypothermia.
Even he's shivering

I BRING UP that example because I often do wind up taking my father’s pair of dogs (a Standard Poodle and a mixed-breed Golden Retriever/Poodle) out for their daily walk.

While I have noticed they still get excited at the thought of being able to go outside, all it takes is one blast of the Arctic-like air for them to immediately change their minds.

I’m amused at how quickly the dogs (Rocco and Carmelo) are now capable of doing their “business” before they suddenly give every indication that they want to go back inside. Back home. No more of this aimless wandering that they usually do because “it’s outside.”

It makes me wonder if dogs can have more sense than people, or at least some individuals, based on their public behavior.
With holidays over, we do countdown to spring

YES, I FEEL the cold temperatures, just as much as anybody else. Even my neighbor with the elaborately-decorated front yard came up with something appropriate -- an inflatable snowman that shivers because it's so cold!

Yet I have to confess something – maybe it’s evidence that I’m losing it. But I don’t feel the urge to want to flee Chicago, or the Midwestern U.S., just because it’s cold outside!

I still remember one December I spent in Florida just over three decades ago – the idea of a swimming pool at that time of year just seemed strange. And listening to the locals complain about the cold because for a couple of days the temperatures dipped into the mid-30s?

It elicited the same reaction I get whenever I hear reports of snowfall in the Southern U.S. bringing daily life to a standstill – What a bunch of wimps!!!

IT’S COLD OUTSIDE; I’ll be the first to admit it. But it truly is part of the natural cycle of life on this planet to have the seasons. Finding a place where it never freezes is the extreme of life – just as a place like Antarctica is the opposite end (a land of perpetual winter).

We’re in the cycle of life – about to end the current calendar year. And for what it’s worth, we’ve passed the point where the days are getting shorter and the sun sets about 4:30 p.m. Minute by minute, we’re getting extra daylight and moving toward the time period in which we’ll have the mild temperatures that make life truly sweet and pleasant.

Besides, if we’re to be totally honest, we’ve managed to avoid the most annoying part of winter weather – the slop of snowfall. That downpour we got on Sunday (a.k.a., Christmas Eve) was over by day’s end and wasn’t that hard to clean up.
It won't be long before springtime returns, even to Chicago
It added to the winter ambiance that we’ll be able to remember fondly come May. Besides, it’s only 90 more days ‘til Opening Day for Major League Baseball – a thought to keep in mind if the wintry weather conditions become too unbearable.


Thursday, December 28, 2017

Do we really wish we still had the Obamas to kick around politically?

I’m sure for the ideologically-minded amongst us, the news of recent days has been particularly dreadful.

Most admired? Invited to royal wedding?
For Barack Obama keeps cropping up in ways that remind us he will be remembered as a respected public official, no matter how much the ideologues want to disrespect his memory.

WHILE THE CURRENT occupant of the Oval Office most likely will never be taken all that seriously – no matter how many times the ideologues rant and rage that he is the ideal of what a president ought to be.

For what it’s worth, I’m not getting too worked up over these particular news reports because I’m fully aware we’re in that time period between the holidays. It’s the end of 2017.

Anybody with sense is finding reasons to take time off. Little of significance (unless it’s dismal) will happen this week. Meaning a lot of trivia will manage to find its way into filling up space and air time for news reports this week.

So am I really getting all giddy that Prince Harry wants Obama invited to his wedding to Northwestern University alumnus Meghan Markle, and British officials are trying to urge him not to issue such an invitation out of fear that Trump will take it as a personal snub against himself?

Feeling snubbed by Brits AND Gallup?
IS IT REALLY all that interesting that Obama gave an interview to the prince who most likely is too far down the royal pecking order to become King of England? Yes, Harry has a program broadcast by the BBC, and from what I gather, the most interesting thing Obama said was that he’s still getting used to having to cope with traffic – rather than his presidential days when security would ensure the roads were cleared for his path and no one caused him a delay.

Or as the president said, “I didn’t experience traffic. I used to cause traffic.”

I could care less about presidential traffic jams. As for Trump’s ego, I don’t doubt he would find reason to take offense to an Obama invitation. Particularly since the whole purpose of a Trump presidency thus far appears to be to erase any evidence that Obama ever was the nation’s chief executive.
'16 voters AND '17 polls prefer Hillary

Which probably is what Trump’s voters most want. The ability to go into denial that they are so far removed from the mainstream of society, and that all their talk of “making America great again” is more about ensuring the exclusion of people so unlike themselves.

WHICH IS WHY I’m sure those individuals are shocked and appalled at the latest Gallup Organization study – the one that says Obama is the “Most Admired Man” in the United States. Which I’m sure is made worse by the notion that Hillary Clinton is the “Most Admired Woman.”

Because to the ideologues, it’s not so much that Trump ought to be thought of as “Most Admired,” but those two individuals are supposed to be the most repulsive examples of what our society offers. Even though to the majority of us, it’s Trump who fills that role.

Although when one looks at the figures Gallup offers, it becomes clear there is no dominant persona that our society thinks highly of.
Bush's No. 2 higher than Trump

For the second-most Admired man in our society? It’s a tie between Pope Francis and George W. Bush – which, if you think about it, may be a concept even more appalling to the Trump types than the presence of Obama.

WHILE AS FOR the women, our city’s formerly very own Oprah Winfrey came in second, while former first lady Michelle Obama finished third – in a tie with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
Michelle falls right behind Oprah

As Gallup points out, this is the sixth straight year Obama has been “most admired,” which means that all of Trump’s rancid rhetoric hasn’t really diminished the strong sentiments some of us feel toward him. It just means those in support of this “Age of Trump” are just very loud about shouting out their attacks to make sure they’re overheard amongst the majority of us.

And as for Trump, he didn’t even factor into the rankings. Heck, even Ron Paul, Ted Cruz and Mitt Romney got minimal support for “Most Admired.”

Which makes me believe all the more that Trump-ites live in their own little world, and they think the majority of us (including the Obamas) should have to live there with them in a place of subservience! Ugh!!!


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Great debate over merits of ‘gym’ class

It was with some interest that I read a Chicago Tribune report about several school districts across the state that are hoping to take advantage of new laws allowing them to reduce the amount of physical education class time they require of their students.
Will future generations not climb the ropes?

It’s meant to be a potential cost-saving device if they don’t have to maintain proper facilities to offer gym class to every student on a regular basis. It’s also seen by some as a way of allowing local school officials to set their own priorities.

ALL I KNOW is that it would seem my memories of spending an hour per day in high school in gym class, engaging in whatever athletic activity the teachers/coaches felt was timely are a part of the distant past.

Modern-day kids aren’t engaging in such activity. Which may be for the best.

Since my own memories of gym class usually bring to mind spending some 45 minutes or so ambling our way through some game that nobody seriously cared about.

And for some, were anxious to ignore at all costs.

MY OWN PERSONAL horror story was a time when we were supposed to play badminton, and the person I was partnered with was something of a klutz. Not that I was ever one to excel athletically. But that day, I was the “elite” player, which wasn’t saying much.

It was also the day I was trying to hit the so-called bird and my “partner” flailed away with his racket – smacking me in the back of the head in the process.

Yes, we lost that game. I was dazed for a few seconds. I’m not sure anybody’s physical fitness was improved with such activity. Gym class always added “C’s” to my report card, just because I didn’t care.

Which supposedly was the purpose of having daily gym class – to get us engaged in a little bit of physical activity that might actually improve our overall fitness. It’s a nice ideal, but I’m sure the way that gym class was handled back in the day usually meant the only people who benefitted were the ones who had their academic struggles in all their other classes.

MEANING GYM CLASS was the one bit of the day where they weren’t aimlessly flailing about. Unless, by chance, they were also clumsy. In which case, the entire educational experience they endured was something of a loss for them.

I’m also sure that the people who went through school thinking “gym class” was their favorite part of the day are the ones who grew up to become individuals who bad-mouthed former first lady Michelle Obama and her own efforts to focus attention on physical fitness.

They probably wanted to think that gym was all about the actual ballgames played in class, and are probably among the people who are going onto the Internet to bad-mouth the current Illinois policies as somehow “sissifying” physical education and our society, in the process.

I do wonder at times if that time I spent in gym class could have been put to more productive use. Although I’ll also admit I mostly remember gym class as something of a break in the day. My own horrid memories of the experience come from the one year in which physical education was my first activity of the high school day.

TO SHOW UP at high school about 7 a.m. and have people immediately expect me to be active was a little cruel. Although I remember having high school newspaper activity scheduled at the end of my school day always seemed like a pleasant way to end – regardless of the nonsense that had occurred in the hours leading up to it.

Remembering high school gym and the hour devoted to class does bring back one memory that I must admit repulses me if I think too much about it. Remember I said it was 45 minutes of activity? The rest of the time was devoted to getting dressed for gym, then changing back into regular clothes for classes.

My own memory is that I rarely showered after gym class. Very few people did. I’m sure there were times I was sweaty and smelly as a result of gym class activity.

It must have been a funky experience – one whose aroma I’m pleased to confess I seem to have suppressed.


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

EXTRA: America squirms in hopes there’s some truth to Trump tweet

President Donald J. Trump felt compelled to use his Twitter account Tuesday to inform us he thinks the partisan sides in Congress eventually will reach agreement on something resembling a health care plan for the nation.

Of course, his talk of Democrats and Republicans “eventually coming together” on the issue is so vague that I can’t say it offers any sense of relief to people who actually relied on the Affordable Care Act in recent years to be able to have something resembling health insurance.

IT ALSO DOESN’T help assure people that Trump seems more concerned that the Affordable Care Act itself is undermined in ways that will prevent it from being able to succeed. Although I’m sure the unease his actions are causing isn’t much of a concern to Trump – he probably figures we didn’t vote for him anyway.

As one of the people who relied upon the program’s assistance to be able to cover a health care plan, the whole situation makes me uncertain just what my status is.

And it’s also put me in the situation that I’m sure many hundreds of thousands of people across Illinois will now share – don’t get sick!

So here’s my New Year’s resolution to act in ways to promote good health. Not only for my physical well-being, but because my wallet could wind up feeling more ill than my body.


We still want health insurance aid, no matter what ideologues want to think

I’m sending off a payment this week to an insurance company – one meant to be a binder for the health insurance policy I hope to have for 2018.
Will it continue?

Yes, I’m amongst the people who really can’t afford to pay the full cost of this policy, and am hoping to continue to receive the assistance I have got in past years from the federal government as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

YOU KNOW, THE one that President Donald J. Trump and his ideologue allies want to believe is the most disgraceful part of the Barack Obama legacy, the one they’d like to believe will wither away and the one that Trump himself has claimed to have killed off because of provisions of his $1.5 trillion tax plan.

As I comprehend it, if I had chosen to ignore the issue, I would no longer be susceptible to financial penalties for failing to have health insurance.

Which the Trump-ites want to believe will make many people disregard the issue, and will cause the problem to wither away.

Which is why I found it amusing to read reports showing that the number of people who filed their applications by the Dec. 15 federal deadline for ACA financial help with insurance was nearly as high for 2018 as it was for 2017.

IN ILLINOIS, IT was 339,740 people (including me) who filed for help for next year (which begins Monday), while it was 356,403 people who sought help this year. Nationally, according to the Chicago Tribune, it was 8.8 million people, compared to 9.2 million to the previous year.

Which is amazing, when one considers that in their efforts to undermine the federal initiative, they made a point to cut back the registration period. The aforementioned Dec. 15 deadline in past years was the end of January.

I know in my case, it made me think more promptly about being sure my application for Affordable Care Act assistance with health insurance was in on time, and that it be double-checked to ensure there were no glitches that would cause me to be rejected due to my own ignorance.
Will Trump's ideological opposition prevail?

Because it seems the ideologues who now control of the federal government want to do to this program what they have allowed to happen to immigration policy.

AS IN OUR nation has an immigration policy filled with so many bureaucratic glitches that it can be easy for some unknowing soul to make a mistake that is later used against them as a reason to reject any sort of compassion for someone wishing to remain in this country.

Just as I suspect the Trump-ites are hoping many of us blew the deadline or make a mistake with our renewal applications so that they can reject our requests for assistance that makes health insurance affordable – which was the whole purpose of the Obama-era initiative.

So could it be that this program so despised by the ideologues who want to believe that anybody without health insurance is just a deadbeat who won’t “get a job!” is actually so popular that we, the people, went to great lengths to make sure we couldn’t be denied?

Personally, I’m not sure what to believe. My own application through responded to me by saying all is in order, once I get that binder payment to the insurance company by Monday (the first of the new year).

BUT I’M GOING to be uncertain about my fate for the next few days. Because as I have been in recent years, I’m self-employed – as in doing work for companies and checking the mailbox for checks.
Part of Obama legacy to be most missed?

I do know that when I looked at the actual cost of the policies offered by various insurance companies, all cost more than I could cover in their entirety on my own. The idea of federal aid in providing health insurance to the masses is something that benefits our society as a whole, unless you happen to believe that a certain individual’s profit margin is more important than not having healthcare available to as many as possible.

I’ll be checking the news accounts of coming days, weeks and months to see if further politically partisan tampering with the issue further restricts the ability of the Affordable Care Act to fulfill its purpose.

And if I find myself unable to fill a medicinal prescription in the future, I’ll be amongst those complaining, along with, of course, Walgreen’s – which I’m sure has as its bottom line selling as many drugs as possible and could see its bottom line slashed if some of us can't pay in full!


Monday, December 25, 2017

Holidaze upon us; go do something real

“It’s beginning to look at lot like Christmas.” Yeah, I know you’re probably sick of hearing that lyric over and over (along with countless other holiday songs that have played repeatedly on the radio ever since mid-October).
But it really is Christmas on this Monday.

SO IF YOU’RE actually reading this now, I have but one thing to say to you. “Get a Life!” Get off your computer, or your iPhone or whatever mobile device you might be using to read the Internet.

Go out into the real world on this holiday and find something worthy to do, other than reading the latest rants that Donald Trump may be wanting to send your way via Twitter. I swear the best thing we could do as a society would be to ignore the man altogether if it were possible.

I’m at the point where I think I even respect those individuals more who will choose to spend their day at a casino – gambling away their funds in hopes they can hit a holiday jackpot that will make their lives (for a few days, at least) somewhat more pleasant.

For at least one day, let’s give ourselves a present of freedom from Internet trivialities. It will all still be there on Tuesday for us to fret over.

AND MY GIFT to you (at least before you log off your computer for the day)?

Eartha Kitt, who when she wasn’t Catwoman-clad, gave us “Santa Baby.” Along with Celia Cruz’ cheery take on “Jingle Bells” en Español.


Saturday, December 23, 2017

Photo stash memories of past holidays

I feel like I got my holiday gift a few months early. Like back in July.

It was this summer that one of my cousins, Lora Ann who now has a life in Arizona, gave to all of us in the family the digital copies she made of her mother’s photo albums – thereby sharing with us decades of family images.
My grandmother hard at work at Christmas-time

INCLUDING ONE THAT is particularly relevant this time of year. It is a photograph of my maternal grandmother, Socorro Vargas, working in her kitchen. Her fingers are a complete mess, and the table she’s working at is covered in corn husks.

Because mi abuela appears to have been hard at work making a batch of tamales – as in that delicacy that will be the basis of many a Christmas holiday meal for families with a touch of Mexican-American in them.

This photo is particularly intriguing to me because my earliest memories of Christmas celebration include going to Grandma’s house in the South Shore neighborhood on Christmas Eve (they'd moved from South Chicago by that point in life), and having a dinner that centered around dozens of tamales.
My grandfather, the real chef?

Literally many dozens, because there were eight kids (including my mother) in the family, along with all the spouses and next generation of kids (my cousins) who were present. I’m sure it was many hours of hard work to prepare the meal – because tamales aren’t an easy dish to make.

JUST ONE LITTLE thing goes off in preparing the masa that is the base of the tamale, and you wind up with an inedible mess.

Looking at that photograph makes me wonder how exhausted my grandmother must have been after she was finished with that particular batch of tamales. And also that I probably didn’t truly appreciate the level of work that went into preparing that meal that now is amongst my most pleasant of childhood holiday memories.

There is one potential flaw in this story. I know my mother always insisted that when it came to Christmas tamales, it was my grandfather, Michael Vargas, who did the work.
The family to be fed (my mother at far left)

Some guys insist on perceiving themselves as master chefs during the summer when it comes to dredging up the barbecue grill and flipping a few burgers. My grandfather supposedly took charge of that holiday meal.

ALTHOUGH I DON’T doubt my grandmother put in some work too. It was her kitchen, and I don’t think she’d have easily surrendered control of it.

Anyway, a Christmas tamale meal isn’t something I have had in years. At least not of the image of a family matriarch slaving away in the kitchen for a full day just to feed us all.

One of the quirks of the complex process of making tamales is that it is something that was NOT passed along to other family members. My mother always insisted it was too much hard work, and we could always just go to a Mexican-oriented grocery around the holidays and buy a couple dozen tamales already made.
Uncle Spinx, letting loose at a past New Year celebration

Which is something my brother and I used to do so we could have a tamale taste – usually as a meal for one day, with the other day of the Christmas holiday centering around a ham or some other “American”-oriented dish.

AS FOR THIS year, I don’t know what I’m doing for a holiday meal. Particularly since there’s now a Jewish element to the family celebrations, and there are some of us who are “holiday’ed” out from Hanukkah and all the latkes – of which there are still a few dozen sitting in the refrigerator.

But going through my Aunt Connie’s photo albums at my own leisurely pace is proving to be a nice treat. Particularly when I got to the photographs of my Uncle Spinx (Lora Ann’s father) partying it up at many New Year’s celebrations past.
Returning the holiday greetings

Although the ultimate chuckle is the shot of my uncle as part of an all-“girl” dance troupe. While the ultimate sweet moments are the photos I now have of my mother, Jenny, as a young girl.

And to mi prima Lora Ann for providing me with all these images. I hope my cousin will have a Merry Christmas as well.


Friday, December 22, 2017

Pot is the Republican boogeyman. Or so says governor candidate Jeanne Ives

Marijuana remains the demon drug, so to speak. A substance that certain people in our society want to single out because of some belief that it’s the “liberal” drug.

IVES: Ties Dems to pot
And that punishing people for marijuana possession and use is a way of criminalizing liberal thought and actions.

NEVER MIND THE truth that any connection between the “peace” and “love” sentiments of the 1960s, Hippies and marijuana use is long gone. Most pot users are nitwits in need of a buzz – and many of whom probably spout out the tired rhetoric of conservative ideologues.

So excuse me for thinking that Jeanne Ives, the state senator from Wheaton who has dreams of deposing Bruce Rauner as governor, is a bit delusional in her latest round of rhetoric.

The one where she denounced Democrats as the political party of “recreational marijuana, higher taxes, more spending.” That was said by Ives (who says that one of Rauner’s flaws as governor is that he doesn’t adequately support Donald Trump’s presidency) during a recent appearance in rural Illinois.

I’m sure if they could, the ideologues amongst us would criminalize any line of thought they happen to disagree with. But since that would be blatantly un-American, they settle for this means of harassment of certain people in our society.

RAUNER: Are his millions not enough to win?
SPECIFICALLY IN MATTOON, the News-Gazette of Champaign-Urbana reported Thursday of Ives’ latest round of rhetoric where she denounces Rauner’s re-election chances – claiming the candidate whom Democratic Chicago has come to despise and whom the labor unions will focus their attention on defeating is actually way too liberal for Illinois.

“He should not, and he cannot win,” said Ives, according to the News-Gazette.

For Ives and the ideologues remain peeved that Rauner – the governor who caused a two-year period of Illinois government without a budget – didn’t similarly thwart abortion- and immigration-related measures that have come before the General Assembly.

An out-of-date image GOP still tries to use
So now, to try to get the political support of local Republican officials, she’s bringing up pot. As though our state’s Legislature is on the verge of legalizing certain substances that otherwise would warrant prison time.

EVEN THOUGH THE reality is that decriminalization and legalization are far from the same, and government officials go so far as to maintain heavy restriction on the notion of medical use of marijuana that some would argue it becomes way too difficult for people who could have a legitimate use for grass to actually obtain it.

Which, to me, sounds like the same strategy that Republican operatives have used for coping with abortion since the Supreme Court of the United States legitimized it more than four decades ago – it may be legal, but it can be a pain in the derriere to actually terminate a pregnancy.

Yet the ideologues would have us think that we have 13-year-old girls freely ending pregnancies without parental knowledge – let alone permission. Just as they’d have us think that the Democratic side of the Senate and House of Representatives chambers are covered in a cloud of humo de marijuana.
Some yearn too strongly for decade of Reagan/Graham, when what I remember ...
While the Republican side of the aisle is clean and pure and we hear the chorus of “Hallelujah” playing all the time. Except for those GOPers who are of such an ideological bent that they denounce the Mormon Tabernacle Choir as being un-Christian (and thereby wicked).

MY FIRST REACTION to hearing of such rhetoric is always the same – somebody’s been watching too much of “Cheech and Chong” and taking their comedy routines from the 1970s way too literally.
... were silly haircuts of 'A Flock of Seagulls'

Which is why I have a hard time taking any of it seriously. Most likely, Ives is a Wheaton native who thinks we’re still back in the ‘80s. As in Ronald Reagan is president, Billy Graham is the spiritual role model for her home city (the evangelist attended Wheaton College) and DuPage County is the heart and strength of the Illinois Republican Party.

Even though the reality is that the modern-day heart and strength of the GOP is Bruce Rauner’s wallet – since he’s providing the financing for many of the legislative candidates he’s counting on to be his political allies. Which means Ives is not even as strong within the Republican ranks as she’d like to think.

As for all that marijuana talk that comes from Ives and her ideologue followers, it can't help but make me wonder what kind of substances they've been smoking.


Thursday, December 21, 2017

A DAY IN THE LIFE (of Chicago): In Land of Lincoln, we’re now No. 6

I’ll have to confess to being a little shocked when I learned of the latest U.S. Census Bureau’s latest estimates of population. That’s the one that says Illinois, with its 12.802 million people, is now smaller than Pennsylvania’s 12.805 million.

Which means Illinois is now the sixth largest of the 50 U.S. states. We’re no longer in the Top 5!

WHAT IS SURPRISING about that? I have to confess. I thought we already were Number 6. When I first heard of reports saying we were out of the Top 5, my reaction was “What else is new?”

Perhaps it was all those years of political reporting that had me thinking there were five other states with more Electoral College votes than Illinois. Five states with more political influence than ours.

Although we were still amongst the top of the Great Lakes states. In fact, we’re still at the head of those states in population. Although it should be noted that Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin and Minnesota all experienced slight increases in population – according to the latest Census Bureau estimates.

Are we headed for a point some five or six decades from now that Illinois will be just another mass of the states whose lifeblood relies on lakes such as Superior, Erie and Michigan, to name a few?

IT SHOULD BE noted that it was my mistake to take the Electoral College too seriously on this issue. Because the number of electors a state gets doesn’t always coincide with the number of residents. Smaller states get more than they ought to, even the ones that get the bare minimum of three.

Whereas Illinois’ electoral problem has always been a matter of the state’s population not growing enough to warrant more representation. Take the early 1930s when the state peaked at 27 electors, compared to the 19 it now has (and 18 it could be reduced to following the 2020 population count).

Back then, Illinois had 7.63 million people total (with nearly half living within the Chicago city limits). Yet despite having 5.3 million more residents now, we get eight fewer electors. There are entire states that have the same political representation.

So aside from having fewer people living in Illinois, what else is notable to people living along the southwest shores of Lake Michigan?

DECLARING VICTORY AFTER A LOSS?!?: President Donald Trump is going around claiming he killed off the healthcare reform plan that was a major part of President Barack Obama’s legacy – even though the measure remains in federal law and is likely to never be formally repealed.

TRUMP: Winner; or loser?
It seems the tax overhaul bill (all $1.5 trillion of it) includes provisions that eliminate the penalties people are charged if they do not have health insurance. Which was the provision meant to encourage people to use the Affordable Care Act.

Meaning he’s made it possible for people to ignore the law requiring people to have some sort of health insurance. Of course, Trump has made a mess that complicates the situation for those people who want to get health coverage, but can’t afford to do so without the subsidies that Affordable Care helped provide.

Trump’s victory declaration will appease his own ego, and I’m sure he’ll claim it gives him a legacy of his own. Although most likely, it is nothing more than political spin gone wild.

CHICAGO’S STINK NOW COMES FROM ‘DA BEARS’: It’s a good thing that professional football’s Pro Bowl – the end-of-season all-star game – is one that football fans care less about.

Because for the third straight season, there won’t be any members of the Chicago Bears playing in the game that is supposed to represent the best football has to offer. Then again, a team with a 4-10 record (with two games remaining) surprisingly doesn’t have anybody worthy of all-star status.

So there’s definitely no reason for Bears fans to care about the game to be played Jan. 28, 2018 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla. I can’t even envision the players caring much.

Because at least in the old days, the Pro Bowl’s appeal was that it was played in Honolulu, Hawaii – a locale that added an exotic touch to bring a season of football to an end. Somehow, a corporate-named stadium near Disney World just doesn’t have the same touch.


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A decade later, and Chicago still wonderful; no matter what Trump says

Chicago is a wonderful city – the greatest on the planet, if I may say so myself.

And I say that knowing full well its history of crime, corruption, petty partisan and racial politics and the stench that once emanated from the livestock being slaughtered in the Back of the Yards neighborhood but which now comes from the professional sports teams that dare to represent the image of the Second City.
--An Introduction; December 20, 2007


Chicago's unofficial marquee
It has been a full decade since the date upon which this weblog was created as part of an effort by myself to tell of the wonders of this great city on the shores of Lake Michigan – one that I honestly believe will always be amongst the highlights of our society.

No matter what nonsense Donald Trump may spew in hopes of gaining political support for himself from those people not fortunate enough to have ever lived here, Chicago is a place with unique attributes.

HECK, I’D ARGUE that Trump let his money speak most loudly when he built that self-monickered monstrosity of his along the Chicago River shores. He must have seen a way to make money for himself in our presence, just as many others have done throughout the decades when they chose to relocate here.

This really is a place where people from across the Midwest, and other parts of the globe to be honest, come if they want to reach greater heights than they could ever achieve in their native communities.
Would Trump have built here if Chicago really that awful?
And for those of us who are native to this place, we don’t really see the need to go elsewhere. Or, if you’re like myself, we move off to places like Springfield, Ill., or the District of Columbia – only to find ourselves become the obnoxious guy who’s constantly telling everybody there how wonderful Chicago is, and we find a reason to ultimately come back.

Now, I rarely venture any further east than Gary, Ind., where I happen to do some work for a local newspaper and I see a community that in some ways resembles the hellhole that Trump-ites would like to think Chicago is.
Holy Name, where mob hit once occurred

BUT EVEN THERE, I see what I sense is an overflow of the Chicago spirit in terms of community officials who would be justified in just packing it all in and heading off for places elsewhere. Yet they haven’t written off their chances of someday rebuilding into something significant.

Which is the spirit I most admire of Chicago – certain people who are always looking forward and how to advance our lot in society.

I’m sure some will say that anything Chicago has, New York has in greater quantities. That may even be true to a degree. Yet I don’t know of many Chicagoans who’d make the move. Or if they do, they always find ways of keeping in touch with their roots.

I’d hope that this spirit of Chicago has come through during the past 10 years, which I’ll admit I never envisioned would occur when I first started writing this weblog.

IF ANYTHING, I figured it was a way of expressing some random thoughts – almost like what I’d do if I were seeing a psychiatrist. Only instead of paying a “shrink” a fee for doctor’s visits, I’m posting for free and subjecting readers to my ramblings.

It helped that this weblog coincided with the Barack Obama years, which put a Chicago spin on many of the nation’s and world’s events. Even more so than what usually exists just because of Chicago’s position within society.
Old Gary post office as decrepit as some think Chicago is

Now, we are the target of political potshots – many from people who I sense are jealous of Chicago’s significance in ways their home communities can never be.

Now I’m not going to deny the city’s flaws. We have our self-serving politicos and certain neighborhoods that the masses are more than willing to ignore in so many ways – which results in the higher poverty levels and Gary-Ind.crime rates that the Trump-ites would like to think are typical of Chicago as a whole.

BUT THOSE OF us who get into the spirit of Chicago being a collection of some 120 neighborhoods and sub-communities know that each and every one of us has a unique version of Chicago in our minds. It’s almost as though there are 2.7 million different takes on Chicago – and that’s a good thing.
That Bear wishes he could become a Packer

This city allows all of us to maintain our sense of individuality without being gobbled up into a mass. Which is something I often have sensed of other communities – which are all too eager to tell certain people they “don’t belong.”

Of course, there are certain things that do manage to unite us. Take the aforementioned sports teams that represent Chicago.

We somehow find a way to continue to care about the Chicago Bears, who haven’t had a winning season in oh so long. And that line in the team’s fight song about the team being the “Pride and Joy of Illinois?” It seems like a fantasy that it ever was true.