Thursday, November 30, 2017

Will Abreu remain in Chi beyond ’17?

The Chicago White Sox openly talk about how they’re scraping their whole ball club as part of a rebuild – a do-over of sorts that they hope could result in championship-quality teams by 2020.

Could Abreu lead White Sox rebuild?
But there’s a certain sense that the rebuild actually began in 2014 when Cuban star slugger Jose Abreu signed on with the team.

DURING THE PAST four seasons, Abreu has been one of the few attractions worth seeing at Guaranteed Rate Field. Typically, it would make sense that because of his worthwhile statistics (which include a batting average of .301, 124 home runs and 410 runs batted in, and a .359 on base percentage), he’d be trade bait.

For as the legendary baseball executive Branch Rickey once said of his star slugger Ralph Kiner with some lousy Pittsburgh Pirates teams, “We finished last with you, we can finish last without you.”

No ballplayer is ever untouchable. Not even for the White Sox, who last winter traded away their top pitcher, Chris Sale, to the Boston Red Sox.

So it shouldn’t be surprising to learn of the reports that several ball clubs have contacted the White Sox to express interest in acquiring Abreu and his big bat. Even the Red Sox.

WHO EVEN THOUGH they won their division title last year fell short in the playoffs, in part because first base is a weak position for them. Acquiring Jose would be a significant move in their ongoing battle to try to become superior to the New York Yankees (they’re not, but that’s a story for a different day).
Moncada looks to Abreu for leadership

So are the rumor mills onto something? Are the White Sox about to trade away their best ballplayer? For what it’s worth, the SB Nation website grades this particular rumor an “A.”

Yet I can’t help but think that if the White Sox truly are on the verge of making this move, it will be the action that turns out short-sighted. And not just because most of the people who are all excited about such a move are the ones who are interested in how it would help Boston – and don’t seem to care what happens in Chicago.

I wonder how the people who do have an interest in a Chicago White Sox rebuild appreciate how significant the Cuban angle is in all of this. We literally have the potential to have our own Cuban core dominating Sout’ Side baseball.
As likely will Robert

WHAT WITH THE young talent of Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert coming to Chicago. Moncada has already arrived and has shown some signs of the potential star he could become, while Robert is firmly in the White Sox minor league system.

Both were acquired in deals (Moncada was the prize Boston gave up in order to pry Sale loose from Chicago) during 2017. Both were Cuban ballplayers, and both were excited to come to Chicago largely because they knew Abreu when all three were still playing on the Caribbean island.

It certainly was more significant to them that Abreu was here, rather than the fact that Minnie Miñoso played in Chicago a half century ago.

I don’t think you can over-exaggerate the significance of the mentor role that Abreu would play in a rebuilt White Sox ball club. It could literally be the three Cuban stars (playing at first and second base, along with center field) who could be the key to that future championship ball club that White Sox fans are eagerly dreaming of.
Minoso the Cuban past

AND YES, I’M a firm believer in intangibles (unlike those who can’t look past statistics) in determining a ballplayer’s worth to his team.

Some might say that Abreu could bring in a whole slew of talent. However, I doubt that Boston (or any other ball club) would be willing to give up that much in exchange for one slugger – no matter how many dents he could add to the famed left field wall at Boston’s Fenway Park.

Encouraging that Cuban core could be the key to a rebuild that actually works, as opposed to one that merely produces second place teams – rather than the fourth place ball club the White Sox had this year.
Is the pair attending a hockey game in Las Vegas really as interesting as would-be Cuban beisbol revolution?

And it would certainly be more interesting than the dreams of Chicago Cubs fans these days – the ones that say Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper is eager to come to the North Side team to pair up with old high school friend Kris Bryant. Just so they could lose someday to a White Sox-style Cuban beisbol revolution.


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Garcia, by running for Congress, wants to be the local politico who does it all

Jesus “Chuy” Garcia has been on the local political scene since back in the days when he was one of the aldermen aligned with then-Mayor Harold Washington.

GARCIA: Wants Congressional seal behind head
During the past three-plus decades, he has been an alderman, an Illinois state senator and (for the past eight years) a Cook County commissioner. Now, he’s looking to make the move “up and out.”

AS IN HE’S setting his sights on Washington, D.C.

Specifically, he will be using this week to put together a set of nominating petitions so that he can run for the seat that has been held for the past 24 years by Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill. – himself a former alderman who was aligned with Washington and against the City Council majority that went out of its way to thwart Harold every chance it could get.

Of course, these ambitions didn’t come up literally until Monday.

For that was the day candidates started filing their nominating petitions for the 2018 election cycle, and Gutierrez let it be known publicly he wasn’t filing petitions to run for any post.

AFTER A POLITICAL career dating back to the early 1980s, Gutierrez thinks it’s time to hang it up. Retirement.

GUTIERREZ: Ready to retire
Which means the post is open, and Garcia’s ambition got the best of him. He’s going to try to make the move to D.C. Even though until Monday, his ambitions were to seek re-election to his Cook County post and possibly contemplate a second crack at the Chicago mayoral post come the 2019 election cycle.

In short, the move “up” to a higher level of government, but “out” of the world of Chicago politics – which is what some people think is the only relevant form of government in existence.

Being able to say he hangs out in a city with a neighborhood called “Foggy Bottom” won’t mean much to the people of Garcia’s home Little Village neighborhood.

OR LA VILLITA, if we want to pretend the neighborhood was always a Spanish-speaking enclave – and not once the home to many thousands of eastern Europeans of all sorts of ethnic origins.
RAMIREZ ROSA: Will he challenge Chuy?

Trying to make a move to the world of Washington politics would be good for Garcia’s own ambitions, if you want to believe that a Rahm Emanuel/Jesus Garcia political brawl was a fight that was “So 2015” and that a ’19 rematch could only be a letdown.

Although there are those people who would be eagerly looking forward to a rematch, which came about when Emanuel failed to win a majority vote in the election proper, then had to take on Garcia in a runoff – where Emanuel took 56 percent of the vote to Garcia’s 44 percent.

With Garcia being dominant in the Chicago wards where there were majority Latino populations that would have loved the idea of the city’s first Mexican-American elcalde – but the rest of the city (including the black majority population wards) preferring the idea of keeping the city’s first Jewish mayor.

IN THIS CASE, many of those wards that loved Chuy back in 2015 are all crammed into the congressional district that Gutierrez has represented for so long. He’d probably be the favorite over Carlos Ramirez Rosa, the alderman who was supposed to be a lieutenant governor candidate paired with Daniel Biss – until Ramirez’ attitudes toward Israel became more publicly known.

EMANUEL: The real winner?
There is one potential problem – the fact that nominating petitions must be filed by Dec. 4. As in Monday. That’s five days away. It’s going to take a rush-job to put together a set of sufficient signatures of support, and rush jobs usually are where flaws that can get candidates kicked off the ballot can occur.

It’s not going to be easy to replace Gutierrez – and that most likely was his intention in waiting until the last minute before letting his intentions be known. Even though Gutierrez is saying he backs Garcia to replace him, there is one bit of irony.

Gutierrez in 2015 backed Emanuel for mayor over Garcia. In creating a post for Garcia to aspire to, he knocks out the potential of a political rematch. Which makes one wonder if Rahm is the ultimate winner.


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Southern Poverty Law Center a “hate” group? Ives wants ideologue voters

Jeanne Ives, the state senator from Wheaton who thinks anti-organized labor governor Bruce Rauner is a flaming liberal, let us know Monday she’ll wait a few days before filing her nominating petitions to get on the Republican ballot for the March 20 gubernatorial elections.

IVES: Wants the ideologue vote
Not that it really matters – Ives is the conservative ideologue candidate whose supporters already have made up their minds they’re voting for her (actually, against Rauner). The only question is just how many people really think Rauner isn’t conservative enough to appeal to them.

SO IT REALLY shouldn’t be surprising to anybody that Ives is capable of denouncing the Southern Poverty Law Center (an organization that has devoted decades to monitoring Ku Klux Klan activity) as a “hate group.”

She wants the political support of those individuals with their racial or ethnic hang-ups who think it’s the rest of the world that is somehow hateful of them for daring to suggest that their hang-ups are wrong.

Yes, she sees that Donald Trump was able to gain the presidency by appealing to people who think they’re being picked on for their wanting to look down on the rest of the world.

Perhaps she thinks she can do the same in Illinois – ignoring the fact that we were amongst the states that rejected The Donald. And that we take great pride in being able to say we did so (Go Hillary!!!).

SO JEANNE SAYING the people devoting their lives to fighting bigotry are the real bigots?!? It’s an obvious nonsense statement, but one that will play well with the kind of people she wants to turn out in great numbers to support her political ambitions.

TRUMP: Will Ives follow his campaign strategy
Which is really a collection of people determined to dump on the political ambitions of Bruce Rauner – the anti-labor guy whose conservative bearings aren’t intense-enough on social issues to appease the ideologues.

For the record, Ives’ comments were in relation to being asked about the Illinois Family Institute – a conservative-leaning think tank that works actively to promote conservative thought.

The Southern Poverty Law Center says the institute qualifies as a ‘hate group” based on its thoughts on legislation that relates to gay people. Ives wants the votes of people who support the institute, so during an interview she did with a Quad Cities-based television interview program, she said the law center “themselves should be deemed a hate group.”

RAUNER: Does Ives hurt his re-election chances
A THOUGHT THAT anybody with sense realizes is stupid. It’s part of an effort by the ideologues to shift attention from the extremes of their own thought and try to place blame on everybody else.

Which may be the way the ideologues want to view the world, but isn’t the way anybody with sense does so.

I know some political watchers are convinced that such nonsense talk (of which Ives is bound to spew much more between now and the GOP primary in March) will only help Rauner. They think a majority of Republicans, particularly those in the third of Illinois known as the Chicago suburbs, will be repulsed by such talk and wind up backing Rauner – no matter what they may think of his views on abortion.

Even though as a Wheaton resident, it could be argued that Ives IS one of those suburban Chicagoans and perhaps speaks for them.

PRITZKER: The ultimate beneficiary?
A PART OF me thinks that this could drive the true moderates (as in the people who have daily lives to live and don’t obsess this early about whom they’ll vote for come March 20, 2018) to the Democratic side – where they’re likely to have to pick between J.B. Pritzker (the millionaire just like Rauner) and the other people with Democratic dreams of running for office.

Or maybe many will just become disgusted with the whole process. Always a real possibility.

There’s only one thing I’m sure about.

While Ives may say she thinks the Southern Poverty Law Center is a “hate” group, that probably won’t be the most ridiculous thing she (or any other candidate) will say during this election cycle.


Monday, November 27, 2017

It’s about time – ’18 election cycle’s “put up-or-shut up” moment arrives

Friday was the day retail fanatics felt compelled to queue up outside of their favorite stores in search of particularly-good sales for holiday shopping.
Never-was gubernatorial candidate Ameya Pawar will have counterparts following this week's nominating petition filing period.
Monday will see similar lines of political geeks – candidates in some cases, their operatives in others. Although those lines will be at Illinois State Board of Elections offices, as it’s finally time for people wanting to run for political office to file the nominating petitions to gain themselves spots on the March 20 primary ballots.

FOR ALL THOSE people who have been going about throwing out hints that they want to be candidates for electoral office, they’re going to have to show the required support levels indicating they’re deserving of a ballot slot.

Between 8 a.m. Monday and 5 p.m. Dec. 4 (a.k.a., next Monday), the candidates will file their petitions showing signatures of support from people indicating they’d actually vote for this person.

Now I know some people think this is unfair – they think it ought to be easier to actually get on the ballot. Let everybody on the ballot (they’d say); let the voters decide on Election Day.

Yet I think there is too much clutter in these early stages, and candidates for office ought to be capable of defending their ballot existence by showing some support.

JUST THINK THAT there are about eight people saying they want to be the Democrat running next year for Illinois governor and for state attorney general.
DAIBER: Will he continue to exist?

Most of us can’t even come close to naming all of them, and the only people who truly want all of them hanging around are the ones interested in causing political confusion.

As in the only way they can win is if enough people cast votes for them without knowing who they’re supporting. Which may sound ludicrous, but does anyone seriously think Mark Fairchild or Janice Hart would have won Democratic primaries back in 1986 based on their merits?

Yes, those are the two followers of Lyndon LaRouche who managed to win that year’s gubernatorial and Illinois secretary of state primaries, with voters not realizing their tie to the would-be presidential hopeful that some consider more fascist than Democrat.

MY POINT IS that there have been people trying to talk themselves up as candidates even though there’s really no evidence anybody wants them or would support them.
RAOUL: How many opponents will remain?

As for one-time gubernatorial hopeful Ameya Pawar who came to the realization a few weeks ago he couldn’t win the Democratic primary, he’s alone. Although it’s quite possible that many of the other seven people who think they’re going to be running for the office will fail to meet the standard to get on the ballot.

Their campaigns will end before they even began. Will Bob Daiber (the regional schools superintendent from the part of Illinois down near St. Louis) still be around?

Or will this officially become a less-cluttered J.B. Pritzker/Chris Kennedy political brawl? We’ll see come next week.

JUST AS MOST of us likely can’t even come close to naming all of the Illinois attorney general dreamers on the Democratic side. If a few of them disappear before ever becoming official, it will be more comprehensible to the electorate.
STROGER: Will he have valid signatures?

It will be the same for many other political offices. Personally, I’m curious to see the Democratic primary for Cook County Board president, where Toni Preckwinkle has two challengers talking up long-shot campaigns against her.

But Todd Stroger has only declared himself a candidate as of last week. Can he truly produce nominating petitions with enough valid signatures of support by this week?

Anything’s possible, but I’m sure that Preckwinkle operatives are counting on Stroger doing a sloppy-enough job that they can challenge his petitions and keep him off the ballot that way. Which means the serious politicking can get underway following this coming week, rather than the stupid speculation we've been engaging in up to this point.


Saturday, November 25, 2017

Black Friday misery, or sense prevails?

As one who personally detests the concept of holiday-related retail activity (I’ll go ahead and say it, “Bah, Humbug!!!”), I can’t help but feel some sense in joy in the anecdotal activity I’ve seen with the post-Thanksgiving Christmas holiday shopping that supposedly is taking place Friday.
From what I'm told, Macy's decorations similar to these erected last year. Photos by Gregory Tejeda
I’ve seen a lot of people on Facebook posting their own observations of how the lines at shopping centers and stores don’t seem as ridiculously long this time.

THIS MAY BE an instance of me hoping that by writing something, I make it true regardless of what is really happening.

But I know when I ran an errand Friday that required I physically go to an AT&T store (and yes, they tried giving me the hard-sell to contemplate buying a new phone, even though the one I have now is barely over a year old), I was shocked at how few people were out and about.

The particular store I went to in suburban Chicago is part of a larger shopping area, and shares a parking lot with a Best Buy store – one of those big boxes that typically is particularly gross in trying to sway people in to shop now with so-called holiday retail bargains.

The traffic appeared to be little more than what would be seen on any other Friday mid-day. It didn’t feel like the “Black Friday” holiday at all. Does that mean the retailers who supposedly don’t clear into the black financially for the year until now are still in the red?

Art Institute Chgo's gift to Midwest?
SHOULD WE FEEL sorry for them that the crowds of shoppers trying to find that so-called perfect give to give to Uncle Frankie so he can exchange it for something else during come the late December post-Christmas (he’ll claim it’s the wrong color, but his real objection would be that the XXL size you got him fits perfectly, but he doesn’t want to admit he’s THAT big) aren’t quite so enormous?

Or could it be that many people are coming to the same realization I came to years ago – trying to deal with the holiday shopping crowds on this particular day truly stinks! There are better ways to shop without following the leader – being led by the nose by those advertisements and coupons that retailers put in the Thursday newspapers (and that some people tackily try to steal for free – while leaving the actual editorial content unsold).

A scene we no longer see in downtown Chicago proper
As for those who haven’t learned, perhaps the computer problems experienced Friday by Macy’s (a.k.a., the dirty rats who stole the name “Marshall Field’s” from the Chicago scene) will sway more.

The Friday news reports tell of glitches that prevent people trying to use their Macy’s charge cards from being able to buy anything. Although it seems the problems arise for anybody who tries to buy more than $100 – which is exactly the kind of person Macy’s wants out today (they could care less about the guy looking to buy a package of boxer shorts – which can be as little as a $17.99 purchase if one is particularly cheap).

IT WAS CASH-ONLY at Macy’s, which is such an anti-21st Century attitude (albeit one that I try to follow whenever possible) that I’m sure many would-be followers will be incredibly offended.

So much so they’ll storm off to Kohl’s or J.C. Penney’s or whatever other option they happen to have available to them.

It’s a bit of that holiday shopping frustration that I wish could convince people there has to be a more rational way to do this than think there’s actually something special about this day-after-Thanksgiving that requires us to shop!

It makes me think to the old days when the idea of a downtown holiday shopping trip was as much about the spectacle – particularly in Chicago where many still mourn the loss of Field’s because the old State Street store’s windows no longer have those unique (remember Uncle Mistletoe?) decorations.
How many remember Uncle Mistletoe's wife, Aunt Holly? Photo provided by Chuckman's Chicago Nostalgia
THE WINDOWS STILL exist under the Macy’s brand name, but I’ve already read Facebook rants about how Macy’s has desecrated the whole concept with their generic decorations.

Which may be some people taking the whole concept far too seriously.

But now that “Black Friday” has come and gone, maybe we all now can relax just a bit – something we all probably can use after the stress of the Thanksgiving festivities and the Christmas/Hanukkah/whichever holiday you do activities that will come up in coming weeks.

A bit of relaxation might be what we as a society needs – just before the moment that President Donald J. Trump decides to screw up a national mood of peace by going on yet another irrational Tweet-from-a-Twit rant about how somebody is committing “War” on the Christmas holiday spirit.


Friday, November 24, 2017

EXTRA: No Ohtani frenzy for Chicago

Feel like being totally confused by the way professional baseball operates? Then get involved in following the process by which the latest Japanese leagues star, Shohei Ohtani, jumps to the United States to play baseball here.

Only coming to Chicago as a visitor
Ohtani is a big deal in part because he’s only 24. He still has many years of athletic activity left in him – barring a freak incident.

HE’S ALSO A big deal because he’s baseball ambidextrous – as in he can both pitch AND hit. He is a top pitcher for the Fighters of Nippon Ham, a ball club that plays on the island of Hokkaido – the northern end of Japan.

But he’s also supposedly a top hitter with home run power. Could he be a guy who pitches shutouts one day, then smacks home runs as a designated hitter for the other pitchers the rest of the week?

Something unlike literally the days of Babe Ruth when he both pitched and played outfield for the Boston Red Sox – before being traded to the New York Yankees where he made the shift to being a big bat exclusively.

Early speculation is that Ohtani is of the mental makeup that he has no intention of making a shift. He thinks he can do it all.

AND NOW, ACCORDING to an evolving process by which the American and National leagues in this country co-exist with the Central and Pacific leagues of Japan, Ohtani will get to decide which team in this country he will do it for.
First Japanese ballplayer on a Chicago ball club

But because of baseball rules that are meant to limit the amount of money ballclubs can spend on international talent (so as to circumvent the ballplayer draft that allocates domestic-born talent), there are only 12 of the 30 existing major league teams that can even think of bidding on him.

Neither of them are in Chicago. When Ohtani plays in this city, it’s going to be as a visiting team player.

It particularly amuses me that the Chicago White Sox can’t get into the bidding war that will occur – largely because their activity last year when they signed the big star Cuban ballplayer Luis Robert, they pushed themselves over the limit. He's supposedly a significant part of the rebuilding effort that some dream will bring the World Series to the Sout' Side by 2020.

WHICH MEANS I’M sure White Sox fans will get over this loss if someday Robert hits a game-winning home run off of Ohtani’s pitching.
First Japanese Cub's name made some titter

But it means our city is on the sidelines in this baseball spectacle. Our city’s baseball fans will wait and see which team gets him, then figure out which ballpark they have to travel to in order to boo and heckle him. Not that he’ll care, since I doubt his comprehension of English-speaking “boo birds” is minimal.

So with some of the speculation being that Ohtani is bound to wind up with the New York Yankees, it could well be that Aug. 6-8 will be the dates in 2018 to circle.

The fanatics (a.k.a., overly obsessive nutcases) amongst us can venture out to Guaranteed Rate Field to practice their newly-learned Japanese phrase – Omae ha kusai yo. Which crudely translates to “You stink!”


Can Chicago support more pro soccer? Does North Side want its own team?

Does professional soccer in this country have visions of playing off the South Side/North Side split that exists in our city – with each side having its own team to root for?
Architectural rendering of new stadium to attract, United Soccer League to Chicago

Some people seem to have such dreams, although it’s questionable whether the baseball dichotomy that exists in Chicago could ever be recreated for another sport.

ADMITTEDLY, THIS IS all theoretical.

It comes about because part of the Chicago proposal for trying to encourage to build their second corporate headquarters here is to erect a stadium at a site along the Chicago River’s north branch on the fringes of the Lincoln Park neighborhood.

It’s meant to enhance the neighborhood that could be the site of the facility – an effort to make it a hip and happening place (and yes, I suspect the only people who would find this upgrade worthy are the types who would use terms like “hip” and “happening”).

Concerts could be held there, and there’s talk of trying to get the United Soccer League to expand its operations with a team in Chicago that could actually play its games there.

IT SOUNDS NICE, except that Chicago already has a professional soccer team – the Chicago Fire of Major League Soccer. Which isn’t exactly an attendance-leader for the league, and usually provides ammunition for the NASCAR-type mentality people who want to think soccer is too foreign to be worthy of any support on the sporting scene.
The existing Toyota Park of southwest suburban Bridgeview

The Fire, when they originally were created back in the 1990s, played their matches at Soldier Field. But when that stadium was renovated into its current state, the Fire used the need to find a new home as an excuse to get their own stadium.

Which they now have out in the southwest suburb of Bridgeview. I’ve been to Toyota Park for a few matches. It’s actually a nice facility, and does the team some credit to have it available at their control – unlike Soldier Field, where the Chicago Park District always made it clear the Chicago Bears were the primary tenant and others would have to play second-fiddle.

But it has created a situation where some people living in the northern reaches of the Chicago area want to believe that a team playing its games at 71st Street and Harlem Avenue is too distant.
Is 20 years of existence strong enough for Fire?

WHO WANTS TO have to travel south, particularly that far south, to see a soccer match?

Although I’d point out (as someone native to the South Side and surrounding suburbs) that the region stretches as far south as 236th Street before you reach the southernmost tip of Cook County.

But there’s speculation that a United Soccer League franchise based on the north side, particularly if on the fringe of a trendy, upscale neighborhood, could try to market itself as an alternative. Even though the United Soccer League technically is a minor league that ranks below Major League Soccer on the sporting scene.
Chgo soccer hasn't been same since Sting ceased to exist

Some could argue we have the same scene with baseball, where the Chicago White Sox have been ever since their creation in 1900 a team that marketed itself as the face of the South Side, and with the Cubs upon their moving to what is now Wrigley Field back in 1916 as the North Side team.

BUT LIKE I said, it was a conscious decision of Charles Comiskey that he had the Sout’ Side team. The Fire would become the South Side team of default, with the hoity-toity types of the North lakefront deciding to watch soccer matches in their own neighborhoods – that is, if they ever get such an urge.

Personally, I played a little soccer in high school (no, I wasn’t any good at it), and my own memories also included rooting for the Chicago Sting of old – that now-defunct team that actually won North American Soccer League championships in 1981 and 1984. To me, I’d like to have the Sting back, rather than any of these new teams.
White Sox fans still think "Ugh!"

But that’s not about to happen. We’ll have to see what becomes of this new team talk – particularly if winds up choosing some other city and the motivation for building a new stadium up north withers away.

There would be one interesting bit – since a North Side team would technically be a minor league club, and it would create the state where players would “move up” to the Chicago Fire down south. Similar to when Ron Santo was traded from the Cubs to the White Sox in 1974 and was greeted with fan banners reading, “Ron Santo, Welcome to the Major Leagues.”


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving – a holiday diminished?

Thanksgiving Day! Our national festival where we’re supposed to be thankful for what we have, and can gorge ourselves to gluttony with promises that we’ll exercise or diet of the excess poundage in coming weeks.

Wishing my brother and I could be together again
I’m never quite sure what to make of this date, and not because I’m someone feeling the need to identify with the saga of native peoples to this continent having their land stolen from them by the white man!

PERSONALLY, A PART of me wants to take a can of cranberry sauce and shove it down their whiny throats when they start spewing out this tale. Then again, I say a can of cranberry sauce and not a turkey leg because I despise cranberry sauce (whether canned or made fresh) and because, personally, the leg is my favorite part of the bird.

I often hear of people for whom Christmas or Easter or other holidays get diminished for them because of the loss of someone in proximity to the so-called festive day.

For me, that has become Thanksgiving during the past seven years.

My mother, Jenny, died in early November 2010. I still remember the last time I heard her voice – my brother (also since departed) had taken her to a hospital because she wasn’t feeling well and he called me via telephone to tell me they were actually sending her home.

DURING THAT PHONE call, I could hear my mother’s voice in the background almost haranguing him with a list of stores she had to visit and tasks she would have to do in order to prepare for a Thanksgiving Day meal with my brother and I.

For all I know, her last thoughts may well have been of all the work she would have had to do for the upcoming holiday. Because on the car ride home, she suddenly lost consciousness (her final words, I’m told, were “I’m going to pass out”).

She wound up never regaining consciousness, and was pronounced dead a couple of hours later.

This Munsters mutant almost seems appetizing
Since then, Thanksgiving has become a holiday I have spent with my step-mother’s family – specifically, her sister lives in the Beverly neighborhood, and I expect to convene there with my father and others as we try to express what we’re thankful for.

ACTUALLY, THINGS USED to be worse on Thanksgiving. Because not only would I have to juggle both of those events on the actual Thursday, my father would always insist on having a post-Thanksgiving meal on the following Saturday.

Which he said was necessary so we could have all of our own personal favorite dishes – although I mostly remember them as dishes he liked that nobody else was particularly fond of.

The point being that in past years, these next few days would have been an edible orgy of heavy, fattening foods. I most assuredly would have felt more stuffed than the turkey by the time the weekend was over.

But perhaps it’s evidence my father is getting up there in years – even he doesn’t seem to want all the hassle of a post-Thanksgiving meal.

NOT THAT I’M complaining. It actually feels like a relief not to have to ration out how much I eat at each stop so that I don’t make myself ill from over-eating.
How many people really identify with this version of the Thanksgiving tale
I’ll be able to enjoy the meal, which my step-mother’s brother-in-law will prepare. And with the exception of one year when his turkey came out incredibly dry, his past experiences are such that I’m expecting to enjoy myself in a culinary sense.

Although I have to make a confession – there’s a part of me that wouldn’t mind enduring a bit of overeating if it meant I could have a few more moments with my mother.

On this day, more than most others, I find myself missing my mom.


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

‘Give it back! as ridiculous a command from GOPers as ‘Lock her up!’

Are Durbin and Duckworth (below) ...
The Illinois Republican Party is trying to do its part to overhype the degree to which Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., is thought of as the ultimate pervert when it comes to political people, rather than Ray Moore of Alabama.

While I understand why they would engage in partisan politics on this issue (I don’t expect them to come to the defense of a Democrat), I can’t help but think of the tactic as one that reeks of absurdity.
... really obligated to give back anything?

HEARING REPUBLICANS ARGUE that Sens. Richard Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, both Illinois Democrats, are obligated to get rid of any money that was raised for their campaigns through Franken’s celebrity status is just ridiculous.

Hearing them say the two should give it back is as ridiculous as a year ago when they were constantly getting themselves all worked up in frenzied chants of “Lock her up!” whenever the name of then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton came up.

About the only thing those chants really accomplished was angering the segment of the electorate not disposed to back Donald Trump’s presidential dreams – to the point where Trump had better hope he never actually gets caught doing anything illegal.
FRANKEN: Is he really Moore's equal?

Because you just know there will be some people inclined to show up at a future Trump sentencing and chant “Lock Him Up!” at the moment punishment is imposed.

BUT THAT SEEMS to be the way the Republicans think these days – even the ones in Illinois who like to think they’re not quite as extreme as the Trump mentality, but would have withered away into insignificance if not for the personal money of Gov. Bruce Rauner.
Is Moore really as believable ...

Which often makes me think I should clarify in copy that the “R” following the name of GOP elected officials ought to stand for Rauner Party, rather than Republican Party.

So what’s the latest issue that’s getting the Illinois Rauner Party (I’m sure seeing what happened to the entity once thought of as the “Party of Lincoln” would make Honest Abe roll over in his grave more than anything that Rod Blagojevich ever did) soiling their drawers?
... as Trump would have us think he is?

It’s the fact that Franken is not a standard issue elected official. He has a certain celebrity status that he has used to help his colleagues in politics raise money to support their campaigns.

SEVERAL OFFICIALS HAVE to admit to having received contributions from Franken – who now has a couple of women claiming he behaved in a manner that was probably worthy of the response of a slap across the face.

In the case of Durbin, who has been a D.C. public official from Illinois for 30-plus years, it comes to $21,000. Which isn’t the largest amount in the world. Although it’s tremendously huge compared to Duckworth, who only has $5,000 to account for with Franken connections.

Neither one of those amounts of money are huge. Yet that’s not the point of the Republican actions.

It’s a matter of distraction, trying to get people to think that Franken’s heterosexual behavior is worse than any of the teenage girls that Moore is now alleged to have been involved with back when he was in his early 30s (he’s now 70).
CLINTON: Will Hillary get last laugh?

THEY’D LIKE IT if people would focus attention on Franken, but would probably settle for it if they would think of him as the Democratic Party equivalent of Moore.

Which is just too ridiculous a claim to take seriously.

Now as for Durbin or Duckworth giving back money (or actually, making charitable contributions of an equal amount), I stand by my belief that doing so doesn’t mean a thing. But here’s a thought – how about looking into the financial records to see which people or groups are giving campaign money to Moore, despite knowing of his proclivity for young girls?

Those people are the ones whose political and moral judgments ought to be questioned.


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Make up your mind, Todd

I’m sure some political watchers choked on their own phlegm when Todd Stroger, the one-time Cook County Board president who has become the ultimate example of someone who got into politics due to family connections, said he plans to seek re-election to the post that he lost some seven years ago.

STROGER: Changing his mind
Stroger, who also served as a state legislator before becoming the county’s chief executive, told WFLD-TV he will challenge incumbent Toni Preckwinkle come the March 20 primary.

IF STROGER REALLY does take such actions, he will be one of three people in the Democratic primary next year. Since one-time Alderman Robert Fioretti also has said he wants to run for the post.

And like Fioretti, Stroger indicates he plans to beat up on Preckwinkle over her effort to impose a “pop tax” that caused a massive public stink. The tax that will cease to exist at the end of next week was capable of boosting the price of a can of Coca-Cola by a notable amount.

Yet Stroger is the guy whose own political unpopularity rose to ridiculously high levels when he tried balancing the Cook County budget many years ago with a sales tax increase – the one that when piled on with all the sales taxes that local governments charge rose the overall tax to over 10 percent in Chicago.

It will be interesting to see just how capable either Fioretti or Stroger will be in terms of challenging Preckwinkle.

BOTH OF THEM are convinced that she is so unpopular because of the pop tax that anybody can beat up on her.

I don’t doubt that Toni could be defeated by the right challenger. But I’m skeptical that either of these guys is capable of filling that role.

In the case of Stroger, his unpopularity is so intense even now. The thought of Stroger running for any government post is usually enough to outrage political watchers – particularly if they have their hang-ups over the way that Todd got into office to begin with.

PRECKWINKLE: Seeking a third term
His father, John Stroger (the namesake of the Cook County Hospital) was the county board president when his own health took a turn and he had to step down. He orchestrated his son being chosen to replace him in a way that made many feel Todd was forced down their throat.

OF COURSE, IT should be noted that the Chicago political scene has had so many multi-generation families holding elective office so that it shouldn’t have been strange that John would turn to Todd to replace him.

I don’t doubt that for some people, the fact that John Stroger was a black public official somehow aroused their ire. As though white pols can get away with semi-sleazy behavior while we expect our black pols to be on the straight-and-narrow.

But that’s the situation we’re going to be in – that is, if Stroger really winds up getting himself on the ballot to run for Cook County Board president. I’ll be curious to see if he can get the necessary nominating petitions filed by the Dec. 4 deadline.

And let’s not forget that Stroger for a while was the guy talking about a political comeback by running for a seat on the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. Not the most public of posts, but it would put Stroger on a public payroll and give him a title that would allow him to think of himself as a government official again.

WE’LL SEE WHICH post Stroger winds up running for. Will we really get a three-way fight for the Cook County Board’s boss?

FIORETTI: Seeking a political comeback
And if so, will it be truly competitive? Because a part of me wonders if Fioretti and Stroger will be the long-shot guys who take votes from the Anybody But Toni voters, while a plurality of more sensible people will wind up picking Preckwinkle – who until the pop tax came along was regarded rather highly by the electorate.

Largely, of course, because she wasn’t Todd Stroger. Does anybody seriously think that voters would return to Todd to replace Toni?