Monday, April 30, 2018

Trump has long way to go before we ought to think of him as Nobel winner

Reading through all the rhetoric being spewed in recent days with regards to the Koreas, one has to wonder how delusional the conservative ideologues amongst us truly are.
Lots of ritual in last week's meeting of the 2 Koreas leaders. Any substance?

Either that, or just how insecure are they in the degree to which they will say anything intended to try to legitimize this Age of Trump that our society is now in.

IT WAS REGARDED as a significant event last week when the leaders of the two Koreas – Moon Jae-in of the South and Kim Jong Un of the North – actually met, engaged in a lot of ceremonial ritual, talked for about 30 minutes, then signed off on an agreement that technically ends the Korean War of the 1950s.

Or at least says that neither North nor South Korea regarded the war as ongoing,

As far as any gunfire or bloodshed is involved, that conflict between the two Koreas (with the sides propped up by the United States and China) ended with a cease-fire in July 1953.

The fact that there was never a formal agreement signed has always been regarded as more of a quirk of history, rather than one of significance. Although for those who cite the instability of Kim and his relatives who have governed North Korea for decades, it has had some fear that a moment of stupidity on someone’s part could resurrect that Cold War-motivated military conflict.

BUT INSOFAR AS our own political scene is concerned, there are those who are seriously suggesting that the headline ought to have been, “Trump Ends Korean War.”

Many of them also are suggesting that the U.S. president ought to receive credit for bringing the two sides together and ought to get a Nobel Peace Prize.

They think history ought to be crediting Donald J. for bringing an end to a conflict that I honestly suspect most people today only think of as the motivation for the M*A*S*H film and television series. Actor Jamie Farr’s “Corporal Klinger” in drag might be the war’s lasting image.

TRUMP: He really believes it's all about him
If you get the impression I think President Trump is spewing a whole lot of nonsense on this issue, you’d be correct.

IT SEEMS THAT the ideologues remain seriously miffed that the Nobel Committee back in 2009 gave their Peace Prize to then-President Barack Obama. Perhaps they think it’s a matter of “equal time” that their guy get the same prize as well.

Admittedly, that prize to Obama was one that has questionable merit. Obama had engaged in significant rhetoric about nuclear nonproliferation and the merits of peace between the Western world and the Muslim world. It had been hoped that giving Obama the prize would add credibility to his talk.

Although what happened was the distaste ideologues had for Obama meant they became openly hostile to the idea (just like they despised everything he proposed), and little of lasting value came out of that era.

But anybody who’s serious (which the ideologues amongst us rarely are) has to admit Trump has had very little to do with any lasting peace in that region of the world. If anything, his trash talk about North Korea has escalated tensions, and his general attitude toward the rest of the world may be what keeps any lasting peace from being achieved.

KEEP IN MIND that the agreement formally ending the Korean War would still have to be approved by U.S. and China officials. It could take months, if not years, before the Korean conflict (1950-53) is officially over.

There’s also the fact that the Koreas agreement does not include a resolution of one long-significant issue – the degree to which the North ought to have its own arsenal of nuclear weapons. Although the Washington Post reported Sunday that the North said it would dismantle its main nuclear test site sometime next month. Whether that can be settled in the yet-to-be scheduled talks that Trump hints he’ll have with Kim.
Sad that some may think this is real

So while the ideologues amongst us are writing chapters celebrating Trump in history and trying to strongarm people into giving him the Nobel Peace prize, I think the head of North Korea’s national intelligence service may have a more accurate perspective.

While acknowledging “changing norms,” Kim Yong Chol said, “It feels embarrassing to be applauded just for shaking hands.”

  -30-

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Farquhar tale brings Stratton Story to mind; will Danny have cinema-worthy comeback for Chicago White Sox?

What is destined to be the place that Danny Farquhar will hold in the history of the Chicago White Sox, and in baseball?

Farquhar recovering from aneurysm
Is the 31-year-old pitcher finished as a professional ballplayer? Or can he recover to someday take to the pitcher’s mound and play in a major league ballgame?

IF THAT WERE to happen, Farquhar could well turn out to be the 21st Century take on Monty Stratton.

He was the one-time White Sox pitcher of the 1930s who managed to make an American League all-star team in 1937 and had Sox fans of that era convinced he was the big arm who would someday lead the team to victory (it actually took another couple of decades before the Sox became the “Go Go” guys who won that ’59 pennant).

But while Farquhar is the guy who a week ago suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm while pitching against the Houston Astros (collapsing while standing in the dugout), Stratton was the guy who suffered a hunting accident off-season.

He was shot in the foot, and it wound up having to be amputated.

The cinematic take on Stratton ...
BUT THE REASON why actor James Stewart (sort of the Tom Hanks of his era) felt compelled to play the part of Stratton in the 1949 film “The Stratton Story” is because ol’ Monty managed to teach himself how to pitch again – even though he had to use a prosthetic leg in order to move about.

To the point where he actually returned to the ranks of professional baseball, pitching for minor league ball clubs in Texas and managing to accumulate a record of 17 wins, 7 losses and a 4.17 earned run average in 1946.

Now I’m not saying that Farquhar and his story is destined to be the tale of a major motion picture with a Big Name star of immense sex appeal playing the part of his supportive wife, Alexandria (whom I understand was his high school sweetheart) similar to June Allyson playing the part of Ethel Stratton.

... and the real-life Monty
But when one considers that the aneurysm is a condition that could have killed Farquhar (he’d be the ballplayer who dropped dead in mid-game – although in not-as-dramatic a manner as the 1920 incident in which Ray Chapman of the Cleveland Indians died after being hit in the head by a pitch from Carl Mays of the New York Yankees – the fact that Danny remains amongst us is an achievement.

ON FRIDAY, FARQUHAR was reported by the Chicago Sun-Times to have actually taken “light walks” around the intensive care unit of Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center.

Not bad for a ballplayer who already had undergone two rounds of surgery for his condition during the past week and who, according to the hospital, remains in critical (but stable) condition.

It could well wind up that White Sox fans spend the 2018 season following the recovery of Farquhar, waiting for tidbits to let us know he still has a full life ahead of him with wife Alexandria and their three children.

Maybe he’ll even be able to return someday to baseball and give us a moment similar to that of The Stratton Story where Monty manages to finish out his time in the game on his own terms.

UNLESS YOU REALLY get that excited about determining how the 7-16 White Sox will evolve by 2020 into a pennant-contending team. Or, if you’re a Cubs fan, spewing a lot of trash talk about how it ain’t a gonna happen!

Danny presence remains in Sox bullpen 
And perhaps we can ponder how effective a role Farquhar would have/will play in a future White Sox championship team – a thought that may well be one that keeps Danny going forth these days.

Just as how I’m sure the fact that Stratton (whose bottom line stats include 36 wins and a 3,71 earned run average during five seasons with the White Sox) was able to return to baseball at some level was what kept him thriving in life, which lasted through 1982 at age 70.

Even though, I’m sure, for many fans “Monty Stratton” is just the name of a character from the James Stewart film that they occasionally see if they happen to stumble across a cable television channel specializing in old cinema.

  -30-

Friday, April 27, 2018

Rauner delves into ‘robot’ mode – spewing lines about “Madigan pawns”

It shows at times that Bruce Rauner, at heart, is a political amateur. Which is going to be the real reason why his re-election campaign is likely to be taken apart come Nov.6 by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan – who in many ways is the ultimate political professional.

McCANN: Madigan pawn? Really!
The Illinois governor, who had hoped he was finished with dealing with the conservative wing of the Republican Party when he narrowly beat state Sen. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, in the March primary, isn’t going to get away so easily.

FOR NOW, IT seems, we’re going to have William “Sam” McCann, a state senator from an unincorporated part of Macoupin County in Southern Illinois, declaring himself to be the Conservative Party’s candidate for governor.

The party doesn’t have a ballot slot, and there are those who question if they can get enough signatures of support on nominating petitions so that McCann and Aaron Merreighn for lieutenant governor to even be on the general election ballot.

But Rauner is going out of his way to denigrate the McCann/Merreighn ticket. On Thursday, the governor said McCann’s candidacy is “being used as a pawn” by Madigan and Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker.

When a reporter-type person tried to get Rauner to clarify what he meant, he promptly repeated himself, saying McCann “is being used by Pritzker and Madigan, and we’re going to win in November.”

RAUNER: Rehearsed rhetoric falls flat
BASICALLY, IT SEEMS the answer to any question anybody asks Rauner about anything is “blame Madigan!” Failing, he seems, to realize that no matter how little favorability the House speaker and Democratic Party chairman has, the governor himself is liked by even fewer people.

Take the fact that McCann, who has spent the past eight years as a state senator from a part of Illinois where Chicago’s existence doesn’t even factor and even St. Louis (which is less than an hour’s drive away) is considered alien, even feels compelled to run for governor.

His Conservative Party label is meant to be a place for those individuals who absolutely can’t get themselves behind a Rauner re-election bid AND who feel nothing in common with the modern-day Democratic Party in Illinois.

MADIGAN: Last laugh?
The idea that anybody thinks there’s a connection of any kind between Madigan and McCann is absurd. If anything, such rhetoric ought to show that perhaps Rauner has learned nothing during his three-plus years he’s been governor.

PERHAPS SUCH RHETORIC ought to be evidence why Rauner ought not to get anyone’s vote for re-election.

But is the line of campaign talk that Rauner seems to have settled into, and we’re bound to hear versions of this lack of logic over and over between now and Election Day in November.

McCann, in a statement he issued in response to Rauner, said the governor, “resorted to petty attacks and name-calling.” While the Chicago Tribune reported that McCann said Rauner is, “a lying liar who lies.”

Of course, part of the reason that Rauner may have been eager to resort to nonsense talk on Thursday is that it was his first public appearance in Chicago since his return from a 12-day journey to Germany and Poland.

RAUNER WAS SUPPOSED to be meeting with corporate types whom, presumably, he might be using his influence on to get them to bring business to Illinois.

PRITZKER: GOP fights while J.B. coasts to win?
The most specific thing Rauner had to say about his trip was that there’d be, “several really exciting announcements” to be made in coming weeks. Which almost makes it seem like the governor took a vacation trip at state expense, and maybe he’ll have a slide presentation to show us once the pictures are developed.

So instead, he chose to go after the fringe candidate who threatens to make Rauner the fringe candidate come Nov. 6; splitting up the segment of Illinois society that looks to the Republican Party for its Election Day choices.

With this kind of rhetoric, all I have to say is that it will take quite a significant screw-up on the part of the Pritzker campaign for them to avoid having to hold a victory celebration once the ballots are counted – with Madigan having the “last laugh” about all the pot shots being taken these days against him.

  -30-

Thursday, April 26, 2018

EXTRA: Rauner wins! (for now)

Gov. Bruce Rauner has a political victory, for the time being. Albeit one that I’m sure his political opponents will want to use to beat him repeatedly over the head with as we come closer and closer to the November general elections.

RAUNER: The ultimate loser?
Rauner used his “veto” power to reject a measure the General Assembly approved this spring – one that would have put state government into the business of licensing firearms dealers operating anywhere in Illinois.

HE CLAIMED THAT was too much regulation, and that there already were other entities providing sufficient regulation of such businesses.

That rejection was permitted to stand when, earlier this week, the Illinois Senate decided not to even try to overturn the governor – which they could have done if they had come up with a 60 percent united front. Something that Democrats do have it in their power to do.

But they’re not going to try. So Rauner’s veto will remain in place, and the measure that was part of a series of bills approved by the Illinois Legislature in the weeks following that school shooting incident in Florida earlier this year will not take effect anytime soon.

It’s always possible the Democratic-led Legislature can try again, and perhaps get it though the governmental process in the future to become law.

CULLERTON: Not challenging veto
BUT FOR NOW, it’s going to serve as a partisan club that can be applied upside Rauner’s head as Democrat J.B. Pritzker challenges him for the governor’s post in this year’s election cycle.

You can already hear the partisan rhetoric – legislators tried to pass a new law meant to protect the public from acts of violence, yet Governor Rauner decided to side with the National Rifle Association and the other conservative ideologues inclined to reject firearms restrictions of any type.

It makes me wonder if Democrats are actually happier with the governor’s veto than they’d be if they could pass the bill into law. A partisan weapon for a future Election Day always has value to political operatives.

PRITZKER: Gains a weapon against Rauner
Now I’m sure the ideologically-inclined of you who are willing to support Rauner’s re-election bid are claiming this is a cheap shot and that nobody of any sense would give such a charge any credence.

BUT KEEP IN mind the level of cheap partisan rhetoric the Rauner camp is spewing, and will continue to spew, in their efforts to get people to cast symbolic votes against Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, by casting actual ballots against Pritzker.

Just this morning, I received an e-mail from the Rauner camp telling me, “Pritzker and Madigan aren’t interested in fixing our state – their only concern is maintaining their own corruption.”

Of course, then the Rauner camp proceeded to solicit donations so they could afford to keep spreading their message.

Which means they want us to pay so they can continue to bombard us with nonsense-talk – an act I think actually shows a lot of nerve and one that makes him worthy of all the headaches he will suffer as he defends himself against allegations that he “sold out Illinois” to the NRA.

  -30-

Chicago’s ugly brawl for 2018 may well be within the Tribune ranks itself

Chicago Tribune news people have been speaking out in recent weeks about how they want to organize themselves into a union and have bragged about how they have about 85 percent of their staff in support of the idea.
No longer the 'World's Greatest Newspaper,' and no longer just 2 cents. Will it remain without labor unions
But it really shouldn’t come as any surprise that the newspaper’s management on Wednesday responded with the equivalent of, “I don’t care!”

THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE Guild received a formal response saying that the 85 percent of people signing union cards indicating their support for becoming an official union isn’t enough to sway them.

“Not enough information” was what management said, adding they’re more than willing to follow the procedures established by the National Labor Relations Board – by which a formal election will need to be held at some point later this year.

If a majority of reporter-types remain in support of the idea of becoming a chapter of the NewsGuild – Communications Workers of America, then perhaps there will be an officially-recognized union. But not one bloody moment before!

No such election has yet been scheduled, although I would expect it could happen sometime in late summer – or perhaps during Autumn. Round about the time the Chicago Bears start stinking up Soldier Field again with their awful play, we could see this issue resolved.

IN THE WEEKS and months until then, we’re going to see a whole lot of hostile rhetoric. A whole lot of reporter-types, including some of the most honored and award-winning in the newsgathering business, are going to be told publicly by management how replaceable they all are.

How in this particular era of the news business they ought to feel thankful to be employed by anybody who allows them to report the news for a living, and how the last thing they ought to be doing is trying to undermine the business interests of their employer.

Now I’m sure some people are going to want to think I’m exaggerating the situation. Particularly if they’re the types of people who are inclined to believe there’s a touch of truth in the over-the-top statements I wrote in the past couple of paragraphs.
Tribune soon to leave their historic tower
But I have my memories of back when I got out of college and started out in the news business.

MY FIRST PAYING reporter gig (I was an unpaid intern at a few places previously) was at the now-defunct Star Newspapers of Chicago Heights. By and large, I have pleasant memories of the eight months I was there and of some of the people I met.

But when I got there in June of 1987, the newspaper was in the midst of trying to establish itself as a local of the Chicago Newspaper Guild. A process that managed to split the staff into factions until the ultimate culmination in late October that year of an election.

One that I remember being a poll watcher for the union interests, and one in which I still remember the union interests lost by four votes. Not as close as a couple of years later when the old Southtown Economist newspaper tried to unionize and wound up with an evenly-split vote – a result that went in favor of management and was a loss.

Personally, I always thought the best jobs I had were at union-organized newsrooms. Mostly because it established set rules for dealing with various situations – rather than letting them be determined by what could appear to be the whims of management.
News business has changed much throughout the years

BUT TRYING TO establish a union shop in a newsroom is not something I ever would want to repeat in my work life. Particularly the letters me and my colleagues would receive from the New York attorneys retained by the newspaper to intimidate us into thinking we were being recklessly irresponsible in even contemplating making demands of the newspaper.

All or this is likely to occur at the Tribune – particularly since the one-time World’s Greatest Newspaper has such a history of being intensely anti-organized labor. Col. McCormick of the paper’s past (and whose distant relations have recently purchased an interest in the newspaper’s ownership) would boast about how he’d pay his reporters well (by newspaper standards) so as to make them think union representation wasn’t necessary.

Those supporting the unionization effort (including some reporters I know personally) say that recent years have brought about changes in circumstance that make the old logic inapplicable. They’re going to feel the gut check when they learn management is willing to openly demean them in order to keep the status quo in place.

Because I certainly can’t see any newspaper supportive of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s own anti-union efforts for state government willing to allow the “beast” of organized labor to soil the new offices they’re planning on moving into this summer.

  -30-

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

‘Reefer Madness’-type rhetoric bound to swarm over Ill.; will Lege ignore it?

Try watching the 1936 film “Reefer Madness” today. Its imagery is so over-the-top absurd that it’s a wonder anybody ever could have taken such thought seriously.

Worse than 'Plan 9 from Outer Space?'

Yet I’m not going to be surprised if some people are determined to cling to such thoughts of people being driven insane by inhaling the fumes of the so-called “wacky tobacky.” Either that, or the image of marijuana as a “hippie drug,” which makes their continued pursuit of criminalization more about partisan politics than any legitimate concern about health.

THIS POLITICAL FIGHT is going to step up in coming months, as it appears the Illinois General Assembly may well take up bills that would consider legalizing the recreational use of the drug.

Currently, people in Illinois would need to show a doctor’s prescription, and then could only purchase it from specific places that have been licensed by the state to operate under such restrictive rules that it’s clear the political people who concocted them were determined to maintain the stigma of marijuana use being borderline criminal.

As for whether the state Legislature would actually go along with legalization (instead of mere decriminalization), it seems the key on this issue is just as it is on many others – will Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, go along with it?

If he does, it could wind up getting a vote and passing – with potential future Gov. J.B. Pritzker campaigning now on the idea that legalization (and taxation of marijuana sales by the state) is good.

MADIGAN THIS WEEK said he, “haven’t come to a final decision,” but acknowledged that the mood of the people changes with the passage of time. “For American political parties, they have to be aware of what the people want. When American political parties are not aware of that, they usually dissolve.”
Are some determined to cling to these kinds of thoughts?
Could it be that Madigan noticed the results of the advisory referendum question that was on Cook County ballots in last month’s primary – the one asking people “yes” or “no” whether recreational use by people 21 or older ought to be legal.

Basically making the consumption of marijuana similar to having a drink (and treating a ‘junkie’ similar to an alcoholic).

Within Chicago, 73 percent of people voted “yes,” along with 63 percent of suburban Cook residents. Either way, well over the three-fifths support level required for a referendum to pass.

NOW, WE’LL HAVE to see whether the almighty, all-powerful Mr. Speaker of Illinois is willing to change with the times and permit his Democratic caucus to consider the issue.

Because I’m sure it would involve some sense of change on his part, although it’s not impossible to see it happening. I can recall times when anti-abortion activists in Illinois would say they considered Madigan to be an ally because his own Catholic religious beliefs were in line with them, and he would not use his political power to crush their bills meant to make abortion more difficult to obtain.

I doubt those people are willing to say anything nice about Madigan these days; what with the measures of recent years that are meant to restrict many of those restrictions the ideologues push for as an alternative to outright illegalization of the medical procedure.

Madigan could wind up evolving on this issue, too. Particularly if he comes to see that a majority of the people no longer cling to some nonsensical “Reefer Madness” imagery (Blanche’s maniacal piano playing bit is just too ludicrous).

PERSONALLY, I THINK that marijuana use has become so overly politicized to the point where there’s little logic in the laws restricting its use. Although I’m not surprised that some political people merely see the potential for more tax dollars and are eager to support it for that reason alone.

Will marijuana inspire similar thoughts?
I wasn’t kidding earlier when I wrote the comparison between a drug user and an alcoholic – the latter of whom we’re inclined to think of as someone in need of treatment. And yes, I can already hear in my mind the outrage of conservative ideologues – particularly the ones who drink too much – in making such a comparison.

Perhaps it’s time we consider this issue without much of the nonsense-talk of old. After all, we did the same with alcohol and prohibition some 84 years ago.

Could that actually put the political power of the newly re-elected Illinois Democratic chairman on a higher moral plane? It’s bound to be a heck of a partisan fight.

  -30-

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Blank pages = blank minds, but will that sway anybody to subscribe?

The Chicago Sun-Times on Monday tried to make a huge, sweeping statement – one of those “moments of awe” meant to inspire a deep thought within us.

Were you swayed?
They published a newspaper with a blank front page. It’s supposed to be symbolic of the quality of information we’d get if there were no newspapers being published at all.

AS IN THERE would be no stories whatsoever if we didn’t have newspapers with their staffs to actually report them. So, we’re supposed to conclude, we need to do whatever is necessary to ensure the continued survival of newspapers.

Of course, this grand statement is part of a larger gimmick. The Sun-Times’ website (at www.chicago.suntimes.com) wants to alter itself so that people can no longer just go there and expect to get the full content of the newspaper unless they have some sort of subscription.

They’d probably like it if people would take the full package that gives them a copy of the daily paper, along with full access to the website. Although they’ll also be happy if people take the digital access, by which people pay a lesser fee for the right to read anything on the website that they wish.

According to the Sun-Times’ own promotional copy, it is such a low subscription rate to do that. It amounts to “less than 25 cents a day.”

WHICH IS MY mind is a magic number of sorts – I’m old enough to remember back to when daily newspapers in Chicago cost a quarter each. That 25 cents would get you the whole paper back then, along with all the advertising supplements that were stuffed in it that supposedly had such value in-and-of-themselves that you’d save money far beyond the quarter you shelled out.
Did you "read all about it" on Waffle House?

Perhaps you can make an older generation feel like the price is returning to the golden days of old, rather than the current cost of $1 per day that a Sun-Times costs (or $2 on Sunday, but with the physical product scaled back to the point where it doesn’t have the “feel” of a traditional Sunday edition).


But a part of me is skeptical the message will take.

I have often wondered if it is going to take the outright demise of several newspapers and the loss of their content before people realize just how serious the loss will be.

I KNOW TOO many people who are foolish enough to think that television broadcasts or the Internet have somehow replaced newspapers in terms of providing information. They really haven’t.

Because if you take a serious look at the content those entities are providing, all too often they remain nothing more than retransmissions of what was first in the local paper.

The local TV news is just following up on the stories that were already in the paper, and the assorted websites are merely publishing the newspaper stories – or more accurately rewriting them in ways to try to make them appear to be their own content.
The original source

I got a subtle reminder of that fact in a story I wrote last week for the Post-Tribune newspaper of Northwest Indiana. Improvements that the Gary South Shore RailCats baseball team will have made to their stadium. Or, to be more honest, improvements that Gary municipal government will make for the ball club.

A WEBSITE, BALLPARK Digest, which covers the professional sports industry, did its own story. Which, if you read it realistically, was just a cheap rewrite of what I had did. At least they were honest enough to attribute the work to the Post-Tribune.

This kind of rewrite is all-too-common. Which is why I find it laughable when people say they don’t read the Sun-Times or Tribune anymore. But then you learn they’re getting those papers’ stories off assorted websites.

I don’t know what the future of the news-gathering business is, to tell you the truth. Only that I fear many of us are going to be a lot-less-well-informed because of the changes.

And by then, it will be far too late to do anything about it.

  -30-

Monday, April 23, 2018

When do corporate identities for professional sports stadiums go too far?

SeatGeek Stadium.

You just know that name is going to bring about derision amongst Chicago sporting fans for the Chicago Fire professional soccer club.
SeatGeek the stadium off in the distance from the Loop
BUT IT SEEMS the Fire (not the actual blaze from 1871, but the team playing in a stadium built for their use out in suburban Bridgeview) will allow their home pitch to be given that public identity with the coming of the 2019 season.

This is the final year that their stadium will carry the name Toyota Park.

Which as far as I’m concerned isn’t really a loss, since I don’t care for building names that are meant to be nothing more than advertising for somebody else’s product. I’d love it if the building in which the Chicago Bulls and Chicago Blackhawks had never been given a name promoting the interests of United Airlines.

But at least that was a Chicago-area entity. Unlike Toyota, which sells their products throughout the Chicago area, here but doesn’t really make them here.
Soldier, or Soldiers? Front room, or fronchroom?
COME 2019, IT will be SeatGeek Stadium. And yes, I’m sure there will be some people anal retentive enough to argue about whether there ought to be a space between “Seat” and “Geek,” or whether the company’s desires ought to be respected and the name spelled out as one word.

For the record, I had to look it up, since I had no idea what SeatGeek was. It seems it’s a website (seatgeek.com) where one can go to find tickets to various types of events. Including sports.

And including professional soccer.
A corporate identity of nearly three decades

It seems the company is an official Major League Soccer corporate partner, and the Minnesota United, Portland Timbers, Seattle Sounders, Sporting Kansas City and LAFC (a Los Angeles-area team that competes with the more traditionally-named Los Angeles Galaxy) have partnerships.

I SUPPOSE WE should also include the Chicago Fire on that list, since the company has now bought the right to have their identity on the Fire’s building.

For what it’s worth, Bloomberg Markets reported that the deal could result in payments of up to $4 million annually to the Chicago Fire. Not a bad sum, although I wonder how seriously people will take a name like “SeatGeek.”

It makes me wonder if Chicago Fire fans will go out of their way to refuse to use the name and come up with their own identity for the stadium out in the southwestern suburb (not far from Midway Airport, if you must know).

Although I wonder if SeatGeek could surpass Guaranteed Rate Field in terms of an unpopular identity for sporting fans to use. Yes, there are many Chicago White Sox fans who haven’t come to terms with the latest corporate name the White Sox bought for themselves two years ago.
Is baseball's sporting superiority in large part because "Sox Park" ...
THERE ARE MANY Chicago Cubs fans who go out of their way to deride the stadium name, and for all I know they will refuse to let SeatGeek Stadium somehow become a tackier name than Guaranteed Rate. Just because, in their mini-mindsets, the White Sox have to rank at the bottom.

Although when it comes to Chicago stadium identities, I always thought the most off-beat debate concerned the home of the Chicago Bears and the great number of allegedly hard-core fans who persist in calling the building “Soldiers Field” rather than the proper “Soldier.”
... and "Cubs Park" make sense?

By comparison, I’m sure there will be some sports fans who will show derision for professional soccer (mostly because they don’t comprehend “real” football, which ain't da game da Bears play so badly these days) by refusing to acknowledge the Bridgeview stadium altogether.

It’s a shame that all sports teams can’t be like our baseball clubs – where there are some people who steadfastly call the stadiums “Sox Park” and “Cubs Park” regardless of whatever name appears on the marquee. That would make sporting sense, even if it wouldn’t generate the million-dollar payoffs for the teams themselves.

  -30-

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Degrees of contamination?

Down in the land where Lake Shore Drive becomes South Shore Drive, we have the one-time site of a U.S. Steel plant that used to exist in Chicago.
What will become of the one-time South Works site on the Chicago lakefront?

Go down to 79th Street, and you’ll find a plot of land technically larger than the Loop (a.k.a., downtown) where various real estate developers have proposed projects that – if they were to ever become reality – could seriously revitalize that part of the South Side of Chicago.

YET THESE DAYS, the one-time South Works plant that has been shut down for 26 years doesn’t seem any closer to having something new built on the site than it was on that January day in 1992 when U.S. Steel decided it was no longer financially practical to manufacture steel there.

The fact that steel mills and other industrial uses were on the site back to 1857 means that decades of contamination accumulated there. It had become a very seriously polluted part of Chicago.

And THAT, it seems, is the big hang-up keeping anyone from seriously turning the site into something new.

There was the Chicago-area developer who spent more than a decade talking about developing an entirely new upscale neighborhood on the site between the South Shore and South Chicago neighborhoods.

MOCK THE IDEA, if you will. But its location right on Lake Michigan makes such an idea possible, since there are limits to the amount of addresses in Chicago right on the lakefront.

But even that developer got tired of the bureaucratic nightmares that stretched the project out so long. Most recently, companies based in Barcelona and Dublin had their own plan for a residential development on the site – with the construction of modular homes along with some retail and office space.

But the Chicago Tribune reported their plans to buy the 440-acre site are, “currently on hold because of soil contamination problems that need to be cleared.”

Will this proposed development with the downtown skyline off in the distance ever become a reality?
Not that they’re being more specific. Just more environmental cleanup before anything can happen.

WHAT MAKES IT offbeat is that U.S. Steel, which still owns the land, insists they worked with the Environmental Protection Agency to do cleanup of the site.

They say they’ve been issued “No Further Remediation” notices, which would indicate the federal government is convinced the site is clean enough for a developer to come in and begin putting the site at 79th Street into its 21st Century life after steel.

Which is something I hope is true.

Because there are people who like to use the now-vacant site as a sort of expansive hiking or biking path. Heck, I’ve had occasions when I walked around the site – and checked out for myself the huge concrete break wall that is so big it isn’t financially practical to think about tearing it down.

IF IT REMAINS a contaminated site, it could mean I’ve tainted myself, and many other people also are walking around with the slime of slag and other contaminants on themselves.

Could it really mean that the Spanish and Irish developers wishing to build along South Shore Drive are really seeking some sort of buyout, or other financial perk, so as to make any project they do along our lakefront all-the-more profitable?

Or could it be that somebody is trying to cheap out, so to speak, on the environmental cleanup needed to turn the lakefront south of 79th Street to the mouth of the Calumet River into a viable site.
How much of the steel mill residue remains? Image provided by Chuckman Chicago collection

The sad part of this story is this is a part of Chicago – the one where my own immigrant grandparents originally settled in this city, and where my parents were born and raised and I myself was born – that is oft overlooked by the rest of the city. To those of us with ties to the area, either explanation is completely believable.

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Friday, April 20, 2018

EXTRA: Does Lipinski owe Trump?

The D.C.-based Brookings Institution says it may well be the kind of people in full agreement with this Age of Trump in which we’re now in to whom Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., owes his re-election in last month’s Democratic primary.

LIPINSKI: Got some GOP crossovers
The institution’s Primaries Project did its own analysis of the voter tallies from the March 20 primary in the Illinois 3rd Congressional District (Chicago’s Southwest Side and surrounding suburbs).

THAT’S THE ONE where the socially-conservative Lipinski managed to fend off a challenge by Marie Newman, a political newby who tried campaigning on the notion that Lipinski’s political leanings don’t fit in with modern-day Democrats.

Not that it worked. The city portions of the district that remember back to the days when Lipinski’s father, Bill, was their Congressman (and their alderman at City Hall before that) gave Dan a large-enough support to overcome the small lead Newman had in the suburban parts.

That has many people thinking Lipinski’s victory was evidence of the Chicago “Machine” of old being able to turn out the vote for a candidate.

But Brookings researchers found that amongst people in the congressional district who voted in the 2016 presidential cycle for Donald Trump, those people were solidly in favor of keeping Lipinski.

OR MORE LIKELY, making sure that somebody like Newman never got anywhere near Capitol Hill.

TRUMP: Can he count on Dan's votes?
Most people in the Illinois 3rd voted for Hillary Clinton to be president, as did all of Cook County and the Chicago metro area.

But amongst those who went along with Trump’s “Make America Great Again” rhetoric, one in every five voted for Lipinski this time around. That compares to only one in 20 of Trump backers who sided with Newman.

Brookings types wouldn’t say definitively why that sentiment occurred, although they did point out that many would-be Republicans cast Democratic Party ballots in the March primary because the GOP only offered the white supremacist Art Jones as their choice for the seat.

NEWMAN: Definitely not the 'deplorable' choice
EVEN THOUGH THE Republican election cycle last month included a feisty fight by Jeanne Ives to try to knock Gov. Bruce Rauner out of the running for the Nov. 6 general election, Ives wasn’t enough to keep 3rd District GOPers with the party’s ballot.

Some 61 percent of people who cast ballots said they considered the congressional choice more significant than that of governor.

“Our data demonstrates Lipinski enjoyed a great advantage among, and likely a victory because of, self-identified Trump voters,” Brookings researchers wrote.

So is the next two years of Lipinski in Congress (nobody seriously thinks Jones can beat him come November) going to see Dan as one of Trump’s few allies amongst the Illinois congressional delegation. Or will he turn on the president, at the risk of some of his political backers deciding to turn on him come 2020?

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Brown wants to be mayor; can she win 2019 election before being indicted?

It’s not unheard of for someone under criminal suspicion by federal investigators to run for government office. Heck, the taint of a possible indictment doesn’t even always scare voters off from casting a ballot in support of someone.
Is this for real?

Yet I suspect that Dorothy Brown, the Cook County Circuit Court clerk who now has visions of running for mayor come the 2019 election cycle, may well go into the political history books for an over-bloated sense of self-importance.

FEDERAL INVESTIGATORS HAVE long focused their attention on Brown’s behavior as a court clerk and political official, even though as of yet she has not been indicted for anything.

Yet the reports have been intense enough that her name always gets tossed about whenever political corruption is the topic of discussion.

So should Brown, who has been a part of the local government for nearly two decades, seriously be thinking of herself as a challenger to Mayor Rahm Emanuel when he seeks re-election come the Feb. 26 municipal elections?

My guess is she figures there’s so many other challengers (it could be as many as one dozen in the non-partisan election format) that she has as good a chance as anybody else in finishing in second place – which would put her up against Emanuel in an April 2 run-off election (provided that Rahm doesn’t get a clear majority in February).
Just a couple of past politicos who ran ...

BUT COULD BROWN, who some say solicited cash and gifts from her employees – in exchange for promotions, actually overcome the political stink of suspicion and win anything? For her part, Brown says people are lying to federal investigators about her. Or is this a way of bloating her ego in the months prior to the federal government handing down an indictment?

Would this ultimately be the “achievement” for which Brown will be remembered on political scene – the candidate who got indicted in mid-election cycle!

Of course, there have been many names in our political past who wound up having to deal with the suspicion of criminal allegations being floated against them.
... for office with taint of indictment

Rod Blagojevich, whose name cropped up in the news recently when the Supreme Court of the United States rejected a final attempt at appealing his conviction, had suspicion and the FBI against him when he sought re-election in 2006.

YET HE MANAGED to win a second term in office by dumping so much rhetorical crud (including some outright slander) against the reputation of Republican challenger Judy Baar Topinka. It wasn’t until more than two years later that the U.S. Attorney’s office came down with the indictment (which actually was motivated by his actions in the days following the 2008 presidential election of Barack Obama).

Blagojevich was in position to pick Obama’s replacement from Illinois in the U.S. Senate, and prosecutors claim he blatantly solicited payoffs from people interested in getting the appointment.

There are some who think that if Blagojevich hadn’t been so arrogant in his behavior while under investigation, federal investigators might not have been able to get anything on Rod – and the resulting years of criminal proceedings and his incarceration wouldn’t have occurred.

Is that what could happen with Brown? Her having the nerve to run for mayor while under suspicion will motivate prosecutorial-types to find something on her? I’m sure there are some who will fantasize about Brown being carted away in handcuffs by FBI agents just before she could take the mayoral oath of office.

THE OTHER “BIG name” politico who pops into my head is Dan Rostenkowski, the Northwest Side member of Congress who used to be the all-powerful House Ways & Means chairman before he got busted for what some considered a petty offense – purchasing some $22,000 in stamps from the House Post Office, then converting them to cash for his personal use.
EMANUEL: Trying to laugh off his challengers

This came up during his re-election bid of 1994, and the 36-year member of Congress ultimately lost to Republican Mike Flanagan, who lasted but one two-year term before being replaced by none-other-than Blagojevich in his days before becoming governor.

Can Brown be more successful than Rostenkowski was in overcoming suspicion in swaying voters to back her bid for higher office?

Or will her scheduled announcement Sunday that she’s running for mayor merely be the beginning of an absurd election cycle, one which Emanuel himself on Thursday described as a, “political improv show … audition(ing) more cast members.”

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