Friday, August 31, 2018

One person’s idea of public ‘art’ is another’s gangbanger-inspired graffiti

Perhaps this is a trend we need to be wary of – what with government officials inclined to think they can help beautify their neighborhoods by permitting artists to let loose and do create their work on the urban canvasses otherwise known as building walls.
'Questionable' mural while in creation. Photo provided by Lake View Chamber of Commerce
For there was an incident recently showing just how subjective the process can be.

IT SEEMS THAT city officials commissioned a mural intended to be visible to people waiting for ‘el’ trains along the Paulina station of the Chicago Transit Authority’s Brown line.

That, of course, is a train line running to the north side through the upscale Roscoe Village sub-neighborhood of Lake View – where the local residents have a certain expectation of the look they want to have for their community.

So when the “bear champ” mural went up on an outdoors brick wall, there were those who saw its bright yellow colors and thought it helped make the neighborhood more cheery.
Pilsen-based art. Photographs by Gregory Tejeda

But invariably, there was someone who saw markings on the wall and automatically jumped to the “graffiti” assumption – which usually means someone fears the gang-bangers are headed for the neighborhood.

THAT, ACCORDING TO the Chicago Tribune, led the ‘someone’ to call 3-1-1 and report an incident of graffiti in the neighborhood. City Streets & Sanitation officials went to the scene, found there most definitely was something other than plain brick wall present, and a crew painted over the scene with a dull tan color.

A “victory” for all those believing in law and order, along with a sense of morality – except that this particular piece of ‘art’ literally was commissioned by the Lake View Chamber of Commerce. Most definitely NOT any kind of subversive effort.

The group actually thought the mural by artist J.C. Rivera would add some color and brighten up the neighborhood -- particularly for those waiting for an 'el train to arrive. It might reduce the amount of cursing those passengers would be doing under their breath while waiting for the trains that never seem to run on time.
Outdoor advertising w/ artistic merit in the South Deering neighborhood
Based off the photographs I have seen of what the mural looked like during the few days it was in place, I’m not sure exactly what it was supposed to be. But it was a large splash of color that cheered up the mood. I’m sure whoever it was that made the call to the city to complain was a crank – who may also be the kind of person who calls animal control every time they hear a stray bark echo through the air.

THE PROBLEM BECOMES having to distinguish between the crackpots and people with legitimate complaints; particularly since I don’t doubt the crackpots think they have legitimate complaints.

Even though all they really have is a narrow vision of what their surroundings should be like.

As far as removing graffiti, I do comprehend the need to do so. Particularly since so much of it is ugly and nonsensical and whose only purpose is for one to “place their mark,” so to speak, on a public spot. As though their tag or other symbol can force all of us to recognize their legitimacy.
Maybe we're lucky nobody has called to report this 'eyesore' of public art
For what it’s worth, the neighborhood’s Chamber of Commerce actually used city funds to help create this particular mural that no longer exists. So it literally was the city that destroyed something it had created in the name of neighborhood beautification.

ARE MURALS ALL across the city going to have to be wary of some sense of ‘art police’ eager to erase their mark from the walls of Chicago? What about those who might have their own building and try to decorate it with something representing their business interest – will this be forbidden?

There is one aspect I do find ironic, and it is based off of a Chicago Tribune photograph depicting the painted-over mural. It seems someone saw the newly-created blank space and managed to fill it in by tagging it.

Meaning literally that someone’s effort to erase some nonsensical graffiti resulted in a piece of artwork being replaced by real graffiti – which most likely will remain place longer than the mural did.

That would serve the ‘idiot’ right who made the call to complain about the mural. The only problem is that the rest of us passing through the neighborhood wind up suffering as well.


Thursday, August 30, 2018

One bit of truth to Van Dyke’s talk?

VAN DYKE: His life's on trial
Jason Van Dyke, the Chicago police officer who will go on trial beginning next week for a 2014 shooting incident that left a teenager dead, is telling a selective story to the Chicago Tribune – trying to get out some sense of the perspective that he’s not a thug in need of being locked away from society for life.

He gave the one-time World’s Greatest Newspaper an interview, and the competition Chicago Sun-Times felt compelled to do a quickie rewrite. Many broadcast outlets also are feeling compelled to acknowledge Van Dyke’s thoughts.

SO WHAT SHOULD we think of the officer who admits he shot and killed Laquan McDonald back in October of 2014? It certainly isn’t his claim that he faces the possibility of life imprisonment for doing his sworn duties as a Chicago police officer.

What caught my attention was Van Dyke’s statement, during a 40-minute interview with the newspaper where his attorneys often interceded and kept him from more thoroughly answering questions, that he acknowledges the potential consequences to the city at-large.

Could there wind up being some sort of riot by people who are offended by whatever verdict of his so-called peers that a jury winds up arriving at?

“I’m very scared for it. It obviously weighs heavily upon my mind,” Van Dyke said.

SOME, I’M SURE, will think back to the days of 1968 – where the Democratic National Convention protesters were not the only ones who experienced violence that year.

It was also the year that Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., was killed by a racist-motivated assassin – and many black neighborhoods across the nation wound up in flames. Including in Chicago, where there are parts of the city’s West Side that for years remained in rubble and where they never recovered from the damage.

Does Van Dyke think he could be the cause of a similar reaction if he winds up being acquitted of the criminal charges? I don’t doubt some people would be grossly offended – and I have heard some activist types speculate how they fear this trial is headed for acquittal.
Van Dyke makes Page One in worst way possible

As though they expect “the establishment” will be prepared to protect a police officer because his “victim” was just a young, black male – particularly one whom prosecutors seem eager to label as a violent troublemaker who brought his fate upon himself.

TO TELL YOU the truth, I’m inclined to think it’s the other side that could get ugly – although I’d like to think that all could wind up showing some sense of self-restraint.

For in this Age of Trump that our society is now in, there are people who will be eager to defend Van Dyke as a cop doing his duty. They’ll want to think any kind of punishment is improper – and evidence that our society is all awry and out-of-whack with common sense.

People often talk about how there are “two Chicagos,” one upscale and thriving while the other is a dumping ground for those individuals whom the elite don’t want near them.

Could it be that Van Dyke and one’s attitude towards his actions will merely wind up being yet another bit of evidence as to which Chicago faction one falls into?

EVEN VAN DYKE himself realizes he’s going to be remembered in our city’s history for reasons he likely would never have dreamed possible and probably wishes he could avoid at all costs.

There is, of course, the ironic part of Van Dyke feeling compelled to submit to a newspaper interview. Prosecutors and his defense attorneys will be looking to pick a jury from those individuals who paid absolutely no attention to what was said or written about the case.

Meaning his words technically won’t influence them when they decide his fate of “guilt” or “innocence.”

They’re more meant to influence the way the rest of us think when we make our snap judgments after the trial is over about just how stupid that jury could possibly be for the verdict they ultimately reach.


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

EXTRA: Remembering Bernie (and I don't mean Sanders) down in Florida

“Epton for mayor – Before it’s too late.”
--Campaign slogan for Republican Chicago mayoral candidate Bernard Epton in 1983 when he challenged Democrat Harold Washington, who ultimately became the first black mayor of Chicago.

“The last thing we need to do is monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda.”
--Election night statement Tuesday night by Republican governor candidate Ron DeSantis about his challenge against Democrat Andrew Gillum, who could become the first black governor of Florida come Election Day on Nov. 6.


Didn't remainder of nation learn from Chicago example?
Some 35 years have passed since Bernard Epton (who in reality was a liberal Jewish Republican state legislator from the Hyde Park neighborhood) created the public perception of himself that he’d never be able to live down.

More than a third of a century later, some things, sadly, remain eternal. Which is why some of us will forever be suspicious of just what is meant during this Age of Trump (of which DeSantis is a strong supporter) and its campaign slogan “Make America Great Again.”
Will DeSantis be forevermore remembered for Tuesday night?


Panhandling a part of urban experience?

Being a life-long Chicago-area resident, I have encountered panhandlers on countless occasions. My way of dealing with them varies based on my mood, but also on the way they conduct themselves.
Homelessness at very heart of Chicago

People who somehow manage to show me a touch of manners are more likely to get my sympathy, while those who think they can get pushy are most likely to tick me off and have me give them nothing.

WHICH IS SOMETHING I’m sure will offend those types of people who are trying to urge various local governments – including Chicago and some suburban communities – to repeal the ordinances they have enacted that try to restrict the ability of someone to seek a handout.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty sent letters this week to 15 municipal governments across Illinois – including Chicago and the suburbs of Aurora, Cicero, Elgin, Joliet and Oak Park – asking them to voluntarily repeal their restrictions.

Implying that the wrath of the ACLU and their allies could be wrought down upon us in the form of lawsuits if we don’t cooperate!
Panhandling? Or entertainment?

The Associated Press reported that the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless thinks laws against panhandling are wrong because they criminalize homeless people for their very existence – and that their actions in trying to get a handout are merely the acts of trying to survive.

THERE ALSO HAVE been rulings by the Supreme Court of the United States in the past that restrict laws against panhandling by describing such activity as freedom of expression. As in “free speech,” one has a right to walk up to you and ask for some spare change.

Of course, my comprehension of “free speech” is that no one is required to actually listen. We have a right to ignore things if we so choose – regardless of the morality behind such an unsympathetic act.
They/re not doing a leisurely lunch at Berghoff

So does the ACLU think we ought to be forced to pay attention to the homeless of our society? I would have a problem with that concept, because I’d compare it to the right of white supremacists to spew their nonsense rhetoric.

They may have a right to think such thoughts and say such trash publicly, but we, the people, have a right to disregard them as a batch of crackpots.

WHICH IS THE way I have been known to respond to beggars when they try to get pushy or intimidating. I have been known to be incredibly blunt and rude in telling them to drop dead.

But other times, if a person has been somewhat polite in their request, I have been known to reach into the pocket and give up some spare change.

Or one other time, I remember I actually pulled out a $10 bill and gave it to a woman – who was so thrilled she’d be able to get a “decent” lunch that day. Of course, she happened to catch my attention at the very moment I was headed to the Berghoff to have lunch with some former work-related colleagues.

I’m sure the lunch I had that day cost much more, and I would have felt like a total cheapskate if I couldn’t contribute a little something to her.

NOW I KNOW some of you are thinking I’m a fool. You’re going to want to believe these people are pulling some sort of scam and are just pocketing the money until it builds up into a significant sum – then they buy liquor or some form of illicit drugs with it to dull their sensibilities. Or that these are people “too lazy” to go out and “Get a Job!”
Nonsense image, but pizza is quite good. Photos by Gregory Tejeda
Although I must admit that if my life were to ever take a turn for the worse that I had to resort to soliciting people for their spare change, perhaps I’d need to resort to using something to numb my braincells.

Which is why I can’t help but notice all the individuals on the street corners with no place else to go and wonder if that is a worst-case scenario for my own life.

Because let’s face it, there are factors in life that can drag down anybody – no matter how superior we may believe ourselves to be.


Tuesday, August 28, 2018

‘Whole world was watching’ Chicago 50 years ago; does it still care now?

I was a mere child just a few days away from my third birthday on the days some 50 years ago this week when the Chicago police engaged in their officially riotous behavior that included use of so much tear gas that even patrons of the upscale Conrad Hilton Hotel wound up impacted.

History Museum artifacts of convention protests
For that matter, it was exactly five decades ago Tuesday that the protests taking place to express objections to U.S policy in Vietnam reached the peak of some protesters being thrown through the glass of the hotel’s front windows – and some protesters who tried fleeing police beatings wound up being dragged back outside the hotel before being administered a walloping in the name of “law and order.”

I’VE HEARD THE stories throughout my life, and those images pop into my head every time I have reason to walk past the hotel. Trying to envision the carnage that occurred in a stretch of Michigan Avenue that would like to think itself too refined for such uncouth behavior.

It definitely was not the typical presidential nominating convention such as the one held in Chicago 28 years later – that event held at the United Center felt like a political pep rally and I recall many people wishing their access to the arena included a pass to the team clubhouses so they could stop by and check out Michael Jordan’s locker.
What was supposed to happen

But it caught my attention that amongst all the stories being published in recent weeks commemorating the fifth-decade anniversary (of sorts) of the event that some people are determined to put their own partisan political spin on what happened all those years ago.

Even from some who, like myself, only have second-hand memories and tales to tell of the events of the Democratic National Convention of ’68.

THE CONVENTION HAPPENINGS did eventually result in an investigation – one that found the police to be responsible for the outlandish and violent behavior that occurred. A “police riot” was the official term used to describe the events.
Convention craze incorporated into film

Even though then-Mayor Richard J. Daley always tried defending police behavior by citing it as “fact” that nobody was killed amongst the violence. As though he wanted to think police showed restraint in the way they conducted themselves.

Similar to those people who these days probably think police officer Joseph Van Dyke – who is set to go on trial in a couple of weeks – was merely serving and protecting the Chicago populace when he fired all those shots into a teenager who may or may not have posed a physical threat to those nearby.

I don’t doubt there are people who think it was 50 years ago today that the world went haywire, and their idea of “Make America Great Again” includes returning to those days when a cop was a hero – and the perps all got what they deserved.
Convention outcome an afterthought?

I LITERALLY STUMBLED across an anonymous Internet comment recently about how it was the reporting of the convention happenings (both inside the International Amphitheater where the political rallies occurred and outside where the protests happened) that was flawed.

It was Walter Cronkite, this person wants to believe, who “lied” to the American people about what happened in Chicago, all as part of a plot to promote the anti-war message that the activists were trying to spread.

The “most trusted man in America” was supposedly an un-American freak? A conspiracy between the protesters and news media organizations?

It definitely seems like someone is trying to revise history in the image of The Donald; making sure our perception of past events coincides with this modern-day Age of Trump we’re all supposed to want to live in now.
THEN AGAIN, THE kind of people who want to believe this most likely are the grand-children of those gullible enough to believe all the Yippie-activist rhetoric of 50 years ago that they were going to spike the city’s drinking water supply (as in Lake Michigan) with LSD.

Which was something that activist Abbie Hoffman always encouraged because it would make he and his group seem much more powerful if they were actually capable of doing such a thing.

I don’t doubt that tales of protesters throwing bags of excrement at police have some bearing in truth. It was just the kind of behavior that would offend certain types of people into voting for Richard M. Nixon’s “law and order” platform and to thinking the only real wrong was that he was driven from office six years later.
As for the rest of us, we’ll wonder about the passage of time. And perhaps try to speculate on what Mayor Daley REALLY said in response to then-Sen. Abraham Ribicoff of Connecticut when the latter accused the Chicago police of “Gestapo-like tactics” in their behavior of some five decades ago.


Monday, August 27, 2018

Illinois’ smoking age remains at 18

I almost find myself agreeing with Gov. Bruce Rauner, who recently used his veto power to kill off a bill that would have raised the age to 21 at which a person could legally buy a package of cigarettes or other tobacco products.

RAUNER: A VETO to smoking age hike
Currently, people have to be capable of showing they’re 18 or older in order to purchase cigarettes, or even those smokeless devices that supposedly allow one to experience the “joy” of smoking without exposure to tobacco.

RAUNER, IN ISSUING his veto of the measure, said that while he has no problem trying to discourage people from smoking, he doesn’t think this law will do a thing to achieve that goal.

In fact, Rauner is trying to view this as an Illinois economy issue – in that it would harm retailers who sell cigarettes by limiting the number of people they can legitimately sell their product to.

The governor actually thinks many people would just turn to surrounding states (if possible) to buy their cigarettes, since places like Indiana aren’t the least bit inclined to want to reduce their smoking ages.

In fact, the idea of people venturing across State Line Road to Indiana in order to make their cigarette purchases (at shops with generic names such as Smokes) is already a common practice. It would just have even younger people thinking in terms of doing their business elsewhere when it comes to cigarette purchases.

PERSONALLY, I’M AWARE that most people don’t even wait until turning 18 these days before picking up the nicotine habit. I recall my own school days when kids were usually around 12 or 13 when they first felt compelled to start smoking.

I can recall Junior High School days when those inclined to want to smoke knew exactly which local businesses (usually local gas stations, the grungier they were the better) would sell cigarettes to kids – and which were not.

Which means I don’t doubt there are some people more interested in their financial bottom line than in anybody’s health to continue their current practices – regardless of any stinkin’ law.
Are shops like this one in Hammond, Ind., the only real beneficiary of reducing the smoking age?
It may actually elevate the idea of selling cigarettes to minors (in some mini-minds) as somehow being a gesture toward personal freedom.

WHICH IS NONSENSE, of course. But it is one that is real.

It would take more than a change in the smoking age in order to actually stop teenagers so inclined to do so to actually not want to pick up a nicotine habit.

In my own case, cigarettes (and smoking, in general) was never a habit I ever sought to acquire. It was actually my father who (indirectly) made me not want to smoke because of the example he set.

No, he wasn’t any sort of tobacco teetotaler. My father was a cigarette smoker as a young man, and I can remember as a young child how much I hated the way he smelled as a result.

ACTUALLY, I WAS around many people who smoked in my family. But when I remember back, I think of the odor of my father as being the most repulsive.

My father has long-ago given up this habit, which I must admit makes being around him a bit more pleasant. But it’s such that I tend to think of being around people who smoke as being a tad too disgusting to endure.

So perhaps the key to discouraging cigarette smoking (and use of tobacco in general) is to make young people realize just how repulsive their action truly is.

Because actions such as what was pondered by the General Assembly this year (and vetoed by Rauner) is only going to make some people think of cigarettes as some sort of “achievement” in life they will gain the right to once they are “grown up.”


Saturday, August 25, 2018

EXTRA: McCain immigration stance ‘flip’ cost him dearly a decade ago

John McCain may wind up going into the political history books as the ultimate evidence of what happens to a candidate who suddenly tries to alter his stance on an issue just to appease the hardline ideologues amongst us.

Can the next McCain lead GOP back to sense?
McCain died Saturday at age 81 – just days after publicly saying he was giving up on treatments for brain cancer – which means he managed to live for an extra decade of life beyond the political defeat that some will forevermore remember him.

AS IN THAT 2008 loss in the presidential election cycle to Barack Obama. McCain is the long-time senator from Arizona whom the ideologues will always want to badmouth for losing to the bi-racial Obama.

In fact, it was because of McCain’s desire to gain the votes of more socially conservative-leaning people amongst Republican voters that the senator went through a campaign strategy of trying to cover up what could have been his strong point in attracting voters from amongst Democrats to the GOP.

I’m talking about immigration – as in a serious effort to undergo the comprehensive reform of federal immigration policy so as to erase the bureaucratic mess that it has evolved into.

Of course, there are those amongst us who, back then and even moreso now today, think immigration “reform” ought to consist solely of an increase in the number of people of non-Anglo ethnic origins who ought to face deportation from the United States.

THOSE ARE THE people most giving aid and comfort to this Age of Trump we’re now in.

But back in the early 2000s, there was the effort to try to push for serious immigration reform – with McCain being the leader amongst Republicans working with then-Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts to push for such an initiative.

That effort failed, and when then-President George W. Bush expressed support for it, that was the beginning of his own demise in the polls. As though Republican voters viewed any support as a treasonous act.

Which is why when McCain made his second all-in attempt to become president (remember he lost the 2000 GOP primary to Bush), he had to figure out how to overcome his support for the issue. He didn’t want to be D.O.A. at the beginning of his campaign activity.

THAT LED TO him making public statements early on about how he was no longer pushing for such initiatives. How he would now become inclined to tout Republican-friendly thoughts when it came to “dose damned foreigners,” which is how many of the ideologues think about this issue. He took up the talk of “securing the borders” while backing off the rhetoric about increased opportunity for people to become U.S. citizens.

It may have led to him getting the Republican nomination in ’08, but killed off any chance of him winning the general election – even though in the beginning Obama wasn’t exactly viewed as the favorite of people to whom immigration reform was a priority.

Perhaps sticking to his guns could have led McCain to having a chance of succeeding that year. Particularly since many of the ideologue types ultimately were only swayed over to McCain when he picked former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as a running-mate. They really liked her more than they ever cared for John.

To the point where McCain after his presidential defeat was able to switch back to stances on immigration more in line with his previous actions. A large part of why the Trump types looked for every chance they could find to demean the senator.

IT WAS JUST this spring that McCain went about saying that Republicans were on “the wrong side” of the immigration debate, and wrote in his memoir “The Restless Wave” that, “it’s something this country needs to do now, in this political moment, as old fears and animosities that have blighted our history appear to be on the rise again, exploited by opportunists who won’t trouble their careers or their consciences with scruples about honesty or compassion for their fellow man.”

It’s too bad that he didn’t stick to that stance when it could have counted. But it also means that we as a society have lost a voice desperately needed at a time when some of us want to think of Trump as credible for all the nativist nonsense he spews on a regular basis.

These are the thoughts that pop through my head upon learning of McCain’s passing, and while I’m not trying to diminish those who want to emphasize the Vietnam War vet and one-time Prisoner of War inmate, we should keep these in mind.

Because it could be said that if there’s a chance for our political system to ever achieve a sense of bipartisan cooperation on issues, we’re going to have to hope the one-time Party of Lincoln is capable of finding the next John McCain amongst its ranks to help lead us all out of the nonsense that Donald Trump has dragged all of us into.


EXTRA: How many chances does Gov. Rauner need to say Madigan is corrupt?

Listening to Gov. Bruce Rauner say this week he wants there to be a dozen formal debates between now and Election Day reminds me of the 1998 election cycle.

Pritzker only wants three
Specifically, the portion of the cycle in which Democrats had their candidates fight it out for who would get to be the gubernatorial nominee who would ultimately take on Republican George Ryan.

THAT ELECTION CYCLE ultimately saw Southern Illinois favorite son candidate Glenn Poshard use his regional base to beat up on urban candidates John Schmidt, Roland Burris and Jim Burns. It also was one in which there were many debates.

It seems the candidates were traveling all over the state, making appearances and trying to make the locals feel like they were privileged to be in the presence of the gubernatorial aspirants.

Sounds great? Not really.

What I remember of that election cycle was that they became less about speaking to the would-be voters, and more about giving every broadcast organization involved in sponsoring an event a chance to pretend that THEIR debate was the ONLY debate that mattered.

Rauner must really want to say "Madigan evil"
WHILE NEWSPAPER COVERAGE wound up making these events all sound so repetitive of each other.

Largely because they were. Candidates mostly ignored the questions they were asked and used their time to issue rebuttals to whatever negative pot-shots were made against them. I can remember sitting through those events and feeling incredibly uninformed.

I was always thankful that election officials in the future went back to thinking in terms of three as the number of debates that were needed prior to an Election Day. Even though I do believe there is benefit to a structured-format event in which the candidates confront each other.

McCann will take 12 too
So to hear Rauner say he wants a dozen debates fills me with dread. How many times do we need to hear the man spew insipid claims of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s corruption? How many times do we need to hear rhetorical links of Madigan’s support for billionaire J.B. Pritzker’s candidacy?

THREE WILL PROBABLY be more than enough. Although I expect Rauner will insist on complaining he’s not being given ample times to screech “Dump Madigan!!!” to prospective voters.

If anything, Rauner is merely confirming my own political hypothesis – which is that the first candidate in any election cycle to complain about the number of debates is the loser.

So I’m inclined to be sympathetic to the Pritzker camp which has suggested three debates – although I’ll admit Pritzker is playing some hard-core politicking of his own in picking where they will be held, and pretty much making it a “take it or leave it” choice for Rauner to accept.

Two of the debates would be held in Chicago, with one to be co-sponsored by the Telemundo Spanish-language television affiliate along with the Chicago Urban League. Where I’m sure we’ll get tons of questions intended to remind us that Rauner is just a rich white guy who doesn’t get it. Along with reminders of all the vetoes Rauner made last week on measures related to immigration.

AS FOR THE one debate intended outside of metro Chicago, it would be set for Quincy, the city along the Mississippi River with a veterans’ home that has been the focus of instances of veterans who died from Legionaires’ disease. It’s probably the one place in rural Illinois where Rauner does NOT want to set foot.

Multiple debates didn't help Poshard win
And as for the traditional debate held by the League of Women Voters, that’s a group most likely not interested in cheap political pandering by any candidate.

I do find it intriguing that Conservative Party candidate Sam McCann is accepting Rauner’s offer of 12 debates. But that’s because he needs as much attention and opportunity as possible to let voters know he exists if he’s to be at all irrelevant come Nov. 6.

Which means it’s really sad that Rauner, an incumbent with significant personal wealth (he essentially bought the post in the 2014 election cycle) feels he’s just as desperate. All the more reason many voters have already shifted their focus to the mayoral election cycle of 2019.


So what’s up with all the ballplayers spewing trash talk on Twitter?

It seems to be the latest trend, professional baseball players with Twitter accounts using them to express personal views loaded with homophobic or racial slurs.

Future star? Or tainted by Twitter?
We’re certainly not immune to this in Chicago – White Sox pitcher Michael Kopech went from making his major league debut Tuesday night and not embarrassing himself, to having to apologize on Thursday for the many slurs and taunts he expressed in his past.

BEFORE CUBS FANS start trying to lord it over the Sout’ Side ball club, consider that your team recently acquired a pitcher from the Washington Nationals – Daniel Murphy – whose Twitter account included an old rant against Billy Bean. He’s the one-time San Diego Padres ballplayer who, after he was done as a player, came out of the closet, so to speak, and admitted his own sexual orientation.

In fact, a quick look at an Internet search engine of any type will show you many links to stories about some ballplayer thinking something stupid on Twitter and feeling the need to apologize. Josh Hader of the Milwaukee Brewers literally had his homophobic Tweets discovered in the midst of this year’s All-Star Game played in Washington, D.C.

Perhaps that’s the positive part. Everybody is being apologetic about thinking these stupid thoughts. Nobody is really trying to make the argument that freedom of expression gives them every right to say or write such things.

Old thoughts following him around
But just what is it that motivated all these past trash thoughts?

IN THE CASE of Murphy, it is pointed out that his rant against Bean was from 2015. Where he admits he disapproves of Bean’s lifestyle. Although he now says he has “foster(ed) a really positive” relationship with Bean – who these days is now an advisor to the baseball Commissioner’s office on how to address matters of sexual orientation.

For what it’s worth, the Cubs actually consulted Bean just prior to making a trade with Washington for Murphy, and Bean says he wouldn’t want to see someone’s baseball “career” ruined for one stupid comment made in the past.
Which also is the key to comprehending Kopech (the guy whose first major league game lasted two innings, no runs given up and four of the six outs he achieved were done by strikeouts).
Seems willing to forgive

In saying on Thursday that he has gone into his Twitter account and scrubbed away all the stupid things he wrote, he concedes he said them, but that these were written back before he was a professional ballplayer.

IN SHORT, HE was a stupid high school kid who wasn’t fully mature. Hence, the references to racial slurs and description of other things he didn’t care for as being “so gay.”

The scary part is that I can remember back in my own junior high school days (12 and 13 years old), the standard insult that was supposedly as low as one could go in trashing something or someone else would be to call it “gay.”

Perhaps it is truthful that Kopech (who now is 22, and who pitched the bulk of this season for the Charlotte Knights ball club) has grown up. That he’s no longer a kid mentally, and that perhaps his emotional and mental age is catching up to his physical one.

Detracted attention from All-Star game
Because my own experiences as a reporter-type person in dealing with ballplayers is that, despite their physical skills, they are a tad retarded emotionally. Perhaps you need to remain a bit of a kid at heart if you’re going to play a child’s game well enough to earn a living at it.

OF COURSE, THE real reason that baseball is so eager for this trend to die out is that they realize gay people have money, and some of them are more than willing to spend it at the ballpark.

Come Sunday, the Cubs are having a LGBTQ Pride night at Wrigley Field. While the White Sox will have a similar night come Friday at Guaranteed Rate Field. A part of me is contemplating going to that ball game because Friday is my birthday.

Offering praise to Kopech
A rainbow-tinted crowd could be an intriguing site – particularly since some are so eager to put a right-wing stain on anything athletic. Could we get a fan reaction, either for or against, spurred on by the nonsense that all too often pervades our society.

While some of us will wish we could go back to the mindset of the one in which Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan felt compelled to watch Tuesday’s White Sox game on television – and came back raving about the skills Kopech could bring to Chicago?


Friday, August 24, 2018

How times change, and not just because more Sears, Kmart stores are closing

Earlier this year, the City Council placed a series of referenda on the ballot for the upcoming elections Nov. 6 – including one measure concerning the continued use of plastic straws within the city.
Soon to be obsolete
How ridiculous, many of us quipped. How absurd. Many of us figured it was purely a political move so as to knock more legitimate issues that politicos would prefer not to address off the ballot altogether.

BUT THERE ARE those people who look at all those straws one uses every time they attend a restaurant. Those plastic tubes allowing you to sip your drink, then throw them away.

Where they will wind up in a landfill somewhere, forevermore adding to the planet’s pollution (or at least several hundred years until they finally decompose into nothingness).

That issue popped into my head Thursday when I stumbled across a story concerning the Kroger Co., a supermarket chain that hasn’t been in Chicago proper for decades, but does have some subsidiaries that operate in the Chicago area.

One of which is the Mariano’s chain of up-scale supermarkets that they purchased not long ago. It seems they’re taking on the same environmentally concerned approach to doing business.

BEGINNING NEXT YEAR in Seattle, they’re going to do away with those plastic bags we all have received far too often when grocery shopping. Unless we’re the type who actively go out of our way to choose “paper” whenever asked the eternal question “paper or plastic.”

By 2025, the Kroger people say they want to do away with plastic bags altogether – as though they expect the world of grocery shoppers to start carrying around reusable tote bags every time they go to pick up foodstuffs. Which may make sense on a certain level, but I suspect a certain segment of society will always remain too lazy to think that far ahead when going out to shop for groceries.
Fun? Or hazardous?

In Chicago, we already have what was supposed to be the initiative to discourage plastic bag use – having retailers charge 7 cents per bag on top of the price of the merchandise.

I know some people are too cheap to pay it, but many others just wind up coughing up the cash for the convenience. Which results in lots of the plastic bags accumulating in our humble abodes.

AT LEAST IN my case, the bags do get re-used. My father and step-mother have a pair of dogs and there are times when I wind up with the task of walking them. Which means I carry pockets-full of the plastic bags so I can pick up the poop and not create a health hazard for the neighbors.

Of course, that means the bags wind up going into a trash bin filled with canine caca and will eventually wind up in a landfill that way – where the bags will outlast the poop inside them.

More in the way of change in our society. The day may well come when people won’t be capable of comprehending why we snickered at the thought of laws against straws – or bag bans!

Just like another story I stumbled onto – one involving the closing of yet another Sears store AND a Kmart by year’s end.

THE SEARS IN question is in downstate Bloomington; the city in which I attended college and where I remember often buying typewriter ribbons and occasionally having to take my Sears-model typewriter in for repairs.

While the Kmart is in suburban Steger – a municipality that typically would not have been considered significant-enough to have such a retailer. But the long-time mayor always considered it his major accomplishment of some 40 years in office that he made the trip to Troy, Mich., to persuade corporate types to locate in his village.
Yet another retail vacancy that will need to be filled by year's end
But nothing lasts forever, and soon they will just be memories – and something to be included on those lists to be published in a couple of decades of things that college-age kids of the future never actually experienced in life.

Perhaps also like the straws that some of us of now see merely as a political tactic, rather than a legitimate issue.


Thursday, August 23, 2018

With all these felons in Trump entourage, it’s ESPN that’s at fault

Years from now, when we look back at this Age of Trump and try to comprehend just how nonsensical the era was, this week has the potential to be the height of ludicrousness.
TRUMP: Evading reality?

Particularly Tuesday, which was the day that former campaign chair Paul Manafort was found guilty of eight criminal offenses, while former attorney Michael Cohen avoided going to trial by pleading guilty to several offenses. Many political observers are going so far as to call it the “worst day” of the Trump presidency.

SO JUST HOW does Donald J. Trump respond to all of this?

He ventures down to West Virginia to speak to the partisans, and engages in a rant against ESPN – the cable television sports channel that winds up accounting for a significant part of one’s cable TV bill.

Specifically, Trump complained about how the channel – which these days has the Monday Night Football national broadcast rights – is refusing to include the playing of the National Anthem as part of the game broadcast. It is ESPN’s way of not drawing attention to those football players who try to protest their causes during the anthem’s playing.

They’re taking the same attitude we used to take back in my police reporter days when it came to writing about crime involving street gangs – we tried to pretend they didn’t exist on the grounds we didn’t want to glorify the gangbangers.
MANAFORT: Eight convictions

TRUMP APPARENTLY WANTS the anthem played, and every protesting football player caught on camera. Perhaps he thinks there can be a “hit list” of sorts against athletes who try to express their thoughts on issues.

ESPN’s attempt to downplay the issue bothers Trump because it is the very phony issue that he’s been trying to play up – largely because it gives him something to complain about rather than have to acknowledge the serious issues confronting our society.

Such as the growing number of Trump-types who are finding themselves in legal trouble and, particularly in the case of Cohen, could find themselves having to testify someday against the “Big” man himself – the one whose many critics deride him as “the big Cheetoh” on account of that ridiculous fake tan he has.
COHEN: Pleaded guilty to avoid trial

Complaining about ESPN and professional football is so much easier than having to acknowledge all the things going wrong on his watch.

NOW I KNOW some are going to want to point out that Manafort actually was not found guilty of many of the charges he faced, as though that works in his favor. The reality, however, is that all it takes is one “guilty” verdict for the “convict” label to apply. I also heard one legal observer explain that in cases where there is potential for a “hung” jury on certain counts, juries can be persuaded to go for the guilty verdict on some issues, and let everything else up in the air.

Which for the prosecutors who are trying to build up a conviction rate, that works well enough. Manafort is going to go into the history books as a corrupt government official just as much as any other political person who wound up being found guilty.

But Trump? He’ll continue to evade responsibility, acting as though it’s irrelevant.

Which will be made possible by the number of Trump supporters determined to believe in him – largely because they like being able to offend the sensibilities of those people who back in 2016 cast their ballots for having a responsible government in place.

HECK, IN WEST Virginia on Tuesday, there were Trump backers engaging in a “Lock her up!” chant – bringing back memories of the ’16 campaign rhetoric of how a “President Trump” would have opponent Hillary Clinton incarcerated.
Trump thinks the problem lies here

Rather ironic they’d chant that on a day when it’s the Trump allies who literally face a stint in the federal Bureau of Prisons.

But I’m also sure the people making the chants don’t have a clue what it was that Manafort or Cohen have done. They probably think that such details are “Boring!” and that paying attention to them is what is wrong with our government these days.

I understand that some people are just lacking in interest, and that they have a right to be that way. But the fact we have such people, and enough of them to elect a chief executive, IS the reason we are in this Age of Trump, and why it will get even uglier before it’s all over.