Thursday, January 31, 2019

Fulfilling the public’s “right to know” caused me to freeze my fingers numb

Just about everybody who could find an excuse to justify it made a point Wednesday
Bogart's 'editor' never warned … 
of staying inside, not going anywhere and basically behaving themselves like a lazy slug.

I, however, was running around in the sub-zero freezing temperatures that, when combined with wind chill, felt something more like 50-below – all because of my work going about the business of trying to inform the general public.
… of winter weather reporting hazards

I AM A reporter-type person, willing to go out and seek the truth on a wide variety of issues; all with the thought and belief that I am somehow performing a sacred duty – letting the general public know what is happening in the world around them.

Wednesday’s temperatures, of course, dove down to such historically low levels that – for once – the weather was a legitimate news story.

In fact, I woke up Wednesday to learn that I was amongst the many thousands of people who had lost access to electricity during the overnight hours. Which is when I got a call from an editor-type person – ordering me to check out a tip about power outages.
Artsy images such as this … 

In this particular case, I was able to tell him from first-hand experience that there were places where there was no power.

ME, AND MANY of my neighbors, actually.

Which led me to getting into the car and driving around my neighborhood for a few blocks – looking for evidence that I wasn’t alone in being without power and no one could legitimately write me off as a financial deadbeat who fell behind on the electric bill.

I eventually found a good-samaritan type of person who was outside walking over to check on an elderly neighbor, while his own wife and child were resorting to using the fireplace to keep warm.

It made for a nice anecdote that eventually was contributed to a larger story about wintry weather conditions throughout Chicago on Wednesday.
… and scientific graphs don't adequately convey how cold Wednesday was
BUT I HAVE to confess, I was only out of the car and exposed to the elements for less than five minutes. I wore nice leather gloves that usually keep my hands warm.

When I was through, my fingertips were numbed. It actually took me about a half-hour for my digits to warm up to the point where I was physically capable of typing anything up that resembled news copy.

As I write this, I’m fine physically. There’s no lasting damage – although I wonder how much longer it would have taken before I had suffered some sort of lasting physical damage to my being. And if I could have mentally justified it.

I happen to know that when my father found out what I had done, he let it be known he thought his son was stupid (and didn’t get paid enough) for enduring such a brief moment.

BUT IT IS something I justify doing on the grounds that I’m trying to get the details, no matter how minute, about this historic day in Chicago history. Literally one in which our minus-50 degree figure will be regarded as the coldest ever in city history.

Also one where I lost count of the number of wiseacres who felt compelled to post blurbs on Facebook saying that Chicago was colder than both the North AND South poles. Even though news reports indicate we'll be back up to about 40 degrees by Monday.
Carmelo (left) and Rocco had enough sense Wednesday to 'do their business' within a minute, before racing back inside for the warmth of home
That may be factually true. But it doesn’t change much about the reality that I felt compelled to be outdoors (even though for just several five-minute bursts of time throughout the day) on this day when people who think they’re more sensible than myself made a day of doing as little as possible – and enjoying the likelihood that their employers told them to take the day off.

One final thought; will we remember this day come the summertime when we have one of those 100 degree-plus days and we’re complaining about how much we’re roasting – while thinking that a quickie blast of air from the polar vortex would somehow be a shot of relief.


Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Beisbol a reminder this week’s weather isn’t permanent, but Sox/Cubs fan distaste for each other not fade away

On this wintry Wednesday when the arctic chill is taking a Midwestern vacation and giving us the potential of wind chills making it feel like it’s 50 degrees below zero, I’m taking my relief from thoughts of how it isn’t that far off before we have the return of springtime and baseball.
Upcoming reminders of baseball … 


I TOOK PLEASURE in the fact that officials were able to reschedule the Caribbean Series, with only a minimal delay. Real live championship-level baseball will be played beginning Monday.
… and the return of springtime

For those of you to whom the thought of championship ballclubs from Latin America is just a little too alien to contemplate, consider that both of our city’s professional ballclubs have held their winter fan conventions – and both managed to spew rhetoric instigating their fan bases into distaste for each other.

From Chicago Cubs infielder Kris Bryant calling St. Louis “boring” (as in the most boring city he visits during the season), to Chicago White Sox outfielder Nicky Delmonico responding to a question about the “most annoying fans” in baseball by saying, “Cubs fans.”
Nicky (left) already knows truth of Cub fandom

These are moments not quite as intense as that 2006 slugfest on the field between catchers A.J. Pierzynski and Mike Barrett. But in terms of getting the fans all worked up, they rank up there somewhere near all the cheap shots one-time White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen took at Wrigley Field (“rat infested museum” may be the nicest thing he ever said).
BRYANT: Thinks St. Louis is boring?

AND THE FACT that Bryant and Delmonico felt compelled to keep the rhetoric flowing is merely evidence that the hostile feelings the teams have toward each other are not only ongoing, but they’re on their way back.

By early April, the two ball clubs will be again playing games that count – with spring training set to begin in just a matter of a couple of weeks down in the deserts of Arizona.
I'd argue Cincinnati choice make it lamer

Literally, right after the Caribbean Series – which is the annual championship played by the top teams of the professional leagues in the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela, along with Cuba and Panama. Venezuela was supposed to be host, but officials wound up moving it.

TO PANAMA CITY, where games will be played at the Estadio Rod Carew. When combined with long-time New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera (a Panama native) getting inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this year, it would seem 2019 will be a memorable year for fanaticos de beisbol in Panama.

Yes, I’ll actually be making a point to try to watch the games. The sight of real, live baseball being played during winter is something I get a kick out of. These games beginning Monday and running through the week will be a sporting kick to help tide me over until the resumption of play.
Stadium will host baseball next week

Although for some people, it’s going to be the ongoing verbal sparring between the Chicago fans as they accept the fact that the Bears are through for the year, and both the Bulls and Blackhawks are too pitiful to waste much time on.

So is St. Louis really “boring,” as Bryant puts it? Or are the Cardinals fans (the ones who openly boast they're the 'best fans in baseball,') correct when they say Bryant and other ballplayers who engage in cheap shots are “losers.”

PERSONALLY, I’D THINK Cincinnati would be a more depressing place to have to visit – largely on account of the local fan base wishing to forevermore think Pete Rose is heroic in nature. And not just a guy with a gambling problem who can’t quite acknowledge that reality.
Panama's other reason to celebrate

As for Delmonico’s thoughts, I’m not surprised that Cubs fans would be bothered – largely because they go through life thinking that everybody the world over comprehends their absurd support for a team that for so many years was pathetic on the field.

Which isn’t different than them trying to diminish St. Louis as being “boring,” almost as though they think the world of baseball is all about themselves and no one else.

When it’s really so much bigger than the activity of Clark and Addison. Such as the games running from Monday through Feb. 10 that will produce a Latin American champion – with the first spring training exhibitions scheduled for just two weeks later!


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Does anyone have nerve to challenge election outcome based on early voting?

According to the letter of the law, people should have been able to cast their ballots for the upcoming mayoral election as far back as Jan. 17.
Voting starts Tuesday for mayoral election

We should have had some 12 days worth of votes being cast by people who just can’t wait until Feb. 26 proper for Election Day and to make a trip to their polling places.

INSTEAD, THE EARLY voting process begins Tuesday. Anybody who is so eager to cast a vote for mayor for the 2019 election cycle can make the trip downtown to the Board of Election Commissioners offices on Washington Street.

As for people who want the convenience of casting their votes for the municipal elections at a facility in or near their neighborhoods, those places will open to the public as of Feb. 11.

Which creates the potential problem in that state laws that permit the concept of voting in advance of the election say there should be 40 days worth of time prior to Election Day for the process to be valid.

Would it be possible that someone would dare try to challenge the election results based on the idea that the process for early voting wasn’t adhered to? Would somebody out there have the nerve to try to have election results tossed out because of a nitpicking attitude toward process?

I COULD SEE such a thing happening; particularly by a “sore loser” type of person who had supported one of the mayoral candidates who had only got 1 or 2 percent voter support.

If Chicago won’t pick their preference, they’ll fight to gum up the works so that we get nobody. Which is a whiny, loser-type attitude. But I could see someone trying to justify it as merely being politics.

The reality is that there was no way the 40-day standard could have been adhered to; what with the fact that there once were some 21 people who had nominating petitions filed on their behalf so they could be on the ballot for mayor.

The appeals process managed to winnow some seven of them off the ballot – most prominently Cook County clerk of court Dorothy Brown, whom Elections Board officials concluded didn’t have enough valid signatures of support to be worthy of a ballot slot.

ALTHOUGH TO BE honest, her own legal predicament (Alderman Edward M. Burke isn’t the only political person who has federal investigators looking into their affairs) would have doomed any mayoral bid of hers to failure.

But that winnowing process took time. It has only been in the past week that the mayoral ballot has become settled. Unless someone is capable of a successful legal challenge in the courts to get restored.

Which would be a complete headache for political people – one that just about everybody involved in the process is hoping has no chance of becoming a reality.

So the situation now is that we have some 14 people running for mayor, and various polls show that none of them have overwhelmingly strong voter support.

WE’RE LIKELY TO get an election at February’s end in which two candidates, each of whom manage to get about 20 percent voter support, face each other in the April 2 run-off. Which would mean about 60 percent of the electorate is going to be peeved because they wanted somebody else.

People of a petty nature are most likely to get p-o’ed enough to want to try some sort of ridiculous scheme to throw the election process out of whack. A desperation move perfect for someone who’s more interested in causing calamity, rather than seeing the city elect a replacement to serve as mayor for the soon-to-be retiring (at least as far as municipal government is concerned) Rahm Emanuel.

So it wouldn’t shock me in the least to see someone try something as absurd as this.

Election ’19 has been ridiculous enough. Seeing the city have to justify in a courtroom why it couldn’t follow the letter of the law in conducting the election would be a fitting end – although I doubt there’s a judge alive who’d want to go into the city history books as the guy who tried to overturn an electoral outcome.


Monday, January 28, 2019

EXTRA: Some things never change

Just in case you're delusional enough to think Monday, or anything anticipated for this week, is at all unusual or historic, just remember!

This is Chicago in wintertime. Mother Nature is making us appreciate just how wonderful this city is during the rest of the year.
AND IN CASE you think this is some ancient phenomenon, realize that many of us were alive and thriving back in 1967 (although I was a mere 2-year-old back then) or 1979 when these storms hit the Windy City and made their argument that the long-time city moniker was not purely motivated by the wind-bags amongst our political people.

So here's a thought that may, or may not, help you keep warm and dry during the next few days -- they may produce some intriguing video that could turn up on the Internet someday. Some 50 years from now, your offspring's offspring could get the cheap thrill of recognizing you in some snippet documenting just how ridiculously absurd the weather will get during the upcoming week.

Second choice likely to be important in upcoming mayoral campaign

Will April 2 be a runoff between Preckwinkle … 
The 2019 election cycle – the one in which Chicagoans will be asked to pick a new mayor – is truly going to be unique. Because for most would-be voters, it’s going to be more likely that one’s second choice is the one that ultimately will prevail.

The candidate field is now down to 14 people with dreams that they someday will be the one who gets to call themselves “Mr. (or Madame) Mayor.”
… and Mayor Daley III?

WHICH MAKES IT oh so likely that no one will take a majority vote come Feb. 26. It will result in a run-off election between the top two vote getters come April 2.

Heck, a most recent poll by the We Ask America group (and paid for by the Chicago Sun-Times) says no one has more than 13 percent support, and there are several candidates who barely show up at 2 or 3 percent support.

It means that when people go to their polling place at the end of February (or to their early voting center), they’d better have a good idea of a backup candidate. The person they can bring themselves to support even if their fantasy mayoral hopeful winds up being one of the schmoes who finishes too low to qualify for the run-off.
CHICO: Does Gery have momentum?

Which also means the key factor in determining who will prevail may well be which candidates have such intense voter support bases that they’re convinced it has to be their guy (or gal), or nobody at all!

WILL THE KIND of people who want Willie Wilson, the black millionaire, to be mayor (only 9 percent support for a fourth place finish, according to the poll) find the thought of anybody else winning to be so repulsive that they wind up not voting in the April run-off?
WILSON: Will his supporters consider anyone else?

Or go to the other extreme. Are the kind of people who want to envision some law-and-order type candidate who’d cast votes for former police Superintendent Garry McCarthy (3.7 percent for a seventh place finish, the poll says) willing to bother voting at all?
MENDOZA:Can she beat only Toni?

Anything is possible, particularly since there already are a significant number of people who haven’t made up their minds yet who to cast a ballot for.

Literally, the poll shows just over one-quarter of potential voters don’t know yet who they’ll vote for. And they are going to decide the outcome. Because right now, it’s really too close to call.

THIS WE ASK America poll has a 3.88 percent margin of error – with the Toni Preckwinkle and Bill Daley campaigns on top, but with only a 0.6 percent difference between them.

And Gery Chico, along with Wilson, also fall within that margin of error compared to Preckwinkle.

Meaning we essentially have a four-way tie for the top slot, with Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza’s mayoral bid being only slightly behind.

The same poll went so far as to say that if a run-off somehow comes down to a Preckwinkle/Mendoza brawl (the one that many political geeks deep down are hoping for), it becomes a Mendoza “victory.

BUT THE LONG-SHOT could be if Mendoza even finishes first or second come Feb. 26.
LIGHTFOOT: Lingering near the bottom

My original guess was that all the infighting that is now taking place will result in candidates knocking each other out of the running – and that we could wind up with a third incarnation of “Mayor Daley” in charge of Chicago municipal government.

Even though Chico, at 9.3 percent and third place, is going around spewing thoughts that he has the momentum that will see him be the guy who ultimately prevails.

Then, there’s Lori Lightfoot, the former Assistant U.S. Attorney and head of the Chicago Police Board, who has tried to claim her candidacy deserves respect because she got in the running way back before Rahm Emanuel decided not to try for re-election. Lightfoot is ninth, with 2.8 percent voter support – which is better than the 0.9 percent support that former Alderman Robert Fioretti is drawing these days.


Saturday, January 26, 2019

Will Ed Burke be ultimate beneficiary of Solis “snitching” to the G-men?

Perhaps it’s the ultimate evidence of how superficial some people can be when they determine just who to cast a ballot for, but there’s a part of me that wonders if the recent reports of 25th Ward Alderman Dan Solis will ultimately work (at least in the short term) to the benefit of Edward M. Burke.
SOLIS: Cooperating to cover own tracks

Burke, of course, is the half-a-century member of the City Council who now is the target of federal investigators who are digging into all sorts of political corruption. It seems much of the evidence they’ve accumulated against Burke comes from Solis.

IN THE FORM of Solis wearing wiretaps for the FBI so that he could get close to Burke and allow “G-men” to catch him on tape in the act of saying something self-incriminating.

Reports of Solis engaging in such activity with the FBI (as part of a deal by which they’ll agree to lesser criminal charges for things that Danny has done) came out this past week, and the reaction of many aldermen was shock, if not outright contempt, that one of their own would try to cover up his behind at the expense of a council colleague.

I’ve seen a lot of people quoting the ideals of organized crime, as expressed in films such as “Goodfellas” or “The Godfather” – the ideal of omerta and keeping silent about what one really knows.

Which to my mindset almost sounds like the real comparison ought to be to street gang culture and the idea of “don’t snitch,” particularly to law enforcement.

ALL OF WHICH means I can easily envision people wanting to think of Danny Solis or anybody like him as somehow worthy of retribution. How can “we” act in a way to make it up to Ed Burke?

Which makes me wonder if Solis’ Mexican-American ethnic origins will wind up coming into factor. Because Burke is the guy who’s facing all these allegations of his own alleged corrupt behavior at a time when he’s facing a re-election challenge.

With his challengers being people of Mexican ethnic origins themselves who are basing their campaigns against Burke on the idea that it’s time to dump the Irish guy whose ward is now an overwhelming (nearly 80 percent) Latino majority population.
BURKE: Could he become sympathetic figure?

I have no doubt that the non-Latino voters in that district will be motivated by the idea of keeping things the way they are. Will there also now be added an angry overtone of turning out in force on Election Day to keep those Latino voters from gaining any influence?

IT’S A STUPID, shallow and completely superficial line of logic. But it’s also something that would totally be in character with Chicago’s neighborhood mindset.

A Latino like Solis gets fingered as a significant part of FBI investigators and their case against the all-powerful, long-time alderman who had the influence to tell mayors what they ought to do within city government.

So now, the voters will think it somehow just to take it out on the three aldermanic candidates of Latino origins themselves who (as they probably see it) have the nerve to think they can run against Burke for his City Council post.

Combine it with the mindset of those such as the Fraternal Order of Police, which recently voted to endorse Burke’s re-election bid in the Feb. 26 municipal elections, and the significant campaign stash that Burke has accumulated for his own benefit – and I can easily see how Burke’s legal predicament can be overcome.

THAT IS, FOR now. Because it’s very likely that any effort to get an indictment against Burke with criminal charges more serious than the current allegations that he tried to shake down a Burger King franchise owner in his neighborhood will come up following the election process.

Burke could easily get re-elected, then indicted, before we reach the peak of the baseball season this summer.
So while I personally have an interest in the growth of Latino political empowerment and would be intrigued by changing ethnic demographics playing a role in Burke’s political downfall, I’m skeptical.

It’s more likely that ethnicity will somehow benefit Burke in the short-term – and that fact could wind up being most embarrassing to Chicago.


Friday, January 25, 2019

EXTRA: Trump could have learned lessons from Rauner example in Illinois

I’m not getting all worked up with excitement at the notion that the “shutdown” of federal government came to an end Friday at 35 days – largely because I’ve seen just how stupid political stubbornness can be in my home state of Illinois.

TRUMP: Losing? Or plotting new strategy?
For the deal President Donald Trump is agreeing to is that he’ll sign off on a measure that re-opens the federal government for three weeks, with a congressional committee supposedly studying the “border wall” issue to come up with a compromise plan that will allow for money to erect Trump – the Wall along the U.S./Mexico border.

HONESTLY, I COULD easily envision that three weeks from how, nothing will change, the “shutdown” will resume and everyone will claim that everybody else is to blame for what could become the months-on-end cessation of the federal government.

In fact, I wonder if this three-week reopening of the federal government is nothing more than a conniving plot by Trump to create circumstances that will allow him to claim he’s not to blame. Because it’s pretty obvious that just about everybody IS blaming The Donald for our government failing to live up to its obligations.

Sort of like a “do-over” to try to shift blame to “da Dems.” While letting Trump give his “State of the Union” address Tuesday in the Capitol as intended.

Maybe it’s because the memory of Bruce Rauner as Illinois governor is still so fresh in the minds that I recall how he would up taking blame for the just over two full years of inactivity by Illinois state government.

RAUNER: Trump could learn from Bruce's defeat
EVEN THOUGH GOING through the news “clips” produces stories early on in that shutdown with Rauner insisting he’d be the political victor of any such shutdown.

The circumstances are way too similar.

Rauner had as his crusade that was more important to him than the daily operations of state government his so-called “reforms,” which really were nothing more than measures meant to undermine the influence of organized labor within state government.

While Trump wants to build the barrier he claims will keep all the foreigners from being able to enter the country – even though anyone with sense realizes the foreigners enter the U.S. through airports or the U.S./Canada border – which is must more easily passable than the desert terrain that separates U.S. from Mexico.

PELOSI: The victor? Or just a delay?
RAUNER’S STATE SHUTDOWN resulted when the governor wouldn’t sign off on a state budget without the so-called reforms being included – even though it really was a completely separate issue from daily governance.

Just like Trump’s border barricades really ought to be done separately from the daily operations of the federal government.

But several months passed in Illinois when our officials approved a budget that would supposedly fund the state for six months – thereby giving time for us all to talk and reach compromise.

Which would have worked; if only we had officials inclined to want to negotiate in good faith. All that happened was six months later, the state shut down again – and that ultimately resulted in the combined shutdown of just over two full years for Illinois.

WHICH RESULTED IN the state developing much more severe financial issues and debt that it’s going to take our state years, if not decades, to cope with. I can really, truly see the same situation developing at the federal government level.
BUTTIGIEG: Could he be '20 beneficiary?

Are we truly headed for a situation that can only be resolved by the 2020 political demise of Donald Trump – with the voters taking it upon themselves to be so disgusted that they “dump Trump?” Or 2024, if it turns out the Democratic Party becomes too inept to put forth a credible presidential challenger (always a political reality).

It’s too bad that Trump couldn’t study our situation and try to learn from it for the betterment of the American people.

Then again, Trump is enough of an egomaniac to think he has nothing he could learn from anybody – which is the real reason that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has come out looking like a political genius in recent weeks. With The Donald looking like little more than a chump!


The issue that won’t die; Van Dyke fate

Former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke may now be a convicted felon sentenced to serve a few years in prison (although Illinois Corrections Department officials still won’t say exactly which one) for the death of a teenager – but the racially-tinged shooting incident won’t wither away.
VAN DYKE: Case lingers on

For it seems that both the special prosecutor who oversaw the criminal case AND the Illinois attorney general’s office are considering legal maneuvers that could try to force a new prison sentence to be imposed.

SOMETHING, PERHAPS, CLOSER to the 18 to 20 years that prosecutors sought from Judge Vincent Gaughan, rather than the 6-year, 9-month sentence (of which he’s already done 3 months in the Rock Island County jail) that could see him released in a little over three years time.

Van Dyke was found guilty last autumn on a charge of murder in the second degree (implying there was some mitigating factor that could sort of justify the killing) and multiple counts of aggravated battery.

Literally one count for each of the 16 shots that Van Dyke was found to have fired at Laquan McDonald. Which theoretically could have resulted in prison time for each shot and could have added up to something close to 100 years of time,

In my own (admittedly non-law school educated) mind, that combination of charges never made sense. They conflicted with each other, and the real question to me about the sentencing that took place last week was how would Gaughan manage to reconcile the mismatch.
McDONALD: Means more in death than life

HE WOUND UP doing so by basing the sentence for Van Dyke off the second-degree murder charge and ignoring all those additional charges that could have brought about the lengthy, life-like prison term that the activist types eager to see imposed on a white cop for killing a black male who hadn’t even reached the age of maturity back on that October 2014 night that he was shot to death because he was acting erratically (his mind was messed up on illicit drugs that night) while walking around the neighborhood near a Burger King franchise.

It seems the legal minds wishing to appease those activists are wondering if the Illinois Supreme Court could issue a mandamus order – which essentially would say Gaughan screwed up and emphasized the wrong criminal charge.

Which could result in a resentencing with results more satisfactory to those people who back in autumn marched through the streets of downtown Chicago in celebration of the fact that a “cracker cop” got what he deserved by being found guilty.
RAOUL: Will he take on appeal?

We’ll have to see if Joseph McMahon (the special prosecutor brought in from suburban Kane County) or newly-elected state Attorney General Kwame Raoul wants to take on this issue – or is willing to accept the prison time that Van Dyke already must serve.

SOME WILL SAY that Van Dyke is now a former cop with a criminal record – which pretty much ruins him for any type of life he had hoped to live. They’re likely to think that prolonging this legal argument only stirs up more resentment amongst the city’s populace.

Although others will think the resentment lingers for as long as Van Dyke gets a penalty less severe than their imaginations have concocted.

This may be the real harm of the racist policies that were considered legitimate in our society in the past – they’ve created so much anger that it’s almost like we’re going to need white people to suffer unjustly in order to balance things out.

Which would only serve to ensure these racial tensions linger amongst us for decades to come – particularly fed on by nitwits in support of the Age of Trump we now live in who may well want to think that the only victim in this whole affair is Van Dyke himself!

OF COURSE, THERE will be others eager to keep the memory of this incident alive. Consider that newly-elected state Rep. Anne Stava-Murray, D-Naperville, is enhancing her reputation as someone eager to draw attention to herself by ticking off the sensibilities of political people around her.
STAVA-MURRAY: Wants McDonald Act

Stava-Murray introduced as her first bill ever a measure creating the Laquan McDonald Act. A measure applying only to Chicago and creating procedures by which we could have recall elections for mayor and alderman in Chicago and state’s attorney in Cook County.

It really does come across as an attention-grabber from the freshman legislator who already has indicated she’s not seeking re-election in 2020 – and instead will challenge Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., for his post on Capitol Hill. It certainly isn’t about necessary changes to the law – the electorate dumped Anita Alvarez as state’s attorney back in 2016 and Rahm Emanuel didn’t even try to seek re-election, largely because of public disgust over what happened to Laquan.

As though we’re supposed to forever remember Laquan, and not think of that silly clown and his mediocre hamburgers every time we hear the phrase “McDonald” in the future.


Thursday, January 24, 2019

Would anybody really miss not hearing a political speech by Donald Trump?

One of the things I used to like about the old television series “The West Wing” was the way the show’s writers could work in trivial tidbits about politics and government for our amusement.
TRUMP: Wants to say how wonderful he is!

I remember one old episode where the Bartlet Administration faced a potential problem – he was expecting to use the upcoming State of the Union address to deliver a message he was eager to get out to the public, but the Congress headed by the opposition party didn’t formally invite him to do so.

WHICH SOUNDS ABSURD that conditions could really devolve to such a situation. Yet Donald Trump is the master of a presidency that seeks to be absurd in every aspect.

Meaning that scenario actor Martin Sheen played for laughs over a decade ago is now the reality of the state of our nation.

In theory, Trump is expected on Tuesday to deliver his annual address before Congress to tell us exactly where things stand within our government.

It is expected his speech would be loaded with ridiculous rhetoric and pompous talk about how every thing that is wrong with our nation is the Democrats’ fault – and how the key to our salvation is to follow The Donald’s lead and just shut up and do what he tells us to do!

BUT BECAUSE WE still have a federal government engaged in a shutdown that will reach a month long (and counting) pretty soon, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did the unthinkable. At least in Trump’s mind.

She revoked his invitation. Unless Trump knocks off his nonsense that has prolonged the shutdown and allows things to get back to operating as they’re supposed to, she’s not going to give him the platform to talk.

Which is something that I guess hurts the Trump ego. I have no doubt that the man is looking forward to being on national television – with his speech pre-empting programming everywhere so he can put on his “show.”
PELOSI: Denying Trump the chance to blather

You know the one I’m talking about. Democratic members of Congress will sit silently, while Republicans will get all worked up in cheers and applause at all the pre-ordained moments meant to make it appear that they’re spontaneously acknowledging the man’s genius.

IT WILL FEED his ego. It will make Trump think he’s truly a significant historic figure – instead of a man who truly makes former President George W. Bush look like a mighty intellect by comparison.

But Pelosi is denying him the opportunity to do so. Which has the Trumpsters all worked up, and the head cheese himself plotting how to stage an event that he’ll bill as an alternative to the State of the Union.

Most likely, something similar to those events he had during the 2016 election cycle – where he spews some trivial blather, finds a person or two to single out for the partisan crowd’s abuse then gets someone to offer after-the-fact reaction claiming that Trump is a political genius of the highest magnitude.

If you get the feeling I’m finding the whole situation worthy of mockery, you’d be correct. The reality is that these political addresses always contain a touch of phoniness regardless of who speaks.

BUT IN THE case of Trump, the level of blather will reach intense levels of b.s. I really don’t think anybody will miss the speech if it turns out that Trump doesn’t present it on Tuesday.
SHEEN (as Bartlet): More presidential than The Donald

If anything, Pelosi will be doing the nation a favor by not allowing an event that would pre-empt programming people would rather watch. We won’t have all those people swearing at their television sets Tuesday night when their favorite show isn’t on because Trump wants to tell us just how great he truly is.

Of course, if my mind is correct, that old “The West Wing” episode resulted in the president ultimately getting his invitation to give his speech. Life went on in that television presidential administration.

We’ll have to wait and see if reality turns out the same – or if the level of national inanity reaches a new high and political commentators are denied their chance to get Trumpsters all worked up with their allegations of presidential ignorance. Because those people may well be the only ones who truly will care about this ultimate non-issue.


Wednesday, January 23, 2019

What constitutes a diverse population?

Newly-elected state Rep. Anne Stava-Murray doesn’t seem overly concerned about appeasing potential voters to ensure she gets re-elected. Why else would she go about publicly labelling her home city of Naperville as white supremacist?
STAVA-MURRAY: Serious study, or self-attention?

True enough, Stava-Murray earlier this year used that label to refer to her DuPage County municipality (the fourth-largest city in Illinois) while responding to a Facebook post where somebody had described Naperville government as “the biggest bullies.”

TO ME, THE white supremacist label carries such a strong overtone that I wonder if it is too strong a label to use; one that distorts the reality of the situation.

Then again, there’s no disputing that Naperville is NOT a community where there are great numbers of African-American individuals living. For what it’s worth, an American Community Survey completed in 2016 showed more than three-quarters of the Naperville population being white – with people of Asian or Latino ethnic origins also existing in greater numbers than the 4.7 percent of those who are black.

Stava-Murray points out that many of the local public schools have next to no black students, and absolutely no black teachers.

Which might seem to be dooming any effort to get re-elected to her post come the 2020 election cycle. Then again, Stava-Murray (who has just begun her first term in office this month after being elected back in November) has already hinted she’s going to challenge Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., come the next elections.

COULD IT BE that Stava-Murray has already realized her ’18 election as a Democrat to represent a DuPage County district that historically has been Republican was a pure fluke? And that making such comments is meant to try to give her more appeal to those parts of Chicago where non-white voters are predominant?

I could see where many of those voters might think some white lady from Naperville wouldn’t know anything about them. Is this an attempt by her to show that she’s not totally clueless?

It had better work out that way. Because if it doesn’t, I could see where making such comments becomes a political “kiss of death” to any future she thinks she might have.
What should we think of Naperville community character?
Because she’s not going to make friends amongst the people she’s supposed to be representing in Springfield by implying they’re a batch of bigots. Although to be honest, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that many of those living in Naperville are out there precisely because there aren’t a whole lot of black people amongst their neighbors.

THEN AGAIN, PERSPECTIVE on what constitutes “diversity” varies based on whom one is talking to.

I remember once covering a legislative hearing about redistricting and district boundaries where local officials from suburban Tinley Park described their hometown as a diverse community – largely because the white majorities also had significant numbers of people of Arab ethnic origins moving in, along with a growing number of Latinos.

The African-American legislators on that committee took offense to the “diverse” label being applied to the municipality, which had a black population of less than 2 percent.

They couldn’t comprehend use of the “diversity” label to a community where their numbers were so few. Still are actually, as the 2010 Census Bureau count showed Tinley with a 1.92 percent black population – and with the majority including American Indian, Asian, Pacific Islander and Latino, along with its white populace including significant tallies of people of Irish, German, Polish, Italian and Dutch ethnic origins.

THE POINT BEING that the “diverse” label being applied, or denied, to a community probably says more about the hang-ups of the person using the label – rather than the reality of the communities in question.
DURBIN: Stava-Murray likely opponent in 2020

For what it’s worth, I have a step-brother who lives out in that area, and a niece who attends high school within the Naperville district (which actually includes her home in neighboring Aurora).

While I’m not going to claim the area is most accepting to the presence of black people, it is far in character from the communities I have been in that truly do reflect a “white supremacist” attitude.

That goes even further in thinking that Stava-Murray’s use of the “white supremacist” label is most likely a campaign tactic; trying to build an image for the currently little-known legislator as she prepares for future runs for political office. Which also means we’re likely to hear similar trash talk during the next two years.


Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Is Sammy Sosa THAT unforgivable?

The Baseball Hall of Fame will officially announce on Tuesday which former ballplayers will join the ranks of those whose athletic achievements will be immortalized in bronze plaques – and there are many sporting arguments that will be provoked by the results.

Is Sosa really any less of a '90s star … 
For me, a key point I’ll be watching for will be to see exactly how many votes one-time Chicago Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa gets.

SOSA, OF COURSE, is the guy who some two decades ago had all those seasons of 60-plus home runs (more than any other ballplayer ever). But now has given many people reason to suspect he used anabolic steroids or other substances that artificially gave him strength.

Which is the reason that Sosa wasn’t an automatic shoo-in for Hall of Fame induction. He only got 12.5 percent support – far short of the 75 percent required for induction.

Since then, Sosa has managed to get about 6 to 8 percent voter support each year; enough for him to remain in consideration for the following year’s Hall of Fame vote, but also close enough to the 5 percent vote standard that he could fall out of the running altogether.

Personally, if that were to happen, I’d not be upset. But I do have to admit there’s an aspect to all this that bothers me. It’s the fact that two other star players of that era whose names have been tainted by allegations of steroid use seem to be getting the exact opposite treatment.

… and worthy of Hall of Fame induction … 
I’M REFERRING TO one-time slugger Barry Bonds and pitcher Roger Clemens. They came onto the Hall of Fame ballot consideration at the same time as Sosa – and there actually once was the possibility that the 2013 Hall of Fame induction would have gone into the books as the year Bonds, Clemens and Sosa would have their day of Cooperstown glory.

But while Sosa threatens to fall below the 5 percent minimal standard, Bonds and Clemens are creeping their way upward to the 75 percent standard that means induction.

There have been some surveys indicating that the two theoretically could be inducted this year. Or, more likely, will come ever so close that it would seem Bonds and Clemens are likely to get Hall of Fame induction in 2020 or 2021.

… than either Bonds (above) or Clemens?
So just how is it that Bonds and Clemens are forgivable, while Sosa has become the baseball “untouchable” (and I don’t mean the old television show with the Eliot Ness character)? When their so-called "sin" is identical?

I KNOW I’VE heard some offer the theory that they believe Bonds and Clemens were legitimate stars already when they started using illicit substances to enhance their strength and endurance. While Sosa’s 609 home runs are a complete fraud – citing the fact that he became a major leaguer in 1989, but didn’t start his string of star-like seasons until 1998.

That was a long period of mediocrity – one helped by the fact he played for Chicago Cubs teams most of those seasons, and they were awful enough to put up with Sosa’s ability (or lack thereof).

But I can’t help get around the fact that from 1998 (the year he had his nationally-renowned chase with Mark McGwire to set a single-season home run record) to 2002, he had a burst of power that was unheard of.

This may seem sacrilegious to some, but one literally has to go back to Babe Ruth at his 1920s peak to find someone who could match Sammy.

LIKE IT OR not, it happened. All those home runs were hit. Trying to ignore that almost seems like the old Soviet-style of rewriting history to represent what one wishes had happened.

What would Harold have to say (if anything)?
Particularly if we’re going to acknowledge the potentially-tainted accomplishments of Bonds (73 home runs in a season, 762 in a career – both all-time records) and Clemens (354 victories and 4,672 strikeouts – third-best ever). I don’t see how the “steroids” argument can be applied to one, but not the other two.

Of course, this year’s Hall of Fame induction July 20 could be intriguing because of one of the “old-timey” ballplayers already chosen – one-time White Sox outfielder Harold Baines, whom the team traded away in 1989 for the then-youthful Sosa.

Will Harold have anything to say about Sammy, and the fact that he’s now the Hall of Famer while Sosa remains on the outside looking in?