Quick Hits – January 21, 2019

Since it’s difficult to get anything done with everyone home, I’ve spent the weekend compiling some semi-random thoughts en route to taking Monday off. Enjoy!

You don’t have to apologize!

It happened three times at Meijer and once at The Paramount on Sunday!

In the first case, a woman apologized for nearly hitting me with her cart, but as I explained to her, I was the oblivious bleep who walked right in front of her and thus, I was the one who should issue the mea culpa.

It was interesting to see how that admission made her face light up.

The second involved a woman who was looking through the vast varieties of brick cheese. I had no problem patiently waiting my turn, but when she turned around and saw me, she quickly apologized. My first thought was to say, “for what?” but I simply said, “we’re good!”

bird flipping

But when it happened again at the refrigerated egg enclosure with another female shopper, I replied, “Ma’am! The only way I could’ve retrieved what I was seeking would’ve been to knock you over, and you probably wouldn’t have taken too kindly to that.”

She laughed and said, “No! I would’ve probably called you out for that,” to which I answered, “and rightfully so.”

Then, at Swan Lake, a very pleasant young woman apologized for asking me to move so she could get to her seat. I kinda looked at her quizzically and said that I chose the aisle seat knowing I would have to get up to let half the row in. The tradeoff was the extra leg room and a quicker exit at the end of the show.

Puzzled, I asked my wife why these four women apologized for no good reason. She explained that women are taught from an early age to avoid confrontation, defer to everyone else, and to apologize to keep the peace.

It was at that very moment that I finally understood the more radical elements of the #MeToo movement, because if I had to consistently say I’m sorry for what might be perceived as the slightest slight, I’d rapidly become homicidal.

You see, the truth is, the vast majority of men have absolutely no interest in demeaning, harassing, or sexually assaulting women. We generally enjoy your company. I could talk to female attorneys all day. It’s just that the Bill Cosbys, Les Moonves, and Harvey Weinsteins have truly cast a dark pallor over our gender.

But some of that #MeToo anger and frustration is clearly self-inflicted. Sure! If you hit me with your cart while I’m simply standing off to the side, an apology would be nice. But please don’t say you’re sorry to someone who can’t figure out he’s not the only one in a grocery store. It’s simply not necessary.

 

Do we really crave privacy?

One of the more fascinating vagaries of my particular version of ADHD is I take in everything all the time. It’s great when you’re covering a county board meeting or a trial, but it sucks when you’re trying to relax or go to sleep.

So, it was during that very same Meijer sojourn that I simply couldn’t avoid a lengthy and rather heated checkout line conversation between a daughter and what clearly must’ve been her mother. And this wasn’t the Bluetooth variety, either. It was impressive to watch her dispense with a semi-full shopping cart with just one hand.

Image result for cell phone at grocery store

The gist of the conversation went like this:

  • The mother doesn’t think her granddaughter goes outside to play enough
  • She questions her granddaughter’s efforts in school
  • The daughter refuted her mother by saying her friends agree with her parenting approach
  • And neither one was about to change the other’s mind

What particularly struck me is, at a time when we’re lamenting large scale data breaches and a massive cameras everywhere loss of privacy, the dichotomy of someone so willing to share the most intimate details of her life was ironically discordant. Not only did she keep up the conversation throughout the entire checkout process, but she was still arguing with her mother as she left the store.

Life never fails to fascinate me!

 

It was a joke!

But apparently no one in St. Louis, Missouri, has a sense of humor.

As the annual Cubs Convention was winding down, the former Cub pitcher hosted an artificial talk show called ‘Friday Night with Ryan Dempster.’ During that convention conversation, he and Cubs third basemen, Kris Bryant, were riffing back and forth on a number of silly subjects, not the least of which was their take on the merit of various Major League cities.

When they got to St. Louis Bryant responded, “So boring,” to much laughter and applause from the crowd. And no one would’ve thought anything of it until Cardinal catcher, Yadier Molina had a complete meltdown. You see, Yadier makes Donald Trump look like a piker when it comes to taking offense.

bryant molina

He castigated Bryant through Tweets, posted disparaging pictures of our dynamic duo, and generally threw the kind of temper tantrum that would’ve made an ADHD third grader proud.

Not to be outdone, other Cardinal players, St. Louis radio show hosts and their two listeners, and the regular Missouri citizenry joined in the fray by labeling Bryant as the worst thing since they signed Dexter Fowler.

Of course, the catalyst for their absurd over-the-top reaction to a JOKE is, deep down in their hearts, they know St. Louis is a beyond boring city in a beyond boring state. C’mon! when your claims to fame are an arch, mosquitoes the size of pterodactyls, and ridiculous humidity, I think Bryant’s depiction was dead on.

Even their motto ‘The Gateway City’ immediately puts you to sleep. I’ve been to St. Louis and the only thing I’d recommend about it is leaving.

And as far as Mr. Molina goes, the only thing that’s funny about him is his .261 2018 batting average. Considering the sad state of Major League pitching, even I could do better than that.

 

The NFL is boring, too!

For the life of me, I cannot begin to understand the new NFL overtime rules and why they ever adopted them in the first place. The NBA and even soccer leagues get it right – you simply play another full or somewhat shortened period. Considering that neither defense could stop a conversation, last night’s Chiefs – Patriots game was essentially decided by a coin flip.

hester

And when the Patriots won that overtime toss, I simply turned off the game because the outcome was obvious. But how can you possibly allow the AFC Superbowl entrant to be decided without the other team having at least one OT possession? It’s patently absurd.

You may as well let every game be decided by a coin flip. It would save a lot of wear or tear on the players.

And while we’re at it, the new kickoff rules suck, too! For me, the most exciting part of the NFL was watching Rick Upchurch, Billy ‘White Shoes’ Johnson, Terry Metcalfe and, of course, Devin Hester return kicks.

But now, with kicker regularly booting it out of the endzone and a touchback putting the offense on their 25-yard line, there are no returns. And the NFL wonders why their ratings are in the Krapper.

 

Ballet? That’s easy!

Having witnessed Swan Lake at the Paramount Sunday afternoon, here’s my take on ballet:

1.  It’s patently unfair that the women have to dance on their toes and the men don’t.

2. It’s patently unfair that the men have to wear costumes that leave nothing to the imagination and the women don’t.

3. Ballet is just like opera without all the caterwauling – everyone dies in the end!

And there you have it!

swan lake

But I do have to say, nothing beats a matinee (or evening presentation) at Aurora’s Paramount Theater. If you haven’t availed yourself of one of those shows, you’re really missing out!

Quick Hits – It’s called critical thinking people!

Before we hit the ground running, please allow me to issue this stipulation. Though most Elginians disagree with my assessments, their responses to my series of columns on the disposition of Elgin Police Lieutenant Chris Jensen in regard to the tragic shooting death of DeCynthia Clements have been reasonable and civil.

That’s all I ask! My singular goal is, and has always been, to continue to the conversation. And that’s a very difficult proposition when we’re always screaming at each other.

With that caveat issued, the consistent content of those responses still bothers me. We liberals seem more than willing to call out the President and his supporters for their capacity to ignore the truth, but we fail to see the very same intractability in ourselves.

For example, I too, love brand new firebrand Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but if she presses her radical progressive agenda too far too quickly, it will inevitably create the kind of equal and opposite political reaction that brought us Donald Trump.

Similarly, I’m no fan of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but her insistence on quashing any impeachment talk amongst her peers is dead on. Sure! It’s fun to hear someone say, “Impeach the motherfucker,” but all that’s gonna do is rally Trump’s disaffected base right back to his side.  Pelosi’s smart enough to see they’re already abandoning him droves.

As this columnist likes to say, “Do you want to get what you want, or do you simply want feel good?” And if you want to get what you want, it requires critical thinking.

It’s the same complete lack of critical thinking regarding the Jensen investigations that has me heading to hide in the crawl space. Because if this “whatever I’ve been thinking for the last five minutes has got to be the truth” cultural shift continues, we truly are doomed.

To wit, to read those column responses and a variety of letters-to-the-editor on the subject, is a lot like watching a SportsCenter installment where they’re dissecting the latest Bears loss based on whatever on the emotion they’re feeling at the time.

That kind of thing might work for sportscasters, but it’s not the way the State Police, Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, and City of Elgin work. They’re bound by the law and fact, not the kind of armchair quarterbacking I’ve been watching.

The only considerations that matter to the investigators are these. Did Lt. Jensen violate Clement’s civil rights? Did he abrogate any statute when he resorted to lethal force? Did the law require the EPD to apply non-lethal methods on that I-90 shoulder?

clements 2

Put more simply, did Lt. Jensen break the law? And the answer to that and our three preceding questions is a resounding “No!” That’s why he will be cleared of any criminal charges. To come to that conclusion is a matter of applying critical, and not wishful, thinking.

“But Jeff! They weren’t that close, she wasn’t leaping at anyone, they shoulda used tasers, they knew she was high on drugs, she presented no threat, she stumbled out of the vehicle, and Jensen had plenty of backup!” Sorry, those are all utterly immaterial suppositions that have no statutory basis. And most of them are dead wrong, anyway.

After the CCSAO clears Jensen, the City of Elgin will investigate whether he violated any EPD standard or policy. They will determine if he followed protocol in a standoff situation. And just like it is with the law, those standards are specifically spelled out in print.

So, again! Whatever you and I might think about that sad scenario is immaterial because the investigators will not be relying on emotion or wishful thinking.

That investigation will find the officers on the scene provided Ms. Clements with every opportunity to end the standoff. Given their proximity, rubber bullets would’ve killed her. Breaking the passenger side window would’ve turned the smoldering fire she set inside her vehicle into an inferno and killed her. Tasers work on sober folks just 50 percent of the time, and they don’t work on people under the influence at all.

And they will make that ruling because those are the facts and it’s patently absurd to ask an officer involved in a standoff to make the kind of split-second decisions that would determine whether someone’s leaping or stumbling, high or sober, capable of doing damage with a knife, what kind of knife they’re wielding, and whether non-lethal methods will be effective.

Those unrealistic expectations would lead to a frequently fatal paralysis through analysis.

Officer Jason Van Dyke pumping 16 shots into Laquan McDonald? That’s a violation of police standards. Shooting a fleeing and unarmed suspect in the back? That’s a violation of police protocol. But shooting someone who’s coming at you with a knife after setting their own car on fire is not a policy breach.

How many news stories have we read describing how it took six officers or hospital orderlies to subdue someone on crack?

We have the luxury of repeatedly watching and pausing the tape to come to our conclusions, but the officers on the scene did not. So, when you dispense with the emotion, jumping to a conclusion that fits your political world view, and simply wanting to feel good, then, and only then, can critical thinking be applied.

Give it a shot sometime!

Quick Hits – January 16, 2019

You just can’t please some people!

By the response from papers, pundits, and politicians, you’d think new Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker’s decision to personally augment his top aides’ salaries bordered on a Burke-ian shakedown. My theory is, just as he did during his record-setting self-funded $171 million campaign, short of hiring hookers and buying blow, J. B. can spend his money in any manner he so chooses.

Following in the footsteps of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Pritzker said he was “Committed to recruiting top talent to state government to best address the challenges Illinois faces.” So, for a start, he will personally be paying $150,000 of incoming Chief of Staff Anne Caprara’s $300,000 salary.

Illinois Governor Inauguration

And he has a point. If you want to attract top talent, you have to pay those folks accordingly. Former Kane County Chairman Karen McConnaughay may have been a paranoid, pay-to-play practicing potentate, but considering the hours she put into that job, her salary should’ve been a lot more than a paltry 100K.

Of course, those Springfield Republicans, who aren’t happy unless they’re bitching about something, pounced on this move asking the question, “Who do they work for? Do they work for the people of the state of Illinois? Or do they have a greater loyalty to the governor…?”

Oh! I’ll answer that one. J. B.’s top aides work for him. Their singular mission is to make the Governor’s political life flow so smoothly that he can effectively work on behalf of the people of Illinois. It’s really not that hard to understand people!

A newspaper similarly pondered to whom those staffers would be loyal, J. B. or the people of Illinois.

That’s easy too! Regardless of where their paycheck originates, they’ll be loyal to the Governor who hired them. Like I just said, their job is to make J. B. look good. Despite their best journalistic efforts to paint it thus, this certainly ain’t a case of the Wehrmacht pledging loyalty only to the Fuhrer.

So that concern is completely pointless, too.

Some cited a precedent problem in that succeeding governors might not have the wherewithal to match those salaries. Let’s see! What do J. B. Pritzer and Bruce Rauner have in common? That’s right! They’re loaded, and I suspect they won’t nearly be our only two head honchos who purchase that position going forward.

The bottom line is, the people of the Illinois aren’t on the hook for these raises and it doesn’t get much better than that!

 

No Schick!

Oh lord! So, the latest conservative angst du jour revolves around a razor blade commercial? Exactly when did outrage supplant baseball as our national pastime? On second thought, don’t answer that question because it would be far too depressing.

Since I’m sure you’ve already seen the ad, suffice it to say it depicts scenes of bullying, sexual harassment, and other unflattering “boys will be boys” behavior while challenging men to become better about what some folks are now referring to as “toxic masculinity.”

I don’t see what this has to do with razor blades, but some of my readers do tell me I’m kinda slow.

First, on the rare occasion I turn on the television, I prefer entertainment over preaching. On the rare occasion I want preaching, I’ll go to church.

Second, if Gillette is gonna preach, I just might turn those tables by asking them how they can possibly justify the kind of markup on a thin piece of metal that has Walgreens locking up replacement blades. Taking the moral high ground is a proposition always fraught with peril.

Third, if their goal is to sell more razors and razor blades, exactly how will this message do that? Most men are pretty particular about their razors, so it’s not a purchase that falls to their wives. So, why would you want to piss off a plurality of your customers?

Some folks argue that Gillette did this for the inevitable onslaught of free publicity, and if that’s the case, they’ve succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. But the problem is, Mr. Barnum was wrong! Not all publicity is good!

Nike’s Colin Kaepernick commercial was not only brilliant, but that eminently clear sports tie-in and the ensuing massive press coverage sent sales soaring. But the Gillette commercial? I don’t think it’s going to have the same effect. Using guilt by association as a marketing tool is quite the novel approach.

The truth is, with some notable exceptions, most men aren’t bullies, they don’t sexually harass or demean women, and they certainly don’t sexually assault them. But the ad doesn’t make that distinction, or at least it doesn’t make it effectively.

And the ultimate irony is, the men at whom it’s aimed do not possess the kind of self-reflective capacity to see themselves in that ad. So, what’s the point?

But by the same token, I don’t get the conservative outrage, the calls to boycott Gillette, and the general gnashing of the talking heads’ teeth. If you’re really that offended, just get TiVo and press the “D” button whenever a commercial comes on. Problem solved!

 

Irony man

Now, what I’m about to say IN NO WAY mitigates the kind of bad male behavior we just discussed. But having worked in the public and private sectors, and having run a number of businesses, I’m consistently shocked by how women treat other women in the workplace.

Image result for mean girls

When I consulted for a major gum company, I watched two women virtually come to blows were it not for the quick intercession of one of the managers.

So, while men can certainly be bleeps, when it comes to bullying and demeaning women, it’s other women who take the cake.

There’s a reason Mark Waters directed ‘Mean Girls.’

Quick Hits – January 14, 2019

Make no mistake, Dixon was pandering!

One of the best things about this journalistic endeavor is, whenever you put a story out there, it tends to incite folks into coming forward with even more information. To wit, in regard to Friday’s Quick Hits, former Elgin, Illinois City Councilman John Prigge reminded me of a reality that clearly indicates Councilman Corey Dixon was engaging in the worst kind of pandering.

Please allow me to explain.

Municipal attorneys may not be the most scintillating people on the planet, but that’s a direct result of a PTSD consequence borne of the stress of doing their damndest to keep your average city councilman from summarily imploding and getting their city sued.

If you’ve ever attended any city council meeting anywhere, you’d understand that herding cats is a far more efficacious proposition.

But despite the near-futility of that undertaking, and despite their generally debilitated state, these valiant municipal attorneys somehow manage to not only rise to the occasion, but they try to head off any stupid aldermanic statement before it’s issued.

So, what former Councilman Prigge reminded me is, knowing those protesters would be at last week’s city hall gathering, there is no doubt that Elgin Corporation Counsel Bill Cogley warned Dixon and the rest of that rabble NOT to say anything about Lt. Chris Jensen’s situation. And I’m sure he offered the same warning prior to their first appearance in December, too.

jensen

How can I be so sure? First, Cogley isn’t an idiot. And second, sources say, by the look on his face, his head nearly exploded when Dixon said Jensen shouldn’t be brought back to the EPD from that official Dais.

Of course, fellow councilman Tish Powell made it that much worse by similarly pontificating in the council meeting’s aftermath.

And those statements will cost Elgin taxpayers dearly!

 

The investigations’ findings? That’s easy!

The other thing that really bothers me about Dixon’s and Powell’s blatantly hypocritical behavior is, despite pronouncements to the contrary, anyone with half a brain knows exactly how the Cook County State’s Attorney’s and Elgin’s internal investigations into the DeCynthia Clements shooting are gonna turn out.

But since Dixon feigns lacking the perspicacious capacity to discern those results himself – he publicly told Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx “We’re waiting with bated breath on what you do” – please allow me to explain exactly what’s about to happen.

The CCSAO will rule it a righteous shoot. After a more than a one-hour remarkably calm I-90 shoulder standoff, Ms. Clements, who appeared to be smoking crack or methamphetamine, set her car on fire and finally leapt out at the officers with a knife.

First, much like those automobile sideview mirrors, objects in that EPD video were much closer than they appeared to be. And second, it’s not up to any police officer anywhere to determine exactly how deadly a knife might be. Third, every police officer on the planet knows that Tasers aren’t effective on people who are high on crack or meth.

Ms. Clements came at an officer with a knife in one of the clearest cases of suicide by cop I’ve ever seen. And for anyone to say they would’ve reacted any differently is pure and unadulterated bullshit because they weren’t there.

As far as the Elgin investigation to determine whether Jensen broke protocol or policy goes, that too, will fall in his favor because he clearly did not! I would postulate that the Elgin police bent over backwards in their attempts to save Ms. Clements from her tragic self-inflicted predicament. We all know the Chicago Police Department wouldn’t have been nearly as patient.

So, having been cleared by the State Police, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and the City of Elgin, Lt. Chris Jensen will be fully reinstated as he should be. And all the unchristian pastors, manipulated city council meeting protesters, and pandering city councilmen won’t change any of that.

And with all due respect and condolences to Ms. Clements’ sister, who said if Jensen was reinstated, he might “harm someone else,” you can’t fire someone for what they might do. And the truth is Jensen, who sources tell me was greatly responsible for mitigating Elgin’s gang problem, has just six complaints in 20 years of service.

For a former gang officer to have that kind of track record is incredible. Police officers in lily white Geneva manage to rack up a complaints on a weekly basis.

The only question is, is Lt. Jensen willing to come back to Elgin. With self-professed and hypocritical judges like Dixon and Powell, who simply follow former disgraced U-46 School Board member Traci Ellis’ marching orders,  I’m not sure I would be. Maybe that’s their plan!

 

Quick Hits – When words matter!

Upon hearing a Kane County Zoning Board of Appeals member refer to drug addicts as “animals who should be locked up,” the great Larry Jones turned to me in that radio booth and said, “There’s one rehab center that’ll be coming into Campton Hills!” And two years later, that’s exactly what happened.

But the fact that such a simple statement can have such a deleterious effect on the process of government still seems lost on many public and elected officials. Whether it involves a lawsuit, land acquisition, personnel issue, group home, rehab center, or any other contentious proposition, their best bet is to keep their personal views to themselves.

You see, those opinions are worth far less than that typical two cents and they could invite the kind of lawsuit that always puts the taxpayers on the financial hook. To wit, after our ZBA official errantly opened his mouth, not only did Kane County have to cough up a hefty settlement, but that rehab center will soon become a Campton Hills reality.

So, when Elgin, Illinois, Councilman Corey Dixon said, “I do not want to see Officer (Chris) Jensen back in uniform at this police department,” at Wednesday evening’s city council meeting, I was more than stunned. Not only will those unfortunate words have serious legal consequences, but they have all sorts of ethical and moral implications, too.

Corey Dixon

To fill in the blanks, much of the same group that showed up at a city council meeting six weeks ago returned to reiterate their demand that Elgin Police Lieutenant Chris Jensen be fired. Jensen, of course, was the officer who fired the shots that killed DeCynthia Clements during that infamous I-90 traffic stop.

Though the group’s appearance wasn’t quite as contentious as their first, Councilman Terry Gavin still hasn’t figured out he’s actually supposed to be one of the adults in the room, not add further fuel to an already smoldering fire.

It was after Gavin and the protesters went at each other for the second time that Dixon made his inopportune statement – to raucous applause I might add.

His first problem is, the City of Elgin is currently facing a lawsuit over the shooting, and by saying Jensen shouldn’t be brought back on the force, Dixon, in his official capacity, essentially “admitted” that Jensen did something wrong.

It’s something the Clements family attorneys will certainly use against the city in their lawsuit.

Dixon’s next problem is, again, in his official capacity, he “tampered” with the process by making that statement before the Cook County State’s Attorney and City of Elgin investigations are complete. How is Jensen supposed to get a fair shake when a sitting city council member has already declared him guilty? If Jensen is eventually fired, he’ll have clear grounds to sue the city and get his job back, too.

His third issue is, city council members forego the privilege of stating private opinions the day they’re elected. They represent their city 24/7 whether they like it or not. The same goes for those 19 pastors who signed a letter seeking Jensen’s head. Saying they’re speaking for themselves and not their congregations is also pure unadulterated horse manure. You’re a pastor 24/7, too!

And last, but certainly not least, the morality of a sitting city council member throwing a police officer under the bus in this despicable a manner – with his mother sitting in the gallery – is utterly beyond the pale. And I thought those clergymen were bad!

There seems to be quite a few self-professed Elgin Christians who have no clue what that kind of thing really means.

If I had any reason to believe Dixon was sincere, I’d chalk up his comments to a passion-driven mistake, but he’s not sincere. In fact, this it may well be the worst case of political pandering I’ve ever seen.

Under the guise of “inviting citizens” to “express their grief and pain” through their Facebook pages, Dixon and fellow Councilman Tish Powell, in cahoots with disgraced former U-46 School Board member Traci Ellis, are using the Clements tragedy to advance their all-too-obvious agenda.

Do you really think it’s an accident these protesters showed up just as the 2019 consolidated election campaign season officially got underway? Nope! Our opportunistic trio’s goal is to get more African-American city councilmen elected and they’re willing to destroy an otherwise exemplary police officer’s life and career to do it.

Dixon has far greater political aspirations than lowly Elgin, after all.

And make no mistake! Powell was almost as bad when she mimicked Dixon’s statement to her posse after that meeting. I suppose there’s some solace that she didn’t do it from the dais.

It’s a testament to the citizens of Elgin that only a vocal minority are falling for Dixon’s and Powell’s manipulation, and it will be very interesting to see what will happen with Powell’s current reelection bid and Dixon should he chooses to run again. I think they’re in for a bit of surprise.

Quick Hits – It ain’t that simple at all!

To co-opt and abridge a Warren Zevon song title.

It happened all the time on the radio show. An erstwhile Republican guest would come on and their inevitable declaration almost always went like this:

If Christina Castro/Anna Moeller/Linda Chapa LaVia/Tom Cullerton/Stephanie Kifowit (or insert name of Democratic legislator here) would simply buck the Madigan Machine, Illinois would be far better off. And they could do it if they really wanted to do it, too!

Similarly, while covering the recent Chicago Alderman Ed Burke revelations, the Tribune’s John Kass lamented that only after the attempted extortion charge was Burke finally radioactive. Prior to that, Chicago pols would line up to kiss his pinky ring despite being blitheringly aware of what he was doing.

In yet another classic case of Kass oversimplification, he chided the Cook County rank and file for acting “as if there is no gambling in Casablanca,” and not only ignoring Burke’s shenanigans, but sidling up to him whenever it suited them. He took Board President Toni Preckwinkle to task in particular for having the temerity to accept money from Burke backers.

change

But it’s not that simple and it never is!

Because what our radio guests and Kass are asking Chicago aldermen and Springfield legislators to do is essentially this:

We understand you had to carry water for the party for years, work your way up through lower level political positions, painstakingly build the kind of team that gets you elected, generate the kind of cash to run an effective campaign, solicit the appropriate political alliances, pound the pavement every two to four years, attend all sorts of party events that keep your from your family, address a litany of constituent complaints, and suffer the slings and arrow of outrageous political fortune, but we want you to throw it all away in a Quixotic gesture by taking on a Machine Boss who will summarily squash you like a bug for doing so!

As my favorite TV judge likes to say, “It doesn’t sound quite as good when I say it, does it?”

Think about the real Illinois/Chicago reform candidates who managed to get elected and actually hang onto the gig:

  • Former 44th and 43rd Ward Alderman Bill Singer
  • Former Treasurer and Governor Pat Quinn
  • Former 49th Ward Alderman and County Clerk David Orr
  • Former 25th District State Senator and current Kane County Chairman Chris Lauzen
  • Former 46th Ward Alderman Hellen Shiller
  • Former State and U.S. Senator Peter Fitzgerald
  • Former 4th Ward Alderman and current Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle

I loved listening to Singer rail against Mayor Daley the elder in the 70’s, but the Machine simply ignored and isolated him and I couldn’t list one of his accomplishments. Quinn did manage to blunder his way into the Governor’s mansion, but to say he was in over his head would be the most massive of understatements. He eventually turned to the Dark Side, too.

Taking on the Springfield establishment got Lauzen labeled “Dr. No,” which put him perpetually on the outside looking in. He still has difficulty adjusting to the role of chairman. After attaching herself to the late Mayor Harold Washington’s coattails, Shiller finally got elected, but even though I always found her entertaining, her legacy is thinner than Cody Parkey’s NFL prospects.

I still believe Preckwinkle is a reformer at heart, but like so many idealists faced with the stark reality of getting elected, she’s trying to use and work within the system to change it. The problem with that is, most reformers can’t sublimate their true nature, so she’s not very good at it. And even I have a problem with her hiring Burke’s son at a six-figure salary.

But I don’t have a problem with her currying Burke’s favor because that’s what it takes to get elected in the Second City. And if you’re not willing to play the game to get there, you never will. Like unicorns, there is no such thing as a 100 percent pure politician.

That leaves Fitzgerald and Orr as the exceptions that prove the rule. They harbored those too-rare qualities of being able to build a crack campaign team that kept them in office, to work within the system to change it without making too many enemies, and they never had to sell their souls in the process.

Please note! Neither one of ‘em ever went after Madigan or Burke.

But to ask your average Chicago/Illinois politician to regularly pull that kind of thing off is like asking Donald Trump to start making sense. Those kinds of extraordinary elected officials come once or twice in a lifetime.

I would also say this to Mr. Kass. “What about the voters? They know damn well what Burke’s been up to and they’ve had 50 years to throw his sorry ass out of City Hall. But he’s dispatched each and every opponent without as much as breaking a sweat.”

Why? Because as long as their streets are plowed, their garbage is picked up, crime is reasonably contained, and he takes care of their complaints, Burke’s constituents don’t care what he does in his spare time. Machine bosses never exist in a vacuum.

The good news is, politicians like Burke and Madigan are every bit as rare as successful reform candidates are. Both are well into their 70s and they are the last of their kind. No current or future Chicago alderman will ever match Burke’s rise to power, and whatever pretender seeks Madigan’s throne will be but a mere shadow of Iron Mike.

You see, through the often-plodding efforts of unspectacular regular politicians, who generally have our best interest in mind, the political playing field that brought us Madigan and Burke no longer exists. The late, great 43rd Ward Alderman Paddy Bauler notwithstanding, reform has come to The City That Works whether anyone was ready for it or not.

And that’s the only way it ever works. It’s hard to see it day-to-day, but the Illinois/Chicago political change I’ve witnessed to in my 60 years is nothing short of miraculous. Think about it! Chicago Mayors used to die in office, but the last two Machine anointed candidates stepped down when they realized they couldn’t win.

For Kass, who’s a virtual encyclopedia of Chicago political history, to insist that your average Cook County politician grab their lance and start charging at windmills is the height of naivete. It’s the equivalent of asking them to commit political suicide for no good reason.

The truth is, just like the metaphorical hotdog vendor said to the Zen master when he asked for his change, “Change can only come from within!”