The First Ward Report – How to cancel the cancel culture

I have to say I look forward to our bi-weekly Sunday grocery shopping sojourns to the Batavia Trader Joe’s. I love it’s more manageable size, their fascinating food options, and the staff, many of whom have toiled there for years, are always pleasant and friendly.

In fact, TJ’s is so much fun I couldn’t begin to imagine how the Cancel Culture could possibly come up with something to put them in their crosshairs. But I should’ve known better because the second I dismissed that thought, those parents’ basement dwelling Hot Pocket eaters said “Hold my beer!”

This time it is was the amusing appellations TJ’s applies to their in-house brand of ethnic foods. To wit, they sell Trader Jose’s enchiladas, Trader Giotto’s spaghetti sauce, and Trader Ming’s kung pao chicken.

It’s one of the plethora of reasons that the Trader Joe’s chain is so successful. I don’t feel nearly as inspired to visit Jewell.

Trader Joes

But after employing those sobriquets for decades, the Cancel Culture caught up with them in the form of a California high school student who posted a Change.org petition insisting TJ’s drop those ethnic names.

This student claimed they create “a narrative of exoticism that perpetuation harmful stereotypes.”

So, now a freakin’ cellphone addicted 17-year-old is driving the cultural and corporate conversation? As if the adults weren’t already freakin’ bad enough! This is exactly why high schoolers should be rarely seen and NEVER heard.

Please also note that starting an online petition is literally the least anyone could do to combat racism.

But instead of falling as flat as it should have, smelling corporate blood, the Cancel Culture leapt upon TJ’s, and the patently puerile press, who can’t even spell the word “journalism” anymore, whipped the Hot Pocket crowd into yet another self-righteous who’s-the-most-woke frenzy.

Faced with that onerous onslaught, TJ’s parent company initially backed down faster than Ellen DeGeneres from a workplace harassment complaint. They said something to the effect of we were gonna phase out those names anyway.

But then something strange and wondrous happened! An even larger number of Trader Joe’s customers cancelled the Cancel Culture by submitting their own petitions and emails explaining just how much they enjoyed those whimsical names. And just like Cindy Lou Who’s effect on the Grinch, their corporate cojones grew three times their size and TJ’s declared they’d keep those appellations after all.

Bereft of the mob mentality that empowers and drives them, like that suddenly curtain-less Wizard of Oz, the now terrified cancel culture-ites skittered back into their dark corners like cockroaches confronted with a bright kitchen light.

Then, though I’d never recommend threatening anyone online, much less a teenager, liberals and conservatives alike savaged our intrepid high schooler who claimed she was “surprised” by the counterreaction.

That’s probably a better lesson than anything she’s ever learned in school, too!

You see, in the end, the Cancel Culture is nothing more than a case of the political stars occasionally aligning such that people who’ve never had real power have temporary power over those who do. But because wisdom isn’t part of their equation, they wield it like a weapon and not a catalyst for change.

And they truly savor those brief minutes when they can destroy other peoples’ lives.

These are the sons and daughters of the parents who fully bought into that 1980s California Self-Esteem movement lie that children could develop self-worth without having to earn it. They are the progeny of the parents who presented them with a dozen roses simply for singing in that annual first-grade music program choir.

The Cancel Culture is the inevitable result of grown up participation trophy kids who were showered with all sorts of accolades awards and accolades for simply showing up.

But then a strange thing happened! These children, who were endlessly told they were “special” in grade, middle, high school, and even college, walked directly onto that real-world rake only to be smacked squarely on the forehead by a swiftly unraveling lie.

They weren’t special. In fact, they were barely average. They had no clue the best thing that ever happened to Michael Jordan was being cut from his high school basketball team. He took that failure and turned it into the kind of inspiration to become the NBA’s greatest.

Since no one ever told them they were “wrong,” they weren’t equipped to look into the bathroom mirror and say, “Whoa! This isn’t going to be easy, but all the evidence indicates success will not be simply thrust upon me. It requires hard work, perseverance, and most of all, a willingness to risk failure! I need to start making the appropriate adjustments pronto!”

Nope! These overly entitled folks took another tack. If they couldn’t succeed, then no one could. So, rather than make an effort to improve, they realized they could feel better about themselves if they brought down successful people who had the temerity to incur their wrath for something they did 20 years ago.

But just like it is with any addiction, the Cancel Culture will continue to get crazier until it finally implodes upon itself.

And all it takes to hasten that collapse is for people like us to stand up to them in the same way Trader Joe’s customers convinced corporate not to cave. And what’ve the consequences been…? That’s right zero! Because the only power this mob really has is intimidation. Once you pull back the Wizard’s curtain, you quickly realize they ain’t got nuthin’

The George Floyd tragedy and the pandemic have provided them with the opportunity to slither out of their corners one more time. That means it’s up to us to send them scurrying back.

 

The First Ward Report – Quick Hits

And then there were nine!

With Glen Ellyn State Rep Terra Costa Howard leading the First Cavalry Division charge and Aurora State Rep Stephanie Kifowit answering that bugle call, last week, we wondered if any other Springfield Dems would have the courage to join their rank and call for Speaker Michael Madigan’s resignation.

And seven more have:

  • Naperville State Rep Anne Stava-Murray
  • Chicago State Reps Kelly Cassidy, Yoni Pizer, and Lindsey LaPointe
  • Grayslake State Senator Melinda Bush
  • Chicago State Senators Heather Steans and Iris Martinez

To be clear, these semi-magnificent seven are not part of what Tribune columnist Eric Zorn calls the “If Troop,” as in the Democrats who believe The Speaker should abdicate only “if” he’s actually convicted of something.

Cassidy echoed Costa Howard’s original theory by stipulating:

When he says he didn’t know what was going on, it may be an excellent legal strategy, but it says he’s bad at his job. He’s supposed to be in charge. He’s the one who manages every little thing in the General Assembly. And all this was going on right under his nose and he was just oblivious to it?”

Did a Democrat really dis The Velvet Hammer is this brazen a manner? Be still my beating heart!

Madigan Comic

With thanks to the Chicago Tribune

But before you’re overcome by this sudden spate of apparent altruism, I’ve spoken with a number of local legislative aides who said our Democratic general assemblypersons are carefully  considering whether Psylla or Charybdis is more dangerous element right now.

For those who aren’t well versed in Greco-Illinoisan mythology, Psylla comes in the form of their constituents who bestowed an abysmal 20 percent approval rating upon the The Speaker in 2019. That means the failure to come forward now could have all sorts of electoral repercussions later.

Of course, Charybdis is none other than Darth Madigan himself who can end a political career with the most fleeting application of The Force. C’mon! Was anyone really fooled by The Speaker “polling” his minions to get their ruminations on his resignation?

Just like a Jeopardy contesting struggling to answer in the form of a question, I hear The Speaker’s single survey question was, “You don’t really want me to resign, now, do you?”

But even though I had my doubts, it looks like Psylla is coming out ahead on this one. Had the rebellion been limited to just Costa Howard and Kifowit, it would’ve been quickly quashed and they would’ve quickly become “examples.” But with nine on board, I could swear I’m starting to hear The Chairman sing ‘My Way:’

And now the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case of which I’m certain

Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption

I planned each chartered course
Each careful step along the by-way
And more, much more than this
I did it my way

It makes you kinda verklempt, don’t it!

 

Still no economic interest statement

And speaking of silent Democrats, as of this morning, Elgin City Councilman Baldemar Lopez still hasn’t filed his 2019 economic interest statement. With the fine for the failure to report hitting a C-note a day as of May 16, that means Lopez owes the State a mere $8,215.

But who’s counting?

We all know Baldy, as his friends affectionately refer to him, is avoiding that document like a pandemic hotspot because he’d have to cop to being one of those high-profile ComEd lobbyists who got paid 60 grand for doing absolutely nothing if he did.

And who’d want to do that!

As I’ve previously noted, as a journalist who has the occasional good day, I won’t be letting this story go anytime soon!

 

Ya gotta give the Treasurer credit!

I’ve covered this topic a couple of times, but Capitol Fax’s Rich Miller recently reported that Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs returned a record $1 billion in unclaimed property over the last five years. That massive total eclipses the previous record by a whopping 42 percent.

Frerichs regularly notes that at least 25 percent of Illinoisans have a right to lay claim to some of the remaining $3.5 billion in that unclaimed fund. And you can check on that possibility right here!

I would highly encourage you to do just that, too, because, on a whim, I found almost six figures in stock my late mother had “misplaced” in 2015. Then I went back to the site just yesterday and discovered almost $1,500 owed my father who died back in 1990.

That claim is in process.

Excellent job Treasurer Frerichs. Apparently, some elected officials don’t suck!

 

The First Ward Report – Will my son’s generation have standards?

It was during those later Evanston St. Nick’s years that my music accumulation addiction truly took off. I eagerly awaited the days when the nuns would pass out those Scholastic Book Club flyers offering all manner of middle school literature and the occasional 45. I can’t for the life of me remember the first single I bought, but Badfinger’s ‘Straight Up’ containing ‘Baby Blue’ and ‘Day After Day’ was my very first LP.

Badfinger was supposed to be the next incarnation of Beatles at the time.

As my vinyl collection and the associated listening time steadily increased, one day, my mother approached me to say that, while the music wasn’t bad, she feared my brothers and I would grow up without having musical standards or enjoying iconic artists.

Considering she grew up listening to legends like Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Judy Garland and Glenn Miller, her inquiry was a more-than-fascinating proposition. If you consider Bill Haley’s ‘Rock Around the Clock’ to be the opening salvo, Rock and Roll was a mere 16-year-old in 1971, so it was far too early to make that call.

The Beatles were, indeed, more popular than God, but they’d just broken up and their too-short tenure threatened to relegate them to oblivion. Bob Dylan seemed destined for icon-ness, but he was still taking crap from a boatload of folk folks for going electric.

Jimi Hendrix broke and then changed all the rules, but he died after releasing just three studio albums. The Stones were certainly relevant, but they always seemed destined to explode, The Who had yet to release their masterpieces, and though Led Zeppelin was on a tear, releasing three stellar albums between 1969 and 1970, hard rock, as it was called back then, was still in it’s infancy.

So, after thinking about it for a couple of days, the only Rock and Roll icon I managed to come up with to counter my mother was Chuck Berry.

So, why am I deliberating over this philosophical conundrum now you ask? Because fast forwarding to this weekend, my wife pulled out ‘The 25th Anniversary Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’ 2009 concerts Blu-ray and every last one of those amazing artists performed what can only be called rock standards.

Crosby, Stills and Nash sang ‘Woodstock’ and ‘Almost Cut My Hair.’ Steve wonder did duets with John Legend, Smokie Robinson, B.B. King, Sting, and Jeff Beck.” The Queen of Soul performed ‘Chain of Fools’ with Annie Lennox, and I got serious goosebumps watching Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel nail ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ despite breaking up 38 long years before.

Then there was Bruce Springsteen, John Fogerty, Sam Moore, Buddy Guy, Billy Gibbons, U2, Patti Smith and Mick Jagger. I wanted to say, “See ma! You were right when you told me to be a writer (I think!), but you were wrong about this one!”

Bono Jagger

But despite her unfounded fear, I find myself wanting to ask my 21-year-old son the very same question.

Before you accuse me of being just another curmudgeonly “that’s not music” old fogey, I dutifully come downstairs to listen to Sirius XM’s Alt Nation every morning! And while I like alternative artists like Weezer, The Strokes, Of Monsters and Men, Mumford & Sons, The Killers, Modest Mouse, Bastille, Post Malone and The Lumineers, with perhaps the exception of Mr. Malone, none of them seem destined for greatness.

I don’t see a burgeoning Bruce Springsteen, Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, or U2 among the bunch, and while I still buy some vinyl, those purchases primarily consist of classic rock reissues.

Pop music will always have its superstars like Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Drake and Katy Perry, but pop music, by definition, is neither groundbreaking nor socially inspiring. My wife laughs at my enduring love for The Partridge Family, but I’d hardly put them in the category of the artists we watched this weekend.

My mother may have gotten it wrong in 1971, but in my theoretical defense, there was no Internet back then. We’ve all seen what the Web’s done to record companies and drastically shifting music buying habits.

Can you say “streaming services?” I knew you could! I don’t think my son has ever purchased a CD, LP, or even an individual MP3.

During her brief Hall of Fame set, Aretha Franklin gave a shout-out to the late Ahmet Ertegun, the legendary co-founder of Atlantic Records who wrote ‘Chain of Fools.’ Ertegun and Atlantic championed so may rock and soul acts that went onto become the icons who sang the standards.

The Net has done an amazing job of opening up the music and other industries, but with record companies being mere shadows of their former selves, it’s up to the acts themselves to break out now. For example, Lady Gaga regularly recounts how she got her early gigs by calling venues and pretending to be her own British manager.

My wife thinks my theory will turn out to be equally as inaccurate as my mother’s, and I hope she’s right. But even though my Alternative Summer 2020 playlist consists of 68 songs by 54 artists, when my son sits down to watch the 50th Anniversary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame festivities in 2034, aside from Keith Richard, I truly wonder who the performers will be.

The First Ward Report – Quick Hits!        

Let’s get back to The First Ward’s roots by covering a couple of stories today.

The silence of the Dems

This scenario certainly doesn’t merit the application of the terms “revolution” or “groundswell,” but two courageous Springfield Democrats did break ranks by insisting the soon-to-be-charged Illinois Speaker Michael Madigan resign!

The opening salvo came from Glen Ellyn State Rep Terra Costa Howard who said, “He [Madigan] must take action now to avoid inflicting further damage on the members of the House and the Democratic Party by resigning as speaker.”

And I thought that pronouncement had fallen flatter than Anthony’s Fauci’s bizarre attempt to get us all to wear goggles until yesterday morning when our own Aurora State Rep Stephanie Kifowit followed suit by delivering quite the strident e-letter.

The final paragraph of that missive to The Speaker reads thusly:

I demand you to do the right thing and step down immediately as Speaker of the House. In the event that you do not, and if you choose to seek nomination to this positions again, I will vote against said nomination and will not vote for should your nomination be successful.

All I can say is, “Good for her!”

I really wanted to say, “You go girl!” but then I’d probably be accused of cultural appropriation, misogyny, sexism, old white male patronization, and generally being a scurrilous cad.

kifowit2

Though she can be almost as irritating as I am at times, I tend to hold Ms. Kifowit in the highest regard because her frequent willingness to speak her mind regardless of the political consequences is beyond refreshing. I may not always agree with what she says, but I respect her capacity to, on occasion, reject the too-typical political platitudes.

But since no good deed ever goes unpunished, some Facebook folks are taking Kifowit to task for not issuing this demand BEFORE the ComEd bribery scandal hit all the front pages.

Yes! There are times I believe Stephanie forgets that she wields far more power to change the system than you or I do, and, on occasion, I’ve duly noted that. But my facility to criticize those in positions of power in no way means I’d ask an elected official to commit political suicide. And calling on The Speaker to resign before the ComEd scandal would’ve amounted to just that.

Furthermore, I’m under no delusion that Mr. Madigan actually will talk away, but with two legislators breaking that say-no-evil inertia, it will be fascinating to see if other Springfield Dems step up.

Meanwhile, despite my ever-so-polite entreaties, our Elgin trio of State Senator Cristina Castro, State Rep Anna Moeller and City Councilman Baldemar Lopez continue to remain quieter than an interracial gay couple who just took a wrong turn into an outdoor Trump rally. So much for Castro’s Joint Ethics Commission being anything more than the worst kind of political window dressing.

But enough about them! Here’s to State Rep Stephanie Kifowit for doing the right thing, particularly when no one’s ever referred to The Speaker as “the forgiving kind.”

 

A really nice sendoff

If you have the time, I would highly encourage you to read former Illini assistant basketball coach Rus Bradburd’s touching tribute to former head coach Lou Henson, who passed away earlier this week.

It’s the kind of appreciation that makes me wish I’d met the man! But even though that opportunity never presented itself, I certainly watched Illini basketball back then, in great part, because I love watching Lou!

Henson

We were all amused by the “Lou-do” combover and his perpetual upbeat energy was more than infections. Even in throes of the toughest March Madness competitions, the man never swore, he never berated his players, he never grabbed a player in anger, and he never publicly railed against the referees no matt how errant they might’ve been.

I particularly enjoyed watching the Illinois-Indiana games during the Henson era simply for the vast coaching style juxtaposition between he and the infamous Bobby Knight.

Lou Henson was the kind of man I long to be, but the Universe was intent on providing me with quite a different set of tools. And though I never had the opportunity to shake his hand, my friend Paul Stukel did! Here’s his recollection:

Lou was a remarkably nice man as well as a helluva coach. He and his family lived about 4 houses down from me in Champaign, on Bedford Drive. His decision to pick this (at the time) humble neighborhood, given what he was making as a head coach, says something. He could have lived amongst the Champaign elite if he wanted, but he went humble.

But what I’ll always remember about him was how he took notice of me practicing shooting on our driveway at all hours of the day. (I was obsessed with basketball and knew I had to practice all the time to overcome my many physical limitations.) I’d be out there shooting free throws again and again and again, and he’d drive by and wave.

Once in a while he’d stop and ask how it was going. Then, one day at his summer basketball camp on campus, he pulled me out of general session and used me to demonstrate to the whole camp how to shoot free throws. It was a little intimidating, but I was proud that he chose me. I’ll never forget that.

Yep, Lou was a really great human being.

Thank you Paul, and rest in peace, Coach!

The First Ward Coronavirus Report – Illinois is just fine!

Can anyone tell me what specific electromagnetic law stipulates smoke detector batteries MUST expire only between 2 and 3 a.m? One terrified dog and two errant attempts to identify the chirping culprit later and I finally found – and silenced – the right one. And then the cat started yowling just for good measure!

So, since I’m a little tired this morning, let’s go with a quick and easy COVID-19 report. The current numbers are:

Date  Cases          % Inc      N Cases      Tested     Prevalence Deaths    M%

7/20   162,748          0.7          1,173         34,598      1 in 29.4          6         4.4

7/21   163,703          0.5             955         29,745       1 in 31.1       23         4.4

7/22   165,301          0.9          1,598         39,633       1 in 24.8       23         4.4

7/23   166,925          0.9          1,624         39,706       1 in 24.4       20         4.4

7/24   168,457          0.9          1,532         44,330       1 in 28.9       18         4.3

7/25   169,883          0.8          1,426         38,200       1 in 26.7       12         4.3

7/26   171,424          0.9          1,541         40,844       1 in 26.5         1         4.3

7/27   172,655          0.7          1,231         30,567       1 in 24.8       18         4.2

7/28   173,731         0.6           1,076         28,331       1 in 26.3       30         4.2

If I had to apply a song title to this nine-day data slice, it would be Bob Seeger’s ‘Still the Same!’ New cases are flat, the new case percentage increase hasn’t topped 1 percent since June 2nd,  the prevalence is bouncing between 1 in 25 and 1 in 30, coronavirus deaths continue to trend downward, and as we predicted, the Illinois mortality rate is in full retreat!

Facts Not Fear 3

Should you, like the pandemic panic porn prone press, fear our state is in the throes of some sort of COVID-19 spike, all you have to do is gaze upon the prevalence to immediately disavow yourself of that notion.

When we test more people, we get more positive results – it’s just that simple! Clearly, reopening restaurants, bars and other similar establishments has had absolutely no effect on our new daily case totals or the transmission rate of the disease.

As we predicted, once nursing homes and long-term care facilities finally got a handle on this thing, the Illinois mortality rate has fallen from it’s early July high of 4.8 percent to 4.2 percent. And it will continue to decline.

We’ve also discussed how it’s an evolutionary maladaptation for a communicable disease to kill it’s host because it’s the equivalent of pathogen suicide. Considering that logic, my and a number of Italian Doctors’ contention is that the virus weakening. The declining national mortality rate and COVID ICU bed and ventilator usage remaining near their lows would seem to support that theory, but American researchers say it’s not the case.

You’ll have to come to your own conclusion on this one.

Meanwhile the Illinois ICU/ventilator numbers are even better:

Date       ICU Beds          Ventilators

7/20          320                         142

7/21          337                         132

7/22          309                         135

7/23          325                         115

7/24          341                         110

7/25          345                         119

7/26          350                         124

7/27          329                         128

Not only are we far from capacity in this regard, but every time a number pops, it seems to go right back down the very next day.

With testing settling into a 36,000-daily result average, the five-day moving average has become meaningful again, too:

Date             5-day Avg

7/20                 1,213

7/21                 1,153

7/22                 1,194

7/23                 1,263

7/24                 1,377

7/25                 1,427

7/26                 1,427

7/27                 1,471

7/28                 1,362

The press is using the term “rolling average” which ain’t what it’s called! Regardless, we’re looking at data that’s even flatter than the local Northern Illinois landscape.

So, despite the Governor consistently crying wolf, and considering this thing ain’t going away anytime soon, Illinois is doing far better than I thought possible at this five-month stage. With at bar and restaurant comebacks and the lack of anything approximating social distancing failing to solicit any kind of Illinois pandemic spike, there’s very good reason to believe our soon-to-resume schools will similarly become a non-issue.

The bottom line for my family? My Aurora middle-school teacher wife and Aurora University son are looking forward to returning to the halls of academia, and I fully support them in that regard.

Meanwhile, my best advice to you would be to let go of the pandemic’s enduring political implications, consider the facts as presented here and in previous pieces, and make the decision that’s best for you and your family.

The First Ward Report – Old Sith Lords never die, and they don’t fade away, either!

It’s certainly been a fascinating proposition to watch the political vultures slowly circle Illinois Speaker Michael Madigan’s not-yet-quite-cold corpse. But as amusing as that brand of schadenfreude can be, just like it is with any Sith Lord, their shadow tends to linger long after their inevitable untimely demise.

Put more simply, if the Feds somehow managed to put Madigan in the pokey tomorrow, the Illinois skies wouldn’t summarily clear, the sun wouldn’t shine any brighter, those angelic hosts wouldn’t break into song, and your property tax bill won’t be going down.

Darth Madigan 2

Former Governor Bruce Rauner never understood that Darth Madigan was but a symbol and a symptom, not the disease itself. He thought he could undo thirty years of systemic Republican aided and abetted corruption in just with his mystical billionaire Force, but his efforts to turn just one Democratic Padawan to the Light Side were no match for the Sith Lord’s dark power.

He may be the last of his Machine boss kind, but even if The Speaker vanished tomorrow and the General Assembly embarked upon an immediate crusade to restore balance to the Illinois Force, it would take the better part of two decades to undo the devastating Democratic damage that’s brought this state to the brink of bankruptcy.

But those Springfield Dems have no intention of pursuing anything of the sort.

When the Feds finally put him away, and this time they will, the gale force power vacuum suckage will become the catalyst for the kind of pitched political battle that’ll make the 1983 Chicago City Council Wars look like child’s play!

Given his there-can-only-be-one mentality, with no clear successor, whomever does manage to inherit the Madigan mantel will be but a shade of The Velvet Hammer. As Bill Yeats duly noted, “The center won’t hold” and that Machine influence will be consistently eroded through the inevitable political infighting.

But don’t expect “Mere anarchy to be loosed on Illinois,” either, because those Democrats know exactly on which side their campaign bread is buttered. They’re not about to let go of that power for lack of an iron-fisted leader. In fact, I think it would be safe to say there won’t be a demonstrable downstate Democratic decline for at least a decade.

We’ve repeatedly discussed the real source of The Speaker’s power here, but most folks – and a surprising number of elected officials – still believe he wields an undue mythological “Force,” but it’s his electoral ground game that’s allowed him to succeed at the equivalent of herding cats. The Speaker can get you elected, and he can get you unelected, and every last one of his minions understands that stark reality.

Former State Rep Ken Dunkin foolishly tried to test that theory and we all know what happened to him!

So, while the lack of an heir apparent will be problematic for the post-Madigan Dems, his crack campaign team ain’t about to go anywhere soon! With the Illinois Central Republican Party more fractured than Alex Smith’s leg and GOP candidates’ insipid insistence on clinging to silly social issues, Springfield Democrats will continue to win elections for the foreseeable future.

Hope and change have never been a staple of Illinois politics.

What will be interesting, however, is if The Speaker’s imminent departure means the final extinction of that traditionally water carrying worker bee known as the “precinct committeeman.” Much like the Ewoks did the Empire in on Endor, it’s those noble PCs who perform the bulk of Madigan’s magic.

They’ve been the silent backbone of the Chicago Machine for decades.

Whenever a Libertarian, Green Party, protest, or minority candidate comes to me claiming they’re gonna get elected and change the world, my automatic response is, “Then you need to run a slate of precinct committeemen,” because he or she who controls the PCs, controls the Party, and he or she who controls the Party tends to gets their candidates elected.

And all it takes is ten signatures, too!

But as we sit here today, only 13 of Geneva Township’s 21 precincts can boast an elected Republican precinct committeemen, and while those folks love the title and the capacity to elect Party leaders, they’re not about to walk their precinct or knock on doors for anyone.

Who has time for that?

Meanwhile, on the rare occasion The Speaker actually faces an opponent, you’ll swiftly see his yard signs prominently displayed on every last district front lawn. That’s the power of active and loyal precinct committeemen.

If the Speaker’s successor fails to heed this “from small things baby, big things one day come” ground game dynamic, the consequent Democratic demise will take half the time it would have otherwise.

What I’m saying is, even though a post-apocalyptic Springfield won’t be nearly as much fun without Mad Mike at the helm, please don’t, for a second, believe that, just like Resurrection Mary, his specter won’t continue haunt those hallowed capitol building hallways for years.

To quote legendary 43rd Ward Chicago Alderman Paddy Bauler, “Illinois ain’t ready for reform.”

The First Ward Recommendation Report – Small businesses you should know!

Since we’re all so sick of pandemics, presidential races, and Springfield shenanigans, I thought it would be a lot more fun to cover some local small business truly deserving of our collective attention and patronage. And that’s particularly true at a time when these fine folks have all taken the obvious economic hit.

But wait! There’s more!

Just when you thought it couldn’t possibly get any better, it does! Because my good friend and the other half of the Ward and Wright comedy team will provide us with passages on two Geneva, Illinois, businesses he’s become quite fond of!

I can’t wait! So, let’s get started!

Support Local Business

1. Vargo’s Dance

Nestled in the heart of beautiful downtown Geneva (northwest corner of State and Second Streets), Vargo’s Dance Studio is one of my favorite places on the planet, and owner and instructor extraordinaire, Jamie Vargo, is one of my favorite people on the planet.

Jamie Vargo

Jamie Vargo

Vargo’s Dance specializes in couples dancing generally applying the Salsa, Swing, or Hustle methodologies. They do not offer children’s classes, however. Reservation only group lessons have recently restarted without the traditional partner rotation for all the obvious reasons.

So, if you’re interested, and you certainly should be, check out their online schedule, grab your favorite dance counterpart, email Jamie to make August reservations, and you’ll be good to go! Don’t let your hubby back out either, because, As Ms. Vargo likes to say, “These beginner classes are quite husband friendly!”

Having already made our reservations, my lovely wife and I will be participating in this evening’s $15 per person (7/24) cash only 7 p.m. BYOB beginner swing lesson. The remarkable Carl Linder will lead the festivities with Jamie right beside him to reasonably keep him in line.  (Good luck, Jamie!)

My wife and I take private lessons from Ms. Vargo, as well, and if she can teach me how to dance…

Aside from the getting the heck out of the house and sheer fun of it aspects, 1.5 years of dancing has had some significantly positive side effects. Sure! My wife suddenly seems a lot less likely to throw my sorry butt out of the house, but I’m a far better – and much looser – athlete, too!

Running now takes far less “effort” and I’m proud to report I’m generally injury free. Better yet, my shoulder impingement syndrome and minor hand and wrist arthritis have virtually disappeared as a result of that regular full-body movement.

Dancing truly is the fountain of youth because physically, I feel like I’m 35 again! Put more simply, I simply can’t recommend Vargo’s Dance enough! See you there!

2. Amanda Leutenberg

Amanda isn’t as much a company or store – though she has a temporary location – as she is an incredibly talented artist specializing in woodworking pieces. In fact, the “serial killer” plaque I so enjoyed sharing on Facebook was her work.

Serial Killer 2

 

Meanwhile, her equally talented daughter, Kyle, crafts the finest boards, one of which is prominently placed on this cook’s kitchen counters, while husband Chris comes up with all manner of wonderfully handmade wooden boxes.

Amanda’s recent Etsy store push racked up a massive 898 sales in a very short time, and now she’s getting wholesale orders from other store owners!

If you want to see Amanda’s work for yourself, she’s set up through December in one of those small temporary Batavia rental shops at Route 25 and Wilson Street. Her store hours are:

  • Friday     10 to 6
  • Saturday  9 to 5
  • Sunday   12 to 4

There’s nothing better in life than seeing good friends succeed, and I firmly believe the sky is the limit for this exceptionally talented family!

 

But why listen to me ramble on again when you can listen to Bill Wright, instead? Here are two of his favorite Geneva operations:

3. Galena Garlic Company

I was pleased when Jeff Ward asked me to write about my dear friend, Laszlo Marton’s business, Galena Garlic Company, a family-owned concern established in Galena, Illinois, in 2003. Laszlo’s mission is to sell U. S. grown garlic and carry products that help people cook healthy, delicious, and simple meals. His business has grown to include stores in Nashville, Tennessee, Madison, Indiana, and, of course, one right here in downtown Geneva (318 West State Street).

Galena Garlic Co. Geneva, IL | Galena, Kane county, Geneva

When you walk into one of Laszlo’s stores, you’re welcomed as an extended family member by a fantastic staff that defines customer service. You can start by sampling certified extra virgin olive oils infused with a wide variety of flavors and all manner of balsamic vinegars. My favorite is the garlic olive oil.

The GG team is well-versed in the crush date and chemistry of these oils, so you know you’re getting nothing but the best – everything is always fresh and they never use additives. Galena Garlic also sells over 300 different gourmet blends, as well as a wide variety of rubs, seasonings, and artisan salts. Don’t forget to check out their soup and soaps while you’re there!

GC just harvested the garlic at their Elizabeth, Illinois, and Clark Range, Tennessee, farms, and trust me! You haven’t had garlic until you’ve had freshly grown garlic. They’re taking orders right now, so send Laszlo, or his daughter Nina, an e-mail at garlic911@gmail.com to reserve yours!

One last thing! Galena garlic generally hosts the Midwest Garlic Festival in Elizabeth during the first weekend in August, but this year Laszlo will host a Virtual Garlic Festival from August 8 through the 15th with other Midwest garlic farmers taking part. You can find all the Garlic Fest details on Galena Garlic’s Facebook or Instagram pages.

Don’t forget to visit their website at www.galenagarlic.com.

4. Art History Brewing

Two weeks ago, my wife and I set out to have a Friday afternoon beer at a Brother Chimp Brewing Company in North Aurora, and we enjoyed it very much! The owner of that establishment graciously referred us to another one just up the road in Geneva, so we ventured off to Art History Brewing (649 West State Street).

And I’m happy to report we were quite pleased we visited this excellent establishment.

The proprietor, Tom Rau, started as a homebrewer and took his passion to Munich, studying at the prestigious Siebel/World Brewing Academy. After graduating with a diploma in International Brewing Technology in 2018, Tom planned to open his own brewery, and this year, Art History Brewing became a reality.

Art History Brewing and Taproom

Being quite the beer snob (I, Jeff Ward can attest to that!), I highly recommend this microbrewery. My favorite offering was their Gravitace, a Czech style Lager.

Having lived in Germany in my youth, I can personally attest that this beer compares quite favorably to any of the great pilsners I had in Europe. I truly hope it stays on the menu as I plan on bringing home a “growler” (large jar of beer) every time we visit.

Rest assured, my wife and I will hurry back to Art History to sample their other fantastic beers soon!  Please check them out at www.arthistorybrewing.com and I will post more about them on my Facebook group page, Wright Deck Beers.

Prosit! Art History Brewing!

 

Thank you Bill Wright for masterfully taking over half of today’s column. Are you available for this kind of thing, on a regular basis!

And speaking of a regular basis, Bill suggested I make these local business profile pieces much more of a habit, and I think he’s right. Just don’t tell him I said that because he tends to get a big head. So, if you own a small Kane County business, or you want me to promote your favorite business, just drop me a line here, and I’ll be happy to write ‘em up!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go practice the step, kick, cross, slide swing move for this evening. The last time I accidentally whacked my wife in the side of the head she chased me all the way around the block!

 

 

The First Ward Report – The silence of the (Elgin) Democrats!

I’m hoping Jody Foster will do the remake, too, because when it comes to Illinois, lambs, sheep and Democrats are eminently interchangeable.

Unless you’ve been held captive in City Councilman Terry Gavin’s basement (Don’t ever accept a ride from him!), you already know that, with the Feds hot on Darth Madigan’s trail, Illinois will soon be seeking a brand new Sith Lord.

All former Teflon tendencies aside, ComEd’s complete cooperation with a bribery investigation of epic proportion and o many diehard Democratic dominoes having fallen before him, there’s no way The Speaker’s gonna worm his way out of this one. Perhaps they’ll put Mike and Chicago Alderman Ed Burke in the same cell so they can reminisce about the good old days!

Madigan Bribery

But they don’t call The Speaker “The Velvet Hammer” for nuthin’ because, with the exception of a mild admonition from milquetoast Governor J. B. Pritzker, those Springfield Dems refuse to even say the word “Madigan” for fear he’ll summarily appear in a puff of murky smoke with his jet black light sabre ready to strike.

Confronted with their deafening silence, and somewhat surprised that Illinois Democrats could keep their mouths shut about anything for this long, I reached out to the three Elgin elected officials most closely connected to Speaker Madigan – City Councilman Baldemar Lopez, State Rep Anna Moeller, and State Senator Cristina Castro.

We’ll start with Lopez since his direct involvement in the ComEd scheme means he’s gotta be defecating entire cinderblocks, not just bricks.

It was WBEZ and yours truly who first reported that lobbyist Lopez received sixty grand from the electric utility for doing absolutely nothing. And we know he did absolutely nothing, because when pressed by the press, he couldn’t come up with a single Springfield initiative on the utility’s behalf.

Not only that, but it was Madigan allies who provided Lopez with a heretofore unheard of $25,000 in campaign financing to purchase that city council seat. According to his own paperwork, Elgin’s newest alderman didn’t get a single serious contribution from anyone who actually lives in the city he “serves.”

Folks close to Lopez say, with his lobbying efforts now fully exposed and a new Elgin ethics ordinance still pending, he won’t be seeking a second term. Regardless of his electoral intentions, this investigation is going to make his remaining tenure more than interesting.

The Councilman failed to respond to my particularly polite overtures.

So, I moved on to Elgin State Senator Cristina Castro who, having sponsored the legislation to install our-brand new Springfield joint ethics commission, would most certainly have something to say about this, but she didn’t.

That begs the question, if the Feds chop The Speaker down, and the ethics commission isn’t around to hear it, do they make a sound?

When the commission was first formed, Castro issued lofty proclamations like, “Legislators and lobbyists absolutely must be held to high standards. No one should be able to profit from their public service.”

But ever since Darth Madigan’s recent misfortune, Castro, who regularly profits from her own public service, has become even scarcer than President Trump at a Black Lives Matter rally. Perhaps she’s too busy figuring out a way to amend her bold statement to say, “with the exception of Illinois Speaker Michael Madigan, who gets a free pass.”

The truth is, without The Speaker’s express written consent, Cristina Castro would still be a lowly Kane County Board Member.

As you might imagine, the Senator also refused to respond to my inquiry.

That leaves us with State Rep Anna Moeller, who may have more to fret about than Councilman Lopez does. Word on the savvy Elgin street is, she too, will be swept up in Fed’s broad bribery net, which, when you consider she’s Darth Madigan’s handpicked Padawan, wouldn’t be too terribly surprising.

Moeller was plucked from complete Elgin City Council obscurity to replace disgraced former State Rep Keith Farnham because The Speaker could always count on her “to do the right thing.” And despite her frequent “I’m my own woman” protests and feminist legislative causes, she contributed a whopping 42 grand to The Speakers’ sexual harassment legal defense fund.

We all know Mike Madigan can barely get by on his State Rep salary.

Moeller also failed to respond.

Meanwhile, the citizens of Elgin are being bought and sold by elected officials who damn well know damn well that as long as they issue the appropriate progressive proclamations they’ll be reelected by ridiculously large margins regardless of anything they actually do.

But the truth is, thanks to this trio and more, Illinois pays the 15th highest power rates in the nation, and we all know how Speaker Madigan and his supermajority set the property tax rules, and then he his law firm fights those increases on behalf of their wealthy clients.

It’s a great gig if you can get it!

Am I surprised our trio declined to comment, much less issue a proclamation demanding Madigan’s resignation? Nope! Because they all know they can get away with saying nothing. But this time it’s a wee bit different! The voters may be sheep, but the Feds are wolves, and after salivating over The Speaker’s carcass for decades, they now smell fresh blood.

It will certainly be more than fascinating going forward.

The First Ward Report – FDR was right. Fear sucks!

He may not have put it quite that way, but I never realized just how wise our singular four-term president was until this particular pandemic reared its eminently ugly head. When you consider what the Baby Boomer and Greatest Generation have endured, the fact that we’ve never seen this level of prevailing panic really does say something.

But before we continue, it’s once more, unto the truth breach, my friends, (pray for me!) as we take a quick look at the most recent Illinois numbers. They are quite good:

Date     Cases   % Increase   N Cases   Tested      Prevalence  Deaths    M%

7/8      149,432         0.6             980         32,742       1 in 35.4        36           4.7

7/9      150,450         0.6          1,018         36,180       1 in 35.5        20           4.7

7/10    151,767         0.8          1,317         32,987       1 in 25           25           4.7

7/11    152,962         0.7          1,195         32,345       1 in 27           24           4.6

7/12    153,916         0.6             952         38,894       1 in 40.8        19           4.6

7/13    154,799         0.5             883         30,012       1 in 33.9          6           4.6

7/14    155,506         0.4             707         28,446       1 in 40.2        25           4.6

7/15    156,693         0.7          1,187         37,831       1 in 31.8          8           4.6

7/16    157,950         0.8          1,257         43,006       1 in 34.2        25           4.6

7/17    159,344         0.8          1,394         43,692       1 in 31.3        21           4.5

7/18    160,610         0.8          1,276         46,099       1 in 36.1        18           4.5

7/19    161,575         0.6             965         32,113       1 in 33.2          5           4.5

Since my erudite deputy statisticians have surpassed me in so many regards, let’s be brief!

  • The number of new daily cases continues to be quite flat.
  • The daily case percent increase, once over 100 percent, hasn’t topped 1 percent since June 2nd.
  • Illinois just saw three consecutive 40,000 plus test result days!
  • The prevalence persists in its 1 in 30 to 1 in 40 range.
  • COVID-19 deaths have fallen off the table, so the mortality rate is similarly decreasing.

Better yet, just 320 ICU beds and 132 ventilators are currently dedicated to COVID-19 patients, both numbers nearing their record lows.

Facts Not Fear 3

But those facts are utterly immaterial to the pandemic panic porn prone press and the rabble who fall in love with every indication that sending children back to school means we’re all gonna die the day after.

So, once again! With no regard for my own safety, let’s debunk the media and rabble’s  patently preposterous latest proclamations as swiftly as we can:

1. There is NO Illinois spike

The papers love to shriek that we topped one-thousand cases four times last week, but then they completely fail to mention it was Illinois’ best testing week, ever! And if you test over 40,000 people, you’ll get 1,200 positive results every time. It’s called basic math.

The prevalence, which hasn’t materially changed since June 6, is a far more telling indicator.

That means the latest rabble ruse about how reopening bars and restaurants led to this supposed Illinois “spike” is even more fictitious than President Trump’s claim about Joe Biden wanting to abolish the police.

If you test more people, you will get more positive results! It’s that simple.

 

2. Children rarely die from COVID-19

The rabble’s latest malediction that we’re condemning our children to a swift death if we send them back to school is beyond baseless.

Apparently, these folks refuse to open their blinds, because if they did, they’d bear witness to all manner of pool parties, barbecues, and social gatherings going on right under their neighborhood noses. But that vast lack of youthful social distancing hasn’t resulted in an undue number of age group deaths.

So, why would going to school with masks and social distancing change that dynamic?

According to the CDC, as of June 17, just 151 Americans under the age of 25 have died of the virus. Meanwhile, 643 children under 18 perished from the 2017-18 flu, which begs the question, where was all this concern when those children were dying?

To further put this in perspective, 2,364 16 to 19-year-olds died in motor vehicle accidents in 2017 (CDC) with another 300,000 being treated in emergency rooms. That adds up to nine deaths a day and slew of lifelong injuries, but we don’t ban cars or take the keys away from teenagers, now do we?

 

3. Teachers will NOT die if we reopen schools

Have any of you been to Target, Jewel, Meijer or Walmart lately? I have, and the very same checkers have been magnificently manning those cash registers since the pandemic onset. And when it comes to repeated exposure to a wide variety of the public and pathogens, they beat teachers by a longshot.

The CDC is abundantly clear that 81 percent of U.S. COVID-19 decedents are 65 or older. Now, add the Washington Post’s report that coronavirus sufferers with high risk factors like diabetes and heart disease are 12 times more likely to succumb to the disease, and we know exactly who we need to protect.

Put more simply, age and co-morbidity are the overriding pandemic mortality factors.

Any teacher who finds themselves in either category (or both) shouldn’t leave the house, much less go back to school. But generally healthy teachers will be just fine as they were back in March when cases were doubling daily and all sorts of asymptomatic folks were roaming undetected.

 

4. Children already brought it home to parents and grandparents

Have I mentioned all the pool parties that go indoors as the festivities end? Some of you seem to think kids have been sitting home along all summer, but they haven’t, so parents have already been “exposed.”

But what really frosts my cupcakes is the grandparent concoction! The U.S. Census Bureau notes that just 2.1 percent of white households include grandparents with black and Hispanic families coming in at a mildly higher 8 percent.

So, that can hardly be considered a valid reason to keep schools closed.

Furthermore, those fine folks made it to the grandparent stage, in great part, because they know how to take care of themselves. Does the rabble really think these senior citizens require their risk-avoidance input to survive this?

I don’t think so!

 

5. All diseases can have enduring effects

Does it bother me that some are facing lingering COVID-19 consequences? You bet it does, particularly because I’ve dealt with asthma my entire life. And that scar tissue result is my lungs will never get above 80 percent in my age-group capacity.

But despite an epic asthma epidemic that puts the plague to shame by affecting more than 24 million Americans, every time I write about how backyard firepits can send an asthmatic child to the hospital, those vast rabble hypocrites curse my name for daring to suggest they douse it.

Aside from anecdotal evidence, which isn’t evidence, the jury is still out on whether COVID-19 is worse in the post-recovery regard. But even if is, keeping children home will, in no way, mitigate this issue because they’re not social distancing as it is!

 

So, in light of these facts and some sage counsel from our 32nd President, let’s all calm down, take a deep breath, and try to remember just how destructive unbridled fear can be, particularly to our children.

There! I’m sure you feel much better now!

How curmudgeons regularly save the world!

Since I’m a bit burned out on writing today, I’m running far too many political campaigns, and the rabble has completely lost their minds, I thought I’d run the March 14, 2020 passage from the impending “Diary of a Curmudgeon” today!

We all really could use a laugh right now! Enjoy!

 

March 14, 2020

With the coronavirus officially in Illinois full bloom, I think it’s a good time to let you in on one of the most fascinating, but least well-known of the considerable curmudgeonly traits! We regularly save the rest of your sorry extrovert asses!

Don’t laugh! It’s true!

Somewhere along the way, Mother Nature realized even She couldn’t breed the inherent stupidity out of all of us, so she imbued 15 percent of humanity with the kind of curmudgeonly skillset that allows us to circumvent the disasters that rest of the rabble willingly walking right into.

Put more simply, whenever regular folks insist on engaging in the type of stupid shit that generally gets them killed, we manage to survive. Here’s a perfect example! For the full effect, pretend you’re standing around the office water cooler:

Coworker #1: Did Jim call in sick today?

Coworker #2: I don’t know, but he didn’t come in this morning. He certainly hasn’t been himself lately.

Coworker #3:  Hey Jim! You’re late! (Walking towards Jim)

Coworker #2:  What’s with the fatigues Jim. It isn’t casual Friday!

(This is the point at which the curmudgeons start surreptitiously inching towards

the rear exit.)

Coworker #1:  Why are you carrying that rifle Jim? Is it hunting season already?

I’m sure I don’t have to explain the rest! The extroverts become workplace statistics while the curmudgeons are all safe at home watching the live coverage on TV.

According to Elaine Aron, author of ‘The Highly Sensitive Person,’ (another name for curmudgeons), my eternally wary compatriots and I are an evolutionary adaption intended to preserve and re-propagate the species in the event of a potential extinction threatening catastrophe.

Forman Kiss My Ass

Aron explained the 15 percent curmudgeon gene spans all species, which certainly explains Australian cattle dogs! But I digress.

Citing an experiment in which they set up traps in a large aquarium, she noted that the “normal” fish swam right into the hazards while the 15 percent wouldn’t go near ‘em. Had those traps been lethal, only the curmudgeon fish would’ve survived.

On a grander scale, way back in 70,000 BCE, this planet endured the most devastating volcanic eruption since the dawn of man. “Toba” on the island of Sumatra went off blasting 650 square miles of vaporized rock into the atmosphere eventually covering the globe in six centimetres of ash.

The eruption was two orders of magnitude greater than the 1816 Mount Tambora event that led to the infamous “Year Without a Summer.”

The Toba eruption caused global temperatures to plunge 20-plus degrees destroying the African savannas and  essentially wiping out the food supply. So, for hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of years, the Homo Sapiens’ population dwindled until there were just 40 to 1,000 breeding pairs left.

And I can unequivocally guarantee you that at least one of the individuals in each of those couples was a curmudgeon, likely the husband.

Because while all the extroverts hung around the village square doing strange dances, making human sacrifices, and begging their gods to bring back the sun, the curmudgeons said, “F**k this shit! Let’s go where the food is!” and they did, and they survived!

But now, with almost seven billion extroverts infesting the planet instigating atrocities like reality shows, Crocs, the Kardashians, Tide pod challenges, ‘Baby Shark,’ lip implants, Twitter, and a Trump presidency, we’ve come to deeply regret our pivotal role in saving the species.

Sadly, as those great philosophers The Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose once intoned, “It’s too late to turn back now.”

Apparently, even curmudgeons can make the occasional blunder. Have I mentioned the hoverboard? And I’m not sure I can live with the fact that my ilk is repeatedly responsible for the rest of your survival, but I suppose that’s why we have alcohol and therapists.

So, here’s a thought! Before you go to bed tonight, take the time to thank a curmudgeon for your very existence. We’ll probably be offended that you had the nerve to approach us and remind us of our greatest blunder, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t the right thing to do.

Just don’t get too carried away with it!

We wouldn’t want to have to deal with all the medals and trophies because we’d run out of mantel space which would mean buying a new house and we really hate to move. Then there’d be calls from the President and all manner of world leaders, the expectation of speeches, folks asking for autographs, and the selfies, all of which would add up to a curmudgeon’s first circle of hell.

On second thought, I’ll just assume you’re thanking us and say “You’re welcome” on behalf of curmudgeons everywhere.