Quick Hits – May 4, 2023

Quick Hits – May 4, 2023

Not Illinois business as usual!

As you might imagine, I’ve been following the Tribune’s coverage of the ComEd Four trial with great interest. For reference purposes, that halcyon group consists of:

  • Former ComEd lobbyist and Madigan confidant Michael McClain
  • Former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore
  • Former ComEd executive John Hooker
  • Former ComEd lobbyist Jay Doherty

Much to my semi-surprise, each and every one of them were found guilty on all nine indictment counts including bribery, conspiracy, and falsification of business records. I used the word “semi-surprised” because, considering the word “Illinois” is a Roget’s Thesaurus synonym for “corruption,” I figured they’d slide on some of the charges.

Better yet, it looks like they’re going to do real jailtime, too! Though it won’t likely be the maximum 15 years on the bribery charge because none of the defendants has a criminal record. If I had to hazard a guess I’d say the sentences will run somewhere between the lines of 4 to 5 years each.

But the real shocker is, after an interminable six-week trial with the best defense attorneys ill-gotten gains can buy, Tuesday’s unanimous verdict was handed down after a mere 27 hours of deliberations. All I can say is Zoiks Scoob!

And I said that because we all know, as epic as it was, this trial was nothing more than a preliminary for the main event – the April 1, 2024, proceedings against former Teflon Speaker Darth Madigan. Considering that this jury already heard him on tape, Madigan must be shaking in his oversized political oxford shoes.

Worse yet for the former Velvet Hammer, I’m thinking that, in an effort to minimize their time in the pokey, at least two of our soon-to-be convicts will roll over on the former Speaker faster that a hungry dog promised a Pupperoni treat. My guess is that Parmaggiore will be the first to start singing.

Madigan won’t be slipping the noose on this one folks because whatever remaining power he might wield pales in comparison to the prospect of a prison term.

You really have to give this jury credit for standing their ground in one the biggest scandals in Illinois history – which is a lot to say for a state that specializes in scandals. Juror Rob Gaines told the Tribune:

Nobody’s above the law. Maybe going forward, even the young up-and-coming Springfield lobbyists … they can use this as, I guess, an example. We said to ourselves, (the defendants) had a chance to stop this. They really could. It didn’t have to go this far but it did, because nobody tried to stop it. … They felt like they were untouchable or just (said) ‘to hell with it.’

Despite being neither single nor gay, Mr. Gaines will likely be the recipient of a marriage proposal before the end of business today. Are we sure we’re still in the State of Illinois and not some sort of tornado borne version of Oz?

On Tuesday, we covered the dynamic of small business theft, and though I’ve applied a little humor here, the stark reality here is these four criminals stole exponentially more money from Illinois’ resident than any white-collar criminal could possibly steal in 100 years. And they did it by putting the fix in so ComEd to reap billions of dollars through favorable Springfield rulings.

But this is one time when Bob Dylan’s lyrical admonition, “Steal a little and they throw you in jail. Steal a lot and they make you King,” did not come to pass – in Illinois, no less.

I could really get used to this.


On a lighter note…

I want to be let alone! – Greta Garbo, the patron saint of introverts and curmudgeons everywhere

Here we go again! As if those Pixar reprobates weren’t bad enough already, the Surgeon General had to get in on the act. Yes! Dr. Vivek Murthy just declared current research indicates adult loneliness poses the same health risks as smoking a dozen cigarettes a day, increasing the risk of an early death by 30 percent.

According to Murthy, it’s the newest public health epidemic with about 50 percent of American adults admitting they’ve had to contend with loneliness. And COVID-19 certainly didn’t help those matters any.

Dr. Murthy also noted the irony that social media only serves to further isolate these lonely folks, adding there’s no substitute for direct human contact.

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy

So, why is my underwear in a bundle over this pronouncement? Because I’m a dyed-in-the-wool introvert/curmudgeon who’s always enjoyed being alone despite the best efforts of friends and family who fervently believe I need to be “fixed.”

As I asserted in my soon-to-be bestselling book, Diary of a Curmudgeon, it’s the whole Pixar theory that we’re cranky old single or widowed men, who, but for the youthful wisdom and abundant love of an ebullient Cub Scout, would persist in living lives of not-so-quiet desperation as we wait to be rescued from the kind of self-inflicted inner torment of which we were utterly unaware.

No! No! No! Introverts make up a third of the U.S. population, and with some exceptions, we PREFER being alone. Extroverts recharge themselves through social interaction while the introvert rejuvenation process requires solitude.

I know what you’re thinking! “Jeff Ward! If you’re an introvert then I’m flippin’ Mother Teresa!”

No! It’s true. Through dysfunctional parents who forced me to make friends to get out of the house and becoming an investigative journalist, I’m one of those rare introverts who can play the extrovert – for a while. After a few hours of that effort, just like the classic comic book ironman, I have to retire to my lab (home office) to recharge.

In fact, I’ve adjusted my entire life so I get at least six hours of solitude each weekday. The vast irony of the plague was it almost killed me because I was never alone. I’m not quite sure how I survived those lockdowns without embarking on an epic homicidal spree.

Furthermore, like most introverts, I hate crowds, bars, and noisy restaurants, which makes propositions like amusement parks, Lollapalooza, and Rush Street hell on earth equivalents. You couldn’t pay me to go to Disneyland. That said, I don’t mind concerts, Cubs games, and comedy shows where everyone’s attention is focused on the stage or the batter.

The problem is, every time some official official issues the “loneliness is scourge” proclamation, introverts have to go into hiding. It’s either that or endure well-intentioned friends who will try to fix us up with their sister, invite us to parties, or worse yet, ask us to go on a cruise. It’s a truly terrifying prospect!

All kidding aside, the Surgeon General is right. There are some seriously lonely people out there, particularly senior citizens, who could use a couple of caring souls to reach out to them every now and then. But my greater point is a healthy minority of us prefer silence, so if we don’t seem to be suffering, we’d like to politely ask the extrovert horde to relent in this regard.

Some of us really do prefer being alone.

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