We were the champions, my friends

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Photo: AP
Barring a series-delaying earthquake, the Chicago Cubs are about to become “former World Series Champions.”

The Cubs’ reign will end the moment the last out of the seventh game of the 2017 World Series is recorded.

That’s sports. You try to win every year. If you actually manage to win it all, you revel in the victory for a relatively short time, then try to do it again.

No matter how many titles you won, those titles are still in the past.

You can’t live in the past.

Sure, I will always fondly remember the 2016 Cubs. I’ll never forget how they built on the success of the 2015 team, which arrived in the post season at least a year earlier than expected and won a divisional series before falling to the Mets in the NLCS.

They came into 2016 with a target on their back and with players on teams with more recent success suggesting expectations would crush the young Cubs.

“It’s unchartered territory, at least for me,’’ Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter said. “Since I’ve been here, we’ve always been the team to beat. It’s been our division. People are always coming to get us.

“Now, everybody’s real high on the Cubs. We get that. But it will be interesting to see how the Cubs handle that expectation.

As it turned out, they handled it real well.

But none of that mattered in 2017. The Cubs, with most of the same players, were good enough to win their division but not good enough to beat the Dodgers for the pennant.

While the 2016 championship reign is now a part of history, all Cubs fans can enjoy the fact that the idiotic talk about goats and curses is over forever (just don’t look too closely at the Championship Ring).

Decades ago, a fan of a team known for wearing red promised me “The Cubs will never win in your lifetime,” 

Knowing he’s had a real shitty year makes me smile. 

But we’re looking forward. The Cubs reign is over until the next championship. 

Which will be every bit as glorious as the last one.

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McBarronBlog Bonus

In 1987, with Harry Carey recovering from a stroke, lifelong fan Bill Murray did color for an entire tv broadcast. It was classic.

Born to be reviled

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The kickoff of Governor Rauner’s reelection campaign was unusual.

Not because his Harley was the focus of his new campaign video; that’s been done tons of times by politicians who want to claim “man (or woman) of the people” status.

It wasn’t because his video contains an attack on Speaker Michael Madigan.  Rauner began attacking Madigan as a candidate and  continued to do on an almost daily basis.

No, it was unusual because an incumbent seeking reelection usually campaigns on accomplishments. “You’re gonna get more of that good stuff I gave you the last time” is what you expect from someone seeking to be returned to office.

Unfortunately, that’s where Bruce Rauner comes up way short.

Governor Rauner’s key accomplishments so far include a budget stalemate that lasted more than two years, the passage, over his veto, of a much-needed tax increase and the signing of an education funding bill he initially opposed.

Phil Kadner sees the hypocrisy…

That evil Michael Madigan fellow, he actually rescued the state financially by signing off on an income tax increase. Rauner couldn’t stop that, but he’s willing to take credit for the financial windfall, while ripping Madigan.

Even before his re-election video aired, he was bragging in a TV commercial about increasing the state’s education funding to record levels. That wouldn’t have been possible without that income tax hike.

Rauner doesn’t expect people to make the connection.

He’s going to claim he helped the school kids of this state by signing off on a historic school funding reform bill and is Mr. Public Education.

Every politician in Illinois uses the school kids of this state like toilet paper, so Rauner isn’t unique. He’s just the latest in a long line of Democrats and Republicans who have misled voters.

“I choose to fight” is the new Rauner rallying cry.

Rauner also promised to “fight” the first time he ran. It hasn’t worked out because:

He’s not good at fighting,

He’s fighting for the wrong things,

He’s fighting for (and against) the wrong people.

Riding a Harley doesn’t make you a regular guy.

Dramatically removing your sunglasses doesn’t make you a fighter.

Betting $65 million that voters will develop mass amnesia is not a winning strategy.

I hope.

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Tribune report on Rauner reelection campaign

Scott Stantis cartoon

Video of what should have happened when the governor took off his sunglasses

Add Illinois Constitution to “Not respected by Gov. Rauner” list

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Our governor has a problem and he wants Congress to fix it for him.

Bruce Rauner’s problem is that he is deeply unpopular with Illinois voters.

The poll was conducted by Normington Petts and the findings were outlined in a memo released by the DGA, which show just 34 percent of likely Illinois voters approve of Rauner’s job performance while 63 percent disapprove.

Rauner, who spent most of the summer making a series of highly embarrassing hiring decisions, has decided he needs to do something to improve his numbers. So, he’s going after public employee pensions. Again.

You certainly remember that the Illinois Supreme Court sided with the public employee unions in 2015, ruling the Illinois Constitution means what it says.

"Membership in any pension or retirement system of the
State ....shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, 
the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired."

That seems clear, unless you are a union-hating midwestern governor.

In that case, you might latch on to a scheme promoted by the conservative Manhattan Institute which would have Congress allow the General Assembly to ignore the Illinois Constitution if pensions are placing a financial hardship on the state.

Yes, owing to the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, Congress does have the authority to override the pension protection clause of the Illinois Constitution — the wording that says participation in a public pension system is “an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.” That is, Congress can empower the Illinois legislature to make the changes to state and municipal pensions that the Illinois Supreme Court has blocked.

And yes, pensions to current and future retirees could be affected, depending on how the state legislature wants to reform the system.

The governor shared this big idea with business people recently…

The governor thinks Congress can release the state from that restriction by passing a law that would give states permission to come up with cost-saving changes to their pension programs. The option would be available to states only after they had established that spending money on workers’ retirement plans is hampering other essential services. 

After conducting hearings, a state would have to propose its changes to a court, which would hear arguments from people who would be affected. Options could include reducing benefits provided under a pension plan, changing the way benefits are calculated or limiting the number of pensions a person can collect.

This line of reasoning ignores something the Illinois Supreme Court, in 2015, did not; the state’s financial problems are self-inflicted and addressable. 

The justices went so far as to fault lawmakers for failing to keep in place a 2011 temporary income tax hike that boosted the personal tax rate to 5 percent. At the start of the year, the tax increase automatically phased down to 3.75 percent for individuals, costing the state $4 billion in annual revenue. Much of the tax increase was used to make the state’s share of pension payments during those four years.

“The General Assembly could also have sought additional tax revenue. While it did pass a temporary income tax increase, it allowed the increased rate to lapse to a lower rate even as pension funding was being debated and litigated,” Karmeier wrote.

The governor expressed hope the measure allowing Congress to tear up the state Constitution could be rolled into tax reform legislation being discussed in Washington.

Is that realistic? Perhaps not. But as the Tribune story hints, maybe that’s not the point.

Even if the appeal to the federal government goes nowhere, it allows Rauner to tell voters he has a plan for dealing with the pension problem.

While the prospects for this scheme to move forward are far from clear, there are some  things of which all Illinoisans can be certain:

The governor doesn’t respect the Illinois Supreme Court.

The governor doesn’t respect the Illinois Constitution.

The governor doesn’t respect working people, especially those who belong to unions.

Hold that thought. The election is less than 13 months away.

 

Goodbye to a good boy

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Since they were old enough to talk, our children had pleaded for a dog. Jeanne and I resisted. The fact our house on Chicago’s north side had a yard the size of a large postage-stamp, provided a convenient excuse:

“It wouldn’t be fair to the dog if he couldn’t run around a yard.”

When I got a promotion at work, we had to move to Springfield, where we bought a house with a backyard for which a mower would be required.

We were out of excuses.

The need for a low-dander dog (allergies) led us to choose a Bichon-Poodle. We located one in a pet shop in Peoria.

The kids picked the puppy they wanted while I was at work. I got to bring him home and took responsibility for naming him. In homage to Buster Keaton, the puppy became Buster and he was a joy from Day One.

He loved to chase the kids. They loved to chase him. It was sometimes hard to tell who was chasing who.

Buster quickly became a cherished member of our family, something Jeanne and I didn’t expect.

Anne with Buster 008

Buster was silly, goofy and resilient.

He was mauled by an akita outside our house a few months after coming to live with us. He sustained serious injuries, but recovered.

A few years after his arrival, he started losing his eyesight. Buster learned to cope with total blindness.

Since he couldn’t see where he was going, he would want to be carried through unfamiliar areas. We got used to that and rationalized that walking Buster helped us increase our upper body strength.

Buster’s favorite thing was just being on the couch with his family.

Buster and Hugh relax

buster, hugh,, jeanne, anne and bridget

From the beginning, Buster understood the person called “Mom” seemed to know where the food was kept. Through the years he was always at her side.

JC on balc

When the kids moved on to college, Buster remained.

As empty nesters, we relocated to a condo in Chicago. Buster adjusted to the new surroundings. At his age, he no longer needed a big yard anyway.

Things seemed pretty good until just a few weeks ago, when he started having breathing problems. As it turned out, Buster’s lungs were failing.

The time between the terminal diagnosis and Buster’s final sleep was just a few hours. It was unfair, but only to us. Buster didn’t deserve to suffer. He left us on his 14th birthday.

Buster’s gone. Our hearts are so sad.

We will recover, but a family only gets one “first dog.”

We will never forget you, Buster. Thank you for 14 sweet, hilarious years.

You were a good boy.

 

 

 

 

 

PR Rule 1: The proper response to receiving a gift is ‘Thank you’

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The world is in a dither over a school librarian’s decision to return a gift Melina Trump gave to a public school’s library.

One of Melania Trump‘s favorite books is Dr. Seuss’s “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!,” which she read with her son, Barron, “over and over” when he was younger.

The first lady, who is increasingly carving out a public profile for herself, chose the classic children’s book and nine other Dr. Seuss titles to send to an elementary school in Cambridge, Mass., in celebration of “National Read a Book Day.”

The First Lady’s gifting of books to a school is part of a public relations (PR) campaign intended to create a positive image for Ms. Trump. Literacy has been an issue embraced by many of Ms Trump’s predecessors because it is not considered controversial.

Usually.

But a librarian at Cambridgeport School refused to accept the gift, criticizing Trump administration education policies and images in the books.

Librarian Liz Phipps Soeiro’s letter explaining why the books are being returned to Ms Trump reads in part:

So, my school doesn’t have a NEED for these books. And then there’s the matter of the books themselves. You may not be aware of this, but Dr. Seuss is a bit of a cliché, a tired and worn ambassador for children’s literature. As First Lady of the United States, you have an incredible platform with world-class resources at your fingertips. Just down the street you have access to a phenomenal children’s librarian: Dr. Carla Hayden, the current Librarian of Congress. I have no doubt Dr. Hayden would have given you some stellar recommendations.

Another fact that many people are unaware of is that Dr. Seuss’s illustrations are steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes. 

In addition to pointing out her well-resourced school has no need for the books, Soeiro correctly mentions that, in cities across the nation, school libraries are being closed and librarians are being laid off, a situation that is bad for children and presents yet another impediment to learning.

Her letter included whacks at the US Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, and the over-emphasis on testing, which has existed for decades.

Those are great points. Devos is a disgrace and over-testing is stressing out students while stealing time from other subjects that benefit the whole child such as physical education and the arts.

Nevertheless, responding to a gift with with a sarcastic rejection letter is simply bad, manners, no matter that the gift itself was an effort to generate positive publicity.

No doubt Soeiro believed she was advocating for public education. But her letter came across as smug, elitist and insulting to everyone who grew up reading Dr. Seuss and/or reading the Seuss books to their children.

And that’s almost everyone.

Dr. Seuss is not beyond criticism. As a commercial artist in the 1920s and 30s, he used disgraceful racist caricatures in his work.

It was after WW2 that Ted Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) became the best selling children’s author, coming to be held in such high esteem that his birthday has, for more than a decade, been celebrated at Read Across America events nationwide. These public relations events are sponsored by the National Education Association and often involve high profile political figures.

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Given Seuss’s past association with racist imagery, the books are being re-assessed. With the long contract with the Seuss estate due to expire next year, NEA is transitioning from a Seuss-specific reading program to a new emphasis on “diverse books.”

Raising questions about Seuss’ work is reasonable. But we are a long way from a mainstream consensus that the books are inappropriate for children. They remain extremely popular.

Meanwhile, instead of having a conversation about serious education issues raised by Soeiro, today’s national discussion is about a librarian’s bad manners.

That wasn’t the result Soeiro was aiming for. Her failed attempt to appropriate the First Lady’s PR tactic in order to advance a positive public education message reminds us of the truth of what mother always said,

“When someone gives you a gift, accept it graciously and say “Thank you.”

Mother could have added, “If you respond to a gift with a sarcastic rejection letter:

Many people will think you are a jerk.

Most people will think the person to whom you wrote the letter is a victim.

No one will be talking about issues you consider far more important than gift giving.”

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McBarronBlog Bonus:

NEA’s Read Across America

Is The Cat In The Hat racist?

School Libraries – More Important Than Ever

Review: Battle of the Sexes

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Nominally, Battle of the Sexes is about the 1973 tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King, which grabbed the world’s attention and brought to mainstream public discussion tensions between men and women that had been bubbling beneath the surface since…forever.
But the story of what took place just before and during the famous tennis exhibition  provides much of the entertainment in the well-paced film:  TV coverage of women’s sports was marked by blatant sexism and none more than tennis, which treated women as second class citizens though they sold as many tournament tickets as the men.
As the film shows, discrimination (purses for men were eight times those for women) caused King to help launch a competing women’s tour, despite strong opposition by the men running pro tennis at the time.
While all that was playing out, King, tennis’ biggest female star, was experiencing a sexual awakening; the married 29-year old found herself falling in love with her female hairdresser.
That’s enough pressure for anyone. But then Riggs came forward with the “Battle of the Sexes” idea.
Emma Stone and Steve Carell, are well cast. Stone captures King, the tough as nails competitor in a man’s world, coming to grips with something the (until now) always-focused-on-tennis star discovers she cannot control.

Carell makes Riggs, whose public persona was that of a clownish misogynist, a somewhat likable figure. We see the one-time tennis prodigy (he was the 1939 Wimbledon champion) failing to adjust to life as a responsible adult. At age 55, that’s a problem. Riggs hatched the idea for a televised “Battle of the Sexes” as an answer to his mid-life crisis.

Riggs vs King helped grow interest in women’s tennis and, as a result, helped change the disparity between what men and woman pros were paid.
In 1973, the prize for Wimbledon’s men’s singles champion was £5,000. The women’s champion received £3,000. This year, men’s singles champion Roger Federer received £2.2 million.  So did women’s champion Garbiñe Muguruza.
That’s progress in more ways than one.
King vs Riggs was also a part of the beginning of moving toward a world where women began to get some of the respect they deserve.
Full sexual equality remains America’s destination, but Battle of the Sexes spotlights a moment when more people than ever began questioning what they’d always been told about the roles, the intelligence and the toughness of women.

Recommended.

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McBarronBlog Bonus:

Why is David Brooks libeling Abbie Hoffman?

Abbie

Just as I reject the notion that Donald Trump is a media genius pursuing a plan designed to accomplish goals for Americans not named Trump, I can’t accept the idea that David Brooks is taken seriously. By anyone.

The inexplicably popular New York Times columnist specializes in false equivalencies. As pointed out in 2011 in the Huffington Post:

Call it Brooks’s Law of Political Equivalency: For any Republican/conservative/right-wing culpability, there is an equal and opposite Democratic/liberal/left-wing culpability: If the Republicans are beset by extremism and fanaticism, then the Democrats are beset by extremism and fanaticism. If the Republicans display intransigence, the Democrats display intransigence. 

If you manage to finish a typical Brooks column you will eventually get to his point, which is usually along the lines of, “…what fools these mortals be.”

That’s when a Brooks reader looks up from the screen and realizes, once again, he’s been played for a chump.

Brooks’ latest is a classic case of false equivalence: The Abbie Hoffman of the Right: Donald Trump

(Trump) was not elected to be a legislative president. He never showed any real interest in policy during the campaign. He was elected to be a cultural president. He was elected to shred the dominant American culture and to give voice to those who felt voiceless in that culture. He’s doing that every day.

Is he really? The campaign I recall had Trump claiming he was going to get things done. He was going to build a wall, repeal Obamacare, pass tax reform.

He famously said, “I’m the only one who can fix our problems,” to great applause.

Not only has none of what Trump promised happened, but since Election Day, he’s been on multiple sides of his key issues: no one is sure where he stands on “Dreamers,” healthcare, foreign policy, etc.

So how is he like Abbie Hoffman? According to Brooks…

So in the late 1960s along came a group of provocateurs like Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and the rest of the counterculture to upend the Protestant establishment. People like Hoffman were buffoons, but also masters of political theater.

Hoffman, who graduated with a degree in psychology from Brandeis University, used humor to connect with people and deliver his antiwar message. Back to Brooks…

They never attracted majority support for their antics, but they didn’t have to. All they had to do was provoke, offend the crew-cut crowd, generate outrage and set off a cycle that ripped apart the cultural consensus.

The “cultural consensus” Hoffman and his cohorts helped rip apart was the public support for the Vietnam War. Hoffman represented a small but highly visible faction of a large anti-war movement that was deeply committed to reminding Americans a war was being pursued for which there was no reasonable explanation.

The great journalist Mike Royko covered Hoffman and the Chicago 7 trial and wrote a column after Hoffman’s 1989 death called, Abbie Hoffman really an OK guy (which appears in Mike Royko: The Chicago Tribune Collection 1984-1997).

Royko wrote of Hoffman,

Depending on your views of the Vietnam war, he was either a good guy or a bad guy. If you think the war was just and winnable, he was a bad guy. If you thought the war was a monumental and tragic mistake, he was a good guy.

But like millions of other Americans…Hoffman thought the war was wrong. So he decided to do something more than write his congressman.

Abbie Hoffman used satire and street theater tactics to draw attention to the anti-war movement. He helped alter the public discussion of the war, which a complacent America had tried to ignore until it grew to the point that millions died, including more than 58,000 American soldiers.

To what degree Abbie Hoffman and his faction impacted the decision to finally end the war is debatable. But there is no doubt Nixon pulled the plug sooner than he wanted because the antiwar movement had raised awareness and reduced support for the war among mainstream Americans.

The anti-war movement saved American lives. Abbie Hoffman was part of that. He didn’t lead the largest faction, but he played a role. And he willingly took the lumps that come with being a visible, accessible member of a movement in conflict with the mainstream.

When Hoffman made people laugh, which was often, it was because he wanted them to laugh. He also wanted them to think.

People laughed with him, not at him.

So, you see, David Brooks, Donald Trump is nothing like Abbie Hoffman.

The Donald Trump’s presidency is all about one thing: Donald Trump’s pursuit of public attention.

Your false equivalency demeans and libels Abbie Hoffman, from whom Donald Trump could learn much about patriotism and working for the greater good.

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McBarronBlog Bonus:
Abbie Hoffman’s shirt once went on trial

Abbie Hoffman: Badass