TO HELL IN HANDBASKET . . . Bad news day, a la HV Kaltenborn on radio in 30s & 40s, in Chi Trib for Sunday 8/17. On Page1:

* "Power grid primed to fail: Nips, tucks won't fix it anymore [sic], experts say"

* "As Iraqis die, hate for U.S. spreads: Families left bitter by relatives' death" (by the inimitable Gary Marx, late of Havana)

* "Job losses hit blacks hard: Many 'feel frozen out of work world'" (always a good angle here: how hard blacks have it)

MARXMAN STRIKES AGAIN . . . "As Iraqis die" highlights the day's gloom-and-doom coverage. It features gut-wrenching (colorful) accounts by "witnesses" of noncombatants' death by American gunfire: "Bullets ripped . . . She slumped . . . eyes frozen . . . baby slipped from her arms. . . . hit in the stomach."

"The tragedy" in question got only five paragraphs in an official American statement. It was "one of [unspecified] dozens" of such incidents, which "can turn" Iraqi friends into "bitter enemies." The "mounting casualty toll" creates "a new circle" of Iraqis who learn "to revile [American] soldiers who came to liberate them."

Notice "came to liberate" and its implication of failure. Can the writer not say "liberated"? [No, it would be very gauche at the press club.] Notice also that my "American" is in brackets, because it's not used -- he writes "U.S.," never American, lest we confuse our government or military with ourselves.

Note also the delicious quotes, with APPEALING picture of good-looking father with two lovely kids left without their mother, one of two shooting victims of misdirected American fire.

An American officer is quoted in matter-of-fact terms that in no way compete with the vivid, even purpled, prose of this man Marx, of which there is more more more, here not included for reasons of time.

(He "strikes again" is in reference to his 9/18/02 utterly tendentious, not to say misleading story-attack on Ken Paterson as horseman riding the length of Cuba, here discussed in November.)

ANOTHER DAY, OTHER BAD NEWS . . . Meanwhile, on Sunday 8/24/03, we have Chi Trib's Perspective section demonstrating the striking ecumenism of the editors, who have decided that one side to a story is enough for one Sunday.

SIDE ONE: RIGHTS VIOLATED . . . We have "DON'T TREAD ON ME: Is the war on terror really a war on rights?" by DePaul U.'s M. Cherif Bassiouni, whom The Trib trundles out regularly to supply the Arab and Palestinian position. His lead is a stunner: "The Declaration of Independence heralded the values of freedom, justice and equality in a country whose government was accountable to the people." There are a lot of people who didn't know or never thought about that, are there not?

Memorable quote, for flavor: "The nation has never before seen a more systematic erosion of civil rights than after 9/11. This has taken the form of undermining the legal system, coupled with egregious governmental abuses of power, all in the name of combating terrorism."

SIDE ONE AGAIN: THIS WAR BAD, BAD . . . We have "PRE-EMPTIVE WAR: A STATUS REPORT: After striking first...... the questions multiply in Iraq: When you cut off one head, do two sprout in its place?" by the inimitable, rabidly leftist R.C. Longworth. The questions do not multiply. There are no questions. R.C.L. has all the answers.

He quotes Madeleine Albright respectfully about how Clinton never did this sort of thing: "Every president 'has quietly held in reserve' this possibility of 'anticipatory self-defense.' But never before has it been brought front and center and turned into the basis of policy."

He writes: "The result [of the Iraq war] is a murderous chaos. The war destroyed not just a regime but also a society, however repressive. In its place, it created a quagmire without water, electricity or the other basics of life, an utterly lawless land, populated by increasingly terrified and humiliated Iraqis, and policed by frightened [sic] American troops, tragically untrained for their task and comprehending neither the language nor the culture of the country they now rule."

He's a "senior correspondent," you know, not a columnist. Egad, a pamphleteer in reporter's clothes!

SIDE ONE YET AGAIN: BUZZ, BUZZ . . . We have "KARMA AND OTHER CONSEQUENCES: Has America stirred up a hornet's nest of hate?" by Kenneth R. Crossman, an essayist and a fellow in infant mental health [sic] at The University of Chicago," which opens with: "The Bush administration's policy of preemption is not just bad karma, it isn't wise."

This is quite a naturalist's meditative piece, about hornets! It is pure creative writing from the Izaak Walton School of Thought, except that Izaak did not extrapolate from fish to nations. Give me Darwin and the voyage of the Beagle any day. But in arguing "preventive war," any stick should do it.

YET AGAIN: DAMN THE BARRIERS, FULL SPEED . . . We have "THE STATE OF CIVILIZATION: Does Chicago's architecture betray a fortress mentality?" by a DePaul U. ESL teacher who does not like the post-9/11 barricades (they "were supposed to provide safety even if they were an eyesore"), vs. the rest of us who adore them, and apparently thinks we overreact to terrorist possilities. These barricades remind her "of war and the terrorists of Sept. 11 and suicide bombers." Fancy that!

What's more, her freshman history teacher's words "ring in [her] ears" -- you are what you build or something close to that -- several times in this incredibly vapid, turgid essay. Once such barriers were called moats and walls. "Today we call [them] security measures [damn our eyes!]. Security to protect our freedom [half sentence, but whatthehell]. Yet I don't feel free." Yet you don't know how to write either. We all wish it was your freshman writing teacher whose words ring in your ears.

ONE-NOTE ABANDONED: RANSOMING CAPTIVES . . . There is also a piece by an Atlanta writer who talks sense about not paying ransom to Islamic (or other) hostage-takers.

ABANDONED AGAIN: JOBS GOING, GOING . . . Finally, there is a pretty long page 3 column -- I am tempted to call it filler -- arguing cogently and concisely against free trade, "U.S. future needs blue-collar might: So, who cares if manufacturing falters or moves abroad? Americans should, because it is imperative for innovation, national defense and jobs," by the president and CEO of Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI Inc [owned by Tribune Company?] or more likely by HIS senior writer.

In fact Chicago's own Bill Daley, now in the telephone business, might have thought twice about armtwisting and cajoling for NAFTA (for Cliton, remember? when Ross Perot heard that sucking sound of jobs going south) if he had read it. On the other hand, can we imagine Bill changing tack because of a good argument?

Jim Bowman
Oak Park, IL
Fax: 708 575-5321



See here -- http://www.suntimes.com/output/news/cst-nws-clout08.html -- for the ever-reliable Fran Spielman's (Sun-Times, 8/8) account of City Hall insider with "fat" no-bid consulting contract. He is Steve Schlickman "a former CTA and RTA official who ran the now-defunct downtown circulator project that spent $59 million of taxpayers funds, but never laid a rail or turned a single shovel of dirt."

What's noteworthy about this story, besides its political significance, is how it supplies pertinent background details, telling us why the story is important without editorializing. It helps, of course, to be familiar with Spielman's reporting and writing, which is never ironic or cute and thus does not trivialize its subject matter. She does, therefore, trade on her (good) reputation, which is true of any writer.


Now is the time for all good men and women to read newspapers with full understanding of their unique virtues and faults, with special attention to Chicago's. More more more . . .