Beware what they imply

This ain’t from a Chicago newspaper, and it’s a longer excerpt than I usually fall prey to, but it’s quite good about the importance of party affiliation as way to cut through “superficial campaign positioning” when judging national security issues, and it’s beautiful in identifying B. Obama as our decade’s Jimmy Carter:

Hillary has been posing as a foreign policy moderate for some time now.  Obama is apparently as left as left can be, yet he covers this stance with soothing moderate rhetoric.  In a way, Obama is the new Carter.  Carter won, despite his relative obscurity and inexperience, because he was the breath of fresh air needed by a country exhausted by Watergate.  Carter’s religious convictions and seeming moderation were emotional balm for a traumatized nation.  It never occurred to anyone that Carter’s foreign policy might make the first serious break from America’s Cold War toughness.  Best keep all this in mind when listening to Clinton and Obama.  They’ll jump through campaign hoops to prove their toughness.  But in the end, we’ll get a Jimmy Carter foreign policy from either one of them.

Thus Stanley Kurtz in “NRO Corner.”


Columnist on wry

Neil Steinberg’s wife heard him on the radio.

"You sounded good -- very cheerful," she said.

"I was just feigning cheerfulness," I admitted.

"Well, feign it when you get home, too," she said.

It works for me, she said.


From his parents do we know him?

Clarence Page asks if we know Obama’s middle name, gives it, says now we know.  OK, but do we know he’s the son of two Ph.D.’s?  Now we do.  The Hussein middle name is easily dismissed.  So what?  Lots of people have it.  But two Ph.D.’s for parents?  Not only rare but instantly controversial.  Do we really want so academically infected a person to rule us? 

Besides, his hot-seller book is brainless, to go by Dick Morris’s account of it:

In reading Senator Barack Obama’s #1 bestseller, The Audacity of Hope, one begins to wonder whether he is another cynical politician or just a helplessly naïve neophyte.

Morris, a Clinton specialist from a ‘way back, excerpts with alarming aim:

Sometimes he sounds downright juvenile. Consider this missive, which opens chapter five: “One thing about being a U.S. Senator - you fly a lot.” Brilliant! It gets worse: “Most of the time I fly … in coach, hoping for an aisle or window seat” (But not always.) “ … there are times when … I fly on a private jet.” Then, “the flying experience is a good deal different.” Wow.

Obama’s first book got a rave from the Time Mag cover-story writer-cum-sycophant — it “may be the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician.”  Give him credit for the “may be.”  Otherwise, just gasp.

Or accept it.  In the Time writer’s account, Obama does come to life.  Ditto in lawyer-novelist Scott Turow’s Salon story.  The more recent book is the one that made him the big money, however.  And helped his candidacy.  Bad books do that.  He has all that education to live down.  The American people get suspicious.  Ever since Woodie Wilson the Princeton president. 

Can we imagine ourselves electing another in his image?  Dems give us Gore and Kerry, Repubs give us GW, whom I vastly prefer.  But the son of two Ph.D.’s?  That’s the thing to learn about the Big O.  See how that flies once he’s on the hustings full-time.


Trouble, I got trouble

It troubles me that a certain sentiment “troubles” Dawn Turner Trice in today’s Chi Trib.  Her issue is Bill Cosby talking up hard work and perseverance to school parents when he recently settled a sexual harrassment suit.  She is troubled by people’s paying it no attention because they like Cosby’s message.

She’s come a long way since January, 2001, when she gave considerable ink to a similar view about Rev. Jesse Jackson, exposed as a philanderer and father of an illegitimate child.  Rev. J. had “taken a jump [actually several, over many months] and left a package,” realizing concerns voiced by an A.M.E. pastor in Iowa City about a handsome visitor who was giving his pretty daughters some attention in the summer of ‘63.

Not a problem, according to one of Trice’s sources in a Tribune piece.

"You deal with this the same way you deal with Bill Clinton," [Lorn Foster, an American politics professor at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif.] said. "You teach fallibility."

In that respect, Foster said, almost every newsmaker in the 20th Century has had indiscretions and public failings.

"Really, if you use that criteria for not teaching Jackson . . .  how do you teach Franklin Delano Roosevelt? How do you teach JFK?" Foster said.

Trice was not troubled by this, but she is by Cosby-excusing.  Almost six years have elapsed, and that may be why.  Who knows?  In any case, my being troubled at her being troubled has less to do with Cosby vs. Jackson — middle-class values vs. victimhood in rebellion — than with a writer trying to disguise her feelings.

You can condemn someone faintly but tellingly.  That is, you can be troubled when you’re actually pissed off, or should be, based on the data you present.  In which case as a writer, you’re in trouble.


Later, from Nancy from Lake Bluff:

Where was Dawn Turner Trice during all of Bill Clinton's transgressions?  I suppose she agreed with what Clinton stood for, so all else was forgiven.
She was confusing as hell about Clinton and other private-lives revelations in June, 2004, when she felt “conflicted” about what matters, picking and choosing as to what would make her vote this or that way.  This girl drives you nuts with her self-analysis, telling us how she feels all the time.  What is this, a sleepover confab or a newspaper column?
Otherwise, nothing on the record.


In the tank

Let’s hear it for Gurnee neighbors of Chi Bears DT Tank Johnson for calling the cops about his pit bulls, pot smoking, and gunfire.  Ditto for Gurnee and other N. Suburban cops who knocked down his front door to get the loaded guns, etc. and rescue the two kids from accidentally getting plugged. 

Bad cess to Tank for failing to adapt to new surroundings, i.e. middle-class, law-abiding, orderly behavior as practiced in crispy-clean ‘burb as opposed to gun-totin’ SW U.S., where he came from and pot-smoking friends of which he has too many.

This is the issue here, not repressive gun or drug laws, which often deserve to be the issue.  Adapting to surroundings is the thing: when you move into a neighborhood where people’s accepted ways of doing things are new to you, study these ways and adapt, unless you reject them as incompatible with your mores and moral code.  In that case, either get out or hunker down for a long-haul squabble if not fight to the death. 

Ah, but nobody thinks Tank Johnson was making a statement for gun and drug law reform.  Nobody.  He was just sloppy about running his own household, including, by the way, his not being married to the mother of the two little kids, which says something about his casual approach to a life of orderly behavior. 

He is not a globe-trotting Hollywood star spouting geopolitical opinion and ignoring protocol which most have to undergo in adopting foreign-born kids.  Nothing so vulgar.  He is nothing but a slob with bad habits who doesn’t know how to live — not in Gurnee, anyhow, which he is in process of discovering.  Pray for Tank’s enlightenment in the matter.


Disputed OP condo development . . .

. . . in 400 block of N. Maple has townhouses next door, on NW corner, at Superior. Across the street is a house garishly festooned with anti-war messages, including a banner in German stretching its width. This is Oak Park’s best-known incipient development because it’s too big for neighbors’ taste and they have been complaining and the village board has been discussing.

If the developer were to trade it for the also much-discussed Colt Building on Lake Street a few blocks away, as he is reported in Wed Journal to have said he might, his fame would go off the charts for at least 15 minutes, probably 15 months until he had completed transformation of the Colt into lavish condos with shooting gallery on first floor — just kidding, all you literalists out there.

Do those anti-war signs and banner violate an ordinance somewhere, somehow, by the way? Remember the Greek restaurateur who was given a hard time because he ran Greek letters across his garish awning on OP Ave. across from the Green Line stop? Commercial establishment, yes, but do we want garish signs on residential blocks? Especially one where neighbors have made such a case against a new building with too many units? I don’t know the answer, as one or other trustee has said he doesn’t know the answer to other, less pertinent, conundrums.

As for Trustee M., one who has said he does not know answers, for him I have some characteristically good advice: Go easy on your trademark frontal attack at board meetings or you lose your shock appeal. Getting in the face of the mild-mannered board president, for instant, suffers from the same law of diminishing returns that devalues currency. From respect born of discomfort, other trustees’ response could degenerate to there-he-goes-again. It’s a problem.

As it is for bloggers, who on the formality scale of one to ten come to two or three.  They have no time for vast ideas, only half-vast ones, it seems.  I don’t know the answer.


Tribes punish

No better account of neighborhood tribalism in the big city is readily available than this in Chi Trib about the Bridgeport Squealer who talked to Feds and even wore a wire when meeting with another Bridgeporter, both in City Hall employ.

There were harassing phone calls and slashed car tires, [his lawyer] said. There was also graffiti on [his] house. And finally, last Easter morning, there was a large bottle tossed through the glass front door of the home he shares with his wife and three young children . . .

. . . .

[His] wife, Christine, who also grew up in the neighborhood . . . wrote of the couple's loss of friends and said that most of the harassment was kept from their twin 6-year-old boys and their 4-year-old until the bottle was thrown through their door and the noise was so loud that one of the twins awoke crying.

Christine Katalinic wrote that she was infuriated. She said she ran to his room to find "a frightened young boy sweating under his covers in fear." Even now, they are sometimes afraid to be downstairs alone, she wrote.

AP in Sun-Times:

Katalinic and his wife and children became the target of community harassment that ranged from phone calls in the middle of the night to slashed tires and graffiti.

[Judge] Coar said he could understand if Katalinic lost friends because he had violated the law.

''But for people to turn against him or any other person because they owned up to a crime and breached this unwritten code of silence is shameful -- absolutely shameful,'' Coar said.

Not what we usually mean by grassroots democracy.

Points made inadvertently

“Internet chatters posing as journalists” is Harry Jaffe’s phrase in a 11/16/06 Washingtonian piece about how MainStream Media won the election and bloggers et al. lost.  “Major news organizations and experienced journalists” had the stories that persuaded voters.  He goes on to cite anti-admin (& other GOP) stories — Abramoff corruption, secret prisons, phone call monitoring and others.

In time, journalists freelancing as bloggers on the Internet might have greater impact on American elections, but if last week’s voting is any indication, the political landscape is still being painted by the reporters working for major media outlets.

He rejoices in mainstream dominance because it’s under credible attack by web-based independents who never went to journalism school and do not submit to gatekeeping by people such as Dan Rather.  But crowing over such a victory would have been unseemly indeed a few years ago.  Jaffe would not have bothered. 

That’s one thing.  Another is that he rejoices in Mainstreamers’ victory for what party?  Why, their party, what else?  Go MSM Dems!


St. Luke, St. Luke, St. Luke, St. Luke, darn it!

Scripturally illiterate copy desk alert:  If Andrew Greeley attributed the Christmas narrative to St. Jude, as here in Sun-Times, he deserved protection from sounding like an idiot.  If he didn’t, as is much more likely, the reporters Shamus Toomey and/or his editors deserve excommunication or worse from the Society of Newspaper Copy Editors, which if it does not exist, should.

What, no workhouses?

One kick-ass reputation, severely damaged:

"Even though we have these kids with disabilities, we're not restricted," said Adrienne Watkins, the assistant principal. "Everyone takes part. It's hard to understand if you don't see it."

I thought I understood, gazing around the room. Not only understood, but felt a moment of joy. Is this not the best of what we are? Our society -- dominant, money-crazed, steamrolling Western culture -- nurturing the most afflicted among us, enfolding them in care, encouraging them to enjoy life to the fullest that they can? And the Ignatius students -- on a school vacation day -- about as far from the cliche of the indulged teen imaginable, not only giving of themselves but grateful for the chance. It seemed a glimpse of heaven.

Just one thing: Eastern cultures do better at this?

Einstein Bagels, To Be or Not To Be?

Reader G. asks my position on Einstein Bagels' remaining in OP. Well he might. I was the Northeast River Forest correspondent from Einstein's, at Harlem & North, the OP corner, for several years in the late 90s, sharply and keenly observing cops on break and other fauna -- always sympathetically, to be sure, as when they were gearing up for an uproarious Fourth in North Austin.

Alas, I have not developed my position on Einstein's, which is preparing to evacuate. For that I must consult my Filthy Capitalist Mindset, neatly balancing my deep love for community values with my Filthy Capitalist desire for maximized profits or at least enough to allow one even to stay in business (and lots of bad guys, including Great American Bagels, to name one, would like to see E. Bagels get out of their darn way), in OP or anywhere else. It's a bagel jungle out there, you better believe it. 

How parishes thrive

Rev. Jack Wall is leaving Old St. Pat’s after 24 years.  He found four people when he arrived, now there are 3,000.  It hosts the famed “ass mass,” attended by spouse-seeking young Catholics.  It’s solvent and thriving, which is no small thing in our time.  Wall is off to the Extension (bishops’ missionary) Society, where his exquisite marketing skills should find an outlet.

Yes, marketing.  Wall has not let his light remain under a bushel, to adapt his Leader’s phrase.  Not only has he worked hard, beginning by hands-and-knees scrubbing of an encrusted rectory-kitchen floor.  He has demonstrated entrepreneurial shrewdness of the first order, finding a niche and filling it.

A, he has ridden the Irish-heritage pony hard.  The place reeks of Celtic ambience and draws disaffected or wandering Irish people from far and wide.  B, he has made it a hot gathering place for the young, whom he dispatched sometimes to various help-neighbor works such as tutoring kids at nearby, historically all-black St. Malachy’s parish on the West Side — historically not since its start, which was as Irish as St. Pat’s but declared black in the wake of black migration.  C, he has raised money and made important political connections, such as with the incumbent Mayor Daley and family.

None of it would matter if he and the other staff did not preach and teach and work hard for their own people, inspiring them to work for others.  But neither would this preaching etc. have mattered without the marketing.

His is the first of the Chicago Triumvirate of niche-marketed parishes which have been immensely successful in the last 30 years.  St. Sabina on the South Side is a black cathedral.  Rev. Michael Pfleger has made of that once-Irish bastion a gathering place for the well-heeled but race-conscious black community.  Al Sharpton has “preached” there (scare quotes by me).  So has “Minister” Farrakhan, who we presume did not make his crack about what’s under the Pope’s cassock.  But believe me, apart from these distractions from The Message, that St. Sabina jumps with Christian-related noise and joy.  Solomon in all his glory had not an orchestra like Sabina’s.

The other of the Three is St. John Cantius, whose modern founder and pastor, Rev. Frank Philips, who had been sent there by his Resurrectionist superiors to close the place — farsighted and idealistic they were, indeed — went to Wall for advice.  About niche marketing of The Word, to be sure, though Fr. Frank did not use the phrase when he told me about seeing Wall.  St. John C. is traditionalist, has had Latin masses (in addition to English) from its renovation by Fr. F.  It has become a mecca for Catholics enamored of old-time Catholicism who also like splendid music.

All three churches are grand and old and sparklingly renovated.  All three parishes are busting with Catholics.  God hath wrought this in part through marketing skills of his ministers.


Barack, we hardly know you

Dick Morris on Barack O. as potential non-Hillary who wins the Dem ‘08 nomination:

His book is filled with feature-story fluff about his background, eloquent philosophizing on the state of our nation and its history, and freshly scrubbed naiveté about the political process.

But it lacks any substantive ideas, policy innovations or even any insightful analysis of public issues. Unless he can step beyond such Oprah-level content, the national press corps will have him for breakfast.

Wish I’d said that.



Was severely tempted to join the crowd commenting on Frank James’s posting, “How Could this happen to a citizen?” on the Chi Trib “Swamp” blog by its Wash. correspondents — “Beyond the headlines, beyond newsprint.”  James wrote about how badly suspected terrorist Jose Padilla was treated, as reported in NY Times.  But why should I help Chi Trib sell its web site when I can help sell my own, highly lucrative, site?

So here’s what I would have written, on this, my own, highly lucrative site: 

Frank James’s grandson to Frank many years hence: “And what did you do in the War Against Islamo-Fascism, Grandpa?”

Frank: “I did what I could to turn the populace against the Bush admin’s efforts to subvert our constitution, which my colleagues and I all consider a suicide pact, Frank the Third.”

I write this though my heart goes out to James, who found the pictures of Padilla “deeply disturbing.”  Indeed, James wrote,

On seeing these photos and reading the story, many Americans will likely ask, how can it be that an American citizen with due-process rights under our Constitution, a citizen who has not been found guilty of the allegations against him by a constitutionally sanctioned authority, was subjected to such treatment? What if he's innocent?

Yes.  The beauty of blogging is its capacity to bring out deep feelings entertained by those we rely on to tell us what’s what in the world in fair and balanced fashion.  Way to go, Frank!  Up the blogosphere!

Close call

Firefox just saved my bacon, as it does with its anti-phishing service.  Bank of America stuff this time.  BEWARE!

Race in Michigan, Iraqi democracy, Bush secretive, etc.

* Steve Chapman in Chi Trib: Mary Sue Coleman, U of Mich pres., protesting 58% vote against racial preferences in admissions, "has been a staunch champion of . . . correcting racial discrimination by practicing racial discrimination." She defiant, standing in schoolhouse door.

* Slouching toward realpolitik:
Trib's Clarence Page: "Americans appreciate the neo-conservative dream of spreading democracy through the Middle East [once described by GW as a way to prevent terrorism], but the Iraq disaster offers us a painful lesson on the limits of our grasp." Comment: How we deal with corrupt Iraqis is one thing, but leaving the field to the bad guys is another. There is such a thing as their morale too, is there not, to be strengthened by our departure?

* Devastating
Novak column about firing of Rumsfeld and what it says about GW, who he says is "no malevolent tyrant" but like all Republicans in White House since Eisenhower, subject to "congenital phobia" about leaks. He is "secretive and impersonal" in his firing of people contrary to assurances. It's "not a good sign for for his concluding years as president," says N.

* "Autumn leaves, packs its bags," begins a poem by Andrew McNeillie, "Les Feuilles d'Automne" in Times Lit Supplement of 11/17/06, leaving me to wonder for a fraction what that comma was doing there. Between subject and verb? Let's not have it, OK? Then I saw that this was not the tried and true "autumn leaves," adjective and noun, but the same, subject and verb, as in "Autumn leaves [and] packs its bags." The poet had my attention.

* Up to 17 Chi aldermen are to be targeted for political extinction by Service Employees union. Question to be, per
Mark Brown in Sun-Times 11/28, are they with the working man or not? No, it's are they with the unionized working man or not. The workers paradise of total unionization not yet arrived, we must keep in mind union exclusivity. Some have no chance to belong to a union. Some choose not to when given the chance. Either way, workers of the world have not yet united, notwithstanding many a heartfelt appeal to do so, at least since Marx and Engels.

The chief beef against the aldermen and women is their vote against the "living wage," a.k.a. big-box (store) ordinance which would have dictated what Wal-Mart and Target pay employees. This ordinance would have benefited the proletariat, say Service Employees, even as it kept out of Chicago a lot of low-price merchandise which the proletariat buys right and left: see shoulder to shoulder shoppers at the suburban Forest Park Wal-Mart, where the proles are finding what they want and the village is reaping sales tax to beat all.