Monthly Archives: September 2005

>UPDATE: Chicago schools … the BAD news

>A while back, this blog took exception to the rosy spin placed on a very modest improvement in SOME national test scores by Chicago public school students. The “good news” was trumpeted on front page headlines. City and school officials engaged in a round of reciprocal back patting.

As a former school consultant, I questioned the rosy analysis.

Well, the Chicago Sun-Times (September 19) reports a “harsh reality” — most notably that only 54 percent of kids entering Chicago high schools will graduate in four years. Not get this! Most of the kids who DO graduate and move on to the city colleges (not talking Harvard here) will have to take remedial classes to make up for educational deficiencies. Up to 74 percent will need remedial English. Image that! The public schools cannot even teach kids to read and write. A whopping ninety-four percent will need remedial math. And, of course, civics and social studies are totally hopeless.

Much blame goes to the teacher unions and their policy of “social promotion,” which is nothing more than moving an uneducated kid to the next level. Up and out … all the while the education bureaucracy sucks up the taxpayer dollars under the guise of really educating our future generation. Kids in Chicago earning a B average fall into the D range on national tests. Grades and diplomas mean nothing.

Arne Duncan, the head of the Chicago school system, admits that they are not preparing most kids for any life after high school … work or college.

Interestingly, the high school drop out rate, and student statistics, are not much different than there were in 1970s, when I began beating up on the education establishment for the abuse … yes, abuse … of our children.

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>REACT: The naked law

>There has not been a lot of news coverage, but the Nate Kinsella story should be a major story. Or … it should never have been a news story at all.

Seems like Nate, a 20-something a drummer with a rock band, was playing one of those outdoor concerts off in the suburbs of Bartlesville, Oklahoma. His group was one of the acts for a Christian rock festival.

At any rate, his band was playing in sweltering heart, and like many other performers and religious rockies, the boys in the band shed most of the outer clothing. Nate, however, overwhelmed by the heat of the moment, weather not withstanding, briefly shed his briefs — providing the Christian revelers with everything the Lord had provided him.

This led to his arrest, even though no complaints were pressed, and his musician colleagues and goodly number of the godly audience, objected to his arrest. Nonetheless, the local constabulary took Nate into custody and charged him with indecent exposure, assault (for wringing his sweaty boxers over the audience) and disturbing a religious meeting. The latter two charges were dropped in a lapse of bad judgment by the police.

Well … here is the rub (as Shakespeare said). Young Nate is now going to stand trial where his max sentence is up to 10 years in jail and a $20,000 fine. In addition, if convicted, he would forever more be required to register as a sex offender.

Hey! This was a rock concert for god sake … literally. We show nudity and sex to little kids on prime time television. Our whole culture promotes hedonistic entertainment (not that I am entirely complaining here). We have live stage shows featuring naked choirs, the full monty and simulated sex — and I am not talking about porn houses. What Nate did was not a sex crime by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I cannot see where it should have been a crime at all. Well … ok … maybe a misdemeanor … $50 fine.

Not only is this a gross injustice to Nate, it is an injustice to every victim of a serious sexual assault. It trivializes the violent crime. If Nate has to bear … or bare … the scarlet letter, then how can we ever trust that some registered as a life long sex offender is anything more than a prankish fraternity guy at a toga party or … a rocker doing his shtick.

I hope the Bartlesville prosecutors are sane enough to simply drop the charges — and that the police chief will advise his men and women to focus on real crimes. I am way no softy when it comes to crime … just that I think there ought to be a crime committed. Just because a law is on the books, does not mean the book as to be thrown at every violator regardless of circumstances. Indecent exposure applied to a 45-year-old pervert flashing kiddies on their way to school is one thing. Nate au natural for a few moments at a rock concert is quite another.

>OBSERVATION: End Stereotyping … just accept that Republicans are mean and Democrats are stupid.

>When you start adding it all up, it appears we have come to a national consensus, at least as the news media reports it, that Republicans cause bad things to happen because they are malicious and evil. They hate minorities and the poor. The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is due to an insensitive, uncaring, evil George Bush.

On the other hand, Democrat leaders are merely victims of those who betrayed their trust. The MASSIVE scandals that are rolling over Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, and now rising to the ear lobes of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, are only the result of two well intentioned guys who were soooo busy doing the public good that they were oblivious to the shenanigans of there most senior aids, closest friends and even immediately family. That is the spin.

Uh huh!

>SIDEBAR: Governor Ryan saw it coming even before he took oath of office

>Note: SIDEBAR is the term I use when talking about my personal experiences that relate in someway to news of the day. In news reporting, it refers to a secondary feature, usually in a “box,” that highlights a facet of the primary news story. It is borrowed from the legal profession, when judges and attorneys stand to the side of the public “bar” (judge’s bench) to engage in an unrecorded private discussion.

As Governor George Ryan stands ready to be tried on a number of counts of criminal activity relating to his tenure as Illinois Secretary of State, I am reminded of a prescient conversation I had with top political insider, John Glennon. It was between the time Ryan was elected and sworn in as Governor. I had invited Glennon to get a “read” on the new regime. He reported to me his most recent meeting with Ryan.

Glennon said that Ryan surprisingly seemed less than excited over the prospect of becoming governor — an office for which he lusted for most of his adult life. It was an office that seemed lost to him when outgoing Governor Jim Thompson hand-picked Jim Edgar as the successor over the all-but-begging Ryan eight years earlier.

Glennon said that Ryan told him that now the governorship may not be worth the problems. — that it would not be an easy or happy term in office. Ryan expected to be dogged by the truck- license-for-pay, which had almost blown his campaign against Democrat Glenn Poshard. Ironically, it was the public boost Ryan received, in the former of a disclaimer of culpability by the then-U.S. Attorney that took the wind out of Poshard’s accusations of gross criminality in the Secretary of State office. Poshard turned out to be right, and the intercession of the U.S. Attorney remains an example of the coziness of past prosecutors with the most powerful political figures.

Glennon said that Ryan specifically lamented the trucker scandal as the source of his future grief. Glennon tried to offer assurances to the Governor-elect, with a hint of a question, “This issue will not hit you personally. Right?” In response, the politically savvy Governor simply shrugged his shoulders in uncertainty.

Glennon felt that the Governor-elect, with the advantage of specific knowledge and keen political skills, saw the distant possibility of scandal. In fact, he said Ryan even alluded to the possibility of a shortened stay in the Executive Mansion by saying “if” instead of “when” he completes his first term.

Now Ryan stands ready to fulfill his hinted prophesy. Accused and indicted, his trial begins. In another twist to the unending succession of indictments, Glennon also is among those indicted by the feds.

>OBSERVATION: Private sector trumps public sector … again

>Everyone who knows me, knows I am a let-the-private-sector-solve-the-problem-first kind of a guy. I could not help to go “ah ha” when I read two articles in the same newspaper on the same day.

Seems the government owned and operated Nationtional Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) is planning to get another human being or two on the moon by 2018. On the other hand, the newly formed private company of 4Frontiers Corp** has announced plans to have an ENTIRE HUMAN SETTLEMENT ON MARS, for goodness sake, in the early 2020s.

Of course, they first intend to build a model of their moon village on earth, and charge admissions to experience it. Hmmmmm. Could this be a fancy public relations scheme for popularizing yet another theme park? Will the real Mars village have rides?

**Would someone please advise the people how name things to avoid that number upfront. It screws up the alphabetizing. I know it is the new wave of techno sounding names, but it annoys me … so there!

**Would someone please advise the people how name things to avoid that number upfront. It screws up the alphabetizing. I know it is the new wave of techno sounding names, but it annoys me … so there!

>UPDATE: Blame game gets more players

>As I suggested in a previous blog item (September 10), the voluntary George-Bush-is-responsibile-for-the-entire-Katrina-disaster-disaster committee has been loosing ground as the facts start coming in. I have been noticing that articles, editorials, editorial cartoons and letters to the editor are starting to reflect some of the eggregious lapses and errors-in-judgment of Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin. (By the way, if you were create fictional names for characters in a satire of this mess, could you do better than the clueless Governor Blanco, the every gripping Mayor Nagin and a lost and bewildered sheriff named Compass.)

Even the old budget issues seems to be shifting focus. Example: It is not repored that $500,000 appropriated by the Republican Congress to study and develop an evacuation plan for New Orleans was diverted by Democrat officials and bureaucrats to study of the Causeway bridge that crosses Lake Pontchartrain. In the budget process, the beef turned to pork. Ironically, the central goal of the study was to assist in the development of an emergency evacuation plan.

You may not have read about this scandalous and deadly miss use of funds since too much of the press still operates as a liberal Dem public relations medium.

>OBSERVATION: Death on decline

>Well … finally some good news. According to a recent American Cancer Society study, death rates are declining across the board, due to improved treatment for such killers as heart disease and, of course, cancer. Talking the study to its logical conclusion, by the year 2048 Americans will no longer die. I was of the assumption that the death rate among humans is 100%. It is good to know, however, that fewer of us will die each year.

Of course, these findings are sure to enflame the science versus religion debate, since not dying will preclude the faithful from going to heaven. Unless, of course, the religious commit suicide. In that brave new world, would suicide then become a religious rite … right … which ever?

This futurist thinking is just too much of a brain strain for a Sunday morning. Besides, I have to go to church … maybe.

>SIDEBAR: How Chicago corruption works up close

>Note: SIDEBAR is the term I use when talking about my personal experiences that relate in someway to news of the day. In news reporting, it refers to a secondary feature, usually in a “box,” that highlights a facet of the primary news story. It is borrowed from the legal profession, when judges and attorneys stand to the side of the public “bar” (judge’s bench) to engage in an unrecorded private discussion.

I grew up in Chicago, spending my life under the Daley family “machine.” One of the reasons corruption is difficult to pin on the big guys is that after 75 years, the system is so subtle and smooth that it operates more on understandings than direct communication from the top. Everyone knows how the system works, and what is expected of them, without seeking traceable orders. You know, and yet you don’t KNOW.

Let me illustrate from one of own experiences. My public affairs/lobbying firm had an engineering consulting firm as a client. The firm had previously done work for Cook County, but had “fallen out of favor.” I arranged a meeting for the firm with then County Board President George Dunne. The meeting with George was most cordial. He spoke very encouraging to my clients, and made sure they knew that I was his friend and they were lucky to have me representing them. Actually, I had very little interaction with Dunne, but it was customary to do the lobbyist a favor by boosting him or her with the clients.

After the meeting, Dunne’s secretary pulled me aside, and said I should go see Mickey Segal, the head of Near North Insurance, and a well recognized go-to guy for top Democrats and Republicans alike. I inquired why he wanted to see me. The secretary explained that he had is reasons. It was odd, since I had never been invited to visit him before, and knew him only superficially. In fact, I would not have thought he even knew who I was — and how did he know I was seeing President Dunne?

A couple days later, I kept an appointment with Segal. This was the first time I had ever been to his office. It was huge, and one could hardly miss the life-size naked plastic female sculpture work. I was later told that it was his wife. Geeez, glad I did not know that before the meeting.

Anyway … Segal assured me that his invitation had nothing … but nothing to do with whatever business I had with Dunne. I still wondered how he knew of the meeting, and yet was so clueless as to the purpose of the meeting. I let it pass.

Rather, he wanted to talk about Dunne’s upcoming fundraiser. He said he was sure with my many friends, I would really help “our buddy George.” He even suggested that he thought it would be really great if I could raise $20,000. He was sure I knew someone who could handle that size contribution … he was very sure.

Dunne was also 42nd ward committeemen, and the funds were to be donated there. It is sort of a secret slush fund the committeemen could keep outside of public scrutiny. It was widely believed that Dunne had millions stashed in his. Now, if Segal really knew me, he would have known that I would need about 200 of my friends to raise $20,000. But, I had the distinct impression that he had a certain donor in mind. Maybe an engineering consulting firm?

At the conclusion of our brief meeting, Segal again reassured me that his request had nothing to do with my business with Dunne — whatever that was. He had assured me so many times, that I could think of no other reason for the request. He patted me heartily on the back and expressed confidence that I could find someone …. someone with a spare $20,000 to donate to the Dunne committeeman fund.

Now … did I suspect that there WAS a link between my client’s potential and the $20,000 “contribution” to the Dunne committeeman fund? Duh. I told you I was raised in Chicago. I did not suspect it, I was sure of it. I had no doubt the money and the meeting was linked. You have to admire the smoothness of the operation, however. I even imagined what I would be asked by a defense lawyer in court — and this was long before we had a real U.S. Attorney kicking over rocks to expose the critters below.

Imagine the Defense attorney line of questioning ….

Mr. Horist, did George Dunne send you to Mr. Segal?

Ah …. no … but …

Never mind the buts …. just answer the questions. Did Mr. Segal say the money was in return for getting your client some business?

Ah… no … but ….

No buts! Did Mr. Segal even know what your business with Mr. Dunne was about?

I am sure he did.

Sure! sure! How could you be sure.

You just know.

Ah! I see, Mr. Horist, you “just know” such things. Did Mr. Segal say anything to indicate he knew about your business with Mr. Dunn?

Ah … no.

But, YOU knew. You could tell. Mr. Horist. Did you know Mr. Segal was a fundraiser for Mr. Dunne before you visited him?

Yes.

So. You knew of his activities in that area?

Yes.

So, Mr. Horist, you are saying that Mr. Dunne sent you to see Mr. Segal … even though he did not. You knew he raised money for Mr. Dunne and others on a regular basis … but his request to you was because of your meeting with Mr. Dunne. Mr. Segal assured you repeatedly that his request had nothing to do with whatever the business of your meeting with Mr. Dunne … business that Mr. Segal did not even seem to know about. Is that about right, Mr. Horist?

Well…. yeah.

Mr. Horist, I suggest that you are a bit paranoid, have no basis to claim a link between the money and your business with Mr. Dunne. Maybe, as a Republican, you just want to damage the reputation of these fine upstanding men. It seems to me that Mr. Segal went to extremes to assure you that there was no link, and yet you are convinced that the money was in exchange for a contract — without one single shred of evidence to support your suspicions. I have no more for this witness, your honor.

Yeah. That is how it would go.

I advised the client of the meeting, and said I would not participate in any money exchange. If they wanted to contact Mr. Segal, they could. I would withdraw representation. They did and I did. Not long after, I learned that the firm had secured a nice piece of county business. I bumped into one of the principals at a social function, and asked if they had made a political contribution through Segal. He smiled and winked as he advised me that it was not a good idea to discuss political contributions.

Immediately, I KNEW they had. But then, I am just a paranoid Republican.

>LMAO: And this is news???

>TidBit # 1: New Orleans Police Chief discovers way to end crime
New Orleans Police Chief Eddie Compass proudly announced that his city has been almost “crime-free.” for the past four days. “We are definitely in control of the city,” said. Apparently moving the entire population of a high crime rate city to other states has a very positive effect on crime.

He also noted that one-third of his 1500 person police force are AWOL, no longer on duty. After seeing uniformed police looting the Wal-Mart, it seems that the absence of cops, itself, may have been a contributing factor to the reduction of crime.

So there it is. Wanna reduce crime in your city, just evict all the citizens and send off a big chunk of the police force, and viole … no crime. Methinks Chief Compass has lost his.

TidBit # 2: Left wing warblers nest together
Two of the most strident Senators in Washington are nest mates on Capitol Hill. Illinois grouse, Dick Durbin, and New York’s mocking bird, Chuck Schumer, share a small townhouse near their offices. The Environmental Protection Agency should rush over to check the water to see how these two are absorbing so much toxic pollution. Unfortunately, neither of these birds are on the endangered spieces list.

TidBit #3: Apparently royals lead a sheltered life.
Monaco’s Prince Albert was tricked into having a baby with flight attendent. Would someone be good enough to tell His Highness how babies are made so he won’t get talked into a game of “gas pump” again?

TidBit #4: Baseball’s hot dog wars
The Sun-Times recently compared food served at the Cubs and Sox ballparks, and claims the Sox vend healthier offerings. (You can now add “healthy ballpark food” to your list of oxymorons.)

As anyone who has visited both parks knows, there is something wrong with the study. One look at the respective crowd does the trick. Sox fans out weigh Cubs fan by at least 35 pounds per person — and that’s only the kids. You do not want to sit between two Sox fans if you hope to inhale. (Of course with their attendance, not much chance you will have to.)

Don’t they get it? Ballpark food is NOT supposed to be healthy. It is supposed to be God-awful junk food. When you eat a hot dog from the ballpark, you want that distinctive flavor of a cheap fatty wiener with a hint of overused grease; and served tepid with a garnish of bright green dyed relish, a dollop of crusty brownish sun-baked mustard and a drizzle of onion mush. THAT is a great dog … but only at the ballpark. I would send it back if served in any other environment.

Remember, we are talking baseball fans. This is not a snooty social event where people accompany morsels of hard to pronounce foods with a glass of hard to pronounce wine that costs more than a keg of beer. This is not the crowd that sips with pinky extended. They are more likely to guzzle several brewskis, and spill and belch a lot — and the only thing interesting about their pinky is some flashy oversized ring.

And if that is not bad enough, Sox fans are the #1 violators of the cardinal rule of Chicago hot dog preparation. They apply … ketchup.

Cubs win the food contest, spoons down.

TidBit #5: Why didn’t I know that?
Newspaper columnist Paige Wiser said it. No mushy qualified language. This is why we buy newspapers. In a recent column, she said, “The No.1 cause of traffic accidents is hitting other cars.” I would never have guessed.

>OBSERVATION: Dem blame game could backfire

>Abraham Lincoln wisely noted that “you may fool all of the people some of the time; and some of the people all of the time; but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.” His observation is pertinent today in the political aftermath of Katrina.

Americans may like accountability, but we have a sense of fair play that can make” piling on” a perilous ploy. Even if the crass and highly partisan finger pointing in the direction of the White House prevails at the moment, the future view, away from media driven hysteria, may backfire on the contemporary merchants of blame. While Dems are stampeding the public to an indictment of George Bush, their outcries for investigations may serve the President’s interest better than their own. Not only do I suspect the blame Bush strategy will not work in the long run, I think there are already signs of the tide turning.

Widely reported polls show that a significant majority of the public do not think the Prez did a good job in responding to Katrina. Even more significantly, and less reported, the polls place Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin not far behind Bush in negative public opinion.

The New Orleans mayor is already starting to look like loose cannon with a large aperture. It appears his predicted death toll and his day-to-day Chicken Little screeching was more hysteria than the public utterances of a knowledgeable and responsible public official. You will recall is directive to go after looters instead of rescuing the stranded — a directive he withdrew when the rational public gave him a collective “say what?” One may understand his tearful breakdown as he pleaded in unprofessional panic for help to rescue victims and his own reputation in a situation he screwed up big time. It is not so easy to cut him slack for his radio show appearance where he did his best imitation of a Chicago gang banger.

At times Governor Blanco seemed to live up to her name. It was if she was clueless to her role and responsibilities. Repeatedly she postponed life and death rescue decisions and responses to requests as if she was scheduling budget meetings. The I’ll-get-back-to-you-on-that demeanor was also the subject of Nagin’s rantings, although those criticisms were largely ignored by a press corps more interested in pinning the tail on George Bush’s butt than reporting fairly.

Lower officials were must share considerable blame. Police abandoning their posts –imagine these sworn-to-serve-and-protect first responders ducking tail and running. Of course some of these cops were too busy looting to even change out of uniform. How about Black Democrat Congressman William Jefferson commandeering a military rescue vehicle for a personal tour and trip to his high-brow home to retrieve treasured possessions as people perished for lack of rescue? Is this racism, classism or just plain old self-centered disregard?

Then there is the bottom feeders — the criminal element that went on a rampage of murder, rape and pillaging. Snipers shooting are rescue workers and vehicles. On the underside, New Orleans has always been known as a corrupt and dangerously criminal city. It is to be expected that those elements would have free reign when society’s protectors are over burdened, absent, or gone over to the other side of the force.

George Bush has accepted responsibility for any failures in the FEDERAL response on his watch — although most press reporting conceals the culpability of others by implying that is personally and maliciously responsible for EVERYTHING that went wrong. It is time for others to admit they made tragic mistakes, and that the response at the state and local levels was too little, too late, too bad.

While the momentary rush to judgment is weighed against Bush, events and less impassioned hind-sight investigations are very likely to shift the focus, and significant blame, on the deadly lapses of city and state officials.