Monthly Archives: December 2005

>REACT: Bye bye Berghoff’s

>Gads! First Chicago loses Meigs Field, then Marshall Field’s … and now the landmark Berghoff’s restaurant. Chicago is fast joining the sterile homogenized urban cities that are morphing all over the world.

Sometimes the loss is sad, but understood. Many past institutions simply lost their public appeal. They could no longer survive in modern society. The old theaters that created the original “theater district” were good examples of that. The Woods. The Roosevelt. The State and Lake. We almost lost the flagship Chicago Theatre — a close call about which I know a lot.(Check out the old news clips is you don’t believe me.) Same for Montgomery Ward’s.

As a guy devoted to a preservationist tradition, the Meigs/Field’s/Berghoff’s triple whammy is hard to accept.

I guess what really makes me ornery is the fact that we are lost these institutions because of callous decisions. The people in charge have no devotion to tradition or the feelings of those of us who paid homage (and no little money) to those traditions. We are the jilted lovers, with all the pain and anger.

As a free market conservative, I must respect the owner’s right to make the decisions (except in the case of Meigs since WE are the owners, not the mayor.) In terms of Field’s and Berghoff’s, I have no legal recourse, nor would I want any. However, I see nothing un-conservative about never offering my patronage to Macy’s nor that new catering business that will take over the Berghoff’s space.

I would hope that there are enough of us jilted lovers to bring down Macy’s downtown store. If you recall, I have previously expressed my hope that the Macy’s takes the tube, and the building becomes a residential loft conversion. As for Berghoff’s, hopefully the catering business will collapse as a response to the callous decision to close the venerable restaurant, and a new owner will re-establish some versions of the old place. Of course, that may not be possible if the heiress/owner vandalizes the place in the name of modernization.

Despite their solicitous words and sad tones, I hope the Berghoff family understands that their fame has been transformed into infamy — and their sorrowful words are meaningless.

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>REACT: Kwanzaa schmanzaa

>Today marks the first day of the now widely recognized holiday of Kwanzaa. Perhaps this bad idea will evolve into something good. I hope so. Unfortunately, Kwanzaa was conceived as a pseudo celebration of separation.

It was invented in 1966, at the height of the highly racist black separation movement, by a guy named Maulana Karenga, who is described as a “cultural nationalist.” For those who understand liberal euphemisms, the guy was a black racist. Of course, liberals think of that term as an oxymoron, since in their view only whites are capable of racism.

Please do not misunderstand. I am not against an invented holiday. Hallmark does it all the time – and I am sure the folks at the greeting card company are thrilled with Kawanzaa.

The problem with Kawanzaa is that it is what it is — an artificial attempt to maintain America as a two society nation. Since most blacks are people of faith, and overwhelming Christian, the imposition of this new holiday is a cynical effort to suggest that Christmas is more of a white thing. I’m dreaming of a white Christmas takes on a whole new meaning.

I would think that our strong black Baptist churches would be up in arms over trumping the Christmas season. It is sort of a reversal of the ancient times when Christians trumped Pagan holidays to eradicate them. That’s how we got December 25th as the official, albeit dubious, birthday of Jesus. Now we have this neo Pagan effort to return the favor, and black pastors are either ignoring it or embracing it.

The promotion of Kawanzaa by the nation’s best known, if not the most reverent, black pastor, Jesse Jackson, suggests that he values his secular role in maintaining his flock outside the mainstream more than he desires integration into a common culture. He is truly the political descendent of Mr. Karenga insofar as using accusations of racism in order to prevent assimilation.

Having said all this, I am resolved to the reality that Kawanzaa will be around, promoted by wolf-ish racists in sheep’s wool. However, since the vast majority of people celebrating Kawanzaa are good and descent, it is my hope that this holiday will, by popular celebration, rid itself of the malignant intent of the founders and early advocates. After all, Thanksgiving did not start out on such a high note, either. It was invented, and eventually made a national time of good will by Abraham Lincoln.

I think that is already happening to Kawanzaa. Maybe Hallmark will be more influential in defining This new holiday than Jesse Jackson, et al. Let’ hope so.

>OBSERVATION: To whom it may concern: Merry Christmas!

>Shhhh. I am about to give away a big secret. I know this will come as a shock to many people who follow current events in the media.

Okay! Here it is. Put your ear closer so I can whisper. “Christmas is a Christian holiday.” You didn’t hear that? I said … “Christmas is a Christian holiday.” Not yet? OKAY. “CHRISTMAS IS A CHRISTIAN HOLIDAY!!!” So there. I said it. Yep, it is also a national holiday — even in the god-loathing season of political correctness.

We all get a lot of time off from work to celebrate Christmas. I know we have piled on Hanukah, a Jewish holiday of second or third level theological relevancy, and we even invented that silly Kwanzaa thing to make sure we maintain our segregated society. We can sort of edge in Ramadan. But still … the official holiday is Christmas. And furthermore, the brightly lit shrubbery in so many bay windows is a … CHRISTMAS tree. It is not a holiday tree any more than the Jewish Menorah is a holiday candelabra.

Frankly, I think it is cool to have a season of love and caring incorporating all the religions — and any atheists who care to be loved (not easy).

The political correctness Nazis are doing there best to emulsify our heritages into some sort of gray blob of secular celebration – squeezing out the rich colors and nuances of our ethnic differences. The major assault has been on religion. It is still kosher (if you will) to celebrate each others traditional foods, costumes and secular customs. But when it comes to sharing each other’s religions, we act as if church-going is a criminal activity.

Political correctness makes the simple things needlessly difficult. I am Christmas guy, but like most of us, I am very okay with a little common sense and etiquette. I send “happy holiday” cards to my list because we have many friends not of the Christian faith. If I meet a fellow Christian, I offer a hearty “Merry Christmas.” If I meet a Jewish friend, I offer a “Happy Hanukah.” If I do not know, then I wish them a, “Hey, have a great holiday and a Happy New Year.”

It is not courtesy, however, that underlies the attempts to de-Christian my holiday. There is nothing inappropriate, or offensive, in offering Christian symbols – even religious ones – as an expression of the season in commercial locations and government venues. Christmas carols should be heard in any public venue, and I don’t mean just Jingle Bells and I Saw Mother Kissing Santa Claus. And not only do I not take offense at having the nativity scene stand alongside a Menorah, I think it is wonderful. It is exactly the kind of respect and sharing that creates our sense of an overarching culture, bring our differences into harmony.

The public arean was never meant to be the fallow ground that separates us, but the common ground that unites us. Political correctness? Bah! Humbug!!

>OBSERVATION: Rahm Emanuel is not politically correct.

>As I wrote the earlier item on congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth, I came to realize that Rahm Emanuel needs a name adjustment. Since his party is leading the fight to eradicate any traces of religiosity from the public commons, I think he needs a name change. “Emanuel,” the name given to Jesus Christ as the arrival of God, seems totallly inappropriate.

Rahm may well have a messianic complex, and thinks he is God’s gift to the world, but still not proper to present himself in public with such an obvious religious name — and a Christian one to boot (which is exactly what the PC Nazis would like to do). He should not be listed on the congressional role call, least our highly vulnerable ungodly athiests have siezures.

Maybe Rahm Godless would be ok. Or, Rahm Faithless? Oh! I got it. Rahm (Happy) Holiday.

>REACT: Dems have no shame.

>Regarding Iraq, I suspect the Democrats are about to be, as my mother used to say, “too smart for their britches.”

They may be too quick to bury Bush, and lay their future on anti war sentiment. The enormous success of the Iraqi election and the likelihood of improved reports from that liberated nation, and maybe even a modest troop reduction, will wreak havoc on the viciously strident and ruthlessly partisan strategy reflected in such Democrat hardliners as Peolsi, Dick Durbin, Ted Kennedy, screamer-in-chief Howard Dean, and the congressional races point man (Should I have said “person”?), Rahm Emanuel.

As the Dems political cheerleader in Congress, many of the most partisan party activists see in Emanuel a shrewd and effective money raiser and candidate recruiter. There is no question of his brittle partisanship, and his myopic ambition to win elections at all costs. The approach, could backfire — and hopefully will.

The most prominent case in point is the “recruitment” of Tammy Duckworth to knock off the other Democrat primary candidates for the Illinois’ congressional seat being vacated by Henry Hyde. Emanuel and Durbin have successfully lobbied a female double amputee war veteran to enter the race. It took gobs of financial IOU’s, pre-programmed national exposure by the more than cooperative George Stephanopoulos, of ABC television, and whatever else Emanuel could promise within the edge of reason and law.

One can respect Duckworth’s duty to country, and the price she paid, and still reject her as a candidate on the basis of qualification and process. She is neither a resident of the district in which she plans to run, nor has she had any experience that would naturally suggest any credibility for public office. It is irrefutable that Emanuel’s only interest in her are her missing legs, and opposition to the war in which she lost them. He hopes that she will be, to use the expression, the poster child of anti-war, anti-Bush sentiment.

In her announcement, she says that only a person on the ground can understand Iraq. That is nice rhetoric, but an absurdity of the first magnitude. I will buy that when we put students in charge of the urban school systems. More significantly, it reveals that Emmanuel is going into the next election cycle with a one-issue strategy. He does not care that Duckworth is dangerously clueless on taxation, budgeting, education, and the million other issues that face the Congress.

Since this is a seat in Congress, and not a tryout for the Special Olympics, Emanuel may find that voters are not only too smart to be taken in, but totally offended by the crass cynicism and myopic vision of his political strategy. In producing the huge sign-up bonus for an experientially unqualified candidate, Emanuel insults the electorate by assuming mindless gullibility and superficiality. This is one case where the public can prove Lincoln correct when he opined that you cannot fool all the people all the time.

Consider this. Without the unfortunate injury, her selection would have been considered profoundly stupid. Emanuel, himself, would have scoffed at the idea.

>SIDEBAR: McCarthy remembered

>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.

Some of the most delightful moments I can recall were private dinners with Gene McCarthy, the former U.S. Senator from Minnesota, when he visited Chicago. His claim to public fame is much to narrow to describe him. For sure he mounted a presidential campaign that drew attention to the political vulnerability of President Lyndon Johnson – who sought refuge in withdrawing from the 1968 race.

While McCarthy’s anti-war sentiment was more on procedure than purpose, he became the personification of the anti-war, pacifist movement. He was the Pied Piper of the hippie peaceniks.

In private, he would confess that he was neither anti-war nor a zealous reformer. His opposition to Viet Nam was based on his belief that the conflict was not Constitutionally sound. He felt we entered without the proper authorization, and that the war was expanded solely by Presidential decisions without the oversight of the Congress.

On matters of reform, he was even more surprising. He completely rejected prevailing reform views found popularized in the press. While seemingly a very honest and principled politician, McCarthy was a product of the old school. I recall one particular conversation in which he rejected the reformer appellation. “You know, Larry,” he said, “if you purify the pond the lilies die.” He said there was always a need of a bit of sediment in the system.

On another occasion, McCarthy compared reformers to a priest in his home town, who urged parishioners to express their devotion by making more use of the vigil candles. He even installed additional banks of the red glass holders to accommodate more use. “Eventually,” said McCarthy, “the good farther burned the church down.”

“That is what unbridled reformers tend to do,” he added. “They will burn down the whole place.”

His descriptions of his colleagues were tinged with a certain Irish sarcastic wit. When I inquired about Jimmy Carter, he alleged that the former president learned most of what he knew in the Navy on board submarines, and unfortunately there was only room for very small books and Reader’s Digest.

He did not give a much better assessment of Ronald Reagan. He just saw him as entirely too ignorant to be president. Ditto Jerry Ford. Ditto Richard Nixon. All fell victim to McCarthy’s acerbic wit.

He lost the wit, however, when talking of the Kennedy’s. There was no gentleness, or Irish kinship, in his hatred of the Kennedy family. When talking of the Kennedy family, there was none of the poetics or humor. There was only an unabated bitterness. He blamed the Kennedys for preventing his nomination as the Democrat candidate. His loathing for Bobby Kennedy was not tempered by the New York senator’s tragic death. He considered him an unprincipled opportunist who made his play for the presidency only after McCarthy had brought down Johnson. He was not wrong.

On total, one got the impression that McCarthy held himself to be of more substantial presidential timber than any who succeeded where he had failed. And yet, there was a charming aristocratic air about the man. When talking about issues, and things other than his political colleagues, he was fascinating — a compendium of knowledge and insightful correlations.

He was at his best, however, when he played the story teller or the poet. Whether at the dinner table with my wife and me, or before a modest audience, he was on stage. He would, at no obvious provocation, recite long verses from memory. I recall at one event, he held stage for more than forth-five minutes on a single poem.

Seeing all the press attention and adulation he received in death, I could not help by wonder where the press had been these many years as he lived in virtual public oblivion.

>REACT: Congressman in GOOD scandal?

>First, I have to say upfront that Congressman Bobby Rush and I come from opposite ends of the political spectrum on most issues, but I still like him as a person.

Recently I read about his financial problems, which lead to the potential seizure of his family home in Illinois and his vacation condo in Michigan. Perhaps his church project and the significant demands of office were draining too much money. However, I saw something praiseworthy where others seemed to have seen only scandal.

When you consider California Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham (a conservative Republican – ouch!) taking in a whopping $2.4 million in bribes and the Illinois’ “stash the cash in my bag” political culture, it is refreshing to find a public servant who is in trouble for NOT having enough money. It almost makes him a normal guy. I am sure Bobby has had his share opportunities to accept envelops filled with “Ben Franklins.” To his credit, he appears to have resisted temptation. I’ll take some temporary personal finance problems over ill-gotten gains any day. Good for you Bobby!!.

>REACT: Iraqi hostages among their "friends?"

>The report of a bunch of westerners associated with Chicago-based Christian Peacemaker Teams being captured by ruthless criminal Iraqi terrorists seems to confirm the lunacy of the left these days. First and foremost, what on earth were these people doing there in the first place? There is a war going on, being waged by people who HATE westerners — and especially hate infidel Christians. I know there are many people moved by a sense of moral mission willingly face danger, and even death, when the cause is noble. I have enormous respect for those people. They are the saints among us.

Teams is not of that ilk, however.

For whatever their stated intention, Teams appears to be part of a propaganda industry dedicated to demonizing America, its people, culture, and causes. Teams spokesperson Kryss Chupp was quoted as describing the work of Teams as purely humanitarian. “We’re not a proselytizing organization,” she alleged. Very noble, but very untrue.

The same article quoted the group’s official reaction to the kidnappings. They said, “We are angry because what had happened to our teammates is the result of the actions of the U.S. and U.K. government (sic) due to the illegal attack on Iraq and oppression of its people.” One can only imagine what that official statement might have sounded like if they did proselytize. Their web site further supports the murders of Iraq over the liberating allied army. Yes, I said “liberating” because that is the view of the vast majority of Iraqi citizens. Teams is in league with terrorists, and in opposition to U.S./Israeli/U.N. efforts to rid the world of them.

It is particularly outrageous that they should advance the lies that this war is illegal, and the vast majority of the people of Iraq are being oppressed by America, and its allies. I have very little sympathy of anyone who would be so morally corrupted as to aid and abet the murderous terrorists, and psychopath tyrants, at the expense of our troops (including my grandson and youing cousin), and the many innocent civilian victims (Christian, Jew or Muslim) of unimaginable terrorist brutality and cruelty.

While the express humanitarian purposes, their mission is to publicize the propaganda of the enemy – to parrot the Anti-American rhetoric of the terrorist network. They now rest in the bosom of their allies. The hostages should be pleased to be “hosted” at the “invitation” of their oppressed compatriots – safe from the protection of the country they so disparage.

I sincerely hope and pray they will be rescued, perhaps by the military forces they so despise. I would revel in the irony. I also hope and pray that after experiencing the “hospitality” of their “friends,” they will see the light. Should they not survive, perhaps the lesson will be learned by others. We should be reminded that “those who will not recognize evil cannot fight against it” – perhaps they cannot even survive it.