Monthly Archives: March 2007

>OBSERVATION: Of course crime pays.

>David Radler, former Chief Operating Officer of the Chicago Sunk-Times (Ooops, that should be SUN-Times) is living proof that crime pays. He has just reached a settlement with the SEC to pay more than $28 million to avoid further prosecution. He buys himself a “Get of Jail Free” card.

Not so “free,” you say? Just think of it this way. He is paying his “fine” with a portion of the money he stole. It is like getting caught robbing the bank, and being let go after paying some of the money back. Just think how much the guy stole to be able to pay a fine of $28 million … geez.

Couple this “buy out” and his plea bargain on the other charges, and Radler still winds up a very rich and free man for all his misdeeds. That is not justice.

>REACT: In Defense of the Penny … or boo to you Neil Steinberg

>Chicago Sun-Times columnist, Neil Steinberg, has come out against the preservation of the penny. He employs the usual arguments. It’s worth less than the cost of production. It is not used in commerce—at least not necessary. No vending machines use it any more. They just wind up collecting in jars.

True, it costs more than a penny to make one. No longer used in commerce? Why do I always wind up with pennies in my change from the store? And, there ARE still penny gumball machines here and about. One major grocery chain features a penny mechanical horse ride near the check out counter.

All this aside, our buddy Neil misses the true value of the penny.

First of all, it is the only coin with the image of the most revered President, Abraham Lincoln. As the 16th Chief Executive might say, “it is altogether fitting and proper” that his image should be on the most humble of coins, to symbolize his own humble nature. It was the first U.S. coin to feature a President.

Northerners complained that such a great President should be honored with a coin of greater value. Southerners complained that such tributes were for tyrants — which they viewed Lincoln to be. Still, when introduced in 1909, the Lincoln penny was so popular that long lines formed at the mint, and citizens were limited to one dollars’ worth. People were immediately selling them on the street – three pennies for a nickel. Compare that to the recent releases of the highly touted dollar coins. The face of the penny is said to be “the most reproduced piece of art in the history of the world.” Originally minted in pure copper, it was the most unique U.S. coin.

Should we do away with the penny, what do we do with Lincoln? The absence of a Lincoln on our coinage would be a disgrace. So who goes? Washington booted oft the newly designed quarter? Jefferson off the nickel? Roosevelt off the dime? No larger coin would do. Any Lincoln coin must be in widespread use. Perhaps the most appropriate option would be to replace slave-owning Jefferson with the Great Emancipator. Jefferson still has the two dollar bill. To completely remove Lincoln from coinage of common circulation is unthinkable.

It is true. The penny does wind up in the family coin jar more often than any other coins. In our case, all pennies are put into a coffee tin in my son’s room. Pennies add up. For my son, the can is usually worth up to $10 by the time the copper coins are redeemed at the bank. Alex can then buy something special, or save up for a more expensive item. So, try convincing kids like Alex that pennies are worthless.

And pennies do not add up just for Alex. Did you ever notice all those pennies in the charity jars at the Seven-Eleven counters? If Neil has his way, the needy will have to do without the benefit of a ton (literally) of pennies.

Think about all those kids who start their coin collecting careers with a penny book. They meticulously look through hundreds of pennies to find a 1943 “steel” or those old “wheat” backs. Many kids cannot afford to set aside nickels and dimes for their collections.

I have been told that in some parts of America, “pitching pennies” is still a pastime. And what about all those machines at amusement parks that let you elongate a penny, or “stamp” it into a new inscription of one sort or another. These “elongated” pennies (pictured) are a big business and sought after by avid collectors. (Check out or

I suspect that the inventor of the penny-stretching machine was a kid, like me, who occasionally placed a penny on the railroad track in anticipation of the train that would turn it into a misshaped piece of copper. Not a pastime of which my parents would have approved, although I suspect they knew from whence came those pancaked pennies in my dresser drawer.

Without the penny, compulsive gambling would escalate. I am satisfied playing our nation’s favorite card game, penny-ante poker. Suddenly buying into the game would increase more than two-fold, a minimum nickel replacing the traditional two-penny ante. This is the beginning of serious gaming. And don’t try to sell me on the idea of chips. No friendly poker game is worth a bust hand without real money on the table. That “clink” of the coin hitting the Formica is music. And speaking of gambling. In many bingo halls, the penny is still the preferred card marker — over plastic chips, corn kernels and ink blotches.

Think of the loss to the language. How can one demand to get back “every penny you owe me?” And what can you do with the money when it is paid back? Why, invest it in “penny stocks.” Some things “won’t cost you a penny.” When I buy something, I want it to be worth “every penny I spent.” What is a better word for a miser than a “penny pincher?” We refer to financial subjects simply as “a matter of dollars and cents.” Lost would be Ben Franklin’s sage advice that “a penny saved is a penny earned.” Borrowing from the Brits, you may think of some people as “penny wise, pound foolish.” What is the compliment to be if not telling that little girl she is as “pretty as a penny?” Or course, some desired item could cost a “pretty penny.” How will the gentle lady announce going to the bathroom if not by say she is going to”spend a penny?” If we are nosey, would be no longer able to “stick in our two cents?” Gone is the relevance of Gene Kelly swirling around a lamp post singing, “every time it rains, it rains … pennies from heaven.”

What well dressed man would be without at least one pair of penny loafers, althoughI rarely see the penny imbedded in the front flap any more. Tons of women’s jewelry has been made from pennies.

How about all those penny websites? Want to know how many pennies to re-create the Empire State building? Check out the mega penny project at

The penny is the good luck coin. Sacks of pennies have been good luck gifts at graduations, religious holidays and birthdays. Even when I was 18, Grandma Bessie taped pennies to my card – no nickels or dimes, just 18 shiny pennies. Finding a penny on the street is traditionally followed by a self declaration of good luck. Devotion to the penny reaches theological proportions in the Penny Catechism, where the adoration of the Penny God is explained. (See

And what about the endless practical uses for the penny?

If my screen door will not stay open with the sliding retainer, a wedged penny restores functionality. I have been known to level off bookcases and electronic devices with pennies. They are ideal for scratching off contest cards. They have served as “shims” behind a door lock plate that did not properly catch the bolt. Handicrafters have turned pennies into hot pads, paperweights. Pennies can even be used to make an AM radio. They can be used to replace a burnt our fuse (ok… bad idea. But they can.).

They are a safety tool. Experts tell us the simplest way to check the tread wear of your tire is to stick a penny in the groove, and if you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, you need to replace the tire.

Our friend Neil would cast a side one of retailers’ most honored traditions — the “almost” price tag. You know $4.98 for this, or $9.99 for that. Of course prices would be rounded off to the next highest non-penny amount. Multiply this by the billions of penny-change purchases and the elimination of the cent adds millions, maybe billions, of real dollars to the cost of goods. Abolishing the penny is a step toward inflation.

Far from being useless, the penny is among the most useful of coins. It is also the only coin that has survived the degradation of the folks at the mint. It is still a real coin – not the “play money” mintings of recent years. It is our most charming coin. It is part of our American culture. So Neil. A penny for your thoughts?

>OP ED: What are those congressional Dems thinking?

>I tend to be a pretty go-along guy. Sure, I fully expected to be disappointed by the agenda of the new leadership in Congress. But … that’s part of life. Win some, lose some. What I was not prepared for was the utter abandonment of common sense, decency and good judgment.

In a funny sort of way, I could not be more pleased. At the rate they are going, I am looking forward to the self destruction of the liberal Democrats before the next round of elections. Who could have presaged the craziness coming from Capitol Hill these days?

Of course, the situation in Iraq is a major issue. So far, the Dems have waved the white flag of surrender to the murderous terrorists while declaring partisan political war on the Bush administration. Pelosi, Reid, Durbin et al slipped into leadership by promising to end the war that Bush botched. Now they are faced with the ugly reality or responsibility. Instead of advancing their oft promised “new direction, however, they are running around like Keystone Kops trying to find a political solution to the growing insurrection with the ranks of their own party. Peace at any cost is not sitting well with the public, and these vitriolic schemes to take over the duties of the Commander-in-Chief are down right dangerous. The proposed “delayed surrender” in 2008 is nothing short of insane. It tells the terrorist that time and the Democrat majority is on there side.

Maybe the collapse of the Democrats strategy has placed too much pressure on Speaker Pelosi. She seems to be losing it. First, she was on there verge of appointing a disgraced and impeached judge, now congressman, Alcee Hastings, as chairman of the Intelligence Committee. That was so nutty, that she had to back down or face a vote of “no confidence” in the form of her candidate’s rejection by the House membership.

Now she taps Representative William Jefferson (D-LA) for a place on the cloak-and-dagger Home Security Committee. You may recall him as the fellow arrested by the FBI with $90,000 in marked bills wrapped in tinfoil in his freezer — the proceeds from a bribery sting operation. When they legally raided his office to find more evidence, Pelosi screamed foul, essentially admitting what we all suspected — that congress is a rule-of-law free-zone. Corruption is officially protected by congressional privilege, implies Pelosi.

Now under the leadership of the liberal left, Congress has tossed out one of the most important and fundamental concepts of a free society — the secret ballot. In this case it applies to Union elections. In the name of protecting workers, unions will not be able to hold elections with each working having to publicly declare his or her voice. This is such a hideous piece of legislation that I think every member who voted in favor should be impeached and lynched. Ooops. Sorry, we don’t lynch any more. Pity. (<– Now for all you uptight hyper lefties. I was not serious about lynching the Democrat leadership. This was just a joke … a bit of exaggeration. I find this disclaimer necessary so you do not go around saying conservatives want to kill everyone.) Lighten up, for God sake.)

What the Congress is doing these days under the new leadership is about as extreme as you can get. Oh no. I am not talking extreme liberalism. I am referring to extreme stupidity. I am confident, however, in the (almost) unfailing good judgment of the American people to correct the mistakes of their elected officials. Perhaps 2008 is a better time to defeat both the terrorists and the appeasement-minded Democrat leadership in Congress.