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The [Friday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

A lot to get to, so I'll just dig right in in no particular order.

1. Big bold front page headline in the Sun-Times today: "One Stick-Up A Day On CTA."

Yes, but is this good or bad? I mean, how does this compare to the non-CTA population? After all, crime is up everywhere.

Predictably, we never find out.

A simple rule to use when it comes to statistics is to always compare them in a way that makes them useful to the reader. That doesn't happen here. In fact, the numbers provided by the Chicago Police Department don't really make the case that we should be alarmed.

For example, theft on the CTA has remained relatively stable over the last three years: 1,173 cases in 2006, 1,238 cases in 2008.

Ridership is up by 6 percent over the same time frame, so if someone did the per capita math, I'd say the CTA was in pretty good shape.

Aggravated batteries have risen over the last three years from 75 cases to 94. Probably right in line with citywide battery cases.

The anomaly is robbery. In 2006, 246 robbery cases were reported. That number rose to 436 in 2008. (Theft is robbery without force; or vice versa).

What accounts for the increase?

A Guardian Angel claims he's seeing more pickpockets and snatch-and-grabs, which would really be thefts, not robberies, no?

The commander of the Chicago police's public transportation section seems to blame kid-on-kid crime fueled by victims not paying attention to their surroundings because they're wearing iPods.

Frankly, I don't care what anyone "thinks."

A reporter's time is better spent doing a serious analysis of the numbers instead of retailing the imaginations of even police supervisors who haven't bothered to analyze the numbers themselves.

And is there really a "stick-up" a day? Not every robbery involves a gun.

Sadly, I didn't come out of this story any more knowledgeable about crime on the CTA then when I went into it.

2. "Us Weekly has sold sponsorship of its new Facebook profile to State Farm in what appears to be a first for a media company on the social network, as well as a first for a company's fan page," Ad Age reports.

And apparently Facebook doesn't get a dime. It's a glorious new world for those willing to open their eyes.

3. "About 225 accordion-style buses that the CTA removed from service in February after cracks and other structural defects were found will not be returned to the streets of Chicago," the Tribune reports.

"Among the issues still to be resolved is how many millions of dollars in losses the CTA, the busmaker and taxpayers will be on the hook for in the $102.1 million deal gone sour.

"The CTA and the manufacturer, North American Bus Industries Inc., continue to battle in Cook County Circuit Court. Lawsuits were filed after negotiations reached an impasse several years ago."

I was struck by this quote from Darrell Jefferson, president of the CTA bus drivers union: "We knew the CTA was buying a lemon when they bought those buses. The people who were sent to Alabama to inspect the buses, they kind of informed us way back that this bus would not meet standards."

I made a cursory check of the newspaper databases to find evidence of this and came up empty, which isn't to say it isn't true. In fact, I really don't doubt it. But I'd sure like to see what Jefferson and the union said back then instead of just letting him say it now.

4. The Olympic Bid That Could Have Been. If only Chicago had the foresight - and was a democracy.

5. I'm never happy to see layoffs, but Tribune editor Gerry Kern is right when he says that the newsroom has to be restructured, and that in time folks will be hired for new jobs. The place needs a total overhaul. In fact, it's long overdue. However . . .

6. "While the Chicago Tribune laid off more than 10 percent of its news staff Wednesday, the paper's corporate overlords sought bankruptcy court approval of a plan to pay $13 million in bonuses to top managers," the Sun-Times reports.

"Relying on findings from compensation consultant Mercer (U.S.) Inc., Tribune said that even with the awards, the executives would be paid 41 percent less than their market competitors. Not addressing the disparity 'would have a significant adverse impact on employee performance and morale,' it told the bankruptcy court."


"I believe you're responsible for your own morale."
- Tribune managing editor Jane Hirt

7. Stroger's Lame Blame Game. Background check "lost in the mail." And his dog ate the budget.

8. Why is there a demand for Pat Quinn to apologize for his rather strained and limited defense of Rod Blagojevich in 2006 but no such outcry for the far more enthusiastic, actual campaigning for Blagojevich by one Barack Obama?


"In the summer of 2006, the then-U.S. Sen. Obama backed Blagojevich even though there were serious questions at the time about Blagojevich's hiring practices," ABC News reported.

And far more enthusiastically than Quinn did.

9. Speaking of Obama getting more passes than Jerry Rice, this credit card story makes me laugh because . . . doesn't anybody remember this?

"To some liberals, the proposal was a no-brainer: a ceiling of 30 percent on interest rates for credit cards and other consumer debt," the Tribune reported. "And as he left his office to vote on it, Obama planned to support the measure, which was being considered as an amendment to a major overhaul of the nation's bankruptcy laws.

"But when the amendment came up for a vote, Obama was standing next to Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.), the senior Democrat on the banking committee and the leader of those opposing the landmark bill, which would make it harder for Americans to get rid of debt.

"'You know, this is probably not a smart amendment for us to vote for,' Obama recalled Sarbanes telling him. 'Thirty percent is sort of a random number.'

"Obama joined Sarbanes in voting against the amendment . . . There remains no federal ceiling on credit card interest rates."


And don't even get me started about torture.

10. From Beachwood Bob: "Wouldn't it be interesting if the Republican Party came out for gay marriage?"

Even better:

"Miss California should have answered that her beliefs on gay marriage are the same as the president's."

Which they are. Think, people.

11. "Labor says no Wal-Marts should be built in Chicago, but everybody else is all right," Mayor Daley said on Thursday. "That's the thing I don't understand."

Maybe you don't understand it because it's not true - on several levels. Would any reporter care to challenge that assertion.?

12. Newspaper publishers weren't always so reluctant to "give away" their product for "free." Remember when circulation figures tumbled so they started using "readership" as a metric? That meant they counted how many times people who actually bought the paper left it on the train for others to read and tried to build it into their ad rates.

13. The Mystery of Bill Daley. He's got an itch he just can't scratch.

14. "I vow each year to keep it simple, not try to cover every wagering possibility in the race. Because it is the amateurs who help bestow upon these horses the kinds of odds that make you second-guess yourself either way," our man on the rail Thomas Chambers writes in "TrackNotes: Derby Week."

15. Our very own Marilyn Ferdinand has begun her coverage of EbertFest at Ferdy On Films.

16. Chicago's Fake Outrage Meter. Too little, too late.

17. Minnesota to Illinois: Knock It Off!

18. Introducing Meet Your Chicago Bloodshot Musician, part of our new Bloodshot Briefing feature. First up: a North Side couch-surfer who once acted in a Budweiser commercial and now plays bass for Ha Ha Tonka.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Surfable.


Posted on April 24, 2009

MUSIC - Madonna vs. Moderna.
TV - Sundays With The Military-Industrial Complex.
POLITICS - Private Equity In The ER.
SPORTS - Suspicious Betting Trends In Soccer.

BOOKS - China Holding Swedish Publisher.


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