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The [Friday] Papers

God, this sounds funny.

Sun-Times columnist Cathleen Falsani writes this morning about a YouTube series called God, Inc., made by a Park Ridge native.

"The basic premise of God, Inc. is that the bulk of what's going wrong on Earth is the fault of corporate mismanagement and worker malaise in God's office, i.e., heaven," Falsani writes.

"There's only one guy left in the miracles department; tsunamis, earthquakes and other 'acts of God' are handled by the massive 'Disasters' department, and three geeks in the windowless room of the 'Product Development' department are in charge of dreaming up new plant and animal species.

"That's where sweet Sarah, the focal protagonist, has been placed as an intern upon her untimely death from leukemia. Her first successful foray into the creation racket is a rainbow-colored frog, drawing the wrath of her colleague Gavin, who can't seem to get his porcupottamus design approved.

"Prayers spout from a fax machine in a small stock room where three woebegone God, Inc. drones frantically try to file them in unlabeled pigeonholes. "It's a crap job,' a colleague tells Sarah. 'Nobody reads them.'"

My Sweet Lord
A chocolate statue of Jesus (via Sun-Times).

My Sweet Fool
The April Fool's Day Defense Kit.

I fell for a media April Fool's joke once. It was sometime in early or mid 90s and, as I recall, the Replacements - probably my all-time favorite band before they went sour at the end - were supposedly barrelling down Interstate 94 from Minneapolis for an in-studio performance at WXRT. Do I remember correctly that the occasion was a new studio on North Michigan Avenue?

My favorite April Fool's media story, though, is the 1979 interview with Jesus at the 400 Bar in Minneapolis, conducting by the staff of The Minnesota Daily, my alma mater. The outcry prompted the university administration to withdraw the tiny portion of student fees that went to the Daily. The Daily, as it was wont to do, sued their ass - and won. In 1983, the 8th Circuit ruled that the university's attempt to financially punish the paper for editorial content it did not like was unconstitutional.

Reporter vs. Obama
A Newsday reporter takes issue with Obama's description of events in a Wolf Blitzer interview.

Corruption Buster
Former aldermanic challenger Catherine Czaryczny still has this to say on her website despite the fact that she is now endorsing incumbent Ted Matlak:

"Most recently, Catherine teamed with Phil Rogers of NBC 5 News, exposing Alderman Ted Matlak as having conspired with the convicted city officials Donald Tomczak and Robert Sorich. Catherine's investigative research detailed the scheme where Tomczak supplied an army of city workers to campaign for Alderman Matlak during his last election.

"These campaign workers were rewarded in the form of overtime and unearned promotions paid for by taxpayers. Alderman Matlak was elected 'on the City's dime and time.' After this disclosure, Alderman Matlak refuses to reimburse taxpayers.

"Catherine is honest, tough and hardworking. She would like to be the 32nd Ward's independent voice on the City Council, respecting both the cherished traditions and emerging modern interests of our dynamic Ward."

(Excellent use of The Beachwood Tip Line!)

Shilling Shiller
Compare and contrast.

While I understand the Reader's new neighborhoods project - kicking off this week with Uptown - may be at least in part driven by ad sales, I'm always both distressed and bemused when the media makes these special efforts to delve into the cities they ostensibly cover. The Sun-Times, for example, now has a neighborhoods blog, apparently by a reporter whose beat is neighborhoods (which ones do you think will get covered?).

Shouldn't covering neighborhoods be a matter of course? If the media did its job better, it wouldn't have to make such special efforts to actually delve into the places where readers live.

The Daily Herald has posted "Then and Now: Obama's Views On Gay Rights," which includes a look back at Obama's visit to the paper's editorial board in 2004.

"One editor called Obama out on that position, asking him if he was being more 'politically expedient than principled.'"

Phil Wiggum
Police chief Phil Cline is making the media rounds trying to manage the fallout from the Anthony Abbate video. I'm not sure if Cline doesn't get it or if he's trying to spin a line, but either way he's not doing himself any favors.

On The Roe Conn Show on WLS radio yesterday, Cline said that he'd like to take a baseball bat to Abbate - though of course he can't. I mean, he wouldn't want to risk video of that getting out to YouTube.

While Cline was obviously speaking metaphorically, the fact that he would have a violent impulse driven by his own anger at being embarrassed doesn't say much for having a deeper understanding of the police department's old-school culture. Cline is still stuck in the "few bad apples" stage of denial.

On Chicago Tonight last night, Cline sat for an interview with Eddie Arruza. Arruza tried to be tough on the chief, but his questions were mostly of the same-old same-old variety, and he didn't have at his disposal the same grasp of the issues (and the statistics) that, say, a Jamie Kalven has. Assigning the interview to Kalven - or at least putting them on a panel together - would have been much more useful and revealing. Hell, put John Conroy on the panel too.

The highlights:

* "I was disgusted by it, just like everyone else," Cline said of the Abbate video. "And it's an aberration."

True. The department is more known for torture, jewel thiefs, drug runners, quick triggers, and pay-to-play gang protection.

* "In the last four years, I have fired 110 officers. In only two of those incidents was there videotape."

How does that number compare to other major cities?

"I don't know . . . you're gonna have some bad apples."

Maybe you should know, chief.

"It's equal to misconduct by members of the media. Half of one percent (of the force)."

No, my sense is that police misconduct is greater than media misconduct - at least as far as actually committing crimes goes. Plus, the media doesn't carry guns.

This is a favorite defensive reply of the mayor's, too. While it's true that Conrad Black is in the dock, the number of journalists being convicted for ripping off the public is considerably lower than those of the Daley Administration, no?

* "Bad apples . . . we identify them, and then weed them out."

And yet they keep coming back.

"We have a system in place now where officers with a large number of complaints are placed in greater scrutiny . . . a new computer system . . . will be in place by the end of summer . . . it will tell us which officers are using medical at higher rate, complaints, lower arrest productivity, the red flags."

So actually you won't be identifying and weeding them out for at least another few months.

* Arruza asked how many settlements for police abuse the city enters into each year.

"You'll have to get that from the [city] law department."

Should you know? Arruza asked.

"It's a civil matter handled by the law department."

Maybe you should know, chief. In the least, it would show that you take it seriously.

* What has the mayor said to you? Arruza asked.

"He was upset by all of the attention that was brought by the Abbate case."

Which is typical. The mayor is always upset by the attention bad news brings, not the actual bad news.

* There are "rumbles," Arruza noted, that the ongoing investigation into the Special Operations Sections could turn out to be among the worst scandals in department history. Cline's response? He's proud the investigation was initiated by internal affairs.

Just a few more bad apples being weeded out, I guess.

* Fun fact: In the summer of 1986, when Jon Burge was promoted from Area 2 to Commander of the Bomb and Arson Unit, he was replaced by . . . Lt. Phil Cline, according to The Chicago Police Torture Archive at the University of Chicago.

Torture Program
My guess is that Cline won't be at the Northwestern University Conference on Human Rights this weekend. The Conference this year is titled "2007/Torture: A Critical Look."

Today's schedule includes:

10:00 AM - The Ecology of Torture at the McCormick Tribune Center Forum. - This panel will explore the conditions necessary for torture to occur on both a personal and institutional level. The panelists will discuss the human and state actors involved in the perpetration of torture.

Participants: John Conroy, Aziz Huq, J.D., Craig Haney, Ph.D, J.D., Tony Lagouranis.

1:00 PM - Torture in a Historical Context at the McCormick Tribune Center Forum. - This panel will address the history of torture, focusing predominantly on the last 50 years. Through having this particular discussion, we hope to reveal patterns in the proliferation of torture that can be understood and combatted.

Participants: Joseph Margulies, J.D., Alfred McCoy, Ph.D., Michael O'Connor, Major Sean Watts.

3:30 PM - Torture in the Media and Culture Panel at the McCormick Tribune Center Forum. - This panel will explore the cultural environment necessary for and produced by torture and its relationship to the prevalence of images of torture in a society. In order to touch on the latter theme, the panelists will address the media's impact on shaping public consciousness, the responsibility it bears to publicize discomforting events, as well as the power of words to obfuscate the reality of torture in any society.

Participants: Stephen Eisenman, Ph.D., Marguerite Feitlowitz, Hector Aristizabal.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Better than a prayer.


Posted on March 30, 2007

MUSIC - Lyric Opera Strike Settled.
POLITICS - USA Today's Op-Ed Disaster.
SPORTS - SportsMonday: Come On, Vic!

BOOKS - Chicago Book Haul: The Dial.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Chicagoetry: West Town Blues.

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