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The [Monday] Papers

Among the things I haven't made any mileage out of when it comes to Barack Obama is his icy relationships with former state legislative colleagues like Donne Trotter and Rickey Hendon, namely because those guys are boneheads. Obama's modus operandi in Springfield, it seems to me, was to keep his distance from the dirt in order to maintain the viability of his ambitions. That didn't mean standing up to the hacks or leading a reform movement, it just meant not wasting time with clowns unlikely to be useful to his future while waiting for the right opportunity to cleave himself to hack-in-chief Emil Jones.

So it's kind of painful to read the Obama profiles that inevitably draw the wrong lesson from Obama's dealings with these guys - as an example of his arrogance, aloofness, lack of "blackness". That all just misses the point.

Trotter and, particularly, Hendon are artless fools. The latest example was bared on the pages of the Tribune on Sunday.

"The state is squandering taxpayer money on dubious after-school grants, including many that rewarded one lawmaker's political supporters, a Tribune investigation found," Stephanie Banchero and Patricia Callahan report.

"Powerful Senate Democrats quietly gave out the money to handpicked nonprofits, schools, businesses and churches. The lawmakers funneled the money through the Illinois State Board of Education, which rubber-stamped the choices.

"But a Tribune investigation found that nearly half of the 48 groups that got money this past school year were running dubious programs, or declined to show how they spent the money. Only 11 of the grants went to established programs with a history of tutoring or mentoring school-age children."

Classic bumbling, right? But here's the payoff:

"All of the questionable projects share the same sponsor: West Side Sen. Rickey Hendon (D-Chicago), who awarded many grants to campaign workers and donors, the investigation found."

That's Ricky!

"In some cases, the grantees provided instruction so unorthodox that it's difficult to determine the educational value. The Al Malik Temple for Universal Truth spent its $20,000 to teach children how their birth date and name influence their destiny."

Especially in Illinois politics.

Hendon, of course, has a long history of foolishness. Just last February, he "claimed that one of his challengers, Jonathan Singh Bedi, was being secretly funded by al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein," Rich Miller reported at the time.

Yes, I know.

Hendon is also on the front lines of getting pay raises for himself and his illustrious colleagues. When Jones needs the dirty work done, Hendon is one of the guys he calls on.

And what does Hendon have to say for himself?

"My job is to legislate and appropriate," he told the Trib. "And I am going to appropriate all I can."

Even to himself.

Show Them The Money
"The after-school funding program was launched three years ago in a deal between Gov. Rod Blagojevich and a handful of influential Senate Democrats.

"The legislative leaders chose recipients before the groups filed applications. The board of education later sent applications and received often-sparse details back. They awarded the money but never visited the programs to see if they existed."

Persons of Interest
Both the Tribune and Sun-Times have reported on successive days on both the questioning of a "person of interest" and the release of a "person of interest" in the case of Mya Lyons.

For the billionth time, "person of interest" is a nonsense phrase that is somewhat equitable to "suspect" and has no business in a work of journalism. Didn't we just learn that DNA evidence has excluded the Ramseys from suspicion in their long-running soap opera? Police question a lot of people during investigations. Reporters are right to track the questioning, but editors are wrong to publish the information before anyone is charged.

Rod Squad
On the other hand, isn't the governor officially a "person of interest"?

I am not the Steve Rhodes mentioned in Richard Roeper's column today. There's some dude on the West Coast with the same name who's been writing about movies and technology for years.

Broadcast News
"'If it bleeds, it leads is an axiom in the news business. Meaning: Crime stories draw attention," Andrew Herrmann writes in the Sun-Times this morning.

Wrong. The axiom means that if a crime story contains even the scent of blood, it leads the broadcast. It's not clear at all, though, that audiences want to watch them.

Pitchfork Plaudits
Among the bands that Greg Kot saw over the weekend and cites as "headed for bigger and better things:" Boris.

I just want to second that emotion.

In Today's Beachwood
* Reasons why we love the Brewers and hate the Cardinals.

* Reasons why the Sox in the second-half will look a lot like the Sox in the first.

* Reasons why Kyle Orton is the answer.

* Reasons why Oprah is a conduit to Hell.

* Reasons to love UFO and any lame tribute band that loves them too.

* Reasons why J.J. Tindall is dead, fellas.

Doggie Style
I think this is the Sun-Times's way of telling reporters they're about to be laid off.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Rough and tumble.


Posted on July 21, 2008

MUSIC - Lyric Opera Strike An Old Story.
POLITICS - USA Today's Op-Ed Disaster.
SPORTS - Beachwood Sports Radio: Kanye, Chili, Jimmy, Tarik.

BOOKS - Conway Barbour & The Black Middle Class.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Recall! Malone's Pork Head Cheese.

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