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The [Monday] Papers

"Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan cost taxpayers nearly half-a-billion dollars by blocking repeated efforts to restructure McCormick Place bonds and finance a much-needed second hotel at the convention center, a Crain's investigation finds.

"Between 2005 and 2010, Mr. Madigan stopped five refinancing bills, ignoring declining interest rates that would have saved hundreds of millions. At the time, he never explained why, but his reasons seem petty and political: McCormick Place CEO Juan Ochoa, an appointee of then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, had fired a Madigan ally at the convention center, and lawmakers from both parties say the speaker wanted retribution."

Madigan, of course, refused to answer Crain's questions. That's Steve Brown's job.

"As for Mr. Madigan, he never spoke of his reasons for rejecting bill after bill. But in response to questions from Crain's, a spokesman for Mr. Madigan now says the speaker blocked refinancing to prevent the Blagojevich administration from cashing in on contracts for bond work, such as underwriting and legal services. He provided Crain's an unsigned memorandum of understanding, dated August 2007, in which McPier agreed to allow the state to review and approve all fees and 'structuring decisions' related to bond refinancing."

If that was true, you'd have thought Madigan would have said so at the time. He didn't.

"I never got a firm answer as to why the bills never advanced in the House," State Sen. Kwame Raoul told Crain's. McCormick Place is in Raoul's district and he sponsored two of the refinancing bills that Madigan killed.

State Rep. Jim Sacia also tried to get an explanation once in real-time.

"I would be deeply grateful, Speaker, if you could explain to the body how that could happen, if that in fact was the case - did I misunderstand something?" Sacia asked during the session last spring. "Did a bill pass the Senate that could have saved the taxpayers of this state several hundred million dollars? Would you be kind enough to address that, if you could?"

Madigan's response: "Mr. Sacia, I'm not sure I understand your question . . . "

Today, though, Madigan's mouth seems to have gained just such an understanding, telling Crain's that the "consequences were outweighed by (opposition to) becoming part of the Blagojevich fundraising machine."

Of course, that didn't stop Madigan from co-chairing Blago's 2006 re-election campaign. But then, why start quibbling when Madigan (and Brown's) explanations are so patently false.

There's a lot more to this story and I hope to revisit several other parts of it through the week.

Jury Fail
"Some federal judges are reluctant to approve background checks because they perceive them as unwarranted invasions of privacy. Others avoid them because they cost too much money or require too much time," the Tribune reports.

"It's too cumbersome to do background checks on every juror in every case," defense attorney Steve Greenberg told the paper. "I don't know that anyone here is at fault. I don't think anyone starts from the position that a juror is going to lie."

Too cumbersome? Cook County courts have been doing it for years. How hard is it?

"Cellini's defense team didn't do background checks in this case because his attorneys didn't feel it was their place, Webb said."

Not your place? You're a defense lawyer!

"We don't go out and investigate whether someone is a U.S. citizen or over 18 years of age," Webb said.

So an underage citizen of North Korea can get on a federal jury here?

"Defense lawyers should not be invading a jurors' privacy."

Let me tell you something: Once someone is picked for a jury, they become akin to a public official, engaged in the public's business and open to scrutiny. That's democracy.


"First Amendment proponents argue that the current legal mess could have been avoided if [federal judge James] Zagel had provided media with the juror questionnaires during the trial instead of a week after the verdict. As they did in the Ryan trial, journalists most likely would have reported the woman's criminal history before the verdict, allowing the judge to address it before a decision was reached, experts said.

"'Maybe now he'll understand that the press wasn't whining (about releasing the jurors' names),' said Beth Konrad, a Loyola University journalism professor and past president of the Society of Professional Journalists' Chicago chapter. 'There is a legitimate public interest.'"

And when government doesn't do its job, it's often up to journalists to do it for them.

City Council Joke Is On Us
"Everything you need to know about the Chicago City Council's relationship with its new inspector general was summed up in this anecdote from Thursday's Tribune: Reached by reporters, the just-named watchdog declined to answer questions, saying aldermen had asked him not to speak to the media," the paper says in an editorial.

I guess one of the tactics used by the world's most childish people is to just wear you down. Folks like Madigan and Ed Burke (see below) and the Daleys and Emanuels of the world never seem to tire of their antics the way we tire of being subjected to them. I guess because perpetrating antics is actually their job.

"[The new inspector general] won't be allowed to launch an investigation on his own. Instead, he'll need the approval of the Chicago Board of Ethics. In 24 years, that board hasn't accused a single alderman of wrongdoing, even as 20 of them were convicted of felonies.

"The inspector general isn't allowed to act on anonymous reports. That should keep a lid on the tattletales who might be tempted to rat out their bosses or political rivals.

"The office doesn't come with an investigative staff. Khan will have to rely on investigators from yes, the Board of Ethics.

"His job, according to Ald. Edward Burke, 14th, will be to 'respond to complaints, if there are any,' of wrongdoing by the 50 aldermen or their staffs."

I wonder if he'll respond to a complaint that his job is a sham.

Bears Brain Trust Smart After All!
"Numerous professional yakkers spent this week asserting that the Bears had found success the past few weeks because Mike Martz had changed," our very own Jim Coffman writes. "These were the people who wouldn't shut up about what a bad offensive coordinator he was, what a bad coach Lovie Smith was and what a bad general manager Jerry Angelo was (despite the team having made the NFL's final four the year before) when the team started this season 2-3.

"The talkers had to try to find a way to justify the fact that if you went back and listened to what they were saying during the weeks leading up to the Bears' current four-game winning streak, you would conclude they don't know what they're talking about.

"Perhaps in the aftermath of the Bears' dominant, 37-13 victory over the Lions we can get a few things straight and then maybe avoid sounding like idiots the next time the Bears suffer the horrible indignity of a couple losses in a row with the current leadership team in place."

The Weekend in Occupy Chicago
War veterans, police officers, an investigative cartoonist and some Shabbat challah get occupied.

Space Ace
Ace Frehley signs books and body parts in Chicago.

The Weekend in Chicago Rock
From Shonen Knife to Mr. Gnome.

Loyola Students Vie For Prize Beer Keg . . .
. . . In Odd Pushball Game.

Programming Note
Once again it's Monday, and once again that means I'll be behind the bar tonight at the venerable Beachwood Inn. Join us for antics of our own. Bring your thirst and your jukebox money. Occupiers welcome. 5p - 2a.


The Beachwood Tip Line: Anticky.


Posted on November 14, 2011

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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