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The [Monday] Papers

The continuing delight that is the story of the UFO spotted hovering above Gate C-17 at O'Hare airport has captured the wonder and imagination of Earthlings far and wide, with one notable exception: Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg.

UFOs, Steinberg writes (second item), frighten him, because they show just how far we haven't come from primitive beliefs.

I suppose you could work up an argument like that, but I think just the opposite is true. While I don't believe the vast majority - if any - of the people spotting UFOs are actually seeing alien spaceships, it's folly to believe that in an apparently infinite universe there is no other form of life, nor a form of life that one day might actually pay us a visit.

To believe that our pathetic lives are all that is out there - that in the incomprehensible vastness of endless space only one civilization has come to be, and it spends most of its waking hours watching American Idol and Dancing With The Stars - is actually a belief I find far more primitive than believing other beings could have invented space travel that likely doesn't involve taking one's shoes off before boarding. In fact, it is the possibility of alien life forms that shakes our most primitive belief systems - religions - to their roots.

So I'm leaning toward the explanation that space people could have indeed visited O'Hare, only to be frightened and confused by the Burrito Beach in Terminal 3. Until proven otherwise.

Space Story
Steinberg also chides the Tribune for putting the story on its front page. "Right under the masthead, where the wars and actual events in the real world belong," he writes.

I guess he's right, that's where news of wars and actual events in the real world belong, because we certainly can't get that from the Sun-Times, much less its front page.

Space Station
Can you imagine if the Sun-Times had broken this story (and don't let Steinberg fool you, they would have loved to have broken this story)?

A) Welcome, Spacemen! What you need to know about our wacky city.
B) Barbarians At The Gate! Enemy Ship Spotted At O'Hare. How to prepare, page 58.
C) Tell us your UFO stories.
D) Mini-Saucers Coming Sunday!

What It Really Was
As revealed by a Beachwood investigation.

Surgical Repair
Did most of the world believe that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction? I'm not sure most of the Bush Administration did. Hans Blix, Scott Ritter, Mohamed El Baradei and plenty of others didn't think Iraq had WMDs - or at least were highly skeptical. Certainly most of the world didn't back the American-led invasion. We know now that France was right. And the case for war was so shaky that Colin Powell was sent to the United Nations in desperation, and he didn't really believe what he said. Hell, when then-CIA director George Tenet made his presentation to the president, Bush's response was: "This is the best we've got?"

John Kass would have you believe otherwise. Kass can't seem to bring himself to admit that his guy, George W. Bush, made one of the all-time blunders, so thoroughly reported by now as a tangle of deception, ignorance, and incompetence that anyone who believes otherwise isn't trying.

To Kass, though, the problem with the war was that "Coupled with bad planning and expert surgery by Democratic opponents, Bush's political legs were cut out from under him."

Yes, the Democrats were so expert in their "opposition" to the Iraq invasion that they threw Howard Dean under the bus and failed to elect a genuine war hero, John Kerry, in 2004.

Kass goes on the say that what "galls" a soldier who is the focus of his column is "the politicians and spinners. They've got their facts and everything. But have they actually stepped foot on the ground, besides the Green Zone?"

I don't know about the "politicians and spinners," but reporters certainly have. And many didn't survive.

And part of the blame for that surely rests with the failure of the media to do its job in the first place. Compounding those errors doesn't do anything but threaten more lives.

Landmark Theater
The Sun-Times editorial page describes the Farwell Building victory for landmark preservation as an "upset," because, after all, landmark preservationists rarely win in Chicago. The Sun-Times rightly lauds this outcome, but doesn't stop to ask itself why it should be rare rather than the norm that the Commission on Chicago Landmarks should actually protect Chicago landmarks.

I'll tell you why: Mayor Richard M. Daley. It's his commission. He appoints its members. (Current members include chairman David Mosena, who has held a variety of positions for the mayor, including president of the CTA, and current planning department commissioner Lori Healey.)

Daley's name is nowhere to be found in the Sun-Times editorial, though. Because it's been such a smooth 17 years, why start holding the mayor accountable now?

Landmark Vote
Lynn Becker has the Farwell vote, and it appears there were three brave souls, not four, as reported by the Tribune, who saved the day.

As far as I can tell, the Sun-Times news pages abstained.

Local Oversight
Speaking of co-opted oversight, it might surprise you to learn that the City Council is not a city department. According to my research, it is actually an independent branch of the government, kind of like a local Congress.

So I find it slightly amusing to hear national Democrats including our very own Rahm Emanuel and Dick Durbin promising to return congressional oversight to the administration while we continue to go without it here at home.

Beauty School
"Since 1999 when the [Plan for Transformation] began, 66 high-rises and nearly 18,000 apartments have been demolished, according to CHA spokesman Bryan Zises, and more than 20,000 residents have had to relocate," the Tribune's Don Terry reports in a profile of Residents' Journal reporter Beauty Turner. "Another 5,600 units, most of them unoccupied, remain to be demolished. So far, about 6,000 new units have been built but only 25 percent of the original families have moved into them."

Turner gives the CHA's grand plan a "D." In October, the Sun-Times' Kate Grossman awarded the CHA a B-minus. I guess Turner gives harder tests.

Beauty Treatment
Terry's story was fine as far as it went, but it ended much too soon. A story about a crusading reporter covering one the nation's biggest public policy experiments demands some comparison to how her work stacks up against the mainstream competition - none of which has a full-time reporter covering one of the nation's biggest public policy experiments. Because, you know, they're not Chicagoans, just poor people.

Script Tease
Last week it was John Kass wondering where Hillary Clinton was going to stash the "liability" that is Bill during her presidential campaign, desptie the fact that Bill left office with the highest approval rating of any president in modern history.

Now it's Steinberg picking up the script: "The idea of electing Hillary as president would be tough to swallow in some quarters if she were married to Fred Rogers, and the fact that her husband is Bill Clinton magnifies the matter."

Sugar Shock
Why did the world's largest chocolate manufacturer need $880,000 to move to Chicago? Who knows. City officials didn't bother to ask.

Quorom Quotient
Can we establish democracy here before we try to establish it in countries where we're not welcome?

Civics "R" Us
Steinberg also comes out (third item) in favor of denying free speech to rights to anyone under 18. "[T]eachers and principals need a lot of latitude to make sure learning gets pushed ahead of all the other concerns - friends, hobbies, fads, computers - jostling for the attention of today's distracted youth."

As opposed to the hyper-focused youths of yesteryear.

Do you ever get the feeling Steinberg was never a kid - and yet, never grew up?

"The need to listen to authority - even a ham-handed principal - dwarfs that of the need for teenagers to express themselves freely in school corridors."

Or, say, in their school newspapers. The last thing we would want to do is teach students to challenge authority. Steinberg is right about that; you'll never land a job at the Sun-Times that way.

Mary Contrary
Mary Laney, continuing to abuse the privilege of holding down an Op-Ed column at a Chicago daily, wonders when the media is finally going to report on all the bad things Saddam Hussein did, instead of all this fretting about his unruly execution putting more American soldiers at risk.

Bear Dare
"In effect the Bears played [the Green Bay game] with one hand tied behind their backs, showing no inventiveness in their offensive game plan and withholding their more intricate blitz packages and coverages on defense," writes the city's best sportswriter, the Reader's Ted Cox.

"This was because - and it's a sin of omission that no one pointed this out, from Madden to the so-called experts at the dailies - the Bears were clearly playing possum, hiding their best offensives and defensive schemes from their potential playoff opponents."

The Beachwood Tip Line: Milky Way-wide.


Posted on January 8, 2007

MUSIC - Who's Next In Chicago Rap.
TV - Tribune-Nexstar Deal Is Bad News.
POLITICS - Big Soda Hates You.
SPORTS - The Ex-Cub Factor.

BOOKS - Wright Brothers, Wrong Story!

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - The Bad News About Human Nature.

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