The [Monday] Papers
1. The Tribune's editorial board finally took the leap this weekend and called for the abolition of the death penalty.
2. "I've been riding the El pretty much all my life, and I've never seen performance anywhere this bad," Alexander Facklis, a 37-year-old Blue Line rider, tells The New York Times.
The Times notes this morning that "The El's slower trains prevent it from carrying as many passengers per hour as transit systems in Atlanta, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and the San Francisco Bay area, according to a state performance audit released this month."
3. As tends to be the case, the off-duty Chicago cop who made national news by beating up a tiny female bartender as a video camera rolled has a history.
"[Anthony Abbate] was one of 100 Chicago police officers who had been hired despite having prior drug or alcohol related driving offenses," Channel 2's Dave Savini reports. "Abbate had also been arrested for drag racing and driving on a suspended license."
Savini, it turns out, interviewed Abbate five years ago. Abbate said then "he was sorry for his prior drunk driving and would never do anything like that again," Savini reports. "He was also named in a civil rights suit back then. That plaintiff is deceased."
The Chicago police brass are moving to fire Abbate, Savini notes. But the department's inability - or unwillingness - to weed out cops with a pattern of misbehavior is a longstanding issue that won't go away by getting rid of one guy.
4. Glove Box Tips, from Pueblo, Colorado.
6. Not such a good last few days for Barack Obama.
* At a health care forum in Las Vegas on Saturday, "Senator Barack Obama of Illinois appeared less conversant with the details of health policy and sometimes found himself on the defensive, trying to explain why he had yet to offer a detailed plan to cover all Americans," The New York Times reports.
Jennifer Hunter (!) of the Sun-Times puts a little more flesh on the bone. "Sen. Barack Obama was the only Democratic front-runner who did not have a detailed heatlh care plan, and he was put on the spot by 23-year-old Morgan Miller of Washington, D.C., who wondered why his Web site only talked about HIV and lead paint poisoning," Hunter reports. "The senator said his plan was a work-in-progress but thinks it could be realized in his first term if he is elected president."
* From Las Vegas, Obama confirmed that he is endorsing Ald. Dorothy Tillman (3rd) in her re-election bid. "She was a very early supporter of my  Senate campaign," he told the Tribune - as he was leaving a labor rally. Labor's candidate in the 3rd Ward is Tillman's opponent, Pat Dowell.
Laura Washington notes in her Sun-Times column this morning that "Obama's campaign mailers aren't going to mention Tillman's deployment of city resources to hire family and reward campaign contributors, nor her abject neglect of the ward."
* In a story about a troubled old friend of Obama's who called the campaign seeking help, The Wall Street Journal on Friday reported that the Obama campaign is trying to carefully manage "family and friends who might get press inquires, to advise them and act as a go-between."
And the Tribune expanded on that angle in a front-page story on Sunday that is the latest to call into question Obama's biographical account in his first book, Dreams From My Father.
"[S]everal of his oft-recited stories may not have happened in the way he has recounted them," the Tribune reported. "Some seem to make Obama look better in the retelling, others appear to exaggerate his outward struggles over issues of race, or simply skim over some of the most painful, private moments of his life.
"The handful of black students who attended Punahou School in Hawaii, for instance, say they struggled mightily with issues of race and racism there. But absent from those discussions, they say, was another student then known as Barry Obama."
Kakugawa, the subject of The Wall Street Journal article, tells the Tribune that "The idea that his biggest struggle was race is [bull]."
While Kakugawa's credibility could be questioned, two other former classmates who were part of a group of African-Americans who hung out together and chewed over race and civil rights back his account. Those two classmates also say that Obama did not attend the parties the group often went to at area military bases as he claims in his memoir. "We'd all do things together, but Obama was never there," one says. "I went to those parties . . . but never saw him at any of them."
Yet another former classmate says Obama never talked about race or feeling out of place at Punahou.
7. The Tribune also found that the Life magazine article that Obama has cited as sparking his racial awakening - about an African-American man who was scarred both physically and mentally by his failed attempts to lighten his skin - doesn't exist.
8. The Trib story lends a little ballast to the Altgeld Gardens residents who complained that Obama exaggerated his contribution to asbestos removal there - as well as to Democrats in the state senate who grumble privately about Obama taking undeserved credit for legislative accomplishments in his eight years there.
9. The Tribune is appalled by the "security payments" that Chiquita paid to a right-wing paramilitary group and left-wing rebels, but fails to note that Sun-Times Media Group CEO Cyrus Freidheim was at the helm of Chiquita for four years while the payments were being made. Will Freidheim follow his predecessor, Conrad Black, into the dock?
10. On Week in Review, Channel 2's Mike Flannery once again complained that federal investigators found no quid pro quo in the Robert Sorich trial - as if Sorich wasn't rewarded with job security, a cushy salary, clout, and a future in return for his fraudulent hiring scheme. Looking only for a cash exchange exhibits a stunning naivete for such an often sharp political observer.
Likewise, pundit John McCarron complained that the City Hall hiring scandals looked like the business-as-usual he grew up with. "Now we're informed that this was all illegal," he says.
Besides the fact that fraud has always been illegal, Michael Shakman filed the lawsuit that led to the Shakman Decree prohibiting political hiring in 1969. I'm pretty sure everybody got the news.
Tribune sports editor Dan McGrath opined that indicted former Streets and San commissioner Al Sanchez "was a good administrator" because the streets got plowed. (Not everyone in many South Side neighborhoods would agree.) Apparently McGrath is under the impression that the streets don't get plowed in cities without massively fraudulent hiring.
"He demanded that his guys do their city jobs!" Flannery screamed.
Right. As soon as they were done with their political work.
Flannery directed his real ire at the likes of Donald Tomczak, calling him "vermin" for "testifying against guys who didn't take bribes" - meaning Sorich and his three co-defendants.
I'm certainly not going to vouch for Tomczak's character, but was he wrong to come clean to the feds?
And what if Tomczak had come to Flannery first to tell all? Would Flannery have called him vermin and sent him away?
This is your press corps.
11. McCarron ventured that "[Daley] may well turn over a new leaf."
Not so, though he may dole out a lucrative no-bid contract to someone else to turn the leaf over for him.
12. Al Franken and the reality of a political campaign:
The Beachwood Tip Line: As often as needed.
Posted on March 26, 2007
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