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The [Monday] Papers

The NSA story gripping the nation continues to go MIA here in Chicago. For an analysis, read The [Sunday] Papers. Then donate to The Beachwood Reporter so we don't have to sell your phone records to stay in business.

As for today's papers, well, to my way of reading, the Sun-Times letters page is the most interesting page in all of Chicago on this gray day. Let's take a look.

Noel Brusman of Hyde Park writes: "An article by Fran Spielman suggests that Rep. Luis Gutierrez has plans to run for mayor of Chicago, [and] that he thinks Mayor Daley 'has wasted time and money on Millennium Park and attracting the 2016 Summer Olympics at the expense of public schools.'

"Well, now. Any Chicago resident with half a brain knows that making the city beautiful and attractive to visitors brings new money into the city. The beautiful downtown and neighborhoods not only enhance our lives, they bring others here to spend money. The tax revenues bring money to all city services."

Brusman raises a good point. The mayor's office should tell us just how much money they've been able to pour into the education budget because of Millennium Park. Or is it possible that the city's share of the cost and its deficit-ridden parking garages have cost the schools some funding? Or is there no connection at all?

Crancich Stefano of Melrose Park writes: " This is a comment to Robert Adelman's letter, 'Sing anthem in English.'

"I am tired of people who continue to use the term 'America' as a country. Maybe you need to go back to geography class, but America is a continent, not a country. Mexico, Argentina, Venezuela are all part of the Americas; therefore the inhabitants of those countries are also Americans. This country is called the United States. Also, the United States does not have an official language. Although English is spoken throughout the government, English is not the official language. You should get on the government's back if you feel English should be the official language."

I admit I have used the term "America" interchangeably with "The United States of America," but I believe Stefano is right insofar as we live on a continent called North America. Beyond that, if you look at a map of the Americas - North, Central, and South - that make up with islands like Cuba and Haiti the Western Hemisphere, it is dominated by Spanish-speaking Latinos. It is really Americans (United States of Americans?) who are strangers in a strange land. Our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. But we've been kicking ass for 200 years. We're 11-2.

Mary Ann Simmonds of Uptown writes: "I often see letters expressing disdain for the efforts spent on animals' rights, i.e., 'Why are we wasting time on a foie gras ban, or sending the man to jail when he was already fined for cruelty, etc., when there are so many other really important issues that need solutions?'

"My belief is, until we value the least of these, we value nothing. Until we have mercy and compassion for all, animal and human, we have no restraints on war, poverty, hunger, genocide. People don't seem to realize that it's all connected. You don't turn it on and off. You either have it or you don't. The bad news is - we don't."

The media quickly picked up on Mayor Daley's foie gras talking point - that the issue was a waste of time when, for example, kids were being shot in Englewood. But did any reporter ever ask just how much time was spent on foie gras? I'll bet it wasn't much. But it made for the kind of good, lazy punditry and accepted political cynicism that passes for knowingness among Chicago media.

Wal-Mart of Bentonville, Arkansas writes: "The Chicago Federation of Labor made some pretty wild accusations about Wal-Mart's new Jobs and Opportunity Zones program in its April 23 letter, and I'd like to take this opportunity to set the record straight . . . "

Buy an ad or respond to reporters' queries. The newspaper shouldn't be in the business of printing press releases - for labor or Wal-Mart. Or for pols (second item).

Cease Funding
The mystery - to readers at least - surrounding the state funding of the anti-violence CeaseFire program continues. "Gang Peacemakers Get More Money From State" raises more questions than it answers. Tracy Swartz of the Sun-Times reports that CeaseFire has secured $6.25 million in funding, a $1.4 million increase its previous outlay.

"It's almost like extortion," state Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago) told the paper. "Why should we continue to give . . . money when we do not know the real efficacy of this program?"

Trotter's position sounds reasonable. Why should we?

"Trotter wants salary information, details of the program's range of operations and evidence the group is spending the money to make the most difference in troubled communities," Swartz writes. "The Senate last month unanimously approved Trotter's call for a state probe of CeaseFire's finances."

There's just one lingering question: Who approved the new spending? Was it a legislative committee? A committee that Trotter is on? Or did it come from inside the Blagojevich administration? In other words, who is responsible for handing over this chunk of taxpayer money?

It's the same question that went unanswered when CeaseFire's funding first became an issue in March. Please, just tell us: Who decides how much money CeaseFire gets and which neighborhoods it gets spent in? Name names. That's how journalism works.

Killing Conan
Allison Benedikt, off to a strong start writing about TV for the Tribune, nails it in her review of Conan O'Brien's "four nights of remarkably subpar to mediocre late-night television" broadcast from Chicago last week.

Jury's Journey Into Night
Abdon Pallasch wraps up what went on inside the George Ryan jury room once and for all. Pallasch's account fleshes out the problems jurors had with Evelyn Ezell, the holdout who was eventually dismissed for failing to disclose a long arrest record. Pallasch also persuasively draws a picture of a studious jury that closely examined the complex tangle of evidence - and how indisputable Ryan's guilt really was. The only outstanding question seems to to surround jury foreperson Sonja Chambers, who failed to disclose her own involvements with the justice system and may have spoken about the case outside the jury room.

Lame Laura
"First Lady Hammers It To Bush: Gay Marriage Not A Political Tool." But obviously she is, as she is sent out to try to help the president recover in the polls. Question: Where was Laura on gay marriage when it mattered, during the 2004 campaign? And, like her husband, Laura simply refuses to believe facts she doesn't like.

Fuller Of It
If someone can decipher what former Tribune editor and Stars and Stripes reporter Jack Fuller is trying to say about Michael Hayden's nomination to be CIA director, let me know.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Sponsored by Qwest . . . in our dreams.


Posted on May 15, 2006

MUSIC - Spring Awakening Wake-Up Call!
TV - Exclusive! Rahm's New TV Gig.
POLITICS - The Political Odds UPDATED.
SPORTS - NHL: CTE Not Our Fault.

BOOKS - Stan Lee, Flawed Hero.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Chicagoetry: I Am Iron Man.

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