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The [Sunday] Papers

Mayor Richard M. Daley will return today from his sudden trip to the Middle East only to turn around and jet off to Beijing at the end of the week to study that city's plans for the 2008 Summer Olympics in preparation for his own possible Olympics bid.

Is all this unexpected traveling a way for Daley to get out of town while former patronage chief Robert Sorich and three other aides go on trial in federal court for alleged "massive fraud" in city hiring?

While determining pols' motives isn't always possible, you'd think reporters who have raised the possibility would at least be able to nail down just when these trips got scheduled and put some tough questions to the mayor's people. After all, it would be in their interest to clear up any misconception some of us might have.

Not only hasn't that happened, but the coverage of the mayor's trips has only confused the issue.

Let's take a look.

On April 10, the mayor refused to comment on the Sorich case, but proclaimed that "This government is running smoothly."

Just eight days later, Daley announced his trip to the Middle East.

Fran Spielman in the Sun-Times opened the speculation in her April 19 report:

"Daley's trip to the Holy Land is expected to take him away from Chicago during a pivotal two-week period," she wrote. "The mayor's former patronage chief, Robert Sorich, and three other former city officials are scheduled to go on trial next month on charges they rigged city hiring for more than a decade to benefit pro-Daley armies of political workers."

But the mayor came home from his 10-day trip today. Perhaps he was trying to avoid pre-trial publicity, but the real thing starts on Tuesday.

On Friday, though, the Tribune reported Daley's plans to go to China.

"The details were sketchy Friday, and the duration of the trip was not known," Mickey Ciokajlo wrote. "The trip would put Daley overseas just as a federal corruption trial against his former patronage chief, Robert Sorich, and three co-defendants is getting under way."

As with the Middle East trip, all appearances are that this was a hastily planned affair.

On Sunday, Spielman wrote that Daley press secretary Jacquelyn Heard "denied that the back-to-back overseas trips were timed to take the mayor away from Chicago during the trial of his former patronage chief, Robert Sorich. Well aware that it might appear that way, mayoral aides shortened the China trip to four days and scheduled it over a weekend, she said."

Really? The mayor shortened his trip to China to learn about Olympics preparations in order that the trip not look politically-timed? How inconceivable does that seem? At the same time, being away for four days doesn't exactly protect him from trial fallout.

"If the goal was to avoid negative publicity generated by the Sorich trial, Heard said, 'It's unlikely he'd be returning to the city a day before the trial begins and that he'd be there for the opening arguments, which, as you know, are often the toughest part,'" Spielman wrote.

That's a stretch. The trips are good ways for the mayor to garner positive publicity through compliant news crews and scenic photo ops (was it the mayor's people who supplied that photo of Daley Sunday to the Sun-Times that ran without a credit?), as well as to depict a towering mayor with plans as grand as holding an Olympics, while the hacks back home worry about who hired whom.

We know from Heard that the mayor's brain trust considered the political ramifications of his trips. We don't know to what extent; and perhaps more importantly, we don't know the rest of the strategy his team has mapped out for presenting Daley as above and beyond the Sorich trial. But we will soon find out.

Trip Wire: "Mayoral press secretary Jacquelyn Heard stressed that Daley would be in Chicago for Wednesday's meeting with U.S. Olympic Committee Chairman Peter Ueberroth and other USOC officials," the Sun-Times reports. "The China trip is a natural off-shoot of that meeting, she said. Like all of the mayor's overseas trips, the cost will not be borne by Chicago taxpayers."

Why not? If this trip is for official city business, as it is purported to be, why should the mayor pay for it out of his pocket? Or is someone else covering the cost?

Gamesmanship: Steve Johnson beat us to the punch line with his contribution to the Tribune Perspective section's package imagining an Olympics held in Chicago.

In "Our Kind of Games," Johnson notes that "an Olympics in Chicago would need Chicago-specific events."

Among his suggestions:

"Hard discus: The winner hurls City Hall employment records, stored on government hard drives, the farthest distance into Lake Michigan."

"High jump: Mayor Daley says 'Jump,' and the contestants (all of whom are aldermen) vie to leap farthest heavenward."

We cannot do better and have shelved our plans to try.

UPDATE 2:20 p.m. Monday: Steve Johnson has posted bonus items on his Hypertext blog to his Sunday print piece imagining Chicago-style Olympic events. The 1,158,000-meter springboard is particularly good.

Field Work
The good folks at Macy's/Marshall Field's held back something from their PR offensive a couple weeks ago: They are cutting 250 jobs - 1 percent of their workforce. Most of the lost jobs will be sales positions.

"Marshall Field's has modified its staffing levels in its stores as part of an ongoing process to ensure we're better serving our customers and operating as efficiently as possible," said Jennifer McNamara, a spokeswoman for Field's.

Because customers are better-served with fewer sales clerks. It's more efficient that way.

Burning Burns
B.H. Jacobson of Evanston writes to the Sun-Times: "How disappointing that Diann Burns and her husband did not choose one of the excellent black contractors in Chicago to do the work on their house."

Keeping Up With Jones
A week after the November elections, the state senate will take up the issue of granting themselves 13 percent pay hikes. State senate president Emil Jones supports the pay raise, but didn't have the courage of his convictions to call for a vote before the election. His district phone number is (773) 995-7748. His e-mail is

Note: The rank-and-file would see their annual pay increase about $7,500 to around $65,000. The top four party leaders in each chamber would get an increase from $80,957 to about $91,500.

"An obituary on Wednesday about Stanley Hiller Jr., a leader in the helicopter industry whose company made some of the craft used for medical evacuation in the Korean War, credited his company erroneously with a television role. The helicopter shown in the M*A*S*H series was made by Bell Aircraft, not Hiller."

- New York Times

More importantly, The New York Times has retracted its widely-circulated front page story on stand-up airplane seats which, alas, was too good - or too bad - to be true. Wouldn't have wanted to write this Editor's Note (last item). Here's how it happened (last item).

Morning Glory Story
Perhaps the Tribune owes its readers a correction of this Washington Post story it ran on May 4 about the purported surge of kids using morning glory seeds as hallucinogens. Jack Shafer at Slate sets the record straight.

"In a move one government watchdog dismissed as 'laughable,' Dolton has installed its mayor's twin brother in a newly created $70,000-a-year inspector general post."

His first assignment will be to investigate his own hiring.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Not your brother's watchdog.


Posted on May 8, 2006

MUSIC - Christgau Loves Chicago Neonatologist.
TV - Amazon & The Way Of The World.
POLITICS - The Political Odds.
SPORTS - Another Week Of Trubisky Analysis.

BOOKS - Writers Under Surveillance.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Original Warrior.

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