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The [Thursday] Papers

I'm glad the tough Chicago press is so mesmerized by Dan Webb, the "star" defense lawyer representing former Gov. George Ryan, because it exposes just how easy it is to buffalo reporters and their editors.

We'll see if the Ryan jurors are equally as susceptible to rhetorical skills perhaps only matched in America by Kevin Trudeau, or whether they will prefer to analyze the evidence.

The media raves for Webb's "performance" had been building all week. Now I'm eagerly awaiting the DVD with commentary from the jury consultants.

The Chicago Tribune, thinking it was clever and imaginative, even assigned theater critic Chris Jones to write a review for today's front page.

Not that that would trivialize one of the most important cases in Illinois history when it comes to striking at the heart of the state's political culture of sleaze. Not to mention those six kids who died in that van crash. What were their names again?

But why send a legal analyst to do a theater critic's job? It's not as if a skeptical parsing of Webb's closing arguments would be helpful to readers.

No, let's talk a little bit more instead about how impressed we are by Webb's fake aw-shucks demeanor.

Because it is fake. We all know that, right?

I'm no legal analyst, but I do have a few questions.

For example, I'm confused about Webb's central argument from even before the trial started that no witness would testify that Ryan personally benefitted from any of the actions described by the prosecution.

But didn't the prosecution's case describe one big politically-beneficient machine designed to propel Ryan through a series of elected offices, culminating with the governorship?

I can't figure out why Ryan's bulging campaign fund, of which our fair ex-governor hoped to slice a mil or so out of to retire on, doesn't qualify.

Or, just to pick one of the more venal examples from the endless ones available, how the money allegedly swindled from Phil Gramm's presidential campaign that found its way into the pockets of Ryan's daughters wasn't somehow beneficial to him.

I thought the entire trial was about the benefits Ryan accrued, even if he did favors for his friends to get them.

See what I mean?

Who Ryan Is: Does anyone really believe that Ryan didn't understand that the circumstances surrounding the dismissal of a juror were under seal? Or do we believe that this former governor, two-term lieutenant governor, two-term secretary of state, two-term state House Minority Leader, one-term state Speaker of the House, and former member of the rough-and-tumble Kankakee County Board known as a master of back-room politics really didn't understand what "sealed" meant?

Or am I forgetting that Ryan is just a pharmacist, and pharmacists couldn't be expected to know what "sealed" means?

Who Lura Lynn Is: And does anyone really believe that Lura Lynn believes her husband is being prosecuted because he emptied out Death Row?

Funny how Ryan's Death Row commutations are both the reason for his prosecution and a reason why he should be acquitted. I'd say both sides are using the Death Row thing for political gain in this trial, but it's just one side tying to have it both ways.

Covering Their First Trial: I'm glad we have experienced reporters who wouldn't fall for Webb's PR campaign about how his client was raring to take the stand.

Unasked Question: From the second he took Ryan on as his client, Webb has argued that the government's case was flimsy at best. Does that mean, Mr. Webb, that if you were still the U.S. Attorney you would not have brought this case?

Class 101
Under a different mindset, the Tribune's story today on the front of its business page about the dwindling number of apartments available in Cook County combined with the rising rents of those that remain would have been worthy of the front page.

Like if the editors of the Tribune rented--or even knew anyone who did.

Class 202
Which is all the more reason to praise the fine work of Mick Dumke,* whose cover story about fast-food workers appeared in the Chicago Tribune Magazine last Sunday.

Dumke followed the workdays (and lives) of a handful of fast-food workers and managers with disparate backgrounds who have found a home, at least for now, in what appear to be solid, secure positions.

I was particularly struck by the life of Ed Mosley.

On Mondays through Fridays, Mosley works from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. as a food service worker at an elementary school. On Tuesdays through Fridays, Mosley then takes a bus and a train downtown to pull a three-hour, late-afternoon shift at McDonald's. Just after 7 p.m. each weeknight, he heads off to a FedEx sorting center in the southwest suburbs, where he often works until 3 a.m. And then he catches a bus back home to the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood on the South Side. He makes about $2,200 a month.

Class 303
Tribune Company CEO Dennis FitzSimons just had his 2006 base salary set at $985,000--a 3.1 percent raise from 2005, not to mention stock options. FitzSimons also received a $250,000 bonus.

And yet, it seems to me Mosley had a better, more productive year.

*Dumke is a friend of The Beachwood Reporter and served as an invaluable sounding-board for me in the early-going. Due to his teaching and freelance commitments, he is currently listed on our masthead as Editor-on-Leave.

Class 404
Also in the Tribune's unusually interesting Sunday magazine this week, a letter from Richard Wheelock, supervising attorney with the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, which says in part:

"Your articles on North Kenwood/Oakland ('The Unmaking of a Ghetto"Jan. 29, Feb. 5) provide an inspiring account of how an area can come back from decades of poverty and neglect to become a thriving neighborhood. For those who benefit, this is cause for celebration. . . . [But] while one measure of a community may be its rising housing prices and new retail shops, another must also be how a community cares for those most in need. For displaced CHA families, the community seems content to leave them behind."

Daley Watch
"Mayor Richard Daley on Wednesday downplayed the importance of a weekend security breach at Midway Airport saying it was 'only one incident,' and he scoffed at the media play it generated," the Tribune reported today.

"'Slow news day,' Daley declared."

Daley then railed against the failure of the feds to grant him his cherished no-fly zone over the city.

Because easy access to our city's runways is obviously far less a concern than a no-fly zone that any terrorist pilot would be sure to respect.

"It's one incident. You want to make it everybody is running on the field," Daley also said. "There could be another incident next month, I guess. But it is one, not 50, 100, 200."

Incidents of drunken louts showing us all how easy it is to walk onto Midway's runways: 1
Incidents of terrorist flights over the city showing us how we need a no-fly zone: 0

GOP Follies
Special correspondent Tim Willette filed these real-time observations last night while geekily watching the Republican gubernatorial debate.

- Gidwitz: He stops speaking whenever the "Time's Up"
light comes on. If he's in mid-sentence, so be it.

- Brady: "All of you in the audience with the exception of Gov.
Blagojevich would make a better governor than Rod

Including George Ryan?

- Topinka: "I really admire Senator Brady and myself . . . "

- Oberweis I: "I'm not a politician, but I am a milkman, and I've
sired many fine Illinoisans along my route . . . "

- Oberweis II: "I object to the term 'assault weapons,' because
that term is very prejudicial, especially when it's
employed by dirty illegals."

- Martin: "[Topinka] says she's not one of the boys, but she's the bad girl that hangs around the bad boys."

Two of these are not real. But I'm not telling you which two.

Beachwood/New Yorker Caption Contest!
My entry for this week's New Yorker caption contest is: "This must be the Beachwood!"

Now you should try your hand. If you submit the winning entry and manage to include the word Beachwood in it, you will win a print of the cartoon signed by the artist.

Submit to our Tip Line, too: We'll award signed copies of any indictments--or just embarrassments--your tip leads to.


Posted on March 9, 2006

MUSIC - Chicago Music Poster History.
TV - Hollywood Still Can't Get Abortion Right.
POLITICS - Trump's Most Amusing Pardon.
SPORTS - Hammerin' Hank, Kris Bryant Beefs, Bears' Rags.

BOOKS - Being Sure About George Ryan.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Recall! Sriracha Chicken Ravioli.

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