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The [Wednesday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

1. "Taco Bell Wants To Reach More Consumers Via Social Media."

I would friend a taco.

2. "At this stage, the speaker is extraordinarily authoritative," Mark Kirk said, "and the penalties for breaking ranks with her are severe."

Sound familiar?

3. "We know that Target and Wal-Mart are constantly checking each other out and seeing how cheap they can get by," says a UFCW statement on the website, urging Target employees around the country to post their wages.


I hope the Tribune editorial board understands that a portion of their paychecks can be attributed to the Newspaper Guild even if the Trib isn't organized.


What is the floor of acceptability for the Tribune editorial page? At what point would they consider a job simply not enough if the wages and working conditions were not acceptable? At the absolute minimum wage? The barest adherence to the technicalities of labor law?

I'm just wondering how low they would be willing to let Walmart go before objecting.

4. "Chicago is overbanked."

Tell me about it. Wicker Park is overbanked.

5. "Four years ago, Arne Duncan says, he became 'obsessed with numbers' he couldn't get," Carol Marin writes today.

"He was the CEO of Chicago Public Schools then, not the Secretary of Education he is today.

"How many of his students were getting shot, he wanted to know?

"'I could tell you exactly how many schools we closed, how many children had the H1N1 virus,' he said Tuesday from his office in Washington.

"But not how many Chicago kids getting shot. Or data to compare Chicago with other cities.

"'No one, literally, could tell me anything,' Duncan said.

"And so he began collecting his own statistics on how many CPS students found themselves at the wrong end of a gun.


I understand (or think that I do) that Duncan is talking here about kids shot, not killed. But I thought we'd already learned earlier this year that it was Duncan's predecessor, Paul Vallas, who began keeping stats.

"The Chicago Police Department does not record if a homicide victim is a CPS student," Understanding Government recalls. "And CPS did not even keep track of student homicides until the late 1990's when Paul Vallas was running CPS. 'I just felt we had to make it more sensational and draw attention to murders that were basically going unnoticed,' Vallas, now superintendent of the Recovery School District of New Orleans, told Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn in February.

"But the practice was apparently abandoned in 2001 when current U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan took over the school system of the nation's third-largest city. The Chicago Tribune resurrected the statistic in 2007 in a look at the 2006-07 school year."


From the same article, posted last month:

"The alarm is understandable but it creates a false impression that Chicago is growing more violent. In fact, the overall homicide rate is down this year and the city murder rate has plunged in the last decade.

"The homicide rate is up in a category far more specific than 'CPS students' - it's actually CPS students who are black male teenagers living in a certain part of the city. In the 39 murders - none of which happened on school grounds - the vast majority of the victims were black male teens gunned down in predominantly poor and black South Side neighborhoods. This reflects a national trend: while overall the homicide rate has held steady the past five years, there has been a big increase in gun violence among black male adolescents."

6. A Carrotmob is coming.

7. "McNulty's world, as we discover in the book's generous forward written by his wife Faith, was - as is the tradition of many newspapermen past and present - saturated by cheap saloons, cheap booze and cheap acquaintances who always seem to be saturated by cheap booze while whittling away their time on earth in cheap saloons that sometimes accidentally attracted women. I always figured if you're going to practically live in a saloon, you might as well make a living off it," our very own Scott Buckner writes.

"McNulty did it in an unpolished, punctuation-deficient style that was understood and appreciated by anyone intelligent enough to not actually need things like proper punctuation. By the end of the book, you know more - and feel more - about everyone bellying up to the bar than you did about Norm and Cliff after umpteen seasons of Cheers."

8."Out of left field comes a proposal from the Illinois State's Attorneys Association, claiming that your local crime fighters are ready, willing and eager to take on the job of policing requests for public records," the Tribune editorial page notes today.

"From somewhere in outer space comes a letter from the Illinois Municipal League, arguing that if local governments are required to provide public documents in a timely manner, they'll have to lay off cops and firefighters to pay for clerks to make the copies and lawyers to fight nuisance requests.

"Both groups are lobbying Gov. Pat Quinn to amend - a better word is 'gut' - a rewrite of the state's Freedom of Information Act passed by the General Assembly in the spring."

Sadder yet is that the bill is much weaker than ought to be acceptable. Why won't someone put forward a bill making Illinois the most transparent state in the nation and motivate the Obama change machine to press lawmakers to pass it?

When your negotiating point starts from a position of compromise because of what you perceive to be "realistic," you end up with a compromised compromise that is barely worth the effort.


"All I know for sure is that state's attorneys throughout Illinois, who have never done anything to make the bad old law tougher, don't like the new and improved one," Phil Kadner writes.

"And that makes me wonder who they're really representing."

9. "It must be pointed out, however, that the president, the chancellor and the trustees were not motivated by personal gain," University of Illinois trustee James Montgomery writes in a letter to the Tribune today.


What were they motivated by, then, public service?

Personal gain includes a desire to please one's bosses and other powerful interests; that's how you advance your career.

"Should the president and the chancellor be fired? Absolutely not. To do so would be knee-jerk, unwise and shortsighted, and serve no useful purpose."

Because accountability apparently isn't useful.

"The loss of institutional knowledge would be devastating to the university."

Compared to the addition of ethical leadership?


Experts say mass firing would not cause turmoil.


You could always put internal interim folks in these positions to keep the ship steady while remaking the management team.

10. Dollar Days For City Property.

11. Benton Harbor attempts to golf its way out of the recession.

12. Pick up Geo Soto; draft Matt Forte.

13. Russian moms from the southern suburbs are Meeting Up Now.


The Beachwood Tip Line: Meet and greet.


Posted on August 5, 2009

MUSIC - Millions Of New Guitar Players.
TV - "One America News" is AT&T.
POLITICS - When Wall Street Came To My Mobile Home Park.
SPORTS - Tonyball, Bears On The Run, Eyes On The Sky & More!

BOOKS - China Holding Swedish Publisher.


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