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The [Wednesday] Papers

A lot of catching up to do. Chicago convention officials argue that Las Vegas is way too fun a place to hold a convention - and the Sun-Times agrees! The Tribune editorial page is alternately naive and a killjoy. And when President Bush says "freedom is on the march," he means right to its room until it behaves itself.

1. "Las Vegas and Orlando are all the rage right now, but McCormick Place is on pace to make 2006 at least a near record and could barely handle any more shows," the Sun-Times says on its front page today, ballyhooing its "Special Report" ghost-written by the city's convention and tourism bureau.

The story asserts that chief convention competitors Las Vegas and Orlando "are all the rage right now," as if the conventions flocking there are just part of a fad, rather than a long-term trend that has, in particular, made Las Vegas the convention king that Chicago once was.

Instead of giving Las Vegas its due, the Sun-Times desperately quotes a plastics show manager finishing up a show at McCormick Place complaining that "In Vegas, there's a thunderstorm every afternoon, and the water leaks through the roof. Can you imagine the disaster I would have?"

Huh? I thought Las Vegas secured its roof.

It gets richer.

Did you know that Las Vegas is a bad place to hold a convention because it is way too much fun? Convention officials have been peddling this line for years and in the Sun-Times they've finally got a taker. "Big shows are ultimately a place to do business, and that seems easier in Chicago," the paper says. "Las Vegas and Orlando have too many distractions, insiders report."

Those "insiders" are Chicago tourism and convention officials who perhaps are unaware that the 'distractions' provided by Las Vegas are exactly the reason why so many conventions are held there. They're conventions!

Just to make sure folks don't get the idea that Chicago is too all-business, though, the Sun-Times approvingly quotes Merchandise Mart president Christopher Kennedy explaining that the Art Institute and Field Museum will open an hour early or stay open an hour late so out-of-town exhibitors can enjoy their wares.

Take that, Steve Wynn!

The paper does get it right at the end of its report when it suggests that high costs are not just the result of arcane union work rules, but the charges tacked on by the contractors who hire the labor on behalf of each convention, as well as costs for amenities such as parking or even the coffee sold inside McCormick Place.

The media backdrop to this story is that the convention and tourism folks are not happy with the Chicago Tribune for consistently peeling off the smiley face they project to the public. You can bet they are thrilled today to see that they can still count on the Sun-Times to put that smiley face right back on.

2. Oh Lord. Missy and Sissy are back. At the Inner Self Cafe. On the Metro front of one of America's largest newspapers.

3. The Tribune discovers poverty.

4. Both papers reported this week that O'Hare has regained its status as the world's busiest airport. And this is a good thing?

5. The Tribune editorial page came out in support of the Supreme Court ruling last week rejecting the Bush Administration's Guantanamo tribunals, but only after empathizing with the president, who it thinks only subverted the Constitution because he was just as scared as the rest of us after 9/11. "It's easier now than it was then to see this issue in calm perspective," the page said, rejecting the central tenet of crisis leadership that prefers calm strength to panicked fear amidst tragedy.

"Keep in mind," the edit page instructs readers, "that many of the fears that underlie the government's policies in Guantanamo were justified: Fighting a shadowy terrorist conspiracy is different from fighting another nation.

"After Sept. 11, the administration was gripped with a sense of extreme urgency that everyone felt. We had been attacked out of the blue on our own soil by fanatics intent on slaughtering innocent people. No one knew what other plots were in the works. No one knew how numerous the enemy might be, or where it might be lurking. Guantanamo was established to remove enemy fighters from the war and extract information that would help avert more attacks."

Tribune editorial page? It's the 1950s calling. They want their naivete back.

A New Yorker report last week on the almost-undoubtedly unconstitutional consolidation of presidential power orchestrated by Dick Cheney reveals that in the days after 9/11, the administration was hardly "gripped with a sense of extreme urgency that everyone felt." Instead, it saw an opportunity to pursue already settled-upon goals (sound familiar?) including the restoration of Richard Nixon's imperial presidency. (And an unprecedented expansion of vice presidential powers; the magazine reports that Cheney actually merged his office with the president's to create a single "Executive Office.")

Among the New Yorker's findings: Colin Powell says that Dick Cheney's chief of staff and principal legal advisor behind the core of the administration's war powers policies, David Addington, "doesn't care about the Constitution;" Republican legal activist Bruce Fein says the president has "staked out powers that are a universe beyond any other Administration" and has "made claims that are really quite alarming;" and the Pentagon lawyer overseeing the National Security Agency's legal advisors still finds it "extraordinary" that he learned about the Administrations's warrantless domestic surveillance from The New York Times, not the White House, which didn't bother to consult with him.

As for Guantanamo, the magazine reports that "Rear Admiral Donald Guter, who was the Navy's chief [Judge Advocate General] until June 2002, said that he and other JAGs who were experts in the laws of war tried unsuccessfully to amend parts of the military-commission plan when they learned of it, days before the order was formally signed by the President. 'We were marginalized,' he said. 'We were warning them that we had this long tradition of military justice, and we didn't want to tarnish it. The treatment of detainees was a huge issue. They didn't want to hear it.'"

When Guter and other JAGs told the Pentagon's general counsel that they needed more information, they were told, "No you don't."

Where the Tribune sees an honest but mistaken policy decision derived from pure motives, those on the inside see a widespread pattern of Constitutional abuse by this nation's highest officials done in secret to satisfy radical ideological and political ends. And those are just the conservatives talking.

6. [T]hree out of four Americans say they would rather live here than in any other country in the world," the Sun-Times editorial page said on the Fourth of July. "Indeed, there is no happier place to be, especially on the Fourth of July."

Unless you are one of those one-quarter of Americans who would rather live somewhere else.

7. Apparently someone has signed John Stroger's name to a resignation letter sent to Democratic Party officials, though no one can be sure it was John Stroger. "Neither party or county officials would provide a copy of the letter and some question whether Stroger ever saw the five-page letter released on Friday," the Sun-Times reported.

Stroger spokeswoman Chinta Strausberg has "insisted Stroger is physically capable of signing it," though, the paper reported earlier. Maybe nobody had a pen, and they all had a good laugh about that.

Meanwhile, Bill Beavers called Cook County Clerk David Orr "a little poop-butt." I am not joking. Orr had questioned whether "misinformation was being intentionally provided" by the Stroger camp to stave off possible independent challengers for the county board presidency.

"What does he care?" Beavers asked.

As clerk, Orr runs the county's elections.

8. The Tribune not only wants to limit the number of days off its employees get, but yours as well.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Anti-torture, pro-vacation.


Posted on July 5, 2006

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