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The Week in WTF

1. Jon Burge's boat, WTF?

Could it be that after decades of deception and stonewalling, former Chicago cop and torture impresario Jon Burge was done in by the name of his sleek sailboat?

If you believe the jurors in his perjury trial, it makes an appealing legal theory.

Let's say this. This was a trial complicated by more-than-disreputable witnesses and crimes which, at the least, are far distanced from the heinous brutalities that Burge has all but escaped.

But given complexity, some federal juries will sift through all the grains of evidence looking for the one larger than expected nugget.

So when Burge insisted he picked Vigilante for his boat's name as a random choice, it was just one more lie. A tiny lie by comparison. But he clearly was boasting. And worst of all, he was laughing at his joke. He was flipping off all the men he had ordered wired with electrodes to their genitals.

In the larger scheme of complex and conflicting evidence, this lie seemed innocuous.

But juries sometimes rely on small tells as if they are reading the poker player across the table for a twitch of the hand, a repeated change in body language or a furrowed brow. A suspect who lies small will also lie big.

Maybe legal theoreticians don't know this, but real people sitting on juries do.

Burge has lied for a long time. And oddly fitting, it might have been the littlest lie of them all that he couldn't outrun.

2. Carlos Zambrano, WTF?

From the business standpoint of his psych case manager, Z appears to be the perfect candidate for anger management counseling. He's got great insurance and he's never going to get better.

Open the spigot on that cash pipeline and let the good times roll.

Even proponents of anger management acknowledge it seldom cures. How long would anger counseling be required to cure a life of self-indulgent wig-flipping hysteria?

Here's a different theory: Zambrano is a hulking, intimidating, talented thug. His pitching talent was worth more to the Cubs than his thuggery was a detriment. It was a trade. The Cubs accepted the rules and, by inference, enabled it. Until he went crazy this last time. This time even the Cubs' docile management had to wonder, "WTF."

3. Al Gore, I mean, REALLY, WTF?

There are two ways to look at Al's recent alleged sexual imbroglios. First, it gives just-past-middle-age guys real hope. If a woman will have sex with Al, they'll have sex with almost anyone. Men like to know they always got a stake in the game, so to speak.

On the other hand, if you're a just-past-middle age man who has no luck with chersez la femme, you have to wonder about cosmic unfairness. Al Gore can score with the chicks, but you can't? WTF.

The unstated question in all of this: Does this mean Tipper is back in play?

When Al wrote An Inconvenient Truth, he probably wasn't anticipating being called a "crazed sex poodle" by a masseuse.

And by the way, considering Larry David's wife, the odd event in the hotel with the massage therapist and other assignations we don't know about yet - but will soon - who would have ever thought that Al's public sex life would be more robust than Bill Clinton's? I always thought Al Gore was a giant stiff, but not in this particular permutation of the term. Way to go, Al!

I'd do all the relevant research for you, but really, you know how Google works just as well as I do. Okay, okay. Don't pout.

4. James Tyree, WTF?

As reported by the Sun-Times, and apparently only by the Sun-Times, Sun-Times News Group chief James Tyree has received a "lifetime achievement" award from Ernst and Young that recognizes entrepreneurs who "demonstrate extraordinary success in the areas of innovation, financial performance and personal commitment to their businesses and communities." I suppose that's because he's saved newspapers from the trash heap. It's become a uniquely bleak victory.

Unfortunately - and despite his assurances to the contrary - his management of the Sun-Times and its affiliated suburban newspapers looks a lot like that of the previous owners: bleed jobs, resources, and credibility while claiming that's the price of salvation. After promising through several rings of PR minions there would be no more layoffs, he's been laying off more staff. The cuts have come in bite-size increments, so they tend not to make big headlines. A few in Joliet, a few at the Northwest Indiana Post-Tribune, a few more at Pioneer Press, and a couple at the Lake County News-Sun. This is death by a thousand small cuts. The Guild representing much of the newsroom force has long ago surrendered any leverage it had over the process.

The regularity of these cuts poses two questions. First, is it a deliberate ploy to downsize in such small slices that no one will notice, while telling the Guild it could have been worse? Or, just as bad, does Sun-Times management really not know from week to week how many people it should be employing?

But back to the award.

The flaw in self-congratulatory tributes is that the giver often has less credibility to give the award than the receiver has to get it. In Ernst and Young's case, the audit and consulting company has been running for months from its role in the Lehman Brothers financial collapse, having banked $31 million to essentially wallpaper the brokerage's shaky superstructure with smiley faces just before the Hindenburg Moment.

Entrepreneur, heal thyself.

5. Mitch Albom, WTF?

As a novelist, Mitch Albom's new persona reflects the wise, humanist trying to save the wretched sportswriting universe from its crude tendencies. Sort of Obi Want a New Soul.

The Detroit Free Press gave him a living, and now he's sold 28 million books, most of them oozing a viscuous, syrupy sap. Not bad. If you don't have any maple trees handy, just open a tap into Tuesdays with Morrie.

His new fame allows him to travel among his lessers bestowing wisdom about kindness and respect and humility with the gosh-darn likability of a swell guy.

But I have never known a sports reporter who operated on his plane who didn't regard him as a vain, egocentric, often cruel smartass. A guy who deliberately closes the elevator door on you when he sees you coming.

I remember him complaining bitterly in the football press box at Notre Dame about the utterly dumbass editors in Detroit who insisted he come to South Bend on a sunny fall day when he wanted to be somewhere else more suitable to his supreme abilities.

The guy next to me in the press box leaned over and muttered, "Major league dick."

WTF Quote of the Week

"I'm a dedicated employee. I learned that when I worked for the city."

- Former city clerk and convicted bribe-taker Jim Laski, on-the-air for new employer WGN-AM


David Rutter is the former publisher/editor of the Lake County News-Sun, a Sun-Times Media property.


Comments welcome.


Previously in The Week in WTF:
* TWIWTF: Walter Jacobson, Mark Kirk, the Sun-Times
* TWIWTF: Conrad Murray, Jim Laski, Notre Dame Nation
* TWIWTF: Chris Zorich, Eddie and Jobo, Blago.


Also by David Rutter:
* The Lords of Ireland.

* Speaking of Notre Dame . . .

* Scheduling Notre Dame.

* Spade Robs Farley's Grave.

* Gov. Fester.

* Black Talks, Zell Walks.

* Roeper's Games.


Posted on July 2, 2010

MUSIC - School Of Rock Realizes How White It Is.
TV - A Plea To Matt Nagy.
POLITICS - Social Media Platforms Remove War Crimes Evidence.
SPORTS - 100 Choices Better Than La Russa.

BOOKS - Maps For Migrants And Ghosts.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Doing Philosophy At UIC.

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