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The Week in WTF

1. One Effing Juror, WTF?

A) Blago's sole conviction - the lying to the FBI rap - seems inconsequential. Don't be so sure. It's what got Martha Stewart prison time. It will get Blago time, too. Plus, there are virtually no acceptable grounds to overturn it. Federal verdicts aren't overturned or successfully appealed on the "I-didn't-like-how-the-first-case-finished" grounds. There is likely to be no new evidence in that charge. It's res ipsa loquitur. WTF, go look it up yourself. What am I, Wikipedia?

B) The creeping, insidious corruption of Illinois politics has a real face and a tangible effect on our public life. Jo Ann Chiakulas, the juror who rejected American jurisprudence and decided on her own that plotting a crime is not itself a crime, is the face of that reality.

Chiakulas is hardly Henry Fonda in 12 Angry Men.

But as goofy as the one holdout was, she was only mouthing what you hear every day in the Chicago media and have ever since Al Capone was translated historically into a quaint, charming rogue.

Chiakulas succumbed to what "everyone" here says about our politics. It's The Chicago Way. It's us. It's our unique way of doing public business. WTF, it's not a crime.

And thus hiring a hit man is not a real crime in Chicago parlance if the police step in before the hit takes place. Where does this rejection of conspiracy-as-crime arise? Well, it's sort of Chicago's fault. Chicago tacitly supports the idea. And explicitly pays for it.

You hear it from TV and print observers. Hundreds of books have assessed the issue. You hear it expressed everywhere as a quaint and amusing localism.

It has forged a system that gives us a president not nearly as fine and noble as we had hoped. It's given us a series of mayors and governors who couldn't spell integrity much less practice it.

Chicago's politics are a cesspool. How do you like the smell now?

2. Rosty, WTF?

Coincidentally during the same week as the Blago deliberations, the state's political class put beloved Dan Rostenkowski in the ground with all the pomp and solemnity of a fallen pope. WTF. Another crook gets to explain himself to a Higher Court.

Chicago media resiliently liked Rostenkowski and often painted him as a giant. That says as much about local media as it does about Rostenkowski. We - I mean the collective we - have a hard time separating venal self-serving thieves from legitimate heroes. Cleverness is not integrity.

3. Sam Zell, WTF?

At the risk of seeming obsessive with Sam Zell, WTF counters that life is sometimes too funny to ignore. Now that the bankruptcy referee in the Tribune financial death spiral (hasn't this thing lasted longer than a Paleozoic Era?) has inched closer to paying off debtors, Sam the Sham wants his money back, too.

Yes, you can sense this is somehow bizarre. But how? Here's the metaphor:

Let's say a bank robber accidentally ties his shoelaces together while he's waiting for the bank teller to fork over the loot. And then let's say he takes a run for the door and trips and falls on his head. Bam! Oooh, that's going to hurt in the morning. Later, he applies for the capture reward because, after all, who had more to do with his capture than him? And he wants his medical bills paid by the bank. That's Sam, WTF.

4. Chicago Bears, WTF?

Bears President Ted Phillips won't issue an ultimatum for coach Lovie Smith to reach the playoffs or else be gone. Phillips seems fearful of being called unmannerly and gauche.

But WTF, Tedster.

Does Lovie actually have a pay-for-performance standard? If the NFL is really a business, which it is, no business lets its CEO fail every year and still keep the job. Making the playoffs regularly would seem to be a modest standard.

There does not seem to be another NFL franchise that lollygags so indolently about the price of failure. Are the Bears becoming just another version of the Cubs who are beloved by their fans for being lovable losers?

Maybe Bears fans head out to Soldier Field every Sunday just for the "experience."

Winning? We don't need no stinkin' winning.

Here's a compromise. If Lovie can't get the Bears to the playoffs for first time since 2006, a local reporter should ask him why he gets to keep the job. Maybe Lovie has a better theory than the rest of us.

5. Mike North, WTF?

As hard as we try here to unravel cosmic mysteries, there is no plausible explanation for Mike North as a media personality. Smart? Well, no evidence. Personable? Ever been bothered by a lout in a tavern? Amusing? Not unless you think infected ingrown toenails are a riot.

Channel 2 could stand him and his dated and creaky Monsters and Money in the Morning mishmash for only so long and bid him an unceremonious adieu last week. Actually, he seems to have fled just before the arrival of the ratings sheriff.

But North? On to bigger and better with Fox Sports Radio. He's taken a series of grotesque local failures and turned them into a national gig.

It goes without saying that it you can't explain Mike North's survival skills, how Dan Jiggetts keeps returning is beyond all comprehension.

As critic Robert Feder notes, desperation seems to have replaced strategic planning as the operative mechanism at WBBM.

And though the North and Jiggetts "Total Dawn Fiasco" wasn't a key initiative for Channel 2, it is reflective of a deeper turmoil. WTF was shocked that, given their collective ages, they could all get up at that time of the morning.


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.
* TWIWTF: Burge, Zambrano, Tyree
* TWIWTF: Pundits, LeBron James, Lake County
* TWIWTF: Stroger, Transformers, Six Flags
* TWIWTF: Blago, Channel 2, Cubs
* TWIWTF: Blago, Tribune, Big Z
* TWIWTF: Tribune, CPD, Sun-Times


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.


* An excerpt from Rutter's Olga's War


Posted on August 20, 2010

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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