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The [Foie Gras & Fundraising] Papers

Is the foie gras ban really the silliest law the Chicago City Council has ever passed?

Of course not.

Is Mayor Daley the silliest mayor we've ever had?

All signs point to Yes.

I'm going to go where I haven't seen any other commentator go: I'm going to stand up for the foie gras ban. I'm not a vegetarian, but unless you are into animal cruelty, you can't justify serving foie gras. How is it any different than torturing your dog or cat for enjoyment?

The debate about foie gras isn't new. This isn't out of the blue. The idea that Chicago is now a national joke is true only to those who don't know anything about the issue. What's worse than a joke is torturing geese so gourmet diners can enjoy eating their overstuffed livers. Is it really worth it? Can we really not live without foie gras?

"You can question any type, basically, anything that can be served in a restaurant," Daley says. "The poor snails and the mussels and the shrimp. I could go on and on. The lobsters."

Well, yes. Whole Foods just banned the sale of live lobsters. Some restaurants are protesting Canada's annual seal hunt by boycotting Canadian seafood. How silly is that?

"When you pass laws that are silly, it costs taxpayers money," Daley says.

Let's add up the cost to taxpayers of silly laws and compare it to the cost to taxpayers of rampant corruption under Daley and see which bill is higher.

The mayor can talk out of his ass all he wants, but has he really researched the issue? Is he an expert? And if the law is so silly, where was he when the City Council was voting for it? And why didn't he veto it?

*

The restaurant industry says the ban will cost the city $18 million in lost sales, tax revenue, and tips. That's ridiculous, and the media outlets who have repeated this figure without vetting it ought to go back to journalism school.

For one thing, restrateurs are supposing money not spent on foie gras won't be spent at all. That's simply not true. That figure also includes a multiplier effect - that for every $1 spent at a restaurant, an additional $1.47 is spent on related economic activity, such as, I'm guessing, parking, tips, entertainment. Again, that supposes that, say, a couple who would have gone out for foie gras will instead stay home - and not even order in a pizza.

Opponents of the ban are also having a field day making fun of the City Council's priorities, but you know who is spending the most time and energy on this? Opponents of the ban! Doesn't the restaurant industry have more important things to worry about? And the media! When they aren't consumed by JonBenet Ramsey.

*
Chicago Tonight took up the foie gras ban last night. Ald. Joe Moore, who sponsored the measure, noted that 10 European countries, the state of Israel, and California all have foie gras bans. "But Chicago is the only city," Elizabeth Brackett responded, as if that was noteworthy when whole countries and one state have similar laws.

She also asked the question many opponents of the ban like to ask: Where will this lead to? Where will it end? What's next?

My question is: Why does it have to lead to anything? Can't we simply try to put an end to torturing animals?

Brackett then asked why this issue had gotten so much attention. Robling said it was "because people don't want to see unconstitutional acts by their local legislature."

Right. That's what really has the public upset.

I'll tell you the real answer: Because this is about rich people. Foie gras is a delicacy. They don't want to see their style cramped by those pesky animal rights activists, or those ultra-liberal aldermen.

Finally, uberpundit Paul Green said that Daley would have squashed this ordinance at the outset if he hadn't been politically weakened by scandal.

So call the foie gras ban a corruption tax. It turns out it's really Daley's fault.

Funny Fundraising
"Unlike his brother, Mayor Daley did not attend the weekend fundraiser at a Bridgeport church to help defray the legal fees of his convicted patronage chief," the Sun-Times reports. "But the mayor was apparently there in spirit.

"He has no problem with the $100-a-head event for a man convicted last month of rigging city hiring to benefit pro-Daley armies of political workers.

"'They're all friends . . . They can have a party for him. There's nothing wrong with that . . . You help your friends . . . You have friends in your own industry. There's nothing wrong with that. They have it every day,' Daley said Tuesday."

Daley went on to say, "Do you think when someone makes one mistake that you would kick them all the way down the street? I doubt it. Your profession would never do that."

Really? I don't remember any fundraisers for Jayson Blair, or even Bob Greene.

And Robert Sorich was hardly found guilty of "one mistake." He was found guilty of massive fraud that turned city hiring into a joke. But the mayor wants to honor the man.

The Tribune's report on the fundraiser noted that tickets circulating through City Hall last week, and quoted a city worker saying "Over 400 attended the benefit. That's what makes it such a great neighborhood."

Right.

Here's a question for Daley: What if there was a fundraiser for Jon Burge?

"Since the day Sorich was arrested and charged, Mayor Daley has defended him as a hard-working employee," the Sun-Times says. "Just as Sorich's attorney has, the mayor has accused federal prosecutors of criminalizing violations of the Shakman decree banning political hiring and firing that, until now, were a civil matter."

As federal prosecutors have pointed out, fraud is a criminal matter. As for the civil matter of the Shakman decree, the city has ignored a federal decree and defied the judge overseeing the matter. Nice.

*

I saw some of the mayor's statements yesterday on the TV news, and while hate to use language like this in trying to offer rational, journalistic analysis, I could only conclude once again that the mayor is an ass. He really is.

If this is a man who engaged in rational discourse, he only does so in private. I'm offended by his behavior, his statements, and his insulting approach to a compliant media not only as a journalist, but as a citizen.

Is it really inconceivable that Chicago would be in at least as good a shape as it is if someone else had been mayor for 17 years? Isn't it possible the city could be in even better shape had Daley not been in charge for 17 years? Of course it is.

Maybe there would be a Peotone airport stoking economic development on the South Side. Maybe O'Hare airport would no longer be the busiest airport in the world, then, and that would be a good thing, because your flight would actually leave on time. Maybe there would be more affordable housing. Maybe CHA residents would have been resettled in scattered areas around the city. Maybe there would be a decent Soldier Field, one even capable of hosting the Olympics. Maybe city government would have been cleaned up, and this wouldn't be such a cynical place to live, and our hard-earned taxpayer dollars wouldn't so often wind up in the pockets of the mayor's pals. Maybe the best teachers would be working at the worst schools. Maybe the city would have fewer green roofs, but a recycling program that worked. Maybe police beats would have been realigned to reflect where crime occurs, not where they are politically expedient, and the murder rate never would have skyrocketed to worst in the nation. Maybe more than 700 people wouldn't have died in the 1995 heat wave if we would have had a mayor who didn't dispute that the findings of the county medical examiner and refrigerator trucks lining up at the morgue meant that people were dying, and who wouldn't have been more concerned with public relations than a public health response. Maybe we would've gotten to the bottom of decades of police torture by now, and in a manner allowing for charges to be filed. Maybe we'd have a mayor who didn't act like a childish bully.

This mayor scored a twofer yesterday, on two very different issues. But whether talking about foie gras or Robert Sorich, this mayor was consistent: He avoided any semblance of an adult discussion that would serve the public best.




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Posted on August 23, 2006


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