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[29 Jul 2014 | No Comment | ]

As I’ve written time and again, the best-intentioned police officers find it difficult to impossible to gain the cooperation of minority communities in solving crimes because the people there often fear the police as much as the gangs. The neighborhoods also know the police have their own code of silence (the Outfit calls it “omerta”) wherein everyone from the mayor, chief of police and even the best cops protect the five or so percent of brutal or corrupt ones. Otherwise the torturing cop Jon Burge would have gone to the …

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[21 Jul 2014 | No Comment | ]

Not many weeks ago Vladimir Putin was being lauded as a strong and decisive leader by the least likely cast of characters—Richard Cheney, John McCain, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the Obama hate-fest.  The ovations came not out of love for Putin, but to contrast him with the “weak” Barack Obama.
Obama, in his worst foreign policy failure, drew his infamous “red line” against Syria’s chemical weapons, some of which were used on Assad’s own people, and seemed poised to intervene forcefully. But he tossed the ball to …

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[15 Jul 2014 | No Comment | ]

Chicago’s toll of 82 shootings over the July 4 weekend, resulting in at least 17 deaths, made international news, reinforcing our reputation as the nation’s murder capital. It is even possible, as a Chicago Magazine investigation found recently, that the number of killings has been under-reported by reclassifying and even ignoring certain killings not due to gunfire.

Police Chief Garry McCarthy vigorously denies the charge and both he and Mayor Rahm Emanuel constantly point to the fact that despite the headline horrors, actual murders keep going down and the rate has …

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[7 Jul 2014 | No Comment | ]

George Packer’s brilliant, deeply disturbing “The Unwinding,” which won the 2013 National Book Award, tells a sad story about the past four decades in American life through a series of biographical sketches.

It describes, as a Guardian critic put it, “the coming apart of something in the national fabric: the unravelling of unspoken agreements about the limits to Wall Street’s greed; about what a congressman would or wouldn’t do for the right price; about what a company owes its workers, or what the wealthy should contribute in tax.”
I contemplated that during …

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[1 Jul 2014 | No Comment | ]

By some odd coincidence last Tuesday (June 24) hundreds of thousands—probably millions—of eyes were on Mississippi for one or both of two uniquely related events:

–Political junkies were watching the Republican runoff election results wherein teapartier Chris McDaniel seemed poised to knock off six-term incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran after one of the nastiest campaigns seen anywhere.
–Others with an interest in civil rights history were watching PBS’s exceptional two-hour American Experience episode documenting the amazing story of 1964’s “Freedom Summer” in the Magnolia State.
We know now that Cochran, the “establishment” underdog for …

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[24 Jun 2014 | No Comment | ]

Though both my feet are planted firmly on the left, political censorship is one thing that rankles me when it comes from either side of the political spectrum—even mine. Perhaps it’s the increasing polarization in our society reported in a recent Pew Poll, which showed a rising tendency of opposing sides to demonize each other, but it seems to me censorship in one form or another is escalating.

This season’s college commencement addresses, you will recall, featured a series of student protests based on the politics of the invited speakers on …

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[9 Jun 2014 | No Comment | ]

I wonder how much thought the White House gave to the political implications of releasing the Environmental Protections Agency’s new coal emissions standards at this time—five months before the mid-term elections?
I’m not concerned about the usual rhetorical attacks from climate-change deniers or even lambasting from the coal industry and its economic supporters. It’s a given that almost anything Obama proposes on the environment—call it global warming, climate change or even clean air—will draw cannon fire from across the aisle. Note that he still hasn’t …

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[3 Jun 2014 | No Comment | ]

Hillary Clinton, as almost everyone knows, appears to have a clear path to the Democratic presidential nomination for 2016—and an almost equally unobstructed journey to victory that November. That is, if she runs—which I will assume until proven otherwise.
Yes, if she chooses to run she will have to answer all the health questions, even the slimy insinuations of Karl Rove.

But there continues to be more than an undercurrent of Democratic opposition to her, primarily from the left. Despite her many consistent denials of interest, Sen. Elizabeth Warren is clearly the …

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[27 May 2014 | One Comment | ]

A couple of months ago I wouldn’t have bet a dime on Democratic chances to keep the U.S. Senate. The GOP needed to net 6 seats and at least 5 looked like sure things with three more leaning strongly—and little chance of losing any of the 45 seats they now hold. Numbers guru Nate Silver virtually handed Harry Reid’s scepter to Mitch McConnell.

It looked as if President Obama would spend the last two years of his administration as Bill Clinton did, wearing the point of his veto pen down to …

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[19 May 2014 | 3 Comments | ]

Why are most of our state and city officials scared stiff of a financial transactions tax? It’s the only tax that can rapidly solve their multiple pension crises without burdening the middle class.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to deal with Chicago’s pension crisis, as submitted to the legislature, involved massive property tax increases. State legislators rejected that aspect, tossing it back to a trembling city council. With municipal elections next year, what alderman wants to vote to increase this most unpopular tax?
Flustered aldermen babble about a city income tax or a …