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[17 Dec 2014 | No Comment | ]

“We tortured some folks,” said our folksy constitutional law professor-president in what may be the most inappropriate use of the word “folks” I’ve ever heard. He later said all the right things about how this is not who we are as a people.
A debatable point, perhaps, since the rationale and orders for torture–excuse me, enhanced interrogation techniques–came from the leaders of this great nation, administered with our taxes by the Central Intelligence Agency among others, and is both excused and applauded by numerous public officials and ordinary citizens.

To give Barack …

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[8 Dec 2014 | No Comment | ]

Let’s face it: elected state’s attorneys or county prosecutors have a symbiotic relationship with police departments–as they should. Police are first responders in major crimes and help locate evidence, then prosecutors work hand-in-hand with cops to develop cases.
That’s why prosecutors essentially become part of the often-racist police culture, as we’ve frequently seen. In Chicago recently the Cook County state’s attorney’s office was complicit in the police coverup of a killing by a nephew of then-Mayor Richard Daley. Back in 1969, State’s Attorney Edward Hanrahan had his own police unit, disbanded …

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[1 Dec 2014 | One Comment | ]

Like everyone who has been in politics a while I’ve had my share of disappointments endorsing or
working for professed reformers and “independent” candidates who sold out and otherwise betrayed
their base–but none so quickly and definitively as Michele Smith, who was elected alderman of my
home 43rd Ward in 2011 after a narrow loss four years earlier.

This ward used to be the heart of anti-machine politics and still votes independently. Smith promised
to be in the tradition of independent aldermen who guard against bad zoning and predatory
development–even developments supported by City Hall– by …

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[25 Nov 2014 | No Comment | ]

More than a year ago, when in my naiveté,  I thought the congress might actually do something about immigration, I added to the discussion one widely overlooked benefit: adding millions of undocumented immigrants to the workforce would have a positive benefit on the economy, especially to the Social Security system.

To quote myself:  “Contrary to the conservative argument that undocumented residents are a financial burden on the U.S., there are powerful arguments that citizenship and the right to work will bring an ultimate economic benefit and strengthen Social Security.
” Social Security …

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[18 Nov 2014 | No Comment | ]

Far more questions than answers emerge after the Democratic/Obamanian disaster of last week.
The immediate questions are strategic: Will the Republicans make any small moves toward compromise to show they can govern? There are a few issues, such as lowering the corporate tax rate, which hardly any corporations pay anyway, that some Democrats mention as an area of compromise–providing a deal doesn’t cut net revenues. Some Democrats even suggest they might let the Keystone pipeline go through in exchange something or another of value–though Obama’s recent statements suggest he is less …

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[10 Nov 2014 | One Comment | ]

It’s a good thing I picked a low limb to crawl out on in last week’s election prediction column, because it sure came crashing down. My Thanksgiving dinner will be a healthy dose of crow–with no gravy to disguise the taste. (Does anyone know what the hell crow tastes like anyway?)

I don’t know anyone who actually predicted the wave that developed during the last few days, though I noted parenthetically that fears over ISIS and Ebola could cause one. I would, however, have expected an earlier warning sign.
Why is it …

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[4 Nov 2014 | One Comment | ]

Get your chainsaws ready. Several weeks ago I went out on a limb and suggested the Democrats would somehow hang on to the US Senate–maybe by their fingernails, but hang on, despite widespread media sentiment in the other direction.
Since that time there has been more back-and-forth in the polls than a weekend at Wimbledon, but things seem to be settling more and more to the GOP side. The Republicans need a net six seats and estimates are running anywhere from six to eight. Polling analysts and numbers crunchers such as …

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[27 Oct 2014 | 3 Comments | ]

Attention sports fans and media critics!
I depart this week from analyzing such depressing stuff as ISIL, cyberwarfare, Ferguson, etc. to report on an amusing and befuddling set of exchanges with the New York Times–with whom you rarely win an argument even if you’re right on the facts.

Last week, the insightful op-ed columnist Frank Bruni (like me, a former restaurant critic) was rightly lamenting the crass commercialization of naming theaters, stadiums, stages and everything else in sight after some product or corporate entity. In it he quoted the Consumerist website as …

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[21 Oct 2014 | No Comment | ]

Ferguson, Missouri, the once obscure St.Louis suburb catapulted to international prominence last August when police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed a fleeing–many say surrendering–unarmed young black man named Mike Brown. Night after night of protest and militarized police response followed and continue today as a grand jury meets. In the meantime another unarmed young black man was killed by police nearby.
I don’t want to reiterate or relitigate the now universally known case, but rather call your attention to an impressive, scrupulously researched paper by Richard Rothstein of the Economic …

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[14 Oct 2014 | No Comment | ]

What’s your biggest worry? ISIS? Ebola? Iran? Putin? The economy? The elections?
Let me add to this menu of misery the wide-ranging prospect of cyberattacks–which some call cyberwarfare.
There was that major cyber-assault on J.P. Morgan Chase and 9 other banks, though we’re assured it’s done no harm–yet. Plus the hacking of Target, Wal Mart and other retail giants, which “compromised” millions of credit cards but no one hurt–yet. We’re also advised that China stole business secrets from major corporations.
Once information stolen, it’s difficult to find the hacker. But it’s also possible …