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[22 Apr 2014 | No Comment | ]

Paris—My annual spring trek here, despite unseasonably chilly, Chicagoesque weather, has always been a welcome respite from America’s nonstop political din. Imagine days without a hint of Chris Christie, Darrell Issa, Rahm Emanuel, Bruce Rauner, Al Sharpton, Mike Madigan, Rush Limbaugh etc.

Even the bad weather, however, does not obliterate the joys of dining here, whether at simple bistros or astronomically priced multi-starred restaurants. (Just the other evening Mlle. Y and I polished off duck No. 1,131,282 in the elegant confines of the venerable, wallet-bleeding Tour D’Argent.)

There are also the usual …

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[14 Apr 2014 | One Comment | ]

I’ve seen 6 of the 8 planned episodes of CNN’s  “Chicagoland” series and formed some distinct views, which might be modified by the final two episodes, but I will be out of the country and miss them. Meanwhile these are my thoughts.   CNN presents a very limited perspective on the city, with every episode devoting most of its hour to:
(1)   Reports of gun and gang violence and scenes of mourning mainly on the city’s black South Side intercut with scenes in hospital emergency rooms where dedicated doctors toil to …

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[9 Apr 2014 | No Comment | ]

Chicago’s City Council pulled an old trick in the recent election. No, not your basic vote theft, but referendum manipulation.

Referendum manipulation? Yes, a typically Chicagoesque variety of electoral prestidigitation. Let me elucidate.
First off, we do not have lawmaking by referendum in Illinois except for the narrowest issues involving restructuring of state government. All other referenda—other than local bond or tax issues—are purely “advisory.”
A lot of folks in this town, however, would still like the chance to express their preference for an elected rather than mayor-appointed school board. Private and public …

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[3 Apr 2014 | No Comment | ]
Grappling with Christie

I haven’t written anything about the Chris Christie-George Washington Bridge scandal because it’s been blanketed in the media, especially MSNBC and the New York Times. There was little to add until last week when Christie hired a friendly, business associated law firm to “investigate” the episode and prove him completely innocent.

I can’t let this pass without comment.

First and foremost, the guy I once though was a smart, savvy politician turns out to be a complete blithering idiot.

Second, he must genuinely think all the rest us of collectively are blithering idiots.

Third—and …

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[25 Mar 2014 | No Comment | ]

One of the primordial political campaign tactics is to tar your opponent with a major charge of which you yourself may be guilty, thereby inoculating yourself against the charge.  That’s why the Limbaugh-Hannity set calls so many blacks “racists”—or, better yet, “reverse racists.”

This year’s primordial epithet is again “class warfare,” a charge thrown at Democrats for generations. It’s become the media byword since semi-billionaire Bruce Rauner, after spending tens of millions of his own money, narrowly won Illinois’ four-way Republican gubernatorial primary. Columnists, reporters, editorialists and headline writers are all …

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[17 Mar 2014 | No Comment | ]

In 1853 war broke out on Russia’s Crimean Peninsula over treatment of various ethno-religious groups in the then undivided Holy Land. By 1856, an alliance of the British, French, Ottoman Empire and Sardinia defeated the Russians, who kept Crimea but lost control of the Black Sea. Crimea remained part of the Russian Empire, then the Soviet Union until 1954, when Stalin’s successor, Nikita Khrushchev, ceded it to its satellite, then called “the” Ukraine.

Why? To increase Russian presence and influence there.
Through the centuries Ukraine was part of or ruled by both …

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[11 Mar 2014 | 2 Comments | ]

Last week’s column about President Obama’s new initiative, My Brother’s Keeper, focused on helping young, at-risk black youths achieve better outcomes in life through a variety of programs, elicited several penetrating questions from friends, fellow activists and journalists. Some I might have pre-empted by explaining my points, though I fall back as an excuse on my 500-word limit imposed as a guideline by my editors. Therefore I want to expand on several of the points raised.

I noted that “fortunately” the bulk of the funding would come from grants from foundations …

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[4 Mar 2014 | One Comment | ]

The impending Russia-Ukraine crisis has blotted out much of the coverage and analysis of Barack Obama’s recently announced new program to help chip away at our own crisis involving young men of color.

The “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative is a public-private partnership—fortunately funded primarily by private philanthropic funds—intensely focused on helping substantial numbers of at-risk young black men overcome social, educational, economic and personal-familial barriers to becoming productive citizens. As some put it, to have “better outcomes.”
The fact that the wide-ranging initiative comes with something just short of three years left …

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[25 Feb 2014 | 2 Comments | ]

I am a sinner with a criminal past.
Since the statute of limitations has run out (I hope), I confess that as a kid I once or twice shoplifted the local dime store, swiped a 78rpm platter at the record shop and even snuck into a movie now and then. Later ingested an occasional illegal drug. Never caught. The only time I was actually arrested and tried, I won the case and later a false-arrest suit.

Sins??? I have broken several of …

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[18 Feb 2014 | One Comment | ]

It’s almost cliché these days to note that the gay rights movement moved farther faster than any liberation movement of the past half-century.  From abolishing laws criminalizing gay sex to establishing the rights of gays and lesbians to hold teaching and military service jobs to more than a dozen states permitting same-sex marriage—and a majority of the country agreeing—we have moved with mach speed toward full civil rights for a once despised and misunderstood minority of the population.

Neither the black nor women’s liberation movements moved as swiftly in accomplishing major …