Monthly Archives: August 2004

INOCULATED . . . Terrorists had "impunity" in the …

INOCULATED . . . Terrorists had “impunity” in the �90s, said Richard S. Williamson in 7/26 Sun-Times op-ed, meaning they got away with terrorism. Try “immunity.” Having it, they acted with impunity.

FROM ATLANTA WITH LOVE . . . Chi Trib 7/6/04 had page-one story about a Dallas-based minister who gave a 90-minute sermon in Atlanta as part of his crusade. This is T.D. Jakes, who is a bishop though apparently not of any denomination. Trib’s Dahleen Glanton does not say who consecrated him. Apostolic succession, anyone?

Contributing to the confusion is his name, Jakes, which is also the name of a prominent Chicago South Side minister, in the news a lot as a Reverend Protestor and even once-mayoral candidate. Glanton, Chi Trib’s gal in Atlanta, makes no mention of the Chicago Jakes, nor did a Trib copy editor supply such a mention.

This Jakes of Atlanta and Dallas is “one of the most powerful religious figures in America,” Glanton, attributing the judgment to no one and in effect calling on us to recognize her as one of the most astute observers of the religious scene in America.

In any case, Bishop Jakes on the road draws audiences of “sometimes triple the size” of his 28,000-member Dallas church. In Atlanta, for instance, he pulled more than 130,000, says Glanton � Charlotte Observer said more than 100,000 � to his four-day Mega Fest last month. The city was expected to pick up $100 million in business from it, said Glanton.

These thousands are boomers without ties, not afraid of mass meetings as the WW2 generation was, according to Emory U. sociologist Nancy Eiesland, whom Glanton quoted without mention of crowds who turned up to see the Pope in the last 25 years. Has Glanton heard about them?

The ties in question would be those that bind to a local church. This mega event, a gathering of people of various or no affiliation, was a religiously mixed crowd, Eiesland pointed out. They came for “lively worship [in a] more evangelical setting” — more than what they find in their churches, apparently, but Glanton does not probe.

She says Jakes is called “in the media” a new Billy Graham. Can’t she think of one such reference with which to regale us?

Jakes also “stretches the line too far between the secular and the spiritual,” she tells us (“some say so”), but we are not told what it means to stretch a line too far between two things. What does Glanton have in mind? Does she realize a metaphor is supposed to make sense? Or is she just mouthing stuff she has heard that looks as if it belongs here?

She speaks of “those who have studied” Jakes who “say he fully understands his influence” on listeners. Who are they, and how do they know this? And so what? You’d think she was protecting a source.

Jakes “carefully crafts his words” — “chooses them” would do — “as well as his positions.” That is, he watches what he says and is careful about positions he takes.

He’s not the only one. Glanton does not report Jakes’s anti-gay views mentioned in the 7/7 Southern Voice, a gay-oriented publication, which criticizes Atlanta�s Journal Constitution for, booster-like, failing to report on his hostility to homosexuality.

Neither does Glanton, representing not a local newspaper emphasizing the positive, but one with national-coverage pretensions. If she could think harder-headed and in a more detached manner about her subject, readers of her paper would hear more of the story.

STARS IN REVIEW . . . “Fahrenheit 9/11” is more “dramatization” than “expose,” says Roger Ebert in 6/24/04 Sun-Times. Accurate or not, he doesn�t say. Ebert makes much of the look on Bush’s face when he heard of the attacks on 9-11, calling it “odd indeed.” Which is devastating indeed, coming from America’s Movie Critic.

Ebert credits Moore with bringing “fresh impact to familiar material by the way he marshals his images.” I’m sure he does. He’s been compared to Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler�s world-class movie propagandist.

F-9/11 is “compelling, persuasive,” says Ebert. That is, Ebert was compelled and persuaded. Bush “comes across [to E.] as shallow, inarticulate . . . simplistic. . . inauthentic,” confirming Ebert�s deepest suspicions.

Moore had been “sobered by attacks on the factual accuracy of elements” of “Bowling for Columbine.” Sobered, eh? E. reported this? “Moore sobered by attacks,” read all about it? Ebert credits this new-found sobriety with Moore’s “maybe” being “more cautious” in this film, producing “an op-ed . . . not stand-up comedy.” A good op-ed? Accurate and well argued?

“But,” and here the real Roger Ebert stands up, “he remains one of the most valuable figures on the political landscape, a populist rabble-rouser, humorous and effective.” The film is “exhilarating,” thanks to its “determined repetition of . . . sound bites.”

Doesn�t that depend on what you mean by exhilarating?

SCHOOL DAZE . . . In Chicago we have “failing schools,” never failing teachers, parents, and students. One expedient, an experiment in parental control and parent-school cooperation known as Local School Councils, has flopped. Nine years of Daley-era reform went down the drain. Reformist (call them reformers if things get reformed) Julie Woestehoff says the schools scene is a “shambles.”

Sun-Times tells of charter schools where kids toe the line and have longer school days and tight discipline � apparently a real character-molding program. Daley, thrashing about as usual, says he wants more like these. But they make heavy demands on students and parents, and one wonders how many would put up with that.

A NAME�S A NAME, FOR ALL THAT . . . When is a liberal not a liberal? When he’s a Republican, in which case he’s a moderate. Ask Dave McKinney of Sun-Times, who 6/27/04 has the GOP Ryan-replacement story � Jack Ryan the nominee had to pull out when Chi Trib got hold of sex-club allegations in his divorce proceedings, Repubs had to scramble for a replacement.

Idea: provide standard check list: voting record, campaign statements, the usual items � and compare a well-known moderate with a well-known liberal. Or five mods with five libs, to allow for varieties of records, and see what the difference is.

GUESS WHAT? . . . Mary Mitchell in Sun-Times had this just in during the convention: Hillary full of praise for Obama�s talk. How does she get those scoops?

UNLOCKING KEYES . . . Sun-Times man Mark Brown dismissed Alan Keyes, Republicans� great black hope for the coming senate race, as a “conservative talk-show host,” saying nothing of his Harvard Ph.D. and UNESCO appointment (ambassador) and even more contemptuously comparing him to Mike Ditka: “He�s no Ditka, but he could get there from here.” From Harvard, no less!

Mary Mitchell told us Republicans had played the race card in slating Keyes, amateurishly citing “political observers,” as if to remove it from the realm of what she thinks. She decried the dearth of “white lambs” for sacrifice in this election. Keyes�s role is “to limit votes” for Obama. Really?

Keyes was picked for “his national presence, his talk show, and his wit.” How dare they?

She worries that blacks may see in him a black candidate of whom they can be proud � and he will be a right-winger!

Dem consultant Don Rose told her Keyes is “fanatical” and has no “relationship ideology to the black community.” Relationship ideology? Moreover, Keyes has gotten votes in his presidential campaigns from the Bible Belt. Saints preserve us.

ADVICE . . . They are upset. Alarms have gone off. This guy will drag out horses libs think they have beaten to death: Is abortion murder? Do we belong in the UN? Should immigration laws be enforced? Keyes will try to force issues, but getting himself fully reported may not be easy.

Reporters who can�t stomach him should lay out his most egregious arguments, fairly and squarely, assuming he will hang himself. His supporters will love it, even as his opposition feels vindicated. I did that once for Jehovah�s Witnesses in Sox Park 35 years ago, when 40,000 of them gathered there for a week. Our first editions were hawked outside the park as they arrived.

I hesitated at first to report fully what they were saying � their elaborate cosmogony, for instance, sounded so silly. Why make these nice people look bad? But the killer instinct took hold, and I decided to feature their wildest asseverations, punching up the story with what they gave me.

Next day, I showed up at the press box, the day�s paper already in thousands of hands, unsure of my reception. Lo and behold, they greeted me effusively, delighted at the coverage. I had accurately represented their thinking. Most readers clucked and shook their heads, but not they.

One thing newsies should not do is worry about Keyes being “divisive.” That�s for the Dem senator, Durbin, and others to stew about. K is “of the right wing of the right wing,” says Durbin. His approach is “divisive.” Hang on to your wallets, by the way, when an odds-on favorite inveighs against division.


Now is the time . . . Eric Zorn’s column of yester…

Now is the time . . . Eric Zorn’s column of yesterday was a brave effort to fill space. Too much space, I think. But I’ll be darned, I count them and find it’s only 725 words. Then today Neil Steinberg got it done in — say wha’? — 1165 words! Then why should Zorn’s seem longer? One reason is he was trying too hard to convert sow’s ear to silk purse. His was a brave attempt, I say. He remained effervescent in the face of a scripted largely news-free convention. Wait. Not so. If there are a million stories in the naked city, there have to be a hundred in a political convention, no matter how scripted.

Whether the earnest, hard-working Zorn found them is another question. On this day at least, it seems he did not. (I can hear him expostulating: “It seems”? What do you mean “it seems”? You’re not going to go on how things “seem,” are you?) He made one point very clear: The word “great” gets overused by enthusiastic public figures. This is something a few of us may not have noticed, and maybe we haven’t seen the Joan Cusack commercial for DIRECTV, she weighing and balancing “great” and other adjectival possibilities.

Never mind. We read on and find there’s something Zorn wants to say. There’s another word. Barack Obama used “serious” when Z. asked him if the Ditka candidacy ever had him worried (it didn’t) and so did Hillary C. , about Kerry — “a serious man for a serious job at a serious time.” Yess! Slam-dunk time! That’s the word for Z. That “serious” (not “great,” for God’s sake!) sums it up in this “fraught and perilous” time.

But here the literacy alarm goes off. Eric has to hit the old dictionary. He has to see “fraught” as going “with” something, as in “fraught with peril.” Fraught and perilous, on the other hand, veers close to Michael Sneed malaprop land. Eric does not want to go there.

He makes his point, however. Throw enough words up there in the more or less right direction, and we get it, somehow. We can even picture that “security [tea] cozy” he sees covering Boston, because we saw one once in a roadside antiques store and another in an old movie (the best kind). It’s quite an image, the sort that comes to mind in the middle of the night — the city of Boston, 700,000 people, under a tea cozy — causing dismay or maybe a chuckle if nothing you ate disagrees with you. It stays with the reader when the column, serious though it may be, is long forgotten.

And Zorn gets serious, yea sober, at the end. He even waxes enthusiastic, proclaiming that it was “great, truly great” to be at this convention, “despite all the surface frivolity, phoniness, pointless ritual and sandbox fighting.” (Oh that sandox fighting. Don’t you just hate it?) It’s a moral, by gum, with maybe a slight catch in the throat. Go, Eric. You’ve lumbered along and got through it, and you have your 725 words, and a happy ending to boot.

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