Monthly Archives: March 2007

Two with one blow

Hey, good news out of Iraq from Chi Trib:

BAGHDAD — The U.S. Army has reported a sharp decrease in insurgency attacks in Baghdad.

In the week of Feb. 24 to March 2, officials said, insurgency strikes and suicide bombings dropped for the fourth consecutive week in Baghdad. They linked this to the steady increase of security patrols in the city.

Oops, scratch that.  World Trib there.  Chi Trib has this:

To Iraq’s Sunnis, Iran’s ascendancy as a regional power and its close relationship with the Shiite-led government represent a pernicious threat to the survival of Iraq’s Arab identity.

“America handed Iraq to Iran on a golden plate,” says Sunni politician Saleh al-Mutlaq. “Everything Iran fought for in the Iran-Iraq war, America gave to it when it invaded.”

That’s on page one today, top left, by Liz Sly.  No, it’s not the lede.  This is the soft-led Trib, remember.  The lede was about legislature cafeteria mumblings in “Persian” (she means Farsi?) and an Iranian charity that buys wedding dresses and arms caches seized from insurgents.

So in one story you have two characteristics of Chi Trib coverage: bad news out of Iraq and soft lede-ism.

Different strokes, I guess

MoveOn.org Civic Action, objecting to Nevada Dems’ partnering with Fox News for a candidates’ debate, says Fox is a “mouthpiece for the Republican Party, not a legitimate news channel.”

That’s funny.  I was saying just the same thing the other day, about all channels but Fox, except I said mouthpiece for Dems!  What do you know?!

Fitzg goofed? Bush flunks?

Novak’s two concluding paragraphs say a lot about the Libby verdict.  “No underlying criminal violation,” but Fitzg went ahead?  Looks like scalp-hunting to me:

On Fox’s “Hannity & Colmes” Tuesday night, super-lawyer David Boies said Fitzgerald never should have prosecuted Libby because there was no underlying criminal violation. Boies scoffed at Fitzgerald’s contention that Libby had obstructed him from exposing criminal activity. Boies, who represented Al Gore in the 2000 election dispute, is hardly a Bush sympathizer. But neither is he a Democratic partisan trying to milk this obscure scandal.

As for GW, Novak is good at not letting him off the hook: 

George W. Bush lost control of this issue when he permitted a special prosecutor to make decisions that, unlike going after a drug dealer or mafia kingpin, turned out to be inherently political. It would have taken courage for the president to have aborted this process. It would require even more courage for him to pardon Scooter Libby now, not while he is walking out of the White House in January 2009.

NOT Puerto Rican gangsters!

Returning to the gang members who jumped the off-duty cop on Lincoln Ave. after a 4 a.m. bar closing, not identified ethnically by Sun-Times and erroneously presumed in this space to be Puerto Rican, they’re white non-Latino, as is clear from their names — Vincent Munday, David Podgorski and brothers Anthony Borias, Nicholas Borias and Joseph Borias (maybe Latin) — and headshots. 

The gang is Insane Deuces (alleged, allegedly and other kind of disclaimer for all this; it’s how newspapers protect selves, why not members of the Insane Bloggers gang?), one of whose members recently shot and killed a Marine home on leave.  One of the Lincoln Avenue Five is an Elmwood Park High School graduate — that town is kitty-corner from Oak Park at Harlem & North.

This town has its toughies.  I wandered into it now and then on walks from our northeast River Forest rental a few years back.  One quiet Sunday about 8 a.m., I sauntered down the strip mall near Harlem & North, west of the bank on the corner across the street from a Sears store on the Chicago corner (NE).  Noticing that the Great American Bagels was closed for redecorating, etc. — it’s when they absorbed an ice cream operation from next door — I stopped to look inside. 

I was immediately accosted by a tough young man whose accomplice stood at my rear.  We remained jocular with each other as I, blessedly unaware, wondered out loud what was up with the Bagels place.  The two and another were standing outside (guarding?) a late-model auto parked across a small parking lot in which sat (huddled?) an elderly couple.  Taking the couple at first to be mob-related, I was the more cautious. 

But my happy-go-luckiness worked in dealing with the two bully boys, who stood aside as I continued my stroll.  Confused, I guessed the two oldsters were being held, say until ransom was paid?  Lively imagination I had, you say.  But regaining the River Forest side of North Avenue, I looked back.  The wise guys and the oldsters remained in place.  I considered calling 911 but didn’t, feeling uncertain of my ground in Elmwood Park matters.  It’s culturally another world over there.  I turned and continued back to our Bonnie Brae quarters.

Politics in Jeremiah’s time

Jeremiah faced clever enemies, who resolved, “Let us destroy him by his own tongue;
let us carefully note his every word.”  They would pick apart what he said, using it against him.  He turned to God for help:

Remember that I stood before you
to speak in their behalf,
to turn away your wrath from them.

This is what prophets did, of course: they addressed God on behalf of his people.  When they prophesied, told the future, it was when going back to the people to tell them what would happen if they did not obey God.

The Psalmist turned to God all the time, of course, as with:

You will free me from the snare they set for me,
for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commend my spirit;
you will redeem me, O LORD, O faithful God.

That’s how Christ talked on the cross, we will recall.  Meanwhile, Jesus (the Christ, anointed, messiah) had to deal in Matthew 20 with a pushy mother.  She wanted her two sons to be given places of honor in his kingdom.  Not mine to give, he told her, but his father’s.

The other 10 apostles got bent out of shape by this motherly advance, and Jesus told them to forget it:

Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. 

Quite radical stuff, honored in the breach by every ecclesiastical climber who claims advancement was not his idea.  So it went then, so now.  It’s up to us to get over it, and on with faith, hope, and charity.

Seated with Moses

Christian preachers have to be nervous as they go at today’s Gospel reading, about how Pharisees behaved badly, because it might strike too closely to home for them.

“The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.  [So] do . . . [what] they tell you, but do not follow their example.  For they preach but they do not practice.  They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.  All their works are performed to be seen.
They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.  They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’

Unless we think the Pharisaic impulse died with first-century Pharisees, that is.

It’s an excellent passage for a clergyman’s retreat, to be sure, but what of us lay people?

This, I think: We don’t believe and practice what we believe because Rev. or Fr. (or Rabbi, for that matter) So&So says so, do we?  If not, why do we believe?  Damn interesting question, if you’ll pardon the word.  Not damning, however, of us or the clergy.  Most of us do what we can.  Divine Providence enters in.  Somehow we believe, a lot of clergy doing their part.

But in a time of heavy criticism of clergy, especially Catholic, it’s good to remind ourselves that sitting on the chair of Moses or holding a pulpit or heading a parish by sufferance of a bishop means one can do good somehow.  And one does.  But we in the pews can do with a reminder that the sitter or pulpit-holder or pastor need not interfere: the pew-sitter ought not be distracted by him or her if tempted in that direction.

How the west and east were won

U.S. was a third-world country 150+ years ago.  Consider Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia or Daniel Boone’s Kentucky.  Hernando de Soto says so in The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else (Basic, Perseus, 2000).  Squatters’ rights is his focus: how the new country and the English colony before that managed to recognize and codify them. 

Such codification of recognized practice is the essence of workable law, he implies, echoing Hayek.  Good law does that, he says.  It’s not made of whole cloth and it changes custom only in “trivial” ways, he says, quoting one of many sources he has consulted to produce his mid-book chapter, “The Missing Lessons of U.S. History.”

Sidetrack: Our civil rights revolution went astray when it moved from abolishing bad laws to making new ones that attempted too much and poisoned the well of respect for law.

Continuing the thread: Colonial Pennsylvania “connived at or permitted many usages it was powerless to prevent . . . “ (115–116)  The making of Maine, 1820: squatters made Maine too hot for Massachusetts to handle.  (118)  Squatters moved in and wouldn’t move, so Mass. said the hell with it. 

In such matters, the American revolution can be seen to be already under way, colonists refusing (pre-Lexington and Concord or Boston Tea Party) to be bound by the Crown’s property laws, which proved inapplicable in the new world.  Indeed, “local elites,” usually themselves immigrants or related to some, were sympathetic to squatters and gave them a break.

All in all, these early Americans were not easily cowed or domesticated, I say.  “Don’t tread on me” was the motto not only of the first Marines

Legislating against squatters in the first half of the 19th century, as in regard to Northwest Territory and other government-owned lands, Congress had no idea what the situation was out there, where a sheriff could be shot and the shooter exonerated if he tried to enforce their laws.

It was all in the course of the U.S. creating a body of laws that allowed entry into property ownership, says de Soto, who presents himself not as a rewriter of American history but, like his “legendary” predecessory of the same name, an explorer.  He’s a Peruvian who writes platinum-grade English without translator.  Quite an interesting book so far.

Justly put

Clarence Thomas expressed disdain for the news media several times during an interview. “One of the reasons I don’t do media interviews is, in the past, the media often has its own script,” he said. “The media, unfortunately, have been universally untrustworthy because they have their own notions of what I should think or I should do.”

You know?  I think I see his point.

Sinners’ solution

Book of Daniel today throws book at Israelites, meaning latter-day Israelites, namely us, for our purposes.  They got the message but ignored it:

We have sinned, been wicked and done evil;
we have rebelled and departed from your commandments and your laws.

In the 79th Psalm, we ask God not to hold it against us:

Remember not against us the iniquities of the past;
may your compassion quickly come to us,
for we are brought very low.

Luke 6 has the answer:

“Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven. . . . “

That’s the ticket.

Who do you think [they’re] talking to?!

J. Kass and I both want to know who tipped Baltimore Sun/Chi Trib off to O’Bama’s ancestors as slave-owners.  A thought for the newspaper and other media mavens: What if newsies regularly said who suggested this or that story?  That way, we readers would know whom they are talking to.  We can guess, of course, but newsies would gain credibility if they spilled these beans.

Another thing, why does neither Trib nor Sun-Times say what kind of gangs these are whose members stabbed and beat up the off-duty cop on Lincoln Ave. at 4 a.m. — Puerto Rican probably, but why don’t they tell us? 

Also, notice that all eyes are on the cop, as to his behavior in the beating: how did his gun go off, for instance?  (As he fell, stabbed.)  But nothing about his dereliction of duty in not sticking its barrel into the mouth of the nearest punk as he and friends barbarously confronted him and his friends?  We know why: the cop has to be nicey-nice and must not unduly intimidate the barbarous gang members.  Of course.

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From Reader Nancy:

Most likely the violent gang members are illegals.

Yet later: Probably NOT.  See NOT Puerto Rican gangsters! above.

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