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How to kill a story

Can’t tell you how annoying this is, when a world renowned newspaper, two actually, LA Times and its sister paper Chi Trib, runs a dumb misuse of a word that changes the meaning of the account but is close enough to be accepted:

RAMADI, Iraq — The commander of U.S. troops in Iraq wanted some sweets, and nothing was going to stop him. Not even tramping through a neighborhood that only days ago had been teeming with snipers and Al Qaeda fighters who would love nothing better than to say they just shot Gen. David Petraeus.

With soldiers casting anxious glances along the desolate dirt road, the four-star general made a beeline for a tiny shop and helped himself to a honey-coated pastry proffered by the owner. Oblivious to the flies buzzing around his head, Petraeus chatted briefly with a man who said his cafe had been damaged in recent battles between U.S. forces and insurgents.

Days ago this might not have been possible, but in a brazen [my emphasis] effort to show off what they say has been a shift of allegiance in Sunni insurgent territory, U.S. and Iraqi officials Tuesday brought an all-star cast of military and political figures to Ramadi.

Brazen?  Susman means bold, or else she chooses to denigrate a brave, dramatic move by a commanding officer.  Are there no copy editors?  At Times or Trib?  Ridiculous.

Man bites dog in Sun-Times

Oak Park native and Sun-Times staffer Dave Newbart manages to admit that Sun-Times columnist Paul Molloy, whose obit Newbart has in today’s paper, promoted conservative values — “but in an eloquent way,” he adds. Conservative but eloquent, what do you know? 

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History lesson from defeated general

From Reader Ed, who got it from his friend Bill:

“It appears we have appointed our worst generals to command forces, and
our most gifted and brilliant to edit newspapers! In fact, I discovered
by reading newspapers that these editor/geniuses plainly saw all my
strategic defects from the start, yet failed to inform me until it was
too late. Accordingly, I’m readily willing to yield my command to these
obviously superior intellects, and I’ll, in turn, do my best for the
Cause by writing editorials – after the fact.”

Robert E. Lee, 1863

Patience worn out, revived somehow

Joseph’s brothers sell him passing caravan, coming from Gilead with gum, balm, and resin, heading for Egypt.  They would have already drowned him in a well if one of them, Reuben, hadn’t intervened.  Their beef against Joseph, the youngest of them, was that their father, Israel, liked him best.  They also resented him personally, as a “dreamer.”  This was sibling rivalry to the Nth degree.  It’s in Genesis 37.

In Matthew 21, on the other hand, we have the vintner patiently sending his agents to the tenants, who killed or manhandled them, one group after another, including the vintner’s sons!  We may ask what the vintner was thinking next time they won’t do that, until his family is half wiped out?  It’s a story, of course, told by Jesus to show God’s patience with his people.  No more, as in the story, he says, and the chief priests and pharisees got the message.  Like Joseph’s brothers, they would have did him in, but held back because of his popular support.

The 105th Psalm recalls or tells us that Joseph, “sold as a slave” in chains, was avenged by “the Lord,” who “called down a famine on the land” and ruined their crops.  The sequence of readings (Lent 2, Friday, C-cycle) places the Christian God in stark contrast to the pre-Jesus God.  Same God, but changed somehow, and that’s to be explained in the coming Lenten and Passiontide readings.


Later, Reader Phil gives retort simple:

If there were such a thing as Taliban catholics you would probably be a marked man for mentioning Reuben and beef during Lent.

To which I:

If you caught that, how many others did?  Oy vey.

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.

Today in Chi Trib: God in politics, etc.

1. John Kass mixes politics and religion — it’s about time — and continues to keep us informed, providing a program by which we tell the players, but that’s another metaphor, is it not?  See Day of reckoning at shrine of St. Richie on this day the Lord has made, on which we celebrate Term Six, on which also we have to wonder who’s next in the Ruling Family.  At least four more years, less than that actually, before we have a glimmer.

Election Day in Chicago still is a political day of obligation, and though Tuesday’s low voter turnout suggests many have fallen into apostasy, even heretics like me know the rituals must be observed.

There you have it.

2. Mention is there of priest who praised the felonious Sorich, who defrauded taxpayers by keeping the fix in place when hiring public servants.  He is Reverend Daniel J. Brandt.  It’s “a Gospel-based Catholic community that truly strives through worship, ministry and service to live, grow and be challenged by the message of Jesus Christ,” which is good to know.  Also good to know is that “Here at Nativity of Our Lord Parish, all are welcome.”

Even federal prosecutors?

3. It was probably Father Brandt who made the Trib with an Oct. 11, 2006, letter to the editor signed Daniel J. Brandt, Chicago, in which he castigated an earlier letter writer for “anti-Catholic bias” for saying church leaders “always” cover up “inappropriate” actions.  “In fact,” he wrote, Catholic clergy commit “far fewer” such acts than their “counterparts in other Christian and non-Christian denominations.”

Pastors in Protestant and other churches have an occurrence more than twice that of Catholic churches. Public school teachers, five times greater. Coaches, seven times greater. Stepfathers, 11 times greater!

He said the writer “should check her facts before writing such a toxic, opinionated letter.”

A commenter cited the April 17, 2002, USA Today and National Review Online for “shocking figures that don’t make it to the news” that back up Brandt’s assertions.

4. Team-building at DePaul U. for b-school students here.  Do silly things together, you can work better together?  In any case, individualists need not apply.  95 of them in the cafeteria!  Collectivism in the work place!  Winsome pix on p. 2 of Metro section.  Can’t find link.

5. Zuckman-Madhani lede is so soft it hurts:

 WASHINGTON — By most measures, congressional Democrats should have the political wind at their backs on the Iraq war. They swept to power last November because of the public’s dissatisfaction with the conflict and poll numbers show a majority of the public wants to bring the troops home.

Patience.  The real lede is in graf 2:

Democrats in the House and Senate are struggling to find the best way to express congressional disapproval of the war and President Bush’s troop buildup. They are wary both of going too far and not going far enough as they try to strike a balance that most Democrats, and perhaps some Republicans, can support.

In other words, they are currently stymied.

State of Blago

$70G chauffeur for HR chief of staff, both with records.  Lover’s spat:

‘Make love to me, or you’ll lose your job’

she said, he says.  These are some of Illinois’ finest in federal court.  Carlos the chauffeur says Teyonda the official put it to him while sharing a bed in a crowded hotel “on a two-day state business trip”!

She called him a “boy toy,” he says.  He’s 36, she’s 58.  The state, also known as the Land of Lincoln, tried to get the case pitched but couldn’t. 

Carlos rebuffed her while lying next to her.

When asked why he didn’t move to a sofa in the suite, [he] said, “I was scared.”

As in scaredy-cat, if you ask me.  Anyhow, he was fired soon after the hotel episode in which nothing happened, for leaving a state car in a restricted O’Hare lot while he went on vacation.  Not the first time he used the car for his own purposes, say court records.

Teyonda says they had to bunk together because there was no room in that inn for the two of them.  But the couch was there for him, she says.

But Carlos was not alone in personal use of government stuff.  Teyonda once had him pick up her dry cleaning on state time.  She has also used several names for herself over the years, has a conviction, and has several Social Security numbers.  (Look, you can always use another.)  He has her beat in the conviction arena, with three.  We are so lucky to live in this state.

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