Category Archive 'Chicago'
20 Jul 2012

Small Business and the Government Hammer

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John Kass

Barack Obama’s Roanoke speech struck a deep personal chord for Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass. Kass, born in the early 1950s, was the son of a Greek immigrant grocer who can remember very well exactly what government did for his family.

When President Barack Obama hauled off and slapped American small-business owners in the mouth the other day, I wanted to dream of my father.

But I didn’t have to close my eyes to see my dad. I could do it with my eyes open.

All I had to do was think of the driveway of our home, and my dad’s car gone before dawn, that old white Chrysler with a push-button transmission. It always started, but there was a hole in the floor and his feet got wet in the rain. So he patched it with concrete mix and kept on driving it to the little supermarket he ran with my Uncle George.

He’d return home long after dark, physically and mentally exhausted, take a plate of food, talk with us for a few minutes, then flop in that big chair in front of the TV. Even before his cigarette was out, he’d begin to snore.

The next day he’d wake up and do it again. Day after day, decade after decade. Weekdays and weekends, no vacations, no time to see our games, no money for extras, not even forMcDonald’s. My dad and Uncle George, and my mom and my late Aunt Mary, killing themselves in their small supermarket on the South Side of Chicago.

There was no federal bailout money for us. No Republican corporate welfare. No Democratic handouts. No bipartisan lobbyists working the angles. No Tony Rezkos. No offshore accounts. No Obama bucks.

Just two immigrant brothers and their families risking everything, balancing on the economic high wire, building a business in America. They sacrificed, paid their bills, counted pennies to pay rent and purchase health care and food and not much else. And for their troubles they were muscled by the politicos, by the city inspectors and the chiselers and the weasels, all those smiling extortionists who held the government hammer over all of our heads. …

One of my earliest memories as a boy at the store was that of the government men coming from City Hall. One was tall and beefy. The other was wiry. They wanted steaks.

We didn’t eat red steaks at home or yellow bananas. We took home the brown bananas and the brown steaks because we couldn’t sell them. But the government men liked the big, red steaks, the fat rib-eyes two to a shrink-wrapped package. You could put 20 or so in a shopping bag.

“Thanks, Greek,” they’d say.

That was government.

Read the whole thing.

1:17 video

21 May 2012

$225,000 Lamborghini With Unskilled Driver

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How embarrassing!

15 May 2012

Battle of the Raptors

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(photo: Rick Remington)

In Chicago, this winter, a Peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) took a go at a Snowy owl (Bubo scandiacus). A local birder named Rick Remington got some great photos and described the action.

North American Birding:

[The owl] would do a somersault just as the Peregrine approached and flash its nasty talons in an attempt to scare off the Falcon. The battle lasted for 5 full minutes before the Falcon headed off in another direction and the Snowy Owl flew down to the rocks by the lake. It was a surprisingly violent and noisy encounter, with both birds shrieking loudly and the owl extending its giant wings to intimidate the smaller falcon. I fully expected this to end badly for the owl based on what I was watching. In spite of the obvious mismatch, the Snowy Owl managed to hold its own and escape unscathed.

18 Sep 2011

Choosing a Polish War Hero

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Pfc. Omar E. Torres, 20, of Chicago; assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, US Army, died Aug. 22, 2007 in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit during combat operations.

David Feith
, in the Wall Street Journal, describes a Hispanic organization with the right perspective, and recounts a heart-warming anecdote of ethnic interaction between older and newer American immigrant communities.

According to [Juan] Rangel—CEO of Chicago’s United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) and co-chair of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s recent election campaign—the central question for Hispanics to answer as they grow in number and potential political influence is: “Do we want to be the next victimized minority group in America, or do we want to be the next successful immigrant group?” …

UNO’s main operation is an 11-school charter network serving 5,500 students, 98% of whom are Hispanic (mostly immigrant families from Mexico) and 93% of whom are at or below the poverty line. The schools—which the Chicago Tribune says outperform city averages—include many staples of effective charters: strict uniforms, an extended school day and year, and a contract laying out parents’ and teachers’ responsibilities to students and vice versa, which may soon be the model for a contract distributed city-wide.

At UNO’s schools there’s no controversy over reciting the Pledge of Allegiance daily or singing the Star-Spangled Banner before every public event. On Flag Day every June, roughly 100 immigrants swear oaths of citizenship at a naturalization ceremony held in an UNO gymnasium. …

One of the UNO network’s newest outposts is Veterans Memorial Campus, which has three schools, each named in honor of a Hispanic-American war hero. The campus is in the traditionally Polish Archer Heights neighborhood, and when Mr. Rangel initially proposed it, the neighbors were suspicious. Having met with the neighborhood association and earned its trust, Mr. Rangel invited the Poles to name one of the school buildings after a war hero of theirs. After several days of deliberation they responded, to Mr. Rangel’s surprise, by naming Omar Torres, a Hispanic son of Archer Heights who had recently died in Iraq.

25 May 2011

Governing the Chicago Way

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Michael Barone cites 1,372 waivers from Obamacare, the NLRB’s intervention to prevent Boeing building an assembly plant in South Carolina, and an innovative attempt by the IRS to apply gift taxes to certain 501(c)(4) organizations guilty of supporting Republican candidates.

Punishing enemies and rewarding friends — politics Chicago style — seems to be the unifying principle that helps explain the Obamacare waivers, the NLRB action against Boeing and the IRS’ gift-tax assault on 501(c)(4) donors.

They look like examples of crony capitalism, bailout favoritism and gangster government.

One thing they don’t look like is the rule of law.


Warner Todd Huston finds the same “Chicago Way” of doing things applies also to White House press pool access.

The Boston Herald recently found itself excluded from the press pool covering presidential visits. The Herald angrily reported finding out the reason for the ban.

The White House Press Office yesterday refused to address its policy on choosing local reporters for pool coverage, after the Herald was denied full access to the president’s Boston visit this week in part because the administration didn’t like the newspaper’s coverage. A press staffer’s e-mails cited a Mitt Romney op-ed that ran March 8 on the front page, challenging Obama’s policies the same day the president came to town for a fund-raiser.

14 Feb 2011

Valentine’s Day, the Chicago Way

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11 Feb 2011

Vivian Maier, Street Photographer

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This New York Times feature has a representative slide-show:

Vivian Maier, evidently one of America’s more insightful street photographers, has at last been discovered. The release of every fresh image on the Web causes a sensation among the growing legion of her admirers. … Ms. Maier’s streetscapes manage simultaneously to capture a redolent sense of place and the paradoxical moments that give the city its jazz, while elevating and dignifying the people in her frames — vulnerable, noble, defeated, proud, fragile, tender and often quite funny. …

What is known about Ms. Maier is that she was born in New York in 1926, lived in France (her mother was French) and returned to New York in 1951. Five years later, she moved to Chicago, where she worked for about 40 years as a nanny, principally for families in the North Shore suburbs. On her days off, she wandered the streets of New York and Chicago, most often with a Rolleiflex twin-lens reflex camera. Apparently, she did not share her pictures with others. Many of them, she never saw herself. She left behind hundreds of undeveloped rolls.

Vivian Maier blog

Russell Bowman Art Advisory Exhibition, Chicago, April 15, 2011 – June 18, 2011

Finding Vivian Maier: Chicago Street Photographer exhibition, January 8, 2011 – April 3, 2011

Vivian Maier, 1926-2009

Hat tip to Xavier.

27 Jun 2010

Chicago Lightning

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Lightning hits the Willis Tower (formerly, the Sears Tower) and the Trump Tower in Chicago.

Chicago is a great city for weather watching and photography.

20 Jun 2010

Sunday, June 20, 2010

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Ouch! I don’t get to type this often…: “He had acetylene torch injury to the penis.”


John Hinderaker from Power-Line, respects Obama’s behavior.


Conservative cultural commentary venues The Notes and Culture11 went under. (link 1 & link 2).

Some people think they were not populist enough, but I am inclined to believe that the fact I never previously heard of either one of them could be part of the problem.


Cigarettes $10 a pack in NYC.

New Yorkers ought to take up chewing tobacco.


Write fiction based on your own life experience and they’ll sue you.

Hat tip to Walter Olson.

03 Jun 2010

Obama and the Chicago Way

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Michael Barone associates Obama’s political methodology with the aberrant and pathological political culture of his adopted city and argues that the politics of Chicago cannot be successfully implemented on a national level.

An interesting thing about Barack Obama is that he chose, on two occasions, to live in Chicago — even though he didn’t grow up there, had no family ties there, never went to school there.

It was a curious choice. Chicago has a civic culture all its own and one that is particularly insular. Family ties and personal connections are hugely important. Professionals who have lived and worked there for a quarter-century are brusquely reminded, “You’re not from here.”

Nonetheless Obama moved upward in the Chicago civic firmament with apparent ease. The community organizer joined the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s church in search of street credibility in the heavily black South Side. The adjunct law teacher made friends around the University of Chicago from libertarian academics to radical organizer William Ayers. The young state senator designed a new district that included the Loop and the rich folk on the Near North Side.

Obama could not have risen so far so fast without a profound understanding of the Chicago Way. And he has brought the Chicago Way to the White House.

One prime assumption of the Chicago Way is that there will always be a bounteous private sector that politicians can plunder endlessly. Chicago was America’s boom town from 1860 to 1900, growing from nothing to the center of the nation’s railroad network, the key nexus between farm and factory, the headquarters of great retailers and national trade associations.

The Mayors Daley have maintained Chicago’s centrality in commerce by building and expanding O’Hare International Airport and by fostering a culture of crony capitalism with the city’s big employers and labor unions. Chicago survived the Depression and recessions to thrive once again. Sure, small businesses and some outfits lacking political connections fell by the wayside. But the system seems to go on forever.

So it’s natural for a Chicago Way president to assume that higher taxes and a hugely expensive health care regime will not make a perceptible dent in the nation’s private sector economy. There will always be plenty to plunder.

Crony capitalism also comes naturally to a Chicago Way president. Use some sweeteners to get the drug companies and the doctors to sign on to the health care plan. If the health insurers start bellyaching, whack them a few times in public to make them go along. Design a financial reform that Goldman Sachs and JPMorganChase can live with even while you assail “Wall Street fat cats.”

The big guys will understand that you have to provide the voters with some political theater while you give them what they want. As for the little guys, well, hey, in Chicago we don’t back no loser. …

To some it may seem anomalous that Obama, who began his Chicago career as a Saul Alinsky-type community organizer, should have taken to the Chicago Way. But Alinsky’s brand of community organizing is very Chicagocentric.

It assumes that there will always be a Machine that you can complain about and that if you make a big enough fuss it will have to respond. And that the Machine can always get more plunder from the private sector.

The problem with Obama’s Chicago Way is that Chicago isn’t America. The Chicago Way works locally because there is an America out there that ultimately pays for it. But who will pay for an America run the Chicago Way?

22 May 2010

The Wisdom of Mayor Daley

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The Supreme Court is expected shortly to overturn the city of Chicago’s gun ban, and Mayor Richard M. Daley has been talking a lot about gun control.

Mike Dumke, a reporter for the in-no-way-conservative Chicago Reader, brought up at the mayor’s recent press conference the obvious point that Chicago’s draconian gun laws have been ineffective in stopping the use of guns in crime, and hizonner (while brandishing a police-confiscated military rifle complete with bayonet) proposed a hypothetical including the reporter.

Guns are one of the mayor’s favorite soapbox topics—he regularly goes out of his way to point out that he despises gun manufacturers and “extremists” like the NRA. “It’s really amazing how powerful they are,” he said today, standing next to a table covered with handguns, rifles, and even a machine gun that police had seized. “They’re bigger than the oil industry, bigger than the gas industry, bigger than Google, bigger than President Obama and the rest of them.” …

But even supporters of tough gun regulations—myself included—have to admit that it’s not clear how much they reduce violence. Despite having some of the most restrictive laws in the country, Chicago is a national leader in shootings and murders, and the mayor himself noted that “we’ve seen far too many instances in the last few weeks” of firearm violence, including the shooting that left a cop dead last night.

So I asked: since guns are readily available in Chicago even with a ban in place, do you really think it’s been effective? …

“Oh!” Daley said. “It’s been very effective!”

He grabbed a rifle, held it up, and looked right at me. He was chuckling but there was no smile.

“If I put this up your—ha!—your butt—ha ha!—you’ll find out how effective this is!”

For a moment the room was very, very quiet. I took a good look at the weapon. It had a long bayonet. (Was it seized during the Civil War?)

“If I put a round up your—ha ha!”

The photographers snapped away. Suddenly everybody started cracking up.

Daley went on. “This gun saved many lives—it could save your life,” he said—meaning, I think, that getting that gun off the street might have saved many lives, including mine.

And he went on some more. “We save all these guns that the police department seizes, you know how many lives we’ve saved? You don’t realize it. First of all, they’re taking these guns out of someone’s hands. They save their own life and they save someone else’s. You cannot count how many times this gun can be used. Thirty, forty times in shooting people and discharging a weapon. I think it’s very important.

“Next will be hand grenades, right? We’ll say that hand grenades are OK. I mean, how far can you go in regards to mass weapons? To me, any gun taken off saves thousands of lives in America. I really believe that, I don’t care what people tell me. You have to thank the police officers for seizing all these weapons. We lead the country in seizing weapons. This is unbelievable.”

I had to agree.

0: 24 video

Mayor Daley’s understanding of firearms and America is pretty sad. The National Rifle Association has typically around 3-4 million members, its membership roll fluctuating and tending to rise significantly when major new gun control initiatives make the news. The NRA is an influential lobbying organization, but its strength is not really a matter of the size of its membership or annual budget, which is certainly small potatoes compared to the oil and gas industries or Google. The NRA is influential because it represents the views of many millions of American sportsmen and gun owners who have demonstrated their opinions by voting against liberal politicians who supported gun control. The gun control issue has cost the democrats a great any congressional seats and certainly the Presidential election of 2000, in which Al Gore lost his home state of Tennessee. Mayor Daley’s adversary on the gun control issue is not the NRA. It is the American people.

Mayor Daley then holds up the military rifle with fixed bayonet. He is holding it sideways, so we can only see the bottom. It is short, a carbine, and seems to have an extended magazine. I think it was probably an SKS with a a folding bayonet.

Did confiscating that SKS really save anybody’s life? It seems doubtful to me.

There is plenty of crime and many shootings take place in Chicago, but gangbangers and muggers tend to use pistols which are considerably easier to carry and conceal than a carbine. Mayor Daley’s “To me, any gun taken off saves thousands of lives in America.” is obviously craziness.

Chances are overwhelming that that SKS was never used in any crime whatsoever. (Anybody hear of any bayonetings in Chicago recently?) And guns actually fired in the commission of a crime tend to be used once, by and large, and then discarded. There are many, perhaps hundreds of, millions of guns in private hands in the United States. Some collectors own hundreds. The percentage of firearms actually ever used in crime is infinitesimal.

People like Mayor Daley want to focus law enforcement efforts on confiscating objects instead of apprehending criminals simply because taking weapons away from people not committing any crimes with them is so much easier than catching the bad guys.

03 Mar 2010

Supreme Court Appears Pro-Gun in McDonald v. Chicago

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The LA Times is predicting that the Supreme Court will ultimately rule in McDonald v. Chicago as it did in District of Columbia v. Heller, striking down the City of Chicago’s complete ban on the private ownership of handguns.

Reading the tea leaves is not very hard, since Justice Anthony Kennedy these days casts the deciding vote.

[D]uring Tuesday’s arguments, the justices who formed the majority in the D.C. case said they had already decided that gun rights deserved national protection.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said the individual right to bear arms is a “fundamental” right, like the other protections in the Bill of Rights. “If it’s not fundamental, then Heller is wrong,” he said, referring to the D.C. ruling, which he joined. Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel A. Alito Jr. echoed the same theme.

At one point, Justice John Paul Stevens proposed a narrow ruling in favor of gun rights. Two years ago, he dissented and said the 2nd Amendment was designed to protect a state’s power to have a “well regulated militia.”

Now, however, Stevens said the court could rule that residents had a right to a gun at home, but not a right “to parade around the street with a gun.”

A lawyer representing the National Rifle Assn. scoffed at the idea and opposed a “watered-down version” of the 2nd Amendment.

Scalia also questioned the idea. In his opinion two years ago, he described the right to bear arms as a right to “carry” a weapon in cases of “confrontation.” Such a right would not be easily limited to having a gun at home.

The justices will meet behind closed doors to vote this week on the case of McDonald vs. Chicago. It may be late June before they issue a written ruling.

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