Tuesday, August 30, 2011

In Memoriam--Mikey C.

On Monday afternoon Chicago Police officer Paul Casasanto was on patrol at North Avenue Beach on his horse Mikey C., named after a police officer killed in the line of duty.  Apparently Mikey C. suffered a heart attack and died within moments of falling to the ground.  He was 18 years old. 

While my heart goes out to Officer Casasanto, the death of Mikey C. highlights an issue that I have commented on before.  Namely, the presence of horses in an urban environment. 

Chicago Police explain their use of horses for police patrols as essential for crowd control.  Being on horseback puts the officer above the crowd and supposedly intimidates would-be protesters.  Perhaps this is true, but I can't help but wonder what impact the crowds and the cars have on the horses.  And what about the literal impact of their hooves on pavement? 

To their credit, the police at least use the horses in a selective way.  They are not part of regular city patrols and typically only are found in the parks rather than on city streets.  The same cannot be said of the carriages that line Michigan Avenue.  These horses are subjected daily to the grit, grime, and noise of the city's streets.  Their feet hit the pavement several times a day.  And as if that wasn't bad enough, residents of the Gold Coast want to prohibit them from urinating on the pavement.  I wonder how a horse is supposed to hold its bladder through a 8 hour shift.  Ponder that one for a moment.  I suppose the carriage driver can stop in traffic to clean it up.  Can you say Sudden Impact!!!

Horses have places where they belong.  These are places where cars tend not to frequent.  I know the cowboy-cult is strong in America, but it seems hopelessly out of place in Chicago.  

Rest in Peace Mikey C.  I hope you're enjoying the clover in the sweet bye and bye.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Tagging Marilyn

Among the more unusual things to appear in Chicago while I was away this summer is a 26 foot tall statue of Hollywood actress Marilyn Monroe.  This giant bronze monolith is located in Pioneer Court, next to the Tribune Tower on Michigan Avenue, and displays Marilyn as she appeared in the film "The Seven Year Itch." 

Following in the footsteps of earlier eye catching displays at this same location, Marilyn's statue has attracted a lot of passers by who stop to take pictures.  Unlike the earlier works on display at this site, however, most are not interested in the artist's composition.  Instead they are looking for a chance to walk under Marilyn and see what she's wearing under that windblown dress. 

Perhaps the Greater North Michigan Avenue Merchant's Association really believes the old adage that "sex sells," but I can't help but find the display tacky.  I guess that's why the recent incident on either Friday night or early Saturday morning doesn't bother me that much. 

At some time during that period, a person walked up to the statue and tagged Marilyn's right leg.  Reading the graffiti it seems that someone calling himself "Pistola" was declaring his undying love for "Ariel" in glossy black ink.

I have always been of two minds on graffiti.  On one side there is something called "street art," which is an attempt by artists to not only reclaim public space for the public but express themselves in a medium that people will actually see.  Let's be honest folks, how many of you buy fine art?  This type of graffiti I find appealing.

But on the other side there are certain types of graffiti that are territorial in nature.  They mark a gang's fiefdom and sometimes proclaim the death of a rival foot soldier.  These are signs not of an attempt to open public space but to own it and put others on notice of that ownership.  Think of this type of graffiti as a more violent version of the No Trespassing sign. 

Pistola's work seems more to the street art side of the spectrum than the gang graffiti.  No one in gangland, yet, has been ballsy enough to openly claim the Mag Mile as their turf.  That would after all scare away the rich people and there would be less for flash mobs to steal. 

If you look at the photo of the graffiti, it also has something of a tattoo-like quality to it.(http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/local&id=8331781)  Crude but just enough of a resemblance to suggests a message on the part of the communicator. 

First, he seems to feel that the image is "camp."  As such it is not sacred and not off bounds to the tagger.  Unlike something like say "The Bean" in Millennium Park, which is more "high-culture" and has perhaps because of that classification miraculously avoided tagging since the park opened in 2004.  (Yes, I know they have tight security there but that never stopped a tagger.  If you don't believe me, read up on Banksy.) 

Second, the tagger seems to believe that this "campy" image is out of date.  Any self-respectable sex kitten walking down the Mile would not dare leave home with out a few well placed "tats."  So he has graciously provided Marilyn with one. 

Now I know that city officials are going to tirelessly search for this tagger and attempt to nail him to the wall.  After all, he committed the unforgivable sin of defacing public property in the tourist section of town.  The folks who paid to erect the statue will also probably paint over this graffiti as soon as possible to pretend it never happened. 

Nonetheless, before this scribbler's lines disappear into the haze of time, we should take a moment to thank him for his message.  If you're going to sell sex, for heaven's sake people MAKE IT UP TO DATE!!!! 

Love the "tat" Norma Jean.  I always knew you were a bad ass. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Smacky Sez

Every good writer has an alter-ego of some kind.  Mine is Smacky.  A seven foot tall catcher's mitt who goes around town trying to knock some sense into the numbskulls and nitwits on the street. 

Smacky has been busy lately as you might imagine with all kinds of weird happenings.  First we discover that the Soviet Union is on the rise and that Elvis died on his birthday.  Then we learn that Global Warming is a vicious myth created by left-wing ideologues who hate small businesses.  To top it all off, we learn that teacher's unions are the reason America is in decline.  Ok... they're a close second to gay marriage. 

So much nonsense...so little time.  Smack!

Friday was a gorgeous day in Chicago so I took Smacky out to lunch with me.  We starting talking about Mayor Emmanuel's 100 Days speech.  Truly a smackable offense.  Then the topic turned, as it often does, to education. 

Why is it Smacky, I said, that teachers are taking so much blame for the failures of our educational system?  He finished chewing his Tuna sandwich and stared me in the eye.  Then he grumbled out, It's because you're all freakin' lazy. You sit around all day reading books pining about the loss of books and how shitty our culture is becoming.  Why don't you go to Target and work for living?

Now Smacky, I said, that's harsh.  Teachers perform a needed service.  Among other things we help students learn critical reading strategies and how to write better papers. 

Smacky started laughing so hard I thought the stiches would come out of his thumb. You certainly are full of yourself Poindexter, he chuckled.  But in case you hadn't noticed cash is king.  People don't want to think they just want to be rolling in dough. 

Well Smacky, you might be right, I said, but I hope not.  I'd like to believe that people still care about the life of the mind and not just the lifestyles of the rich and famous.  Bling you know isn't everything.

Whatever gets you through the night, Smacky said.  He snarfed at me and got up to use the bathroom.  I got up to pay the bill and I had to admit that the greenbacks in my wallet did emit a warm glow as I pulled them out.  Perhaps it was fallout from Fukushima.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Make Way For Texas

A gallup poll taken just a few days ago shows that Texas governor Rick Perry is now the frontrunner among the Republican candidates for President.  As a wise man once said, "It's like deja vu all over again." 

In spite of the negative things that people have to say about the Lone Star State, usually at the same time as they are criticizing "W," it seems that Americans can't help falling for that blend of charisma and bravado that defines a certain breed of Texan. 

Unfortunately for those on the left, Obama seems to have either lost or forgotten his own charisma.  The speeches that once aroused armies of "hopesters" are now replaced by status updates, incoherent pronouncements, and canned populism.  One can only wonder based on his half-hearted attempts to connect with America if Obama wants a second term.

Adding to his difficulties is the decision, made not long after the health care bill was passed, to swerve farther to the centre of the political spectrum.  In doing this he didn't win any new Republican support and he ominously lost a good portion of his electoral base on the left.

Even though he has an officious air about him and is woefully inexperienced in foreign policy, I like Obama as a person and respect him as our President.  But it is in his best interest and that of the nation as a whole to figure out soon what he wants to do.  You're either "all in" as the White Sox say or all out.  And if he is all out, the Democrats need to pick a candidate that will beat the Republican opponent. 

Right now that task shouldn't be hard.  The frontrunner doesn't believe in Global Warming, the second place candidate (Mitt Romney) is like a wind sock going with whatever opinion seems best at the moment, and the bottom is rounded out by a nut job (Michelle Bachmann) and ideological purist (Ron Paul).  Yet everything Obama is doing simply makes the job of these "Mad Men" and woman easier. 

It's time to stop being the great compromiser Mr. President and figure out what you are.  My suggestion is to read up on the Missouri Haberdasher, Harry Truman.  A little plain truth and fist pounding is in order in these troubling times.  Despite what I'd like to believe, no one ever went to a Professor in times of trouble.  Instead they went to the beat cop.  It's time to hit the street.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bright Shiny Things

Do you ever find that technology takes up all your time?  I do.  Every since I was browbeaten by a friend into upgrading to high speed internet, all I ever seem to do is scout the territory of the world wide web.  What are "friends" up to on Facebook?  What's the latest Tweet?  How many, ahem, people have been reading my blog? 

In small doses technology can be a good thing.  It helps us connect with people far away and discover new ways of finding and arranging the information that exists in our world.  One of my newest discoveries is a presentation software called Prezi that ditches the concept of slides in favor of a blank grid where you can arrange data of all shapes, sizes, and colors in whatever pattern you desire.  I have to say, it does take time to figure out how to use this software, but it accomplishes what useful technology is supposed to do.  It helps us think outside the box. 

Here's a link to their website (if you're interested), and no, they aren't paying me to shill their product.  www.prezi.com

An example of technology that doesn't quite do enough to justify the hype is Facebook.  Combining the concepts of micro-blogging (or if you're old enough to remember it Instant Messaging), file sharing, and email, like the smartphone it is the swiss army knife of the technology world.  And, like the smartphone, it does none of its functions all that well. 

Since I may never be heard from again, I can hear the Facebook squad breaking down my front door as a write these lines, let me quickly expand upon my main gripe with the site.  Becuase it is trying to be all things to all people, a quick search of Facebook will uncover not only friends but corporations and business people, school websites and government agencies.  This mixing of social spheres that don't belong together raises the prospect of serious privacy violations.  Who wants their vacation photos viewed by a boss, teacher, or employee? 

Of course, Facebook has created new privacy settings to deal with this problem, but even with the most diligent efforts on the part of the user, a small screen seperates worlds that real space rather than hyper space used to keep apart.

For the record, as you might have surmised, I do use Facebook.  But I have learned to be circumspect about what I post.  This, of course, defeats the purpose of the site, which constantly asks me what is on my mind.  To Facebook's question, I can only say "I'll wait to tell you when we meet in person for coffee."  In the meantime, just smile and wave.

The next time you hear someone praise the next great thing in the technological realm I have a few suggestions (in no particular order): 

1. Breathe slowly and have a paper bag handy.

2. Ask your best friend to grab your credit cards and hide them somewhere that you'll never look (like the vegetable bin).  Yeah, yeah.  I know.  You're a health guru.  So make it the cookie jar.

3. When the hype dies down a few days later.  Try the new technology out.  As long as it's free.  Then stop to reflect on what it actually adds to your life. 

4.  If you can honestly say that it has broadened your horizons, embrace that technology.  Then find ways to share it with your friends. 

Remember dear reader, all that glitters isn't gold and the next bright shiny thing is tomorrow's decor in a third world landfill.

That's my 33 1/3 cents.  Adjusted for inflation.  What's yours?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

That Sinking Feeling

Early Saturday morning a Chicago man driving to work suddenly found himself at the bottom of a massive sinkhole on Elston avenue near Foster.  20 feet wide and twelve feet deep, the hole was large enough to swallow the man's SUV and require a ladder for him to climb out. 

Given the current state of our economy, this story somehow seems appropriate.  Many of you out there with retirement accounts can probably relate to the bewildered driver standing at the bottom of this massive hole.  Shaking your head and thinking "I was on my way to work.  What the f*** happened?" Only in your case you can blame the geniuses on wall street.  The Chicago driver got his rude awakening from a 100 year old water main running under the street.

Of course, it remains to be seen what passer by is going to provide us with the ladder to climb out of the hole our national economy is in. 

News reports tell us the Congressional Super committee is supposed to meet in the near future and begin deliberating on the cuts to government spending Obama had to agree to in order to raise the debt ceiling.  And even though they sound like a team of heroes from a Marvel comic, the committee makeup reveals the sad reality that no one in Congress wanted the job.  How does "hatchet-man or woman" look on a resume?  Hmmm....I'll have to get back to you on that one. 

There is also an effort under way, spear-headed by House Democrat Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, to pass a new jobs act tentatively called "The Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act."  This act would encourage the growth of jobs in health care, police, and fire as well as infrastructure repair to our schools. 

Together these actions represent the two ends of the spectrum on the growing debate going on about how to "fix" the American economy. 

One side sees debt reduction and the elimination of unnecessary services as the answer to our problems.  Of course, the idea of eliminating a carrier battle group or two doesn't come up in that discussion.  Lord knows we need 11 aircraft carriers to take down a squad sized terrorist cell.  Or maybe Republicans are anticipating a return of the Cold War?  Iowa Republican straw poll winner Michelle Bachmann just announced on Thursday after all that not only was the Soviet Union alive and well but "on the rise."  (Subsequent reports note that Lenin was flattered while at the same time laughing his ass off.)

The other argues for job creation as the primary solution.  Typically these are government jobs, but from what I've seen in Schakowsky's bill it looks like government agencies would not directly employee these workers (unlike many of  Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal jobs in the 1930s)  but instead would oversee dispersal of funding to private companies and municipalities who would then need to provide evidence of job creation to maintain their federal funding. 

Whether either of these plans will work remains to be seen.  One thing, however, is clear.  The American Dream as it was articulated by the Baby Boom Generation is gone.

If there's any good news to report here, it's that the Chicago Water Department says the Elston avenue sinkhole should be repaired by Monday morning.  Just in time for rush hour.  Wish I could say the same about the economy. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Monetizing the Mind

How many students can you turn out in an hour?  I can get five of Professor Dalton's class for the price of one of Professor Smith's.  Can you deliver my son or daughter to me 50% faster than the competing brand?  I'll wait until the Chemistry 104 class is on sale.  Besides, I hear a new model is coming out next year.

Does the above sound ridiculous to you?  If not, then you probably won't be interested in this article.  It does, however, sound utterly looney to me.  Statements like those above have yet to find their way onto the college campus thank God, but it's only a matter of time as the business and service industry ethos behind them can now be found everywhere in the field of Higher Education today.

The idea behind this ethos is that education is a commodity to be bought and sold.  Students are the consumers of that product and faculty along with the staff that supports them the producers.  Even among those who do not believe that education represents a product, the feeling is still strong that colleges are distributors of pre-existing product, offering a needed service to their respective communities for purchase. 

As an educator, it would be going against my nature to argue that schools do not offer a necessary service to their students.  I am leery, however, of focusing too much on the bottom line.  Some things after all have an intrinsic value that a savvy trader at the Board of Options Exchange wouldn't notice and, even if he did, he probably couldn't monetize.

In such a volatile economy where jobs growth is stagnant and fears of recession loom ominously over our heads, its easy to focus on the material things.  They represent security for us.  Education in particular has taken on a lot of unecessary baggage in the last three years as Americans see it as a rocket for their stalled ambitions or a lifeboat saving them from a descent out of the middle class. 

Let me be clear.  I desire for my students to achieve a better life and succeed in all they do.  But I am NOT training them in the classroom for a job or giving them the manual for entry to the middle class.  Instead I am encouraging the growth of a way of thinking and interpreting the world that will give them rhetorical power.  How they use that power is up to them.  My hope is that they will use it not simply to earn cash in whatever vocation they choose but to make the world a slightly better place than it was when they entered it. 

Am I naive in believing and hoping for this?  Perhaps.  But I'm not that concerned about what the materialists in the board rooms of America think of me.  When the iPhone, blogs, Twitter, and even the Urban metropolis itself are part of the historical record, the life of the mind will remain.  And it will be from that properly cultivated mind that new ideas emerge to shape the world-for the better or for the worse.

If you've been following my blog posts (and why wouldn't you dear reader?), you have probably noticed the deviation in tone from this post and the highly sarcastic ones that preceded it.  I know that Royko would forgive me for this as there were even things that he would not joke about.  Education is my "no joke" issue.  I care about my students and I don't like what's happening to them.  They're being cheated by a short term policy on education that masquerades itself as a jobs program. Such toying with peoples' hopes is a crime. 

That's my 33 1/3 cents, adjusted for inflation.  What's yours?

The Naked Truth About Independent Contractors

A recent Chicago Tribune article reported a lawsuit pending against Michael Wellek the former owner of three suburban Chicago strip clubs.  The lawsuit was filed by Argyro Roula Manis who worked as a dancer at two of his clubs.  She is not only seeking five years of unpaid wages due to mysterious pay deductions and denied overtime claims but also to turn the case into a class action lawsuit involving all the women who worked for Wellek at his three clubs during that period. 

Wellek is currently serving the third month of his 1 year sentence in a minimum security prison in Duluth, MN after pleading guilty to tax evasion and being ordered to pay the IRS over 5 million dollars in restitution.  Aside from rubbing salt in Wellek's already wounded ego, this new case against him raises awareness of one of the fastest growing trends in employment.  No, not stripping.  The rise of the independent contractor.

The main basis of Wellek's defense against Manis is that she and the other dancers in the club weren't directly working for him.  They were self-employed labor working in the space that he provided them.  This allowed Wellek not only to lower his tax indebtedness but also to manipulate the pay he provided to the dancers.  Whether there is any validity to either Wellek or Manis' claims is up to the courts to decide.  One thing, however, is clear.  Independent contractors are far more vulnerable to fraud and breach of contract violations than traditional full time employees. 

Ideally an independent contractor should have a contract signed between them and the person they are engaging to work with.  That contract should stipulate the term of employment, the expectations, and the compensation.  It should also explain the remediation options open to either party if any of those obligations aren't met.  Otherwise it's like living in an apartment without a lease.  You can be evicted or see the rent go up at almost anytime and for nearly any reason. 

The reality is that most independent contractors are either hired on at the last minute or are agressively courted by employers in fields that don't tend to attract full time workers.  Either way, the boss is in a hurry to fill the position and the prospective worker is usually in a hurry to start earning money.  This haste can often lead to bad consequences down the line. 

Structural changes in the United States economy have made the independent contractor, for better or worse, the new normal.  This virus not only killed my first chosen profession--Journalism--but is in the process of undermining Higher Education and gutting what's left of the Unions in this country.  Cheaper is not always better and "flexibility" is a fancy way for employers to say they don't want to pay for your health care. 

Hourly workers in the United States, especially those in Unions, need to start paying more attention to independent contractors.  With a shift in the market, that untethered worker could easily be you.  Unions also need to work harder on behalf of the independent contractor.  Ideally such positions should be eliminated with targeted political pressure but at the very least the conditions of these workers needs to be better regulated. 

Even a Strip Club sometimes can teach us a lesson.  Of course, if anyone asks, you never saw me there. And I certainly did not see you.  ; )

Friday, August 19, 2011

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Lone Wolf?

In an interview earlier this week, President Obama stated that America faced greater danger from a "lone wolf" attacker such as the one in Norway than from an organized group of terrorists like that faced on 9/11. 

For the record, I agree with him.  And it's because of that agreement that I have to ask--What are we still doing in Iraq and Afghanistan? 

If you turn your memory back to the Bush presidency and the months following 9/11, you'll recall that the rationale for invading Afghanistan was to prevent future attacks from Al Qaeda.  We were destroying sites of "refuge" for "global terror" that posed a threat to our existence as a nation.  The Iraq war rationale was much more tenuous but related to that of the earlier conflict.  Regime change in Iraq and an effort to reshape their country into a liberal democracy were supposed to secure our own safety.

Fast forward now to 2011.  50,000 soldiers are still in Iraq but (we are told) are due to return home at the end of this year.  In fact, they might be thrown out as Iraqi clerics have threatened to declare a Fatwa against us if we don't leave by that deadline.  More than 100,000 troops are currently in Afghanistan and even with gradual troop draw downs some U.S. soldiers are slated to stay there until at least 2014. 

Given the fact that these are now the longest wars in U.S. history, one has to ask--Has either conflict actually made us safer?  I guess the answer all depends on how you define safety.  No more 9/11 style attacks have happened on U.S. soil since 2001.  But was it our intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan that led to this outcome?  I seriously doubt that anyone, even George W. Bush, would be so foolish as to argue for a direct causation between the absence of organized terrorist attacks in the United States since 2001 and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  This lack of a clear cause and effect relationship leaves us with a less than satisfactory answer for our continued involvement in these wars.  We're there because we're there and its good that we're there. 

While Americans were busy since 2001 fighting and dying in the "war on terror" in the far corners of the earth, the greatest dangers we faced have been homegrown in variety.  Someone like the mentally ill community college student that shot Arizona Senator Gabrielle Giffords and the far too numerous school shootings that have occurred throughout the nation. 
Terror it seems has no army, no fixed place to fight it in battle.  Instead it has a hundred heads.  Most of which have nothing to do with Al Qaeda. And as for the high minded task of nation building, neither Iraq nor Afghanistan are anywhere near to becoming liberal democracies.  The history just isn't there.  Once we leave Iraq, if we are lucky they will become a dictatorship run by moderate Islamic politicians.  If not, we will have singlehandedly created a new ally for Iran.  As for Afghanistan, Karzai must see the writing on the wall.  Once we leave his head will be put on a pike and tribal warfare will resume. 

The only way we can retrieve some dignity from this debacle is to admit our mistakes as a nation and learn from them.  But I don't see that happening.  We have a long history of knee-jerk nation building and an even longer one of moral certitude.  Just ask the Native Americans. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Please, Pay ME Not to Wear Your Clothes.

A story on the BBC website reports that clothing maker Abercrombie and Fitch has asked Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino of MTV's popular television show Jersey Shore not to wear their clothes any more.  In fact, they have gone so far as to offer him and the entire cast of the show "a substantial" payment, according to the company, to induce them to switch to another brand.  The company claims that this move was taken to protect Abercrombie from what they viewed as bad publicity caused by Sorrentino's antics on the show. 

I have to admit that I'm not terribly fond of Jersey Shore.  The handful of episodes that I've seen are a strange mixture of Girls Gone Wild, The Real World, and a seriously dumbed down version of Goodfellas. That said, in this issue I'm on "The Situation's" side. 

First of all, I think he should take the money.  This is America and Mike Sorrentino is foolish but he isn't a chump.  Then he should remind his TV viewers that Abercrombie and Fitch and its cousin Hollister make clothing for emaciated wussie men.  The vanguard of the armies of entitlement marching to Newport, R.I.  Seriously, who can actually fit into Abercrombie's clothes?  I could not eat for a year and I would still not be able to fit into their largest size. 

Unfortunately, Dear Michael is too dense to bring up the most important point in this otherwise unremarkable sound bite.  So I'll do it for him.  There is an incredible irony in the fact that Abercrombie is worried about sullying a brand that they themselves have frequently tarnished.  How soon we forget their horribly phrased T-shirt slogan "Two Wongs Make it White," playing off of the stereotype of the Chinese laundryman.  Or the lawsuits pending against both Abercrombie and Hollister for employee discrimination against straight men and women who did not appear "suitable" to sell their brand. 

Fashion is an incredibly elitist realm whose denizens get away with a lot because of their looks.  Deep down "The Situation" knows this and more than likely feels envious.  For all his cameras, antics, and bling, Mike is like us.  An average slub.  Perhaps in the end this will become one of a handful of useful lessons to be gleaned from the otherwise painful "reality" that is the Jersey Shore

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

An Unwelcome Export

The other day I read an article quoting British Prime Minister David Cameron as saying "moral collapse" was the cause of the mass rioting in London and other major cities in the United Kingdom.  Coming from an American politician this statement would not have fazed me.  In fact, I would have seen it as not even worth commenting on.  Thanks to figures such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Fallwell (among others) it has become common in the United States to see better fathers and sexual abstinence argued for as the solution to all our problems.  Especially when those problems involve pesky subjects like a bad economy. 

But Cameron's statement had me worried.  Had the political bloviator's of the new world begun infiltrating the old?  After all, France's Nicolas Sarkozy is in the process of applying "American-style" reforms to that country's legendary social welfare system.  And Milton Friedmen's children at the American dominated International Monetary Fund are wagging their index finger at the naughty liberals "over there" in the Euro zone who dared to spend on such trivial things as pensions, healthcare, and educational subsidies.

Austerity it seems is the name of the game in Europe even as we continue to debate the debt ceiling and our national credit rating on this side of the Atlantic.  And given the uncertainty and anxiety that comes with these financial cuts a resurgance of religious faith seems natural.  As any candid person of faith will tell you, however, God doesn't get involved in macro-economics. It's below his pay grade.

Cameron is right in one sense that selfishness, indifference, and greed led to the riots in London but he should have aimed his critique at the British financiers and businessmen who forgot their obligations to English society. The modern social contract popularized by English economist John Maynard Keynes promised citizens a living wage and hope for a better life for themselves and their family.  In return they were asked to invest in their communties as consumers and volunteers. 

It's just a wild guess, but it seems reasonable to assume that people with good jobs and hope for the future wouldn't burn down their own city.  The Keynsian contract has been broken and if these riots are any indication there is going to be hell to pay. 

I don't know enough about European and particularly British politics to know if these shifts in current attitudes are America's fault.  I also can't say where they will eventually lead.  What I can say to Britain and the rest of Europe is:  Please don't become like us.  We need you as a foil.  Besides, it's tiresome being sanctimonious.  It takes up all your time.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Once Again Statistics Confirm Common Sense

According to an article by John Hilkevitch in Monday's Chicago Tribune, 80% of crashes involving vehicles and pedestrians occur at the crosswalk.  What's more those crashes occur despite the fact that pedestrians have the walk signal. 

Now don't get me wrong.  I like Hilkevitch and numbers are pretty impressive.  Especially when the little arrow on my IRA fund is going up.  But did we really need a Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) study to prove this?  Just ask any pedestrian in Chicago what it's like out there and they'll tell you that it is open season on the sauntering class. 

One of the worst places in my neighborhood is the intersection of Foster avenue and Broadway.  Here the walk signal represents a dare rather than an assurance.  Do you dare to walk across the street rather than run?  It's even worse if you are carrying groceries from the nearby supermarket.  On more than one occassion I have had cars zoom directly in front of me, turning left onto Foster from Broadway, without even honking their horn.  I have also felt the whizz of tires at my heels as I near the relative safety of the sidewalk on the other side. 

So what is to be done?  Since we already paid for it, Chicago pedestrians should be given a copy of the CDOT study.  Not having read this particular study, I'm nonetheless familiar with the fondness of government publishers for glossy images and charts.  So I'll take a wild guess that this study like most of the others done by CDOT is a nice shiny brick.  Perfect for throwing at drivers as they try to run you over.  How's that for government in action?  At last my tax dollars would be put to good use.

Welcome to My Blog

Hello to all you folks out in the blogosphere and welcome to Man Without a Newspaper.  I decided to start this blog a few weeks ago.  I found myself missing the journalistic writing of my undergrad days and wanted a site where I could indulge in my editorial tendencies.  In a tasteful and incisive way of course.  Topics will vary on my blog but the tone will remain consistent as I consider this space my own personal commentary page.  Hopefully you find something to read here that you enjoy or that at least gets you thinking.