Monday, January 29, 2007

Personal Asides: Carol Marin’s Sunday Best…Blest Are the Meeks…Snap! Crackle! Pop! Here Come More of those Gutsy “Tribune” Editorials! Zzzzzz.



Let is be said that Carol Marin’s Sunday column in yesterday’s “Sun-Times” was another ten-strike. In the face of serious budget cuts which harm those least likely to help themselves, huge salary payments and promotions in Cook county government constitute a series breach. For the second Sunday in a row she laid out the case brilliantly, in crisp style. The columns represent commentary at its finest and it is with sincere congratulations that I view her as a political columnist who is beginning to acquit herself with distinction. I don’t take back what I’ve said in past scorching critiques but I am quickly coming to the opinion that perhaps she needed some time to come forth with extraordinarily deft analyses and courageous articles that perform a distinct public service. Let’s also say that she’s coming along at a pace that brings to mind the analyses of one of the finest Chicago woman columnist of our time, Lois Wille.


Those who expected “The Reader” to be typically irreverent with its front-cover treatment of the latest reincarnation of the old rascally Father Divine—the ultra-materialistic “you can have it all including pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die-with-ice-cream-on-the-top”—Reverend-Senator James Meeks, should have known better. Satire and tough broadsides against big-time money religion and politics in “The Reader” are reserved only for white right-wing clergy offenders such as Pat Robertson. With Robertson, any kind of opprobrium is welcomed (see my reference to him yesterday in “The Wanderer” piece). He has a fat wallet that passes for a soul and the soft chuckle of a carny hustler who will allow you to cut the cards (heh-heh-heh). But when the opportunity come to give similar treatment to a demagogue like Meeks, of course “The Reader”—wedded as it is to liberal correctionism--can’t measure up.

Its motive is clear. Youthful, nihilistic readers who receive via the paper all manner of inducements for the hedonist lifestyle—including a porno-column of heterosexual and homosexual deviance written by someone named Dan Savage—are still human enough to want to reach out for something like theological surety. What passes for it are liberal politics and assuredly the politics of African Americans whom the kids believe are entitled to any recompense because of past slavery and segregation…not that they learned it all that well in their schools, mind you, but somewhere on TV they saw glimpses of it. The awe comes in many ways: Obama as Lincoln being one. Nothing that outrageous comes in the treatment of Meeks but he’s merely shown as a successful black church leader. In fact, he goes Elmer Gantry one better. While Robertson and Falwell have had to justifiably face the IRS on occasion, Meeks has avoided it by setting himself up as skilled victim-protagonist (“do you know who I am?” he said when the cops stopped a car he was riding in) and bluffs his way by claiming discrimination.

No mention whatsoever is made…no hint…of the complicated admixture of monies in the Meeks plans to inherit, or at least appropriate, a portion of the earth: his church which is little more than a political organization set up as cheering section for his lobbying and electoral aggrandizements…his salary as church leader (how much is it?)…his political office which requires collection of campaign donations…his forays into exploring higher political office where he uses his ministerial and legislative status without demarcation. Does he have business interests? His wife? What’s his net worth? We aren’t told. But then “The Reader” is a free throwaway paper, well worth the money you pay for it. Yet for everything there is a bright side and they are three: Michael Miner…Ben Joravsky whose political analyses are extraordinarily good…and, yes, even Harold Henderson.

Snap! Crackle! Pop Goes the “Tribune”!

And now put those toothpicks under your eyelids to keep awake for here is the latest review of recent tough-hitting “Tribune” editorials…keeping in mind the newspaper’s new marketing slogan is “Tribune—What’s in it for You?” Indeed.

Anatomy of a false story is an editorial pretending that journalistic ethics should forbid inquiry into first sources as to whether or not Obama ever had fundamentalist Islam training with no mention that secondary sources were used to supposedly scotch the story while preserving the candidate’s deniability…preceded by a so-called Ombudsman’s whitewash which repeated the liberal habit of calling the “Swift Boat” testimony into disrepute without providing documentation. Wonderful for Mr. Axelrod.

Grade: F-. Not worth further discussion. How soon til the rag is chopped up and sold in chunks?


Second chances and aldermen recycles an editorial earlier by the “Sun-Times” which said it better. Since the feds are finding the city council fertile territory for corruption there should be “no revolving door between the penitentiary and the floor of the Chicago City Council.”

Grade: D. I liked the “Sun-Times” one far better…but then, obviously the “Tribune” wanted to see how safe it is to say this without getting criticized.


License to offend deals with the “Choose Life” license plate issue where federal judge David Coar ruled that the state has no right to reject the pro-life plate because it doesn’t like the message. “Trib” finds it convenient to have it both ways—pleasing pro-lifers and pro-aborts by saying (a) the ruling is correct but (b) it would be scary to have a pro-KKK plate, wouldn’t it? (c) perhaps lawmakers should think about how necessary it is to have any designation on license plates at all.

Grade: F. A three-cushion billiard shot in gutlessness.


The anti-surge surge meanders this way: (a) President Bush wants time for his “surge” strategy to work but (b) some Republican as well as Democratic senators oppose it so (c) there’ll be a debate because Bush (d) hasn’t fully explained how he plans to force Iraqis to control their own destiny so (e) stay tuned.

Grade: D. Bland recitation of the recent past ending with a shrug.


Separating sheep from the goat is a recitation of the trial of Scooter Libby, whose defense counsel says, if you remember, he is a scapegoat for Karl Rove. Editorial starts out with the biblical story of the scapegoat where the sins of the Jews are placed on a goat who is released to wander in the desert. In this case (a) “all big trials need two competing stories”—(b) “one comes from the prosecution, its version of how the law was broken: Libby the liar”; (c) “one comes from the defense: Libby the victim scapegoat.” Conclusion: “If Libby was a goat who left the White House and headed for the desert, he left many active sinners behind.” Meaning, I guess, that Libby was a scapegoat—but conclusion is murky. Then you get into the doctrine of Original Sin. Oh well.

Grade: D-. More cowardly than usual even for a “Tribune” piece.


  1. I remember when the Reader used to be worthwhile. This is back when underground was truly under the ground, and the stuff that was printed in The Reader couldn't be found anywhere else.

    The Reader still caters to the underground, but the underground has found itself to be mass-culture. The more they try to be shocking, the more they wind up looking like the Red Eye.

    The Reader is done. It's just a fashion magazine, now. Useful, though, if you want to see what's on sale at Ikea.

  2. Tom,

    I've thought that you were a bit hard on Carol Marin in the past, but I'm glad you're appreciating her now.