Friday, January 14, 2011

All Hail Tribune News and Editorial Coverage of Dems’ Massive Tax Hike…Jim Ridings’ Newest Book Chicago to Springfield—Crime and Politics in the 1920s is Brilliant and a Keeper.

                               Capitolfax Newsletter and Blog is Touchy.
     Before we get to the Tribune’s laudatory coverage and perceptive editorial page treatment of the Illinois budgetary mess, let’s consider the paper’s strongest critic (except of course when I earn that title).
        The liberal newsletter and blog CapitolFax…which has  the most thorough coverage of state politics which is why I subscribe… has adopted the typical liberals’ stance of throttling robust criticism of Democrats. It tells readers of its blog that it will not accept “angry, drive-by, stupid” criticisms of the massive 67% hike in personal income taxes and the 46% rise in corporate taxes…meaning that “angry,” “stupid” and “drive-by” are to be determined by it with no yardstick supplied.
      If by “drive-by” it rejects threats of violence anent “drive-by shooting” it’s reasonable.  But “angry”?   Although anger at taxes underscored our very beginnings as a nation, is it not acceptable for receipt by a newsletter/blog?  Evidently that rule means one must view the tax hikes with sweet benignity or docile acceptance. “Anger” at a tax hike is not acceptable which means evidently that you either buy into them or describe them with a sweet acquiescence. “Stupid” comments?  Judging from its frequent…not 100% but often… patronization of  the Democratic leadership and careful-very-careful solicitude for Speaker Madigan…anything less would probably be regarded as off-limits. 
      Make no mistake:  It can rule its vast Internet constituency’s rights any way it wishes…but in the past—and I’ve read it almost since its beginning --“stupid” and “angry” falls  heavily into the politically  correct genre.   There is no evident toleration within it  for the kinds of state government cuts Chris Christie has been making in New Jersey or the program Tim Pawlenty has used to trim public  unions’ power in Minnesota.  No toleration whatsoever for social conservatism which would very probably be ruled out as “stupid” or “angry.”   I can’t fathom what a “drive by” comment would be since if it portends violence it should be verboten anyhow.
                                  The Tribune’s Necessary Criticism.
           Given that with the notable exception of cartoonist Jack Higgins and the sparkling centrist-right columns of Steve Huntley and the brilliant economic columnist Terri Savage, the Sun-Times is an absolutely cravenly genuflector….in multiplicity of columnists and editorial stance… to abject liberalism and the suburban Herald isn’t much better (although its bland stances take the safe route: opposing cigarette smoke etc.), the state’s metropolitan area needed a newspaper that at least tells the rest of the world which is largely laughing at us for reelecting a mashed potato sandwich like Quinn.  
        With its thorough-going analyses of state spending (which Capitolfax repeatedly attacks as being less informed than it) in its news columns and its feisty editorials, the Tribune makes up for its Dem-lip-synch tabloid competitor. By which I mean Sweet, Marin, Mitchell, Steinberg, Brown, Roeper--and when they venture into politics which is too often--film-critic Ebert and sports columnist Telander.   Whom have I forgotten? 
            I’ve criticized it in the past for wobbliness (on reflection what Chicago publication have I not?) but its dissection of the budget, its fierce criticism of Madigan and its addition of its ace cartoonist Stanis has greatly improved its demeanor.  The fact that it runs Dennis Byrne as Op Ed is an inestimably important  contribution.
         The Tribune  is a good ambassador for Illinois because it shows not all of us are in the tank.
                                      …and While I’m At It…
       …do order Jim Ridings’ latest great contribution to Illinois’ political history in the “Images of America” paperback series published by Arcadia, Chicago to Springfield: Crime and Politics in the 1920s.  It’s just out.  It’s just as punchy as his earlier history….never before completely told…of Illinois’ most corrupt governor Len Small. As good as that volume is, this ties it with seldom-before seen photos of Len, Big Bill Thompson etc.  By the way if you don’t have his first book, get it as well—Len Small: Governors and Gangsters—Gov. Len Small in the 1920s When Al Capone Owned the Top Officials in Illinois.
       My kick about other Illinois history books, including the one written by the late Bob Howard, is that they bowdlerize Small—picturing him as a country boy trimmer instead of the immoral rascal he was, letting murderers out of jail with pardons if they paid him off and bribing jurors to get him off the hook.   He was by all odds without parallel in corruption.  
         I’m told the reason Bob Howard skimmed and didn’t dig into Small’s corruption is that when he was writing it, he worked for Bill Scott, the state attorney general and he feared there’d be some political consequences for Scott because of Kankakee’s injured pride. Until quite recently Kankakee revered Small as the governor who built good roads during the `20s.
           Kankakee’s had two crooked governors…one convicted, George Ryan and one who beat the rap,  Small. But it also had one good one—the second Jewish incumbent, Sam
      Jim Ridings has nobly rectified this gap about Small in state history.  In fact these two books are the only sources extant to get the lowdown….and I mean lowdown… on this guy.  To research it Jim had to go to old newspaper files and  dig up all the stuff himself.
        This latest book, Chicago to Springfield, is a paperback, and with the hard cover earlier one constitutes a splendid addition to any journalist’s library who means to write knowledgably about Illinois and Chicago corruption.    

1 comment:

  1. Tom,

    10.30? What happened to your crack of dawn postings