Friday, February 6, 2009

A DAY IN THE LIFE (of Chicago): Conservatives still haven’t got over Ayers

Either the Illinois Senate has a member who does not understand the concept of innocent until proven guilty, or else he’s devoting his life to undermining the academic concept of tenure for long-time professors.

The only other possible explanation for the bill being introduced in the Illinois Senate is that there are still some Republicans who haven’t got over the fact that they were unable to make much of a campaign issue last year out of Bill Ayers, the one-time anti-war activist during the Vietnam era who has since become a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

THAT SEEMS TO be the case with Larry Bomke. He’s the state senator from Springfield proper (nobody would pay much attention to him if he came from anywhere else). And he has come up with a bill to be considered this spring that would prevent anyone who ever attacked a government in this country from being on a public university payroll.

Now I understand that among the ranks of people who back in the 1960s opposed U.S. military involvement in Vietnam, Ayers ranks as a tad extreme. His involvement with the Weathermen went so far as to mess with explosives and other acts that created vandalism as a symbolic way of attacking the establishment of this country as it existed some four decades ago.

If that sounds a bit hokey, that is because it is. Even most of the liberal activists of the era thought the “Weathermen” were a little nuts.

But the fact is that Ayers managed to come out of that era without any felony convictions on his record (largely because the FBI of that era – the tail-end of the J.Edgar Hoover years – was so overzealous that all their evidence against Ayers was illegally obtained).

SO BY THE letter of the law (which is what the conservatives usually try to argue is all important), Ayers is not guilty of anything. Do we really want a situation where illegally-obtained evidence is what is used to try to fire someone from his job?

For the fact is that in the past couple of decades, Ayers has become a respected educator who has tried coming up with methods to better teach troubled youth to read and write. One poll taken last year showed that commentator Rush Limbaugh had a lower approval rating among the U.S. electorate than Ayers.

This bill is pure bull. It reeks of partisanship from people who just can’t accept the fact that a majority of the country didn’t care last year about the fact that Ayers and President Barack Obama know each other. It makes me wonder if Obama left Springfield (the two served together for Obama’s nearly eight years in the Legislature) owing Bomke some money, and this bill is some sort of payback.

What else was notable about the news of the world, as perceived from the shores of Lake Michigan?

WHO WILL BE LEFT TO TURN THE LIGHTS OUT?: There’s a job opening in Chicago – one that includes a CEO title and the appearance of influence and prestige. But I’m curious to learn if anyone is going to be enthused about taking the job.

It involves being president and Chief Executive Officer of the parent company that operates the Chicago Sun-Times and various daily and weekly newspapers throughout the suburbs.

Cyrus Friedheim and his allies on the board were removed following a power dispute; a New York hedge fund was displeased with the company’s finances these days and pushed for a change.

But with the public perception that it is just a matter of time before newspapers start dying off altogether (without any appreciation for the significance of the product they produce on a daily basis), I can’t think of many people who would want the job. Friedheim will likely be remembered as a guy who gave it a shot during his just over two years, but was overcome by outside economic circumstances. The next CEO could literally be the one who presides over the death of the Sun-Times, if not the company as a whole.

HOLY NAME SUFFERS ITS SECOND FIRE: Holy Name Cathedral on the Near North Side always gets more than its share of attention because the church provides the home base, so to speak, for Cardinal Francis George – and all his predecessors who have led the Catholic Archdiocese for Chicago.

Yet the fire earlier this week that managed to destroy a significant chunk of the renovations that had been done to the building in the past year is not the first.

Holy Name Parish dates back to Chicago’s earliest years, and the original church located about one block from the current site was among the structures that perished in the Chicago Fire of 1871 (the Water Tower that miraculously survived the fire is located about three blocks to the east).

I have no doubt that the church will again be repaired, and the parish in one of Chicago’s wealthiest neighborhoods will resume its life as the church where the Cardinal performs mass – while also being the site where mobster Dion O’Bannion got shot to death near the cathedral steps.

CHICAGO PELOTEROS NOT INCLUDED DOWN MEXICO WAY: Just across the border from the town of Calimex, Calif. (pop. 13,757), some of the best baseball to be played this year is taking place.

So naturally, there aren’t any major leaguers with Chicago ties among the ranks. The closest we get is former White Sox outfielder Timo Perez, who played this winter for the Dominican champion Licey Tigers before moving on to play for the Detroit version of the Tigers this summer.

What’s at stake is the Caribbean Series, the annual week long tournament between the champions of the professional baseball leagues in the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela – being held this year in Mexicali, Mexico. The winner gets bragging rights as champions of Latin American baseball.

What makes it intriguing is the fact that some U.S. major leaguers like to play in the Latin American leagues either to make some extra money or improve their skills. So it creates the potential that the guys playing in Chicago this summer are at work now in the weeks before spring training.


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