Tag Archives: Chicago Sun-Times

The Land Of Lincoln Says No

Nitasha Tiku at New York Magazine:

Illinois governor Pat Quinn abolished the death penalty today. “It’s not possible to create a perfect, mistake-free death penalty system,” Quinn declared. More than a decade ago the state issued a moratorium on executions after wrongly condemning thirteen men. Quinn, who spent two months speaking with prosecutors, victims’ families, death penalty opponents, and religious leaders, also commuted the sentences of all fifteen state inmates on death row. They will now serve life in prison. Quinn called it the “most difficult decision” he has made as governor, saying, “I think if you abolish the death penalty in Illinois, we should abolish it for everyone.” Illinois is the fifteenth state to have abolished capital punishment. With Quinn’s decision, anti-death penalty advocates hope to create “a national wave” of opposition. But in New Mexico, which became the most recent state to abolish the death penalty, in 2009, Republican governor Governor Susana Martinez is trying to reinstate it.

Martha Neil at ABA Journal:

Three other states, New Jersey, New Mexico and New York, have already banned capital punishment, and it is rarely enforced in Western democracies.

“In Illinois, there is no question in my mind that abolishing the death penalty is the right thing,” defense attorney Ron Safer tells Reuters. “It is naive to think that we haven’t executed an innocent person. We stop looking after they’re executed.”

John McCormack at The Weekly Standard

Lynn Sweet at Chicago Sun-Times:

Quinn noted that he was lobbied to sign the ban during calls from death penalty foes Desmond Tutu, Martin Sheen, Sister Helen Prejean and pleas from those who wanted Illinois to keep the death penalty on the books, including the families of victims and state’s attorneys from around the state.

Quinn said whether to sign the bill was harder to decide than other legislative matters because “It is an emotional issue when you talk to family members. I’ve talked to families on both sides of the death penalty issue, some are for abolition, some are not. So you have to really have to have an opportuniuty of review and reflection.”

I asked Quinn if he was convinced Illinois–with its record of putting wrongly convicted people on Death Row, which led to the current moratorium—won’t make mistakes again.

“That is the ultimate decision I have to make within a short period of time, whether or not problems that have existed in Illinois death penalty statute, its implementation, are corrected.”

Julia Zebley at Jurist:

Illinois legislators have attempted to ban the death penalty since then-governor George Ryan put a moratorium on it 11 years ago. Although the new law will officially take effect [Chicago Tribune report] on July 1, Quinn commuted the current 15 death row inmates’ sentences to life without parole.The death penalty remains a controversial issue worldwide. According to an Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] report [text, PDF; JURIST report], the number of countries using the death penalty dropped in 2009, but more than 700 people were executed in 18 countries, with the most executions carried out in Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the US. Last August, US District Court for the Southern District of Georgia [official website] heard a habeas petition from Troy Davis, who was convicted and sentenced to death for murdering an off-duty Savannah, Georgia police officer. In a rare move, the federal court heard the habeas petition after Davis had exhausted his state remedies under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act [text], but the court sided against Davis saying that he failed to prove his innocence. Law Offices of the Southern Center for Human Rights [official website] Executive Director Sarah Totonchi argues [JURIST commentary] said that “Troy Davis’ case illustrates that US courts simply cannot provide the certainty necessary to impose an irreversible punishment; therefore the death penalty must be abolished.”

Scott Turow in the Chicago Tribune:

Gov. Pat Quinn’s decision to abolish the death penalty in Illinois is commonly viewed as a triumph for progressives. But some of the most persuasive arguments for doing away with capital punishment basically reflect conservative views. The last decade has seen many noted conservatives, including George Will, Richard Viguerie and L. Brent Bozell III, emerge as death penalty opponents. One reason that abolition became a political possibility here was not simply because it attracted Republican votes in the Illinois House and the Senate, but because many conservatives have grown more ambivalent about the issue and less fierce in their opposition.

Here are some of the leading conservative arguments for ending executions.

The death penalty is one more government program that’s failed.

This oft-quoted observation is an elaboration on comments and more than a clever turn of phrase by former Illinoisan George Will, perhaps the nation’s leading conservative columnist.

Illinois reinstituted capital punishment in 1977, after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down all prior statutory schemes as unconstitutionally arbitrary and capricious. We have now conducted a 33-year experiment in seeing whether death sentences can be meted out in a rational, proportionate fashion. That experiment has clearly failed.

I was a member of the 14-person Commission on Capital Punishment appointed by then-Gov. George Ryan in 2000 to study the death penalty. I started out ambivalent, because I knew there will always be certain murders and killers that cry out for this ultimate form of retribution. But after two years I came to realize that we will never construct a capital system that functions with anything resembling fairness.

Despite decades of legislation and litigation aimed at establishing procedural bulwarks, the imposition of the death penalty in Illinois remained haphazard. Studies authorized by the commission found that, in Illinois, defendants were five times more likely to be sentenced to death if they committed their crimes in rural areas, as opposed to cities; twice as likely to be sentenced to death if they killed a woman; and 21/2 times more likely to be capitally sentenced for the murder of a white person, as compared with an African-American.

Doug Mataconis:

False conviction issues aren’t just limited to Illinois. The Innocence Project has been involved in nearly 300 post-conviction exonerations based on DNA evidence, including nearly two dozen cases where a convict was sitting on death row at the time of his conviction.  Moreover, there’s at least one case on record where it now seems fairly apparent that the State of Texas executed a man for a crime that he didn’t commit.

There was a time when I was a supporter, albeit a reluctant one, of capital punishment, but that time has come to an end. For one thing,  I’ve come to the general conclusion that the state should not have the power to take anyone’s life, even when they’ve committed a violent and horrible crime. Additionally, ever since the advent of DNA evidence, we’ve seen far too many instances of innocent men imprisoned for crimes that they clearly did not commit to think that it hasn’t happened in a capital punishment case.  Finally, my own professional interaction with the criminal justice system on a regular basis made it clear to me fairly early on that the system was far too imperfect to trust it with the power of life and death, and this is especially true when a defendant facing a death sentence is forced to accept court-appointed counsel that lacks both the experience and the resources that a private-hired attorney would. The question of whether you live or die shouldn’t depend on whether or not you’re rich enough to hire a good lawyer, but, far too often, it does.

Illinois has taken the right step here. Let’s hope that more states follow their lead.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Death Penalty

Some Dead Fish With Your Deep Dish Pizza

Eli Rosenberg at The Atlantic with the round-up

Chicago Tribune:

With startling arrogance and audaciously twisted reasoning, two appellate judges ignored more than 100 years of legal precedent, invented a new definition of “residency” and ordered Rahm Emanuel off the Feb. 22 mayoral ballot.

With the election just four weeks away, the appellate panel voted 2-1 to reverse the decisions of the Chicago Board of Elections and a Circuit Court judge. It’s an adventurous, flawed ruling that has immediate and profound consequences. The case is headed to the Illinois Supreme Court, but the ballots are headed to the printer — without Emanuel’s name. Early voting begins Monday.

In a blistering dissent, Appellate Justice Bertina E. Lampkin accused her colleagues, Thomas E. Hoffman and Shelvin Louise Marie Hall, of “careless disregard for the law,” and harshly criticized them for refusing to ask the Supreme Court for an expedited review.

Lampkin accused the majority of ignoring case law that clearly supported Emanuel’s argument —including a significant case in which Hoffman prevailed.

“The majority’s new standard is ill-reasoned and unfair to the candidate, voters and those of us who are charged with applying the law,” Lampkin wrote. The decision “disenfranchises not just this particular candidate but every voter in Chicago who would consider voting for him.”

Richard Hasen at Slate:

Illinois, like many states, requires anyone running for a municipal office to be a resident of the municipality. This sensible rule ensures that elected officials understand the interests and desires of their constituents. Emanuel long lived in Chicago and was a congressman representing part of the city for many years before he became President Obama’s chief of staff. At that point he moved his family to Washington, D.C., and rented out his house. But he kept family heirlooms and other items locked in the Chicago basement, indicating a plan to return. It was well known that Emanuel hoped to come back and run for mayor whenever Mayor Richard M. Daley decided to step down from that office.

When Daley announced his retirement and Emanuel filed to run in the race, his opponents challenged his residency—and lost before the elections board, which found that Emanuel had intended to return to Chicago after his D.C. stint for the president. A trial court affirmed the board. Now this intermediate appellate court says that’s wrong. Because Emanuel did not have a regular physical presence in Chicago in the year before the election, he is ineligible to run.

Ed Morrissey:

Emanuel moved to Washington DC and stayed there for 21 months, only returning when Richard Daley announced he wouldn’t seek another term.  Under that definition, the statute becomes essentially meaningless; anyone who lived in Chicago for any period of time could return and run for office on the shortest of notice and dare anyone to prove that returning wasn’t the intent all along.  The majority ruled that the legislature intended this requirement to apply to physical residence — which makes sense, because one wants a mayor who’s actually familiar with the city’s issues.

Eugene Volokh

Michelle Malkin:

Rahm gave a short statement to the press (no profanity delay buttons were necessary today). An appeal is on the way. He brushed off suggestion that politics played a role in court decision and said: “I have no doubt in the end we will prevail.”

Then, he cackled.

Ed Driscoll:

Just another day in the life of David Brooks favorite “Warmhearted Machiavellian.” But given that it’s Chicago, who know what will happen with the appeal. We’ll know it’s over if and when President Obama’s office Fed Exes Rahm another Luca Brasi-style dead fish.

Garance Franke-Ruta at The Atlantic:

If he is not granted that stay and the Illinois Supreme Court does not overturn the lower court’s opinion, it seems unlikely he would want take the Lisa Murkowski route and run as a write-in candidate, because the residency ruling would lead to a legal challenge to his being sworn into office.

On the one hand, there is no legal process to stop Emanuel from running a write-in campaign, according Ken Menzel, a legal counsel with the Illinois State Board of Elections.

“We don’t have a challenge process for write-in candidates in Illinois,” he explained. “You can’t prevent a person from being a write-in candidate.”

According to James Allen, a spokesman for the Chicago Board of Elections, Emanuel would have until Feb. 15 to file a write-in bid for the Feb. 22 Chicago mayoral primary election.

On the other hand — and more importantly — the state residency statute in question in the case decided today governs eligibility to hold public office, not eligibility to be on a ballot.

“The basis of the challenge is the allegation he’s not eligible for office,” Menzel said.

The finding that Emanuel failed to meet the state’s strict residency requirement, if not reversed, means a write-in campaign would begin in environment of uncertainty as to whether Emanuel could assume office, were he to win.

“I think you’re getting into uncharted waters if you get into a write-in campaign,” Menzel added. “This is the sort of thing that perhaps, if he were to try, we’d see some case-law made.”

Abdon Pallasch at Chicago Sun-Times:

The Illinois Supreme Court has ordered the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners to put Rahm Emanuel’s name back on the mayoral ballot, attorneys for Emanuel said Tuesday.

The court has not decided whether to hear Emanuel’s appeal of Monday’s Illinois Appellate Court ruling that tossed him out of the race to replace Mayor Daley. The Supreme Court granted Emanuel’s motion for a stay of the ruling, Emanuel attorney Mike Kasper said Tuesday.

Leave a comment

Filed under Political Figures

Lemonade At Around The Sphere! 10 Cents! Today Only!

Terry Savage at The Chicago Sun Times:

This column is a true story — every word of it. And I think it very appropriate to consider around the Fourth of July, Independence Day spirit.

Last week, I was in a car with my brother and his fiancee, driving through their upscale neighborhood on a hot summer day. At the corner, we all noticed three little girls sitting at a homemade lemonade stand.

We follow the same rules in our family, and one of them is: Always stop to buy lemonade from kids who are entrepreneurial enough to open up a little business.

My brother immediately pulled over to the side of the road and asked about the choices.

The three young girls — under the watchful eye of a nanny, sitting on the grass with them — explained that they had regular lemonade, raspberry lemonade, and small chocolate candy bars.

Then my brother asked how much each item cost.

“Oh, no,” they replied in unison, “they’re all free!”

I sat in the back seat in shock. Free? My brother questioned them again: “But you have to charge something? What should I pay for a lemonade? I’m really thirsty!”

His fiancee smiled and commented, “Isn’t that cute. They have the spirit of giving.”

That really set me off, as my regular readers can imagine.

“No!” I exclaimed from the back seat. “That’s not the spirit of giving. You can only really give when you give something you own. They’re giving away their parents’ things — the lemonade, cups, candy. It’s not theirs to give.”

I pushed the button to roll down the window and stuck my head out to set them straight.

“You must charge something for the lemonade,” I explained. “That’s the whole point of a lemonade stand. You figure out your costs — how much the lemonade costs, and the cups — and then you charge a little more than what it costs you, so you can make money. Then you can buy more stuff, and make more lemonade, and sell it and make more money.”

I was confident I had explained it clearly. Until my brother, breaking the tension, ordered a raspberry lemonade. As they handed it to him, he again asked: “So how much is it?”

And the girls once again replied: “It’s free!” And the nanny looked on contentedly.

No wonder America is getting it all wrong when it comes to government, and taxes, and policy. We all act as if the “lemonade” or benefits we’re “giving away” is free.

And so the voters demand more — more subsidies for mortgages, more bailouts, more loan modification and longer periods of unemployment benefits.

They’re all very nice. But these things aren’t free.

The government only gets the money to pay these benefits by raising taxes, meaning taxpayers pay for the “free lemonade.” Or by printing money — which is essentially a tax on savings, since printing more money devalues the wealth we hold in dollars.

If we can’t teach our kids the basics of running a lemonade stand, how can we ever teach Congress the basics of economics?

Jason Linkins at Huffington Post:

You know, I say, “All hail the cranks of America, who are willing to put almost anything they encounter in the world on trial and find it guilty of destroying society!” But if I could offer a word of advice: maybe stop short of actually yelling at children, to make them feel bad about themselves. But that’s exactly what Chicago Sun-Times columnist Terry Savage has done, and she apparently wants a medal for it.

See, Terry was driving around her “upscale neighborhood” over the holiday weekend, when she encountered some of the upscale neighborhood children at a lemonade stand. And apparently, she has some sort of personal “rule” that compels her to always stop and get some lemonade, because of her unquenchable thirst for citrus or something. But, as it turned out, the three little girls at the stand were just straight up giving away the lemonade for free. And thus began the tirade!

Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing:

Get that, kids? The correct thing to do with the stuff you appropriate from others is sell it, not give it away! Sounds about right — companies take over our public aquifers and sell us the water they pump out of them; telcos get our rights of way for their infrastructure, then insist that they be able to tier their pricing without regard to the public interest. Corporatism in a nutshell, really.

Dan Mitchell at Big Money:

I’m truly not interested in how she leaped from little girls having fun in their front yard to the government extending unemployment benefits or bailing out banks. The answer would involve “bootstraps” or something, I presume. Something horrendously simplistic. No matter what her explanation might be, it would still be based on her belief that it’s bad to give away something you got for nothing, but it’s perfectly fine—in fact highly laudable—to sell it. And that this somehow teaches you that (she really used this phrase), “there is no free lunch.”

The irony here is that Savage could have written a good, perfectly sane column about why it’s better for kids to sell lemonade than to give it away. As she notes amid all the nutty John Galt stuff, it would teach them a lot about business—managing costs, pricing, etc.

But maybe they can learn that next summer. This summer, they learned about the satisfaction of giving someone a cold drink on a hot day. They learned about kindness and, yes, the spirit of giving. They learned, perhaps, that though we are economic creatures, we are not only economic creatures—that there is more to life than money, and that believing otherwise makes us shallow and soulless. And less fun.

And maybe they learned to be careful of strangers in the street exhibiting odd behavior.

And onto other subjects involving lemonade. Sam Stein at The Huffington Post:

Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle has moderated a host of policy positions in her transition from a primary candidate to general election contender battling Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. One thing she has not backed away from has been her insistence that abortion should be outlawed universally, even in cases of rape and incest.

In a radio interview Angle did in late June, the Tea Party favorite re-affirmed her pro-life sensibilities (rigid, as they are, even within Republican circles), when she insisted that a young girl raped by her father should know that “two wrongs don’t make a right.” Much good can come from a horrific situation like that, Angle added. Lemons can be made into lemonade.

Stock: Let me bring up one other topic that I rarely talk about here, because it’s one of those topics that’s a lose-lose, but we’ve got to talk about it because it was brought up in your TV interview and that has to do with the issue of abortion, and whether or not abortion should be available in the case of rape or incest. The question to you at the time by the interviewer was that do you want the government to go and tell a 13 year-old child who has been raped by her father that she has to have that baby. And of course you responded ‘I didn’t say that I always say that I value life.’ Where do you stand on the issue of abortion, a consensual abortion, from a person who is raped or is pregnant as a result of incest?Angle: Well right now our law permits that. My own personal feelings and that is always what I express, my personal feeling is that we need to err on the side of life. There is a plan and a purpose, a value to every life no matter what it’s location, age, gender or disability. So whenever we talk about government and government’s role, government’s role is to protect life and that’s what our Founding Father said, that we have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Stock: What do you say then to a young girl, I am going to place it as he said it, when a young girl is raped by her father, let’s say, and she is pregnant. How do you explain this to her in terms of wanting her to go through the process of having the baby?

Angle: I think that two wrongs don’t make a right. And I have been in the situation of counseling young girls, not 13 but 15, who have had very at risk, difficult pregnancies. And my counsel was to look for some alternatives, which they did. And they found that they had made what was really a lemon situation into lemonade. Well one girl in particular moved in with the adoptive parents of her child, and they both were adopted. Both of them grew up, one graduated from high school, the other had parents that loved her and she also graduated from high school. And I’ll tell you the little girl who was born from that very poor situation came to me when she was 13 and said ‘I know what you did thank you for saving my life.’ So it is meaningful to me to err on the side of life.

Jim Newell at Gawker:

Savvy.

It is actually more ideologically consistent for strictly pro-life people to not leave out exceptions for rape or situations where the mother’s life is at risk. If you see abortion as the murder of a human life, then you should not feel compelled to make politically appealing make cop-outs! But you should also not try to spin these things into positives, either, because they’re really hellishly bad.

Dan Amira at New York Magazine:

Nevada’s Republican, tea-party–backed candidate for Senate, Sharron Angle, is so against abortion, she doesn’t think it should be a legal option even for 13-year-old girls raped by their fathers. Because, after all, that’s just a great opportunity for them to turn “a lemon situation into lemonade.” Harry Reid, you are one lucky bastard.

Digby:

No word on what happened to the incest victim, but that’s really not something anyone should waste much time worrying about.

And anyway it just shows that God provides many good alternatives to abortion for for young girls who are raped by their fathers — perhaps we could just bend the rules a little bit and the little girl could marry her daddy so they could make a new family all their own. Talk about lemonade!

I wonder if Third Way has found a way to accommodate these views inside the Democratic Party. There must be some common ground, here, right?

Leave a comment

Filed under Abortion, Mainstream, Political Figures

I Bet You Think This Blog Post’s About You, Don’t You, Don’t You?

Chicago Sun-Times:

Warren Beatty, you’re off the hook. The song wasn’t about you.

Singer Carly Simon, after 38 years, has apparently ended the great mystery of who she was singing about in her 1972 smash “You’re So Vain.”

It was … medial mogul David Geffen, according to The Sun of London.

The 64-year-old Simon has reworked the song, and included a backwards portion that whispers Geffen’s name, according the paper. Geffen was the head of Simon’s Elektra label at the time,

Tina Dupuy at Media Bistro:

She tipped the world off by saying his name backwards on a re-recording of the song for her upcoming ablum. She say’s “David” backwards? Only the most popular name in North America. So…yeah, mystery solved.

Juli Weiner in Vanity Fair:

Although, throughout the years Simon’s story about the subject of the song has shifted. The indefatigable CarlySimon.com has a robust run-down:

• 1973: Simon tells Rolling Stone she “can’t possibly tell who it’s about because it wouldn’t be fair.”

• 1983: Ten years later she admits to the Washington Post that the song “certainly sounds like it was about Warren Beatty. He certainly thought it was about him.”

• 1989: Fame magazine reports, “For the record, Simon acknowledges the song is a little about Beatty; it’s a composite of three men from her L.A. days.”

• 1990: “I can never give it away,” Simon lies to VH1.

• 1990: Simon said: “It’s about the young Oprah Winfrey.” A-ha!

• 1994: Clues! “I think it’s a very attractive man. I think it’s a very complicated man who is obviously concerned with his image, but obviously worthy of my love or my interest. I don’t LOVE just anyone. You know, he’s gotta have a certain amount of character. If he was only vain it would be boring, but there’s a lot more to him. He hobknobs with the underworld.”

• 2001: “I could never really solve it because if I did, then no one would have anything to talk to me about,” Simon concluded.

• 2003: Dick Ebersol received a clue. “The letter ‘E’ is in the person’s name.”

• 2004: Simon gives another clue. An “A.”

“David Geffen”: so obvious in retrospect.

Jim Shea at Hartford Courant:

I don’t know, compared to the other candidates, Geffen doesn’t look like someone about whom you would write the lyrics: “You walked into the party like you were walking onto a yacht.”

Doree Shafrir at Gawker:

The decades-long guessing game over “You’re So Vain” has finally ended, much to the chagrin of all the narcissistic old musician dudes like James Taylor who thought it was about them. And it’s… David Geffen?! WTF?

UPDATE: Jonathan Chait at TNR:

No wonder everybody got it wrong. We were searching in the wrong sexual orientation.

Of course, the real problem here is that the song lyric (“You’re so vain/You probably think this song is about you”) is incoherent. Of course he thinks the song is about him — it is about him. How could that be held up as evidence of vanity?

Update: The more I think about it, the less sense Simon’s explanation for the song’s subject makes. Take this verse:

You had me several years ago
When I was still quite naive
Well, you said that we made such a pretty pair
And that you would never leave
But you gave away the things you loved
And one of them was me

Okay — everybody thought “had me” meant had me as a lover, but now she means as a client. That works. But what about this:

Well, you’re where you should be all the time
And when you’re not, you’re with
Some underworld spy or the wife of a close friend

What’s wrong with a gay man spending time with the wife of a close friend?

Leave a comment

Filed under Music

Two Internet Thumbs Up

Chris Jones in Esquire:

Roger Ebert can’t remember the last thing he ate. He can’t remember the last thing he drank, either, or the last thing he said. Of course, those things existed; those lasts happened. They just didn’t happen with enough warning for him to have bothered committing them to memory — it wasn’t as though he sat down, knowingly, to his last supper or last cup of coffee or to whisper a last word into Chaz’s ear. The doctors told him they were going to give him back his ability to eat, drink, and talk. But the doctors were wrong, weren’t they? On some morning or afternoon or evening, sometime in 2006, Ebert took his last bite and sip, and he spoke his last word.

Ebert’s lasts almost certainly took place in a hospital. That much he can guess. His last food was probably nothing special, except that it was: hot soup in a brown plastic bowl; maybe some oatmeal; perhaps a saltine or some canned peaches. His last drink? Water, most likely, but maybe juice, again slurped out of plastic with the tinfoil lid peeled back. The last thing he said? Ebert thinks about it for a few moments, and then his eyes go wide behind his glasses, and he looks out into space in case the answer is floating in the air somewhere. It isn’t. He looks surprised that he can’t remember. He knows the last words Studs Terkel’s wife, Ida, muttered when she was wheeled into the operating room (“Louis, what have you gotten me into now?”), but Ebert doesn’t know what his own last words were. He thinks he probably said goodbye to Chaz before one of his own trips into the operating room, perhaps when he had parts of his salivary glands taken out — but that can’t be right. He was back on TV after that operation. Whenever it was, the moment wasn’t cinematic. His last words weren’t recorded. There was just his voice, and then there wasn’t.

Now his hands do the talking. They are delicate, long-fingered, wrapped in skin as thin and translucent as silk. He wears his wedding ring on the middle finger of his left hand; he’s lost so much weight since he and Chaz were married in 1992 that it won’t stay where it belongs, especially now that his hands are so busy. There is almost always a pen in one and a spiral notebook or a pad of Post-it notes in the other — unless he’s at home, in which case his fingers are feverishly banging the keys of his MacBook Pro.

He’s also developed a kind of rudimentary sign language. If he passes a written note to someone and then opens and closes his fingers like a bird’s beak, that means he would like them to read the note aloud for the other people in the room. If he touches his hand to his blue cardigan over his heart, that means he’s either talking about something of great importance to him or he wants to make it clear that he’s telling the truth. If he needs to get someone’s attention and they’re looking away from him or sitting with him in the dark, he’ll clack on a hard surface with his nails, like he’s tapping out Morse code. Sometimes — when he’s outside wearing gloves, for instance — he’ll be forced to draw letters with his finger on his palm. That’s his last resort.

C-O-M-C-A-S-T, he writes on his palm to Chaz after they’ve stopped on the way back from the movie to go for a walk.

Roger Ebert continues on his own blog at Chicago Sun-Times:

I knew going in that a lot of the article would be about my surgeries and their aftermath. Let’s face it. Esquire wouldn’t have assigned an article if I were still in good health. Their cover line was the hook: Roger Ebert’s Last Words. A good head. Whoever wrote that knew what they were doing. I was a little surprised at the detail the article went into about the nature and extent of my wounds and the realities of my appearance, but what the hell. It was true. I didn’t need polite fictions.

One strange result was that many people got the idea that these were my dying words. The line Chaz liked least referred to the time he has left. A blog reader said he hadn’t realized I was so frail. Here’s how Romenesko’s Media News linked the item:
romanes.jpg
Well, we’re all dying in increments. I don’t mind people knowing what I look like, but I don’t want them thinking I’m dying. To be fair, Chris Jones never said I was. If he took a certain elegiac tone, you know what? I might have, too. And if he structured his elements into a story arc, that’s just good writing. He wasn’t precisely an eyewitness the second evening after Chaz had gone off to bed and I was streaming Radio Caroline and writing late into the night. But that’s what I did. It may be, the more interviews you’ve done, the more you appreciate a good one. I knew exactly what he started with, and I could see where he ended, and he can be proud of the piece.

I mentioned that it was sort of a relief to have that full-page photo of my face. Yes, I winced. What I hated most was that my hair was so neatly combed. Running it that big was good journalism. It made you want to read the article.

John Hudson at The Atlantic:

On Tuesday, a sensitive Esquire profile of ailing film critic Roger Ebert lit up the Twittersphere. The piece documents Ebert’s physical deterioration as he continues to battle cancer. Three years ago, Ebert’s jaw was removed and he lost the ability to speak. That didn’t, however, deter him from becoming a prolific Twitter user. On Tuesday, the micro-blogging service returned the favor.

In an outpouring of tweets, users across the country praised Ebert and the man who profiled him, Esquire’s Chris Jones. Here’s a small sampling:

  • vwyellowpress: A must-read on movie critic Roger Ebert: Looking for the meaning of life? I think it’s in a story I just read….
  • annehelen: If you still haven’t read the Esquire piece on Ebert, do. Now. A narrative fit for one of his beloved films.
  • AmyKNelson: if you read anything today, plese go to Chris Jones’ fabulous profile of Roger Ebert, who is dying:
  • jodyms: The piece on Ebert is outstanding. A tough read; one where each paragraph has its own revelations. Amazing.

Austin L. Ray at Paste Magazine

Nathan Rabin at Onion A.V. Club:

It is no secret that Roger Ebert is a hero to many of the writers here at A.V Club. He’s an inspiration to just about every film critic alive and now Chris Jones has written perhaps the definitive article about Ebert and his struggles with cancer and silence for Esquire. The deeply moving, incredibly insightful profile has been ricocheting through cyber-space as of late. We cannot recommend it highly enough.

Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing:

Hal sez, “Near the end of his long and touching Esquire article about the career and illness of Roger Ebert, Chris Jones writes about Ebert’s discovery that somebody (probably Disney) had disappeared the YouTube videos of his tribute to Gene Siskel on his own freaking show:”

Ebert keeps scrolling down. Below his journal he had embedded video of his first show alone, the balcony seat empty across the aisle. It was a tribute, in three parts. He wants to watch them now, because he wants to remember, but at the bottom of the page there are only three big black squares. In the middle of the squares, white type reads: “Content deleted. This video is no longer available because it has been deleted.” Ebert leans into the screen, trying to figure out what’s happened. He looks across at Chaz. The top half of his face turns red, and his eyes well up again, but this time, it’s not sadness surfacing. He’s shaking. It’s anger. Chaz looks over his shoulder at the screen. “Those fu — ” she says, catching herself.

They think it’s Disney again — that they’ve taken down the videos. Terms-of-use violation.

This time, the anger lasts long enough for Ebert to write it down. He opens a new page in his text-to-speech program, a blank white sheet. He types in capital letters, stabbing at the keys with his delicate, trembling hands: MY TRIBUTE, appears behind the cursor in the top left corner. ON THE FIRST SHOW AFTER HIS DEATH. But Ebert doesn’t press the button that fires up the speakers. He presses a different button, a button that makes the words bigger. He presses the button again and again and again, the words growing bigger and bigger and bigger until they become too big to fit the screen, now they’re just letters, but he keeps hitting the button, bigger and bigger still, now just shapes and angles, just geometry filling the white screen with black like the three squares. Roger Ebert is shaking, his entire body is shaking, and he’s still hitting the button, bang, bang, bang, and he’s shouting now. He’s standing outside on the street corner and he’s arching his back and he’s shouting at the top of his lungs.

Amber Jones at Pop Eater:
In a new interview with Esquire magazine, famed movie critic Roger Ebert discusses what his life is like now, since surgeries stripped him of his lower jaw and the ability to speak and eat. The touching interview recounts Ebert’s days, which are regimented as his wife Chaz takes care of him, but one thing is for sure: Ebert does not want to be pitied. He is striving to keep publishing his legendary movie reviews and keep the film industry on its toes.
Ebert is a cinematic icon whose film reviews and reputation have become legendary. Ebert has held the film industry to a high standard, and it’s difficult to imagine modern movies without considering his opinion. There’s no question, he has the ability to make or break a blockbuster. As part of the once dynamic duo of Siskel and Ebert, he still holds his own today (despite the loss of Gene Siskel, who died 11 years ago from brain cancer.)

While not everyone has to agree with his reviews (four stars for ‘Me and Orson Welles’?), his cinematic critiques keep us talking. Examining each film, Ebert is a recognizable name who’s reputation precedes him.

Even A.O. Scott, a NY Times movie critic and co-host of ‘At The Movies,’ admits Ebert embodies our image of what a movie critic should be. “Anyone who is even slightly interested in movies comes across Roger… What makes him stand out is his ability to turn his technical knowledge of film and make it accessible and clear to the public,” Scott tells PopEater. “He is one of the best daily newspaper critics, and it’s because he can convey his thoughts and judgments about movies effortlessly with knowledge to back it up.”

UPDATE: Rod Dreher

UPDATE #2: Will Leitch at Deadspin

More Dreher

Sonny Bunch at Doublethink

2 Comments

Filed under Go Meta, Movies

What Do We Buy It For The 80th Anniversary? Lehman Stock?

wall

This week marks the 80th anniversary of the Crash.

David Roeder at Chicago Sun-Times:

The stock market’s famous Black Tuesday was exactly 80 years ago. Today’s investors can be excused if they feel somehow like they witnessed it firsthand.

Most of this decade, the stock market has been in bear territory. The current recession is quite old by historical standards, though believed to be technically over, and foreclosed and vacant homes pockmark the land. So do empty storefronts.

Credit was too freely given before the crisis started, and it may be unjustly denied now, especially to homeowners or businesses trying to restructure debt.

It feels like the Great Depression and hence its informal name, the Great Recession. And yet it’s not in the same league.

So far this year, federal authorities have closed 106 banks across the country, a number that’s gotten substantial attention. In the early 1930s, 10,000 banks shut down, and that was before the protections of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

The Great Depression shaved about 30 percent from the value of the nation’s economic output. The Great Recession has cost about 5 percent.

Unemployment during the 1930s was more than 20 percent. Today, the official rate is 9.5 percent. It might be in the mid-teens if you count people who have given up the job hunt, or taken just part-time work to get by, but by that standard, the figures from 70 years ago probably understate the problem too.

7011P-Stock

The Huffington Post has a series of blog posts from New Deal 2.0. Eliot Spitzer:

How little we have learned! Reviewing the 80 years that have passed since the ’29 Crash and reflecting on the abyss into which we descended just over a year ago, it is easy to feel despondent at our lack of accrued wisdom. Sure, we had several decades where sound banking principles were foisted upon a cowed banking community. For a time, institutions were permitted neither to be “too big to fail” nor “too big to manage.”

But the story changed.

Over the past several years, we have seen the all-too-predictable return of irrational euphoria and the belief that those who ride a speculative wave have actual wisdom, not luck. We have suffered collective amnesia with respect to the cost of undervalued financial risk. We willingly believed in an alchemy that pretends to turn debt into equity. We subscribed to a naive view that unbridled leverage is a sound financial architecture.

Is there a way to shake off our amnesia? Of course: We need reasoned rules limiting the rapacious excesses of the untamed financial world, regulatory symmetry between risk and reward, safe guardianship of the public fisc, regulators willing to brave prevailing winds and power brokers, and a sense of humility whenever we believe we are truly smarter than those who preceded us.

John Carney at Business Insider:

The greatest lesson of 1929 and the Great Depression–that excess credit would distort the economy so badly that it could take years to put it back on track–was made to seem irrelevant and outdated, especially in the go-go economic climate of the new millennium.

There are frightening parallels between 1929 and 2009. Post-1929 Wall Street’s leaders more or less controlled the shape of regulation that emerged.  Likewise their current-day counter-parts are fighting to control the next generation of regulation. Even something as innocuous as the consumer financial protection agency seems designed to support more bank consolidation and punish local, independent banks.

The fight over pay is largely a side show. It attracts lots of headlines but pales in significance to matters such as the role of ratings agencies and the correct structure of capital requirements. And even when those subjects are raised we’re told nonsensical lies such as the idea that it is the way ratings agencies were compensated that derailed them, that it was the repeal of Glass-Steagal that ruined banking, that the problem was unregulated markets, or that unregulated hedge funds or derivatives need to be brought to under control.

Anything but the critical matters: a credible policy of allowing market failure, better capital reserve requirements for banks and an end to overly permissive credit coming from the central bank.

Can we have banking regulation that isn’t designed by bankers or immediately captured by bankers? The historical lessons are not reassuring.

Barry Ritholtz:

Has it only been 80 years? Gee, time really flies when you are accumulating debt at compound interest rates.

NYSEcrash1929-main_Full

Matthew Scott at Daily Finance:

To safeguard investors and the markets after the 1929 crash, tighter banking regulations were enacted. Margin accounts were regulated to prevent investors from borrowing their way to ruin. The FDIC was established to insure bank deposits and restore confidence in the markets. The SEC was created to fight corruption in the stock markets. And the precursor to Fannie Mae was created to stop the need for short-term lending that had also played a role in causing people to be overleveraged during the 1929 crash.

Diane Swonk, chief economist of Mesirow Financial, doesn’t expect investors will see the federal government acting to protect their interests with the same level of regulatory reform this time around.

“The policy response [to stop the market slide] was pretty swift and dramatic, but the change in regulation in terms of the structure of our financial services industry has yet to really take its full form,” she said. “Although we’re seeing things come out piecemeal right now, the type of seismic shift you saw coming out of the Great Depression, we have yet to see.”

So the markets lose 45 percent in seven months and regulators don’t see a need to change anything? In Swonk’s opinion, because fiscal policy was handled better during the current crash and markets rebounded quickly, regulators are probably more inclined to add a few new rules or reinforce rules already in place, rather than do a major restructuring. The Great Depression was different in that it lasted about ten years: “Partly because it went on for so long, it forced us to make much more dramatic changes in the way financial markets were structured,” Swonk said.

So with few major regulatory changes coming and a rocky recovery on the horizon, where is the investor left? Speculation is still a problem, pushing up the price of everything from stocks to gold to oil. And both Inflation and deflation lurk as dangers.

Leave a comment

Filed under Economics, History, The Crisis

Darkness Loses Its Prince

robert_novak-704681

Lynn Sweet at the Chicago Sun-Times:

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Robert Novak, one of the nation’s most influential journalists, who relished his “Prince of Darkness” public persona, died at home here early Tuesday morning after a battle with brain cancer.

“He was someone who loved being a journalist, loved journalism and loved his country and loved his family, Novak’s wife, Geraldine, told the Sun-Times on Tuesday.

Novak’s remarkable and long-running career made him a powerful presence in newspaper columns, newsletters, books and on television.

On May 15, 1963, Novak teamed up with the late Rowland Evans Jr. to create the “Inside Report” political column, which became the must-read syndicated column. Evans tapped Novak, then a 31-year old correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, to help with the workload of a six-day-a-week column.

Evans and Novak were the od d couple: Evans a Philadelphia blue blood and Yale graduate; Novak from Joliet, Ill. who attended the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana campus.

Novak handled the column solo after Evans retired in 1993. The Chicago Sun-Times has been Novak’s home paper since 1966.

Kenneth Tomlinson at Human Events:

Throughout my life, I followed Bob Novak journalism like I followed the careers of my favorite sports figures. Later, as editor-in-chief of Reader’s Digest, I would become one of Novak’s nominal bosses, though the fact was that every time I worked with him or was associated with him in any way, it was I who felt privileged. Few journalists have ever affected this country like Bob Novak.

I discovered the Evans-Novak column in the summer of 1963 shortly after it was launched by the New York Herald Tribune. I was a summer intern in Washington and a Goldwater fan, and it became apparent that reading Evans-Novak was the best way of following what was actually happening in the fledging Goldwater movement.

It turns out Novak, who got to know Goldwater covering the Senate, was no fan of the Arizona senator. But he was infatuated with the brilliant work of Goldwater political operative F. Clifton White, who actually orchestrated the Goldwater nomination. And White was a close source.

Timothy Carney at Human Events:
I remember a Baltimore Orioles game in 2004.  Novak invited me to join him and gave me two extra tickets.  I took my friend Sean Rushton — a conservative who shared Novak’s enthusiasm for supply-side economics — and Rushton’s wife.  Repeatedly, Rushton plied Novak with questions about the economy or the tax code.  Novak grunted off the questions and replied with comments about Rodrigo Lopez’s change-up or questions about the Orioles’ base-running.

Frustrated, Rushton got up to buy a beer, at which point his wife mentioned to Novak that her father was a racecar driver.  This, it turns out, was Novak’s fantasy job.  Sean returned to see his wife and Novak engaged in a lively discussion about auto racing.

Novak, of course, was also a conservative.  Although always close to the conservative movement, even when he was big enough that he didn’t need it.  Novak was always independent in his thought.  At times the conservative movement has been less tolerant of dissent within the ranks.  I was working for him in 2002 and 2003 when Novak stood against President Bush and the Iraq War.

Novak’s stance led some of the more bellicose writers in the movement to assail Novak’s character.  Neoconservative writer David Frum wrote a cover story for National Review on the eve of Bush’s invasion of Iraq, calling Novak, together with Pat Buchanan and other opponents of the invasion, “Unpatriotic Conservatives.”

Novak was an unapologetic warrior for his beliefs as a pundit, having spent decades building his credibility as a journalist.  Nicknamed “the Prince of Darkness”, a title he proudly used for his memoirs, Novak did not mince words or suffer fools lightly.  He became one of the premier conservative pundits in the US, but did not hesitate to criticize the Right — or to do so with brutal honesty — when he felt it was running off the rails.  He blasted the McCain campaign for misleading him on the running-mate selection process last summer, for instance.  A couple of months before that, he ripped the GOP for feeding at the public trough on ag subsidies while claiming the mantle of fiscal discipline.

It was just a little over a year ago that Novak announced that he had inoperable and terminal brain cancer.  He retired from most of his work, but that lasted only a few weeks before he began penning columns once again.  Novak had an indefatigable spirit and a drive that would have shamed men in perfect health half his age.  Unfortunately, Novak didn’t have much time left.

RIP, Mr. Novak, and thank you.

David Weigel at The Washington Independent

UPDATE: Conor Clarke at Sully’s place:

Novak was, to be perfectly honest about it, the least pleasant person I’ve ever interviewed. He didn’t shake my hand upon entering or leaving his office, and expressed fairly open contempt when I asked him a question about the Valerie Plame affair. His response was: “You can’t imagine how tired I am of answering those questions.” And then he proceeded not to answer the question.

I don’t mean to rag on the guy. It wasn’t his job to be pleasant — certainly not to the kind of nervous and uppity young reporter he ate for breakfast — and I didn’t get the sense he tried to give anyone an impression to the contrary. I hope it’s fair to say that he embraced the reputation that preceded him, and that the face grew to fit the mask. You don’t call your memoir “The Prince of Darkness” if you’re hoping to make new friends. (And on the day that I sat down with him I remember, distinctly, that he was wearing the same suit and tie that he wore glowering on the cover of his new book.)

Matthew Cooper at The Atlantic:

Novak’s worthy of a good biography. His life spanned the rise and fall of modern journalism. His own career was multiplatform long before it was cool. His religious journey from Jew to Protestant to Catholic is interesting and he’s there are a ton of source materials to work with. I hope someone writes it. I’m glad though it won’t be me

K-Lo at The Corner:

I did not know Bob well (he was always gracious when I encountered him in and around Washington and I always read him though!), but some close friends of mine did. And they loved him. Working for Bob Novak always seemed to inspire great loyalty to the man and a great love of politics and America

James Joyner:

I’m sure plenty of other remembrances will be fortchoming; Novak had a long and distinguished career.

Somewhere in the early paragraphs of most, I suspect, will be the name Valerie Plame.  His offhand mention of the CIA operative whose role in sending her husband, Joe Wilson, to investigate the “yellowcake” matter sparked the biggest domestic scandal of the Bush Administration and ultimately landed Scooter Libby in jail.

While I would later discover his columns, I got to know Novak over the years as a viewer of the various CNN talking heads shows on which he appeared, most notably “Crossfire.”  He played a caracature of himself, “The Prince of Darkness,” and was frankly not a very good commentator.   He was, however, a superb columnist and reporter.

The Plame matter will likely overshadow most of that, though, especially for those under 35 or so who never knew Novak for anything else.

Isaac Chotiner at TNR:

Novak had a reputation around Washington as a grumpy and dyspeptic personality, and his television co-hosts would always mock his “prince of darkness” image. Still, Novak was someone who clearly loved politics, and this made him easier to swallow. What was most striking about Novak–at least when I started watching CNN around the time of the 2000 election–was his absolute unwillingness to sound warm and cuddly. George W. Bush was elected as a compassionate conservative that year, and you could hardly get any Republican to sound nasty or angry. The lessons of Gingrich had been learned, and Bush and his allies loved talking about education and diversity. But then there was Novak: He wanted a big tax cut because he was wealthy and he felt he had earned it. He didn’t care much for programs that helped the poor–and not because he had a sophisticated neoconservative critique about their effectiveness. No, Novak just did not seem to care much; what’s more, he didn’t care that he appeared uncaring. As someone who always suspected that many people in the Republican Party wanted their tax cuts above all else, Novak was revealing and somehow refreshing. All Republicans weren’t like this, to be sure, but some were, and yet Novak was their only representative on television (Pat Buchanan is interesting to watch for precisely this reason–a lot of people think like he does, but they rarely share their opinions on network TV).

Crossfire was a lousy show and I’m glad it’s gone, but The Capital Gang–despite its reputation–was actually a mildly informative and very enjoyable debate show. And unlike too many panel shows these days, it was filled with ideological pundits who were not partisan hacks. Even though it only went off the air a few years ago, it feels like the product of a completely different era.

John Podhoretz in Commentary:

He was a difficult man in many ways, but I always found him interesting, lively, and friendly. And I have to say that, toward the end of his life, he wrote a riveting I-can’t-quite-believe-I’m-reading-this memoir entitled The Prince of Darkness, which may offer, in its unsparing portrait of his own character and how he maneuvered his way through a 50-year career, the most accurate (and most dispiriting) picture of life in Washington and the journalism game published in my lifetime. It was an unexpected achievement, because he surely knew he was leaving his readers with a bad taste in their mouths. But he was determined to get it all down and get it right, and he did.

Kate O’Beirne at The Corner:

My dear friend Bob Novak faced his illness with a remarkable fortitude and his typical forthright honesty. Incapable of ignoring the facts, he recognized what he was up against. In conversations with him over the past months, he gave short shrift to the kind of daily political news he once followed so intently, in favor of reminiscing about his earliest days in journalism. He would rather talk about his beloved grandchildren than how the Obama Cabinet was shaping up. It was once impossible to have a casual conversation with Bob without him pouncing on a random remark if he spotted that a tidbit of news had been shared. For decades, his work ethic was legendary, his schedule exhausting. He was a voracious reader. His illness exposed what he held most dear, and that was his family, his faith, his Army service. He never failed to express his gratitude to Geraldine. In the midst of such suffering, there was such grace. Bob Novak was a devoted husband and father, a loving grandfather, a loyal friend — and an extraordinary journalist. He will be missed terribly.

UPDATE: Jack Shafer in Slate

David Frum at New Majority

Leave a comment

Filed under Mainstream