Quick Hits – We failed A. J.

Like most of you, reading the horrific details of A. J. Freund’s too-short life makes me want to punch some suspect folks squarely in the mouth. But while the visceral reactions to his death are vast and plentiful, the kind of critical thinking I’ve been calling for lately is sorely lacking.


Sure! Visceral reactions can be fun and somewhat self-satisfying, but they solve nothing and they tend make the situation worse. So, as difficult as it may be, let’s examine this tragic scenario with a more jaundiced eye because that’s the only way anything’s ever going to change.

Let’s start with the obvious fact that we – yes, you and me – are the ones who failed A. J., and here’s why:

1. Abusers don’t occur in a vacuum.

We’ve covered this beyond obvious fact numerous times. But let me be clear one more time! Not all abused children become abusers. In fact, young female abuse victims are more likely to become battered adults.

But if you take adult abusers as a whole, there is a direct and positive correlation to being regularly beaten as children. It’s not that hard to understand. Most human behavior is learned, and we all tend to become our parents to varying degrees.

Just look at any photograph of A. J.’s parents and it doesn’t take a psychiatric professional to determine their affect is completely off. His father looks a member of the walking dead and his mother clearly continues to be abused.

That means this generally absurd embraced-by-Republicans Ayn Rand-ian notion that, if left to our own devices, we’re all capable of pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps is pure unadulterated bovine excrement.

My regular readers know my wife teaches in the East Aurora school district, and through no fault of their own, most of those kids don’t have a bleepin’ shot in hell. In fact, most of them already live in hell. And the fact that some of them actually do succeed is nothing short of miraculous.

But they’re the exception that proves the rule.

So, where were we when these two parental monsters were being created? That biblical caveat covering “the least of our brothers and sisters” is unequivocal. When you finally do meet St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, I would advise against saying “I was too busy” because it ain’t gonna work. There are no exceptions.


2. DCFS is an impossible proposition

Why do we keep expecting miracles – or even competency – from an agency that’s so incredibly overworked and so utterly underfunded it can’t possibly succeed? Yes! It looks like the lapses were particularly egregious in A. J.’s case, but do we really think disciplining two caseworkers is going to be the answer to anything?

In today’s editorial, the Chicago Tribune declares, “His death, allegedly at the hands of his parents, could’ve been prevented by a well-run child welfare system.” Yes! And if those bleepin’ Publisher’s Clearing House people would only show up on my front porch today, all my problems would be solved, too!

The editorial goes on to refer to the agency as “beleaguered,” but it offers no real solution to DCFS’s revolving door leadership and utterly untenable culture.

Yet, back in 2012, the Trib ran a great investigative piece making an excellent case for no more than 24 cases per caseworker. That reporter noted that most were tackling 40, with some caseworkers handling as many as 60 families, and the those numbers were only getting worse.

Human beings are imbued with certain limitations and defense mechanisms. If you’re constantly exposed to exceedingly difficult situations with no solution in sight, you either invite a breakdown or your start becoming inured to it.

Do you want to know what the average DCFS caseworker makes? $35,906 a year, seven percent below the national average. So, what person with half a brain is going to take a job for peanuts where you have to work absurd hours just to keep up in a chronically underfunded agency and one slip might mean the death of a child?

Without casting any aspersions on any particular caseworker, those magnificent job “perks” mean all you’re going to get is young, inexperienced employees who might not be able to make it in other more advantageous venues.

Put more simply, did those two caseworkers fail A. J.? Yes, they did! But we failed those two caseworkers. Money doesn’t solve everything, but if we want a better Illinois child welfare system then we have to be willing to pay for it.


We’ll continue this conversation on Wednesday.

Quick Hits – On orchestra teachers, school boards, and IWIIMBY

Now, we all know what NIMBY stands for, but you’d think, much like Newton’s Third Law predicts, there’d be some sort of equal and opposite term for when folks actually want something in their backyard. But “IWIIMBY” or “I want it in my backyard” just doesn’t have quite the same zing.

Not to fear, dear readers, I’ll come up with something better.

What made me consider this acronymic prospect is the most recent Batavia School Board meeting in which a host of Rotolo Middle School students and parents lamented the loss of their full-time orchestra teacher and pleaded with the board to reconsider.

Batavia School Board

For background purposes, as a result of an across-the-board decline in enrollment, D101 issued layoff notices to 23 teachers in March and the Rotolo Orchestra teacher was one of them.

But Houston Street, we have a problem! You know this columnist consistently commends anyone who reasonably and regularly gets involved in the process, but it always pays to understand that process before you get involved.

To wit, begging any school board to hire, retain, or fire any teacher is a fool’s errand. The only district employee who reports directly to the board is the superintendent. That’s it! And they can’t even fire him or her unless they commit some major malfeasance, or their contract is up.

(A reader correctly pointed out that the board can fire a superintendent, but then they’d have hire a new one while honoring that massive contract until it runs its course which isn’t feasible for most school districts.)

Put more simply, the board didn’t decide to lay off those teachers and they certainly can’t unilaterally decide to bring them back.

Could the board have voted to reverse course on the layoffs? Technically yes, but that would be akin to jury nullification and the odds of getting four board members to go directly against district policy sit squarely between slim and none.

What our discouraged parents and students should’ve done, and can still do, is insist upon an audience with the Superintendent and the Director of Human Resources. Right now, they’re smiling at the vast irony of the school board taking the heat for their actions. The truth is, they’re only ones who can reinstate that orchestra teacher.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about the even more fascinating IWIIMBY irony.

Before we go there, let me clearly stipulate that, considering my wife is one, I never want to see any educator lose their job. It’s hard enough being a teacher without having to worry about where your next paycheck is coming from.

But without considering the merit of each departing teacher, D101 is doing exactly the right thing. Borne of previous tax hike infatuated school boards, the Chicago Collar Counties pay the highest property taxes in the nation. And every time that bi-annual tax bill arrives, like the great Emily Litella, we pound our fists on the table, curse our consarned school districts, and demand fiscal accountability!

Unless it means cutting our orchestra teacher.

Then we go all IWIIMBY on their sorry taxing butts.  Everybody wants tax cuts until it means they’re the ones who have to do with less.

And the greater irony is, Rotolo Middle School sits squarely in the heart of Batavia Republicandom, and those faithful conservatives are the first ones to demand fiscal responsibility, curse the liberal school system, and disparage those overpaid teachers who get summers off.

One of my favorite friends is a centrist Republican immigration attorney. And he regularly regales me with tales of conservative clients approaching him to get papers for a nanny, a friend, or some other undocumented immigrant whom they’ve become rather fond of. But these are the very same folks who voted for Donald Trump cause he’s gonna “build that wall.”

Oddly enough, this liege loyal liberal supports D101 in holding the fiscal line because School enrollment is fading all across this great nation and tough decisions – including closing some schools – must be made. But please understand that it wasn’t the school board that made this decision.

So, don’t put this one on them!

Conservatives! I know how dangerous this kind of thing is, but I’m gonna ask you to engage in a little critical thinking and self-reflection. Before you make that next bloodthirsty call for a taxing body’s collective heads, please consider that cuts always mean someone loses their job, someone has to deal with less, and someone who can least afford it will fall through the cracks.

That’s why, when you protest an orchestra teacher being laid off, going all IWIIMBY on us doesn’t make you look very good.


Quick Hits – “Chalk” it up to an irate citizen!

My favorite all-time sitcom – by a longshot – is ‘The Andy Griffith Show.’ And one of my favorite episodes is 1964’s ‘Barney Sidecar’ in which our intrepid iconic Deputy Sheriff purchases a World War I surplus motorcycle and immediately embarks upon a one-man anti-crime wave.

My second favorite scene from that installment is, as Deputy Fife attempts to chalk tires, someone reaches out from under a car and grabs his chalking stick. For you fellow TAGS aficionados, my favorite clip is the one where the retired townsfolk put the sidecar up on bricks and laugh uproariously as Barney drives away with Andy still sitting in front of the station.


But ain’t that the way it always works? It starts with an overzealous law enforcement officer pushing a regular citizen too far and ends with them successfully fighting back.

All I can say is I’m gonna propose to Saginaw, Michigan, resident and firebrand, Alison Taylor, who, tired of being singled out by overly enthusiastic parking enforcement officer Tabitha Hoskins to the tune of 15 tickets in two years, led the legal rebellion.

Despite the fact that tire chalking has been a tried and true enforcement tactic since well before Deputy Fife graced the small screen, she and her attorneys came up with novel theory. They claimed that, just like it is with placing a GPS on a known drug dealer’s car, touching a vehicle’s tire in anticipation of a crime being committed was a Fourth Amendment overreach that could not be overlooked.

And the three-judge Sixth Federal Appeals Court panel unanimously agreed!

So, with that ruling, tire chalking went the way of the PDA, CD, busy signals, fax machines, and pay phones. As a result, in the words of that late, great philosopher, Warren Zevon, “The [excrement] has hit the fan!”

Before you could say “municipal budget deficit,” all manner of mayors immediately resorted to shrieking about how, like Captain Ahab pursuing a Caucasian whale, they’d appeal this ruling to their dying breath.

Considering that it’s already been done, I can’t wait to see them try. Now, their only option is the Supreme Court, and this particular black dress group won’t overturn a unanimous federal appellate court search and seizure verdict on their worst day.

In their second breath, those same burgermeisters lamented the sudden loss of that six-figure-plus parking ticket revenue. Silly me! I thought it had everything to do with enforcement and everything to do with revenue.

If I were them, I’d be far more concerned with thoose formerly ticketed folks who will inevitably sue to recover that filthy fine lucre. I’m convinced that’ll be Ms. Taylor’s very next step. Think about it! That prospect could amount to billions of dollars going back to formerly errant parkers.

And if I’m the City of Elgin, my next step would be to immediately drop the impending street parking sensor program like it’s hot, because those terrible time tracking devices will be similarly deemed unconstitutional.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a camera, a GPD tracker, a parking sensor, or a policeman’s pryin’ eyes, you cannot surveil a person, place, or thing in ANTICIPATION of a crime being committed without a warrant duly signed by a judge. And that’s exactly what street parking sensors do. It doesn’t help matters much that some of those vendors call it “virtual chalking,” either.

Here’s a perfect example!

Let’s say Elgin City Councilpersons Tish Powell and Corey Dixon were part of a terrorist sleeper cell just waiting to pounce. Considering their ongoing efforts to destroy the city, it’s really not that farfetched. Let’s also say an EPD officer, on a hunch, decided to follow our duo everywhere just to be sure they weren’t about to pull something.

Lastly, let’s say Powell and Dixon caught on to this unwanted scrutiny and took the EPD to court. Until and unless our officer manages to get a warrant, there is no judge in this vast country that would be amused by the officer’s efforts.

“Whoa! Wait a minute, Jeff! What about red-light cameras? They’ve been consistently ruled constitutionally sound.”

Though I disagree with that ruling on the basis of being unable to face your accuser, those cameras only go off when a motorist has actually committed crime, i.e. crossed the “line” and entered an intersection illegally.

So, instead of picking our pockets, what Elgin, and every other similarly affected municipality should do is solve the real problem. C’mon! This whole timed parking place thing has never worked. When I regularly parked on Douglas St. during those five radio show years, despite a 2.5 hour stay, I never got a ticket. (Ironically, my co-host Larry Jones received one shortly after he started doing the show.)

And it’s a good problem to have, too! There was a time when people had no interest in visiting downtown Elgin. The City does pretty well with free municipal lots, but perhaps it’s time to add some new levels. Once that’s done, they can go the Second City route by banning all traffic on the most challenging streets – handicapped folks, deliveries, and public transportation excepted, of course.

That kind of wide-open State Street scenario will draw even more people to those businesses. It’s called “forward thinking.”

Meanwhile, I’m going to be thinking some very fond thoughts of Ms. Taylor, who thankfully, when pushed too far, did not listen to those great philosophers, The Clash. She fought the law and the law lost!

Quick Hits – Racism is the last refuge to which the scoundrel clings

Just when you thought the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Jussie Smollett absolution fallout couldn’t possibly dive any further into the Twilight Zone, it does just that. I swear I keep seeing Rod Serling in those Chicago alley shadows.

For those who’ve been living under a rock, former ‘Empire’ actor (he gone!) Jussie Smollett, in an effort to gain a greater salary, staged a MAGA attack on his gay self at 2 a.m. in his Streeterville neighborhood on a polar vortex February night. When that story unraveled faster than a cheap Chinese suit and after State’s Attorney Kim Foxx “recused” herself from the case, Smollett found himself facing 16 separate felony charges.

Fox Jackson

But then the not-really-recused Foxx suddenly slipped the bonds of her self-imposed “seclusion” to inexplicably drop every last one of those charges. To say the shit hit the fan after that bizarre decision would be a lot like saying that Donald Trump doesn’t Tweet.

Just ask Toni Preckwinkle.

Mayor Lightfoot! I’m thinking a Chicago-based reality show would be so wildly popular that the proceeds would put a real dent in that vast Second City pension debt. Call me!

But I digress!

Because there was Ms. Foxx at that press conference lectern, surrounded by the usual shameless race card playing suspects – Jesse Jackson, Bobby Rush, et al, tearfully explaining she was the victim of the worst kind of Fraternal Order of Police intolerance. “This is really about racism,” She said, adding that the CCSAO passes out similar get out of jail free cards all the time!

Though she couldn’t seem to come up with a single example. After witnessing that inspired performance, I’m thinking she should be Smollett’s ‘Empire’ replacement.

Then one of her press conference posse proceeded to call the Chicago Police the “Blue Klux Klan.” Please remind me, is Foxx a criminal defense attorney or the top County prosecutor because it’s getting kind of hard to tell.

Now, if Foxx had said, “Hey white people! You’ve been letting your Caucasian cronies off the criminal hook for decades. It’s about time we black folks got to apply the same standard,” I would’ve been good with it. But then to claim that “criminal justice reform” was behind her decision to absolve Smollett was more than a wee bit disingenuous.

Does racism exist in Chicago. Of course it does! Trust me, an honorary Mexican who looks very Jewish would know! Some studies say the Windy City is the second most segregated in the country.

But there is hope!

We just had two female African-Americans – one openly gay – in the mayoral finals, and the gay one won beat the Machine one by a 3 to 1 margin.

But nothing proves Chicago black folks have finally made it like the Smollett case does! Think about it! A black state’s attorney recuses herself, and when the outcome does not amuse her, she uses her office and clout to let a guilty as bleep black celebrity completely off the hook. And in the process, she destroys her black political mentor, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle without a second thought.

You’ve come a long way, baby! C’mon! That’s got “white folks” written all over it!

And Ms. Foxx can continue to shriek, keen, howl, sob, and furiously stomp her foot as she rends her garments, but stick a fork in her, she’s done! I’ll be shocked if she runs for anything after She couldn’t get elect precinct committeeman at this point.

At least she’s got that acting career to look forward to. There are a few more episodes of ‘Game of Thrones,’ aren’t there?

Quick Hits – Why do Democrats insist upon dooming themselves?

I’m using the word “doom” as in Mr. Santayana’s particularly prescient proposition that those who fail to pay attention will soon start feeling like they’re Bill Murray’s character in ‘Groundhog Day.’

And the whole “doomed to repeat it” dynamic is certainly a recurring First Ward theme.

To wit, we’ve discussed the pitfalls of candidates jumping into a crowded electoral field here, and that same topic figures prominently in my finally-to-be-released book, ‘So You Want to Win a Local Election?’

The perfect local examples of this too-many-choices phenomenon are the last three Elgin City Council races in which, with one notable exception, the four incumbents easily fended off three or more. The incumbent who did lose his seat had become somewhat of a lightning rod which can make or break you in a municipal election.

The bottom line is, if you give people too many choices, not only will they generally go with the devil(s) they know, but it depresses voter turnout which further favors the incumbents.

But even if there are no incumbents in the race, a crowded field will dilute the various campaign messages to the point where the crazier candidates automatically rise to the top. Look no further than the 2016 Republican primary where Donald Trump demolished 11 challengers who couldn’t find a way to offset his inherent lunacy.

Had there been just three or four contenders, Trump, who wasn’t even serious about running, would be nothing more than an afterthought.

And don’t give me that Lori Lightfoot won in a crowded Chicago mayoral field crap, either. She won by virtue of political lightning striking twice in three months. It was Alderman Ed Burke’s extortion charges and Jussie Smollett’s charges being dropped that did Toni Preckwinkle in.

So, having borne witness to what most pundits believed was an implausible impossibility, you’d think those 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls would’ve learned something from that very strange primary.

2020 Candidates

Trust me! I understand the Democratic National Committee can’t unilaterally stop anyone from running, but one would think they could do a far better job of dissuading those candidates who really don’t have a shot in hell. But no! It would take less time to list the Democrats who aren’t running for president than those who are.

Let’s start with the candidates who have the best shot:

  • Bernie Sanders
  • Joe Biden – he will run
  • Beto O’Rourke

Then there are those who can’t be counted out, but…:

  • Elizabeth Warren
  • Kamala Harris
  • Cory Booker

I know, I know! Bill Clinton came out of a one percent polling nowhere, but Bill is imbued with a rare kind of charisma that 99 percent of candidates will never enjoy. So, these are the candidates who should waive the white flag right now:

  • Pete Buttigieg – no one goes from mayor of South Bend to president
  • Julian Castro – why is he running?
  • Tulsi Gabbard
  • John Delany
  • Kirsten Gillibrand
  • John Hickenlooper – perhaps if he changed his name
  • Jay Inslee – who?
  • Amy Klobuchar
  • Wayne Messam – slavery reparations will never fly
  • Tim Ryan – bad Dem last name
  • Eric Swalwell – who squared?
  • Andrew Yang
  • Steve Bullock – he’ll run too
  • Marianne Williamson – a new age loon fits right into this gaggle

That ain’t a presidential primary, it’s a soccer team!

If Biden OR Sanders was running, they have the political chops to storm out of the gate with the kind of momentum that would quickly narrow that massive field. But with both of them on the ballot, the race will likely devolve into the old versus young Democratic camps just like the Sanders-Clinton contest did.

And we all know how that ended!

Though it’s very unlikely, if the loon factor does come into play, then Williamson, a New Age “guru” who makes a living recycling 5,000-year-old truths, could make it even more fascinating. And that won’t be a good thing.

Just when I thought the Democrats were finally figuring out how to contend with Trump and his absurd Republican lackeys, they insist upon doing their damndest to hand him a second term on a silver platter.

The truth is, the current President notwithstanding, political miracles are few and far between. So, beyond our six contenders, those 16 also-rans should immediately bow out to serve the greater Democratic good – defeating Donald Trump.

As far as the local election scene goes, try to get some sense of who else might be running before you throw your hat in the ring – especially if it’s your first time out. The smallest campaign requires a lot of effort and it’s sad to watch good candidates embark upon that quest when they have absolutely no shot at winning.

Quick Hits – April 15, 2019

Doomed to repeat it!

Oh lord! You’d a thunk the City of Elgin would’ve learned something from that whole ‘American Nocturne’ public art debacle, but no! Not only is the Elgin Cultural Arts Commission ill-advisedly commissioning art on utility boxes, but the City Council just gave the green light to businesses that want to place murals on their exterior walls.

And in their infinite wisdom, the Council put absolutely no restrictions on the mural content in that amended zoning ordinance, which, of course, begs the question, “What could possibly go wrong with that?”

Elgin Public Art

Given my eminently magnanimous nature and my keen perception of the obvious, it’s time to offer yet more suggestions as to exactly what kind of art these downtown Elgin businesses might put on display:

1. A gaggle of irate Elgin parents storming the U-46 main office with torches and pitchforks as they demand a snow day whenever it’s under 32 degrees with an inch of snow.

2. A depiction of an empty polling place with sleeping judges of election as an homage to the vast number of Elginians who didn’t vote on April 2nd.

3. A grand mural in the style of the Dutch Masters providing a stylized representation of State Senator Cristina Castro being crowned the Queen of all Elgin Hispanics because that’s clearly who she thinks she is.

4. A similar painting of City Councilwoman Tish Powell ordering all the white people out of Elgin because former U-46 School Board member Traci Ellis told her to.

5. A biblical fresco of new City Councilman Baldemar Lopez parting the Fox River because that makes about as much sense as his campaign mailers did.

6. A mural of Elgin Judges John Dalton and Mike Noland campaigning for Baldemar Lopez despite the Canon of Judicial Ethics clearly forbidding that kind of thing.

7. A Picasso-esque depiction of City Councilman Corey Dixon talking out of both sides of his three mouths.

8. A tastefully done nude portrait of the Assistant… on second thought, I should probably keep that one to myself.

9. A dire scene of the new downtown parking sensors going rogue and holding cars hostage for thousands of dollars in bogus parking tickets.

But what really makes this endeavor so patently absurd is the City Council thinks their decision not to regulate content absolves them of any of the potential consequences. But when they voted to require budding business art aficionados to obtain a permit before that first brush stroke, they put themselves right back on the hook.

And when something goes wrong – as it inevitably will – the plurality of Elginians who live to take offense will descend upon City Hall like a horde of locusts demanding immediate redress. They’ll be absolutely correct, too, because once the City turned this into a money-making proposition, they can and should be held accountable.

I’ll say it again! Real art ain’t for sissies. Either the City of Elgin should ban public art and be done with it, or they should get out of the art game completely and let the chips fall where they may.

The good news is, I’ve already gotten one downtown entrepreneur to sign on to one of my artistic interpretations and I’m sure the others will soon follow. All I can say is, the end result is gonna be glorious!


Four bucks for a Sunday paper?

First, I have to apologize for yesterday’s unseasonably inclement weather now. You see, I got our taxes to the accountant in time for the first time in the better part of a decade and clearly, hell is freezing over.

In the process of compiling that paperwork, I had to review our expenses at which point I realized we were paying $26.99 a month simply for the Sunday Tribune delivery. Do a little bit of math and it quickly adds up to $323.00 a year!

So, for the first time since I fled the nest at 20, I will not be receiving some sort of printed newspaper. And if my regular readers recall, there was a time I had five newspapers waiting for me on the driveway every morning:

  • The Chicago Tribune
  • The Chicago Sun-Times
  • The Daily Herald
  • The Beacon-News
  • The Kane County Chronicle

If it wasn’t for this specific gig, with all of the online options available, I wouldn’t bother with the Tribune e-papers anymore, either!

Why? You ask?

Sunday’s paper was lighter than their Wednesday edition used to be such that I made it through the whole thing in a scant ten minutes. Steve Chapman was the only thing really worth reading.

There’s very little interesting or in-depth analysis, there’s virtually no investigative reporting, and if they run one more piece on that insipid ‘Game of Thrones’ crap you’re going to hear the ensuing shriek throughout the greater part of Northern Illinois.

And when you combine this reporting-lite trend with a massive decline in advertising revenue it’s a business model that cannot be sustained. To wit, the Trib’s major Sunday ads consisted of just:

  • Target
  • Kohls – which runs about every other week
  • Walgreens
  • CVS
  • Meijer
  • Menards

There used to be three times as many inserts.

Meanwhile, it would be more than a stretch to call the Courier- and Beacon-News newspapers, because there’s absolutely nothing to them with the exception of columnists who rarely tackle local issues.

I’ll say it again! What we’re witnessing is the slow death of local journalism, and if Jeff Ward has finally given up on print editions, then the end is certainly near. But much like the politicians they love to cover, the Trib will continue to engage in the Einsteinian definition of insanity by cutting back on anything and everything in the bizarre belief that somehow people will suddenly start subscribing again.

Quick Hits – A plus-sized double standard!

It would suddenly seem that consumer businesses are in a race to break down social barriers by tackling some interesting social issues in their advertising. I have to say it’s beyond fascinating to watch TV commercials go from the perfect family making the perfect pizza pull to Gillette attacking “toxic masculinity” in all its alleged dysfunctional glory.

To say it’s a marketing “paradigm shift” would be the most massive of understatements.

Frist, I’m sure those ad agencies crunched every last number in an effort to make sure those challenging ads would appeal to their target market. Gillette certainly ain’t out to commit corporate suicide.

And second, I’m also sure the theory is, whatever offended customers those companies might lose will be more than offset by the millions – or perhaps billions – of dollars in free publicity those ads generate from the inevitable press coverage.

So, if you walk into the Batavia, Illinois, Target and look up, you won’t see a series of statuesque models with perfect bodies in perfect poses somewhat stuffed into perfectly fitting semi-racy bras. Instead, you’ll see a slew of “regular” women of all colors, shapes, and particularly sizes, modelling “regular” underwear as depicted in the photo below.

Target Plus Size

And it’s really kinda cool because most of us don’t fit into that Chrissy Teigen and John Legend mold, and to continue to foist that kind of rare size 6 perfection on people is exactly why so many young women develop eating disorders.

The target (pun intended) should be to be reasonably happy and healthy, not being thin and miserable.

Not to be outdone, Gillette quickly topped Target by featuring an action shot of obese bikini clad model Anna O’Brien kicking it in the surf in their most recent Venus razor promotion. The unique ad features the tag line “Go out and slay the day.”

Gillette Plus Ad

With 41 percent of American women falling into the medically obese category, it wasn’t much of a gamble on Gillette’s part. And that’s especially true when you consider how Twitter, the blogosphere, and the press absolutely lit up with some folks applauding the razor company for their forward thinking, while others accused them of promoting morbid obesity.

All I can say is, per the great P. T. Barnum, Gillette clearly believes there’s no such thing as bad publicity because they summarily sloughed off their legion of critics by declaring:

Venus is committed to representing beautiful women of all shapes, sizes and skin types because ALL types of beautiful skin deserve to be shown. We love Anna because she lives out loud and loves her skin no matter how the ‘rules’ say she should display it.

Though the obesity health risks are abundantly clear, I think Gillette is onto something in the sense that our physical appearance should never determine our well-being. I’ve said it before, if you really want to change something, accept and start with exactly where you are right now.

So, while I certainly fear for Ms. O’Brien’s long-term health, you can’t help but admire her contagious joie de vivre. But here’s the thing! What about plus-sized male models? Shouldn’t they be celebrated, too?

A female friend made the excellent point that, while we’re celebrating the female form in all its glorious shapes and sizes, the same can’t be said for men. She added that, with some clear exceptions, even overweight women won’t give an overweight man a second glance.

So, where are all the gleeful commercials featuring heavyset guys frolicking in the forest clad only in their boxer shorts? How about a Gillette spot with three plus-size men cheerfully shaving each other’s backs? Though I’m not sure exactly what it is, perhaps they could take on toxic femininity, too.

Men have feelings too, you know!

In no way am I trying to proffer the notion that overweight men are suddenly facing a furious feminine persecution. But especially when you consider how women like to believe they take the spiritual and moral high ground, it is a fascinating proposition to consider.

Quick Hits – Critical thinking really is critical!

Oh lord, did I take a boatload of crap for Friday’s column castigating the press for falling for the Pitzen hoax. Then, weighing in on Monday’s report of a man carrying a rifle into Batavia High School on social media was even worse!

Even one of my former managing editors joined in the jumping-all-over-the-messenger-in-an-effort-to-kill-him festivities. How many times do I have to tell you that I’m a man without a country?

But in the immortal words of the late, great philosopher Tom Petty, “I won’t back down” because what terrifies me even more than our current insipid partisan divide is the stark and rapid decline of our capacity to take a critical approach to any topic or event whatsoever.

And God forbid if the unfolding scenario deliciously fits neatly into the viewer’s specifically stilted narrative, then all freakin’ bets are off.

Whether it’s the Coventry Catholic School kids at a D.C. protest, the entire Jussie Smollett saga, or Geneva, Illinois, teachers considering anyone with a mildly opposing viewpoint to be some sort Anti-Christ, demonizing the opposition and jumping to conclusions has become a national sport.

Though I would tend to expect more from educators in this race to a frothing at the mouth rabidity bottom, it’s yet another reason D304 is one of the most overrated school districts in Illinois and I’m happy my children are done with it.

But I digress!

When it was abundantly clear from the start that no one had simply strolled into BHS with a visible rifle, and I said so, you’d think I just reported the Batavia Target had run out of blond hair dye. Put more simply, the ensuing reaction was beyond absurd.

But before we continue, let me clearly state that the citizen who made that report did exactly the right thing. It was odd that they drove to the police station instead of calling 911 (I confirmed that with Tri-Com), but law enforcement had to react exactly as they did. Every last millimeter of that building had to be searched – with dogs – to ensure the safety of those students.


So, when I talk about folks running around in circles while shrieking “the sky is falling,” it’s the generally indiscriminate social media rabble to whom I’m referring. Because anyone with half a brain knew there was no BHS shooter. Here’s why:

1. If you’re gonna shoot up a school, arriving 1.5 hours before the bell rings would be a very strange choice.

2. If you’re gonna hide in the school to lay in wait for the students to arrive, then you’re not going to meander into a building containing innumerable security cameras with a visible rifle. You’d somehow hide it.

3. If someone does walk into a school with a visible weapon, the shooting starts right away, as has been the case in virtually every past incident.

4. Could the potential shooter have had one target in mind, as one individual posited? No! Because walking through a camera laden school with a rifle in an effort to hide somewhere to pick off one person wouldn’t work out very well.

5. And no! You shouldn’t send your children to school under these circumstances because, even if there is no shooter, the police aren’t going to let anyone into the building until it’s been cleared. So, there’s no need to ask that question.

I know it seems illogical to say there’s a logic to school shootings, but there always is. Review each one and you’ll quickly see the similarities. And if we apply that kind of experiential critical thinking, we may actually be able prevent history from repeating itself.

But no! Instead of applying just five percent of your brain cells, most of y’all would rather shriek, howl, sow the seeds of all sorts of needless fear, and make the situation far worse for the authorities who had to effectively contend with it. I’m sure the Batavia Police and D101 were besieged with unnecessary calls at a time when they were trying to deal with a very delicate situation.

Though school shootings clearly occur and the requisite precautions must be taken, they are so rare, the odds of your child – or anyone – dying in any mass shooting (not just at school) are a slim .0012 percent. To put that in perspective, you have a greater chance of getting hit by lightning 28 times over the course of your lifetime.

This conservative theory that we’re so bleeping important that everyone and everything is out to get us has got to go, because it’s driving most of you completely nuts – and that wasn’t a very long trip to begin with!

But the biggest Monday irony was, when my no shooter theory proved to be true, the attacks on yours truly actually increased, because none of y’all can conceive of the possibility that you might have overreacted to something.

C’mon people! Part of the successful critical thinking process is being able to admit when you’re wrong. That’s how we learn. And it’s much easier when you finally realize that you’re not nearly the most important person on the planet. But no! Instead, to requote Mr. Petty, “You believe what you want to believe.”

All it took was a minimum of applied logic to deduce there was no shooter. And if we don’t regularly start applying critical thinking soon, it’s gonna get real ugly real soon.

So, let the attacks on me commence!

Quicks Hits – CNN tries to cover Chicago? Right!

Today’s topic was gonna be how conservatives can’t govern their way out of a plastic shopping bag, but that one will have to wait for Wednesday because CNN “analyst,” John Blake wrote a column entitled ‘The ‘Terrible’ Hypocrisy That Got Chicago’s First Black Lesbian Mayor Elected.’

And you thought I had brevity issues!

Look! You can joke about ‘Chiraq’ even though St. Louis, Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, New Orleans, Newark, Orlando, Memphis, and even Elkhart, Indiana, all boast higher murder rates.

You can make fun of Chicago’s vast penchant for political corruption and the fascinating ways in which these criminal masterminds try to pull it off. Fast Eddie is going to the pokey? Say it ain’t so!

You can joke about the futility known as the Chicago Cubs and that other South Side minor league team that can’t win a game, too. But if you don’t truly understand the word “clout” and you don’t begin to comprehend how Second City politics really work, then don’t embarrass yourself by writing about it.


Because Mr. Blake did just that by declaring how ironic it was that Chicago’s black churches got the eminently gay Lori Lightfoot elected mayor despite their vast and unrepentant homophobia. All I can say is, Mike and Slats are laughing their asses off in that netherworld Billy Boat Tavern over a couple of Old Styles and a pack of Marlboros.

And just what is the basis for Blake’s black church bestowing the mayorship upon Lightfoot contention? One of those ministers told him so.

Oh lord!

Anybody who’s ever REALLY covered politics knows that anyone who helps a candidate in any way – no matter how minimally – will claim complete credit for their victory. It’s yet another bizarre form of human nature, and that’s exactly what these generally ineffective black ministers just did.

All you have to do is take a look at the numbers.

In what turned out the be the February primary, Lightfoot received 97,667 votes. Third place finisher Bill Daley got 82,294. Do the math and you come up with a 15,373 vote margin of victory. With the massive current Chicago African-American exodus and the light voter turnout, there’s no way black church goers tipped those scales, especially with another black woman in the race.

Citylab writer Brentin Mock proved just that in this astute column where he crunches all of the applicable numbers.

Then Lightfoot proceeded to run away with the subsequent runoff by a three-to-one margin, or 239,109 votes, which means she would’ve have won without a single African-American pulling the ballot trigger. So, it would be an understatement to say the black churches had very little to do with that election.

Meanwhile, the Chicago papers have been gushing non-stop over how Lightfoot’s “unconventional” campaign mysteriously worked. But, despite those reporters’ and editors’ regular Windy City coverage, they’re dead wrong, too.

Lightfoot prevailed in the primary thanks to 14th Ward Alderman Ed Burke being arrogant enough to extort a Burger King restaurateur on his fricken’ cell phone. Those “timely” federal charges are the only reason she won.

Not only did the Chicago press hammer the Preckwinkle-Burke connection home, but Lightfoot’s campaign did a masterful job of communicating that same point through a series of TV commercials.

And, as we’ve previously stipulated, Lightfoot destroyed runoff opponent Toni Preckwinkle as a result of that race becoming a referendum on Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s bizarre absolution of ‘Empire’ actor Jussie Smollett.

All Tribune Columnist John Kass had to do is point out that Foxx was a Preckwinkle protégé, the rest of the press picked up on it and, stick a fork in Toni, she was done! It had absolutely nothing to do with African-American churches or Lightfoot’s campaign.

All that said, I do agree with Blake’s contention that it’s beyond ironic for a group that’s had to deal with the worst kind of intolerance to similarly heap that abject bigotry on their gay brothers and sisters.

I too, hope that’s not lost on Ms. Lightfoot, but I also hope she understands that all of Chicago elected her, and not just one franchise.

As for Mr. Blake, I would encourage him to stick to writing about ghost hunters, Jimi Hendrix, and Bigfoot because he’s clearly more suited to those kinds of feature columns. Perhaps he could even write something about his Baltimore hometown because that municipality makes a Saturday night in Chicago look like a walk in the Park.

Quick Hits – When the media falls for a hoax, we’re all bleeped!

If, after their botched “coverage” of the Timmothy Pitzen “story,” the media still wonders why they’re generally loathed, utterly untrusted, and the term “fake news” has caught on, then they’re even worse than the people they cover.

For background purposes, six-year-old Timmothy Pitzen’s mentally ill mother checked him out of his Aurora, Illinois, elementary school in May of 2011 to take a road trip to a zoo and a Wisconsin Dells water park. Three days later, her body was discovered in a Rockford, Illinois, hotel room with a suicide note declaring, “You’ll never find him.”

Fast forward to 2019 and a man who claimed he was 13-year-old Tim Pitzen was found wandering around a Newport, Kentucky, neighborhood alleging he escaped from his most recent abductors who’d been holding him at a nearby Red Roof Inn. The pretender added he’d been “traded” to a series of kidnappers, the latest of whom were two bodybuilders, one tattooed with snake and the other with a spiderweb.


As it turns out, the imposter is a 23-year-old career criminal who’d just been released from prison and, as the woman who spotted him surmised, he was probably trying to steal a car. A DNA test left no doubt.

I’m no rocket scientist, but it didn’t take a genius to determine this was a hoax. And the fact the press – including the Tribune, Beacon-News, Courier-News, Sun-Times and Daily Herald – fell for it hook, line and sinker, is so far beyond disheartening, it’s hard to describe.

All it would’ve taken is the kind of minimal ethical backbone that required a minimal amount of due diligence – or simply waiting a few days – before running the story. But no! It fell in their laps, they knew it would get a ton of hits, and all those editors and reporters desperately wanted to believe it was true.

C’mon! Somebody who ostensibly just escaped from his abductors runs all the way from Ohio to Kentucky – across a rather large bridge, mind you – and only admits who he is when confronted by the police?


Every other victim who’s managed to evade similar circumstances ran to the nearest neighbor or the very first person they saw for help.

Then, to be able to come up with a vivid description of the two men, exactly what they were wearing, all the details about their Ford Explorer, including the “yellow transfer paint,” but he didn’t know the location of the Red Roof Inn where he was being held?


And when was the last time you heard of a same-sex couple – and bodybuilders, no less – abducting or holding a child – in a hotel after six years? That doesn’t begin to match any kind of reality.

Trust me! I understand that we all wanted to hold out hope this for this purported miracle. Hope is what makes us uniquely human. Everyone in Aurora wanted that fairytale ending. I did, too! But the press, and especially newspapers, aren’t supposed to be this susceptible to wishful thinking.

And now that their massive ethical and journalistic lapse has been exposed, the media is doubling down with a bizarre righteous indignation. “How dare that man cause these families such pain.” If the press didn’t cover this hoax, how would they know? Law enforcement wasn’t going to spill the beans until they had hard evidence.

He clearly didn’t look like a 13-year-old boy.

Though there’s no proof of what I’m about to hypothesize, deep down, we all know what really happened.

The Pitzens were in the middle of an acrimonious divorce and Tim’s mother was so terrified her mental illness meant the judge would strip her of custody of her son, she took him for a final vacation, murdered him, and took her own life. That’s why the suicide note read, “You’ll never find him.”

And we  probably never will.

This sad scenario would be almost humorous if it wasn’t for the unconscionable and utterly unnecessary gut-wrenching pain the press just inflicted on the Pitzen family. This actually was the most abhorrent kind of “fake news.”

As my late mother would’ve said, “There’s gotta be a special place in hell for all those editors and reporters.”