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.

BHS

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.

Lightfoot

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.

Pitzen

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?

Right!

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?

Right!

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.”

 

Quick Hits – 2019 election recap

Given another abysmally low voter turnout, there really weren’t many surprises last night. So, let’s get started:

Election Results

1. Chicago

The fact that Lori Lightfoot won surprised no one, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen any Second City mayoral contender prevail by three-to-one margin over a real opponent. That was beyond shocking. As a Facebook friend said last night, “Call the Chicago Police, there’s been a murder.”

Toni Preckwinkle’s campaign inexplicably turned to some of the most bizarre forms of mud-slinging I’ve ever seen which certainly didn’t help, but in the end, this race turned in to a forum on Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx fumbling the Jussie Smollett case.

So, Chicago! You just elected your first former federal prosecutor and openly gay black female mayor! She’s also the first non-Chicago born mayor since Anton Cermak. Though, considering the current state of The City That Ain’t Quite Working, you can’t help but wonder if Preckwinkle is the real winner here.

And speaking of Toni, given this kind of trouncing, I think her political career is over. She may be able hang onto the Cook County Democratic Chairmanship, but she’ll be hard pressed to retain the County Board presidency.

Could Chicago really be ready for reform?

 

2. U-46 School District

Proving, once again, that conservatives can’t govern, extreme right-wing incumbent Jeannette Ward and her similarly ideological school board slate went down in flames. And that’s really something when you consider that lighter turnouts tend to favor conservative candidates.

Unable to catch on anywhere else, Ward used her board seat to press a stilted agenda that never worked with U-46 voters and they just let her know that in no uncertain terms. True to herself till the end, Ward thanked “The Lord Jesus” for allowing her to serve on the school board.

But ain’t it funny how they never blame God for an election loss!

That said, my fondest wish is for the new board to dismiss any talk of a mandate and to show a willingness to ask the tough questions when the issue demands it. A school district the size of U-46 is always a difficult proposition.

 

3. Elgin Mayor and City Council

I couldn’t think of a reason not to reelect Mayor Dave Kaptain and the voters echoed that sentiment in a massive two-to-one victory. While I certainly like City Councilman Carol Rauschenberger, I still can’t figure out why she decided to run.

Meanwhile, to absolutely no one’s surprise, on the City Council side, John Steffen, Toby Shaw, Rose Martinez, and sadly, Tish Powell easily defended their seats. With Elgin generally firing on all cylinders, none of the challengers could come up with a compelling message.

Baldemar Lopez basically bought the two-year seat, but when you consider he barely beat an underfunded Steve Thoren, it ain’t any kind of mandate.

Lopez, who doesn’t play well with others, will turn out to be an ineffective councilman who simply see’s this “victory” as a stepping stone to Springfield.

 

4. Aurora

There were certainly no surprises here as those incumbents also retained their city council seats. And just as The First Ward predicted, 6th Ward Alderman Mike Saville destroyed his three opponents by a combined two-to-one margin.

Much like the late Naperville Mayor George Pradel was utterly unbeatable, Saville will be an Aurora alderman for as long as he wants to serve.

Thought I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of him, perennial candidate Matt Harrington keeps racking up the kind of huge losses that will make it impossible for him to win anything.

But perhaps all is not lost because also-ran Mavis Bates finally won an election! She will be the new at-large Fox Valley Park District Commissioner. I don’t remember the last time a park district candidate deployed those much more expensive 4 by 4 signs, but perhaps they did the trick!

 

5. Geneva

I just don’t get it! I’ve listened to my fellow Genevans rant and rave about the scurrilous tax and spend Springfield Democrats for years, and then they go out and send two union-backed candidates to the school board. It’s essentially a vote to raise your taxes.

On the city council side, despite the fact that 5th Ward Alderman Craig Maladra didn’t noticeably campaign, he handily dispatched challenger Tom Simonian who still can’t figure out how to run a political campaign.

I’d like to think that Tom has finally been put out of our collective misery, but I’d be willing to bet he runs for mayor again in 2021.

 

6. Sugar Grove

In the only other surprise of the night, two – count ‘em – two Sugar Grove write in candidates appear to have won their Trustee races. Wow! I’ve only seen one write-in candidate win a contested race and that was only after I wrote about him.

But two write-ins receiving more than 500 votes a piece? I never thought I’d see that day!

 

7. Waubonsee Community College

No surprises here, but it was fascinating to watch two former high-profile candidates run for trustee.

Willie Mayes Sr., who came out on the short end of the stick, ran for Sheriff in 2014 and 2018, while Rick Guzman, who came within inches of winning the Aurora mayoral race, will serve on that board.

 

9. Referenda

With the exception of Huntley library bonds, it was not a good night for any entity asking for:

  • More money
  • A higher retail tax rate
  • A higher limiting rate

Or anything of the kind.

Among those losers was, you guessed it the Fox River and Countryside Fire Protection District who were denied a tax extension limitation. At this point, that group couldn’t pass a referendum promising to mow residents’ lawn for the entire summer.

It’s time for the state to finally step in, disband this ill-conceived district, and let it be absorbed by their far more solvent neighbors.

 

Other than saying shame on you for not voting and go out and pick up your signs, that’s it for 2019 folks!

 

Quick Hits deferred!

With the publication of ‘So You Want to Win a Local Election’ looming large, most of my day was spent on those particular issues. Quick Hits will return Wednesday with what will likely be an Election Day recap. Until then…