Friday, April 10, 2015

Social Work Cops Instead of Gun Cops

Police work is actually pretty safe, especially compared to a lot of ordinary well paid trades work. Mining and farming are, of course, more dangerous, as is taxi driving. The police do have though a well organized and effective public relations media machine. And that machine ensures that every police death is well publicized.

That machine has been especially needed these last twenty years as police work has become safer and police deaths have declined and indeed their reason for being, crime, itself has declined. While sometimes police forces may have been allowed to stagnate, the idea of actual reductions based on lessening needs has absolutely not been allowed to circulate.

Most people are not aware of the decline of crime in the U.S. Back when there was a lot of crime, much of it was not reported. Dog bites man stuff. But as crime and killing declined the reality shifted. Now its increasing rarity made each instance more newsworthy. So even as crime declined its media reportage stayed the same. So much so that one of Chuy Garcia's campaign suggestions was to increase police "man"-power.

At a time when in communities of color police were recognized as the problem and not a solution, the "progressive" candidate, Chuy Garcia showed a serious lack of sophistication.

When he said that I thought, "what we need are not more police but more social workers." Think that's nuts. Well talk to a gang-unit police commander and you will find that a lot of their work is done on the internet on social media.

Hiring police social workers also holds to potential to fix the racist over-reliance on violent force as a policing tool. Since cop culture requires adoption of a common cynical racist mind-set that punishes whistle-blowing and tattle-telling it would be necessary to start out social work cops in their own segregated units. In their own cars and without guns a brand new culture would become ingrained. When strong enough to stand on their own, these social work cops would then begin spending time cruising the neighborhood with gun-cops. Eventually the gun-cops would work with the social work cops, but without guns. After a shooting a gun-cop would not be put behind a desk, rather they would be sent out sans-gun with a social work cop.

It's a pretty simple thing to do. It costs no more. It's just not the way things are done.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Congressional Ukraine Arms Vote

348 to 48 as a loss looks bad. Could be worse, could be raining as Young Frankenstein says. There were also 36 non-voting on the "Lets make more war in the Ukraine" bill. Folks, you need to get the message. Russia is capitalist now. It has billionaires of its own. So get over the U.S.A. is #1 crap and start treating other countries as equals.

As you can see the only intelligent representative in Illinois is good ole Jan Schakowsky. Even Wisconsin does better.

Here's the vote: (Bold is "Democrat" but not necessarily much else.)

WI1Ryan (WI)Y

IL2Kelly (IL)Y





IL7Davis, DannyNV






IL13Davis, RodneyY

IN5Brooks (IN)Y


IL16Kinzinger (IL)Y
IN7Carson (IN)Y


IN9Young (IN)Y

Monday, March 02, 2015

Red-Line Aggression

Mary Mitchell recounts in the Chicago Sun-Times an experience on the Brown Line of aggressive behavior towards her and her having to resort to using the Red Call Button to summon the operator.  (

I agree with Mary Mitchell. It is extremely important that CTA users stand up for each other. When a wolf enters your train car you can act like a sheep or you can act like a cat. But the last thing you want to act like is a mouse.

One should immediately take notice of loud aggressive behavior. I'm not suggesting that you jump up and become a hero, but you need to be ready to back up any hero that does emerge. Mary was a hero here and did exactly the right thing. Hitting the call button can take courage. No one wants to be the cause of everyone else being delayed. But aggressive disturbance needs to be nipped in the bud or like graffiti it grows like cancer.

I'm a 68 yo man. At ten pm one night two weeks ago on the red line between Fullerton and my exit at Granville I had the opportunity to face three aggressive young women. They had hounded an older man and forced him to seek respite by going to the next car through the connecting doors. He was too incapable to succeed. So he found himself cowered across from me as they hounded him.

When I suggested that the young women back off they screamed at me to mind my own business. I told them that whenever someone on a train was making others uncomfortable that it became everyone's business. They screamed at me to shut up. They called me names. Very intense and unpleasant.

But this was not a dangerous situation. They were young women, tough yes, and with gang-like (I hesitate to use that proto-racist phrase) association amongst them. But they were not physically assaulting the old-man and their aggression toward me was only verbal. The fact that it did go on so long was an indication of its lack of real danger.

However it is clear that several other people were paying attention. Everyone else stayed out of it, yes. But I suspect that my stepping into it would have garnered me some back-up if it had escalated.
But here's where it actually gets more interesting. A young women sitting near me with her head buried in her headphones turned out to actually be paying attention. At some point she removed her head phones and asked if I had ever been groped.
See, the reason they were hounding the old man was because they were accusing him of improper sexually motivated behavior.

Truth presented in an Instant court-room drama is impossible to discern. But I am willing to hope that the hounding punishment meted out by the young women was commensurate with the severity of his alleged groping.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Fiction - It's Just a Comfortable Bar for Women.

A buddy invited me out drinking at this bar he'd talked of before.

"Look," he said, "if we are polite and mind our manners we just might get lucky." Luck had never been something I had associated with bars, but I really didn't need any luck at the moment anyway. For the record I will not be mentioning the name of this bar nor will I confirm or deny it's location. Sure it could be in Andersonville or Avondale or even by the Zoo. You'll just have to find it on your own.

When I had asked last time what sort of bar it was I had gotten a vague answer. "It's women friendly," he'd said", "but it's not lesbian. I mean lesbians are welcome and you will see them there. It's kinda feminist but guys are welcome too. It's just a comfortable bar for women."

"SO why are we going again," I asked?

"It's 'gentlemen's night.' Beer is cheap for us," is all he would say.

We entered the bar. It was inviting. More of a cafe feel than a bar feel. Yes there was an actual bar with bar stools but there were also tables scattered around and a few couches etc. I almost didn't notice the absence of a big sports tv with a game on. It was a comfortable bar. Also missing were loud booming male voices. In fact the men that I saw seemed more quiet than the women.

My host began in, "Now listen don't stare and don't draw anyone's attention." It was an odd thing to say, I thought to myself. I looked around. There were plenty of well dressed and not un-attractive women there. Some even sitting alone.

"What did I just say," he whisper hissed at me? "You gotta pay attention to me. Don't go eying the women."

The more insistent he got the more curious I became. I was here to hang with him and I was not in the market for a fling or even a chat-up. But the more he said the more I wanted to check the place out.

A server came over to us. "Good evening gentlemen. Have you been here before? Do you have any questions?"

I was beginning to have questions but I held my tongue. I would be following my buddy for now.

"No thanks. I've been here before," he said. "I'll fill him in as needed."

"Fine. Are you ready to order?"

He turned to me. "You like wine? They have a really good Bordeaux Blanc."

I had thought we were coming for beer. He was clearly a bit nervous. I figured the best thing to do was just to keep humoring him. I simply nodded. I was becoming talk shy. Afraid of making some faux pas.

After she had left I ventured that I was expecting beer. "I changed my mind. I think wine would look better."

I was becoming increasingly puzzled. To my mind there were two major considerations when choosing a drink: the taste and the alcohol content. Looks, to my mind, while interesting were not a consideration by themselves.

It was then that I noticed a table of guys. In fact, now that I thought about it the table had become noticeable in a stand out sort of manner. A server approached and tapped a man on the shoulder.

"No. No. I didn't do anything. What did I do? No."

"Ugh oh," my buddy said. "Now he's just digging himself in deeper."

"What," I asked?

"He should have quietly apologized immediately and meekly gotten up to leave."

"What? What did he do?"

"I don't know, and it doesn't matter."

Just then the server came over with two drinks. "Compliments of the lady over there," she nodded in the direction of the bar.

I looked and then looked back at my buddy. He said, "just nod thanks and return to talking to me. For gods' sake don't stare and don't get up."

In my quick glance and nod she seemed nice. What had gotten into my buddy?

"Look," he continued, "if she's interested in us she'll come over to our table. Whatever you do don't call attention to yourself now."

At that point I had had it.

"OK," I said,"what's going on here. You've been acting so strange. I'm starting to get worried about you. Tell me what's happening or I am out of here. What is this place anyway?"

"I thought I told you? I didn't? This is like a feminist bar. They have a very strict code of conduct for us guys. Number one is no hitting on the women. Don't even look like you're hitting on one. Never do anything that could even be construed as the 'first move.' That guy that got ejected, well he coulda been sent packing for just staring too long at some woman. And it wasn't even necessarily the woman he was staring at that got him ejected. Any woman at any time can ask that any guy be kicked out. She doesn't even need a reason. She just has to ask and they do it. And you never know who or why. Because there might not have been a reason."

"That seems unfair," I replied.

"Maybe it is but it's the owner's bar and the owner's rules. With alcohol they have a lot of leeway with the liquor commission in the conduct they can permit in their bar. And here it's one strike and you are out. Here they have zero tolerance for whatever they choose to call 'sexist behavior.' Their goal is to make it a very comfortable bar for women."

Just then the woman who had bought us drinks came over with a friend. "Hey hard butt studlies mind if we join you?"

Like he had told me, sometimes you get lucky. Just don't push your luck. Don't even tap it.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Aldermanic Politics: So Joe and Harry, Can You be Progressive and Neo-Liberal?

I am thinking about Joe Moore and Harry Osterman here. I always think about Harry but I was sparked to think about Joe because of the recent Reader article (Alderman Joe Moore explains his choice of beer and support for Rahm). He is a self-proclaimed Rahm supporter. He is a so-called progressive. Rahm in the meantime is what's called neo-liberal.

Progressive is understood these days as being the left-wing of the Democratic big tent. Neo-liberal is not really much of popular label at all. It's more of an insider label. Indeed there may be many so-called progressives who might be hard pressed to pin down a definition, even for themselves.

I use the term to refer to those Democrats who favor moving as much of the public infrastructure as possible into the private sector. Especially into the corporate private sector. Think charter schools. Think privatized water. Think privatized jails. You get the picture? Just remember that there is no need to stop pretty much anywhere. Think of hiring private mercenary corporations instead of the U.S. Army.

In Chicago, the first two, water and schools are the current and likely next battle grounds between the so-called progressives and the neo-liberals. Why do I keep saying so-called progressives? Well now we are back to Joe Moore. In the interview with Joe in the Reader, Mike Dumke seemed not to ask about either question, charter schools or water. So I am left wondering.

Where does Joe stand on charter schools and privatized water? Does he stand with Rahm on those? Even if not publicly?

Where does Harry stand for that matter? Harry recently took a stand against a charter school and another for Senn Public High School. But with Harry you never know whether such stands are tactical or philosophical. He holds all of his cards close to the vest. He is nothing if not a very practical politician.

So for Harry we might better ask where does the 48th ward community stand? There are two ways to find out. Conduct a poll or for Harry to make a move against the community and face some wrath. The ultimate wrath being successful opposition at the ballot box.

That's Joe's situation as we speak. The guy he barely beat in 2007, Don Gordon is back. But I don't see Don calling Joe out on either issue as that would be running at Joe from the left. And Joe substantially shored up his left flank with Participatory Budgeting. So Don is likely to run at Joe from the right, safety. Specifically so-called gang violence and crime in general. I myself don't see it working. I'm not sure that Rogers Park is really ready for gentrification. Gentrifiers care about crime. Crime keeps property values down and therefore taxes down. So I bet a lot of Rogers Parkers aren't ready for Lincoln Park style gentrification. Hell they aren't ready for Edgewater style gentrification. They still think their kids will be able to afford to live there when they grow up.

But Joe really is vulnerable to an opposition from the left. Problem is it would take a Paul Wellstone caliber campaigner to pull it off.

And so, by the way, is Harry vulnerable from the left. Harry has worked hard and successfully to shore up his right wing by being lauding his crime fighting cred. But lets face it, gay gentrification is different than straight gentrification. It can be fickle. Gay gentrifiers might actually care about participatory government more than Harry does.

But then again they may not. Conservative myths pushed by main stream media (MSM) run stronger these days and democratic ideals weaker. Take the myth that the private sector is more efficient than the public one. That's a myth belied by facts like that the social security bureaucracy is way more efficient than any private insurance bureaucracy. The problem for private bureaucracy is that the money saved ends up going into the owners pockets and is called profits. They way neo-liberalism supposedly saves money is by busting unions. But that just takes money out of a local economy and sends it to global profit centers. But if you want to run your government on the cheap, well sure, go for it. But it becomes less and less your government when you do.

Ultimately the neo-liberal privateers just want to reduce taxes, just like conservatives, on the rich and the corporate. And that's giant myth number two. Reducing taxes is good for everybody. The biggest problem is that somehow the taxes on the rich always get reduced more, even proportionately. Recycling tax dollars into the local economy directly tends to export more dollars out of our local economy and faster than recycling tax dollars via public wages first.

So can an alderman be progressive and neo-liberal. Well not in my book. But then I'm not a bookie.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Fears and Anxieties On the Lakefront Path

It's a beautiful sunny day. You're on the lakefront path. Maybe you are biking or maybe you're jogging or maybe you're walking. You are most definitely not alone. And if you are relaxing then you are in danger.

Anytime while biking and you pass a walker you could find yourself sprawled on top of them because they have taken a single step to the side. It's a constant fear.

Regularly while walking a bike will whiz past you unseen until you feel the rush of air as they pass inches to your side. It's a constant fear.

As a walker you don't see them coming and as a biker you know they can't see you coming.

The solution is separate paths. Sure, just as soon as the millions of dollars are organized and committed the Park District will get right on it.

But in the meantime, how's about spending a few thousand dollars and plant some signs that would create a self-reinforcing cultural change whereby the walkers and joggers shift to the other side of the path?

It's not like we haven't had it drilled into us since toddler-hood that on a road without sidewalks we walk on the left facing the oncoming car traffic. It would become self-regulating. If you forget, the dirty looks from walkers doing it correctly, the ones that you have to move out of their way, would quickly serve as a reminder to shift to the other side. Or maybe you would get lucky and it would be a friendly smiling word of reminder.

Is it needed? Damn straight it is. In the last five years there has been at least one civil lawsuit won by a victim of a walker/biker crash on the lakefront path. Tens of thousands of dollars passed hands. Even if it was insurance money it's a big deal. The fact that I don't even remember which party sued is irrelevant. It could have gone either way.

Really it is the Park District that maybe should get sued for not pursing this SIMPLE, CHEAP and DOABLE improvement to our enjoyment of our lakefront path.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Traffic In Edgewater revisited

[Reply to a post in Streetsblog]

Traffic in Edgewater must be considered as a whole community. Treating traffic only on Ridge will raise the hackles of community members along the other routes. It means dealing with traffic on Sheridan, Broadway, Ridge, Hollywood, Peterson and north bound Ridge.

There are only two grand solutions to traffic in Edgewater and the second forces the issue on the first.
The best solution likely is extending LSD north to Evanston. My preferred solution is the Proppe & Green version. . The standard cynical reply is that the lakefront owners will not approve. First I don't believe that and second it is not their decision to make. The lakefront is a City/State/National/Planetary treasure. Many more people have a stake in its use than a few people that live there along Sheridan Road.

The second solution is to just do it. All of the roads mentioned above, except possibly northbound Ridge are candidates for road diets. And here's the little known reality about all the non-Edgewater traffic that uses those roads. The corner of Sheridan and Hollyoood, the entry/exit of LSD, is a bottleneck. That is the limiting factor for the amount of traffic that can pass through Edgewater. Making roads wider will not increase the flow. And likewise, a lot of roads can be made narrower without decreasing the flow through Edgewater either. That is the nature of a bottle-neck.

The extra road space that exists now serves as the bottle that holds the traffic waiting to get through the neighborhood. It is merely temporary parking for folks waiting for the bottle neck to clear for their turn to get through. Why not have them wait in another neighborhood, like their own? You know the lights on ramps onto expressways that make you wait your turn during high traffic? Well in essence narrowing the Edgewater roads would serve the same function.

But even squeezing out the excess cars during rush hour still will not reduce traffic enough for returning the neighborhood to a reasonably pedestrian friendly one. For that we need to just say NO. For that the neighborhood needs to size the streets to appropriate sizes needed for a typical Chicago city neighborhood. If there are screams from the through riding outsiders , especially the north shore sub-urbanites, then they can go find the money to fund the win-win solution for us all, the two-lane each way LSD extension in the lake.