The Barbershop has re-located

The proprietor has moved the shop to ChicagoNow, a Chicago Tribune site that showcases some of the best bloggers in the Chicago area. You can logo on to the Barbershop home page here. The ChicagoNow home page is here.

You'll still be able to post comments with the same ease as in this location. The proprietor also will keep this web site alive if you wish to review old posts.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Cutting Through the Hyperbole on Hamdan

By Dennis Byrne

With all the confusion, rushed judgments and overheated rhetoric created by the U.S. Supreme Court's Hamdan complex decision, it's perhaps best to first look at what it does not do.

It does not:

• Satisfy the supposed demands of "world opinion:" the closing of the Guantanamo Bay camp and the immediate release of its detainees.

• Free Salim Ahmed Hamdan, the acknowledged driver and bodyguard for Osama bin Laden.

• Exclude Hamdan from a court martial or, if Congress decides, trail by a military tribunal.

• Say that Hamdan or any others cannot be held "for the duration of active hostilities."

• Require that he, or other detainees, be tried before a civilian court, as some anti-war activists had demanded.

• Prohibit the United States from detaining future enemy combatants.

Read the rest at

Monday, June 26, 2006

Guillen speaks: Do we really even care?

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

The men's locker room is where you get your butt snapped with a wet towel. Where names are called, insults hurled, dirty stories told and resounding belches brought up. All without penalty.

It's called "locker room humor" for a reason. It is the last refuge of what a clever TV commercial calls "man law," where indignities, slurs and various disparagements are as constitutionally protected as the practice of religion in Old St. Pat's. It is the male safety valve, as effective as a woman's gentle touch in an anxious moment. It is crude, ribald, sweaty, smelly and possessed of all the ambiance of a jockstrap hung out to dry.

By logical and lawful extension, the locker room includes the courtside bench, sidelines and, in baseball, the dugout, where White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen recently committed the capital offense of disparaging a local sports columnist by calling him a name that insults gays.

It has caused pandemonium. News stories have flashed around the world, describing his breach. Columnists and talk-show hosts issued condemnations. Activists and the targeted columnist--Jay Mariotti of the Chicago Sun-Times--have called for Guillen's suspension, or worse. (Garroting has yet to come.) Of course, Mariotti has not noticed the irony of someone who has set world records for offending (that would be Mariotti) insisting that someone else should be removed, even temporarily, from his job for offending.

Losing a job for exercising a constitutionally protected right is a sanction that Guillen, and even Mariotti, should not suffer. But it appears that Major League Baseball has decided to succumb to the long arm of the "feelings" police. We now can truly say that no place is shielded from Big Brother's eyes and ears. We now, as a society, have become touchy beyond measure.

Nevermind the hypocrisy of it all. Up pops Rick Garcia of Equality Illinois (as his business plan requires) calling for "appropriate sanctions," including suspension for using the word. Here's someone who hurls his own insults, for example, by calling Cardinal Francis George a "bigot" and classifies those who disagree with him as "homophobes." Nevermind that Mariotti himself is one of the town's biggest name-callers.

True, Guillen could have called Mariotti something else; Guillen had so many fitting and accurate pejoratives to choose from. Also true, if Guillen had used any of those other pejoratives, sportswriters probably wouldn't have made much of it, because, charitably put, Mariotti is not the best loved by his colleagues.

Which brings up a question: Sportswriters unfailingly mention Guillen's penchant for using salty language. But much of that language never appears in print or on the air. So, why publish this one? No, seriously. Why publish one offensive thing and not publish another? Is there a hierarchy-of-insult list that someone keeps? Say "blah" and it gets on the news, but say "blah-blah" and it doesn't?

Actually, I've never understood how sportswriters work anyway. They're blessed by the fact that they've got plenty of drama to describe, right there on the field or court of play. All they have to do is show up at the assigned time. Usually with the benefit of preferred parking and preferred seats.

So, then, why is so much time spent describing the "action" in the locker room? And gathering post-game quotes? As I've said before, if the locker room action was more interesting than the on-field play, then viewers would be clamoring for more TV cameras in the locker rooms. We might even dispense with live TV coverage of the action.

Even more, this entire uproar occurred as the White Sox were clobbering one of the best teams in baseball, the team that was supposed to meet them in last year's World Series. That's enough excitement for me, and I bet if you asked most Chicagoans, it would be for them too. Most Chicagoans, I bet, would say that all this fighting over what Guillen can or cannot say sounds too much like manufactured news.

It's almost as if the White Sox had created a news vacuum by winning, and something stupid like this controversy had to be rushed in to fill it.

Copyright 2006, Chicago Tribune

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Social Conservatives Were Right, Again

By Dennis Byrne

The number of the tributes in the mainstream media to dads over the Father's Day weekend was stunning, something that no one would have believed a decade ago.

Even liberal columnists were praising fathers, their own included, when not long ago it was a matter of progressive conviction to either ignore or ridicule the importance of fathers.

Even black columnists recently have been uttering the unthinkable, that the absence of fathers in the lives of African-American children has had a devastating impact of the social, psychological, economic and moral well being of their families. God bless them for having the courage to stand against same charges of racism that rained down on lonely social conservatives who were making the same point years ago.

Continue at

Friday, June 16, 2006

Bush Playing Like a Big Leaguer Again

By Dennis Byrne

Oops, President George Bush's approval rating has started to inch back up, so we media need to do something about it.

I got it; let's hint around that Bush was a coward for visiting Baghdad's "Green Zone," the protected American sector but, which we won't mention, is within range of mortars, etc.

News person Claire Shipman beat me to it on ABC's Good Morning America when she concluded her report on the president's surprise trip to Iraq: "There's a flip side of course; the fact that the Baghdad [emphasis not added] hardly suggests a situation nearing stability there."

Back to you Robin Roberts at the anchor desk, for an endorsement: "Good point," Roberts seconded.

Good thing we had Claire to point it out; many people otherwise might have thought that Bush was on a stroll through Ramadi without a flack jacket. If you missed Claire's report, others showed up to remind us that Bush was cowering in an impenetrable stockade. Everyone from the left-wing flamers at the Guardian to Workers World. Which tells you the value of that commentary

Continue at

Monday, June 12, 2006

Who's running Cook County?

By Dennis Byrne

Chicago John Stroger's family and friends are doing the Cook County Board president no favors by keeping his true medical condition a secret from the public.

If Stroger, 77, is healthy, as they say he is, then one hopes that he would order his doctors to make the kind of medical disclosures one expects from important public officials, including the president of the United States, who are "suspected" of being incapacitated.

I say suspected because months after his serious stroke on March 14, Cook County voters, to whom Stroger is accountable, still don't know if he is capable of running a $3 billion enterprise.

Yet last week when Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica (R-Riverside), Stroger's Republican opponent for the board presidency, reasonably asked for a doctor's accounting, some county commissioners turned on him with ridicule and anger.

It's disrespectful, they said. John Daley, chairman of the county's Finance Committee, declared it to be a "damn disgrace."

No, here's the disgrace: that tin-pot politicians on their high horses think that we are not entitled to know. That they are such vassals that, even though they're legally responsible for running the government, they're perfectly willing to be kept in Kremlin-like ignorance.

Those who demand to know Stroger's true condition are not the ones who are stomping on his dignity. It's Stroger's gatekeepers who are turning this process into an inexcusable joke.

This is such a high-stakes game that the insiders (the Stroger family?) dared to tell Rev. Jesse Jackson to take a hike when he asked to visit the president. Jackson, who has mediated international disputes, can't even get through the door on this one.

I hope that Stroger returns in good health to seek re-election. But if he does return, his health and the secrecy that surrounded his rehabilitation will be a suitable topic for debate, in addition to his record as president.

Read on

Leslie Pinney, a member of the Arlington Heights-based Township High School District 214 board, didn't deserve the tarring she got when she tried to exercise board control over what students are required to read.

I emphasize "required" because she wasn't trying to tell students what they "can" or "cannot" read, as at least one student put it. She wasn't trying to "ban" books from the classroom or the library. She wasn't trying to "burn" books or conduct Hitlerian censorship, as others hysterically would have it.

She is no guiltier of trying to "ban" books than any schoolteacher who makes up a class reading list and leaves certain books off, for whatever reasons.

Get it straight: When a teacher makes up a required reading list, he is making a judgment about what is good for his students.

This is not a neutral action. It is giving official sanction to a value judgment. That parents can have their kids "opt out" of the list is not an adequate response to complaints about its content, no more than an opt-out option for non-believing students makes mandatory school prayer acceptable.

Pinney was doing what an elected member of an Illinois school board is obliged by law to do: set education policy. She is not preventing anyone from raising his children "the way I want to," as one overwrought critic said.

Yes, she had a different view about what is suitable for required reading than other board members, her critics and perhaps me. That is a proper matter for debate. But her right to challenge required reading lists cannot and must not be denied.

For those telling her to shut up and go away, a compulsory remedial logic course would be in order.



Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Will Supreme Court take the side of parents on school choice?

Here's a lesson in how bad public policy spreads, until it becomes the law of the land.

The bad policy being: A plan that was designed to offer parents more “choice” in educating their children, actually turned into a state-concocted straightjacket requiring that some kids be bused across town, because they were the wrong race.

Continue reading at the Heartland Institute's blog, "From the Heartland." This is the first of what will be my regular contributions to the blog.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Pro-Gay Groups: Offer Your Own Amendment

By Dennis Byrne

Here's a suggestion: If pro-gay groups don't like the Marriage Protection Amendment--declaring that marriage in America shall consist solely of a union of a man and a woman--they should offer one of their own that will settle the issue once and for all.

The amendment would be as simple as the long-debated and failed Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, with the addition of one word and a small change to another:

"Equality of Rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sexual orientation."

Then, let's see where the chips fall.

Continue at

What will governor try to sell next?

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

What Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is trying to do to the state and its taxpayers used to be called "living out of the attic."

That's selling your assets in order to pay your everyday expenses, such as eating. Because you irresponsibly have been living beyond your paycheck, you must sell your car, furniture and first-born. Soon, your attic will be empty, and then how will you eat? Having sold off your house, where will you eat?

It's a recipe for disaster, as it is for the State of Illinois.

In Blagojevich's cynical attempt to (in the following order) get himself re-elected, cover up his gigantic fiscal mess and live the liberal dream of a cradle-to-grave caretaker state, the governor wants to sell our assets, most recently the lottery and tollway.

It's not the first time he's tried this scam. Three years ago, the Democratic governor was ready to put up the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago's Loop. The state office building is still in the hands of taxpayers, but no telling what he'll try next: Navy Pier, McCormick Place, U.S. Cellular Field, the state Capitol, state parks, the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Cicero, the governor's office?

Not that selling off some of the state's stuff is necessarily a bad idea. But when it's the only alternative left to balance the budget, then it is bad. It's a sure sign that the budget is nothing but a pile of rot. It is an act of desperation.

We're at this point because of Blagojevich's prior flimflams, such as raiding the state's pension fund. I suppose he could try to squeeze more money out of state retirees, but that would be too politically expensive.

Even the usual political allies are concerned. John Adler, of the Service Employees International Union, said selling the tollway could be perceived as the equivalent of Native Americans selling Manhattan Island for $24 in beads and trinkets.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat, sent out a letter to fellow lawmakers raising serious questions about the lottery: "Let's slow down and take a look at what assets should be held perpetually in trust for the taxpayers. Is this the best way to fund education? How much would it generate and which schools would benefit? Will it lead to further state-sponsored gambling?"

Funny, those are the same kinds of questions that Republicans, including Blagojevich's GOP opponent, state Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, are asking. They are not getting answers.

Republican state Sens. Peter Roskam, a west suburban congressional candidate, and Kirk Dillard want to know a potential sale's effect on suburban drivers. In case the governor hasn't noticed, the tollway serves the suburbs. Will their (increased) tolls be siphoned off, in effect, to benefit other areas of the state? Apparently, that's not a question that interests Blagojevich, as the Democrats (who run the tollway) failed to schedule any hearings on the proposal in DuPage or suburban Cook County, the tollway's two largest users.

The lottery, the governor claims, could go for $10 billion. But he refused to let anyone examine the study. It would be like sharing a sports playbook with an opposing team, his office said, meaning that companies interested in the lottery could use the information to bid lower.

Arrogant nonsense. Forget about the public's right to know. Any company that would spend $10 billion to buy a lottery will rely on its own study, not someone else's, to decide how much to bid.

Arrogant nonsense is all we've been getting from Blagojevich. Every week seems to bring more reason to regard Blagojevich as a dangerous windbag who will do anything to get re-elected. Most recently was the disclosure that the governor's aides, early in his administration, reviewed and approved hundreds of employment decisions, often by name--jobs that were supposed to go through the non-political civil service process. Or using the lottery idea to buy off state Sen. James Meeks, a Chicago independent who threatened to run against the governor.

All this from the guy who promised a new day of reform. One who has the feds sniffing around to find out if he has handed out jobs to campaign donors and political allies.

Sound familiar?



Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune