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.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Friday, June 26, 2009

Judging The Judge in the Cop Beating Case

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Daily Observer

For more than 20 years as a columnist, I’ve kept my mouth shut whenever a judge or a jury makes a decision that I don’t believe is right. Even when every opinionizer in the country was fuming over the jury’s acquittal of O.J. Simpson of murder charges, I didn’t write in disagreement, although I was mightily shocked.

The reason is that I wasn’t in the courtroom, hearing all the facts and law. I wasn’t in the jury room, listening to peers shift through the evidence. Second guessing the justice system is a dangerous sport, weakening our respect for the law and criminal proceedings.

This self-imposed silence on my part is now challenged by one Cook County Circuit Judge John J. Fleming, who sentenced a big cop to two years probation for beating up a tiny woman bartender, as shown on a security camera tape that circulated digitally around the world. The 250-pound cop, Anthony Abbate, also was ordered to perform 130 hours of community service at a homeless shelter, attend anger management classes, observe a strict 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew during the probation period and undergo drug and alcohol evaluations.

Read more in The Chicago Daily Observer

Chicago Olympics bid team to hold secret meetings with aldermen

At every turn, Mayor Richard M. Daley, Pat Ryan and the Chicago Silly Council make themselves look ever more like dunces. Now comes word that Ryan's Chicago 2016 Olympic committee is meeting in secret with aldermen to brief them on a controversial move by Daley to secure the Olympics for Chicago in 2016.

The committee is trying to respond to the spreading public beef that followed Daley giving in to the International Olympic Committee by saying that he would sign a contract that requires the city to make up for any losses suffered by the Games if they are held in Chicago. Daley and Ryan said not to worry; the "private sector" would cover the losses by taking out a big, $500 million insurance policy.

These guys think that a series of secret meetings with aldermen are going to quell the growing public alarm over what Daley is getting us into?

Hal Turner's right to speak ends with death threats

This week's arrest of Hal Turner, a white supremacist, for threatening to murder three federal appeals court judges in Chicago is expected to set off the usual hand wringing among bloggers about threats to free speech.


He used his web site to call for the killing of three federal judges in Chicago. The Chicago Breaking News Center reported that the U.S. Attorney here accused Turner of posting the judge's names, photos and addresses, with such statements as "Let me be the first to say this plainly; These judges deserve to be killed." Their offense? They upheld ordinances banning handguns in Chicago and Oak Park.

Hunter's previous brush with the law over using such language on his site has set him chattering about the need to protect his "right to free speech." He screeched:

How would this affect you? Simple: People you never met, in places you've never been, can take offense to something you write on the Internet and have you jailed in THEIR state for it! Do you see the risk now? Do you understand how important this case is going to be?
The case in question then involved criminal charges against him filed by Connecticut for couple of weeks ago for "incitement to harm persons or property," a felony for which he could get one to ten years in prison. It stemmed from a posting a few weeks ago from his blog in his New Jersey home, in which he called Connecticut officials "tyrannical" and said citizens should "take up arms to put down this tyranny."

Not quite as bad as calling down a death sentence on three federal judges and helping violent nuts locate them; perhaps it might more properly fall under the classification as sedition, a word that hasn't been heard in these parts for years.

Well-established case law holds that the right of free speech, just as every other right such as bearing arms, is not absolute or unlimited. (The right to abortion is just about the only one that some would have us believe doesn't need to be balanced with any other persons' rights, but that's another story.)

Turner's blog proclaims "Free Speech: No Matter who Doesn't Like It!" He and his supporters will break out the heavy rhetoric about some fanciful government conspiracy to yank away our fundamental rights, such as free speech. Internet purists will claim that any restrictions on what is said digitally is entitled to special protections.

Maybe, as the Internet moves out of its adolescence and into adulthood, we'll understand and acknowledge that the Internet is just another form of communication that merits no special exemptions to law and decency.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

How many helicopters will $13 BILLION buy you?

What's this, $13 billion to build new helicopters for President Barack Obama? That's $13 billion with a "b," putting the production of a handful of choppers to fly around the president in the same category as the entire expansion of O'Hare International Airport.

Is Obama out of his mind?

He might be, but you can't pin this gawker on him. Obama doesn't want the new helicopters and his Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has ordered the purchases terminated.

But Congress, bless its conniving soul, is gearing up to spend the money anyway. Why? The usual reason: pork. It's a case history of just how difficult it is to kill the pig, despite soaring promises of change in the way Washington does business.

In comparison, it makes Illinois' own prime cut of pork, FutureGen -- the $1 billion in federal magnanimity for an experimental Downstate power plant that hopes to burn coal cleanly -- look like pig's knuckles.

The VH-71 presidential helicopter program would buy 23 new Marine One-type helicopters, but it's six years behind schedule and costs are soaring.

But, say its backers, canceling the program now and reactivating it later to replace the aging helicopter fleet could amount to $17 billion. Some suggest that the best alternative is to pare down the order to 13 helicopters, thus saving . . . oh, what does it matter; it'll cost us billions any way you cut it.

So, what is Congress doing in the face of this conundrum? Being two-faced as usual. About a week ago, the House Armed Services Committee approved the fiscal year 2010 defense authorization bill, tucking away in it a mealy-mouthed VH-71 proviso. It approved the Obama administration's request for $84 million to shut down the program, but directed the start of design work on a new presidential helicopter, to be called VXX. Then it released a report accompanying the bill that "strongly suggests" that the administration buy a few more VH-71s than the five that already have been built. "The committee notes," the report went on, "that this approach will leverage the investment already made by the taxpayer in developing a helicopter that would meet all normal requirements of the president."

Congressional Quarterly reported that the language was inserted into the report at the behest of Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-Md.). High on the list of donors to Bartlett's political campaign is Lockheed Martin Corp., the main contractor for the VH-71. Bartlett told CQ he doesn't know who his donors are, and that he's not acting on behalf of the company. Uh huh.

Also, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) has asked the Senate Appropriations Committee to continue the VH-71 program, citing the money that has already been spent. Lockheed Martin's plant in Owego, N.Y., is the main beneficiary of the contract and if the program is scratched more than 700 jobs could be lost in upstate New York. Only a few months ago, Gillibrand replaced Hillary Clinton as one of New York's U.S. senators and apparently has quickly caught on to how the game is played.

Not that Illinois is pure in that regard. In terms of cash, Illinois' FutureGen project doesn't compare, but in chutzpah, it comes close. The project, located in Downstate Mattoon, had been initiated and then, citing cost overruns, was canceled by President George W. Bush. Perhaps because of the Bush connection, a Democratic House staff committee report took the opportunity to bash the former president, calling the project "nothing more than a public relations ploy." Environmentalists have denounced it, arguing that "dirty coal" is and always will be dirty. Yet, here come Obama and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), reviving the project for their home state, mindful of the jobs and contracts it will bring and the tens of billions of tons of coal buried in Illinois, waiting to be scooped up and burned.

Ah yes, change we can believe in.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Daley’s Costly Genuflection to The Olympic Overseers

By Dennis Byrne

Is the International Olympic Committee so stupid that it is willing to accept the word of a mayor of a near-bankrupt city that it will cover any of the Games’ huge losses if it comes to Chicago?

Is the committee stupid enough to believe that Daley is a king and can commit Chicago to paying hundreds of millions of dollars all by himself?

Of all the stupid things that the committee has done to the Games (such as cheapening them by letting in professional athletes), this has to rank right up there with the worst. Daley, in a reversal, said he now will sign the standard contract that puts Chicago (and, practically speaking) Illinois on the hook for $500 million or more if the 2016 Games here are a bust.

Not to worry, Daley still insists, the private group that is pushing the games will take out extra insurance to cover that half-billion-dollars if something goes wrong. To which I say: then let the local 2016 committee, headed by Patrick Ryan, sign the damn thing....

Read more in The Chicago Daily Observer

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Senator questions firing of 3 inspectors general by Obama administration

Barack Obama brings more of the Chicago Way to the White House: Three inspectors general are gone. Why? Don't we deserve an honest answer?

Read about it in the Chicago Tribune

Bush takes swipes at Obama policies

Fair is fair. No president other than Barack Obama in my memory has spent so much time thumping his predecessor. Through it all, George W. Bush kept his peace. But now, he has responded, as he should. He reminds us, for example:
[Bush] said his administration sought to address the "housing bubble" before the system broke down. "We tried to reform" mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, "but couldn't get it through the vested interests on Capitol Hill."
That's restraint. He could have correctly dumped the problem at the feet of Democrats such as Rep. Barney Frank.

The story is here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Our illusions about health care

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

If Sen. Edward Kennedy's 651-page bill reconstructing America's health-care system is any indication, the next few weeks will be confusing and exasperating.

Immodestly speaking, the Massachusetts Democrat thinks the government can bestow on Americans long-term care insurance for a far-fetched $65 a month. Right there is a great example of what the approaching weeks will be like as Congress opens debate on every utopian and fly-by-night idea for creating a perfectly healthy society, for a lot less than we're paying now. If there's ever a time for Americans to be skeptical, it's now, because the stakes may never be this high again.

What some are proposing to do with health care is akin to trying to take apart a wheezing old diesel engine and then, by adding a few new parts and a lot of stargazing, turn it into a jet aircraft engine. It has all the earmarks of President Barack Obama's fantasy that everything can be upgraded to excellent, if not perfect, condition in a few weeks by blindly blowing hundreds of billions of dollars out the door.

As a wise professor of mine once said, when you want to create or change public policy, what exactly are you trying to do? You've got to bore through the rhetoric, dogma and politics to find the heart of it. Do you, for example, want to insure every American for the sake of insuring every American, or is the goal to improve every American's health?

We keep hearing that we must provide medical coverage for what the Bureau of the Census says are approximately 47 million uninsured Americans, but there's no discussion of whether that's the goal itself, or a means to the goal.

It's made more difficult because the Census Bureau's survey doesn't delve deeply into why 47 million are uninsured: Because they're young and healthy and don't want to be covered? Because they can't afford it? Because of a disqualifying prior medical condition? No doubt, for all those reasons, but in what proportions? Also ignored is what proportion of the uninsured is nonetheless receiving health care through Medicaid or the State Children's Health Insurance Program. (By the way, the same annual survey shows that the number and percentage of uninsured children continues to decline.)

If you can't answer those questions with precision, you can't design a program that will do what the ultimate goal is -- better health care for all Americans, regardless of whether it is through an insurance program or some other way. For example, if 10 percent of the 47 million are young and healthy and don't want to be insured, forcing them all to buy a policy isn't going to do much to finance the new system. If 10 percent of the 47 million are involuntarily uninsured, then the problem isn't as bad as it is described, so we can ask: Why are we rebuilding the whole system?

Gets complicated doesn't it? Perhaps such questions will soon be answered with clarity. But my hopes aren't high because these kinds of questions have been persistently ignored in the health-care debate.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A firsit-hand glimpse of the Irianian thirst for freedom

Twitter has become one of the few ways that freedom-seekers are foiling censorship and communicating with each other. Check out here what they're telling each other.

Send Michael Moore contributions for his friends in the UAW

For some reason, Moore forgot to include them in this pitch.

Pro-reform marchers fill Tehran streets - Yahoo! News

Reading about the protests (here) made me think that Ahmadinejad's mistake when stealing the election was winning by too big of a margin, thereby instantly casting doubt on the results of the closely contested election. But then I thought of Mayor Richard M. Daley's Democratic Machine and all the precincts that routinely turn in 100 percent (or close to it) votes for Machine candidates. None of it seems to hurt Daley's credibility, but then again, this is Chicago, not Tehran.

GM's deal erased many average Americans' savings

Maybe the bondholders should have formed a union and contributed heavily to Obama's campaign so they would have extorted better terms from his administration. Story is here.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Today is Flag Day

Here's a thought.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

61% of Illinois Voters Say They Would Definitely Vote Against Roland Burris

Lots of interesting information in Rasmussen Reports about the views of Illinois voters, including this:
Governor Pat Quinn, who replaced Blagojevich following his impeachment, does not receive much reelection support from voters. If Quinn decides to run for a full term as governor, only 13% say they would definitely vote for him while 23% say they would definitely vote against him. Most voters (63%) say their decisions would depend on who is running against him.

America to Obama: Stop the spending

Most voters (53%) believe increases in government spending hurt the economy, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey.

While that result is unchanged from last month, it’s up five points from 48% in January.

Just 27% now say increased government spending helps the economy, and 10% say it has no impact.

Read more in Rasmussen Reports

Friday, June 12, 2009

David Letterman is a jerk

So are his defenders.

I know it's too much to ask we remember something as far back as more than a dozen years, but let's try, anyway. Bill and Hillary Clinton had just moved into the White House along with daughter Chelsie. Some folks, including Saturday Night Live, cruelly made fun of her looks. Everyone quickly agreed that a politician's children are off limits. And that agreement held for eight years.

Now, David Letterman breaks that consensus by making Sara Palin's daughter (or was it daughters?) an object of ridicule, implying sexual misconduct, rape, or whatever it was we are supposed to believe.

Face it, Letterman and his hip persona just aren't funny. For some reason, though, he has accumulated an adoring audience of dolts. Such as this defender, whose comment appeared in the Los Angeles Times.
If the Palin (sic) are going to parade her kids on stage in front of the world, making them public figures, then they need to accept that they'll be subject to jokes, even off-color ones. As far as I'm concerned, they all got what they deserved, and maybe the Palin's (sic) will now buy a clue and realize if THEY want to protect their kids, they will keep them out of site (sic) in Alaska---and leave us alone--EyesWideOpen
Let us hope that no one applies this principle to President Barack Obama's daughters.

The adorable picture above is of David Letterman's son, Harry. Letterman bragged about him on his show, so....Well, you get the idea.

Bush, Obama and Kenneth Lewis

Democrats say the Bush administration pushed Bank of America's Kenneth Lewis too hard to merge with troubled Merrill Lynch. Republicans say the same thing about the Obama administration when it comes to remaking the auto industry.

They're both right. It's what you get when government takes over. The question is whether any of it is legal or even constitutional?