Discover more from Eric Zorn: The Picayune Sentinel
At last, the ultimate Chicago never-have-I-ever survey
& info about "The Mincing Rascals" live show
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Eric Zorn is a former opinion columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Find a longer bio and contact information here. This issue exceeds in size the maximum length for a standard email. To read the entire issue in your browser, click on the headline link above. Paid subscribers receive each Picayune Plus in their email inbox each Tuesday, are part of our civil and productive commenting community and enjoy the sublime satisfaction of supporting this enterprise.
I’ve already started assembling entries for Thursday’s Tweet of the Week poll and this one will probably be among the finalists:
We joke! But what about the feelings of those who have loved ones mired in the Nevada desert? Well, I’m entitled to this cavalier display of insensitivity since my son and his girlfriend are among those who, at this writing, are sheltering in place in the toilet-less muck struggling for internet access. We haven’t heard from them since Saturday, but I’m confident they’ll be none the worse for wear when they escape and will have a great story to tell at dinner parties for years to come, one that will not bore Sam Morril.
UPDATE: They texted Tuesday morning that they’ve made it back to Reno.
My lineup of guests on the radio today
I’m filling in for Joan Esposito Tuesday on WCPT-AM 820, and you will want to tune in. Here’s the schedule of conversations:
2:30-3 p.m. — Tribune City Hall reporter Gregory Royal Pratt, author of “The City is Up For Grabs,” an upcoming book on Lori Lightfoot. In what ways is the new boss the same as the old boss? And how is he different?
3-3:30 p.m. — Historian Gerald Prokopowicz, who is observing his 20th year hosting "Civil War Talk Radio” a podcast so old it predates the term “podcast.” What is the latest Civil War scholarship saying? How does it reflect on today?
3:30-4 p.m. — Heidi Stevens, Chicago Tribune contributing columnist. What’s she been up to since leaving the Tribune full time in 2021? How’s her marathon training going? What to expect at her Printers Row Lit Fest conversation Sunday at 5 p.m. with Devorah Heitner, author of “Growing Up in Public: Coming of Age in a Digital World”?
4-4:30 p.m. — Political scientist Joel Ostrow of Benedictine University. How is the war in Ukraine looking? And how goes it with his son, superstar bluegrass fiddler Connor Murray?
4:30-5 p.m .— Doug Fraser, Executive Director of the Chicago Help Initiative. What now with the crush of migrants and asylum seekers?
Notes and comments from readers —lightly edited —- along with my responses
C. P. — I interpreted 35th Ward Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa's comments accusing fired health commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady of being a "neoliberal" to mean that a true progressive believes that every human service needs to be delivered by a government employee, without any discussion of quality of care or effective outcomes. My understanding was that part of the reason for closing some mental health clinics was to be able to provide more flexible, mobile, and quality mental health care to residents without paying for bricks and mortar. Maybe we do need more clinics, but other than increasing the city workforce, complete with union benefits and pension obligations for taxpayers, the alderman and mayor should provide evidence that cutting out the private not-for-profit agencies that have been contracted, and replacing them with city employees, will improve outcomes for people. I don't see much evidence that the city provides high quality service in most areas of government responsibility, let alone mental health.
Ann F. — I was particularly annoyed by Ald. Ramirez-Rosa’s repeated use of "neoliberal" as the ultimate smear in the defense of firing Arwardy. It's not as though she was turning health care over to the for-profit sector, the way Illinois has shamefully done with the Medicaid program. She was instead directing tax dollars to local non-profits with proven track records of effective community-based health services. A legitimate argument can be made either way on whether mental health services should be stand-alone programs or incorporated into primary care, but that's not the argument the alderman was making.
Zorn — Thursday I directed readers to “Push to Reopen Public Mental Health Clinics Closed 11 Years Ago Defines Another Chicago Mayor’s Race,” Heather Cherone’s balanced report on this issue that explains why it wasn’t necessarily cruel, wrong or, God forbid, neoliberal, to close five of the city’s mental health clinics.
Frank B. — Regarding your item about the upcoming trial of the father of the alleged Highland Park parade shooter, you seem to be willing to let the father skate on this or that technicality. Sadly there are seven people who are more than technically dead. Yes the shooter could have gotten his own Firearm Owners Identification card when he became legally able to do so but the fact still remains that the one he possessed was due to his father's affidavit. It's a little like cosigning the note for a car loan for someone who has had a couple of DUIs.
I don't doubt that a judge may see it your way, but then he still has to look himself in the mirror every morning.
Zorn —I share your outrage at the father’s decision to help his son buy a gun. But, again I don't see how the law can hold the father responsible for that purchase once the son turned 21 and no longer needed help buying a gun.
To your analogy of co-signing a car loan for someone with a couple of DUIs, yes, again, that would be lousy judgment but it would not be right to hold the co-signer responsible should that driver cause a fatal wreck years later.
I further found the judge's decision that the statute of limitations had not expired on the father's decision to help the son buy the gun because the parade shootings were part of the same offense to be a bit of legal question-begging and probably unsustainable.
Marc M — I took Republican presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy’s sneering use of rival Nikki Haley's birth name — Nimarata Randhawa — as his way of claiming authenticity for himself and showing a willingness to embrace his ethnicity while she wants to disguise hers. He wants to be the outsider and portray her as just another untrustworthy, phony, traditional politician. It's hard to imagine that he thinks he can make her seem “other” while embracing his own name.
Jo A. — How could someone who used their decidedly foreign -ounding name “other” someone by referring to them by a similar sort of name?
Zorn— I do give Ramaswamy points for not westernizing his name — “Victor,” say, would have been an easy way to do it — in an effort to conceal his family’s origins in India. It shows perhaps unearned respect for voters that they recognize nearly all of us have roots in foreign lands and judge candidates on their ideas and records, not their lineage. But I take away those points for a use of Haley’s birth name that’s intended to convey that her choice of name tells us something about her.
Rick W. — Regarding your criticism of politicians who too often refer to problems or incidents as “unacceptable,” I worked in and around the traffic safety field for several years and heard leaders from both the public and private sectors routinely call our highway death toll (exceeding the population of Evanston every two years) “unacceptable.” I came to understand this word to mean “hard problem we can’t/won’t do anything about”.
Bob E. — Your headline said, “Mayor Brandon Johnson continues to duck basic questions.” Right. So I’m wondering how those who supported Johnson over Paul Vallas are feeling now about Johnson as mayor.
Zorn — My informal conversations with Johnson voters suggests concern and mild disappointment so far, but a willingness to give him time to grow into the job. Belief in his overall agenda is strong enough that they are still far from wishing Vallas had been elected instead. But I can’t stress enough how unscientific this assessment is.
Joanie W. — People who want to ban trans women and girls from sports do so because they can’t wrap their heads around the idea that trans women and girls are women and girls. They consider them to be men and boys, or what they call “biological men and boys.” If you see trans women and girls as women and girls, you see the inequity in not allowing them to play when the clear and obvious genetic advantages that certain cis women have with respect to certain sports are deemed “fair.”
I’ll not be satisfied until transgender people are allowed to participate on an equal basis with everyone else in all facets of our society and culture, including athletics.
Zorn — As usual, Joanie W.’s strong views on this subject touched off a robust conversation/argument in the comments. She argues that because there is significant biodiversity even among natal males and natal females (if that terminology is acceptable) that we should regard with indifference the biological advantages in sports that those who go through male puberty will have — on average! — over those who do not.
These advantages are why we separate the sexes for nearly all sports, and if we assume these average differences don’t matter, then we have no excuse for separating sports by gender identity at all. Brittney Griner, to use an example Joanie cites, is a dominating presence in the WNBA at 6 foot 9 inches, 205 pounds, but there are 76 NBA players taller than she is, and she would probably not make an NBA roster.
The first live taping of “The Mincing Rascals” podcast will be Tuesday, Sept. 26 at 6 p.m. at The Second City in Chicago’s Old Town Neighborhood. Tickets and more information are here. We’ll have fun! There will be time for Q&A and an opportunity to behold Brandon Pope’s (almost) award-winning beard.
The ultimate “Never have I ever …” survey
For two weeks I asked readers to vote on what they considered to be the quintessential Chicago experiences. This week I’m asking readers to confess, via their anonymous click votes, which of these experiences they have not done.
Never have I ever …
... toured the Art Institute of Chicago
... eaten a deep-dish pizza
... toured the Museum of Science and Industry
... ridden the L through the Loop
... driven on Lower Wacker Drive
... taken an architectural boat tour
... gone to Millennium Park
... gone to the Lincoln Park Zoo
... attended a Cubs game at Wrigley Field
... been to the top of the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower)
... eaten an Italian beef sangwich
... attended either major St. Patrick's Day parade
The survey also allows you to answer “I have done all these things!
Ya gotta see these tweets!
Here are some funny visual images I've come across recently on social media. Enjoy, then evaluate:
Vote for your favorite. I will disqualify any tweets I later find out used digitally altered photos to make the joke. I’ll share the winner in Thursday’s main edition.
Below isn’t exactly a visual tweet but I thought I’d share it. A challenge going around social media recently was “Make a 20-track comp of your all-time fav tracks, each artist can only be featured once. Not the 'best' songs, the ones that bring instant joy the second you hear the first note, the ones that give other people the best insight into what stirs your soul.”
While most people took the challenge seriously, actor/comedian Rob Delaney prepared this goof of all made-up titles (except “Happy Birthday.”)
Johanna says Delaney’s effort doesn’t seem at all funny to her. We are agreeing to disagree.
There’s still time to vote in the conventional Tweet of the Week poll!
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