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Friday, November 30, 2007

Tom Roeser on Henry Hyde

Posted By on 11.30.07 at 08:01 PM

I take it back. I wrote the other day in this blog that the journalistic day is over when a big Chicago story wouldn't be complete until so-and-so had his or her say on the subject. Henry Hyde died Thursday and my first thought was this: Must read Tom Roeser. Roeser, full of years and beans, writes the most fully realized blog I know. He's a ruminator, his decades in politics the cud he now chews twice, and he's spellbinding. His blog gives him all the time and space in the world, and he's taking it. Roeser, who wears his values on his sleeve, admires some people and despises others; he admired Hyde enormously.

His entry on the late congressman doesn't disappoint. "There will not be his like in the Congress again soon. Perhaps never," Roeser writes. "Some thoughts: I hope that Congressman Rahm Emanuel has retained some portion of the innate grace from his ballet dancing past not to attend Henry’s wake or funeral. But if he goes it will be typical. Typical because as everyone in Washington knows including the media that will not publish it, Emanuel, once President Bill Clinton’s assassin (felicitously called his political director) looked skyward in innocence as porno-magazine owner-editor Larry Flynt disclosed that decades earlier Henry had an affair from his Illinois legislature days--which was supposed to tit for tat, to even things up with a president who allowed himself to be pleasured in an anteroom off the Oval Office by a courtesan intern paid by the taxpayers . . . on occasions enjoying himself with her even when a House member was on the phone talking to him about the possibility of war . . . who then lied about it under federal oath, lied to the people and then admitted he lied."

In Roeser's long, sympathetic account of the central role played by Hyde in Clinton's impeachment, Emanuel pretty much tried to blackmail Hyde into backing off. Roeser writes:

"Twice the bad-breathed one approached him. The second time he said fundamentally this--This is the real world, Henry and just as you prepare to bring impeachment think of what our disclosure will do to you and your family. You go to Mass now every morning and to communion, too. Well think of what those in the pews will think as you go up there to receive the Eucharist Henry; think of what they will say. They will say this is Henry Hyde the adulterer. Think what your grandchildren will say and think about you forever, Henry. Do you understand?

"Henry did and carried out his duty. The Flynt charge was made. It hit Hyde harder than he thought it would. It stayed with him for life. Once he told me that he had been hit by the 'Irish sickness,' i.e. depression. Much later he began to physically fail after an operation. He began to fall. He had to get a wheel-chair."

When you're done with Roeser's long tribute to Hyde, wander around in his blog. Because of time spent in Minnesota, he has a lot to say about Hubert Humphrey, most of it affectionate, and some sharp observations to make about Gene McCarthy. A few days ago he was writing about Humphrey, McCarthy, LBJ, and Vietnam, and explaining why Ron Paul reminds him less of Robert A. Taft than he does McCarthy. You can disagree with Roeser on a lot of things, and think you don't care which dead senator a marginal GOP presidential candidate most resembles, but Roeser will catch you up in his enthusiasms. Is blogging something else that's wasted on the young? 

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Makes more sense than Sonny Bono, anyway

Posted By on 11.30.07 at 06:32 PM

Those of you still having occasional "Where are they now?" thoughts about Midnight Oil got a dramatic answer Thursday concerning Peter Garrett, their very tall, very bald, and very intense front man, who's putting most of his energy into a political career these days (he was an environmental activist before and during his time in the band, and has remained one since). Garrett's been a member of the Australian House of Representatives since 2004 and Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Environment, Heritage & Arts since 2006. Well, with the Labor landslide, scratch that "shadow" part (though it certainly sounds cooler): he's Australia's Environment Minister now.

Just how many musicians are getting into high government offices these days? Gilberto Gil as Brazil's Minister of Culture since 2003 comes to mind. Who would you like to see serving in a Cabinet position in a future American administration?

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Just throw money at it

Posted By on 11.30.07 at 05:46 PM

White Sox General Manager Kenny Williams knew he had to shore up the team's bullpen over the off-season after it imploded last summer, but I'm not exactly enamored of his first move along those lines. Williams signed National League middle reliever Scott Linebrink this week to a four-year deal worth $19 million. Yet one of the reasons no one was willing to bid more is that he's a 31-year-old who looked washed up with two different teams last season.

Linebrink can pitch, no doubt about it. He came into his own with the San Diego Padres in 2004 with a 2.14 earned-run average, and he improved the following year to a sparkling 1.83. He went on in 2006 to lead the NL in holds -- the stat created to reward middle relievers for holding a lead -- but his ERA almost doubled to 3.57. It rose again last year to 3.71, as he lost his job as setup man for closer Trevor Hoffman to Heath Bell in San Diego and was dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers, who at that point outbid Williams and the Sox for his services by offering up three minor-league pitchers. He went on to lose three more games in Milwaukee, which is why perhaps the Brewers didn't outbid Williams for him as a free agent.

While Linebrink's ERA went down slightly in Milwaukee, Bill James's component ERA stat suggests he benefited from some luck and actually pitched worse. His strikeouts also diminished, a sign of a pitcher on the decline. The most troubling stat is that while Linebrink allowed only four homers in 74 innings in 2005, since then he's given up 21 homers in 138 innings, for the most part in pitcher-friendly San Diego. Now he's moving to a tougher league and to Sox Park, a relative launching pad for homers. The Bill James Handbook forecasts a slight improvement next year to a 3.60 ERA, but that's projecting him pitching in Milwaukee. So this signing has all the earmarks of someone paying too much for a recognized name whose good reputation is out of date.

I hope I'm wrong and Linebrink rebounds to his 2005 level, and he suggests the trade briefly caused him to lose focus last summer, but in the meantime I wouldn't give up on even Mike MacDougal just yet. Williams wisely rejected getting in a bidding war for Torii Hunter, who while an excellent player will probably not be worth the $18 million a year he'll be getting at the end of his new five-year contract with the Anaheim Angels. Yet just because the price was lower for Linebrink doesn't mean the Sox won't wind up regretting it even more at the end of the deal.

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A "bizarre" appointment

Posted By on 11.30.07 at 05:22 PM


You could say that as a clergyman, Reverend Marshall Hatch is in the business of hoping. And before Thursday, he'd been hoping for signs that the Chicago Police Department was headed in a new direction. When interim police superintendent Dana Starks disbanded the maligned Special Operations Section a few weeks ago, Hatch saw it as an encouraging step.

Of course, Hatch has also engaged in some politics from time to time--he once ran unsuccessfully for 29th Ward alderman against Ike Carothers, and he's now a primary force behind the Leaders Network, a new alliance of "independent" clergy promising to speak out on policing and other city policies impacting African-American neighborhoods.

So he was hardly surprised--or impressed--to get a call Thursday from an aide to Mayor Daley who serves, as Hatch puts it, as "their negro preacher liaison whose job it is to find out what the fallout has been" from various decisions out of City Hall. This time the aide wanted to tell Hatch, an outspoken critic of police misconduct, that the mayor was naming a new police superintendent: career FBI man J.P. "Jody" Weis.

"They wanted to find out what some of us were thinking in the community," said Hatch, pastor of the New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church on the west side. "At the time, we didn't know what to think."

Hatch said he was floored to learn that the next superintendent has never run or helped run a police force before, and that Daley bypassed the recommendations of the Police Board, the civilian advisory body charged with vetting superintendent candidates, as law requires. "It's a bizarre appointment," Hatch said. "It does nothing to address the number one issue: the crisis in confidence and trust in the African-American community. . . . There is no reason for anybody to be any more clear about the direction of the police department today than the day before yesterday."

Weis vowed Thursday to reach out first to the neighborhoods with the "widest gulf between the police and our residents." Hatch said he would welcome leadership that genuinely seeks input from his community. "But if he expects that some meetings and conferences will be enough, he's sadly mistaken."

Like other police critics and watchdogs, Hatch believes several reforms are needed immediately: a fully independent Citizen Review Board should oversee police misconduct investigations, a citizen representative should participate in the "roundtable" discussions held by law enforcement officials after cops shoot civilians, and beats should be realigned so that more officers are assigned to high-crime areas. The first two reforms couldn't be made by the police superintendent alone, but Hatch said he'd like to hear Weis back them publicly. "He said yesterday that he had the backs of police officers, and he should sent a statement to citizens that our backs are covered as well."

He called on aldermen to ask Weis some tough questions before signing off on his appointment. "He has not been very properly, publicly vetted, and there ought to be some real hearings here," Hatch said. "We should find out more about who he is, what his plans are, and whether he understands the firestorm he's walked into."

"We would expect the City Council to do its job," he said.

That's either an attempt at political pressure or a reminder that hope in things already seen is not hope at all.

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Glad to be gullible

Posted By on 11.30.07 at 02:37 PM

I usually regret opening e-mails from addresses I don't recognize, especially when the subject header is "I miss you too..." because they usually turn out to be solicitations for subliterate pornography or subliterate ads for medicines to enhance body parts I don't have, or just possibly, subliterate stalking. But this one was special, and it wasn't subliterate at all. It was from Thomas Dunning, the effusive jet-setter who used to spam me ALL THE TIME back in the day with news of every event in Chicago that turned his head, including his own Hoot Night events. Now that he divides his time between Chicago and Dublin, I don't hear from him as much.

Of course, the big news he had to break his silence to announce isn't about him at all: he's ecstatic that iTunes and eMusic have made the long out-of-print Kate Bush tribute album I Wanna Be Kate available again. And that Bush will have a new song on the sound track for the film version of Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass (Dunning dutifully sends along a picture of Kate all done up as the high-flying witch Serafina Pekkala, complete with wild goose daemon.) Dunning doesn't get around to announcing his own news of local interest--that there's to be an "Ambiguously Unthemed" Hoot Night show on February 27 at Schubas.

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Eating Elsewhere: San Francisco's Incanto

Posted By on 11.30.07 at 12:26 PM

What's the logical thing to do the day after a Thanksgiving spent gorging on turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, ham, caramelized brussels sprouts, succotash, creamed onions, pie, and more pie? Eat a whole roast pig, of course.*

So off we went last Friday, a party of far-flung family 13 strong, to Incanto, Mark Pastore's rustic Italian restaurant and wine bar in San Francisco's Noe Valley. The occasion, the synchronous birthdays of both my aunt Jacqueline and cousin Peter. Executive chef Chris Cosentino, as the name of his personal Web site attests, is one of the most visible and articulate stateside champions of nose-to-tail eating--and this fall he may have lapped Fergus Henderson in popular recognition thanks to his almost-ran appearance on The Next Iron Chef. He may have been knocked out in the penultimate round, but based on the satiated looking crowd in the dining room, he's not hurting much. Still, since I've never eaten at Lola, or Restaurant August, I can also say with confidence that he was totally robbed.

The meal started with platters of stupendous salumi from Cosentino's side project, Boccalone (and, yes, he appears to not sleep). My memory's a little Chianti-fogged, but I remember buttery mortadella and nutty prosciutto, plus, I think, some tangy cappocollo and slabs of pate di Campagna, dished up with sides of grilled fennel, ramps, and heads of roasted garlic. A deeply satisfying carrot soup with tarragon creme fraiche or a crisp and refreshing dandelion, celery, and apple salad (diner's choice) came next, followed by ropes of bucatini dressed with rich and salty lingcod. And then, the main event: a golden brown, 46-pound Duroc pig whose appearance prompted a frenzy of flash photography.

Locally raised in Manteca, in nearby San Joaquin County, and slow-roasted on site special for us, this was some pig. Tender, with a surprisingly delicate flavor, crispy skin wedded to a layer of firm, glistening fat. (It was even better the next day, when I had two pork sandwiches on toast for breakfast.) It was served with sides of braised Indian red carrots, sweet little roasted beets with fresh ricotta, and some devastating duck-fat stuffing in the face of which I could only groan.

There was also dessert--a swell panna cotta spiked with bay leaf and a dense chocolate ganache tart--but after the pig there's not much more to say. The only other time I've had a whole roast pig was in college, when a couple of overly ambitious premed students decided to spit-roast one for Thanksgiving, stayed warm drinking Jack Daniels by the fire all day, and promptly passed out once the task was done. That was surprisingly decent, but this was . . . is it just too corny to say "the bomb?"

The pictures say it all (click on the images below for more)--as does the fact that when I slipped out to the ladies' before dessert I discovered, hovering above my navel, a large hunk of pigskin glued to my shirt.


*And thanks Bruce and Sarah, for a 48-hour bacchanal of a Thanksgiving not to be soon forgotten. 

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Lapdogs at the gates

Posted By on 11.30.07 at 06:24 AM

The important thing about the mainstream media isn't whether they lean one way or the other politically on a particular occasion. The important thing is that they are deeply stupid. Jamison Foster at Media Matters:

"No moderator [in the candidate debates so far] has asked a single question of a single candidate about whether the president should be able to order the indefinite detention of an American citizen, without charging the prisoner with any crime.

"But Tim Russert did ask Congressman Dennis Kucinich -- in what he felt compelled to insist was 'a serious question' -- whether he has seen a UFO.

"No moderator has asked a single question about whether the candidates agree with the Bush administration's rather skeptical view of congressional oversight.

"But Hillary Clinton was asked, 'Do you prefer diamonds or pearls?'"

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Not so pretty, kinda vacant

Posted By on 11.29.07 at 09:50 PM

I suspected that John Lydon would justify the Sex Pistols' involvement with Guitar Hero III with the same aren't-we-naughty-punks irony they used for their original reunion tour. Instead he claims--in this clip from a GHIII press conference--that he did it because he "fucking loved" the game. And then he goes on a profanity-laden tear decrying seemingly everything on earth that is neither Guitar Hero III nor John Lydon. Probably the most shocking thing about the video is realizing that Johnny Rotten for whatever reason still thinks that people will be actually by offended by f-bombs. 

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Dee Dee: The Video

Posted By on 11.29.07 at 08:50 PM

This week in Omnivorous I filed a progress report on our mulefoot pig, Dee Dee, and her herdmates at home on the Argyle, Wisconsin, farm of Valerie Weihman-Rock and her husband, Mike. Here's some footage of the doings. Dee Dee shows up just after the two-minute mark--she's the one with white on her trotters.

Edited by Elizabeth Gomez 

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Your last chance to watch the Watchers

Posted By on 11.29.07 at 06:12 PM

When I profiled the Watchers in my column back in June, they made light of the hassles the band has had to deal with, from losing members to canceling their most recent tour while they were still on the road. It seems that the drag has finally gotten the best of them, though, and their show Friday night at the Empty Bottle is going to be their last. "We want to write new music and get on with it . . . so a clean break is what we require," front man Michael Guarrine wrote in an e-mail to me this afternoon. "We are just done and we still all love each other. Watchers is kind of run like a fucked up family and I just want to be able to talk to all these guys in the end, they are like brothers to me and that is how we would like to keep it." The Watchers are far from onstage mopers, so expect them to go out in a blaze of ass-shaking glory.

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