Thursday, July 26, 2012

The passing of Paul McGrath, a Chicago icon

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Paul McGrath and I never really got along. Well, in the beginning, we started off as friends. In 1979, when Jane Byrne was elected Mayor, McGrath was writing a column for Chicago Magazine. About that time, Walter Jacobson was doing commentaries of substance at WBBM TV. And I was writing a lot of the things that most of the veteran City Hall reporters didn't want to write about the new mayor, Jane M. Byrne. So Byrne, naturally, singled me out for anger. She attacked me publicly. Her aides assaulted me verbally. They excluded me from press briefings and denied me the information they were giving to other reporters. That only made me write even more forcefully about the Byrne Administration.

When Byrne declared that she would refuse to speak with me, Jacobson did several TV commentaries about me, noting that my columns in the then Daily Southtown, had sent Jane Byrne into a spiraling tizzy. They were great columns of insider tidbits that by themselves could not fill up or justify a news story.  About a year after I started my City Hall insider column, Mike Sneed started hers, doing the same thing I did. (She blamed me for Byrne firing her, although in reality I had nothing to do with it.)

That's when Paul McGrath called me. He wanted to profile me in Chicago Magazine. It was fun being showcased by Jacobson on TV. It was the first time I had been put in such a high profile public spotlight And  as we all know, I've never left that fast track of high profile spotlight since. I'm still there in the apex of the spotlight, usually in the middle of some major controversy. That's my job as a media consultant. That's what I do best for clients, help them survive the toughest controversies, especially those created by the news media. That's what they pay me for.

McGrath did a nice two page profile with a large picture of me leaning into a press briefing that Byrne was giving. The headline, I believe, was "Who is Ray Hanania and Why is Everyone Mad at Him?"

That was exactly my life at that time. Everyone was mad at me. It wasn't just Jane Byrne. It was nearly every alderman and suburban mayor. But that was also a different time in journalism when I was given lots of time to do my work. Today's reporters are rushed and bias comes from cutting corners in favor of your friends.

His feature profile on me was the first one I had framed, one of many that followed.

McGrath was later hired by Jane Byrne to serve as a deputy mayor. And he was doing well, until one day his close friend Karen Connor and Byrne's Patronage Chief Frank Santoro ahd a meeting with him and they invited me to attend. McGrath was against it and I was hesitant. I liked Karen and Santoro. They were both very honest and very cordial to deal with, unlike other political types I had met at City Hall. Santoro and Connor thought they could sit with me and offer me some insights to help me "better understand" the good that Jane Byrne was trying to do.

I agreed. Why not? I had been trying for a year to get Byrne to sit down with me and talk about she was always suspicious because I came from the Southwest Side and was close to both Alderman Bill Lipinski and Rich Daley, who we all later learned was planning to topple her and take her place as mayor. Daley had been frozen out after his father's death by Mayor Michael A. Bilandic and City Hall Chief of Staff Tom Donovan, a brilliant political insider.

It was while we were all four sitting in Karen Connor's office that Jane Byrne slapped the door of her office open and looked around spotting Connor, Santoro, McGrath and me, her arch enemy in the media, sitting together. She snapped in her usual sarcastic tone a satisfying "a ha!" and then remarked, "I see you are all having a little meeting her without me." She looked around for a few minutes that seemed like years burning her eyes into the faces of each of her aides -- like they were traitors -- and then as fast as she came in, disappeared, spinning around on her three inch high stiletto heels, escorted by her two body guards, Mike Graney and another who I would later disclose were secret owners of one of ChicagoFest's most profitable concession stands, Anna's Friend Dough.

Before Byrne could storm out, McGrath was up and out of his chair screaming at me, Connor and Santoro calling us traitors and blaming them for our meeting. He chased out quickly on Bryne's jet stream.

We didn't talk much but it wasn't more than a few months before Byrne fired him and replaced him with a former City News Bureau reporter Bill Griffin, who later went on to marry Mike Sneed.

McGrath never got over his anger with me. He didn't want the meeting to take place at City Hall to begin with and wanted us to go to a restaurant in the burbs. But Santoro wouldn't leave the city's limits and Connor thought the paranoia was unjustified.

In the end and many years later, Connor and Santoro moved up to Michigan or Wisconsin where they started an antique store. I haven't heard from them in years.

But I did hear from McGrath about three months ago when he asked to be my "Friend" on Facebook. We seemed to get along until I wrote a column critical of Israel and he made some vicious comments that I felt were extremist and inappropriate. And I quickly unfriended him and even "Blocked" him from my page.

I would not tolerate intolerance.

We never did get to speak again.

Still, it is with sadness that I note that Paul McGrath died this week at age 75. (Read the Chicago Reader story by writer Mike Miner.)

Ironically, I had written a lengthy feature for the Chicago Reader on the 20th Anniversary of Jane Byrne's election, in February 1999. McGrath was writing for The Chicago Reader and had protested back then that he didn't feel I would be objective and that I would simply bash Byrne. I didn't bash Byrne at all, but merely reported on her notorious antics. In fact, I thought I was kind to Jane Byrne who clearly was mistreated by Rich Daley and the Daley administration. Byrne never did get her due as a former Chicago Mayor and the hatred between Daley and Byrne never chilled.

Regardless, Paul McGrath was a Chicago political icon and presence in Chicago politics and Chicago news. He deserves recognition for his skilled writing, his many journalism awards, and his talent as a political analyst. Whether we were or were not friends is irrelevant. I always respected him as a character in a the major theater of Chicago Politics.

As a good friend of mine and my journalism mentor would often tell me, "It's all a paper moon." Harry Golden Jr., meant that politics was just a stage and everything was not real except the people who acted on the stage of politics.

-- Ray Hanania

The Chik Fil A controversy is all Bull-Fil-A

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We do live in America, don't we? This is a country where free speech is not only tolerated but it is encouraged. The idea that two people can argue differing views on controversial topics is what makes this country so great.

Dan Cathy, the owner and founder of Chik Fil A told an interviewer recently that he opposes same-sex marriage. I disagree with him but I don't hate him. He cited his religious beliefs that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

As a Christian, myself, I think religious views sometimes overshadow reality but we tolerate them. I'm not against Gays living together or being recognized as "married" not because of religious views but because it makes sense. Two people who care about each other -- love is a word with a lot of meanings and nuance -- should be able to share their property and rights without hassles in the event of one or the other's death. And they should be allowed to live their life together.

On the other hand, my personal view in my life is that I don't embrace that lifestyle and frankly I honestly don't care about the debate over whether it is genetic or a choice. It exists and if people don't bother me or force me to accept their views, I'm fine with everyone.

What I am not fine with, though, is people like Chicago Ald. Proco "Joe" Moreno who disagrees with Chik Fil A owner Dan Cathy but has taken his disagreement beyond tolerance, vowing to prevent Chik Fil A from opening a restaurant in Chicago.

That violates the same Constitutional Rights that allow two people of the same sex to be "married." It's just wrong. It is also a denial of free speech. 

Dan Cathy did not say he would refuse to hire anyone who is Gay. He simply said he doesn't believe in Gay Marriage. That's his right. Ald. Moreno should be defending him, not punishing him. And Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the biggest hypocrite of all, shouldn't be wasting his time engaging this debate when Chicago has so many more important problems like the unacceptable level of gun-related violence and street gang shootings and murders.

Those are things we should work against, not punishing someone who has a view that differs with our own.

What Ald. Moreno is basically doing is saying that if enough people in this country hate Gays, they should use that power to prevent Gays from actively pushing for equal rights.

Does that mean cities that oppose Gay Rights should ban businesses that recognize Gay Rights? When we talk about about hate crimes, that is exactly

I haven't eaten at a Chik Fil A ever. Not because of this issue or other political issues. But because I heard the place was expensive.

-- Ray Hanania

Friday, July 20, 2012

The assertion that "banning guns would stop the criminals" has a major flaw

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Well here is a fact, folks: "Don't outlaw guns, outlaw the criminals ... it's the criminals who get guns and kill people. If we ban guns, the only people who will have them are the criminals." 

Well, maybe that wouldn't be so bad, based on history: Think about it. 

James Holmes was not a criminal, just a 24 year old with no major criminal history, with an arsenal at his home. He killed 12 and injured 71. 

There was Seung-Hui Cho, who shot and killed 32 people and wounded 17 people in 2007 at Virginia Tech. He wasn't a criminal, just an Asian American college kid.
John Hinckley, Jr.'s shot Reagan, Brady and Orland's Police Chief Tim McCarthy on March 30, 1981.

John Hinckley, Jr.'s shot Reagan, Brady and Orland's Police Chief Tim McCarthy on March 30, 1981.  
The 2nd Amendment was written for a different world, and there's no reason why it can't be changed to protect our rights in today's world.

He wasn't a criminal, but he got a hold of a gun. 

The two kids at Columbine High school in 1999 in Columbine, Colorado were not criminals. But they got a hold of an arsenal of weapons. 

On Jan. 8, 2011, Jared Lee Loughner killed six and wounded at least 12, including then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, outside a grocery store in Tucson, Ariz. He wasn't a criminal either. 

On Nov. 5, 2009, Major Nidal Hasan, a psychologist with the U.S. Army, killed 13 soldiers and wounded 42 others at a base in Fort Hood, Texas. He wasn't a criminal and was authorized to have a legal weapon. 

On April 3, 2009 Jiverly Wong, 42, burst into a citizenship class at an immigration center in Binghamton, N.Y., and killed 13 and wounded four, before he killed himself. He wasn't a criminal.

On March 30, 2009, a gunman shot eight people to death and wounded several others at a nursing home in North Carolina. Most of those killed were elderly nursing home patients. The suspect did not have a criminal past.

On March 29, 2009, a man killed five of his family members, including his two children, and wounded his wife at a townhome in Santa Clara, Calif., before killing himself.

On March 10, 2009, Michael McLendon, 28, killed several of his family members including his mother and grandparents, and then went on a rampage killing 10 people in several towns in Alabama before killing himself.

On Dec. 24, 2008,  Bruce Jeffrey Pardo, 45, dressed up in a Santa suit and showed up at a Christmas party at his ex-wife’s parents’ house in Covina, Calif., and killed nine people to death. He then burned the house and then killed himself.

On Feb. 14, 2008, a former graduate student at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill., killed five students in a lecture hall, and wounded many others, before shooting himself.

This is just a partial list of the mass murders that have taken place. There are two dozen more I can cite. In EVERY CASE, the killers were NOT CRIMINALS, but regular people who got a hold of a weapon and then went on a murder spree.

It isn't just "criminals" who we have to stop from getting guns.

The 2nd Amendment was written for a different world, and there's no reason why it can't be changed to protect our rights in today's world.

-- Ray Hanania

(Some of the chronology data above is from WKBT News in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Radio Chicagoland: Penn State, Olympic uniforms, Jesse Jackson and Syrian support of al-Qeada

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Topics on Radio Chicagoland this morning:
Radio Chicagoland: Penn State, Olympic uniforms, Jesse Jackson and Syrian support of al-Qeada
Joe Paterno "Joe Pa" is a disgrace. He knew what convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky was doing. He and others at Penn State were aware of the misconduct and they tolerated it or turned away their eyes for more than a decade. Ten years of child abuse by a retired coach with full access to the sports facilities and the protection of Paterno and the Penn State administration.
People say the students at the University will suffer if further punishment is meted out to the administration. But the truth is that punishment is necessary. More officials there should be charged and punished.
The real offenders, though, without doubt, are the sports media, the journalists who also knew about Sandusky but have remained silent. The sports media is complicit, just as they were complicit in the infidelity of golf great Tiger Woods. They all put money ahead of morality. Personal gain ahead of principle.
The students may be punished for Sandusky's crimes and the silent acquiescence of the administration. But it is very likely that many teachers knew too. And I'll even bet students who attended and played in sports there knew also. And the journalists knew. If the students suffer, they shouldn't blame justice. They should blame Paterno and Sandusky and the shameful Penn State administration.
OLYMPIC UNIFORMS have taken center stage as our athletes prepare for the Summer Games in London. Turns out the odd looking uniforms they will wear were mad in China. That is a bad thing. It sends the wrong message of twisted patriotism. China is a nation is civil rights abuses. The oppression of dissidents and free speech. The exploitation of children. And, the production of thousands of products that are tainted with lead, that are sold to American children.
The uniforms are not the only products made in China. Much of the media broadcast equipment that will be used to cover the Olympics were made in China. Clothing that many of the journalists will wear in covering the Olympics will be made in China. The means by which the story was reported, in part, are made in China.
The "made in China" disgrace should not be limited to one offense of patriotic egotism. It should instead be a protest of principle. Either end the importing of cheap and sometimes dangerous Chinese products into the United States, or shut up about the Olympics. It's more hypocritical to knowingly shut your eyes to hypocrisy and Chinese abuses while embracing the phony moral high ground in criticizing the Olympic uniforms.
The disgrace didn't start with the Olympics and won't end there, either.
Let's address the hypocrisy in the American Baseball industry, and the fact that official "American" baseballs are made in China.
Pathetic morality. Weak principle. Hypocrisy made in America.
CONGRESSMAN JESSE JACKSON JR., is a good person and a good leader. But it sure was strange to hear his mother speak on his personal crisis. She's been silent in the face of so much hypocrisy in the Jacosn family.
Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., is the one family member who could, for many years, hold his head high. Despite the charges filed against his fundraiser. Rughuveer Nayak, who reportedly was a go-between to raise $1 million for disgraced former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to make Jackson a US Senator, filling the vacancy in the Senate seat formerly held by President Barack Obama, there are no charges against the congressman.
We can speculate all we want.
But it might have been nice to hear his mother speak about her husband's problems, or the egos of her other sons.
Her comments about Congressman Jackson were inappropriate and strange.
AL-QAEDA IN SYRIA. There is no doubt now that the government of Bashar all-Assad was complicit in assisting al-Qaeda attacks in Iraq not only against Iraqis but also against American soldiers. If Americans are not outraged by the war crimes being committed by Assad's security forces and military in the murder of thousands of civilians and children in Syria, they should be enraged by the evidence that Assad provided aid to al-Qaeda to satisfy Syria's anti-American agenda, and agenda shared by the tyrants in Tehran, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

We invaded Afghanistan to avenge the al-Qaeda terrorism against the World Trade Center's Twin Towers. We attacked Iraq to avenge the selfish politics of former President George W. Bush and his Vice President, the original evil-doer himself, Dick Cheney.
We should immediately invade Syria and avenge the hundreds and maybe thousands of American soldiers who died in Iraq because of the support Syria's dictator Assad provided to al-Qaeda.

But will we and is our fight against al-Qaeda pure or driven by selfish politics?

--- Ray Hanania

Thursday, July 12, 2012

What can you tell visiting Arab world journalists about America and the media?

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What can you tell visiting Arab world journalists about America and the media?

I've been meeting with journalists who work in the Arab World, trying to explain to them why this country is so hypocritical and misleading when it comes to things like Freedom, and how Democracy is a misnomer. They're shocked because they have spent their lives as oppressed people believing that America was the great hope of the World, and confused because so many American policies contradict the principles that Americans claim Democracy represents.

It is confusing because America is not as free as people living in oppression think. It's all relative, of course. And the facts are not so clear, starting with the purveyor of "facts," the mainstream American or Western News Media.

The mainstream media is biased. They're one-sided. And worse, they have limited knowledge of other countries and culture so their reporting in incomplete, which contributes to the inaccuracies and falsehoods pushed by the bias and partisan political agenda that every major media has but pretends doesn't exist.

The bias is not consistent. In other words, the mainstream media is objective and fair on many issues, giving a false sense of morality and ethical conduct for the entire industry. But the media industry is corrupt. It's not controlled. But it is influenced. And that influence is managed by those who are at the helms of the media conglomerate. They decide when to be ethical and when to be unprincipled. And usually, when it comes to the Middle East, Arabs, Muslims and especially the issue of the Palestinians, the mainstream media's spigot of "unprincipled" is left open and rarely closed.

It's a shocker for visiting journalists. They recognize the bias in the United States, and how bias breeds racism that is very sophisticated and not as open as it was in the 1950s. Americans are educated and the one thing they are most educated on is how to disguise their racism and their bigotry. They are very talented at taking hatred and dressing it up as fear, or justified protectionism against things like "terrorism" and criticism in general from regions like the Middle East.

They always leave shocked because they don't want to believe it. But they must believe it. It's true. America is plagued by people who hate and that hatred is processed as discourse in the mainstream media. It's all relative. The purveyors of hatred are very successful and wealthy. Hate generates money in America.

It's different int he Middle East, and that's what causes confusion. Hate is something manipulated by the dictators who, by the way, were almost all installed into their power and dynasties with the help of either the Western Allies or the United States Government.

America has a policy on dictators that is very clear and precise and consistent. If the dictator is anti-America and doesn't embrace the American political agenda, then the dictator is a terrorist leader, like Venezuela's "President" Hugo Chavez, Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iraq's Saddam Hussein, and Syria's Bashar al-Assad.

But, if the dictator is one that embraces American foreign policy, principle and ethics go out the window. And they are our allies and friends. Jordan's King Hussein. Egypt's Anwar Sadat and Husni Mubarak, Iran's Shah Reza Pahlavi, and Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu who has a split personality by choice: a Democratic leader to his people, Jews, and a dictator and tyrant to all non-Jews who wish to live in Israel or Palestine. 

Yes, hate, dictatorship and tyranny can be managed and processed and even volumed-up and volumed-down. That's how the friendly dictators co-exist with what would seemingly be incompatible American Democratic principles. 

In Syria and the old Iraq and in today's Afghanistan, dissidents are arrested, brutalized and even murdered. Just because one is or isn't an ally of the United States doesn't matter. It happens. The governments will arrest you and kill you if they are pushed enough with your "free speech."

In the United States, the violence is rare, but the bullying and the intimidation is as aggressive. If you are a dissident who challenges mainstream views, you are excluded and ostracized. You are libeled and criticized and called all kinds of names. The point is that Democracy doesn't need to use violence to murder you. That would be a violation of Democracy and Freedom. But, they can do everything else, including destroying your life, disparaging you so much that you can't find a job or that you are fired from your job. You are excluded from media coverage, except when that coverage promotes your exclusion. They cover you as a terrorist, but not as an activist or dissident or someone who champions principle. Principle doesn't matter in America once you are categorized as being a "threat" by the media and mainstream government. 

In some cases, if you weather the oppression, they will arrest you and jail you, but they will charge you with being a terrorist or contributing to terrorism, by virtue of your views and media coverage which has whipped up the public rage against you and your movement and your cause.

If you criticize sacred cows, like Israel, you become a pariah, demonized and labeled with special words that  have been given special specific meanings like "anti-Semitic." Even government adopts laws that punish you for your views and what you think. The State of Illinois prohibits anyone from working for the public government in any capacity if they support the "boycott of Israel." You are required to sign a contract in which you agree to not boycott Israel. The term "boycott" is interpreted in many ways, all intended to undermine anyone who slips through the large cracks in American Democracy and American free speech. If you boycott some Israeli products, such as the settlements, you could be fired. Because the media and the critics do not nuance words. They don't distinguish between things like mainstream Israel and extremist Israel. If you criticize the extremist Israelis, you will be punished in America.

That's the real world of America. It is ugly, unprincipled, biased, racist and far from free. They just don't kill you like the dictators and tyrants -- well, most of the time, they don't.

-- Ray Hanania

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Controversy over Anthony Shadid's death

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Anthony Shadid's cousin Edward. a doctor from Oklahoma, where Shadid was from, was speaking at the ADC Convention dinner June 24 when he revealed some inside information about Anthony Shadid's death that the New York Times has been keeping secret and hoping no one would explore.

Shadid, a brilliant journalist and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner (and good friend and supporter of American Arab journalism) died Feb. 16, 2012 while crossing into Syria through some rugged mountains. Apparently, Syria had Shadid listed as a Wanted Person in newspapers and on TV there, according to the cousin.

But what is amazing, is that story that Edward Shadid told at the convention got so little traction, making many American Arabs wonder about how serious the ineffectiveness factor is in our community. ADC Legal Director Abed Ayoub protested to the New York Times after Edward Shadid's remarks, but the New York Times just brushed that protest aside.

Nothing in the community whatsoever. Word was distributed by one of the extremists who insinuate themselves among the many American Arabs who attend and who are concerned about the challenges we face in this country but that apparently no organization, from ADC to AAI to long lost groups like the AAUG, NAAA and others, have and continued to fail to overcome.

In it, Edward Shadid claimed that Anthony Shadid called his wife, Nada Bakri, and said after a heated fight with his editors about going into Syria, "I want the world to know that the New York Times Killed me."

Anthony Shadid's widow, Nada Bakri, released this Tweet days later after the cousin's speech aroused some concern. She's an employee of the New York Times, too.

#AnthonyShadid "I do not approve of and will not be a part of any public discussion of Anthony's passing. It does nothing but sadden Anthony's children to have to endure repeated public discussion of the circumstances of their father's death."   (Click here for link)

So here is the video from the ADC convention. Start watching at 5 minutes into it. 

You decide. But it seems the New York Times newspaper which spends so much time, resources and money to expose every scandal and accusation made about everyone else in this world, should address this in more than just a paragraph press release issued by a flak from their PR department. 

Pathetic both for the American Arab community reflecting how ineffective and worthless their leaders really are, and the mainstream American news media in this country that is so biased, worse than the corruption politicians, mobsters and street gang members, too.

Ray Hanania
trending #JournalismDemise