Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Pictures of the Month

February 5
February 5

February 7

February 12

February 17

February 26

Tuesday, February 27, 2018


While writing my last post, I came to a fork in the road. I chose to go down one path with the intention of coming back to the other path later in the post. That didn't happen. Here is the other path.

Devante SmithPelly, the Washington Capitals ice hockey player who was racially taunted by Chicago Blackhawks fans last week, follows a long line of professional athletes who have found themselves among a small handful of black players in their sport, and as a result. suffered indignities at the hands of fans and fellow players.

Much has been written about the abuses that Jackie Robinson endured after he became the first African American to play “organized" baseball since blacks were excluded from the game in the 1880s. His story and career, have become the stuff of legend. Less well known are the stories of the players who followed him into the majors, some of which I wrote about here. Even less known are the pioneers who became the first African American players in the other American professional sports leagues.

Kenny Washington
Like Major League Baseball, the National Football League originally featured black players until a "gentleman's agreement" was forged between owners to keep them out.  Kenny Washington, was a teammate of Jackie Robinson at UCLA on both that school's football and baseball teams. While there, Washington set several school rushing, passing, and defensive records (as players played both sides of the ball in those days), as well as being the first consensus All American from UCLA. He was considered by some to have been a superior baseball player to Robinson. So impressed by his abilities, George Halas, owner and head coach of the NFL Chicago Bears, tried to draft Washington after he graduated from UCLA in 1940, but was thwarted from doing so by the rest of the league. Washington languished in the semi-pro Pacific Coast Professional Football League from 1941 until 1945, playing most of his prime years in minor league football. When the Cleveland Rams moved to Los Angeles in 1946 and expressed interest in playing in the publicly owned LA Coliseum, overwhelming pressure from the municipality convinced the team to integrate, which they did, signing Washington on March 21 , 1946, exactly one year before Jackie Robinson became a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Jackie Robinson famously endured both verbal and physical abuse from fans and his fellow players and so did Washington. But as a football player, one can only imagine that the physical abuse from players had to be far more savage. Unlike Robinson, Washington's career in the big leagues was short lived. With five knee surgeries behind him and already past his prime when he entered the league, Washington played three seasons in the NFL, putting up impressive, but not Hall of Fame stats, which is why he isn't enshrined in the sport's shrine of immortals in Canton, Ohio. Still, Kenny Washington's contribution to the game of professional is unquestionable and he is deserving of much greater recognition. There is a movement underway to include him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but given his record on the field in the league, that seems unlikely. It would be interesting to poll current players in the NFL, a league now dominated by black athletes, to see how many of them know the name Kenny Washington. My guess is that few of them do.

There isn't a long history of segregation in the National Basketball Association only because the league wasn't founded until 1949. Unlike this country's three other major professional sports, baseball, football and hockey, (sorry soccer fans), the origin of the game of basketball can be traced to a particular moment and to a single inventor.

Time now for a brief interlude...

In 1891, PE teacher James Naismith of the Springfield, Mass. YMCA was given the task of creating a new activity to distract his bored and rowdy track and field athletes during the cold New England winter months. His boss, the head of that particular Y, had a few requirements for the activity: it had to keep the athletes in shape, it could not not take up too much space, and it especially had to be "fair for all players and not be too rough."

The new activity would be a goal-oriented game like football and hockey. To make it fair and not too rough, Naismith placed the goals, originally peach baskets, high up above the players' heads so they would be unguardable. There also was no running with the ball, it was advanced by passing it from player to player. Goals were scored by players successfully soft-tossing the ball (originally a soccer ball) into the appropriate basket without it coming out. Upon a successful score, the janitor present at the game, had to walk up to the basket then climb a ladder to fetch the ball. Following that, a "jump ball" at center court would resume the action, if you could call it that, Contrary to what you might have expected, no, the new game was not called "watching paint dry", but Basket Ball. You may think that the greatest innovation in the game of basketball was the jump shot or the slam dunk, but I give that award to the guy who decided it would be a good idea to cut a hole in the bottom of the baskets.

Here is an interesting site devoted to the evolution of basketball.

Anyway, Naismith's game was a big hit, first on the YMCA circuit, then at schools and universities, before finally turning professional . It was played by folks of all races, and evolved as most things did back in those days, in the parallel universes of segregation. But unlike baseball where white teams played black teams only in exhibition games, officially sanctioned games and even championships were held between white and black basketball teams.

One of those all black teams was the Harlem Globetrotters which began as a legitimate barnstorming team, not the circus act they would later become, and not as the team's name implies, from New York City, but from Chicago. In 1948 the Globetrotters took on the all white Minneapolis Lakers (today's LA Lakers), and the man many considered to be the game's first superstar, 6'10" George Mikan. The game took place here in Chicago at the old Chicago Stadium. The Lakers had their way with the Globetrotters in the first half, but the combination of double-teaming Mikan, and a consistent fast-break offense in the second half brought the Trotters back. The lead went back and forth in the second half and with the game tied at 59 with 90 seconds left in regulation time, Marques Haynes eluded the Laker defense all by himself, dribbling the ball until there were two seconds left on the clock. At that point he passed the ball to Elmer Robinson for a perfect 30 foot set shot to win the game at the buzzer.

While it was only an exhibition game, the Globetrotters beating a team that greatly out-sized them put to rest for good the notion that black basketball players were inferior to whites. It had the same impact to African Americans as Jesse Owens winning the gold medal at the 1936 Olympics, Joe Louis beating Max Schmeling in the first round of their second fight in 1938, and of course, Jackie Robinson joining the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Chuck Cooper
In 1949, the year after the Globetrotters' victory over the Lakers, the Basketball Association of America, the league the Lakers belonged to, merged with its rival, the National Basketball League, to form the National Basketball Association. The NBA would remain all white for exactly one year.

Settling on on the true Jackie Robinson of the NBA is a little complicated as there were actually three of them. From the 1950-51 season overview in's encyclopedia, we learn this:
The season marked the first appearance of black players in the league. Chuck Cooper became the first black player to be drafted when he was chosen by Boston; Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton became the first to sign an NBA contract when he signed with New York, and Earl Lloyd became the first to play in an NBA regular-season game because the schedule had his Washington team opening one day before the others.
To further muddy the waters, one of the NBA's predecessors, the NBL, became integrated for a short time in the early forties during World War. II.* Unfortunately during a game, a fight broke out between black and white players, marking the end of that noble experiment.

Bringing up the rear as far as professional American sports leagues are concerned, the National Hockey League finally broke its color barrier with Frederickton, New Brunswick's own, Willie O'Ree, who broke in with the Boston Bruins to replace an injured player on January 18, 1958 for  a game in Montreal. 

There was little fanfare for O'Ree's debut. Eleven years earlier, Jackie Robinson was carefully groomed for the role he was about to be thrust into by his mentor Branch Rickey. Not O'Ree. His coach with the Bruins,  Mike Schmidt, while acknowledging the milestone, and assuring O'Ree that his teammates were all on board, told him in typical understated hockeyspeak, to put that all behind him and "just go out there and play hockey."

Willie O'Ree
O'Ree played only two games with the Bruins in 1958 before going back down to the minors. He was called back up two seasons later and played 43 games with the club. Like the other Jackie Robinsons of their respective sports, O'Ree received more than his share of racist taunts from the fans and the opposing players."Players would take cheap shots at me, just to see if I would retaliate..." O'Ree said, "...They thought I didn’t belong there. When I got the chance, I’d run right back at them."

Jackie Robinson was told by Branch Rickey that under no circumstances was he to retaliate when another player went after him, so as not to set back the cause of integration. For better or worse, fighting is an integral part of the game of hockey, at least as it is played in North America, and O'Ree was given the green light to not turn the other cheek. The worst cheap shot taken at O'Ree was right here in Chicago when my onetime hero Eric Nesterenko of the Black Hawks (as the name of the team was spelled at the time) verbally taunted O'Ree then speared him with his stick to the face, knocking out two teeth. O'Ree's stick then managed to find Nesterenko's head, setting off a bench clearing brawl. It took fifteen stitches to sew up Nesterenko's bloody head. Being hockey I have no doubt that after their penalties, both players barely missed a shift. O'Ree, a very popular player among his teammates, didn't need to fight all his battles. When opposing players would taunt or take a run at him, they had to answer to the enforcers on his team, namely Fern Flaman and Leo Labine.

While the rules of hockey allow retaliation against fellow players, the fans are another story.  O'Ree said the treatment by opposing fans was worse in the American NHL cities than in Montreal or Toronto. It seems the worst city of all, sad to say, was Chicago. "Why don't you go down south where you belong and pick some cotton" was probably one of the tamer remarks hurled in his direction. He was pelted with garbage while serving time in the penalty box but he never fought back. He said: "If I’m going to leave the league, it’s because I don’t have the skills or the ability to play anymore. I’m not going to leave it ’cause some guy makes a threat or tries to get me off my game by making racial remarks towards me."

After that 1960-61 season, (the season the Black Hawks won the Stanley Cup), O'Ree was traded to the Montreal Canadiens. As that team was stacked with talent, O'Ree unfortunately never played another game on NHL ice, but he did continue to play professional hockey in the minors, finally hanging up the skates for good in 1979 at the ripe age of 44.

Unlike Kenny Washington who died in 1971. Willie O'Ree lived to see the day when the contributions of pioneer black professional athletes were rediscovered and finally appreciated. In recent years, O'Ree, who is still very much with us, has received countless honors and awards including the Lester Patrick Award for outstanding service to hockey in the United States, and the Order of Canada, that nation's highest civilian award. Since 1998, Willie O'Ree has served as the director of Youth Development for the NHL/USA Hockey Diversity Task Force. As you can imagine from his job title, the goal of the organization is to promote the game of ice hockey to new audiences, especially in minority communities, and to encourage the participation of these groups in youth hockey. One might look at the numbers of black players in the NHL today (averaging out to about one player per team) as evidence that the Task Force is barely sputtering along. That is until you realize that after O'Ree's days were done in the NHL, no black player stepped on NHL ice for another thirteen years.

Hockey has indeed come a long way since the days of O'Ree's youth when, as a teenage baseball player,  he got to meet Jackie Robinson at Ebbets Field. When O'Ree mentioned that his true love was hockey, Robinson of all people responded: "I didn't know black kids played hockey."

The unfortunate taunting incident that took place in the United Center a little over a week ago, and the public's strong reaction against it, is a good indication that like hockey, society has come a long way since these pioneers broke into their respective leagues, but still has a long way to go.

* Integration was something Major League Baseball could and should have done during a time when there was a player shortage due to World War II. While the poobahs still deemed it unacceptable for blacks to play professional baseball, the majors fielded a child, sixteen year old Joe Nuxtall, and a one armed outfielder, Pete Gray during the war. That proved to be the final slap in the face for supporters of the integration of the Major Leagues which finally took place on April 15, 1947.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Reverse Racism?

I thought I had the perfect argument for why reverse racism is a myth. It started in all places, with a Facebook exchange about a hockey game.

Last Saturday night, the Chicago Blackhawks hosted the Washington Capitals. When a Cap player was sent to the penalty box, some Hawks' fans taunted him, not at all uncommon for partisan hockey fans.

What is a bit uncommon is that the player, forward Devante Smith-Pelly, is one of only about thirty black players in the National Hockey League, which works out to about one player per team. While serving a five minute penalty for fighting, four fans wearing Blackhawk jerseys chanted what some considered racial epithets at Smith-Pelly, that not only got them booted from the game, but banned by the Blackhawk organization for life.

And what exactly did the fans chant at Smith-Pelly?

"Basketball, basketball, basketball."

The Facebook exchange in question was between two friends, both white males of whom I think it would be fair to say are both politically conservative. One is a staunch Republican and a Trump supporter, the other is a a card carrying member of the Contrarian Party, most definitely not a supporter of the president.

The Trump supporter posted his outrage at the fans for their racist behavior, to which the Contrarian replied: "since when is 'basketball' a racist term?"

Having contrarian tendencies myself, I completely understood where that friend was coming from. In fact, I was a little surprised and heartened by the almost unanimous public outrage directed at these fans. The only ones who didn't fall in line with the popular public sentiment were the usual suspects, genuine racists, people clueless of American culture, especially its sports culture, and of course, contrarians.

My contribution to the conversation was tepid. I said that in a perfect world, yelling "basketball" at a black hockey player on the other team shouldn't be a big deal, after all, it's an obvious observation that the game of basketball, especially at the professional level. is dominated by black athletes. But our world is far from perfect, especially regarding the issue of race. Given that, unless they fell into the clueless camp which is highly unlikely, the taunters knew exactly what they were doing and how their chants would be taken. As they say, "intent is nine tenths of the law." I added that I felt the Blackhawks were perfectly justified in their response.

To that, the Trump supporter brought up the hypothetical situation of the reverse taking place at a Chicago Bulls basketball game in the same building, namely a black fan chanting "hockey, hockey, hockey" at a white player on the opposing bench. That scenario is precisely what I considered to be the perfect illustration of the myth of reverse racism. You see, I've actually witnessed black people yelling something about hockey to white basketball players. Actually I thought it was pretty funny, and for the life of me, I can't imagine any white player being seriously offended by that remark, especially if it was coming from fans of the other team. I didn't pose that question to my right wing friends but I can only imagine their response would be the same: if it's considered racist for one side, it should be racist for both. After all, fair's fair.

Unless it isn't.

I posed the question to my son the following day. He agreed with me that the hockey fans taunting the black player was definitely a racist act, while the hypothetical situation of black fans taunting a white basketball player with the word "hockey" was not. But he begged to differ on the idea that black folks can't be racists.

My children have grown up in a racially integrated neighborhood, participate on integrated sports teams and dance groups, ride on integrated public transportation. and go to integrated schools. But last summer, my son had the experience of being the only white kid in a summer program for Chicago school kids. In that program he experienced some outright hostility from some of his peers because of his race. Having experienced this, he told me that he chafed at a comment from a girl in the group who said flat out that black people, and members other minority groups, cannot be racists. 

Racism comes in all shapes and sizes. In our day, it's just about the worst accusation you can make against someone. However when pressed, I think few people can adequately define racism, to them it's a little like the word pornography was to Justice Potter Stewart who famously quipped when justifying his ruling on a 1964 obscenity case that he may not be able to adequately define what pornography is, but "I know it when I see it."

To many of us, white folks especially, my son included, the terms racism and prejudice describe precisely the same thing.

Here's the definition of the word as found in Merriam Webster:
racism:  a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race
It's that belief that one race,  usually one's own, is superior to the others that makes racism different from run-of-the-mill prejudice.

So at least according to Merriam Webster, if a black person considered her race to be superior to all others, that person would be a racist right?

Well not so fast.

In an article I stumbled across from Vice Canada, the author Manisha Krishman quotes Anthony Morgan, a Toronto-based civil and human rights lawyer:
Racism is based on a couple of things—historical, systemic oppression and power, ... And as far as history goes, white people have never been persecuted for the colour of their skin—so there's no point comparing their experiences to those of black, brown, and Indigenous folks.
To that Krishman adds:
...Morgan said even if all people of colour straight up said they hate white people, it wouldn't affect a white person's ability to get a job, an education, or increase the odds that they'd get carded or charged for a crime.
Now we're getting somewhere. Of course some white folks would beg to differ, especially if they feel that the American Dream of having it better than their parents, is out of their reach. They see affirmative action and other well intentioned attempts to level the playing field between the races, as governmental interference putting them at a disadvantage because of the color of their skin.

To that issue Mr. Morgan says:
When you're so deeply invested in your privilege, and in this case white privilege, racial equality feels like oppression.
Now it's unlikely that message, coming from a civil rights lawyer up in Canada, is going to play well to say, an unemployed white coal miner in West Virginia who probably would not feel himself to be the beneficiary of "white privilege."

As I said above, racism comes in all shapes and sizes. The question often comes up, is the current President of the United States a racist? While I don't agree with his son often, I thought that Eric Trump's remark that the only color his father sees is green, was spot on. My impression has always been that the only thing Donald Trump judged people on was how much money they had. Even the lip service he gives at times to white supremacists strikes me as mere pandering to his base, rather than genuine racism. After all, Trump at least judging by his public persona, feels superior to everybody, not just black people. However his gratuitous "shit hole" comment about Africa and Haiti to select members of Congress, was the straw that broke the camel's back, at least for me. It seems to have cemented into posterity his true feelings about black people, earning him a place at the table in the pantheon of famous racists of the world, whether deserved or not.

Unfortunately, the need to feel superior to other human beings seems to be a common thread in the species Homo sapiens. It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that the most virulent and open racists are people who come from the lower stratas of society. You might be a dirt poor white guy with no money, no education, no skills, no prospects, and no self-esteem, but in American society as it has existed since its beginning, at least you could feel like you were superior to black folks, no matter how accomplished they were.

That too is white privilege, picayune as it may seem. To these people, racial equality truly must be a bitter pill to swallow.

I needn't go into the tragic history of black people in the United States. With the election of Barack Obama, some folks mistakenly believed that we lived in a "post racial" America, where we no longer needed to concern ourselves with the divide between the races. The election of the current president has proven that to be quite wrong.

You may argue, why would a professional athlete at the highest level of his profession, making scads of money, be upset by the actions of a few cretins who happen to have enough money to sit in the pricey seats along the ice? Well in a day when the President of the United States himself singles out black athletes daring to publicly protest injustices in their community as being sonsofbitches who deserved to be fired, you can rest assured that no matter high or mighty you may be, there are still people not worthy of carrying your jockstrap who are more than happy to put you in your place.

As for my son who was harassed by some minority kids, I had this to say: you experienced treatment that those kids and their ancestors have experienced in this country for centuries, something that hockey player experienced just last week. The difference is, you don't live in a country that continues to argue about honoring people who actively fought to enslave your people. The president of the United States doesn't call the continent of your ancestry a shithole and have countless people agree with him. You get to go out into the world and not have to worry about being profiled, carded, suspected of crimes, wrongly arrested, and perhaps even shot and killed by the police, just because of the color of your skin. Unfortunately those kids and even that rich NHL player can't say the same thing.

It's a tough lesson to teach and to learn. Living it, as African American people do every day, is much tougher.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Death in the Afternoon

I had an unexpected day off work this week after my daughter fell ill as I was driving her to school the other day. Days like those can be a welcome respite from the everyday work-week. Sick as she was, I convinced my little girl to eat something and she began to perk up to the point where the two of us were able to have some quality time together. I was also able to take care of a few things I have a hard time accomplishing between work, family commitments and sleep. Despite all the great plans I had for the day, three o'clock rolled around and along with it, my body clock reminded me it was my low point of the day. So I took advantage of one more thing that I don't normally have the luxury of doing, taking an afternoon nap.

As I was planning on being quite useless for an hour or so, I decided to turn on the TV for that extra decadent edge. The plan to get some rest ended up being for naught as the local TV stations had pre-empted their regular programming due to a "breaking news" event. Today, those words don't have the same impact they once did. If you watch TV news at all these days, you're used to the words "breaking news" displayed across the bottom of the screen all the time. The problem is, news stories no matter how relevant, serious, or interesting, all have to break at some point. Flashing "breaking news" on the screen today is simply a way to draw attention to the story, the video equivalent an exclamation point. However, isn't the entire point of exclamation marks
lost if you use them at the end of every sentence?

On the other hand, breaking into non-news programming, as was the case the other day, is a different story. To this day I get chills whenever a program I'm watching is interrupted by a news report. It brings to mind words I heard for the first time over fifty years ago: "We interrupt this program to bring you a news bulletin." Those words are seldom followed by good news.

That was certainly the case the other day. Below the words "breaking news" on the screen, the bulletin was spelled out plain as day, a police officer was shot and killed in the middle of Chicago's Loop, in the middle of the day in the middle of the week. It seemed the two sets of words on the screen contradicted each other; the news was no longer breaking as the event had already concluded. The officer was shot, he died, and oh yes, not spelled out in the written bulletin, the shooter had been apprehended. The only thing breaking by the time I turned on the TV was the reporters filling in the details.

The most significant detail was the identity of the fallen officer. Mercifully, police officials were withholding his name pending notification of next of kin, and presumably allowing time for the immediate family to arrive at the hospital where he died. Sketchy reports trickled in that tactical officers from the Chicago Police Department had been pursuing a person of interest in a shooting that took place a few days before. A struggle ensued and the officer was shot. I had particular interest as I have a family member who is a member of a CPD tactical unit. When it was reported that the deceased was a district commander who joined in the pursuit, not a member of the tactical unit, I breathed a sigh of relief, followed by feeling tremendous guilt that my relief came at the expense of someone else's tragedy.

Despite no longer having a personal stake in the story, like the proverbial train wreck, I couldn't take my eyes off the continuous TV coverage. As the tragedy took place only one block from the studios of the particular station I was watching, there was more than ample news presence at the scene of the crime, with reporters tripping over one another to get their own angle on the story. By the time I tuned in, the massive Thompson Center had been evacuated of all but the most essential state employees. Its cavernous atrium was empty save for a handful of reporters and their crews with little to report other than how desolate the place felt. Another reporter out on the street didn't have much to report either, except at one point when a large group of plain clothes officers walked by. One of the anchors commented that, save for their badges which were prominently on display, they looked like ordinary citizens, which if I'm not mistaken, is exactly the point. Later, the same reporter managed to get an eye-witness to the event to speak to him. The witness said that the police apprehension of the suspect was remarkably calm and that the suspect was wearing a (bullet proof) vest, making the clear implication that the suspect may also have been a cop. Much to her credit, one of the news anchors made the observation that we shouldn't jump to conclusions by what was just said, what the man observed may not have been the apprehension but perhaps a normal exchange between officers on the scene. It turned out that what the man witnessed was indeed the actual apprehension of the suspect, yes he wore a vest, but no, he was not a police officer.

As there was so little to report at the scene, much of the coverage consisted of the voices of the talking anchors back at the studio reiterating the same points over and over again, accompanied by live shots from a stationary camera fixed on a neighboring building looking north on Dearborn past the Thompson Center showing a deserted street in the middle of what was soon to be rush hour, and another camera inside a news helicopter which hovered above the building showing more desolation.

The first meaningful contribution to the story came a little after 4PM when Chicago's Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson spoke to the press outside of Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where the officer had been taken. A grief-stricken Johnson, close to tears, identified the policeman as 31 year CPD veteran Paul Bauer, who was commander of the 18th police district on Chicago's Near North Side. In his brief statement, Johnson said that while "any loss of life in this city is tragic, this one is (particularly) difficult."

Bauer's body was eventually taken to the medical examiner's office escorted by a convoy of several police and fire vehicles, a long-standing tradition of honoring fallen police and firemen and women similar to one I witnessed and wrote about almost eight years ago.

I have to say the continuous coverage of the story prior to Johnson's press conference did not serve the story well, nor did it make for particularly compelling TV.  Between turning the TV on where I learned all the significant facts of the story, until Superintendent Johnson gave his moving words to the press an hour later, I learned virtually nothing about the tragedy other than speculation about what might have happened, much of it turning out to be wrong.

Having just said that believe it or not, I don't mean this to be a criticism of the way the TV station covered the story. I have complete sympathy for the program director who was faced with a difficult decision: stay with a tragic, important story, even when there was nothing to report about it, or return to regularly scheduled programming, (and the ad revenue that goes along with it), which would have seemed trite and disrespectful, given the gravity of the situation.

They say that live TV news coverage was born with the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, the first time I heard the words "news" and "bulletin" used together. Walter Cronkite, one of the men who broke the news to a startled nation, said years later that back in those days, when news departments were the poor stepchildren of the TV networks, they didn't keep cameras "warm" in the studio. So when they needed to go on air immediately with an important story, all they could do was display a card with a graphic on the screen, while the voice of the reporter delivered the bulletin in the background. Hard to imagine today, but after those first bulletins that the president had been shot were delivered on the three networks, all of them went back to regularly scheduled programming until they had something new to report. I remember my kindergarten teacher furiously switching between channels to get more information, only to be frustrated when all she could find were the daytime soap operas. They finally got the tube-driven cameras warmed up and running by the time the news arrived that the president was dead and as far as I can recall, the news departments did not relinquish control of the networks until three days later after Kennedy was buried.

Since then it has become de-rigueur for TV news departments to take over the airwaves whenever a big story is breaking. Needless to say, technology has enabled the producers of news programming to get shots and to go places never thought possible back in 1963, but the essential ingredients of gathering news and getting the facts right before going on air with the story, haven't changed. It is, as we saw the other day a laborious, and frustrating process, fraught with many perils. As the German statesman  Otto von Bismark famously said: "Laws are like sausages, it's better not to see them being made." Perhaps we can add news gathering to that list.

Despite all that, with perfect twenty twenty hindsight, I think the TV station did the right thing by staying with the story, if for no other reason than out of respect for Commander Bauer and the police department.

I stopped watching after Superintendent Johnson's comments and got on with my day. As usual for me, I had the radio on in the background. I was only a little bit surprised that the radio station, our local NPR outlet, had a much different take on the story. It occurred to me that the radio was on all day and yet I had absolutely no idea of the shooting which took place at least one hour before the TV came on. After I switched back to the radio, the only mention of the tragedy was during the traffic reports, steering listeners away from the area where there had been a "police shooting". That choice of words made it impossible to determine if an officer had been shot, or did the shooting. Later when the procession to the medical examiner's office took place, the dispassionate voice of the traffic reporter told listeners to avoid the area of such and such because of a "procession of police vehicles." Little if any effort was made to connect the procession with the shooting. Later, a local news segment led off with the story of Commander Bauer's death, but it was immediately followed by an unrelated story about a corrupt policeman being acquitted of some charges. If you weren't paying close attention to the reports, you could have easily tied the two stories together, as my wife did.

One could easily say that the TV station over-played the story while the radio station under-played it. The takeaway from my experience of that day is that it's wrong to assume that one and only one news outlet has the key to all the facts, let alone the "truth." If we have any interest at all in being well informed, it's essential that we question everything we read, see and hear, and always remember to "touch that dial", better yet, crack open a book or a magazine on top of that.

In the end of course it hardly matters how the story was handled by the different news outlets in town. Without a doubt all that matters is the tragedy of a life cut too short, of a daughter losing her father, a wife her husband, neighbors, friends and acquaintances losing someone dear to them. It's the tragedy of the city losing someone who by all accounts was a dedicated professional, whose 31 years of experience in a difficult job was indispensable, and will be impossible to replace.

My thoughts are with Commander Bauer, his family and his brothers and sisters in the Chicago Police Department as he is being laid to rest today. May he rest in peace.

Mad as Hell

There are no easy answers to the outrage and tragedy of mass shootings in this country and I am not naive enough to believe that banning assault rifles alone will end them.

The gist of the argument against banning these weapons of mass destruction, which is precisely what they are, is why do honest, law abiding citizens have to give up their guns because of the criminal acts of others?

To that my answer is this:

I once enjoyed playing lawn darts, keeping my shoes on before getting on a plane, and the right to pee in a bathroom of a restaurant where I was not a customer. Unfortunately I can’t do any of that anymore because some assholes did stupid things making it bad for everyone else. 

You know what? I’m ok with that because if these small sacrifices contribute to the greater good of society, then so be it.

No, banning the guns alone is not going to solve the problem, not at this point in the United States where we now have more guns than people. But the least we can do in memory of all the lives lost so needlessly in the name of the right for people to own guns, is to not make it so goddamn easy for these killers to slaughter innocent people.

Is that too much to ask?