400 Days


Things don’t seem to be going all that well in American policing, particularly for Chicago residents.

The video that the City of Chicago was forced to release showing jaw-dropping incompetence on the part of a southwest side officer only represents the best available imagery of a police department over their heads. The Laquan McDonald death is simply the vehicle carrying the message of scores of angry protesters and a populous in disbelief over the performance of their police department.

There is little in the 30 second clip of Chicago cops following, then shooting McDonald that should surprise anyone who’s been following the topic of excessive force by American police agencies these days. The officer himself, Jason Van Dyke, isn’t actually shown emptying his gun’s magazine clip into the teenager. The dashcam video from one of the squads on the scene only shows McDonald on the ground being pumped full of lead bullets from somebody screen left. That somebody is the same somebody who was 20 times before, reported for excessive force or other citizen complaints. The unremarkable conclusion to every single complaint? Innocent. No wrongdoing. It is here where we begin to see what really troubles residents and observers of the CPD.

The culture of corruption at the Chicago Police Department threatens the very citizenry they are assigned to serve in a manner that grossly exceeds what can be considered acceptable. The CPD is far beyond “a few bad apples” and even further beyond the already broad discretion cops are given to use force. The CPD is too deep in operational and personnel inconsistencies to be able to effectively perform their duties. The public doesn’t trust the police. The police don’t trust the system, and nobody trusts the mayor and his law enforcement chief.

The ‘cover-up’ operations at the CPD are what one might consider to be laughable- except there’s nothing terribly humorous to laugh at. Murder charges in the 1st degree have never been filed against a Chicago cop, despite the police shooting someone once every week for the last 8 years. Not remarkable. What is somewhat troubling is that of those 400 police shootings, only one was found to be unjustified. The other 399 times, the cops nailed it spot on. Pretty good percentages, by any standard. Hell, you throw out the results from the West German judge and the CPD is perfect! Deadly, justifiable force, every time. I challenge readers to find a Chicago police-involved shooting where the statement from officials DOES NOT include a narrative where the offender “pointed a gun at police.” I can’t find one. That leaves me to either have to believe the police are actually quite perfect in gun-slinging, or that the statements coming from the media office at police HQ are cookie-cutter, prepared narratives that are easily defended with “the officer felt threatened.”

The CPD cost residents of the City of Chicago one-million dollars a week, every week for the last 10 years, to settle cases of police misconduct. Money well-spent if you ignore the five-million dollar check the city wrote to McDonald’s family– without their need to sue. If there was video and the city treated just 1 in 4 of the police shootings the way they responded to the McDonald case, they’d blow through that half-billion dollars in 2 years. The fact they they stretched 500 million to 10 years of abuses is pretty good accounting, and pretty good police work. The strategy to investigate, deny and cover has worked well. It has, however, crushed all trust that anyone outside the force may have had for the beat cop and their bosses.

Consider the handling of my personal arrests by the CPD in 2008 while covering news for local Chicago media. While working as a credentialed photographer covering a police-involved shooting at 63rd St and Honore on the south side, I was placed under arrest for failing to comply with a verbal request to “not photograph” the investigation following the shooting. After being charged with obstructing an officer with my TV camera, cops in the processing room at district 7 (Englewood) deleted the memory cards from my still cameras while I watched- handcuffed to a wood bench. Then, the arresting commander stopped by to sternly advise the rank-and-file processing the arrest that “all your names are going on this arrest- so make sure it’s done right!” A second arrest for the same charge 2-weeks later while photographing a south side church was dropped. When the first arrest went to trial, a judge found my actions in compliance with the law while questioning the CPD commanders truthfulness and credibility on the stand. Yeah, yeah, blah, blah. Who cares? Nobody, really. However, deleting camera cards in front of a reporter is rather brazen, don’t you think? It was years ago. There was no lawsuit and I made no complaints against the department or its officers even though it cost thousands to defend. The only real difference was a dramatic chilling of my chasing news in the city. As if getting chased by stray dogs or risking personal injury through random violence isn’t enough for reporters, we have the CPD to worry about.

How does this incident relate to the current discussion on CPD trust? Where is the video from the Burger King store across the street from the Laquan McDonald shooting? Where are dashcam videos from the several other squad cars on the scene- at least one facing directly at the offending officer? Why did it take 400 days to fire, then file charges against a cop with a history of abuse who fired 16 bullets into a dead guy? Why- and how does the CPD get away with a policy of refusal to comply with Freedom of Information requests?

This department’s list of embarrassing situations exceeds the available time and space offered here, but John Burge’s legacy of torture, Dante Servin’s firing a gun over his shoulder into a crowd, Glenn Evan’s jamming of his gun down an innocent guys throat and the felonious destruction or tampering of evidence department-wide are all indications that the current crime culture and incompetence of those in charge at the CPD is not working. These and all the other brow-raising tales out of Chicago raise the question: What else is being covered up?

A lesson in inequality.

kart6Any of you parents ever read “Siblings Without Rivalry?”  Me neither.

I’m not impressed with clever book titles.  I see clever book titles and think: bullshit, I’m not reading that.  Actually, I have 100 reasons why I think: bullshit, I’m not reading that…but clever titles is top 10.

So, I can’t speak knowledgeably about the book, but I am an expert on the developing situation brewing between the two preteen females I have living in my house.  You see, 8-years-old-Louise is fueled by not only piss and vinegar, but a fundamental belief that in order for her to save the world, she must first destroy any imbalance in the system.  Predictably, the most immediate threat to her personal solar system is her sister.  10-years-old-Grace is a lovely day.   A ray of sunshine, a soft breeze, an orange evening sky.  Louise is a line of severe afternoon thunderstorms with a tornado watch.  Big, beautiful, exciting thunderstorms that light up the sky and send everyone to Facebook to share photos and discuss damage.  ComEd is often scrambling for days after Louise rolls through.  While Louise could kill you by smashing your house with a tree, Grace could just as quickly smother you with kindness and sensitivity.  It’s important to note that they will both kill you equally dead.

Knowing all this very well, I thought it might be fun to send them out on a circuit in unequal racing karts with minimal instruction.  Siblings Without Rivalry my ass.  That book doesn’t have a chapter that covers how to manage the conflict that follows preferential treatment at the race track.  Lauda-Hunt, Prost-Senna, Schumacher-Hakkinen, Anzaldi-Anzaldi?

It only took 2 days of karting for the girls to settle into their comfort zone.  By day three, the previously bashful sisters jumped out of my car and into their waiting karts like they were Paris and Nikki Hilton boarding a Gulfstream to go shopping.  Louise in a 50cc kid kart capable of 35mph, Grace in her 100cc cadet kart that would easily top out at 80mph.  Wink, wink.

How’d it go?  Well, they didn’t kill each other with their suddenly found bravery.  That’s a pretty good start.  They did, however, begin to notice the difference in performance between the machines.  They also started requesting changes to the setup.  Louise wanted the choke fully open in order to get maximum top speed.  Grace was unhappy with the weight of her steering- which we lightened up a bit by adjusting front tire pressures.  Now comfortable with their karts, the driving line, the facility and the procedures, they naturally turned their focus to besting each other.  Their father’s pride lasted 3 whole laps (about 2 minutes) before I realized the storm clouds rolling in.  Louise has discovered she’s pretty quick through the twisty bits.  Quicker than Grace.  She’s also realized that she’s no match for Grace on the long, front straight.  Immediately after processing her disgust over the situation, she decided to fight fire with fire.  In this case, chop-blocking at full-speed to keep Grace behind her.

Holy Moses.

They were immediately pulled in for a brief discussion.  “Good driving Weezy.  Don’t ever fucking do it again.  High-five!”

Back out they go.  But, like the rest of the females in my life, they completely ignored my “coaching” and resumed their wheel-to-wheel racing through corners, occasionally forcing each other off track.  I shake my head feeling sorry for myself when some guy I don’t know quips: “You got your hands full there, aye?”  Yes, sir.  My hands are quite full.kart3kart2kart4

blog1When folks of average, reasonable income get the urge to relax on a breezy summer day, they might take a kite and a submarine sandwich down to the park.  When the exceptionally wealthy get the same urge, they handle the situation differently.  This entry explores the response of the latter.

Kites are for kids.  But what do you do if you’re over 11 years old and you shit dollar bills?

You tie a kite to a giant, fiberglass bathtub and have a race with other dudes that shit dollar bills and wanted to fly a kite that day.  Since anything worth doing is worth competing while doing it, you’d seek a vehicle whose main purpose (besides attaching your kite to) is to travel quickly.  In the Wisconsin area, Lake Geneva in particular, you’d own a Melges A Scow.  What the hell is a Melges A Scow?  It’s a 38′ sailboat that does 30 mph.  The rest of the details are meaningless.  It is, however, worth noting that this beauty has 1700 sq.ft of sail to move it’s relatively light ass around.  My dorm room had 144 sq.ft.  It sucked.

This past weekend was the A Scow National Regatta at the Lake Geneva Yacht Club.  These are slick, flat-bottomed boats with no keel to keep them upright.  They are super-quick with very little drag and require at least 5 crew to sail.  Like obnoxiously expensive toy vehicles can be, these boats are totally entertaining to watch.

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AR1A5796aThe best all-around basketballer in the league/country/world #whocares made himself available to the media this morning, just hours before his team is to dismantle an injury-riddled Bulls team at the United Center.

The Miami Heat have got a good thing going.  Anyone aware of this situation?  This group of individuals have won a whole pile of NBA games, all in a row.  Like, 27, give or take some.  It’s been a tremendous accomplishment.  We’re all very proud.

NBA game-day shootarounds are mostly closed-curtain affairs.  Teams are very protective about WTFKW (who the fuck knows what).  Sports espionage.  Imagine.

For this reason, there was no opportunity to see Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh or Ray Allen rain jumpers from all over the gym.  Just a bunch of ballers sitting around in jogging suits, answering dumb questions.  Made for some exceptionally useless still pictures.

Below: Wade icing his knees; James calls up some tunes for the 16 second walk to the locker room; Bosh going iPad Mini on your ass.


Photographer down!

AR1A4258aAn old and abandoned warehouse caught fire last night in Bridgeport.  There was no loss of life and the fire will have only improved the property, once the rubble is hauled away in dump trucks.  Despite these two details, the newspaper and morning TV shows were properly orgasmic over the shear size of the incident.  The city’s fire commish declared it the biggest fire in 7 years.  From this, my takeaway was: they have a way of measuring the size of a fire?  Yes, apparently.  In this case, I think it mostly means a couple hundred dudes with access to fire trucks met up at the same time and place, and turned an old building into a crazy-looking ice sculpture.  This hasn’t happened in like, 7 years.

Like a dick, I showed up NOT wearing rubber boots, but fur-lined, slip-on loafers and blue jeans.  So, when I tried to gracefully leap a unleapable puddle of filth-flavored Slurpee, I ended up shin deep.  When I extricated my foot from the freezing, toxic quicksand, my shoe stayed submerged.  I took a full 7 seconds to finally determine that I had to retrieve the lost loafer.  In the 6 seconds before that, I seriously considered moving on.  Temperature check…14F.  The recovery was quick and eventful, and included me- wait for it…

…falling backward onto my ass.  Soaked feet, ass and cameras.

Ain’t that some bullshit.


Mixed bag.

Today’s categories, in no particular order, are:

Unplanned fires, animal stories, sweet & savory, pro hockey, tiny little vehicles.

There was a fatal fire this morning in a high-rise condo on South Shore Drive.  Though I was too late to witness any of it, there was 30 minutes of high drama after the 7th floor blaze broke out.  Balcony rescues, jump bags, blown-out windows, extreme temps.  All the makings of a real-life nightmare.


While en route to South Shore Drive, I saw the now locally famous hound that made his way onto the frozen Jackson Harbour, just two blocks from the fire.  An Animal Control officer from the city told me the beast had been cruising the ice for 3 hours.  3 hours.  On ice.  What a badass.  It’s like the honey badger of dogs.  What?  Frozen paws?  Black shepherd mix don’t give a shit.

Animal Control eventually popped him in the jugular with a dart, possibly saving his life.


Ever see the movie: The Italian Job?  Me neither.

Apparently, one of the main characters in the film was a fleet of Mini Coopers.  If I’m understanding it correctly, the movie-makers utilized movie-making techniques to make the Mini Coopers look like cool cars.  More recently, Fiat made a commercial for its own Mini Cooper, employing Romanian model Catrinel Menghia in an effort to make the 500 look like a cool car.  fiat_girlBecause of that ad, I chose a Fiat 500 as my rental while my megawagon gets modifications.  I’m not entirely sure what I thought might happen once I took possession of the miniature car, but so far, I have not noticed anything in the operation of the machine that even remotely resembles Catrinel Menghia.  As you’d expect, I’m a little pissed about that.

Otherwise, the Fiat 500…

Well, it’s like, 1/4 of a car, really.  It has many of the things a regular car would have, except that you can hang it in your closet at night.  Or park it at a bike rack.  Fuck, if you don’t pay attention, you’d walk right on by it because you thought it was a mailbox.  I asked the guy at the rental counter how the Fiat was…he said: “It gets really good gas mileage.”  Thank God for that.  Strike one.  Sue saw it on the shelf in the garage yesterday and remarked: “Cute little Fiat!”  Cute?  Strike two.  One of the fellas at rat hockey today simply said: “What the hell?”  Strike three.


Glazed and Infused is a homemade donut shop with 4 locations that Google can easily identify for you.  I use the one on Fulton Market.  They make delectable treats delicious enough to make you giggle like a school girl.  $30/dozen.


The local professional ice hockey organization opens its home season 3 months late tonight at the United Airlines Center, 8 miles east of Oak Park, Illinois.  They host the St Louis Blues, winners in an overtime shootout 20 hours ago in Nashville, Tennessee.  Marian Hossa’s bringin’ it, like he can.  The Slovak is a +3 with 4 goals and an assist in his first two games back after suffering a summer of post-concussion syndrome.  Raffi Torres took him out on a criminally dangerous hit during the first round of last season’s playoffs.  Charges are still pending against Torres.

If Hossa is not your favorite Chicago Blackhawk, may God have mercy on your soul.



The lake was/is a mess today.  Ideal submarine conditions.

The forecast called for 20 foot waves in the city, 30 footers in Gary, Indiana.

Because Gary, Indiana could use a natural disaster.

This was the view near 31st Street…