Another brick in the wall.

Sometimes I feel 100 years old. I was never a full-time police reporter, but I’ve covered enough cop-shop shifts over the years to remember how it used to go. When I worked nights, that was my Friday-night assignment. I’d go to the little press office in the station itself, shared with the reporter from the other daily. A big stack of photocopied police reports was on a table, and I’d go through them in search of stories. Then I’d make the rounds inside the building, stopping in various squad rooms, shooting the breeze, asking around.

Police didn’t like reporters any more then than they do now, but it was usually cordial. I think only one room was locked, and they’d open up if you knocked. I picked up one front-page story by sitting quietly in a chair, listening to a juvenile-squad detective asking a judge for a warrant to take a home-birthed preemie out of a home; the baby’s sibling had died during delivery, and the parents had called the police to ask whether they were permitted to bury the body in their yard. (Yes, really.)

Things have changed. Now it’s common for public entities — working for us, accountable to us — to be as impenetrable as the Kremlin. I needed a police report earlier this summer, and I had to file a FOIA request for it. (That’s Freedom of Information Act, for you civilians; it’s supposed to be for documents that are public, but require some effort to dig up. It’s not for routine stuff, which should be online, if you ask me, and available to everyone.)

Agencies have their arguments in favor of walling themselves off, I know. Far more people these days consider themselves amateur public watchdogs, and some are legit pains in the ass. Others do important work that used to be done by journalists, so it balances out.

So I was struck by Neil Steinberg’s blog today, about trying to do a followup to a story he wrote 30 years ago, about a functioning high school in the Cook County Jail. The Chicago Public Schools flacks were, shall we say, uncooperative:

Nothing. Not even a reply. The CPS reaction to my simple, reasonable request for a mundane feature story is perhaps the most unprofessional performance I’ve encountered in 30 years of Chicago journalism, They lacked the consideration to even say “No” so I could stop asking. Just silence. Weeks and weeks. The September back-to-school moment has come and gone.

I give up, and am posting the story I liked so much from 29 years ago. It was an inoffensive thing, a nod to the hard work that teachers do, day in and day out, in the Cook County Jail. The teachers there now might want to ask their bosses why their efforts could not be showcased in the newspaper.

I shudder to think why it was possible for a young freelancer to write it in 1986, but that months of steady pressure could not replicate it in 2015. We are a nation with freedom of the press, in theory, but that freedom is curtailed and hobbled by fearful government bureaucrats who lack faith in themselves, in their organizations and in their employees, and so gag them, not realizing that the gag is a worse indictment than anything they might say. Those terrified of bad publicity use that fear to bat away good publicity, then wonder why all the news about them is bad.

Bottom line: our American freedom erodes, undermined, not by foreign enemies, but by domestic cogs.

Amen, brother!

Which sort of leads us into the bloggage. The drinking stories made this a big day, plus a new Tuesday volunteer obligation I’ve taken on, an after-school thing. So I ain’t got much, but I got Gin & Tacos, making a point about John Boehner. Can’t say he doesn’t have a point.

Oh, and guess who was testifying in the Ohio legislature yesterday? Look at the entry for September 29, and download his testimony if you’re so inclined.

Speaking of testimony, I gather the Planned Parenthood hearing was a real show trial, without the trial, and the lady at the table put on all of the show. Keep shooting yourself in the feet, guys. You really got a winner here.

Off to bed with me.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events |

44 responses to “Another brick in the wall.”

  1. Deborah said on September 30, 2015 at 4:58 am

    Interesting post today. I always like it when you talk about your profession, Nancy. Also Gin and Tacos has another good post up about freedom, or lack of it And I greatly enjoyed the Steinberg link.

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  2. Suzanne said on September 30, 2015 at 6:47 am

    Sounds like CPS is no different than the revered world of business. Apply for a job and think you’ll get a response?? Haha. Interview and have a greater expectation that you’ll get any communication? Double haha. It seems to be the way the world works now. Don’t call us, we’ll call you…

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  3. ROGirl said on September 30, 2015 at 7:23 am

    His refusal to indulge the magical thinking of the House Republicans means that you can put a tick in a box on the “Not Crazy” side of the column, but that’s about all that John Boehner can be given credit for.

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  4. Julie Robinson said on September 30, 2015 at 7:57 am

    The lady at the table, Cecile Richards, learned how to deal with idiot politicians at her mother’s feet.

    My Dad was a news and sports guy for a small-town radio station and the police department was his first stop every morning. Over the years he got really close with many of the officers and got a lot of good stories. Never discount the charm quotient in getting the scoop.

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  5. coozledad said on September 30, 2015 at 8:14 am

    Chaffetz must be preparing for an eventual presidential run. That was his submission to the “Lie your slimy ass off about Planned Parenthood” competition.

    That he was caught in it and publicly embarrassed just endears him to the Right. You’ve got to lie boldly and comfortably. He’s not quite at the level of Carly Fiorina or Jeb Bush yet, but by 2020 he’ll be selling patent medicines with Ben Carson.

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  6. Wim said on September 30, 2015 at 8:46 am

    Is Chaffetz actually capable of embarrassment? Are any of them?

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  7. coozledad said on September 30, 2015 at 9:17 am

    When did this gilled and finned sumbitch crawl up onto land?

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  8. brian stouder said on September 30, 2015 at 9:40 am

    See – North Carolina ain’t got nuthin’ on the Hoosier state, when it comes to slimeballs who call themselves God-fearin’ right-thinkin’ ‘Christian’ conservatives!

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  9. brian stouder said on September 30, 2015 at 9:41 am

    (somehow that’s not very re-assuring)

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  10. coozledad said on September 30, 2015 at 10:30 am

    Yeah, the oceans are warming and driving the bottom feeders out of their natural habitat.

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  11. susan said on September 30, 2015 at 10:47 am

    On the other hand (re: Planned Parenthood committee theatre), watch Rep. Elijah Cummings shine the light. Why aren’t more Democrats doing this?

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  12. brian stouder said on September 30, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    You know, really – this is why I’m conflicted regarding the possibility of VP Biden jumping into the race.

    On one hand, I look forward to voting for Sec Clinton.

    ON the other – Biden would absolutely ‘turn up the volume’ and answer this garbage back, if he takes the plunge and enters the fray.

    Que sera, sera – eh?

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  13. coozledad said on September 30, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    Longest serving House select committee since Watergate. Your tax dollars at work:
    Kevin McCarthy, a top Republican lawmaker on track to become the next speaker of the House, credited the Select Committee on Benghazi for damaging Clinton’s poll numbers — a surprising admission from a party that has sought to portray the investigation as even-handed and non-partisan.

    “Let me give you one example,” McCarthy said, citing his conservative credentials during an appearance on Fox News with Sean Hannity Tuesday night. “Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would’ve known any of that had happened had we not fought and made that happen.”

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  14. brian stouder said on September 30, 2015 at 12:38 pm

    It makes sense that that guy would jump at the chance to admit the whole thing is a “witch hunt” – the better to call Sec Clinton a witch, afterall.

    If I was Sec Clinton – I’d waste no more than a few milliseconds before berating the “NEW, proud, unreconstructed McCarthyism” of 2015 Republicans

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  15. Deggjr said on September 30, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    @Coozledad #7 – An excellent variation of “Don’t pay the ransom honey, I escaped!”. State House Majority Leader Rep. Jud McMillin (R) was very fortunate to recover his stolen cell phone.

    More good fortune: McMillin did not reveal any details about his doppelganger’s activities.

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  16. coozledad said on September 30, 2015 at 1:48 pm

    McMillin is alleged to have texted Stapleton that he was heartsick being separated from her and sent photos of himself masturbating with a string tied tightly from his testicles to the wheels of a rolling office chair to illustrate his pain.

    Another argument for improved arts education in this country.

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  17. brian stouder said on September 30, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    “…sent photos of himself masturbating with a string tied tightly from his testicles to the wheels of a rolling office chair to illustrate his pain

    That’s just….nuts!

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  18. coozledad said on September 30, 2015 at 1:59 pm

    What’s really weird is he then took the office chair and threw it off the roof of his garage.

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  19. brian stouder said on September 30, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    Talk about your grand finales!

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  20. Sue said on September 30, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    One of the only things about Scott Walker and his Republican pets and pals that really got editorial boards in Wisconsin riled up was when they tried to sneak through a gutting of the open records laws, to the point where legislators wouldn’t have had to release any information about bills under construction. Nothing, if they thought it was not conducive to the running of the government or something. The editorials were across-the-board screamers and usually included, by name, each of the 12 R legislators responsible for the proposed legislation. Of course it came out after an initial denial that Scott Walker had already said he would sign it.
    Which further reinforced my belief that what’s been happening to Wisconsinites for the last several years is directly due to the fact that we’re not concerned about the bullshit coming out of Walker’s, and Fitzgerald’s, and Vos’s offices until it bites us directly in the nether regions. I wondered, if having mining companies openly writing beneficial legislation for themselves gets a pass from editorial writers, why get so upset about not being allowed to know about it to begin with? But apparently this was just an unthinkable thing to do, interfering with the press’s right to do their job. Which I wish to hell they would either do or be allowed to do, depending on who’s calling the shots I guess.

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  21. Deborah said on September 30, 2015 at 2:59 pm

    I am disappointed to learn that the Vatican has confirmed that the Pope met with Kim Davis last week. I mean really? The four times married Kim Davis? Here I was ready to be impressed with him and then he goes and does that. She claims he told her to “stay strong”. Stupid.

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  22. Andrea said on September 30, 2015 at 3:06 pm

    Thanks, Nancy. Now I have that Pink Floyd zombie children’s chorus running through my head.

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  23. brian stouder said on September 30, 2015 at 3:07 pm

    Deborah – agreed. I think a person who acts in accord with her faith may well be admirable. As an elected official (that is to say – she wasn’t drafted into or otherwise compelled to accept the job she has), Ms Davis could have resigned – and delivered an impassioned statement as to why she was leaving. But to hang onto a job that she specifically and defiantly will not do, is a violation of the public trust, and worthy of derision – not admiration

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  24. MichaelG said on September 30, 2015 at 3:12 pm

    I’m really unhappy that the Pope met with Kim Davis. This meeting lends her an air of legitimacy which she desperately needed. For me it really takes the shine off the Pope’s visit to the US.

    She claimed to be a believer in some non-specific fundamental religion. To my knowledge she has never mentioned any particular church or group of which she was a member. I don’t recall ever seeing or hearing any rev or bishop or whatever saying anything about her or associating with her or even being seen in the same county with her. Then when she finally meets with a clergyman, its – the Pope. I’m just shaking my head.

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  25. Sherri said on September 30, 2015 at 3:21 pm

    There’s nothing quite like the entitlement of the well-to-do. Some context: Mercer Island is an affluent suburb on an island in the middle of Lake Washington, east of Seattle. I-90 crosses Lake Washington through Mercer Island. Despite the relatively easy commute to Seattle, Mercer Island has of course resisted any attempts at density and fought growth at every opportunity. That’s no surprise.

    Now, finally, or finally in 8 years, there will be a light rail extension across Lake Washington that will run from Seattle to a transit hub in Redmond next to Microsoft. This has been years in the plan and the fighting; lawuits have been filed and fought back. Taxes have been voted for to pay for it. But that doesn’t mean that everyone is happy about it. Did I forget to mention that the extension will go through Mercer Island?

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  26. alex said on September 30, 2015 at 3:27 pm

    I read something earlier that indicated Pope Francis knew nothing of Kim Davis’ story other than having been told that she was a “conscientious objector” who raised religious liberty arguments in the workplace. No doubt he felt the bad juju when she was presented to him and believed her to be in need of his prayers.

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  27. Deborah said on September 30, 2015 at 3:49 pm

    Alex, one would think the Pope’s handlers would be more careful. I mean someone could get away with some really vile stuff and the Pope would agree to meet with them? Seems irresponsible of them. All of the good feelings they worked up here and now dashed is inexplainable. Of course the rightwing is ecstatic about it, so maybe that was their goal? Whatever.

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  28. Sue said on September 30, 2015 at 4:13 pm

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  29. Sherri said on September 30, 2015 at 4:55 pm

    Jeff(tmmo), I read your testimony.

    Amen, brother.

    As a depressive and an alcoholic, I have a visceral understanding of what even the willingness to believe that hope might be possible can do. I’ve also seen what no hope does. I’d never wish the despair of loss of hope on anyone, but I wish more people understood the devastating effects of it.

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  30. Jolene said on September 30, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    Add me to the growing list of people disgusted by the Pope’s secret chat w/ Kim Davis. Not only is she the wrong person to uphold as an example of principled conscientious objection, but the idea of meeting in secret is also reprehensible. If she is worth supporting, she ought to be worth supporting in public with a rationale that is compatible with the kind of openness and compassion he seems to want to teach and to exemplify. Very disappointing, indeed.

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  31. Sue said on September 30, 2015 at 5:42 pm

    And I truly despise Ms. Davis’s simpering “I can’t believe this is happening to little me” persona which only seems to come out in relation to authority male figures.

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  32. alex said on September 30, 2015 at 6:06 pm

    If it’s any consolation, the schadenfreude in the Indiana House Speaker’s case is getting more and more delicious with every report. Savor. And consider yourselves lucky that you weren’t on his contacts list. That is one dude I wouldn’t want to see naked.

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  33. Deborah said on September 30, 2015 at 7:14 pm

    It is truly mind boggling that so many rightwing hypocrite legislators (and others who are in positions where they extol family virtues like that Duggar guy) get caught red handed (or red something-ed). I’m sure a bunch have yet to be found out and many never will be. But what a group of arrogant assholes. I feel for the wives and children.

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  34. Brandon said on September 30, 2015 at 7:48 pm

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  35. Suzanne said on September 30, 2015 at 9:05 pm

    What is so odd to me about the Davis/Pope meeting is that she is supposedly some sort of apostolic Pentecostal and I would bet money that a church body of that ilk does not even believe the Pope is a Christian. So why would she want to see him? And take a rosary? Think of all the faithful Catholics who would have done almost anything to see or meet with him, and she gets a private audience? Something about the whole thing does not add up.

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  36. Deborah said on September 30, 2015 at 9:29 pm

    Suzanne, I read somewhere that she said her mother and father were Catholic and she was going to give the rosary she was given by the Pope to her mother. Her mother had the same job she has and the mother had it for 38 years or something like that before Kim. Seriously I just typed Kum instead of Kim.

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  37. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 30, 2015 at 9:55 pm

    In defense, possibly, of the pope:

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  38. Dorothy said on October 1, 2015 at 6:31 am

    Thanks for that link, Jeff. It puts things in perspective and also quells the mounting disappointment I was feeling about the whole situation. As natural as it was for some of us to feel such a strong negative reaction to this story, it’s also important to keep it all in the proper perspective. And I am exceedingly glad there don’t seem to be any pictures of this meeting. Kim Davis would do well to pay attention to everything the Pope says instead of just the sound bites he gave her in person.

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  39. ROGirl said on October 1, 2015 at 7:47 am

    Even I was caught up in the Pope’s visit and the goodwill he generated. His viewpoint seems more progressive than the previous guys, but he’s still a Catholic priest and he adheres with the doctrine and everything it represents. Let’s not forget that. He can apologize for some of the heinous things that have been done in the name of the Catholic church, but he’s the head of it. It appears his dip into American politics has exposed him to some blowback that negates some of the feelgood vibe he generated during his visit.

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  40. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 1, 2015 at 8:16 am

    My impression is that the Pope travelled with much less of an advance staff than even a third-tier candidate for POTUS has in place for a visit to a community. I know from political appearances that a big part of the staff work is figuring out who your candidate gets pictures taken with, and just as importantly who you don’t (which the smartphone era has rendered into a fractured new kaleidoscopic set of images, but the official stand-up read-for-brag-wall pics are still controllable); then there’s the parceling of the time spent in the bus or in a green room “meeting” with certain brokers, donors, bundlers, etc.

    Apparently the Vatican leaves most of that to the local cardinals/bishops, something the nuncio’s office should be set up to do, but doesn’t (maybe because papal visits are so rare); anyhow, if Davis’ parents are in good standing in a parish, and could get their bishop to say a word to Wuerl or whomever, I could see where she might have been slid into that staccato parade of supplicants ushered one clump at a time into the “presence” where anodyne sentiments are shared and a quick shake of the hands suffices. The fact that she didn’t get a picture *with* Francis makes me pretty sure that’s what happened. For a Romney or Clinton, you’ve got a dedicated staffer just making sure there’s a Farleyfile on each of those, inbound and outbound; for the Pope, he was trusting the cardinal archbishop to not put him in a bind . . . and what could go wrong with that?

    Having grown up in the Cardinal Cody era, I’m not easily impressed with the political astuteness of cardinal archbishops.

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  41. beb said on October 1, 2015 at 8:41 am

    The papalvisit website doesn’t tell us anything that we don’t already know but tries to paper over it with “the pope meets a lot of people…” The examples they give are two nuns and a super-wealthy benefactor of the Church. People you would expect the pope to met. They also mention Mark Walhberg but I’m sure it wasn’t because he’s an actor in Ted 2. How Kim Davies fits in with these I don’t know. You have to be sponsored to be introduced to the pope. But whoever arranged Davies’ meeting remains “shadowy.” And finally, if this meeting was so aboveboard why was it kept a secret? The website answers one of these questions, leaving it to look like a crassly political move from a man who’s message had been to be above crass politics. So I remain disappointed.

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  42. ROGirl said on October 1, 2015 at 8:48 am

    The government employee who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples after the Supreme Court decision was slipped in to meet the pope by politically naive cardinals and bishops who missed all the coverage of her in the entire media universe while it was going on just prior to the pope’s visit in this country?

    Not bloody likely.

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  43. Julie Robinson said on October 1, 2015 at 9:42 am

    My mom and I are on a trip and Faux News was on the in breakfast room. She asked to leave because she couldn’t take anymore of their drivel. Mom is a Republican. Wow.

    BTW, today they are pushing Rubio.

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  44. alex said on October 1, 2015 at 9:44 am

    Just because it wasn’t headline news until Davis started boasting about it doesn’t mean it was kept secret. As Jeff says, there were bazillions of people getting their moment with the pope that day; we would likely be dismayed to learn the identities of some of the others seen that day as well. And if a cardinal or bishop arranged it who is of a conservative bent, why is anyone surprised?

    If Davis was represented to him as a conscientious objector who was jailed for her religious beliefs, why would he have reason to doubt her? The pope spends his time meditating and reading old books, not the Huffington Post.

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