Wisconsin Guns, Chicago Crimes

Gun violence in Chicago is often the topic of headlines around the nation. Too often Monday morning newscasts will report on the number of shootings and homicides from the weekend. Even more tragic to learn are the reports which deal with children in the city who are struck by bullets and killed. We do not know the kids personally, but such news rips at us deeply.

Chicago, often based on such news, gets a negative backhand from many who hear of the gun violence tallies. But the Windy City is, of course, not alone in dealing with the gun culture that has totally gotten out of hand. In Philadelphia, as an example, officials are fearing this could be the deadliest year in the city’s history.

But while learning of what is happening in Chicago neighborhoods there must also be an awareness of how Wisconsin plays a role in that gun violence. Recently data was examined which connects the dots of a Glock stolen from a smashed glass case in Superior, Wisconsin, to its recovery during a street stop in Chicago. 

The movement of guns from Wisconsin to Chicago, and the tragic outcomes caused by such weapons, has triggered a likely journalism prize-worthy series in the Chicago Tribune. It truly deserves attention from Wisconsin residents as we are clearly part of the problem.

It was a few hours past midnight on New Year’s Day 2016, a time when the working-class northern Wisconsin town of Superior keeps the bars open especially late.

Police were tied up with two bar fights, one of them a 30-person brawl at a local saloon called the Ugly Stick.

With no cops in sight, the burglar was ready to make his move on Superior Shooters Supply, a gun shop frequented by hunters and hobbyists.

It was just 12 days later, authorities believewhen one of those (stolen) pistols was fired from a car in the southbound lanes of the Chicago Skyway around 97th Street, killing a 25-year-old road manager for a rap group who was driving his new BMW coupe.

The ease with which anyone with a disturbed mind or cruel intentions can make entrance to gun stores and steal deadly armaments is very concerning. In the above robbery, the store owner in Superior noted that the handguns were “stolen from one of her glass display cases”.

The consequences of such brazen thefts are noted in the data.

Guns that end up on Chicago’s streets often come from Indiana and Wisconsin. In 2019, of more than 11,000 guns confiscated by Illinois authorities, 460 were traced back to Wisconsin, which ranked third for states with the most gun traces outside of Illinois, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

We need to re-examine the issues at play that allow for hundreds of guns to leave our state and cause injury and death. Wisconsin needs to implement stricter standards for gun dealers. The reason why is most obvious. 

At the present time, ATF does recommend that all commercial dealers install an alarm system, high-definition security cameras with audio, place bars on all windows, plus sturdy doors with multiple locks at each entrance.

But that is not enough.  Advising such common-sense recommendations is far different from demanding under law the stores act responsibly.  So let us be clear as to what Wisconsin should require.

Simply put, all gun stores need to place all firearms in a safe or vault after business hours to prevent theft.  I also have long felt that these stores would be best served with burglar alarms connected directly to the local police department. These ideas would in no way impede on those who seek to buy and own guns but would make those who sell weapons more responsible members of society.  If stores do not abide we then need to hold gun store owners accountable for shoddy security practices.

Chicago records show that aside from the above Glock linked to 27 shootings in Chicago, the three other guns from that one burglary were tied to more shootings in the city, striking at least 10 people and killing one of them.

In one case a 9 mm Glock 26 was confiscated by Chicago police from a teenager six months after the break-in, and in another, a 9 mm Glock was linked to the shootings of at least eight people including the slaying of Elliott Brown and wounding of his girlfriend.

The burglary at the Wisconsin shop was another episode in what police said is an established connection between Chicago and towns along the western tip of Lake Superior. Drugs often move north from Chicago, officials said, and sometimes firearms head south.

The reasons for the epidemic of gun crimes have long been studied. At this time in the nation, there is a soaring number of gun sales, the ever-more harsh political rhetoric against gun-control measures, and a deep distrust among some towards law enforcement. The list of contributing factors also includes economic forces which ramped up during the COVID crisis, and the long-running federal drug policy which desperately calls for reform.

Stealing deadly weapons from a gun store is also a proven problem which demands a public policy solution.

And so it goes.

Choices in Life: Former Madison Resident Took The Wrong Path, In Vehicle When Police Officer Killed

There are many times we can ponder a newspaper story and try to walk backwards from the events in the article. Whatever the article is reporting we can try to consider what might have happened if one of the subjects in the story had taken only one alternate path in life.

Such was the case this week regarding the tragic shooting of two police officers in Chicago. One of them, 29-year-old officer Ella French was killed almost instantly. The other officer remains in critical condition at the time of this posting.

Emonte Morgan, 21, pulled the trigger last weekend and for all practical purposes ended his life, too. He will spend the rest of his life in prison as a result of first-degree murder. Of a police officer. Perhaps two.

Alongside the shooter was his brother. They were both seated in a vehicle during a traffic stop. Eric Morgan, 22, had resided in Madison until 2018, He is now facing a raft of criminal charges ranging from unlawful use of a weapon by a felon, aggravated unlawful use of a weapon with a prior conviction, and obstruction of justice.

The gun that was used for the Chicago murder was bought by Jamel Danzy, from Indiana, in what is termed a ‘straw purchase’. Such gun sales are a topic that concerns all those who understand the need for better gun control laws.

In such a transaction paperwork is used with lying on a form so to buy a gun for someone who could make the purchase themselves. And it comes with some irony, too. Straw purchasers have clean criminal records by nature, as that is the point since they are the front person in such crimes. They use their clean records to commit a crime.

Danzy, used his clean public record to so violate federal firearm laws and gain the purchase of a weapon for a felon. A judge released him from custody with a slap on his wrist, terms that included a $4,500 unsecured bond, and supervision by court personnel. During this process, it was reported Danzy admitted he also purchased a gun for his cousin, who he knew was a convicted felon.

So many stand-up characters in this news story.

But is it Eric Morgan my mind keeps returning to, again and again.

Eric Morgan was sentenced in Dane County to three years of probation in June 2019 after pleading guilty to theft as a party to a crime. He was skirting so close to real legal pitfalls and potential problems that would surely pull him down if he did not take corrective measures. Yes, he was initially arrested for armed robbery, and that is a most serious matter, indeed.

But he was young, the world awaited with promises of better days and success if he chose to track in that direction. Was there no one who sternly took his arm and had that ‘come to Jesus’ meeting where it was spelled out in stark terms that the end of the dangerous and reckless behavior had to occur? No one with the force of character or the means to force some changes?

How did Eric wind up alongside someone with a gun that should never have been obtained and then used to kill a police officer, and shoot another one?

We all know in any life there are off-ramps, course changes that can be taken. How is it that this young man did not take any, or have a guiding hand of an adult to prod him–or otherwise–down a new path? There were clear reasons to have headed to the side of the road, and take the turn to something better in life.

That did not happen. It is very sad.

Why I Detest Hedge Funds, Chicago Tribune Showcases Reasons

If you ever wondered what the call letters for WGN (radio or TV) stand for now might be the time to find out. Because the root of the meaning is slowing dying.

Col. Robert McCormick was a legendary businessman and mover and shaper of Chicago. He is best known as the owner and publisher of the famed Chicago Tribune. He rightly had proclaimed that newspaper as the “World’s Greatest Newspaper” as it was a long-time preeminent source of news for the region. When the company bought a radio station and television station the idea for the call letters fell into place.

WGN.

Now the newspaper has fallen into the grubby and destructive hands of a hedge fund known for destroying local journalism.

When it comes to hedge funds it comes as no surprise I rank them alongside those who sold cure-all elixirs door-to-door at one time in our nation. They are best termed as “vulture capitalists”. Soulless, too.

Now comes news that the newspaper will likely be saying goodbye, by the end of next week, to some of its best-known names who, with their bylines, have allowed readers to know a credible reporter was writing the story. The reason for this madness is the newspaper is fully under the control of a hedge fund known for severe cost-cutting. No regard for talent and experience, or the needs of the citizenry to have a newspaper designed to impart information to all the neighborhoods and communities that rely on the Tribune.

Instead, there is now a voluntary buyout underway as Alden Global Capital sinks their teeth into the meat and bone of a newspaper that has been a regional necessity for readers. If the new owners accept the reporter’s buyout they will be gone by Friday, June 18th.

I have no problem with money being made by a business, but I do have deep concerns when the goal is money over ‘anything else’. In this case, ‘anything else’ is the local news that will be short-changed from being reported. I do not wish to be viewed as having only sentimental or nostalgic “back in the day” perspectives that are brought to this issue. While I was raised with a daily newspaper in our Hancock home, and have subscribed to at least one daily paper during all my adult years my purpose of writing this post is due to a long-lasting truism.

Journalists do work continuously to get the facts sorted, copy written, and edits made under deadlines and tremendous pressures so that we can learn the news we need to know as citizens.

Short-term profits for hedge funds at the expense of iconic news operations or the needs of news consumers are appalling. We need regulations to stop and undo the consolidation of our news, (be it radio, newspapers, or broadcast television), into the hands of fewer and fewer people.

And so it goes.

Urban Milwaukee Published My Article Today About Media Buyouts Hurting Local Journalism

Urban Milwaukee published my column today about the ways local journalism is undermined with massive buyouts, such as a hedge fund purchasing Tribune Publishing.

Local Media, Reporters Matter: Chicago Tribune Is Proof

Not for the first time do I stress the importance of supporting local media. From subscribing to a local newspaper and supporting businesses that advertise on a local radio station. Local media and the newsrooms they populate with reporters and journalists are one of the foundations that keeps our democracy strong. News and information is a vital component for an engaged citizenry.

With that being said it was not shocking news, as the reports on the negotiations have been known for weeks, that Tribune Publishing, publisher of the Chicago Tribune and other major newspapers, has agreed to be acquired by Alden Global Capital in a deal valued at $630 million. But it was still very unsettling and troubling to learn of the outcome as the consequences are enormous. This is far more than just a news headline to be treated in a fast cavalier manner.

As a result of the deal, there is soon to be one of the largest newspaper operations in the United States. But that does not make it a boon for news consumers, or a win for the newspaper profession, or hard-working journalists who ferret out the news for each edition. Far from it! The reason is due to Alden being a hedge fund with a history of deep cost-cutting at its other newspaper properties.

But there is also a more fundamental issue to consider with the amassing of properties in large media companies. When papers are owned in such a fashion opposing views are marginalized and Op-Ed pages are watered down. Or with some local papers due to budget cuts, there is not even an editorial staff to ponder the issues of the day. For the sake of our democracy, I again make the case as to why there must be regulations to stop and undo the consolidation of our news, in any medium, into the hands of fewer and fewer people.

When it comes to the iconic Chicago Tribune I shudder to think of the future. The newsroom has already shrunk roughly 30 percent since November 2018, from about 165 journalists in the union to 118 presently. Those are not just jobs. No, far more important those numbers are news reporters who head around the city to meetings and neighborhoods to gather the stories which inform readers. And with the knowledge of what happens in the city comes the sense of community and connections which is also a vital component to democracy.

I have been posting for years about the woes of the newspaper industry in the digital media age. I have written about the revenue from the industry being cut in half between 2008 and 2018 because of a ruinous decline in print advertising. And to the gut of the matter that means during that same time frame newsroom employment declined 25%. (Pew Research)

When it comes to hedge funds it comes as no surprise I rank them alongside those who sold cure-all elixirs door-to-door at one time in our nation. They are best termed as “vulture capitalists”. Soulless, too. It also should come as no shock Alden has done great harm to other papers they have bought and chopped up in their all-consuming zeal to make money. The reason so many people are exercised over the recent deal is that local news suffers when newsrooms are pared down and the voices and events of those nearest to the reader are not reported.

When a hedge fund looks to break apart a newspaper and treat it as only a cash cow there is a deep price paid for by the local community. When newsroom owners view profits as the only goal, quality, reliability, and accountability suffer in the editions of the paper that hit the streets and land in the mailboxes.

Jon Schleuss, president of the NewsGuild-Communication Workers of America, whose local chapters represent newsroom employees in Chicago, Baltimore, Hartford, Orlando, and other cities, expressed his views on the Alden deal concisely and to the point.

“Alden has a history of running newspapers into the ground, This isn’t good for workers, the company, shareholders, or the communities.”

I have no problem with money being made by a business, but I do have deep concerns when the goal is money over ‘anything else’. In this case, ‘anything else’ is the local news that will be short-changed from being reported. I do not wish to be viewed as having only sentimental or nostalgic “back in the day” perspectives that are brought to this issue. While I was raised with a daily newspaper in our Hancock home, and have subscribed to at least one daily paper during all my adult years my purpose of writing this post is due to a long-lasting truism. Journalists do work continuously to get the facts sorted, copy written, and edits made under deadlines and tremendous pressures so that we can learn the news we need to know as citizens.

Short-term profits for hedge funds at the expense of iconic news operations or the needs of news consumers are appalling. We need regulations to stop and undo the consolidation of our news, (be it radio, newspapers, or broadcast television), into the hands of fewer and fewer people.

I end this post where I started. I urge readers to subscribe to their local newspaper. Paying for quality journalism should be viewed as just as important as paying for other needed services in our lives.

Chicago’s Magnificent Mile Ripped Up By Rioters

Very late last night (or early this morning depending how you define time) I was listening to the radio reports of total goonish behavior underway as rioters rampaged in the heart of Chicago.  Hundreds of people swept through the Magnificent Mile and other parts of downtown Chicago smashing windows, looting stores, and confronting police.

This area of the city is one that has long drawn my attention and love. James and I often would take the bus to Ohio Street and its Best Western where we would spend a weekend doing nothing more than walking the entire area and eating.  From what was then Tribune Tower on to Navy Pier and way off to LaSalle Street we would walk and thoroughly enjoy one of this nation’s grand cities.

Having been a listener to Chicago radio since an early teenager has created deep regard for the city.  Being a history buff I have loved to find out more of the famed city.  I am sure not a single one of the rioters last night was aware that 101 years ago the nation’s first aviation disaster–a blimp that catches fire, buckles and crashes into a bank located next to the Board of Trade Building near La Salle Street—had occurred. That was not so far from where the current madness was underway.

I am most certain that the rioters were not privy to the colorful tales of then-Mayor ‘Big’ Bill Thompson, the stunning elections, racial tensions, bombings, union strife, and so much more that took place in the Windy City that July.  What lessons were gained from that time is of no concern to the ones loading up cars with stolen merchandise.

So the news today from the ‘Mag Mile’ is just awful to hear—-and then later when I saw the results of the depraved activity–it just makes me most angry.  And what started the insanity was the inability for some to grasp the actual facts about an earlier shooting.

Sunday afternoon in the Englewood neighborhood there was a 20-year-old man who shot at police while they were pursuing him.   The criminal was taken to the hospital and is expected to survive.  No word on why he thought he should be shooting at the police.  But some on social media purported the shooter was a young teenager.  Social media did not explain how a teenager shooting at police made the situation more swallowable.

What resulted in the rioting is simply maddening. The looting and vandalism are caught on a bevy of cameras showing people streaming in and out of high-end stores, and throwing merchandise into rental trucks and other large vehicles before driving away.  Yes, this is all about social justice!

Reports mounted as the hours continued with people seen breaking large business windows and darting through broken store windows and doors along Michigan Avenue carrying shopping bags full of merchandise. Cars dropped off more people, the videos show, as the crowd grew.

I would be calling out the Illinois National Guard today with orders to stop the chaos.  This must not be allowed to start again tonight in Chicago.

Here is Walgreens on the iconic street.

EfDaRXFWAAAl3lq

And Marcus.

EfC4NW3WkAAViv7

And Lamborghini store.

EfC5k8yXYAAmASs

And Telsa.

EfC4il8X0AADjd_

And on and on.

Jessie Jackson is correct to blast those who took the criminal actions last night in Chicago.  “This act of pillaging, robbing & looting in Chicago was humiliating, embarrassing &morally wrong. It must not be associated with our quest for social justice and equality.”

There is a difference between those who truly seek remedies through the political process, and that can and does include peaceful marches, from those who trash businesses that make profits and generate tax dollars so to help fund government programs.  Therefore, it is incumbent upon respectable folks who desire to see justice to now call out the ones who created the shameful spectacle on the Magnificent Mile.

EfFOnmxWAAEPpum

Ugly Side Of Humanity On Display During Pandemic

I am a decades-long listener to WGN Radio.  From my teenage years to this morning as I woke up.  Countless wonderful memories of radio hosts, and exchanges with listeners.  But there are also those times when the needed reporting of events has left me wondering what in the heck is wrong with some people.

That was the case over the past 48 hours.

Tuesday night was absolutely disgusting for the violence that was unleashed in that city, leaving seven dead, and over a dozen injured.  The fact that none of the shooters or the victims had the capacity to follow the simple stay at home order is most disturbing.  The only action that makes sense out of this carnage is that Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has placed a 9:00 P.M. liquor purchasing curfew, which started today.

The first thought I had when hearing of this violence was that more people will now need to be placed in hospitals, at the time when the very last place any sane person wants to be is at the focal point of places dealing with COVID-19.  But I guess those who use guns as a way of life are not following the news of the pandemic.

But those doctors and nurses who are on the front line in their fight to save the lives of patients suffering from the virus should not then have their medical facilities drained of needed resources, such as masks, etc., in a needless effort to remove bullets and operate on victims.  The gang-bangers have once again placed a drain on society, at a time when there is not a lot of give on the fabric that holds us all together.

The Fat Babies Swing For First Time In Dane County

Again this year we participated in the annual benefit concert for the life and work of Holy Wisdom Monastery in Middleton.  The event is remarkable for the food and desserts, along with talking to a variety of people who attend.  Each year there is music, and it always is quite good.

This evening, however, the music was simply phenomenal.

The Fat Babies are a Chicago creation from the uber-talented Beau Sample, who works the string bass with a driving beat.  He also looks the part of the era they are lifting back to its rightful place in the music world.  The 1920s and 30s are again reborn with the sound that harkens to the black and white films, and the speakeasies from great novels.

At night, when in my radio broadcasting days, I aired the Big Band Show on WDOR which featured the likes of Eddie Condon, Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, and Cliff Edwards.  The music was spiced and filled with the verve that demands to never be stopped from live performances.  I can assure my readers the studio speakers were ramped up and the ‘local neighborhood disc jockey’ was bopping about the station.  By that time of the night, I was working the station solo, and it got loud. A special friend might come to the station about that time and wait until ‘the broadcast day’ was over and we would head out for breakfast at a local diner.  Good memories.

The Fat Babies know the essence and feel of the music and drive it home in each arrangement—many of them crafted for their presentations by Andy Schumm–who plays the cornet.

The mood they set, with the precision sound from an era that was so filled with power and punch, makes the Fat Babies a must-see the next time you visit Chicago.  They perform at the Green Mill (uptown) and it will be something James and I place on our to-do list.

For those who organize the Holy Wisdom Monastery event—take a bow–as you orchestrated a perfect evening of food, conversation, and music!