Monday, March 31, 2008

Rezko trial: The color of purple and drugs

One of the most hideous eyesores near where I live is the Purple Hotel in Lincolnwood. The now abandoned property, which was a Radisson, and before that a Hyatt, is just five miles from me, I haven't had the occasion to drive past there in months, but I believe it's now Lincolnwood's largest abandoned building.

After a week hiatus for a de facto spring break, the corruption trial of Democratic political insider Antoin "Tony" Rezko picked up where it left off--with testimony from Republican insider Stuart Levine.

First came Levine's detailing of how Rezko allegedly stacked the board of the Teachers Retirement System so it achieve a majority and vote against the wishes of the teachers and retired teachers bloc on the board.

Then came the sordid stuff at the Purple Hotel.

From AP:

Stuart P. Levine testified that he would pay $1,000 to snort both crystal methamphetamine and kaetamine, also known as Special K, drugs that made him feel "euphoric" and lowered inhibitions.

Levine said he attended such parties at hotels in Springfield and other cities while lying to his family and business associates about his use of drugs, which he said began in the 1970s and ended in early 2004 when FBI agents investigating corruption in state government visited him.

"I would stay out all night" when attending out-of-town drug parties, Levine testified. He said he would visit a place in suburban Lincolnwood "known as the purple hotel" in the morning and go home in the evening.

"In order to deceive my family," he confessed. He said he used drugs at home "on very rare occasions" because "I didn't want to be caught."

His guests at these parties were male.

Rezko's defense team will use Levine's admitted drug use to challenge his credibility.

Back when it was a Hyatt, the hotel achieved notoriety when Chicago mob financier Allen Dorfman was gunned down outside the property in 1983.

Did you see the movie Casino? Alan King played the Dorfman character, and towards the end of the film, King gets shot, and ends up face down in the snowy parking lot.

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Dude, where's my forest?

No homes or businesses are in danger, but much of the North Branch of the Chicago River has overflown its banks in many part of Morton Grove and Skokie.

And the adjacent running path has not been submerged, so I was able to get a ten-mile run in today.

It's rained a lot during the last couple of days, and the snow from last Thursday's storm has melted.

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Rites of Spring: Baseball is back

Last night I watched most of the Washington Nationals game as they hosted the Atlanta Braves a the new Nationals Park in the city's Anacostia neighborhood. Amidst a few boos, President Bush, continuing a tradition that goes back to 1910 and William Howard Taft, threw out the first pitch--it was a bit high.

The president joined the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball crew of Jon Miller and Joe Morgan in the fourth inning, when the Braves' Chipper Jones hit the first home run in the new ball park. The Nats ended up winning, when Ryan Zimmerman hit a two run home run--with two outs--in the bottom of the ninth.

As my team, the Chicago White Sox, they dropped their first game of the year against the Indians in Cleveland, 10-8. White Sox ace Mark Buehrle was hammered by the Indians and was chased out of the game in the second inning--giving up seven earned runs.

Two controversial calls against the South Siders in the eight inning, coupled with a three run bottom-half by the Tribe, put Cleveland on top for good.

Good news for the White Sox: Jim Thome hit two homers.

As for the North Siders, the Chicago Cubs lost their home opener to the Milwaukee Brewers, 4-3 in ten innings. I didn't watch any of the game or catch any of the radio coverage, but I'm enjoying the post-game press conference, and seeing Cubs' manager Lou Piniella dismiss a reporter's claim that this afternoon's game had "a playoff atmosphere." Opening day is a wondrous experience, but it's not like the playoffs.

Today the final home opener for the New York Yankees was scheduled, the "House that Ruth Built," but it was called off because of rain. The Yanks move into a new stadium across the street from the old one.

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Bad journalism today: Crain's Chicago Business

Whereas no one, especially myself, is perfect, blogging would be so much harder if the mainstream media did their jobs right.

I was considering doing a humorous post on the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company's new China-only gum flavors: aloe and wolfberry. But one sentence jumped out of me, and I changed my focus of this entry.

From Crain's Chicago Business:

That's the strategy behind Lang Yi, a gum line introduced only in China last year that touts the medicinal advantages of aloe vera to improve skin and wolfberry to boost energy. The goal: get people who are more likely to smoke than chew gum hooked on a Western habit.

The effort is one way CEO William D. Perez is trying to keep Wrigley the top candy company in a country of 1.3 billion people.

Despite an embarrassing cultural gaffe last year, sales for Chicago-based Wrigley are surging in China. With U.S. sales flat, Mr. Perez considers China one of the most important markets for Wrigley, and it's imperative to keep double-digit growth there if he's going to make his profit forecasts of at least 9% gains a year.

Aha!!! But what was that gaffe? Inquiring minds want to know!

It wasn't easy, but after some search engine hits-and-misses, I found it:

Wrigley's chewing gum sales have plunged in a southern Chinese city amid a row over the Chinese national anthem being used as backing music to a chewing gum ad in Russia, state media said on Wednesday.

Complaints from the Chinese embassy in Moscow forced an advertising agency to scrap the commercial playing on Russian television.

Here's what I have to say to Crain's: Why mention the gaffe if you're not going to say what it was? You are not only performing a disservice to your readers, you are inviting them to leave your site--and you don't want that--to find out what the slip-up was.

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Today would have been Obama's withdrawal date from Iraq

John McCain was in support of the the Iraqi troop surge before the term "surge" even existed in relation to the conflict. A good president needs to anticipate events.

Last January, Barack Obama made this statement when he introduced the Iraq War De-escalation Act of 2007:

This plan would not only place a cap on the number of troops in Iraq and stop the escalation, more importantly, it would begin a phased redeployment of U.S. forces with the goal of removing all U.S. combat forces from Iraq by March 31, 2008.

"In a civil war where no military solution exists, this redeployment remains our best leverage to pressure the Iraqi government to achieve the political settlement between its warring factions that can slow the bloodshed and promote stability.

The situation in Iraq is dramatically better since the "surge" began.

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