Saturday, April 28, 2007

Win SPJ Lisagor column writing award

I'm excited because I received the Society of Professional Journalists/Chicago Headline Club award for column writing last night for three columns I wrote for the Southwest News-Herald. It's a big award for the Southwest News-Herald and puts them in competition with newspapers throughout the state of Illinois. It's not easy to win.

This is my 3rd Lisagor Award for column writing since I entered journalism in 1976. I won one in 1984/05 when I was at the Chicago Sun-Times, one in 2002/03 for columns I syndicated through Creators Syndicate and published in the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and now this one which I'm really honored to receive.

The columns reflected both my humor writing style and serious approach to regional news and events, and are titled:

"Thanksgiving Tabouli Wars Is Now Served [at the Hanania Household],"
"Graduates Who Defy Stereotypes" and "Reavis [High school] Reunion Creeps Up Like Receding Hair."

The award means much because I was competing against two other great writers who also deserved the same credit for their talents and hard word: Named as finalists were Joseph Aaron of the Chicago Jewish News for "Talking and Listening," "Real Jewish People" and "Jews and Darfur," and Thomas Mucha of Crains Chicago Business Magazine for his "Small Talk" columns.

They are both great journalists, too, working at great publications.

Here are the comments from the judges:

Comments of the judges:

News column or commentary Award: Southwest News Herald, "Thanksgiving Tabouli Wars Is Now Served," "Graduates Who Defy Stereotypes" and "Reavis Reunion Creeps Up Like Receding Hair," Ray Hanania

Comments: Writing a regular column is a lot harder than it looks. General interest columnists have to be ready to show themselves and share their inner thoughts and beliefs with their readers -- something most of us were trained not to do in the course of our other job as fair and ideally objective reporters of facts. Ray Hanania's columns illustrate how the best of us are able to accomplish that, taking the random and (globally) inconsequential activities of daily life and crafting them into a deceptively simple sounding monologue that touches people with the familiarity of the experiences while shedding light on the serious and significant concerns of the larger world. Mr. Hanania manages that slight-of-hand with both wit and grace, and most difficult of all, a dash of humor that lightens outrage and makes it palatable, causing the reader to think about the greater issues roiling beneath the surface without compelling them in any obvious way to challenge their assumptions. Instead they think about the world in ways they might have resisted if they were simply being bashed over the head with passionate and reasoned argument.

Finalist: Chicago Jewish News, "Talking and Listening," "Real Jewish People" and "Jews and Darfur," Joseph Aaron

Comments: There is some irony to the fact that Joseph Aaron's thoughtful and often moving commentaries from a distinctly and unabashedly Jewish perspective came in just slightly behind the work of his Arab-American colleague. His columns are well thought out, well structured, filled with passion and guided by a sure moral compass. Whether one agrees with him or not he demands that the reader think and reconsider initial prejudices. He combines those passionate positions with reasoning and denies himself the easy satisfaction of absolutism by recognizing the other side of the coin even as he is spending it. Faced with several dozen examples of written commentaries, I started his entries with a wish that he wrote shorter columns, but in each case I finished them glad he had room to stretch his verbal muscles.

Finalist: Crain's Chicago Business, "Small Talk," Thomas Mucha

Comments: One of the things that makes judging this category a particular challenge is the variety of work submitted. It is one thing to write a compelling column about the lifelong love affair of one's parents after one has passed away, or to recount the happiness and affection between a family and their recently departed pet. It takes skill and courage to write about the feeling of waiting for a press conference with your throat in your mouth as you consider the chances that your own family members could have been in that very wrong pace at the time the horrific news event occurred. It is a different, but no less admirable feat to take a small business person's question and make it the foundation of an article that is simultaneously entertaining and informative, and even more amazing, right to the point. Small business advice columns are unlikely to leave their readers with a lump in the throat and a tear ready to fall from their eye, but making them something that people will look forward to, or even go out of their way to pick up a magazine and read is no less of an accomplishment -- maybe more.
Last November, I was presented with the "Best Ethnic American Columnist" Award fromt he New American Media Association, too. :)

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Obama bombs like a rock, Hillary and Edwards take off solid

Wow, Barack Obama may have shot up to the celestial political heavens over the past year but he suire looked mediocre in the recent debate. Well, even if "Ba-rock Obomba" sank like a rock, he is a decent person. Maybe his contribution has been to help define the presidential debate. Of course, this won't end his presidential bid because the consultants sucking all the money out of him won't let him stop until every penny is spent.

And not surprisingly, Obama is going to continue to face serious questions about Tony Rezko, a Syrian-American businessman who has been charged with criminal misconduct and for whom the scandals don't seem to stop. The tragedy of Rezko is that he's a good person who allowed himself to be surrounded by swindlers and low-lifes in the Arab American community who used their selfish ties to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to put Rezko in a bad spot.

U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, however, really looked good. She was strong and she didn't shy away fromt he cheap shots that she "supported" the Iraq war in 2003. Who didn't support the Iraq war in 2003? Every American was misled by President George Bush and his criminal conspiracy called the Bush "Administration." So when Obama says he didn't support the war, he knows that's BS ... because had he been in the U.S. Senate, he would have voted for the war authorization, too, despite his silly claims otherwise. Well, Obama has only been in the senate two years and that, frankly, is not enoughf or anyone to assess his abilities. His stint in the Illinois Legislature was so unremarkable that you have to wonder if he is in fact not just all PR Spin and Consultant voodoo magic.

The other strong candidate was John Edwards, who also demonstrated a real understanding of the issues. Sure, you can do the Obama strategy to bash others for supporting the war, but that is the cheap-headline grabbing angle that is misleading. Instead, Edwards focused on the need to leave and the need to reject Bush's truly inexperienced, faulty leadership.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Congress will give Bush $124 million for Iraq, but set a timetable to leave

What will President Bush do now? Veto the bill to set a timetable for withdrawal and deny our American soldiers $124 million in funding?

The American voters want this war to end. They want Vice President Dick Cheney's company, Halliburton, to stop ripping off our soldiers.

Withdraw from Iraq now and let the Iraqus take over. We've done enough to help the Iraqis, and not enough to fight real terrorism.

Two Republicans joined with 49 Democrats to pass the bill, which was approved by the House on Wednesday night.

Bush is the defeatist. Bush should start listening to the people. Of course, this is the 4th anniversary of the farse press stunt that Bush did in which he declared "Mission Completed" aboard the battleship. What a joke.

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This weeks column, comcast show and more

This week's print column in the Southwest News-Herald examines how the April 17 regional elections in Chicago and the suburbs might impact two upcoming congressional races. Cong. Luis Gutierrez is expected to retire this term, opening the door to a battle for his succession between Chicago Ald. Rick Munoz, the favorite, and Chicago Ald. Danny Solis. Solis is Mayor Daley's man in the Hispanic community and City Council. Solis backed Daley in the fight to reject the Big Box ordinance, and Munoz backed the ordinance which would have required big box retailers like Wal-Mart and Target and others to slowly start paying a decent minimum wage to their employees.

The Mayor opposed the bill. Big labor backed the bill and fought aldermen who backed Daley. Big Labor won nearly a dozen of the run-off elections proving that Big Labor does speak for the grass roots voters. That gives Munoz a running lead in the congressional race.

In the neighboring 3rd Congressional District, I call "Sleepy Hollow" where mediocre passes for activism, Dan Lipinski, who was handpicked by his popular father, William Lipinski, to succeed him once Bill managed to win the primary and prevent other Democrats from contending. He waited to the last minute to step down so that even the Republicans couldn't plan a serious challenge.

Since being elected, Dan Lipinski has been quiet, addressing some staple district issues but not much more, and avoiding the controversial issues. Dan is a good person. Just not a very aggressive congressman like his dad who was adept at political maneuvering.

Dan Lipinski has faced some tough challenges and it is only going to get tougher for him, given his and his father's role int he mudslinging that took place in Oak Lawn's 1st District between Jerry Hurckes, Lipinski's chief of staff, and Kurt Madey, a progressive who offered new ideas and some fresh air. Madey backs reform mayor Dave Heilmann. Hurckes represents the old ways. Hurckes won with a 2 to 1 margin over the outspent Madey. And he did so using the precinct captains who work in the 23rd Ward and for Dan Lipinski. They were out there in force. I saw many of them crawling through the district like termites.

Although Hurckes won the district, a small area of Oak Lawn, that popularity doesn't extend to the rest of the village, which is a cornerstone of Lipinski's 3rd District. The animosity and ugliness of the race will only move more Oak Lawn voters to consider voting for someone else besides Lipinski when he runs for re-election in the Spring.

The congressional primaries will probably start in February 2008, rather than in March, under legislation introduced by House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, who is doing this to help give U.S. Senator Barack Obama an equal footing in the presidential primaries next year. But it means congressmen like Lipinski, who justfinished a grueling race this past November, has to quickly jump into campaign mode.

And with the anti-Lipinski movement growing, next year's race will be even tougher, unless he sharpens up and starts leading. Being independent, and proves to voters in Oak Lawn that he, not Hurckes, is the real power house in the 3rd District.

Of course, maybe Hurckes is the "King" of the 3rd District. If that's the case, he should just run for congress.


I taped a show on Comcast Cable with Ed McElroy, and McElroy called me to say the show would air Tuesday April 24 and Tuesday May 1. Well, it didn't air April 24. I heard from many readers who went there looking for the show and found something else. No problem. Comcast has had some issues over the past year and they have become very unreliable. Still, because there is no cable competition or open market, we don't have much choice for alternatives. That could change, hopefully, someday.

Here is a link to a web page promoting better cable TV service in Illinois:

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Some letters on numbers and dates, and the tragedy of political debates on the Internet

Here are some letters ... I'll post the new ones on top as they come in:

On the oddity of looking for meaning in upcoming calendar dates:

A few years ago, I got an email from a friend informing me of an unusual occurrence. Someone had discovered that November 19, 1999 would be the last time that he date, when written out in standard form, would be composed completely of odd numbers (11/19/1999). For the next thousand years or so, there will be an even number in the date. It won't be until 1/1/3003 that an "all odd" date will occur. What did I do on that date? I went home and had a beer.

M. Argiropolis
Concord, NH

On the proposition that we need political candidate debates on the Internet:

Hello Mr. Hanania,

I just finished reading your article mentioned in the subject line and I can’t agree with you more. I have been registered to vote since I was 18 years old and was able to vote in the presidential election of ’84. I was young, enthusiastic, and not yet disillusioned by our political process. I’m now 40 yrs old and thoroughly disgusted with the people that we elect every other year. I no longer look to vote FOR someone but against the ‘other guys’ politics’. It’s a societal sickness that I liken to your description of the virus. The one question that I have for you as a man who seems willing to vent his frustrations, and has a venue for it, is do you have a suggestion for changing the situation, or are you just venting to vent? I hear the same complaint as yours all the time, I know because it’s mirrored in me as well, but I don’t hear a lot of people offering suggestions for change (for the better, that is). Do have anything to offer on this account? If so, please share it. I’m willing to listen, or read as the case may be.

Thank you for your time,

George Richardson
Las Vegas, NV

Just read your article on the upcoming on-line presidential debates, the article in which you slam the internet, the media companies that control it, and the mindless millions who read it. But most especially, you point out the fallacious promise of the technology, and its failures as a medium and as an agent of change.Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Dear God, thank you.

R West.
Buffalo New York


I just have to ask you something after reading that article. What's the point of even writing it? If what you say is true, that basically the internet is full of worthless sludge with Americans tuning into a YouTube video of a guy getting hit in the nuts over video clips of a worthwhile documentary, then no one would be reading your article. In fact, your article was at the top of the headlines list on Google News, which means it's a popular article.

Just curious,
Clay Ewing,

Thanks Clay

the point is not that is doesn;t help, but it isused the wrong way. A PEW Institute study said that most people are leaving print media for the Internet but that the majority of people reading news on the Internet are the same people who read it in papers ... in otherwords, the Internet hasn't really educated more people, just is now an alternative to the people who were already enlightened ...

Ray Hanania


Interesting Date phenomenas

We're always looking for great unusual "date" combinations. I'm not talking about boy-girl dates, or boy-boy or girl-girl, although that might be considered, well, not unusual, but uncommon.

Anyway, dates like June 6, 2006, supposedly was 6-6-6. Actually, June 6, 2006 was 6-6-06 which is not quite the Devil's number.

This phenomena of indentifying dates began long before Sept. 11, 2001, which has been burned in our memmory as 9/11, or 9-11, or just plain 911, which is the national telephone emergency number we use for our phone system.

Now there is another a friend sent me which I found fascinating: At 3 minutes and 4 seconds after 2 AM on the 6th of May this year, the time and date will be: 02:03:04 05/06/07.

May 6, 2007 at 3 minutes and 4 seconds past 2 am.

How about this one, 2, 4, 6 8, who do we assassinate? That date would be 2 pm on April 6, 2008?

Read more about it on my online column later this week.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Olympics and the "benefits" to the Southwest Side

After I have written three columns addressing the absence of any significant role for the Southwest Side of Chicago in the 2016 Olympics, Congressman Dan Lipinski and Ald. Mike Zalewski, naturally, have been trying to spin a different angle.

Let's be honest, that they "might" use the Bridgeview Stadium for soccer games is a no-brainer. All the thanks for that goes to Bridgeview Mayor Steve Landek who is responsible for bringing int he stadium against much odds and opposition.

But the truth is that while two Southwest suburbs will get tokenism and a little something, (Palos will get some bike Path racing -- wow! Big Deal), the majority of the capital improvements and new infrastructure will go to the rest of Chicago, NOT the Southwest Side.

Here's a great feature by writer Chuck Salvatore on Lipinski and Zalewski's "rah-rahing."

Personally, I think the Southwest Side is, ONCE AGAIN, getting screwed because our elected officials were ONCE AGAIN asleep at the switch.

They're going to be rebuilding in East and south Side of Chicago. Whatever residue the Southwest Side gets will be people zipping through, to and from, Midway Airport. Maybe. So we'll get some CTA congestion. But none of those tourist dollars will make their ways into the starving pockets of Southwest Side Chicago businesses that have been long abandoned by the state Chamber of Commerce and our government.

Hell, Mayor Daley sent a message out loud and clear when he moved to the "South Loop" suburb-in-a-city years ago abandoning Bridgeport, once the firewall of Southwest Side clout. These days, the clout is just a memory.

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Favorite programs on TV, and this week's print column

My all time favorite news show is Dateline NBC. And the best series ever has to be Chris Hansen's "To Catch a Predator." Unbelievable the morons that get caught and are engaged in sexually preying on young children online.

But Dateline NBC overall has overshadowed CBS TV's 60 Minutes, which for years was the best program on TV. I could never handle that curmudgeon Andy Rooney at the end of the show -- I met him once at a conference of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. He was an arrogant SOB. No class. Bore.

I'm not sure if the reason is Katie Couric. She was the sprite, funnygirl on NBC's Today Show. Moving to CBS is not her personality. I just don't see her as a serious journalist. Sorry. Of course, I am not that enamored with ABC's Charlie Gibson, either. Gibson is more serious. But you can't sit on a morning show and then suddenly become Walter Cronkite. I like Brian Williams and the NBC Nightly News the best. Very professional.

Anyway, this week's print column focuses on two congressional districts on the Southwest Side/suburbs, one up and one down. Rick Munoz has a great future. A Chicago alderman who symbolizes ethics and morality in much the same way as another alderman I respect, the 49th Ward's Joe Moore. Munoz will be running to succeed U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, who I once was close to but now I am not -- he sold himself to the high-priced consulting whores.

And then there is Daniel Lipinski in the 3rd District, "Son of Bill." His career has blown the tires out of a vehicle I once thought was "high expectations." Very disappointing. Make sure to grab this weeks Southwest News-Herald to read the column on Page 3 ... or wait until Thursday night to read it online.

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Medication and pressures? Nay, just no friends

This week's print column explores the pressures on being a columnist. Not that I want to solicit sympathy or anything. Just that the topic came up over LUNCH not Breakfast among some nice ladies who read my column regularly and whom I heard from ... the wondered why am I so "mean" in my columns.


Here's the column:

We live in a mean society, and columnists always look meaner than they really are. Championing the downtrodden and those persecuted by excessive political fat-cats is not easy because the fat-cats have the clout and the victims don't. So you have to work harder to keep the pressure on the no-good-nicks and expose their moral corruption and excessive and unethical behavior. They are spending your taxdollars to make themselves look good.

All I do is spend my meager pay to try to balance the equasion.

Ray Hanania

Friday, April 20, 2007

McElroy interviews Hanania on Comcast Cable TV Ch 19

Longtime radio talkshow host and publicist Ed McElroy sat down and interviewed me on his Comcast Cable TV Show which airs Tuesday April 24 and May 1 at 8 PM on Channel 19.

Also, check out my Cable TV Show "30 Minutes" broadcast every Friday night at 8:30 PM on Channel 19 also. This month, the feature is on "Jewish Jerusalem."

-- Ray Hanania

40 years have past since the Oak Lawn tornado

On April 21, 1967, a tornado ripped through Oak Lawn (read memorial set up by the Oak Lawn library.) It first touched down in Palos Hills at 105th and Kean Avenue, lifted up, and then came down again at the old Starlite Drive-in theater at 6400 W. 95th Street. The tornadoes' winds swept through the village at 600 MPH, claiming 18 lives when it left.

What is amazing that almost half the populatio of Oak Lawn wasn't even born. (According to the 2000 Census, 21 percent of Oak Lawn's residents are under the age of 18.) Forty years later, it's just a distant memory. And that's the scary part. The Oak Lawn tornado of April 21, 1967 sounds like it happened in our lifetime, but it was in a past lifetime for many. And that means that a tragedy of that magnitude could happen again.