32 Illinois banks at risk for failure in 2009

More than 30 Illinois banks and thrifts have high levels of delinquent loans and stand a greater risk of being closed by regulators in 2009 if they don't improve performance, raise capital or get acquired, according to a new report.
from the Trib


Government hates competition

Russell Cole once called his extravagant Deerfield home "the house that Best Buy built," according to federal court documents that outline how more than $31 million allegedly was swindled from the national retail giant.

The $2.75 million that Cole and his wife, Abby, used to buy the land and build their two-story house with its distinctive cupola were "the proceeds of fraud," investigators say in the documents.

Missing from the Kenmore Avenue property are the Ferrari coupe, Lamborghini convertible and a collection of nine other luxury and high-performance vehicles worth about $2.8 million that federal agents seized in November and December.


Even though Best Buy and National Parts officials sometimes questioned price discrepancies, those concerns were smoothed over by a Best Buy employee who received money and gifts from the Coles, officials alleged.

In one example outlined in the documents, Chip Factory won a bid for 20 computer parts at $42 per part, while the next lowest bid was $72. Chip Factory later charged Best Buy $571 per part, according to documents.
from the Trib


Panopticon and the social prison

CHICAGO — At first glance, Chicago’s latest crime-fighting strategy seems to be plucked from a Hollywood screenplay. Someone sees a thief dipping into a Salvation Army kettle in a crowd of shoppers on State Street and dials 911 from a cellphone. Within seconds, a video image of the caller’s location is beamed onto a dispatcher’s computer screen. An officer arrives and by police radio is directed to the suspect, whose description and precise location are conveyed by the dispatcher watching the video, leading to a quick arrest.

That chain of events actually happened in the Loop in December, said Ray Orozco, the executive director of the Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications.

“We can now immediately take a look at the crime scene if the 911 caller is in a location within 150 feet of one of our surveillance cameras, even before the first responders arrive,” Mr. Orozco said.

The technology, a computer-aided dispatch system, was paid for with a $6 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security. It has been in use since a trial run in December. “One of the best tools any big city can have is visual indicators like cameras, which can help save lives,” Mr. Orozco said.

In addition to the city’s camera network, Mr. Orozco said, the new system can also connect to cameras at private sites like tourist attractions, office buildings and university campuses.

Twenty private companies have agreed to take part in the program, a spokeswoman for Mr. Orozco said, and 17 more are expected to be added soon. Citing security concerns, the city would not say how many cameras were in the system.

Mayor Richard M. Daley said this week that the integrated camera network would enhance regional security as well as fight street crime.

Still, opponents of Mr. Daley’s use of public surveillance cameras described the new system as a potential Big Brother intrusion on privacy rights.

“If a 911 caller reports that someone left a backpack on the sidewalk, will the camera image of someone who appears to be of Arab or South Asian descent make police decide that person is suspicious?” asked Ed Yohnka of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.

“There seems to be this incredibly voracious appetite on the part of the city to link up cameras to the 911 system,” Mr. Yohnka said. “But there are just no longitudinal statistics that prove that surveillance cameras reduce crime. They just displace crime.”

Some experts, including Albert Alschuler, a law professor at Northwestern University, say the surveillance cameras and updated 911 system do not violate privacy rights because the cameras are installed in public locations.

“In America, we protest the use of cameras for things like enforcing laws that reduce crime or traffic accidents, but we probably ought to do more,” Mr. Alschuler said.

He added: “My more serious concern would be if they start using new audio technologies, which can be calibrated to alert police to loud noises, like a scream or a car crash. What worries me is if police can use technology to listen to anyone who happens to be talking in a public location, which would raise serious privacy concerns.”
from the Times


Pathetic pleading politican gets prison

"Folk in my community understand there can be false allegations when there is someone who is the voice of the people," Troutman told the Tribune at the time. But in August a subdued Troutman admitted that prosecutors had been right after all and that for several years she had solicited cash from developers to back projects in her ward.
from the Trib


Faggot anarchists fuck up pig cruiser

Early Sunday morning, Chicago police broke up Glamourqueer, a massive Bash Back fundraising dance party. It is rumored that as crowds poured into the street, the gas tank of one of the six police cruisers was punctured, rendering it inoperable. 


Coming Insurrection

A wave of refusal in Rome, an occupation in New York. The trashing of a factory in Dongguan, the mobile blockade of interstates in DC. Flames in Athens, riots in Oakland.

Every day we're moving farther from the total stupidity of all political and social milieus. The coming insurrection will be a revolt whose terrain is everywhere and whose weapons are blockades, strikes, sabotage, and solidarity: the inseparable embrace of building power and insurrection.

It is in new social formations and new forms of attack that our potential lies. This is the emergent threat of social war, our war.

Thursday March 5th 7pm at the CCC in Milwaukee there will be a multi-media presentation, talk and discussion touching on a veritable multitude of topics ranging from the ideas of the Invisible Committee's 'The Coming Insurrection', recent sustained rioting in Greece, the state-of-exception, the ever present yet new impending forms of global crisis of capital and a perhaps newly realized terrain of global civil war.

This event is free. People are encouraged to bring food and ideas to share. There will also be free literature available on topics relating to the presentation.

from Mke Indymedia

Don't make waves over Olympics rowing plan

The Chicago Yachting Association, an umbrella group for 15 yacht clubs in the Chicago area, has asked members to keep a lid on it, noting in a memo obtained by the Tribune that yacht clubs "are vulnerable to retribution."

Mayor Richard Daley's office and the Chicago Park District have made it clear "that they do not wish to talk about issues that may be confrontational until after October 2009," according to the memo by an association committee charged with formulating an approach to the city's Olympic plans.

City officials say they aren't trying to stifle dissent before Oct. 2, when the International Olympic Committee, which values popular support, selects a host city. But critics of the bid, from parks activists to concerned taxpayers, believe boosters have worked to suppress public criticism and withhold potentially controversial information.
from the Trib


Is Your Boss Faking It?

This article from Time magazine questions the competency of bosses but also offers a neat look into some social psychology and group dynamics. Anarchists for the most part seem keenly aware of these phenomena and have devised some interesting ways to handle them. However, my first reaction was toward the first-answer scenario, and how this might affect the development of consensus:
An overwhelming 94% of the time, the teams used the first answer anyone shouted out — often giving only perfunctory consideration to others that were offered.
The article points out many reasons why obedience is irrational but disappointingly closes on the note that we'd better follow our leaders. Let's not.


Free Ronald Haddad Jr!

A 28-year-old River Forest man was arrested today in connection with the mailings of a series of threatening letters to city and county officials, the FBI said late today.

Ronald Haddad Jr. was expected to spend the night in federal custody, and appear Wednesda charged in a criminal complaint with making threatening interstate communications, said Ross Rice, an FBI spokesman in Chicago.

Some of the mailings, received by Mayor Daley and others, date to 2007.

Haddad was taken into custody at his home on Park Avenue in River Forest without incident, Rice said.

According to the criminal complaint filed in the case Tuesday, Haddad mailed more than 25 letters between December 2007 and January 2009 threatening harm against numerous public officials. Many of the missives included complaints about high taxes.

"This is the end of Daley and his empire," some of the notes allegedly read.

Certain of the envelopes contained shotgun shells that Haddad unsuccessfully rigged to detonate on opening of the letter or package, the charges alleged.

In addition, plastic baggies containing scented oil were mailed to then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich and others last month with an expletive-filled message, authorities said.

from the Trib


War on God continues


Arson was suspected in an overnight fire at a Catholic church in the Bridgeport neighborhood, where red tape was found across three doors with a rape message.

The fire was reported around 3 a.m. on the outside of All Saints St. Anthony's Church, 518 W. 28th Pl., near some cellular phone equipment but was put out within about 15 minutes, officials said.

On one of the church's doors, though, authorities found the word "RAPE" formed in pieces of red duct tape. On another door close by the words "GOD IS A LIE." On an adjacent door were the words, HAPPEND'S HEAR," written in the same way. Police removed the tape about 8:30 a.m. as evidence.

"This was obviously an arson fire," said Fire Cmdr. Will Knight.

the Sun-Times has a better article.


Creative proletarian solutions to the credit crunch

Hackers were able to access the computers of RBS WorldPay, an Atlanta-based firm that processes electronic financial transactions, the FBI said. Using information gleaned from the company's computers, the FBI said, the hackers cloned payroll debit cards—which some companies use to pay wages.

Then, in a Hollywood twist, they got the cards into the hands of people all over the world—including six to eight in the Chicago region—who made thousands of ATM withdrawals over 10 hours starting Nov. 8, the FBI said.

"What makes this different than a typical case . . . is the tremendous amount of coordination and the very high degree of sophistication that those behind this scam obviously have," said Frank Bochte, an FBI spokesman in Chicago.
from the Trib


You don't need a weatherman to know: Hot Summer ahead?

Below, a call coming out of Britain; not really a call, though, more like a shrug and a suggestion. The suggestion, though, is not only for the return of summit-hopping but what looks like a variety of events and actions hoping to capture the momentum and move it beyond the summit. The spirit reminds me of the 7-Week Revolt in Eugene. I have no idea what traction this call has or who's supporting it -- this is just one of those whispers or rumors that pop up every now and then.
There’s no doubt that the six weeks from March 28th - May 4th offers our anarchist movement a chance to move out of the shadows. Against the background of recession there has been rioting across Europe from Riga to Sofia. These are riots not by activists but by poor people hurting badly. The Greek uprising has provided a fine example of anarchists being prominent in a wider social movement for radical change. In Britain the war on Gaza and the Heathrow runway decision has brought protests - and direct action - back on the street across the country. They are not yet focused on the recession but they may become so. The G20 summit in London on April 2nd provides an opportunity for all these strands across Europe to come together as in the PARIS DECLARATION calling for a mass demonstration in London on March 28th - Saturday before summit - and across Europe on April 1st-2nd. In London the Trade Unions, Stop the War are organising marches on April 2nd. ‘THE BEHEADING CAPITALISM’ event by the folks behind J18 is planned for the same day. Other anarchists are planning a large central London anarchist rally on the night of April 1st with speakers from across Europe. After G20 the European leaders move on to the NATO summit in Germany - sure to get the anarchists back on the streets.

To often momentum is built over a few events then dribbles away. But this year we have the Mayday marches, a planned UK anarchist conference in London over May2-3rd and a Reclaim the Streets event in Brighton on May 4th. The fates are with us comrades, the sheep's entrails are promising, all we need are a few portents and omens to kick the whole fucking thing off.

I occasionally forget that anti-war marches take place on March 20. Is this a sign of my growing apathy or am I becoming more human? The recent anti-war movement died before the U.S. even invaded Iraq. It's become a
voter base and a campaign slogan, a messy recruiting ground for socialist slugs and prime turf for Leftist power plays. As my more pessimistic friends might argue, this is of course exactly why some anarchists are interested in inserting themselves upon the anti-war sects, to recruit and get a hand in the game ("Beheading Capitalism," though, sounds weird enough to perhaps warrant investigation, if one happened to be in London).

On the other hand, the remnants of the anti-war movement have been doing their thing for over six years now, they have the experience to gather and restrain large crowds and they regularly try to manifest them (even if in recent years ticket sales are down). The extent to which anti-war happenings have any substance is the degree to which they can be used to point at, and beyond, the larger contemporary social situation that sinks more and more into crisis.

In Chicago, the traditional anti-war party crew is getting into its annual legal battle over where to parade. A press release suggests the organizers decided this years anniversary march is going to be a dual "
peace/immigrant rights" march, so instead of focusing on the economy as a whole they'll be making sure to break it down into "issues." Immigrant rights marches still attract larger crowds than the anti-war movement, so perhaps it's an issue of increasing numbers.

Even though it's totally fucked for the government to deny a permit to this kind of event, it's kind of hilarious watching organizers squirm. The press release makes it sound like the city is trying to destroy the anti-war march, but it appears the city's primary concern is the chaos of St. Patrick's Day. Why anyone would want to compete with St. Patrick in this town is unknown to me; the city has offered the 21st, a day that is closer to the initial invasion date, but apparently there's an anti-war march in D.C. that day and some of the organizing group wants to be able to go to both (I doubt that a march in D.C. would have a significant impact on attendance at the Chicago march, except maybe a few less group leaders). What they're actually saying is that a D.C. march is as much a holy day to a Leftist as St. Patrick's is to many a Chicagoan (come to Chicago, it's a party). How many folks go to D.C. for marches anyway?

The permit fight will attract some publicity to the event, but most of Chicago -- even those attracted by the inclusion of an immigration plank next to opposition to the war -- will see the event as the usual stuff by the usual crowd; they're not even expecting 3,000 marchers this year.

Chicago is hosting Finding Our Roots in April and Bash Back's Queer Convergence in May; the ISO usually holds "Socialism 200x") out by O'Hare and joining the fray is Platypus with their "national convention" in June. Chicago appears to be flexing for activist cred, but the signs of brooding social revolt are few and far between. Are gatherings like these lightning rods for discontent or do they just further alienate theorists of revolution from those aching to revolt?

An assortment of Left groups have also begun mobilizing against Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid. I'm not really sure what this is going to entail beyond anti-Olympics forums, but the bid committee visit itself could offer a chance to let the IOC know directly how Chicagoans feels about the opportunity to host the games. A simple fuckup by the Chicago police in the weeks beforehand could unleash anger that might mix with and emerge against the bid, turning Chicago into Oakland at the most inopportune of times. The strength of the recession might somehow inflame citizen passions into resistance; but we're used to being robbed. It's just as likely everything will go on without a hitch.

At this point the future is as confusing for us as it is the capitalists predicting and praying for economic recovery. Over the past several months the opening salvos have been fired, and as economic decay quickly spreads across the globe discontent follows. The desire to exacerbate conflict has our mouths watering like wolves, but if we give in to our urge, our attention is drawn to a hundred different arenas. On what specific cause should we set ourselves, some ask, so as to be nearest the next social rupture?

Economic crisis binds us in new ways, it makes obvious to all the way every aspect of our lives is dominated by capitalist order. We do not need to look any further for a reason to revolt. We would do better to focus on our own experiences than chasing around the causes of others; our commonality is found in sharing ourselves in revolt and overcoming this order collectively.

The U.S. hasn't seen a period of generalized anger and social disorder in ages, but the approaching summer has every possibility of heralding a new age. The authorities tremble and we both know what is coming. Spring offers a handful of playgrounds for experimentation filled with the profound sense of urgency and yet dwarfed by the gravity of what may lie ahead. Do we dare try out these last few chances and fool ourselves with dreams of our own agency, or will anarchists be left as surprised as any others when the wicked economic whip wraps itself around our necks?

Bean sculpture defaced by vandal

Authorities are investigating after police discovered damage Monday on the steel sculpture known as the Bean in Millennium Park in the Loop.

Police discovered the defacement -- someone’s name scratched onto the Bean -- during the day on the north side of the sculpture, according to a Central District police captain.

There was no description of the person who defaced the piece, which is located near Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street, and the captain did not know whether any cameras might have captured what happened.

Cloud Gate, or the Bean as it has become affectionately known, is British artist Anish Kapoor's first public outdoor work installed in the United States, according to Millennium Park’s Web Site. The 110-ton elliptical sculpture is forged of a seamless series of highly polished stainless steel plates, which reflect the city's famous skyline and the clouds above, the site said.

A 12-foot-high arch provides a "gate" to the concave chamber beneath the sculpture, inviting visitors to touch its mirror-like surface and see their image reflected back from a variety of perspectives, according to the site.

A spokesperson for Millennium Park was not immediately available Tuesday morning.

from the Sun-Times


Republic spirit spreads

In Ireland, in an act reminiscent of a situation in Chicago a couple months ago, workers at a glass factory stormed the factory lobby when they discovered their company would be going out of business. So far, they are demanding to meet with a company official.