Monday, December 7, 2015

"Obviously the right thing to do"


     Within the past few weeks, Gov. Bruce Rauner's office phoned local charitable organizations that aid refugees and warned them not to help any Syrians settle in Illinois. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., joined Bob Dold, Peter Roskam, and the six other Illinois Republicans in the House of Representatives to pass H.R. 4038, the American SAFE Act of 2015, which would bar all Syrian and Iraqi refugees from the United States until the FBI somehow certifies that each one poses no threat to the country. "SAFE" stands for "Security Against Foreign Enemies."
Richard Farmer, center.
   And Richard Farmer, a Chicago investor, went to IKEA to spend $2,000 for furniture and household goods for the apartment of a Syrian family who, despite our leaders' posturing, arrived at their new home, Chicago, Illinois.
     "I was watching the news and feeling frustrated," said Farmer. "I felt, 'What can we do?'"
      Since Syria erupted into bloody civil war in 2011, half the nation — more than 4 million people — have fled overseas. Germany has accepted 1.5 million in 2015 alone. The United States took in 1,800. President Obama's call for 10,000 more — the number Germany accepts every three days — was met with immediate resistance. Congress, generally paralyzed in the face of actual problems, passed SAFE two days after the bill was introduced and a week after terrorist attacks in Paris. More than half of the governors in the country, all Republicans save one, joined Rauner, despite lack of any legal authority, in vowing their states will not accept a single refugee until some impossible level of scrutiny is reached.  

     While politicians fan the flames of fear, ordinary Illinoisans are stepping up to fill the compassion gap.  
   "We had so many people signing up to volunteer since the governor's announcement, close to 100 people a day," said Kim Snoddy, assistant director of development at RefugeeOne, one of a major resettlement services in Chicago. "We had to shut down applications. We set up a wait list."
     To be fair to politicians, not all are trying to block the doorway to this country. Sen. Dick Durbin sees what so many of his colleagues in government miss.
     “These are children and families fleeing war and terrorism in their country with little more than the clothes on their backs," Durbin said Friday. "They come to America seeking safe refuge and a better life for their children — something every parent can relate to. I’ve heard directly from many Illinoisans who have volunteered to help Syrian refugees who have been resettled in our state. These stories of kindness and generosity show the best of who we are as Americans, welcoming new neighbors and lending a helping hand to help them get on their feet.”

   Even before Rauner's announcement, Farmer was looking for a way to help. Though a newcomer to his congregation, he turned to First Unitarian Church in Hyde Park.
Kira Farmer, 9, helps out.
     "I approached the minister and said, 'Hey, I would like to do this; can we find a way for the church to do this?'" recalls Farmer. "He was very supportive."   
      Soon church members were collecting furniture and money, gathering books and knitting warm scarves, joined by like-minded neighbors in Hyde Park, some 60 people altogether.
     "For Unitarian Universalist churches, which is broadly true for many churches, we have a really strong sense of the inherent worth and dignity of every person," said David Schwartz, senior co-minister. "It's not just some people are worthwhile and others aren't. There's a single human family, and we're connected, and by virtue of that we have an obligation to work in the world, to make it a better place. It was obviously the right thing to do. We had this opportunity to directly and tangibly help someone who truly needed help. So, of course, we stepped up."        
     A week ago Friday, Farmer supervised loading furniture, plus donations gathered by his church, into a moving truck and followed it to West Rogers Park, where a clean — well, cleanish — empty apartment awaited.
    "Do you think the table will fit in the kitchen here?" asked Snoddy, as about a dozen volunteers and their children busied at various tasks. There was a bunk bed to assemble — difficult because, being donated, it lacked much-needed instructions — and a kitchen to clean. Farmer's 9-year-old daughter, Kira, swept the floors. Her little sister Laurel and her friends helped make beds. The sisters agreed to donate the crib they once slept in to the Syrian family, which I will call the Al Homsi family, for their baby, Yasmin, 7 months. Asked if she knew what a refugee is, Laurel, 6, replied: "Someone who has to flee the country because someone might murder them."
     Why were the other volunteers there? Were they not afraid of facilitating the arrival of people Bruce Rauner's fears may be enemies of the state? Many came remembering their own debt to this country.
     "My father was an immigrant, from Germany in 1927," said David Zoller. "It just seems natural to help immigrants out."

     "My grandparents were immigrants from Poland, the Ukraine," said Joanne Michalski.              "There is so much anti-Muslim sentiment, and those who are most Islamophobic do not really know many-- or any-- Muslim people," said Kathryn Guelcher, an English teacher at Sandburg High School, stocking kitchen shelves with glassware.    
     "It's a chance to do something helpful for somebody who probably needs the help," said Mike Weeda, a retired software engineer.
     Despite the furor over Syrian refugees, they are a small segment of the total. Catholic Charities has helped settle 600 refugees in the Chicago area in the past three years. Six were from Syria. The vast majority are from other places, like the Itará Giyé family — another fictitious name, at the request of RefugeeOne, to shield them from ISIS, Bruce Rauner, or anyone else who might come after them. They are Rohingya people, perhaps the most oppressed minority in the world, who fled Burma in 2001 and have been living in Malaysia. Their apartment was readied a week ago Saturday by members of the Church of the Beloved.
     "People from all over the church have volunteered to help, to set up and move stuff in or give donations," said Lauren Schlabach, 22, a church member. "What an incredible opportunity, to welcome a family. Our crew is very excited."  

      They worked for hours moving furniture, including muscling a heavy wooden dresser up four flights of stairs. When they finished, they gathered in the living room, closed their eyes and prayed for the safety and success of the family.



      Last Thursday morning, the Itará Giyé family arrived at O'Hare International Airports Terminal 5 after a long flight from Japan. The Church of the Beloved congregants met them with homemade signs and winter coats. The family had been eking out a marginal existence in Malaysia, where the temperature seldom goes below 70 degrees. Stepping outside was a surprise. "I am smoking!" exuded 12-year-old Najmul, fascinated with his frosty breath. They were driven to their new home. The wife, seeing her new kitchen for the first time, exclaimed, in Rohingya, "I can do many things with this."
     That afternoon, the Al Homsi family arrived from Cairo, where they had been staying since fleeing Syria in March 2013. The agents of Gov. Rauner whom Kim Snoddy had worried might sweep in at the last second and bar the family from stepping off the plane did not materialize. Congress' enemies of the state consisted of a father, mother, a 16-year-old boy, and four girls, ages 10 through 7 months old.    
     They were greeted by Richard Farmer and about 15 other volunteers, holding signs, plus handmade United States and Syrian flags. The teenage boy grinned when asked, in Arabic, to name his favorite soccer team. "Barcelona," he said. The smaller children hung back, clinging to their parents. The father prodded his 5-year-old to look up, say hello, and she eventually did. The family came with 14 suitcases. Several passersby at the airport stopped to smile, and, despite the fear mongering by some political leaders, several called out what any patriotic citizen would say to such a gathering:
     "Welcome to America."



Wednesday: Talking with refugees




95 comments:

  1. The Ghost of Christmas PastDecember 7, 2015 at 1:03 AM

    Those of us who are unpatriotic Amerikans welcome them too.

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    1. Rauner reminds one of the ante-bellum or Civil rights era southern governors who thought that Federal law didn't apply to them.

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    2. Speakig of "ghosts" Ghost, Rauner needs to have a dream where he's visited by 3 ghosts...

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    3. ooooh, I see an Eli's cheesecake ad on the page today-don't tempt me

      never saw advertising here before

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    4. It's here every holiday season. Cheesecake freezes really well. So you can buy one, have a slice and eat the rest gradually.

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    5. Will call to see if they have a sugar free or sugar substitute one for borderline diabetics.

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    6. lol, have a slice and eat gradually???? not likely

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    7. not likely on my part that is

      and the new Off Topic room will be appreciated

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  2. That is really behind the scenes, dirty pool by Rauner to call charities and say that.

    Who is the Democratic governor who said no to the refugees?

    (P.S. The Off topic blog isn't accepting any more posts.)

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    1. Poor girls already covered up like that at a young age. Well in their old home they probably wouldn't have been allowed to attend a school without danger.

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  3. Some churches are mentioned here but aren't any Mosques helping out? Of course one wouldn't expect a Synagogue group to help.

    It was good to hear the President mention that decent Muslims need to do more to fight ISIS(extremist Islam). That should be domestically in the U.S. as well.

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    1. One wouldn't expect a synagogue to help only because one assumes other people are as addled by prejudice as oneself is. Some do: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/11/19/vancouver-synagogues-syrian-refugees_n_8595686.html

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    2. There is a Jewish group that even helps the elderly, even if they aren't Jewish. Can't think of the name right now.

      ag

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    3. One of those groups is The Ark, and one of my best friends has worked there for over 30 years. Shalom Phil Gross!!!

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  4. Check out Heartland Alliance. They do incredible work for all kinds of people in need, including refugees from all over the world: housing, ESL, jobs, etc.

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    1. How do the Syrian Muslims react when they find out a Jewish group is helping them? Grateful, one hopes. One wonders if they situation was reversed if they would do the same.

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    2. What does it matter? Myself, I tend to treat people based on my own sense of morality, not theirs.

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    3. that's deep and enlightening

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  5. Wonderful people. Just hope they don't get eaten alive by the monsters in our midst.

    john

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  6. Hope Catholic Charities is helping too.

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    1. Catholic Relief is the arm of the archdiocese that handles refugees. I contacted them, too, several times, but they had a little difficulty managing the say-something-for-print part of the process. Their first reply was a dry, general form statement that had nothing to do with what I was looking for. I hope to get them some of the later stories.

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    2. par for the course on the Cath. hierarchy- you should see the hoops to be jumped just to sub at their schools-tougher than the public schools

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    3. Kind of like too little too late?

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    4. The Unitarians are similar in their beliefs to the Deism that some of our Founding Fathers practiced.

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  7. We need to impeach Rauner under the @#*hole clause of the constitution.

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  8. I hope Rauner reads this and feels good and ashamed. But probably not.

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  9. Yes, someone should send the link to the State Gov. general email

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    1. It's shameful how he panders to the hateful. You'd think a merciless businessman like him would welcome refugees because you can get hard working highly educated labor cheap!

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    2. Yes, Repubs like cheap labor. Then they pretend they worried about the border. But I hope those Syrians can find jobs.

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  10. Let us remember the fallen from Pearl Harbor on this date.

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  11. Interesting, and somewhat ironic, that one of the refugee family members are Rohingya, Muslims who fled an ongoing religious-based genocide conducted by the Buddhist Burmese. I'm inclined to view taking them in as a Christian thing to do, although evidentially not all of my coreligionists would agree. Although he did once say "I bring you not peace but a sword" my guy Jesus strikes me as the least contentious and most tolerant of the prophets. He did honor the persecuted and invited the little children into his heaven.

    Tom Evans

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  12. I hear that Donald Trump is now asking that all foreign Muslims are banned from entering this country. Shameless.

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    1. Let's see, some Buddhists are mad at the Muslims. Some Jews and Christians are mad at the Muslims. Even some Muslims are mad at certain Muslims.... hmmmmmm

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    2. They will probably be glad of a chance to get a bath, after that trip. Wonder if they know how to use modern appliances. Some of the church members can help them.

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    3. Why do most haters hide behind the "Anonymous" handle?

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    4. Because hatred is a function of fear, and they're worried that, by taking credit for their opinions, which some part of them most know are loathsome, they will be tracked down and "gotten."

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    5. Trump is a dangerous demagogue... a blonde, George Wallace.

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  13. Holy shit Tom, I looked up what was happening to the Rohingya people in Burma and it's flat out genocide. I had no idea.No idea at all.

    Robert Grabill

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    1. How will these poor folks pay the next months rent? utility bills? food, clothes, transport??? It's not as easy to find jobs as in the old days. The churches can't help them non stop. Do they go on public aide??????

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    2. Where do they go if they are ill?? or get ill?

      taxpayers and government will have to pitch in I guess

      even if the locals aren't served

      supposedly one shouldn't ask that here

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    3. Hope they learn English faster than some groups do.

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    4. Do some of those same church do-gooders help out the homeless vets and the poor, black children, the abandoned elderly, etc?

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    5. Wonder what LGBT groups think of Muslims. In some of those nations you could be legally put to death for any of that.

      Beware, TE, some of the atheists here might not like you being religious.

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    6. To anon@6:02: I have to assume that the immigrants have sponsors that help them find jobs and become self sufficient. That was the case when my parents and I came to the US as DP's in Dec., 1951. We were sponsored by a family in Detroit, total strangers, in order to be allowed into the US from a DP camp in Germany after WWII. We lived with this family for 6 months before my dad found a job in Chicago. God bless them. I'll never forget them. Hopefully these recent refugees have someone to help them out until they can live here on their own.

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    7. Anonymous, do you get off on trying to set one group of people against another? Is that your thing?

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    8. May I ask where you are from, Stan? Thanks for sharing that interesting example.

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    9. My parents are Polish. They were taken by the Nazis during WWII to work as forced laborers in Germany. My dad was 17 and my mom was 15 when they were taken. My folks met in a DP camp after the war ended, got married and had me. We lived in a variety of camps until my folks could find a sponsor. I think the US accepted about 400,000 refugees at that time. Other countries participated as well, but the US took the majority of Displaced Persons who did not want to return to their homelands. My godmother went to Australia and my godfather went to Brazil.

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    10. Good heavens, of course your family should have come here.

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    11. Many times it is forgotten that although the Nazis usually incarcerated Jews, there were Polish Christians , gypsies and others in the camps as well. Some of those acted as Capo's/ Cappo's(?) or cell leaders and were almost as nasty as the Nazi guards.

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    12. BS-It is the groups that pit themselves against each other, not an individual who does that.

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    13. If only certain people had accepted that the Messiah was theirs too, they'd have saved themselves a heap of unjust problems and misery.

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    14. A heap of unjust problems and misery caused by those who embraced the Prince of Peace as their messiah? Again, pretty to think so.

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    15. Are you saying all Christians are wrong? pretty to think so

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    16. No. That would be the typical wild overstatement of another's position in order to make yourself feel like a victim, which you're not. And think of your own ironic remark. Bad enough you swiped the Bible.

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    17. Fo Anon @8:06: The numbers vary slightly depending on who did the reporting - Approximately 5.5 million Poles were killed in WWII under the German Occupation during WWII. Of these, 2.8 million were Polish Jews and 2.7 million were ethnic Poles. My mom's brother died in Auschwitz. The Gestapo came in the middle of the night and took him away for being in the Polish Resistance.

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    18. thanks for the stats

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    19. StanP- Yes, the Nazi's weren't too crazy about Polish Catholics either. I think they killed and or tortured some priests too. Guess, Hitler wasn't much of a good Catholic.

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    20. Hitler was an atheist.

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  14. It should open up the eyes of those who think Buddhists are all peaceful.

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    1. It seems the other video that the CPD was covering up, isn't as awful as the LaQuan one. M. Mitchell points out that one could see an object there in hand and residents were calling police at that time begging for help from the perpetrator and cohorts.

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    2. The 2nd video guys mom looking for a payout no doubt. Hope she was a better mom than Laquan's was.

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    3. The Daley admin. and then this one made it to easy by just handing out hush money, encouraging constant suits from some people who barely ever worked, even when not warranted.

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    4. Why do they call it radical Islam? Shouldn't those specific ones be called Reactionary Muslims? They want to go back to the bad old days, especially with women and the west, more than be radical or revolutionary.

      The poster commenting about the Bible or Jewish books, could be an agnostic playing devil's advocate.

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  15. Thank you, Neil.

    We should all remember that we are first and foremost humans and brothers on this planet we call home. As an admittedly lapsed Christian, two of the tenets that I did bring along with me from the church were "The Golden Rule" and "...turn the other cheek." Then, there is the parable of the good Samaritan...

    I don't recall any place in the Bible (or, bible) that says "fuck 'em..."

    We are all immigrants and refugees in this country -- if not directly, then our parents, or our grandparents, or their parents or grandparents, were...

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    1. turning the other cheek is okay for gods or Mother Teresa but on humans it makes them schmucks

      Remember what Malcolm X thought about turning the other cheek

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    2. Happy Hanukkah!

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    3. So glad you removed that nasty post from yesterday, NS, about that guy accusing you of being anon on some old page of Green's. Who knew?

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    4. Rabbis didn't want to accept the Messiah or they'd be out of a job.

      And Catholics need to know the early Christians were not Catholics, that came later.

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    5. 9:44 a.m. No, not an old page of Greene's. Pre-Internet; he was referring to "BobWatch," which ran from 1993 to 1995 in the Reader. It was written under a pseudonym because I was a night reporter at the Sun-Times, which would have taken a dim view of me writing a column for a rival publication. People mired in the past and failing to understand the compulsory nature of the anonymity sometimes throw it up in my face as some kind of sign of hypocrisy.

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    6. Loved "BobWatch". Just curious -- I don't know when I found out that you were "Ed Gold", NS, but it was certainly a very long time ago. Was that common underground knowledge even while you were writing it? If not, was there a particular revelation of that fact later, either by you or somebody else, that became well-known, or did the info just gradually spread from people who knew you?

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    7. Some knew. I went to one Reader Christmas party wearing an "Ed Gold" name tag. Eventually, Crain's outed me, about the time I ended the column. It was a rare column that its originator ended because it had run its course.

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    8. Some of the off topic comments might be a way to gauge opinion or because the opinion of the blogmaster is sought.

      Good point that someone brings up in reader feedback in the paper today. Why didn't the city council members ask to see the video before they approved the payout, in the Lauquan case?

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    9. Why would Crain's business paper care about that? Hope you didn't get in some trouble from the ST then.

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    10. Ummm, because it was about the media and interesting? No, by then I was a columnist here, and nobody really cared.

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    11. Interesting, indeed. Thanks for the replies about BobWatch, NS.

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  16. Just one woman's opinion, but I wonder whether the OT section has run its course. It's overwhelmingly populated by one poster whose views are pretty well established. Perhaps other (former?) regular visitors could offer their thoughts on the matter.

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    1. That's sort of the point, i thought. A place for people who want to dominate the conversation to go and do their thing. Otherwise they'd do it here. I was reposting a post from last year, and noticed the presence of Jerry B., and thought how really, really glad I am not to have him, or his sort, to contend with. I think it's working.

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    2. Are you quite certain that JB is gone?

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    3. I can certainly see Coey's point, and I've wondered when NS would tire of the motel nonsense, which I'm certainly as guilty of as anybody. But there's no question that, since the "No Vacancy" sign went up at the ole cabin, a number of off-topic comments have migrated to the main post. And there ARE fun little links thrown out there that make it worthwhile, sometimes. Why, like a certain "lost Chicago" website, IIRC. ; )

      As for JerryB, unless he's completely changed his style and modus operandi, I'm quite certain he's gone, 8:01. If you think some of the posters here are wordy and "full of themselves", I imagine you'd have been deeply incensed by Jerry when he was on a roll. Personally, I remain of the opinion that, if one becomes too annoyed by somebody's comments, they can just skip over them. Jerry was seen by many as an infuriating, off-putting element at Zorn's blog, but he certainly raised the click-count! And, unlike most actual trolls, he was as smart as any of the commenters, well-informed and well-spoken, when he wanted to be... But, having said that, I understand why NS doesn't care to put up with his antagonism.

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    4. Yes, the recent sharp uptick in OT comments on the daily blog is a strong argument for continuing the alternate accommodations. And no one is forced to visit!

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    5. No one seems to approach JB's level of self-referential annoyingness. Of course, it could be that I've learned to ignore it all more effectively.

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    6. Jesus was Jewish, as you all know. There is an organization called "Jews for Jesus."

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    7. Well this particular blog is going strong even a day later.

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    8. Rahm was on Chicago tonight. Ironic to hear him mention how evidence has to be brought to the fore sooner. He looks like a Sicilian.

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  17. Was this Jerry like ANA?

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    1. To Anon at 4:34- He's not racist, just anti-Christian and ethnocentric.

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  18. Well written, as you step over the
    600,000 (six HUNDRED thousand) plus
    homeless people in America....

    Why are homeless in Chicago and the United
    States invisible to you?

    You must be a racist.

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    1. Who exactly are you talking to, besides yourself?

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    2. 4:34/ Perhaps part of the problem is the homeless have advocates such as yourself.

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Thanks for commenting. As soon as I vet your remarks, they'll be posted, assuming they aren't, you know, mean and crazy.