Tactical Briefing #25: Showdown in Chicago at G8/NATO

Tactical Briefing #25: Showdown in Chicago

Hey you redeemers, rebels and radicals out there,

Against the backdrop of a global uprising that is simmering in dozens of countries and thousands of cities and towns, the G8 and NATO will hold a rare simultaneous summit in Chicago this May. The world’s military and political elites, heads of state, 7,500 officials from 80 nations, and more than 2,500 journalists will be there.

And so will we.

On May 1, 50,000 people from all over the world will flock to Chicago, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and #OCCUPYCHICAGO for a month. With a bit of luck, we’ll pull off the biggest multinational occupation of a summit meeting the world has ever seen.

And this time around we’re not going to put up with the kind of police repression that happened during the Democratic National Convention protests in Chicago, 1968 … nor will we abide by any phony restrictions the City of Chicago may want to impose on our first amendment rights. We’ll go there with our heads held high and assemble for a month-long people’s summit … we’ll march and chant and sing and shout and exercise our right to tell our elected representatives what we want … the constitution will be our guide.

And when the G8 and NATO meet behind closed doors on May 19, we’ll be ready with our demands: a Robin Hood Tax … a ban on high frequency ‘flash’ trading … a binding climate change accord … a three strikes and you’re out law for corporate criminals … an all out initiative for a nuclear-free Middle East … whatever we decide in our general assemblies and in our global internet brainstorm – we the people will set the agenda for the next few years and demand our leaders carry it out.

And if they don’t listen … if they ignore us and put our demands on the back burner like they’ve done so many times before … then, with Gandhian ferocity, we’ll flashmob the streets, shut down stock exchanges, campuses, corporate headquarters and cities across the globe … we’ll make the price of doing business as usual too much to bear.

Jammers, pack your tents, muster up your courage and prepare for a big bang in Chicago this Spring. If we don’t stand up now and fight now for a different kind of future we may not have much of a future … so let’s live without dead time for a month in May and see what happens …

for the wild,
Culture Jammers HQ

http://www.adbusters.org/blogs/adbusters-blog/tactical-briefing-25.html

In Run-up to G8/NATO Illinois Ban on Recording Police Challenged

G8/NATO protests "that are almost certain to be countered with excessive police force will be illegal to record"
- Common Dreams staff: http://www.commondreams.org/

As Chicago prepares for thousands of protesters and journalists for the G8 and NATO summits this May, an Illinois law declaring a felony the audio recording of police officers is coming under the microscope. One representative has filed an amendment to allow for such recordings, a move protesters, who will likely be met with heavy-handed tactics from police, would welcome.

Under the current Illinois Eavesdropping Act from 1961, a person recording a non-consenting police officer can be charged with a felony and 15 years in prison. The Huffington Post explains:

The Eavesdropping Act makes recording officers without their permission a Class 1 felony, but has been inconsistently applied by different sectors of the justice system who disagree on its merits, particularly in cases where audio spotlights police wrongdoing. In the recent high-profile case of Tiawanda Moore, who recorded police officers trying to talk her out of filing a complaint after she claimed she was sexually harassed by an officer, a jury acquitted her and called the county's charges against her "a waste of time."

An amendment to the law submitted by Rep. Elaine Nekritz would allow for the recording or police officer on duty in public place. The Daily-Journal reports:

House Bill 3944, sponsored by Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, would amend the Illinois Eavesdropping Act, under which a member of the public can be charged with a felony if he or she records the conversations of police officers, prosecutors and other law enforcement personnel without their knowledge. [...]

Nekritz said her legislation would "allow citizens to do what they think they already had the ability to do."

The amendment has an unlikely ally, Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy. The Huffington Post reports on McCarthy's stance:

"As far as the use of videotape, I certainly endorse it, for the protection of the police as well as [civilians]," he said at the panel. "There's no argument when you show videotape and can look at what happened. I actually am a person who endorses video and audio recording."

McCarthy, who came to Chicago from New York, said video and audio recordings helped prove officers acted appropriately amid allegations of brutality following a series of protest arrests. He added that this material could be equally useful as police prepare for massive crowds of protesters when Chicago hosts the NATO/G8 summits this spring. McCarthy clarified that it's not his job to advocate for policy changes, according to CBS Chicago, but called objections to covert recordings of police interactions a "foreign concept" after finding the practice helpful during previous stints in other cities.

As WLS-Chicago reported in September, the ACLU says the current law "doesn't make any sense":

The ACLU argues that the Illinois Eavesdropping Act is antiquated and overly-restrictive, and it wants the ability to record audio of police officers when they're on the public way - most specifically as a means of monitoring how police handle marches and demonstrations.

"You can video the police officer, you can photograph the police officer. They admit that you can listen to the police officer, and even write down what the police officer is saying, but you can't turn on the audio button. It simply doesn't make any sense," said Harvey Grossman, ACLU.

RT notes how the law, if it remains unchanged, will affect the Chicago Police Department and protesters:

...the protests that are almost certain to be countered with excessive police force will be illegal to record.

Some state lawmakers are trying to overturn the legislation before this spring, but it is a challenge that stands to be complicated with a goal only a few months into the future. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has asked the state Supreme Court for a new decision on the constitutionality of the law and others have come to her side. Some have even proposed an exception that will allow citizens to record the police, which is allowed in most jurisdictions in America.

"I don't believe there is an expectation of privacy for public officials on public property doing public duties," Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a local sponsor of the re-write, tells the Associated Press.

The US Court of Appeals in Boston, Massachusetts countered a similar wiretapping law last year, with a judge ruling in August that filming the police is a “basic and well-established liberty safeguarded by the First Amendment.”

Many outside of Boston agree, and if the law isn’t changed in Illinois before spring, Chicago’s G-8 summit is expected to still be caught on film, law notwithstanding. But as thousands plans to flood the streets of the city to demonstrate against the meeting of leaders from the US, France, Russia, Italy and elsewhere, cops will be tasked with countering not just riled protesters, with journalists of all sorts gripping their cameras. Come springtime, the Chicago PD will have to determine which First Amendment guarantee is more important to crush: the freedom of the press or the freedom to assemble.

Christopher Drew, an artist in Chicago who recorded his own arrest, now faces 15 years in prison and spoke to RT about his situation:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=5X5rWXMjAf8

The Occupy Chicago Arrests: Rahm Emanuel's 'Dry Run' for G8/NATO

Never mind free speech, Chicago's mayor wanted to show protesters who was boss ahead of May's summits, says attorney

by Bernard Harcourt

The most interesting revelation from Wednesday's mass court hearing at the Daley Center in Chicago on the Occupy arrests – probably the single largest joined criminal case in the Chicago's history – was the suggestion that Rahm Emanuel may have personally ordered the arrests of the peaceful Occupy Chicago protesters back in Grant Park in October 2011. At least one of the affidavits submitted by Thomas Durkin, a lead attorney for the defendants, suggested that. As Durkin argued:

"This was Mayor Rahm Emanuel being Mr Tough Guy to show the world that they can come for G8 and Nato. It's as simple as that. There was no need to make mass arrests on this night. There was no need to show Mr Tough Guy. It was a show of force. It was stupid."

The evidence is starting to point that way. Shortly before 11pm, on Saturday 15 October, a police supervisor with rank told the Occupy protesters that they were going to be allowed to stay in Grant Park and protest, so long as they kept the volume down. It was actually an ironic moment when the "human microphone" started urging protesters, in its uniquely reiterative way, to be quiet so that guests in the neighboring hotels could sleep. It had a surreal element to it – but that fit nicely with the performative aspects of the Occupy movement.

It also matched the circumstances of the protest. The assembled group of about 700 protesters (down from 2,000 to 3,000 because of the looming fear of arrest) was entirely peaceful, well-dressed, and respectful. To any reasonable police professional, this did not call for mass arrests.

Protesters were surprised when, later, the Chicago Police Department announced that anyone who did not vacate Grant Park and walk across the street on Michigan Avenue (where the police appropriately exercised its discretion and allowed continued protest) would be arrested – which they were. They were then cuffed, booked, fingerprinted, detained in jail some for up to 17 hours, placed on bond with travel restrictions, and prosecuted in criminal court.

For a long time, it has been a mystery as to why the police turned around. But the mystery may now be solved. Here's verbatim from the affidavit that the presiding judge, Judge Thomas More Donnelly, reviewed yesterday:

At approximately 10.15pm, a leading organizer with Occupy Chicago, flanked by Chicago police officers, made an announcement over our PA system that one of the officers in charge had told us that while we would be violating the park curfew, we would be allowed to remain in the park as long as we kept the noise down so as to not disturb guests in hotels across the street. The police officers flanking the organizer, who did not raise any protest but rather remained silent, gave to this announcement the air of officialdom. Several officers nearby me seemed to further validate the official character and finality of this statement by expressing their excitement that they would soon be able to leave Grant Park. The police did not disperse, however, and approximately 20 minutes later, a police officer who appeared to be in charge reiterated that we would have to leave the park by 11.00pm. This resulted in considerable confusion and uncertainty for all present. After this second announcement, I heard many individual officers comment that it was Mayor Rahm Emanuel who had intervened and insisted that we be asked to leave the park … We continued to interact peacefully with the police. The police officers whom I spoke with after 11 gave me the impression that they were waiting for a political decision to be made regarding our situation."

Durkin may well be right that the arrests were "a 'dry run' by the Emanuel administration for handling protests during the G8 and Nato summits in May."

Another interesting tidbit from the hearings: Joey Mogul, an attorney at the People's Law Office and one of the lead attorneys on the recent $6.2m Chicago Police Department settlement for improper arrests at the 2003 anti-war rallies – does anyone see a pattern? – leaned over to me with a fascinating question: if the City is arguing that the parks need to be closed at night from 11pm to 6am, then how come they remain open for corporate speech 24/7? Aren't the McDonald's, Chase, Exelon, Boeing, etc, signs, advertisements, images, also speech? How come they get to be there 24 hours a day?

A quick look at Chicago's Millenium Park gives you a vague idea of how much corporate speech litters the park. Check out their own map here:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2012/feb/16/occupy-ch...

The mass court hearings resume Thursday at 1.30pm at the Daley Center. The presiding judge was shocked to hear, yesterday, that the 300 arrestees has been placed under bond with travel restrictions and been told that they could not travel over the winter holidays because of their court cases. The judge was palpably astonished. It's completely outrageous given how peaceful and articulate the Occupy protesters are in Chicago.

With the coming G8 and Nato summit meetings, the allusions to Chicago '68 are increasing in the media. But when asked whether they hope to emulate the protests of May '68, many of the protesters say no. Those days refer to the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, famously captured by Walter Cronkite's statement – after Dan Rather was belted to the floor by security personnel – that "I think we've got a bunch of thugs here, Dan."

When asked, Joe Iosbaker, one of the Occupy protesters, responded:

"Would I like to have my head beat in and be tear-gased by the Chicago police? No, I have no desire to emulate that whatsoever."

© 2012 The Guardian
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2012/feb/16/occupy-ch...

Bernard E Harcourt is chair of the political science department, professor of political science and the Julius Kreeger professor of law at the University of Chicago. He has also taught at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Université Paris X-Nanterre, Harvard University and New York University. His most recent book is The Illusion of Free Markets: Punishment and the Myth of Natural Order (2011)

Obama Moves G-8 Summit from Chicago to Secluded Camp David

- by Common Dreams staff

The Obama White House announced Monday evening that it was moving the May annual summit meeting of the Group of 8 (G-8) industrialized nations from Chicago to the secluded Presidential compound at Camp David, Maryland.

The gathering of NATO allies and the International Security Assistance Force will go on in Chicago as planned in mid-May. The two summits had been scheduled for Chicago during the same weekend, May 18-21. Mayor Rahm Emanuel had personally lobbied Obama, his old boss, to host both summits. It would have been the first time since 1977 in London that the two organizations held meetings in the same city at the same time.

Protest organizers say that if the move was intended to slow them down, that wouldn't happen. “The main thing is, the protests will go forward,” said anti-war protest leader Andy Thayer. “We believe that NATO is, frankly, the de facto military arm of G-8 and anybody who’s upset with G-8 should be upset with NATO.”

* * *

The Chicago Tribune reports:

After the initial surprise over word from the White House today that the May G-8 summit has been moved to Camp David, Chicago officials and protest organizers quickly turned to speculation of how that would affect the NATO meeting that is still planned for that weekend in the city.

World leaders are still expected for the May 20-21 NATO gathering, including most of the Group of Eight leaders who will meet in Camp David earlier that weekend, officials said. The head of Chicago's host committee for the summits sought to focus on that in comments today.

“I’m sure it was a decision that was not made lightly,” said Lori Healey, executive director of the Chicago G-8/NATO host committee. When asked if she had knowledge of the cancellation prior to Monday, she said she did not.

“Obviously, the White House doesn’t consult with the host committee,” she said. “I understand the reasons. There are critical issues that the White House wants to discuss in a more intimate setting. That’s the situation.” [...]

Early word from protest organizers was that if the move was intended to slow them down, that wouldn't happen.

“The main thing is, the protests will go forward,” said anti-war protest leader Andy Thayer. “We believe that NATO is, frankly, the de facto military arm of G-8 and anybody who’s upset with G-8 should be upset with NATO.”

Because G-8 is being moved to a remote, highly secure location, Thayer said Chicago will still be a magnet for large demonstrations.

“I believe that people will very much focus on Chicago. So much organization has already gone into this,” he said, adding that groups will tinker with their demonstration plans rather than abandon them. “We’re going to have a quick consultation to see whether we need to move our demonstration from the 19th to the 20th.”

Harvey Grossman, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said he imagines there will less protest interest now that G-8 has been removed from the weekend of summits.

“Some of the primary concerns people have have been taken off the plate,” Grossman said. “People wanted to reach out to that audience. They wanted to show their level of dissent to the economic policies. It’s a disappointment in terms of the ability to engage.” [...]

Protesters sought to claim a share of credit for the move.

“They moved them to avoid us,” said Joe Iosbaker, a protest organizer. “The G-8 leaders were going to be the targets of the largest protest in the United States against their agenda. They decided, let’s move them someplace where it will be much harder for crowds to assemble.”

Iosbaker called the move a victory for protesters.

“We’re still marching, whether we move the day to be there during the actual (NATO) summit,” Iosbaker said.

* * *

The New York Times reports:

President Obama has boasted for months about hosting the annual summit of the Group of 8 industrialized nations this May in his hometown of Chicago, but on Monday, the White House without explanation announced a shift to the secluded setting of the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland.

Administration officials and associates, speaking only on the condition of anonymity, said the president in recent weeks began discussing the idea of a more intimate setting for the world leaders — both to ease their communications and to cut down on the security concerns and traffic tie-ups of a big-city summit. Also, several noted, Vladimir V. Putin, a harsh critic of the United States who returns to the presidency of Russia after his election on Sunday, will be among the attendees. [...]

Still, the change of location was unusual given the months-long lead time that such events require for preparation.

Administration officials and others denied that the prospect of the anti-globalization protests common to such gatherings was a factor in the decision to change locations. After the Group of 8 summit, the separate summit of 28 NATO countries and Russia will go on as planned in Chicago, where leaders will discuss the future of the Atlantic alliance and specifically the coalition’s exit from Afghanistan by 2014 and the size and makeup of any residual force there.

* * *

http://www.commondreams.org/sites/commondreams.org/files/imce-images/cam...

http://www.commondreams.org

Sweet Home Chicago: G8 Summit Moved but Protests Will Continue

by Danny Schechter

Who called who first?

Did the Obama alumni Association in Chicago---David Axelrod, Rahm Emanuel, and Bill Daley---get nervous and call the White House, or was it Barack himself, having disposed/co-opted one threat by the name of Netanyahu who recognized he had a more serious problem on the horizon.

The president has been playing Ronald Reagan these days, talking tough while feinting towards the center. What he most decidedly does not want to do is play Hubert Humphrey and relive the summer of 1968 in Chicago. That’s why the G8 meeting was shifted from contested ground there to safe space in the ultra secure well-guarded environment of Maryland’s Camp David.

The last thing the president needs in the middle of his campaign is another police riot in the second city.

Someone must have pointed out that the Occupy Movement was already in the process of planning another battle ala Seattle in the very heartland of the Obama Empire. Even the editor of Adbusters, who issued the call to occupy Zuccotti Park last September now had his megaphone fixed on the Second City.

The world movement that has mobilized to confront so many G8 had this one in its cross-hairs for month.

Sweet Home Chicago was in line to become a sweet home for a world of angry protesters, not just Americans.

That had to be stopped or diverted, and it was.

But first, there was the passage of a draconian new anti-protest law with bi-partisan support and little press attention.

The National Lawyers Guild explained:

Just when you thought the government couldn’t ruin the First Amendment any further: The House of Representatives approved a bill on Monday that outlaws protests in instances where some government officials are nearby, whether or not you even know it.

The US House of Representatives voted 388-to-3 in favor of H.R. 347 late Monday, a bill which is being dubbed the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011. In the bill, Congress officially makes it illegal to trespass on the grounds of the White House, which, on the surface, seems not just harmless and necessary, but somewhat shocking that such a rule isn’t already on the books. The wording in the bill, however, extends to allow the government to go after much more than tourists that transverse the wrought iron White House fence.’

Under the act, the government is also given the power to bring charges against Americans engaged in political protest anywhere in the country.

Next, the law, coming on the heels of the NDAA, had to be broad enough cover most contingencies:

The new legislation allows prosecutors to charge anyone who enters a building without permission or with the intent to disrupt a government function with a federal offense if Secret Service is on the scene, but the law stretches to include not just the president’s palatial Pennsylvania Avenue home. Under the law, any building or grounds where the president is visiting — even temporarily — is covered, as is any building or grounds “restricted in conjunction with an event designated as a special event of national significance.

It’s not just the president who would be spared from protesters, either.

While some are demanding that the President veto it, it may be that he was part of the network that signed off on it and the change of venue.

While the G8 is moving, plans for a large NATO meeting in Chicago are continuing, and protest activists told the Chicago Tribune, they are not going to be deterred:

“Early word from protest organizers was that if the move was intended to slow them down, that wouldn't happen. The main thing is, the protests will go forward,” said anti-war protest leader Andy Thayer. “We believe that NATO is, frankly, the de facto military arm of G-8 and anybody who’s upset with G-8 should be upset with NATO.”

“Because G-8 is being moved to a remote highly secure location, Thayer said Chicago will still be a magnet for large demonstrations. I believe that people will very much focus on Chicago. So much organization has already gone into this,” he said, adding that groups will tinker with their demonstration plans rather than abandon them. “We’re going to have a quick consultation to see whether we need to move our demonstration from the 19th to the 20th.”

Unless martial law is imposed or the first amendment is suspended, as it was in that Transformers movie shot in Chicago, activists will be showing up in what promises to be a growing spirit of confrontation.

Alderman Joe Moore says he anticipates more street heat.

“Moore said many of the protesters opposed to G-8 policies may still show up, because “they are so geared up to do it. NATO is still going to attract demonstrators,” Moore said.

“We are still going to need a lot of security for these world leaders, including the president. All it’s doing is lessening a little bit of the international luster.”

Ald. Scott Waguespack, speculated that the president ultimately was more comfortable with the security and tranquility at the presidential retreat. “Nobody can get near Camp David,” he said.

But he said the city should still expect a large contingent of protesters — to both G-8 and NATO policies.

Years ago, when I was at The London School of Economics, I received a letter inviting me to Chicago for the 1968 Democratic convention. No it wasn’t from then Mayor Daley but from my Yippie friend Abbie Hoffman who predicted a hot time in the old town that was burned down by Mrs. O’Leary’s famous cow. To this day, I regret not going, but I asked Abbie to look after my London friend John Froines who planned to be in town that month.

Abbie did—and John, a scientist and fellow anti-Vietnam War protester quickly became one of the defendants in the Chicago Conspiracy Trial.

He never let me forget it.

I am hoping to be there this time because it promises to showcase the revival of the Occupy Movement that so many are hoping for.

http://www.mediachannel.org/

Mediachannel’s News Dissector Danny Schechter investigates the origins of the economic crisis in his book Plunder: Investigating Our Economic Calamity and the Subprime Scandal (Cosimo Books via Amazon). Schechter has been covering the Occupy movement for his News Dissector.com blog and other websites including Al Jazeera. He has collected his reporting into a new book, available next week, with a preface by writer Greg Palast. Comments to dissector@mediachannel.org

Rahm Emanuel Has a Problem With Democracy

by Rick Perlstein

Rahm Emanuel insists it’s no biggie. Yes, when it was announced last summer that Chicago would host unprecedented back-to-back summits in May of 2012 of the G8 and NATO, the new mayor raved about his "opportunity to showcase what is great about the greatest city in the greatest country." And yes, when President Obama abruptly announced last month that the G8 would instead take place at Camp David, after the city had already committed millions of dollars for preparations, he gave his chief of staff one hour's notice. But Rahm generously said he took "at face value" his former boss's explanation that the presidential retreat in rustic Maryland would provide a more "intimate" setting for the leaders of the world’s eight largest economies. No embarrassment at all.

Here in Chicago, of course, no one believes a word of it. Cartoonist Jack Higgins of the Sun-Times nailed the prevailing view with not one but two burlesques of Rahm’s humiliation: In the first, a tall jug-eared black man hands a paper reading "No G8 in Chicago" to a little man run over by a presidential limousine: "Sorry I didn't run into you sooner, Rahm," the caption reads; in the other, a runtish Rahm is handed a note reading "Sorry Rahm no G8." It’s tied to a giant screw rammed straight through him from behind – a merciless reference to the White House’s frequent avowals, when Emanuel decamped to Chicago, that they would "have Rahm’s back."

So: Poor Rahm? Not so much. I’d argue that his humbling has been good for the city, and not just because the event would have been a riotous disaster. It’s also good because it’s been clarifying, having flushed out for the public something that reporters covering City Hall have known all along: Rahm Emanuel is no friend of democracy.

You may have heard about the unprecedented restrictions on protest for the G8 that Emanuel rushed through the City Council – the "sit down and shut up ordinances," Occupy Chicago calls them – granting the mayor the power to deploy surveillance cameras across the city without approval or oversight, and quadrupling, to $200, the fine for rallying without a permit (and making said permit almost impossible to obtain). But did you hear about the nearly $200,000 contract for new full-face police shields – Emanuel’s first deployment of his new power to purchase goods and services for the summit without City Council approval or competitive bidding? How about the solicitation of bids for medieval joust-style riot armor for police horses, or the provisions to deputize to the Chicago police "other law enforcement agencies as determined by the superintendent of police necessary for the fulfillment of law enforcement functions" – a possible wedge for the introduction of private security firms like Xe Services (now called Academi), the former Blackwater.

The cops sure do love their new masks. Which has long-memoried Chicago lefties freaking out. "People have been known to throw bags of urine, human feces, and also inflammatories at officers," claims Mike Shields, the aptly named president of the Chicago police union, and the old shields "allow for fluids to drip through." In 1968, the city justified the beating of peaceful protesters at the Democratic National Convention with just such piss-and-shit claims, which were almost certainly urban legends, according to Chicago investigative journalist Lewis Z. Koch, who produced all the street footage at the convention for NBC news in 1968. Koch also finds contemporary parallels in the games the city played then with protesters' requests for permits to march near the action. People who want to protest will protest anyway, permits or not – that's what happened in 1968 – but by complicating the permitting process the city ensures that the protesters who show up will be mainly the most committed extremists, raising the likelihood of violent confrontations. Perhaps that’s why Obama pulled the plug: He grasped that Mayor Emanuel's macho bullshit made an apocalyptic smackdown during "Occupy Spring" almost inevitable.

And so, no G8 summit for Chicago. And yet, whadya know, the restrictive ordinances are still in place, with no hint that they'll go away – leading Bernard Harcourt in the Guardian to wonder whether this wasn't the point all along: "It's almost as if Rahm Emanuel was lifting a page from Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine," Harcourt writes. "In record time, Emanuel successfully exploited the fact that Chicago will host the upcoming G8 and NATO summit meetings to increase his police powers and extend police surveillance, to outsource city services and privatize financial gains, and to make permanent new limitations on political dissent...very rapidly and without time for dissent." Or, as Rahm himself said, in a different context (the economic meltdown that Obama got landed with in 2009), "You never want a serious crisis go to waste." Indeed.

You're suprised? Don't be. For that is how Rahm Emanuel rolls: underhandedly and opaquely, without consultation, obsessed with finding ways to expand his executive power.

Consider the seemingly mundane matter of speed cameras. Rahm wants to make Chicago the world's capital for systems that automatically send motorists tickets that start a $100 for going five miles over the speed limit within an eighth of a mile of schools and parks. That covers 47 percent of the city's streets. Chicagoans balked, suspecting a revenue grab to help close Chicago's budget deficit of three-quarters of a billion dollars. The mayor said, no, it was all about safety: He claimed that traffic deaths had fallen by 60 percent near the city's already existing cameras that cite people for running red lights. The Chicago Tribune tried to verify the numbers – but City Hall claimed they were "confidential." They used publicly available source data instead, and found a 26 percent reduction in traffic deaths "that mirrored a broader accident trend in the city and around the nation." When confronted, a city bureaucrat "acknowledged the claimed reduction in fatalities was based only on an informal analysis of traffic statistics." "Study’ is a bit of a term of art," he dodged. "We had many meetings to discuss the best and most fair way to gauge the effectiveness," he told the Tribune, including a "judgment call" to count fatalities as far away as a quarter mile from red-light cameras. "He declined to say who was involved in the meetings," noted the paper. "Asked who he meant by 'we,' he said he meant 'the royal we.'"

Lovely. The kicker? The manager of Emanuel’s 2002 congressional campaign consults for the company that will supply the cameras, Redlex Traffic Systems of Australia. His name is Greg Goldner, and he currently runs For a Better Chicago, an Emanuel-aligned political action committee that raised nearly a million dollars in secret cash to funnel to Rahm-friendly candidates for alderman.He also runs something called the "Traffic Safety Commission," which is funded by … Redflex Traffic Systems. Emanuel refused to answer questions about the relationship. Instead, a spokesman replied, "As the mayor has said, this is about doing the right thing for our children and keeping them safe."

Ah, the children. Rahm Emanuel just loves the children. "I'm going to stick with it. Because it's the right thing for our children" – that was his response when the state labor board criticized his plan to extend Chicago's school year and stretch the school day to seven-and-a-half hours and pay teachers only 2 percent more for 20 percent more work. After teachers at three elementary schools agreed to consider the plan, he said, "I can't be prouder of people who decided to do what's right finally for our children." That was in the face of accusations from Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis that the teachers were offered extra cash and iPads for their schools in exchange for their support. Meanwhile, the Chicago Public School's inspector general is investigating allegations that a local pastor paid busloads of people $25 to $50 each to pack public hearings in favor of Emanuel's education plans, and that the pastor, Roosevelt Watkins, has received cash from Greg Goldner's consulting company. Goldner denies knowing anything about payoffs. "What [community groups] use the money for and how they do it is their business, not ours."

Here’s the flipside of that logic: Rahm’s daily doings are none of the community groups’ business. Nor the business of ordinary constituents. The mayor’s office sends out a nightly document to reporters entitled "The Public Schedule for Mayor Rahm Emanuel"; it frequently reads only "There are no events scheduled at this time" (when the mayor's office wants coverage they call reporters moments before an event). Ben Joravsky, the indefatigable City Hall reporter for the alternative weekly Chicago Reader got so fed up with this that he used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the mayor's private schedule. What he found: The amount of time a constituent spent with the mayor was robustly correlated with how much money that constituent contributed to the mayor. Meanwhile, Emanuel had hardly met with community groups, social service organizations, or neighborhood activists at all. His predecessor Mayor Daley, hardly known as a paragon of small-d democracy, met with such people all the time.

But if Rahm doesn’t spend a lot of time and effort cultivating non-moneyed constituents, he is an aggressive and tireless courter of the media. The Emanuel press operation, admittedly, is stunningly effective. On February 23, for instance, the story that Emanuel was closing seventeen "underperforming" school dropped. Rev. Jesse Jackson took the occasion to point out that of the 160 CPS schools without libraries and 140 of them were south of North Avenue – where the black people live: "That's apartheid," he said. That same day DePaul University announced it was closing its downtown campus for the G8 summit and county officials said they were considering closing the civil courts – directly contradicting Emanuel's claims that the event would not be disruptive. Neither made the front page of the tabloid Sun Times that day. What did? Rahm gazing sweetly at his wife Amy Rule, for an article on her charity activities.

Rahm seems to have worked the same ol’ black magic on the veteran journalist/pundit Jonathan Alter, judging by Alter’s fawning profile of him in the current issue of The Atlantic. Alter wants us to swallow that Emanuel is the avatar of a new (for Chicago) brand of clean, public-spirited politics, the very first mayor produced by the city's long-lived but perennially also-ran reform tradition. "Sitting in his cavernous office on the fifth floor of City Hall," he gushes, "Rahm lowers his outstretched empty palms, then raises them above his waist. 'If you have your hands above the table you can't deal from the bottom of the deck.'"

Alter then passes along Rahmpraganda with a kind of goofy glee. Concerning speed cameras, Alter claims the Tribune "virtually ignored a study showing that cameras had cut fatalities by 60 percent in the areas where they'd been tried." (That would be the "study" for which the administration refused to produce the data.) His "stature as a national figure helped him prevail without the support of the usual party hacks" and "plugged-in local contractors." (But his buddy Goldner’s main job in 2002, the Trib says, was "marshaling the patronage troops," from his base as former head of the Department of General Services, which operates and maintains city facilities.) "His policy has been to treat demonstrators as gingerly as possible." (Actually one night 175 arrestees including a nurse collared while administering first aid were hauled off to jail, fingerprinted, and had bail set – all before learning that the city had decided their offense was a civil, not criminal, matter.)

"Rahm wants to end patronage not because it offends his conscience but because it is costly and inefficient," Alter writes, credulously. But an old hand like him shouldn’t be gulled. Autre temps, autre moeurs: Chicago is a town where machines always morph, with patronage, favoritism, and corruption taking new forms with each passing generation.

What Rahm seems to be doing is building a new machine for our age of union busting and austerity. His budget, which the City Council passed 50 to 0 like it was some Soviet Party Congress (maybe it had something to do with the hundreds of thousands Goldner's PAC had to spend), killed six community mental health clinics, saving $2.3 million dollars, and proposed to carve $10 million and 110 union jobs from Chicago’s libraries; in the face of protest, he restored $5.3 million and 55 workers to the system, which Alter claims shows how flexible and magnanimous he is. As the progressive Chicago journalist Curtis Black points out, it’s instructive to compare that $7 million in precious, precious budget savings to some of the free public money he’s handed out to corporations. An animal testing company that serves Big Pharma, Experimur LLC, got $3.7 in "tax increment financing" — basically a loan given with little public accountability that’s supposed to be paid back by the tax revenue future growth creates – to save their 26 jobs: "It does appear that, job-wise, libraries get you a bigger bang for your buck," Black wrote in the Community Media Workshop’s publication Newstips. And he offered his second biggest campaign contributor, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange already a very profitable corporation, a TIF grant of $15 million for office renovations, including a luxury bathroom. (The CME turned the grant down.)

Welcome to the new machine: cuts to schools, libraries, and mental health; cash to corporations. And should you have the insolence to protest it – well, you’d better be able to afford a damned good lawyer.

Rick Perlstein is the author of Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus and Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America. He writes a weekly column for RollingStone.com.

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/national-affairs/why-rahm-ema...

Copyright 2012 Rolling Stone

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