Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Review of "Boss" by Mike Royko

A problem with reading history books and biographies is the Whig take on everything that dominates. It eventually becomes eye roll inducing and sometimes might lead to book tossing. This is worse with the more recent the book. The modern books have to perform the doublethink, as an example to glorify the thriving gay scene of a historical period on page 200 while then crying about the oppression of gays on page 202. Remember America in 2015 is super racist, but it still voted Barack Hussein Obama as president twice. A short but fantastic political book with Whig filtering but a common sense approach is "Boss" by Mike Royko. Boss is a biography of Mayor Richard Daley but covers the Chicago that made Daley and that Daley ruled as an empire. It is a quick but excellent study in power. In short, read it.

To spend time discussing Boss, it is a smooth, fun read as Mike Royko delves into Chicago and everything that come with the weight of that word politically. Royko is a native and a Daley antagonist, but his words read so incredibly well and fun for a biography. He is a great story teller, and this story is about Daley. Royko explains the environment Daley grew up in, and the machine that Daley entered the moment he left school. Royko gives you the ins and outs of how things get done in Chicago, and how Chicago became Daley and Daley became Chicago. The Machine as Royko refers to it became a kingdom under Daley, and Daley wielded his sword and scepter despite the destruction and dismantling of other city machine's. The book is a bit dated due to publication in the '70s, but in a sick way, the Daley behavior has become bipartisan and on a national or even global scale.

How did Daley do it? Where was the root of his power? Daley was not a genius. Daley was not a political scientist who came up with new schemes. Daley was a simple, machine oriented man. Keep the Machine alive and him on top of it. Daley understood the levers of political power better than anyone else. Their was a political job for every ally. Only reliable voters would be placed in the patronage system. He weaponized any government power to coerce opponents with simple building inspectors used to shut up anyone itching to fight him. Daley remained chairman of the Democrat party in the area as well as mayor, which consolidated power in one man, unlike years' past when power would be split, giving ground to different factions. There was one faction: Daley's. It was a kingdom, and in an old time feudal way. An interesting throw away note in Nixon's memoir mentions how upon meeting Brezhnev, Nixon compared him to an Irish labor leader or even Mayor Daley, with no offense intended for either. They were both men who understand their systems and ruled strongly.

Daley used urban renewal, slum clearances and other government programs not to buy off the poor but to buy off the rich, the Downtown element, and the real estate, construction and union guys. He started to clear out the ruffians and build high rises for the well to do before New York City did in the '90s. His ability to play ball and his weaponized approach to rules and regulations on opponenets made the GOP donate to him and make deals with him. No one wanted to be cut off. He ran the Machine, so he'd always have the votes, and the businessmen all walked in a line behind him like penguins. Daley's concerns were always with attorney generals and district attorneys who could investigate him, so he was feverishly paranoid about those elections, not just his own. To bring this up to date, this is why Lisa Madigan never runs for the US Senate in Illinois. As the state's Attorney General since 2003, she will never ever investigate her step-father Michael Madigan who has been Illinois speaker of the house since Return of the Jedi premiered. Madigan protects Madigan, and the Velvet Hammer runs Illinois and never wants to see his dirty laundry aired. Daley's extremely efficient system of governmental corruption and inefficiency worked for him from top to bottom. Everything was aligned to keep the Machine alive, win elections, pay off the men that needed it, but keep the Machine alive.

How did Daley trick the left's ascendant power bloc when he was just a creature of the machine? This is where it gets interesting, and where the power in Chicago is woven into the story. Daley was always part of the machine, but by hand picking egghead Adlai Stevenson for Governor and another intellectual favorite in '48 for statewide races, the media and others considered Daley, a youngish man, part of the "new breed" of Democrats who were reform minded. Daley tricked them using his backing of Stevenson, whom he wanted in Springfield to help him, and then potentially in the White House to send federal money his way, as a mask for his true nature: Machine pol to the core. This worked as Daley ran for election in '55, and the media did not notice anything weird about him. They covered some small brush ups because he was a Democrat. Once in power, he never left.


The media is key here. Royko takes a hammer to the entire media structure for always covering for Daley, selecting specific slumlords to tear into (not Daley's slumlords), avoiding scandals when necessary, and forever glorifying Daley's rule. Even when scandals should've crushed him, the media would find a way to blame another, lower level man. The media protected him. I may be biased looking for the "media as sovereign" everywhere, but here it was. Royko even mentions how the Chicago Tribune ran the Illinois Republican party. It's access journalism to a degree and somewhat financially related, but what was the media's goal? All those years covering for Daley, and advertising is still down. What did the papers get out of it? Exercising power to be used the way they saw fit, their pet projects, who knows what.

This is a fun read, and quick if you are a fast reader. There was one passage, and my buying a used book made it even better, that described the one election where Daley was legitimately challenged. Daley beat a Democrat turned Republican Adamowski only earning 55% of the vote. Sounds like a thumping, but it was the closest re-election he ever had. To reveal the horrible nature of democracy, Royko and the previous book owner combine to drive the point home. Royko writes a nice paragraph of how Adamowski won 51% of the white vote. Royko then sadly recount how the black voters of Chicago, who received the least of Daley, demanded the least, and lived in the worst neighborhoods, were the difference in his victory. They won him the re-election. The book's previous owner circled that paragraph and put to the side, "WOW!!". You, my reader, knew that. I knew that. The book's prior owner, intrigued enough to buy the book, and their other notes are sharp, was surprised enough to write wow. This paragraph and reader comment come pages after Congressman Dawson explains the game of delivering the votes. Elected men do not matter, delivered votes matter. Follow that through, "wow" reader, and open your eyes to just how ugly a business it can be, and just how easily bought off the poorest individuals can be. Grab Boss and read it over a weekend. You will love it.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

It was Adamowski, not Adamowitz. Here's a good old article about him and Chicago city govt:

http://www.richardlindberg.net/articles/reader_article.html

peterike said...

Good stuff. City machines are invariably fascinating. The corruption runs so deep, especially in the giant Democrat-run urban centers. The power balancing between wealthy white interests and black bodies is marvelously cynical (see, rich whites really DO care about "black bodies"). Though I'm interested to see how things change as the oligarchs are increasingly Asian (Chinese and Indian), Russian and South American. They really don't care much about paying lip service to black "interests," which is of course just paying off the local black pols and activists to shut up and not make trouble.

As for the press, they are easy enough to buy off with chump change. Since they are invariably Liberals, they invariably have Big Man Syndrome. Liberals love powerful men (even as they deride them), and a powerful man ostensibly on their side always gets a pass (see Clinton, William Jefferson, as just one example of countless).

Want a crusading journo on your side? Hell, just take him (or her!) to a power lunch at 21 or The Four Seasons and go all out with the spending and wine. Such a lunch for two will be $200-300, a murderous cost for a punk journalist struggling to survive in New York or other over-priced urban market, but not even a flea bite for an oligarch. Get them into 21 where they can see and be seen with the Big Machers ("isn't that [insert name of real estate billionaire or famous celebrity]?") and they will love you forever, and feel indebted. It's really pretty shocking how easy it is to buy people.

By the way, if you want some idea of the Power Lunch in Manhattan, this gives you some sense of it. It's the closest I've ever been, for sure.

http://ny.eater.com/2015/1/30/7945441/how-much-will-a-classic-power-lunch-cost-you

nikcrit said...

Want a crusading journo on your side? Hell, just take him (or her!) to a power lunch at 21 or The Four Seasons and go all out with the spending and wine. Such a lunch for two will be $200-300, a murderous cost for a punk journalist struggling to survive in New York or other over-priced urban market, but not even a flea bite for an oligarch. Get them into 21 where they can see and be seen with the Big Machers ("isn't that [insert name of real estate billionaire or famous celebrity]?") and they will love you forever, and feel indebted. It's really pretty shocking how easy it is to buy people.

Well, thank the good liberal lord that i was corrupted early, 'cuz the set-up scenes you paint above wouldn't be enough to sway this scribe!

I mean, I've been courted in those such scenarios and then some ---- and I swear to God: I STILL ended-up writing a negative Candlebox feature!!!!! lolzz!

(seriously, music press is known for an inane imbalance of inflated junket budget yielding comically light and inconsequential coverage in the Grand Scheme O' thangs, etc.; still, i know plenty of straight-up news critics and even those ominously titled 'culture' writers who are quite immune to junket goodies; after a while, you look at the glom and swag as just something that sets you back on your diet-and-workout routine.

I think the overall media culture writ large just fosters blue-pill-oriented oracles from the get-go ----- though plenty renounced their trumped-up rhetoric upon hitting their 40s.

nikcrit said...

@peterike,

I can't recall going to the NY Four Seaosons or Ritz, but I routinely did press junkets at the Chicago branches of those sister hotels; The downtown Chi Four Seaons, had a open press and media lounge on, like, the sixth or seventh floor ------ I recall their interviewing Chris Rock, David Halberstam, Robert Townsend (few blocks away at the Ritz-Carlton); but i don't recall ever eating at the restaurants within those hotels; just the usual junkateering chafing dishes set up by the p.r. firms in the suites or lobbies...... seriously, and strictly in a entertaiment-press mode, i could see such trappings as overwhelming a wide-eyed intern, as i was during my Townsend interview circa '93; but even the most schmoozy broadcast reporters grow immune to the high-calorie trappings at such events......granted, Chi ain't New Yawkk City, but thanks for the memory flash all the same!







PA said...

Why didn't you like Candlebox?

nikcrit said...

Royko and the previous book owner combine to drive the point home. Royko writes a nice paragraph of how Adamowski won 51% of the white vote. Royko then sadly recount how the black voters of Chicago, who received the least of Daley, demanded the least, and lived in the worst neighborhoods, were the difference in his victory. They won him the re-election.

Royko had that rare and now rapidly diminishing Rustelt-prole sage talent of speaking across racial divides yet never compromsiing the connection to his specific constituencey (in his case, white working-class poles and Germans) one iota of one bit; great metro columnist in the classic tradition

http://mediaburn.org/video/royko-at-the-goat/

peterike said...

Yo Nik!

I get your point, but I do also think there's a qualitative difference between a junket with a whole bunch of press types in a room getting feted together, versus a one-on-one with a big Macher in the belly of the beast, surrounded by other big machers. When that waiter comes out oozing all over the big shot and brings him his single malt without him so much as saying a word, and then, oh I dunno, Chuck Schumer walks over from the other table to shake his hand and he introduces him to you... well it's different. Even the room itself. It's not full of shaggy press types. It's just YOU and a hundred big wigs in their five thousand dollar suits. The place stinks of money. If the big shot is charismatic -- and they often are, because they're sociopaths -- it's hard to resist.

nikcrit said...

Why didn't you like Candlebox?

Actually, I sorta did; I was just back then impressionable enough to be 'too cool to like 'em out loud,' you might say.

Call 'em a 'guilty pleasure' then call it a truce..lolzz

Rifleman said...

Remember America in 2015 is super racist, but it still voted Barack Hussein Obama as president twice.

America? Not White America.

Obama LOST the majority of the White vote in BOTH elections.

Although in both elections the majority of HIS vote did come from White voters.

Steve Sailer said...

Before Daley's election, anybody trying to build anything would get shaken down individually by each city inspector or official. Daley centralized the graft process so that businesses could confidently budget for X amount of payoff to the mayor's one bagman. Skyscraper construction, which had been dead in Chicago for a quarter of a century, took off under the new system. Meanwhile, Daley was trusted by officials under him to hand out the graft in a fair manner. It was assumed that Daley was more interested in power than money so he'd pass the payoffs along to his underlings without taking too big of a bite for himself.

sykes.1 said...

I stumbled across Royko when I went to graduate school at Purdue and started reading the Chicago Tribune. My favorite article was the one on "shiskabowbows." "A dog should be bigger than a cat."

nikcrit said...

My favorite article was the one on "shiskabowbows." "A dog should be bigger than a cat."

The "shish-ka-bow-wow" column was a classic; I recall reading it after-the-fact when I was in middle-school. It was the pre-p.c.-era, but that column generated a lot of racial wrath (its nutgraph noted that canines were Vietnamese and other south-Asian delicacies..)
Damn-near greatest city daily columnist that ever lived; can you imagine a better job than being the main metro columnist at the main daily in a city like Chicago?

@peterike,

Yeah, I agree; I mean, I did both and junketeering as a daily newspaper critic is a lot more, umm, 'communal' a form of graft than can be when one is quilling a more personalized feature-mag piece, no doubt.

Still, while one-man's trough is another man's banquet, remember: there's ultimately no free lunch..lolz.

Toddy Cat said...

"Royko had that rare and now rapidly diminishing Rustelt-prole sage talent of speaking across racial divides yet never compromsiing the connection to his specific constituency"

I might phrase it differently, Nickrit, but yeah, Royko was the last of a breed. The modern world couldn't produce anyone like him today, and the white working class that he spoke for is pretty much gone, anyway. Too bad, I really kind of liked the world that produced guys like him, but like sharks, we gotta keep moving forward...