It makes no difference whether Chicago once again burns to the ground or finally secures a destiny as the shining city on the lake. It makes no difference because Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s obituary and maybe his tombstone will recall before anything else that he was the man who said, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” Just before moving into the White House as chief of staff to the president, Emanuel did say it. But that timing is only part of the reason the quote will never go away. The other part of the reason is that the clueless ants who populate Washington, D.C., actually took Emanuel seriously and began repeating it, especially to their paying clients. Everybody failed to notice it was nothing more than a transition line to the message Emanuel wanted to deliver that day to a business audience. “Things that we had postponed for too long, that were long-term, are now immediate and must be dealt with,” he said. “This crisis provides the opportunity for us to do things that you could not do before.” His task was to calm markets at the time of the worst financial crisis by saying it would bring us bipartisanship for the new president’s many agenda items. OK, it did not exactly work out that way, but you get the point. Emanuel was not misquoted, but he was misunderstood. He’s had to hear every political hack in the land use his line to troll for their own customers. And, as dumb as it sounds, big unions and big business pay millions in Washington, D.C., for recycled ideas. This means we’re in an era when riding the wave of someone else’s crisis is a popular moneymaking sport. We in the media knowingly play along. Almost anything that wants to connect itself with crisis gets away with it. This past week, we had the union for USDA meat inspectors advancing two or three possibilities that might explain the recall and shutdown of a small beef and veal processing plant in northern California. (I might be wrong, but as far as I can tell, the union’s agenda is “union good, USDA management bad.”) As crisis goes, the closure of the Rancho Feeding beef plant in Petaluma is a small one. No deaths, no illnesses, and no outbreaks are involved. It’s a big recall because it goes back more than a year, not because it’s a big plant. USDA shut it down and called in the Inspector General (IG) for a criminal investigation. The IG is testifying before Congress this coming week. It would help dampen speculation if the IG would provide an update on the progress of the federal investigation involving the U.S Attorney for Northern California. This story is getting crisis coverage, mostly from the San Francisco media, because the many foodies who populate the Bay Area are concerned about the impact it is having on custom producers. San Francisco’s source of grass-feed beef, free of antibiotics and hormones, etc., is at risk. The politicians and small ranchers are speaking out about the unfairness of it all. And we appreciate that. However, it is not a crisis. It is an investigation, one that caught and stopped any diseased beef from getting to anyone’s dinner plate. Anybody who thinks they can advance some agenda or exercise their political power over it just needs to chill. We’d like to see the federal investigation move quickly, allow USDA to tell us exactly what happened, and see blame assigned in whatever legal and administrative venues are appropriate. Think of this more as a big accident on the freeway. We don’t mind sitting there in our cars for the state patrol to do their investigation, but not while they go for coffee and donuts.