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« January 2010 | Main | March 2010 »

February 27, 2010

The Weekend Desk Report

We're not going to comment on why we've cancelled our vacation. Point is we're here.

Market Update
The crisis of confidence in Europe continued this week as both Iceland and Greece grappled with credit bail-out options. Meanwhile, Finland and Russia saw their credibility ratings sharply curbed.

Angel of Doomsday
As the city contemplates the impact of a sweeping budget crisis, public schools chief Ron Huberman this week revealed a radical plan to reduce a projected $1 billion deficit. His main strategy involves recycling rhetoric from his last job.

Dry of the Tiger
After re-evaluating the promotional prospects of the 12-year zodiacal calendar, experts have announced 2010 might be better-positioned as the Year of the Gator.

Back to the Table
After a month facing the real threat of international admonishment, it appears the world's most powerful celebrity dictatorship has been dragged back to long-abandoned negotiations. Experts, however, doubt the reckless triumvirate's ability to avoid the taint of controversy for long.

Don't Ask, Don't Tweet
Finally this week, the United States Armed Forces announced that troops will be allowed access to social networking tools such as Facebook and Twitter. After all, what could possibly go wrong there?

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The Weekend Desk welcomes your comments.


Posted by Natasha Julius at 8:56 AM | Permalink

February 26, 2010

The [Friday] Papers

"Just getting in the race to take on a Chicago alderman in next year's election could get tougher if a change proposed by a lawmaker from the Cook County Democratic establishment becomes law," the Tribune reports.

Uh-oh.

"To secure a ballot spot, aldermanic candidates would have to gather at least 500 valid voter signatures - the same number now required of state representatives, whose districts have nearly twice the number of residents as city wards - under legislation making its way through the Illinois House."

Geez, I think there are some wards where 500 voters can damn near elect you.

Of course, it would take 1,000 to 1,500 names in reality once the lawyers get done combing through your petitions.

"The bill's sponsor is Rep. Joseph Lyons, a Northwest Side Democrat and veteran county employee who makes $100,000 a year at a human resources job."

Okay, but what in the world does he have to do with aldermanic elections?

"He's also the nephew of the late Tom Lyons, the former county Democratic Party chairman."

Oh.

"Rep. Lyons said he's trying to even the petition requirements across all wards."

Why?

And who brought this to him? I mean, he didn't come up with this on his own.

"Lyons said he discussed his idea with some city aldermen, whom he declined to name. 'I just ran it by a few people,' he said."

Idea: FOIA his schedule. Let's find out who's scared.

"To get 500 signatures should not be a burden," Lyons told the Trib. "The more friends you've got, the easier it should be. And if you don't have any friends, you shouldn't be running for alderman."

To the contrary; in Chicago, the new rule oughta be that only those without friends should run for alderman. Friends are killing us.

Beer, Cigars, Hockey, Women
"That kind of celebration is not unusual in Canada."

Duh. Get a life, IOC. (AP, too, for asking about it.)

*

Although I've been loving AP's Olympic videos; I love their news videos too. They have a really good YouTube channel.

March Madness
Bloodshot-style.

Their Kind of Town
What others say about Chicago when they talk about Chicago.

Pundit Patrol
The third and hopefully final installment will appear on Monday, not today. Didn't get it finished, sorry.

Snow Job
Just sayin' . . .

1. "Washington's Bipartisan Snowstorm," by Douglas MacGregor, Fort Myers News-Press, Feb. 12, 2010.

MacGregor1.jpg

2. "Winter Sport In Washington," by Jack Higgins, Chicago Sun-Times Feb. 26, 2010.

Higgins2.jpg

*

Of course, there have been other variations on the theme. But Higgins looks like he's the last one to the party.

3. "Snow," by Signe Wilkinson, Philadelphia Daily News, Feb. 2, 2010.

Signe3.jpg

4. I couldn't find it, but there was one recently that had a snowplow dumping snow from an overpass to the street below while a plow on the street below was flinging its load to the overpass above - also in the name of bipartisanship.

Plagiarism? Theft? Stale minds thinking alike?

It's actually a clever concept, but . . . just sayin'.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Just warming up.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:25 AM | Permalink

Olympic Moments

1. "That kind of celebration is not uncommon in Canada."

-

2. A new world record.

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3. Not exactly amateurs.

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4. Trucking snow in for months.

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5. Not quite Yule Log TV, but still kind of soothing.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:39 AM | Permalink

Their Chicago

I am a Chicago ex-pat. But I love talking about the city everywhere I go.

You know me; I'm the bore who corners you in an airport bar somewhere and rambles on and on about how great whatever that thing I love most is. In my case, it's the city of Chicago.

It's a tired cliche that the world equates Chicago with Al Capone; I haven't found that to be true in my experience. Once in a while, someone will mention gangsters or crime, but most people have other things to say about my beloved home town.

Here, then, are 10 things people not from Chicago talk about when they talk about Chicago:

1. Fucking O'Hare.

I don't know if I've ever had a conversation with anyone about Chicago in which at least one O'Hare complaint didn't get snuck in. Seriously, stop being so corrupt and fix the airport - the rest of the world hates it.

2. Blagojevich.

Man, fucking Blago. Sigh.

3. Pizza.

It's really not that big of a deal in Chicago, people. We have real pizza here and everywhere else doesn't. Pretty simple.

4. George Ryan.

Yes, we do have one governor in jail, and another on the way.

5. Oprah.

No, I have not seen Oprah shopping, walking, having dinner or playing kickball. She doesn't run in my circles.

6. The 1985 Bears.

We can't shut up about them either.

7. SpiderDan.

I'm always surprised at how many people remember his 1981 climb up the Sears Tower. I was bartending in D.C. one night and all but three of the 25 people in the bar remembered his accent dressed as Spiderman.

8. O'Hare sucks.

Yes, yes, we know.

9. The Cubs.

You know that the White Sox won a World Series recently, don't you? Why do we have to always be equated with mediocrity?

10. O'Hare is awful.

Mayor Daley is hard work on this, I promise you. It'll all get straightened out soon.

-

Comments welcome.

-

Other Lists By Drew Adamek:
* Today's Syllabus
* Shit My Dad Says
* Work Weirdos
* Things I Miss About Chicago
* 20 Albums I Wish I Had Never Bought

Plus:
* Fan Note: Me & Metallica

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:24 AM | Permalink

Bloodshot Briefing: March Madness

Finally, the Deadstring Brothers' latest, Sao Paulo, is on American shelves. And you can catch them at the Double Door on March 26.

Let's take a look at who else from the Bloodshot universe is playing where next month - including at South by Southwest - and sample their wares.

*

Artist: Dex Romweber Duo
Venue: Double Door
Date: March 5
Note: This is part of the Psychobilly Tour, and Reverend Horton Heat is in the house.
Sample:

-

Artist: Jon Langford and The Blacks
Venue: Schubas
Date: March 6
Sample:

-

Artist: Deadstring Brothers
Venue: Double Door
Date: March 26
Sample:

-

And for those who are heading down to Austin for South by Southwest, here is your Bloodshot Records sampler.

Who: Ha Ha Tonka
When: March 16, 10 p.m.
Where: Hole in the Wall

*

Who: Ha Ha Tonka
When: March 17, 2 p.m.
Where: Paradise

*

Who: Bloodshot Records Party (Justin Townes Earle, Deadstring Brothers, Scott H Biram, Ha Ha Tonka, Waco Brothers, Exene Cervenka, Ben Weaver, Rosie Flores, Whitey Morgan & the 78s, Silos)
When: March 19, noon
Where: Yard Dog Gallery

*

Who: Deano and the Meat Purveyors
When: March 20, noon
Where: Jovita's

*

Who: Waco Brothers
When: March 20, 1 p.m.
Where: Jovita's

*

Who: Exene Cervenka
When: March 20, 3 p.m.
Where: G-Man

*

Who: Justin Townes Earle
When: March 20, 7 p.m.
Where: Auditorium Shores

*

Who: Bloodshot Records Party (Scott H Biram, Ha Ha Tonka, Waco Brothers, Exene Cervenka, Whitey Morgan & the 78s, Ben Weaver)
When: March 20, 8 p.m.
Where: Red Eyed Fly

-

Matt Harness brings you his Bloodshot Briefing every Friday. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:59 AM | Permalink

February 25, 2010

The [Thursday] Papers

How totally stoked are you for today's televised health care summit?

That's what I thought.

I'd rather watch a high school play. At least the actors would be sincere.

Kabuki Dookie
"[W]e Americans don't read history much these days, do we?" John Kass writes today. "Instead, we watch American Idol, and vote for our favorite performer."

Now, I don't know why American Idol has to always be the whipping boy for our perpetually ailing civic culture; sure, it represents everything that's wrong with the music industry, but that's another story.

"'They should stop crying about reconciliation as if it's never been done before,' Reid said of Republican outrage. 'It's done almost every Congress, and they're the ones who used it more than anyone else.'

"Reid's right. And Republicans have problems crying about it now.

"Yet what Reid, Obama and others avoid is that a few short years ago, they were shrieking. Republicans sought rule changes so a simple majority could approve then- President George W. Bush's judicial nominees who had been held hostage by Democrats.

"'(Bush) hasn't gotten his way, and that is now prompting, you know, a change in the Senate rules that really, I think, would change the character of the Senate forever,' said then-Sen. Obama in 2005.

"Sen. Joe Biden, now Obama's VP, gave the best sound bite of all.

"'I say to my friends on the Republican side, you may own the field for now,' Biden speechified with dramatic pause, lip bite, shake of head, 'but you won't own it forever. I pray God that when the Democrats take back control, we won't make the kind of naked power grab you are doing.'"

Using reconciliation to pass a lousy health insurance bill would be based on the political imperative of the Obama administration to not come up with a big, giant zero that wasted everybody's time instead of focusing on jobs.

That's how politics works, but it's also why people hate politics. Gamesmanship always seems to trump the public interest.

Look no further than Michael Madigan, who reiterates in today's papers that he and his fellow Democrats could pass the necessary tax increases - and believe me, I only support progressive tax increases - needed to balance the state's budget but they won't without Republican support because they don't want to take the blame.

Come to think of it, that's the same reason - well, that and a huge pot of gold now instead of a pot of gold later - that the Daley administration sold our parking meters instead of having the balls to raise rates themselves.

Is there not a man - and I don't mean that in a gender sense - among them?

Leadership, people. Courage. Honesty.

The cynics - the pols and all the parasites in their eco-system - will tell you that voters won't reward those qualities. I tend to think that, instead, the pols and their parasites find less to gain (and less to maliciously exploit in their enemies) by acting selflessly.

And isn't a belief that voters won't reward integrity a renunciation of democracy? I mean, why even pretend anymore, then?

We might as well just head for the hills.

Beachwood Crystal Ball
I hate to say I predicted it would come this, but I did.

Profile In Discouragement
"The Illinois Senate approved new restrictions Wednesday on the century-old practice of state legislators handing out scholarships to public university students, but stopped short of scrapping the scandal-marred program altogether," the Tribune reports.

"Senate President John Cullerton, the Chicago Democrat who sponsored the measure, said the legislation is needed because there is a 'perception that you get a campaign contribution and somebody gets a scholarship, that there's some kind of connection. So we should - going forward - say You can't do that anymore.'

"But Cullerton's legislation also trumped proposals by lawmakers in both parties to abolish the program, measures that stalled in a Democratic-controlled Senate panel."

Even when there's bi-partisan support to do the right thing, they can't do the right thing.

*

See: "The Scholarship Scam."

Pundit Patrol
The Union of Concerned Scientists calls out Sun-Times columnist Steve Huntley today on his global warming nonsense.

So do I, in today's edition of Pundit Patrol. Also discussed: recent columns by Rick Telander, Richard Roeper and Neil Steinberg.

Where Is The Love?
A Valentine's Day review in I Am A Security Guard.

The NBA Is Fun Again
And baseball is back. In Dan O'Shea's Fantasy Fix.

20 Albums He Wishes He Never Bought
Including Fergie and AC/DC.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: At your service.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:26 AM | Permalink

Pundit Patrol

Editor's Note: The next installment of this feature will appear on Monday, not on Friday as originally planned.

*

Continuing this week's wacky tour through the local commentariot.

Rick Telander: "Both [Derrick] Rose and Blackhawks star Patrick Kane are only 21 years old, and that's something to think about right there," Telander wrote recently.

"They've both had some slip-ups in their lime-lit lives, but I think back to my own self at 21, a second-semester junior in college. Oh, my God.

"Think back to yourself at 21. Or if you're not yet 21, ponder the idiot you are right now.

"It is one of our eternal blessings that most of us get to grow out of our youth without the rest of the world much noticing or caring. My personal blessings were that I didn't have any money and that cell-phone cameras didn't exist."

Or what, you would've been caught cheating on your college admissions test or punching a cab driver over a 20 cents?

No wonder professional athletes feel like they can get away with anything. Oh, the hardships they face!

Richard Roeper: "Andrea Fay Friedman, 39, who has Down syndrome, provided the voice for the character of Ellen on the controversial Family Guy episode," Roeper wrote on Monday.

"In an e-mail to the New York Times, Friedman said, 'I guess former Gov. Palin does not have a sense of humor,' and added, 'My mother did not carry me around like a loaf of bread the way former Gov. Palin carries her son Trig around, looking for sympathy and votes.'

"In a subsequent interview, Friedman told the Times, 'I was making fun of Sarah Palin, not her son.'

"Well said."

Yes, bravo for such an articulate sentence!

But it's bunk.

If the show depicted a dim-witted kid to show that Palin was an idiot, that might be one thing. But Palin has a child with Down syndrome in real life!

You can't make fun of the mother without making fun of the child.

Why doesn't everybody just be honest? When the other side does it, it's an outrage. When your side does it, you go into contortions to defend it.

Conservatives have suddenly discovered the virtues of "political correctness" while liberals are telling everyone to just lighten up. All they've done is exchange scripts.

Public financing of presidential campaigns? A sturdy Democratic principle until candidate Obama's greedy little eyes get big. Suddenly Democrats start sounding like Republicans and Republicans take up the Democrats' old talking points.

George W. Bush speaking at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University? Blasphemy! Obama's personal pastor is Jeremiah Wright? What's the big deal?

Oppose gay marriage on religious grounds? Right-wing nuts!

Obama opposing gay marriage on religious grounds? Strategic!

Family Guy - one of the most brilliant shows to ever appear on TV - stepped over the line. Admitting it doesn't give aid and comfort to your enemies.

*

Bonus Roeper!

"Jersey Shore features the reality show staple of the on-camera interview, in which cast members recap the latest storyline or confess their darkest fears or share their feelings about a colleague," he writes.

"In the history of television, you have never seen a more inarticulate collection of human beings. It's as if they're all working from a vocabulary playbook that maxes out at 250 words."

Memo to Rich: You shouldn't be so hard on the demographic of your readers.

*

Jersey Shore, by the way, was tremendous television. I watched every episode, with glee. As a movie "critic", Roeper should know that it's a lot tougher to produce commercially successful art using unlikable characters than cute babies and girls next door. The secret ingredient to a lot of reality TV is the casting of subjects whom viewers will loathe even as we get caught up in their ridiculous dramas.

Neil Steinberg: In an otherwise thoughtful column, Steinberg writes that the Family Guy episode "provok[ed] Sarah Palin's well-exercised sense of victimization."

Well, I mean, she was accused of carrying her Down syndrome child around "like a loaf of bread" in order to win votes and sympathy. I mean, besides having her child used as a comic prop on one of America's most popular TV shows.

See, if you think Family Guy erred, you have to make sure you blame Palin too. It's what media critic extraordinaire Bob Somerby would call a Pundit Rule. Just to make sure no one thinks you've strayed from the club.

So Steinberg writes:

"Isn't it the worst kind of paternalism to, in effect, try to get her fired because Sarah Palin is uncomfortable with seeing the subject she milks for sympathy being treated as a source of humor? People are either full adults out in the real world, or they're a special victim class who need coddling, and it's disingenuous to push for one and then, when they do something you don't like, invoke the other."

See, Palin isn't an advocate for special needs children, she's a special needs children-milker for sympathy! She probably had a special needs child on purpose!

*

Wait, I was just distracted by the chatter of failed congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth running for lieutenant governor.

*

Wait, I was just distracted by the memory of Sen. Barack Obama calling for the firing of Don Imus. He should really lighten up, don't you think?

Steve Huntley: "It was a moment of exquisite scientific clarity," Huntley wrote in "Climate Turning Against Kooky Alarmists" last week. "The investigation of the 1986 space shuttle Challenger disaster was mired in contentious debate over whether rubberlike O-rings that were supposed to expand under pressure and seal in hot gases on a booster rocket had failed in uncharacteristically cold Florida weather. At a televised hearing, Nobel Physics Prize winner Richard Feynman dropped a miniature O-ring into a glass of ice water and plucked it out to show - voila! - that it had lost its elasticity. Case closed."

As if!

I mean, they didn't even have to continue the investigation after that moment or write a report! But they did. Why?

Feynman's voila moment was but a simple scientific experiment. It showed what ice water did to an O-ring. It didn't prove anything on its own. After all, NASA officials originally claimed they had provided for the effects of cold weather. Huntley is engaging in intellectual sophistry to advance a predetermined agenda.

"One problem for advocates of the human-caused global warming is that they don't have that undeniable clarity, that eureka moment when the scales fall from their eyes and the case is closed."

Neither do advocates of gravity or birthers in the Arizona legislature.

Now, Huntley is being a little clever here. He is sure to write "human-caused global warming." Some global warming believers are less sure of the cause. But that doesn't make the danger any less real, and if changing our behavior can save the planet - even if it's not our fault - then what are we really arguing about?

*

Bonus Huntley!

"No Winners In Obama's Health-Care Overhaul."

I beg to differ. The health insurance industry comes up huge.

*

More Bonus Huntley!

"These are some examples of wasteful spending in the state budget as identified by the 2010 Illinois Piglet Book from the conservative Illinois Policy Institute and the national Citizens Against Government Waste . . .

"* $6,500 to fill a 4,000-gallon tank with live bass for a fishing seminar.

"* $1 million for the Classroom Cubed Initiative to promote 'the use of 3D applications to enhance the learning experience.'

"* Grants of $3,807, $2,500 and $2,973 to schools of barbering, hair design and massage therapy.

"* $13,775 for the National Wild Turkey Foundation.

"* $72,750 to further wine production in Illinois.

"* $350,000 for auto racing.

"* $33.6 million for reduced fares on public transit - such as the free rides for seniors foisted on the taxpayers by Blagojevich."

Okay, the senior fares we know about. But if the rest is the best the pig people could com e up with, the state budget is pretty frickin' lean and mean. $9,000 to barber schools, I'm appalled!

-

Stay tuned for tomorrow's final Monday's installment of this week's special Pundit Patrol series. See also:
* Pundit Patrol: Warren, Ponce & Washington

-

Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:51 AM | Permalink

I Am A Security Guard: Where Is The Love?

Many people show their love and appreciation for others on Valentine's Day. And a lot of my store's shoppers did exactly that. They bought balloons, cards, boxes of chocolates and stuffed bears.

Even one of the assistant managers got into the spirit. Normally, he wears a stern expression and doesn't talk much. That night, he smiled and joked with the staff.

"Maybe he got lucky," the Cool Cashier said.

But I did not feel any ardor. The commute to my job turned into a nightmare. Two northbound Red Line trains delayed by equipment issues and a slow bus nearly made me late. Eight bucks in cab fare and tip got me to work two minutes before the start of my shift.

Thus I had a sour mood. Some of the customers didn't help either.

A scruffy man trailed by a woman walked into the store and disappeared in the aisles. Then the man approached an employee I'll call the New Cashier.

"Has the Valentine's Day merchandise had been discounted yet?" he asked.

I braced for impact. The New Cashier has a good heart, but can be flippant when someone ticks her off. Also, she had just dumped her loser boyfriend.

This time, she didn't even smirk. "No," she replied.

The man found his date and resumed looking at goods.

A few minutes later, he approached the cashier again. His date trailed him while talking on a cell phone.

"I heard the stuff would be discounted at 1:00 a.m," he said.

The New Cashier kept her cool again. "I don't know," she said.

The couple left.

The scene presented a juicy hanging curve that I could not resist. "Nothing says love quite like a half-priced Valentine's gift," I said to the cashier.

"Yeah, I want a man like that in my life," she said. "Love on a budget."

We both shared a needed laugh.

The parade of wacky customers continued.

An elderly couple arrived in the store with a toddler. The woman usually wears a frown and makes the cashiers miserable by arguing over prices. A couple of weeks ago, she shopped at the store. She then returned twice to claim she had paid for nail polish. A check of her receipt revealed she hadn't. The Cool Cashier usually gets someone else to ring up the woman's purchases.

On this night, the elderly woman gathered goods in a cart and stood in the New Cashier's line. After she reached the front, the cashier started ringing up the sale. During the transaction, the woman left the line to get one more washcloth. Three other shoppers had to wait until she returned.

One man bought soap with a credit card, but somehow pushed the wrong button and got a cash advance as well. He pouted when the New Cashier told him she could not undo the transaction.

Another man bought a small teddy bear and chatted with the New Cashier. He had a sly grin and took his time telling his story. After he left, the cashier gave me the dirt. Earlier in the week, the man had given a girlfriend a giant bear. Of course, the woman had a jealous husband who tore up the gift. The customer thought the small bear would be easy for the wife to hide.

The coup de grace took place shortly after midnight. Surprisingly, it did not come from a customer. Instead, the boss of the new floor-cleaning crew put on a show.

A couple of weeks earlier, the store hired a new cleaning company. The previous outfit provided pleasant employees who did a good job. But my store ditched them for a different firm that offered a lower bid.

You get what you pay for. The new crew finished its work. The assistant manager looked at the floor. Afterward, he found the crew boss and pointed out some spots that needed additional cleaning. The boss, a barrel-chested man, pouted while doing more scraping and mopping.

Afterward, I asked him if I could check the equipment. It's standard procedure. Floor cleaners at other stores have used scrubbers, buffers and buckets to hide pilfered goods.

The request offended the crew boss. He said he did not steal and had to do additional work for free. His voice grew louder. The Cool Cashier paged the assistant manager, who told the man I had to do my job.

The crew boss complied. I performed a check and said okay.

He left and started loading the equipment into his van. By then, the cashiers had stepped outside for a quick smoke. He launched another tirade by telling them I needed to take a chill pill. The whining continued until he drove away.

Like me, he did not feel any love on Valentine's Day.

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A very pseudononymous Jerome Haller earns rent money as a security guard for a large, publicly-held retail chain.

-

See more tales of security guarding, pizzeria waitressing, barista-ing and office drudgering in the Life at Work collection.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:33 AM | Permalink

Fantasy Fix

In the real world, the move that sent Antawn Jamison to Cleveland was the most significant of a series of late-breaking deadline deals, essentially guaranteeing LeBron James and the Cavs their first NBA championship.

Not so in the fantasy world. I wouldn't be surprised if Jamison and James both see a leveling off in their numbers as they try to get a rhythm going (though for James, that just means fewer triple-doubles).

No, in the fantasy world, the trade with the most impact will be the one that sent Brendan Haywood to Dallas, along with Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson. Haywood, not Jamison or James, is likely to see the biggest bump in his stats.

Haywood moves from the stodgy Eastern Conference to the wild Western, where his rebounds and blocks will get constant feeding from the West's overly-aggressive shooters.

And while Haywood has never been an offensive star, he's got more game with the ball in hand than Erick Dampier and other Dallas big-men, so the position might become more important to the Mavs offensively.

Just another reminder that fantasy evaluation is a different animal than real world evaluation.

* * *

It's Week 18, and all this trading after a lackluster All-Star break makes the NBA fun again. Let's take a look.

Fantasy Find of the Week: Andray Blatche, PF/C, Washington.

After the Wizards traded Jamison, Butler and Haywood, it gave someone a chance to step up to better stats, and Blatche looks to be taking the offer, with 25 PPG and 10.3 RPG last week. Only 61 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues as of last weekend.

Fantasy Stud of the Week: Dwight Howard, C, Orlando.

A dud earlier this season, he started the second half in scorching fashion, with 28 points per game, 16.3 rebounds per game and 5.3 blocks per game (!) last week.

Fantasy Dud of the Week: Antawn Jamison, SF/PF, Cleveland.

That's right - 0-12 shooting to start his championship drive with the Cavs. He's gotten back to his old self since that horrible debut, but it helped make a bad week of .346 shooting and an average of 10 PPG last week.

Fantasy Match-up of the Week: John Salmons, SG/SF, Milwaukee.

He didn't do much for the Bulls this year, but he'll benefit from a change of scenery and need for a shooter in Milwaukee, which is in the midst of a busy five-game week.

Fantasy Baseball
Fantasy baseball leagues can be won in the middle rounds of the draft, after all of the most obvious choices have been taken and owners need to be smart and aggressive.

Here are my top mid-round strategic picks (the ones to target as opposed to higher-ranking players left on the board) by position, and when to draft them (assuming a 10-12 team league):

C: Geovany Soto, Cubs. Coming off a bad sophomore year in great physical shape. 8th Round.

1B: Chris Davis, Texas. Was supposed to break out last year, but disappointed. Will be back to 30+ HR territory. 6th Round.

2B: Jose Lopez, Seattle. A very quiet 25 HRs, 96 RBIs last year, and 1B eligibility. 5th Round.

3B: Adrian Beltre, Boston. Interesting new venue could mean a lot more HRs, RBIs. 7th Round.

SS: Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland. Speed and a hot bat, plus 2B eligibility. 9th Round.

OF: Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado. Power, speed and average mean he delivers across the board. 6th Round.

SP: Ricky Nolasco, Florida. Bad start last year, great finish. Potential for 18 wins, 225 strikeouts. 7th Round.

RP: Neftali Perez, Texas. Could be the closer. Either way, abundant Ks, low ERA for emerging star. 9th Round.

The Basketball Expert Wire
* SLAM Online has fantasy implications for a number of trades that happened at the deadline.

* RotoWorld reports on another traded player, Marcus Camby, who should get a lot of playing time and a stats boost in Portland.

* CBSSports.com features Sergio Gonzalez talking about the upside for Salmons, Blatche, Haywood and other traded players for the rest of the season.

* ESPN chimes in with its own post-trade deadline analysis, including a look at the Tyrus Thomas deal. Thomas should get more playing time, which means more highlight reel plays and just as many dumb mistakes.

The Baseball Expert Wire
Not much churning on fantasy baseball's expert wire except for position rankings. We'll start linking to more of those next week, but for now, Bleacher Report has been busy doing some profiles of individual players and their fantasy impact. Here's a helpful analysis on possible late-round sleeper Colby Rasmus, along with links to Bleacher Report's past profiles.

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Dan O'Shea's Fantasy Fix appears in this space every Wednesday, except on the occasional Thursday like today. Comments welcome. You can also read his about his split sports fan personality at SwingsBothWays, which isn't about what it sounds like it's about.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:53 AM | Permalink

20 Albums I Wish I Never Bought

I am a metalhead through and through. Occasionally, a little 1990's hip-hop, Chicago Blues or Rolling Stones will poke through, but I am on a steady diet of screaming guitars and thundering drums.

I've tried to experiment; I've tried listening to other music. figure I've bought, on average, one album a week for the last 25 years. That means I've probably bought somewhere between 1,200 and 1,400 albums. Some were garage sale cassettes for a dollar, others were CDs, and most recently it's been iTunes impulse buys.

My CD and cassette collection was several hundred strong before the iPod and I now have 400 purchased albums. Some are classics, some are forgotten and some are absolute, gut-rot stinkers.

Here, then, are 20 albums I wish I never bought:

1. Marxman, 33 1/3 Revolutions.

At some point, I thought that a hip-hop album by communists was a funky twist on the genre. It wasn't. Das Kapital just doesn't have the same flow as "Get Low, Get Low."

2. PM Dawn, Of the Heart, Of the Soul and of The Cross. De La Soul was and is one of my favorite hip-hop acts. This cheap, one-off ripoff isn't.

3. Aphex Twin, Richard D James Album.

Jesus, an hour of beeps. I quit drugs too early to appreciate this album.

4. Godsmack, IV.

I have a Nu-Metal prohibition; I'm just not that angry at the faceless masses that have done me wrong anymore. I only bought this album because they opened for Metallica on the St. Anger tour.

5. Johnny Cash, Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison.

I get that he's an icon and a legend. But I only bought this album on an impulse because I saw the movie on an airplane. As great as Johnny Cash might be, I just don't like country music.

6. Jane's Addiction, Nothing Shocking.

I was obsessed with this album in 1988; I couldn't stop listening to it for at least a year. I don't regret re-buying it in 1988 or 1990 or even 1995. I decided that I had enough when I bought it again in 2000 and 2004. It isn't that good.

7. Marilyn Manson, Antichrist Superstar.

There was a single, I don't remember which, that I really liked, and I thought they could be a new Nine Inch Nails. But, I was starting to get older and the faux shock value just seemed a little silly to me.

8. Various Artists, The Blackest Album.

Sometimes being an obsessed fan really has its downsides. This industrial/goth cover album of Metallica's greatest hits is a low point of fandom for me. I would like my $12 back, please.

9. Sepultura, Chaos AD. I wanted to get this album so bad and I just didn't. It was supposed to be heralding in a new wave of metal and I wanted to ride that wave but I just ended up puzzled.

10. Down, NOLA.

This album ruined heavy metal for me - no one will ever do it this good again! Nothing compares to this monster of heavy, stoner, riff metal and there hasn't been a record that's come out since that's been as good (Metallica included). Hands down, the best album in my collection, and the standard against which every album I've bought since is compared.

11. Limp Bizkit, Three-Dollar Bill Y'All.

Yes, you can slap me.

12. Lords of Acid, Pussy.

What can I say? I was really lonely in the '90s.

13. Vanilla Ice, To The Extreme.

True story: I spent some time in a structured environment (teen rehab) in 1990, without a lot of interaction with the outside world. Right before I left society at-large, To The Extreme was the hottest, hardest album going. What I didn't know, when I returned to the world at-large, was that Vanilla Ice had become the biggest joke going. My first day back in school, I tried to impress a girl by singing all of the lyrics to "Ice Ice Baby." She never talked to me again.

14. Any AC/DC album since Back in Black.

I mean, I am just throwing money away buying the same album over and over again.

15. Aerosmith, Permanent Vacation.

Wait, didn't these guys used to rock?

16. Fergie, The Dutchess.

Alright, I was on a road trip in northern Wisconsin in a rental car with no iPod. We stopped at a Target and it was this or Tim McGraw. I have no idea how it then found it's way onto my iPod or any of the five playlists it's on. No idea.

17. Any Supergroup Album.

With the exception of Cream and Audioslave, most of the supergroup albums I've bought over the years have been really bad ideas. I am talking to you, Damn Yankees, Fantomas, A Perfect Circle, Velvet Revolver, Them Crooked Vultures.

18. Any Motorhead Album since Orgasmatron.

I am afraid Lemmy may kill me now, but it's the AC/DC problem: Do I need to spend the fifteen bucks to buy the same album again and again? Spare my soul, Mr. Kilmister, for I have blasphemed.

19. My High School Records.

I still don't know how I managed to only earn one-half credit my last year in high school.

20. Nirvana, Nevermind.

I didn't get the revolutionary part then, and I don't get it now.

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Submit your own regrets.

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Other Lists By Drew Adamek:
* Today's Syllabus
* Shit My Dad Says
* Work Weirdos
* Things I Miss About Chicago

Plus:
* Fan Note: Me & Metallica

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:37 AM | Permalink

February 24, 2010

The [Wednesday] Papers

"They do have a license to steal," Robert Scheer writes today at Truthdig. "There is no other way to read Tuesday's report from the New York state comptroller that bonuses for Wall Street financiers rose 17 percent to $20.3 billion in 2009. Of course that is less than the $32.9 billion for bonus rewards back in 2007, when those hotshots could still pretend that they were running sound businesses."

Meanwhile, the State of Illinois has a $12.8 billion deficit.

Hey, I've got an idea . . . there would even be money left over.

*

From the desk of Beachwood contributor Scott Buckner:

"Just got done watching Illinois Sen. John Cullerton on Good Day Chicago, where Dave Navarro and Jan Jeffcoat made a better attempt than I've seen from other news outlets to ask politicians to shut the hell up and actually answer a question.

"Cullerton said he is 'open to hearing anything' - particularly from the Republicans - to avoid a major income tax increase and to shave down the state's $12 billion open drain. According to Cullerton, even if the state fired ever single worker, that would represent only a savings of $4 billion.

"Cullerton wants ideas? How about his one: An apolitical bunch of regular citizens to go through the budget line by line cutting out, among other things, every single perk of the office that every single state legislator enjoys year in and year out. No free haircuts. Drive yourself to the goddamn airport in your own car and get nailed for long-term parking like he rest of us. Rent your own apartment and working space in Springfield. Buy your own fucking stamps. Put your own sorry ass up at the Motel 6 whenever you have to travel outside your home district, on your own dime. A pension for being a state legislator? Ha!!!! Regular workers don't get pensions; what makes them so damn special?

"If they don't like it, too fucking bad. Quit and do something else, then. Complain to the president and see how far it gets you just like the rest of us. Public service was designed to be a thankless job to be done by people looking to do the public's business, not theirs.

"Illinois is bankrupt. Time for people like Sen. Cullerton to really start sucking it up just like the rest of us. If they don't want to, it's time for the townspeople to start picking up the torches and pitchforks. 'Kill the monster!!!' is starting to sound pretty fucking good right about now."

*

America is angry, my friends. Deservedly so.

Good Will Hunting
"Health-care reform is not in peril because the vast majority of Americans have rejected it, as many Republicans like to say," the Sun-Times opines today. "Health-care reform is in peril because the Democrats lost one senator."

Or, you might say, health-care reform is in peril because the vast majority of Massachusettians (?) rejected it. Massachusetts!

"Ted Kennedy, the 60th Democrat in the Senate, died and was replaced by a Republican."

Replaced? I thought Scott Brown was elected . . . you know, by voters.

"That's what changed the political equation in Congress, that's what ground momentum on reform to a halt. A sweeping loss of appetite for comprehensive reform it was not."

Massachusetts voters weren't paying attention to Congress's health-care bill at all! They had no idea! They were just, you know, replacing Ted Kennedy.

The Sun-Times goes on to cite a Kaiser Family Foundation poll "affirming" that "at least 60 percent of Americans of all political stripes - Democrats, Republicans and Independents - support key elements of reform."

Duh.

Even Republicans back measures such as prohibiting the denial of insurance to those with pre-existing conditions, yada yada yada. The president could have passed a bill in his first month in office enacting the 80 to 90 percent of elements he's always saying everyone agrees on.

And Kaiser reports itself that its poll shows Americans split right down the middle (43-43) on health-care legislation. Just like Congress.

Yet, the Sun-Times writes "Carry on, President Obama. In a democracy, the majority rules."

First, I don't know how the Sun-Times does math, but I fail to see a majority here. Second, if the majority simply ruled, we wouldn't have a First Amendment but we would have President George Gallup.

Finally, polls are hardly reliable indicators of public opinion given the wide variance that often depends on what questions are asked and how. On Tuesday, for example, Rasmussen Reports said it had found that 56 percent of those polled opposed the president's health care plan, while 41 percent supported it. Given the Sun-Times's embrace of majoritarianism, will it now oppose the bill?

Pundit Patrol
As evidenced by that last item, our media is full of (highly paid) commentators with seemingly little ability to ascertain facts and apply logic. Our local commentariot has been particularly egregious lately, so we begin the first of what will likely be a two- to four-part series calling out their journalistic malpractice.

Sting's Tyranny
Enjoy your Ravinia picnic!

Tommy Boy's Cubs
"Has Ricketts met Carlos Zambrano yet?" our very own George Ofman wonders. "And did he hand him a Gatorade and the business card of a friendly shrink?"

Flight Review
Southwest #1189. No turbulence, but cheap red wine.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: In the air.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:11 AM | Permalink

Southwest #1189

From: Denver (DEN)

To: Midway (MDW)

Date and time: Sunday, February 21 - 4:50pm (Mountain)

Gate: C46

Gate/Pilot Announcements: Standard fare, with one brilliant exception. After an additional wait of ten minutes, the gate agent came on to announce that our crew had been located and were on the way.

AGENT: "Now, everybody say woo-hoo!"

PASSENGERS: "..."

AGENT: "Oh, come on - you can do that better than that ...?"

PASSENGERS: "..."

Takeoff: Smooth, minimal de-icing delays.

Flight Attendant Service: Good delivery - beverages were distributed with a cheery "Water . . . coffee . . . and cheap red wine!"

Food: Southwest peanuts - no longer honey-roasted. I see this as a positive, as "honey roasted" to me is thin code for "unnecessary sugar."

In-flight Entertainment: Nothing official, although Olen Steinhauer's The Tourist proved a welcome distraction.

Turbulence: None!

Passenger Behavior: Aside from the huge dude squeezed in next to me in 5E, not much worth noting.

Landing: Considering Southwest's track record of snowy landings at Midway, I was a little worried. I'm not making fun here, folks . . . I was concerned. Happy to report that all went well and I didn't even mind the long delay waiting for an open gate.

Notes: I'm firing Tina, my travel coordinator. She booked the return leg of my United flight for the 21st of March - not February. After scrambling to book a one-way Southwest ticket ($300 - poof), I found myself stuck in Concourse C of the East Terminal along with all the other peasants. FML indeed. Food and libation choices were scarce, but I did find a little-used "Additional Seating" section (primo people watching) perched high above the moving walkways near my gate. Silver linings.

Overall rating: One carry-on and one personal item.

*

More than a million flights go in and out of Chicago's airports every year. We intend to review them all.

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Comments and submissions welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:38 AM | Permalink

Tommy Boy's Cubs

Tom Ricketts, the new owner of the Cubs, sauntered into training camp in Mesa with an important message for his adopted dysfunctional clan: "We want everyone to feel they're part of the family."

Somewhere, Sister Sledge was experiencing a minor seizure.

Has Ricketts met Carlos Zambrano yet? And did he hand him a Gatorade and the business card of a friendly shrink?

If he shook hands with Alfonso Soriano, did he whisper in his ear, "You're part of the family only I want some of my money back?"

Did he trade high fives with Carlos Marmol? That would be the safe way as opposed to having the Cubs' closer throw him a "welcome to the family" first pitch.

Did he hug Geovany Soto and tell him fish and chicken is where it's at? Did he bow to Kosuke Fukudome and then rush to translate the value of the yen to the dollar?

The new boss is ecstatic about owning a team whose heritage is about losing. But he brings with him an air of boyish charm and optimism.

"Oh man, it gets better and better," he enthused. If he's talking about the pitching staff, I can suggest an opthalmologist in Scottsdale.

"This is terrific" he offered of hobnobbing with the players in the locker room. "We think we had a terrific off-season and we have great players and great coaches and we should have a great year."

Someone better warn Ricketts comedowns are hard to take when believing in the Cubs.

At least Milton Bradley is gone, and that alone makes for a great off-season until you run into Carlos Silva and his paunchy mid-section.

And someone better tell Tommy Boy that Soriano isn't a great player. A financial drain, yes; a great player . . . I don't think so.

Soriano arrived in camp with a repaired left knee - or so we thought. The left fielder declared himself about 85 percent ready, which is like saying Toyota simply suffered a flat tire. Soriano had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee five months ago. It was a simple procedure as surgeries go. He should have been 100 percent three months ago. What's wrong with him?

Plenty. The Cubs could change the name on the back of his jersey to spell "Handle with care."

This is a $90 million problem on top of the $46 million already doled out to the vastly overpaid free agent. Even a 100 percent Soriano is about a 70 percent Aramis Ramirez.

When the Cubs signed him to a monumental eight-year contract, the feeling was that Soriano would start going downhill around now. Instead, he headed in the wrong direction in his very first season here, suffering leg injuries that have basically stymied him ever since.

Fonzie has rarely been effective, save for sporadic hot streaks at the plate. Get him in the outfield - and particularly near ivy - and Soriano suddenly becomes allergic to defense.

Not that he was Gold Glover at second. More like a stone glover. (There's a reason he ended up in left field.)

The Cubs are on the hook for $ 8 million annually for the next five years, by which time Soriano might become one of Ricketts' partners.

Will he ever hit 30 homers again? Will he ever drive in 100 runs? How about 80?

Will he ever steal any bases as opposed to Ricketts' money?

Will he learn not to swing at pitches about a football field wide of home plate?

At least he won't be leading off. Here's to your new family, Mr. Ricketts.

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George Ofman is now with WGN radio after a 17-year run with The Score. He also blogs for ChicagoNow under the banner That's All She Wrote.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:53 AM | Permalink

February 23, 2010

Sting's Tyranny

Get your tickets this week for Sting's show at Ravinia this summer?

Good. (Er, just play along with me.)

Now consider this report from the Guardian about an earlier stop on Sting's tour:

"Once again we must ponder the question 'how much money is enough?', inspired by reports that Sting accepted between [$1.5 million and $3 million] to perform for the glory of the brutal despotic regime in Uzbekistan.

"The services of Sting - whose personal fortune is estimated well north of [$230 million] - were engaged by Gulnara Karimova, the daughter and anointed heir of dictator Islam Karimov.

"To explore Islam Karimov's human rights record in full would take too long: suffice to say he is condemned approximately every 10 minutes by organisations from the UN to Amnesty, accused of such delights as boiling his enemies, slaughtering his poverty-stricken people when they protest, and conscripting armies of children for slave labour.

"Oh, and the Aral Sea on which his country sits - once the world's fourth biggest lake - has lost 80% of its volume, partly as a result of Karimov siphoning it off to intensively irrigate his remote desert cotton fields.

"Whether he is a perfect fit for self-styled eco-warrior and humanitarian Sting is a matter for you to decide: what is beyond dispute is that in October, the former Police frontman agreed to travel to Tashkent and effectively headline Gulnara Karimova's alleged arts festival."

Sting goes on to claim that his Uzbek show was sponsored in part by Unicef - which is news to them. It wasn't.

Said Sting in a statement:

"I supported wholeheartedly the cultural boycott of South Africa under the apartheid regime because it was a special case and specifically targeted the younger demographic of the ruling white middle class.

"I am well aware of the Uzbek president's appalling reputation in the field of human rights as well as the environment. I made the decision to play there in spite of that.

"I have come to believe that cultural boycotts are not only pointless gestures, they are counter-productive, where proscribed states are further robbed of the open commerce of ideas and art and as a result become even more closed, paranoid and insular.

"I seriously doubt whether the President of Uzbekistan cares in the slightest whether artists like myself come to play in his country, he is hermetically sealed in his own medieval, tyrannical mindset."

That's probably what Sting was thinking about when captured for posterity here at an Uzbek fashion show with Guinara Karimova.

"[T]his really is transparent bollocks," writes former British ambassador Craig Murray. "He did not take a guitar and jam around the parks of Tashkent. He got paid over a million pounds to play an event specifically designed to glorify a barbarous regime. Is the man completely mad?"

Guinara reportedly paid the one-time Amnesty International torchbearer more than $1 million for his appearance. Hey, she works hard for the money. No word on whether the bills were actually drenched in blood.

Enjoy your picnic!

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Comments welcome.

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1. From Scott Buckner:

Sayeth Sting, the dark lord of tyranny: "I have come to believe that cultural boycotts are not only pointless gestures, they are counter-productive, where proscribed states are further robbed of the open commerce of ideas and art and as a result become even more closed, paranoid and insular."

This so open on so many levels to the reason(s) why a boycott of his appearance at Ravinia on July 17-18 (pointless gestures, art, insular, commerce, blahblahblah) "performing his most celebrated songs featuring the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra conducted by Steven Mercurio" might do the boy some good.

Hey, how's this for an idea: Sting "performing his most celebrated songs" featuring THE POLICE? Or on the outside, Squeeze? (I'd link to his version of "Tempted," but the money-grubbers don't have it anywhere, not even on the site of last resort, iLike.)

Still, the folks who put together Ravinia's website continue:

Headline: "Donors Receive First Access to STING"

First access for exactly what? Wine and cheese? Casual patter? The name of a legal maid with a green card? A blowjob backstage? Ravinia doesn't say, exactly. But it does say, "We invite you to renew or upgrade your support at the following levels to be assured of Pavilion seating."

But of course:

"Marquee ($1,500 - $2,999): Two tickets
Opus ($3,000 - $5,999): Two separate pairs of tickets
Guarantor ($6,000 - $9,999): Four adjacent tickets
President's Circle, Chairman's Circle and Sponsors ($10,000 and above): please call [phone number mercifully deleted - these fuckers are rich enough] to learn about ticketing opportunities at these levels."

Ten grand at the top, a grand and a half at the bottom end. Recession? Unemployment? What's that? Shhhh - don't let The Eagles hear about this, or else they'll start touring this summer and start charging everyone a flat 15 grand, festival seating.

For the rest of us schlubs, Sting's pavilion seats run $115 for those who want to get close enough to just smell him. For college students who intend on pre-gaming at home and then just taking the Metra so they can just show up drunk and puke on the lawn or in peoples' picnic baskets on the grass, the adventure will set you back $33.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:56 PM | Permalink

Pundit Patrol

Where do they come from?

That's the question the perpetually (and rightfully so) exasperated Bob Somerby frequently asks at the Daily Howler.

Where do our most well-known commentators who construct and endlessly convey the mediocre thinking that somehow passes for both conventional wisdom and insight at the same time come from?

And when Somerby asks that, he's asking what planet?

Somerby would have a field day with the locals. Let's take a look at some of their recent work.

James Warren: "[O]ne might wonder about the unceasing refrain from Rush Limbaugh and his ideological confreres in Washington about 'the Chicago way' of doing business," Warren wrote in the Sunday New York Times. "It's all tied to bashing President Obama and top aides as being products of a culture of chicanery."

Not that Rahm Emanuel, Valerie Jarrett, Arne Duncan, Desiree Rogers and, yes, even the president (D-Rezko) are products of a culture of chicanery. (Warren must have missed the Sorich trial.)

Beyond that, it's not just Dittoheads disgusted by the Chicago Way.

"On Friday, Pennsylvania Congressman Joe Sestak, the Democrat challenging [Arlen] Specter for re-nomination, launched the controversy by accusing the Obama White House of offering him a federal job in exchange for his agreeing to abandon his race against Specter.

"In August of 2009, the Denver Post reported last September, Deputy White House Chief of Staff Jim Messina 'offered specific suggestions' for a job in the Obama Administration to Colorado Democrat Andrew Romanoff, a former state House Speaker, if Romanoff would agree to abandon a nomination challenge to U.S. Senator Michael Bennet. Bennet was appointed to the seat upon the resignation of then-Senator Ken Salazar after Salazar was appointed by Obama to serve as Secretary of the Interior. According to the Post, the specific job mentioned was in the U.S. Agency for International Development. The Post cited 'several sources who described the communication to The Denver Post'."

"The paper also describes Messina as 'President Barack Obama's deputy chief of staff and a storied fixer in the White House political shop.' Messina's immediate boss is White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel."

The funny thing is, the political culture here is decried by the press until it's called out by folks elsewhere; then it's defended.

But that's not all.

"Invoking the phrase [the Chicago Way] is too facile by half, even conceding the convictions of 31 Chicago aldermen since the 1970s and the fact that former Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich awaits trial as his predecessor, George Ryan, sits in prison. You can stipulate to the corrosive nature of money in Illinois politics but still argue convincingly that we're minor players on the world stage of public perfidy."

Warren literally argues that we're not so bad - if you "compare the sins of an alderman to those of Abdul Qadeer Khan."

And Richard M. Daley isn't half bad if you compare him to Hitler, but that won't get you anywhere in seventh-grade debate class.

"By some measures, corruption in Illinois even trails that in five or six other states, with Florida leading the way."

Which measures? I was a reporter in Florida once and as odd and weird and nuts as that state is, I've never heard it described as among the nation's most corrupt; in fact, its public records law is a beautiful sight to behold - and generally complied to. Instead, Chicago and Illinois's rivals in corruption are generally thought to be Louisiana and New Jersey.

"And we're pipsqueaks if you exhibit a broader perspective than, say, a City Hall news media corps that tends to see Mayor Richard M. Daley - perhaps America's most successful mayor - as a duplicitous, dissembling, omnipotent, one-person evil cabal."

If only! I would kill for that kind of City Hall press corps.

Beyond that, Daley's national reputation encompasses, um, his use of the Chicago Way, but is also prettier than his local reputation in large part because of the careful nurturing his team does of obsequious national reporters.

Warren goes on to defend America at-large with a distinct lack of national self-awareness.

"We're not in the same league as drug traffickers managing billions of dollars and undermining governments, the robber barons of Russia or the pirates of Somalia."

Yes, the United States has never trafficked drugs nor undermined governments!

"Robin Wright, a former foreign correspondent now with the United States Institute of Peace, said, 'What Blagojevich may have done was disgraceful, but it's small potatoes compared to the likes of Zaire's Mobutu Sese Seko, who stashed tens of millions of dollars in personal bank accounts and commandeered the national airline so his wife could go shop in Paris.'"

Well, yes, but Blago never flew a plane into the World Trade Center either. Should we be grateful?

"Of course, there's a more insidious culture that can pollute officials, regardless of party or their hometown. It's the Washington way."

Ha, ha! See, it's them, not us!

But then, Warren is well-versed in both the Chicago and Washington Ways. I'm reminded of his column previewing the Illinois primary:

"Governor Quinn's unbecoming peevishness marred an otherwise solid performance. It was also emblematic of a surprising patch of late-campaign troubles contradicting conventional wisdom - including mine - that he was a likely winner due to the anti-charisma of the capable Mr. Hynes and a shortened primary campaign favoring incumbents.

"The seeming turnabout is a reminder of the need for humility, even among the smarty-pants class of politics. So I asked experts, including journalists and politicians, to disclose what they don't know before the primary.

"The ground rules were simple: Be brutally candid, even about a candidate you support, and don't exhibit a firm grasp of the obvious by citing either 'turnout' or 'the weather.' I obliged by not identifying them by name."

And just what brutally candid insights did Warren extract in exchange for granting anonymity to the folks every reporter talks to? Speculating about whether the problems at Broadway Bank would hurt Alexi Giannoulias and if the old Stroger organization had any gas left in the tank.

Phil Ponce: I don't agree with every last bit of Driftglass's takedown, but I certainly do in the main. This passage particularly struck me:

"Look, Phil. I'm not a Highly Paid Chicago TeeVee News Host. I don't have a research department. I don't have staff. Not one lone administrative assistant to chase round my desk do I have, nor have I a single intern to get me my fucking latte.

"I'm just some poor, civilian goof who has can recognize a plague when its at his door, who is sick of watching paid teevee journalism die of spine-rot, and who does this in his spare time. And yet even I - with about 30 minutes of clicking a fucking mouse on my wheezing, old laptop - was able to find out all sorts of fascinating stuff about your skeevy guests and their mendacious claims that were, for some reason, utterly beyond the collective ability of the mighty WTTW to ferret out."

I have a similar thought nearly every morning wondering how I somehow seem to have access to what I consider basic information that must be off-limits to the people actually paid to obtain it. Of course, when a story gets by not just the MSM but the blogosphere, the MSM cries without irony, "Where were the bloggers? Even they missed it!" (See "Quit Giving Us More Work" at First-Draft.)

Laura Washington: Cultural literacy is important in a journalist, but if you come across a celebrity whose work is unknown to you, do a little research instead of assuming everyone else is equally as ignorant. To wit:

"Who's Kevin Smith?" Washington wrote on Monday. "I had never heard of the guy. I suspect I am not alone (his obscurity is probably one motive behind his headline-hungry rants.) Turns out Smith is an actor, director and comedian whose credits include Hollywood gems like Mallrats."

If Kevin Smith was such an obscure figure, this never would have become news. Being obscure to you doesn't mean being obscure to everyone.

See, it turns out Smith's brilliant directorial debut, Clerks, merely won awards at Sundance and Cannes before being put in release by Miramax; also turns out that besides Mallrats, Smith's films include Chasing Amy and Dogma; turns out Smith was a co-executive producer of Good Will Hunting; turns out he's revered in the comic book world, has scores of media appearances in various roles including guest reviewer three times on Ebert & Roeper, he posts nearly daily to his blog, and on and on and on.

But yes, his obscurity is probably behind his headline-hungry rants.

I mean, he totally provoked Southwest Airlines into throwing him off that flight! He had it all planned! Sources say he ate at McDonald's three times a week for a month just to make sure he'd get fat enough to cause a stir on that flight.

Where do they come from?

I'll continue exploring that question tomorrow.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:00 PM | Permalink

The [Tuesday] Papers

"E. Duke McNeil, a well-known Chicago civil rights attorney who used his commanding voice to captivate audiences in the courtroom and on the airwaves as host of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition's weekly forum, died Sunday, Feb. 21," the Tribune reports. "He was 74.

"Mr. McNeil died in his sleep of an apparent heart attack, his daughter J. Rita McNeil-Danish said.

"Every Saturday morning for more than 20 years, Mr. McNeil's deep bass resonated on Rainbow PUSH broadcasts heard across the nation."

McNeil was the first person to appear in my Chicago magazine profile of Jesse Jackson Jr. a few years ago.

Here was my lead:

"The natty emcee, E. Duke McNeil, sauntered to center stage and took the microphone as the choir delivered its jubilant arrangement of 'We Shall Overcome.' The guest of honor, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., sat stone-faced stage left. Television cameras moved into position, the expectant crowd settled into the pews, and another Saturday morning forum at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition headquarters on the South Side was under way, live and on the air worldwide via radio, cable TV, and satellite.

"'Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters!' exhorted McNeil, in the beguiling baritone that serves him so well as a criminal defense lawyer. 'Don't touch that dial! The PUSH is on! The PUSH is on! The PUSH is on!'"

Mark Allen, who worked on the show with McNeil, told the Trib "His voice was like a general in the army giving orders."

Indubitably. When McNeil spoke, the push was indeed on.

Feckless Fools
The Sun-Times editorial page today complains about the "often ignorant and hateful" comments it received on its website about it's three-part series on young Hispanics.

"Finally, our Web editors had to shut down the commentary site for the series," the paper says. "The dozens of vile comments - many far more offensive than what we've quoted here - were taking too much staff time to monitor and, when necessary, delete.

"What are we to make of this?

"Lesson One:

"Bigots love the anonymity of the Web, where they can say the dumbest things without getting punched in the nose. It's a problem online at every newspaper."

There is no such thing as "the anonymity of the Web." The Web is not inherently anonymous. The technology of the Internet doesn't depend on anonymous comments to work. This is entirely the Sun-Times's own responsibility and its own choice as far as how it wants to run its website. Plenty of newspapers and other sites prohibit anonymous comments (including this one) and the Sun-Times can too. And until you do, stop bitching.

Internet Rumors
I was cleaning out a file yesterday and came across a Tribune story from last year that included "a roundup of some of the latest Internet rumors" and in attributed a particular piece of trade speculation to "one Internet report."

Is there really such a thing as an Internet rumor?

Sure, there are rumors that spread throughout an Internet niche, like, say, a rumor that gets picked up by the major political blogs of the right or left. But you would never call something a "TV rumor" or a "newspaper rumor," would you?

Beyond that, just name the damn site!

And remember, sometimes Internet rumors are posted on, you know, newspaper and TV web sites. What do you call those?

Teen Legends
Just in case anyone was watching "The Truth About Teen Sex" on The Doctors yesterday like I was, the reference to Rainbow Parties was irresponsible given that there is no evidence they actually exist. mentioned The Truth About Teen Sex wasn't exactly truthful. No evidence whatsoever of Rainbow Parties.

If I Ever Get Engaged . . .
. . . this is totally the ring I'm getting her.

The Flower Hole
At Sentryworld in Wisco.

Judge Judy
On Larry King the other night . . .

CALLER: Good evening, Larry and Judge Judy. I have to tell Judge Judy, you are my American Idol. I love you and love your show. In your opinion, how do you feel President Obama is doing overall, considering all the crises facing our country? Thank you.

KING: I know you liked him very much and supported him.

JUDY: I liked him and I voted for him. I think that he made lots of promises to lots of constituencies. And for some reason, different from other politicians, everybody who believed in him believed that he was going to do and could do what he said he was going to do. Unfortunately, I think he over-extended himself, and he's got himself into a position where he's disappointed a lot of the people who did, in fact, support him. And that's unfortunate.

Most of us who were skeptics for a good deal of our lives after we got to know a good deal about politics, we heard all the rhetoric, I'm going to do this; I'm going to lower taxes; I'm going to raise your standard of living; everybody's going to have two chickens in the oven and have a cake for dessert every night; and we said, yes, just let us be peaceful and spend eight years with you.

But for some reason, we thought this was going to be different. And it turns out that we have the same problems that we had before. They're getting a little bit better, maybe. But there's a lot of disappointments. He's not going to be able to get through health care, I don't think, not the reform that he wants. I think that generally the American public is fed up with Congress. I think they're fed up with their own institutions and their own jurisdictions in their own states.

Public servants don't recognize that that's what they're supposed to be, public servants. They're there to serve the public. They think they're there to serve themselves. And I think that America, who had high hopes for change, isn't seeing the kind of change that they anticipated.

KING: Can it still happen, though?

JUDY: I don't know. I don't know. I just have a sense that it's going to take a long time for us to recoup from this recession. Until that happens, nobody's going to be a hero.

KING: Why is there so much acrimony?

SHEINDLIN: Maybe we just forgot where our roots are. We're supposed to agree to disagree, that you have a Republican party, and they are as well meaning and as well intentioned as the Democrats, even though the Democrats and the Republicans have a different sense of what government is supposed to be. And instead of respecting each other, it's so divisive and becomes personal.

And I believe that that's counter productive. I believe when it becomes personal - and it does become personal - and I - bottom line is, I think that the people who serve us. in Congress and in the state government, do so not always out of the best of intentions for the public.

Dear John Cullerton
Updated.

The Mysteries of Curling
And other Olympic Moments, including the Unemployed Olympics.

Pancakes With Miss Illinois
For a good cause.

Psychedelic Velveeta
Better than IHOP.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Fluffy and filling.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:40 AM | Permalink

Olympic Moments

Ice dancing, the mysteries of curling, Ryan Miller's exhaustion and the Unemployed Olympics.

1. Sensuous and flowing.

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2. It's like a game of chess, but you're on ice.

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3. "About as tired as I've ever been."

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4. Proof of joblessness required.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:22 AM | Permalink

Pancakes With Miss Illinois

In light of National Pancake Day, we received this press release regarding Miss Illinois, IHOP and Children's Memorial Hospital. Let's take a look at each of those elements.

*

***MEDIA ALERT***MEDIA ALERT***MEDIA ALERT***

FREE BUTTERMILK PANCAKES ON FEBRUARY 23 AT IHOP
National Pancake Day Celebration To Benefit Local Children's Miracle Network Hospital

WHAT: In celebration of National Pancake Day, IHOP restaurants nationwide will offer each guest a free short stack of buttermilk pancakes in an effort to raise awareness and funds for Children's Miracle Network hospitals. This year, IHOP is hoping to stack up more donations than ever before, with a goal to raise $1.75 million, for a total of $5 million five years with its National Pancake Day fundraising effort. To find a local IHOP or to donate online, visit www.ihoppancakeday.com.

WHY: For every delicious short stack of buttermilk pancakes served on National Pancake Day, IHOP guests are invited to make a donation to the Children's Miracle Network. Donations made at IHOPs in the Chicago area will benefit the Children's Miracle Network program at Children's Memorial Hospital.

WHEN: TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2010, 7 a.m. - 10 p.m.

WHERE: Miss Illinois will be at the IHOP restaurant located at:

3760 N. Halsted Street
Chicago, IL

And the free pancake fundraiser is happening throughout the Chicago area and nationwide.

Fun Facts From National Pancake Day 2009:

* Pancake lovers donated nearly $1.5 million to children's charities, far exceeding the fundraising goal.

* IHOP served more than 2.5 million free pancakes on National Pancake Day 2009.

* All of the free pancakes served on National Pancake Day would create a stack more than 20 miles high.

* Since the inception of National Pancake Day in 2006, IHOP has raised more than $3.25 million and given away more than 6.1 million pancakes to support charities in the communities in which it operates.

* National Pancake Day 2009 was IHOP's largest one-day event in the company's 51-year history.

ABOUT IHOP
For 51 years, the IHOP family restaurant chain has served its world famous pancakes and a wide variety of breakfast, lunch and dinner items that are loved by people of all ages. IHOP offers its guests an affordable, everyday dining experience with warm and friendly service.

The first IHOP opened in Toluca Lake, Calif. in 1958, and as of September 30, 2009, there were 1,433 IHOPs in 50 states, Canada and Mexico.

IHOP restaurants are franchised and operated by Glendale, Calif.-based International House of Pancakes, LLC and its affiliates. International House of Pancakes, LLC is a wholly-owned subsidiary of DineEquity, Inc. (NYSE: DIN).

***NOTE: For centuries, the English have 'flipped' for pancakes in celebration of Shrove Tuesday, which heralds the beginning of fasting during Lent. Long ago, strict rules prohibited the eating of all dairy products during Lent, so pancakes were made to use up the supply of eggs, milk, butter and other dairy products . . . hence the name Pancake Tuesday. IHOP introduced "National Pancake Day" (which always takes place in February) as a tribute to the centuries old tradition, but more importantly thank guests for their patronage and give back to the community.

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And about Miss Illinois Erin O'Connor . . . from the Beachwood library.

* "Erin O'Connor, a Western Illinois University theatre-acting major and dance minor, was crowned the 2009 Miss Illinois June 20 at the Miss Illinois Pageant in St. Charles. She will advance to the Miss America Pageant, which will be televised live on Jan. 30, 2010 on TLC," a Western Illinois news release said.

"O'Connor (Evergreen Park, IL) was crowned the 2009 Miss Macomb on March 30. Her platform, 'Take Care: Skin Cancer Education and Prevention,' is dear to her heart since her mother passed away from the disease. For her talent, O'Connor danced ballet on pointe.

On Monday before the state pageant, O'Connor was presented with a key to the City of Macomb for good luck.

*

Official bio.

*

"The Mother McAuley High School community realized early Saturday evening that Erin O'Connor would not be crowned Miss America," the SouthtownStar reported.

"Some 200 supporters paid close attention to the big-screen televisions at 115 Bourbon Street in Merrionette Park hoping O'Connor, of Evergreen Park, would be one of the 15 contestants to reach the semifinals . . .

"Pageant host Mario Lopez didn't read the name of O'Connor - Miss Illinois - but Party With the Pageant, a school fundraiser with a Miss America theme, was a success nonetheless."

* She's the smart one here.

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* And the Chlidren's Miracle Network.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:58 AM | Permalink

Psychedelic Velveeta

Randy and Al are two self-described "cheesy DJs" from Fargo having a great ol' time spinning psychedelic tunes on non-commercial KNDS-FM up on the cold and forlorn NoDak prairie.

On the their show, Psychedelic Velveeta, Randy is more of the "straight" man, if one can use that term in connection with a program whose stated goal is to take listeners "on a musical experience of neo-interplanetary space, in a groovy 3-Dimensional popcycle sort of way." He's the musician and record-geeky guy who seems to enjoy providing the nuts and bolts kind of info.

Al, meanwhile, is a little harder to describe. His voice reminds me of those kind of Minnesota-Wisconsin-Dakotas guys who are good-natured but whose idea of fun is disappearing into the woods with a case of Leinies and a rifle. You wonder if he's had a few too many when he makes these off-the-wall jokes whose punch lines seem to make sense only to him, followed by raucous laughter. Then he comes back and reels off a few dozen rock factoids that only a true scholar of the form would know.

One of the things I really like about Psychedelic Velveeta is that Randy and Al aren't afraid to mix in new psych bands along with the trippers of yesteryear, something that's absolutely vital for the survival of the species.

Here's a playlist of their Feb. 10, 2010 show:

1. Stanley Clarke, "Lopsy Lu."

From the fusionista's seminal eponymous 1974 album. Moog and funky bass. Was there ever a better combination for the blissful musical possibilities of the black-white 70s embrace? Rock and jazz mixing in a sea of racial tolerance and LSD.

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2. The Heavy Hills, "All Is Love 93."

Unsigned northern California band described by Impose Magazine as "a pysch outfit with a heavy edge that sounds like its guitar bodies are constructed from the trunks of giant sequoias."

3. Lou Reed, "Rock and Roll."

Randy and Al give us Sweet Lou's version of "Rock and Roll" from his 1983 RCA release Live in Italy. A truly smoking version of the classic. Lou was angrier than usual that night.

4. Tame Impala, "Half Full Glass of Wine."

Perth, Australia, "psychedelic hypno-groovers" who played this year's Big Day Out fest in Melbourne. "A favourite new band round these parts," says Aussie blogger Cashmere Misfit. "From Perth and signed to Modular (Records), these beauties have a sound that makes you want to munch your fill of sweet wine and mushrooms."


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5. Deep Purple, "My Woman From Tokyo."

Ritchie Blackmore, circa 1974: "I don't like funky soul music."

6. The Moles, "Half Baked."

I mean, it's one thing to be influenced by '60s music, but these unsigned British dudes from Bristol have stepped directly from the Haight-Ashbury into your ear. As they say: "The Moles have the telepathic ability to beam psychedelic music into receptive individuals frontal lobe. This music was made by utilizing this brainbeam. PRAISE THE MOLES. PRAISE THE INFINITE. PRAISE THE NEVER. PRAISE THE MOLE."

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7. Andre Williams, "Heard It Through the Grapevine."

Horns, strings and soul from Chicago's "Greasy Chicken" man, Andre Williams, who does a really funky instrumental version of "Grapevine," I'm assuming from his Checkers/Chess period in the late '60s. It was part of the 2006 compilation Movin' On With Andre Williams - Greasy & Explicit Soul Movers 1956 to 1970 from Vampisoul Records.

8. Screamin' Eric, "I Love It, I've Had It."

Eric is a Hives clone. But there's a big difference. He's Danish, not Swedish, dammit. Big plus: Participation of Lorenzo Woodrose.

9. New York Dolls, "Personality Crisis."

Randy: "That's what I'm experiencing today."

Al :"That does sound like us. Every week."

Randy: "Don't listen to him. He's lost in space."

10. Thighpaulsandra, "We the Descending."

A free-form, Zappa-ish, Krautrock-ish tour through the pretentionverse of the one-time Julian Cope multi-instrumentalist, complete with shouted lyrics about digging mass graves and more suction being needed. I guess they all make sense in a certain, um, state.

11. Strawberry Vile, "Black Black Trashcan."

A band that says it's from "IL/KY." I'm guessing Urbana, judging from a gig at the Caffe Paradiso. And I think it may be just one guy named DeathTram. Pretty raw, but verging on the interesting. Keep practicing, Death!

12. Biff, Bang, Pow! "There Must Be a Better Life."

Folksy, jangly Brit-psych from the Creation label maestro Alan McGee, from whose mind sprung My Bloody Valentine and many other dreamy early '90s U.K. trippers. Biff, Bang, Pow! were sort of the forerunners of the movement, so didn't get the attention they deserved. "Better Life" is their 1984 single, and it's a revelation to hear it again because it comes at a key '80s turning point, sort of the British response to R.E.M. Only with backwards guitars.

13. Volcano Playground, "Waiting."

Echoey, chanting vocals, droney organ chords, pounding drums. A Toronto band described by William McGuirk of Whitby/Oshawa This Week as "spacey shoe-gazing for a diorama of celestial cutouts clad in aluminum, creaking on a string, foam planets and candy-colored rocket ships." I am not kidding.

Al: "It's going to be getting down to minus 17 tonight."

Randy: "Alright! I can't wait. That sounds like a blast, doesn't it?"

Al: "A blast of something, I'm not sure."

Randy: "A blast of cold air up your pants."

14. Jeff Beck "Artist of the Week" set including "Freeway Jam," "The Pump," "Guitar Shop" and "What Mama Said."

Beck plays a Gibson Les Paul on "Freeway Jam" rather than his usual Strat, which ignites an in-studio Gibson-Fender argument. You just don't get this on commercial radio. On the instrumental "The Pump" you can hear the jazz-rock fusion in frightful full flower - this Beck opus is perhaps directly responsible for what Risky Business did to our great land. Keyboardist Jan Hammer gives the Fender Rhodes that crucial Miami Vice feel.

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You can subscribe to the Psychedelic Velveeta podcast here.

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From the Beachwood jukebox to Obama Radio, we have the playlists you need to be a better citizen of the Rock and Roll Nation.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:39 AM | Permalink

February 22, 2010

SportsMonday: Sorry, Canada

I feel bad for Canada. Everyone agrees the hosers who live up there care more about a certain Olympic sport more than any other athletic pursuit, eh? Although I am generally loathe to generalize about these sorts of things, it is clear that the Winter Olympic host nation's heart is housed in a hockey rink. And Sunday's loss had to burn, burn, burn.

I was happy when the U.S. men's hockey team triumphed 5-3 in Vancouver on Sunday evening. But I know I wasn't nearly as happy as millions of Canucks were hacked off that their team had let them down. Then again, I'm a sap for even thinking about this. If I may paraphrase Da Coach: In life there are winners and losers and if the former doesn't want to become the latter, it won't waste time thinking about feelings. I would say "Just win, baby" at this point except the forever Raider famous for the phrase actually just loses these days. Instead I'll go with, "My condolences, Canada."

Because while the host country's team isn't eliminated, it almost certainly blew its shot at a gold medal with this loss. The real Canadiens will now have to win a play-in game just to make the quarterfinals. And then they'll have to knock off a highly-seeded foe before they even get a sniff of a medal (in the semifinals). My guess is they bounce back to make the quarters and even muster an upset there to grab a spot in the semis. But with a spot in the final on the line, they falter and end up playing their final game for the bronze.

The Americans, on the other hand, who were led by Red Wing defenseman Brian Rafalski's two goals and one stellar assist (Rafalski only has five goals all NHL season, but after scoring the first two American goals of Sunday's game, he had scored four straight U.S. goals in two pool play games), are in a great spot. The top-seeded U.S. team will now have a bye into the quarterfinals along with Russia (No. 3) and Sweden (which clinched No. 2 with a 3-0 win over Finland later Sunday).

As for the local angle, well, Patrick Kane isn't making much of an impact on the Olympic hockey tournament. The Blackhawk star had very little ice time in the first period Sunday (I'm guessing he messed up a defensive assignment in the first few minutes and then sat almost all the way until the first intermission) and while he showed flashes of his skill in the game's final 40 minutes, he didn't have anything to do with any of the five American goals. The guys with more grit, like Ryan Malone, Chris Drury, Ryan Kessler and especially Jamie Langenbrunner were on the ice a great deal more.

Of course the Blackhawk with the most grit, Jonathan Toews, played a big role for the Canadiens, first assisting on the goal that tied the game at two and impressing with his controlled physical presence.

It was a great win for the U.S. team but it was also a win that was disproportionately determined by the effectiveness of the goaltending. I'm glad the U.S. team has Sabre goalie Ryan Miller between the pipes, and it would appear the Canadiens screwed up by going with geezer Martin Brodeur instead of younger standout Roberto Luongo. But it has to be said that games like this make hockey a slightly lesser sport than others where the better team wins more frequently.

As for the rest of the Olympics . . .

* My television conked out out a little after 9:30 p.m. last night, so I am unable to file a comprehensive report on the second round of the Olympic ice dancing competition, which wasn't quite complete at that point. I apologize for this unforgivable shortcoming and hope that readers will somehow find it in their hearts to forgive me.

* The sliders from the rest of the world have not come through. Last week I urged non-German lugers and bobsledders to step up and prevent the Germans from competing with the Americans for the top spot in the medal table based in large part on their ability to sit and ride sleds and over-sized capsules. If anything, Germany's dominance has just become more pronounced since then. After women's skeleton (silver and bronze) and two-man bobsled (gold and silver) success over the weekend, Germany now has a ridiculous nine sliding medals with the big bobsled competitions yet to come. That accounts for exactly half of their overall medals at the 2010 Games.

In other news . . .

Give it up for Gar! There is plenty of reason to believe the Bulls' general manager did as well as he could have done last week. He didn't trash this season and he made moves to both create cap space (good-ye John Salmons and his player-option for almost six million next year) and to get something for malcontent Tyrus Thomas (veteran shooter Ronald Murray and a first-round pick for Thomas and two second-round picks), who the Bulls were almost certainly going to have to just release at the end of the season.

I wasn't a huge fan of the Forman hiring during the offseason but so far, so great. And the team liked the moves too, given a road win over Minnesota on Friday and a home trouncing of the 76ers on Saturday to make it four wins in a row.

And over at spring training . . .

Enough stories about how Carlos Zambrano is ready and raring to bounce back in a big way after last year's sorry season. Hey Carlos (who has never won more than 14 games in a season despite his huge-money contract), when you win your 15th game this season, that's when we can talk about how much you've matured and the big strides you've taken as a pitcher and as a man.

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Jim "Coach" Coffman rounds up the sports weekend in this space every Monday. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:52 AM | Permalink

The [Monday] Papers

Pat Quinn is a fraud. At least Scott Lee Cohen tried to tell the truth.

"With Illinois in a financial crisis, Gov. Pat Quinn repeatedly touts his membership in Super 8 hotel's VIP club as testament to his frugality," the Daily Herald reports. "But Quinn didn't like being asked by the Daily Herald for a copy of his membership card.

"'Most people when they hear somebody say something that's from the governor of Illinois, they believe them,' Quinn said after taking the card out of his wallet for a reporter at the state Capitol Wednesday.

"The problem is, however, that the Daily Herald has found Super 8 VIP cards like Quinn's were discontinued more than five years ago.

Calling it Super 8-gate might sound like a joke, but Quinn has been caught in a flagrant falsehood.

"Quinn's office said in a statement to the Daily Herald that the card was intended as a 'demonstration.' His office said the governor has stayed at Super 8 hotels in Moline, Mokena and Joliet within the last year."

I wonder which of the governor's advisers sitting around a table strategizing a response came up with, "Hey, I know, let's just say it was a 'demonstration'!"

"'Especially in these difficult economic times, we need a governor (who) is fiscally responsible,' read the statement from Quinn's office. 'Governor Quinn has stayed at Super 8 Hotels across the state for many years and will continue to do so.'"

Fine. But can you be fiscally responsible if you are not factually responsible?

*

We've also learned that Quinn has been holding up a demonstration budget for the cameras, not a real one.

*

"After he was sworn in as governor in late January of last year, Quinn held a lengthy news conference with reporters. At one point, he took the VIP card out of his wallet before the cameras and said, 'I am proud of being frugal. I'm a VIP member of the Super 8, and I moved up from Motel 6.'

"Then again last month, during his long state-of-the-state address, Quinn brought the card up as he told lawmakers he would continue to cut spending.

"'I think it's important that we embark on this journey, and I want to ensure you, over the course of this year, that we will continue to cut costs in government,' the Chicago Democrat said. 'There has only been one governor in the history of Illinois who has a Super 8 card, and I've used it as governor, and I'm going to continue using it where appropriate. I think it's important to show economy everywhere you can. And I have a VIP card, at that particular dwelling place, or lodging place.'

"Following that speech, the Daily Herald requested a copy of his Super 8 VIP club card and copies of the notes he used during delivery on the state House floor. The governor's office denied both requests, which were filed under the state's new Freedom of Information Act that Quinn heralded.

"'The governor's Super 8 discount card is his personal card and thus not subject to the Act," Erin Knowles, associate general counsel in the governor's office, said in denying the request."

If it's his personal card, then he wasn't saving the state money, was he? I mean, theoretically, given that we know now the card expired years before he became governor.

*

And then there's Mr. Transparency.

"The papers Quinn used to deliver his speech were deemed exempt from disclosure because they were preliminary drafts and notes in which opinions were expressed or policies or actions formulated.

"'Any notes or materials used by the governor were clearly preliminary in nature as they were used by the governor in finalizing his State of the State,' Knowles said in the rejection letter."

Except that his speech seemed to be only notes - or as Dan Hynes said at the time, the State of Pat Quinn's Mind.

*

"When Quinn was approached in the halls of the state Capitol Wednesday and asked about the Daily Herald's request for a copy of the card, he called the request disrespectful.

"'It belongs to me,' Quinn said. 'Why would I give it to you? It doesn't belong to you.'"

Refusing to show someone your Super 8 VIP card: Priceless.

*

Then again, we already know Quinn is a liar. They kicked the wrong guy off the ticket.

Quinn's Friends
As the Sun-Times notes today, three of the most noxious obstacles of reform rushed to Quinn's aid during his treacherous primary campaign.

It makes one wonder: With friends like Emil Jones, Ed Burke and Joe Berrios, why would someone ever stay at a Super 8?

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Maybe he won't show us the card because it's got Ed Burke's name on it.

*

Pat Quinn slept here - but not at a discount.

Dear John Cullerton
With all due respect, sir, it is you who is missing the point.

What Drew Misses About Chicago
Blaming the CTA and bathing at Harold Washington Library.

Chicago's Texas Ruby . . .
. . . is back.

A Force of Arms
"Late that night, Ironside rolls through the open terrace door and hides behind a rubber plant," our very own Kathryn Ware writes in her latest (brilliant) Ironside installment.

SportsMonday
Sorry, Canada.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Just super.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:07 AM | Permalink

Dear John Cullerton

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Updates appended.

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Sent via e-mail on February 17 after reading about this in the Beachwood.

Dear Senator Cullerton,

I read with interest in today's Chicago Tribune news of the Illinois Senate's closed-to-the-media (and by extension the public) caucus meeting to discuss state and national budgeting issues. In particular I noted this quote, attributed to you:

"You're missing the whole point," Cullerton said.

"This is meant to be one where just the senators are there to get information, but where they can also feel they can ask questions and . . . have a free exchange of ideas without having to be worried about what the press might report."

With all due respect, sir, it's you who is missing the point; you and any of your senate colleagues who support a closed-door meeting to discuss issues clearly of interest to the public. I'm not sure which made me more angry: the meeting itself or your lazy, stupid and contemptuous justification for it. Ideas are free to be exchanged in any setting, regardless of who's nearby and whether or not they're carrying notepads and recorders. The only thing that prevents the free exchange of ideas in any setting is a lack of courage. The idea that elected officials need to be sheltered from the press to speak freely is laughable. Or maybe just cowardly.

You're not there to sound good; you're there to run the government . . . in the open, not in secret. When government operates in secret, the seeds of distrust are sown. It should be evident by now that the long tradition of secrecy in Illinois government hasn't worked, at least not fiscally, and certainly not for the majority of us who aren't politically connected. It's time to try openness for a change. Rest assured I will work with whomever I need to - in the 6th District, the 18th District or anywhere else - to ensure you and any other senator who believes in the justification for this closed-door meeting today are voted out of office. You don't represent me, and for that I am thankful. (I will be contacting Sen. Maloney and asking whether he favored this meeting today and supported your feeble justification.) But as the Senate President, you are responsible to constituents outside your district. In this act today you were irresponsible.

Sincerely,
Chris Clair, Evergreen Park

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UPDATE February 18: So far as I can tell, my e-mail to Cullerton, and the separate one I sent to Maloney went into the Black Maw of the legislative email system. Although both have e-mail addresses available to "contact" them, neither has even figured out how to send an automated "Thanks for writing" reply. I guess I shouldn't be surprised; these jagoffs don't really want to hear from their constituents. I'm sure snail mail envelopes that are deemed likely to have checks in them are opened, but probably little else, and no email - what's the point, there's no money in it.

UPDATE February 19: In the "dog bites man" category this morning, no response from Cullerton or Maloney to my e-mails. One would think, based on the amount of attention this jackass move got, that Cullerton's handlers would have at least come up with some lame mass mea culpa e-mail in response to those who wrote him. But I think the lack of any response - from Cullerton or from Maloney, who is my state senator - tells me everything I need to know about their level of respect for their everyday (read: non-contributor, non-clouted) constituents. As if I didn't know that already.

UPDATE February 22: Still no word back directly from Cullerton or any of his staff. So far as I know they have no excuse, other than they're all busy, you know, solving the budget crisis and otherwise fighting for the people.

On the Maloney front, I did finally get "return to sender" email at 4:22 p.m. Saturday. I wasn't near my computer this weekend, so I just found it this morning. I had e-mailed my note to Maloney at this email address: maloney@senatedem.state.il.us, which I found on the Campaign for Better Health Care's web site and on Project Vote Smart. Maloney's own General Assembly page doesn't include an e-mail address. Someone has to help keep the postal service in business, I guess.

When I visit Maloney's web site on the Illinois Senate Dems page, and click the "Contact Me" link, the page begins to load but a message pops up in Internet Explorer that says "Internet Explorer cannot open the Internet site http://www.senatedem.ilga.gov/index.php/contact-me-maloney. Operation aborted." It works in Firefox (thanks, Microsoft!), so I've sent along my note to him and my note to Cullerton using the contact form on that page, with explanations that I tried the other e-mail address last week to no avail. Further updates as events warrant.

UPDATE February 22: Got a note back from Maloney's assistant:

I have forwarded this to the senator. His email here at the State is emaloney@senatedem.ilga.gov

Thank you, Nancy

Nancy Hill
Assistant to Senator Maloney
217-782-5145
119A, State Capitol
Springfield, IL 62706

*

So they do have e-mail addresses. I wonder why they don't include those on their Illinois GA profiles?

UPDATE March 8: Sent to Cullerton, link added here.

Dear Senator Cullerton,

It's been more than two weeks since I wrote you about the closed-to-the-public caucus meeting to discuss state and national budgeting issues. I had also written to my state senator, Ed Maloney, asking whether he supported your reasoning behind closing the caucus meeting. I never heard back from either of you.

Admittedly, I didn't really expect to. You're both busy with state business ... or maybe in your case with your lobbying business. If I were a cynic, I'd say your failure to respond is tied to the fact that neither you nor Sen. Maloney is up for election this year. In the political calculation it seems constituents are only worth paying attention to when they can offer something to a politician. For those of us constituents without money or connections, that "something" is a vote, and in an off-election year a vote ain't worth much. Certainly not the time to craft a response to a question, much less a complaint.

What am I saying ... "if" I were a cynic. I AM a cynic! I used to be just a practiced skeptic. Lately, though, I've fallen off the wall and landed with a thud among the cynics. They are My People. Perhaps that came through in my earlier note to you, and probably this one, too. So maybe we've gotten off on the wrong foot, here.

After all, as someone who doesn't live in your district and doesn't contribute to your political campaign, what right have I to address you and expect a response? None. Sen. Maloney is another matter. I do expect a response from him, and I'm sending him a separate note telling him so. But you, Sen. Cullerton, you've got no reason to reply to one of what I assume had to be hundreds, maybe thousands of emails and letters and phone calls criticizing your decision to call the Illinois State Senate together in a closed session under the guise of calling it a "caucus meeting." No doubt there was a good amount of criticism leveled at your defense of the meeting, as well.

Although frankly I don't understand why you didn't have your staff draft a generic letter reiterating your defense of the meeting and at the same time acknowledging the public outrage and vowing never to do it again. Then I figured you probably plan to do it again, so why bother lying? In political terms, that's pretty stark honesty and in a way I oddly respect it; in the same way that some people come to understand that happiness is merely the remission of pain.

Perhaps that's some ground upon which we can forge a new relationship.

Wow, OK, that feels better. I feel less like a demanding ogre and hopefully you don't feel like I'm unfairly attacking you this time. So with the figurative goodwill hug and mutual back patting out of the way, let me ask you: What did you and your senate colleagues learn from that meeting? In corporate parlance, what was the take-away? And how will whatever you learned affect how you approach the upcoming budget negotiations?

Please don't feel like you have to respond to me directly; lord knows you don't have the time for that. But an op-ed in local newspapers would do, or a position paper distributed via your web site. After I'm just a person, like many others, trying to understand the process, and concerned, as I'm sure you are, about a $13 billion deficit in a $53 billion budget.

Sincerely,

Chris Clair

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Stay tuned as we continue to track this constituent's wholly reasonable complaint.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:59 AM | Permalink

Things I Miss About Chicago

I left Chicago in 2006; a day doesn't pass when I don't think about the Windy City. It is home; it's where my heart lives. I am glad that I left; otherwise I don't think I would have ever been able to leave, and there are still parts of the world that I want to see and to live in.

But I do miss Chicago. Everywhere I've lived since suffers in comparison. Chicago is still home.

Here, then, are the ten things I miss most about living in Chicago:

1. A Common Enemy.

In Washington, D.C., people have all sorts of enemies - Republicans, Democrats, Chads, Jennas (DC's Trixies), Rich People, Poor People, Dick Cheney. It's hard to focus, and you don't know anyone's enemy until you ask. But in Chicago, everyone I hung out with had the same enemies: The city, the mayor and Brett Favre. You could walk into just about any bar, coffee shop or office, shout out that you just got a bullshit parking ticket, and everyone commiserated.

2. The Fucking CTA,

It was easy being late to work, appointments or meetings; just blame it on the CTA and you'd get knowing nods in return. However, that also meant that the chances of really being late because of the CTA were pretty good.

3. Mexican Grocery Stores.

I haven't had decent produce from a grocery store since the last time I shopped at HarvesTime on Lawrence. I miss being able to find exotic ingredients without breaking the bank, while supporting local business without being self-righteous about it.1) (For the record, I don't know if HarvesTime is owned or operated by - or targeted toward - Mexicans. They just have great food at great prices.)

4. Crooked Alderman*.

Sure, I know it erodes representative democracy, and is a wasteful, illegal and immoral institution, but goddammit, crooked aldermen get things done. Try getting a sidewalk fixed anywhere else** and see what that gets you.

5. The Harold Washington Library.

I loved being able to get any book I wanted, see a free concert and take a bath in the sink all in the same place.

6. Giardiniera.

Seriously, why doesn't the rest of the world have this stuff? I order it by the case online now, colon be damned.

7. Hot Dog Stands.

When I moved to the city, I was stunned that there was a market that could support a hot dog stand on every corner. Now, I can't understand how a city can survive without a per-capita ratio of about one hot dog stand for every three people.

8. The Chicago Tribune.

No, actually I'm kidding about this one. Don't miss that a bit.

9. My drunken, rowdy crew of malcontents, misfits and weirdos.

You know who you are, and where you are. May you eat cheetos and watch Family Guy in memory of me.

10. Neighborhoods.

Other cities I've lived in have had neighborhoods, but none as distinct or as fun to explore as those in Chicago. I miss being able to say I am from Ravenswood and have that mean something about me to the listener.

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* This is a satirical reference. There is no evidence that I am aware of that any of Chicago's fine public servants are corrupt and any suggestion otherwise is strictly humorous.

** I have never, ever helped a small businessman buy ad space in the alderman's ward book so that the sidewalk in front of his store would be repaired. Never.

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Other Lists By Drew Adamek:
* Today's Syllabus
* Shit My Dad Says
* Work Weirdos

Plus:
* Fan Note: Me & Metallica

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:30 AM | Permalink

Ironside: Force of Arms

Our look back on the debut season of Ironside continues.

Episode: Force of Arms

Airdate: 4 January 1968

Plot: A "dynamic millionaire" named Marcus Weathers is amassing a private army called The Second Force, a citizen group he proclaims will help the San Francisco police force deal with the rampant crime overtaking the country. The murder of his own security officer gives Weathers the excuse he needs to whip up support. Ironside must solve the murder before the vigilante millionaire begins enforcing law and order - his way.

Guest stars: Harold J. Stone, Gene Raymond (Mr. Jeanette MacDonald), and Linden Chiles.

The Second Force's Mission Statement: "We're a group of concerned citizens who want to help. We don't intend to hand over our country to the forces of lawlessness and crime, without a fight." Step right up, they're accepting applications for membership.

A prelude to the Summer of Love: "Crime (is) going up. Disregard for authority. Murderers being turned loose to roam the streets. You name it, we've got it."

Mark breaks it down for us: "(The Second Force is) a real police state, man. Instant posse."

The nose knows: While collecting evidence in the dead man's room, Eve sniffs an empty glass and says, "Rye Old Fashioned." Sniff, sniff. Ironside corrects her - Bourbon Old Fashioned.

Fuel efficiency circa 1968: Mark calls in with the crime lab report for the car in which the murdered man's body was found and he unwittingly reveals an important clue. The rental car's mileage on the highway was a whopping 14 miles per gallon.

Weathers reveals his real goal behind The Second Force: "I'm going to see to it that this city is a safe place for my wife to drive alone to her hairdresser, to the art gallery or a department store and back." It's the "and back" that really sells it.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Eve is double-dissed by Weathers and his wife Susan. First, during introductions to his wife, Weathers can't remember Eve's name three minutes after Ironside has introduced her to him. When Ironside steps in to introduce "Officer Whitfield," Susan Weathers exclaims, "Really?!" Eve responds, "It happens all the time," and Mrs. Weathers says strangely, "I meant that as a compliment." Snap snap.

Good work Officer Whitfield: Eve is supposed to "pump" the wife for information, but the wife ends up asking all the questions.

Insert the sound of tires squealing against the curb here: So far I've counted two "Chinese landings" in this episode (See the previous episode for explanation.)

Stealth mode #1: Eve's no dummy and she follows Mrs. Weathers when the millionaire's wife tries to give this girl detective the slip. Officer Whitfield is very unobtrusive in her bright red coat, arriving in a bright orange taxi that squeals away from the curb after she gets out.

Super-computing: Weathers' master plan includes collecting information on fellow citizens of interest, a databank of dossiers touted as second only to the FBI. Ironside takes a tour of the Second Force computer room, where the new security chief boasts they have a million bucks worth of floor-to-ceiling computers, the kind with spinning reel-to-reel tape, lots of flashing buttons, punch cards, and reams of accordion paper spitting out onto the floor. The machines currently store an impressive 200,000 names and are working at a tremendous clip, adding (get this) 100 names a day!

Whirr, whirr, click, click, whirr: Ironside asks for the computer to compile a list of suspects in the murder of security officer Dennison and after a few button presses, for a full ten seconds we watch the men in suits watch the computer whirr and click. Very suspenseful. Finally, Ironside is handed a stack of 32 punch cards, a "real murderer's row," which includes a Unitarian minister, a Stanford professor, a surgeon at the Children's Hospital, and none other than Robert T. Ironside!

Best in show: As the episode goes on, Mrs. Weathers' hairstyle is making her look more and more like a poodle. I think it has a lot to do with the two-inch-wide pink beaded necklace clasped high around her neck.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: We're treated to a recycled cut-away shot - Edward Asner's wood-paneled station wagon from the previous episode.

It's in the details: I love the little white metal desk light that's duct-taped to the desk in Ironside's crime fighting van.

Low blow: Ironside is convinced Dennison's murder is an inside job and when he brings in a few of the Second Force for questioning, their leader goes ballistic on the police commissioner. "He's out to destroy the Second Force. Wipe it out! And why? Because he has a neurotic hatred for us, because he's an embittered, vindictive man who's sorry for himself, who'll do anything to get back a little of what he had in public life before he became a cripple!"

We identified the body from his AARP card: Weathers' chauffeur is murdered and I have to laugh when the coroner says the victim was 37 years old. He didn't look a day under 55.

Stealth mode #2: Ironside arranges with Weathers' wife to sneak into the Weathers' mansion so he can flush out the killer from within. Late that night, Ironside rolls through the open terrace door and hides behind a rubber plant.

That's how he rolls: Holding three others at gunpoint, Ironside then wheels around the living room and out onto the terrace and no one makes a move against the solo "crippled" cop.

My plan would have succeeded if it hadn't been for that pesky cop in the iron chair: Just when it looks like Ironside has been set up and he and Weathers will be the final victims of a Second Force coup, master crimefighter Robert T. Ironside pulls a fast one with a gun loaded with blanks. When one of the bad guys tries to make a run for it to the waiting helicopter, Ed pops out from the cockpit, gun at the ready and they've got their man.

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Previously:
* A Cop and His Chair
* Message From Beyond
* The Leaf in the Forest
* Dead Man's Tale
* Eat, Drink and Be Buried
* The Taker
* An Inside Job
* Tagged For Murder
* Let My Brother Go
* Light at the End of the Journey
* The Monster of Comus Towers.
* The Man Who Believed
* A Very Cool Hot Car
* The Past Is Prologue
* Girl In The Night
* The Fourteenth Runner

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Comments welcome.

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Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 3:32 AM | Permalink

Bloodshot Briefing: Chicago's Texas Ruby

Jane Baxter Miller is to Bloodshot Records what Smead Jolley was to the 1931 Chicago White Sox. Both the label and the team could count on Miller and Jolley to deliver in the pinch.

While Baxter Miller isn't on the label's roster, she's what the West Irving Park crew calls a Bloodshot Drinking Buddy - somebody who isn't in the starting lineup but still comes up huge in the clutch.

Hailing from eastern Kentucky and a theater major at University of West Virginia, Baxter Miller's been around the blocks in Chicago for a couple of decades. Her Texas Rubies country duo in the early 1990s with sister-in-law Kelly Kessler was around before Bloodshot Records was born.

After bouncing back and forth between theater and music for several years, Baxter Miller is out with a new record, Harm Among The Willows, on the Durga Disc label. She's not sure when her the band will play next, but she definitely wants to fill up Evanston's Space with her sweet sounds.

Beachwood Music: In case you're not familiar with this report, it's a behind-the-scenes look at the artist. We want to know where you get food at 2 a.m.

Baxter Miller: Be very careful how much you want to know.

Beachwood Music: Excellent start. You've been here a while now. Is Chicago home to you?

Baxter Miller: It is. Sorry to say that. But that's not in a bad way. I hate the dialect, and it's a little hard to take. I hear Chicago in my voice now as opposed to the lovely Southern voice I used to have.

Beachwood Music: Where did you land when you first moved here?

Baxter Miller: Oakdale over by where Steppenwolf used to be. I moved here to do theater. I didn't know much about Chicago then, and I was walking around the neighborhood and I found the lake. I had no idea. Also, there was a great bar over there called Gaslight. It's called something else now.

Beachwood Music: You first got into bluegrass and began signing while in college in Morgantown. You then started the Texas Rubies here.

Baxter Miller: We were country before country was cool! We were doing some pretty fun stuff. We played at this awesome bar, Lower Links. It was amazing and run by this amazing woman Leigh Jones. It was like a little clubhouse. It's what the Hideout feels like now. There were also performance artists there. I think David Sedaris performed there before he was David Sedaris.

But we broke up before Bloodshot got going.

Beachwood Music: Despite not being on Bloodshot, you are featured on the label's first compilation, For a Life of Sin, with the song "That Truck." You're like if Julia Roberts shows up on 30 Rock. You've also sang with several Bloodshot bands.

Baxter Miller: Yeah, I'm like the guest star with her own trailer. I've been on lots and lots of compilations. One of my favorites was performing "Rock Island Line" with Rick Sherry and Devil in a Woodpile. Also, I did some harmonies with the Wacos. That was a hoot.

Beachwood Music: What is your relationship with the label for Harm Among The Willows?

Baxter Miller: They are helping out with the distribution, helping with publicity. They call me a Drinking Buddy.

Beachwood Music: After Texas Rubies broke up, you formed Baxter. Tell me about that venture.

Baxter Miller: It was this amazing R&B band. Too short-lived. It was all these jazz players, like Ken Vandermark, who won a MacArthur grant. It got harder to keep it going.

All the time, though, I've been working on songs. Then I got this notion in my head that I wanted to put them out.

Beachwood Music: Who's in Jane Baxter Miller? Is that the name?

Baxter Miller: That's the name. Maybe we should have another name. You have any ideas? Is it too late?

The band is Grant Tye on guitar, Gerald Dowd on drums, Chris Ligon on keyboards, Kent Kessler on bass and me singing and playing acoustic guitar.

Beachwood Music: You've associated with a collection of women artists (Neko Case, Nora O'Connor, Kelly Hogan, Exene Cervenka, Rosie Flores, to name a few) that rank as some of the best in the business. That's one sorority I can get behind.

Baxter Miller: I am in very good company. All wonderful and amazing women. Strong and talented women rock.

Beachwood Music: Let's get personal. Where do you and husband Kent Kessler live?

Baxter Miller: I live on the Chicago River up in Lincoln Square. It's great. I can look out and see ducks, kayaks and trash. You can fool yourself that you're living in the country and then you see some heinous item.

They recently put up some big signs that say under no circumstances do you touch the water.

But I like it here. It kind of reminds where I grew up in eastern Kentucky.

Beachwood Music: Where's the go-to place to eat?

Baxter Miller: Pizza Art. Oh, my, God. Wood-fired pizzas, BYOB, killer big salads. They smoke their own meat. It's cheap and amazing. It's a killer place.

Oh, there's another place. This Mexican place, Santa Rita. There's no alcohol, and it's in this strip mall off Lawrence. Really amazing food there. Shrimp with arbol sauce. Also, amazing pork and hominy stew. Great for hangovers.

Beachwood Music: When can Chicago see the band next?

Baxter Miller: No gigs booked. I am really bad at that, and I am trying to get better. I am talking to Space up in Evanston, and I know we will be there at some point. I also hope back at the Hideout.

Beachwood Music: Robbie Fulks, who also teams up with Grant and Gerald, told me Space was his favorite place to play last year.

Baxter Miller: It's very cool. They even have a recording studio, a co-op studio. Amazing space, amazing setup. The music venue is gorgeous.

Beachwood Music: This has been fun, one of my favorites. But we aren't done yet. End of night. Give me some jukebox tunes.

Baxter Miller: Anything by Bill Monroe. Emmylou Harris's "Two More Bottles of Wine." Ike and Tina Turner's "A Fool in Love." Anything by Emilio Rodriguez.

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Editor's Note: Baxter Miller is no relation to Bloodshot co-founder Rob Miller.

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Matt Harness brings you his Bloodshot Briefing every Friday, except when it appears on Monday like today. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:49 AM | Permalink

February 20, 2010

The Weekend Desk Report

Look, this may not be pretty. But it's got to be better than certain international sporting events we could mention.

Market Update
Of course Gold is still the market standard, but in a recession it seems even Bronze is worth bitching about.

Chinese New Year
Looks like it really is going to be the Year of the Tiger. This comes as a disappointment to those who had hoped it would be the Year of Sour Grapes.

Flashback
Hey, remember when we were embarrassed not to get the Olympics? Yeah, times were simpler back then.

After the Cuts
It looks like the RTA is a little slow on the uptake. The Rapture happened last week. Turns out we've all been left behind.

Pension Reform
You know what? We're not going to make fun of Rod Blagojevich for appearing on a cheesy reality TV show that won't even afford him the title of Most Controversial Hair. Turns out, he might actually need the job.

Public Offense
Finally this week, we'd say "duh" but it looks like that could get us into trouble somehow.

Posted by Natasha Julius at 8:09 AM | Permalink

February 19, 2010

The [Friday] Papers

No column today, but if you read nothing else read this by our very own Drew Adamek:

Work Weirdos: A List.

Also, our man on the rail Thomas Chambers on the latest nonsense from the tracks:

Santa Margaritaville.

Natasha Julius will be here tomorrow with her always fabulous Weekend Desk Report and I'll be back on Monday.

The [Thursday] Papers
So much material, so little time.

1. The new Filter is an awesome space, easily better than the old one. But doling out free Wi-Fi in 60-minute increments via temporary passwords is a pain in the ass. I understand the rationale, but man up.

2. I wonder if people who work at Burger King's corporate headquarters are bummed out because they don't work at McDonald's. Same with Pepsi and Coke. I mean, wouldn't you rather work for No.1 - especially given that McDonald's and Coke are vastly superior products? Similarly, does anyone working at Microsoft truly think it's a better gig than working at Apple? Yahoo vs. Google? Just sayin' . . .

3. If you do nothing else today, check out the guitar lead of "My Sharona" featured in the third video of today's Song of the Moment feature.

4. Mayor Daley's "Help Wanted" ad is a nice PR gambit, but it should be called out as a ridiculous stunt unless Daley actually requires that you can't get the job unless you go through the application process. Otherwise he'll just pick who he already knows he wants to pick.

*

I'm thinking about applying. I do live in the 1st Ward you know. Think I can get an interview?

5. "Sneed is told [Don] Tomczak is staying at the same Salvation Army halfway facility, 105 S. Ashland, as former Cicero President Betty Loren-Maltese."

Political Rehab with Dr. Drew!

*

I'd be willing to bet a sizable amount of money I don't have that Sneed's Salvation Army source is Betty Loren-Maltese.

6. Sneed was so busy typing up Lura Lynn Ryan's press release she forgot to ask her if every imprisoned felon should be released whenever an aging spouse falls ill.

7. All that's missing from Sneed today is a warm anecdote planted by the irrepressible Judy Baar Topinka.

8. I love AP's video news reports. And if you don't have the time or inclination to watch every Olympic minute - and who does - you can just catch the AP video highlights via the Beachwood. Of course, they only use still photography because NBC isn't making its video available and embeddable, but it's a good place to start.

9. Who is Mark Kirk? Not the guy he used to be, that's for sure.

10. "The question is whether the Family Guy episode was ridiculing Trig," Richard Roeper gets paid to write today.

I guess it's nice that the Sun-Times employs a columnist who is mentally challenged.

11. "After criticism from open-government advocates, Senate President John Cullerton pledged to avoid convening the Senate in private again as he did Wednesday to hear a budget briefing from a nationwide legislative association," the Sun-Times reports.

"Cullerton, who refused to characterize his decision as a mistake, said several senators, who are candidates for statewide office, might want to ask questions out of the public limelight.

"'If you're a candidate, and you're worried about running for governor, you might want to ask a question. Maybe it's an uninformed question. Maybe it's a question that has some political ramifications, [and] you might not be inclined to make that question if reporters are there,' he said."

Geez, first pols are afraid to answer questions in public, now they're afraid to ask them.

*

"You're missing the whole point," Cullerton told the Tribune.

"This is meant to be one where just the senators are there to get information, but where they can also feel they can ask questions and . . . have a free exchange of ideas without having to be worried about what the press might report."

So wait, your point is what?

*

"It's funny because I often hear from my constituents 'I wish you guys would just get in a room and try to figure things out,'" Republican Senate leader Christine Radogno said.

I didn't hear the words "in secret," though, Christine.

*

In fact, we do want you guys to get in a room and try to figure things out - on C-SPAN, where we can keep an eye on you.


12. The Sun-Times scores a two-fer today for ignorant, stale cliches on its editorial page. First, Jack Higgins once again fails to be smarter than a fifth-grader with yet another global warming cartoon that depends on a child's grasp of science. "Where the heck is Al Gore?" the first man trudging through the snow in Washington, D.C., says. "Is he incommunicado? Is he in hiding?" The second man says, "He's in bed with a bad cold."

Get it?!!!

Hey, here's one: First man squints at the sun and says "It's really bright out today." Second man says, "Yeah, so much for the theory that the sun is dying out!"

Or how about this: A plane takes off. Passenger one says to passenger two: "And they called us gravity skeptics stupid!"

*

And then, God forbid, yet another lament about how the world of social networking is preventing us from having, you know, real friends.

What an original idea. I've never read that before. I mean I hadn't read that yet today. I've read that column only a hundred times before - hey, I couldn't get to all of them.

"We relish our chats in an age of texting, Facebook and other electronic social networking, which, despite its ability to connect us all, seems increasingly to be making us all less social," John Fountain writes.

I know! I wish we could go back to the days when we all just sat around the fire and, you know, connected.

"One has to wonder what's being lost - whether this brave new world of cyber-communication comes at the expense of the ability to look a man straight in the eye and say what you mean and mean what you say. It takes courage to call a man a liar to his face."

You mean like this guy?

*

Coming next: A well-paid pundit discovers that Facebook friends aren't like real friends.

13. "Former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert has plowed through about $1 million in taxpayer dollars in the last two years for an office and staff in west suburban Yorkville, thanks to a little-known perk given to ex-speakers," the Tribune reports.
"
Hastert, 68, a lobbyist and business consultant who retired from Congress in 2007, has hired three of his former staffers at salaries of more than $100,000 apiece to run the publicly financed office.

"Taxpayers also are paying monthly rent of $6,300 to a company partly owned by three sons of a Hastert mentor and business partner. Other public funds go for an $860-a-month 2008 GMC Yukon leased from a dealership owned by a Hastert friend and campaign donor."

Welfare queens.

*

"As a House member, Hastert declared himself a foe of government waste. In 2005, he boasted of winning a 'Golden Bulldog' award from the 'Watchdogs of the Treasury' each year he was in Congress."

14. Illinois Ranks Dead Last In Funding Pensions.

Cullerton says that misses the whole point.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Caucus jointly.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:20 AM | Permalink

TrackNotes: Santa Margaritaville

You try to be a fan.

They look the other way on corked bats and steroids to produce ultimately meaningless home runs. They put out the yellow flag to keep the "stock" cars together lest a master mechanic set up his ride to run and hide. They sanction one woods as big as a Wiffle golf club to make sure you don't swing and miss.

And now they're seriously considering eliminating weights in the Santa Margarita Invitational, a Grade 1 handicap race Zenyatta will use as a prep for her April 9 Apple Blossom Invitational showdown with Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra at Oaklawn Park.

God forbid Zenyatta loses a race under normal, competitive conditions.

You have to remember not to blame the animal. Trainer John Shireffs and owners Ann and Jerry Moss coddled her by keeping her at home on the synthetic California circuit for most of her 14-0 career, lucking out in having her Breeders' Cup Classic on her familiar Santa Anita course.

She won that race and the hoary tradition of overhype was throttled up by a California racing community that immediately declared her the greatest race horse to ever look through a bridle. They dissed the great Lady's Secret by rechristening her namesake race the Zenyatta, and held not one but two "farewell" days at Santa Anita and Hollywood in a cheap attempt to muster a little on-track attendance. All while she continued to train all the way through the holidays and into 2010.

A handicap race is a time-honored method of assigning more or less weight in a field of horses in an effort to even out the competition. More-accomplished, winning horses get more weight while younger or up-and-coming horses get less. Trainers, understandably, don't like it, and have been fairly vocal about it in recent years.

Zenyatta might have commanded at least 129 pounds and probably more like 130 or 133, with 135 being possible. The worst part of Santa Anita's plan is that they announced it so shortly before the Santa Margarita, a race that has been run annually since Santa Anita opened in 1934.

"I've always been a traditionalist, but the trend in the industry seems to be to get away from handicaps in Grade 1 races," [Santa Anita director of racing Mike] Harlow said. "We're certainly looking at it here."

My mother used to admonish me "if all the other kids jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?"

You know the folks in La La Land wouldn't do anything to get Zenyatta beat before The Big Race, but this manipulation is just blatant. And if you're looking at the bottom line, who's going to bet on the race if it's set up for Zenyatta to win? Not me, that's for sure. Have they been smoking some of that ProRide Zenyatta has won so many races on?

For the record, Fair Grounds created a March 13 race, the $200,000 New Orleans Ladies Stakes (fillies and mares, 1-1/16 miles) for Rachel Alexandra to run in to prep for the April showdown. That's done all the time. Arlington Park created the Arlington Invitational for Secretariat in June 1973. Finger Lakes added $50,000 to the Wadsworth Memorial Handicap in 2007 to lure Funny Cide for his final performance in his own backyard. But they didn't pillage a 75-year-old race tradition like the Santa Margarita.

I believe it tarnishes Zenyatta's career legacy and creates a mountain of bad karma. None of it is her fault. If she only knew what her peeps were doing, she'd disband that posse.

Derby Doo
I've purposely laid quite low as we methodically make our way up the pyramid of preps for the Kentucky Derby. As I've said, it's a circus of a race where your primary handicapping tool just might be a dart board. I still don't think Mine That Bird should have won last year and I still wouldn't bet on him, even today. He hasn't done much since.

But this week we have a variety of races that will be interesting to watch as several three-year-olds get in their second or third or more races of the season on the Road to the Roses.

* Gulfstream hosts the Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes, a big prep for the big prep, the Florida Derby. Nick Zito's Jackson Bend is the morning-line favorite. Keep an eye on Buddy's Saint, Eskendereya and Aikenite. We'll also see D' Funnybone, A Little Warm and Wildcat Frankie in the lesser, 7-furlong Hutcheson for three-year-olds. Veterans Courageous Cat, Mambo Meister (also cross-entered in the Tampa Bay Stakes at Tampa, check his GPS) and Jet Propulsion hit the turf with older horses in the Canadian Turf Stakes.

* A big stakes day at Fair Grounds features the Risen Star Stakes (Grade II). Ron the Greek goes off favored as he tries to parlay his Jan. 23 win in the LeComte. He runs into Discreetly Mine, Drosselmeyer in full put-up-or-shut-up mode, and Stay Put. I'll take Tempted to Tapit all day at the morning line 8-1.

In other races of note, Illinois-bred Giant Oak is cross-entered in both the Grade III Fair Grounds Handicap (9 furlongs on the turf) and the Grade III Mineshaft Handicap at 8.5 furlongs on the dirt. He'll hit the dirt if the turf is soft. In the latter, he'd face 2009 standouts General Quarters and Friesan Fire, who flashed his old prowess in the Louisiana Handicap on Jan. 23. Devil May Care is the 8-5 M/L favorite in the Grade III Silverbulletday for three-year-old fillies.

* Oaklawn will try again after most of the Presidents Day card Monday was wiped out by bad weather. The wide open Southwest Stakes (Grade III) will include Dublin, Dryfly, Domonation, probable favorite Conveyance, and Mission Impazible.

* At Tampa Bay, we'll see the 2010 debut of Arlington Million winner and turf wonder Gio Ponti in the Tampa Bay Stakes. Probable challengers will include Karelian and Rahystrada.

* Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint winner Dancing in Silks and Bob Black Jack are the big names in the Grade II San Carlos Handicap (7 furlongs, main track) at Santa Anita Saturday.

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Thomas Chambers is the Beachwood's man on the rail. He brings you TrackNotes every Friday. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:34 AM | Permalink

Work Weirdos: A List

My road from unemployable teenager in Wisconsin to middle-aged, balding, crunchy yuppie in rural Massachusetts is littered with a lot of strange situations, jobs and people.

I dropped out of high school in 1990; I didn't get my GED until the mid-90s. I graduated from college with honors in 2002. In the interstitial period between dropping out of high school and graduating from college, I worked a lot of shitty, shitty jobs.

I had a bit of wanderlust that took me for stays in Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Missouri and Texas. In each place, I had the only minimum-wage jobs a high school dropout could get. I've probably had three-dozen or so gas station, assembly line, manufacturing plant and manual labor jobs.

Some things are the same about all crap jobs: the unlivable wages, the degrading and dangerous work, the endless cycle of poverty and wage stagnation. The other truism I found was that there was always going to be a character or two around.

Here then, are the strangest co-workers I've ever met.

1. Mr. Freeze.

We worked together at a Motorola plant together in the early '90s. He wore two or three sweatshirts every day, plus a wool hat with earflaps and thick gloves when he wasn't on the line, no matter what the temperature. He never stopped complaining about how cold he was; all shift long he would shiver and sit on his hands.

It wasn't until we had a Christmas party that we found out why; his wife explained that he had been locked in a storage freezer overnight several years ago. She told us that he was never able to get warm after that.

2. The Goblin.

Also a Motorola co-worker. He was a fiftysomething former minister from my hometown. He creepily remembered me from a Vacation Bible School trip 10 years earlier that I had no recollection of.

We called him the Goblin because he was the guy who raided the refrigerator when no one was looking, and yet would eat his foraged booty in front of everyone else. When an aggrieved party confronted him, he would shrug his shoulders and blithely claim that anything in the fridge was fair game. He drove several people to screaming madness.

There wasn't much management was willing to do about him; most people just gave up trying to bring lunch to work. But the end came for him the night he drank the breast milk a woman had been pumping for later. He was fired shortly after that.

3. Mr. 400.

The the most bitter person I've ever met. We worked the night shift together at a gas station in Lakeville, Minn. He drove 400 miles round trip every night from Ames Iowa - to work for $4.25 an hour. He said it was angry insomnia that made him do it; his wife had left him for his best friend.

So one night he climbed into his car and drove on Interstate 35 as far as one tank of gas would take him, and that was Lakeville. He stopped, filled up the tank and filled out a job application. When he got the gig, he kept doing the drive to keep himself from exploding. His car was full to the roof with old newspapers, laundry and gas station sandwich wrappers.

4. That French Canadian Kid.

We were busboys together in Ft. Lauderdale. He wasn't so much weird himself; I am including him because I spent one of the strangest nights I've ever had with a co-worker with him.

We were at a beachside bar in Lauderdale when shouting broke out on the beach. A man was drowning. The super-hot bartender vaulted over bar, ran into the water and rescued the man.

She dragged him to the bar, where he sat quietly, soaking wet, while she called the police. The police refused to come out, so she offered him a drink. He then proceeded to tell us that he was attempting suicide because he was Karen Carpenter's illegitimate son. The Carpenter family wouldn't have anything to do with him, so he was ending it all.

It was pretty obvious the soggy guy was a little off, but the French Canadian kid ate it up. He fed Mr. Carpenter cigarettes and drinks all night, while he spun more and more outlandish stories about his celebrity background. The evening finally came to a close when a drunk threw up on the bartender and she threw everyone out. I got fired the next day, and never saw the French Canadian kid again.

5. Pie.

Pie was a dreadlocked deadhead that I delivered chicken with in Libertyville. He only referred to himself in the third person, and only by the nickname Pie. No one else called him Pie, just Pie himself.

Pie wanted to know if I wanted to burn good ganja with Pie.

I got fired on my first solo delivery shift because I lied about knowing my way around Libertyville; my first delivery took two hours after I got lost.

6. Monkey Fucker.

Monkey Fucker was a short-order chef at a hotel in Rosemont. He was obsessed with the idea of having sex in a tree. Eight out of every 10 sentences out of his mouth were about how to talk his wife into screwing him in a tree. The other two sentences were inquiries into whether I had or would have sex in a tree. He made the meanest patty melt I've ever tasted.

7. The Go-Kart King.

His father owned the steel press plant we worked at in Kenosha, Wisc. Mr. Go-Kart was supposed to be the plant manager, but those duties interfered with his real job:racing souped-up go-karts. He was in his 30s and spent tens of thousands of dollars on the go-karts he kept in a semi-tractor trailer behind the plant. Instead of supervising, he was constantly working on his go-karts in the machine shop.

I went to see one of his races once; his next oldest competitor was no more than 16.

8. The Storm God.

He was the real floor manager at the steel press plant. The process we used to sinter the metal required running super hot ovens; the place was a sweltering, toxic dustbin. The south end of the building was lined with loading docks; we would keep the bay doors open to let in fresh air. Whenever a storm rolled in, he would become instantly physically agitated. He would pace back and forth hysterically, practically crawling out of his skin. You couldn't peel him away from the bay doors while he watched the storms; transfixed by the thunder and lightning, he would go stone deaf if you tried to talk to him. After the storm was gone, he would be sluggish and drained.

9. The Alcoholic Cheesehead.

Another assembly plant manager in Kenosha. He was a good-looking, good-humored, 60-year-old, raging alcoholic. Every morning, he would make a series of daily announcements on the PA. If it was the Monday after a Packers game, he would drone on endlessly about the failures and or successes of the game. Unfortunately for me, a Bears fan, this was during their Super Bowl years, so there were a lot more successes than failures. Twice during his announcements after a Packers game - and presumably a long, long drinking session - he passed out mid-sentence. I got fired from that job for accidentally running a prototype motherboard through an acid bath.

10. Me.

Somewhere out there, someone is telling the story of the really fat guy who had to watch the machine that didn't need watching.

I was working at a pre-made pasta plant in Michigan. I was grossly overweight at the time, and a little slow on the uptake because of extreme insomnia. The boss hated me and "my stupid ass, rat-tail mullet." He made me watch the wet noodle dryer for three entire days - 24 hours of my life spent watching pasta spin in an industrial dryer - because I was too fat to climb the stairs of the flour hopper. He fired me after the third day.

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Other Lists By Drew Adamek:
* Today's Syllabus
* Shit My Dad Says

Plus:
* Fan Note: Me & Metallica

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:07 AM | Permalink

February 18, 2010

The [Thursday] Papers

So much material, so little time.

1. The new Filter is an awesome space, easily better than the old one. But doling out free Wi-Fi in 60-minute increments via temporary passwords is a pain in the ass. I understand the rationale, but man up.

2. I wonder if people who work at Burger King's corporate headquarters are bummed out because they don't work at McDonald's. Same with Pepsi and Coke. I mean, wouldn't you rather work for No.1 - especially given that McDonald's and Coke are vastly superior products? Similarly, does anyone working at Microsoft truly think it's a better gig than working at Apple? Yahoo vs. Google? Just sayin' . . .

3. If you do nothing else today, check out the guitar lead of "My Sharona" featured in the third video of today's Song of the Moment feature.

4. Mayor Daley's "Help Wanted" ad is a nice PR gambit, but it should be called out as a ridiculous stunt unless Daley actually requires that you can't get the job unless you go through the application process. Otherwise he'll just pick who he already knows he wants to pick.

*

I'm thinking about applying. I do live in the 1st Ward you know. Think I can get an interview?

5. "Sneed is told [Don] Tomczak is staying at the same Salvation Army halfway facility, 105 S. Ashland, as former Cicero President Betty Loren-Maltese."

Political Rehab with Dr. Drew!

*

I'd be willing to bet a sizable amount of money I don't have that Sneed's Salvation Army source is Betty Loren-Maltese.

6. Sneed was so busy typing up Lura Lynn Ryan's press release she forgot to ask her if every imprisoned felon should be released whenever an aging spouse falls ill.

7. All that's missing from Sneed today is a warm anecdote planted by the irrepressible Judy Baar Topinka.

8. I love AP's video news reports. And if you don't have the time or inclination to watch every Olympic minute - and who does - you can just catch the AP video highlights via the Beachwood. Of course, they only use still photography because NBC isn't making its video available and embeddable, but it's a good place to start.

9. Who is Mark Kirk? Not the guy he used to be, that's for sure.

10. "The question is whether the Family Guy episode was ridiculing Trig," Richard Roeper gets paid to write today.

I guess it's nice that the Sun-Times employs a columnist who is mentally challenged.

11. "After criticism from open-government advocates, Senate President John Cullerton pledged to avoid convening the Senate in private again as he did Wednesday to hear a budget briefing from a nationwide legislative association," the Sun-Times reports.

"Cullerton, who refused to characterize his decision as a mistake, said several senators, who are candidates for statewide office, might want to ask questions out of the public limelight.

"'If you're a candidate, and you're worried about running for governor, you might want to ask a question. Maybe it's an uninformed question. Maybe it's a question that has some political ramifications, [and] you might not be inclined to make that question if reporters are there,' he said."

Geez, first pols are afraid to answer questions in public, now they're afraid to ask them.

*

"You're missing the whole point," Cullerton told the Tribune.

"This is meant to be one where just the senators are there to get information, but where they can also feel they can ask questions and . . . have a free exchange of ideas without having to be worried about what the press might report."

So wait, your point is what?

*

"It's funny because I often hear from my constituents 'I wish you guys would just get in a room and try to figure things out,'" Republican Senate leader Christine Radogno said.

I didn't hear the words "in secret," though, Christine.

*

In fact, we do want you guys to get in a room and try to figure things out - on C-SPAN, where we can keep an eye on you.


12. The Sun-Times scores a two-fer today for ignorant, stale cliches on its editorial page. First, Jack Higgins once again fails to be smarter than a fifth-grader with yet another global warming cartoon that depends on a child's grasp of science. "Where the heck is Al Gore?" the first man trudging through the snow in Washington, D.C., says. "Is he incommunicado? Is he in hiding?" The second man says, "He's in bed with a bad cold."

Get it?!!!

Hey, here's one: First man squints at the sun and says "It's really bright out today." Second man says, "Yeah, so much for the theory that the sun is dying out!"

Or how about this: A plane takes off. Passenger one says to passenger two: "And they called us gravity skeptics stupid!"

*

And then, God forbid, yet another lament about how the world of social networking is preventing us from having, you know, real friends.

What an original idea. I've never read that before. I mean I hadn't read that yet today. I've read that column only a hundred times before - hey, I couldn't get to all of them.

"We relish our chats in an age of texting, Facebook and other electronic social networking, which, despite its ability to connect us all, seems increasingly to be making us all less social," John Fountain writes.

I know! I wish we could go back to the days when we all just sat around the fire and, you know, connected.

"One has to wonder what's being lost - whether this brave new world of cyber-communication comes at the expense of the ability to look a man straight in the eye and say what you mean and mean what you say. It takes courage to call a man a liar to his face."

You mean like this guy?

*

Coming next: A well-paid pundit discovers that Facebook friends aren't like real friends.

13. "Former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert has plowed through about $1 million in taxpayer dollars in the last two years for an office and staff in west suburban Yorkville, thanks to a little-known perk given to ex-speakers," the Tribune reports.
"
Hastert, 68, a lobbyist and business consultant who retired from Congress in 2007, has hired three of his former staffers at salaries of more than $100,000 apiece to run the publicly financed office.

"Taxpayers also are paying monthly rent of $6,300 to a company partly owned by three sons of a Hastert mentor and business partner. Other public funds go for an $860-a-month 2008 GMC Yukon leased from a dealership owned by a Hastert friend and campaign donor."

Welfare queens.

*

"As a House member, Hastert declared himself a foe of government waste. In 2005, he boasted of winning a 'Golden Bulldog' award from the 'Watchdogs of the Treasury' each year he was in Congress."

14. Illinois Ranks Dead Last In Funding Pensions.

Cullerton says that misses the whole point.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Caucus jointly.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:27 AM | Permalink

Olympic Moments

1. It's all about the amplitude, dude.

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2. Happy to come out and put it down.

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3. No fear, no regrets.

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And our intrepid correspondent Scott Buckner checks in:

Lindsey Vonn. Shaun White. Golly gee willikers - who'da thunk it? It's too bad the rest of the world knew the results - courtesy of the Internet - several hours before NBC began its parade of self-importance Wednesday night, showing off its ability to waste many man-hours profiling the athletes and breathlessly announcing the events AS IF THEY WERE HAPPENING RIGHT THEN!!!

I could barely contain myself.

And really, who cared about anything else Olympic yesterday, unless maybe you were doing something else at the time, like crocheting, getting drunk, or making a boatload of paczki?

* * *

Wednesday's Olympic TV coverage - for all us unfortunate schlubs on welfare and free TV - didn't start until 7 p.m., when the day's events were pretty much finished, leaving us with whatever NBC wanted to edit and spoon-feed us with their commercials. (Which didn't stop NBC's Today Show from starting its promotion party 12 hours earlier.)

That was probably a good thing. I can write and edit only so fast given the copious avalanche of material NBC is gifting me with this morning - which in many cases is better than the Olympics itself. Personally, it's my hope that the International Olympic Committee will get sick of this whole business and announce next year that it's getting back to our Olympic roots by taking the whole show back to the few city-states of ancient Greece and limiting all events to mortal combat and chariot racing.

Hopefully they'll still have The Internet then, so we all can find out who did what hours before we have to bother wasting our time watching it on TV. Duh.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:38 AM | Permalink

Who Is Mark Kirk?

Up until his recent turn into right-wing loony land, I had always respected Mark Kirk. In fact, when I interviewed him in 2000 during his first congressional campaign I came away thinking he might be on a national ticket someday. His biggest obstacle to national renown, it seemed to me, would be the rightward turn of his party. Now he's turning with it - depressingly so. But if you take a look at the Mark Kirk of 2000, you'll see the attributes and background that made him an impressive candidate then with a bright future. Here is the Chicago magazine story I wrote then of that first campaign.

Two Pols in a Pod

The race to replace GOP congressman John Porter has attracted national notice as a key battle in the House, and the two parties have sent in their heavy guns. One problem: How do you tell the candidates apart?

Two scenes from one of the nation's most widely watched - and expensive - congressional campaigns, now playing on the North Shore:

Lauren Beth Gash is knocking on doors in Highland Park one August evening when she comes up on a man sitting on a motorcycle in his driveway. Gash asks for his vote. He gives her a skeptical eye. "How do you feel about all this nursing home stuff?" he asks, apropos of nothing. "What nursing home stuff?" she replies. The stories in the papers, he explains, about the abuse of nursing home residents. "Of course I'm against nursing home abuse," Gash says tersely. "Everyone is." And then she tacks in the unexpected direction of a Chamber of Commerce mouthpiece. "But it's a complicated issue. We can't make regulations so stringent that we put owners out of business."

Gash is the Democrat in this race.

Mark Steven Kirk is the scanning the largely African American crowd at the First Fellowship Baptist Church in Waukegan minutes before a candidates' forum one day in September. He is looking for his favorite ministers. Then he takes his place behind a lectern and opens his segment of the forum by explaining his ten-point plan for Waukegan; four of the first five points address environmental issues. And then he introduces a special member of the audience - Representative Jesse Jackson Jr., a Democrat.

Kirk, who is also pro-choice and pro-gun control, is the Republican in this race.

This muddle is the fight to replace the retiring John Porter, the Republican whose moderate blend of social liberalism and fiscal conservatism won him 11 terms. And yet, for a campaign steeped in so much significance - by summer's end it had been featured prominently in The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Business Week, what with control of the U.S. House of Representatives perhaps hanging in the balance - it's nearly impossible to discern major policy differences between the candidates. For all the money they are getting from their national parties, both candidates have done their best to disassociate themselves from their benefactors. The words "Democrat" and "Republican" are largely absent from their campaign literature.

That's because Gash and Kirk have determined that party disloyalty is a virtue in the 10th District, which stretches north from Wilmette to the Wisconsin border and west to Arlington Heights. "Voters in this district look beyond party," says Porter, who aligned himself with Democrats on social issues more often than did the typical Republican.

What really seems to matter in the 10th, a mostly prosperous suburban district that also includes the blue-collar cities Waukegan and North Chicago, is the pragmatic ability to bring the federal government to bear on the district's problems. In other words, bringing home the goods.

The question is, Does this give the advantage to Kirk, who has learned well how to navigate the intricate byways of Washington in his 16 years as a Porter aide and House lawyer, or to Gash, whose service as a four-term state legislator led the Chicago Tribune to call her one of Illinois's most independent, dedicated politicians?

*

A framed magazine cover of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan hangs on the wall of Gashs's campaign headquarters in a Highland Park office building. Madigan has autographed the cover for Gash, and signed it sarcastically, "To a fellow New Democrat." In fact, Madigan is an Old Democrat, machine boss, ward heeler, deal cutter. Gash is the real New Democrat, suburban soccer mom, chair of the Illinois House Judiciary Committee on Criminal Law, and card-carrying member of the Democratic Leadership Council, the moderate wing of the national party from which Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and Joe Lieberman sprang. She points to another photo, of her and Madigan face to face on the House floor, "another time when he was mad at me," she says.

Gash, 40, likes to say she has always been an activist - her campaign office is wallpapered with T-shirts blaring "Q101 Rock the Vote," "Walk for Israel," "Kids First Health Fair Volunteer," and "Skate Deerfield!" - but it's been a moderate activism. She worked as a hospital volunteer in high school, a Big Sister in college. "I was raised that way," she says. "It was just a given that we were going to do things to make the world a better place."

Armed with a Clark University (Massachusetts) psychology degree and a Georgetown University law degree, the Summit, New Jersey native went to work as Senator Alan Dixon's federal projects director, steering federal money back to Illinois. She joined Senator Paul Simon's 1990 re-election campaign as his statewide constituency coordinator. It's clear she reveres Simon; at her headquarters, he seems to be in more photos of past Gash campaigns than the candidate herself.

Gash settled in Highland Park with her husband and two kids, becoming active in the Highland Park PTA, Prairie State Legal Services in Waukegan, and the League of Women Voters. She supported a moderate Republican as her state senate representative in 1992 until he lost a four-way primary to a Christian Coalition candidate. Then she jummped into the race for the Democrats, who were not fielding a candidate, and won what had always been considered a safe Republican seat. Gash has represented the 69th District, spanning northwest Cook County and southern Lake County, ever since, developing a reputation as an independent mom-legislator and a strong campaigner.

Gash's trademark issue may be her (unsuccessful) attempts to pass legislation requiring the Illinois Toll Highway Authority to submit it's budget to the legislature. Along the way she got the Deerfield toll plaza demolished - probably worth more votes than supporting Mom and apple pie.

The vote that the Gash team most likes to point to is her 1995 support for Chicago school reform. She was one of only four Democrats to back the bill. "You can be assured that there were a lot of special interest groups that were very upset," Gash says. "To go against your [party] leaders on an issue like that was not easy." She was also one of a small band of legislators to oppose Governor George Ryan's $12-billion public works project, Illinois First, arguing that massive amounts of spending in the legislation was unaccounted for. "It was outrageous. It was a blank check," she says.

*

Mark Kirk was at ground zero when Porter turned what was expected to be another sleepy re-election campaign into a frenzy worthy of the national spotlight. "I rode the elevator with him up to the press conference where he announced [his retirement]," Kirk says, "and I tried every trick in the book to change his mind."

Early speculation had Lieutenant Governor Corinne Wood, a former state representative from the area, as the favorite to replace Porter. Kirk, assured that Wood had decided to run, offered his help. He recalls thinking, "They're going to ask her, 'What committees do you want?' and I'll help her say which ones she wants, and there's a thousand issues that a congressman handles that, as a state official in Springfield, she probably doesn't know. You've got to be way up to speed on immigration; you have to know your Superfund down to a T; you gotta know the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act, big time."

But Wood - and several other attractive moderate candidates - bailed out. The result was a 12-person Republican primary field so unnoteworthy that U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert begged Porter to change his mind. (Gash ran unopposed in the Democratic primary.) Though he was outspent by six other candidates, Kirk persevered on the strength of Porter's endorsement and a surprisingly deft touch with retail politics. "He was everywhere," says Ant Somonian, executive director of the Lake County Republican Federation. "And he had volunteers who really believed - a guerilla army."

For Kirk, now 41, who grew up in Kenilworth, the primary was a return home. As a teenager at New Trier High School, he volunteered in a re-election campaign for Senator Charles Percy. He was not politically active at Cornell University, where he studied history, but while earning his master's degree at the London School of Economics, he worked for Margaret Thatcher's 1983 re-election. The following year he went to work for Porter as an unpaid intern sorting mail, found a part-time fellowship studying the Soviet navy for a rear admiral, and eventually became Porter's chief of staff.

"The big battle that sort of made me as a congressional staff was when the Reagan Administration wanted four billion bucks to build a whole new generation of chemical weapons," Kirk says. "We ended up in this titanic struggle against the Reagan White House, and the Porter amendment to delete funding for chemical weapons won 210 to 209."

Kirk left Porter in 1990 for a position with the World Bank, then joined the State Department, where he worked on the Central American peace process. He got his law degree from Georgetown in 1992 and practiced for three years with Baker & McKenzie, focusing on international trade and finance. In 1995, Kirk became counsel fo the U.S. House International Relations Committee, drafting legislation and conducting missions to dozens of countries.

*

From the start, the campaign in the 10th, which will probably cost each side more than $1 million, has been on the pundits' "hot race" lists because the open seat could go to either party. Campaigns & Elections, a trade magazine for political professionals, put the odds that Republicans would retain the seat at 4-3 after Porter's retiremenet, 6-5 after Kirk's primary victory. Political experts mostly agree that Gash would have been the heavy favorite had a more conservative candidate won the Republican primary, but that Kirk consolidated his support after the primary and had a fair amount of momentum. At the same time, some observers, such as the Chicago Sun-Times's Washington bureau chief Lynn Sweet, thought that Joe Lieberman's Vice Presidential nomination gave the edge to Gash, because Jewish voters who supported Porter in the past would be inclined to turn back to the Democratic ticket.

Both candidates spent the summer conducting traditional campaigns: shaking hands at train stations, giving speeches to civic groups, rubbing shoulders with political celebrities. (Kirk stumped with Arizona Senator John McCain and former astronaut Jim Lovell, who runs a restaurant in the district; Gash landed Tipper Gore and House minority leader Richard Gephardt, of Missouri.) All told, the candidates are expected to debate more than a dozen times. And as the campaign reaches the stretch run, the air war of costly TV ads should get quite noisy.

But Kirk says he spends most of his time deploying volunteers. That may be hard to believe, but Peter Giangreco, a Democrat strategist handling Gash's direct mail campaign, says "For all of the millions of dollars and genis consultants and national resources that are being put into this, it could very well be the field operation that wins it in the end."

Gash's field operation took a hit in August when she dumped her campaign manager, press secretary, and scheduler; shortly thereafter, Michael Sneed quoted an anonymous source in her Sun-Times column as saying Gash had alienated Magidan and uber-strategist David Axelrod. (Madigan wouldn't comment, but his spokesman, Steve Brown, said, "I don't think Lauren Beth Gash has driven anyone crazy . . . I don't know that she's caused Mike any aggravation." (Axelrod did not return phone calls for comment.)

Fair or not, the combination of a major staff change and a gossip column item left the impression of a campaign that was listing. Charles Cook, whose political newsletter is closely read in Washington, told me in early September that "the whells [had] come off" Gash's campaign; a month earlier he had rated the race a tossup. Gash allies derided that view and said her new team had improved the campaign by scheduling more public appearances and improving outreach to community groups.

When I went along with Gash as she campaigned door to door in Highland Park, her home turf, I found her to be more impressive connecting with voters than in an interview, in which she tended to fall back on lines from her stump speech ("I worked hard to earn my 'F' rating from the NRA"; "When we drop our kids off at school, we shouldn't have to worry that one of their classmates may have a bun in their backpack").

The first voter Gash encountered, for example, ranted about not getting Gash's help to oppose a local road project several years earlier. When the man mentioned he was a senior citizen, Gash immediately turned the conversation to prescription drug prices. He said he would vote for Gash despite the road.

But the real coup was the man on a motorcycle who asked about nursing homes. It turned out he was a nursing home operator himself. Ant Simonian, of the Lake County Republican Federation, had just told me that Gash was "more in step with unions and labor than in step with the business community." She cited Gash's vote for the Structural Work Act (which business groups criticized as a duplicate of workers' compensation), her opposition to tort reform legislation that would limit damage awards in lawsuits, and her support for price caps on pharmaceuticals. And lbaor is one of Gash's largest contributors of campaign cash. But Gash didn't sound anti-business to the motorcycle man. He pledged his vote to her.

"It's so funny they would continue to use the same things that have failed them so miserably in apst campaigns against me," Gash says. "The Structural Work Act is for people up on the 95th floor cleaning windows; it has to do with scaffolding safety. Did I vote for safety? Of course. A lot of my independent votes against my party have been pro-business votes. Probably the majority of them. That particular argument doesn't cut it."

*

The same week Gash was going door to door in Highland Park, Kirk was out of the district. A reserve naval intelligence officer, he was dodging gunfire flying a mission over Iraq. I sat down with him later for an interview at his campaign headquarters in a Glenview strip mall; the neat, professional, button-down feel of Kirk HQ contrasted sharply with Gash's spirited, ragtag operation. Unlike Gash, Kirk chose his press secretary's office for the interview; her walls were lined with newspaper articles touting Kirk's campaign, particularly his underfunded primary win.

Kirk himself is bright and animated, an intellectual who peppers his language with the occasional "like" and "whatever." He uses phrases such as "break, break," as if reading a military telegram, and "roll forward," to advance a story he is telling, and an arsenal of vocal sound effects such as bzzzt! and arrggh!

Gash and fellow Democrats chide Kirk for making foreing policy an issue in the campaign; Gash concedes the issue to him with a smile and a wave of the hand when I bring it up. ("I have yet to walk down the street and have someone way they're concerned about Saudi Arabia," says Terry Link, a state senator from Vernon Hills and head of the Democratic operation in Lake County. "They're concerned about traffic, health care, prescription drugs.")

Kirk is prepared for this line of attack. "[Foreign policy] is not the major focus on the campaign," he says, "but it's vitally important. We have a very strong Jewish community; it has a powerful interest in the safety and security of Israel, and the Middle East peace process. We have a growing group of citizens from Armenia, for example, who are vitally concerned about what's going on with the blockade against their homeland. There are over 12,000 Koreans living in the district who are very worried about their citizens in North Korea who are starving to death.

"One of our major employers right here in the district is Motorola, which sold almost $1 billion worth of goods last year just in China alone. So if you think that debating trade is some sort of foreign issue, then you've got to go into Vernon Hills and tell those people, 'I don't care about your job,' because their jobs depend, and their family income depends, on exports."

As he says, however, his campaign focus isn't on foreign policy. He's just as excited talking about solving the gridlock that, he jokes, has turned Half-Day Road into All-Day Road.

*

As the Porter-endorsed candidate, and a former Porter aide, Kirk is essentially the stand-in incumbent. Gash, in the role of challenger and slight underdog, took the offensive when I talked to her and, in turn, Kirk later responded. The back-and-forth offers a good picture of the difference in their styles.

Gash, comparing her background to Kirk's: "I've had the experience of raising a family here in the district. The important thing thing is that I did the carpools in the district and talked to people about what people here cared about. And that I went to the grocery stores, that my kids were raised here, that I was involved in groups here, that I lived here."

Kirk: "She didn't grow up here; she grew up in New Jersey. I grew up here. She doesn't have a New Trier degree. Her degree is from some high school on the East Coast. And when I went away to Washington, I didn't go away to Washington to forget about the district; I went to represent this district and fight for the home team, in D.C."

Gash, on Kirk's experience: "When he says he can hit the ground running because he's worked in Washington, I look at him and think, I don't know if he understands the massive difference between being a staff member and being an actual elected official. I almost think it's odd, that he doesn't get it; that there's a tremendous difference between working for someone and enacting their policies or helping to support their candidacy, and being the one making the actual decisions."

Kirk: "When we had a near midair collision at Waukegan Airport, John Porter went to the FAA and said, 'I need a control tower to make sure Waukegan Airport is safe.' And the FAA basically said, 'Screw you.' So we had to get it in legislation. Well, by 'get it in legislation,' what does that mean? That means Mark Kirk has to go to the transportation committee, work with the staff, write in the legislation, talk to all the different members - anyone that has a problem, I get John Porter to call them - wire the whole thing. Then go over to the Senate, do exactly the same thing. Then go make sure we crush the Administration weenies that are stopping us from trying to get our control tower. And what does all this frustrating experience mean? A year later we have our control tower. And we have safe operations at Waukegan Airport."

Gash, who has the endorsement of Planned Parenthood, sowing doubt about Kirk's positions on abortion and guns: "I have the record, the backup of a record, to actually show that when I say it I mean it, and I've done it."

Kirk: "I've actually done it on the House floor. I know how to run a whip list on the House floor, write a 'Dear Colleague' [letter], reach out to the groups, do the press conference, get the endorsements, work with groups like Population Action International [the international family planning agency] and Planned Parenthood, weed out the districts with the key swing votes that you need, and make it happen. Lauren knows a lot about Springfield. But this is not a race about Springfield. This is about who represents us in Washington."

Gash, on what this race is about: "A woman's right to choose, gun safety, the environment, education. Health care is very, very critical. And trigger locks. We passed that through my committee. I've had to fight he NRA. I know what it's like. I can stand up to them. Anyone will say that they will. It's another thing to have to be an elected official and do it."

Kirk: "This race is much more about who is going to fix transportation, who knows how to clean up Waukegan Harbor, who is gonna get the waste out of the district, who is the best person to get western access to O'Hare. The dominant experience in our district is: 'I've got my kids [with me in the car]; I'm just gonna make my plane. I get on the Mannheim, and it's a parking lot. I can see the terminal and I'm not gonna get there.' Now imagine the situation five years from now when your congressman's done the right job - 30 percent of those cars are not there anymore, because the Naperville-Downers Grove people got into the airport from the west instead of the east, and you made your flight."

*

Ask the political experts about the voters of the 10th District and invariably the words "sophisticated," "independent," and "highly educated" come up. "Affluent" is a given. A recent study found Lake County, where most of the 10th District resides, to be the 16th richest county in the country, in per capita wealth. Du Page County, bastion of Midwestern Republicanism, ranked 25th. Still, the district has changed significantly over the years in ways that seem to favor Democrats. It has attracted more people from the city, for example, and become more diverse. Waukegan and North Chicago, in particular, have large African American and Hispanic populations that tend to vote Democratic. "It's a very swing district," says Simonian. "People in the district split their tickets all the time."

If only voters could combine Gash and Kirk, the legislator-mom and the worldly Washingtonite. On issues, the candidates are similar enough that Lake County Democratic chairman Link himself asks, "How do you differentiate between the two?" After November 7th, a significant difference will finally reveal itself: One candidate will become a member of Congress.

-

Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:28 AM | Permalink

Song of the Moment: My Sharona

"Doug Fieger, 57, the leader of the power pop band the Knack who sang on the 1979 hit 'My Sharona,' died Feb. 14 at his home in Los Angeles," the Washington Post reports. "He had cancer.

"Mr. Fieger, a Detroit area native, formed the Knack in Los Angeles 1978, and the group quickly became a staple of Sunset Strip rock clubs. A year later, he co-wrote and sang lead vocals on 'My Sharona.' Mr. Fieger said the song, with its pounding drums and exuberant vocals, was inspired by a girlfriend of four years.

"'I had never met a girl like her - ever,' he told the Associated Press in 1994. 'She induced madness. She was a very powerful presence. She had an insouciance that wouldn't quit. She was very self-assured . . . She also had an overpowering scent, and it drove me crazy.'

"'My Sharona,' an unapologetically anthemic rock song, emerged during disco's heyday and held the No. 1 spot on the Billboard pop chart for six weeks, becoming an FM radio standard."

Released: June 1979

Length: 3:58 (single edit); 4:52 (album)

Label: Capitol

B Side: "Let Me Out"

Charts: Reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100; the U.S. Cash Box Top 100 Singles; and the Australian Kent Music Report.

Covers: By Pearl Jam and Yo La Tengo. Also, Weird Al Yankovic began his song parody career with "My Bologna"; Steve Dahl turned out "Ayatollah"; The Dead Kennedys sang "my payola" in "Pull My Strings"; and commercials included "My Toyota," "Nine Coronas," and "My Chalupa."

Wikipedia: "Lead singer/guitarist Doug Fieger was 25 when he met Sharona Alperin (who was 17 at the time) and she inspired a two-month-long run of songwriting . . .

"Whenever he thought about her, he would think of Berton Averre's guitar riff. The two worked out the structure and melody from there. Sharona appears on the picture sleeve for the single, and became a major booster of the band bringing many girls to their early shows.

"Sharona Alperin is now a real estate agent in Los Angeles, California.

"The easily recognizable riff of 'My Sharona' was written by the band's guitarist, Berton Averre, long before he ever joined The Knack.

Songfacts: "This hit #1 in Canada in 1979 and stayed on top for three weeks (replaced by The Cars' 'Let's Go'); The Knack quickly scored another #1 hit here in the same year: 'Good Girls Don't,' which also held the pole position for three weeks."

Lyrics:

Ooh my little pretty one, pretty one.
When you gonna give me some time, Sharona?
Ooh you make my motor run, my motor run.
Gun it comin' off the line Sharona
Never gonna stop, give it up.
Such a dirty mind. Always get it up for the touch
of the younger kind. My my my i yi woo. M M M My Sharona . . .

Come a little closer huh, ah will ya huh.
Close enough to look in my eyes, Sharona.
Keeping it a mystery gets to me
Running down the length of my thighs, Sharona
Never gonna stop, give it up. Such a dirty mind.
Always get it up for the touch
of the younger kind. My my my i yi woo. M M M My Sharona . . .

When you gonna give it to me, give it to me.
It is just a matter of time Sharona
Is it just destiny, destiny?
Or is it just a game in my mind, Sharona?
Never gonna stop, give it up.
Such a dirty mind. Always get it up for the touch
of the younger kind. My my my i yi woo. M M M My Sharona . . .

YouTube:

At Carnegie Hall.

-

Kurt's Sharona.

-

The underappreciated lead.

-

Memories and observations welcome.

-

Previously in Song of the Moment:
* Iron Man
* The Story of Bo Diddley
* Teach Your Children
* Dream Vacation
* When The Levee Breaks
* I Kissed A Girl
* Theme From Shaft
* Rocky Mountain High
* North to Alaska
* Barracuda
* Rainy Days and Mondays
* Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?
* Baby, It's Cold Outside
* Man in the Mirror
* Birthday Sex
* Rio

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:42 AM | Permalink

February 17, 2010

The [Wednesday] Papers

A series of semi-random thoughts . . .


*

I found myself standing across the street from Bank of America downtown yesterday staring at its waving flag and thinking that we should organize a spit-in.

*

So our governor for the next four years is going to be either Pat Quinn or Bill Brady, and one of our senators for the next six years is going to be Mark Kirk or Alexi Giannoulias. I don't like living here anymore.

*

"Less than a year after unanimously approving an overhaul of the state Freedom of Information Act to make public records more accessible, legislators have introduced at least a half-dozen bills aimed at making access more difficult," the Springfield State Journal-Register reports.

I don't like living here anymore.

*

"A Rhode Island lawyer seeking to become lieutenant governor says he's running for office again and has an unusual plan for the position," WKRG reports.

"Robert Healey Jr. said Tuesday he would move to eliminate the office if elected this November. Healey, who established the Cool Moose Party, ran for lieutenant governor in 2002 and 2006. He ran for governor before that.

"Healey says he believes the position of lieutenant governor is a waste of taxpayer money. He says he wouldn't hire staff or accept a salary. He would ask voters to amend the constitution to eliminate the position."

A. Why can't we have a Cool Moose Party?

B. I wonder how much the National Lieutenant Governors Association plans on spending for lobbying this year to save their members' jobs.

*

The city won't let me use my fake address anymore either. I live on Wicker Park Avenue but for years I've told people I live at If You Have To Ask You Can't Afford Me Drive.

*

I feel like there was a better punch line to that item but I couldn't quite nail it.

*

"Can Olympics-inspired nationalism stem the long decline of Molson Canadian?" Ad Age wonders.

I sure hope so!

*

Mmm, Canadian beer . . .


*

Mmm, Mexican beer . . .

*

Mmm, NAFTA beer . . .

*

"Despite the fact that over a million people remained homeless in Haiti one month after the earthquake, the US Ambassador to Haiti, Ken Merten, is quoted at a State Department briefing on February 12, saying 'In terms of humanitarian aid delivery . . . frankly, it's working really well, and I believe that this will be something that people will be able to look back on in the future as a model for how we've been able to sort ourselves out as donors on the ground and responding to an earthquake.'"

Helluva job, Kenny.

*

A Facebook page for the Robert Taylor Homes has 1,987 fans as of this writing.

(h/t: Ethan Michaeli)

*

"Public financing of the proposed $84 million Cactus League ballpark for the Chicago Cubs could face a lawsuit from the Goldwater Institute," the Phoenix Business Journal reports.

Again, lost for the right punch line. Hey, I can't be "on" all the time.

COMMENT: From David Rutter:

How about . . .

"I would remind you that extremism in the defense of a free ride for the Cubs is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of one damn, effing World Series appearance is no virtue."

- Barry's ghost

*

Setting The Spring Training Table.

Advantage: White Sox.

*

Baseball's Top 40.

And not a Cub among them.

*

"Olympic Lobbying A Year-Round Sport."

Don't we know it.

*

Our Olympic American Idols.

*

"The Illinois Senate plans to meet behind closed doors this morning to hear a presentation by experts about state budgets and the national economy, a move that open government advocates called baffling," the Tribune reports.

"The unusual secret gathering is being billed as a 'joint caucus' of the majority Democrats and the minority Republicans, two groups that represent the entire 59 members of the Illinois Senate. The caucuses routinely meet separately to plot partisan strategy, and the public is not invited. But a joint meeting is very rare.

"The spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said the event will be closed because the presentation to be given by the Denver-based National Conference of State Legislatures will not fall under the state Constitution's requirements to be open."

She cited Illinois' unique Combine Clause, which was once written into the state Constitution with invisible ink and passed by a majority of members voting "Present."

*

The Illinois Senate is meeting in secret today. Just wanted to reinforce that.

*

The Illinois Senate President is John Cullerton (D-Chicago).

Cullerton.

D-Chicago.

*

D stands for Democrat.

*

I just like to point that out because so many of my Democratic friends are so sanctimonious about how purely evil Republicans are. And they're mostly right. But they're only seeing half the story.

*

I'm a huge Family Guy fan. Huge. But this isn't right. It would be nice to see some bipartisan outrage.

*

Contact John Cullerton here.

*

"Justin Halpern created a firestorm of buzz with his 'Shit My Dad Says' Twitter feed, a chronicle of humorous musings from his cantankerous, septuagenarian father," our very own Drew Adamek writes. "Halpern has more than a million followers and just signed a sitcom development deal with CBS.

"Since Halpern is living the wet dream of bloggers and Twitterers everywhere, I thought I would try to cash in too. But I rarely leave the house anymore, and my Dad isn't nearly that entertaining. In fact, he's a bit of a homebody too, so I went with the next best thing.

"Here, then, is (Boring) Shit My Dad Says."

*

Thurston Moore vs. Axl Rose.

*

Personally, I find Thurston Moore a bore, but there you go.

*

Now wasn't that so much better than a Richard Roeper column? Spent more than 15 minutes on it, too.
-

The Beachwood Tip Line: Unipartisan.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:34 AM | Permalink

Setting The Spring Training Table

Hope springs eternal. Cubs fans, of course, are eternally hopeful every spring.

White Sox fans are simply grateful they have what the Cubs don't: a World Series title.

Welcome to spring training, where our boys of summer have designs on being the boys of October.

See also:
  • Baseball's Top 40.
  • Olympic American Idols.

  • The Cubs will convene in Mesa, Arizona, where trying to pay for a new facility has rankled the other 14 major league tenants who have thrived thanks to the Cubs' existence in the Cactus League.

    The Cubs have been printing money here for years. What they haven't done is hang banners proclaiming "World Champs."

    The Sox will arrive in Glendale unveiling a new look; less power, more hitting and running and a very potent starting staff. Whether that translates into a fall classic remains to be seen.

    So, who's better equipped to make a post-season appearance? On February 17th, it's the Sox.

    Pitching still matters and the Sox appear to have what matters more than their crosstown counterparts.

    They will start the season with five proven starters including Jake Peavy, who once was fancied by the North Siders. Instead, he'll join Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, John Danks and Freddy Garcia in making up one of the better staffs in the game.

    The Cubs will commence with three proven starters while a host of others play Wheel of Fortune for the two remaining spots in the rotation.

    Ted Lilly, their most consistent starter over the past three years, continues to mend from a surgically repaired left wing. Losing him for April and perhaps part of May will tax a cloudy group which includes the irascible Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster and unpredictable Randy Wells.

    The list of candidates to fill out the rotation include Jeff Samardzija, Tom Gorzelanny, Sean Marshall, and Carlos Silva, whose bulging waistline and ERA was the price Jim Hendry gladly paid to dump Milton Bradley.

    While this aggregate appears a bit shaky, let's not forget a bullpen that's anchored by a closer better suited to perform with Cirque Du Soleil. The next batter Carlos Marmol walks or hits might be the first he faces.

    At least Bobby Jenks has been more consistent, though his 2009 season found a few potholes and criticism from management about his potbelly.

    But Jenks has some cover Marmol does not. Matt Thronton can close and so can J.J.Putz - if his elbow remains firmly attached to the rest of his powerful right arm.

    Who finishes the job if Marmol is either overworked or overwrought? The Cubs can't really identify a replacement, which is why they tried to sign Matt Capps - who found Washington's money more alluring. Now there's a paradox!

    The Cubs actually finished fifth in ERA last year a despite the underwhelming performance of Zambrano, and also had 94 quality starts, tied for second behind Atlanta.

    The Sox were second in the A.L. and their 86 quality starts were tops. But errors and the lack of run scoring doomed the Southsiders to a 79-83 mark.

    The Cubs had trouble plating runners, leaving them to languish with an 83-78 mark.

    So here we are on the precipice of a season with doubts. But aren't doubts what Chicago baseball is about?

    -

    George Ofman is now with WGN radio after a 17-year run with The Score. He also blogs for ChicagoNow under the banner That's All She Wrote.

    -

    Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:34 AM | Permalink

    Fantasy Fix: Baseball's Top 40

    Fantasy basketball leagues have been on All-Star hiatus since last Thursday and just starting up again as I write this. So, this week, will skip our fantasy hoops treasure hunt and go right to our first fantasy baseball report of the year.

    As Major League Baseball spring training starts this week, there's no question who will be the first two picks, but after that things get pretty interesting. Overall, I think it will be a big year to go after starting pitchers in the early rounds, and probably a good time to lower superstar outfielder expectations. Here's my top 40:

    1. Albert Pujols, 1B, STL: No doubter, despite what was actually a slow second half last year.

    2. Hanley Ramirez, SS, FLA: Still young, still looking for batting average, stolen bases to grow.

    3. Ryan Braun, OF, MIL: A stat motherlode. BA, SBs make him a better third choice than A-Rod.

    4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B, NYY: His first un-stressed season in years after a great post-season, but aging.

    5. Chase Utley, 2B, PHI: Tough call because all-around stud could easily be third. No. 1 in 2011?

    6. Evan Longoria, 3B, TB: Another youngin' growing toward his best years. 2010's AL HR king?

    7. Prince Fielder, 1B, MIL: Ready for a 50 HR year. His only weaknesses: SBs and veggie buffets.

    8. Tim Lincecum, SP, SF: Last year's Cy Young has everyone expecting even more this year.

    9. Miguel Cabrera, 1B, DET: RBIs dipped in 2009, but a great hitter at the best age for hitters - 27.

    10. Joe Mauer, C, MIN: Everyone's expecting another huge year. Will power live up to top 10 billing?

    11. Mark Teixeira, 1B, NYY: Fits the Mr. Yankee mold as well as Derek Jeter. 40+ HRs this year?

    12. Matt Kemp, OF, LAD: 30/30 HR/SB candidate could be 40/40 if Torre batted him higher.

    13. Justin Upton, OF, ARI: Unlike brother B.J., pulled out of a slump and could go 30/30 this year.

    14. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, COL: Another slump buster and extra-bases machine hitting his stride.

    15. Felix Hernandez, SP, SEA: Ready for his first Cy Young, pitching lights-out on a much better team.

    16. Carl Crawford, OF, TB: Has 80-SB talent and needs to go for it now at 29. HR/RBI boost needed.

    17. Mark Reynolds, 3B, ARI: Could go higher, but were 44 HRs, 24 SBs a career high?

    18. Zack Greinke, SP, KC: So dominant, but still in K.C., where they win early and then far less often.

    19. Ryan Howard, 1B, PHI: 45 HRs, 141 RBIs at No. 19? His consistent production is due to tail off.

    20. Roy Halladay, SP, PHI: Should see NL boost in numbers similar to fellow AL ex-pats Santana, Lee.

    21. Ian Kinsler, 2B, TEX: Young, fast top 10 2009 draftee is injury-prone, but still second-best 2B.

    22. Matt Holliday, OF, STL: Will benefit from Pujols effect, but STL's offense won't help RBI stats.

    23. Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, BOS: All about the SBs, which should give fantasy points almost every game.

    24. Joey Votto, 1B, CIN: Low slot for a guy who might be ready for bust-out 30+, .320+, 100 RBI year.

    25. CC Sabathia, SP, NYY: Slow starter last year hit his groove and no reason to fall off this season.

    26. Adam Wainwright, SP, STL: Won't get many runs, but won't need them as he'll pitch deeper.

    27. Victor Martinez, C/1B, BOS: Flex nature, Fenway boost could drive him higher in draft.

    28. David Wright, 3B, NYM: Sapped power never came back. SBs, BA keep him from falling farther.

    29. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, WAS: I might take him over Wright. 120 RBIs on improved team?

    30. Jose Reyes, SS, NYM: Health issue. Super-fast, but RBIs, runs may be tough to come by in NY.

    31. Grady Sizemore, OF, CLE: Another injury concern. SBs, HRs, runs balanced by bad BA.

    32. Jimmy Rollins, SS, PHI: poor BA means he needs 30/30 HR/SB to deliver a payoff.

    33. Ichiro, OF, SEA: Getting older, but team is improved and he's still so consistent and speedy.

    34. Ben Zobrist, 2B/SS/OF, TB: If you really want him, take him higher. Buzz says 30/30/100 HR/RBI/SB.

    35. Jayson Werth, OF, PHI: Is 40 HRs, 25 SBs a reach after his 2009 breakout year?

    36. Justin Verlander, SP, DET: Should lead AL in Ks again and finally bring home 20 wins.

    37. Cliff Lee, SP, SEA: Loses NL edge, but has transformed himself from reject to legit superstar.

    38. Jake Peavy, SP, CHW: Injury threat, small park darken promise, but will anchor stellar Sox staff.

    39. Johan Santana, SP, NYM: His numbers are worth betting on rumor of Opening Day readiness.

    40. Josh Johnson, SP, FLA: Threat for 20 wins and NL ERA crown.

    There are several guys who didn't make my top 40 - Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia, Curtis Granderson, Kevin Youkilis, Dan Haren - whom you will definitely see picked in the top 40 in many leagues.

    But if I'm doing my math right, BaseballReference.com suggests there were 273 team shutouts and 63 complete-game shutouts pitched last year. The first figure is the highest it has been in at least nine years. I guess you could say I'm buying into that possibility that in the post-steroids era, these numbers will form the beginning of a new trend.

    I'll get back to covering fantasy hoops next week with news on several NBA trades in the works as I write this. I'll also start my weekly baseball pre-draft position rankings and sleeper picks. Get ready to play ball.

    -

    Dan O'Shea's Fantasy Fix appears in this space every Wednesday. Tips, comments, and suggestions are welcome. You can also read his about his split sports fan personality at SwingsBothWays, which isn't about what it sounds like it's about.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:19 AM | Permalink

    Olympic Moments

    1. Our intrepid correspondent Scott Buckner checks in:

    I've never been a huge fan of figure skating, mostly because I happen to favor winter Olympic sports where it's possible to either kill yourself or get disqualified because you simply can't handle a snowboard like American crash-and-burn Olympian Lindsey Jacobellis.

    But I'm paying attention to Russian figure skater Evgeni Plushenko and his trash talk. Like it or not, Plushenko's a contender for a gold medal, and when you're in contention, trash talk is acceptable.

    More disturbing is the trash emanating from Team America. "American Johnny Weir will provide another dose of shock value with his outrageous and extravagant performance in the long program, but he sits in sixth place and seems well out of contention," Yahoo! Sports notes.

    Green Day may want to adopt Johnny Weir for it's Glee-inspired Broadway show, except under the working title American Asshole.

    Even when his medal hopes were fading earlier this week, Johnny Weir was a sensation in this country.

    Why? Simply because his routine depends on Lady Gaga? Because his handlers made it a point Tuesday to say that his costumes would feature no real animal fur?

    Not too long ago, talented Olympians who produced ended up on cereal boxes and deserved all the endorsement cash that comes their way. As of Tuesday, Johnny Weir was nothing more than window dressing in sixth place, with no hope whatsoever of even winning a even a cardboard medal. So what's the point of giving him airtime?

    Johnny Weir is like the worst of American Idol - where people like the talentless General Larry "Pants On The Ground" Platt become a sensation after getting laughed off the stage, just like the talentless William "She Bangs" Hung got laughed off the stage into a career of infamy.

    Maybe the French are right: We Americans are too stupid to live.

    2. It's exactly like darts.

    -

    3. Hockey: Women thrash Russia.

    -

    4. Hockey: Men grind out win over Switzerland.

    -

    Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:39 AM | Permalink

    Shit My Dad Says

    Justin Halpern created a firestorm of buzz with his "Shit My Dad Says" Twitter feed, a chronicle of humorous musings from his cantankerous, septuagenarian father. Halpern has more than a million followers and just signed a sitcom development deal with CBS.

    Since Halpern is living the wet dream of bloggers and Twitterers everywhere, I thought I would try to cash in too. But I rarely leave the house anymore, and my Dad isn't nearly that entertaining. In fact, he's a bit of a homebody too, so I went with the next best thing.

    Here, then, is (Boring) Shit My Dad Says:

    1. Looks like snow.

    2. Turn that down.

    3. Nothing good ever happens after midnight.

    4. I like margarine better than butter.

    5. That Seinfeld is pretty funny.

    6. Walgreens is closer.

    7. Think I'll turn in early.

    8. Needs more WD-40.

    9. You just don't understand lawnmowers.

    10. Johnny Carson used to be on TV.

    11. Looks like rain.

    12. Your mother used to be pretty average.

    13. Smoking is for hippies.

    14. Lasagna gives me gas.

    15. Might go fishing tomorrow.

    16. What are you, a little ballerina?

    17. Looks like gas is getting steep again.

    18. I'll be in the garage.

    19. Front tire looks a little low.

    20. You're gonna go blind.

    21. Gonna be a smoker today.

    22. The post office is hopping today.

    23. I don't like skinny women.

    24. Hot today, hot tomorrow.

    25. Brett Favre.

    -

    Your dad? Submissions welcome.


    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 3:59 AM | Permalink

    RockNotes: Thurston Moore vs. Axl Rose

    1. Now you, too, can read the rock 'n' roll ramblings of Thurston Moore.

    Sonic Youth has always been firmly in the category of Thinking Nerd's Rock Band and now Moore gives it another shove in that direction with his new blog flowers & cream.

    Up now is a really cool and thoughtful post about what he calls his "favorite classic record these days," Iggy & the Stooges' Raw Power. He says that once he got a load of the bare-chested Iggy snarling with his chipped teeth and walking on the hands of the audience, "the drama of Bowie and glam seemed all at once tame."

    Coming in for slams from Thurston are Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Helen Reddy, who, to him, represented all that was wrong about the "nowheresville" rock 'n' roll of the early 70s that Iggy slew with his greasy glory.

    "The cover with Iggy bare chested, in silver lame trousers staring off into some rock 'n' roll psycho void had me in a heartbeat. And the back cover with the various photos of the band in glam anxious repose were all the invitation I need to the future."

    Moore wraps up by saying, "A lot of it was due to the delivery of Iggy's vocal - it was as if the flaming voice of rock 'n' roll had found its Rosemary's Baby to deliver us from nowheresville. And by God, it did."

    Maybe not coincidentally, the Raw Power: Deluxe Edition box set is due out from Columbia/Legacy on April 27.


    Iggy Pop - Raw Power (Live At The Avenue B)
    Uploaded by aldonero64

    -

    2. "The world died a little" last Friday," the Guardian laments.

    Why?

    Because Guns N' Roses "managed to clear out" the John Varvatos fashion boutique that was once CBGB in their first public appearance since the release of the long-awaited but underwhelming Chinese Democracy in 2008.

    The venue, the Guardian said, was "half empty" as Axl Rose, playing without Slash and Duff McKagan, "strutted amid ($150) belts" at the boutique as part of a New York Fashion Week aftershow.

    "On the bright side," the Guardian snarked, "this feeble incarnation of Guns N' Roses (which included former Replacements member Tommy Stinson) played only four tunes from Chinese Democracy. Much of the 17-song acoustic set came from 1987's Appetite for Destruction, including hits like 'Paradise City' and 'Sweet Child O' Mine.'"

    Axl reportedly yelled to the half-empty boutique after the band wrapped at 3 a.m., "This was the best fucking show of our tour!"

    3. On the other hand, a real rock 'n' roll talent, Buddy Holly, is about to get some more official recognition.

    Over in Ioway, the Surf Ballroom - where Holly, Richie Valens and J.P. (The Big Bopper) Richardson played their final show before their infamous and fatal 1959 plane crash, could soon be placed on the National Register of Historic Places at the recommendation of state officials.

    The Surf, in Clear Lake, was built in 1947 in the Art Moderne style, KIMT-TV in Mason City reports, and has morphed from a music venue into something like a rock 'n' roll museum and outreach center. Executive Director Laurie Leitz told the station a historic designation would be key in securing the building's physical future.

    "We will be eligible for a number of grants that can keep the Surf alive for many years to come," Leitz said.

    And maybe then they wouldn't have to host events like next month's Bret Michaels Birthday Weekend Concert.

    -

    4. Speaking of true rock 'n' roll pioneers, some mention should be made of the passing of Dale Hawkins, the Arkansas rockabilly great who died over the weekend in North Little Rock after a long battle with cancer.

    Among his many accomplishments, the writer of the 1957 hit "Susie Q" was the first white artist ever recorded by Chicago's Chess Records. Only 15 when he wrote it, it was so swampy and bluesy it actually worked against him, according to the Rockabilly Hall of Fame:

    "He continued to record, but never experienced another comparable hit, in part because many listeners and radio programmers wrongly assumed that Hawkins was black," the RHoF notes. "The era's rigid, prejudicial boundaries hurt Hawkins' career in both white and black markets."

    Hawkins was a Louisiana boy who "worked the rough-and-tumble country circuit around Shreveport and Bossier City" while closely following "new developments in blues and R&B through his day job at Shreveport's Jewel Records."

    In a well-received profile of Hawkins for the Oxford American, Lauren Wilcox reports that he sold the rights to "Susie Q" for a couple hundred dollars before Creedence Clearwater Revival scored a smash with it in 1968.

    Hawkins in the '60s was also quite successful as a producer, manning the controls for such hits as "Western Union" by the Five Americans and "Judy In Disguise" by John Fred & His Playboy Band.

    -

    From Avril Lavigne and Kid Rock to the Replacements and Radiohead, we've got the best RockNotes around. Comments and contributors welcome.

    Posted by Don Jacobson at 2:03 AM | Permalink

    February 16, 2010

    The [Tuesday] Papers

    1. Daily Olympic coverage from the Beachwood Olympic Bureau!

    2. "On Friday February 12th I was asked to comment for a CBS 2 Report on the sentencing of Chicago Police Officer Gerald Callahan," my friend Tracy Jake Siska writes. "Try as I might I failed to get across what I believe the main point that needs to get communicated to policy makers and community members about the sentencing of Callahan. I will use this blog to explain my point here."

    3. "About one of every five children age six and under was living in poverty in 2008, according to the annual Kids Count report from Voices for Illinois Children," AP reports.

    4. "One suburban lawmaker hopes to eradicate most red-light cameras in the state, which he said wrongfully target hundreds of Illinois drivers who made legal right-hand turns, and his proposal to that effect gets a first airing in the legislature today," the Daily Herald reports.

    5. "Business schools will be running case studies of Toyota Motor Corp. for a long time to come," the Tribune opined over the weekend. "Just how does a powerhouse company with a pristine reputation fall so far so fast?"

    Gee, maybe the Tribune ought to ask itself that. Or just consult the case studies already written on the newspaper industry.

    "Smugness apparently played a part. Toyota rested on its reputation for quality and often dismissed consumer concerns, behaving as if it were beyond reproach."

    See the game I'm playing here?

    "Toyota's reputation for reliability, quality and value has been smashed."

    Really?

    "The auto industry is a key to the U.S. economy. If American automakers can restructure, become leaner and more efficient, and keep up quality, reliability and appeal, they can thrive.

    "They learned a lesson about complacency. Let's hope Toyota does, too."

    Let's hope Tribune does, too.

    6. "Thrust into office on the veracity of hope, President Barack Obama is trying to get himself on the right side of a remarkably different national sentiment these days: anger," AP reports.

    "The Obama response has come in two parts. One is to try to get better about communicating to people that he is fighting to address exactly what angers them."

    Or, alternatively, and I'm just spitballing here, Obama could actually fight what angers them.

    "The other is to put the onus on whomever he deems is getting in the way of progress, hoping to shift the heat onto them."

    You mean the fucking retards?

    Or the Republican minority?

    *

    Democrats: When Republicans are in power, it's their fault. When we're in power, it's their fault.

    *

    "Obama gave a fiery pep talk during an Ohio town hall a few days after his party's big loss in Massachusetts. The next week he mocked news organizations for saying he had shifted to a more populist message. 'I've been fighting for working folks my entire adult life, he said."

    After all, Lloyd Blankfein and Jamie Dimon are working folk.

    "In his State of the Union speech, Obama was speaking to Democratic and Republican lawmakers, but also, really, to families watching at home, when he offered this I-hear-you-America line: 'We all hated the bank bailout. I hated it. You hated it.'"

    But as president, I had no choice but to go along with it - on whatever terms that were presented to me!

    "And Obama has gotten more vocal in seeking Republican help - knowing the nation is angry about bickering - but he challenges the opposition party each time. 'We'll call them out when they say they want to work with us, and we extend a hand and get a fist in return,' he said."

    How's that whole hopey changey thing working out for ya?

    *

    "Asked how the backroom deal-making squared with Mr Obama's pledge to change Washington, [David Axelrod] told CNN: "Trust me, every senator uses whatever leverage they have. That's the way it's been, that's the way it will always be."

    Funny, I don't recall that as Obama's campaign slogan.

    And that's why people are so angry.

    *

    Toyota's approval rating vs. Obama's. Discuss.

    7. "Berserk! was a nice surprise because I thought Crawford had hit bottom in the 1964 film Strait-Jacket, where she plays the exact same bitter, creepy, decrepit old bag of bones looking to bed a handsome guy less than half her age," our very own Scott Buckner writes in What I Watched Last Night. "But I was wrong - way wrong - because in living color, Joan Crawford was 1) was skin-crawlingly creepier than I thought, and 2) proves that becoming a famous and powerful actress doesn't automatically mean your taste in fashion becomes any less hideous. Even worse, Crawford spends the entire film with her hair dyed a shade of copper and painfully swept up into a crown of something resembling a loaf of monkey bread."

    8. The Rolling Stones: Love & Theft.

    9. "I will never understand what it means to be a woman," our very own J.J. Tindall writes. "Sluts, saints and moon cads trying to understand."

    10. Best. Olympics. Ever.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Hopey, changey.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:54 AM | Permalink

    Olympic Moments

    1. Wescott could barely even walk six weeks ago.

    -

    2. At the last second it can all change.

    -

    3. A gold for the good guys.

    -

    4. Difficult and heartbreaking.

    -

    Observations welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:42 AM | Permalink

    The Rolling Stones: Love & Theft

    My musical tastes have never been that varied. I've occupied the white trash "space" for most of my life. First, there was white trash rock: Motley Crue, Metallica, Black Sabbath; then there was white trash rap: Beastie Boys, House of Pain, Cypress Hill.

    It didn't go much further than that for me over the last 30 years until I really started listening - really, really listening - to the Rolling Stones' classics Exile on Main Street and Sticky Fingers. Those albums are, to me, a blueprint of where rock-n-roll started and where it was headed.

    I started running through the Stones catalog and found not-so-subtle bits and pieces of all sorts of other artists. I wanted to find the Stones' influences for myself, and expand my own musical exposure.

    Here, then, are the artists and albums I discovered because of the Rolling Stones:

    1. Bo Diddley. His music was once aptly described as, "the Devil moving furniture." Listen to "Brown Sugar" and you'll find pieces of every Bo Diddley song ever written.

    2. Blazing Away, Marianne Faithfull. My favorite example of a life burnt away by rock-n-roll excess. Twenty years later, "As Tears Go By" is a totally different song.

    3. Howlin' Wolf. The Stones covered "Little Red Rooster" and scored a hit. Watch Howlin' Wolf sing "Smokestack Lightning" and be embarrassed for every white-boy Chicago Blues wannabe.

    -

    4. Chuck Berry. Yes, Keith Richards stole all of his riffs, and for good reason.

    5. Bill Wyman's Bill Wyman. I know that he was a member of the Stones, so this shouldn't really count, but I would have never discovered the spaced-out decadence of this album had I not been poking around looking for anything Stones-related.

    6. Ry Cooder. I'll buy every lick he ever produces as a thank you for his work on "Sister Morphine."

    7. John Lee Hooker. Watch John Lee Hooker and the Stones play "Boogie Chillen" in Atlantic City in 1989. He's the fucking man.

    -

    8. The Tin Man Was a Dreamer, Nicky Hopkins. The best rock-n-roll piano bar none; some parts of Exile on Main Street seem like a Nicky Hopkins album after a listen through this rocker.

    9. Otis Redding. Keith Richards claims to always ask when writing, "what would Otis do?" Become my favorite soul singer is what.

    -

    From the Beachwood jukebox to Obama Radio, we have the playlists you need to be a better citizen of the Rock and Roll Nation.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:03 AM | Permalink

    Chicagoetry: St. Catherine of My Cock

    St. Catherine of My Cock

    I will never understand.
    This is the beginning, and
    the end.

    I will never understand
    what it means to be
    a woman.

    Attending to customers
    with the basest allure, eyes
    flashing

    like airplane lights,
    Cate shattered
    my dimension.

    It was
    devastating
    stuff!

    She was first god
    of the world, first light.
    She is raw power.

    She filled my cup, babe,
    that's for sure. If God is dead,
    something is alive!

    How everywhere she is!
    Warmth, softness, tears, milk and iron.
    She said I began sticking my chest out.

    This will
    always
    be so.

    The skyscrapers
    in the Loop
    are the tallest, the richest.

    The hoi-polloi
    surround them
    north, south and west,

    all huddling toward
    the proscenium
    of the shore.

    Tonight
    the sky-gods are playing!
    Tonight's fare stars the moon

    as Aries the Rapier,
    Moon Cad on the Make,
    Hostage to Destiny!

    The stars are Chorus
    and the clouds Warrior
    Arjuna. The lake

    the stage,
    the river,
    the main aisle.

    I wrought a drama
    for to Galahad
    my Catherine,

    a bribe for mercy,
    a trifle for her majesty's
    amusement about a goddess

    who vaguely resembles . . .
    Catherine?
    She sees. She is pleased.

    I set the stage. She seethes.
    She whispered "I'm nervous!"
    and she was In, baby!

    Catherine the Great,
    Mistress of Pagan Lust,
    Queen Slut of Babylon

    redolent of
    drama, music
    and miracles.

    "You got
    my heart, you got
    my soul.

    You got
    the silver, you got
    the gold."

    All I had left
    were diamonds
    in a deep, dark mine.

    "We are gathered, here,
    today, to celebrate the American Way!
    Let the miracles begin!"

    Penthouse on a Bog-Hole!
    Sky Box on a Gang War!
    And then she said: "I want more."

    Lo! Behold: Hallowed St. Catherine,
    Dew-Faced Convert, Radiant of God
    and refulgent with fecundity!

    WTF?
    GOD?
    OMG!

    Propagate miracles, sure, sure:
    the poet, the physician, the farmer,
    the scientist,

    aldermen,
    liquor distributors,
    online entrepreneurs . . .

    Who knows?! Maybe, some day,
    a Space Genghis for to ruminate
    upon the Martian Ganges!

    Before the vows,
    my cards were, as they say,
    upon the table.

    She held back
    her Ace in the
    Bog-Hole

    until afterwards.
    "You held back.
    You . . . lied."

    "I love you," she said,
    "but I have to
    go . . . "

    And then my mind
    said something my mouth
    did not:

    "Then go: go
    fuck yourself and go
    fuck your 'love.'

    Let 'love'
    transfigure me into
    your stigmatized Saint?!

    Jesus!
    Are you a woman
    or a ruthless, mercenary

    little girl?
    Grow, as they say, UP.
    Or don't, and

    just keep
    telling yourself
    'He didn't love me enough.'

    Enough! Aye,
    as they say,
    there's the rub.

    Quantity
    is it.
    Telling.

    Go. Keep
    going. Surely, some cad
    will cave.

    Go. Keep
    going and keep
    telling.

    Don't tell me what I need.
    And don't tell me who I am.
    I am the night, and the dawn.

    I am dew-light on a fawn.
    I grew up when I was still
    mowing lawns.

    She is cool
    to me now
    and I stay cool.

    I will never understand!
    I could ruminate with the zealotry
    of a convert

    and still end up shit-broke
    on a creek bank - just waitin' there
    for a little more - but

    this is not the end.
    This is the beginning.
    We are gathered, here, today,

    sluts, saints and moon cads,
    trying to understand.
    And it is a miracle.

    This will always be so.

    -

    J.J. Tindall is the Beachwood's poet-in-residence. He welcomes your comments. Chicagoetry is an exclusive Beachwood collection-in-progress.

    -

    More Tindall:

    * Music: MySpace page

    * Fiction: A Hole To China

    * Critical biography at e-poets.net

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:30 AM | Permalink

    What I Watched Last Night: Berserk!

    I was a little concerned when I tuned in to The U for Svengoolie at 9 p.m. last Saturday and ended up with the final hour of The Mask of Zorro, an overwrought 1998 piece of crap with Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins and Catherine Zeta-Jones. It turned out Sven was just bumped back an hour, which gave me the time to interject plenty of silly Zorro commentary as The Great Cornholio and the talking bee on those Zyrtec commercials.

    Sven's feature was the 1967 Joan Crawford star vehicle Berserk!, which is like saying a Yugo is a star vehicle because a major Hollywood star imploding into itself happens to be driving one at the moment. It's also one of the few Svengoolie features where playing The Svengoolie Drinking Game of Death has the real potential to kill you within the first 15 minutes simply because it's a Joan Crawford movie.

    Berserk! was a nice surprise because I thought Crawford had hit bottom in the 1964 film Strait-Jacket, where she plays the exact same bitter, creepy, decrepit old bag of bones looking to bed a handsome guy less than half her age. But I was wrong - way wrong - because in living color, Joan Crawford was 1) was skin-crawlingly creepier than I thought, and 2) proves that becoming a famous and powerful actress doesn't automatically mean your taste in fashion becomes any less hideous. Even worse, Crawford spends the entire film with her hair dyed a shade of copper and painfully swept up into a crown of something resembling a loaf of monkey bread.

    Had the hairdo been cinched any tighter, her skull would have burst through its skin.

    The observant might notice that in every scene where Crawford has a close-up, there's always a long shadow cast across her face as if someone was messing with the lighting guy by holding up an I-beam. You'll also see shadows from people off-camera moving around on background walls. At any rate, I'm pretty sure Berserk! represented a major case of consternation for the film's director and the poor sap who got stuck having to edit this piece of work.

    Berserk! finds Joan playing Monica Rivers, a woman who has inherited The Great Rivers Circus from her dead husband. As the circus goes about its business of touring the British countryside, it becomes clear that her husband was no tightwad. The help travels in well-apportioned trailers called caravans (Monica's stretches from here to Saskatchewan), and the meals are cooked and served by actual chefs. The performers seem to be well-paid, well-fed, and fairly well-dressed, and the acts extend to the usual assortment of family-friendly fare such as elephants able to navigate a line of lying-down showgirls without squishing their heads, big prancing poodles, and lions in need of taming. The fact that Berserk! was filmed on location at England's Billy Smart's Circus was probably why the place didn't have the same air as the traveling white-trash deathtrap carnivals we're used to here in the United States, but still. The place is unmistakably first-class all the way, even with some cold bitch running the show.

    The Great Rivers Circus would be an even-more awesome place to work if people Monica takes a dislike to didn't keep showing up dead in some horrific manner. The first to go is the high-wire walker (hung from the neck when the wire snaps during a performance), followed by her business partner who wants out (spike through the head), and a magician's assistant-in-the-box who gets power-sawed in half and leaves the cleanest crime scene in British history. Circus people ending up dead seems to be good business in England, since people really start packing the stands soon afterward. This ultimately catches the attention of a Scotland Yard detective, who is dispatched to travel with the circus and interview everyone half to death until he solves the whole gruesome mess.

    As circuses go, though, Berserk! really doesn't live up to the same freak show level it could have for being a low-budget work. Sure, there's a really skinny guy, a strongman, a midget, and a questionably-bearded lady, but it doesn't come remotely close to the bad 1932 Tod Browning cult feature Freaks, which starred some of America's most famous real-life sideshow personalities.

    As in Strait-Jacket, the suspicion falls directly on Crawford's character. And why not? Who better to look to first than a woman whose icy stare could stop clocks, charging rhinos, and your beating heart dead in their tracks? Just as likewise, though, there's the mysterious daughter. Here it's Angela, a troublesome blondie who suddenly pops up roughly three-quarters into the film after being expelled from boarding school and is put to work as the knife-thrower's assistant. Foreshadowing like this wasn't invented for nothing, so it comes as no surprise when replacement high-wire walker The Magnificent Hawkins (Monica's young lover, who blackmailed her out of a hunk of the business earlier on) gets a knife in the back and ends up impaled on a bed of bayonet spikes 60 feet below during his act. Angela blows the Scotland Yard detective's case wide open by screaming at her mother, "I had to kill him! I had to kill them all! I had to destroy your circus! It murdered my father and now it's taking you away from me! KILL KILL KILL, that's all I feel inside me! . . . I've got to kill you!"

    How Angela figured that fleeing the tent only to get vaporized by a bolt of lightning was a good way to kill her mother - as opposed to flinging the big knife she's holding into her mother's chest from several feet away when she had the chance - was beyond me, but by this time I had given up on expecting anything in this movie to make too much sense. And there's plenty about it that doesn't.

    Still, it's a campy-fun romp to watch and snicker to if you're one of those people with the ability to suspend your sense of disbelief or don't take your continuity too seriously.

    -

    Visit the What I Watched Last Night archives and see what else we've been watching. Submissions welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:26 AM | Permalink

    February 15, 2010

    The [Monday] Papers

    Don't you think it's time to make our elected officials full-time employees prohibited from outside employment?

    Or maybe we should just ban the Burke family from elected office.

    Not only is Ald. Fast Eddie Burke a lawyer on the side who represents clients before the county tax appeals board, but his brother Dan is a state legislator who is a - wait for it - lobbyist - on the side. (Ed Burke also slates judges for the Democratic party while his wife was scammed into a seat on the state supreme court, but let's set that aside for today.)

    "[Dan] Burke, 58, is one of several elected officials in the Chicago area who also work as lobbyists," the Sun-Times and the Better Government Association report.

    And that's not all.

    Burke also collects a $68,828 annual pension from the City of Chicago where he was once deputy city clerk.

    Way to work the system, Dan!

    You're a real role model for the kids.

    Jason The Plummer
    How long until the pressure builds on GOP lieutenant governor nominee Jason Plummer to drop off the ballot just like Dem counterpart Scott Lee Cohen?

    "Plummer highlights his service as a Navy intelligence officer, but he received his commission just last September and has yet to undergo training," the Tribune reported over the weekend.

    "He touts his creation and operation of a wireless Internet provider while still a college undergrad, yet public records show it was his father who owned the firm and Plummer was never listed as an officer.

    "He has referenced his experience working for former U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald and a conservative think tank, but doesn't always mention both jobs were internships.

    "Plummer also had a short stint as Madison County Republican chairman during which he oversaw the opening of a GOP office in a strip mall owned by one of his family's businesses, which received more than $13,000 in rent."

    In other words, Plummer, who recently said he is qualified to be governor despite being just 27 and having virtually no experience doing much of anything, is a poser.

    "A 2005 graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Plummer often boasts to campaign audiences that he launched and personally ran Celerity Inc., a downstate wireless Internet provider, while still an undergrad majoring in finance. But state records show Plummer has never been listed as an officer of Celerity, which was incorporated by his father.

    "'I assure you I owned a big portion of that company,' Plummer said. 'It was my idea. I was very actively involved in that.' Plummer said he was a vice president of the firm, but corporate records filed with the state show a different person serving as a vice-president of Celerity.

    "In late January, Plummer told a suburban rally that he still ran Celerity. But on Friday he told the Tribune he sold it last August or September. State records show no record of a sale."

    That's not all.

    "Shortly after Plummer launched his bid for first public office, his campaign produced a resume that noted he had 'served internships' with Fitzgerald and with the conservative Heritage Foundation. By December, the official resume had been updated and the reference to internships removed.

    'Instead, it said that he 'served under' the senator and 'with' the Heritage Foundation. In a Chicago radio interview last month, Plummer described his role at the foundation as acting as 'the go-between between the Heritage Foundation and Congress and the Senate and the administration.'

    "Foundation official Brian Darling said Plummer's description of his role was accurate, but also explained that interns like Plummer spend a lot of their time 'dragging around food for meetings and making copies.'"

    Which qualifies Plummer for the lieutenant governorship, but not quite the state's top job.

    Another fine mess.

    Going Green
    Carol Marin noted on Sunday that Green Party gubernatorial candidate Rich Whitney notched 10.4 percent of the vote last time around. In Winnebago County, where Rockford is based, he got 24 percent.

    *

    By the way, the Green Party's lieutenant governor candidate is Don W. Crawford.

    Trib Diet
    The Tribune's width is receding faster than the polar ice caps.

    There's something to be said for a product exuding confidence. Instead, we have newspapers that are now literally disappearing before our eyes.

    The Prison Chief's Past
    When Gov. Pat Quinn named the now-embattled Michael Randle the director of the Illinois Department of Corrections in May, he said his administration had "looked all over the country" and found "the best of the best."

    But at the time Quinn hired Randle, "the best of the best" was under investigation by Ohio's inspector general for allegedly conducting business in a very Chicago way.

    A look back at what the inspector general found.

    Olympic Moments
    Blowouts and blowhards.

    Pilsen's Honky Tonk BBQ
    Rock 'n' roll ribs.

    All The Presidents' Children's Books
    Our very own Cate Plys takes a look at Slate.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Presidential.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:01 AM | Permalink

    The Prison Chief's Past

    When Gov. Pat Quinn named Michael Randle the director of the Illinois Department of Corrections in May, he said his administration had "looked all over the country" and found "the best of the best."

    But at the time Quinn hired Randle, "the best of the best" was under investigation by Ohio's inspector general for allegedly conducting business in a very Chicago way. (Did I mention that Randle is originally from Chicago?) That investigation was completed last July, but virtually no one in Illinois paid attention to it. Let's take a look.

    *

    The investigation was spurred by this TV report about a sweetheart deal to sell prisoner-made furniture at a discount to a frat brother of Randle's.

    Ohio's inspector general concluded that Randle had acted improperly, but uncovered a far more serious deal that Randle steered to his old college buddy.

    "It smells of sweetheart deals, sweetheart relationships," Henry Eckhart of Common Cause told WBNS-10TV. "It smells of secrecy, of cover up, of all that."

    Randle had no comment back then on the inspector general's conclusions; by that time was already Pat Quinn's new prisons chief.

    You can find the Ohio inspector general's report here. We'll provide the executive summary and some other highlights.

    *

    DATE OF REPORT: July 29, 2009

    EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

    On March 20, 2009, WBNS 10TV published an article on their website written by a reporter who had investigated a business relationship between the Ohio Penal Industries ("OPI"), a section of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction ("ODRC"), and KBK Enterprises.

    The article implied the business relationship evolved from a personal friendship between Keith Key, President of KBK Enterprises, and ODRC Assistant Director Michael Randle, and related that the two had been fraternity brothers while attending The Ohio State University.

    The article also claimed that KBK Enterprises was able to purchase OPI products at OPI's net cost for materials and labor, a special pricing arrangement not available to state agencies.

    Our investigation confirmed the relationship between Key and Randle. We did not find that Randle had a significant role in the negotiations of the agreement between OPI and KBK Enterprises. However, we did find that Randle had some minor involvement in the negotiation process and the administration of the agreement following its execution.

    By Randle's own admission, we learned that he had never divulged his friendship with Key to ODRC Director Terry Collins prior to OPI entering into the business agreement with KBK Enterprises. We found an appearance of impropriety on the part of Randle for his failure to make Director Collins aware of his personal relationship with Key.

    During our investigation, we identified another business transaction between ODRC and KBK Enterprises. In this instance, Randle's involvement was more substantial.

    In 2004, then Deputy Director Randle chaired the Corrections Technology Committee. Following a presentation by Elmo-Tech, a company that manufactures electronic monitoring devices and systems, it was decided to purchase a group monitoring unit, which is used to monitor inmates' movements while on a work detail outside of an institution. Randle provided Keith Key's name to the Elmo-Tech representative as a possible distributor for Elmo-Tech products.

    Key was subsequently contacted by the representative and entered into a distributorship agreement with the company.

    Key later submitted a proposal to ODRC, addressed to Randle, for eight of the group monitoring unit packages at a total cost of $120,000.00. As Elmo-Tech was the sole manufacturer for this unit, it was necessary to obtain documentation confirming them as a sole source vendor and identify KBK Enterprises as the only distributor for Elmo-Tech in the state of Ohio.

    After doing that, ODRC then submitted a request for a "Waiver of Competitive Selection" to the Ohio Controlling Board. In his interview, Randle stated he believes he may have personally testified in front of the Ohio Controlling Board when requesting this waiver. On December 6, 2004, the waiver was granted and the eight packages were purchased from KBK Enterprises. We learned that the cost of the eight packages from Elmo-Tech to KBK Enterprises was $80,000.00.

    As with later dealings between KBK Enterprises and OPI, Randle did not notify then Director Wilkinson, or any of his other superiors, of his friendship with Key prior or subsequent to the purchase of the group monitoring unit. ODRC could have purchased the units directly from the company. It is unknown what the actual cost would have been, as there were never any negotiations concerning a direct purchase.

    However, Elmo-Tech felt certain it would have been at a lesser cost than the 50 percent markup ODRC paid to KBK Enterprises.

    Randle's lack of transparency about his friendship with Key, the fact that he provided Key's name to Elmo-Tech and the fact that ODRC could have saved a significant amount of money by buying the group monitoring unit direct from Elmo-Tech are the primary reasons we conclude that acts of wrongdoing occurred in this instance.

    Finally, we found the agreement between OPI and KBK Enterprises to be more involved than what was reported in the initial newspaper article. A key component of the agreement was a profit sharing arrangement between OPI and KBK Enterprises based on the resale price of OPI products sold by KBK Enterprises' subsidiary, Key Industries.

    The terms for this arrangement were not clearly defined within the body of the agreement. These terms were spelled out in a memorandum from KBK Enterprises to OPI. Our opinion is that this key issue should have been included in the body of the agreement in order to prevent any disputes between the two entities at a later date.

    *

    OPI/KBK Enterprises Background

    Sometime in the summer of 2005, KBK Enterprises approached ODRC with a re-entry plan to ease the transition of inmates back into society upon their release from incarceration. The plan was quite involved, and included work programs, mentorships and housing for former inmates. This plan proved to be too large and complicated for the two parties to bring to fruition.

    Subsequently, the idea was tabled and other avenues for a working relationship between ODRC and KBK Enterprises were explored. Ultimately, KBK Enterprises was directed to former OPI Chief Robin Knab. Knab had been party to some of the discussions and meetings involving the re-entry program and was familiar with the ideas presented by KBK Enterprises.

    In April, 2007, a Memorandum of Understanding ("MOU") was executed by OPI and KBK Enterprises. This MOU was an agreement between KBK Enterprises and OPI whereby KBK Enterprises would purchase OPI products and then resell these products to the private sector.

    In turn, KBK Enterprises was to share a portion of the profit with OPI.

    With this MOU, Key Industries, a subsidiary of KBK Enterprises, was formed and articles of organization were filed with the Secretary of State. The MOU was meant to be a precursor for a formal contract between OPI and Key Industries. However, the two parties could not come to terms and a contract was never executed.

    With the release of the news article, the personal relationship between Randle and Key became public. Questions arose as to whether or not this relationship influenced the agreement between KBK Enterprises and OPI.

    Allegation: A personal relationship between ODRC Assistant Director Michael Randle and Keith Key influenced a business agreement between ODRC/OPI and KBK Enterprises.

    Michael Randle began working for ODRC in 1990 when he was hired as a Case Manager. Over the years he worked at various institutions and held several positions, including Deputy Warden, Warden and Deputy Director. In April, 2006, Randle was appointed the Assistant Director of ODRC. As the Assistant Director, Randle was second in charge and oversaw the administration and operation of the entire agency. Within the agency, he reported only to ODRC Director Terry Collins.

    Prior to his employment with ODRC, Randle attended The Ohio State University where he obtained a bachelor's degree in criminology. He continued his education and received a master's degree in business administration from Ashland University.

    In 1986, while attending OSU, Randle joined the Omega Psi Phi fraternity where he met Keith Key. Key had also pledged the Omega Psi Phi fraternity and the two lived in the same fraternity house for approximately a year. In his interview, Randle told our office he considers Key a friend, but their contact over the years had been sporadic.

    Randle stated that some time around 2006, his contact with Key, along with other fraternity brothers, became more frequent. They began socializing more often and vacationed together as a group. Key's recollection of the history of his friendship with Randle confirms much of what Randle told us. Key believes, however, that their contact became more frequent some time in 2004.

    In 2005, Key said he was approached by an ODRC employee about speaking at a Black History Month event at the Southeastern Correctional Facility in Lancaster, Ohio. Key accepted the invitation and spoke at the event. According to Key, he became interested in ODRC re-entry programs following this event. Key began conversations with ODRC, during which he discussed his ideas and plans for a re-entry program. These discussions continued, and Key said he was asked to speak at a re-entry program event held at the Mansfield Correctional Facility in October, 2005.

    There, Key met Ed Rhine, Deputy Director of Policy and Offender Re-Entry. Discussions and meetings between Key, Rhine and others, over Key's plan, continued throughout the remainder of 2005 and in 2006. According to those interviewed, Randle was only an occasional participant in these discussions and meetings.

    In late 2006, it became apparent the proposed re-entry program, which had become a joint effort between KBK Enterprises and ODRC, was not possible. In light of this, ODRC and KBK Enterprises began exploring other options where KBK Enterprises could be involved in some type of re-entry program for former inmates.

    Ultimately, KBK Enterprises was put in touch with OPI and entered into an agreement where KBK Enterprises, now operating through its subsidiary, Key Industries, would purchase OPI products at cost and then resell the items. A portion of the profit from the resale would be shared with OPI.

    In order to determine if Randle and Key's personal relationship had any bearing on this business arrangement, we interviewed OPI employees, as well as others at ODRC and Key Industries. We also examined records and memos, as well as e-mails and invoices sent between OPI and Key Industries.

    We learned from our interviews with ODRC employees that Randle's role in the relationship between OPI and Key Industries was minimal. He would occasionally receive complaints from Key Industries and forward them to OPI to be resolved, but otherwise, he had no part in the day-to-day operations.

    We found one e-mail in which Randle provided suggestions for the business agreement, but no other correspondence of this type from Randle was found. E-mails written and received by others indicated that Randle was made aware of the ongoing negotiations and would occasionally have input or questions. None of those interviewed felt any undue pressure from Randle or the Director's Office to accommodate Key Industries or any of its employees.

    One person interviewed felt it was unusual that when Key Industries had an issue, they would contact Randle or someone else at the Director's Office seeking resolution, while other vendors would usually contact OPI directly with their concerns.

    Normally, these calls from Key Industries were followed by a phone call to OPI seeking information about the problem. All of those interviewed said that Randle and the Director's Office would support OPI's position in these matters.

    We also learned from our interviews with both ODRC and Key Industries employees that the business relationship between the two entities was difficult and frustrating. This subsequently led to problems in negotiating the terms of a future contract. And these difficulties led to the February 5, 2009 termination of the April, 2007 agreement prior to its expiration.

    We found, however, that Randle, by his own admission, did not notify Director Collins, or anyone else at ODRC, of his personal relationship with Key prior to the release of the
    newspaper article. Even though it was minimal, Randle had some involvement in the business agreement between OPI and KBK Enterprises.

    As the Assistant Director of the agency, Randle should have realized the necessity of fully disclosing his personal relationship with Key to Director Collins prior to ODRC entering into any business agreements with Key's companies. He should have recused himself from any involvement in the business agreement between OPI and KBK Enterprises.

    Accordingly, we found an appearance of impropriety on the part of Assistant Director Randle in this instance.

    *

    Prior Dealings Between ODRC and KBK Enterprises

    During our investigation, we learned of a prior business deal involving ODRC and KBK Enterprises.

    In 2004, while serving as Deputy Director of Administration and as the Chair for the Corrections Technology Committee, Randle attended a presentation by Elmo-Tech. Elmo-Tech is, among other things, a manufacturer of electronic monitoring devices and systems that can be used by correctional departments and facilities to track the movements of inmates.

    At this particular presentation, a group monitoring unit was marketed. At the end of the presentation, Randle said he expressed an interest in this unit to the Elmo-Tech representative. Discussion ensued and, according to Randle, the Elmo-Tech representative indicated his company's desire to work with an Ohio company to sell their products.

    Up to this point, Elmo-Tech, a company based in Israel, had no formal operations center in the United States but did have representatives and distributors working throughout the
    country.

    Randle said he provided the names of several Ohio companies, including KBK Enterprises, to the Elmo-Tech representative. Randle asserted the company names he provided were minority-owned businesses and that it was the desire of ODRC to conduct more business with minority-owned companies. Randle also said he provided the Elmo-Tech representative with the Ohio Department of Administrative Services contact information for a possible direct purchase from Elmo-Tech.

    According to our discussions with the Elmo-Tech representative, however, he only recalled being provided the name of Keith Key, the owner of KBK Enterprises. He also expressed that his company was indifferent to dealing with ODRC through another Ohio company.

    However, he felt that since Key's name was provided by Randle, this would be the way for his company to do business with ODRC.

    Subsequent to this presentation, Elmo-Tech contacted Key and entered into a distributorship agreement with KBK Enterprises, thereby making KBK Enterprises the sole distributor for the Elmo-Tech group monitoring unit in Ohio. As such, any future purchases of the unit would have to be transacted through KBK Enterprises.

    Some time after signing the distributor contract, Key sent a proposal for the purchase of eight packages of the group monitoring unit to ODRC and addressed the undated document to Randle. Key's proposal included a breakdown of costs for the components of the unit and reflected a "one time" overall discount of $15,120.00.

    After this discount, the total for the eight complete packages included in the proposal was reduced to $120,000.00.

    After receiving a letter verifying the group monitoring unit to be a sole source product manufactured by Elmo-Tech, the process for obtaining a "Waiver of Competitive Selection" from the Ohio Controlling Board ("Controlling Board") was begun.

    In the request submitted to the Controlling Board (Exhibit D), KBK Enterprises was identified as "the only authorized dealer for Elmo-Tech products in Ohio." During an interview, Randle stated he "may have even gone to the board on this" referring to testifying in front of the Controlling Board. He said it was not unusual for him to appear in front of the The Ohio Controlling Board is authorized and governed by Chapter 127 of the Ohio Revised Code. Its primary duties are the transferring of appropriation authority between line items within an agency and granting waivers of competitive selection.

    On December 6, 2004, the Controlling Board approved the waiver which allowed ODRC to purchase the group monitoring units from KBK Enterprises.

    In our conversations with two Elmo-Tech representatives, we were assured that ODRC could have purchased the group monitoring units directly from Elmo-Tech. When questioned, both believed KBK Enterprises purchased the eight packages of the unit from their company for around $80,000.00.

    While neither Elmo-Tech representative could tell us how much the savings would have been had the units been purchased directly from the company, we were told it would have cost less for ODRC to purchase the units direct rather than through a third party where the markup was $40,000.00. From documents we later received from Elmo-Tech, we know that the cost of the equipment to KBK Enterprises was $80,000.00.

    According to an itemized pricing sheet we also received from the company, the cost of their product included two days of training. When interviewed, both Key and Randle implied that the price of the group monitoring unit charged to ODRC was due in part to the cost of training. However, this cost was already incorporated into the cost of the product sold to KBK Enterprises. And, in the itemized invoice from KBK Enterprises to ODRC, there was no notation of training as a separate cost or that training was included as part of the overall price of the unit. Finally, the proposal memo from Key to Randle clearly states that two days of training would be provided at no cost for the initial order.

    Overall, ODRC purchased the eight packages of the group monitoring unit at a 50% higher cost than it was sold to KBK Enterprises. Randle stated in his interview that had he known the cost of the unit if acquired from Elmo-Tech through a direct purchase, then ODRC would have dealt directly with the company.

    In this instance, as with the other business arrangement between OPI and KBK Enterprises, Randle did not notify his superiors of the personal friendship that existed between him and Key. When questioned about whether or not he notified then Director Reginald Wilkinson, Randle said he had not. He stated he "was functioning in the capacity of a Deputy Director for the Department of Corrections" and that he did not feel it was an issue.

    Based on our investigation, it was clear that had Randle or ODRC explored the option of purchasing the group monitoring units directly from Elmo-Tech, the agency would have realized a substantial cost savings. Further, Randle's actions were improper when he provided the name of Keith Key to the Elmo-Tech representative and then subsequently received a proposal from Key that was addressed to him alone. This proposal ultimately resulted in the requesting and granting of a waiver of competitive selection from the Controlling Board. Finally, Randle failed to divulge to his superiors the friendship that existed between him and Key prior and subsequent to the business transaction between ODRC and Key's company, KBK Enterprises.

    Accordingly, we found reasonable cause to believe that wrongful acts or omissions occurred in this instance.

    The ODRC/OPI and KBK Enterprises Agreement

    The initial news article about the agreement between OPI and KBK Enterprises, dated March 20, 2009, would have the reader believe that only KBK Enterprises was profiting from the sale of the OPI products. This was simply not the case. Part of the agreement between OPI and KBK Enterprises was the previously-mentioned profit sharing arrangement. A follow-up article published in The Columbus Dispatch, a sister affiliate of WBNS 10TV, dated March 31, 2009, written by the same reporter, addressed the issue of the profit sharing arrangement, as well as the termination of the agreement between OPI and KBK Enterprises.

    We reviewed the MOU executed between OPI and KBK Enterprises. We also interviewed key players who negotiated the terms of the MOU and those who worked within the parameters of the agreement following its execution. We found the MOU document to be standard in form with all but one of the terms clearly spelled out. The profit sharing agreement between OPI and KBK Enterprises, which was somewhat unorthodox, was not addressed within the body of the MOU.

    The terms for this arrangement were later set out in a memo from Keith Key to former OPI Chief Robin Knab, both of whom signed the MOU. We also found an e-mail where Key Industries wanted to change the terms for this arrangement to their benefit. This was found to be unacceptable by OPI, and the terms of original memo stayed in place.

    We learned that the desire to enter into this agreement with KBK Enterprises was, in part, due to the company's ability to do business with OSU. At one point a letter, specifically for the university, was drafted identifying Key Industries as being involved in a business arrangement with OPI and that the purchase of OPI products should go through Key Industries.

    We received a copy of this letter from the university. No one at OPI we spoke with knew of this letter which caused us to initially question its veracity. We were later able to verify the letter's authenticity and determined that it was drafted by Key Industries and forwarded by Keith Key to Randle for Director Collins' signature.

    Prior to this, OPI had little involvement with OSU, although they desired the business the university could provide. In this instance, Key Industries, in effect, "opened the door" for OPI to do business with OSU. This subsequently led to a large order to purchase OPI furnishings for the university through Key Industries. The order is to be delivered in 2010. However, since the termination of the April, 2007 agreement, Key Industries will not realize any pricing benefit other than a quantity discount which would be offered to any other private party or state agency based on the number of items purchased.

    From the onset of our investigation, it was clear the business relationship between OPI and Key Industries was frustrating on both sides. We learned from OPI employees that problems between the two entities began almost immediately. Much of the controversy centered on claims that Key Industries did not understand how OPI operated. The same concerns were voiced by Key Industries, which held the belief that OPI had difficulty understanding private sector business operations. OPI claimed they never knew what the end user, who purchased the OPI products sold by Key Industries, was actually paying for the items.

    By contrast, we were informed by those employed by Key Industries that their company was more than willing to divulge the sales price of the items but they were never asked by anyone from OPI. In the end, Key Industries provided an accounting to OPI of the final price of the items they sold. From this, OPI was able to calculate the amount they felt they were owed from the profit sharing arrangement. The total business transacted between OPI and Key Industries amounted to just over $11,000.00. It was OPI's belief that they were owed $3,234.86 in profit margin share. After some discussion between OPI and Key Industries, Keith Key paid the amount requested and so ended the agreement between the two.

    A memo dated October 24, 2007, and signed by Director Collins, encouraged private vendors and non-state agencies to do business with Key Industries when purchasing OPI
    products. It lauded the partnership between OPI and Key Industries as an example of a private company and a component of state government working together and exhibiting the ability to "think outside the box."

    And, while we find no criticism with this thought process, we do have concerns with the MOU not clearly defining the terms for the profit sharing arrangement. While we believe this key issue should have found a place within the wording of the actual MOU document, we do not feel this oversight rises to the level of a wrongful act.

    Accordingly, we did not find reasonable cause to believe a wrongful act occurred in this instance.

    CONCLUSION

    One would believe, from the initial news article which spurred this investigation, that KBK Enterprises was the sole beneficiary of an agreement with OPI, and that the business relationship was the result of the personal friendship between ODRC Assistant Director Randle and Keith Key. We determined that this friendship had a minimal role in the OPI/KBK Enterprises business relationship. Nonetheless, Randle failed to disclose the friendship to his superior. As the Assistant Director, he should have known the necessity of notifying Director Collins of his friendship with Key, and he should have had no involvement in any aspect of formulating the business agreement.

    OPI suffered no loss as a result of this business relationship. OPI was paid its production cost and, eventually, a portion of the profits from the resale of products sold to KBK Enterprises' subsidiary, Key Industries.

    It appears this friendship between Randle and Key had a much more substantial role in arranging a separate business deal between ODRC and KBK Enterprises. In that instance, Randle not only provided Key's name to an Elmo-Tech representative, but also assisted in obtaining a waiver from the Controlling Board so ODRC could purchase a product through Key's company.

    While there are no laws expressly prohibiting a state employee from doing this, provided the employee receives no personal benefit from the purchase, the referral and subsequent purchase clearly give the appearance of impropriety.

    We found no evidence to indicate Randle received any personal benefit from the purchase of the group monitoring units from KBK Enterprises.

    However, Randle failed to notify his superiors of the friendship that existed between him and Key. The appearance of impropriety in this instance is enhanced by the fact that ODRC could have purchased the product directly from Elmo-Tech at a lesser cost, thereby saving the state money.

    Finally, we believe any key component in a business agreement should be clearly spelled out in the written documentation of the agreement. That was not the case in the MOU between OPI and KBK Enterprises. The profit sharing arrangement was not included in the actual document. In the long run, this led to problems with OPI collecting its share of profits from Key Industries.

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    Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:12 AM | Permalink

    SportsMonday: Olympic Moments

    Greetings from Olympics Television Central. What follows are my informal, post-tragedy impressions of the competitive goings-on in Vancouver (great town, terrible Olympic location - generally not a good idea to have the winter games on the edge of a rain forest, even if it is a temperate, northern Pacific Coast rain forest) so far.

    At least on Saturday and Sunday, the artificial snow held up against the rain (with some help from underground plastic tubes stuffed with dry ice), heavy fog never quite materialized and, other than downhill skiing, the events proceeded reasonably smoothly.

    As for the one event that is designed to be anything but smooth, well, I'm glad the moguls are over. There were the three American medals in two (men's and women's) races. The USA would do well to repeat that medal rate in just about any other specific event.

    But did anyone's knees and back not feel a bit worse for wear after watching skier after skier pounding through - what was it - about a hundred vicious little hills per run? Yikes. If I'd watched much more I was going to need arthroscopic surgery on something.

    Yes, yes, yes it is immature to focus too much on the medal count. But we're talking about athletes zipping around as quickly as they can on snow and ice when they aren't doing cool tricks high overhead. In other words, this isn't about maturity.

    So far we've enjoyed the thrill of a South Korean short-track speed skater trying an incredibly ill-advised late pass on a teammate, selfishly taking him out and ensuring that rather than being shut out, the U.S. would grab two medals in the 1,500. But we've also suffered through the agony of the Germans grabbing gold and silver in the luge. Let's go non-Teutonic sliders! We need your help to ensure the Germans don't slip past us into the top spot in the medals table like they did in 2006.

    I spent far too much time watching biathlon coverage Sunday afternoon. The guy announcer Al Trautwig trumpeted as a medal hope for the U.S. finished 47th but that wasn't the worst of it. The worst was the international video feed rarely matching up with what Trautwig and his partner were talking about and the two of them refusing to acknowledge that fact nearly as frequently as they should have.

    And how about next time, you have some footage of the American athletes from previous biathlon competitions this winter? Then if you have an unexpected event like young American Jeremy Teela taking a shocking ninth (he was not expected to get anywhere near the top 10), you can at least show us some tape of him competing in another event?

    As my 10-year-old son pointed out, how weird was it to go from the shot of one of the American male pair figure skaters locked in a dramatic virtual embrace with his partner to a shot of his wife in the stands? And then there was the news that they had a five-month-old baby. That was just uncomfortable. They won't be contending for a medal after finishing 10th though so no biggie.

    The U.S. women's hockey team beat China 12-1. But that was nothing compared to host Canada knocking off Slovakia 18-0. Even though there are more than a dozen countries willing to send out bodies in sweaters in these competitions, there are only four countries where women really play hockey. Let's just go with those four next time, play some semi's, a third-place game and a final and call it an Olympic tourney.

    More next week including tons more detailed hockey-related observations (unless the U.S. teams get thumped), a long rumination on the majesty of curling (again, it would help if the good ol' red, white and blue squads were at least in contention for a bronze) and what I'm sure will be tons of speed skating and real skiing. Unless the rain forest prevails.

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    Mogul Gold

    -

    Ryan T.'s Day Three Highlights

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    Jim "Coach" Coffman rounds up the sports weekend in this space every Monday. He welcomes your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:27 AM | Permalink

    Bloodshot Briefing: Honky Tonk BBQ

    Willie Wagner spends so much time thinking about work and actually working these days, he barely carved out enough time to talk last week. Forgive him for being busy and not concerning himself with all else besides food, family and friends.

    The Freeport, Ill., native's busy making some of the best BBQ this side of . . . well, the world. Wagner took third place a couple of years back for his pulled pork sandwich at a Memphis competition.

    After working in the corporate world and cooking as a hobby, Wagner, the oldest of 11 children, ditched the suit and tie for full-time smoky smells and opened up Honky Tonk BBQ in
    Pilsen. The restaurant's been featured on Check, Please! and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

    But Wagner's also has a taste for good music. Honky Tonk catered last summer's Bloodshot Records' party at the Hideout and routinely features acts such as Fulton County Line. So, Beachwood Music figured why not peek behind these curtains and reveal little more.

    Beachwood Music: The obvious question is, how did you find your way to food?

    Wagner: I have hosted barbecue parties for 25 years for at least once a week. I like to get friends together and cook barbecue and have a good time. I've done it on a condo rooftop and on a boat. For 12 years, every Thursday night we would barbecue on the shore of Lake Michigan.

    Beachwood Music: Did that lead you to opening up a restaurant?

    Wagner: I was always interested in people, music and food. The only way to open up a live music venue, in Pilsen, is to have a restaurant. Otherwise, you can't.

    Beachwood Music: Why Pilsen?

    Wagner: I married a girl who's been here 23 years. Pilsen's the most livable neighborhood in Chicago. I can park my car within a block of where I live. I can get a gallon of milk, a stick of butter or a six-pack of beer within 40 yards of where I live. You also have access to the Stevenson, the Ryan, the Kennedy and the Ike in like three or four minutes. Try doing that in Lincoln Park. Pilsen's the center of the universe. It's easier to live here than any other neighborhood.

    Beachwood Music: You should work for Pilsen's Chamber of Commerce.

    Wagner: It's a great neighborhood, if you like families and your neighbors. You know everybody on your block. It's not like living in a high-rise and not knowing your next-door neighbor. All the kids are playing with all the other kids.

    Beachwood Music: Tell me about your connection to Bloodshot Records.

    Wagner: I've been in Chicago since 1985. I've been a barfly at the Kingston Mines, Park West, Wise Fools Pub, Lounge Ax, Metro, Riviera, Green Mill, Wild Hare. I haven't missed a good live show yet.

    I've seen the Smashing Pumpkins five times, and Veruca Salt. I've been going out in Chicago for 25 years, and you're bound to see a Bloodshot band.

    Beachwood Music: You told me you're heading down to South by Southwest this year. You cooking or just enjoying the surroundings?

    Wagner: This will be about the eighth time I've attended. I've gone since 1992. We eat barbecue, swim in the creek and run around town. We see 45 bands in the middle of winter. Live music is the centerpiece.

    I am more running around the town than cooking. But I will be eating my way through Lockhart. Touring and tasting.

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    Matt Harness brings you his Bloodshot Briefing every Friday, except when it appears on Monday like today. He welcomes your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:37 AM | Permalink

    February 13, 2010

    The Weekend Desk Report

    Much like Pete Townshend's gut, we've been caught up in the windmill of this week's major stories.

    Market Update
    Despite blustery proclamations to the contrary, analysts warn the Human Spirit may still take a pounding in the coming weeks.

    Blag-on, Crazy Diamond
    More than a year after being barred from public office for life, former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is working as hard as ever for his erstwhile electorate. If, of course, by "working as hard," you mean vomiting taxpayer money in the direction vanity projects and leaving everyone else to clean up the colossal mess.

    Fat Twos-day
    In other news, it's time to pack in that New Year's resolution. Chances are you're destined to fail anyway.

    Short Stop
    After announcing his retirement this week, former White Sox great Frank Thomas said he was "proud and honored" the team has decided to retire his number 35 jersey. After all, chances are it'll be too big for Omar Vizquel to swipe anyway.

    In Other News . . .
    Finally this week, scientists have once again managed to prove duh, more duh and fucking duh.

    Posted by Natasha Julius at 10:33 AM | Permalink

    February 12, 2010

    The [Friday] Papers

    "House Speaker Michael Madigan swatted down a Republican effort Thursday to uncork stalled ethics legislation that would weaken his grip on power and curtail campaign donations from political parties and other legislative leaders," the Sun-Times reports.

    Huh, that's funny. Just a few days ago Madigan was calling Republicans "non-participating do-nothings."

    *

    Not that the ethics legislation was a partisan Republican package.

    "That proposal, favored by government watchdogs and a reform commission appointed by Gov. Quinn, was left out of an ethics package passed last year."

    The Daley Show
    Trib headline: "Daley Hopes To Shift More Cops To Beats."

    Or look good "trying."

    *

    "Mayor Daley on Thursday ordered a 'comprehensive management review' of the Chicago Police Department to make certain 'every dollar possible' of its $1.2 billion a year budget is spent fighting crime," the Sun-Times reports.

    "Twenty years ago, Daley spent more than $1 million on a police consulting study, only to ignore Booz Allen & Hamilton's most dramatic recommendations."

    *

    Maybe that $1 million should have just been spent on jobs.

    *

    Apparently the Civic Consulting Alliance of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago will perform the study pro bono.

    How very civic of the Commercial Club.

    *

    "On Thursday, the mayor made it clear that station closings would not be on the table in the new study - not after the city has spent tens of millions of dollars in recent years replacing many district stations.'

    Crazy Idea: Maybe the study should have come before spending tens of millions of dollars on new stations.

    *

    "New police facilities become community anchors," Daley said.

    Really?

    Maybe so in neighborhoods I am not familiar with, but I always thought community anchors were parks, fieldhouses, schools, diners, bars, and art spaces. Not cop shops.

    *

    I can't help but wonder if this move - along with the mayor's belated attempt to do something about his crappy compliance office - is at attempt to shore up Daley's sinking approval ratings and/or even the result of some polling ahead of a re-election campaign.


    *

    You know what would get Daley re-elected by a landslide? Ripping up the parking meter deal.

    Dis and Dat
    Our very own George Ofman on Derrick Rose, Devin Hester, the Olympics and more.

    Chicagoetry
    My Hell is a deep Christian well
    in a raw field
    just beyond the edge of the last suburb

    - Son of St. Francis of My Ass

    It's On!
    As big as it gets.

    The Beachwood Valentine's Day Guide
    Yeah, right.

    Save The Newspaper!

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    (h/t: Steve Bartin, Newsalert)

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    The Beachwood Tip Line: Save Ferris.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:36 AM | Permalink

    Ofman: Dis and Dat, Dem and Dose

    The moment Derrick Rose and his multi-million dollar body crashed to the floor Wednesday night I'm thinking John Paxson and Gar Forman were dialing 911. Not for Rose but for themselves!

    * * *

    Fortunately, Rose has just bruised hip. He's traveling to Dallas for All-Star Weekend where he's scheduled to defend his skills challenge title and play in Sunday's game. My suggestion: Let the NBA know this rather valuable piece of property will not even work up a sweat. No challenge; no game. Thank you very much.

    * * *

    It's On!
  • As big as it gets.

  • I found it rather amusing Mike Martz said this of Devin Hester:

    "Devin Hester in that role could just be stupid good, if that makes sense to you. What we can do with him inside, the match-ups we can get with him on third corners, safeties and linebackers would be absolutely remarkable."

    Funny, isn't it, because just prior to Martz getting the job and uttering those lines, Hester had this to say in a radio interview about being a wide receiver:

    "I know what I'm best at. The return game is my bread and butter, so if I had to cut back on my receiving and go back to returning, that's something I would love to do . . . I would love to get back in that situation with the return game. But at the same time, I'm a team player so wherever [the Bears] want me to go, I'm ready to do it."

    I remember Hester being stupid good at returning. Sounds like a very good idea to me.

    * * *

    The Blackhawks play back-to-back games this weekend then shut it down for the Olympics, save for six players who will be competing in them.

    During this time, Crisobal Huet needs to appear on a new reality show entitled Goalie Makeover.

    * * *

    NBC is promoting curling as an exciting sport to watch in the Olympics.

    Have you ever seen this sport?

    It's so boring I would rather watch fly fishing for Asian carp.

    * * *

    Here we go again. The Cubs leadoff conundrum now comes down to Ryan Theriot and Kosuke Fukudome.

    Last year, I suggested Lou Piniella employ Fukudome as his leadoff.

    So what did the Japanese fading star do during his time at the top of the order?

    He had a .404 on-base percentage.

    * * *

    Lou will likely flip-flop the two so long as he doesn't flip-flop on Alfonso Soriano. Don't let Fonzie anywhere near the one-hole.

    * * *

    By the way, I'm blaming Wednesday's earthquake on Milton Bradley.

    * * *

    U.S. skier Lindsey Vonn might not compete in the Vancouver Games after suffering an injured shin.

    She happens to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated's Olympic Preview.

    Did someone say jinx?

    * * *

    Just put the Cubs on the cover and get it over with.

    * * *

    The Big Ten reportedly is talking to Texas about joining its' aggregate.

    Texas?

    Why not recruit Maine, Florida, San Diego State and Washington while you're at it?

    This way the conference can apply for Mileage Plus.

    * * *

    There's a rumor a lot of team are interested in the temperamental Tyrus Thomas.

    Guess one man's child is another man's double-double guy.

    * * *

    The Blazers reportedly are interested but they have one non-negotiable request; Thomas can't take any naked pictures of himself.

    * * *

    Figure Kirk Hinrich will be dealt before the deadline on the 18th, though if you take a careful look at his stats, the Bulls guard is shooting a puny 38 percent from the field.

    He's still a solid defender and would give the Bulls more cap space to sign LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Joe Johnson in the off-season.

    What's wrong with getting all of them?

    Okay, I'd settle for Johnson.

    * * *

    Brooklyn Decker is this year's cover girl for Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue. Does this mean Andy Roddick is about twist an ankle?

    -

    George Ofman is now with WGN radio after a 17-year run with The Score. He also blogs for ChicagoNow under the banner That's All She Wrote.

    -

    Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:12 AM | Permalink

    TrackNotes: It's On!

    "The breathless excitement and anticipation of a heavyweight championship fight."

    - Howard Cosell, Sinatra: The Main Event

    It's that big.

    It's as set as racing gets. Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta will run in the Apple Blossom Invitational Handicap at Oaklawn Park, Hot Springs, Arkansas.

    Except that it won't be on its original April 3 date, but on April 9, the Friday before the Arkansas Derby. It will be a weekend that will rival any this year, including the Kentucky Derby. This is as big a race as can be run.

    These are two horses who, through their heroics and sheer magnificence, have forced their people to succumb to the inevitable and let them compete.

    It almost didn't happen.

    After news last week that Oaklawn and its president, Charles Cella, would boost the purse to $5 million if the two super females would run in the Apple Blossom, Rachel Alexandra's connections Wednesday bowed out, saying they would not have enough time to get a prep into Rachel and then wheel her back for the April 3 race. They cited the rainy New Orleans weather as hampering Rachel's training routine at her winter home at Fair Grounds.

    In taking the Blossom rain check, Rachel Alexandra's owner Jess Jackson and trainer Steve Asmussen spoke of seeking another week's time to get Rachel ready. And Jackson talked of laying out a three-race series between the two.

    So Cella and Oaklawn blasted the ball back into Jackson's court.

    "The Apple Blossom Invitational has been renegotiated. Both principles are on line and have pledged to me they will enter their horses and race," Cella said. "The date will be Friday, the 9th of April. All other conditions remain the same."

    (When making the initial $5 million pledge, Oaklawn announced the race would be renamed the Invitational. It was formerly the Apple Blossom Handicap.)

    Those conditions are one mile and one-eighth, 9 furlongs. Half a furlong long for Rachel's super sustained quickness, and half a furlong, or more, short for Zenyatta's long-form, closing ideal distance. Plug in the cozy turns and Oaklawn's long homestretch, and it's got the makings of a thriller.

    At Each Other's Throats
    Zenyatta was pointed to the Apple Blossom all along.

    She figures to go in the Grade I Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap on March 13 at Santa Anita, and Moss has always said he wanted her in Hot Springs in April.

    Zenyatta, a perfect 14-0 in her career, won the Apple Blossom in 2008.

    After her historic win in the Breeders' Cup Classic last November, in which she engineered a last-to-first closing masterpiece to be the first female to win the Classic, she was beaten out for Horse of the Year by Rachel Alexandra.

    Just Thursday, it was announced that Rachel Alexandra would prep on March 13 in the New Orleans Ladies, a $200,000 race created just for her. Her connections are still fretting the weather.

    "It's not anyone's fault, but with the rain and the track conditions it's been a serious setback to Rachel's routine," Jackson said. "When you're training a horse, it's an animal that needs to have a regular routine and Steve's been hard-pressed to keep her going given the weather."

    They always leave themselves an out, don't they?

    While losing the Horse of the Year trophy certainly stuck in Jerry and Ann Moss' craws, they've got to believe Zenyatta will be supremely prepared for the Apple Blossom.

    She never really stopped training after the Breeders' Cup and logged three recorded workouts at Hollywood. By the end of the year, racing fans and all the Tick Tock McGlaughlins of the world were wondering out loud, "What gives? I thought she was retired."

    Just hours before losing Horse of the Year honors at the Eclipse Awards in mid-January, Moss announced officially that Zenyatta would race again in 2010, and it became crystal clear in the hotel ballroom that Moss and Jackson wanted at each other. Through their horses, of course.

    With little more than a drop of hope that the two would meet in an April 3 Apple Blossom, I was able to get tickets, secure in the thought that at least I'd get to see the great Zenyatta that day. Now, I'm scrambling for April 9.

    From a very early handicapping point of view, it seems a great match-up at a track that will allow each to spin her style.

    It will be Rachel's professional, lightning quick and fast turn of foot and lasting power versus Zenyatta's use of every inch of Oaklawn's storied stretch.

    It does not figure to be a pure match race; no way another Ruffian-Foolish Pleasure debacle will be risked. And we don't yet know who will join the race, or how many.

    Now, lets see which TV shop scrambles for the telecast. ESPN and NBC figure to be the frontrunners.

    Call to the post? Can't wait.

    -

    Thomas Chambers is the Beachwood's man on the rail. He brings you TrackNotes every Friday. He welcomes your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:14 AM | Permalink

    Chicagoetry: Son Of St. Francis Of My Ass

    Son of St. Francis of My Ass

    I'm just trying to have a good time.
    Hurt is Hell. Let's have a bell!
    TONG! TONG!

    And a crow.
    My Hell is a deep Christian
    well in a raw field

    just beyond
    the edge of the last
    suburb.

    A raggedy-ass crow,
    nothing noble, no Narcissus
    of wire. A red crow

    in a Hell of black crows.
    This kind of thing. The bell
    rings

    big: Tong.
    The heirs of this Christian shell
    scuttle all raggedy-ass

    through a cornfield of bones.
    The bones shake with shells
    a raggedy-ass samba

    of scuttles to which
    the black crows boogie as
    the red crow stays stock still.

    And this is the Fugue
    of my only St. Francis, my lonely
    St. Francis, my homely,

    groanly, ownly
    Bra Francis: Patron Saint of My Ass.
    Hero of my heart!

    Goin' for broke
    (and when you go for broke
    you often arrive)!

    Keeper of the faith!
    I am the deal, I am
    the field

    and the infinite symphony
    arising from it. Crows, bones and bells
    are but atoms of me

    in moats of time.

    -

    St. Francis Of My Ass

    -

    J.J. Tindall is the Beachwood's poet-in-residence. He welcomes your comments. Chicagoetry is an exclusive Beachwood collection-in-progress.

    -

    More Tindall:

    * Music: MySpace page

    * Fiction: A Hole To China

    * Critical biography at e-poets.net

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:14 AM | Permalink

    February 11, 2010

    The [Thursday] Papers

    "After criticism for failing to properly vet Democrat Scott Lee Cohen, House Speaker Michael Madigan filed legislation today to amend the state Constitution to abolish the lieutenant governor's office," the Sun-Times reports.

    Too bad Madigan didn't file legislation to abolish sophistry. To wit:

    * From the press office of Gov. Pat Quinn, who opposes abolishing the office: "Gov. Quinn knows the office can serve as a strong voice for everyday people, including veterans, service members and their families."

    You mean like the Illinois Department of Veteran's Affairs?

    * From Republican lieutenant governor nominee Jason Plummer: "The lieutenant governor would just be another job lost under Mike Madigan and the Democratic leadership."

    So your jobs program includes adding elected offices to state government?

    * "The speaker's move came after his press secretary [Steve Brown] told the Chicago Sun-Times on Tuesday that Madigan did not have a position on eliminating what many have regarded as a do-nothing statewide post.

    "Brown did not have an explanation of how the speaker's position on eliminating the lieutenant governor's job may have evolved in a day's time.

    "'I'm not aware of every discussion point he has,' Brown said."

    Then why are we talking to you?

    * Madigan's legislation would put the attorney general first in the line of succession. Idea: At least make the line of succession go through the highest-ranking members of the governor's own party.

    * Why are the other statewide offices elected anyway? Maybe the governor should select a Cabinet just like the president does. We don't elect the U.S. attorney general.

    Ticket Racket
    "Only 12 percent of all parking tickets end up being challenged even though 56 percent of challenged tickets ended up being tossed last year," the Sun-Times reports.

    So more than 50 percent of all parking tickets issued are bogus?

    Office Supply
    "Despite GOP criticism, Gov. Quinn wants to push back his annual budget address by three weeks and post revenue and spending data online so Illinoisans can sound off on the state's spending priorities prior to his speech," the Sun-Times reports.

    Plus, he needs time to buy more note cards.

    ISO Running Mate
    Quinn says lieutenant governor should have "progressive values."

    To, you know, balance the ticket.

    Total Television Tool
    "Television journalist Bill Kurtis says he represents 'an extension of the FBI in the media' and was pleased to receive an award Tuesday afternoon near Marina City that recognizes citizens for helping with crime prevention and education," Marina City Online reports.

    Kurtis also represents an extension of Richard M. Daley in the media.

    * "Dignitaries at an announcement today for the new French Market at the Ogilvie Transportation Center were treated to a bit of political theater featuring a deep-voiced announcer, heckler and a mayor irked at some aldermen," the Tribune reported last December.

    "It all began with Chicago TV legend Bill Kurtis, mustering his best baritone voice to introduce Mayor Richard Daley: 'The king of public-private partnerships, who of course makes all this possible. . . . Ladies and gentlemen, with a tip of the hat today to Paris, let's give a big Chicago welcome to, how we say, the greatest mayor in the greatest city in the world, Mayor Richard Daley!'"

    * "One morning last spring, 200 or so people gathered in a parking lot on the Near South Side to celebrate the groundbreaking for an $850-million expansion of the McCormick Place convention center. Under a white tent, the Eddie Harrison Jump Stars Orchestra entertained, while guests sampled from buffets of fancy snacks - vanilla creme-filled profiteroles with a dark chocolate glaze, lemon meringue tartlets, and cracked telly-cherry peppercorn infused long-stem strawberries with creme fraiche," I reported in 2004.

    "The waitstaff wore black uniforms and white gloves. Souvenir paperweights filled one table; a model of the new building sat on another. Television personality Bill Kurtis emceed the event, championing the 'growth of an industry that has helped define our town for decades - the convention and visitors industry.'"

    Memo to Kurtis: Try being an extension of the citizen/taxpayer/media in the media.

    Or turn in your press pass.

    Wert's World
    "Kurtis received the FBI Director's Community Leadership Award, presented annually in each of the bureau's 56 domestic field offices. Last year's recipient was Larry Wert, President of NBC Local Media's Central & Western Region."

    You may recall that I was told a post of mine at NBCChicago.com about the late Michael Scott was killed because Wert was a friend of Scott's and unhappy about the coverage of his suicide. Wert has not denied it.

    Kurtis Blows
    "Kurtis noted a growth in cooperation between the FBI and the media 'that I didn't think I would see in my day because they were very closed-mouthed - and still are about ongoing investigations', he told Marina City Online.

    "But they also see the value in the media and having a voice. They're cooperative. I'm there to tell their story. And that's what makes me feel good about this."

    I know you aren't exactly a newsman anymore, Bill, but you owe it to the citizens of Chicago to explain if you were there to tell the FBI's story when you were pretending to be a journalist.

    News You Can Use
    "Magid's KSTP research indicated audience interest in state government coverage was low and told the station to shut down its capital bureau in St. Paul," Phil Rosenthal writes. "Instead, Magers, who was also news director, beefed up the bureau and changed the way the station covered state government, reporting more on the impact of legislation rather than the legislative process itself."

    1. It's simply not true that people aren't interested in their government.

    2. For those who aren't, forget 'em.

    3. Insider plays are for insiders. Journalists too often get caught up in trying to prove their savvy to insiders and enlisting in the echo chamber instead of calling out the insiders and exposing their games.

    4. Research doesn't ask the right questions. If you ask how interested people are in state government, chances are the responses will be lackluster. If you ask how interested people are in how state government wastes their tax dollars, or how state government might be able to help them find a job or health insurance, the response rate is much higher.

    Midnight Toker
    BlagoJoker.

    Err Daley
    "An elusive deal on funding the final new runways at O'Hare International Airport finally appeared to be close at hand after years of negotiations, until city officials undermined the agreement, airline officials said Tuesday," the Tribune reports.

    The art of killing a deal.

    Is Jack Higgins Smarter Than A 5th-Grader?
    "Record snowfall illustrates the obvious: The global warming fraud is without equal in modern science," the Washington Times opines.

    Because snow couldn't possibly exist on a warming planet.

    That's what made Sun-Times editorial cartoonist Jack Higgins' work the other day so hilarious.

    See, in the first panel there's a man with a sign that says "Beware Global Warming." In the second panel a giant snowflake has knocked him to the ground.

    Oh stop!

    Of course, nothing about climate change science contradicts record snowfalls. In fact, in some areas of the country, we can expect more snow. Global warming researchers have been telling us this for years.

    And funny, I didn't see see Higgins' cartoon about this:

    "Temperatures in the decade that ended in 2009 were the warmest since record-keeping began in 1880, NASA said, backing up data from the U.K. Met Office and the United Nations' World Meteorological Organization."

    But let's play the game Jack's way. Send him a note saying "I told you so!" every time it gets warm out.

    Majority Report
    "In Springfield yesterday, House Speaker Michael Madigan characterized House and Senate Republicans as 'do-nothing dropouts' for not agreeing to pass an income tax increase," Progress Illinois reports. "Madigan and his allies in Springfield need to stop whining about the Republicans when they have the votes to pass a sustainable budget on their own."

    Suggested James Bond film title and Democratic Party slogan: A Majority Is Never Enough.

    Ideal for use by the national party, too.

    Alternates:

    * Democrats: The Supermajority Party
    * Democrats: Give Us A Supermajority, We'll Give You Leadership
    * Democrats: No One Governs With A Supermajority Like Us!
    * Democrats: We Just Need A Little Bit More Help
    * Democrats: Bipartisan By Necessity

    In Zell Hell
    Bullshit talks too.

    *

    Evil Twins: Sam and Conrad.

    Surveying Chicago Sports
    Our answers.

    Soul Train's Hip Trip
    Join hands, people.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Just super.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:39 AM | Permalink

    Zell's Bullshit Walking

    I made the mistake of thinking Money Talks, Bullsh*t Walks: Inside The Contrarian Mind Of Billionaire Mogul Sam Zell this was a real book, instead of quickie hagiography. Nonetheless, let's take a look at some of the interesting and relevant items and passages. See if you can spot the bullshit walking.

    *

    "Once in the States, [Zell's father] settled into the wholesale jewelry business, moving the family to Albany Park, Illinois, a community dominated by immigrant Jews just northwest of Chicago."

    Evil Twins
  • Black Talks, Zell Walks.

  • *

    "Even at the tender age of twelve, it was no stretch of the imagination to see that Sam Zell had 'entrepreneur' written all over his psyche. During his daily train rides to Chicago [from Highland Park, for Hebrew school], Zell's inquisitive mind often worked in overdrive. One day in 1953, he was scanning the magazines on sale at the train station. There he found the first issue of a brand-new Chicago publication unlike any he had seen, or should have seen at his tender age. The magazine was aptly titled Playboy and founded by a little-known Chicago entrepreneur named Hugh Marston Hefner. At the time, Playboy was not the mainstream media product that it would become years later. In fact, it was considered so nefarious that its circulation was limited only to certain sections of the inner city.

    "Zell acted on his impulse, sensing an untapped commercial aspect to this exotic commodity. He bought Playboys for fifty cents a copy and sold them to his suburban chums later in the day for three dollars."

    At age 12 he was a smut peddler! And that markup - what a prick.

    *

    "The caption under his 1959 Highland Park High School yearbook photo says much about those formative years: 'I'm not asking you, I'm telling you.'"

    Like I said, Prick City.

    *

    While in law school, Zell became a landlord to college students.

    "With only $1,500 in savings, Zell parlayed the meager sum to purchase a land contract on a small apartment property. After a fresh coat of paint and some new furniture, he doubled rents and went in search of more buildings to buy."

    *

    "One morning in 1993, while consuming his usual five newspapers over breakfast, Zell chanced upon a Cincinnati-based owner of radio stations called Jacor Communications. For months, Congress had shown a proclivity for easing regulations on the tightly controlled telecommunications industry. Though still mired in his debt issues, Zell decided to take a flyer on the company when he thought Congress would do even more, snapping up Jacor for the pittance of $50 million. As an opportunistic play, his timing was on the mark. Thanks to the U.S. Telecommunications Act of 1996, the broadcasting business was regulated overnight.

    "Zell and Jacor CEO Randy Michaels cranked up the volume and went on a buying spree, growing the company from only 17 radio stations in 1996 to 234 by 1999, spending $2 billion over a single two-year period.

    "Zell then delivered on his promise to cash out at the peak of the market, selling Jacor to Clear Channel Communications for $4.4 billion after it won a bidding war with CBS Radio. Zell's initial investment of $50 million turned into a $1.3 billion payday in only six years."

    *

    "As far back as the mid-1980s, Zell and his partner Robert Lurie had started Mobile Home Communities Inc. (MHC),which owned and operated forty-one manufactured housing communities, mainly in fast-growing Sun Belt cities. Their love of rental units came during their formative years as college landlords, but Zell recognized the growth potential of this decidedly unglamorous but low-cost alternative to site-built single-family housing."

    I wonder how many Chicagoans would give the Lurie Gardens back knowing Robert's fortune was built on part on the backs of mobile home owners. See the "Zell's Bells" item here.

    *

    "By 2004, based on his own analysis of the manufactured housing market, Zell sensed a new opportunity to grow the business organically rather than by acquisition . . .

    "First came a much-needed rebranding exercise, replacing the perfunctory Manufactured Housing Communities name with one of his tried-and-true 'equity' monikers. Overnight, MHC became Equity Lifestyle Properties, traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the new symbol ELS."

    *

    "Overnight, it seemed, Sam Zell had become a business icon. Thanks to the blockbuster [Blackstone] deal, his name appeared in headlines on the front pages of every major daily newspaper. Suddenly he was regarded with adulation. He saw what others could not. One pundit even noted that his reputation had suddenly been elevated to super-hero status and that he could leap over his own tall buildings with a single bound. The only thing missing was a costume change - Zell could easily wear a 'Super Sam' outfit complete with a red S on his chest.

    "That bit of fun might be over the top for most corporate executives, but put nothing past Sam Zell. To be sure, philosophy 101 teaches that a razor-thin line exists between genius and madness. Which characterization best fits Zell? That depends on whom you ask, but he is sanguine, and downright comfortable, within his quirky persona. He proudly admits to an abundance of self-confidence, which allows him to continually push the limits of what he views as possible.

    "One thing that can be said of Zell with absolute certainty - you always know where he stands and what he's thinking. And just in case you don't, he often reminds you with a curt 'Do you want me to speak slower?' followed by a quick and condescending smirk."

    Yes, Superman, please speak slower. We want to savor your every word.

    *

    "For many, however, taking on Sam Zell, the man of many contradictions, has proven anything but a pleasant experience. 'At the L.A. Times, he brought people together and said they could ask him anything, but as soon as anybody did, he flew off,' said Kevin Roderick, a twenty-year veteran of the Los Angeles Times and founder of an all-things-L.A. Web site called L.A. Observed. 'That was a very deflating moment at the L.A. Times, because then they saw that he was not a guy who had their best interests at heart. He was not very interested in journalism. He was not there to make the newspapers better or improve journalism. But also there was a sense that he was . . . not what he seems to be. He's just an angry little man to some people.'

    "Angry or not, the business record, at least, indicates that Zell has been right a lot more often than he has been wrong."

    And this being a biography, it's not my job to find the source of that anger! (Maybe it's because he has to keep speaking slower.)

    *

    "Sam Zell is proud of the fact that his office door has never been closed. 'Open kimono!' he shouted, referring to his insistence on clear and visible transparency in business dealings and sharing of information within his own company."

    *

    "L.A. Times editor John Arthur expounded on Zell's comments with his own brief note to the editorial staff. In it, he downplayed Zell's remarks and reminded his minions that they should not follow his example when it came to the use of colorful speech in the newsroom."

    How backwards: Swearing allowed only in the corporate suite, not in the newsroom!

    *

    "Throughout its storied history, the Wrigley family, of chewing gum fame, never paid a dime to have its name prominently associated with one of baseball's shrines, even after Tribune bought the team and stadium from the Wrigley family in 1981 for only $20.5 million.

    "Could it be that Zell would trample on that heritage? You bet. Naming rights are big business - Citicorp poned up $20 million for the naming rights to the new New York Mets stadium in Queens. Once again, Zell showed his audacity in asking Wrigley to pay up, even thought the firm does not directly market the stadium to sell its products. To Zell, this was another untapped revenue source. And again, he was asking the questions that few were willing to ask."

    *

    "After twenty-eight years of corporate ownership, the Cubs were back in the hands of a local family. And Zell achieved yet another notch in his legend - largest sale of a sports franchise in history - despite the naysayers and a badly burned economy."

    Naysayers? Who thought what, that the Cubs just couldn't be sold? Zell's adventure selling the team was actually disastrous as he stumbled about for, what, two years trying to separate Wrigley from the deal, get the state involved (Hello, Blago!) and alienated bidders. One of the worst sales of a marquee property ever.

    *

    "Once asked if there was one investment he would make if money were no object, Zell quickly replied, 'I'd buy Brazil.'"

    And now he's trying to do just that.

    *

    "The eleventh commandment is Thou Shalt Not Take Oneself Seriously."

    Hence the condescending smirk?

    *

    "Extremism in the pursuit of opportunity is not a vice."

    In other words, greed is good. No matter how many people get hurt.

    *

    "The best thing to have in the world is a monopoly, and if you can't have a monopoly, you want an oligopoly. I'm more than willing to leave all the rest of the highly competitive world to everybody else."

    Not exactly John Galt, but funny how many unabashed advocates of capitalism feel the same way.

    *

    "Ben Johnson first encountered Sam Zell while leading two of the real estate industry's most respected trade publications, National Real Estate Investor and Shopping Center World. He previously directed the custom publishing division at American Airlines, ran a division of real estate researcher CoStar Group, and was the director of marketing for Wells Real Estate Funds. He lives in Plano, Texas."

    Ben now writes butt-kissing "biographies."

    -

    See also:
    * The [Sam Zell] Papers

    -

    Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:07 AM | Permalink

    Black Talks, Zell Walks

    Of all the topics that gush garbage, the post-apocalyptic assessment of failed newspaper vultures in Chicago is among the most resiliently productive.

    The desire to snuggle up to Sam Zell about his misunderstood grandeur never ceases to amaze. The latest in this category is Ben Johnson's new business biography, Money Talks, Bullshit Walks: Inside the Contrarian Mind of Billionaire Sam Zell, which offers a favorable and totally erroneous view of Zell's quirks.

    There were those who insisted then and still do that Conrad Black was a charming, rogue genius, rather than a callous pillager of the Chicago Sun-Times Empire. Those of us close enough to Black's various thug hirelings surely could catch the scent of mendacity on the air when they ran the Sun-Times. The interim ownership of the Sun-Times, manifested by affable but totally baffled CEO Cyrus Friedheim, was less evil than merely inept.

    Sam Zell is no less a barbarian than Black. And history now suggests a willfully, doggedly, ignorant barbarian whose only skill was possession of money. And because I know a little first-hand about both situations, I can tell you what the two enterprises had in common and why they both ultimately failed.

    Sam Zell and Conrad Black neither understood nor cared about the people whose lives were in their hands. This might seem a simplistic can't-we-all-just-be-chums criticism, but that's not what good management is. And thoughtful ownership certainly requires more fundamental strengths than a warm, sentimental disposition. In its least pleasant manifestation, good management can sometimes seem more like surgery where the pain of the present is a necessary down payment on a better future. That results when owners have some rational view of what the future will look like. What Zell and Black exhibited was simply bad management writ large. They were both thumping around blindly in a dark cave, hoping to stumble into the right answers. Neither clearly understood what it was they owned, and they shielded their ineptitude inside brashness.

    They're not the first, of course. Sam and Conrad both stood on the shoulders of media dwarfs. For at least 30 years, the newspaper industry has been sliding toward a false insistence that what's in a newspaper is a product. It's a hideous fallacy. Even when moguls such as Black and Zell proclaimed the ultimate value of "content," they were describing "content" as a "product" that reflects "what our customers want."

    It's the Keebler Elf view of newspapers. We will crank out better cookies if we get more cookie dough.

    But newspapers aren't really factories. They are more like organic farms or perhaps think tanks from which a tangible result flows. And perhaps the only meaningful, useful, worthwhile - and profitable - process inside a newspaper is the intellectual vigor of smart people linked in a common goal. That, and little else, produces profit.

    An organic farm has no point to existence if it doesn't produce good food.

    Zell and Black were simply confused about what the product was. They thought the product was profit.

    But what if - and here comes the biggie - great newspaper owners are good mostly at harnessing the common will of very smart people trying to do good?

    Perhaps fixing the world's evils and shining light into dark corners are the only legitimate products a newspaper can achieve. All else simply becomes a metric for how much income the enterprise can reasonably achieve.

    This is not to say that newspapers and those who toil for them don't have responsibility in the industry's death throes, though it was never those inside any newspaper who demanded the profit level be 15 (or 20, or 50) percent. That was an imposed, artificial value tied to stock ownership and the quarterly tyrannies of Wall Street.

    As both Zell and Black found, managing real thinking people is harder than managing brick and mortar.

    First, it's a simpler task to order bricks to sit still and be quiet. The bricks don't talk back when you do something stupid.

    When you announce to them that they are your "co-partners" in this grand building, the bricks don't scoff at the smug dopiness of such piffle.

    In Zell's case, he had the unctuous gall to suggest to employees he was dragging by a long rope behind his pickup truck that they actually were "Tribune co-owners." He did not even have the courtesy to tell them that the warm, wet puddle on their shoes was not rain.

    Maybe newspapers began dying when they stopped thinking. They stopped thinking in part because, at least for some time, they were earning too much money for their own good. This is a criticism that certainly no longer applies.

    Against that definition, Zell and Black were not doomed by market forces or recalcitrant employees. They were doomed by their own lack of imagination and understanding.

    The Tribune properties are vastly changed now from when Zell bought them, and anyone may judge whether the changes were for the good. They are certainly leaner now, which might make them more attractive to new ownership as individual parcels. But the one reality that cannot be changed is how much Zell indebted the company. Tribune could never have made enough profit to pay off that $13 billion debt. Someone needed to chop up Sam's credit cards.

    The new owners of the Sun-Times talk about the massive value of its community papers that ring the city. Previous owners did the same thing without any sign they actually meant it. And there were many signals they thought it was a joke. If you remember the human-filled pods being farmed for their energy by The Matrix machines you'll get some sense of those papers traditional relationship with the Time Lords at the Sun-Times.

    Both Black and Zell failed - one because of criminal greed and the other from towering ignorance - for basically the same underlying misunderstanding.

    They viewed what they owned as inanimate objects. But beyond the real estate and presses possessed by newspapers, their total value is mostly invested in humans. Not merely a rhetorical, marketing metaphor, but actually and really.

    Newspapers are like great universities whose real intangible value is the sum of the hearts and minds inside the buildings, less the building themselves. Put the minds of a hundred great professors and 2,000 great students inside a beach shack and it's still a great university.

    Neither of the media giants was very good at playing well with others. In fact, you'd have a hard time proving they were smart at all.

    But there still are those who think Zell and Black are merely misunderstood geniuses. Sic Semper Effluvium.

    -

    David Rutter is the former publisher/editor of the Lake County News-Sun, a Sun-Times Media property. He is a regular contributor to the Beachwood and he welcomes your comments.


    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:49 AM | Permalink

    Surveying Chicago Sports

    Once again it's time for the Sun-Times's entirely imagination-lacking annual sports survey. Here are our answers to selected questions.

    *

    Q. Who is your favorite Chicago athlete?

    - Derrick Rose
    - Carlos Zambrano
    - Mark Buehrle
    - Brian Urlacher
    - Patrick Kane

    Beachwood Sports Desk Answer: Varla Vendetta

    -

    Q. Who is the best Chicago newcomer?

    - Taj Gibson, Bulls
    - Marian Hossa, Blackhawks
    - Marlon Byrd, Cubs
    - Devin Aromashadu, Bears
    - Gordon Beckham, White Sox

    BSDA: Mike Martz

    -

    Q. Which team will be the next to win a championship?

    - Bears
    - Bulls
    - Blackhawks
    - Cubs
    - White Sox

    BSDA: The Fire or the Wolves

    -

    Q. Who is the most underrated media member?

    - Jill Carlson, Fox Chicago
    - Josh Mora, Comcast
    - Eddie Olcyzk, Blackhawks
    - Jim Rose, ABC7
    - Kerry Sayers, Big Ten Network

    BSDA: Jim Coffman, The Beachwood Reporter

    -

    Q. Who is the most overrated media member?

    - Ryan Baker, CBS2
    - Jill Carlson, Fox Chicago
    - Pat Hughes, Cubs
    - David Kaplan, CSN, WGN-AM
    - Dan McNeil, WSCR

    BSDA: Rick Morrissey, Rick Telander (tied)Sun-Times

    -

    Q. Which broadcaster deserves a Chicago comeback?

    - Chip Caray
    - Chet Coppock
    - Jim Durham
    - Wayne Larrivee
    - Josh Lewin

    BSDA: Mike Greenberg

    -

    Q. What is the Cubs' best offseason move?

    - Hiring Rudy Jaramillo
    - Signing Marlon Byrd
    - Trading Milton Bradley
    - Upgrading the bathrooms

    BSDA: Putting Soto and Zambrano on diets

    -

    Q. What should be the Ricketts family's next move?

    - Add video screen to ballpark
    - Substantially increase payroll
    - Clean house in front office
    - Buy out bad contracts

    BSDA: Ban yuppie posers from Wrigley

    -

    Q. Who will have a bounce-back season for the Sox?

    - Carlos Quentin
    - Alex Rios
    - Scott Linebrink
    - Bobby Jenks

    BSDA: Jake Peavy

    -

    Q. What is the most pressing need the [Bears] should address in the NFL draft?

    - Offensive line
    - Wide receiver
    - Defensive line
    - Cornerback
    - Safety

    BSDA: Ownership

    -

    See also:
    - Last year's Surveying Chicago Sports
    - My Chicago Sports Survey. By Spencer Maus.

    *

    Your submissions welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:28 AM | Permalink

    Soul Train's Hip Trip

    On the occasion of VH-1's new documentary about Soul Train, a few highlights from the show's 35-year run.

    *

    1. Don dances.


    -

    2. People all over the world, join hands.

    -

    3. Mighty people of the sun.

    -

    4. The promise of a better life for all.

    -

    5. These here breaks will rock your shoes.

    -

    6. The hippest trip in America.

    -

    7. The Soul Train YouTube channel.

    *

    Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:34 AM | Permalink

    February 10, 2010

    The [Wednesday] Papers

    I won't have time for a column today, but we'll be back tomorrow with a full Beachwood slate. A quick note, though.

    I was shaken from my sleep due to a strange sensation in the early morning hours and I immediately wondered, "Was that an earthquake?"

    It was.

    How did I know?

    I remembered the last time! (See item 1.)

    *

    From the Beachwood earthquake archives:

    "Beachwood reader Jason Liechty is a little weirded out by the mayor's statement that city money would only be used [for the Olympics] 'if an earthquake takes place and I doubt if it's gonna take place,' given this [ABC7 link dead because the oldstream media doesn't understand how the Internet works] and this."

    - March 14, 2007

    The [Tuesday] Papers
    You know what? No one paid attention to Pat Quinn when he was winning the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor twice either. Few politicos took him seriously and he certainly wasn't Rod Blagojevich's choice, but the lieutenant governor's office has pretty much always been a joke.

    And when Quinn took office after Blagojevich was impeached last year, he looked like a deer caught in the headlights.

    Yet, the political establishment - for some strange reason - lined up behind Quinn once he became the putative incumbent.

    There are two reasons for that.

    First, Quinn rushed to embrace the hoariest of Machine creatures, indicating (slobbering?) that he was willing to play ball. (He's embarrassed by Scott Lee Cohen but not Joe Berrios?)

    Second, the good old boys saw that Quinn could be rolled.

    The latest case in point: Quinn says he'll defer to Michael Madigan and the 38 members of the state Democratic central committee to choose his running mate. Way to show leadership, Pat.

    It's not that Quinn doesn't have a preference; he's reportedly pushing for Tammy Duckworth, who isn't remotely qualified to be governor. It's that he's ceding the choice to Madigan, who is notorious for backing losers in races beyond those involving his own chamber.

    But that would just be like Democrats, who tend to overstrategize themselves into defeat. You'd think maybe they would just pick second-place finisher Art Turner, a state representative from Chicago whom Madigan backed anyway. Picking from the other candidates who were bested by both Cohen and Turner would be a farce, no?

    (The Sun-Times notes that Rep. Mike Boland of Moline, who finished fourth in the voting, barely edging out an electrician from Elmhurst, is still interested in the job and that his wife is on the central committee.)

    The only other justifiable pick would be Quinn's barely defeated challenger Dan Hynes, but Hynes has already put the kibosh on that. (Or Kirk Dillard, the likely barely defeated Republican challenger who has bragged about his ability to work across the aisle. How about a bipartisan unity ticket that officially sanctions the Combine?)

    The lieutenant governorship came into vogue after so many folks who have toiled so long in Springfield watched Quinn's ascendancy to the big chair from the little chair.

    "[H]alf the people here want to be lieutenant governor," state Senate President John Cullerton told the Tribune.

    I wish someone would have asked Cullerton why. I suspect the reason is that it's an easy paycheck.

    Meanwhile, the media's irresponsibility continues. "Shocking details emerged last week in the wake of Cohen's win, including an allegation that he once held a knife to a live-in girlfirend's throat."

    An unproven allegation made by an accuser who failed to show up when the case went to court and who refuses to explain her charge. Cohen, on the other hand, is taking all questions.

    Why favor the one account, then, over the other?

    Art Dealer
    "[I]f I had anything to hide, it would have come out before this," Turner tells Sneed.

    Really? How?

    According to ProQuest, Turner has appeared in just two Tribune news articles since 1985.

    Pawn Broker
    "Quinn said he was unaware of any efforts to help Cohen get his $2 million back for dropping out," the Tribune notes.

    "I don't believe that would be the way to go," Quinn said. "Offerings. The answer is no."

    Geez, Pat, the least you could do is give Cohen some advice about how to earn interest of his campaign fund.

    That's Mary!
    "First, Cohen should not have gotten as far as he did when he owed his ex-wife that much child support," Mary Mitchell writes today.

    Right. If he had failed to pay taxes, though, he'd be good to go.

    "Cohen argued that his lack of payment was a misunderstanding, but a parent who doesn't pay court-ordered child support is not fit to run for public office in Illinois."

    But a columnist who writes about court cases without knowing the facts is fit to pick up a paycheck every week.

    It may turn out Cohen has totally screwed his ex-wife and kids, but unless or until we actually know the parameters of the case, who are we to make that assumption? After all, the ex-wife just appeared on TV supporting the guy.

    "Unfortunately, Cohen, a wealthy pawnbroker, was able to buy his way to the top with no questions asked.

    And Alexi Giannoulias was able to buy his way to the top with no questions answered.

    "State Sen. Rickey Hendon, who took third place in the lieutenant governor's race, is proposing legislation that would limit the use of personal and family wealth."

    Unless the money was funneled to Rickey Hendon, I'm guessing.

    *

    The madness goes on and on, but I can't; Mary Mitchell just makes me tired.

    Funny Bone
    "Pawn shop owner Scott Lee Cohen's election-night party at the Palmer House Hilton had some unexpected guests - Chicago Police - who arrived within an hour after Cohen gave his victory speech in the Democratic lieutenant governor's race," the Sun-Times reports.

    "Police weren't responding to anything involving steroids or a domestic dispute - topics that led to Cohen withdrawing Sunday night as Gov. Quinn's running mate."

    Oh stop, you're killing me!

    "Instead, police came because of a missing full-length woman's mink coat valued at an estimated $5,000."

    Because, you know, Cohen hangs out with the type of people who would steal a mink coat.

    "[Accuser Cecili] Tomlin said Monday she's aggravated not only because the coat remains missing but because she felt hotel staff and Cohen workers weren't taking her seriously."

    Huh. I wonder why.

    "She also was perturbed by an offer from Cohen's brother, Randy, to sell her a mink coat from a Cohen-owned pawn shop.

    "'I'm not sure she really had a coat there, but I offered to take care of her because I felt bad,' Randy Cohen said."

    Methinks the paper should have waited to see a police report on this one. Unless, you know, you couldn't resist piling on with more inference and innuendo.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Owned & operated.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:10 AM | Permalink

    Fantasy Fix

    There have been some reports that Kobe Bryant may not play in this weekend's NBA All-Star Game to catch up on some injury rest - not that you'll be watching. You'll be out with your honey for a Valentine's Day dinner, won't you?

    In any case, if Kobe doesn't play, that probably will drop the Over/Under on this game to about 270 points. Bor-ring . . .

    It might also be the best possible thing for Kobe's fantasy owners, who have seen inconsistent play from him in recent weeks after a finger fracture and a foot injury. He averaged only 19 points per game last week and missed his first game in about three years.

    If Kobe is absent from the All-Star Game, he also may cost the West a victory. My pick is East over West 133-129. In other words, a low-scoring affair.

    My other picks to click for All-Star Weekend: Sophomores will embarrass rookies; Damilo Gallinari will win the three-point contest; Derrick Rose will repeat in the skills challenge, Omri Casspi will shock the world at H-O-R-S-E; and little Nate Robinson will become the first three-time winner of the slam dunk contest, thereby officially killing what has become the weakest part of the weekend - other than the actual game, of course.

    Meanwhile, good news if you're sick of hearing me talk about basketball: Spring training starts soon, and I've got my top 20 picks coming up next week.

    *

    It's Week 16 of the NBA season. Do you think you can make it the rest of the way?

    Fantasy Find of the Week: Peja Stojakovic, SG/SF, New Orleans. He was less than 70% owned at the start of the week, not so surprising given his drop-off the last few years from premiere three-point shooter to something more like a nifty but injury-plagued reserve jump shot specialist. Anyway, more playing time with injuries to the N.O. back court resulted in 21.3 PPG and 3.8 treys per game last week.

    Fantasy Stud of the Week: Andrei Kirilenko, SF/PF. "AK-47" was once a multi-category stat threat, and over the last two weeks has rebuilt that rep with more playing time in Utah. Last week's numbers: 22 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 5.5 APG, 3.5 SPG, 1.5 BPG. That's just nice.

    Fantasy Dud of the Week: Baron Davis, PG, LAC. Coming off a week in which he averaged 5.0 turnovers per game and shot only .378.

    Fantasy Match-up of the Week: By the time you read this, the NBA will be just about to close its short week before the All-Star break, but if you have players from San Antonio, Denver, Orlando or Cleveland, you may luck out with a few extra points.

    *

    Expert Wire
    * Matt Buser at NBA Skinny weighs the options in regard to Chris Paul, who's out until probably the start of the playoffs. Does that mean you should get rid of him? Read on . . .

    * FanHouse has the latest on the resurgence - for one game at least - of Vince Carter, who had all but become a relic before reviving and scoring 48 points. Carter must have finally realized he was no longer relevant.

    * RotoWorld has a report on Wilson Chandler, the multi-talented guard-forward who was great for most of last year, but started slowly this year. He has worked his way up to about 15 PPG and netted 35 points on Tuesday, showing signs of more good things to come.

    * HoopsVibe features a list of Top 10 point guards in honor of the All-Star Game. Steve Nash finishes on top, and with Chris Paul injured, I'd have to agree. Though Deron Williams, at No. 2 on the list, has quietly had a great season.

    * Sergio Gonzalez at CBSSports.com picks his most surprising players of the first half of the season, including Zach Randolph and Luol Deng. Both had slid down draft lists this year, though a lot of people probably bought the sleeper hype on Randolph.

    -

    Dan O'Shea's Fantasy Fix appears in this space every Wednesday. Comments welcome. You can also read his about his split sports fan personality at SwingsBothWays, which isn't about what it sounds like It's about.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:28 AM | Permalink

    February 9, 2010

    The [Tuesday] Papers

    You know what? No one paid attention to Pat Quinn when he was winning the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor twice either. Few politicos took him seriously and he certainly wasn't Rod Blagojevich's choice, but the lieutenant governor's office has pretty much always been a joke.

    And when Quinn took office after Blagojevich was impeached last year, he looked like a deer caught in the headlights.

    Yet, the political establishment - for some strange reason - lined up behind Quinn once he became the putative incumbent.

    There are two reasons for that.

    First, Quinn rushed to embrace the hoariest of Machine creatures, indicating (slobbering?) that he was willing to play ball. (He's embarrassed by Scott Lee Cohen but not Joe Berrios?)

    Second, the good old boys saw that Quinn could be rolled.

    The latest case in point: Quinn says he'll defer to Michael Madigan and the 38 members of the state Democratic central committee to choose his running mate. Way to show leadership, Pat.

    It's not that Quinn doesn't have a preference; he's reportedly pushing for Tammy Duckworth, who isn't remotely qualified to be governor. It's that he's ceding the choice to Madigan, who is notorious for backing losers in races beyond those involving his own chamber.

    But that would just be like Democrats, who tend to overstrategize themselves into defeat. You'd think maybe they would just pick second-place finisher Art Turner, a state representative from Chicago whom Madigan backed anyway. Picking from the other candidates who were bested by both Cohen and Turner would be a farce, no?

    (The Sun-Times notes that Rep. Mike Boland of Moline, who finished fourth in the voting, barely edging out an electrician from Elmhurst, is still interested in the job and that his wife is on the central committee.)

    The only other justifiable pick would be Quinn's barely defeated challenger Dan Hynes, but Hynes has already put the kibosh on that. (Or Kirk Dillard, the likely barely defeated Republican challenger who has bragged about his ability to work across the aisle. How about a bipartisan unity ticket that officially sanctions the Combine?)

    The lieutenant governorship came into vogue after so many folks who have toiled so long in Springfield watched Quinn's ascendancy to the big chair from the little chair.

    "[H]alf the people here want to be lieutenant governor," state Senate President John Cullerton told the Tribune.

    I wish someone would have asked Cullerton why. I suspect the reason is that it's an easy paycheck.

    Meanwhile, the media's irresponsibility continues. "Shocking details emerged last week in the wake of Cohen's win, including an allegation that he once held a knife to a live-in girlfirend's throat."

    An unproven allegation made by an accuser who failed to show up when the case went to court and who refuses to explain her charge. Cohen, on the other hand, is taking all questions.

    Why favor the one account, then, over the other?

    Art Dealer
    "[I]f I had anything to hide, it would have come out before this," Turner tells Sneed.

    Really? How?

    According to ProQuest, Turner has appeared in just two Tribune news articles since 1985.

    Pawn Broker
    "Quinn said he was unaware of any efforts to help Cohen get his $2 million back for dropping out," the Tribune notes.

    "I don't believe that would be the way to go," Quinn said. "Offerings. The answer is no."

    Geez, Pat, the least you could do is give Cohen some advice about how to earn interest of his campaign fund.

    That's Mary!
    "First, Cohen should not have gotten as far as he did when he owed his ex-wife that much child support," Mary Mitchell writes today.

    Right. If he had failed to pay taxes, though, he'd be good to go.

    "Cohen argued that his lack of payment was a misunderstanding, but a parent who doesn't pay court-ordered child support is not fit to run for public office in Illinois."

    But a columnist who writes about court cases without knowing the facts is fit to pick up a paycheck every week.

    It may turn out Cohen has totally screwed his ex-wife and kids, but unless or until we actually know the parameters of the case, who are we to make that assumption? After all, the ex-wife just appeared on TV supporting the guy.

    "Unfortunately, Cohen, a wealthy pawnbroker, was able to buy his way to the top with no questions asked.

    And Alexi Giannoulias was able to buy his way to the top with no questions answered.

    "State Sen. Rickey Hendon, who took third place in the lieutenant governor's race, is proposing legislation that would limit the use of personal and family wealth."

    Unless the money was funneled to Rickey Hendon, I'm guessing.

    *

    The madness goes on and on, but I can't; Mary Mitchell just makes me tired.

    Funny Bone
    "Pawn shop owner Scott Lee Cohen's election-night party at the Palmer House Hilton had some unexpected guests - Chicago Police - who arrived within an hour after Cohen gave his victory speech in the Democratic lieutenant governor's race," the Sun-Times reports.

    "Police weren't responding to anything involving steroids or a domestic dispute - topics that led to Cohen withdrawing Sunday night as Gov. Quinn's running mate."

    Oh stop, you're killing me!

    "Instead, police came because of a missing full-length woman's mink coat valued at an estimated $5,000."

    Because, you know, Cohen hangs out with the type of people who would steal a mink coat.

    "[Accuser Cecili] Tomlin said Monday she's aggravated not only because the coat remains missing but because she felt hotel staff and Cohen workers weren't taking her seriously."

    Huh. I wonder why.

    "She also was perturbed by an offer from Cohen's brother, Randy, to sell her a mink coat from a Cohen-owned pawn shop.

    "'I'm not sure she really had a coat there, but I offered to take care of her because I felt bad,' Randy Cohen said."

    Methinks the paper should have waited to see a police report on this one. Unless, you know, you couldn't resist piling on with more inference and innuendo.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Owned & operated.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:18 AM | Permalink

    February 8, 2010

    SportsMonday: Super Saints

    At the end of the third quarter and the start of the fourth, as I drove my family back from the Super Bowl Party we attended (if my four-year-old stays up much past 8 p.m. the moon gets high enough and she turns into a were-girl), we had a chance to listen to a little of Marv Albert and Boomer Esiason's call on the radio.

    We picked it up as the Colts began the drive that would end in Matt Stover's missed 51-yard field goal attempt. As it began, Esiason, the former Bengal and Jet quarterback, surmised that the game would still come down to which team could make one key defensive stop. And it did feel that way, despite the fact that what many believed would be a shoot-out had featured just 33 combined points during its first 50 minutes.

    Shortly thereafter we returned home, turned on the TV, put it on pause (modern technology!) and took my younger daughter up to bed. A little while later we returned to watch the amazing end of another dramatic Super Bowl (the last decade of football season-enders has featured a half-dozen exciting games following blowout after blowout in the '90s) at the end of another remarkable NFL season. Ultra-parity lives in the League when two of the teams from its smallest markets meet in the Super Bowl. Indianapolis versus New Orleans should be less likely than the Kansas City Royals against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series, and yet who can imagine the latter happening in this day and age.

    And then the fairy tale ending (the Saints pull it out for their epically embattled city) caps it all off.

    Later on, in the blizzard of post-game numbers, one statistic stood out. In the finale of a season in which the high-powered Colts had averaged 12 possessions per game, a variety of factors (most of all the Saints' successful short-passing offense) conspired to limit the number of times Indianapolis even had a chance to score. The favored Colts ended up possessing the ball only eight times in Miami.

    And that difference was huge. It didn't feel like the Saints defense had even made a dent in the Indianapolis offense but somehow they'd managed to make it into the fourth quarter down only 17-16 (how many people would have predicted that after the Colts rushed to the 10-0 first quarter lead).

    So when the Saints did achieve the one critical stop at the end of my family's radio drive, and their offense caught the huge break of great field position despite the defense having allowed the Colts to drive deep in their territory, it was the game's second huge pivot point.

    Stover's poor recent history on field goal attempts of 50 or more yards made that option the least sensible of the three that presented themselves to Colts coach Jim Caldwell at that point didn't it?

    Go for it coach (yes, I know it was fourth-and-11 - Peyton Manning can complete a pass for a dozen yards in his sleep) or go for a pooch punt. But don't give the Saints the ball at their 41.

    The first pivot point was, of course, the ballsiest call in the history of the Super Bowl.

    Never before in the last 44 NFL championship games had a head coach called for an onside kick before fourth-quarter desperation time.

    But local guy Sean Payton did it at the start of the second half.

    Folks will talk about it being a huge momentum shift and amazingly aggressive, but mostly it was a call grounded in cold, analytical reasoning. The Saints couldn't let the Colts offense have the ball too many times. They had to do something outlandish to increase their overall possession time.

    The final pivot point was the only turnover of the contest (in addition to no fumbles in this gem of a game in which there were virtually no penalties). It was the interception returned for the game's final points and it is the play that will haunt Peyton Manning. All of the silly stuff about Manning approaching greatest-ever status was exposed for the foolishness it is. The guy is now 9-9 in the playoffs in his career. Heck, there's another active quarterback whose post-season record towers over that mark. And you may recall that Tom Brady has still won three times as many championships as Manning.

    Bulls Beat
    A large win for the Bulls Saturday - bad losses so frequently turn into sizable losing streaks in the NBA and when the home team again failed to solve the mysterious (to the Bulls and the Bulls alone) Clippers early last week, just such a skid loomed. It appeared the home team would follow its remarkable five-game win road streak with a similar run in the other direction and, sure enough, two more setbacks followed.

    The good news, though, was that the Bulls played much better in those two losses than they had against Los Angeles. And their work paid off in Saturday's stop-the-bleeding, 95-91 win over Miami.

    The home team pulled that one out despite the absence of Joakim Noah due to plantar fasciitis in his foot (the news on that was creepy - team doctors extracted blood from Noah's shoulder and injected it into his heel to speed healing) and Tyrus Thomas.

    Thomas, whose time with the Bulls is almost certainly nearing an end (they'd love to trade him but almost certainly won't be able to - he'll have a chance to be a restricted free agent at the end of the season and if they sign him, they could limit their options under the salary cap), was suspended for cursing out our coach Vinny.

    The guys who did play, particularly Derrick Rose down the stretch and Luol Deng (who averaged over 25 points in the Bulls' two weekend games) all game long, did just enough to hold off Dwyane Wade's Heat.

    The Bulls improved to 24-25, travel to Indiana on Tuesday and then host Orlando the next evening to wrap things up before the All-Star break.

    -

    Jim "Coach" Coffman rounds up the sports weekend in this space every Monday. He welcomes your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:21 AM | Permalink

    The [Monday] Papers

    "Actually I think [Scott Lee] Cohen's biggest problem is that we in the news media failed the voters by missing the story," Mark Brown wrote over the weekend, "and now we can't let up until we have atoned for our sins by pounding him into submission."

    Cohen submitted last night, dropping off the ticket so the Democratic State Central Committee can choose someone of clearly stronger moral fiber to help them block ethics reform while doling out contracts to cronies and voting themselves pay raises. Thank God for our media watchdogs!

    "Trust Us, Mr. Cohen: You are Not Wanted," the three people who make up the Sun-Times editorial board blared on Sunday.

    I don't recall ever seeing a similar headline about the skanky Michael Madigan.

    "The people of Illinois don't want you as their lieutenant governor," the paper's soothsayers declared. "The polls will prove it soon enough."

    They just know - and they must have the track record to prove it. After all, conventional wisdom is always right, right?

    "Nobody's going to vote for a man who's wrapped up like a mummy in words like 'prostitution' and 'steroids' and 'knife.'" Words like "bribery" and "clout lists," yes, but not prostitution!

    Apparently the Sun-Times has never heard of Marion Barry or William Jefferson or the collective DUIs of the Bush-Cheney administration.

    Just to be sure, though, I submitted a query to Beachwood Labs: How often has conventional wisdom been right? The answer: Never.

    America would never put Dan Quayle within a heartbeat of the presidency!

    And I'm sure Illinois would never put a 27-year-old neophyte whose only political experience seems to be as an intern within a heartbeat of the governor's office. Oh wait, that's the Republican nominee.

    Steroids? JFK was the dopest pill-popper ever to hold the presidency. At least Cohen's drug use appears to be in the past. How many alcoholics - present and recovering - hold public office in Illinois today?

    And the sneering that accompanies every use of the word pawnbroker is palpable. At least he's not a corporate liar, er, lawyer.

    "People May Have Voted, But Decency Ruled," Richard Roeper's column moralizes today.

    Really? Since when is the Illinois Democratic Party the arbiter of moral decency? Since Madigan became its chairman?

    "The speaker is prepared to work with the members of the (Democratic) State Central Committee, Gov. Quinn and Senate President (John) Cullerton to work on selecting a replacement," Madigan's spokesman Steve Brown said on Sunday.

    The speaker isn't, however, prepared to answer questions from reporters. Apparently that wouldn't be the decent, democratic thing to do.

    It gets richer. Alexi Giannoulias, who never met a shady bank client he didn't like, was so offended by the allegations against Cohen that he called on him to step down, notwithstanding the reputation of his family bank as mob-friendly and perhaps between meetings with Michael "Jaws" Giarango.

    Lisa Madigan also joined the chorus of upright politicos pressuring Cohen, though she omitted any criticism of the state party chairman who failed once again to take any interest in his job. Maybe that's because the state party chairman is her father, who helped put Lisa into office by strong-arming the state's political establishment and those who fund it. That, however, was never a moral crisis in her mind.

    The media's muddled minds continued apace as well. On Sunday, the Sun-Times's big headline was: "Ex-Girlfriend: Cohen Is Not Fit For Office."

    That would be the prostitute who lived with Cohen for a few months a few years ago. The paper somehow decided she was the central character witness even though she only spoke through her attorney and could not be questioned by reporters. Cohen's ex-wife, however, who in divorce papers accused him of trying to forcibly have sex with her during their marriage, has been saying for days that Cohen is "not that person today and hasn't been for quite some time."

    Even more bizarre is that Mayor Richard M. Daley emerged as the seemingly lone voice of reason over the weekend. "So anybody who's arrested and the case is thrown out, they should not run for public office?"

    Yes, it's not as simple as that. The Tribune on Sunday reported that "He has been sued dozens of times for back taxes, had trouble paying his mortgage and has been cited numerous times by the city for building code violations and failing to pay water bills."

    And I've already stated Cohen shouldn't be anywhere near the governor's office. But then again, neither should Pat Quinn. The hypocrisy of our media and political elites is rank.

    The media is also shading its case. In the Tribune's story on Monday, the paper acknowledges that "Cohen indeed did mention [the domestic battery charge] to reporters covering his campaign," but takes him to task for "omit[ting] critical details found in the police report and other court records."

    Cohen, it seems, was too busy "stressing that the charges were dropped when the girlfriend failed to show up in court to press them."

    Imagine.

    And in today's Sun-Times, the paper describes Cohen's appearance last week on Chicago Tonight with his supportive ex-wife as "chaotic." I must not have been watching the same show. (A Sun-Times editorial described his as "the guy," to, you know, further diminish his stature into . . . one of us. The media prefers fake Everymen to real ones.)

    Mary Mitchell, meanwhile, found Cohen's ex-wife to be "tacky" - unlike the North Shore's Jenny Sanford, the disgraced wife of South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford. Mitchell, ever on the ball, apparently missed the news that our Jenny married the guy despite his insistence that the part about being faithful be dropped from their wedding vows.

    I guess tackiness is a matter of interpretation.

    Finally, Neil Steinberg congratulates himself today for resisting the urge to vote for Cohen based on their shared Judaism. Instead, the smartest political commentator in the world cast a vote for "a man whose name I had never heard, a man about whom I knew absolutely nothing."

    Apparently Steinberg isn't paid enough to do his own homework before stepping into the voting booth. Instead of thinking for himself, he just followed the endorsements of his own paper. So he cast his vote for state Rep. Art Turner (D-Chicago). That would be the guy Michael Madigan backed.

    But Cohen is the one with the character problem.

    See also:
    * Lite Guv Lunacy
    * Go Cohen!

    COMMENT: From Noell Jezek:

    Ya know what? I'm writing in Cohen for governor in the general in November. It appears the rest of the politicians and media are absolutely clueless. Cohen is a folk hero and probably would have no problem tellin' it like it is. Where do those jackass Democrats come off? These are the same clowns that voted Blago in for a second term even though he was under investigation. Give me a break.

    They Tried To Buy The Primaries
    Moral arbite this.

    The Next Jersey Shore
    A Beachwood exclusive.

    The Who's Super Bowl Suckage
    Huffing and puffing for a paycheck.

    How The Saints Won
    A tale of two coaches, one critical defensive stop, and Peyton Manning on and off the field. By our very own Jim Coffman.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Intensive care.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:10 AM | Permalink

    The Who's Super Bowl Suckage

    Wow, that was brutal.

    Let's take a look.

    *

    Jim DeRogatis: Super Bowl XLIV gave us the saddest, most tired musical spectacle yet: the band that pretends to be the Who . . . The newest song on that set list was 32 years old; the oldest was 41. But it wasn't even the tunes' over-familiarity that was the biggest problem.

    Townshend (64) and Daltrey (65) were woefully flat and way out of sync during the unison vocal parts, and they relied on empty theatrics to convey the musical energy of the Who when the Who really were the Who. But the lasers, fireworks, geysers of flame and an elaborate illuminated stage that put U2's current tour setup to shame couldn't disguise the fact that these were two grizzled old pros going through the motions for a high-profile payday, with barely a hint of the powers they possessed at their peak.

    Greg Kot: The Who's Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend huffed and puffed as they tried to match the energy and bravado of songs originally recorded more than 30 years ago Sunday in their showcase slot as Super Bowl halftime headliners . . . Daltrey and Townshend keep pushing the brand and have licensed their music to countless advertisers to keep it alive. Their set list played like a compendium of TV commercials from the last decade as much as a classic-rock primer.

    Dave Reardon: Having The Who play the Super Bowl is like staging a slow-pitch softball game featuring Willie Mays and Carl Yastrzemski between sets of a Kanye West concert.

    Dave Zirin: From the military cheerleading, to Tim and Pam Tebow's vapid Focus on the Family ad, to the Who's halftime act which clearly violated the Geneva accords: None of it matters now. We'll go back to building resistance to Obama's wars. Tim Tebow will go back to being the next Eric Crouch. And the Who will go back to Madame Tussaud's. For right now, it just doesn't matter because the New Orleans Saints won the damn Super Bowl.

    David Schultz: SO WHAT DID WE LEARN from The Who's performance at the Super Bowl? 1) The Who Sell Out wasn't irony; it was foreshadowing. 2) Roger Daltrey can no longer belt out "Baba O'Riley" like he did 35 years ago . . . or any other song for that matter. 3) Who medleys are unsatisfying. 4) CBS knew not to put a fake crowd near Pete Townshend. 5) None of the above was as surreal as Grizzly Bear scoring a Volkswagen ad that features Stevie Wonder playing Slug Bug with Tracy Jordan.

    YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST: Super Bowl 45 Halftime show = Billy Joel.

    The Ad Contrarian: Glad to see the old formula still holding up - the bigger the laser show, the worse the music.

    Football Fanatics: Reebok Super Bowl XLIV Cream Explosion The Who Super Soft Premium T-shirt

    Price: $39.95

    Get ready to rock with The Who during the Super Bowl XLIV halftime show with this stylish Explosion super soft premium tee from Reebok's Retro Sport Collection featuring a customized print on the front!

    -

    Playing to the Press: Embarrassing, but still better than the real thing.

    -

    The promo:

    -

    The performance (part one):

    -

    The performance (part two):

    -

    Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:25 AM | Permalink

    The Next Jersey Shore

    According to sources close to the Beachwood, the following pitches were recently made to the following channels.

    *

    Death Rattle - A&E
    Spend 24 hours in America's deadliest hospice.

    *

    Look at My Dick - Spike
    Fucking Look At It.

    *

    Celebrity Cameltoe - E!
    Special Oscar Preview.

    *

    Douchebags - MTV
    The Boys totally party with some sluts.

    *

    Sluts - MTV
    The Girls totally party with some Douchebags.

    *

    Celebrity Nutsack - CNN
    Hosted by Larry King.

    *

    Possibly, Maybe, Could Be, Dontcha Think, It's Dangerous - Discovery
    Some Blue Collar Guys are edited to look like they might get hurt, but really, nothing ever happens.

    *

    Dead White Girls - WE
    They're photogenic and dead.

    *

    Possibly, Maybe, Could Be, Doesn't It Look Like, It's Dangerous? - History Channel
    Some Blue Collar Guys are edited to look like they might get hurt, but really, nothing ever happens.

    *

    You Ig-nant - PBS
    High School Quiz Show.

    *

    That's What You Get - CBN
    Pat Robertson looks at the news.

    *

    Hot Naked Chicks - Spike, MTV, E!
    Straight to the point.

    *

    Addicted to Dr. Drew - VH-1
    Get your fix.

    -

    Submissions welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:56 AM | Permalink

    They Tried To Buy The Primaries

    Data for top primary campaign contributors (contributions and loans) from January 1, 2009 to January 2, 2010 supplied by the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. Comments by me.

    *

    1. Mary McKenna, $2,732,000.
    It must be nice to be a kept man, Andy.

    2. SEIU HealthCare IL In PAC/SEIU IL Council, $2,066,000.
    They give to Republicans too.

    3. Scott Lee Cohen, $1,788,666.
    But you couldn't buy a responsible press.

    4. RP Lumber, Inc., Plummer General, Jason Plummer, Robert Plummer, $1,310,000.
    Another rich kid coasting on daddy's money.

    5. IL Education Assn IPACE, $872,500.
    Backed Hynes, Dillard and Hoffman.

    6. Adam Andrzejewski, $758,255.
    Maybe he should have bought an easier last name.

    7. IL State Medical Society, $483,250.
    With only the best interests of patients in mind, I'm sure.

    8. IL Hospital Assn PAC, $478,772.
    With only the best interests of patients in mind, I'm sure.

    9. Construction & General Laborers District Council of Chicago, $432,825.
    Can you say Capital Bill?

    10. Health Care Council of IL PAC, $407,186.
    Because there aren't enough health care PACS yet.

    11. Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois, $404,800.
    But who represents beer drinkers?

    12. IL Pipe Trades PAC, $398,300.
    Apparently there's a lot of pipe legislation coming up.

    13. IL Federation of Teachers, $379,905.
    With only the best interests of students in mind, I'm sure.

    14. AT&T IL Employee PAC, $356,335.
    Because AT&T employees only want what's best for the people.

    15. Fred Eychaner, $351,500.
    He's just getting warmed up.

    16. Theodore G. Spryopolous, $344,214.
    Uniting Greek-Americans by buying his daughter a water reclamation board seat.

    17. ComEd PAC, $333,470.
    Fighting for the right to raise our rates.

    18. Ron Gidwitz, $316,814.
    Still spending down that Helene Curtis fortune.

    19. Friends of Edward W. Burke/Burnham Com/14th Ward, $313,500.
    Make no small contributions.

    20. Ameren, $302,225.
    They're reaching out to everyone.

    21. Thomas Patrick, $301,000.
    Former People's Energy bust still making our lives miserable.

    22. Craig J. Duchossois, $293,758.
    The J stands for slots at the track.

    23. John O. Roeser, $260,000.
    Rumor has it he's a homosexual.

    24. Justin P. Oberman, $258,000.
    Has already started office-shopping for 2012.

    25. Comcast, $241,050.
    Lobbyists available between 1 and 4 p.m.

    26. Citizens for Emil Jones Jr., $236,500
    Depending on what you mean by "citizens" - and "for."

    -

    Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:41 AM | Permalink

    February 6, 2010

    The Weekend Desk Report

    We're just trying to find an honorable way out of this one.

    Market Update
    If you thought the rewards for arrogance and incompetence in the banking sector were bad, wait until you see the perks in the NFL.

    Guantan-Illini
    We can't even count for you the number of times a Weekend Desker has stood waiting at CTA bus stop in the dead of winter thinking, "I sure wish I was being waterboarded right now." So we have to applaud Senator Orrin Hatch for having the stones to call it like it is. Hell, throw in a stiff breeze and a longer wait time and we'd even take extraordinary rendition.

    Doomsday Bowl
    It looks as though the Big Game is destined to drag into overtime, generating a huge amount of fuss and excitement for about a week before we all hopefully forget it ever happened. Until next year, that is.

    Match-up Problems
    This season's Super Bowl match-up has been aching difficult for the Weekend Desk to handicap. While some players show a certain charming naivety, they couldn't possibly be young and dumb enough to be called "Colts." And try though some may, there aren't exactly any Saints in this debacle either.

    Men At Work
    Finally this week, US job seekers were encouraged by the news that the nation's unemployment rate fell under 10% in January. However, analysts warn the true costs of recovery may not be known for another 30 freaking years.

    Posted by Natasha Julius at 8:39 AM | Permalink

    February 5, 2010

    The [Friday] Papers

    As I ask in Go Cohen! today, is Scott Lee Cohen really more of a disgrace on the Dem ticket than Alexi Giannoulias? At least Cohen earned his millions.

    *

    "In 2002, [infamous Chicago madam Rose] Laws was sentenced to 22 months in federal prison," John Kass writes today. "The circuit's Outfit protector, Michael 'Jaws' Giorango, was convicted of promoting a nationwide prostitution ring and sentenced to six months federal time.

    "Even before his last prison stay, Giorango had reinvented himself as a real estate investor.

    "He'd already been purchasing office buildings and renting space to politicians. His tenants included U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.; now-retired state Sen. Carol Ronen, D-Chicago, and state Rep. Harry Osterman, D-Chicago. He also received $11 million in loans from the Giannoulias family's Broadway Bank. The loans to Jaws were approved by Alexi Giannoulias."

    The Green Line Panhandler
    "Clarence Ervin had panhandled on CTA trains all night, and he looked like it," Jon Hilkevitch writes in the Tribune today.

    "Cold and bleary-eyed, he said he was afraid of getting caught - a surprising sentiment for a man who has been arrested 178 times, according to police and court records.

    "Ervin, 52, has amassed charges ranging from panhandling on trains and disorderly conduct to drug possession and assault and battery, the records show.

    "He is a source of widespread fear among riders on the Green Line between the Loop and Oak Park."

    I don't want to diminish Ervin's problems or the safety concerns of Green Line passengers, but you have to admire his pluck.

    *

    To those who say the unemployed are lazy, consider Ervin. It's hard work doing what he does every day.

    Only In Chicago
    "WHO was indicted? To sign up for breaking headlines text NEWS to 20101. sun-times.com TEXT ALERTS."

    Facebook Feed
    Matt Farmer is trying to broker a new sponsorship deal for Tiger Woods: Tiger Woods and Toyota -- "We're doing our best to learn how to stop."

    Farmer's Dream
    "Tonight, my friends, nearly 12% of the registered Democrats in the great State of Illinois have spoken with a strong and united voice. And so I stand before you this evening as the Democratic nominee to fill the U.S. Senate seat once held by my old basketball buddy, President Barack Obama," Matt Farmer writes in "Twelve Percent of the People Have Spoken" at Huffington Post.

    "Despite their Herculean efforts, my two previously unknown opponents were only able to capture 54% of the vote from the roughly 30% of registered Democrats who actually made it to the polls. I, on the other hand, captured 39% of that slim turnout, which means that nearly 12% of registered Democrats in this state cared enough about me and my message to make me the party's nominee."

    Daley's World I
    "The largest female-owned subcontractor on Mayor Daley's multibillion-dollar O'Hare Modernization Project was hit with federal charges Thursday that accuse the company of illegally collecting more than $9.5 million in public contracts," the Sun-Times reports.

    It's a good thing he's just the mayor, because with all his baggage Daley isn't even remotely qualified to run for lieutenant governor.

    Daley's World II
    "Mayor Daley made a last-ditch plea Thursday for CTA unions to make concessions to save 1,100 jobs and avert drastic service cuts set to take effect Sunday," the Sun-Times reports.

    "'The people of Chicago are struggling to make ends meet,' Daley said. 'They need to get to work. They don't need service cuts. It's time for the CTA's unions to be a part of the solution.'"

    Huh. That's funny, because . . .

    "Robert Kelly, president of the Amalgamated Transit Workers Union Local 308, representing motormen, said he's been trying for weeks to schedule a meeting with Daley.

    "'I find it awfully odd, 40 hours before the deadline, that he's reaching out to us, when I've been trying to reach out to him,' Kelly said."

    And . . .

    "'As late as last Wednesday, we made a very viable offer to give the CTA work-rule changes and concessions totaling between $50 million and $80 million,' Kelly said. 'They flat-out rejected it.'"

    And . . .

    "Last week, CTA unions said they'd offered concessions, only to have agency officials walk away, accusing them of lying. Sources said the deferred pay raises and furlough days the unions offered would have applied only to the 1,100 CTA employees targeted for layoffs, not to the entire unionized workforce, and that that wouldn't have provided enough savings."

    I smell a rat. And I think you know who the rat is.

    People's Dispatch
    From the Beachwood mailbag:

    "It's funny, a year after hope and change, I see an electorate with fewer energized members than ever. Except for the crazy right, which is always amped up on meth or something."

    Bloodshot February
    Andre Williams' cologne and a Robbie Fulks residency.

    Yeah, He Said It!
    Dis and dat, dem and dose. By George Ofman.

    Teamwork, My Friend

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Pwned.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:53 AM | Permalink

    Go Cohen!

    Embattled lieutenant governor nominee Scott Lee Cohen has finally won my support. If only he wasn't tethered to his bumbling running mate.

    It happened during Cohen's interview on Chicago Tonight last night when I realized that Cohen was the only one during the campaign and this ensuing episode who did his job. He didn't try to hide his past; he practically begged the media to take a look at it and get it out of the way - so just this scenario wouldn't develop.

    As Cohen sat (with his ex-wife) opposite Phil Ponce, I thought to myself, Cohen should be interviewing him!

    "And why, sir, did you not see fit to examine the backgrounds of the candidates running to sit within a heartbeat of the governorship?"

    "What do you think about the media's failure to care about this race?"

    "To what degree should we hold party chairman Michael Madigan responsible?"

    "Am I any less qualified for the job than Rickey Hendon? Doesn't his background scare you?"

    Let's take a look at Cohen's interview and some of the coverage in today's papers.

    Cohen Tonight
    "I assure you, I promise you, I never touched the woman," Cohen told Ponce of allegations made by an ex-girlfriend. "I never tried to cut her throat."

    Let's remember that the accuser failed to show up in court and the charges were dropped. What do you do with that? I'm pretty sure you don't presume guilt without further corroborating evidence, but the fact is that Cohen - and his ex-wife - stated many times that he went through a dark time in his life. And that that time is long gone.

    If only he had hired David Axelrod to spin his story into a redemption narrative; the press would be eating it up.

    *

    And the scares on the accuser's neck?

    If she did have scars, they were done by her, Cohen said. "If we could find her, I'm sure she would say the same thing."

    Cohen said her charges were retaliation for him getting her arrested for trashing his home. Anyone who watches Cops knows this is entirely plausible.

    *

    "I never knew her as a prostitute . . . I still don't believe she was a prostitute, even though she pleaded guilty to something."

    This is the only part of Cohen's story that strikes me as disingenuous, though the media seems to have forgotten that not every massage therapist is a hooker.

    *

    "I understand it looks bad, and that's why I tried so hard to put it out the day I announced I was running . . . I have answered every question that was asked of me by the media."

    Unlike, say, Alexi Giannoulias. But somehow he and his problems are not a disgrace to the ticket.

    *

    "I tried so hard to put this out the day I announced so it wouldn't come to this. Nobody listened . . . I will not resign. I will not step down."

    You go, Cohen!

    "The media is now bothering my ex-wife, my children, that's not fair to them . . . I worked hard for the people to get elected . . . I will not step down. I did nothing wrong."

    That's right. I mean, what did Cohen do wrong? I'm not dismissing the serious nature of the charges against him, but unlike most pols he didn't try to hide them. I don't know that he's qualified to be governor, which is a standard you have to use for the job, but was Corinne Wood?

    Hell, was Rod Blagojevich?

    And is Cohen's past worse than Jim Ryan's? Ryan tried to kill a guy for a crime he didn't commit!

    *

    Yes, Cohen used steroids for awhile. He didn't lie to Congress about it.

    "It was a bad time in my life, I was trying to put muscle on. It was a bad decision."

    You know what? Our president "did a little blow." Welcome to Planet Earth.

    *

    I thought ex-wife Debra made the best argument: "That's not who he is now."

    I have no idea if it's true, but we know who Pat Quinn is now. He appears to be going through a bad time in his life.

    *

    Debra's first push-back against Ponce: "I have not been in court dozens of times [on alimony issues]."

    Pone: "We've looked at the records and it sure looks that way."

    Whatever, dude!

    *

    "I don't believe I'm an embarrassment ot the ticket," Cohen said.

    No, that would still be Alexi. Oh, and Joe Berrios.

    *

    About federal tax troubles, which he says are now resolved: "Business was down . . . I turned it around and built a million-dollar operation."

    Sounds like just the man we need!

    "I paid everyone back."

    So, unlike Obama's Treasury Secretary, Cohen made good on his federal taxes before attempting to assume public office.

    *

    Ponce references the "negative reputations" of pawn shops, but it seems to me I've seen an awful lot of stories in the media over the last year about pawn shops becoming trendy during the downturn.

    Maybe it's just that pawn shops are for the lower classes; the rich pay usury to Bank of America instead.

    *

    "I've been the most honest, open forthright candidate that's been out there."

    And I never worked for Broadway Bank!

    *

    Debra's second push-back against Ponce: "I don't have any grandchildren, that must be a misquote from somebody."

    *

    Ponce: "The conventional wisdom is if you are on the ticket, Governor Quinn does not stand a chance of winning."

    And the conventional wisdom has been so right so far.

    *

    Maybe Ponce should ask Alexi - or Quinn - if they hurt the ticket. Neither is the party's best candidate for a general election.

    *

    The Dems are playing this all wrong. They've got a a lieutenant governor nominee who is a working man whose business skills have made him rich. Yet, he's an everyday guy who understands your problems. Would you rather have him a heartbeat away from the governorship or Republican nominee Jason Plummer, a 27-year-old who didn't build a business but just stepped into his family's fortune?

    *

    You know what? There's nothing the party can do! Ride it out, Scott. History shows that Pat Quinn doesn't have the stomach for a fight. Just ask James Montgomery. (Ah, if only you were black; your place on the ticket would be sealed.)

    Quinn Din
    "Quinn said Cohen 'should step aside' if Cohen can't adequately explain the circumstances surrounding an October 2005 domestic battery arrest," the Sun-Times reports.

    And Quinn should step aside if he can't adequately explain his early prisoner release program.

    *

    Again, I'm not diminishing the seriousness of domestic battery. I'm just sayin' . . .

    *

    Was last night adequate enough, governor? What more does he have to say for his explanation to be adequate?

    *

    In the Sun-Times, Cohen got a character reference from massage therapist Kassandra Malone, who told the paper he's a "really nice guy."

    Hey, that's better than Eddie Vrdolyak getting a character reference from Brian Urlacher.

    *

    I wonder if Cohen and Urlacher have seen each other in court on child support payment issues.

    Mell's Belle
    "[Cohen] got some help from some veteran politicians," the Sun-Times reports. "Ald. Dick Mell (33rd) and Ald. Robert Maldonado (26th) urged voters to support him on their Web sites."

    Mell also endorsed Quinn and surely turned out troops for him.

    *

    I'm sure Mell and Maldonado were attracted to Cohen for his ideas on creating jobs, not his enormous personal wealth.

    My guess is that they publicly backed Cohen to bank a favor while personally believing he had no chance. Who have the characters problems in that scenario?

    *

    "Quinn said Cohen must answer questions from the public, and if he can't answer them, 'to step aside.'"

    Again, why the higher standard for Cohen?

    Daley's Guy
    "State Sen. Terry Link (D-Vernon Hills) said he and other candidates running against Cohen tried to alert the Quinn and Dan Hynes campaigns a month ahead of the election to the prospect of a Cohen victory," the Sun-Times reports. "A Link emissary talked to Quinn's campaign manager about [Mark] Brown's column revealing that Cohen was a pawn broker with a domestic battery arrest."

    Quinn's campaign manager is John Kamis.

    Huh, how 'bout this . . . according to Kamis's LinkedIn profile, he was an assistant to Mayor Daley for two years before joining the Quinn campaign, working as one of his Springfield lobbyists.

    Media Madness
    Channel 5's Dick Johnson asked Cohen yesterday: "Why would you run with that baggage?"

    Compared to whom, our presidential candidates? Our mayor?

    Scott Lee Cohen has triggered some sort of delusional thinking in our media about what kind of world we're living in.

    *

    Johnson also made sure to note that Cohen doesn't have a college degree. (Cohen can do him one better; he has a GED, not a traditional high school diploma.)

    Unlike all the super-smart people working in TV news.

    *

    Channel 2's Mike Flannery: "Dude!"

    Really.

    Flannery then called Cohen "scary."

    As opposed to who, Ed Burke?

    *

    Quinn/Cohen: Worst Democratic ticket ever?

    *

    "He surprised everyone but himself in besting five candidates in Tuesday's primary," the Tribune editorial page states today.

    I know this is a little bit of a nitpick, but Cohen actually revealed last night that he was surprised.

    "Our guess is that the voters weren't paying much attention."

    And neither were we!

    "The default strategy is to try to bully Cohen off the ballot, which could be interesting to watch. Quinn said Thursday that Cohen 'has an obligation to step aside' if his past threatens to take down the ticket. The governor said he's already consulting with state party chairman Mike Madigan about how to name a replacement.

    "Good luck with that. Cohen bought the voters' affection with his own money, which is no better or worse than having the party buy it for him. He doesn't have to do what Madigan says. We can't be the only ones who like the sound of that."

    -

    Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:29 AM | Permalink

    Ofman: Dis and Dat, Dem and Dose

    This should come as no surprise. The Bulls lose back-to-back games to inferior teams after doing something no other NBA team had ever done: win five straight road games against teams with above .500 records. Then again, how do you classify the Bulls? Are they a playoff team, simply mediocre or, when it's all said and done, inferior like some of the opponents they've lost to?

    MARTZ: I've never seen this much ink spilled, voices raised and blogs blogged for an assistant coach. But Mike Martz and the Bears more than welcomed it with the hiring of the offensive guru. First he met with Lovie (who wanted him all along even though Jerry Angelo didn't), then he courted Jay Cutler in Nashville. Here's what worries me most about the Martz offense: His quarterbacks have ranked sixth or higher in interceptions thrown during each of the last nine seasons. Last I looked, Cutler was already near the top of that category last year, and that was with Ron Turner. And in each of the last seven years, Martz's teams have finished sixth or worse in giving up sacks. So remember these two words for next season: pickoffs and maimed!

    YEAH, HE SAID IT!: Ron Zook got just about bupkis when it came to recruits. This is what happens when your program stinks and you're Lovie Lite. Another words, he's history after next season . . . or during it!

    BLACKHAWKS: Everyone is talking about the Blackhawks, but mostly they're talking about who they can acquire before the early March trading deadline. Goaltender? Doubtful. Big hitting defenseman? Likely. Big time scorer? Who wouldn't want Atlanta's Ilia Kovalchuk, who turns 27 in April, is a prolific goal scorer, and has twice scored more than 50 goals and more than 50 three times? The New Jersey Devils would and got him last night. Sorry, Hawks fans. But let's remember defense is crucial and I'd go for the backliner unless the Hawks stun everyone and add a veteran goalie.

    DENT: Don't you think it's about time the Pro Football Hall of Fame opened its doors for Richard Dent? It seems as if he's been a finalist forever. All he did was average nearly 11 sacks a season during his 12-year career. If he doesn't make it tomorrow, he might as well shack up with Ron Santo.

    DEL NEGRO: Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Vinny Del Negro refuses to play Tyrus Thomas during crunch time, which makes it a whole lot tougher to trade him, one would think. I understand Del Negro wants to win and, for now, Thomas doesn't give him the best chance of doing so. But unless Thomas gets quality minutes, his trade value decreases.

    NU: You have to love Northwestern's basketball squad. Saddled with the loss of its best player in Kevin Coble and a key reserve in Jeff Ryan, the Wildcats are 4-6 in the Big Ten and 15-7 overall. Seven of their remaining eight conference games are against teams with a combined record of 9-28, including two against Indiana, Iowa and winless Penn State. The Cats also play at Wisconsin. A Big Ten record of 10-8 would get them into their first dance; 9-9 might be a stretch. Right now it's hard to pick anyone but Bill Carmody as conference Coach of the Year.

    SUPER BOWL: Here's what I want out of the Super Bowl: A well-played game and top-notch commercials. I'm not rooting for anyone in particular, just for a game with drama - and not drama produced by the officials and instant replay. Says here the Colts beat the Saints 27-23. Instead of putting down money on the game, just send it to me.

    -

    You can catch me on Twitter and Facebook.

    -

    George Ofman is now with WGN radio after a 17-year run with The Score. He also blogs for ChicagoNow under the banner That's All She Wrote.

    -

    Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:02 AM | Permalink

    Bloodshot Briefing: The February Goods

    * The Deadstring Brothers' Sao Paulo hits American shelves on February 23rd. Here's what the band's hometown critic writes in the Metro Times:

    "Throughout their career thus far, this band has been regularly compared to such whiskey-sotted rockers as the Stones and the Black Crowes, and it's fair to say that they've never sounded more like Exile on Main Street than they do here on the title track and the phenomenal "The River Song."

    * On the literary front, Andre Williams is out with the juiced-up memoir Sweets. He took some time to talk to the Village Voice:

    "It took a couple of days to get Williams on the phone because of his emergency trips to the hospital. During the wait, this quote from Marah Eakin, one of his recording label's publicists, took on new meaning: 'Andre is truly a mystery to us all. He just graces our presence with his suits and cologne and songs."

    * The Blacks will appear with Bloodshot founders/owners Rob Miller and Nan Warshaw on The Interview Show at the Hideout tonight, 6:30 p.m.

    * Here's where else you can catch Bloodshot artists this month:

    Artist: Robbie Fulks
    Venue: Hideout
    Date: Every Monday this month
    Sample:

    -

    Artist: Jon Langford
    Venue: Lincoln Hall
    Date: Feb. 14
    Sample:

    -

    Artist: Ha Ha Tonka
    Venue: Subterranean
    Date: Feb. 20
    Sample:

    -

    Artist: Justin Townes Earle
    Venue: Lincoln Hall
    Date: Feb. 27
    Sample:

    -

    Matt Harness brings you his Bloodshot Briefing every Friday. He welcomes your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:01 AM | Permalink

    February 4, 2010

    The [Thursday] Papers

    More notes from the election, plus some other stuff at the end.

    1. Democratic lieutenant governor nominee Scott Lee Cohen has stolen the spotlight from Pat Quinn, Dan Hynes, Kirk Dillard, Bill Brady, Alexi Giannoulias and Mark Kirk this morning. I've got it covered in Lite Guv Lunacy.

    2. "Last night, my intern Barton Lorimor talked to Quinn campaign finance director David Rosen about the election results," Rich Miller writes. "'I think that one person cannot divide the party any longer,' Rosen said. Rosen also called the victory a 'mandate,' and said that even a 'one-point' win would be a 'mandate'."

    I wonder if Rosen thought George W. Bush had a mandate after the 2000 election.

    *

    Quinn himself has said that even a one-vote win is a landslide in his book.

    Welcome to the Pat Bush administration.

    3. Someone should ask veteran political strategist Don Rose if he intends to vote for Alexis Giannoulias next fall, given that he wrote this in December:

    "It's hard to really screw up being state treasurer, but Giannoulias and his handpicked crew managed to do so, big time."

    *

    Part of that crew is Robin Kelly, the Democratic nominee to replace Giannoulias as treasurer.

    *

    Better yet, someone should ask the Democratic nominee for state comptroller, David Miller, if he supports his party's candidate for the U.S. Senate, given his stream of vicious attacks Miller volleyed against Giannoulias's office during his campaign against deputy treasurer Raja Krishnamoorthi.

    Was it for real or just politics? If Giannoulias (and his crew) were as bad as these folks say, they can't justify supporting any of them for public office - unless party comes before competence and honesty.

    4. "I am the only candidate talking about jobs," Giannoulias said on Wednesday.

    Except all the others.

    5. "One phone call Tuesday night proved Toni Preckwinkle is now a player in Cook County politics," the Tribune reports.

    "Commissioner John Daley, the powerful head of the board's Finance Committee, called to congratulate her on winning the Democratic primary for board president. Her calls to him in recent months had gone unreturned, she said."Asked if she would reach out to Daley to discuss county issues, Preckwinkle smiled and said, 'Yes, now that he'll talk to me again'."

    It would have been more satisfying if she had said, "Hell, no!" but we'll see.

    6. Thanks to early voting schedule, Todd Stroger "faces what may be the longest lame-duck period in county history," the Trib notes.

    Somehow fitting.

    Worst. Lame. Duck. Ever.

    7. Pat Ryan contributed $15,000 to Toni Preckwinkle's campaign, the Sun-Times notes.

    And Daley told his friends to support her.

    Her votes for the Olympics and Daley's budget shenanigans literally paid off.

    8. Mary Mitchell showed up for work again and got paid to peddle more nonsense. To wit:

    "I couldn't help but notice that in Tuesday's Democratic primary for Cook County Board chairman, County Board President Todd Stroger landed in the same spot he drew in the ballot lottery to line up the field last November.

    "Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) took the top spot and held on to it to become the Democratic Party's nominee.

    "And, yes, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District President Terrence O'Brien was second, and Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown was third, which is exactly how these candidates ended up.

    "As the old folks would say, 'In life, there are no coincidences.'"

    Um, what are you saying Mary? That the fix was in? Stroger chose (or was forced into) the last ballot spot because he was the last to deliver his petitions. That voters just went with the order they were faced with? Then Preckwinkle would have gotten every single vote. I'm not sure how this was anything but a coincidence.

    9. Here's that Giannoulias-Soprano ad if you haven't seen it yet.

    10. Taylor Swift makes her second appearance in our Trivial Pursuit feature today.

    11. "To make a long story short, Chef Gordon did what he always does on any of his programs requiring drastic makeovers, which is to rename the place (The Junction this time, since it's next to a railroad crossing, duh) after remodeling it into something relatively attractive, and scale the menu back far enough to prominently feature meat loaf as a special," our very own Scott Buckner writes in What I Watched Last Night.

    "This frees the head chef from indentured servitude as a line cook to rediscover his joy of cooking and head-chef a signature dish (chicken-shrimp jubilee this time). As it so happened, 70-year-old Tony had a meat loaf recipe up his sleeve that he'd been just dying to whip up during the eight years Adele's been forcing him to dodder around behind a food pushcart of some sort called 'the trolley' like it was a walker."

    12. Shopping for Point Guards in Fantasy Fix.

    13. Chicagoetry: St. Francis of My Ass.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Make us proud.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:50 AM | Permalink

    Lite Guv Lunacy

    "Sometimes, I just don't know whether to laugh or cry" a faithful Beachwood reader writes. "How the hell did local media manage to break the news about Dorothy Brown's jeans drama before Tuesday while blowing off Scott Lee Cohen's legal troubles?"

    Let's take a look.

    *

    "Scott Lee Cohen - a pawnbroker who shocked state Democratic leaders Tuesday night by winning the party's nomination for lieutenant governor - was arrested about four-and-a-half years ago and accused of holding a knife to a former live-in girlfriend's neck, newly obtained court records show," the Sun-Times reports.

    Actually, as we shall learn, state Democratic leaders weren't exactly shocked; they started to believe Cohen had a good chance of winning at least a month ago. With the exception of Mark Brown, however, as we will get to, the media did not seem to notice.

    "The misdemeanor charge against Cohen was dropped weeks later when the woman - who had just been found guilty of prostitution - failed to show up to testify, according to those records.

    Which begs the question: How much weight should be given to a dropped charge?

    "Cohen's Oct. 14, 2005, arrest came five months after his wife filed for divorce and convinced a judge to give her a temporary order of protection, records show."

    Now we're getting into Blair Hull territory. This is of far more interest to me.

    "A status hearing in the divorce case took place Wednesday, hours after Cohen's election-night triumph."

    (Scene: "I want to thank everybody who worked so hard on this campaign. Now I've got to go home and get to sleep early because I've got a court date in the morning.")

    "Cohen - who records show also had federal tax troubles that he says he has settled - denied in a written statement that he ever hurt the ex-girlfriend or his family."

    But did he hurt the IRS?

    "Cohen disclosed his domestic violence arrest when he announced his candidacy, but the details about the knife and prostitution case didn't surface in the campaign, as Cohen was considered a longshot."

    Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner.

    Details "did not surface" because Cohen "was considered a longshot." Love the passive construction. Let's rewrite it:

    "The public was not made aware of Cohen's troubled background because the media decided he had not chance of winning and didn't bother to look into it further. Now Cohen is potentially a heartbeat away from the governorship. We're sorry."

    *

    "'He's been honest and up front from the beginning,' [campaign strategist Phil] Molfese said of Cohen's arrest. 'It's just that nobody cared.'

    "State Sen. Terry Link (D-Vernon Hills), one of the unsuccessful candidates for lieutenant governor, and representatives of the other candidates met a month before the election with representatives of the Quinn and Hynes campaigns to warn them about Cohen, Link said.

    "'We tried to warn the governor beforehand and they didn't want to listen to it,' Link said."

    Look for that quote to show up in a string of ads titled "Quinn & The Pawnbroker."

    Brownie Points
    "Let the record reflect that on the very day last March that Scott Lee Cohen announced his campaign for lieutenant governor of Illinois, he voluntarily disclosed he had once been arrested in what he described as a domestic battery case involving a live-in girlfriend," Mark Brown writes today.

    "The problem for Cohen was that he made his announcement to me, and I wasn't taking him very seriously.

    "How was I to know way back then that the Democratic voters of Illinois would be so dumb as to elect him, brainwashed by millions of dollars in advertising about his job fairs?"

    Um, how long have you been living in Illinois, Mark?

    "That's why I told Cohen at the time that nobody even knew who he was, let alone cared enough to want to read about his dirty laundry, and I didn't see the need to go into it.

    "I was only writing about him because of Cohen's line of work: pawnbroker. I'd never heard of a pawnbroker trying to break into politics, let alone aspiring to being a heartbeat from the governor's office."

    Tell me about your legal profession but not your domestic battery case!

    Let me ask y'all something: Would you rather have a pawnbroker or an (alleged) domestic batterer a heartbeat away from the governorship? At least the pawnbroker has experience with debt.

    "But Cohen insisted he thought it was important to make the incident public right from the start, because he didn't want it to come up later and look like he was hiding something, a la Blair Hull or Jack Ryan."

    He begged the media to report this!

    "So I duly reported the information, along with his explanation that the charges were dropped when the girlfriend failed to appear in court and with his denial that he'd done anything wrong in the first place. The whole business was tucked into a couple of paragraphs deep within the story, which I thought portrayed Cohen overall as a bit of a goof."

    I just typed up what he told me. I didn't bother to look at a police report or check court records.

    "And that's where it stopped, until a few weeks ago, when I started receiving calls from Democratic political types as his opponents came to realize Cohen might actually win, which I'd already figured out for myself just by hearing all his radio commercials and seeing his campaign mailings.

    "Some hoped I would remind voters about Cohen's arrest, but I thought that if his opponents or the candidates for governor believed it was important, they should make it an issue themselves."

    Cohen himself had made it an issue!

    "Instead, I wrote a column about the very real possibility Cohen could win and pointing out how he was going out of his way to hide his occupation in those campaign ads touting him generically as a successful small-business man."

    (I wrote about this yesterday in the item called Lite Guv.)

    "I hoped that would be enough to bring voters to their senses, which was my second mistake."

    Right. A Mark Brown column would bring voters to their senses.

    "On the plus side, Cohen has proved himself a strategic thinker - fronting the arrest record showed as much. His entire campaign was extremely shrewd. The jobs fair idea was brilliant."

    Brilliant is one word for it; I'd like to see a true vetting of how those fairs were conducted, which companies participated (is that an in-kind campaign contribution?) and how many attendees actually got jobs. And did his job fairs compete against other job fairs held by people whose job is to hold job fairs?

    "The problem is that Cohen has no business being lieutenant governor, not to mention governor, which will only become more obvious in the days ahead."

    True enough, but now that I'm done writing this segment I almost want to root for the guy. If we truly want outsiders in government, maybe this is the sort of guy who can, you know, get things done.

    Then Again . . .
    "Cohen is insisting it's all lies, and that he didn't know his live-in girlfriend was a hooker," John Kass writes today. "She told him she worked as a 'massage therapist,' the Pawnbroker's spokesman said.

    "That explains everything."

    Field Day
    "Now Republicans will scour the state for the 'massage therapist' who just may - based on Illinois' recent history of governors not finishing their terms - end up as Illinois' first lady," Kass notes.

    On The Record
    Here's Cohen's Tribune questionnaire. This is Illinois, you'd think these things would ask candidates to describe their criminal history by now.

    Lighter Lite Guv
    I don't know if this is how it would work, but if Cohen is somehow forced out of the campaign, state Rep. Art Turner of Chicago finished second.

    Rep Rap
    If Democratic leaders were so afraid of Cohen's candidacy down the stretch, you'd think they could have gotten at least one of four state legislators to drop out and put one of the others over the top. Terry Link, for example, finished in last place with 99,972 votes. Cohen beat Turner by 30,470 votes.

    Both Sides Now
    Not that Republicans have anything to brag about. Their lieutenant governor candidate, Jason Plummer (as I pointed out yesterday), is a former Peter Fitzgerald intern (that in itself is not necessarily bad) who is just 27 (that is.)

    What do Cohen and Plummer have in common? They're both rich and they both self-financed their campaigns.

    Reform Agenda
    1. Newspapers should experiment with this next time around: Devote equal attention to every candidate on the ballot. Do not give advantage or disadvantage to any candidate. Let each candidate's views have equal value. Resources? Reallocate them during campaign season. Use able bloggers. Figure it out. Records? By all means, some candidates will have longer records to apprise than others. As it is now. Breaking news? By all means. This is a starting point - one that truly opens up the debate for all issues and voices. A campaign takes shape from there. Andy Martin? There are always exceptions. Ghost candidates? Expose them - and more importantly, their backers.

    2. As I've previously written, I've long supported eliminating the office of lieutenant governor. But I think I've been persuaded by this Mike Lawrence piece, which argues that the presence of a lieutenant governor in the line of succession assures (generally) the continuity of the agenda of the person voters elected should the governorship be vacated. Or, in any case, that the successor is the elected governor's choice. If the line of succession fell instead to, say, the attorney general or secretary of state, a change in party could occur.

    3. To achieve No. 2, gubernatorial candidates would have to choose running mates instead of having lieutenant governor candidates run independently in primaries, as they do now, before joining the ticket.

    4. Public financing of campaigns.

    -

    Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:34 AM | Permalink

    What I Watched Last Night: Kitchen Nightmares

    Some years ago, I was introduced to Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares on BBC America and became kind of fascinated with it. Like the American version of the show that came later, Ramsay spent his time traipsing around the United Kingdom on a mission to whip some mom-and-pop restaurant the size of a Dairy Queen into shape within the span of a few days. If I learned anything from that show, it's that food created on that island is basically unidentifiable slop even on its best days, so if you ever visit, you're probably better off just drinking your three squares a day at the closest pub.

    Here in the States, our mom-and-pop dining establishments have many of the same problems as those across The Pond, except without meals involving sheep innards or eels. Their kitchens are just as filthy and disorganized, their food storage practices just as abhorrent, and the food cooked by the same stressed-out, lazy and incompetent kitchen people who seem to have developed their social skills in prison. Likewise, our dining establishments are being mismanaged into the dirt by bickering family members who probably should have found something more profitable to mismanage into oblivion, like a steel mill or a record company. In many cases, it has taken entire families generations of hard work to drive their business over a cliff, so the possibility that it might be resurrected in less than a week by one guy is pretty inspiring.

    That said, you'd think having Gordon Ramsay dedicate seven days to save your own personal Titanic would make you cream in your jeans. Or if you were a really hard case, at least make your nipples tingle a little. But no. That's why another entertaining season of Kitchen Nightmares is now back on Fox.

    Tuesday's episode saw Gordon being dispatched to the picturesque northern New Jersey cowtown of Whitehouse Station to tackle a place called Flamangos Roadhouse. I'm not being unduly deferential to Whitehouse Station, especially since it's on the other side of the state from the box of rocks that are the guidos and guidettes on MTV's Jersey Shore. Rather, it's because the first thing that greeted Ramsay as he rolled down the road in an impeccably-restored vintage pickup truck was an overpowering odor of cow manure that only got thicker the closer he got to town. By the "holy fucking shit!" look on his face, you just knew he was thinking of "The Smelly Car" episode of Seinfeld because detoxifying a valuable antique pickup probably isn't in the production budget.

    Tuesday's project was owned by aging couple Bill and Adele Csepi and their 40-something daughter Cheryl. Ramsay notices problems the second he steps into the place, as the interior decorating scheme seems to have originated in the What In God's Name Were You Thinking? school of interior design. "It's not Flamingo's, it's not Flamenco's," Cheryl points out while explaining the name behind the Jersey meets tourista Tiki meets day-glo paint factory decor. It's a combination of "Fla" (short for Florida) and "mangos" (for mango, "a tropical fruit"), explains Cheryl.

    Fortunately for Flamangos, much of its problem lies in the menu, which is roughly as expansive as the Chicago White Pages phone directory. This naturally creates major food and cooking-time management headaches for the head cook, not to mention a major inconvenience for the customers, who spend almost an hour waiting for food they're just going to end up sending back to the kitchen anyway. Even the risotto, which no human being on the face of the planet other than Chef Ramsay has ever been able to cook worth a damn.

    On the other hand, at least the kitchen isn't swarming with cockroaches, the cookstoves all work, and the walk-in coolers aren't harboring a valley of mold and rotted produce. We know this because Ramsay didn't force anyone to clean anything, and he didn't have to spring for a brand new kitchen like he usually has to. Unfortunately, the restaurant has Adele, a micromanager with a less-than-sunny disposition whose presence was best summed up by one of the waitstaff as "toxic." At one point, Adele refers to a customer as "bastard" for sending back a meal not prepared to his liking. Problem is, Adele mutters under her breath within earshot of such bastards.

    To make a long story short, Chef Gordon did what he always does on any of his programs requiring drastic makeovers, which is to rename the place (The Junction this time, since it's next to a railroad crossing, duh) after remodeling it into something relatively attractive, and scale the menu back far enough to prominently feature meat loaf as a special. This frees the head chef from indentured servitude as a line cook to rediscover his joy of cooking and head-chef a signature dish (chicken-shrimp jubilee this time). As it so happened, 70-year-old Tony had a meat loaf recipe up his sleeve that he'd been just dying to whip up during the eight years Adele's been forcing him to dodder around behind a food pushcart of some sort called "the trolley" like it was a walker.

    Tuesday's transformation saw every stick of Tiki tacky inside the restaurant - including a life-sized fiberlass alligator mascot that looked like Wally Gator - dumped into a huge pile and incinerated by Ramsay in dramatic fashion with a flamethrower. The bonfire was necessary, he said, to keep anyone from getting any big ideas to reuse any of it after he was gone.

    Later, the place goes from cramped, torched Tiki to spacious '50s-ish malt shop diner, complete with tables and chairs straight out of the kitchen of Ray Barone's mom and dad. The crown jewel, Ramsay proudly announces, is that the raw bar has become a milkshake bar! Because really, nothing tops off a good slab of meatloaf and a plate of risotto like a good shake. He's an internationally-successful chef, so I suppose he knows about things like this.

    Not surprisingly, Adele is mortified, as if she just walked into an episode of Trading Spaces gone tragically wrong. She doesn't just "hatehatehate it" - she "want(s) to throw up" and go home. "He says it's going to work," Adele complains to a tableful of customers stunned into slack-jawed disbelief. "How stupid do you have to be? I would never run a restaurant like this. I would rather close the doors."

    She still doesn't think much of The Great Meat Loaf Decision either, even though everyone is raving about it and ordering it by the cowload while the poor fools ordering the stuff that's always been on the menu are sending their selections back to the kitchen.

    Still and all, Ramsay's job was finished and Adele eventually began "accepting" the reconstituted restaurant when the cash registers starting ringing. She began accepting it so much, we're told at the close of the show, that she started redecorating a few days after Ramsay wandered off into the sunset - illuminating yet again the enduring wisdom of REO Speedwagon when the band told the world in 1978 that you can tune a piano, but you can't tuna fish.

    -

    Visit the What I Watched Last Night archives and see what else we've been watching. Submissions welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:51 AM | Permalink

    Chicagoetry: St. Francis of My Ass

    St. Francis of My Ass

    I don't mean to tick anybody off.
    I pray to my own St. Francis.
    St. Francis of My Ass, Clyde!

    Nobody but me slams
    my door. This keeps me free.
    I am not a Socialist!

    I am not a bedbug!
    I do not weep blood and then cease.
    Like an eagle, I increase!

    Yes, and this is
    an eagle which stands
    for itself.

    This can be a weird thing
    when it's real. This is the deal:
    you are the deal.

    And sometimes it fucks up,
    becoming a veritable bay
    of pigs, twigs

    in a bastard eagle's maw.
    Wait: I didn't mean that!
    I meant bats

    in a bog-hole.
    Ego mistaken for conscience,
    ice in a bog-hole.

    Who cares if God is dead?!
    What make the maw of the moon?
    Youch! Intimations of gloom . . .

    Don't tell me who God is,
    don't bother. Let it hover.
    Rat Bastard Moon!

    Skull of the frozen lake,
    a whirlpool of drama,
    skull god strafes lake.

    My garden is frozen,
    twigs crack by the dozen.

    -

    J.J. Tindall is the Beachwood's poet-in-residence. He welcomes your comments. Chicagoetry is an exclusive Beachwood collection-in-progress.

    -

    More Tindall:

    * Music: MySpace page

    * Fiction: A Hole To China

    * Critical biography at e-poets.net

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:52 AM | Permalink

    February 3, 2010

    The [Wednesday] Papers

    "Some of the candidates for Illinois governor may be weighing the pros and cons of a recount," AP reports. "Both the Democratic and Republican primaries are too close to call."

    That's what you get when you hold a primary on Groundhog Day; looks like we're in for six more weeks of campaigning.

    "Right now, the results are unofficial. Election authorities will count late-arriving absentee ballots, randomly check some of the results, inspect voting equipment and then declare official winners. That takes two weeks. Then the losing candidates might decide to seek a recount."

    State elections board chief Daniel White told the Sun-Times that a candidate seeking a recount would have to petition the state Supreme Court once the votes totals become official, which wouldn't happen until early March.

    The good news? Candidates have to pay for recounts themselves.

    *

    My real-time thoughts as the returns rolled in: In Mystery Primary Theater. Go read that first, and then come back for the rest of this column.

    Quinn vs. Hynes
    Quinn holds a 50.4 to 49.6 lead with 99 percent of precincts reporting.

    That sounds close, but Hynes will have to make up 7,202 votes, which won't be easy.

    Recommended Hynes recount strategy: Double-check all votes coming from the Joe Berrios organization and West Palm Beach.

    Brady vs. Dillard
    Brady leads by Dillard by 503 votes with 99 percent of precincts reporting.

    Andy McKenna and Jim Ryan made it a four-person race, but appear to be too far behind to get into the recount ring.

    If Bob Schillerstrom had dropped out earlier, his 7,343 votes could have conceivably made a difference. I wonder if many of those came in the early voting phase.

    *

    Can we all agree that a McKenna vs. Quinn race would be the absolutely worst outcome possible, unless we're rooting for Green nominee Rich Whitney?

    Lite Guv
    "As I write this," Mark Brown writes, "the only thing certain about the governor's race is that the Democratic candidate's running mate is going to be a pawnbroker. Don't say I didn't try to warn you."

    Because the Sun-Times is incapable - like most newspapers - of actually putting links in their stories, I'll provide not only the link that should appear on "Don't say I didn't try to warn you," but provide excerpts as well.

    "Cohen doesn't think it's fair for me to write about him being in the pawn business, which baffles me because he seemed very proud of it when we first met on another story just 14 months ago.

    "At the time, Cohen was anxious to tell the world about how some guy had hocked his jewel-encrusted false teeth to get tuition money for his daughter. I visited him at his store and watched his easy rapport with the characters, er, customers inspecting his merchandise and waiting in line for loans, while he explained the pawn business - which basically involves being a street banker. Cohen said he had been in the pawn business all his life, having dropped out of high school to take over when his father died.

    "Since launching his campaign, however, Cohen has tried to avoid that part of his resume, making no mention of it in his election materials, emphasizing instead that he is a 'Chicago businessman' who operates Cohen's Green Cleaning Supplies, a distributor of environmentally friendly cleaning products."

    How convenient. I wonder how much business Cohen's new company does. I couldn't find a website for it.

    "Cohen says he's involved in many businesses and made much of his money in real estate. He admits the cleaning-supply business is just a recent 'startup' that he has put on hold during the campaign."

    Aha. Get it?

    *

    The lieutenant governor's races was a puzzle in both parties. Cohen, using his personal fortune to come out of nowhere and build name recognition, beat four sitting state legislators: Art Turner, Rickey Hendon, Mike Boland and Terry Link.

    For the life of me I couldn't figure out if all four of them were in this thing for real. Link is a Lake County major Dem domo and couldn't even manage to beat out Elmhurst electrician Thomas Michael Castillo.

    An unknown won the Republican side too, with Jason Plummer beating out McKenna sidekick Matt Murphy in a six-person field. Plummer is a former Peter Fitzgerald intern; he's just 27.

    Are either of these really the guy we want a heartbeat away from the governorship?

    Alexi vs. Kirk
    This campaign will not be televised.

    While Alexi Giannoulias's handlers tried to keep him away from pesky reporters given his chronic inability to answer even moderately difficult questions, Mark Kirk not only refused to debate his primary opponents, but wouldn't even release his campaign schedule.

    *

    "Giannoulias is the opponent the Republicans wanted," Lynn Sweet writes this morning.

    And the candidate the White House didn't want.

    *

    The Tribune editorial page recalls a recent statement made by President Obama against Scott Brown: "Bankers don't need another vote in the Senate."

    *

    Andy Martin pulled 5 percent of the Republican primary vote. Or, to put it another way, 37,201 people flew over the cuckoo's nest.

    *

    On the Democratic side, Jacob Meister pulled in 16,000 votes even though he dropped out of the race. I wonder how many of those came in early voting.

    County Board
    Toni Preckwinkle won in a walk. Is there a rationale for Tom Tresser's Green campaign anymore? Yes, Preckwinkle voted for the Olympics and Daley's budget. Even sought his endorsement. But she won't be under his sway again for four more years.

    *

    The departure of Preckwinkle from the city council - presuming she wins the general election in the fall - will bring to three the number of seats Daley will get to fill this year, along with those no longer held by Ike Carothers and Manny Flores. Given that Preckwinkle and Flores were two of the most independent members of the council, Daley may have once again come out the big winner on Election Day.

    *

    For all his bellyaching over unfair media coverage, Todd Stroger never understood that voters never forgave him for the way he attained office. As Carol Marin writes today, "For all the friends-and-family patronage hiring on his watch, Todd Stroger was the ultimate patronage hire."

    It seems voters will forgive patronage office-holders and their hires as long as the beneficiaries show competence.

    *

    As for the board itself:

    "Your nominee, Preckwinkle, will be favored against Republican Roger Keats next fall," the Tribune editorial page notes. "But on Tuesday you gave whoever wins that faceoff what she or he will need to modernize and streamline this antiquated and featherbedded government: a likely ninth vote for reform on the 17-member County Board. The nomination of independent-minded challenger Jesus 'Chuy' Garcia over Joseph Mario Moreno, one of the board's most useless and taxaholic incumbents, is a tremendous win for citizens who rely on county services and for taxpayers who foot the bill."

    Also: John Fritchey beat Ted Matlak handily, which at least moves the arrow in the right direction.

    Alexi's Proteges . . .
    . . . went 1 for 2.

    Giannoulias chief of staff Robin Kelly knocked off Justin Oberman for the Democratic nomination for treasurer, while David Miller appears to have knocked off Giannoulias deputy Raja Krishnamoorthi for the Democratic nomination for comptroller.

    The Tax Man
    Machine Monster Joe Berrios was installed as the Democrats' man - helluva party you got there, Dems - for Cook County Assessor.

    Seals & Crofts
    In the race to replace Mark Kirk in Congress, Julie Hamos fell to retread loser Dan Seals. Seals may actually have a shot in the general this time, though, given that conservative Bob Dold beat the more moderate Beth Coulson.

    There is no Crofts in the race, it turns out.

    But Seriously, Folks
    Joe Walsh won the Republican nomination for Congress in the 8th District despite being called on the carpet by the real Joe Walsh for stealing one of his songs and remaking it into a campaign ad.

    Congress
    * Every sucky incumbent congressman (Rush, Davis, Lipinsk) easily won their primary.

    General Assembly
    * Dan Burke holds a 434-vote lead over Rudy Lozano with 98 percent of precincts reporting. If you can, please go vote again for Lozano.

    * Deb Mell had no problem dispatching Joe Laiacona, unfortunately.

    Judges
    I'll have to study up to see which jokers we're putting on the bench this time.

    Turnout
    "To be sure, some nonvoters said they were taking a pass out of utter frustration with politicians of all stripes," the Tribune reports.

    "'The state of Illinois is so utterly screwed up, can anybody help it?' said Hugh Parker, of Arlington Heights.

    "Charles Wheeler, an expert on Illinois politics at the University of Illinois at Springfield, said turnout may have also been done in by a growing reluctance on the part of many voters to declare a party preference. Another factor, he said, was the legislature's decision a few years ago to move the primary from mid-March to early February, when the weather is worse.

    "The change shortened the time for meaningful primary campaigning.

    "'Depressing the vote works to the advantage of incumbents,' Wheeler said."

    So does depressing the voters.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Your anti-depressant.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:03 AM | Permalink

    Mystery Primary Theater

    Talking back to the TV as the returns roll in.

    *

    Cliff Kelley is on CLTV! With Al Salvi. Both are rehashing partisan nonsense. What's the point?

    *

    Garrard McClendon: His blog commenters are "on fire." He thinks this shows that the Constitution is alive. Seriously.

    *

    Don Rose! Let's trot out all the old warhorses. Certainly Paul Green is on somewhere!

    *

    "Weather is brought to you by RedEye."

    No it's not!

    *

    Enough with Pat Quinn's lucky tie, please. There's no such thing.

    And do we really want a governor who believes so? (Does he wear it to budget negotiations?)

    *

    Jack Ryan! How many disgraced pols can they get on the set at once? Is Rosty busy?

    *

    Emil Jones!

    *

    Kelley (D-Stroger) vs. Forrest Claypool on county government. With nary a journalist to separate fact from fiction.

    *

    Over at WBEZ's live blog, Pat Quinn is in the room. Or a surrogate. Nobody's really sure. Whoever it is, he or she is avoiding every real question and apparently cutting and pasting from the campaign's website on the rest.

    I don't know who Tim Mata is, but it's very important to him that everybody be real nice to the governor lest he get mad and log off.

    -

    And we've lost the governor!

    -

    And the governor is back, saying this is we we need a better broadband policy. But a better broadband policy can't make him actually answer the questions.

    -

    Terry O'Brien concession speech: "This campaign has been about family and friends." Mine, Todd Stroger's . . .

    *

    O'Brien blames his loss on the shortened primary season - even after noting he began his campaign on July 24.

    *

    Reader publisher Jim Warren says that O'Brien basically got every one of his votes "for one simple reason: That he's white."

    *

    Kelley agrees, but anchor Mike Suppelsa notes that a lot of white voters went for Preckwinkle, too. They split the white vote!

    *

    Kelley re-alleges that O'Brien and Dorothy Brown were working in concert. "One was the shill," he says.

    *

    "Top Daley Ethics Aide Resigns."

    In the middle of primary night.

    Well played, Mr. Mayor.

    -

    Nagging thought: Anyone who voted for Quinn or Giannoulias simply isn't paying attention. There's no excuse for it. McKenna too, really. You could easily justify every other Republican in that race more than him.

    *

    Quinn supporters are stuck in their minds with who they think he is, and who they think Hynes is. You don't have to like Hynes, but if you are going to enter the Democratic primary and make a choice, he's the only sensible choice you have. Quinn would get creamed in the general election by anyone but McKenna. That's where both parties have proved, again, their mediocrity. We lurch from one to the other but neither is capable of governing.

    *

    Even I would rather have alleged Madigan guy Hynes in the governor's mansion than a Burke and Berrios guy. Or is it the same thing?Then I would prefer a competent Machine person to a guy who is being supported because he can be rolled. Don't you think that's why the Establishment suddenly decided to line up behind Quinn? He has no chance of ever establishing his own power base and is going nowhere beyond Springfield. Hynes would gather power unto himself and be competition for everyone else in the state, with the possibility of multiple terms and maybe something like the U.S. Senate in his future. Think, people!

    *

    Preckwinkle campaign manager Scott Cisek is good.

    *

    Preckwinkle: She'll repeal the sales tax and show us how it's done. Let's see who she finds out is right once she gets in there, Claypool or Stroger.

    *

    Preckwinkle victory speech: "Now is the time to end patronage. Now is the time to cut waste while protecting health care, human services, public safety and our forest preserves. Now is the time to bring economic development and jobs to Cook County." [

    *

    Kirk vs. Giannoulias? How depressing.

    *

    Kirk victory speech: "Illinois has the second lowest credit rating in America."

    After mine.

    *

    Kirk: "We must choose leaders who do not become criminals."

    And then political analysts.

    *

    Kirk: " . . . [choose someone who is] unafraid to fight corruption, backs prosecutors . . . "

    That line of argument wouldn't work with former inspector general and federal prosecutor David Hoffman.

    *

    Kirk gave an impressive speech - and one clearly aimed at Giannoulias, noting the fight against those who made "bad investments" and "deceived families." He'll be though. He name-checked Blago and Burris and is now in a position, unlike a year ago, to actually run against Obama, too.

    *

    He just played the Navy card.

    *

    What did you do during the war, daddy?

    I made loans to Tony Rezko.

    *

    Kirk: "Duty, honor, country are not just words."

    Jessup: "We use words like honor, code, loyalty. They're the backbone of our lives.
    You use them as a punchline. I haven't the time or inclination to explain myself to a man who needs my protection but questions the way I do it. Better just to thank me. Or pick up a gun and stand a post. But I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to!

    *

    Over on Channel 5, Jesse Jackson Jr. didn't really answer Allison Rosati's question about whether he would support whoever won the Democratic senate nomination.

    *

    Todd Stroger's worst quality may be that the guy is actually arrogant.

    *

    Fox Chicago's Robin Robinson wonders aloud if Stroger's campaign is disconnect with reality, given the reported confidence they showed earlier this evening.

    They read polls the way they read budgets.

    *

    PR guy Thom Serafin is on the Fox set. I dare you to ask him about this, Robin.

    *

    Back to CLTV: Dawn Clark Netsch supports Hynes. "I want somebody who can get a hold of the finances of the state and get us back on track . . . he really is the one who sounded the warning bell a long time ago."

    *

    Stroger is giving his concession speech: "The handful of people still here are applauding." Crowd estimate: Less than 100.

    *

    Stroger: "We ran a very good race . . . all of you who have worked on the campaign, and worked in the county for three years . . . "

    Sometimes at the same time!

    *

    Stroger: "People don't understand the role that county plays in their lives."

    Except Preckwinkle people.

    "This is a bump in the road."

    The road to where?

    "I know county government better than anybody in this room."

    Now that the crowd has thinned out.

    "Thank [my wife] Jeanine because I wasn't home a lot."

    He reportedly leaves work every day around 4:30 to go to the East Bank Club, so maybe Jeanine should check his cell phone.

    "I'm going to work with our Democratic nominee."

    By leaving the country?

    "We have to educate our African American people."

    Like Preckwinkle?

    *

    Cliff Kelley is mad because Todd's daddy supported Daley over Harold Washington "because he believed in the party."

    Washington wasn't a Democrat?

    "The [Stroger] family has given so much to the party and the party hasn't shown any loyalty."

    So now you are defending a family that gave its loyalty to the Daleys, Cliff? You can't have it both ways.

    *

    Kelley: "We also heard Mr. Claypool not able to answer any questions about where we could cut."

    We did? Claypool has been answering those questions for years.

    *

    CLTV is at McKenna campaign night headquarters and you can see on the giant screen there that they're all watching Fox.

    *

    The Republican race for governor has tightened into a three-way battle between McKenna, Kirk Dillard and Bill Brady. Boy, I really underestimated Brady. Maybe an upstate bias.

    *

    Jack Ryan: McKenna played whack-a-mole with his opponents but never smacked down Brady because he didn't come up until the end.

    *

    Kelley, when asked which Republican would be toughest for Quinn: "I don't think any of them worked for [Harold] Washington, so I don't know what his strategy would be."

    So you're supporting the guy that Washington fired and defending the family that chose the Daleys over Harold. Nice, Cliff.

    *

    Thanks to all the TV folks reporting from each campaign night headquarters and assuring us how enthusiastic supporters of this or that particular candidate are and how they like the numbers they are seeing so far. Especially when all I see on the screen is a few bored people milling around with overpriced, watered-down drinks in their hands.

    *

    And thanks to all the TV "reporters" for once again failing to come up with any decent questions to ask at any of these headquarters'. It's not like you haven't had time to think about it.

    *

    Now Claypool is on Channel 5 explaining why he didn't endorse anyone in the Cook County board president race: He thought Preckwinkle was the best candidate, but hesitated endorsing her because she supported "all of Daley's tax increases and spending binges."

    Maybe Claypool didn't run because the mayor would have lined up his forces against him.

    *

    Hoffman is conceding, down by 4 percent with 84 percent of precincts reporting. He is offering Giannoulias his full support, though that doesn't extend to opening an account at Broadway Bank.

    *

    Jack Ryan: "I thought Hoffman was a much more challenging candidate for Kirk . . . I think Mark Kirk got a real gift by having Alexi win this primary."

    *

    I have to say that Jim Warren is actually displaying insight along with wide and deep knowledge about an array of races and issues.

    Garrard McClendon monitoring a CLTV chat or blog or something: "It's red hot!"

    Now he's reading content-free comments from anonymous people we don't care about.

    McClendon reiterates that this shows how engaged voters are despite the low turnout.

    Right.

    *

    At 10:05 p.m, I received an invitation from lieutenant governor candidate Scott Lee Cohen to attend his Election Night rally, scheduled from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. RSVP by Monday.

    *

    Ald. Emma Mitts is for Quinn.

    You know, the Emma Mitts that once put a down payment on a Calvin Boender home and, more recently, said of proposed reforms to the city's dysfunctional police board: "If it ain't broke, why fix it?"

    *

    If Quinn wins this thing, the Republican nominee will have a field day highlighting his ties to Burke, Berrios, Mell and the rest of the state's most appalling political figures. And I haven't even mentioned Blago yet.

    *

    Dawn Clark Netsch is now on Fox.

    Q: Does Hynes have enough gas to catch Quinn?

    A: Does anyone really know?

    She should have been governor.

    *

    Memo to Alexi: You're right, you'll have plenty of time to finally explain your actions at Broadway Bank. About nine months.

    *

    John Kass: "[The primary season] was too short for David Hoffman."

    *

    Mary Mitchell is now on Fox. All the winners are out tonight!

    "Cheryle Jackson was getting national recognition for the things she had done with the Urban League."

    *

    Giannoulias victory speech: "Tonight the voters of Illinois sent a message, loud and clear."

    We don't read!

    "Congressman [Kirk], come November, your days as a Washington insider are over."

    And my days as a Washington insider will begin!

    *

    Who is more of a Washington insider, a North Shore congressman in the opposition party or a Chicago insider who is a friend of the president?

    *

    At 12:08 a.m., Quinn does his George W. Bush impression:

    "The time for fighting is over. The people have won and we have won this election!"

    Um, it's actually too close to call.

    "It was a close election, but one more than the other guy is a landslide in my book."

    Um, that explains a lot.

    "I think it's important to understand that the primary is over."

    Stop begging.

    "When the winning candidate emerges from the primary, we unite behind that candidate for the cause of Illinois."

    Well, that's what Hynes has always said. You were the one who refused to commit to supporting the primary winner if it wasn't you.

    *

    "All of us together, we have to make the will of the people the law of the land."

    Except when it comes to the seating of Roland Burris, the jobs of University of Illinois trustees, the recommendations of the Illinois Reform Commission, and the will of Joe Berrios.

    -

    Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 3:47 AM | Permalink

    Fantasy Fix: Point Guard Shopping

    I must have jinxed Chris Paul last week when I said that hopefully the superstar point guard wouldn't miss anymore games. Turns out Paul will be out a month or more with a knee injury. He joins other big-name PGs Jameer Nelson and Steve Nash on the bench.

    The rash of boo-boos at this point make it a good time to go a-trading for a lesser known PG whose stock is on the rise. How about Stephen Curry, PG/SG, Golden State, who has been playing the last month like he wants Rookie of the Year? Curry is not exactly an assists machine (about five per game), but he pours in about 14.2 points per game, is fourth in the league in steals with 87 as of Tuesday night, and is averaging 1.9 three-pointers per game.

    Curry's current owners may be willing to deal because right around the All-Star break is a good time to sell high on rookies who may begin to flag as the season lengthens past what they were used to in college. Yet, Curry was rarely asked to play more than 40 minutes per game until recently, and I like his second-half prospects.

    It's Week 15 of the NBA season. Do you know where your point guards are?

    Fantasy Find of the Week: Andrei Kirilenko, SF/PF, Utah. I can't get him to make a shot on Wii NBA2K10, but he shot at a .667 clip last week in real life, collecting 14.3 PPG and 7.0 RPG. His steals and blocks - 2.3 and 2.7 per game last week respectively - are showing evidence of his old form. Only 78% owned.

    Fantasy Stud of the Week: Kevin Durant, SG/SF, OKC. I've been tossing accolades his way all season, but he keeps pushing higher: 34.3 PPG and 8.7 RPG last week on .593 shooting - and he's not shooting from under the basket. I'm starting his MVP campaign.

    Fantasy Dud of the Week: Andre Iguodala, SG/SF, Philadelphia. He may be on the trading block, but he really hasn't been selling it lately. Last week's 10.3 PPG and 7.0 RPG is a disappointment for a top 25 pick.

    Fantasy Match-up of the Week: Troy Murphy, PF/C, Indiana. Just one of the many players auditioning for possible new teams this week, he gets easy duty against Detroit and Milwaukee. Look out, because he's been averaging a double-double a game over the last month.

    Expert Wire
    * Matt Buser at NBA Skinny also takes a look at the problems created by hobbled point guards.

    * The most recent Big Board from Brandon Funston lists Gerald Wallace, SF/PF, Charlotte, on the rise.

    * ESPN.com has the sad story of KG. Kevin Garnett, PF, Boston, still plays like a multi-talented offensive fulcrum when's he's healthy, but his playing time is down. Is he a trade bargain? Maybe, but don't expect him to find his way back to the top 15.

    * Yahoo! reports that another Celtic, Paul Pierce, SG/SF, only has a sprain, and not the broken foot many had feared.

    * Here's something fun from SLAM Online: Danilo Gallinari, SF, NY, who leads the league in three-pointers, may or may not be headed to the three-point shooting contest at the NBA All-Star Game, but said he's going to win it either way. The NBA needs more cocky Italians.

    -

    Dan O'Shea's Fantasy Fix appears in this space every Wednesday. Comments welcome. You can also read his about his split sports fan personality at SwingsBothWays, which isn't about what it sounds like it's about.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 3:21 AM | Permalink

    February 2, 2010

    The [Tuesday] Papers

    Primary thoughts:

    * I won't be going to the polls today because I don't believe journalists have any business being members of political parties, much less helping them decide who their nominees for public office are.

    * You can't vote for change if change isn't on the ballot. Newspaper editorial boards like to implore citizens to do their duty and even provide a list of endorsements for them to follow - you know, we'll do your thinking for you - but there is merit to the argument that voting for the clowns that fill up most of our ballots only enables and reinforces bad behavior.

    For example, the Tribune has spent a lot of time calling for a revolution at the ballot box, yet it is endorsing the likes of Andy McKenna, Bobby Rush, Dan Lipinski and Deborah Mell. Hello?

    "You can skip the election and, once again, give the insiders of Illinois and Cook County free rein to tax, borrow, spend, reward their cronies and generally lord it over you," the Tribune says today. "Or you can clip-and-carry the endorsements on today's Editorial page into the voting booth and rock their world."

    Really? Voting for Dan Lipinski will rock the world of hacks, cronies and certified members of Machines and Combines everywhere? Andy McKenna?

    As I've argued many times, we won't be able to rock anyone's world without structural reform. From December 2008:

    "I'm not here to defend the electorate. For the most part, they are clueless. But . . . think about the ballot you look at every election. You are usually given the choice between one Machine candidate or two in any given race. What are voters supposed to do when they have to decide between, say, Rod Blagojevich and Judy Baar Topinka?

    "So the answer to me is structural. I've never believed in term limits, but the last couple of years I've started to come around to the idea. Appointments to vacant seats should be replaced with special elections (Daley has appointed something like a third or more of the city council). It should be easier for candidates to get their names on ballots. Campaign finance reform is a must; as the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform likes to argue, nearly every major scandal seems to have campaign finance at its root. Election fraud - like funding ghost candidates to scare off opposition or split opposition vote - should be vigorously investigated and prosecuted. And, of course, the media could do a better job - and one of the ways would be to lead the charge for an overhaul of the state's Freedom of Information laws and for those laws to be vigorously enforced. It would be nice to see a real reform candidate with a real reform agenda who understands that reform begins with the very system itself."

    * "Many of the pols who run Illinois and Cook County still hope you'll forget what they've done," the Trib says.

    Maybe the Trib editorial board has forgotten the way Bill Lipinski resigned his congressional seat after winning re-election in order to install his son as his successor. And maybe the Trib editorial board has forgotten what it wrote in 2004:

    "Swing a few miles west to Michelle Chavez's home in Cicero. She's running as a Democrat against GOP state Rep. Frank Aguilar. Again, not a single campaign sign outside her home, no fundraising, no campaign activities, no responses to a letter from the Tribune asking her for information.

    "About a mile away, there's Ryan Chlada, a Cicero town employee, running as a plant against Democrat Dan Lipinski, freshly plucked from his teaching job in Tennessee to succeed his father, U.S. Rep. Bill Lipinski. Insiders say this is part of a deal: Chavez runs a non-campaign against Aguilar and Chlada runs a non-campaign against Lipinski. Both Aguilar and Chlada have ties to the Cicero Republican organization. Anger over the maneuvering in the Lipinski race has prompted a La Grange Park resident, Krista Grimm, to run a write-in campaign."

    Then again, the Trib endorsed Dan Lipinski two years later.

    And maybe the Trib has forgotten Bobby Rush's role in solidifying the seating of Roland Burris as U.S. Senator, which the paper fulminated against for months.

    And maybe the Trib forgot Deb Mell's lone vote against the impeachment of her brother-in-law, Rod Blagojevich.

    McKenna? Maybe the Trib didn't read this.

    Yes, rock their world.

    The editorial board might also want to implore the newsroom to go beyond its familiar blueprint for campaign coverage, which includes a pre-fab "duty" story on every major race and a shallow skim of whatever breaking controversy (briefly) catches their fancy.

    * If the Tribune is really so concerned about "insiders and cronies" lording over us, why does it keep endorsing Mayor Richard M. Daley? The editorial page is right about shenanigans in county government, but sometimes I think its editors are just trying to reduce their own tax bills. Can't you just hire Michael Madigan or Ed Burke to do that for you?

    * Any electorate who is deterred from voting by bad weather deserves what it gets.

    Brown vs. Zorn
    BROWN: "Whether you're pulling a Democratic or Republican ballot today, there's one item on which we should have broad agreement. We ought to move the primary date back to something more reasonable - at least to the late March date to which we were accustomed, if not beyond.

    "Basically, we've had an intense four-week campaign. Some argue that's all we need, in fact pretty much all we can stand in this era of attack ads.

    "But I see late-breaking campaign issues that have yet to fully develop: whether it's the late revelation that there may be legitimate questions about Comptroller Dan Hynes' handling of the Burr Oak Cemetery scandal or the report that Pat Quinn inexplicably has been paying himself interest on an old campaign loan."

    ZORN: "Have come to believe that a month is plenty of time for anyone who cares even a little bit about politics to get familiar with the candidates, weigh their positions and their ads and cast a sensible vote. And that, if anything, shorter campaigns help level the playing field by giving less of an advantage to those with enough cash to bombard the airwaves with messages for months."

    -

    A couple points.

    * The general election isn't until November. The primary should be held closer to the general election.

    * Brown is right about issues not having been fully reported out yet. Now, you could take that to the extreme and you'd never get to Election Day. And shouldn't the issues surrounding longtime officeholders like Pat Quinn and Dan Hynes have already been sussed out? The real question here, though, is whether the media can put forth sufficient resources - assuming it wishes to do so - toward all the races and candidates it ought to examine in the new, shortened time frame.

    * The new, shortened time frame is, as Brown notes, the result of Michael Madigan's evil ways - which were designed only in part to help an all-too-willing Barack Obama (and which Brown admits he was a sucker for). See above for structural reform.

    * It's not about you, Eric. You've had sufficient time to judge the candidates, as have I. But have voters? David Hoffman, for example, is still just getting known to folks around the state. If he - and they - had more time?

    * The argument about money is not persuasive. First, again, structural reform would level the playing field and render this moot. Second, a wealthy candidate can bombard the airwaves in a short period of time and be just as - if not more - effective than stretching ads over a longer period of time. Plus, the ads would still only come in the end. But over a longer period of time, a challenger might be able to raise more money after showing off some skills and raising doubts about money-created candidates like Alexi Giannoulias.

    That's Mary!
    "On Monday morning, a longtime community activist made this prediction," Mary Mitchell writes this morning.

    A longtime community activist who isn't named but whom we should suppose has tremendous insight.

    "Quinn loses. Stroger wins. Hoffman wins but loses against Kirk Dillard in the general election."

    Big surprise that Mitchell's "source" predicts a Stroger win. But maybe that source is Stroger himself because - hello - David Hoffman is running for U.S. Senate and Kirk Dillard is running for governor.

    "I could see where he is coming from."

    Mars?

    *

    Mary Mitchell makes a lot more money than I do.

    Sigh.

    We need structural reform in the media, too.

    *

    "The matchup that I regret the most is that of Alexi Giannoulias and Cheryle Robinson Jackson," Mitchell continues. "I like them both."

    Oy.

    "I first met Giannoulias during Obama's historic presidential campaign. He impressed me as a young man who was truly smitten by the political bug as a way of making a difference in people's lives."

    What are the odds Mitchell hasn't read a single word - of Mick Dumke's reporting in particular - about Giannoulias's banking problems? Pretty good, I'd say. She's not really into research.

    "And Robinson Jackson had vision. First, to distance herself from the Blagojevich administration before she was dragged down by her former boss' scandals."

    First, even Jackson has dropped the "Robinson" conceit. Second, she had the "vision" to distance herself from Blagojevich because she didn't want to end up appearing before a grand jury.

    "The guilty plea in the corruption scandal involving Ald. Ike Carothers (29th), a Daley ally, continuing the tradition of Chicago pols going from the City Council to a federal prison, is more likely to help Hoffman."

    I dare Mitchell to find a single voter who's decision to vote for Hoffman was influenced by the guilty plea of Ike Carothers. Leave the punditry to the pros, Mary.

    *

    Some of us get things right, you know. If I could just take some credit, I had the Dillard socialist quote about Obama in February 2007 and predicted later that June that a run for governor was behind his ad for Obama.

    SneedStakes
    Pat Quinn's media team wins the SneedStakes by getting an item and a photo - of him with his mother, no less - in her "column" on Election Day.

    Way to perpetuate the madness, guys.

    Quinn Sin
    Fast on the heels of endorsing the Hack of All Hacks for county assessor and accepting 250,000 large from Fast Eddie Burke, Pat Quinn continued his tour of discredited white ward healers on Monday by appearing at a campaign rally with Dick Mell.

    Catching Carothers
    "Former Ald. William Carothers (28th) went to prison in 1983 for extorting more than $30,000 in remodeling work for his ward office from the builders of Bethany Hospital," the Sun-Times reports.

    "Ike Carothers, the longtime chairman of the City Council's Police and Fire committee, pleaded guilty to bribery, mail fraud and tax fraud for taking $40,000 in home improvements from a developer seeking zoning changes."

    Maybe the family business ought to have been interior design.

    *

    "Ike Carothers' lawyer, Jeffrey Steinback, said Carothers 'deeply regrets' his mistakes.

    "'I haven't yet met a perfect human being,' Steinback said. 'People engage in activities that they regret. I know this is something that Ike regrets deeply'."

    I have deep regrets about many aspects of my life, too, but none of them are criminal.

    *

    "To some of his colleagues, Ike Carothers was a blowhard and a bully, an alderman who at times berated them as 'cowards' and, as a freshman, leapfrogged over senior Council members for a top committee post."

    Huh, I wonder how he was able to do that.

    "Carothers, physically large himself, coined the phrase 'heavy-lifters' to describe aldermen with the guts to support the $276.5 million tax package tied to Daley's 2008 budget."

    Oh.

    *

    "Next month he is scheduled to testify at the trial of [developer Calvin Boender, who is] accused of providing Carothers with $40,000 in home improvements for backing a controversial project in his 29th Ward," the Tribune notes.

    "Boender has developed projects throughout Chicago and is well-known to a number of the city's more influential politicians. He has contributed generously to political campaigns, including to U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., and Ald. Ed Burke, 14th. He held a 2007 fundraiser in his home for Burke's wife, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke."

    *

    The money Carothers pocketed might seem like small change, but consider:

    "The zoning change had another, more personal economic impact. Prosecutors said that change meant an extra $3 million in Boender's pockets," the Tribune reports.

    "Others benefitted as well, according to court records filed Monday. Boender hired Carothers' brother, Anthony, for security at Galewood Yards. The records also state that Red Seal Development Corp., Boender's partners in the project, employed Ald. Emma Mitts' daughter as a laborer and used Gutierrez's sister-in-law to sell real estate.

    "'After Mr. Carothers found out that Mr. Gutierrez's sister-in-law was working for Red Seal, Mr. Carothers became upset and wondered why Red Seal could not be working with his brother,' according to the records.

    "Gutierrez, who had lobbied the mayor to support Boender's project, has not been charged with any wrongdoing."

    *

    Daley will appoint Carothers' successor. Daley will also fill the seat of departing Manny Flores, who has gone to the Illinois Commerce Commission. In all the hullabaloo about whether a special election should have filled Obama's old Senate seat, nary a whisper was heard about the mayor's unique ability to fill city council vacancies. Structural reform, my friends. The rules are rigged against us even more so than the candidates on today's ballot.

    The Beachwood Election Guide!
    Clip and save.

    BREAKING!
    Via Facebook: "Matt Farmer is now predicting - with just 0.0% of precincts reporting - that House Speaker Mike Madigan will continue to control the State of Illinois for years to come."

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Within your reach.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:17 AM | Permalink

    The Beachwood 2010 Primary Guide

    Editor's Note: This is a primary. You don't have to vote if you don't want to participate in internal party activities. But if you do chose to vote, don't hesitate to use our eVoter ad on our right rail to construct your sample ballot, or consult the Tribune or Sun-Times election centers. And remember, you can take this guide with you into the voting booth. Just cut along the dotted lines.

    -

    GOVERNOR, DEMOCRATIC

    Candidate: PAT QUINN

    Sleaze Factor: 8 of 10

    Chance Of Winning: 50 percent

    Reason To Vote For Him: So Green nominee Rich Whitney becomes the default progressive candidate.

    Reason To Vote Against Him: Backed by Ed Burke and Joe Berrios.

    Relevant Trivia:
    * Says his greatest accomplishment is "assuming office last year and stabilizing the government." In what state?

    Political Arts
  • And letters.

  • * Says the wildest thing he's done is salsa dancing. Lame-o!

    * Failed to name his biggest mistake when everyone knows it was the cutback amendment.

    * Says when asked which candidate from either party he would most like to have dinner with: "Lordy. What a grim group - sorry - after what they all said about me [after the State of the State speech]. There's that guy named Adam, that guy named Proft. I'd say Rich Whitney wins by default." Let's hope so.

    Editor's Note: Most trivia culled from the Sun-Times.

    Conclusion: A bumbling, double-talking, classless, incompetent, lying fool from Sellout City.

    -

    Candidate: DAN HYNES

    Sleaze Factor: 3

    Chance Of Winning: 50 percent

    Reason To Vote For Him: Quinn is a disaster.

    Reason To Vote Against Him: So Green nominee Rich Whitney becomes the default progressive candidate.

    Relevant Trivia: Says the wildest thing he's ever done is "protected by a confidentiality agreement among my friends in college." Good answer.

    Conclusion: A safe, boring pick when safe and boring might be just what the state needs. To, you know, stabilize government.

    -

    GOVERNOR, REPUBLICAN

    Candidate: ANDY McKENNA

    Sleaze Factor: 6

    Chance Of Winning: 35 percent

    Reason To Vote For Him: You secretly support Dan Hynes.

    Reason To Vote Against Him: He's Dan Hynes without the charisma.

    Relevant Trivia: Says the wildest thing he's ever done is run for governor. A boring rich person is a hundred times more boring than a boring poor person because it shows just how deep the lack of imagination really is.

    Conclusion: A small man with small ideas and a big bankroll. It's not just that he's one of the most boring men in Illinois, or that he's a lousy politician, but that he'd make for a lousy governor. Undeserving at that.

    -

    Candidate: KIRK DILLARD

    Sleaze Factor: 7

    Chance Of Winning: 35 percent

    Reason To Vote For Him: You secretly support Dan Hynes.

    Reason To Vote Against Him: Appeared in a commercial for Obama when it looked like bipartisan centrism would pave the way to the governor's mansion, then turned around and called him a socialist when right-wing wackiness came into vogue.

    Relevant Trivia: None.

    Conclusion: An opportunistic bastard who sells his ability to work across the aisle and puts former boss Jim Edgar in ads yet takes money from mortal mainstream Republicanism enemy Jack Roeser. Dillard is your basic run-of-the-mill George Ryan Republican without the skill, experience or rationale to be governor.

    -

    Candidate: JIM RYAN

    Sleaze Factor: 10

    Chance Of Winning: 25 percent

    Reason To Vote For Him: He's actually become less scary than McKenna and Dillard; sleaze rating is largely due to lingering Rolando Cruz horror.

    Reason To Vote For Him: He's actually become less scary than McKenna and Dillard.

    Reason To Vote Against Him: He's still Jim Ryan.

    Relevant Trivia: None.

    Conclusion: It's a sad state of affairs when retread Ryan is the party's most moderate and reasonable candidate. Still, he's run a lousy campaign and only now says his biggest mistake was the Cruz case. Too late, and a failure of judgement so large that he shouldn't be allowed anywhere near public office. He tried to kill the guy.

    -

    Candidate: ADAM ANDRZEJEWSKI

    Sleaze Factor: 2

    Chance Of Winning: 2 percent

    Reason To Vote For Him: Breath of fresh air who can't win the general.

    Reason To Vote Against Him: You secretly support Dan Hynes.

    Relevant Trivia: None.

    Conclusion: Intriguing outsider and newcomer who never caught fire, though he is supposedly surging late. Maybe he'll run for something local now.

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    Candidate: DAN PROFT

    Sleaze Factor: 6

    Chance Of Winning: 2 percent

    Reason To Vote For Him: High entertainment value.

    Reason To Vote Against Him: Politics isn't entertainment; no indication he could actually govern.

    Relevant Trivia: Admits his worst mistake was working for the Alan Keyes campaign.

    Conclusion: Fun, smart, articulate, great e-mails, nice campaign . . . but Governor Proft would be worse than Governor Ventura because at least in Minnesota they try. Here, Madigan and Cullerton would just shut the whole enterprise down.

    -

    Candidate: BILL BRADY

    Sleaze Factor: 3

    Chance Of Winning: 1 percent

    Reason To Vote For Him: You're a conservative who doesn't trust anyone else in the field.

    Reason To Vote Against Him: He's really a conservative.

    Relevant Trivia: Says of his biggest mistake that "Nothing stands out." Really? Here's one: Running for governor.

    Conclusion: Inability - again - to set himself apart and cast himself as an executive who can lead.

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    GOVERNOR, GREEN

    Candidate: Rich Whitney

    Sleaze Factor: 0

    Chance Of Winning: 100 percent

    Reason To Vote For Him: Two-party system is holding us hostage to mediocre hacks and scumbags.

    Reason To Vote Against Him: You can't, he's running unopposed.

    Relevant Trivia: Says his worst experience in life was "Flunking a math class in college and having to explain that to my parents." Charmed life, or a more boring life than McKenna's?

    Conclusion: If you really want change . . .

    -

    U.S. SENATE, DEMOCRATIC

    Candidate: ALEXI GIANNOULIAS

    Sleaze Factor: 10

    Chance Of Winning: 33.3 percent

    Reason To Vote For Him: To punish Obama, because his basketball buddy (oh, and generous money man, that part always gets left out) will lose his old seat.

    Reason To Vote Against Him: How much time do you have?

    *

    "But populism has its limits," Mick Dumke writes. "While the other candidates try to maximize their public appearances, hitting nearly every community forum or editorial endorsement session they're invited to, Giannoulias has been a frequent no-show, relying primarily on TV commercials and press releases to get his message out. That's an indication of either his campaign's confidence, its reluctance to expose him to discomfiting questions, or both."

    *

    "For months both the campaign and the treasurer's office refused to release details of what Giannoulias knew about the Bright Start losses. Last fall the Hoffman campaign submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for copies of correspondence between the office and Oppenheimer from the beginning of 2007 through the end of 2009, but a Giannoulias aide denied it, on the grounds that the request covered a huge number of records and was too burdensome. In January, after the settlement was reached, the Hoffman campaign submitted another request, for correspondence about the money-losing fund from March 2008 to December 2009. The treasurer's office denied that one too, saying it was still part of a 'litigation matter.'"

    *

    "Meanwhile, I've engaged in my own struggle for access to Giannoulias. Early in the fall I asked his staff for the opportunity to spend time with him on the stump; I was told he was busy, he was sick, maybe in a couple of weeks. When I heard he was traveling to an event in Rockford, I asked if I could tag along. I was told they hadn't provided anyone that kind of access (which I guess meant they didn't intend to start now). I asked for a copy of Giannoulias's campaign schedule and was told they didn't have one. I asked Burnham for a copy of Giannoulias's public schedule as treasurer; he said they didn't keep one. A couple sources close to the campaign told me straight up that they didn't think the Reader would say anything nice about Alexi so there wasn't much interest in making time for me."

    *

    "We'd barely started before we were out of time, but Giannoulias unleashed a charm offensive. He gave me his cell phone number and said we could get a beer that weekend--then texted me a few minutes later asking if I'd ever considered getting involved in politics myself."

    *

    "While acknowledging that he wouldn't have a chance at being a senator without connections and money ('I've been lucky'), he also seemed to think he deserved it because he works hard."

    *

    "He sometimes looked around as if to see whether anyone in the place recognized him. He struck me as smart, with a sincere interest in both the prestige of elected office and trying to help people.

    "But I never did get a chance to see Giannoulias campaigning among voters. In the month after our rendezvous, his campaign repeatedly told me they didn't have anything like that going on."

    Relevant Trivia: He lives on the Gold Coast and his favorite musical performer is Jay-Z.

    Conclusion: If you're still wondering, you're a natural-born Giannoulias voter.

    -

    Candidate: DAVID HOFFMAN

    Sleaze Factor: 1

    Chance Of Winning: 33.3 percent

    Reason To Vote For Him: Because Giannoulias and Jackson suck so bad.

    Reason To Vote Against Him: "Rumors floated around City Hall, some of them advanced by Daley aides, that Hoffman was grandstanding because he was preparing for his own mayoral run. In fact, he says, he started thinking seriously about running for attorney general last year after serving on a commission formed by Governor Pat Quinn to propose state ethics reforms. But then Madigan opted to run for re-election. Not long after that, Hoffman says, 'a pair of mutual friends' put him in touch with leaders of AKPD, the political consulting firm founded by Obama adviser David Axelrod, and last summer they urged him to think about running for the Senate."

    So Abner Mikva's not quite right when he says "Nobody sent David Hoffman."

    Conclusion: The unanimous good government pick of editorial boards everywhere. Not the best candidate for a U.S. Senate seat, but the best one we've got.

    -

    Candidate: Cheryle Jackson

    Sleaze Factor: 7

    Chance Of Winning: 33.3 percent

    Reason To Vote For Her: The United States Senate could use at least one African-American, for godsakes. And another woman.

    Reason To Vote Against Her: The problem isn't so much that she worked for Blagojevich - I mean, why is that more of a problem than, say, Barack Obama working hard twice to elect the guy? - but that she worked as a flak. Her job was to spin, deflect, deceive. Yes, that prepares one for public office, but still.

    Conclusion: Let's see how devoted to creating jobs Jackson is once she loses this race. My gut tells me she goes for the money.

    -

    Note: Jacob Meister has dropped out and I don't care about Robert Marshall.

    -

    U.S. SENATE, REPUBLICAN

    Mark Kirk is the only serious candidate, though Andy Martin said this when asked by the Sun-Times what candidate of either party he would most like to have dinner with: "Maybe Alexi so I could pound the crap out of him."

    U.S. SENATE, GREEN
    LeAlan Jones says of the worst experience of his life "Right now, I don't have anything;" of his biggest mistake, "I don't have any;" and of his first date, "I don't remember."

    At least he's well-prepared to answer questions before future investigating committees.

    -

    COOK COUNTY BOARD PRESIDENT, DEMOCRATIC

    Candidate: Todd Stroger

    Sleaze Factor: 8

    Chance Of Winning: 10

    Reason To Vote For Him: Just to fuck with everyone.

    Reason To Vote Against Him: If you don't know by now . . .

    Relevant Trivia:
    * "My first job was working in the summer at the Secretary of State's office."

    His daddy may have opened the door, but he aced the interview.

    * "I don't really see myself as a politician."

    Neither does anyone else.

    * His biggest regret - like that of Terry O'Brien - is not going to law school.

    Wasn't a summer job in the Secretary of State's Office just about the same thing?

    Conclusion: Don't dismiss late shenanigans or irregularities, but it's hard to see how he finishes higher than . . . last.

    -

    Candidate: TONI PRECKWINKLE

    Sleaze Factor: 2

    Chance Of Winning: 45 percent

    Reason To Vote For Her: She can chew gum, tie her shoes and recite budget numbers at the same time.

    Reason To Vote Against Her: Just to fuck with everyone.

    Relevant Trivia: Says she'd cut her own salary by 10 percent upon entering office. Actually, that's not trivial.

    Conclusion: It's blindingly obvious that she's the best candidate, even if her commercials talk about fighting the Machine even as she has sought Richie Daley's endorsement and depressingly offered up key votes to him during the last year as part of that effort.

    -

    Candidate: Dorothy Brown

    Sleaze Factor: 8

    Chance Of Winning: 30 percent

    Reason To Vote For Her: Because you secretly want Green nominee Tom Tresser in the fall.

    Reason To Vote Against Her: You don't want to be taxed for wearing jeans.

    Relevant Trivia: None.

    Conclusion: An enigma wrapped in a mystery stuffed in an envelope of cash that no one can account for.

    -

    Candidate: Terry O'Brien

    Sleaze Factor: 9

    Chance Of Winning: 15 percent

    Reason To Vote For Him: Because you secretly want Green nominee Tom Tresser in the fall.

    Reason To Vote Against Him: He's a Berny Stone man. Is that enough for you?

    Relevant Trivia: That Stroger law school thing.

    Conclusion: Was never the frontrunner like stale-thinking journos supposed. But he will eke it out over Stroger to avoid a last-place finish.

    -

    COOK COUNTY BOARD PRESIDENT, REPUBLICAN

    Uh, I don't care.

    OTHER OFFICES

    LT. GOV: Hmmm, I can't decide between Hollywood Hack Hendon and the pawn shop king. Maybe I'll vote for the electrician.

    The alternatives are state Sen. Terry Link, state Rep. Mike Boland, and state Rep. Art Turner - neither of whom can be trusted.

    On the Republican side, please avoid McKenna running mate Matt Murphy like the plague. Call it crappiness by association.

    TREASURER: Democrat Justin Oberman's vicious attacks against Bright Start will make good material for Mark Kirk should Alexi Giannoulias win his primary; Oberman's opponent is Robin Kelly, Giannoulias's chief of staff, and he keeps calling Bright Start a fiasco of her office, but it's Giannoulias's office. Oberman just tried to run for Congress in the 5th district as well as lieutenant governor; if he wants public office so bad he should settle for dog-catcher. Not that Kelly isn't tainted by Giannoulias; she is. Alternatively, Republican state Sen. Dan Rutherford is uncontested, as is the Green's Scott Summers.

    COMPTROLLER: Democrat David Miller's vicious attacks against Bright Start will make good material for Mark Kirk should Alexi Giannoulias win his primary; Miller's opponent, Raja Krisnamoorthi is Giannoulias's deputy treasurer. (I wonder if Oberman and Miller are also backing Giannoulias's opponents in the Senate race if his office was such a mess.) Roger Ebert has endorsed Raja, which is just annoying. Wilmette lawyer Clint Krislov is also in the race and worth a vote just to shake things up.

    On the Republican side, former state treasurer and GOP gubernatorial nominee Judy Baar Topinka is trying to make a comeback. She's facing assclown William Kelly and Orland Park trustee Jim Dodge. Punt.

    COOK COUNTY ASSESSOR: VOTE RAY FIGUEROA. As many times as you can. And then once more.

    U.S. CONGRESS (selected races):
    1st: Democrats, please vote Fred Smith over Bobby Rush

    2nd: Democrats, please send a message to Jesse Jackson Jr. about his noxious support of Quinn and don't give him your vote.

    3rd: Democrats, please vote Jorge Mullica over Dan Lipinski. I don't even know if he's a real candidate, but he's on the ballot.

    4th: Democrats, please send a message to Luis Gutierrez and don't give him your vote.

    5th: Quigley is a shoo-in here anyway.

    7th: Democrats, please vote Clarence "Big Man" Clemons over Danny "Moonbeam" Davis.

    COMMENT 5:39 P.M.: From Scott Speegle, campaign manager for Jim Ascot, who is in this race:

    "It is incredible to me that you could suggest that the voters in the 7th CD vote for Clemons, since he is not even on the ballot! Please do your homework the next time you put together something like this - having such a glaring mistake calls into question all of your comments."

    Rhodes response: My apologies, but just for the record, I depended on the Tribune's Election Center for information on downballot races and, as of this writing, the Trib still lists Clemons as a candidate. I regret their error.

    -

    9th: Jan Schakowsky is a shoo-in here anyway.

    10th: Democrats, please send a message - again - to Dan Seals that he should find another line of work.

    COOK COUNTY BOARD (selected races):
    1st: Democrats, please vote for anyone but Earlean Collins. (The Trib likes Onayemi.)

    2nd: Democrats, please vote for anyone but Robert Steele. (The Trib likes Grode.)

    3rd: Democrats, please vote for anyone but Jerry Butler. (The Trib likes Torries-Linares.)

    4th: Democrats, please vote for Elgie Sims over Bill Beavers.

    5th: Democrats, please vote for Sheila Chalmers-Currin over Deborah Sims.

    6th: Democrats, please vote for Nick Valadez over Joan Patricia Murphy.

    7th: Democrats, please vote for Jesus Garcia over Joseph Moreno.

    12th: Democrats, please vote for John Fritchey over Ted Matlak.

    GENERAL ASSEMBLY (selected races):
    23rd Rep: Democrats, please vote for Rudy Lozano over Dan Burke. As often as you can. And then once more.

    40th Rep: Democrats, please vote for Joe Laiacona over Deb Mell. As often as you can. And then twice more.

    JUDGES
    This stuff is important, people. If you associate with the Beachwood, chances are better than average you could wind up in court one day.

    Use these judicial ratings as a guide.

    See also:
    * "Some of the candidates slated by the Democratic Party for judgeships expect to be handed the $170,000-a-year gig with life-or-death power over defendants without having to be bothered submitting their credentials and answering pesky questions about mistakes they have made in court," the estimable Abdon Pallasch reports.

    "Pamela Hill Veal got the party's blessing in her bid to move up to Appellate Court from Circuit Court, even though the very Appellate Court she seeks to join lambasted her in an opinion for inexcusably jailing a lawyer for contempt of court.

    "Veal did not bother to submit her credentials for review or to return a phone call for this story."

    * The Tribune's judicial rundown.

    -

    Judges, people. Take a few minutes to get it right.

    -

    Happy voting.

    -

    Comments welcome.


    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:34 AM | Permalink

    Political Arts & Letters

    1. From Sue Fisher Yellen:

    Chicago Politics As Usual

    I watch TV, ad after ad, politicians smiling, showing their shiny white teeth...
    Especially the dentist who wants to be something else...
    The White man, naming all the Black men who, he says, love him most...
    The young Greek, trying to look old, patting blue collars, promising new jobs...
    The ubiquitous Irish machine-made man, grinning his Irish grin...
    And some lady who has stolen a statue of a beautiful slave-woman in chains with deep scars on her bare back, trying to look like a hero...
    Blaming, claiming, shaming...
    Buying time so we can see these smiling faces,
    all the white teeth,
    all the promises...
    Selling us hope...
    Teaching us cynicism.

    2. From David Rutter:

    * After carefully considering the entire field of candidates in the pending primary, I have decided to take all the candidates' public views at face value. That means all the candidates - every one of them - are incompetent, criminal, creepy, devious, or once seemed to support Barack Obama. "How COULD he"?

    Even Lake County Democrat Party chief Terry Link, who is running for LUTEGOV, says he promises not be a total, useless tool like the previous Lt. Gov. His radio ads in that regard end with loud snoring to reflect the previous Lt. Guv's toolishness. The previous Lt. Gov is, of course, Pat Quinn. Now THERE'S an opening-day-on-the-job chat I'd like to hear.

    * Mike North and Dan Jiggetts will take up two hours of TV time every morning on WBBM-Ch 2. starting this week. Thus another victory for Chicago media kudzu. Useless but you can't get rid of it. Note to WBBM brain trust: Mike North and Dan Jiggetts? Really. I mean REALLY?

    * RE: Cliff Kelley's radio debate moderation between Pat Quinn and Dan Hynes. Is Chicago the only city in the world where former crooks get their own radio shows to interview politicians about lack of integrity? And at the center of the issue, what did Harold Washington really think? Harold Washington? When Harold Washington (telephoning from the ranks of the dead) calls you an incompetent bozo with delusions of grandeur, brother you have some serious issues.

    * Chicago is the only place in the world where calling Bozo the Clown a politician is an insult to the clown.

    3. From Jerry Field:

    We keep hearing about educational reform and we find that the Chicago Public Schools are now at it again. Along with most of its "reform partners" CPS is re-constituting schools, closing schools, transferring students, shuffling teachers, refusing to listen to the parents and still teaching to the test so scores are good and CPS looks good. When are the real reformers going to get a hearing at CPS?

    The constant dealing with the effect and not addressing the cause is a continuing program that Vallas started and Duncan continued, and now CPS is a ship without a competent admiral and charted course.

    The quality of teaching has antiquated standards, the curriculum is not relevant to today's students and the methods of instruction are as old. Adding a Power Point presentation and a few visuals is not updating. CPS is still living by Paddy Bauer's classic "We ain't ready for reform yet."

    -

    Your comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:31 AM | Permalink

    February 1, 2010

    SportsMonday: Bears Break

    So the way I understand it, just about everyone believes the Bears have totally screwed up their search for an offensive coordinator because a decisive team would have made the call by now.

    Really?

    First of all, let me reiterate that the Bears should have either bit the bullet and brought Ron Turner back or they should have fired the whole coaching staff (and Jerry Angelo, too, but we all knew that wasn't going to happen). So I'm on record as saying this whole thing shouldn't have happened this way.

    But the Bears went ahead and made Turner the scapegoat (and heck, there were plenty of things not to like about his general scheme - starting with its predictability). The Bears did so despite the fact that Jay Cutler will now have to learn his third offensive system in three years and, of course, he'll be set up for four-in-four given the likelihood of another Lovie failure in 2010.

    If you were trying to ensure the guy wouldn't fulfill his potential, you couldn't come up with a better plan than this.

    And there's the fact that one season simply wasn't enough time to evaluate whether the Turner-Cutler combo would be successful over the long haul.

    But once the search started, I don't understand what the hurry was. If going faster would have landed Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates or Green Bay Packer quarterbacks coach Tom Clements, I'd understand the outcry. But Bates wasn't going to give up a chance to start fresh with head coach Pete Carroll and the Packers denied the Bears permission to talk to Clements.

    So then the question becomes, would San Diego assistant head coach Rob Chudbowski or whatever the heck his name is really have been a better choice than Mike Martz?

    Would any of the other guys the Bears have talked to or talked about talking to have been better choices than Martz?

    Of course they wouldn't.

    I don't know why it took the Bears this long to talk to the coach who so expertly directed the "Greatest Show on Turf" St. Louis Rams offense to two straight Super Bowls a decade ago.

    My guess is the franchise (quarterback) has some reservations about Martz (not surprising given the fact that the coach criticized Cutler on the NFL Network during the season for having a poor attitude) and needed to be convinced that the Bears were looking at a variety of options.

    Or maybe the team is worried Martz will want to throw the ball more than Lovie would like. Of course, that's a point in his favor for a gigantic majority of Bears fans.

    The bottom line is that if the Bears sign Martz, they will have grabbed the best guy available, a guy whose qualifications outweigh those of even Bates and Clements by a significant margin.

    And even if the Bears end up going with someone other than Martz, I won't necessarily despair. I'll never understand why at least some NFL teams don't wait until after the Super Bowl to fill out their staffs. I know the assistants on still-alive playoff teams have a chance to interview with other teams for better jobs early in playoff weeks. But surely it makes much more sense to talk to them after their season is over. Yet teams almost never do that. Surely the quarterbacks coaches or whoever else might be the offensive coordinators in waiting on the staffs leading the teams that make it to the Super Bowl are the guys who ought to be the hottest prospects.

    *

    And one last thing . . . People have yukked it up about the fact that Ravens quarterbacks coach Hue Jackson took a job with the Raiders rather than even talking to the Bears. The thinking goes that the Bears are so pathetic, guys would even rather work for abysmal Oakland. Again - really?

    The Bears didn't offer Jackson the coordinator's job! He was going to talk to them about it (and maybe about the still vacant quarterbacks coaching position), but he was a longshot and he knew it. The Raiders then offered him their coordinator job and he took it.

    No matter how bad the Raiders may be mismanaged at this point, surely it makes sense that an assistant coach would take a major promotion there over only having a shot at a major promotion here.

    *

    The Bears should have cleared the decks and started fresh this off-season. But they didn't and there was some understandable negative reaction. Of course, these days, "understandable negative reaction" transitions into "these guys are obviously the most incompetent management team in the history of football" faster than you can say "Matt Millen."

    Cub Grub
    Well, are you an optimist or a pessimist? While I'm not optimistic that the Cubs have done enough to make up an eight-game gap between themselves and the Cardinals, I am not pessimistic about their signing of outfielder Xavier Nady. The guy is a potentially great platoon partner for Kosuke Fukudome and perhaps it at least begins to dawn on Alfonso Soriano that if he doesn't get going this year, the Cubs have acquired a guy who could send him to the bench.

    Then again, one too many hard throws from the outfield and Nady's right, throwing elbow, which has twice gone through the "Tommy John" procedure (most recently last summer), could simply disintegrate. And Nady is 31 years old. Now that the Steroid Era is at least in remission, most guys start to naturally decline in their early to mid-30s, let alone guys who have had two major arm surgeries.

    Still, Nady's on-base percentage with the Pirates and Yankees was .357 in 2008. He hit 25 homers and his on-base-plus-slugging wasn't that far below .900, the mark of a truly elite hitter. I have to say it - way to go Hendry.

    -

    Jim "Coach" Coffman rounds up the sports weekend in this space every Monday. He welcomes your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:36 AM | Permalink

    RockNotes: Three Faces of Evil, Only One Good

    1. THE GRAMMYS: I feel like I've been reading this article my whole life. Anyone who takes the Grammys seriously as a measure of musical greatness is a tool, a dupe, or both. Paying attention is only important insofar as the ongoing importance of monitoring the enemy. Just consider: Neil Young won his first Grammy ever last night - and it was for the packaging of his boxed set. As several observers have noted, that ties him with Britney Spears - whose win was actually for a recording.

    *

    "Veering away from their stated mission 'to honor artistic achievement ... without regard to album sales or chart position,' the 52nd annual Grammy Awards instead embraced the American Idol pop mainstream Sunday during one of the longest but least substantial nights in their history," Jim DeRogatis writes today.

    That sort of implies the Grammys have had a substantial night.

    *

    "In another one of those Grammy shockers, Taylor Swift won the night's biggest award - album of the year for Fearless - after a nationally televised performance Sunday that pointed out how richly she didn't deserve it," Greg Kot writes.

    How is it a shocker that someone like Taylor Swift would walk away a big Grammy winner? That's who she is and what the Grammys are; a perfect match.

    I've always said the top five records put out by a Chicago label in any given year easily best the top five nominated for Grammys, and I'll stand by that.

    Hell, the top five records put out by any single Chicago label are probably better than any five nominated for Grammys.

    2. TICKETMASTER: "After a year of quiet deliberations behind closed doors while everyone from angry congressmen to consumer advocates to Bruce Springsteen shouted in opposition outside, the U.S. Department of Justice on Monday gave its blessing to the merger of two of the most controversial companies in the music industry: giant national concert promoters Live Nation and monopolistic ticket brokers Ticketmaster," DeRogatis writes.

    "Widely considered to be the first major test of the Obama administration's stance on antitrust issues, the Justice Department's ruling is similar to many issued during the Clinton and Bush years, including the settlement of the Microsoft case. The government is trusting an ever-expanding big business to police itself and act in consumers' interests.

    "For followers of politics as practiced in Chicago, it is hard not to suspect some successful influence peddling. In addition to employing the most high-powered Democratic lobbyists in Washington, Live Nation's board members include Hollywood super agent Ari Emanuel, brother of Rahm Emanuel, President Obama's chief of staff and former North Side congressman, while Ticketmaster's board of directors included the president's Harvard classmate and transition team leader Julius Genachowski, until he resigned to become chairman of the FCC."

    Even Springsteen is disappointed in Obama.

    3. OZZY: "If Armageddon began tomorrow, I'd lay odds that Ozzy Osbourne would be one of the last men standing," Teresa Budasi writes. "By his own account, the godfather of heavy metal has been awarded a lifetime of lucky breaks. In his new memoir, I Am Ozzy (Grand Central, $26.99), he accounts for, takes responsibility for and is remorseful for all the drunken, drugged-out, crazy, irresponsible and sometimes violent episodes that make up the story of his life - a life he inexplicably has lived to tell about."

    There's obviously a lot of darkness and depression in Ozzy's life, but there's also charm and dynamism.

    "It's no wonder MTV plucked Osbourne and his family to star in their own reality show in 2002. I Am Ozzy reads like a long-running hit sitcom - The Monkees meets Spinal Tap meets The Beverly Hillbillies meets Arthur - with Osbourne's character a cross between David St. Hubbins and Dudley Moore's drunken Arthur Bach.

    "Hey, remember the one where the sofa caught fire and Mum's false teeth went flying through the window? Or the time Ozzy and his bandmates got so freaked out after watching The Exorcist that they all slept in the same hotel room?"

    Priceless.

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    Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:04 AM | Permalink

    TV News 101

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    Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:00 AM | Permalink

    Primary Notes

    On the trail ahead of Tuesday's primary voting.

    GIANNOULIAS: No wonder his handlers continue to try to keep him away from reporters. Every time he opens his mouth to answer a question - or to not answer a question - he illustrates why he is ill-prepared and undeserving of being a United States senator.

    "Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias refused to provide details Thursday about whether his decisions contributed to his family bank's financial problems, saying five days before the election that those questions can wait for another time," Politico reports.

    "'If I'm fortunate enough to make it out of the primary, we can have that conversation,' the Chicago Democrat told reporters."

    Party leaders must be wondering if that's a promise or a threat.

    *

    As long as Giannoulias isn't talking, we'll turn to the estimable David Greising, in the pages of the New York Times on Sunday, and believe every word he says.

    "Though he would not talk to the Chicago News Cooperative, in public statements Mr. Giannoulias has noted that four years have passed since he left the bank," Greising writes. "In a statement, the bank said only 9 percent of the $242 million in nonperforming assets currently on its books originated under Mr. Giannoulias."

    Perhaps, but which nine?

    "According to a review of the bank's annual filings with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation from 2001 through Sept. 30, 2009, the bank plunged into the sort of lending that has caused bank crises across the country: construction and development loans. Mr. Giannoulias's lending department sharply increased the construction and development portfolio to $356 million by 2006, six times the level it had been before he went to work there."

    In other words, Giannoulias is an Illinois version of the kind of banker we're all so angry about.

    "Construction-related lending jumped to more than triple the bank's required regulatory capital during this period, and the loans started to go bad. By the time Mr. Giannoulias departed, Broadway was left with nearly $14 million in real estate on its books, more than 10 times the level when he arrived. Foreclosures take time, though - often about 18 months. And within two years of Mr. Giannoulias's departure, the bank was left holding $38 million in real estate.

    "The move into real estate coincided with a headlong push into brokered deposits. This is quintessential hot money - large amounts that jump from bank to bank, each bank offering the lure of high interest , which the banks then must fund by making ever-riskier loans."

    Blame for the Bright Start fiasco is hard to sort out, but maybe Giannoulias didn't have the sensitivity to risk with other people's money that he should have. Just a thought.

    "No one knows for certain how big a role Mr. Giannoulias played in these decisions."

    Except Alexi. He knows. The fact that we don't should make him ineligible to hold any public office.

    "As Broadway's top lending officer, he must have influenced the move into construction lending. As a connected family member, he was probably present during discussions of the hot-money play. Certainly, he took part in the family's decision to take out some $70 million in dividends from the bank in 2007 and 2008, even as it careened toward a consent decree with the F.D.I.C.

    "Mr. Giannoulias told reporters that a time would come when he could answer questions about what happened at his family's bank. Here is hoping there is plenty of time, because questions keep mounting faster than the troubles at Broadway Bank."

    *

    To my knowledge, Mick Dumke of the Reader has delved more deeply into Giannoulias's problems at Broadway Bank than anyone. Read this and you'll see he shouldn't even be re-elected treasurer.

    QUINN/HYNES: "At issue on the Burr Oak controversy are two documents: an internal corporate memo involving the cemetery owners and a later letter from Hynes' office to the cemetery owners," the Tribune reports. "Each document uses the term 'human remains,' but in different context. Hynes' office oversees cemetery trust finances.

    "A Friday night report on WLS-Ch. 7 detailed what it described as a 2003 internal corporate memo in which the Burr Oak chief executive in charge of the cemetery at the time allegedly noted that its previous owners had buried over or cleared out old graves for new ones and expressed concern that older human remains had been dumped.

    "A separate 2004 letter from Hynes' comptroller office to the same Burr Oak executive noted that the cemetery owner wanted to construct a mausoleum on the grounds, but in the process of excavation had found human remains. The Hynes' letter instructs the cemetery to contact the state's Historic Preservation Agency or the state's cemetery association.

    "Quinn has seized on both documents, tying them together to allege that the issue of grave re-selling and dumping of human remains was known to Hynes' office as a result of the comptroller's memo. Hynes said the two documents were unrelated and that it would not be unusual for excavation in a century-old cemetery to unearth human remains in an area not previously charted."

    *

    Or, as I wrote in an e-mail on Friday to someone I know in the Quinn Administration:

    "What does that story prove? Human remains found in a cemetery? Big surprise! I'm not for Hynes but this is ridiculous. The story doesn't say he was made aware of what was eventually discovered. He referred the problem to 'other agencies,' which makes sense given his statement that the comptroller's office - the comptroller's office! - only audits the books. This is just really sad and, frankly, I expect better of you. Jesus! Besides that, if this was the only mistake Hynes had made during his political career, well, not bad! I don't know who abducted Pat Quinn and replaced him with a creature made in Ed Burke and Joe Berrios's basement, but I can say I don't think I've ever been more disappointed in a pol, including Obama and Larry Bloom."

    QUINN: "If anybody asks, why should I vote on Tuesday, what's a stake? I'll tell you what's at stake," Quinn said. "Which way is our state going to go? Are we going to go backwards? Are we going to go back to those days in the 1980s when people were divided against each other? I don't think so."

    So Pat Quinn is Harold Washington and Dan Hynes is . . . Ed Burke, who is supporting Quinn?

    What's next, a plea of mercy from Quinn for Fast Eddie Vrdolyak in the name of racial healing?

    DILLARD: "Last week, Dillard picked up the all-important endorsement of the Sangamon County Republican organization, which runs patronage in Springfield," John Kass notes.

    "'Sangamon County is the heart and soul of the Illinois Republican Party,' Dillard said. 'This is where the brain trust is.'

    "Perhaps. But Dillard neglected to mention whose brain he trusts.

    "For years, the brain of the Sangamon Republicans has belonged to the county's political boss, William Cellini, the federally indicted asphalt king and gazillionaire developer. Cellini's sister was the patronage boss for Dillard's champion, former Gov. Jim Edgar. And Edgar rides on a prancing white horse in the Dillard campaign."

    BROWN: Certified public accountant Dorothy Brown's disingenuous use of a click poll.

    O'BRIEN: All you need to know is that he had Ald. Berny Stone (D-Hackville) at his side on Sunday even as he questioned Toni Preckwinkle's independent credentials.

    McKENNA: "The loser [of the Republican gubernatorial debate] was Andy McKenna, who skipped the WTTW event (and a face-off the next day at WLS-AM) claiming a scheduling conflict," Eric Zorn writes.

    Yes, he was scheduled to avoid public appearances with his opponents.

    BERRIOS: And the truth.

    More about the man Pat Quinn just endorsed - over a reformer.

    IVI-IPO: See that insert of endorsed candidates in the Reader? Note this fine print: "Only those candidates who have made contributions to the Independent Campaign Committee are pictured and described therein."

    "Independent of What?"

    STROGER: Stroger is actually an effective advocate for the fiscal performance of the county during his tenure, it's just that too many people of varying political stripes think the books are cooked and, of course, he's been a disaster regarding personnel and patronage. Highly informative: This radio debate between Stroger and Tribune deputy editorial page editor John McCormick.

    TONY PERAICA'S TWEETS: Scurrilous or too close to Election Day, Tony:

    # Local media certainly did not extend the same courtesy to Mark Kirk when Andy Martin made far wilder allegations than Tony Cole did. about 14 hours ago from web

    # So, why is the local media covering up for Todd Stroger? Would this same failure to report be extended to others? about 14 hours ago from web

    # I have been contacted by WBBM (Craig Dellimore) and WBEZ (Sam Hudzik), yet there has not been any coverage of Cole's press conference. about 14 hours ago from web

    # Although numerous local reporters were present, there has been NO coverage of Cole's explosive statements. Why the double standard? about 14 hours ago from web

    # Tony Cole, whom Stroger refered to as "poster boy for the county" held a presser Friday at County Bldg. about 14 hours ago from web

    # COUNTY BUILDING PRESSER: Tony Cole: "Todd Stroger made sexual advances toward me." This could be fatal to the dormant Stroger campaign. 2:53 PM Jan 29th from web

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    Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:21 AM | Permalink

    The [Monday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    Ironies continue to abound in the fight over Dan Hynes's use of Harold Washington in a campaign ad attacking Pat Quinn. But the chief irony Quinn's supporters don't seem to recognize is that Quinn is the one attacking Harold Washington.

    Quinn maintained then, and apparently does now, that he was fired as Washington's revenue director because he wouldn't do any favors for Friends of Harold. He accused the Washington administration of being corrupt. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't. As far as I can tell, Quinn never named names. (A further irony given that he's attacking Hynes for not going after Burr Oak wrongdoers.)

    A question for Quinn: Who sought illicit favors from you? Did you report them to authorities? Did Washington know? Then why did he fire you?

    I'm not defending Washington; I'd say there's a 50-50 chance Quinn's allegations were/are true. But don't parade noxious racemonger Bobby Rush around and say that Dan Hynes is the one besmirching Washington's legacy.

    And we all know the Burr Oak slurs Quinn's campaign is launching at Hynes are designed to increase angry black turnout in support of Quinn. Who's giving the okee-dokee to who?

    Also worth considering:

    "There's one political old-timer whose wisdom, even in death, is as relevant today as 22 years ago," Laura Washington writes today. "Back then, I was privileged to serve as a spokeswoman for Mayor Harold Washington. Forever eloquent, Washington knew exactly what he was saying in that long-ago interview about firing Gov. Quinn. He meant every unequivocal word of it, and then some.

    "Washington doesn't need to be rescued by craven politicians who feign outrage at that brilliant Dan Hynes campaign ad. The cynical rush by the pols to protect Washington's name is a fig leaf for protecting the benefits of incumbency.

    "Like Quinn, Dan Hynes is an imperfect candidate. But that ad was not racist. It was right."

    And if you have any doubts about who Quinn has turned into, consider this news delivered by Rich Miller on Friday:

    "Pat Quinn sought and received the endorsement of the Cook County Democratic Party, then his campaign borrowed $250,000 from Ald. Ed Burke, and now he's endorsing Joe Berrios for Assessor. The transmogrification is complete."

    *

    As I've written before, I'm not for Hynes either, but he's clearly the better choice if you feel compelled to vote in the Democratic primary. I object to Hynes's misleading ads about Quinn's tax plan - calling a 1 percent hike on some people's taxes a hike of 50 percent is disingenuous - and Quinn's early release snafu, which was an administrative blunder and which Quinn hemmed and hawed on unlike the straight shooter he presents himself as, but it's also a bit of sensationalistic exploitation.

    Nonetheless, Hynes exudes competency while Quinn exudes foolishness.

    -

    For more campaign news, see Primary Notes. Late tonight or early tomorrow morning we'll post our voters guide.

    That's Monique!
    "Disputed 'Defiance' Back At Chicago State."

    But Monique Davis says she doesn't know how.

    Character Reference
    "[Federal judge David] Hamilton also viewed the letters on Vrdolyak's behalf positively, saying he was 'impressed by a surprising volume of information showing the defendant's character was very different from his public image in the media'."

    A) And "Fast Eddie" refers to Vrdolyak's foot speed.

    B) Brian Urlacher was a particularly valid observer to give a character reference

    C) This man is a federal judge?

    Fast Nick
    "A longtime suburban Democratic Party powerbroker, [former Niles Mayor Nick] Blase admitted to taking $421,000 in kickbacks from businesses," the Sun-Times reports. "Blase used his elected office to pressure local businesses into buying high-priced insurance from Ralph Weiner & Associates of Wheeling. Blase had a hidden stake in the company.

    "Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Collins said Blase pocketed kickbacks for more than three decades from business owners who, at times, were outright threatened by Blase, who was also the liquor commissioner."

    For more than three decades. And we're expected to believe Blase is really sorry?

    U.S. District Judge Wayne Andersen sentenced Blase to a-year-and-a-day, meaning he could be out in 10 months. Prosecutors wanted four-and-a-half years.

    Ten months just might have been worth it.

    Three Faces of Evil
    The Grammys, Ticketmaster, and Ozzy.

    TV News 101
    And we're not just joking. We want you to stop it.

    Bears Break
    "So the way I understand it, just about everyone believes the Bears have totally screwed up their search for an offensive coordinator because a decisive team would have made the call by now," our very own Jim Coffman writes in SportsMonday. "Really?"

    Coach Coffman thinks not.

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    The Beachwood Tip Line: Fade to black.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:33 AM | Permalink

    Chicago In Song: Hobo Hub

    In this installment of Chicago In Song, two great country singer/songwriters highlight one of the city's most characteristic portrayals in song lyrics - its status as a magnet for poor, often homeless, migrants. Call them tramps, hobos, bums or economic refugees, Chicago's continuing attraction to the country's (and the world's) down-and-out gets an artistic workout from Merle Haggard and Dwight Yoakam.

    *

    Merle Haggard/I Take a Lot of Pride In What I Am
    Usually when we're talking about Chicago's place of infamy in song lyrics in this space, it's something along the lines of poverty, despair or some other offshoot of misery. One rich vein in that category that we look for the first time here is the city's longtime identification with homelessness, courtesy of Merle Haggard and his 1969 classic, "I Take a Lot of Pride in What I Am."

    merle_pride.jpgHaggard was really hitting his stride when his album Pride In What I Am came out that year. It was a follow-up to possibly his best album ever, 1968's Mama Tried. Pride, Haggard's 10th LP, yielded only one hit - our subject song. But it was nevertheless very important for the development of his gentler, more folky side, with tunes like "The Day the Rains Came" and the other hobo-themed cut on this disc, "Somewhere on Skid Row," slowing down the Bakersfield Express to a thoughtful, twangy crawl.

    "I Take a Lot of Pride In What I Am" itself bears a strong resemblance to John Hartford's "Gentle On My Mind," which made a star of Glen Campbell two years earlier. It's got pretty much the same tempo and kind of joyous banjo finger-picking as Hartford's original. But that's not to say it's a rip-off. Haggard's vocal style ensures that even in his uptempo songs, he's still got an enigmatic hard edge that makes you feel like he's only smiling through his tears. The lyrics tell the tale of a man who, though homeless (a "hobo"), still has worth and value, at least to himself. It starts off in Chicago:

    Things I learned in a hobo jungle
    Were things they never taught me in a classroom
    Like where to find a handout
    While thumbin' through Chicago in the afternoon

    Hey, I'm not braggin' or complainin'
    I'm just talkin' to myself man to man
    This ole' mental fat I'm chewin'
    Didn't take a lot of doin'
    But I take a lot of pride in what I am

    Why does Haggard talk about "thumbin' through Chicago" when he could have just as easily referenced New York, the Deep South, the dusty rural Midwest or a million other places? Probably because of the city's long-held reputation as a center of hobo culture and homelessness in general, which gained currency in the Great Depression because of its status as a rail hub.

    According to a comprehensive book on the subject from the University of Chicago Press, Citizen Hobo: How a Century of Homelessness Shaped America, author Todd DePastino says that West Madison Street for many years was considered the Hobo Capital of the World and was the "main stem" for several generations of first "tramps" (1870s), then "hoboes" (1910s through '30s) and finally "bums" (1940s and '50s). In an interview with the publisher, DePastino said that homeless men hitchhiking through Chicago were mainly on the "job circuit."

    "The hobo job circuit began and ended in cities like Chicago," he said. "Hoboes found jobs in harvest fields, construction sites and mining and lumber camps through the employment agencies (what hoboes called the 'slave market') that lined West Madison Street and other urban neighborhoods in the Midwest and West. The concentration of railroads in Chicago made West Madison the busiest labor exchange in the nation. After a job finished, hoboes either hopped a freight to another worksite - often on a tip - or headed back to the main stem, where they took the 'stake' they had earned and 'laid up' for as long as their stake held out."

    On the West Madison "main stem," DePastino says, hoboes could be themselves, making it one of the first and biggest countercultural gatherings in the country, a precursor in many ways of the hippie culture that would later come to Chicago with such legendary and traumatic results.

    "The main stem was where hobo culture really came to life," he says. "On the job and on the road, hoboes were subject to their employers, the police or the 'railroad bulls' who patrolled the rails. But on the main stem, which was segregated from residential neighborhoods and mainstream business districts, hoboes were relatively free to flaunt their countercultural way of life. In addition to employment agencies and cheap hotels, the main stem hosted saloons, brothels, theaters, gambling houses and the like."

    Sounds great. I wonder if Nelson Algren ever wandered down to the main stem from Ukrainian Village? My considered opinion is "yes."

    Dwight Yoakam/South of Cincinnati
    In the Dwight Yoakam song "South of Cincinnati," Chicago takes up its role as a place that Southerners would rather not be, a theme that has been used by such countrified artists as George Jones and the Marshall Tucker Band, among others. In fact, Dwight hates it here so much he's this far from ending it all.

    dwight_cadillacs.jpgFrom one of his earliest albums, 1986's Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc. Etc., it's a bitter but beautiful lament about the mass migration from Yoakam's home state of Kentucky to more northerly places such as Chicago to find jobs in the early 1980s, when a recession hit Kentucky that sharply reversed a trend toward double-wide-trailer-home prosperity that marked the previous decades. From 1980 to 1983, according to the Kentucky Housing Corp., the state was hit much harder than the rest of the country by the recession, and in many ways, "the state has never been the same." The result was a tremendous amount of out-migration to places like Chicago, and a pretty much permanent end to good times experienced there in earlier years, much enabled by easy financing for mobile homes.

    In Yoakam's song, the singer is one of those poor Kentucky souls who had to leave home looking for work. In it, he looks back with wistful, rose-colored memories of his former home, and the woman he loves that he had to leave behind.

    If you ever get south of Cincinnati
    Down where the dogwood trees grow
    If you ever get south of the Mason Dixon
    To the home you left so long ago

    If you ever get south of the Ohio River
    Down where Dixieland begins
    If you ever get south of Cincinnati
    I'll be yours again

    After setting up the "Kentucky = Good" paradigm, Yoakam then establishes its "Chicago = Bad" counterpoint, mixing it with a more personal conflict in which the woman of the song won't write to her Chicago man for 14 long years because of misplaced pride.

    She pulled the letter from the pages of her Bible
    And a rose pressed inside the Book of Luke
    For fourteen years she'd write each day but keep it hidden
    Refused to even speak his name but still she wrote

    At a cold gray apartment in Chicago
    A cigarette drowns inside a glass of gin
    He lies there drunk, but it don't matter drunk or sober
    He'll never read the words that pride won't let her send

    You can't help but notice how in Chicago song lyrics, no one ever lives in nice homes. It's always cold, grey apartments. And the singers are almost always nearly suicidal about being here. Well, I suppose it's more interesting to sing about the South Side than Schaumburg. But still, if you go by popular song lyrics, there is no one in Chicago who is not a drunken, miserable wreck.

    Anyway, one of the great things about Dwight Yoakam is his authenticity. Indeed, as one of the inventors of the "new traditionalist" school of modern country music, he has - more than nearly anyone else - established a still-kicking countertrend in Nashville away from its distressing and mind-numbing conformity. "South of Cincinnati" is a good example of that. In the early 1980s, Kentucky lost nearly 14 percent of its manufacturing economy in just over three years. While all of that pain and massive displacement was happening, corporate-controlled country music was largely in denial, abetted by President Reagan's assertion that the recession "(did) not look very deep."

    But real folk artists like Yoakam noticed, and gave voice to hard times that penniless Southern migrants were bringing to Chicago, a tradition that has stretched back to the city's founding.

    *

    Comments? Write Don.

    *

    From "Cubs 'N Roses" to "The O'Hare Blues," Chicago In Song explores the myriad and fascinating ways our fair city is portrayed in popular music. Check out the whole collection.

    Posted by Don Jacobson at 3:50 AM | Permalink

    MUSIC - Christgau Loves Chicago Neonatologist.
    TV - Amazon & The Way Of The World.
    POLITICS - Yes On Vouchers For After-School Programs.
    SPORTS - The Ex-Cub Factor.

    BOOKS - Writers Under Surveillance.

    PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Original Warrior.


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