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« November 2015 | Main | January 2016 »

December 31, 2015

The 10 Best Albums Of 2015?

Methodology: I simply combined the rankings of Robert Loerzel, Greg Kot, Jim DeRogatis, Pitchfork, Pop Matters, and Consequence of Sound and awarded 10 points for No.1s, 9 points for No. 2s and so on.

1. Kendrick Lamar / To Pimp A Butterfly (45 points)

Lamar appeared twice on the Beachwood in 2015, first in June for his appearance with Chance the Rapper on Northerly Island, and again in November for his show at the Riv.

2. Courtney Barnett / Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (38)

Barnett appeared just once on the Beachwood in 2015, for her appearance at Pitchfork.

3. Titus Andronicus / The Most Lamentable Tragedy (21)

Titus Andronicus has not appeared on the Beachwood since 2010.

4./5. Jamie xx / In Colour & Sufjan Stevens Carrie & Lowell (18)

Jamie xx appeared on the Beachwood in July for his Pitchfork performance, and October for his show at the Concord.

Stevens appeared on the Beachwood in April for his show at the Chicago Theatre.

6. Grimes / Art Angels (16)

Grimes appeared on the Beachwood in November for her show at the Metro.

7. Vince Staples / Summertime '06 (15)

Staples appeared on the Beachwood in July for his appearance at Pitchfork.

8. Protomartyr / The Agent Intellect (11)

Protomartyr appeared on the Beachwood in March for their appearance at the Empty Bottle's Music Frozen Dancing party, and again in July for their appearance at Pitchfork.

9. Joan Shelley / Over and Even (10)

Perhaps a flaw in the methodology, which measures intensity more than broad support; Shelley only showed up on Loerzel's list, but at No. 1. By contrast, Torres (Sprinter) showed up on two lists, but both times in the No. 9 spot, only garnering a total of 4 points. The only other artist to show up on more than one list but not make the top 10 was Kamasi Washington (The Epic), who was on two lists for a total of 8 points.

Shelley appeared on the Beachwood in November for her show with Doug Paisley at the Old Town School.

(Torres appeared on the Beachwood in May for her show at the Empty Bottle; Washington has never appeared on the Beachwood.)

10. Twerps / Range Anxiety, Low Cut Connie / Hi Honey & Oneohtrix / Garden of Delete (9)

Twerps appeared on the Beachwood in April for an in-store at Permanent Records; Oneohtrix and Low Cut Connie did not appear on the Beachwood in 2015.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:07 AM | Permalink

December 30, 2015

The Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report: The 2015 Koolie Awards!

Coming off of a string of demoralizing losses, the only real reason to tune into a Bears game at this juncture is to find out what kind of fight the 2015 squad has left in them.

Apparently, quite a bit.

The Bucs presented two major mismatches with Mike Evans at wide receiver and Doug Martin in the backfield.

I can only assume Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio drew from the wisdom I provided in last week's column to design a winning defensive scheme.

[Editor's Note: Did that "wisdom" appear before or after you introduced a character named Stan "The Herpes Outbreak" Stanton?]

It was in the Kool-Aid section, so after.

[Editor's Note: Ah, right after you suggested that one needed to drink a kiddie pool's worth of mojitos in order to watch the game?]

That's accurate.

[Editor's Note: I take it you drank a giant mojito before the game.]

No. I assembled a girl's makeup desk while listening to the game on the radio.

[Editor's Note: That would normally sound like a creepy choice, but I'm guessing it had something to do with your kid and Christmas.]

Yeah. She liked it a lot, but I had to wait until after the makeup desk was completed to start drinking. Mrs. Wifey avoids me when I'm near unassembled Ikea furniture and I don't like to drink alone when she's in the house.

[Editor's Note: She doesn't avoid you when you drink several gallons of mojitos?]

Who do you think is feeding me the mojitos? The woman owns an apron with a built in beer coozie and a bottle opener on a zip line.

wifey.png

Anyway, Bears fans should be pleased with an outcome that wasn't anywhere near as close as the 26-21 final score indicated, as the last seven points the Bucs scored were tallied on a successful Hail Mary with one second left in the game.

So you're sticking by your season-long assessment that the Bears are the sixteenth best team in the NFL?

Oh hey, the Mob. I was hoping you'd check in one last time.

Hoping? You have an overwhelming amount of control in this situation.

I like to think of myself as someone who makes dreams come true.

(Slaps collective, imaginary forehead)

If the Bears win against the Lions on Sunday, slightly better than that. Going in I have them ranked 15th; ahead of the Ravens, Browns, Cowboys, Lions, Texans, Colts, Jaguars, Dolphins, Saints, Giants, Raiders, Eagles, Chargers, 49ers, Rams, Buccaneers and Titans.

The Giants, Lions and Texans are debatable.

But as I've been saying all year, there's a legitimate discussion to be had. We couldn't say that going in to Week 17 of 2014.

So this win has meaning?

I'm not much for moral victories at the professional level, but it's become clear that the franchise is back on a positive trajectory and 2016 will be a much more exciting watch.

You were going to be back either way.

Absolutely. And I make no apologies for rooting for the professional football franchise that plays in my region of birth.

That's what you've got us for. Making apologies.

And you know it means the world to me. Have a great offseason guys.

We truly cannot emphasis enough that we're a hive-mind representation of the logical side of your otherwise irrational infatuation with professional sports. We're not going anywhere.

You want me to sign your yearbook?

(Slaps collective forehead)

(Very) Good Jay
Barring a dud of epic proportions in the season finale against the Lions, Jay Cutler's 2015 season will be his finest year as a pro.

Check that. It is near impossible to for Cutler to be bad enough on Sunday to negate the work he's done to this point.

In order for him to totally blow it, he'd have to commit a literal crime on the field during the contest and even infractions like check fraud, slamming the Third Amendment* or arson won't do the trick.

We live in a country where you can stab someone and then later run for president**. People are pretty forgiving when they're excited about a change.

Tanking the good vibes that his season-long uptick has provided is going to require public animal rape or devouring a live baby on the 50-yard line of Soldier Field.

The case for Cutler isn't just statistical; he's passed the eye test.

The oft turnover-prone QB has been an effective game manager, but when called upon he has become a key reason that the Bears either won, led or tied late (Raiders, Chiefs, Lions, Chargers), as well as late-game scores against the Vikings and 49ers which ended up in losing efforts because the defense couldn't hold the opponent. And let's not forget about the last-minute touchdown that would have tied the game if not for a failed two-point conversion against the Broncos.

Given that Cutler's primary (and secondary and tertiary) receivers missed significant time with injury (Jeffrey, White, Bennett, Forte, Wilson, Royal), it's fair to say that this performance was achieved with one hand tied behind his back.

Smokin' Jay addressed this subject in last week's post-game press conference.

Cutler: "Yeah, it's been a pretty good season for me personally. Ultimately, the goal is always to win, so from a big picture perspective I feel like I need to be even better next season."

Hub Arkush: "Jay, what specifically has changed this season that contributed most to the sustained success?"

Cutler (offering a half-hearted shrug): "It's a combination of a few things, but I think that this year the most important factor is the rich, bold flavor of Maverick cigarettes (holds up a pack of Gold Kings in full view of the camera). From the makers of such American staples as Winston and Kool, Maverick offers adult smokers the smooth taste of premium priced cigarettes at an everyday low price."

Putting two in his mouth, Cutler lights both and hands one to Kristin Cavallari, who high-fives the Bears QB before taking a slow, satisfying drag and posing for the cameras with one hand on her hip.

Arkush: "I see you've got yourself an endorsement deal."

Cutler (cracking a rare smile): "Suck a dick, you cranky old fuck. I'm even richer." (Takes a drag, blows out a long plume of smoke, walks away from podium with Cavallari on one arm while Black Sabbath's "The Mob Rules" cranks over the speakers.)

Arkush: "That doesn't really answer my question."

Cutler silently raises a middle finger over his shoulder while leaving.

Arkush: "There's still one more game left, I'm gonna be here next week!"

Cutler continues walking.

The 2015 Koolies
With the end of the season upon us, it's time to once again*** present deserving members of the Bears with the coveted Koolie award, a recognition of (usually no more than) 17 weeks' worth of the absolute best that the franchise has to offer their legions of fans.

Much like the Oscar for Best Picture, the number of Koolies awarded and the criteria for winning varies from year to year. Rumor has it that the formula is largely determined by El Nino weather patterns.

Before we present the most popular awards, I'd like to take a minute to congratulate the winners of the Technical Koolies presented in a ceremony earlier this evening (credits scroll past at lightning speed).

Excellent work guys. We couldn't do our jobs without you.

And now the Beachwood Reporter would like to present a tribute to those we've lost in 2015 (watches video montage set to "Time Of Your Life" by Green Day).

Thanks for that touching tribute, Steve. I'm pretty sure that song was meant for high school graduations, but that was truly a moving homage to Moses Malone.

So without further adieu . . .

Most Improved Player: A 12-way tie between Adrian Amos, Jonathan Anderson, Bryce Callahan, Tayo Fabuluje, Jacoby Glenn, Eddie Goldman, Hroniss Grasu, Harold Jones-Quartey, Jeremy Langford, Khari Lee, Cameron Meredith and John Timu.

A year ago, these guys weren't even playing football.

Comeback Player Of The Year: Zach Miller, TE.

You could make the argument that he deserves this award at the league level. Despite starting 14 games this season, few noticed the athletic tight end until Week 9 in San Diego when it became clear the coaching staff had become angry at Martellus Bennett for refusing to make a rap video about IHOP's famed Lingonberry syrup.

Best Shirt: JR, Brother-In-Law.

Hey, that's a nice shirt! Have a trophy.

brotherinlaw.png

Most Predictable Outcome Of A Future Contract Negotiation: Matt Forte, RB and Ryan Pace, GM.

Forte: "I'm one of the most reliable every-down running backs in the history of the NFL. I'd like a comp package commensurate with my performance."

Pace: "Money, eh? Let's have a look at Eddie George's stats his first season after he turned 30 (type, type, type, type). Yeah. We're not going to do that."

Forte: "Eddie George?! He had a chronic toe injury and we're two totally different styles of running back. What about all the guys who had huge seasons after they turned 30? Like, somewhat recently! Curtis Martin, Tiki Barber, Fred Taylor, Priest Holmes . . . "

Pace (with fingers in both ears): "La la la la la la la!"

Forte: " . . . Thomas Jones, Emmitt Smith, Ricky Watters and Ricky Williams, Fred Jackson, Barry Sanders!"

Pace: "LalalalalalalalalalalLALALALALALALALALALA!!!!"

Best Porn Star Name: Kyle Long, T.

Careful consideration was also given to Jermon Bushrod, Adrian Anus, Matt Schlongson and Tom Byron.

Guy Whose Name Most Makes You Think You Know Him From Somewhere: Chris Prosinski, S.

I could have sworn Prosinski was the guy who played sax in the Prospect High School variety show in 1997. Huh.

Bear Most Likely To Listen To Megadeth In The Shower Every Morning: David Fales, QB.

fales.png

Bears MVP: The coaching staff.

A complete overhaul of the defensive scheme, the jettisoning of multiple big-name players and several key injuries left this team a roster of out-of-position veterans, no-names and injured offensive starters. 2015 was treated like an audition and no job or role was safe. Shit, I saw five snaps late in the blowout against the Cardinals before Adam Gase pulled me for taking a selfie instead of blocking. As point "A's" go, this was a masterpiece.

Kool-Aid (3 of 5 Drams Of Ardbeg Scotch)
It's time to wind down for a couple of months while we wait for baseball, the NHL playoffs and Fred Hoiberg's eventual firing.

If you like a lot of peat in your scotch (if you like a lot of Pete in your scotch, I'll let you Google up your own solution), then Ardbeg is my personal recommendation for sitting thoughtfully in a wingback chair in front of a roaring fire.

One of these days, I'll get a home big enough to support a fireplace and stop burning random chairs in the living room, but until then please let me enjoy my classy beverage.

At 6-9, the Lions have made serious improvements of their own this season, having started 1-7.

Despite this resurgence, Detroit coach Jim Caldwell is on the hot seat and will be doing everything in his power to win.

The match-up to watch is dynamic rookie Ameer Abdullah vs. the Bears special teams.

Many feel Abdullah has been a disappointment as a running back this year, but he is incredibly elusive and will pose problems on kickoff returns.

The Bears also have their pride, so don't expect any appearances by third-string players as has been widely rumored during the week.

Unless things go incredibly well or inconceivably bad, the only appearance by David Fales you'll witness before the season finishes is in that weird-ass picture above.

Bears continue to show us their undermanned brand of grit in a final come-from-behind win.

Bears 23, Lions 21

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* Who is the government to tell me that it's not my God-given right to quarter soldiers in my home during peacetime?!

** I've gotten some guff for talking conservative in person and writing with a "lefty bias" in public, so to shut certain people up, I offer a summation of my political agenda here: Legislation doesn't solve rampant gun violence; everyone should get free abortions on Tuesdays; I'd rather give 50% of my net income to charity than 40% of my gross to the government; closing our borders to brown and/or swarthy people is both patently un-American and bad for single white people looking for hot, dark-haired partners; God has no interest in American politics, only in those assholes in Papua New Guinea; Obamacare sucks but I don't have a better idea yet; it's a shame we haven't landed on the Moon since the soundstage got torn down in 1972; all marriage laws are of dubious origin so we might as well let gay people enjoy the tax benefits of being chained to another human; and women's nipples are delicious/full of nutrients. Stop trying to tile them out of my Super Bowl halftime show (Bald Eagle Screech).

*** I'm fairly certain this is the first time I've pulled this shit.

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About The Author
Carl Mohrbacher has loved covering the 2015 Chicago Bears for The Beachwood Reporter, even though more often than not, the 2015 Chicago Bears didn't love him back. But thanks to alcohol, imaginary co-authors and the stone cold pack of weirdos he calls his friends/family, it has been a joy for him.

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Carl Mohrbacher is our man on the Kool-Aid. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:43 PM | Permalink

Meet Chicago Navy Seaman Desmond Cooke

BREMERTON, Wash. (Dec. 22, 2015) - Culinary Specialist Seaman Desmond Cooke, from Chicago, prepares lunch in USS John C. Stennis' (CVN 74) Chiefs Mess. Stennis' crew is currently in port training for future deployments. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Susan C. Damman/ Released)

23845097202_f847bcbb08_z.jpg

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See also:

(Nov. 2, 2015) - Culinary Specialist Seaman Desmond Cooke, from Chicago, grills onions in USS John C. Stennis' (CVN 74) Chiefs Mess. Sailors from the John C. Stennis Strike Group are participating in a sustainment training exercise (SUSTEX) to prepare for future deployments. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth Rodriguez Santiago/ Released)

cooke2.jpg

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Why Being There Matters
On our planet, more than 70 percent of which is covered by water, being there means having the ability to act from the sea. The Navy is uniquely positioned to be there; the world's oceans give the Navy the power to protect America's interests anywhere, and at any time. Your Navy protects and defends America on the world's oceans. Navy ships, submarines, aircraft and, most importantly, tens of thousands of America's finest young men and women are deployed around the world doing just that. They are there now. They will be there when we are sleeping tonight. They will be there every Saturday, Sunday and holiday this year. They are there around the clock, far from our shores, defending America at all times.

Thank you very much for your support of the men and women in U.S. Navy, deployed around the clock and ready to protect and defend America on the world's oceans.

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Previously:
* Chicago Navy Commander's Continuing Promise.

* Meet Chicago Sailor Joshua Johnson.

* Meet Chicago Quartermaster Seaman Maribel Torres.

* Meet Chicago Navy Commander Chad Hennings.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:31 AM | Permalink

Capital One Is No. 1 In Suing Its Cardholders

This story was co-published with The Daily Beast.

Several years ago, Capital One gave Oscar Parsons, 46, his first credit card. At the time, he didn't need a loan. But he banked at a Capital One branch near his Bronx apartment, and when it was offered, he thought, "Why not?"

Initially, he had little problem keeping up with the payments. But after a run of construction jobs came to an end, he fell behind and found himself ducking the bank's collections calls, he said. Each time the company's TV commercials popped up, asking, "What's in your wallet?" Parsons thought: "It's not enough to pay you back."

This year, Capital One provided Parsons with another first: his first lawsuit. For failing to pay his $1,800 debt, the company took him to court. Currently on public benefits and in a job training program, Parsons has nothing Capital One can take. But should Parsons find work, Capital One could use a court judgment to seize money from his bank account or take a portion of his wages.

It was a hard lesson - one learned by hundreds of thousands of the bank's cardholders. No lender sues more of its customers than Capital One, according to ProPublica's review of state court data.

Over the past year, ProPublica has sought to illuminate the scope of debt collection lawsuits, which, though they are often filed by public companies in public courts, are a largely hidden part of the nation's financial life.

The suits hit workers who earn below $40,000 a year the hardest and federal garnishment laws provide scant protection.

Even workers near the minimum wage could have a quarter of their take-home pay taken or their bank accounts cleaned out. State laws typically offer little more protection.

To identify which companies file the most collection suits, ProPublica obtained and analyzed court data from 11 states. In every state, Capital One stood out.

During the years of the recession, particularly 2008 through 2010, when the number of credit card defaults surged, many banks filed more lawsuits. But Capital One dwarfed them all, reaching levels never matched by any company before or since, according to ProPublica's review of data going back to 1996.

By our estimate, the suits exceeded half a million per year nationally during those peak years.

Since 2011, Capital One's suits have dropped considerably, though they have continued to far exceed the totals of any other bank. For example, in Indiana counties for which court data is available - home to about two-thirds of the state's population - the bank filed about 3,360 suits in 2014. That's about a quarter of the suits Capital One filed in 2010, but still more suits than all other national banks combined in 2014. In Clark County, Nevada, which includes Las Vegas, Capital One's suits comprised about 40 percent of all suits by major banks. In Miami-Dade County, Florida, the tally was about the same.

Because court data is often kept at the county level, ProPublica combined data to compile numbers for entire states when possible, including New Jersey and Missouri. In some states, data was limited to major metropolitan counties. The time periods also varied, from a couple decades to only a few years, but the trends involving Capital One's suits were consistent.

The suits, often over debts as small as $1,000, reveal a largely hidden side of Capital One's business. The bank has only the fourth-largest credit card portfolio (as measured by both numbers of cardholders and balance size), but such a large portion of its cards are held by those with poor credit that it is the country's largest subprime lender. With those loans comes a high risk of default, and the company is particularly aggressive at recouping losses.

Capital One's subprime borrowers live life on the edge, said Steve Brobeck, executive director of the Consumer Federation of America. "A large majority of these cardholders carry balances from month-to-month," he said, because they can't afford to pay off the balance.

The "disturbing" volume of suits filed by Capital One should prompt regulators to investigate whether the perils of subprime credit cards outweigh the benefits, Brobeck said.

A Capital One spokeswoman said the bank serves an important function by providing credit to large numbers of borrowers who might be unlikely to get it from other banks. When customers fall behind on payments, she said, the bank makes every effort to work with them.

"We will not sue anyone working with us, no matter how small the payment," said spokeswoman Tatiana Stead. But when customers don't pay, she said, "we have an obligation to recover some of our losses so we can offer the best pricing to our customers."

Capital One's suits are notable not just for how common they are. The company also files suits over much smaller debts than other banks.

In 2013, the typical debt in a Capital One suit filed in New Jersey was about $1,500, according to ProPublica's analysis of state court data. The typical debt in a suit brought by other major issuers like Citibank or Bank of America was more than three times as high. ProPublica found a similar gap in other states.

Capital One offers cards with a credit line often as low as a few hundred dollars to customers with poor credit. On the bank's website, the cards carry annual interest rates as high as 25 percent. After making payments for five months, customers' credit limits can increase.

Kevin Thomas, an attorney with the nonprofit New York Legal Assistance Group, often represents clients sued in Bronx Civil Court by Capital One. He said his clients frequently started with low-limit cards, but after Capital One raised their credit limits, their balances grew, the interest mounted and they lost control. Then, although their debts were not large, typically between $1,000 and $1,500, they ended up in court, he said.

Debt collection lawsuits are especially prevalent in black neighborhoods, as ProPublica reported in October, where suits over smaller debts are more common. Capital One obtained judgments in mostly black neighborhoods at nearly twice the rate as in mostly white neighborhoods, a larger disparity than the other major card issuers, we found. Capital One's spokeswoman said the bank did not take race into consideration when making a loan or filing a suit.

Lawsuits over even small debts can provoke a crisis for low-income debtors. Patricia Boglin, 51, of Woodbridge, Virginia, works as a school bus driver, earning about $26,000 a year. When Capital One sued her over a $1,878 debt late last year, she said, she panicked. Would the bank try to foreclose on her house to force repayment? "It just terrified me," she said.

That a collection lawsuit could lead to foreclosure is a common fear among defendants, said Jay Speer, executive director of the nonprofit Virginia Poverty Law Center, even though it's extremely unlikely. Of course, the realistic consequences of a suit - garnishment or a lien being placed on the debtor's home - are serious.

Boglin did not want to risk it, so she filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 13.

How banks handle delinquent accounts is largely shielded from public scrutiny. They aren't required to disclose how many suits they file. And the role of debt buyers - companies that purchase accounts from banks at a steep discount, then try to collect - further obscures what happens to customers who don't pay.

To generate a national estimate for Capital One's suits, ProPublica looked to Encore Capital Corp., the nation's biggest debt buyer, which voluntarily disclosed the number of suits it had filed nationally until 2010. That year, the company reported having filed 517,000 suits.

Capital One filed about 40 percent more collection suits than Encore in 2010 in the states for which ProPublica has data, indicating that the bank filed at least half a million suits that year nationally and potentially hundreds of thousands more. Our data showed even more suits in the two preceding years.

Capital One declined to respond to this comparison or provide a count of its suits.

After 2010, Encore Capital, under scrutiny for its litigation practices, stopped disclosing the number of suits it had filed. A spokesperson for Encore did not explain the decision beyond saying, "as we have diversified and grown as a company, we continue to evaluate what disclosures are appropriate for our investors."

Because some banks sell their defaulted accounts to debt buyers like Encore, it is impossible to determine how many of their customers were ultimately sued. The three largest card issuers, Citibank, Bank of America, and JPMorgan Chase, have sold accounts to debt buyers in the past, according to court filings.

Capital One has also sold debt in the past. Stead, the bank's spokeswoman, declined to provide detail on its debt-selling practices, but said the bank's "strong preference" is to do its own collecting.

The lack of transparency leaves both borrowers and policymakers in the dark, said April Kuehnhoff, an attorney at the National Consumer Law Center. "We need more data about debt-collection practices by both debt buyers and original creditors so that we can improve debt collection laws," she said.

ProPublica contacted the six largest card issuers for this story, and all were guarded when it came to details about their approach to collections.

Citibank and Bank of America declined to respond to questions.

Chase stopped filing lawsuits or selling its debt in 2011, after a whistleblower identified flaws in the bank's collection practices. Those problems led to a consent agreement with regulators in 2013.

Discover filed the second-most suits, according to ProPublica's analysis. It, too, declined to comment. Like Capital One, Discover's volume of suits was also disproportionately large given the bank's relatively small market share - Discover is the sixth-largest card issuer.

American Express, the fifth-largest issuer, filed relatively few suits. Spokeswoman Sonya Conway said the bank has not sold its debt in the past six years and had no plans to do so.

Federal regulators say they are alert to the potential for abuse through debt collection lawsuits, but it's unclear that consumers should expect any more transparency in the near term.

Banks should "consider the risks of excessive litigation," said Bryan Hubbard, spokesman for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

The regulator has also publicly urged banks, when selling debts to buyers, to "consider selecting debt buyers who limit their use of litigation."

While the agency says it closely monitors banks' collection practices, that scrutiny does not extend to tracking the number of lawsuits each bank files. Hubbard said the agency does not consider the number of lawsuits "an effective indicator of bank safety and soundness or compliance."

The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is in the process of writing new rules for debt collection that are expected to cover a wide range of activities, including the filing of lawsuits. A spokeswoman declined to comment on whether the CFPB tracked the number of collection lawsuits filed by banks or planned to in the future.

A number of the bureau's past enforcement actions have centered on debt collection litigation practices. It filed suit against the largest collections firm in Georgia, Frederick J. Hanna & Associates, which counts Capital One among its clients. Calling the firm a "debt collection lawsuit mill," the CFPB alleged attorneys often filed suits with faulty information. The law firm disputes the allegations, and the suit is ongoing.

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ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.

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Comments welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:41 AM | Permalink

December 29, 2015

Remembering Lemmy In Chicago

1. With Hawkwind in 1974, recorded at the Chicago Auditorium.


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2. At the Vic in 1999.

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3. Interviewed on the Loop in 2009.

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4. At the House of Blues in 2009.

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5. At the Congress in 2011.

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6. At the Aragon in 2012.

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7. In Tinley Park in 2012.

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8. At Riot Fest 2015.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:50 PM | Permalink

The Workers' Comp Industrial Complex Parties Hearty

workcomp.jpg

LAS VEGAS - A scantily clad acrobat dangles from the ceiling, performing flips and splits as machines puff smoke and neon lights bathe the dance floor in turquoise and magenta. Dancers in lingerie gyrate on poles to the booming techno. Actors dressed as aliens pose for selfies with partygoers. There's an open bar and waiters weave through the crowd passing out chocolate truffles.

It's the closing night of the National Workers' Compensation and Disability Conference & Expo.

The party at Light, a Cirque du Soleil-themed club at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, capped off the workers' comp industry's biggest annual networking event. For three days in November, hundreds of vendors wooed insurers and employers with lavish after-hours parties, giveaways of designer handbags, photos with Olympic gymnast Kerri Strug, and free rides in orange Hummer limousines.

A top manager for a major insurance company recalled standing amid the hoopla a few years back when a company CEO turned to her and marveled: "All of this because somebody got hurt at work."

Workers' comp is supposed to be simple. If you're injured on the job, your employer pays your medical bills and part of your wages while you recover.

But over the past two decades, a cottage industry of middlemen has emerged, which some have dubbed the "workers' comp industrial complex."

Even private equity firms have bought in, seeing profit opportunities in employers' and insurers' quest to contain spending.

The middlemen offer an array of services, from managing claims to negotiating medical bills, all promising to reduce costs - although critics say some actually raise them, as well as the burden on those hurt on the job.

It's a world largely unknown to the injured workers that the firms ultimately serve, and often to the employers who spent an estimated $89 billion on workers' comp in 2013.

Over the past year, ProPublica and NPR have detailed how state after state has reduced the benefits historically granted to injured workers.

As a result, some workers have been evicted from their homes, denied medical care and put in humiliating situations.

While lawmakers have clamped down on payments to workers, doctors and lawyers, little scrutiny has been given to these "cost containment" firms - even though today they arguably have more influence on how injury benefits are handled than insurers and employers.

Highlighting the bounty, there are now more than 150 workers' comp conferences a year.

There's one for the American Society of Workers Comp Professionals, one for the Association of Workers' Compensation Professionals and one for the Association of Workers' Compensation Claims Professionals.

At least 26 have golf tournaments.

At the national workers' comp and disability expo, vendors gave away Apple watches, bottles of bourbon, and a Vespa scooter.

There were free massages and shoeshines, a superhero caricature artist, more than one mentalist, and a live alligator named Spike.

Over the past year, conference attendees have heard from Pete Rose, Arianna Huffington, Ted Koppel, Herschel Walker and Joan Jett & the Blackhearts.

Rarely have they heard from injured workers.

"Even though the injured worker is the center of the claim, they're very far removed from what actually happens to them," said David DePaolo, editor of the industry news site, WorkCompCentral. "It's very dehumanizing. Why aren't injured workers part of the conferences? It's because they're a number."

Private Equity Buying Spree

Last year, workers' comp insurers in California spent 36 percent of premiums on overhead - more than they spent on medical care. That's over twice what group health plans can spend on administrative costs under the Affordable Care Act.

A glimpse of the Vegas expo shows why. There were companies that provide networks of doctors and companies that review medical bills, firms that provide expert medical opinions and firms that specialize in complex claims. There were defense lawyers, data processing firms, rehab facilities, surveillance companies, outside claims shops, occupational medicine clinics, pain management services, translators, schedulers, headhunters and associations promoting other conferences.

There were labs that test injured workers' urine for illegal drugs. There were even labs that test urine to ensure workers are taking the prescribed drugs instead of selling them.

In California, the amount of money that insurers spend on medical cost containment programs has more than doubled from $197 million in 2005 to $471 million in 2014, according to the state workers' comp ratings bureau.

Seeing huge profit potential, private equity firms have gone on a buying spree.

Sedgwick, a company that processes claims for large employers, was acquired by two private equity firms for $1.1 billion in 2010 and then sold to another for $2.4 billion in 2014.

One Call Care Management, known in the industry as a medical "cost containment" firm, was bought for more than $2 billion in 2013, and reportedly bid to buy another vendor, pharmacy benefit manager Helios, for $2 billion this fall.

Some of the biggest firms - Sedgwick, Genex, Helios, CorVel, MedRisk and One Call - are little known outside the workers' comp industry. But they have become powerful players in determining the future of how injured workers are treated.

The companies say they play a critical role in reducing excessive medical costs and preventing inappropriate treatment. Southern California, for example, has recently witnessed a series of scandals involving doctors and hospital executives who've been accused of bribery, kickbacks and unnecessary surgeries involving workers' comp patients.

Some firms advertise that they analyze data to find the best doctors and can get injured workers in to see them faster than the general public. They say their data tools help employers identify safety problems and manage long-term claims before they spiral out of control.

Robert Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute, said the companies have become necessary as medical care, and the regulations for delivering it across 50 different state systems, have become increasingly complex. The firms don't just reduce costs, he said, but also improve outcomes by helping employees get back to work quicker.

"Cost containment is not a dirty phrase," Hartwig said. "If insurers were to eliminate cost containment because it was costing too much, I can assure you we would see a rapid escalation in fraud and abuse in the system. And we would quickly see an explosion in claims costs."

Increasingly, though, decisions to deny care aren't being made by workers' employers or insurers, but by these myriad claims administrators, managed care companies and cost-containment firms. Some industry observers say the firms have added a layer of cold bureaucracy to an already complicated system.

CorVel - a managed care and claims-handling firm whose stock price has nearly doubled in the last three years - recently sent letters to the widows of two police officers killed in the line of duty, "wishing their husbands a speedy recovery."

There's even a Facebook group for injured workers who say they've been mistreated by Sedgwick.

"I don't think we have created the savings intended and I think we've made the system a much more complex, difficult to navigate system," said Bob Wilson, who runs the popular industry site, WorkersCompensation.com.

Wilson said he jokes that even though he's been in the industry for 15 years, he still doesn't understand what some people do. "No wonder injured workers are getting lost in the system."

Controversy in Cost Containment

As business has boomed, little effort has been made to find out whether the companies are helping or hurting injured workers.

Ed Welch, former director of the Workers' Compensation Center at Michigan State University, said managed care is necessary in workers' comp.

"You can look at the field of doctors and say this doctor is really good, he does a lot of back surgeries, he's very effective, we can negotiate a price," Welch said.

But employers and insurance companies can also use managed care to limit benefits by finding the cheapest doctors or "doctors who will very rarely agree that work caused the disability," he said.

One of the field's most controversial niches is firms that supply doctors to provide second opinions for employers and insurers. This alone is a $4 billion a year industry in the United States, according to one of the leading firms, ExamWorks, whose stock price has tripled in the past four years. Treating physicians say such hired experts are often retired doctors who make quick decisions without fully understanding patients' medical histories.

A recruitment letter for one medical review firm, which a doctor provided to ProPublica, promised an "additional revenue stream" and said that "once a provider is in the rhythm of performing these reviews they should easily be able to perform 4-5 an hour."

Many cost-containment firms negotiate prices with doctors and other medical providers and then take a cut of the discount they provide to insurers. Often, the insurers and claims administrators receive fees and commissions from cost-containment firms for selling their services to employers, said Frank Pennachio of Oceanus Partners, an insurance consulting firm.

Some cost-containment companies have found another way to profit, according to several doctors, insurance consultants and other service providers who asked not to be named because they must do business with these companies. They said firms misrepresent the cost of services to insurers, pocketing not only the percent of savings but also the difference between the inflated price and the true charges.

"The presence of these companies is becoming so overwhelming that providers are getting squeezed out," said Steve Cattolica, government relations director for a doctors' organization, the California Society of Industrial Medicine and Surgery. Some firms are "raising the costs of work comp health care without delivering any value."

The Workers' Comp Expo

The 43-story Mandalay Bay casino stands like a shimmering gold cathedral, towering over the Luxor pyramid and the Excalibur castle on the south end of the Vegas Strip.

It was the perfect setting for this year's workers' comp and disability expo, which featured panels on how to prevent claims from spiraling out of control, what to do about medical marijuana and "Current Trends in Urine Drug Screening - What the Research Shows."

Conferences like these are where insurer-driven ideas for legislative reforms spread. And they're also where deals are made, which explains the attention showered on those holding the purse strings.

One morning, those entering the expo were greeted by a latte bar, hosted by ExamWorks, with baristas etching elaborate patterns in the milk, like the face of a lion or Pacman eating a ghost. Convention-goers mingled at booths and browsed the swag. Strug posed for pictures, drawing people to one firm's booth while also raising money for charity. Some attendees lined up early to get wristbands for the after-hours parties.

Prime Health Services, a cost-containment company, held its party at the Wynn casino's Tryst nightclub with a live band playing in front of the club's 90-foot waterfall and cocktails containing fake ice cubes with the company's logo.

Rising Medical Solutions, another cost-containment firm, hosted a Great Gatsby theme party with guests dressed as flappers. Paradigm Outcomes, a catastrophic case management firm, held its reception at the lounge inside the Cosmopolitan's three-story crystal chandelier. And Michael Sullivan & Associates, a defense law firm in California, held its party at the House of Blues' Foundation Room, whose website say it features "high-class debauchery" and "luxurious party rooms to suit any desire - no matter how wicked."

But none of them could compete with the closing-night blowout hosted by One Call that featured the acrobat, go-go dancers and glowing aliens clad in spandex.

"If I was an injured worker at home wondering how I would pay my bills, I would be sick to see this," said one insurance company manager who asked not to be named.

One Call, which is based in Jacksonville, Florida, said in a statement that such events are typically sponsored by companies in the industry as "a cost of doing business" and that it chose the Cirque du Soleil theme to keep with the conference's Las Vegas location.

"The focus of One Call Care Management is to make sure that injured workers receive the best care possible, quickly and efficiently," its statement said. "Having opportunities for our colleagues to meet and connect is important for workers' compensation and for any industry."

Not every conference is as elaborate as the national expo. Some focus on providing continuing education credits for lawyers and claims adjusters. Many states put on annual educational conferences to update stakeholders on new trends and regulatory issues.

This year, there were conferences in 104 cities in 41 states - more places than in the country song, "I've Been Everywhere." One hotel, the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi, hosted three workers' comp conferences in 2015.

There are so many conferences that there is even a website called CompEvent.com, which serves as a kind of Ticketmaster for them.

At this year's Risk and Insurance Management Society conference in New Orleans, MedRisk - a network of physical therapy and diagnostic imaging centers for workers' comp - led a parade through the French Quarter, complete with Mardi Gras performers and a brass band, to its reception at Latrobe's on Royal.

And not to be outdone, the 70th Annual Workers' Compensation Educational Conference in Orlando featured a concert by rock 'n' roll legends Joan Jett & the Blackhearts.

In a video posted on Twitter, attendees bopped their heads as they sang along to her hit, "Bad Reputation."

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Previously:
* How To Investigate Workers' Comp In Your State.

* Injured Worker In ProPublica/NPR Story Testifies Before Illinois Legislature.

* State Legislators To Investigate Workers' Comp Opt Out.

* Tyson Foods' Secret Recipe For Carving Up Workers' Comp.

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ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.

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Comments welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:36 AM | Permalink

Last Call For Railroaders

After a record 21-month run, Railroaders: Jack Delano's Homefront Photography closes at the Chicago History Museum on Sunday.

Presented in partnership with the Center for Railroad Photography and Art, Railroaders explores the dignity of everyday work and the stories of individual railroaders through more than 60 black and white and early color photographs taken by photographer Jack Delano.

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"Railroaders showcases the rich, ethnically diverse history of this industrial community. We are honored to share the stories of railroaders whose daily work secured Chicago's place as an industrial linchpin during World War II," said Gary T. Johnson, president, Chicago History Museum.

Railroads and rail workers were essential to America's victory in World War II. In 1942, the Office of War Information issued photographer Jack Delano a new assignment: document "railroads and their place in American life." During the next several months, Delano captured 3,000 images, two-thirds of them in the nation's rail hub - Chicago.

The Chicago History Museum gives a last call to meet the men and women who hustled on the rails, in the stations and at the yards.

For more on Railroaders visit http://chicagohistory.org/planavisit/exhibitions/railroaders. For more information about the Chicago History Museum's programs and exhibitions, visit http://chicagohistory.org or call 312-642-4600.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:49 AM | Permalink

December 28, 2015

Bears Media Mesmerized By Shirtless Matt Slauson

Forget the Bears meaningless, mediocre win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. This tweetstream perhaps best sums up the local fanboy media

What's so "classic" about this? It was 80 degrees. But Bears media was captivated.

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It's typical for OLine to wear sleeveless in December & show how tough they are. But, as @AdamHoge just pointed out,...

Posted by Peggy Kusinski NBC Chicago on Sunday, December 27, 2015

Um, it was December in Tampa Bay. High was 85.

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It's a classic formulation: Athlete does normal thing, media makes it exceptional. Like when a jock will tell the lamest joke ever and the media finds it so hilarious they publish it. Or an athlete makes the most mundane gesture of humanity and reporters rush to tweet it out with the appellation "Classy." Or a jock is exceptionally heroic for overcoming circumstances that millions of people overcome each day. Throw in fetishizing uniforms, cleats, jock straps, blades of grass, and someone coming over to the bench saying "Good job" becoming the subject of a sideline report, and you realize just how thick the hero worship remains in sports journalism coverage. Life lessons through football that you can't learn anywhere else - not through art, literature, your friends and parents, or any other occupation! And that's how a shirtless football player throwing a ball around in 80-degree weather becomes a pinup.

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Comments welcome.

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1. From Tom Chambers:

Why the hubbub?

Not that there's anything wrong with that, but the Slauson Cutoff doesn't look particularly ripped, cut, slabbed, pumped, blood, buff, chiseled Hulked or Herculean to me.

He looks like a superstar in the 7 a.m. Sunday Morning Lincoln Park League.

Don't look like no Victor Mature to me. Just sayin'

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:07 AM | Permalink

The (Lousy Christmas) Weekend In Chicago Rock

You shoulda been there.

1. Taylor Bennett at Lincoln Hall on Saturday night.


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2. Gyptian at the Shrine on Saturday night.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:54 AM | Permalink

Jonathan Pie, TV Reporter! Merry Fucking Christmas

Jonathan Pie is working on Christmas Day and he is very pissed off.


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Previously in Jonathan Pie, TV Reporter!:

* Jonathan Pie, TV Reporter! Explains The Economy.

* Jonathan Pie, TV Reporter! It's Shit Crap News, Tim.

* Jonathan Pie, TV Reporter! Is Going To Paris.

* Jonathan Pie, TV Reporter! Grow Some Balls; Tell The Truth.

* Jonathan Pie, TV Reporter! MP Is A Wanker Santa.

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And:

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:16 AM | Permalink

Meet Chicago Navy Commander Chad Hennings

KEYPORT, Wash. (NNS) - The Gold crew of the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Nevada (SSBN 733) held a change of command ceremony at Naval Undersea Museum, Dec. 18.

Cmdr. Chad Hennings, from Chicago, was properly relieved by Cmdr. Gene Severtson, from Spring Lake Park, Minnesota, and assumed the duties and responsibilities as commanding officer of Nevada Gold crew during the ceremony.

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"When you're the CO of a submarine, you are assigned a crew who will literally walk through walls for you to get the job done," said Hennings. "To the crew of USS Nevada, I've told you before that when you work hard, do a great job, and have success, that no one has to tell you what a great job you did . . . you know it in your heart. Well, today you should know it."

Hennings assumed command of Nevada's Gold crew Feb. 28, 2013. During his leadership, the crew conducted four strategic deterrent patrols, received 310 personal awards, and 86 enlisted Sailors and 14 officers received their submarine warfare qualification devices, or "dolphins."

"I can't imagine having commanded a better crew or a better ship than the USS Nevada Gold," said Hennings. "It is great to hand over the reins to someone I have known over the years and respect so much. I know that the crew will be in good hands."

As his last act as commanding officer, Hennings gave Electronics Technician Seaman Roberto Malpica his dolphins. Hennings will remain at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, where he will join the staff at Commander, Submarine Squadron 19.

"I am incredibly humbled to be standing before you today as the commanding officer of the USS Nevada," said Severtson. "Not only has Cmdr. Hennings turned over an aging warship in immaculate condition, but he most importantly turned over the finest trained crew in the fleet who has superbly excelled at all assigned missions. The most important asset on board the submarine is you, the crew. You do it flawlessly, each and every day. I can be no prouder than I am right now to stand before you as your Captain."

Severtson comes to Nevada from Washington D.C., where he was assigned to the staff of the Director, Undersea Warfare Division, as the Unmanned Systems and Future Payloads Branch Head.

For more news from Commander, Submarine Group 9, visit www.navy.mil/local/csg9/.

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Previously:
* Chicago Navy Commander's Continuing Promise.

* Meet Chicago Sailor Joshua Johnson.

* Meet Chicago Quartermaster Seaman Maribel Torres.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:30 AM | Permalink

December 25, 2015

The Week In Chicago Rock

You shoulda been there.

1. Sanctuary at the Tree in Joliet on Wednesday night.

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2. The Magnifiers at Reggies on Sunday night.

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3. The Academy Is . . . at the House of Blues on Wednesday night.

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Catching up with . . . Strange Arrangement at Schubas last Saturday night.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 3:57 AM | Permalink

Beachwood Photo Booth: Holiday Ham

Later, 'gator.

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More Chicago photography from Helene Smith.

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Helene on Twitter!

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Meet Helene!

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Stationery, iPhone cases, hoodies.

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Listen to Helene talk about Photo Booth; starts at 57:54.

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Previously:
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Man Grilling
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Yum Yum Donuts
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Father's Day
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Vintage Airmaster
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Time
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Window Shade
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Illinois Slayer
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Fire Escape
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Golden Nugget
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Hollywood, Chicago
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Flag Man.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Van In Flames.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Fluid Power Automation.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Corn Dog.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Stop The Killing Car.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Backyard.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: A to Z Things.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Swedish Diner.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Rothschild Liquors.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Silos.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Wires.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Orange Garden.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Irving Park Guy.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Pigeons.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: O'Lanagan's.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: For Rent.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Marie's Pizza & Liquors.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Mori Milk.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: American Breakfast.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: A Chicago Christmas Postcard.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Holiday Harold's.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Family Fun.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Snow Bike.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Nativity Scene.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Old Warsaw.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Deluxe Cleaners.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Marie's Golden Cue.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Die Another Day.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Sears Key Shop.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Window Dressing.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Jeri's Grill.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Barry's Drugs.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Liberty.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Kitchen.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Golden Specials.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: We Won The Cup.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Bartender Man.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Blue Plane Blues.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Finest Quality.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Family Guy.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Girls Wanted.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Skokie Savanna.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Signpost.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Old Man And The Tree.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Street Fleet.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Citgo Story.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Fantasy Hair Design.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Garage.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Clark Stop.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Pole Position.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Window Dressing.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Geometry.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Found Love.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Fill In The Blank.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Vacuums Of The Night.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Dumpster Still Life.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Wagon Master.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Intersecting West Rogers Park.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Penn-Dutchman Antiques.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Cow Patrol.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Backstage Chicago.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Skully Bungalow.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Francisco Frankenstein.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Long Cool Heat.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Smokers' Mast.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Big Fat Phone.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Happy Day.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Alley Men.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Holiday Show!
* Beachwood Photo Booth: You've Got Mailbox.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Broken Window Theory.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Dali Logan.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Svengoolie.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Horner Park Hot Dogs.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Cubs Rehab.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: 20th Century Schizoid Man.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Men On Vans.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Penn-Dutchman Is Done.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Snowy Lincoln.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Waiting Room.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Avondale Chicken.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Winter's End.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: The Friendly Skies.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Boyhood Buzzer Beater.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: J Date.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: International Window Lady.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Shanghai Inn.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Open For Business.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Andersonville Unplugged.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: 3-Flat.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Evanston Turkey.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicagolandia.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Eat At Odge's.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Deitch Pharmacy.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Sud-Z Bubble.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Bands Wanted!
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Belmont Tavern.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Superheroic San Luis Freeze.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Evanston Oasis.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Lyndale Food & Jewelry.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Lincoln Tap.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Book Window.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Alco Dude.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Ballin Drugs.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Don't Worry, Be Cookie.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Four Trey.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: The Office.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: America From Inside The Golden Nugget In Ravenswood.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Cellphone Repair.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Boots 'N' Grill.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Sunrise Strip.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: At The Corner Of Glad And Happy.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Uptown Autumn Night.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Diner.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Mid-Century Modern Halloween.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Autumn Station Wagon.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Betty's & Nick's.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Ohio House Impact.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: End School Zone.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Portage Park Peek-A-Boo.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: South Side Sundown.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Susie's Drive-Thru.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 3:00 AM | Permalink

The 10 Best 2015 Investigative Reports On Political Money

The millions of dollars being spent on the presidential race by super PACs, secretive nonprofits and the candidates themselves could again make this election cycle the most expensive to date. Huge sums are also flowing into state and local races.

Here, in chronological order, are 10 stories from other newsrooms that got behind the cash flow to describe the latest uses and abuses of money in politics.

1. Rahm Emanuel Counts On Big Donors, With Many Getting City Hall Benefits

Chicago Tribune, January 2015

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is building "the most potent political cash machine in Chicago history" and his donors have frequently received benefits from City Hall.

The investigation by John Chase, Jeff Coen and Bill Ruthhart found that Emanuel's 103 donors were responsible for $14 million (or almost half) of his fundraising haul.

Almost 60 percent of those donors enjoyed benefits from city government, including contracts, permits, appointments and personal endorsements.

2. Rapper-Backed Group Illustrates Blind Spot In Political Transparency

Center for Public Integrity, March 2015

Super PACs, unlike other political committees, can accept donations of unlimited size, but the identities of the donors are still supposed to be publicly disclosed. Some donors, however, have remained anonymous by donating through limited liability corporations, Michael Beckel reported.

In some states, LLCs don't have to register the names of the people behind them. One of the most flagrant users of the LLC loophole was Pras Michel, a founding member of the hip-hop group the Fugees.

3. The NRA's Brazen Shell Game With Donations

Yahoo News, April 2015

By making small donations to the National Rifle Association and tracking where they ended up, Alan Berlow discovered that the gun rights group was improperly diverting money to its PAC. Organizations soliciting donations for electoral purposes are required by law to disclose that they're doing so, but the NRA didn't.

"An NRA member might contribute to the organization because she admires its work on behalf of hunters . . . But this same donor may vehemently oppose the candidates endorsed in federal elections."

4. For-Profit Colleges Flex Political Muscle

Miami Herald, April 2015

A review of Florida campaign records since 2008 found that for-profit colleges contributed more than $1.2 million to state legislators and parties. During the same period, the legislature passed 15 laws benefiting the industry, even as it faced fraud lawsuits and government investigations.

Michael Vasquez found that legislators stripped quality standards and oversight, and the state's attorney general was less aggressive than those in other states in going after schools that skirted the law.

5. The New U.S. Office Politics: Funding Your Boss's Political Causes

Reuters, May 2015

Employers are increasingly tapping their workers to help them fundraise, lobby and campaign.

Michelle Conlin and Lucas Iberico Lozada found that since the U.S. Supreme Court paved the way for unlimited political spending by corporations, the number of companies enlisting their workers for political efforts rose 45 percent. Employees who comply are sometimes given perks. At BP, for example, workers who donate at least 2.5 percent of their salary to the company's PAC get choice parking spots.

6. South Carolina Politicians Use Office To Pad Pockets

Charleston Post and Courier & Center for Public Integrity, September 2015

Elected officials and candidates in South Carolina are turning their campaign accounts, reimbursements from state government and gifts from special interests into "a personal ATM," Tony Bartelme and Rachel Baye reported.

Among the unusual expenditures: car repairs, male enhancement pills and paying off parking tickets. One legislator paid his own company and his father's $105,000, making up almost 80 percent of the campaign expenditures.

7. The Families Funding The 2016 Presidential Election

New York Times, October 2015

An exhaustive analysis of campaign finance records found that just 158 families, along with the companies they own or control, gave nearly half of all the money supporting Democratic and Republican 2016 presidential candidates. The donors - overwhelmingly rich, white older men - contributed $176 million during the early phase of the campaign.

"Not since before Watergate have so few people and businesses provided so much early money in a campaign," reported Nicholas Confessore, Sarah Cohen and Karen Yourish.

8. The Koch Intelligence Agency

Politico, November 2015

Though not strictly about campaign money, Kenneth Vogel's story describes a lesser-known leg of the Koch Brothers' political network, which for years has dispensed large donations to Republican and conservative causes.

He describes a secretive operation with a staff of 25, including a former CIA analyst, charged with gathering "competitive intelligence" used to thwart liberal groups. The group also sends regular "intelligence briefing" e-mails tracking the campaign work of labor unions and environmental organizations.

9. Inside The Clinton Donor Network

Washington Post, November 2015

Bill and Hillary Clinton have amassed at least $3 billion in donations to their various political campaigns and the family's charitable foundation, according to an analysis by Matea Gold, Tom Hamburger and Anu Narayanswamy.

More than 336,000 individuals, corporations, unions and foreign governments have given money. At least $69 million of their political contributions came from the employees and PACs of banks, insurance companies, and securities and investment firms. Unions donated at least $21 million to support their races.

10. Behind The Clinton Campaign: Dark Money Allies

Sunlight Foundation, December 2015

The Sunlight Foundation breaks down the dark money nonprofits and super PACs backing Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. At the center of network is David Brock, a Clinton enemy-turned-ally who runs a number of groups that directly support Clinton or donate to groups that do.

All are headquartered at the same Washington, D.C., address, reported Libby Watson and Melissa Yeager.

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P.S.: We can't let you go without mentioning a couple of ProPublica's stories, too:

Super PAC Men: How Political Consultants Took A Texas Oilman On A Wild Ride

More than ever, wealthy donors are shunning established political groups and deciding to go it alone with their own super PACs. That strategy brings donors more control, but it also comes with risks.

In one cautionary tale, a reclusive 89-year-old Texas oilman with little political experience launched one of the nation's highest-spending conservative super PACs. But much of his millions ended up going to entities run by the group's consultants or their close associates.

The super PAC imploded as principals traded allegations of self-dealing, faked campaign events and a plot to siphon the PAC's money to a reality TV show.

Hacked Sony E-Mails Reveal Behind-The-Scenes Political Dealings In L.A.

Super PACs are not just tools for political influence on the federal level. E-mails stolen by hackers from Sony Pictures Entertainment revealed just that, showing how corporations can spend unlimited sums to influence local politics and advance their executives' pet projects.

They showed that Sony's CEO courted a local Los Angeles politician, directing $25,000 to a PAC he founded. The politician then cast a crucial vote in favor of directing $125 million of public funding to a museum whose directors included the Sony CEO.

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Related stories: Check out all ProPublica's work on politics and government at The Breakdown.

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ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.

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Comments welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:33 AM | Permalink

December 24, 2015

The [Christmas 2015 - New Year's 2016] Papers

We're in holiday mode here through January 4th, which doesn't mean there won't be new material, because there will be. But it will appear more sporadically than usual.

New on Sunday:

* Jonathan Pie, TV Reporter! New Year's Rant.

Give him three minutes and enough beer and he'll give you the year in review!

New on Saturday:

* The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #83: Our Chicago Athlete Of The Year.

A 2015/2016 review/preview. Including: Being The Blackhawks; Cartoon Cubs; As The Bulls Turn; Not Bowled Over By John Fox; Let's Talk About The White Sox Cubs; The City's Most Inconsequential Franchise; and Party Of The Year.

New on Friday:

* Beachwood Photo Booth: Food & Liquor, Milhouse.

Thanks for caring and sharing!

* TrackNotes: Party Of The Year.

Thanks for the invite.

* The Week In Chicago Rock.

Featuring: Diarrhea Planet, Mike Pecucci, A Sunny Day in Glasgow, Elise and the Police, Living Colour, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Railroad Earth, Miles Over Mountains, Brandi Carlile, and Advance Base.

New on Thursday:

* The Best Albums Of 2015?

There seems to be a consensus.

* The 2015 Koolie Awards!

In The Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report.

New on Wednesday:

* Meet Chicago Navy Seaman Desmond Cooke.

Culinary Specialist aboard the USS John C. Stennis.

* Capital One Is No. 1 In Suing Its Cardholders.

The suits, often over debts as small as $1,000, reveal a largely hidden side of Capital One's business.

New on Tuesday:

* Remembering Lemmy In Chicago.

From Hawkwind to Riot Fest.

* The Workers' Comp Industrial Complex Parties Hearty.

"All of this because somebody got hurt at work."

* Last Call For Railroaders.

Jack Delano captured 3,000 images of WWII-era railroad workers - two-thirds of them in Chicago.

New on Monday:

* Bears Media Mesmerized By Shirtless Matt Slauson.

Fanboy media summed up.

* Jonathan Pie, TV Reporter! Merry Fucking Christmas.

Dude has to work the holiday, reporting the same story, every damn year.

* Meet Chicago Navy Commander Chad Hennings.

From Nevada Gold to Submarine Squadron 19.

* The (Lousy Christmas) Weekend In Chicago Rock.

Featuring: Taylor Bennett, Gyptian.

New On Friday:

* Beachwood Photo Booth: Holiday Ham.

Later, 'gator.

* The Top 10 Investigative Reports On Money In Politics Of 2015.

Including Rahm and the Ricketts'.

* The Week In Chicago Rock.

Featuring: Sanctuary, The Magnifers, The Academy Is . . . , and Strange Arrangement.

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New On Thursday:

* About King Louie.

To live and (almost) die in Chicago.

* Family Guy Jesus.

A short, fat, political, black, adolescent, record store clerk, hack entertainer who has a dysfunctional relationship with his father.

* The Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report.

A bag of dicks and Lovie Smith.

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BeachBook

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Another great column by Beachwood alum David Rutter:

Posted by The Beachwood Reporter on Wednesday, December 23, 2015

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Wow, Donna More is awful.

Posted by The Beachwood Reporter on Wednesday, December 23, 2015

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A minute cost of doing business.

Posted by The Beachwood Reporter on Wednesday, December 23, 2015

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TweetWood
A sampling.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Brutal, but not regretful.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:34 AM | Permalink

About King Louie

"Rapper King Louie survived being shot in the head in Chicago on Wednesday afternoon," the New York Daily News and many others report.

"The 'Chiraq' rapper was shot in the left side of his head while riding in a car in Chicago's Ashburn neighborhood at about 3:30 p.m.on Wednesday, Chicago police said.

"He was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center, where he is currently in stable condition, cops said."

More:

"King Louie was recently a part of Chicago's 'Put the Guns Down' project, aimed at ending gun violence throughout the city. The artist appeared on the track with fellow Chicago rappers Common, Lil Herb and The Twilite Tone . . .

"The 27-year-old rapper is credited with coining the terms 'Chiraq' and 'Drillinois,' which he has listed as his current location on Twitter. King Louie is also featured on Kanye West's 'Send It Up' on Yeezus, and was nominated for a Grammy for helping write Kanye's 'New Slaves' in 2012.

"He is also being responsible for making Chicago the 'hottest hip-hop' scene in 2012 by Spin."

For the uninitiated:

1. To Live & Die In Chicago.


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2. Throw Yo Sets Up.

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3. Michael Jordan.

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4. B.O.N.

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5. Fuck Spike Lee.

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Previously in King Louie:
* Sucker Free Scene Report.

* Sway Does Chicago.

* Persons Of Interest.

* The Field.

* Robeson Recommends.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:20 AM | Permalink

The Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report: Paper Pancake

Deflated, planar, procumbent, supine, prone.

In other words: flat.

By the end of Sunday's first half, the Bears had reverted from an undermanned but competitive squad to a team so listless and uninspired that they looked less like a football team and more like the "Welcome" mat placed before the pedestal that will one day support the bronze bust of Teddy Bridgewater's head in Canton.

Despite the defense holding Adrian Peterson to 63 rushing yards . . . oh, who am I kidding. Injury limited Peterson to 63 yards.

"Overall, I thought we did a good job limiting Peterson in the second half," said Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, ignoring the fact that Peterson had all of six carries in the final two quarters. "I think we might have scared him a little bit."

When ESPN beat reporter Ben Goessling relayed Fangio's thoughts to Minnesota's star running back, he shrugged.

Or at least, approximated a shrug of total indifference.

When Goessling encountered Peterson, he was bench pressing a beautifully restored 1966 Buick Skylark in the weight room of the stadium, which made it difficult to physically make a shrugging motion.

"No structural damage to the ankle, by the way," said Peterson locking his arms into position with the car above his body for the 18th time. "But thanks for asking. Hey Ben, can you spot me?"

"Uh . . . how?" said the journalist as he watched Peterson smoothly perform another two reps.

"Aw, c'mon man. It's only 3,500 pounds," said the running back as he completed rep 21. "You'll only be worrying about 1,700, max. Ben? You there?"

But Goessling had already speed-walked out of the facility and well into the parking lot.

There wasn't much that went right for the Bears on Sunday. Even a successful onside kick coming out of halftime was quickly nullified by a turnover.

Overall, it was a pretty rough day for the whole team off the field as well.

Sherrick McManis found a four-leaf clover, only to have it spontaneously combust in his hands.

Matt Forte was delivered a late birthday present at the team hotel on Sunday morning that didn't live up to expectations.

"Grandma remembered!" exclaimed the running back as he opened the small box. His enthusiasm quickly diminished as the contents of the package were revealed to be a literal bag of dicks.

"Happy birthday, chew on some dongs. Love, Minneapolis" read the card.

A dejected Forte left the box at the doorstep without eating even one.

After initially celebrating his promotion from the practice squad, linebacker John Timu discovered that he was basically only being used as a means of threatening other players who were more entrenched at their positions.

"Teemu?" remarked Parnell McPhee upon learning the upstart defenseman would be getting more playing time than him. "You're cutting my snaps to give a look at middle-aged, former Winnipeg Jet Teemu Selanne? The Finnish Flash?"

"That is accurate," said Fangio in a monotone sarcasm that flew over McPhee's head by a mile. "We would like to see if this retired NHL forward he has enough left in the tank to help us at the linebacker position."

"This is BOGUS!" yelled McPhee, hurling a folding chair across the meeting room.

"Uuuhhh, seriously?" was all Fangio could muster in response as McPhee stormed out of the meeting room. "Oh damn. We are gonna looooooose today."

It's The Thought That Counts
For nine seasons, Lovie Smith presided over the Bears sideline and ultimately became one of the top coaches in Chicago football history. A defensive-minded leader who preached a style of play designed to create turnovers largely by punching balls, Smith excelled at inspiring fierce loyalty from his players.

His strong character and outwardly mellow demeanor lent an air of consistency and confidence to the franchise, but ultimately expectations grew to the point where Smith was fired in 2012 following a 10-6 season.

No coach is perfect and Smith had his share of weaknesses, some of which contributed to his termination. He often exhibited poor clock management, was largely unsuccessful in his use of challenge flags, and, while his heart was always in the right place, gave terrible Christmas presents.

We're talking pop guns, an eight-ounce bottle of Mr. Bubble, opened boxes of sidewalk chalk and Necco Wafers.

Smith is near the completion of his second season as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who the Bears will face this Sunday.

In honor of both the reunion and the holiday season, let's take a look back at some of Lovie's most ill-conceived gifts.

  • 2004: Virginia McCaskey was the recipient of a Dick Jauron bobblehead.
  • 2005: The straight-laced Smith found horses to be vulgar beasts; Justin Gage became the "proud" owner of a wooden rocking lamb.
  • 2006: Not so much a critique of the gift itself, but at the end of the day it wasn't exactly a good idea to help Tank Johnson get his FOID card.
  • 2007: Patrick Mannelly got a bonnet, which just made no fucking sense.
  • 2008: Kyle Orton got a used copy of Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.
  • 2009: Offensive coordinator Ron Turner received Jay Cutler, who ultimately cost Turner his job.

What's In A Name Part 2
Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin has arguably the worst nickname in the NFL. Just ask him.

"The name 'Muscle Hamster' is the worst nickname possibly ever given to somebody," Martin told USA Today. "I hope that I play to a level where my nickname changes. That's what my goals are."

It's bad. Bad enough to make it a professional goal to rid oneself of, but "Lovie's Muscle Hamster" isn't quite as bad as:

  • Lester "The Molester" Hays (Oakland Raiders)
  • Richie "Two Dicks" McCaw (All Blacks of New Zealand)
  • Ebby Calvin "Dook" LaLoosh (Durham Bulls)
  • Stan "The Herpes Outbreak" Stanton (also Durham Bulls)
  • Dick Cheney (Haliburton Evil Overlords)

Kool-Aid (2 of 5 Mojito Pitchers)
I might actually upgrade from two "pitchers" to two "kiddy pools" prior to kickoff, because A) it's gonna take a whole hell of a lot of something alcoholic, or something with a whole lot of nudity to keep me to seated in front of this game for three hours, and B) I like to keep my breath extra minty fresh.

On the surface, the Bucs aren't in a much better situation than the Bears, but with a very young core the team from Florida has an identity and looks to improve rapidly.

Obviously I'm pretty down on the Bears right now, so you might be asking, why not a one out of five rating?

One of the bright spots for Chicago in 2015 has been the coaching staff. After laying an absolute egg last week, I am very interested in observing the level of effort put forth by the Bears this week. More so than the actual outcome.

Speaking of which, the match-up to watch will be 6-foot-5 Tampa receiver Mike Evans versus whichever two Bears that Fangio decides to put into a single trench coat in an attempt to make them appear tall enough to cover Evans.

This ruse may fool rookie QB Jameis Winston for a quarter or two, but expect a second-half adjustment to burn the Chicago secondary.

The Bears pleasantly surprised us following their earlier three-game losing streak, so I think it's entirely possible that we get a good effort this week.

But I've got a hunch that it won't be enough.

Bucs 21, Bears 17

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About The Author
Carl Mohrbacher wishes you and yours a very merry week of "Holiday," or if you belong to a denomination of Pastafarianism that celebrates Pastivus on December 23rd, I hope the distribution of candy to the children of the neighborhood was successful. Embrace with other the pirates in your lives knowing that you have brought lighthearted joy throughout the land. R'amen.

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Carl Mohrbacher is our man on the Kool-Aid. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:57 AM | Permalink

Family Guy Jesus

1. Short Jesus.


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2. Miracle Jesus.

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3. I Dream of Jesus.

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4. Record Store Clerk Jesus.

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5. Teenage Jesus.

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6. Fat Jesus.

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7. Black Jesus.

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8. Tree Jesus.

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9. Political Jesus.

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10. Jesus Christ!

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:14 AM | Permalink

December 23, 2015

The [Wednesday] Papers

"After her teenage son died in a police-chase crash, Jondalyn Fields' lawyers asked the Chicago Police Department for the videos from their cars and along the route to try to find out what happened," the Tribune reports.

"While her lawsuit dragged on for six years, the city finally made a startling claim: Some of the videos it had long denied existed had been erased or recorded over.

"The city didn't care - they were just, 'Go away, go away, go away,'" said Fields, who last month won a $2.75 million verdict against the city from a Cook County jury.

Rahm Emanuel couldn't be reached in Cuba for comment. Former police chief Garry McCarthy couldn't be reached because he's too busy leaking to patsy reporters about how Rahm was really the bad guy to come to the phone.

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Isn't that destruction of evidence? That would be a crime, no?

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"Time and again, lawyers suing over alleged police misconduct have found that the Police Department failed to produce crucial video or audio from the storage system the city spent millions of dollars to implement."

Dear DOJ . . .

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"The Police Department has had a written policy on the use and maintenance of its dashboard camera video system since November 2006, but it largely has not followed those rules, especially when it comes to maintaining working microphones to capture audio."

But you said your men always follow orders . . .

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"The department made video public from five of the police cars at the McDonald shooting, but the audio did not work on any of them, a remarkable failure given the marketing emphasis the camera maker, Coban Technologies, devotes to the performance and reliability of its audio . . .

"Coban officials, including the vice president who signed the company's $12 million contract with the city, declined to speak to the Tribune about their system. David Hinojosa, vice president of sales, cited the pending federal investigation of the McDonald shooting for the company's stance.

"But in promotional videos posted online, the company highlights the audio capabilities of its TopCam G2 system - the portable, battery-powered microphones that Chicago police officers wear clipped to their bodies. Through testimonials from several company officials and law enforcement officials among Coban's clients throughout the country, the company touts the audio as one of the system's main selling points, largely because of the record it creates for police to rely on in court."

In fact, the first thing you see on Coban's website is the slogan "Tell The Whole Story."

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From their site:

"Capturing video evidence for law enforcement with exact precision. Transferring it where you need it, when you need it. Managing video evidence intuitively. Storing and retrieving it sensibly. It's what we do. Whether it's the police officers on patrol or a lieutenant in the back office, COBAN excels at meeting customers' needs because we address every phase of digital evidence management. And our customer service is second to none. Pioneering many of the industry's breakthrough features, COBAN sets precedents for meeting and anticipating customer requirements with features such as unlimited pre-event/post event recording and fail-safe recording. We provide the whole picture. Get the evidence today. "

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The Coban Difference:

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Indisputable Evidence:

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"Police officers and other law enforcement sources who talked to the Tribune on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly said the microphones routinely don't operate because of negligence by the department. The mics are lost or broken, or the batteries wear out or are removed, the officers said. But the inoperable ones are rarely replaced or fixed, they said."

So the department spent $12 million on a system it can't be bothered to maintain.

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The consequences:

"So far this year, only three of the 22 police shooting or excessive force cases referred to the Cook County State's Attorney's Office for possible prosecution had been captured on dash-cam videos, yet none had functioning audio, said Sally Daly, a spokeswoman for the office.

Testifying under oath during a 2014 deposition in an excessive force lawsuit, a Harrison District sergeant, Jeffrey Truhlar, said that 70 to 80 percent of the in-car video systems in that high-crime district are not working on any given day, according a partial transcript of the deposition.

A Police Department spokesman acknowledged this week that the vast majority of microphones don't work.

"Currently, 80 percent of cameras don't record audio due to technical or human error and in some cases intentional destruction to microphones," said the spokesman, Anthony Guglielmi.

Eighty percent is not an accident - it's sabotage.

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Reminds of that time when police officers in Jefferson Park threw their microphones onto the roof of their station.

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Also, Coban's big selling point is its customer service. If the CPD wasn't going to use it, maybe they could have negotiated a cheaper contract. Does Coban offer a "When You Don't Really Want It To Work" option?

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"Guglielmi was unable to provide any records showing if any officers had been disciplined for damaging equipment before the McDonald fallout, and the department declined to make police leaders available to answer questions on that point."

Rahm took all the "owning it" sweaters with him to Cuba.

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Go read the rest.

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The Beachwood Radio Hour Is Back!

* The Beachwood Radio Hour #69A: The Media & Laquan McDonald.

The reporting is still under review, but the pundits have already been convicted.

* The Beachwood Radio Hour #69B: The Beachwood Is 10 And I'm Exhausted.

I want out. The sad, sorry saga of the Chicago digital news-o-sphere. Millions of dollars flushed down the toilet. Plus: Rahm's Future; Inside Chi-Town Rising; Lynn Sweet's Trumped-Up Poll and more!

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BeachBook

Interesting story out of Chicago.

Posted by The Beachwood Reporter on Tuesday, December 22, 2015

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Fun story out of St. Paul.

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TweetWood
A sampling.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Audio optional.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:52 AM | Permalink

December 22, 2015

The Beachwood Radio Hour #69B: The Beachwood Is 10 And I'm Exhausted

I want out. The sad, sorry saga of the Chicago digital news-o-sphere. Millions of dollars flushed down the toilet. Plus: Rahm's Future; Inside Chi-Town Rising; Lynn Sweet's Trumped-Up Poll and more!


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SHOW NOTES

* Strawberry Rock Show.

1:00: The New Standard Jazz Orchestra at Reggies on Thursday night.

2:15: The Beachwood Radio Hour #69A: The Media & Laquan McDonald.

2:47: The Political Odds.

Including:

* Rahm to resign?

* Rahm to run for president?

* Back to the U.S. House?

* And which Daley will restore the dynasty?

10:33: Ryley Walker at the Empty Bottle on Friday night.

11:35: Exclusive! Inside Chi-Town Rising.

16:18: Marc Roberge at Thalia Hall on Thursday night.

17:29: Lynn Sweet's Trumped-Up Poll.

23:44: 30db at the Tonic Room on Saturday night.

24:14: BeachBook.

* Firefighters vs. Sirens.

* Cops vs. Rape Victims.

* Bernie Sanders vs. Barack Obama.

* GQ vs. Rahm.

31:22: Brendan Bayliss and Jeff Austin at the Tonic Room on Saturday night.

31:37: CAN TV Board Chairman Running For President Of Sierra Leone.

32:59: New AccuWeather Election Analytics Ad Package Is The Smart Advertising Solution For 2016 Elections!

33:41: CPD's Real Leadership Problem.

36:45: Marina City at Bottom Lounge on Friday night.

37:57: Exclusive! Inside Chi-Town Rising Redux.

41:03: The Concrete Roots at the Elbo Room on Saturday night.

42:31: The Beachwood Is 10 And I'm Exhausted.

* Andrew Huff's goodbye letter.

* Take me with you - I want out too!

* The sad, sorry saga of the Chicago digital news-o-sphere.

* Millions of dollars flushed down the toilet.

* The [Chicago Journalism Town Hall] Papers.

1:10: 23: King Diamond at the Aragon.

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STOPPAGE: 12:26

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For archives and other Beachwood shows, see The Beachwood Radio Network.

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Comments welcome.

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1. From Andrea Kaspryk:

I was amused by the role you envisioned for the former police chief, and it made me think of painter Nicole Eisenman, who made a painting on this theme of the guy in a blue suit being lowered into an ice hole by arctic Amazon women.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:30 AM | Permalink

The Beachwood Radio Hour #69A: The Media & Laquan McDonald

The reporting is still under review, but the pundits have already been convicted.


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SHOW NOTES

:00: Strawberry Rock Show.

1:25: 16 Shots.

* Why Are Those Officers Still On The Job? It's The Law!

* About The Police Board.

See also: The Police Board Accountability Center.

* Cops Have Way More Rights Than You Do.

23:21: Health at Lincoln Hall.

24:07: Baroness at Reckless Records in Wicker Park.

25:43: The SUPES comparison.

* Pro Tip: It's always 10 times worse than you think it is.

38:26: Media Mindset.

* A review-in-progress suggests the media was on this story.

* A new tone now, though.

* Still ignoring Homan Square.

* The FOIA fight.

* The systemic issue illuminated.

* City council settlement coverage.

49:30: A New Generation Of Young Black Activists.

51:17: Bumsy and the Moochers at the Mutiny.

52:48: Is Rahm's Resignation Realistic? Yes.

1:00:35: DOJ and City Hall.

* More pundit derpery.

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STOPPAGE: 5:08

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For archives and other Beachwood shows, see The Beachwood Radio Network.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:05 AM | Permalink

The [Tuesday] Papers

Programming Note: I recorded two new Beachwood Radio Hours yesterday and hope to have each of them up on the site today they're up! In the first one, I ended up talking about the Laquan McDonald case - including the media coverage - the whole time, so I did a second one on some other news as well as some musing about the Beachwood and its future, in light of Gapers Block going on hiatus.

* The Beachwood Radio Hour #69A: The Media & Laquan McDonald.

* The Beachwood Radio Hour #69B: The Beachwood Is 10 And I'm Exhausted.

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A Brutal Crime, Terribly Investigated
Basic ways police could improve their handling of rape cases.

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BeachBook

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The bipartisan looting of America continues.

Posted by The Beachwood Reporter on Monday, December 21, 2015

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I'd call Chuck Todd the worst if there weren't so many like him pretending to be journalists.

Posted by The Beachwood Reporter on Monday, December 21, 2015

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TweetWood
A sampling.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: A feature, not a bug.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:54 AM | Permalink

A Brutal Crime, Often Terribly Investigated

News organizations have long chronicled problems with investigating reports of rape. Backlogs in rape kits. Cynical efforts to bury rape cases to make a police department's crime fighting statistics look better. Failures to fully exploit the powerful investigative tool of DNA.

"An Unbelievable Story of Rape," a joint reporting effort by The Marshall Project and ProPublica, reinforced some of the most basic ways police could improve their handling of rape cases. These steps offer the promise of both catching the guilty and protecting the victimized.

1. Check with police agencies where the suspect previously lived or traveled.

Our reporting showed the value of this simple step. Police investigating a series of rape allegations against former NFL star Darren Sharper never contacted the authorities where he had previously lived. They were all working in isolation - allowing Sharper to rape or attack nine women in multiple states over three years.

In "An Unbelievable Story of Rape," the police in Colorado reached out immediately to their fellow agencies. And within six weeks, they had nabbed Marc O'Leary, a serial rapist now serving 327 1/2 years in prison.

2. Use the FBI's Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP).

ViCAP is an FBI database designed to catch serial killers and rapists based on the similarity of their behavior. Using data provided by local law enforcement agencies, ViCAP searches through unsolved crimes to seek out similar patterns - say a certain knife that was used in several attacks. Then it suggests a possible match.

ViCAP may be especially useful in rape cases. First, a large number of rapists are serial offenders. One-third to two-thirds of rapists commit multiple crimes, according to studies. In contrast, only about one percent of murderers are serial killers. Also, only about half of all rape cases involve DNA. ViCAP is built to catch serial rapists who don't leave DNA.

In Canada, a similar system is credited with linking together 7,000 crimes since 1995. But in the U.S., local police don't feed much information into ViCAP. And with a paucity of information, the system rarely turns up good matches.

3. Be aware of myths regarding rape.

Criminal experts talk about a hypothetical person called the "righteous victim" who was attacked during a "real rape." That's a woman with no blemishes in her past who is raped by a stranger, tries to fight him off and then promptly reports the crime to police. That victim and that crime exist. But they are not common.

The truth is, rape is a crime with all kinds of victims who respond in all kinds of ways. Women often don't go to the police right away. And they can be pastors or prostitutes. The vast majority know their attacker. Only 13 percent of rapes are committed by strangers.

Any police officer who may be involved in a rape investigation would do well to read the evidence-based findings - many of them surprising - about what rape looks like. Useful resources include the International Association of Chiefs of Police and End Violence Against Women International, a non-profit organization that trains police officers in how to conduct rape investigations.

Last week, the Department of Justice released its own guidelines.

4. Listen.

This is the most obvious, perhaps. Cops, like journalists and prosecutors, can have an innate skepticism about the people they encounter in their line of work. That makes some sense, for there are no shortages of liars and criminals. But it's important to simply listen to a victim's story, and then to check it out. It takes courage for a woman or a man to come forward and tell the police they were raped. Cops can respect that bravery by not allowing the small minority of people who are fabulists to poison their objectivity or diligence.

Before charging someone with a false claim of rape, be very sure that you have the evidence to make a case. There is a good reason for contemplating the prosecution of people who falsely report rape. Innocent people can be harmed. Reputations can be ruined. Precious police resources can be wasted. But police experts say the cost of routinely filing such charges can also be high. Women who fear they might be prosecuted if their reports of rape are not deemed believable may be scared off from reporting at all.

Only about one-third of rapes are even reported to police - due in part to the long judicial history of dismissing women's accusations. The bottom line in dealing with suspicions of false reporting is to take the charge like any other. You have to prove that the person invented the story beyond probable cause. That means collecting evidence, witness statements and all the rest before filing such a charge.

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See also: Rape Is Rape, Isn't It? Wherein the 2012 FBI report showed Chicago with nearly 140,000 crimes and 0 rapes.

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For crisis support: Contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800-656-HOPE).

Related coverage: For more coverage, read ProPublica's previous reporting on an "unbelievable" story of rape, how flawed rape statistics hamper rape prevention, and the police failure to stop a former NFL star's rape spree.

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.

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Comments welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 3:36 AM | Permalink

December 21, 2015

The [Monday] Papers

"It's Donald Trump in Illinois," Lynn Sweet reports for the Sun-Times.

"Trump, at 30 percent, is the top GOP presidential candidate in Illinois, according to a new poll, with double the points of Sens. Ted Cruz at 15 percent and Marco Rubio at 13 percent."

Whoa, if true!

It's not.

In the 18th paragraph, we learn this about the poll:

[H]alf the respondents were 62 years old and over.

For Christ's sake.

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Two paragraphs later:

The biggest distinctions in the poll came in the 26-to-35 age group, in which Rubio came in first at 19 percent to Trump's 16 percent and 12 percent each for Christie and Cruz.

That strikes me as significant - unless half of those who actually go to the polls will be those seniors backing Trump. Not bloody likely.

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How is this poll even news?

My guess: because results were "shared" with Sweet. Exclusive!

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Who conducted the poll? Joe Caccitolo, who has virtually no web presence. Which may explain why he conducted a poll that only contacted landlines. Which is why his results are wack.

See also: Put Political Polls Out To Pasture.

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Beachwood Programming Note

Xmas Day @ Beachwood HQ in AnySquared Studios: Open House 3p - Midnight. Dinner at 5p. Food, music, booze all day/night. Everyone welcome. Studio open for use. Inquire for details.

Posted by The Beachwood Reporter on Saturday, December 19, 2015

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Exclusive! Inside Chi-Town Rising
Another Beachwood Special Report.

Bears Grandly Pronounce Themselves
In which I pinch hit for the vacationing Jim "Coach" Coffman in SportsMonday.

CAN TV Dude Running For President Of Sierra Leone
Longtime Chicagoan seeks opposition party nomination.

The Political Odds
Updated to reflect recent developments.

Rape Is Rape, Isn't It?
Depends on who's counting.

The Weekend In Chicago Rock
Featuring: Ryley Walker, Marc Roberge, 30db, Brendan Bayliss and Jeff Austin, Marina City, Craig Owens, and The Concrete Roots.

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BeachBook

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Jonathan Pie, TV Reporter!

Posted by The Beachwood Reporter on Sunday, December 20, 2015

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NY Daily News doing aggregation/linking. Not gracefully, but still.

Posted by The Beachwood Reporter on Saturday, December 19, 2015

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TweetWood
A sampling.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Distract yourself.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:19 AM | Permalink

SportsMonday: Bears Grandly Pronounce Themselves

The Bears are who we thought they were - a pretty lousy team that managed to eke out a few wins and fool the easily fooled around here that they were new, improved, and possibly even a playoff contender. Ha!

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Remember when the pundits said defensive savior Vic Fangio and head coach John Fox would never allow the kind of blowout that occurred last season under defensive scapegoat Mel Tucker and head coach Marc Trestman? Remember when the pundits insisted reiterated that notion even after the Bears lost their first three games by a combined total of 105-46? The Bears were blown out on Sunday 38-17.

"[A]s members of the defense explained away their uncharacteristically shaky effort, pointing to communication breakdowns, missed assignments and poor tackling, one third-quarter play seemed to encapsulate the whole miserable day," Dan Wiederer writes for the Tribune.

"Stefon Diggs' 33-yard touchdown catch came on the simplest of routes, with the easiest of throws. Still, the Bears couldn't stop it. On third-and-6, Diggs ran an underneath crossing route 2 yards shy of the first-down marker. But when cornerback Tracy Porter set Diggs free, expecting Alan Ball to pick him up in coverage, the switch never came.

"Instead, Diggs caught the ball at the 29, turned upfield, cut past safety Chris Prosinski and dragged Ball the final 8 yards across the goal line.

"Just like that, the Bears were in a 24-7 hole and baffled again."

This is not to blame Fangio. It is to scream once again: Beware grand pronouncements. Particularly in sports and politics.

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By the way, last year's woeful Bears went up to Minnesota in late December too, and at least kept that loss respectable: 13-9. Tucker's defense gave up 311 yards to that Vikings squad. Fangio's defense gave up 350 yards yesterday.

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Tucker, by the way, is now the defensive backs coach for Alabama, and will reportedly be in the running for a head coaching job in the college ranks next season.

This isn't to defend Tucker, but he was treated like a neophyte here when, in fact, he was in his third NFL defensive coordinator's position.

Does any kind of media coverage lack perspective as much as sports coverage?

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Over on the offensive side of the ball, boy genius Adam Gase is suddenly under attack from the local fanboy sports corps for an uncreative offense that throws too many screens.

We've gone from lucky to have him to good riddance in light speed.

And then there's John Fox. He's been a lying prick since day one, but remember when reporters didn't care because his team was so well-coached? If only someone could coach him - in clock management. Also, the Bears - again - looked like anything but a well-coached team on Sunday, with another six penalties and a bushelful of miscommunication and bewilderment.

This is not to say John Fox isn't a good coach. It's to say he's just John Fox. No grand pronouncements necessary.

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Remember when this year's team had shown great progress from last year even though both have now only won five games? Does anyone still feel that way?

The offensive line is still a mess, the receiving corps is so thin it couldn't survive the injury of an untested rookie, and Jay Cutler is a hero because he's a slightly better game manager than gunslinger.

The defense is in disarray at every level, but particularly at linebacker and the defensive backfield.

The special teams are plain awful, and Joe DeCamillis isn't around to blame anymore.

You can really only conclude at this point that general manager Ryan Pace didn't do much to improve the roster this season, because the talent is at least as bad as it was last season.

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It's too early to judge the 2015 draft class, but the early returns are so-so. White has been out for the year; Eddie Goldman is okay; Hroniss Grasu is outclassed; Jeremy Langford can't catch; Adrian Amos has impressed then regressed Kyle Fuller-style; Tayo Fabuluje has been on and off the active roster.

Pace signed 15 undrafted free agents; linebacker John Timu seemed to have a decent game on Sunday, but I don't expect Bryce Callahan and Cam Meredith to be on the team a year from now.

This is not to blame Pace - though the hiring of Fox seemed like the safest move, not the best move. It's to once again decry grand pronouncements.

Oh, except this one: The Bears suck.

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Pernell McPhee? He was a back-up in Baltimore, and he can't stay healthy. And he's your team leader! Take it away, Pernell:

"I just think other teams want it more than we want it," McPhee said. "And that's the end of the story. When you want something, you go take it. And right now, everybody's not really trying to take it.

"The last two teams that we lost to wanted it more than we did. They came in and took the games over, and we didn't do it. They wanted it more than we wanted it."

At least he didn't say the Bears need to be coached harder! But isn't that what he just said? This wasn't supposed to happen to a John Fox team.

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Four days ago: Despite Some Missteps, Kyle Long Gaining Confidence With Tackle's Mindset.

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Alshon Jeffery: 2016 'Won't Be Nothing Like This.'

Just keep changing the year in that quote.

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The Vikings were missing their top three players on defense.

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And yet, the Bears still have a winning record on the road: 4-3. They are 1-6 at home. That is wack.

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I'm bringing back wack.

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Same Story As Bears Drop Third Straight.

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Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays, except when he's in Hawaii. Then it's me. Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:20 AM | Permalink

The Weekend In Chicago Rock

You shoulda been there.

1. Ryley Walker at the Empty Bottle on Friday night.


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2. Marc Roberge at Thalia Hall on Thursday night.

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3. 30db at the Tonic Room on Saturday night.

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4. Brendan Bayliss and Jeff Austin at the Tonic Room on Saturday night.

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5. Marina City at Bottom Lounge on Friday night.

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6. Craig Owens at Bottom Lounge on Friday night.

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7. The Concrete Roots at the Elbo Room on Saturday night.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:23 AM | Permalink

Rape Is Rape, Isn't It?

It has been no easy thing to establish the prevalence of rape and sexual assault in America.

Victims often choose not to report the crimes. Police in more than one major city have been exposed for misclassifying or burying reports of rape and other sexual assaults. Local police departments routinely fail to cooperate with the FBI's efforts to compile annual crime statistics.

For decades, the problems included something as basic as defining what constituted rape. Operating under a definition of rape adopted in 1929, the FBI for close to a century didn't count male victims. Or women who were too frightened to resist their attackers.

Terry Fromson, managing attorney for the Women's Law Project, summed up the significance of the suspect statistics:

"The data fell short of giving an accurate picture of sex crime in our society," Fromson said.

Fromson helped launch an effort to improve the accuracy of the statistics and, with that, the performance of law enforcement in understanding and fighting rape.

The work of Fromson and others ultimately persuaded the FBI in 2011 to formally redefine the crime of rape.

Today, the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting program - the most widely cited source for national crime statistics - includes male victims, as well as female victims who did not actively try to fend off their attackers.

The FBI now defines rape as "penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim."

The change has had a profound effect, showing that rape in America is a far more wide-ranging problem than the agency previously reported.

In 2012, the last year before the new definition went into effect, the FBI estimated that 85,141 rapes occurred in the U.S. In 2014, the most recent year available, the number jumped to 116,645 rapes - a 37 percent difference.

The new figures don't mean that legions of rapists have suddenly run amok. In fact, using the old definition, rapes have decreased slightly. Nor do the new numbers capture all rapes - surveys show only about one in three sexual assaults is reported to police.

Instead, the numbers show that the FBI has recognized a new class of victims - people whose sexual assaults were previously unreported, or were hidden in other offense categories.

Fromson said the change amounts to significant progress in the push to properly record the incidence of rape and hold law enforcement accountable for prosecuting offenders.

"There's obviously still work to be done," she said, "but everyone is moving in the right direction."

Fromson was working for the Philadelphia-based nonprofit Women's Law Project in 1998 when a doctorate student at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania named Shannon Schieber, 23, was raped and killed in her small studio apartment in that city's downtown.

Her murder set off a frantic search for the attacker. By the time Troy Graves was captured four years later, he had been linked to nearly a dozen other attacks on women. He was dubbed the Center City rapist.

During the investigation, it emerged that Graves had raped several women before killing Schieber. But Philadelphia police officers had decided two of the women's claims were not worth investigating. They tossed the cases aside - and with them, a chance of stopping Graves.

Such missteps and their costs were repeated by police in Lynnwood, Washington, in 2008. As shown in a recent investigation by ProPublica and The Marshall Project, police not only dismissed a young woman's report of rape, they filed a criminal citation against her for filing a false report. The authorities only realized their mistake after the rapist victimized additional women in Washington and Colorado.

Schieber's rape and murder came at the same time as an investigation by the Philadelphia Inquirer, which found that the sex crimes unit of the Philadelphia Police Department had buried thousands of sexual assault cases over the decades - dismissing women's complaints as groundless with little or no investigation.

The Women's Law Project demanded a better police force, one that took sexual assault seriously.

"As we talked with the police department, we realized that our understanding of rape and their understanding of rape were not really the same," Fromson said. "We realized that this was part of what needed to be reformed."

Working with the Philadelphia police commissioner, Fromson helped to create a citizen's review board, believed to be the only one of its kind in the country.

Since 2000, board members, Fromson and colleagues from three other local women's advocacy groups gather annually in a conference room at the police department's sex crimes unit.

There, police bring in hundreds of paper files containing all the rapes dismissed as baseless in the previous year. The reviewers spend three or four days reading over the cases, flagging questions with sticky notes. At the end, the reviewers discuss the cases with the senior commander for the unit.

The entire process is carried out under a strict confidentiality agreement, so neither side can release any details. But the Philadelphia police say they have re-opened many cases after the review. And Fromson says that she has seen improvements in how police handle rape cases.

Ultimately, the police determined that more than 1,800 crimes had been incorrectly dismissed, including 681 rapes. Thirty-three men connected to the re-opened cases were convicted, the Inquirer reported.

As part of the review process, Fromson and others at the Women's Law Project learned that the FBI's then-prevailing definition of rape had influenced Philadelphia police to dismiss some rapes as "unfounded" - the FBI term for a rape that did not occur, or that does not rise to the level of a crime.

She sent a letter signed by more than 80 advocacy groups to the FBI urging a change to the definition. The letter was sent in September 2001. The FBI resisted making the change, though other federal agencies had adopted a more comprehensive definition. So, too, had major police agencies, including the Chicago police department.

The FBI refused to even include rape statistics from that city, the nation's second largest police department. (The 2012 FBI report showed Chicago with nearly 140,000 crimes and 0 rapes.)

In December 2011, more than 10 years after the women's organizations sent their letter asking the agency to change the definition of rape, then-FBI Director Robert Mueller made it official.

"This new, more inclusive definition will provide us with a more accurate understanding of the scope and volume of these crimes," former Attorney General Eric Holder said in 2011.

Rape had a new meaning.

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For more, read An Unbelievable Story of Rape and how we reported it.

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If you have experience with or information about issues related to this story, e-mail T.Christian.Miller@propublica.org.

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ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.

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Comments welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:45 AM | Permalink

CAN TV Board Chair Running For President Of Sierra Leone

"CAN TV's outgoing board chair, Alie Kabba, livened up the December 9th annual meeting of the board with his announcement that he is running for election as President of Sierra Leone."

Um, wow?

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Besides his work with CAN TV, Kabba also served as co-chair of the Golden Door Coalition and board president of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, according to his LinkedIn page. He was also head of the Chicago-based United African Organization.

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In 2012, Kabba was named one of The Grio's top 100 black leaders in America.

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Here's a Tribune Q&A with Kabba from 2001, when he was a caseworker for the state Department of Human Services.

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Kabba has appeared in a handful of news articles over the years, mostly about immigrants. A couple examples . . .

From 2009:

A few months after arriving from Sierra Leone, Alie Kabba learned the dynamics of Chicago immigrant life when he found a pickup soccer game near his Rogers Park apartment. All of the players were Mexicans.

"I didn't have enough for my own team," he recalled. "They had the numbers."

Now head of the United African Organization, Kabba is pursuing an intriguing and complicated experiment: to see whether Africans can forge a political alliance with the Mexicans, who make up the largest share of immigrants in Chicago.

From 2013:

Over the past decade, the 700 block of East 79th Street has undergone a transformation that points to another shift in Chicago's ethnic landscape.

First came Yassa, a Senegalese restaurant whose spicy, rich cuisine has garnered attention from foodies across the region. Then Mandela, an African grocery store, opened next door, followed by two hair braiding shops and a Senegalese tailor across the street.

Now, the colorful business strip lies at the heart of hopes within one of the city's fastest-growing immigrant groups for an "African village" that can stake a claim to a neighborhood in the same way that newcomers have shaped pockets of Chicago for generations.

"We see this as an anchor around which we can see other community development aspects flourishing and, over time, use it to create our resources and, hopefully, our political power, just like in other communities," said Alie Kabba, director of the United African Organization, an umbrella group that has been scouting the 79th Street area for property to use as an African community center.

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Here's his bio from his campaign website.

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From December 19:

"The National Officers of the main opposition SLPP yesterday received one of the leading flagbearer aspirants, Alhaji Dr. Alie Kabba at the party's Headquarters in Freetown."

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Here's Kabba last January:

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:29 AM | Permalink

Exclusive! Inside Chi-Town Rising

"Chi-Town Rising, a new New Year's Eve event intended to boost winter tourism in the city, will be a smaller celebration than planned and the main attraction is no longer free to the public," the Tribune reports.

And that's not all. The Beachwood has learned of a raft of other changes to the event, including:

* At 10 seconds to midnight, the countdown will begin as Garry McCarthy is lowered into Lake Michigan.

* Free Rahm sweaters for the first 1,000 attendees.

* City council to pass honorary New Year's resolutions promising even more after-the-fact grandstanding in lieu of before-the-fact oversight.

* Rahm Emanuel dunk tank. At $1 a throw, CPS deficit expected to be closed by 1 a.m.

* Festival partner Uber to offer even surgier pricing.

* The U.S. Department of Justice will investigate claims that Redflex shortened by three seconds the amount of time between 11:59 p.m. and midnight.

* Michael Corleone and Rahm Emanuel will be seen fleeing Havana amidst a hail of bullets on New Year's Eve, but security footage of their departure will be destroyed.

* Forrest Claypool will move the Chi-Town Rising headquarters south to Flossmoor after trimming 650 jobs from the 7-person organization.

* Screech gets weekend pass to co-host with A.C. Slater.

* More like Chi-Town UP-rising, amirite?

* To honor Chicago's past, the whole city will be raised three feet at midnight.

* Partnering hotels will offer complimentary mint medical marijuana under the pillows.

* At midnight, guest musical act Chicago plays their hit "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?"

* Official broadcast partner NBC 5 to broadcast 24-hour Saved by the Bell marathon.

* Refreshments to include cups of Rahm Emanuel's tears.

* Jim Belushi.

* Join in the fun at the Corona Beach House bonfire as officials lead the burning all City Hall documents requested through the Freedom of Information Act.

* Rahm to appear from Cuba via Skype in Michael Bilandic's old Hawaiian shirt.

* Don't wanna go downtown? Attend a Chi-Town Rising neighborhood watch party at your local school. Bring rubber gloves.

* At midnight, media partner Sun-Times will increase the amount of time it takes to access a story on its website from 20:15 to 20:16.

Contributing: Matt Farmer, Tim Willette, Natasha Julius, Steve Rhodes

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:21 AM | Permalink

December 19, 2015

The Weekend Desk Report

For completists, there was no Friday Papers.

"Chi-Town Rising, a new New Year's Eve event intended to boost winter tourism in the city, will be a smaller celebration than planned and the main attraction is no longer free to the public," the Tribune reports.

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"When the spectacle was announced in September, organizers boasted there would be free live music at a stage in Pioneer Court off Michigan Avenue. Visitors to that plaza also could watch the main event, a 70-foot star rising 360 feet up the west tower of the Hyatt Regency Chicago, 151 E. Wacker Drive.

"Acts slated for Pioneer Court were moved to the main stage near the Chicago River. Tickets now sell for $150 to view the attractions - which include fireworks and performances by the band Chicago and alt-rockers American Authors - along 'Broadcast Boulevard' on Upper Wacker Drive between Michigan Avenue and Columbus Drive. Adults 21 and older can pay $99 to watch the event with a dinner buffet at the "Corona Beach House," a heated space at 225 E. North Water St.

"The event, slated to run from 7 p.m. to past midnight, is being privately funded without city money, according to a rep for event producer Arena Partners and a city spokesman. Hyatt Gold Passport and Corona Extra are sponsors."

Also, the event will be renamed "Taste of Privatized Chicago."

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"The event rep could not say when organizers ultimately decided to reduce the footprint of the celebration and charge for admission but on Dec. 3, an event rep tweeted there would be a free viewing area for the celebration in Pioneer Court. On Dec. 4, a rep posted ticket sales information on the event Facebook page."

One day later:

Be a part of Chicago history & purchase your ticket for this first ever Chicago New Year's Eve celebration!

Posted by Chi-Town Rising on Friday, December 4, 2015

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I'm starting to feel nostalgic for houses on the river that won't burn.

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The The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #82: Robin Ventura Still Killing White Sox Buzz
Can Rick Hahn's rescue mission overcome the lameness of his manager? Plus: We Have Jason Heyward, Can We Ditch The Onesies Now?; Everyone Still Upset That The Bulls Are Winning So Much; and Corey Crawford Hotter Than Cory Matthews.

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The Sound Opinions Weekend Listening Report: "Get out those sleigh bells . . . it's time for the 2015 Sound Opinions Holiday Spectacular. As always, hosts Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot are joined by Christmas record collector Andy Cirzan who will share a mix of yuletide tunes you won't hear anywhere else. This year's theme is rare country, bluegrass, and hillbilly Christmas music."

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BeachBook

I'm tempting to go see the movie just to spoil it for these losers. Who's up for kicking some geek bar ass?

Posted by The Beachwood Reporter on Friday, December 18, 2015

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TweetWood
A sampling.

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The Weekend Desk Tip Line: Dump a lump.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:55 PM | Permalink

December 18, 2015

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #82: Robin Ventura Still Killing White Sox Buzz

Can Rick Hahn's rescue mission overcome the lameness of his manager? Plus: We Have Jason Heyward, Can We Ditch The Onesies Now?; Everyone Still Upset That The Bulls Are Winning So Much; and Corey Crawford Hotter Than Cory Matthews.


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SHOW NOTES

* Johnny Morris.

* Sammy White.

* Ahmad Rashad.

2:45: Rick Hahn's Rescue Mission.

* I'm rated highly in the White Sox system.

* Frankie Montas.

* Todd Frazier.

* South Side Hit Men.

* Robin Ventura.

* White Sox fans:

32:38: We Have Jason Heyward, Can We Ditch The Onesies Now?

* Cubs Set Us Up For Epicest Heartbreak Ever.

* One-Hitter Onesie.

45:26: Everyone Still Upset That The Bulls Are Winning So Much.

* Second place in the Eastern Conference.

* Four-game winning streak.

* Dougie McBaskets Closing Games.

* The Thompson Twins:

58:57: Corey Crawford Hotter Than Cory Matthews.

* Marcus Kruger To Have Wrist Surgery For Upper-Body Injury.

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STOPPAGE: 4:34

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For archives and other Beachwood shows, see The Beachwood Radio Network.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 3:00 PM | Permalink

The Week In Chicago Rock

You shoulda been there.

1. The New Standard Jazz Orchestra at Reggies on Thursday night.

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That's it, folks! Pre-holiday week.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:33 AM | Permalink

New AccuWeather Election Analytics Ad Package Is The Smart Advertising Solution For 2016 Elections!

AccuWeather, the global leader in weather information and digital media, today announced its partnership with L2, America's leading provider of enhanced voter data, to identify unique insights between historical voter turnout and weather data with Superior Accuracy™ available in AccuWeather's proprietary new Data Driven Decisions (D3) Election Analytics Ad Package.

Utilizing AccuWeather's robust big data forecasting and historical weather data capabilities in conjunction with voter data creates a tailored, targeted, and first-to-market advertising weather platform and package that ensures political advertisers deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time more effectively than ever before, taking advantage of weather's impact on voter behavior.

Access to the L2 database supplies powerful big election data for AccuWeather to analyze and research voting habits and weather trends down to the zip code level.

Effective election campaigning has become extremely data driven and by using AccuWeather's D3 Election Analytics, marketing campaigns can have access to targeted voter insights never before possible.

"This partnership demonstrates our commitment to providing best-in-class intelligent marketing capabilities to advertisers by having the most accurate, relevant, and accessible weather analytics for smart, consumer demographic-specific advertising," said AccuWeather's Head of Digital Advertising Sales, Karen Bressner.

"We have found unique, proprietary results about how the weather impacts American citizens' participation in voting that can be applied in political advertising campaign strategies to attract more voters through targeted creatives, ad frequencies, and calls to action that are optimized to meet their forecasted behavior on voting day."

Florida+Voter+Turnout.pngEnlarge image

Presidential and other political hopefuls will have the ability to utilize this information to make decisions on where and how to place their advertising revenue. By working with AccuWeather to analyze voter district historical behavior, campaign messaging can focus on weather sensitive demographic groups and encourage them to get out and vote.

"Matching L2 voter and demographic segments to AccuWeather's historic weather data will give us a fresh look at some of the old assumptions about weather and voter turnout," according to L2 CEO Bruce Willsie.

"Campaigns choose L2 because they want every advantage possible to win. AccuWeather is giving these organizations another critical piece of information to factor into their planning and strategy."

With over 1.5 billion people relying on AccuWeather forecasts every day, AccuWeather is the world's #1 weather source. AccuWeather digital properties have grown at record rates, reaching a rapidly-expanding global audience with forecast and video content available through web, mobile web, apps, and emerging platforms such as wearables and smart TVs.

To learn more about advertising with AccuWeather, visit www.AccuWeather.com/MediaKit.

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About AccuWeather
AccuWeather's Data Driven Decisions (D3) Analytics turns hyper-local weather data and forecasts with Superior Accuracy™ into customized, actionable business intelligence that drives organizational performance.

D3 Analytics aggregates and analyzes over 300 different weather factors with consumer behavior and sales data, focusing on clients' specific sales objectives and priorities to provide a scientific, predictive basis for key business decisions that impact profitability.

D3 Analytics targets location and seasonal-specific impact events to develop, manage, and inform customized weather-based sales models, enabling enterprises worldwide to proactively target inventory, marketing plans, and sales strategies based on weather changes while hedging against interruptions in supply chain and production levels.

Working with over 240 of Fortune 500 companies and thousands more, AccuWeather's big data and analytics leadership and expertise ensure that enterprises have the highest-demand products and services ready for sale when and where they are most needed to maximize profitability.

About L2
L2 is America's leading and most respected non-partisan provider of enhanced voter data. For 40 years L2 has worked with thousands of campaigns, PACs, pollsters, associations and consultants from across party lines.

In recent years L2 has redefined how data are accessed, analyzed and purchased with our award winning online platform L2 VoterMapping.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:12 AM | Permalink

Beachwood Photo Booth: Susie's Drive-Thru

Rice, beans, potatoe.

susiesricenbeanorig.JPG(ENLARGE FOR PROPER VIEWING)

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More Chicago photography from Helene Smith.

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Helene on Twitter!

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Meet Helene!

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Stationery, iPhone cases, hoodies.

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Listen to Helene talk about Photo Booth; starts at 57:54.

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Previously:
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Man Grilling
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Yum Yum Donuts
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Father's Day
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Vintage Airmaster
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Time
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Window Shade
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Illinois Slayer
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Fire Escape
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Golden Nugget
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Hollywood, Chicago
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Flag Man.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Van In Flames.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Fluid Power Automation.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Corn Dog.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Stop The Killing Car.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Backyard.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: A to Z Things.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Swedish Diner.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Rothschild Liquors.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Silos.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Wires.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Orange Garden.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Irving Park Guy.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Pigeons.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: O'Lanagan's.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: For Rent.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Marie's Pizza & Liquors.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Mori Milk.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: American Breakfast.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: A Chicago Christmas Postcard.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Holiday Harold's.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Family Fun.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Snow Bike.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Nativity Scene.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Old Warsaw.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Deluxe Cleaners.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Marie's Golden Cue.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Die Another Day.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Sears Key Shop.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Window Dressing.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Jeri's Grill.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Barry's Drugs.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Liberty.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Kitchen.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Golden Specials.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: We Won The Cup.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Bartender Man.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Blue Plane Blues.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Finest Quality.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Family Guy.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Girls Wanted.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Skokie Savanna.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Signpost.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Old Man And The Tree.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Street Fleet.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Citgo Story.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Fantasy Hair Design.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Garage.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Clark Stop.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Pole Position.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Window Dressing.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Geometry.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Found Love.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Fill In The Blank.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Vacuums Of The Night.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Dumpster Still Life.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Wagon Master.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Intersecting West Rogers Park.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Penn-Dutchman Antiques.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Cow Patrol.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Backstage Chicago.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Skully Bungalow.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Francisco Frankenstein.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Long Cool Heat.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Smokers' Mast.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Big Fat Phone.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Happy Day.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Alley Men.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Holiday Show!
* Beachwood Photo Booth: You've Got Mailbox.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Broken Window Theory.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Dali Logan.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Svengoolie.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Horner Park Hot Dogs.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Cubs Rehab.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: 20th Century Schizoid Man.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Men On Vans.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Penn-Dutchman Is Done.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Snowy Lincoln.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Waiting Room.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Avondale Chicken.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Winter's End.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: The Friendly Skies.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Boyhood Buzzer Beater.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: J Date.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: International Window Lady.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Shanghai Inn.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Open For Business.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Andersonville Unplugged.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: 3-Flat.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Evanston Turkey.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicagolandia.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Eat At Odge's.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Deitch Pharmacy.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Sud-Z Bubble.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Bands Wanted!
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Belmont Tavern.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Superheroic San Luis Freeze.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Evanston Oasis.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Lyndale Food & Jewelry.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Lincoln Tap.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Book Window.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Alco Dude.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Ballin Drugs.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Don't Worry, Be Cookie.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Four Trey.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: The Office.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: America From Inside The Golden Nugget In Ravenswood.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Cellphone Repair.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Boots 'N' Grill.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Sunrise Strip.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: At The Corner Of Glad And Happy.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Uptown Autumn Night.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Diner.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Mid-Century Modern Halloween.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Autumn Station Wagon.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Betty's & Nick's.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Ohio House Impact.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: End School Zone.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Portage Park Peek-A-Boo.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: South Side Sundown.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:49 AM | Permalink

December 17, 2015

The [Thursday] Papers

1. The Cubs Are The Best Team In Baseball.

"In fact, when you look at this, it seems like it shouldn't even be a debate."

2. How The White House Lost On The Cadillac Tax.

"Not only was it slated to raise $91 billion over 10 years, but it also was supposed to ensure the law reined in health care spending and did not blow a hole in the deficit."

3. Case Spotlights Code Of Silence Among Chicago Police.

"At his trial on drug charges nearly a decade ago, Ben Baker told a seemingly far-fetched tale about a corrupt band of Chicago police officers who ran a South Side housing project like their own criminal fiefdom, stealing narcotics proceeds, shaking down dealers for protection money and pinning cases on those who refused to play ball."

I don't know why anyone familiar with Chicago - and life in America generally - would think that's far-fetched. Which is also part of the problem.

"A Cook County judge at the time said he believed the testimony of veteran Sgt. Ronald Watts and officers under his command, not Baker's accusations that Watts and his crew had framed him.

"But two years ago Watts was convicted [link mine, natch] on federal corruption charges after being snared in an FBI sting. Now, Baker is seeking to overturn his own conviction and 14-year sentence in a case that casts a spotlight on the police code of silence - a red-hot issue amid fallout from the dashboard camera video of Laquan McDonald's shooting."

Here's the key:

"In a court filing this week, his lawyers revealed dozens of pages of court and law enforcement records showing the Chicago police internal affairs division had been aware as far back as the late 1990s of corruption allegations involving Watts' team of tactical officers - yet did nothing about it.

"The filing also cites a whistleblower lawsuit filed by two Chicago police officers who allege they faced repeated retaliation after going to supervisors about their discovery of the police corruption in the Ida B. Wells public housing development. When their complaints fell on deaf ears, they worked undercover for the feds, helping nab Watts."

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"Meanwhile," the Tribune reports separately, "Fraternal Order of Police President Dean Angelo told aldermen Tuesday that rank-and-file cops' morale is at an all-time low, and specifically pointed to Emanuel's talk of a code of silence in the department as something that has been 'very disturbing' to officers."

Dean Angelo is Today's Worst Person In Chicago.

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The Angelo quote comes from the Tribune story "Emanuel Greeted By '16 Shots' Chant About Laquan McDonald At Urban Prep Event," because the Tribune still stuffs distinctly different but tangentially related items into its old-fashioned story structures instead of fully committing to the superior world of digital journalism and breaking those stories up into blog entries (or something similar).

A reminder:

* The Truth About Urban Prep And Why It Matters.

* Same Kids, Same Building, Same Lies.

* Tribune Keeps Repeating Lie About Charter's "100%" Grad Rate.

* Fact-Checking Media's 100% Urban Prep Graduation Rate Claim.

* Urban Prep Charter Hype Redux.

4. Wheaton College Says View Of Islam, Not Hijab, Got Christian Teacher Suspended.

I'm not sure if that's better or worse.

5. CPS Borrowing Could Come At Steep Cost, Experts Say.

First, there's no "could" about it.

Second, you don't need experts to say so.

But . . . here's what caught my eye:

"Claypool on Tuesday said the district would cut one-third of its central office administrative staff to save about $50 million in annual expenses and free up $100 million more through 'nonpersonnel efficiencies' in areas such as procurement and transportation."

That is one magical central office.

And how are there always new "efficiencies" to be found in procurement and transportation? How inefficient can those areas be, time and time again? Did every previous CEO miss those inefficiencies even as they announced they had found savings through new efficiencies? Name those efficiencies!

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Pantera's Thickburger
Metal or not?

The Other Secret Torture Report
What our friendly Iraqi militias have been up to.

Rick Hahn To The Rescue
Theo still Best in Show, but South Side just got a little more interesting.

The Goonies Bears
In The Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report.

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BeachBook

This is really good.

Posted by The Beachwood Reporter on Thursday, December 17, 2015

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"The Yahoo! chief executive presided over a company 'Great Gatsby' theme party this month on San Francisco’s Pier 48,...

Posted by The Beachwood Reporter on Wednesday, December 16, 2015

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TweetWood
A sampling.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Rep prep.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:04 AM | Permalink

The Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report: Bear Goonies

Step Five: Acceptance
It has not been a great 14 days for Robbie Gould. During that span, the All-Pro has missed three field goals which, if made, would have propelled the Bears into the playoff contention.

I mean, if you consider being two games out of the last playoff spot with three to play "contention."

"But dude," you say in the voice like that of the Goonies monster, "if Gould makes those field goals, the Bears are 7-6 and are playing the team ahead of them in the standings this week. They would've been right there!"

Sure. If the 5-6 Bears had won out, two of those victories would have been against teams above them in the standings (Vikings, Bucs) while the Eagles and Giants would beat up on each other. In addition, the Falcons probably lose at least once against the Panthers, who they play twice in the season's final weeks.

But simmer down now, dummies. If we start playing the "shoulda been" game, you have to subtract one or two of this season's improbable wins. At minimum, the Packers "shoulda" beat the Bears on that last drive. The football universe has a tendency to even things out over time.

Implying we sound like the monster from the Goonies is a bit much. By the way, who was the actor who played the monster again?

Josh Brolin.

Right. So first off, inferring that we sound idiotic for emotionally banking on one of the most accurate field-goal kickers in NFL history to connect on at least one of those critical attempts is asinine. Our assumption was valid.

Hahaha! You said "ass."

Shut up. Secondly, insulting a hivemind-esque representation of a mob of Bears fans born of your internal monologue raises many, many questions about your own feelings of self-worth.

You guys been working out? Your shirts seem like they're fitting better these days.

Uh, yeah. We've been doing some taekwondo . . . Wait, I think the flattery is worse.

I think it's technically masturbation, but I'll retract it. Go to hell! Feel better?

Thanks. We think? Lastly, what's with the breakdown of the playoff picture and the Zen outlook on life? Those thoughts involved some level of statistical analysis and circumspection. Are you sober or something?

Well, not to get too personal, but since you asked, I wasn't circumspected as a child. I'm 100 percent of the man I was born to be. And no, I haven't abandoned drinking during the week, but I have been trying some martial arts.

(Gasp!) You're taking a taekwondo class too?

Was that sarcasm? It's hard to tell.

Back to our actual point, believing Robbie Gould should do what he's done for the better part of 10 years isn't irrational.

You guys surprise me sometimes . . .

There is no reason for that to be the case.

. . . This is how it goes with mediocre football teams. One week they're beating the Chiefs in KC, the next they're blowing it against the Lions. That's what it means to be 16th-best; a series of baffling highs followed by and even more baffling string lows. Ultimately, you step back to look at the whole picture and it's all fairly disappointing.

Seems like this season is really forcing you to grow as a person.

Oh this? No, that's just a pants boner. I happens when I sit down. I'm not actually erect.

(Slaps collective head.)

Things To Do In Denver When Your Season Is Dead
With Chanukah complete, Kevin White officially ruled out for the season, Christmas shopping done online, Kwanzaa weeks away and Ramadan not due again until June*, Bear fans are in need of ways to occupy their time.

What with the lack of playoffs and all.

Here are a few suggestions.

  • Smokin' Jay memes aren't gonna Photoshop themselves.
  • Spend half an hour figuring out if it's possible for every team in the NFC East to finish with a 6-9-1 record. [Editor's Note: It's not.] Awwww. I've just wasted my lunch break.
  • Research whether the real middle name of All-Star pitcher Johnny Cueto is Brent.
  • Talk to your wife about her day. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Seriously, who wants to grab a drink after work?
  • There are only 108 days left to get caught up on Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist's defensive sabermetrics. You know what you need to do, so start reading.
  • Get into an argument over the Periodic Table with your kid that abruptly escalates into a shouting match.

    Kid: "No, dad. Krista says that Scandium is a 'rare earth metal,' not a 'lanthanide metal.' You're WRONG."

    Me: "I'm looking at the answer online now. You asked me to help you study, so spare the attitude. You wanna go over the Noble Gases next?"

    Kid: "No, dad. Krista is in Science with me. She knows the right answer. You don't."

    Me: "Well, Krista is a dumb bitch whose whore mom offered me a tug job at last summer's block party. There. Now you know why Mrs. Schilling has to wear an eye patch and why we're no longer welcome at PTA functions. Because Mama delivered some street justice**. When you text Krista back, make sure you tell her she's ugly and bad at science."

    Kid: (Stomps out of room, slams bedroom door.)

    Me (mumbling to self): "Psssh. Screw Krista. Girl don't know shit about elements. Can't buy Market Day pizza anymore . . . "

'Tis But A Scratch!
According to Fox Sports, Vikings safety Antone Exum "proved his toughness" by playing through an injury that he thought might literally kill him during the Vikings loss to the Seahawks in week 13.

He relayed the experience to the St. Paul Pioneer Press's Chris Tomasson:

"I was feeling a pain in my chest with every breath and motion," said Exum (pictured here viciously attacking the injured area of his body). "Thoughts went through my head, 'I could die out there,' just for the simple fact that I didn't know what the problem was. But I knew we didn't have anyone else dressed that was a safety."

Let's take a moment to walk through this rationale.

You're no doctor, but in your mind there's a possibility that you're exhibiting signs of a heart attack at age 24.

Next step: Continue participating in a sport at the professional level.

I'll give Exum the benefit of the doubt for a moment. Minnesota secondary is injury depleted and they're in the hunt for the NFC North title.

Perhaps Exum was willing himself into a position to make a single, tide-turning play that would provide the decisive blow the Vikings needed to solidify their playoff position in a game against another NFC contender.

Maybe we're talking about a Kirk Gibson or Willis Reed scenario.

A late game interception, a tackle for loss at the goal line, a nip-slip that thrilled the hearts of a million fans . . . recorded five tackles in a 38-7 loss, you say?

Fortunately for Exum, his cholesterol levels are fine. The diagnosis was a fractured rib and an injury to the AC joint in his shoulder.

He was placed on Injured Reserve following the game, which makes me sad. I think we've just been deprived of the opportunity to witness a real life version of the Black Knight scene from Monty Python And The Holy Grail.

Down three touchdowns? I've had worse. C'mon, you pansy!

Kool Aid (1 of 5 Cans Of Surly Coffee Bender)
Minneapolis based Surly Brewing Company does some fine work and thanks to the above mentioned two consecutive heartbreakers, you're going to need some caffeine to get through this one awake.

I know some of you are holding out hope that the Bears can get to 8-8. Get to .500 and we'll see where we stand.

While a break-even record would certainly be a much better outcome than most of us predicted for this team, it's more important than ever for the coaching staff to evaluate the talent on the squad to figure out who can help them next year and where the Bears need to focus their attention in the 2016 draft.

Oh, now we get it. You're not Zen, you're depressed.

I'll admit, I got my hopes up there for a minute after the Thanksgiving win over the Pack. Sigh.

In any case, the Vikings were fortunate to beat the Bears at Soldier Field in the last meeting of these two teams and there isn't anyone on Minnesota that gets anyone too excited other than "Daddy" Peterson.

The Bears are a much better road team this year than home team, so at first glance there's room for optimism.

But with the offense continuing to sputter at inopportune times and the run defense performing below average (burned by Blaine Gabbert one week and the two-headed hydra that is Matt Jones/Alfred "The Butler" Morris the next . . . blech), I have to believe that another loss is in the cards.

Vikings 20, Bears 17

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* If Trump actually gets elected, I wonder if his regime will force Wikipedia to take down all the pages on the subject of Islam. Then what am I supposed to do if I want to make a reference to Eid al-Fitr? Oh, I know. I'll move to Canada so I can use Canadiapedia. Seriously, if that guy becomes the POTUS you'll next hear from me in Montreal covering the Alouettes.

** Krista's mom is also missing a finger. Well, it's not actually "missing," per se. More like, in the top left drawer of Mrs. Wifey's vanity along with other trophy extremities harvested from women who became too bold. I'm flattered, Darlene, but you shouldn't have floated the idea of a "socket job" out there so publicly.

socket.png

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About The Author
Carl Mohrbacher has watched his friends become afflicted with a wide array of maladies including blood disorders, knee surgery, gout and naturally conceived infant children, all of which are preventing his peeps from sharing in good times. He finds this all very inconsiderate and wishes they had consulted him before developing chronic disorders that prevent them from joining him in alcohol-fueled adventures.

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Carl Mohrbacher is our man on the Kool-Aid. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:58 AM | Permalink

Torture By Iraqi Militias: The Report Washington Did Not Want You To See

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ERBIL, Iraq - It was one of the most shocking events in one of the most brutal periods in Iraq's history. In late 2005, two years after the U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein, U.S. soldiers raided a police building in Baghdad and found 168 prisoners in horrific conditions.

Many were malnourished. Some had been beaten.

The discovery of the secret prison exposed a world of kidnappings and assassinations. Behind these operations was an unofficial Interior Ministry organization called the Special Investigations Directorate, according to U.S. and Iraqi security officials at the time.

The body was run by militia commanders from the Badr Organization, a pro-Iran, Shi'ite political movement that today plays a major role in Baghdad's war against Islamic State, the Sunni militant group.

Washington pressured the Iraqi government to investigate the prison. But the findings of Baghdad's investigation - a probe derided by some of its own committee members at the time as a whitewash - were never released.

The U.S. military conducted its own investigation. But rather than publish its findings, it chose to lobby Iraqi officials in quiet for fear of damaging Iraq's fragile political set-up, according to several current and former U.S. military officials and diplomats.

Both reports remain unpublished. Reuters has reviewed them, as well as other U.S. documents from the past decade.

The documents show how Washington, seeking to defeat Sunni jihadists and stabilize Iraq, has consistently overlooked excesses by Shi'ite militias sponsored by the Iraqi government. The administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama have both worked with Badr and its powerful leader, Hadi al-Amiri, whom many Sunnis continue to accuse of human rights abuses.

Washington's policy of expediency has achieved some of its short-term aims. But in allowing the Shi'ite militias to run amok against their Sunni foes, Washington has fueled the Shia-Sunni sectarian divide that is tearing Iraq apart.

The decade-old U.S. investigation of the secret prison implicates officials and political groups in a wave of sectarian killings that helped ignite a civil war. It also draws worrying parallels to the U.S. government's muted response today to alleged abuses committed in the name of fighting Islamic State.

Those accused of running the secret prison or of helping cover up its existence include the current head of the Iraqi judiciary, Midhat Mahmoud,'Transport Minister Bayan Jabr; and a long revered Badr commander popularly referred to as Engineer Ahmed.

"Special Investigations Directorate personnel illegally detained, tortured and murdered Iraqi citizens," the U.S. report states. "Iraqi government officials failed to take action to stop the crimes."

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The report says U.S. investigators faced a "lack of government cooperation, reluctance of witnesses to come forward and the perception of official complicity."

Judge Mahmoud declined to comment for this story. A former colleague close to him said Mahmoud knew about the secret prison's existence but did not know what went on there: "He cannot be held responsible for every judge's behavior."

Transport Minister Jabr did not respond to Reuters' queries. Jabr has previously stated publicly that no wrongdoing occurred at the prison.

A senior Badr official told Reuters that the prison allegations were part of a smear campaign by terrorists. He called for the international media to focus on Islamic State, which has carried out suicide bombings and executed prisoners.

U.S. officials acknowledge the role that Shi'ite militias such as Badr play in fighting Islamic State. As the Hashid Shaabi, or Popular Mobilization Forces, the militias helped Baghdad defend the country against the Sunni jihadist group when Iraqi military and police divisions deserted en masse in 2014.

Since then, the militias have continued to attack Islamic State, which has declared a Caliphate across swathes of Iraq and Syria. Islamic State, also known as Daesh, routinely executes citizens who speak against it, kidnaps people, buys and sells women and children, and uses rape as a weapon.

American ambassador Stuart Jones told Iraqi state television in April this year that "The Hashid Shaabi is part of the Iraqi fighting forces which are defeating Daesh today."

But Sunnis in areas freed from Islamic State control say the Shi'ite militias have been guilty of their own excesses, including looting, abductions and murder. At least 718 Sunnis in Salahuddin province have been abducted by fighters from Shi'ite militias since April 2015, according to several security officers, a provincial council member and tribal leaders. Only 289 have been freed, most after paying ransoms.

Some former and current U.S. officials say Washington needs to stop downplaying abuses by the Shi'ite militias.

Robert Ford, a former U.S. diplomat who served as the U.S. embassy's political officer between 2004 and 2006, believes the U.S. government's decision not to punish those behind the secret prison set a damaging precedent.

"A few people were transferred elsewhere," he said. "That's not a punishment. You are supposed to scare them into not doing it."

Ten years ago, Ford said, the militias were armed groups with political agendas, or the armed wings of political factions. "Now . . . the Prime Minister's office has called them an official institution, and they receive resources directly from the state as well as a degree of political legitimacy."

A Badr official, Muen al-Kadhimi, dismissed recent allegations of kidnapping, looting and killing.

"We do not violate the human rights and we should not forget the inhumane ways practiced by the enemy of the Iraqi people," Kadhimi told Reuters.

The Iraqi government conceded there has been a problem with kidnapping around Iraq, even in Baghdad, sometimes by men in security uniforms.

"The Iraqi government is working hard to fight this," said Saad Hadithi, a spokesman for Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

He blamed "gangs" for the attacks, but said the state had "no concrete evidence of who is behind it."

The U.S. embassy in Iraq and the State Department's new counter-terrorism envoy, Brett McGurk, did not respond to requests for comment.

THE MESS

The Badr group spent years in exile in Iran. Its parent organization, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (ISCI), was the most powerful Shi'ite political force in Iraq.

After Saddam's fall, Washington hoped ISCI and Badr would be reliable partners for the security forces, which Badr members joined in large numbers. But despite claims that they had demobilized after their return to Iraq, Badr's fighters did not disarm, U.S. army intelligence officers say. Instead, they began to assassinate former Iraqi officers, influential Baath party members and civil servants.

Colonel Derek Harvey, a retired intelligence officer, told Reuters that the U.S. military detained Badr assassination teams possessing target lists of Sunni officers and pilots in 2003 and 2004 but did not hold them. Harvey said his superiors told him that "this stuff had to play itself out" - implying that revenge attacks by returning Shi'ite groups were to be expected. He also said Badr and ISCI offered intelligence and advice to U.S. officials on how to navigate Iraqi politics.

After Shi'ite religious parties swept to victory in elections in 2005, Badr and ISCI were given control of the Interior Ministry. The U.S. embassy publicly backed the move.

But James Jeffrey, the top U.S. diplomat at the time and later ambassador to Iraq, was alarmed when Bayan Jabr, a Badr ally, became minister.

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"Bayan Jabr was the biggest mistake I made," Jeffrey told Reuters. "His file was terrible."

Jabr appointed Badr members to senior Interior Ministry posts. They created the covert Special Intelligence Directorate, which current and former U.S. officials believe coordinated the killing of former Saddam-era officials. Within months, Sunni politicians reported a sharp increase in the abduction of Sunni men. Some Sunnis blamed men in police uniforms. Corpses began to turn up around Baghdad.

The violence raised tensions between the U.S. military and officials in the U.S. embassy. Diplomats wanted those behind the killings brought to justice. Military officials were more prepared to turn a blind eye.

One U.S. diplomat said senior staff from the Iraqi security forces training command - then run by General David Petraeus - refused a U.S. embassy request for information on Iraqi troop movements in areas where Sunnis had been kidnapped. The diplomat said a senior staffer from the command told him privately: "At least they (the Iraqi security services) are getting the right guys."

Petraeus told Reuters this month he had been concerned about the abuses and raised the issue with the Iraqi government and General George Casey, then head of the U.S. military in Iraq. Petraeus said that at the time the "responses were inadequate, in my assessment."

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Casey said the U.S. military set up a unit to monitor sectarian violence the month Petraeus left.

"We leaned hard on our advisers . . . to provide actionable evidence," Casey said. "Easier said than done. We had a very difficult time finding a smoking gun."

According to Ford, General Martin Dempsey, who succeeded Petraeus, ordered his officers not to talk with U.S. diplomats about Iraqi security forces' involvement in the killings.

Dempsey declined to comment.

Casey said his officers did their best "to prevent, stop and report any illegal or immoral acts by Iraqi forces."

THE PRISON

Tensions exploded into the open in November 2005 when U.S. General Karl Horst, operations officer in Baghdad, received a tip that a missing Sunni teenager was being held in a secret Interior Ministry prison.

Horst raided the police building, in the Baghdad neighborhood of Jadriya. The troops did not find the teenager but discovered the 168 detainees.

Washington faced a problem. The U.S. military in Iraq was battling Sunni radicals and the Shi'ite Mahdi Army movement. Badr was one of the few Iraqi forces not actively opposed to the Americans. But now, with what had become known as the Jadriya bunker, the militia had been directly linked to the bloodshed tearing Iraq apart.

U.S. officials pushed the Iraqis to investigate and submitted evidence directly to Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the prime minister.

"He said there was nothing he could do," Ford said.

Pressed by the Americans, Jaafari created an investigative committee. Its findings were never released. Jaafari, now Iraq's foreign minister, did not respond to requests for comment.

The committee's report, reviewed by Reuters, absolves the country's security services and all government officials. Instead the Iraqi investigative committee said "Baathist" police had treated the prisoners badly.

Disappointed, Casey launched his own probe. The findings of that investigation, led by a U.S. military intelligence task force, were submitted to Casey in February 2006.

The U.S. report implicates Interior Minister Jabr and the Iraqi chief justice, Mahmoud. It also blames two men who ran the prison: Badr's intelligence chief at the time, Bashar Wandi, who went by the name Engineer Ahmed, and a second Badr official, Brigadier General Ali Sadiq.

According to the U.S. report, Jabr was "complicit" and "indirectly responsible for illegal detentions, abuse, torture and extrajudicial killings." It said he had "failed to act on multiple reports of abuse and torture in the bunker" and called his conduct "an act of omission."

The U.S. military report states Mahmoud "was briefed regarding problems" at the prison by some of his judges and "took no steps to correct them."

Mahmoud's cooperation with the prison's security officials "was required to assign judges who would ignore the rights of detainees, making him complicit," the report says.

Despite calls from anti-corruption protesters in Baghdad for Mahmoud to be fired, the judge remains in post. In 2010, his office assigned investigative judges to interrogate detainees in another secret Baghdad prison. This second prison was run by the office of then Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and held more than 400 Sunni men from the city of Mosul. Some of the judges were implicated in torturing the detainees.

The U.S. report said Engineer Ahmed "had knowledge" of "illegal detentions, abuse and torture and concealed them from others." His deputy, Ali Sadiq, was "directly responsible for illegal detentions, abuse, torture and extra-judicial killings."

A separate internal U.S. military biography of Engineer Ahmed, produced later, said he answered directly to Hadi al-Amiri, the Badr boss.

The biography called Ahmed "one of the most dangerous men in Iraq" who led the "cruelest and most dangerous armed groups of the Badr Brigade while using . . . equipment, cars and uniforms from the Interior Ministry."

Ahmed retained his position in the Interior Ministry for 18 months after the prison episode. The Badr organization says he retired five years ago. But a U.S. military official and a former Iraqi security official say he continues to be in charge of Badr's intelligence operations. An Iraqi lawmaker described him as high-ranking in Badr.

Reuters was unable to reach Ahmed or Ali Sadiq. Badr chief Amiri did not respond to requests for comment.

Badr official Kadhimi blamed the prison controversy on Sunnis opposed to the Shi'ite government.

"The terrorists initiated this slander campaign," he said.

LONG-TERM PROBLEM?

In February 2006, days after General Casey received the U.S. military's investigation of the first prison, Sunni militants blew up a Shi'ite shrine in Samarra. The attack triggered a full-scale civil war. Casey delivered the report to Jaafari, but said the prime minister, who was fighting to stay in office after national elections a few months earlier, had "no incentive to act" and resisted pressure.

"Theoretically we could have punished someone, but the judgment was, 'Let's push the (Iraqi) government to do it,'" said Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. ambassador at the time. "When the government failed to, we pushed for a change in the leadership."

When Iraq's new government was formed in May 2006, Jaafari was removed as prime minister and Jabr became finance minister. Khalilzad said the changes halted the growth of the Shi'ite militias' influence inside the police, and the U.S. military started taking the worst national police units off the streets for retraining.

But other diplomats, Iraqi officials and U.S. military officers say the militias were so deeply embedded in the police and army that extrajudicial killings carried on until late 2007 and only faded out following an intensive U.S. troop build-up led by Petraeus, who had returned to Iraq earlier that year as the U.S. commander.

The people who paid the ultimate price were the secret prison's detainees. A former Iraqi official told Reuters that at least 10 prisoners were killed following their release. One bunker survivor still fears for his security. He does not believe any lessons were learned from the episode.

"The militias play free," he told Reuters.

As the militias have played a growing role defending Iraq against Islamic State, their popularity has surged among the country's Shi'ite population.

Americans have also applauded the Shi'ite paramilitaries victories. Jeffrey, the former ambassador who has now retired, said he did not worry last year when Islamic State swept across Sunni areas because he was confident that the Kurds and Amiri, the Badr boss, would join the battle.

"(Amiri) is a radical revolutionary bloodthirsty killer," Jeffrey said. "I like people who fight."

In October, counter-terrorism envoy McGurk tweeted his congratulations to the Iraqi security forces and the militias after they seized the town of Baiji and its oil refinery from Islamic State.

In private, though, some U.S. military officers raise concerns. One senior U.S. military officer said he worries that the militias now control entire provinces.

"Without real reconciliation, the Sunnis will stay angry and Islamic State will continue to gain support," he said.

Ryan Crocker, who was U.S. ambassador in Iraq in 2007 at the height of the civil war, believes Amiri and his peers are now more powerful than the Iraqi military.

"The more they assert themselves on the battlefield, the more they become the real power in the land, and the weaker Prime Minister Abadi gets," Crocker said.

Washington's strategy of air strikes against Islamic State combined with turning a blind eye to Shi'ite excesses is cementing the militias' power and helping break Iraq into its religious and ethnic parts, he said. "Our short-term solution is creating a greater long-term problem."

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Previously in Iraq:
* Anthony Wagner Died For Our Sins.

* MSNBC Helped Lie Us Into War.

* Obama Rewrites Iraq War.

* About ISIS.

* Special Report: An Iraqi Smuggler's Tale.

* Terror In Paris And Beirut: An ISIS Reading Guide.

* How Saddam's Men Help Islamic State Rule.

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Also, in secret torture:
* Doc Of Rages.

* 'Incommunicado' Forever: Gitmo Detainee's Case Stalled For 2,477 Days And Counting.

* They Said No To Torture.

* The Trews: What Should We Think About CIA Torture.

* The Tortured History Of The Senate Torture Report.

* Torture USA.

* The Best Reporting On Detention And Rendition Under Obama.

* Primer: Indefinite Detention And The NDAA.

* The Senate Report On CIA Interrogations You May Never See.

* Guantanamo: If The Light Goes Out.

* The Prison That Just Can't Be Closed.

* Barack Obama's Secret Island Prison.

* Guantanamo Prisoner Lifts Lid.

* Read The Fucking Torture Report, People.

* American Torture Story - Chicago Chapter.

* Obama Administration Blocks Release Of New Torture Details.

* REVEALED: The Boom And Bust Of The CIA's Secret Torture Sites.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:05 AM | Permalink

December 16, 2015

Rick's Rescue

With all the flashy, headline-grabbing moves the Cubs have made the past few weeks, we Sox fans could be excused for feeling like a stray mongrel watching the purebreds parade their wares at the Westminster Show.

But we're moving up in the world. Not enough to gain admittance to Madison Square Garden, but we don't have to feel like a stray canine, scavenging the alley for leftovers anymore. We've been rescued.

Gone from third base are the likes of Conor Gillaspie, Mike Olt and Gordon Beckham. National League All-Star Todd Frazier will report to Glendale, Arizona, for the start of spring training in a couple of months.

And we'll no longer have to wonder if Micah Johnson or Carlos Sanchez is truly a big league second baseman, with Brett Lawrie, a five-year veteran with a healthy - for the South Siders anyway - .263 lifetime average coming over from Oakland.

No, Frazier and Lawrie may not make us forget Joe Crede or Nellie Fox any time soon, but they are a definite upgrade from what we had. Add in free-agent catchers Alex Avila and Dioner Navarro, replacing incumbents Tyler Flowers and Geovany Soto, and you have to conclude that general manager Rick Hahn is serious about 2016.

Then again, he has to be since the crosstown rivals keep threatening to make the White Sox' future in Chicago about as promising as Anita Alvarez's.

All four of Hahn's new acquisitions have solid major league experience. Navarro has been a big leaguer for 12 seasons, yet he'll be just 32 on Opening Day. Avila, who has spent all of his seven seasons - most of them injury-plagued - with Detroit, where his dad Al succeeded David Dombrowski as general manager, turns 29 next month. (This being the holiday season, let's try not to read too much into the fact that Alex's father neglected to outbid the White Sox for his son's services.)

Frazier, the Reds' regular third baseman the past five years until Wednesday's trade, will be 30 when the season commences. The National League's starting third baseman in last July's All-Star Game, he averages 28 home runs and 83 RBI extrapolated to a 162-game schedule, according to Baseball Reference. Frazier also is a solid defender.

Meanwhile, Lawrie, who appeared to be the new third baseman until Frazier was acquired, now will move over to second where he appeared 42 times last season. Lawrie, the youngest of the newcomers, will be 26 in January. He played four seasons in Toronto before being traded to Oakland in the Josh Donaldson deal a little more than a year ago. We know how that deal turned out for Billy Beane and the A's, but Hahn wasn't required to part with a future MVP as he dealt two minor league pitchers to get Lawrie.

The White Sox said goodbye to three talented young prospects in the Frazier deal, sending Johnson, Trayce Thompson and hard-throwing Frankie Montas to the Dodgers, who then shipped three prospects to the Reds.

Johnson had every chance to be the Sox' regular second baseman last season, but he was demoted to Charlotte by mid-May to work on his defense. Still, you have to like him because of his speed, demeanor, and potential. The same is true of Thompson, who played the final two months of the season for the Sox, hitting .295 with some power (five HRs) while establishing himself as the best outfielder in the organization. And Montas, just 22 and possessing a 100-mph fastball, made seven September appearances for the big club, striking out 20 hitters in 15 innings.

Yet the trio of youngsters are exactly as advertised: prospects. Thompson never hit higher than .260 in seven minor league seasons. Johnson was a much better minor league hitter with a .301 average, but he struggled with the Sox last season. While Montas strikes out a bunch of guys, he'll need to walk fewer hitters to become a legitimate big league pitcher.

The bottom line is that the White Sox - although they would never say so - can't wait on talented prospects like the just-traded three. The emergence of the Cubs as members of baseball's elite dictates that the Sox had better be competitive now or risk playing in front of just a few thousand airheads like the one writing this column.

Of course, the Cubs had the luxury of fielding horrible teams in the recent past while awaiting the development of players like Kris Bryant, Javy Baez, Jorge Soler and Anthony Rizzo because there are no shortages of airheads willing to spill formidable dollars to watch inferior baseball at Wrigley Field. The Sox clientele never has displayed those tendencies, and the front office knows it.

Of course, as with most life situations, this one also is filled with risk.

For instance, the White Sox have had dismal luck bringing over National Leaguers - see Adam Dunn and Adam LaRoche - in hopes that they will continue to produce. Kindly keep this to yourself. Don't tell Todd Frazier.

And while Avila was an All-Star in 2011 with a .295 average and 19 homers, last season he caught only 44 games due to the concussion-like symptoms he encountered from being hit with multiple foul balls. Avila hit just .191 while making $5.4 million in 2015. He took a $3 million pay cut to sign with the Sox. That's gotta hurt more than a concussion.

Then there's Lawrie's hyper personality. Hahn used terms like "high intensity" and "energy" in describing Lawrie, a Canadian who played a lot of hockey growing up. Couple him with the "energetic" Adam Eaton in the clubhouse, and you might find their teammates scurrying for the privacy of the trainers' room.

On the other hand, this is a group which could use some energy, judging from their play of last season. So turn Lawrie loose. If he grates on teammates' nerves, so be it as long as he can hit.

Once the 2015 season concluded, the general consensus was that Hahn would have to part with a starting pitcher - Jose Quintana was most frequently mentioned - in order to trade for some punch to help the impotent White Sox attack. Yet, the combo of Chris Sale, Quintana, Carlos Rodon, John Danks and Erik Johnson remains undisturbed. Same with the bullpen. Closer David Robertson, another genuine pitcher, was mentioned as trade fodder. He also remains on the roster at this juncture.

Hahn is to be commended. These latest moves make tons of sense for the short term, which, as mentioned, is where the focus needs to be. The GM's maneuverings might be less spectacular than last year when he landed Melky Cabrera, Robertson, Jeff Samardzija, LaRoche, and left-handed reliever Zach Duke. That's a good thing in light of the way the new additions performed last season.

Hahn had some gaping holes to fill, and he's addressed most of those needs. Theo Epstein still is Best in Show in this city, but at least the Sox GM won't have to scrounge for scraps in the garbage this holiday season.

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Roger Wallenstein is our man on the White Sox. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:04 PM | Permalink

Pantera's Thickburger

Hello,

Reaching out to you about some cool music news from Carl's Jr. and Hardee's!

As you may know, last week the company announced the Steakhouse Thickburger - and to support this new menu item, Carl's Jr. and Hardee's have released a spot created by 72andSunny that turns the traditional steakhouse dinner on its head, Pantera-style.

Aptly titled, "Table Setting," the scene opens in an elegant sit-down steakhouse and centers on a delicately set dinner table, featuring a sizzling steak and several dressings.

Soft classical music is then interrupted by the "I'm Broken" track from heavy metal band Pantera, as the sound waves jolt the steakhouse dinner off the table, mixing all the ingredients to create Carl's Jr. and Hardee's Steakhouse Thickburger . . . mid-air!

Served on the chain's signature Fresh Baked Buns, the Steakhouse Thickburger features a charbroiled, 100 percent Black Angus beef patty topped with crispy onion strings, crumbled blue cheese and A.1. Steak Sauce®.

Take a look - it's a good one!

Please let us know of any questions and we hope you can share with your readers.

Many thanks,

Kate Franklin
Public Relations Director
Coast Public Relations

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:45 PM | Permalink

The [Wednesday] Papers

"Detainees, legal advocates and activists testified on Tuesday at the first public hearing to examine Homan Square, the Chicago police interrogation facility exposed by the Guardian and falling under renewed scrutiny amid intense examination of the city's law enforcement officials," the Guardian reports.

"Police department officials were invited to attend Tuesday's hearing of the county commissioners."

Police department officials declined that invitation - but, as a matter of course, did issue a statement:

We have been clear about this for many months. The allegations regarding Homan square and CPD's operations there are completely false, and even a number of independent experts and lawyers have discounted the claims," said spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.

Translation: Even the Chicago media says it's not true - and they didn't even bother asking us questions!

"But seven people who were either detained or involved in exposing the detentions testified instead, for more than an hour of answers meant to push the city closer toward shuttering the West Side facility," notes the Guardian, which has produced more than two dozen articles about Homan Square and is currently engaged in a FOIA lawsuit with the city over documents relate to the facility.

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"Flint Taylor, the longtime civil rights attorney who helped press for a landmark reparations ordinance earlier this year and whose clients are suing the city for unconstitutional 'widespread and interrelated Chicago police department patterns and practices' at Homan Square, gave a testimonial in front of the commission and sizable crowd of citizens who watched.

"Some of the activities in Homan Square fit into the definition of torture, internationally, under the UN's definition," Taylor said, "and Homan Square needs to be looked at under that light."

"He argued that allegations logged in lawsuits and a series of Guardian articles fit into a long history of police practices stemming from the police detective Jon Burge, who who tortured more than 200 Chicago citizens who were in police custody across two decades."

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My friend Tracy Siska, of the Chicago Justice Project, also testified. Afterward, he told Progress Illinois this:

"I'm sick of hearing journalists telling me off the record that it couldn't have possibly happened in Chicago and that myself and everyone else are liars."

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Chicago is actually the most likely (American) city this could possibly happen in. If it can't happen here, it can't happen anywhere. And we know it can.

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It's also so not-hard to believe. It's not fantastical in any way - not nearly as hard to believe as Burge's torture chambers or even just the mind-blowing routine scandal around here.

(A decorated chief of detectives in Chicago once ran a nationwide jewelry ring for the mob! A police chief not too long ago resigned over his friendship with a mob-related murder suspect! C'mon!)

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As far as I can tell, neither the Tribune nor the Sun-Times covered the hearing.

UPDATE: 11:10 a.m.: From the Guardian's Zach Stafford:

In a second tweet, Zach clarified further: "I am not 100% sure, but lets just say their marked seats were taken by the Guardian and P-IL due to being empty."

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"The reality is, no one knows where that person is at Homan Square," said University of Chicago law professor Craig Futterman told the Guardian in October. "They're disappeared at that point."

Futterman was instrumental in the release of the Laquan McDonald dash-cam video.

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More:

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Some commissioners tried to kill the hearing. Another, Deborah Sims, oddly feared even accepting handouts, as if they were Top Secret documents that could land her in a place like . . . Homan Square.

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Finally, Chuy:

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Previously in Homan Square:

* The [Monday] Papers: Suddenly, the CPD is a fine upstanding trustworthy institution.

* The Beachwood Radio Hour #46: Explaining Chicago's Black Site.

* The [Wednesday] Papers: Another day, another Guardian story.

* The [Thursday] Papers: John Conroy vs. the Chicago media. Again.

* The Beachwood Radio Hour #47: What Chicagoans Aren't Being Told.

* The Beachwood Radio Hour #48: Carol Marin's Blinders & What Tom Durkin Really Said.

* The [Monday] Papers: Homan Squared.

* Chicago Politicians Push DOJ To investigate 'CIA Or Gestapo Tactics' At Secret Police Site.

* Chicago's Homan Square: Torture By Any Other Name . . .

* Amnesty International Calls For Federal Investigation Of Homan Square.

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Council Commiseration
Of course, the "big" hearing yesterday was the one hosted by the Chicago City Council. Check out @BeachwoodReport for commentary on that - and find out why WBEZ's Natalie Moore was Tuesday's Best Person in Chicago (and who was a close second).

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Both hearings at the same time in the same building on the same day. Draw a line, people.

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A City Called Heaven
God's Posse and the critical role of Chicago in gospel music.

How Saddam's Men Help Islamic State Rule
Of Islamic State's 23 portfolios - equivalent to ministries - former Saddam regime officers run three of the most crucial: security, military and finance.

The Art Institute's New Contemporary
Iconic artists transform collection.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Protemporary.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:54 AM | Permalink

A City Called Heaven

"Gospel music historian and radio host Robert Marovich will discuss his book A City Called Heaven during a Society of Midland Authors program at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 12, at Harold Washington Library Center," the Society says in a press release. "God's Posse, a gospel chorus, will perform. Admission is free, and no advance reservations are required.

"Published this year by the University of Illinois Press, the book follows gospel music from early hymns and camp meetings through the Great Migration that brought it to Chicago.

"In time, the music grew into the sanctified soundtrack of the city's mainline black Protestant churches.

"In addition to drawing on print media and ephemera, Marovich mines hours of interviews with nearly 50 artists, ministers, and historians - as well as with relatives and friends of past gospel pioneers - to recover many forgotten singers, musicians, songwriters, and industry leaders.

"He also examines how a lack of economic opportunity bred an entrepreneurial spirit that fueled gospel music's rise to popularity and opened a gate to social mobility for a number of its practitioners.

Marovich is a gospel music historian, author and radio host. "Gospel Memories," his radio program of classic gospel, spiritual, and jubilee music, airs on Chicago's WLUW-FM and throughout the week on Internet, low-power FM, and terrestrial radio stations.

"Marovich writes about classic and contemporary gospel music as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Gospel Music. The website, formerly known as The Black Gospel Blog, was nominated for a Rhythm of Gospel Award in 2013."

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"A City Called Heaven" by Mahalia Jackson:

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Guarino, Tribune:

"This involves a wide cast of figures and local congregations that all contribute to this slowly unfolding story, and Marovich pinpoints them on his cultural map so deftly the reader can begin to understand, not just why gospel became such a necessary expression of faith for Southern migrants to Bronzeville, Morgan Park, and other near South Side neighborhoods, but also why Chicago was so critical.

"While Chicago's promise of jobs and new freedoms created the Great Migration from the South, the city was also a commercial center to industries that promoted gospel in its earliest days: sheet music publishing and radio broadcasting.

"It wasn't until the late 1940s that the big-time music business entered the picture, enabling worldwide success for stars including Jackson - so popular that when she died in 1972, she had no less than three funerals in two cities, Marovich notes. Until then, however, the music was largely a live phenomenon for true believers."

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Berlatsky, Urban Faith:

"Marovich's book is in many ways a chronicle of gospel fans, performers, and devotees telling each other that they are in one way or another doing it wrong - performing too demonstratively, or in the wrong venue, or in the wrong way, for the wrong people.

"The criticism can seem excessive and narrow-minded at times, but it reflects, perhaps, how much has been at stake for gospel, as a music and a community.

"Gospel has, and has always had, a relatively small audience as American musical genres go, but in part because of that it's born outsize hopes, dreams, and prayers.

"Keeping the faith - whether by refusing to appear at the Apollo or appearing with Dinah Shore - is a complicated process.

"A City Called Heaven honors those who devoted themselves to the gospel by showing how various, and how important, that devotion has been."

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:31 AM | Permalink

How Saddam's Fighters Help Islamic State Rule

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MALA QARA, Iraq - Mohannad is a spy for Islamic State. He eavesdrops on chatter in the street markets of Mosul and reports back to his handlers when someone breaks the militant group's rules. One man he informed on this year - a street trader defying a ban on selling cigarettes - was fined and tortured by Islamic State fighters, according to a friend of Mohannad's family. If the trader did not stop, his torturers told the man, they would kill him.

Mohannad is paid $20 for every offender he helps to catch.

He is 14.

The teenager is one cog in the intelligence network Islamic State has put in place since it seized vast stretches of Iraq and neighboring Syria. Informers range from children to battle-hardened fighters. Overseeing the network are former army and intelligence officers, many of whom helped keep former Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party in power for years.

Saddam-era officers have been a powerful factor in the rise of Islamic State, in particular in the Sunni militant group's victories in Iraq last year. Islamic State then out-muscled the Sunni-dominated Baath Party and absorbed thousands of its followers. The new recruits joined Saddam-era officers who already held key posts in Islamic State.

The Baathists have strengthened the group's spy networks and battlefield tactics, and are instrumental in the survival of its self-proclaimed Caliphate, according to interviews with dozens of people, including Baath leaders, former intelligence and military officers, Western diplomats and 35 Iraqis who recently fled Islamic State territory for Kurdistan.

Of Islamic State's 23 portfolios - equivalent to ministries - former Saddam regime officers run three of the most crucial: security, military and finance, according to Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi analyst who has worked with the Iraqi government.

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Iraq's Finance Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd who spent years opposing Saddam's regime, said the ex-Baathists working with Islamic State provide the group with highly effective guidance on explosives, strategy and planning.

"They know who is who, family by family, name by name," he said.

One former senior security official in the Baath Party said, "The fingerprints of the old Iraqi state are clear on their work. You can feel it."

In many ways, it is a union of convenience. Most former Baathist officers have little in common with Islamic State. Saddam promoted Arab nationalism and secularism for most of his rule.

But many of the ex-Baathists working with Islamic State are driven by self-preservation and a shared hatred of the Shi'ite-led government in Baghdad. Others are true believers who became radicalized in the early years after Saddam's ouster, converted on the battlefield or in U.S. military and Iraqi prisons.

One former intelligence commander who served in Iraq's national intelligence service from 2003 to 2009 said some ex-Baathists pushed out of state agencies by Iraq's government were only too happy to find new masters.

"ISIS pays them," he said.

A few Sunni lawmakers hope that former Saddam-era officers might be persuaded to abandon their Islamic State allies. But a senior official close to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said dealing with them was difficult because the Baathists are so deeply split, with some supporting Islamic State and some opposed.

"Who are they?" he asked. "Some wave olive branches. Others still wave a gun."

A spokesman for Abadi, Saad al-Hadithi, said the Iraqi government opposes negotiations with the Baath Party.

"There is no space for them in the political process," he said. "They are banned under the Constitution."

TURNING POINT IN TIKRIT

Baathists began collaborating with al-Qaeda in Iraq - the early incarnation of what would become Islamic State - soon after Saddam Hussein was ousted in 2003. Saddam had run a brutal police state. The U.S. occupation dissolved the Baath Party and barred senior and even middling party officials from joining the new security services. Some left the country; others joined the anti-American insurgency.

But then the Baathists and jihadists disagreed over who should be in charge. Many ex-Baathists struck an alliance with the U.S. military and turned on the jihadists.

By 2014, the Baathists and the jihadists were back to being allies. As Islamic State fighters swept through Central Iraq, they were joined by the Army of the Men of the Naqshbandi Order, a group of Baathist fighters.

The Naqshbandi and smaller groups of Saddam-era officers made up the majority of fighters in the initial stages of last year's military onslaught, according to Sunni tribal leaders, Baathists and an Iraqi security commander. It was the Naqshbandi who rallied locals in Mosul to rise up against Baghdad, and who planned and commanded many of last year's military advances, according to Iraqi officials and Abdul al-Samad al-Ghrairy, a senior official in what's left of the Baath Party.

Within days, though, Islamic State "took the revolution from us," said Ghrairy. "We couldn't sustain the battle."

In Tikrit, Islamic State fighters opened a jail and released up to 200 followers. More Islamic State fighters poured into the city, many of them with heavy machine guns. These men "took all the army's weapons and didn't give the Naqshabandi any. They kicked them aside," a senior security official in Salahuddin said.

Soon after the fall of Tikrit in June 2014, leaders from the main factions of the Sunni rebellion met in the house of a Baath Party member. According to the senior security official, Tikrit tribal leaders and Baath officials, Islamic State told Baathists they had a choice: Join us or stand down. Some Baathists abandoned the revolt. Others stayed, swelling the ranks of Islamic State with mid-level security veterans.

That has boosted Islamic State's firepower and tactical prowess.

"This is not the al-Qaeda we fought before," said a prominent Sunni from Mosul who battled Islamic State's forerunners. "Their tactics are different. These are men educated in military staff college. They are ex-army leaders. They are not simple minds, but men with real experience."

Both Ghrairy and Khudair Murshidy, the Baath Party's official spokesman, told Reuters that the party's armed wing is frozen in the aftermath of its defeat. Islamic State, they added, had killed some 600 Baath supporters and Naqshbandi fighters.

"Their policy is to kill everyone, destroy everyone," Murshidy said. "They create fear and death everywhere and control areas. Many people have joined them now. At first they were a few hundred, now they are maybe more than 50,000."

"THE WALLS HAVE EARS"

Emma Sky, a former adviser to the U.S. military, believes Islamic State has effectively subsumed the Baathists. "The mustached officers have grown religious beards. I think many have genuinely become religious," she said.

Among the most high profile Baathists to join Islamic State are Ayman Sabawi, the son of Saddam Hussein's half-brother, and Raad Hassan, Saddam's cousin, said the senior Salahuddin security official and several tribal leaders. Both were children during Saddam's time, but the family connection is powerfully symbolic.

More senior officers now in Islamic State include Walid Jasim (aka Abu Ahmed al-Alwani) who was a captain of intelligence in Saddam's time, and Fadhil al-Hiyala (aka Abu Muslim al-Turkmani) whom some believe was a deputy to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi until he was killed in an airstrike earlier this year.

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The group's multi-layered security and intelligence agencies in Mosul, the biggest city in northern Iraq, are overseen by an agency called Amniya - literally "Security." The agency has six branches, each responsible for maintaining a different aspect of security.

The overall head of Amniya in Iraq and Syria is a former Saddam-era intelligence officer from Fallujah called Ayad Hamid al-Jumaili, who joined the Sunni insurgency after the U.S.-led invasion and now answers directly to Baghdadi, according to Hashimi, the analyst.

A vice squad known as Hisba enforces order on the streets. Hisba officers punish everyone from cigarette traders to women not fully covered. They also run a network of informants, placing children such as 14-year-old Mohannad in mosques and markets, and women at funerals and family gatherings, according to residents of Mosul.

"The work of these children is rewarded with gifts or small cash prizes," said the former intelligence officer. "Women, on the other hand, are recruited mostly from (Islamic State) families and they gather information for no reward."

The repression has become so intense in Mosul, residents said, people have revived a phrase used in Saddam's era: "The walls have ears."

Interviews with 35 men who recently escaped from Islamic State-held villages around Mosul offer rare details of what is happening inside Islamic State territory.

Reuters sat in on debriefings of the men by Staff Lieutenant Colonel Surood Abdel Salal, a Kurdish intelligence official at a base behind the frontline south of Erbil. Most of those questioned were former members of the Iraqi security forces defeated by Islamic State in Mosul.

The 35 men described a life of increasing deprivation under Islamic State and a climate of paranoia in which they could trust no-one, even their own relatives.

One man in Mosul told Reuters his brother had been executed in early October after he cursed Islamic State and the Caliphate while arguing with his son, who wanted to join the group.

"My brother's shouting was heard by the neighbors. During that time there was a group of children who were playing in front of the house," said the man. "Not a week had passed and my brother was arrested on charges of cursing God and the Islamic State."

Islamic State execution squads often arrive in a large bus with tinted windows, another resident said. Police seal off streets surrounding the place where a killing is to be carried out. Men dressed in black with balaclavas either shoot people, or behead them with swords.

The bodies of those deemed to have committed the worst offenses - cursing God or the group - are thrown in an area called al-Khafsa, a deep natural crater in the desert just south of Mosul, residents in the city said. Those killed for lesser crimes are returned to their families wrapped in a blanket.

A WEB OF INFORMANTS

In September, according to several of the men who fled, Islamic State's Amniya agency rounded up around 400 former members of Iraq's security forces and executed them. Families of those dumped in al-Khafsa were then sent a kind of receipt to notify them of the execution. Among those who described the massacre was a 21-year-old from a village east of Mosul whose cousin's corpse was returned on the second day of the Muslim Feast of Sacrifice.

"They brought it wrapped in a blanket with three bullet wounds," he said.

Some of the 35 escapees said people are banned from leaving Islamic State territory; those caught leaving are routinely killed. Two escapees recounted the fate of a group of men who tried to leave recently. Islamic State caught them and executioners dropped a concrete blast wall on top of them. The killing was filmed and replayed on large screens the militants have erected in public spaces.

According to the fugitives' testimony, Islamic State has embedded itself in almost every village, converting the homes of former Iraqi military officers into bases and creating a web of informants. Mobile phones are banned as is access to the Internet.

"They had an informant in each area who said so-and-so didn't go to prayers," said Fathi, a 30-year-old former policeman from a village east of Mosul.

Many of the escapees had been on the run for months, carefully avoiding Islamic State checkpoints, especially those equipped with laptops the militants use to look up names on a database. Some hid in woodland along the Tigris River.

Ahmed, 32, said he was wanted by Islamic State for belonging to a tribal militia that fought the insurgents before the fall of Mosul. He said he had not been home for months because he feared one of his young daughters would betray his presence. "Maybe someone will come and ask my children (where I am) and they don't know any better," he said.

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Local Islamic State leaders send their own children out as scouts, some of the escapees said. One man said the militants paid cigarette sellers to inform on their customers. So pervasive is Islamic State's surveillance network that even at home people cannot let their guard down, according to 31-year-old policeman Saad Khalaf Ali. He was arrested and accused of speaking against the militants. He denied it, but the militants produced footage of him in his own home saying he wished for government forces to retake the area. The video had been secretly filmed by a boy from the village, the policeman said.

"They take advantage of small children most of all because people don't suspect them," he said.

Ali begged the militants for forgiveness and was released. But they detained him again several months later on charges of informing Kurdish and Iraqi forces about Islamic State positions. This time, he said, his own nephew and a cousin informed on him. He would have been executed but for a joint raid by American and Kurdish Special Forces in October which rescued him and 68 others.

UNDER PRESSURE?

It will be difficult for Baghdad to lure away ex-Baathists and Saddam-era officers working with Islamic State. The Iraqi government itself is bogged down by internal divisions, while the parts of the Baath party that have not joined Islamic State cannot agree on whether they want talks, or even who should represent them.

Meantime the war drags on.

In October, Baghdad created a special office to share intelligence between Iraq, Iran, Russia and the Syrian government. That office is providing Iraq's air force with information on Islamic State positions. Baghdad has also stepped up efforts to squeeze Islamic State financially by attacking oil facilities, pressuring businessmen who have helped the militants, and stopping salaries to government employees in areas under Islamic State rule.

Iraqi Finance Minister Zebari said Islamic State in Mosul had responded by "extorting more money from the public. They are going more towards criminal actions and kidnapping."

The group's surveillance network is testament to its resourcefulness and ability to survive.

After his release from prison, Ahmed al-Tai'i, the cigarette salesman reported by 14-year-old Mohannad, confronted the boy's father. The father admitted that Islamic State militants had paid Mohannad and other youngsters to help them, according to a friend of Tai'i.

The cigarette salesman says his arrest and imprisonment have left him paranoid.

"Since I left prison a constant fear has lived with me. If I want to say or do something that contravenes the orders and instructions of Islamic State I look around to check there is nobody, even my friends, and especially small children," he said. "I have lost trust in everyone around me."

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Coles reported from Mala Qara and Parker from Erbil; Additional reporting by Ahmed Rasheed, Stephen Kalin and Michael Georgy in Baghdad and Phil Stewart in Washington.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:59 AM | Permalink

At The Art Institute | The New Contemporary

"Iconic contemporary masterpieces by artists such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Jasper Johns are among the 44 new works that transform the presentation of our contemporary collection. Opened this week.


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Chicago Tonight: Transformative

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Chicago: That Massive Pop Art Exhibit

"When Gold Coast philanthropists Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson donated their $400 million collection of pop art to the Art Institute in April, the culturati looked on in awe. It was the biggest gift in the museum's 136-year history: 44 masterpieces, including 10 paintings by Andy Warhol and sculptures by Jeff Koons and Charles Ray. 'You could not bring these works together again today for any dollar amount,' says curator James Rondeau."

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:51 AM | Permalink

December 15, 2015

The [Tuesday] Papers

I'm working on a lot of stuff, people. Including a wealth of misreporting and unfounded commentary on the Laquan McDonald case. Plus, the top row of letters on my keyboard have become as unreliable as Pat Camden's statements at crime scenes. And the site went down for a couple hours this morning due to server issues. So this is all you get.

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If the Facebook embeds aren't showing up, it's not just you. I give up.

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Make Someone's Holiday Bright

Give the gift of Beachwood - check it out, if you give enough I come wash your car.

Posted by The Beachwood Reporter on Monday, December 14, 2015

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Special Report: Buybacks Enrich The Bosses Even When Business Sags
"Too easy to manipulate," says University of Illinois finance professor Heitor Almeida.

The Weekend In Chicago Rock
Featuring: Deerhunter, The Handcuffs, I Lost Control, Nekrogoblikon, Meat Wave, Tommy Emmanuel, Al B. Sure, The Sword, Andrew Bird, Big Syn, ACxDC, Excision, Avizmal, Woosung Alice, The 1975, and Styx.

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BeachBook

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TweetWood
A sampling.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: For rent or own.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:24 PM | Permalink

Special Report: Buybacks Enrich The Bosses Even When Business Sags

When health insurer Humana reported worse-than-expected quarterly earnings in late 2014 - including a 21 percent drop in net income - it softened the blow by immediately telling investors it would make a $500 million share repurchase.

In addition to soothing shareholders, the surprise buyback benefited the company's senior executives. It added around two cents to the company's annual earnings per share, allowing Humana to surpass its $7.50 EPS target by a single cent and unlocking higher pay for top managers under terms of the company's compensation agreement.

Thanks to Humana hitting that target, Chief Executive Officer Bruce Broussard earned a $1.68 million bonus for 2014.

Most publicly traded U.S. companies reward top managers for hitting performance targets, meant to tie the interests of managers and shareholders together. At many big companies, those interests are deemed to be best aligned by linking executive performance to earnings per share, along with measures derived from the company's stock price.

But these metrics may not be solely a reflection of a company's operating performance. They can be, and often are, influenced through stock repurchases. In addition to cutting the number of a company's shares outstanding, and thus lifting EPS, buybacks also increase demand for the shares, usually providing a lift to the share price, which affects other performance markers.

As corporate America engages in an unprecedented buyback binge, soaring CEO pay tied to short-term performance measures like EPS is prompting criticism that executives are using stock repurchases to enrich themselves at the expense of long-term corporate health, capital investment and employment.

"We've accepted a definition of performance that is narrow and quite possibly inappropriate," said Rosanna Landis Weaver, program manager of the executive compensation initiative at As You Sow, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit that promotes corporate responsibility. Pay for performance as it is often structured creates "very troublesome, problematic incentives that can potentially drive very short-term thinking."

A Reuters analysis of the companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index found that 255 of those companies reward executives in part by using EPS, while another 28 use other per-share metrics that can be influenced by share buybacks.

In addition, 303 also use total shareholder return, essentially a company's share price appreciation plus dividends, and 169 companies use both EPS and total shareholder return to help determine pay.

STANDARD PRACTICE

EPS and share-price metrics underpin much of the compensation of some of the highest-paid CEOs, including those at Walt Disney Co, Viacom Inc, 21st Century Fox Inc, Target Corp and Cisco Systems Inc.

Fewer than 20 of the S&P 500 companies disclose in their proxies whether they exclude the impact of buybacks on per-share metrics that determine executive pay.

Humana would not say whether it adjusted targets to account for its buyback last year. In a statement to Reuters, the company said it sets annual per-share targets for executives that take into account the company's "capital allocation strategy," which includes buybacks, dividends, acquisitions and investments.

Experts said Humana would not have reached the target without the $500 million buyback. The company told analysts at the time of the repurchase announcement in November 2014 that it expected to report annual earnings per share of between $7.40 and $7.60 for the full year.

"Given the magnitude of the repurchase, the EPS would have been below $7.50 had it not been for the repurchase," said Heitor Almeida, a professor of finance with the College of Business at the University of Illinois in Champaign.

As reported in the first article in this series, share buybacks by U.S. non-financial companies reached a record $520 billion in the most recent reporting year. A Reuters analysis of 3,300 non-financial companies found that together, buybacks and dividends have surpassed total capital expenditures and are more than double research and development spending.

Companies buy back their shares for various reasons. They do it when they believe their shares are undervalued, or to make use of cash or cheap debt financing when business conditions don't justify capital or R&D spending. They also do it to meet the expectations of increasingly demanding investors.

Lately, the sheer volume of buybacks has prompted complaints among academics, politicians and investors that massive stock repurchases are stifling innovation and hurting U.S. competitiveness - and contributing to widening income inequality by rewarding executives with ever higher pay, often divorced from a company's underlying performance.

"There's been an over-focus on buybacks and raising EPS to hit share option targets, and we know that those are concentrated in the hands of the few, and that the few is in the top 1 percent," said James Montier, a member of the asset allocation team at global investment firm GMO in London, which manages more than $100 billion in assets.

The introduction of performance targets has been a driver of surging executive pay, helping to widen the gap between the richest in America and the rest of the country. Median CEO pay among companies in the S&P 500 increased to a record $10.3 million last year, up from $8.6 million in 2010, according to data firm Equilar.

At those levels, CEOs last year were paid 303 times what workers in their industries earned, compared with a ratio of 59 times in 1989, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington-based nonprofit.

SALARY AND A LOT MORE

Today, the bulk of CEO compensation comes from cash and stock awards, much of it tied to performance metrics. Last year, base salary accounted for just 8 percent of CEO pay for S&P 500 companies, while cash and stock incentives made up more than 45 percent, according to proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services.

Thomson Reuters Corp, owner of Reuters News, used EPS to determine half of the performance awards in the three-year pay cycle ended in 2014 for CEO Jim Smith and other executives. Smith last year took home $6.6 million in compensation. The company's three-year performance awards going forward are based on both EPS and free cash flow per share. A company spokesman said Thomson Reuters does not adjust for the impact of stock buybacks on those metrics.

Share repurchases can make the difference in meeting preset targets, according to a Reuters review of corporate proxies.

At Xerox Corp, revenue, net income and spending on research and development all declined last year. But the printer and copier maker's EPS target of $1.12 was unchanged from the prior year, and managers hit it exactly after $1.1 billion in share repurchases.

Half of CEO Ursula Burns's annual bonus target was predicated on hitting that EPS level; ultimately, she received a bonus of $1.98 million out of a possible $2.2 million. EPS is also a major determinant of even bigger bonuses for a three-year performance cycle ending this year.

Xerox repurchased $1.35 billion of its shares in the first three quarters of this year. The company declined to comment. Its proxy statement does not indicate whether it adjusts targets to account for buybacks.

Managers at information technology company EMC hit their EPS target for 2014 of $1.90 with the help of $3.7 billion in share repurchases. Based on the share count before the buybacks, EPS last year would have been only $1.81, little changed from $1.80 a year earlier, according to a Reuters calculation.

The EPS target accounted for half of CEO Joseph Tucci's annual $1.01 million bonus. It also is used to determine 45 percent of bonus share awards for the company's future three-year targets.

EMC declined to comment. Its proxy statement does not address whether it makes adjustments to account for buybacks. It has bought back $3.11 billion in shares so far this year.

Buybacks can boost a company's share price to benefit executives whose shares vest over a period of years. Activision Blizzard Inc, purveyor of "Guitar Hero," "Call of Duty" and other well-known video games, signed Chief Executive Robert Kotick to a contract in 2012 that included $56 million in share awards that vest over time, depending in part on the share price and EPS.

Last year, Kotick ended up getting about $22 million in performance-based cash and stock awards, about the same as the year prior, even as net income dropped 17 percent. How? The stock rose substantially, meeting goals for total shareholder return and increasing the value of share awards.

Total shareholder return was helped by an $8.2 billion repurchase made in late 2013 - when the company and a group of investors led by Kotick and Activision Chairman Brian Kelly bought out a stake held by then-majority shareholder Vivendi. The company said the deal allowed Activision to operate with more flexibility.

The shares rose 33 percent from the date of the buyback announcement in July 2013 through the end of 2014. The share price has continued to rise this year, making the awards even more valuable.

Activision declined to comment.

In 1992, Congress changed the tax code to curb rising executive pay and encourage performance-based compensation. It didn't work. Instead, the shift is widely blamed for soaring executive pay and a heavier emphasis on short-term results.

Companies started tying performance pay to "short-term metrics, and suddenly all the things we don't want to happen start happening," said Lynn Stout, a professor of corporate and business law at Cornell Law School in Ithaca, New York. "Despite 20 years of trying, we have still failed to come up with an objective performance metric that can't be gamed."

Shareholder expectations have changed, too. The individuals and other smaller, mostly passive investors who dominated equity markets during the postwar decades have given way to large institutional investors. These institutions tend to want higher returns, sooner, than their predecessors. Consider that the average time investors held a particular share has fallen from around eight years in 1960 to a year and a half now, according to New York Stock Exchange data.

"TOO EASY TO MANIPULATE"

Companies like to use EPS as a performance metric because it is the primary focus of financial analysts when assessing the value of a stock and of investors when evaluating their return on investment.

But "it is not an appropriate target, it's too easy to manipulate," said Almeida, the University of Illinois finance professor.

In 2011, Amgen CEO Kevin Sharer oversaw $8.32 billion of buybacks, by far the largest in the pharmaceutical maker's history. More than $5 billion of those repurchases came in the fourth quarter of the year.

Soon after, Amgen reported that net income was lower than it had been in the three preceding years. At the same time, the buybacks lifted EPS far above the target level that determined 30 percent of Sharer's bonus, doubling the amount he earned for that portion of his $4.88 million annual bonus. Without the buyouts, EPS would have fallen below the target level.

Sharer left the company in May 2012 and is now on the faculty of Harvard Business School. He did not respond to requests for comment.

The Amgen board's compensation committee removed EPS as a performance metric the next year. It opted, instead, to begin using net income, saying in a 2012 proxy statement that doing so would "align compensation with a measure that more directly correlates with the underlying performance of our operations."

Members of Amgen's 2011 compensation committee declined to comment.

Some companies, including software developer Citrix Systems and kidney dialysis company DaVita, say they avoid EPS in pay calculations because it is too vulnerable to manipulation.

Most companies that use per-share metrics for executive awards, however, say little about whether they adjust results to account for buybacks. A select few, including Johnson & Johnson, FedEx, Time Warner Inc and IBM, do disclose that they strip out the potential effect of buybacks on performance metrics.

FedEx, in its most recent filing, said it excluded the effect of buybacks because the positive effect on EPS "did not reflect core business performance." Time Warner said it adjusts for buybacks "so that payouts were not advantaged" if the media company repurchased more shares than it initially anticipated when setting performance goals.

Steve Pakela, managing partner at Pay Governance in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which advises more than 40 S&P 500 companies on executive pay, said some directors "believe you shouldn't strip out the effect" because share buybacks may be the best use of capital.

In addition to EPS, there is total shareholder return, which typically comprises a company's share price appreciation plus dividends over time. Total return, often used to compare performance among peer companies, has also become a popular performance measure for executive pay.

By providing a lift to a stock's price, buybacks can increase total shareholder return to target levels, resulting in more stock awards for executives. And of course, the higher stock price lifts the value of company stock they already own.

"It can goose the price at time when the high price means they earn performance shares . . . even if the stock price later goes back down, they got their shares," said Michael Dorff, a law professor at the Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles.

Exxon, the largest repurchaser of shares over the past decade, has rejected shareholder proposals that it add three-year targets based on shareholder return to its compensation program. In its most recent proxy, the energy company said doing so could increase risk-taking and encourage underinvestment to achieve short-term results.

The energy giant makes half of its annual executive bonus payments contingent on meeting longer-term EPS thresholds. Since 2005, the company has spent more than $200 billion on buybacks.

ADDITIONAL TWEAKS

While performance targets are specific, they aren't necessarily fixed. Corporate boards often adjust them or how they are calculated in ways that lift executive pay.

Humana specifies EPS ranges to determine annual bonuses paid to its executives. For the past three years, buybacks of more than $500 million a year increased EPS. That wasn't all, however. For each of those years, the board altered calculations in ways that also bumped EPS higher.

For 2012, then-CEO Michael McCallister received a higher bonus than he otherwise would have - $1.63 million - after Humana's board removed litigation expenses from its EPS calculation.

He was succeeded as CEO at the start of 2013 by Broussard. For that year, Broussard's annual bonus was lifted into the maximum range, for a payment $2.44 million, after accounting for the cost of posting additional reserves against long-term insurance policies.

For 2014, Humana discounted from its EPS calculation losses from paying down some bonds, even as its overall debt levels increased. That adjustment brought the company just below its EPS target of $7.50.

The $500 million buyback the company announced late last year, part of its total $872 million in buybacks in 2014, was an accelerated share repurchase. In this sort of deal, a company buys all the stock from an investment bank in a single transaction. That allows it to book the reduction in shares outstanding immediately, and the bank then buys the shares on the open market over the ensuing months.

Humana's accelerated share repurchase lifted EPS to $7.51, just above the target.

Susan Young, an associate professor of accounting and taxation at Fordham University in New York, said accelerated buybacks are commonly used to reach compensation targets. "I can't think of a good reason for this form of repurchase," she said, noting that the programs restrict a company's flexibility to reduce or stop buybacks if shares become too expensive.

Roy Dunbar, a member of the Humana board's compensation committee, declined to comment on Humana specifically. He said the benefit of accelerated repurchases is to, "in a controlled way, buy a significant slice of available shares early in the program," before an announced buyback pushes up the share price and increases the cost to the company.

He also said an accelerated program allows shareholders to see immediate action, which is "important to signal a higher degree of confidence in something shareholders care a great deal about."

In general, he said, "effective compensation committees are aware of impact of share repurchases on EPS, particularly when EPS is part of the equity compensation of management."

In July, Aetna Inc announced that it would acquire Humana in a deal that at the time valued Humana at $37 billion. If Broussard leaves after the deal, he won't go empty-handed.

Just before the Aetna deal was announced, Broussard's compensation agreement was modified to accelerate equity awards and remove restrictions on exercising some stock options if he leaves or is terminated within two years of any acquisition, a regulatory filing shows.

At the end of last year, Broussard held unvested share awards valued at around $12.8 million, which have since increased in value as Humana's share price has climbed 18 percent.

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See also:
* Humana Boosted CEO's Package Before Aetna Deal.

* Bruce Broussard, Humana's New CEO, Used $323,000 Of Company Money Commuting To Work In 2012.

* Broussard, Humana and the Clinton Foundation.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:08 AM | Permalink

December 14, 2015

The Weekend In Chicago Rock

You shoulda been there.

1. Deerhunter at Thalia Hall on Sunday night.


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2. The Handcuffs at Martyrs' on Friday night.

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3. I Lost Control at Martyrs' on Friday night.

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4. Al B. Sure at the Shrine on Saturday night.

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5. Meat Wave at the Empty Bottle on Saturday night.

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6. Nekrogoblikon at the Cobra Lounge on Thursday night.

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7. The Sword at Thalia Hall on Saturday night.

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8. Andrew Bird at the Hideout on Friday night.

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9. Tommy Emmanuel at the Park West on Thursday night.

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10. Big Syn at the Burliington on Sunday night.

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11. ACxDC at the Beat Kitchen on Sunday night.

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12. Excision at the Aragon on Saturday night.

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13. Avizmal at the Burlington on Sunday night.

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14. Woosung Alice at the Burlington on Sunday night.

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15. Styx at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond on Friday night.

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Catching up with . . .

The 1975 at the Riv on Tuesday night.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:24 PM | Permalink

SportsMonday: Jay Cutler No Bill Murray

The biggest story is still the quarterback, and the biggest question is if John Fox will avoid assigning too much significance to Jay Cutler's 2015 stats.

As the Bears extended their run Sunday of brutally bad play at home to well over a season overall (losing nine of the last 10 games played at Soldier Field), somehow Jay Cutler emerged to rave reviews.

And if one only looks at his stats, it isn't surprising. He finished the 24-21 loss to Washington, the one that assured the 5-8 Bears will finish no better than .500 this year, with 19 completions in 31 attempts. He threw for two touchdowns, no interceptions and posted his second-best quarterback rating (117.0) of the season.

But he didn't win, again. After the game, Cutler likened the Bears' recent run of play to Groundhog Day.

One big difference: In Groundhog Day, a whole host of events occur no matter what Bill Murray's main character does. All he can do is try to ameliorate the negative consequences of those events. In real life, Cutler is the one doing the same thing over and over - to the same results. And without the happy ending.

In the past, shaky play-calling by seemingly over-matched offensive coordinators has been an excuse for Cutler's inability to translate his talent into wins. But at this point that has to be thrown out the window, doesn't it? Cutler has the power to change virtually any play call at the line of scrimmage. If a play fails, the coordinator should take some heat for calling it, but there always has to be the awareness that Cutler didn't have to run it. At other times, Cutler checks into the plays that don't work. Either way, it's ultimately on Cutler.

The quarterback's only turnover Sunday was a classic Jay Cutler play. In the speed of the game, it appeared as though a defensive end had slipped in on Cutler's blind side and slammed him down, dislodging the football for a fumble in the process. But the end didn't come in on Cutler's blind side. He blew around the end of the Bears' botched blocking scheme to Cutler's right, where a right-handed quarterback has to see a rusher coming.

If it had been a cornerback blitzing from the extreme outside maybe Cutler missing him would have been understandable. But this was an edge rusher, and edge rushers on the right side have to be in Cutler's field of vision. But he wasn't; Cutler gave up the football and Washington was well on its way to an early, two-touchdown advantage.

To a large degree, that fumble book-ended with the Bears' final possession to give fans a better picture of the quarterback's day. Cutler led the Bears on impressive scoring drives and made a bunch of great passes, especially when the undisciplined Washington pass rush allowed him to climb the pocket and move out to his right as he continued to scan the field. He also bounced back from several sacks. When I criticize him, I always feel the need to stress that whatever his other flaws, Cutler has always been as tough as nails and continues to be.

But with a second-and-7 at the Washington 32 with 1:57 remaining, Cutler tried to heave a deep ball down the left sideline to Alshon Jeffrey. The play was as well-covered as it could have been, and Cutler was lucky the ball wasn't intercepted.

The next play was Cutler's final throw, and it was especially irritating. He had the right idea, trying to hit Eddie Royal with a back-shoulder pass as he ran a well-covered route down the seam. If Royal had been more in sync with Cutler, he would have seen the pass earlier, stopped his route earlier and had a chance to make a big play.

But Royal had been out for more than a month due to injury before this game. Sure enough, the pass fell harmlessly incomplete. There were only about a thousand other, higher-percentage passes Cutler could have thrown during those last two plays. But he didn't. And when you look back at his Bears career, you realize he never has thrown enough smart passes. And that's why his team gets beat time and time and time again.

The basic Jay Cutler fact remains absolutely true: Every game he plays for your football team is another game further away from a championship.

Barring an absolute offensive collapse in the last three games, when the offseason rolls around, many voices will call for the Bears to hang onto Cutler again. After the Bears chose not to cut him (I don't think a trade was ever any sort of option; no one else wants that contract on the books), it not only guaranteed Cutler $15 million in 2015, it guaranteed him $10 million in 2016.

The best-case scenario will be a quarterback-desperate team like the Texans offering the Bears at least something for Cutler. Hopefully Fox and Ryan Pace will be smart enough to take the offer and start again.

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Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:41 PM | Permalink

The [Monday] Papers

"Two weeks before the release of video in Laquan McDonald's shooting thrust the issue of Chicago police brutality into the national spotlight, Priscilla Price sat in a nearly empty Cook County courtroom as a jury found that a cop had killed her 19-year-old son without justification in 2011," the Tribune reports.

"Price's sense of relief was short-lived, however. In a controversial move, the judge overseeing the case negated the jury's award of $3.5 million in damages and instead found in favor of the city. It turned out that the jury, in answering a written question as part of its verdict, had found that the officer had a reasonable belief that his life was in danger when he opened fire.

"In an interview with the Tribune, the foreman of the jury said he was stunned by the sudden reversal, especially after jurors had inquired by written note if their answer to that question would affect the outcome of the verdict. The judge didn't directly answer, instead telling jurors to use their best judgment, he said."

If only that judge had.

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I sat on a civil jury recently in a case about as far removed from this one as possible - a trip-and-fall on an Evanston sidewalk. I can't help but recall, though, that as we worked our way through the verdict forms, we came to three questions at the end whose purpose we could not figure out. We had already quickly made our decision - it was really a no-brainer. When it came to the attached questions, though, which came last as, we thought, post-decision queries, we were a bit flummoxed. The one potential holdout on our panel was concerned that the way we answered those questions could be used in an appeal. The rest of us thought the wording of the questions (which were Yes/No) a bit tricky - and that without being able to explain ourselves, our answers could seem contradictory. In the end, we all agreed that the questions were there only for research purposes, much like lawyers who question a jury after a case to find out what worked and what didn't. We were an intelligent jury in one of the simplest cases imaginable. It wasn't the only instance of confusion about how the system worked. This is why I am loathe to find the jury at fault here. This one is on the judge.

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"'My face was on fire,' said the foreman, who spoke on condition of anonymity and noted that deliberations had gone late into that Friday night. 'We put so much into this . . . I thought it was a really odd thing to go from $3.5 million to nothing because of wording on a piece of paper.'"

Right. It would have made more sense if the judge had overturned the verdict and ruled on her own.

Better yet: Call the jury into chambers to understand their way of thinking. Get it right.

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"Price, meanwhile, is still bewildered and more than ever intent on bringing justice for her son, Niko Husband. Her attorneys have asked Associate Judge Elizabeth Budzinski to reinstate the jury's Nov. 6 verdict."

Budzinski was appointed to her position in 2003. For a Tribune obituary, her father, who was also a judge, was described as "a classic Chicago neighborhood guy."

"Henry very much liked the game of politics, and he was in that circle of politics from back when people's handshakes were still good, and they'd trade favors, help each other and help the city," said his nephew, David Cwik. "It was old-fashioned ward politics."

I don't know if that's relevant to judging Elizabeth Budzinski, but I thought it was interesting. This seems more relevant: She's the best friend of former police chief Garry McCarthy's wife. In fact, she performed the marriage ceremony for the couple last January.

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"Police defended the shooting, saying [Price's son Niko] Husband had a gun and resisted arrest. A police union spokesman [Pat Camden, natch] at the scene that night even suggested that Husband had tried to use a woman as a human shield, prompting a veteran officer - identified in court records as Marco Proano - to fire three rounds into Husband's chest at close range.

"It wasn't until two years later, when a police dash-cam camera caught Proano cocking his gun sideways and unloading a dozen shots at a carload of unarmed teenagers, wounding two, that he was taken off the streets and put on paid desk duty while an investigation unfolded."

The DOJ can't get here fast enough.

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"The foreman said the judge came back to the jury room and explained how, legally, she had to enter the verdict as she did. That eased some of his concerns, but he still thinks the one question - which was proposed by attorneys for the city - was worded in a way to trip them up."

Right. A police officer can feel they are in "imminent danger" because a kid is aiming a slingshot at them; shooting them isn't the answer. In this case, the jury appeared to believe that the officer inflamed a heated situation and put himself in danger - but that he also could have resolved the situation much differently.

"The bottom line is, we didn't feel that Proano had to shoot the way he did," the foreman said. "Three times point-blank in the chest? With other police officers there to help him?"

In asking Judge Budzinski to reconsider her decision, Shapiro argued that the jury's answer to the question on imminent danger was not inconsistent with their general verdict finding Proano liable in Husband's death.

As part of the request, two jurors submitted signed affidavits saying they did not believe Husband had a gun and that Proano and the other officers at the scene "could have eliminated the threat of serious bodily harm by physically restraining Niko Husband without the use of deadly force."

Let's see if Rahm puts on his sweater for this one:

"City lawyers, who have always maintained the officer's actions were appropriate, are expected to file a response in January."

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"Price said that at the time she saw the video, she had no idea that Proano was back out patrolling the same neighborhood. The Independent Police Review Authority, which investigates police wrongdoing, had never notified her of its finding that Proano acted appropriately when he shot her son and would not be disciplined.

"To me they really didn't even investigate, they just took his word and sent him back out there," she said. "And unfortunately he fired at these kids. I just pray that he doesn't get back out there. Because it's gonna happen again."

Go read the whole thing, there's lots more.

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What I'd like to see to determine if Budzinski's hands truly were tied: Reporting on whether the language she accepted from city lawyers is the norm - and generally considered acceptable; whether she could not guide the jury in any way when they asked about the verdict questions; whether the law truly mandates that she had to vacate the settlement. And then: If Budzinski truly could not have decided any other way at any step of the process, how to fix the process.

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CPD's Real Leadership Problem
"Some things that you can only know if you were an insider and no longer have to watch your ass," writes our very own Bob Angone, a retired CPD lieutenant.

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Oppo Ed
My piece that was picked up by Crain's on Rahm's deceitful Op-Ed is still getting lots of attention. I would just like to add that after the Tribune and Sun-Times published what I assume they thought was some sort of exclusive piece for them, the mayor's office apparently sent the very same piece out the next day as a press release - and it was picked up and published by Crain's and DNAinfo Chicago. So all four literally published a press release from the mayor's office, disguised as some sort of thoughtful commentary.

In addition, to a point I made in my piece, it's not like Rahm needed help cutting through the media noise to get his message out. First, it's not the media's job to help him do that. And when pols and their apologists say that, they mean cutting through the media noise that is vetting - the job the media exists for. Second, Rahm repeated the same arguments for days before the Op-Ed and in the days after. His "special address" to the city council, for example, was just a badly patched-together mishmash of the same thing over and over. Rahm's media strategy is clear: Repeat the disingenuous message as many times as possible in as many ways through as many platforms to drive his defense into the brains of the citizenry, his erstwhile supporters, and the (national, mostly) media, who will then find themselves repeating his mantras the same way they can't get a horrible Taylor Swift song out of their heads.

And then after his city council speech, he held another press conference - not to actually answer questions, but to hammer his points home in case you didn't get them the first 15 times.

The amazing thing is that none of it is working. That doesn't, however, absolve those corners of the media who have acted like extensions of his press operation - you know, the press operation that assigns spies to tag along with reporters at City Hall to take notes on who they are talking to and what questions they are asking. Those corners of the media somehow still seem fit to endorse a mayor like that, who could not be more hostile to their newsroom colleagues. I'm looking at you, Bruce Dold. But there are others, too.

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Lesson never learned: When Richard M. Daley was mayor, he too had total access to the city's editorial pages. (And I criticized it then, too.) How much of what Daley "wrote" then and was accepted as truth is now what Rahm debunks (and is accepted as true) in his Op-Eds?

And since the particularly egregious Rahm Op-Ed about the Laquan McDonald case, politicians still get free rein on the editorial pages.

Maybe, just maybe, that space is better used for truth-tellers, fact-checkers, and viewpoints from voices we don't hear from often. The pols fill enough of the news already; do they really need to fill opinions sections too?

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Police Culture
Lost a bit in my Op-Ed piece was something I wrote for The Youth Project about how we can change the culture around policing as we wait for culture change within policing.

Regarding the latter, it's been a long time coming (forever), and we may be waiting a long time yet.

In December 2002, I wrote this about the police department for Chicago magazine in a piece called "The Case Against Daley:"

"[L]et's review some of the lowlights under Daley's watch. One of the mayor's police chiefs, Matt Rodriguez, was forced to resign over a personal friendship with a reputed Mob figure and murder suspect. Earlier this year, a special prosecutor was appointed to look into the allegations (from 66 people) of torture linked to former area commander Jon Burge; the full story has yet to be told, but the mayor, who was the Cook County state's attorney when some of the abuses allegedly took place, hasn't exactly been out front demanding a clean accounting. The department has had several high-profile shootings of unarmed civilians, including LaTanya Haggerty and Robert Russ. And it only recently bought stun guns to disable suspects who need not be killed. It's too bad the department didn't begin using nonlethal weapons in time to save the life of Timothy Crotty, shot this year in a station house for wielding a three-and-a-half-inch knife, or of Arthur Hutchinson, shot two years ago in an alley wielding a fork. And let's not forget: According to a Tribune investigation, there is an astounding depth of ties between the department and the Mob. Nice.

"Is there room for a law-and-order candidate - one who insists that law and order apply to the police department as well as to common criminals?"

The fact is, Daley and Rahm and their cohort have never minded a few human sacrifices in exchange for a non-fetal police force they could take credit for. They also never minded the opportunity to lecture the poor black parents of those human sacrifices about their values.

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Christmas Ghost Story: The Peppermint Kid
The video was said to be hideous.

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BeachBook

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I don't know what this is, but it's Peak something ....

Posted by The Beachwood Reporter on Saturday, December 12, 2015

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Another media falsehood.

Posted by The Beachwood Reporter on Sunday, December 13, 2015

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TweetWood
A sampling.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: A bone of your own.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:08 AM | Permalink

Chicagoetry | Christmas Ghost Story: The Peppermint Kid

CHRISTMAS GHOST STORY: THE PEPPERMINT KID

Christmas Past

I'll never forget it:
They interrupted "The Peppermint Kid,"
One of my favorite serials,

With a bulletin
Of capital murder, a
National tragedy

Close to home.
Every holiday since
Is haunted thus.

I loved "The Peppermint Kid!"
Think "The Shadow" meets "The Scarlet
Pimpernel"

"I found a jar of peppermints I hid."
"I found a jar of peppermints I once hid and thought lost!"

Well, just as the Kid
Was getting hip about
His latest caper,

They broke in.
The picture was grim.
And very soon,

They had footage.
Someone had filmed it.
No audio, just

The victim taking the shots.

The footage, said
To be hideous,
Was held back.


Christmas Present

"The video is said to be hideous."

The video
Is said
To be hideous.

Hideous.
Video.

The video is said to be hideous.
No audio, just
The victim taking the shots.

It was a direct attack on my self-righteousness.
I was just about to feel better about myself.

Sense working overtime.

On the precipice of revelation, stunned into gibberish.

This is not a poem anymore.

My mind is talking to you now.


Christmas Future

The future, Mr. Gitts, the future!

We ask your attention to stand by on this bulletin
We ask your attention to stand by on this bulletin

"Nobody's fault but mine!"

"A Grindhouse Staple."

Groundhog Day

"You must change your life."

Stand by on this bulletin from Dallas, Texas

"There were negroes around, but the gunman was white."

Understandably in a situation like this the information comes in fragments and comes from unexpected places and uncontrolled angles

Sen. Yarborough said "the sight was too gruesome to describe."

It is not known whether either was killed
It is not known whether either was killed

We will keep our listeners informed in both languages as news develops

This is not an official statement
The President is dead

Ladies and gentlemen the President of the United States is dead of an assassin's bullet in Dallas TX

It has been confirmed that the President is dead

Because they thought there might be
Because they thought there might be

Some kind of protest
Some kind of protest

"FUCK YOU, that's who I am!"

"The Future, Mr. Gitts, the Future!"

His breath smelled of bourbon and peppermints.

I was frightened.

Everywhere I hear the sound of marching, charging feet, boy

I am fragmented

Don't ask me what I think of you I might not give the answer that you want me to

Come on people now, smile on your brother

"You must change your life."

-

J.J. Tindall is the Beachwood's poet-in-residence. He welcomes your comments. Chicagoetry is an exclusive Beachwood collection-in-progress.

-

More Tindall:

* Chicagoetry: The Book

* Ready To Rock: The Music

* Kindled Tindall: The Novel

* The Viral Video: The Match Game Dance

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:26 AM | Permalink

Tyson Foods' Secret Recipe For Carving Up Workers' Comp

About five years ago, one of the nation's largest corporations, Tyson Foods, drew a bullseye on the official who oversaw Iowa's system for compensating injured workers.

As workers' compensation commissioner, Chris Godfrey acted as chief judge of the courts that decided workplace injury disputes. He had annoyed Tyson with a string of rulings that, in the company's view, expanded what employers had to cover, putting a dent in its bottom line.

So when Republican Terry Branstad ran for governor in 2010, vowing to make Iowa more business-friendly, Tyson hosted an event for him at its headquarters and arranged another meeting for him to hear from large companies who were frustrated with the workers' comp commission.

Within weeks of his victory, Branstad demanded Godfrey's resignation. When Godfrey refused, the new governor did the harshest thing in his power: He cut Godfrey's salary by more than 30 percent.

Amid the fallout, Tyson drafted and hand-delivered 14 pages of talking points criticizing Godfrey to help Branstad defend his decision.

Godfrey quickly grasped just how much sway Tyson and other big companies can have over workers' comp. "It's just chilling that someone would go to that level to try to influence the system," said Godfrey, who is now the chief judge of the federal employees' workers' comp appeals board.

Tyson's tactics, pieced together from depositions and documents in a lawsuit Godfrey filed - many of which have never been released - are far from unique to the Hawkeye State.

Over the past 25 years, as the Arkansas company grew to be one of the world's largest meatpackers, Tyson has taken a lead in reshaping workers' comp, often to the detriment of workers, a ProPublica investigation has found.

Tyson's story also tells a broader one about American politics: How time after time, one determined company, facing a challenge to its profits, can bend government and the law to its will.

Using its economic leverage - combined with time-honored wining-and-dining and behind-the-scenes arm-twisting - Tyson has helped steer legislative changes through several states in the South and Midwest. It has urged officials, often successfully, to remove or appoint workers' comp judges. And the company's lawyers have crafted novel legal arguments for limiting the rights and benefits of injured workers.

Rather than advocating for benefit cuts outright, Tyson has often pushed for subtle changes, such as giving employers more say over medical care, raising workers' burden of proof or limiting the scope of activities judges have deemed work-related.

These changes have had a comparable effect to cutting benefits, excluding people whose doctors say have legitimate work injuries - especially the costly musculoskeletal disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome that poultry workers are prone to.

Tyson declined to make company officials available for interviews. In response to written questions, the company denied its involvement in workers' comp was out of the ordinary.

"Like other major companies," Tyson wrote in an e-mail, "it's important for us to monitor state regulations that affect how we make sure workers hurt on the job get the care and benefits they deserve."

Tyson, which supplies chicken, beef and pork to supermarkets and fast-food restaurants like McDonald's around the world, employs about 113,000 workers at more than 400 facilities and offices.

With job titles that describe a worker's place in the processing chain, like "live hang" and "throwing jowls," meat plants like Tyson's pose an array of risks. Workers face everything from crippling hand injuries from repetitive cutting motions to catastrophic amputations in grotesquely named machines like fat suckers and neck breakers.

Curbing the expense of such injuries is important to Tyson, whose former chairman Don Tyson developed a storied cost-cutting reputation as he built his father's company into an empire.

The company spends about $105 million on workers' comp every year, according to court documents, making it among the top corporate payers. It's an amount equal to more than 10 percent, and sometimes nearly 20 percent, of the company's annual profits.

Over the past year, ProPublica and NPR have examined how many states have been quietly dismantling their workers' comp systems, leading to cataclysmic consequences for injured workers. The cutbacks, often driven by business, have landed workers on public assistance and forced them to fight insurers for medical care their doctors recommended.

Every state has its own history and politics. Businesses large and small complain about the cost of workers' comp. Unions lobby to increase benefits and doctors fight cuts in medical fees. Bo Pilgrim, the founder of rival chicken giant Pilgrim's Pride, once handed out $10,000 checks on the floor of the Texas Senate during a debate over a workers' comp bill. Even in Iowa, Tyson was far from the only business bending the governor's ear.

But unlike most companies, Tyson has asserted an unusually high level of control over its workplace-injury program, giving it a nitty-gritty perspective on issues other employers leave to insurance companies.

Tyson self-insures, meaning it pays nearly all of its claims from its own pocket. When workers are injured, they're usually sent to a Tyson nurse at the plant. Their claims are processed by Tyson adjusters. And in many states, the company even has its own managed-care unit, handpicking the doctors that workers can see and advising those doctors on light-duty jobs injured employees might be able do.

Tyson said the system allows it to provide better medical care for its workers and help them get back on the job.

Worker advocates say Tyson's approach allows it to deny workers necessary medical care and force them back to dangerous jobs before they're ready.

A look back on the past quarter-century reveals that Tyson has influenced workers' comp much in the same way it reshaped the poultry industry, famously steering every step of production from the breeding of the birds to the Chicken McNugget.

The Playbook

The seeds of the workers' comp laws being pushed today - when insurance companies' profits are at historic highs and employers' costs at modern-day lows - were sown during a legitimate crisis in the late 1980s.

A growing recognition of occupational diseases and repetitive trauma had expanded the types of injuries companies had to cover. Medical costs were rising and insurers had undercut themselves competing for business. Insurance companies went bankrupt, and some carriers bailed on unprofitable states. In some, average insurance rates had doubled, while in others, employers were paying an average of $6 for every $100 they spent on wages - more than three times what they pay today.

In 1993, Tyson's home state of Arkansas became one of the first to overhaul its workers' comp system after rates rose 60 percent from 1986 to 1992.

By then, the company founded during the Great Depression had become America's largest poultry processor, as well as Arkansas' biggest employer and political contributor.

Tyson and the state chamber of commerce pushed lawmakers hard for a package of reforms to cut employers' costs. Until then, business and labor had always negotiated changes to the workers' comp law, often with Tyson serving as a management representative.

But this time, the chamber bypassed a labor-management committee set up by the governor and drove a bill over the objections of the state AFL-CIO.

"The business community in particular and people in general were concerned about the rising rates," said former state Rep. Mike Wilson, who sponsored the bill. "Tyson as a large employer with people who had a lot of workplace injuries or were exposed to dangerous conditions, they had a large interest in workers' comp."

The new law drastically changed rules considered part of the bedrock of the system. It narrowed the list of injuries that were considered work-related, raised the bar for workers to prove their jobs caused their injuries, required more objective medical evidence, gave employers and insurers more control over workers' medical care and made it harder for workers to qualify as permanently disabled.

Labor leaders decried the new law. "Congratulations to business and industry; let them enjoy their bloody victory," said state AFL-CIO president J. Bill Becker. "God help the widows, orphans and injured workers of Arkansas!"

A national insurance ratings bureau estimated at the time that the law cut benefits for the most severely disabled workers by 20 percent and medical and lost wage benefits for all workers by more than 10 percent.

While other states such as Oregon had adopted some of the provisions before, Arkansas' package provided a comprehensive playbook for other states to follow.

But even some on the employers' side worried that legitimate injuries would go uncovered. Summing up the consequences in a law review article, John Copeland, a business defense lawyer and University of Arkansas professor, said the law left him with an "uneasy feeling."

"There is no question," wrote Copeland, who later went to work for Tyson, "that the new act severely curtails and even eliminates many workers' compensation claims."

The law didn't specifically eliminate repetitive stress injuries like carpal tunnel, which were becoming an epidemic in the early 1990s. But some critics say it effectively accomplished the same thing by making it tougher for workers to qualify.

"That was really the thing that was costing Tyson," said Laura McKinnon, an attorney who represented workers opposing the bill. "That's why Tyson got so involved back then because they were having so much trouble with carpal tunnel at the time."

Tyson said, "The purpose of the reform act was to streamline workers' compensation."

The Oracle of Workers' Comp

Following its success in Arkansas, Tyson took its involvement with workers' comp to another level. The company formed a subsidiary to specialize in workers' comp managed care and sold the system to other companies.

And to help direct its efforts, Tyson hired Allyn Tatum, an Arkansas workers' comp commissioner who had drafted many of the 1993 law's provisions and had recruited and guided the business representatives who hammered out the final version, according to multiple people involved in the effort.

Tatum was already a legend in the industry. He'd served on the commission since 1977 and had recently been president of the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions.

"He was the most powerful workers' comp commissioner in the country," said Michael Clingman, CEO of Arkansas' comp commission in the mid-1990s. "He was hired because he knew commissioners in all the states."

Tyson and Tatum pressed for regulations that would make it mandatory for companies to contract with managed-care organizations - like the one Tyson had formed. But Arkansas employers opposed the requirement, and the commission made managed care voluntary.

Despite the setback, Tyson continued to hold sway over the workers' comp commission, especially when it came to the judges charged with interpreting the new law.

In 1997, Wilson, the lawmaker who sponsored the workers' comp bill, was appointed as the management representative on the commission, which decides appeals. The business community, he recalled, "went to the governor and said 'Here's our boy,' and the governor said 'You're it.'"

A few months later, a Tyson employee and former Walmart lawyer named Max Koonce was hired as a workers' comp judge. With business-friendly representatives on board, Tyson and other employers took aim at the ones they believed weren't interpreting the law correctly.

The final paragraph of the new workers' comp act had delivered a warning to judges: The changes were necessary because courts had "broadened the scope and eroded the purpose" of workers' comp.

To ensure judges got the message, the chamber of commerce sent them a memo noting that it would not only be watching but asking to be copied on any decision addressing the new law.

In 1998, a judge named Eileen Harrison was fired following a pattern of business pressure similar to what Godfrey faced in Iowa, according to depositions obtained by ProPublica in a lawsuit she filed.

Earlier that year, Tatum, Walmart lobbyist Stephen Carter and others had complained to Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's staff and appointees that commission decisions were "eroding" the new law and hurting business.

In one meeting described in a deposition in Harrison's lawsuit, Carter said he pointed his finger at the commission's chairman and demanded he resign. The business community was concerned about some administrative law judges as well, he said, and wanted Harrison terminated. In an interview, Carter, now in private practice, said his concerns "had nothing to do with anything other than her performance."

As complaints mounted, Tatum requested his own meeting with Huckabee's chief of staff, according to testimony and exhibits in the case. Shortly after, the chief of staff sent word to the commission that it was time for Harrison to go. Harrison ultimately obtained a settlement from the state, but the forces behind her departure weren't lost on the judges who remained.

"We were already feeling the pressure," recalled C. Michael White, an administrative law judge at the time. "Now we had proof of what would happen if we didn't decide cases in favor of employers."

Over the years, Tatum became the business community's go-to workers' comp guru, speaking at conferences across the country and advising employers how to craft workers' comp provisions and make their voices heard. He is now retired, but still has a phone line and e-mail at Tyson, and is listed as a Tyson representative on national workers' comp boards.

Tatum originally agreed to meet with a ProPublica reporter in Arkansas. But he later declined, sending a text message that said, "from what I hear, you already have lots of folks to talk to, and I'm sure they will tell you the story you want to hear."

Those who have taken on Tatum describe him as daunting. "He's one of the more dangerous characters in workers' comp in my view," said Jim Ellenberger, a longtime AFL-CIO workers' comp expert who often debated Tatum. "Paying a worker any sum of money for any injury is going to get his ire up. That tells you something about how serious that issue is for that company."

'It's Almost Like They Wrote the Law'

As Tyson and other companies have assumed more control over workers' comp, injured workers say they've faced the consequences.

Billy Shawn Walkup was working at a Tyson bacon factory in Vernon, Texas, in 2011 when he slipped walking down wet stairs and hurt his back.

About two weeks later, Walkup said, a Tyson employee handed him a form waiving his right to sue. If he didn't sign it, the employee said, his medical care would end and he'd have to go back to full duty within two months.

"When I have a wife and a 4-year-old son at home - at the time, he was 2 - what am I supposed to do?" Walkup said recently. "I didn't know what was fixin' to happen. I was scared. I was afraid of losing my job."

Walkup signed the waiver, and the doctor sent him back to work with restrictions. But struggling with pain from the injury, Walkup missed too many days and was fired a few months later.

Tyson continued paying Walkup's medical care for another year under its benefit plan. But after a spine surgeon, whom Tyson approved, determined that Walkup had multiple disc protrusions in his back and numbness in his legs that caused him to occasionally collapse, Tyson sent him for an independent medical exam.

That orthopedic surgeon was 77 years old and had previously been disciplined by the Texas Medical Board for failing to document a physical examination. According to his report, the doctor spent 35 minutes examining Walkup and reviewing his extensive medical records before concluding that he'd merely suffered a strain. No further medical care was necessary, said the doctor, who didn't return calls for comment. Tyson terminated Walkup's benefits.

"If it hadn't been for my father-in-law bailing us out time after time, we would have lost our house," said Walkup, who was 35 when the injury happened. "The bank called us and they were fixin' to foreclose on our house. They repo'd my wife's car. They repo'd my pickup."

Tyson declined to discuss Walkup's case but said it wants to make sure workers receive "the medical care they need and the compensation they deserve."

One of the biggest trends in workers' comp over the past 25 years has been the increased ownership of risk by employers who either self-insure, paying claims themselves, or buy high-deductible insurance plans that require them to cover the cost of injuries up to a certain amount.

Nationwide, employers now pay as much in benefits out of their own pockets as private insurance companies do, according to the National Academy of Social Insurance.

And they have sought a much greater say over what they have to pay for. Few companies have been more active than Tyson, which is on the executive committee of the National Council of Self-Insurers and on the boards or in leadership positions of similar groups in Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

Tyson was one of the first companies to self-insure in Texas in 1993, and the following year, it lobbied the state to let it process its own claims, rather than hiring at outside firm.

As it sought permission for this approach, Tyson dangled the possibility of a $60 million poultry processing plant in East Texas, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The state made the change. Tyson never built the plant, though it did open a meat plant in another part of Texas a decade later.

And despite the change, Tyson eventually dropped out of the workers' comp system, taking advantage of another Texas law that gave it yet more control. Instead, Tyson created its own benefit plan, exempt from state oversight, to handle injured employees like Walkup.

It can be beneficial for companies to hold such power and financial responsibility over workers' comp, industry experts say. Being more involved in claims forces companies to become more aware of, and fix, unsafe conditions, they say. It also allows them to find doctors who understand their workplaces and what alternative assignments may be available.

But as Walkup learned, this approach can also have negative consequences. When employers have more control over medical care, worker advocates say, they may choose doctors who see things the company's way, giving them cover to get rid of undesirable employees and expensive claims.

"They have it set up where they pay for what they want to," Walkup said.

In August, Walkup was approved for Social Security disability. He hopes to get surgery. But for now, he gets around using a cane and a motorized wheelchair.

After being cut off, Walkup sued Tyson. But the judge quickly dismissed it because of the waiver Walkup signed.

Walkup's attorney Eric Marye said it was stunning how the company's waiver process followed "the letter of the law to a T."

"It's almost like they wrote the law," he said.

In fact, Tyson and other meatpackers were heavily involved in pushing post-injury waivers. Tyson said removing the threat of lawsuits allows them to offer better benefits.

Texas lawmakers tried to ban the practice. But a deal was struck in 2005, allowing waivers so long as workers had 10 days to see a doctor and decide whether to sue or accept the company's benefit plan.

Around this time, Tyson was working on another front to limit injured workers' rights by testing a new legal theory that undocumented immigrants who got injured on the job weren't entitled to compensation for lost earnings.

The theory arose out of a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision involving undocumented workers who were laid off for supporting a union drive. At the time, Tyson was appealing a Texas case involving Gustavo Tovar Guzman, a chicken catcher who suffered a spinal injury when was hit by a forklift while trying to round up birds for slaughter.

The company eventually lost, but its bold strategy helped set the stage for more than a decade of similar challenges across the country.

Spreading the Gospel of Reform

Few states have seen steeper drops in workers' comp costs than Arkansas and Texas. Pro-business lawmakers and lawyers interviewed over the past year frequently referred to the two states as models while worker advocates called them nightmares. And nowhere felt the changes more powerfully than Oklahoma.

In 1996, Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin, who is now governor, held a meeting at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame to kick off what became a nearly 20-year campaign to change the state's workers' comp law. A Tyson personnel manager handed Fallin a check for $200 to help her campaign. Reforming the Oklahoma law, he told the crowd, would save Tyson $200,000 a year.

"Tyson's fingerprint since 1996 has been heavy on Oklahoma workers' comp," said Bob Burke, a longtime workers' lawyer who has negotiated legislation.

Fallin finally fulfilled her goal in 2013. One of the most significant changes was that disputes would no longer be heard by workers' comp courts, but by an administrative commission modeled after Arkansas. And to tell the state how to build one, the authors brought in Tatum from Tyson.

Tyson was also involved in crafting Mississippi's workers' comp overhaul in 2012, when the state adopted many of the restrictive provisions that Arkansas had embraced in the early 1990s.

The bill limited workers' ability to change doctors, raised the burden of proof, allowed drug tests, eliminated the legal standard that judges should view evidence in a light most favorable to workers and reduced employers' liability when work injuries aggravated preexisting conditions.

Lawmakers had been trying to pass such provisions for 20 years, but a Republican takeover of the statehouse finally gave them traction. The House speaker's law firm, which represents Tyson, drafted key elements of the bill with the company's help, said Rep. Gary Chism, who co-authored the bill.

Tyson was "very instrumental in pushing this bill," Chism said. "They picked up some pro-business Democrats for us. They had some processing plants in Mississippi and, where they were, they encouraged that representative of that district to support this workers' comp legislation."

As the bill was being drafted and debated, Tyson's lobbyist treated key lawmakers to dozens of meals at steakhouses and other fine restaurants around the capital, according to expenditure reports.

The six members who ultimately hammered out the final bill received 21 meals over the course of three months. The lobbyist even gave one a gift from "God Father Cigars."

"I can remember the celebratory dinner," Chism said. "It was more patting each other on the back. We had accomplished what we set out do."

Tyson Goes to Iowa

Tyson's stake in Iowa grew immensely in 2001 when it acquired IBP, the giant beef packer and hog producer. Overnight, it became one of the biggest employers in a state where workers' comp benefits have traditionally been more generous than in the South.

Back then, Godfrey defended workers' comp cases for IBP and helped train another young lawyer, Todd Beresford, now the senior workers' comp manager for the Tyson Fresh Meats subsidiary, headquartered in Dakota Dunes, South Dakota.

Godfrey eventually began representing injured workers. But he and Beresford remained close. And in 2006, when some lawmakers sought to block Godfrey's confirmation as workers' comp commissioner, Beresford wrote to the president of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, seeking the group's support.

"I can personally attest to his good character and integrity," Beresford wrote. "I believe that Mr. Godfrey would approach every case before him as commissioner impartially."

But the relationship soon soured as Tyson grew concerned that the commission's decisions were stretching the purpose of workers' comp and increasing its costs, according to Beresford's deposition in Godfrey's lawsuit.

When ABI remained neutral on Godfrey's reappointment in 2009, Tyson formed the Iowa Self-Insurers Association to advocate for large employers on workers' comp issues. Beresford became president.

The following year, Branstad, a Republican who'd been governor from 1983 to 1999, mounted a campaign to retake the governor's office.

"When I first ran for governor in the '80s, our workers' comp system was working very well and we were one of the lowest-cost states," Branstad said in a deposition. "It was only in the 2010 campaign that I was really hearing a lot of concerns about workers' comp."

In fact, premium rates in Iowa had been fairly stable under Godfrey. And they were nearly half what they were when Branstad was governor.

But as other states cut benefits or saw their economies sink further than Iowa's, Iowa jumped from the seventh-cheapest state in 2006 to the 16th in 2010 - the same ranking as when Branstad first ran for reelection in 1986.

But that wasn't the impression Branstad was getting from the business community, which donated millions to his campaign. Branstad specifically recalled a meeting with the founders of Beef Products Inc., which makes the finely textured beef that some have dubbed "pink slime." They contributed $152,000.

Before even taking office, Branstad summoned Godfrey to a meeting. That morning, ABI sent Branstad's chief of staff, Jeff Boeyink, an e-mail titled "Issues with Chris Godfrey." In forwarding the message to Boeyink, ABI's president Mike Ralston added a thinly veiled threat that the state could change a law to prevent Godfrey from practicing before the commission after leaving office. "Actions have consequences," he wrote.

Ralston said in an interview that he didn't intend it as a threat and that ABI never suggested Godfrey be terminated.

At the meeting, Branstad ticked off the business community's complaints and requested Godfrey's resignation. Godfrey dismissed the concerns and said he intended to serve his full term. Because his appointment was independent of the election cycle to insulate it from politics, Branstad was barred from simply firing him.

Branstad asked his legal counsel to look into the cases businesses were complaining about and explore his legal authority for dealing with Godfrey. Six months later, Godfrey was called to another meeting. That morning, ABI again e-mailed Boeyink information. The governor's chief of staff asked Godfrey again to resign. And when he said no, Boeyink informed him that the governor had decided to cut his pay from $109,000 a year to $73,259 - the lowest amount allowed by law.

"It's one of those situations where you feel your mouth go dry, you feel your hands get sweaty, and it just kind of seems like the world comes to a stop," recalled Godfrey, 43. "It was devastating. It kept us from buying a house. It impeded my ability to care for my parents."

Tyson Defends the Governor

Publicly, ABI denied involvement in trying to oust Godfrey. So Tyson decided the governor needed its help. Tyson's government relations team asked Beresford to put together a list of cases that employers felt were unfair.

In a memo to the governor, Tyson claimed that costs had increased significantly under Godfrey and that workers' lawyers often dropped Godfrey's name as leverage during settlement negotiations.

"If Godfrey continues as the Iowa commissioner," Tyson warned, "it is not only going to continue increasing current employers' w.c. costs, but it also is likely going to impact other employers as they look to locate in Iowa or expand current operations in Iowa."

In an e-mail to Tyson's senior vice president of fresh meats, Beresford noted that the company's lobbyist had dropped off the memo and that the governor's chief of staff was "very appreciative" and "thought it would be very helpful."

The governor's office referred calls to his attorney, who didn't return calls.

Tyson's memo detailed a gallery of cases that seemed silly on the surface - injuries that occurred at a company bowling tournament or while bench-pressing at the office fitness center, workers with seemingly minor injuries ruled permanently and totally disabled.

The cases all fell into a large gray area of workers' comp law that judges have sought to define over the past century. Such injuries that aren't clear-cut may be deemed work-related depending on the circumstances. They include such things as slipping on ice in company parking lots, aggravating conditions related to aging and recreational activities that serve a business purpose.

Godfrey said he had followed precedent in ruling for the workers and hadn't even made all the decisions listed. Many had also been upheld by higher courts.

One of the cases that stuck most prominently in the minds of the governor and his staff was the slip-and-fall injury of Tyson employee Shawn Durkop - which Branstad remembered in his deposition as an injury "while shopping for clothes for work."

Durkop had just started orientation at Tyson's meatpacking plant in Waterloo, Iowa. The company had arranged for new employees to buy the required white uniform with Tyson's logo through a payroll deduction. After work, Durkop went to the store to get the uniform, where she slipped on ice and injured her ankle and back.

A deputy commissioner ruled that Tyson was responsible for her medical care and lost wages because, even though she was off work, she was on a special errand at the direction of her employer.

Godfrey affirmed the decision, adding that the clothing was federally mandated equipment for meatpacking work that couldn't be worn off the job.

Tyson could have easily shipped the uniforms to the plant. And the company benefited from the arrangement, he said, allowing new employees to be "ready to work upon completion of the training period even if they do not have money to purchase the uniforms."

After Godfrey left for Washington in 2014 to become chief judge of the federal employees' workers' comp appeals board, Beresford applied to become Iowa's new workers' comp commissioner and was interviewed by the governor's staff. They talked about his vision for the agency and what Tyson thought should be changed.

But when the discussion turned to salary and moving his family, "I believe I said, 'Yeah, I probably wouldn't consider the job at that time,' " Beresford said in his deposition.

Instead, Beresford, who declined to comment through a Tyson spokesman, was named to a key labor-management committee that advises the legislature and the commission on workers' comp issues.

"Obviously they had a very open phone line to the governor's office," Godfrey said. "People expect fairness. They expect a judge to be a judge, not to be a puppet for some other interest."

Tobin Asher, Andy McCarthy and Jennifer Stahl contributed research to this story.

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Previously:
* Injured Worker In ProPublica/NPR Story Testifies Before Illinois Legislature.

* State Legislators To Investigate Workers' Comp Opt Out.

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As part of our ongoing investigation, we invite you to tell us about your experience navigating the workers' comp system. Have something we should look into? Share your story.

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Journalists: Interested in reporting on the workers' comp system in your state? Here's how.

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ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.

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Comments welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:17 AM | Permalink

December 12, 2015

CPD's Real Leadership Problem

When I left the Chicago Police Department, I was one of two SWAT coordinators - called HBT (Hostage/Barricaded/Terrorist) at the time. My wife just retired in March after 34 years. I have never stopped paying attention and I loved the job.

We have heard so much about how badly we need change, and I totally agree. However, there are some things that you can only know if you were an insider and no longer have to watch your ass.

Police work is much, much different than work in the business and corporate professions in that the lowest employee makes the most important decisions, such as shoot or don't shoot, arrest or don't arrest, stop or don't stop. Those decisions reverberate up through the chain of command, whereas in the other management structures the most important decisions flow down.

The best way to understand it is management is doing things right - leadership is doing the right thing. Because of this unique quality the most important supervisor is the front line supervisor - sergeant, lieutenant - they are the ones who are closest to the cops working the street. No matter how many chiefs and deputies there are, they do not set the tone; they are not there. They can dictate policy and issue orders, but without the street supervision it will all be for nothing.

The SOS scandals proved that to a point. While those rogue cops were tossing people's houses and abusing citizens without warrants, my question always was where were their supervisors. Finnegan and his gang of cops literally ran amok and no supervisors were held accountable.

Same in the Koschman affair; where was the supervision?

This latest incidents begs the same question: Where the hell were they? Once the decision was made to call for a Taser, why didn't a supervisor institute firearm discipline? Why did the supervisors not insure that a Taser was available if there was none? Why did the supervision fail to insure that audio and video was working instead of the Acting Superintendent holding a press conference after the fact announcing that disciplinary action would be taken if in the future those measures are not obeyed?

A lot too late for sure. Who is going to ensure that his order is followed? Why, of course, the front line supervisors, who should have been doing it in the first place.

(And why did they fail to give aid to that young man while he was laying down on the street dying?)

All a complete failure of supervisors failing to do what they are well compensated for.

Now we get the call for a special panel to investigate, but those folks are outsiders and may fail to realize police supervision is different than what they are acquainted with, and the critical detail of front line supervision will vanish once again in yet another study.

I have a question: How many Tasers could that $5 million settlement have purchased? They are about 80 bucks for a good one. Money well spent but probably no supervisor even gave it a thought to insure one at least was available.

Now we have experts coming out of the walls, the mayor's new top cop, the feds, blue-ribbon type panels, when all they need to do is get ex-Superintendent Phil Cline on the panel; he's one of the finest police minds of our time, and he would tell them what I'm saying here. It was not Cline's fault that Anthony Abbate in a drunken stupor beat up that bartender, but the video was too much for Daley and he needed a goat.

I love the CPD, and I know a lot of folks do, but sometimes loving eyes don't always see.

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Previously by Bob Angone:
* Crime Is Up - And Down.

* Chicago Is Not Helpless.

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Editor's Note 1: I asked Bob about Cline because my recollection of his tenure was less charitable. Bob's reply: "I never knew the guy to lie."

Editor's Note 2: It's been pointed out to me that in 2004, Cline stated there was "no basis for criminal charges" in the Koschman case. Again, my view of Cline's tenure is different than Bob's view. Bob has every right to his view, but in retrospect - and with all due respect to Bob - I should have edited the end a bit differently. I apologize to readers and to Bob for not editing with more precision. The fault is all mine, not his. - Steve Rhodes

Bob responds: Your editor's view on Phil Cline was brilliant because it just points out what I was saying in the article - no matter what the leadership dictates and oversees, it still has to rely on the first line of supervision. Even though leadership starts at the top, it would be impossible for the superintendent himself to investigate all cases, even the controversial ones. The Koschman affair was under Phil's leadership; Koschman too was on Jody Weis, who also let stand the second investigation. But it was the front line supervisors who were with the investigators all through that tawdry affair.

Steve responds: You're giving me too much credit, Bob, but thank you, sir.

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Bob Angone is a retired Chicago police lieutenant. He welcomes your comments.

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1. From Ald. Scott Waguespack:

Thanks for that post. That's why the panel isn't complete.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:29 AM | Permalink

The Weekend Desk Report

For completists, there was no Friday Papers.

"Field Museum employee taking memberships at the door pocketed $900,000 in cash over seven years and is being investigated by federal authorities, museum executives said Friday," the Tribune reports.

"Disclosure of the alleged theft was made in a federally mandated tax report the natural history institution filed earlier this month."

I know stories like this ought to discourage the rest of us from indulging in such schemes, but I must admit my first thought is often to wonder if I could devise a way to commit such an act and get away with it. I suppose that's how the criminal mind works.

*

"'The loss and investigation costs were fully recovered through the museum's insurance program, less a $10,000 deductible,' the museum reported in its 2014 Form 990.

"The disclosure was made in a response to a question on the form, 'Did the organization become aware during the year of a significant diversion of the organization's assets?'"

Why, yes, now that you ask, yes it did!

*

"The woman would issue temporary membership cards to people who bought memberships as they entered the museum . . . and then not turn in the cash."

That means "about 9,000 memberships showing up on the books without associated revenue."

So her real mistake was not enlisting someone in the accounting department in her scheme. Noted.

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Puppet Show
"A troupe of giant puppets will not be roaming the streets of Chicago next year after all," the Tribune reports.

That's okay; giant puppets meet downtown twice a month already. (Too easy?)

*

Actually, click through and read the story - seems like a pretty cool idea to me. Maybe if Redmoon offers to put them on barges and set them on fire when the show is over?

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CPD's Real Leadership Problem
"Some things that you can only know if you were an insider and no longer have to watch your ass," writes our very own Bob Angone, a retired CPD lieutenant.

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Beachwood Photo Booth: South Side Sundown
Canal, bridge, crane.

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Cubs Set Up Epicest Heartbreak Yet
On The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #81.

Plus: Hey White Sox Fans, How You Doin'?; Bulls Spiting Selves; Bears Good As Mold; and Patrick Kane's Fraudulent Point Streak.

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The Week In Chicago Rock
Featuring: The Lawrence Arms, Havok, Artifas, Steve Hackett, Flesh Panthers, Clearance, Glyders, and The Rubs.

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The Sound Opinions Weekend Listening Report: "It's that most wonderful time of the year - the end! It's time to celebrate all the great music we've had the pleasure to hear. Hosts Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot share their Best Albums of 2015 and hear nominations from listeners."

Five of their individual Top Tens overlap, by the way. So click through to find out the collective Sound Opinions Top Five records of the year!

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Weekend BeachBook

BREAKING NEWS: 8 Chicago Cops Help Woman Change Tire.

Posted by The Beachwood Reporter on Thursday, December 10, 2015

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... For A TV Series About Police Shootings.

Posted by The Beachwood Reporter on Thursday, December 10, 2015

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Dusty Baker is an out-and-out racist. See also: The Dusty & Ozzie Show.

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TweetWood
A sampling.

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The Weekend Desk Tip Line: Temporary memberships available.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:46 AM | Permalink

December 11, 2015

The Week In Chicago Rock

You shoulda been there.

1. The Lawrence Arms at the Double Door on Thursday night.


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2. Havok at Reggies on Wednesday night.

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3. Artifas at the Tree in Joliet on Thursday night.

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4. Steve Hackett at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles on Thursday night.

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Catching up with . . . Cuddlestock at the Empty Bottle last Friday night.

Flesh Panthers.

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Clearance.

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Glyders.

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The Rubs.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:53 PM | Permalink

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #81: Cubs Set Us Up For Epicest Heartbreak Yet

Now World Series favorites. Plus: Hey White Sox, How You Doin'?; Bulls Spiting Selves; Bears Good As Mold; and Patrick Kane's Fraudulent Point Streak.


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SHOW NOTES

* Marian Hossa.

* When Ray Bourque went from 7 to 77:

* With the Avalanche.

* Artemi Pandarin.

* Why Brett Favre Wore No. 4.

6:27: Hey-Hey Heyward!

* SIGNED: 8 years, $184 million, two opt-outs.

* See the segment "We Were Promised David Price."

29:52: Hey, White Sox! How You Doin', Buddy?

* Vs. The 76ers.

41:02: In Spite Of Themselves.

51:10: Good As Mold.

* Teenage Mutant Media.

1:06:44: Patrick Kane's Fraudulent Point Streak.

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STOPPAGE: 10:06

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For archives and other Beachwood shows, see The Beachwood Radio Network.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:30 PM | Permalink

Beachwood Photo Booth: South Side Sundown

Canal, bridge, crane.

trainbridgesunsetsilhouetteetcbw.jpg(ENLARGE FOR PROPER VIEWING)


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More Chicago photography from Helene Smith.

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Helene on Twitter!

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Meet Helene!

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Stationery, iPhone cases, hoodies.

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Listen to Helene talk about Photo Booth; starts at 57:54.

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Previously:
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Man Grilling
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Yum Yum Donuts
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Father's Day
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Vintage Airmaster
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Time
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Window Shade
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Illinois Slayer
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Fire Escape
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Golden Nugget
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Hollywood, Chicago
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Flag Man.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Van In Flames.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Fluid Power Automation.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Corn Dog.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Stop The Killing Car.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Backyard.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: A to Z Things.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Swedish Diner.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Rothschild Liquors.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Silos.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Wires.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Orange Garden.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Irving Park Guy.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Pigeons.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: O'Lanagan's.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: For Rent.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Marie's Pizza & Liquors.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Mori Milk.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: American Breakfast.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: A Chicago Christmas Postcard.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Holiday Harold's.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Family Fun.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Snow Bike.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Nativity Scene.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Old Warsaw.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Deluxe Cleaners.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Marie's Golden Cue.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Die Another Day.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Sears Key Shop.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Window Dressing.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Jeri's Grill.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Barry's Drugs.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Liberty.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Kitchen.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Golden Specials.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: We Won The Cup.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Bartender Man.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Blue Plane Blues.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Finest Quality.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Family Guy.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Girls Wanted.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Skokie Savanna.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Signpost.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Old Man And The Tree.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Street Fleet.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Citgo Story.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Fantasy Hair Design.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Garage.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Clark Stop.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Pole Position.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Window Dressing.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Geometry.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Found Love.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Fill In The Blank.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Vacuums Of The Night.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Dumpster Still Life.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Wagon Master.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Intersecting West Rogers Park.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Penn-Dutchman Antiques.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Cow Patrol.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Backstage Chicago.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Skully Bungalow.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Francisco Frankenstein.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Long Cool Heat.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Smokers' Mast.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Big Fat Phone.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Happy Day.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Alley Men.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Holiday Show!
* Beachwood Photo Booth: You've Got Mailbox.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Broken Window Theory.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Dali Logan.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Svengoolie.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Horner Park Hot Dogs.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Cubs Rehab.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: 20th Century Schizoid Man.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Men On Vans.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Penn-Dutchman Is Done.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Snowy Lincoln.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Waiting Room.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Avondale Chicken.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Winter's End.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: The Friendly Skies.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Boyhood Buzzer Beater.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: J Date.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: International Window Lady.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Shanghai Inn.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Open For Business.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Andersonville Unplugged.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: 3-Flat.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Evanston Turkey.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicagolandia.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Eat At Odge's.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Deitch Pharmacy.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Sud-Z Bubble.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Bands Wanted!
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Belmont Tavern.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Superheroic San Luis Freeze.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Evanston Oasis.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Lyndale Food & Jewelry.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Lincoln Tap.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Book Window.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Alco Dude.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Ballin Drugs.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Don't Worry, Be Cookie.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Four Trey.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: The Office.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: America From Inside The Golden Nugget In Ravenswood.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Cellphone Repair.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Boots 'N' Grill.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Sunrise Strip.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: At The Corner Of Glad And Happy.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Uptown Autumn Night.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Diner.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Mid-Century Modern Halloween.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Autumn Station Wagon.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Betty's & Nick's.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Ohio House Impact.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: End School Zone.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Portage Park Peek-A-Boo.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:43 AM | Permalink

December 10, 2015

The [Thursday] Papers

Again, working on more cop stuff today - and taking care of some personal business.

For my real-time commentary on Rahm's speech yesterday, see @BeachwoodReport.

Also, when you've lost Ronnie Woo-Woo, you've lost the city:

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Fantasy Fix
The player who cost the most people their seasons? It's a tie.

The Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report
Hype machine, not engaged.

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BeachBook

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Dew it.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:13 PM | Permalink

The Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report: Hype Machine, Not Engaged

Bizarro* Bears
Last Sunday's game featured a topsy-turvy inversion of what we've come to expect of the 2015 Bears.

Kick returns were solid and consistently put the offense in good field position.

Colin Kaepernick's seemingly less mobile backup torched the Chicago defense for a late, game-tying score.

Jay Cutler threw a pick six.

Robbie Gould failed on two field goal attempts including the chip shot final play of regulation.

Dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!

While the head of the season might have been lopped off by Blaine Gabbert's game-tying touchdown scamper, the body of 2015 season died when Torrey Smith stabbed Bears fans through the heart catching a long touchdown pass.

"He's been playing great the whole year. It's just one mistake," said veteran cornerback Tracy Porter when asked about rookie Adrian Amos's blown coverage on Smith's gaming-winning touchdown.

"It's good to hear that you guys have each other's back," commented Tribune reporter Rich Campbell on AM 670. "Sometimes teammates can turn on each other in tough times."

Teammates have been known to turn on each other following tough losses and initially Campbell was encouraged by the cornerback's seemingly resilient attitude.

Then he noticed what Porter was up to.

"So . . . whatchya doin' there?" the reporter asked, motioning toward Porter's project, which was a hole in the ground.

"Oh this?" said Porter, putting down his shovel. "I, uh . . . really like rectangles."

"So you're digging one on the home sideline. In uniform."

"You bet," said the cornerback earnestly. He picked the shovel back up and continued digging. "Seen Amos anywhere?"

"How deep would you say that that hole is, Tracy?"

"Hmmm. I dunno," said the former New Orleans Saint, still digging. "About five-and-a-half feet." He wiped his brow. "I figure I need about six more inches."

Campbell remained silent, holding the recorder at arm's length.

"You know, everyone complains about the field conditions here," Porter continued. "But I gotta tell you that this swampy mess is a lot easier to work with than the turf in the Superdome."

Coming Up Next
With seven losses, the Bears' season has at long last become an explicit tryout for next year.

While any talk of rushing Kevin White back from injury can now be shelved and we can look forward to extended playing time for the likes of more youngsters on the defense, don't get ahead of yourself.

Just because you know the season is over doesn't mean you should tell your wife that you're now available on January 10th.

Unless you want to have dinner with the Krazinskis. Think carefully before you tell the Mrs. that the date opened up.

Darlene is going to spend the entire dinner talking about how busy she is taking her kids from one activity to the next and Glen - oh boy, Glen.

You just know that motherfucker wants to spend 20 minutes telling you about his landscaping strategies.

Guess what, Glen? I don't give a shit about riding mowers.

Why?

Because this is my goddamn lawn - the vast 35 square feet of unkempt moss you walked past to get into my townhouse.

carlslawn.png

What in the Sam-fuck am I going to do with a 24-horsepower John Deere riding mower, Glen?

Could I place this machine in my "yard" and prevent sun from reaching 80% of the plant life that inhabits my outdoor property? Absolutely.

But Glen, I've gotta ask: why in the hell would I spend $3,000 to do it?!

So if your wife asks, January as a whole is still booked on your calendar.

Other than avoiding less-than-desirable social engagements, what do we have to look forward to for the next month? Here are few items of note.

  • Overall we've seen big strides at quarterback. Now it's time to see what kind of depth is available at the position. Backup QB, er, whose name escapes me at the moment. Sixth-round pick David Fales? Aw Christ, that's no fun. Let's just run Willie Young out there. He can pretend to reel in a big mouth bass after every completion. So get ready for about three of those.
  • Jeremy Langford, starting running back heir apparent. Eighty percent of the time this guy looks like a legit starter in the NFL. But the other 20 percent, he has a nasty habit of getting his chest bruised by the point of the football. We've already done shots, commission check wagers and that party trick where we try not to stab our fingers with a knife, so let's try a new game. Every time Langford drops a catchable pass, scream out a non-specific, yet racially insensitive term for white people at the top of your lungs. Examples include "chirp," "caulkie," raw chicken" and "yakoo." Allow me to speak on behalf of all blue-eyed devils and assure you, no one will be bothered.

    [Editor's Note: If the term "blue-eyed devil" makes you uncomfortable, you should really stop reading now.]

  • The development of tight end Zach Miller, who thanks to an outrageous number of prior injuries is essentially a 31-year old rookie based on service time. With Martellus Bennett on IR, it's the perfect time to resurrect his career and show the league what he can do . . . now it's his ribs? God. Damn. It.
  • I'm excited to see all of the creative ways that Tracy Porter is planning to hide Adrian Amos's grave. Watch the broadcasts carefully during home games for tents, picnic tables and bounce houses that seem wildly out of place on the Bears sideline.

What's In A Name
Another season will pass without the football franchise in Washington, D.C., changing its name.

Some of you might ask what the big deal is and how this team's moniker is different than say, the Fighting Illini or Seminoles or Terrapins.

For one, "Illini" is the self-proclaimed title for a tribe of Native Americans. Identifying as one is roughly analogous to identifying as "Irish."

An Irish woman might be offended when you call her "Sean Connery" (you shouldn't have grown that beard, Aileen), but while you might offend someone by confusing their group with another group, the term "Illini" doesn't (to my knowledge) carry an intrinsically offensive connotation any more than the word "Scotsman" does.

Comparisons to the "N" word have been bandied about the Internet.

I suppose there's merit to that, if the person making the claim is at least half Native American.

See, I'm kind of picky about who has a right to get self-righteous about this issue. I've got a number of people in my life that begin invoking their proud (read: completely unsubstantiated) 1/32 Cherokee heritage in situations that involve "tracking" things (usually loose women) or drunkenly assembling a tent.

Stop dancing around the flame, Brad.

And quit telling me "your mighty forebrothers smile down on you from the great hunt in the sky" because you started a minor campfire at the Mt. Olympus Resort with a Bic lighter and kindling that consists entirely of slain cases of Miller Lite.

But I digress.

As an outsider, I can't produce a fair analogy, so rather than try, I'll share a scenario that leads me to an equivalent emotional reaction.

People who are okay with the name "Redskins" remind me of a straight, married, white woman who is both physically attracted to black men and more than a little racist.

You know the type of woman I'm talking about.

She's more a bigot in heart than in deed.

Not ultimately malicious, but you'd feel icky if you got a look at the transcript of her internal monologue.

She told her husband that she'll be working late, but in reality she's in a Motel 6 getting plowed by a six-foot tall black dude named Roy.

Now ,Roy is a sales executive at a manufacturing company out of Mt. Prospect.

He was hired about four years ago as an account manager and was tasked with growing sales within the company's most high-profile clients.

Due to his enormous success, Roy was quickly promoted. Thirty people now report to him and, under his direction, business has never been better.

Roy doesn't know that this woman is married. He didn't really ask, but he's single and the woman he's seeing is 38. Because of his busy schedule he doesn't have time to really dig into the particulars of the lives of the grown women he dates.

Back in Motel 6, the married woman is screaming "F**K ME WITH THAT N****R D**K!" at the top of her lungs.

This is where Roy's backstory becomes key.

He doesn't need my help and certainly none of my pity.

The guy is driving a BMW home when he's done railing a pretty woman. He makes exponentially more money than I do. He's earned everything good in his life. And now some ignorant bitch is buying his short term tolerance of a verbal assault with her vagina.

The woman isn't granted the right to vent her low-grade disdain just because the person on the receiving end of the attack won't be hurt. Roy can take it, maybe he even gets a kick out of it. After all, who's the joke really on?

If Roy goes back next week, fine. He's made his call and there's no need to be offended on his behalf.

But that's not the case of the Redskins.

[Editor's Note: So, is Roy supposed to represent DeSean Jackson or something? I'm lost.]

Again, this story doesn't make a good one-to-one analogy, but it's the best way I know how to describe the very specific emotional through-line that the name "Redskins" draws out of me.

Reading the transcript, feeling icky, giggling a little, deciding that whatever's happening here should stop, but not being in a position to do anything about it and not able to talk about it without seeming self-important.

Whoops.

I guess the takeaway is that I equate the Washington Redskins to a woman screaming something vile in a black guy's face mid-coitus.

Kool Aid (2 of 5 Snifters Of Koval Millet)
Like whiskey, but are on a gluten-free diet?

In other words, if you've somehow fooled yourself into believing that you can drink like a fish but are simultaneously 150 crunches away from achieving shredded abs, then this delicious spirit is for you.

Also makes a nice holiday gift, if you're into that sort of thing.

The aforementioned Washington Redskins are in town on Sunday and holy shit was that loss last week deflating.

Hype machine, not engaged.

Thanks to an incredibly weak NFC East, the Bears are in the bizarre position of trying to play spoiler - to a team with an identical record.

Robbie Gould's missed field goals have drawn attention away from the fact that the Bears offense hasn't been hitting on all cylinders for the better part of a month.

Chicago should be able to find room for deep strikes in the second half as the Washington secondary is kinda bad in addition to being injured.

Bears win at home, but don't get too excited. It's a 9-7 season at best.

Bears 23, Washington 21

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* I made almost no effort to devise a graceful entry point for the following nugget, but I think it's important for me to let you all know about that the Superman Snugglers pillow, a child's toy that appeared in the image search results for "Bizarro Superman." You can go ahead and have the RTDNA mail my Edward R. Morrow Award to the office. I don't want that thing left on the porch during the holiday season.

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About The Author
Carl Mohrbacher spent a good portion of his week getting criticized for "forcing" some of his friends and family to drink all day Sunday, thus ruining their work week. He'd like to thank H.O.M.E. in Arlington Heights for the free hats and the security staff at the House Of Blues for being gentle to his friends when they became too rowdy for a Steel Panther concert.

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Carl Mohrbacher is our man on the Kool-Aid. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:58 AM | Permalink

December 9, 2015

Fantasy Fix: Season Of Hurt

The 2015 NFL season will be remembered for how many top players were sidelined for much of the season.

In fantasy terms, six of the players in the pre-season top 20 in Yahoo! standard leagues ultimately missed at least four weeks of the season, and three of those injuries ended seasons for the players involved:

* Jamaal Charles, RB, KC: Overall Rank: 2. Position Rank: 2. Season-ending injury Week 6.

* Marshawn Lynch, RB, SEA: O-Rank: 4. P-Rank: 4. Missed five weeks so far.

* LeVeon Bell, RB, PIT: O-Rank 5. P-Rank: 5. Season-ending injury Week 9.

* Dez Bryant, WR, DAL: O-Rank: 7. P-Rank: 2. Missed six weeks.

* Andrew Luck, QB, IND: O-Rank: 17. P-Rank: 1. Missed five weeks so far.

* Justin Forsett, RB, BAL: O-Rank: 19. P-Rank: 10. Season-ending injury Week 11.

This list doesn't include injuries outside the top 20 that still had major fantasy relevance, such as the extended inactive stretch for Alshon Jeffery or the early-season and later season-ending injuries to Tony Romo.

Injuries were one thing that made this season's fantasy slate even more of a crapshoot than usual, but there were plenty of other unexpected turns - not only top players who didn't perform as hoped, but also sleepers and no-names who ran away with more fantasy accolades than anyone could have expected. Here are my own choices for season-ending honors - and a couple of dishonors:

Fantasy MVP and Biggest Overall Surprise: Devonta Freeman, RB, ATL.

Through Week 13, he had 811 rushing yards, nine rush TDs, 476 receiving yards and two receiving TDs, good for 186 fantasy points, the most by any RB. Not bad for a guy who started the season projected as the No. 2 back behind rookie Tevin Coleman.

Rookie of the Year: Todd Gurley, RB, STL.

He has slowed down in his last few games but 835 yards rushing and six TDs in his first 10 games shows you just how fast he started. He was widely drafted despite the knowledge he would miss at least four games, possibly more to start the season, and that he could be slow to build up speed coming off injury. Instead, he has exploded with fantasy value, and is looking like the possible No. 1 or No. 2 overall draft pick for next year.

QB of the Year: Tom Brady, NE.

Smart draft money was bet on the QB who barely made the pre-season top 10 at his position. Angry Tom's 2015 scorched earth campaign has been pretty much everything we expected, though with a couple of poor games that could be blamed on a raft of injuries in the Pats' offense. Brady leads the NFL with 3,912 passing yards and 31 pass TDs through Week 13. Even with the aforementioned injuries, I think he has a good chance to end the season right around 5,000 yards passing and 40 TDs.

WR of the Year: Allen Robinson, JAX.

A surprise pick you could argue with, Robinson was considered to be at the deeper end of the WR-1 pool when the season opened, but has amassed 11 TD receptions on 65 catches for 1,080 yards. Julio Jones, Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr. all had slightly more fantasy points, but Robinson delivered the biggest value on his draft position.

TE of the Year: Tyler Eifert, CIN.

His 12 receiving TDs lead all pass-catchers, and if he could have come up with a few big yardage games, I'd be ready to call him a top 10 overall player for next year.

Player Who Ruined Most Fantasy Seasons: Tie between Luck and Eddie Lacy, RB, GB.

I've said a lot about him already, but week to week he was the most inconsistent fantasy player that most owners had to start regardless. A huge waste of the No. 3 or No. 4 draft pick in most leagues and now a huge gamble no matter where he is ranked for next year.

Comeback Player of the Year: Doug Martin, RB, TAM.

He was considered a chic RB-2 for fantasy purposes, the type you might skip over to gamble on a lower-ranked player, but so far he has 1,133 rushing yards, good for No. 2 behind Adrian Peterson. With a few weeks to go, I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up the leader in rushing yards, which might not be a slam dunk to make him the No. 1 fantasy pick next year, but probably in the top five overall.

Kicker Most Likely To Have Contributed To Two Weekly Wins: Cairo Santos, KC.

His 27 fantasy points on seven field goals (two of them 50+ yards) in Week 4 could have made him the top points man overall on many fantasy teams that week. Then, in Week 10, he scored 21 fantasy points on five field goals. KC's offense sputtered enough this year that he has been able to get a lot of FG tries, but not a lot of extra points.

Preseason Top 10 QB Most Likely to Lose Fantasy Significance: Peyton Manning, DEN.

A hugely embarrassing year topped off by this: The game in which he became the NFL career passing yards leader also was arguably the worst game of his long career (35 yards passing, zero TDs, four INTs) and possibly his last game as the Broncos' starting QB. He may have another year in him, maybe even a decent one, but I can't see him being better than a deep-round back-up for fantasy draft purposes next year.

QB Outside the Top 10 Most Likely to Gain Fantasy Significance: Blake Bortles, JAX.

At draft time, he was a lottery ticket back-up choice, but is currently third in pass TDs behind Brady and Palmer. Of course, he's also second in INTs behind Manning, but his talented main targets - WRs Robinson and Allen Hurns, and TE Julius Thomas, should make his one of the hotter draft stocks going into next season.

It's been a long, strange season. I'm in one league where I drafted last after winning the championship last year and ended up with a healthy, talented group that carried me into first place through Week 13 this season. But in another league, I had the third pick overall, which I spent on Lacy of course, and had to fight tooth-and-nail just to stay out of the basement. Another reminder that it all just comes down to luck.

This is my final Fantasy Fix column for 2015. Happy Holidays, and I'll see you again in January 2016 to talk fantasy baseball!

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Dan O'Shea is our man in fantasyland. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:58 PM | Permalink

The [Wednesday] Papers

"Mayor Rahm Emanuel will take the rare step Wednesday of delivering a speech on Chicago's woeful police misconduct record to the City Council, which has approved hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements for victims of police brutality while demanding little change in how the department operates," the Tribune reports.

Finally, a chance to hear what the mayor has to say about all this! And without a media filter! #MakeItStop

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"The City Council's toothless approach on Chicago's long history of police corruption reflects the top-down nature of how things run at City Hall - the mayor, whether it be Emanuel or his predecessor Richard M. Daley, has called the shots and the aldermen follow suit with little, if any, resistance.

"Since 2004, Emanuel and Daley's administrations have recommended the City Council approve scores of settlements for police shootings and other wrongdoing, totaling more than $500 million in payments to victims and their families, officials say. And while they have rubber-stamped those checks in recent years, aldermen have shown little initiative to take legislative action on police reforms."

Truth.

For example:

"An analysis to be released Tuesday by the Chicago Justice Project, a nonprofit focused on increasing access to criminal justice data, shows that 40 percent of the 148 agenda items considered from 2006 through 2009 by the Council's Committee on Police and Fire concerned the donation of old equipment, mostly police and fire vehicles, to communities in Iraq, Mexico and elsewhere," Mick Dumke reported for the Chicago News Cooperative/NewYork Times in 2010.

In contrast, just 1 percent had anything to do with crime or violence.

"Tracy Siska, the executive director of the Chicago Justice Project, said the committee should hold regular meetings to review police performance."

I would also suggest that police brutality settlements go through the committee that is supposed to provide oversight of the police department and not just Ed Burke's finance committee, which is supposed to simply approve cutting the checks. Which I suppose is what they simply do.

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"City Hall has been shaken in the past two weeks since a Cook County judge ordered Emanuel to release a video showing the police shooting of Laquan McDonald and Cook County prosecutors charged officer Jason Van Dyke with murder for shooting the African-American teenager 16 times. The fallout has left plenty of aldermen pointing their fingers at the mayor's fifth-floor office, with little mention of their own roles in the lack of police oversight.

"Ald. Carrie Austin, Emanuel's City Council Budget Committee chairwoman, said the mayor needs to use his speech to make apologies.

"Say 'I'm sorry,'" said Austin, 34th. "'I'm sorry' to us, the African-American community, that these things have occurred and everybody looked the other way."

"But many aldermen have looked the other way too."

Truth.

To wit:

Austin was Daley's budget committee chair and she's Rahm's budget committee chair. Similarly, Burke was Daley's finance committee chair and he's Rahm's finance committee chair. And Patrick O'Connor was Daley's floor leader and is Rahm's floor leader.

O'Connor? Here:

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"The City Council approved the payment to the McDonald family on the same day it signed off on another settlement that drew far more attention - the creation of a $5.5 million reparations fund for dozens of torture victims connected to former Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge and his so-called midnight crew of rogue detectives."

Choose Chicago: Magic Happens Here.

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Also that day at the city council, the Tribune notes in an editorial (which I'll get to in a minute):

"[T]hey had another high-profile case on the docket that morning: Nanci Koschman, the mother of David Koschman, who had died in 2004. Koschman died following a fistfight with Richard Vanecko, a nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley. That case also smelled of a cover-up within the Police Department. Nanci Koschman got a settlement approved by the City Council that day for $250,000."

Burge, Koschman and McDonald on the same day.

And yet: "Burke: No Institutional Problem At Chicago Police Department."

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"West Side Ald. Emma Mitts, 37th, said she has apologized to her constituents for not doing more due diligence on the McDonald case. Mitts said she was 'really just as shocked as everyone when we got briefed on' the McDonald video shortly before Emanuel publicly released it.

"They told us about it and said 'You voted for it,' and I'm like, 'Voted for what?'" Mitts said.

Let's look at the transcript again of the Finance Committee approving of the settlement and sending it along to the full City Council, where it was approved without discussion.

City attorney Stephen Patton: Words, words, words.

Finance Committee: Aye.

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"So I had to research," Mitts said and I apologized for that, but at the same time our duty is to oversee the taxpayers.

That's true, and to that end it appears the city and the council did a good job cheaping out the McDonald family. Bravo.

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Look, in all seriousness, there is a price that we all pay every day for a rubber-stamp city council. If Rahm really wants to "own" this mess, and reform the city's practices, he'll set the council free. That's also something his task force could recommend - and I don't just mean pretty words about stronger council oversight. The whole damn system of putting the council under the mayor's control and destroying the separation of powers is literally killing us - to further the egos and ambitions of those who occupy the Fifth Floor.

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"Emanuel is expected to use his speech at 9 a.m. Wednesday to reframe his administration's handling of police misconduct. In announcing he had fired former police Superintendent Garry McCarthy last week, Emanuel announced he was creating a Police Accountability Task Force to recommend reforms.

"But his words Wednesday will be directed at 50 council members who have heard him call for such reforms in the past and done little to hold him to it."

Truth.

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Now, to that Trib editorial: Yes, the city council blew it. But the Trib lays it on a bit thick, ignoring the fact that the mayor it endorsed twice controls the city council even more than Daley did.

Beyond that, this isn't really true:

"[T]he transcripts don't lie. Patton gave aldermen substantial information about what happened the night of McDonald's death."

I'm not giving the aldermen a pass, but what Patton gave the aldermen was a dry recitation of "what their lawyers say vs. what the police say."

For example:

The shooting office contends, as I understand it, that Mr. McDonald was moving toward him. He was in fear of his life. Mr. McDonald was only one car width, you know, away, one lane on Pulaski, 10, 15 feet.

The plaintiffs contend very vehemently that Mr. McDonald had been walking away from the police and was continuing to walk away from the police, and they contend that the videotape supports their version of events.

At no time did Patton say that he had seen the video - and that there was no ambiguity about the case. Instead, he repeatedly said that, were the family to file a lawsuit, "they will argue that the videotape supports their version of events." He never said "and they'd be right."

Patton never clearly said that what the family contended was 100 percent correct - though he did tell the aldermen that his office had successfully negotiated the family's original ask of $16 million down to $5 million, which tends to make one think the family's claims were in doubt. It's no wonder it may have seemed like "make it go away" money to aldermen - just $5 million for a kid shot 16 times for no reason?

"We were led to believe there was something fuzzy or something questionable that could be interpreted a different way than it was," Ald. Howard Brookins said.

"We were misled. We were misled in terms of whether or not this particular tape showed some gray area where it needed to be investigated for all this period of time."

True. If the family's claims were correct, why was the case still under investigation six months later? That's usually a slow walk to nothing, not a burgeoning probe into something.

Unfortunately, that Brookins quote comes from a Fran Spielman article in which she claims Patton described the case "in painstaking detail."

Which led Rich Miller on his Capitol Fax blog to conclude that if you read Spielman's article, "you'll see that the alderm[e]n who claimed they were deliberately misled by the mayor's office about the shooting aren't really telling the truth." Really?

Writes Spielman:

"Rather than 'misleading' aldermen, Patton played it right down the middle. The only thing he did not tell aldermen is that he had seen the tape himself and could confirm the McDonald family's version."

That's the only thing he didn't tell aldermen! Instead, he played it right down the middle!

How is that not misleading? He played it he-said, she-said, instead of telling alderman that the proof was overwhelming that one side was lying its ass off.

*

"We were sitting there and probably had weird looks on [our] faces, it was almost like he was dancing this fine line," Ald. Scott Waguespack told Politico.

"Waguespack said the transcript doesn't show the full picture of the meeting, which included side conversations with other attorneys."

As I've previously written, it was in these side conversations that aldermen felt they were misled by city attorneys.

*

"Patton went on to explain to incredulous aldermen why the $5 million settlement was in the 'best interests' of Chicago taxpayers after the family initially demanded $16 million," Spielman writes.

I think she means "credulous" - like her report at the time of the settlement, which ended with this kicker:

[Burke] added, "It would appear that, had the Taser been available in this case, maybe the taxpayers wouldn't be shelling out $5 million."

Oh, and a kid wouldn't be dead.

*

I think it was Noam Chomsky who once said you can always learn a reporter's true feelings about a story by looking at what quote they choose to end it with.

*

"Before the full council voted, Ald. Howard Brookins, 21st, objected to a provision in the settlement that would keep the video secret," that Trib editorial notes.

He called the settlement "hush money" and demanded that the video be shown to the public. He got nowhere. In the end, he joined in the unanimous vote to approve the $5 million payout.

True. But Brookins did more than that.

"The chairman of the City Council's Black Caucus on Tuesday demanded the release of a potentially incendiary video showing a Chicago Police officer firing 16 shots into the body of slain African-American teenager Laquan McDonald," Spielman reported at the time. (Hey, like Anita Alvarez, sometimes she gets it right.)

"Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) acknowledged that the dashboard camera video of one Chicago Police officer unleashing the barrage of gunfire that killed McDonald, 17, on Oct. 20, 2014 as at least five other responding officers exercised restraint would 'really inflame the passions of the community-at-large.'

"But, Brookins said that's the price that must be paid if the Chicago Police Department is ever going to confront and move beyond the disparate treatment of African-American men by a 'handful' of rogue officers that's become a systemic problem for police across the nation."

That was eight months ago; how right was he?

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Tl; dr: The rubber stamp city council was misled.

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Mass Shootings A Bad Way To Understand Gun Violence
Obscures the broader reality of who most victims are.

Adult Coloring Books
In Local Book Notes. Plus: Slaughterhouse, and the UIC Powell's.

World's Largest Snowglobe
And other awesome activities at the Adler.

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BeachBook

"After Lattanzio testified, video recordings of the interview with Sadler's mother, Talaina Cureton, surfaced and contradicted the former prosecutor's version of events."

Posted by The Beachwood Reporter on Tuesday, December 8, 2015

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TweetWood
A sampling.

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I haven't watched the WTTW interview yet, but from what I've seen on Twitter, it was just about what I expected. More on that later.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Peel away.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:52 AM | Permalink

Local Book Notes: Slaughterhouse, Powell's & Adult Coloring

"It's impossible to pinpoint the exact moment Americans embraced industrialized food. But the first Christmas after the Civil War is a key date to note. That's when Chicago's infamous Union Stock Yard opened to the public in 1865," Anne Bramley reports for NPR.

"Its promoters clearly thought there could be no more appropriate way to observe a festive Christian holiday in the midst of America's capitalist hothouse than to open the greatest livestock market the world would ever see," writes Dominic A. Pacyga in his new book, Slaughterhouse: Chicago's Union Stock Yard And The World It Made

"'See' is the key word here. Because the new modern industry was quite a spectacle to behold, says Pacyga, and it was by watching it that Americans began to change their relationship to meat."

Click through for an interview with Pacyga.

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From the University of Chicago Press:

"From the minute it opened - on Christmas Day in 1865 - it was Chicago's must-see tourist attraction, drawing more than half a million visitors each year. Families, visiting dignitaries, even school groups all made trips to the South Side to tour the Union Stock Yard. There they got a firsthand look at the city's industrial prowess as they witnessed cattle, hogs, and sheep disassembled with breathtaking efficiency. At their height, the kill floors employed 50,000 workers and processed six hundred animals an hour, an astonishing spectacle of industrialized death."

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Powell's Out
"The Powell's Books in University Village by the University of Illinois at Chicago campus was recently packed when the Chicago Humanities Festival brought speakers like Salman Rushdie and Patton Oswald to the nearby UIC Forum," Joseph Pete writes for the Northwest Indiana Times.

Professorial types browsed the well-curated titles and lined up at the counter with books stacked in the arms.

But such scenes were rare at the three-year-old bookstore at 1218 S Halsted St., which replaced Barbara's Bookstore.

Powell's Books, one of the most beloved names in Chicago bookselling, is closing its University Village location on Dec. 23. The chain, which was founded by the owner of Portland's famous Powell's City of Books, also recently closed its South Loop and Lincoln Avenue locations and now just operates a single store at 1501 E. 57th St. in Hyde Park.

The good news:

STORE CLOSING SALE-UNIVERSITY VILLAGE LOCATION ONLY!50% OFF EVERYTHING now through December 23rd.

Posted by Powell's Books Chicago on Tuesday, December 8, 2015

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Are Adult Coloring Books A Real Thing?
"I posted the query to Facebook and the response - entirely from women - was surprisingly immediate and enthusiastic," Julia Felsenthal writes for Vogue.

"My aunt-in-law brought coloring books and fancy markers to Thanksgiving and I was all 'pshhhh, really??'" wrote Dean, a designer in Chicago whose funky style I've long admired on social media. "Next thing I know, I'm suuuuper chill with a glass of wine, coloring a picture of a flower shop. It's surprisingly kind of awesome."

That would be Dean Renaud.

do i have any facebook friends who have tried or who regularly enjoy the strange phenomenon of adult coloring books? lemme know!

Posted by Julia Felsenthal on Sunday, December 6, 2015

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:36 AM | Permalink

Why Counting Mass Shootings Is A Bad Way To Understand Gun Violence In America

According to articles this week across the Internet, there has been an average of one mass shooting every day in the United States: 355 so far this year. It's a jarring statistic, and one that has gone viral in the wake of the massacre in San Bernardino, California.

But there are two problems with the number: It doesn't actually provide a clear estimate of how often the country has seen shooting rampages like the one in San Bernardino. And it obscures the broader reality of gun violence in America.

Counting "mass shootings" is notoriously complicated and contested, since there is no standard definition of what they are. Is it best to count shootings that injure or kill a certain number of people? Or should the definition focus more narrowly on attacks in which the motivation of the shooter "appears to be indiscriminate killing?"

Mother Jones, which has been tracking mass shootings since 2012, has counted just four mass shootings this year, and a total of 73 since 1982, as Mother Jones editor Mark Follman has noted in The New York Times.

In 2014, the FBI released its own count of "active shooter" incidents, focusing on events where law enforcement and citizens may have the chance to intervene and change the outcome of the ongoing shooting. It tallied a total of 160 of these events from 2000 to 2013 - including high-profile shootings at Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, and Sandy Hook Elementary School - with an average of 11 per year.

The "355 mass shootings this year" that has been rocketing around the Internet comes from a crowdsourced Reddit initiative that gathers media reports of shootings in which four or more people were shot.

The Reddit count includes many incidents that Mother Jones, the FBI, and others leave out: for instance, a home robbery, a drive-by shooting, and a gang fight.

The Reddit project's organizers suggest this broader approach does a better job of capturing the burden of gun violence - including the suffering and costs of treating people who are shot and survive.

"The most obscene incidents of gun violence usually do not make the mainstream news at all," the project's introduction says, citing a nightclub shooting in Tennessee in which 18 people were shot and only one person killed. "We believe the media does a disservice to mass shooting victims by virtually ignoring them unless large numbers are killed."

Yet bundling together all incidents in which four people or more people are shot doesn't capture the bigger picture.

As ProPublica detailed recently, gun murder in America is largely a story of race and geography. Half of all gun murder victims are black men. The gun murder rate for black Americans is dramatically higher than it is for white Americans. And the burden of violence tends to be concentrated in certain neighborhoods of certain cities.

Reddit's Mass Shooting Tracker does not include any breakdown by race. In response to questions about the group's numbers, one project organizer, GhostofAlyeska, wrote, "Our intent is not to analyze the causes or cures for gun violence, but simply to expose the available data. We're volunteers working from a reddit community, nothing more."

The Reddit project cites 462 people killed under its broad definition of mass shootings. The number of gun homicides of black men killed in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: 5,798.

Baltimore alone has seen a total of 316 total homicides so far this year - the vast majority of them shooting deaths of black victims, according to the Baltimore Sun's homicide map. The city's homicide rate is now at a record high. The Reddit tracker captures eight of those deaths.

San Bernardino has two entries in this year's Mass Shooting Tracker: yesterday's attack, and a nightclub shooting reportedly linked to gang violence. The area has long struggled with poverty, gangs, and homicide. "My son was shot to death with an AK-47. My nephew was murdered and his body was burned and buried," San Bernardino resident Marisa Hernandez told Vice News on Wednesday. "This type of mass shootings happens everyday here to our kids and nobody stops it, nobody does anything."

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Previously:

* Why Don't We Know How Many People Are Shot Each Year In America?

* Democrats Push To Restart CDC Funding For Gun Violence Research.

* The Best Reporting On Children With Post-Traumatic Stress.

* Yes, Black America Fears The Police. Here's Why.

* Myth vs. Fact: Mental Health And Violence.

* Is The Gun Lobby's Power Overstated?

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:27 AM | Permalink

Awesome Adler Activities

This holiday season, the Adler Planetarium is making our corner of the Universe a little merrier with a variety of seasonal activities, sky shows and special events.

World's Largest Snow Globe
The holiday celebration at the Adler kicked off last week with the return of the World's Largest Snow Globe inside the Grainger Sky Theater. After enjoying an original Adler sky show like Cosmic Wonder or Destination Solar System, stick around to tour the city from inside our magical "snow globe." You'll be whisked around Chicago and see famous landmarks in their holiday finery. The World's Largest Snow Globe will be available to visitors through January 3.

Trailers . . .

Cosmic Wonder.


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Destination Solar System.

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Milestones in Space Exploration
December marks the 50th anniversary of Gemini 7 - the first space flight for NASA astronaut Captain James A. Lovell, Jr. He and Frank Borman spent 12 days aboard the small Gemini 7 spacecraft in 1965. Visit Mission Moon to learn about this historic journey. December is also the anniversary of humanity's final steps on the Moon during the Apollo 17 mission. Join us for an exclusive screening of the new documentary film The Last Man on the Moon on December 12 and 19.

Trailer . . .

The Last Man on the Moon.

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International Snow Station
For the youngest explorers, Planet Explorers will be decorated to celebrate the holidays from Earth to Planet X. Join us on Mondays for Young Explorers Mondays, a special day dedicated to kids under six and their families. Learn how astronauts serving on the International Space Station bring a bit of holiday joy to space! The experience will open to visitors beginning December 11.

Planet Explorers.

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Short Days, Long Nights
December 21 is the Winter Solstice, which marks the shortest day and longest night of the year! The Adler will be hosting a day of observing in the Doane Observatory, from 1 p.m. - 7 p.m. (Weather permitting.) Guests will have the opportunity to view the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Uranus, Pleiades, and more! This event is free to the public and will be staffed by Adler Astronomers who can answer all your winter sky questions.

The Doane Observatory.

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Collections Exploration Days
On December 16 and 22, learn why winter is so cold and how humans have kept track of the seasons throughout history by exploring astronomy artifacts with the Adler's collections team! On December 16, the team will bring rare artifacts out of the vault. On December 22 visitors will be able to attend gallery talks in Astronomy in Culture led by Adler curator Pedro M. P. Raposo, DPhil, at 11:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

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About The Adler
The Adler Planetarium - America's First Planetarium - is more than a museum; it is a laboratory, a classroom, and a community exploring the Universe together.

Each year, nearly 500,000 visitors experience the museum's interactive exhibitions, live planetarium shows, hands-on, minds-on STEM education programs, and world-class collections.

Founded in 1930 by Chicago business leader Max Adler, the Adler Planetarium is a recognized leader in public engagement.

The museum's scientists, historians, and educators inspire the next generation of explorers and invite you to explore space with us.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:00 AM | Permalink

December 8, 2015

The [Tuesday] Papers

I'm working on more cop stuff. Maybe tonight, we'll see.

Meanwhile:

* CPD's History Of Failed Reform.

Check out the headlines!

* Do Poems Stink?

They do at this Chicago exhibition!

* Have A Chillinois Christmas.

Illinois beef meets Texas chili.

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BeachBook

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TweetWood
A sampling.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Non-fetal.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 3:34 PM | Permalink

Do Poems Stink?

Volatile! A Poetry and Scent Exhibition opens on December 11 at 6:30 p.m. at the Poetry Foundation Gallery with a panel featuring curator and design historian Debra Riley Parr, post-media artist Brian Goeltzenleuchter, and perfumer David Moltz discussing intersections of scent and poetry.

In Volatile!, Parr presents a number of objects and experiences that invite speculative connections between poetry and scent.

The exhibition features works by Moltz, Goeltzenleuchter with poet Anna van Suchtelen, typography artist Ben Van Dyke, ceramicist Seth Bogart, and artists Amy Radcliffe and Eduardo Kac.

13052_transform.jpg

"Great art is a keyhole that we peek through, opening onto larger, collective spaces," David Moltz writes. "Poetry and perfume both utilize the power of suggestion and are capable of creating entire worlds through subtle illusion."

As stated on the website of Moltz's D.S. & Durga, inspiration comes "from outdated herbal wisdom, native ritual medicine, lore and legends, historical movements and Americana. The scents are the stories of prospectors, gentry, trailblazers, frontier women, drawing rooms, workbenches, cowboys - fragments of half remembered legends, movements, events, and foreign lands."

"Poetry readers might find this project surprising, but poetry and perfume together have always evoked rich, powerful, and complex responses," said Don Share, editor of Poetry magazine. "In 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,' published one hundred years ago in our pages, Eliot famously mused: 'Is it perfume from a dress / That makes me so digress?'

"One thinks, too, of Baudelaire: 'Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir' ('Sounds and fragrances swirl through the evening air . . . '). This new conjoining of poet and perfumer has resulted in an elegant, engaging, and sensual experience that we're proud to present."

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Anna van Suchtelen.

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Seth Bogart.

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Amy Radcliffe.

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Eduardo Kac.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:45 PM | Permalink

Crime, Corruption & Cover-Ups

"Our analysis of police corruption in Chicago yields four major findings," a team from UIC found.

"First, corruption has long persisted within the CPD and continues to be a serious problem. There have been 102 convictions of Chicago police since the beginning of 2000.

"Second, police officers often resist reporting crimes and misconduct committed by fellow officers. The 'blue code of silence,' while difficult to prove, is an integral part of the
department's culture and it exacerbates the corruption problems. However last November, a federal jury found that the City of Chicago and its police culture were partially responsible for Officer Anthony Abbate's brutal beating of a female bartender. After the civil trial to assess damages, the victim's attorney declared, 'We proved a code of silence at every level in the Chicago Police Department.'

Third, over time a large portion of police corruption has shifted from policemen aiding and abetting mobsters and organized crime to officers involved with drugs dealers and street gangs. Since the year 2000, a total of 47 Chicago law enforcement officers were convicted of drug and gang related crimes. The department's war on drugs puts police officers, especially those working undercover, in dangerous situations where they must cooperate with criminals to catch criminals. These endeavors require that CPD superiors provide a high degree of leadership and oversight to keep officers on the straight and narrow.

"Fourth, internal and external sources of authority, including police superintendents and mayors, have up to now failed to provide adequate anti-corruption oversight and leadership."

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"The Cook County State's Attorney never prosecuted a single officer for any crimes related to [Burge-related] torture. And, there is no evidence that the Police Department ever disciplined any officer for failing to come forward with information about the tortures."

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"In 2007, police consultant Lou Reiter testified in court that the department's lack of effective oversight was the product of 'deliberate indifference' by CPD leaders.

"The lack of an effective crackdown on police misconduct can be inferred from a 2007 study by University of Chicago law professor Craig Futterman.

"He found that only 19 of 10,149 (or less than [0.2] percent) civilian complaints of excessive force, illegal searches, racial abuse, sexual abuse and false arrests between 2002 and 2004 led to police suspensions of a week or more.

"The listing in our report of the 295 convicted police officers and their illegal activities demonstrate that corruption in Chicago Police Department is not confined to a few isolated cases. While people can debate whether the CPD has a culture that promotes corruption, the findings clearly show that the CPD has at the very least a culture that tolerates police misconduct and corruption."

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"[P]olice officers do not fear being investigated by the Internal Affairs Department.

"Reiter concludes:

"These deficiencies in the administrative investigations of complaints, employee discipline and the adverse impact of the Code of Silence, has been noted by, documented for and relied upon managers and administrators within the Chicago Police Department. The failure to modify this systemic deficiency in the process by successive Police Superintendents, in my opinion, is indicative of a conscious choice by the Police Department to continue this practice of indifference to allegations of misconduct and police abuse including Constitutional violations."

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"It should be clear we do not ascribe to the 'bad apple' theory of police misconduct. New York's famous Knapp Report explains:

"According to this theory, which bordered on official Department doctrine, any policeman found to be corrupt must promptly be denounced as a rotten apple in an otherwise clean barrel. It must never be admitted that his individual corruption may be symptomatic of underlying disease . . . A high command unwilling to acknowledge that the problem of corruption is extensive cannot very well argue that drastic changes are necessary to deal with the problem."

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History of CPD oversight - each a reaction to scandal.

1960: Police Board created.

Tribune, March 5, 1960: "Council Approves New Police Board; Wilson Is Inducted: 4 'Urgent' Needs Of Department Described Wilson Tells New Board Of 4 'Urgent' Police Needs."

1966: Mayor creates Citizens Committee.

Tribune, July 26, 1966: "Daley Appoints 23 To Study Police Department."

1967: Superintendent reorganizes Internal Investigations Division.

Tribune, November 19, 1967: "Born in '60, I. I. D. Keeps Eye on City Policemen: Its Office Acts On Thousands Of Complaints."

1970: Internal Affairs Division created.

Tribune, September 23, 1970: "POLICE FORCE SHAKEUP PUTS 40 IN NEW JOBS: 2d Big Move Following Recent Survey."

1972: City Commission on Human Relations given role.

Tribune, May 13, 1972: "Won't Change Police System, Conlisk Insists: CHICAGO'S TROUBLED POLICE."

1973: Knoohuizen Report.

1974: Office of Professional Standards created.

Tribune, February 13, 1974: "Exclusive Interview: IAD Failed To End corruption: [Chief]."

2007: Independent Police Review Authority created.

Sun-Times, November 1, 2007: "Key To Police Watchdog's New Name: 'Independent.'"

[Headlines by The Beachwood Value-Added Affairs Desk]

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"The problem of police corruption in Chicago is not simply that there are occasional flawed police officers. Nearly all officers join the police force because they desire to serve and protect not serve and collect. By far, most officers are law abiding, dedicated public servants.

"The real problem is that an embarrassingly large number police officers violate citizens' rights, engage in corruption and commit crimes while escaping detection and avoiding discipline or prosecution for many years."

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"Fraternal Order of Police leadership and members of the City Council have repeatedly opposed establishing a powerful independent Police Review Board."

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Recommendations include:

"1. The Mayor and City Council should enact legislation to replace the current appointed Police Board with either a democratically elected civilian Police Board or a new appointed board with such high caliber members as good government advocates and civil right leaders, former federal prosecutors, inspector generals, or respected former public defenders or eminent retired judges.

"In either case, the new board's purview must not be limited to cases referred by the superintendent or IPRA and appeals from individual officers. It also should have the power hire special inspectors to conduct investigations. And, it must be empowered to refer cases to the State's Attorney and U.S. Attorney.

"2. The Cook County State's Attorney must allocate sufficient resources for its public integrity unit to improve its prosecution of police corruption. The State's Attorney should issue an annual report on its efforts to curb police corruption and establish better procedures to encourage residents to confidentially report criminal police misconduct.

"3. The Mayor and City Hall should report to the public the cost of police corruption and make information about police corruption cases easy to access. It should report the cost of investigating, defending and settling police corruption cases in its annual city budget and make it available on the city's website along with a searchable database with all indictments and convictions of police officers."

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:54 AM | Permalink

Illinois Beef Meets Texas Chili

Although red is the color of Santa's suit, poinsettias and Rudolph's nose, a "bowl of red" is probably not what springs to mind when you contemplate Christmas dinner.

But chili has many selling points as a holiday repast. It's a one-pot meal that can feed a crowd, and it tastes best when made a day or two in advance - meaning that even the cook can relax and enjoy the feast. And although I never imagined that chili would grace our Midwestern holiday table, I thank my lucky Lone Stars that the official dish of Texas made its way into my life and onto our extended family's Christmas menu.

It happened as a happy confluence of events. The first part has a history that probably goes back to our ancient ancestors. Traditionally, butchering of large animals was done in the early winter, after they had eaten their fill all spring, summer and fall, and before the lean times of winter. And in pre-refrigeration days, if you butchered in winter when the whole world's a gigantic freezer, your meat would keep for months.

My father follows in the well-trodden paths of his Dutch and German forebears, who also butchered animals every winter. And so in early December he sends a few of his grass-fed cattle to the meat locker a few miles down the road. A couple of weeks later, we are bringing home boxes of frozen beef, wrapped in white butcher paper. Sometimes there is not quite enough freezer space for everything, so we use some of the meat right away.

But it wasn't until I started sharing my annual quarter of beef with my Texas-born boyfriend that the Illinois-beef-meets-Texas-chili marriage was made. I assumed that such an odd coupling must be a first, but it was actually made more than a hundred years ago, in 1909, as I discovered on Linda Stradley's excellent site, What's Cooking America.

DIFFERENT SPELLING

Stradley notes that in Springfield, Ill., an hour or so down the road from my father's grazing cattle, people take their chili very seriously. "They even spell it differently than the rest of the United States," she notes. "This peculiar spelling of 'chilli' in Springfield originated with the founder of the Dew Chilli Parlor. Legend has it that the Dew's owner, Dew Brockman, quibbled with his sign painter over the spelling and won after noting that the dictionary spelled it both ways. Other folks believe the spelling matches the first four letters in Illinois."

That's the first I'd ever heard of Dew Brockman, who may or may not be a long lost relative, but I am sure he would agree that the Brockman family Illinois beef and Texas chili are a heavenly match. Cuts from well-used muscles such as arm, shoulder or chuck roast love the long, slow simmer with the secret chili spice mix. We also add some spicy pork sausage and a few slices of fatty bacon to carry the flavors that gradually intensify over the four to six hours of simmering. By the time we take the pot off the fire, the spices permeate not only the meat, but the whole house, with warmth and good cheer.

I do realize that any talk of Texas chili, particularly made in central Illinois, and with pork added, is bound to get me into trouble. (At least we don't add beans!) Chili tastes are regional, personal and often inflexible. But Christmas is a good time to put partisan bickering aside and enjoy a big beefy bowl of red with or without pork, or beans.

We spend most of Christmas Eve making the big pot of chili for about two dozen relatives to enjoy on Christmas Day because, as the writer John Steele Gordon notes, "Chili is much improved by having had a day to contemplate its fate."

And its fate is to be enjoyed by the holiday crowd, including a red-clad Santa, whose belly shakes when he laughs like a bowl full of chili.

CHRISTMAS CHILI

This version of the Texas classic tastes intensely of its two main ingredients, beef and chili powder. But it also has some pork, onions, carrots, garlic and a can of crushed tomatoes because we like the way those ingredients round the flavors out. You are welcome to keep or delete them as you wish.

Prep time: 45 minutes

Cook time: 5 hours

Total time: 5 hours, 45 minutes

Yield: About 20 servings - and even better as leftovers

Ingredients:

7 tablespoons chili powder (Gebhardt's brand preferred) (about 1 tablespoon per pound of meat)

2 tablespoons each of cumin and cayenne

3 tablespoons oregano

Salt and pepper

3 to 3 1/2 pounds arm, shoulder, chuck or sirloin roast

2 pounds hanger steak

1 1/2 pounds cubed steak

1 1/2 pounds spicy pork sausage (chorizo, jalapeño, andouille etc.)

6 slices of fatty bacon, chopped fine

3 medium onions, chopped

4 medium carrots, chopped very fine

8 garlic cloves, smashed or minced

6 hot peppers, 2 each of habanero, serrano, jalapeno peppers, diced, seeds and all

1 large green pepper, diced

2 bottles of peach or apple flavored beer

2 cups beef or chicken broth, plus 2 tablespoons miso paste (red or brown) to add umami

1 (16-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

2 tablespoons masa harina (optional)

Directions:

In a small bowl, mix together the chili powder, cumin, cayenne, oregano, and salt and pepper.

The roasts and steak may be cut into bite-sized cubes while slightly frozen, making in unnecessary to cut up the braised cuts once they're done. Trim the beef of any excess fat and season heavily with the spice mixture. Sear on all sides in a heavy skillet. Set aside.

Put the chopped bacon in a very large, heavy pot or Dutch oven, and allow the fat to melt. Brown the onions and carrots in the bacon fat until soft. Then add the garlic and peppers and cook for a few more minutes. Deglaze the skillet with the beer. Add the broth, miso and tomatoes. Then add the browned meat, and enough broth or beer to cover the meat.

Cover the pot and cook slowly for 4 to 6 hours, until the meat is falling-apart tender. If you have masa harina, stir it in to help thicken the chili and add a bit of flavor. Cook for another 20 to 30 minutes. Taste and add more salt, pepper, or chili powder if needed. Remove from heat. Chill overnight and reheat for even better flavor. Serve with white rice.

LADY BIRD JOHNSON'S PEDERNALES RIVER CHILI

Lady Bird Johnson would share this quick and simple Texas chili recipe with her guests.

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 1 hour

Total time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Yield: About 10 servings

Ingredients:

4 pounds chili meat (coarsely ground round steak or well-trimmed chuck)

1 large onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon cumin

6 teaspoons chili powder (or more, if needed)

1 1/2 cups canned whole tomatoes

2 to 6 dashes hot sauce, or to taste

2 cups hot water

Salt to taste

Directions:

Place meat, onion, and garlic in a large heavy pan or Dutch oven. Cook until light in color. Add the oregano, cumin, chili powder, tomatoes, hot sauce and 2 cups hot water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for about 1 hour. Skim off the fat while cooking. Salt to taste.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:26 AM | Permalink

December 7, 2015

The [Monday] Papers

I don't recall ever following as fast a moving news story with as many moving parts as the events surrounding the Laquan McDonald case since these last two weeks.

Just this morning, the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would conduct a pattern-and-practices investigation of the Chicago Police Department, the CPD's chief of detectives resigned, and Anita Alvarez announced that her office would bring no charges against a Chicago police officer in the related-by-nature case of Ronnie Johnson. Last night, Rahm fired his hand-picked chief of the Independent Police Review Authority.

Rahm has a press conference scheduled for 3 p.m. today; he has also announced he will deliver a special message to the city council at its Wednesday meeting.

I still have material I want to write up from the Black Friday protests, but how long ago goes that seem now?

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Some of you may recall that last year a wrote a "Week in Juvenile Justice" column for The Chicago Bureau. The bureau has rebranded itself as The Youth Project and I returned to its digital pages last night with a piece about changing the culture around policing.

Here's what I mean by that: Site editor Eric Ferkenhoff asked me if and how the DOJ review may change the CPD's culture. My answer was simply that I wasn't sure, and I wasn't expert enough to venture a guess - at least without a ton of research. What Eric did spur me to think about, though, was how we might change the culture around policing while we wait for the Justice Department.

What I mean by that is changing how we as citizens - and as members of the media for those of us who are - can change our relationship to the police in a beneficial way, as well as how police officers can do the same with us. I understand that we need drastic, systemic changes. I hope those will come. But in the meantime, we can all do a better job in our everyday interactions and responsibilities. So please give it a read, comment, and share widely.

(I was inspired to write this in part by something I've mentioned before: a school bullyproofing project I once reported on for USA Weekend that focuses not on the behavior of the bully but on the behavior of everyone else. The idea is that the best way to prevent, stop or at least respond to bullying is to create a community that doesn't tolerate it, sticks up for victims, and doesn't reward the bully with the kind of attention they seek. That's how you change a culture into one in which "bad apples" cannot thrive. Systemic issues are another issue, but aiding a culture change this way helps.)

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Crain's picked up my weekend column about Rahm's "messaging" in the Laquan McDonald case, and complicity of the locals' Op-ed pages in that cynical exercise. Please give that read too, comment and share widely.

I made a few slight tweaks to that column since I first pushed the button on it that I want to call your attention to (Crain's has the final version).

These officers clearly lied, and yet they have remained on the streets in their jobs. This alone would have been reason enough to fire [Garry] McCarthy, unless he was truly hampered by the union and the feds.

I added the italicized part because I've read and gathered through my own conversations conflicting information about just what powers McCarthy had in this regard. For example, I'm not sure McCarthy could have simply suspended those officers without a ruling from IPRA per the union contract. And I don't think a ruling from IPRA was possible once they turned all their information over to the feds. So his hands may have truly been tied. (If anyone can clear this up, let me know. I know there is some language in state law that possibly indicates otherwise.) It was different with Jason Van Dyke, because the union contract allows for (or mandates) that an officer under a shooting investigation can (or must) be put on desk duty until the case is resolved. And once charged, as I understand it, a police chief can then move to fire the officer. I say "move to fire the officer" because the police chief ultimately has no authority to do anything other than recommend a firing to the Police Board.

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"Within nine days of that shooting the city collected all evidence in the case, including the dash-cam video, and turned it over to prosecutors. No one could have predicted that it would take more than a year to finish the probe. It was just as likely that charges would be filed during the campaign, in which case the video would have become public before the election."

Not likely. The shooting was quickly determined to be justified by the police; from there it goes to the Independent Police Review Authority, which is not independent, by the way; they investigate all police-involved shootings - and they take their sweet time. At such point that IPRA believes a case may become criminal, it turns its materials over to the Cook County State's Attorney's Office and/or the U.S. Attorney's Office. Rahm would have you believe that within nine days of the shooting, the city had turned over all evidence to prosecutors in a case against Jason Van Dyke. That simply connotes a false impression that the city was speedily moving against an officer instead of doing what they always do.

I altered the italicized sentence from "This is simply not true" to be clearer about what I was asserting wasn't true. It's entirely possible that IPRA turned over its materials to the Cook County State's Attorney's Office and/or the U.S. Attorney's Office within nine days, though that seems unusually quick to me. But that's routine business; once IPRA concludes that its investigation might warrant a criminal case, it bows out. Where Rahm obfuscates the matter is that A) the city certainly had not gathered "all the evidence" in the case within nine days, given that the state's attorney's office has done the real investigation, and B) IPRA simply moving the case on, as it is required to do, is not evidence of a good-faith effort by the city, which IPRA is supposed to be independent of in the first place. In other words, there's nothing special here that the city did, and certainly not under Rahm's leadership. As we've learned, the city was working elsewhere - like in the city council and court - to settle with the family and bury the video.

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What Rahm leaves out: The lawyers for Laquan's family reportedly approached the city after obtaining a copy of the video through a probate subpoena. (A whistleblower also informed local journalist Jamie Kalven of the video's existence.)

I rewrote this part because of some confusion between two separate paths the video traveled. As I understand it, lawyers for the family were able to subpoena the video as part of probate proceedings; once seeing it, they approached the city about a settlement. Kalven, working with independent journalist Brandon Smith, was told about the video's existence from a whistleblower, as I understand it, leading to the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that jarred the video loose despite the settlement agreement between the city and the McDonald family. What I'm still not clear on, because of conflicting reporting, is whether the settlement agreement allowed for the video to be released once the investigation was complete. One report in a major national newspaper said so, but the family seemed to believe otherwise, to my reading of the matter. It would be a matter of public interest for the settlement to be released, in my view.

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I've read conflicting reporting about just when Alvarez brought the feds into her investigation - or even whether they inserted themselves on their own accord. I'm working to get answers on that. By tomorrow, though, that might be as outdated as the circumstances surrounding the arrest and release of Malcolm London, which I'm still interested in. How long ago was that, now? Seems like forever.

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The Political Odds
Updated to reflect recent developments.

SportsMonday: Bereft Bears Blow It
Who to blame.

The Weekend In Chicago Rock
Featuring: Meg Myers, Silversun Pickups, The Arcs, Boss Fight, Polyphia, Stick To Your Guns, Starset, Another Lost Year, Saint Ansonia, The Verve Pipe, August Burns Red, and Bastille The Draw.

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BeachBook

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TweetWood
A sampling.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Sweatbox.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:18 PM | Permalink

SportsMonday: Bereft Bears Blow It

In the aftermath of the Bears essentially bowing out of the 2015 season with Sunday's loss to the 49ers, dropping to 5-7, should a fan re-assess the job general manager Ryan Pace did getting spare parts for the defense and the work John Fox and Vic Fangio did coaching them up this season? In a word, no.

The guys on the field during the Bears' loss were the same Bears who somehow found a way to hang on against the Packers 10 days prior.

And while these same players gave up disappointing San Francisco drives at the end of both halves Sunday (and suffered one brutal breakdown in OT), they did more than enough to put the offense in position to take command of the game if they had converted just a couple of the almost dozen big plays that were right there for the taking in the game's last three quarters. It also would have been great if the quarterback of said offense hadn't completely turned momentum against his team by throwing a typically terrible pick six, but let's try to stay focused.

Oh, and of course the defense also would have been perceived as good enough going forward if their highly paid kicker hadn't totally choked on an absolute chip shot at the end of regulation.

The only thing the Bears coaching staff could do with their defense this year was to teach it to play well enough to give the offense a chance. They have done that and then some. This is a defense that wasn't just bad last year, it was historically bad.

So don't change your assessment of the job Pace, Fox and Fangio have done with the defense. As for perceptions of the offense . . .

Just when you were ready to slam Mr. Cutler first and foremost (in particular, why oh why can a relative youngster like Blaine Gabbert figure out that if you avoid turnovers at all costs, you just about always give your team a chance to win and Jay can't?), it became more complicated. There was the vivid example of Cutler's toughness when he was sacked in particularly violent fashion the fourth quarter. That was followed by Cutler raising his game and driving the Bears to a touchdown lead with only a few minutes remaining.

But it was the final few minutes of the first half that were most illuminating. That was when, after a half that featured the aforementioned interception returned for a touchdown and bad throws on deep balls intended for Josh Bellamy and Alshon Jeffery, Cutler pulled it together and got a drive going as the clock closed in on the two-minute warning.

The Bears faced a third-and-six and Jeffery ran a great route, broke free coming back toward the middle and Cutler put his pass right in Jeffery's gut. Jeffery secured the ball and the Bears were at least in long field-goal range (or at least what used to qualify as long field-goal range) at the Niner 32. Except a 49er defensive back dug at the ball and Jeffery, despite the fact that he was holding it with both of his huge hands, couldn't hang on.

That was followed by the defense allowing a backup Niner offense to run for a first down and kill the rest of the clock despite the fact that everyone in the stadium knew they were going to run the ball.

Hey, I didn't say the defense was perfect.

In the second half, the worst performance was turned in by the Bears offensive line and running backs. They were facing a San Francisco defense that was literally running out of linebackers due to injuries and they should have been in position to start opening the sorts of big holes that finish off games in the most satisfying way possible for a Bear fan: with an overpowering rushing game.

But just when the Bears ball-carriers should have been asserting themselves, they started spinning their wheels. Offensive coordinator Adam Gase's play-calling also didn't help.

Here's guessing the digital recording of this game will not be included in Gase's multi-media resume as he seeks a head-coaching job in the off-season.

Given Fox's history, it made sense for Bears fans to dream of the team making a quick turnaround, just like the coach's teams did in Carolina and Denver. But this team was simply too bereft of talent. And it still features a quarterback who is amazingly good at only one thing: playing just well enough to lose.

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Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:53 AM | Permalink

The Weekend In Chicago Rock

You shoulda been there.

1. Meg Myers at the Aragon on Saturday night.


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2. Silversun Pickups at the Aragon on Sunday night.

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3. The Arcs at the Vic on Thursday night.

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4. Boss Fight at Quenchers on Saturday night.

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5. Polyphia at the House of Blues on Friday night.

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6. Stick To Your Guns at the House of Blues on Friday night.

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7. Starset at the Tree in Joliet on Saturday night.

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8. Another Lost Year at the Tree in Joliet on Saturday night.

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9. Saint Ansonia at the Tree in Joliet on Saturday night.

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10. The Verve Pipe at Schubas on Saturday night.

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11. August Burns Red at the House of Blues on Friday night.

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12. Bastille The Draw at the Aragon on Thursday night.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:22 AM | Permalink

December 5, 2015

The Weekend Desk Report

On the same day that Rahm Emanuel executed a Friday news dump of hundreds pages of documents in the Laquan McDonald case, the mayor placed the same Op-Ed in both the Tribune and Sun-Times.

Shame on those papers for - once again - participating in Rahm's cynical media manipulations. It's not as if Rahm hasn't had ample forums to express his views on the case. You need to give him an even bigger megaphone?

Worse, the Op-Ed isn't vetted, and is filled with misleading assertions no reporter, editor or news organization should allow to get past them. And this isn't the first time - the papers have long seemed enamored with unverified press releases from elected officials posing as opinion pieces, perhaps because they feel they get some reflected gravitas from the people they clearly hold in high esteem despite what their news pages tell them every day.

Today in particular, I hope the editors of the Tribune and Sun-Times are embarrassed by allowing Rahm to play them by recognizing that his Op-Ed was timed to coincide with the release of damning documents that places his future in grave danger.

Rahm being forced to resign has to now be considered a real possibility. His Op-Ed is reminiscent of Garry McCarthy's media appearances on the morning of the day he was fired - furiously spinning to maintain credibility and keep his job. I don't know if he can. He, now, is the distraction.

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"Hundreds of pages of newly released Chicago police reports from the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald are most striking for one simple reason: They are dramatically at odds with the dash-cam video that has sparked protests across the city, cost the city's top cop his job, and embroiled Mayor Rahm Emanuel in scandal," the Tribune reports.

"The reports, released by the city late Friday, show that Officer Jason Van Dyke and at least five other officers claim that the 17-year-old McDonald moved or turned threateningly toward officers, even though the video of the October 2014 shooting shows McDonald walking away, and the scenario sketched out by Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez in charging Van Dyke with murder contends he was walking away as well."

These officers clearly lied, and yet they have remained on the streets in their jobs. This alone would have been reason enough to fire McCarthy, unless he was truly hampered by the union and the feds; the fact that more than 80 people have now appeared before the federal grand jury looking into the McDonald shooting suggests that the feds are climbing the ladder into the command staff to find out who knew what and when - and that it doesn't look good for the Chicago Police Department. Nor for Rahm.

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On Thursday, the Tribune editorialized that "Rahm Emanuel burned by instinct to control the story."

A day later, they let him try to control the story.

First, the editorial.

"Emanuel's administration went with its default response, which is to deny requests made under the state's Freedom of Information Act, run out the deadlines and extensions and go to court, if necessary, to stall.

"We've seen this when journalists sought to get the data from the city's traffic cameras, the 'repeater lists' of cops who have been accused of misconduct multiple times, the e-mail chains related to a $20.5 million no-bid contract that led to a federal bribery indictment against former Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett."

The list of examples is a lot longer than that, my friends, as Rahm has embedded secrecy into the DNA of city government far deeper than his not-exactly-forthcoming predecessors. But the Tribune (and Sun-Times) editorial page is complicit too, as enablers who fiercely endorsed Rahm's re-election despite these severe breaches of democracy and the mayor's attacks on their own newsroom colleagues.

Now, suddenly, the Tribune editorial page has discovered that Rahm "has boasted that he has the 'most open and transparent' government Chicago has ever seen, but that doesn't square with reality. Not close."

Congratulations, it only took you four-and-a-half years to see what so many of us saw from day one.

The Tribune editorial page has also discovered "A Police Department that closes ranks to protect cops accused of misconduct, through a joke of a disciplinary process and a code of silence among officers."

The Tribune editorial board cares about this now that it has entered the realm of politics and is threatening to take down one of their own, but I don't recall anything about it from them during the campaign - or really any other time since Rahm took office. Instead, praise for Rahm's policing and barbs at "critics" trying to explain, for example, why a lot of people don't trust the police. (Ending the "no-snitch code" starts with ending police corruption; instead, the Trib editorial board has spent its time lecturing poor black parents about their values.)

"We all know the Police Department has serious, long-standing problems."

We all know that only if we read beyond the Trib editorial page.

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A day later, the Tribune and the Sun-Times let the mayor have his unchallenged say again.

"The videotape was handled in precisely the same way such tapes and evidence have been historically. Longstanding practice has been to release such material only after prosecutors and city investigators have finished their investigation," Rahm (or his PR staff) writes. "The reason for that was to prevent potential witnesses from tailoring their stories to fit the evidence."

That is simply not true. Police reports are public documents. The police reveal evidence in cases before conclusion all the time. And, as the Tribune said in its aforementioned editorial:

[Rahm's] asked his task force to consider how the city can balance the public's right to know against the need to protect the integrity of a criminal investigation. We'll save the panel some time by suggesting that the city's policy should be to follow the law. The Freedom of Information Act already provides that balance.

Under the law, government records are presumed to be open to inspection by the public. But there are exemptions.

If releasing a record would interfere in an investigation or compromise a defendant's right to a fair trial, it can be withheld, but the burden is on the government to show that it would harm those proceedings. It's not enough to simply point to an ongoing investigation and declare a record exempt.

A Cook County judge said that burden wasn't met in the McDonald case. There was no good reason for the video to remain under wraps for 13 months.

Rahm wasn't simply following standard procedure, unless you consider standard procedure fighting tooth-and-nail against ever releasing anything. (The city's settlement with the McDonald family, for example, included a provision prohibiting release of the dash-cam video.)

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"Some say I should have ordered a departure from standard procedure and released the tape before the prosecutors had acted."

This is a misdirection play. Nobody says he should have "ordered a departure from standard procedure." First, it's his "standard procedure," not a rule handed down by the gods. Second, "some" have been arguing for years that his "standard procedure" has been at odds with the law - which is what a judge finally ruled. And indeed, the video was scheduled for release before prosecutors had finished their case.

What Rahm is arguing here is that he didn't do anything wrong - even as he pretends to take responsibility. Instead, he is arguing that he only adhered to a "standard of procedure" that he himself created.

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"Had I seen the video, I might have done that. But I don't review evidence precisely because my own emotions should not interfere with criminal investigations."

That's a new argument; he previously said he didn't watch the video because if he saw it, reporters and the public would wonder why they didn't get to see it too.

I'd say he didn't watch the video because he didn't care enough to; the case and the settlement probably struck him as something both routine and a potential political problem, but not something he was personally curious to learn more about.

He also fails to inform his readers that a judge ruled that the city didn't even come close to showing that releasing the video would have harmed the integrity of the investigation.

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"How do we balance concerns against prematurely releasing evidence and jeopardizing prosecutions with the community's right to see such material in a timely way?"

This is a false choice cleverly constructed by the man behind much of the Democrats' "messaging" while in the U.S. House of Representatives. But the issue isn't about "prematurely releasing evidence and jeopardizing prosecutions." If it was, the public would choose the integrity of the investigation over their "right" to see "such material" every time - and rightly so.

As the Trib noted, the Freedom of Information Act already contemplates that balance - and in the view of many like myself already tilts too far against transparency with loopholes that are blatantly exploited to no account.

And if Rahm was so concerned about the integrity of the investigation, did he ever ask why it was taking so long?

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"How do we promote accountability and transparency, without sacrificing one for the other?"

Here, Rahm pits two concepts against each other that are actually the same thing. You simply cannot have accountability without transparency. But he wants you to think that you have to sacrifice one for the other - like liberty for security.

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"Within nine days of that shooting the city collected all evidence in the case, including the dash-cam video, and turned it over to prosecutors. No one could have predicted that it would take more than a year to finish the probe. It was just as likely that charges would be filed during the campaign, in which case the video would have become public before the election."

Not likely. The shooting was quickly determined to be justified by the police; from there it goes to the Independent Police Review Authority, which is not independent, by the way; they investigate all police-involved shootings - and they take their sweet time. At such point that IPRA believes a case may become criminal, it turns its materials over to the Cook County State's Attorney's Office and/or the U.S. Attorney's Office. Rahm would have you believe that within nine days of the shooting, the city had turned over all evidence to prosecutors in a case against Jason Van Dyke. That simply connotes a false impression that the city was speedily moving against an officer instead of doing what they always do.

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It's also widely known that Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez rarely charges cops, and when she does, it's a slow walk.

Anyone with knowledge of the system or even just a regular reader of Chicago news would have predicted that the probe would take as long as it did.

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"I should have known that in the light of the checkered history of misconduct in the Chicago Police Department, that the long delay in releasing the videotape could raise concerns and suspicions across our city. Our goal was to protect the integrity of the investigation."

We tried to do the right thing, but our "checkered history" got in the way!

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"I take responsibility for what happened."

But he is defending everything he did, arguing that the problem is that everybody misread his zeal for integrity.

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"Some have alleged that our settlement with Laquan's family was part of a cover-up. But nothing could be further from the truth. It was the lawyers for Laquan's family who approached the city on February 27 and expressed a desire to settle the case quickly and without a lawsuit. The city's lawyers began discussions with the plaintiff's attorney shortly thereafter and came to an agreement in principle on March 24."

What Rahm leaves out: The lawyers for Laquan's family reportedly approached the city after obtaining a copy of the video through a probate subpoena. (A whistleblower also informed local journalist Jamie Kalven of the video's existence.) The city's desire to settle the case quickly was a desire to, yes, save the city some money with a quick settlement, but also to make it go away.

At the same time, the version of the incident still hanging out in public was the one where Laquan lunged. The administration never felt the desire to correct the public record, even thought McCarthy has acknowledged that he knew pretty quickly that version was false.

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"As part of that agreement lawyers for the family and the city sought to present the settlement for approval at the next City Council meeting, which was on April 15. The first possible opportunity to present the agreement to the Council's Finance Committee was on April 13. At that meeting, our Corporation Counsel, Steve Patton, explained why a settlement was in the city's best interest. Among the main reasons was the police dash-cam videotape, which he described in detail."

You know what? This is the same thing Rahm has said for days; again, I don't get why the papers would provide him this forum to reiterate his messaging.

But again: Several aldermen felt they were misled by Patton. His recitation to the finance committee is a he said/she said of what the family's lawyers would contend in a lawsuit and what Van Dyke would contend.

Plus:

"[Ald. Scott] Waguespack said the transcript doesn't show the full picture of the meeting, which included side conversations with other attorneys," Natasha Korecki reports for Politico.

My understanding is that it was in these side conversations where aldermen really felt misled.

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The Sun-Times ran the same Op-Ed.

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The timing was no accident. Rahm no doubt placed his Op-Ed as a strategic communications maneuver as he approved of the document dump to land at the same time, in an attempt to blunt its impact and "get ahead" of the story. See, I'm already doing something about this!

The timing is reminiscent of McCarthy announcing at 10 p.m. the night before the McDonald video was to be released that he had decided to seek the firing of Dante Servin - three years after Servin killed an innocent 22-year-old. Chicago: The Most Coincidental City In The World.

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Come To Chicago: Our Timing Is Exquisite.

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The notion of Rahm being forced to resign now becomes very real. What will it take for that to happen? Who will call him to a come-to-Jesus meeting? A phone call from Obama? Not likely. Front-page editorials? Possibly. A no-confidence vote from the city council? Can't see it happening, but could see a bloodbath trying to get there.

All I know is that this is just getting started. And I'm starting to think Rahm won't be around to see it finish.

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The Weekend Desk Tip Line: On the clock.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:58 AM | Permalink

December 4, 2015

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #80: Bears Still Under .500

Trap game ahead. Plus: Everyone Mad Bulls Just 11-5; Patrick Kane, All-American; We Were Promised David Price; and The Chicago Fire Did Something This Week.


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SHOW NOTES

* Curtis Conway.

3:15: Hail No!

* Aaron Rodgers is ridiculous. So are the Lions.

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11:47: Bears Still Under .500.

* Game note:

* Pirates GM Says He Made A Mistake With Pedro Alvarez.

27:32: Everyone Mad Bulls Just 11-5.

* Derrick Rose's Current Game is Scarier Than He Thinks His Game Can Be.

* Pau Gasol Will 'Very Likely' Decline Player Option.

42:23: Patrick Kane: All-American.

* Patrick Kane Streak To 21 Games, Ties Blackhawks Record.

* Kane Breaks Record For American-Born Point Streak

* "Edmonton Oilers center Wayne Gretzky holds the NHL record with a 51-game streak (1983-84 season). Gretzky had 61 goals and 92 assists during his streak."

* Toews: "It's not fun, especially when we know we're playing pretty good hockey and it's little defensive letdowns that are costing us points."

* Goal-Scoring Drought Mystifies Kruger. Kruger!

* Hossa Still Getting Chances, Still Not Getting Goals.

* United Center Work Song:

Put down the ice
Put down the wood
Put down the ice
Put down the wood

49:33: We Were Promised David Price.

1:03:06: The Chicago Fire Did Something This Week.

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STOPPAGE: 3:50

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For archives and other Beachwood shows, see The Beachwood Radio Network.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:39 PM | Permalink

The Week In Chicago Rock

You shoulda been there.

1. Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas at Cobra Lounge on Thursday night.


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2. Black Pistol Fire at Lincoln Hall on Wednesday night.

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3. Linear Downfall at the Emporium on Tuesday night.

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4. Todd Rundgren at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles on Tuesday night.

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5. Jon McLaughlin at SPACE in Evanston on Tuesday night.

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6. Monica at House of Blues on Wednesday night.

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7. Get Up Kids at the Double Door on Thursday night.

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8. Niykee Heaton at the Concord on Thursday night.

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9. Car Radio at the Aragon on Thursday night.

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10. Twenty One Pilots at the Aragon on Thursday night.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:28 AM | Permalink

Beachwood Photo Booth: Portage Park Peek-A-Boo

Well, hello there.

carvintagebluealleyportpk.JPG(ENLARGE FOR PROPER VIEWING)

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More Chicago photography from Helene Smith.

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Helene on Twitter!

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Meet Helene!

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Stationery, iPhone cases, hoodies.

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Listen to Helene talk about Photo Booth; starts at 57:54.

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Previously:
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Man Grilling
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Yum Yum Donuts
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Father's Day
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Vintage Airmaster
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Time
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Window Shade
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Illinois Slayer
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Fire Escape
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Golden Nugget
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Hollywood, Chicago
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Flag Man.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Van In Flames.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Fluid Power Automation.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Corn Dog.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Stop The Killing Car.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Backyard.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: A to Z Things.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Swedish Diner.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Rothschild Liquors.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Silos.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Wires.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Orange Garden.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Irving Park Guy.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Pigeons.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: O'Lanagan's.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: For Rent.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Marie's Pizza & Liquors.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Mori Milk.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: American Breakfast.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: A Chicago Christmas Postcard.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Holiday Harold's.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Family Fun.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Snow Bike.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Nativity Scene.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Old Warsaw.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Deluxe Cleaners.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Marie's Golden Cue.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Die Another Day.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Sears Key Shop.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Window Dressing.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Jeri's Grill.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Barry's Drugs.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Liberty.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Kitchen.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Golden Specials.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: We Won The Cup.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Bartender Man.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Blue Plane Blues.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Finest Quality.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Family Guy.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Girls Wanted.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Skokie Savanna.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Signpost.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Old Man And The Tree.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Street Fleet.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Citgo Story.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Fantasy Hair Design.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Garage.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Clark Stop.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Pole Position.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Window Dressing.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Geometry.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Found Love.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Fill In The Blank.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Vacuums Of The Night.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Dumpster Still Life.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Wagon Master.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Intersecting West Rogers Park.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Penn-Dutchman Antiques.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Cow Patrol.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Backstage Chicago.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Skully Bungalow.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Francisco Frankenstein.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Long Cool Heat.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Smokers' Mast.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Big Fat Phone.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Happy Day.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Alley Men.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Holiday Show!
* Beachwood Photo Booth: You've Got Mailbox.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Broken Window Theory.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Dali Logan.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Svengoolie.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Horner Park Hot Dogs.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Cubs Rehab.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: 20th Century Schizoid Man.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Men On Vans.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Penn-Dutchman Is Done.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Snowy Lincoln.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Waiting Room.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Avondale Chicken.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Winter's End.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: The Friendly Skies.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Boyhood Buzzer Beater.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: J Date.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: International Window Lady.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Shanghai Inn.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Open For Business.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Andersonville Unplugged.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: 3-Flat.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Evanston Turkey.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicagolandia.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Eat At Odge's.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Deitch Pharmacy.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Sud-Z Bubble.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Bands Wanted!
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Belmont Tavern.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Superheroic San Luis Freeze.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Evanston Oasis.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Lyndale Food & Jewelry.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Lincoln Tap.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Book Window.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Alco Dude.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Ballin Drugs.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Don't Worry, Be Cookie.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Four Trey.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: The Office.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: America From Inside The Golden Nugget In Ravenswood.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Cellphone Repair.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Boots 'N' Grill.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Sunrise Strip.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: At The Corner Of Glad And Happy.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Uptown Autumn Night.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Diner.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Mid-Century Modern Halloween.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Autumn Station Wagon.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Betty's & Nick's.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Ohio House Impact.
* Beachwood Photo Booth: End School Zone.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:11 AM | Permalink

December 3, 2015

The [Thursday] Papers

Here are some new Beachwood posts to divert your attention while I continue to burrow into the fast-moving developments surrounding the Laquan McDonald case. I also catch us up on our recent Facebook posts.

* Wayne's World vs. Public Access.

Featuring Chicago's very own CAN TV.

* Government Agencies Allow Corporations To Write Off Misconduct Settlements.

By the billions, as the cost of doing business.

* The Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report: Carl's Magic Wand.

Be aware the Bears have the capacity to lose to the woeful 49ers. Frankly, that danger is what makes this game so compelling.

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BeachBook

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Media gets it wrong, again.

Posted by The Beachwood Reporter on Wednesday, December 2, 2015

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Founded in Chicago, most recently based in Lincolnshire. Titles include "Dairy Herd Management," "AgProfessional."

Posted by The Beachwood Reporter on Wednesday, December 2, 2015

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Highly recommended.

Posted by The Beachwood Reporter on Thursday, November 26, 2015

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Localize, please.

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If Virginia was the big stumbling-block state in 2012, numerous campaign officials point to Illinois as the likeliest to...

Posted by The Beachwood Reporter on Saturday, November 28, 2015

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Imagine the Tribune's welcome: WE'RE WATCHING YOU

Posted by The Beachwood Reporter on Sunday, November 29, 2015

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Interesting and important review of Robert Reich's new book - and a challenge to common political rhetoric and thought...

Posted by The Beachwood Reporter on Sunday, November 29, 2015

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Rahmentum.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:30 PM | Permalink

Government Agencies Allow Corporations To Write Off Billions In Federal Settlements

A new study by United States Public Interest Research Group Education Fund analyzes which federal agencies allow companies to write off out-of-court settlements as tax deductions and which agencies are transparent about these deals.

The study found that five of the largest government agencies that sign settlement agreements with corporations rarely specify the tax status of the resulting payments. Billions of dollars are allowed to be written off as cost of doing business tax deductions. Additionally, the report found that major government agencies do not consistently disclose the details of corporate settlement agreements.

"The human cost of corporate misconduct is very real, from damaged ecosystems to devastated economies. When corporations and federal agencies settle out of court, the impact of the settlement should be real, too. Federal agencies must ensure that tax deductions don't undercut the purpose of such deals and that the public knows their true after-tax value," said Michelle Surka, program associate with U.S. PIRG Education Fund and one of the authors of the report.

When a corporation is accused of committing wrongdoing that hurts the public, the corporation will typically settle any allegations out of court via a settlement deal negotiated and signed by a government agency. Unless otherwise specified in the agreement, these deals often allow the signing corporations to claim tax deductions for the payments they make in connection with the alleged wrongdoing.

The report examines and compares hundreds of settlements signed between 2012 and 2014 by the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The analysis shows that these government agencies generally do not clarify the tax status of payments extracted from corporations, leaving billions of dollars connected to allegations of wrongdoing available to be written off as ordinary cost of doing business tax deductions.

"This important new study shows how federal agencies run the gamut in whether they permit enforcement fines to be tax deducted and how important it is that more attention be paid to how corporate deals are structured and regulated," said Brandon Garrett, law professor at the University of Virginia and author of Too Big to Jail.

The key findings of the report are:

  • Of the five agencies examined, none have a publicly announced policy for how to address the tax status of the settlements they sign.
  • For the 10 largest settlements announced by major agencies during the previous three years, companies were required to pay nearly $80 billion to resolve federal charges of wrongdoing, but can readily write off at least $48 billion of this amount as a tax deduction.
  • Some agencies consistently act to limit tax deductibility for settlements they negotiate, while others rarely address the issue. The EPA and CFPB are most consistent in ensuring that at least portions of the settlements they sign are specifically non-deductible.
  • Of all federal agencies, the DOJ signs most of the largest settlements. Based on the DOJ cases for which settlement text is available between 2012 and 2014, only 18.4 percent of settlement dollars were explicitly non-deductible. Similarly, only 15 percent of settlement dollars negotiated by the SEC included language to ensure against settlement deductions, at least for those settlements with publicly available language.
  • The CFPB and the EPA had the strongest transparency practices, making the vast majority of settlements they sign publicly available online, while the SEC and the DOJ are less consistent about disclosing the text of their announced settlements. At the SEC the number of announced settlements where text was disclosed increased from 55 percent in 2012 to 87 percent in 2014. At the DOJ meanwhile, disclosure decreased from 35 percent to 25 percent of announced settlements during the period.

"Taxpayers ultimately pick up the tab for any write-offs corporations can claim for their settlement agreements in the form of higher individual taxes, cuts to public programs, and more national debt," said Surka. "Ordinary Americans shouldn't have to pay for corporate misconduct."

The report offers several suggestions for how federal agencies like the Department of Justice can address tax status when signing settlement agreements with corporations. Federal agencies should deny all tax deductions for out of court settlements, and only negotiate them in to deals with the clearest justifications for why deductions are in the best interest of the public. The report also calls on agencies to publicly post all agreements so the American people can better scrutinize the deals that are signed on their behalf.

You can read the full report here.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:53 AM | Permalink

The Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report: Magic Wand Time

Though they kept it close, bad penalties and an inability to make big plays in the clutch prevented the Bears from a stunning upset of the Green Bay Packers in Lambeau last week.

Just when we thought that Jay Cutler had turned the corner, the Bears' signal-caller was again plagued by bad turnovers in the key moments of the second half . . .

Hrrrrmmmm?

The Packers did all that stuff?

Whaaaaaaa?

Guuuuuuhhh?

Drrrrrrr???

Fapfapfapfap???

Okay, ignore that last one. I'm writing this at work and accidentally shifted into inappropriate onomatopoeias out of habit.

[Editor's Note: I know I'm going to regret this instantly, but I'll ask anyway. What kind of day job do you have?]

I manage a team of people who assemble and QA two products that lean heavily on parts manufactured by Hitachi. The first is a cash and coin recycling system that my employer designed. It's predominantly deployed in large retail environments.

[Editor's Note: Um, that sounds shockingly professional. Who had to die so that a job like that would get handed to you?]

Oddly, it was the other way around. Someone dying nearly prevented me from getting this gig.

[Editor's Note: Bullshit.]

The truth beats anything I could make up, but that's a story for another time.

The product has a PC component and custom software that controls the cash and coin devices. I was originally brought in because of my combined background in Windows network administration and experience working for small custom software development firms.

And thanks for the presumption of competence.

[Editor's Note: Geez, I guess never really pictured you being employed - or having a job of any kind. Sorry about that. So what's the other product?]

Those Hitachi "back" massagers*, which are predominantly deployed to upper vaginal environments.

[Editor's Note: Theeeerrrrre it is.]

So yeah . . . fap, fap, fap.

My point is, while the most optimistic of us were expecting a better brand of football and a steady competitive effort, few truly anticipated a win.

Historically, this was the type of game where Cutler would try to do too much in critical moments.

We're talking your garden-variety fumbles after a scramble in the backfield that lasted five seconds too long with the ball waiving tantalizingly in front of opposing defensive ends.

Or your run-of-the-mill interception that comes as a direct result of staring down the first read from the moment the ball is snapped until it is clenched tightly against the body of an opposing cornerback.

I'm fairly certain that one of the audibles in the Marc Trestman offense was "Omaha, Marshall, Brandon, Two U, Two U!!!"

Cutler: "Don't forget about those super-inconvenient second-degree MCL strains during playoff games. Those are kinda my signature fuck-up."

You big softie.

Cutler: "Yeah, what was I thinking? (takes long, sarcastic drag from a Maverick). But on the plus side I made my back-up a bunch of money. I'm expecting big things from this Hanie kid . . . any day now."

Taking history out of the mix, the key difference in this contest was the avoidance of some unforgivable special teams mistake; a move so signature to this squad that its absence is an actual key to the game.

They also executed of a solid defensive game plan.

The team appreciated the design so much that they gave John Fox the game ball.

"Yeah, they gave me a sports object," Fox said post-game, sporting his usual non-committal attitude towards the press. "It was inflatable."

Memory Lane
It wasn't too long ago when the powerhouse match-up of the Bears and 49ers was hot news.

[Editor's Note: the decade of the 1980s was a minimum of 26 years ago.]

Some of the rivalry's classic era highlights included:

  • Following the offense's horrific performance in the 1984 NFC Championship game, Steve Fuller was immediately demoted from quarterback to playing the guy in the blazer who high-fives a woman at the end of a regional Electric Avenue spot.
  • Avenging their loss in Candlestick Park in the prior season, the Bears trounced the 49ers at Soldier Field in Week Six of the historic 1985 season. Several San Francisco players felt Chicago was permitted an unfair advantage, asserting that members of The Shufflin' Crew** were allowed to bring their musical instruments onto the field. At the time, no official grievances were filed with the league, but archival footage shows Bears punter Maury Buford bludgeoning kick returner Dana McLemore with a cowbell on two separate plays.
  • Following a drubbing at the hands of the 49ers, Mike Ditka was charged with assault for throwing his chewing gum at a heckler. The litigious fan would also later file class action sexual harassment charges against Joe Montana for his public, suggestive actions.
  • The 1991 regular season ended with a thud as Steve Young's team once again emerged victorious in a lopsided 52-14 decision. Young added insult to injury by spending most of the fourth quarter talking loudly about his contract with the now defunct USFL. "You see this guys," said young indicating the bean bag chair filled with $100 bills he sat atop. "This is what it's like to have yourself a guaranteed deal. Hell, I've even got health insurance," he added while puffing on a cigar.
  • In 2015 Blake Bortles throws for six touchdowns and rushes for two more in a career-saving performance that dashes the Bears' slim playoff hopes. Oh wait, that was just a terrible nightmare I had last night. Also, I bet that you know so little about the 49ers that you didn't realize that Bortles doesn't even play for San Francisco. You're not alone. I had to do a surprising amount of reading to figure out who was not only technically employed by this franchise, but is still playing actual football in the Bay Area these days. Answer: just Anquan Boldin.

Kool Aid (4 of 5 Cans Of Fistmas Holiday Ale)
While not all of us celebrate Christmas, I think we can all agree that the holiday season is primarily a time for being forced into awkward discussions with our family about how we somehow haven't shown adequate appreciation for them, or haven't lived up to their expectations, no matter how much more money we make a year than our brother.

And that calls for a drink!

Seriously, wake me up when it's 2016. I've been getting guilt trips since November 3rd, which for those of you who keeping track is a full six weeks before Jesus's made up birthday***.

So call me any time day or night and I will have a drink with you simply as an excuse to get away from this seasonal madness.

The 49ers are one of the NFL's worst this year, so you have to believe that the Bears have an excellent chance to take the "W" at home.

But remember that time, like, seven weeks ago when the Lions were the laughingstock of the league and the Bears found a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory coming off of a big win in Kansas City?

I'm not saying there will a repeat performance, but be aware that this team has the capacity to lose this type of match-up.

Frankly, that danger is what makes this game so compelling.

If the Bears win, they could jump up to 8th spot in the NFC.

Thanks to several tiebreakers, that's not as close as it sounds to the final playoff spot, but for a team that looked like it was going to trade every player possible for a late-round pick prior to Week Four, you gotta feel better off as a fan.

But if they lose, our worst fears about this team are confirmed.

The credible threat San Francisco brings to the table is essentially that every member of the 53-man roster will be angry that they play for the 49ers in 2015 and that they want to make everyone else as miserable as them. From a talent standpoint, I simply can't make an argument for them.

Even with this looming danger, I still the see a healthy Bears offense having their way and the peaking defense holding the nearly unemployable 49ers to a reasonable total.

Bears 23, 49ers 13

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* If you've got a little time to kill, treat yourself to the "Customer Questions & Answers" section for this product on Amazon.com. For example: "Question: 'Is it quiet?' Answer: 'Not very quiet at all. Everyone in the house will have an idea what you're doing, unfortunately.'"

** This seems like as good a time as any to point out that the 49ers recorded multiple music videos in the 1980s, including one which was presumably filmed on a date that was so inconvenient for most of the team that Eric Wright and Keena Turner had to spend a minute of the song simply listing the 16 San Francisco starters who are not on set during the video.

*** Save your angry letters; the guy wasn't born on December 25th. You can take my word for it, but if you'd prefer not to I'd love to see the lunar calendar math it would require to prove me wrong.

About The Author
Carl Mohrbacher is . . . hey, you already got a partial resume in the first section. Stop reading and go check out the The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour.

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Carl Mohrbacher is our man on the Kool-Aid. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:26 AM | Permalink

December 2, 2015

The [Wednesday] Papers

The most prevailing theme of media criticism I've seen of Rahm Emanuel's press conference on Tuesday was his inability to specifically point to what he believed Garry McCarthy had done wrong to warrant his firing.

That's because Rahm Emanuel doesn't believe Garry McCarthy did anything wrong - just as I'm sure he doesn't believe he did anything wrong, seeing as how they both were in lockstep regarding the Laquan McDonald case.

"[At this point and this juncture for the city, given what we're working on, [McCarthy] has become an issue rather than dealing with the issue, and a distraction," Rahm said.

In other words, it's nothing that McCarthy did wrong, it's the way everybody reacted to the wrongs McCarthy didn't do.

Sort of like the Tribune's defiant, tone-deaf and frankly ignorant argument that Kristen McQueary did nothing wrong writing a story wishing a hurricane visit its awesome power upon Chicago; the wrong was committed by readers who, um, read her column wrong. Read righter, readers!

"Distraction" is a political term, not a criminal justice term. McCarthy had become a political problem for Rahm to solve, so he solved it by firing him. This makes sense most to those who know Rahm best, and know how he sees everything through a political prism.

This was a political decision, pure and simple, as was the creation of a task force on police accountability including the very people responsible for the need for a task force on police accountability. Rahm didn't draw upon the very people working on police accountability for years whom he's ignored, he drew upon the most politically palatable people he could find who would give the task force the slightest patina of credibility while not daring to do anything to embarrass the mayor.

It's not really that McCarthy didn't do anything wrong; it's that he did everything wrong. All those years of arrogant, patronizing and misleading relations with other public officials, certain community leaders and the formerly worshipful press came back to bite him in the ass - though I actually sympathized with him when faced with the dim bulbs on both the city council and in the press corps who ginned up so much panic in the city over a crime rate that was actually falling, not rising. That's a concept many still can't grasp. Still, he had no good will in the bank when he most needed it - particularly in the black community.

He was also widely perceived - correctly so - as Rahm's boy, without a wisp of independence about him. Never so loyal a lieutenant has Rahm had! As recently as 24 hours before his firing, McCarthy told WGN Radio on Tuesday morning when he still had a job, Rahm had told him that he "had his back." Fran Spielman's assertion of Rahm's steadfast loyalty notwithstanding, when has Rahm ever had anyone's back who wasn't related to him?

I'm reminded also of my favorite scene in The Wild Bunch, and the point to me of the movie:

PIKE (softly): What would you do in his place? He gave his word.

DUTCH (turning on him, almost yelling): Gave his word to a railroad.

PIKE: It's his word.

DUTCH (yelling): That ain't what counts - it's who you give it to!

Being loyal to your hedge-fund advisers but not your own campaign promises is not my idea of an honorable trait.

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This is not a defense of McCarthy. But as Tracy Siska argued in Crain's last July, McCarthy deserved firing for the right reasons, not the reasons behind previous calls for him to go - namely that he was somehow responsible for all the violence in Chicago.

That doesn't mean McCarthy was strategically sound, but that's on Rahm. Unfortunately, the only candidate able to bring that debate to the recent election would have been Toni Preckwinkle, who wasn't willing to join in and do so. Progressive leader Chuy Garcia's grand idea was to heed the tired, old call to hire 1,000 more police officers, which is neither progressive nor a position supported by any evidence anywhere that suggests it would be the slightest bit effective.

What McCarthy was, and what he got away with up to his last day, and what the media still doesn't seem to understand, is that McCarthy was quite simply a lying spin machine - par for the course in this administration.

He particularly was allowed to misrepresent the experience of New York City when it came to mandatory minimum gun laws. What happened in New York City was the exact opposite of what McCarthy continually argued.

On his WGN Radio interview Tuesday morning, McCarthy continued a cavalcade of mistruths. Among them:

1. The prosecution of Jason Van Dyke lagged because of an ongoing federal investigation.

FALSE. Anita Alvarez has been free to charge Van Dyke at any time regardless of a federal investigation; it happens all the time. In fact, the federal investigation is still ongoing, and yet, magically, charges have appeared.

2. The CPD withheld the McDonald video because it was merely following a policy of not releasing evidence in any case before its conclusion - and that the Freedom of Information Act allows for this exception.

FALSE. The CPD releases evidence all the time before cases reach conclusion - reports, photos, bank robber video, details of crimes. And the judge who ordered the release of the video ruled that doing so would in no way hinder any ongoing investigation - that's the very case that was litigated!

McCarthy also hammered constantly on another theme the media loves: the so-called no-snitch code. Only now, it seems, are media members wondering about the no-snitch code inside the department, which is not only far more pernicious than the no-snitch code of any gang-infested neighborhood (or the no-snitch code that exists in and across every newsroom I've worked in), but a primary driver of the no-snitch code of the streets. A well-placed distrust of the police is one big reason why some folks don't want to cooperate with them. Another is that their lives are at stake; how many brave journalists would act as witnesses to their neighbors' wrongdoing and risk the consequences? They won't even act as witnesses against their editors.

McCarthy's habit of calling out publicly those not cooperating with police was also disconcerting. Was he trying to get them killed? You do not reveal the identities of cooperating witnesses and put them in danger. In fact, a rule of police reporting used to be, when I was coming up, to not name witnesses in situations in which doing so could could plausibly put them in danger. Now the media tries to shame them.

Naming non-cooperating witnesses is just as fraught; instead of turning them, you've now put them on blast for all involved to keep an eye on.

McCarthy's judgement was also a problem, and this was demonstrated best when he declared that Dante Servin should never have been charged with a crime in the first place - just after a judge granted him a rare directed verdict dismissing the case before the defense even got started because he should have been charged with first-degree murder, not just manslaughter.

And here's the kicker: McCarthy also said the judge did the right thing by dismissing the case. I'm not sure the question was ever put to McCarthy: How can you simultaneously believe that Servin should not have been charged and that he should have been charged with first-degree murder? Schrodinger's police chief!

Later, McCarthy was asked why he was moving to fire Servin - a decision announced at 10 p.m. the same night the judge ordered release of the McDonald video - after denouncing the criminal charges against him. McCarthy correctly noted that there was a big difference between violating the law and violating department rules, but did so only while dismissing the question as "silly." It was not.

"Dante Servin made some incredibly poor decision making, which ultimately resulted in a loss of life unnecessarily," McCarthy said. "He made a decision to get involved in something he shouldn't have."

Right. Manslaughter.

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McCarthy's insensitivity in the case was also worthy of him losing his job - if only Rahm wasn't missing sensitivity chips in his brain himself.

In April after Servin's acquittal, McCarthy told reporters the charges were a "safety hazard" for other officers who might hesitate to fire their guns at offenders if their lives are in danger. At the time, McCarthy said the shooting should not have happened, "but what I will point out to you . . . is that Detective Servin hit the individual who he was aiming at. He also happened to hit her," he said of Boyd.

That is not just the wrong thing to say, it's the wrong way to look at it. An innocent girl is dead. A police officer killed her. The fact that she was not the target is exactly why Servin ought to have been charged - his behavior was reckless. He shouldn't have been firing at the guy he hit, either. McCarthy should have moved to fire him much sooner. Instead, it took him three years - and he would have us believe the timing of his decision was just another Chicago Coincidence.

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Of course, all this meant nothing to Rahm. He did the right thing (firing McCarthy) at the wrong time (much too late) for the wrong reason (politics).

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More on the media, McCarthy, McDonald, Rahm, Alvarez and a new wave of activists to come. I'm just getting started. More on Twitter.

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See also:
* Meet Malcolm London.

* Song of the Moment: 16 Shots.

* The [Laquan McDonald] Papers Pt. 1: Where's Rahm?

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Elsewhere On Today's Beachwood
* U.S. Government Reveals Breadth Of Requests For Internet Records.

* Chicago's Wendell Phillips Academy: The School, The Historic Football Team, The Person.

* Wayne's World vs. Public Access TV.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Have our back.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:08 AM | Permalink

Wayne's World Vs. Public Access

"This installment of Popcorn Politics - The A.V. Club's collaboration with Scrappers Film Group - examines how Wayne and Garth, the fictional hosts of Wayne's World, both showcased and undermined the power of public access television.

"The rise of communal broadcast resources turned consumers into creators, and as the Internet took hold, the emergence of YouTube continued in the grand tradition of democratizing the public's viewing habits.

"Though it may have lampooned public access' low-budget trappings, Wayne's World was a jumping-off point for viewers to consider that there are viewing options beyond what big networks - and big budgets - have to offer."


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Starring Chicago's very own CAN TV.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 3:57 AM | Permalink

Wendell Phillips: The School, The Historic Football Team, The Person

"Wendell Phillips Academy, the landmark Bronzeville high school that boasts Nat King Cole and Sam Cooke as alumni, can now claim the first state title by a public league football team," WLS-TV (and others) reports. "Phillips won the historic championship by beating over Althoff Catholic from Belleville, 51-7."

Let's learn a little bit more about the school, the football team, and the man the school is named after.

*

Even before winning the championship, Wendell Phillips Academy had been featured twice on Sports Illustrated's "Underdogs" series.

1. Underdogs: Wendell Phillips Academy (2013).

"Three years after embarking on a school-wide turnaround, Phillips now boasts one of Chicago Public Schools' best football teams. The formerly failing school, located in the Bronzeville neighborhood on the South Side, prepared to face Evergreen Park."

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2. Underdogs: Wendell Phillips Academy (2015).

"SI returns to Chicago as Wendell Phillips inches closer than ever to its goal of becoming the first Chicago Public School to win a state championship."

*

The school . . .

1. A Look Back.

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2. The 2014 Alumni Sock Hop.

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3. The Wendell Phillips YouTube channel.

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The person . . .

"Wendell Phillips (November 29, 1811-February 2, 1884) was an American abolitionist, advocate for Native Americans, orator and lawyer."

*

"After opening a law office in Boston, Phillips, a wealthy Harvard Law School graduate, sacrificed social status and a prospective political career in order to join the antislavery movement."

*

"In 1835, from his office window, he saw William Lloyd Garrison being dragged through the street by a mob, an event that changed his attitude toward slavery. Phillips's meeting with Ann Terry Greene, an active worker in the Boston Female Antislavery Society, increased his interest in the abolition movement. They were married on Oct. 12, 1837. He wrote later that 'my wife made an out-and-out abolitionist of me, and always preceded me in the adoption of various causes I have advocated.'"

Cool dude. And check out his sideburns.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:39 AM | Permalink

Meet Malcolm London

For those of you not in-the-know, Malcolm London, the activist poet who got arrested at Friday's protest - and then released - is a pretty remarkable talent.

The CBS Evening News once called London, just 22 now, a new Carl Sandburg; Cornel West compared him to Gil Scott-Heron.

The Tribune in particular has been right on track chronicling London over the years; Rick Kogan in particular has been a champion of London's.

Let's take a look at London's press (as always, please click through for the full stories) and some of his most notable performances, including his very own TED talks.

*

In May 2012, Kogan introduced readers to the phenom:

It has been four months since Matt Damon came to school, and though the buzz is gone the bell still rings. Thirty sophomores file into Room 324 at TEAM Englewood Community Academy in the heart of one of the city's most beleaguered neighborhoods. Many of these children know people who have been robbed or wounded by gunfire. A few have had a family member who was murdered.

"Their lives are tough, but they are amazingly resilient," says their teacher, Missy Hughes. "What is frustrating for all of us is that we know what people think when they hear 'Englewood,' and that is gang violence and poverty. There is a judgment placed on them and their community."

At 11:20 a.m. the kids settle into desks for sixth period, which will last until the next bell rings at 11:59. In that 39 minutes they will hear prize-winning poet Malcolm London, only a few years older than they are, read the words of slain Chicago activist Fred Hampton, from a speech he gave shortly before he was killed in a police/FBI raid in 1969, months after his 21st birthday.

Among those words are these: "We got to face some facts. The masses are poor. The masses belong to what you call the lower class, and when I talk about the masses, I'm talking about the white masses, I'm talking about the black masses, and the brown masses, and the yellow masses, too.

The children listen, rapt, and then are told by Hughes to write responses to what they've just heard, guided in the exercise by London and by Kevin Coval, a slightly older poet/teacher of great note and the head of Young Chicago Authors, a literacy organization working in the schools.

This is all part of a bold experiment that began in September and was highlighted by a visit to the school by Damon, who came to observe, perhaps inspire and raise some money. He was only here for one day, but the project has continued in quiet fashion, culminating Thursday night at an event billed as "Englewood Speaks."

Kogan came back to London just give months later, in October 2012, with a full-blown profile:

Malcolm London is young, black and talented, and that is a guarantee of nothing these days. But he says, "I do not do what I do for money. I come from a place with no money and don't expect I will ever have a lot of it. But I think that being a teacher and poet can be a viable career."

We shall see. London is only 19, one year removed from Lincoln Park High School and not yet enrolled in college. He plans to go, because "society places great value on that diploma, and I am a great believer that learning can be a beautiful experience."

He is a child of and still lives in the Austin neighborhood, a harsh section of the city.

"Every day I walk home from the bus stop and I see defiled vacant lots, buildings boarded up and decaying," he says. "And I see men and women who are decaying too."

But he is able to see beyond the damage.

"There are a lot of kids like me in places like this, places kind of pushed into the shadows by the people who run this city," he says. "We have stories to tell, stories not told in the news and media. I am getting the chance to tell mine, and others can too."

Poetry has been his salvation.

In May 2013, the Trib's Dawn Turner Trice wrote about London's TED talk:

On Tuesday night, if you tune into PBS' one-hour special "TED Talks Education," you'll see host John Legend and an array of prominent speakers, including Bill Gates, giving impassioned talks about ways to reinvent education.

You'll also see Chicago's Malcolm Xavier London performing a spoken word poem about the racial and class tensions he experienced as a double honors student growing up in the tough Austin neighborhood while attending the more well-to-do Lincoln Park High School.

In many ways, London, who just turned 20, is a terrific fit for TED - which stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. The nonprofit organization bills itself as being devoted to ideas worth spreading and often features people who have taken unorthodox paths giving talks about what they've learned.

A gifted writer and performer, London won first place in the Louder Than A Bomb youth poetry festival in 2011. He has participated in dramatic readings alongside stars such as actor Matt Damon. London is bright and has been called the Gil Scott-Heron ("The Revolution Will Not Be Televised") of his generation.

London was also mentioned in a story out of Naperville, and columns here by Barbara Brotman and here by Melissa Harris.

(The latter was about a new WTTW show, My Chicago: "Among those scheduled to appear on the show are Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke; Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle; poet Malcolm London; Ald. Ameya Pawar of the 47th Ward; architect Juan Moreno; Elena Delle Donne of the WNBA's Chicago Sky; musician Jon Langford; author John Green, who lives in Indianapolis but previously lived in Chicago; Tribune columnist Mary Schmich; Museum of Contemporary Art curator Naomi Beckwith; and TV anchor and Chicago Tonight host Phil Ponce.")

*

London was then quoted in an August 2014 Trib article about Ferguson:

Malcolm London, an event organizer, compared police brutality today with lynchings and violence that occurred during the civil rights movement decades ago.

"I don't care what color you are: green, red, purple, brown, you don't deserve to get your life taken by the state, ever, by nobody," said London, 21. "These dangerous . . . stereotypes that persist in this country is the reason why black young people are killed by police."

Next was a story last April about "Chance the Rapper's Grand Plan To Unite 'Young Creatives:'"

The 21-year-old MC, with poet Malcolm London at his side, was carrying on a tradition that had become like a second family to him. It was here on these impromptu stages at the Harold Washington Library's YouMedia Center, Columbia College Chicago and elsewhere, under the tutelage of such community builders as the late "Brother Mike" Hawkins and Kevin Coval, that he found his voice and attended workshops that helped him record his music - music that is now transforming contemporary hip-hop.

*

You know where else you can hear London? Dunbar Park.

*

Now, to the video . . .

TED Talk: High School Training Ground (2013)

"Young poet, educator and activist Malcom London performs his stirring poem about life on the front lines of high school. He tells of the 'oceans of adolescence' who come to school 'but never learn to swim,' of 'masculinity mimicked by men who grew up with no fathers.' Beautiful, lyrical, chilling."

*

TEDx Windy City: a Change Gon Come (2013)

"Malcolm London, called the Gil-Scott Heron of his generation by Cornel West, is a young Chicago poet, performer, activist and educator."

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On Verses and Flow (2013)

"Malcolm London, called the Gil-Scott Heron of this generation by Cornel West, is a young Chicago poet, performer, activist and educator. Malcolm has recently shared stages with actor Matt Damon, John Krasinski, Emily Blunt and artist Lupe Fiasco as a part of the The People Speak, Live! cast. Here Malcolm appears on Episode 7 w/ Carl Thomas of Season 2 of TVOne's Verses and Flow. His poem is about a friend of his who was murdered in Chicago."

*

On The CBS Evening News (2014)

"Malcolm London lives in Chicago's Austin neighborhood, a part of the city that doesn't usually inspire verse. The 20-year-old started writing poems in 2009 to give his community a voice. He now takes his message to public school classrooms and can be seen performing for national audiences. Dean Reynolds reports."

*

Malcolm London - "Why You Talk Like That?" - GCHS Writers Week (2014)

*

On The School-To-Prison Pipeline (2015)

"Malcolm London and Project NIA organized a march from a closed school to the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center, as part of the National Week of Action Against Incarcerating Youth."

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See also: The [Thanksgiving 2015] Papers: Malcolm London Explains It All.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:37 AM | Permalink

December 1, 2015

SportsMondayTuesday: Same Old Bulls

Same old Bulls - in a good way.

It was fun in the preseason to talk about opening up the team's offensive scheme. But it has proven much tougher to execute the change in real games, especially with a veteran core that has been awfully good at playing defense-first basketball for a long time now. And that was exactly the way the Bulls pulled out their 92-89 victory over the Spurs on Monday night.

The Bulls improved to 10-5 overall (the third-best record in the Eastern Conference) as they embarked on a four-game homestand that will include games against Denver on Wednesday, the surging Charlotte Hornets (10-7) on Saturday and Phoenix on Monday. They did so after surviving an abbreviated circus trip with a 2-2 mark.

It probably should have occurred to fans that this whole "speed up the offense" thing wasn't going to work with the sort of talent the Bulls have. A team with two better-than-average centers and two solid and taller-than-average power forwards wasn't going to be able to go small as frequently as, say, the Golden State Warriors do when they really crank up their offense. The Bulls also aren't terribly deep at the guard and small forward spots right now, especially with Mike Dunleavy still out with back issues and Kirk Hinrich and Aaron Brooks also sidelined lately with injuries.

(By the way, have you noticed the Warriors are now 19-0 and the 76ers are 0-18? We could easily be looking at a season in which the records for most and fewest wins, 72 and 9, are both broken.)

Let's give a little credit to Fred Hoiberg for seemingly recognizing early on this season that his personnel didn't match his desired scheme - and not fighting it. But only a little credit - this is still Tom Thibodeau-developed guys playing Tom Thibodeau-style basketball.

Actually, that is a bit of a misconception. There were numerous times last year when Thibodeau realized his team wasn't playing its best defense and adjusted his substitution pattern to give his best scorers a chance to win faster-paced games. But we all know Thibodeau's favorite style of play.

The main thing Hoiberg has done differently than Thibodeau, other than raising his voice slightly less frequently, is hand out the playing time.

So far, Jimmy Butler is averaging 37 minutes, down a couple from last year. Derrick Rose is at 32, and no one else is over 30. Hoiberg deserves a lot of credit for guiding a team that is winning twice as often as it loses despite significant limits on minutes.

As for the Spurs game, the Bulls survived some odd substitutions, including removing a hot Joakim Noah with just over six minutes remaining in the game. Hoiberg seemed to realize his mistake shortly thereafter and put Noah back in just past the five-minute mark, but the momentum generated by Noah's energy and efficiency at both ends during the first half of the fourth quarter was gone.

Noah had his by-far best game of the season, piling up eight points, seven assists and 11 rebounds in just 23 minutes.

Sure enough, the offense dried up late. But the defense made the difference, with a usual suspect making a huge play late - Butler forcing Kawhi Leonard into an air ball with 10.6 seconds left - and others chipping in as well.

Both Pau Gasol (a team-high 18 points and 13 rebounds) and Nikola Mirotic stood strong in the low post late, foiling Spurs scoring chances in the final two minutes. And in the end, Rose used his extraordinary speed/quickness at the defensive end, racing out to get a finger or two on Tony Parker's last-second three-point attempt.

The offense may not be speedy, but at least some individual Bulls still are.

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Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays, or Tuesdays as the case may be. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:33 AM | Permalink

U.S. Government Reveals Breadth Of Requests For Internet Records

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has used a secretive authority to compel internet and telecommunications firms to hand over customer data including an individual's complete web browsing history and records of all online purchases, a court filing released Monday shows.

The documents are believed to be the first time the government has provided details of its so-called national security letters, which are used by the FBI to conduct electronic surveillance without the need for court approval.

The filing made public Monday was the result of an 11-year-old legal battle waged by Nicholas Merrill, founder of Calyx Internet Access, a hosted service provider, who refused to comply with a national security letter (NSL) he received in 2004.

Merrill told Reuters the release was significant "because the public deserves to know how the government is gathering information without warrants on Americans who are not even suspected of a crime."

National security letters have been available as a law enforcement tool since the 1970s, but their frequency and breadth expanded dramatically under the USA Patriot Act, which was passed shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. They are almost always accompanied by an open-ended gag order barring companies from disclosing the contents of the demand for customer data.

A federal court ruled earlier this year that the gag on Merrill's NSL should be lifted.

Merrill's challenge also disclosed that the FBI may use NSLs to gain IP addresses on everyone a suspect has corresponded with and cell-site location information. The FBI said in the court filings it no longer used NSLs for location information.

The secretive orders have long drawn the ire of tech companies and privacy advocates, who argue NSLs allow the government to snoop on user content without appropriate judicial oversight or transparency.

Last year, the Obama administration announced it would permit internet companies to disclose more about the number of NSLs they receive. But they can still only provide a range such as between 0 and 999 requests, or between 1,000 and 1,999. Twitter has sued in federal court seeking the ability to publish more details in its semi-annual transparency reports.

Several thousand NSLs are now issued by the FBI every year, though the agency says it is unaware of the precise number. At one point that number eclipsed 50,000 letters annually.

The FBI did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

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See also: Scope of Secretive FBI National Security Letters Revealed by First Lifted Gag Order.

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Previously:
* What's The Evidence That Mass Surveillance Works? Not Much.

* Why The Close Collaboration Between The NSA And AT&T Matters.

* First Library To Support Anonymous Internet Browsing Effort Stops After DHS E-Mail.

* EFF Sues For Records About 'Hemisphere' Phone Call Collection And Drug Enforcement Program.

* Snowden Documentarian Laura Poitras Sues U.S. Government To Uncover Records After Years Of Airport Detentions And Searches.

* Obama Secretly Expanded NSA Spying To Internet.

* Court: NSA Phone Program Illegal.

* The Chicago Connection To The Hidden Intelligence Breakdowns Behind The Mumbai Attacks.

* Human Rights Watch Sues DEA Over Bulk Collection Of American's Telephone Records.

* U.S. Secretly Tracked Billions Of Calls For Decades.

* Amnesty International Joins ACLU, Wikimedia In Lawsuit To Stop Mass Surveillance Program.

* Stop Spying On Wikipedia Users.

* EFF Wins Battle Over Secret Legal Opinions On Government Spying.

* The NSA's "U.S. Corporate Partners."

* I Fight Surveillance.

* Illegal Spying Below.

* Smith vs. Obama.

* EFF Sues NSA Over FOIA.

* Stand Against Spying.

* The NSA Revelations All In One Chart.

* U.S. Supreme Court Limits Cell Phone Searches.

* EFF To Court: There's No Doubt The Government Destroyed NSA Spying Evidence.

* House Committee Puts NSA On Notice Over Encryption Standards.

* Which Tech Companies Help Protect You From Government Data Demands?

* Lawsuit Demands DOJ Release More Secret Surveillance Court Rulings.

* Human Rights Organizations To Foreign Ministers: Stop Spying On Us.

* What The Proposed NSA Reforms Wouldn't Do.

* Technologists Turn On Obama.

* Dear Supreme Court: Set Limits On Cell Phone Searches.

* EFF Fights National Security Letter Demands On Behalf Of Telecom, Internet Company.

* Eighth-Grader Schools The NSA.

* You Know Who Else Collected Metadata? The Stasi.

* Today We Fight Back.

* The Day We Fight Back.

* FAQ: The NSA's Angry Birds.

* Jon Stewart: The Old Hope-A-Dope.

* Four Blatantly False Claims Obama Has Made About NSA Surveillance.

* EFF To DOJ In Lawsuit: Stop Pretending Information Revealed About NSA Over Last Seven Months Is Still A Secret.

* Judge On NSA Case Cites 9/11 Report, But It Doesn't Actually Support His Ruling.

* Edward Snowden's Christmas Message.

* Jon Stewart: Obama Totally Lying About NSA Spying.

* Presidential Panel To NSA: Stop Undermining Encryption.

* The NSA Is Coming To Town.

* 60 Minutes We Can't Get Back.

* Why Care About The NSA?

* NSA Surveillance Drives Writers To Self-Censor.

* Filed: 22 Firsthand Accounts Of How NSA Surveillance Chilled The Right To Association.

* Claim On 'Attacks Thwarted' By NSA Spreads Despite Lack Of Evidence.

* Obama Vs. The World.

* How A Telecom Helped The Government Spy On Me.

* UN Member States Asked To End Unchecked Surveillance.

* Government Standards Agency: Don't Follow Our Encryption Guidelines Because NSA.

* Five More Organizations Join Lawsuit Against NSA.

* A Scandal Of Historic Proportions.

* Item: NSA Briefing.

* The Case Of The Missing NSA Blog Post.

* The NSA Is Out Of Control.

* Patriot Act Author Joins Lawsuit Against NSA.

* Obama's Promises Disappear From Web.

* Why NSA Snooping Is A Bigger Deal In Germany.

* Item: Today's NSA Briefing.

* NSA Briefing: It Just Got Worse (Again).

* Song of the Moment: Party at the NSA.

* It Not Only Can Happen Here, It Is Happening Here.

* What NSA Transparency Looks Like.

* America's Lying About Spying: Worse Than You Think.

* Obama Continues To Lie His Ass Off About The NSA.

* The Surveillance Reforms Obama Supported Before He Was President.

* America's Spying: Worse Than You Think.

* Has The U.S. Government Lied About Its Snooping? Let's Go To The Videotape.

* Who Are We At War With? That's Classified.

* Six Ways Congress May Reform NSA Snooping.

* NSA Says It Can't Search Its Own E-Mails.

* Does The NSA Tap That?

* Obama Explains The Difference Between His Spying And Bush's Spying.

* FAQ: What You Need To Know About The NSA's Surveillance Programs.

* NSA: Responding To This FOIA Would Help "Our Adversaries".

* Fact-Check: The NSA And 9/11.

* The NSA's Black Hole: 5 Things We Still Don't Know About The Agency's Snooping.

* Defenders Of NSA Surveillance Citing Chicago Case Omit Most Of Mumbai Plotter's Story.

* Obama's War On Truth And Transparency.

* ProPublica's Guide To The Best Stories On The Growing Surveillance State.

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See also:
* Jimmy Carter: America's Shameful Human Rights Record.

* James Goodale: Only Nixon Harmed A Free Press More.

* Daniel Ellsberg: Obama Has Committed Impeachable Offenses.

* Paul Steiger: Why Reporters In The U.S. Now Need Protection.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:23 AM | Permalink

MUSIC - The Weekend In Chicago Rock.
TV - Cricket vs. Brexit.
POLITICS - Charter Schools Complicit With Segregation.
SPORTS - USA Gymnastics Bans Illinois Coach.

BOOKS - The Randomness Of Harvard Admissions.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Public Lands Matter.


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