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« February 2012 | Main | April 2012 »

March 31, 2012

The Weekend Desk Report

Nope, it wasn't us.

Market Update
It was a sensational quarter on the stock markets. At least, it will be until we factor in all those refunds.

Final Four Horsemen
It is, after all, 2012, the year we run out of time. What better place to look for signs of the coming Apocalypse than the Superdome?

Sign 1: When we finally manage to destroy all the bees, who will remain to pollinate Brutus?!

Sign 2: If we're not mistaken, Louisville is currently coached by Anubis the jackal-headed mummy god.

Sign 3: Bill Self seems poised to reach Bill Nirvana, rendering all of this striving moot.

Sign 4: Okay, there's no tie in, but COME ON.

Sign 5: Because the remainder of eternity is shorter than the average NCAA John Calipari's Kentucky Wildcats will get to keep their championship banner forever!

And Finally . . .
In other news, yes.

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The Weekend Desk Tip Line: Pink and slimy.

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The Sound Opinions Weekend Report: "They're gritty, they're grimy, they're bluesy. It's The Kills! Tune in for Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince performing in the studio. Plus, after three decades does Madonna still have it?"

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The CAN TV Weekend Report: CAN TV brings you local, relevant issues from Chicago's neighborhoods and communities. See what's happening around the city in education, the arts, government, cultural events, social services and community activities.

National Alliance for the Empowerment of the Formerly Incarcerated

3-26-NAEFI.jpg

Mentors and staff from NAEFI explore how mentorship can assist those re-entering the community from prison.

Saturday, March 31 at 6 p.m. on CAN TV21
1 hr

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Perspectivas Latinas: Centro Romero

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Centro Romero Associate Director Abel Nunez highlights their upcoming Pueblo Canta concert, a celebration of the movement for immigrant justice featuring performances by Latin American artists.

Saturday, March 31 at 7:30 p.m. on CAN TV21
30 min

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Bloomingdale Trail Public Meeting

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Community members provide input and get a first glimpse of the Bloomingdale Trail, which will convert an abandoned elevated train track into public space for walking, running, and biking.

Sunday, April 1 at 9 a.m. on CAN TV21
2 hr

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(In)Secure Communities: What's Behind the Anti-Immigrant Dragnet?

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Author Maria Ines Zamudio explores the origins of measures meant to curtail illegal immigration, their increasing severity, and their impact on Latinos and other minority groups.

Sunday, April 1 at 11 a.m. on CAN TV21
2 hr

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From Food Desert to Food Oasis

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Mari Gallagher presents her most recent research into how food stamp retailers affect public health and economic development.

Sunday, April 1 at 12:30 p.m. on CAN TV21
1 hr

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On Any Given Day: The Social Construction of Homelessness

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Commissioned by Humboldt Park Social Services, On Any Given Day uses the stories of real people affected by homelessness to shed a light on the issue in Chicago.

Watch Online

Sunday, April 1 at 4:30 p.m. on CAN TV21
5 min


Posted by Natasha Julius at 9:09 AM | Permalink

March 30, 2012

The [Friday] Papers

"With a record $540 million Mega Millions jackpot in play, Illinois picked the right week to become the first state in the nation to sell lottery tickets online," AP reports.

"It took only three minutes for the first online lottery ticket to sell once the system went live at 7 a.m. Sunday. By Thursday evening, more than $425,000 worth of tickets had been sold online, and officials expected sales to increase by the hour as people take their shot at Friday night's record prize.

"Internet sales on Thursday alone amounted to just more than $64,000 by evening, while the day's retail sales topped $3.2 million."

I don't doubt that selling lottery tickets online will increase sales by exploiting the suckers-too-lazy-to-go-to-the-store demo, but this report is missing some important comparisons. For example, a certain level of online spending will simply replace retail spending - it isn't all new.

And I'm not at all sure we should be happy that the state has found another way to essentially steal money from its citizens. The house always wins - and when the house is in effect the taxpayers the house always loses too.

NATO Protest Permit Doomed
By Chicago's unique political math and a familiar hearing officer.

The Koschman Case
"A judge questioned Thursday how the police concluded that Richard J. 'R.J.' Vanecko, a nephew of then-Mayor Richard M. Daley, acted in self-defense when he delivered a deadly blow nearly eight years ago, noting that five witnesses have given sworn statements denying that the victim, David Koschman, was physically aggressive," the Sun-Times reports.

"'Certainly, none of these statements lend credence to that conclusion,' Cook County Circuit Judge Michael P. Toomin told a lawyer for Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, who's fighting a Koschman family petition seeking to have a special prosecutor investigate the case. 'There's utterly no evidence he was physically aggressive. Where does the claim of self-defense have its genesis?'

"Jack Blakey, the state's attorney's special prosecutions chief, said 'we have conflicting evidence' about Koschman's behavior."

Which is just one of many reasons to appoint a special prosecutor.

*

"The Sun-Times has reported the police found 'missing' files last summer, including a handwritten note that read 'V DAILEY SISTER SON.' Toomin asked Blakey about that.

"'Even if you draw the most sinister conclusion, it points to corruption in the police department, not the state's attorney's office,' Blakey said."

Which is just one of many reasons to appoint a special prosecutor.

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Toomin is expected to hand down his decision on April 6.

Rahm vs. Junior
"These infrastructure investments mean that, in three years, O'Hare's capacity will grow by the size of Midway's total capacity," Rahm said Thursday talking about his proposed Infrastructure Trust. "That is the same as building a third major airport for Chicago but, in my view, far more cost-effective and strategic."

Message sent.

But wouldn't it be more strategic to make O'Hare more efficient and build new capacity on the side of town that needs the economic development the most?

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See also: "Mayor Rahm Emanuel faces a tough sell in getting airlines at O'Hare to start talking about the last phase of the long-planned airport expansion."

Just like Daley did.

Trust Him
"The Infrastructure Trust is expected to launch with $225 million in energy efficiency projects for government buildings," the Sun-Times reiterates.

"In the case of 'Retrofit Chicago,' it's apparent how investors would get their return."

It is? Call me a dummy, but I don't get it.

"By retrofitting 127 government buildings, the city expects to reduce its $170 million annual tab for energy consumption by more than $20 million while creating nearly 2,000 construction jobs."

So a private investor puts up some or all of the money to retrofit city buildings and the city kicks back a big enough portion of its savings to provide a profit?

And that's a better deal than the city paying for the retrofit itself and keeping all the savings, which presumably is more than the cost?

Help me here, people.

*

"But many of the other projects the city is looking to finance will need to have their own financing streams. It's why the mayor has specifically mentioned the city's plan to build 16 miles of bus-rapid transit on Jeffery Boulevard this year and add a similar route in the Central Loop next year.

"Implied but not stated is that passengers could be asked to pay higher fares for faster rides. High-speed internet service could also be financed by a fee paid by businesses and individuals."

So the idea is that the city can't afford to do the exact same thing themselves because they can't front the money or go into the bond market? So private investors are given a crack at what sound more like infrastructure amenities than infrastructure per se?

Smells like teen parking meters.

Earth To Heartland
General Motors Decides Climate-Change Is Real, Chicago Think Tank Weeps.

Morbid Curiosity
The iconography of death at the Chicago Cultural Center.

The Week in Chicago Rock
They played at a venue near you. We have the video.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Iconographic.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:43 AM | Permalink

Chicago's Political Math Dooms NATO Protest Permit

"A city of Chicago administrative hearing judge has upheld the denial of a march permit for NATO protesters," the Tribune reports.

"Administrative Law Judge Raymond J. Prosser delivered his ruling late this afternoon, backing the city's claim that a parade through the heart of the Loop on the first day of the NATO summit would create an unnecessary public safety risk."

No surprise.

"A city hearing officer for the Mayor's License Commission Friday denied a permit for peace activists to march on Michigan Avenue on the second anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq," the Tribune reported in February 2005.

That hearing officer, too, was Raymond J. Prosser.

"Hearing Commissioner Raymond Prosser - citing the disruption of pedestrians, businesses and traffic on Michigan, as well as the number of additional police and CTA supervisors needed for a demonstration on that busy thoroughfare - upheld an earlier decision by the city Department of Transportation . . .

"As it did last year, the city offered an alternate route on Clark Street to the Federal Plaza, which the activists contend is designed to lower their visibility."

Sound familiar?

*

Expressions of dissent are often found to be too disruptive to be countenanced in Chicago.

"On Jan. 5, a permit application for a demonstration observing the 6th anniversary of the Iraq war was filed by Bob Schwartz, an activist with the Gay Liberation Network and the Chicago Coalition Against War & Racism," the Chicago Progressive Examiner reported in February 2009.

"The requested date was Saturday, March 14, and the location was Pilsen, the heart of the city's Latino community.

"Schwartz was actually fronting for Andy Thayer, leading gay rights and anti-war organizer with a long history of challenging the city on civil liberties matters. Alas, the ploy for leniency didn't fly; the city denied the permit request, and they addressed the rejection letter to Thayer.

"According to the letter from Michael Simon of the Chicago Department of Transportation, the proposed march route - Cermak Road to Harrison Park by way of Damen Avenue and 18th Street - 'would substantially and unnecessarily interfere with traffic in the area contiguous to the activity and the disruption of traffic could not be mitigated with available city resources.' Simon authorized the march to be held on a different date and with an alternate route that didn't include busy 18th Street."

In this case, however, Prosser got the case and ruled in favor of Thayer. He didn't want to, but a technicality that wouldn't have held up on an appeal to the circuit court tied his hands:

Thayer appealed the decision and proceeded to act as attorney (he is an administrative assistant at the civil rights law office of Loevy & Loevy) in a hearing held on Jan. 22. Simon testified that the St. Patrick's Day Parade and the South Side Irish Parade qualified as traditional parades under Section 10-8-325(i) of the Chicago Municipal Code, which reads, in part:

Where a parade has been conducted on or about a certain date, on a substantially similar route, and in connection with a specific holiday or consistent theme, for at least the prior five years, it shall be referred to herein as a traditional parade, and it shall be given a preference to continue on that date and route for the purpose of protecting the expectations and enjoyment of the public.

The ordinance goes on to say that when two events claiming to be traditional parades request permits for the same date, the city must hold a lottery to decide who gets the permit. Anti-war marches have been held on or near Michigan Avenue since March 2003, and Simon argued that by relocating the event to Pilsen - a decision that was made in order to work more closely with immigrant rights activists - the organizers forfeited the traditional parade classification, hence the St. Patrick's Day Parade and the South Side Irish Parade were given precedence.

Simon also testified that all three applications were filed on Jan. 5, but the activists' application was the only one date-stamped Jan. 5; the others were date-stamped Jan. 7. Simon said his assistant failed to time-stamp those applications on the day they were received, and Administrative Law Officer Raymond J. Prosser, who ruled over the case, bought the explanation.

Police Commander Frank Gross of the Special Events and Liaison Section testified that he personally reviewed all three applications and concluded that he didn't have the resources to handle three major events in the same weekend because the Police Department is facing significant budget cuts and restraints; he said he faxed Simon a request that no further permits be granted for the weekend of March 14-15.

The city also put on the stand Antonio McFadden, a Chicago Transit Authority general manager who testified that the route requested by the activists would affect seven bus routes, while the city's proposed alternative would only affect three bus routes and place less demands on the CTA. However, he didn't discuss the level of disruption that would be caused by the St. Patrick's Day Parade or the South Side Irish Parade.

Thayer argued that all this talk about logistical difficulties was a smokescreen to cover up an attempt to stifle constitutionally protected protest activity. He pointed out that the city has allowed the simultaneous scheduling on Aug. 8 of 2009 of no less than three major events: Lollapalooza, which by the city's own estimate has an average daily attendance of 65,000; the Bud Billiken Parade, which draws hundreds of thousands to the South Side and disrupts more than a dozen bus lines for long periods of time; and the Independence of Ecuador Parade in Albany Park. By contrast, the anti-war march in question is expected to draw about 2,500.

On cross-examination, Thayer got Simon to admit that he had processed more than 18,000 permit applications in his 9-year career, had rejected only about 20 to 25 of them, and six or more of the rejections were for anti-war events. In statistical terms, this means that he had only rejected roughly 0.10 percent of applications, but 20 to 30 percent of the rejections were for anti-war actions.

The hearing ended without a decision, but according to Thayer, Simon indicated that he would be amenable to a compromise. "He said, 'Hey Andy, let's talk about this on the phone, let's see if we can work this out' [...] Apparently his lawyers came down on him like a ton of bricks, because the call then that I did get was three lawyers on a conference call, representing the CPD [Chicago Police Department] and other outfits associated with the city. When I tried then calling Mike [Simon], the callback I got then was from his lawyer." Sensing defeat, Thayer asked Pilsen activists to schedule a meeting with 24th Ward Alderman Danny Solis to seek his help.

When the hearing resumed on Jan. 26, Thayer brought to the stand Pilsen organizers Laura Paz and Magna Castaneda. They both testified to the importance of holding the event on March 14, and to the significance of marching on 18th Street for maximum visibility and due to the street's significance to the latino community. Then they darted out of the hearing to a 1 p.m. meeting with Ald. Solis along with other activists, including Gloria Barrios, who has gained national notoriety thanks to her struggle to uncover the truth about her daughter's death at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas.

The alderman was very polite, holding a bilingual meeting to accommodate Barrios and another Spanish-speaking woman. But even if his heart was in the right place, Solis - who was appointed by Richard M. Daley in 1996 and is described by his own Web site as a "staunch ally" of the mayor - clearly didn't feel that this issue was worth rocking the apple cart.

He listened to the activists, but time and again he came to City Hall's defense. "I think the city has been one of the most progressive in the nation on this issue [the Iraq war]," he said at one point. When Paz stated that this would be a peaceful event with no need for a large police presence - a perennial complaint from activists - Solis responded that police would be on hand mainly to direct traffic, "not because they're concerned about your being rowdy." That didn't sit well with Paz, whose daughter was swept up in the mass arrest of March 20, 2003.

Solis expressed a degree of willingness to appeal for access to 18th Street, but ultimately he made it clear that he wouldn't challenge the city's decision on the date. "If you have the parade on March 7, I think everything you want you can have regarding the march route," he said.

As the meeting and the downtown hearing ended, everyone went home expecting the worst. Two days later Thayer received Prosser's decision and was stunned to learn that the permit had been granted. The 14-page decision conceded all the legal arguments made by the city, but in the end Prosser ruled for the activists on a technicality. The city is required to respond to permit applications by fax or phone and by mail within five business days; if the response is not timely the permit must be automatically granted. The last date for a timely reply to the application was Jan. 14; a denial letter sent by Simon's assistant was postmarked Jan. 14, but a denial wasn't issued by fax until the 15th.

Prosser concluded that his hands were tied by the timeliness factor:

"Therefore, I find that I have no discretion in this matter, and, as a result, the parade permit at issue must be granted."

There was much jubilation when Thayer announced the unexpected victory to the anti-war coalition, but the joy was short-lived. Apparently one can't go up against St. Patrick in this Irish-run town and get away with it, because Thayer learned on Monday that the city had filed an appeal against Prosser's ruling.

The appeal hearing will be held Tuesday afternoon, and Thayer is consulting with National Lawyers Guild attorneys and trying to get a bona fide lawyer in court; he's also taking the case to the court of public opinion with a press conference. "The City is playing very, very nasty right now," he said. "And I, for one, am in no mood to roll over for them."

I don't know if the city appealed, but the march apparently occurred on the desired date.

*

Back to Thursday's decision:

"In a written ruling, Administrative Law Judge Raymond J. Prosser noted the protestors planned route would effectively shut down two north-south thoroughfares - State Street and Michigan Avenue - at a time when dozens of motorcades would need those arterial roads along with Columbus and Lake Shore Drive to travel from Near North Side hotels and the Hilton Hotel at 720 S. Michigan to McCormick Place," the Sun-Times reports.

"There will be an as yet unknown number of motorcades for the heads of state and other high-level protectees," Prosser wrote in his decision, "and it is reasonable to conclude that the length and numbers of these motorcades will disrupt traffic in a manner never before experienced in Chicago."

Here's my favorite part:

"Prosser wrote that an alternative route offered by the city - beginning in Grant Park, near the Petrillo band shell - still allows marchers to pass by two important landmarks that allows them to exercise their First Amendment rights to protest war: a military recruiting station at Harrison and State and 'within sight and sound' of a main entrance to McCormick Place on May 20 - the day the summit begins."

Or they could march in circles in their basements.

*

"While the applicant has a right to a parade, there is no right to cause gridlock in the city," Chief Assistant Corporation Counsel Stephanie Uhlarik said during the hearing Tuesday.

Only NATO motorcades and hordes of baseball fans have a right to do that.

*

"[Thayer] said he would gather with other protest organizers to determine whether to take further legal action. But he's still puzzled: Why was the May 20 permit application denied when officials gave protestors the green light to march the same Daley Plaza-to-McCormick Place route a day earlier, May 19 - when the G-8 summit was still scheduled to convene here."

Because according to Chicago's political math, one summit is more disruptive than two. Or maybe - just maybe - the Emanuel Administration saw their chance to use the loss of the G8 summit to squelch protest of the lesser NATO gathering and get out of the weekend unoccupied.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:49 AM | Permalink

Morbid Curiosity

"Welcome to Morbid Curiosity: The Richard Harris Collection," Explore Chicago announced in January. "This groundbreaking exhibition, one of the Chicago Cultural Center's largest to date, showcases over five hundred artworks and other artifacts from the personal collection of Chicago-based collector Richard Harris. Amassed over several decades, Harris's collection explores the iconography of death across cultures and traditions spanning nearly six thousand years, and includes works by some of the greatest artists of our time.

"To help guide your visit, the exhibition is organized into two major sections: The War Room, which deals with the horrors and reactions to war expressed through art; and The Kunstkammer of Death, a play on the traditional European term for a 'cabinet of curiosities.' While the subject matter may seem a bit macabre, artists have long derived inspiration from death, mortality, and the impermanence of human existence. This eclectic collection examines these concepts from centuries past to the present day."

Let's take a look.

1. The city uploaded this video to YouTube this week:


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2. "A stop motion documentation of the latest installment of the Guerra de la Paz installation, TRIBUTE. On view at The Chicago Cultural Center, as part of the exhibition, MORBID CURIOSITY, The Richard Harris Collection. January 28 - July 8, 2012."

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3. From Chicago Tonight:

"Riverwoods antiques dealer Richard Harris has an unusual collection: over 1,000 pieces of art and artifacts of the morbid and macabre.

"From high-end Goya prints to decades-old photographs he's picked up for $5, much of his collection is now on display at the Chicago Cultural Center's Morbid Curiosity."

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:46 AM | Permalink

The Week in Chicago Rock

You shoulda been there.

1. Peter and the Test Tube Babies at Reggie's on Thursday night.


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2. The Pretty Reckless at the Bottom Lounge on Thursday night.

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Saturday night shows uploaded since The Weekend in Chicago Rock:

3. Nicolas Jaar at the Metro.

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4. Aerias at the Double Door.

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5. Slum Village at the Double Door.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:10 AM | Permalink

March 29, 2012

The [Thursday] Papers

"In an interview with The Associated Press, [Secretary of State Jesse] White said it would be 'a cheap shot' for Republicans to raise the issue when he runs again in two years," AP reports.

You mean like the time this happened?

"Secretary of State Jesse White tried to nail his opponent for allegedly using a county vehicle to do campaign work Friday but his charges blew up in his face when she accused him of using state employees to spy on her," the Sun-Times reported in October 2002.

"The exchange occurred at the Friday taping of a radio debate between White and Kristine O'Rourke Cohn, the Republican county executive of Winnebago County. First, Cohn accused White of accepting political donations from secretary of state's office employees.

"White shot back, accusing Cohn of using her county car for political work. 'I've seen you at many events driving around in a county car . . . I raised the issue and we ran the plates and it was your car and you were driving it, or you were in the car.'

"After the debate ended, Cohn demanded to know who had looked up her license plate number and whether that person was a state worker."

Would it be a cheap shot to then point out how White tried to backtrack?

"White said he had misspoken and that he and his workers had never run Cohn's license plate number. He said it was clear that it was a government car because it had plates designated for government use."

But a couple weeks later the Sun-Times reported that "Three employees in Secretary of State Jesse White's office improperly pulled up the driving record of White 's election opponent and checked one of her license plate numbers."

To be fair, the inspector general doing that investigation found that the employees acted alone. And by "to be fair," I mean White was smart enough to not leave any evidence whatsoever that he or anyone associated with his campaign actually directed those employees to run his opponents' plates. They just sort of knew, and somehow what they found filtered up to him.

Now, it's not like that's the worst thing a pol has done in this state. Or the worst ethics jam White has found himself in. It's just the funnest. After all, when it comes to cheap shots, it takes a real cheap shot artist to get it right.

But don't be distracted. That's what White wants.

"He said voters should judge him on his performance as secretary of state, not his role as a ward committeeman on Chicago's West Side," AP reports.

"But that performance includes White's decision to give Smith a state job in 2006, which eventually paid $88,000 a year, after the city of Chicago fired him amid allegations of misusing city equipment and employees from a state-financed program. White, speaking to the AP in his Statehouse office, said he didn't know about Smith's past, despite stories about it at the time in the Chicago Sun-Times."

Look, when you're as integral to the Machine as White is, you aren't oblivious to how guys you sent lost their jobs. Even taking White at his word - just for temporary pure folly - makes one wonder how he could seat a state representative without knowing why he got fired for the city. So it doesn't work either way, Jesse.

Would it be a cheap shot to hold against you just how much you are insulting our intelligence?

*

Those Sun-Times stories AP speaks of:

"A West Side ward superintendent is under investigation by the city's inspector general for allegedly using city equipment and personnel to do private landscaping work and abusing state-financed Earnfare workers to lighten the load of city employees," the paper reported on March 31, 2005.

*

"A West Side ward superintendent who grew up at Cabrini-Green with Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) has been fired from his $72,528-a-year job amid allegations he used city equipment and personnel to do private landscaping work and improperly used state-financed Earnfare workers to lighten the load of city employees," the paper reported on June 28, 2005.

"Streets and Sanitation spokesman Matt Smith refused to explain why Derrick Smith had been fired or why Millie Dell - a $24.62-an-hour acting refuse coordinator working under Derrick Smith - had been placed on administrative leave pending further disciplinary action.

"Derrick Smith and Millie Dell both serve as precinct captains in the 27th Ward Regular Democratic Organization run by Burnett and Committeeman Jesse White."

*

"Four more Streets and Sanitation employees have been fired and another has resigned in a 27th Ward housecleaning triggered by allegations that non-government employees were allowed to operate city equipment and collect city refuse to lighten the load of city workers," the paper reported on July 14, 2005.

"The fired employees were identified as $50,224-a-year laborer Jerlene Sutton; seasonal laborers Tony Benson and Regina Bailey, each paid $50,224 a year, and seasonal motor truck driver Ray Ballentine, whose annual salary was $52,836. Jacqueline Ratliffe, another $50,224-a-year laborer, resigned.

"The new wave of disciplinary actions brings to seven the number of employees swept out of the 27th Ward sanitation office in recent weeks. The Chicago Sun-Times reported last month that the 27th Ward's $72,528-a-year sanitation superintendent, Derrick Smith, and Millie Dell, the West Side ward's $24.62-an-hour acting refuse collection coordinator, had been forced out as a result of the investigation."

*

In 2006, White gave Smith a state job. In 2011, White helped clout Smith into a vacant state senate seat.

"An administrator with the Illinois secretary of state's office was picked Thursday to fill an open state House seat on the West Side," the Tribune reported on March 25, 2011.

"Democratic leaders chose Derrick Smith to fill the spot vacated by Annazette Collins, who was appointed to the state Senate this month following the abrupt resignation of Sen. Rickey Hendon."

(If this was Con Air, Cameron Poe would say that at least Smith was on the right flight, given that lineage.)

"Secretary of State Jesse White led the panel that picked Smith, but White downplayed that connection. 'He has a long history of doing precinct work and running for office, and he's an honest, stand-up kind of a guy,' White said."

Plant Slant
Mayor Rahm Emanuel placed a story in the willing-to-play-ball New York Times today to build momentum for an uncritical media narrative at home while building a national profile for his future.

Now he's got a one-day lead on coverage of a topic already introduced into the media bloodstream last month and tomorrow he'll get another day's worth.

*

See also the item "A Matter of Trust" here and you'll understand why "advance text was made available" to Greg Hinz of Crain's.

*

UPDATE 12:22 P.M.: From the Tribune this morning:

"Emanuel's speech does not mention any new sources of funding for the work.

"It does mention the Chicago Infrastructure Trust, a plan he proposed to use private investment funds to rebuild infrastructure. But the speech offers no particular projects other than a move to improve energy efficiency at city buildings that he already put forward."

From the Sun-Times this morning:

"Emanuel is giving his infrastructure program a name - 'Building a New Chicago' - and a price tag of $7.2 billion over the next three years.

"In reality, it's largely political packaging by a new administration that's fast become famous for it.

"Most, if not all, of the water, sewer, parks, schools and CTA projects have been announced before. So has the $1.7 billion 'infrastructure trust' he hopes to use to bankroll some of the projects."

Blago Bait
"A former chief of staff for Rod Blagojevich who provided crucial assistance to investigators was sentenced Wednesday to a mere 10 days in prison by a federal judge who reserved his harshest comments instead for the former governor, suggesting he was an impossible boss and pointing out some had even questioned his mental stability," Annie Sweeney writes for the Tribune.

"The sentence for John Harris was in stunning contrast to the crushing 14-year term Blagojevich began serving earlier this month in a federal prison in Colorado. In fact, Blagojevich has already spent more time in prison than Harris will."

Artful Dodger
"Mark Walter, a successful but very low-profile Chicago financial executive, is a Chicago Cubs season ticket holder," the Tribune reports. "And as of late Tuesday night, he is also set to be the controlling owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"Walter, an Iowa native who is chief executive of a Chicago and New York-based financial colossus called Guggenheim Partners, emerged as the leader of the group that won the Dodgers at auction for $2.15 billion, a record price for a sports franchise."

Walter is a bit of a mystery man, though.

"When the Tribune on Wednesday queried more than three dozen of Chicago's elite bankers, investors and power brokers, none claimed to know Walter well. Most had never met him."

*

"A source close to Walter said he still plans to keep his season tickets for the Cubs, but will soon find a residence in Los Angeles," Reuters reports. "'Mark views this as a long-term investment in the tradition of baseball and something his daughter's daughter may one day enjoy,' said one person who knows him."

Chicago Way University
"[A]fter drawing a retirement package worth nearly $800,000 when he left the City Colleges, plus a $140,000 annual pension, [Wayne Watson is] also drawing a $250,000 salary at Chicago State University - all of it on the taxpayers' dime," CBS2 Chicago and the Better Government Association report.

"The BGA discovered Watson walked away from his post as chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago with a huge taxpayer-funded compensation package."

And just like Mark Walter's granddaughter, Watson didn't exactly earn it.

"During the ten years of Watson's tenure, the graduation rate at City Colleges slid from 13 percent to 7 percent."

So naturally Chicago State hired Watson to do the same for them.

"He's earning a $250,000 salary there as well, and living in a house on the hill in Beverly, rent-free, paid for by the university.

"'It's like no one in these education institutions has any respect for taxpayers,' [BGA president Andy] Shaw said."

For more on that, see "Michael Hogan's Mysterious Entrance And Golden Exit."

*

My favorite part of the Watson story:

"A representative for Watson said, 'He's not going to talk to you. He's not done anything illegal. Dr. Watson is not going on TV to defend his morality.'"

That's not the kind of discussion an academic has!

*

Watson's message to the world:

"It is our tradition to graduate responsible effective leaders of social change and citizens ready to contribute to society equipped with the solid foundation of values and principles taught at CSU."

*

"The BGA also said Watson is getting a sweet lifetime health plan from the City Colleges."

Quite.

"By the time Watson left his job as chancellor of City Colleges of Chicago in 2009, he had accrued around 500 unused sick days over his three-decade career with the community college system," the BGA previously reported.

"While many public and private employers have a 'use-it-or-lose-it' policy on sick time, City Colleges converted Watson's unused days into cash - a whopping $500,000 that's being paid to him in five annual increments."

*

Meanwhile:

"Chicago State University has been unable to locate $3.8 million worth of equipment, including 950 computers that could contain confidential information, according to a state audit," AP reported last week.

Academic Exercise
* Meet Columbia College president Warrick Carter.
* Meet Roosevelt University president Charles Middleton.

Student Loan Excercise
* Meet America's trillion-dollar student loan debt.
* Meet America's Debt Collector-in-Chief.

Remember Earl Scruggs in Chicago
From recording at WBBM to appearing at the Old Town School of Folk Music.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Pickin', grinnin'.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:49 AM | Permalink

Michael Hogan's Mysterious Entrance And Golden Exit

"[M]any in higher education said it is not a surprise at all that [Michael] Hogan's presidency at Illinois did not last long and was marred with controversy," Inside Higher Ed reports.

"They point to his administrative track record as president of the University of Connecticut, which was as rocky as his time at Illinois. The question those critics raise is why, given the very public problems Hogan had at the University of Connecticut, the search committee at Illinois deemed him to be the best candidate.

"When asked about the criticism Hogan faced at Connecticut and how it was considered in the Illinois search, [board of trustees chairman Chris] Kennedy said that he did not have much understanding of those problems."

They were hard to miss. For example:

"From the beginning, his time at Connecticut was marred by the types of controversies that grab newspaper headlines. Hogan refused to live in the university-provided house, saying his wife was allergic to mold there, so the university paid for Hogan to stay in a different house. He ordered an expensive renovation of the university's main administrative building - including new furniture - that totaled $475,000 and was paid for through operating funds made up mostly of tuition revenue.

"He held a costly inauguration ceremony, complete with fireworks. He also spent the university's money on a series of life-sized cardboard cutouts of himself that were placed around campus."

*

Upon Hogan's departure, UConn trustee Thomas Ritter told the Connecticut Post that Hogan "didn't seem to appreciate how it looked when he was furnishing his Gulley Hall office with a $4,215 rug while tuition was being raised and the university had its hand out to the legislature during a recession."

*

At Illinois, Hogan landed a contract with a base salary of $620,000 - $170,000 more than his predecessor. He was also granted a $45,000 bonus "to make up for incentives he would have received if he hadn't left the University of Connecticut," the Daily Illini reported when Hogan was hired.

Other perks included a car and driver and use of a $1.6 million Gold Coast condo.

*

But the past behavior that predicted future performance was how Hogan dealt with the faculty at UConn.

"Tom Peters, a professor of computer science and a leader in the UConn chapter of the American Association of University Professors when Hogan was president, said Hogan gave the impression that he did not care what faculty members thought on major issues," the Inside Higher Ed account reports.

So it was with little wonder that, at Illinois, Hogan experienced what the Tribune called "a faculty mutiny."

*

And yet, in an interview with Inside Higher Ed, Kennedy refused to acknowledge that the board had failed to make the right selection. Instead, he pretended Hogan was meant to be a short-term hire all along and he had finished the job he was brought in to do.

"The agenda that he had when he came to the University of Illinois had largely been completed," Kennedy said. "At this point we decided that we needed to go through a reflective process and articulate a long-term strategic plan. And that was better left to somebody else."

*

The university reportedly spent $300,000 on an executive search firm to find Hogan. Hence:

"A bill that has passed the Illinois House would bar state universities hiring executive headhunters," CBS2 Chicago reports:

"[U]nder the law, funds composed of tuition and tax dollars could not be used to pay the expensive companies used to recruit highly-paid talent, such as outgoing University of Illinois President Michael Hogan."

*

Finally, and perhaps most galling, Andrew Thomason of Illinois Statehouse News reports on Hogan's golden parachute. ISN encourages folks to "steal" their stories by republishing them free of charge, so I'll post their whole report here:

Former University of Illinois President Michael Hogan will get a soft landing after being pushed from his office.

Hogan will step down as president of the state's flagship university July 1 after two years because of pressure from disgruntled faculty members.

But Hogan's not done at the university. He'll get a one-year paid sabbatical, during which he'll collect a $285,100 paycheck, funded by a mix of students' tuition and state dollars.

If he hasn't found another job after his sabbatical, he'll be a tenured history professor at the university. With this position, he'll receive a salary of $285,100, a graduate assistant, secretarial support and $10,000 for research, as well as take on the teaching load of a research professor.

Gov. Pat Quinn wouldn't comment on Hogan's six-figure salary as a professor when asked several times at a news conference earlier this week. Quinn did say the move from president to professor was needed.

"I think he did his best, and it was probably the right thing to do to have this change, and I think it's important for us to move on," Quinn said.

But taxpayers won't be able to move on, per se.

They'll continue paying into the State University Retirement System, or SURS, on behalf of Hogan during his year off and his tenure as a professor. He'll be eligible for a pension on July 1, 2015, at which time he'll have paid into SURS for the five years necessary to be vested in the pension system.

Taxpayers will pay at least $94,240 toward Hogan's retirement by the time he steps down as president, and will continue to pay at least $21,667.60 annually under his new contract.

Taxpayers will be cutting Hogan a check for nearly $2,000 a month for the rest of his life if he gets vested.

The "state government, in the long run, will be cutting the check for his time as university president, his year off and his tenure as an extremely well-paid history professor," said Collin Hitt, senior director of governmental affairs for Illinois Policy Institute, a free-market think tank. "That is not appropriate."

The faculty senate asked for Hogan's resignation earlier in March. The request came after Hogan and the faculty's relationship was strained to the point of breaking because Hogan tried to centralize more of the university's operations at the Urbana-Champaign campus. In addition to Urbana-Champaign, the university has campuses in Chicago and Springfield.

Numerous messages left by Illinois Statehouse News with the University of Illinois for comment about Hogan's new position, and requests to speak with Hogan himself for this story were not returned.

The money the state's put into SURS on behalf of Hogan won't disappear if he doesn't stick around long enough to get vested.

"If the termination (of his employment) is prior to the five-year vesting date, the money is forfeited back to the state," explained Beth Spenser, communication manager for SURS, in an e-mail.

Under these circumstances, the money would end up in the general revenue fund, the state's biggest pool of money that covers most of the operating budget of the state.

Hogan will also get what he's put into SURS back, plus interest, if he doesn't get vested.

Hogan has paid in $130,383.56 to SURS, which has earned him $15,279.91 in interest, through the end of 2011, according to SURS records obtained by Illinois Statehouse News.

*

And let's not forget that the university is still contending with Hogan's former chief of staff, Lisa Troyer, who also worked for him at UConn.

The Champaign News-Gazette reports that Troyer has been offered a full-time faculty position despite resigning in January "amid an investigation into anonymous e-mails sent from her computer to the University Senates Conference, a faculty group that at the time was drafting a report on enrollment management. The topic, which includes everything from recruiting to offering financial aid to students, had become a source of contention between some faculty and Hogan, who hired consultants to outline a number of reforms in that area. The emails attempted to persuade members of the group to not come to a consensus on the issue.

"Troyer denied sending the anonymous messages, but an outside investigation concluded she was likely responsible and found no evidence that anyone else had used or hacked into her computer."

Perhaps Kennedy feels that she too has completed the task at hand.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 3:27 AM | Permalink

Remembering Earl Scruggs in Chicago

"Earl Scruggs, the bluegrass banjo player whose hard-driving picking style influenced generations of players and helped shape the sound of 20th-century country music with his guitar-playing partner, Lester Flatt, died on Wednesday in a Nashville hospital. He was 88," the New York Times reports.

"Mr. Scruggs and Mr. Flatt probably reached their widest audiences with a pair of signature songs: 'Foggy Mountain Breakdown,' which they recorded in 1949 with their group the Foggy Mountain Boys, and which was used as the getaway music in the 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde; and 'The Ballad of Jed Clampett' the theme song of the 1960s television sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies. (Mr. Scruggs and Mr. Flatt also appeared on the show at times.)

"But he also helped shape the 'high, lonesome sound' of Bill Monroe, often called the father of bluegrass, and pioneered the modern banjo sound. His innovative use of three fingers rather than the claw-hammer style elevated the five-string banjo from a part of the rhythm section - or a comedian's prop - to a lead or solo instrument. What became known as the syncopated Scruggs picking style helped popularize the banjo in almost every genre of music."

Let's take a look at Scruggs' Chicago connections, including video from his performance at the Old Town School of Folk Music in 2009.

*

"Hillbilly music in Chicago centered around the WLS's live National Barn Dance, which offered radio audiences cosmopolitan skits side-by-side with grassroots musicians such as Doc Hopkins and Bradley Kincaid," the Encyclopedia of Chicago says. "One of the show's clog dancers, Kentuckian Bill Monroe, returned to Chicago in 1946 to make his first bluegrass recordings with banjoist Earl Scruggs."

*

In the fall of 1949, Monroe, Scruggs and Flatt recorded a bunch of songs at WBBM.

*

"'Backin' to Birmingham' tells the comic tale of a Chicago city slicker who wants to be a long-haul trucker."

*

In 2003, Bobby Reed wrote in the Sun-Times ahead of two sold-out shows at the Old Town that "Scruggs is the most important banjo player in country-music history. Using any criterion - whether it is commercial success, artistic innovation or critical acclaim - no one has done more to further the public's understanding and appreciation of this instrument."

*

Also from Reed:

"Scruggs started playing banjo when he was 4, and by age 10, he had developed his three-finger picking style."

*

"For many years, it seemed certain that physical and emotional setbacks would prevent the virtuoso from ever hitting the road again. Plagued by persistent back problems, Scruggs stopped touring in the '80s. In 1992, tragedy struck when his son Steve committed suicide. Four years later, Scruggs had hip-replacement surgery, and while he was in the hospital recovery room, he suffered a heart attack.

"Between 1984 and 2001, the North Carolina native did not record any new material. Speaking from his home in Nashville, Tenn., Scruggs discussed the lengthy delay between albums.

"'I didn't know it had gone on that long, really,' he said. 'At one time, I got to the point where I didn't care to play at all. When we lost Steve, our youngest son, that hit me like a freight train coming down a track. I just lost interest in playing for a good while. Then, all the sudden, it came back.'"

*

"His comeback album was the star-studded 2001 disc Earl Scruggs and Friends, which included guests such as Elton John, Vince Gill, Sting and Marty Stuart. The album included a new version of his signature instrumental tune, 'Foggy Mountain Breakdown,' which earned Scruggs his third Grammy Award."

*

In 2009, Scruggs returned to the Old Town:

*

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:14 AM | Permalink

March 28, 2012

The [Wednesday] Papers

"At an appeal hearing today, city officials defended their refusal to allow a protest march in the Loop on the first day of the NATO summit in May, saying police will be too busy with all the motorcades for visiting delegates," the Tribune reports.

Every clever comment I've tried to insert here has been way too obvious, so just pick your own.

*

"A middle-of-the-Loop protest rally and march on the opening day of the NATO summit would clog traffic and 'drain' Chicago police resources as officers turn their attention to world leaders descending on the city and the Cubs and Sox squaring off at Wrigley Field - not to mention the regular duties throughout the city," the Sun-Times reports.

The Cubs play the Sox that weekend? That's a new one. But it's true. Apparently someone in the city was finally inspired to check!

*

The city says it would have the resources to police a march if that march was so far out of the way as to render it meaningless. So they've proposed an alternate route that might as well snake its way through Palatine.

"Mayor Rahm Emanuel offered an explanation for the route change at an unrelated event Tuesday: 'If you want to stay with the original application, no problem. If you change the date, the destination doesn't change, [but] the route does to accommodate given the fact that you have about 150 dignitaries that you have [to] move.'"

You helped negotiate a 2,000-page health care bill, Rahm, I think you can figure out how to move 150 dignitaries through the city without suspending the First Amendment.

*

"The city has argued that the same concerns did not apply to the march permitted during the G-8 summit because it involves fewer delegations of foreign leaders," the Tribune also reports.

"While [CPD chief of international relations Debra] Kirby and Michael Simon, an assistant commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation, both testified that the NATO conference would bring about 50 delegations to town, they said G-8 would have brought only a few more than the eight members of the organization. However, like NATO, experts say G-8 draws delegations from many more countries than just the eight members. The 2009 G-8 in Italy drew 40 delegations, said John Kirton, director of the G-8 Research Group at the University of Toronto."

Busted.

"The city has defended the permit denial on multiple fronts. While the size of the NATO summit relative to G-8 was the argument officials stressed last week, at Tuesday's hearing much more emphasis was placed on the potential size of the demonstration."

One argument per week until they find one that works!

"Kirby and Simon said the demonstration could easily swell to a size that would overwhelm Daley Plaza, creating further public safety issues. Kirby acknowledged that she had not objected on those grounds when the original permit application was filed in January."

*

"Protest leader Andy Thayer said he believed that his lawyers had reached a gotcha moment in the hearing when they pressed Kirby on whether the city would be able to find the resources to handle their original march route if the appeal was successful. She said that while it would stretch the department, they would find a way to deal with whatever circumstances they were dealt."

Daley Depo
"Lawyers in a Chicago police torture case want a federal judge to force former Mayor Richard M. Daley to sit for questioning about his knowledge of suspects interrogated by detectives commanded by Jon Burge," the Tribune reports.

"A motion filed Tuesday by lawyers for Michael Tillman, who has alleged that he was beaten, burned, smothered and threatened with death in 1986 by Chicago detectives working under Burge to coerce a confession to the rape and murder of a South Side woman, said city lawyers representing Daley for months have dragged their feet, ignoring requests for a videotaped deposition from the former mayor."

Maybe their resources are being drained by the NATO summit.

*

"'We have patiently waited . . . for seven months for the city to produce defendant Richard Daley for his deposition testimony. So now we are taking the gloves off,' Tillman's attorney Flint Taylor said in a statement.

"'We intend to question them about what they knew about the Burge torture scandal, when they knew it and why they did not stop it,' he said.

"The motion states that Tillman's lawyers first tried to set up the deposition for September 2011, but that was delayed when city attorneys objected. City attorneys twice were to discuss terms for the questioning, but a hearing in November was canceled after Daley's wife, Maggie, died.

"Since November, Tillman's lawyers said the city has ignored multiple requests to reschedule. Tillman's lawyers last contacted the city in February, seeking a meeting in March."

Sounds like what reporters go through trying to get a FOIA request answered.

*

"Roderick Drew, spokesman for the city's Law Department, said in an e-mail that 'former Mayor Richard M. Daley has cooperated with the investigation in this case. He has been willing to appear for the deposition, but understandably, his deposition was delayed following the loss of his wife, Mrs. Daley. To date, some depositions have been taken thus far, and we expect that the deposition of former Mayor Daley and the plaintiff will proceed in due course.'"

To show he was speaking in good faith, Drew sent along this depiction of a city attorney trying to schedule the deposition.

The Koschman Case
John Kass of the Tribune joins the chorus today of folks asking Cook County Judge Michael P. Toomin to name a special prosecutor in the David Koschman case.

But here's what caught my eye:

"Years ago, the daughter of the powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee was before him. Dan Rostenkowski's daughter had been arrested on charges of cocaine possession, but Toomin found that the police had no cause to search her and the charges were tossed."

I thought that was worth looking up; I found that it was barely covered at the time by the local papers.

"A Cook County Circuit Court judge on Monday said police illegally searched the daughter of U.S. Rep. Dan Rostenkowski during an August 1993 traffic stop and ruled that the cocaine officers said they found in the waistband of her pants cannot be used as evidence," the Tribune reported on April 13, 1994.

"Judge Michael P. Toomin did rule that packets containing cocaine that police allege were dropped by two passengers in Gayle Rosten's car could be presented as evidence against the passengers. But, Toomin said, police had no grounds to search Rosten, 36, of 3409 N. Albany Ave., after her car was pulled over in the 1300 block of North Sedgwick Street for running a stop sign.

"During that search, police claimed they found a gram of cocaine in a matchbox in Rosten's pants. However, disallowing its use as evidence effectively destroyed the state's case.

"Prosecutors said they may appeal the ruling. The two passengers, James A. Borchers, 43, and Jennifer L. Anzelone, 25, are scheduled to be tried next month on cocaine possession charges."

That was it. I'm not a lawyer, but still don't understand why the police didn't have probable cause to search Rosten. If two passengers drop packets of cocaine inside the car, isn't everyone - especially the driver - subject to search?

At any rate, prosecutors ended up dropping the charges against Rosten but not the other two.

*

An account indicating the case was more problematic than local reporters let on appeared in Playboy in 1997:

"In June 1990 Gayle Rosten, the daughter of then-House Ways and Means Committee chairman Dan Rostenkowski (D-III.), was busted and charged with possession of 29 grams of cocaine with intent to deliver. Rosten could have been sentenced to up to 15 years in prison, but she pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and instead was sentenced to three years' probation and 20 hours of public service. She paid a fine of $2,800 and forfeited the car in which the cocaine was found when she was arrested.

"Three years later Rosten was busted again after police found a gram of cocaine in her possession; her car had been searched after she allegedly ran a stop sign. Since Rosten was still on probation from the earlier conviction, she could have been sentenced to up to three years in prison. Chicago Narcotics Court Judge Oliver Spurlock dismissed the charge against Rosten, giving no reason for his decision to set her free.

"The charge was reinstated after Rosten was indicted by a county grand jury. On April 12, 1994 Cook County Circuit Judge Michael Toomin ruled that the search of Rosten had been illegal, yet ruled that packets containing cocaine supposedly 'dropped' by two passengers in her car was admissible evidence - against the passengers. Rosten walked again."

*

To be fair, the Tribune reported in 2010 that Toomin was "Widely regarded as one of the most experienced and capable jurists in Cook County."

Columbia Bumbia
"Security was so tight at Columbia College last week for President Warrick Carter's annual State of the College address, he could have been delivering the State of the Union," Deanna Isaacs writes for the Reader. "Columbia security staff, bolstered by uniformed private guards, were stationed both outside and inside the single open entrance at 916 S. Wabash, where Carter was to be speaking on the fourth floor. They were checking for college IDs.

"I didn't make it to the elevator. That was disappointing, since the event was posted on the college's website as 'open to the public.' And neither a printout of the posting nor press credentials made a dent in the marching orders: no outsiders would be allowed, least of all any outside press.

"In fact, just a week earlier, Carter had written to the faculty, cautioning them against talking to the media (or to students) about the hot-button topic on campus - an institution-wide, consultant-driven review process with the unlovely title 'prioritization.' Unhappy with publicity it had already inspired, the leader of the school whose mission is education in the areas of 'arts, communications, and public information' wanted to put a lid on the conversation."

It's almost impossible to add another layer of irony to this, but I think I found a way.

Animal Mystery Solved?
"The executive director of Chicago's Animal Care and Control was fired and has been replaced with one of the department's former deputy directors, city officials said Saturday," the Tribune reported over the weekend.

"Cherie Travis confirmed in an interview Saturday that she was fired Friday. She said officials did not explain why she was let go."

The Sun-Times reported that "The executive director of Chicago's Animal Care and Control department was fired Friday, a move she said 'was a complete surprise to me.'

"City spokesman Eve Rodriguez, in explaining the decision to fire Cherie Travis, only said Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration 'decided to go in a different direction.'"

Maybe this sort of thing had something to do with that decision:

(h/t: David Ormsby)

Fantasy Fix
Brent Morel and Bryan LaHair have something in common.

Teaching At The Oasis
"No standardized test measures this kind of feeling in a classroom, nor student attitudes, or the effect that the school has on its students and families," our very own Roger Wallenstein writes in the third installment of his four-part series.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Draining.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:14 AM | Permalink

Teaching At The Oasis: Part Three

Third of a four-part series. Previously: Part One, Part Two.

I taught for nine years at Chicago's Francis Parker, as polar opposite from Oasis Elementary as you can get. It is urban vs. rural, rich vs. poor, private vs. public, varied curriculum vs. narrow curriculum, and primarily white vs. Latino. I could go on, but you get the picture.

Parker students enjoy material, monetary and cultural gifts that would be incomprehensible to kids at Oasis. However, I always thought that in addition to meaningful and venerable traditions and rituals at Parker, what set the school apart from most others was what went on once the teacher closed his or her classroom door and went to work.

It matters not how bright, eager, and advantaged the students are, nor how fancy and complete the facilities; learning doesn't occur unless a competent, dedicated teacher encourages and leads the students on the path to scholarship and enlightenment.
In this regard - despite test scores, lack of funding, and demographics - Oasis does just fine.

"Good teaching is an art and it's a way of doing things," says Oasis principal Dora Flores. "It's not just theory and philosophy. They need to be able to know how to do it. Some of it [learning] has to do with the students, but a lot of it has to do with the teacher. The teacher walking in and knowing exactly what they're going to be doing so there's no lagging time because a lot of the problems happen if you're not prepared. Your students are going to notice it."

The respect accorded to teacher Ramiro Zamora in our classroom is reflected in the work ethic and attitude of the students. All 17 know what's expected, and, in my observation, the kids are honestly focused on becoming better readers and writers.

Perhaps a testament to the dedication and loyalty of the students occurred one December morning when Mr. Zamora wasn't even there. He was attending an in-service workshop, yet the children gave the substitute the same kind of respect that they give Mr. Zamora. As usual, they were engaged, polite, and hard-working.

They also had learned the Hawaiian Christmas song "Mele Kalikimaka" for a holiday performance for the parents. This was one of the few times I'd seen the students doing anything but the prescribed curriculum.

The substitute had each student make a faux lei out of construction paper, cutting out flowers which were printed on little squares of paper, then stringing the flowers together. At the close of class Judy and I asked the kids to sing the song for us. They all immediately broke out into the melody, albeit some starting at one place and others somewhere else. They were boisterous, laughing, having fun and eager to show us what they had learned. Later I found out that people like Bing Crosby and Bette Midler had recorded the song, but no way could they have sung it with as much energy and enthusiasm.

No standardized test measures this kind of feeling in a classroom, nor student attitudes, or the effect that the school has on its students and families.

* * *

Oasis moved to a new building three years ago from the original school less than a mile away. According to Mr. Zamora, the old building―built almost a century ago―had structural, plumbing, and electrical issues. The present school is modern, bright, technologically hip, and, well, new.

oasisnew.jpg

Meanwhile, the original building is covered with gang graffiti and overgrown with weeds as the district tries to sell the property.

oasisold.jpg

But the spirit and life of the old building remain alive. "I kept saying I don't want to leave the old Oasis," remembers Lupita Cuevas, the school's secretary and an alumnae of Oasis. "The [old] school is so full of memories."

Lupita's mother also attended Oasis, and Lupita has a son in first grade and a daughter who will be at Oasis next year as third-generation students.

"You went to school with this group of students, and the students and their families became like your family," she reflects. "It was such a close-knit community."

Thinking back to Francis Parker, in the auditorium in capital letters above the stage is written, "A school should be a model home, a complete community, an embryonic democracy." I'm not sure about the last item, but the first two have commonality with Oasis even though life has changed in the Coachella Valley.

"It's [the school] somewhat the same, but now there are a lot of trailer parks in the area, and students come and go too quick compared to what it used to be back then," Lupita relates. "But parents come into the office to find out what's going on not only in the school but in the area. We are like their community center. They seek our help."

Even though the school provides a number of social needs for its families, the pressure to raise test scores always lurks just below the surface at Oasis. Dora Flores is a realist.

"[We take] the same tests as the ones in Hollywood," she says. "Same standards, same expectations, and we get judged the same way. That's the reality of politics. We're not meeting AYP [Adequate Yearly Progress] expectations because they keep growing, but we are making steady progress. We've met the safe harbor."

Of course, guiding that boat into calm waters requires capable, knowledgeable captains. In his foundation's annual letter, Bill Gates writes, "Research shows that effective teaching is the most important in-school factor in student achievement. There are a lot of great teachers in public schools, and a lot of teachers who want to be great but don't have the tools they need. If we could make the average teacher as good as the best teachers, the benefit to students would be phenomenal."

Ariana Huffington adds, "Teacher effectiveness is the single most important factor driving student performance, with top teachers able to boost the test scores of students up to 50 percentage points above the scores of those under the tutelage of the least-effective instructors."

* * *

One morning Angel was concentrating on a worksheet with sentences containing words like migrate, travel, and national. I suspected he didn't fully understood the words which came from a text he had just read.

I asked him what kind of animals migrate, and he immediately said, "Birds." I was pleasantly surprised by the quick response, and Angel wrote a sentence about birds migrating.

But national was more difficult. I asked him if he ever heard of a national park. I was thinking about Joshua Tree, which is only about 20 miles from the school. However, because of Angel's life experience, Joshua Tree might as well have been in another galaxy. The connection between the word and the entity was so difficult for Angel. You could almost see his brain working to make connections out of words and ideas in a unfamiliar language.

Angel is in good hands at Oasis with caring adults to guide him and peers who are supportive, trustworthy, and friendly. But when he sits down to take a standardized test, he's alone. Whether he can use a word like national in a sentence is the only thing that matters. There will come a day when Angel will be able to create that sentence. But will that day come soon enough?

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:03 AM | Permalink

Fantasy Fix: Off The Radar

There are plenty of players worth drafting in fantasy baseball leagues, but sometimes real gold can be mined from among those who don't get drafted, at least not in every league. They may not even be late-round sleeper material, but they could be worth watching as possible pick-ups, particularly in the opening weeks of the season.

Let's reach deep into our rankings for some players that might be off the radar:

C: Jarrod Saltalamacchia/Ryan Lavarnway, BOS

Two candidates for most difficult name to pronounce in baseball play the same position in the same town, and both have 30-homerun power. It will be worth watching which one breaks out this season. The recent buzz has been that Lavarnway, who had been destined to start in the minors, could open with the big league club. Saltalamacchia, an over-hyped disappointment in the past, supposedly is the starter, but Kelly Shoppach is in the mix, too.

1B: Yonder Alonso/Jesus Guzman, SD

Another position battle between a chic late-round fantasy pick (Alonso) and a guy who had a nice second half last season who has been forgotten (Guzman). They probably both will play, but many people think this is Alonso's year to bust out, since he is no longer blocked by a star, as he had been in Cincinnati. Both could easily hit .300, and Alonso bit a home run roughly every 17 at-bats last season.

2B: Jason Kipnis, CLE

The rookie is not really a secret, having already been drafted in 79% of Yahoo! leaguse, but with power and speed, he's someone to keep your eye on as a possible pick-up if he hasn't been drafted in your league - and a great trade target if he has been. I suspect anyone with Kipnis as a back-up to a star like Dustin Pedroia or Robinson Cano may look to deal him if he hits well early on.

3B: Brent Morel, WHITE SOX

His ongoing existence at third was one of the things I hated about the 2011 Sox: Too many 1-for-4s and no power at all. But things changed in his last 100 or so at-bats, as he started hitting more frequently and for power. If Robin Ventura occasionally bats him second, he could end up scoring runs off the bats of reliable Paul Konerko and a resurgent Adam Dunn. I'm looking for him to match his 2011 HR total of 10 by the All-Star break.

SS: Zack Cozart, CIN

The rookie has had a streaky spring training, but has displayed extra-base power at a position where it is hard to come by. Plus, if he does make the big league squad, he's likely to do so as the starter.

OF: Brandon Belt, SF; Bryan LaHair, CUBS; Ryan Raburn, DET

All three are power hitters. Belt had a nice run last year and looks to stick for a full season this year. LaHair, of course, will start at 1B for the Cubs, but is listed only as an OF so far. This is his one season to shine with the Cubs, and I think he could respond by chasing Alfonso Soriano for the team lead in HRs, though perhaps not much else. Raburn was a chic draft pick last year, and didn't really do much except beat up on the White Sox. He may play more at 2B, but in any case could excel this year with more at-bats. All three of these guys could reach 25 HRs.

SP: Carlos Zambrano, MIA

Seems like an obvious look-at-me, last-round draft pick, I know, but he was available in about 70% of Yahoo! leagues as of Tuesday. Most of the world has given up on him, but he's probably working for the only manager capable of milking whatever value he has left. If Miami is any good, he could reach 14 or 15 wins.

RP: Hector Santiago, WHITE SOX

This could be a real reach, but I think the rest of the candidates for Sox closer - Matt Thornton, Addison Reed, Jesse Crain and possibly everyone else in the bullpen - could fall in place in other roles, while the guy with a gimmick out-pitch (Santiago throws a screwball) who almost no major league hitters have seen before could come up big. I'm not saying he'll start the season closing, but I think that's where he's headed.

Expert Wire
* FakeTeams says that in a year when big-name closers like Joakim Soria and Ryan Madson are getting hurt, you may need to dig deep.

* Fantasy Alarm notes that Drew Storen, RP, WAS, is the latest much-hyped closer to get injured.

* Yahoo! Sports features 10 Bounce-Back candidates. Is bounce-back the same thing as comeback? It must be if Adam Dunn is on the list.

* Bleacher Report has 10 burning questions for you. Ouch.

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Dan O'Shea welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:41 AM | Permalink

March 27, 2012

The [Tuesday] Papers

"Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says it is up to neighborhood residents to reclaim the corners on the city's West Side where members of two street gangs were arrested for drug trafficking," AP reports.

How? Build a fort?

"The real test isn't just today. Does the community come outside the church, outside the family room reclaim those street corners as ours?" the mayor said.

So everyone should grab a lawn chair?

We've been hearing that kind of rhetoric for years; it gives politicians something to say. You know what's harder? Turning the city's budget upside down to give those street corners top priority instead of lavishing handouts on those who won't help themselves.

*

"The first line in protecting a neighborhood is a community. It is not the police department," Rahm said.

Funny, no one blames the "community" for crime in his neighborhood.

*

More jarring were statements made by police chief Garry McCarthy, who explained he is restructuring the department because "We weren't set up the way that we needed to be set up to fight crime in the first place."

What?! All this time?!

Someone please seek out Richard M. Daley for comment - and every reporter who lauded his reign.

*

Even Jay Levine of CBS2 Chicago was skeptical of yesterday's dog-and-pony show.

"[B]ased on the chart of those arrested, the implication that police took down two major street gangs might have been misleading," Levine reported. "Many of the suspects arrested were charged with simple possession, and none of the suspects matched the Chicago Crime Commission's roster of leaders of the two gangs targeted by police."

Being Emanuel
"Emanuel Calls Ski Trip With His Kids A Great Success," the Sun-Times reports.

Did he use charts to show how many goals were met?

*

"Earlier this year, Chicago's new first family took an exotic Christmas break trip to Chile and Argentina. They went on a 70-mile whitewater rafting trip down the Futaleufu River in Chile, went fly fishing and hiking in the Patagonian area, then spent New Year's Eve in Buenos Aries.

"Every year, we try to take the kids to a different part of the world to see. When you . . . grow up again, you want to be an Emanuel child. It's unbelievable,'" the mayor said.

You don't even have to attend city schools!

ALTERNATE: It's almost as good as growing up Romney!

Post Trauma Center Syndrome
"How to get another trauma care unit in the south suburbs was the subject of brainstorming by a panel that included Cook County and state officials, health care experts and first responders," the SouthtownStar reports.

"When St. James Hospital in Olympia Fields closed its Level 1 trauma unit in 2008 because it could not afford the $10 million annual operating cost, it left Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn as the area's only hospital with a Level 1 trauma care designation. While all hospitals have emergency rooms capable of treating seriously injured patients, Christ is the region's only facility equipped to provide the most sophisticated level of trauma care."

That means people in the south suburbs - and on the South Side - die of injuries that people in the north suburbs and on the North Side survive.

More Milk Madness
"Having made millions of dollars on government deals for milk and electrical and plumbing work, the McMahon family routinely gives back to politicians," the Sun-Times and BGA report today in the second part of their investigation into the McMahon family's city contracts. (Part one is discussed here.)

"In all, milk magnate Frank J. McMahon, five of his siblings, their immediate families, their businesses and their business partners have given more than $1 million in campaign contributions and loans to dozens of politicians since 1995.

"Tops on the list of politicians who've benefitted: Chicago Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th), whose campaign funds have gotten a total of $164,100. That includes contributions from McMahon's brother Anthony P. McMahon, a former Cook County government electrician who's a member of Burke's Democratic Party ward organization."

Burke refused to comment, of course. Here's who else benefited from the McMahon's largesse:

* Joseph Birkett, the former DuPage County state's attorney who's now an Illinois Appellate Court judge. Birkett, a Republican, is a first cousin of the McMahons, who have contributed $94,900 to his campaign funds and given him another $250,000 in loans that he has since repaid.

* DuPage County Board member Michael McMahon, a Republican who's a second cousin. He has gotten $57,500, including a $12,000 loan from McMahon Food that he has yet to repay.

* Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, a Democrat. She has gotten $36,900, which includes the value of food provided for a political fund-raising event that Frank McMahon hosted.

* [Former state's attorney Dick] Devine, a Democrat who has gotten $24,000. "I have high regard for Frank," Devine says. "I remember his daughter [Mary]. She came through the normal [hiring] process, and she's done a great job."

* Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer, a Democrat who has gotten $22,185, including food and wait staff for a 2009 political fund-raiser that Frank McMahon hosted.

* Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, a Democrat who has gotten $19,750.

* Cook County Judge Tom Allen, Chicago's former 38th Ward alderman, who received $14,500.

* Chicago Ald. Tim Cullerton (38th), who replaced Allen, his brother-in-law, in the City Council last year and has gotten $13,000.

* Brian T. Sexton, a Democrat who is the $144,000-a-year chief of Alvarez's narcotics bureau.

You'll have to click through and read the whole thing to find out why these folks have been of particular interest to the McMahons.

Bottoms Up
"A closely watched index of local home prices fell in January for the fifth straight month, hitting its lowest level in 11 years, a sign that the Chicago-area residential market has yet to hit bottom," Crain's reports.

Mob Monsters
There's a good one behind every Chicago Mob Wife.

Bob and the Monster
Bob Forrest's long, strange trip.

Soccer Monsters
The Fire are back.

Chicago: City To See In '63!
By the First Lady of Amateur Film.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Monstrous.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:31 AM | Permalink

Open Fire: Soccer Is Back

"San Siro has a capacity of over 80,000," J.J. Stankevitz writes for CSNChicago.com. "The home of Serie A giant Internazionale is one of the most intimidating venues in professional soccer. While Paolo Tornaghi never appeared in a match with Inter, he had an up close and personal look at world-class soccer in a world-class environment.

"And yet, the 23-year-old Italian was impressed by the atmosphere at Toyota Park for the Fire's home opener, which was played in front of 18,075 [on Saturday].

"'It was very emotional,' Tornaghi said. 'It was amazing coming into the field with all these people all for us, the fireworks, that was a great environment.'

"Thanks to the efforts of Tornaghi, though, that environment stayed great for 90 minutes as the Fire defeated Philadelphia 1-0. With the Union going with an all-out attack in the final 15 minutes, Tornaghi made a handful of outstanding saves, preserving the Fire's first victory of the season."

Let's take a look at the season ahead for the Fire, beginning with a video directed by defenseman Dan Gargan.

1. Back to the Grind.

*

2. Soccer Dads In Bloom.

3. Year For No Excuses.

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4. Season Opener Highlights.

*

5. Oduro On Fire; Up For Goal Of The Week.

6. Next up: Fire Head To Colorado To Test Rapids.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:32 AM | Permalink

Chicago: City To See In '63!

"Margaret Conneely, an award winning and prolific amateur filmmaker, began making films when she joined a Chicago amateur film club in 1949. She shot and directed 16mm films at a time when most of the women of these clubs were less technically inclined and often delegated to the role of actress or slides manager. Her work is well crafted, clever and subtly subversive."


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See also:
* Chicago Film Archives YouTube channel
* ChicagoFilmArchives.org
* Margaret Conneely: Chicago's First Lady of Amateur Film

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:42 AM | Permalink

The Monsters Behind Chicago's Mob Wives

Behind every good Chicago Mob Wife is a monster who did horrible deeds. We'll let VH-1 describe the wife and we'll describe the monster.

RENEE FECAROTTA RUSSO: Renee is a strong independent businesswoman who was raised by her uncle, "Big John" Fecarotta, following the death of her father. An alleged loan collector and hit man for The Outfit, Fecarotta was Renee's mentor and best friend until being gunned down by fellow mobster Nick Calabrese. Fiercely loyal to his memory, Renee still abides by the "code": never associate with rats . . . take it to the grave.

BIG JOHN FECAROTTA: Renee's mentor and best friend knows something about graves - he was a suspect in at least two murders before biting the dust himself. "He was gunned down while being chased by at least two men through an alley on the Northwest Side," according to Illinois Police and Sheriff's News.

"Fecarotta apparently believed he was being taken to participate in a 3-man hit team. [He] was wearing gloves and was carrying two weapons, one an unloaded .38, when he was shot four times, and a final time in the back of his head, at the doorway of Brown's Banquets Inc., a bingo hall at 6050 W. Belmont Ave in Chicago . . .

"Fecarotta was a juice loan collector for crime syndicate loan sharks. He was a business agent and organizer for Local 8 of the Industrial Workers Union, although federal officials charged he was a ghost employee. He lost the union job in 1982 during a federal probe of the union . . .

"Fecarotta was ranked the number 3 man behind Angelo LaPietra, First Ward and Near South Side rackets boss who was serving a 16-year jail term, at the time."

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Fecarotta was also reportedly responsible for botching the burying of the Spilotro brothers in an Indiana cornfield. That's probably why he was killed.

*

Addendum:

"[Russo] owns Eye Candy Optics in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood," the Tribune reports. "The show has been filming at her store (in addition to The Fifty/50, Roots Handmade Pizza, Hubbard Inn, Fishman's Fabrics, Brunch and Newport Bar & Grill), and she said she hopes to see a bump in sales when the show premieres in June."

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NORA SCHWEIHS: Nora is back in Chicago to take care of some unfinished business. Nora's father, Frank "The German" Schweihs, was reputed to be one of the most notorious hit men for the Mob. Schwiehs, whose alleged "hits" were not limited to the Mob, has long been rumored to be responsible for the death of Marilyn Monroe. Shortly after his death in 2008, the government confiscated his remains before he could be properly buried. Nora has returned to Chicago to learn the whereabouts of his body. Despite growing up hearing stories of his viciousness and brutality, Nora idolized her father and she continues to defend him . . . even to his grave.

FRANK SCHWEIHS: So much to idolize.

"Recently, federal prosecutors played a series of secret recorded conversations between Schweihs and adult book store owner William 'Red' Wemette from the late 1980s," Steve Warmbir reported for the Sun-Times in 2007. "The recordings formed the foundation of a case in which Schweihs was convicted of shaking Wemette down for street tax. In the Family Secrets case currently on trial, prosecutors used a selection of the recordings to show jurors how street tax worked and to show Schweihs referring to Joseph 'Joey the Clown' Lombardo as a man high-up in the Outfit hierarchy.

"Schweihs has a way with words - and threats. He is often referred to as the hitman other Outfit hitmen feared.

"In no particular order, here are five of his top chilling or unsettling statements.

1. On the fate of a street tax collector Schweihs didn't like: "I think he's gonna open up a hotdog stand in Alaska."

2. Schweihs reassures Wemette that he's safe from harm as long as Schweihs protects him: "No, you don't have to be afraid, you got my word on that. There ain't no one gonna fucking touch you unless they knock me down first, and I'm not an easy guy to knock down, Red. You're with us, you're with me and there ain't no one gonna fuck with you - case closed! You got my fucking solemn promise on that."

3. Schweihs tells Wemette he won't be around for a while: "I - I won't see you for a while. I gotta - I got a fucking hit. I gotta go somewhere - something come up. So I don't know when I'll see yas."

4. Schweihs on the likelikhood that a rival gangster Mike Glitta sent someone to shake Wemette down, after Schweihs had already claimed the business: "Now, if Mike sent this cocksucker, sent this cocksucker here to bother you, Mike's in some fucking serious trouble, Red! Cause he has no excuse, he knows better. He knows this fucking joint is spoke for. And I don't think he would be that stupid to try and step on my fucking pecker or the people I'm affiliated with. Do you understand?"

5. On the need to make a competitor of Wemette's see the need not to mess with him: "He was told not to, but I don't know if he's goofy, or if we have to make a believer out of him."

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Addendum:

"Schweihs, who was said to be so psycho scary that even other tough guy mobsters went out of their way to avoid him, died of cancer in 2008 while waiting to go on trial in the landmark Operation Family Secrets case," Mark Brown writes in the Sun-Times.

"Nora Schweihs, 48, is said to be a piece of work herself. I've only managed to get her on the phone a couple of times - both occasions resulting in her angrily yelling at me that she didn't know what I was talking about and to never call again.

"[Schweihs'] daughter certainly has the bona fides for the show. Her ex-husband, Michael Talarico, was a mob bookmaker and nephew of mob boss Angelo 'The Hook' LaPietra. In fact, when Talarico testified for the prosecution against Frank Calabrese Sr. in the Family Secrets trial, he told the jury he was still working as a bookie.

"There's a rather unflattering mugshot of Nora Schweihs on the Internet arising from a 2004 DUI arrest in Florida, where she and her father both used to live. She was also charged in the incident with resisting arrest and felony possession of cocaine. She was convicted on the DUI, but the other charges were dropped."

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PIA RIZZA: Pia may have a mouth like a trucker, but she's spoken zip about her father since she was a little girl. Vincent Rizza was a dirty Chicago cop who worked for the Mob, testified against the Mob and then went into the Witness Protection Program. Pia has struggled all her life to hide from the shame of having a "rat" for a father. It's been especially difficult to avoid the judgments and finger pointing in a town that celebrates the folk heroes and glory days of the Mob.

VINCENT RIZZA: I guess being a rat is more shameful than being a dirty cop.

"Vincent Rizza, a former Chicago police officer, testified that during the end of 1974 and the beginning of 1975, while still an officer, one of his bookmaking operations was raided by the police," state appellate court judge Allen Hartman wrote in Illinois v. Aleman.

"Rizza met Aleman, Jimmy Inendino and Johnnie Mancella in the spring or summer of 1975, and was told by Aleman that he owed $40,000 in back 'street taxes,' plus $ 1,000 per month thereafter for his bookmaking operation. 'Street taxes' are monies paid to members of organized crime in order to protect the existence of the illegal operation.

"Following Aleman's intrusion into Rizza's illicit business, Rizza met with Angelo LaPietra who, according to Rizza, also had ties to organized crime. LaPietra's negotiations permitted Rizza to pay Aleman $1,000 in street taxes plus a couple of hundred dollars per month for office expenses. Aleman and Inendino would cover all operation losses and the profits would be split. As part of the deal, Rizza also had to report other independent bookmakers to Aleman. One such independent bookmaker was Anthony Reitinger.

"Rizza did not pay street taxes directly to Aleman after May of 1976, but continued to pay them to Joseph Ferriola, identified as Aleman's uncle. In the early winter of 1977, Aleman told Rizza that his murder indictment 'was all taken care of,' and that 'committing murder in Chicago was okay if you killed the right people.' He later told Rizza that he was going to request a bench trial 'because the case was all taken care of'; going to jail was not an option; and he was not going to jail. Still later, Aleman told Rizza the case was going
'fine.' Rizza noted that the newspapers were crucifying him and the case looked bad. Aleman responded that the case was "taken care of."

"On cross-examination, Rizza admitted that he had used cocaine frequently during the late 1970s and that he had committed perjury as a Chicago police officer and in his federal criminal drug case."

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CHRISTINA SCOLERI: As an unemployed divorced mother of a 9-year-old, Christina is struggling to provide a stable environment for her daughter. Christina is the daughter of Raymond Janek, a one-time thief and alleged fence for the Mob. Serving 20 years off and on for various offenses, Janek finally went straight in 1987, and his relationship with his daughter remains distant. Christina's father is a reminder of her own unstable upbringing, and she's determined not to repeat the sins of her father.

RAYMOND JANEK: I can't find anything on Ray, so he was either very good or inconsequential.

*

Addendum:

"[Scoleri is the] daughter of a small-time Cicero-area hood described to me as a 'knockaround guy,'" Brown writes.

"Scoleri's father shows up so infrequently in our news clippings that I'm not quite comfortable mentioning him by name with the rest of this crowd. Scoleri, by the way, is her married name."

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LEAH DESIMONE: Leah is the over-protected daughter of William "Wolf" DeSimone, a supposed "associate" of the Mob, but Leah's keeping mum. Leah never knew, and knew never to ask what her Dad did for a living. Leaving one day in a suit, Wolf would return days later in street clothes with no explanation and none expected. Now "retired," Wolf still keeps tabs on his little girl. But as vigilant as he is of her safety, Leah is equally secretive of her Dad's profession . . . if you're "connected," you NEVER talk about it!

WILLIAM DESIMONE: I couldn't find anything on him in the clips, either. The show's already losing steam.

*

Addendum:

"The outgoing DeSimone," the Trib report says, "joined the show because she felt it was her calling. She was already referring to her Twitter followers as 'my fans' last week, even before reaching the 150 followers mark."

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Comments welcome.

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1. From Red Wemette:

Nora is a real piece of work. I remember her sitting in court during her father's trial in October of 1989. Her brother was there too. She sat there with composure all through the trial. Her brother James, dressed in a suit and tie, began to fall apart, first taking his jacket off, then taking his tie off and then just slumped down in his seat. During the search of his house in Lombard, where his father was staying, the FBI recovered $100,000 of stolen money from a bank robbery in Texas. When the trial was over, his father lunged at the Tom Knight, the AUSA, telling him, "Don't you dare fuck with my kid." However Nora remained cool, calm and collected. She is her father's daughter. What do people think about this being entertainment?

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:52 AM | Permalink

Then And Now: Bob Forrest

Bob Forrest may be known to most of America who knows him as Drew Pinsky's drug counselor sidekick on Celebrity Rehab, but he was once the frontman (and prodigious drug-taker himself) of cult favorite Thelonious Monster.

Forrest played and spoke at Harper College in Palatine earlier this month. Here are some clips of Bob back in the day followed by Bob now.

1. Fuck you, Jesus.


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2. His role models will make another appearance in this post.

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3. No set list, no lyrics, no key, no tempo.

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4. A golden time.

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5. It don't care about you.

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6. A big man's day.

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After Thelonious Monster blew apart, Bob formed The Bicycle Thief.

7. I give up now.

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8. Contribution to I'm Not There.

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Bob went to rehab 24 times. He is now the subject of the documentary Bob and the Monster, described on the film's website thusly:

"Six years in the making, this award winning documentary follows outspoken indie-rock hero Bob Forrest, through his life-threatening struggle with addiction, to his transformation into one of the most influential and controversial drug counselors in the US today. The film crafts contemporary footage, animation and compelling interviews with archival performances and personal videos from Bob's past to reveal the complex layers of this troubled, but hopeful soul.

"Testimony from his peers, including Courtney Love, Anthony Kiedis, Flea, John Frusciante, members of Jane's Addiction, Fishbone and Guns n' Roses add texture, but it's the depth of Bob's music, interwoven throughout the film, that illuminates this unforgettable and inspirational story."

9. The junkie turned angel.

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10. Cereal Song and Sammy Hagar Weekend at Harper College.

*

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:48 AM | Permalink

March 26, 2012

SportsMonday: A Slog For The Banged-Up Bulls

I was worried about the Bulls but then I watched the Thunder blow out the Heat on Sunday evening and I felt better.

The Bulls have struggled of late (they are still winning of course but the competition has been weak) and in particular, the play of Luol Deng is a problem. He is trying to fight through a torn ligament in his left wrist but it is clearly having a negative impact on his game. And it is an injury that will almost certainly plague him until he gets it surgically repaired. The problem there is if he goes for surgery, he is out for the year.

On the bright side, Deng executed a glorious, last-millisecond tip-in in overtime to win Saturday's game 102-101 against the Raptors. But on shots longer than lay-ups, he is struggling mightily. He missed all six of his three-point attempts on Saturday and barely drew iron on four of them.

It's tough to say what the answer is - although certainly some extra rest (i.e. some missed games) before the playoffs will be required. You have to wonder what sort of anti-inflammatory or just simply anti-pain medicine he might be on at this point and whether he will increase the dosage when the post-season rolls around. The tricky part there, of course, is the chance that he tweaks the wrist without realizing it because of the meds and ends up hurt worse.

The rest of the Bulls game was a slog. Derrick Rose was still sidelined by a pulled muscle in his groin and none of the Bulls shot well from the perimeter. Joakim Noah failed to control himself after he was the wronged party on a bad foul call, threw the ball in the general direction of the offending ref and was tossed from the game. Not good.

I took in the game from my customary seat (for three or four games a year) a handful of rows behind the baseline and the visitor's bench. You can actually see me when the ball is at that end of the floor. I'm just to the left of the shot clock. Yes, I know I am very special and not just because of my education.

There wasn't anything particularly noteworthy as far as the game action was concerned. In each of the quarters, the Bulls played well early and took small leads but then faltered toward the end and trailed by a half-dozen or so at all the 12-minute breaks. They were incredibly fortunate at the end of regulation. With the score tied (down at the far end of the floor as I looked at it), the Bulls could not clear a defensive rebound and the Raptors could not hit a shot (they had about four cracks at it in their final possession alone). The buzzer finally sounded and overtime was required.

Backing it up a bit, I must say halftime was a highlight. There is a little sports bar across the concourse from where the aisle to our seats begins and we went over there to watch the last minute of the Syracuse-Ohio State game during the break. One screen also showed the halftime show in progress and I must say I wasn't terribly sad to be missing a couple Cirque du Soleil performers who were doing a routine that started with one guy on his back holding another guy up in the air with his feet. The guy in the air was somersaulting and that meant the guy on the ground was holding him up with his feet on his back sometimes and in his crotch other times. No thank you.

So we had a chance to see Ohio State not quite blow it and in the process save a little bit of face for the Big Ten. When the Sweet 16 began Thursday evening with Wisconsin and Michigan State bowing out against teams they could have defeated, it appeared the local conference was headed toward ignominy. But the Buckeyes stepped up and ensured the weekend would not be a total loss.

I must also say that although I am not a college basketball fan, I still feel I can say I'm having a hard time believing anyone who didn't pick the Final Four is really excited about this NCAA Tournament.

There were no big upsets this past weekend - Cinderella officially bowed out when Ohio couldn't finish off North Carolina in overtime Friday evening - and I saw more late-game excitement at the Bulls game than has been featured in any game at this year's Dance.

Anyway, the Raptors had to be cursing the fates after Saturday's finish. After shooting well from the free throw line all night they choked at the end. Former Bull James Johnson and guard Gary Forbes combined to miss three of four free throws in the last minute of overtime.

Still, it appeared the Raptors would win when they played perfect defense on the Bulls' last possession, forcing C.J. Watson to take a nearly impossible shot against a much taller defender. Sure enough the shot was either tipped or it came up came up way short on its own. Then Deng stepped in and worked his magic.

Too bad there hasn't been any similar magic at this year's Big Dance. And unless someone figures out how to beat a mercenary Kentucky team that has far more talent than its Final Four foes, it will officially be a magic-free tournament.

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See also:
* Deng talks about the tip-in.
* Bulls first to clinch playoff spot.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:55 AM | Permalink

It Could Be Worse

This is a true story. I was there. I saw it with my own eyes.

It was last Thursday in Glendale, Arizona. The Royals were visiting Camelback Ranch, and Adam Dunn played first base for half the afternoon. He stepped to the plate three times, all against left-hander Bruce Chen.

Although most of us have short memories, and, as baseball fans, we tend to be very forgiving - especially with a winter's passage - we remain aware that the big left-handed slugger went 6 for 94 against lefties in 2011. Don't bother with the math. I already did it: .064 en route to a .159 mark for the season.

However, last week Dunn hit a towering opposite field two-run shot off Chen in the first inning. With a 3-2 count, no less. After flying out in the third inning, the big man strolled to the plate in the fifth with the bases loaded, and produced a long, high fly ball that settled on the hill behind the right-field fence. Grand slam! Joy! Life is good!

Yes, this was a meaningless spring training game. But Chen, who was 12-8 last season and signed a $9 million contract during the offseason, wasn't being generous. Apparently he was trying to do more than pitch batting practice. Forget that Dunn tagged Chen last year for two of his hits off left-handers. This is the time for optimism. The slate has been wiped clean. The Sox haven't lost a (real) game yet, and Adam Dunn was swinging and connecting with out-of-this world success.

And he wasn't the only one. New leadoff man Alejandro DeAza walked in the bottom of the first and stole not only second base but also third before coming home on a single by Alex Rios. (Yes, you read that right.)

Another guy who impressed me was 23-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Eduardo Escobar. He ought to make the team solely on breeding (see Carrasquel, Aparicio and Guillen), but it also looks like the kid can play.

He's a switch-hitter, which is simply dandy. He laid down a perfect bunt to the third base side to open the six-run fifth on Thursday and sped all the way to third when Chen threw the ball past the first baseman. He showed his speed again when his line drive to center field was played into a three-base error, and the kid went into the hole to throw out a runner, showing an above average arm.

Of course, there are contingencies. Eduardo struck out 104 times last season at Triple-A, and on Friday he air-mailed a throw on a routine ground ball for an error. But he's young, he exudes enthusiasm, and - now that Omar Vizquel is gone - who else is going to spell the middle infielders every few days?

Brent Lillibridge came to the last few spring trainings on the bubble, fighting for a spot on the big club. But after a solid 2011, Lilli has a secure job. He can play second, and manager Robin Ventura also is giving him time at third base. He also made some outstanding plays in the outfield last summer.

But as far as I can tell, there is no backup shortstop, and Escobar looks as though he also would do an adequate job both at second and third. So there's a good chance we'll see him on the South Side in a couple of weeks.

Lest we become giddy at these prospects, a perusal of preseason prognostications will bring us back to Earth. Sports Illustrated picked the Sox for dead last in the division with 95 losses, and one scout offered that the team could lose as many as 100. Ouch!

I was an Ozzie Guillen guy, but it was time for him to go. Won't a calmer atmosphere devoid of the Ozzie-Kenny silliness make for a more relaxed, laid-back team which can concentrate on what's happening on the field?

It is well-documented that Robin Ventura is a helluva nice guy, soft-spoken, and a gentleman. Dropping f-bombs after losses and blown saves now belongs in White Sox annals and not in the clubhouse. Expectations are low. If we're not "all in," does that mean we're "all out?" Or "mostly out?"

It does mean that the Sox will fly under the radar because of the above-stated factors. There's going to be a lot of empty seats at The Cell as the season kicks off, and maybe that's a good thing. Let the athletes become familiar with one another, their new manager, and the dismal predictions. I've heard of worse scenarios.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:26 AM | Permalink

The [Monday] Papers

The joint investigation of the Sun-Times and Better Government Association into the Chicago Public Schools' kinky milk contract is too chock full of great reporting that will turn your stomach to give full treatment here without reproducing so much of it that I'd feel guilty of theft. Yes, there are limits!

So let me just summarize a few of the major takeaways and then encourage you to click through and read the whole thing in wide wonder. It is yet another quintessential Chicago tale of how insiders rig the game at the expense of taxpayers and (gasp!) even our children, who have to face the consequences of tight budgets when others are making out like bandits with their money.

* A joint venture controlled by the McMahon family, described as longtime friends of Ald. Ed Burke, subcontracts CPS' milk business to - among others - three businesses involved in milk-contracting scandals over the last two decades.

* The McMahon family has given more than $1 million in campaign contributions to dozens of pols since 1995. Burke has received the most: $164,100.

* The McMahons hired Burke's law firm to (successfully) get the property-tax bill on their warehouse reduced.

* Gery Chico - former school board chairman and before that a member of Burke's city council staff - helped the McMahons land their last two milk contracts.

* The McMahon's food company has already been involved in a minority-contracting scandal, yet has continued to supply CPS with milk.

* The joint venture formed by the McMahons from the merging of former competitors hs held the current contract for nine years. The McMahon's lawyers say that CPS encouraged the joint venture, thinking they could get a better price dealing with one vendor. Because a monopoly always delivers a better price!

* McMahon Food is also supplying milk to the Cook County Jail for $2.5 million annually. The family also has electrical and plumbing companies doing business with the city and other governmental units.

And, predictably:

* CPS pays more for its milk than many other school districts.

UPDATE: "Inspector General Wants McMahon Business Banned From City Work"

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Today's Worst Person In Chicago
Columbia College president Warrick Carter tells a student asking about his $400,000 salary to shut up.

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Search Engine
"When the University of Illinois hired [Michael] Hogan as president, it paid an executive search firm $300,000 to find him," WUIS reports.

A) Name that search firm! They deserve a public shaming.
B) I'll do it for $299,999!
C) They'll do it for even less!

School Fool
"Mayor Rahm Emanuel has a message to the middle class: Don't leave my city in pursuit of a high quality, high school education for your kids," the Sun-Times "reports."

"The message accompanied a promise, issued during an exclusive interview with the Chicago Sun-Times on Friday - the same day the mayor announced he was doubling the size of an International Baccalaureate diploma program in the Chicago Public Schools."

First, how is any interview with the mayor an "exclusive?" He's the mayor.

Second, it's an "exclusive" because Rahm knew he wouldn't get such a free ride from the Tribune, which is pressing several FOIA requests with Mayor Transparency, who seems to think he can only "govern" effectively by governing in secret and controlling the media.

Third, Rahm had a pretty good idea - or maybe even made it a precondition of the "exclusive" - that Sun-Times "reporter" and former flack Maudlyne Ihejirika would be so daft as to not ask about the blindingly obvious hypocrisy voiced by the mayor, who put his own kids in the private University of Chicago Lab School instead of the CPS system he's begging other Chicago parents to choose.

Back to the story:

"'Don't head for the doors when your kid's in fifth grade or sixth grade - for the suburbs - because the city of Chicago is going to give you a high-quality life with a high-quality education for your children,' said Emanuel, speaking in his office and flanked by Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard."

So Ihejirika was summoned to Rahm's office. Best guess: Rahm wanted to get another day of good publicity out of last week's findings about the IB program, which isn't good enough for his own kids but is good enough for yours! (See the item "Good School News!")

Meanwhile, Crain's reports:

"The recession dramatically slowed the number of people making the trek to the suburbs for bigger houses, safer neighborhoods and better schools. Unable or unwilling to leave the city, a small but growing group of middle-class families are turning to Chicago's public and private schools, a development that holds both potential and peril for Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his efforts to improve the school system."

And guess what?

"Mr. Emanuel declined to be interviewed about how the changes in mobility are affecting city schools. Chicago schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, after initially agreeing to talk, turned down multiple attempts to speak with him over two weeks."

See also:
* Reading Rahm: The Master Media Manipulator
* Rahm's Fake Transparency
* Rahm Caught Lying About Speed Cameras

The Weekend in Chicago Rock
They played at a venue near you. We have the video.

Beachwood Sports
* SportsMonday: A Slog For The Banged-Up Bulls
* The White Sox Report: It Could Be Worse

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Inclusive.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:53 AM | Permalink

The Weekend in Chicago Rock

You shoulda been there.

1. Night Beats at the Empty Bottle on Saturday night.


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2. Cursive at Lincoln Hall on Sunday night.

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3. Sore Subjects at the Empty Bottle on Saturday night.

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4. Jeff Loomis at the Bottom Lounge on Sunday night.

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5. Terius Nash at the House of Blues on Saturday night.

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6. Sonia Leigh and Ty Stone at Joe's Bar on Saturday night.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:19 AM | Permalink

March 24, 2012

The Weekend Desk Report

We can't predict who will take home the medals but we can tell you for sure which cloying song will be stuck in your head.

Market Update
It sure seems like the perfect time to profit from the indiscriminate killing of teens.

Marriage
Not that this is any of our business, but it seems like now is really not the time to cut off this lady's access to retail therapy.

Malarkey
Chin up, Pluto. Apparently now your status in the universe depends at least partially on the force of the crap that gets flung at you.

Madness
Yeah, well, Kentucky tends to be a bit much for most people.

Mania
Turns out, a Tebowing is a lot closer to a Dirty Sanchez than some would care to admit.

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The Weekend Desk Tip Line: Forceful.

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The Sound Opinions Weekend Report: "Jim and Greg have survived another trip to the SXSW Music Conference. Tune in to hear what they think was the best of the fest. Plus, they review the latest from indie darlings The Shins."

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The CAN TV Weekend Report: CAN TV brings you local, relevant issues from Chicago's neighborhoods and communities. See what's happening around the city in education, the arts, government, cultural events, social services and community activities.

Perspectivas Latinas: N.A.L.A.C.C.

3-19-NALACC.jpg

Oscar Chacon, executive director of the National Alliance of Latin American & Caribbean Communities, explains its efforts to raise the quality of life for immigrant communities in the U.S.

Saturday, March 24 at 7:30 p.m. on CAN TV21
30 min

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Images of America Series: African Americans in Chicago

3-19-ImagesofAmerica.jpg

Photographer Lowell D. Thompson presents his history of the African-American experience in Chicago, documenting the lives of celebrities and ordinary people alike.

Sunday, March 25 at 10:30 a.m. on CAN TV21
1 hr 20 min

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Poems and Artists: Visible Meaning

3-19-PoemsandArtists.jpg

Poetry magazine Senior Editor Don Share, artists, and poets discuss the relationship between visual art and poetry in conjunction with the "Poems & Pictures" exhibition at Columbia College .

Sunday, March 25 at 12 p.m. on CAN TV21
1 hr 30 min

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Change of Plans for G8-NATO Protest

3-19-ChangeofPlans.jpg

Andy Thayer and other activists announce new plans for demonstrations during the NATO summit in Chicago this May following an announcement that the G8 summit will no longer be held in the city.

Sunday, March 25 at 1:30 p.m. on CAN TV21
1 hr

Posted by Natasha Julius at 8:53 AM | Permalink

March 23, 2012

The [Friday] Papers

"More than $33.6 million in Illinois Tollway revenue ended up in state coffers during 2003-06 despite a law that prohibited tolls being spent outside the agency, a report said Thursday," the Tribune reports.

"The money was diverted to the state's general revenue fund at the direction of Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration, said tollway Inspector General James Wagner, who provided a tally for tollway board members while warning against future transfers.

"Blagojevich's efforts to siphon money from the tollway and other agencies to help balance the state budget was well-documented, but Wagner's report appears to be the first public accounting of how much toll money was shifted."

Here's my favorite part:

"By law, toll revenue is supposed to stay within the agency to pay bonds, and to maintain and build highways. That didn't stop the General Assembly in 2003 from approving the action, Wagner said."

Can those who voted Yes be arrested, then?

Chicago Way University
"Chicago State University has been unable to locate $3.8 million worth of equipment, including 950 computers that could contain confidential information, according to a state audit," AP Tribune reports.

"The audit also found problems with scholarship awards, lax contracting oversight, overspending a federal grant and improper spending on a New Orleans tour."

Here's my favorite part:

"The school issued a statement noting the auditor made 34 findings, down from 41 last year, and credited the aggressive agenda of president Wayne Watson

So just five more years to get it down to zero!

Ill University
"When University of Illinois President Michael Hogan took over 20 months ago after an embarrassing scandal, his supporters championed him as a likable reformer who could stabilize the university," the Tribune reports.

"On Thursday, he resigned after months of turmoil, a faculty mutiny and a scandal in the president's office that had left him so sidelined that people began to question not whether he would quit but when."

Here's my favorite part:

"Mike Hogan accomplished almost everything that had been identified as important goals for the university when he was hired," said Chris Kennedy, chairman of the Board of Trustees.

Really? Where did he fall short - setting the university on fire?

"He said Hogan was 'absolutely not' a failed hire."

Um, he didn't last as long as some universities take to run a presidential search.

"Let's not make the perfect the enemy of the good."

Okay. Can we make incompetence - at $620,000 per - the enemy?

Good School News!
"An International Baccalaureate program created in Switzerland for the children of diplomats has produced 'dramatic' results in Chicago's gritty neighborhood high schools by sizably boosting the chances its graduates will make it into selective colleges - and stay there, a new study concludes," the Sun-Times reports.

"Those students who completed a Chicago neighborhood IB program were more than 40 percent more likely to attend a four-year college and 50 percent more likely to go to a selective or better college than similar students, an analysis by the University of Chicago's Consortium on Chicago School Research found.

"And, such students were significantly more likely to stay in a four-year college for at least two years."

Here's what I found most remarkable:

"Researchers have yet to find any other Chicago Public School program or reform - including expanded Advanced Placement classes and efforts to institute a college-prep curriculum for all - that has increased the chances students stay in college, said one of the study's authors, Melissa Roderick."

I didn't find a Tribune report on the study, though they reported on the program's apparent success in 2006.

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You can see the study for yourself here.

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See also:
* CPS: International Baccalaureate
* CPS Office of Access and Enrollment: International Baccalaureate

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And a video from 2009:

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New McDonald's Boss
"Mr. Thompson is a 22-year McDonald's veteran who hired on in 1990 as an electrical engineer," Crain's reports. "Born in Chicago and raised in Indiana, he moved into operations and management and was president of McDonald's USA from 2006 to 2010 before moving into his current post. He was widely considered the frontrunner for CEO and has been credited with the success of the company's McCafe beverage expansion."

See also: "McDonald's Just Named America's 12th Ever Major Black CEO."

Busted
"The wheels on the bus may go 'round and 'round, but the Better Government Association is tired of going 'around and around' with Pace when it comes to reasonable requests for public documents," the BGA says.

"As a result, the BGA filed a lawsuit [Thursday] against the suburban bus agency, alleging it violated the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in refusing to turn over documents related to bus accidents, and alcohol and drug testing of bus drivers."

The BGA adds:

"It's worth noting that Pace has been one of the most difficult public agencies to deal with when it comes to FOIA by refusing to correspond via email, regularly invoking extensions and, in the BGA's opinion, needlessly creating other hurdles to block the free flow of information."

Why does Pace hate America?

Police State
"If Chicago lacks the police manpower to secure the NATO summit and a protest march to McCormick Place on the same day, City Hall has no business hosting world leaders, protesters argued Thursday," the Sun-Times reports.

"After rejecting a city counterproposal they claim would have 'ghettoized' their parade route to streets with 'virtually no public visibility,' protesters formally appealed the decision by Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration to reject a permit for a parade virtually identical to the one City Hall approved in January."

Let's be clear about what "virtually identical" means: The city agreed to issue a parade permit for May 19, when the G8 was expected to be in town. Once the G8 summit was moved to Camp David, activists submitted the exact same permit application outside of changing the date from the 19th to the 20th, when NATO will be in town.

Suddenly, after repeated assurances to the entire world that the city would have no problem handling security for twin international gatherings, Chicago has a shortage of police officers.

"City Hall rejected the permit on grounds it does not have a 'sufficient number of on-duty police officers' or traffic control aides to 'police and protect' parade participants and spectators."

Why does Rahm Emanuel hate America?

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Memo to aldermen who voted to approve the city's new protest rules, including "progressives" such as Joe Moore and Joe Moreno:

"By noting that the City does not have sufficient 'on-duty' personnel, Chicago officials are utilizing the language of the new 'sit-down and shut-up' ordinances to justify their rejection of the permit," the CANG8 coalition says. "Under the old ordinance, the city could only reject an application if it lacked 'a sufficient number of peace officers and traffic control aides' - on- or off-duty."

*

Also:

"A California activist who holds a city permit for a rally at Daley Plaza on May 20 has offered to step aside for a local anti-war coalition, organizers say," Curtis Black reports for Newstips.

"The city rejected a permit application from the Coalition Against NATO/G8 to move their rally and march from May 19 - when the G8 summit was originally scheduled to meet - to May 20, when NATO will be convening at McCormick Place, saying someone else has a permit for the Daley Plaza that day.

"But CANG8 has heard from the individual holding the permit that she would step aside to accommodate the coalition's plan, Joe Iosbaker said. He said the city has been informed of this development."

Partisan At The Pump
A Facebook comment I came across yesterday:

"It is the disengenuousness and outright misrepresentation of facts that is the outgrowth of the hyper-partisan two party system we have become. Today 65% of Republicans say Obama could reduce gas prices, while in 2006 only 47% of Republicans said Bush could do that. But the Democrats are every bit as distorting. Today only 33% of Democrats say the president can have an impact in lowering gas prices, but in 2006 73% of Democrats said that Bush could. A plague on all their houses for this bullshit, fact-ignoring, outright lying that they both do."

Primary Pundit Patrol
More notes from the front.

Dynamically Dastardly Pricing
"Two weeks ago, a Chicago-Atlanta round-trip ticket for April travel dates cost $209 on Tuesday and Wednesday on American and Delta, but then $301 for the next four days," the Wall Street Journal reports. "When Tuesday rolled around last week, the fare dropped to $219 at both airlines for the April 8-15 itinerary. By Friday it was up to $307 at both American and Delta. Come Tuesday this week, the fare was down to $229."

Dear Airline Industry: I understand the rationale behind "dynamic pricing," but it just makes some of your customers feel like chumps - and makes them do too much work to be thoughtful consumers. One of you should make your tickets one-price all-the-time and see how much loyalty you get in return. Price fares like iTunes: $99, $199, $299. It just might work.

Clock Shock
"The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was among 16 recipients of grants totaling $13.4 million from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, aimed at helping to prevent nuclear terrorism and strengthen nuclear security around the globe, the foundation announced Thursday," the Tribune reports.

Here's an article I wrote about the Bulletin for the Baltimore Sun in 1998.

Down On Luck
Our man on the rail Thomas Chambers looks at the HBO series that was cancelled because the death toll was too high.

The Week in Chicago Rock
They played at a venue near you. We have the video.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Atomic.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:35 AM | Permalink

The Week in Chicago Rock

You shoulda been there.

1. High Contrast at The Mid on Wednesday night.


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2. Van Hunt at Lincoln Hall on Wednesday night.

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3. The Black Keys at the big hockey arena on Wednesday night.

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4. Maedon at the Bottom Lounge on Sunday night.

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5. Megafun at Schubas on Wednesday night.

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6. Nneka at the Double Door on Wednesday night.

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7. Kao=S at the Double Door on Sunday night.

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8. Fiona Apple at Lincoln Hall on Sunday night.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:06 AM | Permalink

TrackNotes: Luck Death Toll Kills Series

It was one of those that broke badly and then broke worse. And it ultimately cast a pall over two separate entertainment industries.

But as the sickening details filtered out, it became clear that there are just about enough villains to fill the Kentucky Derby starting gate. From the California Horse Racing Board down through Santa Anita and its horsemen and squarely on the heads of executive producers and alleged taskmasters David Milch and Michael Mann.

The decision to cancel the Thoroughbred horse racing-themed Luck came one day after a horse used in the filming of the Dustin Hoffman-Nick Nolte vehicle's second season was being led back to her barn. She reared up, her legs slipped out from under her, and she fell and hit her head hard enough to require euthanization.

We soon learned that two other horses had broken down during filming of racing scenes in episodes of the first season.

Even as a variety of web sites and forums recapped or commented on Luck's week-to-week plot twists, including the Daily Racing Form, I had not seen nor do I believe the news of the first two horses' deaths was common knowledge, even on the racing forums and blogs I frequent. Although People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals ran an item on its site in January.

Accidents - deadly accidents - happen in horse racing. My first thought was of a statistical anomaly. My second thought was, wait a minute, this is a television series being made. Wouldn't it be highly likely that these horses would be revved up to be filmed, shut down and then revved up again in the same afternoon to be filmed again?

I'm no trainer, but racehorses are highly regimented creatures of habit. That couldn't have been good.

The Daily Beast's Buzz Bissinger reported that "(Outlaw Yodeler, the first horse to break down) was filmed in two speed intervals on April 30. There was a break between the intervals, and the distance was short, anywhere from a quarter mile to a third of a mile. Nor were the horses raced at full speed."

Between races, horses will gallop or canter almost every day, but they will run moderate- to high-speed workouts usually no more than once a week, often less. They don't work out twice in a day, which the filming schedule could have felt like.

It is a horse's instinct to run, and run in a pack. The great ones have the instinct to win, whether it's on the range or on a race track. Some horses never train "in company," lest they get too competitive and work out too quickly. It doesn't take much to get a horse's competitive juices flowing.

PETA apparently had insiders tipping it off about the problems with the horses' care.

"Just one day after PETA sent a complaint to Los Angeles law enforcement urging the agency to investigate the deaths of two horses during the filming of the first season of HBO's Luck, we have learned that another horse has died on the set. Insiders at Santa Anita Race Track, where the racing scenes are filmed, called us early Tuesday and tipped us off. Now HBO has confirmed it," PETA posted on its website.

In and of itself, attempting to turn a horse on and off at will like it was the Dukes of Hazzard Dodge Charger must be of great concern, but the story gets worse.

Outlaw Yodeler and the second horse to die, Marc's Shadow (a great-grandson of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew), were apparently not fit to run.

PETA quoted the two horses' necropsy reports: "Both were retired racehorses . . . Outlaw Yodeler was a 5-year-old thoroughbred who hadn't raced in months and was apparently so sore that he was given a potent cocktail of muscle relaxant and anti-inflammatory and painkilling drugs, including Butorphanol, a painkiller so strong that it's often used as an analgesic for horses undergoing some kinds of surgery. The other horse, whose name we believe is Marc's Shadow, was 8-years-old and arthritic and had not raced in nearly four years."

Before the third incident, PETA had urged Luck producers Bruce Richmond and Michael Lombardo to beef up animal-care oversight on the set.

"We understand that there are currently no licensed humane officers on the set. This is inexplicable, unacceptable, and dangerous. While the (film industry's go-to) American Humane Association may have a representative present for filming, this is inadequate. We ask you to return at least one, and preferably more, California licensed humane officers to the set and to ensure that their recommendations about the choice of the horses used and the filming methods are followed to the letter."

A quote early on caught my attention: "In response to the letter (from PETA), a HBO spokesperson (said) that methods of selecting the horses for the show have been improved, adding 'protocols' had been put in place and 'rigorous training processes' adopted to minimalize horse injuries during shooting." This apparently came before the third horse's death.

One forum poster said a top assistant of a top California trainer had quit the set because producers wouldn't listen to him.

Sounds to me like they knew they had a problem.

The Doctor Feelgoods of the CHRB spewed their typical spin. California Horse Racing Board official veterinarian Dr. Gary Beck: "I had just examined the horse as part of our routine health and safety procedures prior to work that would be done later on the track. The horse was on her way back to the stall when she reared, flipped over backwards, and struck her head on the ground. Fortunately, attending veterinarian Dr. Heidi Agnic was there to administer immediate aid to the injured horse and determined that humane euthanasia was appropriate."

CHRB Equine Medical Director Dr. Rick Arthur adds, "Unfortunately, we see several of these injuries in the stable area every year. They are more common than people realize."

Yes, but these two chose only to address the horse who reared and fell, an unfortunate incident I believe was very probably just an accident. They're not talking about the two horse who died under very suspicious circumstances.

Just so you know, David Israel - yes, that David Israel - and alleged actress Bo Derek are two of the five members of the CHRB.

I have only seen the first episode of the show. Hoffman's out-of-jail-and-seeking-revenge character seemed soap opera and we got yet another treatment of horseplayers as broken-down, smelly bums. Nolte as the grizzled, unintelligible horse whisperer is quite the cliche, for Hollywood and racing.

Except for PETA and its moles, everybody here is to blame for such a breakdown of morals and ethics, from the CHRB on down through all Santa Anita officials (you think even the ticket takers didn't know about the first two deaths?), filmdom's beard, the American Humane Association, the filmmakers and high-profile trainers on the backside.

Hell will gladly accept whoever may have either dragged out old, well-past-racing horses and/or filled them up with drugs.

As for the racing media, I have given up expecting publications like DRF or BloodHorse.com, even with the assignment of guys like DRF's Jay Privman to a regular Santa Anita beat, to ever be any more than industry organs. That stagecoach has left the station.

In fact, the Form runs a betting portal based on the Xpressbet wagering platform. Xpressbet is owned by MI Developments, which also owns Santa Anita. I mentioned that once to DRF editor Steve Crist and he assured me it is not a conflict of interest. That was a relief.

Can't anyone do the right thing anymore? Or prevent the known, bad things from happening? Americans, on both sides of International Falls, are much better at marshaling resources to handle the perception of things than they are to solve the problems.

Santa Anita owner Frank Stronach, who got his start in Canadian auto parts, was on the spot with his typical bombastic bluster. He already wasn't happy with the plot lines. "I'm just disappointed because it puts sort of an ugly face on the whole point of horse racing."

Santa Anita Director of Special Projects Pete Siberell even told TVGuide.com that "[Stronach's] people in Toronto wanted me to set up a meeting with Mann and Milch to talk about the show. That was [Tuesday], when all this hit. We were going to have a meeting to talk about it because he was concerned about the direction the show was going."

Seems like there were a lot of people who should have been more concerned with how the lives of Outlaw Yodeler, Marc's Shadow and the third, unnamed horse were going.

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Thomas Chambers is our man on the rail. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:04 AM | Permalink

March 22, 2012

Primary Pundit Patrol

More notes from the front.

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"Ron Szykowny was sitting on his motorized scooter chatting with his 13th Ward precinct captain outside a home at 68th and Springfield when I drove up on Election Day," Mark Brown writes in the Sun-Times.

That would be the heart of Michael Madigan's home turf; he's not just Speaker of the House, he actually represents a district.

"This was one of those unusual precincts where the polling place is in the basement of a house."

Wha?

*

"The final unofficial vote tally: 9,498 for Madigan; 2,125 for Piszczor.

Szykowny, 78, understands why those results might frustrate some people around Illinois who would like to see Madigan removed from his Speaker's post but can't find a way to get at him.

"'As the Speaker, he hasn't done much but get us in deeper in debt,' Szykowny complained to my surprise - dissenting voices being few and far between on Madigan's home turf.

"'But don't get me wrong,' he hastened to add. 'Madigan and his people have done us wonders around here. I'm not saying anybody else would have done any better.'

In the end, Szykowny said, he couldn't bring himself to vote against Madigan.

"'For one reason, it ain't going to happen,' he said, referring to what he saw as a half-hearted campaign by Piszczor. 'She hasn't made enough waves to make a difference.'

"Plus, Szyknowny added, he didn't want to disappoint his precinct captains, who are always quick to help if he needs an extra garbage pickup or to have the alley baited for rats."

They get the rat traps, we get the rats.

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"Today we're giving out the Moutza of the Month award early because nothing else in March could top Chicago voters casting Democratic primary ballots for a legislator caught on FBI tape allegedly taking $7,000 in bribes," John Kass writes in the Tribune.

"His victory was engineered by the Democrats. The plan was designed to protect the leverage of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, who guards his Democratic majority in the state House . . . The other day, at least 7,140 voters cast a ballot for state Rep. Derrick 'Leave It in the Envelope' Smith . . . With Smith vulnerable, the Democrats worried that his Democratic primary opponent, Tom Swiss, was in reality a Republican."

That only seems fair. After all, Michael Madigan's Republican opponents every two years are actually Democrats.

*

"If Ilya Sheyman's 'progressive' supporters in the city of Chicago had not wasted so much time, effort, and treasure trying to take out Toni Berrios, a pro-choice, pro LGBT progressive Latina, with one of their rich white college buddies from out of town, Sheyman might have been able to pull it off," Cook County Democratic Party political director Scott Cisek comments on Capitol Fax Blog.

I guess defending the Berrios clan is enough to drive anyone insane. From their websites:

Guzzardi:

Will is a staunch advocate for women's rights, including equal pay, fair treatment in hiring, and reproductive services. Women workers, on average, make 77 cents to every dollar made by male workers. Sexual harassment on the job persists throughout a variety of industries, and women's access to health screenings and reproductive services deserves continued funding and advocacy.

What Will's going to do:

* Work with the Illinois Department of Labor to enforce federal labor law requiring equal pay for equal work

* Partner with 39th District organizations to provide health screenings and reproductive services to women throughout the district.

* Fight legislation designed to dismantle Roe v. Wade

Berrios:

Oops! Nothing on women's issues.

Oh well. What about LBGT issues?

Berrios:

Oops! Nothing on LBGT issues.

Guzzardi:

Full equality for all, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, is a basic matter of civil rights, and anything short of full equality is unacceptable. The state's Civil Unions Act was the right direction, but it should be viewed as but a small step toward full marriage equality. As State Representative Will Guzzardi will push for full marriage equality and comprehensive legislation to ensure all families in our community are treated equally, protected from discrimination, and respected.

What Will's going to do:

* Advocate for a comprehensive bill granting full marriage equality to all Illinois couples regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

* Encourage employers to offer health plans for spouses regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

* Partner with community organizations to fight disinformation on the ground.

Starting with the disinformation put out by the political director of the Cook County Democratic Party - chairman Joe Berrios. Yes, that's right: Cisek's boss is Toni's daddy.

Cisek continues:

"As a big progressive myself, watching the 'organized professional left' makes me think of Voltaire's comment on the Holy Roman Empire. They are neither organized, nor professional, nor supportive of leftys outside of their clique. Sad."

Well, how big a progressive can you be when you're directing the political strategies of the Machine? Your job by definition is to defeat progressives.

Just check out this tweet from Cisek on Wednesday:

@ScottCisek hears we won everything. EVERYTHING. probably has not happened since George Dunne was chairman. Details to follow.

Outside of the fact that George Dunne is hardly a reference a progressive would favorably cite, I had a question for Cisek. So I tweeted this back to him:

By "we" do you mean the Machine? It was a primary.

Cisek never replied.

Maybe because I'm not in the clique - you know, the one that runs Chicago politics and leaves progressives, independents, conservatives, Greens, libertarians and everyone without a name like Berrios outside. Sad.

*

"[E]ven though [Toni Preckwinkle] resoundingly and unapologetically defeated the son, she explained to me why she remained loyal to John Stroger, Todd's dad and predecessor, even though he was a Machine man and she was a progressive," Carol Marin writes.

"It had to do with loyalty. When Preckwinkle was a young graduate student, the elder Stroger took time to tutor her in the ways of the toughest game in town. She never forgot that."

Sorry, but putting personal gratitude above the public interest is pure Machine thinking.

"In this primary, that same loyalty in some cases trumped Preckwinkle's pragmatism. It explains why she stuck with Krishnamoorthi when others went with Duckworth in the 8th Congressional District. And why Preckwinkle backed Cunningham for the Supreme Court while Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Democratic ward bosses threw huge support to Theis.

"Cunningham and Krishnamoorthi had helped Preckwinkle in the past, so she helped them."

Taxpayers be damned.

*

Cisek was Preckwinkle's campaign manager when she ran for county board president as a reformer. And then she endorsed both Joe and Toni Berrios.

*

Rahm Emanuel tried to keep his support for the Berrios clan on the down-lo, but he sent a last-minute letter to voters supporting her, according to district resident Fred Klonsky.

Rahm also - sneer - ran as a reformer.

*

So many Machine hacks running as reformers only shows you their acknowledgement that the public hungers for reform.

*

Finally, Public Policy Polling should have known there was something wrong with their models when they came across this statewide result:

Q22. Are you a Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, or St. Louis Cardinals fan?

Cubs . . . 37%
White Sox . . . 20%
Cardinals . . . 22%
Not a fan of any of these teams . . . 21%

Although it makes sense if you figure the White Sox and Cardinals are splitting the anti-Cubs vote downstate.

P.S.: Cubs support was at 44% just two years ago. But neither the White Sox nor the Cardinals gained; those who dropped the North Siders moved into the none-of-the-above category.

-

See also:
* Primary Points
* The Beachwood Primary Guide 2012

-

Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:56 PM | Permalink

The [Thursday] Papers

"Alice Carter loved cooking soul food since she was a child growing up in the Deep South of Mississippi," the Austin Weekly News reports.

"She brought that 'down-home cooking' to Chicago in the early 1960s when she landed a job at a local West Side neighborhood eatery. But it was nearly 30 years ago that she opened the restaurant that many now today know as Alice's Soul Food, currently located on 5638 W. Chicago Ave.

"On Wednesday, Ms. Carter, 77, died from a 'brief illness,' her daughter, Jackie Carter said.

AustinTalks profiled Carter in 2010 and it's very much worth a read.

Vanecko Admission?
"A nephew of then-Mayor Richard M. Daley 'may have made an admission of guilt' to detectives that he threw the punch that caused David Koschman's death, attorneys for Koschman's family said in a court filing Wednesday," the Sun-Times reports.

"They said sworn witness statements to the city of Chicago inspector general's office, which they obtained under a court order, contradict arguments made by Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez. Alvarez is fighting their efforts to have a special prosecutor appointed to reinvestigate the case and determine whether her office and the police are guilty of 'official misconduct.'

"Minutes after four of Koschman's friends were unable to identify Daley nephew Richard J. 'R.J.' Vanecko in a police lineup nearly eight years ago, the friends say an unidentified detective told them the police knew who had punched the 21-year-old from Mount Prospect in the face, according to their sworn statements, which Alvarez unsuccessfully tried to keep from being released.

"'We know the guy that did it. He's in there in the other room, and he's just bawling his eyes out, he's a big baby . . . He didn't mean for one punch to lead to all this,' Koschman's friend James Copeland recalled during his sworn interview last year with the inspector general's office, which has been investigating the Koschman case in response to a series of Chicago Sun-Times reports.

"Copeland's recollections were backed up by three other Koschman friends who were also with him on the night in April 2004 when their group ran into Vanecko and others on Division Street, according to transcripts of the interviews that a judge ordered Alvarez's office last month to provide to Koschman's family and lawyers.

"'This guy' is 'really broken up about this, he's really sorry,' Shaun Hageline recalled the detective saying, according to his interview with the inspector general.

"There's no reference to any admission of guilt or of Vanecko being upset in the Chicago Police Department's reports, which the Koschman lawyers say appear to have been 'falsified' to justify Vanecko not being charged."

Perhaps, but everyone who's ever watched a cop show on TV - not that we should use TV as our guide but in this case it works - knows that cops often pretend one guy has given himself up to get the others to spill.

*

"[Koschman family lawyer Locke Bowman] also asserts that an outside prosecutor is needed to determine how the police knew Vanecko was the mayor's nephew - something that was noted in a police file that was discovered only after Ferguson began investigating last summer."

*

In a brief, separate story, the Sun-Times also reports:

"The Koschman lawyers found two pictures on Alvarez's Facebook page that show her with Daley: one from 1986, when Daley was state's attorney, and the other from 2010.

"They say in a court filing Wednesday that the photos illustrate 'that she retains close political ties with the former mayor, who actually hired Alvarez as an assistant in the office of the state's attorney in 1986.'"

It's interesting that Daley hired Alvarez, although given the timeline of the career of each, that's a no-brainer that nonetheless didn't occur to some of us - like me. But the photo doesn't prove "close political ties" any more than a photo of me and Daley would. That doesn't mean the ties aren't there - that requires a little more digging - but such a stretchy claim doesn't help bolster the credibility of the Koschman family's case, which I'm sympathetic to.

*

The court filing did allege what some witnesses have already told the Sun-Times - that the police twisted their statements beyond recognition.

"According to the quoted transcripts, Michael Connolly, a bystander not with either side, said statements by prosecutors that Koschman had initiated the physical confrontation were a 'flat-out lie,'" the Tribune reports. "He also said police reports from 2004 stating he had seen Koschman move physically toward Vanecko were incorrect.

"'I never said that I saw David moving forward to strike anybody,' Connolly was quoted in the transcript as saying under oath. 'I never said that in any (police) statement.'

"One of Koschman's friends, Shaun Hageline, said he was clear in his statements to police that Vanecko and his group were the ones who were physically imposing and that Vanecko, who towered over Koschman, appeared drunk but that police omitted that information from their reports.

"'The notion of Dave Koschman beating these guys up or punching them or winning any kind of fight was just preposterous,' the filing quoted Hageline as saying."

*

In January, the Sun-Times reported:

"Alvarez criticized the Sun-Times' reporting, saying that during interviews with Inspector General Ferguson's office, 'several of the witnesses have given sworn statements directly refuting information they purportedly gave to the Sun-Times. In fact, a series of witnesses have testified what they said to the reporters was false."

Well, at least a couple of those witnesses are now under oath. Why can't we put everyone under oath and get on with it?

*

Alvarez was unopposed in Tuesday's primary and has no Republican opponent for the fall.

Loves That Dirty Water
"Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration has awarded a $249,999 'emergency' contract to replace aging sewer pipes to Benchmark Construction, a clout-heavy company that the city formerly certified as being minority-owned and operated at a time that its African-American president had admitted in sworn testimony that his white business partner actually oversaw the company's day-to-day operations," the Sun-Times reports.

"Eight years ago, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Benchmark got more than $25 million in city contracts earmarked for minorities, even though then-company president Michael Smith, who is African-American, had acknowledged in a court deposition that a white partner oversaw operations."

Well, that was eight years ago. And Smith is apparently no longer with the company, which is apparently in good standing now. Not defending it, just seeking context.

"Benchmark got the emergency contract because the owner of another company, Diamond Coring, is charged in a minority-contracting scheme and City Hall declared it ineligible to work for the city, according to the Emanuel administration."

So a better headline might have been "City Hall Gives Ironic Emergency Sewer Deal To Clout-Heavy Company."

*

"When Diamond Coring was declared ineligible to contract with the city, it became necessary for us to quickly find alternate vendors to perform the same services, which include cutting, grinding and coring a pipe through concrete and other material," Office of Management Budget spokesperson Kathleen Strand told the Sun-Times.

What's not clear is if there is an "emergency" with our sewers. Inference is the enemy of context. As a reader I need a better understanding to know how to process this story - is something dastardly happening here or is this about a sewer contract that isn't even news?

*

"Emergency contracts are temporary and limited to under $250,000. By keeping the Benchmark contract a penny below that threshold - and soliciting bids from four vendors, generating two responses - Strand said City Hall ensured that the job of 'replacing old pipe and renewing our infrastructure' would get done even as the city drafts a request-for-proposals to find a permanent replacement for Diamond Coring."

You know what? You don't have to report the story until you actually have the story. I'm handing this one back for more work.

Heat Wave
"A meteorologist for AccuWeather - the forecasting company that predicted a winter so bad, 'people in Chicago are going to want to move' - has a theory for the recent Midwest heat wave: Japanese tsunami debris," the Tribune reports.

Sounds about as plausible as the cops' Koschman reports.

Another Emergency Contract
"Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration is buying 8,513 more face shields for Chicago Police officers at a cost of $757,657 - and demanding delivery in time for the May 20-21 NATO summit - to give every officer on the street a shield that fits over a gas mask and prevents them from being blinded by liquids thrown by protesters," the Sun-Times reports.

So I guess we finally know how many street cops we have; CPD staffing has always been a bit of a mystery.

"The supplemental purchase from Colorado-based Super Seer Corp. [link mine] brings to $954,118 the amount of money spent to purchase 11,570 face shields twice as thick as the old ones with a larger surface and air-tight seal to keep liquids out. The new contract was piggybacked onto an existing Fairfax County, Va. award with a third-distributor to expedite delivery."

Putin On The Shitz
"It appears Russian President Vladimir Putin will not be coming to Chicago to attend the NATO summit," ABC 7 and others are reporting.

Which lends support to this report by Pravda last week stating that Putin's desire to skip the G8 was the real reason the summit was moved out of Chicago:

-

The Beachwood Tip Line: Putinized!


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:54 AM | Permalink

March 21, 2012

The [Wednesday] Papers

"Current and prospective college students who apply now hoping to get state tuition help for next school year will be turned away, officials said Tuesday," the Tribune reports.

"The state is on pace to receive a record number of applications for 2012-13 from the Monetary Award Program, the primary source of need-based financial aid. The scholarship money, awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, was depleted by students who applied by March 13.

"It's the earliest the state has run out of funds for MAP grants, said John Samuels, spokesman for the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, the agency that administers the program. About 140,000 to 145,000 students are expected to get the aid, worth up to $4,968. An estimated 140,000 eligible students will be denied."

Now consider:

"University of Illinois freshmen will pay more than $24,000 this fall for tuition, fees and housing, an amount board members approved even as one trustee urged the group to 'keep tuition in check,'" the Tribune reported in January.

"New students at the Urbana-Champaign campus will pay $11,636 a year for tuition - a 4.8 percent increase - plus housing and fees that more than double that amount."

And that's on top of what happened the year before, as reported by AP:

"University of Illinois trustees voted Thursday to raise tuition for new students by 9.5 percent and approved a contract that pays the school's incoming president approximately $620,000 a year - about $170,000 more than the man he'll replace."

And that's not all, as reported by the Daily Illini:

"Other perks in the contract include a house in Urbana, a condo in Chicago and a University car and driver for all UI-related travel. He will also be reimbursed for all moving expenses and given memberships at country clubs in both Chicago and Champaign. Hogan will be provided with up to six tickets for artistic, cultural and athletic events at the University - for either business or personal use, according to this contract.

"Hogan also will receive a faculty appointment as a professor of history on the Urbana campus, with tenure."

Board chairman Christopher Kennedy - yes, that Kennedy - told AP at the time that there really wasn't very much discussion at all among his colleagues about the tuition increase or Hogan's compensation and perks :

"We should all applaud the fact that we've got somebody who's got that strong track record."

I wonder what the board would be like if its members associated more with the students it is there to serve instead of its moneyed administrators.

Now, is it possible that somehow the great work of a president can pay off in such a way as to ultimately benefit students despite the immediate pain? I doubt it.

How about a compensation package that rewards a university president for finding ways to lower tuition?

Instead, the stratification of America continues unabated - even within the elite class itself.

This is a generation that has particularly had it drilled into them that the best way to achieve financial security is to go to college.

"Those with bachelor's degrees, no matter the field, earn vastly more than counterparts with some college or a high school diploma, indicating that no matter the level of attainment or the field of study, simply earning a four-year degree is often integral to financial success later in life," U.S. News reiterated in a report last year.

"'The payoff from getting a college degree is huge and is actually increasing,' says Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of Lumina Foundation, a nonprofit focused on boosting America's number of college graduates. 'For people wondering [if] a college degree [is] worth it: Not only is it worth it, but the premium is growing.'"

So is it any wonder that so many folks still want to go to college so badly - and not just for lifetime earnings but to deepen their education and pursue skills and dreams - that they'll write those tuition checks, even if means going deep into debt to do so?

"The amount of student loans taken out last year crossed the $100 billion mark for the first time and total loans outstanding will exceed $1 trillion for the first time this year. Americans now owe more on student loans than on credit cards, reports the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the U.S. Department of Education and private sources," USA Today reports.

Like everyone else in America, those who took on huge loan burdens before the financial meltdown of 2008 had little reason to suspect they'd end up on the losing end of Wall Street's machinations.

Hence the Occupy chant (and its variants), "They got the gold mine, we got the shaft."

Wall Street was bailed out; ordinary students are still being held responsible for near-extortionist loans (it's big business) they can no longer afford - even if there were jobs available for them.

Wouldn't you be angry?

Now the "primary source for need-based financial aid" in Illinois is tapped out.

(Unless you have the right friends.)

That's why forgiving student debt - so much of which will never be paid back anyway - is on the agenda of Occupy Chicago and that of other activists.

Folks need relief from mortgage and credit card debt, too. Banks and lenders got bailed out, why not us?

Primary Points
Notes and observations, hints and allegations.

Political Ad Data They Don't Want You To See
ProPublica and Medill look at Chicago TV stations' dusty files.

Kansas Now Poised To Win It All
In Nick's Picks.

-

The Beachwood Tip Line: Academically ineligible.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:32 AM | Permalink

Primary Points

Wasn't that exciting? Let's take a look.

*

"Several Cook County voters have received some very nasty robocalls over the past day or so," Rich Miller reports on his Capitol Fax Blog. "A large number of Cook County pols have been slammed by these robocalls, and the one thing they may have in common is that they all are opponents of Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown."

Miller reports that one robocall also attacked Tribune political reporter Rick Pearson. Click through for the audio.

*

Brown won re-election over Ald. Rick Munoz - there is no Republican opponent - despite a raft of stories over the years and in recent week about her sheer ineptitude and total lack of an ethical compass. Those who work in the court system - lawyers, for example - have nothing but horror stories to tell about the terrible state of affairs there.

That's why my favorite quote of the day might be this one from her campaign manager, Pete Dagher: "This means that Dorothy Brown can continue the reform that she started 11 years ago."

*

Tribune columnist John Kass noted on WGN-TV's election coverage last night that Jesse Jackson Jr. can come out of hiding now that he's shellacked Debbie Halvorson. Jackson went into a defensive shell the last few weeks before Election Day once he pulled away in the polls, dodging debates and reporters. Halvorson was a horrible candidate, but the already-tainted Jackson - who tried to argue before the Tribune editorial board that asking a campaign contributor to buy his mistress a plane ticket was "not a personal benefit to me" - did not distinguish himself this time around.

Jackson faces Republican Brian Woodworth in the fall.

*

And you wanna be a world-class city?

Indicted Illinois House Member Wins Dem Nomination.

One Week After Bribery Charge, State Rep. Derrick Smith Wins Big.

Indicted State Lawmaker Cruises To Victory.

There is no Republican candidate.

*

MSNBC noted this morning that the last (elected) Democratic governor of Illinois who didn't serve time in prison was Adlai Stevenson. (Sam Shapiro became governor in 1968 after Otto Kerner, Jr. resigned to accept an appointment to the federal appellate court; then Kerner went to prison.)

*

Annazette Collins, one of the odds-on favorites to be the next Chicago pol indicted, lost her re-election bid for the state senate to Patricia Van Pelt Watkins. Watkins was a political unknown when she entered the mayoral field last fall and was initially dismissed as nutcase and/or gadfly but she turned out to be both legit and fairly impressive. She could have a future. Collins, not so much.

There is no Republican candidate.

*

Now it's time to rally around Robert Handzik.

*

The headline says it all.

*

As of this writing, Toni Berrios has a 72-vote lead over Will Guzzardi in her bid for re-election to the state House. No worries, though; I'm sure Daddy Berrios has some river wards he's holding back.

*

Silvana Tabares edged out Rudy Lozano Jr. - 3,761 votes to 3,443 - for seat in the statehouse by avoiding the press and soaking up 50-large from phony corporate school reformers.

There is no Republican candidate, unless you count Tabares.

*

Brad Schneider's victory in the 10th Congressional District on the North Shore was as much an embarrassment for Public Policy Polling as a disappointment for MoveOn and other progressive organizations backing Ilya Sheyman.

Schneider takes on incumbent Republican Bob Dold in the fall.

*

Tammy Duckworth (D-Rahm) carpetbagged her way to a win over Raja Krishnamoorthi in the Eighth Congressional District and will take on incumbent Joe Walsh in the fall. "Weeks before Duckworth declared her candidacy, Krishnamoorthi had already secured endorsements from a host of local committeemen and county Democratic chairs," the Daily Herald notes. But when the big boys are pulling your strings, you can quickly acquire a sense of entitlement along with a bulging bank account.

*

Ron Paul received 12,510 more votes than Newt Gingrich.

-

Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:24 AM | Permalink

Nick's Picks: Injuries, Upsets And An NBA Career On The Line - How Kansas Is Now Poised To Win It All

First some notes, then the brackets:

* The state of Ohio is sending four teams in the Sweet 16: Ohio State (2), Cincinnati (6), Xavier (10), and Ohio (13). No state has ever done that before, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. (See their Ohio trivia quiz.)

* Cincinnati and Xavier engaged in a pretty nasty bench-clearing brawl earlier this season, complete with punching, stomping and real blood. It's not gonna happen, but they are on opposite ends of the bracket and would meet in the final if they both won out.

* For the first time ever, two 15 seeds defeated two number 2 seeds in the round of 64.

* Kansas State (8) loses Jamar Samuels to another surprise suspension.

* UNC (1) point guard Kendall Marshall fractures his wrist, is questionable.

SOUTH
* VCU (12) pulled off an upset over Wichita St. (5) and was barely knocked off by Indiana (4) in the round of 32. VCU was a different team this year and didn't expect them to advance. The game against Indiana was close one and decided by two points.

* Colorado (11) upset UNLV (6) and was the only PAC 12 team remaining until they ran into Baylor (3). In its glory days, the old PAC 10 was a dominant basketball conference and featured multiple teams in the tournament every year.

* Lehigh (15) stunned Duke (2), a game that was 55 miles away from Duke's campus. Duke threw up 26 three-point shots and made only six of them; Duke fans everywhere just plain threw up as a result.

* Xavier (10) defeated Notre Dame (7) then Lehigh to earn a Sweet 16 spot.

* No surprises with Kentucky (1) so far.

Teams remaining: Kentucky (1) vs Indiana (4), 3/23 8:45 pm (CBS). Baylor (3) vs Xavier (10), 3/23 6:45 pm (CBS).

Outlook: Most are expecting Kentucky over Indiana, Baylor over Xavier, and Kentucky to advance to the Final Four. Keep in mind that Indiana beat Kentucky this season, but I don't see it happening twice. If you've got money to burn, check the Vegas lines should a Kentucky-Baylor match-up happen and bet on Baylor. Taking the over wouldn't be a bad idea either.

WEST
* Michigan St. (1) vs Louisville (4) in the Sweet 16 as expected. Marquette (3) vs, Florida (7) as well. It's no surprise that Marquette made it this far, but just about everyone had Missouri (2) to be here instead of Florida.

* St. Louis (9) played it pretty close against Michigan St. and lost by just four. That game featured two of the better coaches out there, Rick Majerus for St. Louis and Tom Izzo for MSU.

* Missouri fans streamed confetti at Mizzou Arena when it was announced they were a 2 seed. Missouri fans streamed tears when they lost in the round of 64 to Norfolk St. (15). to make matters worse, Florida would go on to crush Norfolk St. by 34 points.

Teams remaining: Michigan St (1) vs Louisville (4), 3/22 6:47 pm (TBS). Marquette (3) vs Florida (7), 3/22 9:17 pm (TBS).

Outlook: Draymond Green for MSU already has two career NCAA tournament triple-doubles and he should help lead them to the Final Four after blowing past Louisville and Marquette.

EAST
* Syracuse, without Fab Melo, barely got by NC-Asheville (16) - with the help of two very controversial calls at the end of the game.

* The morning of their game against Syracuse, Kansas State suspended key forward Jamar Samuels for then-unknown reasons. This resulted in a match-up of teams that each had a suspended player.

* Vanderbilt (5) lost a close one to Wisconsin (4) in the round of 32. John Jenkins missed a three-point attempt that would have put Vandy up by one in the closing seconds.

* Florida St (3) lost to Cincinnati (6) in the round of 32. Michael Snaer virtually disappeared during tournament. He went 4 of 18 from the field in both games. I had FSU and Vanderbilt facing off in my bracket with FSU making the Final Four here.

Teams remaining: Syracuse (1) vs Wisconsin (4), 3/22 6:15 pm (CBS). Ohio St. (2) vs Cincinnati (6) 3/22 8:45 pm (CBS).

Outlook: I'm taking Wisconsin over Syracuse and Ohio St. over Cincinnati in the Elite Eight, leading to a Big 10 match-up for a Final Four spot; Jared Sullinger and Ohio St. prevail.

MIDWEST
* North Carolina (1) has no problems, statistically, getting to the Sweet 16, but Marshall's fractured wrist is a concern. UNC has battled injuries all season long and it may finally catch up with them.

* Another 12/5 upset was USF over Temple, setting up a rare 12 vs. 13 match-up in the round of 32 after Ohio (13) defeated Michigan (4). UNC and Ohio will play for an Elite Eight spot.

* NC State (11) upset Georgetown (3) in the round of 32 and will face Kansas (2) for a shot at the Elite Eight.

* The way Kansas played against Purdue (10), they are lucky to still be around. Purdue led for all but approximately 43 seconds of the entire 40 minutes, but made some costly mistakes at the end.

Teams remaining: UNC (1) vs Ohio (13), 3/23 6:47 pm (TBS). Kansas (2) vs NC State (11), 3/23 9:17 pm (TBS).

Outlook: Even if Marshall doesn't play, UNC shouldn't have problems with Ohio. KU matches up much better against NC State than Purdue and should win here. If Marshall is close to 90% against KU, UNC likely wins. If he's out, KU likely wins. I'll choose KU in the Final Four here because I think Marshall has an NBA career and millions of dollars to worry about next year and sits the rest of the tournament.

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See also: Nick's Picks: Prepare For An NCAA Championship That Will Be Vacated.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:18 AM | Permalink

March 20, 2012

Here's The Political Ad Data Chicago TV Stations Won't Put Online

Every local broadcast station has a repository of documents about political advertising that you have a legal right to see but can do so only by going to the station and asking to see "the public file."

These paper files contain detailed data on all political ads that run on the channel, such as when they aired, who bought the time and how much they paid. It's a transparency gold mine, allowing the public to see how campaigns and outside groups are influencing elections.

But TV executives have been fighting a Federal Communications Commission proposal to make the data accessible online. They say making the files digital would be too burdensome - it "could well take hundreds of hours for a single station," according to comments filed with the FCC by the National Association of Broadcasters.

Others have taken their case a step further. As reported by Bloomberg Government, Jerald Fritz, senior vice president of Allbritton Communications, said in an another FCC filing that online availability "would ultimately lead to a Soviet-style standardization of the way advertising should be sold as determined by the government." (NPR's On the Media did an excellent segment recently on broadcasters' opposition to the proposal.)

We tend to like the idea of public data being online. Since TV stations won't put it online themselves, we decided to do it ourselves - and we want your help.

Working with students at the Medill journalism school at Northwestern University, we looked at five local stations in the Chicago market.

You can explore the results yourself: Here are detailed breakdowns of when the ads aired, during which programs, and how much each spot cost.

See the documents from the local affiliates of ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX and WGN.

Big thanks to Medill students David Tonyan, Julie O'Donoghue, Vesko Cholakov, Safiya Merchant and Gideon Resnick, who visited the stations Monday.

We intend to enlist more readers in checking their local stations as the election campaigns slog on. The general election is likely to usher in even greater spending, and such spot checks could keep an eye on how big spenders are influencing the election. If you'd like to join in, please fill out this form.

Campaigns and super PACs are required to report their spending on independent expenditures to the Federal Election Commission within a day or two, but they often just report how much they paid ad-buying firms, which can disguise how much actual ads cost and where they're airing.

What's more, the files could be a window into what may be otherwise undisclosed spending by "dark money" nonprofit groups that are playing an increasing role in the elections.

For our experiment, we asked our Chicago volunteers to check on spending by five super PACs that individually support Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich and Barack Obama. There were no records of spending in Chicago by four of them, but Restore Our Future, a pro-Romney super PAC, advertised on all five stations. The super PAC paid the five stations about $800,000 in the past month.

As our PAC Track interactive chart shows, Restore Our Future has spent more than twice as much as any other PAC so far - nearly $37 million.

Medill student O'Donoghue said getting the files from the ABC station took her about half an hour, most of which was spent wrestling with the copy machine.

Tonyan, another graduate student, said he spent 15 minutes at WGN, plus a 15-minute drive.

Both said the station employees who helped them were friendly and accommodating. We encountered the same when I visited five stations in New York, Missouri and Florida. Typically, a station employee will simply show you the room where the files are kept and let you dig in.

Such visits don't seem to happen often. A log at the New York CBS affiliate showed only six registered visitors since October 2011.

The Campaign Media Analysis Group, a unit of Kantar Media, tracks ads that have hit the airwaves and estimates what they would cost, but the company charges high rates to obtain the information. The Wesleyan Media Project publishes some CMAG data.

Rich Robinson, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, found that $70 million in advertising had been unreported from 2000-10 in Michigan. He got that number by personally examining public files, at one point driving 14 hours for a 15-minute visit to a station.

He told the FCC: "I can testify to you, unequivocally, that the threshold of effort necessary to report this important public interest story is too high for every news organization in Michigan, except mine."

Which is why we're asking for your help. You can help expose spending that might otherwise remain hidden in your television market. Sign up here.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:39 PM | Permalink

Beachwood Primary Guide 2012

Remember, you can take this into the voting booth with you. Just print out, cut along the dotted lines and follow the folding instructions. Or use your smartphone, which has been approved for use upon further review of a ridiculous rule.

Let's start at the top of the ticket and work our way down through selected races.

*

Office: President of the United States

Opponents: Romney, Santorum, Gingrich, Paul

Notes: Turns out it's pretty amazing that either of the front-runners got on the ballot here and that it's inconsequential that the other two are here at all . . . Democrats wondering if they should pull a Republican ballot and vote for Santorum to either weaken eventual candidate Romney or make Tricky Rick the nominee himself would not only be risking the nation's future on a reckless gamble, but behaving just like their sworn enemy . . . Santorum must be expecting a loss because he's spending Election Night in Gettysburg. Yes, that Gettysburg. Ironically, no one will remember what he says . . . The Tribune endorsed Romney. Four years ago they chose John McCain, writing that "Mitt Romney has the skill set of a superb Treasury secretary. But, thus far, he hasn't convinced us he would be McCain's equal in confronting that dangerous world of 2008."

Beachwood's Advice: Pull a Dem ballot and leave the box for the unopposed Obama blank.

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Office: U.S. Congress, 2nd District

Opponents: Jesse Jackson Jr. vs. Debbie Halvorson

Notes: Junior has run a despicable campaign designed to not only crush Halvorson but send a message to future challengers not to mess with him, no matter how vulnerable the once-sainted now-tainted former rising star appears to be. On the other hand, Halvorson has run a deplorable campaign that has simply exposed her further for the Blagojevich/Emil Jones apparatchik she once was, going so far as to plead for Rod's brother Rob to dish on Jackson . . . Halvorson also accused the Tribune editorial board of endorsing Jackson because his alleged scandals sell more papers than, presumably, her steady public stewardship; the Trib found in their joint interview of the candidates that Halvorson was "alarmingly unqualified to represent the district" . . . Jackson, for his part, accused Halvorson of insufficiently supporting the president though Congressional Quarterly found he voted against Obama twice as often as Halvorson . . . Then again, after Nancy Pelosi came to Chicago to endorse Jackson, Halvorson said people are "just sick and tired" of outsides coming into the district and telling folks how to vote, which is not at all how she'd feel if she'd won Pelosi's endorsement . . . On the other hand, Team Jackson also complained of outside forces interfering with the campaign, so it's a push.

Beachwood Advice: Place the ballot at a right-angle against your neck and slowly slide it across every major artery you can find.

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Office: U.S. Congress, 8th District

Opponents: Tammy Duckworth vs. Raja Krishnamoorthi

Notes: Duckworth remains a project of Rahm Emanuel, who muscled her into a congressional race in 2006 because he thought her war-torn body would appeal more to swing voters than the woman who had earned her way doing real work in the district, where Duckworth did not even live . . . Krishnamoorthi has the support of locals in the district, though his experience as deputy state treasurer is tainted by the fact that his boss was Alexi Giannoulias.

Beachwood Advice: Crumple up your ballot and and shove it down your windpipe until it is sealed up tight and you can no longer breathe.

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Office: U.S. Congress, 10th District

Opponents: Brad Schneider vs. Illya Sheyman.

Notes: Sheyman is a former MoveOn worker and the progressive in the race while Schneider is the "electable" candidate with endorsements from the Tribune and Daily Herald. That might make Sheyman the obvious pick, but influential North Shore blogger Ellen Of The Tenth is backing Schneider. Why? "When I first started this blog, I was writing about the evils of what was coming out of the Bush Administration and Mark Kirk's congressional seat," she writes. "Eventually, it became clearer that things were not a whole lot better on the Democratic side. Then, I promised myself that I was going to be more than a cheerleader for whatever comes out of the Democratic Party. That resolve increased over time as Democrats continued to take positions with Republicans for corporations, the financial industry, the insurance industry and the military industry. It also increased as I saw my Republican counterparts put their stamp of approval on every single thing that came out of their party, no matter how ridiculous or bad." Amen, sister! You'll have to click through to see how that comes out to a screed against Sheyman . . . but vote for this guy?

Beachwood Advice: Turn your ballot into a shank and jab it into your heart like you've OD'd and you're self-administering a shot of adrenaline.

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Office: Clerk of the Circuit Court, Cook County

Opponents: Ricardo Munoz vs. Dorothy Brown

Notes: For such a churchie, Dorothy Brown is a noted ethical disaster. Worse, she's terrible at her job. Just another "independent" who flamed out . . . That might also describe Munoz, who greased his kid into Whitney Young . . . Then again, it's Brown who thinks it's right for innocent people to pay for the processing of their unjustified arrest.

Beachwood Advice: Poke your eyes out with the stylus before voting, then try to punch a hole for Munoz while giving yourself plausible deniability.

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Office: Illinois Senate, 5th District

Opponents: Annazette Collins vs. Patricia Van Pelt Watkins

Notes: Secretary of State Jesse White calls Collins "the most unethical person in government," which is patently untrue. If it were true, she'd be the chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party . . . Nonetheless, she's got a track record that makes Dorothy Brown look like Paul Simon; just check out what she meant when she said "There is no rule that says you can't give everyone on Walnut Street a scholarship." . . . Watkins tells Huffington Post Chicago that she wouldn't be surprised if Collins is the next public official in Illinois to go to jail, though a long line is already forming . . . Better, Watkins says: "And I bet she wouldn't be surprised either." . . . In fact, Collins tells HuffPo that if allegations over a tax credit had been - or turn out to be - true, "That would have been something to go to jail for." There's still time.

Beachwood Advice: Annazette makes for good copy but bad public service. And we don't just work here, we live here too. So do us all a favor, 5th District.

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Office: Illinois House, 22nd District

Opponents: Michael Madigan vs. Michele Piszczor

Notes: Michele Piszczor is an absolutely awful candidate. She has absolutely no idea what she's talking about. She's completely unqualified and unprepared to be even a member of the Illinois House, which doesn't take much in the way of smarts. If you were picking an opponent you could really get behind to knock off the king, she'd be one of the last folks you'd choose. She really sucks.

Beachwood Advice: Piszczor is endorsed.

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Office: Illinois House, 28th District

Opponents: Rudy Lozano Jr. vs. Silvana Tabares

Notes: Also can be framed as CTU vs. UNO. Lozano, however, has actually taught (at an alternative high school) and worked in after-school programs . . . He also almost knocked off Dan Burke in the 2010 primary and is not seeking endorsements from Rahm Emanuel or Michael Madigan - though they would not be forthcoming anyway, which is a mark in his favor . . . Tabares sent out a mailer that cropped a photo of Lozano at his brother's wedding and dropped it into a menacing gang scene, turning his peace sign into gang sign.

Beachwood Advice: Repudiate Tabares and her whole stinking game.

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Office: Illinois House, 39th District

Opponents: Will Guzzardi vs. Toni Berrios

Notes: Toni Berrios. What more do you need to know? See her "That's just your coincidence" quote in the last item here . . . And if that's not enough, ugh . . . Sure Guzzardi worked for the Huffington Post; hey, nobody's perfect.

Beachwood Advice: Repudiate Berrios and her whole stinking game.

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Office: Illinois Supreme Court

Opponents: Mary Jane Theis, Joy Cunningham, Aurelia Pucinski, Thomas Flannigan

Notes: On paper and on television Theis seems to be the best candidate, but that may just be because she projects judiciousness when instead that might really just be Machine-bred confidence. Every time a Theis ad comes on that brags about being endorsed by Rahm Emanuel and stresses that she's a Democrat - it's a primary! - I get queasy. Judges endorsed by parties and public officials who will later have issues before them? Or who already have. "Emanuel did bring in approximately $100,000 for Theis in one shot last fall, according to her campaign, headlining a fundraiser at a Loop restaurant," the Tribune reports. "And Emanuel's campaign organization sent an email Thursday saying Theis 'promotes the highest confidence in the judiciary' and urging more financial support. Theis has played down the fact that she was part of the unanimous high court decision rejecting a challenge to Emanuel's Chicago residency during the 2011 mayoral campaign. She also lives just a few houses away from the mayor in the Ravenswood neighborhood." That's not my idea of an honorable judiciary. Worse, Rahm has called Theis his "swing vote." Gee, can I have one? Theis's candidacy is a perversion of justice . . . Cunningham is the next best choice in the bar ratings and while the Tribune endorsed Theis, they say that "Voters cannot go wrong with either Theis or Cunningham."

Beachwood Advice: Cunningham.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:29 AM | Permalink

The [Tuesday] Papers

The Tribune editorial board is of the opinion today - and everyday, along with a host of other pundits and commentators - that you can be part of the solution to our political ills by voting today. I beg to differ.

I'm not advising you to skip voting - though I will. I'm a journalist, and as such, I don't participate in party activities. It's not my role to help a political organization choose its nominees.

What I do mean, though, is that a quick glance at any sample ballot - now and in the fall - will give you in almost every race a choice between candidates (when they actually have opposition) who have no interest in "solving" our problems. That's how they got there.

(The first words in Annazette Collins' campaign commercial: "A reformer . . . ")

That doesn't mean I don't have a rooting interest in a few races, either. It just means that electoral politics, such as it is, isn't the end-all, be-all. Or maybe it's the end-all, but only if the be-all is fixed.

I have no doubt that better candidates will compete and even win in a system that isn't structured to discourage just that; that's why folks like the Tribune editorial board and the usual bevy of commentators are chumps for so vigorously encouraging you to participate in a system so perverse that the leading state Supreme Court candidate can brag about having the endorsement of her neighbor the mayor who not only helped her raise mucho dollars but who has already heard the case that helped him become mayor. And when the mayor calls her his "swing vote" on the court?

Sure you can vote for one of the other candidates - and there may even be one that is halfway decent. Not so in so many other races.

My preference would be for everyone to stop being so cynical and begin organizing independently of the parties. Occupy your democracy. Otherwise the bastards will occupy you.

Vote Boat
"This is usually the time of year when I urge readers to vote on Tuesday," Phil Kadner writes in the SouthtownStar. "I'm struggling with those words this time."

*

Kadner's complaint is much the same as mine. His conclusion, however, is one I respectfully and wholeheartedly disagree with:

"But as long as people have an opportunity to vote, they should make the most of it. Staying home is not a protest against corruption."

I don't see how voting for a corrupt candidate is.

"The political bosses of Chicago would like nothing more. They will always get the vote out for their candidates."

That's true. And that's why my vote doesn't count.

"They want the independent voter, the person outraged by corruption, to stay home on Election Day."

Yup. But I'm not going to vote for one of their candidates out of spite!

"That ought to be reason enough to vote on Tuesday."

Not for me, but again, this is a primary. We'll see when the general rolls around.

Beachwood Voter Guide!
We still have one - less for the voting booth than for the news consumer, but use it as you will.

South Side Teen Gets Shot, Blows Up
Meet the kid who is quite possibly the next big thing in hip-hop.

Kids Still Collect Baseball Cards
A recap of last weekend's Chicago Sun-Times Sports Collectibles Show.

Teaching At The Oasis
Part Two in our series: Starting a lifetime of catch-up in kindergarten.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Guide our lights.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:01 AM | Permalink

Kids Still Collect Baseball Cards

The 44th annual Chicago Sun-Times Sports Collectibles Convention was held in Rosemont over the weekend and - from the looks of the lineup - what a show it was.

We're just not sure it's annual, because the 45th show is scheduled for November.

At any rate, let's take a look.

1. 41 Jeters.


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2. Bob Gibson and Hank Aaron.

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3. Plates and patches.

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4. Bat and jersey cards.

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5, 6 and 7. At the show in three parts from WHEN318, who says "This card show was amazing lot of really cool stuff."

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 3:01 AM | Permalink

South Side 16-Year-Old Gets Shot, Blows Up

"Before he was arrested last December, Chief Keef, a 16-year-old hip-hop star, was almost completely unknown outside of Chicago's South Side," local freelancer David Drake writes in a long, fascinating piece for Gawker. "He had a song called 'Bang,' which had more than 400,000 views on YouTube, and he had a mixtape, and a dedicated following amongst Chicago high school students. But he was not a rapper who was known outside of the local high schools. His Facebook profile indicated that he worked as a sales rep for 'Selling Dope.' He lived with his grandmother.

"But last year, on Dec. 4, Chief Keef's rap career changed. That afternoon, gunshots were fired from a Blue Pontiac Grand Prix in the Washington Park neighborhood of Chicago, just South of Hyde Park, and when police arrived at the scene, a suspect allegedly pointed a gun at them. The officers fired a shot back. Two young men, including Chief Keef, were apprehended; a third escaped. Rumors swirled that Keef had been killed in a shootout with police; in fact, he'd been arrested and charged with aggravated UUW, or unlawful use of a weapon. He was released sometime around New Year's Day to live at his grandmother's apartment for 30 days under house arrest, followed by another 30 days of home confinement.

"When his house arrest ended, on Jan. 2, WorldStarHipHop - a website that hosts hip-hop-related videos for an estimated two million unique viewers per day - posted a video of a young child in a hysterical fit of excitement. Keef had just been released, and the young boy was celebrating. He bounded around the room, rapping along to 'Aimed At You,' one of Chief Keef's biggest songs. The earliest comments from the site's largely hip-hop-oriented readership were marked by confusion: 'Chief who?' 'Who the fuck is cheif Keef?'

"Keef was an entirely unknown outside of certain corners of Chicago's South Side, but he had been thrust suddenly onto the national stage."

Click through to read the rest. We'll be here when you get back.

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"Chief Keef has risen through the ranks to become Chicago's most polarizing hip-hop figure," Andrew Barber of Fake Shore Drive writes. "He now boasts millions of views on YouTube, and has been granted cosigns from the likes of Soulja Boy, Young L and Lil B."

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"It all started with a music video, 'Bang,' that's essentially identical to the thousands of shaky YouTube videos of aspiring "rappers' that hit the interwebs everyday - the vast, vast majority of which will just as quickly fall into the depths of obscurity from whence they came," Nathan S. writes at Refined Hype.

"But 'Bang' managed to rack up a decent number of views, which prompted a small handful of blogs to post the video commenting on how many views it had, which in turned further racked up the views, which in turn prompted Gawker (that paragon of hip-hop journalism) to write a profile on Keef commenting on how many views it had, which in turn racked up the views further, which in turn prompted me and my brethren to write about how over-hyped Gawker's article was, which in turn racked up the views even further, which in turn legitimized the hype ('Holy shit, almost one million views! You can't make up those numbers, Keef's a legit force!')"

Among the comments, however:

"I heard of Keef through Chicago area PR people and producers. Apparently he had a solid regional buzz prior to the current 'meme' scenario. I can see him remain a fixture at some niche level if he doesn't go to jail, honestly."

And:

"He's been buzzing on a local level from what I heard. I'm actually a fan lol; I heard about him last year."

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"If you don't see a problem with all this, let me quickly elaborate," Beware writes for The Smoking Section.

"South Chicago is a damn war zone. Renowned for having the highest murder rate in the country, this is where young Keef calls home. It's also where he's recruiting legions of adolescent supporters, who seem to range anywhere from eight to 18-years-old and can be seen reciting their new favorite rapper's continual barrage of bullet-blasting lyrics in any one of the grainy videos currently working their way up YouTube's priority list. And, while encouraging these smiling kids to curl up their trigger-fingers for the camera before they're old enough to sit in the front seat of a car is working for the new Chief of Chi-Town, the examples he's setting along the way are flat-out disgusting."

3Hunna.

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"Chicago got that gunplay and Chief Keef aka SOSA is at the forefront of the Chi-city movement," OnSmash writes.

(Mixtape artwork seen on this post would not be acceptable for Chicago's city sticker.)

Aimed At You.

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Chief Keef speaks. Sort of.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:51 AM | Permalink

Teaching At The Oasis: Part Two

Second of a four-part series. Part One is here.

From the day Oasis students first walk in the door, they're already behind and beginning a lifetime game of catch-up.

"[B]y the time high-income children start school, they have spent about 400 hours more than poor children in literacy activities," the New York Times reported last month.

For the 698 students at Oasis in grades K-6, that means parents have spent about a half-hour less per night reading to their children before they enter school than parents of means.

Couple that with the fact that English often is not spoken at home. Then consider that just 25 percent of Oasis's parents have finished high school. Many of these folks spend the day picking strawberries or pruning grape vines. Making dinner and falling into bed just might take precedence over reading to their toddlers at the day's end.

But Oasis is trying to change that.

"One of the things that we encourage the parents to do is read to them," says principal Dora Flores. "And to listen to them read. I don't know how often or what the percentage is. That's not something I can measure. But I do know it happens. And every time we have a parent night or parent conferences, that is one of the things that the teachers emphasize. We're moving away from how is my kid behaving in school and those types of questions to educating the parents to ask the right question. It's not just student behavior, but how can I help my student with the academics."

* * *

After working for an hour in the classroom, the students have a 20-minute recess. One morning on the playground I noticed my wife Judy walking arm-in-arm with Cecilia, one of our fourth-graders. Later Judy tells me that Cecilia was describing her day, which began at 5 a.m.

"What time do you go to sleep?" Judy asked.

"Eight o'clock," Cecilia said, explaining that she needs to rise before dawn because dawn is when her parents need to arrive in the fields. An aunt picks up Cecilia and brings her to her house before bringing her to school at 8:30.

Angel is another student with a fervent desire to learn and improve his skills. We were reading a book about fashions through the decades, including a chapter about women in the 1940s who worked at "men's jobs" while the men were away at war.

Women, it turned out, began to wear pants to work. Angel offered that his mother also wears pants to work. "Oh, and what does she do?" I asked. "Strawberries," he said. I asked whether she picked them, planted them or pruned them. His answer was vague. I couldn't tell if he simply didn't know or didn't want to say. I asked what his father did. "I don't have a father," he said.

* * *

None of this essence and fiber of Oasis's young people is reflected if you look only at standardized test scores.

"I need to look at the data all the time," says Flores. "I need to look at how my kids are doing and how they're scoring. The teachers may tell us that the students are learning, and we can see that the students are learning, but the state tells us what they should be learning and how they're going to be measured."

As a school, Oasis tests in the bottom 10 percent of all schools in California. Conversely, the top 14 schools in a place like Palo Alto- where virtually all of the parents are college-educated - are in the top 10 percent. No surprise there.

But Flores isn't looking for sympathy. Actually, just the opposite.

"For a long time in the district we had the pobrecito syndrome," she says.

"Oh, poor me, you can't do that. Or he can't speak English, that's okay. Or you come from a poor family. We can't expect you to learn or do X, Y, and Z because of your demographics or background. It's all external, and one of the things we tell the teachers is we can't control what goes on outside the four walls of your classroom.

"But we do have to show [students] respect by our teaching. We have to give them the best quality education we can provide. We cannot control whether the parents read at home with them. We cannot control if they go home to a poor trailer. We cannot control the fact they go home to an empty house. We cannot control six families living together in one trailer. Any of those external circumstances we have no control over. Once they get on that bus and they come to us and they walk into that classroom, then we take control."

* * *

In Ramiro Zamora's classroom, control never seems to be an issue. I've seen 10-year-olds who struggle with transitions going from one activity to another. However, when Mr. Z's 17 students return to the room from recess, they obediently line up, walk into the class and pick up right where they left off 20 minutes earlier. It's all business. But don't assume we have little automatons here who do exactly as they are told. These kids still possess spirit, pizzazz, and individuality.

zamora.jpg

One December morning when we entered the room, Mr. Zamora was standing in front of his charges, leading a discussion about 9/11. Apparently the class had read a page in its workbook about airport security, which led to the reasons for increased security, i.e., 9/11.

Every kid had his or her eyes on their teacher and seemingly was interested in what he was saying. José and Victoria consistently had their hands up with questions or comments. Toward the end of the discussion, Victoria even stated that she remembered when the planes hit.

"How could you remember that?" asked Zamora. "You weren't even born yet."

Some kids might be embarrassed for their exaggeration or embellishment, but Victoria is gutsy and was undaunted. Her teacher let her off the hook by suggesting that maybe she had seen video of the attacks.

* * *

When the kids hear that we're from Chicago, they have no idea where that is.

If we ask, "What state do you live in?" some even say, "Thermal."

Their world knowledge is painfully limited, but they're not afraid of asking questions and making mistakes that lead to enlightenment.

While the raw test scores for the school are low, the state does account for what's known as adequate yearly progress. For instance, in 2008 just 13.2 percent of Oasis's students tested as "proficient" in language arts. In 2011 that number jumped to 29.4. In mathematics where language imposes fewer limits, more than half of Oasis students test proficient.

However, there is a cost for testing. Language and math are the focus while music, art, drama and even science and social studies take a back seat or are nonexistent.

"We have to put an end to our obsession with testing, which was supposed to be a way of assessing reform but is now treated as actual reform," Arianna Huffington writes in Third World America. "It's as if the powers-that-be all decided that a check-up was as good as a cure. The focus on testing reduces teachers to drill sergeants and effectively eliminates from the school schedule anything not likely to appear on a standardized test - things such as art, music, and class discussions."

We'll take a closer look at the effects of testing and the broader educational experience when we return to Oasis Elementary next week.

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Comments welcome.

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1. From Cris Rogers:

Enjoyed reading this article, Roger.

I remember when I went for my first time and Judy introduced me and at the time I had just moved from Canada. We discussed where that was, and in fact Mr. Zamora had a projector set up so we were able to google map to where my house was in Edmonton . . . pretty amazing. But, I guess my main point is that in talking about the geography and some tidbits about Canada, I realized how very little the kids really knew or understood about other countries . . . even one that borders the U.S.

Too bad more time can't be spent on learning more about the bigger picture of the world we live in, outside of California and the U.S. Sometimes those educational experiences can really motivate some kids to reach beyond.

2. From Sally Stein:

Great article, Roger. Just thought it would interest you to hear that we have a friend with a great dog. She brings the dog to a classroom reading hour, and the dog sits up looking like she is listening alertly as the children read to HER. It evidentally is a real motivator for the kids.

And keep up the good work, both of you. You are making a difference, and that is what it is all about.

3. From Eric Davis:

Thank you for your four-part series on Oasis. Your anecdote featuring Cecilia resonated with me. We have several refugee students enrolled at Global Citizenship Experience High School in Chicago. Lele, one of our most promising, goes after learning opportunities with a fervor we WISH all students could demonstrate. But his English language skills are still a work in progress. Standardized Tests present the worst picture of him - and an inaccurate one too. If you want to really know Lele, please view his digital portfolio - gcevoices.com/ln - and this is another trouble. Our school features digital portfolios so that students like Lele, or Oasis' Cecilia, and all unique individuals for that matter, have an opportunity to showcase their strengths, whether or not they can pronounce the "r" in "run" or tolerate the vocabulary in standardized test reading comprehension sections. But all schools cannot afford this option. So we must find other ways to help our students share their voices, tell their stories, demonstrate their knowledge, and showcase their abilities.

If we don't, then we fail our students in more than just the fourth-, eighth- or twelfth-grade. We fail them in life because we deny them pathways to pursue their potential.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:31 AM | Permalink

March 19, 2012

The [Monday] Papers

"Mitt Romney's vaunted organization nearly failed him in Illinois, where he only remained eligible for delegates on the ballot after a negotiated truce between his campaign and Rick Santorum's people," Politico reports.

"The problems stem from the campaign relying on Illinois state Treasurer Dan Rutherford. He struggled to acquire enough signatures to qualify for Romney's delegates and then had the statement of candidacy notarized out of state, which the Santorum campaign challenged despite having its own statement of candidacy notarized in Iowa."

Gee, you mean this Dan Rutherford?

"Had Santorum's campaign been successful with its challenge to Romney, the error could have led to disqualifying Romney from winning any of the state's delegates."

That's funny, in January, Sneed "reported" that "State Treasurer Dan Rutherford, who is Romney's Illinois campaign chairman, tells Sneed he's wrapped up Romney's election petitions in a good luck charm. 'I bound them in the leather laces of my old work boots,' said Rutherford."

See also:
* Rutherford Slammed For Not Making Any Sense Whatsoever
* Rutherford Raises Political Profile Amid Missteps

Tricky Rick
"GOP presidential challenger Rick Santorum faced three tough questions from high school students Friday afternoon on his education, health care and economic policies," the Sun-Times reported.

"The questions he faced afterward from reporters at an Italian restaurant in suburban Chicago about the year he lived in Illinois seemed almost gentle by comparison."

Hey, Abdon Pallasch said it, not me!

Click through to see what they asked - and how Santorum sort of attempted to somehow try to answer.

The Smart Patrick
"In his bid for a seat on the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, Patrick Daley Thompson is endorsed by House Speaker Michael Madigan, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, City Council Finance Chairman Edward Burke, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and County Board Finance Committee Chairman John Daley - one of Thompson's uncles," the Tribune reports.

They must really be convinced the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District - the people who clean poop out of our water - needs Patrick Daley Thompson's expertise. Badly!

I'd just like to see any one of them asked which of Thompson's position on area sewage they like best.

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"It's ironic," Rahm said in a speech last fall. "I figured the one thing Republicans were really good at was inheriting things."

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Then he dined with Madigan, Burke and the Daleys. Preckwinkle couldn't make it because she was busy endorsing Joe and Toni Berrios.

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Speaking of Toni, an oldie but goodie:

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"Preckwinkle is also exerting her influence in the race to represent the 39th state house district, where incumbent Toni Berrios - daughter of Joe Berrios, the county assessor and Democratic Party chairman - is defending her seat against Will Guzzardi, a former journalist trying to inherit the mantle of north-side reformer," the Reader reports.

"Toni Berrios didn't respond to our calls. But Preckwinkle - another self-proclaimed reformer - says she's backing Toni Berrios because she's committed to helping women in politics."

Right. That sounds about as truthful as Preckwinkle's explanation in 2010 that she backed Joe Berrios for county assessor over Forrest Claypool because Joe was committed to helping minorities in politics.

"I will acknowledge that some of the people I'm supporting, I'm doing so because my friends have asked me to," Preckwinkle told the Reader.

After all, what are friends for?

See also: Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios And Daughter Face Election Challenges.

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Rahm doesn't want to say it too loudly - or out loud at all - but he too supports the Berrios clan. After all, they're reformers too!

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Joe Berrios is also the chairman of the Cook County Democrats. Michael Madigan is the chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party. Go Democrats!

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See also: Dems: Vote For Accused Bribe-Taker

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"Illinois' powerful House speaker and Democratic Party chairman will not say whether he thinks a lawmaker charged with bribery should step down just days before the election," the Tribune reports.

"'It's all under review,' spokesman Steve Brown said. He declined to elaborate when asked what that meant and said he didn't know whether Madigan would reach any conclusions before voters go to the polls."

We'll stand by!

How Michael Madigan Stymied Post-Blago Reform
For starters, he never called a campaign finance bill that a majority of the General Assembly supported.

Dorothy Brown's Bogus Outrage
E-mails and voice-mail message prove her wrong about e-filing pledge plan.

Chicago Cop Terminates First Amendment
"Fuck News Affairs!"

Robin Ventura's Quiet Storm
Does it translate to winning baseball?

Blackhawks' Head Games
Shrouding a concussion in mystery.

The Djinnis of Harlem Avenue
Rosebuds sway in a counterfeit breeze.

The Weekend in Chicago Rock
They played at a venue near you. And in Joliet.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Ballot busting.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:21 AM | Permalink

Dorothy Brown Outraged By E-Filing Pledge She Pretends She Didn't Know About

Fox Chicago, the Chicago Tribune and others attended a press conference [Friday] in Daley Plaza called by a nonpartisan group of software designers and engineers. They were there to ask candidates for Clerk of the Court of Cook County, Dorothy Brown and Ricardo Munoz, to pledge to open up court data to the public and to institute e-filing of court cases.

Candidate Munoz attended, and signed the pledge, but Dorothy Brown's press rep told at least some media who inquired Friday morning about her attendance that Brown was outraged that it was being held without her knowledge and without her being invited.

In response, event organizer Paul Baker, CEO of Webitects, showed five e-mails between him and Brown campaign leadership dating back to March 6 and played a voicemail he received yesterday from Brown's PR Director asking for more details about the event.

Derek Eder, co-founder of Open City spoke about the work they have done using open data from the city (data.cityofchicago.org), including:

* Chicago Lobbyists, a web app that displays, in easy to understand ways, all data related to lobbying that the City of Chicago has made available.

* Clear Streets, which uses locational positions of plows which appear on the City's Plow Tracker website (which shows where snow plows are at any given time) and displays which streets have been plowed and when.

* Vacant Building Finder, which plots vacant and abandoned buildings as reported through the city's 311 system, based on data released by the city.

"Recent data releases by the City and County have made all of this possible," said Eder. "Chicago is leading the country in this area. We've even had conversations with the Ethics Commission in San Francisco about using a Chicago Lobbyists-like format for displaying their lobbying data."

Rey Lopez-Calderon of Common Cause said, "Public data should be made public. Free and fair elections require transparency in government and we can't have real transparency without government data being open, available, and subject to the scrutiny of the media, the public, and civically-minded software engineers like those here today. I'm especially happy to see 'geeks' getting involved in these issues."

Forest Gregg, a sociology researcher, provided an example from the academic world. "Last year I was talking to an emeritus Professor of Law who was asked to make a study of what skills make a successful trial lawyer. He's much smarter than I am, but he turned down the project because he did not have the right kind of data: the kind of data the Clerk can release.

"For any single case it's probably impossible to say that that the jury made their decision because of a lawyer and not one of the hundreds of the factors at play. To try to get a measure of the effect of lawyer, you need a lot of cases.

"The Cook County Circuit Court is one of the largest court systems in the world. It has enough cases. This is the right kind of data to let us begin to figure what skills are really important in the courtroom so we can teach them in the classroom. Please, let us do this work."

During questioning, Baker described some of the lesser known benefits of e-filing. "A more efficient court system means that people who have been charged with crimes but cannot raise bail will spend less time in County Jail, less time away from their families and supportive social networks, and are less likely to return to jail or prison. Fewer prisoners in County Jail saves taxpayers money."

He also described data that the Court is releasing - just not to the public. "The County Clerk is already selling data to private firms who in turn resell it to lawyers, real estate firms, and others who may not have the public interest in mind.

"Foreclosure filing data, for instance, could help residents and activist organizations support the recent city and county abandoned building ordinances and put together responses to the housing crisis which is rapidly degrading quality of life and lowering property values in Chicago and the municipalities in the County. This is particularly important in hard hit areas like Chicago's South and West sides."

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See also:

* Electronic Filing Lags In Cook County Court Cases

* Pucinski, Brown Blame Each Other For Circuit Court Clerk Mess

* Painting The Picture Of An Efficient Operation

* Dorothy Brown Well-Funded In Challenge From Ald. Ricardo Munoz

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:06 AM | Permalink

SportsMonday: Blackhawks Playing Head Games

We pause for a moment in the midst of wall-to-wall coverage off the NCAA tournament to point out that the Blackhawks are now 8-4-1 in their last 13 games. That would be a strong stretch in any circumstances but it is especially so because the team has played that baker's dozen without captain Jonathan Toews. And before we take a closer look at that streak, let's take a closer look at Toews' injury.

Toews has been out for about a month now with what the NBC Sports Network broadcast last night of the Hawks' 5-2 victory over the Capitals still described as an "upper body injury." One of the broadcasters noted that the Hawks still describe their young star's injury that way.

Everyone else has now gone ahead and reported that Toews has a concussion.

What is the matter with you, Blackhawks? If he has a concussion, say he has a concussion.

The NHL switched from specific injury reports to the ridiculous "upper body" or "lower body" reports in 2008 because they worried barbaric opposing players essentially were attacking the parts of players' bodies they knew had been hurt.

Now it feels as though they won't say "concussion" in some utterly misguided effort to mitigate the league's problems with head injuries.

Guys, you need to say it if you are going to do something about it, and the Hawks and the National Hockey League desperately need to confront their massive problem with concussions (much bigger than the NFL's) in some sort of dramatic way.

Toews is one of a large group of the NHL's best players who have been forced out of action for extended periods of time the past few years by head injuries. On Sunday the Capitals were without star defenseman Nicklas Backstrom.

Other awesome players who have missed extended periods of ice time or have been shut down for the season include reigning Rookie of the Year Jeff Skinner (Carolina), Milan MIchalek (Ottawa), Claude Giroux (Philadelphia) and favorite Blackhawks foil Chris Pronger (Philadelphia).

Then, of course, there is Sid Crosby, who has missed almost a year's worth of action after he took a shot to the head in the middle of the 2010-11 season that probably caused a concussion, didn't sit out long enough, and then took another shot to the head. The Penguins' Crosby has recently returned to action and has looked good but the prognosis for the best player in the league is questionable at best.

Clearly, a vast array of football players have taken too many shots to the head. But the NFL certainly hasn't seen a cavalcade of stars forced to the sideline like the NHL has. With the size and speed of modern hockey players, the problem will be tough to solve. But it is clear the first step is to acknowledge that there is a problem - with Toews in particular.

Of course, when you do that, you also have to answer tough questions about how the club didn't figure out a way to get Toews where he needed to go after the injury.

The club has said Toews was not hurt in a one-car auto accident he suffered after he was sidelined by his head injury but A) who knows if that is really true at this point and B) even if he wasn't hurt, the young star taking to the road in the driver's seat was a terribly unnecessary risk for Toews and for other drivers.

* * *

As for the current state of the Hawks, the main thing is that Patrick Kane has raised his game in this latest stretch and he scored a magnificent goal to essentially put Sunday evening's comprehensive victory over the Capitals out of reach.

Kane has now scored six goals in the last 10 games and has quieted those who wondered if it might make the most sense for the Hawks to deal him before he starts making the huge dollars that he almost certainly will command when his current contract expires in 2015.

Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook have also re-asserted themselves as perhaps the best defensive pairing in the league. Goalie Corey Crawford actually didn't play particularly well on Sunday, but he didn't have to because the Hawk defense did such a good job of limiting scoring chances in front of him.

Finally, the Hawks have had key young players step up, led by power forward Andy Shaw. Shaw knocked in a couple goals against Washington and he has given the Hawks both skill and physicality since he was called up (seemingly for good) from the Rockford Ice Hogs at the beginning of the calendar year.

*

Blackhawks-Capitals Highlights:

*

Coach Q Says Shaw's Game Has "Sandpaper":

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Blackhawks Proud Of Defensive Effort:

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Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:15 AM | Permalink

Chicago Police Terminate Local TV's First Amendment Rights

"In the course of covering a news story about a child who was killed in a shooting Saturday night, a tense and sometimes hostile situation broke out between Chicago police and a collection of journalists outside the hospital where the little girl was taken," WGN-TV reports.

"Officers say they were called to the scene by hospital security concerned about trespassers. As the situation escalated, two media members, including WGNTV's Dan Ponce, ended up in handcuffs. The other media member detained was a channel 5 photographer."

And here it is:


*

Ponce and the photographer were released after 10 minutes.

*

From the Chicago police:

"The Chicago Police Department did not charge anyone with criminal trespass in connection with today's incident, which involved the unfortunate and senseless loss of a young child. We removed two individuals from the hospital at the request of hospital security guards, who asserted that the individuals had tried to go past them into secure and private areas of the hospital. The security guards declined to press charges and the individuals were released. Our members were attempting to protect and respect both the grieving family members of the child, and the memory of the child herself during a very stressful time for all parties involved. As always, we will carefully review the allegations in the event further action is warranted."

*

From WGN-TV news director Greg Caputo:

"The WGN reporter and photographer were at all times conducting themselves professionally and properly. They did not enter the hospital grounds and they did nothing to antagonize any hospital security or Chicago Police."

*

From NBC Chicago's Christian Farr:

"I went over to the hopsital with community activist Andrew Holmes and went up to the front door of the hospital. Family members were there and they were obviously upset. I stared right at security guards who stared right at me and never said anything to me. I never went into the hospital."

*

From the Chicago Headline Club:

"The Chicago Headline Club is deeply troubled by the action taken this weekend by Chicago police against two TV news staff.

"While covering public reaction to a yet another sad loss of life from violence, they were handcuffed and briefly taken into custody near a Chicago hospital. They deny claims from hospital staff that they had attempted to enter hospital property and were removed by police when they were at a distance from the facility.

"This careless disregard for reporters' rights is a violation of our deeply engrained concepts of freedoms, beginning with the First Amendment. Yet is also a troubling message to all about the lack of respect for all of our freedoms from those charged with upholding our laws.

"Whether being witness at a troubling event such as this or any event important to the public, it's the responsibility of journalists to see and record what matters so that we can be an informed society. Journalists are not immune from concerns about public security and safety and abide by protections for all. But that was not the issue here.

"Everyday journalists are involved in covering events where some would simply prefer we are not on hand. That, however, is not possible thanks to our laws.

"In a recent case involving a photographer arrested while covering a public event, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press wrote:

The fact that a photographer, or any journalist, can be arrested and charged with a felony simply for being present to report on unarguably newsworthy events is beyond troubling: it's chilling.

"We are similarly troubled by what happened here and look forward to discussions with Chicago Police officials to avoid any future misapplications of their law enforcement powers."

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:06 AM | Permalink

The Weekend in Chicago Rock

You shoulda been there.

1. Nokies! at the Double Door on Sunday night.


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2. Smash Potater at Mojoes in Joliet on Sunday night.

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3. The Paulina Hollers at The Whistler on Sunday night.

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4. Andrew Jackson Jihad at Subterranean on Sunday night.

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5. Calvin Harris at the Congress on Saturday night.

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6. Paul Oakenfold at The Mid on Saturday night.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:29 AM | Permalink

March 18, 2012

Chicagoetry: Djinns of Catalina

Djinns of Catalina

March has been usurped by May
in this season of strange days.
The heat mirages, djinnis of oil,
already shimmer up Harlem Avenue
and the squalls along the eastern horizon
conjure a Catalina off the Third Coast:
holographs of Hearst and Chaplin
yachting with Rosetta and Loretta Martin,
Old Man Wrigley's battery ditching practice
to swim with invisible sharks.

Outside the women come and go
talking of the marriage that is in woe.

Joggers, bladers, boarders and bleeders
make of the shoreline a Venice Beach
and the illusion that is horizon
renders a dream of a faux Catalina.
The Djinnis of Harlem Avenue
portend a summer of brusque extremes.
The very sky betrays us, early rosebuds sway
blithely in the counterfeit breeze.

The world is at the mercy of a ruined sky,
the whirl of joke mirages is a stifled cry.
Chaplin jumps a shark for his Sweet Loretta,
the djinnis get to lark because they're already dead.

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J.J. Tindall is the Beachwood's poet-in-residence. He welcomes your comments. Chicagoetry is an exclusive Beachwood collection-in-progress.

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More Tindall:

* Chicagoetry: The Book

* Ready To Rock: The Music

* Kindled Tindall: The Novel

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:21 AM | Permalink

March 17, 2012

How Michael Madigan Stymied Post-Blago Reform

In the wake of the George Ryan scandals, Rod Blagojevich campaigned - improbably - as a reformer who would finally bring change to the state's infamous political culture. Instead, he set out to exploit it from day one, hardly deterred an inch from the fate that befell his predecessor.

Following Blagojevich's impeachment and removal from office, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn improbably became governor. This time, it seemed, a real reformer had accidentally risen to the state's top office and reform might actually be at hand.

It wasn't.

In his 2010 book Challenging The Culture Of Corruption, former federal prosecutor Patrick Collins described his efforts as the chair of the Quinn-created Illinois Reform Commission to shed some light on why not - and to continue advocating for measures he thinks most important for the state to take.

With Blagojevich entering prison last week, now is a good time to at least briefly reflect on the largely failed efforts of the reform commission and consider where we are now.

*

"Within days of the [Illinois Reform Commission's] formation, we received a not-so-subtle message about the type of reception that awaited us in Springfield," Collins wrote. "Unbeknownst to me, one of our commission members received an unexpected call from a top aide to Speaker Michael Madigan. He asked the member to meet for coffee to discuss 'ideas for ethics reform,' and the member agreed to meet.

"However, instead of any discussion or exchange of substantive ideas on ethics reform, the aide essentially proposed that the IRC cut a deal with the legislature up front in order to avoid, as the aide put it, a direct 'confrontation' with the legislative leadership."

Collins and the commission refused to cut any such deal but quickly learned that the biggest obstacle to reform on the state level was the chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party - and all those who enable. him.

*

"[D]uring our IRC hearings on government transparency, Illinois State Comptroller Dan Hynes testified about his frustration with the legislative process. In his brief tutorial on How Laws Are Made 101, Hynes talked about the powerful function of the House Rules Committee, which serves as the gate-keeping mechanism for a bill on its way to a vote on the floor.

"He said, 'The Rules Committee is where good bills go to die.'

"That is precisely what happened to House Bill 24, a solid piece of campaign finance legislation that imposed meaningful contribution limits on all players. The key provisions of HB 24 were supported by reform groups and were, in fact, quite similar in many respects to the campaign finance bill advanced by the IRC.

"By the end of the legislative session, HB 24 had garnered a substantial bipartisan support to the point where over 50% of the entire House supported the measure.

"In a fairly dramatic development by Springfield standards, Democratic Representative Julie Hamos, in an end-of-session speech in support of HB 24, implored her Democratic colleagues not to 'follow along like lemmings' of her party leadership's opposition to the bill.

"Her bold action did not carry the day.

"Even though HB 24 had enough support to pass the full House if called to a vote on the floor, the bill never got out of the Rules Committee and therefore could not be voted on by the full House or Senate. That's just wrong."

The bill never got out of the rules committee because the chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party wouldn't let it.

*

"In my investigations, campaign contributions were, almost always, the grease that kept the corruption machine churning. How so?

"Over the years of my investigating public corruption, virtually every major investigation had a campaign finance problem. In Operation Safe Road, it started with the selling of licenses for bribes that were then funneled to George Ryan's campaign fund and graduated to the steering of leases, contracts, and even low-digit vanity license plates to large campaign contributors.

"In a number of other investigations, including the City of Chicago's Hired Truck investigation and the Sheriff's Office case, department officials traded jobs and contracts for campaign contributions to favored politicians.

"Most recently, the allegations that former Governor Blagojevich considered trading the Obama Senate seat for campaign contributions or other benefits took pay-to-play politics in Illinois to a new low."

The CHANGE Illinois! coalition did win the state's first limits on campaign contributions despite the opposition of the chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party, though the legislation that made it through the General Assembly did so without those limits being extended to legislative leaders and political parties in general elections.

Guess who is both a legislative and party leader known for showering money upon favored members and candidates?

(Earlier this week, a federal judge tossed out the limits on PACs - in a case brought by a pro-choice group.

(CLARIFICATION FROM AN EXPERT: "Judge Aspen's ruling applies only to groups that are dedicated to independent expenditures - PACs that say up front that they will not give directly to candidates, or actively coordinate expenditures with
candidates. Limits are still in effect on most PACs.")

*

In his book, Collins cites four "game-changing" reforms:

Passing True Campaign Finance Reform to eliminate the "pay-to-play" nature of politics by losing loopholes that give preferential treatment to legislative leaders and party bosses, by experimenting with public financing of judicial campaigns, and by pursuing ways to make media advertising less costly to candidates.

Creating a Fair and Competitive Election Process to improve our democracy by dramatically altering the way we draw our legislative districts.

Enhancing Corruption-Fighting Tools to allow state law enforcement officers the same tools that federal agents utilize successfully to expose wrongdoing by public officials.

Improving Voter Access and Participation to encourage enhanced citizen participation in elections and governance.

Perhaps the biggest game-changer of all, though, would be the dethroning of Michael Madigan. Otherwise, it doesn't appear that these or any other measures stand a chance.

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See also:
* Michael Madigan Makes A Mockery Of The Judiciary: Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4.

* Madigan Mum On The Arrest Of His Favorite Candidate: Matter "Under Review"

* Madigan's Shenanigans: Still Stooping To Stealing Lawn Signs

* The Madigan Rules: A Personal Code Of Conduct

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:21 PM | Permalink

The Weekend Desk Report

The Weekend Desk: Getting up your nose and into your urine since 2006.

Market Update
With Friends performing like this, it might be time to invest in Enemies.

At The Deadline
We know the official date has passed, but in the interest of fairness is it too late to arrange a prisoner exchange?

Cheer Up, Blago
Seriously, it's not the worst time to get out of Illinois.

March Madness
Because your bracket's probably been destroyed by now, we'll offer some new odds. How about 200-1 on another unlikely comeback? After all, you just have to get the right people on your side.

Arch Badness
Really, he should be apologizing to the students' parents as their kids apparently don't know what a commonwealth is.

Farce Adness
Finally, we've got a few sponsorship ideas here. How about the Bud Light Vomit Stains? Or HBO CTA Pony?

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The Weekend Desk Tip Line: Ponyriffic.

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The Sound Opinions Weekend Report: "English raconteur and troubadour Nick Lowe talks about his Pub Rock days and performs songs from his new album This Old Magic. Plus, after making all those headlines, Sinead O'Connor is back to making music.

The CAN TV Weekend Report: CAN TV brings you local, relevant issues from Chicago's neighborhoods and communities. See what's happening around the city in education, the arts, government, cultural events, social services and community activities.

Perspectivas Latinas: Fiestas at Old San Juan

3-12-Fiestas.jpg

Jorge Emmanuelli Nater, musical director of the Chicago Afro-PuertoRican Ensemble, demonstrates drumming as a preview of the Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center's annual concert.

Saturday, March 17 at 7:30 p.m. on CAN TV21
30 min

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Flamenco Connections

3-12-Flamenco.jpg

Saraswathi Ranganathan joins other Chicago musicians to explore the parallels and common origins of Indian/Pakistani musical traditions and Flamenco.

Sunday, March 18 at 9 a.m. on CAN TV21
1 hr 30 min

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Illinois Sealing Bill Town Hall

3-12-HB5723.jpg

State Rep. La Shawn Ford (8th District) participates in a town hall meeting about HB5723, proposed legislation that would grant judges the authority to seal certain felony convictions, making it easier for those with a criminal record to find a job.

Sunday, March 18 at 10:30 a.m. on CAN TV21
1 hr 30 min

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LAS Dean's Lecture: "Isn't It Really Just About the Words?"

3-12-LASDeansLecture.jpg

Professor and author Dr. Kathy Blake Yancey discusses how visual rhetoric, from petroglyphs to the Internet, interacted with written means of expression throughout history.

Sunday, March 18 at 12 p.m. on CAN TV21
1 hr 30 min

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Rally and March to Defend Civil Liberties

3-12-Rally.jpg

Arab and Muslim organizations lead a demonstration against measures that they say repress freedom of speech and unfairly target minority communities.

Sunday, March 18 at 3:30 p.m. on CAN TV21
1 hr 30 min

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Health Care Demystified: HIPAA

3-12-HIPAA.jpg

Tom Dwyer gives an overview of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and explains its protections of the privacy and security of patients' data.

Sunday, March 18 at 5 p.m. on CAN TV21
1 hr


Posted by Natasha Julius at 9:43 AM | Permalink

March 16, 2012

The [Friday] Papers

"After a goodbye tour that stretched from Chicago's Ravenswood Manor neighborhood to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Rod Blagojevich turned, waved and disappeared Thursday behind a darkened doorway of a federal prison," Annie Sweeney writes for the Tribune.

"Inside Federal Correctional Institution-Englewood, change came in an instant as Blagojevich left his media entourage and the hovering helicopters behind to start an afternoon intake that involved a strip search and mental evaluation."

Hey, Englewood, this one's on us.

*

Our very own Scott Buckner wonders how prison guards performed a cavity search on someone who's 100% asshole.

*

"Ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was jovial and seemed cheerful when he got on a flight Thursday to Colorado, but appeared decidedly more somber once he arrived in the state where he'll serve his federal prison sentence for corruption, fellow airline passengers said," AP reports.

"[F]light attendants did not give him extra attention but were trying to get accompanying journalists to keep the noise down."

*

"Suddenly, the flight attendant, a small wiry woman, came rushing down the aisle and laid into us about the no-filming rule," a Denver Post correspondent reports.

"'Don't make me come back here again!' she said, treating us like middle school students. 'Do we understand each other?'"

*

Blago to Kids: Stay Out of Politics.

*

"Sources tell CBS 2 that Blagojevich was high-fiving other inmates at dinner Thursday night."

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NBC Chicago: 5,109 Days To Go.

*

Conjugal visits are not allowed at Englewood.

*

"While one ex-governor heads off to federal prison, another is still there, pinning his hopes for an early release on a long-shot before the U.S. Supreme Court.

"As WBBM Newsradio's Regine Schlesinger reports, former Gov. George Ryan remains in prison in Terre Haute, Ind. He has served 4 1/2 years of the 6 1/2 year sentence that was handed down for his corruption conviction in 2006, and is due for release on July 4 of next year."

*

"And so it goes in the great state of Illinois, once famous for gangsters, the bad guy Al Capone," Walter Jacobson kvetches. "Then famous for the good guys, Michael Jordan and the Bulls.

"Now again famous for bad guys - the corrupt politicians elected to public office.

"And whose fault is it? The place to look for that is in a mirror."

*

"Maybe Judge Zagel should have found the media guilty of enabling the former governor, and sentenced us to 14 years of zero coverage of him," says Bob Sirott.

Local Hero
"For eight nervous months, while her blood pressure rose and her nails thinned, Illinois hospital executive Pamela Davis wore a tiny FBI recording device under her shirt.

"She recorded conversations starting in 2003 to document a shakedown scheme that involved hospitals and a state board, kicking off an investigation that eventually reached - and brought down - the state's highest elected official," AP reports.

"In a phone interview Wednesday, Davis recalled passing her tapes to FBI agents at department store makeup counters - rendezvous sites that she chose to feel a small sense of control and 'have a moment I could chuckle at,' she said.

"Davis said she's proud of her role in the FBI's Operation Board Games investigation, despite the toll it took on her health and personal life."

Staff Chaff
"Rod Blagojevich's former chief of staff is scheduled to learn his fate Friday," ABC 7 reports.

"John Harris was convicted in the same corruption scandal that sent Blagojevich to prison."

Harris was the guy Daley sent.

The Real Englewood
"Since mid-January, Chicago police have flooded the blocks that are the site of much of the gang and drug activity plaguing the Englewood area," the Tribune reports. "The move is part of a tactical 'surge' in law enforcement that is also being employed in crime-heavy neighborhoods on the city's West Side.

"Similar efforts have been tried before in the Englewood area, which for decades has been a national emblem of urban despair as it struggles with joblessness, underperforming schools and other factors that contribute to neighborhood crime.

"In the early 2000s, Project Safe Neighborhoods teamed local police with federal prosecutors and helped bring down murders and other violent crimes in Englewood by targeting convicted felons more likely to commit gun-related crimes.

"But none of the efforts has proved a lasting solution. Last year, while homicides fell slightly in Chicago overall from 2010, homicides in the Englewood area soared 50 percent."

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Conjugal.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:38 AM | Permalink

The Week in Chicago Rock

You shoulda been there.

1. Bob Forrest at Harper College on Wednesday night.


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2. Minor Wits at Subterranean on Sunday night.

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3. Astronautalis at Schubas on Sunday night.

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Earlier this month, uploaded this week:

4. Soul Rebels Brass Band at Park West on March 2.

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5. Alabama Shakes at Lincoln Hall on March 9.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:10 AM | Permalink

March 15, 2012

The [Thursday] Papers

"The young Obama played the reformer, yes, but that was only a show for an adoring media," John Kass writes this morning. "Obama would never dare challenge the alphas of Illinois. I remember being in the editorial board room at the Tribune Tower when Obama revealed this important and always overlooked aspect of his character.

"'I think I have done a good job in rising politically in this environment without being entangled in some of the traditional problems of Chicago politics,' Obama told me at the onset of his presidential campaign.

"'I know there are those like John Kass who would like me to decry Chicago politics more frequently, and I'll leave that to his editorial commentary,' Obama said, gifting me with that jewel.

"Thanks, Mr. President. My commentary?

"Obama walked quietly along the Chicago Way and became president.

"And Blagojevich didn't, and now he's gone."

*

The same Democrats always demanding every Republican decry every stupid thing Rush Limbaugh says never even requested that Obama decry Chicago's corrupt political culture and the gruesome creatures it produces. How could he? Those are his friends.

Tweeting Blago
My favorite was my first:

Blago to stand on sidewalk outside home at 5 p.m. today holding a boom box over his head that's playing all the tapes.

You can read the rest @BeachwoodReport.

Is Blago Psycho?
The research is in!

Blagold
We also commissioned a team of sketch artists to draw up what Blago will look like when he's finally released back into the general population. Here's what they came up with.

Next Text
"A group of scientists led by researchers from the University of Rochester and North Carolina State University have for the first time sent a message using a beam of neutrinos - nearly massless particles that travel at almost the speed of light. The message was sent through 240 meters of stone and said simply, 'Neutrino,'" the University of Rochester reports.

"'Using neutrinos, it would be possible to communicate between any two points on Earth without using satellites or cables,' said Dan Stancil, professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State and lead author of a paper describing the research. 'Neutrino communication systems would be much more complicated than today's systems, but may have important strategic uses."

So instead of Twitter we would Neuter.

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Hey, they can't all be gold.

*

The test was done at our very own Fermilab.

Waste Not, Want Not
"With millions of starving people all over the world, it may be hard to believe how much food goes to waste each and every day," Scripps Howard reports. "New numbers out show that 30 to 50 percent of food produced in the world goes uneaten and ends up in landfills.

"Experts at the Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit in Chicago this week unveiled their findings about how much food goes to waste all over the world. For example, the average American throws out about 33 pounds of food each month, or about $40, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. That equals to about 400 pounds of food per year.

"Estimates from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency say about 33 million tons of food ends up in landfills and incinerators."

Marshall Law
Meet the newest Chicago Bear.

Ballot Box
Early voting has started but often voting is still a few days away.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Pouchy.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:07 AM | Permalink

Is Rod Blagojevich A Psychopath? Not Quite!

Psychopaths have been in the news a lot lately - namely the prevalence of them on Wall Street and in the corridors of power.

Our favorite (suspected) psychopath is Rod Blagojevich, and with him off to prison this morning we are announcing the results of testing done by Beachwood Labs using the Psychopath Checklist developed by Dr. Robert Hare of the University of British Columbia, one of the world's most foremost experts on psychopaths. Let's take a look.

For each characteristic that is listed, the subject is given a score: 0 for "no," 1 for "somewhat," and 2 for "definitely does apply."

1. GLIB and SUPERFICIAL CHARM: The tendency to be smooth, engaging, charming, slick, and verbally facile. Psychopathic charm is not in the least shy, self-conscious, or afraid to say anything. A psychopath never gets tongue-tied. They have freed themselves from the social conventions about taking turns in talking, for example.

"Rod Blagojevich's long-winded testimony in his corruption retrial drew harsh criticism from a federal judge Wednesday, who took the unusual step of ordering the defense to end their examination of the former Illinois governor without delay," Reuters reported.

"'I think it would be better for the administration of justice if you got your client to stick to the point of the question,' U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel told Blagojevich's lawyer, Aaron Goldstein, outside the presence of the jury. 'There are some things now that have been repeated for the 15th and 16th time. If the jury doesn't get what his position is by now, we may as well give up all hope.'"

Points: 2

2. GRANDIOSE SELF-WORTH: A grossly inflated view of one's abilities and self-worth, self-assured, opinionated, cocky, a braggart. Psychopaths are arrogant people who believe they are superior human beings.

"He has compared himself to Gandhi and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr," the Sun-Times reported. "He has drawn parallels between himself and Winston Churchill as well as Abraham Lincoln.

"But during his fifth day on the witness stand, even Rod Blagojevich managed to startle observers with a new one:

"If he had appointed himself to the U.S. Senate seat in 2008, he would have traveled to Afghanistan to try to hunt down one Osama bin Laden."

Points: 2

3. NEED FOR STIMULATION or PRONENESS TO BOREDOM: An excessive need for novel, thrilling, and exciting stimulation; taking chances and doing things that are risky. Psychopaths often have a low self-discipline in carrying tasks through to completion because they get bored easily. They fail to work at the same job for any length of time, for example, or to finish tasks that they consider dull or routine.

"One former colleague in the Illinois House called him shortly before he left [for Yugoslavia with the Rev. Jesse Jackson] to wish him good luck. He told her he was 'really happy. It was getting boring here in Washington, just like Springfield,'" Chicago magazine reported.

Points: 2

4. PATHOLOGICAL LYING: Can be moderate or high; in moderate form, they will be shrewd, crafty, cunning, sly, and clever; in extreme form, they will be deceptive, deceitful, underhanded, unscrupulous, manipulative, and dishonest.

"By 2004, his second year in office, Blagojevich had inadvertently introduced yet another new phrase into the lexicon of Illinois politics: 'Memoranda of Understanding,' or 'MOA,'" Illinois Issues reported.

"These were documents that the legislature forced Blagojevich to sign in exchange for ending the budget stalemate that year - essentially written promises to carry out what he'd agreed to do during the budget negotiations. They were the kinds of agreements that used to happen with a handshake, but lawmakers in both parties had concluded by that point that Blagojevich had systematically lied to them during the previous years' negotiations. He had to sign 54 MOAs that year."

Points: 2

5. CONNING AND MANIPULATIVENESS: The use of deceit and deception to cheat, con, or defraud others for personal gain; distinguished from Item #4 in the degree to which exploitation and callous ruthlessness is present, as reflected in a lack of concern for the feelings and suffering of one's victims.

"Former Illinois Governor Rod R. Blagojevich was sentenced today to 14 years in federal prison following his conviction at trials in 2010 and 2011 on 18 felony counts of corruption during his tenure as governor, including his effort in 2008 to illegally trade the appointment of a U.S. senator in exchange for $1.5 million in campaign contributions or other personal benefits," the Sun-Times reported.

"Blagojevich was also sentenced for shaking down the chief executive of a children's hospital for $25,000 in campaign contributions in exchange for implementing an increase to pediatric reimbursement rates; holding up the signing of a bill to benefit the Illinois horse racing industry in an attempt to illegally obtain $100,000 in campaign contributions; and lying to the FBI in 2005."

Points: 2

6. LACK OF REMORSE OR GUILT: A lack of feelings or concern for the losses, pain, and suffering of victims; a tendency to be unconcerned, dispassionate, coldhearted, and unempathic. This item is usually demonstrated by a disdain for one's victims.

"In the end, Rod Blagojevich's final public statement as a free man wasn't about his self-proclaimed compassion for the citizenry, or his pride in his six years as governor, or even his continuing claim that he never broke the law. It was about his resilience," the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

"'This is not over,' Blagojevich told hundreds of supporters outside his Chicago home early Wednesday evening as he prepared to travel to Colorado to begin a 14-year federal prison sentence today. 'The truth will ultimately prevail.'"

Points: 2

7. SHALLOW AFFECT: Emotional poverty or a limited range or depth of feelings; interpersonal coldness in spite of signs of open gregariousness.

"Rod Blagojevich hid in the bathroom, ducked into a back room and left the office early to avoid discussing complex issues with his budget director, his former deputy said Thursday at the ousted governor's corruption trial," AP reported.

Points: 2

8. CALLOUSNESS and LACK OF EMPATHY: A lack of feelings toward people in general; cold, contemptuous, inconsiderate, and tactless.

"If they don't perform, fuck 'em."

Points: 2

9. PARASITIC LIFESTYLE: An intentional, manipulative, selfish, and exploitative financial dependence on others as reflected in a lack of motivation, low self-discipline, and inability to begin or complete responsibilities.

"Blagojevich wanted Rahm Emanuel to understand 'right away' that Blagojevich is interested in having $15 to $20 million dollars raised to set up a non-profit," Fox Chicago News reported.

"The prosecution played another recorded phone call between Blagojevich and Scofield from 12:35 p.m. on Nov. 13, 2008. In the call, Blagojevich asks Scofield to call John Wyma to tell him that Blagojevich wants to set up a 501 (c)(4) issue advocacy organization, and ask if the Obama administration can talk to George Soros and Warren Buffett about how they can help fund it."

Points: 2

10. POOR BEHAVIORAL CONTROLS: Expressions of irritability, annoyance, impatience, threats, aggression, and verbal abuse; inadequate control of anger and temper; acting hastily.

"But when he heard the Obama team offered only 'appreciation,' Blagojevich went into a rage using a string of expletives," ABC News reported.

"'Give this motherfucker his senator. Fuck him. For nothing? Fuck him.'

"On Obama, he veers from rage to jealousy.

"'I mean, you got this historic, fucking demigod. He's a demigod. At least for now. You follow me?' Blagojevich said during one phone call."

Points: 2

11. PROMISCUOUS SEXUAL BEHAVIOR: A variety of brief, superficial relations, numerous affairs, and an indiscriminate selection of sexual partners; the maintenance of several relationships at the same time; a history of attempts to sexually coerce others into sexual activity or taking great pride at discussing sexual exploits or conquests.

"I don't plan to get into any criticism of Blagojevich," Michael Madigan said in 2002. "I could do that. I could talk about his indiscretions. But I'm not going to do that because I believe in solidarity within the political party."

We never did hear what those indiscretions were, though, and Blago has never been linked to sexual misbehavior.

Points: 0

12. EARLY BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS: A variety of behaviors prior to age 13, including lying, theft, cheating, vandalism, bullying, sexual activity, fire-setting, glue-sniffing, alcohol use, and running away from home.

Rod was a vain, mediocre student whose athletic skills paled in comparison to his brother's, but there is no evidence of early behavior problems.

Points: 0

13. LACK OF REALISTIC, LONG-TERM GOALS: An inability or persistent failure to develop and execute long-term plans and goals; a nomadic existence, aimless, lacking direction in life.

"A son of the Northwest Side with an unimpressive academic record and an undistinguished career as a small-time lawyer, Blagojevich has modest credentials, and his talents as a leader are unclear," Chicago magazine reported. "The idea that Rod Blagojevich could seriously imagine himself running for President makes plenty of people in Illinois roll their eyes."

He did, however, marry the daughter of a powerful alderman who made him a state legislator, U.S. congressman and governor.

Points: 1

14. IMPULSIVITY: The occurrence of behaviors that are unpremeditated and lack reflection or planning; inability to resist temptation, frustrations, and urges; a lack of deliberation without considering the consequences; foolhardy, rash, unpredictable, erratic, and reckless.

"One of the goofiest episodes of the Rod Blagojevich era was the one where a $1 million state grant meant for a fire-damaged church ended up in the hands of a private school - sort of a two-fer that sent public money to a private school by mistake after first trying to send state money to a church, violating that silly church-and-state separation principle," I wrote for NBC Chicago.

"It was also classic Blagojevich, who apparently made the financial pledge without forethought while giving a speech."

Blagojevich was famous for governing via press release, but that was at least usually planned PR.

Points: 1

15. IRRESPONSIBILITY: Repeated failure to fulfill or honor obligations and commitments; such as not paying bills, defaulting on loans, performing sloppy work, being absent or late to work, failing to honor contractual agreements.

Besides the MOAs and rarely going into the office, we learned during Blago's trial that he and Patti had accumulated $90,000 in credit card debt and owed $220,000 on a home-equity loan.

Points: 2

16. FAILURE TO ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY FOR OWN ACTIONS: A failure to accept responsibility for one's actions reflected in low conscientiousness, an absence of dutifulness, antagonistic manipulation, denial of responsibility, and an effort to manipulate others through this denial.

"Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich embraced the public spotlight one last time Wednesday, claiming on the day before he reports to prison that he always believed what he did was legal and expressing faith that an appeal of his corruption convictions will succeed," AP reported.

Points: 2

17. MANY SHORT-TERM MARITAL RELATIONSHIPS: A lack of commitment to a long-term relationship reflected in inconsistent, undependable, and unreliable commitments in life, including marital.

Patti is his first and only wife.

Points: 0

18. JUVENILE DELINQUENCY: Behavior problems between the ages of 13-18; mostly behaviors that are crimes or clearly involve aspects of antagonism, exploitation, aggression, manipulation, or a callous, ruthless tough-mindedness.

Rumors always abounded that Blago ran numbers as a kid, but nothing definitive has ever been reported.

Points: 0

19. REVOCATION OF CONDITION RELEASE: A revocation of probation or other conditional release due to technical violations, such as carelessness, low deliberation, or failing to appear.

"Federal prosecutors have asked that former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, convicted last month of public corruption, appear before a judge this week about his lawyers' failure to provide paperwork to secure his bond, according to court documents," the Tribune reported.

But nothing came of it.

Points: 0

20. CRIMINAL VERSATILITY: A diversity of types of criminal offenses, regardless if the person has been arrested or convicted for them; taking great pride at getting away with crimes.

Truthfully, Blago's crimes were all pretty much the same.

Points: 0

-

KEY: 30 or more points indicates psychopathy.

BLAGO POINT TOTAL: 26

CONCLUSION: Not quite! But further testing is recommended.

-

Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:35 AM | Permalink

March 14, 2012

The [Wednesday] Papers

"As a parent who cares about speeders near schools, I'd like to let the governor and the mayor in on a secret," John Kass writes this morning. "If they truly want to stop speeders, they don't need expensive high-tech speed cameras.

"They need low-tech speed bumps. They're cheaper than cameras. And here's how they work: A couple guys get off the back of an asphalt truck. They pour out a few extra shovelfuls of asphalt. Presto - a speed bump."

Imagine that - saving children's lives by preventing accidents instead of collecting money weeks later!

"They're guaranteed to slow traffic. If you speed over them, you won't get a ticket, but you could break an axle. You might pay your mechanic. But you won't end up paying City Hall.

"That's what truly bothers the politicians. It's not about the children or the speed. It's about the lost revenue."

That much has become painfully obvious. Worse is what the whole episode has revealed about the way Rahm Emanuel governs. Hint: Badly.

See Rahm Caught Lying About Speed Cameras.

TIF Spliff
"An elaborate wheelchair-accessible ramp to the City Council chambers bankrolled by $485,000 in tax-increment-financing funds has gotten even more costly - thanks to a string of contractor mistakes," the Sun-Times reports.

Wait - bankrolled by TIF funds? What, is that part of the chambers economically disadvantaged?

"Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) has complained that the ramp money was taken from his LaSalle-Central TIF without his approval by city officials who contend TIF money can be used to renovate government buildings without aldermanic consent."

Turns out they're right - here's the part of the TIF statute that makes it possible.

ALTERNATE: And this is the guy who got arrested on Tuesday?

He's Got Next
"Just one week before Election Day, State Rep. Derrick Smith was arrested by federal agents Tuesday and charged with bribery for allegedly accepting $7,000 in cash for supporting a $50,000 state grant he believed a day care center was seeking," the Sun-Times reports.

"Smith is a protege and former precinct captain of Secretary of State Jesse White and childhood friend of Ald. Walter Burnett. The 27th Ward alderman once described Smith as 'like a brother to me.'

"Smith was appointed to the House seat last year after Annazette Collins was appointed to the state Senate. He is now locked in a primary battle with Tom Swiss, a former director of the Cook County Republican Party who is running as a Democrat in the overwhelmingly Democratic and majority African American district."

That would be this Annazette Collins.

And that would be this Tom Swiss.

*

"In his re-election bid, Smith has the strong backing of Democratic party officials, including Burnett and White, the Democratic ward committeeman, who helped get him appointed to the state House.

"[Burnett] handpicked him to be 27th Ward Superintendent. But Smith was fired from the $72,528-a-year job in 2005 amid allegations he used city equipment and personnel to do private landscaping work and improperly used state-financed Earnfare workers to lighten the load of city employees.

"At the time, Streets and Sanitation officials refused to explain why Smith had been fired. Smith served as a precinct captain in the 27th Ward Regular Democratic Organization run by Burnett and Committeeman White.

"Smith was employed in the secretary of state's office under White from December 2006 until March 2011, when White helped engineer his appointment to the House to replace Collins, who had moved to the Senate.

"Smith worked in the secretary of state's accounting and revenue division. State payroll records show he was paid $88,152 annually in White's office, more than $20,000 more than the $67,836 salary he receives as a state representative."

*

Smith, indeed, was blessed by the Democratic Establishment at the highest levels.

"The charge represents a blow for House Speaker Michael Madigan's efforts to help Smith's election to the district on Chicago's Near West and Near Northwest sides," the Tribune reports.

"The Democratic Majority fund, headed by Madigan and Tim Mapes, his chief of staff, has poured more in-kind contributions - $63,323 - into Smith's campaign than any other candidate so far this election season, according to campaign records. In addition to paying for polling and mailings, some of Madigan's top staffers also personally worked for Smith's campaign, campaign records show."

Couldn't they have just given him a legislative scholarship instead?

Teachable Moment
Sports builds character.

Politics, House & Gangs
The History of Hip Hop in Chicago.

Nick's Picks
Prepare For An NCAA Championship That Will Be Vacated.

Lizzie's Picks
Six Degrees of Recommendation.

Dan's Picks
Avoid Chicago pitchers.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Teachable.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:53 AM | Permalink

Rahm Caught Lying About Speed Cameras

"Mayor Rahm Emanuel was frustrated that doubters of his controversial speed-camera plan were ignoring a city study he said offered compelling proof of the life-saving impact of camera technology," the Tribune reports.

"That study, the mayor said in an interview last month, found that traffic deaths in Chicago had plummeted 60 percent near red-light cameras, cousins of the speed-detecting devices.

"'You guys have continued to repeat wrong information because it doesn't fit your storyline,' Emanuel argued, thrusting it at a Tribune reporter with this challenge:

"'If the report is wrong, you should go analyze that report.'

"As Emanuel prepares to introduce his speed-camera ordinance to the City Council on Wednesday, the Tribune has, indeed, analyzed that report. The findings raise further questions about how the Emanuel administration has brandished statistics to justify the push."

Let's take a look.

*

"The mayor's report amounted to little more than a claim that traffic deaths declined significantly in areas where red-light cameras were installed over a three-year period. But the administration refused to provide any of the underlying research to verify their numbers, claiming it was confidential."

Confidential! Wouldn't want data about how red-light cameras are saving lives to fall into the wrong hands.

*

"When the administration's numbers expert finally sat down with the Tribune after weeks of requests, he acknowledged the claimed reduction in fatalities was based only on an informal analysis of traffic statistics."

Emphasis mine to illustrate that - despite Rahm's bluster about media malfeasance - his administration has only dodged and weaved when asked to support their contention about saving lives through traffic cameras.

*

"'Study is a bit of a term of art,' Scott Kubly, managing deputy commissioner in the Chicago Department of Transportation, said earlier this month."

A term of the political arts, you mean.

"'We had many meetings to discuss the best and most fair way to gauge the effectiveness,' Kubly said, including a 'judgment call' to count fatalities as far away as a quarter-mile from red-light cameras."

Gee, you'd think traffic experts would have a handy guide ready. Weren't they in the meetings?

"He declined to say who was involved in the meetings."

Oh. I guess that's confidential. Like Dick Cheney's energy meetings.

("Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., sponsor of the de-funding amendment, noted that five years ago Cheney claimed executive privilege in refusing to release details about his meetings with oil industry executives to discuss energy policy," CBS News reported in February 2009. But Rahm won't tell us who was in city speed camera meetings?!)

"Denied the city's research, the Tribune performed its own analysis using city traffic data provided to the federal government and came to a very different and less dramatic conclusion.

"Instead of the 60 percent reduction the mayor touted, the Tribune's analysis of accidents for the same locations revealed a nearly 26 percent reduction - one that mirrored a broader accident trend in the city and across the nation."

In other words, the reduction in accidents near red-light camera locations wasn't any greater than accident-reduction rates across America.

*

"Presented with that conclusion, the Emanuel administration this week reversed course and said its initial statistical summary was error-ridden and shouldn't have been provided in the first place."

The one that Rahm angrily thrust in a reporter's face.

The mayor 'inadvertently handed out a working document showing a set of incorrect numbers,' Kubly said Monday. 'I think it was an honest mistake.'"

Really?

I now direct the court to this exchange last month between Rahm Emanuel and Tribune reporter David Kidwell:

DK: The city's campaign to push and get this speed camera thing going and passed that were inaccurate and wrong. You brought it up, the idea that this city has some sort of unique problem with pedestrian deaths. I want to know where the evidence is, because I can't find it.

RE: You were also wrong. OK. Where speed cameras were put up, we've had 60 percent drop in fatalities and you have never noted that. That's why you said in yesterday's story, or two days ago, speed cameras are not successful.

DK: Do you have a report?

RE: Yeah. It says 60 percent. Your paper said. There's actually a report here in the city with speed cameras up, 60 percent reduction in fatalities.

So Rahm's been pimping that arty report for a while.

RE: You guys have continued to repeat wrong information because it doesn't fit your story line. You keep saying that the cameras, there's no evidence. I'll get you the facts. It's actually a 60 percent reduction in fatalities. It's one of the questions I asked beforehand. Your paper as recently as Monday ...

DK: You mean throughout the country?

RE: No, in the city. Your story, I know you do this, your story says that there's no evidence, when in fact right here under your nose is the evidence. And I've repeated it to you guys and you refuse. I've had people call you with it and you refuse to publish it.

I think Rahm owes Kidwell - and us - an apology, don't you?

*

Back to today's report:

"The confusion fits into a pattern of inaccurate claims that Emanuel and surrogates have relied on to sell the mayor's plan to make Chicago the nation's capital of speed cameras. At the mayor's urging, Springfield lawmakers hustled approval for city cameras with little deliberation last fall.

"Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, echoing 'talking points' prepared for mayoral surrogates, declared to state lawmakers that the rate of pedestrian fatalities in the city was far higher than in New York, where he had once worked.

"In fact, the opposite is true, according to a study released by the city in August, which concluded that 'relatively speaking, Chicago has a safe pedestrian environment given the volume of traffic.'"

Emphasis mine.

*

So how and why did Rahm come to the speed-camera issue if it isn't supported by the facts? He won't tell us.

Here's Rahm last month to Kidwell:

There is nothing more transparent than standing up in front of the City Council calling for an increase in water rates to go to pay for a critical crisis that is in our city. That's fully transparent.

Now you have narrowed your definition of transparency to fit your story line. Now what can be more transparent and public than standing in front of the City Council and then a monthlong debate and then it passes - that is, in all due respect, not only transparent, democracy.

And so, you have narrowed your definition. I am trying to get you to widen it. You've decided to have a definition of transparency to work for a story line you've decided before the story started. I have actually stood in front of the City Council and announced what I was doing. I have stood and worked the legislative body to pass a piece of legislation and I understand the politics of it and what went into it and went public with it.

You've narrowed your definition to work for you. Nothing is more up front and transparent than standing in front of the City Council and advocating for something that has been long debated, even advocated by your own paper, that we have to make an investment. And I have done that. And that is fully public and transparent and if I had a [dictionary] I would pull the word transparent and we would see who is closer to the definition, me or you, and I guarantee you one thing: I know I am right.

I can't even dignify that with a joke.

*

"Emanuel also sought to connect the tragic October death of a 6-year-old girl to the need for cameras, even though the youngster died while crossing a street at a time when cameras would not be allowed to operate under the mayor's program."

From last month's interview:

DK: There are number of things from when you were pushing for this before the Legislature and having press conferences. For instance, you invoked the name of Diamond Robinson, the 6-year-old who died in an automobile accident on the weekend after hours and suggested these are the consequences of not having speed cameras, but what didn't get said was that her death wouldn't have been prevented by a speed camera. There are number of things. The city has said Chicago was the worst in the nation in terms of pedestrian deaths, when according to your own pedestrian studies is not the case. It's one of the best of the major cities.

RE: No, wait a second, the assumption there is there is nothing else to do.

DK: No the assumption is that there was a campaign of misinformation along the line to getting this thing pushed.

RE: No, I pushed this because . . .

DK: I am not saying it is a bad idea, I am saying what we were told is inaccurate.

RE: I have done stuff very upfront and public on behalf of the city, and it's not like I considered that they were going to be popular, but they are the right things to do on behalf of protecting our kids, and I have also been very clear that I am going to use the resources to continue to protect our kids if there are resources. I would be happy if there were none, but I am not out there searching for tough issues. This is about saving lives, and I have done what I needed to do to do that. This is about improving our physical infrastructure because we as a city - it's crumbling. When you write stories about its crumbling it requires somebody to take action and that is what I am accountable for doing and I could not have been more transparent.

*

Today:

"The mayor's effort also has support from the Traffic Safety Coalition, a pro-camera group run by close Emanuel political ally Greg Goldner and funded by Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., the Australian-owned red-light camera vendor for the city, the Tribune disclosed Tuesday."

"Emanuel didn't answer questions about his ties to Goldner at a news conference Tuesday, asserting that his goal was saving children and that the process of selecting a speed-camera company would be 'very open, transparent, very competitive.'"

Transparent except when it comes to questions from reporters.

*

"At the same time, Emanuel aides were pitching his plan to wary aldermen with a radically overhauled version of their safety statistics that now focuses on only on pedestrian deaths and excludes those involving drivers and passengers.

"The revised version counted only pedestrian deaths near the same 107 red-light cameras cited in the mayor's flawed original claim. It came to a remarkably similar conclusion: Pedestrian deaths dropped roughly 58 percent.

"In 2004 and 2005, the two years before the camera installations began, 26 pedestrians died within those same quarter-mile zones, the city says. By 2009 and 2010, the total of pedestrian deaths declined to 11.

"What the revamped data don't show is that pedestrian deaths are down significantly across the city in recent years, whether or not cameras are near.

"Citywide, pedestrian deaths declined 46 percent over the same time frame studied by the administration, according to a Tribune analysis of federal traffic data. Statistically, the difference between the two numbers is small.

"Traffic deaths have been steadily dropping across the nation for years, with the rate of deaths per miles driven at levels not seen since 1949. Experts say there are many reasons, including better built vehicles, better built roads and high gas prices that deter driving."

It's not just the Tribune saying that.

From The Expired Meter:

"[A] study conducted by the Chicago Department of Transportation on the effectiveness of the city's red light camera program seems to undermine the city's own position on the safety benefits of the RLC enforcement.

"CDOT did a study of 96 intersections utilizing RLC enforcement and compared crash data for each intersection for two years before the cameras were installed with crash data for the two years after installation . . .

"Surprisingly, in the aggregate, total crashes were virtually unchanged dropping only a fraction of one percent from 2,072 crashes before the cameras were installed to 2,066 crashes after installation."

Even more surprisingly - or less - is how city spokesperson Tom Alexander chose to interpret the data:

"What the study shows is that red light cameras reduce the total number of crashes, particularly right angle crashes which are the most dangerous."

Didn't I just read that crashes were virtually unchanged?

"[Professor Rajiv Shah, an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois at Chicago] conducted a study of Chicago's RLC system in 2010 analyzing crash data and which came up with similar results.

"I thought the results (of CDOT's study) were pretty consistent with what I had found and pretty consistent with the idea that red light cameras are not effective in improving safety," Shah told The Expired Meter. "The report does not show a significant decrease in crashes."

Or you could believe Tom Alexander.

*

Back to today's Trib:

"Aldermen briefed by the mayor's aides expressed their own doubts after presentations they said focused heavily on where the cameras would go and how they may operate.

"The aides said speed cameras are the solution to reducing pedestrian fatalities, but they 'haven't shown me the equation you use to get to that answer,' said Ald. John Arena, 45th.

"'There are quite a bit of unknowns in this, which leaves me a bit unsettled,' Arena said. 'We have a lot of homework to do, and the data hasn't been shared.'

"Ald. Scott Waguespack, 32nd, complained the city provided only a 'pat statement' about the reduction in fatalities.

"'I'm confused as to why they are taking this policy approach,' he said. 'Without data supporting it, it falls flat. It makes it harder for us to look at it and say there's a good reason for doing it.'"

As we say in Chicago, Scott, follow the money. At least that's what Rahm always used to say.

-

With gratitude for great work (that I'm merely piggybacking on) to Tribune reporters Bob Secter, David Kidwell, Alex Bordens, Kristen Mack, Hal Dardick and John Byrne.

-

Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:10 AM | Permalink

Six Degrees of Recommendation

"Lizzy connects Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy to a 16th-century conquistador. Kevin recaps and previews events in the store."


-

Lizzie's Six:

1. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

2. Lamb by Christopher Moore

3. American Gods by Neil Gaiman

4. The Lost City of Z by David Grann

5. Shipwrecked Men by Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca

6. The Conquest of New Spain by Bernal Diaz del Castillo

-

See also:
* The Open Books YouTube channel
* The Open Books website

-

Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:40 AM | Permalink

Politics, Gangs & House: The History Of Hip Hop In Chicago

"This is a great interview we did with Jitu the Jaggernaut, a pioneering emcee who was down with the group Ten Tray. He clears up the myths about the Chi being late to the Hip Hop game. He says things were popping off in the 70s. He talks in great detail about how the influence House Music, Gangs, Black migration and the political turmoil in the Windy City helped shaped Chicago Hip Hop."


-

See also:
* Davey D's YouTube channel

* Davey D's Hip Hop Corner

* Jitu Tha Jugganot

-

Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:22 AM | Permalink

Nick's Picks: Prepare For An NCAA Championship That Will Be Vacated

* Breaking news: Syracuse center Fab Melo ruled ineligible for the tournament due to largely presumed academic issues.

* Three of the four number one seeds lost in their conference post-season tournaments: Syracuse, Kentucky and North Carolina. Michigan State gets a one-seed with seven losses, the most I can remember any one-seed.

* If you still haven't filled out your bracket and are completely clueless or stuck somewhere, check the Wall Street Journal's interactive Blindfold Brackets.

As always, the usual March Madness conventional wisdom applies:

* Location: Playing close to home is a factor and has the potential to influence the outcome of a game. You can view a bracket that has the locations for all 'pods' here.

* 12/5: Just about every year a 12-seed defeats a 5-seed. Last year Richmond defeated Virginia. By now most everyone is aware of this. 13-seeds over 4-seeds aren't that unusual either; it happens.

* Recent Performance: Last year I wrote about this and mentioned UConn winning five days in a row in the Big East tournament before the NCAA tournament. They played five days in a row because the better teams got the bye and were scheduled to play less. UConn won it all. They were not the best team but peaked at the right time.

When in doubt of a certain match-up, check the location, the trending of their last few games and, of course, any injuries or breaking news.

South

Iowa State (8) vs. UConn (9) looks to be one the better games in the opening round. Iowa Stat finished third in the Big 12, beating two of the tournaments No. 2 seeds in conference play (KU, MU) and you can never count out a Jim Calhoun coached team (UConn). This all likely is futile, though, as the winner will likely have to face Kentucky (1) the next round. For the uninitiated, a No. 1 seed has never lost to a No. 16 seed in the opening round and likely never will, barring any natural disasters.

VCU (12) is a different team this year and I don't see this being a 12-seed that beats a 5 this year as Wichita State (5). ESPN's Jay Bilas has Wichita State knocking off Indiana (4) in the second round, but I don't see it happening. Verdell Jones III for IU tore his ACL recently and likely won't be upsetting Kentucky, however.

A Duke (2) and Baylor (3) in an Elite Eight matchup would be a good game and is very possible; whomever ultimately advances to the Final Four is coming from the top half of the bracket. Nearly everyone's favorite is Kentucky.

Upset alert: New Mexico State (13) over Indiana. Indiana lost to Nebraska and Iowa and went just 11-7 in their league; now they have a key player injured.

West

This is probably the toughest region to pick. Don't be surprised to see the top four seeds in this region in the Sweet Sixteen. Louisville (4) vs Michigan State (1) and Missouri (2) vs Marquette (3). Missouri has probably the best chance in a decade to reach their first ever Final Four, assuming they can get past Bradley Beal (a St Louis native) and Florida in the second round, which would be one of the better games that round. A lot of national sportswriters have MU in the Final Four.

Upset alert: Missouri over Michigan State. Though I don't know if you could really call a No. 2 defeating a No. 1 a true upset.

East

Fab Melo for Syracuse (1) is ineligible and Kansas State (8) has a lot to be excited about. The Orange wasn't exactly deep in the post to begin with, and losing their starting center is going to kill them. It's quite possible they make it out of the second round, but not much further.

Vanderbilt (5) defeated Kentucky in the SEC tournament. They are a legit team and in my own bracket I've got them defeating Kansas State in the Sweet Sixteen. I like Florida State (3) over Cincinnati (6) in the second round (another exciting second round match-up) and over Ohio State (2) in the Sweet Sixteen.

Gonzaga (7) and West Virginia (10) is a coin toss as far as I'm concerned, and either will lose badly to Ohio State in the second round.

Most will disagree but in my bracket I've got Florida State over Vanderbilt getting into the Final Four; FSU just won the ACC tournament and Michael Snaer is as good as they come. I like their momentum.

Upset alert: As previously discussed, Kansas State over Syracuse.

Midwest

North Carolina (1) has what appears to be a pretty easy road to the Elite Eight and perhaps beyond, with a potential Kansas (2) or Georgetown (3) match-up. I was at the Georgetown-DePaul game here in mid-January. Georgetown is a good team in a tough league but the game was never blown open, which I thoroughly expected it be after 10 minutes.

I like Michigan (4) or Temple (5) and Kansas (2) over Purdue (10) in the second round. One of the better Elite Eight games to watch would be KU and UNC - Roy Williams against the school he left, for the second time. It could go either way. I think most would choose UNC here; the lack of depth for KU would hurt but they have arguably the best big man and Player of the Year candidate Thomas Robinson and one of the premier guards in Tyshawn Taylor.

Don't bother spending too much time choosing Creighton (8) vs Alabama (9), as either will get destroyed by UNC in the second round.

Upset alert: Any mid-major team in the tournament over Kansas (VCU, UNI, Bradley, and Bucknell all say hello).

Final Four

Kentucky (1) over Michigan St (1): Anthony Davis and the rest of the one and done's for UK are too much to handle.

FSU (3) over UNC (1): FSU defeats UNC once again; the entire state of North Carolina collectively poops it's pants.

Kentucky over FSU: Coach Calipari finally wins it all and it's only a matter of time before the NCAA finds a reason to vacate it, making him the only coach to have had three different teams to the Final Four that got removed from the books.

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Nick Shreders welcomes your comments.

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1. From Sasha Shreders:

I really dig Nick's Picks. I hope he's wrong about the State of North Carolina.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:36 AM | Permalink

Fantasy Fix: Pitchathon

From the looks of my top 10 starting pitchers, you would assume I'm picking Phillies vs. Angels for this year's World Series. I'm actually not a big believer in the Phils, so it feels strange to have the majority of their rotation in my top 10.

I feel the real value at SP comes after the top 10, when you get into guys like Stephen Strasburg, Yu Darvish, Adam Wainwright, Josh Johnson, Ian Kennedy - well, you get the idea.

The corps of relief pitchers is typically uninspiring. I showed how good I am at judging closers last year when I ranked Carlos Marmol first. This year, I'm taking a different tack, putting the best SP/RP on my list as my top reliever.

My top 10 starting pitchers:

Justin Verlander, DET: Tough call here, as Kershaw was my No. 1 until a couple days ago. I think now that Verlander may not be as good as last year, but because of his durability and the Tigers' prospects to win about 100 games this year actually could end up with 25 wins and 250 Ks.

Clayton Kershaw, LAD: The best pitcher in the majors in my opinion, but the Dodgers are no closer to division-winning material than they were last year. That said, 22 wins and 200+ Ks.

Roy Halladay, PHI: Consistently among the best for years, he can still reach 19 or 20 wins, but you have to wonder if a few of his usual complete games will become Papelbon saves.

Felix Hernandez, SEA: Still in the getting-better-every-year phase. A better team backing him up this year could get him a few extra wins.

Tim Lincecum, SF: A barely losing record last year has everyone expecting a rebound. Did they notice his 2011 ERA was 2.74, and that he had 220 Ks?

CC Sabathia, NYY: Bizarrely durable, he is the best pitcher on one of the best teams, which is all you need to know.

Cliff Lee, PHI: Tends toward streakiness, which is not great in head-to-head leagues, but his streaks are mind-boggling.

Cole Hamels, PHI: The one Phillies starter who really could have a career year. I like that his ERA has dropped like a stone since 2009.

Jered Weaver, LAA: Probably underrated here. If the Angels win their division, which I think could happen, a 20-win season should be a cinch.

Dan Haren, LAA: Doesn't have the superstar stats, but could be candidate for 18-20 wins on this team.

Just missed: Ian Kennedy, ARI; Stephen Strasburg, WAS; Adam Wainwright, STL; Jon Lester, BOS; Josh Johnson, FLA; Yu Darvish, TEX.

*

My top 10 relief pitchers:

Matt Moore, TAM: Showed his poise in the postseason, and could deliver huge value from the RP slot with 15 or so wins, and 170 Ks even if his innings are limited.

Craig Kimbrel, ATL: Outstanding rookie year gets him this ranking, though you have to worry about his workload.

Drew Storen, WAS: 43 saves for an 80-win team last year, and with Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, he should be handed plenty of leads.

Mariano Rivera, NYY: No reason to question the old man, but the Yankees seem to make half-hearted attempts every season to limit his workload.

Heath Bell, FLA: Could make an argument as the most consistent NL closer; that league's version of Mo' Rivera.

Jordan Walden, LAA: Had his ups and downs last year, but should make a confident closer for one of the best teams in the majors.

Jose Valverde, DET: Another who defies age, as well as physical limitations, but he may have a better understanding of the closer mentality than anyone. Plus, the Tigers will be awesome.

Jonathan Papelbon, PHI: Not completely buying into his change of venue, though he should get plenty of chances.

John Axford, MIL: Hard to say what will come of the Brewers without Prince Fielder, but Axford seemed like the real deal last year.

Brandon League, SEA: Could save 40+ games for a young, improving team.

Just missed: Andrew Bailer, BOS; Joel Hanrahan, PIT

Expert Wire
* USA Today focuses on some mid-round draft steals. Like Minnesota's Ryan Doumit?

* Hardball Times ranks the top 10 shortstops.

* Sporting News looks at injury concerns revolving around David Wright.

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Dan O'Shea welcomes your comments.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:18 AM | Permalink

March 13, 2012

The [Tuesday] Papers

"The U.S. Attorney's office will monitor next week's primary election in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs," AP reports.

To save time, winning candidates will be asked to select their prison now.

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Englewood, Colorado is expected to see a drop in demand because of the risk of ending up this guy's cellie.

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Officials reportedly are considering removing pillows from Blago's cell due to the good chance his cellmate will use one to smother him.

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Rahm's thoughts are with Blago's family - you know, Dick Mell and Patti the star real estate broker. Us? Furthest thing from his mind.

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"According to Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., Mr. Obama's incoming White House chief of staff, Emanuel, then-state senator Obama, a third Blagojevich aide, and Blagojevich's campaign co-chair, David Wilhelm, were the top strategists of Blagojevich's 2002 gubernatorial victory," Jake Tapper reported for ABC News in December 2008.

"Emanuel told the New Yorker earlier this year that he and Obama 'participated in a small group that met weekly when Rod was running for governor. We basically laid out the general election, Barack and I and these two.'

"Wilhelm said that Emanuel had overstated Obama's role. 'There was an advisory council that was inclusive of Rahm and Barack but not limited to them,' Wilhelm said, and he disputed the notion that Obama was 'an architect or one of the principal strategists.'

"(An Obama Transition Team aide e-mails to note that Emanuel later changed his recollection of this story to Rich Miller's Capitol Fax, saying, 'David [Wilhelm] and I have worked together on campaigns for decades. Like always, he's right and I'm wrong.')"

So Rahm took credit when it reflected well on him and begged off when it reflected poorly on him - and Obama. A boastful exaggerator or a liar - in either his initial claim or his amended "recollection."

Park Place
"Mayor Rahm Emanuel took the wraps off a five-year, $290 million capital plan that will bring new parks, fieldhouses, artificial soccer turf and other recreational improvements within 10 minutes of every Chicago resident," Fran Spielman enthuses for the Sun-Times.

"'It's a unique time in our city's history without a single large project downtown [so there's an opportunity] to make an unprecedented investment in . . . communities where our residents live,' the mayor told a news conference at Yates Elementary School, 1839 N. Richmond."

Because there's nothing else urgent on the to-do list.

Click through to read the rest of the press release (barely) rewritten by Spielman.

Camera Coinkydink
"When Rahm Emanuel was a first-time candidate for Congress, Greg Goldner was behind him, quietly marshaling the patronage troops that helped get him elected," the Tribune reports. "When Emanuel ran for mayor, Goldner was there again, doling out campaign cash to elect Emanuel-friendly aldermen to City Council.

"And when the rookie mayor was looking for community support for his school reform agenda, there was Goldner, working behind the scenes with the ministers who backed Emanuel's plan.

"Now, it turns out the longtime allies share another interest - the installation of automated speed cameras in Chicago.

"As consultant to the firm that already supplies Chicago its red-light cameras, Goldner is the architect of a nationwide campaign to promote his client's expansion prospects. That client, Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., is well-positioned to make tens of millions of dollars from Emanuel's controversial plan to convert many of the red-light cameras into automated speed cameras."

Of course, everyone involved says there is no connection. But follow the bouncing ball . . .

"In late 2010, as Emanuel was launching his campaign to replace Daley, Goldner formed a political action committee, For a Better Chicago, to help elect a pro-Emanuel City Council. The lawyer who helped set up the PAC, Michael Kasper, was defending Emanuel against a ballot challenge that nearly knocked him out of the mayor's race.

"Kasper is a state lobbyist for Goldner's camera client, Redflex, an Australian company that counts Chicago as is its largest U.S. customer . . .

"Goldner and Kasper both said they never talked to Emanuel about the camera issue."

As if that would be necessary.

*

"[B]y last fall the interests of Resolute, Redflex and Emanuel had officially converged - though it would be nearly impossible for the public to know.

"The Emanuel administration has repeatedly denied Tribune requests for public records related to the speed-camera push, releasing a small fraction of the requested information months after the mayor's bill was passed by state lawmakers.

"Redacted city e-mail shows Kasper, Redflex's lobbyist, had suggested changes in the Emanuel speed-camera bill.

"Resolute got on board with the mayor's push after he announced it, Goldner said. The firm said it has since provided the city with data and 'talking points' on the issue."

Data that the city won't release to the media or the city council.

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"[U]ntil now, Resolute's role as a primary player in the national traffic camera debate has been largely unpublicized - including its efforts here.

"Most of the firm's work on the issue is done through the Traffic Safety Coalition, a group it created with funding from Redflex that seeks to establish support across the country by forging relationships with law enforcement, pedestrian-friendly groups and relatives of pedestrians killed by errant drivers."

In other words, astroturf. (Paging David Axelrod!)

*

"Resolute Consulting was first hired by Redflex in late 2009 amid a successful effort to fend off a backlash in the Illinois Legislature that could have resulted in a statewide ban on red-light cameras.

"In its filings with the Australian Securities Exchange, Redflex said, 'In Illinois, a firm was engaged to manage the media interface, develop an advocacy to write letters to the editor, blog on a micro-site about street safety, and be ready to testify in committee hearings.' The company confirmed that firm is Resolute.

"Within weeks of being hired, Resolute was producing news releases sent out under the name of the Traffic Safety Coalition. The coalition is based at Resolute offices in Chicago, and Goldner confirmed Redflex is the coalition's sole financial supporter."

So the Traffic Safety Coalition = Redflex. Redflex hired Goldner. Goldner = Rahm. Just doing the math here.

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"The news releases touted the effectiveness of automated traffic cameras and described the coalition as 'a grass-roots organization comprised of public safety professionals, law enforcement officials, victim's advocates, health care professionals, academics and industry leaders."

Which is probably how Spielman wrote it up.

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"Goldner acknowledged last week that the coalition's strategic model involves an early appearance in markets that interest Redflex, building community support, finding examples of children victimized by errant drivers, videotaping their parents and then asking sympathetic policymakers to file a bill or pass an ordinance in support of automated traffic cameras."

Emphasis mine.

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A Tribune analysis, though, found that "a federal database of pedestrian fatalities in crashes showed that Emanuel's proposal would have a limited impact on fatalities. Of the 251 pedestrian deaths in the city between 2005 and 2009, fewer than half occurred in the 'safety zones' where cameras would be located, and fewer than one-fourth of those involved speeding."

It was H.L. Mencken who famously said "When you hear somebody say, 'This is not about money' - it's about money."

*

"By late May, less than two weeks after Emanuel was inaugurated, the city's transportation commissioner, Gabe Klein, sent the first of more than 500 city emails on the issue of speed cameras, according to a log provided to the Tribune.

"One of Klein's top deputies at the time was John Bills, who ran the city's red-light camera program and played an instrumental role in Redflex's city contracts.

"By late September, Bills had quit his city post and begun doing consulting work for Resolute and the Traffic Safety Coalition."

Maybe it was about the kids.

*

"By mid-September . . . Emanuel's proposal was already quietly under review in the Statehouse, the Tribune has learned. It wouldn't become public until October."

That was part of the strategic model.

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"In pushing state lawmakers to support speed cameras, Emanuel said he needed to move fast to save children's lives."

Corollary to Mencken: When they say it's not about the money, it's about the money. When they say it's about the children, it's not about the children.

*

"It's an argument he continues to make, despite questions about the accuracy of safety statistics the mayor uses."

Link mine. (I know what I'm getting the Tribune for Christmas!)

*

"Goldner's resume in bare-knuckle Chicago politics dates to his time as a political aide for Daley. After leaving to form Resolute, Goldner was Daley's 2003 campaign manager and a consultant to the Hispanic Democratic Organization, a patronage army that provided campaign muscle for Daley.

"In a federal investigation of City Hall hiring, a former high-ranking city official who admitted to running a patronage army testified in 2006 that he took election-season orders from Daley operatives including Goldner, whose firm was subpoenaed by prosecutors for records. He also testified that he led city patronage workers who helped elect Emanuel to Congress in 2002, with Goldner as the campaign manager."

Link mine.

*

"About the time he was launching the PAC to support Emanuel's latest campaign, Goldner also dedicated some of his firm's resources to supporting a push for longer school days and more charter schools - key planks in Emanuel's school reform agenda.

"Goldner recently acknowledged to the Tribune that he coordinated with ministers who have delivered busloads of witnesses to testify in favor of the mayor's proposals at public hearings."

Link mine, but more to the point, those ministers paid homeless people and others who had no idea what they were supposed to be "protesting" to go pretend they were concerned parents.

(Real noise is dismissed as merely associated with change; fake noise is paid for with change and to be taken seriously.)

*

So maybe Rahm feels a little something extra in his gut watching Rod Blagojevich prepare for prison. There but for the grace of Patrick Fitzgerald, goes he someday.

The Traveling Kings Of Chicago
From the golden age of gospel quartets.

Evolution Of The Happy Meal
While supplies lasted.

Stunting In Washington Park
American Graffiti.

The Blackout Diaries
Drunken tales of ill repute.

Taller! Faster! Steeper!
The best teases of Midwest roller coasters.

Feds Let BP Off The Hook
Heckuva job, Barry!

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The Beachwood Tip Line: While supplies last.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:06 AM | Permalink

Feds Let BP Off The Hook

BP's refining subsidiary was released today from criminal probation related to a 2005 explosion in Texas City that killed 15 workers.

The company has addressed the most serious safety deficiencies exposed by the accident and satisfied the terms of a felony plea agreement to settle charges that it failed to protect workers from known risks, a U.S. Justice Department spokesman said.

The move closes a controversial chapter for the company, but it leaves an array of worker-safety issues unresolved. BP is still negotiating over more than 400 additional violations brought against its Texas City refinery separately from the criminal case.

Following the explosion, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and BP reached a settlement requiring the company to address safety issues at the refinery. Fixing those problems became one of the Justice Department's conditions for settling felony charges relating to the explosion and for ending the three-year probation period.

In late 2009, however, after a series of inspections, OSHA determined that BP had not addressed many of its safety lapses and levied 270 additional violations and a $87.4 million fine. It also hit the company with another 439 additional "egregious and willful" safety violations at the refinery that were not a component of the criminal case.

At issue then was whether the company had violated some of the most important terms of its probation even after it was given a second chance. In 2010, BP settled with OSHA, paying the agency $50.6 million and committing to making substantive safety changes by the court-set sunset of its probation period Monday.

A Justice Department spokesman said BP has met its obligations for probation, including addressing the 270 violations. The remaining 400 or so OSHA violations, however, were not specific to the Texas City agreement.

"These violations were unrelated to the 2005 settlement agreement and did not in the Department's view rise to criminal conduct," said Wyn Hornbuckle, an agency spokesman, in a statement to ProPublica. "The Department did not seek any extension or revocation of BP's criminal probation."

The resolution of those remaining violations will be dealt with administratively, by OSHA, Hornbuckle said, and not by the courts.

As the probation expired, confusion remained about exactly what improvements BP had made at its refineries.

According to the 2010 agreement with OSHA, BP pledged to address the risk of catastrophic chemical releases and to install new protective equipment and instrument systems across the sprawling refinery's 28 units.

It was not clear how much progress the company had made, however, and BP spokesman Daren Beaudo characterized the OSHA issues as Unresolved.

"We continue to work with OSHA to resolve these issues," Beaudo wrote in an e-mail. BP declined to say whether it had made any of the specific improvements listed in its 2010 settlement agreement, or to say how much money it had invested at the Texas City plant to meet the terms of its agreement with OSHA.

A spokeswoman for OSHA said the agency remained in negotiations with the company.

In an e-mail exchange, OSHA told ProPublica that the agency could not provide copies of any of the quarterly progress reports that BP had agreed to submit, and that it was "unable" to specify how many of its outstanding violations BP had addressed.

On March 23, 2005, a facility used to distill gasoline and boost its octane content was overfilled by BP workers, spewing a geyser of flammable liquid into the air. The subsequent explosion destroyed an office trailer nearby, killed 15 workers, and sent nearly 200 more to area hospitals.

Like the investigations into BP's Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, a series of reports analyzing the refinery disaster found that the company had failed to follow basic steps to avert a disaster, had not installed or maintained equipment that would have helped prevent the leak and the explosion, and generally had a poor safety approach.

A 2010 investigation by ProPublica found that in the years before the explosion, BP had been repeatedly warned that its facilities were in need of repair, and the company had declined to replace ailing equipment 2014 including the unit that failed the day of the explosion 2014 in order to cut costs.

Documents obtained by ProPublica showed that an internal BP report shortly before the disaster said that employees at the plant worked with "an exceptional degree of fear." The report warned that the plant might "kills (sic) someone in the next 12-18 months."

The Texas refinery, which produces about 3 percent of the country's gasoline, continued to have problems after the explosion. Several more workers died in accidents, and in 2010, the plant was found emitting a huge cloud of unpermitted toxic emissions.

After the toxic release, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), Texas's chief environmental regulator, charged the company with emissions reporting violations and alleged it had violated the terms of its probation with the federal government. BP settled that case, as well as an another similar emissions violation, with Texas in late 2011.

That left the criminal probation period and the outstanding OSHA violations as the final chapters in the Texas City saga.

BP has endeavored to keep the Texas City accident separate from claims and ongoing investigations into its 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. As recently as two weeks ago, the company's lawyers argued in court that past accidents should have no bearing on a trial to decide liability for the Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11 workers.

BP sought to strike portions of testimony about Texas City and other past incidents from its former CEO, Tony Hayward, in depositions that would be admitted to the court.

BP announced last year that it would sell its Texas City refinery along with another facility outside Los Angeles. The company said this week it has suitors and expects to complete a sale by year's end.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:30 AM | Permalink

Stunting In Washington Park

"Every weekend in Chicago people go to Washington Park to stunt so come bring your car and stunt."


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Bonus stunts:

*

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:15 AM | Permalink

The Blackout Diaries

"Comedians The Puterbaugh Sisters and Sean Flannery, along with retired Chicago Police Officer Bernie Brice on some of their drunkest experiences."


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See also:
* Get Drunk, Hear Comedy About Getting Drunk

* The Blackout Diaries

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:09 AM | Permalink

Tallest! Steepest! Fastest!

From The Beast to The Raptor to The Prowler - the Midwest's best roller coaster teasers.


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See also:
* Aaron Clark's CoasterSkinny YouTube channel

* Aaron Clark's CoasterSkinny Facebook page

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:50 AM | Permalink

Evolution Of The Happy Meal

"With its nationwide rollout of apple slices in Happy Meals recently completed, McDonald's USA is touting the nutritional benefits with a new series of TV ads and a chef contest for children and parents," The Packer reports.

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FuzzyMemoriesTV just so happened to post a commercial to YouTube this week from June 23, 1979, that aired on Chicago TV introducing the Happy Meal "While supplies last."

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:19 AM | Permalink

The Traveling Kings of Chicago

"The Traveling Kings of Chicago was one of the first gospel quartet groups to tour the country in a black Cadillac limousine," their Facebook page says. "They were part of African-American history from 1951 to 1961."

The Traveling Kings of Chicago joined YouTube this week and got right down to posting audio from what they describe as the Gospel Golden Age. Let's take a listen.

1. I Know A Man Named Jesus.


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2. When I Get Home.

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3. Soon I'll Be Home.

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4. Call Me Home.

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5. I'll Wait On Jesus.

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For more, see The Traveling Kings YouTube channel.

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Comments welcome.

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1. From The Traveling Kings of Chicago:

I want to thank you for the article. This area of gospel mean so much to me because music was pure and raw.

THE GOLDEN AGE OF GOSPEL

The Traveling Kings of Chicago was formed in the early 50's with the original following members:

William Gilkey - Manager/Universal Artist/Guitarist
Anderson Barney - 5th Tenor
Willie Dixon - Lead Singer
Ernest Harris - Lead Singer
Turner Snipes - Tenor Singer
Sam Johnson - Bass
Willie Reynolds - Back up singer (not on original recordings)
Rev. Lee - Back up singer (not on original recordings)

The ORIGINAL Traveling Kings of Chicago recorded 6 songs between 1961 to 1963:

1964 Gospel 7 inch vinyl:
The Traveling Kings - Farther Down The Road/Dark Clouds

1963 Gospel 7 inch vinyl:
The Traveling Kings - I Know A Man/My Rock

1962 Gospel 7 inch vinyl:
The Traveling Kings - Sing On/So Soon I'll Be Home

1962 Gospel 7 inch vinyl:
The Traveling Kings - Could Have Been Gone/God's Been Good

1961 Gospel 7 inch vinyl:
The Traveling Kings - Now Lord/I'm Goin'

1961 Gospel 7 inch vinyl:
The Traveling Kings - Down Here Lord Waiting On You/Shake Me Jesus

Artist ID: 23217
All members are deceased with the exception of Mr. William Gilkey. If you desire additional information regarding the history of the ORIGINAL Traveling Kings of Chicago, feel free to contact him at 773-374-1773 or e-mail travelingkingsofchicago@gmail.com or Ms. Vivian Ford Barney (daughter of the late Mr. Anderson Barney) 708-272-2526.

Check out their Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/travelingkingsofchicago

travelingkings.jpg(ENLARGE)

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:50 AM | Permalink

March 12, 2012

SportsMonday: Kyle Korver, The Torch And A Cinderella Story

Did you see Kyle Korver stroking it over the weekend? Or his equivalent one level down? As bracket madness takes over during the next few days and weeks, don't forget the game - especially in Illinois where for the second time in three years our schools were completely shut out of NCAA tournament berths.

And the best thing about the game around here of late was Korver's shooting. With Joakim Noah out with the flu and Luol Deng sitting down to try to reduce inflammation in his left wrist, the Bulls were just about dominated inside against the Jazz on Saturday. The team from Utah out-scored their hosts 62-42 in the paint.

But it didn't matter because the Bulls were overwhelmingly good from the outside, led by Korver's six threes on his way to 26 points. The Bulls finished with seven three-pointers as a team. Utah did not connect once from beyond the arc on its way to a 111-97 loss.

And I'm confident I speak for intense basketball fans everywhere when I say there is nothing like a pure shooter heating up and using perfect form to drain shot after shot. Despite operating exclusively from way out on the perimeter, Korver connected on 10 of his final 12 shots to thrill the Chicago faithful.

Just a day earlier, Korver was on the wrong side of the headlines. "Korver's Struggles Surprise Bulls," ESPN Chicago reported. "Korver Disappointed, Vows To Bounce Back," CSN Chicago said.

And indeed, Korver missed his first four shots on Saturday and he had missed about a half-dozen straight open looks late in the Bulls' previous game - a disappointing loss to Orlando at home. In other words, there was seemingly overwhelming evidence that it was time for the man to dial it down for a while. Except that isn't how veteran shooters operate.
Then again it is easy to tell a player to just keep shooting no matter what but it has to be almost impossible for the humans who receive those messages to not let at least a little doubt creep in. But especially with Deng on the bench, Korver knew the Bulls would need extra offense from the wing.

"Got myself mentally ready for tonight and tried to be aggressive," Korver told Chuck Swirksy in this NBA.com interview.

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See also: Cooking For Kyle Korver.

Johnny The Torch
Will there be an NCAA player who thrills us with his marksmanship in the tournament this time around? This year's Jimmer Fredette? Or do folks remember how good Jordan Crawford, Jamal's little brother, was from the perimeter for Xavier a few years back?

My vote for the shooter most likely to make huge waves in the tournament is Vanderbilt's John Jenkins, who absolutely torched the college nets the last few days. In so doing, he led the Commodores to an upset victory over Kentucky in the SEC tournament final.

He may have "only" scored 17 in the final versus the Wildcats on Sunday but his 23 points the previous day against Ole Miss included five three-pointers. The best thing about Jenkins is his athleticism. He doesn't have to wait for teammates to run a perfect offense highlighted by powerful picks to set him for open spot-up looks. He can create his own space and gets his shot off in a hurry.

Cinderella Story?
You could do far worse than putting your chips on New Mexico State. The 13th-seeded Aggies, who will face Indiana in the first round, went 26-9 and won the WAC tournament. They have several talented, multi-faceted players. But you better believe they also have a shooter to watch. First and foremost, the Hoosiers better beware of Hernst Laroche, who hit 40 percent of his threes on the season and averaged 12 points/game. He can also play a little defense.

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Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:02 AM | Permalink

The [Monday] Papers

"The judge who's to decide whether a special prosecutor investigates the Cook County state's attorney's office's handling of a homicide case involving a nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley has contributed $1,450 to the re-election campaign of State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, records show," the Sun-Times reports.

"Illinois Supreme Court rules allow such contributions. Still, they are rare. Circuit Judge Michael P. Toomin is among eight Cook County judges who have given Alvarez at least $150 - the minimum amount that's required to be reported in campaign-finance filings. That's 2 percent of the 410 sitting judges."

So judges contribute to the campaign of a prosecutor whose cases they later hear in court. Why the Illinois Supreme Court allows such an obvious conflict of interest is beyond me. But then, lawyers largely fund the campaigns that put judges on the bench in the first place, so the circle is squared.

"Toomin - who was assigned the case in December - has contributed to Alvarez four times, most recently in June. He says he has attended campaign fund-raisers for Alvarez and also gave money to her predecessors but that his political contributions won't affect his decisions in the Koschman case."

He won't be predisposed at all to supporting the side he's, um, supported.

"We live in a political environment," Toomin told the Sun-Times.

So you're admitting the courts aren't free from politics? Michael Toomin - now part of the conspiracy.

And here's the thing: It's not as if Alvarez couldn't have gotten along without Toomin's $1,450. Yet, Toomin felt compelled to make a formal declaration of support for her.

"Toomin, 73, is the presiding judge of Cook County's juvenile courts. Chief Cook County Criminal Courts Judge Paul Biebel Jr. gave Toomin the Koschman case after withdrawing because of a health issue. Biebel chose Toomin after consulting with Timothy C. Evans, the county's chief judge. Biebel says he didn't know about Toomin's contributions to Alvarez but that, even if he had known, it wouldn't have changed his mind about assigning Toomin the case."

Really? And what if Toomin had given money to the Koschman family or their attorneys?

"To imply that a judge's contribution would influence the judicial conduct or discretion of any judge is absurd," Alvarez spokesperson Sally Daly said.

Because that sort of thing coming from a judge who just reminded us that "we live in a political environment" would just be beyond the pale here in Chicago.

Ironically, the impact of the political environment on the criminal justice system is just the question at stake in the Koschman case. And the picture keeps getting clearer.

Heckuva Job, Barry
FEMA announced over the weekend that it was a denying aid to tornado-ravaged Southern Illinois.

"Based on our review of all the information available, it has been determined that the damage was not of such severity and magnitude as to be beyond the capabilities of the State, affected local governments and voluntary agencies."

FEMA obviously hasn't been to Illinois lately.

Bake Sale
"The owner of the Chicago Reader has put the alternative weekly on the sales block, hiring a Dallas firm to help shop the paper, according to sources familiar with solicitations for a sale," Crain's reports.

"The Chicago Sun-Times is one of the potential buyers that was approached."

So new owner Michael Ferro can bring some of his Chicago News Cooperative magic to two more local news outlets!

Bad Hands, Good Pay
"Allstate Corp. Chief Executive Tom Wilson saw his total compensation jump about 20 percent to $11.2 million in 2011 despite an 11 percent drop in the Northbrook-based company's stock, shrinking market share in its home and auto insurance business, and worsening relations with its agents," the Tribune reports.

Something tells me he'll win the NCAA office pool too. And he took Northwestern.

Milking The Cow
Time Out Chicago media blogger Robert Feder reports that longtime fave Mancow Muller is making some sort of comeback - again - with a television show about presidential politics but fails to note that Muller's latest ravings include the allegation that conservative media maven Andrew Brietbart was murdered - by Barack Obama.

Teaching At Oasis
Our very own Roger Wallenstein kicks off a series of reports about volunteering in one of America's most difficult school districts.

The Weekend In Rock
Eh.

SportsMonday
Will be arriving later this morning.

Programming Note
That's all I have time for this morning but I expect to have a much fuller column on Tuesday including more of the weekend's news - as well as up-to-date developments!

Also, I will not be tending bar at the Beachwood tonight for the first Monday night since I started the gig 17 months ago. But that doesn't mean you can't go and enjoy the Inn anyway.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Developing.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:27 AM | Permalink

The Weekend in Chicago Rock

You shoulda been there.

1. Black Tusk at Ultra Lounge on Friday night.


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2. The Robert Glasper Experiment at the Double Door on Saturday night.

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3. The Lovehammers at the House of Blues on Saturday night.

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4. Lady Antebellum in Rosemont on Friday night.

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5. Company of Thieves at the Metro on Friday night.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:18 AM | Permalink

Teaching At The Oasis: Part One

First in a series.

We're nearing the close of the morning language arts period, and it's time to clean up. Roberto (I'm not using any real names for kids here), who struggles with speaking, reading, and writing English, has everything back in its proper place - books back on the shelf, papers in his folder, pencils returned to his desk drawer - and he comes running back to the table. "What did you forget?" I ask. "Forgot to push my chair in," he responds. This is a kid who easily could hate school. It is so difficult for him. Yet he needs to make sure his chair is pushed in. Unreal!

* * *

Few schools in our country have students from poorer circumstances than Roberto's school, Oasis Elementary in Thermal, California. I happen to be fortunate in that I can spend much of the winter escaping Chicago's elements in the desert of Southern California. For the past couple of winters my wife Judy and I have added to our good luck by volunteering in a fourth grade classroom at Oasis.

To get an understanding of the school, its students and teachers, one first needs to picture the local environment.

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Thermal is a farming community of approximately 3,000 people - the vast majority Hispanic - in the Coachella Valley, less than an hour from the verdant golf courses (more than 200 of them) and playgrounds of towns such as Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage. The average July temperature is 107.

Many families in and around Thermal live in trailer parks and work in the irrigated fields of strawberries, grapes, lettuce, peppers, dates and just about everything else that grows. (Patricia Leigh Brown of the New York Times wrote a poignant description of life in Thermal of life California Watch last October.)

Increasingly, students like Roberto have become the focus of the national dilemma over educating our children. Instead of headlines about the widening achievement gap between whites and people of color, rich versus poor has become the issue.

This sounds like old wine in new bottles since a disproportionate percentage of African Americans and Latinos occupy the lower strata on the socioeconomic scale. Aren't we talking about the same kids here?

I'm not blazing any new trails by stating that no matter how the problem is defined, students from affluent backgrounds - regardless of race or ethnicity - have a running head start on kids whose parents struggle to make ends meet.

Consider the data of the French-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Thirty-four countries, including the U.S., are members of the OECD. Among other endeavors, it issues rankings of achievement for students around the world. Places like Finland, Korea, and Canada beat the pants off our kids when it comes to reading, math, and science test scores.

An April 2009 report by the consulting firm of McKinsey & Company stated, "The gap between students from rich and poor families is much more pronounced in the United States than in other OECD nations. In a world-class system like Finland's, socioeconomic standing is far less predictive of student achievement. All things being equal, a low-income student in the United States is far less likely to do well in school than a low-income student in Finland. Given the enormous economic impact of educational achievement, this is one of the best indicators of equal opportunity in a society, and one on which the United States fares poorly."

All of which means that the odds are stacked against Roberto and his classmates. Yet I don't detect a pessimistic attitude or sense of futility in Roberto's classroom.

One reason is their teacher Ramiro Zamora, who grew up in East Chicago. (He's a Bears fan, so I liked him immediately.) The students' reading and writing abilities lag anywhere from two to four years below grade level, meaning that some of these 9- and 10-year-olds are beginning readers. The kids are labeled "English learners" since they've grown up speaking Spanish.

Nevertheless, the class is manageable, just 17 students who are divided into three groups which rotate every half-hour or so with a 20-minute recess after an hour. Judy's and my job is to work one-on-one with the students. Another group works individually at computers on spelling and word attack skills while Mr. Zamora has five or six kids around a table reading aloud, discussing, and emphasizing language skills.

Just before Christmas, I was working with Natalia, a young Latina with potential. She pulled out her folder of work containing an impressive stack of worksheets that go along with the paperback Scholastic books on a vast array of topics that comprise the core curriculum.

Natalia was clearly proud, and for good reason. The sheets were done very neatly and completely. Her handwriting was excellent, and, with a few exceptions, she wrote complete sentences with proper punctuation.

Natalia told me that she wanted to get top grades but needs to work harder. Parent conferences were scheduled for later in the week, and Mr. Zamora gives the students the option of being present. Natalia said she would sit in on her parent conference, and I said that I thought that was just great. "It's always nice to be there when people talk about you," I said.

At the other end of the academic spectrum is Ricardo. He really can't read, and no one can blame him for not wanting to read aloud.

Working with Ricardo one morning I asked him to speak louder. "I'm an old man," I said. "I can't hear very well so please read louder." He smiled. He was stumbling even over sight words like "to, the, or, of" etc. I wrote down about ten sight words in a column on notebook paper. Most of them were words in the material he was reading. He was able to go right down the line and read the words. Then I listed about ten more, and he did reasonably well. Remember, these were the most basic of words.

However, when it came to the text, Ricardo hesitated. How do you help him? He would come to a word like "run," which I suspected he knew. His lips began to form the word, but not the "r" sound at the beginning. I asked what letter the word began with. Ricardo recognized the "r" but the phonics were more or less absent. There was no consistency. Every sentence was a struggle.

Despite this battle, Ricardo doesn't appear frustrated or angry when he's doing this work. I'm frustrated watching him, but he keeps right at it. I'd give him some words; I might summarize a sentence or paragraph. He listens and then continues right on. No squirming in his seat, no wandering eyes or impatience. He simply keeps going.

There is a richness and humanity permeating these young people. Driving away from Oasis School every week, we talk about what the future might hold for them. The school's principal, Dora Flores, has similar thoughts. "A lot of them will graduate from high school. Some of them will drop out," she said recently. "Some of them will go to college and some of them will be professionals. What will that percentage be? At the end of the day it's whatever they decide to do with their lives."

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Roger Wallenstein spends winter in California but when he returns to Chicago he writes The White Sox Report for the Beachwood. He welcomes your comments.

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1. From Barbara Finn:

Thank you Roger for this wonderful piece on Oasis Elementary School and the larger picture on education in the US. We, as a nation, should be embarrassed at our low ranking in education when compared to other first world countries.

And here in California there have been major cuts in funding affecting all levels of education from elementary up through the state college system and also with adult education as well.

And the latest from Washington is a proposal to double the interest on Stafford loans. Our children are our best resource and we are undermining their future . . . which is the future of our nation.

Good for you and Judy committing your time, energy and expertise to these children at Oasis. You set a powerful example for the rest of us retirees who could contribute similarly.

2. From Tom Weinberg:

You two, Roger and Judy, are a major resource for these kids. Bravo!

But, as Barbara has written, your involvement is a bellwether - a great example for the rest of us who have lots to give on a person to person basis, and somehow, don't "get around to it."

Inspiring. Thanks. Keep doing it and telling us about what you're doing.

3. From Stephen Weber:

It's great to hear that you aren't just shanking golf balls all winter. You and Judy are the best. You've never been able to just sit idly by when you see there are folks in need.

As you know, I work with children from all economic levels across Chicago via Educational Endeavors. I see this disparity on a daily basis - sometimes in the same afternoon.

I might be teaching a test-prep course to kids at the British School of Chicago, then head over to teach the same course at Salazar Bilingual Center, maybe drive down to work with kids at MetroSquash in Hyde Park.

Another day we may be at an alternative high school in Humboldt Park and at a Catholic School in Sauganash before giving some private sessions to kids at the Latin School.

It is very troubling to see the difference in ability among these kids, and it has nothing to do with their work ethic or desire to succeed academically. It has to do with the schools they attend, the neighborhoods they live in, and the cultural barriers they must overcome.

Most of these factors are determined solely by economic status. I am inspired by the kids who overcome these obstacles all the time. They make me feel like I am just some punk who grew up in the suburbs with every advantage. I have nothing on these kids, but luck.

The attitude of the kids at Oasis does not surprise me at all. I find that some of the best-behaved and hard-working students are children of first-generation immigrants.

There is certainly a phenomenon that goes across all cultures that motivates these type of kids to surpass their parents in academic achievement and in financial success despite the challenges facing them.

What can you do about this education gap? Just what you are doing. Try to make a difference in the lives of kids like Robert and the others at Oasis.

Thank you!

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:07 AM | Permalink

March 10, 2012

The Weekend Desk Report

Natasha Julius has been pulled from duty this weekend and sent to a more intimate setting in the woods out East.

One Ping Only
"To assure NATO summit security, the U.S. Coast Guard is taking steps to shut down all boat traffic on much of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan near downtown Chicago between May 16 and May 24," Crain's reports.

"This latest directive goes far beyond a statement by the Secret Service last month that boats would not be allowed to dock at Burnham Harbor, which is adjacent to McCormick Place where the summit will be held on May 20 and 21."

Did Al-Qaeda get a boat or something?

"According to a notice in the Federal Register this week, the Coast Guard wants to keep all boats - and people - more than a mile away from waters surrounding Burnham Harbor and the nearby shoreline of Lake Michigan."

Huh. Lori Healey just said "We want people downtown." Isn't that by the water?

"The Coast Guard also wants to shut down traffic on a four-mile stretch of the Chicago River, from the Chicago Tribune Wharf to the Loomis Street coal storage terminal slip. The river would also be shut down from the point where the north and south branches connect to the Chicago Controlling Works Lock at the mouth of the Chicago River near Navy Pier.

"Another circular area of Lake Michigan within a 2,000-yard radius of the Chicago Lock would be off limits to boat traffic."

Yup.

*

"Healey says she expects 99 percent of protesters to follow the rules set out by their city permits. She said the unofficial goal is to have fewer arrests than the 150 in Pittsburgh when that city essentially shut down for the 2008 G8 summit.

"Pittsburgh shut down the city, boarded up buildings and created a war zone atmosphere," said Gary Schenkel, director of the Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications."

Hey, tell it to Rahm.

Family Guy
"Sneed hears former Mayor Richard Daley is taking no chances on his nephew losing an election.

"To wit: Sneed hears Daley is putting on the full court press to ensure the election of the NEXT Daley generation - specifically, Patrick D. (Daley) Thompson, his nephew - and son of his sister, Patricia Martino.

"Polls are showing Thompson's bid for Metropolitan Water Reclamation commissioner is not in the bag."

Polls?! For the sewage board?

"In an effort to ensure the continuation of the Daley legacy in Chicago, a huge 'Patrick D. Thompson' billboard has been erected next to the Kennedy Expressway."

Oh. My. God. So it's gonna be this Patrick not that Patrick who inherits the Fifth Floor when Rahm leaves. (He'll get elected by pledging reform and spend the first six months of his tenure explaining to us how he inherited a mess and how we have to change the way city government does business.)

Uncle Richie is enlisting the help of old war horses like former state legislator Bobby Molaro.

From Wikipedia, citing local news reports:

Illinois lawmakers' benefits are based on 85 percent of their final pay on the last day of service. On Dec. 4, 2008, Illinois State Representative Molaro resigned from the state legislature after serving about 15 years in the House and the Senate, making him eligible to receive a public pension of about $64,000 based on his roughly $75,000 salary. One month later, Molaro nearly doubled his pension by spending one month as an aide to Chicago Alderman Edward M. Burke. Burke paid Molaro $12,000 to write a 19-page white paper about Chicago's ailing pension funds. That paycheck sent his pension soaring. When Molaro officially retired on Jan. 1, 2009, his pensionable salary was calculated at $144,000 - the amount he would have earned had he worked for Burke for a full year.

So associating with all the right people.

*

"Thompson, a lawyer, was spotted in deep conversation with popular gay rights activist Rick Garcia Tuesday morning, which, Sneed is told, was organized by his uncle."

Hey, his uncle just opens the doors. Pat has to walk through them!

"It doesn't hurt that Uncle Richie is this/close to current Water Reclamation commissioner Frank Avila," Sneed avers.

"It doesn't hurt that Thompson, who now lives in the Daley's legendary Bridgeport bungalow, is a very likeable fellow and hockey enthusiast who plays on a team that includes U.S. Congressman Mike Quigley, a former Cook County commissioner."

And it doesn't hurt that Thompson has a history of dealing with sludge.

"He moved from the firm of Ungaretti & Harris to DLA Piper to Burke, Warren, MacKay & Serritella," the Sun-Times reported in a profile last November. "He represents clients before various city boards; helped with the sale of more than $400 million in general obligation bonds for the water reclamation district; and is registered as a lobbyist with the city for six companies."

Billy's Buds
"Some of Bill Daley's closest friends gathered at the Racquet Club of Chicago the other day for a 'welcome home' party," Shia Kapos reports for Crain's.

"I hear there was plenty of laughter, cocktails and food - steak, whitefish or pasta - for the guys-only event."

*

That link is mine, not Shia's. But hey, maybe no women are among Billy's top 40 friends.

*

Among those who did make the cut: Michael Ferro, the new owner of the Sun-Times. So, you know, there's that.

Reader Redux
Media maven Jim Romenesko talks to Reader editor Mara Shalhoup about why their redesigned website looks just like New York magazine's website.

I don't like the new Reader design in part because there's nothing about it that gives the Reader an identity. Call it branding, if you must. What is the Reader anymore? It certainly isn't New York magazine, nor should it be. So it just looks like generic stuff out of a box to me. More suited to Time Out Chicago.

"It used to be scrappy," a design friend tells me. "Now they're trying for slick."

*

"I also suspect we'll see a lot more photo booth head shots supplanting awkward journalist mugs. I'm betting we were the first to come up with that one," Shalhoup tells Romenesko.

Um, not exactly.

"Metromix did photo booth mugs back in the nineties!" my friend says.

And that just about says it all.

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The Weekend Desk Tip Line: Ducky.

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The Sound Opinions Weekend Report: "Remember Davy Jones and tune in for Jim and Greg's look at the musical and marketing phenomenon that was The Monkees. Later they review the new album by Andrew Bird, and Kid Cudi's foray into rock with WZRD."

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The CAN TV Weekend Report: CAN TV brings you local, relevant issues from Chicago's neighborhoods and communities. See what's happening around the city in education, the arts, government, cultural events, social services and community activities.

Perspectivas Latinas: Enlace Chicago

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Katya Nuques of Enlace Chicago describes how it fosters a physically safe and healthy environment in the Little Village Community through education and economic development.

Saturday, March 10 at 7:30 p.m. on CAN TV21
30 min

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Teaching Artists and the Future of Education

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Nick Rabkin of the Cultural Policy Center at the University of Chicago explains a new national study on the educational impact of engaging artists as teachers in public schools.

Saturday, March 10 at 8 p.m. on CAN TV21
2 hr 30 min

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Winning the Testing Battle: Overhauling ESEA/NCLB

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Associate Professor David Stovall of the University of Illinois-Chicago joins Monty Neill, executive director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, to discuss testing policies and strategies for improving elementary and secondary education.

Sunday, March 11 at 9 a.m. on CAN TV21
2 hr

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Rick Braun Sings with Strings

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Jazz trumpeter Rick Braun performs with the Lincoln Park High School Symphony Orchestra.

Sunday, March 11 at 11 a.m. on CAN TV21
2 hr 30 min

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6th Ward Forum for State Legislators and Ward Committeemen

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Officials from different levels of government share their visions for the 6th Ward and take questions from residents and representatives of local community organizations.

Sunday, March 11 at 1:30 p.m. on CAN TV21
3 hr


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:20 AM | Permalink

March 9, 2012

The [Friday] Papers

"The head of Chicago's NATO host committee says the city lost the prestigious G8 conference, because 'there are some very critical and serious issues in the world going on in foreign policy right now," NBC Chicago reports.

Unlike that day in June 2011 when Chicago was announced as host of the G8 amidst headlines such as "Iran: Government Says It Rounded Up U.S. Spies," "Congo: Cholera Spreads To A Crowded Capital," "Russia: A Liberal Party Is Rebuffed," "Beijing Warns U.S. About South China Seas Disputes," and "Drawing Down, With A Vigilant Eye On Pakistan."

There are always serious foreign policy issues afoot. That's why nations have summits.

Further, foreign policy issues will be discussed at the NATO summit, which is still being held here. The G8 summit is for economic issues. Intertwined, no doubt, but separated by the very parties summitting.

Healey's "explanation" also calls out President Obama as a liar. And he may well be, but his explanation was that "someone" - bubbled up from staff, according to David Axelrod - mentioned to him that he hadn't hosted his peers at Camp David and it would provide an "intimate" setting for chatting. As if the same couldn't be accomplished here.

Why don't they just tell us the truth? We can handle it.

"Lori Healey was head of Chicago's NATO/G8 Host Committee until Monday, when the organization's title was shortened after the Group of Eight meeting was pulled from the city for the more serene setting of Camp David, Maryland.

"After that sudden development Monday, Healey refused all interviews, and finally broke her silence Thursday night, accompanied by a live marching band on stage at the Chicago Live show, sponsored by the Chicago Tribune at The Second City theatre."

If the reason the G8 was pulled was simply because of tricky foreign policy issues that somehow couldn't be discussed in Chicago - because we don't have the same kind of, what, bunk beds they do at Camp David? - then why did she refuse interviews until now? How hard would that have been to tell reporters?

It's ugly watching public officials settle on spin.

Bloombull
"Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been taking a bit of a beating for Chicago's embarrassing loss of the G-8 Summit, but New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is having a hard time understanding the controversy," the Sun-Times reports.

More truthful: "Bloomberg pretended on Thursday he was having a hard time understanding the controversy."

I mean, a city prepares for almost a year and raises $60 million from its private sector and pushes through draconian protest ordinances and national conventions get rescheduled and universities and cultural institutions cancel programs and events and the mayor starts spending money out of unlimited emergency funding and police get the authority to deputize law enforcement personnel from anywhere on the planet and civic leaders never stop telling us how great this is going to be for Chicago and all of the sudden it gets cancelled and, well, what's the big deal?

"'Let me just say something. The G-8 is going to Camp David and NATO is coming here?' Bloomberg said Thursday, stepping in front of the microphone to intercept a question to Emanuel."

Just like he did in rehearsal.

"Neither are coming to New York. What's wrong here?"

You have the United Nations! That's like having G8 on steroids every day!

"We should have both."

And you could have if you had been Obama's chief of staff.

"And you're being criticized for getting 50 [percent]? You're batting .500. You get in the Hall of Fame. I don't know what the problem is."

Nobody's criticizing anyone for "getting 50 percent." We're just wondering why the G8 was suddenly pulled after nine months of intensive planning that sucked up the city's energies and resources and we can't get a straight answer about why.

"Protesters were quick to claim victory and suggest that the mayor had prevailed upon the White House to take the more controversial of the two summits off his hands. But City Hall sources insisted there was 'no way in the world' Emanuel begged off.

"'It's not in his DNA to do that. He was looking forward to it,' said a mayoral confidante, who asked to remain anonymous."

Because there was no way a "mayoral confidante" would be caught dead on the record defending his boss.

"On Thursday, the mayor said it's too soon to say whether the NATO summit alone would reduce the cost, previously pegged at between $40 million and $65 million."

Well, let's see: One less summit. I mean, it's not like we bought everything at a 2-for-1 sale. And if it's all the same after the first one, why not a third summit?

A Matter Of Trust
"Mayor Rahm Emanuel plans to ask aldermen next week to consider giving him broad authority to try a new way to pay for big-ticket projects, even though details on how it would work remain fuzzy," the Tribune reports.

"Top administration officials dispatched Thursday to explain the Chicago Infrastructure Trust insisted they don't know what public works improvements would be included and can't guarantee that public disclosure laws would apply."

So just like the current system.

*

"I'm not smart enough to know all the ways it could potentially be used," said the city's chief financial officer, Lois Scott.

At least we have the right person in charge.

*

"Emanuel wants to establish a nonprofit to oversee the trust, governed by five mayoral appointees approved by the council."

So city government is going to create a nonprofit to oversee the privatization of building public infrastructure.

I need a drink.

*

Strangely, Greg Hinz had a different view in his write-up for Crain's:

"Having apparently learned from Richard M. Daley's mistakes, the Emanuel administration is pledging both total transparency and limited city financial risk in its much ballyhooed new infrastructure bank."

Huh?

"In a background briefing late Thursday, city officials said the new Chicago Infrastructure Trust will operate under strict rules designed to protect taxpayers, attracting the kind of private financing the city needs without burdening its own balance sheet."

ALTERNATE: "Officials from the mayor's office trying to generate positive publicity for their boss's "infrastructure bank" pledged total transparency and accountability in a background briefing in which they wouldn't allow their names to be used and couldn't provide even the most basic details about how the bank would work. By holding the 'background briefing' late Thursday for journalists from several competing news organizations, officials used a timeworn strategy for stoking reporters into writing stories lacking sources other than the briefers due to lack of time to flesh out critical voices and views while feeding the impulse to not be 'scooped.' In at least one case, it worked."

Political Science
"State Sen. Annazette Collins' parents once owned a red-brick home in the 3500 block of West Walnut Street in East Garfield Park. That was the residence the Chicago Democrat listed early in her legislative career," the Sun-Times reports.

"It's also the address that five college students listed to qualify for coveted legislative scholarships, worth tens of thousands of dollars, that Collins has handed out during her 11 years in the Statehouse."

A+!

"Between 2003 and 2009, the five students listed the West Side residence as their home address to qualify for a series of the tuition waivers, which, under Illinois law, can be given only to students who live within a legislator's district.

"Three of those students had other addresses - outside of Collins' legislative district, which would have disqualified them for getting the tuition waivers from her - listed on their driver's licenses, state records show.

"In all, a dozen college students to whom Collins has given legislative scholarships gave addresses within a two-square-block radius in her old neighborhood. Four other nearby homes had multiple legislative scholarship occupants who appear to have rotated in after getting the scholarships from Collins despite listing out-of-district residences on other forms of state identification."

See, you can't measure smarts by SAT scores alone.

"Collins says the scholarships were all awarded properly.

"'There is no rule that says you can't give everyone on Walnut Street a scholarship,' she said in an interview."

No matter how many towns Walnut Street runs through!

"While serving in the Illinois House, Collins also awarded a four-year tuition waiver to Torrance Giles, the son of former Ald. Percy Z. Giles, to attend Northern Illinois University, state records show. The first of Torrance Giles' waivers came in 2001 shortly after the former alderman's 1999 bribery and extortion convictions in Operation Silver Shovel, the federal investigation of city contracting fraud, drug trafficking, illegal dumping and organized crime.

"The former alderman couldn't be reached, and his son didn't respond to a request for comment.

"Collins also gave a scholarship to current Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) before his 2011 election to the Chicago City Council. Ervin said he got his legislative scholarship from Collins in 2004 to finish his master's degree at Governors State University. Ervin said he previously had done campaign work for Collins."

So he was qualified.

"He is the treasurer of Collins' campaign fund and has endorsed her in her Senate primary against former mayoral candidate Patricia Van Pelt Watkins."

Here's the best part:

"Collins said she couldn't recall giving Ervin a tuition waiver."

He's your campaign treasurer!

"I didn't know I gave a scholarship out to Jason, and I'm stunned," she said. "If we gave it to Jason, he must've needed it."

*

"Collins gave [Dannie] Bell a tuition waiver in 2007 to attend Northern Illinois University. State records show Dannie Bell has gotten legislative scholarships from three different legislators since 2002 using four different addresses on the West Side and the South Side."

*

"In 2009, two Southern Illinois University students gave Collins' old house as their primary address to qualify for legislative scholarships she gave them, though each lived in River Forest, according to their driver's licenses."

*

Annazette Collins, if it wasn't for Lori Healey, Rahm Emanuel, unnamed top administration officials, mayoral confidantes and Michael Bloomberg, you'd be Today's Worst Person In Chicago.

Satellite Dishes And Starting Gates
"Because of its self-inflicted ills, racing can't be the best-run sport in America, but it still feels like the greatest," our man on the rail Thomas Chambers writes in his latest installment of TrackNotes.

The Week in Chicago Rock
Cleaning up March.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Like a lion.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:33 AM | Permalink

The Week in Chicago Rock

It was a really thin week so we're gonna clean up March so far with some shows that weren't uploaded in time to make our usual features and therefore got bypassed.

1. S. Joel Norman and The Illness on Saturday night at the Abbey.


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2. Magic City at the Double Door on March 1.

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3. Mitchell Grey at the University of Chicago on March 2.

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4. Lee Brice at Joe's on March 2.

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5. Dia Frampton at Subterranean on March 2.

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6. Maroon 5 at Union Station on March 1.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:19 AM | Permalink

TrackNotes: Satellite Dishes And Starting Gates

The latest research results are in.

Sure, all data is anecdotally based, but the conclusion is indisputable: The pull of Thoroughbred horse racing and its attendant wagering action is very strong indeed.

At the conclusion of a successful season handicapping the Bears and the NFL right through The Big Game, opportunities fell off precipitously.

Wagers on teams where leagues play a gazillion games every year seem silly. There was that one game where the Knicks, on what turned out to be the tail end of Linsanity, traveled to Miami, but more on that later.

I hadn't really stopped reading the Daily Racing Form or The BloodHorse. But the rage after a botched 2011 Breeders' Cup was real and justified. The BC has become a classic example of the committee making itself and its bloated racing card and the boastful "marketing" hoopla of the whole thing the main focus, instead of treating it for what it is, a very nice two days of racing. "World Thoroughbred Championships" indeed. Ask any Chicagoan what tossing around the word "world" will get you.

And make no mistake, racing's ills are nowhere near being solved, with little or no progress being made. There is still no cogent strategy for bringing it all together in an age when satellite dishes are just as important as starting gates. Remember in Seabiscuit when War Emblem's owner, Samuel Riddle, parochially refused to match-race the 'Biscuit or even acknowledge the possibility of his talent? Besides being able to quickly ship a horse to the purse money anywhere in America and the simulcast technology, the game is run pretty much the same as it was back then.

Without singular leadership, crimes against the game continue with ridiculously low penalties. Even for things like falsifying the identity of a horse, monkeying with the betting pools, or the all-too-common trainer filling a horse with drugs.

Do you think the football bounty hunters are going to get away with a fine of $2,000 and a five-day suspension? No, because the NFL knows that it must have some degree of institutional integrity and consistency and that appearances and perception mean everything. And I believe the league also is taking into account the need for probity vis a vis the game wager and the interest it generates in millions of people. What a difference a central, democratic administration could have on racing!

But there's wagering and then there's wagering.

From this viewpoint, it has now got to be about picking spots. Sticking with the bigger stakes races and avoiding cheap claimers and first-time maidens. Playing the better tracks and avoiding those with artificial surfaces. Questioning the robotic declarations spewed by the racing media.

And not get sucked in by "The Road to the Roses." Wait until the Kentucky Derby starters are known and go backwards to evaluate them. And not get psyched by today's hot horse, lest the fragile beast break and fall off the Derby trail, a la Algorithms, Junebugred, or Out of Bounds.

Because of its self-inflicted ills, racing can't be the best-run sport in America, but it still feels like the greatest.

CourtNotes
Who on earth would bet on the NBA?

In the aforementioned Knicks-Miami game, I had a strong feeling the strength of the Heat would subdue Jeremy Lin. LeBron called it a big game the day before and that was enough for me. Linsanity brought the spread to Knicks plus 9.5. I thought Miami was a lock.

Sure enough, Miami made sure Lin wouldn't beat them, holding him to a single field goal and forcing eight turnovers. But what about those referees?

Are they that bad? Are they lazy? Are they tired? Or are they corrupt?

In Knicks-Heat, New York's J.R. Smith was clearly lurking out of bounds at the end line when he took one step to the side of the lane under the basket, took the pass and laid it in. On another play, LeBron went to the lane, set up the tent, laid down the blanket and popped open a cold one and waited for Lin. Lin, with his right shoulder square in the middle of LeBron's chest, steamrolled James. Foul James. The lame announcers, including Marv Albert, said it was a foul because only half of their bodies touched each other. Huh?

So I'm watching my cover go down the drain. Fortunately, the non-call on Lin infuriated the Heat and they went down and hit a three to seal the 12-point win.

And then on Wednesday night at Milwaukee, the refs blew a big call late in the game after going to the video.

In a key late possession for the Bulls, Derrick Rose was dribbling around a sloppy pick when the Milwaukee defender grabbed Rose's bicep and the ball just kept going out of bounds. They call ball Bucks. Okay, the play was kind of hidden and TV's Neal Funk and Stacey King saw the infraction only after four replay angles.

But the gray shirts went to the sideline video and then came out and confirmed the call. Thank goodness the Bucks botched the play as Derrick wound down the clock and iced the game.

CityNote
What's the difference between Rahm Emanuel and Barney Fife?

Barney kept the summit.

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Thomas Chambers is our man on the rail. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:50 AM | Permalink

March 8, 2012

The [Thursday] Papers

"Mayor Rahm Emanuel is hosting an international gathering of mayors and ministers Thursday and Friday at Chicago's Cultural Center," the Sun-Times reports. "The meeting is a 'roundtable' sponsored by the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), founded in 1961 with 34 member nations.

"This meeting - which was not flagged by the Emanuel administration since a press release January 24 - was highlighted Wednesday by the OECD in a release."

Give Chicago some global press, stat!

*

"No aldermen or Cook County Board members are participating."

They failed the entrance exam, which was to find each of the 34 participating nations on a map.

*

Sources inside City Hall say a crazed Emanuel is insisting everyone call the event the G8ish.

Today In G8
"Mayor Rahm Emanuel today wouldn't get into the particulars of why Chicago lost the G-8 summit in May," the Tribune reports.

"Emanuel did not say when he first learned the president was considering moving the G-8 meeting to Camp David. White House officials said Obama had been pondering the idea for several weeks. And Emanuel spent consecutive Fridays in Washington meeting with top administration officials.

"[Wednesday's] luncheon in Peoria is Emanuel's first public appearance since the news broke. Emanuel said he has not been avoiding reporters in Chicago, rather that he was attempting to keep scheduling commitments."

And then he avoided reporters' questions.

*

Rosa Trakhtensky and Nick Burt writing for the Occupied Tribune:

It's not you, it's me, said the White House in announcing their plan to move May's G8 summit from Chicago to Camp David. They needed their space, they explained, "to facilitate a free-flowing discussion with our close G-8 partners."

But in reality, we all knew: It was us.

Nice.

"Groups from Chicago and around the country have been organizing for months to respond to the twin G8 and NATO summits - closed-door meetings of the global 1% to collaborate on economic and military policy - and both sides recognized the likelihood that this rare meeting of guns and cash would be confronted by the roar of an angry citizenry.

"The prospect of such a response, and the political context in which it will take place, was enough to force the Obama administration to reconsider bringing the G8 summit to the president's hometown and the site of his re-election campaign headquarters.

"For undemocratic institutions such as NATO and G8, there is no place for public input - either in the conference rooms or in the streets - in which the interests of the 99 percent would be considered above the groups' agendas of austerity and militarism. The G8's retreat to the hills of rural Maryland dovetails with the stated solution of Emanuel and the City Council: the best way to keep you safe is to keep you out of the equation altogether.

"Snipers and deputized police will still be flooding into Chicago for the NATO summit, not only to protect the delegates, but as much if not more to keep the nurses, school teachers and students from coming out into the streets against the financial crisis being paid for out of their paychecks."

*

The "real" Tribune reports:

"The other large planned demonstration, which was scheduled for the Friday before the G-8 summit began, will remain on that day but will now include a mock 'Camp David' somewhere in River North, said Chuck Idelson, a spokesman for the California Nurses Association, which is planning the event.

"Activists 'will reconstruct Camp David in Chicago and conduct a search for the absent G-8 leaders,' the group said in a release Tuesday afternoon."

*

"Sneed is also told the official speculation of 8,000 to 10,000 protesters expected at the NATO/G-8 summits this spring were off big-time: It was somewhere between 30,000 to 50,000, according to Sneed's sources."

Great for the economy!

*

Seriously, the city could have encouraged its hospitality industry to market to the protesters as well as the dignitaries. Tents, supplies for signs, protest apps . . . a whole market to exploit.

And even more seriously, welcoming protesters as participants to the weekend would have been much smarter than treating them like the enemy and turning the whole thing into an impending crisis. Our cultural, civic and political institutions could have scheduled workshops, debates, art exhibits - the whole works. We could have shown the world how to bridge the gap and connect the 1% to the 99% and showcased democracy at its best.

Security would still have been an issue and incidents no doubt would have occurred - and likely still will when NATO gets here. But that's part of the price we pay for living in a free society.

Stun Gunned
"The Illinois House on Wednesday resoundingly defeated a measure that would have required police officers to report more details about cases when they use stun guns," the Tribune reports.

Hey fellas, G8's not coming! No longer necessary!

*

We can all imagine the position of those opposing this measure - my guess would be cloaking the desire to chum it up with law enforcement by keeping accountability freaks off their backs with cries of burying cops in paperwork - but it would have been nice for the Tribune to actually tell us instead of muddling their account with cries of "gun enthusiasts" rallying for a concealed carry bill.

*

From my friend Tracy Siska of the Chicago Justice Project:

"Your Illinois House of Representatives just killed the Taser Use by Law Enforcement Act. This bill would have mandated that the following be reported: all demographic data on the individuals that were tased, how times they were tased, for what duration, and why. The data would have then been analyzed for disparities. I guess the police in Illinois are just not in to outsiders validating their use of such a serious weapon. The CPD now averages about 2600 taser discharges a year according IPRA. Wonder if there are any disparities to be found in that data set?"

Burke's Law
"Former Cicero Police Supt. Thomas Rowan took the Fifth 29 times when questioned under oath about whether he took part in setting up a Cook County commissioner for a bogus arrest - once the focus of an FBI investigation," the Sun-Times reports.

"Rowan has been accused of threatening an officer with the loss of his job for cooperating with that FBI investigation.

"In another matter, Rowan allegedly retaliated against a different cop by pulling back-up officers from her after she was sent out on a potentially violent call.

"For another Cicero cop, though, Rowan was quite helpful.

Rowan wrote a letter to a federal judge on behalf of a violent Cicero officer, allegedly on the mob's payroll, who is now in federal prison.

"None of that stopped Rowan, 68, from getting a new job in recent months - with the Chicago City Council, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned."

And you wanna be a global city?

*

"Rowan was hired as chief investigator with the Council's Finance Committee, whose chairman is Ald. Edward Burke (14th)."

Bet you saw that coming.

"In his new city job, Rowan, who began his career as a Chicago cop, is making nearly $70,000 a year. That's on top of the nearly $60,000 a year he gets from his government pensions."

That too.

"Burke's spokesman declined to answer a list of questions regarding Rowan's employment with Burke's committee, other than to say that Rowan does live in Chicago, as required by the city."

That too.

"Indeed, Rowan's Illinois driver's license does list a Chicago address.

"But where Rowan actually lives is unclear. Just last year, Rowan wrote a letter to the Chicago police pension board, saying: 'Please accept this letter as official notification that I have run away from home, and have a new address.'

"Rowan lists the address for a home in Elgin, which he owns with another individual, property records show."

You know what's next; wait for it . . .

"Rowan did not return a phone message for comment."

Job Snob
"About 150 workers at Chicago-based Appetizers And Inc., which manufacturers frozen appetizers, will lose their jobs next month because of the sale of the company," the Tribune reports.

Rahm Emanuel did not hold a press conference to announce the job loss, but was standing by to claim credit for an unpaid intern about to be brought on by a local firm.

Life Lessons
Sports build character.

*

Dear Matt: Why shouldn't that apply to all walks of life? If it makes you money, you do it. If it gets you elected, you do it. If it gets you a newspaper job, you do it.

Health Audit
"The Illinois state auditor has issued a scathing critique of the Department of Healthcare and Family Services and the state's Executive Ethics Commission, taking the two organizations to task for how $7 billion in contracts were awarded to BlueCross BlueShield and two other providers," the Tribune reports.

"In its report, the auditor cited 'serious deficiencies' in the awards process and questioned whether the state's best interests were served.

"The report, released by the Office of the Auditor General, said that, among numerous other issues, a 12-member evaluation committee charged with awarding the contracts did not meet once during the review process, a violation of state policy."

Name those members!

"Further, the report said, the department's director, Julie Hamos, signed two different recommendations between March and April 2011 on the contracts."

Well, she's a former state legislator so she's used to speaking out of both sides of her mouth. She also voted "present."

*

Here's the full report.

*

And while we're here . . .

"The parent of Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Illinois booked more than $1 billion in net income in 2011, the second straight year that the Chicago-based company has crossed that milestone," Crain's reported earlier this week.

Lawyer Lament
"Attorney General Lisa Madigan is pushing back against the governor's call for deeper budget cuts, saying her office's ability to generate money for taxpayers is already being threatened by low pay and low morale that make it hard to retain her top lawyers," AP reports.

"Madigan said her office is losing experienced lawyers, leaving behind mostly young attorneys straight out of law school. The starting salary for a lawyer at the attorney general's office is $50,500, which is lower than starting salaries with the Cook County state's attorney, the city of Chicago and the DuPage County state's attorney, Madigan's aides said."

I sympathize, but the per capita income in Illinois is $28,782 and median household income in Illinois is $52,811.

*

OTOH, why does the governor see it fit to provide private companies with subsides to create or retain jobs but doesn't see fit to create or retain jobs in the "company" he leads?

*

"[J]ust one statewide officer proposed a 9.4 percent cut in line with the governor's wishes, Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon," Rich Miller notes on is Capitol Fax Blog.

Well, her entire budget should be zeroed out. Give her an office and an aide and let that be that.

Right Down Broadway
"The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has filed a $104 million lawsuit in connection with the April 2010 failure of Chicago-based Broadway Bank," the Tribune reports.

"Among the defendants are former President Demetris Giannoulias. His brother Alexi, whose lost a U.S. Senate race amid questions about his role in the bank's troubles, wasn't named as a defendant."

Well, we can't win 'em all.

*

"'Broadway Bank was driven by a disregard for risk and a willingness to lend millions of dollars to un-creditworthy borrowers for speculative commercial building projects not only in Illinois, where the bank was located, but in New York, Florida, California and other locales,' the suit said. From 2000 to 2009, Broadway's assets, consisting mostly of loans, grew more than 500 percent.

"'The bank didn't have sufficient staff to monitor these out-of-state projects adequately,' the suit said. When the bank was seized, more than half of its loan portfolio was secured by out-of-state projects. And the bank made an 'excessive' number of loans for condominium and hotel projects despite those markets being "saturated," the suit said.

"Outside board members 'were grossly inattentive to the affairs off the bank, deferring excessively to the whims of the Giannoulias family,' the lawsuit said."

*

Other defendants include another Giannoulias brother and seven directors and executives.

*

From Crain's:

"From 2000 to 2009, Broadway's assets grew by more than 500 percent," the complaint said. "This explosive growth was fueled by unsustainable expansion of the bank's (commercial real estate) and (construction) loans. These types of loans, which are highly sensitive to market fluctuations, require close monitoring, lending expertise and respect for lending risk. None of these were present at Broadway Bank."

Alexi was the bank's senior loan officer from 2002 to 2006, when he was elected state treasurer with the help of Barack Obama's backing. The two reportedly met at the East Bank Club and Giannoulias's deep pockets outweighed his reputed mob connections when it came to campaign cash for the aspiring president. Broadway's questionable loan recipients included Obama's self-described political godfather and now convicted felon Tony Rezko.

Inside Berto
Derrick Rose takes us on a guided tour of the Bulls' practice facility.

Inside Beer
Drinking Illinois with The Beer Beer Beer Show.

Memory Lane
With Chicago doo-wopsters The Flamingos.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: The price of freedom.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:52 AM | Permalink

The Beer Beer Beer Show: Drinking Illinois

Taste testing.

1. Half Acre's Daisy Cutter (Chicago).

2. 5 Rabbit Cerveceria's 5 Vulture (Chicago).

3. Two Brothers Cane and Ebel (Warrenville).


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See also: The Beer Thinker: Tapping Lincoln Square

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:47 AM | Permalink

Guided Tour: Inside The Berto Center With Derrick Rose

He doesn't lift much, doesn't eat fish or red meat, and longs for what's in that trophy case (look at his eyes).

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See also: The Story Behind The Berto Center

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:31 AM | Permalink

Memory Lane: The Flamingos

Dublin layabout Eblana uploaded this gem to YouTube on Wednesday featuring noted Chicago doo-wop group The Flamingos. Let's watch, and then we'll fill you in on the vitals.


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"Jacob Carey (Jake) and Ezekial Carey (Zeke), bass and 2nd tenor, respectively, formed the group in Chicago, Illinois, after meeting cousins baritone Paul Wilson and first tenor John E. 'Johnny' Carter at a Hebrew Israelite congregation," according to the group's Wikipedia entry.

"Earl Lewis (not the Channels lead) soon joined, and after a series of name changes, (The Swallows, El Flamingos, The Five Flamingos), wound up being known as The Flamingos.

"Sollie McElroy soon replaced Lewis (who joined The Five Echoes). The Flamingos' first single (for Chance Records), 'If I Can't Have You,' was a moderate local success, as was the follow-up 'That's My Desire,' but it was Johnny Carter's composition of 'Golden Teardrops,' with its complex vocal harmonies and Carter's soaring falsetto, that cemented their reputation as a top regional act of the day.

"In early 1955, the Flamingos signed with Chess Records, to record for their Checker Records subsidiary."

*

"Current Flamingos member J.C. Carey, along with Terry Johnson, Tommy Hunt, and descendants of Nate Nelson and Paul Wilson, sued PepsiCo for having used 'I Only Have Eyes For You' in a 1998 television commercial, allegedly without having consulted the group. The group was awarded $250,000."

*

"The Flamingos received the Rhythm & Blues Foundation Pioneer Award in 1996 (where Terry Johnson, Jake Carey, Zeke Carey, Tommy Hunt and Johnny Carter performed) and were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2000, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, and the Doo-Wopp Hall of Fame in 2004.

"The group that performed at the Rock Hall ceremony included Terry Johnson on lead, Tommy Hunt and Johnny Carter.

"In 2003, The Flamingos recording of 'I Only Have Eyes For You' (co-wrote by Walle (Walter) Dillard) was inducted into the Grammy Award Hall of Fame."

*

From the movie Rock Rock Rock!:

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:04 AM | Permalink

March 7, 2012

The [Wednesday] Papers

First, I've got more on the G8 fiasco or snafu or whatever we should call it, in The [G8] Papers. Good stuff!

Second, the day's news. There is no third.

Deposing Daley
"A federal judge has set a trial date in the case of a Burge torture victim who is suing former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, among others," WBEZ reports. "The trial date is an indication that settlement negotiations during the last month have broken down between lawyers for the city of Chicago and attorneys for Michael Tillman, a man who says he was tortured by police working under former Commander Jon Burge, tortured until he confessed to a crime he didn't commit."

Good. I know Tillman's lawyers have a duty to represent their client and that may mean accepting a settlement instead of going to trial, but that would deny the citizens of Chicago the opportunity to hear from Daley and others under oath. We deserve that.

Hacker News
"Arrested Monday night in an FBI raid on his Bridgeport home, [Jeremy] Hammond is accused of stealing confidential data from hundreds of thousands of people, including a former vice president of the United States and a former CIA director," the Sun-Times reports.

"From a tiny apartment in the 2900 block of South Quinn, he allegedly helped steal the personal details of 860,000 Stratfor clients, including a former vice president and a former CIA director, whose names are redacted from the complaint. He also published the information for 60,000 credit cards users and used stolen credit card data to make charges of $700,000, the complaint alleges."

*

"When the Chicago Sun-Times called a phone listed in Hammond's twin brother's name Tuesday, a man who answered demanded to know 'where did you get this number? My name is Mickey Mouse and I don't know who Jeremy or Jason Hammond are.'"

*

"His mother, Rose Collins, offered a heavy sigh when informed that the FBI had arrested her 27-year-old son," the Tribune reports.

"Again?" she asked. "I love my son, but he is a genius with no brain. He has a 168 IQ, but he has no wisdom."

*

The Reader profiled Hammond in 2005.

*

Chicago magazine profiled Hammond in 2007.

Dishonorable Code
Yeah, codes of silence are never acceptable when people's lives and livelihoods are at stake - and particularly have no place in a newsroom. So not exactly convinced the Tribune's Matt Bowen isn't holding back.

*

I wonder if Bowen would have spoken up had he been a cop working for Jon Burge.

Let Them Eat Cake
Yeah, the city's 175th birthday has been pretty low-key. Maybe crowded out by G8 planning?

Partisan Photo Shop
If this was Mitt Romney, Democrats would be having a field day.

New G-8 Prep
"To Thurmont officials, concerns about possible protests and commotion during the upcoming G-8 summit at Camp David seem to be outweighed by excitement over the event," the Frederick News-Post in Maryland reports.

"'Who cares?' Commissioner Bill Buehrer said Tuesday to the suggestion of demonstrators in town.

"The White House announced Monday it would move the May 18-19 economic summit from Chicago to the presidential retreat in the mountains of northern Frederick County."

*

"'I'm trying to figure out how we can take advantage of it, businesswise,' Buehrer said, joking that he might open a hot dog stand where journalists are expected to gather."

*

"About half an hour after Monday's summit announcement, Thurmont's Cozy Inn was completely booked by members of the press corps, according to general manager Vickie Grinder. The hotel is turning people away, telling them to look outside of town for lodging.

"'Maybe I'll hurry and finish up my second floor,' joked Virginia LaRoche, owner of the Timeless Trends Boutique. 'That will be fantastic for us. We do a lot to get visitors to come to Thurmont, and I'm sure Thurmont will welcome them.'

"With more than 10 weeks to go, it's too early to stock up on inventory, 7-Eleven manager Kamal Shah said."

Oh, come on Kamal! It'll keep.

Global City
Our reputation is intact.

Just One Letter Awayr
If only he was being indicted into the Irish-American Hall of Fame as well.

Ewwww of Chicago
"The University of Chicago has a dirty problem," some far-flung ABC affiliate reports. "The toilets in one of the building on campus keep on exploding."

Maybe I missed this story the first time around, but I'm oddly not curious enough to follow up.

Cubs Win World Series
And it doesn't look like this.

Chicago's Best Librarian Couple
And how they bind their journals.

Good Food Grown At Home
Chicagoan Fred Daniels explains.

Catching Hell
A thin, vexing position.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Cozy.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:38 AM | Permalink

The [G8] Papers

There's a still a lot to be gleaned from President Obama's decision to move the G8 summit from Chicago to Camp David. We have the best gleanings. Shall we?

*

"Administration officials and associates, speaking only on the condition of anonymity, said the president in recent weeks began discussing the idea of a more intimate setting for the world leaders - both to ease their communications and to cut down on the security concerns and traffic tie-ups of a big-city summit," the New York Times reports.

Right. The administration was worried about traffic tie-ups. But the anonymous aides got that absurdity equal footing with security concerns.

*

"President Barack Obama today said he was confident in Chicago's ability to host a gathering of world leaders and played down the notion that security concerns had anything to do with the decision to move the May G-8 meeting from Chicago to Camp David," the Tribune reports.

"In response to a question during a press briefing in Washington, Obama noted that the NATO summit scheduled for the same weekend will still be held in Chicago, bringing him and other world leaders to the city."

So why make them - and their entourages - travel to two locations the same weekend?

"The G-8 'tends to be a more informal setting where we talk about a wide range of issues in an intimate way,' Obama said. 'People would enjoy being in a more casual backdrop.'"

But the New York Times notes that "Last June, in announcing Chicago as the host city for the back-to-back summits, an administration official told reporters, 'We felt it was important to explore options beyond Washington because often you have these things in the capital city.' The Obama administration, the official added, wanted 'to highlight other parts of America that represent the character of our people and that can make for interesting venues.'"

*

From Obama's press conference:

"We're still going to be showing up with a whole bunch of world leaders. We've got this NATO summit. Typically what's happened is, is that we try to attach the G-8 summit to the NATO summit so that the leaders in the G-8 summit don't have to travel twice to whatever location. So last year, in France, we combined a G-8 with a NATO summit. We'll do so again."

Actually, that's patently untrue. Crain's notes that no city has hosted both summits back-to-back except London in 1977.
Chicago will never know if it could have pulled off hosting both the NATO and G8 summits back to back, as no other city has done except London in 1977.

"I have to say, this was an idea that was brought to me after the initial organizing of the NATO summit. Somebody pointed out that I hadn't had any of my counterparts, who I've worked with now for three years, up to Camp David."

Really? Who brought that to you? After all the organizing Chicago had done? Totally implausible.

"President Barack Obama, defending the switch in location of the Group of Eight (G-8) summit to Camp David from his home city of Chicago, said on Tuesday that the scenic retreat promised fine weather and a more intimate setting for world leaders to talk," the Tribune reports.

Right. The weather.

*

Average Temperatures in May:

Chicago: 69/49.
Camp David: 73/51.

*

"Of the two meetings, the G-8 is the one you want," University of Chicago economist Allen Sanderson told the Tribune. "They are world leaders and they bring entourages - people who are closer to business interests than with NATO, which is focused on security."

*

Old Conventional Wisdom: The G-8's gonna be great for the city!

New Conventional Wisdom: Thank God they cancelled the G-8!

*

With the exception of a phone call to John Kass, Rahm Emanuel appears to be completely avoiding the media, having only issued a written statement. Such a tough guy!

New theory: Rahm asked Obama to take it off his hands. Couldn't pull it off.

*

From Kass:

"It's a win-win situation,' Mayor Emanuel told me over the phone. 'Chicago gets to host all the heads of state at the NATO summit. And the president hosts the G-8 meetings at Camp David, which is essential for the kind of environment he wants.'"

Yeah. Why not just say, "You know what? We're disappointed. It sucks. But oh well."

Would that be so wrong?

I wonder what it's like being a mayor - or a president - who feels it necessary to obfuscate the truth all the time in order to retain power or maintain an image. In other words, what is it like to live a lie?

*

More Kass:

"While protesters still aim to antagonize the Chicago establishment at the NATO summit, many of the recent demonstrations here have been driven by organized labor. Getting their members revved up to hurl insults and shriek at merchant bankers is one thing. But getting a mass protest to rip on heads of state who are establishing a timeline to pull the troops out of Afghanistan is another matter."

*

Greg Hinz, unhinged:

"The Grant Park riots of 1968 were a long, long time ago, now only a distant memory to me and something to read in history books for much of Chicago. But the city never fully exorcised that poltergeist."

A) How would you? Bring a goat to Michigan and Balbo? It happened.

B) The media narrative after the 1996 Democratic convention here was that 1968 had been exorcised. It's still being said.

For example, a Tribune reporter wrote last June when the G-8 and NATO summits were awarded to Chicago that "Chicago largely has exorcised its troubled history of playing host to large gatherings. Former Mayor Richard M. Daley reversed the nightmares of his father's riot-torn 1968 Democratic National Convention by hosting a successful coronation of Bill Clinton's re-election bid 28 years later."

Also, the protesters were right. That never seems to get acknowledged. It's all about how the police "handle" them, not the substance of the issues at play.

*

More Hinz:

"The decision is a humiliation. No other word will suffice. Everybody - and I mean everybody - in the local power structure got caught by surprise on this one, which came less than three months before the summit was scheduled to occur.

"After the 2016 Olympics stumble, in which Chicago finished dead last, the summit could have brought a measure of redemption."

Really? Chicago loses in an international competition vs. the mayor's friend lets him host the summit in what could only be described as a no-bid contract. Redemption! We won when we rigged the game!

"Instead, the message harkens all the way back to '68: Chicago's not ready for the big time."

What's funny about the big time is that we're never there; there's always one more event we need, one more piece of data, one more type of validation to reassure us that we're, um, big time. The quality of our media is never a metric, though.

*

More Hinz:

"Having a mayor who's a big thinker and an ex-presidential chief of staff can be great. But volunteering his city to host the event without researching who would pay, whether security would be sufficient and even whether McCormick Place would be available was just sloppy.

"That's why the city had to persuade the huge National Restaurant Association show to change the dates for its McCormick Place confab - and throw a couple of million dollars in the pot to make it go down."

That's right.

"Chicago came forward with a one-time financial package aimed at reducing some losses that could occur due to the schedule change," the Tribune reported last July. "The association, the city's convention bureau and the mayor's office declined to discuss the specifics of the deal."

And now they're really declining!

"The package is worth about $2 million and includes public and private funding sources, according to sources close to the deal."

Public. Funding.

*

Hinz: "I asked top Obama adviser David Axelrod about that, about what was behind the change in plans.

"'The suggestion bubbled up' from staff, Mr. Axelrod replied in an e-mail, 'and (Obama) liked it.'"

It just bubbled up from the staff. Obama liked it.

*

Back to Hinz, because this is just such a classic. I think he's more busted up about this than Rahm.

"I'm told it became absolutely impossible to rent a bomb-sniffing dog."

They couldn't keep bomb-sniffing dogs in stock!

"But it's part of a trend, which goes back to 1968. The disastrous Democratic convention that year. The aborted bid to stage a world's fair in 1992. The fourth-place stumble in the Olympics' race. Now this."

The 1996 Democratic convention. The 2005 White Sox World Series celebration. Obama's election night in Grant Park.

"'We ain't cutting it in the pursuit-of-greatness game,' says a veteran top Chicago civic player who asks not to be named. 'That this came from 'our own' White House makes it all the colder.'"

It's not our world-class poverty or education that bothers top Chicago civic players; it's our inability to be great as measured by the ability to host a G-8 during a time of global economic meltdown. We suck!

"[I]t's clear that the Second City has yet to find its way."

The truest thing Hinz wrote.

*

"John Hogan, chef at downtown steakhouse Keefer's, who worked with the Illinois Restaurant Association on 'Chicago's Culinary Crossroads,' an initiative to draw international attention to the local dining scene during the summits . . . described the G8 loss as a major blow. 'It was going to put Chicago on the international map,' he said."

I thought Al Capone did that. Then I thought Michael Jordan did that. Then I thought Barack Obama did that. Who would've thought that the G-8 summit was the key to international mapmaking!

*

"Since the summit was held in Genoa, Italy, in 2001 - a meeting that sparked protests that descended into riots - no G8 country has hosted a meeting in a major city," Crain's reports.

And the cities and towns that have hosted have yet to make the international map!

"Several sources say the decision to relocate to Camp David, the secluded presidential retreat in Maryland, was a prudent move and not one that should reflect badly on Chicago."

Those sources requested anonymity so as not to be outed as trespassing in false banalities and also because each has a last name that starts with E and ends with L.

*

"The notion of using Camp David only came up after Chicago was booked - at the urging of Emanuel - for the back-to-back summits, Obama said," the Sun-Times reports.

"I have to say this was an idea that was brought to me after the initial organizing of the NATO summit," Obama said. "Somebody pointed out that I hadn't had any of my counterparts, who I've worked with now for three years, up to Camp David."

Somebody - we're never told who, but Axelrod says it bubbled up from staff - brought the idea to the president even though Chicago was knee-deep in organizing and preparing just because Obama hadn't invited any of his peers to Camp David yet?

Sources said this should not reflect badly on the president.

*

The Tribune editorial page isn't buying it.

*

"President Barack Obama said Tuesday the G-8 relocation from Chicago to Camp David did not come because of security concerns," the Sun-Times report says.

But the Tribune buries this nugget:

"Patrick O'Connor, 40th, the mayor's City Council floor leader, said city officials told him the call to move G-8 out of Chicago was made for security reasons."

Let's face it, there's no other reason that passes the stink test, if you allow for Obama's concern over a melee in an election-year to fall under the security umbrella. I've got a Volt to sell to anyone who thinks a more intimate setting is anything but a whopping lie. The only outstanding question is whether the summit was pulled or Rahm gave it away.

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"'I'm still pulling myself off the ground on this. Give me some oxygen,' said Patrick Donelly, general manager of the Hyatt Regency Chicago. He ventured no further comments.

"A check of online reservation sites showed many downtown hotels as being booked for the summit weekend. Mid-grade hotels that still had rooms were trying to get more than $250 a night, and some were said to be requiring advance payment."

*

Old Conventional Wisdom: Holding the G-8 here is a stroke of genius by Rahm. His pull in the White House is really going to help us.

New Conventional Wisdom: Holding the G-8 here was a stupid idea. The White House was right to pull it. What was Rahm thinking?

*

"Its possible, though, that Chicago still has the best part of the bargain. The NATO meeting is far larger, with 28 nations taking part and dozens more on the outside looking in," David Roeder inexplicably writes in the Sun-Times. "Six nations in the G-8 belong to NATO anyway."

Sources say nothing should ever reflect badly on Chicago!

"Yet for whatever reason, the G-8 has a more devoted following of protesters, the vast majority with honestly held convictions, but with some just looking to stomp a squad car."

For whatever reason, Roeder cannot possibly comprehend why meetings of the world's economic powers would draw more protesters than a military alliance of Western nations.

"[O]ur immediate loss from the G-8 move seems slight."

Old conventional wisdom: This will be a great economic benefit to Chicago!

New conventional wisdom: It really wasn't going to bring in much money anyway.

"Many business leaders not in immediate thrall to Emanuel grumbled about the summits."

Now he tells us!

"Some think the opposition filtered back to President Obama and convinced him to move the G-8. That's doubtful, but there's no harm in letting the world think we have common sense."

Common sense as uncommon right up to the moment the summit was moved.

*

The Tribune news department - not editorial - wants to assure you that the spotlight is still on "us."

*

Straight news reports always from the perspective of the city - the official city government, including Rahm's political imperatives - not the citizens. Always about not ruining it for the most powerful people on the planet. A different perspective might be from citizens here or even protesters - instead of stories about economic benefit (manufactured narrative backed by no evidence; in fact, anti-evidence) - we could have seen stories about how those responsible for derailing our economic lives were finally appearing together in our city and what we could do about it. Not just protest, but what other ways of expression? Where would the inflection points be for policy? Would any public events take place - events of substance about the critical issues at hand, not food-tasting? What would the decisions made at the summit and the discussions herein mean for us - not as potential recipients of supposed future tourism but as citizens struggling in the aftermath of economic disruption?

Straight news reports also presume that "Chicago" wants to be known as a world-class city instead of a city with happy citizens leading safe, productive and interesting lives. Democrats pretend to rail against trickle-down economics nationally, but this is just what they are selling locally. Let our elites make deals and we'll all benefit! Has that happened yet? (That's why Miguel del Valle's mayoral campaign was different; his focus was from the neighborhoods - meaning us citizens - up.) Let us make money and you'll get some crumbs that fall off the table! If we have to fire some teachers along the way and close mental health clinics, so be it!

We saw it with the Olympics and we saw that no lessons were learned. Facts are facts, except when journalists find them inconvenient to the narratives burned into their brains. (No one asks if it would be good for the city's reputation and act as a magnet to people wanting strong neighborhoods - you know, where people who don't live downtown live - if we had the happiest teachers on the planet and a political leadership so committed to schools they actually deigned to send their own children there and desegregating housing patterns was the top priority and the bottom of the economic ladder was more important than the top, which is doing quite well, thank you. No narrative we get to see wonders if that wouldn't actually make Chicago a global city of note - a city that really works and thus has people breaking down our doors to live here, instead of 200,000 bailing (or pushed out) in the last decade. And guess what? With eager, hard-working citizens educated and trained or willing to be, employers would be enticed to stay here or move because of the quality workforce - and also for their own selfish reasons, which usually prevail anyway. Glory!)

*

Rahm is so tough he goes into hiding when bad news arises; he's so tough he can't face the press. He can't take a tough question. He's so tough he has to spin a "message" every day because real truth is to hard for him to handle. He's so tough he has to berate reporters and whine about how hard it is to govern if everyone knows what he's doing behind the scenes. What a tough guy. Rahm Emanuel.

*

"The Occupy movement should take credit for chasing the G-8 Summit out of Chicago in May, a founder of the radical 1970s Weather Underground said in Springfield Tuesday," the State Journal-Register reports.

"'They realized the couldn't actually put on their little show of power,' Bill Ayers told about 50 people at the Golden Frog Cafe in an appearance hosted by a new Springfield group, Foundation for a United Front. 'It's a defeat for them and a victory for the people's movement.'"

I don't see how. Don't you think "they" would rather put on their show in private? I don't see how being denied a worldwide platform to put grievances on the table is a victory.

*

"While the unexpected decision to move the G8 from Chicago is a victory for the city's working families - proving that their voices can have a significant impact - it does little to alleviate their economic suffering," Stand Up! Chicago says.

"The prospect of hosting one or both of these summits has revealed a lot about the priorities of the city's leading corporations. We've been told there's no money for job creation, and that we have to give highly profitable corporations like the CME huge tax breaks just to keep them in the city," said Stand Up! Chicago Policy Analyst Elizabeth Parisian. "Then these summits come along and suddenly World Business Chicago members are able to come up with these large sums."

*

Finally, from the Reader's NATO/G8 primer - pre-hullabaloo:

"What has Mayor Emanuel done to explain to Chicagoans how the summits will make their great city even greater?

"He's worked diligently to spin the press. For example, on January 12, his press office welcomed about 25 reporters to a City Hall briefing to clear up confusion about the summits. When they were finished, reporters were even more confused.

"Several of the top officials responsible for the city's preparations were there, including Lori Healey, executive director of the NATO/G8 host committee. Also in attendance were at least five mayoral press aides, who laid out rules for the reporters: we were allowed to quote anything we wanted, but we couldn't name the person who said it.

"'We want everyone to be able to speak freely,' one of the press flacks explained."

*

"For the next hour-and-a-half, the officials took turns stressing that the summits presented a huge opportunity to 'showcase Chicago as a world-class city' - they used the phrase repeatedly. They added that they couldn't provide many details about what it would mean for people who actually live here."

*

"I guess it's good that Chicago's going to be 'showcased.' But did city officials share the analysis they conducted showing how much this will cost and benefit us?

"Funny you should ask about that, because we did too. Unfortunately, the city hasn't been able to produce anything in response to our request for the cost-benefit analysis they've conducted. Aldermen say they haven't been shown any analysis either.

"There's a good reason for this: the city hasn't conducted a formal cost-benefit analysis.

"None?

"City officials tell us they're 'in possession of some very preliminary cost estimates in draft form' - but they can't share them with us. Still, they insist that the events will be a net gain for Chicago's economy.

"So the supposed benefit to Chicago comes down to an unsubstantiated assurance from officials who've asked us not to name them?

"That's right."

*

"Okay, so we don't know how this is going to benefit Chicago. Do we at least know what it's going to cost us?

"Nope, don't know that either. City officials say there's no way of knowing all the summit expenses until federal officials finalize the logistics in the coming weeks. In the meantime, the city is using past summits in other cities to come up with guesstimates of $40 million to $65 million. But it's unclear what the $40 million to $65 million would cover - security, entertainment for visiting dignitaries and journalists, marketing, or everything in between. 'It's too early to say,' one spokeswoman tells us."

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See also: Missing Our Moment: Why I'm disappointed that the summit that never should have come here is now going away.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:49 AM | Permalink

A Tame Version Of What A Cubs World Series Championship Would Look Like

So real it's unreal. Like, where are the overturned cars and alcohol-poisoned bodies stacking up at the morgue?


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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:59 AM | Permalink

Good Food Grown At Home

"Fred Daniels talks about Growing Home in advance of the Good Food Festival in Chicago March 15th-17th."


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See also: The Chicago Foodies YouTube channel.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:51 AM | Permalink

Chicago's Best Librarian Couple

The latest installment of Books Are Awesome from Aaron of the Fortknighthood.


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See also: World Book Night

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:20 AM | Permalink

Fantasy Fix: Catching Hell

Catcher is often one of the shallowest fantasy baseball positions. This year, it's not only shallow, but completely vexing. The only player you could call a sure thing, Victor Martinez, is out for the year. One of the best young catchers, Buster Posey, is coming back from a terrible injury and no one knows what to expect. Joe Mauer has fallen out of favor. Alex Avila is - who is he again?

My top 10 catchers:

Carlos Santana, CLE: Not so confident in this ranking, given his .239 average last year. Betting that 27 HRs, 79 RBIs, 84 runs, 5 SBs was just the beginning for a player with huge potential.

Mike Napoli, TEX: Break-out year from the big man: .320 average, 30 HRs in just 113 games in 2011. Average could dip, but could he hit 40 HRs if he plays another 25-30 games?

Brian McCann, ATL: The most consistent fantasy contributor at this position. I wouldn't blame you for ranking him first, but his power is a notch below Santana and Napoli.

Matt Wieters, BAL: Seemed to find his power swing last season, and his numbers and consistency are close to McCann's.

Alex Avila, DET: Surprised last season, so some want to call him a one-year wonder, but a near .300 was second at the position and he'll hit some near Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.

Miguel Montero, ARI: 18 HRs, 36 doubles and 86 RBIs last season. He could easily be third on this list, and he's playing for a new contract.

Buster Posey, SF: Tough call. He had been on a hitting tear when he got hurt last year and has all the tools, but you have to wonder if he'll try to do too much in his comeback bid.

Joe Mauer, MIN: Supposedly healthy, he is a comeback of the year candidate to many. I don't doubt his hitting chops, but his MVP-year power seems like a distant dream, doesn't it?

J.P. Arencibia, TOR: Great power, horrendous average. If he has figured out how to miss less often, watch out.

Russell Martin, NYY: A little bit of speed and re-discovered power sweetens his sinking average. Could play above this spot with Jorge Posada and Jesus Montero out of his way.

Just missed: Yadier Molina, STL; Geovany Soto, CUBS; Wilson Ramos, WAS.

Expert Wire
* ESPN's catcher rankings look a little different than mine. They'll take Napoli's power over Santana's promise.

* Bleacher Report isn't so sure about Yoenis Cespedes.

* Yahoo! High Fives lists one CUB and one WHITE SOX outfielder among its top five late-round lottery picks. Guess who. Hint: The CUB will spend more time at first base.

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Dan O'Shea welcomes your comments!

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:43 AM | Permalink

March 6, 2012

The [Tuesday] Papers

Like everyone else, I was absolutely stunned yesterday to learn that the G8 summit we've all been prepping for had been relocated to Camp David. And as much as it was absolute madness to schedule both the G8 and the NATO summit at the same time in the same city in the current Occupy environment - and as much as official proclamations about an economic benefit to hosting the summits were as credible as Rush Limbaugh's views on contraception; and as painful as it was to see city officials yet again seeking validation that they preside over a world-class city; and as depressing as it's been to watch our elected officials rush to erode our civil liberties for the sake of "security," which makes as much sense as practicing fascism in order to protect democracy - I'm really disappointed that our big moment on the stage has been reduced to an Off-Broadway workshop while the marquee production heads elsewhere.

The so-called Chicago Spring promised to be a unique moment in time in which the (global) economic dislocations of the last 30 years would finally be discussed in the open in the presence of the world's most powerful finance ministers at a time when inequality has finally broken into mainstream political discourse and the very future of nations such as Greece is up for grabs amidst epic Wall Street machinations both criminal and immoral that are still unfolding, still perpetuating, and still unaccounted for. Perhaps this would have been the reckoning.

Now that moment, which once seemed so fortuitous, has been marginalized.

The Occupy movement may still hold its Chicago Spring, but it won't be the same. The fact that the world's leaders must hold a meeting in isolation far away from the people they govern - and whose lives they their economic power rules over - is poignant to say the least. I would have preferred it otherwise at this particular moment in time, so a moment could have been had. A moment that might have lasted a month, and whose impact might have lasted far beyond that.

Instead we get NATO, still a target as the military arm of the G8's agenda, but not the G8. If only they had taken NATO from us instead. But they knew better. The Obama administration has found a way to quash the debate and squelch dissent. The recipients of the G8's economic medicine will not have a seat at the table; they - we - are mere soldiers to be sacrificed in a long-running class war that's been waged since the late 70s and early 80s, when conservatives persuaded "us" that greed was good and ostentatious wealth regardless of how accumulated was something to be envied and striven for. Liberals in a position to benefit gave up their resistance quite easily and suddenly the culture was suffused with wealth envy and reality TV shows featuring the superrich (which has had the distorting effect of making the merely rich and simply affluent feel so insufficient that they imagine they are only middle-class, which may explain why our candidates for public office are so determined to campaign on their behalf.)

It was nuts to schedule these summits in Chicago at the same time in the current economic and political environment, but that's what made it so glorious for those of us yearning for real change; those of us with real hope. This could have really been it.

Damn.

Still Game
"The decision by the White House to move the Group of 8 economic summit to Camp David while the NATO summit remains in Chicago might have split the reasons to protest," AP reports. "But it won't diminish the number of protesters - tens of thousands, by some estimates - who plan to come to Chicago for a rally and march to protest everything from war to poverty, said Andy Thayer, a leader of the Chicago Coalition Against War and Racism and the Gay Liberation Network and one of the principle planners of the Chicago protests."

I dunno, I just don't think it will be the same.

Hollow Victory
Some Occupiers are claiming victory. I never thought the goal of Occupy, though, was to force the meeting to be held elsewhere. I thought they welcomed the meeting as an opportunity to express themselves and confront and inform. Getting the meeting moved to a secluded spot - if that's what the protesters did - hardly seems like a preferable outcome to me. No one is happier today than the G8 ministers, don't you think?

Spin Bin
The White House initially announced the change in a statement that pretended the event was never even scheduled for Chicago.

"To facilitate a free-flowing discussion with our close G8 partners, the President is inviting his fellow G8 leaders to Camp David on May 18-19 for the G8 Summit, which will address a broad range of economic, political and security issues," the statement said, as if such an invitation was being issued for the first time.

A free-flowing discussion couldn't be had in Chicago?

"The President thought Camp David would provide an informal and intimate setting to have a free-flowing discussion with his fellow leaders," another statement said.

What, they need to be able to stroll the grounds? We have plenty of intimate settings here. The White House didn't want to 'fess up and acknowledge that either security issues and/or the prospect of terrible optics in an election year spooked them.

City Hall also acted - at first - as if a Chicago summit never even existed.

"We wish President Obama and the other leaders well at the G8 meeting at Camp David and look forward to hosting the NATO summit in Chicago," Rahm Emanuel said in a statement. "Hosting the NATO Summit is a tremendous opportunity to showcase Chicago to the world and the world to Chicago and we are proud to host the 50 heads of state, foreign and defense ministers from the NATO and ISAF countries in our great city May 19-21."

Conspiracy Theory
Of course, one has to wonder if this was the plan all along - a great diversionary tactic. But that theory doesn't seem to hold up. For one thing, I'm told the feds had already moved a virtual armory into town. Big stuff, too.

For another, that's a dangerous game. Think of all the hotel rooms presumably blocked out; all the local events of that weekend already cancelled and/or rescheduled; the businesses that have already bought plywood and the city's security spending (though they can still use the horsey gas masks for any NATO disturbances).

Maybe it was in their back pocket the whole time, but it seems a bridge too far. Most likely the Secret Service just said they couldn't secure the city - or the Obama political team thought better of the consequences if things got out of hand.

Who Knew What When
Was Rahm really in the dark?

"Just [Monday] morning, only six hours before the bombshell announcement, Emanuel was dismissing any concerns about hosting the G8 Summit," Bill Cameron reported.

But the Sun-Times quotes national security spokesperson Caitlan Hayden saying "I'm not going to get into details on dates, etc. But the president began to contemplate this idea a couple of weeks ago in discussions with his aides. He also speaks with Mayor Emanuel regularly, and the president consulted him on this decision."

The Sun-Times also reports that "The Obama administration and the Emanuel administration apparently underestimated the hometown opposition to the summit and the fears of rioting that accompanied it."

That would be known as a disconnect.

Also from the S-T:

"The average Chicagoan never seemed sold on the potential benefits of the summit the way some business and civic leaders were."

I don't know how they figure that. Was there a poll?

More interesting:

"When Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communication, briefed reporters Jan. 31 about the potential topics of discussion and agreement for the twin G-8 and NATO summits, he had a longer list of potential areas of agreement among leaders at the NATO summit than he did for G-8.

"Washington sources speculated Monday that negotiations with other G-8 counties must not be producing any tangible areas of agreement that would justify moving ahead with the summit in Chicago where it is generating such controversy.

"Obama started contemplating moving this 'a few weeks ago,' Hayden said.

"Asked if it was because of security concerns, Hayden said, 'We have full confidence in Chicago's ability to host both summits and NATO is still being held in Chicago.'"

Crain's reports that "The White House, not City Hall, made the bombshell decision to pull the G8 summit out of Chicago.

"Chicago host committee chief Lori Healey, sources in Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office and Washington insiders all said Monday that the surprise decision came from President Barack Obama's inner circle."

Axelrod. Plouffe.

More interesting:

"Chicago had been given relatively little time to prepare for the summits, which sometimes are scheduled years in advance. Mr. Emanuel, rather, sprang the news on the city last June, notably failing to consult with organizers of the huge restaurant show, which was scheduled to meet on the same dates in May and which ended up having to reschedule to earlier in the month.

"Some sources were saying Monday that the city never fully overcame the late start - particularly on the security side, with endless bad headlines here about protests and other woes to come.

"Security folks felt the city was 'overwhelmed,' one congressional source said. Even in the South Loop federal complex, building officials still have not been fully briefed on what to expect and how to prepare."

Best Response
"Really? After all that drama?"

- Ald. Joe Moreno

Obama vs. Rahm
According to the Tribune, "Rahm lobbied Obama" for the summit in the first place. This has always been under a little bit of contention, but I have no reason not to take the Trib's word for it.

But why, Rahm? Really? A chance for you to mingle? To show you're a big dog? Don't give us that world-class baloney. We can't even provide intimate settings!

Hospitality Reality
The Crain's report also notes that "The news of losing the G8 meeting stung downtown restaurants and hotels."

"We're disappointed," said Maria Zec, general manager of the Peninsula Chicago. "We were excited to welcome both the G8 and NATO to Chicago."

She declined to provide the number of G8-related reservations her hotel had booked.

"I'm not sure where we're going to go from here," said John Hogan, chef at downtown steakhouse Keefer's, who worked with the Illinois Restaurant Association on Chicago's Culinary Crossroads, an initiative to draw international attention to the local dining scene during the summits. "We're going to have to reassess."

As part of the program, some 50 Chicago restaurants were creating special tasting menus with the assistance of chefs visiting from the G8 nations.

NATO likes to eat too?

The Political Odds
N8O-fied.

Chicago Metal Rocks
Evidence.

Chicago Golden Glove . . .
. . . Brings Home Silver.

It's A First
Cartoon Network To Air Documentary.

Wee Heavy Scotch Ale
New from Leinie's.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: GR8.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:35 AM | Permalink

Cartoon Network To Air Its First Documentary

Speak Up, an original documentary from Cartoon Network, captures the authentic, everyday stories of America's bullied kids and the youth who have helped them.

The half-hour film is an extension of the network's nationally recognized and award-winning pro-social initiative Stop Bullying: Speak Up, which seeks to empower all kids to take part in the growing movement to help bring an end to bullying.

This moving, thoughtful and hopeful program consists of candid interviews with kids, mostly between the ages of 8- and 13-years-old, who either are or have been the target of bullies, bystanders in a bullying situation or even bullies themselves.

Demonstrating remarkable courage to speak openly and honestly about their own experiences, these brave youngsters offer empathy, strength and reassurance for all victims of bullying, as well as to bystanders, with a clear message that speaking up is the best way to bring about an end to bullying.

Speak Up will premiere commercial-free on Sunday, March 18 at 5:30 p.m. (ET/PT) with an 8 p.m. encore telecast.

Before, during and immediately following the telecast, renowned bullying prevention expert and author Rosalind Wiseman will provide further explanation of key bullying issues for kids and adults, answering viewer questions online at www.StopBullyingSpeakUp.com.

Speak Up also will be posted in its entirety on the website for ongoing viewing by students, parents, educators and community leaders. Further viewing of Speak Up across multiple digital platforms will be facilitated free of charge to customers through Comcast Xfinity, Facebook, iTunes, Xbox 360+Kinect and YouTube.com, each for at least two weeks following the world premiere.

Along with the documentary's youth participants discussing the difficulties in approaching adults and getting them to understand their situation, Speak Up also offers hope and encouragement from the three young hosts of Cartoon Network's Dude What Would Happen (CJ Manigo, Ali Sepasyar and Jackson Rogow); Chris Webber (five-time NBA All-Star); Matt Wilhelm (Pro BMX champion); and NASCAR race car drivers including Trevor Bayne (2011 Daytona 500 winner), Jeff Burton and Joey Logano (the youngest NASCAR champion). Each appear in the film to share their experiences with bullying and to encourage kids in finding the best ways to reach out for help. They furthermore explain ways bystanders can be helpful to a victim, whether by gently asking if he/she is okay or by walking them to class.

"Our ongoing research and direct conversations with kids told us plainly that bullying was a major issue most kids believed they could do something about it if given the right tools for dealing with it," said Stuart Snyder, president and chief operating officer for Cartoon Network. "This inspired us to create the Stop Bullying: Speak Up campaign nearly two years ago and we hope that Speak Up is a program that families will watch together."

speakup.jpg

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:47 AM | Permalink

Leinenkugel's Introduces Big Eddy Wee Heavy Scotch Ale

The Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company on Monday launched Big Eddy Wee Heavy Scotch Ale, the first in a series of daring, yet delicious Big Eddy brews to be released in 2012. Big Eddy Wee Heavy Scotch Ale captures the signature warmth and comfort of traditional scotch ales, one of the most majestic beer styles in the world.

Thanks to an intensive brewing process, Big Eddy Wee Heavy Scotch Ale offers significant malt complexity, including eight malts and grains for a robust richness. The brew, which adds a touch of hops to balance the malts, features assertive chocolate, toffee and caramel notes, with a hint of smoke and dark fruity undertones subtly emerging throughout.

10262_BE_ScotchAle_Banner.165751.jpgBorn in Scotland, velvety full-bodied Wee Heavy Scotch Ales were originally brewed to satisfy the demand of hearty laborers who endured cold weather and harsh working conditions.

"Being from Wisconsin's Northwoods, we know a thing or two about cold temperatures and had no problem capturing the signature warmth and comfort of the traditional brew," said Jake Leinenkugel, fifth-generation brewer and president of the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company.

Bold in flavor, yet remarkably balanced, Leinenkugel's Big Eddy family of beers shares a common taste for the extraordinary. Inspired by the Big Eddy Spring, the lifeline of the Leinenkugel's brewery in Chippewa Falls, Wis. since 1867, the Big Eddy brand offers big beer fans complex, yet balanced flavors beyond the mainstream.

Filling the senses with a fragrant malt aroma, Big Eddy Wee Heavy Scotch Ale features a variety of robust malts that create rich flavor and texture. Hand-selected malts include Pale, Honey, Caracrystal® Wheat, Roasted, Victory®, and Cherrywood Smoked. Like its predecessor, Russian Imperial Stout, Big Eddy Wee Heavy Scotch Ale ages and travels well.

Leinenkugel's Big Eddy Wee Heavy Scotch Ale, a dense, mahogany-colored brew, features a creamy tan foam. As it warms, the layers of malt flavors will melt together revealing the subtle undertones of fruit and biscuits. As the brew mellows, it reveals more of its plum, raisin, and dark cherry flavors.

Big Eddy Wee Heavy Scotch Ale will be available in limited release through June 2012 in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Georgia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington D.C., Virginia, Kansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Texas, and Arizona. The ale, which is 9.5 percent ABV, will be available in four-pack bottles and on draft.

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Comments welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:22 AM | Permalink

Chicago Metal Rocks!

Evidence.

1. Thorn Fetish.


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2. Illusions Fate.

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3. Of Wolves.

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4. Our Fathers Burden.

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5. Lynch.

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6. Deadnation.

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With gratitude for the Chicago Metal Rocks YouTube Channel and ChicagoMetalRocks.com.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:56 AM | Permalink

Chicago Golden Glove Wins Silver At Nationals

Chicago boxer Alex Martin has won the 2012 USA Boxing Welterweight (152 pounds) Silver Medal. Martin lost to Patrick Day of Freeport, NY 24-16 in the championship bout Saturday at the Special Events Center in Fort Carson, Colorado.

"I didn't fight my fight today; I wasn't quite myself in there, but I am proud to bring a medal back to Chicago," said Martin.


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Martin defeated Tyler Canning of Casper, WY 24-9, Johnathan Steele of Duncanville, TX 19-10, Mark Hernandez of Fresno, CA 17-7 and then David Grayton of Washington DC 24-14 in the semi-final to advance to the championship bout against Day.

Martin, 21, was the 2011 National Golden Gloves 152-pound runner-up, the 2011 Chicago Golden Gloves 152-pound champion and received the 2011 Chicago Golden Gloves "Best Boxer Award."

He was also the 2010 USA Boxing Welterweight Silver Medalist and won the 2009 National Police Athletic League 152-pound National Championship.

Martin has international experience having represented the U.S. in dual competitions versus Mexico in April 2011, China in October 2010 (in New York) and Italy in March (in Assisi and Rome, Italy) & September 2010.

Martin now plans to defend his Chicago Golden Gloves championship this spring, compete in the National Golden Gloves in May and then consider turning professional thereafter. Martin is trained by Mark Chears of Team Chears Boxing/Boxing For Boxers.

*

Another Chicagoan, Kenneth Sims Jr. also medaled at the event. Sims won bronze in the Lightweight (132 pound) class, losing to two-time National Champion Jose Ramirez 27-14 in the semi-finals. In 2010 Sims won the National Police Athletic League National Lightweight Championship.

Sims, 18 is a senior at King College Prep and is trained by his father Kenneth Sims Sr. at Fuller Park in Chicago.

*

Sims last year in the Golden Gloves:

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Previously:
* Meet Wheaton's Golden Glove

* Friday Night Fights At The El Rey Ballroom

* A Tribute To The World's Greatest Cornerman

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:45 AM | Permalink

March 5, 2012

SportsMonday: Box Scores Are Back

The Bulls rolled on and the Blackhawks bounced back in a big way again on Sunday. It was great to check out the highlights and read the gamers early this morning. But the highlight of the first few hours of my day was the first box score of the spring, the one that detailed the Cubs' exhibition opener.

The North Siders suffered a 12-10 defeat against Oakland at good ol' Hohokam Park in Mesa. The classic top line of the box showed the A's pulled it out with two runs in the top of the ninth.

Leading off for the Athletics was Coco Crisp, a speedy outfielder who has been in the league for a while and played for several different teams. He drew a walk and scored a run but otherwise was hitless in three at-bats.

I barely recognized anyone in the rest of the lineup. The A's have come a long way since Moneyball . . . a long way further into obscurity.

But we may be hearing about one A in particular in the near future. First baseman Brandon Allen crammed a week's worth of offensive production into two innings, bashing a grand slam in the third inning and clearing loaded bases again with a double his next time up.

When I scanned down to the pitching, there was a familiar name at the top of table for Oakland. Former White Sox Brandon McCarthy took the hill and gave up three runs in three innings of work. As a sportswriter, I'm pleased to just spend a moment or two contemplating the fact that I should probably go back and write "(two earned)" after the "three runs" in that last sentence. Nah, it's just spring training.

As far as the pitching went for the homestanding Cubs, they at least scored a decisive victory in the first three innings. Rodrigo Lopez tossed a couple scoreless frames to start the game and Carlos Marmol came on to pitch a shutout third to close it out.

Then the rest of the staff went to work and the next thing you knew, Allen had had the game of his life and the Athletics piled up the runs.

A first glance at the Cubs' lineup reveals Alfonso Soriano in the leadoff spot. Though he has threatened to consider Soriano for the leadoff spot, new Cubs manager Dale Sveum said before the game that he merely wanted Sori to get couple at-bats as quickly as possible and then exit the game at the earliest possible time.

This is usually where I insert my reminder that spring training games, just like NFL preseason games, do not matter. Everyone is so excited that the sport of the season (baseball in the spring, football in the fall) has returned that they end up trying to give meaning to the meaningless. Let's see where Soriano and his aggravatingly bad on-base percentage is batting on Opening Day before we start questioning Sveum's sanity.

No one else did much of anything in the top two-thirds of the Cubs' lineup but back-up catcher Welington Castillo smashed a solo home run in the eighth spot and, one spot above him, second basemen Darwin Barney and Adrian Cardenas finished with two and three RBI respectively.

A little further down there was bad news for Barney and new right fielder David DeJesus. Their at-best questionable base-running would have escaped detection in the box scores of my youth but the modern-day expanded box score shows they both managed to get picked off first by Oakland catcher Kurt Suzuki. A later scan of the game story revealed they even managed to get picked off in the same inning. Nice.

(Sveum put the traditional spin on the miscues - pleasure at his players' "aggressiveness" on the basepaths. Ugh.)

The box score wasn't the only small print to peruse on this Monday morning. A quick glance at the NBA standings shows that the Bulls are the only team with 30-plus wins.

And elsewhere we learn that Ray Emery, who it must be said is now the Hawks' starting goalie (up and down youngster Corey Crawford, who played well for long stretches last year, is back on the bench), saved 96 percent of the shots on net (23 of 24) to back-stop the Hawks' huge 2-1 victory at Detroit.

But today, let's hear it for the return of the box score.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:44 AM | Permalink

The [Monday] Papers

The Chicago Police Department closed two of its district stations on Sunday, giving us an opportunity to once again highlight this excellent analysis of not only the station-closing issue but the way the media's careless reporting of crime makes public policy decisions like this more difficult than they ought to be.

McCarthyisms
"For the first time in public, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy promised his department will never conduct blanket surveillance of Muslims like the New York Police Department did in Newark, N.J., when he was chief there," AP reports.

Here's the problem: McCarthy did so while addressing the annual banquet of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Chicago. He previously issued the same assurances to Muslim leaders in private. Those are safe environments free from the pesky questions reporters might ask - because there are some outstanding questions.

When the AP first broke its story about the NYPD's spying, he "told the AP that his former colleagues in New York notified him as a courtesy that they were sending plainclothes officers to Newark, but none of his officers participated in the operation. New York police say Newark leaders cooperated with the effort."

Then McCarthy refused to answer local reporters' questions about the revelation.

I don't know what questions reporters had in mind, but here are a few to start with:

1. So you knew this was going on and cooperated with it. How is that not condoning it?

2. Did you ever voice an objection to it?

3. In what way did your officers cooperate?

4. In what way did you cooperate?

5. You are pledging not to conduct this kind of surveillance here, but the police department obviously surveils people. How does that process work? What are the checks and balances? Do you personally approve all surveillances?

6. Is the Chicago Police Department surveilling or cooperating with any other agencies in surveilling Occupy Chicago?

7. Does the Chicago Police Department have undercover officers who have infiltrated Occupy Chicago?

8. Are you familiar with the CPD's Red Squad? It makes some folks around here particularly sensitive to this issue.

9. You are pledging that CPD will not engage in NYPD-style surveillance of Muslims from this point forward, but can you tell us whether it has engaged in that type of activity in the past - particularly since 9/11?

Global City
"Chicago residents can now access the city's website in 64 languages," AP reports.

A) That's 63 more ways to say "fuck" than Rahm used to have.

B) The city will also now reject your FOIA request in 65.

C) Speed camera tickets will be written in 66.

Parking Ticket Tax
More outrage.

Grading Giordano's
"Relying just on the deep-dish pizza legacy falls short because it appeals more to tourists than Chicago residents."

Fed Enables Greedy Banks
They never learn.

Lowriders In Chicago
A history coming soon.

The Box Score Is Back
So are the Kubs.

The Weekend in Chicago Rock
We have the video.

Programming Note
The Beachwood Inn is open for Pulaski Day. I'll be behind the bar to preside. 5p - 2a.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Deep dish.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:13 AM | Permalink

Fed Shrugged Off Warnings, Let Banks Pay Shareholders Billions

In early November 2010, as the Federal Reserve began to weigh whether the nation's biggest financial firms were healthy enough to return money to their shareholders, a top regulator bluntly warned: Don't let them.

"We remain concerned over their ability to withstand stress in an uncertain economic environment," wrote Sheila Bair, the head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., in a previously unreported letter obtained by ProPublica.

The letter came as the Fed was launching a "stress test" to decide whether the biggest U.S. financial firms could pay out dividends and buy back their shares instead of putting aside that money as capital. It was one of the central bank's most critical oversight decisions in the wake of the financial crisis.

"We strongly encourage" that the Fed "delay any dividends or compensation increases until they can show" that their earnings are strong and their assets sound, she wrote. Given the continued uncertainty in the markets, "we do not believe it is the right time to allow transactions that will weaken their capital and liquidity positions."

Four months later, the Federal Reserve rejected Bair's appeal.

In March 2011, the Federal Reserve green-lighted most of the top 19 financial institutions to deliver tens of billions of dollars to shareholders, including many of their own top executives. The 19 paid out $33 billion in the first nine months of 2011 in dividends and stock buy-backs.

That $33 billion is money that the banks don't have to cushion themselves - and the broader financial system - should the euro crisis cause a new recession, tensions with Iran flare into war and disrupt the oil supply, or another crisis emerge.

This is the first in-depth account of the Fed's momentous decision and the fractious battles that led to it. It is based on dozens of interviews, most with people who spoke on condition of anonymity, and on documents, some of which have never been made public. By examining the decision, this account also sheds light on the inner workings of one of the most powerful but secretive economic institutions in the world.

The Federal Reserve contends it assessed the health of the banks rigorously and made the right decisions. The central bank says the primary purpose of the stress test was to assess the banks' ability to plan for their capital needs. The Fed allowed only the healthiest banks to return capital - and they are still not paying anything like the proportion of profits that they distributed in the boom years. And it says the stress test covered only one year. Regulators say they can revisit their decisions if the economic picture turns bleaker.

Most important, Fed officials argue that the biggest financial institutions still added $52 billion in capital to their balance sheets in 2011 despite raising dividends or buying back stock. The top 19 financial firms had a 10.1 percent capital ratio by the end of the third quarter of 2011, using the measure that regulators primarily look at, nearly double what they had in the first quarter of 2009.

But a wide range of current and former Federal Reserve officials, other banking regulators and experts either criticized the decision to allow dividend payments and stock buy-backs then, or consider it a mistake now.

Among their reasons: Allowing banks to return capital to shareholders weakened American banks' ability to withstand a major shock. Whether they are too weak remains debated, but dividends and buy-backs matter. From 2006 through 2008, the top 19 banks paid $131 billion in dividends to shareholders, according to SNL Financial. When the financial crisis hit, the banks were weak in large part because they didn't have those billions. Indeed, in the fall of 2008, the government invested about $160 billion in the top banks.

Today, the European economic and banking crisis, which was looming when the Fed made its decision, continues to threaten the economy. Unemployment in the U.S. remains persistently high, and the housing market fell almost 5 percent last year, according to CoreLogic, a financial information firm.

American banks are suffering metastasizing liabilities from the U.S. foreclosure crisis. A recent settlement with almost all states' attorneys general covered only part of those costs, leaving many banks bleeding cash to cover legal costs of the robo-signing scandal and other problems related to the housing crisis.

Once banks start paying dividends, it's difficult for a regulator to get them to stop without panicking investors. Indeed, building investor confidence was one reason the Fed allowed dividends. But by that measure, it failed: This past November, ratings agency Standard & Poor's downgraded most of the biggest American banks, and financial stocks in the S&P 500 plummeted more than 18 percent in 2011, though they have since bounced back a little.

Many banks are trading below "book value," meaning the value of their stock is less than what the banks say are the value of their assets. This fact is particularly sobering, because it suggests investors do not trust the banks' accounting and are skeptical of their future profitability.

Eventually, the banks will have to raise capital to comply with new international standards, to be in place fully by 2019. The Fed's decision leaves them further from that goal than they would be otherwise.

But the Fed's stress-test decision was lucrative for shareholders and bank executives, who are increasingly paid in stock. Dividend payments are taxed at lower rates than ordinary income. Merely allowing the banks to pay dividends, buy back stock and pay back the government helped boost shares, albeit temporarily.

"As undercapitalized as many of these banks are, allowing them to return capital, in my opinion, is preposterous. I can't believe a strenuous stress testing of their mortgage assets, European exposures and other questionable assets would allow them to return capital to shareholders," says Neil Barofsky, who until March 2011 served as the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), better known as the bailout.

"Taxpayers should be concerned when banks pay dividends and remain thinly capitalized," warned Anat Admati, a finance professor at Stanford in a February 2011 letter to the Financial Times signed by 15 other economists from across the political spectrum. "Taxpayers are the ones who are likely to end up covering the banks' liabilities in a crisis."

Tarullo's task

The Fed's decision cannot be understood in isolation. It continued a series of actions - by the central bank and other arms of government - that were generous to the banks. When the government invested hundreds of billions in the banks through TARP, banks didn't even have to lend out the money, and bankers could pay themselves bonuses. To keep the financial system from collapsing, the Federal Reserve provided more than $1 trillion to the banks in low-interest loans and loan programs, which were highly profitable for the recipients.

Also, the dividend decision came as the Fed was painfully reinventing its regulatory role after being blindsided by the worst economic crisis since the 1930s.

One of the world's most powerful economic institutions, the Federal Reserve sets interest rates, controlling the supply of money to stimulate the economy and prevent it from overheating. The Fed also regulates American banks. Designed to be insulated from political tussles, the central bank makes its decisions independently of the president and Congress. Its board of governors is appointed by the president, however, with Senate approval.

Chairman Bernanke has promised the Fed will be more open and transparent, but it still conducts much of its bank regulation and supervision behind closed doors on the grounds that disclosures about individual institutions could cause bank runs and financial panics.

Before the financial crisis, bank oversight had long been a backwater at the Fed, especially under former chairman Alan Greenspan, who advocated for deregulation. The glory and promotions within the Fed lay in monetary policy - deciding what level to target for interest rates and preventing inflation or high unemployment. Indeed, before 2008, the Fed's bank regulation and supervision had been disastrous, failing to prevent or foresee multiple financial crises, including the near-collapse of the entire financial system in 2008.

In the wake of that terrifying experience, the Fed decided it needed to determine just how strong the banks were and whether they could survive another economic shock. So, in early 2009, it carried out the first stress test, a system-wide assessment of how banks would fare under bleak economic scenarios. Following that test, in May 2009, regulators determined that the weakest 10 of the 19 banks needed to add $185 billion in capital by the end of 2010. They named those banks and announced key findings.

The second stress test, conducted from November 2010 through March 2011, is what led the Fed to allow banks to disperse capital to shareholders. And that test differed starkly from the first.

For starters, it was secretive even by the Fed's standards and certainly by comparison to the first stress test. To this day, the Fed has disclosed little detail about how the second stress test was conducted, and virtually nothing about how it decided which banks could release capital. Unlike its actions in the first stress test, the Fed hasn't released its estimates of banks' revenues, post-stress capital ratios or losses for asset classes, such as real estate. It did not even announce which banks passed the test.

Instead, the Fed left it to the financial institutions to disclose the results. In March 2011, 11 of the 19 announced that they had been given the go-ahead to buy back shares, pay dividends or get out of TARP. In the first three quarters of 2011, all 19 paid some dividends on either common or preferred stock, and 10 bought back some stock - a total of $33 billion in common and preferred dividends and share buy-backs in the period, according to SNL Financial. That amounted to almost 5 percent of the most important, bedrock type of bank capital held by the 19 institutions as of the end of the third quarter.

But beyond the specifics, the political climate had also shifted by the time of the second stress test. Bankers were emerging from their defensive crouch, emboldened to push back against what they considered excessive regulation. At the same time, the sweeping 2010 financial reform act known as Dodd-Frank gave the Federal Reserve more supervision responsibility. What the Fed had done in a panic in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis was now codified as one of its central legal duties, and as it tried to adapt to its new mission, it suffered internecine battles.

Responsibility for overhauling and improving the Fed's bank regulatory efforts rests with Daniel Tarullo, a 59-year-old former Clinton administration official and academic who became a governor in January 2009. Bankers utter his name in hushed and embittered tones, terrified of his aggressive calls for more oversight and capital. With his white hair and square jaw, he recalls a pro football linebacker from a previous era. Yet, his actions have often fallen short of his tough talk, critics say.

He oversees a sprawling, fragmented institution. Twelve regional reserve banks share bank oversight responsibility with the central board of governors, based in Washington, D.C. The reserve banks have historically taken most of the bank supervision responsibilities, while Washington has concentrated on monetary policy. The individual reserve banks are frenemies, sometimes working together but often suspicious of others' motives and jealous of each other's clout.

"It's like Survivor: You make certain alliances, but that doesn't mean you won't cut the throat of the person the next time," says a former Fed supervisor.

The most powerful of the regional banks, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, rivals the central board in authority and influence. The two institutions often butt heads. The New York Fed is widely seen throughout the rest of the system as overly protective of the two biggest institutions it supervises, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup. New York returns the view, believing the Richmond Fed to be captured by the biggest bank it oversees, Bank of America, and San Francisco by its charge, Wells Fargo.

Bank supervisors, especially the ones deployed to work physically inside the banks that they oversee, are, like all regulators, vulnerable to capture by the institutions they police. They sometimes identify with and coddle their banks rather than enforce the rules, according to multiple current and former Fed officials.

"You have to work with these people every day. You develop working relationships," says a New York Fed official. "You have to put yourself in their shoes, but you have to make sure they are safe and sound."

Given what its critics call its supervisory neglect, regulatory capture and bureaucratic rivalries, the Fed had a poor understanding of the sector it regulated in the lead-up to the 2008 crisis. "If a supervisor wanted to see [the Fed's] systems, he would have flunked us miserably," recalls a former Federal Reserve banking official. "We would joke about that a lot."

Mandated to overhaul this system, Tarullo centralized supervision - and thus power - in Washington.

"As an academic, I think I came to have a pretty good understanding of the substance of the Fed's regulatory policies," Tarullo tells ProPublica. "But when I got here, I was surprised that the large institution supervisory process wasn't very well coordinated across firms, and really didn't draw on all the economic expertise of the Federal Reserve."

When he arrived, Tarullo found that the supervision and regulation division was beset by personal disagreements and turf battles. He found the unique structure of the Federal Reserve complicated bank supervision and regulation, and such problems persist.

"That's why we created the Large Institution Supervision Coordinating Committee - to make strong coordination and interdisciplinary perspectives permanent features of the supervisory function," he says.

Part of that may be due to his management style. Universally regarded as smart, Tarullo doesn't always look people in the eye. He often leans back in his chair, tilts his head up and addresses the ceiling. The rank-and-file thought he mistrusted them and didn't listen, according to several former Fed employees.

Tarullo and some at the Fed defend his leadership, but critics say his manner could undermine his push for tighter regulation, especially with the Fed's old guard. "Our esteemed leader," was how Patrick Parkinson, a Greenspan acolyte who retired at the end of 2011 as the director of the division of banking supervision and regulation, sarcastically referred to Tarullo, according to a former Fed employee. Parkinson didn't return calls seeking comment.

Tarullo is known for his temper. He has made a few employees cry, according to people familiar with the incidents. At a meeting of the board of governors in late 2009, Tarullo blew up at Coryann Stefansson, a former supervisor who ran the first stress test in front of the entire board. As she contended that the Fed shouldn't push Bank of America to raise more capital, Tarullo surprised people in the stuffy Fed meeting rooms, laden with heavy, dark wood furniture, shouting: "How dare you interrupt me?" a person familiar with the meeting recalls.

Yet, Tarullo gave ground eventually on BofA. In the end, the Fed pushed Bank of America to raise more capital than it initially proposed but less than the FDIC wanted.

The Fed and Tarullo declined comment on the incident.

For his part, Tarullo is cautious about his accomplishments, saying, "I don't want to overstate how much progress has been made, but I do think that with the authority we either had already or have gained from Dodd-Frank, plus the creation of the [large institutions committee] and the requirement of regularized capital planning and oversight, there are at least the makings of something durable."

The first stress test

At the Fed, battle lines over how rigorously to regulate banks were drawn during the first stress test. Officially known as the Supervisory Capital Assessment Program (SCAP, pronounced "Ess-Cap"), the first stress test certainly forced most banks to beef up their capital. But even coming right out of the gravest economic peril since the Great Depression, the Fed gave the banks concessions.

When it first began to test banks against bleak economic scenarios, the Fed took a conservative stance toward bank plans for the future. If a bank was going to sell a business line or other asset to raise capital, it had to complete the transaction before the Fed would count it toward fulfilling the bank's new capital requirements.

One debate was over what are known as "deferred tax assets" - losses that can be written off against future profits. If a bank suffers losses for a prolonged period, it can lose the opportunity to take the write-off, and the asset becomes worthless. Initially, some supervisors pushed for a conservative treatment. Capital is supposed to absorb losses in a crisis. Deferred tax assets, or DTAs, can't do that because they are little more than an accounting concept.

For the stress test, the Fed assumed that banks' profits would suffer a prolonged hit in an economic downturn, reducing or wiping out the value of these assets. But there was an issue with Wells Fargo. Since it hadn't lost money even at the depths of the 2008 crisis, should it be able to get some credit for its deferred tax assets?

Janet Yellen, then-president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, supported Wells Fargo. The tough-talking Tarullo came around to her view, according to four people familiar with the negotiation. At the end of 2009, banks were haggling over the details of how to fulfill the capital-raising requirements. The Fed allowed Wells to get some credit for its remaining deferred tax assets. The softer treatment set off cascading effects: Supervisors had to scramble to give Pittsburgh-based PNC Bank similar credit because it, too, had weathered the crisis better than other banks and had a large portion of deferred tax assets on its balance sheet.

"It is common - perhaps too common - for reserve presidents to tend to believe that their firms are invariably better than average," laments a former Fed governor.

"The treatment of Wells' DTAs was fully consistent with a rigorous" stress test, says Yellen, now vice chair of the Fed board of governors, in a statement. She argues that a key issue was that the tax write-offs were imminent, so the risk was minimal that Wells would suffer losses and not be able to use them. "Under Federal Reserve capital regulations, it is appropriate to count DTAs as capital when they are going to be realized in the very near term," she says in her statement. "After looking at the specific characteristics of Wells' DTAs, senior Board staff determined that they qualified as capital" for the first stress test.

PNC and Wells declined to comment.

In a speech on May 6, 2010, the one-year anniversary of the tests, Fed Chairman Bernanke called he first stress test a "watershed event," crediting it with having helped "restore confidence in the banking system and the broader financial system, thereby contributing to the economy's recovery."

By the third quarter of 2011, the top 19 banks that underwent the tests had added hundreds of billions in capital. A crucial measure of their capital is known as Tier 1, and it consists mostly of common stock, reserves and "retained earnings" - income that is not paid to shareholders but instead kept by the company to invest in the business. By the end of the third quarter, the top banks' Tier 1 capital was up to about $740 billion. Using an average weighted to account for the different sizes of the banks, that's 10.1 percent of their assets, compared with a low of 5.4 percent at the end of 2008.

As the banks built more capital, struggles erupted among various government bodies about when and how to let banks pay back TARP money. Most of the banks wanted to pay back the government as quickly as possible, mainly because the bailout money came with intensified oversight and potential restrictions on how much executives could pay themselves. And with the bailouts deeply unpopular with the public, the Treasury also pushed for the banks to pay back the money as quickly as possible so the government could claim the program was successful and hadn't cost the taxpayers much.

But how should the banks replace the taxpayer money? Could they borrow to pull together the money, or should they be required to raise what's known as common equity, the basic type of stock, whose holders absorb the first losses in the event of problems? Doing the latter would force banks to do the hard work of finding investors and amassing solid capital that could cushion them against economic blows.

The Fed led the process to answer this crucial question, with contributions from the FDIC, the Treasury and another major bank regulator, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC).

In late 2009, regulators decided that the eight financial institutions that hadn't exited TARP immediately after the first stress test, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citigroup, would be able to pay back every $2 of TARP money by issuing $1 in new common equity, according to a Sept. 29, 2011, report by the special inspector general of TARP. The banks could raise the other dollars through other ways, such as borrowing.

Yet, almost as soon as they had decided on that standard, the Federal Reserve and OCC relaxed it for some of the most troubled big banks. The FDIC "was by far the most persistent in insisting that banks raise more common stock," the report found.

The FDIC pushed repeatedly for the banks to adhere to the guidance known as the "2-for-1" provision.

Sheila Bair's agency was particularly frustrated when the Fed and OCC eased their conditions for Bank of America, one of the most vulnerable banks.

Bair told the TARP special inspector general that "the argument [the Fed and OCC] used against us - which frustrated me to no end - is that [Bank of America] can't use the 2-for-1 because they are not strong enough to raise 2-for-1." She said: "If they are not strong enough, they shouldn't have been exiting TARP."

The Fed decided it could ignore the FDIC's views. On Nov. 19, 2009, an unnamed Federal Reserve governor stated that Bernanke's position was that "we would go ahead without [FDIC] agreeing," according to a previously unreported email from a draft version of the special inspector general's report. And indeed, Bank of America fell more than $3 billion short of 2-for-1, raising $19.3 billion in equity to pay off the taxpayers' $45 billion.

Since then, Bank of America has run into further troubles and been forced to sell assets and raise capital.

The Fed has taken pains to hide such tussles and compromises. The e-mail describing Bernanke's decision to override the FDIC, along with many others, was excised from the final draft of the special inspector general's report. In a footnote in the final, published report, the special inspector general wrote that the Federal Reserve "strenuously objected to the inclusion of a significant amount of text" in earlier versions of the report, citing the need to keep communications with banks confidential.

Even though the special inspector general wrote that she "respectfully disagrees" with the Fed, she allowed the e-mails to be excised from the published report.

Stresses during the stress test

In 2010, as the Fed began the second stress test, officially known as the Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review (CCAR, pronounced "See-Car"), bankers lobbied heavily to be allowed to return capital to shareholders. They began to feel emboldened to speak out against tightening regulations.

In late 2010, Tarullo had at least two conversations about capital planning, not previously reported, with top bank CEOs: JPMorgan's Jamie Dimon and Citigroup's Vikram Pandit. Dimon pressed Tarullo about the Fed's plans for how much capital large banks should be required to have. The JPMorgan CEO, who has been an outspoken critic of the post-crisis regulatory tightening, argued to Tarullo that "it made sense to differentiate between banks," says a person familiar with the discussion. "If we were healthy, we should be allowed to pay dividends and buy back stock."

Bank executives such as Dimon and Pandit stood to gain personally from dividend decisions since much of their compensation comes in the form of stock.

Tarullo says he and the Fed were not unduly influenced by Dimon, Pandit and others who lobbied on behalf of the banks.

Inside the Fed, whether to pay dividends had been hotly debated for years. Less than a year after the height of the crisis, in August 2009, top officials from around the system met with Tarullo in Washington, where they mulled letting banks return capital to shareholders. Some Fed officials were shocked that the regulators were considering returning dividends so soon, according to one attendee.

Margaret "Meg" McConnell, a wiry and intense macroeconomist from the New York Fed, raised the possibility that the Fed might bar even healthy banks from paying dividends, if the regulator thought the environment was still too fragile. This is dubbed a "macroprudential" approach. Generally mild-mannered, McConnell surprised people with her emotion. She spoke "with a bit of pique," a person at the meeting recalls.

But other Fed officials at the meeting argued that could be dangerous because it would erode investor confidence. They feared such an action might inadvertently signal that the Fed was still worried about the financial system. Preventing even ostensibly healthy banks from returning capital for a period of time might be destabilizing in and of itself. Investors could get the wrong idea and panic.

There were other debates. The European crisis, while not as acute as it would become in 2011, was clearly brewing by the time the stress test began in late 2010. Some supervisors argued that the test should include an evaluation of the banks against some European measure, such as a stock-market index, and make it public. In the end, that was rejected. The Fed worried about creating political backlash by suggesting Europe was in deep trouble, according to a person familiar with the discussion.

"It was important for us to create a regular, annual process to ensure that banks could only increase dividends or buy back shares if they could show they would remain healthy even in the face of adverse economic conditions," Tarullo says to ProPublica. "It's not reasonable to say that a bank could never return capital to its shareholders, no matter how well-capitalized it has become, but it is reasonable to require that any such action be premised on a sound capital plan and rigorous stress testing."

The Fed's legal department acted as a break on aggressive supervisors. The department, headed by the powerful general counsel, Scott Alvarez, had long served as a de facto overseer of supervision in Washington. The board of governors often asked Alvarez to report on various supervisory topics.

Tarullo appeared frustrated by this back-channel reporting and tried to curtail it, according to people familiar with the workings of the board of governors. He clashed with the legal department, viewing it as too friendly to the banks.

As supervisors conducted the second stress test, the legal department assessed whether the Fed had the authority to stop banks from raising their dividends - a move that surprised some supervisors because the banks themselves had never raised such an objection to the Fed's power. After all, the Fed has statutory responsibility to maintain the "safety and soundness" of banks. Some staffers interpreted the legal department's action as a sign that the Fed was looking for ways to hamstring itself, a signal that they should tread lightly when it came to restricting banks from returning capital to shareholders.

The Fed declined to comment and didn't make Alvarez available.

Once Dodd-Frank was passed in the summer of 2010, making bank supervision a more vital part of the Fed's mandate, the board of governors wanted to monitor Tarullo's efforts, so the board requested regular briefings. One governor, Kevin Warsh, a George W. Bush appointee, viewed the Fed's overall bank regulatory approach skeptically. Something of a libertarian, he thought that the Fed was overly confident in its abilities to monitor banking activities and head off crises before they became acute.

But Warsh, who oversaw financial market activities and not regulation and supervision, also worried that the banking system had too little capital. Do the banks have enough to offset losses? Do their books accurately value their assets? Do they have the proper risk management systems in place? he worried to colleagues. "There is too much confidence that these institutions won't find themselves in the soup again," Warsh tells ProPublica.

But the Fed had boxed itself in with its standard: The regulator had told the banks that if they hit their capital requirements under the stress-test scenarios, they could pay dividends and buy back stock.

Ultimately, the Fed did not allow every bank to increase dividends. Some banks, like Citigroup, didn't request an increase after a signal from the Fed that it would be turned down.

In at least one instance, a signal was misinterpreted. Early in the process, the Richmond Fed left Bank of America with the impression that it would pass the stress test and be allowed to raise dividends. Encouraged, the bank asked permission.

In late 2010, Chief Executive Brian Moynihan suggested to investors that a raise would come in the second half of 2011. But in the end, the Fed nixed any dividend raise. The Fed and Bank of America declined to comment on this incident.

A triumph for Tarullo, the episode nevertheless harmed investor confidence in Bank of America and its management, becoming one of the more embarrassing in Moynihan's tenure at the bank.

The FDIC vs. the Fed

To some regulators, the second stress test seemed like little more than a formality with officials inclined from the outset to allow most banks to return money to investors.

"Institutionally, the decision was already made" before it was completed, says a former senior regulator who was involved in the testing. A Fed spokeswoman says that was not true.

Still, when a senior regulator familiar with the FDIC's thinking heard that the Fed was considering allowing banks to return capital to shareholders, "my first reaction was: You've got to be kidding me. We are still in the middle of the crisis," the official recalls. "We believed the banks didn't have the structure for capital distribution, for dividends and stock buy-backs." The stress tests "continued to get better, but they were not picking up the full gamut of risks."

The banks had portfolios of underwater mortgages, and growing legal problems stemming from their pre-crisis actions and post-crisis foreclosure practices. Given the ongoing uncertainty about the global economy and the fragility of the world's financial system, FDIC officials repeatedly voiced concerns to their Fed counterparts.

As the Fed began the test, Bair wrote her Nov. 5, 2010, letter to Bernanke. "We would prefer to see a longer period of stability, sustained core earnings growth, and strengthening of capital buffers before dividends are considered," she wrote.

The letter pointed out that "once the level of dividends increases, it is difficult to scale back."

One major concern was accurately measuring legal liabilities. Banks that had assembled mortgage-backed securities often faced accusations of fraud or deception from investors in those securities. Now, the banks faced a threat that courts would force the banks to take back billions of dollars' worth of toxic mortgages, known as "put-back" risk. With input from the legal department, the Fed had come up with a system-wide estimate for this risk that the FDIC considered too low, according to two people familiar with the process.

Worse, by the fall of 2010, banks had an emerging legal threat to worry about: foreclosure problems. In the aftermath of the housing crash, banks had abused the rights of homeowners in the process of foreclosing. The most publicized issue was "robo-signing," in which banks had documents automatically notarized by people who weren't reading the materials or checking for inaccuracies. As this threat emerged, banks came under investigation by state attorneys general and faced billions in new potential legal liabilities.

"The highly publicized mortgage foreclosure process flaws provide an example of how quickly material issues can arise in these institutions and how they are still exposed to the poor decisions made in the years leading up to the crisis," Bair warned Bernanke in her letter.

Estimating these future liabilities was a task the Fed delegated mainly to the banks. In a Dec. 12, 2010, speech, Tarullo said the Fed expected "that firms will have a sound estimate of any significant risks that may not be captured by the stress testing, such as potential mortgage put-back exposures, and the capacity to absorb any consequent losses."

But the various foreclosure problems were just emerging, so estimating those liabilities was difficult - though it was clear that they could be huge.

The FDIC was puzzled. "The direct connection between the put-back issue and the stress test never has been clear to me. They didn't take the number and add it to the bottom line," says the senior regulator familiar with the FDIC's position. "They didn't have any sizing on broader servicing liabilities."

All the more reason, FDIC officials thought, to slow down the dividend payouts and stock buy-backs.

The Fed did have an effort parallel to the stress test to assess these liabilities, and, according to a Fed spokeswoman, eventually included the legal risks in the stress test.

(In February, banks settled robo-signing problems with state attorneys general for $25 billion but remain on the hook for other legal liabilities arising from their mortgage servicing.)

By March 2011, it was clear the FDIC had lost its argument. The stress test was winding up, and most of the big banks would get a green light. The agency made a last stand on one bank: SunTrust, a large regional bank based in Atlanta.

The Fed had determined that SunTrust passed the stress test and could exit TARP. Bair appealed to Tarullo, according to several people familiar with the matter. The objection has not previously been reported.

The FDIC didn't think SunTrust was ready to pay back the government and leave the program. It was one of the last big banks to still have TARP money. It was loaded with high-risk assets, such as interest-only, adjustable-rate mortgages and loans to borrowers with low credit scores.

But the Fed shunted aside Bair's appeal and allowed the bank not only to repay the government but to do so on indulgent terms that the FDIC thought left SunTrust still vulnerable. When it green-lighted SunTrust's exit, the Fed didn't adhere to the 2-for-1 replacement standard regulators had established for healthy banks. The bank issued only $1 billion in new common stock to repay the government's $4.85 billion in preferred stock.

The FDIC had lost again.

Two former Fed officials who held senior posts during the crucial decision-making say they were troubled, believing that SunTrust didn't have enough capital. "I was horrified," says one of the officials.

Since then, investor views have mirrored those of the Fed's critics. In 2011, SunTrust shares tumbled more than 41 percent. The bank has a market value of about half of the value of the assets on its balance sheet - a sign that investors suspect the bank is overstating the worth of its assets and exaggerating its overall health.

SunTrust and the Fed declined to comment.

Looking ahead

Some see allowing dividends and stock repurchases as a confidence-building exercise. The hope is that investors will believe that the Federal Reserve is confident in the banks and will buy bank stocks. Higher share prices mean that banks can sell stock more cheaply if necessary. The regulators' logic seems to have been: Let the banks deplete capital to raise capital.

In the second stress test, "how much was appearance, and how much was reality? The Fed wanted the appearance of strength," says a former senior regulator. "The Fed wanted everyone to see that the banks were profitable, back to normal and back on the road to health . . . And the banks wanted it."

Passing the banks makes the Fed look good, too. The Fed "wanted it as a symbol of their success in mending the banks," the senior regulator says.

Tarullo strongly defends the decision to allow some of the banks to return capital to shareholders.

"If you imagine a truly severe financial dislocation, it's not going to matter much for the health of the U.S financial system whether banks paid out five or eight percentage points more of earnings in the preceding year," he says. "What will matter is that the banks have been steadily building capital to much higher levels than existed before the financial crisis and that they are subject to annual stress tests to make sure they have the capital needed to withstand a quite adverse economic situation."

Indeed, the Federal Reserve is at it again, conducting another stress test of the biggest banks. The Fed is testing the banks against much more dire scenarios than it did a year ago, which some analysts see as an implicit admission that it was too soft in the earlier test. This time, in order to comply with Dodd-Frank, the Fed must make much greater disclosure of how the tests are conducted and which banks pass.

The tests are draconian. They require the banks to plan against a scenario in which, among other drastic occurrences, the Dow Jones Total Market Index crashes to 5,668 and gross domestic product falls four quarters in a row, including one 8 percent quarterly drop, almost as much as it did in the fourth quarter of 2008, and unemployment rises to more than 13 percent. Can any of the banks truly survive such a scenario? And will the weaker ones be restricted from buying back stock or paying dividends?

The Fed seems to have put itself in a bind. Either the banks don't pass, which could harm investor optimism and thus the fragile economic recovery. Or the banks somehow do pass, risking the Fed's credibility in the event of another crisis.

The results will be out in mid-March.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly dated the letter from Anat Admati to the Financial Times. The letter was published in February 2011. It also misstated the name of a stock index the Fed is using in its new stress test, scheduled to be completed this month. A scenario the Fed is using involves the Dow Jones Total Market Index crashing to 5,668, not the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:00 AM | Permalink

The History Of Lowriders In Chicago

A little fly-er.


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See also: 2012 Chicago Lowrider Community Festival + Exhibition

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And: More from Kruzin's YouTube channel.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:40 AM | Permalink

The Weekend in Chicago Rock

You shoulda been there.

1. Pink Torpedo at Reggie's on Saturday night.


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2. Dillon Francis at the Congress on Friday night.

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3. Sara Bareilles at Union Station on Thursday night.

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4. Kataplexy at Reggie's on Saturday night.

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5. Zeds Dead at the Congress on Friday night.

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6. Midnight Conspiracy at the Congress on Friday night.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:01 AM | Permalink

March 3, 2012

The Weekend Desk Report

The Weekend Desk: Proudly whoring it up outside the bounds of civil discourse since 2006.

Market Update
The bottom fell out of the futures market for Human Decency this week when sources revealed it can be bought for about $1,500.

Stormy Weather
Apparently the nation's midsection has been ravaged by violent storms. Of course, the midsection has historically been a problem area for us.

NCA-Hey . . .
Thank goodness the NCAA is finally willing to get out ahead of the truly sickening abuses in college football.

Insane Weis Lords
It must be refreshing to view the world through Jody Weis's eyes, where the further you get from a situation, the guiltier everyone looks.

Never Say Never . . .
Is this the first time that a wax figurine has been honored with a wax figurine on its birthday?

Moody's Blues
Finally this week, Greece saw its credit rating slashed to Moody's lowest level of "C." This means the esteemed rating agency now considers the troubled EU nation a bigger investment risk than even Lindsay Lohan.

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The Weekend Desk Tip Line: Moody.

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The Sound Opinions Weekend Report: "Put a bird on it! Comedian and musician Fred Armisen of Saturday Night Live and Portlandia talks about making it as a punk musician, Gadhafi the rock star, and spoofing SXSW. Plus, Jim and Greg review the new Springsteen and remember Monkees singer Davy Jones. Tune in next week for an extended appreciation of the 'made-for-TV' band."

The CAN TV Weekend Report:

Perspectivas Latinas: San Miguel Schools of Chicago

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San Miguel Schools of Chicago's Michael Anderer-McClelland highlights the education, youth development, and family support services it offers in Chicago's underserved communities.

Saturday, March 3 at 7:30 p.m. on CAN TV21
30 min

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2012 Primary Candidates Forums

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The NAACP Chicago Westside Branch hosts a forum with local candidates including Rep. Anazette Collins (10th District) ahead of the March primaries.

Saturday, March 3 at 8 p.m. on CAN TV21
3 hr

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What Color is Nude? The Racial Future of Fashion

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Scholars and artists, including space sculptor and performance artist D. Denenge Akpem, examine how style and consumerism are influenced by race, radicals, and revolutions, and their implications for the future of fashion.

Sunday, March 4 at 9 a.m. on CAN TV21
1 hr 30 min

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This is Not My Beautiful House: Historic Preservation and the People's History

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Photographer Lee Bey joins other leading urbanists to examine historic preservation and its role in community building, gentrification, and social displacement.

Sunday, March 4 at 10:30 a.m. on CAN TV21
3 hr

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Latinos on Israel: Insight from Inside the Middle East

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State Rep. Lisa Hernandez (Dist. 24), relates her firsthand experience as a delegate on a recent mission to Israel and explores whether lessons learned about education, immigration, and politics could be applied in the United States.

Sunday, March 4 at 1:30 p.m. on CAN TV21
1 hr 30 min

Posted by Natasha Julius at 8:05 AM | Permalink

March 2, 2012

Pitch-O-Matic: Get Your Invention Seen On TV

First, the pitch:

Dear Steve:

AJ Khubani has spent the past 29 years bringing the wackiest gadgets to consumers via direct TV. His "As Seen on TV" products have been seen in bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens and with your pets. Khubani has had his share of duds as well. Now he is on the hunt for the newest infomercial product.

You had us at "As Seen on TV."

At-Home inventors will be attending a pitch-a-thon Sunday, March 11, 2012, at the International Housewares Show to pitch their inventions to AJ Khubani, CEO/Founder of TeleBrands, America's top "As Seen on TV" company, and a panel of judges which includes TV pitchman Anthony "Sully" Sullivan. In hopes of landing an infomercial deal with TeleBrands, inventors from across the country will be in attendance..

Now, the press release:

WHAT: Inventors from New York to Arizona, North Carolina to Iowa, California to Illinois, and various states in between, will attend TeleBrands Inventor's Day, an open casting call for those with the dream of creating the next "must have" infomercial product.

A cross between American Idol and The Apprentice - each inventor has five minutes to pitch TeleBrands CEO AJ Khubani, Poonam Khubani and TV pitchman Anthony "Sully" Sullivan. Products will range from crazy ("what were they thinking") to practical ("I wish I had that") and all pitches will be attention-grabbing and can be the next big "As Seen on TV" hit.

WHEN: Sunday, March 11th, 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.

WHERE: McCormick Place, Lakeside Center Level 2, Room E266/E267
2301 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60616

INVENTIONS: What is the Ice Device? Bakers Band? Ring Skin? At TeleBrand's Inventors Day, you can find out.

And now, the Beachwood adds value:

PItching Khubani.

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The original Chop-O-Matic.

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Bake Pops!

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See also:

* The Official Telebrands Blog

* Telebrands TV

* Kitchen Gadgets From The 2010 Housewares Show

* Best Cleaning Products From The 2011 Housewares Show

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Plus: We haven't done these since 2007 but we'd love to revive our Infomercial Reviews feature. If interested in contributing, drop us a note.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:20 AM | Permalink

The [Friday] Papers

"The woman in charge of hosting the May NATO/G8 summits has some advice for increasingly worried downtown business folk: Chill out," Greg Hinz reports in Crain's.

"The summits will be at McCormick Place, and while thousands of participants and media will be in town before and after that date, they'll be 'just like restaurant show folks,' Ms. Healey said, referring to the big trade show that usually occurs on those dates."

Right. Just like the restaurant show folks.

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Meanwhile . . .

"Costs for the G8/NATO summit in May could be much higher than current projections from the city, according to a labor-community coalition which is calling for a Chicago G8/NATO Community Fund," Curtis Black writes for the Community Media Workshop's Newstips.

"'We think that $65 million is very, very, very low, and based on the experience of other host cities, the actual cost is going to be much higher,' said Elizabeth Parisian, a researcher with Stand Up! Chicago.

"She said the 2010 G8 summit in Huntsville, Ontario, ended up costing over $1 billion, the bulk of which went to security costs."

It's true. (In addition to the G8 in Hunstville, the G20 was held in Toronto and the costs were lumped together.)

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To be fair, Pittsburgh reportedly spent "just" $12.2 million when it hosted the G20 in 2009.

(They didn't host the G8 or NATO at the same time, however. Not sure how much of an additional difference that makes - some for sure, but surely not enough to push the cost to $1 billion.)

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"The day before the G20 summit began in Pittsburgh last September, store owners in the trendy Strip District, located next to the city's convention centre, boarded up their windows and hung signs informing the hordes of expected protesters that each building was 'locally owned and operated,'" the Toronto Globe and Mail reported in June 2010, two weeks before the summit there.

"Police had told them that anarchists would target the area, and Becky Rodgers, president of Neighbors in the Strip, a community development non-profit, put employees on rooftops, watching for signs of trouble. But with the world leaders just blocks away, all they saw in every direction were empty streets.

"'It was crazy,' she said. 'You could throw a bowling ball down the street and not hit anyone. We didn't suffer any damage, but we did suffer the loss of business.'

"With the G20 summit in Toronto just two weeks away, the city has whipped itself into a frenzy of anticipation, the population literally divided by security perimeters and free-speech zones. The prospect of welcoming U.S. President Barack Obama and his fellow bigwigs is being pitched as an opportunity to showcase Toronto to the world, and the leaders are slated to discuss weighty issues of global economic recovery. But locals worry about the economic impact, and whether the event will be greeted with shattered glass and tear gas.

"It is a scenario that will sound familiar to Pittsburgh and London, the last two major cities to host the gathering of world leaders."

It's a scenario that will sound familiar to Chicago too - though we are in the unfortunate position of hosting the G8 and NATO at the same time in an Occupy environment.

"The cost of the event is huge - $30-million in London, $18-million (U.S.) in Pittsburgh, more than $1-billion in Toronto - while the payoff is growing less obvious."

As it will in Chicago as well. Elites will love hobnobbing with elites, but the touted economic benefits will evaporate as quickly as they have for any town that's hosted the Olympics. It's part of the prepackaged rhetorical sell job, but it's just not reality. Elites just wanna have fun but they can't say that.

"'I don't think many Londoners actually felt that they were participating in anything especially important or historic,' said Mark Morris, senior press officer for the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group. 'I think for most people the dominant memory . . . was the policing of the event.'"

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"In Pittsburgh, where the G20 was held in September, 2009, a riot broke out after university students gathered to catch a glimpse of the Obamas entering a leaders' reception at a picturesque arboretum. The unexpected number of rubberneckers caught police off guard and they demanded that students disperse, eventually deploying tear gas and a sound canon.

"But Rob McGrath, president and chief executive officer of VisitPittsburgh, the city's tourism office, said that, despite the violent images broadcast from the clash, the G20's benefit to the rust-belt city, population 335,000, has been profound. 'We wanted to tell a story about this destination and we had a tremendous opportunity to do that,' he said. 'We're still feeling the PR connects.'"

If that's the best a city's chief tourism official can do - PR connects, not dollars accrued - then the economic benefit has been zero, trust me.

"During the G20, Mr. McGrath said the city pulled in $35-million in hotel bookings and restaurant bills."

I'm sure that's true. I'm also reasonably sure that includes summit and non-summit business - and doesn't account for whether those rooms and restaurants would have been filled with others if not summit participants. (And really, $35 million? The summit was what, a couple days?)

"And the roughly 7,000 stories written by 3,000 journalists who covered the meeting, many of whom focused on the city's revitalization, filled the equivalent of $100-million in advertising space in publications around the world, he said. The city even changed its ad campaign, telling visitors, 'If we can take care of global leaders, we can take care of you.'"

And tourism increased since by how much? He doesn't say.

"Of course, the summit cost the city $12.2-million to get ready, including $3 million it paid to Aon Risk Services Central Inc. for an insurance policy. The insurance company in turn put a law firm on retainer to deal with suits stemming from the event."

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"[W]hen Quebec City hosted an international summit in 2001, the Free Trade Area of the Americas, there was a huge melee, despite the security, including water cannon and tear gas.

"Canada should have learned from the past, but Larry Bogad, an expert on performance and politics who was a visiting lecturer at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University during the September G20, said he is surprised cities will still accept the risk, and feels popular opinion is turning against the meetings."

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"The fact that they did it in Pittsburgh, where human beings actually live, was a bit surprising," Mr. Bogad said. "I thought the trend would be them meeting in ever more remote places, like Antarctica. Somewhere people can't bother them."

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"After the show is over, most residents of G20 towns are left wondering if all the hype and hysteria was just a dream. While the cost is real, the damage, where it happens, is quickly cleaned up.

"Writing in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette following September's summit, journalist Lillian Thomas said the only sign something had happened was the lack of garbage cans in the downtown core.'"Less than half a day after G20 leaders issued their final communique Friday, there was little sign on the streets that the summit - and months of feverish work leading up to it - ever happened,' she wrote."

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And no great benefits flowed in the aftermath? They never do.

"The summit's economic impact was a major concern of a few local politicians and citizens," according to the summit's heavily-footnoted Wikipedia entry. "The municipal government of Toronto, as well as some public representatives, previously argued that the G-20 summit should be held at an isolated venue, such as the Exhibition Place, rather than the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, which is located in the city's central business district.

"As a result, during the aftermath of the protests during the summit, when several business and properties in downtown Toronto were damaged, mayor David Miller urged the federal government to compensate for all the damages.

"It was initially outlined by the government that only damages to businesses within the security zone would be compensated." (Sound familiar?) "However, all damages occurred outside of the security zone.

"Some businesses in the downtown core suffered financially as a result. According to Member of Parliament John McCallum, 'Stephen Harper made a huge mistake in holding this summit in downtown Toronto.' According to the Toronto Star, at least 40 stores in the Downtown Yonge Business Improvement Area suffered damages and one repair firm performed up to $750,000 in repairs."

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Finally . . . back to Crain's:

"The real problem is that final decisions about agendas have yet to be made and probably won't be until three or four weeks out, so no one knows when those motorcades will hit the streets, Ms. Healey said. 'When there's no information, gossip fills the vacuum.'"

Look, nobody knows how many protesters will actually show up and if they will bash in windows up and down Michigan Avenue or if the police will force a riotous confrontation so Rahm can show he's got a big dick or whatever. We can use the past as a guide, but we can't definitively predict the future.

But when it comes to the financial issues, the city is content to let gossip fill the vacuum.

"Stand Up! Chicago is working on developing a more detailed independent cost estimate, Parisian said, but getting information is difficult," Black writes.

"There's been no transparency from the city," she said. "We need to know how much it's going cost and who's contributing."

Security Business
"Prepare for the 2012 Chicago G8 Summit by Installing 3M Safety and Security Window Blast Film."

Disaster Junkies
Coming soon to downstate Illinois - if not there already.

Obama's FOIA Fail
Empty words on paper.

The Week in Chicago Rock
Pretty thin.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Reach the summit.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:34 AM | Permalink

Disaster Junkies

Coming soon to downstate Illinois - if not there already.


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See also:
* Harrisburg Tornado Fatalities Concentrated In Close-Knit Neighborhood

* Weather Service Lists Harrisburg Tornado As EF4

* US Tornado Toll Rises To 13

* More Violent Weather Ahead For Damaged Communities

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Damage:

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:51 AM | Permalink

Obama's FOIA Fail

When the Obama administration came to office in January 2009, it promised openness and transparency in government. On his first full day in office, President Barack Obama issued a memorandum concerning his administration's beliefs on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), ordering federal officials to err on the side of openness. The President wrote that FOIA should be "administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails." Pursuant to this memorandum, Obama's new attorney general, Eric Holder, on March 19, 2009 issued a directive to emphasize the importance of the FOIA law's purpose and "to ensure that it is realized in practice."

This report considers whether a key component of that March 2009 directive which set forth new "defensive standards" for FOIA litigation has been obeyed. Henceforth, the AG's memorandum stated, the Department of Justice would "defend a denial of a FOIA request only if (1) the agency reasonably foresees that disclosure would harm an interest protected by one of the statutory exemptions, or (2) disclosure is prohibited by law."

After careful review of the record and interviews with numerous attorneys involved with FOIA litigation, TRAC found little evidence that these new standards are actually being followed. In fact, some individuals interviewed by TRAC expressed the opinion that Justice Department attorneys had become even more aggressive in defending anything that federal agencies chose to withhold.

The Critical Role Played by FOIA Defensive Standards

Under the Freedom of Information Act, if an agency does not provide records requested under FOIA, the requestor can file an action in federal court seeking a court order to compel their disclosure, 5 USC 552(a)(4)(B). When an agency's withholding is challenged in court, attorneys from the Justice Department are typically called upon to defend the agency's action. Therefore the standards used by these attorneys in determining which withholding actions will be defended, and which will not, send a powerful signal to federal agency officials and FOIA staff on the extent to which the agency will have a free hand in withholding government records.

In addition, whatever the ultimate decision of the courts, the slow pace of federal litigation means that the decision to defend an agency's withholding effectively postpones the need to turn over documents to the public for many years. Thus, agencies can use this tactic to effectively delay access to sought-after records until public interest in their contents dies down.

Each new administration since the late 1970s has issued memos and guidance on what issues should be considered by DOJ attorneys when deciding whether FOIA-related litigation should be defended.

Holder's stance is in many ways very similar to a 1993 memo issued by then Attorney General Janet Reno, who ordered DOJ attorneys to follow a similar standard when determining whether to defend a case. This was a change from a previous standard, established in 1981, that directed attorneys to defend a FOIA-related case merely because there was a "substantial legal basis," meaning the case should be defended because it could be, regardless of the merits of the request.

"Where an item of information might technically or arguably fall within an exemption, it ought not to be withheld from a FOIA requester unless it need be," Reno wrote.

In Oct. 2001, newly-arrived Attorney General John Ashcroft issued his own directive clearly laying out when cases should be defended. Turning back the clock, the Ashcroft memo specifically ordered that the Department of Justice would defend all decisions to withhold records, "unless they lack a sound legal basis or present an unwarranted risk of adverse impact on the ability of other agencies to protect other important records."

Similarly, when Attorney General Holder issued his directive, he noted that it rescinded the memo by Ashcroft. And it staked out a much different and far more open position, switching from the inherently minimizing language of defending all "unless" to the much more expansive directive to defend a FOIA denial "only if."

Anne Weismann, chief counsel for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and a former DOJ official in the Civil Division where she defended the government in FOIA litigation cases, reiterated the huge change that the Holder memo represented, at least on its face.

"I was at the Justice Department when the Ashcroft memo came out, and I always understood from the memo that the default was non-disclosure. I have always interpreted the Holder memo to be the flip of that," Weismann said.

The difference in stance is striking. While not the only standards announced in the AG's 2009 directive, they certainly form a prominent pillar of the overall message, which was ostensibly one of establishing a new era of openness.

Implementation Steps Missing

Holder's memo ordered what amounted to an "about-face" on the way the DOJ attorneys should handle FOIA cases - or at least a hard turn. When attempting to evaluate whether such a change had occurred, it would make sense that the massive bureaucratic machinery encompassing the administration of FOIA would need to grind to a halt before reversing course, or take a sharp turn or veer slightly. At the very least, there would need to be some slowing of momentum, and such activity would leave very visible tracks - evidence of the effort involved with implementing such a change.

These tracks were visible in the previous two instances of a change in policy. Under Reno, in addition to specifically citing cases in which the new policy made a difference, the DOJ publicly bragged about what steps had been taken to push the new policy. In her memo, Reno directed the heads of the Civil and Tax Divisions, as well as all U.S. Attorneys, to "undertake a review of the merits of all pending FOIA cases handled by them, according to the standards set forth above." These reviews were later credited with finding the cases that DOJ felt it could no longer defend. In fact, in a 1994 release, the DOJ identified eight cases in which the review resulted in new disclosures, which in almost all cases satisfied the plaintiff's request or left nothing to litigate over.

Again, under Ashcroft, the AG's memo and related statements from the Department's Office of Information Policy (OIP) - the office charged with encouraging all federal agency compliance with FOIA - seemed to make concerted efforts to let agencies know what the new standards for disclosure were, and described, quite plainly, what cases the DOJ was prepared to defend - essentially all cases.

"When you carefully consider FOIA requests and decide to withhold records, in whole or in part, you can be assured that the Department of Justice will defend your decisions," the OIP guidelines stated.

In sharp contrast to previous administrations, the Justice Department under Holder did little to implement these new defensive standards after their announcement in March of 2009. Patrice McDermott, executive director of OpenTheGovernment.org, noted. "we don't know of any guidelines being set out."

When implementing other aspects of the Holder directive, the OIP took many steps including the issuance of guidance and procedures, holding meetings and conducting training sessions for all federal agencies. However, it did nothing concrete to implement the change in defensive standards. Indeed, when asked by TRAC Co-Director Susan Long, at a panel discussion sponsored by the American Bar Association, what steps or actions DOJ had taken to ensure that the defensive standards were being implemented appropriately, Melanie Ann Pustay, director of the DOJ's Office of Information Policy, stated that there were none, as nothing further was needed beyond what the AG's March 2009 directive had stated.

This would seem improbable, considering the sharp turn in policy described by Holder, and considering the efforts made under previous attorneys general. It is also disturbing because it demonstrates a lack of commitment at the top of the food chain. If DOJ staff are going to possibly consider backing off of a case, there are going to be questions and there is going to be pushback, and the type of messages sent by those at the top during the Reno and Ashcroft eras are not only non-existent, but are replaced by the message that no further action is needed.

As recently as Feb. 24, 2012, Director Pustay declared in a radio interview that great advances in the FOIA process had been achieved - and credited Holder's March 2009 memo as the catalyst. Although changing defensive standards was a major and specific directive in Holder's memo, she again made no mention at all of FOIA litigation, success in changing the standards by which FOIA cases are determined worthy of defending, or even any effort to do so.

No Known Changes in Court Cases

A coalition of open government advocates has repeatedly asked for, among other things, a list of cases in which the DOJ has made the decision to stop defending a FOIA denial. The group, which includes The National Security Archive, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and OpenTheGovernment.org, has made these requests both in-person and in formal written letters.

David Sobel, senior counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said that on Dec. 9, 2009 - nearly nine months after Holder issued his directive - the group asked Assistant Attorney General Thomas J. Perrelli, who oversees internal DOJ policy as well as numerous offices including the Civil Division and OIP, for a list of cases. The request was reiterated, in writing, in a letter signed by all five of the organizations, sent to Perrelli on Jan. 25, 2010.

"To date we have seen no list," Sobel said.

An attempt by TRAC to isolate a number of FOIA-related lawsuits that were pending when the Holder memo was released and analyze them to find whether an obvious change in policy was evident yielded no apparent occasions.

No Evidence of Change in Defensive Standards

In addition to the absence of any official record from the DOJ that some sort of steps had been taken to carry out such a "flip" in official agency policy, TRAC was also unable, through examination of files and interviews with attorneys involved with FOIA litigation, to identify a single instance of the DOJ declining to defend a FOIA withholding case.

Scott Hodes, an attorney in private practice who specializes in FOIA litigation and who from 1998 to 2002 was the acting unit chief of the DOJ's FOIA/Privacy Act Section's litigation unit, said he knew of no cases, his own or others, where the DOJ has indicated a change in its defensive standards. On the question of whether there was an effort to change, Hodes was blunt, saying that he believes DOJ attorneys handling FOIA cases don't consider the documents at the center of a FOIA denial case, and maintain a policy of always defending the cases.

"They will still pretty much defend a ham sandwich in a FOIA exemption case," Hodes told TRAC.

The reason for this, Hodes said, was because there was no backing for a change from higher up in the agency that provided the support or infrastructure for attorneys handling cases to decide not to defend a case.

"I think the important thing is that there has been no training, specifically for FOIA litigators. There's no guidelines - there isn't even discussion of when they should release something. Quite frankly, they're not serious about it."

If Hodes has found no change, and instead a stolid insistence on defending cases no matter what, others have seen the opposite - an increased aggressiveness in defending cases.

Weismann, whose organization CREW has filed many FOIA-related lawsuits, said that in her own experience, not only have there been no signs of relaxing the defensive standards, the opposite seems to be true.

"All I can tell you is that in every case I have, the Department of Justice is litigating as aggressively as ever, and in many ways seems to go out of its way to more aggressively defend agency withholdings," she said.

Jason Aldrich, a staff attorney at Judicial Watch who worked on two lawsuits that were examined by TRAC to see if they were affected by the new policy (neither were), said that in 12 years of litigating FOIA-related cases, extending back to the Clinton administration, he has seen no signs that DOJ attorneys are less likely to defend a case.

"I'm not really seeing any additional openness or willingness to exercise discretion, if anything people are just hunkering down, especially anything that looks like it might be remotely political," he told TRAC.

Just this year, in a FOIA case that TRAC filed, and that is now before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, the Justice Department attorney argued that the government was entitled to withhold the names of many political appointees on government employment rolls - extending even to withholding the name of the head of a federal agency - even though names of federal employees had been a matter of public record since 1816. In that same case, the DOJ attorney also argued that data compiled for statistical purposes containing the county or city where federal workers were located was exempt from disclosure on privacy grounds, whether or not it was possible to associate the data with any identifiable individual.

Supporting these observations, the National Security Archive recently "honored" the Department of Justice for contradicting the stated policy of "presuming disclosure." Among the acts earning the DOJ this dubious award were statements made by Assistant to the Solicitor General Anthony Yang during oral arguments before the United States Supreme Court on Jan. 19, 2011 (in the Federal Communications Commission et al v. AT&T Inc., et al). Asked by Associate Justice Antonin Scalia about the long established rule that exemptions to the FOIA law should be applied as narrowly as possible, Yang replied: "We do not embrace that principle."

Conclusion

Available evidence indicates that no affirmative steps needed to implement the new defensive standards were ever taken. Further, there is little evidence that these new standards have made any impact on actual Department of Justice practices in defending federal agency withholding. In short, the new defensive standards seem to have become simply empty words on paper.

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Great interview, though. (Reminiscent of George W. Bush's talks about baseball. At least he actually owned a team once.) He can sing, too, and catch a fly in his hand.

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About The FOIA Project.

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Previously:
* Under Obama, Renditions - And Secrecy Around Them - Continue

* Recovery Redacted

* Government Could Hide Existence Of Records Under FOIA Rule Proposal

* Save The Data!

* Federal Spending Reporting System Still Broken

* Workshop On Government Openness Is Closed To Public

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:02 AM | Permalink

The Week in Chicago Rock

You shoulda been there.

1. Solemn Meant Walks at the Empty Bottle on Monday night.


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2. Lucy Rose at Subterranean on Monday night.

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3. Noel Torres at V-Live on Wednesday night.

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4. Connected Fellaz at Bobby McGee's in Chicago Ridge on Sunday night.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:10 AM | Permalink

March 1, 2012

The [Thursday] Papers

"Chicago is emerging from a 'lost decade' economically and needs to take bold action to avoid a repeat over the next ten years, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday," the Sun-Times reports.

Wow, a lost decade! I wonder who the mayor was all those years. Curiously, neither the Sun-Times nor Emanuel says.

*

The Tribune takes a stab at it. Briefly.

"But it also raised the question of whether Emanuel was criticizing his predecessor, Richard Daley. Emanuel's office rejected that notion," the paper said.

He was blaming teachers, the office explained.

No, but seriously . . . is Rahm Emanuel's butt jealous of the shit that comes out of his mouth? (Believe it or not, I stole that line from Real Housewives of Orange County).

"This was simply a realistic look at the challenges and opportunities facing Chicago," said spokesman Tom Alexander.

More of a fantastical look - the decade just lost itself!

Nobody is fooled. The more important question, though, isn't whether Rahm blames Daley. Obviously he does. The question is where Rahm was for the last 10 years on this subject. And we know the answer: Trying to convince us that Daley was the greatest mayor who ever walked the planet.

It's fun to pretend. But for Rahm, it never ends.

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Paging Bil Keane!

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Bonus: Trying to get Mayor Transparency's minions to fulfill a FOIA request.

Hogs And Nuts
The photo that sent a thousand messages.

Against Anita
"A Cook County judge ordered State's Attorney Anita Alvarez on Wednesday to turn over transcripts of six witness interviews to lawyers for Nanci Koschman, a Mount Prospect woman who's seeking the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the death of her son, David Koschman, after a drunken confrontation with a nephew of then-Mayor Richard M. Daley in 2004," the Sun-Times reports.

"Alvarez had fought the Koschman family's request to review those transcripts. She had asserted that doing so 'would disrupt the ongoing criminal investigation' by her office and Ferguson's staff 'and further undermine an already-dim prospect of any future criminal prosecution.'

"Judge Michael P. Toomin disagreed. He noted that Alvarez had quoted the interviews in a court filing arguing against naming a special prosecutor."

Pot Report
"Mayor Rahm Emanuel has privately told aides that under no conditions would he allow any changes on his watch that can be characterized as 'decriminalization,'" Mick Dumke reports for the Reader.

"Instead, he might consider various 'alternative sanctions,' with an emphasis on the fact that police could still make arrests if they chose. Skeptics worry that this approach would simply encode current policies that essentially criminalize pot possession for African-Americans while letting whites off the hook, though most reform advocates would support it as a baby step in the right direction."

Ever the media message massager, it's always about how things look politically with Rahm, never about the policy or public interest. (Rahm was known in Washington for never caring about what was in any particular bill, just caring that he could get it passed to notch a "win.")

"For the time being, though, the language issue is moot, because Emanuel has put the discussion on hold. After county officials demanded reforms last year, the mayor privately promised them that he would propose new policies by January. But January came and went, and now the mayor has tabled the discussion pending further 'study,' which is expected to continue at least through the NATO and G8 summits in May."

What's fascinating in this piece is how much Alvarez appears to be struggling to defend continued pot prosecutions. First, she says she believes marijuana is a gateway drug. So is having divorced parents. And so is your DNA. Isn't this a settled question already?

Alvarez goes on to wonder herself about the effectiveness of low-level prosecutions. But like Rahm, she's driven by her own personal political needs - and that overrides the public interest including how taxpayer dollars are spent (and wasted) as well as, more importantly, the lives of actual real humans rung up in this ridiculousness.

Rahm Muntz
"The Illinois Human Rights Commission is endorsing legislation that would require a statewide bullying-prevention policy," AP reports.

Rahm's response:

No, but seriously, how does Rahm Emanuel's behavior - just like Richard M. Daley's - differ from that of a bully? Not wanted in schools but lauded in political life?

Funny. But sad. I guess I was never enthralled with this style of "getting things done."

Granny Was A Gangsta
A Poetic Response To Chicago's Cultural Plan.

Justifying The Bears Ticket Price Hike
Our computers have figured out the only ways it can be done.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Poetic.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:59 AM | Permalink

A Poetic Response To Chicago's Cultural Plan

"The city's Department of Arts and Cultural Affairs and Special Events will hold more than 30 community meetings to prepare a cultural plan this year, with financial support from the Allstate Corporation, Chicago Community Trust, and the Illinois Arts Council," Progress Illinois reported earlier this month. "The city is preparing a plan in conjunction with the private firm Lord Cultural Resources, which bills itself as 'a global professional practice dedicated to creating cultural capital worldwide.'"

Uh-oh.

"Two things were obvious at [Feb. 15's] jam-packed town hall meeting to gather public input on the city's new cultural plan," Deanna Isaacs wrote for the Reader. "First, the Chicago arts community (more than 300 of whom showed up) is aching for a new version of the 26-year-old plan - one that would have teeth. And second, the consultants are in charge."

Now comes a response from the Young Chicago Authors @ Louder Than A Bomb.


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Official city video.

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First town hall meeting.

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See also:
* Chicago's Cultural Plan: Get To NY Or LA ASAP

* ChicagoCulturalPlan2012.com

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:43 AM | Permalink

Justifying Bears Ticket Prices

"Coming off their fourth non-playoff season in the last five years, the Bears are raising ticket prices for the ninth time in 10 years since the opening of new Soldier Field in 2003," the Sun-Times reported this week.

So we paid to build the new stadium, which delivers more revenue to the privately owned football club than the old one; we pay to cover any shortfalls the stadium experiences, and then we pay increasingly more to attend the stadium we've already paid for and keep paying for - to watch crappy teams. Nice!

As a public service to both fans and the Bears, we've run the numbers and determined the only possible ways this season's ticket price hike can be justified.

* The purchase of an additional second of protection for Jay Cutler.

* Bus leaves training camp without Roy Williams.

* Tuition now covered to send Lovie Smith to that red flag penalty review seminar.

* Soldier Field actually takes off and returns to its home planet in the off-season.

* One inch less foam in every beer purchase.

* Replace the self-propelled Lawn Boy that keeps ruining the field.

* Buy Brian Urlacher a new personality - and some condoms.

* Purchase real video equipment to replace that old filmstrip projector.

* Sponsor a Mike Martz playbook burning.

* Hire Penn & Teller to make the McCaskeys disappear.

* Hire Randy Newman to write a new fight song.

* Buy the Green Bay Packers.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:20 AM | Permalink

MUSIC - Christgau Loves Chicago Neonatologist.
TV - Amazon & The Way Of The World.
POLITICS - Yes On Vouchers For After-School Programs.
SPORTS - The Ex-Cub Factor.

BOOKS - Writers Under Surveillance.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Original Warrior.


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