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« June 2013 | Main | August 2013 »

July 31, 2013

The [Wednesday] Papers

Who knew that when Barack Obama promised the most transparent administration ever he was talking about our transparency and not his?

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Related: Federal Appeals Court Rules the Government Can Track Your Cell Phone Without a Warrant.

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See also: Global Coalition State Principles to Protect Human Rights from Surveillance.

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And: "The Obama administration on Wednesday released formerly classified documents outlining a once-secret program of the National Security Agency that is collecting records of all domestic phone calls in the United States," the New York Times reports.

You can thank Edward Snowden for that - even as Obama is trying to imprison him.

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Plus: Why is there suddenly no need to classify these documents after all? PR.

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Finally: Has The U.S. Government Lied About Its Snooping? Let's Go To The Videotape.

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P.S.: Durbin calls out Obama.

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Bradley Manning > Barack Obama
If You Blinked You Missed The MSM's Coverage Of The Bradley Manning Verdict.

And the whole historic saga, really.

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Song of the Moment: Almost Gone (The Ballad of Bradley Manning).

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Social Immobility
"Researchers at Georgetown University have found that at the most competitive colleges, only 14 percent of students come from the lower 50 percent of families by income," the New York Times reports.

"That figure has not increased over more than two decades, an indication that a generation of pledges to diversify has not amounted to much."

American Graffiti
"When Star Wars creator George Lucas and Chicago businesswoman Mellody Hobson chose Promontory Point for their late-June wedding celebration, the Chicago Park District set aside its rule book and paved the way, literally, for the power couple's star-studded bash," the Tribune reports.

"Records from the event and other celebrations at the popular lakefront venue reveal that the filmmaker and his well-connected bride were allowed to skirt a number of policies that the Park District refused to bend for ordinary renters."

Rules are for the little people.

Boarding School
"Getting people on and off an airplane quickly is so complicated that even an astrophysicist couldn't figure it out," the Washington Post reports.

"The astrophysicist, Jason Steffen of the University of Illinois, normally contemplates things such as axion-like particles. But after waiting in one boarding line too many, he turned to the mysteries of airline seating.

"I thought there had to be a better way," he says.

He thought wrong.

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Jason Steffen.

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His paper: Experimental Test Of Airplane Boarding Methods.

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In the Economist two years ago.

Be Sure To Visit The Gift Shop, Though
"Chicago's Field Museum made headlines on four continents this year after researchers discovered a 600-year-old Chinese coin in late December on the Kenyan island of Manda, revealing there was trade between China and East Africa before European explorers mapped that part of the world," the Tribune reports.

But the anthropologist who co-led that expedition will soon be working at American University in Washington, D.C. Five other tenured scientists, some with decades of experience and others with promising careers ahead, are also preparing to leave the Field staff this year, for a total of six of the museum's 27 tenured curators.

"The exodus follows six months of cost-cutting at the Field. The museum has slashed millions from its research budget; merged its anthropology, zoology, geology and botany departments; and sparked fears that it is going - in the words of a curator at Harvard's zoology museum - 'from being a major research institution to being a local museum where people go to see things.'"

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Will there be Mold-A-Rama dinosaurs?

Oh Sheila
Are you as totally psyched about Sheila Simon's campaign for state comptroller as I am?! It's gonna rule!

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Googly Glasses
So you're saying the Cubs still have a chance?

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Be Bradley Manning.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:53 AM | Permalink

If You Blinked You Missed The Coverage Of The Bradley Manning Verdict

Cable news spent about five minutes on average covering the historic verdict - which was just about what they spent covering the trial itself.

"Whereas trials like George Zimmerman's or even Jodi Arias's were treated to hours of analysis, dissection and attention, the news that the man responsible for the biggest leak of classified material in American history had been hit with charges that could keep him in prison for over 100 years was deemed worthy of one, or at most two, segments during the hour following the verdict," Jack Mirkinson writes for Huffington Post.

"Corporate media coverage of the Manning trial has been utterly shameful," says Jeremy Scahill.

"He's a man who's done things that the mainstream media should have done a long time ago," says Phil Donahue.

"Every single newspaper in this country ought to be screaming - screaming - about Bradley Manning," says Michael Ratner.

That's because Manning's values embody the values that are supposed to be inherent in journalists - outrage at atrocities, a call to accountability, a demand for transparency, a crusade against deceit, and a love for democracy.

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And it's not just television coverage that's been lacking, as Ratner alludes to.

"New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan noted on Monday that the paper has once again devoted less coverage to the Bradley Manning trial than other outlets," Mirkinson noted at the outset of the trial.

"Manning, who has admitted he leaked classified information to WikiLeaks, is set to start trial on Monday. He faces life in prison for his actions.

"Though the Manning story is unquestionably huge - from the details of his controversial detention to the implications of his prosecution - the Times has been criticized in the past for seemingly skimping on coverage.

"In October, Sullivan called the choice 'simply weird,' noting that Manning, through WikiLeaks, had been a huge source of news for the Times."

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As for the local papers, it's even worse. The Sun-Times ran a brief - five paragraphs - about the Manning verdict on page 26.

In all, I found just one - one - article about the Manning saga in the Sun-Times ever, and that was an AP story on page 20 in 2011 titled "Sexual Orientation Of Soldier In WikiLeaks Case Raised At Hearing," according to the NewsBank database.

Online, I found only this AP story from Tuesday.

Over at the Tribune, the coverage was predictably better but also predictably rote, with far more emphasis on leaks in general and Wikileaks in particular than on the implications of the Obama administration's prosecution of the case and the treatment of Manning while in custody. (At least their story on the verdict appeared on the front page in the print edition.)

I didn't find a single editorial in either paper - though I still don't quite believe the Trib didn't ever write one.

(Meanwhile, the real reporting on Manning was being done by the likes of Kevin Gosztola, Alexa O'Brien, Xeni Jardin and even the Bradley Manning Support Network's own Nathan Fuller.)

In this case, even the advocacy reporting was more sophisticated, fair and balanced than the mainstream media's reflexive obedience to authority.

(Even the Poynter Institute is asking today: "Did The Media Drop The Ball On The Bradley Manning Trial?" Of course they did. That's what they do. Over and over and over.)

Here's what serious journalistic reports of the sort you won't get on the cable networks - or the traditional networks - look like:

I Am Bradley Manning.

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Democracy Now.

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RTAmerica.

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And finally, here's Glenn Greenwald vs. Jeffrey Toobin on the verdict. You decide.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:06 AM | Permalink

Song of the Moment: Almost Gone (The Ballad of Bradley Manning)

We, too, think Bradley Manning is a hero - and one whose sacrifice is both historic and almost unimaginable.

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Song: Almost Gone (The Ballad of Bradley Manning)

Artist: Graham Nash and James Raymond (son of David Crosby)

Composed: Spring 2011

Released: December 2011

Length: 3:50

Nash: "'Bradley Manning is a hero to me,' he says, acknowledging Manning's role in making public videos and documents that shed light on such as issues as the true number and cause of civilian casualties in Iraq, human rights abuses by U.S.-funded contractors and foreign militaries, and the role that spying and bribes play in international diplomacy."

Video:


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Lyrics:

Locked up in a white room, underneath a glaring light
Every 5 minutes, they're asking me if I'm alright
Locked up in a white room naked as the day I was born
24 bright light, 24 all alone

What I did was show some truth to the working man
What I did was blow the whistle and the games began

Tell the truth and it will set you free
That's what they taught me as a child
But I can't be silent after all I've seen and done
24 bright light I'm almost gone, almost gone

Locked up in a white room, dying to communicate
Trying to hang in there underneath a crushing wait
Locked up in a white room I'm always facing time
24 bright light, 24 down the line

What I did was show some truth to the working man
What I did was blow the whistle and the games began

But I did my duty to my country first
That's what they taught me as a man
But I can't be silent after all I've seen and done
24 bright light I'm almost gone, almost gone
(Treat me like a human, Treat me like a man )

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Nash: "I see many things wrong with this country right now: the ever widening divide between the rich and the poor, the taking over of our government by the corporate/financial elite, the 'buying' of our very democracy by the 1%, the decimation of our environment by the oil, coal, gas, chemical and nuclear industries and the ever increasing erosion of our civil rights to name but a few of our many problems.

"I believe that one case in particular, the case against Bradley Manning, has chilling consequences for the future of our fragile society. Manning is the U.S. Private First-class soldier who, allegedly, released the hundreds of thousands of documents to the world for everyone to see exactly what was being perpetrated around the planet by our military and state departments in our name."

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"Unfortunately the president of the U.S.A. has already muddied the waters of this investigation by declaring that Manning had 'broken the law.' How is it possible for there to be a 'fair' trial when the Commander-in-Chief has already pronounced a verdict? Why is the president openly supporting the rights of whistle-blowers except in the case of Bradley Manning?

"The lawyer, David E. Coombs, when asked about Manning's mental state, says that his client is 'almost gone.' That phrase prompted me to write this song with my friend James Raymond."

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Previously in Song of the Moment:
* Iron Man
* The Story of Bo Diddley
* Teach Your Children
* Dream Vacation
* When The Levee Breaks
* I Kissed A Girl
* Theme From Shaft
* Rocky Mountain High
* North to Alaska
* Barracuda
* Rainy Days and Mondays
* Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?
* Baby, It's Cold Outside
* Man in the Mirror
* Birthday Sex
* Rio
* My Sharona
* Alex Chilton
* Surfin' Bird
* By The Time I Get To Arizona
* Heaven and Hell
* Sunday Bloody Sunday
* Lawless One
* Tell It Like It Is
* The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
* Lake Shore Drive
* On, Wisconsin!
* Anarchy in the U.K.
* Ballad of a Thin Man
* White Riot
* Know Your Rights
* Chicago Teacher
* Youngstown
* Over The Cliff

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See also:
* Songs of the Occupation: To Have And To Have Not
* Songs of the Occupation: Johnny 99

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:05 AM | Permalink

July 30, 2013

Fantasy Fix: Worst Trade Deadline Ever

What if Major League Baseball set a July 31 trade deadline and nobody cared?

If you've been reading or watching or listening to or clicking through a lot of baseball coverage the last few days, the actual 2013 MLB trade deadline may seem a bit like an anti-climactic event.

If you are a Cubs fan, two of the biggest names on the team - Matt Garza and Alfonso Soriano - have already been traded.

And for White Sox fans, it already seems a given that Jake Peavy and/or Alex Rios will be dealt before 3 p.m. Wednesday. And if not, oh well.

Maybe it's just not nearly as much fun selling pieces as getting them.

Even from a league-wide perspective, things are kind of boring this year - though this isn't unexpected. This was supposed to be the rare year when no truly big names would change hands - and it's turning out exactly that way. (Indeed, Garza may end up being the biggest name traded, and he's not even viewed as a No. 1 starter.)

So there's not much to assess - yet, at least; we can still hope - in terms of fantasy impact. But here's my quick fantasy take of the few deals we have had:

Matt Garza to the Rangers: Garza heads back to the American League, where he has already proven he can win. Texas is home to a hitters' park, but with the Cubs, Garza was winning even without the guaranteed offensive support the Rangers can give him to offset that disadvantage. This one is a win for Garza's fantasy owners.

Alfonso Soriano to the Yankees: There are not a lot of places where I think Soriano could have gone and retained his fantasy value, but the home run palace the Yankees now play in is one of them. If the rest of the lineup remains healthy, he could make a push for 100 RBI.

Jose Veras to Detroit: A deal worth mentioning mostly because Veras had 19 saves for an Astros team that only had 35 wins coming into this week. He was a decent third closer on fantasy rosters, but for now the save opportunities will be few, as Joaquin Benoit still has the closer job in Detroit. Even if Veras gets a shot at closer, the Tigers are beating other teams by such wide margins that they don't end up in that many save situations.

Expert Wire
* SI.com looks at the surging Jose Fernandez.

* ESPN notes what might be the final indignity for Albert Pujols owners this season.

* Yahoo!'s Roto Arcade sheds a light on Ivan Nova.

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Dan O'Shea is our man in fantasyland. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:53 PM | Permalink

Has The U.S. Government Lied About Its Snooping? Let's Go To The Videotape

Since Edward Snowden leaked documents detailing the NSA's sweeping surveillance programs, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was forced to admit that part of his congressional testimony was "erroneous." Here are six claims about NSA surveillance that have been undermined by recent disclosures. Read the full story.


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Previously:
* Who Are We At War With? That's Classified.

* Six Ways Congress May Reform NSA Snooping.

* NSA Says It Can't Search Its Own E-Mails.

* Does The NSA Tap That?

* Obama Explains The Difference Between His Spying And Bush's Spying.

* FAQ: What You Need To Know About The NSA's Surveillance Programs.

* NSA: Responding To This FOIA Would Help "Our Adversaries".

* Fact-Check: The NSA And 9/11.

* The NSA's Black Hole: 5 Things We Still Don't Know About The Agency's Snooping.

* Defenders Of NSA Surveillance Citing Chicago Case Omit Most Of Mumbai Plotter's Story.

* Obama's War On Truth And Transparency.

* ProPublica's Guide To The Best Stories On The Growing Surveillance State.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:26 PM | Permalink

The [Tuesday] Papers

1. Obama Promises Disappear From Web.

2. Waiting For The Manning Verdict.

3. New York Times Articles Based On Manning's Leaks.

4. More New York Times Articles Based On Manning's Leaks.

5. Obama Says Income Gap Is Fraying U.S. Social Fabric.

His solution?

Obama Offers to Cut Corporate Tax Rate as Part of Jobs Deal.

6. "JPMorgan Chase & Co. agreed to pay $410 million in penalties on Tuesday to settle accusations by U.S. energy regulators that it manipulated electricity prices," AP reports.

"The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said the bank used improper bidding strategies to squeeze excessive payments from the agencies that run the power grids in California and the Midwest in 2010 and 2011."

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"FERC claimed JPMorgan's energy unit used five 'manipulative bidding strategies' in California between September 2010 and June 2011, and three in the Midwest from October 2010 to May 2011."

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"The White House's new chief of staff, William M. Daley, is rich - so much so that his recent earnings from JPMorgan Chase appear to give even Jamie Dimon's pay package a run for the money," the New York Times reported in 2011.

"Mr. Daley, former Midwest chairman and head of corporate responsibility for the bank, made $8.7 million in 2010 and the first week of 2011, according to a 43-page disclosure report released on Friday by the White House."

7. Fast Food Workers Kick Off Multi-City Protests For Higher Pay.

8. North Side Schools Fare Best In 'Additional' Budget Funds From CPS.

9. More Metra Madness.

"Metra Chairman Brad O'Halloran received nearly $22,000 for his service as an elected trustee in Orland Park despite a state law banning Metra board members from receiving a paycheck from any other government post, according to records from the southwest suburb," the Tribune reports.

"O'Halloran - under fire for his role in a large severance package to ousted Metra CEO Alex Clifford - attempted to return the money this month, according to public records obtained Monday by the Tribune."

10. Random Food Report: Chicken & Waffles & Flavor Flav & Lay's.

11. ICYMI: The Cub Factor: Facts & Figures.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Thank Bradley.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:35 AM | Permalink

Random Food Report: Chicken & Waffles & Flavor Flav & Lay's

1. So that's where they've been putting all the bones.


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2. Trick Question.

"What is 'the cheapest, most nutritious and bountiful food that has ever existed in human history' Hint: It has 390 calories. It contains 23g, or half a daily serving, of protein, plus 7% of daily fiber, 20% of daily calcium and so on.

"Also, you can get it in 14,000 locations in the US and it usually costs $1. Presenting one of the unsung wonders of modern life, the McDonald's McDouble cheeseburger."

McDouble.jpg

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3. Closing Time.

"Shocking absolutely no one with a working knowledge of who Flavor Flav is, the very last Flav's Chicken & Ribs location has been evicted from its building in Sterling Heights, Michigan after an extended battle with the site's owner," the A.V. Club notes.

Flav, however, says a new fiesta is in the making:

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4. Jazz Waffles.

"One of Popeyes' biggest product launches this year drew its inspiration from the West Coast - a departure for the chain that likes to tout its Louisiana roots," Ad Age reports.

"The limited-time Chicken Waffle Tenders - boneless chicken strips with a waffle batter, served with a honey maple dipping sauce - were inspired by the dietary habits of jazz musicians in Los Angeles during 1940s and '50s."

Sort of.

"The origin of Chicken & Waffles is a bit sketchy and distorted, to say the least," according to Dame's Chicken & Waffles in Durham, North Carolina.

Stories of Thomas Jefferson, the Pennsylvania Dutch and Southern slaves have all contributed to the mystery and lore of the beginnings of chicken & waffles. Although many lay claim to having invented and inspired this combination, there are some facts about the history of chicken & waffles that are undeniable.

First and foremost, chicken & waffles gained notoriety during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920's-40's. It was during this era that an explosion of artistic creativity was taking place. Harlem, New York became the mecca of music, visual art, dance and most genres of creative forms of expressions. Artists of all types and all walks of life were making their way to Harlem to "make it" and lay claim to their piece of the artistic world at that time.

As a result of this renaissance, jazz music began to grow and spread throughout the United States. No other area in the country witnessed this transformation more than Harlem. With major venues like the Cotton Club and The Savoy Ballroom, Harlem quickly became a hot spot for music and entertainment. Jazz orchestras and swing bands routinely made Harlem a mainstay on their tour schedules. Musical masters, such as William "Count" Basie, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway and the legendary Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong, called Harlem home at some point during the Renaissance.

With the Harlem music scene quickly becoming the place to be, it was not uncommon for the concerts and parties at that time to last until the late hours of the evening and early morning. It was this phenomenon that caused several restaurants in the area to stay open late to accommodate the bands and party-goers after the shows and parties.

One restaurant specifically, a family-owned establishment known as Wells Supper Club, began to offer late night food services. Wells was already known for its great Southern-inspired menu and had been a cornerstone of the Harlem food scene from the beginning.

Wells Supper Club offered breakfast, lunch and dinner. With dinner service typically ending around 11 p.m. - 12 a.m., Wells would often have fried chicken leftover from the dinner service. Seeing an opportunity to boost sales and reduce food waste, Wells started offering a late night/early morning menu featuring their savory fried chicken paired with a deliciously sweet waffle. The combination quickly became a hit and inspired other restaurants to offer the pairing as well. Suffice it to say that THIS was the beginning of the chicken & waffles popularity that we experience to this very day.

Well, that works for Popeyes because their chicken is already at least a day old.

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Tangentially related: Lay's Chicken & Waffle Potato Chips.

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Note: Not endorsing the black person-chicken stereotype, which is discussed in the YouTube comments. Just liked the review - and of a product we didn't know existed and appears to be a massive fail at that.

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5. Jazz Tarts.

"Carl's Jr. will roll out a Hand-Scooped Strawberry Pop-Tarts Ice Cream Sandwich to all its restaurants as a limited-time offer," Nation's Restaurant News reports.

poptartsicecreamsandwichproductonly.jpg

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6. Jazz Soup.

"Campbell Soup Co. will launch more than 200 products in the coming months - from Goldfish Mac & Cheese to a new variety of V8 sold cold - as it adjusts for what CEO Denise Morrison described as 'seismic shifts' in the food marketplace," Ad Age reports.

Let me guess: Chicken & Waffles Soup. In a maple syrup broth.

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7. Jazz Yogurt.

"Health officials have recently revealed that Dannon's yogurt products may contain a creepy-crawly secret responsible for its color," Science World Report reports.

"Known as carmine, this color additive is created by crushing the bodies of cochineal beetles."

Oh come on, that's hardly a secret - the dye was found in a favlor called Beetles & Waffles.

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8. Actual Serious News.

"Fast-food workers are walking picket lines across the country this week," NPR reports.

"They're staging a series of one-day strikes in seven cities, including New York, Chicago and St. Louis. The campaign is aimed at pressuring McDonald's, Wendy's and other fast-food chains to pay a so-called living wage of $15 an hour."

Someone has to make all this horrible food, and they should be paid a decent wage to do so.

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9. The dark side of foodie fanaticism.

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10. The Chicago Bears will eat 5,100 ribeye steaks, 2,516 pounds of deli meat and 2,250 pounds of king crab legs during training camp, The Sports Bank reports.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:06 AM | Permalink

July 29, 2013

Facts & Figures

Did you know . . .

* The Cubs are 30-12 when Len Kasper doesn't make the most obvious pun available during a broadcast.

* English is Dale Sveum's second language.

* The distance from home plate to the right field wall is the same as the height of the new Jumbotron.

* Only 14% of Wrigley Field is now free of advertising or sponsorship.

* Tom Ricketts still lives at home with his father and works part-time at Baskin-Robbins.

* Darwin Barney was once kicked out of a band because he couldn't write a hit.

* More than $400 million of the $500 million Wrigley "renovation" is ticketed for an underground bunker for the Ricketts family should society break down at some point in the next 50 years.

* David DeJesus was raised by wolves.

* Nate Schierholtz weighs 450 pounds but wears a really slimming uniform.

* Starlin Castro's on-base percentage is 50 points higher on nights Dioner Navarro cooks for him.

Week in Review: The Cubs split a four-game series in Arizona and then swept the Giants in San Francisco. Can anyone truly say it's not The Junior Lake Effect?

Week in Preview: The woebegone Brewers come in for four - including a doubleheader on Tuesday - and that means the delusion that the Cubs are suddenly in contention will continue for another few days until the Dodgers come in for four to pop that balloon. Also, the first 10,000 fans through the turnstiles on Saturday will get Kyuji Fujikawa bobbleheads, but the Cubs should really just award Kyuji Fujikawa bobbleheads to the only fans who know who he is - and donate the remaining 9,900 to charity.

The Second Basemen Report: Darwin Barney just went 3-for-29 (which makes him 6-for-40) and left another 14 men on base. He lost another 11 points on his batting average, which is now down to .213, and another 14 points on his OBP, which is down to .260.

How long can this go on?

FYI: Edgar Gonzalez is hitting .293 in Iowa.

Barney also isn't fielding his position particularly well anymore, so there's even less of a trade-off than there once was.

The Third Basemen Report: The Second Basemen Report is so Jim Hendry. The new Cubs regime collects third basemen.

Luis Valbuena is the starter, though he really came up as a second baseman. (That's okay, because second baseman Darwin Barney came up as a shortstop.) Cody Ransom is the backup; he appears to be an actual third baseman. Junior Lake is a third baseman (and a shorstop and second baseman) who apparently isn't good enough to play third base. (He's a Hendry-era leftover, natch.) Mike Olt, the Ranger prospect acquired in the Matt Garza trade, is expected to be the third baseman soon once he gains an understanding of National League rules - at which point Josh Vitters may or may not regain his starting role in Des Moines (where he's hitting .289 with a .372 OBP but still generally sucks). Meanwhile, Javy Baez, now at Double-A Tennessee, is a shortstop who has been projected by some as a major league third baseman. Of course, one point of piling up prospects is to provide trade bait for the theoretical time when the Cubs finally seek out veterans not as stopgaps but as actual long-term contributors. But still, just sayin'.

Wishing Upon A Starlin: Starlin Castro is supposedly "back" but he went just 4-for-17 against the Diamondbacks and left nine men on base in the series. Starlin then went 4-for-13 against the Giants and left another seven men on base. So he's 8-for-his-last-30. Yep, he's back.

FYI: Starlin's OBP is .289.

The Legend of Dioner Navarro: Dioner led off the week with his ninth dong, going 3-for-11 on the whole and working a pinch-hit walk. We predict he puts the Yankees into the playoffs with a pinch-hit home run on the last day of the season.

Mad Merch: We're Not Sori t-shirts.

Deserted Cubs: Sadly, Tony Campana is still in Reno (.281/.342) but he'll be up soon enough. He should have had all those Soriano at-bats the last two years.

Bullpen Bullshit: Kevin Gregg will be gone soon, but his value is nowhere near where it was a month ago - and he was still a huge roll of the dice even then. That means it will be up to Pedro Strop (ERA 7.25 with the Orioles earlier this season) to blow games from here on out. Prepare your "Stop Strop" jokes.

Ameritrade Stock Pick of the Week: Shares of Biogenesis in Chicago are flat as no Cub even had the imagination to dope up and help his team. Wherefore art thou, Sammy Sosa?

Sveum's Shadow: Dale Sveum's Five O'Clock Shadow remains at 5 o'clock as he gained a certain equilibrium on his West Coast trip. Also, he found Uncle Lou's secret stash of Old Styles in the cargo hold of the team plane in a box marked "fungo bats."

Shark Tank: Jeff Samardzija has been trying a bit too hard to be a team leader for more than a year now instead of focusing on some changes in his approach that could stave off the otherwise sure-to-come Tommy John surgery and while doing so has proven he's not the coldest beer in the fridge.

In his last start, Samardzija couldn't hold a 6-0 lead, throwing (again) 118 pitches in 5 2/3 innings and (again) burning up the bullpen. He struck out five and walked five.

Jumbotron Preview: Five-thousand-seven-hundred square-feet of Ryne Sandberg being named Cubs manager the day after Theo is fired.

Kubs Kalender: Wait 'til next year 2015 2016 2017 2016.

Over/Under: Innings Samardzija goes in his start tonight: +/- 6.

Beachwood Sabermetrics: A complex algorithm performed by The Cub Factor staff using all historical data made available by Major League Baseball has determined that at least the Cubs aren't the White Sox.

The Cub Factor: Unlike Alfonso Soriano Starlin Castro, you can catch 'em all!

The White Sox Report: Know the enemy.

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The Cub Factor welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:23 PM | Permalink

The [Monday] Papers

"In a new interpretation of the Espionage Act, a federal judge made it easier for prosecutors in leak cases to meet their burden of proof, while reducing protections for accused leakers," Steven Aftergood reports for Secrecy News.

"Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled that the prosecution in the pending case of former State Department contractor Stephen Kim need not show that the information he allegedly leaked could damage U.S. national security or benefit a foreign power, even potentially. Her opinion was a departure from a 30-year old ruling in the case of U.S. v. Morison, which held that the government must show that the leak was potentially damaging to the U.S. or beneficial to an adversary."

So you could leak the recipe for the meat loaf at the Department of Defense cafeteria and plausibly be charged with espionage. Nice.

That's Pat!
"House Speaker Michael Madigan has always strongly guarded the powers of the General Assembly as a co-equal branch of government, so it was a little surprising when he appeared to support Gov. Pat Quinn's line-item veto of legislative salaries back in mid July," Rich Miller writes in his weekly syndicated column.

"The governor vetoed the salaries in retaliation for the GA's failure to pass a pension reform bill. In a press release the day of the veto, Madigan said he understood the governor's frustration with the lack of progress, adding, 'I am hopeful his strategy works.'

"Behind the scenes, though, Madigan is said to be furious with the governor's veto. Madigan's legal staff has been meeting with other lawyers to set strategy to either get around the veto or oppose it. So far, they are not finding much in the way of non-court options."

Miller goes on to write:

But a lawsuit would be a last resort. Obviously, such a challenge would be roundly attacked by the media and probably by a lot of Republicans as cowardly. Why not just pass a pension reform bill and then override the veto later?

Quinn's legislative team has assured top Democrats that he would, of course, not oppose an override if pension reform is passed. But Senate President John Cullerton, for one, reportedly doesn't want to give Quinn the ability to claim such a victory. And both he and Speaker Madigan are reportedly loathe to allow this veto to set a precedent.

What if, for instance, Quinn vetoes salaries again to prod the General Assembly to make the income tax hike permanent?

Or, what if Bruce Rauner is elected? The Republican gubernatorial candidate has pledged to wage an all-out war with Springfield's entrenched interests, privately telling some House Republicans earlier this year that he would "bring Madigan to his knees." So allowing him this veto power would set up a near certain annual battle.

State Sen. Kirk Dillard, another Republican gubernatorial candidate, has said he approves of Quinn's veto. If Dillard is elected, would he use a similar action to force passage of what he considers to be a balanced budget, as he has implied?

And even though the legislative leaders, Topinka and even, reportedly, the attorney general all seem to be in agreement that the governor's veto is blatantly unconstitutional, what if they lose in court? The veto was an unprecedented move, so nobody is absolutely certain that a court would rule in their favor.

So nearly everyone seems to agree the move is unconstitutional, but nearly everyone is afraid to challenge it as such. Profiles in courage.

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My problem with Quinn's move regarding the precedent-setting is this: Who is the governor to say the legislature hasn't done their job? After all, that's his rationale: You only get paid when the job is finished. This is balderdash.

First, many folks get paid along the way - like, say, every week or two - while they are working on projects before they are finished. Second, who's to say when or if the job is finished? Sometimes not passing a bill is "finishing" the job in the legislating business. Sometimes passing a bill that the governor vetoes is "finishing" the job. One could argue that Quinn hasn't "finished" the job and therefore should not be paid until he does so. Or does "finishing" the job mean passing legislation to the governor's liking?

Ultimately, though, the briefly feel-good grandstanding of the governor is child's play. In other words, business as usual.

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The horror of it all is that the Democratic alternative to Pat Quinn is Bill Daley. And the Republican alternative is a Republican. Seems like there's room for one more candidate in the race.

Cross To Bear
Speaking of profiles in courage, the Tribune reports that House Republican leader Tom Cross may be in trouble.

"Illinois House Republican leader Tom Cross gambled and lost on a potential run for attorney general and now finds himself trying to fend off attempts by rank-and-file lawmakers looking to take away the job he's got," the Tribune says.

"Cross, who has led the long-out-of-power House GOP for 10 years, had a promotion in mind at the end of spring session in late May, telling his members he'd likely run for the state's chief legal office if Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan pursued a run for governor. Instead, Madigan opted to seek a fourth term. Cross, wanting no part of the politically formidable Madigan, decided he wanted to stay on as legislative leader."

What a pussy. Either run for an office you want or don't. If you took out Madigan, you'd be next in line to run for governor in four years. If you didn't, ca la vie.

Madigan's Metra
"[T]he RTA had been set to award a consulting contract for as much as $120,000 to Compass Public Affairs LLC, a politically connected Chicago firm whose owners include Mike Noonan, a former top legislative aide to [Michael] Madigan," the Sun-Times reports.

Oops. That's the same Michael Madigan who is under investigation for meddling with Metra.

"In his bio on his firm's website, Noonan also boasts of his campaign work for the speaker's daughter, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, saying he is 'proud of his job as Lisa Madigan's campaign manager, helping Lisa become the first female Illinois attorney general.'

"Despite the RTA staff having recommended hiring Compass to develop a suicide-awareness and prevention program aimed at reducing the number of suicides involving commuter trains, chairman John Gates Jr. pulled the contract from the RTA board's July 17 agenda days before the meeting. He says the delay was over concerns about the contract and that it had 'nothing to do with the speaker.'"

Just another Chicago Coincidence.

"'We believe it deserved much more thorough consideration and benchmarking against similar programs in other jurisdictions,' says Gates, whose agency employs Michael Madigan's son-in-law Jordan Matyas as a top administrator."

Then Gates burst out laughing.

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I'd be curious to know just who first broached the idea of pulling the contract back - and how often that's happened at Metra in the last decade or so.

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"Steve Brown, spokesman for the speaker, echoes that, noting that the RTA chose Compass after going through competitive bidding."

Well, you could put the Bears in the Big Ten and call it "competitive" but everyone knows who's going to win.

Reality Newspapering
A Tribune correction over the weekend prompted faithful Beachwood reader Mike Knezovich to write an excellent blog post whose conclusion I could not agree with more:

"Whether it's movies or television ads or social media, it seems that only extreme-to-the-point-of-freakishness items get our attention. Which numbs us to the true, quiet stories and accomplishments of people around us every day. It's like we live in a big reality TV show. And we don't value our own lives, which are pretty rich if we take the time to realize it.

"Actual reality provides plenty of drama, heartbreak, inspiration, tragedy and comedy - can we just stick with that?"

You Can Thank Edward Snowden For This
Lawmakers Promise More Scrutiny Of NSA Surveillance.

About That Election Code Omnibus Bill
Guess what? Pat Quinn just made it harder to challenge a sitting Chicago alderman.

Chicago's Summer of Rock . . .
. . . Continues. We're on a roll, my friends.

Is Next Year Finally Here?
In SportsMonday: The Time Is Actually Now On The North Side.

Next Year Is At Least Not Until Next Year
In The White Sox Report: It's Not Over Forever.

The Cub Factor
Will appear later today or tomorrow Facts & Figures.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Now or never. Or just later.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:51 AM | Permalink

SportsMonday: The Time Is Actually Now On The North Side

How many wins does it take?

How many Cubs wins before the sports commentariat in our town acknowledges that the thousands of stories about the Cubs absolutely not playing competitive baseball until 2015 were a wee bit off?

The Cubs knocked off the Giants 2-1 Sunday to complete a sweep in San Francisco and a 6-4 post-All Star Game road trip through Colorado, Arizona and the town that is home to the truly spectacular AT&T Park. I took in the game on Sunday on 'GN and amazing shots of gargantuan ocean-going vessels and soaring suspension bridges in San Francisco Bay were just routine between-innings fodder on a perfect sun-drenched day.

The win left the Cubs seven games below .500. That has to be the answer doesn't it? If the Cubs could somehow find their way all the way back to break even, then a whole bunch of people would have to re-calibrate.

Now let's not get too gaga here. Even if the Cubs stretched their win streak to 10 games (from the current three), they would still almost certainly stand at least a half-dozen games out of the second wild card spot. As of today, the Reds are there, having piled up 59 wins to 47 losses. Postseason dreams absolutely require a record of .500 or better and even then they would be a long shot during this season in which a couple non-division leaders have already separated themselves from the wild card pack.

But there is no denying that the Cubs have had the key element to successful baseball for almost two months now: Stingy starting pitching. Oh, and the bullpen has been stellar of late as well. And it was that pitching that made everything possible over the weekend. Edwin Jackson was good, Travis Wood was great and Chris Rusin was awesome on the mound for the Cubs on Friday, Sunday and Saturday, respectively.

From the start, the idea that the Cubs would pile up all this young talent during several rebuilding seasons and then set the world on fire in 2015 has been facile nonsense. That is not the way a successful baseball roster is built. Successful rosters always have a mix of young players and at least a few veterans. And a baseball team never knows exactly when it will master the alchemy of success. The builders of a squad try to put pieces together and hope it will go well. It is almost impossible to predict.

Just look at the Giants. The defending World Series champs are in disarray (48-58) despite a roster that looks an awful lot like the one that won it all nine months ago.

The Cubs will suffer at some point during the final two months of the season for the lack of veteran presence. Unless Anthony Rizzo is a Jonathan Toews-type leadership wunderkind, there will be a void at the top.

But the team played well (and in addition to the pitching, the Cubs have also been on a nice role defensively led by Starlin Castro) on a long road trip despite saying goodbye to their most prominent pitcher and hitter. The clear truth is that if the pitching holds up, they have a great chance to continue to play well. And then at some point, everyone will have to stop talking about rebuilding and start talking about the best way to win right now.

The Cubs have already completed the vast majority of their pre-trade deadline business. Kevin Gregg or Nate Schierholtz might still be traded (I would like someone to explain to me why moving the latter would be a good idea but it isn't a huge deal) before July 31. But it says here that those possible transactions wouldn't have much of an impact on the team right now. For one thing, the Cubs clearly have several flame-throwing young relievers who are ready to give closing a try.

And of course they shouldn't add any veterans down the stretch. The Cubs as they stand right now are young and hungry. Junior Lake gave the team a huge boost when he made the jump to the majors at the start of this road trip and while he slumped at the plate over the weekend, he is still a wonderful energetic, hustling presence. Let's enjoy seeing what these young guys can do.

And next year (there it is Cubs fans! Time to start saying "just wait 'til next year!), after the Cubs have added a few veterans to fill in a few holes, well, even the commentariat might acknowledge that the time is now for the North Siders.
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Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:08 AM | Permalink

The Weekend In Chicago Rock

You shoulda been there.

1. The Weeks at the Empty Bottle on Thursday night.


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2. Mannequin Men at Subterranean on Saturday night.

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3. Bahamas at Wicker Park Fest on Saturday night.

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4. Roky Erickson at Wicker Park Fest on Sunday night.

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5. AM Taxi at Wicker Park Fest on Sunday.

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6. Metric at the House of Blues on Saturday night.

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7. Shiny Toy Guns at Taste of Lincoln Avenue on Sunday night.

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8. Mark Mulcahy at the Hideout on Thursday night.

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9. Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers at the Chicago Theatre on Thursday night.

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10. Gregory Alan Isakov at Lincoln Hall on Friday night.

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11. Rob Zombie at Mayhem Fest in Tinley Park on Saturday night.

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12. Chaka Khan at Millennium Park on Sunday night.

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13. Dave Davies at Taste of Lincoln Avenue on Saturday night.

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14. Machine Head at Mayhem Fest in Tinley Park on Saturday.

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15. The Peekaboos at the Empty Bottle on Friday night.

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16. Born of Osiris at Mayhem Fest on Saturday.

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17. Kid Karate at Wicker Park Fest on Saturday.

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18. The Dirty Pigeons at Wicker Park Fest on Saturday.

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19. Tera Melos at Wicker Park on Saturday night.

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20. Mystic Bowie at Reggies on Friday night.

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21. Dead on TV at Subterranean on Sunday night.

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22. Mucca Pazza at Wicker Park Fest on Sunday night.

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23. Ted Nugent at Ridgefest in Chicago Ridge on Saturday night.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:01 AM | Permalink

About That Election Code Omnibus Bill

On Saturday, Gov. Pat Quinn signed a new election code bill into law. The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform takes a look.

The bill, over 200 pages long, contains over two dozen separate provisions. The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform supported some of these and had concerns about others. As a result of this conflict, ICPR did not take a single, comprehensive position on the passage of the bill.

Nonetheless, we commend the legislature and Gov. Quinn for enacting positive of the bill's provisions, including:

Online Voter Registration: Beginning July 1, 2014 (after the March primary but before the General Election), Illinoisans will be able to register to vote through a website maintained by the Illinois State Board of Elections.

Voter registration will still require the presentation of two valid forms of identification, and the online registration site will work only for Illinoisans who have identification accessible to the State Board via the Secretary of State in electronic format.

The law will also allow voters to request mail-in ballots electronically.

This new tool will help Illinoisans who are not currently registered to make themselves eligible for balloting, and will facilitate balloting by voters who travel or are otherwise unable to vote either at their polling place on election day or at early voting locations.

Provisional Ballot Reforms: Beginning with the March 2014 primary election, properly registered voters who cast provisional ballots in the correct election jurisdiction but in the wrong precinct will have their ballots counted for those offices and ballot questions that were on both the ballot they voted and the ballot they would have voted had they been in the proper precinct. This will help to address voter confusion, particularly when polling places move to new locations and when polling places contain multiple precincts.

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Provisions of the bill to which ICPR objects include:

SuperPAC Spending: The bill removes contribution limits in races where multiple SuperPACs combine to spend above $250,000 in a statewide race or $100,000 in any other race.

Current law removes limits when a single SuperPAC or natural person make independent expenditures above those thresholds; the bill removes limits even when SuperPACs that are not coordinating with each other make separate expenditures above those limits.

In the 2012 General Election, the old law removed limits in one state Senate race; the new law would have removed limits in three more Senate races. The legislature should be working to regulate the role of large contributors in Illinois elections, not creating opportunities for large contributors.

Signature Requirements for Chicago Aldermanic Candidates: The bill doubles the number of signatures required for candidates for Chicago alderman, from 2% of the votes cast in the last election to 4%. The legislature should encourage citizens to participate in elections as legitimate candidates, not make it more difficult.

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ICPR is also concerned that the Omnibus Bill failed to address several weaknesses in current law, particularly relating to the risk of corruption from SuperPACs, committees that claim to be independent of candidates and as a result of that claim are exempt from contribution limits. Legislation to address these problems was filed in both chambers but was not acted upon nor included in the Omnibus. Unaddressed problems in current law include:

Lack of disclosure from politically active non-profits: A dangerous practice that has emerged with the arrival of SuperPACs is the raising of money through a non-profit that is exempt from disclosure and then transferring that money to a SuperPAC.

The SuperPAC will then, in accord with Illinois law, report that the money came from the non-profit, but the non-profit never has to publicly acknowledge the source of its funds.

Illinois once required disclosure from politically active non-profits but repealed the requirement when limits were enacted, on the theory that no one would go to that much trouble to hide the maximum contribution allowed by a non-profit ($10,000 at the time, today adjusted for inflation to $10,600).

ICPR found several SuperPACS in the 2012 elections that each reported hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions from related non-profits.

Now that non-profits can hide considerably more than $10,000, ICPR believes that restoring non-profit disclosure is essential.

The new Omnibus bill does not address this matter.

Instituting meaningful penalties for SuperPAC non-compliance: In early October during the 2012 general election, the Republican State Leadership Committee spent more than $200,000 on television ads, to air throughout the election, critical of one sitting member of the state House. In violation of Illinois law, this spending was not disclosed until January, 2013, long after the balloting was over. Consequently, the RSLC was assessed a fine. By current law, the fine was just $500. It should be clear that a fine of $500 for not disclosing more than $200,000 is insufficient.

In addition, because it was the RSLC's first violation of Illinois' election code, that fine was stayed and need not be paid as long as the RSLC does not commit another violation in the next two years. ICPR is concerned that the fine schedule is not strong enough to deter violations. The new Omnibus bill does not address this matter.

Requiring disaggregation of expenditures made in respect to multiple races or candidates: In the 2012 General Election, several SuperPACs reported single expenditures that covered multiple races (e.g., they reported spending $20,000 on mailings critical of four House candidates and three Senate candidates in different, sometimes overlapping, districts). From these records, it is difficult to determine how much the SuperPAC actually spent in each particular race. Since the new law now removes limits when multiple SuperPACs, acting without coordination, spend above the threshold, it is all the more important to determine precisely how much each group spent in each race. The new Omnibus bill does not address this matter.

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Despite these concerns, ICPR believes that everyone who is eligible to vote in elections should be encouraged to do so. ICPR also believes that every eligible voter deserves to have her or his ballot counted. ICPR fully and heartily supports the provisions of this bill that facilitate voter registration and the counting of provisional ballots cast by eligible voters in the wrong precinct, and we commend Gov. Quinn and the legislature for enacting these improvements to Illinois law.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:28 AM | Permalink

It's Not Over Forever

While tailgating a few years ago in Seattle prior to a Bears-Seahawks game with my older son, who lives in the Emerald City, I discovered what a sheltered life I had been leading.

"What the hell are you doing," was my reflex reaction when a kid - I had no idea who he was - jabbed his car keys into a full can of beer.

"You old geezers don't even know about shotgunning a beer," the kid sneered as his key punctured the middle of the can thoroughly soaking him before he could get his mouth around the hole. He was lucky if half the beer reached the intended destination.

My approach was and remains, See Beer, Open Beer, Drink Beer. If that's being an "Old Geezer," so be it.

Last Thursday, I had a somewhat similar encounter at the Cell with a young - maybe late 20s or early 30s - fan who had driven from Detroit with a friend for the finale of the Sox-Tigers' four-game series. The White Sox managed to avoid a sweep in a 7-4 win behind Jake Peavy in what might have been his much-ballyhooed final appearance at the Cell in a Sox uniform.

I like the Tigers. I mean, I like their professionalism, coolness, and skill. (Maybe jealousy and envy are in play here.) So I'm surprised that they're not running away with the American League Central, nursing just a three-game lead over Cleveland.

"The Tigers ought to be 20 games over .500," I said to the visitor from the Motor City.

"Are you a baseball guy?" he responded. "Do you follow the game?"

At least he didn't call me an Old Geezer, but I was speechless. Regaining my equilibrium, I said that I had an interest in the game. Believe me, this kid would not have been the least bit impressed that my Beachwood Reporter business card was tucked away in my wallet - which is exactly where it stayed.

It also was clear that the guy didn't make the drive simply to buy a $7.75 Bud Light.

The assessment he gave about his hometown Tigers went something like this: The two areas of strength on this team are starting pitching and power hitting. With Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, Rick Porcello and Doug Fister, the Tigers are able to trot out a formidable starter each and every day. (The same could be said about the White Sox, although the favorable comparison then ends abruptly.)

And Detroit is fourth in the league with 119 home runs; coupled with their .280 team batting average, the Tigers have scored more runs than anybody.

Detroit now sits atop the AL Central, 14 games above the break-even point. So why not a more dominating season to this point?

"They have a weak bullpen," pointed out the freaking know-it-all.

Of course, he was right again. Tiger relievers have a 4.01 ERA, ranking 10th in the AL. With the ineffectiveness and departure of Jose Valverde, 36-year-old Joaquin Benoit has stepped up with 10 saves as the team's closer. But he's still Joaquin Benoit.

The rest of the pen is even shakier. Last Wednesday, for example, it only took Dayan Viciedo leading off the bottom of the ninth with a homer, cutting the Detroit lead to 6-2, and a one-out single by Alejandro De Aza for a nervous Jim Leyland to summon Benoit for the final two outs. Silly man.

Then again, Leyland was simply disclosing his honest feelings about his middle relievers.

My fine friend shared with me two other areas where the Tigers are mediocre and weak: defense and team speed. The rap on the infield is that shortstop Jhonny Peralta handles everything hit to him but has limited range. You couldn't tell that on Thursday as Peralta moved both left and right like the pro that he is. He's made only four errors all season. What we'd give to have a shortstop who averages an error every 25 games.

Talking about shortstops, I finally scored a few points with the Detroit visitor when he called Alexei Ramirez a "human vacuum."

"You know how many errors the White Sox have committed this season?" I asked, going in for the zinger.

Neither Mr. Expert nor his pal knew the answer. "Seventy. The same number they made all last season. And you know how many of those Ramirez has made?"

For the first time, silence smothered the conversation as our friend found out that Ramirez leads the league with 17 errors, five more than any other American League shortstop. Suddenly Jhonny Peralta didn't seem so slow.

Even though a hip flexor has recently hobbled Miguel Cabrera so that his torrid pre-All-Star Game performance has leveled out a bit, his production along with Peralta, Prince Fielder, Torii Hunter and others covers up a lot of deficits for a team like the Tigers. They left Chicago after Thursday's loss and went home to sweep the Phillies, scoring 22 runs over the weekend after edging the Phils 2-1 on Friday.

The Sox stayed home only to lose three straight to the surging Royals, scoring a sad three runs in the entire series. There you have it folks, the difference between a team headed to the playoffs and the other ready and willing to trade players of value.

But things change rather quickly in baseball. Last year's World Series champion Giants are dead last in their division and sinking fast. Yasiel Puig shows up in Los Angeles in June and the Dodgers lead that very same division.

Or consider: Alexei Ramirez made just 12 errors last season, yet he's been simply horrible this year. Justin Verlander was both MVP and Cy Young winner just two years ago, yet Thursday marked the second time the White Sox beat him in a little over two weeks. The team that could hardly score last weekend raked Verlander for 12 runs and 23 hits over 13 innings in those two outings. I'm not sure how the guy from Detroit would explain that one.

Sixty-one games now separate White Sox Nation from a merciful end to this woeful season. A year ago the Sox had a 55-46 record and led second-place Detroit by two games. That was a lot more fun. It's those memories and the hope for a rapid turnaround that keep Old Geezers coming back.

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

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:42 AM | Permalink

July 27, 2013

The Weekend Desk Report

Just a thought, but if you're really concerned about waste and largesse, maybe World Youth Day shouldn't last a week.

Market Update
Talk is still cheap, but it's getting more expensive.

No Such Thing . . .
Of course, when times are tough it's good to know only the most vulnerable populations will truly get shafted.

Monumental Stuff
Not a great time to be a dead president. Or the current one.

Russian To Judgement
Wait, did we really just defend our human rights record to Russia? THAT Russia? Fuck.

Second City, Again
Finally this week, damn. We can't even top the Rudest Mayor poll.

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The Weekend Desk Tip Line: In USA, government blows whistle on you.

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Weekend Politics Special: Who Are We At War With? It's Classified.

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The Weekend Sound Opinions Listening Report: "Jim and Greg dig deep for Buried Treasures. They spotlight great albums buried under the Top 40. Then it's back to the charts for a review of the latest from blue-eyed soul singer Robin Thicke."

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The CAN TV Weekend Viewing 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.

Bullying and Youth Violence

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Fathers, Families in Transition hosts this discussion about how fathers can promote security and safety in their community by providing a positive example for children.

Saturday at 3 p.m. on CAN TV19.

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Community Forum: ChildServ

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Robert Hebert of ChildServ highlights new initiatives available for veterans that address the trauma of combat, extended absence, and physical injury, which extends beyond the service member themselves.

Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on CAN TV21.

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Perspectivas Latinas: Illinois Warrior Summit

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Learn about the Illinois Warrior Summit, where 10,000 military service members and veterans receive an opportunity to connect with employment, housing, disability and other services available to them and their families.

Saturday at 8 p.m. on CAN TV21.

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Bronzeville Bootstrappers II

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This event hosted by the Urban Innovation Center highlights efforts to develop tourism and industry in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood.

Sunday at 10:30 a.m. on CAN TV21.




Posted by Natasha Julius at 7:56 AM | Permalink

Who Are We At War With? That's Classified

In a major national security speech this spring, President Obama said again and again that the U.S. is at war with "al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and their associated forces."

So who exactly are those associated forces? It's a secret.

At a hearing in May, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Michigan) asked the Defense Department to provide him with a current list of al-Qaeda affiliates.

The Pentagon responded - but Levin's office told ProPublica they aren't allowed to share it.

Kathleen Long, a spokeswoman for Levin, would say only that the department's "answer included the information requested."

A Pentagon spokesman told ProPublica that revealing such a list could cause "serious damage to national security."

"Because elements that might be considered 'associated forces' can build credibility by being listed as such by the United States, we have classified the list," said the spokesman, Lt. Col. Jim Gregory. "We cannot afford to inflate these organizations that rely on violent extremist ideology to strengthen their ranks."

It's not an abstract question: U.S. drone strikes and other actions frequently target "associated forces," as has been the case with dozens of strikes against an al-Qaeda offshoot in Yemen.

During the May hearing, Michael Sheehan, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, said he was "not sure there is a list per se."

Describing terrorist groups as "murky" and "shifting," he said, "it would be difficult for the Congress to get involved in trying to track the designation of which are the affiliate forces" of al-Qaeda.

Sheehan said that by the Pentagon's standard, "sympathy is not enough . . . it has to be an organized group and that group has to be in co-belligerent status with al-Qaeda operating against the United States."

The White House tied al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and "elements" of al-Shabaab in Somalia to al-Qaeda in a recent report to Congress on military actions. But the report also included a classified annex.

Jack Goldsmith, a professor at Harvard Law who served as a legal counsel during the Bush administration and has written on this question at length, told ProPublica that the Pentagon's reasoning for keeping the affiliates secret seems weak.

"If the organizations are 'inflated' enough to be targeted with military force, why cannot they be mentioned publicly?" Goldsmith said.

He added that there is "a countervailing very important interest in the public knowing who the government is fighting against in its name."

The law underpinning the U.S. war against al-Qaeda is known as the Authorization for Use of Military Force, or AUMF, and it was passed one week after the 9/11 attacks. It doesn't actually include the words "associated forces," though courts and Congress have endorsed the phrase.

As we explained earlier this year, the emergence of new or more loosely-aligned terrorist groups has legal scholars wondering how effectively the U.S. will be able to "shoehorn" them into the AUMF. During the May hearing, many lawmakers expressed concern about the Pentagon's capacious reading of the law. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., described it as a "carte blanche."

Obama, in his May speech, said he looked forward "to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF's mandate." But he didn't give a timeframe.

On Wednesday, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California) introduced an amendment that would sunset the law at the end of 2014, to coincide with the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. It was voted down the same day, 185 to 236.

The AUMF isn't the only thing the government relies on to take military action. In speeches and interviews Obama administration officials also bring up the president's constitutional power to defend the country, even without congressional authorization.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:20 AM | Permalink

July 26, 2013

The [Friday] Papers

Posts on the CPS budget, Wrigley Field, and Alfonso Soriano still to come. Plus, rumor has it the Beachwood Bookmaking Bureau will be updating its Political Odds later today.

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More Mell
Please see the updated The [Deb Mell] Papers now with material from the Beachwood vault and a comment from one of the other candidates whose last name was not Mell.

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Torture City, USA
"It was almost 30 years ago when five Chicago police detectives working under disgraced former Cmdr. Jon Burge burst into Jerry Mahaffey's South Side apartment to question him in the home invasion, rape and slaying of a Rogers Park couple and near-fatal beating of their son," Jason Meisner reports for the Tribune.

"When Mahaffey denied knowledge of the attack, one detective punched him in the nose and another threw him into a wall and put a gun to his head, according to a court records. The detectives allegedly pummeled Mahaffey, nearly suffocated him with a plastic garbage bag and threatened to put his children in an orphanage. Mahaffey eventually confessed, was convicted and is serving life in prison.

"On Thursday, the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission found credible evidence that Chicago detectives had tortured Mahaffey - as well as four others sentenced to lengthy prison terms - into confessing to murder. Each of the five cases will now be assigned to a Cook County Criminal Court judge to decide whether a new trial is warranted.

"The commission has found 17 credible instances of torture since it began inquiries in 2011, and investigations into more than 100 additional claims continue, said David Thomas, the commission's executive director. New claims continue to come in 'at a fairly steady trickle,' he said Thursday.

"Four of the five cases filed Thursday involved Burge or detectives who worked on his infamous 'midnight crew.'"

*

"So far, the commission has ruled on 17 Burge cases, but Thomas said there are 100 pending claims," the Sun-Times reports.

*

In related news . . .

"Attorney General Eric Holder has assured Russia's justice minister that NSA leaker Edward Snowden, currently living at a Moscow airport, won't be tortured or face the death penalty if turned over to the U.S. Holder's pledge - aimed at persuading Russia to reject Snowden's application for asylum - came in a letter sent July 23 and released on Friday," Yahoo News reports.

"Mr. Snowden will not be tortured. Torture is unlawful in the United States," Holder wrote.

It says a helluva lot that such an assurance had to be made - especially under the presidency of Barack Obama.

Then again, Obama exchanged warm endorsements with Richard M. Daley, who was the Cook County State's Attorney while Burge committed his crimes and the mayor while the city denied those crimes took place and shelled out taxpayer money to defend Burge.

*

*

Oh, but it is.

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Six Ways Congress May Reform NSA Snooping
The debate made possible by Edward Snowden, not the president.

RT Special Coverage: The Gitmo Hunger Strike
From the prison that just can't be closed.

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Ward Heeler
"Nearly $110,000 a year wasn't enough for Patrick Ward - the Mike Madigan campaign worker at the center of Metra's patronage scandal," the Sun-Times reports.

"When Ward complained to the powerful state House speaker last year that he wanted a raise on top of his annual Metra salary of $57,000, Ward was already drawing at least $52,700 a year from a taxpayer-subsidized city pension, a Chicago Sun-Times investigation has found.

"Pension and payroll records show Ward, now 57, began collecting retirement benefits in 2009 after 30 years of government service. He made $84,000 his final year of employment with the city and got an initial pension of $52,700. As he began collecting his pension, he also started working for Metra.

"The Sun-Times has also learned that when Ward then took a state job last May after leaving Metra he earned a 'special salary adjustment' guaranteeing him a double-digit pay hike to work in Gov. Pat Quinn's administration. The newspaper discovered the special salary adjustment despite the governor's assertion that 'no special treatment' was used to get Ward on the state payroll."

*

Well, to be fair, Ward didn't receive "special treatment" as such, just the usual treatment accorded to those of his species.

Oh, Sheila
Sheila Simon keeps name in news.

I just don't get why she would challenge the ever-popular Judy Baar Topinka for state comptroller instead of running for state treasurer, which is an open seat with Dan Rutherford running for governor. Not that I get why she ought to be either, but help me out, peeps, what am I missing?

Open Airport Secret
"I was surprised to hear [Crete Mayor Michael] Einhorn express a conspiracy theory similar to one espoused by former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who had first conceived of a private-public partnership to build the airport," Phil Kadner writes for the SouthtownStar.

"Jackson and Einhorn were far from being friends.

"But Jackson once told me that when his south suburban airport commission was soliciting bids from private developers, one of the largest construction firms in the world pulled out, telling him that the city of Chicago had threatened to never give them any business if they got involved in the airport."

That's just one way Richard M. Daley put the brick on the best economic development proposal for the South Side and its suburbs in decades. Here's another - which suddenly becomes all-the-more relevant:

"Jackson claimed it was Bill Daley who - as U.S. secretary of commerce under President Bill Clinton - got the FAA to put the third airport proposal in the deep freeze."

*

See also: Bill Daley Says Creating Jobs Will Be No. 1 Issue For Him.

To replace all those jobs that NAFTA cost us, or just the jobs you helped destroy during your time at JP Morgan?

Beachwood Photo Booth: Golden Nugget
Egg, no slots.

The Chicago Personality According To . . .
. . . The Insufferable James Atlas.

The Week In Chicago Rock
Killer.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Killer.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:45 PM | Permalink

Famously Not-As-Famous-As-He Wants-To-Be Author And Editor James Atlas Explains The Chicago Personality (Ahem)

In this excerpt from the Massachusetts School of Law's hour-long "Program Books Of Our Time," dedicated to James Atlas's book My Life In The Middle Ages, Mr Atlas discusses what he believes the "Chicago Personality" is and how it came to be.

"Mr Atlas is the president of Atlas & Company, publishers, and founding editor of the Penguin Lives Series.

The host of "Books of Our Time" is Lawrence R. Velvel, dean of The Massachusetts School of Law.


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See also: Atlas Shrugs.

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Comments welcome.

-

1. From Steve Rhodes:

Like Adam Gopnik, I studiously avoid paying attention to anything James Atlas says or writes because he's always so insufferably wrong. As he is here.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:32 PM | Permalink

RT Special Coverage: The Prison That Just Can't Be Closed

Starting August 6, RT will present special coverage of the Guantanamo Bay hunger strike that has been going on for six months.


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* Find RT America in your area.

* Or watch us online.

* Like us on Facebook.

* Follow us on Twitter.

-

Previously:
* Occupy CNN.

* Occupy America.

* RT's Superior Cable News Coverage Continues With Its 'Occupy Wall Street' Coverage.

* The American Autumn on RT.

-

Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:08 PM | Permalink

The Week In Chicago Rock

You shoulda been there.

1. Killer Mike at Pitchfork on Sunday night.


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2. M.I.C. at the Double Door on Sunday night.

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3. Rodrigo y Gabriela at the Chicago Theatre on Wednesday night.

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4. Amaranthe at the Bottom Lounge on Monday night.

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5. 10,000 Light Years at the Empty Bottle On Wednesday night.

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6. Lil B at Pitchfork on Sunday.

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7. El-P at Pitchfork on Sunday.

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8. Sister Crayon at the Bottom Lounge on Wednesday night.

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9. Kobra & The Lotus at the Bottom Lounge on Monday night.

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10. Bosnian Rainbows at the Bottom Lounge on Wednesday night.

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11. Matthew Sweet at City Winery on Tuesday night.

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12. Peter Brotzmann, Hamid Drake and Jason Adasiewicz at the Hideout on Wednesday night.

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13. OneRepublic at Ravinia on Tuesday night.

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See also:
* The (Biggest) Weekend In Chicago Rock (Ever?)

* The (Biggest) Weekend In Chicago Rock (Ever?) Cont'd

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:14 AM | Permalink

Beachwood Photo Booth: Golden Nugget

Eggs, no slots.

nugget.jpg(ENLARGE FOR PROPER VIEWING)

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You can buy it!

TITLE: "Golden Nugget"

MEDIUM: photography, digital print

SIZE: 11x14 inches, borderless

PAPER: acid-free, Fuji archival paper

FINISH: glossy

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All prints will be signed by the artist, Helene Smith. (Copyright, 2013)

Unmatted, unframed.

This print is available in other sizes (including photo card) by request.

Your print will be shipped in a protective, sturdy mailer.

All items are shipped via First Class USPS, within the United States, though I ship internationally, as well.

Please allow up to 2 weeks for processing your order (though it will often arrive earlier!). I generally process each print when the customer places the order, although I do have a few prints on hand and will ship sooner if your photo is in stock. If you are in a rush, let me know and I will try to accommodate you.

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Purchase through Etsy.

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More Chicago photos from Helene Smith.

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Previously:
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Man Grilling
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Yum Yum Donuts
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Father's Day
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Vintage Airmaster
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Time
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Window Shade
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Illinois Slayer
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Fire Escape

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:37 AM | Permalink

Six Ways Congress May Reform NSA Snooping

Although the House defeated a measure that would have defunded the bulk phone metadata collection program, the narrow 205-217 vote showed that there is significant support in Congress to reform NSA surveillance programs. Here are six other legislative proposals on the table.

1) Raise the standard for what records are considered "relevant"

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has reportedly adopted a broad interpretation of the Patriot Act, ruling that all the records in a company's database could be considered "relevant to an authorized investigation."

The leaked court order compelling a Verizon subsidiary to turn over all its phone records is just one example of how the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has interpreted the statute.

Both Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) have introduced bills requiring the government to show "specific and articulable facts" demonstrating how records are relevant.

Similarly, legislation introduced by Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colorado) would require any applications to include an explanation of how any records sought are relevant to an authorized investigation.

2) Require NSA analysts to obtain court approval before searching metadata

Once the NSA has phone records in its possession, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) has explained that NSA analysts may query the data without individualized court approvals, as long as they have a "reasonable suspicion, based on specific facts" that the data is related to a foreign terrorist organization.

A bill from Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Massachusetts) would require the government to petition the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court every time an analyst wants to search telephone metadata.

From there, a surveillance court judge would need to find "reasonable, articulable suspicion" that the search is "specifically relevant to an authorized investigation" before approving the application.

The legislation would also require the FBI to report monthly to congressional intelligence committees all the searches the analysts made.

3) Declassify Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court opinions

Right now, court opinions authorizing the NSA surveillance programs remain secret.

Advocacy groups have brought several Freedom of Information Act suits seeking the release of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court documents, but the Justice Department continues to fight them.

Several bills would compel the secret court to release some opinions. The Ending Secret Law Act - both the House and Senate versions - would require the court to declassify all its opinions that include "significant construction or interpretation" of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Under current law, the court already submits these "significant" opinions to congressional intelligence committees, so the bill would just require the court to share those documents with the public.

The bills do include an exception if the attorney general decides that declassifying an opinion would threaten national security. In that case, the court would release an unclassified summary of the opinion, or - if even offering a summary of the opinion would pose a national security threat - at least give a report on the declassification process with an "estimate" of how many opinions must remain classified.

Keep in mind, before Edward Snowden's disclosures, the Justice Department argued that all "significant legal interpretations" needed to remain classified for national security reasons.

Since the leaks, the government has said it's now reviewing what, if any, documents can be declassified, but they said they need more time.

4) Change the way Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judges are appointed

Current law does not give Congress any power to confirm Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judges.

Instead, the chief justice of the United States appoints the judges, who all already serve on the federal bench.

The judges serve seven-year terms. Chief Justice John Roberts appointed all 11 judges currently serving on the court - ten of whom were nominated to federal courts by Republican presidents.

A bill introduced by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California) would give the president the power to appoint surveillance court judges and give the Senate power to confirm. The president would also choose the presiding judge of the surveillance court, with Senate approval.

Alternatively, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee) has offered a bill that would let the chief justice appoint three judges and let the House Speaker, the House minority leader, the Senate majority leader, and the Senate minority leader each appoint two judges.

5) Appoint a public advocate to argue before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court

Currently, the government officials petitioning the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court do not face an adversarial process. Surveillance targets do not have representation before the court, and they are not notified if a court order is issued for their data.

In 33 years, the surveillance court only rejected 11 of an estimated 33,900 government requests, though the government also modified 40 of its 1,856 applications in 2012.

Two former Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judges - Judge James Robertson and Judge James Carr - have argued that Congress should appoint a public advocate to counter the government's arguments.

Carr wrote in the New York Times, "During my six years on the court, there were several occasions when I and other judges faced issues none of us had encountered before . . . Having lawyers challenge novel legal assertions in these secret proceedings would result in better judicial outcomes."

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) has promised to introduce a bill that would provide a "special advocate" to argue on behalf of privacy rights and give "civil society organizations" a chance to respond before the surveillance court issues significant rulings.

The surveillance court can actually invite advocates to argue before the court, as the Supreme Court did when the Obama administration refused to defend the Defense of Marriage Act.

"There's nothing in law that would prevent the FISA court from hiring an advocate as an additional adviser to the court, except the need to obtain security clearances for that advocate, which would have to be granted by the executive branch," explained Steven Bradbury, who served as the head of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice from 2005 to 2009.

Bradbury has argued that the surveillance court may not need a permanent public advocate because its legal advisers already fulfill that role.

6) End phone metadata collection on constitutional grounds

The Justice Department has maintained that mass phone metadata collection is "fully consistent with the Fourth Amendment."

That reasoning is based on the 1979 Supreme Court decision Smith v. Maryland, where the Court found that the government does not need a warrant based on probable cause to collect phone records.

The Court reasoned that whenever you dial a phone number, you voluntarily share that phone number with a telecom, and you can't reasonably expect a right to privacy for information shared with third parties.

As a result, the Court ruled that the collection of phone records is not a "search" and does not merit protection under the Fourth Amendment.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) has introduced a bill declaring that the Fourth Amendment "shall not be construed to allow any agency of the United States Government to search the phone records of Americans without a warrant based on probable cause" - effectively shutting down the NSA's phone metadata collection program.

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Previously:
* NSA Says It Can't Search Its Own E-Mails

* Does The NSA Tap That?

* Obama Explains The Difference Between His Spying And Bush's Spying

* FAQ: What You Need To Know About The NSA's Surveillance Programs

* NSA: Responding To This FOIA Would Help "Our Adversaries"

* Fact-Check: The NSA And 9/11

* The NSA's Black Hole: 5 Things We Still Don't Know About The Agency's Snooping

* Defenders Of NSA Surveillance Citing Chicago Case Omit Most Of Mumbai Plotter's Story

* Obama's War On Truth And Transparency

* ProPublica's Guide To The Best Stories On The Growing Surveillance State

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Comments welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:15 AM | Permalink

July 25, 2013

The [Thursday] Papers

I'll deal with the CPS budget and Wrigley Field in separate posts later. So what else is going on?

The [Deb Mell] Papers
Has she ever truly earned any job she's had? Let's take a look.

Tik Tok
"Bug experts say they're seeing an increase in the number of ticks crawling around Illinois this summer," AP reports.

"Several species of the blood-sucking bugs are found in the state, but entomologists tell the Belleville News-Democrat that they've seen a particular rise in the American dog tick this year. The species can host the Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

"Meanwhile, the Lone Star tick has been spotted in portions of southern Illinois. The pest also carries the disease, along with the rare Heartland virus."

Sin City
"Hours after the Chicago City Council signed off on a $10 million payout to settle his lawsuit, a somber Eric Caine stood in his lawyer's Near West Side office Wednesday surrounded by relatives of other alleged victims of police misconduct," the Tribune reports.

"Caine didn't crack a smile. He said the money could never erase the 25 years he spent behind bars for a crime he did not commit. But he hoped his case brought attention to the plight of other men languishing in prison despite valid claims of police wrongdoing.

"They know they're innocent, but they have little or no way to prove it, and they struggle to get anybody to hear their cries to help them," Caine said in a low voice.

"Caine's case was the latest in a series of lawsuit settlements involving disgraced former police Cmdr. Jon Burge and detectives under his command that have brought the tab to nearly $70 million when legal fees are counted."

Most Ironic Mayor Ever
"Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday accused the RTA board of being asleep at the switch when the Metra patronage scandal exploded," the Sun-Times reports.

I know! I mean, how could they not have known what was going on?

County Import Tax Suspended Pending Further Review
That's the simplistic way of putting it, anyway.

I don't often side with the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, but this tax seems a little funky to me.

Cheap Suit
"Drummer Bun E. Carlos - who stopped touring with the still-spry Rockford, Illinois, power-pop act several years ago, leaving under mysterious circumstances - and the band's former manager, David Frey, are suing the other three band members (vocalist Robin Zander, guitarist Rick Nielsen, and bassist Tom Petersson) in Cook County Court," the A.V. Club notes.

Courthouse News Service appears to have reported the story first.

Rahm Not As Fast As Reported
"Emanuel declined to comment for this story."

Truck Stop
"In a barren stretch of Australia, Peoria-based Caterpillar Inc. runs six automated mining trucks," the Wall Street Journal reports. "Traditionally, these trucks would require four drivers to operate 24 hours a day, but now run on their own. Does the project signal the coming extinction of professional truck drivers, as machines take over the work?" (via Crain's)

*

Also: "A global mining industry slump cut into second-quarter earnings at Caterpillar Inc. as companies spent less on equipment and dealers cut inventories more than Caterpillar expected," AP reports.

In the new world, we mine data, not, um, ore, or whatever.

*

Slightly tangentially related: Plan For $1 billion Data Center At Sun-Times Printing Plant Collapses.

Metra Muddle
"Fueled by a growing uproar over a Metra patronage mess, Gov. Pat Quinn Tuesday signed into law a bill barring new Metra and other transit board members from receiving taxpayer-funded health care and pension benefits after they leave such boards," the Sun-Times reports.

"'Especially considering the recent problems at Metra, Gov. Quinn does not think it's appropriate to be providing gold-plated pensions for these part-time, appointed positions,'' said Brooke Anderson, a Quinn spokeswoman.

"A lead sponsor of the bill, state Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo), also called it 'ridiculous' that Metra, CTA, Pace and RTA board members had been entitled to 'free health care for life' after 'going to a meeting or two a month' during their board service."

Wait a minute. Metra board members got free health care for life?

I hate that I'm surprised.

Goin' To Kansas City
"The Kansas City Council will consider hiring yet another consultant to help fix problems at the much-maligned Kansas City Water Department," KCTV5 reports.

"The council's finance committee decided to delay a decison on the contract following a meeting Wednesday. The issue will come back up next week.

"Chicago-based West Monroe Partners LLC would get the contract. City officials say West Monroe is the only company capable of doing the work, which is why they did not seek requests for proposals from other firms."

The contract would reportedly be worth $12 million.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: West of Rome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:47 AM | Permalink

The [Deb Mell] Papers

"Mayor Rahm Emanuel [Wednesday] named state Rep. Deb Mell to succeed her retiring father, longtime 33rd Ward Ald. Richard Mell, on the Chicago City Council," the Tribune reports.

"During brief remarks introducing Rep. Mell, Emanuel referenced the possibility that her appointment will be seen as a case of nepotism. 'Others will say what they will, but while it would not be fair to appoint Deb just because her name is Mell, it would have been equally unfair to her constituents and the city to refuse to appoint her because her last name is Deb Mell,' Emanuel said."

Perhaps, but what Rahm left out is that Dick Mell chose to retire in the middle of his term to ensure just this outcome - which is certainly unfair. And Rahm also left out the fact that daddy Mell engineered his daughter's election into the statehouse to begin with, as well as a job with a "politically connected" landscaping firm before that. Has Deb Mell ever truly earned any job she's had? Let's take a look at that question and more.

*

"Deb Mell, 44, is a middle child who studied political science at Cornell College, a private liberal arts school in Iowa," the Tribune account reports.

"She moved to San Francisco, went to culinary school and worked as a pastry chef. Eventually she returned home and labored for a while at a politically connected landscaping firm."

I don't want to make an assumption here, but Illinois is the only state where being a pastry chef named Mell qualifies someone to work at a politically connected landscaping firm.

*

Having pastry chef and landscaping on her resume (and, to be fair, gay rights activism), Deb Mell announced in the summer of 2007 that she wanted to run for the state House of Representatives.

"Deborah Mell , 35, is a project manager at Christy Weber Landscapes and a lesbian activist," Carol Marin wrote at the time for the Sun-Times.

"Last week, at a meeting of the Mayor's Advisory Council on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Issues, she declared her intention, telling people at that meeting she was going to run in 2008 for state representative of the 40th District, a seat held for the last 10 years by Richard Bradley.

"Bradley, a top Streets and Sanitation payroller, represents the Northwest Side of Chicago where Deborah Mell grew up, where Blagojevich served and where Dick Mell 's endorsement has been crucial to his re-election. Bradley has given no indication that he's ready to step aside.

"So is her dad going to throw Bradley overboard?

"Can I call my communications person first?" Deborah Mell said with a laugh on the phone last week.

Ha ha ha! So funny. Because it was true.

As Ben Joravsky brilliantly reported in the Reader, in Mell Family Politics: Richard Mell strikes a deal to push his daughter Deborah into the statehouse - and independent-leaning Iris Martinez out, that's exactly what happened.

*

"Reminiscing with reporters this month about how he used to be able to do more for constituents, Richard Mell bragged that there was a time he could get college kids overnight jobs as bridge tenders so they could get paid while catching some sleep," the Trib reports.

(See also Dick Mell Misses The Old Ways.)

"Asked what she thought about her father's defense of nepotism, Deb Mell said she hadn't heard his exact quotes on the subject."

Ever?

*

"I think there's a new way to do business here in the city of Chicago, and I'm that new way, and I'm excited," she said.

Deb Mell is the New Way of doing business in Chicago. It may look a lot like the Old Way, but the New Way come with an additional level of pretending.

*

See also Once Again, Deb Mell Puts Family First.

*

Back to the Tribune:

"Asked how she'll differ from her father, Mell said she will be a more independent alderman than he was. Asked if that meant Richard Mell wasn't independent enough, she said that's not what she meant. Emanuel aides ended questioning shortly thereafter."

*

She meant she'll appear to be more independent than her father. That's the New Way of modern Democrats, for whom appearances matter above everything else.

*

When Sandi Jackson stepped down from her aldermanic seat, Rahm bragged that he had "devised is a transparent, open process" to replace her.

And when he named Natashia Holmes to Jackson's seat, he bragged again that the appointment represented the "writing of a new chapter for the city."

From the Trib:

"While Emanuel and Holmes held a news conference two days before her confirmation vote, the mayor didn't announce Deb Mell's appointment until a couple of hours before the council meeting and didn't take questions, separately, until later."

No one cares more about appearances than Rahm - even if he so often appears to be a vindictive little prick.

*

Forty-eight candidates applied for Jackson's job. Only a dozen applied for Mell's.

*


From the Trib:

"The mayor went on to talk about Mell's good work as a legislator, saying they have disagreed on legislation, 'and that's the type of alderman I want, somebody who has the independence and the strength and the character to speak up and speak out when she believes in something.'"

Unless that alderman's name is Scott Waguespack.

See The Yes Men for more on Rahm's love of independent aldermen.

*

"Deb Mell also burnished her credentials as a 'reformer' by chairing the House Committee hearing that forced the release of ousted Metra executive Alex Clifford's explosive report that included patronage allegations against. House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago)."

I'm glad the Trib put "reformer" in quote marks. Most accurate reporting on this topic yet.

*

Quick name Deb Mell's top three reforms.

That's what I thought.

*

I'm not sure how chairing a house committee hearing of committee you are the chair of "burnishes" someone's reform credentials. Instead, I'm wondering where she and the committee were all these years when Metra was imploding - not to mention the never-ending dysfunction of the CTA.

Oh, this just in.

*

So while Mell was chairing a state House committee hearing about allegations that a powerful politician tried to engineer a job for a pal, Deb Mell's father was engineering a job for her.

*

Even if Mell was the most qualified person to be the new 33rd Ward alderman, as if there aren't dozens of hard-working community leaders unencumbered by years of political affiliations to choose from, her pursuit of and acceptance of the job outside of the electoral process only deepens - if it's even possible anymore - the cynicism surrounding politics generally and politics in Chicago in particular. You've just added to the problem, Deb. Out of personal convenience and ambition.

And for Rahm to say that voters can vote her out in two years is an insult to everyone who knows that Dick Mell took this course exactly because of the power of incumbency.

If Deb Mell had any political courage and independence, she would have said "Not this way. I'll run for it fair and square."

But then, she wouldn't be the kind of person whom Rahm would support.

*

"Ald. Michael Zalewski (23rd), whose son and namesake served with Deb Mell in the Illinois House, confronted the elephant in the room during Mell's confirmation hearing," the Sun-Times reports.

"It's just the way life is. A lot of times, people's children follow them in their careers - even with the media. I've been interviewed by two Jordans, the father and the daughter; two Ponces, the father and the son. I've seen the Jiggetts on TV. I've seen the Weigels on TV over the years. And I respect that. They do a tremendous job."

True enough. For example:

"Shteir's main complaint . . . is that the book amounts to '[Neil] Steinberg's defense for having pulled strings to get his brother a job at the county treasurer's office' and a celebration of the nepotism, 'favors done and returned' and petty conflicts of interest that are such a part of our civic culture."

Pulling strings to get his brother a job at the county treasurer's office would have cost Steinberg his job at just about any other newspaper in the country. But this is Chicagotown, Jake.

*

"Ever the historian," WBEZ reports, "Ald. Ed Burke even spouted off all the family connections in the City Council's history, including his own, adding that he couldn't think of anything that would 'make someone more proud than to succeed their parent in an office that that parent had held.'"

How 'bout someone who didn't?

*

"The lone 'no' vote in the council came from Ald. Bob Fioretti (2).

"I do know Deb Mell, and I like Deb Mell. And I like what she stands for. But we are not a monarchy, we are a democracy, so let's start acting like it," Fioretti said.

*

"If you just look at the record, the results of that record and what it's drawn, Deb Mell has earned the right to be the next alderman," Rahm said, according to the Sun-Times's account.

Really? Nobody "earns the right" to political office. It's not something to be bestowed by the system itself. Instead, all of us have the right to run for office - and be considered fairly. In an alternate universe, I know, but how easily we forget.

*

And what's so great about her record?

*

"Emanuel bristled when asked whether he was rewarding Richard Mell for disenfranchising voters by waiting to retire until the mid-term benchmark when a special election was no longer required."

Again, that's the first way this deal was wired. Deb Mell's credentials become irrelevant after that.

*

From the Beachwood vault, January 4, 2013:

"Sources said [Deb Mell] was initially reluctant to accept a mayoral appointment for fear of following in the footsteps of other family political dynasties, including the Madigans, the Lipinskis and the Hyneses. But sources said Dick Mell has convinced his daughter that it would be best to get a leg up on the competition."

I'm sure Deb was absolutely torn.

"[T]he rookie legislator has already shown herself to be a bit of a mercenary," I wrote in 2009.

"Before even taking her seat and serving a single minute in the state House seat that she won in an election engineered for her by her father, Ald. Dick Mell, she contemplated running for the congressional opening left by the departure of Rahm Emanuel from 5th district."

*

And remember this?

"Deborah Mell - a Northwest Side state rep - is at risk of getting knocked off the ballot in her re-election bid because she is allegedly not registered to vote at the address listed on her nominating petitions. Oops!"

*

Then there was her priceless tweet from 2010 made even more priceless when sister Patti retweeted it:

"Quinn not living in mansion as promised - chicagotribune.com http://shar.es/mjK9e 2:36 PM May 26th via ShareThis.com Retweeted by pblagojevich and 2 others"

A valid point if only it didn't come from the women whose brother-in-law governed the state from his dining room table in Ravenswood - or the bathroom when he was hiding from his budget director.

*

Finally, back to the Trib:

"Richard Mell, who as 33rd Ward committeeman will have the biggest say in naming his daughter's replacement, has floated the idea of picking his aldermanic aide Jaime Andrade."

So it's a two-fer. Happy retirement, Dick!

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Comments welcome.

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1. From Jon Markel:

Thanks for running this comprehensive history of Deb Mell's electoral history. I was one of the applicants who scrambled to get an application and three letters of recommendation together all while on vacation. Deb Mell presumably had an advanced notice of the retirement announcement to prepare her submission in a more relaxed fashion. The idea that Deb Mell is the most experienced candidate is only true if you use a very specific definition of the term. Personally, I have volunteered my time over the last few years to lead the 33rd Ward Advisory Council and with the Albany Park Neighborhood Council on tenant rights and preventing foreclosures in the 33rd ward. This is in addition to my day job working on environmental conservation at the Field Museum and a small photography business run with my wife. There are other applicants who are long-time civil servants, members of local school councils, neighborhood organizations, and are experienced staff members with other aldermen. None of these valuable things appear on Deb Mell's resume.

I am disappointed in Deb Mell for an additional reason not mentioned in your post. For all of her faults and foibles, she was a passionate and eloquent voice in the General Assembly for equal marriage that she has chosen to silence. While I have voiced my criticism on her handling of other issues (Rod vote, inaction on pension reform, silence from her campaign when her opponent's sexual orientation was attacked, mass transit funding cuts, etc.) I always made it a point to tell her that she had my full support on equal marriage in Illinois. She walked away from the fight before it was finished. That is not how a leader behaves.

Interestingly enough, her father voted against the recognition of same-sex relationships by the City of Chicago when it was introduced by Mayor Washington. All must have been forgiven considering the strings he pulled to get her to where she is today and that the No vote probably had more to do with racism and opposing reform than anything related to recognizing LGBT rights.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 3:04 AM | Permalink

July 24, 2013

The [Wednesday] Papers

I'm working on it - still. (6:13 p.m.)

Meanwhile:

* Ryan Braun's Fantasy Fix.

Who wins in all this? The cold-blooded fantasy baseball team owner.

* WGN's Dean Richards Made Selena Gomez Cry*.

*Sort of.

* How We Do It. And By "It," We Mean IT.

The facts of life as you may have never thought about them.

* Teeny Tiny Woman Shapes Things On MCA Plaza.

The evershifting life source is the sun.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Working on it.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:12 PM | Permalink

Local Book Notes: Sex, Vampires & Chicago's Steel Barrio

1. How We Do It. And By "It," We Mean "It."

"How long does pregnancy last?" Marlene Zuk writes for the Wall Street Journal.
Martin-How We Do It jacket.jpg
"Nine months, of course, or more precisely, 40 weeks, and we can use the date of last menstruation as a reliable indicator of when the pregnancy began. But as Robert Martin notes in How We Do It, his meticulously researched account of human reproduction from conception to early childhood, 'things are not always that simple.' In many female primates, including women, monthly cycles persist into early pregnancy, for reasons still poorly understood. The date of conception is surprisingly hard to pin down, and due dates are as much guesswork as measurement.

"Mr. Martin's humble but crucial acknowledgment that biology is unavoidably complicated - that we can't capture millennia of evolution or decades of research in glib sayings about the sexes' planetary origins or in single surveys of psychology undergraduates - is what makes How We Do It so compelling.

"It's not that Mr. Martin, a curator of biological anthropology at Chicago's Field Museum, claims that sexuality is such a morass of science, culture and mistaken beliefs that we should throw up our hands. Instead, he takes a calm, soothingly detached approach to the evolution of sex and child-rearing. No Mars and Venus, no extrapolations about why we evolved to love - or hate - strip clubs or whether bottle-feeding dooms a child to a life of puerile amusements and a career at the Kwik-E-Mart. Here instead are the facts of life as you may have never thought about them."

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Martin on Chicago Tonight last month.

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2. Biting Bad.

"Merit has been a vampire for only a short while, but she's already seen a lifetime's worth of trouble. She and her Master, centuries-old Ethan Sullivan, have risked their lives time and again to save the city they love. But not all of Chicago is loving them back.
BitingBad.jpg
"Anti-vampire riots are erupting all over town, striking vampires where it hurts the most. A splinter group armed with Molotov cocktails and deep-seated hate is intent on clearing the fanged from the Windy City come hell or high water.

"Merit and her allies rush to figure out who's behind the attacks, who will be targeted next, and whether there's any way to stop the wanton destruction. The battle for Chicago is just beginning, and Merit is running out of time."

Sold!

3. Chicago's Steel Barrio.

"Steel Barrio, a new book written by Michael Innis-Jimenez (historian and American studies scholar at the University of Alabama) and published by NYU Press, will give advocates, policy makers, politicians, scholars and anyone else interested in immigration a historical perspective on how new ethnic communities become assets to local communities as they cope with harassment and discrimination in time of national economic crisis.
steel.jpg
"Steel Barrio tells the story of how a community developed and survived the Great Depression to become the vibrant, active community that continues to play a central role in Chicago politics and society.

"This book investigates the years between the World Wars, the period that witnessed the first, massive influx of Mexicans into Chicago. Steel Barrio argues that the Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans who came to South Chicago created a strong sense of community not only to defend against the ever-present social, political, and economic harassment and discrimination, but to grow in a foreign, polluted, industrial environment.

"Jimenez's areas of expertise include twentieth and twenty-first century Mexican and Mexican American migration to the American South and the American Midwest. His research focuses on Latinos/as in the United States, transnationalism, immigration, labor, and civil rights."

4. She and Him.

"Poets Amanda Ackerman and Luke Daly will give a free reading at the Poetry Foundation as part of this season's final Harriet Reading Series, an event program that features poets who have appeared on Harriet, the Poetry Foundation's blog. The series presents both established and emerging poets whose writing finds innovative approaches to the craft of poetry.

"Los Angeles poet Amanda Ackerman is the author of The Book of Feral Flora and of the chapbooks Sin is to Celebration (co-authored with Harold Abramowitz), The Seasons Cemented, I Fell in Love with a Monster Truck, and Short Stones. She is the co-editor of the press eohippus labs, and writes collaboratively as part of the projects SAM OR SAMANTHA YAMS and UNFO.

"Luke Daly is a Chicago-based poet, bookmaker and visual artist. He coordinates writing programs and bookmaking workshops at the Chicago printmaking studio Spudnik Press and curates their library of small press literature and artists' books. He co-edits the book series arrow as aarow."

Thursday at 7 p.m., Poetry Foundation, 61 West Superior Street.

Amanda Ackerman, "Human Time Poem"

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 3:15 PM | Permalink

Ryan Braun's Fantasy Fix

If you have been reading my Fantasy Fix column lately, you already know I was surprised Major League Baseball had the balls to suspend recent MVP Ryan Braun during the season over his connection to performance-enhancing drugs.

I guessed that MLB would table this whole Biogenesis issue until the off-season, when it wouldn't be able to tarnish the regular season and the league's hallowed October session. I'm also surprised Braun was suspended for more than 50 games, considering he never has been officially proven to be a drug cheat before.

Of course, a lot of the timing for the 65-game (rest of the season) suspension for Braun had a lot to do with Braun's willingness to submit, rather than continue his campaign of denial and/or ignorance. He issued a lengthy apology to the league, fans and his team this week, so that is worth something, right? Maybe 10 or 20 games? It's also likely that Braun and MLB both took a look at the standings, realizing that Milwaukee will get nowhere near the postseason this year (They are worse than the Cubs, if you can believe it.)

So, all in all, this was the fairest way to go about punishing Braun, and both Braun and MLB should be applauded for working things out.

Wait a minute - why are we talking about fairness? Braun broke the rules. He actually broke them twice, and got off on a technicality the first time - you know, the time he famously said he "had nothing to hide." (He is alleged to have begun his relationship with the Biogenesis Clinic in 2011, the year he won the MVP award.)

He should have been banned for at least 100 games, extending into next season, if not the whole 2014 season. In reality, since he lied about his drug affiliations once already, there is a valid argument to ban him for life (If there are three strikes in the Joint Drug Agreement, lying should be worth at least two.)

Suspending the best player on a bad team, one who was having injury problems this year anyway, doesn't mean as much as it would if he was healthy and his team at the starting line next year with the same record as every other team. It doesn't mean as much as it would to future potential PED users if he were banned for life.

Also, Braun's lengthy apology was standard PR rhetoric. What did he apologize for specifically? What did he admit to doing? Nothing.

Wait, he did admit to not being perfect, so there's that - he is not any better than the rest of us.

The 65-game suspension appears to reflect that Braun complied with MLB's efforts, but that compliance apparently did not extend to saying anything meaningful whatsoever, or anything anyone else would learn from. Apparently, Braun has a better lawyer than the league does.

Will MLB be tough on any of the other players who have been connected to Biogenesis? Players like Bartolo Colon (who is having the season of his life, by the way) and Nelson Cruz are on teams in the thick of the playoff hunt, which means a 50-game suspension, whether it extends into the playoffs or comes soon enough (like this week or next) that it doesn't, could have a major impact on their teams. MLB needs to act on their fates soon, because if they get through the rest of this season and whatever postseason their teams enjoy without being punished, their eventual punishments will turn out looking a lot like Braun's - a punishment of convenience.

Who wins in all this? The cold-blooded fantasy baseball team owner. If you own Braun, you were already suffering through his worst season - just nine HRs, 38 RBIs, four SBs and about a month of playing time lost to injury before the suspension. He has been parked on the fantasy team bench quite a bit this year, and I doubt his absence will really affect anyone's fantasy prospects.

And the good news if you own him in a keeper league: You might as well keep him, since it has been established that he will start the 2014 season with his punishment completely behind him.

The cold-blooded fantasy team owner only cares about the numbers, so if you're not in a keeper league, feel free to draft Braun in the first round next year. It turns out this is a convenient punishment for fantasy baseball as well. We can all go into 2014 with clear minds and a clean slate. Why should you give another thought to the dirty business behind the humble, home-baked, patriotic image of baseball? Braun is getting off easy, and baseball is getting off easy, too. Why shouldn't you?

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Dan O'Shea is our man in fantasyland. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:08 PM | Permalink

Teeny Tiny Woman Shapes Character Of Illuminated Things On MCA Plaza

"Chicago-born, Los Angeles-based artist Amanda Ross-Ho premieres her first major public art project, The Character And Shape Of Illuminated Things, on the plaza of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago this summer," ArtDaily reports.

"Ross-Ho transforms the museum's plaza into an open air photo studio, with larger-than-life still-life models that the public are invited to engage with and photograph.

"The title of the exhibition is adapted from a 1980 photography handbook, How to Control and Use Photographic Lighting. In the manual, the author illustrates how different lighting affects three still-life objects - a cube, a sphere, and a female mannequin's head, all painted muted gray.

"Inspired by this fundamental lesson, Ross-Ho re-creates this trio of objects on a monolithic scale, faithful to the original image, with the mannequin head reaching 25-feet high.

"Completing the installation is a large-scale sculptural rendering of a color calibration card - the color grid that is used to maintain accuracy in the printing and post-production of color photography.

"By including this card, Ross-Ho consciously disrupts the gray composition.

"The visual experience of this site-specific installation changes over the course of the day as it responds to the path of the sun - which is the evershifting light source for this enormous still life."

*

From the MCA:

"Updating Joseph Beuys's famous declaration that 'Everyone is an artist,' Ross-Ho suggests more specifically that today everyone is a photographer, as the ubiquity and speed of digital photography shapes the way we view and experience the world.

"In Ross-Ho's hands, the plaza is transformed into an enormous photo studio, with objects on display for the purpose of being photographed by the public, while the sun serves as a shifting source of light, affecting both our perception of how the objects look in real life and how they appear in our photographs."


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Amanda Ross-Ho elsewhere:

Interview with Bomb magazine.

*

Whitney Biennial 2008 bio.

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Teeny Tiny Woman at the MOCA Pacific Design Center.

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Photography at MOMA.

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At MCA Chicago in 2010.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:57 AM | Permalink

July 23, 2013

Local TV Notes: WGN's Dean Richards Made Selena Gomez Cry*

*Well, not quite cry, but . . .

1. "Selena Gomez abruptly terminated an interview [Monday] when she became frustrated at being asked questions about Justin Bieber," the Daily Telegraph reports.

"The singer-and-actress spoke to for Chicago's WGN Entertainment reporter Dean Richards via satellite, but soon cut off the line after staying silent during his questioning.

"You're, you know, probably as close a friend to Justin Bieber as they come. Is there something about him that we don't get or we don't understand?" Richards asked the star.

"I mean, there is one story after another of, you know, pretty outrageous behaviour that we're reading about."

"The questions were referring to the 19-year-old's recent stunts, which include urinating into a club restaurant's mop bucket and allegedly spitting in a man's face on a night out.

"But Gomez seemed completely dumbstruck by the questions and merely looked around in confusion as her face was portrayed on a large screen.

"What don't we get about him or what is it that he's not getting out there?" Dean persisted.

"But the reporter never received an answer, as the star simply smiled awkwardly before cutting off the line."

Here it is:

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(Blame WGN: Autoplay Means You Hate Your Readers.)

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2. Devin Hester: As Ridiculous As A Cheetah?

"And now a story about the time Chris Johnson and Devin Hester raced a cheetah on basic cable.

"The Tennessee Titans running back and Chicago Bears return specialist raced the great cat during a Nat Geo Wild special that will air in November during Big Cat Week, which in no way is attempting to co-opt the success of Discovery Channel's Shark Week."

Click here to see what appears to be a photo of how they did it.

Here's Usain Bolt, generally considered the fastest human ever, against a cheetah, sort of:

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3. Six TV Shows Filming In Chicago This Summer.

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4. TV-Over-Internet Coming To Chicago.

"Aereo, a startup that is trying to challenge cable and satellite TV packages with an $8-a-month offering over the Internet, says it will expand to Chicago in September," AP reports.

"The service started in New York last year and expanded to Boston and Atlanta this spring. Service in the Chicago area will begin Sept. 13 and will come with several Chicago-area broadcast stations plus Bloomberg TV. Eligibility is limited to 16 counties in Illinois and Indiana.

"Aereo converts television signals into computer data and sends them over the Internet to subscribers' computers and mobile devices. Subscribers can watch channels live or record them with an Internet-based digital video recorder. Viewers can pause and rewind live television."

*

"Aereo leases tiny antennas to its subscribers," Boston Business Journal reports.

"Each antenna receives broadcast TV signals and converts them to a digital transmission that can be watched online as live TV or DVRed for later viewing.

"The company won a court battle with major broadcasters ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, Univision and PBS, earlier this month. Now, that case may be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Meanwhile, Hearst Television, owner of Boston ABC affiliate WCVB-TV, has sued Aereo separately."

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:33 PM | Permalink

The [Tuesday] Papers

News you can abuse . . .

"United Continental Holdings, which operates United Airlines, this week finished its massive three-year move into Willis Tower, becoming the biggest tenant in Chicago's biggest skyscraper," the Tribune reports.

I guess United's friends kept making excuses.

*

If Alfonso Soriano rejects a trade to the Yankees - or anywhere - because he's afraid of feeling "comfortable," I will personally make sure he no longer feels comfortable in Chicago.

*

"Royal-watchers across the world waited for their first glimpse of Britain's new prince today, with Prince William and his wife, Kate, expected to leave a London hospital soon with their baby son," the Tribune reports.

"Their son is third in line to the throne after grandfather Charles and William, 31, and pushes the fun-loving Prince Harry, William's brother, into fourth place."

Is he now?

The screenplay - or Simpsons episode - writes itself.

*

You can use that sound clip for this item too. Only it's not funny.

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"Rogue waves" at Lake Michigan. Seriously, man.

*

Joe Moore would especially like to welcome all the representatives of Illinois' Law Enforcement Community.

*

"A subcommittee in the Republican-controlled U.S. House is proposing the steepest cut in spending on a far-reaching Great Lakes environmental cleanup program since it was established in 2009," AP reports.

"The panel approved a bill Tuesday that would spend just $60 million on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, nearly 80 percent less than the $285 million in this year's budget."

The budget bill is called The Good Enough Lakes Initiative.

*

"RadioShack said Tuesday that its second-quarter loss widened as the struggling electronics retailer works to revamp its stores and product assortment ahead of the crucial holiday season," AP reports.

Here's an idea: Try InternetShack. Or, better yet, InternetCastle. Or, better yet, NetCastle.

Alternative: Harold's Chicken & Radio Shack.

*

"Metra's Plan For Probe Hits Snag."

It wasn't derailed?

*

"Two Highland Park Residents Charged In Prostitution Case."

Looks like the University of Illinois!

*

"The former chairman of a failed Wilmette bank and his wife, along with two former board members, have been arrested and charged with defrauding the federal government and misappropriation of funds," Crain's reports.

"Dr. Zulfikar Esmail, 70, owner and former chairman of Premier Bank, was arrested by state police July 10 at his home in Evanston and charged with being the organizer of a continuing financial crimes enterprise in conjunction with his activities at the bank, according to a spokeswoman for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. If convicted on the felony charges, he would face mandatory jail time of six to 30 years."

Gee, maybe Madigan really was going to run until her father got in her way; she'd already started taking out Bill Daley's base one at a time.

*

So our troops are staging for Syria here?

*

"Former Top SEC Enforcer Accepts $5 Million From Wall Street Firm."

Alternate: "Corporate Lawyer Successfully Completes Government Training, Is Called Up To Big Leagues And Signed To Huge Contract."

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Biggest Weekend In Chicago Rock Ever Continued . . .

*

The Cub Factor: Get The Party Started.

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Random Food Report: Kentucky Fried Chicken Possibly Neither.

Plus: Taco Bell Hates Kids, Stephanie Izard Is A Photobomber And The Search For A Jim Shoo Sub.

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NSA Says It Can't Search Its Own E-Mails. Seriously.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Seriously.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:44 PM | Permalink

NSA Says It Can't Search Its Own E-Mails

The NSA is a "supercomputing powerhouse" with machines so powerful their speed is measured in thousands of trillions of operations per second.

The agency turns its giant machine brains to the task of sifting through unimaginably large troves of data its surveillance programs capture.

But ask the NSA, as part of a freedom of information request, to do a seemingly simple search of its own employees' e-mail? The agency says it doesn't have the technology.

"There's no central method to search an e-mail at this time with the way our records are set up, unfortunately," NSA Freedom of Information Act officer Cindy Blacker told me last week.

The system is "a little antiquated and archaic," she added.

I filed a request last week for e-mails between NSA employees and employees of the National Geographic Channel over a specific time period.

The TV station had aired a friendly documentary on the NSA and I want to better understand the agency's public relations efforts.

A few days after filing the request, Blacker called, asking me to narrow my request since the FOIA office can search e-mails only "person by person," rather than in bulk.

The NSA has more than 30,000 employees.

I reached out to the NSA press office seeking more information but got no response.

It's actually common for large corporations to do bulk searches of their employees' e-mail as part of internal investigations or legal discovery.

"It's just baffling," says Mark Caramanica of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. "This is an agency that's charged with monitoring millions of communications globally and they can't even track their own internal communications in response to a FOIA request."

Federal agencies' public records offices are often underfunded, according to Lucy Dalglish, dean of the journalism school at University of Maryland and a longtime observer of FOIA issues.

But, Daglish says, "If anybody is going to have the money to engage in evaluation of digital information, it's the NSA for heaven's sake."

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Previously:
* Does The NSA Tap That?

* Obama Explains The Difference Between His Spying And Bush's Spying

* FAQ: What You Need To Know About The NSA's Surveillance Programs

* NSA: Responding To This FOIA Would Help "Our Adversaries"

* Fact-Check: The NSA And 9/11

* The NSA's Black Hole: 5 Things We Still Don't Know About The Agency's Snooping

* Defenders Of NSA Surveillance Citing Chicago Case Omit Most Of Mumbai Plotter's Story

* Obama's War On Truth And Transparency

* ProPublica's Guide To The Best Stories On The Growing Surveillance State

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Comments welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:14 PM | Permalink

Random Food Report: Kentucky Fried Chicken Possibly Neither

1. First the bones go, then the Colonel.

"KFC has Panera envy," USA Today reports.

"The fried chicken kingpin, eager to tap into a younger, more upscale customer, is about to test a Millennial-friendly store next month - serving the likes of fresh salads and flatbread sandwiches - near its headquarters in Louisville that it has dubbed 'KFC eleven.'

"The name is a reference to the 11 herbs and spices that Sanders used in the famous Original Recipe chicken.

"Don't look for Col. Sanders' well-known goateed mug at the new location. This single KFC eleven, after all, will be more of a laboratory for what's next - not what was."

Yet another company insisting on busting its brand instead of nurturing it. Let's just say we're not convinced a KFC Caribbean rice bowl is going to be a hit.

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Memo to KFC: You can make the best damn Kentucky Fried Chicken in the land - which isn't the same as the chicken you're making now - without an old white coot as your mascot. So you're halfway there. But don't forget the chicken.

2. Oreo, Meet Dorito.

3. Taco Bell To Kids: Drop Dead.

"Taco Bell said Monday that it's eliminating kids' meals - often a target of nutrition activists - from its menu," Ad Age reports.

"Taco Bell is touting itself as the first national fast-food chain to do so, noting that the move will be completed by January.

"The chain said it's ditching kids' meals because they aren't relevant to its core customer - millennials, generally in their late teens and early-to-mid '20s. 'As we continue our journey of being a better, more relevant Taco Bell, kid's meals and toys simply no longer make sense for us to put resources behind," said Greg Creed, CEO of Taco Bell, in a statement."

In other words, kids just aren't as profitable as drunk twentysomethings.

4. Worth It To Bill Fold.

"People eat differently on the South Side," Peter Engler writes for LTHforum. "If you don't believe that, try to find a Mother in Law, Big Baby, or Freddy north of Madison Street.

"Another sandwich, also likely unfamiliar to most Northsiders, is currently spreading around the South Side and beyond.

"Ten or fifteen years ago I found a menu from a South Side sub shop slipped into my front gate. It listed all the familiar local treats: subs stuffed with beef (either 'roast' or 'corn'); gyros (usually pronounced GUY-ro); and super tacos (ground beef, lettuce, and tomatoes, all folded into a pita). But there was also a sandwich I'd never heard of then: the Jim Shoe."

Click through to read the rest.

5. CSI: Food Inc.

"The Institute of Food Technologists has established the Global Food Traceability Center designed to protect and improve the global food supply," Meat & Poultry reports.

"Noting there is currently no single entity that brings together key stakeholders in the farm-to-table food system to collaborate on providing timely product tracing solutions, the IFT said the traceability center will serve as an unbiased source of information on the topic."

Sounds good.

"The formation of the center is the result of three traceability research summits the IFT held in 2011. The summits were a part of the Traceability Improvement Initiative (TII) launched by the IFT with seed funding support from BASF Chemical Co., Underwriters Laboratories, and the National Fisheries Institute.

"Founding sponsors for the Global Food Traceability Center include Cargill, the Food Marketing Institute, GS1 US, International Association for Food Protection, Intertek Group, Lyngsoe Systems, Mars Inc., National Fisheries Institute, Produce Marketing Association, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and the Univ. of Guelph."

Oh.

6. Denied At Drive-Thru, Woman Brings Horse Inside McDonald's.

Didn't I see that on Family Guy?

*

Speaking of which, "McStroke" is one of the all-time classic episodes - even though Wikipedia says it received "mixed to negative reviews."

Horse-hockey. It might even be the all-time best episode . . . you've got Peter and mustache culture; Stewie as Zac Sawyer, who wears long-sleeve shirts under short-sleeve shirts under long-sleeve shirts; Ricardo Montalban as a cow; "Hurricane" by Dylan; the Monopoly Man . . . I mean, it's just jam-packed.

7. Stephanie Izard Photobombs Arizona Reviewer.

8. Wendy's Also Has Panera Envy.

"Wendy's reported a quarterly net income that came in above Wall Street expectations and said it's selling 425 of its restaurants to franchisees, a move that's expected to help boost its profit margins," AP reports.

"CEO Emil Brolick said in a statement that the sale of the restaurants will also help expand adoption of the company's new restaurant designs. That's because Wendy's plans to sell the restaurants to 'well-capitalized' franchisees willing to pay for the remodeling.

"The sleeker new look is part of Wendy's push to try to distance itself from the greasy, cheap image of traditional fast-food chains. By cleaning up its stores and offering more premium burgers and sandwiches, Wendy's is hoping to recast itself more in the style of Panera Bread or Chipotle, which tend to charge higher prices."

Even fast food is gentrifying.

9. "When Zishu 'Shawn' Li left his native Congqing, China, in 2000, he came directly to Chicago," the Daily Herald reports.

"His journey didn't stop there as the young entrepreneur made a name for himself in the suburban restaurant industry that includes his latest business, 8000 Miles, which serves authentic Chinese and Japanese food in downtown Roselle.

"The restaurant name came from the length of his journey to the suburbs, he said."

*

Roselle slogan: Where Tradition Meets Tomorrow.

*

Also, they've had a Taste of Roselle going on 32 years.

10. "Zachary's Chicago Pizza turns 30 this week - Thursday, July 25, marks exactly three decades since the first Zachary's opened in 1983 at the corner of College and Oak Grove avenues in Oakland," Patch reports.

"The restaurant was founded by Zach Zachowski and Barbara Gabel, Wisconsin natives with a fondness for Chicago-style pizza who moved to the Bay Area and opened the Oakland pizzeria in a former lampshade store."

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:51 AM | Permalink

Let's Get The Party Started

Sometimes you don't know how something will feel until it happens.

I didn't expect to feel much about Matt Garza getting traded except more bitterness at the Cubs plight amidst Theo's Plan, which I could agree with if it didn't come with an insistence that building an organization from the ground up was mutually exclusive with building a team at the major-league level, especially given the dirty little secret of the Ricketts family running a tightwad, greedy ship that has resulted in reduced payrolls for the league's most profitable team.

But, even amidst questions about the 25-year-old Mike Olt and his ex-Rangers compadres, the Garza trade feels like it finally unlocked the door to the Cubs' future.

Surely Junior Lake's concurrent spark and even seeing the hustle (if ill-advised) of Cole freakin' Gillespie last night have something to do with it too, but this finally is starting to look like it was supposed to look a year ago.

We thought that the pain part of Theo's Plan would at least include exciting young players who hustled instead of hopped, and generally knew which base to throw to and which base to run to.

We didn't see that out of the gate last year, though, as Soriano was once again assigned to left field and retreads such as Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol were brought back to blow up the bullpen. (There was also the failure of the Cubs to land Yoenis Cespedes, as well as the Ian Stewart and Chris Volstad fiascos.)

Then things got worse instead of better at the trade deadline. The Ryan Dempster deal got screwed up, denying us of young pitching talent Randall Delgado; Matt Garza's injuries prevented nixed a trade and kept him around until now; and Alfonso Soriano refused to go to the Giants.

Now reports have Soriano on his way to the Yankees. It's starting to fall into place - a year later than expected, but still. This is what we've been waiting for.

That doesn't excuse the elements of Theo's Plan that are still an insult - such as telling the most devoted fan base in the world to simply ignore the big-league product for a few years - but it does mean that we can finally get the party started.

Or at least start to get the party started.

Week in Review: The Cubs lost two of three to the Rockies in their first post-All Star Game series. But in their first post-Garza game, they put together a professional and exciting 4-2 win over the Diamondbacks on Monday night, led by Junior Lake's home run - sandwiched by two bunts for hits, one to each side of the infield - as well as a dong by Dioner Navarro and a strong start by Chris Rusin. It's finally starting to feel new, even if Navarro is a veteran who might not even finish the season as a Cub and Rusin isn't really projected as a prospect so much.

Week in Preview: Four against the Diamondbacks followed by three in San Francisco. Then the Ryan Braun-less Brewers come into Wrigley. Everything's coming up Cub. Well, not everything . . .

The Second Basemen Report: Darwin Barney went 3-for-11 in the Rockies series, with one BB, two RBI, and three LOB, and 1-for-4 last night with another LOB. He's hitting .224 with a .274 OBP. Perhaps he's just having a bad year at the plate, but his career AB/OBP is .255/.298. He ranks 9th in DWAR with 0.8 - the same was former Cub DJ LeMahieu, whom we saw in Colorado, where he was sent along with Tyler Colvin for Ian Stewart. LeMahieu is hitting .268/.319 and has played all four infield positions, the Sun-Times's Gordon Wittenmyer notes.

"I'm happy to be on this team," LeMahieu told Gordo. "We're right in the hunt in our ­division."

While LeMahieu's star is on the rise in Colorado, Barney's star is plummeting. "Barney's production has plummeted in each of his three full seasons in the major leagues," SportsBank's Jeremy Harris notes. "His batting average has dropped from .274 to .254 to .222; and his OBP has fallen from .313 to .299 to .272."

In former second basemen news, the Houston Astros designated Ronny Cedeno for assignment , along with former Cubs first baseman Carlos Pena. We believe Cedeno's assignment will be "How In The World Did You Manage To Stay In The Major Leagues This Long?" and it will be due Friday. Pena's assignment will be "The Great Lakes: Compare and contrast."

Wishing Upon A Starlin: Did it really just take a day off to fix Starlin Castro? Not exactly. There was a technical matter involving his back leg that was preventing him from catching up to fastballs which has now reportedly been worked out. (Castro's season at the plate had take such a Darwin Barneyish turn that he was even compared to . . . Ronny Cedeno, CBSChicago's Tim Baffoe notes.)

Then again, being "back" is a funny thing in Cubsland; Castro opened the second half of the season by going 1-for-9 in the first two games against the Rockies before a 4-for-5 outburst on Sunday. (He was 2-for-5 against the Diamondbacks on Monday night, with four LOB.)

Castro, like the blazing Junior Lake (of whom we said a month ago: "It's time") and, say, Brett Jackson and even Josh Vitters, are classic remnants of the Jim Hendry era - supremely athletic talents with skills who are lacking in certain fundamentals and/or baseball intelligence that calls into question their potential as finished products. They are the kind of players the scouts in Moneyball loved - physically gifted specimens who are somehow less than the sum of their tools (think Corey Patterson or all those "sluggers" the Cubs piled up who never really had a position). That doesn't mean they're doomed, just that they're development path is more fraught than it will presumably be for Theo's guys - which says as much if not more about Hendry than Theo.

The Legend of Dioner Navarro: On Sunday, Navarro struck out in a pinch-hit appearance, leaving a runner on and disappointing his legion of followers. On Monday, he not only hit a home run but got plunked in his next at-bat. Dioner!

More importantly, last week we said Dioner was the only fun guy on this team. Now we can add Junior Lake to what is now a list.

Lake and Navarro - sounds like a prog rock folk art band that will sometimes tour with Neil Young as Lake, Navarro and Young. In another guise, they will play as Crosby, Stills, Lake and Navarro.

Mad Merch: Have you gotten your The Junior Lake Effect t-shirt yet? Sounds like an jam-oriented pyschedelic rock outfit with acid guitars and gospel-prog blues keyboards. And yes, they do Hendrix covers.

Deserted Cubs: Sadly, Tony Campana is still in Reno (.289/.352) so he can't steal home against the Cubs this week.

Bullpen Bullshit: "Don't count one of the Chicago Cubs' best potential trade pieces as being on board for leaving the team anytime soon," Jesse Rogers wrote for ESPNChicago in late May. "Closer Kevin Gregg doesn't want to talk about trade deadlines - at least not until he knows the Cubs are out of it.

"I almost look at it as a little disrespectful to the guys on the team that are here because this is a good product," Gregg said. "What the future brings in this game, you have no idea what's going to happen. To try and predict something would be wasting time."

Now, however, Gregg wants out, according to Gordo:

"Garza's a headline piece, but I think that in the baseball world, people are looking for relievers," said Gregg, who relishes a chance to pitch in the playoffs for the first time since he was a setup guy for the Angels in 2005. "I hope I'm on that list."

Well, Kevin, the feeling's mutual, even if the new closer is Pedro Strop.

Ameritrade Stock Pick of the Week: False Hope is back on the board and selling at high volumes while trading activity on Let's Get Real has slowed considerably. Also, get out of Biogenesis if you still can.

Sveum's Shadow: Dale Sveum's Five O'Clock Shadow has returned all the way to its Five O'Clock position because he always shaves after four days off fishing with Uncle Lou. Plus, he doesn't have to listen to Garza yapping all the time anymore.

Shark Tank: Jeff Samardzija gets it now - sort of.

Jumbotron Preview: 5,700 square feet of distraction for when The Plan doesn't cohere.

Kubs Kalender: Wait 'til next year 2015 2016 2017 2016.

Over/Under: Games before Junior Lake goes into a slump: +/- 5.

Beachwood Sabermetrics: A complex algorithm performed by The Cub Factor staff using all historical data made available by Major League Baseball has determined that baseball players have a greater distribution of colorful names than the general population.

The Cub Factor: Unlike Alfonso Soriano, you can catch 'em all!

The White Sox Report: Know the enemy.

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The Cub Factor welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 3:01 AM | Permalink

The (Biggest) Weekend In Chicago Rock (Ever?) (Cont'd)

Did we just experience the biggest weekend in Chicago rock history? Just by sheer quantity and breadth of artists big and small? Possibly even qualitatively?

The Beachwood Rock Local Affairs Desk wondered just that in this illustrative (but not even exhaustive) post of 53 shows from not only Pitchfork but the Vans Warped Tour and acts like Pearl Jam and Phish, who all collided here for a citywide musical jamboree. (If Smashmouth, Sugar Ray and the Gin Blossoms are more your speed, they played Ravinia.)

Well, guess what, the fun didn't end on Sunday night. On Monday the freakin' Melvins played the Double Door and The Handsome Family played Millennium Park. And if your tastes run that way, Jay Z played Soldier Field with Justin Timberlake.

Besides an ordinary night in New York or LA, has any other city seen such a collection of talent at one time?

So here's our unexpected Part II of Monday's post updating the action, as well as additional video from the weekend that wasn't yet available yesterday.

54. The Handsome Family at Millennium Park on Monday night.


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55. The Melvins at the Double Door on Monday night.

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56. Gavin DeGraw in Tinley Park on Sunday night.

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57. Jay Z and Justin Timberlake at Soldier Field on Monday night.

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58. Outdoor Velour at Quenchers on Thursday night.

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59. John Butler Trio at the Vic on Thursday night.

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60. Mac DeMarco at Pitchfork on Friday.

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61. Aure Ne Veut at Pitchfork on Sunday.

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62. White Lung at Pitchfork on Saturday.

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63. Pissed Jeans at Pitchfork on Saturday.

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64. Caleb James at Reggies on Friday night as part ofThe Jones Live Presented by FakeShoreDrive. Pursuit of Dopeness has video of several other acts on the bill.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:27 AM | Permalink

July 22, 2013

The [Monday] Papers

The Papers will return on Tuesday, as will The Cub Factor.

Elsewhere on the site today:

* The (Biggest) Weekend In Chicago Rock (Ever?).

Monstrous - and not even exhaustive.

* Dennis Farina's Old Style.

Our cop, our beer.

* Does The NSA Tap That?

What we still don't know about the agency's internet surveillance.

* Alex Rios Had A Full Weekend.

Doghouse to penthouse.

* Dear Dale: Don't Be Dusty.

Play the prospects.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Swagger like us.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:02 PM | Permalink

Dennis Farina's Old Style

"Dennis Farina, a Chicago native and police officer who turned to acting, has died at 69 in Arizona, his publicist said today.

"Farina, best known as detective Joe Fontana on the long-running TV series Law & Order, suffered a blood clot in his lung, publicist Lori De Waal said.

"Farina was an 18-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, a detective who moonlighted on Chicago theater stages and in small movie roles. In the 1980s he was on the NBC television series Crime Story."

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See also: Dennis Farina's Wikipedia page.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:59 PM | Permalink

Does The NSA Tap That? What We Still Don't Know About The Agency's Internet Surveillance

Among the snooping revelations of recent weeks, there have been tantalizing bits of evidence that the NSA is tapping fiber-optic cables that carry nearly all international phone and internet data.

The idea that the NSA is sweeping up vast data streams via cables and other infrastructure - often described as the "backbone of the Internet" - is not new. In late 2005, the New York Times first described the tapping, which began after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. More details emerged in early 2006 when an AT&T whistleblower came forward.

But like other aspects of NSA surveillance, virtually everything about this kind of NSA surveillance is highly secret and we're left with far from a full picture.

Is the NSA really sucking up everything?

It's not clear. The most detailed, though now dated, information on the topic comes from Mark Klein. He's the former AT&T technician who went public in 2006 describing the installation in 2002-03 of a secret room in an AT&T building in San Francisco.

The equipment, detailed in technical documents, allowed the NSA to conduct what Klein described as "vacuum-cleaner surveillance of all the data crossing the internet - whether that be peoples' e-mail, web surfing or any other data."

Klein said he was told there was similar equipment installed at AT&T facilities in San Diego, Seattle and San Jose.

There is also evidence that the vacuuming has continued in some form right up to the present. A draft NSA inspector's general report from 2009, recently published by the Washington Post, refers to access via two companies "to large volumes of foreign-to-foreign communications transiting the United States through fiberoptic cables, gateway switches, and data networks."

Recent stories by the Associated Press and the Washington Post also described the NSA's cable-tapping, but neither included details on the scope of this surveillance.

A recently published NSA slide, dated April 2013, refers to so-called "Upstream" "collection" of "communications on fiber cables and infrastructure as data flows past."

These cables carry vast quantities of information, including 99 percent of international phone and Internet data, according to research firm TeleGeography.

This upstream surveillance is in contrast to another method of NSA snooping, Prism, in which the NSA isn't tapping anything. Instead, the agency gets users' data with the cooperation of tech companies like Facebook and Google.

Other documents leaked by Edward Snowden to the Guardian provide much more detail about the upstream surveillance by the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the NSA's U.K. counterpart.

GCHQ taps cables where they land in the United Kingdom carrying Internet and phone data. According to the Guardian, unnamed companies serve as "intercept partners" in the effort.

The NSA is listening in on those taps too. By May 2012, 250 NSA analysts along with 300 GCHQ analysts were sifting through the data from the British taps.

Is purely domestic communication being swept up in the NSA's upstream surveillance?

It's not at all clear.

Going back to the revelations of former AT&T technician Mark Klein - which, again, date back a decade - a detailed expert analysis concluded that the secret NSA equipment installed at an AT&T building was capable of collecting information "not only for communications to overseas locations, but for purely domestic communications as well."

On the other hand, the 2009 NSA inspector general report refers specifically to collecting "foreign-to-foreign communications" that are "transiting the United States through fiber-optic cables, gateway switches, and data networks."

But even if the NSA is tapping only international fiber-optic cables, it could still pick up communications between Americans in the U.S. That's because data flowing over the Internet does not always take the most efficient geographic route to its destination. Instead, says Tim Stronge of TeleGeography, data takes "the least congested route that is available to their providers . . . If you're sending an e-mail from New York to Washington, it could go over international links, but it's pretty unlikely."

That's because the United States has a robust domestic network. (That's not true for some other areas of the world, which can have their in-country internet traffic routed through another country's more robust network.)

But there are other scenarios under which Americans' purely domestic communication might pass over the international cables. Google, for example, maintains a network of data centers around the world.

Google spokeswoman Nadja Blagojevic told ProPublica that "Rather than storing each user's data on a single machine or set of machines, we distribute all data - including our own - across many computers in different locations."

We asked Blagojevic whether Google stores copies of Americans' data abroad, for example users' Gmail accounts. She declined to answer.

Are companies still cooperating with the NSA's Internet tapping?

We don't know.

The Washington Post had a story earlier this month about agreements the government has struck with telecoms, but lots of details are still unclear, including what the government is getting, and how many companies are cooperating.

The Post pointed to a 2003 "Network Security Agreement" between the U.S. government and the fiber-optic network operator Global Crossing, which at the time was being sold to a foreign firm.

That agreement, which the Post says became a model for similar deals with other companies, did not authorize surveillance. Rather, the newspaper reported, citing unnamed sources, it ensured "that when U.S. government agencies seek access to the massive amounts of data flowing through their networks, the companies have systems in place to provide it securely."

Global Crossing was later sold to Colorado-based Level 3 Communications, which owns many international fiber-optic cables, and the 2003 agreement was replaced in 2011.

Level 3 released a statement in response to the Post story saying that neither agreement requires Level 3 "to cooperate in unauthorized surveillance on U.S. or foreign soil."

The agreement does, however, explicitly require the company to cooperate with "lawful" surveillance.

More evidence, though somewhat dated, of corporate cooperation with NSA upstream surveillance comes from the 2009 inspector general report.

"Two of the most productive [signals intelligence] collection partnerships that NSA has with the private sector are with COMPANY A and COMPANY B," the report says. "These two relationships enable NSA to access large volumes of foreign-to-foreign communications transiting the United States through fiber-optic cables, gateway switches, and data networks."

There's circumstantial evidence that those companies may be AT&T and Verizon.

It's also worth noting that the NSA might not need corporate cooperation in all cases. In 2005, the AP reported on the outfitting of the submarine Jimmy Carter to place taps on undersea fiber-optic cables in case "stations that receive and transmit the communications along the lines are on foreign soil or otherwise inaccessible."

What legal authority is the NSA using for upstream surveillance?

It's unclear, though it may be a 2008 law that expanded the government's surveillance powers.

The only evidence that speaks directly to this issue is the leaked slide on upstream surveillance, and in particular the document's heading: "FAA702 Operations." That's a reference to Section 702 of the 2008 FISA Amendments Act. That legislation amended the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the 1970s law that governs government surveillance in the United States.

Under Section 702, the attorney general and director of national intelligence issue one-year blanket authorizations to for surveillance of non-citizens who are "reasonably believed" to be outside the U.S. These authorizations don't have to name individuals, but rather allow for targeting of broad categories of people.

The government has so-called minimization procedures that are supposed to limit the surveillance of American citizens or people in the U.S. Those procedures are subject to review by the FISA court.

Despite the procedures, there is evidence that in practice American communications are swept up by surveillance under this section.

In the case of Prism, for example, which is authorized under the same part of the law, the Washington Post reported that the NSA uses a standard of "51 percent confidence" in a target's foreignness.

According to minimization procedures dating from 2009 published by the Guardian, there are also exceptions when it comes to holding on to American communications.

For example, encrypted communications - which, given the routine use of digital encryption, might include vast amounts of material - can be kept indefinitely.

The government also has the authority to order communications companies to assist in the surveillance, and to do so in secret.

How much internet traffic is the NSA storing?

We don't know, but experts speculate that it's a lot.

"I think that there's evidence that they're starting to move toward a model where they just store everything," says Dan Auerbach, a staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "The Utah data center is a big indicator of this because the sheer storage capacity has just rocketed up."

We know more details about how the GCHQ operates in Britain, again thanks to the Guardian's reporting. A breakthrough in 2011 allowed GCHQ to store metadata from its cable taps for 30 days and content for three days. The paper reported on how the spy agency - with some input from the NSA - then filters what it's getting:

The processing centres apply a series of sophisticated computer programmes in order to filter the material through what is known as MVR 2013 massive volume reduction. The first filter immediately rejects high-volume, low-value traffic, such as peer-to-peer downloads, which reduces the volume by about 30%. Others pull out packets of information relating to "selectors" - search terms including subjects, phone numbers and e-mail addresses of interest. Some 40,000 of these were chosen by GCHQ and 31,000 by the NSA.

How does the NSA do filtering of the data it gets off cables in the United States?

"I think that's the trillion dollar question that I'm sure the NSA is working really hard at all the time," Auerbach, the EFF expert. "I think it's an incredibly difficult problem."

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Previously:
* Obama Explains The Difference Between His Spying And Bush's Spying

* FAQ: What You Need To Know About The NSA's Surveillance Programs

* NSA: Responding To This FOIA Would Help "Our Adversaries"

* Fact-Check: The NSA And 9/11

* The NSA's Black Hole: 5 Things We Still Don't Know About The Agency's Snooping

* Defenders Of NSA Surveillance Citing Chicago Case Omit Most Of Mumbai Plotter's Story

* Obama's War On Truth And Transparency

* ProPublica's Guide To The Best Stories On The Growing Surveillance State

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Comments welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:19 PM | Permalink

The (Biggest) Weekend In Chicago Rock (Ever?)

Monstrous - and by no means exhaustive.

1. Savages at Lincoln Hall on Thursday night in one of two pre-Pitchfork shows.


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2. Parquet Courts at Lincoln Hall in a pre-Pitchfork show on Thursday night.

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3. Jonas Friddle and the Majority at Martyr's on Friday night.

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4. The Zeros at the Empty Bottle for a Pitchfork after-party on Friday night.

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5. Pearl Jam at Wrigley Field on Friday night.

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6. Phish opening a three-date stand at Northerly Island on Friday night.

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7. TeamMate at Schubas on Sunday night.

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8. Courtney Love at the House of Blues on Thursday night.

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From The Vans Warped Tour in Tinley Park on Saturday:

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9. The FOUNTNHEAD.

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10. Sleeping With Sirens.

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11. August Burns Red.

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12. Chiodos.

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13. We Came As Romans.

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14. The Summer Set.

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15. The Amity Affliction.

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16. Memphis May Fire.

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17. Never Shout Never.

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18. Go Radio.

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19. Bring Me The Horizon.

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20. Man Overboard.

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21. Anarbor.

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22. Resist The Undertow.

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23. Tonight Alive.

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24. Black Veil Brides.

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25. letlive.

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26. Forever The Sickest Kids.

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27. Young London.

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28. Charlie Simpson.

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29. Silverstein.

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30. Allstar Weekend.

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31. Train from the Mermaids of Alcatraz Tour with The Script and Gavin DeGraw on Sunday night in Tinley Park.

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From Pitchfork:

32. Bjork on Friday night.

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33. Angel Olsen on Friday.

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34. TNGHT on Sunday night.

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35.Sky Ferreira on Sunday.

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36. Glass Candy on Sunday night.

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37. Solange on Saturday night.

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38. Trash Talk on Friday.

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39. Swans on Saturday.

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40. M.I.A. on Sunday night.

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41. Waxahatchee on Sunday.

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42. Foxygen on Saturday.

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43. The Breeders on Saturday night.

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44. Belle & Sebastian on Saturday night.

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45. Savages on Saturday.

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46. Parquet Courts on Saturday.

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47. Phosphorescent on Saturday.

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48. Low on Saturday.

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49. Joanna Newsom on Friday night.

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50. Wire on Friday night.

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51. Daughn Gibson on Friday.

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52. Frankie Rose on Friday.

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53. R. Kelly on Sunday night.

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And for what it's worth, Beyoncé, Justin Bieber, New Kids On The Block, One Direction and 98 Degrees were in town last week, as well as all the acts who played Taste of Chicago, including Robert Plant, and the AmericanaramA tour featuring Bob Dylan, Wilco, My Morning Jacket and Richard Thompson hit town, and there are the usual neighborhood festivals and, still, any show you can see in a local club is probably better than them all. Just sayin', huge musical summer.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:38 AM | Permalink

SportsMonday: Don't Be Dusty, Dale

Now we'll find out whether Dale Sveum has any Dusty Baker in him.

There were several ways Baker drove fans crazy. (One was his insistence on batting one of his fastest players in the No. 2 spot in the lineup no matter what. If he had a veteran who could move and put down a bunt every once in a while he was batting second no matter how bad his on-base percentage. Neifi Perez forever!)

The part of the Baker managerial manifesto we are addressing today has to do with playing time for veterans. During his tenure with the Cubs, Baker was well-known for his unwillingness to put experienced players on the bench when it was time for younger players to step up to bigger roles.

And the question now is, how will Sveum handle similar circumstances?

The by-far best part of this past weekend for the Cubs was the fact that Junior Lake hit the ground slashing, and then running. But veteran center fielder David DeJesus will return from a rehab stint in the minors sooner rather than later and then playing time for Lake could be hard to find.

Sveum said what Cubs fans wanted to hear at the start of the weekend, noting that Lake was going to play as long as he was up with the Cubs. And he acknowledged that sometimes young players are so good they force teams to keep them in the majors even if the original plan had them heading back down to the minors for more seasoning.

Lake made a great first impression with a double and a steal of third during his first inning with the big club. He knocked out a couple more hits before he was through during the Cubs' 3-1 win over the Rockies on Friday.

But Lake's inexperience, especially in center field, where he hasn't played since turning pro, was on display in the series finale. That was when he launched the terrible overthrow that led directly to the Rockies' fourth run and would have resulted in a fifth had the ball not trickled into the dugout

The bottom line is, the Cubs will need to keep Lake in the lineup somewhere if he keeps hitting - even if it upsets the likes of DeJesus. The veteran outfielder has been solid for the Cubs but he will return to the team with a .260 average and .318 OBA. Those numbers simply aren't good enough to justify a spot in the lineup just about every day.

Of course, plenty of outfield playing time would open up if the Cubs managed to off-load Alfonso Soriano in a trade before the deadline (July 31), but it says here Soriano isn't going anywhere. He doesn't really want to go (and can veto any trade), and even if he was open to a trade to a contender (the sort of transaction that he vetoed last year), the Cubs almost certainly wouldn't be able to get back much of a prospect or much salary relief.

Meanwhile, there is the infield. A fan has to wonder how much longer Sveum will keep sending Darwin Barney out to play second every single day. Barney's average has now plummeted to .224 in 299 at-bats this year and that flat-out isn't good enough for a major league second baseman. The guy plays great defense but the time is coming for the Cubs to trade some of that defense for possible better offensive production from a prospect - maybe even, wait for it, Junior Lake! Lake, after all, started out in the minors as an infielder. Time to shake things up, Dale! You don't have to wait for Theo to make trades!

And most importantly, you don't have to defer to mediocre veterans.

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Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:21 AM | Permalink

Alex Rios Had A Full Weekend

The season stretches for 162 games over six long months, one of which is even called "the dog days." Preparing to play every day of the week presents a constant mental challenge. Half the games require living out of a suitcase. The bone-chilling cold temperatures of April and May give way to the oppressive heat and humidity like that which hung over the Cell on Friday night.

However, who among us believes that any of these and other extenuating factors excuse the athletes - the individuals who are paid handsomely to play a game they ostensibly love - from giving a maximum effort? Who would argue that it's OK not to make every attempt to catch a pop fly? Or dive for a grounder headed for the outfield? Or run out every ground ball?

Because of the All-Star break, Alex Rios hadn't played in four days, and as far as anyone knew he was superbly-conditioned when he jogged out to right field for the opener of the three-game series with Atlanta on Friday evening. In some weird way, this could have been a fresh start in an otherwise miserable season for the Sox, at least a chance to gain some respectability between now and the beginning of October.

Unfortunately all that ended precipitously when Rios gave a half-assed effort in the bottom of the fifth inning on what appeared to be a routine double-play ground ball. Unexpectedly, the grounder momentarily popped out of the glove of the Braves' talented young shortstop Andrelton Simmons. Instead of having a chance to beat the relay, enabling Alejandro De Aza to score the lead run from third base, Rios was doubled-up as the play resulted in yet another situation for our ill-fated crew.

"Alex didn't run. Simple as that," Steve Stone said before breaking away for a commercial.

Mind you that in the previous at-bat, Rios had doubled in two runs. He had no trouble legging it full steam to second base on that one.

So when it came time for Rios to bat in the bottom take the field in the top of the seventh, manager Robin Ventura sat him down in favor of a pinch hitter replaced him with Casper Wells. What took him so long?

"Lately there's frustration," I heard Rios say the next day on The Score. "Everything becomes harder. I'm not using that as an excuse. It's something that shouldn't have happened. It's unacceptable behavior."

Aside from the fact that Rios should have made those statements right after the game and not the following day, we can commend him for taking responsibility. However, he added that he would have preferred an office meeting with Ventura rather than being publicly called out by his manager.

Good thing that Alex never played for Billy Martin. Only the quick action of coaches Elston Howard and Yogi Berra prevented a bloodbath in the Yankee dugout that June day in 1977 when Martin removed Reggie Jackson in the middle of an inning for what he determined was Jackson's loafing after a pop fly that fell for a double.

Today skippers such as Kirk Gibson, Buck Showalter, Ron Gardenhire, Joe Maddon and others certainly might have sent Rios to the clubhouse post-haste. Possibly because Rios was on his way out to right field for the top of the sixth, Ventura hesitated before informing him that he was finished for the evening.

The truth is that Rios and others - most notably team captain Paul Konerko - have run half- to three-quarter speed to first base on routine grounders all season long. We can only assume that Ventura has done nothing about it. Possibly he set a tone during spring training. Maybe he has talked to individual players about extending a full effort all the time.

If he has, there has been no visible follow-through until the obvious situation on Friday when Rios' lackluster effort clearly prevented the Sox from taking the lead in a close game. Of course, I've never played on a major league ballclub, nor have I spent any time in the clubhouse. In the unlikely event that any player on the team is reading this, he no doubt would say, "This guy doesn't know what goes on. He hasn't been there. He doesn't know what we go through."

On the other hand, the guys in the dugout haven't sat where the fans sit. When you buy a ticket - regardless of the price - you expect to see your team try as hard as it can to perform up to its potential. No one enjoys seeing Alexei Ramirez boot a ground ball, but that's a whole lot different than not putting out 100 percent. We groan when Adam Dunn strikes out with runners on base, but rational folks don't criticize him for not trying. On Friday night, will and desire were the issues, not talent. We know Rios can play.

While guys like Rios and Konerko may not always run hard to first base, think about others like Tyler Flowers and Josh Phegley, the two catchers who are battling for playing time and a future in the big leagues. Think they ever dog it down to first? Or Casper Wells, who pinch hit for Rios on Friday and made a game-saving catch on Sunday in the Sox's 3-1 victory. He's one of the last players on the roster. Check out his effort on a routine ground ball.

All of which questions whether the Sox - and other teams for that matter - practice a double standard. Chances are when a guy like Pete Rose played, teammates never considered giving anything but full throttle, knowing Rose would get in their face if they failed to hustle. With someone like Rose or Derek Jeter on the team, the manager has generous support when it comes to making sure that everyone is giving 100 percent. That's leadership, and you can only exert it if you practice it.

Without the benefit of inside knowledge, I always figured that A.J. Pierzynski helped fill that role for the White Sox. Jake Peavy, who got the win in Saturday's 10-6 triumph over the Braves, also would be a candidate. Finding out his honest reaction to the Rios' benching might shed some light on the Sox's disappointing season.

Gordon Beckham has the demeanor of someone who was born to play baseball. He plays hard. If he sticks around the South Side for a few more years, Beckham could assume the leadership role that the team may presently be lacking.

Did Rios and his teammates get the message? Possibly. Rios had one of his best games of the season on Saturday with three hits, a grand slam, and five RBI. Two more hits and a key RBI followed yesterday. The team was alive over the weekend, out-slugging the National League East leaders on Saturday before eking out Sunday's nail-biter.

"I'm here to play," Rios said on Saturday when asked if he expected to return to the lineup. "This is what I do."

All the fans are asking is that Rios and his teammates do it as well as physically possible. Every day. Every game. And every situation regardless of whether it's a routine ground ball or a double into the gap.

Rios and his teammates simply need to ask the same from themselves.

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

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1. From Lloyd Rutzky:

Great article Roger, as usual. But Rios was not hit pinch hit for. Wells replaced him in RF in the top of the 7th so when Wells batted he was batting for himself. Apparently Robin didn't instantly react to the incident as Rios was already out on the field after having been tossed out at first, so maybe somebody brought him his glove before getting back to the dugout to face Robin. So Robin waited 'til between innings to explain to Rios.

It was definitely the right way to handle it - what Rios did WAS unacceptable, but Robin either had to think it over how to handle it, or did like I said, decided it was best to explain to Rios in the middle of the 6th why he was getting yanked and not make a big scene of it - ON THE FIELD.

Keep up the good work. You at least got the story a little closer to the truth as on Channel 7 they said he was immediately taken out, obviously incorrect.

Editor's Note: Corrected in the text, thanks.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:28 AM | Permalink

July 20, 2013

The Weekend Desk Report

Sometimes, in their zeal to save as many as possible, the bravest among us cause unimaginable tragedy. And then there's this bullshit.

Market Update
You know it's bad when even your broke is broken.

Running Out The Asylum
Before anyone gets any clever ideas about rehiring laid-off teachers, Mayor Emanuel has announced plans to have them all shipped to Papua New Guinea.

Judge Dread
We could always hope a brave judge stands up to Rahm's bullying. Of course, such respite generally comes too late for the victims.

The Chicago Way
Hey, maybe those shuttered schools with the fancy new lighting will get to vote twice too.

Hardest Hit
Surely it costs Illinoisans more than $35,000 each to keep some people in the House.

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The Weekend Desk Tip Line: On the 1s.

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Vintage Garage Chicago: Rockabilly And Tiki: Including the work of Beachwood Photo Booth artist Helene Smith.

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Sunday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., 5051 N. Broadway (at Argyle).

Says Helene: I am so excited to be part of this month's Rockabilly/Tiki-themed Vintage Garage Chicago. I'll be selling my photography (cards, matted/framed prints). It's held in a parking structure, so will go on rain or shine!

Includes:

* Rockabilly DJ til 4 p.m. and Rockabilly/Pinup style fashion contests!

* Food vendors, including Chitown Tamale and Chicago Cupcake!

Here's the official Facebook Page with all the details.

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The Sound Opinions Weekend Desk Listening Report: "This Charming Man' Johnny Marr joins Jim and Greg live in the studio. He talks guitar wizardry, his new solo career and of course, The Smiths. Later, Jim and Greg review Run the Jewels, the latest collaboration between MCs Killer Mike and El-P."

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The CAN TV Weekend Desk 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: Central States SER

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Financial coach Sarai Garza explains how Central States SER promotes economic self-sufficiency and upward mobility for low-income community residents through education and employment.

Saturday at 8 p.m. on CAN TV21.

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2nd Annual Stonewall Riot Panel

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Activists from across Illinois discuss the progress and challenges faced by the LGBTQ community since the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York's Greenwich Village.

Sunday at 10:30 a.m. on CAN TV21.

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That's How Larry Is: Fathers

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From a street performer who is a single father to dancers at a Daddy & Daughter dance, find out what fatherhood means to these Chicago dads.

Sunday at 4:30 p.m. on CAN TV19.

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Taking it to the Streets: Brain Health

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Learn how the brain functions and what activities you can do to age with a healthy brain as host Sharon Harper shares "Staying Sharp," a presentation from AARP and the DANA Alliance for Brain Initiatives.

Sunday at 5 p.m. on CAN TV21.

Posted by Natasha Julius at 7:17 AM | Permalink

July 19, 2013

Sun-Times Advice Columnist And Mass Murderer Jenny McCarthy Lands Spot On The View

1. The set-up.


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2. The delusion.

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3. The Jenny McCarthy Reader: Dispatches From Seth Mnookin's The Panic Virus.

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4. The Jenny McCarthy Body Count Video.

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See also:

* Get Used To Seeing Jenny McCarthy With Glasses.

* 12 Awesomely Terrible Failed Projects By Jenny McCarthy.

* Jenny McCarthy Talks About Squirting.

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And:

* Sun-Times Endorses Jenny McCarthy's Controversial Organizations.

* The Jenny McCarthy Body Count.

* Cancer Charity Replaces Antivaccination Mouthpiece Jenny McCarthy.

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Previously:
* The Best Of Jenny McCarthy So Far.

* Tweeting Jenny McCarthy's Rockin' New Year's Eve.

* Why Jenny McCarthy And Brian Urlacher Broke Up.

* Sun-Times Columnist And Mass Murdered Jenny McCarthy Is Getting A Talk Show.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:02 AM | Permalink

Libraries Lending Way More Than Books These Days

In a number of communities across the U.S., it's possible to borrow tools, musical instruments, fishing poles and much more from the local public library for free.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:52 AM | Permalink

McDonald's And Dunkin' Donuts: Dumb And Dumber

Chicago McDonald's worker Nancy Salgado appeared [Thursday] on the Today Show and demonstrated just how out of touch McDonald's financial planning site is and discussed what it's really like to try to make ends meet with two kids on $11,400 a year - not $25,000 as McDonald's estimated.

The segment also featured clips from the Chicago fast-food worker strikes in April calling for $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation. After the segment, Tamron Hall remarked on McDonald's fuzzy math, "You'd think one person would have stopped and said, 'what's the real world,' right? If you're not living in it, ask someone."

These low-wage workers are a key reason why workers have been joining together for $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation. During April and May, thousands of fast-food workers in seven cities - from coast to coast - walked off their jobs because they work hard, can't even afford the basics and have to rely on public assistance just to scrape by while these corporations make record profits.


Even while ignoring important expenses like food and gas and suggesting workers get a second job, the budget by McDonald's assumes a worker needs to make about $15 an hour just to scrape by. That's an argument its workers have been making for months. In just a few days, a video challenging the site's fuzzy math has received nearly 90,000 hits on Youtube, and a story on CNN Money on Wednesday looks at the budgets of real McDonald's workers and shows just how off base McDonald's is.

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Meanwhile . . . also from Deivid Rojas . . .

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TOO HOT TO WORK: DUNKIN' DONUTS WORKERS TO HOLD PROTEST AFTER GOING ON STRIKE FOR AIR CONDITIONING, $15 LIVING WAGE, AND THE RIGHT TO FORM A UNION WITHOUT RETALIATION

After Being Subjected To Hazardous Temperatures, Workers Walkout On Strike To Demand Safe Working Conditions.

Luis Vargas Jr., one of the striking Dunkin' Donuts workers explains, "We walked off the job and went on strike because we have been working all week without AC. It has been so hot that we have been feeling light headed, sick, and have not been able to give the quality service our customers deserve"

CHICAGO - At 7 a.m. on Friday, striking Dunkin' Donuts workers and dozens of members of the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago will converge at Dunkin' Donuts at 27 W Lake to protest unsafe working conditions and demand air conditioning, a $15 livable wage, and the right to form a union without retaliation.

After working all week without air conditioning and in scorching temperatures, Dunkin' Donut workers from 27 W Lake walked out on strike today. Even though the workers made repeated requests to have the air conditioning fixed, the issue was not addressed. Today, after feeling light headed, feverish and sick, the workers called their store manager to advise him that they would be walking out and striking if the conditions did not improve. Hours later the workers walked out and closed the store.

Dozens of Dunkin' Donut workers alongside hundreds of members of WOCC went on strike on April 24 at dozens of fast food and retail locations in the Loop and the Magnificent Mile to demand a $15 livable wage and the right to form an union without retaliation. Workers were enthusiastically welcomed back by their coworkers as they returned to work, accompanied by clergy and community supporters, in the days following the strike. Inspired by their courage and success in winning raises and other workplace victories following the strikes, dozens of workers have since joined the WOCC including many more from Dunkin' Donuts.

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See also: Fight for 15.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:56 AM | Permalink

The Week In Chicago Rock

You shoulda been there.

1. Intervals at Reggies on Wednesday night.


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2. Filthy Still at Reggies on Monday night.

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3. Neon Trees at Taste of Chicago on Sunday.

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This page will not feature New Kids On The Block, One Direction, 98 Degrees or even Beyoncé. So there's your week.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:17 AM | Permalink

Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Fire Escape

A new take on an old subject.

fireescapecloseartresetrsz.JPG(ENLARGE FOR PROPER VIEWING)

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You can buy it!

TITLE: "Chicago Fire Escape"

MEDIUM: photography, digital print

SIZE: 11x14 inches, borderless

PAPER: acid-free, Fuji archival paper

FINISH: lustre

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All prints will be signed by the artist, Helene Smith. (Copyright, 2013)

Unmatted, unframed.

This print is available in other sizes (including photo card) by request.

Your print will be shipped in a protective, sturdy mailer.

All items are shipped via First Class USPS, within the United States, though I ship internationally, as well.

Please allow up to 2 weeks for processing your order (though it will often arrive earlier!). I generally process each print when the customer places the order, although I do have a few prints on hand and will ship sooner if your photo is in stock. If you are in a rush, let me know and I will try to accommodate you.

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Purchase through Etsy.

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More Chicago photos from Helene Smith.

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Helene will also be showing her work at Vintage Garage Chicago on July 21 in Uptown. This year's theme: Rockabilly and Tiki.

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Previously:
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Man Grilling
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Yum Yum Donuts
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Father's Day
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Vintage Airmaster
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Time
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Window Shade
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Illinois Slayer

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:43 AM | Permalink

The [Friday] Papers

"Citing a $1 billion budget deficit, Chicago Public Schools will lay off more than 2,000 employees, more than 1,000 of them teachers, the district said Thursday night," the Tribune reports.

"About half of the 1,036 teachers being let go are tenured. The latest layoffs, which also include 1,077 school staff members, are in addition to 855 employees - including 420 teachers - who were laid off last month as a result of the district's decision to close 49 elementary schools and a high school program."

How much more trauma can the system take? It's as if CPS is in a state of total meltdown.

"CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said the district was 'scraping the bottom' of reserves to provide financial relief and had made cuts in other spending before making layoffs.

"We're not going to be able to cut our way out of this crisis," Carroll said. "Our revenues are simply not keeping in line with our spending increases."

Gee, that sounds familiar. In fact, that's what the Chicago Teachers Union and other advocacy organizations have been pleading for more than a year - to no avail from Carroll's boss, the mayor.

"We maintain this has never been merely a budget expense problem but is also a serious revenue problem," the CTU stated (again) earlier this month.

"Federal revenues are down. Mayor Rahm Emanuel should use his significant influence in the White House and on Capitol Hill to advocate an increase in federal revenues. State revenues are down. Board of Education President David Vitale, the former head of the Board of Trade, should push for the return the more than $100 million in state tax breaks that went to the CME and increase revenue to our schools. Local revenue is down. Billionaire Board member Penny Pritzker should offer to return the $5.2 million in tax increment financing (TIF) dollars she recently received to expand her Hyatt Hotel dynasty to Hyde Park. And perhaps most easily, the Board should advocate an end to the TIFs that drain a quarter of a billion dollars from our schools each year. CPS has been in revenue decline for a number of years."

Instead of pursuing revenue, though, the Emanuel administration has sought longer school days which are now busting the budget and the massive school closings that were advertised as necessary to close the budget gap even though CPS budget director Ginger Ostro said in court yesterday that that wasn't the case after all.

"Pressed under cross-examination Thursday, Ostro conceded the closures weren't designed to fix CPS' financial mess," AP reports.

"It's not primarily a budget-deficit initiative," she said about the closings.

Really?

Just as a reminder, superintendent Barbara Byrd-Bennett first said the closings weren't about performance but utilization; the district merely wanted to manage its space more efficiently.

Then it was about performance, but not money.

Then it was about money.

And, of course, it was never about race or class - even if the results were.

The fact is, nobody really seems to know for sure what this is all about. If Rahm himself even knows, he's not saying.

My guess is that Rahm loves the big gesture to show how tough he is - and to give himself something to brag about. His record, though, shows that his gestures are rarely thought out and lack a public policy backing beyond his natural predilection for, say, privatization.

A lot of actual, real human beings are now paying the price.

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Back to the Tribune:

"The district again blamed the lack of pension reform for many of its fiscal woes, noting that pension payments are growing this fiscal year by an additional $400 million. The layoffs were the result of 'budgetary decisions made by principals or changes in enrollment,' the district said in a statement.

"Absent pension reform in Springfield, we had very few options available to us to close that gap," Carroll said.

First, counting on pension reform in Springfield to close your budget gap is like counting on winning the lottery to pay off your credit cards. It would be awesome if it happened, but the odds are better that Rahm gets struck by lightning while dancing to Robin Thicke at the Taste of Chicago.

Second, pushing the layoffs off on principals is exactly what some of us predicted would happen when CPS moved to "school-based budgeting" that was billed as giving principals all kinds of amazing freedom.

But the bullshit doesn't stop there.

"The district has also proposed an additional $52 million in reductions to central office costs."

Rest assured, those will not be central office cuts, but "central office" cuts. And given what we know about those, they might not even be cuts, but "cuts."

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"Asked whether pension reform could help reinstate some of the budget cuts, CPS spokeswoman Carroll said it's difficult to know."

Why is that difficult to know? If you were counting on pension reform to fill the budget gap, why wouldn't it fill the budget gap?

Oh, wait, I know: Because it's CPS, where reality is a nuisance and facts go to die.

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"Carroll said the majority of teachers to be laid off Friday are not tenured teachers, meaning they have been in classrooms for less than three years," the Sun-Times reports.

"About half of the 1,036 teachers being let go are tenured," the Tribune account says.

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"[U]nder Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration principals have said they've been told not to talk to the press without getting prior approval," WBEZ reports.

Troy LaRaviere didn't get the memo.

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Meanwhile . . .

"Chicago Public Schools spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to install new lighting systems in at least nine schools just before they were targeted for closing in the city's cost-cutting school consolidation plan," the Tribune reports.

Well, that's what happens when you do things out of order. For example, the district's 10-year capital plan and 5-year educational plan came after its mass school closings plan.

And in this case, Rahm's vaunted infrastructure trust, which hasn't done squat in its first year of existence, jumped the gun on an energy savings plan that doesn't yet have investors. Now the administration wants to find some suckers to pay for the work already done.

"In announcing the trust, the mayor said Chicago needed a trailblazing way to pay for projects it couldn't afford. But Emanuel last week dodged questions about why the trust wants to fund projects already completed and paid for by CPS."

Plus, Rahm Emanuel likes Robin Thicke.

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From the Trib:

"Lisa Lane, who taught at the now-closed Peabody Elementary School on the West Side, said her principal informed teachers at the beginning of March that new motion-detecting lights would be installed to reduce energy costs. That, Lane said, led teachers to believe the school would be saved from closing."

Sounds reasonable.

"Instead, later that month before spring break, Peabody was pegged for closing. Upon returning after the break, Lane said she was surprised to find that new lights had been installed in her classroom anyway.

"We just couldn't believe it. We couldn't understand why they would redo the lights when the school already was going to close," Lane said. "Why waste the money? They could have easily canceled those contracts."

Lane said she is convinced that CPS, facing a $1 billion deficit next year, put lighting in the closing schools for a reason, and that the district has other plans for the buildings. In fact, she said she recently noticed the hallways and classrooms inside Peabody had been repainted from blue to a new coat of beige.

"You cry poverty, but then you spend a ton of money redoing lights in schools you're going to close?" Lane said. "The mayor has a plan for those schools."

But who would want beige walls?

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"[Kelley] Quinn, the CPS spokeswoman, declined to say whether the district has future plans for any of the closed schools."

That's because they're just winging it.

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Mickey D's And Dunkin' Do's
Dumb And Dumber.

The Peter Principle
Sun-Times Advice Columnist And Mass Murderer Jenny McCarthy Gets Promoted.

The Week In Chicago Rock
Beyoncé not included.

Beachwood Photo Booth
A new take on an old subject.

Tools And Fishing Poles
Libraries Lending Way More Than Books These Days.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Lend-lease.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:59 AM | Permalink

July 18, 2013

The [Thursday] Papers

"Former US president praises NSA leaks & Snowden: almost zero US media coverage," Glenn Greenwald tweeted this morning.

Oh, but it's worse than that.

"America has no functioning democracy," Jimmy Carter said Tuesday in Atlanta.

I found out via Der Spiegel.

A search of the Tribune and Sun-Times websites this morning turned up nada.

The Snowden Effect
"The National Security Agency revealed to an angry congressional panel on Wednesday that its analysis of phone records and online behavior goes exponentially beyond what it had previously disclosed," the Guardian reports.

If not for Snowden, those angry congressmen would never have known - and neither would we.

The Drone President
"I learned that my 16-year-old grandson, Abdulrahman - a United States citizen - had been killed by an American drone strike from news reports the morning after he died," Nasser al-Awlaki writes in the New York Times.

"Nearly two years later, I still have no answers. The United States government has refused to explain why Abdulrahman was killed. It was not until May of this year that the Obama administration, in a supposed effort to be more transparent, publicly acknowledged what the world already knew - that it was responsible for his death.

"The attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., said only that Abdulrahman was not 'specifically targeted,' raising more questions than he answered.

"My grandson was killed by his own government. The Obama administration must answer for its actions and be held accountable."

Obama's Legacy
"A federal appeals court in New York on Wednesday held that the government could enforce a statute dealing with the indefinite detention without trial of terrorism suspects, reversing a district judge's decision last year to permanently block the law, part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012," the New York Times reports.

"The decision, a victory for the Obama administration, came the same day that the Justice Department persuaded another federal appeals court in Washington to block a district judge's order last week that had barred the military from conducting groin searches of detainees in the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"Together, the rulings represented a double win for the Obama administration in its efforts to challenge attempts by district court judges to interfere with its counterterrorism policies and legal authority."

I'm sure the president welcomes the debate, though.

Hooverville
"The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday unanimously approved President Barack Obama's nomination of James Comey, a Republican who earlier served as an independent-minded official in the Justice Department, as FBI director," Reuters reports.

Previously: Senate Set to Confirm New FBI Head Who OK'd Waterboarding, Defends Mass Spying, Indefinite Detention.

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Breaking News From The American Gulag

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See also: The Dangerous Logic Of The Bradley Manning Case.

Yeah, She Said It
'Now, I ask you, is this person going for the hypocrite of the century award?" Irish lawmaker Clare Daly says. "Because we have to call things by their right names, and the reality is that by any serious examination, this man is a war criminal."

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Never give up.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:28 AM | Permalink

July 17, 2013

The [Wednesday] Papers

"It's Rio déjà vu all over again," Robert Channick writes for the Tribune.

"Chicago has lost its bid to host the summer X Games, ESPN's made-for-TV extreme sports competition. ESPN announced Wednesday that Austin, Texas will host the summer X Games for four years beginning in 2014. The four finalists were Chicago, Charlotte, N.C., Austin, Texas, and Detroit."

Yeah, Austin seems like the natural choice there - especially given this:

"The games, held over four days, were set to take place in the United Center and on its adjacent parking lots."

Gross.

X Factor
"Ousted Metra CEO Alex Clifford does not believe Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan broke any laws with his alleged patronage requests, but he questioned the speaker's character," the Tribune reports.

"This was certainly an unethical and a moral character flaw," Clifford said today.

Good for Clifford. We need more whistleblowers like him.

Er, wait . . .

Clifford made the comment this morning at a Regional Transportation Authority meeting, where he discussed Madigan's alleged meddling.

His appearance marks the first time he has publicly addressed the patronage allegations he raised in a stinging April 3 memorandum to the Metra board. In the memo, Clifford tied his downfall to refusal to acquiesce to the speaker's demands.

"Clifford threatened to file a whistle-blower lawsuit against Metra over the allegations last spring, prompting the agency to settle the dispute with a $718,000 severance package and a confidentiality agreement that would have kept his patronage claims secret.

Clifford said he didn't consider the deal to be "hush money." Instead, he believes it was meant to give him time to find another high-level job.

Yes, $718,000 worth of time - or about 14 years per Illinois's average annual household income.

McStock With Fries
"A Wall Street analyst downgraded McDonald's stock to neutral from buy on Wednesday, based on a proprietary survey of the chain's U.S. franchisees, and a belief that current same store sales estimates are too high," the Tribune reports.

Time to take a third job.

That's Joe!
"Cook County taxpayers are expected to end up shelling out more than $500,000 to nearly a dozen people Assessor Joseph Berrios fired for unlawful political reasons after his election in 2010," the Tribune reports.

"The payments, which county commissioners will consider Wednesday, represents the latest and costliest battle in Berrios' disagreement with county ethics watchdogs over nepotism and patronage hiring.

"Berrios, who doubles as county Democratic chairman, took over as assessor in December 2010. The unabashedly old-school politician fired a slew of employees and brought in his own team, which included his son, his sister and a trusted lawyer from his previous job at the Board of Review."

In a saner world (or a saner city or state), Berrios would be removed as county Democratic chairman for this - in fact, he'd be removed as Assessor.

We don't live in that world, though.

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"Asked Tuesday about the case, Berrios said he thought the workers he dismissed held policy positions for which it is permissible to hire, promote and fire for political reasons. 'I thought they were all at-will employees,' he said."

And I didn't pay my property tax bill because I thought it was at-will.

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I don't have a property tax bill; I don't own property. But it was the best line I could come up with.

Contagious Culture
Rahm: Inspector General Is At-Will Employee.

Oh, Blago
He, too, thought he was just practicing at-will politics.

Obama Revokes More Rights
Free speech and associating with human rights groups now an at-will proposition.

Drunk History Chicago
Capone, Lincoln, Haymarket.

Fantasy's Forgotten Men
Including Alfonso Soriano and Matt Garza.

Robert Fucking Plant
At the Fucking Taste of Chicago.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Wish it, want it, do it.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:49 AM | Permalink

Obama Administration Comes Out Against Right Of U.S. Citizen To Meet With Human Rights Organizations

The reporter is AP's Matt Lee.


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Official State Department Transcript

QUESTION: Can we start in Russia -

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- with Mr. Snowden? I'm wondering if, since he has now asked the Russians for asylum, there has been any contact between this building and the Russians about your feelings about his status.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I can tell you - I hadn't seen - or I don't have independent confirmation, I guess I should say, about any request he's made. I can tell you that we have been in touch, of course, with Russian officials. Our Embassy in Moscow has been in direct contact on the ground. We are disappointed that Russian officials and agencies facilitated this meeting today by allowing these activists and representatives into the Moscow airport's transit zone to meet with Mr. Snowden despite the government's declarations of Russia's neutrality with respect to Mr. Snowden.

QUESTION: So I'm sorry. You're disappointed that they let someone into their own airport?

MS. PSAKI: Well -

QUESTION: I don't get it.

MS. PSAKI: Well, that they facilitated this event, of course.

QUESTION: Well, why?

MS. PSAKI: Because this gave a forum for -

QUESTION: You don't think that he should have a forum? Has he - he's forfeited his right to freedom of speech as well?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, Mr. Snowden -

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: -- as we've talked about - let me just state this -

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- because I think it's important. He's not a whistleblower. He's not a human rights activist. He's wanted in a series of serious criminal charges brought in the eastern district of Virginia and the United States.

QUESTION: Okay. I'm sorry. But I didn't realize people who were wanted on charges forfeited their right to speech - to free speech. I also didn't realize that people who were not whistleblowers or not human rights activists, as you say he is not, that they forfeited their rights to speak, so I don't understand why you're disappointed with the Russians, but neither that - leave that aside for a second.

The group WikiLeaks put out a transcript, I guess, essentially, of Mr. - what Mr. Snowden said at the airport. At the top of that transcript, it contained - it said that the Human Rights Watch representative from Human Rights Watch, researcher who went to this thing, while she was on her way to the airport, got a phone call from the American Ambassador asking her to relay a message to Mr. Snowden that - basically the message that you just gave here, that, one, he is not a whistleblower, and, two, that he is wanted in the United States. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: It is not correct. First, Ambassador McFaul did not call any representative from Human Rights Watch. An embassy officer did call to explain our position, certainly, that I just reiterated here for all of you today, but at no point did this official or any official from the U.S. Government ask anyone to convey a message to Mr. Snowden.

QUESTION: Did anyone from the Embassy call any of the other groups - representatives of groups that were going to this meeting - that you understood were going to this meeting?

MS. PSAKI: As I'm sure would be no surprise, and as you know because we even had a civil society event when the Secretary was there, we are in regular touch, as we have been today. I don't have an update on the exact list of calls, though, for you.

QUESTION: But you can say pretty conclusively that this one call did happen, and that it wasn't the Ambassador. So were there others? Do you know?

MS. PSAKI: We have -

QUESTION: Did calls go to other groups?

MS. PSAKI: -- been in touch with -

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- attendees.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: I don't have any specifics for you, though.

QUESTION: Okay. And the - and you have made no secret of the fact that any country or government that gives Mr. Snowden asylum or allows him to transit through, that there would be some serious consequences for - grave consequences in their relationship with the United States.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Have you made the same - and presumably that would apply to individuals who would help him stay - help him avoid returning here to face justice. Is that - that's correct?

MS. PSAKI: I'm not sure what that exactly means.

QUESTION: Well, I'm - what I'm getting at is these groups, the human rights groups that are respected human rights groups -

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- which you yourself, as well as previous spokespeople have quoted from -

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- in relation to other situations, have taken a side in support of Mr. Snowden, and I'm wondering if there are any consequences for them if you - if they aid and abet Mr. Snowden in staying away - out of the reach of U.S. authorities.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we obviously don't think this was a proper forum or a proper elevation of him. Beyond that, the way that I think it's been asked, but also the way we've thought about it, is more about governments and our relationships with them and their aid or decisions to aid Mr. Snowden.

QUESTION: Right, but I guess the question is: If you think this was an inappropriate forum, did you try to dissuade these groups from going there?

MS. PSAKI: From attending?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Not that I'm aware of, Matt. Obviously -

QUESTION: Okay. So the call -

MS. PSAKI: -- they were invited to attend.

QUESTION: So the calls were just a reminder of your position. Did you say to Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International that if you guys help Mr. Snowden, support him in some way so that - to keep him from facing justice back in the United States, that there would be consequences for them?

MS. PSAKI: I don't have any readouts of these calls. Our focus remains on -

QUESTION: Okay. Well, then can you say -

MS. PSAKI: -- conveying to the Russian Government the fact that they have the ability to help return Mr. Snowden to the United States.

QUESTION: Did you tell them in the calls that you did not think that Mr. Snowden should have the opportunity to express his view?

MS. PSAKI: Matt, I don't have any readout for these - of these calls for you. We did --

QUESTION: Okay. Well, forget about the calls, then.

MS. PSAKI: We did convey the broad point that I've made.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, then forget about what you said or what the Embassy people said in these specific phone calls. Do you believe that Mr. Snowden should not have had the opportunity to express his views at the airport in Moscow today?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think we broadly believe in free speech, as you know.

QUESTION: Except when it comes to this.

MS. PSAKI: But we cannot look at this as a - I know we like to ask about sweeping scenarios in here, but --

QUESTION: No, this is not sweeping at all. This is very specific, related to one guy in one place in one city, one airport, one time. So I just - do you think that it was inappropriate for Mr. Snowden to speak publicly? Do you - I mean, not that - whether you're disappointed in the Russians. Do you think that he should not have had the opportunity to speak publicly?

MS. PSAKI: Our focus, Matt, is on how our concern about how Russian authorities clearly helped assist the ability of attendees to participate in this.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm.

MS. PSAKI: That is of concern to us. Our focus is on returning Mr. Snowden to the United States. Beyond that, I just don't have anything more.

QUESTION: Okay. I'm just - I'm trying to get - you are saying that this essentially - it wasn't a press conference, but it might as well have been. And you don't think the Russians should have helped to facilitate a --

MS. PSAKI: Facilitated a propaganda platform for Mr. Snowden.

QUESTION: -- a propaganda platform. Okay. So this is, to your mind, something like them bringing out a defected spy from the Cold War and putting him on a platform and having him rail against the United States. Is that what the Administration believes?

MS. PSAKI: I'm not going to draw comparisons along those lines. But let me say --

QUESTION: "A propaganda platform" is close enough.

MS. PSAKI: -- that Mr. Snowden could - should return to the United States to face these charges that - where he will be accorded a fair trial. That's where our focus is.

QUESTION: Well, is this a propaganda platform or is this kind of putting in train a process for asylum? Because last week, or two weeks ago, the Russians said that they would consider his request for asylum if Mr. Snowden would stop leaking material about - or leaking information about U.S. surveillance programs. Now, he wouldn't do that before, and he tried some other areas for asylum.

Now, in this propaganda platform, as you call it, he said that he has decided to - not to leak any more information, or he doesn't have any more information, but he's done. So are you concerned now that this is him accepting conditions for Russian asylum publicly as opposed to just some kind of propaganda? I mean, is that your real concern here, that these are the conditions for asylum and now he's publicly meeting them?

MS. PSAKI: Our concern here is that he's been provided this opportunity to speak in a propaganda platform, as I mentioned a few seconds ago, that Russia has played a role in facilitating this, that others have helped elevate it. But we still believe that Russia has the opportunity to do the right thing and facilitate his return to the United States.

QUESTION: Well, but --

MS. PSAKI: I don't have any independent knowledge, as would be no surprise, of what he has officially requested, what has officially been --

QUESTION: Well, it's pretty public that Russia --

MS. PSAKI: -- accepted or not.

QUESTION: Okay, but it's pretty public that Russia said that they would consider his asylum petition if he said that - if he would agree publicly to stop leaking information. Now he's done that.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So is that propaganda, or is that publicly agreeing to Russia's conditions and kind of moving the asylum petition along?

MS. PSAKI: I'm just not going to make an evaluation of what Russia's conditions are and whether he meets --

QUESTION: Well, you don't have to make an evaluation. They've said it publicly.

MS. PSAKI: -- let me finish - whether he meets them. That's not the point here. The point is Russia helped facilitate this. They have the ability and the opportunity to do the right thing and help return Mr. Snowden to the United States. It's not about what the conditions are.

QUESTION: But you don't - I mean, is it - I mean, your concern now is that this is - that Russia's - by facilitating - I mean, are you really upset that this is propaganda, or are you really upset that Russia is moving closer to accepting to this guy's asylum?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we don't know that. This is a step that was taken today. Obviously, we continue to call for his return. They have a role they can play in that. Beyond that, I'm not going to speculate what they are or aren't going to do.

QUESTION: Jen, can I just ask: What level of seniority was the U.S. official that called Human Rights Watch?

MS. PSAKI: I don't have an exact position for you on that.

QUESTION: And --

MS. PSAKI: It was not the Ambassador, though.

QUESTION: Okay. And how did the U.S. get to know about this visit? Was - were you informed by the Russians or by Human Rights Watch?

MS. PSAKI: We learned when it was made public, just as many of your organizations did.

QUESTION: Can I just --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: In the conversations that the Ambassador, or whoever it was the Embassy had - not with the Human Rights people, but with the Russian Government --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- did you tell them that facilitating this appearance by Mr. Snowden was problematic, that you thought that they shouldn't do it?

MS. PSAKI: I --

QUESTION: Did you ask them not to do it?

MS. PSAKI: We made our concerns and our view on Mr. Snowden clear.

QUESTION: No, but I - specifically about giving him this propaganda platform, as you called it.

MS. PSAKI: I just - I don't have any more to read out for you from the private phone calls, Matt, just that there - we have been in touch.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, did you ask the Russians, please don't do this, we think he's a criminal and needs to come back? Did you - did - I mean, did you ask and they rejected the request?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, we've been clear publicly --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: -- countless times what our view is --

QUESTION: I understand that, but --

MS. PSAKI: -- and we've consistently made the same points privately, today and any other day.

QUESTION: Right. But did you say that you would look negatively on them providing him a, quote-unquote, "propaganda platform?"

MS. PSAKI: I just don't have any more on the specifics of the calls.

QUESTION: Well, is the United States Government now in the business of trying to discourage people or governments from facilitating people having - meeting with human rights activists? I don't get it.

MS. PSAKI: Matt, this is not a universal position of the United States. This is an individual --

QUESTION: So it's just in this one case.

MS. PSAKI: -- who has been accused of three - of felony charges.

QUESTION: But surely - Jen --

MS. PSAKI: This is not a unique --

QUESTION: Okay. He's been accused. Do you remember the old line that we're supposed to all know - he has not been convicted of anything yet.

MS. PSAKI: And he can return to the United States and face the charges.

QUESTION: But he can also surely - people who are accused of crimes are allowed their right of free speech, are they not?

MS. PSAKI: Matt, I think we've gone the round on this.

QUESTION: No, I mean, it's a legitimate question. I mean, you talk about even in Russia that journalists have been persecuted and political activists have been persecuted and you call for free speech around the world. But you're not saying that Mr. Snowden has the right of free speech?

MS. PSAKI: That's not at all what I was saying. We believe, of course, broadly in free speech. Our concern here was that this was - there was obvious facilitation by the Russians in this case. We've conveyed that. We've conveyed our concerns. I'm saying them publicly.

QUESTION: So you're upset - you're not upset about the press conference; you're upset that the Russians facilitated it.

MS. PSAKI: We certainly are upset that there was a platform for an individual who's been accused of felony crimes.

QUESTION: But what does that matter, really? I mean, people that are in jail or are on trial in the United States, they give press conferences or they speak out all the time. I mean, it sounds to me like what you're not really upset with the act that he spoke; you're upset with the fact that the Russians did something on his behalf.

MS. PSAKI: I think I've expressed what we're upset about.

QUESTION: I don't --

MS. PSAKI: And you keep saying what we're upset about. But I think I've made clear what we're upset about.

QUESTION: Madam, can I just follow up real quick?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Just a quick - I'm sorry - question on this. The Secretary has said in the past that this issue with Ed Snowden is just not his portfolio, and that all of this is being handled primarily through the Justice Department. Can you clarify what the State Department's role is, then? Because obviously there is contact today on the ground in Russia with diplomats involved.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think just for context's sake, for everybody, that was said after a meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov. Obviously, there are a number of issues that we do discuss and will continue to discuss with the Russians. But we're going to express concerns where we have them. We have been in touch on the ground; Embassy officials have been in touch on the ground with Russian officials. So yes, of course we have expressed our concerns, and they have been expressed previously. But the Secretary was making that comment in the context of his meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov.

QUESTION: So what is the regular channel of communication between Embassy officials, or is it at a higher level? I mean, has Deputy Secretary Burns been in more regular contact? We haven't really heard in recent --

MS. PSAKI: I just don't have any other specific calls or contacts to read out for you. Obviously, there are many components of the government who are engaged and involved in this issue, but beyond that, I don't have anything specific for you.

QUESTION: Is it this building's role, then, to formally request a denial of asylum? I mean, what is the communication here? If the issue of him being a fugitive is handled through Justice, what is it that State is doing?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we would like to see him returned to the United States, and he can be put on a plane to do exactly that.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: So does that mean the issuance of an actual letter from the State Department? Would the counselor issue a letter on State Department letterhead, or is that simply reserved for the Attorney General?

MS. PSAKI: That's ahead of where the process is right now. I've - I think as events unfold, we'll - we can provide you all updates.

QUESTION: Jen, on this point that you were talking about just now, there was apparently a fresh offer for asylum if he stops leaking. That was made today. I understand that was made today --

MS. PSAKI: Which Elise just asked about. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- like a couple of hours ago. So what is exactly your position? I didn't understand it. So you - did you tell the Russians that that is rejected, that is unacceptable? What language did you use?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we've conveyed outside of that - I don't have any independent confirmation of what's been offered or what's been approved or accepted, beyond that Russia has the ability to do the right thing, the opportunity to do the right thing, and facilitate his return to the United States.

QUESTION: And second, you said that he's not a whistleblower; he's a felon. Now, according to --

MS. PSAKI: I said he's been accused --

QUESTION: He's been accused, okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- of felony crimes. Yes.

QUESTION: He's not - yeah, but apparently public opinion polls in America show that, three to one, the public says that he's a whistleblower. Does that factor in, like the petition in Egypt, in any way?

MS. PSAKI: I think you're linking a lot of things together there.

QUESTION: No. Okay, what is --

MS. PSAKI: I'm conveying he is a United States citizen.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: He's facing crimes in the United States. He can return to the United States and face the charges.

QUESTION: Okay, so public opinion should not matter in this case. That's what you're saying.

MS. PSAKI: In terms of defining --

QUESTION: This is a purely legal --

MS. PSAKI: -- his specific role, I'm giving you an overview of the U.S. Government view.

QUESTION: Jen, just a quick follow-up. Are privately - Russians are telling you in Moscow or at the United Nations or in Washington about this offer?

MS. PSAKI: Are they privately --

QUESTION: Asylum, yeah.

MS. PSAKI: I just don't have any updates on that for you, Goyal.

QUESTION: When was the last time before today's contacts did anyone from this building talk with Russian officials? Or have all of the conversations been strictly from the Justice Department?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think even Secretary Kerry spoke briefly with Foreign Minister Lavrov about it when they last met. So obviously, there have been contacts at a range of levels. I don't have any update for you on the last high-level contact from the building, but it's fair to say that the State Department, just like other administrative - Administration departments, where appropriate, have been very engaged. We've been working very closely with the Department of Justice, as Secretary - as the Secretary also said.

QUESTION: But wouldn't it be logical to assume that if the entrée was made for Amnesty and Human Rights Watch and WikiLeaks and other people to get into this transit zone, that the Russian authorities would have had some sort of heads-up and would have conceivably made some sort of arrangements in order to get them into an area where, theoretically, they're not supposed to have access because they're not, quote, "in transit"? And wouldn't the U.S. have had more of an alert before finding out from the media today that this event was going to happen?

MS. PSAKI: Well, you are correct that this is an area only accessible with the assistance of Russian authorities. Beyond that, we, of course, saw the announcement earlier this morning online, or wherever it was first made, but that was the first we learned of the plans for this event.

QUESTION: Is it your position that in his meeting with these human rights activists, Mr. Snowden committed more violations of American law?

MS. PSAKI: I don't think I was suggesting that, Matt.

QUESTION: Okay. Then I just don't understand. I think this is an incredibly slippery slope that you're going down here, that the U.S. Government is going down here, if you are coming up and saying to us that you're trying to prevent an American citizen - albeit one who has been accused of serious crimes - from exercising his right to free speech. You don't agree with that?

MS. PSAKI: I believe that what I've conveyed most proactively here is our concern about those who helped facilitate this event --

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: -- and make it into a propaganda platform.

QUESTION: Right. And --

QUESTION: Or a public asylum --

QUESTION: -- the propaganda platform aside, free speech covers propaganda. Last time I checked, it covers a lot of things. And I don't see, unless he's somehow violated U.S. law by speaking at this - at the Russian - the transit line at the Russian airport, I don't see why you would be disappointed in the Russians for, one, facilitating it, but also, apparently from what it sounds like, tried to discourage them from - tried to discourage this - them from allowing this event to take place in the - to take place at all.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, this isn't happening, clearly, because we wouldn't be talking about it, in a vacuum. And this is an individual, as we all know, who has been accused of felony crimes in the United States. We have expressed strongly our desire to have him returned --

QUESTION: I understand.

MS. PSAKI: -- to face those charges. This is all applicable context to these circumstances.

QUESTION: But as you have also said, he is a U.S. citizen.

MS. PSAKI: He is, yes.

QUESTION: He remains a U.S. citizen, and he enjoys certain rights as a U.S. citizen. One of those rights, from your point of view, is that he has the right to come back and face trial for the crimes he's committed. But the rights that you're not talking about are his right to free speech, his right to talk with whoever he wants to, freedom to assemble. I don't understand why those rights are - why you ignore those and simply say that he has - that he's welcome to come back to the United States to exercise his right to be tried by a jury of his peers. Why is that the only right that he gets, according to this Administration?

MS. PSAKI: I don't think that's what my statement conveyed.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Has the - I just want to find out, has the U.S. spoken - had contact with the Russian Ambassador here to convey that message?

MS. PSAKI: I'd have to check on additional contacts beyond what I just stated.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Is there a belief in this building that the Russians are not dealing with the U.S. in good faith regarding Edward Snowden?

MS. PSAKI: I think our belief is what I stated, which is that they still have the opportunity to do the right thing. We are disappointed in their - with their role in facilitating the events of this morning, but we will continue to convey that we'd like to see him returned, and they can play a role in that.

QUESTION: How much is this - sorry.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I was just going to ask: Has the Administration sent any officials or any people representing the Administration to this transit area in the Moscow airport to try to make contact with Snowden directly?

MS. PSAKI: Not that I'm aware of.

QUESTION: How - if the Russians accept his asylum decision, how badly will this damage the relationship? Is it - is this the most important issue in the relationship with Russia right now?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I'm not going to rank them. Obviously, we work with Russia on a range of issues. There's no question that, as we've stated broadly with any country that would have a role in assisting him either in transit or in a final place for him to live, that that would raise concerns in our relationship. However, we're not at that point yet. They still have the --

QUESTION: Raise concerns, or would it damage the relationship irreparably?

MS. PSAKI: Well, at least this hasn't happened yet. They still have the opportunity to do the right thing and return Mr. Snowden to the United States, and that's what our hope is.

QUESTION: But you don't really think that's going to happen. I mean, you're growing resigned to the idea that they're going to accept his asylum petition --

MS. PSAKI: I'm not - that's not at all what I stated.

QUESTION: Do you - and this is not contentious, I don't think. Do you know if the Secretary has any plans to talk to Lavrov? I mean, yes, I realize it's not necessarily their specific portfolios, but now that it is a diplomatic thing --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. I'm not aware of a planned call, Matt.

QUESTION: Could I ask - the WikiLeaks statement that Edward Snowden put out, he accepted all extended offers of asylum, including the one from Venezuela, and said that that relationship is now formal, that he's now an asylee. Does the U.S. recognize this?

And he also said that that would give him some kind of international legal protections. And in that case, as an asylee, what kind of implications would that have for the U.S.'s continuing efforts to extradite him?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it's not for the United States to recognize. Our position and our message to every government we've communicated with has been the same, which is that we'd like to see him returned to face the charges he's been accused of. I don't have any independent confirmation of what's been offered or accepted in any of these cases.

QUESTION: New subject?

MS. PSAKI: Are we done with Snowden? Okay.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) in summary just to say that today's events have not changed the U.S. position and have not changed his legal status, Snowden's status?

MS. PSAKI: On the second, not that I'm aware of. And on the first, absolutely, it has not changed our position.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:51 AM | Permalink

Robert Plant At Taste Of Chicago

1. What Is And What Should Never Be.


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2. Going To California.

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3. Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You.

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4. Rock and Roll.

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5. Satan Your Kingdom Come Down.

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6. Whole Lotta Love.

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7. Black Dog.

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8. In The Mood.

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9. Audio of the entire show.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:58 AM | Permalink

Fantasy Fix: Forgotten Men

As the second half of the baseball season begins later this week, I'm on the hunt for some waiver-wire sleepers to change my luck. Whenever I go shopping, I start with the 30-day filter on available players, and it turns out there have been some surprisingly good performers in the last month who, for whatever reason, remain available.

Here are just a few of the bargains I noticed:

Alfonso Soriano: It has been clear for a while that Sori gets hot with the weather, and nine of his 16 HRs have come in the last month. It's not likely he'll be traded, but it could be a bonus for his RBIs if that happens. Available in 46% of Yahoo! leagues.

Jayson Werth: Coming off of injury, Werth has only been active for a few weeks, but is hitting close to .400 during that span, and is still a multi-category talent. Available in 38% of Yahoo! leagues.

Ichiro Suzuki: Believe it or not, Ichiro was hitting in the .250s a little more than a month ago, but he has battled back to .283 overall. Though you should never pick him for his power, he also already has six home runs, more than he has had for any full season since 2009. Available in 47% of Yahoo! leagues.

Koji Uehara: He was sort of the last man standing when other closers were injured in Boston, but he has seven saves in the last month, with an ERA of just 0.63 and 20 strikeouts in 14 innings. Available in 38% of Yahoo! leagues.

Jeremy Hefner: In the shadow of Matt Harvey's success in New York, Hefner has gone unnoticed, but is having a great month: Three wins, a 1.89 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 31 strikeouts since mid-June. Available in in 87% of Yahoo! leagues.

Matt Garza: It is shocking to me both that Garza hasn't been traded yet and that his fantasy value remains a secret. He has five wins since returning from injury, a 1.24 ERA over the last month, and 38 strikeouts. He could very easily have six or even seven wins already if he played for a better team - something which is bound to happen very soon. Available in 29% of Yahoo! leagues.

Expert Wire
* CBSSports.com forecasts some second-half studs and duds.

* SI.com looks at the best pitchers of the first half.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:02 AM | Permalink

Drunk History Chicago

1. Capone.


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2. Lincoln.

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3. The Booth Brothers.

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4. Haymarket.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:48 AM | Permalink

July 16, 2013

The [Tuesday] Papers

"For months, Attorney General Lisa Madigan and her father, House Speaker Michael Madigan, brushed aside the notion that it would be a conflict of interest if she served as governor while he continued to run the General Assembly," the Tribune reports.

"But on Monday, she ended the rampant political speculation by announcing she'll skip a run for governor and seek re-election, noting that her choice was largely due to the inherent conflict of concentrating too much power over state government in the hands of one family.

"I feel strongly that the state would not be well served by having a governor and speaker of the House from the same family and have never planned to run for governor if that would be the case," Lisa Madigan said in a statement. "With Speaker Madigan planning to continue in office, I will not run for governor."

If this is indeed the reason why Lisa Madigan bowed out, doesn't that make Mike Madigan the Worst Father Ever? I mean, she's clearly saying her dad wouldn't step aside for her.

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See also: The Political Odds (Upended).

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Rod And Reel
"Lawyers for disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich filed a long-awaited appeal of his conviction and 14-year sentence late Monday, arguing that U.S. District Judge James Zagel's 'one-sided evidentiary rulings' favored prosecutors and that the stiff sentence he imposed was based on vague and speculative evidence," the Tribune reports.

Wow, that's weak.

"The 91-page appeal, filed about an hour before a midnight deadline set by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, maintained that Zagel kept Blagojevich's attorneys from rebutting cooperating government witnesses and pointing out potential biases in their testimony."

Wow, that's weak.

But here's what really caught my eye:

Jurors were also wrongly instructed about bribery and fraud laws and how they pertained to "political deal-making," the appeal argued.

The lower court "misled the jury by failing to explain the legal distinction between campaign contributions and bribes," the lawyers wrote.

Anyone who could explain that would be the first.

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The Sun-Times has this nugget:

"Had Blagojevich 'not sought a political benefit in return [for a U.S. Senate seat appointment], he would have done a disservice to all of his supporters," Blagojevich's attorneys wrote in their appeal.

Blagojevich's responsibility was to act without regard to personal political benefit - and on behalf of the entire state, not just his supporters.

Unrealistic? Not any more so than doing 5 to 10 in the federal pen.

America 2013
My Brother Wears A Hoodie Every Day, So I Am Afraid.

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Church: It's Safe To Kill Black People In Amerikkka.

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Moneyball Report
BMO Harris Bank Not Impressed With Cubs, White Sox.

Cespedes Mocks Cubs On Way To Home Run Derby Title
Cubs cursed - with bad management.

Exclusive Preview: Hawk! The Story of Hawk
Bar none.

Tangled Up In Bridgeview
Dylan, Wilco, Richard Thompson, My Morning Jacket.

Twinkies For Bros
And Hands Off Our Hot Pockets! In The Random Food Report.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Random.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:39 AM | Permalink

Random Food Report: Is That A Hot Pocket In Your Pocket Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?

1. Hands Off The Hot Pocket!

"The Urban Dictionary describes them as 'the most delicious form of evil.' In a rant viewed more than 2 million times on YouTube, comedian Jim Gaffigan likens them to Pop Tarts filled with 'nasty meat,' best enjoyed if you are 'drunk or heading home to a trailer,'" Ad Age reports.

"Suffice it to say, the Hot Pocket has a bit of a quality-perception problem. But as the Nestle-owned brand turns 30, it's taking on the criticism with a major makeover and campaign touting better ingredients such as 100% angus beef, hickory ham, white-meat chicken and new crusts with baked-in flavors like garlic butter.

"We appreciate the press," said Brand Manager Kevin Holmes, alluding to the brand's well-established place in pop culture. "But we do feel like it's time for us to change the perceptions of quality for the brand."

In other words, they're gonna take the Hot Pocket upscale and ruin a good thing, just like everything else.

2. Beware The Brinkie.

"Twinkies are back," Callie Beusman writes for Jezebel. "No one should be surprised. It's obvious that the Twinkie would reemerge from the maws of death like a creme-filled Lazarus because each Twinkie is built to outlive us all. After the apocalypse, the Cockroach King's palace will be built out of Twinkies. He will sleep on a bed made out of a Big Mac.

"After Hostess fell into bankruptcy eight months ago, the confectionary delight (?) was discontinued. But then, like in Peter Pan, all the children of the world started clapping and chanting and - lo! - the phallic cake was brought back to life. To be more specific, the private equity firm Apollo Global Management and C. Dean Metropoulous and Company bought Hostess's cake division. Magic, people: it's real.

"But now Metropoulous and his two sons, Daren and Evan, are facing a bit of a conundrum. How do they make sure the snack doesn't fail again? Kids these days are juicing their own kale before they've even developed object permanence. To whom do you market this processed calorie-stick? The answer, it seems, is simple. To bros."

In other words, coming soon to Wrigley Field!

3. Two Legs And A Prayer.

"If chicken producers could breed a bird with three legs, they would," the New York Times reports.

"These days, they can hardly keep up with the demand for thighs and other pieces of dark meat that had once been among the least desirable parts of a chicken."

But can you market dark meat to bros?

4. He's Got This Thing And It's Fucking Golden Corral.

"Golden Corral cook Brandon Huber actually likes his job at the national buffet chain's Port Orange, Florida, location," Neetzan Zimmerman writes for Gawker.

"That's why he tried going directly to Golden Corral management first before reaching out to the media about his restaurant's ironic efforts to avoid receiving poor health inspection marks.

"But after being turned down by a number of news outlets, Huber decided to speak directly to the Internet about his branch's practice of storing both raw and cooked foods near the dumpster ahead of the health inspector's visit."

5. 15 Things You Won't Believe On Fast-Food Menus.

Really? Try us.

6. Why The McWrap Is So Important To McDonald's.

Competition from Hot Pockets?

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:04 AM | Permalink

Tangled Up In Bridgeview

Americanarama.

1. Things Have Changed.


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2. All Along The Watchtower.

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3. Tangled Up In Blue.

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4. Misunderstood.

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5. Impossible Germany.

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6. Art of Almost.

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7. Richard Thompson with Wilco, Sloth.

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8. My Morning Jacket with Wilco, Cinammon Girl.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:06 AM | Permalink

Cespedes Mocks Cubs On Way To Home Run Derby Title

That was just perfect. Watching Yoenis Cespedes absolutely dominate the Home Run Derby, what could have been better than that?

Baseball always twists the knife in Cubs fans.

Cespedes is the young power hitter from Cuba who was there for the taking for the Cubs last year. There was a bidding, well, it wasn't really a bidding war, but there was competitive bidding for the then 26-year-old free agent who was making the transition to professional baseball in America. And cheapskate Tom Ricketts lost.

There were reports that his minions submitted the second-highest contract proposal, to be fair. What's that you say? One of baseball's powerhouses must have stepped up and spent goofy money to secure the services of a raw but oh so promising hitter? Um, no. It was the team that always, always, ranks in the bottom 10 in baseball in total revenues. It was Billy Beane's Oakland Athletics, who signed Cespedes for four years and $36 million.

So a rebuilding yet ultra high-revenue team desperate for players of any kind but especially for a slugger to pound away at Wrigley let a prime prospect get away for Ricketts' loose change.

And of course when the Cubs screw something up like this, the player they didn't sign doesn't just go on to a solid, successful career, no. He has to go and blow away the field at the home run hitting contest that at this point is far more popular than the actual All-Star game.

I started to figure it out in 1984. It wasn't just that the Cubs lost the National League Championship Series, it was how they lost. They lost because they didn't have lights, meaning the last three games of the series were played in San Diego so that night games would at least be an option for TV. They lost because the absolutely ridiculous (in a bad way) Steve Garvey hit the biggest home run in his career. They lost because the normally sure-handed Leon Durham couldn't make an easy play and the normally stellar Ryne Sandberg couldn't make a tough one.

But it was the 2003-2006 stretch that really did it for me.

First there was the 2003 National League Championship Series. Maybe we'll break that down in a different column at some point. Maybe not. But the ultimately ridiculous loss to the Marlins was just the start. The next year, Cubs fans watched the Red Sox break their 80-plus year drought and win a Series. The year after that, Cubs fans watched the White Sox break an 80-plus year drought and win a Series. And the year after that, the Cardinals won their 10th World Series since the Cubs had last won one. Can you hear my teeth grinding?

Do they keep losing because, what, some other-worldly entity has cast some sort of spell on the team or just has it in for the Cubs? Um, no again (and don't even whisper the "c" word). They lose because of bad management. The Tribune Company started to care in the 2000s. The company finally started to figure out that while mediocre Cubs teams made a decent amount of money, good Cubs teams made nearly obscene amounts of money.

And so it was that not once but twice in the decade (the '03 team was followed by very good, in the regular season, '07 and '08 squads), quality teams were stitched together. But the Cubs could never procure the services of the special player who might have put them over the top.

That was what the Blackhawks did when they looked at their stable of young talent five years ago and said good but not good enough. And they went out and signed premier free agent Marian Hossa to finish things off. That worked out pretty well.

Cespedes is not the player who would have put the Cubs over the top. The team needs about five Cespedes's to turn this thing around. But they could have had him for peanuts and they let him get away to the A's. Instead the Cubs signed a different Cuban prospect, Jorge Soler. So far in his minor-league career, Soler has been suspended, benched and disabled. You cannot, possibly, make this stuff up.

Somewhere someone or thing is laughing uproariously. And it is not laughing with Cubs fans.

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Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays Tuesdays. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:24 AM | Permalink

Exclusive Preview: Hawk! The Story Of Hawk

MLB Network will air The Colorful Life Of Ken Harrelson, a one-hour documentary on the life and times of the Sox play-by-play man, this Thursday at 6 p.m. CST. Ahead of its premiere, the Beachwood Bureau Of Unofficial Sneak Peeks is proud to share some of the highlights.

Hawk On Sabermetrics: "If there is a statistic for flimflam and gobbledygook, then these guys have been leading the league in it since day one, because if my five decades in the game have taught me one thing it's that baseball is not a game that can be measured and quantified, and the idea that it can is just b.s."

Hawk On Golf: "I always say my short game is pretty good. There was a fellow who disagreed with me once, and I think his family's still waiting for him to come home."

Hawk On Pitching: "I don't care who you are, you have got to be able to pitch your way past the teams that are trying to make you not lose the game of winning. That's why there's that number in the W column for pitchers. It's for wins."

Hawk On The Fine Art Of Defense: "Your defense is really only as good as your pitching, and in my five decades in the game that has grown truer every single year."

Hawk On Power Hitters: "For my money, Joe Borchard was - and still is - the best pure power hitter I have ever seen."

Hawk On Ron Schueler: "Ron was easily the best general manager to ever oversee a team's operations. Bar none."

Hawk On Kenny Williams: "Kenny was easily the best general manager to ever oversee a team's operations. Bar none."

Hawk On Rick Hahn: "Rick is easily the best general manager to ever oversee a team's operations. Bar none."

Hawk On Film: "You know, there are some movies where you see them and you think 'By golly, that could be our team right there.' I remember watching Pride Of The Yankees on a road trip once with a young Dan Pasqua, and he told me, he said 'Hawk, I want to be as good as Lou Gehrig.' Well that right there, that to me was how I knew that was a special young player, because if you give me a player who knows the game, who understands what it means to be a Gehrig, or a Willie Mays, or a Yaz, or a Steve Sax, one of the great all-time infielders, or anyone else for that matter, that says to me that you are dealing with a baseball player who is thinking not just about the at-bat or the inning or even the W, but really at their place in this beautiful game of baseball. And this was Dan Pasqua, he wasn't more than 19-years-old at the time telling me that, which historically has been the age where a baseball player really becomes the baseball player you think he's gonna be, and I knew right then, I said to myself I said 'Hawk, this is the best pure power hitter I have ever seen.'"

Hawk On Literature: "To this day, I still have yet to read Billy Beane's book, and I don't intend to either, because it's not going to tell me anything that I can't be told by the game being played right there on the field or by the number of World Series rings on my fingers."

Hawk On Batting: "I was fortunate, in that I played in an era where a single was treated the same as a triple."

Hawk On Umpiring: "Umpiring, to me, it's there to keep the game from not being about two teams playing the same sport but about keeping the game of baseball beautiful, and that's what so many of these umps just aren't doing any more. I remember back when I was with the Washington Senators, I had a teammate, a catcher by the name of Bob Chance, 'Take A Chance' Chance we called him, and he put it best when he said 'Ken,' he said 'Ken, there's two guys behind home plate, and only one of us is the catcher.' And that right there, that to me was the whole idea, the whole essence of what these umpires ought to be doing, not yelling at players for throwing inside or warning managers not to have their guys sliding spikes up or throwing behind guys or whatever these players are gonna do, because you have got to let the games be played. Nowadays, guy throws in, plunks a guy or two, maybe gives a guy a few days off with a fastball up and in, he's gonna find himself out of the game, and it's just the way the game is played now, especially with all these specialized bullpens, and some of these umps just have a problem with that, with the way our guys are running this organization, with the team Kenny and now Rick have put together. I think we've seen that time and again, based on how these games have been called and what pitches our guys aren't getting, which to me is a shame because it puts the focus away from those 90 feet and right back there into the batter's box - which is where the batter stands, as it has been for my five decades in the game."

Hawk Joins The Band: Following his release from the Kansas City Athletics in 1967, and prior to joining the Boston Red Sox, Harrelson briefly worked security for The Who on their tour supporting Herman's Hermits. "With the exception of a golf trip I took in 1974 with Ned Martin and Carl Yastrzemski," Hawk later recalled, "those were probably the best six days of my life."

Hawk Writes The Book: In 1979, Knopf Publishing commissioned a Harrelson autobiography. Sources close to the project say the book was delivered on time, but deemed "too abstract" for the reading public of the day. The manuscript was ultimately shelved, though pieces of it would later be adapted into the movies Blue Velvet and Predator 2, while its working title would be used in tribute by indie rock band Yo La Tengo for their 2006 LP I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass.

Hawk Gets '86'd: The entire starting lineup from Hawk's brief but magical tenure as general manager reunites - for the first time since his expertly-assembled team and staff defeated the Mets in the 1986 World Series - to reflect on how his vision for the team, and his view of the sport, changed both fans and franchise alike forever. And, it should go without saying, for the better.

Hawk Talk: Fans and friends discuss their favorites among Harrelson's many colorful sayings and catchphrases, such as "can o' corn," "put it on the board," and "63 seconds of sad, petulant silence."

Hawk's Hardware: An overview of Harrelson's numerous awards, including five local Emmys, two Illinois Sportscaster of the Year awards, and a special Lifetime Achievement Award for "Worst Broadcaster Ever."

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Andrew Reilly is a former writer of the Beachwood's White Sox Report. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:22 AM | Permalink

July 15, 2013

The [Monday] Papers

"Jenny McCarthy will officially be joining The View as co-host, Barbara Walters confirmed Monday on the ABC talk show," the Los Angeles Times reports.

"Though she launched her own little-watched talk show on VH1 earlier this year, McCarthy has remained in the spotlight in recent years mostly due to her support for the discredited theory that childhood vaccines cause autism."

And let's not forget about the Daily Jenny. I'm dying to know how things worked out for Jordan.

Burke Bank Skank
"A Northwest Side bank whose owners have long ties to City Hall is suing Ald. Edward M. Burke's son and daughter-in-law for more than $600,000 over a failed development on the Southwest Side," the Sun-Times reports.

"Belmont Bank's owners include zoning attorney James Banks, a nephew of retired Ald. William Banks; trucking magnate Fred B. Barbara, a friend of former Mayor Richard M. Daley who got rich hauling the city's garbage, and former state Sen. James DeLeo.

"The bank says Edward M. Burke Jr., an assistant chief deputy to Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, and his wife Jacqueline Burke, who works for the clout-heavy United Neighborhood Organization, are on the hook for a loan they and two other couples got from the bank four years ago to redevelop the shuttered Froedtert Malt factory in the 2100 block of West 51st Place."

*

Reminder: "UNO already operates five publicly funded charter schools in Burke's ward. But his ties to the group go beyond that. Burke's daughter-in-law, Jacqueline Burke, has worked for UNO since 2009, according to UNO payroll records."

Just to show the tangled strands beneath the sauce.

Men's Darehouse
Well, if he can't guarantee I'm gonna like the way I look, I'm not buying.

Kirk Work
Kirk Dillard opens his gubernatorial campaign as the Beachwood Bookmakers' favorite to win the Republican nomination, but also with a whopper.

This Just In
Obama Explains The Difference Between His Spying And Bush's Spying.

The Cub Factor
A midseason mailbag to answer all your Jumbo questions.

U-Verse Sucks
Disadvantages the disabled.

The Weekend In Chicago Rock
Including: Bob Dylan, Robert Plant, Wilco, My Morning Jacket, The Meditations, and Fatoumata Diawara.

Robert Loerzel has the spectacular photos from the Diawara show.

Her Journey To The Loop's Last Remaining Bookstores
Our very own Natasha Julius goes on an adventure.

Following Frantic Frank Lane
Which lessons has Rick Hahn learned? In The White Sox Report.

SportsMonday
Will return next week.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Frantic and frank.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:45 PM | Permalink

Midseason Mailbag

Answering your burning questions.

Dear Cub Factor: Will a new Jumbotron help the Cubs win?

No more than a new Jumbo Dog with Jumbo Coke and Jumbo Fries. It may generate Jumbo Dollars but those will go right into the Jumbo Pockets of the Ricketts' family, who are Jumbo Jagoffs.

Dear Cub Factor: Why so sour? Isn't the farm system loaded with talent now?

Not as much talent as the St. Louis Cardinals' farm system - and they didn't have to put a century of utter futility to do build it. It's not as if other teams aren't also drafting hot prospects - or that the Cubs haven't played this game before.

Dear Cub Factor: I miss Marty Gangler. Why isn't he writing this column anymore?

Marty says he's too busy with his kids these days to keep up with the Cubs, but our review of surveillance tapes suggest three other possibilities:

A) Marty is rumored to have been spotted in the Far East making sure nobody hassles The Hoff

B) Marty is traipsing through the backyards of Tampa for a new documentary, Searching For Uncle Lou

C) Marty is on Zambrano meltdown duty for the Leigh Valley Iron Pigs

Dear Cub Factor: Will Starlin Castro eventually be moved to another position?

No, but he'll be leading off for the defending world champion St. Louis Cardinals in the 2016 World Series.

Dear Cub Factor: Is Alfonso Soriano Hall of Fame material?

Sure. He's got plenty of time to catch Herman Long.

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Week in Review: The Cubs went 4-3 for the week but the Cardinals made them seem silly, even if they only gained a split in that series. Worse, the Cubs failed to trade Kevin Gregg at his highest value and Matt Garza will stub his toe any day now and go out for the season. Get moving, Theo.

Week in Preview: The Cubs send Travis Wood to the All-Star Game; the rest of the team gets a four-day rest before traveling to Colorado later in the week for the start of a West Coast Circus Trip. They will be appreciably worse upon return, thanks to The Plan.

The Second Basemen Report: Darwin Barney ended the first half of the season with a slash line of .222/.272/.344 and ranks 42nd in WAR. His great glove? Ranks 21st in DWAR.

Wishing Upon A Starlin: Orel Hershiser said on ESPN's broadcast of the Cubs-Cardinals game Sunday night that Darwin Barney is the infield captain who calls all the plays because Starlin Castro is just too "immature" to do it now - though Cubs management hopes he can do it in the future. We here at The Cub Factor are starting to believe more and more that Javy Baez will be the one doing it in the future. Castro's contract? Only lasts until just about the the time the Cubs will be ready to compete.

The Legend of Dioner Navarro: We will miss him. He's the only fun guy on this team.

Deserted Cubs: The Cubs have four in Arizona next week and here's hoping Bob Brenly gets to call Tony Campana with a walk-off steal of home.

Bullpen Bullshit: Last week we wrote: "Kevin Gregg blew a save on Sunday so the Cubs have already failed to trade him at his highest value."

This week, guess what?

Ameritrade Stock Pick of the Week: Shares of the St. Louis Cardinals continue to trade higher - and will for the foreseeable future.

Sveum's Shadow: Dale Sveum's Five O'Clock Shadow receded to 9 p.m. because he knows his job at the factory is safe at least until they finish modernizing the plant.

Shark Tank: Jeff Samardzija, who just gave up nine runs on nine hits including four home runs in 4 2/3 innings, hopes the Cubs find more consistency. And less irony.

Jumbotron Preview: 5,700 square feet of pretending to compromise on 300 square feet.

Kubs Kalender: Wait 'til next year 2015 2016 2017.

Over/Under: Hours until Matt Garza gets injured before traded: 3.

Beachwood Sabermetrics: A complex algorithm performed by The Cub Factor staff using all historical data made available by Major League Baseball has determined that the Cubs still do not have a core.

The Cub Factor: Unlike Alfonso Soriano, you can catch 'em all!

The White Sox Report: Know the enemy.

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The Cub Factor welcomes your comments.

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1. From Marty Gangler:

C'mon Rhodes, I'm actually trying to find as much information as I can on former Cub All-Star Bryan LaHair. He plays for the Softbank Hawks - where they release the condoms when they win!

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:30 PM | Permalink

Obama Explains The Difference Between His Spying And Bush's Spying

I'm a good guy. He wasn't.

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Previously:
* FAQ: What You Need To Know About The NSA's Surveillance Programs

* NSA: Responding To This FOIA Would Help "Our Adversaries"

* Fact-Check: The NSA And 9/11

* The NSA's Black Hole: 5 Things We Still Don't Know About The Agency's Snooping

* Defenders Of NSA Surveillance Citing Chicago Case Omit Most Of Mumbai Plotter's Story

* Obama's War On Truth And Transparency

* ProPublica's Guide To The Best Stories On The Growing Surveillance State

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:20 PM | Permalink

Following Frantic Frank Lane

The bad news was the "dreaded lead-off walk" that Matt Thornton yielded in the bottom of the 11th inning yesterday. Of course, the good news was the color of his Sox - Red and not White.

In case you missed it, Thornton strode to the mound in a 2-2 game in sun-drenched Oakland for his first appearance since 2005 in anything but a White Sox uniform. Matt walked the first hitter who advanced to third on a sacrifice and ground out. Thornton walked the next guy before Oakland's Josh Donaldson delivered a soft single to right field, sending Thornton and his new Boston teammates down to defeat.

After making a team-record 512 relief appearances for the White Sox and giving up fewer hits than innings pitched in six of his eight seasons with the South Siders, Thornton was the first to be traded last week in what is rumored to be an active period for general manager Rick Hahn before the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline.

Thornton had a great run with the White Sox. In 2008 his WHIP (total of walks and hits divided by innings pitched) was less than one. That's very, very good. He averaged as many as 12 strikeouts per nine innings (2010) and he walked fewer than four batters per nine innings. He was an American League All-Star in 2010.

However, at age 36 without a contract beyond this season, Thornton's most valuable asset is the arm he throws with, his left. If Thornton were a right-hander, he would have attracted little interest.

Since Thornton most probably will pitch for the Red Sox only until the end of the season before becoming a free agent, the Sox weren't able to get much for him - Boston's 11th-rated prospect, outfielder Brandon Jacobs. Apparently the 10th-round draft choice has some pop - 47 homers in five minor league seasons - but he's also struck out as many as 128 times in a season.

"[Jacobs's] performances since 2011 have left something to be desired," noted Red Sox blog Over The Monster after the trade.

While Hahn ostensibly is a busy guy these days, fielding calls from contending teams, he pales in comparison to another Sox general manager. Retired Tribune sportswriter Bob Vanderberg has written an entertaining book, Frantic Frank Lane, tracing the frenetic career of a man who bartered players for five major league teams, the White Sox, Indians, Cardinals, A's and Brewers, between 1948 and 1972. In total, Lane engineered more than 500 transactions.

When Lane was working for the Sox (1948-55), no one would have been shocked if his phone bills approached the entire payroll of the thrift-conscious, Comiskey-owned franchise. The man rarely met a deal he didn't like.

As poorly as this season's edition of the Sox have played, Lane inherited a club that was far worse. They had played subpar .500 baseball for five seasons and would continue to do so in the first two years of Lane's tenure with the Sox. But, oh boy, that seven-year drought ended as Lane traded for players such as Billy Pierce, Minnie Minoso and Nellie Fox, who became the core of the team's success in the 1950s.

Fox and Pierce each were obtained for journeymen catchers, while Minoso was part of a three-team deal that Lane loved to create. The guy was innovative, and he was as perceptive as anyone at recognizing rising talent; the club reeled off 17 consecutive seasons where they won more than they lost.

The appendix of Vanderberg's book lists Lane's "Five Rules of Trading," which The Sporting News published in 1960. Among them are:

* "Don't cry about a bad deal. The worst thing a general manager can do after a bad deal is to stand pat."

And:

* "Never trade a young, established pitcher. When you've got a gem, keep it and protect it."

Perhaps Lane's most famous - or infamous - deal came just prior to the 1960 season when he was the GM at Cleveland. After a contentious contract negotiation with Rocky Colavito, whose movie-star looks, 42 homers and 111 RBI the previous season made him an icon on the shores of Lake Erie, Lane unceremoniously shipped Colavito to Detroit for American League batting champion Harvey Kuenn, who had hit .353 in 1959.

The outburst of rage in Cleveland registered on the Richter Scale as far away as Sandusky. As well it should have. The oft-injured Kuenn played in just 126 games in 1960 for Cleveland, batting .304. What's more, Lane traded him to San Francisco after the season, the last trade Frank made before resigning and moving on to Kansas City.

And Colavito? He wound up playing four seasons in Detroit in which he stroked 139 home runs and was amongst the league leaders in RBI.

Of course, Rick Hahn has no one of Colavito's stature to peddle. Aside from Chris Sale (see the second of Frank Lane's rules above), there isn't anyone on the present-day Sox roster whose trade would shock.

However, in this fan's opinion, Hahn might be wise to look at history in terms of what the Sox require to improve. It may not be as much as many folks think.

The past week - winning two of three in Detroit before dropping two of three against the Phillies - offers a realistic snapshot of the team's strengths and weaknesses. The four left-handed starting pitchers Jose Quintana, Sale, John Danks and Hector Santiago all turned in strong performances, giving the team a chance to win in the late innings.

None are in danger of opting for free agency any time soon. Again, see Lane's second rule. Add Jake Peavy who is signed through 2014, and - barring injury - the team could have a formidable starting five although, if you believe the rumors, Peavy's departure is imminent. Possibly Hahn shouldn't be too eager to trade Peavy because the team could begin 2014 with a solid starting five - something most teams crave.

Although the Sox lost 4-3 in ten innings yesterday, they battled back from a 3-0 deficit against Cole Hamels and Jonathan Papelbon, not exactly guys who just got called up from Triple-A. What's more, the Sox's new catcher Josh Phegley delivered a ninth-inning, two-out hit to tie the game.

Phegley can be excused for thinking he's in the wrong clubhouse, surrounded by guys who rarely come up with a big hit as he did yesterday or Thursday in Detroit where his sixth-inning grand slam turned a 3-1 deficit into a 5-3 lead. (The Sox went on to win 6-3.) That one came against Anibal Sanchez, a very tough left-hander with a 2.93 ERA.

As for weaknesses, how about some of the stupidest baserunning in memory or the inability to move runners and hit in clutch situations? And, of course, the defense has been dismal.

That's not to say that Hahn should stand pat. Frank Lane sure wouldn't have. But Lane, for the most part, was shrewd and discerning. Granted, he didn't have to consider free agency 50 years ago. However, he did have to size up what his ballclub needed to improve and where he might gain an edge in negotiating with other GMs.

One season doesn't a decade make, nor does it necessarily indicate a trend. We're not talking about the Miami Marlins or Houston Astros here. Nor even the guys across town. Rick Hahn purportedly is a bright guy who has been schooled well. We're about to find out.

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

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:36 AM | Permalink

The Weekend In Chicago Rock

You shoulda been there.

1. Robert Plant at Taste of Chicago on Friday night.


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2. Bob Dylan in Bridgeview on Friday night.

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3. Wilco and My Morning Jacket in Bridgeview on Friday night.

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4. The Meditations at the Old Town School on Saturday night as part of the Square Roots Festival.

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5. Fatoumata Diawara at the Square Roots Festival on Saturday night.

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More from each of these shows in separate posts to come this week. Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:25 AM | Permalink

July 14, 2013

Browsing The Coelacanth: My Journey To The Last Bookstores In The Loop

My daughter loves books the way only a 3-year-old can: ritualistically. Her favorites must be read to mark the major passages of her day. Nap time. Potty time. Bath time. Bed time. Right now, the undisputed alpha book is called The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater. She received this book for her birthday two weeks ago. Since then, we have read it so often she can recite the text, almost verbatim, to her appreciative collection of Hello Kitty dolls. Late Thursday evening, we received an invitation to a birthday party this weekend. When I asked my daughter what she would like to give her friend, she did not hesitate: The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater.

I mention the timing of the invitation because the Primal Amazonians among you will realize this does not allow the requisite two business days to ensure free delivery of The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater. And this is not a big book, nor a handsomely bound hardcover volume; the cost to have it shipped via express local delivery would effectively double my expense. If only, I thought, there were a place where a variety of actual, physical books had been assembled for public perusal. If only books were discrete entities that could fit neatly into a person's hand, rather than bulky events facilitated by the likes of UPS and FedEx. "Local Express Delivery" certainly seems to suggest a quantity of Big Orange Splots already exists in my general area; could I not, then, seek one out for myself?

Do you remember the coelacanth? Everyone thought it had died out in the late Cretaceous period, a time when life was a good deal scalier and less photogenic. Then a live one was found off the coast of South Africa in the 1930s, having apparently fought off the effects of evolution for some 66 million years. They called it a living fossil. Now we know the Coelacanth did in fact change and diversify over the millennia; sadly, not dramatically enough to stay relevant.

Do you remember bookstores? There was a time, in my own personal Cretaceous period, when they were more than just retail outlets. They were hubs of intellectual and cultural activity. They carried not only books, but also music made manifest with colorful packaging that could be collected and proudly displayed. Some of these stores even carried coffee that could be described with single-word modifiers. I lined up to meet Hillary Clinton at a bookstore back when it still took a village. I had a T-shirt signed by Patti Smith. I wandered through aisles in far-flung sections, just waiting until a cover caught my eye.

In those days, I was a literary grazer. But the advent of the Internet has changed me to a hunter-gatherer. I search out specific titles, compare specimens, and then strike with the full ferocity of my one-click ordering capabilities. If I feel like wandering aimlessly through fields of books, there's a library down the street. When I have the brightly-colored pages of The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater in my sights, nothing will distract my laser-like focus. Nothing save for the temporal inconvenience of warehouse distribution systems. And so, with a work appointment downtown as my excuse, I ventured out to find my analog Amazon.

The world has largely followed me off the paperback savannah, the native habitat now flooded with fast fashions. Still, I thought, a city as large and literate as Chicago must have a few booksellers unfocused enough to stock The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater. This is a venerable work of children's fiction, in print long enough to run for president, or perhaps share a ticket with Where the Wild Things Are. A quick Google Maps search revealed three likely candidates within walking distance of my ultimate destination. Three whole bookstores seemed an embarrassment of riches at the time. My first stop quickly laid that notion to rest.

Barbara's Bookstore, housed in the basement of Macy's, looks less like the bookstores of old and more like a cross between an airport kiosk and a garage sale. At one end the books taper off and are replaced by a few forlorn pieces of children's luggage exiled from the above-ground floors. Each bookcase operates like the European Union; a loose confederation of shelves, each organized by its own infernal logic, united mostly by proximity and the suggestion of an overarching theme. The only consistent principle seems to be the facing of the loudest cover. I'm pretty sure I searched the entire children's literature "section," as well as a good portion of the cookbooks before I noticed I'd gone astray. I found no evidence of The Big Orange Splot, nor any other title by Daniel Manus Pinkwater. I would've asked for help, but there was no help. There was only a small printed sign indicating that the register for Barbara's Bookstore lay "around the corner." Around the corner, down a small ramp designed to shovel me into the gaping maw of the Macy's food court. I took my leave.

Beck's Bookstore near the campus of Harold Washington College seemed a long shot as they advertise mostly textbooks. Still, it was only a block or so away from Macy's. I cannot tell you whether the Beck's mandate extends to children's literature. All I can tell you is that at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon the store was closed.

My final chance was Barnes and Noble at DePaul's Loop campus. At the very least, this place had the trappings of an actual bookstore. A densely crowded floor plan, serpentine arrangements of bookcases, actual sections labeled as such. It took me a moment to find the children's section, hidden as it was behind the coffee and juice bar. As I approached, the slow realization hit me: I had no idea where to look for The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater. Would I find it in the Toddlers area? Early readers? Picture books? What exactly defines a "picture book" anyway? Because I happen to know from the many miles I've put on the rocking chair in my daughter's room that some of those books boast fairly complex narratives in addition to pretty pictures. Somewhere between picture books and toddlers there was a section called "favorites" comprising the entire back catalog of Dr. Seuss. So, basically, one favorite split into bite-sized pieces. At least the shelves appeared to be more or less alphabetical in nature, a welcome respite after the abstract expressionism of Barbara's. But still, why was this so fucking tedious? Why couldn't I just say the name, The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater, and have its cheerful cover appear before me? I knew it was there; I could practically taste it. But somehow an impenetrable wall of practiced obscurity was keeping me from it.

Bookstores aren't designed for finding things. They are designed for getting lost in a wonderful cacophony of titles. There's something almost poetic about the fuzzy logic that keeps you happily browsing along. But when you don't browse, when you haven't needed to browse for years, the internal structures that support browsing atrophy. And when you have a rock-solid mandate from your child to deliver one specific item and only five minutes to find it before you have to get to work, those dormant structures suddenly turn on you. I could've called this piece "Browsing my Appendix," because this wild goose chase was about to go septic.

I didn't see it at first. I had meandered all the way over to young adult series in the vain hope that a perverse Barnes Enabler had stuck it there as a joke. A little voice inside my head urged me to give the toddler section one more look. It was shorter than its neighbors, tucked back slightly, with a name so long it almost didn't fit on the spine. The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater.

After work, I arrived home with the tidy Barnes and Noble bag in my hand. My husband and daughter were reading her second favorite story together, which, if you must know, is Olivia Forms a Band by Ian Falconer. I showed her what I had found, the sole artifact unearthed in an afternoon of excavation. She smiled rapturously for a moment, then looked anxiously around the room. "Mommy, I need my horsey pajamas."

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Comments welcome.

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1. From Mike Knezovich:

Liked the piece . . . next time you venture, just come a little bit farther south to Sandmeyer's on Dearborn in Printers Row. You'll be heartened.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:41 AM | Permalink

July 13, 2013

The Weekend Desk Report

If only we had Malala Day here in Chicago.

Market Update
Dream all you want; you'll have to wake up sometime.

Bad Apples
Jeez, if it takes this long to restrict the inorganic toxins in apple juice, what chance does local government have?

Lac Mega-Creep
Let's see . . . indulging in an extended game of Cover Your Ass when confronted with unspeakable carnage? No wonder this guy tried to lay low in Chicago.

Lack Mega Green
And no wonder this woman is willing to roll the dice.

Oh Blag-No-No
Finally this week, some food for thought: If Blago had gone gray gracefully, he could've negotiated a way better exit.

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The Weekend Desk Tip Line: Your personal exit visa.

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Weekend TV Special: Disability Community Disadvantaged By U-Verse.

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Curtis Black Weekend Report: Teach For America Alumni Organize 'Resistance.'

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War On Journalists Update: DOJ Moves Closer To Instituting Official Press.

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The Sound Opinions Weekend Listening Report: "Think beat poetry is all about berets and bongos? Think again. Text and Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll author Simon Warner reveals the rockin' side of the Beat Movement. And later, Jim and Greg weigh in on holy father Jay-Z's Magna Carta Holy Grail."

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The CAN TV Weekend Viewing 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.

Community Forum: Illinois Safe School Alliance

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Loren Linder, the development director of the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, discusses how schools can create safe, welcoming environments for LGBTQ youth.

Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on CAN TV21.

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Chariot Festival of India

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The Chicago Hare Krishna Temple celebrates its annual "Chariot Festival of India," a 5,000-year-old tradition.

Sunday at 9 a.m. on CAN TV21.

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The Emancipation of Health Disparities

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Certain illnesses, including cancer, disproportionately affect communities of color. Physicians and other experts join this Juneteenth town hall meeting to discuss existing health disparities and strategies for closing the gap.

Sunday at 10:30 a.m. on CAN TV21.

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Tenth Annual Supreme Court Term in Review

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Legal experts take a look at the latest Supreme Court rulings and their potential impact, including major cases addressing gay marriage, the Voting Rights Act, and affirmative action.

Sunday at noon on CAN TV21.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:16 AM | Permalink

July 12, 2013

Disability Community Disadvantaged By U-Verse

Today's Communications Daily reports that CAN TV is urging the FCC to adopt rules that assure the disability community can access local community television.

"The FCC should adopt user accessibility rules to compel AT&T's U-verse system to carry listings for public, educational and governmental (PEG) channels in order to make it easier for the disabled to find 'helpful local programming,' said the Chicago Access Corp. in an ex parte filing Wednesday. Under the name CAN TV, Chicago Access operates five noncommercial public access PEG channels that feature content for people with visual, auditory and other disabilities." (Communications Daily, 7/12/13.)

In its comment to the FCC, CAN TV notes that AT&T carries no listings for CAN TV programs on its electronic or print guides, so it is impossible for anyone from the disability community to make informed local choices. The only identification of a multitude of different channels is a generic listing for "Local Government, Education and Public Access" on U-verse Channel 99.

ADAPT of Chicago Productions (ADAPT) is a bi-weekly television series created by members of the disability community who have been educating the public about disability rights through CAN TV for 14 years. In order to reach the broadest audience, ADAPT productions are closed-captioned for the hearing impaired.

"Our whole purpose in doing the show is to communicate about accessibility issues," said Gloria Nichols, an ADAPT member. "But what good is it if people we're trying to reach can't find our program on CAN TV?"

CAN TV concludes its filing by urging the FCC to prevent discrimination against the disability community as evidenced by AT&T's U-verse product. The difficulties in finding PEG channels and programs on U-verse are demonstrated at www.keepusconnected.org.

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CAN TV's Comment To The FCC

July 10, 2013
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20554

Re: In the Matter of Accessibility of User Interfaces, and Video Programming Guides and
Menus, MB Docket No. 12-108, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FCC 13-77)

Dear Commissioners:

Chicago Access Corporation ("CAN TV") files this letter in response to the above mentioned Notice regarding the accessibility of user interfaces, and video programming guides and menus.

CAN TV administers five local, noncommercial public, educational and government (PEG) access channels in Chicago. Thousands of local groups and residents create an average of 140 new, original hours of programming each week for cablecast on CAN TV, more than Chicago's local broadcast stations combined.

CAN TV's channels reach over a million potential viewers in 493,000 cabled homes within the Chicago City limits. CAN TV channels are carried on Comcast, RCN, and WOW systems as well as on AT&T U-verse.

CAN TV carries Chicagoland Radio Information Service (CRIS Radio) for listeners with a wide range of disabilities. This is a valuable service for the visually impaired as local volunteers read to the listening audience from a variety of local news sources.

Carriage of this service on CANTV enables CRIS to reach more people via cable television.

A locally produced disability rights program on CAN TV is ADAPT of Chicago Productions (ADAPT.) This bi-weekly television series has been cablecast on CAN TV for 14 years, with local, original programming created by a group of Chicago residents who are themselves disabled.

Producers, hosts and crew for ADAPT are committed to creating programming of and by the disability community and to educating the public about disabilities. The director is quadriplegic, the technical director is legally blind, and members have a range of other physical and developmental disabilities.

In order to reach the broadest audience, ADAPT productions are closed-captioned for the hearing impaired.

Past programs have featured a protest against state budget cuts affecting the disability community, how to secure housing for people with disabilities, a look at difficulties people with disabilities encounter in the workplace, and a program urging the Governor to close down an abusive nursing home.

CAN TV program titles and descriptions are carried by Comcast, RCN and WOW in Chicago. While CAN TV's program descriptions can indicate which programs are closed captioned, people with auditory disabilities are not made aware of that distinction.

Even more problematic for the disability community is that AT&T carries no listings for CAN TV programs on its electronic or print guides. AT&T's U-verse system clearly discriminates against people with disabilities who are seeking helpful local programming like ADAPT or CRIS Radio. It is impossible for anyone from the disability community to make informed local choices based on AT&T's treatment of hundreds of PEG channels via Channel 99. The only identification of a multitude of different channels is a generic listing for "Local Government, Education and Public Access."

To make matters worse, the process to find a specific program is cumbersome, technologically regressive, and discriminatory. The difficulties AT&T's U-verse system poses for the disability community are evident, as illustrated in a real-time video demo at www.keepusconnected.org.

The visually impaired are clearly disadvantaged on AT&T's U-verse system in terms of finding and benefiting from CAN TV local channels and programming compared to how simple it is to simply remember the right channel number in order to locate programming of interest on other channels.

On March 6, 2009, ADAPT member, Gloria Nichols, filed comments addressed to Ms. Marlene Dortch in relation to CSR-8126, ACM et al, MB Docket No. 09-13. In those comments, ADAPT urged the FCC to grant the ACM et al Petition in that docket. But the FCC has failed to act on that Petition to date.

With the FCC's commitment to localism and diversity, we urge a response to this enquiry that affirmatively acts on behalf of and in service to the disability community. Carriage of program titles and descriptions in an accessible manner is an essential link for the local community. We urge the Commission to adopt rules that prevent the kind of discrimination against the disability community evidenced by AT&T's U-verse product.

Thank you for your consideration of these comments.

Sincerely,

Barbara Popovic
Executive Director

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DISCLOSURE: Barbara Popovic is a friend and landlord to Beachwood editor & publisher Steve Rhodes.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:06 PM | Permalink

The [Friday] Papers

In yesterday's post about the implausible but routinely repeated claim that CPS officials have cut central office spending by $600 million since Rahm Emanuel came into office, I wrote that "I hope someone who isn't me goes back and adds up all the claimed cuts, because I'm certain it won't take long until we're dealing with negative numbers."

Well, guess what?

Reader Eric Skalinder did the hard work and found that "[I]n the last six years CPS has completely eliminated central office 5 times over."

Click through to the post and see Skalinder's work appended as a comment.

Mell Smells
"A felon convicted of bribing a public official says he and Ald. Richard Mell (33rd) were silent partners in the Joliet landfill that spurred a nasty family feud with Mell's son-in-law, then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, according to allegations in a lawsuit obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.

"Mell has long denied having any financial interest in the landfill, which sold for $17.7 million in 2008."

Indeed. Last week, at his retirement press conference, Mell reiterated that he "never made a dime from that landfill."

"But the lawsuit filed by Robert Pruim Sr. and his son, Robert Jr., in Will County Circuit Court, accuses the powerful alderman of helping create the business, taking a one-third ownership stake and then conspiring to defraud the Pruims out of nearly $3.7 million when the sale occurred," the Sun-Times reports.

Click through for the dirty details - which are, of course, just allegations at this point.

*

Reminder:

"Mell has long denied having any financial interest in the landfill deal, which was the genesis of a public dispute with the now-imprisoned Blagojevich. Blagojevich temporarily shut down the landfill in 2005, accusing [distant relative Frank] Schmidt of accepting illegal waste and of promoting his ties to Mell as a way to get business.

"An infuriated Mell lashed out, telling the Chicago Sun-Times at the time that a key Blagojevich adviser - the late Christopher G. Kelly - had been trading plum state government appointments for $50,000 campaign contributions. Mell later publicly apologized after Kelly threatened legal action.

"Blagojevich was concerned that Mell had a hidden financial interest in the landfill. As governor, he launched a legislative assault on the landfill industry and pushed legislation that would specifically ban relatives of the governor from having any financial stake in landfills or receiving any 'personal financial benefit' from waste-disposal operators."

Mell's retaliatory allegations against Blagojevich are often cited as the spark of the investigation that eventually led to the former governor's imprisonment, though it's clearly not all the feds had to go on.

Debbie Downer
Deb Mell (D-Mell) is set to replace her father in the city council as soon as these folks finish performing in a cute little play written by Rahm Emanuel.

*

"State Rep. Deb Mell is not guaranteed the job because her last name is Deb Mell," Rahm said earlier this week. "And State Rep. Deb Mell is not excluded from the job because her last name is Mell."

Sounds fair. Oh wait, he's still talking.

"State Rep. Deb Mell is not guaranteed a job in City Council because she would be the first [openly] lesbian [alderman] or because she had breast cancer. But, she's not excluded because she would be the first lesbian and the first woman, as [far as] I know, that has breast cancer. I remind all of you [that] she was endorsed by both papers when she ran for state rep."

Wait. Did Rahm just pimp Deb Mell's breast cancer as a qualification for getting dad's old not reading $1.2 billion pieces of legislation and burying legislation at the mayor's behest despite being supported by the majority of council colleagues?

Why yes, he did.

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State Rep. Deb Mell is not guaranteed a job in the city council because she would vote Yes to all of Rahm's proposals without question. But she's not excluded because she would vote Yes to all of Rahm's proposals without question.

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Notice how Rahm repeats that "State Rep." assignation so we think of her as a serious legislator and not a political brat whose daddy gave her the job.

*

"Barring a last-minute change-of-heart, the chairman of the City Council's Hispanic Caucus said Thursday's he's decided not to send a letter to Mayor Rahm Emanuel urging the mayor to appoint a Hispanic replacement for retiring Ald. Richard Mell (33rd)," the Sun-Times reports.

"Ald. Danny Solis (25th) said the eight Hispanic aldermen who comprise the [Hispanic] caucus' executive committee are evenly divided on the issue of pressuring the mayor, given their respect for Dick Mell and their admiration for his daughter, State Rep. Deb Mell (D-Chicago), who remains the odds-on favorite to fill her father's City Council seat.

"'I'm one of the four who doesn't think it's a good idea, considering who Dick Mell is, the qualifications of Deb Mell, the fact the 33rd ward is 51 percent Hispanic and the fact we'll be getting a Hispanic state representative to replace Deb Mell' if the mayor chooses her to replace her retiring father, Solis said."

Let's look at Solis's criteria:

1. Considering who Dick Mell is. A machine hack? Check.

2. The qualifications of Deb Mell. Daughter of a machine hack? Check.

3. A ward that is 51 percent Hispanic. Apparently not Hispanic enough! Check.

4. The fact that we'll be getting a Hispanic legislator to replace Deb Mell in the statehouse. In other words, the deal's already been struck. Check!

*

Excised passage from my Chicago magazine story about the city council:

"Emanuel also offered his support to Ald. Danny Solis in his fight against immigration rights activist and former juvenile probation officer Cuahutemoc Morfin, even though Solis, long a dependable Daley ally, supported Chico for mayor, which was considered much less of a sin than supporting the progressive in the race, Miguel del Valle. Solis held on to his seat."

And his zoning committee chairmanship, though not his credibility.

Redflex Finds Green Down Under
"A speed camera company that has been banned from operating in Chicago after a corruption scandal has been contracted by the [New South Wales] government," the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

"The spread of mobile speed camera coverage in NSW will increase seven-fold by the start of next year, following the award of a $33 million contract to two firms on Thursday.

"The contract is a boost to the fortunes of Redflex, one of the two speed camera operators, which has been embroiled in a corruption inquiry in the U.S."

*

Remember, in Australia, taxpayer money swirls the other way down the drain.

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Illinois Slayer
Low, slow and bad-ass.

Meet The Chicago Gay Hockey Association
Let them wash your wheels.

The Week In Chicago Rock
Including: Megadeth, Black Label Society, Newsted Godsnake, Mother Mother, Delta Spirit, Xavier Rudd, Fat Hot and Anberlin.

The Printers Ball
Spudnik and spritzers. In Local Book Notes.

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Hope, Change, Reform, Transparency, Accountability

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Play well.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:13 AM | Permalink

Local Book Notes: Diaspora Daughters And The Printers Ball

1. The Diaspora Daughters Speak.

Afro-Latino(a)s/Caribbeans are challenged to reconcile what are seen as conflicting identities. The Guild Literary Complex sheds poetic light on the topic with The Diaspora Daughters Speak, the July installment of our monthly bilingual poetry series Palabra Pura, curated by Sandra Posados and featuring poets Yolanda Nieves and Maya Emma Nnena Ruth Odim (Maya Odim).

Issues of identity are at the core of the Afro-Latino(a)/Caribbean experience in the United States. Sometimes seen by Latino(a)s as a novelty, Afro-Latino(a)s get asked, 'Where did you learn to speak Spanish?

Meanwhile, whites confuse black Latino(a)s for being African American. And if an Afro-Latino(a) is light skinned the reality of African roots is not recognized by many family members.

July's Palabra Pura encourages Latino(a)s to redress this conflict. As curator Posado notes, "We are 'Latino(a)' regardless of where we fall on the color spectrum. In their own words, these empowered, self-affirming, educated Afro-Latinas/Caribbean poets [will] share their professional and personal experiences of living with a changing, often contested identity in a racialized society."

Sandra Posadas is an educator, artist/illustrator, and actress. She holds a B.A. from Roosevelt University and an M.A. in bilingual/bicultural Education from DePaul University. Posadas has performed across the city, most notably as part of The Brown Girls' Chronicles.

Yolanda Nieves is an educator, writer, and performer. Nieves is an Assistant Professor in English at Wilbur Wright College Chicago and the creative director of The Vida Bella Ensemble. She won the American Educational Research Association's 2010 Arts-Based Dissertation of the Year Award for the performance-text, The Brown Girls' Chronicles: Puerto Rican Women & Resilience.

Maya Emma Nnena Ruth Odim (Maya Odim) is an artist, educator, and author of a collection of poems titled: Planets, Gourds and Traveling Staffs. As a facilitator and co-facilitator she has experience giving creative writing, poetry and spoken word workshops, as well as Latin Dance and Break Dance workshops, in many spaces in the city of Chicago and the state of Connecticut.

The Diaspora Daughters Speak takes place Wednesday, July 17, 2013, at 7:30 p.m. at La Bruquena restaurant, 2726 W. Division. The program will be spoken in English and Spanish. Admission is free.

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2. Trip & Return.

The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, announces the ninth annual Printers Ball: Trip & Return.

Spudnik Press Cooperative, one of Chicago's premier independent printmaking houses, is taking the reins for this year's program from the Poetry Foundation, the event's founding organizer.

Printers Ball is the city's largest annual celebration of literary and printmaking culture.

The Printers Ball theme for 2013 is "Trip & Return," a playful reference to a letterpress printing term and an acknowledgment of the return to discussion of the craft.

This daytime event will host letterpress and screen-printing demonstrations, discussions by well-known print and poster makers, readings from local poets, and performances from Elastic Arts Foundation musicians throughout the many art and design spaces within the Hubbard Street Lofts. Local food trucks and beverage vendors will also be on hand.

As is the tradition, over 400 magazines, literary organizations and design studios from across the country will provide complimentary magazines and ephemera to all attendees of this free event.

"Spudnik has grown and our studio has integrated more printing processes, including letterpress and offset printing," says Angee Lennard, founder and executive director of Spudnik Press Cooperative. "With Printers Ball celebrating the materiality of the literary arts, we're an ideal organization to address how literature and printmaking intrinsically speak to and support each other."

Founded in 2004 by Poetry associate editor Fred Sasaki, the first Printers Ball was held at the now-shuttered HotHouse, later moving to various venues throughout Chicago, including the Double Door, the Zhou B Center, the Museum of Contemporary Art and Columbia College Chicago.

Along the way, it has grown from a local celebration to an event with presenters from all over the United States and drawing attendees - last year more than 4,000 - from across the city and beyond.

Printers Ball events include:

* Artist and writer Tony Fitzpatrick in conversation with Fred Sasaki

* Print-shop demonstrations with Brad Vetter and Alex Valentine

* Free jazz performances curated by Elastic Arts Foundation with Michael Zerang, Fred Longberg-Holm, Paul Giallorenzo and Aaron Zarzutzki

* Readings and broadsides curated by Woodland Pattern with poets Anne Kingsbury, Lewis Freedman and Anna Vitale

* Poetics Theater with the Danny's Reading Series

* Conversations with Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum and Detroit Wood Type Co.

* Reading and conversation with writer and visual artist Mary Burger

* Risograph demos with SPARE

* Workshops on surrealist poetry, bookmaking and bookbinding

* Summer spritzers by Hornswaggler Arts and WBC-Goose Island Root Beer and Spicy Ginger courtesy of the WIT Beverage Company

* Sweet treats by Ice3 Ice Cream and savory snacks by 5411 Empanadas

* On-the-spot tote bag screen printing by Spudnik Press Cooperative

* Read/Write Library's BiblioTreka Mobile Library

Plus books, magazines and ephemera from all over! Visit printersball.org for a full schedule.

Curators include Sarah Dodson, MAKE Magazine; Nell Taylor, Read/Write Library; Luke Daly, arrow as aarow and Spudnik Press Cooperative; Adrienne Miller and Angee Lennard, Spudnik Press Cooperative; Chad Kouri, The Post Family; Elisabeth Hass, Simple Honest Work; Alison Kleiman, DePaul Art Museum; and Corrina Lesser, Chicago Humanities Festival.

Printers Ball 2013 is presented in partnership with Spudnik Press Cooperative Printshop and Annex, Platform, Johalla Projects, The Post Family, Simple Honest Work, and IAEOU. Made possible by the Poetry Foundation and Poetry magazine.

Sponsors include WIT Beverage and French Paper.

This year's annual celebration of literary culture and printmaking will be held on Saturday, July 27, at the Hubbard Street Lofts, 1821 West Hubbard Street, from noon to 6 p.m.

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3. Goodbye, O'Gara.

"Chicago's oldest bookstore will close in August, and with it goes an unbroken line of a master booksellers training apprentices that stretches back more than a century," DNAinfo Chicago reports.

"Doug Wilson, the owner and apprentice-less master at O'Gara and Wilson, will close the Hyde Park bookstore that has occupied 57th Street since at least 1913 - and move to Indiana. The business - which once was called Woodworth's - actually dates to 1882, but it has had different locations in the city.

"We love Hyde Park and we're sad to be going but it's necessitated by very simple economics," Wilson said.

"Wilson said he cut every expense he could in the economic recession - including his own salary - and can now no longer afford to stay in Hyde Park. He is moving to the town where he now lives, Chesterton, Ind., where rents are cheaper and taxes are lower."

Click through to learn more about the history and color of the shop.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:33 AM | Permalink

Meet The Chicago Gay Hockey Association

"Currently, the CGHA fields three teams named the Red Liners. The Johnny's Red Liners play in the C3 division at Johnny's Ice House, the North Shore Red Liners play in the recreational division at the Northbrook Park District rink and the Outdoor Red Liners play in the Chicago Outdoor Hockey League."


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Saturday Fundraiser!

wash.jpg

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At the Hockey City Classic last February, Soldier Field.

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On Twitter.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:03 AM | Permalink

The Week In Chicago Rock

You shoulda been there.

1. Megadeth in Rosemont on Tuesday night.


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2. Zakk Wylde of Black Label Society in Rosemont on Tuesday night.

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3. Newsted Godsnake in Rosemont on Tuesday night.

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4. Mother Mother at Reggies on Wednesday night.

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5. Delta Spirit at Taste of Chicago on Wednesday.

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6. Xavier Rudd at Lincoln Hall on Thursday night.

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7. Fat Hot at Subterranean on Tuesday night.

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8. Anberlin at Subterranean on Monday night.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:17 AM | Permalink

Beachwood Photo Booth: Illinois Slayer

Low, slow and bad-ass.

slayer.jpg(ENLARGE FOR PROPER VIEWING)

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You can buy it!

TITLE: "Slayer"

MEDIUM: black and white digital photography

SIZE: 11x14 inches, borderless

PAPER: acid-free, Fuji archival paper

FINISH: lustre (cross between matte and glossy)

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All prints will be signed by the artist, Helene Smith. (Copyright, 2013)

Unmatted, unframed.

This print is available in other sizes (including photo card) by request.

Your print will be shipped in a protective, sturdy mailer.

All items are shipped via First Class USPS, within the United States, though I ship internationally, as well.

Please, allow up to 2 weeks for processing your order (though it will often arrive earlier!). I generally process each print when the customer places the order, although I do have a few prints on hand and will ship sooner if your photo is in stock. If you are in a rush, let me know and I will try to accommodate you.

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Purchase through Etsy.

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Previously:
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Man Grilling
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Yum Yum Donuts
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Father's Day
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Vintage Airmaster
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Time
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Window Shade

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More Chicago photos from Helene Smith.

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Helene will also be showing her work at Vintage Garage Chicago on July 21 in Uptown. This year's theme: Rockabilly and Tiki.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:43 AM | Permalink

July 11, 2013

The [Thursday] Papers

"Ousted Metra CEO Alex Clifford implicated at least two board members in a patronage complaint shortly before he began negotiating a generous severance package with the commuter rail system, officials publicly acknowledged for the first time Wednesday," the Tribune reports.

"Those board members - whom Metra has refused to name - also voted on the $718,000 severance deal despite Clifford's threats to file a lawsuit if he could not reach a financial settlement with the agency."

So instead of reporting the allegations to the proper authorities, like, say, the U.S. attorney's office, Clifford used them to extort a better severance package.

"But members of the Regional Transportation Authority did not press Metra for additional details about those revelations during a Wednesday hearing, even though the agency oversees Metra and had advertised its meeting as an opportunity to force the commuter rail agency to drop the veil of secrecy shrouding the controversial deal."

In other words, just make it go away. Nice job, RTA!

*

"Clifford also has signaled willingness to turn over a copy of an eight-page memorandum in which he outlines the patronage allegations. The memo, which he gave to the board in April, prompted settlement talks with the agency. Clifford resigned in June after agreeing to a severance package worth more than three times his annual salary."

Well-played, Alex.

*

"The RTA board did not ask Clifford to testify and showed little interest in inviting him to a future meeting, as it extracted few new details about his severance package Wednesday and demanded few detailed explanations about the patronage allegations.

"I'm satisfied with what I heard," Director John Frega said.

You and 16 others. The rest of us not so much.

*

"Frega was among the few RTA or Metra officials willing to speak with reporters Wednesday after the meeting. The majority left the hearing room from a side door, leaving in their wake several new concerns about the severance package and Clifford's allegations."

Maybe they had a train to catch.

As if.

*

"Metra officials said they forwarded the allegations to the state inspector general's office, but its lawyers have refused to release the document to the Tribune following a Freedom of Information Act request."

*

Pretty much everybody behaved - and is still behaving - badly in this imbroglio (journalese, I know, but Iike it).

"It's unclear how many claims Clifford made, but Gagliardo told RTA officials that one involved a conversation with state lawmakers about minority hiring and the other concerned contracts for a $93 million railroad bridge on the South Side known as the Englewood Flyover.

"The first allegation stemmed from a discussion Clifford had in March 2012 with Latino lawmakers in Springfield. The legislators questioned him about the percentage of Hispanics working at Metra and asked him to hire a more diverse staff, O'Halloran told the RTA board.

"State Rep. Luis Arroyo, D-Chicago, attended the meeting but denied he recommended people for Metra jobs. He told the Tribune that he routinely questions state agencies about minority hiring but said he never asked any political favors from Clifford. Arroyo said he has not been contacted by the inspector general's office."

Well, that seems reasonable.

"'He's really grasping for straws if that's what he's saying,' said Arroyo, whose daughter was hired at Metra after he raised concerns about Latino hiring under past CEO Phil Pagano."

Oh.

"He's crying over spilled milk."

Arroyo's daughter's spilled milk.

"He lost his job because he had no personality."

Like, the kind of personality that wouldn't cry over spilled milk.

Well, to be fair, Arroyo added "and wasn't a good manager."

But one gets the idea that wasn't the primary reason - though one also gets the idea it was true.

*

"House Speaker Michael Madigan is denying he pressured ousted Metra CEO Alex Clifford to give an employee a raise, according to a statement released this morning," the Tribune reports separately.

"Madigan said he recommended in March 2012 that the employee, Patrick Ward, receive a merit adjustment based on his education level and job performance.'

In other words, he pressured Clifford into giving Ward a raise.

*

In Illinois, admitting something is the same as a denial because everyone knows you did it and nobody cares.

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CPS Math Out Of This World
Another debunked claim from the land of make-believe.

Bucktown Beating Update
"Marcy Cruz (28), the woman who drove the getaway car on the night Irish exchange student Natasha McShane and her friend Stacy Jurich were beaten, has pleaded guilty and been sentenced to 22-years in prison," IrishCentral reports, relying largely on this Tribune report.

Meet The Chicago Knights Robotics Team
Including Lady Skittles and Sir Drill Bit.

Bieber Boo-Boo
The Blackhawks have issued a statement about Justin Bieber traipsing on their logo in the locker room the other day.

I'm not sure the Blackhawks realize they can now sell strands of that logo on eBay for more money than they probably get from their TV deal. Also: Tours. Bieber Stood Here.

RiRi's Pee Wee Fee
"Rihanna is apologizing to the students and staff of Barrington High School with a check for $5,000 after showing up late for a special appearance back in March," BET reports.

That's less money than the cost of the pen she used to sign this deal.

Rat Patrol
"A 43-year-old northwest suburban man was in jail on a $100,000 bond Thursday, charged with stabbing and running over a giant inflatable rat that was apparently blocking his access to a building in the Loop in late April," the Sun-Times reports.

The rat was treated for minor injuries and released back into the general population.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Inflatable.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:07 AM | Permalink

CPS Claim Of Central Office Cuts Defies Earthbound Mathematics, Physics

"In every statement on the budget this year, CPS has stated that it 'has cut Central Office spending by nearly $600 million since 2011,' adding that the reductions helped keep budget problems away from schools," Sarah Karp reports for Catalyst. "It is a phenomenal claim."

Indeed. There was just $600 million worth of unnecessary spending laying around? Even for a City of Chicago agency, that seems implausible - especially given that every administration claims round after round of Central Office cuts to show that A) they are financially responsible stewards, unlike the previous administration, which also claimed cuts to set it apart from the previous reckless administration, which also claimed cuts to set it apart from the previous administration, and so on and so on until you tumble into a time/space vortex taking us back to the reckless Central Office of God; and B) to show that management is doing its part - unlike, oh, let's say teachers.

Or, as Karp writes: "For one, hundreds of millions in cuts have already been made, year after year, by one administration after another."

I hope someone who isn't me goes back and adds up all the claimed cuts, because I'm certain it won't take long until we're dealing with negative numbers. In other words, all the claims of Central Office cuts over the years probably trump the entire CPS budget pretty quickly.

But this is CPS make-believe land, which is a quasi-quantum place where the rules of earthbound mathematics do not apply.

"[T]he entire central office budget for the current 2012-2013 fiscal year is just $233 million, up from about $200 million in 2010," Karp reports.

How do you cut $600 million from $200 million? Just make the claim 400 million times!

But it turns out Central Office spending is actually up $33 million since 2010.

Now, CPS claims it has cut $600 million from the Central Office since 2011, so maybe in between 2010 and 2011 the budget went up by $633 million. That's the only way CPS's claim can be true.

But the story gets even more extraordinary.

"The biggest addition since that time was the Office of Portfolio, created in 2011 to authorize and manage new schools.

"The portfolio office went from an initial budget of $5 million to $88 million in 2013, and has now been incorporated into a new Office of Innovation."

How is an increase in Central Office spending a cut in Central Office spending? By redefining the terms!

"Asked about the $600 million in savings, CPS spokespeople said they referred to central office in the broadest sense and that it includes debt service, operations, citywide units of personnel who work in more than one school, and programs," Karp reports.

So when they said Central Office, they didn't mean Central Office. They meant "Central Office."

*

"In their most recent statement on the budget, CPS revised the wording to say 'central office directed spending.' They also say the total was rounded up and that actual savings were about $573 million."

The generally agreed-upon rules of rounding would dictate that 573 be rounded down up to 570 575 instead of up to 600, but here's the important part:

"Even so, the figure is hard to substantiate."

You mean CPS can't just give us a list with each cut?

No.

Well, they had to add up the numbers somehow!

Yes.

Well, let's see the list they used to add up the numbers to 573.

They don't have one.

*

"Direct spending in schools - including teacher and principal salaries, supplies and the like - accounts for nearly 70 percent of the CPS budget and has increased by about 4 percent since 2010. Meanwhile, CPS' overall budget has gone down by about 2 percent.

"To reduce non-school spending by $573 million would require cuts of 40 percent in non-school-related spending.

"A Catalyst Chicago analysis of the CPS budget shows that virtually every area that is not considered a direct school expense has posted an increase in spending."

So not only has there not been $573 million in cuts, but there has actually been an increase in spending by the (redefined) Central Office.

"It just makes me laugh," says Wendy Katten, who runs the parent advocacy group Raise Your Hand.

Through her tears, I'm sure.

*

By the way, I'll take Katten any day of the week and twice on Sunday in any dispute in which Becky Carroll unironically calls her a liar.

*

Back to Karp's report:

"CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll admits it would be impossible to find evidence of the reductions in the official budget book. 'It is not the way it works,' she says."

Oh. Well, how does it work?

We just make the numbers up.

Oh.

I mean . . .

"Along with cuts, there has also been increased spending on other things, she says. Some of those things are contractual obligations, such as salaries, health care and pensions."

Okay. And?

"In other cases, the district saved money in one area, but paid more for something else - and therefore, Carroll says, the reduction is not reflected in a line item."

Okay. And?

"For example, Carroll says CPS saved $5 million when district officials renegotiated the milk contract. But because other food expenses went up, it doesn't look like a net savings."

Um, okay.

"Still, she insists that if the milk contract weren't renegotiated, the district would be in the hole for $5 million more."

First, you can renegotiate a milk contract but not a parking meter lease?

Second, all you did was squeeze a vendor who already has a sweetheart deal. That's not cutting $5 million from the Central Office, no matter how you define it.

"'It is $600 million less than would have shown up on our balance sheet had we not done what we did,' Carroll says."

I don't know how $5 million in milk contract savings turned into $600 million, but I thought the "cuts" wouldn't show up on a balance sheet because that wasn't how it worked. Except, apparently, when it is.

*

Finally, Karp notes:

"CPS officials have said they believe they will be able to balance the budget by draining one-time reserves, which were created by Cook County doling out property tax revenue earlier than expected (though it seems like this move would help with cash-flow rather than create reserves)."

Right. This just means they got the money sooner - not that they got more money. In other words, they didn't drain one-time reserves, they just sped up the billing the cycle.

*

Every administration tries to find "cuts" and efficiencies. It's part of the job. Nonetheless, the facts seem to show that Central Office spending has actually increased during Rahm's tenure as mayor/police chief/schools superintendent (he's saving us money by doing all three jobs for the salary of just one.) By Carroll's logic, you could say the budget would have increased even more if the administration hadn't done things like renegotiate the milk contract, but that still doesn't make CPS's claims add up - unless you not only redefine "Central Office" but "savings," "cuts" and "expenditures."

-

Comments welcome.

-

1. From Eric Skalinder:

Thanks for your wonderful article. It was both amusing and disgusting. You said this, "I hope someone who isn't me goes back and adds up all the claimed cuts, because I'm certain it won't take long until we're dealing with negative numbers."

So, I did a little digging.

Since 2008, CPS has claimed $1.3 BILLION in central office budget cuts. That's based on an annual budget of somewhere between $5 billion and $6 billion.

To think of it another way, CPS has lowered total budget expenses at least 22% by making cuts to central office. Central office accounts for only about 5% of the overall CPS budget.

Or, think of it like this: in the last six years CPS has completely eliminated central office 5 times over.

Still, according to CPS, "The General Operating Fund ended FY2012 with a surplus of $328 million, which compared favorably with the budgeted deficit of $241 million." Amazing!

The rough numbers I came up with are based on a quick and dirty review of CPS budgets, press releases, and mainstream news media reports.

FY2013: $600M
FY2012: $107M
FY2011: $161M
FY2010: $100M
FY2009: $90M
FY2008: $114M

It was only six years ago the Board of Education said this in the FY2007 final budget report: "CPS ended last fiscal year in strong financial condition, with revenues moderately higher and expenditures less than budgeted."

Oh, wait. That's not old news. CPS finished the most recent school year with a surplus of $344 million. And then closed 50 schools and laid off thousands of teachers because they couldn't afford them.

Here are the supporting links, except for 2013 which is all over the current news media.

2012-2013
2011-2012
2010-2011
2009-2010
2008-2009
2007-2008

Thanks again for the great article.

In a subsequent e-mail thread, Eric added:

Obviously, the $600M this year is an outlier and a result of redefining what they mean by "central office" like you mention in your article.

Even if you eliminate current projections and view CPS claims of budget cuts over the last 5 years in the most generous and forgiving light, the Board still claims to have reduced the full CPS budget by 10% since 2008 by making cuts in the 5% portion of that budget that is set aside for central office. Eliminating the entirety of the central office twice in the last five years is quite a claim. And yet the major media outlets still parrot fictional CPS press releases as if they are meaningful. I'm not sure which bothers me more.

2. From Carmin Ballou:

I don't suppose Rahm would allow the IG to see if these claims are substantiated either?

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:17 AM | Permalink

Meet The Chicago Knights Robotics Team

"It's time to rethink the way our children learn. It's all a bit overwhelming, attempting to restructure the age-old classroom model, particularly in a system as bogged down in bureaucratic red tape as education. This month, however, we packed up our things and toured the country to find out how educational institutions are adopting new models to help reinvent the learning process - rather than sitting idly by, waiting for the system to change around them. Naturally, technology is playing a huge role in that shift, moving from models of teaching to models of learning, where students can explore, express themselves and learn at their own speed."


*

"The Chicago Knights are a cosmopolitan borderless all-city high school team that is committed to making a difference in the lives of the people we meet," the group's website says.

"Our members represent every demographic you can find in Chicago. Our students have been educated in home, public, private, parochial, and alternative academic settings. Our student and adult members hail from all over the Chicago area.

"We all meet on the Chicago campus of Illinois Institute of Technology for the common goal of building the best students we can as we learn how to build better robots."

-

Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:11 AM | Permalink

July 10, 2013

The [Wednesday] Papers

"Gov. Pat Quinn said today he is suspending state lawmakers' pay until they come up with a comprehensive solution to the state's public pension mess, a dramatic gesture that is likely to increase tension with the General Assembly and the fellow Democrats who lead it," the Tribune reports.

Quinn also threatened to send lawmakers to bed without their per diem.

*

"The move comes a day after the Democratic-controlled legislature overrode Quinn's rewrite of a concealed carry gun bill amid criticism that he wouldn't engage in meaningful negotiations over the controversial measure."

After all, "Because I said so, that's why" is not effective parenting.

*

Let's look in on the action in Springfield live via BeachwoodCam:

*

House speaker Michael Madigan responded to the move saying he hopes it works, while Senate president John Cullerton called it political grandstanding.

So they're playing good child, bad child.

*

Gubernatorial candidate Bill Daley called Quinn's move a media sideshow - in a statement released to the media.

*

Gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner called Quinn's move a political stunt that can't replace bold leadership like his.

*

Possible gubernatorial candidate Lisa Madigan said she's still "seriously considering" her reaction to Quinn's move.

-

Spenzo's Chicago
Straight outta Murray Park.

Green River Blues
Runs brown with red.

Trib Talk
"Tribune said Wednesday, July 10, it plans to split its newspaper operations into a separate entity, freeing the recently reorganized company to focus on its more lucrative broadcasting business," The Street (among many others) reports.

"Moving to separate our publishing and broadcasting assets into two distinct companies will bring single-minded attention to the journalistic standards, advertising partnerships and digital prospects of our iconic newspapers, while also enabling us to take advantage of the operational and strategic opportunities created by the significant scale we are building in broadcasting," said Peter Liguori, who was named Tribune CEO in January. "In addition, the separation is designed to allow each company to maximize its flexibility and competitiveness in a rapidly changing media environment."

If that's too hard to penetrate, let me put it for you this way: Each Tribune newspaper will now come with this attractive Post-It note stuck to its front page.

Clifford The Big Metra Dog
"Ex-Metra CEO Alex Clifford threatened to sue Metra whether his contract was renewed or not and initially demanded even more than the $700,000-plus deal he got to leave Metra, RTA board members were told Wednesday," the Sun-Times reports.

Only the no-snitch code kept him from being reported for extortion.

Divvy City
I hate those fucking bikes already.

News Flash
Arsenio Hall Still Not Funny.

Chicago Firm Moving San Diego's Books
And not all the locals there are happy about it.

Buzzkill Ahead
Just when the season was getting good.

-

The Beachwood Tip Line: A red river runs through it.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:13 PM | Permalink

Arsenio Hall Still Isn't Funny

We're not saying he's so unwatchable you can't even enjoy him ironically, but we're also not not saying that.


-

Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:19 AM | Permalink

Chicago Firm Moving San Diego's Books

"Moving into San Diego's new downtown library is a big job, painstakingly amassing 1.2 million items under the new signature dome over five weeks, costing $450,000," the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

"The company selected for the move is based in Chicago, not San Diego. The movers were flown here and are staying at the Town & Country resort."

And that has some in San Diego hopping mad. Watch:


-

The Chicago firm, Hallett Movers, says on its website that it "wrote the book when it come to library moving."

Here's their in-house library moving video:

*

Here's Hallett on library and office carpet replacement:

*

Hallett is also woman-owned, and a union shop (Teamsters Loal 705). More:

*

Valerie Brocato, quoted in the San Diego story, also shows up in a 2001 University of Chicago alumni magazine article as an exhibitions and preservation manager in Special Collections at the library there.

-

Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:41 AM | Permalink

Spenzo's Chicago

Straight outta Murray Park.


-

On Being From Chicago.

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Started From The Bottom.

-

Powerful.

-

In Spenzo We Trust.

-

Windy City feat. Araina Lee.

-

Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:40 AM | Permalink

Fantasy Fix: Buzzkill Ahead?

As we approach the MLB All-Star break early next week, there again are rumors flying that the league is set to hand out suspensions related to the Biogenesis scandal. Of course, we have heard reports before that the league was this/close to suspending several players, and it still hasn't happened.

If the suspensions do come soon, they may serve as a bit of a mood killer for the second half of what has been a pretty fun season so far.

The ongoing greatness of Miguel Cabrera, the arrival of Yasiel "The Natural" Puig, the 13-0 start by Max Scherzer, the 300-strikeout pace of Yu Darvish, the long-awaited revival of the Pittsburgh Pirates and a second career no-hitter from the once luckless Homer Bailey (whose first name for years suggested how much other teams hit off him, rather than how little) - all of this and more has made for a great half-season.

I don't know how heavily the suspensions will loom over the months to come, but some of the feats listed above helped me forget about the Biogenesis scandal in recent weeks.

Maybe other good things are in store for the second half.

Here are my fairly obvious first-half MVPs:

Batters: Miguel Cabrera.

With 28 HRs, 90 RBI, 68 runs scored and 125 hits, he is somehow well ahead of the pace his 2012 season.

Only Chris Davis, who has an unexpected 33 HRs, seem to stand between Miggy and an unthinkable second consecutive Triple Crown.

Pitchers: Max Scherzer.

The Tigers are 5 1/2 games off of having the best record in baseball, which is kind of shocking, considering they have both Cabrera and Scherzer, who is 13-0.

Scherzer has not been dominant in every category - a 3.06 ERA proves he's not unhittable - but any time a starter gets close to a 30-win pace for the season in this age of five-man rotations and over-eager bullpen usage, it's something worth celebrating.

Expert Wire
* Bleacher Report lists the first half's biggest shocks, including the epic fail of Starlin Castro.

* SI.com tallies who's hurting this week.

* CBSSports.com has the latest on the Derek Jeter watch.

-

Dan O'Shea is our man in fantasyland. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:16 AM | Permalink

Chicagoetry: Green River Blues

Green River Blues

"Chicago's a real goddam crazy place. Nobody's safe in the streets." - Lucky Luciano

I work
the green river

to earn
my nut

as a docent
of the installation
called "Chicago Skyline."

I sing
the green river . . .

and then
it turns brown,

as green does
when mixed

with red,
here the blood

of our children
of color,

confined
to the Gazas
of the south
and west sides,

desperados of death
accumulating arms

from The Man.

He's white.

Think of him
safely ensconced
somewhere
in White Sinai,

in a subdivision
called "Moral High Grounds,"

comforted
that his addictions
remain secret
while illegal,

impressed
that the children
are performing
his genocide

for him.

His cousin,
the gun-runner,
also safely ensconced,

building a fortune
through the loopholes,

also
impressed.

Let me give
some witness:

in my decades
living in
"marginal neighborhoods,"

twenty years
on the border

between the Latin Kings
and the Insane Unknowns,

I saw a child
point his Glock
and TURN AWAY

as he emptied
his chamber
down my block.

Then a child
and a cop
square off

within feet
of each other,

pointing their pistols
and refusing
to stand down.

By grace,
after moments
like years,

the child
finally relents.

The Warriors
have NO FEAR

of the cops.

No jobs, no fathers,
no hope,

no fear.

While teaching art
to this population,

a bright
young man

said to me:

"Why
should I
get a job

when I can stand
on a corner

and make
three thousand dollars

a night?"

I had no riposte.

The Man
gets his coke,
his son
his heroin.

Prohibition
is the Cover
and it is
a kind

of brutal genius.

Simply refuse
to acknowledge
our country's

world-leading appetite
for illegal drugs

and the destruction wreaked
under the filthy guise

of Moral Authority.

In the Twenties,
"No Snitching"
was called
"Chicago Amnesia."

And slaughter reigned
until Prohibition
was repealed.

Fat Chance:

it's too perfect
a set-up
for The Man.

He gets
his drugs,
his genocide

and his
Moral Authority.

And the river
runs brown.

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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.

-

More Tindall:

* Chicagoetry: The Book

* Ready To Rock: The Music

* Kindled Tindall: The Novel

* The Viral Video: The Match Game Dance

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:30 AM | Permalink

July 9, 2013

The [Tuesday] Papers

"Illinois lawmakers returned to the State Capitol today to consider Gov. Pat Quinn's changes to a bill authorizing the concealed carrying of firearms in the state," the Tribune reports.

"Sponsoring Rep. Brandon Phelps, a Harrisburg Democrat, has accused Quinn of using the governor's amendatory veto powers to tighten the restrictions as a move aimed at bolstering political support for re-election among city and suburban voters who support gun-control."

Phelps is right - and so is Quinn.

The basic media narrative has Quinn's concealed carry rewrite as just the latest of his ham-handed moves, but even if the General Assembly rejects his changes wholesale, he'll have put himself on the righteous side of the issue and his legislative opponents (of both parties) on the side of endangering your safety.

"I fought for tougher, more sensible restrictions and if you re-elect me I'll continue that fight!" he can say.

After all, is it really unreasonable to require bars to post signs stating they allow concealed guns instead of requiring bars to post signs only if they don't? Why not make the presumption go the other way?

Rahm's Trust Is A Bust
"When Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the Chicago Infrastructure Trust, he billed it as 'the breakout strategy for the city of Chicago,' a nonprofit agency that's supposed to lure private investment for public projects the city could not afford," the Tribune reports.

"More than a year later, however, the organization has yet to break ground on any ventures. Its first initiative, to make city buildings and schools more energy-efficient, is behind schedule."

And to think that establishing the Trust was a matter of such urgency that there was no time to think through and establish reasonable transparency and accountability measures, much less actually understand how it would work.

*

"In response to questions about delays tied to the trust's energy-efficiency project, dubbed Retrofit Chicago, Emanuel spokesman Tom Alexander said it was important the trust move forward cautiously so it 'does things right.'"

Maybe if the administration saw it important to movie cautiously to do things right in establishing the Trust, instead of crashing ahead recklessly in order to make a PR splash, the Trust wouldn't be having the problems getting even the basics down.

*

"One aspect of that initiative has raised questions about the agency's role because it is seeking private financing for construction projects that have already been completed and paid for by Chicago Public Schools. The agency's delay in obtaining that financing has prompted finger-pointing between the trust and CPS, which by now had expected to receive nearly $40 million from the trust that has yet to materialize."

I'm not sure I understand this - is the Tribune saying that CPS went ahead with projects that the Trust promised to fund without the financing actually being in place?

*

"CPS spokesman David Miranda said the district expects to recoup its lighting investment in six years through electricity savings."

That's in CPS years. In human years, that means about 10 years - if at all.

*

"The slow start has not stopped the hype surrounding Emanuel's push. Former President Bill Clinton regularly lauds the Infrastructure Trust as a trailblazing detour for American cities looking to get around a gridlocked Congress and depleted state treasuries to pay for important construction work.

"Mayor Emanuel has worked tirelessly to make investments in infrastructure, and he put together a very unique coalition here creating America's first urban infrastructure bank," Clinton said last month as he introduced the mayor before a Clinton Global Initiative speech in Chicago. "Instead of waiting - Rahm's not very good at waiting - he brought together people from all sectors of the economy in Chicago and started to work."

Maybe that's the point - that the rest of America thinks Rahm has an innovative infrastructure bank here that is signature Rahm, the result if his impatience at waiting for action and results.

Except that saying you've done something is not the same as actually doing it.

*

"Even as Clinton sat by Emanuel's side for a national cable television interview last month to say the trust had made the mayor a pioneer on infrastructure funding, the nonprofit remained a one-man operation in search of permanent office space.

"[Stephen] Beitler is the trust's lone full-time employee, and he has leaned on the pro bono services of Chicago financial, legal and public relations firms to get the organization up and running. In between consulting with potential investors and poring over potential bid documents, Beitler said he has juggled everything from installing computer software to replacing the trust's hacked website."

That's the vaunted Trust? Hard to square that with this:

"The mayor's office continues to provide the trust the support it needs to do its work. The Retrofit Chicago project is moving forward and will be implemented soon, saving tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer money and providing a great example of the potential the trust has to offer," Alexander said in an email. "Throughout the process of implementing the trust, we received feedback that we should be careful and deliberate as we implement the projects, which is exactly what is happening."

It doesn't sound like that's what is exactly happening at all. (But as long as the Tribune allows public officials to send in manufactured quotes over e-mail, they can't question them on their bullshit.)

*

"Proclaiming that 'our needs are bigger than what Washington and Springfield can do anymore,' Emanuel created the trust with a mission to secure upfront cash the city didn't have to do public works projects."

But, as the Trib points out, CPS had no problem doing the lighting work without private cash upfront. And that makes it unlikely it will get reimbursed.

"Trust board member David Hoffman, a former city inspector general, said he was 'somewhat dubious' about the wisdom of seeking investors to pay for completed projects, saying it was 'very different from getting private funding to help you do something you otherwise couldn't do.'"

*

"Trust chairman James Bell, a retired Boeing executive, did not return calls seeking comment. Neither did two other board members, Ald. John Pope, 10th, and Chicago Federation of Labor President Jorge Ramirez. Trust member Diana Ferguson could not be reached."

Transparency and accountability. Just saying the words doesn't make them so.

*

"A mayoral aide said there are plenty of city initiatives where the directive out of Emanuel's fifth-floor office is, 'Get it done now.' But the aide said the mayor has allowed for the trust's projects to develop 'organically.'"

Like I said, the urgency was getting a talking point passed, not actually doing the work.

*

"But another source familiar with the trust's work said Emanuel and his top lieutenants also did not grasp how complex putting together the first project would be, and thus, thought private investment would have been secured sooner than what was realistic."

And yet, those who did realize how complicated Trust deals would be were derided when it was before the council.

"This might be the greatest idea on earth," Ald. Brendan Reilly said before voting against the plan at a finance committee meeting. "I just have so many questions, I haven't been able to figure out if it is."

Rahm reportedly read Reilly the riot act after that.

And yet . . .

"Complicating matters, the source said, was that the Emanuel administration often has been uncertain and changed course on what the terms of an investment deal should look like, contributing to delays in releasing a bid proposal."

Rahm never measures twice to saw once; he just saws and saws and saws and makes up the measurements as he goes.

-

Previously:
* The [Infrastructure Bank] Papers (Or Smells Like Teen Parking Meters)

* Infrastructure Bank Cirtics Have A new Villain And His Name Is Joe "Proco" Moreno

* 11 More Things About Rahm's Bank

-

The Political Odds
Governor Daley? Governor Madigan? Governor Rauner?

We've got the odds.

-

Chimps, Footlongs & China
Plus: Interstellar Pizza Overdrive and Subway Sandwich Science.

In a very special Random Food Report.

-

The Beachwood Tip Line: Bustin' makes you feel good.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:53 AM | Permalink

Random Food Report: Chimps, Footlongs & China

The Random Food Report maintains a theory that human beings are little more than dressed-up primates. What we call the Chimps In Pants (CHIPS) Theory holds, in part, that people make food choices based on subconscious factors, such as "evolutionary pressures to select energy-dense foods to assure nutrition and survival," behavioral and emotional motivations, and other influencers like socioeconomic background. All of which can, and usually do, gang up to confuse our decision-making process and hinder our ability to make smart food choices. (In general, CHIPS posits that people are dumb. But let's focus on food-related issues for now.)

Not that we have anything against chimps, mind you. Our short, hairy brethren have a leg up on us clothed apes in a variety of ways: for example, when was the last time you saw a monkey let a banana go bad? Now ask yourself: how many brown, mushy, disgusting bananas have you thrown away in the past month? Exactly.

How Many Calories in That Footlong?
Say you are a high-school student and you just polished off a delicious lunch with your buddies at Subway. You devoured a 6" Big Philly Cheesesteak, a bag of Baked Lay's Sour Cream & Onion chips, and a Coke. (Just pretend you have friends. For that matter, pretend teenagers do things like eat lunch face-to-face rather than posting pictures of half-eaten subs to Tumblr . . . while driving.) How many calories did you take in? (Remember to factor in that the chips were Baked®.) Give up? That was 900 calories, Junior, or roughly half of your suggested daily intake of 2,000, a number "used for the basis of general nutrition advice" as Subway likes to describe the USDA Dietary Guidelines.

But your hypothetical adolescent self can take comfort: you are not alone. Most of your peers do a similarly bad job guessing how much they just ate. In a study of fast-food restaurant customers in New England, Harvard researchers found that two thirds of respondents underestimated the calories in their meal, and one in four were off "by at least 500 calories." Subway diners, possibly misled by the chain's better-for-you marketing message, missed by a mile: compared to their counterparts eating at McDonald's, adults and adolescents guesstimated lower by 20 to 25 percent. (Adolescents averaged 500 calories on the low side.)

Note: the researchers excluded outliers, such as the 41 people who ate a meal over 4,000 calories. Just as well. We imagine those folks don't care about counting calories anyway.

The Food Industry's Take On CHIPS: "We'd rather consumers not think at all." (Or: They Really Are Out to Get You)
Herb Sorenson, Ph.D., of Shopper Scientist LLC, hosted a webinar last month for shopper marketing professionals titled "Training Shoppers to Buy" to help consumer goods companies leverage subconscious thinking to improve sales. Herb's stated goal is to impart the importance of the "automation" of human behavior to retail marketers. If you missed the webinar you can book a speaking engagement with Herb so you can hear first-hand how you're screwed.

All Your Pork Are Belong To Us
The impending sale of Virginia-based pork producer Smithfield Foods to Chinese meat company Shuanghui International has caught the attention of a diverse cross-section of the food industry in the U.S., from food safety experts and disturbed consumer rights groups to senators concerned with the implications of the deal. Given the country's very spotty record, worries about the prospect of China's largest meat processor acquiring such a major player don't seem too misplaced.

Smithfield is the world's largest pork processor and hog producer and among the top ten American food companies. (The company generated $11.1 billion in sales in 2011, good for ninth, just behind General Mills.) If the deal is finalized, it will represent the largest takeover ever - for $7.1 billion, including debt - of a U.S. company by a Chinese rival. Following the sale, Smithfield's brands, such as Armour, Eckrich, and Farmland, would be folded into Shuanghui's lines of pasteurized, chilled, and retorted meat products.

Why all the hoopla? The popular perception is that the arrangement with Shuanghui will not only result in increased pork exports to China, but will also implicitly involve the Chinese company in the U.S. food market. Most of the objections with that, those stated publicly anyway, stem from the fear that Shuanghui will sell unsafe imported meat in America marketed under the Smithfield banner. That said, we believe Americans' unease (both in general and in the government especially) with China's growing prominence on the global stage lies at the heart of the matter.

Thus we suspect that people just don't like the idea for fuzzier reasons than the questions Smithfield's sale raises regarding "American food safety, security and supply", as posed by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) when she called for a hearing by the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.

For those unfamiliar with the SCANF, the committee's jurisdiction extends to 17 issues, ranging from animal industry and diseases to food stamp programs and home economics. (We hope the recommended coursework for the latter imparts more useful skills than what we learned in high school.)

Not to be left out of the party, a House subcommittee (on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats) recently deemed food exports from China as, you guessed it, "an emerging threat" in a recent hearing on "The Threat of China's Unsafe Consumables."

Comments from the public sector in China upon announcement of the acquisition attempted to allay any concerns. Commerce Ministry spokesman Shen Danyang, quoted in a Reuters article, declared that "China's quality management of pork imports and Shuanghui's purchase of Smithfield are totally unrelated to U.S. food safety."

The message is that Shuanghui saw an opportunity to supply more pork to the burgeoning market in China, which already buys 12 percent of all U.S. pork, amounting to $886 million annually, despite a 3 percent dip in 2012.

To put that number in context, Mexico purchases $1.13 billion and sales to Japan amount to $1.99 billion.

Smithfield CEO Larry Pope chimed in on the debate: "That's sort of like exporting ice to the Eskimos. It's a dumb idea."

We don't know how to take Larry's comment. Eskimos don't eat ice. You know, apart from Slurpees. (And don't Eskimos prefer the term Inuit?)

Everyone loves Slurpees, by the way - 7-Eleven sells 156 million every year - so that doesn't count.

(Fun Slurpee® fact, according to the 7-Eleven corporate "Fun Facts" web page: "The most Slurpee® beverages are sold in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in Canada, followed by Detroit, Mich." Apparently, the plural of Slurpee is "Slurpee beverages" and the abbreviation for Michigan is "Mich," not "MI" as many believe. Also: Winnipeg is in Canada.)

We can only hope that in the course of the acquisition, Shuanghui execs resist the urge to meddle with any of Smithfield's recipes used for products sold in the U.S. We like our Potted Meat free of additives that might taint the delicious flavor, such as clenbuterol, a fat-burning chemical which is illegal in the U.S. and EU but used in livestock elsewhere to produce leaner meats.

(In 2011, Chinese authorities seized 18 tons of pig feed suspected to contain clenbuterol.) Leave out the dead maggots and bacteria too.

Appetizers, Sides, and Other Errata
* Pizza Hut doesn't deliver to Mars, so NASA just awarded a $125,000 grant to Systems & Materials Research Corporation to solve the interstellar pizza problem by printing edible 3-D pies.

* Beginning in June, some 24-hour McDonald's have started offering breakfast from midnight to 4 a.m., at which point normal breakfast hours begin. Yes, this means you can (if you live near one of the "undisclosed locations") order a Sausage McMuffin at 2 a.m. Our question: Why now? Why did it take so long for the Golden Arches to figure this out? The only plausible theory we could come up with is that it wasn't easy to develop a training program that would enable staff to deal with belligerent, hammered customers

* The Treasury Department has announced that the liquor industry can (if they feel like it) "use labels that include serving size, servings per container, calories, carbohydrates, protein and fat per serving." We imagine consumers would much rather see labels that impart more useful information, such as "Servings per blackout."

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Luke Chen is our chief (pseudononymous) Food Report correspondent. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:20 AM | Permalink

July 8, 2013

The [Monday] Papers

I'm working on a lot of different posts right now so Papers today or not, be patient. Resources are stretched thin here at Beachwood HQ.

Meanwhile:

* Beachwood Photo Booth: Window Shade.

* The Cub Factor: Rotten To The Core.

* The Weekend In Chicago Rock: Wavefront vs. Marilyn Manson.

* The White Sox Report: Waiting For Zapata.

* SportsMonday: Cubs On A Relative Roll.

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The Weekend Desk Report
"In more than a dozen classified rulings, the nation's surveillance court has created a secret body of law giving the National Security Agency the power to amass vast collections of data on Americans while pursuing not only terrorism suspects, but also people possibly involved in nuclear proliferation, espionage and cyberattacks, officials say," the New York Times reports.

"The rulings, some nearly 100 pages long, reveal that the court has taken on a much more expansive role by regularly assessing broad constitutional questions and establishing important judicial precedents, with almost no public scrutiny, according to current and former officials familiar with the court's classified decisions.

"The 11-member Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, known as the FISA court, was once mostly focused on approving case-by-case wiretapping orders. But since major changes in legislation and greater judicial oversight of intelligence operations were instituted six years ago, it has quietly become almost a parallel Supreme Court, serving as the ultimate arbiter on surveillance issues and delivering opinions that will most likely shape intelligence practices for years to come, the officials said."

*

We all have Edward Snowden to thanks for spurring reporting like this. And this. And this.

*

Europe owes Snowden a debt, too; and yet they reject him.

*

"Attempts by the US to close down intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden's asylum options are strengthening his case to seek a safe harbour outside of Russia, legal experts claim," the Guardian reports.

"Snowden, who is believed to be in the transit area of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, has received provisional offers of asylum from Nicaragua and Venezuela, and last night Bolivia also offered him sanctuary. He has applied to at least six other countries, says the Wikileaks organization providing legal support.

"Michael Bochenek, director of law and policy at Amnesty International, said the American government's actions were bolstering Snowden's case. He said claims that the US had sought to reroute the plane of Bolivia's president, Evo Morales, amid reports that the fugitive former analyst for the National Security Agency was on board, and suggestions that vice-president Joe Biden had phoned the Ecuadorean leader, Rafael Correa, to block asylum for Snowden, carried serious implications.

"'Interfering with the right to seek asylum is a serious problem in international law,' Bochenek said. 'It is further evidence that he [Snowden] has a well-founded fear of persecution. This will be relevant to any state when considering an application. International law says that somebody who fears persecution should not be returned to that country.'"

*

See also: NSA Recruitment Drive Goes Horribly Wrong.

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The Weekend Desk Tip Line: You only live twice.

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The Sound Opinions Weekend Listening Report: "Danish electro-pop act Indians is live in the Sound Opinions studio. Plus, Black Sabbath are back. Jim and Greg review the nineteenth studio album from the original masters of darkness."

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The CAN TV Weekend Viewing 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.

Aerial Dance Chicago's Gravity

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Catch the performance of Aerial Dance Chicago's newest work from the best seats in your house.

Sunday at 9 a.m. on CAN TV21.

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Human Rights Awards

7-1-HumanRightsAwards.jpg

The Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression's 40th Annual Human Rights Awards acknowledge individuals who "have made outstanding contributions to the cause of justice and human rights."

Sunday at 10:30 a.m. on CAN TV21.

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Heritage Matters: Women, Immigration & Culture

7-1-HeritageMatters.jpg

Immigrant women are more likely to become citizens or be employed, yet they also are more likely to live in poverty. The Chicago Cultural Alliance hosts a look at the origins of these differences and the experiences of immigrant women from different cultures.

Sunday at 12:30 p.m. on CAN TV21.

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Taste of Theatre: The Circle

7-1-TheCircle.jpg

Local playwright Tina Lifford previews her new play The Circle, sharing a scene from the work and its origins. In writing the play, Lifford drew from more than 100 interviews conducted with women about living positively despite life's difficulties.

Sunday at 1:30 p.m. on CAN TV19.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:21 PM | Permalink

Rotten To The Core

The Cub Factor Alert System has just issued a 24-hour severe Cubbie Occurence Warning: It's raining out and Matt Garza could slip and twist an ankle, or bump a funny bone, or break an arm, so can we just put him to sleep until he's traded?

If you see Garza in your area, do not approach. He's a Cub and therefore dangerous to himself and those around him. Call the authorities and let them take him down with a tranquilizer gun.

And if you see Jed or Theo, tell them to not get cute. Trying to drive a bidding war is not advisable given the likelihood that Garza will sneeze and break a rib. Trade him before I get to the end of this column or you'll be sorry.

Week in Review: The Cubs lost two of three to the A's and won two of three from the Pirates. It's hard to care.

Week in Preview: The Cubs have a Monday night makeup game against the White Sox at the Cell, then the Angels come in for two and the Cardinals come in for four before the All-Star break. It's hard to care.

The Second Basemen Report: The Second Basemen Report has become The Darwin Barney Report due to Dale Sveum's unwillingness to give some starts there to Luis Valbuena and use Cody Ransom more at third. It's times like this we miss Uncle Lou.

After all, Darwin Barney went 1-for-21 for the week (he's now 6-for-his-last-43) and left another nine men on base. In fact, he's 0-for-his-last-18 and left six men on base in his last two games alone. He lost another 19 more points on his OBP - now at .270 - this week.

Wishing Upon A Starlin: Last week we wrote: "Is it really possible that a single day off can get a player out of a slump? We here at The Cub Factor are skeptical, especially given Cubs TV analyst Jim Deshaies' observation that Starlin Castro's approach at the plate hasn't changed a single bit since said day off. We're thinking the (temporary) antidote was simply give games against Brewer and Mariner pitching."

Guess what? Castro went 6-for-25 against A's and Pirates pitching while leaving 10 men on base. His OBP (.268) is worse than Barney's - and he commits errors to boot. Not sure who is really the best player right now - which is sad.

"[H]is overall baseball IQ has been questioned almost daily as he often looks lost or uninterested," Jon Greenberg writes for ESPNChicago.com.

See also: Castro Admits Pick-Off Was Not A Smart Play.

It's true Castro is still young, but players younger than him show more baseball smarts every day in America - both in and out of the major leagues. In your fourth professional season, you should show acquired intelligence and honed instincts, not the fundamentals of a high school player.

*

And as long as we're here, Anthony Rizzo went 2-for-20 on the week and is now hitting .242 with a .329 OBP. So there's your core - and dibs on any variation of The Three Stooges to come about.

The Legend of Dioner Navarro: Add another chapter.

*

"Navarro is 6-for-14 as a pinch hitter this season with two home runs and four RBIs," AP notes.

Deserted Cubs: Just as we predicted, Tony Campana was called up by the Diamondbacks. He notched three hits in 10 at-bats plus a walk and two stolen bases before being sent back down as a victim of the numbers game.

After all, the Diamondbacks are leading their division and shuffling the deck to cope with a decimated bullpen.

The Cubs, on the other hand, prefer Julio Borbon.

Bullpen Bullshit: Kevin Gregg blew a save on Sunday so the Cubs have already failed to trade him at his highest value.

Ameritrade Stock Pick of the Week: Trading in International Teenagers is up sharply but the smart money is sticking with its Theo And Jed Pissing On Our Legs And Calling It Rain mutual fund.

Sveum's Shadow: Dale Sveum's Five O'Clock Shadow stayed at 10 p.m. because, just like his ol' Uncle Lou, he knows he won't be punished for weeds in the garden because he's not the landlord, he just rents.

Shark Tank: After all this time, Jeff Samardzija doesn't understand that improving the team is not the goal. He is, then, dumb and impatient to win - only one of which is a virtue. Except on the Cubs.

Jumbotron Preview: Six thousand square feet of Jorge Soler never making it to the majors.

Kubs Kalender: Wait 'til next year 2015 2016 2017.

Over/Under: Hours until Matt Garza gets injured before traded: 6.

Beachwood Sabermetrics: A complex algorithm performed by The Cub Factor staff using all historical data made available by Major League Baseball has determined that international teen sensations will not save the Cubs.

The Cub Factor: Unlike Alfonso Soriano, you can catch 'em all!

The White Sox Report: Know the enemy.

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Contact The Cub Factor!

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:57 AM | Permalink

The Weekend In Chicago Rock

You shoulda been there.

1. Passafire at Reggies on Saturday night.


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2. Fatboy Slim at the Wavefront Music Festival on Montrose Beach on Saturday night.

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3. Guti at Wavefront on Saturday.

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4. Rusko at Wavefront on Saturday night.

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5. Cedric Gervais at Wavefront on Friday night.

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6. Hot Natured at Wavefront on Sunday night.

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7. Ours at Schubas on Friday night.

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8. Cosmic Gate at Wavefront on Friday night.

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9. Marilyn Manson at the Riv on Friday night.

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10. Chris Lake at Wavefront on Friday.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:08 AM | Permalink

SportsMonday: Cubs On A Relative Roll

The trade of Scott Feldman is all about Chris Bosio. The Cub pitching coach has had great success over the past few years taking mediocre pitchers such as Paul Maholm, Scott Feldman and especially Travis Wood and helping them get over the hump.

On the other side those three have found enough sustained success to become significant trade targets (the first two) and an All-Star.

And if Bosio can work his magic with now former Oriole power pitchers Jake Arrieta (assigned to Triple-A for now) and Pedro Strop (joined the Cubs and looked good Sunday in 1.1 innings of relief), Cub fans will eventually look back at last week's trade of Feldman and backup catcher Steve Clevenger as a success. Fans can do so without trying to break down whether the additional international bonus pool money part of the deal made a significant difference - or not.

(See also Roger Wallenstein's White Sox Report for a more sober view of the international teenage market than you're getting Theo sycophants.)

Still, the team wrapped up another decent week (hey, going .500, i.e. 3-3, is the definition of decent, especially for this team) by taking two of three from the league-leading Pirates over the weekend. They have now won five of their last seven series'.

In other words, while there was some unhappiness in the clubhouse in the aftermath of the Feldman deal, the Cubs still haven't made the trade that puts them under water, morale-wise.

Also, Cubs players have to know that Feldman's success was tenuous. Even though he made his Orioles debut with six innings of two-run pitching against the (punchless) White Sox in the middle of the week, his career ERA remains close to 5 (4.81), and after a good first two months this season, his ERA in June was 4.75. Like Dale Sveum likes to say, the numbers on the baseball card don't lie.

The other major development in Cubsland is that it became apparent over the weekend that management actually acquired a serviceable reliever in exchange for Carlos Marmol. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, take a bow!

Just for his contribution to two delightful wins over the Pirates over the weekend (two shutout innings in both), pitcher Matt Guerrier completely exceeded expectations for what the Cubs would be able to get for a guy they were desperate to dump.

Guerrier has been around awhile and his time with the Cubs will almost certainly follow the usual arc of a mid-level reliever - success for a little while followed by mediocrity if not a downright downfall.

But that's OK because the Cubs are clearly on a roll at this point in terms of picking up the needed relievers to keep turning over their bullpen - the key to success in that segment of the game.

All of the Cubs relievers were on display on Sunday, when the team was bailed out by Dioner Navarro's sacrifice fly in the 11th. If he hadn't finished off the game at that point, the team would have had to go eight-deep into a bullpen that had been stretched to the limit in part because starter Carlos Villanueva was limited to 69 pitches in four innings of 1-run, 3-hit ball because he's still being stretched out as a starter in his return to the rotation - to fill in Feldman's spot.

The Cubs have a makeup game with the White Sox tonight and then two games against the Angels before a four-game showdown with the Cardinals takes them into the All-Star break.

No matter how they fare, though, there will be more trades in the next few weeks. It's not clear if the team will get enough back in terms of guys who can help now so that this squad of mostly young players doesn't go in the tank down the stretch like it did last year. That's because it's not clear that management understands that if it continues to set this team up to fail, it will do damage to impressionable young players who not only need to learn how to play but also need to learn how to win.

It isn't the most compelling storyline in baseball history but it is all we have until training camp (I don't have to say for which sport do I?) begins July 24.

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Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:20 AM | Permalink

Waiting For Zapata

When you lose 27 of your last 37 games, score a paltry seven runs in nine games for your newly-named All-Star pitcher, rank next to last in all of baseball in runs scored, and field better than only two American League teams after being the best last year, you had better do something to put a positive spin on this mess of a 2013 season.

So last week Sox general manager Rick Hahn skipped town and flew to the Dominican Republic to hype the signing of a 16-year-old kid to a $1.6 million dollar contract, the most cash the franchise has ever shelled out for a Latin prospect.

"We are sure [he] will have a tremendous impact," gushed Hahn, talking about 6-foot-3, 225-pound Micker Adolfo Zapata, the second-ranked international prospect by MLB.com. (Baseball America has him at No. 9.)

Of course, that remains to be seen. Theoretically, first the kid needs to take driver's ed and Algebra II, and then we'll see whether he can catch up to a 95-mph fastball or hit the cutoff man.

The Caribbean was swarming with major league scouts and executives last week as the international signing period kicked off on Tuesday. This is MLB's answer to a decades-long free-for-all of deals - some of the unsavory variety - reminiscent of the Wild West. Under the new arrangement, each club has a limit on how much it can spend determined by the order of finish from last season. So the Sox have $2.1 million, while the Cubs' $4.5 million is second only to the Astros.

Therefore, every big league club had an opportunity last week to trot out its new future phenom. With 28 percent of rosters filled by Latin players, chances are there is a Yasiel Puig hidden somewhere in this flurry of activity, but let's face it: the majority of these signees will never see a major-league ballpark.

Let's hope Vicker Zapata isn't among the latter category.

Zapata appears to have a few things going for him. His daddy, who's only 37, played six seasons in the Expos' (now the Nationals) minor-league system and another six summers in independent leagues in the U.S. According to Baseball America, Vicker was born in the U.S. Virgin Islands (although he now lives in the Dominican), and he's fluent in English.

"I realized that he has been brought up well," said Hahn, who posed for photos with Vicker, his mom and dad, and Marco Paddy, Hahn's assistant who focuses on Latin America.

So in a country where, according to Forbes, 34 percent of the people live below the poverty level and unemployment is stuck at more than 14 percent, it appears that our Savior has led a different life than, say, former MVP Miguel Tejada - at age 37 he's having a solid season for the Royals - and others who grew up in abject poverty.

Aside from the United States, the Dominican Republic has sent more players to the major leagues - the number is approaching 600 - than any other country. The well-known - at least in baseball circles - town of San Pedro de Macoris is the birthplace of 76 big leaguers including Robinson Cano, Pedro Guerrero, Sammy Sosa, Mariano Duncan, Rico Carty, George Bell, Alfonso Soriano and Starlin Castro.

Zapata lives in San Pedro, which often is depicted as this widening of a dusty highway where there must be something in the drinking water which enables young men to hit the curveball and backhand hard grounders in the hole. But actually San Pedro de Macoris is the country's ninth largest city of almost 200,000 people, about the size of Aurora.

Sprinkled throughout the Dominican Republic are baseball academies where youngsters live and are schooled in the fundamentals of the game. Every major league team has one. Twenty years ago some of these facilities often were little more than squalid holding tanks where the young hopefuls endured crowded, insect-infested dorms in return for the dream of playing major league baseball.

Times have changed. Today most clubs spend a few million bucks on sparkling facilities which provide not only baseball instruction but also an opportunity to learn English and earn a GED. The Cubs, major perpetrators of deplorable conditions for Latin teenagers in the past, have spent as much as $8 million for a 50-acre site outside of Santo Domingo for their academy. They're not alone. Most teams are pouring money into baseball development in Latin America.

Youngsters such as Zapata play in the amateur Dominican Prospect League (DPL) which gives scouts an opportunity to peruse the talent. Because of their tender age and different culture, once they sign with a club, most remain on the island and compete in the Dominican Summer League (DSL). A similar league resides in Venezuela, a leading exporter of oil and baseball talent.

The White Sox have a few Dominican prospects in their system, although none have received the kind of notoriety accorded to Zapata because they weren't as highly-rated when they signed.

Nor are they exactly on the threshold of big league stardom. For instance, Jefferson Olacio, a 19-year-old left-handed pitcher, is 3-9 with a 6.04 ERA at single-A Kannapolis this season. And middle infielder Jeffry Santos, 20, played in the DSL for two seasons before being promoted to the Sox farm club at Bristol, Tennessee, this season, where he has three hits in 18 at-bats.

Another young prospect from the Dominican is Luis Barrera, 17, who signed a year ago with Oakland. At the time, the DPL website called him "the best hitter in the Dominican Prospect League and probably all of Latin America."

At present Barrera is hitting .187 in the DSL.

All of which tells us that Vicker Zapata just got a boatload of money which may or may not turn out to be a good deal for the White Sox. Assuming that the kid has genuine talent, he will need to stay healthy while the White Sox mentors and instructors guide him in developing his abilities.

After six months scouting Zapata, Marco Paddy said, "He is a special kid. He has an understanding of what he is doing, what he needs to improve and how to go about it."

Even if Zapata would somehow ascend to the major leagues in a meteoric rise, he wouldn't be the youngest big leaguer in history. His signing brought back the image of Joe Nuxhall, who appeared in a game with Cincinnati when he was just 15.

Rosters were depleted by World War II, and the Reds found themselves on the short end of a 13-0 score on June 10, 1944, so the kid was summoned from the bullpen to pitch the ninth inning against the Cardinals. He retired the first hitter, but two hits, five walks, and five runs followed before Nuxhall was replaced, having pitched two-thirds of an inning.

"I was pitching against seventh-, eighth-, and ninth-graders, kids 13- and 14-years-old," Nuxhall famously said later. "All of a sudden, I look up and there's Stan Musial and the likes. It was a very scary situation."

Nuxhall spent the next eight years honing his skills in the minor leagues. He returned to the majors and won 135 games over 16 years. In addition, he became the Reds' radio play-by-play announcer from 1967 until 2004.

Talking about young players, a comparative graybeard, Josh Phegley, 25, made his major league debut over the weekend for the Sox. His first two games were about the only bright aspect amidst the three-game sweep that Tampa Bay slapped on our athletes, lowering the Sox road record to a horrifying 15-31.

Phegley, who had been playing splendidly at Charlotte, had a couple of hits including a home run yesterday for the team's lone run over the weekend. He also had three RBI in the two games. Manager Robin Ventura indicated that Phegley will get plenty of playing time in place of the anemic Tyler Flowers.

The remainder of the weekend was a disaster. Despite the fact that the Rays were able to muster only a total of 11 hits on Saturday and Sunday, they were more than enough to beat the Sox 3-0 and 3-1.

The opposition drools when it hears that Chris Sale will be pitching for the Sox because the foe knows it won't take much to beat our last-place contingent; his run support of 2.56 is the worst in the major leagues.

What a shame for Sale, a truly gifted and gritty young left-hander who clearly gives 100 percent with each outing. He deserves his place among the American League All-Stars.

Whether Sale and/or Phegley will be around if and when Vicker Zapata eventually trots onto the real estate at the Cell is anyone's guess. If it does happen, few other present White Sox will be the kid's teammates. You also wonder just how many fans are going to stick around waiting for the arrival of Vicker Adolfo Zapata.

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

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1. From Ellen Davidson:

I have a different mindset regarding CWS. The challenge for me is to minimize the easy criticisms of their play, and not let the Sox "make my day." It's time to believe. They won't remain at the nadir point. Rebuilding is an essential chapter. I've been with them since the Yankee killers of the '50s. If you rebuild it, Eddie, we will come - even during the lengthy process.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:30 AM | Permalink

Beachwood Photo Booth: Window Shade

See all about it.

magazinewindowac.JPG

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Previously:
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Man Grilling
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Yum Yum Donuts
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Father's Day
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Vintage Airmaster
* Beachwood Photo Booth: Chicago Time

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More Chicago photos from Helene Smith.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:43 AM | Permalink

July 7, 2013

The Weekend Desk Report

"In more than a dozen classified rulings, the nation's surveillance court has created a secret body of law giving the National Security Agency the power to amass vast collections of data on Americans while pursuing not only terrorism suspects, but also people possibly involved in nuclear proliferation, espionage and cyberattacks, officials say," the New York Times reports.

"The rulings, some nearly 100 pages long, reveal that the court has taken on a much more expansive role by regularly assessing broad constitutional questions and establishing important judicial precedents, with almost no public scrutiny, according to current and former officials familiar with the court's classified decisions.

"The 11-member Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, known as the FISA court, was once mostly focused on approving case-by-case wiretapping orders. But since major changes in legislation and greater judicial oversight of intelligence operations were instituted six years ago, it has quietly become almost a parallel Supreme Court, serving as the ultimate arbiter on surveillance issues and delivering opinions that will most likely shape intelligence practices for years to come, the officials said."

*

We all have Edward Snowden to thanks for spurring reporting like this. And this. And this.

*

Europe owes Snowden a debt, too; and yet they reject him.

*

"Attempts by the US to close down intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden's asylum options are strengthening his case to seek a safe harbour outside of Russia, legal experts claim," the Guardian reports.

"Snowden, who is believed to be in the transit area of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, has received provisional offers of asylum from Nicaragua and Venezuela, and last night Bolivia also offered him sanctuary. He has applied to at least six other countries, says the Wikileaks organization providing legal support.

"Michael Bochenek, director of law and policy at Amnesty International, said the American government's actions were bolstering Snowden's case. He said claims that the US had sought to reroute the plane of Bolivia's president, Evo Morales, amid reports that the fugitive former analyst for the National Security Agency was on board, and suggestions that vice-president Joe Biden had phoned the Ecuadorean leader, Rafael Correa, to block asylum for Snowden, carried serious implications.

"'Interfering with the right to seek asylum is a serious problem in international law,' Bochenek said. 'It is further evidence that he [Snowden] has a well-founded fear of persecution. This will be relevant to any state when considering an application. International law says that somebody who fears persecution should not be returned to that country.'"

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See also: NSA Recruitment Drive Goes Horribly Wrong.

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The Weekend Desk Tip Line: You only live twice.

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The Sound Opinions Weekend Listening Report: "Danish electro-pop act Indians is live in the Sound Opinions studio. Plus, Black Sabbath are back. Jim and Greg review the nineteenth studio album from the original masters of darkness."

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The CAN TV Weekend Viewing 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.

Aerial Dance Chicago's Gravity

7-1-Gravity.jpg

Catch the performance of Aerial Dance Chicago's newest work from the best seats in your house.

Sunday at 9 a.m. on CAN TV21.

-

Human Rights Awards

7-1-HumanRightsAwards.jpg

The Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression's 40th Annual Human Rights Awards acknowledge individuals who "have made outstanding contributions to the cause of justice and human rights."

Sunday at 10:30 a.m. on CAN TV21.

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Heritage Matters: Women, Immigration & Culture

7-1-HeritageMatters.jpg

Immigrant women are more likely to become citizens or be employed, yet they also are more likely to live in poverty. The Chicago Cultural Alliance hosts a look at the origins of these differences and the experiences of immigrant women from different cultures.

Sunday at 12:30 p.m. on CAN TV21.

-

Taste of Theatre: The Circle

7-1-TheCircle.jpg

Local playwright Tina Lifford previews her new play The Circle, sharing a scene from the work and its origins. In writing the play, Lifford drew from more than 100 interviews conducted with women about living positively despite life's difficulties.

Sunday at 1:30 p.m. on CAN TV19.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:22 AM | Permalink

July 5, 2013

The [Friday] Papers

1. Did that lyric just go "It only hurts when I'm sober?"

Why yes, it did.

2. Typical view from downtown; if you actually live in one of those neighborhoods it looks - and sounds - less than beautiful.

Spielfogel is a top advisor to Rahm.

3. This is so funny; when an old friend interviewed Usher just as his career was ascending, he tried to get the word "usher" into every answer. Like, "Well, this record is going to usher in a new era . . . " and so on. What a drip.

4. "As the reporters James Fontanella-Khan and Joshua Chaffin pointed out in the Financial Times this week, American diplomats have for four years now waged 'an ongoing, multi-agency effort to convince the E.U. to cooperate on a wide array of intelligence gathering, from sharing airline passenger data to watering down consumer data protection legislation,'" Steve Coll writes for the New Yorker.

"Persuading democratic governments to share information on their citizens in the name of counterterrorism or any other security priority is fraught with legal and political problems in the best of circumstances."

That's a polite way of putting it. If George W. Bush were still president, we'd be talking about impeachment proceedings.

The fact that Barack Obama still gets a certain benefit of the doubt just goes to show how deep the political brainwashing got.

5. "Imagine the aircraft of the president of France being forced down in Latin America on 'suspicion' that it was carrying a political refugee to safety - and not just any refugee but someone who has provided the people of the world with proof of criminal activity on an epic scale," John Pilger writes for the Guardian.

"Imagine the response from Paris, let alone the 'international community,' as the governments of the west call themselves. To a chorus of baying indignation from Whitehall to Washington, Brussels to Madrid, heroic special forces would be dispatched to rescue their leader and, as sport, smash up the source of such flagrant international gangsterism. Editorials would cheer them on, perhaps reminding readers that this kind of piracy was exhibited by the German Reich in the 1930s.

"The forcing down of Bolivian President Evo Morales's plane - denied airspace by France, Spain and Portugal, followed by his 14-hour confinement while Austrian officials demanded to 'inspect' his aircraft for the 'fugitive' Edward Snowden - was an act of air piracy and state terrorism. It was a metaphor for the gangsterism that now rules the world and the cowardice and hypocrisy of bystanders who dare not speak its name."

Also:

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6. Human Rights Watch: Countries Should Consider Snowden's Asylum Claim Fairly.

7. American Exceptionalism: The rules apply to everyone except America.

8. "A Cook County judge has thrown out a libel lawsuit filed by former NBC-TV news reporter Amy Jacobson, who was fired in 2007 after a rival station aired a report of her in a bathing suit at the home of a person of interest in a prominent criminal case," the Tribune reports.

Jacobson's lawyer, Kathleen Zellner, says she'll appeal partly based on her argument that Jacobson wasn't a public figure at the time, which just goes to show how weak her case is because I'm not sure there's a court in the land that would rule that a television reporter wasn't a public figure.

See also: Amy Jacobson's Resumé.

And plug "Amy Jacobson" in the ol' Beachwood search box for more of what I've written in the matter, because it's too much to reproduce here.

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But how does Jacobson get fired while those involved in this NBC Chicago fiasco not only retained their jobs but got promoted?

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This is the NBC vice president who was atop the shitshow.

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This was the local handler.

9. "By exposing NSA programs like PRISM and Boundless Informant, Edward Snowden has revealed that we are not moving toward a surveillance state: we live in the heart of one," Trevor Paglen writes in Turnkey Tyranny for Creative Time Reports.

10. The Week in Chicago Rock.

Including: King's X, the Go-Gos, Polyphonic Spree, the B-52s, Kinda Good, Swing Out Sisters, Walk The Moon, Janis Ian, Hollywood Undead, Richey Lam.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Move in for the kill.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:57 AM | Permalink

The Week In Chicago Rock

You shoulda been there.

1. King's X at Reggies on Sunday night.


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2. Kinda Good at Township on Sunday night.

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3. Polyphonic Spree at Subterranean on Monday night.

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4. The Go-Go's at Ravinia on Sunday night.

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5. Swing Out Sister at the House of Blues on Tuesday night.

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6. Walk The Moon at Joe's on Tuesday night.

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7. Hollywood Undead at the House of Blues on Wednesday night.

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8. Richey Lam at the Elbo Room on Monday night.

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9. Janis Ian at the American Library Association annual conference on Monday.

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10. B-52s at Ravinia on Sunday night.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:27 AM | Permalink

July 4, 2013

The [Fourth of July] Papers

"An Indiana man will be hard to miss when he kicks off the Fourth of July Children's Parade for the Chicago History Museum," AP reports.

"Frank Birdsall is riding his unicycle in Thursday's 54th annual parade. The LaPorte County resident has been a one-wheeled entertainer for more than three decades and has won championships for his unicycle tricks."

*

"Back in the early '80s, Birdsall worked at a bike shop too, Al Smith's Cycling in the Chicago area," the LaPorte Herald Argus reports. "But that was before his entertainment job became too lucrative."

Birdsall is originally from Oak Park.

*

Birdsall as Uncle Sam.

Cup Of Meat
"In celebration of the Stanley Cup's visit to Chicago talk show Windy City Live, the meat-crazy geniuses at Chicago-based grilling organization ManBQue built a true-to-size replica of the hockey trophy entirely of meat," The Score of Dublin reports.

"The base of the sculpture, dubbed the 'Manley Cup,' was made of ground beef, and the top was made of woven bacon, according to Zagat. The two pieces were held together by hot dogs."

Something to shoot for at your barbecue today.

Click through for photos.

Mell Smell
"After nearly four decades in office, Ald. Richard Mell submitted his resignation letter effective July 24, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office confirms," WGN-TV reports.

I'll have more on this in the days to come, but for now:

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Uncle Sam Watches You

*

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And In Local News . . .

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In Case You Missed It
* George Ryan's Day Of Independence

* Random Food Report: Mr. Peanut vs. Long John Silver

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Free for all.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:35 AM | Permalink

July 3, 2013

The [Wednesday] Papers

"When the leaders of the global aerospace industry met late last month at the 50th anniversary staging of the Paris Air Show, one word predominated: exports. With military budgets leveling off or declining in the United States and Europe, arms companies are looking to deals in the Middle East and Asia to bolster their bottom lines," William Hartung writes for Foreign Policy.

"Nowhere has this strategy been more successful than in the United States, where an export-friendly Obama administration has presided over the largest arms-export boom in history. In 2011, the most recent year for which full statistics are available, the United States entered into arms sales agreements worth over $66 billion - an astounding 78 percent of the world market.

"The current U.S. dominance of the trade will not go unchallenged. For example, as purchasing nations clamor for their own drones, China and other suppliers are seeking to develop cheaper alternatives to U.S. models. Last month, three European arms firms urged their governments to invest in a 'Euro-drone' that would supplant systems currently being imported from the United States.

"But the Obama administration will not yield market share without a fight. At a congressional hearing in April, Tom Kelly of the State Department's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs noted that the Obama administration was doing everything in its power to promote U.S. arms exports:

"It is an issue that has the attention of every top-level official who is working on foreign policy throughout the government including the top officials at the State Department . . . in advocating on behalf of our companies and doing everything we can to make these sales go through . . and that is something we're doing every day, basically [on] every continent in the world."

So, yeah, Dennis Rodman isn't so crazy considering some of the past winners.

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See also: The Growing Campaign To Revoke Obama's Nobel Peace Prize.

Hello, Newman
"Leslie James Pickering noticed something odd in his mail last September: A handwritten card, apparently delivered by mistake, with instructions for postal workers to pay special attention to the letters and packages sent to his home," the New York Times reports.

"Show all mail to supv" - supervisor - "for copying prior to going out on the street," read the card. It included Mr. Pickering's name, address and the type of mail that needed to be monitored. The word "confidential" was highlighted in green.

"It was a bit of a shock to see it," said Mr. Pickering, who owns a small bookstore in Buffalo. More than a decade ago, he was a spokesman for the Earth Liberation Front, a radical environmental group labeled eco-terrorists by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Postal officials subsequently confirmed they were indeed tracking Mr. Pickering's mail but told him nothing else.

"As the world focuses on the high-tech spying of the National Security Agency, the misplaced card offers a rare glimpse inside the seemingly low-tech but prevalent snooping of the United States Postal Service.

"Mr. Pickering was targeted by a longtime surveillance system called mail covers, but that is only a forerunner of a vastly more expansive effort, the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program, in which Postal Service computers photograph the exterior of every piece of paper mail that is processed in the United States - about 160 billion pieces last year. It is not known how long the government saves the images.

"Together, the two programs show that snail mail is subject to the same kind of scrutiny that the National Security Agency has given to telephone calls and e-mail."

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See also: U.S. Intelligence Community Is Out Of Control.

Obama's War
"Drone strikes - billed by President Barack Obama as tactically surgical and less deadly to civilians than conventional air power - are 10 times more likely to cause innocent casualties than bombs or missiles unleashed from U.S. jets, according to a new study based on classified military documents," NBC News reports.

"The report's author, Lawrence Lewis, a researcher at the federally funded Center for Naval Analyses who possesses a top-security clearance, dissected secret data on U.S. air attacks in Afghanistan from mid-2010 to mid-2011 - the peak of unmanned drone use during the war, executed under the command of former Gen. David Petraeus."

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See also: David Petraeus To Teach Seminar For $150,000 At Three Hours A Week.

Border Drones
"A Customs & Border Protection (CPB) report, released in response to EFF's Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the agency, shows CBP has considered adding weapons to its domestic Predator drones.

"The report, titled Concept of Operations for CBP's Predator B Unmanned Aircraft System and submitted to Congress on June 29, 2010 shows that, not only is the agency planning to sharply increase the number of Predator drones it flies and the amount of surveillance it conducts by 2016 (detailed further in a separate blog post tomorrow), but it has considered equipping its Predators with 'non-lethal weapons designed to immobilize' targets of interest. (p. 63)."

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See also: FBI Director Acknowledges Domestic Drone Use.

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Song of Freedom

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Redemption.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:07 AM | Permalink

Random Food Report: Mr. Peanut vs. Long John Silver

1. Peanut Gallery.

"The owners of Mr. Peanut are changing his voice - but will it make him just a shell of his former self?"

Robert Downey Jr. out; Bill Hader in.

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By the way, Mr. Peanut only began speaking two years ago:


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From the Beachwood vault, July 11, 2006:

Mr. Peanut, one of America's most beloved commercial icons, is getting a bit of a touch-up. The Planters people, promoting their centennial, is giving the public a chance to vote on whether to add a bow tie, cuff links, or a pocket watch to the already stately Peanut's repertoire.

Or the public could vote to keep Peanut just the way he is.

Mr. Peanut was created by a 14-year-old boy in a contest in 1916, according to a report in today's New York Times.

"According to the company, Mr. Peanut's hat, monocle, cane and shoes symbolize fresh taste," Wikipedia reports. "The gloves do not symbolize anything; Mr. Peanut simply likes them."

Peanut even once ventured into the political arena, in a way.

"In 1974, the Canadian conceptual artist Vincent Trasov ran for the office of mayor of the city of Vancouver, British Columbia in the guise of Mr. Peanut," Wikipedia notes. "He wore a full peanut costume, with top hat, monocle, gloves, spats and cane and did nothing but tap-dance at the all-candidates meetings. He garnered less than four percent of the vote."

Godspeed, Mr. Peanut. If only the Hostess Pie Magician was shown as much love.

Indeed.

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But Planters is missing the boat with Hader; Mr. Peanut's voice should be that of Carter Pewterschmidt.

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Plus:

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2. So Bad It's Bad.

"Calories: 1,320. Trans fats: 33 grams. Sodium: 3,700 milligrams. All that pushed Long John Silver's 'Big Catch' limited-time only fish platter to win the 'Worst Restaurant Meal in America' distinction Tuesday by a U.S. nutrition advocacy group," Reuters reports.

"The artery-clogging trans fat tally alone is 'astonishing' in the limited-time only dish of fried fish, cornmeal hush puppies and onion rings, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The American Heart Association's limit is less than 2 grams daily and trans fat has been banned by some cities and states and abandoned by many U.S. food makers."

*

And here it is, "almost a full half-pound of our tender, flaky wildcaught, North Atlantic Haddock, cooked to perfection in our signature batter. Get a basket with choice of side and Hushpuppies."

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3. Cracked.

"A federal judge in Chicago has temporarily blocked Cracker Barrel Old Country Store from selling branded meats and other food items in grocery stores," the Tennessean reports.

"Cracker Barrel was seeking to broaden its portfolio of packaged food items - mainly hams and other meats - and start selling them through supermarkets, club stores and other retailers. Grocery sales are part of Cracker Barrel's strategy to expand its brand beyond its 600-plus restaurants and stores. The chain has signed a licensing agreement with John Morrell & Co. for ham, bacon and other meats.

"But food giant Kraft Foods is suing to block the move, saying it would infringe on Kraft's trademarked Cracker Barrel brand cheese and confuse consumers."

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Yes, we see what they mean.

*

"It's like eatin' at a garage sale."

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4. Trifecta.

"The owner of several Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin-Robbins isn't chicken about bringing a new chain to town," the Sun-Times reports.

"Amyn Ali recently signed a deal with Georgia-based Wing Zone to open 14 Chicago-area locations by 2020."

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Isn't this the same chicken who used to sell car insurance? Paging the federal judiciary!

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5. Cosi's Posies.

"Cosi has rarely turned a profit since its 2002 initial public offering," the Tribune reports.

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The Poor Man's Panera.

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Yeah, this dude resigned and went to Church's Chicken.

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6. Update from the Beachwood Bun Bureau.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:21 AM | Permalink

George Ryan's Day Of Independence

For one Illinois politician, this July 4th Independence Day means more than simply celebrating the birth of our great nation. It means personal independence for him. July 4, 2013, is the last day that convicted former governor George Ryan is supervised by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

On April 17, 2006, a federal jury convicted George Ryan of 18 counts of felony corruption, the most serious but least discussed being obstruction of justice. Ryan, along with Dean Bauer, his inspector general, and Scott Fawell, his chief of staff, conspired to cover up investigations by his special agents responsible for investigating corruption in the Secretary of State's office.

The allegations they were looking into were that commercial driver's licenses were being issued in exchange for bribes. One of those investigations involved an illegal immigrant named Ricardo Guzman driving a truck near Milwaukee on November 8th, 1994, that caused a fatal accident involving six innocent children.

The Secretary of State driver's license examiner who issued the CDL to Guzman admitted to federal authorities that she contributed $80,000 in bribes to the Citizens for Ryan campaign fund. It is estimated that there were at least 12 highway fatalities linked to the licenses-for-bribes scandal.

On November 7, 2007, Ryan began serving his federal sentence, almost exactly 13 years to the day the six children died in the traffic accident. On January 9, 2013, he was released from the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. Upon his release, Ryan was supposed to live in a halfway house in Chicago, but with the assistance of his longtime friend and attorney, former governor Jim Thompson, Ryan spent less than two hours at the house. Undetected by a mob of reporters and TV cameras parked in front of the halfway house, Ryan slipped out and made his way to his cozy residence in Kankakee.

He has quietly served out the remainder of his sentence at home, with only one reported public sighting where he was photographed dining in Frankfort. Although unclear what exactly the Bureau of Prisons' limitations were placed on Ryan during his home confinement, it is believed he was allowed to leave his home for short periods in order to go to church and for other personal visits.

There is no doubt that Ryan has served out the legal requirements of his punishment. He is old and suffers from Crohn's disease and diabetes. He lost his wife and brother while doing time in Terre Haute. There is no need to drag him down further. He is reportedly working on a tell-all memoir. If he is forthcoming, then he is doing the people of Illinois a service. I guess better late than never. If he is critical of those who deservedly put him away, then he is merely whining as he has often done in the past.

Systemic corruption in Ryan's era of absolute power was not new to Illinois and certainly continues today. One of the reasons one man was able to lead a corrupt organization for 13 years and more without detection can be summed up in one word: Complacency.

Those who surrounded Ryan were more interested in their personal agenda and chose to ignore their boss's crimes. Some state workers comfortable in their jobs chose to remain silent rather than rock the boat. Voters hardened by politics as usual scratched their heads and voted for the presumed lesser of two evils. The consequence of complacency was death.

Eleanor Roosevelt is quoted as saying "with freedom comes responsibility." In Illinois, we both joke and complain about the corruption in our government. If we truly want celebrate freedom this Independence Day, we must begin to take responsibility to free ourselves from politics as usual.

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Ed Hammer is a retired police captain and author of the book One Hundred Percent Guilty and numerous columns on politics and corruption. He can be reached through his website.

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Previously by Ed Hammer:
* George Ryan's Park Bench
* George Ryan's Dogs and Ponies
* George Ryan's Other Jailhouse Interview
* Bugging The Chicago School Board
* Cop vs. Teacher
* Signs of Change
* Pols vs. Teachers
* The Terre Haute Redemption
* Rahm's War On Teachers
* About Those Indicted Nurses
* Body Language Bingo: A Guide To Watching The Presidential Debates

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See also: Honoring A True Illinois Hero.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:41 AM | Permalink

July 2, 2013

The [Tuesday] Papers

"Ahead of Gov. Pat Quinn's anticipated rewrite today of a measure regulating the carrying of concealed firearms, challenger Bill Daley released a video endorsement from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg," the Tribune reports.

"By touting the Bloomberg endorsement, Daley, the son and brother of two Chicago mayors, may be ceding any chance of gaining widespread support among Downstate Democrats who generally support gun-owner rights."

Or maybe it's a wash.

That's Pat!
"Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn intends to take action today on legislation that would allow guns to be carried in public, and he's widely expected to insert changes to the bill to try to put in place stricter regulations," the Tribune reports.

Those changes are expected to look something like this: "Concealed carry. LOL."

Fireworks Jerks
"The Illinois Lottery plans to sponsor Fourth of July fireworks displays in five Illinois cities this year," AP reports.

Huh, I wonder how many UNO is planning to sponsor.

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Here's Juan Rangel, upon hearing that the laser show at the opening of Galewood Charter School would not include sharks.

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"The Illinois Lottery has 'material weaknesses' in its internal financial controls - weaknesses that led to $200 million in reporting errors, a new state audit has found," Crain's reports.

Also, the fireworks shows the Lottery will sponsor this year will not include fireworks.

Today's Worst Person In Illinois
"Former Metra CEO Alex Clifford stands to reap two salary hikes after leaving the suburban rail agency - amounting to what a key lawmaker called 'a raise to stay away,'" the Sun-Times reports.

"It's yet another bizarre twist to a golden parachute attracting increasing heat. The pay increases, totaling more than 6 percent, cover Clifford for more than two years after a June 21 resignation tied to what Metra Board Chairman Brad O'Halloran has described as a 'generous' separation agreement."

In other words, dude won the Illinois lottery.

Band-Aid Man
"Former Cook County Commissioner Joseph Mario Moreno pleaded guilty today to extorting a company to hire a minority subcontractor with whom Moreno had financial ties," the Tribune reports.

"Moreno also admitted he pocketed a $5,000 payoff for backing a waste transfer station while sitting on Cicero's economic development panel.

"He also acknowledged yet additional wrongdoing by taking bribes for using his influence as a county commissioner to cause Stroger Hospital to buy a certain brand of bandages."

Moreno had originally said he was simply stuck on Band-Aids brand "'cause Band-Aids stuck on me," but it turned out he was actually stuck on Dermafil 'cause Dermafil was stuck with him.

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That Band-Aid jingle was written by Barry Manilow, btw.

No Joy In Mudville
"Fans who watched Saturday's Jimmy Buffett from the lawn at Northerly Island are being offered free tickets to future shows after complaints about muddy conditions," the Sun-Times reports.

Fans who didn't complain will not have to attend another Buffett show.

Remember: Santo Dead, Hull Alive
In a bid to boost his popularity, Rahm Emanuel will be announcing this later today.

Adventures In Branding
"The nationally known Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago is changing its name to the Ability Institute of RIC," Crain's reports.

Proving once again that the letterhead industry is recession-proof.

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"Although the Rehab Institute is well-known by its current name, the new brand likely will have a strong appeal to consumers, said Jeffrey Nemetz, founder and managing partner of Chicago-based Health Brand Group, a strategic branding consultancy that focuses on health care.

"'The promise of ability and empowerment is what all patients who come in there . . . that's what they're looking for,' he said."

Or maybe people just get stuck on a brand when a brand sticks with them.

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"Even so, the institute will need to spend marketing dollars to educate employees, doctors and prospective patients on what the new brand stands for, he added."

Proving once again that strategic branding consulting is recession-proof.

Bill Fold
"State Ended Fiscal Year With $6.1 Billion In Unpaid Bills."

That's a lot of fireworks and lasers.

Remembering Jason, Jim And Jay
Pain and passion.

Boy's Drone Death Tests Obama's Pledge
With predictable results.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Fireworking.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:17 AM | Permalink

Remembering Jason Molina, Jim Nayder And Jay Bennett

1. The Supernaturally Prolific And Touching Jason Molina.

"We all go through the exit door at some point in our short journey on earth with the living and sometime that shit just happens too fast for some and we leave some folks behind," Review Stalker writes.

"Being sensitive to this fact Steven Vineis has put together a compilation benefiting the late and great Mr. Jason Molina formerly of the Magnolia Electric Co which you should just buy now at songsmolina.bandcamp.com.

Molina recorded at Steve Albini's Electrical Audio. "I loved hearing Jason Molina sing," Steve Albini said upon Molina's passing. "He was a genius at turning a phrase and making it into something more than the words in it."

Here's "It Made Me Cry" by Eastern Anchors.

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2. The Annoying And Magnificent Jim Nayder.

"Jim Nayder, a longtime fixture on Chicago public radio and pioneering program director at WBEZ-FM 91.5, was found dead in his Rogers Park apartment on Friday," the Tribune reports.

"Nayder, 59, was best known as the host and producer of National Public Radio's Annoying Music Show, as well as Magnificent Obsession, a harrowing, weekly 30-minute WBEZ show about drug and alcohol addiction, narrated by a subject who is battling addiction.

"The Cook County medical examiners office said his autopsy is not scheduled until Saturday morning. However, his daughter, Blair Botti, as well as his ex-wife, Laurie Nayder, said Nayder had a long and tortured history of alcoholism."

Here's Nayder's sampling of the worst Beatles covers (via Chicagoist):

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3. The Prolific Perfectionist Jay Bennett.

"Jay Bennett was a master in the recording studio, the type of talent who could pick up almost any instrument and make music on it," Greg Kot wrote for the Tribune four years ago upon his death from a painkiller overdose.

"On stage, he could be a whirling, chain-smoking, dreadlocked dervish. As a key member of Wilco and a prolific artist and producer for other bands, Bennett had a reputation as a musical obsessive who chased perfection."

On Sunday night, the Jay Bennett Foundation launched a scholarship program with Rock For Kids and held a benefit show at the Empty Bottle featuring a range of Chicago musicians.

Here's Edward Burch at that show singing the Virgil Shaw song "The Drawing" with Kip Rainey on lap steel, Steve Dawson on piano, and Jon Williams on accordion.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:35 AM | Permalink

Boy's Death In Drone Strike Tests Obama's Transparency Pledge

On June 9, a U.S. drone fired on a vehicle in a remote province of Yemen and killed several militants, according to media reports.

It soon emerged that among those who died was a boy - 10-year-old Abdulaziz, whose elder brother, Saleh Hassan Huraydan, was believed to be the target of the strike. A McClatchy reporter recently confirmed the child's death with locals.

(The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism Monday reported that there was "strong evidence" it was a U.S. drone strike, but it could not confirm the fact.)

It's the first prominent allegation of a civilian death since President Obama pledged in a major speech in May "to facilitate transparency and debate" about the U.S. war on al-Qaeda-linked militants beyond Afghanistan.

He also said "there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured" in a strike.

So what does the administration have to say in response to evidence that a child was killed?

Nothing.

National security spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden would not comment on the June 9 strike or more generally on the White House position on acknowledging civilian deaths. She referred further questions to the CIA, which also declined to comment.

The president's speech was the capstone on a shift in drone war policy that would reportedly bring the program largely under control of the military (as opposed to the CIA) and impose stricter criteria on who could be targeted. In theory, it could also bring some of the classified program into the open.

As part of its transparency effort, the administration released the names of four U.S. citizens who had been killed in drone strikes.

An official White House fact sheet on targeted killing released along with the speech repeated the "near-certainty" standard for avoiding civilian casualties. Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated it a few days later, when he told an audience in Ethiopia: "We do not fire when we know there are children or collateral - we just don't do it."

But White House press secretary Jay Carney said in late May that "this commitment to transparency does not mean that we would be able to discuss the details of every counterterrorism operation."

The new White House statements don't address what happens after a strike, even in general terms.

CIA Director John Brennan offered one of the few public explanations of how casualties are assessed during his nomination hearing in February. Before his confirmation, Brennan was the White House counterterrorism adviser, and is considered to be the architect of Obama's drone war policy.

He told senators that "analysts draw on a large body of information - human intelligence, signals intelligence, media reports, and surveillance footage - to help us make an informed determination about whether civilians were in fact killed or injured."

Brennan also said the U.S. could work with local governments to offer condolence payments. As we've reported, there's little visible evidence of that happening.

At the hearing, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., asked Brennan if the U.S. should acknowledge when it "makes a mistake and kills the wrong person."

"We need to acknowledge it publicly," Brennan responded.

Brennan also proposed that the government make public "the overall numbers of civilian deaths resulting from U.S. strikes."

Neither overall numbers nor a policy of acknowledging casualties made it into Obama's speech, or into the fact sheet. Hayden, the White House spokeswoman, would not say why.

The government sharply disputes that there have been large numbers of civilian deaths but has never released its own figures. Independent counts, largely compiled from news reports, range from about 200 to around 1,000 for Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia combined over the past decade.

Researchers agree that the number of drone strikes and civilian deaths have dropped during the past year. (Before Obama's speech, an administration official attributed this partly to the new heightened standards.)

The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which generally has the highest tally of civilian dead, has found there were between three and 16 civilians reportedly killed in about 30 drone or other airstrikes in Yemen and Pakistan so far this year. No strikes have been reported in Somalia.

"Official" statistics might not be much help without knowing more about how they were compiled, said Sarah Holewinski, head of the advocacy group Center for Civilians in Conflict.

That's because it's still not clear how the U.S. distinguishes between civilians and "militants," or "combatants."

In so-called signature strikes, operators sometimes fire on groups of people who appear to be engaged in militant activity without necessarily knowing their identities.

The newly instituted drone rules reportedly roll back the military's ability to use signature strikes, but the CIA can keep firing in Pakistan under the old rules at least through the end of the year.

An administration official told ProPublica last year that when a strike is made, "if a group of fighting-age males are in a home where we know they are constructing explosives or plotting an attack, it's assumed that all of them are in on that effort."

The new White House fact sheet contradicts that, stating: "It is not the case that all military-aged males in the vicinity of a target are deemed to be combatants."

From the outside, in a strike like the recent one in Yemen, it's impossible to know how these things were determined. McClatchy reported that the target, Saleh Hassan Huraydan, had "largely unquestioned" ties to al-Qaeda. Yemeni officials said he arranged to bring money and fighters from Saudi Arabia to Yemen.

As for Huraydan's young brother, "They may not have realized who was in the car. Or they may have realized it and decided collateral damage was okay," Holewinski says.

The same questions dog the death of another boy that the administration has acknowledged: the 16-year-old son of Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born cleric tied to terror attacks. Awlaki and his son were killed in separate strikes in Yemen in the fall of 2011.

The boy, Attorney General Eric Holder has said, was "not specifically targeted."

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Previously:
* Drones Not Just For Threats Against America Anymore.

* Why Obama Says He Won't Release Drone Documents.

* Obama's Drone Death Figures Don't Add Up.

* Dissecting Obama's Standards On Drone Strike Deaths.

* The Best Watchdog Journalism On Obama's National Security Policies.

* Everything You Wanted To Know About Drones But Were Afraid To Ask.

* Obama Claims Right To Kill Anyone Anytime.

* The Drone War Doctrine We Still Know Nothing About.

* How Does The U.S. Mark Unidentified Men In Pakistan And Yemen As Drone Targets?

* Hearts, Minds And Dollars: Condolence Payments In The Drone Strike Age.

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Comments welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:46 AM | Permalink

July 1, 2013

The [Monday] Papers

"Cheered on by Gov. Pat Quinn and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the United Neighborhood Organization celebrated the opening of its new $22 million charter school on the Northwest Side last September with a laser light show and fireworks display.

"The cost? More than $143,000, according to records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.

"Now, more than nine months after the grand opening of the UNO Galewood Charter School, 10 contractors say the politically well-connected charter-school operator stiffed them out of more than $1.3 million they're owed for work on the school at 2050 N. Natchez."

Well, you have to give UNO credit - they're certainly running schools like businesses. If the businesses are Enron, Groupon and the Church of Scientology.

*

"UNO chief executive Juan Rangel - who co-chaired Emanuel's 2011 mayoral campaign - won't say where the money for the celebration came from."

Maybe he's just embarrassed to admit that he drove to Indiana himself to buy the fireworks.

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"A spokesman for UNO dismisses the liens filed by the contractors as 'standard end-of-project negotiations . . . This is a normal part of the process at the end of construction work.'"

The failure to pay or the ensuing threats, liens and newspaper revelations?

Park District Parrotheads
"Thirty thousand parrotheads swarmed onto Northerly Island and into Live Nation's newly expanded political plum of a concert venue on Saturday night," Jim DeRogatis writes on his WBEZ blog.

"The Jimmy Buffett show was the first at the amphitheater's new capacity of 30,000, and the first under a new name representing the latest corporate sponsor: FirstMerit Bank Pavilion.

"What was old news was Live Nation's shoddy treatment of its paying customers. Buffett fans got good sound but dealt with a muddy lawn area, obscured sight lines, a traffic nightmare, and a venue that 'in many ways turned out to be unsuited and unprepared for the large crowd,' according to Chicago Tribune reviewer Kevin McKeough.

"Also a familiar story: the political shenanigans of the Chicago Park District in sidestepping competitive bidding for the expanded concert venue when awarding it to Live Nation, a company that includes on its board of directors the brother of Mayor Rahm Emanuel."

Just a normal part of the process.

*

"This blog reported on the questionable aspects of that deal on May 30. At that time, Park District Spokeswoman Jessica Maxey-Faulkner had failed for seven weeks to provide interviews with parks officials or answer questions about the deal.

"Another month later, the public information officer still has not answered questions submitted in writing or provided the requested interviews with parks officials.

"The Park District's haughty stonewalling of critics and reporters probing difficult issues is not unusual or unique to this blog. It has been no more forthcoming with environmental activist and Great Lakes Echo columnist Gary Wilson, who last August criticized the Army Corps of Engineers and the Chicago Park District for misusing almost $3 million to turn part of Northerly Island into an eco-tourist site.

"'It's a nice project but has nothing to do with restoring the Great Lakes, which was the purpose of the source of the money,' Wilson wrote."

At least it wasn't spent on fireworks and a laser show.

Hoosiers Hosers
"BP, one of the world's biggest companies, dumps nearly 20 times more toxic mercury into Lake Michigan than federal regulations permit.

"This has been known for years, but BP still gets away with it. How? Ask the people of Indiana."

Star Bores
"After seven years of dating, George Lucas, 69, and Mellody Hobson, 44, finally tied the knot two weeks ago at the Star Wars creator's Skywalker Ranch in Marin County, California," Business Insider (among many others) reports.

"On Saturday, the couple followed up their nuptials with a star-studded party in Chicago, where Hobson is from . . .

"Musician Prince, along with a 20-piece band, performed for guests such as Robin Williams, Star Wars star Mark Hamill, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Gayle King, Al Roker, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Graydon Carter, Tina Brown, Grammy winner Ne-Yo, Star Wars prequel star Hayden Christensen and his fiance, OC star Rachel Bilson."

I would have no interest in spending a Saturday night - or any night - with any of those people, except Prince.

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Also: Video from Prince's after-wedding show at City Winery, in The Weekend In Chicago Rock.

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And: Weddings In The News.

Area Man Really Knows How To Tailgate
Addresses Full Life Cycle Of Parking Lot Parties.

Chicago Trading Floor
* SportsMonday: Don't Trade Everyone For Everyone.

* The Cub Factor: Project Garza.

* The White Sox Report: The Prospects Are Already Here.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Cap and trade.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:20 PM | Permalink

Project Garza

Every second that Matt Garza remains a Cub is a bad second for Cubs fans.

Not only is he at his highest value, but he is a Cub, which means that every second is perilously fraught with danger.

Matt Garza is a ticking injury bomb. Cubs executives need to ensconse him in velvet and keep him in a temperature-controlled man cave until a trade is signed and sealed. Don't let him drive, don't let him near kitchen knives, don't let him mow his lawn or take a hot tub. Maybe put him to sleep for a few days.

Because otherwise, we all know what's coming . . .

He should be getting more protection than the president right now.

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Meanwhile, in the We Told You So department . . .

Last week: The Ryan Sweeney Era Is So Cub.

This week: Ryan Sweeney Fractures Rib, Out 4-6 Weeks.

At least. You watch.

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And a reminder of why you can never count on prospects to stay healthy and develop into meaningful major-league players.

You hope they do, but you can never count on it, which is, again, why Theo's Plan is so flawed.

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If the Cubs learned anything from the Carlos Marmol saga, and there's no reason to believe they did, it's that hope should never triumph over reality. In other words, Shawn Camp is done. Better to face that fact now then regret it for another half-dozen blown games.

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Week in Review: The Cubs have won three straight series', which only proves that are better than the Astros, Brewers and Mariners - the only teams with winning percentages worse than the Cubs besides the Marlins, Mets and White Sox. The Cubs went 12-15 in June.

Week in Preview: The Cubs have three in Oakland before returning home for three against the Pirates, whose .630 winning percentage is easily the best in the major leagues - and nearly 200 points higher than the Cubs' winning percentage.

The Second Basemen Report: Darwin Barney went 5-for-23 for the week and left another five men on base. His OBP is .289. You can never flash enough leather to overcome that.

Wishing Upon A Starlin: Is it really possible that a single day off can get a player out of a slump? We here at The Cub Factor are skeptical, especially given Cubs TV analyst Jim Deshaies' observation that Starlin Castro's approach at the plate hasn't changed a single bit since said day off. We're thinking the (temporary) antidote was simply give games against Brewer and Mariner pitching.

The Legend of Dioner Navarro: Dioner has one of the league's top home run to at-bat ratios and now appears to be Matt Garza's personal catcher, as much as Dale Sveum won't admit it. Why mess with success? #BecauseItsTheCubs

Deserted Cubs: Tony Campana is heating up, people. Will he be wearing a Diamondbacks uniform when the Cubs visit in July?

Bullpen Bullshit: Every losing team is "snake-bit." That's just a phrase that tries to assign terrible performances to bad luck.

Ameritrade Stock Pick of the Week: Shares of Theo Pissing On Our Legs And Calling It Rain skyrocketed this week.

Sveum's Shadow: Dale Sveum's Five O'Clock Shadow stayed at 10 p.m. because, just like his ol' Uncle Lou, he knows the tools in the shed are okay for scrub work but totally not up to the major landscaping project his wife keeps demanding.

Shark Tank: Jeff Samardzija ranks 10th in number of pitches thrown so far this season, which is both good news and bad news.

Jumbotron Preview: Six thousand square feet of Jeff Samardzija returning from Tommy John surgery.

Kubs Kalender: Wait 'til next year 2016.

Over/Under: Starts until Matt Garza is hurt again traded: 1.5.

Beachwood Sabermetrics: A complex algorithm performed by The Cub Factor staff using all historical data made available by Major League Baseball has determined that the Cubs do not have a single player worthy of the All-Star game.

The Cub Factor: Unlike Alfonso Soriano, you can catch 'em all!

The White Sox Report: Know the enemy.

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Contact The Cub Factor!

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:21 PM | Permalink

Area Man Really Knows How To Tailgate

"InventHelp's INPEX, America's Largest Invention Show, announced award winners at the closing awards ceremony for its 28th annual show, held June 19-21 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh.

"Gold medals were presented in 44 categories ranging from Advertising to Toys and Games, as well as merit awards and several special awards. An international jury committee judges all of the inventions each year, and the following individual won the Grand Prix Award and a $7,500 cash prize:

"Tailgate Kitchen, invented by Dave Galatte, of Wauconda, Illinois."

Go on.

*

"The system includes a travel rack for storing all of the components when traveling to the tailgate party, as well as a storage cart for storing the system when not in use. A series of accessories can be added to the system to address specific game-day menus.

"The Tailgate Kitchen has been designed to address the full life cycle of a tailgate party, from loading the vehicle, tailgate set up, cooking, tear down, and storage. The product makes the entire process faster and easier.

"The system includes a counter top, coolers and a propane grill. In addition to the unique tailgating system, several convenient accessories are also available. For more information, please visit http://www.championtailgate.com."

You had us at tailgate.

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See also: Dave Galatte.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:07 PM | Permalink

The Weekend In Chicago Rock

You shoulda been there.

1. Prince at City Winery on Sunday morning.


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2. Rush in Tinley Park on Friday night.

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3. Big Star's Third with Tim Rutili at Park West on Friday night.

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4. She & Him at the Aragon on Saturday night.

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5. Scientist w/Bruce Lamont at the Empty Bottle on Friday night.

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6. The Handcuffs at Reggies on Thursday night.

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7. The Punch Brothers at the St. Pat's Block Party on Friday night.

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8. Camera Obscura at the Aragon on Saturday night.

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9. Matmos at Millennium Park on Thursday night.

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10. Fonema Consort at Millennium Park on Thursday night.


11. Cloud Atlas at the Q87.8 "picniq" in Tinley Park on Saturday night.

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12. Bush at the picniq.

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13. Silversun Pickups at the picniq.

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14. Capital Cities at the picniq.

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15. AWOLNATION at the picniq.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:02 AM | Permalink

SportsMonday: Don't Trade Everyone For Anyone

Garza has to go. And so does Gregg. Otherwise, a major player dump at the trading deadline later this month doesn't make sense for the Cubs, who are one win away from a successful long road trip in their latest stretch of schedule (just one victory over the A's in the next three days gives the Cubs at least five successful results in nine games away from home).

Hey Theo, don't listen to all the geniuses calling for yet another purge. You can add a little pitching depth at the deadline without devastating this year's team.

One hopes that Epstein has started to figure out that giving this team a chance to at least play .500 ball in the second half matters.

Starlin Castro, struggling mightily with an anemic .266 on-base percentage so far this campaign, has clearly been adversely affected by the "we don't really care about winning" atmosphere surrounding this year's Cubs. Not trading everyone for whom you can get anyone might just inspire other young Cubs to not let their games slide just because, you know, the front office has let the team slide.

But we aren't advocating keeping everyone. Garza, who struck out 10 in his latest greatest start in a streak of four good ones in a row, is a free agent at the end of this season. If the Cubs (who go into this week 10 games under .500 despite winning their last three series') wanted, they could re-sign him then. For now, it makes perfect sense to get several pitching prospects for him while the iron is hot, which it apparently is.

As for Gregg, well, a team needs to keep turning over its bullpen. All but the best relievers go up and down as the years go by and the best teams find ways to consistently add solid relievers so that they can quickly dump the guys who aren't performing even if they have performed before.

Exhibit A at this point for the Cubs is Shawn Camp, who was so good all last year but has struggled mightily this time around. He was last seen giving up a couple home runs in the eighth yesterday as the team almost blew a 7-1 lead.

It is time for Camp to go but the Cubs won't be able to get anything for him. The opposite is true for Gregg, whose 13 saves in 14 chances will look good to a contender.

Let's remember that while the current closer has been great for the Cubs of late, fans have seen this show turn south in a hurry before. Gregg had good stretches during his first tenure on the North Side but eventually he washed out. And he struggled at a few other stops as well before finally making his way back to Chicago.

One final note about the bullpen: The thing that has to drive manager Dale Sveum nuts is that he kept trotting Carlos Marmol out there for important situations during the first few months of the season, trying to showcase him so that the Cubs could perhaps get a little value for him in a trade. But Marmol, who among other competitive sins declined to take advantage of his struggles during the past season-plus to revamp his terrible mechanics, failed and failed and failed again.

And so the Cubs, who recently promoted successful Triple A closer Blake Parker and have him waiting in the wings should Gregg move on, blew the at least half-dozen highly winnable games that would have put them right near .500 at this point. And they did so to try to promote a guy who was so bad, they finally just had to release him last week.

Blackhawk Bit
While just about everyone else even remotely affiliated with the Blackhawks was busy celebrating the Cup last week, it was clear that one guy still has his nose firmly set against the grindstone. General manager Stan Bowman stayed sober throughout and sure enough, he made a couple clear-headed, if anti-sentimental deals on Sunday, moving Stanley Cup playoff finals heroes Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik for draft picks to clear room under the salary cap to re-sign emerging star power forward Bryan Bickell.

Bolland and Frolik will be missed but these deals needed to get done and Bowman put aside celebrating to do the work that enabled them to happen. He is clearly the designated driver of this organization.

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Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:32 AM | Permalink

The Prospects Are Already Here

By the time Nick Swisher hit the blast halfway up the right-field bleachers off Addison Reed around 12:30 a.m. early Saturday morning, there were no f-bombs, airborne shoes, groans or moans in my man cave. I'll admit maybe to a grimace, but then laughter. What else could you do?

In 137 years of major league baseball, no two teams had ever played as long as the White Sox and Indians on Friday night and continuing into the wee hours of Saturday morning.

While doubleheaders are pretty much a part of baseball history - this one only was necessary because of an earlier rain-out - there have been thousands of them over the decades. The seven hours, 37 minutes - featuring 46 runs, 59 hits, 18 pitching changes, and, of course, two Sox losses - wound up just before 1 a.m., factoring in a 25-minute rain delay added to the scheduled half-hour break between games.

The attendance of 28,628 no doubt included some of the revelers who made their way to the South Side after joining almost two million of their closest friends for the rally to honor the Blackhawks. Possibly others simply wanted to witness this sorry bunch of White Sox create new, innovative ways to blow a ballgame.

If the early-morning ending fatigued the Sox, the Indians were much less affected as they came back to edge our guys 4-3 on Saturday and 4-0 Sunday, making Chris Sale, the American League's least-supported pitcher, a victim once again.

So now the buzz around the White Sox - people are watching; they drew 27,022 again on Sunday - centers on which players will be gone in a few weeks as the trading deadline nears at the end of July. The conversation has evolved into which players have value. The fact is the Sox don't have much of anyone of value. If they did, they wouldn't be 15 games under .500.

Alex Rios often is mentioned as someone who could help a contender. Would you trade for Rios to replace rightfielders like Nick Markakis, Shane Victorino, Nelson Cruz, Jay Bruce, Michael Cuddyer, Carlos Beltran, Jason Heyward, Torii Hunter, Jose Bautista or Hunter Pence? These ten all play Rios' position for teams with a real shot at post-season play.

Rios is slumping. His batting average is down to .268. He had one homer and eight RBI in the month of June. Any general manager who would offer the Sox two or three promising prospects for Rios would lose his job.

Maybe the Sox would like to get out from under Adam Dunn's contract, which will pay him $15 million next season. The big guy has come to life recently, and his power numbers- 21 home runs and 52 RBI - are respectable.

However, with runners in scoring position, Dunn strikes out approximately 40 percent of the time, and his average is .227, which, granted, is higher than his season's mark of .198. But visualize a big game in September with a playoff position at stake. You want to depend on Adam Dunn to drive in a run? He'll come through a bit more than once every five at-bats. Those aren't great odds.

Alexei Ramirez is tied with Starlin Castro for the most errors of any shortstop in baseball with 14. He bats second, can't bunt, and has one homer. Who would want him?

Alejandro De Aza, the team's leadoff man for the past two seasons, is hitting .264, not great but acceptable. Yet he's struck out 81 times, has an average arm at best, makes frequent base-running mistakes - after leading off the bottom of the fourth with a base hit on Sunday and the Sox trailing 2-0, he promptly got picked off first - and more than a few times this season, he's lost track of the number of outs. Again, you think he will bring value?

Gordon Beckham, who missed almost two months with a broken hand, had a solid June offensively, although defensively he hasn't performed near the level of 2012.

Nevertheless, at age 26, the former number-one draft choice still has a large upside. If the Sox are destined to improve in the future, Beckham has to be one of the pieces. He has value, and he needs to remain right where he is.

The name most often mentioned in trade rumors is reliever Jesse Crain. Contending teams are more apt to try to add a pitcher than a position player. We all recall last July when the Sox secured Francisco Liriano. That didn't work so great, especially since Eduardo Escobar was lost to the Twins. We sure could use Eduardo now to spell Ramirez.

Crain and his 0.74 ERA will be attractive to a number of teams. Matt Thornton is another relief pitcher who will be mentioned in trade talks.

What can the White Sox expect in return? Most often in these end-of-July transactions, contenders offer lower-classification minor-league prospects in return for guys like Crain and Thornton. Then you wait one, two, or three years to see whether they develop into legitimate major-league players. In some circles, this is called rebuilding or reloading. I call it gambling or crapshooting.

The top five minor league organizations according to Baseball Prospectus are the Cardinals, Rangers, Padres, Twins and Mariners. (The Sox are ranked 28th.)

A perusal of the top prospects of those five indicate that they have kept the vast majority of their highest draft choices and prospects, grooming them for stardom at the major-league level.

Case in point is Shelby Miller of St. Louis, a first-round pick in 2009 who already has won eight games for the Cards this season. Another example is Jurickson Profar, the 20-year-old infielder from Curacao who is getting a lot of playing time this season for the Rangers.

When the Cubs sent Ryan Dempster to Texas last July, they received eighth-round pick pitcher Kyle Hendricks along with Mexican third baseman Christian Villanueva. Both are playing at the Double-A level this season. Hendricks is 8-2 with a 2.17 ERA while Villanueva is hitting .253. Hendricks shows promise. But is he or Villanueva good enough to one day help the Cubs?

The Giants bartered for outfielder Hunter Pence last July, getting him from the Phillies for Nate Schierholtz, who played out his option before signing with the Cubs for 2013, and two minor leaguers, pitcher Seth Rosin and catcher Tommy Joseph. Pence helped lead the Giants to a World Series championship, so it was a good deal for them.

Meanwhile, Joseph is hitting .203 in Triple-A, and Rosin is 6-4 with a 3.96 ERA at Double-A. Will either eventually be a regular in Philadelphia? In my mind, it's less than a 50-50 proposition.

Crain will turn 32 on Friday, a prime age for a pitcher. He becomes a free agent at the end of this season. Other teams know that the Sox would rather get something for him than lose a bidding war for him over the winter - if the Sox even decided to make Crain an offer. Meanwhile, general manager Rick Hahn's best move would be to get two or more teams negotiating for Crain so that the Sox can get the best possible prospects.

Like the deals for Dempster and Pence, Crain would depart, and then the Sox would wait a couple of years to see how their new prospects develop.

Or they could decide to hold onto Crain and try to bring him back over the winter. That's an enticing idea but not likely to happen.

Hahn says that only Sale and Paul Konerko are untradeable. That's crazy. The White Sox already have prospects on the major league roster. Addison Reed and Nate Jones, to name two, qualify. Both are young, pitching in just their second seasons with the Sox. Each throws hard and has obvious ability. Trading either of them for prospects who might develop in two or three years to where Reed and Jones are now would be stupid.

The same can be said for Dayan Viciedo, who's just 24. He's still raw and just learning the game. He has a huge strike zone, and he's another one who occasionally loses track of the outs. But what an upside. If Hahn puts Viciedo on the block - which I highly doubt - there will be plenty of takers. OK, send him back to Charlotte to work on his game, but he remains a prospect even though he's playing at the major-league level.

There remains a different alternative to reloading or rebuilding or whatever you want to call it. How about teaching and coaching.

Rick Hahn can go ahead and make some trades, but unless the incoming prospects and the young players already in the system learn how to bunt, run the bases, block low pitches, hold runners on, throw to the right base, hit the cutoff man, run out every ground ball . . . you get the idea. This is why the team is so deplorable, and regardless of who leaves, who stays, and who arrives, nothing will change until they learn how to play the game.

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

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1. From Jared Grizzle:

The last paragraph of your article is amazing. I'm not sure I've heard a better summarization of this team's problems. Keep up the good work.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:43 AM | Permalink

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