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« April 2009 | Main | June 2009 »

May 30, 2009

The Weekend Desk Report

By Natasha Julius

Well, damn, now that Venus is out we've got nothing better to do but watch the news this weekend.

Change Watch
Shares in Subliminal Oligarchy rebounded strongly this week when it was announced that Czar will remain its Commander in Chief.

Boyle-ing Point
The rhetorical war between the United States and North Korea seems poised for a major escalation in the coming weeks. Sources close to Kim Jong Il say the reclusive leader will demand "a full Susan Boyle." The Peerless Leader is said to admire the plucky Scot's uniform popularity, telling close advisors, "maybe if I could pick off that adorable Hollie Steel, people would pay more attention to me."

Belle-Mont Stakes
The Triple Crown lost one of this year's jewels when owners of Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra announced she will not run at next week's Belmont Stakes. The concerned carers say that their filly is simply tired after a full slate of spring races, and besides, she only gets three quarters of the carrots and sugar lumps her male competitors earn.

High-Seas Hamdemic
After months of turmoil due to the dreaded H1N1 influenza virus, scientists still aren't sure which way the hamdemic will spread. They warn casualties in the coming weeks will include the most vulnerable members of society - the elderly, the very young, and anyone still dumb enough to take a cruise.

Mad Again
Finally this week, aspiring Illinois power broker Lisa Madigan has announced that duh.


Posted by Natasha Julius at 8:04 AM | Permalink

May 29, 2009

The [Friday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

"Reform met reality Thursday when self-styled outsider Gov. Pat Quinn cut a deal on the high-profile issue of campaign contribution limits that critics blasted as weak, ineffective and partly designed to benefit the governor himself," the Tribune says on its front page today.

Jjust what does it mean when the paper declares that "reform met reality?" Is the Tribune acknowledging - despite its own high-profile campaign - that reform is not a realistic goal?

Is the Trib telling us that the reality is that we have to live without reform?

Then why have you been wasting my time with your articles and editorials?

And just how is Pat Quinn a "self-styled" outsider? I never see the paper calling Richard M. Daley a "self-styled" insider.

"Reality" and what's "realistic" is always determined by cynics protecting the status quo.

Mankind never would have invented the wheel if we only listened to those who told us what was "realistic."

The only thing that is "realistic" in this case is that we cannot depend upon the likes of Michael Madigan, John Cullerton and their band of weasels to reform a system that produced and protects them.

Let's see the Trib go to work advocating for their removal.

The Illinois Way
"At a time when it's more competitive than ever to get into the University of Illinois, some students with subpar academic records are being admitted after interference from state lawmakers and university trustees," the Tribune reports.

"In one case, a relative of Antonin 'Tony' Rezko, the now-convicted influence peddler for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, got admitted after U. of I. President B. Joseph White wrote an e-mail stating that the governor 'expressed his support, and would like to see admitted' Rezko's relative and another applicant."

B. Joseph White, you are Today's Worst Person in Illinois.

And undeserving of your job.

Alderman Ike
Found deep in the Sun-Times's story about the indictment of Ike Carothers:

"Carothers' role in running a West Side army of city workers who delivered the vote for the mayor's hand-picked candidates endeared Carothers to Daley."

Daley's Glitch
Daley's quote in the papers on the latest parking meter snafu:

"It's a computer glitch. How many computer glitches do you have in your company? It happens."

What Daley said after that in video shown on Chicago Tonight:

"But the headline's important because you need a headline. Hmmph."

What I wish a reporter would have said next:

"Wait, back up. Are you saying we shouldn't report on this? What headline would you suggest? Really. You always say that but I'm having trouble understanding how you see the role of the press in society. Enlighten us."

Today's Heroes
"A teenage caper at New Trier Township High School has provoked a grown-up response from the administration," the Tribune reports.

[From Runnin' Scared:

[Billy Crystal's ex wife: You have to grow up sometime.

[Crystal: Why? I don't like grown-ups.]

"Someone slipped an unauthorized photo of a girl holding a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer into the school yearbook after an adviser already had cleared the page for publication," the Trib continues.

"It's clearly defiant and subversive and intentional," said school spokeswoman Laura Blair.

Clearly!

But just one photo? You're slipping, kids.

COMMENT 2:30 P.M.: From Beachwood reader Mark:

"I'm guessing the New Trier administration is mostly upset that the student appears to be enjoying a PBR - couldn't she have at least shown the good judgment to uphold the school's reputation by opting for something imported?"

Bloodshot Briefing
Chicago in June.

Chicago Blog Review
The CTA Tattler - now a Tribune site.

The Five Dumbest Ideas of the Week
And the people who had them.

Stanley Cup Credo
Funny reasons why you should care even though the Blackhawks aren't in it.

Reform Loopholes
Playing you for fools - again.

Politics of Pot
Provides the best debate in Springfield this week.

Indicting Ike
It was his turn.

The Other Indictment
Crooked cops, gambling, jewel heists . . .

-

The Beachwood Tip Line: Like medical marijuana.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:12 AM | Permalink

Ready For Reform: Not Loopholes

By The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform

Over the objections of reform advocates throughout the state, the Illinois Senate on Thursday approved a bill (HOUSE BILL 7) to establish contribution limits but with so many loopholes that the legislation is "limits" in name only.

Cynthia Canary, Director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform (ICPR), issued the following statement:

"The disappointing Senate action should not be rubberstamped by the House," said Cynthia Canary, Director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform (ICPR). "This phony reform should be blocked, and reform-minded legislators should insist on filling the loopholes created by the Senate."

ICPR and the CHANGE Illinois! coalition have advocated real reform modeled after the federal system of campaign limits - $2,400 limit on individual contributions, $5,000 limit on PAC, business and union contributions and a $30,000 limit on contribution from legislative leadership PACs to legislative candidates.

-

SOME OF THE PROBLEMS WITH HOUSE BILL 7

* NO LIMIT ON IN-KIND CONTRIBUTIONS: Not only are the dollar amounts of the limits high, but there are no limits on "in-kind" contributions from one candidate's committee to another. That means legislative leaders could use campaign funds to hire staff, pay for commercials and send direct mail on behalf of candidates. None of those would be covered by a contribution limit. It has the potential to exempt millions of dollars from the limits.

* ANNUAL (CALENDAR YEAR) vs. ELECTION CYCLE LIMITS: Because the federal system uses election cycles of primary and general elections, officeholders and challengers are treated the same. But the Senate bill would set limits - $5,000 for an individual and $10,000 for a PAC, business or union - on a calendar year basis. That protects incumbents.

For example, using the federal system, a governor and challenger could each get no more than two maximum contributions in a four-year period. But under the calendar year system, sitting governors could collect the maximum level in each of the governor's four years in office.

Because challengers usually don't gear up for campaigning and fundraising until about two years before the election, a challenger could collect the limit from a contributor only twice before the general election. That's a potential 2-to-1 advantage for an incumbent.

* TRANSFERS FROM LEADERS' (AND OTHERS') COMMITTEES: Any candidate for any office in Illinois could transfer up to $90,000 in cash to another candidate's committee. There are so many potential transfers of funds from committee to committee that it would be easy for legislative leaders to maneuver millions of dollars to targeted candidates. The end result would be the same as exists today.

* ENFORCEMENT: Enforcement of campaign finance laws would remain extremely weak in Illinois. We had recommended the State Board of Elections be directed to make random audits of campaign committees to determine whether they were disclosing the contributions and expenditures required by law. The Senate bill would only give the State Board of Elections the ability to order an audit when a committee failed to file a quarterly report two times in a calendar year.

-

See also:
* Ready For Reform: Chapter One/Executive Summary.
* Ready For Reform: Chapter Two/Campaign Finance.
* Ready For Reform: Chapter Three/Procurement.
* Ready For Reform: Chapter Four/Enforcement.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:49 AM | Permalink

The Five Dumbest Ideas Of The Week

1. This was a week of odd couples. First up, Bush v. Gore legal opponents David Boies and Ted Olson, who announced they would challenge Proposition 8 in federal court on behalf of two gay couples - and in defiance of many gay legal groups who view this strategy as disastrous. Boies and Olson have apparently been buddies since Boies attended Olson's most recent wedding. With seven marriages between them, maybe they just want to spread the wealth.

2. Our second odd couple is Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman, who are Broadway-bound to star this fall in "A Steady Rain," a play about two Chicago cops whose friendship is tested after a domestic abuse incident. For the sake of authenticity, both will refuse to take a Breathalyzer each night for four hours after the curtain closes.

3. The third odd couple is Karl Rove and James Carville, who debated one another for fun and profit at the Chicago Theater last night. Rove, Carville and the suckers who bought tickets to hear the dueling bullshit artist all refused to take Breathalyzers for four hours after the show closed.

4. Stylist.com is making its own nomination the U.S. Supreme Court - judicial robe makeovers. Will Democrats dare push these through over Republican objections?

5. How often I've said, "Gee, I wish someone would remake 21 Jump Street for the big screen." So imagine my surprise and delight when I learned this week that Superbad's Jonah Hill is writing, producing and - dare we hope - starring in just such a production. And no, I will not submit to a Breathalyzer.

-

Stephanie Goldberg welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:21 AM | Permalink

CTA Tattler

By Katie Buitrago

The Tribune introduced its new beta platform for local blogs this week. Here at the Beachwood's Chicago Blog Review desk, we'll be taking a look at some of the new - and familiar - faces you can find there.

*

Blog: CTA Tattler

Description: "Seen and Heard on the Chicago Transit Authority"

Substance: Kevin O'Neil has been chronicling stuff about the CTA for five years and, as of Tuesday, is now part of the Tribune's stable of local blogs at Chicago Now (stay away from the Trib, man! It's a sinking goddamned ship! The desk chairs, they are being rearranged!). The use of "chronicle" to describe his work is O'Neil's own designation, and it is entirely, though not quite positively, apt. A handy search of Merriam-Webster defines "chronicle" as "an historical account of events arranged in order of time usually without analysis or interpretation." O'Neil gathers CTA-related news and collects stories about wild and wacky sightings on our trains and buses, as well as posts service advisories and news updates from the CTA itself. It's fun for its entertainment value, but usually I've already read all the news he references by the time he gets to it - sometimes days before. If you're not a news junkie like me, it's a useful place to read up on transportation news. But I'm disappointed that he linked to a CBS2 investigation of the CTA failing to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act that was published a full week after a ChicagoTalks investigation (posted partially on The Beachwood Reporter) of the exact same thing that, for some reason, didn't merit a mention at all.

Screen Shot:

ctascree.jpg

Style: The Tattler is basically an aggregator of CTA news, from news outlets and the agency itself, as well as people's CTA tales. Its biggest flaw is that lacks analysis of transit issues almost completely, aside from a pointed question after a link or two. For someone who says he worked as a journalist and has been following the CTA for five years, O'Neil could step it up a notch in terms of providing context and questioning CTA policies. My go-to spot for transportation analysis, while not a Chicago blog, is The Transport Politic. It offers critical interpretations of transit developments from all over the world, including Chicago.

Tl;dr Score: Low. Posts are short and often quote- or picture-heavy.

Commenter Involvement: There are consistently a moderate number of responses with, usually, useful questions that make up for some of the analysis that the posts themselves lack. When R-Hubs was still around, O'Neil would occasionally funnel them over to Huberman at his Coffees with Ron.

Linkage: Since a lot of the content is heavily reliant on news stories and CTA press releases, posts are always sprinkled with good links.

Visual Appeal: The new look at Chicago Now is a big improvement over the original site's plainness. However, the font + drop shadow in the new logo is mildly cringeworthy, and ads take up fully 1/3 of the screen space allocated for content. And the helpful sidebar of categories of posts has inexplicably disappeared. How can I find the Best Tattler Tales of 2007 now?!

NSFW?: Definitely - just say you're planning your ride home.

Start Here: Answers to your queries: Block 37, Wilson retail space

Bottom Line: I read the news every morning (and . . . every half hour continuously throughout the day). I spend two hours of my life every day on the CTA and have witnessed my fair share of wacky hijinx. Frankly, CTA Tattler doesn't really tell me anything I don't already know. Every time I read it, I find myself wishing for a more critical or expansive view of Chicago transportation issues, but that's not really the blog's purpose - and, as a result, I've moved on to greener pastures. But if you don't read the news voraciously and enjoy service updates and tales of commuter woe, you may find something interesting here.

-

See the Chicago Blog Review library.

-

Comments and submissions welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:47 AM | Permalink

Stanley Cup Credo

By Eric Emery

Reasons why you should care even though the Blackhawks won't be in it.

* Barcelona beat Manchester United earlier this week, so you will not longer be distracted by other sports you don't care about.

* Each team has an American on the fourth line, so you can get your small dose of patriotism.

* Detroit throws an octopus on the ice before the game, which signifies the eight GM brands that will cut later this year.

* Series will be shorter than Carlos Zambrano's suspension.

* All Pittsburgh fans grow playoff beards. And I do mean all.

* Viewing mandated under Springfield reform legislation to distract you while pols show you a thing or two about reform.

* Viewing mandated under Obama stimulus plan to distract you from stimulating your curiosity about America's pending bankruptcy.

* Better than watching Jon & Kate Plus 8. Barely, but better.

* Detroit's Marian Hossa played for Pittsburgh last year. To replace Hossa, Pittsburgh acquired Happy Days' Marian Ross to take his place. Both are equally good in the playoffs.

* Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby touched the Eastern Conference Championship trophy. Like the Bradys, Crosby was seriously hurt surfing and a dangerous poisonous spider crawled into his jersey.

* Gambling stakes stoke excitement: If Pittsburgh wins, Detroit must take Pirates. If Detroit wins, Pittsburgh must take Detroit.

-

Eric Emery welcomes your crappy comments.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:31 AM | Permalink

Bloodshot Briefing: June Swoon

By Matt Harness

A sampling of Bloodshot bands performing in Chicago in June.

-

Artist: Scotland Yard Gospel Choir
Date: June 5
Venue: Double Door
Sample:

-

Artist: Justin Townes Earle
Date: June 6-7
Venue: Metronome Festival (Milwaukee/Armitage)
Sample:

-

Artist: Ha Ha Tonka
Date: June 15
Venue: Schubas (album release show)
Sample:

-

Artist: Sally Timms
Date: June 16
Venue: Schubas
Sample:

-

Artist: Waco Brothers
Date: June 20
Venue: Martyr's
Sample:

-

Artist: Cordero
Date: June 25
Venue: Millenium Park (day), Hideout (night)
Sample:

-

Artists: Dollar Store, Scott H. Biram, Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, Deadstring Brothers, Waco Brothers, Andre Williams
Date: June 27
Venue: Taste of Chicago
Samples:

Scott H. Biram

-

Deadstring Brothers

-

Andre Williams

-

Bloodshot Briefing appears in this space every Friday. Matt welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:10 AM | Permalink

May 28, 2009

The [Thursday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

-

BREAKING 11:30 A.M.: Ald. Isaac Carothers to be charged in corruption case today.

-

Roland Burris has reportedly signed a deal to write his memoirs. I wonder if it's a multi-book deal, because he's told so many versions of how he got his Senate seat that they could fill volumes.

Just yesterday his story changed several times as the day went on.

At first he insisted the taped phone call between him and Rob Blagojevich that was released yesterday showed that he had been entirely consistent to his previous accounts.

"Read affidavit 1!" he implored reporters.

He had to specify because Affidavit 1 was so at odds with Affidavit 2, which was so at odds with his testimony before the state House impeachment panel.

By the end of the day, Burris was claiming his talk of contributing to Rod Blagojevich was just placating Rob.

He didn't mention that in the morning.

He told reporters he had always supported the governor and contributed money to his campaign.

Asked how much he had planned to give, he said $1,000.

So any notion of placating came about only hours later.

Burris's spokesperson, Delmarie Cobb, is also a piece of work.

She told Fox Chicago News last night that Burris didn't mention his conversation with Rob Blagojevich to the House panel because they were only looking for information about Rod Blagojevich.

And if Burris offered the governor anything.

Which was a slip on Cobb's part because Burris is clearly trying to offer something - anything within his means that he won't get caught looking bad by doing - in the taped conversation with the governor's brother.

Fox anchor Jeff Goldblatt admirably pressed Cobb by pointing out that Burris was asked if he had had any conversations with anyone in the Blagojevich administration or anyone close to the governor. Robert Blagojevich was not only the governor's brother at the time but led his campaign committee.

Cobb tried to claim once again that the impeachment panel questioning went in another direction after the initial question, but that line of defense has already been demolished.

"It only went in one direction!" Goldblatt said.

Cobb also had the audacity to claim that "Rob Blagojevich had nothing to sell, and Roland Burris had nothing to give. So there is no pay to play."

Burris may have had nothing to give because he was broke, but Rob Blagojevich most certainly had something to sell. The evidence so far is clear that Rob was working the pay-to-play scheme on his brother's behalf.

On CLTV's Garrard McClendon Live, N'Digo publisher Hermene Hartman claimed, quite unbelievably, that Burris didn't offer the governor anything and the governor didn't ask for anything.

I'm not sure Hartman quite saw the irony when she compared the Burris appointment to President Obama's appointment of major fundraiser Lou Susman to the ambassadorship of the U.K.

For the last eight years Democrats have complained about Republicans handing out ambassadorships, and other appointments, to fundraisers.

It's okay when Obama does it?

Besides that, a U.S. Senate seat is an elected office. What makes the Burris case different than other distasteful political rewards is that this was a rare appointment to an elected office - an office that shouldn't be auctioned off.

While watching Larry Yellen interview Burris later on Fox Chicago, I was struck by a very simple notion when Burris described how he was supposedly trying to help the governor while not appearing to buy the Senate seat. He simply could have said "I cannot participate in any fundraising activities while I am under consideration for the Senate seat."

The only reason why he wouldn't say that was if the thought it would hurt his chances of getting the job. Which meant he was trying to go along with the scheme while pretending he wasn't.

On ABC7, I saw the report of how Burris was now saying he never intended to write a check to Blagojevich. He was lying.

So now he's an admitted liar.

But again, if we accept that explanation, that means he was aware that he was expected to pony up some dough if he wanted to remain in contention for the seat. And he went along with it, even if he was just pretending.

And what was he going to do, get the appointment and then never write Blagojevich the check?

Burris also repeatedly claimed that once he hung up the phone he said, to himself apparently, "I can't even do that."

Meaning he couldn't even write the governor a small check. Or have his lawyer write the check - illegally - to hide his identity as the true donor.

Of course, there was no wire to capture Burris's sudden post-conversation realization.

And it was a realization that was short-lived.

Burris told reporters in February that he tried to put on a fundraiser for Blagojevich but was unable to find any donors.

Meanwhile, Rob Blagojevich's lawyer, Michael Ettinger, said "I'm just happy with how my client acted. It showed who he is."

Yes. The tape showed Rob Blagojevich to be a cool customer. He rarely said anything but "Yeah" while Burris tied himself in knots.

The Real Housewives of Chicago
Send your resume - and presumably a head shot - to casting@towersproduction.com. No kidding.

Monitor Lizards
Our aldermen have spent more time bitching and moaning about federal monitor Noelle Brennan than they spent considering the city's 75-year parking meter lease. It's like complaining that you still need a baby-sitter because you're such a problem child.

But here's the thing (in the city that our mayor says leads by example):

"Last week, [Brennan] told the Sun-Times Editorial Board that she had gotten nowhere in her push for a clear anti-patronage hiring policy. She also renewed her complaint that the city has yet to punish employees whose names came up in patronage trials."

*

Is the Sun-Times allowed to capitalize Editorial Board when the total number of its members can fit in a sub-compact? That meeting with Brennan might have just given them enough folks to play bridge.

Cubber Blubber
Speaking of needing a baby-sitter, Carlos Zambrano isn't funny, he's pathetic. And a detriment to the team.

*

Can this team be any more unlikable? Ted Lilly lies to the papers, Milton Bradley accuses the Tribune of tricking him, Carlos Zambrano still needs a pacifier . . . I mean, really.

People's Gas Redux
In Russia, meters read you.

Blackhawks Beards
Watch them get shaved off.

Chicago Goes Tabloid
Now we're linked to Caycee Anthony case, too.

Pushcart Politics
Making elotes legal.

Pols Block Sunshine
Exempt selves from new records law.
-

The Beachwood Tip Line: No exemptions.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:37 AM | Permalink

Dear Blackhawks Fans

By Natasha Julius

No, I am not moving back to Detroit now. As you so eloquently continue to point out, it's not a nice place to live. We've talked about this, remember?

I understand that you want to make yourselves feel a little better about losing to the Red Wings and all, but that horse you're beating died 40 years ago. And this isn't even a horse race. It's a conversation about hockey. To keep harping on a totally irrelevant aspect of American culture should be beneath you. This is sub-Bush League, people. It's downright Brian Campbell-y.

OK, you see what I did there? I insulted your behavior by talking about a hockey player on your hockey team within the context of his contributions to the game of hockey. I didn't say, "that's Brian Campbell-y, because he's ugly" or "that's Brian Campbell-y, by which I mean his hometown of Strathroy, Ontario, probably sucks ass." Instead, I drew a comparison between your habit of saying derisive things about Detroit as a city and Brian Campbell's habit of running his mouth when he should be playing hockey.

You're probably going to tell me that was the worst hockey insult in the history of sports, and that I've just ruined the entire game of smack talk. Or maybe you'll say that I'm gutless Kronwalling Brian Campbell when the whole team just got Helmed. I will gladly accept both these criticisms because they relate to the sport of hockey. I will probably rip out your mouth guard and laugh in your face, but at least we'll be talking hockey. And next year, if the teams meet in the playoffs again and the outcome is different, I promise I won't tell you Chicago is a dump.

You're still right. Detroit still sucks. Enjoy your summer.


-

Bye Bye, Playoff Beard I

-

Bye Bye, Playoff Beard II

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:23 AM | Permalink

People's Gas Journal: The Sequel

By Steve Rhodes

Previously:
* People's Gas Journal. In Russia, appointment schedules you.
* Reminder: Vaunted White House social secretary and Friend of Obama Desiree Rogers made $1.8 million as CEO of this stellar outfit for just the first half of 2008.

-

I'll call this one "In Russia, Meters Read You!"

On March 24, I discovered my gas was off. I called People's Gas and they treated it as an emergency call, sending out a technician - and an assistant - within a couple of hours.

The technician went down into the basement to check the meters. I was suspicious because the person in the apartment across from mine had recently closed her account. I figured mine had been closed instead.

Also bear in mind some history; at some point within the last year I called People's Gas to inquire about higher bills that didn't seem to coordinate with any changes in my personal use.

The technician discovered that indeed one meter had been shut off. But the technician also told me that it was the meter for my neighbor's apartment - where the gas was on. The accounts had been crossed.

Or was I just imagining the events I've just described? According to People's, I was. I must have been in a fever dream.

*

The technician - if he really existed - moved the lock to the proper meter and had me change the label on my meter from 3B to 3A.

I asked what to do about bills from the neighboring unit that I had apparently been paying for who knows how long.

He said he would file a report and any changes in the billing would be reflected in my next bill.

They weren't. Nor on the bill after that. I wanted a refund of the difference between the bills I had been getting for my neighbor's account and my actual usage.

I called People's Gas. Several times. The first time I was promised a supervisor would call me the next day. Still waiting for that call.

I called back on May 14 and spoke to a rep named Lisa. She put me on hold to be transferred to a supervisor and I gave up after about 45 minutes.

I tried to use the online contact form and found for days that it was down - the hard way. The only way you knew was once you had completed writing your message and tried to send. Only after going to the trouble would you find out the system wasn't working. You had to keep taking your chances.

An online customer service request I made on May 14 finally went through.

On May 26th, I received an e-mail apologizing for the delayed response and notifying me that an appointment had been scheduled for a technician to come out on the 28th between 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Why? What would that prove? And how could they schedule an appointment without asking me?

I called the customer service line that day and gave up after having to hold for too long.

I received a recorded phone message on the 27th reminding me of the appointment I never made.

I called customer service on the afternoon of the 27th. First I spoke to Daphne. I explained the problem to her. She told me the technician would come out on the 28th to look at the meters. I asked her why. She said to make sure they weren't crossed. I explained to her that that problem had been fixed. Wasn't there a record of the technician who came out in March?

"So what you want me to do is cancel the appointment?" she asked.

I said, "Cancel the appointment and resolve my billing issue."

"The technicians will be there tomorrow between 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m."

"They can come if they want, but I won't be here."

"They'll come out anyway."

"How will they get in?"

"I don't know."

"Okay, so you'll send technicians out to an appointment I didn't make and they won't be able to get in and nothing will have been resolved and then I'll have to call back and start all over again?"

"Do you want to cancel the appointment?"

"Yes! Haven't we been through that?"

"Yelling won't help."

"Being patient hasn't helped either!"

After going in circles like this and wondering how it compared to waterboarding, I asked to be transferred to a supervisor - a roll of the dice, I know - but told Daphne that I didn't want to be put on hold for 45 minutes.

"Well, I can't assure that. You're not the only person who wants to speak to a supervisor."

"Well why do you think that is?"

On hold I went. When a supervisor came on the line, I had been on the phone to People's for 30 minutes.

"This is Stephanie, can I help you?"

"Are you a supervisor?"

"I'm a solutions specialist."

Oy.

*

Stephanie informed me that, per my request, a technician was coming out the next day to see if my meter had been crossed with another.

I told her the meters had been crossed, but that had been resolved. I just wanted to fix my billing.

Stephanie informed me that, per my request, a technician was coming out the next day to see if my meter had been crossed with another.

I told her again that they would find the meters properly connected to the right account. And that I hadn't requested an appointment.

"The billing department generated that per your e-mail."

My e-mail said only this:

"I continue to make attempts to get my bill straightened out due to your own error billing me for the unit across the hall. Report supposed to be filed. Wasn't. Changes in bills supposed to be made. Weren't. Phone call back to me didn't happen. Now I tried again and was put on hold indefinitely. When you guys figured it out, let me know."

"So you want to cancel your appointment?"

*

I think you can see where this is going. Went on for another 30 minutes. Stephanie (ID# 351400) insisted that a technician had to come out verify that there wasn't a cross-meter issue.

I told her that I could verify that for her right over the phone! The meters were no longer crossed.

Later in the conversation she insisted that a technician had to come out to explain to me that there wasn't a cross-meter issue.

But I was the one explaining to her that there wasn't one, at least not anymore. It was now a billing issue.

I suppose I could have scheduled an appointment to go tell her in person!

But really, how hard is it to understand that the gas went out, a technician came to fix it, found the accounts had been crossed, and fixed it? Is that all that complicated?

"But your e-mail from the 26th [which was really from the 14th, but not on Planet People's] generated this appointment!" Stephanie insisted.

Well I've just generated an appointment for you! With the billing department! It's for right now!

"Your meters are not crossed."

"They aren't any longer. But why do you think my gas was shut off back in March? And how was it turned back on? Don't you have any record of that?"

Stephanie finally accessed "notes" from the technician who - according to her reading - said there was not a cross-meter issue.

Now, why would he write that? When I called People's Gas, I merely said my gas was off. I voiced suspicion to the technician when he was there to help him diagnose the problem, but there would be no need to mention anything in any notes if it wasn't an issue.

I have a service ticket myself with the tech's handwriting. It's nearly impossible to read. I'm almost certain that his notes say there was a cross-meter issue, but in any case it's not hard to figure out.

I told Stephanie what happened: The technician removed the lock from one meter and put it on another. Presto, my gas went on!

Please explain that, Stephanie.

"I'm not a technician."

*

Stephanie eventually did figure out one possible answer: Maybe they just turned the wrong gas off and it had nothing to do with crossed accounts.

Very plausible.

Except that the technician checked the meter numbers, the apartment numbers, and the account numbers and told me the accounts had been crossed.

"Your gas lines are not crossed, Mr. Rhodes," Stephanie told me with what I'm sure was a roll of the eyes.

"The gas line from your neighbor's meter is not going to your apartment."

Um, no. I never suspected so, though with People's I wouldn't put it past them. The accounts were crossed, not the gas lines.

"That's not what our tech says."

"Then why did he have me change the labels on the meters? I switched the one from 3A to 3B and vice versa. Are they labeled wrong now?"

"I'm not a technician."

"Should I go back and change the labels back? If they just turned the wrong meter off, I should go back and change those right, because they're wrong now."

"I'm not a technician."

"But are you advising me to 'correct' the labels now? Won't your meter-readers get it wrong from here on out?"

"I'm not advising you to do anything."

"So, under your scenario, I should just let the meters be wrongly labeled?"

"A technician will come out tomorrow and explain to you that the meters are not crossed."

*

Stephanie advised that I could write a letter of dispute. I asked her what the difference was between that and the phone calls and e-mails I had already made.

The letter of dispute will go the billing department, she said.

The same department that just generated the appointment I never made.

*

"Do you think I just imagined all of this? Do you think I'm making this up?"

"Your meters are not crossed."

Stephanie then had to advise me, like Daphne, that "yelling is not going to help."

No, but if I'm going to get stuck with someone else's bill because People's Gas employs the worst workforce this side of Comcast and ComEd, I'm going to get my money's worth.

And my bills? Those might just get crossed in their own way.

-

Comments and/or new People's Gas tales welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:13 AM | Permalink

May 27, 2009

The [Wednesday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

''The often leisurely game of baseball is filled with many small moments which catch a fan's breath. There is, for example, that wonderful second when you see an outfielder backpedaling and jumping up to the wall and time stops for an instant as he jumps up and you finally figure out whether it's a home run, a double or a single off the wall or an out."

- Sonia Sotomayor

Unthinkable
Eric Zorn pretends liberals don't do the very same thing to Supreme Court choices made by Republican presidents as he thinks will occur with conservative critics of Sotomayor.

See, that's the problem with partisanship. Everything they do is heinous. Everything we do is blessed.

Our tribe is good, their tribe is bad. Even when we engage in the same tactics.

The rhetoric you see on right-wing and left-wing blogs, for example, is identical.

"Do they really think the American people are that stupid?"

"What part of democracy do they not understand?"

"They seem incapable of telling the truth."

And of course, both sides are the ones "speaking truth to power."

Ideology is inherently intellectually dishonest.

This is important because a meme arose a month or so ago about how Obama had "tried" bi-partisanship and it didn't work, so now was the time to use brute party force to pass his agenda. A spate of articles also wondered - now, not during the campaign - about the real utility of bi-partisanship.

But what the American people want is not so much a bi-partisanship where both sides work together on weak compromises - or, in the case of Illinois, to totally screw us.

They want a non-partisanship in which each side is honest about their own failings and policy isn't used as a political football. Where parties don't stop bills they really don't mind just to prevent the other side from scoring a win. Where honest discussion replaces demonization - and Zorn is demonizing in his post the same as those who suspects will demonize.

Non-partisanship doesn't mean you can't have Republicans, Democrats, liberals and conservatives and others. It means you don't turn every little slip-of-the-tongue and pseudo-scandal and policy debate into a political battle with regard only for the power of your own party and no regard for the actual consequences on the citizenry.

Partisanship is defending your party at all costs. It's endorsing Todd Stroger and Richard M. Daley and Rod Blagojevich for the good of your party - and your own ambitions - instead of doing what is right for the people.

Tribes
Our side is never wrong. Your side is evil.

It's wrong when Miss California comes out against gay marriage, but when our president does we'll give him a pass. Unlike her, he must not really mean it!

This is what I saw yesterday, for example, in some brief Facebook conversations, in which liberals were quick to accuse those opposing gay marriage of being bigots, but even quicker to defend Barack Obama's position opposing gay marriage - on religious grounds at that.

"I'm a Christian," Obama once told the Tribune. "And so, although I try not to have my religious beliefs dominate or determine my political views on this issue, I do believe that tradition, and my religious beliefs say that marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman."

Obama did sign an IVO questionnaire in 1996 saying he supported gay marriage.

"But Obama told the Human Rights Campaign in a questionnaire earlier this year that he opposed the idea of civil marriage for gay couples, while supporting civil unions that include the same legal rights," MSNBC reported during the campaign. "He also said he would oppose efforts to block states from voting on this issue

"However, I do not support gay marriage," he said in the questionnaire. "Marriage has religious and social connotations, and I consider marriage to be between a man and a woman. If I was President, however, I would oppose any effort to stifle a state's ability to decide this question on its own."

So . . . he was fine with what happened in California, right? It was a state deciding the issue on its own - and taking the same position he holds.

Obama's position is also unequivocal in The Audacity of Hope.

And yet, unfathomable to Obamaphiles, a slew of them yesterday insisted to me that somehow they knew his real heart, and that deep down he was on their side.

But isn't that what conservatives accused Obama of during the campaign - hiding his real views?

Views that apparently only his most ardent supporters can access.

It's not healthy for a democracy to deify one side and demonize the other. Ironically, that was a central part of Obama's campaign message. I'm not sure how many folks got the memo, though.

Mystery Burris Theater
In which I insert myself into the just-released conversation between Roland Burris and Robert Blagojevich.

Speed Kills
Is the stolen base back? Dan O'Shea investigates.

Accountability Goof
"The Board of Education for the Chicago Public Schools is being forced to vote on over 100 school restructuring plans that were not properly reviewed and approved over the past three years," Alexander Russo writes in "Chicago Forced Into 'Do-Over' For Duncan-Era Goof."

Cubs Flub
A Bleacher Report slideshow corrects Jim Hendry's mistakes.

The Chicago Way
Appearing daily in references worldwide.

Today's Worst Person In Illinois
"All I can say is 'Waah waah waah, I want my Mommy,'" [Mike Jacobs (D-East Moline)] jokingly sobbed.

"For him to think that we should drop whatever we're doing to make sure he gets whatever he wants is amazing. Patrick Collins ought to learn that this is a give-and-take process. You just don"t get whatever you want."

Unless you pay for it. Like the video poker industry.

You're on the list, Jacobs.

Reform Rap
D'Oh! Springfield Is Not Funny Anymore.

More Roland
You're Busted, Burris.

Saving Gary
Airports and parking meters.

-

The Beachwood Tip Line: Waah.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:09 AM | Permalink

Mystery Burris Theater

In which I insert myself into the just-released conversation between Roland Burris and Robert Blagojevich.

-

ROLAND BURRIS: (Clears throat.) Burris speaking.

ROB BLAGOJEVICH: Hello Roland, this is Rob Blagojevich again. How are you?

STEVE RHODES: Um, guys, I'm on the line too . . .

BURRIS: I'm doing fine, I'm doing fine. What's . . . (chuckles) what's going on? I was just discussing you yesterday.

BLAGOJEVICH: (Chuckles.) Oh, were you. Now this is the governor's brother, not . . .

BURRIS: Alright.

BLAGOJEVICH: . . . not the governor.

RHODES: Boy do I feel like an ass.

BURRIS: I, I know you're calling telling me that you're gonna make me king of the world . . .

RHODES: He's going to get you onto American Idol?

BLAGOJEVICH: (laughs)

BURRIS: . . . and therefore I can go off to, you know, wherever and do all these great things.

RHODES: Is this Roland Burris the former state attorney general? Or am I on the wrong call?

BLAGOJEVICH: Well, let me tell ya, one thing I am not is a bullshitter.

RHODES: No, that would be your brother.

BURRIS: (chuckles)

BLAGOJEVICH: So I will just shoot straight with you.

BURRIS: (Chuckles.) Okay.

BLAGOJEVICH: And manage expectations. Now I may be, I may be a little bit different than other family members, but I'm not a bullshitter.

RHODES: I think that's been established.

BURRIS: Okay Rob. 'Cause I've been, I've been trying to figure out what the heck, you know, I can do.

RHODES: To get that Senate seat.

BURRIS: Go ahead.

BLAGOJEVICH: Well, I'm just following up.

BURRIS: Yeah.

RHODES: No, you go first. No, you go first!

BLAGOJEVICH: We've had a number of conversations about, you know, anything you might be able to do; you and Fred might be able to do here before the end of the year for Rod. Again, we're trying to get as much as we can in his war chest, ah, so that when he has to, you know disclose in January . . .

RHODES: When the new ethics law Rod stalled goes into effect. Sure. Go ahead.

BURRIS: Sure.

BLAGOJEVICH: . . . what he's done and if he, you know looks formidable . . . whoever might be out there.

BURRIS: Yeah. Right, right and, and now how do, answer me this question because I'm very much interested in, in trying to replace Obama, okay. Now I . . .

BLAGOJEVICH: So you, let me just tell you Roland . . .

BURRIS: Yeah.

BLAGOJEVICH: . . . you and 1 million other people.

RHODES: (Chuckles. Facetiously.)

BURRIS: That's right, that's right so . . .

BLAGOJEVICH: Of every race, color, creed and faith, it's amazing.

RHODES: I can't believe so many people would be interested in getting an appointment to a United States Senate seat without having to actually campaign for it!

BURRIS: So let, it is and so if I put on a fundraiser now . . .

BLAGOJEVICH: Mm hm.

RHODES: Getting warmer, Roland . . .

BURRIS: . . . and, I, you know I, I think it would have something . . . this is what I've been talking to Fred about it, it has so many negative connotations that Burris is trying to buy an appointment . . .

BLAGOJEVICH: Yeah.

BURRIS: . . . from the governor . . .

BLAGOJEVICH: Yeah.

BURRIS: . . . for the Senate seat. I mean and I'm a high-profile person.

BLAGOJEVICH: Yep.

BURRIS: You know and, and so, I'm now, 'cause I've been just holding off calling you.

BLAGOJEVICH: Yeah.

BURRIS: I'm trying to figure out how in the hell and since you called me I will be honest with you.

BLAGOJEVICH: Yeah.

BURRIS: And I'm trying to figure out how to deal with this and still be in the consideration for the appointment.

RHODES: Awkward!

BLAGOJEVICH: I hear ya. No, I hear ya.

BURRIS: And, and if I do that I guarantee you that, that will get out and people said, oh, Burris is doing a fundraiser and, and then Rod and I both gonna catch hell,

BLAGOJEVICH: Mm hm.

BURRIS: And if I do get appointed that means I bought it.

BLAGOJEVICH: Mmmm.

BURRIS: If I don't get appointed then my people who I'm trying to raise money from are gonna look at me, yeah, what, what's that all about Roland.

RHODES: Meaning they would be giving money to Blagojevich with the assumption that they were helping you buy the seat?

BURRIS: I mean, so, Rob, I'm in a, I'm in a, a dilemma right now wanting to help the governor.

RHODES: But not wanting to get caught.

BLAGOJEVICH: Yeah.

BURRIS: I mean I, you know I, I have been with him on all of the, all the issues and I'm now trying to figure out what the hell the best thing to do.

BLAGOJEVICH: Yeah.

BURRIS: I know I could give him a check.

RHODES: Maybe post-date it.

BLAGOJEVICH: Yeah.

BURRIS: Myself.

RHODES: Roland Burris.

BLAGOJEVICH: Yeah.

BURRIS: And, and my law partner we were gonna try to do something at the law firm. I might be able to do this in the name of Tim Wright.

RHODES: Which is illegal.

BLAGOJEVICH: Mm hm.

BURRIS: Okay, 'cause Tim is not looking for an appointment, okay.

RHODES: Just so you don't give him the seat when you get a check with his name on it. That's really from me. Okay?

BLAGOJEVICH: Okay.

BURRIS: So if I can talk to my law partner who's been, you know, in New York trying to drum up business . . .

BLAGOJEVICH: Oh, good for you.

BURRIS: (Chuckles.)

BLAGOJEVICH: Good for you.

BURRIS: 'Cause you know he's trying to get a part of that, ah, federal bailout stuff.

RHODES: He smells the meat a-cookin'?

BLAGOJEVICH: Oh, yeah, yeah.

BURRIS: Okay, 'cause you know we're, you know he's, we've got a financial law firm here so they're trying to get involved in that. So he'll be back in in a couple days.

RHODES: So you could funnel federal bailout money to Rod Blagojevich's re-election campaign! Perfect!

BLAGOJEVICH: Mm hm.

BURRIS: I think he'll be back in on Monday.

BLAGOJEVICH: Okay.

BURRIS: But, ah, but Fred and I, look I said I gotta call you. I have, I have not.

BLAGOJEVICH: Okay.

BURRIS: 'Cause I didn't know how to deal with this situation.

RHODES: How would a United States senator deal with it?

BLAGOJEVICH: Well, ah, you know I'll stand by. I mean if you wanna write a check and have Fred write a check or have someone else write checks, that'd be great. I mean . . .

RHODES: Illegal third-party donations don't bother us!

BURRIS: Mm hm.

BLAGOJEVICH: We're just trying to do some clean up here. We've got a number of events we've got like . . .

BURRIS: Okay, how, yeah . . .

BLAGOJEVICH: . . . 18 events set up between now and the end of the year.

RHODES: Is that 18 with or without the arrest?

BURRIS: Okay. Maybe I can join in on one of those events too. What, what, do you have any going with the people that I know?

RHODES: That way I can pretend this has nothing to do with the senate seat.

BLAGOJEVICH: You know right now we have no - you know to be honest with ya I, ah, we have no law firms.

BURRIS: Okay.

BLAGOJEVICH: We've got a lot of ethnic groups. A lot of, ah, contract, not a lot of contractors, but, ah . . .

BURRIS: Is, is there, ah, I mean I, if you can figure somebody who I might be able to work because no, ah, what's his name Connolly, Wilhelm and Connolly, what's this guy's name, ah, ah . . .

BLAGOJEVICH: Kevin Conlon?

BURRIS: Kev .., yeah, Kevin Conlon.

BLAGOJEVICH: He did one already.

BURRIS: Yeah, right 'cause, ah, and once Fred found out he had done one, we thought maybe we could hook on with him, but he had done his.

BLAGOJEVICH: Yeah, he did.

BURRIS: (Chuckles.) And, and so, we couldn't hook up with him.

RHODES: (Chuckles.)

BLAGOJEVICH: Yeah.

BURRIS: And, and that's what I am wrestling with.

BLAGOJEVICH: I understand your concerns, ah, Roland.

BURRIS: And, and God knows number one, I, I wanna help Rod. Number two, I also wanna, you know hope I get a consideration to get that appointment.

BLAGOJEVICH: Mm hm.

BURRIS: And, and however that goes, ah, it would dictate, ah, you know how the press treats it.

BLAGOJEVICH: Understand.

BURRIS: 'Cause man I, I will be, you know we both would be profiled . . .

BLAGOJEVICH: Yeah.

BURRIS: . . . and we don't need that.

RHODES: Maybe you could lie on your affidavit to the state House impeachment panel, bring in Bobby Rush to play the race card, and then hire Delmarie Cobb to get you to shut up . . .

BLAGOJEVICH: Yeah.

BURRIS: Yeah.

BLAGOJEVICH: Well, hey, I appreciate your candor.

RHODES: No problem.

BURRIS: Yes.

BLAGOJEVICH: I, I can't help you with your dilemma other than want to encourage you to . . .

RHODES: Break the law.

BURRIS: Sure, sure.

BLAGOJEVICH: . . . to do what you think is fair from your standpoint . . .

BURRIS: Okay.

BLAGOJEVICH: . . . and Fred's standpoint and ya know, I'll work with you. And if I can think of a place where we can tie you guys in.

RHODES: And no one will be the wiser.

BURRIS: Oh, yeah, please consider that and give me a call back to . . .

BLAGOJEVICH: Okay.

BURRIS: . . . to let me know.

RHODES: So we're agreed, then?

BLAGOJEVICH: Okay.

BURRIS: 'Cause I'm working on it. I mean I'm just . . .

RHODES: Scared?

BLAGOJEVICH: Yeah.

BURRIS: . . . I'm just trying to figure out what the best way to do where it won't create any, any conflict for either one of us.

RHODES: Maybe you should consult a lawyer.

BLAGOJEVICH: Okay Roland. How's your business by the way?

BURRIS: It's terrible.

BLAGOJEVICH: Is it? Shit, I'm sorry to hear that.

BURRIS: I mean, you know Fred and I we might lose Burris and Lebed because we've been trying to get contracts. We don't have any clients renewing for 09.

BLAGOJEVICH: No kidding.

RHODES: You must not do very good work.

BURRIS: We have no clients renewing for 09. Fred is dying on the vine because, I, you know, a lot of our clients have run out.

RHODES: Without paying? Or they're all in jail now?

BLAGOJEVICH: Yeah.

BURRIS: And, and so we're thinking about, you know going our separate ways.

RHODES: Well, maybe you'll get some of that bailout money.

BLAGOJEVICH: Mmmm.

BURRIS: And I'm going back into the law practice . . .

BLAGOJEVICH: Yeah.

BURRIS: . . . rather than the consulting business . . .

BLAGOJEVICH: Yeah.

BURRIS : . . . because we don't have any clients.

RHODES: Is that a hint? Because that's pretty much been established.

BURRIS: And anything I give would be out of my personal funds.

BLAGOJEVICH: Yeah.

BURRIS: . . . because there ain't nothing coming in from the business.

BLAGOJEVICH: Mmm. Got that.

RHODES: Message received, Roland.

BLAGOJEVICH: it is a tough time for everybody I mean . . .

BURRIS: It, it, it's bad.

BLAGOJEVICH: Yeah.

BURRIS: I mean I, I didn't spring that on you.

BLAGOJEVICH: Yeah.

BURRIS: But you, but you asked.

BLAGOJEVICH: Yeah.

BURRIS: I mean that, that's, Rob, that's just where it is.

BLAGOJEVICH: Mm hm.

BURRIS: Um, at the end of the year if we don't get a major client in, Burris and Lebed will, you know, Fred will go his separate way and I will try to go into the law firm . . .

RHODES: WE GET IT!

BLAGOJEVICH: Mm hm.

BURRIS: . . . and continue to make some money.

BLAGOJEVICH: Well, do you have prospects for that?

BURRIS: Yeah, I'm, I'm of counsel to a law firm.

BLAGOJEVICH: Please keep me in mind and you know if you guys can just write checks that'd be tine, if we can't find a way for you to tie in.

BURRIS: Okay, okay, well we, we, I, I will personally do something, Okay.

BLAGOJEVICH: Okay. Alright Roland.

BURRIS: And it'll be done before the 15th of December.

BLAGOJEVICH: Okay.

BURRIS: Alright. (Chuckles.)

BLAGOJEVICH: Alright.

RHODES: Will you guys just say goodbye and hang up?! This is like a 15-year-old asking a girl out on a date . . .

BURRIS: Okay.

BLAGOJEVICH: Hey, you're a good friend. I'll pass on your message.

RHODES: The one about you wanting to pay-to-play but not wanting to get caught and how you don't really have any money but you could always get someone else to write the check or tie yourself into someone else's fundraiser.

BURRIS: Please do and . . .

BLAGOJEVICH: Okay.

BURRIS: . . . tell Rod to keep me in mind for that seat, would ya? (Chuckles.)

BLAGOJEVICH: I'll let him know.

BURRIS: Okay.

BLAGOJEVICH: Bye Roland.

BURRIS: Alright. Bye-bye.

BLAGOJEVICH: Bye.

RHODES: Bye.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:03 AM | Permalink

Fantasy Fix: Speed Kills

By Dan O'Shea

One of the biggest debates of this year's fantasy baseball season revolves around stolen bases: Are they back in vogue again, or merely more noticeable at a time when we are trying to forget how many home-run hitters have been tied to steroids?

Some observers, like Tim Kurkjian, have made the case that there is not much of an up-tick from recent years, and that the tainted homer is putting the spotlight back on speed.

Personally, I think a number of players who were already gifted speedsters have become more conscious of running this year. Perhaps, teams are being a bit more aggressive, but that doesn't account for the number of times this year a player has stolen home: Four (Jacoby Ellsbury, Jason Werth, Michael Bourn and Kaz Matsui). Stealing home, by the way, is such an impressive feat that I think extra fantasy points should be given for pulling it off.

It's unlikely that steals of home will become all that much more frequent because pitchers and catchers may be more aware now and less likely to be caught napping, but in addition to the steals of home, the other feat that's captured our attention is the multi-steal game. Carl Crawford had six in a game, Dexter Fowler five, Werth four. Even Mark Reynolds, who has perhaps better then moderate speed, but not much better, had four in one game. It seems like players are taking advantage of things they didn't before - stealing third with a right-handed batter up, stealing home against a left-handed pitcher whose back is turned, perhaps stealing earlier in counts before a hit-and-run kick in.

In the new era of the SB, Crawford is the new Rickey Henderson, only better because he never gets caught. B.J. Upton is the new Lou Brock, capable of flashing occasional extra-bases power. Chone Figgins, Ellsbury, Bobby Abreu, Bourn, Jason Bartlett and Willy Taveras are a few of the other names worth mentioning who are on a 40+ SB pace. Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez are dependable stealers who haven't quite hit their stride yet, but have the potential to end up with 40 or more. David Wright, Emmanuel Burriss, Coco Crisp, Brian Roberts, Ian Kinsler, Fowler and Nyjer Morgan all are on a pace to exceed 30 SBs this year.

Whatever the cause, the SB is figuring big this year, and it may have a connection to other important fantasy stat categories, including runs, batting average, hits and walks. It may not help your power stats, but keying in on stolen base leaders could bring you a pretty consistent way of accumulating points in multiple categories on an almost daily basis.

Meanwhile, it's the end of May, and time to hand out a few awards:

* MVP of May: Joe Mauer, C. Carl Crawford has stolen 23 bases in the last month, but Mauer has hit over .440, with 11 HRs and 31 RBIs since returning from a season-opening injury. Great pick-up for those of you who drafted him early despite the injury and used another late spot for a back-up catcher. He appears to be worth the trouble.

* Cy Young of May: Justin Verlander, SP. 5 wins, 60 Ks (!) and a 0.85 ERA have Verlander and the first-place Tigers in 2006 form. Zack Greinke, April's choice, could have won it two months running, but Verlander is a sort of a comeback story too good to ignore.

* Sleeper of the Month for May: Tie between Justin Upton, OF and Trevor Hoffman, RP. Upton has straightened himself out after a horrible opening month. He has 8 HRs and 24 RBIs in the last month and is hitting .376. Hoffman is not an unknown quantity, but I don't think anyone foresaw 11 saves in the last month with a 0.00 ERA after an injury forced him to miss much of April.

* Rookie of the Month for May: Matt Palmer, SP. We'll see how long it holds up, but Palmer was 4-0 with one complete game, 20 Ks and a 4.45 ERA in the last month - not lights out, but he's on a strong team with a solid rotation and bullpen to help him out.

And now, the latest from the fantasy baseball expert wire:

* Fantasy Windup highlighted phenom David Price first start before Price took the mound Monday. His ultimate line: 3.1 IP, 6 Ks, 5 BB, and way too many pitches. The strikeouts are promising, the walks are worrisome, but if Price has been sitting on your bench with an "NA" tag since you drafted him in what was hopefully a late round, it's now time push him into the starting rotation.

* KeeperLeagueGM says the Matt Wieters Watch is almost over, as the Orioles have gotten desperate enough to call up the most highly-touted catcher since Joe Mauer. Wieters comes into a lineup where he should be fairly well protected and given some good pitches to hit. He's worth trading for if you're thin at catcher, but don't be surprised if his owner asks for a top 75 player before Wieters sees one pitch.

* Bleacher Report's Wolf Hunt has a list of pitchers whose records may disguise lower overall value. A favorite of mine, Rick Porcello, made the list. I dropped Porcello when he was 1-3, and he's pitched two gems since, and against sub-par teams, as the Hunt points out.

* Weekly Rundown shines a light on Carl Pavano, the much-maligned (Read "The Yankee Years" if you don't believe me) Indians starter, who now has won four games for a last-place team. Despite past warning signs from Pavano's checkered career, he could make an interesting roster addition right now if you can stash him on the bench. The Indians are likely to improve as we swing toward the second half, and an experienced pitcher who can go deep in games will benefit.

* Roto Arcade has another pitcher worth a grab-n-stash approach: Phil Hughes. The young Yankee SP is much improved from earlier trips to the majors, and his team is the hottest in baseball over the last two weeks, with the look of a group that has figured out how to win again. Hughes at times has had lock-down shut-out stuff, though he's never been able to keep it up for two consecutive games. Those days may be over.

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Dan O'Shea's Fantasy Fix appears every Wednesday. He welcomes your comments. You can also read his about his split sports fan personality at SwingsBothWays, which isn't about what you think it is.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:31 AM | Permalink

May 26, 2009

The [Tuesday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

* Skokie is the new home of the National Whiffleball Championship. Team Beachwood?

* Jerry Springer deserves an Oscar because I couldn't tell at all that he was just playing a character.

* This just in: Rod Blagojevich will argue in court that he was just playing the character of an Illinois governor.

* Kathy Posner also writes that CREDIT CARD COMPANIES ARE NOT BAD!!

* Maybe she's just playing a character.

* The Tribune editorial page becomes the last media outpost to discover the Obama-as-Spock meme.

* To be fair, the Tribune picked it up from Obama himself, via Newsweek. But it did call the comparison "new." What's next, Obama as Lincoln?

* Does Obama really want to be likened to a character incapable of feeling emotion?

* How can Obama be both the inspirational charistmatic and Spock? It's like being a conciliator and a change agent at the same time.

* Oh, I forgot: Obama is just playing the character of a change agent. Torture away!

* Does that make Joe Biden Bones?

* "Fred Lebed, who worked in the lobbying firm with Burris until he became a senator, welcomed the Fritchey bill to list earnings," the Tribune reports.

"Throughout my nearly 25-year career in the public sector and during these past 10 years as a consultant and lobbyist, I have always felt that there can never be too much transparency in the disclosure of information from lobbyists," Lebed said. "The public deserve and expect nothing less."

And that's why he and Burris have never released their earnings lobbying the state in all these years and won't do so in the future unless compelled by law.

* The Sun-Times has a new astrologer. I hear you can get your palm read in their lobby, too.

* "It really gets to me that so many of my readers think I'm a psychic, " new Sun-Times astrologer Eugenia Last writes on her blog. "They haven't figured out that if I ask for your birth data right down to the minute I'm probably doing some mathematical calculations."

Like how to invest all that money she's made dispensing advice based on people's birth data.

* "Although Leo's shine brightly they are not always your brightest light bulb. So what's in store for President Barach [sic] Obama?" Last wonders. "After all he does have transiting Jupiter moving across his ascendant and into an area of his chart that will influence the way he deals with both political and personal partners around the world. Yes, I'm still on the Jupiter craze but considering what a huge planet it is and what it can mean to all of us I just had to give it another go from a different perspective."

* "About four hours lapsed between Chicago Police arresting a fellow officer in a deadly weekend crash and the administration of a Breathalyzer test to determine if the officer had been drinking," the Sun-Times reports.

"The tests on Chicago Police Officer Richard Bolling, 39, revealed a blood-alcohol level of .079, just shy of the .08 legal limit."

You don't need Eugenia Last to do the math.

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Plus:

* Pieholden Suite. Achingly beautiful. The musical themes could have been stretched out over an entire album.

* Illinois politics? There's an app for that.

* Cubs slumpbusters. In The Cub Factor.

* What Peavy and Beckham say about the Sox' future. In The White Sox Report.

* Joel Quenneville does his best Milt Bradley. In SportsTuesday.

* Chicago Blog Review: The Urbanophile.

* Pot and the law.

* The Ransacking of Reform.

* Inside Ed Burke's Palace.

* The Earmark Senator.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Quite logical.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:12 PM | Permalink

Pieholden Suite

"His collaboration with Tweedy, the band's primary songwriter and singer, reached its apex on the 1999 Summerteeth album, and one of its densely orchestrated songs, "Pieholden Suite," later became the name of Bennett's recording studio."

- Greg Kot, "Jay Bennett Dies At Age 45: Ex-Wilco Member And Musician Extraordinaire

Pieholden Suite


There's a whisper
I would like to breathe into your ear but
I'm too scared to
Get that close to you right now

There are dreams we might have shared and
I still care and I still love you
But you know how
I've been untrue

In the beginning we closed our eyes
Whenever we kissed
We were surprised to
Find so much inside


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:58 AM | Permalink

The chiPhone

By Beachwood Labs

First in a series.

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Credits: Timothy Inklebarger, Gerald Liebhardt, Bethany Lankin, Cate Nolan, Steve Rhodes. Additional thanks to Shawn Girvan, Marty Gangler, Rick Kaempfer.

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From the Beachwood Archive: A Patti Blagojevich Holiday Song

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See the Beachwood's YouTube page.

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And from the Beachwood Sports Parody Desk:
* We Love Q
* Eddie Elia
* 100 Seasons in the Sun
* The 1908 Song
* Please Stop Believin'
* 99 Years of Cub Losses
* Blame It On Bartman
* We Can't Wait 100 Years
* Dusty Must Get Fired
* Let's Call The Crosstown Off!
* Louuuuu!
* Ode to Ozzie
* The 12 Days of Cubness
* The Hester Man Can!
* I'm Sammy
* Calendar Bears

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:40 AM | Permalink

SportsTuesday

By Jim Coffman

Let's not become too agitated about the Hawks' less-than-stellar effort against the Red Wings on Saturday, okay? Two nights prior they avoided embarrassment by pulling out Game 3 but they couldn't repeat the sensation despite a couple high-profile Red Wings absent from the lineup when the teams returned to the ice. The Hawks tried to muscle up in Game 4 and in the NHL these days that almost never works. Teams that try to play chippy hockey pay a price in power plays against that they rarely overcome.

Beachwood Baseball:
  • The Cub Factor
  • The White Sox Report
  • And now the Hawks will almost certainly bow out to the defending champs on Wednesday (or if the Wings suffer a let-down, the next time the teams take the ice). On the bright side, the end of this series will cap off what can only be described as an amazing season. After 10 years of decrepitude, the Hawks bounced all the way back into the NHL's elite in one great campaign. And then there is the fact that the only time to vociferously bemoan a playoff setback is when your team clearly had the advantage in talent, toughness and experience. The Red Wings are about to sweep that best-of-three series.

    But the Hawks will obviously go into the next playoff go-round with a great deal more experience. Dustin Byfuglien, Duncan Keith and other young Hawks won't just display more toughness next time around, they'll be smarter about when to assert it. And Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have only just begun to scratch the surface of their talents.

    One thing that is a little eerie is something I was reminded of last week. That was the fact that when the Hawks last won the Cup, in 1961, Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull were just about the same ages that Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are now. Clearly Mikita and Hull still had a great deal to learn when they won that Cup. Clearly they improved their play over the next half-dozen years. And crystal clearly, the six-team NHL of 1961 was slightly different than today's 30-team behemoth. Still, the very young Mikita and Hull were a huge part of a Cup-winning effort early in their careers and then never returned to the mountaintop. That's a great reason to remember to never start talking too much about a team's potential until the current season is over. No matter how young, a team must do absolutely everything it can to win right now. There are so many things that can go wrong (especially in this era of already contentious contract negotiations spiraling down to a new level soon as the NHL salary cap goes down in the next few off-seasons).

    That's why upon further review, I'm not as upset as I was about Marty Havlat playing in Game 4. Initially I thought it was ridiculous that a guy who had taken such a crushing (and completely legal by the way - Brian Campbell's inane yammering about it being a "dirty play" be damned) knockout hit the previous game had no business playing in the next contest. Of course he wouldn't be as good as Hawks reserve forward Colin Fraser, a fourth-liner if there ever was one but still, a tough and reasonably skilled player who was ready to step into the lineup if Havlat couldn't go. But upon further review it is clear the only way the Hawks were going to advance in this series would be if the best players played their absolute best hockey. So if there was any chance whatsoever Havlat would be able to bounce back (and it was a tiny chance - that was an absolutely perfect body check Red Wing defender Niklas Kronwall unloaded on the Hawks's most skilled winger), the Hawks had to take it. If they were going to have any sort of real chance, they needed him in the lineup.

    So I won't get on the coach for that one. However, hey Joel Quenneville, I don't care if the roughing penalty at the end of the first period was the worst call in the history of hockey (which it most certainly was not - it wasn't even the worst call of the game), whining about the officiating to the media is always, always, always a mistake. Perhaps there was a time when ultra-charismatic coaches might bleat about calls not going their way and gain a small advantage in the next game. But those days are long gone.

    If a coach can stay reasonably cool (first of all, don't pile up the compound profanities - second, avoid ostentatious gestures), he'll often have a chance to vent to officials in the middle of a given game. That's the best he can do. And if he's persuasive enough, even-up calls have been known to happen. But repercussions following specific calls will almost never be felt days later. First and foremost, different officials will be assigned. Second, time heals coach versus ref wounds.

    Quenneville would have had us believe the roughing call in question (the one that led to the Red Wings' third goal early in the second period) was absolutely pivotal. But it obviously wasn't. At that point the Hawks were already down two goals and playing poorly. By speaking up about it after the game it was clear to everyone in the NHL pool of officials that all the coach was trying to do was show up a few officials and perhaps make himself and his team look a little less bad (don't you understand? It was the referee's fault).

    The worst part of the deal, Joel? You sounded like Milt Bradley. And you absolutely do not want to sound like Cubs bust of all time Milt Bradley these days.

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    Coach Coffman welcomes your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:26 AM | Permalink

    The Cub Factor

    By Marty Gangler

    If nothing else this week, the Cubs proved that there is nothing to worry about - that is how I started last week's Cub Factor. Well, what a difference a week can make. Because if nothing else, the Cubs proved there are plenty of things to worry about. They don't have to worry about getting stuck with Dusty Baker through a goofy rule change or be concerned with Ted Lilly making a birdhouse over at Koyie Hill's woodshop, but they should start to worry about people taking turns on the disabled list and forgetting how to play anything close to winning baseball. Those are pretty big things to worry about.

    It's time to bring in a slumpbuster.

    Now, we're not condoning the slumpbusters of yore. This is a family website.

    But there are plenty of other clubhouse rituals available to break this team out of its doldrums.

    1. Steroids. After all, they don't test everyone, do they? It'd be worth losing one or two guys to a suspension to get everyone else pumped up.

    2. Sign free agents Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa.

    3. Noted magician Ryan Dempster could make Derrek Lee disappear so Micah Hoffpauir gets more playing time.

    4. Lou Piniella could order a Code Red on Milton Bradley.

    5. Geovany Soto could be put on the Valerie Bertinelli diet.

    6. "Jim Hendry to the white courtesy phone. Your flight is leaving."

    7. The Cubs could apply to the American League so it could use Hoffpauir or minor-league sensation-without-a-position Jake Fox as a DH.

    8. Sacrifice a yuppie before tonight's game.

    9. The iPhone slumpbusting app.

    10. More Falstaff in Lou's cooler.

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    Week in Review: Things got so bad while the Cubs were getting swept on the road by both the Cardinals and the Padres that Alfonso Soriano volunteered to play second base and Reed Johnson found himself batting cleanup when the team got home to face Pittsburgh.

    Week in Preview: The Cubs stay home all week to finish up a three-game set with the Pirates and host four against the Dodgers, who are still without Manny Ramirez. It's a bad sign that the Cubs are missing their Ramirez more.

    The Second Basemen Report: Another week with three starting second basemen over seven games, with Aaron Miles and Mike Fontenot each getting three starts each and Bobby "Hill" Scales getting one. With Ryan Freel starting to see playing time and Soriano jonesing to get back to the infield, The Second Basemen Report's dreams may soon come true.

    In former second basemen news, Mark DeRosa has his average up to .261 and Ronnie Cedeno has his up to .188. They are both also capable of playing third base, and and they are both missed.

    The Zam Bomb: Losing makes Big Z furious. So he moves to furious.
    zam_furious.jpg

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    Endorsement No-Brainer: The Cubs for the Swivel Sweeper. The Padres and Cards love theirs!

    Lost In Translation: Hari kari is Japanese for "Milton Bradley is killing this team."

    Milton Bradley Game of the Week: Lucky Ducks. Because you're a Lucky Duck to make $10 million for hitting .200 and acting like an ass.

    Sweet and Sour Lou: 49% Sweet, 51% Sour. Lou is down a big six points on the Sweet-O-Meter. And just like your real crazy drunk uncle, Lou is trying to drink away the pain.

    Don't Hassle the Hoff: Not a great week for the Hoff but he still has more RBI's than Milton Bradley, so don't hassle him.

    Beachwood Sabermetrics: A complex algorithm performed by the The Cub Factor staff using all historical data made available by Major League Baseball has determined that you can't make the playoffs with Reed Johnson as your clean-up hitter and Milton Bradley as your ump-baiter.

    Over/Under: Number of games Bradley will be suspended for by season's end : +/- 6.

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

    The White Sox Report: Now with a weekly Cubs Snub.

    Mount Lou: Mount Lou is going to f'n blow.

    mtlou_red.gif

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    Contact The Cub Factor!

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:36 AM | Permalink

    The White Sox Report

    By Andrew Reilly

    Jake Peavy sucks.

    Even if he's a great pitcher, he sucks.

    Even if the White Sox Enemies List* needed an ace, he sucks.

    Even if the Good Guys insist on taking this all-or-nothing thing into a weird parallel universe of all and nothing, he sucks.

    Even if he makes the Cubs look stupid (and especially if he lands on the North Side), he sucks.

    Anyway, in addition to his usual duties as Best Shortstop Ever, superprospect Gordon Beckham is getting time on the farm at both second and third bases. In some larger, longer-term sense, Beckham's flexibility and adaptability undoubtedly suggest a future brighter than what even all the hype and hyperbole could ever suggest. Two Gold Gloves in the same season? Most home runs for a shortstop - and for a second baseman?

    Beckham-to-Beckham-to-Beckham double plays? Anything is possible, apparently.

    But in the short term? In the short term this is awful news. Not that Beckham isn't capable around the horn, but with the Sox' youth movement so young itself, is it really already time to give up on Alexei Ramirez, Chris Getz and Josh Fields? Does one-third of the starting lineup really need to be put on notice?

    Considering the lame offensive output of the three, it's probably not a bad idea.

    That said, if the Sox do call up Beckham later this year we can probably assume the season is lost. While another kid adjusting to the big time probably won't really help anything, by then it won't really hurt anything either. Chris Getz is hitting .244 with a lot of walks; Alexei Ramirez is hitting .226 with some decent power; Josh Fields is at .217 with some of the former and increasingly less of the latter. If these things continue unabated, could Beckham really be any worse an option? Probably not.

    Which gets back to the original point about Peavy. How can the Sox really be looked at in terms of serious contention when we're all pinning our hopes onto the back of an unproven 22-year-old whose arrival on the South Side means total and abject failure of most of the club's future? When was the last time a can't-miss prospect actually hit its mark? And who on earth would ever trade San Diego's 72 degrees of sunshine for 45 and cloudy on Memorial Day?

    (*) William Ligue, Jr., Eric Dybas, Magglio Ordonez, Royce Clayton, Jaime Navarro, Curt Schilling, every Cub ever, the 1959 Los Angeles Dodgers, Tito Landrum, Barry Bonds, Jay Mariotti, Carlos Guillen, Nick Punto, Andy T. Clown, Phil Garner, Vicente Padilla, Kelvim Escobar, Robert Fick, Jeff Weaver, Mark Whiten, Mike North, Dean Palmer, Art Ditmar, Bobby Higginson. Among others.

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    Week in Review: Oh, what sweet hilarity in this 5-3 stretch. Seriously, who loses 20-1? It's always funny to use football jokes describing blowouts, except even the lowly Detroit Lions know how to score at least three at a time. Monday's 17-3 murder of the Angels was nice and all, but taking too much comfort in that just turns the Sox into Tommy Gunn in Rocky V: you can beat the pretenders up all you want, but in the end the good ones will still whoop you in a streetfight.

    Week in Preview: Probably nothing special. The Good Guys face the expectedly good Angels and the second-place-with-a-losing-record Royals. We used to look forward to playing a lousy AL Central team; now we have simply become one.

    The Q Factor: Anybody seen my MVP candidate and theoretical best hitter? Quentin's average is lower than all but three others on the active roster, yet his on-base percentage is fifth-best. You say he can't hit? Carlos Quentin will hit until he can't run, and when he can't run he'll just walk wherever and whenever he damn well pleases until they carry him off the field. Which they did. Which is the way he wants it. Well, he gets it! I don't like it any more than he does.

    That's Ozzie!: "I always think positive. Colon is going to be real fresh for the next start. That's all I can say about Colon today."

    - The Sox skipper after Thursday's drubbing. Colon faced 16 batters and gave up eight runs in two innings.

    The Guillen Meter: Somber following Guillen's trip home to Venezuela for a family emergency over the weekend, the Guillen Meter reads 1 for "in the end, it's just a game."

    Alumni News You Can Use: Javier Vazquez has 78 strikeouts in 64 innings or, to put it another way, more K's than any two of John Danks, Mark Buehrle and Bartolo Colon combined. Vazquez also remains good for heroic pitching performances only when absolutely unnecessary.

    Hawkeroo's Can-O-Corn Watch: Angels CF Torii Hunter still flashes a mean glove, swings an even meaner stick and showed up the Sox as many times as anyone can in his time with the Twins. Look for a minimum of twelve references to the time Hunter took out Jamie Burke or that one catch he made against Carlos Lee. You know the one I'm talking about.

    Endorsement No-Brainer: Pinch-hitter, second baseman, third baseman and outfielder Jayson Nix for Victorinox cutlery. The original Swiss Army Knife.

    Cubs Snub: Rich Harden hits the disabled list and Milton Bradley is at war with the umpires of the National League. What were the odds? (Hint: Very high.)

    The White Sox Report: Read 'em all.

    The Cub Factor: Know your enemy.

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    The White Sox Report welcomes your comments.

    -

    Andrew Reilly is the managing editor of The 35th Street Review and a contributor to many fine publications.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:22 AM | Permalink

    May 23, 2009

    The Weekend Desk Report

    Programming Note: The Papers will return on Tuesday.

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    The Weekend Desk Report

    By Natasha Julius

    The Weekend Desk knows no holidays.

    Change Watch
    Despite a hostile takeover bid from former subsidiary Reality TV, it appears Reality has the backing of most investors this week. Analysts note that while Reality TV appears to have plenty of cash and a complete lack of shame, the cold, hard ring of truth makes Reality tough to take down.

    Panic on the Streets of London
    As a significant anniversary approaches, a heavily-censored report indicates the UK is ill-equipped and uncoordinated in its response to even the most mundane of domestic security threats. Fortunately, the report notes, many of these criminal elements appear to be losing the will to fight on their own.

    Indy Hop
    It's taken long hours of negotiation, but organizers say they are confident that the Indianapolis 500 will thrive after some delicate restructuring. Analysts note the current ownership arrangement will undergo significant modernization in the near future.

    Racing Season
    Of course, the Indy 500 is not the only race to kick off this weekend. Observers note the thrilling conclusion of the world's most demanding marathon has brought this niche sports more mainstream attention. Should there be some sort of upset in this month's Foregone Conclusion race, there might even be some sort of a TV deal in the future.

    Terminated
    Finally this week, remember way back when, when we mentioned our suspicions concerning long-delayed sequels? In other news, duh.

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    Programming Note
    Please note these late Friday additions:

    * Going to Pot. Beachwood legal correspondent Sam Singer examines California's discussion about legalizing pot. Would federal law trump a new state law?

    * Chicago Blog Review: The Urbanophile. Beachwood Books editor Katie Buitrago examines a must-read blog for all, um, urbanophiles.

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    The Weekend Desk welcomes your comments.

    Posted by Natasha Julius at 8:47 AM | Permalink

    May 22, 2009

    The Urbanophile

    By Katie Buitrago

    Blog: The Urbanophile

    Description: "Urban Affairs and the Future of the Midwest City."

    Substance: The Urbanophile is both the moniker of and web home of the expansive mind of Aaron M. Renn. He's a self-described "independent urban affairs thinker, strategist, and writer" who pumps the blog full of original analyses of urban issues, ranging from transportation to development to architecture and more. Sometimes he takes on recent developments in urban planning, and at other times produces his own theories of ways to improve the Midwestern city. He has one leg in Chicago and one in Indianapolis and often uses the cities as the jumping-off points for his essays. Renn clearly has a wealth for his topics and references a broad range of sources from his comprehensive blogroll and - gasp - books. You may remember him for his suburb-infuriating winning entry in the Chicago Community Trust's competition of ideas to raise CTA ridership to 1 billion a year.

    Style: Conversational and smart with copious quoting. Renn's ideas are by no means uncontroversial and he's often challenged and rebutted by others. This results in a lot of wonderful dialogue with other leading urban affairs bloggers and thinkers, which gives the reader a window into hot debates in the field.

    Tl;dr Score: My gods. The posts are exhaustingly long - full of good stuff, mind you, but longer than a union contract. They're long enough for freaking subheads - and there are no cuts. I maintain that it would be worth splitting them up into smaller chunks.

    Commenter Involvement: High, and full of smarty pants debate. The comments enhance the posts a lot.

    Linkage: There's at least a couple per post, but he could stand to make them more abundant - like he does in this post.

    Visual Appeal: Zzzzz. Oh, excuse me, I was just napping there. I guess the fluffy white default template reminded me of my pillow and I plum fell asleep. It gets the job done, but it's hardly creative. Urban design your blog, dude.

    NSFW?: Totally safe, but not really logistically possible. The length of the posts makes it difficult for me to read casually on breaks, at least not without feeling like a dirty time thief.

    Start Here: Fast and Cheap Ways to Improve Public Transit in Indianapolis Right Now.

    Bottom Line: Hey, we all live in a city and have a responsibility to understand them. You might not agree with everything, or even be able to make it through the whole post, but the Urbanophile will get you thinking. Must read for anyone with a casual interest in the way cities work.

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    See the Chicago Blog Review library. We're just getting started!

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    Comments and submissions welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:44 PM | Permalink

    The [Friday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    1. Gaming board chief says video poker would be a big threat to problem gamblers.

    Lawmaker are counting on it!

    2. The view from CNET: "How would pot legalization affect Google?"

    3. Most incriminating part of the Jesse Jackson Jr. story:

    "Jesse Jackson's FEC reports list payments as being made to Donatella & Associates, which Bryant described as 'Sandi's sole proprietorship' for her consulting work. The couple's oldest child is 9-year-old Jessica Donatella Jackson.

    "From 2003 through mid-2005, the recipient is shown on Jackson's reports as 'Lee Stevens' or 'Lee Steven' at the J. Donatella firm. Sandi Jackson's middle name is Lee. Her maiden name is Stevens."

    4. "Bonuses at U of I Questioned: President defends payments to Global Campus employees."

    Maybe the employees were getting offers from other failed Global Campuses.

    5. Cook County Democratic Party chairman Joseph Berrios, who is also a member of the Cook County Board of Review and a lobbyist, says the video poker industry pays him "only" $25,000 to $30,000 a year.

    Good point. He makes much more than that hearing tax appeals from Michael Madigan.

    6. Giggity.

    7. "A small, woman-owned trucking company in the middle of the most recent federal contracting fraud case at City Hall supposedly was paid hundreds of thousands of Chicago taxpayer dollars - with the payments continuing to come even after the company lost approval to do business in the state," the Tribune reports.

    "At least four companies with millions of dollars in city contracts reported hiring Veronica Contracting Inc., a St. Charles-based firm owned by Suzanne Caruso, as a subcontractor to meet requirements that they share the work with minority- and women-owned businesses.

    "Federal prosecutors alleged last month that one of those four city contractors in fact did not pay Veronica Contracting nearly as much as it had told officials in Mayor Richard Daley's administration. But the federal prosecutors do not portray Veronica Contracting as a victim. Rather, they allege that the defendants in the case submitted a sham bid in the name of Veronica Contracting as part of a bid-rigging scheme to ensure that another business would get the city deal."

    Leading by example!

    8. Came across this from a 2004 Sun-Times article while looking up the previous item:

    "Ald. Edward Burke's top political aide was running a trucking company in the name of his wife and another woman to get work as a woman-owned firm under the city's scandal-ridden Hired Truck Program, Mayor Daley's inspector general has concluded."

    9. Another flashback courtesy of Newsalert: "When Anne Burke's Files Were Subpoeanaed."

    10. "A very big IWPA thank you to Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne M. Burke who was the featured speaker at [the Illinois Women's Press Association's] Annual Mate E. Palmer Communications Contest Awards Luncheon that was held on Saturday, May 16th. Justice Burke's message provided warmth, a smile or two and a large degree of inspiration . . . "

    11. Thank You, Jesus: Novelty Lighters Saved.

    12. "Some Newspapers Booking Local Ads Online Thanks To Yahoo."

    Imagine that.

    13. Burris Could Be Less Popular.

    14. Daley Tax Sacks Bears Fans.

    15. The difference between Chicago and Nashville?

    "We have Kenny Chesney and you have Jon Langford," Bobby Bare Jr. says. "That defines it perfectly."

    In Bloodshot Briefing.

    16. "Rachel Alexandra is a special filly, Mine That Bird is for real, Kentucky Derby buzz horses can fall from grace mighty quickly, and I still don't like the way Gabriel Saez rides Friesan Fire," our man on the rail Thomas Chambers writes in his look at the Belmont. In TrackNotes.

    18. The Five Dumbest Ideas of the Week. And the people who had them. See who made the list.

    19. Jones Big Ass Truck Rental Storage.

    20. The Chicago Burndown

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    The Beachwood Tip Line: Memorial.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:25 AM | Permalink

    TrackNotes: 'Bird And The Belmont

    By Thomas Chambers

    There were lessons to be learned from Saturday's 134th running of the Preakness Stakes.

    Rachel Alexandra is a special filly, Mine That Bird is for real, Kentucky Derby buzz horses can fall from grace mighty quickly, and I still don't like the way Gabriel Saez rides Friesan Fire.

    Blinkerless for this race, Big Drama made some drama after bucking in the starting gate and tossing jockey John Velazquez. On an ordinary racing day, they would have kept the horse in the gate and gotten the jockey back aboard, but in what looked almost like compensation for the exam they didn't perform on Barbaro, Big Drama was taken out of the gate and given a histrionic once-over by a veterinarian.

    Safely back in, he went to the lead as everyone figured he would. The Preakness uses just about the entire stretch before the horses get into the clubhouse turn and Calvin Borel used every part of it to gracefully tuck Rachel Alexandra right off the outside shoulder of Big Drama. Meanwhile, Mine That Bird retreated to the back of the pack, as is his style.

    In a magnificent display of energy and speed management, Borel and Rachel were content to merely be involved in the lead, but when they got to the far turn, Rachel showed the first of two major turns of foot and danced to a length-and-a-half lead and was pulling away. Her position gave her a dream trip, unaffected by traffic. Mine That Bird began his patented Big Run and emerged between horses trying both to catch Rachel Alexandra and stay ahead of Musket Man. Rachel's second turn of foot came at about the sixteenth pole when she fast-stepped forward again to gain much of her margin of victory. Another sixteenth, and 'Bird would have caught her.

    After absolutely gunning Friesan Fire on a severe angle to the first pack from the five hole, Saez kept pace and then was merely in the way as Mine That Bird tried to find a quick path to the front but was blocked. The sidestep 'Bird had to make basically cost him the race as he finished a length behind Rachel, length-and-a-half if you don't count her tail. Friesan finished 10th and Pioneerof the Nile was a very disappointing 11th.

    So it's on to the Belmont Stakes June 6.

    Will Rachel Alexandra run in the grueling 1.5 mile "Test of Champions?"

    Will Mine That Bird make the trip to Elmont, NY? A win there and he would have serious credentials for horse of the year. Trainer Chip Woolley says he came out of the Preakness in a most excellent manner.

    Can Calvin Borel actually win a jockey Triple Crown? If Rachel runs, he'll be aboard, but that doesn't seem as certain at this point as 'Bird running. Mike Smith, 'Bird's rider in the Preakness, will not ride him in the Belmont because he is committed to a horse at Hollywood Park that day. So does Borel get back aboard Mine That Bird? The dicey part is that Rachel's trainer Steve Asmussen will want to take as long as he can to decide on running and Woolley has said he wants a jock lined up by early next week.

    As of now, probable Belmont runners include Charitable Man, Summer Bird, Dunkirk, Chocolate Candy, Flying Private, Mr. Hot Stuff, and Miner's Escape. But the Belmont field will be in flux until a few days before as the Triple Crown trail gets a bit of a breather.

    At this point, and without a Triple Crown on the line, connections will start looking down the road to the Whitney, the Travers and on to the Breeders Cup.

    Yellow Brick Road
    Arlington Park depends on its world-class turf course to offer its best racing of the summer and the yellow brick road to the Arlington Million starts Saturday with the American 1000 Guineas for 3-year-old fillies and the Arlington Classic for 3-year-olds on the turf, and the Hanshin Cup Handicap (GIII) and Arlington Matron Handicap (GIII) on the Polytrack.

    Illinois-bred Giant Oak, once on the Triple Crown trail, will go in the Classic. Trainer Chris Block has stated he would be going for the Mid-America Triple (Arlington Classic, American Derby and the Secretariat) and its $500,000 bonus for winning all three. Giant Oak comes off a second-place finish in the Illinois Derby, and he'll butt heads with graded stakes winners El Crespo and Orthodox, and turf stakes winners Proceed Bee and Turfiste.

    Other featured entries on the day include Consequence and Run All Day in the American 1000 Guineas; Indescribable and Serenading in the Matron; and Cherokee Artist, Dominican and hard-working Spotsgone in the Hanshin.

    -

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

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:50 AM | Permalink

    Going To Pot

    By Sam Singer

    So a California assemblyman wants to make the Golden State the first to legalize marijuana, Governor Schwarzenegger is open to the idea, and pot enthusiasts across the state are elated.

    Still, for some, the nagging question remains: What about federal law?

    For these folks, I have good news and bad news, neither of which can be properly communicated without a detour through the muddy footpaths of preemption law. I'll caution that as constitutional principles go, the doctrine of preemption is rather moistureless; it certainly doesn't lend itself to stirring prose. With that said, feel free to stop along the way for a bong rip.

    Beginning with what's good, the legalization bill making its way through the state legislature likely will withstand a constitutional challenge. That is, California's take on the criminal status of marijuana need not give way to contrary federal law. To understand why, it helps to think of the relationship between federal and state law in romantic terms. The relationship, which dates back more than two centuries, is hot and cold. There are occasions where the two bodies of law operate in learned harmony, like an elderly couple at a breakfast buffet. There are occasions where the two bodies are at odds and one - usually state law - must yield to the other. Then there are occasions, as here, where the two bodies can occupy the same field provided state law doesn't disturb its federal counterpart.

    How much room a state has to operate without disturbing federal law will depend on the area of regulation. In this last category, the scope of a state's authority will vary by the field of regulation. With drugs, Congress, through language in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), left the field wide open for state regulation, whether above or below federal levels. More precisely, a court will uphold a state drug law unless it "positively conflicts" with the CSA. Intuition points toward such a conflict here, where a state law proposes to legalize a substance prohibited under federal law.

    But the doctrine of preemption doesn't work that way. Rather, a court will ask whether it is possible for a private party to adhere to both laws at the same time. Deadlocks of this sort commonly arise when a state directive conflicts with a federal prohibition. In this sense, directives, which take the form of orders or affirmative commands, are to be distinguished from deregulations, which work with opposite effect. If instead of legalizing pot, California went further and required that each household smoke its per capita share, the state would have - among many others - a preemption problem. Otherwise, if a California law deregulates a field while creating no new duties or obligations, it likely will survive a preemption challenge.

    The bad news is that California has no say over when and how the federal government enforces its own law. This may not trouble you now, during the tenure of a president who has expressed a philosophical opposition to the War on Drugs. But federal priorities change with the political winds. The Bush DEA made a point of periodically raiding medical marijuana dispensaries in California, as if to remind patients that federal law ultimately reigns supreme. The Obama administration put an end to those raids, but that's no assurance that a successor with a puritanical streak won't reverse course again. For lawmakers who look at California's pot economy and see untapped tax revenue, the looming threat of federal enforcement should give reason for pause.

    You may wonder why state and local police aren't obliged to enforce federal drug law. If federal law is supreme, it stands to reason that federal authorities can insist on cooperation from state officers in its enforcement. Here again, constitutional law stands at odds with intuition. In Printz v. United States, the Supreme Court struck down provisions of a federal gun control law that left significant elements of the program's enforcement for local police. It is now well settled that Congress may not commandeer state resources to enforce federal law.

    But what happens when we encounter a state agency or locality that wants to enforce federal law? In 2006, San Diego County refused to implement a state mandate which required counties to administer identification card programs for patients eligible to receive medicinal marijuana. The county's argument seemed reasonable enough: Why spend time and resources servicing a program that helps residents violate federal law? The county sought a judicial declaration that its actions were proper. It never came. Borrowing reasoning from the Printz case, a state appellate court explained that municipalities cannot pick and choose when to follow state law. As a legal entity incorporated by California, San Diego County was required to carry out its ministerial duties.

    The county appealed up the California court system and on to the U.S. Supreme Court, which temporarily put the issue to rest when it declined review. The matter is quiet now, but hardly settled. For progressive states contemplating similar laws, recent court-imposed limits on preemption are encouraging. So too for pot enthusiasts, especially those who read beyond the second paragraph.

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    Sam Singer is the Beachwood's legal correspondent. He welcomes your comments.

    -

    Previously by Sam Singer:
    * Is TARP legal? Court to decide on laugh test.

    * Taking Government Out Of The Marriage Business. Separating church and state.

    * Chicago's Disorderly Conduct. Dissent allowed even in Daleyland

    * Why Google Will Win. Newspapers are on the wrong side of the digital revolution.

    * Is Blago A Flight Risk? We asked; a judge said yes.

    * Obama's Torture Test. Politically calculating.

    * Replacing Souter. Signs point to Kagan.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:34 AM | Permalink

    Bloodshot Briefing: Bobby Bare Jr.

    By Matt Harness

    As far as I know, Bloodshot Records' current stable houses two musicians whose fathers also beat the main streets playing tunes. Justin Townes Earle is the son of folk-country hippie Steve Earle, and Bobby Bare Jr. is the offspring of Bobby Bare, a man who ran in circles with Waylon Jennings and lived on the same block in Nashville as Tammy Wynette and George Jones.

    I tracked down Bobby Bare Jr. - who was nominated for a Grammy Award at the age of six for a song he sang with his father - this week and we covered everything from Kenny Chesney to Shel Silverstein.

    *

    Beachwood Music: Where do you make home?

    Bobby Bare Jr.: East Nashville. It's more like the Austin, Texas part of Nashville. My neighborhood is nice, but right across the street is not so nice. There are parts of East Nashville that are not nice at all.

    Beachwood Music: Do you know Justin Townes Earle?

    Bobby Bare Jr.: Yeah. I've known him since (the mid-90s). He dropped off his bike at I shop where I worked. He lived in my house for a year up until last July. We have the same kind of friends, and we have a lot in common, with our dads being in the business. I hired Justin's sidekick, Cory Yount, who plays mandolin and banjo, in 2001 to go on the road with me.

    Beachwood Music: How do you compare Chicago's music scene with Nashville's?

    Bobby Bare Jr.: We have Kenny Chesney and you have Jon Langford. That defines it perfectly. No, we have Silver Jews, Clem Snide, Raconteurs, Justin, Lambchop, so many great bands. The lead guitarist for My Morning Jacket lives here, so do a few of the Black Crowes.

    The talent pool here is un-fucking believable. Chicago's amazing, too. You just have to try harder here; you try not to suck. There are so many people here that are so much better than you are.

    Beachwood Music: But Chesney? Is there anything else that separates Chicago from Nashville?

    Bobby Bare Jr.: Chicago's live music scene is much better. In Nashville, everybody in the audience is in a band. In Chicago, people actually go see live music. Nashville's not a great town for attendance. Austin is the greatest city for attendance of live music, but Chicago is a close second.

    But in Nashville, you go out any night of the week and hear bands that are stunning.

    Beachwood Music: What's your favorite Chicago venue?

    Bobby Bare Jr: Schubas. It's the first place that ever booked me, in 1998 or 1999.

    When I stay in Chicago, a friend lends me his loft right near the Double Door, so I spend a lot of time in that area.

    Beachwood Music: When was the last time you visited our city?

    Bobby Bare Jr: January? I spend so much time there.

    Beachwood Music: How did you get engaged, then married, to Bloodshot Records?

    Bobby Bare Jr: I played the Hideout's Block Party in 2001, and (co-founder) Rob Miller offered to help me sell CDs. We stayed in touch. They allow you to do whatever you want, as long as it's good.

    Beachwood Music: You've released three LPs and an EP with the label. Anything new in the pipeline?

    Bobby Bare Jr.: I have half a record done. I'm hoping in July I get it done.

    Beachwood Music: Does having a father in business make it easier or harder for you?

    Bobby Bare Jr.: Nothing but a blessing . . . But it's tough, too. He's got opinions, and I have opinions. You ever worked on anything with your dad? But we hang out all the time.

    Beachwood Music: You are coming to Chicago in July. Can you tell us about your reason for the visit?

    Bobby Bare Jr: It's for a tribute to Shel Silverstein. He and my dad were best friends. I had all my songs critiqued by him until he died. He and I co-wrote a song together. There's something else in the works (for the future), but I'm not sure I can talk about it. It's going to be amazing.

    -

    Daddy, What If/Bare & Bare Jr.

    -

    Let's Rock and Roll/The adult Bobby Bare Jr.

    -

    Bloodshot Briefing now appears on Fridays. Matt welcomes your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:46 AM | Permalink

    The Five Dumbest Ideas Of The Week

    By Stephanie B. Goldberg

    1. So Sen. Byron Dorgan has a problem with Hello Kitty credit cards, does he? Wonder what he'd think of my AK-15 Hello Kitty rifle?

    Oh, hey, who wants to join me for a Hello Kitty beer?

    And here's a muzzle for Sparky, my pet Rottweiler.

    2. Hello, my name is Jon. I am a passive aggressive adulterer.

    3. Hello, my name is Kate . . .

    4. We were sitting around the table, brainstorming and then someone said, "Hey, let's serve soup in miniature toilet bowls."

    5. Is there a phrase more annoying than "epic fail?" Yes.

    -

    Twit of the Week
    "I did not realize that I could see people reply to my twitter! Thank you so much for everyone's kindness, YOU guys are the true inspiration."
    - Kate Gosselin, 2:43 PM May 17th from web

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:05 AM | Permalink

    May 21, 2009

    The [Thursday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    It's funny how in a budget crisis the state will both expand and tax "sin."

    So a bill legalizing video poker moves through the General Assembly at the same time lawmakers consider boosting liquor taxes.

    Please drink and gamble! And park illegally! We need the money!

    Lobby Lout
    "Joseph Berrios, a member of the Cook County Board of Review and father of state Rep. Maria Antonia Berrios (D-Chicago), was among those lobbying for video poker, on behalf of an industry trade group," the Sun-Times reports.

    He's also the chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party.

    Get it, yet?

    Meter Mofos
    "Under pressure from aldermen to comply with the city's minority set-aside requirements" - because apparently doing so is optional - "LAZ Parking Chicago LLC has hastily assembled a team of subcontractors that includes former mayoral press secretary Avis LaVelle and Cortez Trotter, who was Chicago's first African-American fire commissioner before being promoted to chief emergency officer," the Sun-Time reports in "Insiders May Cash In On Meter Deal."

    Ya think?

    "LaVelle said she has been asked to help reverse an avalanche of negative publicity stemming from broken, overstuffed and mismarked meters that have infuriated motorists and triggered a spike in vandalism and a drop-off in on-street parking."

    LAZ learned that one from the mayor: Don't fix the problem, fix the PR.

    Meanwhile, the infamous Monterrey Security has bellied up to the trough and is about to gorge itself on a $1.2 million contract.

    Monterrey was once tapped on the wrist by state regulators for operating for 21 months without a license. The penalty? A $22,000 fine and two years' probation.

    They didn't even get their cars booted. They probably got the contract to guard the booted cars.

    *

    The city once had to cancel a contract with Monterrey to guard salt piles because its two co-owners were city employees, which sort of violated an ethics ordinance, as well as common sense.

    They must have gotten a good laugh out of that one. When one door closes on insiders in Chicago, another one always opens.

    *

    "Monterrey's approach is to strategically select its partners," says Monterrey president and CEO Juan Gaytan Jr. on the firm's website.

    *

    "Even though it has flouted state regulations and provided misleading information to city officials, a security firm launched by a Chicago police officer with disciplinary problems and a firefighter who is the brother of powerful Ald. Danny Solis (25th) has thrived on city-related contracts," the Tribune reported in 2002.

    "Monterrey Security Consultants Inc., a Pilsen-based firm with 130 employees, grew from an initial investment of $1,000 in 1999 to a company with more than $3 million in annual business in just three years. The company has won contracts to guard city-owned salt piles, the Soldier Field construction site and several Chicago Housing Authority buildings.

    "A building management firm hired by the CHA said it picked Monterrey for the public-housing contract at the urging of Solis' brother-in-law, a CHA manager.

    "A joint investigation by the Chicago Tribune and Exito!, a Spanish-language weekly newspaper published by Chicago Tribune Co., found that Monterrey's fortunes have soared despite a litany of misrepresentations to city officials, regulatory problems, and financial and career woes for the company's president."

    Cruel Schools
    Meanwhile . . .

    "Minority students in Illinois are falling through the cracks because they are more likely to be enrolled in the worst-performing schools, according to a new national study that reinforces what education activists have been saying for years about the state's inequitable school funding system," Catalyst reports.

    "The study by the Schott Foundation for Public Education placed Illinois 45th among the 50 states in providing high-quality schooling to low-income and minority students. That finding is no surprise, since Illinois ranks near rock-bottom in state funding for education and black and Latino youngsters are far more likely to live in poorly-funded, low-performing school districts."

    Maybe low-income minority students in Illinois should consider careers in video poker. Or security work.

    The Big Whale
    Isn't this person's name a matter of public record?

    The police department is a scofflaw too.

    Ready To Lead
    Meet your possible new 36th Ward alderman, who by the way is already on the city payroll.

    *

    "Asked Wednesday at the ward office why he stuck the [FOP] medallion his car's rear license plate, Rice replied, 'How do you know it's my car?' "the Tribune reports.

    I wonder if the reporter answered, "Um, because you're getting in it and driving away?"

    "The car left minutes later and returned without the medallion," the Trib reports.

    "Rice said he thought it was legitimate to display the FOP symbols because his father once was a part-time Cook County sheriff's deputy and his father-in-law was a Chicago police officer."

    Gee, my father drove through Cook County once, does that qualify?

    Travel Tale
    "Bypassing the city budget and soliciting private contributions seems to be inviting Chicago-style pay for play politics to Bowling Green," Shawn Kries writes to the Bowling Green Daily News.

    All the Olympic events and Millennium Parks in the world won't change our image. Changing our politics would, though, and it'd be a lot cheaper.

    Suburban Bureau
    "Second Burger King restaurant could be headed to Tinley Park."
    - SouthtownStar

    Brick Layer
    "Chicago coppers picked up a bloke after he symbolically chucked a brick through the window of the the city's Magnificent Mile Apple Store on Tuesday night," Nick Farrell writes at Fudzilla. "It seemed that that bloke, who had a few, took offence at one of the 'giant iPhone' displays."

    Robert Grilly, 61, was charged with felony criminal damage to property. According to WBBM, he also allegedly threw a table through a window at Rosebud.

    Radio Ga Ga
    WBBM Newsradio 780 has photo galleries of both Lindsay Lohan and Lynyrd Skynyrd on its website.

    Kiddieland Closing Time
    In action: Little Dipper, the Log Ride, the Miniature Diesel Train, the Droppy Ride, and the Miniature Steam Engine.

    Placko Strikes
    "You had your hands folded, your head slumped and you were sleeping. Can you tell us what you do for the County Highway Department?"

    A Toast To TV
    Classic televised drinking.

    Manny Cure
    Ramirez worth trading for.

    Money Leaders
    Stop the Four Tops.

    The Rod & Patti Show
    Could have been like Jon & Kate.

    Drew's New Lawyer
    Former Chicago homicide cop called "poster boy for abuse" by state Treasurer's office.

    Short Skirts Out Of Order?
    Illinois judges distracted.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Abandon hope, all ye.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:11 AM | Permalink

    Changing Illinois: The Four Tops And Their Money

    By CHANGE Illinois!

    The CHANGE Illinois! coalition on Wednesday called on legislators to enact meaningful limits on campaign contributions from everyone, including political action committees controlled by the four legislative leaders.

    "Illinois' wide open campaign finance system allows large contributors to drown out the voices of everyday Illinoisans and is part of the reason Illinois has a much deserved reputation for corruption in government," said Peter Bensinger, former Administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and a co-chair of the CHANGE Illinois! coalition. "With one former governor in federal prison and another facing an array of deplorable charges, voters are fed up and weary of the foot-dragging in the General Assembly.

    "We call on legislators to enact meaningful reform," he continued. "Limits must be set on how much money the four legislative leaders can collect and pass on to candidates of their choice. These war chests subvert the will of individual voters. Without limits on transfers, Illinois won't have real reform."

    The top priority of members of CHANGE Illinois! is the establishment of campaign contribution limits similar to the federal system with a $2,400 limit on contributions by individuals, $5,000 limit on contributions by political action committees, and a maximum $30,000 limit on transfers from legislative leadership committees to legislative candidates. The CHANGE Illinois! proposal is nearly identical to the proposal advocated by the Illinois Reform Commission, an independent group created by Gov. Pat Quinn and chaired by Patrick Collins, a former federal prosecutor.

    At a press conference Wednesday, Collins and other IRC members joined with CHANGE Illinois! in an urgent call for General Assembly approval of meaningful campaign contribution limits, and leaders of CHANGE Illinois! commended Collins and the IRC for its efforts on behalf of reform.

    "With less than two weeks left in the spring legislative session, there has been some talk about limiting campaign contributions, but there hasn't been any action," said Deborah Harrington, President of the Woods Fund of Chicago and a co-chair of the CHANGE Illinois! coalition. "There have been discussions in committee rooms and hallways, but it is not clear whether legislators will even take a vote on this important reform."

    "Illinois is in the spotlight, and the world is watching to see whether we will change the rules that have contributed to the corruption that has embarrassed this state," said George Ranney, President and CEO of Chicago Metropolis 2020 and a co-chair of the CHANGE Illinois! coalition. "Comprehensive limits on contributions, combined with more frequent public reporting of contributions and strengthened oversight of campaign finance laws, would put Illinois on the road to real reform."

    Launched in late February, CHANGE Illinois! is a coalition of civic, business, labor, professional, inter-faith, non-profit and philanthropic organizations aligned to bring government integrity to Illinois.

    A list of members and additional information is available at www.ChangeIL.org.


    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 3:46 AM | Permalink

    Classic TV: Classic Drinking

    By The Beachwood Classic TV Affairs Desk

    1. Classic Drinkers

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    2. Bewitching Brews

    -

    3. Levar Burton's Chicago PSA

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 3:42 AM | Permalink

    Closing Time For Kiddieland

    By The Beachwood Amusement Park Affairs Desk

    It looks like the last summer for the Melrose Park institution.

    "Kiddieland, a vintage shrine to mild family amusement that started as a pony ride business in 1929, is closing Sept. 27," the Tribune reports.

    We thought we'd take a look at Kiddieland via YouTube to supplement the history recalled by the park itself on its website.

    The Little Dipper

    -

    The Log Ride

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    The Miniature Diesel Train

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    The Droppy Ride

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    The Miniature Steam Engine

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 3:04 AM | Permalink

    Fantasy Fix: A World Without Manny

    By Dan O'Shea

    Feeling a little Manny-less lately?

    We all get that sometimes. Just don't turn to performance enhancers to make it all better, or you may find yourself on the sidelines for 50 games. We will continue to live in a world without Manny for another month-and-a-half, and for the second time this year, we must try to figure out if a star player will be something less when he returns from a layoff that came just after a drug revelation.

    A-Rod's return thus far is going pretty well: Only seven hits in 36 at-bats through Tuesday night, but five of those hits are home runs, and he already has 10 walks, perhaps a sign that he doesn't feel in such a hurry to prove himself that he'll swing at bad balls.

    Manny's game, one of contact, suggests that he will return in early July with similar results as long as he spends some quality time in the batting cage.

    Manny's special talent has always been contact. His home runs - 533 of them in his career - have almost been by-products of highly-skilled contact hitting, so he shouldn't return with any need to show off brute power, something which might be driving A-Rod at least a little right now.

    Manny's Dodgers are a good young team that is still much better with him than without him. I think he'll still get plenty of RBI opportunities, and a long break might actually have this 38-year-old (his birthday is in a few days) hitting his mid-season stride just when everyone else is battling late-season fatigue.

    I would still rank Manny fairly close to his pre-season fantasy rank (No. 25 in Yahoo!), and I think he's worth trading for now if you have a player ranked in the 30 to 40 range that you can spare as an investment in a potential late-season surge. You can get him now at a much better price than you will at the trade deadline later this season - unless, of course, the suspension causes him such utter sadness that he retires. Then, well, forget everything I just said.

    Not surprisingly, the expert wire has been buzzing lately with advice for the Manny-less:

    * Bleacher Report takes a closer look at what Manny owners may stand to lose in the coming weeks.

    * Bleacher Report also has a fresh list of possible pick-ups for Manny-less teams. I do like Shin-Soo Choo, who is sort of streaky, the way Alfonso Soriano can be, but Choo can bring Manny owners something they won't get with the dread-locked one - stolen bases.

    * Newsday likes real-world replacement Juan Pierre, who also is a speed freak, though I would prefer a wire pick-up that gives at least a few homers and RBIs. Maybe Brad Hawpe or Ben Zobrist?

    * ESPN's Christopher Harris has some views on struggling starters that you may be able to buy low for better returns as the season wears on. Chief among them is Cole Hamels, though Hamels now has three solid starts in a row after a string of freakish injuries, so he might demand a bit more on the trade market. Harris also has ranked his top 80 starters based on future performance the rest of this year - note that Zack Greinke, All-World to this point, is only eighth on the list.

    And a couple of breaking news bits:

    * SP Dontrelle Willis came back this week from an anxiety-related layoff to start the season. ESPN's Out of the Box has the report on his terrific return: 6.1 IP, 0 ER, 5 Ks.

    How much can you base on one game? Well, not much, usually, so if you want to rush to the waiver wire to get Willis, don't part with anyone too valuable.

    But, he did shut down the stacked Texas line-up.

    It will be interesting to see how Detroit will handle him. The Tigers soon will have an embarrassment of riches among their starting pitchers, with Justin Verlander and Edwin Jackson doing very well, youngster Rick Porcello rebounding from a slow start and Jeremy Bonderman due back soon from the DL. Armando Galarraga has been inconsistent, but is probably still worthy of a rotation spot on most teams.

    Could first-place Detroit trade Willis or another starter to beef up its bullpen or lineup? Stay tuned.

    * Meanwhile, Rickie Weeks owners can't seem to catch a break. Weeks is now out for the season with a wrist injury after a recent power surge pushed him up to 9 homers on the year. Yahoo!'s Closing Time has more on this tragedy.

    Weeks had fielding woes and inconsistency at the plate during the last two years that marred his promising talents, including a bat that seems capable of 20-plus homers and legs that could steal 30-plus bases and score 120 runs if given a full season of opportunity. This year, his fielding improved and in the potent Milwaukee lineup, Weeks had been starting to look like a top 5 second baseman. I'll guess right now that he'll end up around No. 5 in my pre-ranks at that position next year, though check back with me later to see if I remember/still acknowledge saying this.

    -

    Dan O'Shea's Fantasy Fix appears in this space every Wednesday, except when it appears on Thursday. He welcomes your comments. You can also read his about his split sports fan personality at SwingsBothWays, which isn't about what it sounds like It's about.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:48 AM | Permalink

    May 20, 2009

    The [Wednesday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    I found the best coverage of the Cook County sales tax vote yesterday in the Tribune's editorial this morning.

    See also: Great Moments In Cook County Board History.

    *

    But why isn't there more heat on Michael Madigan?

    War Zone
    "Belleville Soldier Killed In Baghdad Blast."

    Nun Trial
    I wasn't there to hear the evidence first-hand, but . . . I'm not so sure about this. Plus, the judge wouldn't allow testimony about one passenger's death because he thought it could prejudice the trial, but he did allow the nun to wear her habit during the proceedings. You might as well have let her wear a highway patrol uniform.

    Scheme Theme
    "In the scheme of things - city kids getting shot, folks losing their jobs - an alderman's controversial order to paint over a mural on private property isn't a big deal, Mayor Daley said Tuesday," the Sun-Times reports.

    Which begs the question: with city kids getting shot and folks losing their jobs, why is the city spending time and money painting over murals on private property?

    The Daley Show
    The mayor sees a tsunami coming - but no rain.

    That's Sneed!
    "A poll May 7 on the 2010 Illinois Senate race, taken by a Republican interest, shows Rep. Jan Schakowsky ahead and Merchandise Mart mogul Chris Kennedy, the son of Sen. Robert Kennedy, and the nephew of President Kennedy, surprisingly lacking in name ID."
    - Lynn Sweet, May 12

    "Top Dem party sources tell Sneed a Kennedy candidacy would come with instantaneous name recognition."
    - Sneed, today

    See also: The Chris Kennedy Factor. He's the big domino now.

    Search Me
    "If newspaper execs don't want their content crawled, they can easily tag their content with a robot that blocks Google's spiders from crawling and indexing their pages, says Google spokesman Gabriel Stricker."

    *

    Instead, newspaper execs are hiring SEO specialists. And extra PR people so they can more easily speak out of both sides of their mouths.

    *

    Remember how Bill Wirtz went to his grave a laughingstock because he wouldn't put Blackhawks games on "free" TV?

    *

    "Google News generally runs a headline, maybe a first line of a story from The Times and a link," New York Times editor Bill Keller says. "On balance, they're driving a lot of traffic to us. I don't think most of what Google does in that regard could be described as parasitism or piracy."

    *

    "It's the people entering the profession now who are going to create the publishing models, the business models, that are going to shape journalism in the 21st century," Josh Marshall says at Columbia University.

    But hey, why let them have all the fun?

    Hawk Tawk
    "The first period saw the Blackhawks throw more at the Red Wings than they've seen in an awfully long time," Darren Eliot writes at View From The Ice. "They outshot the Red Wings 19-13 in the opening period and by those numbers alone you can tell that the first 20 minutes was more to the liking of the Blackhawks, style-wise. They even broke through and scored the first goal of the game. But the Red Wings hung in due to the goaltending of Chris Osgood, who was outstanding in stopping 18 shots and tied the game on the strength of a power-play goal.

    "Despite the 'Hawks' first-period flurry, however, they could not pile up a lead. Then in the second, they were checked into submission."

    Ding Dong
    It's Graffiti Busters. They're here to paint over my Harold Washington poster.

    I Shot the Band
    At Chicago City Limits in Schaumburg.

    Chicago's Condo Crash
    A downtown depression. Maybe even a tsunami!

    When We Leave Illinois
    Where do we go? Hint: where it's warmer. In Who We Are.

    The Salad Bar Series
    No. 2: Chuck E. Cheese's in Batavia. An adult-sized sneeze guard for pint-sized sneezes.

    Cook Hook
    "In a notable change for the Cook County Board, but one taken for granted in other governments, the president can no longer also be a member of the body," the Daily Herald reports.

    It was a 9-8 vote.

    Suit Up
    "The US Air Force (USAF) plans to fly the Boeing Phantom Works X-51A Waverider hypersonic engine research vehicle at up to Mach 6 later this year," Jane's reports.

    Chicago Video Channel

    1. The Carbon Police Cruiser demoed in Chicago.

    -

    2. Luke's in Mundelein. A hot dog review.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Alpha Beta Tango.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:00 AM | Permalink

    I Shot the Band: Pipe Dream

    By Steve Rhodes

    Band: Pipe Dream

    Song: I Touch Myself

    YouTube Added Date: May 17, 2009

    Shooter: pipedreamband

    Locale: Chicago City Limits, Schaumburg

    Video Quality: Generally strong, with slight focus problems offset by nicely capture color contrasts.

    Sound Quality: Barely adequate, with muddy vocals and tinny guitars not doing the band any favors.

    Overall Beachwood Shaky-Cam Rating: 8.5 (out of 10)

    Comments: The video is stronger than the band's performance, keeping lead singer Fantasy front and center with occasional smart cuts to other band members in a way that doesn't distract from the main focus, which, in a song like this, is inevitably the performance of Fantasy.

    Truth be told, Fantasy doesn't seem particularly inspired by the song and at times seems pained to have to look into the crowd while singing it. The band doesn't really bring anything but rote recitation to the selection, but the crowd seems pleased enough. This is Schaumburg, after all.

    In fact, the absence of overwhelming crowd buzz and talking over the music is refreshing. The videographer also found a clear visual path with an unobstructed view of the band, which is not to be underestimated.

    Out of curiosity, I checked out a live performance by the original artist, the Divinyls; an unfair comparison, I know, but still instructive. The biggest difference: the Divinyls play the song at a slower, and therefore more sultry, tempo. Pipe Dream either wanted to rock it up a little or hurry through it.

    (I also found Pink's take on the song.)

    I also caught Pipe Dream's take on "Seether" and then headed over to the group's website, where they bill themselves as "Chicago's best rock 'n roll cover band." I'm not so sure about that, but they list about 75 bands whose work they perform, which isn't bad, even if I could do without Alannah Myles and Meredith Brooks.

    Pipe Dream's next show is at the Penny Road Pub in Barrington on June 6. You can also visit them on MySpace.

    -

    Previously in I Shot the Band:
    * Company of Thieves: At Welles Park covering OutKast.

    * Funhouse: At Kankakee County's famed fish fry.

    * Lady Tramaine Hawkins: High praise from the Pritzker Pavilion.

    * XSNRG: Transport yourself from Cermak & Harlem to that wondrous night in 1978 at the International Amphitheater.

    * The Bluesbaby. Not a bad bluesman for a 13-year-old girl from the suburbs.

    -

    Beachwood Music welcomes your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:49 AM | Permalink

    When We Leave Illinois

    A little hole-in-the wall restaurant called Ginza, located on the 1st floor of Tokyo Hotel in downtown Chicago is a small haven for many weary Japanese salarymen visiting Chicago, a home away from home. The same sentiment can be found for Chicagoans at a Cubs bar named Lulu's in Kona, or a Bears bar called Bruno's in Fountain Hills, Arizona.

    With a great deal of mobility for jobs and schools, many people no longer live in their places of birth. Though more than two-thirds (66.8%) of Illinois residents were born in the state, and it is unknown how many have moved overseas, more than 4.4 million Illinois natives have traveled afar and settled across the country. And these Illinois natives in other states show that moving isn't simply about jobs and schools.

    kiljoong.jpg

    Top Ten States With Residents Born In Illinois
    1. California: 482,441
    2. Florida: 427,217
    3. Indiana: 334,677
    4. Wisconsin: 334,396
    5. Texas: 299,573
    6. Missouri: 243,306
    7. Arizona: 241,992
    8. Michigan: 170,740
    9. Colorado: 133,612
    10. Georgia: 129,488

    According to the latest census data, more than half of Illinois natives (52.7%) are concentrated in seven states: California, Florida, Indiana, Wisconsin, Texas, Missouri, and Arizona. Aside from bordering states like Indiana, Wisconsin, and Missouri, where it is not surprising to have many Illinois natives, many seem to be drawn to the western part of the country by the warmer climate. Such gravitation toward mild weather becomes even more evident when we zoom into metropolitan areas, where the top 10 destinations for Illinois natives include Phoenix, Los Angeles, Tampa, Atlanta, Dallas, and Houston.

    Top Ten Metro Areas With Residents Born In Illinois
    1. Phoenix: 167,381
    2. Gary-Hammond-East Chicago: 119,508
    3. Los Angeles-Long Beach: 113,855
    4. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater: 89,706
    5. Atlanta: 87,957
    6. Minneapolis-St. Paul: 82,253
    7. Milwaukee: 75,900
    8. Dallas-Fort Worth: 66,465
    9. Indianapolis: 64,359
    10. Houston-Brazoria: 63,414

    Perhaps not so coincidentally, those Illinois natives concentrated in warmer states also tend to be older. For example, in California, where the median age is 34, the median age for Illinois natives residing in the state is 52. Similar figures are found in Arizona (34 versus 52) and Florida (39 versus 51).

    Most Illinois residents living elsewhere are also white. In nine of the top 10 states with Illinois natives, more than 80% were white: 93.2% in Colorado; 93.1% in Arizona; 92.2% in Florida; 89.1% in Missouri; 84.4% in California; 83.1%in Wisconsin; 81.7% in Texas; 80.8% in Indiana; and 80.4% in Michigan.

    The exception: Georgia, where 28% of Illinois-born residents are African American.

    While these numbers suggest a large exodus of retiring or near-retirement population migrating to fairer weather, they also have taken affluence with them. Of the top 10 states, Wisconsin was the only state where Illinois natives earn lower total personal income than the overall population of the state ($21,729 for IL natives and $23,045 for the state). In California, Illinois natives have 65.4% higher median personal income than the overall population ($33,474 to $20,238) and 50.3% in Texas ($26,903 to $17,901). The less prosperous appear to be left behind.

    These characteristics are quite different from the more than 4.2 million Illinois residents who were born in the other 49 states, District of Columbia, U.S. territories, and more than 140 other countries. Ilinois's incoming population is younger (median age of 42), less affluent (median personal income of $21,660), and more diverse (fewer than 63% white).

    Such disparities in characteristics provide a glimpse of what the future might look like in Illinois. Just as Irish and Italian immigrants and southern Blacks changed the composition of the state over a hundred years ago, and just as a massive number of Latino and Asian immigrants changed the region yet again after 1965, the entire Midwest is bound to experience another demographic shift.

    * * *

    Migration patterns for Illinois are very complex due to its demographic, economic, and racial/ethnic diversity. The state contains a very large metropolitan area that spills over to other states, while the rest of Illinois consists of small towns and farmlands. And as Chicago continues to globalize, it will increasingly attract people from different parts of the country and the world. During this process, those who leave the state also play a large role in becoming promoters of the state. While they may have left and taken their ability to pay taxes and spending habits with them, they retain their loyalty to their hometown sports teams and cuisine.

    You can take the boy out of Illinois . . .

    -

    Kiljoong Kim is a research consultant and doctoral student in sociology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He welcomes your comments. Read more in the the Who We Are archives.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:37 AM | Permalink

    The Salad Bar Series: Chuck E. Cheese's

    By Rick Kaempfer

    Restaurant: Chuck E. Cheese's

    Location: 511 North Randall Road, Batavia

    Description: If you've never been, Chuck E. Cheese's is like an amusement park for kids; perfect for a 6-year-old's birthday party. The children buy tokens to play games, and earn hundreds of tickets to buy cheap plastic prizes that will be thrown out as soon as they get home.

    And while Chuck E. Cheese is known for its cardboardy cheese pizza, they also serve beer for the adults (who need it badly at this loud, loud, wow is it friggin' loud, restaurant/fun park). They also have a salad bar.

    Sneeze Guard: I was expecting it to be disgusting (there were about 100 kids there), but the clear plexiglass was actually spotless (and clear!) because the kids couldn't reach it with their filthy greasy pizza hands.

    On the other hand, that also means that the sneeze guard wasn't guarding against pint-size sneezes because it was at adult height. Next time you watch a five-year-old sneeze, watch the care they take in making sure they don't sneeze on the food, and then think about the extra unseen condiments that must have been available in the Chuck E. Cheese's salad bar.

    Estimated Length: Six feet, with two rows of bins.

    Neatness Factor: Amazingly tidy. Vegetables not strewn to and fro, and all of the bins fully stocked.

    Ambience: Surrounded by buzzers buzzing, children screaming, dings dinging, more children screaming, and WILL YOU KIDS JUST SHUT UP SO I CAN ENJOY MY SALAD! My God, I need a Tylenol.

    Best Ingredients: While there aren't any surprises, the vegetables are all fresh, and there isn't anything lacking for a standard tossed salad. Even the black olives aren't gamey or chewy.

    Biggest Disappointment: The croutons. There are three bins for croutons, but all three contain the same kind . . . too big and too bland.

    Dressings: French, Italian, 1000 Island, Ranch.

    Comment: I love salad bars that have different kinds of salads as part of the selection, and in that regard, Chuck E. Cheese's disappoints. However, I've also been to many restaurants that didn't have vegetables this fresh and crispy, which I consider the most important part of the salad. Therefore, I'm giving the salad bar an overall positive review. If you're stuck there with your kids like I was, it's one of the saving graces of an incredibly unpleasant (paging Dick Cheney - get your enhanced interrogators over here for training) experience.

    -

    See also:
    * La Villa. Fake shutters, red vinyl, adequate sneeze guard.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:19 AM | Permalink

    May 19, 2009

    The [Tuesday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    I'm too overwhelmed with projects, proposals, finances, disorganization, fatigue, hunger, poverty and frustration to write a column today. But that doesn't mean we don't have a few treats for you.

    * I believe I've been derelict in pointing readers to Beachwood legal correspondent Sam Singer's take on replacing David Souter.

    "For those keeping score, Elena Kagan has more 'plus factors' in her column than either of the two favorites," Singer writes.

    I think Ann Claire Williams would be a fairly unassailable pick, but Obama might have already drawn from the Chicago well too many times for the nation to stomach.

    * Beachwood poet-in-residence J.J. Tindall brings us Ode To A Hoover Bagless Cyclonic Action Quik-Broom With On-Board Tools today. Every street light up Pulaski for forty blocks is lit.

    * Goodbye, Jerry Springer. Now he's Connecticut's conundrum.

    * Chicago's Worst Cop? He's cost the taxpayers millions.

    * It's Always Doomsday In Chicago. Currently under two alerts.

    * From the Beachwood vault: Bob Dylan Plays Ball.

    * The Papers archive.

    * We should have a full complement of new Beachwood offerings tomorrow. See you then.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:11 AM | Permalink

    Chicagoetry: Ode To A Hoover Bagless Cyclonic Action Quik-Broom With On-Board Tools

    ODE TO A HOOVER BAGLESS CYCLONIC ACTION QUIK-BROOM WITH ON-BOARD TOOLS

    I and I: machine.
    Quiet machine, soft machine,
    I machine.

    Quiet machine:
    a mongrel corpus
    of wills.

    Every street light up Pulaski
    for forty blocks
    is lit!

    The grid breathes.
    But you have to
    breathe!

    You have to breathe.
    Cyclones in
    bottles,

    one by one,
    a corridor of white
    fire

    vanishing
    gamely into the blue-black
    horizon.

    Steel brick and
    mortar channel the changeling
    gust,

    the soft, spring
    southerly Gulf gust: it comes
    from the Gulf!

    Tear duct
    of Quetzlcoatl! Blue ruby
    of Ra!

    Yeah: for the most part,
    a lot quieter now,
    if you

    factor in
    the Dynamo
    Hum.

    Ah! The HUM.
    It burnishes the gust.
    Dynamos wreaking

    havoc only sometimes
    its benevolent havoc, it
    works out.

    The paid stay
    paid, the rich stay
    rich

    so the machine
    is that much more efficient
    and way, way

    quieter.
    I and I gorge
    on materiel!

    I and I swoon
    in the burnished breeze!
    That's machine,

    too, don't
    forget (what if you could finally NOT
    FORGET?!).

    Surely machine,
    too, that swoon were
    I and I

    to testify.

    -

    J. J. Tindall is the Beachwood's poet-in-residence. He can reached at jjtindall@yahoo.com. Chicagoetry is an exclusive Beachwood collection-in-progress.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:46 AM | Permalink

    May 18, 2009

    The [Monday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    1. "Khabibulin could have been better against the Red Wings on Sunday, but the primary problem is the guys immediately in front of him, and the forwards who are too often failing to fully fulfill defensive responsibilities," our very own Jim Coffman writes in SportsMonday.

    2. "From the moment the puck was dropped you could sense that the Detroit Red Wings were going to win the opening game of the Eastern Conference finals," David writes at Hockeylicio.us. "The Chicago Blackhawks came out flying with the same youthful energy that has carried them through out the playoffs. There was one problem, the Red Wings were ready for them. That same energy that carried them, dissipated as the game went on."

    3. "Five City of Chicago pension funds have paid Mayor Daley's nephew Robert Vanecko and his business partner Allison S. Davis more than $2.7 million to manage real estate investments since 2006," Tim Novak reports in the Sun-Times. "So far, Vanecko and Davis are the only ones who've made any money on the deal."

    4. Parking Meters May Go Hollywood.

    5. "Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's graffiti busters are seen all the time in the city painting over gang signs, or spraying them away," WBEZ reports. "But this week they painted over a mural on private property. The artist says there was no mistaking the mural for graffiti and he thinks the local alderman just didn't like it."

    See also: "Graffiti Blasters Paint Over Artist's Commissioned Mural."

    6. Ken Davis had the audacity to write this in the aftermath of his Chicago Journalism Town Hall:

    "Eventually even the 'information wants to be free' crowd, a little greyer and sobered by mortgages and tuition bills, will come around to, and benefit from, a sane payment methodology. Some gentle advice for the smaller guys. Stand aside for a while and let the NYT, Washington Post and Tribune Company fight this battle. Eventually, son, this will all be yours."

    I object to this absurdity on several levels.

    7. How far do Michael Madigan's tentacles reach into city and county government? Jordan Wilson of the Sun-Times takes a look at claims Madigan has ties to hiring at the Bureau of Electricity - on the heels of claims that Madigan has ties to hiring at Cook County.

    8. A footnote in the 2009 horse racing season is that Illinois Derby winner Musket Man has finished third in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. The horse is headed to Belmont.

    9. ChicagoMachine.com isn't about what you think it's about, but I wonder what they were thinking when they took the name . . . and I wonder who they use as their mascot (wink, wink).

    10. Not ready for road reform.

    11. Among the things that Cub Factor writer Marty Gangler says could go wrong for the Cubs this year: Bud Selig decides to "spice up" division races by randomly switching managers of teams and the Cubs get stuck with Dusty Baker.

    12. "The Sox are bad at good baseball but awful at terrible baseball," our White Sox correspondent Andrew Reilly writes. "They only stink when they have to."

    13. Let them eat God.

    14. Mary Schmich calls the Blackhawks turnaround the most dramatic of any sports team she knows. She must not be know any other sports team in all of human history.

    15. The Tribune is publishing photos of various Blackhawks and offering them as "posters" as a marketing gimmick - a time-honored newspaper practice. But aren't they stealing the Blackhawks' content?

    I suppose the Trib could say the publicity is good for the Hawks . . . and that they're sending traffic to their games.

    16. "Mayor Daley on Saturday defended his park board's decision to start charging $1 an hour to park at more than 4,400 spots along the lake that are now free," the Tribune reports.

    In the same article, Daley says of Todd Stroger's sales tax increase of 1 percent: "You cannot ask the taxpayer to pay more out of their pocket. People are getting laid off."

    17. Sick rich people have been very, very good to Northwestern Memorial.

    18. 2009 Chicago Vintage Drum Show/Ludwig

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Tarred, feathered.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:13 AM | Permalink

    SportsMonday: The Hawks' Problem

    By Jim Coffman

    The clinching victory over the Canucks last week, the one that left the Hawks eight wins away from the Stanley Cup? It couldn't have been more exciting. And the United Center was remarkably loud, just about throughout. In fact, we're going to go ahead and say that during the back-and-forth 7-5 victory it was as noisy as it has ever been in the arena that replaced the Chicago Stadium in 1994.

    "I don't know about history," said my friend Steve. "I just know my ears hurt."

    Beachwood Baseball:
  • The Cub Factor
  • The White Sox Report
  • The downside was that a big reason the game was so dramatic was that it was the worst defensive performance of the post-season for our town's icemen. Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin played well, and still gave up five goals. If he hadn't been sharp, the Canucks could have scored 10. There were so many breakdowns by the Hawks' defensive corps it was hard to know where to start to break it down.

    The question was, was it a blip? Primarily a one-game thing that would be rectified the next time the Hawks hit the ice Sunday in the Western Conference Final opener in Detroit? The short answer? No.

    Khabibulin could have been better against the Red Wings on Sunday, but the primary problem is the guys immediately in front of him, and the forwards who are too often failing to fully fulfill defensive responsibilities.

    The Hawks had more rest than the Red Wings coming into the series and the chance to get the jump on their rivals. Instead, the home team was better from the start, not just out-shooting the Hawks, but doing so in each period.

    Zeroing in on the defense, specifically pairings Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, Brian Campbell and Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Cam Barker and Matt Walker, is instructive.

    The huge amount of minutes logged by Keith and Seabrook in the past seven months and in the past 13 playoff games (Keith was usually the Hawks' regular-season leader in per-game ice time while Seabrook has been out in front in the post-season) may be starting to take a toll.

    Keith missed a few games in the regular season (he played 77) but Seabrook went the distance (82) and both have been going so hard for so long it is tough to believe they aren't dragging at times.

    Seabrook and Keith were both on the ice for three of the Red Wings' four goals that mattered - before the late empty-netter.

    And of course Red Wing defenders, specifically all-world Niklas Lidstrom (who if he hasn't won a half-dozen Norris Trophies yet should have), have also logged huge minutes through the season and the playoffs.

    But that is where their superior experience, their ability to dig down even deeper when it matters in the playoffs, comes into play.

    Campbell has been a favorite whipping boy for Hawks fans when the team has struggled this season but he had a real good series against the Canucks. He and Hjalmarsson didn't stand out on either side of the ledger in Game 1 (although Campbell was on the ice for the pivotal third Red Wing goal).

    Still, the Hawks are going to be in trouble against the Wings when Campbell isn't in on scoring any goals (which he wasn't). Barker and Walker aren't fast enough to keep up with many of the Red Wing forwards and their ice time will continued to be limited accordingly.

    Hopefully the Hawks can catch their breath now and bounce back like they have in the first two rounds. They played great defensive hockey in the middle of the Vancouver series and there is a chance they'll find that mojo again.

    But there's a better chance the Red Wings, the most talented team in the league, will maintain command. The defending champs are starting to smell the Cup.

    Baseball Report
    An awfully good week for the Cubs, although declining to play a doubleheader now (on Saturday or Sunday) against the Astros after the rainout Friday and instead pushing the game back into the dog days of summer may come back to haunt. Then again, the Cubs will probably be healthier further down the line.

    Despite a tough loss Sunday, the North Siders are right there at the top of the Central Division a month-and-a-half into the season despite losing their best hitter to a fearsome shoulder injury (although thank goodness it wasn't his right arm) right after their ace sat down for several weeks with a significant leg injury.

    On the other hand, if Gavin Floyd and John Danks don't start pitching better, the White Sox will be done before the All-Star break. Of course the pale hose need an igniter and, well, they just need better hitting up and down the lineup. But they have no chance if their young second and third starters don't get it together and soon.

    -

    Coach Jim welcomes your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:02 AM | Permalink

    The White Sox Report

    By Andrew Reilly

    Are the White Sox the worst team in baseball? As of this writing, the South Siders have scored fewer runs than every other team in the American League while allowing the fifth-fewest. This suggests two things:

    1. The Sox are not that good.

    2. The Sox don't lose a lot of close games.

    We already knew the first part, but the second part suggests reason for optimism: if they're at least keeping games close, it stands to reason they at least have a chance to win them. Indeed, the Good Guys are a not-entirely-terrible 4-5 in one-run games, which at least indicates competitive spirit, but posits the Sox as a team capable of standing its ground in the nailbiters yet dropping 16 of the other 27 games. To put it another way: the Sox are bad at good baseball but awful at terrible baseball. That might be the most depressing sports-related sentence I have ever typed.

    It's odd, because there have been worse Sox teams than this in my sporting lifetime, and there have been insufferably worse stretches than this; stretches lasting not ten games but ten weeks. Yet, this year's edition stings more because this was all supposed to be so easy. The AL Central was supposed to be the .500-takes-all division won by the mightiest softball team in the league before Memorial Day. Instead, here we are all wondering to ourselves if anyone will trade for Jim Thome, Bobby Jenks, Jermaine Dye, Southpaw or that guy who sells the bootleg t-shirts just east of the viaduct over 35th.

    The Sox, all 15 wins and 21 losses of them, sit only five games behind a Detroit team playing over its head and a Kansas City team that's still a Kansas City team. To look up and down the division standings, you can't find a single team to really be afraid of - no one who exudes that kind of savvy that puts everyone else on notice. And yet, therein we find the subtlest, cruelest jab of 2009 White Sox baseball: there is plenty to look up to in the standings, but not really much room for looking down. The Tigers, Royals and Twins may all be lousy, but the Sox at this moment are even worse and, after that trip to Cleveland, even the basement-dwelling Indians can have a laugh at their expense.

    So are the Sox the worst team in baseball? No, not yet. They only stink when they have to.

    -

    Week in Review: Abysmal. The only way to top a 1-6 stretch would be to go 0-7 - no impossible task, as the Sox face nothing but superior teams until June 5.

    Week in Preview: Hatred followed by nervous despair. Assuming they make it out of Toronto alive (the Good Guys haven't won even a single game there since June 1, 2007; Jerry Owens went 2-for-4 that magical afternoon), three games against the Twins at least give the Sox a chance to claw their way back to respectability within the division. The Sox follow the Twins series with a visit from the Pirates to kick off interleague play. Perpetually terrible as they are, the Bucs are doing better than the Sox right now. Then again, so is pretty much everyone else.

    The Q Factor: Carlos Quentin finds himself sidelined with heel issues. Once fully recovered, watch for Quentin to drag the lifeless body of Kevin Millwood past the Gates of Troy.

    That's Ozzie!: "Tomorrow, I'm going to play [Harold] Baines, Joey Cora and Greg Walker. We might have a better chance."

    The Guillen Meter: They lost two miserable games in his absence, but lost 15 others just like them while Ozzie was still in town. The Guillen Meter reads 7 for "hostile, yet ultimately indifferent, possibly with a joke about not losing his job to Joey Cora."

    Alumni News You Can Use: Aaron Rowand hit a solo shot off of Johan Santana in the Giants' 9-6 loss to the Mets Saturday, marking Rowand's first bomb off Santana in seven years. Oh, and some guy on the Twins is having back problems or something. Shocking.

    Hawkeroo's Can-O-Corn Watch: Carlos Gomez comes to town this week with the Twins. In the Hawk Harrelson non sequitur playbook, Gomez ranks just above Darrin Erstad and just below the time Hawk invented the batting glove, which ought to give this week's broadcasts the nausea-inducing powers of a thousand open sewers.

    Endorsement No-Brainer: Chris Getz for Miller High Life. Good honest bunt attempts at a tasty price.

    Cubs Snub: Abandon Kerry Wood, acquire Kevin Gregg, hinder Carlos Marmol. Three moves, zero closers. That's a Cubs bullpen strategy anyone could love.

    The White Sox Report: Read 'em all!

    The Cub Factor: Know your enemy.

    -

    The White Sox Report welcomes your comments.

    -

    Andrew Reilly is the managing editor of The 35th Street Review and a contributor to many fine publications.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 3:00 AM | Permalink

    The Cub Factor

    By Marty Gangler

    If nothing else this week, the Cubs proved that there is nothing to worry about. Despite all the nagging injuries, DL stints, tantrums, and bullpen meltdowns the Cubs sit only 1.5 games back of the Brewers for the division lead. For those of you keeping score at home, 1.5 games is like nothing right now. And technically the Cubs would win the wild card if the season ended today. But the season doesn't end today. So there's still plenty of time for the Cubs to blow it. To this point we here at The Cub Factor wanted to think about what could possibly go wrong for the Cubs to actually be in real trouble.

    * Bud Selig decides to "spice up" division races by randomly switching managers of teams and the Cubs get stuck with Dusty Baker.

    * During a pivotal series against the Cardinals, Tony LaRussa demands that Mike Fontenot and Aaron Miles be measured to see if they meet the league minimum height requirement. They are both deemed too small and the Cubs in violation lose every game they played in.

    * Ryan Dempster accidentally makes Ryan Theriot disappear during a magic trick gone awry.

    * Lou Piniella is suspended for charging Neal Cotts on the mound and Alan Trammel becomes manager.

    * Ted Lilly goes over to Koyie Hill's for some woodworking and . . . disaster ensues.

    * Derrek Lee stays healthy.

    * An MRI reveals that Aramis Ramirez actually does have rocks in his head.

    * The Cubs are banned from the playoffs when a private investigator finds the real Kosuke Fukudome back home in Chunichi working for FedEx; the imposter is determined to be Jim Edmonds.

    * Cubs suffer a run of broken fingers as Sam Zell puts all gloves on eBay to make debt payments.

    * Bobby Scales is determined to be some sort of man-lizard from another planet and not allowed to play.

    * Carlos Zambrano is also determined to be a man-lizard.

    * Players like Alfonso Soriano and Milton Bradley employ a me-first mentality that infiltrates the team, making it impossible to win big games. Wait . . .

    -

    Week in Review: The Cubs went 4-1, sweeping a horrible Padre team and splitting two games with the Astros. The game on Friday was rained out. It would be really nice to play the Padres every week.

    Week in Preview: The Cubs travel to St Louis for three against the Cardinals and then out to San Diego for three against the Padres. It is going to be nice to play the Padres again this week.

    The Second Basemen Report: Three starting second basemen over five games last week. Fontenot, the real starting second baseman, got one start though he's been playing third with Ramirez out. Miles and Scales got two starts each. We here at The Cub Factor don't think the season really begins until there are four starting second basemen in a week. You know, just like Jim Hendry drew it up.

    In former second basemen news, Mark DeRosa has his average up to .245 for the Indians and Ronnie Cedeno has his down to .139 for the Mariners. They are both missed.

    The Zam Bomb Coming back to the team this week makes Big Z angry. He should be back to Furious soon after that.
    zam_gettingAngry.jpg

    -

    Endorsement No-Brainer: Kevin Gregg for Kleenex. Because he blows.

    Lost In Translation: Bobbyo-san Scalesio is Japanese for you have to root for this guy.

    Milton Bradley Game of the Week: Crocodile Dentist. Because he's not said anything for a while and he's about to open his mouth - which I think is kind of the opposite of this game - but it's still the game of the week.

    Sweet and Sour Lou: 55% Sweet, 45% Sour. Lou stays right where he is this week on the Sweet-O-Meter because despite winning there are some serious bullpen issues. And just like your real crazy drunk uncle, Lou knows he needs to take care of the lawn. He can see the crabgrass just as well as you can. He's not happy about it but it's a long summer and he's hoping that he can get his hands on the right mix of grass seed and fertilizer to get it taken care of. He might have to buy some new sod.

    Don't Hassle The Hoff: Only two starts this week for Micah. And in my book, that's a hassle. So stop it.

    Beachwood Sabermetrics: A complex algorithm performed by the The Cub Factor staff using all historical data made available by Major League Baseball has determined that the Cubs look like a playoff team when they play the Padres.

    Over/Under: The game when Milton Bradley's average will be higher than his listed weight of 225: +/- Game #58.

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

    Mount Lou: The surface of Mount Lou is still intact despite hot inner bullpen anger churning very close to the surface. So don't be fooled, there's a lot going on down there. He stays at orange.

    mtlou_orange.gif

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    Contact The Cub Factor!

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:21 AM | Permalink

    May 16, 2009

    Replacing Souter

    By Sam Singer

    For a legal journalist, a Supreme Court vacancy presents an opportunity to channel an inner sports writer. It's an occasion to size up a talented field of contestants, to gauge their strengths and weaknesses, and ultimately to forecast the outcome of one of the more critical contests in U.S. government. For a profession that finds excitement in the dullest of matters, a Supreme Court vacancy is the stuff of action adventure films, like a high-speed chase for a traffic cop. It's no wonder the opening coverage quickly digresses into a search for the front-runner.

    In this tradition, let's consider what we know about the field. First, the vetting process is well underway. Last week, an ABC blog reported that the White House had finalized a short list of six candidates, all women. We then learned the list was neither final nor complete, and that the president was taking great pleasure in watching the media go to work believing otherwise.

    Whatever its length, Solicitor General Elena Kagan and federal appeals court judges Diane Wood and Sonia Sotomayor stand out as early favorites. Each is believed to possess one or more of the "plus factors" on the President's checklist. Like the shortlist, the true contours of that list are unclear, except to say it likely will be longer than similar lists in the past.

    By all accounts, each candidate's work history will be profoundly relevant. As it's currently comprised, the Supreme Court is an All-Star roster of former federal appellate judges. For the first time in history, each of the nine justices has previously served on one of the U.S. circuit courts of appeals. Some experts believe this is precisely what the high court should look like: a highbrow collection of the judiciary's finest legal minds. After all, the Supreme Court is an appellate court of the highest order - what's wrong with stocking it with elite appellate judges?

    Others believe the Court is out of touch. According to this crowd, by pulling exclusively from the upper echelons of the federal judiciary, previous administrations have turned the Supreme Court into a gated community for distinguished appellate judges. Excluded are innumerable candidates of diverse experience - the elected officials and private lawyers, the state court judges and the academics - who in an earlier era would have received closer looks. When asked what he looks for in a justice, President Obama described former Chief Justice Earl Warren, who served three terms as Governor of California before he was nominated by President Eisenhower. From this statement and others, many have concluded the President hangs his hat with those calling for diversity in experience on the bench. As a result, this may be the first nomination process in decades in which a candidate's seat on a federal appellate court could actually hurt her chances of being elevated.

    Outside the traditional pedigree, the president will consider judges on trial courts and state supreme courts as well as candidates from non-judicial backgrounds. Among the front-runners, this will favor Ms. Kagan, who would come to the Court - by way of the Solicitor General's office - from a distinguished career in academia.

    For reasons that require no explanation, race will be an additional factor. When writers discuss race in the context of Souter's replacement, they're likely talking about Second Circuit judge Sonia Sotomayor, who if selected would be the first Latina nominated for the high court. The recent hoopla is a bit unfair to Sotomayor, who has been a Supreme Court short-lister for years and likely would remain one even if, by some bizarre error in lineage, we discover her ancestors arrived on the Mayflower. (The president is also considering U.S. District Court judge Ruben Castillo, another prominent Latino jurist, but for present purposes, Castillo is one X chromosome short of a reasonable chance).

    Alongside demographics, the president's vetting team will be pouring over judicial opinions and scholarly publications for a better sense of each candidate's judicial philosophy. The president is undoubtedly in the market for a reliable progressive; just how reliable and how progressive will turn on his understanding of the Court and its moving parts. Scholars differ over the most effective way to approach a Supreme Court vacancy. One theory holds that doctrinal shifts flow from the doggedness of ideological firebrands like Antonin Scalia and William Brennan, both credited for using channels of persuasion outside the opinion process to move the Court closer to their respective ends of the spectrum. A justice, in other words, is worth more than her weight in votes.

    At first glance, Diane Wood appears to fit this mold. Some credit Wood for savvy maneuvering on the Seventh Circuit. By these accounts, Wood has helped neutralize Frank Easterbrook and Richard Posner, the Court's conservative heavyweights. But if Wood's opinions are revealing of a sharp and scrupulous thinker, they offer little to suggest an ideological agenda. For a real firecracker, President Obama will have to look beyond his short list, or at least beyond the common renditions of his short list, to someone like Kathleen Sullivan.

    More likely, President Obama will seek to swing the Court with a nominee who can command the respect of the Court's conservative wing. This will require focusing on the quality of the jurist. In some cases, it will require elevating a candidate's skill set over her judicial temperament, and her craftsmanship and eloquence over her conclusions. An argument can be made that testing aptitude at this level amounts to hair-splitting. Indeed, by every professional standard, each of the president's short list candidates is in the stratosphere. But that's no reason to treat their respective gifts as common denominators. Some are more talented than others, and from my read of the chatter within the legal community, Kagan and Wood stand out from their competitors as exceptionally capable jurists.

    One factor that has received misleadingly limited coverage is longevity. The significance of longevity as a factor can be gleaned from the following fact: Of the Court's three justices under 65, all three reside in the conservative camp. Ranking the front-runners, Kagan leads the pack at a spry 49, followed by Sotomayor, who is in her mid-50s but suffers from diabetes. Wood, who is approaching 60, trails.

    For those keeping score, Elena Kagan has more "plus factors" in her column than either of the two favorites. That's to her credit, but she also enjoys some other advantages. For one, she has built a reputation as a unifier, having gone further toward uniting Harvard Law's warring academic factions than any dean in recent memory. Also, her hair is still windblown from sailing through the Senate after the president appointed her Solicitor General. She was confirmed by a vote of 61 to 31.

    Those are odds Obama just might take.

    -

    Sam Singer is the Beachwood's legal correspondent. He welcomes your comments.

    -

    Previously by Sam Singer:
    * Is TARP legal? Court to decide on laugh test.

    * Taking Government Out Of The Marriage Business. Separating church and state.

    * Chicago's Disorderly Conduct. Dissent allowed even in Daleyland

    * Why Google Will Win. Newspapers are on the wrong side of the digital revolution.

    * Is Blago A Flight Risk? We asked; a judge said yes.

    * Obama's Torture Test. Politically calculating.


    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:25 PM | Permalink

    The Weekend Desk Report

    By Natasha Julius

    Dear Blackhawks Fans:

    You are absolutely correct; Detroit sucks.

    Much as I would love to defend the playground of my ill-spent youth, Detroit is a bone-thin city strapped to the bloated carcass of a dead industry. Its problems are painfully well-documented, from business exodus to crumbling infrastructure with every symptom of urban blight in between. Its remaining citizens live in worthless homes and receive thread-bare services from a city government so corrupt it would make a Daley blush. It is an American tragedy, to be dissected in the breakfast nooks of its antagonistic suburbs and fretted over at the dinner parties of more fortunate cities.

    In fact, the whole state of Michigan is a bit of a suckfest right now. It boasts the highest unemployment in the nation and a staggering foreclosure rate; its glamorous governor is considering a move to the less-stressful job of Supreme Court justice; and there's a very real chance it will soon be run by Amway. Basically what I'm saying is, if you're going to shout that at me, I really can't argue the point.

    Here's the thing, though. The Detroit Red Wings are very good at hockey. You may not want to hear it, but it's true. They are the defending Stanley Cup Champions. They won their division by eight points despite taking the last fortnight off. They sort of know what they're doing. Yes, they are older than the Blackhawks. So are you. But you are not a six-time Norris Trophy winner or a finalist for this year's league MVP.

    The fact that the Detroit Red Wings are good at hockey does not mean the Blackhawks are not also good. The fact that I am admitting the Blackhawks are also good does not mean I'm not a Red Wings fan. The fact that I'm a Red Wings fan does not mean I don't love living in Chicago. Somehow, I have been able to separate my fervent support for the team I grew up watching from my deep affection for the place I now live. It's a little trick I call being reasonable.

    These should be the halcyon days for you, watching your team climb out of obscurity to become a force within the league. You don't have to resort to bitter playground taunting anymore. You can spend the game discussing team strategy rather than shouting rude things about our mama. You can be reasonable and enjoy watching what will hopefully be a hell of a series. If the Blackhawks win, it doesn't mean the Red Wings aren't a good hockey team. And if the Red Wings win, it doesn't mean Detroit doesn't suck.

    Now, let's drop the puck and talk about hockey.

    -

    Hawks:

    -

    Wings

    -

    Preakness Poop
    "I'm hoping the wagering public doesn't get the dreaded Mine That Bird disease and pound every horse with double-digit odds," our main on the rail writes. See who he's putting his money on.


    The Weekend Desk Tip Line: A good bet.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:56 AM | Permalink

    May 15, 2009

    The [Friday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    1. Is Chicago The Most Ironic City Ever?

    2. Rick Kaempfer writes:

    "Got a ticket last night. $50 freaking dollars. And I was there only two minutes after the meter expired. Meter expired 9:18. Ticket written 9:19. Rick gets back to his car 9:20."

    I wonder if you can get screwed for $25 a minute on Craigslist.

    3. The Reader's story about Bucky Badger did not disappoint. This is the part that really caught my eye, though.

    The Buckys take seriously their role as ambassadors for the university. They speak with awe of football coach-turned-athletic director Barry Alvarez despite his apparent antipathy to the mascot. "They feel they deserve more respect," [filmmaker John] Fromstein says. "They feel slighted. We pushed a couple people [in the athletic department] on this and they were pretty defensive," reluctant to acknowledge that a problem existed. Being Bucky addresses that tension between the mascot's duty to be goofy and Alvarez's all-business approach. "Bucky's for the fans," Alvarez says in the film. "He's not for the team."

    "Fromstein wonders whether Alvarez is neglecting part of what makes UW unique. 'Barry would say, 'We're just worried about football.' His mindset is winning games. But there's more to it than that." Back before Alvarez turned the team around and started winning, Wisconsin fans "created all these fun things to pass the time," Fromstein says - their "Jump Around" ritual (bouncing to House of Pain's "Jump Around") after the third quarter, their slow-then-fast take on the wave, and "fifth quarter" polka dancing on the field. "They're the best school at creating that environment," Fromstein says. "And Bucky is the personification of that."

    The fan rituals are what makes Wisconsin football games so much fun. The Fifth Quarter is legendary. It's not always about winning and it's not always about the athletes. Wisconsin football has always shared something with the pre-gentrified Cubs in that way. it wasn't that the fans didn't want the team to win, but that the they were just as much a part of the experience as the team was - maybe even more. But that the experience of going to a major league (outdoor, daytime) baseball game and the experience of going to a college football game were paramount.

    *

    In some ways, Grateful Dead shows were like that too; maybe hanging out at the Beachwood Inn also has a slice of that element. It's authentic, romantic, and about community. It's about the things marketers crave but can't invent, and what newspapers have been missing for a long time and don't seem to be able to get back.

    *

    The Sun-Times could have it if it truly was the scrappy underdog it likes to think it is, but it's never really been that. Not when it's best work is overshadowed by ridiculous amatuerism and gobs of cheese.

    *

    When I was working at the Lakeland, Florida Ledger in my first newspaper job after college, I landed on the police beat after six months in a bureau writing Sunday stories. I went to the Polk County Jail every day as part of my beat rounds to see who had been booked in the last 24 hours.

    The Ledger was an aggressive paper that liked to make use of Florida's model sunshine laws. It liked to dig, though its resources were sparse.

    One day at the jail a civilian in the waiting room saw me looking through the day's reports and said to me, "You guys really like to go after it, don't you!"

    That's the way you want readers thinking about your publication. And you can't fake it, or manufacture it with a marketing campaign about "attitude." You have to be it.

    Like Bucky.

    4. Our man on the rail, Thomas Chambers, has the lowdown on how the boys tried to keep the girl out of the Preakness.

    5. Please welcome new Weather Channel correspondent David Hall to these pages. He's really into weather.

    6. What's on Rob Miller's jukebox? That's what we wanted to know.

    7. SUVs Stimulate Cops.

    8. Is Madigan The Man Behind Stroger?

    9. I'm glad it's the Red Wings. Old-time hockey.

    10. Chicago E-Cigs:

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Embedded.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:01 AM | Permalink

    TrackNotes: Boys Against Girl

    By Thomas Chambers

    "A single thought occupied the minds of everyone in racing. Seabiscuit and War Admiral had to meet."
    - Laura Hillenbrand, Seabiscuit: An American Legend

    *

    The festivities at Pimlico Saturday will not be of such import, or quality, but the 134th running of the Preakness Stakes will have its own delicious twist, and that's no thanks to the owners of 312-hour racing sensation Mine That Bird, the shocking winner of the Kentucky Derby just two weeks ago.

    MTB's matchup is sensational filly Rachel Alexandra, the Kentucky Oaks winner who also had Calvin Borel aboard - and will again on Saturday.I didn't sense a lot of traction in the mainstream media's efforts to stamp MTB with the "legitimate Triple Crown contender" mantle, not like Big Brown last year. And in the last few days, Rachel has stolen just about all the buzz.

    A horse must, after all, conquer both Churchill Downs and Pimlico before taking on The Big Sandy, Belmont Park, but some props for winning the Derby please? MTB is another Dangerfield.

    The thunder's been ripped from the hearts and minds of MTB owners Mark Allen and Dr. Larry Blach, but they made a Sure It's Half-Assed But It Just Might Work effort to keep Rachel out of the Preakness and they might have pulled it off if not for . . . I don't know what.

    Not cool.

    It really started when Jess Jackson and Harold McCormick purchased Rachel Alexandra for a large undisclosed sum just days after the Derby. There had been plenty of conversation about Rachel's worthiness to run in the Derby, but former owners Dolphus Morrison and Mike Lauffer strongly eschewed the notion on the grounds that fillies belong with fillies and let the boys have their day.

    After she won the Kentucky Oaks by a merciless 20+ lengths, with Borel (more suds on him later) doing his best impression of the hokey palamino cowboy in the Tournament of Roses Parade, trainer Hal Wiggins had Rachel taking five weeks off and pointed to the Acorn Stakes at Belmont. It appears his goal was clear: to earn, certainly, female honors such as best three-year-old female or female horse of the year or, if he got real lucky, horse of the year. This is borne out somewhat by the fact Rachel was not nominated to the Triple Crown.

    I believe that when Jackson bought the filly (assigning him to your-label-here trainer Steve Asmussen) and said he would run her in the Preakness (the $100,000 to supplement her to the Preakness is nothing to him), Mine That Bird's owners and trainer Chip Woolley were livid. Preakness rules say that horses nominated to the Triple Crown have dibs over supplemented horses. The maximum field of 14 looked a bit short, so Allen got on the horn.

    He called Ahmet Zayat, owner of Pioneerof the Nile and 22 other Triple Crown-nominated horses, and told him that if they both entered an additional horse together (there were also rumors that royal-blueblood racing owner Marylou Whitney would go along too), Rachel would be out. Whitney's motivation was apparently to not see the son of Birdstone, her lucrative sire, get beat by a girl.

    Zayat made no attempt to conceal his outrage at Jackson entering the Preakness with Rachel Alexandra. He pulled out all the stops: "One other criteria for me, I like playing by the rules. All these colts from the very beginning have had to compete and go through the regimen and tough scheduling and go from one race to another to get graded earnings, and that puts a lot of stress on them. And in all fairness, she did not have to go through all that, and her previous owners did not even bother to nominate her to the Triple Crown, and then someone else comes in and tries to change the name of the game and the rules in the middle of the game and I think that is unfair. I'm not against the filly running against the boys. But I am questioning the two-week interval. Why not give her a freshening and run her in the Belmont? Two weeks for a filly. Does our sport need another Eight Belles? We all know what happened to Rags to Riches after her race in the Belmont. We all know what happened to Ruffian. I did not want to have that part of it on my watch."

    Whew.

    He has a bit of a point in that Rachel hasn't been on the same course to this race. And she's never beaten the boys before either, on any level, even just to see if she could.

    For example, Stardom Bound's connections had her on a potential Triple Crown path, with a race against the boys figured in along the way, but when she couldn't score a decisive win in the Santa Anita Oaks against other fillies, they rightly abandoned the plan.

    So someone from the Maryland Jockey Club called Zayat (maybe it was Pie-O-My's owner) and persuaded him not to block the filly. And then Zayat dumped the whole thing in Allen's lap in a Jordan-esque bit of spin.

    For what it's worth, Allen said he too had changed his mind about the whole thing.

    What a couple of standup guys!

    Marylou and her people said they were never involved in the caper at all. They got their longshot Luv Guv into the race anyway.

    For their part, the Daily Racing Form was typically hands off, while The Bloodhorse's Steve Haskin, who never met a thoroughbred specimen he didn't gush over, seemed to apologize for the industry.

    Calvin's Choice
    There's an old angle in racing that if a jockey you respect or who is considered a top jock, picks one horse to ride over another in the same race, he knows something about his choice and is picking the better horse. It's a little wacky to play the jockey, as some guys I know do, but you can be sure about one thing: they're going to go to with the horse they think is the one to beat.

    Then there's Calvin Borel. After piloting Mine That Bird to one of the most sensational wins in recent Kentucky Derby history (and smartly winning the Kentucky Oaks-Derby double), Borel has chosen to ride Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness and through the end of the year.

    Every reference I've seen says it's the first time a jockey has abandoned a Derby winner to ride a different horse in the Preakness when the Derby winner is also in the race. Maybe Borel did the same handicapping after the Derby as I did before it. He's either incredibly stupid and passing up a shot at racing immortality, or he knows who the live horse will be Saturday. After all, he's ridden them both.

    And in a development worthy of a reality show like, um, Jockeys, Mike Smith will ride Mine That Bird. Assuming they're still together - and this doesn't seem too blissful - the apple of Mike's eye, Chantal Sutherland, is the jock who piloted Mine That Bird to the success he needed to even get into the Derby. The scenarios seem endless.

    Preakness Poop
    And by the way, there's a race Saturday. The weather geeks are saying the track could be wet, but from what I've read, it won't be the sloppy like we saw in Kentucky.

    The Preakness Stakes, in post-position order:

    1. Big Drama: Shaping up to be a wiseguy horse, he's won six in a row (disqualified March 28 in the Swale Stakes for bumping), has run only one race this year, has beaten just about nobody and has distance questions. He'll try for the lead, but running an extra furlong and for only the second time this year, you wonder if he'll avoid the staggers down the stretch. They're adding blinkers to avoid that. His hope is to go to the lead, set a pedestrian pace, and wire it.

    2. Mine That Bird: Gets little respect after Kentucky Derby win. Plan is to drop him back to last again and make the big run. Probably won't get that rail trip again with Mike Smith, but we'll see now what he's made of.

    3. Musket Man: My first impression is "is he tired?" He was a very respectable third in the Derby, and connections think he can gut one out. If he gets the Pimlico speed bias everyone says exists, it might remind him of Hawthorne and he gets up for at least a piece.

    4. Luv Gov: Beyer Speed Figures are weak, only win out of 10 came Derby Day in a maiden special weight. Racing-wise, this horse is hoi polloi, but why shouldn't D. Wayne Lukas and Marylou Whitney get to lord over it all? Huh?

    5. Friesan Fire: I've seen the same cliche twice. "His Derby was too bad to believe." The storyline holds. He's looking for slop like in Louisiana and he's gonna run a great race. He'll probably be the second or third favorite. I wonder if the :58 and 2 work he had Tuesday is really in his best interest and I know sticking with Gabriel Saez is not. He's beaten a couple of these but seems a cut below Rachel and 'Bird. To me, if I toss him, he'll probably burn me, but I don't see him winning.

    6. Terrain: A cut below. His best effort was a 91 Beyer in the Louisiana Derby March 14, but he still finished third 7+ back. Hasn't won since August. No.

    7. Papa Clem: Who's he really beaten? Some say he did a nice job in the Derby, but his fourth-place finish seven lengths back came after being right near the lead with a quarter-mile left. That's going backwards. His lines on wet tracks are not good either. Not this time.

    8. General Quarters: Perhaps the lone angle is the old in-and-out. He's good, then not so good. This race is on the "in" cycle. I like Leparoux aboard and he had an easy workout Monday. Capable, especially if the glamour boys and girl burn it up on the lead. Will need to get 10-1 or more, though.

    9. Pioneerof the Nile: Trainer Bob Baffert says he sitting on a big race. Hmmm. Didn't the great silver one say that in Louisville just two weeks ago? I think this horse needs everything to go his way in any race he runs, including not-so-great competition. He's a 95-96 Beyer horse and that's just what he is. He needs others to tire at just the right time. Maybe the goofy 9.5 furlongs will help, but I think Baffert is going to church every morning praying the horse will find his stride on a dry dirt track, which he may not get. Won't be a price either. He too will need some craziness up front.

    10. Flying Private: This horse doesn't win on his best days. Two things: he's a good worker and he's got Alan Garcia. At 55-1, Garcia's good enough for a couple piasters from me. Sure.

    11. Take the Points: This might be my wiseguy horse. And while Todd Pletcher may not be boffo on the biggest glamour stages, he always does great box office in the long haul. 'Points has been training well. His last two wins were in the mud at Belmont last September, and then a decent allowance in January at Gulfstream. He was sidetracked by a couple of respectable losses on the fake stuff at Santa Anita. He's had six weeks off and Pletcher is putting on the blinkers, a money move for him. He will stalk, and even push, just behind the leaders. Edgar Prado's up. Only thing to do now is see what his price will be.

    12. Tone It Down: Oh, behave! He's local filler. Was in for the claim two back. Only impact would be to disrupt the race by shooting for the lead from the outside.

    13. Rachel Alexandra: About the fastest three-year-old running, period. Makes it look easy. Is she that good? Or is her competition that bad? Borel stays here. Asmussen is as aggressive as they get and read into that everything you want. Connections' egos demand the glory. She comes back in two weeks and the only two times she has done that since her maiden win, she has lost. Her last work was so-so. While she won the Kentucky Oaks with Borel mugging for the cameras in the final sixteenth, she still ran fast for nine furlongs. Was it too much for her? The post position does not help as she's always been on or near the lead. This will be a different ballgame and you won't get a price. One ticket with and one ticket without. That's the ticket.

    *

    My wager: I will probably do something with a four- or five-horse exacta box, depending on the tote, and hope for the best. Then plunk down a few dollars on two or three with decent-to-longshot odds. Keep in mind that new shooters to this race who did not run in the Derby don't usually do great, and that seems true this year.

    I'm hoping the wagering public doesn't get the dreaded Mine That Bird disease and pound every horse with double-digit odds. The Preakness is a return to normality.

    -

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

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:40 AM | Permalink

    Bloodshot Briefing: Rob's Jukebox

    By Matt Harness

    Now that we've sucked you in on a weekly basis with one-of-a-kind features on the musicians, let's step back from the bands and get inside a corner in the mind of Bloodshot Records co-founder Rob Miller, a man responsible for so many of the sweet sounds we enjoy so much.

    Today's topic: Jukeboxes

    The Satellite Lounge in New Orleans hosts his favorite bar jukebox, but Miller is a rare audiophile who owns his own record spinner.

    We wanted to know what was on it.

    *

    Beachwood Music: Wow. That's killer. What kind of jukebox is it, and can I come over, drink beer and play it at 2 a.m.?

    Rob Miller: Rowe International, early 1970s edition with 200 selections of 7 inchers.

    Beachwood Music: Where did you buy it?

    Rob Miller: Some weird warehouse on the West Side of Chicago in about 1995. They had to push out of the way a lot of CD jukeboxes to get this that was in the back.

    Beachwood Music: How many coins did it take to buy it?

    Rob Miller: $400! An all new insides.

    Beachwood Music: Where does it live?

    Rob Miller: Office (3039 W. Irving Park Road).

    Beachwood Music: How often do you use it?

    Rob Miller: Right now, not often, as there is a problem with the tone arm picking up at the end of the song. Collapsing economy has led to spend money on other things like food, instead of jukebox repair.

    Beachwood Music: What are the top 10 songs?

    Rob Miller: According to my little counter, the most popular are:

    * Mississippi Queen/Mountain

    * Sleepwalk/Santo & Johnny

    * Nervous Breakdown/Black Flag

    * Trying to Live My Life Without You/Otis Clay

    * Ha Ha Ha/Del Shannon

    * Ballroom Blitz/Sweet

    * Is That All There Is/Peggy Lee

    * Turning Japanese/The Vapors

    * Rumble/Link Wray

    -

    Bloodshot Briefing now appears on Fridays. Matt welcomes your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 3:45 AM | Permalink

    May 14, 2009

    What I Watched Last Night: Vortex 2

    By David Hall

    I'm a weather geek. Often I'll just put The Weather Channel on as my background, because I'm interested in weather anywhere. I know I'm not alone; Tom Skilling has his following, more and more time is devoted in news broadcasts everywhere to talk about what's going on and, heck, they even have "The Weather Channel!"

    So, with the advent of the tornado season, Mike Bettes of TWC is joining with a team of more than 100 scientists and crew with an "armada" of mobile radar trucks, etc., to track tornadoes throughout "Tornado Alley" a strip of states including Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and parts of a couple of others.

    TWC has been promoting the living crap out of this series, which basically is the 6-9 pm window that usually is manned by Bettes, a determined no-nonsense type with television good looks and Stephanie Abrams, who is both exceedingly knowledgeable and more bubbly than a bottle of San Pellegrino. She talks very fast and because she knows so much and has so much to say, she sometimes stumbles over her words. She can be both annoying and endearing at the same time. Her fatal flaw? The tendency, in just a couple of hours to ask multiple times, "What are you doing now?"

    So with that I decided that while they're watching for tornadoes, somebody should be watching them. And that's me. I got to the action a little late tonight. Boy were those tacos good! Mike is in the field in northern Oklahoma and Stephanie is in the Weather Channel studio.

    I picked things up about 45 minutes into the show. And I could tell right away it wasn't going well.

    7:42 p.m.: Mike looks pissed. They seem to have picked the wrong storm to follow. Stephanie breaks in and asks, "So what exactly are you guys doing now?" The picture breaks up and he's gone. Stephanie, flustered, explains to the audience, "You have satellites at home, you understand what happens when weather hits them."

    I don't have a satellite at home. No one I know does. Now I want my own satellite. They go to Dr. Greg Forbes, the severe weather expert, who knows his stuff. Calm,cool, collected and smart.

    I want this to be the Dr. Forbes show. Now there's a split screen with a cool graphic on the right of a cross-section of a nasty thunderstorm they missed, and "LIVE", a shot of the Weather Channel van following another car. Wow! Dr Forbes explains that they simply picked the wrong storm. Stephanie remarks that they'll be right back to see "What exactly you guys are doing." I know what they're doing. They're driving down a dead-end road tonight and everyone seems to know it except her.

    7:45 p.m.: Time to go to a commercial break. They show what to the uneducated might look like a tornado, but in reality is just a big rain cloud extending to the ground. First commercial - a promo for VORTEX 2! Just in case I wasn't just watching five seconds ago. Meanwhile, real tornadoes are popping up all over Missouri and into Illinois. Thank God for the Local Forecast on the 8's.

    7:49 p.m.: Back to the action! For about the twentieth time tonight, they show video of a funnel cloud that never hit the ground. Back to Mike, who, still looking pissed, concurs with Dr. Forbes that they picked the wrong storm. But they don't say who "they" is. Hmmmmm. Abrams keeps trying to break in to ask where everyone else is. There goes the feed again. I'm starting to think Mike just drops the feed every time she asks him what he's going to do next. Back to Stephanie in the studio, who looks glum until the producer obviously tells her to lighten up. A small, half-hearted smile lights her face briefly, then she looks down like she might start to cry. Commercial time!

    7:51 p.m.: Great news! Raquel Welch is still alive, still trying to pick up young men and still wearing Foster Grants. I just checked . . . she's 68. Not bad.

    7:55 p.m: Back again, the same tired video of the poor little funnel cloud that couldn't. Stephanie breathlessly tells us they'll be back in a moment to find out "exactly what they're doing." No shit.

    8 p.m.: Back to the show! There's little funnel cloud again, apparently there is no other weather going on anywhere in the United States. Finally, they go to "Adam" in the studio to show one of the nastiest lines of thunderstorms I've seen in a while. Hope all those people who spent the last ten minutes wondering why the sirens were going off as we watched little funnel and a couple of vans streaking down the road will be okay.

    On to a live phone call with a police sergeant from Kirksville, Missouri who can't seem to confirm much of anything Stephanie asks him about. They talk over a split screen of the weather radar showing what the tornadic storm looked like as it went through Kirksville along with video of, guess what? I'm not even going to say. To her credit, Stephanie does not ask the sergeant what he is going to do next.

    She then tells Dr. Forbes that time is short but that she wants him to comment on a graphic that he can't see. They go to a shot of Dr. Forbes, looking confused. Now I'm pissed. They're making Dr. Forbes look bad. I don't like it when they make Dr. Forbes look bad.

    On to the next round of commercials, including a promo for Vortex 2. At the end of the promo I notice Mike standing in a field of early spring wheat, watching the sky as the wind blows. Then, there's a fake lightning flash and Mike is gone. Wonder what he thought when he saw that promo.

    8:10 p.m.: Again with little funnel and a live report from a "Digital Journalist" in the "armada" with Mike. Digital Journalist says basically that there's not much going on.

    Back to Stephanie, who says, "Let's go to Mike, let's not go to Mike, still having trouble with the satellite." Then she gets cut off in mid-sentence as they go to another commercial break. It's not all her fault, but the program is staggering like a punch drunk.

    8:25 p.m.: Back to the studio, but not before we see some rare, amazing video, in Stephanie's words, of . . . . . . the little funnel that couldn't. Aaargggghhhh!

    8:33 p.m.: Abrams on a two-shot with Dr. Forbes, with her "best piece of advice" for the viewing audience, if there still is one.

    "KNOW YOUR COUNTY!" No, I am not kidding, she actually said that. According to her, weather watches and warnings are issued by county, and if you don't know your county AND the counties that surround you, YOU are in trouble. I had no idea.

    Dr. Forbes looks embarrassed to be standing next to her, but dutifully agrees that it's good advice for everyone to know where they live.

    Suddenly, I feel very lucky. I know my county, but what about those who don't? I feel sad for them. They must live lives of quiet desperation, wondering what county they live in, but not knowing how to find out. They may die in a tornado never knowing what county they lived in. Sob!

    That's it for tonight, I can't watch anymore. This is getting brutal. I'm also sad for Dr. Forbes and myself for watching this for over an hour.

    It's going to be a long five weeks. For me and for Mike.

    I wonder exactly what he's doing right now.

    -

    See what else we've been watching.

    -

    Comments and submissions welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:42 PM | Permalink

    The [Thursday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    As longtime readers have probably surmised, I still have warm and fuzzy feelings about the University of Minnesota, where I earned my undergraduate degree in journalism and worked at The Minnesota Daily.

    But - like a lot of people - my favorite college campus of all-time is the awesome grounds of the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

    I've seen Harvard, Yale, Berkeley, Notre Dame, the University of Michigan, the University of Florida, and probably a dozen other campuses, but Wisconsin takes them all.

    That's why I root for the Badgers when I'm not rooting for the Gophers.

    And that's why I can't wait to read this story.

    And some of you out there know what I mean when I say Fuck 'em, Bucky.

    White Collar Whiteout
    Among the failures of local business reporting, I've never understood why stories like this don't get more attention:

    "A former suburban Chicago executive has pleaded not guilty to charges of participating in a $17 million bank fraud scheme," AP reports.

    "Kevin M. Gore allegedly swindled Fifth Third Bank between 2005 and late 2007 by fraudulently obtaining funds through a revolving line of credit. At the time, he was chief operating officer of Computer World Solution Inc. in Wheeling."

    $17 million!

    How is that not a huge story?

    "Computer World Solution, which imported and distributed wholesale consumer electronics such as televisions and computer monitors, went into bankruptcy in November 2007," the Imperial Valley News reports. "The bank's losses on the business's line of credit were discovered to be in excess of $17 million. Shortly before the bankruptcy, Gore left the United States and was traveling throughout Asia until he was arrested in late February."

    TIFFED
    "As we've repeatedly noted," Angela Caputo writes at Progress Illinois, "Mayor Daley long ago abandoned the specific purpose of tax increment financing (TIF) - to redevelop 'blighted' areas - and has since created a multitude of new districts in affluent neighborhoods and throughout Chicago's downtown. Indeed, the use of TIF has been so perverted that, yesterday, the city's Community Development Commission (CDC) signed off on a deal to give a multinational insurance company $3.8 million in taxpayer dollars to do something they would likely have done anyway - namely, renovate their new offices in the Sears Tower."

    So we're privatizing parking meters and socializing corporate office renovation. Nice.

    Worm Worry
    "Does it make me a bad person that I find the annual Golden Apple teacher award process overdone, and the media's lapdog response to it troubling?" Alexander Russo wonders at District 299 "Probably. But it seems like a canned, hermetically sealed photo op."

    It doesn't make you a bad person, Alexander. But it does make you a bona fide member of the Beachwood Nation. Your certificate is in the mail.

    Cable Fable
    "Here's why cable and satellite subscriptions aren't a good model for newspapers," Nat Ives writes in Ad Age.

    "In the first place, cable and TV offered something better than broadcast TV - much better. Their packages included perfect reception; many more channels, some with no commercials, mostly unavailable any other way; and types of programming you couldn't get otherwise, i.e., shows with 'adult' language and situations. In the second place, cable and satellite were optional products people could buy to enhance their programming.

    :Newspapers will be banding together, on the other hand, to take back certain content people already view on the web free. And for what? International news, sports coverage, city-council meetings already attended by bloggers? That's not necessarily comparable to The Sopranos, live out-of-town sports, recently released movies and, well, nudity. Sorry to say."

    There are other reasons, including the fact that cable is still a luxury to many people. And it's not like most cable subscribers are in it for CNN; my guess is they want ESPN, the movie channels and Millionaire Matchmaker.

    Finally, this new obsession with commoditizing the news not only ignores how the old newspaper model worked, but has all sorts of troubling implications for how and why journalism is performed as well as for First Amendment protections.

    I'm reminded of the line from North Dallas Forty: "Every time I say it's a game, you tell me it's a business. Every time I say it's a business, you tell me it's a game."

    Is journalism a public service or not?

    Rich Man's Game
    This might be just one of 25 internships, but only rich folk can do the other 24 because who else can afford to work for free?

    Unpaid internships are unconscionable for all but the smallest and most fledgling of operations. Like this one.

    *

    I was a finalist for a Spy magazine internship coming out of college that paid something like $50 a week - in New York City. I was trying to decide if I would vend beer at Yankees or Mets games to make ends meet.

    *

    I was rejected for supposedly being "overqualified."

    What, I was too funny?

    *

    Most (unpaid) internships at places like Harper's (with Lewis Lapham railing against the aristocracy!), the Atlantic, Washington Monthly etc. go to Ivy Leaguers who have perfected their scripts.

    Millennium Spark
    The city should have contracted with the Art Institute to do the whole of Millennium Park from the get-go.

    Three For Thursday
    "Chimp Was On Xanax During Attack."

    So it could have been worse.

    *

    "Playboy Doubling Up On Centerfolds."

    That will only work if they're in the same photo.

    Erotic Services
    This whole Craiglist thing just feels phony to me.

    City Council Crumbs
    Worrying about dogs while the mayor sells off the city.

    Olympic Backhand
    Lincoln Park Tennis Center under fire.

    Supreme Burris
    Roland is just sayin'.

    Rock Trivia Pursuit
    We're up to 450 items in our rock trivia feature.

    20 Tweets: Billy Corgan
    And God.

    Shut Up And Drive!
    From A.J. Foyt's mouth to the pages of the Beachwood. In RoadNotes.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Shut up and type.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:30 AM | Permalink

    RoadNotes: Shut Up And Drive The Car!

    By Carey Lundin

    "You drive the car and don't let the damn car drive you!" A.J. Foyt says he told his grandson, A.J. Foyt IV, after he failed to qualify for the Indy 500 on Pole Day. On Day 2, Foyt IV was bumped from the field by his own teammate, Vitor Meira.

    The third try was the charm. Foyt IV had been "struggling for speed" according to a Foyt team press release.

    And feeling the pressure.

    "I was so nervous and so stressed out," Foyt IV said later.

    But his team made "substantive changes to the car on the pit lane" and helped pull him through - though he doesn't know exactly how.

    "When asked what they did to the car to gain the extra speed," Team Foyt says, "Foyt IV said candidly, 'I have no idea. We were running 221s and then we were running 223s so you'd have to ask A.J. what he did.

    "Cracking a smile, he added, 'He already told me to shut up and drive the car so I don't really ask anymore'."

    *

    The race to win the Indy 500 doesn't begin on Memorial Day. It actually starts three rollicking, loud weeks in advance with Pole Day. Pole Day, Qualifying Days and Bump Day position a driver's crucial starting position in the race. This weekend is the third day of qualifying and Bump Day, where the slowest car of the top 33 is "bumped" from the field by a faster qualifying car.

    pole.jpgHere's how it works. You drive like a bat out of hell for four laps. They average your speeds around the historic 2.5 mile track. It's insane.You think about how going 80 in the car is scary. Germans however are comfortable with 90mph on the Autobahn. It's no wonder they call race car drivers "pilots."

    Last Saturday, Pole Day, the winds were gusting, frighteningly. "The wind at your wing" - not a good thing when you're a projectile hurtling at 222 mph around a sharp curve. Many drivers just opted out of qualifying that day.

    You crash into a wall at 222 miles per hour and you will bruise your lungs or get a concussion or even die. If you lose contact with the ground, you are gonna crash. It happened to Mike Conway.

    Conway crashed into the SAFER barrier and even broke the wall. He sustained a concussion and bruised lung. The press releases say he'll be re-evaluated on May 16th, but really, racing with a concussion?

    During qualifying, a driver gets to try three times in one day for their fastest speed. When they try again, it's a gamble. This year, Ryan Briscoe gambled that he could beat his teammate, Helio Castroneves for the Pole Position. Helio was absolutely ebullient when he took the pole. Briscoe remained in second place.

    Maslow's Hierarchy of Speed
    There is no other professional sport in America that pits the world's best against some who barely make it in. It kinda reminds me of the Indiana biking movie Breaking Away, where the scrappy Indiana boys competed against Europe's top bikers. Guess who won?

    But this is the real world. Here we have three levels of drivers. Let's start at the top.

    Pole Day and the Navy Seals of teams - Team Penske, Andretti Green Racing and Target Chip Ganassi Racing - who can afford the best drivers, the most cars, the most practice for the drivers and speed drills for their pit crew take most of the top 11 available positions. Through careful study and consistent practice, they can shave off a second or two, enough to win a race.

    To understand how minute the differences in speed are, Helio took the Pole Position at 224.864 while Davey Hamilton drove turtle-like into 22nd position at 221.956. Less than a three second difference.

    Qualifying Day, last Sunday, fills in cars 11-22. This year, we have dynastic families like Foyt Racing and Vision Racing, and up-and-coming teams like Sarah Fisher Racing, who placed 21st at 222.082.

    Qualifying and practice are particularly hard for Sarah Fisher Racing. She has one car. She's got to make it last. For her the stakes are high. A true underdog, she has roared back since last year's troubles. The fans love her. Dollar General sought her out for sponsorship. She's poised this year to rebuild. Who knows for next year? Perhaps she can qualify for the championship. But that's another story. Right now we're rooting for her.

    The Wild Cards
    Coming up are Day 3 of Qualifying and "Bump Day." These days are populated by racers who may only drive this one race; this section of track is scrappy. The economy is taking its toll. The list may include seasoned drivers like Milka Duno, Oriol Servia and newcomers like Enrique Bernoldi.

    Before qualifying, some may only practice for a couple of hours or a day. Not three days, like many of the top drivers. Their teams may have put together the car at the last minute or, because of the economy, finally put together the sponsorship to get the car on the track. They "fill out the track" of 33 drivers.

    Rahal Letterman Racing, Indy 500 winners in 2004, just announced Servia will drive for them. "We all know it's not ideal to jump in the car for Thursday and Friday," said Servia, who recorded seven top-10 finishes with KV Racing Technology and finished 11th in the Indianapolis 500 after starting 25th. This could be a replay of that race and that's pretty exciting.

    Why have so many cars at so many levels? I think it's because the weaker drivers mix it up. It's truly entertaining when a car navigates through a wildly variable group of drivers. It's nail-biting when a driver from the bottom tier works his or her way up to the top.

    *

    You can watch 3rd day qualifications and Bump Day on Versus or follow along at indycar.com.

    -

    Previously in RoadNotes:
    * Slouching Toward Indy
    * The Ragged Edge

    -

    Carey Lundin is the Beachwood's auto racing correspondent. She welcomes your comments.


    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:01 AM | Permalink

    20 Tweets: Billy Corgan

    From most recent on down.

    20. And Happy Mothers Day to all the mommys out there!

    19. If God does have a sense of humor, that would mean the jokes will never stop being funny.

    18. I believe in blue skies.

    17. Do pirates go to heaven??

    16. The day itself is a prayer.

    15. In the circle of Love that we find ourselves in, I send you only blessings of Joy.

    14. Unity consciousness is all-inclusive. It accounts for the successful ascesion of every-thing: every-rock, animal, wish+ lover gone bad.

    13. If God is Love and Love is Truth than anything not born of Love or Truth is not born of God.

    12. God is everywhere except the airport.

    11. Sometimes God is as simple as saying I AM. Love is only complex if you will not forgive.

    10. Actually, I got that wrong. Happiness is yours, if you want it. Peace is yours if you choose it.

    9. Happiness is yours, if you want it. Peace is yours, if you need it.

    8. Anything that you can see or touch or dream of represents active consciousness that IS Love.

    7. You must first fill your cup with love before you can pour it into the cup of another.

    6. We are never alone. We are never a-lone one.

    5. Life is a wonderful opportunity.

    4. A fan asked me tonight, 'is the God stuff real?'. When is God ever not real? Tell me . . .

    3. Tonight was a blessing as I got to stand on stage with 2 true spiritual warriors, mavis and yvonne staples. An honor!

    2. Smile, you're ON! (And sorry, I'm learning!!)

    1. Each one of us a living Sun, readily able to transmute the best of our Love in grace.

    -

    See also:
    * 20 Tweets: Richard Roeper
    * 20 Tweets: Pete Wentz
    * Douche or Tool: Billy Corgan

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:25 AM | Permalink

    May 13, 2009

    The [Wednesday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    "A three-month investigation of the CTA found that 41 percent of the handicap-accessible train stations could not be fully used by customers in wheelchairs, calling into question whether the nation's second-largest mass transit system is doing what it should for hundreds of thousands of disabled Chicagoans," Kaitlyn McAvoy reports in just one of a nine-story package.

    From one of the others:

    "Five of the CTA's 10 busiest train stations cannot accommodate a customer in a wheelchair, and that's perfectly legal under the nearly 20-year-old Americans with Disabilities Act," Eli Kaberon reports. "Just four of the 10 elevated stations in and around the Loop - the CTA's hub that hundreds of thousands of people pass through each day - are equipped with elevators, while the other six Loop stations, including Quincy and Adams & Wabash, two of the city's 15 busiest stations, are not accessible.

    Todd's Tax Trouble
    Actually the part that really caught my eye in this story about Todd Stroger's unpaid tax bill was this:

    "Jeanine Stroger made $56,700 as Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White's equal-employment opportunity officer."

    A) So there's an employment expert in the household after all!
    B) And I'm sure she got that job after after competing equally against all others given the opportunity

    Tribune's Tax Trouble
    Maybe Todd will run into Sam Zell in tax court.

    *

    While preparing the Trib tax story I came across the Hartford Courant Alumni Association and Refugee Camp.

    Funny how it takes getting laid off for some newspaper folk to learn how to blog. If they brought this kind of passion and creativity to their old jobs maybe they'd still have them.

    AIG vs. Trib
    "Tribune Co. can pay more than $13 million in bonuses to almost 700 employees for their work last year, a federal bankruptcy judge ruled Tuesday," AP reports.

    "But the judge denied authorization for the company to pay more than $2 million in severance to more than 60 employees laid off shortly before the Chicago-based company filed for bankruptcy protection."

    *

    Now, to be fair, the judge said he was constrained by the law when it came to the severance payments. So here's an idea: the executives getting the bonuses should show some class and donate $2 million of their $13 million to the laid off workers to make amends.

    Then they should give the other $11 million back to the (bankrupt) company.

    Softball Sorrow
    "With the recession straining budgets and causing widespread layoffs, company softball teams have felt an impact. Some have seen players pony up fees instead of business owners. Some have scratched to fill their rosters. Some have vanished altogether," the Daily Reflector of Greenville, North Carolina reports.

    Zen Arcade
    "Any one who has ever been to a lounge, pub or arcade has probably seen or even played the popular video games Golden Tee Golf, Silver Strike Bowling, and Target Toss Pro (Bags and Lawn Darts)," John Brokopp writes.

    "What you may not have observed is that all of those titles were created by a Midwest-based company, Incredible Technologies, in Arlington Heights, Illinois, a northwest suburb of Chicago."

    Iowa Express
    "A feasibility study by the national passenger rail service Amtrak concluded that service is viable between Chicago and Iowa City via the Quad Cities, and between Chicago and Dubuque. Illinois is moving forward, and the Iowa Legislature last month appropriated $3 million as a state match for a federal grant to pay for needed track upgrades and equipment for the service," the Des Moines Register writes.

    Twitter Flitter
    "What Twitter Can Do to Avoid the Next Swine-Flu Panic."

    *

    The CDC's emergency Twitter stream.

    Today's Must-Read
    The legendary Zodak Yonan.

    Ward Works
    "The history of the 44th Ward is almost as interesting as the history of Zodak," John Kass writes in the must-read I just cited. "For years it was run by old John Merlo, affiliated with a Chicago Outfit-backed credit union. Then, Ald. Bernie Hansen took over the ward. Hansen was legendary, too, since he was widely considered to live not in Chicago but Arizona. And Hansen worked for legendary fire insurance adjuster and political influence peddler Larry Warner, who will soon leave federal prison."

    Only in Chicago.

    Olympiana
    "City Seeks To Cultivate Track Stars."

    Paging Ben Joravsky!

    Chicago Blog Review
    "When the first two words I see on a blog are 'publicity news,' my first inclination is to Abort Mission Internet faster than you can say Missed Connection," our very own Katie Buitrago writes in her review of The Chicago Blog. "But the University of Chicago Press has the good fortune of trying to sell you stuff that's pretty damn good."

    Chris Kennedy Who?
    Inexplicably, the Merchandise Mart magnate seems to have a name ID problem.

    The Sears Tower Is Safe!
    Ridiculous prosecution of Liberty 6 finally nets convictions.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Liberate yourself.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:48 AM | Permalink

    The Chicago Blog

    By Katie Buitrago

    Blog: The Chicago Blog

    Description: "Publicity news from the University of Chicago Press including news tips, press releases, reviews, and intelligent commentary."

    Substance: When the first two words I see on a blog are "publicity news," my first inclination is to Abort Mission Internet faster than you can say Missed Connection. Very little could be as boring as people trying to sell you stuff and disguising it as content: it's not an ad, it's a blog! Trust! There are comments! And links! And an About page where you can find how to spend all of your discretionary income on my product learn more about me!

    But the University of Chicago Press has the good fortune of trying to sell you stuff that's pretty damn good. The largest scholarly press in America gets to pick from the cream of the crop, both books- and staff-wise, and the result is that their blog is both smartly written and based on interesting books. Bloggers SXH and TXM (surprisingly not designer drugs) reach into the vaults of the Press several times a day and pull out books relevant to major news and trends. Occasionally, Press authors will weigh in on current affairs. Some posts are simply squees about awards and readings.

    Ultimately, the Chicago Blog is what it says it is: a publicity blog. But self-promotion isn't such a bad thing - and is even useful - when their products are interesting, relevant, and smart.

    Style: Straightforward with the occasional dash of wry humor. Posts often begin by introducing a news story then segue into a U of C Press' author's take on it supplemented by quotes and links to interviews. It upends the traditional news blog style of giving the blogger's interpretation of events and the result is an eclectic set of voices. But I'm left wondering: who are these masked men, and how do they find all these books? They have a lot to search through. Also, there's no real incentive to engage with the bloggers since they're not putting forth their own take and couldn't argue back, even if they wanted to. See "commenter involvement" for the result.

    Tl;dr Score: Usually low, though occasionally they post book excerpts or essays from authors that test my backlit-fatigued eyes' patience. The long bits are helpfully hidden behind cuts so you can tl;dr with ease.

    Commenter Involvement: Guys, it's a press, not a library - you can talk in here. Nonetheless, it's pretty freaking quiet. I imagine this has something to do with the lack of strong voice from the bloggers themselves.

    Linkage: When the bloggers post, the links are useful for adding context with current events and providing more material by authors. When essays or commentaries are posted by authors, linkage is minimal to nonexistent.

    Visual Appeal: Classy with the muted earth tones, but looks a little default-Wordpress-template-y. They're good at posting pictures consistently.

    NSFW?: Are you kidding? You will look like the smartest employee ever if caught on the Press blog. Make it your homepage in case your boss ever uses your computer.

    Start Here: Chocolate (New York) City

    Bottom Line: It's a publicity blog that might actually make you smarter. When your friends fret about the virulence of the swine flu, you can say you're not surprised. When they whine about monopolies preying on consumers, you can say "naw, son." And you can, um, become a funny copy editor. We could all use more books in our lives, so sign this one up.

    -

    See the Chicago Blog Review library. We're just getting started!

    -

    Comments and submissions welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:22 AM | Permalink

    May 12, 2009

    INVESTIGATION: The Inaccessible CTA

    By Kaitlyn McAvoy

    A three-month investigation of the CTA found that 41 percent of the handicap-accessible train stations could not be fully used by customers in wheelchairs, calling into question whether the nation's second-largest mass transit system is doing what it should for hundreds of thousands of disabled Chicagoans.

    See also:
  • Disabled & Downtown On The CTA
  • In visits to each of the Chicago Transit Authority's 144 train stations, a team of reporters from Columbia College Chicago discovered broken elevators, handicap turnstiles and automatic doors at 16 stations, while there were no automatic doors at another 20 stations. In all, 36 of 88 stations the CTA labels as accessible had problems. And in several cases, the same problems were discovered weeks later on second and third visits to the stations.

    During its first round of visits in late February, the team found six stations on the Pink Line - California, Central Park, Pulaski, Kostner, 54th/Cermack and Damen - had broken automatic doors. A second visit two weeks later found those same doors out of order, and on third visit in early April, four of those five station doors, again, were not working. The same was true at the Brown Line's Rockwell station.

    The transit system has an obligation to keep equipment in working order, said Laura Miller, managing attorney at Equip for Equality. That organization joined another disability group, Access Living, in suing the CTA in 2000.

    Although it's not clear if the CTA is breaking the federal American with Disabilities Act because the law does not specifically state how fast equipment must be repaired, Miller said the reporters' research "speaks for itself" and makes a solid case that the CTA has a problem.

    The only CTA employee who agreed to answer questions - the CTA's longtime ADA compliance officer, Christine Montgomery - said she was surprised to learn that several handicap-accessible stations did not have automatic doors.

    Montgomery said she inspects renovated stations when they are about to re-open to make sure the proper equipment is in place. Despite repeated attempts over several weeks to obtain further comment, the CTA declined to discuss the other problems found at stations.

    There are accessibility problems on the CTA's buses, too. A review of the roughly 2,000 ADA-related complaints filed with the CTA from Jan. 1, 2004, through Feb. 28, 2009, found ongoing issues with malfunctioning equipment, rude drivers unwilling to help disabled customers and, in several instances, transit employees refusing to allow blind riders to board with their guide dogs.

    In September 2008, a blind man filed a complaint after attempting to board a bus with his service dog and his daughter. The unidentified man said the driver gave him a "very difficult time," telling him: "You need to get the hell off my bus, you must be crazy. You cannot board the bus with a dog unless he's in a cage."

    Two months later, another customer contacted the CTA about "an act of discrimination that, I feel, makes a mockery of the commitment made on your web site," which states all 153 bus routes are fully accessible. The unidentified customer said in an e-mail that a driver refused to stop for a man in a wheelchair.

    "Rather than lowering the ramp so this customer could board the bus, the driver simply and wordlessly drove away, leaving the customer behind. I have heard this happens sometimes - that bus drivers carelessly dismiss disabled passengers for whatever reason - but this is the first time I have been a witness.

    "I am frustrated with myself for not having tried to make the driver stop for this customer, but I am also infuriated with the driver for his blatant discrimination. As a CTA customer, I expect this issue to be addressed with this particular bus driver in addition to ALL bus drivers."

    It's not clear if the drivers in either of these cases - two of 402 ADA-related complaints filed with the CTA in 2008 - were disciplined.

    Michelle Robbins, who uses a wheelchair, said she was stranded by the side of the road three times in the first six months she lived here because a bus ramp wasn't working or the driver refused to deploy it.

    The most recent instance happened in early March. Robbins, a housing policy coordinator for Access Living, had planned to board a southbound 146 Michigan Express bus but the ramp was broken.

    If a ramp doesn't deploy automatically, the bus driver can do it manually, but Robbins said the driver refused. So with no other choice, she watched the bus doors shut and the bus drive away. Ten minutes later another bus came and she was able to board.

    Robbins tried using the CTA trains when she first moved to Chicago from El Paso, Texas, but found them even more difficult to navigate in a wheelchair. Even when equipment like automatic doors and elevators work, getting on a train car requires a lot of employee assistance, said Robbins.

    And just as frustrating to Robbins and other disabled Chicagoans is the frequent encounters they say they have with rude CTA employees who make them feel like they're creating too much of a hassle or simply refuse to help. In Robbins case, it has led her to avoiding CTA trains altogether.

    Robbins said her reliance on a wheelchair should not mean she can't use public transportation like everyone else. "It's my right to ride," she said.

    The law is on her side.

    The nearly 20-year-old ADA, hailed as a landmark civil rights legislation when signed by President George H. W. Bush, specifically states a person with a disability should not "be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity."

    Problems disabled customers were having with the CTA throughout the 1990s prompted the 2000 lawsuit by Access Living and Equip for Equality. A year later, the case was settled, with the CTA agreeing to make improvements, including rehabbing train station elevators, hiring more employees to make repairs and creating a database of ADA-related complaints.

    The CTA's accessibility has improved, and it's not required under the ADA to be 100 accessible. According to the Chicago Tribune, in 1990, just 12 out of the 143 stations then operating were accessible, and 10 years later, 61 out of 144 stations were accessible. Today, the CTA reports it has 88 accessible stations - or 61 percent of the "L."

    Rene David Luna, a plaintiff in the 2000 lawsuit who regularly rides CTA buses, said while the equipment may have improved in recent years, there continues to be problems with too many of the transit system's personnel, especially bus drivers.

    Luna, the community and economic development team leader at Access Living, has also experienced bus drivers leaving him at the curb because they said the lifts didn't work. "There have been a couple of instances where the [bus] driver has said, 'I gotta go. The lift doesn't work,' and shut the door and left," he said.

    It's one of the most frequent problems found in a review of the CTA's ADA-related complaints.

    One report made in January 2009 by a mother traveling with her disabled daughter captures the frustration and anger expressed by customers in complaint after complaint.

    The driver of the first bus the pair tried to catch for a doctor's appointment at the University of Chicago didn't respond, so they had to take another bus. Then returning from the appointment the mother said yet another ramp wasn't working, so they had to wait for one more bus.

    "This happens every single time we go to use the CTA buses. I am very upset and I have complained many times about this. I complained on the 5th of January regarding the same issue with no response," the unidentified parent says in the e-mail. "I was assured by CTA staff previously on prior complaints that this would stop. It is worse than ever!"

    This doesn't surprise advocates. The 53-year-old Luna said shortly after the lawsuit was settled eight years ago, he saw CTA employee attitudes improve and it became easier for customers to complain. But things have worsened in the last couple of years and drivers are rude again, he said.

    Another plaintiff in the lawsuit, Shelia Thomas-Akhtar, said it's clear problems with the CTA have resurfaced and there's a definite "pattern of neglect." The paralegal who works in disability and civil rights law said she continues to have problems on the bus she takes daily to her job downtown.

    The disabled community hoped the lawsuit would improve the CTA's accessibility, said Thomas-Akhtar.

    "We wanted to show [CTA] that they had a legal duty to provide the service and make it accessible to people with disabilities," she said. "They had failed to live up to their legal obligation, and because they had failed, they needed to be punished and correct those problems."

    -

    Elizabeth Czupta contributed to this report.

    -

    Contact: Kaitlyn McAvoy.

    -

    See also:

    * "Investigation Finds Handicapped Accessibility Issues Plague CTA." By Zach Wilmes

    * "Broken CTA Facilities, Slow Repairs Create Problems for Disabled Customers." By Elizabeth Czupta

    * "Complaints Against CTA Keep Climbing." By Danielle Desjardins and Kaitlyn McAvoy

    * "Injury and Equipment Breakdowns Continue to Trouble Some Disabled CTA Riders." By Kirsten Steinbeck

    * "Disabled Riders Experience Years of Inconsistency in CTA Service." By Danielle Desjardins

    * "Advisory Group Works to Improve Access for Disabled CTA Riders." By Kirsten Steinbeck

    * "ChicagoTalks Video: CTA Improves But Some Disabled Still Complain." By Elizabeth Czupta

    * "Disabled And Downtown On The CTA." By Eli Kaberon

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:20 PM | Permalink

    INVESTIGATION: Disabled And Downtown On The CTA

    By Eli Kaberon

    Five of the CTA's 10 busiest train stations cannot accommodate a customer in a wheelchair, and that's perfectly legal under the nearly 20-year-old Americans with Disabilities Act.

    The federal law allows older mass transit systems like the Chicago Transit Authority to forgo installing elevators, ramps and other equipment that would give the disabled access unless a stop is renovated or has been designated a "key station." In all, 88 of the CTA's 144 train stations - or 61 percent - are accessible.

    See also:
  • The Inaccessible CTA
  • Just four of the 10 elevated stations in and around the Loop - the CTA's hub that hundreds of thousands of people pass through each day - are equipped with elevators, while the other six Loop stations, including Quincy and Adams & Wabash, two of the city's 15 busiest stations, are not accessible.

    Jim Watkins, co-chairman of the Regional Transportation Authority's ADA Advisory Board, said it's not right that just a handful of the downtown stops are accessible to the estimated 600,000 disabled Chicagoans.

    He said the city has so much to offer, like the Chicago Cultural Center and Millennium Park, but both of those attractions are out of reach for the disabled relying on CTA trains.

    "There is absolutely no stop on Wabash. Millennium Park is right there, I mean think about it. You'd think they would make Randolph accessible," said Watkins, who uses a motorized scooter.

    The CTA declined repeated requests to answer questions, including how it selected key stations and which stops will be made accessible. [Beachwood partner] ChicagoTalks obtained minutes from a 1995 meeting of the CTA's ADA Advisory Committee that indicate transit officials did consult with advocates for the disabled, as required by law.

    In the early 1990s after the Americans with Disabilities Act took effect, the CTA had to designate certain "key stations" that would be fully accessible to the disabled.

    The criteria to be considered included: how many customers used the station, whether it was a transfer point and if it served "major activity centers" like government centers and hospitals or "major interchange points" like airports.

    Still, multiple stations that appear to fit many of the criteria still aren't key. For example, at both Belmont and Fullerton - stops that are transfer points for the Red, Purple and Brown Lines and rank among the six busiest stops out of all 144 stations - there is no handicap accessibility. The CTA is currently renovating both stations and promises that both stops will be fully accessible by Jan. 1, 2010.

    Kevin Irvine, chairman of the CTA's ADA Advisory Committee, said the transit system deserves some credit for its work on making train stations more accessible and he understands why some stops were designated "key" while others were not.

    "The [ADA] doesn't spell out exactly what the accessibility process is, and the law doesn't say that every station with high ridership has to be key; they chose based on priority," Irvine said.

    "The CTA was looking for as many stations as possible they could make key that would fit the law's criteria. But making a station accessible is a very costly endeavor."

    One exception allowed under the ADA helps older mass-transit systems like the CTA by exempting a station from being made accessible if it would pose a financial burden.

    That's why the three Wabash stations in the Loop at Randolph, Madison and Adams aren't accessible. The stops, built in 1896 according to the Web site Chicago-l.org, have undergone renovations in the past, but none since the ADA became law nearly 20 years ago.

    Attorney Barry Taylor, legal advocacy director for the disability rights group Equip for Equality, said the CTA has taken full advantage of the ADA exception. Because of that, he said, the system has a long way to go to become fully accessible.

    "I think there are two major barriers to full accessibility on the CTA: One, the ADA doesn't require that all existing train stations be accessible, and when things aren't required, they don't usually happen," Taylor said.

    "And two, we have a very old train system that was completely inaccessible when it was originally built."

    A review of the approximately 2,000 ADA-related complaints the CTA received from Jan. 1, 2004, through Feb. 28, 2009, shows that some riders don't understand why more of the city's train stations aren't accessible, while others question the transit system's commitment to the disabled.

    "Why is the Spaulding entrance [at the Kedzie Brown Line station] not wheelchair accessible? A simple ramp couldn't have been built? After all these years, the CTA is still as stupid as ever," an unidentified customer says in an e-mail sent to the CTA in September 2006.

    Another customer in March 2007 writes, "Being a disabled person and using my electric scooter on the Blue Line to make my appointments at Hines V.A. Hospital has been a bad experience. Twice the elevators at Clark & Lake have been down and forced me to go to the Jackson stop, which is a long way and it was cold out. The first time the elevator was out about two weeks waiting for a part. The last time I do not know how long it was out of order but again waiting for a part and another cold trip to Jackson stop. The elevators seem fairly new so how can they break that often?"

    And a tourist in town visiting a relative in August 2008 complains of the "nasty memory" of finding the elevator broken at the Red Line's Chicago station, which the customer notes is listed by the CTA as being accessible.

    "It was out of order and actually looked as if it hadn't been open for quite a while. I tried calling the phone numbers on the elevator entry wall for info about help, but the call was transferred several times with no answer. We ended up carrying the wheelchair down all the stairs, with the help of other out-of-towners," the unidentified customer says in an e-mail.

    "We want to draw your attention to that station and its inaccessibility. It is a huge problem. It is a shame that you have . . . stations advertised as accessible that are not. We had done our homework, checked the maps, plotted our routes and were thwarted by the broken-down elevator."

    Irvine says more complaints like these could lead to improvements by the CTA.

    "An issue is getting people to realize that their feedback is critically important in making the system better," Irvine said.

    "If [the CTA] gets 20 complaints on a particular issue, they are aware that this is just more than an isolated problem and will require more than an isolated solution."

    -

    Elizabeth Czupta contributed to this report.

    -

    Contact: Eli Kaberon

    -

    See also:

    * "Investigation Finds Handicapped Accessibility Issues Plague CTA." By Zach Wilmes

    * "Broken CTA Facilities, Slow Repairs Create Problems for Disabled Customers." By Elizabeth Czupta

    * "Complaints Against CTA Keep Climbing." By Danielle Desjardins and Kaitlyn McAvoy

    * "Injury and Equipment Breakdowns Continue to Trouble Some Disabled CTA Riders." By Kirsten Steinbeck

    * "Disabled Riders Experience Years of Inconsistency in CTA Service." By Danielle Desjardins

    * "Advisory Group Works to Improve Access for Disabled CTA Riders." By Kirsten Steinbeck

    * "ChicagoTalks Video: CTA Improves But Some Disabled Still Complain." By Elizabeth Czupta

    * "The Inaccessible CTA." By Kaitlyn McAvoy

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:59 PM | Permalink

    The [Tuesday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    Stay tuned, folks, we'll be posting a terrific investigative project involving the CTA - reported by our favorite Columbia College class - sometime around 1 p.m. today.

    UPDATE: And here it is:

    * INVESTIGATION: The Inaccessible CTA.

    "A three-month investigation of the CTA found that 41 percent of the handicap-accessible train stations could not be fully used by customers in wheelchairs, calling into question whether the nation's second-largest mass transit system is doing what it should for hundreds of thousands of disabled Chicagoans," Kaitlyn McAvoy reports.

    * SIDEBAR: Disabled And Downtown On The CTA.

    "Five of the CTA's 10 busiest train stations cannot accommodate a customer in a wheelchair, and that's perfectly legal under the nearly 20-year-old Americans with Disabilities Act," Eli Kaberon reports. "Just four of the 10 elevated stations in and around the Loop - the CTA's hub that hundreds of thousands of people pass through each day - are equipped with elevators, while the other six Loop stations, including Quincy and Adams & Wabash, two of the city's 15 busiest stations, are not accessible.

    -

    Meanwhile, here's what else we have today:

    * A Hawks Hat Trick. On to the conference finals.

    * Introducing our new series of salad bar reviews. First up: La Villa, where the sneeze guard is adequate without being intrusive.

    * "I dig honky tonk songs about that place between diminished and extinguished capacity," Beachwood tapster Brian Page writes of his More Booze compilation featured in today's Playlist.

    * Policing the pols. In our Ready For Reform series.

    * Join The Beachwood Book Club!

    Pageant Poop
    With all the hullabaloo about Miss California, I thought I'd check in with Miss Illinois.

    The reigning Miss Illinois is Ashley Bond, a 24-year-old who grew up in Streamwood and now lives in Chicago. Like her predecessor, Bond is a Chicago Bulls Luvabull. She also works at Gibson's.

    No word on whether she favors gay marriage.

    No nude photos have been located, but Wikipedia once had an entry for an Ashley Bond from Sheffield, England, who was an "erotic model."

    Also according to Wikipedia, a Miss Illinois hasn't become Miss America since 1974. The Miss Illinois from 1973 also won, and both did quite well in their respective Miss Universe pageant as well.

    Playboy Problems
    Speaking of gender anachronisms, Playboy is doing so poorly that it might be taken off the New York Stock Exchange, a TV news report just said.

    And then a Fox Chicago reporter ask a man-on-the-street if he could imagine life without Playboy. I bet he could much easier than life without Internet porn . . .

    *

    From a Facebook friend:

    FRIEND: "I wonder if they had pictures of clothed women, would circulation pick up?"

    COMMENTER: "Then it's just Maxim."

    Court Jesters
    I don't understand this notion of choosing someone from the "real world" for the Supreme Court. Shouldn't judges be, um, judges? You don't put someone on the Supreme Court because you think they're super-smart or they'll give you the outcomes you want. You want cogent legal thinkers. Maybe an academic, or someone who has demonstrated some facility with the law - a great prosecutor or noted defense attorney. But to just choose someone because you think they're wise? I don't get it. It's a judicial branch of government, not the Jedi Council.

    Olympic Sense
    "Why don't lawmakers - in Springfield, in City Hall, the 50 Chicago aldermen - who voted to underwrite the worst-case scenario have some skin in the game too?" University of Chicago economist Allen Sanderson writes on today's Trib Op-Ed page.

    He's right, of course. Lawmakers were willing to put our skin in the game, but not theirs.

    "That is," Sanderson writes, "if each of these politicians were to be personally liable for, say, $100,000 apiece, taxpayers could sleep more soundly. The same should hold for Chicago 2016 officials: What if each members signed a binding agreement to provide $100,000 toward any cost overruns or revenue shortfalls?"

    I'm sure Pat Ryan, being an old insurance hand, would find a way to deny any claims anyway.

    Waiving Away Ethics
    If you can exempt anyone you want, does the rule really exist?

    Stroger Counts To Four
    That's all he needs in the veto war. He must already have them.

    He Is The Senator
    Burris sloooooowly learning his job.

    Search Perch
    "Every new online search service must face the inevitable question: 'Is it better than Google?'" the New York Times reported on Monday.

    "WolframAlpha, a powerful new service that can answer a broad range of queries, has become one of the most anticipated Web products of the year. But its creator, Stephen Wolfram, wants to make something clear: Despite the online chatter comparing it to Google, his service is not intended to dethrone the king of search engines.

    "'I am not keen on the hype,' said Mr. Wolfram, a well-known scientist and entrepreneur and the founder of Wolfram Research, a company in Champaign, Ill., that has been quietly developing WolframAlpha."

    Secrets of the Beachwood
    No. 2 now posted.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Lost, searched and found.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:44 AM | Permalink

    The Salad Bar Series: La Villa

    By Marilyn Ferdinand

    Restaurant: La Villa

    Location: 3632 N. Pulaski, just north of Addison

    Description: Established in 1972, La Villa is one of Chicago's old-fashioned American-Italian restaurants that just keep going and going. It was a favorite of my father, who was born in 1926, and it was one of our dinner spots before the opera some 25 years ago. Ever-present Italian lights, fake shutters, red vinyl, and red-and-white checked tablecloths mark La Villa as the equivalent an old-man bar.

    A salad bar has always been a part of La Villa, and as long as this restaurant ticks on, it likely always will be.

    Salad Bar Comes With Meal? Salad bar comes with non-pasta main courses; $3.95 with pasta main course; $7.95 alone. A good value is the Early Bird Special between 2 p.m. and 6 pm, Monday through Friday, all of which come with the salad bar.

    Sneeze Guard: Clear plexiglass covers the top and reaches down about 5 inches. Adequate without being intrusive.

    Estimated Length: Six feet, two rows of items, shelves to one side contain oil/vinegar cruets, pepper mills, croutons, and faux bacon bits.

    Reachability: Back row not well lit and not that easy to reach. I couldn't tell what was in one canister (red onion) until I reached and tipped it forward.

    Best Ingredients: An awesome seafood salad of tender calamari rings, shrimp, and diced celery. I liked the marinated mushroom salad and green-olive salad, too.

    Unusual Ingredients: A very vinegary, slightly hot eggplant and olive salad, which I didn't like. Decent antipasto meat salad, but I'm a veggie, so I didn't sample. Hot giardenara, not unusual at an Italian restaurant but perhaps not so common at other salad bars.

    Dressings: Oil/vinegar, French, Creamy Garlic, House Italian, 1000 Island, Blue Cheese, Balsamic, Ranch (in packets only).

    Comment: This isn't a huge salad bar, but it's got all the basics and a good sampling of other salad sides, though its dessert items are quite limited (jello and chocolate pudding). The mixed greens are a nice change from chopped iceberg lettuce, the pasta salads are al dente, and you get mozzarella cubes, not shredded, bland cheddar. If you like salad bars, you could do much worse than this one.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:12 AM | Permalink

    Join The Beachwood Book Club!

    By The Beachwood Book Club Bureau

    Wanna know what we're reading? Wanna help grow this page?

    You can do both by joining our new Beachwood Book Club on Goodreads.

    Description: For readers of The Beachwood Reporter to share reviews, events, and discussion. Members agree to allow the Beachwood to post any material here to the website. Emphasis on non-fiction books and Chicago authors and topics, though not restricted to such.

    So sign up today and help us get the discussion going. We also accept reviews, lists, essays, authorized book excerpts, and other works about the written word including blog reviews, magazine reviews, and reviews of reviews.

    Send us a note for more information.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:02 AM | Permalink

    A Hawks Hat Trick

    Three for and of the Blackhawks advancing to the Conference Finals.

    1. Game Summary

    -

    2.Winning Goal From Some Guy's Seat

    -

    3. Patrick Kane Hat Trick Celebration


    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:57 AM | Permalink

    Ready For Reform: Chapter 4

    By The Beachwood Illinois Reform Commission Affairs Desk

    Editor's Note: This is the fourth part of a multi-part series excerpting the final report from the Illinois Reform Commission. We don't necessarily endorse all parts of the report, but offer it up as a starting point to generate support for bringing real structural change to Illinois' sordid political culture.

    *

    ENFORCEMENT
    I. Introduction
    For far too long, Illinois has allowed the federal government to serve as its primary check on public corruption.

    The Commission recognizes that there are examples of successful corruption prosecutions in Illinois at the state and local levels, and notes that in other cases Illinois law enforcement agencies have worked jointly with the federal government. At other times, however, the ability of Illinois prosecutors to successfully investigate and prosecute corruption has been constrained by limitations on the authority and independence of state enforcement agencies, as well as the investigative and prosecutorial tools available to them.

    The Commission believes that Illinois need not, and should not, rely upon the federal government to solve the problem of corruption in state government.

    Our state's history of public corruption demonstrates a clear need for stronger enforcement mechanisms. In general, the testimony heard and received by the Commission revealed major constraints on the scope of prosecutorial and investigative tools available to Illinois authorities in public corruption cases compared to their counterparts at the federal level and in many other states.

    The Commission also heard testimony that made clear that adjustments to the power and independence of state enforcement agencies would greatly enhance their ability to investigate and prosecute corruption in state government.

    The Commission understands that prosecutors and investigators can abuse their powers, but this abuse can occur whether the authorities are federal, state, or local, appointed or elected.

    The bottom line is that state and local authorities around the country are often given the same powers and tools as their federal counterparts, and have generally used these powers and tools as appropriately as federal enforcement authorities. These powers and tools mean that the state and local authorities in other states have much greater ability to investigate and prosecute public corruption.

    This is simply not the case in Illinois, where the laws hamstring the enforcement authorities in a way that is highly atypical around the country. In the Commission's view, it is an important and healthy step for Illinois to let its enforcement authorities operate in a more normal fashion. We believe that this will have the positive effect of increasing the amount of effective law enforcement effort in the area of public corruption.

    The Commission believes that, at a minimum, state and local authorities should be armed with the types of time-tested prosecutorial and investigative tools available to federal authorities and other states in corruption cases. Effective change begins, however, with a decision to make enforcement of public corruption crimes a priority. The Commission therefore also recommends removing certain structural limitations on the power and independence of enforcement agencies, which should increase public accountability by eliminating some of the often-cited excuses for why public corruption investigations have languished in the past.

    Accordingly, the Commission recommends:

    1. Amending and enhancing state laws to provide prosecutors and investigators with many of the same tools available to federal authorities;

    2. Adding significant corruption offenses to the existing list of offenses that are non-probationable;

    3. Granting the Illinois Attorney General the authority to independently conduct grand jury investigations of public corruption offenses;

    4. Directing additional resources to the investigation of public corruption crimes, through an independent public corruption division created within the Illinois State Police; and

    5. Modifying the laws applicable to Inspectors General's Offices to improve the ability of Inspectors General to independently and effectively conduct investigations.

    II. Information and Sources Considered
    In addition to the testimony and statements provided to the Commission at its April 9, 2009 meeting on these issues, the Commission independently conducted research on the laws and practices in other jurisdictions. Additionally, interested members of the public and other witnesses submitted written and oral testimony and materials for the Commission to consider.

    A. Research Reviewed. The Commission conducted research of laws and practices in Illinois and other jurisdictions regarding investigative and prosecutorial powers, as well as the structure of enforcement agencies. Federal law, in particular, provided a key reference point for the Commission in light of the success that federal authorities have had in prosecuting public corruption in Illinois and elsewhere. The Commission also reviewed laws in other states. The Commission's research identified a number of areas in which Illinois law is deficient or needs amendment to take advantage of enforcement tools and powers that have seen demonstrated success in other jurisdictions.

    A number of peculiarities in Illinois law make it more difficult for prosecutors in Illinois to investigate and prosecute public corruption crimes as compared to other jurisdictions.

    For example, Illinois is one of only four states that allow neither recording of conversations with the consent of one party to the conversation, nor wiretaps in corruption investigations.

    The "two-party consent" rule in Illinois makes it substantially more difficult for state prosecutors to obtain and use consensual recordings, which have played a fundamental role in numerous public corruption prosecutions at the federal level (including prosecutions of numerous corrupt Illinois officials).

    Under current Illinois law, prosecutors cannot even obtain judicial approval for a wiretap in corruption cases, because corruption-related offenses are not included in the wiretap statute.

    Thus, while state and local prosecutors can use wiretaps to aggressively pursue gang, drug, and gun offenses, they are barred from using wiretaps to aggressively pursue corrupt public officials, no matter how serious the alleged offense.

    The Attorney General, the chief legal officer of Illinois, has authority to convene a statewide grand jury to investigate certain specified crimes - but not public corruption. This stands in stark contrast to the scope of Attorney General's power in Pennsylvania and most other states that have adopted statewide grand jury systems.

    And the existing state Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute is also extremely limited as compared to those enacted under federal law and in a majority of other states, which further limits prosecutors' ability to present evidence of systemic corruption to a jury.

    In short, given the scope of the corruption problems in Illinois, the Commission believes that Illinois law should be at least equivalent to the best practices developed in other jurisdictions.

    The Commission also reviewed the Principles and Standards for Offices of Inspectors General promulgated by the National Association of Inspectors General, as well as the laws and practices for Inspectors General in Illinois and in other jurisdictions. The Commission's research reveals that the limitations imposed upon the authority of certain state Inspectors General, specifically the Inspectors General created by the Ethics Act adopted in 2003, are significantly more onerous than those found elsewhere or recommended by national experts.

    Moreover, the secrecy under which the Inspectors General are required by law to proceed - even after a determination of misconduct - contributes to a lack of public awareness about the importance of ethical conduct and role of the Inspectors General, and erodes public faith in the Inspectors General's Offices.

    B. Commission Witnesses. In its public hearing on April 9, 2009, the Commission heard from a broad range of witnesses with personal knowledge of the challenges facing prosecutors in Illinois, including Governor Pat Quinn; Lisa Madigan, Illinois Attorney General; Joe Birkett, DuPage County State's Attorney; James Wright, Illinois Executive Inspector General; Jim Burns, Inspector General for the Illinois Secretary of State; Jack Blakey, Chief of Special Prosecutions Bureau for the Cook County State's Attorney; Scott Turow, Member of the Illinois Executive Ethics Commission, and partner at Sonnenschein, Nath, & Rosenthal LLP; Michael Newman, Associate Director, AFSCME Council 31; and several witnesses from outside of Illinois, including Tom Jordan, Deputy Director of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation; and Amy Zapp and Christopher Carusone, Deputy Attorney Generals for the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office. Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White also submitted written testimony to the Commission.

    The speakers, many of whose powers and authority might change if the State adopts the Commission's recommendations, provided a wide variety of substantive recommendations to the Commission for proposed reforms. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett, and Chief of Special Prosecutions Bureau for the Cook County State's Attorney Jack Blakey offered a number of specific recommendations for amendments to existing Illinois law, many of which were modeled after federal law, to enhance the abilities of prosecutors to investigate and prosecute corruption.

    Each of them, as well as other witnesses, supported both a one-party consent rule for recording conversations, and expansion of the wiretap statute to include corruption offenses.

    They also recommended that additional resources be allocated to public corruption investigations, and both Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett supported amending the Statewide Grand Jury Act to allow the Attorney General to independently prosecute public corruption.

    Lisa Madigan also supported the addition of significant public corruption crimes to the existing list of non-probationable offenses.

    The speakers involved in a panel discussion on Inspectors General expressed general agreement that modification to the rules regarding disclosure of sustained investigations was appropriate, despite the need to find a balance between privacy interests and public disclosure.

    The testimony of James Wright, Illinois Executive Inspector General, and Jesse White and Jim Burns, Illinois Secretary of State and Inspector General for the Illinois Secretary of State, respectively, highlighted some of the distinctions between the more constrained authority provided to the Executive Inspectors General in the 2003 Ethics Act and the broader authority and independence that the Secretary of State Inspector General is provided in a separate law, 15 ILL. COMP. STAT. 305/14. Scott Turow and Michael Newman helped identify for the Commission the challenges presented in developing standards regarding publication of Inspector General reports.

    The witnesses from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office provided examples of how an independent investigative body and statewide attorney general power to investigate corruption, respectively, have helped those states combat corruption.

    III. Commission Findings
    In light of the testimony and documentation received at the April 9, 2009 hearing, the Commission's independent research and experience, and other comments and testimony that the Commission received through sub-group hearings and the website, the Commission finds that Illinois law in its current form does not adequately provide prosecutors and investigators with the power and tools to independently and effectively investigate and prosecute public corruption. Existing law also does not sufficiently discourage the culture of corruption that is pervasive in Illinois, or provide sufficient transparency to encourage the public to believe in the efficacy and integrity of enforcement agencies. As a result, the public has developed a cynical view of state enforcement agencies' interest in and ability to combat public corruption.

    The Commission encourages the Governor and General Assembly to implement the recommendations identified below to increase the likelihood that state authorities will successfully investigate and prosecute public corruption crimes, and to improve the public's faith in the ability of Illinois authorities to police misconduct in state government.

    IV. Commission Recommendations
    The Commission recommends the following:

    A. Criminal Statutes
    1. Expand Wiretap Predicates to Include Corruption Offenses: In order to allow prosecutors the ability to use existing wiretap authority to investigate public corruption crimes, the Commission recommends amendments to 725 ILL. COMP. STAT. 5/108B-1, et. seq., that expand the predicate offenses for wiretap authority to include corruption crimes, including bribery, extortion, fraud, official misconduct, government contracting crimes, and RICO crimes. Current law does not allow state and local prosecutors to seek judicial approval of wiretaps for most corruption-related offenses.

    2. Allow Recorded Conversations with One-Party Consent: The Commission recommends allowing state and local prosecutors to authorize use of an eavesdropping device where any one party to a conversation to be monitored has consented to such monitoring. Adoption of this recommendation would bring Illinois in line with federal law and the vast majority of states.

    3. Amend State Criminal Law to Conform to Federal Law Where Appropriate. A number of time-tested federal laws have proven instrumental in combating public corruption. The Commission recommends that state laws be enacted or amended in the following ways to reduce the disparity between state and federal prosecutors when it comes to their ability to prosecute corruption:

    a. State RICO: The Commission supports an expanded and strengthened version of the state RICO law to make it equivalent to the federal RICO law.

    b. False Statements: The federal "False Statement" crime, 18 U.S.C. § 1001, makes it a crime to make a false statement to a federal law enforcement officer regarding a matter within the jurisdiction of the federal government. The Commission supports adoption of a similar, but more limited, false statements statute in Illinois.

    Specifically, it would constitute a criminal offense for a person to: (1) knowingly make a false statement; (2) to a state or local law enforcement or criminal investigative officer; (3) regarding a criminal matter that the person knows to be under investigation by the officer; (4) if, during the interview, the person is first informed by a prosecutor who is working with the officer on the investigation that a knowing false statement to the officer relating to the investigation would constitute a criminal offense. This statute would complement the existing obstruction of justice statute, which relates to a similar subject but contains different elements - as in the federal system.

    The Commission is sensitive to the fact that some are distrustful of law enforcement officials, but fundamentally believes that a statute that has served an appropriate and effective role for federal law enforcement in combating crime - particularly in the area of corruption and other white-collar offenses - is an appropriate statute for our state as well. We believe that witnesses must be discouraged from making false statements to investigative officers. Our suggested language is substantially more narrow than the federal statute, as it only pertains to false statements made (1) regarding a matter under criminal investigation, (2) that the person knows is under investigation, and (3) only when a prosecutor is involved in the investigation and gives an appropriate warning about the consequences of lying. We believe that these limitations will help ensure that the statute is applied appropriately.

    c. Fraud. The Commission recommends that the current statute regarding schemes to defraud, 720 ILL. COMP. STAT. 5/17-24, be amended to delete the requirement that a person use a "wire" or "mail" communication. The wire and mail requirements were imported from analogous federal law, where they are necessary in order to establish federal jurisdiction. Under state law, however, no such jurisdictional limitations are necessary, and therefore the wire and mail requirements unnecessarily limit the scope of what otherwise should be a general fraud statute.

    d. Extortion. The Commission recommends amending the state theft and intimidation statutes to create a state "extortion" law equivalent to the federal extortion law, 18 U.S.C. § 1951, without the interstate commerce requirement required for jurisdictional reasons in federal law. Federal law defines extortion as "the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right." This change was recommended by Attorney General Madigan, and the Commission agrees that a state extortion law would provide state officials with an appropriate compliment to the bribery law codified at 720 ILL. COMP. STAT. 5/33-1. It is of particular importance in public corruption cases for prosecutors to have use of the "under color of official right" language when attempting to prove an extortion case against a public official. The federal definition acknowledges that in some circumstances, public officials who use their official position to improperly coerce or pressure individuals to give up property may be committing extortion in as serious manner as someone who threatens an individual with violence. Including a new extortion offense that contains this language will give prosecutors an additional, important tool in the fight against public corruption.

    e. Theft of public funds. Regarding the theft or embezzlement of public funds, either by public employees or others, federal law defines these offenses more broadly than Illinois law. As recommended by Attorney General Madigan, the Commission recommends that state law be amended so that Illinois law matches federal law in scope regarding these offenses. Given the importance of protecting taxpayer funds from corrupt practices, it is appropriate that Illinois prosecutors have the same tools available to them on this subject as their federal counterparts.

    B. Ensuring Appropriate Penalties for Corruption Crimes
    Given the scope of the corruption problems in Illinois, the significant cost of corruption to taxpayers, and the heavy damage corruption crimes inflict upon the public's faith and trust in the integrity of public institutions, the Commission recommends that significant corruption offenses be added to the existing list of crimes that are non-probationable.

    Illinois law already prohibits a judge from sentencing a defendant to probation for a wide variety of crimes, including conspiracy to deliver marijuana if the defendant possessed more than 20 marijuana plants and received more than $500, or possession of a gun by someone ineligible for a Firearms Owner Identification card.

    Wherever the proper line is between probationable and non-probationable offenses, the Commission believes that significant corruption crimes do great damage to our society and that therefore at least some period of imprisonment is appropriate.

    Specifically, the Commission recommends that if a defendant is convicted of a crime that involves the corruption of a public official, whether that official is the defendant or someone else, and the offense is a Class 3 felony or higher, the defendant may not be sentenced to probation and must be sentenced to a term of imprisonment if either:

    (1) the defendant was an elected official at the time of the offense, or

    (2) the offense involved more than $10,000 in money or property, based on either the value of any corrupt payments or the value of the item that was the object of the corrupt offense.

    However, as in federal law, if the prosecutor certifies to the court at the time of sentencing that the defendant has provided substantial assistance in the case or another prosecution of substantial public importance, the prohibition against imposing a sentence of probation should not apply.

    C. Attorney General Grand Jury Powers
    The Commission recommends that the Statewide Grand Jury Act be amended to give the Attorney General's Office the power to independently conduct grand jury investigations of public corruption offenses. The current Statewide Grand Jury Act allows the Attorney General of Illinois to convene a statewide grand jury, but only in certain types of cases involving drugs, gangs, or child pornography. Both Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett voiced their support for the expansion of the Statewide Grand Jury Act in their testimony before the Commission.

    Moreover, the Commission heard testimony about the statewide grand jury powers of the Attorney General's Office in Pennsylvania, where a statewide grand jury has been used to successfully investigate public corruption cases, apparently without any conflict between state and local prosecutors. As the state's chief legal officer, it seems particularly important for the Attorney General to have the power to independently investigate corruption in state government.

    D. Independent Public Corruption Division within Illinois State Police
    The Commission recommends that the State establish an independent Public Corruption Division within the Illinois State Police, headed by an officer chosen through an independent selection process. The Illinois State Police is the State's primary statewide investigative body and is the closest equivalent to a state Bureau of Investigation (as the Illinois State Police used to be called). We therefore believe that it is important and appropriate for this body to play a central role in investigating public corruption in state government.

    However, it is a critical part of our recommendation that any Public Corruption Division within the Illinois State Police have much greater independence than the Illinois State Police currently has.

    Two primary reasons justify this recommendation:

    First, public comments to the Commission make it clear that there is, at minimum, a public perception that the Governor's office has historically impeded public corruption investigations.

    Second, the scope of the corruption problem in Illinois warrants additional investigative resources, a position numerous speakers echoed at the April 9, 2009 hearing.

    Specifically, the Commission recommends that the State establish a Public Corruption Division within the Illinois State Police. The head of the Division should have a term of office and not be subject to removal before the expiration of any term except for cause and by a vote of the majority of the Senate after a public hearing. The Division will conduct public corruption investigations regarding criminal matters, and must work directly with a state or local prosecutor's office on the investigation. If the matter concerns corruption in state government, they must work directly with the Attorney General's Office, unless the Attorney General's Office refers the matter to a county prosecutor's office.

    A seven-member panel consisting of one chief of police, one sheriff, one state's attorney, and four lay members should make the initial appointment of the Division head, recommendation of removal, and any subsequent appointment. The Governor should appoint the panel to serve staggered seven year terms. The Commission heard testimony from the Deputy Director of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, which has a similar mechanism for oversight and appointment of a director. In Oklahoma, the independent selection process drastically reduced - and effectively ended - the historical problems that the state had experienced with politicians' attempts to interfere or discourage certain investigations.

    The Division officers and staff should be employees of the Illinois State Police but should be chosen by and report to the head of the Division. The Illinois State Police would determine that size of the Division, but a standard investigative team (usually consisting of about ten officers) and support staff would likely be appropriate.

    The Illinois State Police could also consider whether the existing Internal Investigations Division, which did some joint investigative work with federal law enforcement during the investigation and prosecution of Governor Ryan, can be modified into a Public Corruption Division with the features being recommended here.

    E. Inspector General's Office
    The Commission recommends a number of changes to the Offices of the Inspectors General and their powers, particularly the Inspectors General created under the 2003 State Officials and Employees Ethics Act, to (1) enhance the authority of Inspectors Generals to independently investigate public corruption; and (2) strengthen the public trust in the independence and effectiveness of the Offices of the Inspectors General.

    Specifically, the Commission recommends the following:

    1. Publication of Summary Reports: Summary reports of sustained findings by Offices of Inspectors General should be made public within 60 days of the report date, unless the relevant Inspector General certifies to the Executive Ethics Commission that publication would interfere with an ongoing investigation. If the ongoing investigation in question is administrative, publication may be delayed by no more than six months. If the ongoing investigation in question is criminal, publication may be delayed by no more than two years, but the Inspector General must re-certify to the Executive Ethics Commission every six months during this period that publication of the summary report would still interfere with the ongoing investigation.

    a. The Executive Ethics Commission may not redact the name of any employee from a summary report recommending discipline, if the employees must file a Statement of Economic Interests. The public should have the maximum amount of information regarding summary reports that involve higher-level state employees.

    b. The Executive Ethics Commission may use its discretion to decide whether it is in the public interest to redact the employee's name from a summary report if the employee is not required by law to file a Statement of Economic Interests.

    c. The Executive Ethics Commission may not redact an employees' name in those cases involving prohibited political activity or violations of the gift ban or revolving door provisions.

    This would allow the Executive Ethics Commission to strike the proper balance between transparency and privacy when the investigation did not involve higher-level state employees.

    For instance, it would allow the Executive Ethics Commission to consider whether redaction of a union employee's name is appropriate while an ongoing disciplinary appeal is pending.

    Furthermore, the Inspector General may redact information in summary reports that would reveal the identity of witnesses, complainants, or informants before publication if the Inspector General determines that it is appropriate to protect their identity.

    When the summary report is made public, the disciplinary decision and justification from the state agency should also be made public, along with any response from the employee if the employee wishes.

    2. Removal Procedures for Inspectors General:
    The Commission believes that an Inspector General should only be removed before the expiration of his or her term if the appointing elected official certifies to the Illinois Senate that there is a "for cause" reason for the Inspector General's removal and a majority of the Senate votes to remove the Inspector General after a public evidentiary hearing.

    Currently, the elected official who appoints an Inspector General (e.g., the Governor) has the power to unilaterally remove the Inspector General by citing a "for cause" reason.

    There is no check on this removal power. The best practice around the country is to allow removal only if both the executive and legislative branches approve it, after a public hearing.

    Another option is to have a public hearing before, and advisory vote of, the Executive Ethics Commission prior to any attempt by the Governor to remove an Inspector General.

    3. Ability to Open Investigations:
    The Commission recommends granting authority to Inspectors General to open investigations on their own initiative, or based on anonymous complaints, when they believe that a matter is worth investigating.

    Although in his testimony before the Commission, Mr. Newman voiced some concerns about investigations based on anonymous complaints, the vast majority of the witnesses before the Commission as well as the nationwide Association of Inspectors General support a change that would allow Inspectors General to use their experience and expertise to determine which complaints or issues warrant investigation.

    Further, anonymous reporting will combat a real fear of reprisal felt by many state employees contemplating reporting misconduct.

    Attorney General Lisa Madigan testified before the Commission that she would support the anonymous reporting of complaints to the Inspector General's Offices.

    4. Hiring and Contract Monitors:
    The Commission recommends that new units be created in each Inspector General Office to proactively monitor hiring and contracting processes in state government, as recommended by Attorney General Lisa Madigan in her testimony before the Commission.

    These units should have full access to all hiring and contracting information in real-time, and should have the ability to make public reports regarding violations in the hiring and contracting processes if they find such problems and are unable to persuade state officials to correct the violation.

    5. Protect Inspector General Resources:
    The Offices of the Inspectors General must be given sufficient resources to do their work effectively, and their budget must be protected from political meddling by officials who may be unhappy with their work if they are strong and effective.

    Accordingly, the Commission recommends that by law, each Inspector General's annual budget should be no less than 0.1% of the relevant portion of the State annual budget.

    6. Consolidation of Inspectors General Offices:
    The Commission recommends that the eight Inspectors General Offices established by the 2003 Ethics Act consider and report to the General Assembly in 2009 on whether the Inspectors General should be combined into one Inspector General Office.

    -

    See also:
    * Ready For Reform: Chapter One/Executive Summary.
    * Ready For Reform: Chapter Two/Campaign Finance.
    * Ready For Reform: Chapter Three/Procurement.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:56 AM | Permalink

    More Booze

    A Compilation By Brian Page

    I dig honky tonk songs about that place between diminished and extinguished capacity. I chose these because in general they're less well-known, the music's good, and they were made in my favorite period of 1960 to the late 1970s. And I have them on listenable 45s.

    morebooze.jpg

    1. Booze And Wine
    By: Ben "Queenie" Stewart and the Tune-Drifters
    Note: On the Scarlo label from Elmhurst, Illinois.

    2. One Too Many
    By: Clay Allen
    Note: "Guess I'd better drive, 'cause I'm too drunk to walk"

    3. Dim Lights, Thick Smoke
    By: Leon Rausch
    Note: An update of the perennial Rose Lee & Joe Maphis song

    4. Empty Bottle
    By: Wade Jackson

    5. Out Of Control
    By: Lattie Moore
    Note: Co-written and recorded by both Moore and George Jones

    6. Blues Over Ice
    By: Gene Crawford

    7. Prayers Can't Reach Me
    By: Leon Ashley
    Note: "grows numb with the wine"

    8. Just Leave The Bottle
    By: Dave Linkus

    9. Searching Every Tavern
    By: Gig Dry

    10. Thanks To The Wine
    By: Jerry Dunaway
    Note: The song I will sing at my Academy Award acceptance speech.

    11. The Stool Next To Me
    By: Willie Samples

    12. Bottle In My Hand
    By:Earl Scott

    13. Fools Come In Three Different Sizes
    By: Bobby Buttram

    14. The Bottle And Me
    By: Ellis Kirk

    15. More Booze
    By: Teddy Vaughn
    Note: A universal drinking-to-forget theme.

    16. Til I See The Dawn
    By: Pet Hasty

    17. You Reach For The Bottle
    By: Donna Fargo
    Note: Before Fargo's "Happiest Girl" pop stardom.

    18. A Pretty Face And A Glass Of Wine
    By: Dickie Mauldin
    Note: The combination I'm looking for . . .

    19. Drinking Up The Wine
    By: Michael Brandon

    20. Those Beer Drinkin' Songs
    By: Bob Zimmerman
    Note: The folks at Bud should "print the words on labels so we all can sing along"

    21. Two Beers To Go
    By: Wendell Austin
    Note: On the Wreck label and the flip to the great "L S D"!

    22. Brewer's Art
    By: Lynn Echols
    Note: "Friends that shook my hand now laugh at my hand shaking"

    23. Drinking Again
    By: Rusty Adams

    24. Billy Beer Drinkin' Fan
    By: Rick Pilgreen
    Note: Jimmy Carter's brother's beer had a fan?

    25. Frost On The Glass
    By: Jack Nelson

    26. Here I Am Drunk Again
    By: Becky Richard
    Note: A femme version of the Clyde Beavers gem with added Cajun lyrics

    27. Who Will Buy The Wine
    By: Jimmy Griggs
    Note: "Not long ago you held our baby's bottle, but the one you're holding now's a different kind"

    28. Brought On By The Wine
    By: Vern Stovall

    29. Changing Her Thinking
    By: Johnny Dollar

    30. Seat Belts On The Bar Stools
    By: Russ Mann
    Note: An invention whose time has come.

    31. The Man They Sweep Up Off The Floor
    By: Sunny Lee
    Note: Used to sweep her off her feet.

    -

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

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:01 AM | Permalink

    May 11, 2009

    The [Monday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    1. "A potentially critical difference between this game and Game 3 of the series in Chicago early last week is there is only one day between the previous game and tonight's clash," our very own Jim Coffman writes in SportsMonday. "There were two days between Games 2 and 3 and that extra time was filled with people telling the Hawks how good they are as the home team relaxed in comfortable home environs. The resulting let-down was not surprising."

    2. Cinco De Porno.

    3. "Blago Evidence Would Take 51 Years To Read: Lawyers"

    A) If given to a CPS high school class
    B) If assigned to a state government worker
    C) If assigned to a union lawyer
    D) If assigned to a dog in dog years
    E) One year for every count on which he's guilty
    F) One year for every year he'll serve in prison

    4. Justice Anne Burke is the featured speaker at the Illinois Woman's Press Association annual awards luncheon this Saturday.

    Maybe the press association should ask her to tell us how she got her job.

    5. Please, I beseech you: No more stories about the Coffee Wars. Especially those that waste a reporter's day on nonsense.

    6. "Juan Rivera was found guilty of rape and murder for a third time Friday despite new DNA evidence that he claimed was proof of his innocence," the Tribune reported over the weekend. "The verdict seemed to stun his attorneys and family members, who believed science would be Rivera's long-sought deliverance."

    I admittedly didn't follow every detail of this trial, but this seems inexplicable to me.

    "Rivera, 36, was able to force another trial after advanced DNA testing revealed in 2005 that semen found in the girl's body could not have come from him. His lawyers said that meant someone else must have killed her.

    "Prosecutors downplayed that evidence, however, suggesting the girl might have had sex with someone else before she met Rivera or that the sample had been contaminated."

    Is that even remotely likely?

    Jurors didn't speak to the media, so we're left without an explanation. Rivera's lawyers vowed to appeal - again.

    7. "This Thursday, high school students across the country will be filling in tiny bubbles on the macroeconomics Advanced Placement test," NPR reports. "But how do you grade a test on economics when the answers in real life are changing every day?"

    - via This Week In Education

    8. The IOC wrapped up its tour of bid cities last week without acknowledging that they were the slightest bit tired by the time they got to Madrid, which was Pat Ryan's talking point for why it was better to be the first city visited when it was obviously best to be last.

    9. Duh.

    10. And even the IOC poll is suspect.

    11. "A great testimony, and actually a really funny moment for us, is how often when people watch ONN and they see a segment that says the first openly gay racehorse is going to run in the Breeders' Cup this weekend, they think it's true."

    12. "LEMONT, Ill. - When the wind in this Chicago suburb began to whip last winter, the cyclist Christian Vande Velde sought refuge in his basement," the New York Times reported last week.

    "As his colleagues trained in more sensible climates, Vande Velde placed his racing bike in front of a big-screen television and pedaled in place. A recording of the 2008 Tour de France played on a loop."

    *

    UPDATE 11:16 A.M.: "American Rider Christian Vande Velde Falls and Withdraws From Giro."

    13. Kerry Begins Newspaper Hearings.

    14. There's no way Lewis Lazare actually believes local TV news is this good. (And enough with this "we" business, Lew.)

    *

    And can give the Kurtis & Jacobson thing a rest? That was a long time ago.

    15. From a front-page New York Times story last week about Ray LaHood:

    "Ray LaHood, the secretary of transportation, is not one to toot his own horn over how much he knows about planes, trains and automobile bailouts. On the contrary.

    "' I don't think they picked me because they thought I'd be that great a transportation person,' Mr. LaHood says with refreshing indifference as to how this admission might play if, say, he were ever to bungle a bridge collapse."

    Deja vu, anyone? What's next, putting Desiree Rogers in charge of FEMA?

    *

    Also: "I've never been passionate about any particular issue."

    I beg to differ; LaHood was pretty passionate about screwing Peter Fitzgerald because Fitzgerald opposed pork. One lost his Senate seat to Obama, the other was rewarded by him.

    16. Todd Stroger's Big Day.

    17. Keyes Back, Still Wack.

    18. High-Rolling Hammond.

    19. A Murder of Tulips.

    I lug my spavined heart
    to work
    along the Magnificent Mile.
    A murder of tulips
    belies my grief.
    They are nothing!

    20. Also Not Another Detroit.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Detroit.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:43 AM | Permalink

    Chicagoetry: A Murder Of Tulips

    A MURDER OF TULIPS

    I lug my spavined heart
    to work
    along the Magnificent Mile.
    A murder of tulips
    belies my grief.
    They are nothing!

    Still, serene, stoic, superlative.

    A murder of tulips
    defies my grief, I cannot
    unshine them, I cannot

    unsee them.
    Green winged angels with yellow halos

    perform a harrowing visual requiem.
    A brace of supple choirs

    enact a vivid, visceral psalm.
    The do no thing for me!
    But they are themselves.

    CHICAGO IS EGO!
    And yet they sing.
    MY RESUME IS OBSOLETE!
    And yet they sing.
    MY FAITH IS INCOMPLETE!
    And yet they sing.

    And yet they sing:
    "If the idea
    of God
    is God
    let it be
    God.

    If the idea
    of Hope
    is Hope
    let it be
    Hope."

    They do nothing for me!
    They are better than me.

    And they sing.

    -

    J. J. Tindall is the Beachwood's poet-in-residence. He can reached at jjtindall@yahoo.com. Chicagoetry is an exclusive Beachwood collection-in-progress.


    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:35 AM | Permalink

    SportsMonday: Hawks & Hubbies

    By Jim Coffman

    Even after all the thrilling Round 2 comebacks versus Vancouver (the Blackhawks have trailed in three of three victories in the current series and also rallied from a three-goal deficit in Game 1 before giving up a late goal to lose), the Blackhawks' top playoff performance so far remains Game 5 at home against Calgary. That was when they took command of Round 1 by pouncing on the Flames for a couple early goals and never eased up on their way to a 5-1 thrashing. The Blackhawks then played a more careful game in the clincher on the road, scoring early again, adding some insurance and eventually winning despite being out-shot by a considerable margin.

    Beachwood Baseball:
  • The Cub Factor
  • The White Sox Report
  • There's a great chance we're in for a repeat this evening, when the Canucks come to town down 3-2 in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinals. The Blackhawks have outplayed their current foes for long stretches of the past two games (most recently they out-shot Vancouver by a rate of 2-to-1 during the second and third periods Saturday) and if they can just light the lamp early, watch them ride the momentum to an early two or even three-goal lead. Then it will be up to the defense and Nikolai Khabibulin to lock it down.

    And the Hawk defense's performance when it has mattered this post-season, outside of the occasional odd-man-rush-enabling, boneheaded play by blue-liner Cam Barker, inspires all sorts of confidence. A potentially critical difference between this game and Game 3 of the series in Chicago early last week is there is only one day between the previous game and tonight's clash. There were two days between Games 2 and 3 and that extra time was filled with people telling the Hawks how good they are as the home team relaxed in comfortable home environs. The resulting let-down was not surprising.

    As for their most recent performance, the one that put them in position to clinch a trip to the Stanley Cup semifinals this evening, all that can be said is what a win. The Blackhawks, led by Dustin "Tower of Power" Byfuglien, would not succumb despite ultra-hostile surroundings in Vancouver. They would not give in despite the Canucks cashing in on some puck luck (it is to the game's detriment at times that so many goals result from weird bounces and lucky - for the goal-scorers - little sequences) to take the lead midway through the second period.

    Everyone wants the Hawks to initiate physical play but it was their ability to control themselves in late second-period scrums (where multiple players were grabbing each other and jawing and eventually escalating pushing and shoving) that set up the tying goal. Canucks players were caught taking liberties with the Hawks then, setting up Byfuglien's power-play game-tier and again in the third period, when a high-sticking penalty set up Patrick Kane's beautiful cross-slot feed to Dave Bolland, who had time to make a sandwich before wristing in the power-play, eventual game-winner.

    Hometown Hubbie
    It was a great sports Saturday night in these parts. I got back home from taking my son and some friends to the White Sox game for his birthday (he's 10 and while I'm guessing he'll eventually join me in Cub fandom, a boy growing up in Chicago these days who actually pays attention to baseball results is usually going to favor the recent World Series champs) in time to take in the last two periods live from British Columbia. We were fortunate to watch the only decent game of the Sox versus Texas series, what with Saturday's victory being bookended by desultory 6-0 and 7-1 losses in which the Sox seemed disinterested at best.

    But it was an even better sports Sunday night for my Boston fan wife. We just watched the Celtics' Big Baby Davis toss in a ridiculously good 18-foot jumper at the buzzer to shock the Magic and even their second-round NBA playoff series at two wins apiece. It was the ultimate shot, one that is released with a tiny enough amount of time remaining that the buzzer goes off mid-flight.

    The light the NBA has installed in all of its backboards creates such a cool visual when it goes on in these circumstances. Davis' shot was about two-thirds of the way to the basket when the backboard lit up red around the edges. If the shot rims out Orlando wins. When it went in it was victorious pandemonium for Boston backers.

    Earlier last night, Julie watched the Bruins score their first couple goals in an eventual 4-0 victory over Carolina, pulling themselves back to 3-2 down in their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the previously red-hot Hurricanes.

    And she wrapped it all up with a late-inning Red Sox win over the team that has been their nemesis the past few seasons, the Rays. Despite reigning MVP Dustin Pedroia going out early with a pulled groin, Boston battled into the eighth tied 3-3 and then pulled it out thanks to Jason Bay's RBI double and Jonathan Papelbon's death-defying save.

    Cub Drub
    Papelbon has nothing on the Cubs' Carlos Marmol, who wasn't sharp again against the Brewers in the eighth inning Sunday. Still he was able to get out of the inning with a hold (and Kevin Gregg pitched a successful ninth for the save) thanks to a slick little play by Mike Fontenot and Aaron Miles.

    With the bases loaded and two out, former Cub catcher Jason Kendall scorched a ground ball to the left side that initially seemed bound for left field. But Fontenot had been cheating toward the hole and he moved quickly to his left to corral the ball. He then went to throw to second for the force but realized too late that Miles, who had also been cheating toward the hole on the right side, had a lot of ground to cover to get to the base in time for the force. Fontenot let go of a shaky throw that tailed a bit back toward first base in the air but still a step away from the bag, Miles managed to leap, grab the throw and come down on the base a beat before the base-runner arrived. Inning over - and the Cubs, who primarily have to avoid long losing streaks with Carlos Zambrano and Aramis Ramirez out for the next month-plus (I think any Cubs fan would take a .500 record during the coming stretch), had denied the Brewers a sweep in Milwaukee.

    -

    Jim Coffman brings you the city's best sports roundup every Monday. And he does it because he loves you. He welcomes your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:20 AM | Permalink

    The White Sox Report

    By Andrew Reilly

    The White Sox won a low-scoring, close game Saturday without hitting a home run. This is perhaps the single biggest moment in recent franchise history.

    It's not that they got by through super-timely hitting or well-executed baseball savvy, and it's not that they didn't so desperately need the long ball, but prior to Saturday's showing the Good Guys have been, shall we say, ill-suited to such endeavors. How ill-suited? So ill-suited they've won a meager two others in such fashion - one against the Mariners and the other against the Rangers, of all teams. Expanding the Sox' means of attack must be an AL West thing.

    But with Jose Contreras' demotion to Charlotte reducing the Sox to three effective starting pitchers, it's hard to start thinking about things like bunts, sacrifices, advancing runners and mere single-base hits when simpler questions like "When will every fifth day no longer mean automatic loss?" insist on presenting themselves day after week after month after year. More importantly, the past few weeks have punctuated time and again that the 2009 Sox are more deeply flawed than anyone could have imagined.

    A rotation once touted as a 1-2-2-5-5 has been exposed as a 2-2-4-5-5 at best, and the strongest part of the Sox' pitching staff - the relief corps - is about to get one degree weaker thanks to Clayton Richards' move to the number five spot in the rotation. Last season proved Richards as a fine fifth starter and all, but the Sox don't really need a bottom-of-the-rotation arm at this point.

    Actually, they need exactly that, but by now it's just a footnote on the ever-growing shopping list, right there alongside a center fielder. And a leadoff hitter. And some well-placed bunts. Until those come along, let's all just sit back and say it together: the home run will save us from all of this mess and some day, those Rangers shall perish.

    Week in Review: KC: Lost. Tigers: Washed out. Texas: Lost. Any week against the dregs of the American League ending with a 2-4 record is an ugly one to say the least.

    Week in Preview: The Cleveland Indians. What a terrible team. What a nice time for a theoretically easy, long overdue, much-needed series win prior to the Sox' four-game set with the inexplicably good Toronto Blue Jays.

    The Q Factor: Carlos Quentin had two doubles in Saturday's win and went 1-for-8 the rest of the weekend. When Carlos Quentin wins, everyone wins.

    Senior Citizen Report: If Jose Contreras had not returned until June, as originally planned, he would have exactly as many wins to his name as he currently does from actually pitching. How depressing.

    Cubs Snub: Third place in a terrible division. It's Gonna Happen Again.

    Center Stage: Scotty Pods' .231 is a comparative raking next to Brent Lillibridge's.164.

    The White Sox Report: Read 'em all.

    The Cub Factor: Know your enemy.

    -

    The White Sox Report welcomes your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:08 AM | Permalink

    The Cub Factor

    By Marty Gangler

    Remember when you and your little brother had that "good" relationship? You were the top dog and he accepted it? And then something changed, right? He was no longer happy just being second fiddle and he let you know about it. You didn't automatically get the first crack at the pile of pork chops; he wanted the best one and he wasn't going to accept the second best (or third if Dad got top billing) pork chop that had that little extra fat on it. Remember how that all went down?

    You may be asking yourself, what the heck is he talking about or you may be saying, I know where he is going with this. Either way, I'm talking about the Milwaukee Brewers.

    I took in the Cubs/Brewers game on Friday night this week and I have to say - what happened to the fun little trip up north? Because after that game - the Brewers won 3-2 in dramatic fashion - things really got weird.

    Okay, it was getting weird the whole way, but it got very weird after the game.

    Even before the game in the car on the way to the parking lot I heard a few "Go back to Illinois!" statements throw in my direction. After the game, as pretty much all Brewers fans celebrated as if it was Game 3 of the World Series and not Game 1 of a three-game series in early May - I was showered with obscenities.

    I wanted to say, "Hey, I wasn't the guy playing the Go Cubs Go song in the parking lot. I was the guy talking about how good Ryan Braun is with the guy parked next to me."

    But this was Friday night at Miller Park and no one wanted to check credentials. I was just another a-hole Cub Fan from Illinois who wanted to sleep with your sister or whatever the Wisconsin equivalent is.

    So I guess the fun little trip up north is over forever and that little brother isn't so little anymore. Okay, maybe he's still little, but he's just super pissed these days. He's done playing second fiddle and he's going to tell you about it. Okay. I guess that's the way it's gonna be. That's not to say that I didn't have fun because I did. Tailgating was great and some really cool Brewer fans gave us some hot dog buns because we ran out - so it wasn't all bad. And just like your little brother - who isn't that little anymore - you can be at each other's throats one minute and then decide to split that last pork chop. Maybe next time.

    -

    Week in Review: The Cubs went 4-3, splitting a two-game series with the Giants, sweeping a two-game series with the Astros, and losing two of three to the Brewers. Once again, not really good but not really bad - which is kind of like the season so far.

    Week in Preview: The Cubs come home for six games this week, with three against thepadres and three against the Astros. Both teams are bad - actually the Cubs aren't really that good right now either so all teams involved this week are bad right now. So whoever is less bad will win these series'.

    The Second Basemen Report: The Cub Factor would like to welcome Bobby Scales to second base. Bobby got two starts there with Aaron Miles and Mike Fontenot sharing the others. The Cubs also traded for Ryan Freel this week, and he can play second base so you have to think that the roster is finally coming into focus as there are now at least four guys that will be in the mix. That's the way Jim Hendry always seems to draw it up.

    In former second baseman news, Mark DeRosa is playing multiple positions for the Indians this season and has his average up to .246. Ronny Cedeno is also playing multiple positions for the Mariners and is batting .138. They are both missed, especially in the field.

    The Zam Bomb: Time on the DL is not enough to calm Big Z down. He remains furious.
    zam_furious.jpg

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    Endorsement No-Brainer: Bobby Scales for Me TV's reruns of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Because you're going to make it after all.

    Lost in Translation: Hellisio Belliso is Japanese for "still a great intro."

    Milton Bradley Game of the Week: Memory. As in, remember that this guy can actually hit when healthy and not insane.

    Sweet and Sour Lou: 55% Sweet, 45% Sour. Lou is down one more point on the Sweet-O-Meter due to a bad bullpen and still even more injuries. And just like your real crazy drunk uncle, Lou is beginning to think he's too old to watch you kids over the summer. This was supposed to be an easy summer for Lou but you kids are making him work harder than ever and he's had zero hammock time to relax. He was really looking forward to the hammock this summer.

    Don't Hassle The Hoff: Hoff is starting to show how expendable Derrek Lee is. But it's not his fault he's good, so don't hassle him.

    Beachwood Sabermetrics: A complex algorithm performed by the The Cub Factor staff using all historical data made available by Major League Baseball has determined that the Italian Sausage is a better-than-even proposition, but the Chorizo is not to be underestimated.

    Over/Under: Number of games Milton Bradley will play the rest of the year: +/- 65.

    Fantasy Fix: How the surprise superstar of the surprise Blue Jays slipped through.

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

    Mount Lou: If one more tourist turns an ankle while climbing Mount Lou, it's gonna blow. Big time.

    mtlou_orange.gif

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    Contact The Cub Factor!

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:40 AM | Permalink

    May 9, 2009

    The Weekend Desk Report

    By Natasha Julius

    Don't let the reports of confusion and collapse fool you. The international criminal resistance is still a threat. We'll stay vigilant for you.

    Change Watch
    As a key Change indice cracks the triple digits this weekend, it looks like most investors still favor the same old crap.

    Name Change
    Shocking news from the U.S. Female Index as blue-chip leader Virginal Shut-In saw her profits eclipsed by Fictional Busy-Body. Over on the Male Index, All-Star Guard and Second Fiddle failed to dent the earnings of Biblical Patriarch.

    Chicago 2060
    It looks as though officials chairing Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid have an alternate plan in case Rio really did blow us out of the water: go after the 2060 Games. Sources close to the bid committee say variety will be key with events such as marathon lawyering, synchronized ticketing and the crowd-pleasing spectacle of second-generation criminal fame-whoring.

    Longer Odds
    Meanwhile, experts note that if Chicago can't even beat the current Games holders, it'll be tough to nail down either spot.

    Derby Upset
    Finally this week, we can't end without recalling one of the greatest sporting upsets of all time. In a star-studded Bad Publicity Stunt Derby field, overwhelming favorite Ill-Advised Flyover was toppled by the lowly Colorado Avalanche.

    Posted by Natasha Julius at 7:52 AM | Permalink

    May 8, 2009

    The [Friday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    I hate promoting my TV appearances because I don't really like the idea of people actually watching me; I can't bear to do it myself. Some shows don't really play to my strengths. But if I don't do it, all sorts of folks get mad so . . . you are hereby notified that I'll be on Joel Weisman's Week in Review tonight (WTTW, 7 p.m.).

    Among the topics discussed: Drew Peterson, Todd Stroger, and Manny Ramirez.

    Here's my tease: Stick around for the whole thing and you'll see me credit one of my views to Neil Steinberg.

    Now, on to the news.

    1. Mine That Bird still sucks. Beachwood horse racing correspondent Thomas Chambers explains why.

    2. Jon Langford's Chicago. In Bloodshot Briefing.

    3. Is someone really trying to assassinate Tony Peraica?

    4. I wonder if I could get a grant to study Facebook studies.

    5. "New Corvette buyers got the magazine for free for three years. Others paid $33.95 for a three-year subscription."

    6. John Doe is at the Double Door on Tuesday. Did you know he played Pat the bartender in Road House?

    7. Tortoise has announced summer tour dates.

    8. Elizabeth Edwards didn't do herself any favors in her Oprah interview. I saw it last night and I was struck by a few things:

    * She doesn't know if John fathered Rielle Hunter's baby, and doesn't seem to care. How could you now want to know?

    * She says that even if the baby is his, that fact would have nothing to do with her life. How in the world could she believe that? Your husband would be responsible for another child. That would impact you. And your finances.

    * The only condition put on the interview was that Rielle Hunter's name not be used. What? Why - because that might humanize "the other woman"? I don't get it.

    * She called Hunter's baby "it."

    * She undoubtedly took part in John's fraudulent campaign. She lied too.

    They should both go away now.

    9. Today's Worst Person In Chicago: Cook County Commissioner Joan Murphy.

    10. Remember: Unlike his father, Todd Stroger is not a Cook County commissioner. He's just the board president. His father also held a seat. Todd does not; that seat went to Bill Beavers in the scheme that put Stroger in the president's chair.

    11. The Life and Times of Willie Nelson this weekend on Sound Opinions.

    12. "What does Google know about TV? Well, that women watch more ads than men; that about 5% to 15% of TV audiences flip channels during the ads; and that virtually no one records cable-news programming on DVRs," Ad Age reports.

    "None of these revelations will set the TV business afire, but they're among the first insights Google is drawing after analyzing more than a year of from 13.7 million Dish Network set-top boxes."

    13. Who would you rather work for, Eric Schmidt or Sam Zell?

    14. "Komyatti was 17 the night he held his dad's legs down while his brother-in-law stabbed him more than 30 times with a fishing knife," Erika Slife writes in the Tribune. "Komyatti was sentenced to 100 years in prison - 55 years for murder and 45 years for conspiracy, to be served concurrently. Good behavior and education credits are leading to his early release."

    15. "The sale of the Chicago Cubs has taken on the timeless quality of a baseball game," Ameet Sachdev writes in the Tribune.

    16. Bedtime Disturbance.

    17. From the May/June issue of AAA Living:

    "Tragedy was averted in October when Sauk Village, Illinois safety patroller Hunter Turner pulled a fellow student from the path of an approaching SUV. For his actions, Hunger, a fifth-grader at Strassburg Elementary School, was nominated by AAA Chicago for the National AAA Safety Patrol Lifesaving Award - the highest award given to members of the AAA Safety Patrol."

    And:

    "Mary Gorski, a fourth-grade safety patroller at Arbury Hills School in Mokena, Illinois, earned the Illinois and Northern Indiana AAA School Safety Patroller of the Year award from AAA Chicago."

    18. Illinois Is For Idiots.

    19. The Hartmarx Hustle.

    20. Chicago Wilderness/National Geographic

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Wild at heart.


    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:53 AM | Permalink

    TrackNotes: Mining That Bird

    By Thomas Chambers

    Hindsight must be heeded. This is more true in Thoroughbred handicapping than in many other endeavors. It provides lessons and angles that must be understood and respected.

    The victory by Mine That Bird in the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday certainly gets you to thinking about hindsight. First, you look within. What did I miss? How did I miss it? Why did my handicapping fail me? My own words flashed before my eyes, chiseled into the ageless marble of the World Wide Web. The thing about "chumps" betting the "stupid money." Or the part about it being a pretty ridiculous race "with 20 starters, more a stampede than a nicely developed 10 furlongs." And then there was "And what if it rains?" with something about the difficulty of a horse getting so much mud in its face.

    I never felt more or better prepared for a Kentucky Derby than this one. Aside from the winner, I nailed it. The money lost is just now beginning to fade from consciousness, I think, but the ignobility of this horse winning this race continues its gnaw.

    I get some solace from Andrew Beyer, he of the Speed Figures I used as my fundamental factor in tossing MTB. Randy Moss calls it a perfect storm, and I guess it was. Why are there so many perfect storms lately? It was a monumental upset, the very word "upset" coined as we use it today from the only loss the legendary Man o' War ever suffered - at the doing of the colt Upset.

    My other shred of hope comes from the fact that I wouldn't pick him before the Derby, I wouldn't pick him Derby Day, I wouldn't pick him as he stood in the Churchill Downs grilled chicken winner's circle, and I might never pick him as long as he runs counterclockwise anywhere in this world. Unless he accomplishes something special down the road, such as victory in the Preakness or Belmont or Travers or Breeders Cup, this race will forever more be considered a fluke.

    Here are the "explanations" for the win:

    1. Mine That Bird had the Birdstone/Grindstone pedigree. Same as Summer Bird, another big longshot who finished sixth, which was about as well as you'd expect from him in this race. Fine. Ironically, a documentary on public television Sunday told of what happens to racehorses after they are no longer "useful." It told one story of a horse with direct bloodlines to A.P. Indy and Seattle Slew who, just when they would be ready to give up on him, would win a $1,500 race and a reprieve, on a track so obscure, I couldn't find it or the documentary online. There comes a point where performance needs to show, no matter the bloodlines. MTB had never shown a performance to warrant serious handicapping attention in a Kentucky Derby.

    2. Calvin "Bo-Rail" Borel gave him a great ride. I believe Borel's artistry was the single biggest reason Mine That Bird won. Nobody knows Churchill Downs like Borel does. And yet, the other jockeys - including Gomez, Bejarano, Prado, Desormeaux (he was on the rail for a short bit but made the typical too-early Desormeaux move), Coa, Velazquez and Smith - didn't know the rail was playing fast all day? And what about Robby Albarado? You'll find him at Churchill on the dog days of its summer meet. Robby didn't know?

    In watching the replay, the rail hole looked different. You could tell Borel knew it and it appeared nobody else did. All the others avoided the rail like it was poison, and paid the price in the sludge of lanes two and out. Perhaps expecting them to shut off Borel is too much to ask, but they all gave away the rail like it was Christmas. Give Borel credit, but the other "top jocks" tactically failed. By the way, Borel and MTB bumped Join in the Dance to break free on the rail. There should have been a mild inquiry, but with NBC ready to pull the plug on the whole thing, you think the stewards are gonna go there? They should have.

    3. Mine That Bird was sitting on a big race. How could you tell? While Summer Bird was climbing the Beyer ladder, scoring a 99 while finishing third only 1-1/4 lengths back in the Grade III - should be a Grade II - Arkansas Derby, MTB could register nothing higher than an 81 and an 80 in his two previous starts at Sunland Park, not exactly Saratoga. His racing times were average, and his workouts were nothing spectacular. His Speed Rating/Track Variant calculation was near the bottom of the field. He won a Grade III in Canada as a two-year-old and won Canada's 2-year-old of the year award. I still maintain that graded earnings as a 2-year-old should not carry the weight that they do. Some weight, sure, but that's all MTB had to do to get in this race. While his Derby victory was visually impressive, his time of 2:02.66 was middling.

    4. He was the better horse that day. Obviously, and with a better jockey, too. But the loss of Quality Road days before and I Want Revenge the morning of the Derby markedly changed the complexion of the race. And what about The Pamplemousse and Square Eddie? That's a lot of talent on the DL. It brought the field together in class and leveled the competition. That coupled with his opponents' granting Borel the mono-rail, MTB was allowed to join the posse.

    5. The other horses had just as much chance to win. This is where the stampede of the Derby comes in. One reason there are so many is that, surprise, it increases betting handle. While the aforementioned stupid money swells the pools, it also knocks down the odds on the longest longshots. Mine That Bird should have been 100-1 or more. But with the people who have mynah birds as pets or once visited the coal mine at the Museum of Science and Industry, you'll get those odds knocked down.

    It is too many horses - and a sloppy track makes it worse. I do not look forward to the day that I believe I'm going to see when a big part of the field ends up in one big pileup like a bad start at the Indy 500. General Quarters came out of the race with a mud crusted eye and a nostril full of mud - discovered only when he sneezed after the race and it popped out. Sure, races are run in the slop all the time, but 20 horses can move a lot of mud. Too much. Friesan Fire was heavily jostled and grabbed a quarter and Dunkirk reportedly suffered a number of bumps and scratches after being bumped like a pinball at the start and stumbling a couple of times.

    I do not believe the Kentucky Derby is representative of the best the game has to offer. It's an aberration with a field constructed in such a way that it does not let the horses and jockeys do what they do best with speed, tactics, strategy and legitimate luck. The race is insanely difficult if not impossible to handicap. All you can go by is the horses' prep races, which are run in generally good weather conditions, more manageable fields, realistic pace scenarios. The Derby is nothing like those races; it's impossible to truly prep a horse for the conditions of the Derby, wet or dry.

    It's a typically overdone American spectacle. But in the context of half-ton or more animals running at high speed, it's also a quest for survival, having little to do with proving who is the best three-year-old in the land on the sport's biggest day.

    As so many sporting events in this land have strayed from their basic structure and appeal, from competition to commercial circuses, so too has the Derby. I'll be counting on hindsight in 2010 to help me lay off The Run for the Roses, also known as The Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum Brands.

    Derby Fallout
    * Curious. "I feel that he didn't want to go, so I let him relax and finish the race," said jockey Gabriel Saez. "I didn't want to hurt the horse." Saez was aboard Friesan Fire (18th), the favorite, based on his proven form in the slop. I guess this is where Saez falls out of Borel's league. He had a clear shot into the first turn to take the very same magical rail, but didn't quite have the moxie to do it. Yet Friesan was fifth or sixth all the way into the far turn. This guy had that horse completely confused. Oh well. Oh say, what about the millions of dollars that were wagered on Friesan Fire? If I'm Larry Jones, I get a new jockey. Alan Garcia, anyone?

    * Derby morning scratch I Want Revenge is expected to be out for several months and probably the rest of the year. Ankle ligament damage. If he doesn't respond to therapy, the injury is career-threatening.

    * Dubai shipper Desert Party, 14th in the Derby, will have a bone chip removed from his left front ankle and is expected to be back in the latter half of the season.

    The Path to the Preakness
    So what now? It's on to the Preakness at Pimlico on May 16, where things seem so much more normal. For many hours after the race, MTB's trainer said the Preakness was out. Then on Monday he said it's a go. Race probables as of this writing are: Big Drama, Conservative, Flying Private, General Quarters, Hull, Mine That Bird, Musket Man, Papa Clem, Pioneerof the Nile, Sky Gate, Take the Points, Terrain and Tone It Down. Field maximum is 14. Changes to the field right up until entries are common, so we'll see.

    Favorite Filly
    Fabulous filly Rachel Alexandra, winner of the Kentucky Oaks by an easy 20-1/4 lengths(!), was purchased this week by Jess Jackson and Stonestreet Stables and Harold McCormick. There's a chance she'll run in the Preakness. But she'll have to be supplemented and the field is on the full side, so she'll need some luck to get in.

    Peter Pan Handle
    In what is often a prep for the Belmont Stakes, seven are entered in the Peter Pan Stakes (GII) at Belmont. Charitable Man is the expected favorite with former Derby hopefuls Imperial Council, Hello Broadway and Stately Character also running. Rounding out the field are Brave Victory, Scorewithcater and Al Khali.

    At Arlington
    Feature at Arlington Saturday is the $50,000 Chester House Stakes for three years old and up at 1-1/6 miles on the turf. Morning line has Arctic Cry, Telling and Tiger Woodman the favorites. If it keeps raining, don't be surprised if they take it off the turf.

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

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:25 AM | Permalink

    Bloodshot Briefing: Jon Langford's Chicago

    By Matt Harness

    Several bands in the Bloodshot Records family call Chicago home. Don't you think you ought to know them? Of course you should.

    So this week in Bloodshot Briefing we were lucky to lasso the legendary Jon Langford, a true Renaissance man, long enough to ask him some questions for Get To Know Your Chicago Bloodshot Musician. Off we go.

    *

    Name: Jon Langford

    Hometown: Chicago via Newport, Wales

    Band(s): The Mekons, Waco Brothers, Pine Valley Cosmonauts

    Instrument: Guitar, vocals

    Neighborhood: Sauganash

    Bar: Ginger's Ale House to watch Leeds United.

    Record Store: Planet of Sound and Raffi's Record Riot. "Don't ever shop at the big retailers. They exclude bands like mine, so I won't support them."

    Best Venues: Hideout, Schubas, Martyrs', FitzGerald's in Berwyn. "So many in Chicago. We are spoiled for choices. So many places for gigs and good crowds. I was down in Nashville this week, and the city just isn't that great for a local scene. Chicago's so unique."

    Jukebox Hero: Delilah's and Arturo's Tacos. "I like that crazy border music."

    In The Pipeline: Langford recently completed an album with Rosie Flores and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts coming out Bloodshot Records this fall. He's been recording a new Waco Brothers record with Paul Burch in Nashville. Langford's even traveled to our northern neighbor and worked with a Canadian male voice choir. And of course, another Mekons album is on deck for next year.

    Chicago Corrupts: At first, Langford believed the city council's proposed ordinance to better regulate club promoters was rooted in good intentions. But as usual, the city stepped over the line and now is trying to create a police-state for the music scene that will cripple most independent operations. "It was about stopping these fly-by-night rap clubs, which was a good thing. The result has been to try and penalize everybody right across the board. Chicago's great in spite of the city. It's a bit like New Orleans, a delicate web of individuals who are supportive and in it for each other. This city doesn't know what it's got. Instead of nurturing it they are stifling it. Bunch of Philistines."

    In Action:

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    Matt Harness brings you Bloodshot Briefing every Thursday, except when it appears on Friday. He welcomes your comments.


    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:06 AM | Permalink

    May 7, 2009

    The [Thursday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    All the eulogies for Leon Despres are nice, but where have these folks been for the last 20 years?

    It seems impossible to me to praise Despres to the high heavens while staying silent about the current mayor - or even endorsing and voting for him.

    Folks like Despres are actually marginalized by mainstream media as fringe figures who are beloved upon death but treated as curiosities in life. Similarly with Studs Terkel, who was often treated as cuddly and lovable - or a village idiot - while the content of his political and cultural observations was ignored.

    Meanwhile, the Rahm Emanuels and Desiree Rogers' of the world are celebrated for their contributions to . . . the worst parts of the status quo.

    The Peter Fitzgeralds are shunted aside to make room for the Ray LaHoods.

    I'll take Despres.

    Anyway, we here at the Beachwood offered our own tribute to Despres in August 2007.

    And yes, I actually own - and read - his memoir.

    *

    In 2005, the New York Times wrote a piece about him titled "Age 97, and Still at War With the Old Daley Machine."

    Despres also had words with the Times about the New Daley Machine, which he said was easier to live under than the old one but was still corrupt at that.

    "Mr. Despres lamented what he portrayed as the corruptive influence of the contractors who fill the mayor's campaign coffers and Chicago's increasingly one-sided civic debate. Even as the mayor vowed last week to curtail patronage in city hiring, Mr. Despres pointed out other ways that Richard the younger had consolidated power in what he called a 'supine City Council'."

    Despres kept fighting even into his 100s. Men and women half his age who call or called themselves reformers have already given up - or never began in the first place.

    *

    Among the highlights, gleaned from Despres' 2006 book Challenging the Daley Machine:

    1. "It took me a good period of time to see that partisan patronage was a hemorrhage of city energy. It was an embezzlement of public funds for the benefit of an election army . . . the great defect in Chicago government operations was the patronage system itself. I prepared a careful but dramatic memorandum detailing the extent of partisan appointments in city employment. It carefully estimated the annual waste of $40 million, detailed the impairment of city government, and used those facts as the basis for criticism of the budget."

    2. "The [43rd] ward's Democratic committeeman, Alderman Mathias 'Paddy' Bauler, the boss of the precinct captains gathered in the room, made his famous pronouncement to the Chicago Tribune city hall reporter Edward Schreiber.

    "'Chicago ain't ready for a reform mayor,' he said.

    "Schreiber later personally acknowledged to me that he had changed the quotation to 'Chicago ain't ready for reform.'"

    Obit Bit
    1. Neil Steinberg pens a touching obit for Despres, though it's a bit galling coming from the writer who once wrote he would vote for Daley if he lived in the city because he didn't care about his corruption. But give Steinberg his due on this one.

    The real question to ask, though, while reading his piece, is why Despres didn't have more support. Then again, looking around today it isn't hard to understand.

    2. "His long life touched many chapters of Chicago's history," the Tribune reports. "Heise once walked with Despres through Oak Woods Cemetery and saw Enrico Fermi's tombstone. 'I did his will for him,' Despres said. Olympian Jesse Owens is also buried there. 'He worked on my first campaign,' Despres recalled."

    He also once took Frida Kahlo to the movies.

    Statements
    1. "Michelle and I were saddened by the passing of our dear friend and a towering giant in Chicago history, Leon M. Despres," Obama said in a statement. "With an incisive mind, rapier wit and unstinting courage, he waged legendary battles against the corruption and discrimination that blighted our city."

    I think y'all can read my mind on this one.

    2. "He was a major participant in the debate on every major issue Chicago has faced in the last half century, and his strong voice made a great contribution to the way our city has evolved in that time," Daley said in a statement.

    This one too.

    3. "There was a period of time when he was the only voice of independence in the Chicago City Council," said Ald. Joe Moore said. "He was courageous."

    Ditto. Or is that Trippo?

    4. "Dare I say it," Terkel once dared to say, "he has the elegance of a Renaissance prince, devoted to the well-being of his fellow citizens."

    - via "The Grand Independent," Tribune editorial today

    Kings of Leon
    Be Like Leon. We'll be a better city for it.

    And I don't mean ideologically. I mean with a devotion to clean government, the public interest, social justice, and protecting our hard-earned tax dollars.

    Why is that so hard?

    Bee File
    "The president of a Chinese honey company was arrested Wednesday in a federal investigation of a honey importer in Chicago - a case that has cast a spotlight on 'honey-laundering,' a sour practice in the global sweets trade," the Tribune reports.

    Reese Piece
    "State historic preservation officials have entered the battle over Michael Reese Hospital, saying that the South Side medical campus, which Chicago wants to tear down almost in its entirety to make way for an Olympic Village, may be historically signficant," the Tribune reports.

    "The move marks the first time a government agency has raised a potential hurdle for Mayor Richard Daley and organizers who want to bring the 2016 Summer Games to Chicago."

    The Stroger Show
    Even Todd Stroger's veto promises have no credibility.

    Meanwhile, he's right about this:

    "Well, you know, the mayor passed nine taxes in two years. Let's see you write about that, and then I'll talk to you about everything else."

    I can hear some folks responding now by saying "Yeah, but the mayor isn't incompetent."

    On the other hand, he's had more top aides convicted of patronage fraud than Stroger has, hasn't he?

    Is This Elevator Going Down?
    "Almost 70 percent of the city's elevators weren't inspected in the past year, despite laws that require annual inspections. Some city elevators have not been looked at since 2001," the Tribune

    "Perhaps of greater concern is that after an elevator fails an inspection, the city doesn't have a record of whether it was brought back up to code, according to the latest data obtained by the Tribune."

    Oy.

    Pols Passing On Pay Hike
    There has to be a catch.

    Children's Museum Court Ruling?
    Today could be the day.

    The Road To Indy
    "Imagine you're hurtling down the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at speeds above 200 mph. The most minute touch of your steering wheel could send you into the wall. You're pushing your car to the limits of your control. This is known as 'the ragged edge'," writes Beachwood auto racing correspondent Carey Lundin.

    "Some drive with the control of a fine lead pencil; others with a crayon. Sharp pencils drive fast, fast, fast. "

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Ragged glory.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:53 AM | Permalink

    RoadNotes: The Ragged Edge

    By Carey Lundin

    Imagine you're hurtling down the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at speeds above 200 mph. The most minute touch of your steering wheel could send you into the wall. You're pushing your car to the limits of your control. This is known as "the ragged edge."

    Some drive with the control of a fine lead pencil; others with a crayon. Sharp pencils drive fast, fast, fast.

    Today I had the good fortune to hang around the Gasoline Alley garage of Indy Car legend A.J. Foyt and his team. It was a rained-out practice day. So what, you say? That's not the race.

    indy.jpg

    Ah, but it is the race. Like creating a great movie, it's here where the race can be won or lost. How you work your limitations . . . how you trust your team.

    A.J. Foyt was a guy who, when he was driving, didn't make that much money. The thrill was in the winning, so he "hung it out all the way." He was and is one sharp pencil.

    Confidence
    Indy Car racing, especially on ovals, is deceptively simple. Every car uses the same Honda engine, Dallara chassis and Firestone tires. That means it's all about the set-up and out-smarting the other drivers.

    If you're right, the car "sticks" in a turn, if you're wrong, it can spin out and you're probably out of the race. Your confidence is all you've got.

    Vitor Meira, new to Foyt Racing, but a seasoned driver, is excited to be driving for Foyt.

    "When you think you've done a lot of racing, come talk to him," Meira says. "He'll change your perspective."

    Family Ties
    Foyt has three generations on the track this year: himself, his son Larry, the team director, and his grandson A.J. IV, who grew up with Larry.

    At 24, A.J. IV is already a veteran; this is his sixth year at the Indy 500.

    "I've got two boys who wanna win real bad," Foyt the elder says. "That's why I have A.J. (IV) and Vitor. Vitor's run second here twice, A.J's never had a good run here, cars and mechanics have screwed him up most of the time. We're going to have a good crew behind him. I know he can win."

    The Edge
    Missing almost all of your practice before qualifying is like going into an audition with Scorsese cold.

    "It hurts," says Larry, "it's one of the more difficult tracks, you need all the track time you can get."

    Vitor tells me that they really need three days.

    A.J. IV considers it a setback, "being as I haven't been in a car in over six months. I was really looking forward to getting into the car. But it's May." Rain is expected. As are accidents as people push themselves to qualify in the top eleven with potentially little practice.

    The drivers need to find the perfect balance so their car is handling well all around the track, in traffic or alone. The team and driver need time and practice to know each others' tolerances and to have consistently efficient pit stops. "Everything's gotta fall your way race day, you're just as good as your team," says Foyt.

    Saturday, otherwise known as Pole Day at the Speedway, could be crazy. We'll soon see who can hang it out all the way by running on the ragged edge.

    -

    Carey Lundin is the Beachwood's auto racing correspondent. She welcomes your comments.

    -

    Previously in RoadNotes:
    * Slouching Toward Indy

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:28 AM | Permalink

    May 6, 2009

    The [Wednesday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    I don't have time for a Papers column today, but here are some new posts on Beachwood and NBCChicago.com.

    1. "If you find pleasure in watching politicians thrash about in a tangle of their own policy positions, you likely enjoyed the White House's programming this April," Beachwood legal correspondent Sam Singer writes. "Between the president and his attorney general, the Obama Administration seemed to have a new position every week of the month on prosecuting senior Bush Administration officials who authorized torture, each carefully calibrated to address the political failings of the last."

    2. "Albert Pujols, Ian Kinsler, Evan Longoria, Aaron Hill: Which one of these things is not like the other? If you guessed Hill, you are correct. Those other three chaps certainly were expected by many to be ranked in the Top 10 among position player performances at this point in the season. Hill? Not so much," Beachwood fantasy sports correspondent Dan O'Shea writes. "So, how did his name get lost this year at second base?"

    3. "Chicagoland is a go-to spot to find out what's going on in Chicago and what people are saying about it. Whet [Moser's] analyses of politics and the media are almost always spot-on, and the only bummer might be that it seems like his other work duties are slowing down his ability to blog," Beachwood Books Editor Katie Buitrago writes. "Some call it the best blog in the city. I may have to agree."

    4. Stop blaming the parking meter mess on Paul Blart.

    5. Stroger Loses the Daleys.

    6. Is Crestwood's Water a Federal Crime?

    7. Are Biz Leaders Ready For Reform?

    8. Secrets of the Beachwood #1.

    9. Follow us on Twitter. We promise not to annoy you.

    10. "No matter what country and culture, most children learn rather quickly about a scary creature many call the boogie man. The perverse delights of being scared continue into adulthood for many of us, but for others, the boogie man is real. Child molesters, the real boogie men and women who plague children, have maimed and ruined lives. The danger is real, but in the late 1980s, fears about sexual predators grew into a wild hysteria that launched several, high-profile witch hunts, the most infamous of which involved the owners of the Little Rascals Day Care Center in Edenton, North Carolina. Those times have branded pedophiles as the lowest of the low, subhuman, amoral animals who prey on innocence in the worst possible way," Beachwood film critic and Ferdy On Films proprietor Marilyn Ferdinand writes.

    "The Woodsman dares to take on this orthodoxy of pure evil by showing audiences the world from the pedophile's point of view, forcing us to face the fact that pedophiles are complex people, not monstrosities."

    11. "If there were a Yo-Yo Hall of Fame, this man would be the first inducted," says our sister site Reading With Scissors.

    12. Devin Hester is still ridiculous.

    13. From the Beachwood Archives: "RockNotes: Wilco and the Sellouts."

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Cut and dried.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:21 AM | Permalink

    Fantasy Fix: Oh Canada

    By Dan O'Shea

    Albert Pujols, Ian Kinsler, Evan Longoria, Aaron Hill: Which one of these things is not like the other? If you guessed Hill, you are correct. Those other three chaps certainly were expected by many to be ranked in the Top 10 among position player performances at this point in the season. Hill? Not so much.

    Through earlier this week, Hill, 2B, was ranked No. 10 in many Yahoo! leagues after turning in a scorching first month of the season: .360 AVG, 6 HRs, 22 RBIs, 2 SBs, 45 hits (!). Hill's Toronto Blue Jays are the surprising toast of the American League East, and Hill their surprising superstar. But, can he keep up the good work? Since many people weren't aware of Hill before this season, they may be inclined to think he's a flash in the pan. However, Hill gave a pretty good indication of what he was capable of back in 2007: . 291, 17 HRs, 78, RBIs, 47 doubles (the last figure put him among the league leaders in that category.

    So, how did his name get lost this year at second base?

    Well, penetrating the Ian Kinsler/Chase Utley/Dustin Pedroia triumvirate is no easy task to begin with, but the real reason Hill fell off the board was that he missed most of 2008 after suffering a severe concussion in an on-field collision with shortstop David Eckstein last May. Hill may be running hotter than typical right now and probably will come back down to Earth a bit, but there's good reason to believe the former first-round draft pick is capable of numbers right around his 2007 figures, perhaps even a bit higher in the HR and RBI departments. He was probably an early waiver wire pick-up in many leagues, but some of those owners also may look to sell high, thinking Hill can't keep it up. You and I know different.

    Yahoo!'s Big Board doesn't rank Hill in the Top 40, but they tend not to recognize surprise performers until they really prove themselves. Hill's on the bubble, but I'll bet he makes the Big Board before too long.

    Elsewhere on the expert wire:

    * Bleacher Report has a look at one of my favorite subjects: stolen bases. The guys they mention are probably worth a reach only in very deep leagues, though Michael Bourn would be a steady contributor of hits, runs and SBs if you have your power stats coming out of other positions. And though he's not mentioned here, how about that Carl Crawford? Six SBs in one game. As of Tuesday, he had a an SB in nine straight games. Crawford always has been a top stealer, but hasn't swiped more than 50 bases since 2004. I wonder if his recent run is his re-awakening in that department. He is currently on pace for 100 SBs.

    * Will Althoff at OpenSports Blogs has a post about why he hates fantasy baseball. He's annoyed about some of the things that are bound to happen when you are in a league that sets rosters on a weekly basis - like you bench Mark Teixeira for James Loney and then Tex hits a pair of homers. His frustration is amusing . . . and familiar.

    * Canada's Sportsnet highlights some of the surprise performances - both good and bad - so far this year. Lots of this territory has been covered by others, though it does give nice shout-outs to our pal Aaron Hill and Heath Bell, the San Diego closer who succeeded Trevor Hoffman and has already picked up 8 saves for a better-than-expected Padres club. Anyway, it's nice to see our Canadian friends are following America's Pastime so closely. I went to a Blue Jays game a few years ago and managed to buy first row, third-baseline seats on the day of the game right from the ticket window. They didn't even sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the 7th inning stretch.

    * Newsday asks the inevitable question about a guy who has been so lights-out good as Zack Greinke: Should you sell high?

    A week ago, a friend of mine said of Greinke, "He's really in a zone, but you know he can't be a 20-game winner on the Kansas City Royals."

    Really?

    He's already 6-0. The Royals are scoring enough runs to give him decision, and so far he's won every single one of them. The Royals certainly are not as bad as in past years, and I just don't see him finishing any worse than 15 or 16 wins even if he really treads water the rest of the year. I can't imagine who I'd take for Greinke if I had him and someone else wanted him. It would have to be a Top 5 position player, and straight-up position player-for-pitcher trades are a tough call for most managers.

    * And finally . . . LeBron James won his first NBA MVP, and he has me slightly re-considering my potential first five fantasy basketball picks for next season. I'd still take King James first, but Dwyane Wade's late-season and post-season fade has me pushing down him from second down to fourth, after Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul.

    -

    Dan O'Shea's Fantasy Fix appears in this space every Wednesday. He welcomes your comments. You can also read his about his split sports fan personality at SwingsBothWays, which isn't about what it sounds like It's about.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:35 AM | Permalink

    Chicagoland

    By Katie Buitrago

    Editor's Note: This is the first in our long-awaited Chicago Blog Review series.

    Blog: Chicagoland

    Description: The Chicago Reader's home for a lil' bit of everything.

    Style: The tagline is "A Reader staff blog," but Chicagoland is dominated, happily, by web producer Whet Moser. Moser, a graduate of Deep Springs and the U of C, is whip-smart without suffering from pedantry. He's relevant and funny with a sharp Internet-ready humor that, I suspect, comes from many hours spent online in the early days of IRC and message boards (correct me if I'm wrong, but I know my people). Media outlets' blogs often feel like columns wrested from the pages of their print edition and dropped on the Internet with little modification. Not so here - he fits the news to the medium masterfully.

    Substance: Chicagoland generally lacks the original reporting found in other Reader blogs, and its strength lies in its commentary and broad scope. Moser seems to write about whatever stumbles across his sights, which is fine by me. Targets include the quality (or lack thereof) of the media, topics bubbling up in the local and national blogosphere, music, Chicago newsmakers, the financial industry, and tips on goings-on in the area. He also connects Reader stories to local and national news trends, which is usually helpful for its context, not annoying self-promotion.

    Tl;dr Score: Low. There's a good mix of short, blurb-y roundups and longer, thoughtful commentaries that don't feel tiresome.

    Commenter Involvement: Curiously, Chicagoland's posts are rarely commented on, save for some posts on everyone's favorite topic - the Future of the Media OMG. The few that are there are generally thoughtful and relevant, which is a nice change of pace from, say, the locals at the Reader's blog on politics.

    Linkage: Abundant and useful links to news sites, blogs, and columnists. This is the Internet's way of attribution and it's used here as it's supposed to be: to provide context, evidence, a range of opinions, and the occasional lolz.

    Visual Appeal: The layout of the Reader's blogs has a bad case of the uglies and, last I heard, they're working on changing it. It's not particularly easy on the eyes, but it's not actively obstructionist, either. The "You Shoot" segment, which displays purdy photography from the Reader's Flickr pool, helps break up the monotony. The biggest problem comes up when trying to scan through past posts: instead of showing more pages with multiple posts on it, there's an archive with links to the titles of each individual post. It's not designed for skimming a bunch of posts in succession, which is obviously a problem for Internet browsing.

    NSFW?: The site is no-nonsense, text-heavy and refreshingly absent of Flash ads for mortgages or losing tummy fat. It's unlikely you'll stumble across a picture of boobies accidentally. Surf without fear.

    Start Here: Advice for Unemployed Journalists.

    Bottom Line: Should you add to your RSS reader? Yes, absolutely. Chicagoland is a go-to spot to find out what's going on in Chicago and what people are saying about it. Whet's analyses of politics and the media are almost always spot-on, and the only bummer might be that it seems like his other work duties are slowing down his ability to blog. Some call it the best blog in the city. I may have to agree.

    -

    Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:17 AM | Permalink

    Obama's Torture Test

    By Sam Singer

    If you find pleasure in watching politicians thrash about in a tangle of their own policy positions, you likely enjoyed the White House's programming this April. Between the president and his attorney general, the Obama Administration seemed to have a new position every week of the month on prosecuting senior Bush Administration officials who authorized torture, each carefully calibrated to address the political failings of the last.

    May promises to bring more backpedaling from the president. Despite earlier efforts, Obama can't seem to put enough distance between his Justice Department and some of the more contentious wartime positions of its predecessor. What many thought would be a crisp and clean break from the Bush Administration has proved a slow, if tentative, unwinding.

    In February, the Justice Department disappointed civil rights groups when it picked up where the Bush Administration left off in a high-profile suit against Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc., a Boeing subsidiary, for helping the CIA service its extraordinary rendition program. The five plaintiffs claim they were unlawfully detained and tortured under the CIA program, and that Jeppesen's logistical support was critical for the agency in conducting the renditions.

    The Bush Justice Department promptly moved to dismiss the case. In support of the motion, Bush lawyers advanced a bold interpretation of the state secrets doctrine that would require a court to dismiss a rendition case where the claim is bound up with "the very subject matter" of a secret. Notwithstanding campaign promises to the contrary, the Obama Justice Department endorsed this expansive interpretation in its first court filings in February.

    In a highly anticipated ruling, the Ninth Circuit disagreed, opting for a more limited, item-by-item interpretation of the state secrets doctrine. As the Court described it, although the government may use the state secrets doctrine to challenge the admissibility of certain items of evidence, it may not invoke the doctrine as a wholesale rule of immunity. To further complicate matters, President Obama has performed a second about face: When asked about the Ninth Circuit's holding, the President told the White House press corps he disagreed with the Bush Administration's take on the state secrets doctrine, apparently unconcerned that his lawyers had spent the last few months selling it to a panel of federal judges.

    In light of his remarks, it is anybody's guess whether President Obama will seek Supreme Court review. The national interests at stake and the resolve with which the Justice Department pressed the case in the Ninth Circuit both point toward an appeal. So too with an earlier ruling by the Fourth Circuit that conflicts with the Ninth Circuit's holding on the proper scope of the state secrets doctrine. Circuit splits tend to capture the attention of the justices on the Supreme Court, who make use of the occasions to clarify important matters of federal law.

    But would President Obama really instruct the Justice Department to appeal a matter weeks after he publicly opposed it? To do so would bring this administration's back-and-forth on the issue to a point of absurdity. It would also open another round of shelling from the media about the President's policy fluctuations and lack of follow-through. More importantly, by seeking Supreme Court review, the President would fundamentally change the nature of his relationship with the case. To appeal now is to effectively take ownership of the matter - Obama can no longer paint himself as the hapless custodian. More immediately, Obama risks further alienating opponents of the CIA program, a handful of whom sit on the respective judiciary committees charged with approving Obama's court nominations.

    A decision to forego an appeal seems equally uninviting. Inside Justice, they'll accuse Obama of sending government lawyers to the Ninth Circuit on a fool's errand - to spend months litigating a case the president never had any intention of seeing through. Elsewhere in Washington, they'll accuse the President of jeopardizing national security through the exposure of state secrets. To be fair, the latter charge deserves a dose of perspective. If President Obama leaves the case on its current trajectory, it will go back to the district court, where it likely will die of natural causes. For the same reason the five foreign nationals can't sue the CIA directly - namely, the principle of sovereign immunity - the five men likely will be precluded from suing a government contractor, provided it was acting pursuant to specific orders from the military.

    Alongside everything else, the President must bear in mind the administrative costs of cutting the legs out from under an active case as well as the established principle that new administrations give certain deference to the legal positions of their predecessors. If he abandons the Bush Administration's position, he's reversed course in the eyes of the federal courts. If he reiterates it, he's reversed course in the eyes of the public. It's up to him to decide which fate is worse.

    -

    Sam Singer is the Beachwood's legal correspondent. He welcomes your comments.

    -

    Previously by Sam Singer:
    * Is TARP legal? Court to decide on laugh test.

    * Taking Government Out Of The Marriage Business. Separating church and state.

    * Chicago's Disorderly Conduct. Dissent allowed even in Daleyland

    * Why Google Will Win. Newspapers are on the wrong side of the digital revolution.

    * Is Blago A Flight Risk? We asked; a judge said yes.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:00 AM | Permalink

    May 5, 2009

    The [Tuesday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    Just like the story about the sleeper agent in Peoria, this feels underplayed to me.

    "A Bolingbrook man who worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Iraq and Afghanistan is accused of sending contractors text messages to demand tens of thousands of bribes," the Sun-Times reports.

    Let's see those texts!

    "Pay 2 play my friend!"

    Save the Kid Cop!
    Let's not lose him to a life in prison.

    Alexi's Car
    "But Giannoulias, who declined to be interviewed before the Tribune's first story, said Monday the SUV replaced a 10-year-old vehicle so employees have 'a more efficient, quicker, less expensive' way to sign up families for the savings plan."

    Um, that sounds pretty weak, but Giannoulias made this story 10 times bigger than it had to be by not talking to the Trib in the first place.

    *

    From the Alexi archives: "Giannoulias Is Elusive."

    Green Theme
    Paul Green said on Good Day Chicago this morning that John Edwards was right about there being two Americas - the one where his mistress lived and the one where his wife lived.

    Nicely played, professor!

    Olympic Education Camps
    It looks like a Gold Star for Mayo Elementary!

    Top to Bottom
    "Filene's sells Chicago sites to Sears Tower owner."

    Willis's Basement?

    Cook County East
    "Illinois U.S. Senator Dick Durbin is encouraging the president to consider some Chicago names for the Supreme Court," WBEZ reports.

    Please, no. Chicago Fatigue is setting in.

    *

    "In particular, Durbin mentions federal appeals court judges Ann Williams and Diane Wood, and district court judge Ruben Castillo.

    "DURBIN: Let me also add Anita Alvarez, who is the Cook County State's Attorney."

    Um, are you nuts?

    "Let me also add Bob the bartender and that kid cop - he seems like a sharp fellow."

    Duncan Watch
    "As CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Arne Duncan boasted about ISAT gains, even though the district showed poorly on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the nation's report card," Sarah Karp reports for Catalyst.

    "But now as Secretary of Education, Duncan told reporters at the Education Writers Association conference Thursday that school officials who highlight state standards knowing there is a disparity between those results and performance on national assessments are lying to parents and children."

    Fast Eddie Burke
    Moonlights as an alderman.

    The Great Chicago Squirrel Census
    It's on.

    Facebook Factoid
    "[I]magine what sponsorships could mean for Facebook pages belonging to the New York Times, with 447,749 fans so far, National Geographic, with 453,013 fans; or even ABC's Lost, with 785,093 fans," Ad Age notes.

    If only newspapers on Facebook would stop stealing their services. Oh, and newsrooms should pay every time their reporters do a Google search, too.

    *

    "I would think [Facebook] would prefer that media companies place content there in exchange for a right to sell ads against it in order to keep people on Facebook," the president of Social Vibe told the magazine.

    Budasi!
    The Society of Midland Authors has announced its winners for works published in 2008 - including a critic's award to Teresa Budasi of the Sun-Times, long a Beachwood favorite.

    Ready for Reform
    It may not sound like the sexiest reading on the planet, but our series of excerpts from the final report of the Illinois Reform Commission is really quite good and gets to the blood and guts of the Chicago Way.

    For example, from today's installment:

    "Becker and Demczak testified about specific instances where the state's procurement process improperly favored politically-connected companies. Becker and Demczak described situations where state employees narrowed contract specifications to favor certain vendors, gave contracts to vendors who provided expensive meals and gifts to state employees, and allowed politically-connected vendors to 're-do' their bids.

    "Shaw described former Governor Blagojevich's extensive fundraising from state vendors, and testified that Blagojevich and his allies bent the procurement rules to ensure that those vendors received state contracts.

    "All three testified that these abuses cost the taxpayers money in increased prices and inferior products and services."

    Tough Crowd
    "Madrid's 2016 Olympics bid said Tuesday that accusations it spied on a rival candidate had been blown out of proportion," AP reports.

    Zombie Government
    "You can shoot it, outlaw it and drive a stake through its heart, but political patronage in Cook County will not die," Phil Kadner writes in the SouthtownStar.

    En Fuego
    "Fire struggling against myths about Toyota Park," the SouthtownStar reports. "Survey: Many don't know where stadium is."

    Too bad - the Fire are the last unbeaten team in Major League Soccer and a favorite to win their division.

    Liberty City
    Yet more problems in the umpteenth trial of the chumps who very allegedly plotted to blow up the Sears Tower.

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Soup to nuts.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:54 AM | Permalink

    Ready For Reform: Chapter 3

    By The Beachwood Illinois Reform Commission Affairs Desk

    Editor's Note: This is the third part of a multi-part series excerpting the final report from the Illinois Reform Commission. We don't necessarily endorse all parts of the report, but offer it up as a starting point to generate support for bringing real structural change to Illinois' sordid political culture.

    *

    PROCUREMENT
    I. Introduction
    The state's current procurement system has failed to stop pay-to-play abuse and has resulted in widespread manipulation of the system in awarding state contracts. Clouted and favored companies have benefited from large contracts through corrupt processes, to the detriment of companies without the right connections. Consequently, the reduced competition raises the cost of goods and services; and a system where connected companies do best means tax dollars are leveraged for political advantage.

    Accordingly, the Commission recommends that the state:

    1. move state procurement administrative officials into an insulated,
    central, independent procurement office;

    2. eliminate loopholes and exemptions in the Procurement Code;

    3. establish an Independent Monitor to oversee and review the
    procurement process;

    4. mandate greater disclosure for contractors, lobbyists, and others; and,

    5. enhance transparency in the procurement process.

    II. Information and Sources Considered
    Before its March 13, 2009 hearing, the Commission reviewed a large volume of research and material on government procurement, including the practices of other governments, "best practices" advocated by government procurement groups, and various reviews and audits of the researched laws and recommendations regarding government procurement. The Commission interviewed experts in government procurement, current state employees involved in procurement, and individuals who have experienced corruption in the procurement process first-hand.

    A. Research Reviewed.
    The Commission did an extensive review of the state's Procurement Code, policies and procedures. The Commission also reviewed the procurement rules and practices of several other states (including Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Florida), counties and large municipalities (especially Miami-Dade County), and of the federal government. The Commission studied procurement "best practices" recommended by the National Institute of Government Purchasing (NIGP) and by the American Bar Association (ABA), including the ABA's Model Procurement Code. Among the best practices noted by the Commission:

    * The Model Procurement Code recommends one centralized procurement agency headed by one Chief Procurement Officer;

    * Colorado and Florida centralize procurement authority in one procurement agency, with very limited delegation to operating agencies;

    * Florida's procurement code covers all of state government except for state universities;

    * Florida requires all sole source contracts to be publicly posted before being entered into;

    * The Inspectors General for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Miami-Dade County utilize independent procurement "monitors" who provide "real-time" monitoring of the procurement process;

    * Maryland and the federal government provide for bid and award protests to be handled by outside, independent agencies.

    The Commission reviewed studies of state procurement done by the Better Government Association and audits done by the State Auditor General. The consistent findings included (1) the state procurement code is riddled with exceptions; (2) disclosure requirements were insufficient; and (3) the entire process lacked transparency.

    The Commission reviewed the findings of the state's "Blue Ribbon Committee" which studied state procurement in the 1990s, as well as the state's rewrite of the Procurement Code in 1998, which implemented many of the Committee's recommendations.

    The Commission reviewed the findings of the recent House Impeachment Committee, the transcript of the proceedings before both the House and Senate in the impeachment and trial of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, the federal indictment of Blagojevich and his associates (including two former Chiefs of Staff), the complaint charging Blagojevich, and the evidence from the trials and plea agreements of other defendants in the investigation, including Tony Rezko.

    Significant evidence was presented that Governor Blagojevich was able to manipulate the awarding of state contracts to benefit political friends and punish enemies.

    The Commission also reviewed the charges and evidence against former Governor and Secretary of State George Ryan, and former Illinois Department of Corrections Director Donald Snyder, and interviewed former state employees and a former federal prosecutor who were familiar with Ryan's and Snyder's schemes. The Commission noted that Ryan was able to manipulate the State's procurement system to direct public benefits to his friends and supporters, often by pressuring the agency head to direct a state purchase to a particular vendor. The Commission noted the almost complete absence of any effective oversight, monitoring, or deterrence in the State's procurement process.

    B. Witnesses Interviewed and Testimony Presented at Hearing.
    The Commission interviewed current state employees from Central Management Services, one of the Executive Inspector General's Offices, and the Illinois Department of Corrections. The Commission noted the following:

    * Required documentation is often missing;

    * There are few consequences for state employees who circumvent the procurement process;

    * User agency employees have considerable discretion in the procurement process, including writing the specifications and choosing members of the evaluation committee;

    * There is little to no disclosure of subcontractors.

    The Commission consulted with people who had a clear understanding of the concerns of vendors, having dealt extensively with the procurement process in Illinois and other states. The Commission also interviewed a federal law enforcement agent knowledgeable about corruption in the state procurement system. This witness discussed how undisclosed, unregistered lobbyists are able to use their influence over agency heads to steer contracts to politically favored vendors. This witness advocated for separating and insulating the procurement process from the agency heads.

    The Commission also presented eight witnesses, on three panels, at its March 13, 2009 hearing on procurement. Panel One focused on first-hand accounts of corruption in the procurement process. The panel consisted of Karl Becker, the former Deputy Director of Finance and Administration at the Illinois Department of Corrections, Basil Demczak, Supervisory Postal Inspector at the U.S. Postal Service, and Andy Shaw, former investigative reporter for ABC 7 in Chicago.

    Becker and Demczak testified about specific instances where the state's procurement process improperly favored politically-connected companies. Becker and Demczak described situations where state employees narrowed contract specifications to favor certain vendors, gave contracts to vendors who provided expensive meals and gifts to state employees, and allowed politically-connected vendors to "re-do" their bids.

    Shaw described former Governor Blagojevich's extensive fundraising from state vendors, and testified that Blagojevich and his allies bent the procurement rules to ensure that those vendors received state contracts.

    All three testified that these abuses cost the taxpayers money in increased prices and inferior products and services.

    Panel Two focused on past efforts to reform the state's procurement process. The panel consisted of State Senator Jeff Schoenberg and former state Senator Steve Rauschenberger. Both had been involved in procurement reform efforts over the years, and both testified that abuses continue despite some significant reforms. Both advocated for (1) additional resources for auditing and monitoring of procurement and contract management, and (2) an independent procurement agency that would be disconnected from the political process. Senator Schoenberg also recommended applying the Procurement Code to quasi-governmental agencies - such as the Illinois Finance Authority - which are presently outside the state's Procurement Code.

    Panel Three focused on best practices in other jurisdictions, particularly in the areas of monitoring and enforcement. The panel consisted of Christopher Mazzella, Inspector General of Miami-Dade County, Professor Christopher Yukins, Co-Director of the Government Procurement Law Program atGeorge Washington University Law School, and Michael Bevis, Chief Procurement Officer for the City of Naperville, IL.

    Mazzella testified that his office uses "contract oversight specialists" to provide real-time procurement monitoring. Mazzella believed that monitoring has significantly improved procurement in Miami-Dade County.

    Professor Yukins testified that at a recent ABA conference on procurement, a substantial number of large, national companies stated that they do not do business in Illinois because of the State's culture of corruption. As a result, procurement here is not as competitive and contracts are more costly for taxpayers. Professor Yukins said that corruption in Illinois, and the market's perception of that corruption, is an "artificial barrier to competition." Professor Yukins and Michael Bevis supported an independent procurement agency.

    III. Commission Findings
    The testimony and documents that the Commission considered clearly establish that the procurement system in Illinois has been hampered by political influence, a lack of transparency and insufficient monitoring and oversight systems.

    Because of these flaws and the corruption scandals that have plagued the state, Illinois is perceived as a state in which vendors without clout or connections are at a disadvantage. Some vendors who might otherwise seek public contracts in Illinois are reluctant to participate in a system in which the odds are stacked against them. Accordingly, competition is hindered and the taxpayers of Illinois pay a steep price for the political favoritism and related deficiencies that characterize the procurement system in the state.

    To address these problems, the Commission finds that the procurement structure and system in Illinois needs to be redesigned in a way that ensures greater independence for professional procurement officers, enhanced monitoring of procurement decisions, more transparency of the procurement process and, overall, a system that is more resistant to political influence.

    IV. Commission Recommendations
    As with campaign finance regulations, remedying the structural impediments to fair, open and competitive procurement in Illinois requires significant reform.

    Ending pay-to-play will not happen overnight, but the Commission unveiled its initial legislative proposals toward this end on March 31, 2009. On April 21, 2009, Commission representatives testified about our findings and proposals before the Joint Committee on Government Reform. We appreciate the spirit of cooperation with which the leadership of the Joint Committee, including Speaker Madigan and Senate President Cullerton, has engaged us and look forward to continuing these efforts.

    Accordingly, the Commission makes the following legislative recommendations, which it urges the Governor and General Assembly to adopt to help end the pay-to-play scandals.

    A. Move state procurement officials into an insulated, central, independent procurement office.
    In light of the extensive history of abuse in the awarding of state contracts, the procurement professionals in state government must be insulated from political pressure to the maximum degree possible.

    To achieve this, they must be part of a separate procurement department with the ability (a) to resist pressure from political officials (or employees working on their behalf) and (b) to make decisions about the awarding of contracts by following the rules and applying professional criteria.

    Accordingly, the Commission recommends that the state:

    1. Place the five existing chief procurement officers ("CPO") in the executive branch, as well as their staffs, in a new department called the Department of Procurement. If the CPO is currently the head of the agency (as in the Illinois Department of Transportation), the lead procurement official in that agency or the equivalent would become the CPO for that area.

    Moreover, the State's CPOs should not be subject to removal for political reasons.

    2. The five CPOs would report to the Executive Procurement Officer (EPO), who would head the Department of Procurement and would have ultimate authority for procurement and contracting decisions. The EPO would be appointed by the governor, subject to the approval of a supermajority of the legislature (e.g., sixty percent or two-thirds). The EPO would be appointed to a 5-year term and would not serve at the pleasure of the governor. Instead, the EPO could only be removed from office for cause
    after a public hearing.

    3. The EPO would hire and supervise the five CPOs, and would delegate purchasing authority to them. Subject to the EPO's approval, the current staff of the CPOs would become part of the Department of Procurement, though their offices would physically remain in their current locations.

    4. Even though the procurement professionals would be insulated in a central, independent department, the operating agencies would continue to play a primary role in defining the procurement needs of the agency and evaluating proposals from vendors based on the agency's technical expertise and experience. This is consistent with the typical practice in this area, regardless of whether procurement officials are centralized or decentralized - procurement officials play the role of administering the procurement process while the operating officials play the role of defining the substance of what they need and how to judge competing bids. Critically, however, it must be left to the procurement professionals to determine whether the rules are being followed, and whether the operating agency's recommendations are based on the merits and not politics, favoritism, or other improper factors.

    5. The EPO would ensure consistency in procurement policies and practices among all the CPOs, accounting for the diverse types of contracts and procurement situations that arise throughout state government. In addition, the EPO would ensure that training among all procurement officials was thorough and up-to-date.

    B. Cut back Loopholes and Exemptions in Procurement Code.
    The Commission recommends that the State close loopholes that exempt large parts of state government from the procurement rules, so that state contracts are not awarded without approval of the procurement professionals. Specifically, the Commission proposes the following:

    1. Require all state contracts above a certain amount (e.g., $25,000) to be subject to the approval of CPOs or their designees within the Department of Procurement.

    2. Abolish sections of the Procurement Code that (a) allow CPOs to delegate the power to award contracts back to the "user" agencies themselves, or (b) create a separate tier of officials with the power to award contracts called "Associate Procurement Officers."

    3. Make all no-bid contracts (also called "sole source" contracts), which should be very rare, subject to the approval of the EPO personally. Require sole-source contractors to satisfy additional transparency requirements, described below in the Transparency section of this Chapter.

    4. Make all emergency contracts subject to the approval of the EPO or the EPO's designee, and allow contracts awarded on emergency basis to be valid for a maximum ninety-day term unless the EPO approves an extension (of no more than 90 days), with both the request for extension and the approval posted online.

    5. Require the approval of the EPO or designated CPO for any material changes, including extensions of the contract beyond its original term; change orders for contract limit increases over a specific amount (e.g., 10% over the original contract amount); changes to the contract's scope; substitution of subcontractors; changes to Minority-and Female-Owned Business Enterprise goals (including those resulting from change orders); and modifications of the vendor's Financial Interests and Potential Conflicts of Interest Disclosure Form (hereinafter, Final Interest Disclosure or FID).

    6. Amend the Procurement Code so that it applies to all procurements for any good or service above a specified dollar amount (e.g., $25,000) by all branches of state government, including any quasi-governmental agencies. The Legislative and Judicial branches should not be exempt from the Procurement Code. Abolish exemptions for other parts of state government.

    7. Require the procurement processes under all constitutional officers to conform to all of the requirements set out above, including the requirement of giving authority to independent procurement officers to approve contracts, hire and fire staff, and serve for a defined term of office.

    8. Abolish exemptions for certain types of contracts within one year - such as "purchase of care" contracts - unless the head of the new Independent Contract Monitoring Office (described below) recommends retaining the exemption until after his office can further study the matter.

    C. Establish an Independent Contract Monitor to oversee and review the procurement process.
    Oversight and monitoring of the procurement process by an outside, independent agency are critical to ensure integrity in the procurement system, especially in a place like Illinois where powerful interests have succeeded in corrupting parts of the procurement process in the past. This oversight would include real-time monitoring of the contract-award process and related activities.

    Only through a strong, independent oversight effort will the existing rules be enforced - and therefore have meaning. Two places that do this well, Miami-Dade County and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, house this oversight function in their Inspector General's Offices.

    (Subsequent to the release of the Commission's initial recommendations on this topic on March 31, 2009, Auditor General William Holland stated that he did not believe it would be appropriate to house contract monitors in the Auditor General's Office, as he believes that adding other non-auditing functions into the Auditor General's Office would be inconsistent with its mission of conducting audits of all parts of state government.

    Specifically, the Commission proposes the following:

    1. Establish an Independent Contract Monitoring Office (the "Monitor") to provide outside oversight and review of the procurement process as it occurs. Ideally, the Monitor's office will be a new independent agency but, alternatively, it could be part of the Inspector General's Office or incorporated into the Auditor General's Office.

    After the Commission's initial recommendations on this topic on March 31, the Commission heard testimony from Attorney General Lisa Madigan who recommended that the functions of the Monitor be placed in the Inspector General's Offices, and Auditor General William Holland stated that the functions of the Monitor should not be placed in his office.

    The Commission now recommends either the creation of the Monitor as a separate office or housing it in the Inspector General's Offices. However, it is critically important that this monitoring function be housed in a part of state government that is as independent as possible. If the Monitor is a separate, independent agency, its head would be selected, and protected from removal, in a way that ensures the agency's independence. The Monitor would have a five-year term and could only be removed by impeachment for cause, or after a public hearing.

    2. Grant jurisdiction to the Monitor over all of state government, including all contracts issued by agencies under all constitutional officers (not just the governor), and the Legislative and Judicial Branches.

    3. Allocate sufficient funds to the budget for the Monitor's office to make the office effective, and protect it from large retaliatory cuts for acting independently and forcefully. To guard against any retaliatory budget cuts, the budget of the Monitor's office would be tied to the amount of annual contract spending, as set out below.

    4. The state should fund any additional cost of creating the Monitor's office by withdrawing from each state agency a small "integrity surcharge" (0.1%) each time the agency makes a contract payment to a vendor. For example, if an agency is making a $10,000 payment to a vendor, the agency would pay a surcharge of $10 for contractual services. Thus, the agency could still spend 99.9% of the funds budgeted to it for contractors, but the last 0.1% would go to the Monitor.

    5. Grant the Monitor real-time access to all procurement files and databases so that it can monitor all phases of procurement. Require agencies to forward timely notices of all procurements to the Monitor. Amend the Ethics Act to include a duty for employees and vendors to cooperate with the Monitor and to provide all requested records.

    6. Grant the Monitor or its staff the ability to attend any meeting regarding procurement. Permit the Monitor to initiate reviews of procurements, or groups of procurements or procurement data, for "red flags" of misconduct, waste or inefficiency. The Monitor should also receive advance notification of significant contract modifications, such as change orders over 10% of the contract award amount, and should attend hearings regarding no-bid contracts. The Monitor should also maintain staff and publicize a tip-line and tip-email to receive complaints.

    7. If the Monitor observes a problem in the procurement process, the Monitor will have the option of attempting to persuade the relevant state officials to correct the problem by changing their process or decision, or to issue a public report if it cannot correct the problem otherwise.

    8. The Monitor will be required to file regular public reports on its activities, and regularly appear before the legislature to discuss those reports or as otherwise requested. By resolution, either chamber of the legislature will have the authority to request that the Monitor review a specific procurement or procurements (as it does with the Auditor General).

    9. The Monitor will be charged with ensuring and maintaining complete transparency of the procurement process, including an all-inclusive procurement website described below.

    10. The Monitor will also hear appeals of protests on bid specifications and contract awards. Initial protests to contract awards will be lodged with the Department of Procurement (or its equivalent in the other constitutional offices), which will have a short time period to rule on a protest. The aggrieved party may appeal that decision to the Monitor, similar to the federal system in which appeals of denials of bid protests are heard by the General Accountability Office. If a bid protest appeal is granted, the Monitor's Office will have the power to block a procurement, but will not have the power to award the contract to another vendor. The action will simply require the Department of Procurement to re-bid the contract or take a different action.

    D. Mandate Greater Disclosures for Contractors, Lobbyists and
    Others.

    Transparency in the contracting process - including more robust disclosure requirements - makes it much more difficult for corrupt interests to manipulate the contract process.

    While the main problem in this area has been that existing transparency rules are not consistently followed, important improvements are required in the transparency and disclosure rules.

    1. The Financial Interests Disclosure submitted by vendors should include all individuals (other than company employees) who are or will be having any communications with state officials in relation to the pertinent contract or bid. This includes lobbyists, but also includes non-lobbyists who are acting in any way as the agent for the company.

    2. Vendors must disclose the names of all subcontractors, including information about payments to subcontractors.

    3. The FID requirements should also require disclosure of all
    officers and directors, any debarments, adverse judgments or findings, bankruptcies, and criminal convictions for crimes related to the veracity of the entity, its five percent or more owners, and its officers/directors. If any owners are corporate entities, then those corporate entities should also have a duty to file a FID, and so on, until individual owners of more than five percent are disclosed.

    4. All disclosure obligations must be ongoing, so that as a company adds lobbyists or agents, or changes subcontractors, it will have an obligation to update its disclosures.

    5. The FID must require signature under penalty of perjury, must be incorporated as a material term in the contract with the state, and must be filed with the state in a searchable and sortable format, preferably in online form. Penalties for knowing violation of disclosure requirements should include the immediate cancellation of the vendor's contract with the state, and possible debarment from future state contracts.

    6. The Procurement Code should require that all procurement staff keep a log of all contact with vendors and their agents, including lobbyists, and any other interested parties. On a regular basis, this log should be posted in the online searchable database with all other procurement information.

    This disclosure should be part of an expanded Recommendation of Award process, where all employees involved in a procurement are required to sign off that they are not aware of any violations of state law, and are required to disclose any contacts with any agents for the bidders.

    7. State employees should have to disclose, as part of their annual Statement of Economic Interest, any equity/debt interest of more than five percent in any company that does business with the State. Those disclosures should be collected and made available in a searchable, sortable format on the central procurement website.

    E. Enhance Transparency in the Procurement Process.
    1. All information regarding state procurement - by the executive, legislative and judicial branches, and every constitutional officer and quasi-governmental agency - should be collected in one website in a format that is easy to use, searchable, and sortable. As set out above, the Independent Contract Monitor should be in charge of maintaining the website, in order to avoid the current problem of contract information being scattered throughout different websites (when it is actually posted). By having an agency outside the procurement process responsible for ensuring that all relevant procurement documents are posted, an important check is in place against officials who may want to avoid transparency in certain situations.

    2. The information collected on this state procurement website should include: current procurement opportunities; all applicable procurement rules and regulations; interactive training modules; a continuously updated FAQs file; current and pending awards, including change orders and bid protests; links to the Monitor, the Inspector General's Office, Auditor General and Attorney General's Public Corruption Unit; payments to prime vendors and prime vendor payments to associated subcontractors, including the invoices/vouchers submitted; a description, with relevant links, of the bid protest process; Vendor Disclosures of Financial Interests; Employee Statements of Economic Interest; agenda and meeting schedule for the Non-Competitive Procurement Review Committee; vendor political contributions; and information required as part of the vendor registration with the Board of Elections.

    3. The Procurement Code should mandate that when a Request for Proposals (RFP) or Request for Information (RFI) process is used, all documents related to the recommendation by the evaluation committee must be made public after the award is made, including the identity of the members of the committee and their scoring sheets.

    4. The Procurement Code should be amended to require a public hearing by the Department of Procurement (or its equivalent in the other constitutional offices) before the approval of any "no-bid" or sole source contract, where the subject agency must provide its justification for using the "no bid" process. The Department must publish its agenda, meeting time and meeting place in advance of the meeting, so that it may hear from vendors or other members of the public. All documents the Department reviewed, as well as its decision and reasoning must be publicly available. Only the EPO should be able to close the hearing upon a determination that the hearing would disclose trade secrets, national security information, or other highly confidential and sensitive information.

    5. The Procurement Code should be amended to require that all approvals for emergency contracts include a written justification regarding the emergency and must be posted online within forty-eight hours, or as soon as is feasible if the emergency makes posting within forty-eight hours impossible. Such contracts should only be awarded for a ninety-day term unless an extension (of no more than ninety days) is approved by the EPO, with both the request for extension and the approval and justification posted online within the same time period.

    -

    See also:
    * Ready for Reform: Chapter One/Executive Summary.
    * Ready for Reform: Chapter Two/Campaign Finance.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:29 AM | Permalink

    Midwest Authors Awards!

    By The Beachwood Society of Midland Authors Affairs Desk

    The Society of Midland Authors has announced the winners of its annual awards for books by Midwest authors published in 2008. We've got 'em here, plus a critic's award goes to a Beachwood favorite.

    *

    Category: Adult Fiction
    Winner: Aleksander Hemon, The Lazarus Project
    Publisher: Riverhead
    Author Lives In: Chicago

    Finalists: Tony Romano, If You Eat, You Never Die; Jeffery Renard Allen, Holding Pattern.

    *

    Category: Adult Non-Fiction
    Winner: Neil Shubin, Your Inner Fish: A Journey Into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body
    Publisher: Pantheon Books
    Author Lives In: Chicago

    Finalists: Eric Dregni, In Cod We Trust: Living the Norwegian Dream; Daniel L. Everett, Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle.

    *

    Category: Biography
    Winner: John E. Hallwas, Dime Novel Desperadoes: The Notorious Maxwell Brothers
    Publisher: University of Illinois Press
    Author Lives In: Macomb, Illinois

    Finalists: Thrity Umrigar, First Darling of the Morning; Curtiss Anderson, Blueberry Summer: Growing Up at the Lake.

    *

    Category: Children's Fiction
    Winner: Louise Erdrich, The Porcupine Year
    Publisher: HarperCollins
    Author Lives In: Minnesota

    Finalist: Gary D. Schmidt, Trouble.

    *

    Category: Children's Non-Fiction
    Winner: Candace Fleming, The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary
    Publisher: Random House.
    Author Lives In: Oak Park, Illinois

    *

    Category: Poetry
    Winner: Ronald Wallace, For a Limited Time Only
    Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press
    Author Lives In: Madison, Wisconsin

    *

    Category: James C. Friend Memorial Award for Criticism
    Winner: Teresa Budasi, Sun-Times

    *

    Budasi has long been a Beachwood favorite. Here are her previous Beachwood mentions:

    1. "The best part of License to Wed comes fairly late in the movie, after you haven't laughed nearly enough, after you've looked at your watch a half-dozen times, and long after you've decided you don't care about the characters, not one bit," writes Teresa Budasi in the Sun-Times.

    "It's when John Krasinski punches Robin Williams in the face."

    - July 3, 2007

    2. "How possibly does a girl forget her first high school boyfriend, not to mention her best friend in the world and her parents' divorce?

    "In Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, my back-to-school choice for young adult readers, Naomi Porter trips and falls down a flight of concrete stairs and cracks her head," writes books editor Teresa Budasi. "And that's how she forgets the entirety of her still-in-progress teenage years."

    - September 11, 2007

    3. "Books editor Teresa Budasi writes that she wasn't looking forward to reading If I Did It, but once she started she was hooked by the whole of O.J. Simpson's sick 'love' story."

    - September 27, 2007

    4. "Books editor Teresa Budasi also takes on Gill's Starbucks book, noting that the author still works for the coffee company with no plans to quit despite the movie deal. Maybe so, but he'll be taking a really, really, really, really, really, really long leave."

    - October 3, 2007

    5. "Books editor Teresa Budasi comes up with another interesting column, this time about Rosie O'Donnell's Celebrity Detox. While chiding Rosie for her questionable childhood 'memories,' Budasi also writes that 'Rosie says she never set out to steal the show when she agreed to a one-year stint [on The View]. But she did steal it, and thank goodness.' Amen, sister!"

    - October 16, 2007

    6. "While I was busy getting to know Dr. Seuss via the Cat in the Hat, the Lorax, Sam I Am and Bartholomew Cubbins - a provocative name for a preschool set if I ever heard one - a generation of stay-at-home moms was cuddling up to Harold Robbins, whose dirty, sexy page-turners revolutionized the once-puritanical world of publishing," Books editor Teresa Budasi writes in her weekly column.

    "It is mentioned in Andrew Wilson's Harold Robbins; The Man Who Invented Sex that one could expect dirty parts in a Robbins novel about every 17 pages. I suppose the same could be said for Wilson's meticulously researched biography . . . "

    - October 22, 2007

    7. "Books Editor Teresa Budasi takes on Valerie Plame's Fair Game: My Life As A Spy, My Betrayal By The White House (Verdict: Not as good as you'd think)."

    - November 5, 2007

    8. "Books editor Teresa Budasi took an online quiz and - much to her surprise - found that the presidential candidate whose views most aligned with hers was Dennis Kucinich. So she picked up his memoir, The Courage of Survive, which she described as 'not an outline of his career in politics or his platform - not directly anyway; it's Kucinich, in his own words, going back to his poor, working-class roots. He has a remarkable memory of people and places; his family moved 21 times before he moved out at 17, and he remembers every address and neighborhood.'

    "Also catching up: Two weeks ago, Budasi wrote about David Levy's Love + Sex With Robots: The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships. Don't laugh. '[H]e comes up with so many rational, scientific and sociologically sound arguments that the deeper you get into the book, the more difficult it becomes to dismiss his thesis,' Budasi writes.

    "For example, this little tidbit: 'There are obvious social benefits in robot sex - the likely reduction in teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and pedophilia.' At least two-thirds of that thought is completely reasonable - and encouraging."

    - December 11, 2007

    9. "Well, here's the thing. The Sun-Times doesn't really have a book section anymore, though it does still carry reviews.

    "'We've been fortunate over the past few years to have had an expanded number of pages to run many full-length book reviews, local author features and interviews when many newspapers cut back to abbreviated reviews or eliminated their book review sections altogether,' books editor Teresa Budasi wrote on December 23rd in "How The Grinch Stole The Books Section.'

    "No longer. Now book reviews appear in the Sunday Showcase section.

    "What's so funny about it is that it was only last May when former books editor and now editorial page editor Cheryl Reed bragged about her paper's commitment to its books section and attacked the Tribune for moving its section from Sunday to Saturday.

    "'Many, including myself, suspect the move by the Tribune is merely the first step before that corporation kills off its shrinking books section," Reed wrote. "Perhaps they are banking that with fewer Saturday readers there will be less uproar about its ultimate elimination.

    "'The irony of course is that the Tribune is a broadsheet with the Ivy-League mentality that shrunk its books section down to a tabloid, and the Sun-Times is a tabloid with a scrappy reputation that blew its books section up into a broadsheet. In the past year, the Sun-Times has made an even further commitment to local authors, with one- and two-page profiles of local authors Jane Hamilton, Sara Paretsky and Sara Gruen, among others. Each week we offer free local listings of author readings and feature an interview with a local author. We've continued to offer our own takes on the big books like The Road by Cormac McCarthy and Rant by Chuck Palahniuk, and we've alerted you to the best-selling authors coming our way, like Salman Rushdie and A. M. Homes. We've done all this even though we rarely ever receive advertising.

    "'Concerned about the security of the book pages here, I asked Sun- Times Publisher John Cruickshank, a bibliophile and frequent reviewer in these pages, whether there were plans to cut books coverage here. His response: 'The Opinion and Books sections of the paper have never attracted much advertising, but they are at the core of any paper's identity and the engagement a paper has with its community. We are committed to these sections because they are integral to the basic character of the Chicago Sun-Times.'

    "Cruickshank is gone, of course (as is the Controversy section, which was the best thing the paper had to offer outside of its investigations of City Hall). But that's no excuse for the ongoing push-pull at the paper that has done anything but allow it to gain steady footing long enough for its selling points to sink in."

    - January 9, 2008

    10. "'If you read Andrew Morton's unauthorized biography of Tom Cruise with a fan's curiosity in one hand and a thinking person's skepticism in the other you'll likely end up in the same place you were before you read it: not all that interested,' Teresa Budasi writes in her Sun-Times books column.

    "'Because as fascinating as the book can be - mostly when Morton gets into the inner workings of Scientology and its effect on Cruise - there's always a nagging question as to what's true and what isn't.'

    "Sort of like Scientology itself.

    "Budasi may be lukewarm on a book that certainly has an almost irresistible voyeuristic appeal, but that doesn't mean the book didn't make at least a little bit of an impression on her.

    "For example, she observes that 'We all know people who are never single - never without a boyfriend or girlfriend on their arm. Cruise is one of those people, and when you lay out his relationship history, as Morton does here, there doesn't seem to be any gaps.

    "'What's more interesting is that for a guy whom Scientology is a reported deal-breaker - if you're not on board, don't expect long-term - Cruise has only seriously pursued Catholic women since his 1990 divorce from Mimi Rogers, the woman who introduced Cruise to Scientology in the first place'."

    - January 21, 2008

    11. "Teresa Budasi. The new books editor whose section has been shrunk but whose column has been a breath of smart and witty fresh air."

    - January 30, 2008

    12. "Have any political figures in American history been as thoroughly - and often ridiculously - examined as the Clintons? From Bill's sex life to Hillary's laugh, the obsession is beyond absurd.

    "Now comes Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary: Reflections by Women Writers, which is not a wholly uninteresting premise, but also shows just how far behind we are as a nation compared to the rest of the globe's matter-of-fact history of women leaders.

    "Thankfully, the Sun-Times's Teresa Budasi, as she states in her Sunday column, has read Thirty Ways so we don't have to. (Wouldn't 10 or 15 ways have been enough?)

    "Budasi found a sizable number of the book's essays to be silly and predictable - and far too many coming from editor Susan Morrison's New Yorker pals. But the book is not totally without value.

    "'Thankfully, for every five essays about Hillary's fashion sense, icy coldness, stand-by-your-man-ness and even weird stuff like what her food preferences say about her or whether she's a dog or cat person (Susan Orlean, you phoned in this assignment), there is one that stands out.'

    "In the end, Budasi finds essays by six authors worthy of your time.

    "'And while you're reading,' she writes, 'remember that no book like this would ever be written about a male candidate'."

    - February 5, 2008

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:08 AM | Permalink

    May 4, 2009

    The [Monday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    "Mayor Richard Daley portrays himself as the most transparent big-city mayor in the country, yet he presides over an administration that routinely denies requests for records that show how Daley really runs Chicago," the Tribune reports.

    "With a nod from the mayor, Chicago's police chief defied federal judges who demanded a list of officers repeatedly accused of misconduct.

    "Daley's schools superintendent, now the nation's top education official, refused parents' requests for the documents behind a controversial decision to relocate their children's gifted program.

    "And the mayor scoffed at reporters and aldermen who demanded records detailing how he wanted to spend hundreds of millions of dollars he was seeking as part of the national economic stimulus plan. He was alone among big-city mayors in not revealing his wish list."

    Hey, here's an idea: Stimulus funds for the prosecution of officials who do not abide by public records laws!

    Or how 'bout this: Access earmarks!

    Duncan's Donut
    "Five months after Krell formally sought the documents," the Tribune reports in one case, "he received a letter from Daley's then-schools boss, Arne Duncan, telling him staff recommendations and reports justifying the gifted program's move were secret."

    That's the same Arne Duncan who just gave a speech to the Education Writers Association titled "Partners in Truth-Telling."

    Air Daley
    "Daley has also refused to release records detailing his official travel expenses," the Tribune reports.

    *

    The Sun-Times went at it a different way today, reporting that the city's Sister Cities program spent 40 percent of its travel budget on the Daleys over the last three years.

    Secret Government
    "Asked for copies of his official appointment calender - released by many other public officials - Daley press secretary Jacquelyn Heard said the chances 'are very slim'," the Trib reports.

    "'Some of the people who he meets with don't want it known that he has met with them,' Heard said."

    A) Hey, stop trying to protect Jerry Springer!
    B) Hey, stop trying to protect Billy Corgan!
    C) Hey, stop trying to protect the president!

    Olympic Lesson I
    "The president of the Chicago Public Schools board, who is also a member of the Chicago 2016 Olympic committee, has asked all of the city's school principals to get on board with the push to bring the Summer Games to Chicago," the Tribune reported over the weekend.

    Not only that, but each school will be graded on their participation and awarded a gold, silver or bronze star. No kidding.

    *

    Dissenting principals will be paddled at noon every Friday in Daley Plaza.

    Olympic Lesson II
    "International Olympics officials finished up their tour of Rio de Janeiro as a potential host of the 2016 Summer Games on Saturday and offered the same sort of high praise they previously heaped on competitors Chicago and Tokyo," the Tribune reports.

    "The 13-member International Olympic Committee evaluation commission wrapped up its tightly choreographed tour at a news conference where its chairwoman said the group was 'highly impressed' with Rio, its presentations and its government support."

    I hate to say "I Told You So" because it's so damn depressing watching this play out, but here's what I wrote after the city's media hyperventilated a month ago when a member of the IOC characterized Chicago's Olympic bid as "strong:"

    "I'm willing to make a guarantee I have far more confidence in than the city's pledge that they won't have to tap their taxpayer reserve to cover the financial losses of hosting the Games: IOC members will issue just as cheery assessments in Tokyo, Rio and Madrid."

    Sigh.

    Alexi's New Car
    Paid for it out of state college savings fund.

    Plan Not Transforming
    Rockwell Gardens is the latest failure.

    Durbin's Discovery
    Banks are bad.

    Hawk Tawk
    Our very own Jim Coffman's got it, in SportsMonday.

    *

    Plus, Jim praises Carlos Zambrano's competitive fire, which frankly I find instead to be mega self-absorption which gets in the way of him finally having a great season without injury or suspension.

    *

    And our very own Marty Gangler finds the Cubs have something in common with Hot Pockets, and I couldn't agree more.

    *

    The White Sox Report will return next week.

    The Root of Political Evil
    Speaking of reform, today we have Chapter 2 of our multi-part series culled from the pages of the Illinois Reform Commission's final report.

    Rocky Mountain High?
    I love that song, but how can it be ranked so high among the most played songs on my iTunes? Maybe it has something to do with the shuffle feature.

    Chicago Pen Show 2009

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Inkstained.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:52 AM | Permalink

    SportsMonday: Hawk Tawk

    By Jim Coffman

    The Blackhawks could easily cut themselves some slack at this point in what has already been a wonderfully exciting post-season. Of course they wouldn't do it consciously. Consciously they'll just keep pushing forward, maintaining the routines that have put them in this position, three wins from the Western Conference finals of the Stanley Cup playoffs or making adjustments when necessary. But this team has already enjoyed so much relative (to recent seasons) success. And it is much more than just comfortably qualifying for the playoffs and winning a series. These Blackhawks have done nothing less than completely shake free of the yoke of losing that dragged on their organization for a decade.

    Beachwood Baseball:
  • The Cub Factor
  • The White Sox Report will return next week.
  • Somewhere in the Blackhawks' subconscious, a little voice is singing these praises. That voice can't help but be smugly satisfied with this season already. Back home and as comfortable as they can be with an extra day between Games 2 and 3 in their conference semifinal (they are back in action Tuesday evening), the Hawks will have to guard vigilantly against a letdown.

    *

    Injuries are everything at this point. The Blackhawks played some amazing hockey during their comeback against Vancouver on Saturday, but it probably doesn't happen if top Canuck defenseman Sami Salo doesn't bow out of the game with an injury early on (after he had scored one of Vancouver's two early goals). Despite the Hawks having done as much as anyone would have reasonably hoped already this season, there is still a great deal more there for them if they can take it. A hockey team is always an injury or two away from losing its edge. When a squad is at least reasonably healthy at this point in a playoff run, it has an opportunity that may not come around again for a long while.

    *

    Dale Tallon has made some nice moves (trading for forward Patrick Sharp is high on the list) for the Hawks. But the main reason the team has had the success it has had of late is the cumulative effects of a long series of high draft picks. Just like the Tampa Bay Rays last baseball season, the Blackhawks were bad enough long enough that they couldn't help but stockpile some serious talent. And that talent, led by Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, is making the difference so far this post-season.

    *

    It isn't the number of saves so much as the timing. Of course the Hawks need Nikolai Khabibulin to pile up the stops in between the pipes. But even more importantly, if he can give them a few outlandish saves at the right times, such as, say, early in the Hawks' comeback on Saturday, he can really make the difference.

    On the other side of the ice, Roberto Luongo was expected to be a difference-maker for the Canucks. So far it hasn't happened. Luongo shut the Hawks out in the teams' regular season finale and again in the first two periods of Game 1 but then Kane knocked in a pair of goals to kick off an awesome comeback in the third period to remind his teammates that while the Canucks' netminder is one of the best, he is also as beatable as anyone else if the his foes can generate consistent pressure.

    Big Z
    Carlos Zambrano is obviously physically gifted. He has perfect size for a pitcher, a golden right arm and enviable overall athleticism. But what makes him special is his competitive fire (he reminds me of a certain basketball player who won a few championships in Chicago last decade). Sometimes the fire rages a bit out of control but it is still an extraordinary thing.

    So to suggest that he should ease up (as many were doing during post-game chatter on WGN yesterday), that he shouldn't go so hard to beat out an infield hit, like he was yesterday when he pulled his hamstring, is to fail to appreciate that which makes him special.In everything he does on the diamond, Zambrano goes hard. He swings hard, runs hard and pitches hard. That's who he is and it's why he's so good. It is also why he is so fun to watch. He can't ease up and he absolutely shouldn't, ever. If it means he suffers an injury that he wouldn't have suffered if he'd been taking it easy, so be it.

    -

    Jim Coffman brings you the city's best sports roundup every Monday. And he does it because he loves you. He welcomes your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:17 AM | Permalink

    The Cub Factor

    By Marty Gangler

    Well geez, it's about time. That's what many a Cub fan would have to say after the Cubs opened the week losing two of three to the D-Backs and then taking the last three of four from the Marlins. So they finished the week 4-3, but it feels better than that because they won the last three in a row. But it was still just 4-3. I did some math, and I think it's right, and if a baseball team won four of every seven games for the whole year they would get 92 or so wins for the year - which actually might be enough to win the NL Central. But still, it doesn't feel that good this week. With all of this in mind, including the math, we here at the Cub Factor would like to list a few things that feel like this week for the Cubs.

    * You think your girlfriend is cheating on you so you confront her about it and it turns out that she isn't but she's now considering it because you accused her of it. So, you're glad she isn't cheating, but there's a bad taste in your mouth.

    * You really hate your job but don't want to be fired and then find out that you aren't fired but you still might be if you don't show that you like your job. So it's good you still have a job but it's still the same job. So you have that bad taste in your mouth.

    * You come home from a hard day and you are very hungry. You thought you had a Tombstone in the freezer but you forgot that you ate that last week watching all those Bulls overtimes, but you find a stray Hot Pocket that must have fallen out of the box some time ago so you throw it in the microwave. But then it turns out to be a broccoli and ham lean pocket which really isn't very tasty. So, you are glad you are not hungry anymore but you literally have a bad taste in your mouth.

    And that's what it feels like to be a Cubs fan this week.

    -
    Week in Review: I did the math. 4-3 for the week. Which isn't bad but isn't that good either.

    Week in Preview: The Cubs have two 2-game series' this week. The first 2-game series is against the Giants at home, and then the second 2-game series is in Houston. Then they go up to Miller Park for three against the Brewers. That schedule is pretty stupid.

    The Second Basemen Report: Aaron Miles started all seven games this week at second base. Which is because Lil' Fontenot played third base pretty much all week - except for one time when backup catcher Koyie Hill played third. I wonder who's mitt he borrowed. But I honestly thought it might get wackier because this roster is still outta whack, you know, just like Jim hendry drew it up.

    In former second basemen news, Mark DeRosa has brought his average all the way up to .235 and has 19 RBI for the Tribe. Ronnie Cedeno is still batting .154 for the Mariners. So you could pretty much say it's one more than the other, but they both will be missed.

    The Zam Bomb: Pitching well and pinch hitting make Big Z happy. But pulling a hamstring makes him angry. As always the anger feeling wins over the happy. Big Z remains Furious.
    zam_furious.jpg

    -

    Endorsement No-Brainer: Ryan Theriot for Mini-Wheats. Commercial: He sees Lil' Mike Fontenot hitting home runs and says "I'll have what he's having." Would also work for Extenz.

    Lost in Translation: Nicey-nicey drinky time-o is Japanese for Miller Park.

    Milton Bradley Game of the Week: Connect Four. Let's see if Milton can connect four starts in a row any time soon.

    Sweet and Sour Lou: 56% sweet, 46% sour. Lou is up one tiny point on the Sweet-O-Meter this week due to a barely winning week and continued injuries. And just like your real crazy drunk uncle, Lou is glad you were able to ride your bike all the way around the block. But you fell down a dozen times and did a number on your bike. Uncle Lou likes to help, but he's tired of scrambling to put the damn thing together all the time.

    Don't Hassle the Hoff: You choose: Is he a designated hitter in the wrong league or a first baseman on a team that already has one? Whichever you choose just remember, don't hassle him.

    Beachwood Sabermetrics: A complex algorithm performed by the The Cub Factor staff using all historical data made available by Major League Baseball has determined that the schedule this year is stupid.

    Over/Under: The number of beers I will drink tailgating before the Cub/Brewer game in Milwaukee this Friday: +/- 6.5 (if I'm driving) +/- 12.5 (if I'm not).

    Fantasy Fix: Time to panic?

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

    Mount Lou: Remains Orange despite turbulence just beneath the surface. Forecasters predict a silly two-game road trip to Houston may become the anger catalyst that will move Mount Lou to a long-awaited eruption.

    mtlou_orange.gif

    -

    Contact The Cub Factor!


    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:15 AM | Permalink

    An iTunes Top 25

    By Steve Rhodes

    This really doesn't look right, but according to my iTunes, these are the most 25 played songs/stations in my library.

    1. WELY: The End of The Road Radio.

    2. WRONGRADIO.com.

    3. Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy/Elton John.

    4. Rocky Mountain High/John Denver.

    5. True Confessions/Blue Oyster Cult.

    6. Sinful Love/Blue Oyster Cult.

    7. Big Day/Epicycle.

    8. The Man Who Loved Life/The Jayhawks.

    9. Everything for You/Martin Zellar.

    10. World For The Knowing/Teddy Morgan.

    11. Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues/Teddy Morgan w/Calexico.

    12. Jesus, Etc./Wilco.

    13. indienow.com.

    14. Statue Of Jesus/Gear Daddies.

    15. Nixon's Spirit/Paul Oakenfold.

    16. I Don't Know How to Tell You/The Reigning Sound.

    17. The Meanest Man In The World/Riptones.

    18. Way Out West/Teddy Morgan & The Pistolas.

    19. M*A*S*H (Suicide Is Painless)/Tee Vee Toons.

    20. HPR1: The Classic Country Channel from Heartland Public Radio.

    21. Help Save the Youth of America/Billy Bragg.

    22. Shanty Town/Desmond Dekker.

    23. Slipping Around/The Detroit Cobras.

    24. Mr. E's Beautiful Blues (Untitled)/Eels.

    25. Philadelphia Freedom/Elton John.

    -

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

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:38 AM | Permalink

    Ready For Reform: Chapter 2

    By The Illinois Reform Commission

    Editor's Note: This is the second part of a multi-part series excerpting the final report from the Illinois Reform Commission. We don't necessarily endorse all parts of the report, but offer it up as a starting point to generate support for bringing real structural change to Illinois' sordid political culture.

    *

    CAMPAIGN FINANCE
    I. Introduction
    For decades, Illinois has been rocked by one public corruption scandal after the next - each seeming to take the state to a new low. "Pay-to-play" has become a term of art in Illinois politics as interested parties make large campaign contributions expecting a return on their "investments." These problems are not new, nor are they limited to Illinois. The difference is that the federal government and nearly every other state in the country have adopted a more comprehensive system of campaign finance regulation than Illinois. Instead, Illinois has chosen to rely solely on a disclosure-based system requiring candidates to identify campaign contributions on a semi-annual basis. In fact, excepting the newly adopted pay-to play bans, Illinois is one of four states without any campaign contribution limits and one of less than half the states without some form of public financing.

    As we have a significant track record to evaluate the disclosure-only system in Illinois, we conclude that it is not working. Extensive corruption has continued. Campaign contribution disclosures may have helped people identify the problems, but the filings have not stopped our last two governors from having to leave office in disgrace. Moreover, mere disclosures have done nothing to create elections that are more competitive or open to qualified challengers. The public perception remains that money buys power, and once in power, some elected officials can, and do, use their positions to reward contributors and perpetuate their hold on office.

    The time for bold action is now. Illinois must join the 46 states that have already enacted campaign contribution limits and the 25 that have some form of public financing. In conjunction with improvements in the existing disclosure laws, these changes will give the public more confidence in the fairness of elections, reduce opportunities for big money to improperly influence the conduct of public officials and re-enfranchise voters and small donors in our democracy.

    Accordingly, the Commission recommends amending the Election Code and other statutes in the following four areas: Disclosure Requirements, Contribution Limits, Public Financing and Enforcement. As a brief summary, Illinois should:

    1. Require year-round, real-time submission of campaign disclosure filings.

    2. Require disclosure of campaign contribution "bundlers."

    3. Require greater disclosure of those making independent expenditures on behalf of a campaign.

    4. Impose limits on contributions to political campaigns from all sources.

    5. Ban campaign contributions from lobbyists and trusts, and extend bans on contributions from state employees, entities seeking state contracts and entities engaged in regulated industries.

    6. Hold primary elections in June.

    7. Institute a pilot project for public financing of judicial elections and consider phasing-in public financing of legislative and constitutional races.

    8. Enhance powers of the Illinois State Board of Elections.

    9. Create more robust discovery and enforcement mechanisms.

    Although the Commission fully recognizes that no magic bullet will prevent all future scandals, the Commission believes that these changes will decrease the opportunities for corruption.

    *

    II. Information and Sources Considered
    Leading up to and following the Commission hearings on February 23 and March 5, 2009, the Commission conducted extensive research into the complex area of campaign finance. To understand the current situation in Illinois, the Commission heard from former candidates, sitting elected officials, representatives of the Illinois State Board of Elections (ISBE), and advocates for campaign finance reform in Illinois.

    In addition to considering several 50-state surveys, the Commission reached out to experts from across the country to better understand what other states have been doing.

    Finally, the Commission considered legislative proposals for campaign finance reform, including those currently pending in Illinois as well as more general proposals that national organizations have offered as potential models.

    In all these efforts, the Commission sought to understand not only the legal and academic issues surrounding legislation in this area, but also the practical implications of any regulation it might propose.

    A. Research Reviewed.
    From the start, the Commission understood that it would have to balance the significant constitutional restrictions designed to protect the substantial First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and association against the State's interest in promoting a healthy, functional democracy free from corruption.

    For example, the Supreme Court has repeatedly rejected efforts to limit individual expenditures, finding the legislation too great of a burden on the rights of free speech and association to pass the Court's strict scrutiny evaluation. On the other hand, recognizing the government's need to curb corruption and the appearance of impropriety, the Court has concluded that most contribution limits pass muster under an intermediate scrutiny analysis.

    Given the rich history of jurisprudence in the area, the Commission sought to understand the topic thoroughly before proposing any recommendations.

    1. Understanding the constitutional parameters.
    The Brennan Center's Writing Reform project on campaign finance regulation provided a useful starting point to understanding the history and jurisprudence associated with common types of campaign finance regulation as well as a valuable tool in identifying other resources to consider.

    The Commission also reviewed many other materials that guided its foray into Supreme Court jurisprudence on campaign finance regulation. In addition, the Commission examined less traditional resources, like websites and blogs, to collect as many varied views of the topic as possible, including from organizations like the Center for Competitive Politics, which generally oppose campaign finance regulations on First Amendment and other grounds.

    Fifty-state surveys from the National Conference of State Legislatures and others helped the Commission identify national trends and creative solutions to problems posed by campaign fundraising. Wanting to compare states with reasonable similarities to Illinois, the Commission reviewed Joyce Foundation and Brennan Center studies examining or comparing systems in: Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan. These studies reviewed legislative features, and provided statistical studies concerning amounts spent on elections and projections of the impact of various legislative schemes on contributions and their sources.

    Almost without fail, each study praised Illinois for its comparatively strong electronic disclosure system, but heavily criticized the state for its lack of other campaign finance regulations.

    As the Commission has identified in its chapters on Transparency and Enforcement, these comparisons highlight the need for Illinois to improve the content, timing and enforcement of campaign contribution disclosures.

    2. Identifying the present state of campaign finance regulation in
    Illinois.

    Illinois has long resisted most campaign finance regulation other than disclosure requirements. The Illinois Campaign Financing Act, 10 ILL. COMP. STAT. 5/9-1.1 et. seq. (West 2006) regulates the disclosure of campaign contributions and expenditures in Illinois. Any "individual, trust, partnership, committee, association, corporation, or any other organization or group of persons" which receives or spends more than $3,000 on behalf of or in opposition to a candidate or "question of public policy," must comply with all provisions of the Campaign Financing Act, including the filing of campaign disclosure reports.

    The Illinois Campaign Financing Act does not limit who may contribute to the campaigns of state officials or how much may be contributed.

    The Act, however, does limit the manner in which candidates may acquire and spend funds. For example, public officials, state employees and candidates for public office may not fundraise on state property, see 10 ILL. COMP. STAT. § 5/9-8.15, nor may they use campaign funds for most personal or "non-electoral" expenses. See 10 ILL. COMP. STAT. § 5/9-8.10. Currently, the Act does not require former elected officials to liquidate their campaign committees when they leave office. Theoretically, if the former official's committee remains active, the official can spend from it indefinitely.

    Without contribution limits in place, Illinois candidates for constitutional, legislative and judicial races raised and spent nearly $185 million in the 2005-2006 election cycle. Constitutional officers accounted for almost half the amount, while judicial candidates, who ostensibly should be objective, non-partisan arbiters of the law, raised and spent nearly $35 million on their campaigns. In the 2008 elections, judicial candidates raised and spent approximately $800,000 on races for five judicial circuits and subcircuits, with recent races downstate and for the Supreme Court garnering significant media attention because of the exorbitant costs involved.

    Illinois took its first step toward contribution limits last year when it amended the Procurement Code by enacting Public Act 095-0971. This law, which became effective January 1, 2009, prohibits any businesses with $50,000 in actual or pending state business from contributing to campaign committees for officeholders, or their candidates, who oversee awarding of the contract(s) to the business. It also imposes additional disclosure obligations on those businesses. These obligations run to affiliated entities as well as affiliated persons and their families. ISBE officials have been working to create the online filing system necessary to implement this law and expect to be done before the statutory deadline.

    But without additional resources allocated to the agency, it remains unclear how ISBE will be able to enforce this law.

    3. Comparing Illinois to other states.
    At least seven other states have "pay-to-play" legislation in place, which bans state contractors from contributing to certain candidates or elected officials. Connecticut, Hawaii and West Virginia include state legislators among those ineligible to receive contributions from state contractors. See generally, CONN. GEN. STAT. §9-612, HI REV. STAT. §11-205.5, and W. VA. CODE §3-8-12(d). All seven of these states limit individual campaign contributions to statewide and legislative candidates and either ban or limit corporate contributions.

    Illinois is now one of four states without any individual or corporate campaign contribution limits outside the "pay-to-play" context.

    Additionally, at least 25 states have adopted some form of public financing for political campaigns. Several states have provide partial public financing to candidates for certain elected positions, while a small minority of states has adopted totally "clean" elections, which are fully financed for those that participate. Others simply provide tax incentives to individuals who make political contributions. Several states are considering legislation this year to adopt or expand public-financing programs.

    B. Commission Witnesses.
    With two full Commission hearings on this topic on February 23 and March 5, 2009, the Commission heard many different perspectives about the legal, theoretical and practical implications of campaign finance regulation. To the extent possible, the Commission used its first hearing to understand the issues surrounding campaign finance regulation, while using its second hearing to focus on specific types of legislation. These witnesses were scholars in the area of campaign reform measures or were current or former elected or appointed officials, whose personal experiences informed the Commission about the benefits and burdens of the current system. The witnesses represented a wide range of viewpoints on the core issues of disclosure laws, contribution limits, public financing and enforcement.

    1. Identifying present state of campaign finance in Illinois.
    Cynthia Canary, Director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, and Kent Redfield, currently a Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Illinois, testified about Illinois' experience with campaign finance regulation, or the lack thereof. Each cited statistics demonstrating the growing nature of the problem. For example, in eight years in office, Governor Jim Edgar raised $11.8 million, with eight contributions exceeding $25,000. In four years in office, Governor George Ryan raised $20 million, with thirty-five contributions over $25,000. Most recently, in his six years in office, Governor Rod Blagojevich raised $58 million, including 435 contributions over $25,000.

    These and other statistics supported the witnesses' contentions that Illinois' disclosure-only system of campaign finance regulation had done nothing to decrease the hold that big money interests have over Illinois politics.

    2. Identifying national trends.
    Several witnesses, including Michael Malbin, Executive Director of the Campaign Finance Institute, and Jennifer Bowser, Senior Fellow in the Legislative Management Program of the National Conference on State Legislatures, testified about the campaign
    finance laws in other states, including Illinois' Midwestern neighbors. Although each credited Illinois with having a reasonably strong electronic disclosure system, each noted the relative lack of content on the disclosure forms and the comparative infrequency of the filings. Moreover, they also described Illinois' rejection of other regulations prevalent in the vast majority of states and in the federal system. Indeed, all of the experts identified Illinois as one of a handful of states without any contribution limits.

    In fact, this number has changed during the Commission's tenure as New Mexico recently adopted contribution limits - making Illinois now one of four states without campaign contribution limits. Several witnesses suggested that the absence of contribution limits and public financing created elections that were less fair and that strongly favored incumbents. They noted that big money interests wielded undue influence over the election process and over the decisions of elected officials.

    3. Understanding growing use of public finance systems.
    Other witnesses, like Nick Nyhart, President and CEO of Public Campaign, addressed the finer points of various public financing systems as a way of taking big money out of campaigns. These witnesses also provided anecdotal and statistical support demonstrating the effectiveness of public financing in encouraging challengers. They highlighted success stories across the country in which publicly-financed candidates were able to defeat incumbents and wealthier candidates who had opted not to participate in the public financing system. Additionally, they identified possible sources of revenue for public financing systems, even during periods of economic distress.

    4. Recognizing limitations and shortcomings of campaign finance regulation.
    Nearly every witness acknowledged that no particular reform would be a magic bullet to cure what ails Illinois.

    Some witnesses, including Bradley Smith, former Commissioner, Vice-Chairman and Chairman of the Federal Election Commission, opposed increased regulations. Mr. Smith
    cautioned that campaign finance regulation is often a reaction to a problem rather than a solution.

    For example, he asked the Commission to consider whether contribution limits would have prevented the former governor from attempting to sell the Senate seat in exchange for a position on a charitable board.

    BEACHWOOD EDITOR'S NOTE: Blago wouldn't have been seeking such a position if his voracious fundraising hadn't engulfed his administration in a federal criminal investigation.

    He argued that existing laws prohibiting extortion and bribery are usually sufficient to address such situations, without the adverse effects on free speech activities or the advantages for wealthy candidates that may accrue from campaign contribution limits.

    In addition to problems that Mr. Smith noted, several witnesses highlighted practical considerations associated with financing campaigns in Illinois.

    Representative Thomas Cross, for example, noted among other things that the timing of primaries in Illinois tended to favor incumbents who are better able to fund campaigns from winter through fall.

    Joan Krupa and John Rendleman discussed the role that big and out-of-district money played in their respective campaigns. Other witnesses advocated the need for tighter disclosure rules to prevent situations in which contributors time their contributions to skirt the rules for pre-election disclosure.

    5. Looking at ISBE ability to enforce campaign finance laws.
    Officials from the ISBE commented on practical problems of another kind when discussing their efforts to enforce existing legislation as well as potential reforms the Commission was considering. Although the ISBE officials believed that their personnel could handle proposed changes to the state's electronic filing system, including increased regularity of the filings and increased information in the filings, they expressed concern over their ability to review the data submitted and enforce the filing requirements.

    They noted that ISBE has no effective means of independently verifying the information. Staff must manually review all of the data submitted in the electronic filings with no computer program able to compare the information filed on A-1s reports identifying certain contributions over $500, with that revealed on the semi-annual filings. ISBE's subpoena power and ability to conduct independent audits is also restricted. Additionally, ISBE's present practice is to keep complaints confidential until deciding whether they are
    meritorious and to only reveal enforcement actions in Board minutes or documents available through Freedom of Information Act requests.

    In general, the information and testimony gave the Commission a clear roadmap on both the need for campaign finance reform, and the ways that campaign finance reforms can have unintended negative consequences.

    *

    III. Commission Findings
    The Commission's research identified four key points that define the debate over campaign finance reform: (A) disclosure, (B) contribution and expenditure limits, (C) public financing, and (D) enforcement.

    A. Disclosure: Since the 1970s, the Illinois Election Code has required some disclosure of campaign contributions. Although some credit the electronic filing system as one of the better online systems in the country, the content and timing of the disclosure filings in Illinois do not compare as favorably to other states. Most importantly, the current system enables public officials and candidates for public office to delay reporting contributions until after the pertinent election or legislative vote. Without timely access to relevant information about campaign contributions, voters are denied the opportunity to identify connections between the sources of a candidate's campaign contributions and his or her legislative votes.

    B. Contribution and expenditure limits: Illinois is one of four states without general campaign contribution limits. Without additional contribution limits, it will be easier for the state to fall victim to "pay to play" scandals in which government decision-makers award contracts and other privileges based on contributions to their campaign funds instead of on the merits of the bid. The state took the first step in this direction when it adopted Public Act 95-971 to address the pay-to-play problems but, in the Commission's view, significant loopholes - and ongoing administrative problems - remain.

    The federal government adopted campaign contribution limits nearly 40 years ago and 46 other states have followed suit adopting some form of individual or corporate contribution limits. Contribution and expenditure limits will reduce the influence of large contributors and help decrease the widespread public perception that large donors control Illinois politics.

    C. Public financing: At least half of the states in the nation have adopted some form of public financing of elections while many other states are considering instituting new public financing programs or expanding existing programs.

    Based on a review of the efficacy of those programs, the Commission finds that public funding has directly promoted participation and competition in elections by giving funding to serious candidates who may not have access to large contributions from private sources.

    As a result, states with public financing, like Maine, have seen more women and minority candidates seek public office. Importantly, these candidates, like Janet Napolitano, until recently the Governor of Arizona, have mounted successful campaigns against candidates who were more established, wealthier and not participating in the public financing program.

    Testimony and materials from Jennifer Bowser, Senior Fellow at the National Conference of State Legislatures, Nick Nyhart, and the Commission's own research into systems in Arizona, Connecticut, Maine and North Carolina showed that by relying on models that have worked in these and other states, Illinois could fund a public financing system successfully. Even in the face of economic downturns, other states have been able to fund their programs relying on some combination of: (1) surcharges on civil and criminal penalties paid within the state; (2) public check-off systems (less successful in recent years); (3) tax deductions for contributions to the public financing fund; (4) general revenue fund allocations; (5) "seed money" candidates raise to qualify for public funding; and (6) return of unused funds from public financing awards.

    D. Enforcement: The Commission finds that the ISBE must be a stronger enforcer of the campaign finance laws, particularly if those laws are strengthened. Not all of the tools ISBE needs will be costly. ISBE officials testified that they can modify the electronic filing system to incorporate proposed changes to the disclosure requirements with minimal costs - including incorporating additional information and more frequent filings.

    Moreover, utilizing basic enforcement tools like subpoena power likely will increase ISBE's ability to impose and collect penalties, with minimal costs. The Commission further finds that those changes that require the State to incur costs, such as requiring staff review of increased filings or administering a public financing system, will be dwarfed by additional revenues that will result from stepped-up enforcement.

    Even though no single solution will restore public confidence or foreclose truly criminal behavior, the Commission believes that comprehensive campaign finance reform is a necessary first step.

    Enhanced disclosure and contribution limits will decrease opportunities for corruption and encourage greater public access and input into the legislative system. Legislators will become accountable to a broader range of constituents rather than the narrow interests of large contributors.

    Moreover, a comprehensive system of limits on contributions and expenditures in conjunction with a credible system of publicly-financed elections will increase competition for elected positions and encourage public-spirited individuals to seek state office.

    None of this will happen overnight, but as the State faces an unprecedented integrity crisis, the Commission urges the governor, legislators and the public to demand and enact real change.

    *

    IV. Commission Recommendations
    Remedying the inherent problems in the present system of campaign finance regulation in Illinois requires significant reform. Small changes, patches and tinkering at the edges of this system will not adequately address the problems that brought the State of Illinois to the present crisis of confidence.

    Accordingly, on March 31, 2009, the Commission unveiled its legislative proposals for substantial change in four areas of the regulation of campaign financing - disclosure requirements, contribution limitations, public financing and enforcement. While adopting any of these reforms will be a positive improvement to the current system, the Commission recommends that the State adopt the complete package of reforms to provide a holistic remedy to the ailments that currently afflict our campaign finance system.

    A. Disclosure Recommendations.
    Timely disclosure of the campaign finance system is critical to the transparency of the election system, preventing corruption and empowering voters. The Commission concludes that the benefits of an enhanced disclosure system outweigh any marginal imposition on candidates, including those with minimal campaign experience or small staffs.

    1. Year-Round "Real Time" Reporting.
    The Commission heard testimony indicating that elected officials and candidates for public office often delay disclosure of contributions until the next reporting period. This deprives the public and legislative opponents of access to key information needed to link candidates to the special interests supporting them. The Commission, therefore, recommends amending the Election Code to require year-round electronic submission of A-1 forms to the Illinois State Board of Elections within five business days after receipt of any contribution of $1,000 or more for statewide elections and $500 or more for any other elections.

    2. Bundling Disclosures.
    Unlike the federal election code and election codes in other states, the Illinois Election Code does not require disclosure of contribution "bundling." Bundlers collect contributions from other people on behalf of the candidate. They can be a significant source of campaign funds. Under current law, the public is only aware of the individuals who make the underlying contributions, and then only if those individual contributions exceed the disclosure threshold. The public is unaware of the bundler's connection to the campaign even though the candidate likely recognizes the bundler's efforts.

    To close this loophole, the Commission recommends amending the Election Code to:

    A) require political committees to disclose the identity, occupation, employer and amounts received of any person or entity that at any time coordinated contributions equaling or exceeding a threshold amount ($16,000) during any reporting period;

    B. define contributions as "coordinated" if: (1) a person or entity physically or electronically forwards the contributions to the political committee; (2) the political committee credits the person or entity through records, designations, or other means of recognizing that the person or entity has raised the money; or (3) the political committee knows or has reason to know that the person or entity raised the funds; and

    C) require political committees to file disclosures within five business days after receiving the contribution that causes the coordinator's aggregate amount raised to exceed the threshold, and update it each time the contributor's efforts generate a new amount of contributions equal to or greater than the threshold.

    3. Independent Expenditure Disclosure.
    As ways to contribute directly to campaigns decrease, "independent expenditures" are likely to increase. In such cases, large contributors who can no longer donate unlimited amounts directly to a campaign may simply pay vendors on behalf of the candidate to purchase advertisements or sponsor campaign functions.

    Although the current law includes some disclosure obligations, the Commission believes that the public should be able to identify the connection between the person making the expenditure and the campaign.

    Accordingly, the Commission recommends amending the Election Code to require any person or entity making an independent expenditure in support of the candidacy of any person to disclose their identity, occupation and employer as well as the nature, beneficiary and recipient of any expenditures which individually or in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000.

    Additionally, the legislation should define "coordinated expenditure" to recognize that no express agreement would be necessary for the expenditure to be "coordinated" and, therefore, subject to disclosure requirements.

    B. Contribution Limits.
    Enhanced disclosure will not stop corruption, nor will it answer the public outcry for genuine reform of Illinois' system. A system without contribution limits will not achieve the goal of fair, competitive elections, and will not engender public confidence on the merits of honest governance rather than the influence of large monetary contributors.

    With two consecutive governors leaving office in disgrace, the state can no longer pretend that the answer lies in disclosure alone.

    The Commission's research yielded abundant evidence that large campaign contributions adversely influence decisions made by state officials.

    Even in the wake of the very public and tragic licenses for bribes scandals involving former Governor Ryan's administration, Cynthia Canary informed the Commission that Governor Blagojevich raised over a third of his campaign funds from large donors with more than 435 contributions exceeding $25,000 - raising at least the appearance of impropriety.

    Lynda DeLaforgue's comments and other research revealed that commercial interests have successfully blocked legislation, such as legislation to regulate the pay-day lending businesses, by making consistent and substantial contributions to office-holders.

    Several members of the public and witnesses, including Joan Krupa and John Rendleman, described the adverse effects of large contributions, especially from outside their districts - noting that many voters feel disenfranchised. Despite the validity of the concern about out-of-district contributions, the Commission recognizes constitutional difficulties with banning them.

    To reduce the influence of large donors, the Commission recommends laws imposing contribution limits, whether in- or out-of district, as follows:

    1. Establish Contribution Limits.

    2. Extend Pay-to-Play Ban.

    3. Ban certain contributions from lobbyists.

    4. Hold later election primaries.

    C. Public Financing.
    The Commission found persuasive the testimony of the witnesses who identified the many benefits of various forms of publicly financing political campaigns. These witnesses and the Commission's research repeatedly identified the adverse affects of ever-increasing campaign costs and contributions.

    In particular, the Commission noted the significant costs associated with recent elections to the Appellate and Supreme Courts, as well as the outlandish costs of certain seats in the General Assembly.

    As noted above, at least 25 states have adopted some form of public financing because it decreases the influence of big money in politics, increases the diversity of candidates available to voters and allows all campaign donors, small and large alike, to feel as though their contribution matters.

    No one should feel disenfranchised when they are donating $50 and participating in local elections.

    Mindful of legitimate criticism based on concerns about the financial costs of a public financing program in light of present economic realities, the Commission believes that a phased approach has the best chance of success in the current environment.

    The costs of maintaining the status quo, with its concurrent public corruption trials, special elections and inflated procurement costs outweigh the "new" costs of public financing.

    After significant discussion, the Commission recommends that the State begin with public financing of judicial elections because more than all other public officials, judges should be non-partisan and as independent as possible.

    After seeing how well public-financing works and working through administrative issues that ISBE will face, the Commission believes that the state should evaluate possibilities for expanding the program to elections of statewide legislative offices and Constitutional posts.

    1. Set up Pilot Project for Public Finance.
    The Commission recommends amending the Election Code to adopt a pilot program for public financing of judicial elections beginning with the 2010 election cycle.

    Moreover, the state should seriously consider expanding the program to include legislative candidates in 2012 and constitutional offices in 2014.

    The program should have the following attributes:

    A) Qualifying Contributions. Require candidates to establish credibility by raising a minimum number of qualifying contributions not to exceed $200 per contribution. (The number of contributions required to qualify will vary by office.)

    B) Initial Grant. Candidates who qualify should receive initial grants which should vary depending on the type of race (circuit, appellate or judicial court). These grants should be sufficiently large to keep the campaign viable.

    C) Spending caps. In return for the qualifying grant, each candidate must agree to abide by predetermined spending limitations. Violations of the spending limitation should result in disqualifications from the program and return of previously provided funds.

    D) Matching funds. The Commission believes that judicial candidates should not fundraise after accepting the initial grant. If the Ssate expands the program to legislative or constitutional offices, to keep the fiscal costs of the program down and still encourage communication between the candidate and constituents, the Commission recommends allowing the candidates to continue limited fundraising efforts after accepting their initial grants. Legislative and constitutional officers may continue to solicit private contributions in amounts not to exceed $500. The state should match these funds on a sliding scale (matching less as the candidate raises more) up to a capped amount.

    E) Rescue funds. The State should increase the amount of matching funds available to public financing candidates who face opponents who have opted not to participate in the public financing program and are outspending the publicly financed candidate. This amount should be capped.

    2. Funding.
    The Commission acknowledges the difficult economic and financial situation currently facing the state. Mindful of the budgetary crisis, the Commission still recommends adequately funding a public financing program and retaining any remaining funds to increase the amount available in years when more people are participating. Research suggests that funding can come from a $50 surcharge on lawyer registration fees and a $1.00 surcharge on court filings for the judicial races. If additional funds are needed, or if the state expands the program to legislative or constitutional candidates, other sources of funding may include:

    A) the Whistleblower fund;
    B) ten percent surcharge on civil and criminal penalties;
    C) voluntary donations on tax filings (check the box);
    D) require candidates who participate in public financing to remit any unused funds to the public financing fund; and
    E) a $50 surcharge on lobbyist registration fees

    D. Enforcement.
    Finally, discussions with ISBE representatives revealed that ISBE rarely uses common discovery and enforcement tools, although staffing issues may explain some of this under-utilization.

    The Commission's legislative proposals rely upon ISBE having the proper enforcement tools and resources to vigorously enforce the laws. The Commission therefore recommends amending the Election Code to:

    1. Increase transparency of Election Code violations, including:

    A) requiring the Board to hear complaints publicly;
    B) making available a searchable, on-line database of violations and penalties assessed or waived; and
    C) updating the database within five business days of any Board action.

    2. Increase enforcement of Election Code and other campaign finance violations, including:

    A) encouraging greater imposition of existing penalties for knowing or willful violations;
    B) adopting a more consistent use of available enforcement tools like subpoena power; and
    C) instituting regular and random audits of campaign committees to discover violations.

    *

    As noted above, the Commission firmly believes that the current state of affairs in Illinois requires a holistic approach to campaign finance regulation. We recommend that the governor and legislature consider all of these suggestions in concert with each other, even though adopting any of these recommendations would improve the system.

    -

    See also:
    * Ready for Reform: Chapter One/Executive Summary.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:51 AM | Permalink

    May 3, 2009

    We Love Q

    By Green Bay Bill, Tom Latourette and Joe Dillo

    A tribute to Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville.

    -

    We love Q, eh, eh, eh
    We love Q, eh, eh, eh
    We love Q, eh, eh, eh, eh

    You're the new coach of the Hawks
    Scottie's man beyond compare
    You walk the walk and talk the talk
    Replaced the legend Savoir Faire

    The fans will love you
    Keenan's Flames they ain't as tough
    Hawk fans will love you
    Drinking from Lord Stanley's Cup

    Billy's looking fom the clouds
    Can't believe what he sees
    United Center's sold out crowds
    All the home games on TV

    The fans will love you
    You know the Red Wings ain't that tough
    Hawk fans will love you
    Drinking from Lord Stanley's Cup

    We love Q, eh, eh, eh
    We love Q, eh, eh, eh
    With a coach like Q, the Hawks just can't be bad

    Khabi, Huet with the gloves
    Taser with the captain's C
    McDonough came from the Cubs
    He'll put a curse on us, Rocky!

    The fans will love you
    When you pulverize the Ducks
    Hawk fans will love you
    Drinking from Lord Stanley's Cup

    We love Q, eh, eh, eh
    We love Q, eh, eh, eh
    With a coach like Q, the Hawks just can't be bad

    Letting Savard go, now that was kind of sad
    With a coach like Q, the Hawks fans will be glad
    Eh, eh, eh
    Eh, eh, eh
    Eh, eh, eh, eh

    *

    Also from Beachwood Sports:
    * Eddie Elia
    * 100 Seasons in the Sun
    * The 1908 Song
    * Please Stop Believin'
    * 99 Years of Cub Losses
    * Blame It On Bartman
    * We Can't Wait 100 Years
    * Dusty Must Get Fired
    * Let's Call The Crosstown Off!
    * Louuuuu!
    * Ode to Ozzie
    * The 12 Days of Cubness
    * The Hester Man Can!
    * I'm Sammy
    * Calendar Bears

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:07 AM | Permalink

    May 2, 2009

    The Weekend Desk Report

    By Natasha Julius

    Sure, we'll watch the key stories for you. It's not like we're locked in our homes rigid with fear or anything.

    Change Watch
    While the markets continued their long, slow recovery, Change itself took a bit of a beating. Turns out, recovery is still based on convincing people to spend money that they don't actually have, just like the good old days.

    New World Order
    Now that the Hamdemic has been downgraded to a social disorder, scientists are on a mission to find the next contagious mammal. Early signs suggest the Bulls Fever currently gripping parts of the Midwest could soon go national.

    Derby Season
    It's the first weekend in May, which means that the Run for the Robes is right around the corner. Experts are already predicting a possible long-shot, so without further ado here is your official Beachwood Reporter Supreme Derby odds sheet:

    * Chicago schools CEO Ron Huberman. Let's face it; once he's steered his current ride through the Hamdemic, he'll be ready for new turf. A bit of a reach at 5/1.

    * Mark Buehrle. We all know he's fast, but concerns about his ability to reach a decision late in the race could hinder him. Even money.

    * Roland Burris. Ironically, backing him in this race may be the best way to convince him not to run in the future. Clear front runner at 2/9.

    Re-Rogued
    Finally this week, Triumvirate of Terror fans can take heart. It appears that at least one of the bitches is back. Big time.

    -

    KENTUCKY DERBY UPDATE: I Want Revenge was scratched this morning. Please consult the Beachwood's Kentucky Derby Betting Guide for, um, guidance.

    -

    KENTUCKY DERBY SUNDAY NOTE: Just to show you how long of a longshot Mine That Bird was, our man on the rail said the horse "should not be in this race" in his preview. See how else we did.

    -

    NEW FROM THE BEACHWOOD SPORTS VIDEO DESK: "We Love Q!"

    Posted by Natasha Julius at 8:50 AM | Permalink

    May 1, 2009

    The [Friday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    First some Derby notes - including a link to our Beachwood Betting Guide -and then the rest of the news.

    1. "Breeding practices, motivated by the enormous sums paid for elite bloodlines, have produced a modern thoroughbred that is structurally unsound," Peter J. Boyer writes in The New Yorker.

    "Every horse in the 2008 Derby field was related."

    2. "The death of the filly Eight Belles at last year's Kentucky Derby, along with the revelation that Big Brown had been treated with steroids before his dazzling victory, spurred pledges of reform and accountability for the welfare of the American thoroughbred. But as racing prepares for its biggest show on Saturday, many top owners and trainers still resist discussing what legal medications their horses are receiving," the New York Times reports.

    "Of the 20 owners or their trainers who as of Monday intended to run a horse in the Derby, only three shared their veterinary records with The New York Times."

    3. Jim Squires, the former editor of the Chicago Tribune and author of Tribune Company a corporate tell-all, makes his picks.

    4. "Pleasant odds across the board," writes our very own Thomas Chambers in his betting guide today. "I contend a bomber has a chance this year and remember, that bomber doesn't have to win for you to cash a sweet exacta or trifecta."

    Skydeck Ledge
    This looks cool.

    Played In Peoria
    Bradley University student scouted for al-Qaeda.

    Betting Baloney
    If the media refused to cover these "bets" do you think pols would stop making them?

    -

    UPDATE 12:07 P.M.: Via Facebook:

    John Kuczaj has the complete list of items that Mayor Daley bet with the Vancouver mayor for the Hawks-Canucks series: Jumbo franks, organic cheese, and Ret Hots candy, two dozen cupcakes, three cases of beer, and Chicago 2016 Olympic bid gear, an $80k job with Streets & San, Streetwise subscription, Alderman Fioretti, Bensenville, Midway airport.

    Of Mice, Men and the Swine Flu
    "I've actually made it a point of turning off the media," our very own Scott Buckner writes. "Completely. TV. Radio. Everything. Off. If Swine Flu was stalking me outside my window, I wouldn't know it. Nor would I care. Because guess what? I've lived through it before just fine, thanks!"

    Income Tact
    From controversial and unapologetic alderman and zoning czar William Banks' explanation of why he chose this time to retire:

    "I just finished the last tuition payment for my son Joe, the law student."

    Just sayin', if you see what I mean . . .

    Blago's Rape Kits
    "The number of DNA samples from rapes and other serious offenses that sit untested at the Illinois crime lab for more than 30 days remains alarmingly high four years after former Gov. Rod Blagojevich declared the problem had been eliminated," the Tribune reports.

    New Reality Show
    Soon to dawn on Blago.

    Merit Board Muscle Car
    Nice perk if you can get it.

    Ethics Fog
    "Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who was head of Chicago's public schools, promises not to participate in any matter 'in which Chicago Public Schools is a party or represents a party,' and Tammy Duckworth, assistant secretary of Veterans Affairs, is barred from making decisions about the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, of which she was formerly director," ProPublica reports.

    - via Alexander Russo's This Week in Education

    Hard Core
    "Chicago schoolteacher by day, hardcore-punk advocate for life, Brian Peterson is a 32-year-old resident of Norwood Park who turned a labor of love into a show for the ages," Greg Kot writes.

    Lighters On
    Kot and Jim DeRogatis discuss rock's best live albums on this weekend's edition of Sound Opinions.

    My vote: REO Speedwagon's You Get What You Play For.

    Krusty Brockman
    "If you pay a 'newsman' five million bucks, you'll end up with a clown every time."
    - Bob Somerby, Daily Howler

    Sorry, Charlie
    "This Letter of Apology is not only for the staff at the Best Buy #305 in Schaumburg, Illinois, but also to the gentleman in the middle stall in the men's restroom at about 5:17 CST on Saturday, January 31st. You had been in there for awhile, so this Letter of Apology is as much for you. Please let me expand . . . "

    Chrysler Sun-Times
    From our very own Mike Knezovich:

    Was at the Sox [double-header this week] and before Game 2 was eyeballing a Chevy Malibu, which is displayed there as a promotion. This is a nice car that gets 33 mpg highway and has received lots of great writeups. Basically, as good as Accord and Camry.

    A guy - fortiesh - and his father were looking at the same time. We got to chatting. The son has a Pontiac and brought up the brand's demise. He'll be able to get service at other GM dealers, stuff like that. They both liked what they saw in the Malibu. I mentioned that this car and the Ford Fusion had both been well-reviewed, but that somehow they still fly under the radar. And they both launched into how all the marketing dollars were spent on higher-margin vehicles (read: SUVs).

    I realize it doesn't take a rocket scientist to have read the analyses of why U.S. automakers are in trouble. And that it's not solely SUVs any more than its solely unions and pensions. But these guys clearly understood a major mistake that had been made. And reminded me that in my neighborhood, all the high-rises going up were a frequent topic of conversation around here long before the crash. Basically, we'd ask, who's going to live in all these places?

    Which is all to say that there's a real disconnect somewhere. My neighbors and the guys I talked to last night don't have MBAs for finance degrees (well, some neighbors do, but they weren't the only ones concerned about overbuilding). But somehow we all understood for a long while that something wasn't right. But the decision-makers were the last to get it. I don't want to be a moralist about it, but maybe at some level what got left behind were some fundamental, common-sense values, in favor of a tempting, sky's-the-limit rationale.

    I think it's just greed. Let's push out these SUVs in the third quarter and I'll get a big bonus! Business folks aren't thinking about the long-term economy or the public interest; since the 80s they've been told that it's not only okay but preferable that they think only of maximizing profits now no matter what the consequences later. And that's also one factor among many that has ruined our legacy news shops. All those obscene profits going into the pockets of obscene people all these years, and look where we are now.

    Detroit Muscle
    Let's end on a cheerier note and pick this up from this week's Bloodshot Briefing.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Packin' Melba Toast.


    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:03 AM | Permalink

    TrackNotes: The Beachwood Derby Betting Guide

    By Thomas Chambers

    The Kentucky Derby is the most exciting two minutes in sports. And the longest two minutes without timeouts. As the field of 20 departs the starting gate, the competition gets sorted out at every furlong in a combination of survival and elan, raw speed and deceptive quickness, calm and drama.

    And while every Derby presents the possibility of something special, this year's wide-open field almost guarantees an uncommon element: pleasant odds across the board.

    I've been all over this race, and while I feel confident with the horses I am simply tossing out of the mix, the rest present a puzzling mix of styles and ability.

    Yes, there are a few hotshots, like I Want Revenge, Dunkirk, and Pioneerof the Nile. But there are many others who have legitimate chances to win, including Desert Party, Friesan Fire, Musket Man, General Quarters and Chocolate Candy.

    I contend a bomber has a chance this year and remember, that bomber doesn't have to win for you to cash a sweet exacta or trifecta.

    One yardstick I use comes from a tip I picked up in a handicapping book; its inventor swears these numbers are more accurate than Beyer Speed Figures. It is calculated by adding up the Speed Ratings and Track Variants of a horse's last five races and dividing by five. The Speed Rating in the Daily Racing Form is the horse's performance against the track record for that distance. The benchmark is 100, meaning if the horse equals the track record, he gets 100. For every fifth of a second slower he is, a point is deducted.

    And here is DRF's explanation of Track Variant: "Track Variant takes into consideration all races run on a particular day under the same conditions of distance and track surface. The Speed Ratings of all winners in each type of race are added together and an average is computed. This average is deducted from the par of 100 and the difference is the Track Variant. (Example: if the average Speed Rating of winners sprinting on the main track is 86, the Track Variant is 14 (par of 100 minus 86). The lower the Track Variant, the faster the track, or the better the overall quality of competition that day."

    The calculation of averaging the the sum of the last five Ratings and Variants produces some interesting results. The tough one was for Regal Ransom and Desert Party, whose speed numbers are figured differently abroad. They are Racing Post figures. Here are the results:

    Post Horse Speed/
    Variant Rating
    2 Musket Man 105.2
    13 I Want Revenge 105
    17 Summer Bird 104.6
    15 Dunkirk 104.3
    12 General Quarters 103
    14 Atomic Rain 101
    11 Chocolate Candy 100.8
    20 Flying Private 100.8
    1 West Side Bernie 100.8
    4 Advice 99.8
    6 Friesan Fire 99.6
    7 Papa Clem 99.6
    18 Nowhere to Hide 99.2
    16 Pioneerof the Nile 97.6
    8 Mine That Bird 97.4
    9 Join in the Dance 96.8
    5 Hold Me Back 96.6
    3 Mr. Hot Stuff 95.8
    19 Desert Party 110 ave. RP
    10 Regal Ransom 104 ave. RP

    Sure, I Want Revenge is right up there, and so is Dunkirk. And Chocolate Candy is looking good to me. But look at Musket Man and Summer Bird! Even Advice is in the top half. Conversely, Friesan Fire, Papa Clem and Pioneerof the Nile do not really impress. Typically, there's West Side Bernie right in the middle.

    This scale is by no means an end all/be all for shaping your bets, just another way to look at the numbers. You should also look at how a horse's Speed Rating does when placed against the Track Variant in any individual race. Added together, did the horse do well with the way the track was playing that day? (There's a good chance for rain, so look for those who have run in the mud before.)

    Beachwood Betting
    Here's our TrackNotes rundown, in post position order, with my wagers following.

    1.
    Horse: West Side Bernie
    Trainer/Jockey: Kelly Breen/Stewart Elliott
    Best Beyer Speed Figure: 101 in Wood Memorial.
    Claim to Fame: Early Derby buzz horse based on Kentucky Cup Juvenile win in September.
    Notes: Inconsistent runner has beaten nobody. Runs better on dirt. Stewart Elliott, who I still badmouth for his Belmont ride on Smarty Jones, is aboard and the one post will be difficult to overcome. Good foundation and is running well now, but probably fast enough. With the stress of running so deeply inside - which will probably eventually require a swing out to get open, it might just be too much to do. Grade I seems a bit too lofty.
    Speed/Variant Rating: 100.8

    *

    2.
    Horse: Musket Man
    Trainer/Jockey: Derek Ryan/Eibar Coa
    Best Beyer Speed Figure: 98 in Illinois Derby.
    Claim to Fame: He's the Illinois Derby winner!
    Notes: 5 for 6 in career and the model of consistency in 2009, many dismiss this $15,000 horse, but nearly $573,000 in winnings later, you can't deny his pluck. He's punched the timeclock once a month all year, split two with General Quarters, and may have been responsible for messing with Giant Oak's head and knocking him out of the Derby. He ran his classic rate-off-the-lead race, and that's not easy to do at Hawthorne. He had to do a Tampa two-step to get in the clear to win the Tampa Bay Derby two back by a neck and that just might be the race that sets him up for this one. That said, it's possible he's already done the best work he will do for awhile. Word of a poor workout at Churchill makes you wonder if his last two preps ground him down. He doesn't have a triple-digit Beyer; in fact, with four 90s in his saddle bag, he might be just a mid-90s career runner. Not bad, but not Kentucky Derby material, and not against many of these. He might be able to get a piece.
    Speed/Variant Rating: 105.2

    *

    3.
    Horse: Mr. Hot Stuff
    Trainer/Jockey: Eoin Harty/John Velazquez
    Best Beyer Speed Figure: 93 in Santa Anita Derby
    Claim to Fame: You tell me
    Notes: Full brother to Colonel John, but he's no Colonel John. Only victory in an all-synthetic career was three races ago at maiden special weight. If Hollywood Park's Cushion Track translates best to dirt, his surface analysis gets worse. He'll pass fading horses but can't seem to catch the leaders and will need a total implosion of this race to win. Lots not to like and probably should not be in this race. Daily Racing Form's Mike Welsch reports some immaturity in this one at Camp Churchill.
    Speed/Variant Rating: 95.8

    *

    4.
    Horse: Advice
    Trainer/Jockey: Todd Pletcher/Rene Douglas
    Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 in Lexington.
    Claim to Fame: Tough loss in Arlington Washington Futurity
    Notes: Ran April 18 in last-chance attempt to get into Derby. Arlington standout gets the mount, which might be the tipoff, and not for the better. Did do a 17-point Beyer improvement in his last, but his best work has been on the plastic. They say he's looking spry, but this, one of the toughest races in the world, will be his third in 35 days. Worked well Monday. Just adding to the traffic.
    Speed/Variant Rating: 99.8

    *

    5.
    Horse: Hold Me Back
    Trainer/Jockey: Bill Mott/Kent Desormeaux
    Best Beyer Speed Figure: 97, two back in Lanes End.
    Claim to Fame: Gee, I dunno. He's got last year's Derby-winning jockey?
    Notes: Another case where his best form is on synthetic. He's not particularly fast but can run a long way. He'll need race to fall apart in front of him to win. Scary in the exotics where he might have a chance to close into the money, and he could be a factor on a wet track. Most of his running lines say "wide," but he'll be inside with this post, at least at first. Desormeaux doesn't like the rail and a panicky wide move in the backstretch here could lose him the race, if you thought he was even going to win it. Works only so-so. I can spend my money more wisely elsewhere.
    Speed/Variant Rating: 96.6

    *

    6. Friesan Fire
    Trainer/Jockey: J. Larry Jones/Gabriel Saez
    Best Beyer Speed Figure: 104, slop wrestling in the Louisiana Derby in last.
    Claim to Fame: Acclaimed nice guy Jones also had Old Fashioned in Derby contention until a fracture retired him. So this is his lone, last shot as he says he's retiring at the end of the year. Eight Belles tragedy hit him hard. This is a classic case of good cop-bad cop. I said "this horse is for real," after 7+ win in La. Derby over Papa Clem. That was a step up into legitimate top-shelf Derby consideration in a 94 (15-point improvement over previous race!)-97-104 Beyer ladder climb, all under Saez. Now the question marks. Friesan's got excellent distance pedigree, but he's never run more than 8.5 furlongs and going 10 off of training is tough, I don't care what anybody says. This is where lots of people will put their faith in Jones. The La. Derby was in the slop, which can be inconclusive, unless Churchill comes up sloppy Saturday. All of his success has come at Fair Grounds, which makes you wonder if he's just an FG horse for the course. He beat a few wannabes who have long since fallen by the Derby wayside, except for Papa Clem. He hasn't raced in seven weeks, the longest break for a Derby win since well, the Great Depression. But Jones has been training him on supposedly easier-on-the-horse Polytrack at Keeneland, including a mile on April 19. He got in a very quick 57.86 drill at five furlongs Monday at Churchill. He's a driving tough guy. Hope that because he's been off the radar for 7 weeks, he flies out of the gate with a good price on his head. If it's good karma you want, this could be Jones' year.
    Speed/Variant Rating: 99.6

    *

    7.
    Horse: Papa Clem
    Trainer/Jockey: Gary Stute/Rafael Bejarano
    Best Beyer Speed Figure: 101 in last race.
    Claim to Fame: Broke through on the prep trail with Arkansas Derby win.
    Notes:This one's been through the wringer and I wonder if he can do it here. He's had four tough, improving races and he might be ready for a bounce. He had to catch and then hold off Old Fashioned at Oaklawn. One of only 7 in the 3-digit Beyers club in this race means you have to look at him. But reports of a tired horse in a lackluster workout were contradicted by Stute, who said the exercise rider misjudged the finish line and pulled him up too early. He blew it out Thursday, running three furlongs in a sharp 34 seconds. His race M.O. has been to be right on the lead, but there are others in here who will be faster to the front. That's not a good setup for Clem. He does seem capable of closing from the front of the second pack, but he'll have to dig awfully deep to do it. Bejarano needs a good ride, which is not automatic.
    Speed/Variant Rating: 9.6

    *

    8.
    Horse: Mine That Bird
    Trainer/Jockey: Benny I. Woolley Jr./Calvin Borel
    Best Beyer Speed Figure: 81
    Claim to Fame: Had Chantal Sutherland on his back for several races in Canada.
    Notes: No Beyers even close to 90. Should not be in this race.
    Speed/Variant Rating: 97.4

    *

    9.
    Horse: Join in the Dance
    Trainer/Jockey: Todd Pletcher/Chris DeCarlo
    Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90
    Claim to Fame: NBA player Rashard Lewis a co-owner.
    Notes: Pegged to be a pace leader Saturday, Join in the Dance has only run sprints except for the Blue Grass and Tampa Bay Derby where he was nipped at the wire. If he sets a hot pace as figured, some of the others will have to go with him lest he get away and wire the field, god forbid. Word is Pletcher is using him as a rabbit for Dunkirk. My guess is that he'll do his thing and then start going backwards on the turn.
    Speed/Variant Rating: 96.8

    *

    10.
    Horse: Regal Ransom
    Trainer/Jockey: Saeed bin Suroor/Alan Garcia
    Best Beyer Speed Figure: Racing Post 112 (approx. 98 on Beyer scale)
    Claim to Fame: Godolphin attempts to ship in from Dubai and win Kentucky Derby.
    Notes: Won $2 mil. UAE Derby over stablemate Desert Party, who's also attending the Derby bash. He needs a slow pace to close in to, but so do some others and it may not happen anyway. Garcia is as good a young jockey as we have today and I'll slap down a couple of kopecs here just because of him. Desert Party is getting all kinds of kudos for the UAE Derby, where Regal Ransom beat him. No respect. The long journey from Dubai must also be considered. Until they win with the train in Dubai/ship to Louisville approach, it's still an experiment. If the stampede of 20 forces a slower pace for safety reasons, $2 on this one at 30-1 or better might not be a bad idea.
    Speed/Variant Rating: 104 ave. RP

    *

    11.
    Horse: Chocolate Candy
    Trainer/Jockey: Jerry Hollendorfer/Mike Smith
    Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 in Santa Anita Derby.
    Claim to Fame: Caloric-named horse owned by Sid and Jenny Craig trust.
    Notes: Son of Candy Ride and grandson of Seattle Slew on his all important dam's side, this horse should be able to run a long way. Northern California invader has plenty of foundation with 9 races on the odometer, yet he has run just once since Valentine's Day. Yet another twist on days off before the Derby. He's won on three different synthetics, but he also seems to be taking to the Churchill dirt as he posted the second-best 5-furlong workout Monday. His Beyers have improved in every race. He might be right in the middle of the toteboard Saturday, and that figures to be a very good place indeed. Speaking of money, he's got Mike Smith aboard--a kiss for luck from Chantal and he's on his way. But Candy will still have to take a large leap forward into a disintegrating pace to win. I liked Candy Ride and I like this guy.
    Speed/Variant Rating: 100.8

    *

    12.
    Horse: General Quarters
    Trainer/Jockey: Thomas McCarthy/Julien Leparoux
    Best Beyer Speed Figure: 102 three races back
    Claim to Fame: Give credit to filling-in Mark Miller for the Sam Davis win with GQ, but 75-year-old Tom McCarthy will get all the ESPN and NBC violins as it's also the only horse the old guy trains.
    Notes: Lost some buzz with a fifth in the Tampa Bay Derby at the end of a four-race Tampa campaign. His 11 races give him the most in the field: it's either great foundation or he's gonna be tired. After the Tampa Derby disappointment, they tellingly brought him back a month later in the Blue Grass, which he won by 1.5. They could have rested him for 7 weeks, ala Friesan Fire. Reports are he's working inconsistently. I'm a big fan of Tampa foundation, but could GQ have gotten too much of a good thing? And if you're a fan of Beyer patterns, he usually fires in the third race from a Beyer dip and guess which one this is? Leparoux is also one of the hottest jockeys in the race. He can close and may just use all 10 furlongs to do it for the win. Should also be a price. Awfully tempting.
    Speed/Variant Rating: 103

    *

    13.
    Horse: I Want Revenge
    Trainer/Jockey: Jeff Mullins/Joe Talamo
    Best Beyer Speed Figure: 113 two back (highest in the field)
    Claim to Fame: Pulls a reverse Jed Clampett and leaves the sunny synthetics of California for the cold dirt of Aqueduct, Queens.
    Notes: Former maiden winner responded with big wins in the Gotham and Wood Memorial after abandoning the synthetics. Probable Derby favorite. Despite brave and patient ride in Wood, Talamo still only 19-years-old and this isn't the Yellow Ribbon. But Revenge reared at the start of the Wood, got bottled up, fought for room and won by a length and a half. So maybe the horse does all the work here. Consecutive 113 and 103 Beyers say he's a possibility for a bounce, but he's been working very well with flashes of big speed. Likes to be just off the lead, but will he get used up if Kid Talamo impatiently chases Join in the Dance or Regal Ransom up front? You could also argue he's beaten nobody, losing to Pioneerof the Nile (twice) and Papa Clem. This horse is beatable, but you won't know that from listening to the TV minds. Bad trip makes everything moot and that might be Mullins' and IEAH Stables' karma this year after the Big Brown Triple Crown fiasco last year. Trainer Mullins starts suspension on Sunday but don't worry, he's been there before and won't let it get to him. Talamo also will be competing against the other jockeys, if you know what I mean. If you don't, think Toby Maguire as Red Pollard: "HE FOULED ME!" Revenge will be atop the vast majority of Derby pick lists, but remember, Pioneerof the Nile owns him and I don't care if it was on the synthetic. Include him, but write a ticket that doesn't include him too.
    Speed/Variant Rating: 105

    *

    14.
    Horse: Atomic Rain
    Trainer/Jockey: Kelly Breen/Joe Bravo
    Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95
    Claim to Fame: None until he wins a stakes race.
    Notes: This one might have die-uh-mund odds, 75-1 or higher. For cryin' out loud, he's only a maiden winner and that was last June. While his Beyer pattern shows improvement, he doesn't have much if any back class. Made the field through other defections. Tends to lose ground in the final furlong and that ain't right.
    Speed/Variant Rating: 101

    *

    15.
    Horse: Dunkirk
    Trainer/Jockey: Todd Pletcher/Edgar Prado
    Best Beyer Speed Figure: 108
    Claim to Fame: Plenty of fame, now has to earn it.
    Notes: Get your freak on. They say he's like an old 440cid Chrysler with the gear selector on the dashpanel. You know: pushbutton. He's got all Unbridled on pop's side and A.P. Indy on mum's side. That move he made in the Florida Derby from eight lengths back to just get beat by Quality Road, well . . . After analyzing the speed bias that day at Gulfstream, they increased his Beyer for the race! Now, the downside. He did not race as a 2-year-old and the last Derby winner to do that was Apollo in 1882. Curlin tried it two years ago. He's only raced three times. The last KD winner to do that was Big Brown last year - and before that the filly Regret in 1915. Yeah, he closed nice in the Florida Derby, but when he looked Quality Road in the eye, QR said "take that junk outta here!‚" and found a gear of his own. Sure, he might very well be able to lay off, way off, but if he doesn't get a quick, use-'em-up pace up front, which may very well happen, will he have enough stamina for the extra rundown? Prado's ridden him before; that helps. With such a wide open race, he may even go off 5-1 or higher (toteboard may be telltale in that regard). You can't toss him completely, but construct another ticket without him on it. Pletch, we're not at Gulfstream Park anymore.
    Speed/Variant Rating: 104.3

    *

    16.
    Horse: Pioneerof the Nile
    Trainer/Jockey: Bob Baffert/Garrett Gomez
    Best Beyer Speed Figure: 96 in his last race
    Claim to Fame: Win machine (won last 4) has already beaten Chocolate Candy (twice), Mr. Hot Stuff, I Want Revenge (twice) and Papa Clem.
    Notes: Won Santa Anita Derby, albeit after The Pamplemousse scratched. Baffert, flirting with Dutrow-like braggadocio, says Pioneerof is ready for the grueling Triple Crown trail and only needs racing luck to win the Derby. First things first: Can he handle the Churchill dirt after racing only on turf and last six on synthetic? Many question his level of competition. Solid foundation with eight high-class races under his saddle. Top jock picks this one. Baffert has won three Derbies and railbirds at Churchill report Pioneerof is taking to the dirt quite nicely and looking ready for a monster race. This post position alleviates some measure of trouble. Distance? His first race was 8.5 furlongs. Visually not all that impressive in his last few, but maybe he's the type who does just what he has to. He might get some kind of a price with the hype I Want Revenge figures to get. 4-1? 5-1? If he wins this, he may stay back East for quite awhile.
    Speed/Variant Rating: 97.6

    *

    17.
    Horse: Summer Bird
    Trainer/Jockey: Tim Ice/Chris Rosier
    Best Beyer Speed Figure: 99
    Claim to Fame: I have him in a pool.
    Notes: He's off just about everyone's radar, but when I went lookin', it's "why the hell not?" Pappy Birdstone won the Belmont and the Travers, the "Summer Derby." Grandpa Grindstone won this race. Other grandpa Summer Squall had a fine Derby prep season before finishing second and then went on to win the Preakness in 1990. Northern Dancer and Secretariat smile down from heaven at the family reunions. The Arkansas Derby replay will show a bad start, a check early, last by daylight and a wide trip to consume all but Old Fashioned and Papa Clem. Another furlong and he would have. The connections are green with a story. With trainer-jockey team at a $4.10 ROI on a dollar at a 13% win rate! Up the Beyer ladder with a 21-point improvement right up to the triple-digit threshold. Go Summer Bird!
    Speed/Variant Rating: 104.6

    *

    18.
    Horse: Nowhere to Hide
    Trainer/Jockey: Nick Zito/Shaun Bridgmohan
    Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90
    Claim to Fame: Failed to make Sneed's column after being spied at Hawthorne in the Illinois Derby.
    Notes: Two-time Derby winner Zito did the limbo rock with this horse, running an $18k maiden special weight at Calder just to get him a damn win. How low can you go? Now he accessorizes with blinkers. Give him Liberace's whole closet and he still wouldn't win. No published work since April 18. Nick, Nick, Nick - whaddya doin'?
    Speed/Variant Rating: 99.2

    *

    19.
    Horse: Desert Party
    Trainer/Jockey: Saeed bin Suroor/Ramon Dominguez
    Best Beyer Speed Figure: Racing Post 97, 98 in lst two, including tough beat to Regal Ransom in UAE Derby.
    Claim to Fame: Shared first class bunks on plane from Dubai with Regal Ransom.
    Notes: Steve Haskin of BloodHorse.com reports Desert Party looked as good as can be in a Monday workout, itching for competition and getting it and blowing by West Side Bernie. He's apparently also mature enough to handle the bedlam of Derby Day, Haskin says. And if it's wet-fast, sticky or even muddy, he's been there, done that too. He's been highly touted since day one and if a price, too good to pass up. A definite candidate for the win, but will the long trip do him in?
    Speed/Variant Rating: 110 ave. RP

    *

    20.
    Horse: Flying Private
    Trainer/Jockey: D. Wayne Lukas/Robby Albarado
    Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 in Lanes End.
    Claim to Fame: Because of Lukas nostalgia and Fusaichi Pegasus lineage, may become something of a wiseguy.
    Notes: Or maybe not. Beyers are improving, but his best was on the polytrack at Turfway. Running regularly all year and yet to make a splash. Hasn't won since August. Is working well for this race. Will need a powerful dipsey-doodle that he probably doesn't possess. At post 20, he's certainly no Big Brown. I can't find the scenario.
    Speed/Variant Rating: 100.8

    *

    My Betting Card
    My best wagering successes on Derby Day go back to Funny Cide and Smarty Jones, and I didn't believe Barbaro could overcome such a light schedule. I believe it's easier to cover enough to get the winner, but more difficult to nail the underneaths on the exotics. Unlikely horses often get up and into the money. Here goes:

    $1 Exacta
    11,12,13,15,16,17 with 11,12,13,15,16,17,19 = $36

    $1 Trifecta
    12,16,17 with 12,13,15,16,17 with 6,11,12,13,15,16,17 = $60

    $5 Win-Place:
    6 (12-1 or better), 10 (20-1 or better), 11 (15-1 or better), 12 (10-1 or better), 16 (5-1 or better), 17, 19 (10-1 or better) = $70

    *

    Have fun, and remember, just because mint juleps are a Kentucky Derby tradition, it doesn't mean they taste good.

    -

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

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:13 AM | Permalink

    Of Mice, Men and The Swine Flu

    By Scott Buckner

    Not too long ago, I happened to re-read Of Mice And Men. Even saw it on film. George. Lenny. Squiggy. Going off to farm rabbits as long as some hot babe didn't get in the way. It was one of those classic works of literature that everyone in my high school was forced to endure at some point, like The Bell Jar or To Kill Mockingbird or Lord Jim or Behind the Green Door.

    I don't know why, but the preoccupation by this city's media with the Swine Flu - which has been made into a We Think It Could Be An Epidemic Even Though Nobody's Confirmed It in the same way the media heaps a quarter-inch of snow into a blizzard or anything said by Drew Peterson into a confession - made me think of ol' George and Lenny and Squiggy wanting to just go off into the desert or the country or wherever to just raise rabbits and be happy about it.

    Except nobody's letting them. Everyone needs to know why George is so abusive. Why Lenny is so slow and gave up the Wolfman gig. And why Lenny and Squiggy never nailed Laverne and Shirley before Carmine showed up. In high school English Lit, you only had to live through The Grapes of Wrath once in your life. Yet the Joads have had had to re-live the same bullshit from bitchy students like us year after year. Truth is, the Joads got considerably sicker of us long before we got sick of them.

    So goes it now, to the point where I've actually made it a point of turning off the media. Completely. TV. Radio. Everything. Off. If Swine Flu was stalking me outside my window, I wouldn't know it. Nor would I care. Because guess what? I've lived through it before just fine, thanks! But yet omifuckinggod - Swine Flu walks among us! Let's lock the whole city down, shall we? Screw the Olympics and whatever the hell Todd Stroger's doing because, hopefully, there will be A Postman in our future to save us from everything, including ourselves. The Swine Flu is nothing to be fucked with, we're told, because well, people just die from it. Which is fine as long as, y'know, they're not dying from it in our streets or in the schools or something. Y'know? Especially if in the middle of summer.

    Coincidentally, there was an Avian Flu pandemic predicted a year or three ago. Yet the city didn't sweep in and kill all those big, crazy-ass parrots nesting beneath the Chicago Skyway and in Wolf Lake and Hyde Park. So apparently, it wasn't that big of a pandemic for anyone in the city to concern themselves with. So shoot, if this city ain't had a swine in it since Bob Luce Wrestling and roller derby was over at The Amphitheatre next to the Stockyards, why should anyone make any big deal over it now, right?

    While the Swine Flu may seem like a new phenomenon in Chicago like Lake Michigan seiches, anarchist demonstrations, or potholes being filled before June, I remember the last time the Swine Flu epidemic came around. Yup, it did. This one's apparently a pandemic, which is even worse news for anyone planning to hide out from drug lords in Cabo within the next month or two. Back then, this country was as unprepared for Swine Flu as it was for herpes, Legionnaire's Disease, or AIDS. Swine Flu isn't any-less-heard-of to anyone my age than polio, the iron lung, or trick-or-treating for UNICEF for the starving children of Africa who, by the way, are still starving. Probably the same ones from 1966.

    Suffice to say, Swine Flu was quite a sensation back then, as it is now. Yup, I lived through the first Swine Flu epidemic. Except back then, our nuclear power plants were imploding, the canals in peoples' back yards were full of toxic waste, and you could see dead alewives washed up in droves on Chicago's beaches every summer. The park disrtrict had to scoop 'em up with backloaders, they did. And back then, we were falling all over ourselves to get vaccinated from the Swine Flu so we all wouldn't all, you know, fucking die because, well, the president made it sound like everyone in the whole country would die if didn't get vaccinated.

    And we'd have believed him, too, if it weren't for Richard M. Nixon. But that's another story for another day.

    Still, if I recall right, not many of us got vaccinated. Sure, some of us did just like those of us who line up for flu shots every fall at Walgreens and our workplaces, but most of us didn't. If I remember right, there was something about problems with a white bunny that put an end to it - and the epidemic - and everybody went back to making steel on the Southeast Side until all the steel ran out. The end. Matter of fact, I think more old people in this country died when President Carter told everyone in the country they needed to set their thermostats to 68 degrees than everyone who died from the Swine Flu combined. But still.

    But that was then and this is now. Is the Swine Flu something to be reckoned with? Absolutely. If I don't care enough about myself, I still have three wonderful kids of my own to worry about and care about if they came down with the sniffles. Would I blame anybody if they did? Hell, no. I'd blame nature. I wouldn't worry about where they got it. I'd just worry that they had it. And hopefully in the end, I'd pray they'd be OK because I listened closely enough to know Swine Flu is something you can recover from - not necessarily something you get from somewhere or something, like deer ticks and Lyme Disease, or mosquitos and malaria, or poison oak and really itchy skin.

    Still, not a single national or Chicago media outlet yesterday - and not even President Obama, during his news conference last night - did any basic research beyond a stinkin' handout from the Centers for Disease Control to help us turn the tide and recognize Swine Flu. And even the CDC sucked, because worse to worse, I'm willing to bet a few hundred pesos that wearing a mask like everyone in Mexico won't prevent Swine Flu. So I'll intercede and give a few pointers that even Granny Clampett might pass on:

    1. Never, ever sneeze in your hand. Do that and you'll just go spreading your ny-ass spreadable contagious germs - Swine Flu or anything else - on everygoddamnthing you touch all day long. You say you don't want someone else's mucus or Swine Flu on you? Well, guess what? We don't want your mucus or Swine Flu on us, neither. So sneeze in your sleeve or inside your shirt or jacket. Sure, your sleeve or the inside of your shirt might get all nasty with your nose-shot every now or then, but at least you won't be walking around all day leaving your germs on doorknobs or toilet-bowl knobs or handshakes or Lord-knows-what-else to bring home to us and our kin.

    2. Cold and flu germs love everything about your eyes, so don't go touchin' or rubbin' your eyes with your fingers and then go touchin' everywhere else after that with your Swine Flu germs. Lord knows what your fingers have been touchin', especially in the bathroom stall and good-God-knows what else. So if you gotta go rubbin' you rub your eyes for whatever, rub 'em with your sleeve.

    3. For chrissakes, don't pick your goddsamn nose - and Good Lord, if'n you do, don't touch anything else afterward unless you're using a Kleenex. Look, there's nothing wrong with mining nose-boogers on the ride in to work. It's fun. It's an adventure. We get it. We do it, too. Just wash your goddamn fingers with some sorta soap in the parking garage before you go walking in to work and infecting the rest of us.

    Because that's how this shit starts. Ask Typhoid Mary.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:23 AM | Permalink

    MUSIC - Christgau Loves Chicago Neonatologist.
    TV - Amazon & The Way Of The World.
    POLITICS - Yes On Vouchers For After-School Programs.
    SPORTS - The Ex-Cub Factor.

    BOOKS - Writers Under Surveillance.

    PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Original Warrior.


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