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« November 2009 | Main | January 2010 »

December 31, 2009

The College Football Report: Bowl Briefing

By Mike Luce

On behalf of everyone here at the College Football Report: welcome back. As most of the country busies itself with gift receipts, returning (if only briefly) to work, and extra therapy visits to offset seasonal depression (it can't be just us), fans of college football are in the midst of the true holiday season: bowl games.

At the moment, we find ourselves mopping up the last few Vaguely Interesting Bowls and among some prime offerings from the Legitimately Interesting Bowls (punctuated by Wednesday night's Miami-Wisconsin match-up). We are also fast approaching the BCS Games and the GMAC Bowl (otherwise known as the lone representative of Bowls You Didn't Know About Because They Come After The BCS Games - although we sense this could be a growing category in the future).

Somewhat surprisingly, Layoff Season has been extended into late December this year by the fiasco unfolding in Lubbock, Texas. Texas Tech fired head coach Mike Leach on Wednesday for - and we don't know quite how to put this - poorly managing an injury to the son of an ESPN commentator. We won't bore you with the details, but the Cliff Notes version reads that Leach mishandled an injury to mediocre sophomore wide receiver Adam James.

Most reports support Leach's position that he was protecting the player from further injury . . . albeit through such dubious means as allegedly forcing James to stand alone in a shed during practice.

In the pre-Mangino era of Big 12 football, such insensitivity might have gone somewhat unnoticed. (For reference, fellow Big 12 coach Mark Mangino lost his job over similar issues earlier this year. Mangino was forced to resign but ultimately reached a $3 million settlement with Kansas University.)

ESPN commentator Craig James seems to have successfully led a campaign for Leach's removal. From a distance, the whole affair resembles a Little League spat. Yet college football - in Texas of all places - is big business. The Red Raiders accepted an Alamo Bowl invitation after a season record of 8-4 in 2009. To remove the head coach just days before a bowl game, Texas Tech must have had a compelling reason. After all, although Mike Leach is an eccentric character he had led Tech to 10 consecutive winning seasons and five bowl victories.

As it turns out, the school had 800,000 reasons to dismiss Leach. If he remained the coach as of Thursday of this week, Texas Tech owed Mike Leach an $800,000 bonus (as stipulated in the five-year, $12.7 million contract extension signed in February - available here).

Further, the alleged abuses gave Tech officials grounds to claim Leach's dismissal was "for cause" - an important detail, in that an arbitrary firing would result in an additional $400,000 for each of the remaining years in the contract.

Viewed from a financial perspective, Tech stood to profit little by retaining Leach and could only lose by retaining him - both in the public relations department and on the books.

Finally, we can imagine some officials with the university may have seen an opportunity to get back at Leach after the bloody negotiations around his extension.

While the battle moves into the courtroom (and sources claim Leach will seek not only his bonus but also a portion of his contract), our sympathies lie with the players who have to take the field on Saturday against Michigan State. Asked if the presence of Adam James will be awkward for the team, defensive coordinator and interim coach Ruffin McNeill replied, "I hope not."

Thus, it should come as no surprise that we have bestowed the inaugural Turd in the Punchbowl Award to Texas Tech's very own Adam James. Congratulations, AJ - just like the pervy uncle who creeps around the family Christmas dinner, nobody will be asking to sit on your lap this holiday season.

As you try to clear that lovely mental image from your mind, let's get on with the business of reviewing the bowls to date followed by a preview of some upcoming action. As always, the following is for entertainment purposes only. Including gambling. If you lose your Christmas bonus wagering on one of these games, don't come crying to us.

The New Mexico Bowl: Fresno State 28 (-10) @ Wyoming 35

Comment: If you kept the Beachwood Bowl Series rule in mind ("Never depend on a school named after a state that doesn't exist") you cleaned up on this one.

*

The St. Petersburg Bowl: Central Florida 24 @ Rutgers 45 (-2.5)

Comment: Had we only known the Scarlet Knights were going to rip UCF a new one, everyone would have gotten much nicer Christmas presents.

*

The New Orleans Bowl: Southern Miss 32 (-3.5) @ Middle Tennessee State 42

Comment: MTSU (known around the CFR office as "Mountain Dew State" for no good reason) racked up 14 points in the second, third, and fourth quarters to come back and ultimately pull away from an early 14-0 deficit.

*

The Las Vegas Bowl: #18 Oregon State 20 (-3) @ #14 BYU 44

Comment: An early entrant from the Legitimately Interesting Bowls got out of hand in a hurry as the Cougars led 30-7 after the third quarter. We had the Beavers in this one. Let's just say the merriment was a bit muted around the ol' Yule log this year. Beavers, Yule logs . . . let's move on.

*

The Poinsettia Bowl: #23 Utah 37 @ California 27 (-3)

Comment: The point spread in this match-up never made much sense. The game took place in San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium, not exactly Cal's home turf. While fans of the Golden Bears come out in droves for home games in Berkley, San Diego is well outside the range of the Prius and thus all but the most diehard Cal followers. And Utah is a good team. Cal, well, they lost to xxxx. This game had the feel of a situation in which a Vegas bookmaker scratched his head and scribbled down "Cal by three."

*

The Hawaii Bowl: Nevada 10 (-11) @ Southern Methodist 45

Comment: SMU is back! After sustaining the "death penalty" from the NCAA in 1987, the Mustangs wallowed for years. Thursday's win over Nevada marks SMU's first bowl victory since 1984. Known in its heyday for producing such players as Doak Walker, Eric Dickerson and Craig James . . . hey, wait. You know what, screw SMU.

*

The Little Caesars Pizza Bowl: Marshall 21 @ Ohio 17 (-3)

Comment: Not for nothing, but Marshall's victory on Saturday brought underdogs to a 6-1 record against both the spread and straight-up.

*

The Meineke Car Care Bowl: #17 Pittsburgh 19 (-1) @ North Carolina 17

Comment: Make that 6-2.

*

The Emerald Bowl: Boston College 13 @ #24 USC 24 (-7.5)

Comment: Readers of the Beachwood Bowl Series '09 ("Trojans always perform well in San Francisco") knew what to expect in this one.

*

The Music City Bowl: Kentucky 13 @ Clemson 21 (-6)

Comment: Here's something I don't understand . . . the Music City Bowl will always remain the Music City Bowl. (Unless it moves out of Nashville to, say, Tupelo, in which case it could become the Tennessee Valley Authority Bowl. That would be electrifying.) But what about the Meineke Car Care Bowl? What if Meineke goes belly up? Will the game just be known as The Car Care Bowl? I'm confused. I'm also trying to avoid commenting on this game due to the boiling rage in my heart at the Wildcats' anemic offense.

*

The Independence Bowl: Texas A&M 20 @ Georgia 44 (-6.5)

Comment: Who were these people that thought the Dawgs couldn't cover at least a touchdown? Seriously. I shouldn't talk, however, as I completely forgot to take UGA in this one. Stay tuned. Bad decisions ahead.

*

The EagleBank Bowl: UCLA 30 (-4.5) @ Temple 21

Comment: I didn't know this game was being played. No idea. I saw the score briefly on the "crawl" at the bottom of ESPN and thought it was a basketball game.

*

The Champs Sports Bowl: #15 Miami 14 (-3.5) @ #25 Wisconsin 21

Comment: We (and by "we" I'm referring to me and Chase bank) took an absolute bath on this one, further compounded by the additional 20% juice to buy the hook down to -3. Awesome. When do we get our tax returns?

*

The Humanitarian Bowl: Bowling Green 42 @ Idaho 43 (-1)

Comment: Possibly the best ending to any bowl game this season . . . the teams combined to score 22 points in the final four minutes, including a two-point conversion by the Vandals for the win with 0:04 on the clock. Too bad no one was watching.

*

The Holiday Bowl: #20 Arizona 0 @ #22 Nebraska 33 (-2.5)

Comment: The lesson from this game is not that Nebraska was vastly underrated but . . . that you always win the bets you don't make. We loved the 'Huskers from the start but were still suffering from a Champs Sports-sized hangover.

-

And for a look ahead at some of the remaining games, here is a collaborative offering with the Beachwood Sports Seal. Yes, he's still here although headed downhill fast on a diet of egg nog, Pizza Hut Meatlovers with double-anchovies, and Stresstabs. If anyone knows a good sea mammal retreat, please let us know. We might be looking at admitting the Seal for "exhaustion" in the off-season.

New Years Eve - The Underdog Specials
~ The Armed Forces Bowl: Air Force (+4.5) @ Houston
~ The Sun Bowl: Stanford (+10) @ Oklahoma
~ The Texas Bowl: Navy (+6.5) @ Missouri
~ The Insight Bowl: Iowa State @ Minnesota (-2)
~ The Chick-fil-A Bowl: Tennessee (+5.5) @ #11 Virginia Tech

New Years Day - Don't Overthink It
~ The Outback Bowl: Northwestern @ Auburn (-8)
~ The Gator Bowl: Florida State (+3) @ #16 West Virginia
~ The Capital One Bowl: #12 LSU (+2.5) @ #13 Penn State
~ The Rose Bowl: #8 Ohio State @ #7 Oregon (-4.5)
~ The Sugar Bowl: #5 Florida (-13) @ #3 Cincinnati

There you have it. Have a Happy New Year and remember this in 2010: if you must parent, do so by hovercraft. Helicopters are so last year.

-

Mike "Dr. Dude" Luce brings you The College Football Report in this space twice a week, with the generous assistance of the Beachwood Sports Seal. They both welcome your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:31 PM | Permalink

The [New Year's] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

Some highlights from Beachwood 2009. Are we not the most interesting publication on the planet?

* Huberman's CPS. Slow zones and derailments come to Chicago schools.

* The Broom of Wicker Park. Why doesn't a park in a purported artists' neighborhood didn't feature more works by its artists? Perhaps because that work does not conform to Official History, like the statue of Charles Wicker and his broom.

* Weep Not For The Newspaper Industry. Now is not the time for your tears.

* 20 Tweets: Billy Dec. Kickn it w/Paris Hilton, Mancow & Oprah.

* Serenade of the Seas. Douchey young people and the Well of Cheese.

* Zellweger vs. Aniston. What Renee has that Jennifer doesn't.

* We Love Q. With a coach like Q, the Hawks just can't be bad.

* Senator Oprah. Welcome to National Girlfriend Day and After The Vote sessions.

* Ginsu Blago. I am asking you to look at the evidence I have presented here.

* Mystery Burris Theater. Most painful wiretap ever.

* Olympic Smackdown Theater. If you don't know which alderman at the table is the tool, then it's you.

* Our Award. City council investigators claim their prize.

* Mystery Health Care Speech Theater. Death panels and change.

* Other Public Public Options We'd Like To Have. The Public Interest Option, for example.

* The New Block 37. Featuring the Foreclosure Mart and Kurtisville.

* Rockford's Firebird. Do the Rockford.

* Dog vs. Kat. One used to be a bad-ass; the other wants to be a bad-ass.

* Doing David Letterman. From parodist to parodied.

* Douche or Tool: Billy Corgan. We do the math.

* Song of the Moment: Man in the Mirror. Sees himself, but not the songwriter.

* Help keep the party going.

-

The Beachwood Tip Line: First and 10.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:03 AM | Permalink

December 30, 2009

The [Wednesday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

"Six months after state health officials declared their investigation of cancer rates in south suburban Crestwood was almost complete, they have yet to release the results," the Tribune reports.

"The Illinois Department of Public Health, which earlier had failed to notify Crestwood residents their municipal water supply was contaminated with toxic chemicals, declined to answer questions about the cancer study."

Private citizens decline to comment. Public officials refuse.

"The agency also has rejected the Tribune's requests for cancer data filed under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act."

"In a letter rejecting one of those requests, Damon Arnold, the state health director, had said the study would be released to the public in July. Now agency officials say it won't be officially available until sometime next year, leaving residents guessing if their decades-long exposure to carcinogen-laced tap water contributed to health problems."

I wonder if Arnold would feel differently if any members of his family lived in Crestwood.

*

Arnold is a Blagojevich appointee who previously worked for the city. In 2007, the American Red Cross of Chicago presented him with a Military Hero Award.

*

"The study still is 'under peer review and revision,' Melaney Arnold, a department spokeswoman, wrote in an e-mail response to questions."

Sigh. More with the e-mail. Get her on the phone and ask her a) what that means; b) is this the usual process; c) does this lack of urgency indicate there is nothing for Crestwood residents to worry about; d) how she things the residents of Crestwood feel about review and revision and; e) why is Arnold refusing to answer questions himself.

*

Melaney Arnold is no relation to Damon Arnold. I checked.

Trend Setters
"Experts cautioned against blaming or crediting any one person or strategy for a one-year crime trend, but Weis and other department officials said several efforts launched this year have chipped away at the violence," the Tribune reports.

"City gang teams were reorganized, and they were given a new mission: more search warrants and fewer street-corner drug investigations. They were also told to ramp up their use of informants so they could make more informed arrests.

"In the districts, commanders and community members say they've been working - from tracking gang anniversary dates to dog-walking - to make a difference on the blocks where they police and live."

All fine and good, but . . . New York City is about to mark its lowest murder rate on record.

*

"Still, because Chicago's homicide total brings the city in line with declines experienced here and nationally throughout much of the decade, some suggest the more compelling question could be what happened in 2008," the Tribune reports.

"'(Last year) was the anomaly,' said James Alan Fox, a professor of criminal justice at Northeastern University in Boston. 'This year is part of the pattern'."

Thank you.

The Other Fitzy
I don't know if former U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald secretly decided against running for re-election in 2004 because he was really just bored and wanted to go home instead of the generally accepted and well-documented notion that the Illinois Combine and the national Republican party machinery wanted him out because he wouldn't play ball, as Neil Steinberg writes today.

I'm pretty sure Steinberg doesn't know either.

Fitzgerald didn't come home, by the way; he stayed in Virginia.

*

Steinberg argues in favor of keeping incumbents in Washington long enough to deliver the pork; a senator "is an investment," he writes. And that's why the gone-rogue Mark Kirk is his man.

Martin Chronicles
Speaking of Andy Martin, if you're not following @BeachwoodReport, you missed this one yesterday: "WBBM: News and weather on the eights, slurs and sleaze on the nines."

Studs And Duds
The NFL in fantasy review.

Word

-

The Beachwood Tip Line: Dream a little dream.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:35 AM | Permalink

Fantasy Fix

By Dan O'Shea

In reviewing the 2009 fantasy football campaign, I came across this fact: Only two players - Adrian Peterson and Maurice Jones-Drew - projected as top 10 stars in the pre-season were ranked in the top 10 going into this week, the final week of the NFL season.

And of those two players, only MJD had the season his owners probably hoped for and expected.

Though Peterson led the league in rushing touchdowns with 17, his fantasy points performance was marred by fumbles and he had fewer truly great games this year as Minnesota's offense revolved around Brett Favre.

Other pre-season top 10 picks that didn't pay off: Michael Turner, Matt Forte, Brian Westbrook, LaDanian Tomlinson and DeAngelo Williams. Even Larry Fitzgerald, Steven Jackson and Frank Gore, who rounded out the Yahoo! pre-season top 10, will finish slightly off expectations.

A discouraging year for some top players means the top 10 for next season will look pretty fresh. Here's my first stab at it:

1. Chris Johnson, RB: Hands down, fantasy football's MVP this year, with a chance to join the 2,000-yard rushing club this week. MJD may be a more reliable No. 1, but Johnson's stock also may soar next year as part of a 1-2 punch with Vince Young.

2. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB: He managed to be a one-man team most weeks, and that won't change. Picking him No. 1 wouldn't make you look like a fool either.

3. Ray Rice, RB: A huge campaign after beginning the year in a three-man backfield; he came out of it as the undisputed starter. Baltimore briefly became a passing program, but next year it could be on an all-Rice diet.

4. Frank Gore, RB: His 11 TDs (eight rushing) hint at a runner that might have finished closer to Peterson's totals had he not missed three games with an injury. He has actually never looked better.

5. Adrian Peterson, RB: Yes, that's AP way down here. Fumbles have become a big problem, and the offense really has shifted out of his hands, despite obvious efforts in recent weeks to change that. He was never better this year than in Week 1 (180 rushing yards, 3 TDs), which doesn't bode well for next year.

6. Michael Turner, RB: Injury problems were predicted by some after a high number of touches in 2008, and that's exactly what happened. AP and The Burner both need to prove they are better than mid-first round.

7. Aaron Rodgers, QB: Early for a QB pick, but he has been phenomenal, with 29 passing TDs against only 7 INTs. His rushing performance of 314 yards with 4 TDs gets him into this position. Plus, improvements in his receiving corps and line in the off-season will make him the next Brees.

8. Andre Johnson, WR: A career high in TDs already (9), and should come close to 1,600 yards receiving this year, which would be another career high. QB Matt Schaub probably will be more settled in next year, which could mean a few more TDs, and make him the fourth receiver to cross the 1,700-yard mark.

9. Drew Brees, QB: Has been great this year, though maybe a notch below last year. He'll still have the same offense in 2010.

10. Cedric Benson, RB: I may rescind this one later. Steven Jackson could easily go here as well, but Benson had six 100-yard games this year going into Week 17, and has scored six TDs despite missing three games. Cincinnati has looked great this year, and could be better next year.

Meanwhile, as we close out our fantasy football reports for the year, here are a few other players we would like to recognize:

Best Sleeper Picks: Brett Favre, Darren Sproles, Rashard Mendenhall, Johnny Knox, Vernon Davis, Desean Jackson.

Best Rookies: Knowshon Moreno, Michael Crabtree, Percy Harvin, Austin Collie.

Best Kicker: David Akers.

Best Individual Defenders: Patrick Willis, Jon Beason, Brian Cushing.

Farewell from the fantasy gridiron until next season.

Fantasy Basketball
At press time, it was looking likely that Tracy McGrady, SG/SF, would be traded from Houston. The bad news for McGrady owners is that T-Mac is shut down until that happens. He hasn't done much at all since returning from a season-opening stay on the injury list, and definitely needs to log some playing time to get anywhere near back to his old form.

If he lands on a team that badly needs a scorer, it could turn his season around. By the same logic, if he lands on a good team that just needs a role player, his minutes and chances to get back to 100 percent will be limited.

Meanwhile, here's our Fantasy Fix Action Ratings on some players recently in the news:

Player: Stephen Curry, PG/SG
FFAR: PICK UP
Comment: Only 75% owned in Yahoo! leagues, he has been the hottest rookie in the NBA this month. He has 24 three-pointers in 15 December games and has come close to triple doubles at least twice.

*

Player: Beno Udrih, PG/SG
FFAR: PICK UP
Comment: Only 61% owned despite great numbers the last three weeks. He's shooting at a .518 clip for season, among the highest rates for a point guard.

*

Player: Tyreke Evans, PG/SG
FFAR: HOLD
Comment: Along with Curry and Brandon Jennings, Evans has been in the early hunt for Rookie if the Year. He suddenly has a bothersome ankle injury that is costing him some games, but hang in there. I'm predicting RoY honors go through Sacramento this year.

*

Player: John Salmons, SG/SF
FFAR: HOLD
Comment: Has been shooting horribly, and Kirk Hinrich replaced him as a starter, but his playing time hasn't suffered. He's still capable of bigger scoring nights than Hinrich, though he needs to get going with whatever minutes he's handed. Some movement up or down in coming games could change his status.

Expert Wire
* Life is never easy with Ron Artest. He has had a sub-par year, and then, as the Associated Press reports, he fell down the stairs in his home and lost partial memory on Christmas Day. There's good reason for Artest owners to be concerned and wondering when they will need to cut their losses.

* SLAM Online has hot pick-ups for the coming week, including Hinrich. They still rate Salmons as a "buy low."

* Ben Gordon and other Detroit starters are back from injury. Gordon should get back into upper-teens scoring form before too long, but the Detroit Free Press notes that the player to watch in Detroit may be defensive star Tayshaun Prince. He's been out since very early November, and was on the verge of becoming a top 100 player at the beginning of this year.

-

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

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:28 AM | Permalink

December 29, 2009

The [Tuesday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

"A city starving for the playoffs must demand to know, if the Bears can look this good against a quality team, why have they looked so bad so often the rest of the season?" Tribune columnist David Haugh writes in this morning's best Bears commentary.

"The better the Bears played, the more they looked like a team with the most unrealized talent in the league. The more they relished how competitive they played, the more they must have regretted how badly their season went.

"Does beating a Super Bowl-caliber team create more faith in Smith's coaching ability or doubt?

"Are we supposed to celebrate the way wide receiver Devin Aromashodu won the game in overtime with a 39-yard touchdown catch or second-guess why the Bears waited until December to unwrap him? Should the coaching staff be commended for inserting safety Craig Steltz into the lineup to make plays or criticized for having Steltz spend the past four weeks inactive?"

*

"It's hard to get excited about the Vikings' comeback," St. Paul Pioneer Press columnist Tom Powers writes. "They were down 16-0 at halftime and on the short end of total yardage 225-82. If the game wasn't over by then, it should have been.

"Any decent team - any playoff team - would have slammed the door after that. Yes, they made some adjustments at the intermission. But how can it be that the mighty Vikings have to adjust to the lowly Bears instead of the other way around?"

*

Madden 10 predicted it, as did Jarvis from Bet Republic.

Traffic Tip
CBS2's Mike Flannery reports that the new state law prohibiting texting while driving that goes into effect on Friday may have to be broadened to include other forms of distracted driving. Like broadcasting while driving? Watch the video (upper right).

The Roland Burris Show
"Sen. Roland Burris insisted he would never vote for an overhaul of the nation's health insurance system unless the bill included a strong public option," the Sun-Times reported on Monday. "And he promised that position wouldn't change.

"But last week the Senate passed a health insurance bill that included no government-run health insurance to serve as a public option for those seeking low-cost coverage - and Burris voted for it.

"Burris insists he did not flip-flop.

"He says there are a lot of definitions of public option."

A) The option to be sick in public.
B) The public's option to not guarantee health care to its citizens.
C) I said it was an option, okay?

*

"'I will vote against any plan that doesn't include a public option.'

"You read that here in an Oct. 9 commentary piece for the Tribune by U.S. Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill," the paper's editorial page says today. "He insisted that a government-run insurance plan was the key to affordable, accessible, quality health care. 'A public option must be a central component of any health insurance reform legislation,' he wrote.

"A couple of weeks later, he said on C-SPAN: 'I have stated it, unequivocally, that if the final package does not carry with it the strong public option that would allow individuals to have competition . . . then I would not vote for that legislation.'

"He even threatened to conduct his own filibuster.

"The darn thing is, some people took him at his word. For a while there, a few Democrats thought Burris just might be the savior of government-run health insurance.

"After all, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid needed every Democratic vote, and Burris said he wouldn't vote . . .

"Gotcha!

"Burris voted, along with every other Democrat in the Senate, for a bill that doesn't include even a whiff of the public option.

"And for those who may have though that 'unequivocally' meant 'unequivocally'?

"'We don't want to get caught up in language,' he told the Associated Press."

*

The Trib edit is titled "Fooled ya again!"

But nobody was more fooled than the Tribune, which published Burris's Op-Ed even after repeatedly calling him a liar in the wake of his false testimony to a legislative panel in Springfield about how he got his U.S. Senate appointment.

So, you know, shame on you.

Slime Time
"In one of the many e-mails [Andy] Martin sends to Chicago media - often in the middle of the night - Martin offers links to a tape of a radio show in which [Jack] Roeser and [Ray] True did make the comments referenced in the ad," the Sun-Times reports.

"'You've got Mark Kirk, who's been so strong on his homosexuals so long that the solid rumor is that he himself is a homosexual,' Roeser said on the program."

*

"True said Monday that he 'never made that statement' attributed to him by Martin," the Tribune reports. "True said he appeared recently on a show hosted by Roeser on WIND-AM and 'I made a comment not about him (Kirk) at all, but that there were some people on his (Kirk's) staff that had a special orientation.'

Which is what Martin said.

*

Jack Roeser is the founder of the Family Taxpayers Foundation. True is described in news reports as "Lake County Illinois Republican leader Ray True," but that appears to be a general description; he is not listed on the website of the Lake County Republicans.

*

"Mr. Martin will no longer be recognized as a legitimate Republican candidate by the Illinois Republican Party," state party chairman Patrick Brady said in a statement.

You mean he was recognized as such up til now? I guess this wasn't enough:

"In federal court filings from the 1980s related to bankruptcy proceedings against him, Martin called one federal judge a 'crooked, slimy Jew, who has a history of lying and thieving common to members of his race.' He also expressed sympathy to the perpetrators of the Holocaust."

Then again, he did receive 34 percent of the Republican vote in his U.S. Senate primary campaign against Steve Sauerberg - in 2008.

*

"Part Of The Conspiracy Since 1969!"

*

"'Beachwood' is receiving money from outside sources to fund its operations. So NBC is using on its own web site 'news' generated by someone who is being funded by third parties and reportage is by Steve Rhodes, whose journalistic credentials are nowhere to be found."

- Andy Martin letter to NBC5

*

"Eric's motives are pure, but Steve Rhodes is the Andy Martin of Chicago journalism - to engage him is to give him a victory. I stopped trying to counter Rhodes' falsehoods and fantasies a long time ago."

- Neil Steinberg, commenting on a Michael Miner post

State Secrets
In a news service interview about his new conspiracy show on TruTV, published in the Sun-Times today, former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura said that "the CIA is embedded in state government . . . yet nobody even cared when I wrote that in [Don't Start The Revolution Without Me!."

Here's a passage from the book:

"But I was stunned to learn that here are CIA operatives inside some state governments. They are not in executive positions - in other words, not appointed by the governor - but are permanent state employees. Governors come and go, but they keep working - in legitimate jobs but with dual identities. In Minnesota, this person was at a deputy commissioner level, fairly high up.

"Here's how I found out about this: The CIA person contacted my chief of staff, who then set up a meeting between the three of us. My chief of staff and I were informed that only we would know of the operative's identity, nobody else in state government. Later, when there was a change of status, I was also briefed by the new CIA person.

"No one ever made me swear that I wouldn't talk about this and, now that I'm out of office, maybe I'm taking a chance. But I want to get it on the record. I could only speculate about other states, but I'm fairly certain the same situation exists all across the country. It would seem odd that only Minnesota would have CIA operatives, especially since Minnesota is not exactly a world port and doesn't have any really immense cities.

"Are they put there to spy? To see the direction that state government is going, what's happening, and report back - to whom? And for what purpose? Do they think there are traitors in certain states?

"I don't know. That part, I wasn't told. I'm left to wonder why our Constitution is being violated."

*

A CIA spokesman later confirmed that "on occasion CIA officers meet with senior state government officials, as they did in this case, to discuss issues of mutual interest" . . . and that "I wouldn't think of CIA officers as being in state governments. They're federal employees."

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Fantastical

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:44 AM | Permalink

Team Posing As Bears Beats Vikings

By The Beachwood Upset Special Affairs Desk

1. The winning play.

*

2. MNF highlights.

*

3. Madden Simulation Got It RIght.

*

4. So Did Jarvis.

*

5. New Orleans Thanks Chicago.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:15 AM | Permalink

Chicagoetry: Funeral For A Bastard Year

Funeral for a Bastard Year

Four stockbrokers took residences in Italy. Four hundred nobodies lost everything.

- Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby

I know where the bodies are buried:
Lincoln Park before the zoo was there.
Pre-Fire the land with graves was filled.
I move to add our Annus Horribilis.

Sorry, honey, if I don't change the pace.
I can't face another day.
Aspiration upon a table etherized
now embalmed upon a rickety catafalque.

A glass hearse drawn by black horses:
clocking hooves, shrieking springs, yawping axles.
Cheap tin eagles washed in thin gold enamel
preen in effigy on the coffin handles.

Rape, ruin, repossession and remorse.
Grief, gloom, devastation and divorce.
Let the black hooves clock in rhythm.
Let the glass hearse sway in tandem.

Load your rage atop the cheap tin eagles.
Let the rat-bastard corpse rot regal.
Renew, rebound, rejoice and release!
Let the mud-soaked maggots feast.

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J.J. Tindall is the Beachwood's poet-in-residence. He welcomes your comments. Chicagoetry is an exclusive Beachwood collection-in-progress.

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More Tindall:

* Music: MySpace page

* Fiction: A Hole To China

* Critical biography at e-poets.net

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:35 AM | Permalink

December 28, 2009

The [Monday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

1. Our very own Jim Coffman on a "neat little microcosm of why the Bears are where they are and the Vikings are where they are heading into this evening's 2009 Soldier Field finale."

2. Bikers Meet Thomas Kinkade And It Ain't Pretty.

3. "Bob Clark was an exceptionally unlucky filmmaker whose career degradation came about mostly thanks to his association with the crass hit Porky's (1981), leading to some truly embarrassing late career work, almost but not entirely erasing the genuinely eerie and cinematically innovative work he did as a horror director in the '70s, like his uniquely atmospheric Sherlock Holmes versus Jack the Ripper epic Murder by Decree (1978), and his very different Yuletide classic A Christmas Story (1983)," our very own Roderick Heath writes at Ferdy On Films.

"A favourite of Scrooges of all ages, Clark's Black Christmas is justly regarded as a seminal English-language horror film of the '70s. Released four years before Halloween, it beat that film to the punch in laying down the template for the type of genre film that would be so endlessly popular in the '80s and echo through to the likes of Scream 2 (1997) and beyond to an execrable remake."

4. Yes, but what about the city's backyards? Don't get me started . . .

5. "Mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants is increasing in Illinois even as it declines nationwide, a troubling trend for the state because emissions of the toxic metal tend to fall back to earth close to the source," the Tribune reports.

"The amount of mercury blown into the air by the state's coal plants jumped by 7 percent last year, according to a Tribune analysis of newly released federal data on industrial pollution. By contrast, mercury emissions from all U.S. power plants declined by 4 percent."

If the coal plant in Pilsen was instead located at Michigan and Randolph, it would have had a culturally transformative moment by now.

6. "This country must promote socioeconomic cultural awareness by promoting income-based affirmative action to the best public and private educational facilities," Esther Cepeda writes in the Sun-Times today. "Only then can children from all points on the income spectrum 'see how the other half lives'."

7. "Lower prices, in turn, may attract larger crowds, making up lost revenue," the Sun-Times's editorial page argues today in calling for a boycott of the Wrigley Field ice rink because of its obscenely high prices.

Funny, I repeatedly used the same argument when the Sun-Times kept raising its own price.

8. Outwitting Facebook.

9. Outwitting diners.

10. Stop, please. The continued focus on Michelle Obama's fashion choices is offensive on at least three different levels.

11. The Shady Mainstream Media Payday Of Flight 253 Hero Jasper Schuringa.

12. Cook County Wars.

13. "We had this very elaborate release plan for 'Crimson and Clover,'" Tommy James tells Songfacts.

"I had gone into the studio and done a real rough mix, it was like I said, about 5 1⁄2 hours, I just ran it. I just put the faders up and did a rough mix right off the board. No echoes, nothing. Just what we had done on the tape. It was okay, and I took it and I put it in my briefcase.

"We played Chicago the next day, and I went up to WLS, which just happened to be the greatest station in the country at that time, and John Rook was program director, and I played it for him. He says, 'Tommy, that's great.' He said, 'Play it again, will you?'

"And he played it for Larry Lujack, who was a big jock who had just come on at that moment. And unbeknownst to me, they taped it. And as I'm getting back into the car downstairs, we had WLS on. And as I'm getting into the car, I hear, 'World exclusive! Tommy James and the Shondells!' and I go, Oh my God, they're playing the rough mix. They are playing the rough mix.

"And that rough mix ended up being the record. Because I couldn't mix it. There was no way. They broke the record so fast, it exploded out of Chicago. And they broke the record so fast that I was never able to do a final mix. So the record we know as 'Crimson and Clover' was a rough 7 1/2."

14. Vic Chesnutt was one of the great songwriters of our time. A good place to start is actually not with one of his own records but with these folks' interpretations. I'm particularly fond of "Dodge."

Programming Note:
Light posting will continue this week, then back at full speed next week.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Crimson, clover.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:06 AM | Permalink

SportsMonday

By Jim Coffman

Here's a neat little microcosm of why the Bears are where they are and the Vikings are where they are heading into this evening's 2009 Soldier Field finale.

A few years ago, the team from Minnesota identified guard as a primary need and proceeded to reel in the best guy available. Many thought the Vikings overpaid ($49 million) for former Seahawk lineman Steve Hutchinson, but with the help of a "poison pill" clause in their contract offer, Minnesota had the man to spearhead its rushing game (and help seal off opposing pass rushers) for the foreseeable future. The Vikings made the deal happen by including language that would guarantee its entire value (most football contracts only completely lock in signing bonuses) if Hutchinson wasn't the highest paid offensive lineman on his team.

Seattle, which had recently given perennial All-Pro tackle Walter Jones (who has since fallen off dramatically) a bigger contract, wasn't going to sign on for that and Hutchinson was gone.

Despite finding themselves in possession of almost limitless salary cap space earlier this year (they went into the regular season with a total payroll more than $20 million under the limit), general manager Jerry Angelo tried to fill his needs on the O-Line on the cheap. He signed former back-up Frank Omiyale from the Carolina Panthers to a contract paying him a tiny fraction of what Hutchinson makes. Omiyale played tackle for the Panthers but the Bears slotted him at guard, hoping he could be the physical presence they needed in the middle of the line they needed to combat, in particular, the Williams Wall. That would be Pat and Kevin Williams - the un-related defensive tackles who line up for . . . the Minnesota Vikings. On several occasions in recent seasons, Bear veteran center Olin Kreutz was too often seen being blown back into his own backfield by one Williams or the other. The hope was a stronger force at guard could help Kreutz hold the point up front.

It didn't quite work out. In fact, Omiyale, who was handed the starting job despite being outplayed by Josh Beekman in training camp, was benched before the Vikings obliterated the Bears in Minnesota earlier this month.

Angelo's Word
Speaking of Angelo, does he really have the chutzpah to fire Lovie Smith at the end of the season and to thereby maintain that he is worthy of hiring Smith's successor?

Angelo wouldn't go back on what he said when he hired Smith, i.e., that this was the last time he would hire a head coach (insinuating strongly that when the coach was done, he was done), would he?

I understand the McCaskeys are unlikely to eat the remaining years on Angelo's contract as well as those on Smith's deal but still . . .

At least with his comments last week, the ones where he declined to offer any measure of support for his head coach, Angelo hinted strongly that he won't be trying to sell the "we'll just change the offensive coordinator and get right back on track" line.

Talent Show
Here's another question: Do the Bears have enough talent to cut guys in order to "send messages" to other players that they better shape up?

I don't think so.

Some have advocated dumping Kreutz, who made his discontent known last week, in just such a fashion.

I always wonder what people think player-leaders in Kreutz's situation should be saying - his team is getting killed and he's supposed to just keep mumbling the same cliches?

On the other hand, while a fan dreams of his team making trades from surpluses of talent (if the Bears really think Beekman is ready to step in at center then that position would qualify), NFL squads rarely trade for a guy when there is even a hint he might be released. So a trade of the 32-year-old Kreutz seems unlikely. Maybe the Bears should try to trade Beekman. While Kreutz needs strong guards beside him, he is still a smart and tough signal-caller (for the line) who could well still have several solid seasons ahead of him.

Around The League
* Oy but Colts rookie coach Jim Caldwell made a mess of it late Sunday, benching quarterback Peyton Manning in the middle of the third quarter with a five-point lead over the Jets and essentially giving away the game and his team's chance of finishing the season without a loss.

In a decade of quarterbacking, Manning has never missed a start due to injury but there are still those, starting with Caldwell and his mentor, former coach Tony Dungy, who think sidelining Manning to counter the microscopic chance of injury was the right thing to do.

For years too many people, from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on down, let Dungy get away with what only can be described as damaging the integrity of the game, essentially throwing late-season contests (by substituting woefully incompetent backups for Manning) that didn't impact the Colts' playoff positioning.

And the most ridiculous thing is that doing so actually negatively impacts Indianapolis' playoff readiness.

On several occasions this decade, the Colts have been upset in playoff games against lower seeds after losing their focus late in regular seasons. A football team cannot turn off its intensity and then expect it to magically return on command. Competition doesn't work that way.

Dungy lucked out in 2006 when his underperforming team (relative to what it had shown it was capable of earlier in the season) ran into a Bear team that played even worse in the Super Bowl.

Otherwise, the Colts would have gone championship-less in a decade in which they set an NFL record for overall victories.

The question is whether Caldwell throwing away not only a game but also a shot at a perfect season will finally force league officials to say what they should have said long ago - that teams are to play all games to win.

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

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:03 AM | Permalink

Outwitting Facebook

By The Beachwood Privacy Settings Affairs Desk

Collected from Facebook, including some of our own postings.

1. WARNING: Facebook can now automatically scan your brain through your monitor. To block this application, go to Kitchen --> Open:Cabinets --> Upper Right Drawer --> REMOVE box that says "Aluminum Foil." Wrap foil around your head. Facebook kept this one quiet. Copy this into your status to warn your friends.

2. As of today, Facebook staff will be allowed to eat your children and pets. To turn this option off, go to Settings, then Privacy, then Meals. Click the top button to not feed the employees of Facebook anything. Copy this to your status to warn your friends!

3. To change this option, go to Settings --> No Family Fire --> I Beg You --> then UN-CLICK the box that says 'Incinerate Everyone' . . .

4. As of today, Facebook staff will be allowed to eat your children and pets. To turn this option off, go to settings, then privacy, then meals. Click the top button to not feed the employees of Facebook anything. They are also going to start stealing your underwear. Copy this to your status to warn your friends.

5. Not sure if this is true or was announced, but best to be safe. PRIVACY UPDATE . . . If you don't know, as of today, FB will automatically index all your info to the living dead, which allows zombies to view it. To change this option, go to Settings -> Privacy Settings-> Search-> then UNCLICK the box that says 'Brain-Eating Zombies'.

6. Facebook is now indexing the contents of my refrigerator. Won't take long.

7. As of today, Facebook will automatically index your dreams and sell your unconscious desires to advertisers. To change this option, go to Settings -> Privacy Settings-> Search-> then UNCLICK the box that says "Live Freud Feed."

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Contributions welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:57 AM | Permalink

The Cook County Wars

By Dick Simpson

When it comes down to voting patterns, Chicago aldermen are easily dominated by Mayor Richard Daley, who has ensured the city council serves as a rubber stamp of his policies.

The reverse happens when the president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, Todd Stroger, gavels a meeting into session. Members of the county board are in full-scale rebellion with Stroger at the helm, sharpening their rhetorical weapons and casting, more often than not, nay votes on his priorities.

As he wades into a re-election campaign that could make or break his political career, Stroger must contend with the realities of his diminished executive power. He can't wield the bully pulpit like other politicians and he can't browbeat commissioners into sticking with him.

Take a look at the numbers my colleagues at the University of Illinois-Chicago and I recently compiled.

Since 2007, 23 of Chicago's 50 aldermen agreed 100 percent of the time with Daley's take on controversial issues that divided the council and required a roll call vote. Another seven aldermen cast their ballots with the mayor more than 90 percent of the time on such votes.

In other words, for the past two years, the mayor has been able to count on two-thirds of aldermen agreeing with his positions on the most contentious issues that come before city council the vast majority of the time.

Stroger's hard-core supporters on the 17-member county board are few, however. Just four commissioners supported Stroger on divided roll call votes more that 75 percent of the time: William Beavers (100 percent), Jerry Butler (93 percent), Deborah Sims (92 percent) and Joseph Moreno (93 percent).

The trend is particularly evident in the battles to pass and then repeal an increase in the county share of retail sales taxes.

On March 1, 2008, Stroger was able to get his budget passed 10-7. The same day, the board voted 9-8 to pass Stroger's increase in the county share of the sales tax from .75 percent to 1.75 percent.

Stroger won that vote only after agreeing to Commissioner Larry Suffredin's demand that he cede control of the jobs-rich county health bureau to an independent review board.

In July 2008, an attempt to repeal the entire sales tax increase failed by a vote of 10-7. The following May, a second attempt to repeal part of the sales tax increase passed 12-3, but it was vetoed by Stroger. Although 11 commissioners then voted to override the veto, the effort failed because Illinois law then required an unusually large majority of 14 votes to override.

Stroger lost all of these votes but managed to keep the sales tax increase only because the board couldn't override his veto.

Then in October 2009, the Illinois General Assembly passed and the governor signed into law a bill reducing the override majority to 11. This paved the way for commissioners to partially roll back the sales tax increase to 1.25 percent. Although Stroger again vetoed the rollback, the commissioners successfully overrode it 12-5.

Unlike Daley, opposition to Stroger on the county board is rooted in at least two distinct voting blocs.

The five Republican commissioners on the county board, all representing suburban districts, comprise a solid opposition group to Stroger. None from this group voted with Stroger on key votes more than 29 percent of the time.

The most consistent opponent to Stroger's positions was former Commissioner Mike Quigley, who opposed Stroger's position on six out of every seven key votes between February 2007 and February 2009.

Quigley, a Chicago Democrat, resigned his county board seat after winning election to Congress this past April. He was replaced by Bridget Gainer, who has maintained his pattern of opposition by voting with Stroger on none of the key budget and sales tax votes.

Quigley was a member of the board's "independent" or "progressive" bloc, which includes outgoing Commissioner Forest Claypool and the Evanston-based Suffredin. Given her voting patterns since she took office, it's more than fair to include Gainer with this group.

(Commissioner John Daley, the mayor's brother and chairman of the board's powerful finance committee, voted to support Stroger only 50 percent of the time during these divided votes over the past two years.)

Now that his veto power has been sapped by state law, Stroger seems to be following the path of former Chicago Mayor Eugene Sawyer.

Both were elevated to replace stricken leaders - Sawyer following the death of Mayor Harold Washington and Stroger following the stroke, resignation and subsequent death of his father, John H. Stroger.

Like Sawyer, Todd Stroger has been a weak chief executive.

And also like Sawyer, he faces an election he very likely cannot win.

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Dick Simpson teaches political science at the University of Illinois-Chicago. He served as alderman of the 44th Ward from 1971-1979. This column was first published in the Chicago Journal.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:30 AM | Permalink

December 24, 2009

The [Christmas] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

UPDATES DEC. 26:

* Pay boxes freezing up again.

* Desert Island Jukebox Special on Sound Opinions this weekend.

UPDATES DEC. 25: Via Facebook.

Matt Farmer noticed that the woman who knocked down Pope Benedict XVI during Christmas Eve mass at St. Peter's did so only after the Pope walked untouched through the Chicago Bears secondary.

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John Kuczaj tonight told all the young kids the story of Santa Claus battling Jesus to the death at the first Christmas.

The [Christmas] Papers
From the Beachwood holiday vault:

* Home for the Holidays: Our classic holiday series. Start from the bottom!

* 20 Carols. As fitting today as the year we wrote them.

* Barista! The Gift Card That Saved Christmas.

* Day in the Life: Christmas Radio.

* Santa's Got The Swine.

* This one goes out to all our Jewish friends out there.

* Heavy Metal Christmas.

* The 12 Days of Beachwood Christmas, including The 12 Days of Cubness.

* Settle in with our guide to the college bowl season and wager appropriately.

* Stocking stuffers for your favorite Bears. Substitute this year's recipients for last year's where warranted.

* Dear Macy's: The Walnut Room sucks!

* Dear Patti Blagojevich: Congratulations!

* The audio version of 'Twas The Night Before Fitzmas.

* Give the gift of the Beachwood!

* And of course, we wish you a holiday with minimal aggravation - and that goes for the atheists and agnostics out there too. Keep the faithlessness!

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Blitzened.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:31 AM | Permalink

December 23, 2009

The [Wednesday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

1. Holiday Gift Ideas For Your Favorite Parking Scofflaw.

2. A whistleblower who won.

3. I'm actually glad former streets and san man Al Sanchez is getting a new trial. Why? Because even if the witness in question gets dusted up, there's plenty of other evidence to re-convict Sanchez. And now we get to hear all over again how Mayor Daley's dirty operation worked, including testimony about how Bill Daley and Tim Degnan founded the now-infamous Hispanic Democratic Organization not to further Hispanics but to suit the mayor's purposes.

*

"Mayor Richard Daley has often sought to portray himself as above involvement in machine-style politics, once declaring, 'My political organization is myself'," the Tribune reported during Sanchez's first trial in March.

"But testimony Monday in a federal corruption trial linked the mayor's brother William Daley and longtime top strategist Timothy Degnan to the embryonic stages of what became the Hispanic Democratic Organization.

"Although the mayor has denied knowing that city job openings were rigged for his supporters, a former HDO leader from the Southeast Side testified Degnan dangled jobs in return for loyalty in Daley's first successful campaign for mayor in 1989.

"And another former top Latino political operative said he helped build HDO on the North Side for Daley's political organization in the early 1990s at the urging of Degnan, William Daley and U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.)."

*

Here's my favorite part:

"William Daley [told the Tribune] he was not aware of any promises of city jobs to campaign workers for his brother.

"'You're talking about 20 years ago,' Daley said. 'Even if it happened - and I'm not saying it did - things were different. There was nothing illegal about that stuff'."

Really?

"A 1979 ruling led to a court order in 1983 that made it unlawful to take any political factor into account in hiring public employees (with exceptions for positions such as policy making)," according to the Encyclopedia of Chicago. "Those decisions along with companion consent judgments - collectively called the Shakman decrees - are binding on more than 40 city and statewide offices."

4. A Taser Family Christmas.

5. Memo to Matthew Wood and the Sun-Times: Asking racists and other miscreants to be a little nicer when commenting anonymously on your website is likely to be as effective as asking neo-Nazis to shout a little less loud at their next rally. The logical conclusion is to prohibit anonymous comments (excepting, of course, those with a legitimate reason to fear retribution), but for some reason Wood stops short of calling for the equalization of standards for web comments with print letters to the editor. I'm sure that has nothing to do with a traditional news organization opting for a (theoretical) traffic-building strategy decreed by the business folk over editorial integrity.

*

Voice of San Diego bans anonymous comments.

*

VOSD cites civil discourse as the driving force behind its new policy, but as I've written before, I'm as much motivated in my stance by my personal knowledge of political operatives (and marketers) commenting under false flags to further undisclosed agendas.

6. Speaking of comments, the longtime spokesman for state House Speaker Michael Madigan, Steve Brown, weighs in (briefly) on our recent Scholarship Scam post.

7. Late (from last week), but catching up: Joel's panel will review the year in white men.

Chicago Tonight: The Week in Review with Joel Weisman at 7:00 pm. On tonight's program, Joel and his panel look back at the biggest stories of 2009. Guests: David Greising, Chicago News Cooperative; Bruce Dold, Chicago Tribune; Lester Munson, ESPN; John McCarron, Chicago Tribune.

Comment 3:55 P.M.: From Marc Glick, WTTW producer:

"I thought you might want to know that Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell was booked for the show but a last-minute scheduling snafu kept her from coming on. So instead of just going with three guests, I called John McCarron both for his expertise and his proximity to the station because we were so close to showtime."

8. "A $93,840-a-year Chicago plumbing inspector caught doing a side job with no permit, city license or secondary employment form allowing him to perform the 'side job' is back on his main job," the Sun-Times reports.

"The Human Resources Board, which is appointed by Mayor Daley, has overturned James Kendrick's firing and converted his punishment to a five-month suspension without pay, which he has already served. Kendrick returned to work Thursday for the first time since July 17. He refused to comment."

Best part:

"The violations were particularly egregious because Kendrick was assigned to a task force that busts people for working without permits."

*

About that Human Resources Board:

"The three-member board is appointed by the Mayor and is charged with the responsibility of conducting hearings and rendering decisions in instances of alleged misconduct by career service employees. The Board also presides over appeal hearings brought about by disciplinary action taken against employees by individual city departments."

Those are your folks, Mayor. Are you proud?

*

And who are the three board members? I wish I could tell you. I took a quick spin through the city's website - and Google - and came up empty. Maybe I'll dig a little deeper later today.

9. Did you know Dorothy Brown is the Pearl of Illinois? Neither did I, until I read this Trib piece this morning. But lo and behold, there it is!

Anyway, the highlights:

* "A local Fox TV investigation took aim at her for buying vehicles and hiring employees, at taxpayer expense, to drive her to work and to official functions.

"'They are really not drivers as much as security guards,' she said, citing a 'vulgar' letter from a prison inmate who later was convicted of threatening to kill her.

"Brown said the guards also do office investigations, and that being driven allows her to get work done while traveling."

I'll do what the Trib doesn't: Supply the link to that Fox investigation so Brown can't get away with dismissing it so easily.

* "The Tribune reported that from 2002 until early this year, Brown received cash gifts from employees at Christmas and often for her birthday as well. The birthday gifts were presented at parties, organized by higher-level employees, that doubled as political fundraisers. Brown said she would end the practice when the Tribune questioned her.

"'I never asked my employees to give me gifts,' she said. 'We're like family, and they didn't just give me gifts. I gave gifts too'."

I'll do what the Trib doesn't: Supply the link to their own story so Brown can't get away from dismissing it so easily.

* "The gifts were noted in economic disclosure statements, but Brown would not disclose how much she had received. The statements also listed fees for motivational religious speaking.

"Brown said she received minimal stipends - 'a hundred dollars or something like that' - for speaking to women's groups on Sunday mornings. 'I actually have a license to speak,' she said, referring to a Church of God in Christ certification."

I'll do what the Trib doesn't: Supply a link to the Church of God in Christ, though a search on the site for "certification" or "certificate" comes up empty.

Finally, I'll just point you to this Chicagoist post rounding up Brown's ethical headaches.

10. The Tribune editorial page thinks that airlines are already properly motivated to not strand passengers on tarmacs for hours at a time because of the bad publicity that ensues. So they find the new federal rule requiring airlines to allow passengers to get off planes that sit on runways for more than three hours. Airlines that fail to do so face penalties of up to $27,500 per passenger.

"The new three-hour rule is unnecessary," the paper opines. "It's likely to backfire, leading airlines to pre-emptively cancel flights rather than risk the exorbitant penalties. Result: more inconvenience for more passengers. "

Huh?

"Hey Frank, let's not load these passengers, they might get stuck out on the runway for three hours and then corporate will be all over our ass when the bills come in."

"Yeah, but if we cancel the flight instead of sending all these folks out to bake for hours on a runway with limited food, water and toilet capacity, that will just cause more inconvenience for them."

"I know, but it's that new federal rule. I don't know what our government is thinking sometimes."

11. "Information for this article was gathered on a research trip sponsored by Visit Britain."

If you would like your tourist destination promoted in the pages of the Sun-Times under the guise of a legitimate travel article, just send us a check and an itinerary.

12. And a tattoo of Ozzy.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Skulls & Bones.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:44 AM | Permalink

December 22, 2009

The [Tuesday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

This just in: Santa's Got The Swine.

In Other Swine News
A lot of reaction to my column yesterday about NBC killing posts about Tribune Company CEO Randy Michaels and the late Chicago school board chairman Michael Scott.

Among the local blog links: This interview with Justin Kaufmann of WBEZ/Vocalo.

We'll provide a full round-up of links at week's end in This Week In The Beachwood, our free e-mail newsletter that goes out every Friday morning. You can subscribe to it by entering your e-mail address in the appropriate box over there on the right rail, under the search bar.

And for the curious, I haven't heard a word - nor seen a comment - from NBC or Tribune Company, even as the story as spread through the blogosphere.

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UPDATE 9:50 A.M.: I spoke too soon. Michael Miner has this from Toni Falvo, vice president for research, programming, and the press. "This was an internal editorial decision made by the local team in Chicago."

If Falvo is referring to the decision to kill the Michael Scott post in question, Falvo is right as far as I know. But if Falvo is referring to the Randy Michaels post which is the crux of the whole drama, it's blatantly false. I was told the decision was ultimately made by the president of NBC Universal's local media division, John Wallace.

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Finally, thanks to everyone who has sent notes of support. It means a lot.

County Lines
Chicago Tonight last night had the four Democratic candidates for Cook County board president on for a panel discussion and I took a few notes. Mostly, though, I was struck by the feeling I had that I held Terry O'Brien and Dorothy Brown in even lower esteem than Todd Stroger. The word "posers" came to mind. Both spouted easy, if unfounded answers to the county's knotty problems, and at times Stroger seemed to fact-check them back into place. Brown in particular was embarrassingly pushy in making sure she got ample air time to repeat herself - over and over. Preckwinkle often (rightly) had that look she so often gets when she can't quite believe the idiocy surrounding her. She was also unabashed. She opened with this:

"When the voters think about county government, they think about waste, fraud and incompetence."

And when Stroger spoke, she looked him in the eye and took it in. I think I detected incredulousness. But no meanness. She's an adult.

She also refused to play simplistic media games. When moderator Eddie Arruza asked what one issue the campaign boiled down to, she said: "I wouldn't boil it down to one issue." Then she listed the main - and persuasive - planks of her platform.

Now, let me be clear: I'm not shilling for Preckwinkle. But she's obviously the best candidate in the field. She's smart, competent, and not full of shit. I'm not thrilled with her vote supporting the Olympic bid, and other moves seemingly designed to court the mayor in return for his endorsement. In fact, I'm bothered most by Preckwinkle's unwillingness over the years to more directly challenge the mayor even as she - perhaps more than anyone on the council - has correctly diagnosed many of the administration's problems.

But she's a cut above most pols in town, and while she might speak too carefully at times, if you pay attention she's still telling the truth.

Anyway, to continue, O'Brien said the county's most pressing issue is the sales tax. Really? The half-a-penny sales tax? Each candidate pledges to roll that back, but O'Brien says he's the only one who will do it right away.

Again, I like Preckwinkle's answer better: She will phase it out as she reconfigures the county's budget and makes up for the loss of revenue.

Brown said the most pressing issue is "properly funding the county." Huh?

She promised to find additional revenue without raising taxes, and claimed to have done so in the clerk of the circuit court's office to the tune of $187 million. I haven't had time to fact-check.

Brown promised to "streamline county government through budgeting . . . find redundancies . . . yada yada yada." And she would create a county budget review commission made up of citizens. That has boondoggle written all over it.

"What the county really is up against is how do we keep our services at the same level they are at today . . . while not spending more money," Stroger said, not unreasonably.

*

Arruza asked O'Brien how he would make up the revenue loss from scaling back the sales tax. "Let's go back eight months," O'Brien said. Let's not, I muttered to myself.

O'Brien then talked about better collection of open receivables - to the tune of $300 million - in the county health care system. Somehow I don't think that's the answer.

"You can talk about trying to collect old bills," Preckwinkle said, "but the fact of the matter is that's not going to do it."

Stroger said his administration has already tightened up collections considerably.

Brown said she would create a grants research and applications department to after federal money not currently being sought out. Preckwinkle said her understanding was that the county is only five percent funded - compared to one-third for the city - from state and federal grants because "the county hasn't wanted to subject itself to the scrutiny of the funders."

"That's just untrue," Stroger said, adding in a rebuttal to Brown that the county already had a grants office (or at least an administrator, I wasn't clear)

Brown also talked about revenue gains to be had by changing laws. I wasn't quite clear on what this was about, but she said she found $10.8 million for the sheriff's office by looking at an ordinance that was "not properly implemented." She later said she saved or raised (again, she wasn't clear) money by going to Springfield and getting a law on document storage changed that the county had been funding with a motor fuel tax. She said she brought in $64 million in state money - which, of course, is still taxpayer money. And some idea she got at a conference brought in $10 milion. Fact-checks to come.

Finally, Brown proposed an early retirement program and intergovernmental joint purchasing.

Stroger said the county already had a consolidated purchasing process; not sure if by "intergovernmentaI purchasing" Brown would attempt to work with, say, the city of Chicago.

O'Brien also talked about consolidating county purchasing; Preckwinkle said he keeps saying that but won't say how much money could be saved, and besides that, it would have to be done over time and that's why an immediate repeal of the remaining half-cent sales tax increase is a bad idea; the county needs to finally have some long-range planning.

Stroger rightly pointed out that early retirement programs cost a lot of money up front - and sometimes down the road too.

Preckwinkle said she's the only candidate who wants to make permanent the independence of the health care system to "separate it from the patronage and political influence that have damaged them in the past."

*

"Start with me now," Brown demanded at the end of the segment. You would think she had something important to say. No.

"I'm going to find additional tax revenue, I've talked about this over and over again." Yes. On this very show.

"I'm running on a record that these people are just talking about," O'Brien said. Huh. Pretty bold for a head of the water reclamation district whose side business as a consultant has plenty of lucrative government contracts.

And then shots at Daley:

"We do privatize a lot of things but you do have to be careful," Stroger said, "or you get things like the parking meters.

"No (privatization, not right off the bat," Preckwinkle said. She then talked about not even knowing in her ward who was responsible for curb cuts and where to go with complaints or to ask for something to get done.

"I'm not in favor of privatization," Brown said, repeating what Preckwinkle just said about accountability.


We tried it at water rec and it doesn't work," O'Brien said.

*

Brown denied a report that a grand jury was probing allegations that her campaign used Earnfare employees to seek petition signatures. "That's a political placement," she said, apparently referring to the placement of the item in Sneed's column and this well-known phenomenon. "My understanding is there's no grand jury probe."

I take no sides between this pair of winners.

-

The Beachwood Tip Line: Placement.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:21 AM | Permalink

Santa's Got The Swine

By Tom Latourette

-

This year there'll be no Christmas, this Christmas will not come
There's a virus in the North Pole, it's called H1/N1

Oh, Santa's got the swine flu, let's call the CDC
They should close up his workshop, lockdown and quarantine

For Timmy there's no blessings, for Clarence there's no wings
This year there's one sick Santa, a pandemic he will bring

Oh, Santa's got the swine flu, don't sit upon his knee
Lock the doors and close the flue, he'll come down your chimney

Frosty has a fever, and Rudolph has a rash
The Misfit Toys are miserable, The Grinch has got some gas

Oh, Santa's got the swine flu, if he's on your roof above
This Christmas open all your toys with a latex glove

Comet can't stop coughing, Blitzen's still in bed
Vixen's popping vitamins and Donner's looking dead

Oh, Santa's giving swine flu to the naughty and the nice
Use some disinfectant, wash your hands not once but twice

The elves are feeling icky, Mrs. Claus is feeling sick
Santa's sneezing all the time, it's you he will infect

Oh, Santa's got the swine flu, worst case that we've seen
If Mommy kisses Santa Clause give her some Listerine

Oh, Santa's got the swine flu, when your snug inside your bed
You won't be getting sugarplums, H1/N1 he will spread

Oh, Santa's got the swine flu, if he's on your roof above
This Christmas open all your toys with a latex glove

-

From The Beachwood Vault:
* The 12 Days of Beachwood Christmas (including The 12 Days of Cubness)

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:42 AM | Permalink

December 21, 2009

The [Monday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

I am no longer contributing to NBCChicago.com and I feel obliged to tell readers why. It's also a tale that needs to be told in any case.

I was going to start this column this way:

"Tribune Company never interfered with my work after they bought Chicago magazine when I was working in part as an online media critic there. I had to work for NBC Universal for that to happen."

But to bend over backwards to be fair to Tribune Company, I'm still not certain whether that happened - despite being told so on two occasions by two people. Let me explain.

On the morning of Thursday, Dec. 3, I sent in my usual story suggestions for the three posts a day I had been getting paid to produce for NBCChicago.com, the ostensible website of WMAQ-TV (Ch. 5), but really one of a series of local market websites relaunched by NBC Universal as part of a new digital strategy.

The morning editor liked two of my three suggestions but suggested my third post be about Sam Zell handing over the reins as CEO of Tribune Company (while remaining as chairman, for now) to chief lieutenant Randy Michaels.

The subsequent post I submitted has since been removed (or "de-targeted," I was told at one point, though I can't find it through searching the site) as you can see by the original link provided here (item No. 6).

But this is the Internet; you can't ever really take something down. You can find the cached version of the post here. Too bad, NBC; it lives. (And lives again.)

Shortly after submitting the post, the NBCChicago.com morning editor I work with sent me a note: "This is great!"

Around 11:30 a.m. the next morning - more than 24 hours after my piece was posted - I received a note from media maven Jim Romenesko notifying me that the link for the post I had provided in my Beachwood column was broken; he had been looking forward to reading the piece. The broken link was new to me. But it turned out it wasn't a broken link at all; the story had been "taken down."

No one had notified me. Perhaps no one would have had I not been alerted to it.

I sent an e-mail to my NBCChicago.com minders asking about it. At the same time, I noticed that a story I had submitted earlier that morning - and which had been approved in the usual morning pitch process - had never been posted. That was about the suicide of Michael Scott, a Daley insider who had most recently been the chairman of the school board.

(In that post, I recounted the evidence in the case and suggested that the delay by the police chief in finally declaring Scott's death a suicide had the tinge of politics and media management about it. I also suggested the police chief would finally see the light on a late Friday afternoon, when news the mayor likes to bury gets buried. And that's exactly what happened.)

Phone conversations with the NBCChicago.com managing editor and his boss followed that day and the following Monday (December 4 and 7) in which I was told that "someone from the Tribune sent an e-mail to New York" and "somebody in New York was contacted by somebody - you can read between the lines."

There was not a "comfort level" in Chicago with what happened, I was told, but it happened at "the highest levels" of the company. And that "the highest levels of the company" made the decision "to remove" the Michaels post.

I was then told that the Michael Scott story had been scotched because he was a friend of a high-ranking station official here in Chicago who had been "ruffled" by the coverage of Scott's death to that point. On the heels of the Tribune controversy, I was told, the folks (or perhaps just one folk) here in Chicago didn't want another battle on their hands.

I was then told that was an overreaction.

I was shaken, of course. With 20 years in the business, I know how things work. And yet, with everything I've seen myself and reported on in others, I cannot recall ever being involved in an incident like this. It was truly depressing.

I never set out to be a media critic. All I've ever wanted - well, after it became clear I would never play centerfield for the Twins, shortstop for the Cubs, or lead a rock and roll band - was to be a journalist. Call me corny, but I believe in the calling deeply.

But how can journalists keep quiet about what goes on in their own shops while cajoling - and even moralizing to - others to speak out about what goes on in theirs? We as an industry hail the whistleblower in print while not only keeping secrets ourselves, but expounding on how much the citizenry needs forthright people like us for democracy to survive.

It makes me sick to my stomach.

News organizations are the biggest hypocrites on the planet because they so often violate ethical standards - conflicts of interest, deception of the public - that they so often try to hold others to. Nothing is more disheartening to journalists who actually believe in what they do to hear of and confront and become entangled such untoward activities.

* * *

I knew immediately my gig was in jeopardy; not because I thought I would face retribution but because I thought I would be just one of those hypocrites I decry if I went merrily on my way.

I tried to take myself through a reasoned ethical checklist.

First, did I trust the folks at NBCChicago.com and NBC Universal?

No.

Even if I was told - which I was - that this was a one-time deal (even though the Scott incident made it a two-times-in-two-days deal) and they had my back, it wasn't the first time that the NBC folks acted, in my view, irresponsibly. Nothing that had happened previously measured up to an ethical breach like this per se, but a pattern of sloppiness, poor judgement, and reckless disregard for factual precision had long ago put me on edge.

And I couldn't very well continue writing media columns like the one that usually appears in this space while keeping to myself the fact that I had been told that someone at the Tribune had reached into NBC at the highest levels to squelch a post about the CEO - and one involving claims of sexual harassment at that, and involving a person who hopes to stay on as CEO once the company exits bankruptcy and Zell leaves the stage.

I could come clean here like I'm doing now, but that, I presumed, would have resulted in my dismissal. Besides, as the conversations continued, including one with a vice president in New York, it wasn't completely clear what had happened. Even if no one from the Tribune contacted NBC - doubt was now being sown - that was something no one from NBC could tell me either. That, I was told, was something we would never know.

That I took as backtracking. And it wasn't good enough.

* * *

From the start I was assured and reassured that the content of the post was not the issue. The "sourcing" - which consisted of links to pieces referencing a lawsuit, a 20/20 segment, and mainly an extensive piece of reporting by Salon that had never come under question as far as I could tell - was "airtight," I was told. Nobody was questioning the accuracy of the post. The post, it was theorized, had become a proxy for a larger debate in the company about the mix of commentary and news on its websites.

Perhaps. But of all the posts I've written for NBC, this would hardly stand as one of the most controversial. And nobody had a problem with it until the evening of the morning it was posted. After that purported Tribune contact.

I was also told that the highest-ranking folks here in Chicago thought the post was "old news" and "a personal attack."

Right.

I keep up pretty extensively on the media and I have to say I had never come across the information about Michaels before that I used in the post. And it was no more a personal attack than anything critical we've written about anyone, including Zell. That doesn't fly.

Later I was told that the president of NBC Universal's local news division (whom I think came up through the sales side) made the call. The post didn't meet the standards of the NBC brand, he had said.

Like those photo galleries of catwalk spills and sexy magazine spreads?

The Michaels post was partly about sexual harassment, not sex. It wasn't arted with yet another montage of cleavage that has become so familiar on the site over the past few months.

* * *

After discussing the issue with the locals, I was asked to speak to an NBC Universal vice president who oversaw us to try to resolve the matter. NBC wanted to keep me and at that point knew I was thinking seriously about leaving.

The veep just made things worse.

First, he started out the conversation by telling me about the big plans for the site in 2010 - and how it would include more visibility for my work and more money for me.

I could only wonder if he was trying to buy me off. I'm a reporter, dude. Think.

It went downhill from there. I explained that what he had just told me was well and good, but irrelevant to the issue at hand: Did someone from the Tribune get that post taken down?

The veep: I don't know.

Me: Well don't you think you should find out?

The veep: I don't think I can.

Me: Aren't you concerned that someone can reach into your editorial product and fiddle with its integrity?

The veep: I don't think we'll ever know.

Me: Then why am I talking to you? That's what this conversation was supposed to be about.

The veep: I don't think this is the one to go to war over.

Which one is, then? I thought. Describe the circumstance.

Then I heard something fairly amazing from the veep: That the problem was that the post didn't go far enough! I had the goods, he said; I could have eviscerated Michaels. Instead, the "tone" was off. It was something he never would have posted in the first place.

This from a guy who used the word "salacious" three times in a discussion I had with him a few months ago when we were both exploring the idea that I might become managing editor of the site. Approvingly. As in he wanted salacious material on the site. I was the one who wasn't down with that.

I have a hard time believing, then, that he couldn't get past the rubber penis Michaels allegedly wore around his neck when he worked at Clear Channel. (And again, that's not about sex, it's about sexual harassment.)

I also mentioned the Michael Scott incident to him; he said he didn't know anything about it. He would look into it. He would talk to someone in Chicago and I would hear something back.

I never heard anything back. In fact, by the end of the day he hadn't talked to anyone in Chicago, as far as I was able to determine.

So last Thursday evening, I resigned as a contributor to NBCChicago.com.

* * *

I didn't use names in this piece because I don't really intend this as a "tell-all;" instead, to me, it's another in an incredibly long line of tales about journalism and its discontents. It's a sick, diseased industry that can't seem to get past the basics of what it is and what it's supposed to do. It felt right to leave names out of it.

My intention also is not to signal to future employers or partners that I will blab about every decision I do not agree with. Editors properly have the authority to make decisions that reporters don't agree with. That's not what this is about. The post could have been edited, rewritten, sent back for refinement if there was a problem.

I also believe that while news organizations should be far more transparent than they are, that certain editorial discussions are properly confidential. I just don't think that applies here. I think you can see why.

Finally, and frankly, I have neither the time nor the energy to continue chasing this to its logical, reported conclusion. Mainly because it's partly my own story. That has pros and cons, but for me to report out has too much a twinge of vengeance. That's not what this is about either. I'll leave it to other interested parties to pursue, if they wish. Maybe it's all just an innocent misunderstanding. That's certainly not the impression I've been given, though, and sometimes what an organization is not willing to tell you is as important as what they are.

-

Programming Note: Posting will be light through the holidays, but we will still be open for business. Today we have George Ofman on the latest Bears disaster in Air Cutler Crashes Again.

-

The Beachwood Tip Line: Airborne.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:27 AM | Permalink

Air Cutler Crashes Again

By George Ofman

Jay Cutler's quarterback rating was a 7.9. The snowfall in Baltimore was twice as much.

It says a lot about the storm. It says even more about Cutler.

He's been a bust! There's no other way to put it.

As much as I've tried to defend Cutler because most of what's around him is a sham, his performance has been worthy of great skepticism. You can only say he needs better receivers, better play-calling and a better offensive line so much. After awhile you have to wonder how this guy was a Pro Bowl quarterback just a year ago.

Was it the high altitude or smoke and mirrors?

While Jerry Angelo did anything but give :ovie Smith a vote of confidence before the game, Cutler continued his march toward ignominy on the field. Three more interceptions gave him a staggering total of 25. The first two were on the Bears first two possessions of the game and it lead to a pair of Raven's touchdowns. It was at this point some Bears fans were hoping for an avalanche. They got it. The Ravens would score 17 more in the span of less than five minutes in the third quarter.

Lovie still might get fired. Cutler won't.

He's the guy the Bears must build around, though it might take a team of paleontologists to unearth some talent - and some coaches.

It's almost hard to fathom Cutler actually could get worse. It's no secret the Bears are undermanned, particularly on offense. You'd like to believe that with a core of better receivers such as Cutler had in Denver, he could thrive and carry this team.

You'd really like to think so. Then again, you start to doubt.

Cutler engineered two fairly impressive drives in the first quarter but sabotaged both with galling picks. Then, in another one of those surreal sequences that has become a trademark of this season's team, a three-and-out went this way: With less than two minutes to go in the half, Cutler is ready to work a screen pass, sees it won't develop and fires the ball to the ground. The clock stops. Matt Forte then takes a handoff, can't find running room and heads out of bounds. The clock stops again. Then Cutler can't find an open receiver and runs for his life, out of bounds. The clock stops yet again. Time to punt and the Ravens still have a minute-and-a-half to work with. This is supposed to be a two-minute drill. And Tiger Woods is abstinent.

You can't blame everything on Cutler but top ten quarterbacks don't have games like this and more often than not. Neither do the QBs rated 11 through 20 or those rated 21 through 30!

Angelo says he'll evaluate everything at the end of the season. One assumes someone will evaluate Angelo, whose job it was to furnish Cutler with more than just hood ornaments for a Volkswagen Beetle.

No matter what Angelo decides, the future of Jay Cutler's possible success rides with his ability to restock the Bears with more ammunition. This means an improved offensive line, upgrades at wide receiver and much better schemes. Which translates into Ron Turner's dismissal and perhaps Lovie's, as well.

Even If Cutler gets what he wants (and Devin Aromashodu won't do), he still might wind up a shade better than mediocre. This is not what the Bears forked up two first-round picks, Kyle Orton and a tidy some of money in Cutler's pocket for.

The real intrigue begins the day after the season finale. I can't wait.

-

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

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:32 AM | Permalink

December 19, 2009

The Weekend Desk Report

By Natasha Julius

The Weekend Desk is signing off for 2009 as next week marks the annual Feast of the Blessed Retail Relics. Today we take a look at the stories that might catch our wary eye in the New Year.

The Bachelympic Games
As Vancouver basks in the gleaming white glow of next year's televised pageant, perhaps Chicago mayor Richard Daley will finally realize that pathetically flaunting yourself in an attempt to beat other desperate cities is hardly the way to earn the world's respect. Besides, if his agent can get him on Dancing with the Stars he might just wind up America's Sweetheart.

Change We Can Believe In
We were going to say President Obama will continue to water down his major policy objectives in the hope they won't be sunk outright. Suddenly, though, that joke's not funny.

Just Can't Copenhagen
In related news, we're guessing the Commander in Chief sticks to Oslo from now on.

Daley Delay
Continuing its new policy of timely public service, the City of Chicago will announce free smallpox vaccinations for all residents. Also, all side streets will be plowed and potholes patched by June 2011 at the absolute latest.

Lohan Ebb
Finally, we can confidently predict that, despite vocal world criticism and mounting collateral damage, the unquestionably honorable goal will remain frustratingly difficult to achieve.

-

The Weekend Desk Tip Line: Operators standing by.

Posted by Natasha Julius at 9:01 AM | Permalink

December 18, 2009

The [Friday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

Mayor Richard M. Daley is just livid that city workers in his employ are less likely to report wrongdoing than workers in other cities, according to a survey by his own Office of Compliance.

"This is unacceptable anyplace in my administration," he said.

And then he called on his imprisoned former patronage chief Robert Sorich to finally come clean and spill.

Oh, that didn't happen?

Maybe I mis-heard. Maybe he demanded somebody, anybody, finally tell him who hired Angelo Torres.

No?

But Fran Spielman "reports" today that "Mayor Daley put his foot down when he heard the [survey] results."

Maybe she meant he put his foot down on the head of compliance office director Anthony Boswell.

*

"The snapshot of City Hall work culture found that Chicago employees report only one out of every two instances of misconduct that they witness," the Tribune reports. "Workers for other local governments, however, were more likely to disclose on-the-job wrongdoing, reporting two out of every three instances of misconduct.

"Anthony Boswell, the executive director of the mayor's Office of Compliance, said he is going to create new initiatives, including training programs, to address Chicago workers' concerns about retaliation."

Ouch! Daley just put his other foot down.

*

"If people think nothing will happen when they report misconduct or if people believe they will be retaliated against, then they are likely to say nothing," Boswell said.

In which case the mayor will bless their legal fundraisers.

County Bounty
How and when did I know that Danny Davis didn't endorse Toni Preckwinkle? At 9:57 a.m. on Thursday, when a campaign e-mail landed in my in-box announcing that Luis Gutierrez had.

I would be utterly shocked if the Preckwinkle campaign wasn't holding that endorsement back for just the right moment. Thursday was that moment, blunting Davis's endorsement and creating the framework for news reports twinning both announcements. And how did the Stroger campaign react to getting shut out?

Disingenuously, as usual.

"Congressman Davis has made a point of expressing his desire to not create or involve himself in any issue that would divide the African American community," campaign manager Vince Williams said in a statement. "However, this endorsement has the potential to do just that, divide the community."

You can't divide the community when your candidate is barely polling in the double digits.

But worse:

"However, as recent as yesterday, WVON radio station conducted a poll on the four candidates for Cook County Board President. More than 63 percent of the respondents indicated they will cast their vote for President Stroger."

And I'm sure Williams had his staff dialing in furiously!

(Marcus Gilmer at Chicagoist notes the absence of any polling data on WVON's website. On the other hand, what data? How many people named Vince called in supporting Stroger?)

But that's not all.

"Many of the individuals reflected in this poll are residents of the west side and 7th Congressional district."

That would be Davis's district. I'm sure Davis is terrified.

Health Gap
"A widening gulf in the health status of blacks and whites in Chicago comes even as disparities between the two races nationally have remained relatively constant, a new study has found," the Tribune reports.

*

Memo to all those (comfortable) commentators looking for the next big project to "replace" the Olympics: How 'bout we stop neglecting the well-being of our most vulnerable citizens? Is that big enough for you?

Tumblin' Dice
"Jesse White cites need for stability in backing Pat Quinn for governor," the Tribune reports.

Stability? We're all dizzy from Quinn's array of flip-flops and generally unsteady hand. I'm sure there's a joke reference White's tumbling team here somewhere, but I'm in no mood to find it.

Red Light Ruckus
"If improved safety is the goal of red-light cameras, then it is a mission largely unaccomplished for the first crop of area suburbs that raced to install the devices after they became legal in 2006, according to state data," the Tribune reports.

"Accidents rose - in some cases, significantly - at half the 14 suburban intersections outfitted with traffic cameras by the end of 2007, the data show. The number of crashes fell at just five of those intersections after cameras went in, while two showed little change."

The Tribune reported in November that "Cameras are said to reduce accidents, but collision records compiled by the Illinois Department of Transportation indicate that accidents increased at many city intersections the year after red-light cameras were installed. In fact slightly more intersections saw an increase than a decrease, the data show."

Health Bill of Particulars
"The biggest enemy to health care reform right now isn't Republicans; it's the Obama administration's desire to say they've passed it rather than actually doing it."

- Me, in July

Tiger Tale
"I would just like to ask Tiger, 'What do you think your father would think about this?'" Janet Carroll of Blue Island asks in a letter to the Tribune today.

Sorry to break it to you Janet, but here's a clue.

Reality Check
Our very own Scott Buckner on celebrity dating advice.

Best Bowl Preview Ever
Since last year's Beachwood Bowl guide. Truly.

Jukebox Heroes
According to Bloodshot artists.
-

The Beachwood Tip Line: Cha-cha.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:09 AM | Permalink

Reality Check: Celebrity Dating Advice

By Scott Buckner

I am a major fan of Esquire magazine.I even have an actual subscription to it. But Esquire and Yahoo Personals have seen fit to publish "Dating Tips: 12 Things You Don't Know About Women," and I have to object.

Because, well, despite the best efforts of Brad Paisley, Esquire and Yahoo seem to think we men are still dragging our knuckles on the ground and have no clue when it comes to dating plain ordinary, non-famous women.

Articles like this are always popular because it seems half of us men wouldn't know how to find our way to a woman's brain even if it was MapQuested for us, and the other half wouldn't know what to do once we got there. As it happens, Yahoo! and Esquire solicited the advice of some of the world's most distractingly attractive female celebrities who would probably just sit there on a date with us wishing we'd stop staring at their tits and eat our salad already.

Let's take a look.

Celebrity: Christina Applegate
Advice: "Call us back right away. That 'three day' business does not apply. We're getting older, and we don't have time to screw around. Wait too long and we'll lose interest. Trust me on this one."

Comment: This is true. Three days is far too long to call her back in the hope that she'll put out, even when you both wind up somewhere drunk out of your minds.

*

Celebrity: Courteney Cox
Advice: "We pay closer attention to your hands than you think. It's bad enough if you don't have manly hands, but if your nails are longer than ours, forget it."

Comment: Or maybe it just means he inhales - and can afford to - a whole lot of coke, which tends to attract a whole lot of women who don't pay a whole lot of attention to a lot of other things. Otherwise, the rest of us shouldn't get too worried about it. The day women start posting ads on Craisglist putting a premium on manly hands over whatever manly business you have between your legs is the day I believe David Arquette even has manly business between his legs.

*

Celebrity: Padma Lakshmi
Advice: "Some of us prefer boxing to yoga. None of us actually likes Pilates."

Comment: This is probably the only reasonable advice I've heard. Men who are able to hold their own in an Ultimate Fighting cage will always get dates. And in most barrooms, so will any man who can stab someone in the face with a broken beer bottle or bust someone's skull wide open with a pool cue.

*

Celebrity: Alyssa Milano
Advice: "Women are innately self-conscious. This is not a choice; it's a genderwide condition. On a bad day, I look in the mirror and see my ten-pound-heavier alter ego. Her name is Bertha. On a really bad day, Bertha sees her two-hundred-pound-heavier alter ego. Her name is Brian Dennehy."

Comment: On a really bad day, we men look in the mirror in see a 200-pound heavier alter ego. His name is Oprah Winfrey.

*

Celebrity: Poppy Montgomery
Advice: "When considering whether or not to ask out the girl you're afraid to talk to, keep this in mind: No matter who you are or what you look like, it's always flattering when you hit on us. Always."

Comment: The day Poppy Montgomery allows any member of the general public or the paparazzi to see her driving off in a Yugo with Ken Jennings or Jessica Alba gets hot for Dwight Schrute and his beet farm is the day Nostradamus says "Fuck it."

*

Celebrity: Tea Leoni
Advice: "Supersecret: Unless we're blind or have no night-light in the bathroom, the whole toilet-seat thing is exaggerated and meant to control you."

Comment: Supersecret: We men don't give a shit.

*

Celebrity: Mariska Hargitay #1
Advice: "We love the fact that it takes you only twelve minutes to get ready for anything, be it a black tie [event] or a basketball game. When it takes longer than that . . . what are you doing in there?"

Comment: Thank you Mariska, for giving us menfolk the the only support of our entire existence in the whole article. True: if we're in any room alone longer than 12 minutes, you should be wondering whether we're in there redecorating or something. Unless we're in the bathroom, where it's not unheard of for us to blow through an entire copy of the Calvin and Hobbes collection in one sitting.

*

Celebrity: Mariska Hargitay #2
Advice: "We are all about our necks. Feel free to spend as much time there as you wish."

Comment: We'd love to, but then we'd have to listen to you bitch about how you had to explain to the National Enquirer why you have still have a week-old that big-ass hickey on your neck.

*

Celebrity: Emily Deschanel
Advice: "Even if we've only been dating a few weeks, don't introduce us as your 'lady friend' - or that's exactly what we'll become."

Comment: "Lady friend?" Maybe if this was 1905. You should be more worried about anyone introducing you in the 1970s/Barry White parlance of "This is my lady."

*

Celebrity: Jenna Fischer
Advice: "If we run into your ex-girlfriend in public, the first thing you should do is put your arm around us. And if we have to introduce ourselves, you are in big trouble."

Comment: On the other hand, if you ever ran into one of our ex-girlfriends (or ex-wives) in public, we'd hope you'd poke her eye out for being the insensitive bitch she was to let a winner like us ever get away. Even if you didn't mean it, we men love a woman who can put up a good, strong territorial display by poking another one's eye out - because, well, if we're not good enough for you to poke someone's eye out over, why are you wasting your time with us?

*

Celebrity: Julie Delpy
Advice: "We need you to be reachable at all times, but we don't always pick up our phones when you call. We realize this seems like a double standard; if you'd like to discuss it further, just leave a message."

Comment: Of course we'll leave a message: it will usually be "Fuck you." And then we'll have to deal with the 123,945 messages from you because we don't always pick up our phone at the same time you've decided that now is a good time to discuss it further.

*

Celebrity: Maria Bello
Advice: "We're afraid of commitment, too. You may think we spend our time scheming ways to trap you into marriage, but many of us are quite happy being independent and autonomous. Besides, we're not in any rush to quit lusting after young Calvin Klein models."

Comment: Marriage? We're just trying to trap you into a single night of carnal bliss. Still, be independent and autonomous as you'd like. In fact, we don't need you to quit lusting after young Calvin Klein models if it makes your night. We're easy. We'll even let you bring along that young Calvin Klein model you have you eye on, as long as we don't have to, you know, touch his dick or anything.

*

Celebrity: Kyra Sedgwick
Advice: "Our friends are not your enemies, and our enemies better not be your friends."

Comment: When you're hooked up with someone - especially if that someone is marvelously attractive or a celebrity - enemies abound, even among friends. So I prefer the more realistic observation of Kyra's husband, actor Kevin Bacon: "Any idiot can get laid when they're famous. That's easy. It's getting laid when you're not famous - that takes some talent."

-

Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:43 AM | Permalink

The Beachwood Bowl Series '09

By The Beachwood Bowl Affairs Desk
Once again it's time for our annual guide to America's college bowl games. Read it, weep, and stay away from the parlays this holiday season.

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Game: The New Mexico Bowl
Date: Dec. 19 (3:30 p.m., ESPN)
Matchup: Fresno State vs. Wyoming
Where: University Stadium, Albuquerque

Comment: It's a shoot-out in the Old West! It's Shootout at the O.K. Corral II! It's . . . a bowl game no one really cares about. But for problem gamblers out there, remember the Beachwood Bowl Series rule: Never depend on a school named after a state that doesn't exist. Wyoming in a walk.

*

Game: The Beef O'Brady's Bowl
Date: Dec. 19 (7 p.m., ESPN)
Matchup: UCF vs. Rutgers
Where: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg

Comment: Formerly the St. Petersburg Bowl, this game is now sponsored by a chain of "family sports restaurants" that just rolled out Smokin' Jack Sliders. Be sure to choose the mashed potatoes with Guinness gravy as one of your sides. (Three locations in Illinois!)

Oh yeah, the game. Central Florida has the home-state edge, but they'll be done in by the Chocolate Eruption Cake. O'Brady's hasn't made it to Jersey yet, so we'll go with the Guidos.

*

Game: The R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Date: Dec. 20 (7:30 p.m, ESPN)
Matchup: Southern Miss vs. Middle Tennessee
Where: The Superdome

Comment: You've gotta be a hard-core Rebel to not just be Mississippi, but Southern Mississippi. Twice as much South! Really Ole Miss. Still, Middle Tennessee sounds a bit too much like Middle Earth. This game will end in a tie and mindless violence.

*

Game: The MAACO Las Vegas Bowl
Date: Dec. 22 (8 p.m., ESPN)
Matchup: Oregon State vs. BYU
Where: Sam Boyd Stadium

Comment: MAACO sponsors because college students coming to Vegas for a bowl game get wrecked. (Ba dum-dum.) Caesar's has set the Over/Under on disgraced Mormons at 1.5 and the Beavers money line at $500/hour.

*

Game: The San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
Date: Dec. 23 (7 p.m., ESPN)
Matchup: Utah vs. Cal
Where: Qualcomm Stadium

Comment: The San Diego County Credit Union sponsors a bowl game. The Cook County Credit Union fixes bowl games. And a little birdie told us Cal is taking a dive in this one.

*

Game: The Sheraton Hawaii Bowl
Date: Dec. 24 (7 p.m., ESPN)
Matchup: Nevada vs. SMU
Where: Aloha Stadium

Comment: The Wolfpack and Mustangs had already accepted other bowl invitations when they received word that the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl would be insisting the game be played in grass skirts and coconut bras. Losers have to stay at Red Roofs on the road next season.

*

Game: The Little Caesars Bowl
Date: Dec. 26 (Noon, ESPN)
Matchup: Marshall vs. Ohio
Where: Ford Field

Comment: Ohio State Jr. is no match for a franchise memorialized in the movies. Winner advances to next year's Big Salad Bowl.

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Game: The Meineke Car Care Bowl
Date: Dec. 26 (3:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Pitt vs. North Carolina
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte

Comment: Ticket buyers automatically qualify for Bank of America's new Omerta card. No more hassling with paper bills; BofA's representatives will collect monthly payments in person. Terms subject to rapid change and non-negotiable. Pitt pulls this one out if they know what's good for them.

*

Game: The Emerald Bowl
Date: Dec. 26 (7 p.m., ESPN)
Matchup: Boston College vs. USC
Where: AT&T Park

Comment: Trojans always perform well in San Francisco.

*

Game: The Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl
Date: Dec. 27 (7:30 p.m., ESPN)
Matchup: Kentucky vs. Clemson
Where: Nashville

Comment: Both teams play to a scoreless tie to avoid having to tell grandchildren about the time they won the Gaylord Bowl.

*

Game: The AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl
Date: Dec. 28 (4 p.m., ESPN2)
Matchup: Texas A&M vs. Georgia
Where: Shreveport

Comment: If AdvoCare was paying attention to the marketing geniuses at the NFL, they would have named this one the VC Independence Bowl. Better yet: The AC-VC Independence Bowl. Better yet: The Shreveport Is A Toilet Bowl. Georgia stinks less in this game.

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Game: The EagleBank Bowl
Date: Dec. 29 (3:30 p.m., ESPN)
Matchup: UCLA vs. Temple
Where: RFK Stadium

Comment: Little-known fact: One of Robert F. Kennedy's most cherished dreams was to one day host a bank bowl. Losers forced to take on subprime mortgages.

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Game: The Champs Sports Bowl
Date: Dec. 29 (7 p.m., ESPN)
Matchup: Miami vs. Wisconsin
Where: Orlando

Comment: Ah, it's the good ol' former Sunshine Classic turned Blockbuster Bowl turned Carquest Bowl turned MicronPC Bowl then MicronPC.com Bowl turned Visit Florida Tangerine Bowl then Mazda Tangerine Bowl now Champs Sports Bowl! Fuck 'em, Bucky.

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Game: The Roady's Humanitarian Bowl
Date: Dec. 30 (3:30 p.m, ESPN)
Matchup: Bowling Green vs. Idaho
Where: Bronco Stadium

Comment: A U.N. peace-keeping force will be deployed to make sure tackling doesn't break out.

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Game: The Pacific Life Holiday Bowl
Date: Dec. 30 (7 p.m., ESPN)
Matchup: Arizona vs. Nebraska
Where: Qualcomm Stadium

Comment: Schools can receive their bowl fee in variable, fixed-rate or structured settlement annuities. Investors should carefully consider an annuity's risks, charges, limitations, and expenses, as well as the risks, charges, expenses, and investment objectives of the underlying investment options. Flight insurance also available.

*

Game: The Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl
Date: Dec. 31 (11 a.m., ESPN)
Matchup: Houston vs. Air Force
Where: Fort Worth

Comment: As part of their broadcast contract, commentators had to agree to avoid mentioning the 2003-2006 years of what was known at the time as the Halliburton Armed Forces Bowl.

*

Game: The Brut Sun Bowl
Date: Dec. 31 (1 p.m., CBS)
Matchup: Oklahoma vs. Stanford
Where: El Paso

Comment: Fresh off last year's Dust Bowl victory, the Okies get those Stanford snobs in their backyard this year. By the way, international climate change officials meeting in Copenhagen have decreed that next year this be called The Brutal Sun Bowl.

*

Game: The Texas Bowl
Date: Dec. 31 (2:30 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Navy vs. Missouri
Where: Reliant Stadium, Houston

Comment: The Navy's a little busy right now ferrying a new batch of soldiers to Afghanistan, so Missouri will face a team composed of patients from the National Center for PTSD instead. Could go either way.

*

Game: The Insight Bowl
Date: Dec. 31 (5 p.m., NFL Network)
Matchup: Minnesota vs. Iowa State
Where: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe

Comment: Typically the longest game of the season because the sponsor - the American Psychology Association - encourages players to reflect after each play on why they did what they just did.

*

Game: The Chick-fil-A Bowl
Date: Dec. 31 (6:30 p.m., ESPN)
Matchup: Virginia Tech vs. Tennessee
Where: Georgia Dome

Comment: Volunteers suddenly have the upper hand over techsters in today's economy. Tennessee goes home with The Golden Chicken Bucket.

*

Game: The Outback Bowl
Date: Jan. 1 (10 a.m., ESPN)
Matchup: Northwestern vs. Auburn
Where: Tampa

Comment: Next year this game will be played in Chicago and called The Kickback Bowl.

*

Game: The Capital One Bowl
Date: Jan. 1 (Noon, ABC)
Matchup: Penn State vs. LSU
Where: Orlando

Comment: Just by tuning in you agree to pay 27.99 percent on all purchases made until next year's Capitol One Bowl.

*

Game: The Konica Minolta Gator Bowl
Date: Jan. 1 (Noon, CBS)
Matchup: West Virginia vs. Florida State
Where: Jacksonville

Comment: In today's Konica Minolta world, Bobby Bowden is a Polaroid.

*

Game: The Rose Bowl presented by Citi
Date: Jan 1. (3:30 p.m., ABC)
Matchup: Ohio State. vs. Oregon
Where: Pasadena

Comment: If I'm contributing to Ohio State and Oregon universities through jacked-up rates on my Citi card, at least they could send me a sweatshirt or something.

*

Game: The Allstate Sugar Bowl
Date: Jan. 1 (7:30 p.m., FOX)
Matchup: Florida vs. Cincinnati
Where: Superdome

Comment: Locals whose claims were denied by Allstate after Katrina will not be admitted.

*

Game: The International Bowl
Date: Jan. 2 (11 a.m., ESPN2)
Matchup: South Florida vs. Northern Illinois
Where: Toronto

Comment: Original contestants Pakistan and India backed out after failing to come to an agreement on what time to start the game. NIU Coach Jerry Kill has the scariest football name this side of Chad Slaughter. The winner here gets free health care and all the poutine they can eat.

*

Game: The Papajohns.com Bowl
Date: Jan. 2 (1 p.m., ESPN)
Matchup: South Carolina vs. UConn
Where: Birmingham

Comment: Dot-com bowls are so pre-Great Recession.

*

Game: The AT&T Cotton Bowl
Date: Jan. 2 (1 p.m., FOX)
Matchup: Oklahoma State vs. Ole Miss
Where: Cowboys Stadium, Arlington

Comment: Roaming charges will apply to anyone outside of the Metroplex watching the game.

*

Game: The AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Date: Jan. 2 (1 p.m., FOX)
Matchup: Arkansas vs. East Carolina
Where: Memphis

Comment: The winner goes on to fight for liberty in Iraq. The loser goes to Afghanistan.

*

Game: The Valero Alamo Bowl
Date: Jan. 2 (8 p.m., ESPN
Matchup: Michigan State vs. Texas Tech
Where: Alamodome

Comment: The gas station chain Valero will sponsor the Alamo Bowl this year. In return, the Alamodome will add the following items to the concession stand: 24 oz. cans of Monster, packs of Mini Thins, tins of Kodiak, plus complimentary copies of Juggs magazine in the whizzjohn.

*

Game: The Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
Date: Jan. 4 (7 p.m., FOX)
Matchup: Boise State vs. TCU
Where: Glendale, Ariz.

Comment: In honor of the blue turf in Boise State's home stadium, Tostito's will offer blue corn chips at the concession stands this year. In honor of TCU's home stadium, Tostito's will offer bibles at the concession stands this year.

*

Game: The FedEx Orange Bowl
Date: Jan. 5 (7 p.m., FOX)
Matchup: Iowa vs. Georgia Tech
Where: Land Shark Stadium, Miami

Comment: What, no FedEx Kinko's Bowl? Iowa players don't do well around land sharks. Yellow Jackets swarm.

*

Game: The GMAC Bowl
Date: Jan. 6 (6 p.m., ESPN)
Matchup: Central Michigan vs. Troy
Where: Mobile, Ala.

Comment: Is General Motors still around? Is Central Michigan still around? Who is Troy and what does he bench press?

*

Game: The Citi BCS National Championship Game
Date: Jan. 7 (7 p.m., ABC)
Matchup: Texas vs. Alabama
Where: Pasadena

Comment: In the six days between the Citi Rose Bowl and this game, the average Citi credit card holder will have had his interest rate raised another 6 percent and seen monthly minimums double. And if you don't watch this game and provide the ratings promised to advertisers so Citi can pay off Texas and Alabama and have a hefty chunk of dough left over, you will be charged even more to make up the difference. Coming next: The Citi Super Bowl.

- Mike Luce, Dan O'Shea, Steve Rhodes

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:42 AM | Permalink

Bloodshot Briefing: Jukebox Heroes

By Matt Harness

Ever since I pulled up a chair to the Beachwood Music desk in April, I've been asking the Bloodshot artists I've interviewed how they would spend their last quarters of the night on the jukebox in the corner. Feel free to turn this list into your own private compilation.

*

"Ha Ha Ha" by Del Shannon

*

"Whiskey River" by Willie Nelson

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"Freight Train" by Elizabeth Cotten

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"Five Years" by David Bowie

*

"You Got Me Runnin'" by Jimmy Reed

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"Opportunity to Cry" by Willie Nelson

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"Mississippi Queen" by Mountain

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"Sleepwalk" by Santo & Johnny

*

"Walking on Hell's Roof" by Waco Brothers

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"Nervous Breakdown" by Black Flag

*

"Ninth Wave" by Ventures

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"Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis" by Tom Waits

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"Ballroom Blitz" by Sweet

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"Queen Jane Approximately" by Bob Dylan

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"Tumbling Dice" by Rolling Stones

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"Smokestack Lightning" by Howlin' Wolf

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"Holland 1945" by Neutral Milk Hotel

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"My Favorite Lies" by George Jones

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"Trying to Live My Life Without You" by Otis Clay

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"Bartender's Blues" by George Jones

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"Lonesome, Ornery and Mean" by Waylon Jennings

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"My Lover's Prayers" by Otis Redding

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"Rumble" by Link Wray

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"Sing a Sad Song" by Merle Haggard

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"Turning Japanese" by The Vapors

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"I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" by Hank Williams

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"What's Made Milwaukee Famous" by Jerry Lee Lewis

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"So Long, Marianne" by Leonard Cohen

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"Window Up Above" by George Jones

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"Rollin'" by Randy Newman

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"Ace of Spades" by Link Wray

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"Dark Night" by Flat Duo Jets

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"Rocket" by George Jones

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"Is That All There Is" by Peggy Lee

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Bloodshot Live
Mark your calendars if you haven't already - still a lot of Bloodshot to go this month.

*

Artist: 15th Anniversary Holiday Show and Benefit (Detroit Cobras, Dex Romweber Duo, The Blacks, Lawrence Peters Outfit)
Date: Dec. 19
Venue: Double Door
Note: All ticket proceeds ($10 suggested minimum donation) will go toward recovery funds for The Scotland Yard Gospel and Lawrence Peters.

*

Artist: Waco Brothers
Date: Dec. 26-27
Venue: Schubas

*

Artist: Bobby Bare, Jr.
Date: Dec. 31
Venue: Schubas

-

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

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 3:20 AM | Permalink

December 17, 2009

The [Thursday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

"A consulting firm headed by former Illinois Senate President Emil Jones Jr.'s stepson John Sterling has been paid more than $787,000 under a Cook County contract funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, despite failing to provide required weekly reports - for 21 months," Carol Marin and Don Moseley report.

+

"Retired Illinois Senate President Emil Jones, the political godfather of President Obama, is mounting a formidable effort to re-elect embattled Cook County Board President Todd Stroger," Sneed reports.

=

Just sayin'.

Tallest Midget
Rich Miller and his Capitol Fax Blog readers have selected Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) as the state's best legislator.

"John Cullerton's ascension to the Senate Presidency has propelled Harmon into the upper echelons of legislative power," Miller writes. "He is a likely future Senate President himself. Harmon was an overwhelming favorite in the nominations. This one was representative . . . "

Smart, hardworking, and not an ideologue.

You mean this Don Harmon?

Back on February 13, state rep Kevin Joyce introduced a bill to expand the kinds of materials open to the public under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. On April 3 that bill passed the house and was sent to the senate, where it sat in committee for weeks. Legislators tell me that during that time city lobbyists got in touch with their allies in the senate, and on May 18 Senator Don Harmon gutted the bill, removing the language about the FOIA and adding an amendment that extended the life of the four Chicago TIF districts: Madden/Wells, Roosevelt/Racine, Stony Island/Burnside, and Englewood Mall. None of these fall into Harmon's legislative district.
Harmon - who didn't return calls for this story - is from Oak Park, whose TIF policies seem to be almost as nutty as Chicago's, hard as that is to believe. (Hardly a week goes by without some Oak Parker calling and asking me to write about one TIF debacle or another.

The Michael Scott Affair
"Scott sat on the Chicago Olympics planning committee while getting paid an undisclosed monthly fee this year from Gerald W. Fogelson, the developer of the lakefront project, which could have benefitted from the Olympics," the Sun-Times noted on Wednesday in an editorial following up on the paper's reporting. "The proposed $3.5 billion condo-and-hotel project across Lake Shore Drive from Soldier Field is near the site that would have been the Olympic village.

"Scott also could have aided Fogelson as a member until May 2008 of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, also known as McPier. Fogelson was involved in land-swap talks about the lakefront project with McPier while Scott was on the McPier board."

+

"Chicago School Board members will decide Wednesday whether to dump their $24,000-a-year receipt-free expense accounts- tabs once likened to 'slush funds' - in favor of submitting receipts for all work-related expenses," the Sun-Times reports.

"Since August, Schools Inspector General James Sullivan has been investigating thousands of dollars in Chicago restaurant and other tabs School Board President Michael Scott placed on his Board of Education credit card."

=

Just sayin'.

Nothing To Fear But Fearmongers Themselves
"When the detainees arrive here, I predict, Illinoisans will pay attention for about five minutes and then go on calmly with their lives," Steve Chapman writes in today's must-read column. "At least the grown-ups will."

On Blago's Computers
What The Beachwood Tech Support Affairs Desk found on those stolen laptops.

Hit And Run
"Forced to build deeper rosters because of the DH rule, the AL has had an upper hand against the NL in recent years - a trend borne out in results from the All-Star Game, the World Series and in interleague play," Phil Rogers writes.

Is that really the reason for recent AL dominance? After all, NL teams are forced to build deeper bulllpens because they don't have the DH. And if it's true that good pitching beats good hitting . . .

I suspect something else is at play - and it might be right under Rogers' nose. His next sentence:

"AL teams have been bigger spenders than their NL counterparts."

Meeting Up Now
Jury pools and paranormals.

TIFs For The Homeless
Advocates target Fioretti.

Desolation Row
"Bogdanovich filmed The Last Picture Show in a way that makes you think a huge swarm of locusts must have descended upon Anarene the week before and stripped the place of every inch of paint, greenery, and hope, leaving behind little more than a crummy high school football team and a dark abyss of simmering desperation that could make the Joad family feel downright fortunate," our very own Scott Buckner writes in What I Watched Last Night. "Christ, even the town's make-out lake is a desolate mud flat."

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Simmering desperation.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:16 AM | Permalink

Blago's Computers

By The Beachwood Tech Support Affairs Desk

Two of the eight computers (and a safe) reported stolen from the office of one of Rod Blagojevich's attorneys earlier this month have been recovered. Whew!

Here's what the Beachwood Tech Support Affairs Desk has learned is on the computers.

* Spreadsheet of salon appointments.

* Yelp reviews of federal prisons.

* Sortable enemies list.

* List of working families he's helped.

* Opening chapters to follow-up to The Governor, to be called The Governor of Cell Block D.

* E-mails from George Ryan telling him to "hang in there."

* List of reasons why this whole thing is totally unfair.

* List of reasons why he would be a better president than Barack Obama.

* List of reasons why Patti won't divorce him.

* Copies of prank texts sent to Patrick Fitzgerald, Pat Quinn and Michael Madigan.

* Made-up evidence being saved for trial.

* Yelp reviews of federal judges.

* Phone number for Peter Francis Geraci.

* Photoshopped image of him sitting behind the president's desk in the Oval Office.

* Memo from lawyers outlining insanity plea strategy.

* Spreadsheet comparing his best qualities to those of Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

* Unpublished essay about who is funnier, Letterman or Leno.

* Escape plan similar to the one used in Con Air.

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Your suggestions welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:54 AM | Permalink

What I Watched Last Night: The Last Picture Show

By Scott Buckner

When you've made a choice to live your life without cable TV, finding something interesting enough to write about is often a dismal challenge. This is why I was was glad - and completely surprised - to see Chicago's very own MeToo (digital 26.3) airing 1971's critically-acclaimed The Last Picture Show at 3 a.m. last Sunday.

I was even more surprised to notice there were only one or two very short interruptions during the entire two-hour block, most notably by a flashback of the classic Keep America Beautiful "Crying Indian" commercial, which looked like it could have been filmed yesterday along the Grand Calumet River and the Borman Expressway near the Indiana-Illinois border.

The Last Picture Show takes place in the fictional rural Texas town of Anarene, whose commercial district is so utterly deserted and boarded-up that it's not fit for tumbleweeds or an echo, even in broad daylight.

I was curious to know whether director Peter Bogdanovich just couldn't afford any extras to mill about or whether the real-life Anarene was truly that desolate, so I consulted Wikipedia long enough to find out that the film was shot in Archer City, Texas, where Larry McMurtry - the author of the book behind the movie - grew up.

Besides mentioning that the town's visitor center "is currently closed until further notice," Archer City's official website proclaims "There's no place like Archer City" - although I'm willing to bet there are plenty of economically-bereft hamlets in this country willing to debate the point. But yeah, the place does appear to have wasted perfectly good money on buying a stoplight. It could use a good tuckpointer, too.

On top of that, Bogdanovich filmed The Last Picture Show in a way that makes you think a huge swarm of locusts must have descended upon Anarene the week before and stripped the place of every inch of paint, greenery, and hope, leaving behind little more than a crummy high school football team and a dark abyss of simmering desperation that could make the Joad family feel downright fortunate. Christ, even the town's make-out lake is a desolate mud flat.

As such, the only cultural and recreational opportunities in Anarene are the diner, the pool hall, the no-tell motel, the Oklahoma border, and seeing who can bang emerging town slut Jacy Farrow (Cybill Shepherd). Adding to the long-gone-lonesome-blue atmosphere is the fact that the only music in existence are songs by Hank Williams, Sr. You'd think a halfway-decent dive bar or a liquor store would make a killing in Anarene, but nobody in town is that bright.

Anarene's commercial future becomes even more precarious when the town's sole entrepreneur, Sam the Lion (Ben Johnson), dies and inexplicably wills his deserted cafe to its only waitress (Eileen Brennan); his deserted pool hall to the Andrew McCarthy clone; and his deserted movie theater (the Royal, still standing today in downtown Archer City) to the woman who runs the popcorn machine.

Otherwise, The Last Picture Show concerns itself with the buddy relationship between Sonny and Duane (Jeff Bridges, looking rather Val Kilmer-ish), and the budding relationship between Sonny and Ruth Popper (Cloris Leachman), the middle-aged wife of the high school's quite-possibly homosexual basketball coach.

The Sonny/Duane relationship becomes strained when Duane stabs Sonny's eye out with a broken beer bottle during an argument involving Jacy, but the two manage to smooth things over long enough to attend the last picture show at the Royal before it closes for good - an event so heart-wrenchingly important that Sonny and Duane are the only two people in the whole town who bother to show up for the 1948 John Wayne film Red River. Particularly unsettling is the segment where Wayne's command of "Take 'em to Missouri, men!" is followed by a long montage of a dozen crazed-looking cowpokes enthusiastically yooping it up because they're all glad as hell The Duke didn't order them to drive the cattle to Anarene.

Even if he did though, it's unlikely his cowhands would have managed to accomplish a feat pretty amazing even by Anarene standards by running their loaded cattle truck over the only thing on the street for miles around: a slow-on-the-uptake kid who was sweeping the middle of the street with an old-fashioned kitchen corn broom. "There's some crazy kids in this town if you ask me," observes one of the cattle-truck yokels as he and a bunch of his cohorts stand casually over the kid's body like it was a squished armadillo, perhaps discussing the dismal response time of Anarene's paramedics or the intelligence of its streets and sanitation department employees.

In such instances most of us would do something good-citizenlike, such as calling the cops, or at the very least an ambulance. Instead, Sonny screams, "He was sweeping, you sons of bitches!," collects the kid's body, sets it down on the sidewalk, and starts driving toward the town border. It takes Sonny a few moments to figure out that skipping town would be kind of pointless since he wasn't the one who mowed a kid down with a cattle truck - or that fleeing town without as much as a suitcase with a change of underwear might be a little foolhardy - so he turns the car around and heads straight to the home of Ruth, who answers the door looking like she ran out of Prozac halfway through a three-day hangover.

The film ends with Ruth and Sonny realizing they both have some deep, twisted flame that only love and sex between a lonely, depressed middle-aged woman and a teenager can quench. They didn't mention how they planned to explain their relationship to the town - much less Ruth's husband - but I was left with the impression that when you live in a town whose streets are as deserted as Anarene's, not many people are going to notice anyway.

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Visit the What I Watched Last Night archives and see what else we've been watching. Submissions welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:56 AM | Permalink

Meeting Up Now

By The Beachwood Meetup Affairs Desk

The newest Chicago meetups.

* Jury Duty Panels 9 and 45

* eCommerce Merchants - Chicago Chapter

* Javacrucians

* Chicago Team Canada Hockey Supporters, 2010 Olympics

* southside-meditation group

* Mastermind Group

* Weight Loss with a Coach!

* Paranormal Workshop of Chicagoland

* Black Diamond Ski Group

* Chicago Healthcare Technology / Health 2.0

* B2B Business Networking Group

* Arduino 101

* Know, Like, Trust - Networking & Lead Generating

* Barrington Career Center Jobs-Getting Program

* Chicago Holistic Group

* Chicago Ski and Snowboard

* Winter Dreams - A Dream Study Group

* Everything Herbal - Caribbean Herbal Lifestyle

* The Chicagoland Barter and Trade Network

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We've been tracking Chicago meetups since December 2007. In some ways one might argue that the nature of meetups says something about society at some particular moment. We'll let you decide for yourselves.

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* August 8, 2007: Ex-Southerner? Expat Aussie? Expert in cash flow and living in Lincoln Park? In 15 Meetups.

* August 24, 2007: The Calabrese And Friends Bensenville Basement Meetup. Meetup Match Game.

* December 5, 2007: Millionaires and insomniacs now have the support groups they always needed. In Meeting Up Now.

* February 6, 2008: Wiffleball in Chicago Heights. Beadwork in Schaumburg. Meeting Up Now.

* August 6, 2008: Karaoke in Romeoville. Flag football in Naperville. In Meeting Up Now.

* September 10, 2008: Cleveland Browns fans in Naperville. Boycotting Wal-Mart in Vernon Hills. A secret poker club in Elgin. In Meeting Up Now.

* October 1, 2008: Indiana John Birchers and Naperville Knitters. In Meeting Up Now.

* November 19, 2008: Kinky Figure Drawers and Gospel Greats of Comedy. Meeting Up Now.

* January 14, 2009: Des Plaines day traders and displaced Texans. In Meeting Up Now.

* April 30, 2009: Old Bakers Square People and The Chicago Starseeds. In Meeting Up Now.

* July 1, 2009: Paddlers 4 Jesus. Baby Blanket Bingo. In Meeting Up Now.

* August 5, 2009: Russian moms, psychics and salsa. In Meeting Up Now.

* October 28, 2009: Let's lighten up, Lake County! In Meeting Up Now.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:20 AM | Permalink

December 16, 2009

The [Wednesday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

I've got a lot of things going on, so I'm going to take a day off from the column. But we do have some new Beachwood material:

* We're glad to have our former What I Watched Last Night writer Pat Bataillon back on our pages. He returns with The CTA Chronicles: That Smell.

Feel free to submit your own tale for this feature. We'd also like to see readers submissions for The Chili Chronicles and The Salad Bar Series.

In fact, most of our regular features are open for submissions.

* Beachwood language expert Nancy Simon is back today with Rebalancing The World, which examines the latest trendy word.

* The NBA has a new superstar in the making, our very own Dan O'Shea writes in Fantasy Fix. Find out who it is.

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And I've got some posts at NBCChicago.com:

* Bring 'Em On! Thomson wants terrorists.

* Daleys Divorce Stroger. Too stupid to back.

* Voters Flunk Poll Questions. Most are idiots.

* Imagining Gov. Hendon. It could happen if you don't stop him.

* McKenna Faces Firing Squad. Seeds of candidacy questioned.

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In addition, Beachwood family members doing outstanding work:

* "Living in Emergency, which had [Michael] Moore made it would have looked like the pandering, pathetic human relief commercials (with laugh track) that pepper late-night television, represents everything that's right with documentaries," Marilyn Ferdinand writes at the stupendous Ferdy On Films.

"It presents in intimate and unflinching detail the compelling story of the humanitarian efforts of Medecins Sans Frontieres, aka Doctors Without Borders, an international organization that provides emergency medical care to people afflicted by armed conflict, epidemics, healthcare exclusion, and natural or manmade disasters. I'm deeply pleased that it was singled out for Oscar consideration over the popular choice."

* Horse With A Mullet, at the also-stupendous Reading With Scissors.

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I'll be back tomorrow.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Stupendous.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:31 AM | Permalink

Language Arts: Rebalancing

The whole world is being rebalanced it seems - whatever that means.

President Obama recently called for a rebalancing of the world economy. Cook County officials instituted a rebalancing of its employees to help resolve budgetary problems. Rebalancing has even found its way into an advertising campaign - Merrill Lynch's Wealth Management Group promises rebalancing in its "help2 Achieve" commercials.

In light of the onslaught of rebalancing efforts taking place, we thought we would provide a little help of our own and attempt to explain what rebalancing is and why so many appear so keen on it.

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For the most part, rebalancing is an economic/financial term.

And while it has been picked up by other sectors, e.g., healthcare/medical, employment, spirituality and automotive maintenance, nine times out of 10, the word rebalancing refers to the constructive, often beneficial, task of reviewing financials to discern where and how things can be moved around or shifted to capitalize upon current economic conditions.

Essentially the ultimate goal of rebalancing is for the financial portfolio to be tweaked and reshaped (recomposed) to do away with the deadweight and bring more lucrative products into the mix. The overriding aim is to recapitulate what works and what doesn't and find ways to pare down the profit-draining holdings and beef up those with the potential to bring in more earnings.

Or, as CNN Money puts it: "An easy and effective way of maintaining the right balance between risk and reward in your portfolio."

The rebalancing process, then, is akin to world leaders looking to divvy up the weight of the global economy by unloading some of its crippling debt upon unsuspecting subjects.

Financially speaking, the definition of rebalancing is: "The act of changing the percentages of different types of securities in a portfolio. If one's investment goals change (or if the portfolio is not meeting them satisfactorily), one rebalances the portfolio in order to achieve them."

In layman terminology, Answers defines rebalancing as: "The process of realigning the weightings of one's portfolio of assets. Like a tune-up for your car, mutual fund rebalancing should minimize trouble down the road."

It was during his recent trip to Asia that Obama made the firm statement that the world economy needed rebalancing. Yet, in response to this candid declaration of imbalance, what perhaps many were privately (and publicly) questioning was: "At what time in history was the world economy ever actually balanced?"

Rather than saying our world economy was totally f%$*&! up, (can't call it a failure for that would imply that nothing is salvageable and everything need be scrapped), the powers-to-be declared the best way to resolve our disproportionately arranged economy was to get out and "shake things up" and "move things around."

So Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said in November that "Weaning the global economy off its reliance on U.S. consumers will help rebalance growth and support attempts to bring down unemployment."

Yet, if the global economy finds a way to wean itself off its reliance upon U.S. consumers, who then will be left to support its rebuilding mission? Does a sugar daddy for the global economy patiently wait in the wings?

Thus, when considering the option of rebalancing (something you do all the time, right?) the first two things you should ask yourself are:

1. Is there something here that seems to be off-balance or off-kilter?

2. If the answer is YES then your second question should be when (if ever) it was last perfectly balanced.

The word rebalance on account of its prefix "re" assumes that whatever it is you are talking about was balanced at one time and now requires a re-do. Take, for example, several other instances in which the prefix "re" is used in conjunction with verbs, e.g., revisit, repave, remove, redirect and recant; they all imply a second going over of sorts.

While there may not necessarily be an original balanced state to revert back to, hopefully there is the possibility of improving upon the current condition without inflicting harm upon anyone/anything in the process.

Not to say that rebalancing doesn't have its merits. I merely want to point out - as the Global Council on Foreign Relations did following the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh - that in an attempt to create stability, it is important that holdings don't simply get shuffled here and there, because this could create its own maelstrom of problems down the road.

As the global council said in its report, "When the leaders of the Group of 20 (G20) major economies met in Pittsburgh at the end of September 2009, the topic of 'rebalancing' the world economy was high on the agenda. The final communique's first substantive commitment was 'to work together as we manage the transition to a more balanced pattern of global growth' . . . rebalancing requires a fundamental reorientation of some of the world's major economies, a reorientation that will lead to major economic, social, and political tensions."

In spite of its much talked-about potential to turn around financial distress, rebalancing also carries with it the possibility of upsetting the current status quo for the worse.

So alls I am saying is that with rebalancing being billed as this year's top priority, it may be a good idea to revisit last year's prized word: transparency. When teamed with rebalancing, it helps offer an accountable way of ensuring that things getting moved around are not simply getting swept under the rug or conveniently misplaced

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Previously in Language Arts:
* Pushback.

* Locavore.

* Going Rogue.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:06 AM | Permalink

Fantasy Fix

By Dan O'Shea

The NBA is witnessing a superstar in the making this year, and his name is Kevin Durant.

The third-year Oklahoma City shooting guard/small forward had a lot of people excited heading into this season, and went in mid-first round in many fantasy leagues. It was no secret he was going to be good, but he has out-performed expectations thus far. His overall stats look almost LeBron-like: 28.5 points per game, 7.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 1.6 three-pointers. All of those marks are tenths of a point above or below LeBron's, and his nearly 90 percent free throw rating is better than King James. Though he has far fewer assists, which tarnishes the overall stat sheet a bit, he probably would have more if there were anyone in OKC worth passing to.

If Durant keeps this up, he could seriously vault ahead of Kobe and Dwyane Wade to become the No. 3 fantasy pick next year after LeBron and Chris Paul. There's also a good chance he also could lead the NBA this year in scoring, assuming Carmelo Anthony cools off.

Speaking of 'Melo, Durant joins 'Melo and King James as cream of the crop at small forward (though he obviously needs a decent nickname). That provides me with the only segue I need to assess in our Fantasy Fix Action Ratings some current hot performers at the SF slot (a position we'll talk more about in a moment):

Player: Brandon Roy,PG/SG/SF
FFAR: HOLD
Comment: Roy, who acquired SF eligibility just this year, has played way lower than his borderline-first-rounder pre-season rank. At one point a few weeks ago, he was barely making it in the top 100. However, his scoring average has been pumped up to about 21 PPG in the last week or so by a string of good games, so there is a reason to believe he will again achieve top 20 status.

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Player: Danny Granger, SG/SF/PF
FFAR: HOLD
Comment: The plantar fascia injury reported last week could easily kill this first-rounder's season, though officially he'll be out a month. Rookie SF/PF Blake Griffin could be an interesting pick-up while you wait. He's due back from injury any day now, and though he's no Granger, he could prove a waiver wire steal before anyone else remembers him.

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Player: Richard Jefferson, SF
FFAR: DROP
Comment: Once a top scorer, he's averaging just 13.7 PPG. That doesn't sound so bad, but even in his best days his scoring consistency was his only dimension. He also has no limited flexibility with only SF eligibility - that isn't such a bad thing when your name is LeBron, but it further lowers Jefferson's value.

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Player: Ron Artest, SG/SF
FFAR: TRADE
Comment: He's having a somewhat off year playing for a team, the Lakers, that doesn't really need him to shoot much. He may come around, but his overall stat sheet could be tempting bait if you want to land a big-time scorer.

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Player: Josh Howard, SG/SF
FFAR: HOLD
Comment: Just came back from an injury, and not shooting well at the moment. He's running about 5 PPG below last year's average, but should come around. He's also available in about 25 percent of Yahoo! leagues, and would be worth pick-up as a long-term investment.

Expert Wire
* More SF talk: The Sporting News has an extremely timely (for my purposes, at least) column on the reassessment of the small forward position. The most impressive thing about this piece is that the headline is somehow not "Forward Thinking."

* With Tracy McGrady returning from injury, Bleacher Report has an interesting column weighing who will have more fantasy impact - T-Mac or Allen Iverson. Both will be eased in, but both will be sorely needed by their teams to contribute baskets. There's every reason to believe McGrady will be the more valuable player, but there's still a question of how often a tender knee will have him sitting and leaving games early.

Fantasy Football
Week 14 in the NFL, traditionally the start of the playoffs for many 10-team and 12-team fantasy leagues, yielded some amazing performances at the wide receiver and tight end positions:

* Brandon Marshall, WR: 200 rec. yds, 2 TDs (and an NFL record 21 catches)

* Andre Johnson, WR: 193 rec. yds, 2 TDs

* DeSean Jackson, WR: 178 rec yds, 1 TD; 83 return yds., 1 TD

* Dallas Clark, TE: 43 rec. yds, 3 TDs

* Fred Davis, TE: 50 rec. yds, 2 TDs

Those kinds of performances almost ensure playoff wins, barring catastrophic results at other positions. There's nothing left on the waiver wire, and the expert wire is growing quieter by the day, but in a few weeks, we'll come back to hand out a few awards and make some observations for next year.

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

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:06 AM | Permalink

The CTA Chronicles: That Smell

By Pat Bataillon

Waiting for the brown line to the Loop. It is before 8 a.m. and cold. Wind chills are whipping but I, along with everyone on the platform, is trying to ignore them. We are all of two natures on a morning like this. Some of us stomp our feet because we believe Officer Jim Malone's advice to a chilled Elliot Ness in The Untouchables. And some of us mumble obscenities into gloves and scarves. It is difficult to say which one, if either, make any considerable difference. The only guaranteed difference-maker is squeezing into that southbound train. The CTA keeps a toasty train in the winter months. It's nice.

As the train appears a collective sigh of relief is audible on the platform. We will be comfortable soon, or so some of us think. BING-BONG, the doors open. The warm commuters exit to transfer to the Red Line and the cold commuters enter. The exchange is always somewhat chaotic. Typically, muffled threats of violence are overheard as the masses bump into one another. I've never seen a physical altercation erupt from one of these exchanges, but I would surely like to.

This quasi-violent exchange serves only as a prelude to something much worse: The struggle for favorable pole position. When seats are at a premium, the fight for pole position would make Charles Darwin proud. The very tall and the very short have all the advantage. The tall get a hand up high and shelter the shorter filling in the negative space. The middle, or average, must fight for the opportunity to get a single finger on a pole. Usually, these middling characters just stand and let the collective human glue hold them in place.

On this particular morning I was fortunate enough to score the pole in between the vertical and horizontal seats. Things were looking good for my half-hour commute. Then I took a deep breath to feel that warm air in my lungs and realized something was terribly off. Terribly, terribly off. I looked around at my traveling companions. Their eyes were just as confused as mine and their noses twitched with displeasure. The air was warm but humid. CTA air is dry; it has never been this musty. The air we breathed did not carry the flavor of mechanically forced warm air. It had a much more human fetor to it. This air was tainted.

This is not a fart joke column. No, this is something much worse. A hygiene problem was on the train. By a hygiene problem, I mean a person who had made this train their home. Homes harvest smells. Most homes correct these smells with regular bathing and scented candles. The Chicago El has no showers or scented candles.

My companions and I, one by one, raised a hand to our mouths and noses. It was useless; our olfactory sensations were under ferocious attack. The rank was so thick I could feel it attaching itself to my exposed skin. All of us looked for the exit but it was too late, the doors had closed. We were trapped.

Thoughts of a Seinfeld episode flashed through my thoughts. Would this stench attach itself to me? Am I doomed to carry it for the day? Longer?

My leather gloves offered no defense against the relentless onslaught of malodor. Should I breath this funk through my mouth? No! I can taste it! Nose it is. The Wellington stop is near, I will get off and switch cars.

I can tell by looking at the number of shifting eyes around me that my traveling companions are thinking the same thing. Huh. Communal thinking has never worked out well. See Jonestown or any other religious organization. If we all exit at Wellington, there is no chance to spread out to the other trains. It is rush hour. It is packed. We will have to wait. We will have to wait in that cold again.

BING-BONG. "This is Wellington. The doors open on the right at Wellington."

I share eye contact with my various traveling companions. We shift toward the door and stop as the wind comes blasting through. We take one last taste of this noisome odor, choke, and step outside. We had ingested the Kool-Aid. It made us do something we didn't understand. We stomp and curse under our breath waiting for the next train. It arrives, we board, we go to work. Hoping that we don't smell.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:02 AM | Permalink

December 15, 2009

The [Tuesday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

Danny Solis, the 25th Ward alderman who recently replaced Bill Banks as chairman of the zoning committee, got an amazing letter to the editor published in the Tribune this morning. Let's take a look.

"Chicago recently celebrated the opening of the retail component of Block 37," Solis writes. "The long-vacant block, located across from the former Marshall Field's State Street flagship, continues to be a flash point of competing views on real estate development and the role of government.

"Block 37 is a shining example of what government and business can accomplish together. When the city first acquired Block 37 in 1989, State Street had lost its patina as one of the world's best shopping districts. At the time, State Street was at risk of becoming vacant. City leaders needed to make difficult choices."

Yes, Block 37 is a shining example of what government and business can accomplish together. It only took 20 years to open a store there!

"Today Block 37 and State Street are a bustle of vitality and activity. Without the city's investment in Block 37, State Street could have become a historic zone of emptiness."

So . . . without 20 years of emptiness on Block 37, State Street could have become empty as well?

"City leaders must think long-term no matter how tough the economy, no matter how stressful the moment."

Like all those stressful economic moments in the roaring 90s. Good thing we got through that.

"Though Block 37 has been challenged by real estate crises and recessions, the city's reason for investing remains sound: to improve Chicago for ourselves and our children."

And for the last 20 years, the Block 37 boondoggle has provided extraordinary moments of comic relief for ourselve and our children. Mission accomplished!

"Block 37 is a testament to hope. Foundations for the CTA station and the final build-out are in place. It is on these foundations we can anchor our optimism for the future."

About that CTA station . . .

About that final build-out . . .

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Memo to the Tribune: Just because an alderman sends you a letter doesn't mean you have to publish it. Tell him (or her) to go submit to questioning by one of your reporters instead.

Juvenile Politics
My friend Tracy Siska, of the Chicago Justice Project, offers his top five reasons why Gov. Pat Quinn's denial of access to WBEZ of juvenile corrections facilities is ridiculous.

Superior Internet Journalism
The Tiger Woods Sponsorship Dance Card.

Snow Job
In yesterday's item about this Carol Marin column, I forgot to include this gem:

"[O]n Dec. 1, before the arctic blast, this is what the city assured in an e-mail about frigid weather:

"'The new pay and display boxes are installed in cold climates worldwide and operate in winter . . . '"

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"[W]hen Carol Marin, one of Chicago's elite news reporters can't get a solid answer out of the DOR, you know something is seriously wrong," The Parking Ticket Geek writes at
The Expired Meter.

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The Expired Meter is also running a countdown clock to new parking rates on its upper left rail.

Ad Note
Buying an ad on the Beachwood obviously doesn't buy you an editorial mention as well, but I do want to draw your attention to the eVoter ad we're running over there on our right rail because it's kind of a fun thing and a public service that will become more useful as eVoter grows their site. Give it a spin.

Bull Bryant
John Jackson wonders in the Sun-Times what life might have been like for the Bulls if they had traded for Kobe Bryant when it appeared they had the chance to do so.

I don't have time this morning to do a clip check, but enough sports media figures in this town were so down on the idea of bringing in Kobe that I wrote this (item 4) on August 1, 2008:

"The same people who think the Bears shouldn't go after Brett Favre are the same people who thought the Bulls were better off without Kobe Bryant."

Thank you. Thank you very much.

Lovie Baker
Lovie Smith thinks he owes it to the fans to go all-out trying to win every game left in this dreadful season. He's wrong. With the Bears now officially eliminated from playoff contention, he owes it to fans to give some fresh faces some playing time and experiment with schemes and play-calling if doing so will help the team's prospects for next year.

Why?

Because the fans will be here long after he's gone.

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Lovie's situation is reminiscent of Dusty Baker's final year with the Cubs. Jim Hendry decided to fire Baker mid-season, but thought he owed it to Baker to let him finish out the season. What did Hendry owe to the fans? Baker kept putting players on the field whom he knew wouldn't be with the team the following year to finish with the best possible record for his baseball card, regardless of how it impacted the Cubs' seasons to come.

That's one reason why you fire coaches in mid-season. Agendas being to operate at cross-purposes.

Placing Blame
"The Bears and Bulls are a mess, creations of managements whose desire is to succeed but whose methods of achieving such are twisted by fatal judgments," our very own George Ofman writes. "One maddening move is followed by another and then, another. You clamor for change but instead are served the same putrid smelling dish you want to send back to the kitchen. And that's the problem: The cook!"

Thomson Terrorist Card Not Playing
Tough guys got their facts wrong anyway.

The Political Odds . . .
. . . have changed. Brown in the lead but Preckwinkle's race to lose.

In Action!
The Flaming Lips.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Realize.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:24 AM | Permalink

In Action: The Flaming Lips

By The Beachwood Priest Driven Ambulance Affairs Desk

It looked like New Year's Eve and felt like Christmas for Flaming Lips fans at the Allstate Arena Friday as the band brought its confetti-strewn psychedelic circus act to one of its largest indoor venues to date. As part of WXRT's Big Holiday Concert, and in support of the Lips' freaked-out, meandering recent release Embryonic, the Oklahoma City group trotted out its usual theatrics on a grander scale: Vocalist Wayne Coyne surfed the sea of fans in his customary human-sized hamster ball, made confetti rain from the rafters, and sent flocks of bright balloons into the farthest depths of the stadium.

- Martina Sheehan

Some highlights.

1. The big open.

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2. She Don't Use Jelly.

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3. Do You Realize?

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4. Yoshimi Battles the Robots Pt. 1.

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5. That's the difference between us.

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6. The W.A.N.D.

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7. White Christmas.

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8. Backstage.

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See also:
* In Action: Cheap Trick

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:20 AM | Permalink

The Bears And Bulls Blame Game

By George Ofman

The first thing you think of when mentioning the Bears and Bulls is: BLOW THEM UP!

This is not to suggest recruiting some very shady characters with connections to Osama bin Laden, though the idea of relocating either of these franchises to very mountainous outposts is somewhat alluring. Deconstructing to reconstructing seems to be the hue and cry with our favorite whipping boys of the gridiron and hardwood. (The Cubs could gladly be included in this less-than-cheerful holiday column, but since they're not playing at this moment and still saddled with their own problem child in Milton Bradley, we'll save them for another date).

The paying customers - and those without a ticket who simply pay with time and emotion - have lost patience. The next time you see a coach use two timeouts to whip out a challenge flag it might cost you more than patience. The next time you see an opposing player tie his shoe in the middle of a basketball game while your home team figures out what to do next could force your fingers to punch those dreaded numbers: 911. Find out whether your health insurance policy covers sports related mental breakdowns.

The Bears and Bulls are a mess, creations of managements whose desire is to succeed but whose methods of achieving such are twisted by fatal judgments. One maddening move is followed by another and then, another. You clamor for change but instead are served the same putrid smelling dish you want to send back to the kitchen. And that's the problem: The cook!

You can blame Lovie Smith for the Bears' problems until your blue and orange in the face. Yes, he has to go. But look at the slop on the field. That belongs to Jerry Angelo. You can castigate Vinny Del Negro from now until LeBron James becomes a Bull. And yes, he has to go too, but it's John Paxson who constructed this less-than-average aggregate. And it's the same John Paxson who could not engineer trades for much better players because he fell in love with the mediocre ones.

When teams perform poorly, everyone is to blame. Players aren't given free passes because the men who chose them and coach them made mistakes. Perhaps the only star players receiving some benefit of the doubt are Derrick Rose, who clearly isn't the player he was his rookie season, and Jay Cutler, who deserves every bit of criticism heaped upon him even if he's bereft of quality around him.

The general managers are in charge. They're the ones who are also handsomely compensated to provide the managers with the necessary talent to win.

The Bears do not possess such talent and neither do the Bulls.

So what do you do? Will firing Lovie Smith yet retaining Jerry Angelo solve the Bears' short- and long-term needs? Will dismissing Del Negro suddenly elicit great interest from would-be franchise-savers such as LeBron, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and even Joe Johnson? Paxson has yielded his title as GM to Gar Forman but Paxson still has enormous influence in where the Bulls are headed.

Consider that as we demand the heads of the coaches.

And while we're at it, didn't Jim Hendry pay $136 million for Alfonso Soriano and another 30 million for Milton the Martyr?

I rest my case.

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

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:00 AM | Permalink

December 14, 2009

The [Monday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

"Requests for questions in writing rather than face-to-face interviews are cropping up more and more," Carol Marin wrote in her Sun-Times column on Sunday.

"Written Q&A's violate NBC policy because, among other things, they don't allow for follow-up questions. And they don't allow a viewer to see, hear, or judge the quality of either the question or the response.

"That, of course, is the point."

A few points.

1. Reporters who comply with these requests only make it harder for those who (rightfully) don't.

2. I suspect two reasons for the increase in such requests: more reporters complying with them and more reporters asking questions via e-mail.

3. As I've asked before, how is asking questions via e-mail any different than putting questions "in writing"?

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Anti-Journalist Eric Zorn thinks newspapers who refuse to comply with such requests come off as "churlish."

All subjects of Zorn columns from here on out should refuse to actually speak to him, then.

The Tom Tunney Show
"Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), the city's first openly gay alderman, is still on the fence [in the county board prez race], but he says voters in his Lake View ward are split 50/50," Laura Washington reports. "'If the election were held today, the race would be between Toni and Terry,' he told me Wednesday. Tunney adds that Stroger has gotten an unfair rap on the county tax issue, but concedes 'people want to see a change from Todd'."

So . . . half of the folks in Tunney's Lake View ward support Terry O'Brien? Why?

Lake View sounds like Preckwinkle Country to me.

And meanwhile, O'Brien is running last in the polls - behind even Stroger - so at least for now the race is between Preckwinkle and Dorothy Brown. Brown will be brought low soon enough, though.

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UPDATE: 1:15 P.M.: A reader asks why Tunney's sexual orientation was mentioned in the passage above. I don't know. I was just quoting the passage.

Michael Scott's Last Big Deal
A multi-million dollar condo-hotel project across from Soldier Field.

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Contrary to the tenor of most reporting on Michael Scott, Greg Hinz recently wrote that Scott "had personal, business and family problems." I suspect we'll be hearing about those soon.

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Hinz notes in the piece I just linked to that Scott is the third public figure tied to the local political system to take his life recently, the other two being Chris Kelly and Orlando Jones.

Hinz concludes:

"Given the shadows and the doubts about all of this, given the reality of Chicago corruption, I can't draw any hard and fast rules. But when bodies start falling, one perhaps ought to think. Next time I fire up the computer for another nasty story about an erring pol, I'll have to do just that."

That's the wrong conclusion. "Nasty" stories from the media didn't kill any of them. Neither did pressure from federal prosecutors, as some have speculated. "Erring" pols do to themselves what they do to themselves. At this late date in Chicago's history of corruption, pols here deserve every barb launched their way. Going easy on them isn't the answer. Fixing the diseased political culture in which they operated is.

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Beyond that, I wouldn't for a second presume political problems per se drove any of the three to kill themselves. We don't know just what emotional issues roiled them to their cores.

The Scholarship Scam
We pay, they play.

Lovie Times Out
"In so doing, he ensured that one of the first stories Bears fans will tell in the future when they look back at the lame late days of Lovie's head-coaching tenure is the one when the coach proved himself not just replay challenged but twice as replay challenged as anyone else had ever been."

- Our very own Jim Coffman

Polar Express
Has the arctic really been cooling over the last 60 years as Trib letter writer Craig Conn contends? No.

The arctic is in a thaw, according to Scientific American.

In another report, Scientific American says:

"In the past decade, summertime Arctic temperatures have been 1.4 degrees Celsius higher on average than would be expected and 1.2 degrees Celsius higher than in 1900. And the Arctic is merely the trendsetter - the northern-most latitudes are among the fastest-warming parts of the globe due to various feedbacks. For example, melting Arctic sea ice exposes more ocean, which in turn absorbs more of the sunlight's warmth and further increases warming."

See also the New York Times series The Big Melt.

Rev. Zambrano
"When Zambrano signed with the Cubs, he was secure in his belief that this would be his first and only contract. After baseball, Zambrano hopes to fulfill his dream of being a minister," Cafe magazine reports.

"That was my whole passion since I was little. I wanted to preach the Word of God. I never dreamed of baseball until I was 13 or 14, but I dreamed to be a man of God since I was 7, 8," he told the magazine. "God thinks differently than how human beings think, so He probably prepared a platform for me in baseball and I believe in that."

Piss Poor
Describing the Wrigley Field troughs as a great equalizer - as the Sun-Times does today - is an incredible and absurd conceit. For one thing, it leaves out an entire gender. For another, most people probably piss next to yuppies on a regular basis. Reporters using bathrooms in newsrooms, for example. Finally, how is standing at a row of individual urinals any less "equalizing"? Because some doofus's piss isn't spraying all over you? Think harder!

In Action: Cheap Trick
Got their KISS records out.

The Chili Chronicles
Blood and peppers in Jefferson Park.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Hot, bothered.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:22 AM | Permalink

SportsMonday

By Jim Coffman

Brian Billick knew the rule. The former Super Bowl champion coach and current Fox analyst knew almost immediately that Greg Olsen's attempt at a catch midway through the fourth quarter - the one that enabled Lovie Smith to make history as the first NFL coach to blow two timeouts on one challenge - was not a reception.

As Billick explained during Fox's broadcast of the Packers' 21-14 dismissal of the Bears on Sunday, "The receiver (Olsen) failed to complete the act" of securing the football.

In other words, when a receiver tries to make a catch but doesn't land squarely on his feet, he has to maintain control of the ball all the way through hitting to the ground and then coming to rest. If the shock of his body hitting the ground knocks the ball loose and he can't regain possession before it hits the ground, it isn't a catch. And it hasn't been a catch for a while now.

Referee Mike Carey knew the rule. He couldn't have looked at more than one angle before he removed the headset, hustled back onto the field and reported the results of an especially speedy replay review.

In so doing, he ensured that one of the first stories Bears fans will tell in the future when they look back at the lame late days of Lovie's head-coaching tenure is the one when the coach proved himself not just replay challenged but twice as replay challenged as anyone else had ever been.

Lovie had no clue.

Even worse, no one on his staff had a clue.

I suppose you could re-phrase that as "no one on the staff asserted his command of the rule confidently enough to sway the head coach," but I'm guessing the simpler assessment of the situation is the right one.

Even after taking an exactly wrong timeout to think about it ("Just make the challenge coach!" we were screaming at the TV in our house - then if you're right, your timeouts emerge unscathed and if you're wrong, all it costs you is the timeout you were going to take anyway), he dropped the red challenge flag and earned a little infamy.

Bears Bits
Right before Jay Cutler threw his killer second interception in the general direction of rookie receiver Johnny Knox - the one that was returned inside the 10 and set up the Packers' winning touchdown and two-point conversion in the third quarter - he had to know the play was doomed.

The Packers sent a corner blitz from Knox's general vicinity and there simply weren't enough blockers on the left of the Bears offensive line to handle it.

And then Knox didn't adjust his route accordingly. He should have broken it off and run a simple hitch. Cutler could have zipped a short pass out there and Knox probably would have had time to run for the first down after hauling it in.

Instead, Knox faded away toward the sideline and away from Cutler and the quarterback was stuck.

The problem was that instead of just throwing the ball away and bringing on the punt team, Cutler fired a pass to where Knox should have been.

And the space where Knox should have been was now occupied exclusively by a defensive back.

In the play's aftermath it seemed like the quarterback was trying to prove a twisted point - "That's where my receiver is supposed to be and that's where I'm going to throw the ball."

And it probably goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway) that quarterbacks who can't suppress that sort of petulance don't lead their football teams to championships.

*

How about that facemask penalty on second-year tackle Chris Williams on the second-half screen to running back Matt Forte?

Billick was on top of it again, noting that even if Williams' responsibility on the play, Packer linebacker Clay Matthews, had slipped through unabated, it wouldn't have mattered because Cutler got the ball out so quickly.

Of course, that's the way successful screens work and the Bears have only had a game or two this year when they've managed to run successful screens.

I suppose it wasn't that Williams, who was also flagged for a false start and for holding on Sunday, didn't know the play, it was that he just panicked.

Either way, the day's events caused the arrow on the meter that measures the Bears' last first-round pick's overall pro career to make a significant move toward "Bust."

*

Forte had another lousy day. My favorite lowlight was when Packer superstar corner Charles Woodson managed to tackle him with his elbow in the open field for a two-yard loss in the first half.

Hawk Squawk
Perhaps sports karma requires that at least three other Chicago teams totally suck in order for the Hawks to actually win the Stanley Cup. If so the Bears, Bulls and Cubs are certainly doing their part.

I suppose it isn't fair to lump the Cubs in with the first two, seeing as how they at least had a winning record at the end of their most recent season. But if this off-season doesn't start to turn around . . .

*

Apparently the Cubs won't just have to take a bad contract off another team's hands (like the Tampa Bay Rays' Pat Burrell, the disappointing left fielder who is owed about $9 million in 2010) in order to dump Milt Bradley, they'll also still have to pick up a huge portion of his remaining contract. The sooner the Cubs (two division championships in the last three years) accept this and move on, the sooner we can stop lumping them in with the failing Bears and the flailing Bulls (no division championships in the last three years for either team).

*

That was quite a goal Marian Hossa scored to give the Blackhawks a 3-0 lead on their way to a 4-0 whitewashing of the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday evening, a win that will hopefully help the Hawks start rolling again after a recent dry spell that had seen them score only 11 goals in seven games.

As he raced in to the right of Lightning goalie Antero Niittymaki, Hossa managed to backhand a tipped pass with his glove, drop it on his forehand side and then use his stick to knock it into the net out of mid-air.

Hossa also had a slick assist as the Hawks stretched their lead to four points over Nashville in the Central Division (with a game in hand).

-

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

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:26 AM | Permalink

In Action: Cheap Trick

By The Beachwood Surrender Affairs Desk

Cheap Trick wants you to want them, and they're still mighty desirable. Thursday night at the Allstate Arena, the band blasted through a 75-minute set that featured four powerful songs from their 2009 studio album, "The Latest," alongside timeless gems like "Surrender," "Dream Police" and "I Want You to Want Me."

- Bobby Reed

Some highlights. Where embedding has been disabled, we provide the YouTube URLs.

1. Rolling numbers.

*

2. Some Indonesian junk.

*

3. I Want You To Want Me

4. The Flame

5. Don't Be Cruel

*

6. Got my Kiss records out.

-

Comments welcome, especially from those who were there.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:32 AM | Permalink

The Chili Chronicles: Blood & Peppers

By Tim Steil

I swear to God the story you are about to hear is true, I would change my name if I had innocence to protect. If I could make this shit up I would be in LA with a 26-episode development deal right now.

My daughter likes chili, and with snowy days soon to come, I figured this would be a good time to make a big batch, freeze it up in little bags, and have it on hand for lunches etc. So I went down to the local Polish deli/produce center, and came back with some fresh ground pork, a few cans of beans and various tomato products, fresh poblano and jalapeno peppers, onions - everything you need for some righteous eats.

As the pork was getting nice and brown in a skillet, I got out my big stock pot and started putting in the beans, tomatoes, garlic and whatever. The garbage was a little full to begin with, so by the time it had six or seven empty cans in there it was time to swap it out for a new bag. I yanked it out, did the old mash it down, tied off the corners and stuck a new bag in thing. Unfortunately, one corner of the bag had ripped right at the top. No biggie, really, just had to be careful when I walked it out to the alley. Then I looked down, and saw a little red spot on the floor.

Goddamit, I thought to myself, some of the tomato sauce spilled out of that can. I better clean that up right away because my wife just washed this floor yesterday and she'll have my nuts if that stain is there when she gets home. So I walked over to the counter and grabbed a paper towel to wipe it up. I walked back to the garbage bag and looked down; now there were two red spots. Not only that, there is an entire trail of red spots between the counter and where I stood.

I just couldn't suss it out. I looked between the counter and where I stood and just couldn't figure how the hell the tomato sauce could have gone that far. I am literally baffled by the mechanics of it all. So whatever, I bent down to wipe it up, and realized that the paper towel in my hand was completely soaked through with my own blood - to the point that, within the 15 seconds or so, it dripped all over the garbage bag and created a puddle of blood on the floor about as round as a basketball.

At this point, I realized I was bleeding, but just couldn't figure it out how or why. I felt no cut or pain, but sure as smoke there was my big ol' hand just oozing blood everywhere . If it came any faster I would have been spurting. So I ran into the bathroom and started running my hand under water but it just kept bleeding like a stuck pig. The sink looked like it was filling with tomato soup. I put Band-Aids on the cuts, but they bled so fast the adhesive wouldn't hold. I finally gave up and ran back to the kitchen (leaving a huge trail of blood with my footprints in it) and took a roll of paper towels and wrapped them six to eight times around my hand. Then I called my wife.

You won't believe this, I told her. It looks like a frickin' crime scene around here. I explained that I must have knicked the back of my hand on one of the can tops or something. Total conversation was maybe 30 to 45 seconds. She just said to put some Neosporin on it, etc. (If I had called and told her I had just found out I had ass cancer and I was going to die before noon tomorrow, she would have said, Well, put some Neosporin on it.) I hung up the phone and looked down to see that now about eight layers of paper towels are soaked completely through in blood, and the blood has also soaked through my jeans, my long johns, onto my leg and, ultimately, onto a new leather couch.

So I went back to kitchen rinsed my hand in the sink again, dried it off as best I could, wrapped it in paper towels, and thank the Lord 20 minutes later the bleeding stopped and I was able to get some Band-Aids to stay. Total damage was just ridiculous. Pinky, ring and middle finger had little tiny cuts across them, none of which could have been more than 1/8 of an inch long. Not deep by any measure of the word, and I still couldn't even feel anything like a cut. I mopped up all the blood off the floor as best I could, scrubbed out the sink, and figured okay, well that was interesting in a not pleasant way.

But wait, there's more.

So now I figured I would go ahead and get the rest of the huge batch of chili in order. So I started chopping up the peppers. My kid likes my chili, but she isn't really a fire-eater, so I always take out the ribs and seeds of whatever peppers I add. I split them in half and scrape out the stuff into the garbage, and I swear, like that magic bullet in Dallas, one goddamn jalapeno seed completely missed my glasses, and went directly into my left eye. This of course was not fun. My eye burned and watered and, as I made loud noises and a big fist, my right hand started bleeding again.

In good time the eye suffering went away, and it was time to go pick up the kids from school. So I drove up there, and right as I got into a parking spot I had to sneeze. There is no such thing as one sneeze for me. I'm usually good for at least six big ones, the kind Calvin always thought if he held his breath for, he could actually blow his shoes off. So I sneezed, and afterwards I wiped my eyes and had to stick a finger up a nostril to rearrange some things. It was just a bit later that I realized I had never washed all the hot pepper oils off my left hand.

So I walked over into the parking lot to get the kids. Both my eyes were watering, my left nostril was leaking, and my clothes had big blood stains all over them. I went to the the spot I always stand where the kids always find me, and I heard a voice say, "Hello Mr. Steil." It was Mr. Kelly, the school principal. Then I felt a clap on my back and turned around to see the father of one of my son's friends. The man is a Chicago homicide detective. He just sort of looked me up and down, and made a sound.

It was somewhere between a chortle and a snort, but in any case I guessed it indicated that he figured I was having a bad day.

So the kids came out and all I could really muster at that point was a "Just get in the goddamned car willya!"

About halfway home something dawned on me. I had to piss.

Now, when I say I had to piss, what I really mean to say is, I had to piss at that very instant. Badly. Not tomorrow, not in a minute, but right frickin' now. I flashed back to my mom, who used to keep a coffee can in the back seat of her Buick for just such an occasion. I'm honking down Central Avenue looking for the nearest forest preserve so I can run behind a tree or something. I finally realized I would just have to man up and get my ass home, which I did. All them big puddles of melted snow I had to drive by to get there didn't help.

So I got into the driveway and went flying into the house and bathroom. I am literally jogging in place going "ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh" trying to get my zipper down with my right hand, which is still a little gimpy and started bleeding again from flexing the knuckles. So I went lefty, and when I finally got my fly open I unleashed a stream that I am surprised didn't take out the wall.

After I finished I was on my second shake when I became acutely aware of two things:

1. The oils from the peppers were still all over my left hand.

2. What was currently in my left hand.

The chili turned out pretty good, and I learned I can actually dance.

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Tim Steil lives in Jefferson Park and had a bowl of that chili for breakfast the next morning. If you have a tale to tell about your chili, let us know.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:59 AM | Permalink

The Scholarship Scam

By Steve Rhodes

"I wanted to share with you the latest investigative project from my undergraduate journalism students here at Columbia College," our old friend and Chicago Talks co-founder Suzanne McBride writes. "Eleven seniors and one junior in my Honors Seminar spent the last three months examining the century-old legislative scholarship program, conducting more than 250 interviews.

"They uncovered some interesting facts in their survey of all 177 legislative offices and in interviews with more than 60 students who've received the scholarships. Some of the students talked about doing campaign work, while others had to register to vote - a practice called illegal by one constitutional lawyer."

The series - comprised of eight stories - ran Dec. 8-10. Here are the highlights.

*

"The Illinois General Assembly scholarship doesn't work like other scholarships," Chicago Talks reports.

"Some students win it because they have the right connections. Others don't face much competition for the award - a year of free tuition at one of 12 public universities in Illinois. And several recipients don't even meet the one requirement of the state's century-old scholarship law - residency in the district of the lawmaker who gave them the tuition waivers worth thousands of dollars apiece.

"A three-month investigation by a team of Columbia College Chicago journalists done in collaboration with Illinois Statehouse News found repeated instances of scholarships being awarded to campaign donors, politically connected families and, in at least one instance, a lawmaker's relative. The journalists also identified five legislators who require scholarship applicants to register to vote, a practice one constitutional lawyer called illegal."

*

"Kelly Durkin of Downers Grove, who received a year of free tuition in 2008 to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Westmont), said she found out about the program from her dad, who learned about it through her uncle, Rep. Jim Durkin (R-Countryside)."

*

"Chicago resident Megan Dunne, a recipient of four consecutive scholarships, said she was asked by someone in Rep. Edward Acevedo's (D-Chicago) office to make calls for donations. Dunne, along with a friend and fellow recipient, agreed.

"'They were soliciting people to call to try and get sponsors and stuff like that,' Dunne said. 'We both owed that to them.'

"Dunne received a scholarship for three consecutive years at University of Illinois at Chicago and just received her fourth for Eastern Illinois University in 2008, after transferring.

"Acevedo did not respond to calls requesting comment."

*

"Rep. Mike Boland (D-East Moline) asked at least two scholarship winners from his office to march in a Memorial Day parade with him. One of the students, William Thorndike, who received a scholarship in 2006 and 2007 to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, described the parade as an unpleasant experience, saying it was hot and he didn't know anyone. Thorndike went on to receive a summer semester scholarship in 2007 and a full year in 2008 to attend Western Illinois.

"The other student asked to march with Boland, Nick Schroder of East Moline, received scholarships from the representative in 2007 and 2008 to attend Illinois State University. Schroder said he also campaigned door-to-door for the representative.

"Boland confirmed the students had been asked to march in parades with him but denied that anyone had been asked to campaign door-to-door."

*

"In 2006, the Quad-City Times reported that Boland gave scholarships to the daughter of his largest individual campaign contributor, Barb Suehl. Suehl gave $15,891 to Boland's campaign in 2005 and 2006, and Suehl's daughter, Alleyene, received a free ride to Western Illinois University starting in 2005. After two years, she transferred to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and her scholarship from Boland followed."

*

"Reporters got the same response - or lack of response - from 23 other legislative offices that were contacted starting in mid-September," Chicago Talks reports. "Seventeen representatives and seven senators have not provided basic information about the legislative scholarships, which totaled $12.5 million for the 2007-2008 school year. Eighteen non-responders were Democrats. Eleven serve as officers in their respective houses, including Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) and House Deputy Majority Leader Arthur Turner (D-Chicago)."

*

"Eight calls over a month were made to Rep. Betsy Hannig (D-Litchfield), a first-year legislator who succeeded her husband. Attempts to contact her district office went mostly to voicemail. When the reporter finally reached Hannig at her residence, the lawmaker became annoyed, telling the journalist to get the information from the State Board of Education. The state agency collects the names of the winners each year but cannot answer questions about how each legislator administers the program.

"Hannig refused to answer questions and requested the questions be faxed to her district office. When the reporter asked if there was someone else in the office who could provide information, Hannig said: 'I don't want you talking to my legislative assistant about this'."

*

"Rep. Constance Howard (D-Chicago) provided information but asked the reporter why she was being contacted and why the reporter wasn't calling her own representative."

*

"Five Illinois lawmakers require students applying for a legislative scholarship to register to vote - a requirement that some experts say is inappropriate and discriminatory," Chicago Talks reports.

*

"A team of Columbia College Chicago journalists in collaboration with Illinois Statehouse News identified five legislators who require applicants to submit proof of voter registration for either themselves or their legal guardians: Rep. Dan Brady (R-Bloomington), Rep. Elizabeth Coulson (R-Glenview), Rep. Kenneth Dunkin (D-Chicago), Rep. Renee Kosel (R-Mokena) and Rep. Karen May (D-Highwood)."

*

"Rep. Kosel defended the requirement, saying she does not tell scholarship applicants how to vote or look at their voting records.

"'I think it's inappropriate not to be registered to vote in this country, and I cannot understand why anyone would question the appropriateness,' said Kosel. 'It's horrid'."

*

"Andy Shaw, executive director of the Better Government Association, said making students register to vote is a good policy because it guarantees there is a level of civic engagement.

"Shaw said it's a 'very fair trade' for scholarship recipients to register to vote in exchange for getting free tuition.

"'I think that if you want to be the beneficiary of a legislative perk, a perk provided by an elected lawmaker, that lawmaker has a right to say that you need to be a participant in the democratic process,' he said. 'And the basic participation tool is the voting booth'."

*

"A team of Columbia College Chicago journalists in collaboration with Illinois Statehouse News identified three other scholarship winners over the last five years who lived outside the district of the legislator who selected them," Chicago Talks reports. "This discovery follows a 1998 audit by the Illinois Auditor General's office that found 19 out of 194 scholarship recipients randomly selected for verification did not live in their nominating lawmaker's district."

*

"Someone has to pay for the millions of dollars in scholarships state legislators dole out each year - and that ends up being the rest of the students who attend Illinois' public universities," Chicago Talks reports.

"For the 2007-2008 school year - the most recent data available - the state's public universities gave 1,509 legislative scholarships worth an estimated $12.5 million, according to the Illinois Board of Higher Education. Almost 70 percent - or $8.67 million, according to Randy Kangas, the associate vice president of planning and budgeting for the University of Illinois system - was waived at the three U of I campuses."

*

"Illinois Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) plans to reform or possibly abolish the General Assembly scholarship program when the legislature returns to Springfield in January," Chicago Talks reports.

"'We don't know what those reforms could be. It could be anything from streamlining the process, creating a uniform process, or it could be complete abolishment. But we're not going to make that judgment prior to the hearing,' Cullerton spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon said.

"The new Senate president, who's taking his first public stand on the controversial scholarship program, is reviewing it now because other Senate Democrats want to make changes, Phelon said."

*

"Even with House Speaker Michael Madigan's (D-Chicago) backing, a 1999 bill to end the program failed. Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said individual lawmakers have different perspectives on the issue and there just weren't enough votes at the time to do away with the scholarships.

"'There are people who believe as a legislator they have as much good judgment about scholarships as some bureaucrat at a university or bureaucrat at the student assistance commission, so there's a diverse point of view,' Brown said.

"The legislature voted again in 2003 and 2004 on legislation that sought to abolish the program, but the measures - sponsored by Rep. Naomi Jakobsson - failed both times."

*

A database of the more than 6,000 scholarship recipients from the last six years, as well as a list of the lawmakers who do and don't participate in the program.

-

Earlier from the Tribune:

"An analysis of public documents found that from 2003 to 2008, lawmakers gave at least 140 scholarships to relatives of their campaign donors," the Tribune reported.

"Legislators bestowed at least 87 to relatives of people with other political ties."

*

"The speaker, who voted to abolish the scholarships in the past, personally selects his winners based on application letters, his spokesman Steve Brown said. Brown would not comment on any recipients' political ties to Madigan, saying he did not know the relationships to be true.

"Madigan does not believe the scholarships hurt the universities financially, Brown said.

"'If there's one less student waiving their tuition, are the universities going to spend less money?' he said. 'The answer is no'."

-

Earlier from AP:

"An Associated Press review of state records of political donations and recipients of General Assembly scholarships found that between 2004 and 2009, at least 41 scholarships went to relatives of someone who gave money to the lawmaker awarding the perk," AP reported. "At least 42 more went to relatives of other people with political ties - donors to other politicians, lobbyists, party officials and others.

*

"'If I had my way I think we ought to have a system where the money that is used for that is applied for by students based on need,' [Gov. Pat] Quinn added.

"House leader Mike Madigan, another Democrat from Chicago, voted for legislation to end the scholarships in 2004, a bill that died in the house, and probably would again, spokesman Steve Brown said. But the speaker doesn't see any new need for action to end the scholarships or change how they're awarded or financed, Brown said."

-

Comments welcome.

-

COMMENTS:
1. From Steve Brown:

"A handful of questions. Guess the statistics speak for themselves. Most scholarships, actually nearly all, are awarded properly. BTW none of this works focuses on how well the students perform both in school and in professional, post-college life. Thanks for the opportunity to comment."

Note: Steve Brown is the longtime spokesman for Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, but says he is only expressing his own views here.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:38 AM | Permalink

December 12, 2009

The Weekend Desk Report

By The Weekend Desk B Team

Weekend Desk Editor Natasha Julius is on assignment in Copenhagen, Oslo, and Kabul. The B Team is reporting from Wicker Park.

International Affairs Desk Report
Whatever You Do, Don't Take the Al-Qaeda No. 3 Gig.

Tiger Woods Affairs Desk Report
"A spokesman for the Windermere Police Department told reporters Thursday that investigators have gathered enough weird-ass evidence to officially classify Tiger Woods' recent car accident as pretty fucking strange," the Onion reports.

"'The only thing we know for sure is that at 2:25 a.m. Friday morning Mr. Woods crashed his Cadillac Escalade into a fire hydrant and tree at the end of his own driveway,' Police Chief Daniel Saylor said during a press briefing. 'After that, the account becomes confused. We are unsure if Woods was leaving the driveway or arriving at it, which is rather unusual. At some point Woods' wife, Elin [Nordegren], seems to have struck the car with a golf club, which is pretty bizarre. And she states that she did this to break the rear window and extract Mr. Woods from the vehicle, which, the longer you think about it, is some freaking weird shit'."

Health Care Reform Affairs Desk Report
"Insurance Industry Insider: 'We Win'."

Music Affairs Desk Report
"Cheap Trick wants you to want them, and they're still mighty desirable. Thursday night at the Allstate Arena, the band blasted through a 75-minute set that featured four powerful songs from their 2009 studio album, The Latest, alongside timeless gems like 'Surrender,' 'Dream Police' and 'I Want You to Want Me'," Bobb Reed writes.

"Thirty years after their commercial peak, the ageless wonders from Rockford are making some of the best music of their career. While most of their peers are either fat, dead, disbanded or no longer composing great songs, Cheap Trick has discovered a fountain of youth in the form of Beatlesque power pop, which is the same elixir that allowed them to sell millions of albums in the '70s and '80s."

Facebook Friends Affairs Desk Report
"[S]omehow, this circumstance in which I have 658 [Facebook] 'friends' while having only 30ish actual friends causes me no cognitive dissonance, much less despair for the future of human interaction," Kate Harding writes in a piece that appears in edited form in the Sun-Times.

"Newsflash: People only end up with hundreds or thousands of 'friends' on social networking sites because nobody really thinks they mean the same thing."

Health Care Reform Affairs Desk Report
"A new report from government economic analysts at the Health and Human Services Department found that the nation's $2.5 trillion annual health care tab won't shrink under the Democratic blueprint that senators are debating. Instead, it would grow somewhat more rapidly than if Congress does nothing," AP reports.

"More troubling was the report's assessment that the Democrats' plan to squeeze Medicare for $493 billion over 10 years in savings relies on specific policy changes that 'may be unrealistic' and could lead to cuts in services. The Medicare savings are expected to cover about half the nearly $1 trillion, 10-year cost of expanding coverage to the uninsured."

The Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report Affairs Desk Report
"Olin Kreutz said B.J. Raji is getting far too much attention for a rookie with 10 games of experience after the Green Bay Packers nose tackle made it clear Thursday in comments to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he is stronger than the Bears' center," the Tribune reports.

"[T]hat's the way young players are nowadays, they are all pretty much clowns," Kreutz said.

Noted non-clowns Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs could not be reached for comment.

Health Care Reform Affairs Desk Report
"Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich is pulling no punches in his criticism of the health-care reform 'deal' that has reportedly been reached by Senate Democratic negotiators," John Nichols reports.

"'I'm here to tell you that this is no deal: it's a gift to Big Insurance, plain and simple,' says Reich, one of his party's and the nation's most noted economic analysts and social reformers.

The Cub Factor Affairs Desk Report
Jim Hendry finally killed him.

Health Care Reform Affairs Desk Report
"A loophole in the Senate health care bill would let insurance companies place annual dollar limits on medical care for people struggling with costly illnesses such as cancer," AP reports.

"Adding to the confusion, the language is tucked away in a clause of the bill captioned 'No lifetime or annual limits.' Advocates for patients say it fails to deliver on that promise."

Reading With Scissors Affairs Desk Report
Marilyn Monroe Christmas Ornaments.

For Entertainment Purposes Only (Including Gambling) Affairs Desk Report
Over/Under: Del Negro firing: Jan 1
Tiger (-$200M) @ Elin
Tiger @ T Woods Legal Team (+$50M)

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The Weekend Desk Report Tip Line: All formats.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:25 PM | Permalink

December 11, 2009

The [Friday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

1. This weekend on Sound Opinions: The best albums of 2009 according to Kot and DeRo. (You can find DeRo's picks here.)

*

Kot's best shows of 2009.

*

DeRo's Rock 'n' Roll Holiday Gift Guide.

2. Frozen Meter Fact And Fiction: I think my take is a little smarter than that of the Tribune editorial page, thanks to The Parking Ticket Geek.

3. "Former Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman was the only candidate to say the reprimand Burris received from the Senate Ethics Committee was insufficient," the Tribune reports.

*

"State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias said Burris should not have accepted the appointment. The first-time officeholder also contended he's best suited to take on a culture of corruption in Illinois politics."

Better suited than a former federal prosecutor and city inspector general?

*

Of course, the best-suited to take on corruption in Illinois politics is someone who isn't running for federal office.

*

"Hoffman tried to play off those fears when he jabbed Giannoulias and Cheryle Jackson, the former president of the Chicago Urban League and ex-spokeswoman for Blagojevich.

"'I think it's critical that we have from the Democratic side of affairs . . . a nominee who just takes the corruption issue off the table and has no connection whatsoever to Blagojevich, to Rezko, to any of these problem players,' he said.

"Giannoulias' family bank made loans to Antoin 'Tony' Rezko, a convicted fundraiser and top Blagojevich adviser."

4. Dear Pentagon: Pot is the answer. In Cate Plys's Open Letter.

5. Fast Eddie may still do time. Despite how much Brian Urlacher likes him.

6. Kiss Shows Beer Can Be Sold at Web Concerts, Too.

7. Stroger's Not Last!

8. "[E]very Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor is a potential land mine," Rich Miller writes.

9. "Kane has never ducked questions about his incident but has said 'probably only the three people in that cab will know what happened'," the Sun-Times reports.

Huh? In what way is Kane not that ducking questions about the incident, then?

"The specifics of that confrontation, which also included Kane's cousin, were never completely clear."

Because, um, he's ducked questions about it?

"At the same time Kane was going through his ordeal . . . "

Because it was his ordeal, not that of the cabbie he allegedly had some role in beating up.

"'[T]he media beat me up pretty good [in Buffalo],' said Kane, who noted that some members of the Buffalo media have since apologized."

Uh, really?

*

No, but really, Patrick, I'm a reporter so I gotta ask, what the hell happened in that cab?

Or maybe I don't.

10. "At its heart, Invictus is a story about self-determination, a subject that resonates through Eastwood's career, from Dirty Harry asking various criminals 'You've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky?' to Bronco Billy's answer to Miss Lilly's question about whether he's for real, 'I'm who I want to be,' to Maggie Fitzgerald being given the right to choose to live or die in Million Dollar Baby."

- Our very own Marilyn Ferdinand at Ferdy on Films

11. Boston Terrier Christmas Tree.

12. "Memo to Jim Hendry: To paraphrase Mike McDermott in Rounders: If you can't spot the sucker in the first four days of trying to trade Milton Bradley at the winter meetings, then you are the sucker."

- Steve Rosenbloom

13. "Marion is a bunch of right-wing FOX-TV watchers," Bloodshot Records' Joe Swank tells our very own Matt Harness. "Carbondale was the island of hope."

14. "Obama's decision to have an unmanned bomber plane accept the Peace Prize raised eyebrows in diplomatic circles, as well as concerns about whether the plane was accurate enough for such a delicate mission," Andy Borowitz writes.

15. "Chet Coppock picked his best and worst Chicago sportscasters over the past 25 years," our very own George Ofman notes in Dis and Dat, Dem and Dose. "I didn't check but did Chet put himself on both lists?"

16. I've never known any man who thought the troughs at Wrigley were charming.

17. Tribune baseball writer includes Mlbtraderumors.com in his list of those who benefitted at baseball's winter meetings. "How did reporters cover these meetings before Twitter and sites like this?" he writes.

You mean aggregators and Twitter can actually be valuable tools for newspaper reporters? Imagine that.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: One and all.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:58 AM | Permalink

Open Letter

Marijuana is seldom the answer to a military issue. It is not cited as an element of strategy or tactics by luminaries such as Clausewitz, Sun Tzu, or Chuck Norris. Still, don't dismiss marijuana out-of-hand.

Consider this week's interview on All Things Considered with Gretchen Peters, author of Seeds of Terror: How Heroin is Bankrolling the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Peters explained that the Taliban earn money through crime, and in Afghanistan a prime example is heroin. Many Afghan farmers are forced to grow poppies due to a long drought and the destruction of irrigation systems.

Peters said U.S. commanders have told her there's a real concern about troops getting poppy-derived drugs in Afghanistan. Soviet troops in Afghanistan, she noted, had a huge heroin problem. In the U.K and Canada, Peters said Muslim gangs are "getting involved in smuggling heroin that is coming from Afghanistan. And they've actually given interviews to the British press and they're referring to it as a chemical jihad, making addicts of infidels in the West."

How long, then, before the Taliban think to market heroin more aggressively to U.S. soldiers? As Peters notes, keeping heroin away from American soldiers won't be easy in the current surge, "because this effort to send thousands and thousands of American troops into these very remote, very difficult villages in Afghanistan to live in, it's boring, it's hard, you want to find an escape from it all." Like high school, except there's also a good chance of getting killed. Or, come to think of it, just like high school in all too many Chicago neighborhoods.

How to face the threat of Taliban heroin aimed directly at America's men and women in uniform? Luckily, the Taliban are not likely to come up with any hipster packaging or spiffy ad campaigns featuring extinct species of the homo genus. But still.

Approached as a multiple-choice question on a college entrance exam, we can quickly eliminate the obviously wrong answers. And the most obviously wrong answer is abstinence.

Has abstinence not been thoroughly discredited enough for you yet, Pentagon? Just picture Nancy Reagan in a red dress, her unnaturally large head balanced precariously on her tiny shoulders, looking all the world like a ventriloquist's dummy mouthing the punchline to a bad joke: "Just say no." I won't waste anyone's time debunking abstinence programs.

That brings us to nicotine and alcohol. Prior to Vietnam, these were the typical soldier's drugs of choice. Even with the staggering statistics which damn both, booze and cigarettes are still vaguely comforting, like watching a black-and-white classic for the umpteenth time. And in those classics, Rick, Ilsa and even saintly Victor Laszlo smoke and drink. Nick Charles solves mysteries with unparalleled panache after enough dry martinis to knock out a blue whale. Shield your eyes, Pentagon: don't look at the glowing late-night cable showing of The Thin Man. Eliminate these answers too, though tempting because they are legal and so very familiar.

Booze and cigarettes are as addictive as heroin. The 1990-1992 National Comorbidity Survey showed the conversion (read: addiction) rate of cigarettes was 23.5% for people 15-24 years old, compared to 20.1% for heroin. According to the most recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control, smoking kills one in five Americans every year - about 443,000 smoke-related deaths - and costs us over $193 billion in health care costs and productivity loss.The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that 15.3 million U.S. adults over 18 have an alcohol use disorder, versus 4.2 million with a drug disorder.

In addition, smoking isn't what it used to be. Any official military station would most likely have to impose today's typical indoor smoking restrictions. We'd end up with platoons of soldiers milling about outside on smoking breaks. They wouldn't be irritating obstacles to people entering and exiting office buildings as smokers are here at home, but they would make convenient targets for snipers.

As for booze, the only thing more touchy and dangerous than a drunk is a drunk with a gun. Oh, there is one thing more dangerous: a drunk with a gun who knows how to use it.

Pentagon, you see where I'm going with this. The best choice left is marijuana. Not asking and not telling about blowing a joint can't be any harder for you people than it is regarding gay soldiers. Given prevailing attitudes in the military, I bet it's easier.

Let's be clear - I'm not claiming marijuana isn't a drug. I'm suggesting it is another drug, which seems significantly less destructive than the global scourges of the drugs tobacco and alcohol. According to the Institute of Medicine's 1999 report "Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base," written as a review of scientific evidence on marijuana at the direction of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, "few marijuana users develop dependence," and of those who do, any withdrawal "is mild and short lived."

The report also notes that "most drug users begin with alcohol and nicotine before marijuana," and marijuana "is rarely the first, 'gateway' to illicit drug use. There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs."

And we're not talking about peddling drugs to teenagers. The average age of active-duty soldiers in the army is 27.

What about contamination or varying levels of potency? Those issues could be easily addressed if the pot were produced here in the U.S. As drug enforcement agencies know all too well, growing marijuana isn't rocket science. If the military can find contractors for actual rocket science, surely it can find contractors capable of growing some weed. And we'd create jobs in the process! Between helping the troops stay off heroin and helping the economy, it would make sense to call the product "Victory Joints."

Yes, yes, Pentagon. I realize it would be a public relations disaster if word of Victory Joints got out. You'll want to keep it on the down-low. Try to do a better job than with Abu Ghraib, extraordinary renditions, the CIA's black prison sites and waterboarding. What are you guys, a bunch of stoners?

Sincerely,

Cate Plys

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Open Letter is open to letters.

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See who else Cate has written to - from Lin Brehmer and The Person Who Let Their Dog Defecate Near The Southeast Corner Of 58th And Kimbark to Fellow Parents Planning Birthday Parties and Macy's - in the Open Letter archive.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:29 AM | Permalink

Ofman: Dis and Dat, Dem and Dose

By George Ofman

Vinny Del Negro is still the head coach of the Chicago Bulls. Lovie Smith is still the head coach of the Chicago Bears. And Milton Bradley is still property of the Chicago Cubs. Do you like your strychnine with milk or sugar?

*

While many are foaming at the mouth for Vinny's head (and let's face it, he's not exactly an Einstein at Xs and Os), look what he's coaching, or in this case, what he's not coaching. What's worse, what big-name free agent wants to venture here unless he knows a big-time coach will be waiting? If the boys in the front office don't get it right this time, the Bulls are doomed to mediocrity - or less - for years.

*

Wonder why the Packers are only three-point favorites at Soldier Field this Sunday? It's Lovie's Super Bowl. He seems to coach his best against the Packers. Final score: Green Bay 28, Bears 17.

*

Chet Coppock picked his best and worst Chicago sportscasters over the past 25 years. I didn't check but did Chet put himself on both lists?

*

Milton the Martyr hasn't been traded, yet. And no matter what transpires, take this to the bank (only make sure it's FDIC): Bradley will never wear a Cubs uniform again.

*
Didn't you enjoy the myriad rumors having Bradley all but traded to several teams? None of those rumors came to pass. I'll give the rumormongers a C. I'll give Twitter an A+.

*

Speaking of rumors, did you hear the one about the Sox hiring Carl Everett as a translator should Hideki Matsui sign a deal with the South Siders?

*

It's official: someone finally got the Notre Dame Job and damn, it was that Brian Kelly guy from undefeated Cincinnati. Better check his resume, his political persuasions and whether he knows Rachel Uchitel.

*

By the way, has Tiger reached a dirty dozen yet?

*

Why didn't Notre Dame even consider Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald? Didn't he seem to be the right man at the right time?

*

Did you see the Blackhawks' games against the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers? If you didn't, you missed some terrific theater. The Hawks won both in overtime by 2-1 scores. This is must-see TV. This is also how you win Stanley Cups.

*

Please tell me how a guy decides to tie his show in the middle of an NBA game and the defensive team looks befuddled if not stupid trying to figure out what to do. Now you have a better idea why Del Negro's shelf life is short.

*

"It's easy to sit back on the sidelines and everyone has all these great ideas. People think they know what they're talking about. But until you live it and do it, no one has an idea".

I think Del Negro's shelf life got a little shorter.

*

Milton Bradley is still a Cub while Chicago native Curtis Granderson is a New York Yankee. Take a breath and a have a swig of that delicious strychnine.

*

And in its infinite lack of wisdom Major League Baseball wants to expand the first round of the playoffs from best-of-five to best-of-seven while cutting down the off days during the endless post-season. Here's some better ideas: get rid of some teams, shorten the regular season schedule, play the World Series in early October and put Curtis Granderson in charge of public relations.

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

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:15 AM | Permalink

Bloodshot Briefing: Zen Bloodshot

By Matt Harness

Most people in Chicago don't know Joe Swank.

The 41-year-old from Marion, Illinois, a town known best for its federal prison, is a music industry insider. He works for Bloodshot Records as one of the label's publicity experts, most notably by encouraging radio stations around the country to play Robbie Fulks, among others.

Now, Swank has another mission. That is to promote himself and his band the Zen Pirates, who recently released Hank Williams Died for My Sins. Swank, who calls his brand of music "aggressive hillbilly," is unsigned but unworried. His work at Bloodshot is his main focus these days.

Beachwood Music talked to Swank about seemingly everything under the music tent, including his history with the Drive-By Truckers.

Beachwood Music: What do you do for Bloodshot?

Joe Swank: I coordinate all things with radio like on-air appearances, ticket giveaways. I also do data and tracking reports about what's spinning on which radio stations.

I do stuff like trying to help the Bottle Rockets decide which direction to take their tour. But this radio guy's not getting back to me. For two weeks. It's possible the tour hinges on them playing the songs.

I just contacted The Bob and Tom Show about the Bottle Rockets. That could have a huge impact, too. It's a syndicated morning show, mostly talking.

The hard thing for us is trying to reach a massive amount of ears. Our specialty is going into niche markets. You really have to fight and fuck your way through to have people pay attention.

Beachwood Music: You're a southern Illinois boy and lived for years in North Carolina. How and when did you land at Bloodshot?

Joe Swank: I joined the business to figure it out for my band. My first record was way back in the 1990s. I moved to North Carolina because there are a ton of labels there, and I accidentally got hired by one, Yep Roc Records. It's Rubik's-style coolness.

I mean, the worst thing that's happened to me lately with Bloodshot was a live lunch for this radio station with an artist in Louisville that fell through. I got a call from him 30 minutes before he was supposed to be on and he just woke up. And he was four or five hours away.

I was with Yep Roc from 2001 until Bloodshot hired me last year.

Beachwood Music: I went to college in Athens, Georgia, and Drive-By Truckers is one of my favorite bands. I read somewhere you played some shows with them in the late 1990s. Please tell me about that.

Joe Swank: They are one of my favorites, too. I can't remember the year we played with them, but it the Atlantis Music Festival. It was us and them and Lonesome Bob. That was the first night I met them. It was the time when the only thing they had out was Gangstabilly.

Patterson Hood is a great guy, so is Mike Cooley. This was back before Jason Isbell joined the band.

Two of the best shows I've ever seen were with them playing in North Carolina. They played this one place, Sadlack's Heroes in Raleigh. Every band got paid $50, and there's no admission cost. People were just walking in off the street. It was packed to the walls. Toward the end, they were singing "Bulldozers and Dirt," and at one of the points in the song where it's silent, the intercom came on, "Ham and Cheese ready for Johnson." Everybody was dying.

Beachwood Music: You grew up around the same time and super close to where Uncle Tupelo kicked off what became most understood as the alternative country movement.

Joe Swank: Yeah, I had no idea. I mean the first R.E.M. song I heard was "Shiny Happy People." Nothing got through to us. Marion is a bunch of right-wing FOX-TV watchers. Carbondale was the island of hope. They had a bunch of hippies.

Beachwood Music: You originally put the Zen Pirates together earlier this decade to no avail. But you re-created the band and put out the album two weeks ago.

Joe Swank: It was one of those things where my job got in the way of my hobby. I spend too much time working. All these guys in the band now - Scott Gilmore, Alex Little, Stephen Gardner - I met in Raleigh. They still live there. For me, it was more of an obsession of finishing a disc.

Beachwood Music: You coming to Chicago soon?

Joe Swank: We are opening for Slobberbone in Carbondale in March. It will be a good entry gig. There's a place by me, Lizard's Liquid Lounge, that has bands. Maybe we can do that sometime. I'd like to open for the Waco Brothers. But it's the whole booking band game.

Beachwood Music: The most obvious question is you are unsigned and work for a label. Can't you get Rob Miller and Nan Warshaw drunk and tell them they are signing a petition to feed hungry babies.

Joe Swank: I know what they are looking for, and I am not capable of that. They are looking for a road horse, and someone who's going to be working on another record. Justin Townes Earle is a dream. He's always out, and he's already thinking about a new record.

Record companies are like loan sharks. Nice loan sharks. You achieve what you are capable of and what they are looking for, it's a win-win.

You have to do it as a lifestyle. I can only do three or four shows before I need a week off. I have bad ankles.

There is a band up here that I might do some stuff with. The Purple Hank. I know Dave Schultz. He writes some messed up stuff. There's a potential show Jan. 8 at Lizard's.

Beachwood Music: End of the night. You have a pocket full of quarters. Who's spinning on the jukebox?

Joe Swank: "Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis" by Tom Waits, "Opportunity to Cry" by Willie Nelson, "What's Made Milwaukee Famous" by Jerry Lee Lewis, "Walking on Hell's Roof" by Waco Brothers, "My Favorite Lies" by George Jones.

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

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:32 AM | Permalink

December 10, 2009

The [Thursday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

"There's this thing that's bleeping golden," Phil Kadner writes. "It's called the public trust. Unfortunately, politicians in this state don't seem to put the same value on it that I do."

Has anything really changed in the year since Rod Blagojevich was arrested?

Kadner doesn't think so, and it's hard to argue with him.

"Sadly, in the 12 months that have passed, political leaders have done little to restore credibility to the political system.

"Gov. Pat Quinn has done nothing to fumigate the state payroll of Blagojevich patronage employees.

"Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) has done his best to block reform efforts while making Quinn appear inept.

"As for the Republicans, former Gov. Jim Thompson, whose law firm defended another former governor, George Ryan, against charges of political corruption, is now trying to get part of Ryan's state pension restored.

"Ryan, also a Republican, is sitting in a federal prison because while he was Illinois secretary of state, he placed a 'for sale' sign on his office."

*

Former prosecutor Patrick Collins reiterated his stance to Kadner that "I'm a one-issue voter now. I look for integrity. If it's not there, if I can't see it, nothing else a candidate says matters."

That's been the Beachwood's stance from the get-go. The political culture won't change by voting for the least offensive candidate, or voting along party lines. Vote for truly honest candidates, if you can find them, regardless of ideology. This state is so sleazy that ideology must take a back seat to true reform. I don't care what party someone belongs to; if they are smart, honest folk, I want them in government.

*

Quinn Signs Old Bill.

TIFs For The Rich
The critics were right. And the rest of us are screwed.

About Alexi
A man and his bank.

At The Circus
Reporters still sleeping with the elephants.

Civil War
Rich Miller vs. John Laesch vs. Abraham Lincoln.

Catching On
"I was pleasantly surprised to be invited to the White House jobs summit last Thursday, where I got to watch President Obama engage with about 130 people off the cuff," Robert Kuttner writes. "And I was reminded, first hand, what drew so many of us to the promise of this remarkable outsider - the decency, the intellect, the idealism, and the evidently progressive impulses. I came away even more bewildered and dismayed at the reality that this president, who could have been such an insurgent at a moment demanding insurgency, has been so utterly captured by the Wall Street elite, the health insurance industry elite, and the military elite."

Daley Dab
Came across this while looking up clips for something else:

"The federal charges hit close to home for Mayor Daley. Bridgeport native Patrick Slattery is a newlywed whose wife is the mayor's personal secretary."

Somehow I think it escaped me - or maybe I just forgot - that one of the Daley aides caught up in the Sorich hiring scandal was married to the mayor's personal secretary. But nobody knew nuttin'!

Salahi Story
Is the story of the White House gate-crashers being overplayed? Well, the media can't resist the social elite part of it, but the truth is this: Somebody got to the president. That's the biggest security breach out there, isn't it? I mean, except someone with bad intent getting to the president . . . It's just that there's not a lot left to report after stating that fact.

The Daley Show
"Mayor Richard Daley has a full schedule, but once again isn't taking any off-topic questions," the Tribune notes.

Only questions on pre-approved topics, please.

I Am A Security Guard
And customers are nuts.

Future Shock
"We expect the Internet to overtake newspapers to become the world's second-largest advertising medium by the time we are half way through the next decade," reports ZenithOptimedia.

New Old Read
The Times Skimmer by The New York Times.

White Coats
Google Labs.

Twits of the Week
Um, Todd, the story you are tweeting about here is about Terry O'Brien, not Toni Preckwinkle. Guy can't even get a tweet right.

*

Speaking of O'Brien, he (or his staff) retweeted Preckwinkle winning the endorsement of the New Trier Dems.

Kap's Korner
David Kaplan is one of the sharpest minds among local sports media, but "The Hottest Baseball Wives and Girlfriends?"

Street Smarts
Just catching up with this:

"Gerald W. Bracey, 69, one of the most erudite, prolific and acidic critics of national education policy, died unexpectedly early Oct. 20 at his home in Port Townsend, Wash.," the Washington Post reports.

"He published articles in dozens of magazines and newspapers and wrote 10 books during the last two decades of his life. He skewered the educational policies of the George W. Bush administration and donated money to and voted for presidential candidate Barack Obama. By May of this year, Mr. Bracey was hitting Obama too, noting that the president was wrong when he said 'in 8th grade math we've fallen to 9th place.'

"Actually, this was an improvement from 28th place in 1995, Mr. Bracey pointed out.

"In his book, Education Hell: Rhetoric vs. Reality, published this year, Mr. Bracey attacked the misuses of standardized testing, a subject on which he was an acknowledged national expert. 'We went from a system that valued producing good citizens for a democracy to one that worshipped at the temple of high test scores,' Mr. Bracey wrote. 'We should be asking, what were we thinking?'"

Taste Section
Yahoo! President Carol Bartz's comments at a media conference as summarized in a tweet by paidContent: "Tiger better than Michael Jackson. Can't place ads next to funeral."

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Automatic for the people.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:32 AM | Permalink

I Am A Security Guard: Hairy Situations

At six on a recent Monday morning, a woman bought two bags of goods and walked toward my post. We made eye contact. She asked me, "Do you like my hair?"

Such a question can lead to problems if the hair looks wretched. A yes may spur additional uncomfortable queries. A no means someone's feelings get hurt.

And I really hated her 'do. It was a frizzy, uncombed mess that resembled a fallen bowling pin.

Rather than offend a customer, I played dumb. "I'm the wrong person to ask," I said.

She repeated her question. I repeated my answer.

The woman left.

Of course the Lazy Cashier saw the whole thing. "You were supposed to say it looked nice," she said.

The Lazy Cashier is my least favorite co-worker, but she made sense. Perhaps I could have been a little kinder to the customer.

Ooh, Ooh That Smell
Around 4:45 on a recent Sunday morning, a man walked to the cosmetics section and bought cologne.

He smiled while walking toward my post.

"This only cost $10," he said. "Good stuff for the price." He then took the bottle from the box and said, "Smell it."

I said no while waving my right hand. But he sprayed anyway. The stench of diluted pine cleaner filled the air.

That pissed me off. But I had been trying to be nicer since the hair incident.

"Smells good," I said while gritting my teeth.

"See, I told you." He smiled while walking out the door.

M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E
Just after Halloween, my store shifted into Christmas mode. The staff displayed trees, lights, and other Yuletide merchandise. Holiday tunes blared from overhead speakers.

But the inflatable Mickey Mouse decked in the Santa outfit did not reflect any cheer. The piece drooped due to a shortage of air.

"What's wrong with Mickey Mouse?" I asked the Cool Cashier.

"Maybe he needs Minnie to blow him up," she innocently replied.

The Peep Show
Just before my shift ended on another Monday, an overweight, buxom woman brought her merchandise to a cash register. She wore a dress, but did not carry a purse.

The morning cashier rang up the purchase. Afterward, the customer squeezed her breasts together and jiggled them up and down. She then ran her hands around her chest.

My eyes widened in horror. The cashier, a mother of four, maintained a stoic glance.

The customer's eyes locked with mine. She turned her back, reached inside her bra and pulled out her money.

After she left, the cashier thanked God the cash was dry.

Gay Pride
Late on a Saturday night, a drunken, skinny man and a husky male friend walked into the store while holding hands.

The slim man wore faded blue jeans, which slid downward. He rocked major butt crack. I asked him to pull up his pants.

The couple paid for orange juice and potato chips. On the way out the door, the slim man looked at me. "I hope I see you again," he said with a wink.

The Nice Cashier laughed at me.

Dream Come True
While sleeping before a recent shift, I had a nightmare about a pit bull gnawing at my right leg. The dog morphed into one of the store's more pugnacious guards.

That was a bad omen.

When I arrived for work, that was the guard who greeted me. "Just the man I wanted to see," he said.

The guard then gave me some bad news. A man carrying a backpack had stolen a shelf of gum two nights earlier during my shift.

The Price is Right
A man brought a box of Imodium to the Nice Cashier. The customer claimed it cost $3. The cashier asked for a price check. Another employee searched for her. The item cost $16.

The customer did not buy the item.

A Dose of Perspective
One night, the guard I normally relieve skipped work. Instead, a substitute who had served at several different stores stood at the post.

Usually, substitutes provide great gossip. I asked him about life at the other locations. He told me that thugs had beaten up two guards at a crime-ridden store.

The news provided some food for thought. My job can be pretty bad, but it could be even worse.

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

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

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:08 AM | Permalink

About Alexi

By Steve Rhodes

As the Reader's Mick Dumke points out in "Alexi's Albatross," state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias continues to be dogged by his association - and performance - with his family's Broadway Bank. The ambitious upstart overcame questions about Broadway to win statewide office in his first foray into politics, but those questions continue to loom over Giannoulias's run for U.S. Senate. Let's take a look at Dumke's piece - which also illuminates Giannoulias's relationship with Barack Obama - to find out why.

*

First, about that first run. How indeed did an unknown capture the treasurer's office in his first race?

"Four years ago Giannoulias was a 29-year-old officer at the bank, and known in political circles - if at all - as the guy who'd helped Barack Obama raise lots of money in the Greek community. Then Obama paid Giannoulias back, endorsing him in TV spots that propelled him to a come-from-behind win in the 2006 Democratic primary for treasurer."

He raised a lot of money for Obama, that's how. Pure and simple.

*

"After graduating in 1998, Alexi played pro ball for a year in Greece, then enrolled in law school at Tulane. His JD in hand, he returned to Chicago and took a job as a loan officer at Broadway Bank. Within two years he'd been named senior loan officer and a bank vice president.

"It's not clear what responsibilities came with these titles. He's said that as VP he oversaw all of Broadway's lending - but he's also said he was really just the guy who serviced the bank's loans - overseeing things like billing and payment collection - while more senior officers, including his older brother Demetris, negotiated the deals and made the final decisions. When I pressed him to specify his job descriptions at each stage of his employment at the bank, he laughed.

"'You have to understand that it was the family business - I did everything there,' he said. 'Sometimes I was a teller and sometimes I serviced loans - whatever we needed'."

It was a family business. Giannoulias got his job through old-fashioned nepotism. His description of his duties will become more important as we go along.

*

"But experts and community leaders say Broadway developed a reputation for giving out loans to just about anyone who walked in the door."

*

"Among the recipients of loans while Alexi worked full-time at the bank were: Michael Giorango, a Florida developer who's been convicted of running bookmaking and prostitution rings; Boris and Lev Stratievsky, a father-son team later convicted of laundering money for Ukrainian drug dealers; and Tony Rezko, the developer-businessman-political fixer who was eventually convicted of fraud and money laundering for his role in pay-to-play schemes during the administration of Governor Blagojevich. Giannoulias and current bank officials have said all of them were creditworthy when the loans were issued."

Depending on what you mean by "creditworthy."

On the other hand, why should an association with Rezko be held against Giannoulias when it wasn't held against Obama?

*

"In 1998 Giannoulias met state senator Barack Obama playing pickup basketball at the University of Chicago rec center. In addition to Obama's competitive fire ('He'll stack the teams so he's with the winner,' he says), Giannoulias says he was impressed by Obama's smarts, friendliness, and passion. The two became friends, hoops buddies, and, most significantly, political allies."

So, one, Obama is a prick. Two, how convenient for the both of them. I thought only Todd Stroger picked up political acolytes during pick-up basketball games. But do you think Obama would have become buddies with Giannoulias if he was poor?

*

"Friends say he talked up Obama long before there was any buzz about him. 'I remember people asking him, Wait, who is this Barack guy?' says Sean Conlon, a Chicago-based real estate developer and consultant."

You mean after eight years in the legislature Obama wasn't the star his campaign presented him as? You'd think he would've been a household name for the way he purportedly changed and unified Illinois.

*

"Obama appears to have politicized Giannoulias. He'd never run for anything, never been a member of a political organization, never worked on a campaign. 'He wasn't very public at all until he started to run for office,' says a north-side community activist who didn't want to be named because of ongoing relationships with Giannoulias's family and Broadway Bank. 'He didn't go to any community events. He had no policy experience. Then all the sudden he started talking about public service'."

And how badly he wanted to serve one term as state treasurer to serve his country.

*

"But Giannoulias had some advantages. He was bright, he had people skills, he had money, and through the bank he already had some political connections. Secretary of state Jesse White and alderman Walter Burnett both had accounts at the bank - as did Obama, for that matter."

Huh. Why would Obama, who lived in Hyde Park, have an account at a bank in Uptown?

*

"His family knew most of the elected officials on the north side and had contributed to a number of their campaign funds - recipients included White, Schakowsky, Blagojevich, state reps Harry Osterman and Dan Burke, Cook County Board president John Stroger, county commissioners Forrest Claypool and Roberto Maldonado (now alderman of the 26th Ward), county Board of Review commissioner Joe Berrios (now chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party), and aldermen Burt Natarus and Manny Flores."

And yet, he never showed any interest in politics until he met Obama. Huh.

*

"Giannoulias also reached out to some of the elected officials he and his family had supported. Schakowsky says she was impressed from their first meeting. 'I always want to know, when young people come to me, if they want to be somebody or if they want to do something,' she says. 'After a 40-minute conversation I thought he was the kind of guy who really wanted to do something'."

He didn't know what, but something.

*

"Still, Schakowsky says she was 'skeptical' when Giannoulias told her he wanted to run for treasurer. 'A young guy who wants to start out in a statewide office? I've heard that before,' she says. 'But I was just immediately taken with him'."

And his wallet.

*

"Schakowsky was so smitten she served as Giannoulias's political tour guide, taking him with her to events, introducing him around, and offering advice. 'Since he was a novice, I wanted him to be talking to and meeting the right people,' she says."

But he already knew Tony Rezko!

*

"But the single biggest factor in the race was Obama's willingness to speak out for Giannoulias on the air - at the time, the freshman senator was one of the most popular politicians in the world. Asked by reporters why he was going to bat for an unknown candidate in a down-ballot office, Obama was frank about wanting to return a favor. 'He was critical for me in terms of reaching out to the Greek community, other ethnic communities in the city,' he said. 'He was there from the start, when people didn't give me a shot'."

So there you have it. Alexi Giannoulias is our treasurer today - and maybe our U.S. senator tomorrow - because Obama was repaying a political favor to a rich kid who raised a boatload of money for him.

*

"In a 30-second TV spot, Obama praised Giannoulias in a way that seemed far more personal than the typical campaign sound bite. 'He's one of the most outstanding young men that I could ever hope to meet,' Obama said as the ad showed images of Giannoulias at a desk, apparently hard at work."

Doing what, approving loans?

"He's somebody who cares deeply about people. He got that from his family."

I thought he got that from you.

"Alexi Giannoulias - he's going to be an outstanding treasurer."

Alexi Giannouiias - he did me a huge favor and I'm here to repay it.

*

"Under serious questioning, though, he sometimes faltered. When the Tribune's editorial board asked him how he could address the funding shortfall in the state pension system, Giannoulias said he wasn't sure."

Outstanding!

*

"Just days before the election, news outlets ran stories about Broadway Bank loans in the 1990s and early 2000s to Giorango, the Florida developer with ties to bookmaking and prostitution - stories prompted by a pre-primary mailer from the Madigan-led state Democratic Party declaring that Giannoulias was 'friends' with mobsters.

"Giannoulias said privacy laws prohibited him from getting into details, but he noted that there was nothing illegal about the loans. 'We lend money to people who we trust from a business standpoint,' he said at a news conference. 'We're a safe and sound financial institution and we run a good business.' He added that these loans were irrelevant to his campaignhe'd been in law school when they were issued.

"That was true - but Giannoulias himself had overseen a couple of loans to Giorango in 2005, and the Tribune soon dug up records of those."

*

"His general election opponent, Republican Christine Radogno, seized on the controversy, accusing Giannoulias of 'an association with organized crime' and questioning what he'd actually done at Broadway. 'When it was convenient he was the vice president in charge of loans, but when they became an issue he wasn't involved,' she says . . . Obama said Giannoulias needed to do a better job of explaining the loans to voters."

I mean, how could he associate himself with Tony Rezko?!

*

"On January 9, 2007, his first day at his new job, Giannoulias delivered on his campaign pledge to ban contributions to the treasurer from any firm doing business with the office. He also prohibited office employees from donating to the treasurer's political fund. 'Trading political money for political favors is a way of doing business that seems ingrained in our system of government,' he declared."

Flashback: "Obama was frank about wanting to return a favor. 'He was critical for me in terms of reaching out to the Greek community, other ethnic communities in the city'."

-

Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:55 AM | Permalink

December 9, 2009

The [Wednesday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

"Facing the worst recession in a generation, U.S. Rep. Phil Hare isn't sitting around and waiting for the job market to rebound on its own," Progress Illinois reports.

"On MSNBC's The Ed Show [Monday] night, he explained the basic outline of the plan he'll introduce in Congress. As Hare explains, the package includes a public works infrastructure program 'similar to what Roosevelt had with the CCC'."

Which is what we were supposed to get the first time around with the stimulus bill. But as has been conclusively shown since, the stimulus bill was not a jobs bill, but a frickin' Christmas tree for Congress; it didn't need earmarks because the earmarks were the bill.

And look where that's gotten us.

Blagoland
"Rod plays the jester," John Kass writes today. "All that's missing are the curly-toed boots, and Rod holding a wooden rattle carved in his own likeness, a smirk on the tiny Rod head, as Rod himself waves his arms, gesturing at the unfairness of it all.

"It's all so amusing, so droll. But the joke's not on him.

"It's on us. On every man, woman and child in the state of Illinois.

"At least one man is dead, Blagojevich's buddy Christopher Kelly, an insider who committed suicide, taking to the grave any testimony he might have on how deals were done at Chicago's airports.

"And others will be the walking dead, at least dead to their families, after they dump their entire paychecks into video poker machines that the state government plans to use to recover some of the billions that Blago wasted.

"You can see them, can't you? The rows of haunted souls on bar stools, blowing their cash at some bar, or even at Tavern on Rush and Gibsons. The bust-outs will turn to legal juice, like those payday loans, or they'll go on the Outfit's special borrowing plan. That's the plan that ends with the sound of a ball-peen hammer on a kneecap."

*

It's no secret that I'm a John Kass fan, even though his views often drive me crazy when he ventures beyond city and state politics. But nobody does what he does in this city. And nobody writes the way he does. That part of his craft, I think, is vastly underrated.

The Terry O'Brien Show
Who is Terry O'Brien? I don't think we know yet, and the media doesn't seem to be in a hurry to find out. But time is a-wasting; some veteran political observers think he's the front-runner in the Democratic primary for Cook County Board president, namely because he's the only white candidate in a field with three African-Americans. I disagree; I don't think O'Brien's got a snowball's chance. But maybe that's in part because most of the media attention seems to be focused on his opponents while he flies under the radar. Hopefully a news outlet in town is working up a decent examination, though, because bits and pieces like these "raise questions," as they say.

* "The 'fair and reasonable' price financial advisers recommended to the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago for the biggest borrowing in its history cost taxpayers $8 million in unnecessary interest and resulted in a bonanza for bankers, according to documents initially withheld from the public," Bloomberg reports.

(Note the presence of new Sun-Times Media Group owner Jim Tyree in the story. Awkward!)

* "For three years, the developers of the Ritz-Carlton Residences at Erie Street and Michigan Avenue have been locked in a costly legal battle with its backyard neighbor - the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District headquarters - over access to an 18-foot by 95-foot alley," the Tribune reports.

"Yes, that's right: Thousands of pages of court filings, and at least $1.3 million in legal fees charged to the water district alone, and at least a month's worth of courtroom time, spent scrapping over an alley."

And then there's this from a few weeks ago:

* "Of O'Brien's 2,000-plus petitions, 10 virtually mirror petitions [Dorothy] Brown submitted, according to a Chicago Sun-Times examination of the thousands of petitions submitted by each candidate. Nearly all of the 200 voters who signed those 10 nominating petitions for O'Brien also signed for Brown - and in the same order," the ,em>Sun-Times reported.

"Three people circulated those 10 petitions, which were notarized by one of two longtime Democratic operatives. Those two notaries stamped more than 200 petitions for O'Brien and more than 75 for Brown."

The Sun-Times also reported that "Two longtime Democratic operatives - Sam J. Morabito and Teresa Navarro - notarized petitions circulated by a total of 25 people for O'Brien or Brown. Three of those petition-passers did it for both candidates. Morabito notarized 150 petitions for O'Brien and 42 for Brown. Navarro notarized 65 petitions for O'Brien and 24 for Brown.

"Morabito, 53, who lives on the Northwest Side, is an assistant chief operating engineer for the city's Aviation Department. He got his start in politics under former state Rep. Joseph Kotlarz, who once pushed City Hall to give Morabito a promotion, according to the notorious 'clout list' kept by Mayor Daley's now-imprisoned patronage director Robert Sorich."

So there's that.

And then there's O'Brien's website. It's not just that the opening line in his welcome rings a bit false given the news reports we've just looked at: "My name is Terrence J. O'Brien, and I'm running for Cook County Board President to bring good government back to the people of Cook County."

It's the obvious ethnic appeal - I'm Irish! - that puts me off.

(Kudos, though, for including the petition story among its featured articles; the campaign probably just set up a feed that runs itself.)

Forgive my skepticism, but I think we need to know more about O'Brien before this campaign gets too much farther along.

Media Plan
Another reporter endorses slick manipulation of the media as a necessary and smart move.

*

Here's a solution to the problem the Trib's David Haugh is writing about in the above link: The NCAA should just bar colleges from contacting coaches at other schools about filling job vacancies until after the bowl season.

Sports Nuts
I find the Sun-Times's poaching of Tribune sports columnist Rick Morrissey wholly uninspired. The money would have been better spent hiring a few sharp, young (and diverse) talents whose main focus would been the paper's sports coverage on the its website. I don't care how many readers Morrissey brings with him. He's the past, not the future. And he's just not very good.

The real opportunity, now, is for the Trib. Unfortunately, they seem bent on ginning up an "old-fashioned newspaper war" instead of a new-fashioned web war. Memo to Trib editors: Readers don't care if the Associated Press Sports Editors voted your section in the top 10 this year. No need to brag about that on your front page. Just like they don't care in the years that it awards the Sun-Times the same honor. Get your self-absorbed heads out of your butts and connect with what's going on out in the real world. Show a vision beyond the traditional newspaper section. (And no, bringing the spotlight back to Steve Rosenbloom does not qualify; I'm a Rosenbloom fan but the Trib pattern is to wheel him out every time they need to prove they are whack, then store him in a closet for a few years when they tire of him.)

Daley's Bitter Olympics Rant
In rare form.

Daley's Bulldozers vs. The National Register
Destroying as fast as he can.

Daley Down On Snowmaggedon
But right about weather hysteria.

Centers & Playoffs
Our very own Dan O'Shea sets you up right in Fantasy Fix.

-

The Beachwood Tip Line: One of a kind.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:20 AM | Permalink

Fantasy Fix: NBA Centers & NFL Playoffs

By Dan O'Shea

Yao Ming and Greg Oden don't have much in common - other than being storybook giants come to life, of course. Though Yao and Oden both play center, they play vastly different games, Yao being an artist with a shooting touch and Oden following the more typical recent model of bringing rebound and shot-block thunder from above.

Yet, when all is said and done, both may be remembered for having that particular star-crossed quality: Incredibly talented, frequently injured. Yao is out this year after foot surgery, and for all his notoriety hasn't played a full season in the last six years. Oden just suffered a likely season-ending knee injury after a very promising first month in which he led the NBA in blocks. His career games-played tally reads like this:

Season 1: 0 GP
Season 2: 61 GP (out of an 82-game season)
Season 3: 21 GP

In those 21 games, Oden mostly showed us what we thought in pre-season; that he would play well above his late-round ranking. But, another season is lost. I don't know where Yao will end up being ranked next pre-season, but Oden is sure to fall back again into 10th or 11th round territory. Everything about him will tell you to take the leap of faith, but you may have to do it expecting only a half season of returns.

The injuries to Yao and Oden, and a decline in performance by other supposed star centers like Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard and Al Jefferson may have left your fantasy team middling without an effective man in the middle. Here's a few hot performers who have been picking up the slack - and what you should do with them - in this week's Fantasy Fix Action Ratings:

Player: Marcus Camby, PF/C
FFAR: TRADE
Comment: He's now the top-ranked center in many fantasy leagues, playing at a top-10 ranking at least 30 spots ahead of where you would have found him in pre-season. However, he tends to cool off as the season progresses, and never has scored quite enough to warrant superstar status.

*

Player: Nene Hilario, PF/C
FFAR: HOLD
Comment: Yet another star-crossed big man, Nene is finally staying healthy and delivers a pretty well-rounded stat sheet that includes more assists and fewer turnovers than your average center.

*

Player: Marc Gasol, C
FFAR: HOLD
Comment: I don't think he will continue to be the better Gasol all season, but seems to be part of a suddenly strong core in Memphis, and probably will end up averaging a double-double.

*

Player: Channing Frye, PF/C
FFAR: PICK UP
Comment: He's not as widely owned as the others, yet, 56 three-pointers from the center position make him one of the best picks on the board.

*

Player: Ben Wallace, PF/C
FFAR: SKIP
Comment: You read that right. Big Ben, whose career decline seems to have been limited to his time with the Bulls, is a defensive machine once again. He's averaging almost 10 rebounds per game, but little scoring and horrendous free throw shooting make him a liability.

Expert Wire
* In his Yahoo! Court Report, Matt Buser mentions the single player who has the most to gain from Oden's injury, fellow Portland center Joel Pryzbilla. He's another option whose scoring totals are just too low (3.6 PPG), but he'll mostly make up for the blocks lost from Oden.

* Rotowire notes the dreaded plantar fascia injury to top 10 fantasy stud Danny Granger, which will leave Granger out for up to six weeks. That's bad enough because Granger is one of those guys you just can't drop despite the long layoff, but PF foot injuries are so unpredictable. Granger may return and play through pain, or this could be the first of many fits and starts.

Fantasy Football
It's playoff time and, at this point, it might just be best to stick with who got you there. But if you have starters who are candidates to earn rest in Weeks 14 though 17 of the NFL slate while the fantasy post-season plays out, here are the next best things (or maybe the only things) still available on the waiver wire at key positions:

Player: Alex Smith, QB
FFAR: PICK UP
Comment: Drew Brees or Peyton Manning won't be sitting unless their teams finally lose, but if you need a filler, you could do much worse than Smith at this point. He has come on strong with coach's confidence and a new offensive game plan in hand, and he faces soft pass defenses the rest of the way, especially Weeks 16 and 17 against Detroit and St. Louis.

*

Player: Justin Fargas, RB
FFAR: SKIP
Comment: The most widely available RB who has scored considerable points lately is part of a backfield-by-committee in Oakland. Fargas seems to finish strong every year, but Michael Bush has seniority in this committee, and Darren McFadden is in the mix, too.

*

Player: Eddie Royal, WR
FFAR: PICK UP
Comment: He has been a decent contributor in leagues that count return yards, but also has finally gotten his hands on a few passes in recent weeks. Denver, which started strong and then began to fade, has righted again, so maybe Royal will continue to get chances.

*

Player: Todd Heap, TE
FFAR: PICK UP
Comment: A tough call on a former star gone to seed, but Baltimore has tried to get the ball in his hands more often as sophomore QB Joe Flacco has struggled.

Expert Wire
* Yahoo! Pickups of the Week has RBs Jerome Harrison and Shonn Greene as strong buys. I guess I haven't noticed because both have been owned in my leagues for awhile, but Harrison is a bona fide starter now and for the remaining games this season, and definitely worth a pick-up if he's somehow available. Green may get the benefit of the Jets taking the ball out of QB Mark Sanchez's hands more often, but don't expect too much.

-

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

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:05 AM | Permalink

December 8, 2009

The [Tuesday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

1. I love the Redwood!

But, yeah.

2. "Chicago will dole out $35 million in property tax relief on the honor system, but only to a point: One of every 50 applicants will be required to produce their 2008 income tax returns," the Sun-Times reports.

"Chief Financial Officer Gene Saffold disclosed the city plans to conduct random audits to verify family incomes below the $200,000 ceiling on Day One of an application process that runs through March 31.

"For most homeowners, a signed affidavit, a photo ID and a copy of their current property tax bill will be enough to qualify for cash grants - ranging from $25-to-$200 - from proceeds of the $1.15 billion deal that privatized Chicago parking meters."

I wonder how much it will cost the city to process these "grants." How many workers will be assigned to this program, how many hours will they work, how much will paper and postage cost? Because it has boondoggle written all over it.

*

So a homeowner making $199,000 a year will get a check from the city for $25? That's horrendous public policy on several levels.

*

Then again, maybe homeowners can put their "grants" toward their parking tickets. Because this is really parking ticket relief, not property tax relief, though it does target homeowners (Hey, what about renters? Those taxes get passed on to us . . . ). The money comes from parking meter lease funds. Then you can send it right back to the city.

3. Like I said, it's all about the police reports.

4. Durbin To Bloggers: Drop Dead.

5. Blago Vows To Testify. And he's just crazy enough to do it.

6. Really really really really really really really rich guy Andy McKenna wants to lower the state's minimum wage. Which is $8 an hour. Which is what McKenna probably makes per second.

7. "I can't help but feel a bit sorry for Cook County Board President Todd Stroger," Mitchell writes.

"When he was running for the office four years ago, it didn't matter how many shots the press fired. His patron saint was there to shield him.

"But this time around, Mayor Daley has signaled that he doesn't intend to help Stroger stay in office."

Mitchell forgets to mention that when Stroger "ran" four years ago it was only after he was installed as the nominee in grand deception. Much of the harsh criticism Stroger has received in office stems from the way he got there.

*

"Old man Stroger risked his political life by backing Daley over Harold Washington in 1983, a time when Chicago politics was solely defined by race.

"After that, Stroger was known as Daley's boy. If that bothered him, he never showed it.

"With Daley's help, Stroger went on to become the first black man to head up the Cook County Board, one of the most powerful offices in the state.

"But Daley's debt must be paid in full."

Daley must repay his debt "in full" by subjecting citizens to four more years of incompetence? This isn't about Daley and his supposed political debts. This is a public office.

Besides, wasn't the debt paid by giving Todd the chance in the first place? He failed. Move on.

8. Actual Washington Post correction:

"A Nov. 26 article in the District edition of Local Living incorrectly said a Public Enemy song declared 9/11 a joke. The song refers to 911, the emergency phone number."

9. "Move over Turbot fish; take seat, blue fin tuna. The new most exclusive fish in the world is, apparently, the Asian carp at $3 million a pop."

- Natasha Julius in her fabulous Weekend Desk Report

10. ComEd must be crafting a marketing strategy for selling a rate hike next year, if the phone survey I got last night is any indication. And it was pretty obvious.

The survey was conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates, which shows up in "The Secret Side of David Axelrod" doing similar work:

"One TV commercial, penned by [Axelrod's firm] warned of a ComEd bankruptcy and blackouts without a rate hike: 'A few years ago, California politicians seized control of electric rates. They held rates down, but the true cost of energy kept rising. Soon the electric company went bust; the lights went out. Consumers had to pay for the mess. Now, some people in Illinois are playing the same game.' CORE, which describes itself on its Web site as 'a coalition of individuals, businesses and organizations,' was identified as the ad's sponsor. After a complaint was filed with state regulators, ComEd acknowledged that it had bankrolled the entire $15 million effort.

"The message seemed effective. Pollster Geoff Garin, president of Peter D. Hart Research Associates in Washington, which has worked with both of Axelrod's businesses, says his research showed that after the advertising campaign, ComEd customers were more supportive of a rate hike than customers served by other electric utilities elsewhere in Illinois.

"Axelrod's public and private efforts bump into each other at ComEd, too. Illinois employees of the utility and its parent, Exelon, have contributed $181,711 to Obama's Presidential bid - more than workers at any other company in the state."

11. Way better than the New Yorker's caption contest.

12. "During a year-long gambling binge at the Caesars Palace and Rio casinos in 2007, Terrance Watanabe managed to lose nearly $127 million," the Wall Street Journal reports.

"The run is believed to be one of the biggest losing streaks by an individual in Las Vegas history. It devoured much of Mr. Watanabe's personal fortune, he says, which he built up over more than two decades running his family's party-favor import business in Omaha, Neb. It also benefitted the two casinos' parent company, Harrah's Entertainment Inc., which derived about 5.6% of its Las Vegas gambling revenue from Mr. Watanabe that year."

13. "It's hardly the image of transparency the Obama administration wants to project: A workshop on government openness is closed to the public," AP reports.

As the AP shows, it's getting to be an old story with this bunch.

14. "Five bucks here will get you two bottles of Old Style ($2 each) and five plays on the jukebox ($1).

- Time Out Chicago on the Redwood

-

The Beachwood Tip Line: Dive in.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:34 AM | Permalink

The Cubs Go Plutonium

By The Beachwood Ricketts Affairs Desk

The Cubs recently announced a new "platinum" level pricing tier to go along with its gold, silver and bronze tiers. The Beachwood has learned that the Cubs are also plutonium category to its pricing plan to capture even more dollars. The Plutonium Plan would consist of box seats behind the Cubs dugout for $1,000 a game plus the following perks:

* Get to play second base for one inning.

* Get to perform one double-switch per game.

* You can bring the farm animal of your choice to sit with you.

* Upon your death someone can sprinkle your ashes on the field.

* Your index finger will be photographed, blown up, and become the new official we're #1 foam finger template.

* Ronnie Woo-Woo has to Woo your name for as long as it's not annoying.

* Get to make one mound visit per game with Lou Piniella.

* Get to sit in the dugout one inning per game; $50 discount for sitting next to the water cooler.

* Will be added to the 40-man roster for your birthday.

* Get to throw out last ball.

* Get to sing Canadian anthem if the Blue Jays come here for interleague play.

* Free swine flu shots during the game.

* Carlos Zambrano will put in a good word for you with God.

* Your Bud Light will actually have drinkability.

-

- Marty Gangler, Steve Rhodes

-

Your suggestions welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:20 AM | Permalink

Chicagoetry: Bad

Bad

"I do not want to be friends
or anything else.

I want a complete break
for good.

This whole thing has been bad
from the start."

I'm wide
awake.

I'm not
sleeping.

-


J.J. Tindall is the Beachwood's poet-in-residence. He welcomes your comments. Chicagoetry is an exclusive Beachwood collection-in-progress.

-

More Tindall:

* Music: MySpace page

* Fiction: A Hole To China

* Critical biography at e-poets.net

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:00 AM | Permalink

December 7, 2009

The [Monday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

Our very own George Ofman is right: You watched the Bears yesterday just to see if they would actually lose to the Rams.

More Meter Madness
So Abu Dhabi is making money off our parking meters because our own politicians didn't have the guts to raise rates themselves. Can Chicago buy the meters of some other country with similarly gutless politicians? I'm thinking Luxembourg. Just because.

*

Does Kabul have parking meters? See where I'm going with this?

*

Or Cleveland. Stick close to home.

*

"Minutes from a recent Chicago Parking Meters LLC board meeting show that one Abu Dhabi Investment Authority executive and two Allianz officials were among the board members present when officials discussed revenue figures from the meters and expressed a desire to increase enforcement against parking scofflaws," the Chicago News Cooperative reports."

Abu Dhabis and Germans are now ticketing your car.

*

They aren't the only ones.

"The city's hunt to fill its cash-starved coffers has come to this: Some traffic-control aides - those city employees in the fluorescent coats who help cars and pedestrians move through busy intersections - are now writing parking tickets full time," the Sun-Times reports.

*

I think Dog the Bounty Hunter is writing tickets in Chicago now too.

It's a free-for-all.

Fee Spree
"Liquor isn't the only commodity taxed at higher rates from five years ago. In that time, various local governments have imposed a variety of higher taxes, fees and fines, with many increases topping 100 percent, a Chicago Sun-Times review found.

"Moreover, most of the increases far outpaced the rate of inflation over the same period: 14.4 percent."

*

"Mr. Tunney said this week that only the 'naive' could believe Mr. Daley's assertion that the 2010 budget would not raise taxes or fees. 'Ask anybody who parks in the city if we have raised taxes,' the North Side alderman said, referring to the sharp increase in parking-meter rates after the city leased on-street parking management to a private company."

*

Daley Shadow Budget Revealed.

Sees No Evil
Nov. 15: "Mayor Daley says city has done enough to fix hiring."

Dec. 5: "More Chicago hiring abuses alleged: Monitor criticizes Mayor Richard Daley's team"

*

My NBCChicago.com post: "Monitor: City Hall Hiring Still Needs Oversight."

It's Still Blago's World
We're just living in it.

The Desiree Rogers Show
"But beneath the clothes there is a woman of substance, friends say," the New York Times reports. "Tom Patrick, the former chairman of the utility companies who was Ms. Rogers's boss, recalls Ms. Rogers 'slapping on a hard hat' to go out into the field with utility workers."

Oh my God, the president of People's Gas actually slapped on a hard hat and mingled with the field workers!

*

"Rogers has been criticized for not following the customary practice of stationing social office employees at entry points to provide information to the Secret Service. It would be interesting to know what light she can shed on the whole matter, and Obama is wrong to refuse to let her answer questions," the Tribune editorial page notes.

"White House staffers in past administrations have given testimony on Capitol Hill on numerous occasions. True, many presidents have barred advisers from testifying on sensitive matters - citing executive privilege, which is supposed to protect the confidentiality of discussions between the president and his aides.

"But it's hard to make the case that it applies to Rogers.

"Gibbs might want to check with Harvard constitutional scholar Cass Sunstein, who has explained, 'Direct decisionmaking by the president is required. If the president himself is not directly involved, there is no privilege.' That wouldn't be hard for Gibbs to do, since Sunstein is now head of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs."

Or, for that matter, just check in with the president. He's a constitutional scholar, remember?

Ad Seg
"We are constantly told by potential advertisers that they won't advertise unless they 'get editorial.' That's what it's like in Chicago," publisher Pam Berns writes in Chicago Life (not online yet). "Pick up most local publications and see what they cover. A few publications write a paragraph on every advertiser. Others have their advertisers on the cover. Some even let the advertisers write a column next to to their ad. Others promise a page of 'editorial' for every page of advertising."

Name names, please.

Cubs vs. Bears
"As bad as the Bears season has been, the Cubs off-season might end up worse," our very own Jim Coffman writes.

News 101
"For Stewart, current events mattered, and they were being bungled by public officials and the purveyors of real news," John Leland writes in the New York Times. "He made you feel better about not reading the paper or watching CNN because his take was more real."

"Headlines that declare 'Area Bedroom Has That Weird Jeff Smell, Housemates Report' or 'Spelling-Bee Runner-Up Bursts Into Tears Whenever Anyone Says Proprietor' reflect American lives more closely - and more affectionately - than much of what passes for real news."

War Plan
"Perhaps only a 'handful' of U.S. troops will leave Afghanistan in July 2011, the date President Obama set to begin a withdrawal, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said."

Perhaps.

*

"Count Sen. Dick Durbin among those doubtful about the new deployment of troops in Afghanistan that President Barack Obama has ordered," the Tribune reports.

"'I'm skeptical as to whether 30,000 more troops will make a difference,'' Durbin, the senior senator from Illinois, No. 2 Democratic leader in the Senate and mentor and friend to Obama, said on FOX News Sunday. 'We have over 200,000 now when you count NATO forces, American forces and Afghan military forces'."

Programming Note
Posting has slowed down in some of our sections lately due in part to my recent bout with the swine; it will probably continue to be light this month while I focus on strategy and other matters involving our recent grant, which should be rolling in the door any minute. Just so you know, the money doesn't go into my pocket (sigh), it's pretty much all earmarked for particular projects designed to move things forward around here. More on that to come.

-

The Beachwood Tip Line: Perhaps.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:10 AM | Permalink

SportsMonday: Cubs vs. Bears

By Jim Coffman

If Jim Hendry had to give away fan favorite Jake Fox to subtract Aaron Miles's lousy contract from the payroll, just think of what teams are demanding from the Cubs for the favor of removing Milton Bradley from the roster. It can't be anything short of Derrek Lee, can it? And how did this deal with the Athletics pass just about completely under the local sports commentary radar last week? I suppose new owner Tom Ricketts is still on a honeymoon of sorts but this was a terrible trade on its face and it bodes ill for the rest of the Cubs off-season.

Ofman:
  • Bears still stink

  • In other words, as bad as the Bears season has been, the Cubs off-season might end up worse.

    Yes I know the Cubs picked up forgettable Jeff Gray, a righty reliever, and a couple prospects, but what they really gained was $1.7 million worth of salary relief. Of course even that isn't very good, what with Miles being owed more than $2 million next year as part of the unfathomable two-year contract GM Jim Hendry lavished on him before last season.

    In other words, Fox, who has plenty of potential as a designated hitter and who could end up being a good enough corner infielder (he never had a real chance to prove himself with the Cubs on a day-to-day basis), wasn't enough for A's general manager Billy Beane. Beane had to have "cash considerations" as well. And Hendry forked it over. Fox finished with 11 homers and 44 RBI in just over 200 at-bats for the Cubs last year. His on-base percentage (.311) wasn't good enough but we'll never know (barring another trade) what he could have done in the National League with consistent at-bats. Late in the season, manager Lou Piniella didn't hide the fact that he regretted not giving Fox the every day shot at third base when Aramis Ramirez was out for a month-plus with the shoulder injury.

    As for Gray, he struggled to stay in the big leagues last year with an A's pitching staff that wasn't exactly overpowering. He did post an ERA under 4.00 and a strikeout/walk ratio of 19/4 in 26.1 innings, but he was also farmed out three times before the All-Star break. His status solidified a bit late in the season, but he is still far from a sure-fire major league contributor. And the prospects the Cubs received are still as far from The Show as the Cubs are from actually trading Bradley.

    There was actually a straight-faced report over the weekend that the Cubs will not assume more than $5 million of the $21 million remaining on Bradley's contract as part of any trade. As if! As if there is a team out there stupid enough to take on Bradley's baggage without the Cubs absorbing a much bigger chunk of that obligation. The other thing that could happen, of course, is the Cubs could take back a bad contract in return (Gary Matthews Jr.'s ridiculous deal with the Angels, for instance, that still has multiple years left at more than $10 million per). But the teams that have been identified the most as possible landing sites for Bradley are Texas and Tampa Bay. And they don't have players who fit that description.

    Of course, the Cubs aren't going to give away Lee just to dump Bradley. But they'll have to do something drastic . . . maybe even welcoming Milty back for an encore in 2010? I suppose a bright-sider would point out that at least the Cubs aren't totally paralyzed this off-season by the fact that their first priority is to make what looks more and more like an impossible trade. But considering the specifics of the Fox and Miles deal, perhaps paralysis is preferable.

    Bulls Blemish
    In other happy Chicago sports news, the Bulls didn't just suffer their worst loss of the season at home Saturday night (110-78) to the last-place Toronto Raptors, they embarrassed themselves in front of free-agent-to-be Chris Bosch. It isn't too much of a stretch to say that Bosch, a 6-10 perennial All-Star forward, is the Bulls' one true hope for something close to championship contention in the next five years. There are bigger name free agents who will be available in 2010 (LeBron James and Dwyane Wade lead the short list), but no one makes more sense for the Bulls than the 6-10 Bosch, who led the Raptors with 25 points and 12 rebounds in all of 22 minutes of action on Saturday. It isn't hard to project him as the perfect complement to point guard Derrick Rose for many years to come.

    The question will be whether inexperienced general manager Gar Forman can make something happen, either with a mid-season trade (if Toronto determines it won't be re-signing Bosch and tries to get something in return for its young star) or in free agency.

    Of course, why would Toronto want to trade for any of the stiffs who wore Bulls jerseys on Saturday? Bulls center Brad Miller's expiring contract would give the Raptors significant salary cap relief, but teams like the Houston Rockets have trade bait worth even more relief. And when the summer comes, it would make an awful lot of sense for Bosch to take a long, hard look at Miami, where he could team with Wade should Wade decide to re-sign there.

    In other words, Bosch coming to Chicago is already a long shot. But it seemed like a full-court late Saturday night.

    Bears Bit
    The only thing that mattered about Sunday's game was that second-year offensive lineman Chris Williams did a decent job in his first-ever start at left tackle. If Williams can't hack it protecting Jay Cutler's blind side, it is almost impossible to project the line as anything other than damaged beyond repair in the coming season or three.

    Given a lack of draft picks and a weak projected free-agent crop, whatever improvement the Bears hope to make next year will hinge on players who are already here playing better.

    Fellow former first-round pick Chris Long, a defensive end, flew past Williams for one sack. But overall, Williams did okay.

    -

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

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:54 AM | Permalink

    Bears Barely Better Than The Rams

    By George Ofman

    Tell me you didn't find the Bears-Rams game entertaining? Seriously, what else were you watching, Fareed Zakaria GPS on CNN? Wasn't the idea of one bad team (yours) playing another bad team (much worse) just a tad alluring?

    You know why you were watching. It was for the same reason I was and many others were; to see if the Bears would actually lose.

    They didn't because the Rams are truly putrid.

    Not that the Bears looked much better.

    When you're forced to call a timeout on a punt because you have only ten men on the field, you're not much better.

    When you try a botched shuffle pass on a field goal attempt that everyone on the Rams knows is coming, you're not much better.

    When Devin Hester is still running backwards on punts or calling for fair catches as often as Republicans say no to Democrats, you're not much better.

    And when you're slipping on a newly sodded field as if you laced up double runners on a bumpy ice rink, you're not much better.

    I wasn't hoping the Bears would lose, but I was sure curious enough to pay attention. In the end, the Bears were simply reduced to the team that couldn't lose. That's because the Rams employ Kyle Boller, arguably the worst NFL quarterback since P.T. Willis or Will Furrer or, for heaven's sake, Jonathan Quinn. And did I mention Chad Hutchinson? If you think Kyle Orton has trouble with long balls, Boller could barley muster a pass of 20 yards! The Rams should have let Stephen Jackson run on every play until he demanded an oxygen mask.

    But this wasn't so much about the Rams as it was the Bears who were desperate for a victory, even if it was against a 1-10 team.

    Nothing has changed. Nothing at all. The Bears are still a bumbling, misguided aggregate despite General Manager Jerry Angelo's plea on WBBM 780, "I promise this to our fans, and I know this in my heart of hearts, we will be better through this ordeal."

    I could have sworn the same thing was said by the pilot of the Hindenburg.

    How will the Bears be better through this ordeal? Will Gaines Adams make them better? OOPS, he was inactive and it wasn't the first time. Angelo traded next year's second-round pick for a defensive end who might end up being defensive about being inactive.

    Maybe Angelo figures that when Brian Urlacher returns, so too will the Bears' swagger and running game. Too bad for Urlacher, Orton will remain with the 8-4 Broncos. Too bad Matt Forte lost his feet somewhere between last year and a couple of games against wretched opponents such as the Rams and Lions. Angelo also told WBBM he had issues with what Urlacher said about Cutler and Forte. Just send them all on some off-season cruise and let them work things out.

    And while he's at it, Angelo might be well advised to send Hester packing. Yes, I know this is blasphemous. Hester was All-World during his first two years with the Bears. He was the most electrifying player in the league. Every time he fielded a kickoff or punt, you sensed he might go all the way. Then came the ill-advised conversion to wide receiver and Hester has since lost his identity along with which way to go with a punt. Think Angelo can extract a second-round pick for Hester or maybe even a first? If you want to start refurbishing your short stock of high draft picks, this might be one direction to take. It's a bold idea, perhaps more bold than replacing the head coach. But alas, Angelo will likely be making these picks again next year so don't expect Hester to go anywhere.

    Or for that matter, the Bears.

    -

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

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:16 AM | Permalink

    December 5, 2009

    The Weekend Desk Report

    By Natasha Julius

    We're pressing ahead despite recent setbacks that aren't actually setbacks so much as inconveniences and the seeds of possible future conspiracy theories because, dammit, this story needs to be told!

    Market Update
    Turns out the Civilized World's plan to consolidate all its debt was just about as stupid as everyone else's.

    Haut Cuisine
    Move over Turbot fish; take seat, blue fin tuna. The new most exclusive fish in the world is, apparently, the Asian carp at $3 million a pop.

    Rise of the Cobra
    Eager to prove his war policy is markedly different from certain other peoples' war policies, President Barack Obama this week announced that major military offensives in Afghanistan will be much more awesomely named. "America, we have endured Operation Iraqi Freedom for too many years," the Commander in Chief said. "We can do better." With that, he authorized the launch of the significantly more bad-assed Operation Cobra's Anger.

    Details of the strategy remain unclear, however Operation Cobra's Anger seems to involve both British and American assets and is predicted to be "totally massive."

    Surge of the Cobra
    Although President Obama has yet to announce the operating name of the 33,000 troop surge in Afghanistan, analysts say he has so far ruled out the following:


    • Troop Surge: The Empire Strikes Back

    • The Wrath of Khan

    • Troop Surge 2: Electric Boogaloo

    Get out of Jail Card
    Finally this week, the list of reasons not to serve time for sex crimes continues to grow. Experts say being too fat is now second only to being too famous.

    Posted by Natasha Julius at 8:39 AM | Permalink

    December 4, 2009

    The [Friday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    1. Tweets from Roland Hedley:

    Torn between surge and withdrawal, Obama announces both. After speech, confused cadets mill about, seeking clear orders. 1:58 PM Dec 2nd

    *

    Per @spincharge, POTUS to troops: "Forward, moonwalk!" 2:16 PM Dec 2nd

    2. Bill Kurtis should never anchor the news again.

    *

    Daley The Petty Dictator On Display Again.

    3. "[Desiree] Rogers, a one-time Republican once considered as a running mate for former Gov. George Ryan, is no stranger to controversy or adversity," the Tribune reports.

    "When Rogers was president of Peoples from 2004 to 2008, the utility was sued by the city and state for 'massive fraud' linked to the Enron scandal that allegedly led to widespread customer overcharges. The scheme predated Rogers' term at the company's helm, but stonewalling of the investigation allegedly continued after she took over. Peoples agreed to a record $196 million in refunds."

    *
    The Trib also reports that "In 1992, Desiree Rogers was an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention."

    In 1992, the Sun-Times reported that "Although she is an independent-turned-Republican and he is a registered Republican with ties to Chicago Democrats, Desiree and John Rogers say it has made little difference in their four-year marriage.

    "'It's not an issue for us, although it seems to be an issue for other people,' said Desiree Rogers , 33, director of the Illinois State Lottery and member of the Edgar administration. 'Our politics are separate from our relationship. We respect each other's individual choices,' she said.

    "'I am a registered Republican, but as the years have gone on, I've become more and more a person who has started to pick his candidates and not been tied so directly to one party or another,' said John Rogers , 34, president of Ariel Capital Management, a money management firm."

    After all, why make social climbing tougher than it has to be?

    4. Facebook Feed:

    Matt Farmer wonders whether Hennessy cognac replenishes lost electrolytes.

    5. Obama on acid.

    6. This Chicago News Cooperative piece about Todd Stroger is not uninteresting, but how in the world is it an "exclusive?"

    Stroger's comments about Daley appear to be new, but that doesn't make an interview exclusive. In fact, I've seen Stroger say almost everything he said here - and what was related by reporter Don Terry about the interview on Chicago Tonight last night - about a half dozen times in the last year.

    7. Mark Potash of the Sun-Times comes up with another great column on the Bears woes - this time looking at the poor leadership of team captain Brian Urlacher.

    8. From a campaign memo written to Democratic Senate candidate Jacob Meister from his pollster (via Capitol Fax):

    "Meister holds 11% name recognition and earns 1% in the initial trial heat of the election, indicating significant growth potential."

    Jacob Meister is the acorn who grows into the oak. Who has more potential for growth than he?

    9. From Popular Science: The Year's Most Amazing Scientific Images.

    10. Is putting a voice mail message from Tiger Woods to one of his paramours online - as both the Tribune and Sun-Times did - really ethical journalism? Or, more like, is it really journalism?

    11. These days everybody is going rogue. Our very own Nancy Simon takes a look.

    12. The Most Absurd Ballot Challenge Yet.

    13. Take Back Illinois!

    14. Our very own college football guru Mike Luce writes goodbye notes to the dearly departed.

    15. Mister Ed likes Rachel Alexandra over Zenyatta.

    16. How you'll know the Bears have hit rock bottom.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: One and all.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:57 AM | Permalink

    The College Football Report: The Dearly Departed

    By Mike Luce

    Have we all recovered from the Turkey Day festivities? Are we up or down? I'm not talking weight or waistlines here, people. How's your portfolio, if you will? Take stock now, because the season will be over before you can say "Troy-Bilt Chipper/Shredder Bowl."

    Here at the College Football Report, we dabbled over the Thanksgiving holiday with a bit of cranberry sauce (not our traditional favorite), moderate alcohol intake (not something we're known for - the moderate part - and note, we had limited success) and NFL wagering (for entertainment purposes only, of course).

    SportsFriday:
  • What Mister Ed Said: TrackNotes
  • How you'll know the Bears have reached rock bottom: The Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report

  • Well, you might say we more than dabbled in the latter. Who here hit a three-game parlay on Thanksgiving? That's right, you heard us.

    Now, let's get down to business. As the college football season draws to a close, we're altering our publishing schedule a bit. From here on out, we'll have one column every Friday instead of the heretofore Tuesday-Thursday combo. We recognize that we'll have to pack two columns' worth of insight, dry humor, and obscure references into 2,000 words (give or take.) But we can do it. We have faith.

    *

    Week 14 marks the start of college football's second season - and no, we don't mean the conference championships. Layoff Season begins this week. (For now, let's consider the year split up into the following parts: Creampuff Season, Conference Season, Layoff Season, Also-Ran Bowls, Vaguely Interesting Bowls, Legitimately Intriguing Bowls, the BCS Games, and Bowls You Didn't Know About Because They Come After the BCS Championship. Clear? Good.) Because every other college football column will use it, let's just go ahead and get it out of the way - the coaching carousel is spinning. There, we said it.

    Most teams wrapped up the regular last week, and will now feel free to cut free some dead weight. The Notre Dame program, for example, is looking about 400 pounds lighter nowadays. We observed a weighty moment of silence last week for the passing of Coach Weis. See you in the buffet line, Charlie.

    Now let's do our best Frank Costello impersonation and leave a card for the rest of the dearly departed.

    Bobby Bowden: We have not been alone in mocking what has turned out to be Bowden's last year in Tallahassee. I'm not sure, but the phrase "rotting corpse" may have showed up here a time or two.

    Even so, Bowden is a true living legend. Under his watch, Florida State claimed two national titles, 12 ACC championships, and won 10 or more games 14 years in a row beginning in 1987. But the "what have you done for me lately" mentality influences college football possibly more so than any other major sport.

    Since 2001, the Seminoles won 10 or more games only once (2003) and lost five or more games in five seasons (2002, 2005-2007, 2009). Let's put it this way - the 'Noles lost the 2007 Music City Bowl to Kentucky.

    Then again, FSU entered the bowl game missing 34 players due to injury, suspension, and the fallout from an academic cheating scandal.

    Throughout his career at FSU, controversy followed Coach Bowden. Yet his image as a pious family man and the strength of his charismatic personality largely insulated the program from any serious NCAA wrist-slapping. Most recently, evidence of the academic scandal emerged to show that FSU staffers allegedly helped football players (among other athletes) cheat for passing grades - notably in an online
    music history course (!) in '06 and '07. The NCAA has ordered the team to rescind as many as 14 wins in those two seasons and an appeal from FSU is still pending.

    Combined with the slow slide from the heights of the '90s, the scandal served to reinforce Bowden's grandfatherly image. At times this season, he seemed content to meander the sidelines as head-coach-in-waiting Jimbo Fischer called the shots and sharpened his knives. The media is up in arms this week about the shameful way in which FSU pushed Bowden out the door, but we're not too sympathetic. Our card reads:

    "To Bobby - You had a good run. That you were pushed out may seem unfair, but you created this beast. None of us get to choose when we go . . . well, except maybe JoePa. Happy trails."

    Mark Mangino: Another victim of his own success, Mangino compounded the problem of a less-than-expected season by being (allegedly) a complete asshole.

    Despite pre-season BCS projections, KU failed to qualify for bowl eligibility. To make matters worse, the neighboring Missouri Tigers put the nail in the coffin in a heated rivalry game.

    The allegations of physical and mental abuse must have some legs, because we aren't too far removed from Mangino's 12-1 record, Orange Bowl win and national Coach of the Year honors in the 2007 season.

    After taking the program into such lofty heights, KU rewarded Mangino with a hefty (pun intended) raise and contract extension. Reports indicate that he has reached a financial settlement with the university, possibly to the tune of a $6.6 million buy-out. To that, we say:

    "Dear Coach - $6.6 million sounds like more than enough for a lifetime of chicken wings. You'll be missed. More for comedic value than anything else, but missed all the same."

    Steve Kragthorpe: Three years ago, Louisville seemed like a prime opportunity for a hot young coach. The program enjoyed great success under previous top man Bobby Petrino (who ditched the program for the NFL, promptly tanked the '07 Falcons, and then slipped out of Atlanta for the head job at Arkansas) and the new guy seemed like a good man for the job. The up-and-coming Kragthorpe had brought life to the Tulsa program and Louisville AD Tom Jurich didn't waste much time bringing him aboard.

    Three years, a 15-21 overall record, and no bowl appearances later and the former golden boy is out on the street. Jurich has been quoted to say that Kragthorpe "didn't seem like the right fit from Day One."

    Curious. This was your guy, Tom - who are we to blame if he was a poor fit? As the athletic director, aren't you responsible for assessing this sort of issue before making a new hire?

    "To Steve - Maybe your teams sucked, but we don't like the Cardinals anyway. If you had to bomb, we're happy you did it in Louisville. That said, we're putting over/under line on your next head gig at 3.5 years."

    J.D. Brookhart: We don't usually devote much time to happenings outside the BCS conferences, but this is the Akron Zips! This is the same program known by most football fans for a point-shaving scandal and for having a funny nickname!

    Among other things, Brookhart fell victim to a plague of injuries this season - ultimately losing 27 of 84 scholarship players. Ouch.

    "J.D. - We're sorry to see you go. We enjoyed wagering against your injury-riddled squad. Thanks for the memories."

    Dick Tomey: Yes, the man behind the Arizona Wildcat "Desert Swarm" defense has passed beyond the college football pearly goalposts. In the mid-90s, Tomey's Wildcats were a major force in the Pac-10. He went on to spend some time in the NFL and ultimately returned as a college head coach at San Jose State in 2005. Earlier this year, he was named President of the American Football Coaches Association. (You know, the AFCA?)

    "To Dick - There are worse places to spend your retirement than San Jose and/or Arizona. Enjoy the links."

    Mike Sanford: Coach Sanford, fast out of the gates as the early leader in the College Football Report's 2009 "Most Bitter Ex-Coach of the Year Award"! Check out some of those zingers! This is not a happy man.

    "Coach - We're still looking for your unmarked grave in the desert. Rest in peace."

    Jerry Glanville: Wait, Jerry Glanville? The Jerry Glanville? He was still with us?

    Well, maybe the Glanville era record (9-24) at Portland State suggests he was only with us in the loosest sense . . . but still. Jerry Glanville. Who woulda thunk it.

    "Jerry - Like the Oscars, college football should have a montage of the fallen every year. Mostly so we could all be surprised by the passing of coaches thought long dead. Like you."

    Hofstra: Thank you, Hofstra, for lowering the bar. No matter how poorly our favorite teams did this year, as college football fans we can take pride in knowing that at least we outperformed the, err . . . Pride. That nickname is a real shame especially considering that, despite the university handing out free tickets to home games, on average only 500 students showed up . . . including the cheerleaders and pep band.

    The lesson for us here? College football is expensive. Fielding a team, staffing a program, and running a stadium doesn't come cheap.

    And in a sport where winning ultimately equates to revenue, there isn't room for lovable losers.

    "To Hofstra - Frankly, we didn't pay much attention to you even while you were alive. But we'll be sure to mourn you at the next reunion . . . at least for a few polite minutes."

    *

    Before we look ahead to the upcoming conference championships, here is a quick recap of last week's action among the top BCS contenders.

    - Florida State 10 @ #1 Florida 37 (-25.5)
    - #2 Alabama 26 (-10) @ Auburn 21*
    - #3 Texas 49 (-20.5) @ Texas A&M**
    - New Mexico 10 @ #4 TCU 51 (-44.5)
    - Illinois 36 @ #5 Cincinnati 49 (-18.5)
    - Nevada 33 @ #6 Boise State 44 (-13.5)
    - Georgia 30 @ #7 Georgia Tech 24 (-8.5)***

    * Don't pay too much attention to this score when thinking about the
    SEC championship.
    ** Thank you, A&M!
    *** Boy, UGA is a weird team. This is the same squad that lost to Kentucky. At home. Strange.

    -

    Finally, here a brief look at the action in Week 14 - we're off to a hot start after taking the Beavers (+10) over the Ducks last night. The following is for entertainment purposes only, including gambling . . . with our picks noted.

    - #1 Florida (-5) @ #2 Alabama (at the Georgia Dome, Saturday, 3 p.m.)
    - #3 Texas (-14) @ #22 Nebraska (at Cowboys Stadium, Saturday, 7 p.m.)
    - #5 Cincinnati @ #15 Pittsburgh (+1.5, at Heinz Field, Saturday, 11 a.m.)
    - New Mexico State @ #6 Boise State (-47.5, Saturday, 2 p.m.)
    - #10 Georgia Tech (-1) @ Clemson (at Raymond James Stadium, Saturday, 7 p.m.)

    *

    Mike "Dr. Dude" Luce brings you The College Football Report in this space twice a week, with the generous assistance of the Beachwood Sports Seal. They both welcome your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:51 AM | Permalink

    Language Arts: Going Rogue

    In addition to rhyming with the word "vogue," the term rogue just so happens to be all the rage.

    Appearing everywhere - from books (former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin's autobiographical, best-selling title, Going Rogue:An American Life to Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner's initial work Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores The Hidden Side Of Everything (predating their current offering SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, And Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance) to newspaper headlines (the Tribune's November 30 front page offering "Rogue Taxis: Holiday Sting Aims To Put The Brakes On Unlicensed Cabdrivers") to websites (Rogue Radio Show, Rogue Marketer and Rogue Mentality, which, by the way, believes in playing hard, living the adventure and having a sense of humor) - the term '"rogue," now ubiquitous in its use, has itself gone rogue.

    What remains puzzling, though, is whether the word is being used properly within an endemic array of multimedia contexts.

    To make such a determination, we will first attempt to decipher the origins of this vexing and provocative word and the intent its inceptor may have had in mind.

    *

    According to Merriam Webster's Dictionary, rogue is defined as a vagrant or a tramp; a dishonest or worthless person: a scoundrel; a mischievous person: a scamp; a horse inclined to shirk or misbehave.

    The misbehaving aspect associated with the word rogue got plenty of mileage through the years being teamed with "cowboy" - one who does not take well to authority, is an independent thinker, a risk-taker.

    Essentially, a rogue cowboy is a horse-driving westerner who has even gone outside of the traditional cowboy mentality to be liberated, a real free spirit possibly bent on destruction.

    In terms of freedom, in large expanses of the world where wild animals roam free, elephants, rhinoceros's and lions, among many, many other members of the animal species, have frequently been brandished with the rogue label.

    Jumping on the bandwagon of the playful/dangerous repartee, Animal Planet entitled one of their ongoing series' Rogue Nature. Depicting varying forms of wildlife at or past their breaking point on a recently aired episode, lions inhabiting Kruger National Park were defined as rogue due to a change in normal behavior patterns whereby they were seeing humans as sources of food.

    In October 2009, Merriam-Webster Dictionary's website Word, known for its monthly breakdown of a "trendy" word each month, attempted to work its magic on rogue. In doing so, they shared that it first came onto the English language scene in the mid-16th century, and it did so by appearing in print.

    With its use, it carried such meanings as: vagrant, tramp, and/or beggar (depending upon the pack with which you traveled). In addition, rogue was frequently used to characterize suspicious folks when speaking with the authorities (something that supposedly happened all the time back in the day).

    According to Word, "While the specific and stern constabulary associations of rogue [has] wandered off over time, the word [has] retained its negative connotation: a dishonest unprincipled person, a swindler, a worthless fellow or scoundrel."

    Word goes on to say, "When applied to animals, 'Rogue' can be an adjective meaning vicious and destructive. When used as a short alternative for rogue elephant, it is defined as 'a vicious elephant that separates from the herd and roams alone.'"

    Freedom has a great deal to do with those who are rogue. Unbound by conventional standards (Madonna), willing to go it alone (George Clooney), unafraid of others' opinions (not Tiger Woods) - all of these descriptors capture the essence of the rogue mentality.

    Yet, often times, rogue behavior carries over to unnecessary risk-taking, speaking off the cuff or unscripted (Ted Turner), and, at times, attempting to get away with things just because one can (Bernie Madoff).

    This, then, is why rogue people are not always trusted, their actions cannot always be predicted, and when known/found out they are not always filled with good intentions.

    In Word's purview, the only incidence when rogue is even remotely positive is in the scientific sense: "An individual exhibiting a chance and usually inferior biological variation." Botany, specifically allows rogue to enjoy a more playful meaning: "a pleasantly mischievous person" (as opposed to an unpleasantly mischievous person).

    With all the negative discourse surrounding the word rogue, why would someone or something (a website, for example) opt to align with such a potentially harmful term?

    In the case of Sarah Palin and her Going Rogue magical mystery bus tour, as interpreted by CNN reporters Richard Kim and Betsy Reed, "Palin intended to twist the meaning of rogue - an untrustworthy and unprincipled person - into its very opposite. Palin wrote that when the McCain team pulled out of Michigan, she disagreed and broke rank by telling reporters about their differences of opinion."

    Yet, as Kim and Reed further explained, despite her offhanded use the word, "Palin is no stranger to rogue behavior whether tarring her opponents in the Troopergate scandal or being the brunt of angry campaign colleagues' retaliations."

    Apparently for some, the idea of going rogue - unabashedly voicing one's opinions and unrelentingly charting one's path in the world - holds great appeal.

    Take for instance, the Rogue Marketer and Rogue Mentalist websites; they both play upon the notion that standing on the sidelines is for people lacking the courage to go rogue and exercise behavior that, while requiring risk, yields the possibility of generating greater success. From their vantage points, rogue behavior is attractive and intoxicating and is necessary to achieving more out of life than just being a "yes man" or "yes woman."

    Yet, there are those naysayers (there always are) who feel rogue behavior is dangerous and goes too far outside of the realm of normal conventions. It is the capricious side of rogue, then, that keeps them at bay.

    Any attempt to determine what constitutes rogue behavior and what falls within the realm of normal constraints fails to come to any satisfactory conclusion. For the answer inevitably is up to the audience member or individual receiver of the message.

    "You betcha" we all would like to be incredibly expressive in our thoughts and views. Who among us wouldn't like to add a little whimsicality to our lives?

    But the question is not about self-expression or about "spicing up" our lives. Rather, it is about finding the right balance of how much to share, how much to keep to oneself, when to reveal information, and when to hold off until the right moment.

    Remember that old Kenny Rogers song, "The Gambler?"

    You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em,
    Know when to walk away and know when to run.
    You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table.
    There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done.

    There is a great deal of wisdom in that song, for it clarifies the right time to take action and the right time to walk away - things that rogue characters don't take kindly to having to figure out.

    But rather than spending your time trying to be the next big rogue queen or rogue cowboy, you may want to first consider whether you are up to the challenge of being: "on" all the time, unwilling to back down, unable to stay away from controversy and unnerved by the idea of leaving any stone unturned.

    If undeterred, then perhaps you truly are in rogue fit condition. By all means then, go forth and be as rogue as rogue can be.

    -

    Previously in Language Arts:
    * Pushback.

    * Locavore.

    -

    Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:22 AM | Permalink

    The Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report

    By Eric Emery

    In past few weeks, more than one friend has said to me, "It must be fun writing the Kool-Aid Report this year."

    Actually, it's not that much fun.

    It's more fun when the Bears get dominated in a Super Bowl or they crap themselves in Week 17 and miss the playoffs. It doesn't feel rewarding to make fun of a team this close to hitting rock bottom.

    And if the Bears lose to the Rams this week, rock bottom will be reached. Even I don't think the Bears are that bad. But even if they beat the Rams keep your eyes out for these other signs that rock bottom has been found.

    * The Detroit Lions send the Bears a "Get Well Soon" card.

    * Obama sends 30,000 troops to Soldier Field to help the Bears out.

    * The Bears hire Elin Nordegren to pull a Jeff Gilloly on the opposing team's quarterback.

    * Mayor Daley repurposes Meigs Field bulldozers to raze Soldier Field to make way for a casino.

    * Chicago loses the Bears to Rio.

    * Chicago Cubs ownership provides some unsolicited advice, stating "The secret is to be lovable when you lose."

    * Halas Hall renamed "Willis Hall."

    -

    Rams at Bears
    Storyline: Sure, the Bears stink, but do they really stink bad enough to lose the Rams?

    Reality: Yes, the Bears stink that bad.

    Prediction: Chicago Minus 9 Points, Under 41 Points Scored

    -

    Record: 9-5

    -

    Sugar in the Blue and Orange Kool-Aid: 10%
    Recommended sugar in the Blue and Orange Kool-Aid: <1%

    -

    For more Emery, please see the Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report archives and the Over/Under collection. He welcomes your comments.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:56 AM | Permalink

    TrackNotes: What Mister Ed Said

    By Thomas Chambers

    If you really analyze it, Mister Ed did not get along with Wilbur Post. He barely suffered the architect, and it was usually with good reason. Wilbur was pretty thin in the brains department and never let Ed have any fun.

    I'm not sure who besides us mucking horseplayers care whether Rachel Alexandra or Zenyatta is named horse of the year in the Eclipse Award voting for 2009, but I'm willing to predict that this story may spill at least a little bit into the mainstream media. I would love to hear what Zenyatta and Rachel think about the whole thing, and I bet it would center around something like "Let's race, and find out who's better."

    But as John Wayne once famously said, this thing is getting ri-goddamn-diculous.

    The most recent bit of foolishness was the decision by the Oak Tree Racing Association, a self-important group of horsemen that rents Santa Anita Park each Autumn and has hosted the last two Breeders' Cup festivals, to change the name of the Grade I Lady's Secret Stakes to the Zenyatta Stakes, beginning next year.

    Oak Tree and Santa Anita are making a brazen attempt to make Zenyatta their own, based on her tremendous victory Nov. 7 in the Breeders' Cup Classic, and coupled with her win in the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic in 2008, also at Santa Anita. On Sunday, Hollywood Park, which decrees itself Zenyatta's home track, paraded her between the seventh and eighth races to the adoration of thousands of fans, Governor Terminator, and Jerry and Ann Moss, her owners who may well have brought upon themselves a heap of bad karma by agreeing to unseat Lady's Secret. The sycophants on the TVG horse racing network, who declared Zenyatta the greatest horse of all time just seconds after the Classic became official, continued their idolatry all afternoon.

    Santa Anita itself will stage a similar parade on opening day of its winter meet later this month. These kinds of tribute parades are common, but does this mean Zenyatta will have statues at both tracks?

    Let me put it this way: Are Jim Bottomley and Mark Whiten the greatest baseball players who ever lived because they both hold the record for 12 RBIs in one game?

    I agree, Zenyatta is truly a great race horse, one of the best females of all time and holder of a perfect 14-0 record. But I believe she did not put together the kind of spectacular, diverse campaign in 2009 that Rachel Alexandra did.

    It gets even worse. Oak Tree's truly crass and tasteless behavior is also aimed at influencing the Eclipse Award voting in Zenyatta's favor. Sez who? Why, Oak Tree, that's who!

    The Daily Racing Form's Steve Crist quotes the Oak Tree press release: " 'We feel strongly that Zenyatta should be Horse of the Year," said Sherwood Chillingsworth, Oak Tree's executive vice president, in an over-the-top press release that began, "In the wake of what many consider to be the most dramatic performance in Breeders' Cup history . . .' "

    With spot-on, justified sarcasm, Bloodhorse.com's Steve Haskin sets a scene: "Can't you picture Santa Anita officials getting together immediately after the Breeders' Cup Classic and having a discussion similar to this? Hey, we better come up with a race named after Zenyatta before Del Mar renames the Clement Hirsch the Zenyatta or Hollywood Park renames the Vanity the Zenyatta."

    Hard to say if this kind of audacity will turn sentiment against Zenyatta, but it is childish, selfish behavior with not a minute's forethought for the history and integrity of the game, designed only to gain a "marketing edge" and future profits in a sport being severely harmed by just these kids of actions by just these kinds of people. Zenyatta deserves a Grade I stakes named for her, but create one or upgrade a different race for her.

    Maybe it's because California sometimes has trouble scraping together five horses for "big races." So it cannibalizes itself.

    So what's the big beef, you ask? Let's look at Lady's Secret.

    Writes Crist: "For those who have forgotten, and will no longer be reminded of it, Lady's Secret was one of the greatest racemares of the 20th century, known then and now as the Iron Lady of the sport for both her gray coat and her remarkable durability. At a time when champions made more than five starts a year, the Oklahoma-bred daughter of Secretariat won 25 of 45 starts at 10 tracks over four seasons, winning 11 Grade 1 races, including the 1986 Whitney. She raced 21 times in New York and 15 times in California, winning every major race for older females on both coasts and facing males seven times."

    In just this paragraph, we see the antithesis of Zenyatta's career, and her 2009 campaign. She stayed home in California all year (she did travel to Churchill Downs to race in the Louisville Distaff on Kentucky Oaks Day in May the day before the Kentucky Derby, but scratched because of muddy/sloppy track conditions), beating up on the same horses while being pointed to peaking on one day, November 7. I dare say Lady's Secret was a better race horse than Zenyatta.

    Rachel Alexandra traveled and raced on dirt and mud and slop and beat her fellow three-year-old females, three-year-old males and older males, as I've recounted.

    Rachel Alexandra's owner, wine titan Jess Jackson, speaking like a confident horse owner with billions of dollars in his pocket, put on an I-don't-really-care air in discussing the award: Asked why Rachel Alexandra might prevail in the Horse of the Year vote, Jackson said: "You can't worry about what's in the hands of others, but I think she'll win. If they consider the facts, she'll win."

    I also laugh at those, including seasoned horseplayers, who argue that Zenyatta beat a "world-class" field of the "top horses in the world." I'd never win on Make Me Laugh.

    Here's my breakdown of Zenyatta's Breeders' Cup Classic field:

    * Mine That Bird, best races on a different kind of synthetic or dirt and not in good form

    * Colonel John, subpar because he has a hard time finishing even in California

    * Summer Bird, probably a dirt horse

    * Twice Over, I don't believe 100% that turf equals synthetic, but he ran well anyway

    * Richard's Kid, didn't fire, overrated?, inconsistent

    * Gio Ponti, heart of a lion but had already clunked on this course in the Strub

    * Einstein, great heart, a bit inconsistent, past his prime?

    * Giralamo, inexperienced, no synthetic races coming in, next year for him

    * Rip Van Winkle, the biggest disappointment but, still, no synthetic experience

    * Regal Ransom, give me a break

    * Quality Road, who knows how he might have run?

    * Awesome Gem, give me a break and dismal on synthetic

    This is not even the best Classic field I've seen.

    This situation can partly be blamed on the introduction of synthetic racing surfaces and how the "plastic" has fragmented the Thoroughbred game. It would have to be easier to set up a match (and I don't mean match race - we don't need another Ruffian) between Rachel and Zenyatta with only which dirt track to decide on. Think these two beauties wouldn't love to race each other?

    Don't get me wrong. I love Zenyatta and the great BC Classic she gave us. I'll remember it always.

    It's these modern Wilbur Posts, her connections and the knothead Oak Tree people I don't like.

    -

    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 5:51 AM | Permalink

    December 3, 2009

    Take Back Illinois!

    From The Beachwood Good Government Press Release Room

    CHICAGO - A citizens' movement to "Take Back Illinois" launched today with the Illinois League of Women Voters, Better Government Association, Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, and other reform groups at the helm, including former members of the Illinois Reform Commission.

    The partnership unveiled its plan for a petition drive to empower voters to change the state's redistricting process with an amendment to the Illinois Constitution. "The Illinois Fair Map Amendment will take unfair politics out of the redistricting process and put the power in the hands of the people," explained Jan Czarnik, Executive Director of the Illinois League of Women Voters.

    According to data obtained at the State Board of Elections, since the current legislative map was drawn by legislators in 2001, incumbents have won their elections at a staggering 98 percent success rate.

    "Obviously, the folks who are drawing the maps are making sure they win. Our current system is flawed and political," Czarnik added. "It's a winner-take-all system that has benefited insider Democrats and Republicans over the past three decades. It is the Illinois voters who have lost out."

    The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform is endorsing the plan as well. "The map-making process is critical to allowing voters to choose representatives who reflect their districts' diversity. Improving Illinois' redistricting process to ensure that the process is independent, open to public participation and adheres to the Voting Rights Act should concern every citizen," said Cindi Canary, ICPR director.

    Legislative boundaries are currently drawn by the General Assembly and its leaders, with partisan control literally picked out of a hat every ten years. "In Illinois, incumbents become more entrenched with districts drawn to protect those legislators who are loyal; competition is squelched and politicians choose their voters. The result is the lack of courage and failure in leadership we're seeing today. The Illinois Fair Map Amendment is the opportunity people have been waiting for to take back Illinois," Czarnik said.

    "If you want to pick your representatives - instead of letting them pick you - sign our petition!" Czarnik said.

    The League of Women Voters and others have long pointed to redistricting reform as a fundamental change needed to end the culture of corruption. Governor Quinn's own Illinois Reform Commission joined in this year.

    "We were hopeful that the legislature was going to address redistricting reform in 2009, but with the year winding down it now appears that we need to take it directly to Illinois voters." said Brad McMillan, a key member of the Illinois Reform Commission. Illinois Reform Commission Chairman Patrick Collins also participated. "We want to put the power in the hands of the people - not the politicians," McMillan said.

    The Illinois Fair Map Amendment is based on the proposal put forth by the bipartisan Commission. McMillan explained the Amendment would allow for an independent commission to draw the state's legislative district boundaries after the 2010 census in an open and transparent process.

    McMillan said the Fair Map Amendment language came together after public testimony in public hearings of the Senate Redistricting Committee - and with the input of reform groups determined to preserve the integrity of the process. The independent commission would provide substantive protection for minority voting rights - while reducing the dominance of legislative leaders and taking undue political influence out of the process. The state's practice of drawing from a hat to determine who controls the redistricting process would be eliminated, instead calling upon the Supreme Court as the fail-safe. The Amendment does not address congressional districts, due to constitutional limits of a citizens' initiative.

    "There is a hunger for reform in this state - and I believe we can mobilize the citizens of Illinois to help us make a difference and truly change the way we do business here," said Andy Shaw, Executive Director of the Better Government Association (BGA). "But the only way we can make this happen is to get every concerned citizen and community group involved.

    "This is no small task. Gathering signatures from every corner of the state will take a lot of volunteers, time and money. Not to mention what we're up against. I imagine a lot of lawmakers will sign onto our proposal - but try their darndest to make sure it doesn't happen . . . because they like the power," Shaw said. "But this is our government - and we're here to take it back."

    Shaw noted the BGA is committed to cleaning up Illinois government through civic engagement. "For too long, government has been run by powerful people behind closed doors," Shaw said. "This is a rare opportunity to actually let citizens have a voice - and decide on their representatives."

    The Illinois Fair Map Amendments partners are looking for 500,000 people to sign the petitions by May 2 to safely ensure the voters will decide the question on the November 2010 ballot. If approved, the Illinois Fair Map Amendment would require that the districts be compact, protect minority voting rights, respect municipal boundaries and eliminate undue political favoritism.

    The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, a nonpartisan nonprofit that has extensively researched redistricting around the country, put the proposed amendment in context.

    "Redistricting is vital to effective representation, but Illinois carves up the state based on a draw from a hat, throwing power to one party, randomly and at the public's expense," said Justin Levitt, counsel at the Brennan Center. "The Fair Map Amendment would put the process back on a solid foundation, with meaningful independence, diversity, and transparency, and guidance for drawing lines that vigorously protects civil rights and leaves room to preserve real communities."

    Czarnik, of the League of Women Voters, said the petitions will be available at www.ILFairMap.com along with detailed instructions, power point presentation, history and other information.

    Illinois Fair Map Amendment Highlights
    * Places map-drawing duties in the hands of an independent commission;

    * Allows de-nesting: Representative districts need not be contained within a single Senate district;

    * Requires a 2/3 majority vote of the General Assembly to approve maps put forth by the independent commission, and does not allow the General Assembly to draw maps on its own;

    * Removes the governor from the approval process;

    * Increases public transparency by requiring public hearings, public display of proposed maps and allowing submission of maps by the general public;

    * Requires the commission to use neutral criteria that will specifically protect minority voting rights and eliminate unduly favoring a political party;

    * Removes the current tie-breaker provision and replaces it with fair resolution of the map-making process. If the commission fails to produce an approved map, the Illinois Supreme Court would choose a "Special Master" to review all maps and data and draw the district boundaries.

    -

    Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:07 PM | Permalink

    The [Thursday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    1. The website of the Chicago News Cooperative was blank this morning except for this:

    hacked!!!! by ......... :)

    I didn't do it!

    2. "Longtime education champion and current Chicago City Clerk Miguel del Valle will lead the fight for Illinois to get a share of the $4.3 billion that will be awarded through the federal Race to the Top program," Catalyst reports.

    "Governor Pat Quinn appointed former state senator del Valle to chair the state's 25-member P-20 Council, whose main charge is to oversee the development of a longitudinal data system to track student outcomes from preschool through post-secondary education. The council will also play a role in the state's bid for competitive Race to the Top funds, which some insiders predict will be awarded to just 10 to 20 states."

    3. The Year in Photos at Marina City.

    4. Mayor Daley recently said the only problem with TIFs is a marketing one. Apparently he thinks city officials have to do a better job packaging his lies. Today the Tribune enables those officials by publishing a long letter to the editor from the city's chief financial officer, Gene Saffold, filled with evasions and half-truths. I'll leave it to Ben Joravsky to pick apart.

    5. "In the past, mainstream TV and newspaper reporters have told me their editors wouldn't let them write about TIFs because they were too complicated and boring for their readers to understand," Joravsky wrote recently. "And it wasn't too long ago that the Sun-Times extricated any reference to TIFs from its otherwise ass-kicking tale of how Alderman Ed Burke used TIF money to build a fence.

    "I realize it's easy to underestimate the intelligence of the average Chicagoan, given the chumps we keep electing and re-electing.

    "But, trust me, most of us are smart enough to know we're paying more in taxes.

    "I've always said the mayor will get away with this TIF scam so long as the mainstream media remains silent on the subject."

    *

    I've heard the same thing from reporters. But isn't our job to break down complex subjects and explain them to the public? And the truth is, TIFs aren't that hard to understand when it comes right down to it. Joravsky explains them in a recurring paragraph almost every week.

    And this is the same media we depend on to explain the war in Afghanistan and health care.

    It's shameful, it's malpractice, and it's amazingly offensive.

    It reminds me of something Bob Somerby wrote this week:

    "Unless you study the matter full-time, it's almost impossible to comprehend the incompetence of the mainstream press corps over the past several decades.

    "In part, our journalists simply aren't very smart. This is of course an awkward point, but it must be said. But part of this cohort's stunning incompetence stems from its broken-souled values."

    6. Shock Jock Named New Tribune CEO.

    UPDATE Dec. 21: See cached version here - and an explanation for why NBC Universal killed the post here.

    7. Rebel Forces Gain On Daley Death Star.

    8. Like the mayor, Ed Burke just can't imagine a budget other than the one put forth by Daley and approved by the city council on Thursday. It's the only possible budget in all the universe!

    From the Tribune:

    "What's the alternative?" said Ald. Edward Burke, 14th, referring to the plan to draw down $370 million in proceeds from last year's controversial lease of city parking meters to help bridge a $520 million gap. "There isn't any."

    I happened to be in city council chambers yesterday when Ald. Tom Allen was reciting a long line of alternatives.

    But as a friend who recently testified before a city council committee told me earlier this week, you step into an alternate reality when you step into City Hall. And that's a reality where facts and the truth don't matter.

    *

    "You cannot break a contract in 12 months that's supposed to last for 75 years," Allen said. "It's unconscionable, it's irresponsible and it's disingenuous. You have to understand you just can't tell the citizens and taxpayers stories. You can't tell them stories. They're not stupid."

    Ah, but you can, Tom. You can tell stories all day long. You can tell stories for 20 years. Especially if they are, you know, about things too boring and complex for editors to care about. Those, in fact, are the best stories to tell.

    9. "Swine flu e-mail carries a virus."

    10. "Pat Quinn is fast becoming the Todd Stroger of Springfield," I posit over at NBCChicago.com.

    Now, a few commentators around town have accused Quinn of channeling Rod Blagojevich. But I think Quinn is more Todd than Rod. Todd is more dumb than corrupt. Rod is corrupt. Todd is more a bumbler than a schemer. Rod is a schemer. Todd doesn't cut an impressive public figure. Rod is slick. I think Quinn resembles Todd more than Rod. They are both ham-handed and out of their depth. Rod is just a singularly bad person.

    11. Ron Artest Is Nuts!

    12. As good a diagnosis of the diseased Bears organization as I've read so far.

    13. Hope is fading.

    14. The Wilco loft.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Tips not TIFs.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:38 AM | Permalink

    Ron Artest Is Nuts

    By George Ofman

    So much has been said and written about Tiger Woods the last several days. But more should be discussed about the raving maniac who plays for the defending world champions.

    Ron Artest is nuts. Very nuts. And dangerous. And he needs to be scolded. Seriously scolded.

    I've had enough of Tiger for one week so let's move onto to this unbalanced act who actually still plays for the Los Angeles Lakers. Comparisons to Dennis Rodman are acceptable but only after a swig of Hennessy.

    That's what Artest told The Sporting News he drank at halftime when he used to play for the Bulls. Score a few points, get a few rebounds, take a break and have a snifter or two of cognac. I'm just wondering: Did that come with a beer chaser?

    Artest says he used to walk to a liquor store near the United Center, buy his stash and then stash it in his locker. (Former Cubs pitcher Glendon Rusch once opened his footlocker at Wrigley Field and lo and behold . . . WINE! Good wine, though I'm certain Rusch and some of his teammates didn't do tastings between innings.)

    Artest played on some very bad Bulls teams. Michael Jordan was gone. So was Scottie Pippen and most of the remnants from the second three-peat. Instead, young Artest was playing with the likes of Dalibar Bagaric, Dragan Tarlac, Dickie Simpkins and Ron Mercer. I could see chugging a bottle of Hennessy watching these Bulls play. They lost a combined 132 games in Artest's two full seasons. He was traded to the Pacers during the 2001-2002 season.

    Forgive while I think back to the Quentin Daly days when the troubled and misguided member of the Bulls was once found hiding in his closet. He had issues, lots of them. But not like Artest.

    The man is disturbed. Artest is the same guy who went ballistic at the Palace of Auburn Hills back in 2004. Was he drinking then? Sounds like it when you read his response. "It wasn't my fault. I don't see how I could do anything different. The only thing I could have done was have God pause time so I could have said, 'Oh, look you're about to run into some stands, so stop'."

    NUTS!

    For this, Artest was suspended 73 games and fined $7 million.

    And for admitting he drank at halftime when he was with the Bulls, Artest needs to be suspended again. I'm certain the last thing NBA Commissioner David Stern wants to do is deal with this moronic goo, but he must. He's impugned the league before and he's done it again.

    Stern has been down this road before with the Bulls. Remember Dennis the Menace?

    There are bad guys in every sport. Dennis Rodman was a very bad guy when he came to the Bulls. I was adamantly opposed to him coming anywhere near the United Center, let alone in a Bulls jersey. The hatred for the bad boy Pistons lingered and Rodman was still a card carrying member. Pippen wanted nothing to do with him. I truly believe he would have rather had a weeklong migraine than be his teammate. But Michael took the responsibility of keeping Rodman in line. For the most part it worked, witness three more titles.

    So I guess the Lakers looked at the blueprint and figured, if Michael can do it, why not Kobe?

    Maybe he can, but I suspect the commissioner is going to sidetrack Artest for a little while. In the meantime, drink your Hennessy before or after you watch a game. Something about halftime gives me the creeps.

    -

    George Ofman, an original member of The Score and a veteran of NPR, has covered more than 3,500 sporting events over the course of his career. Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:18 AM | Permalink

    December 2, 2009

    The [Wednesday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    "When he took office in January, there were 32,000 U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan," Lynn Sweet notes. "He raised that to 63,000; then he boosted that by 30,000 in Tuesday night's speech at West Point."

    A bunch of old Russians are laughing their heads off today.

    *

    Also from Sweet:

    1. "I've never really known Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the No. 2 man in the Senate, to be at a loss for words. He's one of the most informed and articulate senators, but his terse statement showed how he was wrestling with the new policy. 'President Obama asked for time to make his decision on a new policy in Afghanistan,' he said. 'I am going to take some time to think through the proposal he presented tonight'."

    2. "Obama's friends on the left and independents are having a hard time with Obama sending in reinforcements, even with the built-in end game. This may mean it will be harder for Obama to keep his base mobilized at a time he is trying to rally support for his most significant domestic initiative, revamping the health-care system.

    "Take the statement from Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.): 'I consider myself one of the president's men. But, I'm deeply skeptical about his plan. I hope and want to be convinced that it will work . . . I'm keeping my fingers crossed and my mind open'."

    Deja School Violence
    "Schools close, violence spikes."

    From 2006.

    Worst Social Secretary Ever?
    What did you expect from a patronage hire!

    Travel Trick
    "Information for this article was gathered on a research trip sponsored by Rosewood San Miguel de Allende and Artesana Rosewood Residences."

    So the Sun-Times lets the subjects of its stories pay for the reporting.

    Artesana also provided two photos for a sidebar about . . . its new hotel.

    Police Board Reforms Stall
    Ike Carothers not yet convinced; Emma Mitts an idiot.

    Bad Sign
    Is it true that on a tour of the SouthtownStar yesterday, new Sun-Times Media owner Jim Tyree mistook the newsroom for accounts payable and asked a reporter how much money he'd made for the company that day?

    I'm told it is!

    Cookie Monster
    Former Sun-Times editor Michael Cooke has sold his Wilmette house.

    Stroger's Swan Song
    Best part of the sales tax repeal is that it's over.

    Gorby Rocks
    "The U.S. arm of an international environmental organization founded by former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev has joined the chorus of advocacy groups supporting Gibson Guitar Corp."

    *

    Where is Chicago's Gorbachev? Chicago's Yeltsin? It's like waiting for Godot.

    CTA FYI
    Five stations the city could do without.

    Tubular
    "While YouTube looks for an answer to monetizing video, it stumbled on something else: how to cash in on its home page," Ad Age reports.

    "Google's behemoth video site started selling its rich-media 'masthead' ads back in April. Since then, the ads have become commonplace on the site and a showcase for some of the best online display ads emerging from agencies today."

    Tiger In The Weeds
    Eric Zorn replied to my item yesterday about reporting on whether Tiger Woods was required to talk to the police and in his response to my response he writes: "Far easier to list the circumstances in which he DOES have to talk to police which is, I believe, never. Except to give his name and address. Never. Not in any state in the union. Anything that implies otherwise is misleading."

    Well, my point in part is that the media is implying otherwise by repeatedly stating that Woods doesn't have to speak to police because this is a traffic investigation not a criminal matter. The reporting also relies on Florida law. If you don't have to talk anywhere in the nation, why cite Florida law?

    Like I wrote yesterday, I've never heard anyone say that in a traffic investigation you don't have to talk to police. Why distinguish between a traffic investigation and a criminal matter?

    *

    "In the case of a single vehicle accident, Florida law requires the driver to submit his license, registration and proof of insurance," the St. Petersburg Times reports.

    Forgive me for thinking that means the circumstances are different in multi-vehicle accidents and in other states.

    "But David Brill, a retired FHP traffic homicide investigator who trains law enforcement how to investigate crashes, said that more than likely the troopers are trying to find a way to place Woods behind the wheel of the car for the purpose of any citations or criminal charges.

    "The information they did receive from him - driver's license, insurance and registration - serves only an administrative purpose and can't be used as proof he was driving. A statement to troopers could help establish that, though it isn't necessary in a single car crash, according to Florida law."

    Still sounds murky to me. But my point was that reporters keep repeating this without explaining why this is the case. And when they distinguish between a traffic investigation and a criminal investigation, they imply Woods would be required to speak in the latter. I'm not arguing that that is so; I'm arguing that if it's not so reporters shouldn't be implying otherwise.

    *

    "Asked if the media is going too far demanding answers to what happened at the Woods' mansion last week, media ethicist Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg, said that journalists have an obligation to inquire."

    Also my point.

    *

    And when Rick Morrissey writes today that "I have no constitutional right to know what happened in the early hours Friday, when Woods ended up running his Cadillac Escalade into a fire hydrant and tree . . . " he's not exactly right.

    Morrissey has a legal right - like all of us - to see the police report as well as the citation issued to Woods.

    *

    "Florida law states that Woods isn't obligated to talk with police because the accident was minor," USA Today reports.

    Forgive me, again, for thinking the implication here is that Woods would be obligated to meet with police if the accident was more serious. And if that's not the case, then the paper's reporting is wrong.

    "All Woods had to do was provide his driver's license, proof of insurance and registration of the car to police, which his attorney did Sunday."

    *

    From the Florida Highway Patrol: "Mr. Woods has satisfied the requirements of Florida law by providing his driver license, registration and proof of insurance to us."

    *

    But what about, say, Illinois law? I had a hard time finding an answer. Here's one tidbit:

    "Many states have laws requiring that people involved in a vehicle accident report that accident in writing to the state's department of motor vehicles. This usually only applies to accidents resulting in physical injury or a certain amount of property damage. Check with your insurance agent or your local department of motor vehicles to find out the time limits for filing this report; you often have just a few days.

    "If you must file a report, and the report asks for a statement about how the accident occurred, give only a very brief statement - and admit no responsibility for the accident."

    So one might surmise that in some states Woods would be required to file an accident report including a statement explaining what happened. Now, it's true he could probably just write "I drove into a fire hydrant." But maybe not.

    Fascinating. Not.
    The Obama-as-Spock meme is back. Oy.

    *

    Um, how can you be "cool" and Spock at the same time?

    *

    What's next, a return of the Obama-as-Lincoln meme?

    Or maybe Obama as Lyndon Johnson.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Eastbound and down.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:44 AM | Permalink

    The New Old School Violence

    By Steve Rhodes

    "Schools close, violence spikes."

    Sound familiar?

    Now consider: That was the headline on a Sun-Times story from 2006. That's right. Three years ago, the Sun-Times pinned a rise on school violence on the mayor's Renaissance 2010 program, then being implemented by Arne Duncan.

    Reading the paper's 2,500-word examination now is stunning in its resonance to recent events. And it puts Duncan & Co. on the spot.

    The article isn't available online (naturally), so I'll be generous with excerpts here.

    *

    "In November, Wells High School junior Eddie Cruz was jumped and beaten bloody in a school hallway by a group of freshmen. The emergency-room bill was $4,000.

    "Last semester, a Hyde Park Career Academy teacher was punched in the face after he asked a student for identification.

    "Last month, Clemente High School parent Beatrice Rodriguez was pummeled by a group of students who were taunting her for being a 'big woman.'

    "This is the kind of violence that is troubling Chicago's public high schools - especially those accepting students from areas where failing schools are being systematically shut down under Mayor Daley's Renaissance 2010 initiative."

    *

    "Wells, Hyde Park and Clemente are among eight high schools that each received more than 150 students from the attendance areas of troubled schools now tapped for closure and eventual rebirth - Austin, Calumet and Englewood high schools.

    "Since they began admitting those students in the fall of 2004, all eight schools have posted an increase in reported violence that is at least twice as high as the average for similar high schools systemwide, a Chicago Sun-Times analysis indicates."

    *

    "The most dramatic example was Hyde Park, where the average number of reported violent incidents per month jumped 226 percent during that period, the analysis of CPS data showed.

    "In fact, Hyde Park was hit by a double-whammy, being forced to accept more than 300 students - more students than any other receiving school - in the past two years because two schools closed to freshmen: Englewood this school year and Calumet the year before.

    "Some folks say the increase in violence at receiver schools has contributed to higher teacher turnover and has worn down principals who retired unexpectedly. Students say the fighting makes school a tougher place to learn. And West Side community group leaders say they worry school closings could unintentionally lead to a higher dropout rate.

    "'They have opened a Pandora's box,' said Khalid Johnson, lead organizer with Westside Health Authority. '[CPS officials] did not properly plan for the transition of these students.

    "They are taking kids from low-performing schools outside of their neighborhood [to] areas where there are cultural differences, gang differences, and there are no supports for the students. Out of that comes increased violence, increased dropouts'."

    *

    "However, some of the spike may be due to better training on reporting incidents, CPS officials said."

    *

    "They also see some signs of progress. The violence level is lower so far this school year than last school year in most receiving schools - though it's still higher generally than when those schools began accepting students diverted from troubled schools.

    "And, they say, they've learned some lessons. Chicago Schools CEO Arne Duncan said some schools, like Hyde Park, received too many new kids, 'overburdening' them. Next school year, receiving schools will probably get no more than 30 such freshmen each, he said.

    "'We absolutely want to reduce the number of children going to any school [in the future]. It's the right thing to do,' Duncan said."

    *

    "But that's little comfort to students and teachers now forced to live with what they say is a new culture of violence and its impact on education. They note that two high schools - Englewood and Collins - that absorbed students from failing schools in the past few years wound up closed later themselves for lousy test scores.

    "'I believe the violence is going to get more severe, and frankly, it's going to lead to the school being closed,' said Hyde Park teacher John Kugler, the school's teachers union delegate. 'We need help fast'."

    *

    "Nearly every story in the November issue of the Clemente Voice - the high school's student newspaper - was dedicated to quashing violence.

    "One story started this way: 'The Chicago Board of Education's decision to change Clemente's boundaries has resulted in an increase in school violence at Clemente.'

    "Students and teachers at other receiving schools also say violence has invaded their hallways and surrounded their campuses. Some weeks at Clemente, Wells and Hyde Park, fights are an everyday event, they said.

    "'Students talk about it, how their school has changed and they can't have activities they normally would have. [They] even have concerns about having a dance because of violence,' said a Wells teacher, who asked not to be identified because the principal there instructed the faculty not to talk to the Sun-Times about this story."

    *

    "When sizable numbers of students come from different neighborhoods and cross gang boundaries, it can be a catalyst for more violence, education experts said."

    *

    "Duncan says he now realizes too many outsiders flooded some schools."

    *

    "Some contend the system was asking for trouble by sending kids from failing schools across gang boundaries to other schools.

    "'What you have is groups vying for dominance. And because they're crossing gang lines, there is more conflict,' Strend said.

    "But CPS officials noted that gang turf lines change all the time. Rather than exclude schools from receiving kids because of gang turf, the system chose to address any problems by adding extra security, said Phillip Hampton, CPS director of community relations."

    *

    "CPS security chief Andres Durbak said if teachers, students or parents believe violence isn't getting enough attention from school administrators, they should contact his office directly."

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:49 AM | Permalink

    Fantasy Fix

    By Dan O'Shea

    The fantasy football season is down, with Week 13 of the NFL season the final week before playoffs begin in most fantasy leagues. If you're on the bubble, is there anyone you can pick up at this late stage to help you make that last-minute push?

    You might be tempted to go for whoever is still available from the NFL's two unbeaten teams, New Orleans and Indianapolis. The problem there, however, is that those teams do such a good job of spreading the ball around that any wide receivers, running backs and tight ends still available on the waiver wire are not likely to get more than a few touches to do something worthwhile.

    A better play is to follow the injuries to key players throughout the league - of which there have been many in the last couple of weeks - and figure out who's in line to benefit. Bewared, though, that this can also be risky if a team changes its game plan after an injury to a starter at a key position. Here are a few players in our Fantasy Fix Action Ratings system that are likely to be hot Week 13 pick-ups.

    Player: Jerious Norwood, RB
    FFAR: PICK UP
    Comment: He was actually drafted in most leagues as a backup to Michael Turner, but was out for weeks with injuries. Now, he's back and Turner will either miss Week 13 or be slowed by his own injury. Norwood has great potential both rushing and catching short passes, which makes him a safe bet.

    *

    Player: Chris Redman, QB
    FFAR: PICK UP
    Comment: Poor Atlanta may miss Turner and will definitely miss starting QB Matt Ryan. Redman did a great job last week with 243 yards passing and two touchdowns, though it came against Tampa, which has one of the worst defenses in the league. This week will be tougher against Philadelphia, but Redman has Tony Gonzalez, Norwood, Roddy White and more targets to help him look good.

    *

    Player: Matt Leinart, QB
    FFAR: SKIP
    Comment: Kurt Warner likely will be out again with lingering concussion problems. Leinart actually looked pretty good - for once - in a losing cause last week, and he definitely has wonderful WRs to aim for in Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston, but he'll be facing the positively beastly defense of Minnesota. I think Jared Allen and company will pressure Leinart into mistakes.

    *

    Player: Matt Moore, QB
    FFAR: SKIP
    Comment: Jake Delhomme likely will be out for at least one week with a hand injury, and Carolina turns to Matt Moore. Who? Exactly. Carolina has veteran receivers, but will probably hand the ball to its impressive RBs rather than let Moore fling it into traffic.

    *

    Player: Will Heller, TE
    FFAR: PICK UP
    Comment: There are slim pickings at TE these days, and Heller, who should see more action with Detroit starter Brandon Pettigrew now on injured reserve, may be a stretch. However, he's up against Cincinnati this week, which has a great run defense, but on average pass defense, and Detroit QB Matthew Stafford has been pass-happy all year.

    Expert Wire
    * Yahoo! PickUps of the Week suggests Vince Young and Larry Johnson. The secret has been out about Young for awhile, but LJ made a surprisingly strong appearance last week in relief of Cedric Benson.

    * Yahoo! RotoArcade sizes up candidates to be this year's Pierre Thomas - the RB who will take the league by storm in the final weeks and probably propel some unlikely candidate to your fantasy league championship. Ricky Williams and Jamaal Charles certainly have been coming on strong, though I also like Justin Forsett if Seattle continues to feed him short passes.

    * KFFL.com mentions Fred Jackson of Buffalo and Chris Brown of Houston as hot pick-ups for Week 13. Brown was a back-up to Steve Slaton until Slaton's fumble troubles, and though Slaton is still getting more of the short pass action, Brown has been getting scores.

    Fantasy Basketball
    Quick question: Who's scored the most points in the NBA this season? Not LeBron, or Kobe, or D-Wade. Try Carmelo Anthony. He's averaging 31 points per game, and had 527 total through Tuesday. Maybe it's not too surprising to see 'Melo taking charge. He has always been a pretty strong scorer, with his other stats decent enough to make him a third-round pick for the last couple years, but he is taking and making even more shots this year, with a .493 shooting percentage.

    Can 'Melo keep it up? He's been fairly streaky his whole career, so I think he'll calm down at some point, though it's worth noting that his current shooting percentage harkens back to his career-best mark of 2007-2008, which was probably his best overall season.

    High scorers are obvious waiver wire attractions, but they can often be risky pick-ups if they have a lower shooting percentage or drag on other stat categories. A good example is current super-rookie Brandon Jennings, who is averaging 21.8 points per game. He only has one game so far in single digits, but his .428 shooting percentage is barely adequate, and with as many shots as he takes (almost 19 per game), you may need an extra high-percentage inside player to make up for him.

    As we move though Week 6 of the NBA season, we're still busy trying to separate waiver wire gems from fool's gold. Here's this week's take in our Fantasy Fix Action Ratings:
    Player

    Player: Allen Iverson, PG
    FFAR: PICK UP
    Comment: The Answer (I prefer this nickname to A.I. , which only makes me of that dead-people-seeing kid playing an android) has made himself newly relevant by retiring. It appears he will sign with his long-ago club, Philadelphia, which actually might give him a little bit of a performance boost - anyway, more of a boost than being a Memphis Grizzly provided. The Sixers' young starting PG, Louis Williams, broke his jaw, which is bad for him, but very good for the aged scoring machine.

    *

    Player: Ronnie Brewer, SG/SF
    FFAR: PICK UP
    Comment: He's probably a short-term option, but has been seeing about 37 minutes per game this year as Utah has struggled through injuries to numerous players. He shoots .512, and is good for just over 12 points a game if you need a body with a double-digit average.

    *

    Player: Danilo Gallinari, SF
    FFAR: PICK UP
    Comment: I have been on the fence about him all season. He leads the league in three-pointers, though he has been a specialist comparable to Kyle Korver. That's not a bad thing, but he has rarely taken more than 10 shots per game, and that has kept him off a few rosters.

    *

    Player: Taj Gibson, SF/PF
    FFAR: SKIP
    Comment: He showed promise early on as a replacement for the injured Tyrus Thomas, but really faded along with the rest of the Bulls in his last 10 games or so. Oddly, his best stat contribution right now may be blocks - 17 in 15 games, though it's not enough.

    Expert Wire
    * Matt Buser at Yahoo! has the skinny on the controversial decision by Cleveland Coach Eric Brown not to play Zydrunas Ilgauskas in a game in which he would have set the franchise record for games played. It was definitely a bad decision by a coach who somehow hasn't been able to steer the team with the league's best player, LeBron, to a championship, and the game Ilgauskas was left out of was not close. Still, the decision only highlights how poor of a season the big man is having - 7.1 points per game since Shaq came to town.

    * CBS Sports.com's Fantasy News notes the return of Mike Dunleavy, SG, who is back from injury earlier than expected. Indiana could probably use his shot, and he could be a hot waiver wire pick this week, as his return was a bit under the radar. You've been warned.

    -

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

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:16 AM | Permalink

    December 1, 2009

    The CTA Holiday Train!

    By The Beachwood Holiday Fun Desk

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    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:56 AM | Permalink

    New Parking Rules!

    By The Beachwood Parking Bureau

    Be extra careful this year of the city's winter parking rules, which went into effect at midnight. There are a few new twists.

    * Any car parked anywhere overnight in the city during the winter is subject to booting depending on an algorithm involving the city's cash-on-hand.

    * Cars with snow on them will be considered a safety risk and in violation of the new rules and be towed. Cars with frost on them will just get a ticket.

    * If you voted against the mayor, you will be ticketed.

    * If you opposed the Olympics, you will be ticketed.

    * If your alderman is Joe Moore, you will be ticketed.

    * On the first and third Mondays of every month, cars will not be allowed to park on the north or east side of the street. On the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month, cars will not be allowed to park on the south or west side of the street. On the third Wednesday of every month, cars will not be allowed to park on either side of the street. Every second month, the Monday rules shift to Tuesday. Every third month, the Tuesday rules shift to Wednesday. Every fourth month, the Wednesday rules shift to Friday. On days when no rules seem to apply, all rules apply.

    * If you blaspheme the new parking meters, you will be ticketed.

    * Lovie Smith will be ticketed.

    * Anyone found chuckling at a John Kass column will be booted. Beat up first, then booted.

    * All patronage workers are exempt from winter parking rules.

    * Oprah is now subject to ticketing.

    * Every time it snows, Tom Skilling will be ticketed.

    * People who drive like it's the first snowfall ever in Chicago will be pulled over and beat mercilessly. No ticketing, however. Why leave a paper trail?

    * Driving your car in winter has now been privatized; you must now pay someone to do it for you.

    * Residents are encouraged to break the rules because the city needs the money.

    -

    Your suggestions welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:42 AM | Permalink

    The [Tuesday] Papers

    By Steve Rhodes

    1. Barack Obama was right during the 2008 presidential campaign when he said - like every other Democrat - that we should have dedicated ourselves to the war in Afghanistan instead of getting distracted by Iraq. But by apparently deciding to escalate the war in Afghanistan - something he is expected to announce tonight - he is fighting the last war. You can't go back and make up for George W. Bush's mistakes. The circumstances in Afghanistan have changed dramatically - even since the campaign - and the only sensible move to make is to get out. It's a move that would be politically difficult, one that would demand the courage of a candidate who campaigned on change. But also one that only a person who had ever demonstrated courage in the past could pull off. And that's not our president.

    2. Traffic accidents - and possible crimes - are always the public's business. All this hew-hawing about whether we have a right to know the real story behind Tiger Woods's little adventure the other day is nonsense. And not just because Woods's silence is a poor public relations strategy. (I love it when journalists advise public figures how to do a better job of manipulating us to protect their image.)

    It's basic journalism.

    Woods was involved in what is being called a traffic accident. Public safety employees responded to the scene and continue to investigate. That's taxpayer money at work. And the basic premise in journalism is that the public has a right to know how that money is being spent and if the system is working fairly - in this case, if a wealthy athlete and celebrity is being treated differently than the average civilian.

    That doesn't excuse a tabloid stew of speculation and innuendo, but it does justify reporters pressing Woods - and authorities - for answers. The result may be a tiny boring story showing something routine happened, or it may be something else. But reporters aren't doing their jobs if they don't go through the process.

    Additionally, reporters would be negligent if they just let this go because a celebrity is involved when there are legitimate questions about whether a crime - domestic abuse - was committed. I would never equate Tiger Woods (or his wife) with O.J. Simpson, but then no one would have equated the old O.J. Simpson with the one we came to know.

    Finally, while Woods is not a public official, he can attribute a large chunk of his wealth to the image he has crafted to sell a myriad of products. Michael Jordan went so far as to advise kids to be like him, without disclosing that being like him meant being an adulterous gambler whose competitiveness was fired by an unbelievably deep well of pettiness.

    Instead of advising Woods on how to best preserve his image, journalists ought to stop enabling image-building and treat celebrities like the real humans they are. In the long run, that approach might even help someone like Woods far better when an incident like this happens.

    *

    The media keeps repeating the apparent fact that Woods is under no obligation to talk to the police as long as the incident is categorized as a traffic accident. I wish the media would explain why. That's a new one to me. I mean, I know you have the right to remain silent if you've been arrested. But if you are the driver of a vehicle that has crashed? He'll at least have to talk to his insurance company, won't he?

    3. I had the same reaction to the New York Times Sunday Magazine cover story about Joe Biden as Slate's Jack Shafer:

    "Shafer's first law of journalism states that no article can be created or destroyed; it can only change form.

    "This timeless truth gets a workout in the pages of our most prestigious newspapers and magazines with the election of every new vice president. Whether composed by a reporter assigned to the vice president beat who hopes that a little exaggeration will raise the profile of his work or by a bureau chief who figures that extravagant praise in print will provide the source grease for future scoops, the 'he's the most powerful vice president ever' story has become a Washington staple."

    When the vice president is less powerful than the chief of staff, the premise the Times is advancing can't possibly be true.

    4. Answering the climate change conspiracy theorists here and here.

    5. Charlie Weis was fired before we got a chance to do a (Charlie) Weis vs. (Jody) Weis. But we do have Lovie Smith vs. Lovie Howell today.

    6. Don't ask Amy if you were raped.

    7. Barbara's Bookstore hell.

    8. JC at Sabernomics says the Cubs just overpaid John Grabow by $3 million.

    9. "Past research has hinted that technology might be the cause of social isolation; however, a new report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project indicates that the use of technology actually leads to increased and more diverse social networks."

    *

    And please, media, get over the "bowling alone" phenomenon; it was discredited long ago, apparently while you were sleeping.

    10. "$144,000: Amount in federal stimulus funds awarded to the University of Arizona to study Hiaki, an endangered tribal language spoken by fewer than 80 aging people in the state, a project defended by a university official who said it 'adds to the building blocks . . . of knowledge' and is expected to create or save about one job."

    - Governing

    *

    Original Arizona Republic article here.

    11. The Jesus Lizard Show Went On!

    12. New Parking Rules!

    13. The CTA Holiday Train!

    14. Police Board Overhaul Ahead.

    15. Racist Admissions?

    16. Stealth Democrat or Stealth Idiot?

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Stealth mode.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 3:47 AM | Permalink

    The Jesus Lizard Show Went On!

    By The Beachwood Jesus Affairs Desk

    "David Yow didn't allow bruised ribs suffered from an accidental fall during The Jesus Lizard's first of two sold-out weekend shows at Metro to keep him from playing the second concert," the Tribune reports. "Yet the vocalist's injury, incurred while he was crowd-surfing to the closing 'Wheelchair Epidemic' at Friday's unhinged 75-minute performance, significantly limited his trademark antics the following evening."

    1.

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    Metro Press Release issued Saturday:

    For Immediate Release: Jesus Lizard show WILL go on tonight

    During last night's encore, Jesus Lizard's David Yow accidentally fell into the floor while crowdsurfing and injured himself. Metro's emergency medical technician treated him at the club immediately. To ensure that his condition was not serious, an ambulance was called and he was taken to a local hospital. After a few hours of observation, doctors thankfully determined that although he does have some bruised ribs, his condition is stable and he is otherwise fine. He was released, is currently resting, and WILL perform tonight.

    2.

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    3.

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    DeRogatis:

    "Finally, the crowd erupted as David Yow sauntered out, hair disheveled as always, thrift-store red shirt hanging over the beer belly protruding from his too-tight blue jeans, the cowboy boots looking innocuous despite his Nevada and Texas roots. 'You don't mean it,' he taunted the cheering fans. 'You're just saying that.'

    'As the group launched into 'Puss' - an appropriate choice as one of the best songs from Liar (1992) as well as half of the band's split single with another influential and unforgettable group of the alternative era, Nirvana - Yow hurled himself into the crowd, riding atop its upstretched arms throughout the tune, kicking and failing while howling like a man possessed.

    "'One down, fourteen to go,' Yow cracked as the song ended and he finally crawled back onstage. It was as if he'd beaten one assailant and was preparing to take on the rest of the gang."

    -

    TimeOut: Photo gallery.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 3:18 AM | Permalink

    Lovie vs. Lovie

    By The Beachwood Island Affairs Desk

    Lovie Smith vs. Lovie Howell.

    Lovie Smith: Lost at sea on six-game schedule.

    Lovie Howell: Lost at sea on seven-hour cruise.

    *

    Lovie Smith: Gets off the bus running.

    Lovie Howell: Gets out of her limo shopping.

    *

    Lovie Smith: Every week is another horrible showing.

    Lovie Howell: Every week is another horrible show.

    *

    Lovie Smith: A millionaire who is bad at his job.

    Lovie Howell: A millionaire who has no job.

    *

    Lovie Smith: Fate depends on Virginia McCaskey.

    Lovie Howell: Is same age as Virginia McCaskey.

    *

    Lovie Smith: Is in the same boat as Ron Turner, Jerry Angelo and Ted Phillips.

    Lovie Howell: Was in the same boat as the professor, Ginger and Mary Ann.

    *

    Lovie Smith: Divorcing him would be costly.

    Lovie Howell: Divorcing her would be costly.

    *

    Lovie Howell: Her crew couldn't fix a hole in a boat.

    Lovie Smith: His running back can't find a hole in the line.

    *

    Lovie Smith: Clings stubbornly to outdated defensive scheme.

    Lovie Howell: Clings stubbornly to outdated gowns.

    *

    Lovie Smith: Laconic style is grating.

    Lovie Howell: Voice is grating.

    *

    Lovie Smith: Least liked cast member.

    Lovie Howell: Least liked cast member.

    -

    Contributions welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:37 AM | Permalink

    MUSIC - The Weekend In Chicago Rock.
    TV - Cricket vs. Brexit.
    POLITICS - Charter Schools Complicit With Segregation.
    SPORTS - USA Gymnastics Bans Illinois Coach.

    BOOKS - The Randomness Of Harvard Admissions.

    PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Public Lands Matter.


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