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March 31, 2010

The [Wednesday] Papers

1. Okay, already, Blago can't type. But has anybody stopped to ask: How did he write his book?

2. Geez, I have an almost all-volunteer staff and no resources to do proper background checks but I still Google everyone who comes my way. Give me a call, Cook County, I can help out at reasonable rates.

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3. Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez conducted an insightful panel discussion with the Tribune's Azam Ahmed, who broke the CPS clout list story; Pauline Lipman, an education professor at UIC; and Jitu Brown, a Kenwood-Oakland community organizer and teacher at St. Leonard Adult High School. Key excerpts:

Gonzalez: Other than them collecting the list, was there any indication that then there was actual efforts made with the various principals who were in charge of these schools to get these kids admitted?

Ahmed: The central office would call the principals and ask. They've been unequivocal about saying they never pressured anybody to accept a student. And a few principals I've talked to have also said they never - they were never pressured. It was a "Hey, we have this kid. We've checked out his background, pretty good scores" - or whatever the case may be - "Do you a space for them?"

Oftentimes on the list you'll see they - a student might have applied to the top one or two schools in the district and their testing scores just simply weren't high enough, and often those kids would be put in a still desirable, but not as competitive, school. So, oftentimes kids would get placed maybe not in their first one or two choices, but they would find somewhere better than perhaps their neighborhood school.

*

Goodman: You talk about the case of former Senator Carol Moseley Braun weighing in for a student to get in. Explain that story and who actually kept this list.

Ahmed: One of Duncan's top aides, David Pickens, was asked by Duncan to keep the list. And in this case, our understanding of it is Carol Moseley Braun was trying to get a certain student into Whitney Young, which is a very high-performing school in the city. She was getting no response from the principal. She called David Pickens, who then asked the principal to call her back. And then, whatever happened there was between the principal and Carol Moseley Braun. But ultimately, one of the two students Carol Moseley Braun was interested in having placed at Whitney Young did indeed get placed at Whitney Young.

*

Gonzalez: Could you talk about the significance of this list and also the battle of parents in Chicago to get into these elite schools in the city?

Lipman: Yes, good morning. I'm really glad that Azam has done this story, because it provides some evidence for what we've pretty much known on the ground all along. And as you said, I think that what it reveals is a bigger scandal.

The larger scandal is that Chicago has basically a two-tiered education system, with a handful of these selective enrollment magnet schools, or boutique schools, that have been set up under Renaissance 2010 in gentrifying and affluent neighborhoods, and then many disinvested neighborhood schools. So parents across the city are scrambling to try to get their kids into a few of these schools. So instead of creating quality schools in every neighborhood, what CPS has done is created this two-tier system and actually is closing down, as you said, neighborhood schools under Renaissance 2010 and replacing them with charter schools and a privatized education system, firing or laying off, I should say, certified teachers, dismantling locally elected school councils, and creating a market of public education in Chicago, turning schools over to private turnaround operators. And this is, in the bigger, bigger scandal, this is now the national agenda under the Obama administration for education.

*

Gonzalez: And amazingly, Arne Duncan doesn't have that much of a - he's not an educator by trade, to speak of. Could you talk a little bit about his background?

Lipman: Yeah, not only is he not an educator by trade, I mean, he was a functionary in the Daley administration.

*

Gonzalez: I'd like to ask Pauline Lipman about the overall effort in Renaissance 2010 and now in Arne Duncan's attempts to take it nationwide, the impact on the neighborhood public school, well, a public school that is not just a building with a bunch of students, but is an institution in the community where the parents know each other, where they all come from the same neighborhood. What is happening to that tradition of the neighborhood public school as an institution?

Lipman: Yeah, thank you for asking that question, Juan, because I think that's a very key part of what has happened. As Jitu was saying, we've seen a really devastating impact in many of the neighborhoods where the schools have been closed. The school is one of the central institutions in a neighborhood, a neighborhood that's suffering - has been suffering from unemployment, economic devastation, the transformation of public housing. And so, we see that these schools become sort of the core of the neighborhood.

And we have examples; I can describe one. Anderson Elementary School in the West Town area of Chicago, with a primarily Latino and African American population, one of the schools that you could say was really a good neighborhood school. And that area has become extremely gentrified. As it was gentrified, many people had to move out. The people who were still remaining and even people who moved out continued to send their children to that school, because it did in fact represent and anchor the neighborhood. And there was a huge battle over that a year ago, in 2008, when under Renaissance 2010, despite massive protests on the part of the parents - pickets, demonstrations, research that they did, busing of people down to the school board to protest - despite that, Chicago Public Schools closed it down, and they turned the school over to a school called LaSalle Language Academy, which is one of the most coveted, elite boutique schools in the city, for precisely the new, gentrifying, middle-class folks who had moved into that neighborhood.

So we've seen this happening again and again around the city. There is one ward on the West Side of the city where they no longer have a single public high school. Every high school is a charter high school. So what that means is that parents and students are looking not just in their neighborhood, but all around the city, to try to find a school to get their children into. It's a market. They're shopping for schools. And so, all the roles that those schools have historically played to provide support and continuity have been totally disrupted.

4. Matt "real life parent and actual human" Farmer vs. James "fabulously wealthy animatron sighing ho-hum that's just the way it is darling" Warren.

5. The Political Odds have changed; see who's ahead now.

6. Chicago's Worst Driver. Sort of.

7. Guerrilla Gardening and Chicago Super Happy Fun Time! In Meeting Up Now.

8. Multi-tool outfielders. Plus, Liriano and Danks. In Fantasy Fix.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Multi-tooled.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:18 AM | Permalink

Meeting Up Now

The newest Chicago meetups.

* The Oak Lawn We Never Pay Full Price For Anything Group

* The Unseen World

* Chicago Super Happy Fun Time!

* Clothing for 24/7 Body Detox for Health is Wealth

* Chicago-NW Burbs Trading Club

* The Naperville Career Changers Meetup Group

* The Brave Way Self Defense System

* Bulldog Bootcamp & CrossFit

* Displaced Teachers

* Brain Surgery Support Group

* Learning to Release Negativity for Those Who Feel Stuck

* Chicago Feng Shui

* Never Eat Alone Networking Luncheon Elk Grove

* Chicago Wakeboarding

* Guerrilla Gardening Chicago

* Homer Glen Outdoor Boot Camp

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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.

* December 17, 2009: Jury panels and paranormals. In Meeting Up Now.

* January 21, 2010: Robot City and Suburban Hip Moms. In Meeting Up Now.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:01 AM | Permalink

Fantasy Fix: Multi-Tool OFs

Outfielders are the subject of my final pre-season fantasy baseball post, and while many fantasy drafts are already complete, my tardiness in taking a closer look at outfielders is by design. Though OFs take up three starting spots on your roster, I think your time is much better spent sizing up the best picks at other, much thinner positions.

Sure, multi-tool OFs like Ryan Braun, Matt Kemp and Justin Upton should be top picks in any draft, but after the first couple rounds, you shouldn't despair if none of these names fell into your lap. Great multi-tool value (meaningful stats in some combination of these categories: HR, RBI, SB, AVG, runs-scored, doubles, triples) can be had in deeper rounds.

So, if you have a last-minute draft this weekend, or just want to be ready for some early waiver wire exchanges, here are a few ideas:

Late-round multi-tool OF value:

Jason Heyward, Atlanta: The secret is out, but I still nabbed him in the 16th round of a fantasy draft last week. Great power and extra base potential. Like most rookies, his average could rise and dip in streaks, and we'll have to see how often crusty manager Bobby Cox lets him steal bases. I think 25 HRs, 20 SBs, 35 doubles and eight triples is doable.

Carlos Beltran, NY Mets: You read that right. He's not due back from injury rehab until May, which is why he'll still be available in the bench rounds of the draft. But he's already 85% owned in Yahoo! leagues, so probably not a waiver wire candidate whenever he does return. Reports indicate he's recovering as expected, so that means stolen bases, homers, doubles and maybe even a few more triples in capacious Citi Field.

Vernon Wells, Toronto: Another unlikely veteran buried deep in the draft. He got a bad rep after failing to live up to a fat contract, but injuries were the main problem. He won't hit .300 for you, but he could still go 20/20/40/80/90 in HRs, SBs, doubles, runs-scored and RBIs.

Early multi-tool OF waiver wire candidates:

David DeJesus, Kansas City: Always a solid stat line across the board, he has underexploited speed (just four SBs last year, but nine triples show his greater promise) and underappreciated power (13 HRs and 71 RBIs last year, mostly as a lead-off man).

Franklin Gutierrez, Seattle: Came close to 20/20 HRs/SBs last year, and with Seattle trying hard to score more runs for its solid pitching staff, a 25/25 in those categories with 90 runs, 90 RBIs, and a .290 average would not be out of the question.

Drew Stubbs, Cincinnati: He had eight HRs and 10 SBs in just 180 at-bats last year, so I'd look for him to at least double those figures, and score close to 90 runs as a more frequent starter for the Reds this year.

Expert Wire
* FanHouse has Jason Heyward predictions of 18 HRs and 18 SBs with a .280 average. I'll say that is safely conservative. Unless he fails miserably in April, I see the Braves letting him work things out.

* Roto Arcade likes the looks of former lights-out lefty Francisco Liriano. The SP/RP was listed pretty low on most draft boards until Twins closer Joe Nathan got hurt, and Liriano was mentioned as a possible replacement. But now it appears he'll get a role in the starting rotation.

* Bleacher Report asks if the closer situation is worse in 2010 than in 2009. To me, it's worse every year. Who's the next Nathan or Mariano Rivera who you can count on every year? (We don't know about Jonathan Broxton yet.) More teams like the Twins are either pursuing closer-by-committee or have a second arm ready for the job if their first choice fails. That means a lot of RPs coming and going on the waiver wire this year.

* Fantasy Windup has printable cheat-sheets if you're running to a last-minute draft this weekend without taking your usual hours of preparation.

* OPENSports has some diamonds in the fantasy baseball rough, including such well-worn names as Matt Garza and Denard Span. The post also backs up our listing of Vernon Wells as a late-round sleeper, and mentions Chicago's very own John Danks.

* Bleacher Report also has outfielder sleeper picks for early-, middle- and late-rounds.

Next post: Fantasy baseball studs, duds, finds and match-ups.

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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 6:27 AM | Permalink

What I Watched Last Night: America's Worst Driver in Chicago

America's Worst Driver: Chicago aired the other night. It's shows like these that made me cancel cable.

The above statement should be the entirety of this column but that isn't any fun. What is fun is the ending of this particular show. The beginning and middle are just like every other reality television show but in the end a car is destroyed by a monster truck. For what it's worth, every reality show that brings nothing to to the table for 40-some minutes should all do us a favor and end with a monster truck running over a contestant's car. The reaction is worth the wait.

So here's how it goes:

Four people are nominated as bad drivers by friends or lovers. The friend or lover will ride shotgun with the nominee through challenges to support or ridicule. There are three sets of challenges. Each one eliminates a pairing. The first obstacle is to drive to a narrow alley near Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder. This alley happens to be the most infamous alley in Chicago; gangsters were murdered there some time ago on Valentine's Day. In this alley, trash is arranged and children will spray water and silly string at the car. The contestant must make a three-point turn and leave the "massacre." They leave, dress up in winter clothes, and park a car in a tight spot only after their windows have been sprayed with "frost" to simulate driving conditions in the winter.

Next, they drive around a parking lot avoiding stacked-up hubcaps. In reverse. This is a timed event and time is added for every tower of rims knocked over. Ingenious.

Lastly, they drive a car with a bathtub attached to the roof around another obstacle course. The bathtub has a series of tubes connected to it to shower the driver and passenger if the driving is subpar. The contestants inevitably get wet. The team then switches cars to one without a tub on top to balance it on a teeter-totter for ten seconds. Then, finally, they complete another section of course with garbage cans filled with water.

And on we go, time to meet the teams and see the results.

Kevin and Dan: Soccer Dads.

Kevin is a soccer dad. Dan is a soccer dad. They drive around doing what it is soccer dads do. I have no idea because this is the first time I heard the term soccer dad. I figure they are like soccer moms, but then why is it Kevin drives a sedan and not a van? Anyway, they both are dads and dress like dads and drive like dads. Kevin drives well enough to be eliminated first and wins a trip to Florida. His buddy Dan gets nothing.

Billy and Rion: Friends.

Billy wears a purple shirt and jeans with silly string on them. Hard to believe but the Billy jeans and the children in the alley is total coincidence. Billy drives and Rion watches. They both overreact to a bunch of stuff and give me a slight headache. Billy and Rion are eliminated after the reverse driving challenge. Billy wins a gas card for a year and Rion wins nothing.

Sonya and Jamie: Best Friends.

First off, I don't know why these two get the best friends tag while Billy and Rion only got friends. Sonya is the driver and she is reclusive. She screams and waves her hands in the air a few times. Imagine being near a woman screaming and waving her hands; now imagine her in a moving car very close to you. Jamie gets through to Sonya near the end of the show so he, unlike the other co-pilots, gained something from the show. Sonya's car is spared and she receives a year of oil changes. If we caught up with Sonya and Jamie now I would suspect they have made out since, maybe even some light petting, but I think that topic detracts from this terrific column.

Finally, we have our winners.

Cristin and James: The married couple.

James wears glasses and Cristin spells her name in an unusual way. Cristin is bad at driving. I can tell it's not a lack of effort; I feel she was freaked out by her husband riding shotgun. Seems driving under pressure is not going to work in her favor. It doesn't and she wins the contest. Her prize is to watch her car get hammered a few times by a monster truck.

This is the part the made me laugh out loud. When the monster truck ran over her car. It was a mixture of the car being crushed and the look on Cristin's face. It took more than 40 minutes to get a good laugh out of this show, and fortunately I had no commercials to deal with (having bought the episode from iTunes) or else I would have never made it.

Then my laughter came to a halt when Cristin and James were assessing the damage and James said, "No note!" and "They're not buffing that out!" Couldn't leave well enough alone. One joke would have been enough. Yet another reason for every television viewer to devote their life to watching Seinfeld. For if James had, he would have known to leave on a high note.

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

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Submissions and comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:16 AM | Permalink

March 30, 2010

The [Tuesday] Papers

"The Denver attorney hired by Mayor Daley to oversee city hiring only to be stripped of that responsibility resigned Monday, joining the long list of outsiders chewed up by Chicago's unique brand of politics," the Sun-Times reports.

It's not that Anthony Boswell didn't adjust quickly to the Chicago Way, though.

"Boswell's name also turned up on a list of clout-heavy Chicagoans seeking to get their kids into elite Chicago Public Schools. His son and daughter went from the waiting list to being admitted to Mark Sheridan Elementary Math and Science Academy in time for the 2008-09 school year."

And, of course:

"Last month, Daley suspended Boswell for 30 days for allegedly mishandling an intern's sexual harassment complaint against a 911 center deputy."

Boswell's sin wasn't unethical behavior; that's never a problem around here. It was the inartful way in which he carried it out.

*

"Anthony Boswell told his staff at the city's shrinking Office of Compliance that he was leaving his $161,856-a-year job, effective May 30, 'unless they march him out of there earlier.'

"'He said he needed to resign in order to fight dirty like the people who were fighting him,' said an employee in attendance."

Is that a promise or a threat?

*

It's probably asking for too much to hope that Mayor Daley will admit that the critics were right and he made a $4 million mistake creating the compliance office in the first place.

After all, the city already has a Department of Human Resources that describes its mission as "establishing and maintaining fair, equitable and transparent employment practices free of political influence"; a Board of Ethics whose task is to "administer . . . laws adopted to help ensure that City officials and employees avoid conflicts of interests"; an Office of the Inspector General that is "dedicated to ensuring honesty and integrity in City government by rooting out corruption, fraud, other misconduct, and waste"; and an exacting mayor whose troops always follow orders.

One more question, Mr. Mayor: If you're such a great manager, why do you need an Office of Compliance?

Facebook Feed
Daley's perfect profile.

Clout Club
Two rules.

School Daze
"While politicians and school officials wring their hands over whether clout played a role in admissions to top city schools, it's easy to lose sight of this fact: Despite Mayor Daley's high-profile attempts to improve them, many Chicago schools are failing to properly educate children," the Tribune reports.

"And the dearth of good schools has left parents scratching and clawing their way into the few good ones."

Like those who would love to use public transportation more if only it was reliable enough, there is a huge constituency out there who would love to fill up Chicago's public schools. Private schools and the suburbs are often last resorts for desperate and disappointed city-dwellers.

"Parents in Chicago say they've tried just about everything - from donating large sums of money to volunteering to run the PTA - simply to earn a spot in one of the city's top-notch public schools. They've even gone so far as to lie on their applications, claiming they live within the school boundaries or have other children at the school - which increase odds of getting in.

"So few were surprised when the Tribune revealed last week that former schools chief Arne Duncan's office kept lists of people - many politically connected - who dialed up the main office seeking help in landing a seat at a top school."

The UnChicago Way
"Hennepin County Commissioners Randy Johnson, Peter McLaughlin and Mark Stenglein, who put their political necks on the line in approving a county sales tax to help build Target Field for the Minnesota Twins, can't buy tickets for the April 12 opener," the Minneapolis StarTribune reports.

"Under the circumstances with a sold-out game, that would be a gift prohibited to public officials under Minnesota law, the state Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board ruled Thursday.

"The ruling leaves only County Board Chair Mike Opat able to sit in the stands and watch the game. That's because Opat will be using his season tickets purchased before the season through the ordinary sales process available to the public."

Not quite the way things are done here. (Geez, this is a state where legislators give out college scholarships.)

Gotta Wear Shades
From paidContent.org:

"The Online Ad Market Is Back To Setting Records In The U.S.
"Double-digit growth is set to return to the online ad market this year, according to IDC. The market research firm says it expects online ad spending to jump 12.6 percent to $29.7 billion in the U.S. By contrast, spending dropped 2.4 percent in 2009.
Signs of a comeback are aplenty. During the fourth quarter, online ad spending increased 4.5 percent year-over-year to $7.4 billion, leading to several 'firsts,' according to IDC analyst Karsten Weide. Among them: A new record was set in terms of 'absolute spending;' online's share of total ad spending passed 10 percent for the first time, and it was the first period of growth after three consecutive quarters in the red."

*

And:

"Here's some good news for publishers reeling from a horrific 2009: Ad units on the iPad are attracting big-name advertisers. The NYT reports that a high-end credit card company has purchased its iPad ad inventory for the device's first two months on the market, while brands, like FedEx and Buick, are buying ads on the apps of other publications, including the WSJ, Newsweek, Time (NYSE: TWX) and Reuters (NYSE: TRI). The NYT says the going rate is $75,000 to $300,000 'for a few months of exclusivity' on one of these apps."

Things He Misses About Being Single
Including Hormel Turkey Chili, loud Metallica, Ranch dressing and sock farms. In the latest list from our very own Drew Adamek.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Almost as good as Hormel Turkey Chili.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:47 AM | Permalink

Things I Miss About Being Single

I've been married for a year-and-a-half. I've known my wife for eight years; we've been living together for five.

I enjoy everything about being married: the companionship; the shared responsibilities; the ups and downs. Marriage, and the attendant maturity and growth that comes with it, is the best thing that's ever happened to me. I am constantly surprised by how easily I've settled into married life. For most of my adulthood, I was either a dedicated commitment-phobe or a 300-pound slob who couldn't get a girlfriend.

My bachelorhood was a miserable experience punctuated by long stretches of loneliness, bitterness and frustration. I didn't have the emotional maturity or bravery to be a very good dater. I was either running away from or desperately clinging to former girlfriends, and I made unnecessary messes out of a lot of relationships for whatever fucked-up emotional reasons that were driving me at the time.

But a great therapist, a few really tough learning experiences and a fantastic woman changed all that. I can happily report that all of the silliness and frustration of being single is long, long, gone - and I don't miss most of it for a second.

But I do miss about a few things about being single; mostly living like an impulsive, neurotic, compulsive slob.

Here, then, are ten things I miss about being single:

1. That's Mr. Hormel.

The look of raw disgust and horror that crossed my soulmate's face the first time I cracked open a can of Hormel Turkey chili and dug in with a spoon ended that habit. I was 30 before I started heating my food, and I still sneak-eat out of a can of tuna or refried beans when the wife's not around. What? It doesn't taste that much different and saves me a dirty dish.

2. Thrashing All Around.

I appreciate NPR and the dulcet tones of Terry Gross. I do, sweetie, really I do. However, if I really want to get ready for my day, then I need Loud Fucking Metallica at 8 a.m. to get me going. These days, in the Adamek household, Metallica is limited to my headphones, at a volume that does not disturb the Punky while she is reading the paper or thinking about organizing the drapes.

3. Aqua Teen Hunger Force Marathons.

I owned every season of ATHF when my wife moved in. Now, she didn't say I had to get rid of them; in fact, I don't think she ever cared that they existed. But the idea of being a 32-year-old man in a pair of old flip-flops, ratty sweatpants and a dirty t-shirt watching cartoons while my dearly beloved looked on didn't appeal to me; sitting in the dark and going all Beavis and Butt-head over a cartoon is fine when there is no one else around, but having someone watch is a little much.

4. Junk Closet.

For some reason, the lovely doesn't understand why I need two left skates, a ripped Iron Maiden poster and a box full of Walkmans that don't work. I fight my inner pack rat all the time; slowly losing that battle was a small pleasure that's gone in the new era of austerity and throwing my shit out.

5. Ranch Dressing.

This is the Aqua Teen problem; she probably wouldn't tell me not to do it, but having someone watch me pour Ranch Dressing on my cereal makes me feel like less of a man. I may not have Ranch Dressing Cheetos anymore but I have some semblance of self-respect back.

6. Not Recycling.

I am all for saving the environment. I support recycling, and I don't want to waste our precious natural resources. But what I don't give a fuck about is the number on the bottom of the tin can or whether the container is molded plastic or not. Recycling is important, just not the most important thing on the face of the earth.

7. Being a Dickhead.

I am prone to sour moods and anti-social fits that I can no longer indulge in because, well, that shit just doesn't fly. No more grumbling and listening to heavy metal really loud (see item #2) to show the world how hardcore my not giving a fuck is. Now I have to be a grown-up and act with the maturity and compassion reflective of my age; a huge pain in the ass that I am not inclined to deal with well.

8. Old T-shirts.

Sweetheart, I saw the Rolling Stones in this shirt, that's why I am wearing it to your birthday dinner; it's a special occasion shirt, see. I am a metalhead through and through, and nasty concerts shirts are central to my identity. I feel lost without my Motorhead t-shirt (which, in all fairness, my wife bought me and I wore until it literally disintegrated in the wash).

9. Sock Farm.

I'm actually a pretty neat guy. I don't like having the house messy. I clean the bathroom once a week and I wash the dishes regularly. But my greatest pleasure in life is to come home from work, camp out on the couch and take my socks and shoes off. I also like to leave the socks in the living room, in a big pile next to the couch. Why? I don't know. Maybe I want a marker of how much (or little) I've worked. Every roommate I've ever had has bitched about this habit but my wife is the first to (mostly) break me of it.

10. In the End, Not Much.

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Comments welcome.

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Other Lists By Drew Adamek:
* Today's Syllabus
* Shit My Dad Says
* Work Weirdos
* Things I Miss About Chicago
* 20 Albums I Wish I Had Never Bought
* Their Chicago
* Cities I've Slept In
* My Favorite 1980s Chicago Radio Memories
* Why Milwaukee Rules
* Why I'm Glad I Don't Live In D.C. Anymore
* The Beer Goggle Recordings
* A List Of Reader Comments To Drew's Lists
* Life's Little Victories
* The Worst Jobs I've Ever Had
* Jobs For The Zombie Apocalypse
* Lemme Get A Bite Of That
* Lists I'll Never Write
* Things I Miss About My Imprisoned Best Friend

Plus:
* Fan Note: Me & Metallica

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:09 AM | Permalink

March 29, 2010

The [Monday] Papers

"It is where the government has hidden the most secret information: plans to relocate Congress if Washington were attacked, dossiers on double agents, case files about high-profile mob figures and their politician friends, and a disturbing number of reports about the possible smuggling of atomic bombs into the United States," reports the Boston Globe.

"It is the FBI's 'special file room,'' where for decades sensitive material has been stored separately from the bureau's central filing system to restrict access severely and, in more sinister instances, some experts assert, prevent the Congress and the public from getting their hands on it . . .

"The special filing location was even used to protect information about politicians believed to be involved with criminals.

"'The information is of a very sensitive nature in that it contains frequent reference to highly placed persons in Chicago law enforcement as well as city, county, and state political figures and their relations with the hoodlum element,' one 1960 memo stated, requesting a file be routed to the special room. 'References are also made to prominent businessmen and occasionally newspaper reporters.'

"Longtime observers of the FBI say the memos are not just historically valuable, but also provide a roadmap for researchers who can now request some of the files cited in them, at least those with titles or file numbers that appear in the newly released documents. The memos will be posted at governmentattic.org, a website run by volunteers that publishes hundreds of government documents released under the Freedom of Information Act."

Warren's World
One might infer from James Warren's latest atrocity in the New York Times that if he had been named the editor of the Tribune, as he angled for before being sent packing, the paper's series on the CPS clout list might never have appeared.

Warren's dismissal of the Chicago Way as a problematic mode of governing follows an earlier bizarre column that took the meek City Hall press corps to task for not recognizing the greatness of our kick-ass mayor.

I'll take a closer look if and when I can muster a new Pundit Patrol installment this week.

New World Order
"Russia Eliminates 2 Time Zones."

Yes, 1958 and 1963.

Roeper's World
I stopped reading Sunday's excerpt from Richard Roeper's new book about 30 straight days of gambling after the very first sentence, which went like this:

"On Day 14 of the adventure, I'm going to the dogs. Literally."

If only I was as bad as he is, I'd be rich.

Simon Says
"But [Sheila] Simon quickly sought to downplay the idea that Democrats - fearing voter backlash from the Rod Blagojevich scandals that put Quinn in the governor's chair - were trying to trade on the reputation her late father established," the Tribune reports.

She even volunteered to use her husband's last name from here on out.

Oh wait, that didn't happen.

*

"The famous name gets my foot in the door, and that's only the start."

Exactly.

*

"I'm ready to play hardball."

Yup, the "kind of pol we should want."

*

"We were not very close. [Blagojevich] had a friend of his call and ask if I would introduce the governor. I gave him a list of other officeholders that I thought would be better suited, but he specifically wanted me."

For the same reason Quinn wants you: To trade on your name.

*

I wonder if Simon gave Quinn a list of officeholders she thought would be better suited to be lieutenant governor.

*

"Perhaps the most telling moment was after Sheila Simon was announced as the Lt. Governor nominee," John Laesch writes at The Progressive Fox. "Turner's entire half of the room was dead silent, drowned out by the sounds of camera flashes and applause from those who fought side-by-side with Paul throughout his career. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out in the general election.

"Was this a Democratic, bottom-up process or a top-down, back-room deal-making process?

"We will never know what made Rep. Boland, Sen. Garrett and Sen. Koehler decide to step aside. By getting out of the race, those candidates freed up more votes for Sheila Simon, the eventual winner. We know for a fact that Governor Quinn was making calls on behalf of Sheila Simon. We know for a fact that Speaker Madigan was counting votes for Sheila Simon, or perhaps just counting votes to help determine if he should use his 80,000 votes or just pass (he did officially pass). There was some evidence that members of Senator Durbin's staff were involved in whipping votes for Simon. With that many players all pulling in the same direction, it would be hard to see how this vote could have turned out any differently."

Fall Guy
Arne Duncan loyalist David Pickens resigned his CPS post on Friday amidst revelations that he kept a secret admissions clout list for his boss, now the U.S. Secretary of Education.

"Pickens bristled at suggestions that he was maintaining a clout list, saying that he took a beating when favored applicants were rejected, as often happened," the Tribune reported.

Um, let me try to follow the logic here: The fact that aldermen and folks from the mayor's office and people who knew people blasted Pickens when they didn't get their way shows the list he maintained had nothing to do with clout?

*

Hey, their names just got them in the door.

*

"As much grief as I took from these elected officials," Pickens told the Trib, "it's hard for me to hear (accusations) that we were just letting all these kids in."

No, you were just asking principals to let them in.

*

Um, let me try to follow the logic here: The fact that so many kids sponsored by aldermen and folks from the mayor's office and people who knew people were so ill-qualified that their special pipeline to the city's principals still wasn't enough to get so many of them into their schools of choice - though it was enough for plenty - shows that nothing untoward was going on?

*

"Through a spokesman, Duncan declined to comment."

Because it's not like a Cabinet officer owes us an explanation or anything. Who are we, Jim Warren?

*

The deputy chief of staff to former school board president Michael Scott got laid off on Friday.

"[Greg] Minniefield said he didn't know about Pickens' list," the Sun-Times reports.

Apparently clout lists were above his pay grade.

Bracket Busters
Anne State out of the Midwest region; Jewel starts accepting payment in organs. In The Weekend Desk Report.

The True Value of Education
"Chicago is still behind a number of cities that are composed of more college graduates, including Seattle and San Francisco," Beachwood demographer Kiljoong Kim finds.

This He Misses About His Imprisoned Best Friend
The latest list from our very own Drew Adamek.

One Knee Backhands
Our latest training drill from the White Sox Academy.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Make the team.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:13 AM | Permalink

White Sox Academy: One Knee Backhands

Fourth in an occasional series.

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Next: Bare Hand Isolation.

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Previously:
* Hands at Launch.
* Lower Body Mechanics.
* Infield Receiving Drill.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:29 AM | Permalink

Things I Miss About My Imprisoned Best Friend

I'll probably never see my best friend again.

We met as third-graders at a church youth group. I hated him at first because he was taller than me, which meant he stood first in line for our Awana team. But it was music nerd love at first sight when he pulled a Run-DMC tape out of his pocket.

We were inseparable for about 15 years. He passed me my first joint. We slept in basements, on couches and in cars together. The night he cried because I was killing myself with drugs and alcohol was the night I decided to get clean. We lived together for so long without ever having girlfriends that my mother was convinced we were a gay couple.

I was the best man at his wedding. I there when his son was born. He stayed at my house the night his marriage fell apart. He sent me the only letters I got while in treatment. He always had an open door for me, no matter what mess I got myself into. He provided me with the stable living environment that I needed to finally get my shit together.

He is in prison for what is, essentially, a life sentence. He confessed to a terrible crime for which he was given a 25-year sentence, without the possibility of parole. He'll get out of prison eventually, but the best part of his life is gone.

My feelings towards his crime and punishment are complex, confusing and painful. A heartbreaking wave of anger, disappointment and compassion washes over me every time I think about it. Our lives have been so inextricably intertwined for almost 30 years that a part of me feels like I've lost the best part of my life too.

I haven't had the courage to talk to him since he was arrested. I've looked up his Department of Corrections photo a hundred times in the years that he's been gone, looking for some answer to why this all happened, trying to see the things I didn't see then. But I am a coward; I can't tell him to his face how I feel about what he did and what it means to me that he is gone.

So here, then, are the things I miss most about my imprisoned best friend:

1. Applehead and Dummy.

We shared the universal language of best friends. Made up entirely of inside jokes, and stuck in a moment in time (1989), the shorthand shit we said to each other sounded like gibberish to everyone else. We held conversations composed entirely of Beastie Boys lyrics, Sanford and Son quotes and old nicknames. I miss being able to tell someone that the place was a total Lewis Ave, and having them understand what I was talking about.

2. Death Magnetic.

The strongest bond we had was music. We discussed music for hours, for years, for decades. We had shared divergent tastes; he introduced me to so much of the music I love now: Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, Butthole Surfers, Portishead. I hate that I can't call him up to bullshit when I discover a new band or an old favorite comes out with a new album. My love for the culture of music has definitely weakened since he's been gone.

3. Concert Standby.

I don't hang out with anyone anymore who loves the same shitty butt-rock that I do. I have a really hard time finding someone to go to a Motorhead show with me. My brother will go but he's got better shit to do than fly halfway across the country to see Down on a Wednesday night. But my man was always there; I could always count on him to go with me - the band, venue or the day of the week didn't matter. It's fitting that the last thing I remember doing with him was going to see a Metallica show in Milwaukee. On our way to the show, we calculated that we'd been going to Metallica concerts together for 19 years.

4. My Wife.

It breaks my heart that he only ever got to meet the girlfriends that didn't work out. I want him to be able to see that I finally found what I was looking for, and that all those years I cried on his shoulder about yet another break-up weren't for naught.

5. Shaheh Jones.

A close friend of ours passed and neither one of us was at the funeral. That sucks.

6. iLife.

He was a dedicated technophile; he was the first person I knew with a cell phone, a home computer and Internet access. I learned how to send an e-mail, set a digital watch and make a mixtape from him. I am still way behind on how to do gadget stuff because I grew up letting him set up all the electronics and technology. I would have loved to see the look on his face when he played with an iPhone or the Wii for the first time.

7. Fact Checker.

I miss having someone around who knows the truth about where I've been and what I've done and called me on it when I strayed. I have lots of people whom I've spent years and years with but no one knows my history as first-hand as he did. And as I am wont to hyperbole and "confused recollection," it was always nice to have someone say, "You know, Andrew, there was only guy who beat you up, not nine."

8. Bullshit Artist.

I miss having someone who knows the truth about where I've been and what I've done and encourages my bullshitting about it. And as I am wont to hyperbole and "excited recollection," it was always reassuring to have someone back me up on a bullshit story. "Yeah, Andrew totally fought off nine guys. I was there and it was awesome." He understood the delicate balance of when to let me bullshit and when to make me tell the truth.

9. Black President.

So much has changed in the world since the day we huffed amyl nitrates for hours and watched the Berlin Wall fall. Talking to him always put our journey through history and time in the right perspective for me. It is much harder for me to explain the wonder of a GPS/e-mail/Facebook/Pandora-enabled iPhone to someone I didn't play "Lemonade Stand" with on an 8-bit computer.

10. Knowing What His Life is Like.

One of the hardest questions I have to answer now is, "What's ___ Up to?" The answer is, I don't know.

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Comments welcome.

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Other Lists By Drew Adamek:
* Today's Syllabus
* Shit My Dad Says
* Work Weirdos
* Things I Miss About Chicago
* 20 Albums I Wish I Had Never Bought
* Their Chicago
* Cities I've Slept In
* My Favorite 1980s Chicago Radio Memories
* Why Milwaukee Rules
* Why I'm Glad I Don't Live In D.C. Anymore
* The Beer Goggle Recordings
* A List Of Reader Comments To Drew's Lists
* Life's Little Victories
* The Worst Jobs I've Ever Had
* Jobs For The Zombie Apocalypse
* Lemme Get A Bite Of That
* Lists I'll Never Write

Plus:
* Fan Note: Me & Metallica

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:56 AM | Permalink

The True Value Of Education

The value of college education has been emphasized in the American educational system for a very long time. School districts around the country treat higher rate college admission as emblematic of their success and universities consider admission of first-generation college students to be their contribution to society's upward mobility. But is it possible for this valuable measure of human capital to lose its worth? And what does it mean for a city that has portrayed itself as a historically blue-collar and working-class to having increasing numbers of highly educated residents?

Between 1990 to the mid-2000s, Chicago's adult population over the age of 25 remained steadily around 1.8 million (1.75 million in 1990, 1.82 million in 2000, and 1.77 million in 2006-8 estimate). However, the percentage of that population with college degrees jumped from 19.5 percent in 1990 to 30.2 percent in the mid-2000s. This massive 56 percent increase in less than two decades means that more than 533,000 residents in Chicago have completed at least a four-year college education.

Yet, despite this dramatic shift, Chicago is still behind a number of cities that are composed of more college graduates, including Seattle and San Francisco. (See a really cool chart of this here.) If Chicago's collective aspiration to be a global city becomes a reality, it is likely to attract and accommodate even more highly educated residents with higher earning power and potential.

The significance of a college education, aside from an individual sense of accomplishment and empowerment, might very well come down to a matter of economics and its eventual payoff. Between the report published by U.S. Census Bureau in 1994 and another report produced in 2002, the gap in average lifetime earnings between a high school graduate and a person with bachelor's degree increased from approximately $600,000 to $900,000.

Even if this figure remained the same for the past three years, this amount is more than $955,000 in 2009 dollars. (See another really cool chart here.)

This disparity, however, pales in comparison when lifetime earnings of those with advanced degrees are considered. An average individual with master's degree earns over $1.4 million more than a high school graduate; a doctoral degree more than $2.3 million; and a professional degree more than $3.4 million in their lifetime.

Such a payoff in education has led to decades of societal encouragement for children and adults to attend college. With increasing demand, some institutions increased their enrollment and others created more schools, programs, and degrees. As consumers of education, this means those who seek to earn a degree can choose according to price, schedule, and circumstances. Today, bachelors and advanced degrees can be obtained through just about every way imaginable from part-time, evening, weekend, to online programs.

We undoubtedly have stories of success irrespective of education. However, for every Bill Gates, there are thousands of college dropouts who never reach middle-class levels of earning. Conversely, there are lawyers and doctors who never reap the financial benefits of advanced degrees. But overall, for most Americans, the collective hope is that the increase in the number of college graduates will mean many more people with higher earnings.

Unfortunately, the more likely scenario would be that the abundance of college graduates increases competition in the labor market that eventually leads to lower wages for college graduates and higher demand for advanced degrees.

This mass production of college educations also means the degrees have become increasingly segmented by brand. Higher demand will likely to lead to quality of instruction and institutions that are diluted as mere derivation of high school education for some, while those who have resources manage to retain higher level of education and social networks that come with it.

Most everyone recognizes that those who earned degrees from schools that run television advertisements during the daytime are not likely to compete for the same jobs as those who have degrees from the University of Chicago or Northwestern. Nor are they likely to have share same social networks that can lead to greater opportunities. In short, the gaps in education will likely grow even greater despite larger pool of graduate from higher education.

While policymakers and educators have been striving to create opportunities for anyone to go to college, the point of higher education appears to have been lost in the process.

If the point is to educate the masses in order to empower them with the ability to think critically and to develop intellectual community as a whole, massive college education makes perfect sense.

However, if the point is simply to earn credentials so that they can boost their wages, then the decision-makers need to reconsider the objectives for adult education.

And no matter how global the economy, stigmatization of skilled manual labor is problematic when there is serious demand for auto mechanics, carpenters, and plumbers.

Chicago's history carries an unusually heightened sense of civic engagement among those who are financially better off and highly educated. Such elite organizations as the Commercial Club of Chicago, the MacArthur Foundation and the Chicago Community Trust have influenced the lives of all other residents for generations.

However, the doors to these organizations have been mostly open only to those individuals who attended selected schools or established selected networks.

While the structure and the make-up of these organizations are not likely to change anytime soon, it remains to be seen how the leaders of the city react to rapidly changing labor force.

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

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Sources
Figure 1: American Community Survey, 2006-2008, U.S. Census Bureau.

Figure 2: Source: U.S. Census Bureau, "The Big Payoff: Educational Attainment and Synthetic Estimates of Work-Life Earnings," Current Population Reports, P23-210, by Jennifer Cheeseman Day and Eric C. Newburger. Current Population Survey, March supplements, 1998-2005.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:15 AM | Permalink

March 27, 2010

The Weekend Desk Report

You think your bracket's a mess? We had Anne State in the Final Four.

Market Update
You know it's bad when your local Jewel starts accepting payment in organs.

March Madness
The sickening sound of brackets busting rang out across the land again as top seeds Syracuse and Ohio State were sent packing. If your prognosticating skills aren't exactly looking flawless, take heart: Experts stress the odds of picking a perfect bracket are worse than the odds of being struck by lightning. Of course, if you're the Pope, you might like your chances.

Sticks and Stones...
A Chicago cab driver was arrested this week for allegedly consorting with known extremists and verbally encouraging the targeting of American lives. Which, apparently, is kind of illegal these days.

Keys to Success
This week Naperville proudly bestowed the key to the city on native son and gold-medalist Evan Lysacek. When asked his future competitive plans, the Vancouver hero was coy. However, analysts note with his intense grooming regimen, penchant for reality TV show participation and controversial lack of content, Lysacek might make a run for Governor of Illinois.

Portrait of the Artist
Finally this week, the Illinois House has voted to deny public funding for an official portrait of Rod Blagojevich. While some may view the move as petty and vindictive, sources close to the state's crushing budget crisis say it is purely practical. After all, it's not like we'll have the funds to train a competent artist anyway.

Posted by Natasha Julius at 7:52 AM | Permalink

March 26, 2010

The [Friday] Papers

"Sheila Simon, daughter of the late U.S. Sen. Paul Simon, is Gov. Quinn's choice for a running mate, a top source told the Sun-Times."

A more accurate report would go something like this:

"In an effort to bend the state party's central committee to its will, the Quinn administration began telling reporters on Thursday that its top choice for lieutenant governor was Shiela Simon. The media strategy illustrates the tricky political problem of a sitting governor who does not have control over the selection of his running mate. With compliant reporters executing their portion of the machinations, party leaders - namely House Speaker Michael Madigan - now risk embarrassing Quinn (and themselves) by overruling his choice for the ticket."

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Has anyone asked Quinn point-blank why he doesn't want to run with Art Turner?

And I don't mean asking why Quinn doesn't think the runner-up to Scott Lee Cohen should get automatically get the nod. I mean asking specifically why Art Turner is not the best choice.

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Hell, Turner's more qualified than Quinn to be governor.

*

From the Sun-Times:

"Simon's not a complete newcomer to politics. She waged an unsuccessful bid for mayor of Carbondale in 2007 after serving on the college town's City Council."

Um, okay.

"And President Obama featured her prominently in television commercials during his successful 2004 U.S. Senate run."

I guess that gives her the edge over Turner!

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If Sheila Simon's name was Sheila Johnson . . .

Nothing new in Illinois politics, of course; just another example where a name associated with integrity is used cynically. Shame on not only Pat Quinn, but on Sheila Simon.

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Sheila Simon's band. (Seriously.)

As The Clout List Turns
"Chicago aldermen dominate a secret list of people who lobbied Chicago Public Schools for students applying to the most selective schools, making about 30 percent of all requests on logs examined by the Tribune," the paper reports.

"Ald. Walter Burnett Jr., 27th, intervened in at least two cases involving his relatives in 2006. In one instance, the logs state he lobbied on behalf of a distant relative who, by her parents' own description, was 'highly intelligent but has lacked motivation until now.' The student's request to transfer to Morgan Park High School was granted without 'assistance' from the CPS central office, the logs note."

Message to kids: Don't worry about doing well now, just make sure you discover motivation when it's time to talk to our relative the alderman."

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"In 2006, the logs indicate then-Ald. Isaac Carothers asked Duncan's office to consider an admissions request involving a political worker in a West Side group once led by Carothers. The political worker, a city employee, wanted his child transferred from Fenger Academy High School to Morgan Park.

"The child's father had contributed nearly $5,000 to the ward organization in the five years before the request, including a $375 donation about two weeks before Carothers intervened on the case, according to state records."

Just another Chicago Coincidence.

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"Ald. Patrick O'Connor, 40th, wrote a letter on behalf of a Jones College Preparatory applicant who did not live in his ward and whose score was significantly below the average, according to the logs.

"Records show O'Connor sent his request through then-School Board President Michael Scott. The student was admitted to Jones.

"O'Connor said he didn't know the student or her family, so he assumes someone else asked him to intervene, as he occasionally did."

Huh, that's weird. O'Connor didn't know the student or the family, which didn't live in his ward. Does he write letters for just anyone?

"The student has a close relative who works for Ald. Edward Burke, 14th, records show."

Just another Chicago Coincidence!

"None of these letters said: 'Put her in this school,'" O'Connor said.

No, they said "Please admit her. I'll vouch for her."

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"In 2008, Ald. Joe Moore, 49th, asked Duncan's office to reconsider an admissions case involving the relative of one of President Barack Obama's campaign advisers."

Which one? Names, please.

"The student's application to a prestigious public prep school was rejected, and the family said it was because he had missed too much school after falling ill with mononucleosis.

"CPS previously factored attendance into students' application score, but stopped doing so this year.

"The student's family did not live in 49th Ward, but the alderman said their families are old friends."

So instead of going to the alderman in their ward, the family went to the alderman who is an old friend. Get it?

"He did the responsible thing and stayed home as his doctor ordered," Moore said. "If he hadn't been sick he would have been admitted without a problem."

According to Joe Moore, member of the CPS ad hoc admissions panel.

"The student was admitted after Moore said he made three or four calls to Duncan's office."

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"Ald. Tom Tunney, 44th, said that in 2008 he tried unsuccessfully to help the doorman of a condominium building in his ward get his daughter into Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy.

"The man, who does not live in the 44th Ward, was one of Tunney's employees in the early 1980s."

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Sitting alderman who refused to comment: Burke.

Convicted ex-alderman who refused to comment: Carothers.

Lists He'll Never Write
"But just because I can't publish these infantile lists, it doesn't mean that they don't exist," our very own Drew Adamek writes.

Ofman's Dis & Dat
Oney Guillen tweets, Milton Bradley raps, and Cristobel Huet sucks.

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Chicago Soul

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Be somebody.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:49 AM | Permalink

Ofman: Dis and Dat, Dem and Dose

Oney Guillen is still tweeting even if his 15 minutes of fame ended about five days ago.

* * *

And after watching Cristobal Huet let everything in goal at Columbus except one of Oney's tweets, I believe you better get used to saying Antti Niemi . . . and often.

* * *

Only three goalies have ever won a Stanley Cup as a rookie and two of them (Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy) are Hall of Famers. I can't say it won't happen again, I just don't think it'll be this June.

* * *

At least the NHL passed a tougher rule against headhunters. But it refused to shrink the net anytime Huet plays.

* * *

This is either a sign of the Cubs apocalypse or someone needs new furniture: Derrek Lee hurt his back when the chair he was eating in collapsed. I could understand this if it was Carlos Silva, but Lee?

* * *

The Sun Times's John Jackson believes Vinny Del Negro has earned the right to return as Bulls coach next year. I'm taking bets as to how many minutes after the season ends Del Negro is told to take his story walking. Glad TNT was at the UC to witness the game that will keep Del Negro here for another year.

* * *

It's too bad Jermaine Dye has yet to sign with a team. He is one of the classiest players I've ever met but he overplayed his hand by not wanting a job as a part-time player. There's still time, but not much.

* * *

Rumors Bob Howland might leave UCLA for De Paul were greatly exaggerated. It's John Wooden, not Howland who is interested in DePaul, but only from a distance of about 2,000 miles.

* * *

Butler? Why not? Maybe Northern Iowa finds two left slippers and keeps dancing.

* * *

Lovie Smith is certainly stubborn. He says Devin Hester's role as a wide receiver won't be reduced. I thought Mike Martz was running the offense. Maybe the head coach should stick to defense. Then again, Lovie also said he thinks Julius Peppers can play both right and left defensive end. I really believe he thinks he can play both positions at the same time. And safety!

* * *

April 5th will be one heck of a sports day. It's Opening Day in baseball and that night, the NCAA Championship game. How convenient of Tiger Woods to schedule his Master's press conference on the very same day. And I thought Ari Fleischer resigned as part of Tiger's team. There's got to be a hidden mistress in this story. I'll just wait for my copy of the New York Post.

* * *

Had enough of Milton Bradley? I though I had until the martyr said this:

"If I was a musician, I'd be Kanye West. If I was in the NBA, I'd be Ron Artest."

If Bradley was in the NHL, I would rescind the head-shot rule for just one shift.

* * *

I think Bradley and Oney Guillen should tweet each other for 10 straight hours.

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George Ofman is with WGN radio. He also blogs for ChicagoNow under the banner That's All She Wrote.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:44 AM | Permalink

Lists I'll Never Write

Arne Duncan's Clout List got me thinking: Is there a list that I wouldn't be dumb enough or brave enough to write? The answer is maybe not, but I decided to make a list to find out.

Some lists that I can't write are obvious; unfortunately for the juvenile part of my brain, the Beachwood has editorial standards. There's no letting loose with the truly offensive and dumbass lists that rattle around my brain. You'll never get a bathroom-related list out of me; there won't be any overtly sexual lists either. And since I am fat, Hispanic and emotionally challenged with a mixed-race family tree, racism, fat-ism, mental health-ism and sexism are out too.

And good thing too; I am happily married, have a professional facade to maintain and, besides, most of the dumb shit I come up with isn't worth the time it takes to think up. It's basic and offensive, and I am embarrassed that it takes up space in my enormous head.

But just because I can't publish these infantile lists, it doesn't mean that they don't exist.

Here, then, are the lists that I can never write:

1. Why Lesbians Love PT Cruisers.

I live next door to Smith College; I would need to enter protective custody to get out of town if I revealed the secrets of the Lesbian Code. In fact, my lesbian best friend just told me I've already said too much and she's sending her girls over.

2. People I've Done Illegal Favors For.

Really, who's so stupid to create evidence against themselves? I've done some really dumb, reckless, asinine, backwards shit in my life, but I would never, ever write it down. (Seriously, this can go on all day.)

3. The Strangest Things I've Covered in Giardiniera.

My mom reads these so this one is out. And I don't want to see that list and risk reigniting the burning sensation.

4. Places I've Peed - WTF?

The sad part is that some day, on a long flight, I will try to write this list.

5. Weiner Nicknames.

I started the list with "Captain Beefheart" but my wife took one look and suggested "Runt and Stumpy," so I gave up. I don't need the grief.

6. Girls That I Would . . .

My wife reads these; well, actually she doesn't but, she knows people who do.

7. Emotional Scar Tissue I Am Too Scared To Confront.

I'll stick with the smart-ass stuff and the dick jokes, and leave the emotional healing to the suckers.

8. Diseases I've Faked To Get Sympathy.

Somewhere, there is a kind-hearted woman who held a fundraiser for my Lympathic Filariasis who is really, really pissed at me.

9. T-Shirts I've Stolen From My Brother.

This list is impossible because I have never, ever, not once stolen one of his t-shirts, no matter how many have his name on them at my house.

10. Rock Concerts I Did Not Attend As a Teenager.

My parents didn't let me go to a lot of concerts; as an epic underachiever, my grades kept me home while my buddies rocked out. So I did the next best thing: I lied about being there. As an adult, without any drugs in my system, it had to have been pretty obvious I wasn't there and in hindsight it was a stupid thing to do. Problem is, I told those lies so often that now I can't remember which shows I went to and which ones I didn't.

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Comments welcome.

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Other Lists By Drew Adamek:
* Today's Syllabus
* Shit My Dad Says
* Work Weirdos
* Things I Miss About Chicago
* 20 Albums I Wish I Had Never Bought
* Their Chicago
* Cities I've Slept In
* My Favorite 1980s Chicago Radio Memories
* Why Milwaukee Rules
* Why I'm Glad I Don't Live In D.C. Anymore
* The Beer Goggle Recordings
* A List Of Reader Comments To Drew's Lists
* Life's Little Victories
* The Worst Jobs I've Ever Had
* Jobs For The Zombie Apocalypse
* Lemme Get A Bite Of That

Plus:
* Fan Note: Me & Metallica

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:25 AM | Permalink

March 25, 2010

The [Thursday] Papers

The CPS clout list scandal just keeps giving. Hey, I go where the material takes me.

"A VIP list maintained by Chicago Public Schools included admissions requests by Patrick Daley Thompson, Mayor Richard Daley's nephew, on behalf of a longtime supporter of the family's political organization, the Tribune has confirmed."

And the familiar narrative arc of every Chicago Way episode once again takes shape. Same names, different scandal.

"On Tuesday, Mayor Richard Daley denied any role in the VIP lists, which were kept by orders of then-schools chief Arne Duncan, who is now U.S. education secretary. However, the Tribune has verified six instances in which the mayor's staff or his nephew intervened for students."

I bet the mayor had no idea what his staff members or nephew were up to. Again. Time for another one of those talks, Mr. Mayor!

"Daley spokeswoman Jacqueline Heard said Wednesday the mayor never would have denied involvement if he knew about the lobbying efforts."

Yup!

Of course, Daley might not have known the specifics, but he's certainly offered the broadest possible wink-and-nod; it's not as if he's thundered in no uncertain terms that this sort of thing ought not go on in his administration.

In fact, Daley continues to defend the CPS clout list. So why would he have to deny undue influence if he doesn't believe anything wrong was going on?

"Do you really believe the mayor would say that unequivocally if he didn't believe it was true?" said Heard.

Why should today be different than any other day, Jackie?

"That leads you to believe that the mayor didn't have knowledge that any of these people were making calls."

But again: There wouldn't have been anything wrong with it if he did, right? I mean, if he doesn't think anything was wrong with the lobbying, what would have been wrong for him to know about it?

"Logs indicate Thompson contacted then-CPS schools chief Duncan in April 2008 in the hopes of securing two spots at Whitney Young Magnet High School for the daughters of a ward loyalist. The girls' father, a high-ranking city supervisor, has donated about $2,500 to the Daley family's 11th Ward Democratic Organization in the past decade."

So the mayor's nephew called the CEO of the public schools to get two daughters of a city supervisor and longtime family political friend into a highly selective school that they apparently were unable to get into on their own. Nothing wrong with that!

"The father's name also appears on another once-secret government log. He was listed as the sponsor of three people who sought city jobs for their political work, according to a clout list once kept in the mayor's office that was entered into evidence during the 2006 federal trial of Daley's former patronage chief, Robert Sorich."

Hey, if a father can't get jobs for illegal patronage workers who are just like sons to him, who can he get jobs for?

"The man has worked as a voter registrar in the ward and lives on the same street as Thompson, who now owns the Bridgeport bungalow where his grandfather, Mayor Richard J. Daley, once lived."

Haven't we seen this movie before?

"Heard denied Thompson intervened because he wanted to reward an 11th Ward foot soldier, and noted the children were not accepted into their top choice."

Even with a little juice behind them the kids' parents were shooting way too high.

"It had nothing to do with the political connections," she said. "It was because he was a longtime friend."

A) And the difference is?

B) A longtime friend who happened to be a city supervisor, ward organization donor, and voter registrar.

"The logs obtained by the Tribune indicate the students were denied a place at Whitney Young because their scores were too low. Instead they were enrolled at Lincoln Park High School, which is not a selective-enrollment school but has several highly regarded magnet programs."

CloutRoulette.

"Lincoln Park principal Bessie Karvelas said she was never pressured by the district's central office to accept anyone. On the log, Lincoln Park often serves as a landing spot for politically connected children who have been rejected by selective-enrollment schools."

Lincoln Park High - dumping ground to the stars.

"Nobody said, 'I want you to take this student,'" she said.

A) They just kind of stared at me.

B) Nobody told me I had to take the students whose names were never forwarded to me through connections either.

"Thompson did not return calls seeking comment."

He was mortified that his relative lack of clout would be exposed in public. How could he show his face at cocktail parties again? Lincoln Park High School?! Patrick!

"The names of at least two other zoning lawyers at Thompson's firm, DLA Piper, appear on the list, as well.

"In 2006, one lawyer requested a child's admission to a program that was full. The student was later placed into a coveted magnet school after CPS officials encouraged the Piper attorney to write a letter to the principal, according to the logs. The attorney has worked on several major civic endeavors in Chicago and also represented the Chicago Cubs when they were owned by Tribune Co., which owns the Chicago Tribune.

"Two years later, Daley education aide Tawa Jogunosimi made a request on behalf of another Piper attorney who was seeking a child's admission to Augustus H. Burley School, a magnet elementary that focuses on writing and literature. The student was No. 5 on the wait list at the time and was later accepted."

Being a Daley education aide certainly gave no advantage to the Piper attorney's kid. It was just constituent service!

"Jogunosimi also made requests on behalf of a new city hire, according to the 2008 list. The employee's two children were placed in highly desirable schools."

New strategy for longtime residents: move away and then apply for a city job.

"The lists also indicate that in 2008, John Dunn, then Daley's chief lobbyist, requested help for the child of one of his employees."

It just gets better, folks. Wait for it . . .

"The student wanted to attend either Lane Technical High School or Prosser Career Academy. The student didn't get into either school. According to the log, the Prosser principal was contacted and said the school already was '60 students over' and that an alderman already had five students on the waiting list.

An alderman already had five students on the waiting list!

"He would love to help but there is not much he can do," according to the log.

Priceless.

"Officials highlighted Dunn's case as an example of how the system did not exert undue influence or help politically connected people land students at top schools."

See, sometimes an alderman has more clout than one of the mayor's guys!

"For every person who has the affiliations with City Hall who is on the list, I can name you 10 with deeper affiliations who are not," Heard said.

Yes. And every one of them has kids who are already grown!

*

Oh, I'm not done yet folks.

From the New York Times:

"A spokesman for the Department of Education said Tuesday that the log was a record of those who asked for help, and that neither Mr. Duncan nor the aide who maintained the list, David Pickens, ever pressured principals to accept a child. Rather, he said, the creation of the list was an effort to reduce pressure on principals."

Because in Chicago, the way to reduce pressure on those asked to make political considerations is to make a list of political sponsors and their requests, not to tell the political sponsors to take a flying leap.

"'Arne Duncan asked David Pickens to respond to all of these requests, some of which came from him, some from lots of other people, as a way to try to manage a process that was putting a lot of pressure on principals,' said Peter Cunningham, who handled communications for Mr. Duncan in Chicago and is now assistant secretary of the Department of Education."

So there was pressure being put on principals. Duncan was just trying to, you know, ease the pressure.

"This was an attempt to buffer principals from all the outside pressure, to get our arms around something that was burdensome to them," Cunningham said. "It was always up to the principal to make the decision. Arne never ever picked up the phone."

Yes. Read on.

"The log noted 'AD' as the person requesting help for 10 students, and as a co-requester about 40 times, according to The Tribune. Mr. Duncan's mother and wife also appeared to have requested help for students."

But Arne never picked up the phone! He just texted.

"The fact that his name might be next to some of these names doesn't mean he was trying to get the kid in a school," Mr. Cunningham said. "He was only asking after someone said, 'Hi, Arne, is there any way to get into this school?'"

So . . . someone asks Duncan if he can help slide a kid into a school. Instead of Duncan saying, you know, it would be inappropriate for me to intervene, Duncan says he'll put in a request with his initials on it - but he wasn't trying to get the kid into the school! He was just asking. You know. Is there any way.

"Mr. Cunningham said he did not believe principals would have felt any special pressure because Mr. Duncan was the source of the inquiry."

One . . . two . . . three . . . I was just trying to see how long you could go without breaking into a belly laugh. If this is the sort of thing these people actually believe, they have no business running the Department of Education. In fact, they have no business holding high school diplomas.

"We were always very clear with them that it was up to the principal to make the decision," he said.

Very clear. Like when Col. Jessep ordered the Code Red.

"Some of those reported to be on the list confirmed Mr. Cunningham's assessment. Steve Brown, a spokesman for Representative Michael J. Madigan, the speaker of the State House and chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party, acknowledged that Mr. Madigan had, indeed, 'from time to time gotten requests from constituents and passed them along.'

"From there, Mr. Brown said, it was entirely up to school officials. 'They make the decision,' he said. 'There's absolutely nothing untoward.'"

Principals getting queries from Arne Duncan's office originating from Michael Madigan should have known that the decision was entirely up to them!

Of course, if the decision was entirely up to them, why did Madigan and Duncan pass along the names?

"[Brown] said he was unaware of precisely how many such requests Mr. Madigan might have made, or whether the students had been let into the schools they wanted."

Huh. You'd think if it was constituent service they'd want to know if they had, um, served their constituents.

"Among those on the list was former Senator Carol Moseley Braun. A spokesman for Ms. Braun said she had no comment."

Why comment if you've done nothing wrong?

"Mr. Duncan created a formal appeals process in 2008, and when he left to join the Obama administration, his successor, Ron Huberman, created a system to stop the gaming of the system."

So the system was being gamed. According to Duncan's successor.

The truth, at last.

*

See also these dissections of the dissembling this week:

- The [Tuesday] Papers: "Rather than fix a process that even the city's elite couldn't figure out, Duncan kept a list."

- The [Wednesday] Papers: "Let's keep the list secret so only those in-the-know can get their names on it. Maybe put velvet ropes around it."

St. Patty's Pizza
"Once she began vomiting she couldn't stop so they called an ambulance because alcohol poisoning was suspected. Oh, did I mentioned she was very pregnant as well?"

- Our very own Patty Hunter in the latest installment of At Your Service

Lite Guv Brackets
Two of the contestants send comments to the Beachwood.

Beachwood Brackets
Updated for the Sweet 16.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: At your service.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:41 AM | Permalink

At Your Service: St. Patty's Pizza

I found out recently I have an intolerance to gluten. You know, the protein found in wheat, barley and rye. I work at a restaurant that serves food I can no longer consume without health consequences. Well, there's always the salads, but that's reserved only for the desperate days. It is amusing to work in a place that is technically hazardous to my health; it makes me feel a bit like a firefighter or divorce lawyer.

We recently had our Christmas party at work. A little late, yes, but it was a kind gesture nonetheless that the general manager found it in the goodness of his heart to give us a party at another location we own and serve food none of us liked. The upside? Bottomless margaritas. Every where we looked, there were pitchers of them and they were never empty. We knew they really wanted to get us drunk when we realized they served nothing else to drink; not even water. Thirsty? Have a margarita. Need to wash down those tasteless appetizers? Have a margarita. Half of the staff blacked out. I was part of the other half and have more than 50 pictures that could serve as sweet blackmail. Ah, the joys of digital cameras and staying just sober enough to remember to document everything. I almost feel bad for the girl who had to watch her boyfriend's toes get sucked.

Nah, no I don't.

We made it through St. Patrick's Day weekend with relatively few problems. Truth be told, I was a little disappointed. I came into work that day with my tough-girl face on and excited about the prospect of getting to deny drunk assholes the right to more alcohol. However, it was only my last table that had anyone drunk enough to consider not serving. It was only one guy at the table and he was being quiet in his stupor so I was nice and let him order a beer. He spent most of the time with his head down on the table.

We had less business than anticipated, too. What a shame, because we actually purchased enough Guinness this time so we wouldn't have to tell people by noon that we ran out. And I didn't get a chance to push some drunk girl out of my way because she wouldn't move when I was trying to walk by with a pizza. (That ended with her spilling the beer on herself and going, "What the fuck is wrong with you?") All in all, a little disappointing for a day that Americans have distorted and made into their own personal drinking holiday.

The kind of action I was expecting came the weekend after St. Patrick's Day. It was dinnertime and the restaurant was fairly crowded. While in the back putting in an order, a co-worker asked me why there was an ambulance and fire truck outside of our restaurant. This is not the first time I've witnessed such a scene; one time someone was having trouble breathing, another time a woman passed out in the bathroom and hit her head and another time a gentleman at my table informed me his left side was going numb. About 30 minutes later, the story came together. A couple walked in to pick up a pizza to go. The female was apparently stumbling drunk and went to the bathroom. Once she began vomiting she couldn't stop so they called an ambulance because alcohol poisoning was suspected. Oh, did I mentioned she was very pregnant as well?

I'm coming up on my four-year anniversary at the restaurant. I have mixed feelings about it. I've become very close with many of my co-workers and have come to really see that place as a dysfunctional second home. The smell of pizza and burned chicken wings has become familiar and almost comforting. I know that no matter what else is going on in my life, there will be hungry tourists waiting to tip me 10 percent. And I now have a second job I may in fact hate more than the pizzeria.

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The pseudononymous Patty Hunter brings you tales from the front lines of serverdom every week. She welcomes your comments. Catch up with the rest of this series and its companions in our Life At Work archive.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:21 AM | Permalink

March 24, 2010

The [Wednesday] Papers

"Mayor Richard Daley denied Tuesday that his office had any role in an underground process to lobby on behalf of students applying to the city's best public schools, even though secret logs indicate several admissions requests came from his administration," the Tribune reports.

"No role, in the sense that, no role," Daley told reports.

Excuse me, I speak Daley. Allow me to translate:

"No role in the sense that I want the headlines to all say 'Daley had no role,' but if you mean in the sense of actually having a role, of course. You think I didn't know all these years that the politically connected and the city's elite could clout their kids into our best schools? That's what I built those schools for! Parents knew; rumors abounded for years. So, yes, I had a role. We did it to keep certain kinds of parents happy for the good of the city, even if we had to stiff everyone else. But in the sense of what you're going to write in tomorrow's papers, no, I had no 'role,' so to speak."

*

"The nearly 40 pages of logs show requests from 25 aldermen, House Speaker Michael Madigan and his daughter, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Applications that district officials say were backed by Duncan's wife, mother and a personal trainer at a downtown athletic club where he played basketball appear, as well."

Duncan's wife, mother and a personal trainer at a downtown athletic club where he played basketball?

Todd Stroger must be laughing his ass of right now. Or fuming.

*

"There also were references to a Daley education aide making requests, including a 2008 entry seeking admission for the daughter of a prominent zoning attorney to Augustus H. Burley School, a magnet elementary that focuses on writing and literature. The student was No. 5 on the wait list at the time and it's unclear if she was admitted, according to the log.

"The student's father works at DLA Piper, the powerful law firm where Daley's nephew is a partner.

"A firm spokesman declined comment on the admissions request.

"'It's a private matter involving a family member,' spokesman Jason Costa said."

Public schools admissions are a private matter. How very Chicago, Mr. Costa.

*

"The logs also indicate that about six weeks before the Burley request the same Daley education aide made inquiries on behalf of a recent city hire.

"A lawyer for the employee said his client made acceptance into quality schools a condition of his family's relocation from another city and his relatives were placed in a highly regarded school."

The employee was also given a contract to sell tchotkes at Navy Pier and a slice of an O'Hare bond deal. You know, typical Welcome Wagon stuff.

*

"School officials have acknowledged that the lists were kept secret to prevent the central office from being inundated with appeals. The vast majority of parents who followed the system's school application process never knew they could ask Duncan's office for special consideration."

Let's keep the list secret so only those in-the-know can get their names on it. Maybe put velvet ropes around it.

*

"Though he defended Duncan's use of the logs, Daley said the appeals process should not have been kept secret."

So Daley is both for and against the list.

*

"That's the problem," Daley said. "How do you (publicize it)? That's what they have to work on."

Perhaps appoint a commission to study whether acknowledging the existence of the list on application forms would work.

*

"Mayor Daley insisted Tuesday that there was nothing wrong with Duncan's office maintaining such a log because 'no favoritism' resulted from it," the Sun-Times reports.

So, um, those who got their names on the list didn't gain an advantage over those who didn't know the list existed?

*

"But Daley acknowledged that the existence of a secret process in a city where clout reigns supreme could lead some to conclude the admissions process wasn't on the up and up."

So it's the perception of the list that's the problem, not the list itself.

*

"People are calling," Daley said. "What do you do, just say, 'No?' Arne Duncan said you have to say something."

Um, maybe "No, thank you?"

*

Apparently not a single reporter asked Daley why Duncan's office couldn't have just said No.

*

"Duncan has not been accused of any wrongdoing," the Sun-Times claims.

Well, if you mean formally charged, then no. But "accused?" Read your own lead. Certainly "investigated:"

"U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has been interviewed by the Chicago Public Schools' inspector general as part of an investigation into how kids won admission to the city's most competitive public high schools while Duncan ran the system here, the Chicago Sun-Times learned Tuesday.

"Duncan's name surfaced about 10 times on a 2008 log, now in possession of federal investigators, that contained the names of elected officials and others who interceded on behalf of students trying to win admission to the system's elite schools, sources told the Sun-Times."

*

"Current top Duncan aide Peter Cunningham also confirmed that Duncan talked to the inspector general, but he insisted by e-mail that Duncan 'did not lobby or intercede for anyone.'"

He just created the list and had his initials put by some students' names.

*

Cunningham's e-mail account did not respond to follow-up questions.

*

"In an effort to be responsive, we would log these calls, get the information and forward it to principals, but it was entirely a principal's discretion to respond to the requests," Cunningham said.

And if a principal felt pressured because the central office forwarded them admissions requests, some with the initials "AD" attached to them, well, that's their problem.

*

"In 2008, [former Duncan top aide David] Pickens said, Duncan himself was listed on the log but 'I would say of Arne's requests, there were maybe one or two Yeses. He was very frequently turned down . . . He rarely got kids in."

But I thought he never interceded?

*

"When first elected in 1989, Daley eagerly reached out to those in the city's predominantly white professional class," John Kass writes. "They were edgy and many were considering leaving Chicago.

"In response, the mayor built top magnet and college prep high schools, pushing through work-rule changes to attract the best teachers. He produced the schools that nervous white-collar voters demanded.

"Members of the professional class wanted city life. But they wanted their children educated. They became clients of Daley's first tier.

"The second tier pretty much remained the same, a tier mostly for minorities and the poor."

The city's elitist sell-out liberals are too busy gaming the Daley system for their own rewards to squawk. They may vote for "change" in presidential elections, but they never upset the apple cart here at home.

"Daley's school system is a brilliant political enterprise. Except for the first-tier minority, the educational product is a failure. But that's not what's vitally important to the Illinois political class. What's important are votes. The bureaucracy gets the budget and the jobs. The elites get top prep schools."

And then blame the masses for not voting, as if choosing between two hacks constitutes democracy.

"If any group understands how bureaucracy can sting, it is the city's professional class. They know that in Chicago, there's no percentage in shouting the emperor has no clothes. So they behave."

It's really the new Chicago Way, one that complements pinstripe patronage in delivering more for the professional class instead of the working class, which really makes it that much more noxious.

Illinois Pols Slather On The Sunscreen
FOIA reform lasts three months.

Spring Sex Sounds
And other aural delights from a Chicago apartment building.

Ball Games
Which pre-season list includes Rich Harden but not Carlos Zambrano?

Snoop and The Nuge . . .
. . . join Jay-Z, Chris Brown, John Hiatt, Billy Ocean and Zebra in our latest installment of Trivial Pursuit: Music Choice Edition.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Snoopy style.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:09 AM | Permalink

Illinois Pols Slather On Sunscreen

Chicago Justice Project blasts General Assembly efforts to roll back public access laws

The Chicago Justice Project is criticizing the Illinois General Assembly for what it calls "attempts to send the Illinois Freedom of Information Act back into the Dark Ages."

"Our legislators have moved quickly and quietly to make sure that the more open laws governing public access to government records are closed down before we citizens can ever get a chance to use them," CJP Executive Director Tracy Siska said. "My question is: Who is looking out for the citizens of Illinois, whose right to learn about how their government is serving them is being restricted in an effort to cater to special interests?"

Several pieces of legislation will unfairly limit access to information, CJP says. Among them:

* House Bill 5069, which removes a mandate that public bodies release data in a digital format if the agency maintains the data digitally;

* Four bills (HB 5154, HB 6119, SB 2978, and SB 3040) that will limit how much information is available from local police departments; and

* Senate Bill 315/Public Act 96-0861, which prevents parents from accessing performance
evaluations of teachers, principals and superintendents.

"Public policy should empower parents and communities with access to the information they need to be engaged citizens," said Siska. "What the General Assembly has done is take an incredible step backward. They have instituted 19th Century Law in a Government 2.0 Era."

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"State legislatures play a crucial role in determining the public's ability to access records and data produced by their local government," Siska said in a statement posted to CJP's website.

"Unfortunately, the Illinois General Assembly has wasted no time in introducing and passing legislation to rollback progressive advancements in the recently updated Illinois Freedom of Information Act that went into effect on January 1st. Out from under the media spotlight of the Blagojevich impeachment, our legislators have moved quickly and quietly to make sure that the more open laws governing public access to government records are closed down before we citizens can ever get a chance to use them.

"My question is: who is looking out for the citizens of Illinois who's right to learn about how their government is serving them is being restricted in an effort to cater to special interests?

"Civic participation is required for a democracy to be strong. Restricted access only suppresses civic participation and lays the foundation for distrust of public institutions. Without citizen access to information, state legislatures can operate without the knowledge or consent of community residents. In the early weeks of 2010, the Illinois General Assembly did just this by moving to reduce the scope of Illinois' public access law without ever informing their constituents. Throughout Illinois citizens need local, county, and state agencies to use public data for the public interest. This can only be done if state legislators prioritize the needs of their constituents to access their government ahead of the wishes of special interests."

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Editor's Note: For a heroic assemblage of legislative details and an explanation of the issues at hand, including proposed secret policing, please see CJP's "Issue Brief: General Assembly Attempts Rollback of Public Access Law."

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The Chicago Justice Project (CJP) is an independent organization with the core mission of increasing public access to justice-related information, based on the guiding principle that access to accurate information is the foundation of any meaningful reform to the criminal justice system. Funded in part by The Ford Foundation, CJP projects and programs are designed to foster greater transparency and accountability.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:50 AM | Permalink

Spring Song

A guitarist lives in my building. He either has recently moved in or built the guts to perform live. Whichever way it is he now sings and strums his guitar in the foyer. Weeks ago I walked by with my headphones and pretended not to notice. Found his music to be plenty good to my ears - though I am no music critic. Must be my regular-fit jeans as well as my regular haircuts.

Again, that was some time ago. It was cold and unpleasant, like every winter in Chicago, and an upbeat tune was a welcome distraction from the dark winter. Now the sun is staying out past four and the guitarist is not as big a deal. With the sun out spirits are generally higher than without. Basically, this person competes with the sun for my gratitude. The sun has been around a lot longer and provides heat, this guy gives me two minutes of Classical Gas as I wait for the elevator. Oddly enough, he is unfazed by my mind's created competition. He is perfectly content playing his guitar and welcoming tenants home from work.

I am fortunate enough to live in an apartment building shaped like a giant horseshoe. I live in apartment 5B (same as Cosmo Kramer) and my view is of 5J or 5K. Never known which because I don't roam that side of the mid-rise. Horseshoe-shaped buildings are terrific conductors for echoes. With my windows open I hear most of everything the neighborhood has to offer: street chatter, general day-drinking debauchery, and sometimes Sunday night karaoke. It is always pleasant to listen to the chirping birds before the Monday morning garbage trucks arrive to thrash trash containers for a half hour.

With the cool breeze flowing through my windows come all the city sounds. A year or so back came an opera singer, or some type of singer, singing octaves. Practice began early mornings. Getting ready for an exhilarating day of work was greeted with these mellifluous octaves. It made mornings a bit more bearable, especially on a Monday, after the trucks left. Looking back, she was my favorite of random neighbors I have heard but never met; oddly enough there are a few of them. I suppose she sang that Siren song.

Some of the other audible-but-not-visible neighbors bring the annual arrival of spring sex sounds. The windows have opened and the exhibitionists can finally display their talents after long months of enclosure. On the couch I will hear the faint sounds of moaning over whatever it is I'm watching. I mute and listen closely. Yes, it's sex. I laugh a little and, with the television muted, go back to watching and waiting for them to finish up. When the tryst is finished the neighbors with windows open offer encouragements, sometimes light mocking, or applause. I'll clap if I think they deserve it. I assume the exhibitionists appreciate the critique, given that they leave their windows open. The echoing sounds of sex don't bother me in the slightest, but I imagine there is someone in this apartment building pretty broken up about it. Sitting there, in loose-fitting sweats, crying into a pint of Ben and Jerry's and watching Lifetime movies wondering if they'll ever find that special person to share exhibitionist sex with.

Seems this year has brought me more music being gifted with a guitarist. He's in the foyer more often and now performs early evening shows with his windows open from his apartment. At first I thought this is really nice. A nice quiet and clear night with some faint guitar playing backup to the sound of the city outside. Makes me feel urban, a real city dweller. I lose myself in thought, about writers writing and painters painting in the city. A passer-by on an evening walk must find the gentle tones of the guitar so soothing. Seemingly coming from nowhere the notes fall down from the sky above. Hearing this while strolling by would be great, but I get this every night. More Classical Gas and Bob Dylan covers coming through the windows with nightly regularity is already beginning to get old. Open up the catalog, fella.

This is the problem with artists. They are perfectionists. Classical Gas until it's mastered and then onto something else; in this case it must be Bob Dylan. Artists for the most part are great. Could live without the attitude from some of them, though.

I have a musical artist in the building and he plays every day for all to hear. If Renoir painted for me every day I would tire of his pictures. Just as Eric Clapton playing for me every day would get old after a while. My neighbor is neither a Renoir or a Clapton, he's just some guy trying to play some music. I like that.

I count myself lucky. At least my neighbor is into guitars and not turntables and dance music or even worse: keyboards and bullhorns. I can mute the city with the windows closed if need be. For the time being, I'll leave the music down, the windows open and the sounds of the city all over.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:10 AM | Permalink

Fantasy Fix: King James & Co.

The basketball season is as good as over, so let's hand out a few awards.

I fully intended to give my fantasy MVP award to someone other than SF LeBron James, specifically SG/SF Kevin Durant, though I thought even SF Carmelo Anthony and PF Dirk Nowitzki made their own good cases for much of the season. Durant, the only player other than James to score more than 2,000 points thus far (2,007 to LeBron's 2,048 through Monday), is ever so close in all categories and a far better free-throw shooter, but in a game that's all numbers, you've got to go with King James.

Incidentally, I was at the old ball gym on Madison last Friday night when James and the Cavaliers came to town, and the king looked pretty much like an average citizen for most of the first half as the depleted Bulls stayed close. He turned the ball over three times in a short stretch and took a handful of awkward shots. Yet, in the second half and particularly in the fourth quarter, he suddenly couldn't miss, whether shooting, rebounding or passing. He finished with 29 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. During free throws by other players, he gabbed with the Cavs' bench or made eye contact with the crowd, and in most cases when the ball was in play, hung back on defense looking a bit disinterested until you realized he was in exactly the right place for a jump shot rebound. Overall, it seemed like he could have scored 50 and logged another triple-double if he felt the need.

So, LeBron James is my MVP. Better luck to Durant next year; he still played himself into a top three pick in the next fantasy draft. Here's the rest:

Defensive Player of the Year: Josh Smith, SF/PF. On the strength of blocks (140 through Monday) and steals (119) and a decent number of rebounds (604), I'll go with Smith over C Dwight Howard or the surprisingly resilient C Andrew Bogut.

Rookie of the Year: Tyreke Evans, PG/SG. Very close call with Stephen Curry and Brandon Jennings really having posted the better and more memorable single game performances and streaks, but Evans has played with incredible consistency every week, averaging 20.3 points per game, 5.2 rebounds per game and 5.6 assists.

Most Surprising Fantasy Player: David Lee, PF/C. He was already good coming into this year, but 20.2 PPG, 11.8 RPG and a .552 field goal success rate - the latter stat better than anyone in the top 20, including LeBron James - turned Lee from a borderline top 50 player back in October into a top five player at the end of this season.

Most Disappointing Fantasy Player: Jose Calderon, PG. Drafted around the end of the second round or beginning of the third round in most leagues, Calderon looks a long way from being the up-and-comer who looked as good as PG heroes Steve Nash and Deron Willams two years ago. He's averaging a full three assists per game fewer than last year, and is barely staying in double digits scoring-wise, with 10.8 PPG. He also went from a 98% free throw shooter in 68 games last year to 80% currently. Explain that drop.

That's it for our fantasy basketball analysis this season. If you're headed into the last round or two of your league playoffs, good luck.

Fantasy Baseball
The second coming of Nolan Ryan didn't last long: 100 mph-plus thrower Stephen Strasburg has already been sent to the minors by the Washington Nationals. Of course, it won't be long before he's back up in the bigs, but his delayed arrival on fantasy stat sheets no doubt left a few owners shaking their heads for drafting him a bit too early.

Drafting starters is tough because the widely-held belief is that head-to-head fantasy leagues are won on the mound by teams with huge pitching staffs that they can keep on constant rotation. Yet, most years feature few starters worth a top 40 pick. This year is indeed different, as noted some weeks ago, but in 10-team leagues, you can still count on rounds four and five being key for recruiting starting pitchers.

Here's a brief look at a few starting pitchers ranked outside the top 40 who might be worth watching:

Mid-rounders with the best chance to win 20 games (although 19 is the new 20 in today's MLB):

Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee: Surprised? Though he had control problems at times last year, he can dominate a game. This year, he'll have a legendary closer (Trevor Hoffman) backing him up for a full season and a lineup that mixes awesome power, blinding speed and good contact.

Adam Wainwright, St. Louis: Nineteen wins last year and still underrated, you can get him in the middle rounds of almost any league.

Jon Lester, Boston: Won 15 games last year, has great control and a powerful lineup giving him an edge.

Mid-rounders with the best chance for 225 strikeouts (no, really):

Javier Vazquez, Yankees: He's always among the league leaders, and though White Sox fans know he can buckle under pressure, the World Champs will give him a push.

Ubaldo Jimenez, Colorado: Kicked it into high gear with the rest of the Rockies after a managerial change last season. This year, I predict18 wins, 230 strikeouts and a 3.10 ERA, along with a lot of Cy Young votes.

Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers: Control can be a problem, but 185 strikeouts in 171 innings last year makes 225 look easy if reaches 200 or so innings.

And while we're visiting the mound, we should probably take a look at relief pitchers. The top names in this category tend to get shuffled every year, and success is so hard to predict. I like to look beyond the top names for late-round value:

Late-rounder RPs with the best chance for 30 saves:

Mike Gonzalez, Baltimore: He of the funky motion, Gonzalez will be the Orioles' closer from Opening Day and should easily pass 30 saves.

Matt Lindstrom, Houston: He was a chic pick last year with Florida, but injury and a couple blown assignments early on pushed him out of the job. This year, he'll play for a middling team, but assuming he's healthy, he should make the most of his chances.

Chris Perez, Cleveland: A risky call here for another guy with a so-so team, but Perez, once touted as the possible closer in St. Louis, has been having a good spring. Kerry Wood will be disabled (surprise!) for the start of the season, and I think a strong start by Perez allows him to keep the closer job.

Expert Wire
* Roto Arcade examines the battle to become the Yankees' fifth starter. It looks like the job is going to Phil Hughes, so fantasy owners who really want him should think a couple rounds earlier than planned.

* Forbes goes deep in ranking starting pitchers, all the way to Jonathan Sanchez at No. 50. Interesting that former Cub Rich Harden makes the list but Carlos Zambrano doesn't.

* USA Today has a story on "Super-U" (for utility player) Ben Zobrist. He made my top 40 partly on versatility, but more on his power, solid batting average and base-stealing ability. Also, turns out baseball's next potential Super-U - Sean Rodriguez (Can we call him "S-Rod" yet?) - also plays in Tampa.

* Bleacher Report has a report on "The Sub-2.50 ERA Curse." If it holds true, Tim Lincecum, Zack Greinke, Felix Hernandez and Chris Carpenter won't be as good this year as last year. I'll buy this theory for the first two, but not the other two.

* SB Nation ranks the second half of the top 50 outfielders. That's where you'll find B.J. Upton, consensus first round pick in 2009 and not even among the top 25 outfielders in 2010. That's a far way to fall, and I've got to believe he'll deliver a much better season than that.

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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 12:26 AM | Permalink

March 23, 2010

The [Tuesday] Papers

Why do they write these things down?

That's the exasperated refrain I always hear from one particular friend when the latest clout list goes public.

But the answer is clear: Because there are so many public officials to satisfy - and all their friends and family - that no one except the late Mayor Richard J. Daley could keep it all in their head. These days it takes a spreadsheet.

And so it goes with Chicago's very own Education Secretary, who couldn't possibly have been expected to memorize all those requests to squeeze the kids of the connected into the city's elite (public) schools.

"While many Chicago parents took formal routes to land their children in the best schools, the well-connected also sought help through a shadowy appeals system created in recent years under former schools chief Arne Duncan," the Tribune reports.

"Whispers have long swirled that some children get spots in the city's premier schools based on whom their parents know. But a list maintained over several years in Duncan's office and obtained by the Tribune lends further evidence to those charges. Duncan is now secretary of education under President Barack Obama.

"The log is a compilation of politicians and influential business people who interceded on behalf of children during Duncan's tenure. It includes 25 aldermen, Mayor Richard Daley's office, House Speaker Michael Madigan, his daughter Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, former White House social secretary Desiree Rogers and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun."

It was Chicago's own Race to the Top.

"The list was maintained by a top Duncan aide, David Pickens, currently chief of staff to the president of the Chicago Board of Education. Pickens said he created the log at Duncan's behest to track the flood of calls pouring into district offices from parents, politicians and business leaders trying to navigate the system's mysterious and maligned application process."

Rather than fix a process that even the city's elite couldn't figure out, Duncan kept a list.

"But Pickens acknowledged the list was kept confidential. The vast majority of parents who follow the system's school application process never knew they could appeal to Duncan's office for special consideration.

"'We didn't want to advertise what we were doing because we didn't want a bunch of people calling,' Pickens said."

The last thing we wanted was a bunch of people calling. Except those who did.

"Pickens said that principals grew tired of getting calls from influential people seeking admission for a student, and that by centralizing it, he could serve as a firewall."

Or, and I'm just spitballing here, another solution could have been to tell influential people to stop calling. Or just say sorry, can't help. Or you could centralize a system with a list.

"After getting a request, he or another staffer would look up the child's academic record. If the student met their standard, they would call the principal of the desired school."

So their solution to navigating a mysterious and maligned process was to create yet another mysterious and maligned pathway. For those in-the-know.

"Pickens said the calls from his office were not directives to the principals - no one was ever told they had to accept a student."

The calls were just points of information. From the CEO of CPS. It's not like they kept a list. Er . . .

"'We never pressured principals or told them what to do or said this person needs to be considered over this person,' said Duncan spokesman Peter Cunningham."

No one ever should have felt like a call from the CEO's office about a politically connected student whose name appeared on a secret list constituted pressure in any way!

"It's just a way to manage the information," Cunningham said.

Right. A clout list.

"The initials 'AD' are listed 10 times as the sole person requesting help for a student, and as a co-requester about 40 times. Pickens said 'AD' stood for Arne Duncan, though Duncan's involvement is unclear. Duncan's mother appears as a sponsor, as does 'KD,' whom Pickens identified as Karen Duncan, Arne's wife."

But again, no pressure. Instead of using "AD" they could have just as easily used "CPS." Except they didn't.

"Many of the politicians named on Pickens' log acknowledged that they made calls on students' behalf because this is how the system works in Chicago. They weighed in on behalf of relatives, friends and campaign workers."

This is how the system works in Chicago. You know, like social promotion.

"Whenever anybody asked me - whether it was a relative, a distant relative, a next-door neighbor or the guy across the street - I would write letters," said Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th).

Realtors took to touting as a benefit to living on Burnett's block that it furnished additional educational opportunities for the children.

Burnett told the Tribune, by the way, that he has since ended the practice. Not that there was anything wrong with it. It's just that now the feds are snooping around and maybe there was something wrong with it.

"In 2008, former U.S. Sen. Braun sought help for two students, though she said Monday she does not recall placing a call to Duncan's office. Pickens said she called him, seeking help getting a student into Whitney Young Magnet High School, and he asked Principal Joyce Kenner to call the former senator back.

"Braun said she called Kenner to inquire after one child's mother told her the student's application had been 'lost in a computer glitch.' Braun said Kenner told her: 'I'll take care of it.'"

Personally.

"The child got into Whitney Young, despite a below-average admission score."

Also the result of a "computer glitch."

"This process is not pure, and everyone knows it," Braun said. "The process is a disaster, and quite frankly, I don't have a problem making a call. If the process were not as convoluted as it is, parents wouldn't be asking for help."

The Chicago Way: Game the process instead of fixing it.

"Kenner, who has testified under subpoena in the federal investigation, said the admissions problems are 'old news.'"

Old news to her, she knew about the list!

"'There is a new framework in place for principal discretion,' she said in her e-mail response. 'I think we have an opportunity to move on from this issue.'"

Her e-mail account refused to answer further questions.

"Burnett requested consideration of a student in 2008 whose test score did not get him into Whitney Young. The log suggests the principal offered the student future enrollment as a consolation and notes that Burnett 'was OK with that offer.'"

And the commission that came with it.

"Michael Madigan's office said he considered his involvement a part of constituent services."

A) Michael Madigan's office can talk?

B) Do constituent services come with laundry and a Continental breakfast?

"Lisa Madigan's spokesperson said she supported a longtime family friend."

Um, yes. That's the problem.

"Daley's office also appears on the list. The logs indicate that in 2008 a mayoral staffer made inquiries on behalf of a new out-of-town Daley hire.

"'We just offered our help, as you would for anyone who was moving from out of state with his family to work,' said Lori Healey, Daley's then chief of staff."

A) It's part of the city's Welcome Wagon program; call 311 for details

B) It's a good way to show a new city employee how things work around here

C) We like to indebt new city employees to the mayor as quickly as we can

"But there was never a commitment to get (the hire's) kids into a 'good school' or a particular school or anything of that nature."

It's not like throwing the mayor's name around could possibly impact something like that. Even though that was the point.

*

Finally, this classic:

"Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's office made a request in 2006 on behalf of a student who wanted to get into Walter Payton College Prep but the log carried this notation, 'STAY AWAY FROM THIS ONE.'"

The Lieutenant Governor Brackets
The seeds are in, and so are our picks.

Championship Chicagoetry
Our very own J.J. Tindall delivers the best thing you'll read today.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: List us.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:09 AM | Permalink

Chicagoetry: Confession To The Future

Confession to the Future

I strove for wealth and sorely failed,
I did not save a single whale.
I did not raise my children well,
I told my friends to go to hell.

I did not know my neighbor's name,
I juried love a callow game.
I scorched the earth to fight for fame,
I stole a march on any shame.

I greeted fools with charming grace
then wiped that smile right off their face.
I cheated on schoolwork, taxes, wives,
then pleaded innocence all my life.

I sold the farm for booze and coke,
I relished vicious ethnic jokes.
I bought the biggest car I could,
I dumped my garbage in the woods.

I sold insurance on people's health
then prayed they'd die to spare my wealth.
I proffered bonds on people's homes
then jacked the price and rigged the loans.

I razed the forests to drill for oil,
I fouled the air and drugged the soil.
I said anything to get elected
then assured my interests were protected:

wildlife crushed to bone and ash,
mountains scarred with gouge and gash,
rivers poisoned drop by drop,
farmland rendered fetid slop.

Thus your Martian tundra reigns,
deserts, bog-holes, acid rain.
Thus you needn't send to know
which rake made your world of woe.

Always me. It was me. It was me.

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

-

More Tindall:

* Music: MySpace page

* Fiction: A Hole To China

* Critical biography at e-poets.net

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:23 AM | Permalink

The Lieutenant Governor Brackets

The selection committee has made its picks, and now we make ours.

ROUND ONE

Play-in Game: Spiridoula Mavrothalasitis vs. Jasper St. Angel

Comment: Mavrothalasitis comes out of the Lawyer Conference, which is down this year, representing Jenner & Block. She is believed to have access to donors and is both Mexican and Greek. St. Angel is a top real estate agent in Rockford, which makes him geographically undesirable.

Pick: Mavrothalasitis

*

Match-Up: Susan Garrett (1) vs. Play-in Winner (16)

Comment: Garrett is super-rich and chromosomically desirable. She might not play well Downstate, but she'll clean up in the suburbs.

Pick: Garrett.

*

Match-Up: Art Turner (3) vs. Thomas Carroll (14)

Comment: Art Turner is a black man from Chicago, which is why he wasn't given the automatic nod that a woman from anywhere but particularly a pretty white woman from Downstate would have gotten. Carroll appears to be a Cook County public defender, which is politically even worse for Pat Quinn than a black man from Chicago.

Pick: Turner

*

Match-Up Iris Martinez (5) vs. Paul Park (12)

Comment: Martinez, the first Latina elected to the state senate, would be a possible Cinderella story would her selection not royally piss off Quinn pal Dick Mell, who once backed a primary candidate against her in a maneuver to open up a state representative's seat for his daughter, Deb. (Don't ask.) Paul Park is a Korean-American banker from Glenview.

Pick: Martinez

*

Match-Up Megan Drilling (7) vs. James Farrell (10)

Comment: Drilling is the founder of the 4M Group, which is WBE-certified, so she wins either way. Farrell is either the former chairman of Illinois Tool Works - and thus the bracket's resident rich guy/statesman - or this guy.

Pick: Farrell

*

Match-Up: Mike Boland (8) vs. David Koehler (9)

Comment: Boland finished fourth - behind Rickey Hendon - in the original primary and thus has the stank of a loser emanating from his person. Koehler is a state senator and the co-owner of the Peoria Bread Company.

Pick: Koehler

*

Match-Up: Lori Koziana (6) vs. Dean Koldenhoven (11)

Comment: Koziana is apparently both a lawyer and a school teacher. Koldenhoven is the former mayor of Palos Heights. Neither is being considered seriously.

Pick: Koziana

*

Match-Up: Raja Krishnamoorthi (4) vs. Jay Rehak (13)

Comment: Krishnamoorthi already lost the party primary for comptroller, yet got seeded anyway due to the new rules of this year's tournament. Rehak is believed to be a Chicago public school teacher.

Pick: Krishnamoorthi

*

Match-Up: Sheila Simon (2) vs. Dirk Enger (15)

Comment: Simon's dad was more famous than Enger's.

Pick: Simon

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ROUND TWO:

Garrett vs. Turner: The rich white woman beats the black man because Michael Madigan has supplied the refs. Garrett.

Martinez vs. Farrell: The white business guy beats the Latina because she may get uppity and Michael Madigan has supplied the refs. Farrell.

Koehler vs. Koziana: The bread guy "has a good story to tell." Koziana not ready for prime-time yet. Koehler.

Krishnamoorthi vs. Simon: The legacy vs. the loser. Simon.

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ROUND THREE:

Garrett vs. Farrell: Farrell's run ends here. Garrett.

Koehler vs. Simon: Koehler's story can't match Simon's name, gender or geography. Simon.

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CHAMPIONSHIP:

Garrett vs. Simon: Lake Forest money and charm eke out an overtime win against Pat Quinn's desire to associate himself with a legend. Plus, Michael Madigan wants it this way.

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Comments welcome.

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1. From Jay Rehak:

Just read your piece in the Beachwood Reporter, and while I don't disagree with your handicapping, I do want you to know that I believe we are in a unique period in the State's (and Nation's) history. We've got a $13.7 billion debt (and rising) and no one wants a tax increase. Politically, the idea of bring in the "same old" to fix these problems is getting stale. The notion of a citizen politician coming out of the ranks of working people is far more exciting than going with the politician's favorite choice.

I honestly believe the Illinois Democrats have a chance here to do something special. Picking a career politician to fill the Lt. Governor slot is short sighted. I call it the "Dick Cheney effect." You may recall that prior to the 2000 election, Dick Cheney was put in charge of finding a Vice Presidential candidate for then candidate Bush. After a long and thorough search, Cheney came up with his own name as the candidate. I think that was a mistake, although he did become Vice President. I'd like to think the process for selecting a Lt. Governor is not one that begins with a decision and then proceeds to a search. Such a practice does not serve the IL Democratic party or the citizens of Illinois.

Jay Rehak
English Teacher Whitney Young High School
Trustee of the 9.4 Billion dollar Chicago Teachers Pension Fund

2. From James Farrell:

While it is a great honor to be in the company of the accomplished and personable businessman and philanthropist, W. James "Jim" Farrell, I am in fact "this guy." Without commenting on your picks, let me say that it has been a great week for Democrats, with the passage of at least the Senate version of the Health Care Bill. In my little world, that means lots of traffic to one page of my blog in particular, "An Explanation of the Health Care Bill," which summarizes the Senate bills as they existed in July, 2009. That post reached the front page of the search engines (try "health care bill unbiased explanation") and has had about 1,400 hits to date - 300 since Saturday.

That guy.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:10 AM | Permalink

March 22, 2010

The [Monday] Papers

"If you think you've seen the real Grease, think again," the Sun-Times reports this morning. "The familiar film and stage version millions fell in love with is the cleaned-up version of the musical written by Chicagoans Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey.

"That earlier R-rated version, which debuted at the old Kingston Mines in 1971, was set on Chicago's Northwest Side (Rydell High is a stand-in for Taft High School) and dealt more realistically with the teenagers' working-class and ethnic backgrounds."

Maybe it's because I'm not from here - I moved to Chicago in 1992 - but I did not know that. And I find it very interesting.

Cheeky Chico
"It's one of City Hall's busiest woman- and minority-owned contractors," the Sun-Times reports. "And, for the last two years, Azteca Supply Co. has been the target of a federal investigation that led to charges last month that the company is a sham 'front' that fraudulently was awarded millions of dollars in government contracts.

"This is the story of a Hispanic woman who found she could make millions by selling goods to government agencies eager to do business with women and minorities - and did so with the help of some of Chicago's most well-connected Hispanic leaders, including a former chief of staff to Mayor Daley."

That would be Gery Chico.

Chico doesn't just represent anybody. He's one of the mayor's guys.

But I'm sure his involvement in this sorry saga is just a Chicago Coincidence. He didn't know nuttin'. Nobody ever knows nuttin'. In no other city is ignorance so richly rewarded.

"Chico - whose law firm has been paid $10,000 by Azteca since 2004, according to lobbyist reports he filed - doesn't want to talk about the company."

But oh what a company it is!

"Azteca doesn't make anything. Nor does it keep much in stock, federal authorities say.

"But it still has managed to get government contracts to provide everything from chemicals to treat Chicago's drinking water, to concrete pipes for O'Hare Airport's new runway. It has done work on the CTA Blue Line, Stroger Hospital and the Dan Ryan Expy. It has also gotten $638,000 to supply and dispose of feminine-hygiene products at O'Hare restrooms."

Is there nothing Azteca can't do?

"Over the last three years, city records show, Azteca and its seven employees have done a total of more than $30 million in business with City Hall."

Truthfully, that ten grand Chico's law firm has gotten from Azteca in the last three years ain't much. An insurance policy, perhaps. Or perhaps just the tip of a Chicago iceberg.

The Daley Show
"Mayor Richard M. Daley often asserts that he is as transparent as any other big-city leader," the New York Times reports. "But testimony in federal court makes it clear that there are times that his answers to questions, or refusal to answer, can leave the public in the dark."

The mayor never knows nuttin' - until he's forced to know sumptin'.

Planting Pritzker Park
A tale of two Daleys, two wars, two memorials, and two Pritzker Parks. By our very own Jeff Huebner.

Health Care Hogwash
What change really looks like.

Plus:

* The [Health Care Vote] Papers

Bracket Buster
"But even POTUS doesn't care about the raw deal at the heart of it all," our very own Jim Coffman writes. "His support for health care reform may not be popular, but Barack Obama's college basketball fanaticism certainly earns sizable voter approval. The president, whose bracket reportedly isn't doing very well, is on board with the huge percentage of basketball fans who just ride the wave of emotion created by the annual 'amateur' basketball extravaganza.

"An equitable distribution of the spoils be damned."

Plus:

* Beachwood Brackets '10! Updated round-by-round.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Rounded up.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:50 AM | Permalink

SportsMonday: The NCAA's Rotten Spoils

I was prepared to pump out another screed today, something along the lines of: "Maybe the kids from Cornell, the Ivy Leaguers who qualified for the Sweet 16 with a dominant victory over Wisconsin on Sunday will be the ones to speak up. Maybe they'll point out the ridiculousness of it all, of college basketball players putting on this amazing show and receiving so little in return... " blah, blah, blah.

Hell, the Big Red guys aren't even compensated with athletic scholarships (prohibited by the Ivy League) for all the revenue they help generate (the last many-year TV deal the NCAA signed with CBS to televise the NCAA men's basketball tournament was for more than $6 billion).

But even POTUS doesn't care about the raw deal at the heart of it all. His support for health care reform may not be popular, but Barack Obama's college basketball fanaticism certainly earns sizable voter approval. The president, whose bracket reportedly isn't doing very well, is on board with the huge percentage of basketball fans who just ride the wave of emotion created by the annual "amateur" basketball extravaganza.

An equitable distribution of the spoils be damned.

And why would you worry about that when there was the amazing finish to the Sunday afternoon Michigan State-Maryland game to celebrate? Maryland rallied from a nine-point deficit with two minutes remaining to lead twice in the last 30 seconds. During that time, senior guard Greivis Vasquez nailed not one but two driving shots to turn one-point deficits into one-point leads. But there was a little too much time left for the Terrapins after the second one.

And that meant that Draymond Green, a Spartan forward who had dropped in a cold-blooded jumper with a little less than 15 seconds left to give MSU a one-point advantage had time to dribble the ball up the floor and find teammate Korie Lucious near the top of the key. One problem was that for a moment the pass from Green to Lucious seemed destined to nail another of their teammates, whose name I couldn't make out, right in the head. But the guy ducked at the last second and the pass was completed.

Lucious, who was only in the game because star teammate Kalin Lucas had been sidelined by a heel injury, grabbed the ball with barely two seconds left on the clock but he knew he had time to pump fake a sizable defender who was going to at least alter an immediate shot attempt. Lucas then took one dribble, moved quickly to his left and launched the ultimate shot. While the ball was in the air, the red light around the backboard came on. If the ball went in, Michigan State would win. If not, Maryland would triumph. It went in.

Then there was Purdue's epic victory over Texas A&M as the day turned into evening. Purdue prevailed by two in overtime despite the absence of star front court man Robbie Hummel, who suffered a season-ending knee injury several weeks ago. The final seconds of this one featured powerful Boilermaker forward Chris Kramer seizing the moment. The two-time defending Big Ten defensive player of the year made the big play on offense this time, driving the lane with abandon and banking in the decisive layup over a much-taller player.

Unfortunately it will be impossible for me to stay on message all the way through to the end. In the aftermath of the Michigan State game in particular, you could hear and see the pundits straining to make it about something more than basketball. It couldn't just be that some young men had overcome adversity to win a thrilling game.

It had to have been a transformative experience - we had to have witnessed the moment when these players took a huge step away from childish things and started taking the final, critical steps toward manhood. So CBS play-by-play man Tim Brando went on-and-on about the great post-game sportsmanship shown by the Terrapins and the Spartans. Clearly even the losers had achieved a new level of maturity thanks to the majesty of this game.

And stories on the Web quickly focused on interactions between Michigan State coaches and players before (the Spartans had been an unhappy bunch at the Big Ten tournament the week before) and during Sunday's game. At halftime the Spartans had filed past the fallen Lucas, who was sitting on a table in the locker room. His teammates pledged to win the game for him. And there was the fact that even if the Maryland had pulled it out, there would have been a story of redemption ready to go. Vasquez was a noted hot-head during his first few years at Maryland but had harnessed his emotions this season and led his team to the cusp of glory.

This game had been a critical step in the transformation of formerly immature players into future successful adults, They had obviously been rewarded with something far more valuable than mere money.

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

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:41 AM | Permalink

Health Care Hogwash

"This is what change looks like," Barack Obama said following House passage of the health care bill on Sunday.

On what planet?

"Here is the ultimate paradox of the Great Health Care Showdown: Congress will divide along partisan lines to pass a Republican version of health care reform, and Republicans will vote against it," E.J. Dionne wrote over the weekend.

"Yes, Democrats have rallied behind a bill that Republicans - or at least large numbers of them - should love. It is built on a series of principles that Republicans espoused for years."

Much of Dionne's column is disingenuous - slamming Mitt Romney for seemingly flip-flopping on mandates while ignoring his distinction between state and federal requirements while letting Obama off the hook for a far more drastic 180 - but in trying to make the case for why Republicans should have supported this bill, isn't he making the case for why Democrats shouldn't have?

After all, this bill passed along party lines; the Democrats could have passed anything they wanted. Single-payer. Public option. Whatever else might have been in their hearts. The only compromising they did was with themselves.

GOP Win
Likewise, CNN's health guru Sanjay Gupta said on Sunday: "It's starting to sound more and more like a Republican health care plan."

Gupta also said that the bill represented health insurance reform, but not health care reform.

Spinning History
"Contrary to memes circulating among the Democrats, Medicare was popular when it was enacted - according to Gallup, and some other pollsters, Medicare always enjoyed a plurality of support," the Atlantic's Megan McArdle noted in an online Washington Post chat. "By contrast, the current gap between favorables and unfavorables is about 10% - meaning that more people are against passage than for it. Perhaps it will get more popular over time. But the public has not, to my knowledge, ever rewarded a political party for defying its will.

"If the question is, will this bill be hard to repeal, I think the answer is yes. The parts that are unpopular are also the parts needed to make it work, like the individual mandate. Indeed, the big danger is that those parts will be repealed, and the resulting program will spiral completely out of control, bringing on some form of fiscal crisis.

"But that won't help the Democrats. By the time it's popular, it will be too late to take credit. When was the last time you heard someone say, 'I'm voting for the Democratic candidate because Lyndon Johnson passed Medicare?'"

Also from McArdle:

"Economist Bryan Caplan describes a marvelous syllogism that animates a lot of political discourse:

"1) Something must be done
"2) This is something
"3) Therefore, this must be done."

*

FYI: Dionne once wrote a book called Why Americans Hate Politics whose central thesis was that "on point after point, liberals and conservatives are framing issues as a series of 'false choices,' making it impossible for politicians to solve problems, and alienating voters in the process."

Dividing Not Uniting
"Democratic leaders in Congress got what they wanted Sunday night: House passage of a massive health bill the Senate approved on Christmas Eve," the Tribune editorial page writes.

"Muscling this bill to President Barack Obama sets up the Democrats for affirmation - or condemnation - when citizens get their vote, on Nov. 2. This legislation has cleaved America, and whatever happens next, the Democrats own it.

"No major entitlement program has become law in such partisan fashion. In 1935, more than half of the minority Republicans in Congress joined Democrats to create Social Security. And in 1965, nearly half of minority Republicans joined Democrats to launch Medicare. Both parties had skin in each game."

Head Fake
Was deem-and-pass a false threat designed to make everyone forget about the slightly less controversial method of reconciliation being used to pass this bill? When you have a knife, people freak out. When you then pull out a gun, people freak out even more. When you put away the gun, people are relieved you only have a knife.

ObamaSpeak
"We proved that this government - a government of the people and by the people - still works for the people."

The people - who weren't let into the backroom of Congress though health insurance industry lobbyists were - have been consistently against this plan.

And how elitist and offensive is it for the president to pat us on the head and say we'll all appreciate this plan once we, you know, understand it and start receiving its benefits?

I mean, I know the president has explained it to us many times, but we just don't get it yet!

Digging Holes
"[I]t is not health care reform in any sense of the word," Michael Moore says. "It's like health care caulk. Health care fixer-upper

"You know, plugging some holes and doing a couple little good things, that's not universal health care. And that's what we elected Barack Obama and the Congress to do. To get us, you know, universal health care.

"So that's what they wanted. The majority said they wanted that. So that's pretty much how I feel about it.

"I think that - I don't like the bill. I think the more we settle, and the lower and lower we settle, the farther away we get from where we need to be. I'm not a politician. I'm not elected to public office. And people like me need to be stating exactly what we do need.

"We need a single-payer system that removes profit motive from health care. Pure and simple. And if we had strong leadership who could explain that to the American public, I know the people would go for it. But it's never been explained to them. No one really understands it. If you show people evidence they'll have more money in their bank."

Moore is wrong about one thing in this interview; the insurance companies are ecstatic. This is their bill. Right now they have teams of lawyers and accountants and executives sussing out all the angles; their job is to be as profitable as possible and that's just what they'll find ways to do. And you know what that means for us.

What Change Really Looks Like
David Axelrod defending the bill's sweetheart deals: "That's the way it has been. That's the way it will always be."

Bedtime Stories
The president reportedly rallied his flagging health care legislation by returning to the story of cancer-stricken Natoma Canfield.

But when the president has gotten personal in the past, he's plain gotten it wrong.

See also AP's fact-checking of Obama's health care anecdotes.

*

Oh, and about Canfield: Oops!

Magic Act
"Mr. Obama's idea for a health care meeting at the end of February flabbergasted Democrats on Capitol Hill," the New York Times reported on Sunday. "He felt that such an event could be an antidote to some of the cynicism about Washington expressed by voters."

According to sources close to the president speaking to the New York Times, which apparently never asked if Obama's closed-door deals and reneging on transparency pledges contributed to that cynicism.

And then this, just a few paragraphs later:

"The meeting also gave the Democratic leadership the gift of time. While the spotlight shifted to Mr. Obama, Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Reid immersed themselves in figuring out their parliamentary options and, in Ms. Pelosi's case especially, soothing her members' jangled nerves.

"'The main thing was Pelosi sticking with it and doing the quiet work of bringing people back to saying, We're doing this,' said John D. Podesta, a former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton. 'It was almost illusionist, drawing your attention to something that isn't important, so that you're not watching what's happening, which really is important.'"

And that, my friends, says it all.

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Comments welcome.

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See also:
* Meet ObamaCare
* The [Health Care Vote] Papers

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:18 AM | Permalink

Planting Pritzker Park

Where Are the Anti-War People? Where Are Their Programs? Two Daleys, Two Wars, Two Pritzker Parks, Two Memorials

In November 1991, a new kind of park was dedicated at the northwest corner of State and Van Buren Streets in the Loop. It occupied the former site of the Rialto, the last SRO or single-room occupancy hotel downtown, which was demolished in fall 1990 after a fire, displacing 20 already luckless down-and-outers.

The hotel was replaced by an artwork, or rather a public-art space, designed by then-Yale University art professor Ronald Jones. Pritzker Park, as it was called (after socialite and Harold Washington Library Center patron Cindy Pritzker), was a project of the nonprofit Sculpture Chicago and the city's Department of Planning. The visual centerpiece of this "site for the play of the imagination and a haven of green space in the urban environment," as the plaque put it, was a three-dimensional re-creation of a grove of 13 linden trees and a black granite wall with urns modeled after Rene Magritte's surrealist painting The Banquet. (It hangs at the Art Institute of Chicago.)

The "oddly different downtown retreat" (according to the Chicago Sun-Times) had other quirky features, most notably its council rings - or circular benches - and plantings in the Prairie style of Jens Jensen, the renowned Chicago landscape architect. One of the rings was also a sandbox for children, and inside was inscribed a quote from 19th-century American poet Henry Abbey, "What do we plant?" It was supposed to remind us that caring for the environment was a personal responsibility.

But that's not all it was supposed to remind us. As Jones told me in an article for the June 18, 1992 issue of New City, the quote was also meant to echo a phrase that Mayor Richard J. Daley used to mock his critics, including Vietnam War protesters, during the 1968 Democratic National Convention: "These people who come here from other places and cause trouble - Where are their programs? What trees do they plant?"

(What Trees Do They Plant? was also the title of an hour-long documentary produced by the Chicago Police Department to counteract '68 "police riot" accusations, and focused on the alleged violent intentions of the protesters and their international communist ties. This "Special Report on the Chicago Riots" aired on 140 TV stations across the nation barely two weeks after the end of the convention.)

The Pritzker Park sandbox with the Daley (or Daley-like) quote is the closest the late mayor has come to being (dis)honored with a back-handed monument. Other attempts to honor Hizzoner with a public memorial never got off the ground. In 1977, a year after his death, there had been a half-serious campaign to replace the Picasso in Civic Center Plaza (now Daley Plaza) with a Daley sculpture. "Displacing [the Picasso] would stamp Chicagoans - who already have an image problem abroad - as barbarous ingrates," editorialized the Chicago Daily News (May 13, 1977).

A year later, the Chicago art community hooted when it was announced that a $500,000 commission to create a Daley memorial would be awarded to either Frenchman Jean Dubuffet or the Italian Giacomo Manzu (an avowed communist). "I can't believe he'd want his monument done by a non-Chicagoan," N.A.M.E. Gallery director Jerry Saltz told the Chicago Tribune (Feb. 1, 1978). "The mayor didn't have much of that second city complex." The commission never happened, although in 1978 Saltz - now New York magazine art critic - curated an exhibit at N.A.M.E. called "Daley's Tomb," in which 45 artists displayed designs for an imagined funerary monument.

Times - and Pritzker Park, and the Daleys - change.

Back in 1991, the city didn't really know how long Pritzker Park would last. According to a Sculpture Chicago press release, "the park is intended to grace its South Loop site for several years until future redevelopments are in place." But as artist Ronald Jones, now professor of interdisciplinary studies at Konstfack University College of Arts in Stockholm, told me 18 years ago: "It's the best thing I've ever done, and I doubt it'll ever disappear. Once the park is used and becomes popular, it'll be hard to do away with." Eva Olson, executive director of Sculpture Chicago, added: "The council rings look like they've been there for a hundred years, and hopefully they'll be there for a hundred years more. It has the appearance of permanence."

Pritzker Park 1.0 was destroyed in spring 2000. It had, ironically, become a haven for the homeless - perhaps some of the same folks who'd been kicked out of the old Rialto. The "What Do We Plant?" sandbox had become a urinal. (Daley: "Whose pot do they piss in?") Perhaps the public never quite felt invited there, unsure if they should walk through a real-life surrealist painting. Soon, it became a wrought-iron-fenced grassy lot, with a row of trees along Van Buren. Plans were to make the space amenable to college students, with the new DePaul Center-Loop campus across the street and burgeoning university housing in the area. The park's elements had been hauled away and dumped - er, stored - in a weedy South Side field, chronicled by the Reader's Ben Joravsky a decade ago.

The city transferred ownership of the L-shaped parcel to the Park District in 2008, which worked with HoerrSchaudt landscape architects to redesign the space. It opened last spring. Concrete edgings along planted areas are engraved with quotes from writers, poets, and philosophers, mostly involving Chicago and the pursuit of knowledge ("It is brave to be involved" - Gwendolyn Brooks), selected by library patrons. If you had been there in early June you would've seen some misspellings: "Gandhi" was "Ghandi" and "Cisneros" was "Cisenos" - all the more embarrassing because her novel The House on Mango Street had just been selected for the One Book, One Chicago program. (The gaffes have since been fixed.)

The park has been criticized for having more concrete than landscaping, in order to accommodate a JCDecaux concession stand (already there) as well as a cafe with "moveable seating" (presumably coming), according to architecture writer Lynn Becker.

This is commercial space, meant to enhance revenue. (This is Chicago.) But here's the thing: Why not make this half-plaza a permanent free-speech zone, in honor of current mayor Richard M. Daley? What got me thinking of this was Daley's speech at the Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards on February 9 - seven years after his cops illegally detained and arrested more than 800 marchers on Michigan Avenue at the outset of the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.

He said, "What is it about America? How did we start this century with 10 years of war? Ten years of war! Where are the anti-war people? I look down at the Dirksen Center. Where are they? They've disappeared! What happened? I thought war was evil. Where are the people who believed in their heart against George Bush? What happened? But don't you know it's a political issue? We won the election. Now we go home."

Those old Pritzker Park council rings, including the sandbox, dumped near the public-art warehouse beneath Roosevelt Road and Clark Street were supposed to have been reused elsewhere, like in new schools. (If anyone has seen them, please let me know.) No problem. I say we make a couple new ones, plant them in the park ("immoveable seating"), and then inscribe them with selections from Daley's heartfelt rant. That way, we get a couple things in one: We get some political art (the dearth of which is mystifying to some local art observers, including me), provoking discussion. We also get something of a semi-permanent memorial to Daley's legacy - unless an artist wants to sculpt a tribute to him in the form of an over-sized expired parking meter.

I can just see the words around the outside of the rings now: WHERE ARE THE ANTI-WAR PEOPLE? . . . I THOUGHT WAR WAS EVIL . . . NOW WE GO HOME. Would this be possible? Well, to quote the inscribed words of Lewis Carroll that appear in Pritzker Park: "Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

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1. Pritzker Park 1.0. (Photo by Nathan Mendell, 1992. All others by Marjorie Woodruff.)

pritzger!.jpg

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2. Pritzker Park 2.0. More concrete than landscaping?

pritzger2.jpg

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3. "It is brave to be involved."

pritzger3.jpg

*

4. What revenue does JCDecaux raise?

pritzger4.jpg

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5. If you look closely, you can see the original misspelling of Gandhi's name.

pritzger5.jpg

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6. Why not a free-speech zone?

prtitzger6.jpg

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Comments welcome.

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Also by Jeff Huebner:
* The Broom of Wicker Park
* Extensive and insightful comment on Goodbye, American Gothic People

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:05 AM | Permalink

March 21, 2010

The [Health Care Vote] Papers

1. From the Office of the House Majority Leader:

Hoyer Encourages Focus on Teabaggers, Helps Distract from "Godawful" Insurance Reform, He Says

Washington, DC - House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) released the following statement on Sunday after learning that Members of Congress were subjected to racist and inflammatory behavior at Saturday's health insurance bailout reform protest:

"Thank god for the Teabaggers! Nothing unites like an enemy, and there's nothing in our health insurance corporate bailout bill to unite us with anyone outside the Beltway other than the opposition of the Teabaggers. Gotta love em. Antiracism and antihomophobia are righteous and good, but they're our god and guns over on this side of the aisle. I mean, have you seen the shit that's in our bill? Not to mention what the president will unconstitutionally legislate on top of it? If Bush were pushing this bill (and why not?) all the liberals would denounce it. Why? Because we would tell them to. Do you think they would have called a privately run program for 3% of Americans a "public option" if Bush had called it that? And then fought to keep it in, and then fought to keep it out, at our command? What, of their own free will?

"But people can begin to have thoughts. And they will when they see the disastrous results of this bill, unless the states can get the Supreme Court to throw it out, which would just let us blame five black-robed Teabaggers! Nobody's about to start thinking for themselves this month, however, not if we can keep telling them they're united with us against a bunch of hateful racists, sexists, and haters of gays and lesbians. We all owe a deep debt of gratitude to Fox News for inventing the Teabaggers, and to MSNBC and the Democratic blogosphere for spending so much time building them into such an apparently large force. We hear more about the Republicans now than before the country voted them completely out of power. The Romans taught us the value of bread and circuses. We've got the circuses bit down cold."

- via Reporters@lists.mayfirst.org

2. Dennis Kucinich, March 8, 10 days before he changed his mind:

"This bill represents a giveaway to the insurance industry," Kucinich told MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell. "$70 billion a year, and no guarantees of any control over premiums, forcing people to buy private insurance...I'm sorry, I just don't see that this bill is the solution."

Asked, "Did we just get a "no" there?" Kucinich confirmed.

"If that sounded like a "no" you're correct," Kucinich said.

3. The Tribune today runs a chart called "What Would Affect Everyone." The list? The usual, simplistic litany: prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions; ending lifetime limits on benefits; insurance companies canceling coverage even if you've kept up with payments.

If only that was all that was in the bill!

Even Republicans are in favor of those elements. But looking at the paper's chart on how premiums will change, I find that in my case premiums will go up! Doh! Someone's gotta pay for those pre-existing conditions.

4. "And Obama brought the Democratic lawmakers to their fee twith a fiery speech reminding them of the historic opportunity they have. 'Don't do it for me. Don't do it for the Democratic Party,' the president said. 'Do it for the American people. They're the ones looking for action right now."

A) Don't do it for me?

"There have been reports that the president is also giving some wavering Democrats his version of the 'win one for the Gipper' speech," CBS News reports, "stressing that he personally needs their votes, that if health care reform fails, his presidency will be severely weakened - and that the entire Democratic agenda will be imperiled.

"I asked about that at today's briefing - which was held outside in the Rose Garden on a beautiful spring day - and Robert Gibbs was, well, evasive:

"Question: 'There's a report out there that says the president told some members that the fate of his presidency depends on passing health care reform. Is that true? Has he said that?'

"Gibbs: 'I have - I'm not aware of that, but I can certainly check again.'"

Also, via the New York Times:

"In private sessions with lawmakers, the president has drawn the consequences for himself in the starkest terms."

B) Do it for the American people? "The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone poll, taken Friday and Saturday nights, shows that 41% of likely voters favor the health care plan. Fifty-four percent (54%) are opposed. These figures have barely budged in recent months.

"Another finding that has remained constant is that the intensity is stronger among those who oppose the plan. The latest findings include 26% who Strongly Favor the plan and 45% who Strongly Oppose it."

5. The Sun-Times has a chart today about how many uninsured individuals in each Chicago-area congressional district would be "extended coverage" under the plan. The source of the list is the U.S. House of Representatives; the methodology isn't clear because, after all, the legislation doesn't enact universal health care. But why should the media start thinking for itself now?

6. What passes for pundit wisdom: "The mail arrives. Roads are built. Fires get put out. Kids are educated, generally. The system clunks and creaks, but it works, and health care, if it passes will work, too."

If the system works, why do we need reform?

7. From Pro Publica:

What's in the reconciliation bill: Thanks to some hard-working souls at ProPublica, we've created a side-by-side comparison of the full versions of the Senate healthcare bill versus the bill that will likely go before the House for a vote on Sunday. What you've seen elsewhere-the text put out by the House Rules Committee-is just a 150-page list of amendments to the Senate bill ("strike paragraph 4", "insert this new sentence in paragraph B:..."). What we've created, the full proposed final bill-and highlights of the changes- allows you to easily to compare House's Reconciliation proposal to the earlier Senate bill. Check out the full bills side-by-side-and see exactly what the House has added, changed, and deleted.

8. From ProPublica:

Silly ProPublicans. We expected the health care reform billto include language pertaining to health care. And most of it does, except this paragraph that appears to tackle the scourge of . . . ashy biofuels?

9. "Rahm told us months ago: Everything can be compromised except our ultimate goal of getting something done," said Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va. "Everything else is negotiable."

10. "One day, Obama is saying he will sign no health care bill without a government-run 'public option'; the next, he all but drops it. One day, he is bashing the 'shameful' bonuses for 'fat-cat bankers' at bailed-out firms, the next he is serving dinner to corporate titans at the White House and saying he does not 'begrudge' the big payouts," the New York Times reports.

"That has been the story of health care, the defining project of Obama's first year as president. Along the way, Obama has been willing to be flexible on the details to the point that he switched positions significantly from his own campaign promises - giving up on the public option, embracing a mandate requiring everyone to have insurance and accepting a tax on high-value insurance plans."

11. "If I were still a member of Congress, I would proudly vote for the bill that President Barack Obama is championing and I would urge my colleagues to do the same," Obama's Republican transportation secretary Ray LaHood writes in an Op-Ed.

Really, Ray? You would have defied your party's leadership even if that would have made you the lone Republican vote in favor of ObamaCare?

Here's LaHood when he was in Congress attacking former Sen. Peter Fitzgerald:

"Fitzgerald once filibustered a spending bill because it contained a provision to fund construction of the Lincoln Library in Illinois. He said the $50 million appropriation, backed by Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), would be used by then-Gov. George Ryan (R) to aid political cronies. LaHood last week called Fitzgerald's conduct on the matter unforgivable.

"'When you fashion yourself as an independent, you're not a member of a party,' said LaHood."

And:

"Loners and independents very seldom get anything done. Our system is working within a party and across party lines in order to get things done. Peter was never willing to do that."

12. Barney Frank via The New York Times:

"[Obama] was very passionate about it, and he convinced me that we could put some fixes in."

Fixes that can't pass Congress right now? But somehow will later? And which fixes, exactly? It would be nice to know.

13. "We've also taken a detailed look at the bill, and have come up with 18 often stated myths about this health care reform bill," Jane Hamsher writes.

14. "Caterpillar Inc. said the health-care overhaul legislation being considered by the House would increase the company's health-care costs by more than $100 million in the first year alone."

15. "As the Economist once put it, 'As a creature of Congress, the C.B.O. is required to pretend to believe many impossible things before breakfast.' Some would say the same of Ezra Klein," Tobin Harshaw writes on the New York Times's Opinionator blog.

"'The C.B.O. process has now been so thoroughly gamed that it's useless,' writes Megan McArdle of the Atlantic. She's concerned about how many of the costs have been pushed to the tail end of the budgeting period, and that the excise tax on so-called gold-plated insurance plans won't take effect until 2018.

Also:

"Congressional budget scorekeepers say a Medicare fix that Democrats included in earlier versions of their health care bill would push it into the red," AP reports.

"The Congressional Budget Office said Friday that rolling back a programmed cut in Medicare fees to doctors would cost $208 billion over 10 years. If added back to the health care overhaul bill, it would wipe out all the deficit reduction, leaving the legislation $59 billion in the red.

"The so-called doc fix was part of the original House bill. Because of its high cost, Democrats decided to pursue it separately."

Is this one of the fixes, Barney?

16. From progressive Democrat Bob Somerby:

"Uh-oh! On Wednesday night, Ron Brownstein had actually told Chris [Matthews] something! Brownstein was responding to Chris' favorite new script: Republicans don't try to pass their health care measures when they're in control! Uh-oh! Responding, Brownstein said this about that:

"MATTHEWS (3/17/10): Ron Brownstein's political director - you know that is pretty - I saw you shaking your head positive. I know that you are a straight arrow here. But the fact is, it is a fact. Republican offer these wonderful sounding, moderate alternatives, but only in the face of a Democratic progressive suggestion.

"BROWNSTEIN: The story's a little bit more nuanced. The fact is that these are ideas that Republicans had during - when when they unified control of the House and the Senate and the White House, under Bush. Some of them did pass the House. Their idea of association health plans did pass the House. Medical malpractice, at one point, did pass the House. The interstate health insurance never did pass the House because that is a much more controversial idea that it is usually explained to be, because it essentially allows the states that regulates least to set the rules for everyone.

"MATTHEWS: You go state shopping.

"BROWNSTEIN: But fact is that all of these ideas were never able to achieve consensus when Republicans controlled government. They could not get them out of the Senate. They could not get 60 votes. And in -

"MATTHEWS: You know why? They really didn't want to do it!

"Two of these ideas got defeated by filibuster. And of course! When the other tribe gets defeated that way, it's because they really didn't want to do it. If your IQ is 7 or 8, you will find that novel persuasive."

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Comments welcome.

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See also:
* Meet ObamaCare

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:50 AM | Permalink

March 20, 2010

The Weekend Desk Report

* Sunday Updates below.

Forecasters predict Spring 2010 will see a sudden, sharp correction. Because, let's face it, we were all getting a little overheated.

Market Update
The bad economic news continues to trickle out as reports indicate retail sales in Chicagoland slumped to a 25-year low in 2009. Analysts skeptical of recovery are quick to point out it'll take more than fancy seasonal promotions to get consumers to buy the same old crap.

The Sexfast Club
In another worrying sign, Illinois' budget deficit has reached such depths Springfield lawmakers were forced this week to formally admit they cannot possibly afford to imprison every horny teenager in the state. They're not even sure they can educate or entertain them anymore. In fact, it appears an entire generation of American horny teens faces crushing emotional bankruptcy in the coming weeks.

Texts of Endearment
For all those horny adults, be forewarned - your naughty ass is still on the line for now.

Left Behind
Just so we're clear, the first month after The Rapture is when we all seek higher ground. In the second month, we're cast back to earth and left to rot in our own filth. And in the third month, we'll really start selling our souls.

Moving Forward
Finally this week, ardent Cubs fans are up in arms at the proposed addition of a neon red Toyota sign to the backfield bleachers of Wrigley Field. Analysts in general have agreed, pointing out that with the sponsor's propensity for inconsistent performance and periodic ill-timed collapses, the sign would look much better in front of the Blackhawks' goal.

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SUNDAY UPDATES:
* The [Health Care Vote] Papers
* Beachwood Brackets '10!

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The Weekend Desk Tip Line: Collapsible.

Posted by Natasha Julius at 7:27 AM | Permalink

March 19, 2010

The [Friday] Papers

1. I guess this is what a casino in Des Plaines looks like. Ugh.

2. Calvin Boender is outta here.

3. Meet ObamaCare.

4. Several months ago, I noticed that the Sulzer Regional Library and several other Chicago Public Library branches had changed how they made books that had been placed on hold available for patrons to pick up," Nick Ammerman writes at At Infinite Number Of Monkeys. "It used to be that holds were kept behind the desk, and patrons had to stand in line to request them. Under the new system, the hold books are kept out in the main lobby space, which is accessible to anyone who comes into the library.

"As a user, I have to say the new system is much more convenient. At Sulzer, there seemed to be several storage locations for hold books in different parts of the library under the old system, and I would often have to wait while the librarian went off in search of the elusive book. It's definitely a lot easier and faster to be able to just walk in, get my hold books, and get in line to check them out.

"However, as I was a library school student at the time when I first noticed the change, I had had the American Library Association's policies about privacy of patron records drilled into my head, and I started to wonder if the new hold system violated these policies. Each hold book now has a slip of paper with the full name of the patron, and the book's cover, title, and author are not obscured in any way. This seemed contrary to the statement on the ALA's Privacy and Confidentiality page that, 'Confidentiality of library records is a core value of librarianship.' It was unclear to me how library records could remain private if hold books were kept in a public area and marked with patron names."

5. "The Chicago Police Department (CPD), with the willing assistance of some of the local media, informed Chicago residents that the CPD will be greatly expanding the deployment and use of tasers by their officers as an alternative to using deadly force," Tracy Siska writes at the Chicago Justice Project.

"In reading the local press it becomes clear pretty quickly to most people, except the journalists writing and editors approving the stories, that the CPD is going to be allowing use of the tasers in situations where they would not use deadly force. This means that tasers will be used in situations when officers would not use their guns. This is clearly an expansion of the use of force currently allowed under CPD rules and not a replacement of previous methods."

6. Children, by the millions, sing for Alex Chilton.

7. "An Australian study has found that newspaper Web sites are not cannibalizing their print-based parents and that consumers see the two forms as complementary," the AIM Group reports.

8. The big showdown is off. In TrackNotes.

9. Do the Blackhawks need an enforcer? Our very own George Ofman addresses this and other pressing issues.

10. So much for all that blather about the Rickettses understanding the fan experience.

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"The Rickettses must be able to compete," the Sun-Times bleats.

Right - because current conditions are just unbearable!

*

Purists is the word editorialists always spit out to describe people who think there are more important things in life than money.

*

"Nobody with smarts pays $800 million for the goose that laid the golden egg and then kills it," the S-T edit goes on.

Right, like that's never happened in business before. Even the newspaper business.

11. For purists only.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Reconcile your feelings.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:19 AM | Permalink

Meet ObamaCare

1. "For months I've been reporting in The Huffington Post that President Obama made a backroom deal last summer with the for-profit hospital lobby that he would make sure there would be no national public option in the final health reform legislation," Miles Mogulescu wrote this week." "I've been increasingly frustrated that except for an initial story last August in the New York Times, no major media outlet has picked up this important story and investigated further.

"Hopefully, that's changing. On Monday, Ed Shultz interviewed New York Times Washington reporter David Kirkpatrick on his MSNBC TV show, and Kirkpatrick confirmed the existence of the deal."

Memo to progressives: Feel like a bunch of chumps, yet? If not, read on.

2. "Politico's Ben Smith yesterday suggested that one important aspect of Rahm Emanuel's health care strategy - to ignore the demands of progressives on the ground that they would fall into line at the end no matter what - has been vindicated," the estimable Glenn Greenwald writes.

"For almost a full year, scores of progressive House members vowed - publicly and unequivocally - that they would never support a health care bill without a robust public option. They collectively accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars based on this pledge. Up until a few weeks ago, many progressive opinion leaders - such as Moulitsas, Howard Dean, Keith Olbermann and many others - were insisting that the Senate bill was worse than the status quo and should be defeated. But now? All of those progressives House members are doing exactly what they swore they would never do - vote for a health care bill with no public option - and virtually every progressive opinion leader is not only now supportive of the bill, but vehemently so. In other words, exactly what Rahm said would happen - ignore the progressives, we don't need to give them anything because they'll get into line - is exactly what happened."

3. "Ever since Thomas Frank published his book What's the Matter With Kansas? Democrats have sought a political strategy to match the GOP's," David Sirota writes. "The health care bill proves they've found one.

"Whereas Frank highlighted Republicans' sleight-of-hand success portraying millionaire tax cuts as gifts to the working class, Democrats are now preposterously selling giveaways to insurance and pharmaceutical executives as a middle-class agenda. Same formula, same fat-cat beneficiaries, same bleating sheeple herded to the slaughterhouse. The only difference is the Rube Goldberg contraption that Democrats are using to tend the flock."

4. "Here's a phrase you can expect to hear a lot in the next few days: 'According to the CBO,'" Ruth Marcus writes. "The CBO is the Congressional Budget Office, the official scorekeeper of the costs of proposed legislation. Rarely has a CBO report been more anxiously awaited than the analysis released Thursday of the proposed changes to the Senate health care reform bill. Democrats are delighted with the bottom-line analysis that the measure would save $138 billion over the next 10 years, and as much as $1.2 trillion in the second 10 years - all this while expanding coverage to 32 million people who would otherwise be uninsured.

"So Democrats will be pointing to this preliminary CBO score as if it is engraved on stone tablets. Republicans will profess their respect for the CBO and proceed to argue that its estimates should not be taken too seriously in this instance. What I'm about to say may come as a surprise, but I think the Republican argument is closer to the correct one. To crow, as did House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, that the package is 'a triumph for the American people in terms of deficit reduction' is premature at best, delusional at worst."

5. The Obama administration wanted a partisan fight. It was the only way to rally Democrats and their constituents to support a bill most of them hate. By making the issue partisan, the administration has framed it as "us vs. the Republicans. Which side are you on?"

Likewise, Obama's faux anger over Jim DeMint's comment months ago that health care could be his Waterloo worked to his advantage; now it's Obama saying his presidency is on the line.

July: "White House Plans to Use DeMint's 'Waterloo' Quote to Rally the Troops."

Now: "President Obama's pitch: Fate of presidency on the line."

6. Obama's approach to health care has not been unlike the community organizing approach of Saul Alinsky: don't tell people what they should think is important and what they need, let them determine the agenda for you, the leader. In this case, Obama let Congress determine what a consensus could built around and let them fight it out until stepping in at the end. The problem? Congress isn't his constituency, the American people are. From community organizer to congressional organizer.

7. Obama at the health care summit:" No, no, no. And this is an example of where we've got to get our facts straight."

This was the main point of disagreement at the summit - whether premiums will go up or down, sort of important - and Obama scolded Lamar Alexander for not being as close a reader of the legislation as he. Well, guess what?

*

Obama did, however, incorporate the wackiest notion to come up at the summit into his proposal. When Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) whined and pleaded for sending undercover agents into hospitals to weed out Medicaid fraud, I thought the summit would be deemed a success for the way the president let the nutballs expose themselves. Guess not.

*

"The bipartisan health care meeting on February 25th offered something you rarely see in Washington: an open, honest, productive discussion between the political parties."

- The White House

8. "David Nexon had a big problem. An early version of national health care legislation contained a $40 billion tax aimed squarely at members of the medical device trade association he represents," the Tribune reports.

"Nexon, a former adviser to the late Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, went to work. He marshaled 14 people like himself - lobbyists who were once congressional aides, many of them from staffs of congressional leaders or committees that had a hand in crafting the health care overhaul.

"When Senate Democrats unveiled their bill in mid-November, Nexon's handiwork was evident. The tax on device-makers was still large - $20 billion - but only half what it might have been without the efforts of Nexon and his fellow lobbyists.

"Nexon's team is an illustration of how deeply the health care industry has embedded itself on Capitol Hill, using former aides of lawmakers and ex-lawmakers themselves.

"An analysis of public documents by Northwestern University's Medill News Service in partnership with the Tribune Newspapers Washington Bureau and the Center for Responsive Politics found a revolving door between Capitol Hill staffers and lobbying jobs for companies with a stake in health care legislation."

9. From AP: "A look at some of the concessions lawmakers and interest groups won in the latest version of the Senate's health care overhaul bill."

10. "Senator John McCain memorably called the 2003 energy bill the 'no-lobbyist-left-behind' act," the Economist writes. "But the Centre for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan think-tank, expects that the amount spent on formal federal lobbying by the health and health-insurance industries (some $425m in the first nine months of 2009 alone) will break all records. And this is just a fraction of the two sectors' total spend on television advertising and other efforts to influence the debate.

"The fact that health reform is likely to pass in spite of this wall of money does not mean that Congress is impervious to the power of special interests. Much of the spending was designed to shape the bill, not to defeat the reform altogether."

11. "The bills are largely a sideways move," Dr. David Himmelstein, a co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program says. "They will have very little impact on resolving or stabilizing the health care system. They improve things for some people and make things worse for some people.

"For example, some poor patients or near-poor patients would benefit from federal subsidies for private insurance or by getting Medicaid, which they're presently not eligible for. That would be an improvement.

"However, patients who remain uninsured - and there will be at least 17 million of them - would probably see the resources available to them dwindle, because the bill takes part of its funding out of the hides of safety-net hospitals. Part of the proposed Medicare savings is derived from decreasing the funding for hospitals that care for a lot of poor, uninsured patients. So, for the remaining uninsured, the safety net would be even more threadbare than it is now.

"Another example of an adverse impact: young people who have private coverage today would have to pay higher premiums because of the limits on premium differentials on age.

"Almost no one would see an improvement before 2013 if the House version is passed, or 2014 if the Senate version passes. One thing is certain: the bills would entrench the insurance industry and pharmaceutical industry even further in their control of the health care system."

You're being played, America.

-

Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:29 AM | Permalink

Ofman: Dis and Dat, Dem and Dose

The NHL is finally getting it right even though it's referees can't. The eight-game suspension of Anaheim Ducks defenseman James Wisniewski for his irresponsible and dirty (yes, dirty) hit on the Blackhawks' Brent Seabrook tells me someone in the league office has a functioning brain. It doesn't function very often but it did this time.

Wisniewski was assessed a mere minor penalty for charging. The referees in this game should have their whistles confiscated. I say suspend them since they can't figure out what a major penalty is. Hawks coach Joel Quenneville screamed bloody murder:

TrackNotes:
  • Showdown off.

  • "You hit a guy without the puck, you could kill a guy. It's the most dangerous hit in the history of the game, alright. He tried to hurt him. If that's not intent, that's as bad a hit as you could ever have in the game."

    This comes just a few days after the Washington Capitals' Alex Ovechkin, the game's best offensive player, shoved Brian Campbell into the board, breaking his clavicle and a rib. This also was a dirty hit. Funny thing; there are some pundits who think these aren't dirty hits opting to call them reckless. It's reckless if it happens once. It's dirty if it happens often.

    Do the Hawks need an enforcer?

    That's the paradox. The answer is yes - as long as it isn't someone who makes a living decapitating the opposition.

    * * *

    I believe the Bulls, as presently constituted, would be a 14 seed in the NCAA Tournament . . . and lose in the first round.

    * * *

    Speaking of the Big Dance, my brackets look like President Obama's health plan and it's only day one.

    * * *

    Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington tested positive for using cocaine. Cubs skipper Lou Piniella tested positive for Nyquil. Ozzie Guillen tested positive for using Red Bull.

    * * *

    Anyone want to bet Northwestern finally makes the tournament next year when they get Kevin Coble back?

    * * *

    DePaul Athletic Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto claims the next Blue Demons coach will be among the highest paid in the Big East. Now that's smart negotiating, isn't it? What if Plan A fails? Or what if Plan B falls apart. Will you pay big bucks for mediocrity?

    * * *

    If the Blackhawks really want an enforcer, have them fit skates on Bobby Jenks.

    * * *

    I've said this before and I'll say it again: The Cubs' season could come down to the performances of the three guys named Carlos - Zambrano, Marmol and Silva.

    * * *

    The Cubs want to put up an illuminated billboard over the left field bleachers. And it would be sponsored by Toyota. If I sat in those bleachers, I'd be careful because the sign could fall due to faulty maneuvering by shady money grabbers.

    * * *

    Let me get this straight. Mike Tyson will star in a new reality series on Animal Planet in which the former heavyweight loser introduces us to the competitive world of pigeon racing. Pigeon racing? At least the network is appropriate because Tyson is an animal from another planet.

    -

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

    -

    Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:05 AM | Permalink

    Song of the Moment: Alex Chilton

    "Alex Chilton, 59, who began his four-decade career in pop music as the teenage lead singer of the Box Tops and whose later band Big Star influenced 'power pop' bands such as the Replacements and Cheap Trick, died March 17 in a New Orleans hospital. An autopsy was pending," the Washington Post reports.

    "The Replacements acknowledged Mr. Chilton's influence with their song 'Alex Chilton.' Perhaps in a nod to a career that often flew under the radar, the song describes Mr. Chilton as an 'invisible man who can sing in a visible voice.'"

    Released: 1987

    Length: 3:12

    Label: Sire

    Jacket: View image.

    Wikipedia: The song is available as a playable track on Rock Band 2. Chilton was a guest musician on Pleased to Meet Me, playing guitar on "Can't Hardly Wait."

    Songfacts: Alex Chilton was originally supposed to produce "Tim", and actually started working on the album until the studio thought they needed a "bigger name" and brought in Tommy "Ramone" Erdelyi - who was unfortunately going a little deaf by this time. Some of the Chilton produced demos are still floating around out there on bootlegs. - Mister Whirly, Minneapolis, MN

    "Feelin' like a hundred bucks/Exchanging good lucks face to face" is a reference to two Kinks albums "Face to Face" and the rare bootleg "Good Luck"
    - Andrew, Bergenfield, NJ

    "checkin his stash by the trash at st. mark's place" is a reference to the first time Paul Westerberg met the subject, Alex Chilton.
    - Dan, Tonawanda, NY

    Lyrics:

    If he was from Venus
    Would he feed us
    With a spoon
    If he was from Mars wouldn't that be cool
    Standing right on campus
    Would he stamp us in a file
    Hangin' down in Memphis all the while

    Children by the millions
    Sing for Alex Chilton when he comes 'round
    They sing I'm in love
    What's that song
    I'm in love
    With that song

    Cerebral rape and pillage in a village of his choice
    Invisible man who can sing in a visible voice
    Feeling like a hundred bucks
    Exchanging good lucks face to face
    Checkin' his stash by the trash at St. Mark's Place

    Children by the millions
    Sing for Alex Chilton when he comes 'round
    They sing I'm in love
    What's that song
    I'm in love
    With that song

    I never travel too far
    Without a little Big Star

    Runnin' round the house, Mickey Mouse and tarot cards
    Fallin' asleep with a flop pop video on
    If he was from Venus would he meet us on the moon
    If he died in Memphis wouldn't that be cool

    Children by the millions
    Sing for Alex Chilton when he comes 'round
    They sing I'm in love
    What's that song
    I'm in love
    With that song

    YouTube:

    1. I'm in love. What's that song?

    *

    2. Westerberg live, '93.

    *

    3. Heard about your band.

    -

    Comments welcome.

    -

    Previously in Song of the Moment:
    * Iron Man
    * The Story of Bo Diddley
    * Teach Your Children
    * Dream Vacation
    * When The Levee Breaks
    * I Kissed A Girl
    * Theme From Shaft
    * Rocky Mountain High
    * North to Alaska
    * Barracuda
    * Rainy Days and Mondays
    * Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?
    * Baby, It's Cold Outside
    * Man in the Mirror
    * Birthday Sex
    * Rio
    * My Sharona

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:18 AM | Permalink

    TrackNotes: The Showdown Is Off

    "The horse will tell us A) How he/she feels; B) When he/she wants to run."

    Fine, horse whisperer. But it's not that simple.

    It was a curious day Saturday, at least for Rachel Alexandra, who lost in the New Orleans Ladies at Fair Grounds. Twenty minutes later, super mare Zenyatta kept her record perfect at 15-0 in winning the Santa Margarita at Santa Anita.

    But the antics of owner Jess Jackson and trainer Steve Asmussen and the seeming befuddlement of jockey Calvin Borel before and after Rachel's race begged two questions: If she's not ready for the race, then why is she running? Or, if she really just needs the race to get into shape, why not simply let her run, win or lose, to get in shape?

    The indicators, cryptic as they are in owner- and trainer-speak, were there. Rachel had been off since September after running a grueling eight-race campaign last year. (Her previous owner once commented that she needs time between races.)

    She had only begun training in February, and it wasn't going well. Rain supposedly interrupted her work routine, although she did record six published workouts since February 6. But they were all lackluster. Her last workout before this race, which I saw on video, did not look good. Her head was everywhere but straight ahead.

    Her trials and tribulations were well chronicled. Wrote Marcus Hersh of the Daily Racing Form: "On Jan. 20, after a spirited gallop, Asmussen said he still wasn't sure whether Rachel Alexandra could be readied for a start during the Fair Grounds meet."

    Even the rah-rah stories ahead of the race contained questions. "Her gallops have been not as controlled as last year," Asmussen said. "Right now, we need more control."

    Borel contributed a classic doublespeak: "She's just a racemare. You've got to let her do her thing. In the afternoon, when the gates break, she'll run a sixteenth of a mile and then she'll let you do what you want." Huh? Which is it, let her run or control her?

    This seemed a barn in some disarray.

    Borel and Rachel were a good four or five lanes out from the rail around the first turn, giving the appearance that Rachel's connections did not want her too involved. At that point, Borel put on the handcuffs with a hard hold on the reins. Nevertheless, Rachel held just off of leader Fighter Wing in a medium, quality pace. After wrestling with Borel down the backstretch, head bobbing uncomfortably, Rachel took her typical quick shot to the lead on the turn.

    All the while, Zardana sat in the back of the bus, waiting. She engaged Rachel coming into the stretch, and took a slight lead at 3/16ths. Rachel fought back to put a nose ahead, but by the time they passed the eighth pole, it was clear that Zardana's easy stride and momentum would carry the day. She beat the 2009 Horse of the Year by most of a length.

    Her class and determination showing, it was a valiant effort by Rachel, but she just didn't have enough

    In guiding Zardana to an out-from-the-weeds win, trainer John Shireffs and jockey David Flores appeared as if they had been studying Rachel as closely as Asmussen. How sweet must the win have been, seeing as Shireffs also trains Zenyatta.

    Borel seemed puzzled by the whole thing, if not angry. Recapped Hersh: "Borel said he rode to instructions, and would have preferred to have let Rachel take the lead earlier. 'I wanted to go on past the speed horse early,' Borel said. 'I'd have got by her anytime and my filly could have gone on, but they wanted me to wait and not get into her until the sixteenth pole.'"

    With the racing world still in some shock, just minutes later Zenyatta took her position at the back of the pack early in the Santa Margarita, reminding us of her Breeders' Cup Classic trip of last November. But she was running a helluva lot smoother than Rachel Alexandra had.

    She made her typical rush up at the quarter pole, showcasing plenty enough run to win this race. But this time, Mike Smith chose to take her inside. Her position was fine for a flying wedge, but would the huge mare get enough space to shoot through?

    Most horses would have checked up, but Zenyatta slowed up as if trying to control the stampede and began shaking her head, as in disbelief and/or an attempt to throw that idiot off her back. Instinctively trying to get to the outside, she abandoned the idea and in a Walter Payton-esque stutter step, ducked down to the rail in two steps, bided her time for a few strides, then downshifted and headed back outside to the three lane to pull away to win by about a length and a half. That she had weaved her way through the field and gotten free without so much as a bump was a testament to her sheer athleticism.

    Once again, a magnificent performance.

    Seemingly before either horse, or the racing world, could catch its breath, word shot out of the Rachel camp that she would not be making the trip to Hot Springs for the Apple Blossom.

    I'm no expert, but I'll ask. If she just needed the race, she got it. So why not run her in the Blossom? Or, if she was just green all over again because of the long layoff, why commit her to the one prep and then the Blossom? Well, perhaps the five million smackers in the Apple Blossom purse had something to do with it.

    I always believed that a Rachel Alexandra-Zenyatta showdown in the Apple Blossom was too ambitious. Why not let them get into a nice, easy 2010 campaign and have them meet somewhere down the line? Like perhaps at Churchill Downs in May. Now, a match-up at any time this year or in the Breeders' Cup seems a distant dream.

    Zenyatta will be going to the Apple Blossom anyway. That's fine. It's a prestigious race. As for Rachel Alexandra, perhaps her horse whisperers will just listen to her.

    Video Vexed
    I alluded last week to the big hunt in trying to find live video of the two races.

    The National Thoroughbred Racing Association announced that they would stream the race live. But apparently their servers were severely overloaded and you were lucky if you saw a few pixels. I saw everything through the miracle of streaming video through my online betting services.

    But the juvenile and shameful performance of TVG, the racing TV network and betting shop, surpassed even my snide predictions. Its childish we've-got-to-take-sides bias for Zenyatta is unbecoming, at best.

    It started Friday on the half-hour Blinkers Off show when, in previewing the two big races, host Matt Carothers kicked off with Zenyatta's race. Rachel Alexandra was Horse of the Year and Rachel's race was first on Saturday. Hell, Rachel even comes first alphabetically.

    To his credit, co-host Mike Watchmaker, national handicapper for the Daily Racing Form, gently but firmly called Carothers on it. Carothers tipped off TVG's corporate culture when he pleaded with Watchmaker to understand that the producers made him do it.

    While other good TVG personalities like Bob Baedeker, Greg Wolf or former trainer and current bloodstock agent Frank Lyons usually prefer to clam up rather than ruffle corporate, Carothers has been one to give Rachel Alexandra her due and try to hose down the flames of Internet debate (my opinion is that Zenyatta's fans have been much more vitriolic) between fans of the two horses, in the interest of understanding the greatness of both. He appears an Obama fan on the set at Fox, so I give him a lot of credit for that.

    But TVG was muddled all day Saturday.

    With Simon Bray and Todd Schrupp on location in Tampa for the Tampa Bay Derby - acting as if it was one of the biggest days of racing in history - they commenced with :58 Flat, a quick-cut show with the "edgy" Carothers (and his 1992 haircut) hosting from the California studios. Well, Tampa was running some truly historic races, so old Matty didn't get much of a word in edgewise on his own show.

    You have to understand that the internecine bickering in racing simulcasting is such that TVG did not have the rights to show the two big races, not even the track feeds, live. HRTV did.

    So what does TVG do? They roll out Chris Kotulak, more often seen covering the quarterhorses, to "call" the two races. It was jaw-droppingly lame and classless as they insinuated themselves into the races with some sort of an entitlement they didn't have.

    Kotulak's call of the New Orleans Ladies seemingly reveled in Rachel's loss. His call of Zenyatt'as races was full-on "what a great horse she is."

    Then it turned ugly. At first, they seemed able to restrain their glee in Rachel Alexandra's loss, but when they cut to studio, the minions, who looked like they were ordered to gather and show some support for "our" Zenyatta, were flush with high-fives and shit-eatin' grins. A few of them held those pre-printed pink "Girl Power" placards we saw at both of Zenyatta's "retirement" parties.

    TVG started in California and seems to be honing its West Coast bias these days. With some of the crappy and often unbettable synthetic racing we get from California, they should be more careful.

    -

    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 12:20 AM | Permalink

    March 18, 2010

    The [Thursday] Papers

    1. AP Fact Check: Obama is lying about health care. (Remember when Obama told Lamar Alexander at the health care summit that he was sure he was right about his claim that premiums would go down for everyone? Guess again!)

    It's also not true that everyone will be able to keep their current plan if they want to. I'm not particularly bothered by that, but I'm bothered by the false claim. There are incentives in the plan for some employers to drop coverage and send their workers into the exchanges that would be created. You may have to find your own plan. Which, again, is fine by me. But another false claim by a self-righteous president isn't.

    2. Eric Zorn is "still waiting for someone to calmly explain why using 'deem and pass' offends the ideals of democracy or good government."

    In other words, Zorn is still trying to figure out why it's offensive to use a parliamentary maneuver for a purpose it wasn't designed for in order to pass controversial and far-reaching legislation that doesn't have enough votes to pass if actually voted on.

    Hell, why even have Congress vote at all? Let's just "deem and pass" everything!

    *

    Obama, well-practiced in voting "present" while an Illinois state senator, said on Wednesday that "it's an ugly process" - but that he had no problem with that.

    Wasn't that part of his campaign slogan - Hope, Change and Ugliness?

    *

    Justifying political chicanery on the grounds that the other side does it too is twice as hypocritical as the other side complaining when their opponents adopt their tactics. "He hit me first!" As Dr. Phil says, somebody's gotta be a hero in this dysfunctional relationship. A lot of folks thought it would be Obama. That's why they elected him.

    *

    Passing health care reform this way will only further poison our politics. The argument will never end; states are already moving to challenge mandatory health care and Republicans are already talking about repeal.

    This is not the way to unite the country. Obama has apparently never stopped to consider that maybe he's going about this the wrong way.

    3. Is the status quo really the only alternative to this bill, as the president claims? Hardly.

    As I've pointed out many times, many of the bill's provisions could pass today - and could have passed on Obama's first day in office - if acted on separately. Those are the provisions, by the way, that Obama keeps talking about: prohibiting denial of health insurance because of pre-existing conditions, removing caps on lifetime benefits, etc. etc.

    4. Will Americans come to love this bill once they start to see the benefits? Who knows. That's just a Democratic talking point lazy editorial boards and pundits like to repeat. Besides, the most significant benefits wouldn't kick in for years. (The last version of the legislation I was able to track implemented the pre-existing condition provision immediately for children, but for adults it wouldn't kick until something like 2015. Gotta give the insurance companies time to, you know, prepare.)

    *

    It might be even worse than that. Nobody even knows what's in this thing anymore - including the president.

    From yesterday's big interview:

    BAIER: Deem and passed, Senate reconciliation and we don't know exactly what's in the fix bill. Do you still think -

    OBAMA: No, we will - by the time the vote has taken place, not only I will know what's in it, you'll know what's in it because it's going to be posted and everybody's going to be able to able to evaluate it on the merits.

    But here's the thing, Bret, I mean, the reason that I think this conversation ends up being a little frustrating is because the focus entirely is on Washington process. And yes, I have said that is an ugly process. It was ugly when Republicans were in charge, it was ugly were in Democrats were in charge.

    BAIER: This is one-sixth of the U.S. economy, though, sir. One-sixth.

    OBAMA: And, Bret, let me tell you something, the fact of the matter is that for the vast majority of people, their health care is not going to change because right now they're getting a better deal. The only thing that is going to change for them is is that they're going to have more security under their insurance and they're going to have a better situation when it comes to if they lose their job, heaven forbid, or somebody gets sick with a preexisting condition, they'll have more security. But, so - so -

    BAIER: So how can you -

    OBAMA: - the notion that -

    BAIER: - guarantee that they're not going to -

    OBAMA: - so but -

    BAIER: - they're going to be able to keep their doctor -

    OBAMA: Bret, you've got to let me finish my answers -

    BAIER: Sir, I know you don't like to filibuster, but -

    OBAMA: Well, I'm trying to answer your question and you keep on interrupting. So let me be clear.

    Now, you keep on repeating the notion that it's one-sixth of the economy. Yes, it's one-sixth of the economy, but we're not transforming one-sixth of the economy all in one fell swoop. What we're saying is is that for the vast majority of people who have health care, they're going to be able to keep it. But what we are saying is that we should have some basic protections from insurance company abuses and that in order for us to do that, we are going to have to make some changes in the status quo that we've been debating for a year.

    This notion that this has been not transparent, that people don't know what's in the bill, everybody knows what's in the bill. I sat for seven hours with -

    BAIER: Mr. President, you couldn't tell me what the special deals are that are in or not today.

    OBAMA: I just told you what was in and what was not in.

    BAIER: Is Connecticut in?

    OBAMA: Connecticut - what are you specifically referring to?

    BAIER: The $100 million for the hospital? Is Montana in for the asbestos program? Is - you know, listen, there are people - this is real money, people are worried about this stuff.

    OBAMA: And as I said before, this - the final provisions are going to be posted for many days before this thing passes, but -

    *

    Until then, I guess we don't even know what we're arguing about.

    5. And:

    BAIER: You said a few times as Senator Obama that if a president has to eke out a victory of 50 plus one, that on something as important as health care, 'you can't govern.' But now you're embracing a 50 plus one reconciliation process in the Senate, so do you feel like you can govern after this?

    OBAMA: Well, Bret, the - I think what we've seen during the course of this year is that we have come up with a bill that basically tracks the recommendations of Tom Daschle, former Democratic senator and leader, but also Bob Dole, former Republican leader, Howard Baker, former Republican leader.

    RHODES: Bob Dole and Howard Baker? Who's your health secretary, Doc Brown?

    6. Even you, Dennis Kucinich? You raised money on your opposition to this bill.

    7. Look, I'm passionate about health care reform. I prefer single-payer, as I've written here several times, but I think there are plenty of other options that never got discussed that could have achieved bipartisan consensus. I believe there were other approaches as well to a congressional boondoggle. That's not what Obama was elected to do. I also speak as someone who buys his own, bare-bones plan from Blue Cross/Blue Shield just in case I get hit by a bus. And guess what? I can't afford the latest premium hike and I'm about to become uninsured. But that doesn't mean I want a horrendous bill with tremendously awful long-range implications to pass.

    8. "Most Americans agree that health care reform is needed. You can't have insurance companies kicking people off the rolls when they get sick, and you can't have Americans not able to see a doctor because they don't have enough money. There have to be safety nets in a civilized society."

    Guess who said that? Bill O'Reilly this week. It was hardly the first time. It's a party line vote in Congress, but in America support for health care reform but disgust with the legislation before us is indeed bipartisan.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Antipartisan.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:40 AM | Permalink

    Beachwood Brackets '10!

    Once again the sharpest minds at Beachwood HQ have come together to produce the nation's best brackets. Watch for updates after every round. In fact, in four years of doing this we've never gotten a game wrong.

    Championship Game
    Butler vs. Duke. The privatization of America continues. No public option? This is not reform. Rooting for Butler is mandatory, but Duke finds a loophole.

    Final Four
    Michigan State vs. Butler. Neither team should be there, but both are. We give the edge to Tom Izzo Stradlin.

    West Virginia vs. Duke. The preppies beat the coal miners because that's just how life goes. Sigh.

    Elite Eight
    MIDWEST

    Michigan State vs. Tennessee. Having already beaten the tournament's best Big Ten team, the Vols should have little problem handling the Vols.

    WEST

    Butler vs. Kansas State. The KSU spite train rolls on.

    EAST

    Kentucky vs. West Virginia. Fried chicken beats coal.

    SOUTH

    Duke vs. Baylor. The Bears are cool but the Blue Demons are better.

    *

    Sweet 16
    MIDWEST

    Northern Iowa vs. Michigan State. The Spartans are better - but not today.

    Tennessee vs. Ohio State. The Buckeyes salvage some Big Ten pride.

    WEST

    Syracuse vs. Butler. Orange Pride sweeps the nation - and the tournament.

    Xavier vs. Kansas State. If for nothing but to rub the Jayhawks' noses in it. But they're better, too.

    EAST

    Kentucky vs. Cornell. Syracuse! I mean, this is the East region, right? Oh, okay, Kentucky, if only to put a halt to stories about all those smarties and their suicides.

    Washington vs. West Virginia. Washington will continue to be bogged down by partisan debate and sleazy parliamentary maneuvers. West Virginia just gits it done.

    SOUTH

    Duke vs. Purdue. Never challenge a man named Duke. Or is that Dirk?

    Baylor vs. St. Mary's. By executive order, St. Mary's is not allowed to appear in this tournament any longer.

    *

    Second Round
    MIDWEST

    Kansas vs. Northern Iowa. Kansas has a history of choking in the tournament but Beachwood Labs bought into them as far as the Final Four. Still, this game makes us queasy.

    Michigan State vs. Maryland. Just not believing in the Big Ten this year.

    Georgia Tech vs. Ohio State. Except for this game.

    Tennessee vs. Ohio. We're riding our Cinderella team one more round.

    WEST

    Syracuse vs. Gonzaga. The Orangemen, baby!

    Butler vs. Murray State. Mr. Murray K. State. State.

    Xavier vs. Pittsburgh. X, by any means necessary.

    BYU vs. KSU. PU, but KSU, which has a date with Syracuse in Salt Lake City.

    EAST

    Kentucky vs. Wake Forest. Kentucky also has a date with Syracuse - in Indianapolis.

    Cornell vs. Wisconsin. We love Wisconsin but this is where it ends.

    Washington vs. New Mexico. Disgusting back-door deals make Washington impossible to pick, even if they do have the votes.

    Missouri vs. West Virginia. Coal miners' daughters could beat Mizzou.

    SOUTH

    Duke vs. Cal. East vs. West in the South. Jet lag catches up with Golden Bears.

    Texas A&M vs. Purdue. Weird daylight savings time zones in Indiana catch up with Boilermakers.

    Old Dominion vs. Baylor. OD wins textbook wars, but not this game.

    St. Mary's vs. Villanova. St. Mary's wins textbook wars, but not this game.

    *

    First Round
    MIDWEST

    Kansas vs. Lehigh. One day a No. 16 seed will beat a No. 1 seed, but when that day comes that seed will not be named Lehigh. Plus, we're looking forward to Kansas's upcoming Final Four heartbreak.

    UNLV vs. Northern Iowa. Normally our algorithm doesn't approve of schools with directional names, and normally our algorithm favors schools located in gambling meccas, and normally our algorithm is against all things Iowa, where someone on our staff spent nine miserable months once, but in this case we think the Panthers have just enough to get by the Runnin' Rebels before Kansas puts them out of our misery.

    Michigan State vs. New Mexico State. Sorry, libertarian hippie freaks, the auto bailout will prop up the Spartans one more time.

    Maryland vs. Houston. Maryland could make a deep run, while Houston's unfamiliarity with zoning will do it in.

    Tennessee vs. San Diego State. SDSU also has underdog potential, but not as much as if it was SDSY.

    Georgetown vs. Ohio. Put the dot on the "i" and settle in for Ohio's pending mind-blowing showdown with Ohio State.

    Oklahoma State vs. Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech is a PC, so we'll take the Cowboys, who don't need no stinkin' computers.

    Ohio State vs. UC-Santa Barbara. Vincent Vega not enough for a UCSB upset.

    *

    WEST

    Syracuse vs. Vermont. Sorry, Dr. Dean.

    Gonzaga vs. Florida State. The yuppies have discovered Gonzaga and, predictably, ruined it. But they'll get one win in before heading home.

    Butler vs. UTEP. The Beachwood algorithm would usually work against any school named after paid domestic help, but in this case the West Texas town of El Paso can't compete.

    Vanderbilt vs. Murray State. Vandy will advance to the White Glove Bowl against Butler.

    Xavier vs. Minnesota. Xavier will overcome a weak throwing arm to topple inconsistent upstart Minnesota, which is too polite to beat an injured man.

    Pittsburgh vs. Oakland (Mich.). Billy Beane's younger brother just not enough to overcome Pitt, despite Dave Wannstedt.

    BYU vs. Florida. Mormon jokes still not old.

    Kansas State vs. North Texas. Algorithm and lack of talent knock North Texas out.

    *

    EAST

    Kentucky vs. East Tennessee State. Maybe if it was South Tennessee State, but otherwise no.

    Texas vs. Wake Forest. Even first-round losses are bigger in Texas.

    Temple vs. Cornell. Jews vs. Goys? Never bet against God's chosen people, at least until the third round.

    Wisconsin vs. Wofford. We want to like Wofford, which claims to offer a "Quintessential Liberal Arts Education," but a look beneath the surface reveals that the school is located in Spartanburg, S.C. So, you know, just another Internet scam.

    Marquette vs. Washington. Everybody hates Washington these days, and we're no different. Reconcile this!

    New Mexico vs. Montana. I would have liked to have seen Montana. Oops!

    Clemson vs. Missouri. We're suckers for that paw print.

    West Virginia vs. Morgan State. You're out of here, Morgan. Don't have the temperament for the trade. There's always barber college.

    *

    SOUTH

    Duke vs. South Harmon Institute of Technology. Geez, they let just about anyone into that play-in game these days.

    California vs. Louisville. Schwarzenegger has his whole state budget riding on this game at the Mirage, so we'll give it to him because we love those commercials about being just a bunch of pencil-pushers.

    Texas A&M vs. Utah. A&M being called up for ninth tour of duty in Iraq soon, so we think they might make a little run here.

    Purdue vs. Siena. Any school with a mascot named after a cocktail almost always gets our vote.

    Notre Dame vs. Old Dominion. What is this, the Dark Ages Bowl? Notre Dame wins in a conspiracy.

    Baylor vs. Sam Houston State. We didn't like Baylor much when he coached the Cubs, but Sam Houston's ego is a bit much to take.

    Richmond vs. St. Mary's. There's something about St. Mary's. We think it's the stench of failure.

    Villanova vs. Robert Morris. We don't think that little school downtown can compete. Maybe if it was hockey.

    -

    Comments welcome.

    -

    See also:
    * Beachwood Brackets '09!
    * Beachwood Brackets '08
    * Beachwood Brackets '07
    * The Beachwood Brackets

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:47 AM | Permalink

    Lemme Get A Bite Of That

    My brother and I are tight. Except for a weird hallucinogenic drug phase I went through in the 80s, we've always been best friends. We grew up in the same room - sharing a bunk bed in a 6-by-6 space, until I was a teenager.

    Cramped circumstances like that dictate two choices: 1) become lifelong, inseparable pals or 2) become mortal enemies. We choose option 1.

    As adults, getting together with my brother is an absolute teenage boy laugh riot; all dick jokes, goofy innuendos and junk food all the time. We bullshit constantly and never tire of hanging out.

    But he absolutely cannot abide one thing that I do: I constantly and incessantly ask him for a bite of whatever he is eating. The most irritating, grating sentence in the world for my brother is, "Hey, lemme get a bite of that."

    I don't know why I do it; maybe it's a residual reaction to always sharing as kids, or perhaps it's an instinctual alpha male domination thing (I am older by four years). He claims I am just too damn cheap to buy my own. Whatever it is that drives me to bogart my brother's stuff, it drives my brother absolutely batty.

    When I die, and he is standing over my grave, he will finally be able to say, "No motherfucker, you cannot have a bite."

    Here, then, are things I have asked my brother for a bite of:

    1. His Dope Rhymes.

    I have to admit, Dicky's got ill moneymaking skills. He once saved the youth center from certain destruction as his rhyme-spitting, crime-fighting alter ego, MC Sticky Lips. And I am a hater. So I've asked for a little bite of his rhyme flavor. He won't give me none.

    2. His Fat Pills.

    My brother is a fiend for Little Debbie snack cakes. He calls them his precious little fat cakes. He has never, ever eaten one in my presence without me hassling him for, "c'mon just a little bite, man." I think he buys them three at a time because he knows that the Drew Attrition Rate is going to be at least a third. And I have never taken a bite of one of his fat cakes without make a face and saying, "Ew, that's too sweet."

    3. His High Fashion Style.

    Wait, forget this one; that mope dresses just like me: a chubby pizza delivery guy on his way to a date at the bowling alley on 10-cent wing night.

    4. His Pens.

    I have the truly disgusting habit of chewing pens, straws, pop tops; basically I'll chew anything that won't shatter my teeth. I once chewed so many pencils - lead pencils - in grade school that, at one point, I was only allowed to have use one pencil a day and if I ate it, then I got a zero for the work I couldn't do without a pencil. The worst look I've ever seen on my brother's face was the time he picked up a pen I had been chewing on and slobber leaked out all over his hand.

    5. His Ear.

    He'd already scored a stunning TKO upset over me seven months earlier. This fight was supposed to be my comeback, but when he hit me in my junk again, I don't know what happened; the next thing I know, I've got a piece of his ear stuck in my teeth and a weird face tattoo.

    6. His Crime Syndicate.

    Whatever action he's got, I want a piece of it.

    7. His Hot Spaghetti On The Stove.

    What I thought he was saying was, "Stop, stop it'll be too funny if you eat that before me after I've been slaving away at it for an hour." What he actually said was, "You are going to fuck your mouth up if you eat that." He was right; I couldn't taste anything for a week.

    8. His Sweet Jump Roping Skills.

    Shit, I can't even say this one with a straight face. We'd both keel over from a coronary if either one of us biscuit-eating, Dom DeLuise twins so much as picked up a jump rope.

    9. His Wedding Cake (at the reception).

    His wife still hasn't forgiven me for that one. I know, my piece was coming, but his looked so much better.

    Richard Adamek contributed to this post.

    -

    Comments welcome.

    -

    Other Lists By Drew Adamek:
    * Today's Syllabus
    * Shit My Dad Says
    * Work Weirdos
    * Things I Miss About Chicago
    * 20 Albums I Wish I Had Never Bought
    * Their Chicago
    * Cities I've Slept In
    * My Favorite 1980s Chicago Radio Memories
    * Why Milwaukee Rules
    * Why I'm Glad I Don't Live In D.C. Anymore
    * The Beer Goggle Recordings
    * A List Of Reader Comments To Drew's Lists
    * Life's Little Victories
    * The Worst Jobs I've Ever Had
    * Jobs For The Zombie Apocalypse

    Plus:
    * Fan Note: Me & Metallica

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:32 AM | Permalink

    What I Watched Last Night: Undercover Boss (Churchill Downs Inc./Arlington Park)

    Like Sugar Bombs being "part of a nutritious breakfast" or government EPA-rated mileage at 23 city/31 highway, things are usually not as they appear.

    I simply don't believe Churchill Downs Inc. (CDI) is the benevolent caretaker of horse racing and America's biggest racing event. And I don't believe reality television has much to do with reality. Instead, it's a crass capitalization on the fact that Americans have an innate desire to believe what they see on television and in newspapers.

    I didn't make much inner progress on these things after watching the latest installment of CBS's Undercover Boss, where the geek head of CDI went "undercover" to experience the "lowest" jobs in the company. You know, the other side of the tracks. The only bit of reality they shoot for and hit is that the employees they meet have eminently more grease in their elbows, work ethic in their brains and pride in their souls than any cookie-cutter, interchangeable MBA above them.

    Noticeably absent from the show was any mention of the fans or horseplayers, or even a glimpse of the backside workers, whom some have compared to migrant workers. There wasn't a Mexican groom or hot walker in the whole show. Maybe they figured Murrow had that covered back in 1960.

    Meet William C. Carstanjen. Self-described as climbing up the ladder of corporate law and mergers and acquisitions, the corporate web site bills him as Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer. Throughout the show, he is referred to as chief operating officer. We see him strolling into Churchill Downs, past the statue of Barbaro (figures) and into the boardroom to tell his "team" (godalmighty I hate that term and running into it here at the regular job) that he's going undercover and they'd better keep it quiet.

    *

    Questioning Reality 1: Are you telling me he didn't have a Human Resources staffer scope out the employees at Calder Casino and Race Course in Florida and our very own Arlington Park beforehand to find the employees most likely to make this thing work?

    *

    So he grows a few days' worth of beard and says he's Billy Johns. His movie company failed and he's making a documentary about entry-level jobs. Hence, the cameras. And he'll be staying at No-Tell Motels both in Florida and Illinois so as to not raise suspicion.

    Leaving his truly sprawling estate in Kentucky "for a week," his wife is quoted over the goodbye: "It will be interesting because Bill likes to be in control of things." Ah, the true nature of any CEO. The ivory tower mentality is further driven home when Billy says, rather truthfully, "There's a lot of responsibility in working in an environment where people have such a passion for what they're doing." Imagine that, caring about a job. That you have to have.

    *

    Questioning Reality 2: Are Calder and Arlington really hiring? Wouldn't you have to know someone to get in?

    *

    Billy lands at Calder. He boasts of the $100 million investment CDI is putting into Calder. (It's a casino and you'll see their priorities by going to the Calder home page.

    Billy goes to work for trainer Gillian Andreasen. I wonder if she ever wins a race because I could find no trace of her in the trainer standings. It appears she bops up and down the East Coast following the racing seasons, but she desperately needs to win a race or she may lose the few stalls she has at Calder.

    All we really see here is Billy trying to feed the horses, which Gillian halts when his fear and apprehension of the horses starts to spook them. Gillian probably saved his life. "CDI COO Trampled by $5,000 Claimer" would not have looked good in the Daily Racing Form.

    Striding across the apron to watch her horse race, Gillian tells Billy to not even think about working in this game, it's dying and there are few if any opportunities. Billy's real surprised at this. Man, doesn't he read the trades? Holding the Check finishes badly and Gillian is angry, disappointed and fearful of the future. "When you're down to your last couple of hundred bucks . . . "

    **

    Questioning Reality 3: Why on earth would Jean, the bugler at Arlington Park, allow this Gomer Pyle to even come close to her bugle, let alone have him attempt to actually blow the Call to the Post, without being ordered to do so by some Arlington big cheese? He actually did it and made Yoko Ono sound like Duke Ellington.

    *

    Then he goes to work for Denise, whose job is to clean the Arlington luxury suites after the races. You've seen how many suites there are. It looks like Denise is the only employee doing it. Billy is bad and is slowing the process. Which is bad because it seems she's part-time, at $8 per hour, and has to get it the hell done.

    One of her biggest issues is that she commutes from Chicago to Arlington Heights, and the cherry-on-the-sundae insult is that nobody in security will escort her across a dark parking lot to her car. Denise is truly afraid for her safety.

    *

    Questioning Reality 4: Yo, geek. Why do you ask so many questions?

    *

    Still at Arlington, we meet Roxanne, a two-job employee who provides the evening's comedy. In the mornings, she's a backside worker, mucking stalls and washing horses. And damn, just as she tells Billy that he has to wash "any area there might be" on the horse, the camera cuts away. But I don't think Billy got kicked in the head.

    He's giving her the third degree. "What do you want to be?" In a bit of great timing, "President of Churchill Downs would be fine."

    In the afternoon, Roxanne is the receptionist and Girl Friday in the press box. "People on the front side don't get the people on the back side. I get to see both; it's important," Roxanne reveals. And, man, is that one, soo-weet press box? Although I didn't see any wagering machines.

    "That was an honest day's work," Billy moans as he flops on the bed that night.

    *

    Questioning Reality 5: Is this guy really going to subsist on a 4.5-ounce microwaved cup of chicken noodle soup? Or did you do that just for the reality?

    *

    His last job will be as a jockey's valet (it's really pronounced VAL-ett, like they do on the show, it really is). Being a team manager back in the day, I can relate. I can also see he's going to fail miserably.

    He's hooked up with Kenny Rice, a former jockey who now sees to everything so all the jockey has to do is ride. He's assigned to the vivacious Swede, Inez Karlsson, the only woman in the jockey colony. Inez reads the situation like she's trying to split horses on the rail: "I'm a tough cookie. If I get pissed, I will tell you."

    While Kenny shows Billy his clipboard list of race and silks assignments, the one with the picture of a young girl affixed to the top, the boss keeps using the racing program. "Don't use the program, it takes too much time to turn the pages." Kenny points to the clipboard list with the picture of a young girl affixed to the top. "This is your bible."

    He's supposed to tag along, but Billy loses track of Kenny and tries to find him. I wouldn't be surprised if he went all the way up to the Million Room. The other valets are howling.

    Inez won three races on the day, 10-1 on Two-Ninety Five in the one race we saw. Valets are not allowed to bet.

    *

    Questioning Reality 6: If the music is so dramatic throughout these shows, how will we know when a scene really is dramatic? And do The Dramatics get a cut?

    *

    Then we get hit with The Emotional Moment.

    That picture on top of Kenny's clipboard is an In Memoriam card for his teenage daughter, Meghan, who died of a heart condition just months previously. Billy starts bashing himself and then cries for not noticing it. I guess you can't blame this deer in the headlights for not noticing.

    Kenny's always on the edge, but he seems to be handling it reasonably well. He really needs to be around the track and I would think being a valet has a lot of prestige in the world of the track. Probably a good idea to have him valet for Ms. Karlsson.

    So it's the moment of truth as William Carstanjen has to atone for his sins. He tells the CDI board that aside from the spreadsheets and stock quotations, they have to do their jobs on some sort of personal level, as dangerous as that might be. They look at him like he just landed from Mars with Baretta's cockatoo on his wrist.

    "Bill, how will you change the way you do things?"

    "Understand that there is a personal level to these people and their jobs."

    I would have added: "And you'll be manning the Miller Brewing ice cart in General Admission during Arlington Million Week."

    Gillian gets more stalls at Calder, and Denise takes a full-time job at Arlington, demurring his offer to take a job at a CDI facility (probably the Mud Bug OTB, Denise; good call) closer to home. He relocates Roxanne to Louisville to "work in the marketing department up to the Derby." Seems like kind of a short promise, but we hope Roxie "takes the reins."

    And in what is probably one of the nicest gestures in racing, WC promises that Arlington will name a race for Meghan on Opening Day, April 29, 2010.

    After showing a few clips from the show and telling the Arlington employees he'll always remember them, Kenny gives him an arm knock: "You're still gonna name that race for Meghan, right?"

    *

    Questioning Reality 7: Does anybody really believe things will get substantially better for the people upon whose backs these companies profit? Why yes. Didn't we just witness that on Undercover Boss?

    -

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

    -

    Submissions and comments welcome.

    -

    1. From Sandy Thompson:

    On Saturday, April 23, 2016, I watched Undercover Boss with Bill Carstanjen, COO of Churchill Downs. I always enjoy watching Undercover Boss.

    This show in particular however, was a little disheartening when Mr. Carstanjen at the end of the show met with the people he worked with and did not offer any money to them.

    It was very nice to see some were offered full-time work, and an upgrade in positions. It would have been really great if Mr. Carstanjen would have offered them cash as well.

    Now you know Churchill Downs makes millions of dollars and it was unbelievable to me that they are so cheap not to have given cash to these people.

    I have watched enough Undercover Boss shows to see that most all were extremely generous in helping the people they worked with get a college education, buy homes, cars, college funds for their children and lots of cash. Mr. Carstanjen, really? Is your
    organization that hard-up not to have been more generous? Your organization is extremely cheap and that doesn't speak well for you or your board.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:57 AM | Permalink

    March 17, 2010

    The [Wednesday] Papers

    "I believe the United States Congress owes the American people a final vote on health care reform," Mr. Obama said during a 20-minute speech in the East Room of the White House.

    - March 4, 2010, New York Times

    *

    House May Try To Pass Senate Health-Care Bill Without Voting On It

    - March 15, 2010, Washington Post

    March Madness
    "President Barack Obama predicts Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky and Villanova to make the men's basketball Final Four," AP reports.

    If any of those teams don't have enough points to make it into the Final Four, Obama will huddle with NCAA officials and try to advance them through reconciliation.

    Jobs Candidate
    Cheryle Robinson Jackson, the first female president and CEO of the Chicago Urban League, is committed to public service and focused on improving the lives of people.

    - Jackson's Facebook description of herself

    [M]y passion is economic development."

    - August 19, 2009, the Defender

    Former U.S. Senate candidate Cheryle Jackson has been named vice president of government affairs and corporate development for AAR, a Wood Dale-based company that supplies services and goods to the aerospace and defense industry.

    In her new role, "I'll be helping the company grow by finding strategic alliances and partnerships," she said.

    - March 17, 2010, Sun-Times

    Cry For Help
    "Billy Corgan has tapped legendary Chicago photographer Art Shay to chronicle him for the next three years, as the Smashing Pumpkins rocker completes 40 new songs," Bill Zwecker reports.

    The project will tentatively be called Pay Attention To Me, Dammit!

    Forrest, Trees
    "Sneed hears rumbles White House pressure is being put on Quinn, who favors a female sidekick, to select populist/Cook County Commissioner Forrest Claypool for the job."

    Wha?

    *

    "Word is Dem Cook County Commissioner Forrest Claypool is eyeing a run for the assessor's seat as an independent."

    Huh?

    *

    "[A]fter seven years of challenging the established Cook County leaders within his own party, many insiders are left wondering: Why isn't Claypool running for County Board president this time around since the field is relatively weak, reform is a key issue and he's been beating that drum for years?" CBS2 reported in January.

    "'Well I certainly expected to be running again and I planned to run again,' Claypool said. 'But a friend of mine felt like we had developed some ideas and a business model for integrated services and answers about nationalized health care reform, so I had to make a decision between the two and it was the hardest decision of my life.'"

    Maybe cashing in on health care reform doesn't look so hot anymore.

    NBC Hates Women
    Chicago's most misogynist news site strikes again.

    *

    One of the commenters suggests the image in question was auto-generated. I can't say that it wasn't, but I can say that when I wrote for NBCChicago.com I chose the images myself for my posts; it was one of the responsibilities assigned to writers.

    *

    As I've briefly recounted before, I became so alarmed at the sudden prevalence of scantily clad, buxom women all over the site (and the sophomoric headlines and text wrapped around them) after some new editors were brought in - on orders from New York to make the site "salacious" - that I raised the issue with my minder there (a woman) and was assured that "this is not the direction the site is going."

    That was nine months ago.

    Hipsters On Food Stamps?
    Chicago reacts.

    Jobs For The Zombie Apocalypse
    "An advanced degree in European film studies or Social Media Marketing isn't going to do me any good when the dead rise from their graves to feed upon the living," our very own Drew Adamek writes. "Humanity will need people who can build things from scratch, with little or no natural resources, all while running from flesh-eating hordes."

    Grading Daley
    Excerpts from his report card.

    Alexei and Aramis
    Together again in Fantasy Fix.

    Five Stars
    This place is really good. Ask for Jose and tell him I sent you.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Hip and hungry.

    Posted by Steve Rhodes at 6:27 AM | Permalink

    Jobs For The Zombie Apocalypse

    I've been poking around the Internet for a new job lately. I'm overwhelmed by the amount of information available. There are pointers and tips available for almost any job seeker, in any position, in any geographic location. Before I am even able to apply for a job, I need to decide if I am a post-industrial worker, in the market for a new media job, or looking for a 100K career (yes, yes and yes).

    Sites like Yahoo, MSN and AOL compile my favorite job tip lists. We've all seen them; the ten most recession-proof jobs, the ten most in-demand careers, ten jobs for a new economy. I get them on my e-mail home page all the time, and even though I know I shouldn't, I always click through to them.

    I've noticed some similarities in this type of list: Looking for a job in the failed housing economy of the Southeast? Become a nurse. Looking for a post-meltdown job on Wall Street? Become a nurse. Want a high tech job in Silicon Valley? Become a nurse.

    These lists are helpful in their way, but I don't want to become a nurse.

    Plus, I am a worst-case scenario kind of guy. I am not planning for an economic collapse or another tech bubble; what really worries me is the coming Zombie Apocalypse. An advanced degree in European film studies or Social Media Marketing isn't going to do me any good when the dead rise from their graves to feed upon the living. Humanity will need people who can build things from scratch, with little or no natural resources, all while running from flesh-eating hordes.

    Here, then, are ten jobs for the coming Zombie Apocalypse:

    1. Potter.

    When the only raw materials left are mud and the blood of the innocents, the man who can make a pot will be king. We might all think the hippie kid studying ceramic arts is just in it for the bong hits now, but when the global manufacturing base is eradicated in an orgy of cannibalism, we are going to need him to make all of our durable goods.

    2. High School Teacher.

    If we are to survive, we'll need leaders used to dealing with glassy-eyed, slack-jawed hordes with pallid skin, and a slavish devotion to hive mentality. The only real way to defeat Zombies is to peel them off, one by one, and teach them to think for themselves and consider the consequences of devouring the flesh of the living. Who better equipped than your sophomore history teacher?

    3. Mortician.

    I've done some research in secret ancient texts that I found on the Internet, and we might be exaggerating the undead threat. According to some experts, zombies aren't just killing and eating machines. They may want to just get along with the rest of us and they will need medical attention.

    4. Hollywood Socialite With a Reality Show.

    Zombies are after brains, so you should be fine.

    5. Good-Looking Neurobiologist.

    Only you can save humanity with the formula. But you have to hurry because time is running out. Qualifications include: looking like Sandra Bullock, the inability to run without falling and a soft spot for burly loners who would rather see us all rot in hell.

    6. Investigative Journalist.

    Someone needs to uncover how the zombie outbreak is the result of corporate malfeasance and political corruption, and could have been stopped with simple government oversight. Wait, what . . . what do you mean journalism has already been taken over by zombies?

    7. Ice Road Trucker.

    Turns out zombies can't survive in extreme cold; what remains of humanity will be isolated in the Polar Regions. Only the bravest, burliest, most photogenic tough guys can brave the dangerous conditions to keep humanity supplied.

    8. Lemmy.

    Nobody fucks with Lemmy. In fact, Lemmy may be the first sign of the zombie war; an undead warrior soul wandering the earth looking for faces to destroy.

    9. Wall Street Banker.

    Who better to fight the hordes of the undead than blood-sucking, mindless, killing machines used to destroying the lives of millions of innocent people on a greedy whim. Zombies can't really kill something without a soul now, can they?

    10. Nurse.

    Nursing might be the fastest growing field in America. With most of the population set to retire or be eaten by the undead, the demand for nurses has never been higher. Salaries range from $43,000 to a room in the impenetrable anti-zombie fort built by the San Antonio Air National Guard.

    -

    Comments welcome.

    -

    Other Lists By Drew Adamek:
    * Today's Syllabus
    * Shit My Dad Says
    * Work Weirdos
    * Things I Miss About Chicago
    * 20 Albums I Wish I Had Never Bought
    * Their Chicago
    * Cities I've Slept In
    * My Favorite 1980s Chicago Radio Memories
    * Why Milwaukee Rules
    * Why I'm Glad I Don't Live In D.C. Anymore
    * The Beer Goggle Recordings
    * A List Of Reader Comments To Drew's Lists
    * Life's Little Victories
    * The Worst Jobs I've Ever Had

    Plus:
    * Fan Note: Me & Metallica


    Posted by Steve Rhodes at 5:25 AM | Permalink

    Grading Daley, Again

    "It's been three years since the release of the 2007 DGAP Report Card, and in that time Chicagoans have continued to contend with a government that responds primarily to financial and political clout, rather than the issues and concerns of ordinary citizens," the Developing Government Accountability to the People coalition says. "Where residents have expected to be actively engaged in the implementation of equitable policies that benefit all residents in every neighborhood across the entire city, they have instead found themselves in a constant struggle against forces that ultimately exclude their voices from the democratic process."

    And how.

    Here are excerpts from the mayoral report card the group issued Tuesday.

    Subject: Criminal Justice
    Grade: D
    Excerpt: While there has been some positive movement in the area of criminal justice, the movement has largely been insufficient. We were encouraged by some of Superintendent Jody Weis's initial reform efforts, such as replacing, demoting, or reassigning district commanders, and instituting increased policing of high crime neighborhoods. But Weiss's creation of the Mobile Strike Force, which is seemingly a reformation of the disbanded SOS unit, has tampered with communities' hope that real reform is on the way.

    Subject: Economic Development
    Grade: D
    Excerpt: Chicago's economic reality has been dismal at best over the past few years. And while city residents of every ilk have been grossly impacted by the current crisis, still some communities have been far more severely impacted while receiving the least amount of assistance. Communities became momentarily hopeful by some potential opportunities that were motivated by Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympics, yet hopes were quickly dashed once concerns for fiscal accountability and transparency for the bid budget and spending were voiced by City Council members, and certainly hopes were laid to rest once Chicago lost the bid. TIF dollars have been primarily used as incentives for companies to create employment opportunities for Chicago residents. However, these employment opportunities have failed to reach those communities most severely ravaged by unemployment. Furthermore, current measures have failed to insure that companies that have received TIF incentives continue to promote and preserve the number of jobs they agreed to under TIF stipulations.

    Subject: Education
    Grade: D+
    Excerpt: Despite the heated debate over the efficacy of charter schools, the current state of Chicago's education system has been deemed unacceptable by those communities most negatively impacted by current education policies. The extent to which families have lost their ability to choose a school for their children, the extent to which communities have been torn apart due to children being placed at schools outside of their communities, and the practically wholesale severing of school from community through the dissolution of Local Schools Council authority, leaves very little indication that Chicago provides adequate access to education for all of its citizens.

    Subject: Environment
    Grade: B
    Excerpt: s a regional leader in committing to green technologies, Chicago has consistently looked toward both existing and emerging technologies to improve the environmental efficiency of its own operations, setting the example for residents and businesses. The city's foresight in championing sustainable development has driven the growth of a new local industry . . . That said, while the elimination of the Blue Bag program ushered in the more popular Blue Cart program, it has not been implemented across the entire city, with some of Chicago's most blighted neighborhoods still without recycling services. And while many have looked favorably upon Daley's Chicago Climate Action Plan, funding for such a plan remains a question in many people's minds. Furthermore, the plan raises cause for concern, as it in no way provides solutions for the very specific health hazards Chicago's air poses to residents, particularly those living in the communities of Little Village and Pilsen who are at risk for disease or death as a result of the poisonous gases emitted from neighboring coal-powered plants.

    Subject: Ethics and Corruption
    Grade: D+
    Excerpt: This section received a better grade [than 2007's F] primarily because of the significant and positive work of the Inspector General's Office to tackle and curb corruption.

    Subject: Housing
    Grade: F
    Excerpt: While the City espouses a priority on affordable housing, its housing policies still seem to primarily benefit developers. In some cases, affordable housing practices have benefited individuals who have turned the affordable housing opportunities into profit-making ventures, and have done so with impunity. The city has done an appalling job of replacing the scores of public housing units that have been destroyed, leaving thousands of residents and former residents without the housing they were promised. Furthermore, many former public housing residents have been further deemed ineligible for CHA assistance as a result of modification to CHA policy. As CHA's Plan for Transformation comes to an end, there is an impending danger that public housing building will be left semi destroyed and that Chicago residents will be left semi homeless, living in subhuman conditions. Finally, with only two years left in the city's 10-yr plan to end homelessness, there is still no city investment in creating permanent housing for homeless people.

    Subject: Transportation
    Grade: D
    Excerpt: The city continues to provide a lack of adequate public transportation service across the entire city, particularly on the South and West sides, despite its review of several plans - such as the downtown congestion tax - that might provide much-needed revenue to repair and modernize trains, uses, and the transit infrastructure. CTA's most recent cuts only exacerbate the inequities in service provision across the city. Beyond that, the parking meter privatization deal has by far lent the most weight in lowering the city's grade in this area. It was not only the manner in which the deal was railroaded through City Council that residents found most alarming, but also the agreement itself, which former Inspector General David Hoffman reported made far less money for the city than it should have made.

    *

    DGAP not only graded the mayor but offered policy recommendations that, if taken up, would improve his score. You can find those on DGAP's website.

    *

    See also excerpts from the more extensive 2007 report card:
    - Grading Daley: Part One
    - Grading Daley: Part Two

    *

    Comments welcome.

    Posted by Steve Rhodes at 4:50 AM | Permalink

    Fantasy Fix

    Fantasy basketball playoffs are getting started. If you are still looking for a little extra edge from the waiver wire to get you to the next level, we can't promise miracles, but there a few unknowns who have been getting a chance recently with trades or injuries to others having changed the shape of things. Here are a few helpers likely to be available at each position if you are in need:

    PG: Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia. Only 30% owned in Yahoo!, he recently became a starter and averaged 5.6 assists per game and 2 steals per game last week to go along with 14 points per game.

    SG: Marcus Thornton, New Orleans. 63% owned. One of the players thrust into action after Chris Paul's injury affected substitutions at both PG and SG, he averaged 19.8 PPG last week, mostly coming off the bench.

    SF: James Johnson, Chicago. Overshadowed by Taj Gibson all year, this rookie has been getting time with Joakim Noah and Gibson both suffering from foot ailments. Available in virtually all leagues, he has scored 13.3 PPG and collected 1.3 blocks per game in his last three games.

    PF: Anthony Tolliver, Golden State. 10.7 PPg and 8.7 RPG for Tolliver last week, and just 18% owned.

    C: Jason Maxiell, Detroit. Averaged 13 PPG, 10.8 RPG and 1.0 BPG last week, getting playing time with Ben Wallace injured.

    Next week: Best of the Season awards.

    Fantasy Baseball
    There may not be time to go through every position as deeply as I'd like, as baseball drafts kicked in over the last few days. So, this time around, I'll knock out a few choice picks at SS and 3B - the guys not named Hanley Ramirez or Evan Longoria, and who won't be gone after the few rounds - but may be worth your time.

    SS
    Alexei Ramirez, White Sox: We were all expecting a great season last year and, instead, he started slow and took forever to recover. Maybe a bit more power and measurably more stolen bases this year in a more aggressive base-running scheme.

    Stephen Drew, Arizona: Another slow starter last year who is already a good bet for triples (12 last year) and who could rediscover the power that helped him to 21 homers in 2008.

    Alcides Escobar, Milwaukee: Highly-touted prospect has a good chance to hit early in the lineup, stay above .300 and collect plenty of stolen bases.

    3B
    Aramis Ramirez, Cubs: His health pushed him down the draft list this year, but he hits better than anyone else with runners in scoring position. Something of a mid-round steal.

    Chone Figgins, Seattle: He's streaky, but when he's on he piles up hits, walks, stolen bases and runs.

    Adrian Beltre, Boston: Homers took a dive last year, but in Fenway I think he'll get a power stroke back and could also be good for 15 or so stolen bases.

    Next week: We make a visit to the mound.

    The Fantasy Basketball Expert Wire
    * Bleacher Report takes its own look at some waiver wire sleepers, endorsing our love for Jrue Holiday.

    * SLAM Online says forget about your NCAA brackets and stayed focused on the pros.

    The Fantasy Baseball Expert Wire
    * ESPN's Eric Karabell notes that starting pitcher Ben Sheets is not helping his draft status much in spring training, as he has been hammered thus far. Sheets is definitely dropping into very late-round sleeper territory, but his new stadium in Oakland is huge, and assuming he makes the team, I think he'll have a decent year.

    * SI.com ranks the top 15 outfielders. Jacoby Ellsbury continues to be listed awfully high (No. 6 this time) for a guy who may not go into double digits in home runs. Many multitool outfielders, like Jayson Werth and Justin Upton, deserve to be ahead of him.

    * OPEN Sports has the low-down on some players whose value is rising. Jon Rauch anyone?

    -

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

    Posted by Steve Rhodes at 4:24 AM | Permalink

    March 16, 2010

    The [Tuesday] Papers

    Mayor Daley on Monday filled two new positions in the city's Department of Aldermen. State Rep. Deborah Graham (Chicago-D) will now be the mayor's liaison to the 29th Ward and businessman Joe Moreno will be the mayor's liaison to the 1st Ward. Each will report to the mayor.

    *

    "Graham and Moreno are the 34th and 35th aldermanic appointments in Daley's 21-year tenure as mayor," the Sun-Times reports. "But they are the first to follow an open invitation for applicants on the city's Web site."

    And they are the first appointments made after the local media went along with the fiction that online applicants would be considered for the job.

    Moreno is one of the names floated by the outgoing Manny Flores; Moreno is also connected to the United Neighborhood Organization, which is essentially "the new HDO."

    The mayor is paying particular attention these days to directing resources and attention Hispanics in advance of his next re-election bid.

    Graham, meanwhile, already works for Daley as a city planner when she's not carrying his ill-fated gun control legislation in Springfield. She replaces convicted corruption peddler Ike Carothers, which figures.

    "After going through the motions of taking resumes on the city Web site, Daley picked someone who wouldn't have been state representative if Carothers hadn't decided to pull out all the stops to get her elected in 2002, with some help from Carothers' wholly owned subsidiary in the 37th Ward - Ald. Emma Mitts," Mark Brown writes.

    More to the point, from the Sun-Times: "In 2002, Graham and her Democratic primary opponent finished dead even in a race decided by a coin toss. She helped finance that 2002 campaign with a $13,000 contribution from Carothers' New 29th Ward Campaign Committee."

    *

    I live in the 1st Ward - on the same block as Manny, just a few buildings down - and I sure would have liked to have been able to vote for my new alderman. Even over the Internet.

    Tase Phase
    "A man who hid inside Macy's on State Street after hours was Tasered when he tried to leave the store with merchandise Saturday night, police said," the Sun-Times reports.

    This made me think of a recent conversation I had with my friend Tracy Siska of the Chicago Justice Project about Tasers and other so-called "non-lethal" weapons.

    While expressing some reservations about Tasers to the degree that they have actually contributed to the deaths of some suspects (usually, as I understand it, not on their own but as a result of aggravating a pre-existing condition), I told Siska that I had always thought Tasers and other options like beanbag guns were progressive alternatives to using guns in situations where a lesser level of force could get the job done. Siska enlightened me a bit: non-lethal weapons are never really an alternative to guns, because non-lethal weapons are used in situations in which guns would never be used.

    For example, a police officer wouldn't use a gun on a shoplifter at Macy's. That's not to say using a Taser is wrong in that situation, just that it's as much about the officer's safety in not having to, say, wrestle the suspect to the ground (without knowing if he has, say, needles in his pocket or even a weapon).

    Tasers can be a useful part of a police officer's toolbox, but sometimes the way we talk in the media about their value and the way they are deployed them is a bit muddled.

    Mystery Quinn Theater
    But no one believes you, Governor!

    Poll Patrol
    "Pew: Online News Users Don't Want To Pay - Or Look At Ads."

    This just in: Neither do newspaper readers or television watchers!

    This just in: Drivers Don't Want To Pay For Cars - Or Look At Car Commercials."

    And by the way, for the millionth time, if print newspaper subscribers were willing to pony up for just the news, we wouldn't have had to suffer through Cathy and the horoscopes and the likes of Bob Greene and Richard Roeper all these years. A newspaper is not the same as the news.

    App That
    In more interesting media news . . .

    "Hearst has about 70 apps under its LMK banner in the iTunes App Store right now and it just plans to keep adding more and more," paidContent reports. "Most of the LMK apps sell for about $1.99, while a handful cost $0.99 per download. The LMK initials stand for 'Let Me Know' and are devoted to news and photos about a single Hollywood stars and sports teams and figures, as well as hobbies and general topics like cupcakes and Barbie dolls. The apps run the gamut from Lady Gaga to Metallica to Tiger Woods to the NY Yankees and feature photos and news updates."

    The Worst Jobs Drew Has Had
    "I've had jobs that left me scared for my life, angry at an unfair God and questioning whether humanity shouldn't just die in a nuclear holocaust," our very own Drew Adamek writes in his latest list. "And for $4.15 an hour at that."

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Like a cloud.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:57 AM | Permalink

    Mystery Quinn Theater

    I couldn't decide whether the governor was a schmuck or a schmo watching him evade nearly every question asked of him by the tag team of Phil Ponce and Carol Marin on Chicago Tonight last night. I did decide, though, that if he mentioned how good and strong the people of Illinois were one more time I was going to reach through the TV and show him how good and strong my chokehold was. We're not schoolchildren.

    Here's a slight reconstruction of my notes, with some of my own commentary thrown in:

    PONCE: Why does your budget proposal only make changes to future pension payouts, not current payouts?

    QUINN: It's easier to get legislative votes.

    RHODES: Then why not double pension payouts? That's even easier!

    *

    QUINN: Education is the last thing I want to cut . . .

    RHODES: That's why it's the first cut I'm proposing!

    QUINN: . . . but losing $1 billion in federal funds . . .

    RHODES: So this is just to replace one-time stimulus money? Why not just add another Lotto game? Call it Schoolhouse Lotto. Or maybe a lottery game where the winning numbers are based on that day's deficit.

    PONCE: No one believes you, governor!

    QUINN: . . . surcharge to replace federal money . . . the leaders and legislators are open-minded to our plan . . .

    RHODES: Only to the extent that they'll play along until you implode.

    QUINN: [recitation of how good and strong the people of Illinois are, and how education is our future, yada yada yada]

    RHODES: And I will not cut the unicorn budget either!

    *

    Questions asked that Quinn failed to answer, instead dodging and weaving with darting eyes talking about, you know, how good and strong the people of Illinois are.

    - Why do you propose classroom cuts but not bureaucracy cuts?

    - Your party as the governorship, the House, the Senate, and all the statewide constitutional offices. Are you embarrassed that Democrats can't get anything done?

    - What is Michael Madigan telling you?

    - Mayor Daley has accused you of double-crossing him and other mayors by breaking your vow to protect aid to cities. Did you double-cross the mayor?

    *

    Quinn called Daley "a good friend."

    *

    QUINN: It takes some fortitude, I think, to get into the arena and tell the public the truth.

    RHODES: Though it takes even more to dodge and weave like I'm doing now. Notice how I'm filibustering to stall out the questioning. My advisors taught me that.

    *

    QUINN: I was revenue director for the City of Chicago . . .

    RHODES: And you were fired! By Harold Washington! Didn't you see the ad?

    *

    QUINN: I favor free [CTA] rides for seniors.

    RHODES: How about free rides for all those teachers you're pretending you're going to lay off?

    *

    Ponce asks Quinn if he's "risk-averse," though I think by risk-averse he really meant "spineless." Ponce mentioned Quinn backing down on the two University of Illinois board members who refused to resign, those free rides for seniors, keeping corrections chief Michael Randle despite the early-release scandal . . .

    QUINN: No, no, no!

    Quinn said that he's been told the U of I now has the best board ever! And he helped pass tough ethics laws!

    MARIN: But you backed off your own reform commission's recommendations that would have reined in the power of legislative leaders Michael Madigan and John Cullerton . . .

    QUINN: [talks about economic growth and small business tax credits instead]

    *

    Carol Marin asks Quinn about a recent poll showing a gender gap in favor of Republican opponent Bill Brady, who has an advantage in support from women. Quinn talks about . . . how good and strong the people of Illinois are, or some such nonsense, I started to lose consciousness.

    *

    After Quinn touts his grassroots heritage and fights for democracy, he says that finishing second in the primary doesn't automatically qualify someone like, say, Art Turner, to be the lieutenant governor nominee.

    QUINN: I'm going to pick somebody who is . . .

    RHODES: . . . good and strong?

    MARIN: You're doing the picking?

    RHODES: Yeah, isn't that Governor Madigan's job?

    QUINN: I think my recommendation will be the one that's picked by the committee.

    RHODES: The grassroots committee or the reform committee? Oh, the Democratic committee!

    *

    Note: At one point during the interview, I proclaimed "This is Meet The Press!" Ponce and Marin should team up like this more often - like every night! It was refreshing. I wondered what it would have been like for them to have Daley in the hot seat, or any other number of folks. While each is talented on their own, the combined whole was even more than the sum of their parts.

    -

    Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:18 AM | Permalink

    The Worst Jobs I've Ever Had

    I've had 42 jobs in six states in my life if you count my first newspaper route in 1986 and now making lists for the Beachwood, which is a job in the sense that it's work but not so much regarding pay.

    Some of the jobs have been fantastic: research director at a television production company; barista at a coffee cart at a community college; investigator at a civic watchdog group . . . the last ten years of work have been a lot of fun.

    But I've also had some terrible, godawful, insanely unsafe jobs. Working wasn't quite as much fun back in the 90s when I had no real experience, no high school diploma, and a willingness to do just about anything.

    I've had jobs that left me scared for my life, angry at an unfair God and questioning whether humanity shouldn't just die in a nuclear holocaust. And for $4.15 an hour at that.

    Here, then, are the worst jobs I've ever had:

    1. "Not-For-Profit."

    A roommate turned me on to a "great" telemarketing job: four-hour shifts, walking distance from the house and $7 an hour, a veritable fortune in 1995. We had a script that we were absolutely not, under any circumstances, to deviate from. The manager made us read the script out loud to him ten times before each shift to make sure we had it right. It went something like this:

    Hi Mr./Mrs. ________, my name is ________. I am calling from ________, a not-for-profit company, and I would like to invite you to an informational session at the ________, a local park district building, to learn about important changes in Social Security law. This invitation is informational only.

    The call list was made up entirely of seniors. Every third phone call some poor old lady would tell us ________ wasn't there because he died ________ago. That part was terrible, but I really thought we were helping people out until the boss yelled at me for saying that ________ was a non-profit company. ________ asked if I wanted everyone to go to jail. I didn't understand, but for seven bucks an hour, I would have said my mother peddled ass to sailors.

    It wasn't until smoke break that the receptionist let me in on a secret; the boss was actually selling a crazy insurance scam at these seminars and paying the telemarketing firm - that he owned - to drum up business for himself. Because he was pulling a switcheroo, it was illegal for him to claim the telemarketing firm was a non-profit but it was legal to say not-for-profit. The seniors would hear the words not-for-profit, park district, changes in Social Security, and think it was legitimate. His "informational" seminars were packed to the gills because I was helping him confuse old people. I finished my cigarette and went home. I never collected my last check; not out of an ethical stand, but because the boss told my roommate he'd kick my ass if I showed up there again.

    2. The Salt Mine.

    Alright, it wasn't actually a salt mine but a salt packager. The factory packaged sidewalk salt in 10-, 20- and 50-pound bags. I had to stand at the end of the packaging line to catch the bags and stack them on a pallet. Every 20 seconds, a heavy bag of salt would coming flying at me, I'd have to catch it, stack it neatly, turn around to catch the next one, on and on and on and on for eight hours. There was a reason that 75 percent of the guys working there were work-release inmates. I've never been so sore in my life. I may have lasted a week at best.

    3. The Flour Mine.

    A flour mill in Wisconsin. Because this was a food processing plant, it had very strict cleanliness standards. My job was to clean the grain silo pipes - from the outside. I had to climb up a ladder on the outside of the building with an air tank and a hose strapped to my back. My job was to blow the dust and debris off of the pipes to keep it from getting into the flour. I am terrified of heights. Spending my day five stories up, hanging on a ladder with one hand to hold on and another to use the hose to clean the pipes was basically my worst nightmare. How OSHA never shut that place down, I'll never know.

    4. The Coffin.

    I worked at a gas station in a small booth that sat between the pumps. I didn't mind the job; I could smoke, listen to the radio and the customers were easygoing regulars. The job had one major drawback: no bathroom in the booth. To pee, I had to wait for the manager to stop by on his morning rounds and then run to the car dealership next door.

    Anyone who spends more than 30 seconds with me knows two things: I drink gallons of coffee and I have the tiny, underdeveloped bladder of a newborn chihuahua. I would be near tears waiting for the manager to show up some days. One day it got so bad I decided to pee in a soda can, but half of the booth was a window. Anyone standing near the booth would see me peeing. I didn't care. I leaned as far forward as I could, resting my chest against the front counter and peed into an empty soda can. I wasn't paying any attention to the station and a customer banged on the window while I was peeing. I was so surprised that I dropped the can and sprayed urine all over the inside of the booth. He knew what I was doing.

    5. "For A Documentary We're Making . . . "

    This might be the worst thing I've ever done for money, even though it was part of a job I loved. I had to call the parents of murder victims and ask them if they would appear on a television show about psychics. Their pain taught me the most important lesson I've learned at work: the stories I tell have real consequences for real people, so don't take them lightly. I could go the rest of my life and be happy to never ask another mother to talk about her murdered daughter.

    6. Circus Tent.

    I worked for a party tent rental company as a laborer. Setting up party tents was the most intense, dirtiest, hottest physical labor I've done; nothing but carrying huge rolls of canvas, pulling ropes and pounding stakes all day. An event would contract with the company for any number of tents, and we would have one day to set the tents up no matter how long it took. The worst was setting up nine tents in one day for Libertyville Days over the course of 15 hours. We finished that set-up on a Friday; I collected my paycheck and never went back.

    7. Chicken Delivery Driver.

    I had lived in Libertyville for about three days before I got this job. I lied to the boss and told him I knew my way around town. Truth was, I couldn't find my ass with both hands. I set out on my own, after training with a very strange delivery driver for two days. I got so lost on my first route that I ended up in McHenry County with a bucket of congealed chicken in the passenger seat. The boss canned me when I finally got back. I probably still owe him 25 bucks for the gas and the uniform.

    8. Parking Fascist.

    I worked at the Lake County Fairgrounds directing traffic for a monthly antique show. There were two parking lots; one close to the buildings where the dealers parked and one way the fuck out in the middle of a field where the customers had to park. My job was to guard the gate between the two and make sure only dealers got in. What you need to do, if you really want to plumb the depths of human capacity for frustration, deception, self-centeredness, inhumanity, and anger, is tell hundreds of people a day that they can't park in the close spots that they can so clearly see. Yeah, those spots that nobody else is in, when it is so fucking cold, and why do I have to park so far away and I lost a leg in Vietnam, you scumbag communist. I took special delight in making people soooo angry since I felt so powerless in real life. The colorful former mayor of Waukegan called me a Nazi after I wouldn't accept a bribe from him.

    9. A Special Offer.

    I got a job through a temp agency stuffing junk advertising mailers. I sat at a table and a woman would come by with huge bins of inserts that I had to stuff into envelopes. It wasn't the dozens of painful paper cuts (I have very delicate, supple hands) or the awful soft rock station playing overhead that made this job so terrible, though. It was the bizarre death ride home. The temp agency required that you ride in their van back and forth to the jobs (and charged you for the privilege).

    One day, the driver who picked us up at the end of the shift was drunk and angry. He ran three red lights before a large woman next to me demanded, he "pull this fucking van over right this fucking second." The driver politely declined and an argument ensued.

    To prove he was fine, he decided to drive at 100 mph through all of the fucking red lights. The large gentleman in the passenger seat took exception to that line of reasoning and decided the best way to end the argument was with a shot to that asshole's jaw. I contributed fecal matter in my drawers as a counterpoint argument.

    A cop finally got involved and the driver did pull over. The cop hauled him off, with the van keys. We were 10 miles from where I lived, so I had to walk to a gas station and call a cab. All in all, that night of work cost me $12.

    -

    Comments welcome.

    -

    Other Lists By Drew Adamek:
    * Today's Syllabus
    * Shit My Dad Says
    * Work Weirdos
    * Things I Miss About Chicago
    * 20 Albums I Wish I Had Never Bought
    * Their Chicago
    * Cities I've Slept In
    * My Favorite 1980s Chicago Radio Memories
    * Why Milwaukee Rules
    * Why I'm Glad I Don't Live In D.C. Anymore
    * The Beer Goggle Recordings
    * A List Of Reader Comments To Drew's Lists
    * Life's Little Victories

    Plus:
    * Fan Note: Me & Metallica

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:04 AM | Permalink

    March 15, 2010

    SportsMonday: March Sadness

    Trying to muster enthusiasm for the NCAA tournament now . . . after all, my sports-mad 10-year-old son is totally into it. As of 6:30 p.m. Sunday he had already filled out a couple brackets and had plans for a couple more. Me, not so much

    Is there anyone who isn't totally blinded by allegiance to the alma mater or to the nearby big school/only game in town who doesn't have at least a few reservations at this point? I suppose there are also those fans who don't know better than to take each and every cue from ESPN and its stable of simple-minded personalities. And of course there are those who only care about the gambling.

    For the rest of us . . . the fact that everyone involved in major college sports at a high level gets rich except the immature, easily manipulated stars of the show, and that most of the "student-athletes" don't receive anything even approximating a decent education, and that coaches never get fired for lousy graduation rates . . . this stuff is troubling. A knowledgeable fan tunes into Dick Vitale singing the praises of low-life, parasitic coaches like West Virginia's Bob Huggins and, well, it is disheartening.

    It didn't used to be this way. In my teens and 20s I loved the tournament as much as anyone. When I was in college (1984-88) I went to my grandparents' house in Falls Church, Virginia, for several spring breaks that coincided with the first week of the Dance. At that point ESPN would show five or six first-round games from noon on Thursday until midnight and then show many of the games it had missed on tape from midnight back around to noon. Then they would do it again until noon Saturday, at which point the second-round games began. I had a friend who lived in Silver Springs, Maryland, who would come over to watch and while we never quite made it all the way around the clock, we took in a ludicrous amount of basketball.

    Later on I spent the same Thursday and Friday March afternoons in the old Hi-Tops on Sheffield (now a Harry Caray's). We would sit there with our sheets and watch a tripleheader before stumbling out blinking into the rapidly fading sunlight during the brief period between the day's slate of games and the evening contests. But that was a while ago now.

    Even as my enthusiasm for college basketball has waned, my affection for Chicago kids playing the game has stayed strong. And this has been just an unbelievable season for guys from around here. The Sun-Times did a real good two-page spread Sunday on the amazing number of local guys, starting with Jon Scheyer (Glenbrook North and Duke), Sherron Collins (Crane and Kansas) and national player of the year candidate Evan Turner (St. Joseph's and Ohio State) and then moving on to include new stars such as Jacob Pullen (Proviso East and Kansas State) and Jerome Randle (Hales Franciscan and Pac 10 regular season champ Cal). There are tons more, including far South Side Washington High School grad DeAndre Liggins playing for Kentucky, and they are all fun to watch.

    I suppose I do have a general observation or two as the postseason kicks off about the one team I have followed reasonably closely. It is unbelievable that Duke earned a No. 1 seed. Part of it is that this was a very, very down year for the ACC. But this Duke team, which has no athletic swing players, no true point guard and doesn't even shoot that well from beyond the arch, somehow found a way to play that has frustrated many more talented teams.

    I will always wish Scheyer, who I covered for Pioneer Press when he led North to the state title in 2005, had gone to Illinois. In Champaign he would have been the unquestioned star from Day 1. He would have played with quicker guards who could have created shots for him and given him the freedom to operate from the high post at times as well as on the wings. But he has done about as much as he could in this, his senior season down in Durham. Scheyer does not have a great chance to play in the NBA (not nearly quick enough to play the point and neither big nor athletic enough to hold his own against decent NBA shooting guards) so this very well may be his last big-time basketball hurrah.

    Bulls Blowout
    In the past week-and-a-half, Luol Deng has come up with three different excuses to miss either practices or games. During that time the Bulls have not coincidentally stretched a season-killing losing streak to seven games.

    First, there was mysterious swelling in his knee that suddenly kicked in multiple days after he had suffered minor trauma to it. Then he went with the stomach flu excuse, and now he has missed the last few games with a calf strain.

    Just a quick bit of advice Luol: no matter how many doctors you consult, you won't be able to find one willing to diagnose a stress fracture in your calf. You know, like the supposed stress fracture (other care-givers called it a microfracture - if they saw it at all) in your leg that enabled you to kick back and relax on the sideline during the last 20-plus games of last season.

    Most guys wouldn't be able to get more than a game or two off after a calf strain so it will be a challenge for you to somehow turn this into something more serious. Since the team doesn't play defense anymore and therefore doesn't win, perhaps you can entertain us with another search (a reality show?) for a medical professional willing to give you the diagnosis that ensures you'll be able to stay on the bench the rest of the way.

    -

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

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:42 AM | Permalink

    The [Monday] Papers

    1. Who owns Danny's?

    2. "Preckwinkle has her recommendation [for a successor as alderman] ready for Mayor Daley, who will appoint someone to the plum position," Laura Washington reports. "It's a prominent political name."

    3. The city just spent $1.8 million revamping its website, which badly needed it. But $1.8 million? Longtime Beachwood readers know I would have done it for $1.7 billion.

    Seriously, someone should look into this contract, that sounds nuts. For this.

    4. "Thousands of psychiatric patients are likely to move out of nursing homes and into community-based settings in the next five years under a landmark legal agreement designed to reshape Illinois' troubled long-term care system," the Tribune reports.

    "The agreement, expected to be filed Monday in federal court in Chicago, lays out a schedule for state officials to offer approximately 4,500 mentally ill nursing home residents the choice to move out of two dozen large facilities known as 'institutions for mental diseases,' or IMDs, and into smaller settings that experts say are more appropriate and less expensive."

    5. I haven't been able to find an excerpt or find a clip but Rod Blagojevich's slippery evasions and faulty memory of serving a cold hamburger because he was too busy politicking customers instead of waiting tables in the first challenge of Celebrity Apprentice last night was priceless; Blago melted under Donald Trump's relentless questioning - something Blago apologists like Geraldo Rivera and Greta Van Susteren could learn from.

    6. "Internal documents show the evolution of the band's farsighted business practices, such as their decision to allow free taping."

    The Grateful Dead: Better businesspeople than many in the newspaper industry.

    *

    Why was that so smart? For a number of reasons, including gaining the undying loyalty of its fans. And you know all this stuff about "creating community" and "brand management" and "authenticity"? Well, you can only do it successfully if you mean it.

    Take the new shop manager on LA Ink. She comes from the corporate world and wants to introduce uniforms, sales targets, Employee of the Month awards, etc., to Kat's not unsuccessful tattoo shop. In her on-camera confessional interludes, all she talks about is the various ways she's trying to kiss various butts to get into position to take over the place. Sort of like a lot of reporters and editors in this town.

    Thankfully, Kat is having none of it. Yes, she acknowledges, "there is a transaction," but it's not about the money. It's about the art. Let the artists do their work. Funny thing? The money follows. In loads.

    *

    Likewise I was talking to a friend about Toyota and it's now-damaged worldwide brand for quality. She mentioned the Toyota Production System. And where did Toyota get its ideas for that? From my favorite management theorist/consultant W. Edwards Deming, whose 14 key principles of management included eliminating slogans, exhortations and workforce targets and whose Seven Deadly Diseases included an emphasis on short-term profits, evaluation by merit ratings or performance reviews, and running a company on visible figures alone.

    And what was Toyota's explanation for its recent troubles?

    "Toyota has, for the past few years, been expanding its business rapidly quite," company president Akio Toyoda said. "Frankly, I fear the pace at which we have grown may have been too quick. I'd like to point out here that Toyota's priority had traditionally been the following first, safety second, quality, third volume. These priorities became confused."

    And that's what the Grateful Dead, LA Ink, the newspaper industry and Toyota have to do with each other.

    7. "Women On The Pill Live Longer: Study."

    I've been saying that for years! C'mon, honey, you'll live longer!

    8. "70-Year-Old Among Trio Of Burglars: Cops."

    I hope I'm still thieving when I'm 70.

    9. The first dotcom was registered 25 years ago today. Twenty-five years ago! It was symbolics.com.

    10. Promo in the Sun-Times on Sunday: "Looking for a great getaway for this weekend? Or maybe something a little more adventurous? Lori Rackl does the research for you, bringing back souvenirs you can use."

    More like: "Tourist destinations pay for Lori Rackl's research in return for coverage in the Sun-Times."

    Because that's how it works there.

    *

    On Sunday, Dave Hoekstra's Hawaiian trip was "sponsored" by the Maui Visitor's Bureau. Huh, they used to call "research trips" junkets.

    11. The success of Craigslist and Groupon only shows that the old model works: Classifies and coupons. It's that folks other than short-sighted and unimaginative newspaper execs figured out how to easily adapt the old formula to the new platform. What an unbelievable advantage the industry frittered away.

    12. This just in:

    "Dear Rhodes,

    "We're happy to pass along this invitation to discuss Health Insurance Reform:

    "The White House Office of Public Engagement is pleased to invite you to a call discussing Health Insurance Reform. It will be held this Monday, March 15 at 12:00PM Eastern Standard Time. We encourage you to dial in a few minutes early to ensure participation in the entire call.

    "Note that this call is for background information only and not intended for press purposes.

    "WHO: Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President, and staff from the White House Office of Public Engagement and the White House Office of Health Reform

    "WHAT: White House Briefing Call on Health Insurance Reform

    "WHEN: Monday, March 15, 2010, 12:00 PM EDT

    "DIAL: (800) 398-9386

    "PASS: In lieu of a passcode, please ask the Operator for the 'Health Care Call.'"

    But it's not intended for "press purposes."

    13. The Moral Underground: How Ordinary Americans Subvert An Unfair Economy. By The Beachwood Workplace Disobedience Affairs Desk.

    14. March Sadness, by our very own Jim Coffman.

    15. Like A Cloud. A mixtape far away from the dry land, and it's bitter memories.

    16. 24 Hours With The DIY Network.

    17. Carl Sandburg and Marilyn Monroe:

    New sculptures in light
    have emerged from the archives.

    In Chicagoetry.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Disobey.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:13 AM | Permalink

    24 Hours With The DIY Network

    If you can afford it.

    2 p.m.: Turf War

    3 p.m.: 10 Grand in Your Hand

    3:30 p.m.: Deconstruction

    4 p.m.: Yard Crashers

    4:30 p.m.: Yard Crashers

    5 p.m.: Sweat Equity

    5:30 p.m.: Sweat Equity

    6 p.m.: Massive Moves

    6:30 p.m.: Haulin' House

    7 p.m.: Dream House

    7:30 p.m.: Dream House

    8 p.m.: Renovation Realities

    8:30 p.m.: Renovation Realities

    9 p.m.: 10 Grand in Your Hand

    9:30 p.m.: 10 Grand in Your Hand

    10 p.m.: Blog Cabin

    10:30 p.m.: Blog Cabin

    11 p.m.: Renovation Realities

    11:30 p.m.: Renovation Realities

    Midnight: 10 Grand in Your Hand

    12:30 a.m.: 10 Grand in Your Hand

    1 a.m.: Blog Cabin

    1:30 a.m.: Blog Cabin

    2 a.m.: Dream House

    2:30 a.m.: Dream House

    3 a.m.: Paid Programming

    3:30 a.m.: Paid Programming

    4 a.m.: Paid Programming

    4:30 a.m.: Paid Programming

    5 a.m.: Paid Programming

    5:30 a.m.: Paid Programming

    6 a.m.: DIY Tools and Techniques

    6:30 a.m.: Weekend Warriors

    7 a.m.: Hammered With DiResta

    7:30 a.m.: Ask This Old House

    8 a.m.: 10 Grand in Your Hand

    8:30 a.m.: 10 Grand in Your Hand

    9 a.m.: Bathtastic!

    9:30 a.m.: Bathtastic!

    10 a.m.: Indoors Out

    10:30 a.m.: Indoors Out

    11 a.m.: Yard Crashers

    11:30 a.m.: Sweat Equity

    Noon: Blog Cabin

    12:30 p.m.: To Be Announced

    1 p.m.: To Be Announced

    1:30 p.m.: To Be Announced

    2 p.m.: To Be Announced

    -

    Comments welcome.

    -

    Previously:
    * 24 Hours With QVC
    * 24 Hours With Tru TV
    * 24 Hours With Current TV
    * 24 Hours With The Military Channel
    * 24 Hours With The Hallmark Channel
    * 24 Hours With TVGN
    * 24 Hours With Retroplex
    * 24 Hours With Penthouse TV

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:03 AM | Permalink

    The Moral Underground

    How Ordinary Americans Subvert An Unfair Economy.

    "Here is a book that tells the real story of the countless unsung heroes who bend or break the rules to help those millions of Americans with impossible schedules, paychecks, and lives," says publisher The New Press. "Whether it is a nurse choosing to treat an uninsured child, a supervisor deciding to overlook infractions, or a restaurant manager sneaking food to a worker's children, middle-class Americans are secretly refusing to be complicit in a fundamentally unfair system that puts a decent life beyond the reach of the working poor.

    "In a national tale of a kind of economic disobedience - told in whispers to Lisa Dodson over the course of eight years of research across the country -hundreds of supervisors, teachers, and health care professionals describe intentional acts of defiance that together tell the story of a quiet revolt, of a moral underground that has grown in response to an immoral economy."

    Here are some examples pulled from the text.

    Alba, a worker in a large retail store in New England: "Alba couldn't afford a babysitter, and since she worked the later shift, her children were alone for several hours most days after they got home from school. 'Sometimes I just cut out early . . . when no one's looking,' she said, and a girlfriend 'covers' for her. She didn't like breaking the rules, but fear for her children trumped being seen as "a cheat," trumped any rules, in fact."

    Andrew, a manager of a Midwestern fast food restaurant: "But many of the workers in the food company made 'poverty wages,' and he was affected by the all the troubles people bring with them. Then he told me, 'I pad their paychecks because you can't live on what they make. I punch them out after they have left for a doctor's appointment or to take care of someone . . . And I give them food to take home . . . "

    Alice, senior manager in a large nursing home in western Massachusetts: "And she went on to explain how she sidesteps the regulations and 'fudges' paperwork about schedules and hours worked to help out workers."

    Ned: "A lot of food passed through Ned's hands over the course of a week at work - if not directly through his hands, then under his watch. And some of the 'product' that didn't quite pass muster didn't go back to the company that produced it, as regulated; it was detoured to low-wage employees."

    Bea, floor manager at a well-known low-end retail chain: "Well, let's just say . . . we made some mistakes with our prom dress orders last year. Too many were ordered, some went back. It got pretty confusing."

    Joaquin, a good company manager in the West: "I basically try to feed them most of the time. I let them make meals after their shifts. And the truth is that some of the women, some of them are single moms, and when their kids come in after school, I feed them."

    Judy, a health care business manager in the East: "Sometimes I just look the other way."

    Cora, supervisor of a restaurant part of an upscale chain on the East Coast: "Like I'm going to tell this mother with a four-year-old, 'No, you can't leave to pick him up . . . the scrod comes first' . . .

    "Eventually, Cora came up with a double-talk system. 'I developed two time sheets, one that I sent to the [central] office and the toher that [reflected] the real hours."

    Linda, hospital VP: "We have children in here, we have driven an employee to court on work time . . . We have [adjusted some information on forms] . . . you name it, I've broken it."

    Lenora, second-grade teacher: "The rule was that she had to meet with a parent or guardian at least once a year. She said that her standard was to meet with them every term. 'But I break the rule myself when I know that the child cannot make his mother miss work and lose her pay for a day,' she said. 'Hell, I sign the damned forms myself.'"

    Abigail, Boston high school teacher: "I asked Abigail how many rules or even laws had been broken over that monthlong period when they pulled out all the stops for one girl whose future was on the line. Abigail laughed. 'Are you serious?' she asked. So we sat down and mapped it out."

    Aida, director of a child care center: "I am supposed to bill them a certain number of times and then tell them they have to remove their chilrd [if they don't pay]. This is a subsidized day care but we are supposed to stick to regulations about their payments.' Do you? Aida took her eyes somewhere else and paused, straightening the papers on her desk."

    -

    Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:00 AM | Permalink

    Like A Cloud

    A mix tape I made for a friend a few years ago with the liner notes I sent.

    SONG NOTES (A)

    1. Bullet From a Gun/Teddy Morgan & the Pistolas. BBQ rock.

    2. Sara Smile/Hall and Oates. Classic.

    3. We Just Disagree/Dave Mason. Makes the purchase of Dave Mason's Super Hits worth it.

    4. Dizzy Road/Run Westy Run. '80s indie rock from the Minneapolis scene.

    5. Surf City/Ramones. From an alternate universe.

    6. Seen Your Video/Replacements. At the top of their game, unknowingly.

    7. Stop It/Pylon. Perhaps the best band to ever come out of Athens, Ga.

    8. Bull in the Heather/Sonic Youth. Mmmm, Kimmmm.

    9. Take Me to the Paradise/Robbie Fulks. His Geffen record a minor masterpiece.

    10. Too Hot to Handle/UFO. Lights Out a rock classic.

    11. Mr. Blue/Garth Brooks. Remake better than the original.

    12. If I Can't Have You/Eve's Plum. See No. 5.

    13. That Truck/Texas Rubies. Change my name to Mavis.

    (B)

    1. I'd Really Like to See You Tonight/England Dan and John Ford Coley. Their real names?

    2. Spirit of the Radio/Rush. Cannot be denied.

    3. Steal Away/Robbie Dupree. Just for fun.

    4. Take This Hurt Off Me/Teddy Morgan & the Pistolas. Rockin' the porch.

    5. Livin' Thing/ELO. Just felt right.

    6. Love Hurts/Gram Parsons. Holds a lot of rain.

    7. Ooh Las Vegas/Gram Parsons. Irresistible.

    8. (We're Not) The Jet Set/John Prine & Iris DeMent. See No. 7, no matter who sings it.

    9. Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?/Bruce Springsteen. The dope's that there's still hope.

    10. No Surrender/Bruce Springsteen. The way it should've been recorded. More from a three-minute record.

    11. Fisherman's Blues/Waterboys. Three minutes of pure bliss, sadness, hope, the slight cusp of despair.

    12. She's Gone/Hall and Oates. It sounds so good. Check out the guitar.

    13. Far Far Away/Wilco. In my arms and sway.

    -

    Comments welcome.

    -

    From the Beachwood jukebox to Obama Radio, we have the playlists you need to be a better citizen of the Rock and Roll Nation.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 3:57 AM | Permalink

    Chicagoetry: Carl Sandburg and Marilyn Monroe

    Carl Sandburg and Marilyn Monroe

    New sculptures in light
    have emerged from the archives.
    Portraits of American gods, and gods they were
    and perhaps remain.
    People they were, too, first, visiting
    in a New York apartment.

    Apollo and Aphrodite,
    blond on blonde, buxom meets erudite.
    And the host, with his chisel,
    the lens. Three acquaintances drinking
    Jack Daniels, but images
    of the ideal, transcending

    time and mortality.
    She, goddess of sex,
    dead within a year.
    He, god of poetry and song,
    already well along but
    surviving some years more.

    Sitting for their portraits,
    images of the ideal.
    Just images. A movie of the sitting
    would have half the power,
    probably less. The still images
    are the gods, symbols

    of our most cherished aspirations.
    I bet the conversation was boring!
    A forgotten encounter, a trivial
    passing-through, until captured,
    and preserved, then lost.
    Then recovered, and revealed.

    Soon after, she was dead.
    In part, perhaps, from the press
    for her, for her flesh, and
    not the ideal her image represented,
    the symbol mistaken for the truth it conveys.
    Gods often die this way.

    -

    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 2:18 AM | Permalink

    March 13, 2010

    The Weekend Desk Report

    Natasha Julius is on assignment searching for America. We'll watch the news for her while she's gone.

    Greek Omelette
    The European Union is close to a deal that would bail out financially beleaguered Greece. Members of the Papandreou administration have already applied for their bonuses.

    Whammy Bar
    In what researchers are calling a "double whammy," two studies of more than a million Englishmen and women indicates that obesity combined with excessive use of alcohol acts in concert to raise the risk of liver disease. The results of the studies will be published in next month's Journal of Duh.

    Lehman Law
    A year-long study by former U.S. attorney Anton Valukas into the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers found the Wall Street firm engaged in "actionable balance sheet manipulation." Editors at The Journal of Duh responded by doubling the size of next month's issue.

    Driving Lesson
    "Toyotas Are Safe (Enough)," a post by New York Times blogger Richard Wright says.

    Yes, unless you are behind the wheel or in the car right in front of one.

    Auld Acquaintance
    The City of Chicago will dye its river green today in remembrance of its long lost friend: Money.

    Chin Music
    Rudy "the Chin" Fratto was charged on Friday with bid-rigging at McCormick Place in the kickoff to the city's Retro Weekend celebration.

    Tiger Tale
    Tiger Woods' family life is "getting back to normal," according to TMZ. Can you get "back" to a place you never were?

    Chinese Democracy
    Google is "99.9 percent" sure to withdraw from China rather than comply with that nation's censorship demands. Google is currently searching for that .1 percent reason to rationalize staying.

    Finger Pointing
    Cubs GM Jim Hendry this week responded to Milton Bradley's complaints about playing in Chicago by saying Bradley should look in the mirror. And then Bradley should hand the mirror to Hendry so he can do the same.

    This just in: Mirror sales up 200 percent in Wrigleyville this year.

    -

    The Weekend Desk Tip Line: On low alert.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:06 AM | Permalink

    March 12, 2010

    The [Friday] Papers

    "Testimony in the federal corruption trial of a Chicago developer on Thursday revealed that U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez met with the developer and Mayor Richard Daley to push for the city's approval of a controversial real estate venture," the Tribune reports.

    This may or may not be a problem for Gutierrez, but he clearly tried to soft-pedal his involvement in the deal - and the developer - up until now. One might wonder why he's been disingenuous to this point.

    "Gutierrez's involvement in lobbying Daley to support the project goes a step beyond what the congressman has previously told the Tribune in stories documenting his political and financial relationship with the developer, Calvin Boender, and his unusual role in backing a project outside his congressional district."

    Yes, one might wonder what he was doing involving himself with a mayoral meeting on a project that wasn't even in his district. Doesn't look good, Luis!

    "The Tribune previously has reported that Gutierrez wrote a letter to Daley on Boender's behalf after receiving a $200,000 loan from Boender. The newspaper reported Sunday that relatives of Gutierrez and two other Chicago politicians who supported Boender landed jobs tied to the project known as Galewood Yards.

    "Gutierrez, a friend and golfing partner of Boender's, has not been charged with any wrongdoing."

    Gutierrez may not have done anything illegal, but he certainly did something - several things - wholly unethical. And he apparently smudged the truth hoping the real facts would never come out.

    "In 2008 the Tribune chronicled how Boender overrode the opposition of city planners to Galewood Yards after enlisting the support of [former Ald. Ike] Carothers and Gutierrez, D-Ill. Boender and his associates had donated about $55,000 to Carothers' re-election campaigns and $41,000 to Gutierrez's.

    "Gutierrez told the Tribune at the time there was no connection between the $200,000 loan and his lobbying of Daley. The congressman had sought to downplay his role in supporting Boender's project, saying at the time that his involvement was 'extremely minimal' and 'entirely appropriate.'"

    Relatively speaking.

    "Gutierrez, who is up for re-election this year, has a sister-in-law who had sold real estate for the project."

    Tase Maze
    Aha! I knew something was hinky about the Chicago Police Department's expansion of Taser use.

    I hashed it over on Thursday with my friend Tracy Jake Siska of the Chicago Justice Project, but decided not to write anything at this particular time. Until I saw this in the Sun-Times this morning:

    "Taser International's registered lobbyist is former Chicago Police Supt. Terry Hillard. The company's $5 million contract runs through 2011."

    Bingo.

    *

    Here's one way to write a story:

    "The menacing target looked a bit like Brian Urlacher with a hangover.

    "I stood 7 feet away, pointing a yellow Taser gun at it. A red dot from the laser sight bounced above the target's belly. I squeezed the trigger.

    "Two 21-foot wires ejected from the Taser. Metal barbs attached to the wires punctured the target, one near the red dot and the other about a foot lower in the crotch.

    "Too bad for Urlacher - but a perfect shot. In the real world, the man would have collapsed as 1,200 volts surged through his body for five seconds. In that time, officers would have scrambled to grab his arms and handcuff him before he was able to get up and fight."

    Here's another way (mine):

    "In an effort to generate positive publicity for the expansion of a controversial program, the Chicago Police Department on Wednesday invited reporters to participate in training drills for Tasers, whose use is opposed by Amnesty International among others.

    "The expansion can be credited in part to former police chief Terry Hillard, now a lobbyist for Taser International, which has a $5 million contract with the CPD that expires next year if it isn't renewed. Neither Taser International nor Hillard would say how much Hillard's slice is."

    See what I mean?

    *

    The Tribune at least had a clue on this one:

    "The Chicago Police Department is dramatically expanding its use of Tasers, adding several hundred more and putting them in the hands of patrol officers for the first time, officials said Wednesday.

    "The 'stun guns' will go in every squad car to give front-line beat officers a more effective way to protect themselves and calm a disturbance.

    "But the electrical devices have caused controversy nationwide, with debates about their safety and lawsuits filed on behalf of dozens of people, some in the Chicago area, who have died after being 'Tased.'

    "Chicago police laid out their plans just hours after a 31-year-old south suburban man was pronounced dead after Midlothian police used a Taser to subdue him. Jaesun Ingles, of Riverdale, who was on parole, was stunned with the Taser after he tried to swallow a plastic bag that police believed contained drugs, resisted arrest and ran from officers, Midlothian police said. An autopsy by the Cook County medical examiner's office Wednesday was inconclusive, pending further investigation."

    *

    I'm not even necessarily opposed to expanding the user of Tasers; I am, however, opposed to public relations disguised as journalism.

    Roeper Doeper
    "Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper will partner with Roe Conn on his afternoon drive radio show on WLS-AM (890), beginning April 12, the station announced Thursday," the S-T reports.

    Roeper will continue to write his Sun-Times column four days a week, but now he'll spend only 10 minutes working on each one instead of the 15 he spends now.

    Deep Inside Pat Quinn's Budget
    We find the fine print and footnotes he doesn't want you to know about.

    Life's Little Victories
    Some of them littler than others. By Beachwood List Maestro Drew Adamek.

    Language Arts: Poor
    The latest in a series of word and phrase examinations by our very own Nancy Simon.

    This Just In: Milton Bradley Still An Idiot
    And other news from the world of sports from our very own George Ofman.

    The Big Showdown Looms
    "These are two races players will need to tread upon quite cautiously," our main on the rail Thomas Chambers writes. "The query looms: Do you try to beat 'em?"

    Trivial Pursuit
    Now featuring Ben E. King, Frankie Knuckles and Wayne Gretzky.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Skate to where the puck will be.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:32 AM | Permalink

    Deep Inside Pat Quinn's Budget

    We got nuts yesterday and went deep inside Gov. Pat Quinn's budget proposal, from the fine print to the footnotes, and discovered a lot of cleverly hidden provisions that the media has yet to report on. So we will.

    * All residents will be issued Super 8 VIP cards but some of them will be expired, subjecting motel guests to Quinn's new Rewards Card Tax.

    * In order to keep schools open, schoolchildren and their parents will be required to pay a Textbook Tax. Those using books that teach Creationism will pay double.

    * Bill Brady will be placed in a new Political Opponents Bracket and taxed accordingly.

    * Jason Plummer will be subject to the new Inexcusably On A Statewide Ballot Tax.

    * All lies told by politicians will be taxed except those told by politicians in the executive branch.

    * The legislative districts of Michael Madigan and John Cullerton will be eliminated to save money.

    * Video poker will be expanded to classrooms to keep schools open.

    * The entire state will become a new TIF district.

    * The state will start collecting a naming rights fee from every business that uses the name of Abraham Lincoln or his likeness in any way.

    * Pat Quinn will be allowed to just go into the state's books and change the numbers until they add up the right way.

    * Local TV news outlets will be forced to pay a Corrections Tax for every fact they get wrong during every broadcast; the windfall wipe out most of the state's $13 billion deficit.

    * The state will borrow up to $5 billion from the Outfit because its terms for repayment are a lot more reasonable than those offered by Bank of America. In return, the Outfit gets the contract to collect video poker revenue.

    * If these measures fail, Illinois will declare bankruptcy in order to get time to reorganize itself. Illinois's elected officials will receive bonuses to recognize their hard work and keep them incentivized to stay with the company.

    * After the election Chicago's billionaires will be called to a meeting with the state's new video poker collection agency and politely asked to do what they know is right in their heart.

    -

    Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:14 AM | Permalink

    Language Arts: Poor

    "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free . . . " - Emma Lazarus

    For as far back as our forefathers' time, we have called people who belonged to a lower economic class poor.

    Poverty - or the state of being poor - has been used in reference to everything from a person's financial status (or lack thereof) to their unfortunate lot in life, e.g., "That poor SOB has a nasty wife at home who is what makes him so miserable."

    Yet, while poverty comes across as respectful, the term poor conveys a most negative connotation.

    And though times have changed and politically correct terms pertaining to everything from race to religion have been placed under a microscope, one may muse that terms used in reference to society's bottom rung have neither been questioned nor adjusted for contemporary times in any conceivable way.

    When upper middle-class people speak of donating money or volunteering at shelters, they typically refer to the class of people they are helping as the poor, whereas when debates take place at the legislative level, e.g., provisions for health care, tax credits, etc., this same class of people tends to use the word "poverty" along with a variety of other socio-sensitive terms, e.g., "the working poor," "the economically challenged," "the underserved."

    The distinction between the use of poor and poverty (or impovershed) or those terms with more of a sociological bent is that the former evokes an emotional pull for a needy group of people whereas the latter terms relay either a more of a hopeful sense of personal effort despite individuals' unfortunate circumstances.

    Notice the use of the word poor from the following New York Times article entitled "The New Poor: "Millions of Unemployed Face Years Without Jobs" from last month:

    "Call them the new poor: people long accustomed to the comforts of middle-class life who are now relying on public assistance for the first time in their lives - potentially for years to come."

    Using the term poor instead of "class-altered" or "cash-strapped" serves the Times's purpose of creating a sense of pity (not empathy, but pity) for those they have recently coined the newly minted poor.

    While the inclusion of the word "new" may lessen the sting a bit, the fact remains that brandishing one with the label of poor invokes the same associations it has for centuries - that of the charity case, welfare and living in the slums.

    And because the number of Americans at or below the poverty level stands at 38 million, there are quite a few million people being saddled with this derogatory moniker.

    Measuring Stick
    For a long time, the term poor has been a useful socioeconomic measuring tool. After determining the scores of people who met the qualifications of being placed (lumped) in the poor category, statisticians, politicians and clinicians (for that matter all "icians") were better equipped to design pie charts and multi-colored graphs depicting the numbers and, thus, providing an overall picture of the financial depths in which Americans were trapped.

    Ironically, while our trusted leaders have been quite successful at identifying the numbers of people who fall into this category, they have been woefully unsuccessful at finding ways to help improve their situations in any long-lasting manner.

    An array of organizations in the U.S. credited with doing good honest work to research the magnitude of the nation's strife problem have opted to include the word poverty in their titles, .e.g., the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law and the National Anti-Poverty Organization.

    The word choice seems acceptable, for these are both organizations that address legal issues and policies affecting lower-class citizens, whereas organizations' invocation of term poor, e.g., Food for the Poor/Shelter for the Poor, seem to vie for audiences' support of those in dire straits (in other words, intent on asking for charitable donations.)

    In short, poverty comes across as a more sociological concept, whereas poor does not beat around the bush but rather seems content to come from a cold insensitive place whereby the individual in question is nothing but poor, not good or smart or interesting. Just plain old poor.

    For many, the term poor conjures up images of persons living in squalor, filthy dirty environs, infrequent practice of hygiene habits, unintelligent, and, generally speaking, unable to take care of themselves in a way that extends far beyond financial matters.

    While in some instances some or all of these characteristics may be true, it is certainly not a blanket statement that applies to all persons who just may happen to be a bit light in the wallet.

    The perpetual use of the term poor seems to serve the purpose of removing traces of humanity/dignity from people who are considered to be blights in our modern day world.

    According to the Bad Words Blog, which also shares the belief that the term poor has a ring of failure, the definition of a poor person is one who has very low income - lacks money to meet basic needs for food, shelter and clothing.

    Going a bit further, from research they conducted at an earlier date, Bad Words concluded that rather than being about social issues, people associate being poor with moral issues. Meaning people believe people become poor because they made poor decisions rather than being the result of systemic failures, e.g., a bad economy, a devastating medical emergency, or even a bad "moneyless" marriage.

    And while semantics to some, many of those grouped within the poor category find it highly offensive to be regaled in such a negative/helpless-victim manner.

    Further compounding the frustration already felt, people "down on their luck" are then saddled with the burden of feeling shame about their situation due to the fact others see them as poor in a pitiful, seeking handouts type of way.

    Thus, the never-ending revolving door problems enter into the equation whereby once people feel they are innately no good, they have a harder time overcoming that negative perception and, thus, an increasingly more difficult time breaking the cycle to move beyond their downtrodden environs.

    Solving Poorness
    To help alleviate some of the flack associated with the term poor, legislators and others in positions of authority may want to consider some of the other options available.

    Is underserved a better term? It makes one have compassion for those people who have been forgotten and/or neglected.

    What about lower economic status or economically challenged? Both have a nice financial sound suggesting something which perhaps an accountant could help remedy.

    Additional suggestions include:

    * Economically displaced. This term conjures up images of halting the construction on structural properties midway through their development - something which sounds industrious and stalemated at the same time.

    * Working class (sometimes poor is attached, as in the working class poor or working poor). This gives the people in question an air of productivity despite the fact their earnings do not bring in a satisfactory cash flow.

    * And last but not least (as some would tend to believe), indigent. This suggests the idea of a homeless person or a clinical term used by hospital/health care facilities when referring to someone unable/unwilling to pay for services rendered.

    More entertaining alternatives: beggared, destitute, dirt poor, down-and-out, empty-handed, flat broke, fortuneless, hard-up, impecunious, impoverished, in need, in want, insolvent, necessitous, pauperized, penniless, penurious, pinched, strapped, suffering, truly needy, underprivileged, and/or unprosperous.

    Regardless of the word selected as a suitable substitute for poor, the fact remains that the condition of living without sufficient resources to meet one's basic needs of food, shelter, and a smartphone is one that should be considered with a dose of humanity and maybe a bit of lexicon ingenuity.

    -

    Previously in Language Arts:
    * Pushback.

    * Locavore.

    * Going Rogue.

    * Rebalancing.

    -

    Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:14 AM | Permalink

    Ofman: Dis and Dat, Dem and Dose

    News flash: Milton Bradley is an idiot!

    * * *

    Meanwhile, Jim Hendry got Carlos Silva from Seattle in return for Bradley and then spent some of the leftover money on Xavier Nady who underwent his second Tommy John surgery last year and still can't throw - and won't be able to until at least June. Just perfect! $3.3 million for a designated hitter in the National League!

    TrackNotes:
  • Showdown looms.

  • * * *

    Get the feeling Cristobal Huet will be the odd man out again when the playoffs commence? Sure makes former GM Dale Tallon look even worse and it could make the Hawks very vulnerable since Antti Niemi is a rookie. It's hard for me to pick the Hawks to win the Stanley Cup, let alone seeing them even getting there.

    * * *

    Northwestern needed to beat Indiana to secure it's first ever 20-win season and all but assure it an NIT bid. Now, if the Wildcats can win three more . . .

    * * *

    Milton Bradley need not look in a mirror because it doesn't like looking at him.

    * * *

    I'm beginning to think plantar fasciitis is actually a virus because the Bulls are passing it around. First Joachim Noah, now Taj Gibson. Please cover your mouths when you sneeze around Derrick Rose, guys.

    * * *

    The Bulls were playing for next season when this one started. It's all about those coveted free agents. I'm thinking Mayor Daley sells Block 37 for LeBron James. Both cities would be better off.

    * * *

    The players in the MLS have authorized a strike. Yawn when you feel like it.

    * * *

    Lots of rumors about Tiger Woods, only this time regarding his next tournament tee time. You might want to check with a waitress at Perkins, she might know.

    * * *

    Milton Bradley thinks maybe some of the hate mail he got came from the Cubs organization. This is the same guy who called Jeff Kent a racist; hurled a bottle toward the fans; tried to attack a broadcaster and then was called "a piece of shit" by Lou Piniella. You know what? Piniella should look in the same mirror Bradley does and call him a piece of shit again!

    * * *

    If only I had one-hundredth the followers Ozzie Guillen has on Twitter. Speaking of which, you can follow me there at @georgeofman, only I won't have as much to say about nothing as Ozzie does. Ozzie also has a Facebook page but upper management declared he can't have his own website. Not to worry, there is still the upcoming reality show.

    * * *

    Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane get all the glory but the Blackhawks' most valuable player is Duncan Keith, who should win the Norris Trophy as the NHL's best defenseman. He's an absolute joy to watch. So is Adam Burish, who just returned after wrecking his knee.

    * * *

    I'm very jealous - I wanted to be at the same joint as Julius Peppers when he was buying some very expensive champagne. Does anyone have his cell number?

    * * *

    Peppers is guaranteed $20 million next season. Let's add this up: four preseason games, 16 regular season games, 20 sacks. That should do it. A cool million a sack!

    * * *

    Forget about having Mark Aguirre coach DePaul. He would be better suited suiting up again.

    * * *

    And finally . . . You'll find someone to hate in Seattle, Milton, though I strongly believe you'll get a lot more haters first.

    -

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

    -

    Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:39 AM | Permalink

    TrackNotes: The Showdown Looms

    These are two races players will need to tread upon quite cautiously. The query looms: Do you try to beat 'em?

    Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta each run Saturday in what are really their one and only preps for their showdown in the April 9 Apple Blossom Invitational at Oaklawn Park. Rachel runs in The New Orleans Ladies at Fair Grounds and Zenyatta in the Santa Margarita at Santa Anita.

    The biggest taboo is to raise the specter of either one losing this week, before the two goddesses square off in Hot Springs next month. The Daily Racing Form has provided us with "What I did on my winter vacation" pieces for both Rachel and Zenyatta.

    In a variation of the old "Lefty's hamhock oughta be ready by Opening Day," it was this from Zenyatta's connections: "About three weeks after the Breeders' Cup, she started to sharpen up," (trainer John) Shirreffs said. "It's been pretty much the same all along. Now she has a little more wind. That's the big difference. She's probably put on 25 pounds. It's hard to say with her because she's so big. She looks really strong."

    And from Rachel's camp: "She's definitely not a normal horse in that sense," (trainer Steve) Asmussen said. "Usually when you get started back with a horse after being off that long, they're a little sloppy and slow at first. She was not like that at all."

    Rachel, 1-5 on the morning line and carrying high weight of 123 pounds, takes on four others. Trainer Steve Asmussen has already said Rachel won't be 100 percent for this race.

    They'll be traversing the Bermuda Triangle of needing to get the win, getting in a good exertion, and not overextending her in the effort.

    The wiseguys all give Zardana the best chance to beat her. Like Monte Markham "bailing out" over Stalag 13, you can smell a spy for the thousand miles from New Orleans to Southern California, where she's based. She's trained by John Shireffs, who has quite a few horses. One of them is: Zenyatta.

    Rachel is capable of rating just off the leader, but Zardana rider David Flores just might try to engage Rachel to make the going tougher. Zardana is a perfect three-for-three on the dirt in South America - by an average of 13 lengths - and has won four in the U.S. in races all on turf or synthetic. Her most recent were an impressive effort to win the Bayakoa Handicap at Hollywood on December 5 and finishing a fading fourth in the Santa Maria at Santa Anita Feb. 13.

    I don't like Zardana to beat Rachel. If she locks on to the Horse of the Year, she just might burn herself out at a distance that might be a bit more than her limit. I don't like her two-off angle, second race after a layoff, because those are the races that illustrate her inconsistency. And will Flores understand how long the Fair Grounds stretch is? That might depend on if he's really trying to win.

    The horse for the course is Clear Sailing, three-for-four in her career and unbeaten here. Old warrior and comebacker Shane Sellers is in the saddle and he'll do fine at Fair Grounds. She closed big-time last out in the Pelleteri in recording her best Beyer Speed Figure (BSF), jumping from 84 to 92.

    I kind of like the horse Clear Sailing beat, Fighter Wing, although I am wary of Fighter Wing's on-the-lead style. She may not get the lead she needs in this race. But if she does, and can set a sensible pace, she might improve off of her career best Beyer, 92, an 11-point jump from her best previous dirt figure, at Hawthorne last October. Forget Unforgotten. She'd have to run better than the race of her life and won't get the slop or synthetic she'd probably need to do it.

    It should be Rachel Alexandra all the way, although her last workout did not go well. Don't be surprised if they suspend Show betting and keep an eye on the pools. The bridge jumpers might surface.

    Out West, you tell me if any of them can beat Zenyatta. Santa Anita officials came to their senses and abandoned the idea of suspending the handicap conditions of the Santa Margarita to make it easier for Zenyatta to win.

    She'll carry a high weight of 127 pounds, 12 more than Striking Dancer. All of the other horses will average 111.5 pounds.

    As for Zenyatta getting beat, it doesn't seem remotely likely. Only two other horses have won graded stakes races this year: Pretty Unusual in the Grade II El Encino on Jan. 17, and Striking Dancer in the Grade II LaCanada on Feb. 14.

    It looks like it would be all that Pretty Unusual can do to win at nine furlongs, whether Zenyatta is in the race or not. Striking Dancer had a nice closing kick in recording her best Beyer in the LaCanada win, but how will she ever match Zenyatta's legendary closing ability?

    Gripsholm Castle, the mostly British-raced four-year-old, is lightly raced and finished second in the LaCanada.

    The only way Zenyatta loses this race is if Mike Smith screws up and doesn't get her going soon enough, or too soon. She hasn't stopped training and should be ready to go. She's a veteran. That's it.

    Weather reports look good for both Fair Grounds and Santa Anita, so they both should go.

    In typical Thoroughbred racing fashion, you'll have to hunt to see the races. They'll be shown live on Horse Racing Television (HRTV). TVG will probably run them on a short delay, but then you'll have to suffer the outside-looking-in tee-hees of their announcers. NTRA.com has promised they'll stream the races live. But scope out the site beforehand, navigation is not the tops. Rachel Alexandra's scheduled post time is 5:15 Central and Zenyatta's bell rings at 5:36 Central.

    It will simply be a treat just to see them both back on the race track.

    -

    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 5:21 AM | Permalink

    Life's Little Victories

    * A Simpsons Episode I've Never Seen

    * A Handjob On The Bus

    * Celebrity Cameltoe

    * That Check That Should've Bounced But Didn't

    * My Ex Gets Gonorrhea From The Guy She Left For

    * The Hot Chick on The Treadmill In Front of Me Doesn't Mind Me Staring

    * Discovering a Deep Cut That Rocks On An Old Album

    * Watching The Cats Catch A Fucking Squirrel

    * Having More Hair Than My Father

    * The Checkout Girl Says Hi

    * A Show I Can't Afford is Canceled

    * Wife Has Horny Dreams (They Don't Have To Be About Me)

    * The Car Survives One More Road Trip

    -

    Comments welcome.

    -

    Other Lists By Drew Adamek:
    * Today's Syllabus
    * Shit My Dad Says
    * Work Weirdos
    * Things I Miss About Chicago
    * 20 Albums I Wish I Had Never Bought
    * Their Chicago
    * Cities I've Slept In
    * My Favorite 1980s Chicago Radio Memories
    * Why Milwaukee Rules
    * Why I'm Glad I Don't Live In D.C. Anymore
    * The Beer Goggle Recordings
    * A List Of Reader Comments To Drew's Lists

    Plus:
    * Fan Note: Me & Metallica

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 3:59 AM | Permalink

    March 11, 2010

    The [Thursday] Papers

    Ugh, this has turned into a rather trying week, so posting on the site has slowed to a trickle. Not for lack of material, but for lack of time and energy on my part, each having been leeched and sucked out of me by the vagaries of the universe and its evil inhabitants. Apologies.

    We do have another (three-legged) flight review by our very own Mike Luce today. Rumors of snack boxes involved.

    Now let's see what we can scare up out of the papers today before I don the armor once again today and try to slay our enemies.

    Quinn Bin
    "Quinn's budget blueprint, tax increase or not, reflects the consensus in Springfield to basically do nothing," Kristen McQueary writes in a column titled "Budget Plan Is Clever, But D.O.A."

    I'd have to agree.

    On first glance, Pat Quinn appears to have laid out the most disastrous consequences of failing to (barely) raise income taxes - along with more massive borrowing - for the state's education system, as if on a dare. That's the clever part; he'll be able to say he tried to save our schools by putting them on the chopping block and begging the General Assembly to follow his rescue plan - and then blame them when they refuse.

    On second glance, well, I don't even want to bother taking a second glance because I find it hard to take this proposal seriously, though we'll probably get the massive borrowing part in the end. That's basically the D.O.A. part - it doesn't really matter what Quinn says; Michael Madigan and John Cullerton are calling the shots, and Madigan in particular will refuse to do anything with any political risk unless the Republicans give him cover by joining in.

    A strong and really clever governor might be able to craft such a deal, though not necessarily in an election year.

    So there we are.

    At the same time, though, let's acknowledge that as bad as the fiscal stewardship of this state has been, the biggest kick in the butt has been the Great Recession. Makes you wonder if the federal government shouldn't have prioritized aid to states and cities in its recovery plan - at least beyond its initial outlay. After all, Arne Duncan is sitting on $4.35 billion.

    Like with health care, President Obama is going for long-term "transformative" change - if that's what you want to call entrenching mediocre versions of reform into the system - instead of dealing with the crisis at hand. A president has to react to facts on the ground, not visions of grandeur. We just went through eight years of that.

    We could use a little more grandeur closer to home, though; Quinn had a chance - once again - to offer a reshaped vision of the state that would address the budget fiasco and set us on a new path. It's pathetic that instead he's down to suggesting the state raise its lowly, flat 3 percent income tax rate to 4 percent; he didn't even have the guts to officially put the "plan" into his proposed budget.

    That sounds more like Dead On Departure than Dead On Arrival.

    *

    Then again, Madigan and Cullerton should be forced to give their own budget addresses.

    Here's an idea: When you go to bond agencies to borrow more money, borrow some courage too.

    Mayoral Mopery
    "Daley Criticizes Grade Fixing."

    Except in his own administration.

    Pipe Band Politics
    Just catching up with "Don't Mess With the Shannon Rovers," by the Reader's Deanna Isaacs:

    "Pipe-band expert Bill Currie insulted Chicago's venerable bagpipers. Now they're playing the main stage at Celtic Fest and he's off the festival's advisory committee."

    Geez, even the Celtic Fest advisory committee plays hardball in this town.

    Interlude
    "In a victory for the concept album, Britain's High Court has ordered record company EMI Group Ltd. to stop selling downloads of Pink Floyd tracks individually rather than as part of the band's original albums," AP reports.

    -

    Da Da Da, Da Da Da

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Not dead yet.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:55 AM | Permalink

    United #7002 / 6476 / 481

    From: O'Hare (ORD) to Cincinnati (CVG)

    From: Cincinnati (CVG) to O'Hare (ORD)

    From: O'Hare (ORD) to Dallas (DFW)

    Date and time: Monday, March 8 - 7:40 a.m., 6:42 p.m. and 8:37 p.m. (all times Central)

    Gates: E2A, 4 and B19

    Gate / Pilot Announcements: As a whole, blissfully infrequent and unremarkable, at least until the gate agent at B19 called, "Passenger Luce, please see me. Upgrade passenger Luce, please see me." Ah, the First Class upgrade - sweet relief.

    Takeoff: I spent more time dozing on these flights than normal. I chalk that up to my early wake-up time (5 a.m.) and the anxiety that woke me up at 4 a.m.

    Flight Attendant Service: I had limited interaction with the crew with two notable exceptions - the woman on #6476 who crashed into my leg as I sprawled into the aisle, and the kind gentleman on #481 who kept refilling my wine glass.

    Food: None! None whatsoever! There was a rumor of "snack boxes" on #481 but they never materialized. Either that or I slept through them.

    In-flight Entertainment: On the second of the three legs, I finished Chasing Ghosts. I wouldn't recommend it. For #481, I switched gears to Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent.

    Turbulence: Nothing strong enough to wake me up.

    Passengers: For the past few weeks, United has been playing a documentary about avalanches during longer flights. I have seen bits of it several times, although I have yet to plug in my earphones to hear whatever the hell these people are talking about . . . presumably, that avalanches are not good times. The guy next to me on United #481, however, was dialed in. I've never seen someone so interested in an in-flight documentary. I thought he was asleep, but no - riveted by avalanches.

    Landing: I don't really remember the landings. At all.

    Notes: As a frequent business traveler, I rely on my BlackBerry. I'm not proud of it but it's unavoidable. On this trip, I discovered a previously unknown phenomenon - the "Nuked" BlackBerry. Shortly before the trip, it began spontaneously rebooting. The usual fix to any BlackBerry problem - pulling out the battery - didn't help. I went almost three days with no phone calls, no e-mails, no text messages . . . nothing. I nearly resorted to faxing handwritten notes to my clients from the front desk of my hotel. And almost drove myself crazy screwing with the thing until Tuesday night.

    Overall rating: An avalanche of fun.

    -

    More than a million flights go in and out of Chicago's airports every year. We intend to review them all.

    -

    Previously:
    * Southwest #1189: Cheap red wine and non-honey roasted peanuts.

    * Delta #1972: My attendant didn't bat an eye when I paid for my bourbon-and-diet with a United Visa card.

    -

    Comments and submissions welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:27 AM | Permalink

    March 10, 2010

    The [Wednesday] Papers

    As readers of this column may know, I'm a big fan of Google. And they've done it again

    "On Wednesday, Google will unveil a service offering bicycling directions on its Google Maps feature," the Tribune reports.

    "Hard-core and recreational cyclists will be able to use the Web-based technology to plan trips or explore biking trails and routes in Chicago and 149 other U.S. cities, Google officials said."

    And guess what? It's free!

    Free in the sense - as always - that the user does not have to pay a direct fee to access the service, which you can find here.

    "After typing in start and end points and selecting 'Bicycling'' on the drop-down menu, a user will be provided with itineraries and estimated travel times, although trip times undoubtedly will vary depending on the pedaling power of the individual," the Trib explains.

    "But to allow for such variations, the step-by-step biking directions factor in the length of the trip, changes in elevation and even fatigue, Google officials said."

    How cool is that?

    *

    Google has tons of great products and interesting ideas beyond search and advertising. Check this page out.

    *

    Google is not done innovating in advertising, though. Those weirdly quick to claim that online advertising is dead, dying or will never reach the heights of print advertising simply aren't paying attention to a sector still in its infancy.

    For example:

    "Now that Google (NSDQ: GOOG) has done the heavy lifting of fully integrating and, last month, upgrading DoubleClick's system with AdSense and AdWords, the search giant plans a series of tweaks as it strives to make display its 'next billion-dollar business,' as CEO Eric Schmidt put it," paidContent reported recently in a post called "Google Makes A Bid For More Premium Display Dollars With 'Above The Fold' Ads."

    "One way to get there is more premium pricing from brand advertisers as opposed to Google's typical direct response campaigns. And that's the focus of a new tool Google is unveiling today that promises 'above the fold' placement for display ads. Aimed at major marketers, advertisers will be able to bid against each other for display units across the Google Content Network with the guarantee that the winning ads will appear only in the top half of users' screens."

    *

    Team Google is also more insightful about the newspaper industry than the newspaper industry itself.

    "The news industry's financial problems started well before the web came along," Google's chief economist, Hal Varian, wrote in a post Tuesday on the company's public policy blog. "Circulation has been falling since 1985 and circulation per household has been falling since 1947! Ad revenue for newspapers was roughly constant in real terms up until 2005, and ad revenue per reader actually increased up until that time. Since then, the drop in advertising rates due to the recession, coupled with a significant drop in circulation, has exacerbated newspapers' financial difficulties."

    And, ahem, here's something I've been saying for years - to much resistance.

    "[T]he real money in search engine advertising is in the highly commercial verticals like Shopping, Health, and Travel. Unfortunately, most of the search clicks that go to newspapers are in categories like Sports, News & Current Events, and Local, which don't attract the biggest spending advertisers.

    "This isn't so surprising: the fact of the matter is that newspapers have never made much money from news. They've made money from the special interest sections on topics such as Automotive, Travel, Home & Garden, Food & Drink, and so on. These sections attract contextually targeted advertising, which is much more effective than non-targeted advertising. After all, someone reading the Automotive section is likely to be more interested in cars than the average consumer, so advertisers will pay a premium to reach those consumers.

    "Traditionally, the ad revenue from these special sections has been used to cross-subsidize the core news production. Nowadays internet users go directly to websites like Edmunds, Orbitz, Epicurious, and Amazon to look for products and services in specialized areas. Not surprisingly, advertisers follow those eyeballs, which makes the traditional cross-subsidization model that newspapers have used far more difficult."

    This is why I've argued that trying to figure out how to get people to "pay" for news is a fool's errand; news is not a commodity, never has been a commodity, and shouldn't be a commodity. This is also why new local news models have a record of failure, and why funders - be them foundations or venture capitalists - ought to rethink their jones for citizen journalism and community news projects that don't have realistic business models and why newspaper companies need to move into vertical - and niche - playing fields in part by leveraging the expertise and resources already in their organizations, much of which has long gone unused.

    Finally, Varian writes:

    "There are huge cost savings associated with online news. Roughly 50% of the cost of producing a physical newspaper is in printing and distribution, with only about 15% of total costs being editorial. Newspapers could save a lot of money if the primary access to news was via the internet."

    *

    And on another front:

    "Google Inc. is testing a new television-programming search service with Dish Network Corp., according to people familiar with the matter, the latest development in a fast-moving race to combine Internet content with conventional TV," the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

    *

    Media maven Ken Auletta - author of "Googled" in a letter last December to the New York Times Book Review:

    "In fact, the book repeatedly argues that traditional media were slow to awaken to the digital revolution and have mistakenly scapegoated Google."

    *

    "Page and Brin," one observer tells Auletta, "'are utopians,' believing deeply that 'if people have better information they will live better lives.'"

    Isn't that essentially the same core principle held by journalists?

    I'm not afraid of Google.

    Modeling Class
    * AOL News.
    * News from Yahoo! News.
    * The size of Politico's staff so far.

    And so on.

    I fear not for journalism; the Internet is its savior.

    Remember Jake Fox
    And other mid-round fantasy first- and second-basemen to consider.

    Enough About Drew, Let's Talk About Drew
    A list of readers' comments about Drew's lists.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: List-friendly.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:20 AM | Permalink

    Fantasy Fix: 2B Or Not 2B

    First base traditionally is a position rich in fantasy baseball talent. No fewer than 11 1Bs could go in the first four rounds of most fantasy baseball drafts this year (though I only listed seven in my own top 40 picks a couple weeks ago).

    Second base traditionally is a much different story. Only five players with 2B eligibility are widely considered to be in the top 40 this year.

    Fantasy owners have two different ways of looking at this disparity: Some like to join the 1B rush because the best of them tend to be some of the league's big boppers, and not draft a position like 2B with a shallow talent pool until later in the draft. Others like to go for the top 2Bs (or another shallow position - shortstop) right off the bat, figuring they can still get a decent 1B in deeper rounds.

    I like the latter strategy. I wouldn't take top-ranked 2B Chase Utley over top-ranked 1B Albert Pujols, but I probably would take young 2Bs like Ben Zobrist and Dustin Pedroia with big-name 1Bs like Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis still on the board.

    With that in mind, here are some 1Bs and 2Bs to think about past Round 4:

    Top 3 1Bs likely to survive past Round 4:

    1. Mark Reynolds, Arizona (also 3B eligible): He's borderline top 40. No one thinks he'll hit 44 HRs again, but what about a 30 HR/30 SB year?

    2. Adam Dunn, Washington (also OF eligible): Consistent home run power, 115+ walks and close to 120 RBIs this year with improved Nationals.

    3. Billy Butler, Kansas City: Starting to live up to the buzz. Hard to surpass his 51 doubles of 2009, but he could build on his 21 HRs and 93 RBIs of last year - and he's only 24.

    Top Sleeper Pick: Jake Fox, Oakland (also OF/3B eligible). Probably a last-round pick. It will not be so easy for him to belt homers in Oakland, but he's a real hitter, and should feast on American League pitching.

    Best Chance for Rookie Impact: Brandon Allen, Arizona. Assuming he breaks camp with the big club, I think the former White Sox farm hand could earn at-bats quickly and show off his power, maybe even challenge starter Adam LaRoche.

    Best to Avoid: Todd Helton, Colorado. He battled back from injury last year and came up with a .325 batting average and 86 RBIs, but he'll be 37 this summer, and a dignified but clear decline is in the cards.

    Top 3 2Bs likely to survive past Round 4:

    1. Robinson Cano, NY Yankees: A 200-hit season for the champs last year and a surprising burst of power with 25 HRs. Plus, he's at the prime hitters' age of 27.

    2. Aaron Hill, Toronto: No one thinks he'll rack up 36 HRs and 108 RBIs again, but he can't fall that far can he? Even 25 HRs would put him in the top four or five at the position.

    3. Brian Roberts, Baltimore: Continues to pile up doubles and stolen bases every year. Can he manage an odd 60-30 in 2010?

    Top Sleeper Pick: Ian Stewart, Colorado (also 3B eligible). Showed some nice power last year with 25 HRs, but his .228 average buried him in the rankings. I like him for more average, fewer homers and maybe double digit stolen bases.

    Best Chance for Rookie Impact: Scott Sizemore, Detroit. This year's Chris Getz? That may not be such an endorsement, but he's supposed to have a lively bat, and probably will score a lot of runs hitting ahead of Miguel Cabrera.

    Best to Avoid: Kelly Johnson, Arizona. Carried great buzz into last year and flopped with a .224 average.

    The Baseball Expert Wire
    * The Talented Mr. Roto is back at ESPN.com with his top 250 rankings, and some particular notes on various players.

    * Bleacher Report ranks the top 15 relievers just in time for what may be a season-ending injury to Joe Nathan, the guy who would have been No. 3 or 4 on many lists.

    * FanHouse has an interesting list of much-hyped players from previous years who still haven't seen breakout campaigns. I never thought I would say this, but I now like Homer Bailey more than David Price.

    * OPEN Sports laments the death of rotisserie-style fantasy baseball leagues, but then goes on to offer some strategic advice for remaining roto-leaguers who haven't made the jump to head-to-head leagues. Like many baseball fantasy leaguers, I started in a roto league about 25 years ago - a team I shared with my dad. I'm still in one today, along with a couple H2H leagues, and even though the format seems dated, how do you walk away from tradition when the game is all about tradition?

    Fantasy Basketball
    We'll be back next week with our final fantasy basketball update of the year as leagues head into their playoff slates.

    -

    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 6:00 AM | Permalink

    A List Of Reader Comments To Drew's Lists

    I am overwhelmed by the response to my lists. My mother, in particular, has been very supportive and encouraging. It is a new sensation for me, hearing what the audience thinks of my work.

    I've been working in television for the last seven years; I am not used to interacting with my audience. The most contact I've had with a television audience is the dry, analytical Nielsen ratings. It's been encouraging to have such great interaction.

    I'd like to share some of the feedback I've gotten from the wonderful Beachwood readers.

    Here, then, is a list of reader comments I've gotten:

    1. "Tell him I'll fuck his mother in a tree." - Monkey Fucker

    2. "How about a list of jobs you should be getting and bills you regret not paying." - My Wife

    3. "Mr. Adamek does not have authorization to use, describe or adore the likeness of Mr. Jagger. Therefore, this notice serves as intent to sue for copyright infringement." - Mr. Jagger's Attorneys*

    4 "Ewww, you mean that fat guy in the wrinkled blazer that looks like a used car salesman skulking at the end of the bar? Why would I talk to him?"- Tracy Flick

    5. "P.S. I'm glad you are gone too." - D.C.

    6. "The restraining order includes blogging" - That Girl From Rochambo

    7. "Why don't you make a list of CDs you claim you didn't steal from your brother that I found in your car?" - My Brother

    8. "Eh, Fooock Mick Jahggger, you know." - Lars Ulrich

    9. "May George Bush bomb your soul to back to Christ, you heathen. Palin in 2012." - That Douchebag Who Peed On My Door

    10. "Tell them why we call you tater tot." My Boring Dad

    *I am only kidding. Please don't sue me.

    -

    Comments welcome.

    -

    Other Lists By Drew Adamek:
    * Today's Syllabus
    * Shit My Dad Says
    * Work Weirdos
    * Things I Miss About Chicago
    * 20 Albums I Wish I Had Never Bought
    * Their Chicago
    * Cities I've Slept In
    * My Favorite 1980s Chicago Radio Memories
    * Why Milwaukee Rules
    * Why I'm Glad I Don't Live In D.C. Anymore
    * The Beer Goggle Recordings

    Plus:
    * Fan Note: Me & Metallica

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 3:54 AM | Permalink

    March 9, 2010

    The [Tuesday] Papers

    "The City Council will move quickly to empower Chicago's inspector general to investigate alleged hiring abuses by aldermen to bolster the city's case to get out from under the Shakman decree, an influential alderman said today," the Sun-Times reports.

    "But, Rules Committee Chairman Richard Mell (33rd) said aldermen are so divided about Mayor Daley's plan to give the inspector general more sweeping investigative authority over the City Council, a seven-member subcommittee has been appointed to sort it out . . .

    "Budget Committee Chairman Carrie Austin (34th) is in the 'do-nothing' camp.

    "'Why the hell do we need an inspector general breathing down our necks? To do what? We're already cautious as hell. And we have nothing to do with hiring,' Austin said."

    Really?

    "A stealth payroll loaded with friends, relatives and political operatives of Chicago aldermen appears to violate a ban on political hiring and was not revealed to the federal court overseeing city hiring, the court-appointed monitor concluded Monday," the Tribune reports.

    Talk to the hand, Carrie.

    *

    I know that phrase is really old by now, but that's what came to me.

    *

    Meanwhile . . .

    "The trial of a developer accused of bribing former Chicago Ald. Isaac 'Ike' Carothers will begin Tuesday after a federal appeals court turned down a last-minute motion to block the testimony of the developer's former lawyer."

    It Never Ends
    "Mayor Eric Kellogg had to like his chances when Harvey Public School District 152 voted to select a new superintendent," the Tribune reports.

    "Of the school board members who voted 4-2 for Kellogg to lead the district, one is his sister, one is his cousin and two are on the city payroll, working under Kellogg."

    It Takes One To Know One
    If Mayor Daley read the Beachwood, he'd have known that Boy Scout Pat Quinn is an untrustworthy liar.

    *

    Advice to Daley: Don't borrow Quinn's Super 8 card.

    A Life Not Well-Lived
    "Brother of alderman prosecuted Lenny Bruce, represented Fred Roti."

    Calling On Cullerton
    Our Intrepid Citizen tries again. See the latest appended update.

    Gothic Schmothic
    Jeff Huebner is not amused. See his comment revealing the story behind the giant American Gothic people who just left town.

    He Is A Security Guard
    "I resisted the urge to shove his face through the door. Instead, I called the police."

    This Day In Beachwood History
    "Paging Jerry Angelo . . . Paging Jerry Angelo . . . Please pick up a white courtesy telephone, give us a call and tell us why on God's green (soon) earth you aren't signing anyone?" our very own Jim Coffman wrote a year ago. "Please?"

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Operators standing by.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:20 AM | Permalink

    I Am A Security Guard: The Roaring 20s

    After I took my post on a recent Tuesday night, the Head Guard walked over to me and made some small talk

    A man shuffled toward us several minutes later. Judging by his soft features, he appeared to be in his early 20s. He stood about 5-foot-7 and wore a tan jacket and light blue jeans. His wide open eyes made me suspect he had just taken a drug.

    He asked the Head Guard for change or a cell phone. The man claimed he needed to telephone a friend in order to get money for a prescription.

    The Head Guard said no. The man left the store, but returned. He claimed his prescription was ready for pickup. The Head Guard let him go to the pharmacy.

    I asked the Head Guard if the man really needed medicine. We walked to the pharmacy to check. The visitor sat in the waiting area. A tech told me the man had been begging there earlier that day.

    We escorted him out the door. "I tried to be nice," the Head Guard said shortly before leaving for home.

    Of course, the beggar came back an hour later. I told him to leave. He refused.

    I resisted the urge to shove his face through the door. Instead, I called the police.

    Three squad cars arrived. A dark-haired cop with a chiseled face talked to the man outside.

    After I gave a summary, the officer walked to the pharmacy. The staff confirmed my story. The cop returned and said the beggar would not come back to the store.

    The officer walked outside and told the man that if he returned, he would be arrested. The beggar slinked away.

    I relaxed until another youngster generated drama.

    Later in the shift, I looked in the refrigerator for my double cheeseburger. It was gone. I checked the waste basket. Yes, the bag and wrapper rested inside the container.

    I told the Cool Cashier. She started laughing and mentioned the Young Cashier had eaten it.

    The news made me simmer. The theft of my dinner poured salt into a festering wound.

    The Young Cashier, a man in his early 20s, had recently joined the overnight shift. He often arrives late for work or blows off the job to party. He does a half-assed job, preferring to text his friends or listen to music. His antics create more work for the rest of the crew.

    The chat about the sandwich drew his attention. He apologized while flashing a sheepish grin.

    Figuring his day of reckoning would come soon, I managed a smile. "It's okay," I said.

    To take my mind off the food, I started working on the Chicago Sun-Times puzzle contest. The puzzle consisted of a group of scrambled letters. Contestants had to figure out the word in order to compete for a prize.

    I broke out a pencil and notebook, figuring the task would be easy. I rearranged the letters once, hoping to get a hint. I tried again with no luck.

    I kept writing. Fifteen minutes passed. Then 30.

    After 45 minutes, I figured out the word: syndrome.

    Given my encounters with the two twentysomethings, the word seemed quite appropriate.

    -

    A very pseudononymous Jerome Haller earns rent money as a security guard for a large, publicly-held retail chain. He welcomes your comments.

    -

    See more tales of security guarding, pizzeria waitressing, barista-ing and office drudgering in the Life at Work collection.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:06 AM | Permalink

    March 8, 2010

    The [Monday] Papers

    My favorite part of Sunday's New York Times piece on the "messaging" struggles of Obama media maven David Axelrod:

    "Others question what happened to the Mr. Axelrod who so effectively marketed Mr. Obama, the candidate, as a change agent. He and some defenders, though, say that trying to explain a president who is dealing with a fusillade of difficult governing issues is far different.

    "'In a campaign, you're not held to the same standard of actually doing what you say you're going to do,' said Anita Dunn, a former White House communications director and Obama campaign adviser."

    Family Plan
    "Three politicians who supported a real estate venture at the center of an upcoming federal bribery trial have relatives who landed jobs tied to the project, offering a twist on the Chicago tradition of cozy relationships between developers and public officials," the Tribune reported over the weekend.

    "Recently filed court records in the criminal case of developer Calvin Boender provide broad outlines about the jobs that went to relatives of U.S. Rep.Luis Gutierrez, Ald. Emma Mitts, 37th, and former Ald. Isaac 'Ike' Carothers, 29th.

    "Gutierrez's sister-in-law was hired to sell real estate; Mitt's daughter was hired as a laborer; and Carothers' brother was selected to provide security."

    A) Just another Chicago Coincidence.

    B) Hey, relatives may have opened the door but they still had to nail their interviews all by themselves to get the jobs.

    C) Just another Chicago Coincidence.

    "Reached by telephone, Gutierrez declined to say how or when his sister-in-law Jeanette Torres was hired by Red Seal Development Corp., one of Boender's partners on the project. He then hung up."

    A) How I as a United States congressman arranged a job for my sister-in-law with a now-indicted developer is none of your business!

    B) I may have arranged the job, but she had to nail her interview!

    C) [Sound of phone hanging up.]

    "'My employment with Red Seal Homes is a private matter,' Torres wrote in an e-mail to the Tribune. 'Congressman Gutierrez had nothing to do with my employment at Red Seal Homes.'"

    A) Maybe he hung up accidentally. He'll be calling back any minute now.

    B) Or maybe he'll just e-mail in a statement. What's the emoticon for a phone hanging up?

    C) I didn't even use Congressman Gutierrez as a reference! Somehow they already knew . . .

    "Carothers, Mitts and Gutierrez supported rezoning the Galewood Yards project to allow Boender to build a 14-screen movie theater and a nearly $60 million residential development of 187 single-family homes, townhouses and condos. The zoning change meant an extra $3 million in Boender's pockets."

    Just another Chicago Co . . .

    "Boender faces charges that he bribed Carothers in exchange for the alderman's pushing the project through City Hall and over the objection of city planners."

    Just another Chi . . .

    "The Tribune has reported that Boender, a friend and golfing buddy of Gutierrez, lent Gutierrez $200,000 in a real estate deal about the time the congressman was lobbying Mayor Richard Daley to back Galewood Yards."

    Just anoth . . .

    "'After Mr. Carothers found out that Mr. Gutierrez's sister-in-law was working for Red Seal, Mr. Carothers became upset and wondered why Red Seal could not be working with his brother,' according to court records."

    Okay! Uncle!

    "Brian Hoffman, Red Seal's vice chairman and chief financial officer, declined to comment."

    By hanging up the phone or sending an e-mail?

    "Mitts' daughter, LaTonya Mitts, said she got the job on her own.

    "'I had the skills and I applied,' LaTonya Mitts said.

    "Ald. Mitts said her daughter worked as an hourly maintenance laborer on the project for three to six months.

    "'One of my primary goals as alderman is to provide jobs and economic empowerment and opportunity for my constituents,' Mitts said. 'Several constituents, including my daughter, applied and after a review of their qualifications, were hired.'"

    Nobody even knew who LaTonya's mother was!

    "Gutierrez also had real estate dealings with Boender in the 1000 block of West Fulton Avenue. Boender in 2004 began selling lots there to investors, who included Gutierrez and Stanley Walczak.

    "Walczak's son was an intern for Gutierrez in Washington."

    Oh for godsakes!

    "Walczak and Gutierrez several years ago invested in a real estate deal in which the congressman made at least $70,000 in profits."

    No wonder I didn't get that internship. I wasn't "qualified."

    "Court records identified Walczak - acting at the direction of Boender - as having arranged for improvements to Ald. Carothers' home."

    And it comes full circle. Thank you for playing!

    "Walczak declined to comment."

    Naturally.

    NBC ABCs
    "NBC's local Web site is earning a reputation for publishing all the news that's fit to lift," Michael Miner writes.

    And how.

    It wasn't that way when NBC first embarked on a new Web strategy that I thought was smart and had potential. But when the site relaunched under a new managing editor with no foundation in journalism and a cleavage obsession, things changed.

    Suddenly us writers weren't supposed to attribute the news we were writing about to its source, we were to pretend we came up with it by ourselves. Right from our little apartments.

    "We don't quote publications, we only quote people," I was told by another new editor.

    That meant not quoting from publications, either. They would just take the quote marks off. "That's plagiarism!" I railed. To dumbfoundedness. So I worked around it my own way, writing my posts in a way that would mostly prevent mischief, even as I was told that the strategy was to take other people's stories and "make them our own!"

    I hope I didn't do this. My strategy was to find angles and commentary on what was in the news and give due credit. At the same time, I warned the bosses: You can't do that. That is stealing, just what aggregators are so often wrongly accused of doing.

    To no avail.

    I also warned that rewriting other people's stories in which the words were chosen with at least some measure of care would inevitably lead to errors as facts, nuances and context got muddied. Indeed, the site was - and is - littered with errors and mischaracterizations. I have a long list of them just from my time there alone.

    Nobody cared.

    Most important, though, is that the absence of any sort of basic journalist framework extends to the top - to the president of NBC Universal's local news division, who is a sales guy. None of the folks involved in this scandal, to my knowledge, have faced any consequences for what they did. They all kept their jobs. They showed what they were willing to do - trade integrity for career security and future advancement - and they've been rewarded.

    But no one should believe anything that comes out of their shop. How could you?

    Delta Flight 1972
    "My attendant didn't bat an eye when I paid for my bourbon-and-diet with a United Visa card," our very own Mike Luce writes.

    The Beer Goggle Recordings
    "The track list for my mid-career, drug-addled, alcoholic vanity country rock album," our very own Drew Adamek writes.

    The Political Odds . . .
    . . . have changed. Now offering parlays on aldermanic indictments.

    Bears Bank
    "Please, please, please let's not hear any more talk about how the Bears overpaid for Julius Peppers, or for Chester Taylor for that matter," our very own Jim Coffman writes. "There is no overpaying in the NFL."

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Pay us a visit.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:33 AM | Permalink

    SportsMonday

    Please, please, please let's not hear any more talk about how the Bears overpaid for Julius Peppers, or for Chester Taylor for that matter. There is no overpaying in the NFL. Of course there isn't a salary cap this year so any team can spend as much as it wants on talent. But even before that part of the most recent NFL collective bargaining agreement kicked in, virtually all NFL teams were in good position to spend plenty on free agents because they are all raking in ridiculous revenues.

    Heading into last season, much was made of the Jacksonville Jaguars struggling to sell tickets. Then during the season, many of the telecasts of their home games were blacked out locally because they hadn't sold out their stadium. The economy had taken a terrible toll on the fans in that portion of Florida, we were told, and the Jaguars were surely struggling to make ends meet.

    Except they weren't. In fact, it wasn't even close. Jacksonville receives the same portion of the television rights pie that all the other NFL teams do and that speedily escalating payment is approaching $150 million per team per season. Teams can, of course, make more money by filling their stadium and attracting multiple local sponsors, but even if they don't come close to maximizing those streams they are still doing fine.

    No surprise then that when former Packer defensive end Aaron Kampman, thought to be the second-best pass rusher on the free agent market and therefore the second-most sought after individual talent, announced Sunday he had decided to sign a big-money new contract with a new team, it was with the supposedly cash-strapped Jaguars.

    This state of affairs also makes it hard to take the early wrangling over a new collective bargaining agreement between NFL players and owners seriously. Knowledgeable NFL commentators have posited that there may very well be a lockout when the current agreement expires before the 2011 season. They point to the fact that there has been no progress in early negotiations between the two sides.

    But there is never much progress early on in these sorts of back-and-forths. I know NFL owners are as greedy as all the other owners in all the other sports and that they are thinking at this point that they will definitely stick together and play hardball at the negotiating table next year, even instituting a lockout if need be. But the pressure from the public to sign a new deal and avoid a disruption of the schedule will be intense. No one is going to believe that the owners are even close to the sort of financial peril that would call for major givebacks from the players - absolutely no one.

    Back to the Bears . . . I'm sure Peppers will be a significant upgrade for the Bears at his position. His signing obviously addressed the Bears' number one defensive shortcoming. But No. 1A is safety, and if Jerry Angelo is even thinking about bargain-hunting or trying to find a major immediate contributor in the draft, we're coming for him with a straitjacket.

    He tried that last year, of course, and every time I think about it I still become even more pissed that the Bears passed on a pair of players who would have suited their needs perfectly. They passed on both Brian Dawkins, the former Eagle All-Pro who ended up energizing the Bronco defense (which, despite its late-season setbacks, was still much better than the previous year), and Darren Sharper. All Sharper did, of course, was spearhead the Saints defense's charge to the Super Bowl. And we knew Sharper was still good; hell, when he wrapped up an epic run with the Packers a few years ago, he switched over to the Vikings. We have been watching him deliver big hits for a decade.

    How could Angelo have thought that Al Afalava was the answer at safety going into last season? A sixth-round rookie at safety to start the season? Really? And sure enough, Bear safeties managed all of one takeaway, as a unit, all stinking season.

    And finally . . . it was nice knowing you Greg Olsen. Yes, you led the Bears in receptions last year, but when you think about it, receiving tight ends who are sub-par blockers simply don't make much sense. It would be surprising if you aren't traded in the next few weeks. A tight end needs to be a blocker first. The guys who are receivers first should be much faster and much more elusive, i.e., they should possess the traits of a standard wide receiver, than Olsen will ever be.

    New Bear tight end Brandon Manumaleuna will take care of the blocking first, especially in pass protection. Then he has good enough hands to give quarterback Jay Cutler a last-second option if all of his downfield routes are covered.

    Hawk Tawk
    There was plenty of criticism of the Hawks for standing pat at the trade deadline but seemingly very little clue among our town's paid sports scribes (or broadcasters for that matter. but does anyone look to any of those guys for real sports news in this town?) about what possibilities were out there.

    It is lame to criticize a team for not making a deal for an experienced goalie when you have no idea what deals might have been possible.

    I'm guessing teams weren't lining up to give the Hawks what could clearly be the final piece in a successful Stanley Cup playoff puzzle as well as giving them salary cap relief in the process.

    -

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

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:37 AM | Permalink

    The Beer Goggle Recordings

    I was in a death-metal/thrash/hardcore/Metallica cover/punk/funk band called Addiction!! for 38 seconds back in 1986. The band formed in my buddy's basement, when we were 13.

    Chris could play "Paranoid" all the way through on the drums; Reggie and Paul knew the chords to "Smoke on the Water." I screamed with rage.

    We did one take of "Iron Man," a couple of shots of stolen Everclear, and I was fired as lead singer. Apparently, I wasn't "jelling" with the band.

    I've never gotten over that rejection. The entire rock star career I had planned - first superstardom, then megastardom and finally a living legend - collapsed in front of my eyes. I had already written out my discography, set lists and Grammy awards.

    Digging through some old notebooks the other day, I discovered the liner notes that I wrote for my mid-career, drug-addled, alcoholic vanity country rock album.

    I had planned for this to be my "hit bottom" album before I came roaring back with the greatest comeback album of all time: think Black and Blue before Some Girls.

    Here, then, is the tracklist for my album Beer Goggle Self Esteem: Ode to Alcoholism.

    1. I Only Like Myself Drunk

    2. Momma Loves Me But Can't Stand Me

    3. I Love This Fucking Spaghetti

    4. King of the World (Oh God, What Have I Done)

    5. Vagina Pyjamas

    6. I'm Douchebag Sober

    7. Bitter Masturbation

    8. Man In The Mirror (Piss Off)

    9. I Promise Baby, Tomorrow

    10. That's All Very Interesting

    11. What's the Point? (Live)

    With Meghan Galbraith.

    -

    Comments welcome.

    -

    Other Lists By Drew Adamek:
    * Today's Syllabus
    * Shit My Dad Says
    * Work Weirdos
    * Things I Miss About Chicago
    * 20 Albums I Wish I Had Never Bought
    * Their Chicago
    * Cities I've Slept In
    * My Favorite 1980s Chicago Radio Memories
    * Why Milwaukee Rules
    * Why I'm Glad I Don't Live In D.C. Anymore

    Plus:
    * Fan Note: Me & Metallica

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:23 AM | Permalink

    Delta #1972

    From: Atlanta (ATL)

    To: O'Hare (ORD)

    Date and time: Wednesday, March 4 - 4:50 p.m. (Eastern)

    Gate: A32

    Gate/Pilot Announcements: I missed all the lead-up to this flight while downing two enormous glasses of white wine at "A-Bar" a few gates away. Our presentation wrapped up late, leaving me no choice but to pay Delta a $50 rebooking fee to take a later flight. And thus I had plenty of time to kill.

    Takeoff: Smooth, although the stench of my neighbors' Krystal burgers and fries marred the experience.

    Flight Attendant Service: Good. My attendant didn't bat an eye when I paid for my bourbon-and-diet with a United Visa card.

    Food: Unknown, although I will say this - Delta serves Woodford Reserve (an overrated Kentucky bourbon) in little 50ml glass bottles. Classy.

    In-flight Entertainment: Limited - although I did enjoy observing the dynamic between my two older gay (and Krystal-lovin') Southern neighbors. (Yes, the same.) They passed the time gossiping and sharing a copy of Men's Health. And drinking double Absolut-Cokes.

    Turbulence: Minimal - the weather between Atlanta and Chicago seemed beautiful. You can't often see the ground during most of the flight, but during this flight . . . there it was. Right. Down. There.

    Passengers: See "In-flight Entertainment."

    Landing: Like a hot knife through butter.

    Notes: Delta offers in-flight Wi-Fi, which allowed me to spend the flight checking and returning e-mail for work. (Rather than reading Chasing Ghosts, a mediocre replacement for the copy of Rats, Lice and History that I misplaced at LaGuardia earlier in the week.) But I'm new to the in-flight Internet idea . . . are there limits? Apart from good taste? For example, what about Skype? Can I join a Webex, turn on my microphone and speakers and host a virtual conference call from seat 42A?

    Overall rating: Two miniature bottles of booze.

    -

    More than a million flights go in and out of Chicago's airports every year. We intend to review them all.

    -

    Previously:
    * Southwest #1189: Cheap red wine and non-honey roasted peanuts.

    -

    Comments and submissions welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:21 AM | Permalink

    March 6, 2010

    The Weekend Desk Report

    NOW WITH A BONUS WEEKEND DESK SUNDAY OSCAR UPDATE!

    It looks like this is going to be an uncapped season after all. Enjoy the ride, everyone, and we'll monitor the key stories for you.

    Market Update
    In what most view as a positive sign, the focus of economic recovery this week has shifted from job creation to job retention at all friggin' cost.

    Oscar Sunday
    2010 is supposed to be a year marked by austerity and sacrifice. Yet somehow the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was able to splurge on a bloated slate of ten Best Picture nominees. We try to break down the key races and make a few modest predictions.

    Best Actress: At no point in human history would we have thought Sandra Bullock could top Meryl Streep in an acting contest. But these eyes have seen a lot of strange and sinister things this winter and we don't intend to be Blind-Sided again.

    Best Actor: It's a two-horse race, really, between Jeff Bridges in "Crazy Heart" and Karl Rove in "Crazy Ass".

    Best Picture: After all that expense, it better damn well be the team in Blue walking away with the trophy.

    Traffic Management
    Finally this week, officials were thrilled to announce a major rail construction project that will ease congestion and create jobs. Of course, failing that, they could just slash the number of trains again.

    -

    Bonus Weekend Desk!

    What Are They Going to Wear? An Oscar Preview List by Drew Adamek

    1. The skins of a small Malaysian boy.

    2. A smug sense of self-satisfaction.

    3. Dickies, cuz you know, things are tough.

    4. Money (James Cameron).

    5. The envy of millions of ugly women.

    6. Pablum: Hollywood's Favorite Perfume.

    7. Some Stupid Fucking Ribbon.

    8. Jerry Bruckheimer's Nuts.

    9. Old McCain/Palin T-Shirts.

    10. Barbara Walters' dignity.

    -

    Comments welcome.

    Posted by Natasha Julius at 8:33 AM | Permalink

    March 5, 2010

    The [Friday] Papers

    I could really use a managing editor or a deputy editor or an assistant editor of some sort, especially going forward with some Beachwood projects we're working on. Similarly, as I have in the past, I'll put out a call for section editors. A few other roles we could fill, too. Inquire if interested.

    1. On Sound Opinions this weekend:

    "Video may have killed the radio star, but it can't kill our love of the medium. Jim and Greg discuss the impact of radio on the music industry and their lives and play their favorite radio-inspired tracks."

    2. The Car Whisperer responds to our Why Milwaukee Rules piece this week by Drew Adamek.

    3. Drew returns today with another piece of awesomeness: Why I'm Glad I Don't Live In D.C. Anymore.

    4. Hank Williams On Acid And The Bicycle Club He Rode In On.

    5. A tour de force from our man on the rail Tom Chambers on The Near Total Demise Of Thoroughbred Horse Racing.

    6. "While some state Senators in Springfield have been working on legislation to restrict red light cameras, Chicago aldermen are considering increasing the cost of fines for RLC tickets in Chicago," the Expired Meter reports, with a useful accompanying image.

    7. A faithful Beachwood reader writes:

    "A newspaper ran this story. Stunning."

    Yes. On several levels. See how many you can find.

    8. "Naperville officials are making googly eyes at the chance to try out new high-speed Internet service," the Daily Herald reports.

    "The city is applying to be a test community for a new Google broadband network.

    "Google is experimenting with a fiber-to-home connection it says is 100 times faster than the service most people currently have and it is looking for communities in which to try it out."

    9. "Lady Liberty will remain a shining symbol of freedom in Fox River Grove, at least through the tax season," the Daily Herald reports.

    "The village's public health and safety committee, concerned about a Liberty Tax Service advertisement in which someone dresses as the Statue of Liberty and waves to motorists, decided this week not to recommend that the board create an ordinance outlawing human signs."

    10. I can't bear to watch myself on TV so I haven't looked at this, but we taped this show yesterday:

    "With daily newspapers folding at an alarming rate, how can quality journalism be sustained? Ken Davis is joined by Robert McChesney and John Nichols to discuss their new book, The Death and Life of American Journalism: The Media Revolution That Will Begin the World Again. Steve Rhodes, journalist, blogger, and proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter is also featured. This program was produced by CAN TV."

    I think I'd be good on my own talk show, though. Put me behind a desk and give me some guests and we're good to go.

    *

    Note: You can also watch on CAN TV19 Thursday, March 11 at 6:30 p.m. and Friday, March 12 at 1:30 p.m.

    11. "You awake with amnesia in a Chicago hotel room and can't remember your own name! Who are you? And how did you get here? You'll need to keep your wits to solve this riveting Hidden Object game! Explore scenes from your past and piece together your lost identity in Hidden Identity: Chicago Blackout. Uncover all the secret notes that you left behind and solve unique mini-games to jog your memory. Will you unravel the mystery and discover your true identity?"

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Revealing.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:58 AM | Permalink

    Why I'm Glad I Don't Live In D.C. Anymore

    I lived in D.C. for three years. Outside of friends I made at work and the free museums, there wasn't much that I liked about the place. I became a recluse, not daring to go out into the crowded, expensive and jerky city except for groceries. The town was mostly devoid of character; traffic was a nightmare, socializing was a competitive blood sport and tourists jammed the place up.

    I hated D.C,, and I hated who I was becoming in D.C. The stereotypes are true: the place is a cesspool of type-A, careerist, sharp-elbowed sycophants with over-developed senses of entitlement.

    And that's not all.

    Here, then, here are 10 reasons why I'm glad I no longer live in D.C.:

    1. My Name is Toby.

    D.C. is the only city I've ever lived in which you could frequent a bar/coffee shop/deli every single day and not have the staff ever, ever recognize you. In all the time I lived in D.C., there wasn't one place I frequented where the staff recognized me when I came in.

    For example, I went to the same sandwich bar three times a week for years and ordered the same thing, and the waitress always looked at me like she had never seen me before; every single, fucking time was the first time she had ever taken my order.

    2. $1,800 For a Closet?

    Living in D.C. was like paying Manhattan prices for Rolling Meadows charm. I get that rents are high in urban areas. But at least in Chicago, New York and L.A. you get character, charm, cache and convenience for your high-dollar rent. Not in D.C.; there you lived in a drab, faceless apartment miles from a grocery store or bar. You might have well as been in Arlington Heights for all the blandness and need for driving.

    3. Fucking Half Street?

    Urban streets go straight, they turn, they do goofy things sometimes; I get that. But D.C. is a study in poor urban planning. I've never seen a place where you can be driving on one street on the north side of town and somehow, magically, be driving on a totally different street on the west side without ever making a turn. I once spent an hour driving up and down Half Street SE looking for Half Street NE. You guessed it: they were a half block apart.

    4. Tracy Flick.

    Imagine going out for a drink and the bar is filled with nothing but people like the lead character from Election. That's what D.C. socializing is like: attractive, vicious, competitive, personality-less and utterly driven by ambition. The town is overrun with class presidents looking to do whatever they can to climb up whatever food chain they have their sights on.

    5. The African Bank Environmentalist Physicist Congressional Liaison,

    Everyone in D.C. has a fascinating job; the town is filled with people making the decisions and controlling the issues that shape the world we live in. You would think that power and experience would make them interesting people. It doesn't. It's so disappointing to find out that the person who will decide whether we feed starving children or save the whales is only concerned with how far this conversation will take their career.

    6. That One Drunken Frat Boy, Republican Intern Douchebag That Peed on My Front Door.

    That's right, you suck, and you made D.C. a worse place to live. You worked for a Christian Coalition "family values" senator, and yet you couldn't make it upstairs to pee because you were too drunk at 3 a.m. on a Tuesday night.

    7. CVS.

    Where the fuck is the Walgreens?

    8. The Nationals.

    Not a real team in a not real stadium. Nationals Park has as much character and comfort as a colostomy bag. The best part of living in D.C. was being 30 miles from Camden Yards.

    9. Douchebag Manufacturer.

    I found myself constantly complaining about the anti-social, careerist, self-centered pricks living there trying to pad their resumes until I discovered that was exactly what I was becoming. I wasn't making friends outside of work because I was no longer friendly; I no longer discovered new things because I became utterly self-centered and whiny; I became a prick, angry at all the other pricks in town. I was everything I was complaining about.

    10. It Wasn't Chicago.

    D.C. had its charms: free museums, cleanliness, lots of history, presidential sightings. But I never gave the city a fair shake because I was so heartbroken over leaving Chicago and nothing there, no matter how great, would have compared to how fantastic Chicago is. So stay classy D.C.

    -

    Comments welcome.

    -

    Other Lists By Drew Adamek:
    * Today's Syllabus
    * Shit My Dad Says
    * Work Weirdos
    * Things I Miss About Chicago
    * 20 Albums I Wish I Had Never Bought
    * Their Chicago
    * Cities I've Slept In
    * My Favorite 1980s Chicago Radio Memories
    * Why Milwaukee Rules

    Plus:
    * Fan Note: Me & Metallica

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:49 AM | Permalink

    TrackNotes: The Near Total Demise Of Thoroughbred Horse Racing

    Tommy Skilling might say, we're keeping an eye on the computer models on this one.

    I might say that if we're not already in it, a perfect storm is brewing for the near total demise of Thoroughbred horse racing. It's a slow kind of kill, and painful.

    This is a sport that has never had the organization or discipline to manage itself in the modern age - or, After Simulcast - and as conditions worsen, is not structurally equipped to handle the load. It's getting its ass kicked by everything from the NFL (check out all the Bears coverage in what is still just the beginning of the offseason) to cage fighting. I don't think even Mike Holmes can save it now.

    Sure, much of the evidence is anecdotal, but it's good enough. These are the latest episodes, collecting like losing wager slips in my pocket.

    * Hate the 2 percent to 10 percent house take on slot machines? How about up to 35% on certain horse wagers?

    * Illinois racing, and Hawthorne Race Course specifically, are in trouble. Purses are declining and fields would be dwindling to nothing if it were not for the reduction in racing days. Owners are shipping elsewhere just to make a living.

    * And don't believe the local racing industry is going to see the $10 million to $20 million the State of Illinois owes it as part of a deal for the 10th casino license.

    Hell, even the politicians in Kentucky are turning on the game, and racing and breeding are two of largest industries in the state.

    But how do you expect state legislators across the land to react when track owners or horsemen come crawling like babies demanding that they get slots - now proven to be a dubious goal - or a hefty cut of other people's slots, when casino interests are lobbying like crazy, with the money that entails?

    New York Racing is being gutted even as it still bickers over installing slots that were approved nearly 10 years ago. The largest New York OTB is in bankruptcy.

    And we now have the musings of one Frank Stronach, the impresario behind Magna Entertainment, the bankrupt corporation that owns, among other things, Gulfstream Park (now more of a mall than a track), Santa Anita, Golden Gate Fields and Pimlico.

    Labor laws in California, such as wages and unemployment compensation, are such that racing in the Golden State is difficult and in trouble. Bay Meadows has already been destroyed and Hollywood Park looks to be next. The land Santa Anita sits on is probably eminently more valuable for development than it is for racing.

    Granted, California racing economics are poor, but Stronach isn't helping, offering little more than vague platitudes that might contain veiled threats. But we do get a feel for how the entities are not nearly on the same page: "I am out here to plead with the horse community. We've got to change things. I would do everything I can for racing to remain in California. I can't do it alone. The horse community has to help."

    Said esteemed trainer and synthetic track critic Bruce Headly of Stronach's Free Enterprise Summit: "We kept telling him we're here to talk about the track and you can't shut him up about free enterprise. We told him we weren't there to discuss free enterprise, that's not our decision because we're the track committee, but he still kept going on and on about it."

    And that's the simpler issue facing Stronach and Santa Anita: the lousy condition of its track. Many tracks (including Arlington Park), instead of dutifully and honorably trying to maintain just the very best dirt course they could, rushed willy-nilly into installing synthetics when their neglect started to exact a terrible toll on the animals. California mandated it on a wholesale basis. It's been a disaster, especially for Santa Anita.

    "Rain was never a pressing issue in California until the synthetic era. In its first 74 years of racing on dirt, Santa Anita canceled four cards due to rain. In three years of synthetics, it has had to cancel racing 17 times," Stephen Crist of the Daily Racing Form reports.

    At the previously cited Free Enterprise Summit, it appeared Stronach was going to announce a return to dirt, after promising the track would be redone in the summer anyway.

    Instead, he's holding the track hostage.

    "Santa Anita will stick with (synthetic) Pro-Ride for the time being until Stronach gets what he wants - the ability to run the track with less state regulations," reports Art Wilson of the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. "He told the trainers in a two-hour meeting that he won't dole out the estimated $8 million to $10 million needed for a new surface without assurances he can race at Santa Anita whenever he wants, calling it 'free enterprise,' and he also wants a partnership between the tracks and horsemen."

    OK, so we've got Stronach's political regulatory blackmail, a track that cannot handle an inch of rain at one of the most prestigious courses in the world (or is it anymore?), and a racing colony that is becoming competitively disadvantaged (Says Bob Baffert of current Kentucky Derby favorite Lookin At Lucky: "I think Lookin At Lucky will go to Arkansas. In case it rains at Santa Anita, I cannot afford to stay here.") on a national basis as horses making their careers on the synthetics are having difficult times succeeding on the dirt courses of the East. You know, the Triple Crown, Travers Stakes, those nice races. This sounds like the flotsam and jetsam in the vortex. Which way do toilets flush in California? Clockwise or counter?

    You'll notice none of these people mention the fans.

    Another stellar notion is the hell-bent-for-leather idea that the Breeders' Cup should be permanently sited at one track. And that one track is: Santa Anita!

    * * *

    Ah yes. The Breeders' Cup festival, intended to crown the champions of racing. Coming soon to a track near you as it visits the hallowed grounds of American racing's most storied venues. Belmont, Churchill Downs, even beautiful Arlington Park and Monmouth.

    If they could, Satish Sanan would be in the gulag by now. Not for being wrong, but for spilling the beans.

    "Breeders' Cup board member Satish Sanan indicated March 2 the organization is leaning toward selecting a permanent host site for the World Championships," Bloodhorse.com reported. "Sanan said Breeders' Cup representatives planned to meet March 3 to discuss the host-site plan and could make a decision soon. In response to a caller who asked if a decision had been made, Sanan said: 'It's not ratified yet.'"

    You can tell he's probably telling the truth. This was quickly released: "The Breeders' Cup board is extremely disappointed with recent statements from board member Satish Sanan with regard to host sites and those views in no way reflect the official position of Breeders' Cup, LTD. The Breeders' Cup has longstanding and valued partnerships with Churchill Downs and the New York Racing Association . . . yada, yada, yada."

    And a self-flagellating Statement from Satish Sanan: "I mischaracterized the Breeders' Cup's relationship with Churchill Downs and other host sites in a recent radio interview. I regret my poor choice of words. As part of the Breeders' Cup strategic planning process, the board continues to evaluate future host sites and other core business issues."

    One Kentucky politico is trying to goose the proceedings.

    "A bill passed by a Senate committee Tuesday would force the Breeders' Cup to commit by Nov. 4 to running the 2011 or 2012 event in Kentucky in order to qualify for a pari-mutuel tax break this year," the Louisville Courier-Journal reports. Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said his plan that was added to House Bill 347 attempts to get the Breeders' Cup in Kentucky more often or permanently.

    "Breeders' Cup President Greg Avioli has said previously that Churchill Downs is the most profitable site."

    Greg, talked to my main man Satish lately?

    It's all just so precious.

    Handicapping and horse wagering are the domain of an aging population that either remembers going to the track as its only gambling outlet, or was introduced/taught by someone who did. Like me.

    I'll say attention spans are shortening, and instant gratification is demanded. Thus, slots. Handicapping takes patience and concentration. I certainly don't see any of today's young whippersnappers being able to handle it.

    When you combine this with the polar opposites of casino marketing and woeful Thoroughbred marketing, racing may not survive. As we speak, Oaklawn officials are still trying to line up TV coverage of the biggest horse race in decades, the Apple Blossom Invitational featuring Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta.

    * * *

    Is racing fully on the up-and-up? We had a very upsetting race Feb. 20 in the Tampa Bay Breeders Cup when, coming down the stretch, Karelian pulled a Snagglepuss and went exit, stage right. A hard charging Gio Ponti was forced to go with him across four or five lanes. There is no way on earth Karelian did not affect Gio Ponti's race and the final outcome. Gio was out-bobbed and took the loss.

    But the two horses did not touch. Is that why they let the result stand?

    Then we get this: "[I]n an unusually high number of turf races (at Tampa Bay), some horses bear to the outside in the stretch as they cross the indentations left by the mowing tractor's wheels where the infield chute joins the main course.

    "'It has to be the paths because if they bear out it's always at that same spot,' [jockey Daniel] Centeno said. "You try to prepare yourself, but when you're down riding hard you are focused down the course.'

    "'Its certainly something we'd like to see corrected, if it's possible,' Karelian's jock, Rosemary Homeister Jr. admitted."

    Thanks, Tampa, for the heads up on that.

    These are the feelings a horse racing rat gets. I think I need an antidote to the anecdotes.

    -

    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 7:00 AM | Permalink

    Bloodshot Briefing: Hank Williams On Acid And The Bicycle Club He Rode In On

    Here at the Bloodshot Briefing Desk in Beachwood Music headquarters, I've been fortunate enough lately to explore what's underneath some unturned rocks around Chicago.

    This week is no different, as I spoke with Dave Schultz, a Chicago-born writer and musician who will be coming out with his multimedia project "The Bicycle Club" this summer. The 54-year-old's enterprise, which includes a novel and an accompanying album, follows the exploits of Wyatt Scruggs and his band. He spends also spends his time working at Hanson Guitars, where Bloodshot Records' Alejandro Escovedo gets his axes.

    As usual, we tackled a number of topics, including Schultz's time spent as a funeral director in Rock Island.

    Beachwood Music: You live in Naperville now. What's your connection to Chicago, other than associating with the spirited Joe Swank of Bloodshot Records?

    Schultz: I was raised in Chicago near Newport and Damen. But every summer we'd go to southern Illinois to see the grandparents. It was a dual reality. Buckner has about 300 people now. When I would visit, it probably had around 450.

    I really liked my childhood. It was really blue-collar. My dad ran a construction company. We were not rich and lived in a big blue-collar neighborhood. The kids I went to school with were very ethnic. Chicago is a true melting pot.

    Then, I'd go to southern Illinois. The kids there were absolutely feral. We had fun to no end.

    Beachwood Music: What do you think of the Wrigleyville neighborhood now?

    Schultz: Completely different. When I was growing it up, it was a lot of families. Seemed like most of the apartment dwellers were permanent residents.

    You could park anywhere on Addison and Clark, unless there was a ballgame.

    And when I was little, my grandfather would take me to the Cubby Bear, which at the time was a little tavern. We'd sit in there and watch the game.

    I miss the old neighborhood, but I think it's still cool, in a different way.

    Beachwood Music: Writers love experiences. How did you wind up as a funeral director?

    Schultz: It was the weirdest situation you'd ever want to be in. It was like living in the Addams Family house. When I could be I was a full-time musician. But I worked a lot in the hospitality industry, and my wife is a chef. When me moved down to southern Illinois, we got a little house down there and started a catering business. One of our big clients was a funeral home. I became good friends with the guy. When I'd make deliveries, we'd complain about our lives. We realized we had several of the same problems.

    Anyway, the catering business folded, and I was looking for something to do.

    Beachwood Music: Had you always been musically inclined growing up?

    Schultz: I wanted to be an actor after high school. I thought that was it for me. I went to New York with a friend from high school. Our first audition there, there were all these little kids sitting there with telephone book resumes. Here I was having been in three high school plays. I knew right then, uh, no.

    I always played music. I can be in bands and be on stage and perform. That's what I liked as an actor.

    By the way, the friend stayed in New York, and he became a porn king. He makes pornographic films. Very weird guy.

    Beachwood Music: While music is important to you, it seems like a vehicle for you to write. You mentioned how much you enjoy writing.

    Schultz: I never really considered music seriously until I started writing songs. I was 19 years old when I wrote my first. I think it started with a riff, and it sounded really bratty. I was listening to the Ramones a lot, they were a big influence. It was a mindless song.

    Beachwood Music: How many songs have you written? You wrote the title track for Joe Swank's latest album, Hank Williams Died for My Sins.

    Schultz: Well over 600. I am constantly writing to improve my catalogue. I used to say I was inspired by the lyrics. That's still true. I am more of a lyricist than an arranger. But sometimes it's a nice lick that catches my ear.

    Beachwood Music: What's left for you to finish before "The Bicycle Club" is available for consumption?

    Schultz: Mastering. I am working with Rick Barnes at Rax Trax. He's become a good buddy. We are trying to get back in next Friday. We are thinking it will be out sometime in June.

    Beachwood Music: But in the meantime, people can sample the tunes with your band Purple Hank. The live band includes Bill Borton, Doug Oliver, Steve Pirruccello and you.

    Schultz: Yes, Purple Hank is the official show band. We've played the Horseshoe, Lizard's Liquid. We've done some shows in the suburbs. There's a place PK's in Carbondale. It's the knife and gun club of Illinois. Such a great bar.

    Beachwood Music: What's with the name Purple Hank?

    Schultz: We wanted Bicycle Club, but there are a lot of bands called that. The Hank is a tip to Hank Williams. We're countryesque. There's a lot of hillbilly in the songwriting, but we have a weird psychedelic twist. It's still pretty twang.

    We got the band together to do this project, but the band has taken on a life of its own. We are looking at releasing something in August. We've working hard on that.

    Beachwood Music: Finally, where are some of your go-to bars for a beer and a shot?

    Dave Schultz: There's a place in Berwyn called Friendly Tap. Just down the street from FitzGerald's. Cool fun, little bar. The place makes you feel good being there.

    Years back, the Double Door before it became what it is today. It used to be this hillbilly bar that played horrible country music. It was great.

    There's a place out in Naperville called Miss Kitty's Saloon. Place is hysterical. One night the bartender was so wasted, he couldn't make change. He just put the liquor bottle on the bar. God, it was fun.

    What I like about those places is they let you know up front where you stand. If they don't like you, they let you know early. If they like you, they let you know that too. It's just honest feedback.

    -

    You can catch Dave Schultz and Purple Hank at Lizard's Liquid Lounge on March 19.

    -

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

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:20 AM | Permalink

    March 4, 2010

    The [Thursday] Papers

    No column today, but if you are anything like me you will immensely enjoy the two new pieces we have elsewhere on the site:

    * Rockonomics: Bon Scott vs. Brian Johnson.

    * Why Milwaukee Rules.

    See you in this space tomorrow.

    The [Wednesday] Papers
    "A recent federal audit of stimulus spending in Illinois schools calls for improvement in state oversight, noting that two of the three districts examined by auditors - including Chicago - did not track any spending of so-called State Fiscal Stabilization Funds," Catalyst reports.

    Oy.

    *

    "In an unusual effort to solicit public input on the budget, Gov. Pat Quinn yesterday proposed $2 billion in cuts to education along with grim revenue estimates for a state awash in $13 billion of red ink," Catalyst also reports.

    "Notably missing from revenues are some $3 billion in federal stimulus funds sent to schools since 2009, a loss that is part of what national observers call a 'stimulus funding cliff' that threatens school districts across the country. In Chicago, where Quinn's cuts would mean perhaps a $200 million shortfall, it's unclear how well officials have prepared."

    *

    Sigh.

    Does it ever get better? Do people ever learn? Why must we keep watching the same movie over and over again? It's not hard to be competent, is it? To do the right thing? Just do it!

    *

    Sheesh.

    Stormy Weather
    Speaking of things that never change . . .

    "In my home city of Milwaukee, or in Chicago or Boston, snow is not news to most of us," Jeff Cole writes at PR 101 (h/t: Spencer Maus). "Yet, every time the forecast calls for snow to fall, the local television stations treat the event as if aliens were invading."

    Memo to local station directors: Re-imagine your weather coverage. Step 1: Get real. Step 2: Show us cool stuff. Step 3: Website for local weather geeks. Step 4: Put my check in the mail*.

    *Available for consulting.

    Dear Jack Higgins
    Speaking of weather, the Tribune's Michael Hawthorne separates global warming fact from spin today. Clip and save.

    *

    Um, actually, if this is true it only goes to further prove the planet is warming.

    As I've written before, growing up in Minnesota we knew that the closer the temperature got to 32 the more likely we'd have snow. That's where the phrase "too cold to snow" came from.

    Hired Trucker
    Speaking of things that never change . . .

    "Former Hired Truck kingpin Michael Tadin has snared a three-year, $39.4 million contract to operate and maintain one of three waste transfer stations that Mayor Daley once attempted to lease," the Sun-Times reports.

    "Tadin is the perennial city trucking magnate whose $1.25 million loan to a security company co-owned by Ald. Patrick Huels (11th) forced the 1997 resignation of Daley's former City Council floor leader. Tadin's trucking company had received a $1.1 million city subsidy with Huels' help.

    "Tadin was the undisputed king of Hired Trucks, emerging from the pack, even after City Hall accused the company of over-billing and agreed to spread the wealth to other firms."

    *

    But didn't Tadin once say . . .

    "The new contract appears to fly in the face of Tadin's 2004 pledge to wash his hands of city business.

    "But, he said, 'We never precluded ourselves from public work. We were talking about Hired Truck.'"

    Really? If the Sun-Times put links in their stories, they could have linked to that pledge. At least they should have looked it up. Like I did. See for yourself.

    (This piece didn't even show up in their "Related Blog Posts," which is a failure to add value and even monetize its archives, which is one aspect of the so-called long tail.)

    Trib Toot
    Speaking of the long tail . . .

    The Trib is getting in the game.

    The Daley Show
    Speaking about city contracts again . . .

    "If Mayor Daley wants to empower Chicago's corruption-fighting inspector to investigate aldermen, he should give the City Council something in return: oversight over city contracts, alderman said Tuesday," the Sun-Times reports.

    "Daley took the power away shortly after taking office and has resisted periodic attempts to snatch it back amid a steady drumbeat of contract cronyism. The mayor has long argued that contract oversight would literally require the Council to meet every day."

    Because that's how often he gives them out to pals like Tadin?

    Goodbye, American Gothic People
    Majestic and kickbutt.

    Catchers Report
    And who will gain from Joakim Noah's injury. Both in Fantasy Fix.

    1980s Chicago Radio Memories
    It starts with Scott Loftus's Real Precious Metal on WVVX and ends at a tiny Zion radio station, but transverses Ozzy, the Stones, the Cubs, Jesse Jackass, the Cubs, and the venerable Thirsty Whale.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Thirsty.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:41 AM | Permalink

    Why Milwaukee Rules

    I've lived in Milwaukee twice in my life, first in the early '90s and then in the late '90s during community college. I have a special place in my heart for the town; it is a laid-back, hard-working, hard-partying town without any pretenses or hang-ups. The people are friendly, the town is accessible and the funky, beer fart stench smells like home.

    Milwaukee knows what it is and likes it that way. It isn't fancy, it isn't redneck, it isn't Chicago, and it isn't Green Bay. It has a better airport than Chicago, you can get great food and beer, and it's affordable. I miss living there, and would live there again in a heartbeat.

    Milwaukee gets a bad rap.

    Here, then, is my list of reasons why Milwaukee rules.

    1. The Beer Fart.

    The cultural significance of the beer fart in Milwaukee is not to be underestimated. There isn't another city in America where people can tell the brand and vintage of beer you were drinking the night before by the flavor, aroma and "mouth feel" of your flatulence. As a corpulent and flatulent man, the cultural honor bestowed to the beer fart by Milwaukee warms my gassy heart.

    2. Bowling Alley Bartenders.

    The slim dating pickings I had in the '90s would have been a lot worse had it not been for mildly to severely alcoholic bartenders. You can't ask for more fun than a woman who knows how to keep bowling score, swears like an autoworker, drinks Jager bombs for breakfast and ain't afraid of a dick joke or two.

    3. East Side Cafes.

    All the atmosphere and ambience that you would want in a coffee shop without any "artists" or "writers" fucking up the buzz. Just people drinking coffee.

    4. Summerfest.

    This is the festival I thought Taste of Chicago was when I was a kid: bands, drunks, sausages. Some of the best shows of my life have been at Summerfest: Metal Church, Arrested Development, Dylan and the Dead, Tom Petty. All for the price of parking in Chicago.

    5. Cryptosporidiosis.

    The entire town had the shits at exactly the same time. Think about that when you are complaining about the price of a Chicago city sticker.

    6. Pat McCurdy.

    Sure, this is a stereotypical answer, but show me another bar singer who everyone knows and whose songs everyone can sing along to. If I dated a girl for longer than a month while living in Milwaukee, you can bet that we saw Pat McCurdy together.

    7. County Stadium Bleachers.

    The Brewers sucked. I probably went to 50 Brewers games when I lived there, and I can't name a single player from that era. But we could walk to the stadium, get a bleacher seat for $5, and hang out with people from the neighborhood. The old County Stadium was everything that Wrigley pretends to be.

    8. The Cute Girl At Rochambo That I Never Got The Nerve To Talk To.

    My wife is going to kill me for this one, but if that blonde girl still lives in Milwaukee, it's worth living there on the off-chance that you might see her.

    9. Cheese Farts.

    The cultural significance of the cheese fart in Milwaukee is not to be underestimated. There isn't another city in America where people can tell you the brand and vintage of cheese that you were eating the night before by the flavor, aroma and "mouth feel" of your flatulence. As a corpulent and flatulent man, the honor bestowed to the cheese fart warms my heart.

    10. Jeffrey Dahmer's House.

    It isn't there anymore, but it's still kind of cool to tell people that you lived a couple of blocks from him, and drove past the place once a day, while he still lived there.

    -

    Other Lists By Drew Adamek:
    * Today's Syllabus
    * Shit My Dad Says
    * Work Weirdos
    * Things I Miss About Chicago
    * 20 Albums I Wish I Had Never Bought
    * Their Chicago
    * Cities I've Slept In
    * My Favorite 1980s Chicago Radio Memories

    Plus:
    * Fan Note: Me & Metallica

    -

    Comments welcome.

    -

    1. From Lisa Frey:

    No mention or Real Chili? . . . chili farts. What kind of Marquette grad are you?

    RESPONSE:

    Ha, that's really funny. I simply forgot about Real Chili. I have another half-dozen items for another list so stay tuned for Part 2. Oh, and I never attended Marquette. I lived with my cousin Slim, who was in MU Law School.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:31 AM | Permalink

    Rockonomics: Bon Scott vs. Brian Johnson

    On the Efficiency of AC/DC: Bon Scott versus Brian Johnson

    Department of Economics
    Discussion Paper 2007-08
    Robert J. Oxoby
    Department of Economics
    University of Calgary
    Calgary, AB T2N 1N4

    May 7, 2007

    1. Introduction

    The band AC/DC is considered one of the seminal hard rock bands, often compared to Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath in influencing many subsequent hard rock and heavy metal bands. The band was formed in 1973 by Angus and Malcolm Young, who took the band's moniker from the back of their sister's sewing machine. In its 35-year history, the band has sold more than 150 million albums, including 42 million copies of the 1980 album Back in Black, making Back in Black the highest-selling album by any rock band. In 2003 the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Given all this, it is no wonder that AC/DC has such a rabid fan base and, as discussed below, faces an epic debate regarding its lineup.

    Among musicologists, researchers of popular culture, and rock and roll lovers of all ages there exists a common debate. That is, with respect to the rock band AC/DC, who is the better vocalist: Bon Scott or Brian Johnson?

    The band's original vocalist, Scott, performed on seven of the band's albums (excluding live albums and compilations), passing away in 1980. Brian Johnson joined the band in 1980, serving as vocalist on nine albums (excluding live albums and compilations). Since 1980, there has been near constant contention regarding who was the better singer. In this paper, we explore this issue.

    Since it is difficult to ascertain which vocalist was better given the heterogeneity of musical tastes, our analysis does not focus on the aural or sonic quality of the vocalists' performances. Rather, using tools from the field of experimental economics, and we consider which vocalist results in individuals arriving at more efficient outcomes in a simple bargaining game.

    Our results suggest that having participants listen to songs by AC/DC in which Brian Johnson served as vocalist results in participants realizing more efficient outcomes.

    Thus, in terms of a singer's ability to implement efficient behavioral outcomes among listeners, our results suggest that Brian Johnson was a better vocalist than Bon Scott.

    2. Experimental Design

    In our experiment we utilize a common procedure from experimental economics entitled the ultimatum game (see Roth, 1995). In this game, individuals are randomly paired and assigned the roles of either proposer or responder. Proposers are allocated a sum of money from which they must choose an amount to extend as an offer to the responder. The responder, upon learning of this offer, can either accept or reject the offer. If she accepts the offer, the responder receives the offer (in cash) and the proposer is given the original sum of money less the offer. If the offer is rejected, both participants received nothing. [Similar experiments have been utilized by deQuervain et al. (2004) and Camerer (2003b).]

    Under the assumption that individuals have preferences over only their own wealth, the predicted game theoretic outcome (the subgame perfect Nash equilibrium) is that in which the proposer extends the smallest possible offer and the responder (weakly) accepts any offer greater than (or equal to) zero. Such an outcome is efficient in the sense that no resources are lost in the outcome (i.e. the resources are not lost via a decision to reject the offer).

    However, research and experimental economics has shown that proposers typically offer between 20% and 50% of the wealth available in the experiment and responders, on average, reject offers below 30% (see Camerer, 2003a). These results suggest that individuals not only value their own wealth, but also the wealth of others and the fairness of an allocation. This has fostered new models of economic behavior incorporating inequity aversion, cooperation, and reciprocity (e.g., Bolton and Ockenfels, 2000; Charness and Rabin, 2002; Fehr and Schmidt, 1999).

    In our experiment, participants were paired and were explained the structure of the game. Each pair was endowed with $10 to use in the game (i.e. $10 from which the proposer must choose an offer to extend the responder) and we restricted offers the integer values (i.e. whole dollars). Prior to learning their roles of proposers or responders, each participant provided the offer they would extend were they assigned the role of proposer and, for each possible offer (i.e. for each offer between zero and $10), whether they would accept or reject the offer were they assigned the role of responder.

    After all individuals had provided this information, the roles of proposer and responder were randomly assigned within each pair and the indicated offer (from the proposer) and the respective accept or reject decision (from the responder) were implemented. [Oxoby and McLeish (2004) demonstrates that this manner of elicitation yields results that are indistinguishable from assigning roles prior to eliciting decisions.] The corresponding payoff were paid in cash to each participant.

    Our treatment variable in the experiment was the type of music played while individuals were making their decisions. As demonstrated by Bernardi et al. (2006), different musical styles can have different physiological effects in individuals. These effects, along with emotional responses, may result in different patterns of decision-making regarding distributing money between oneself and another.

    In our Bon Scott treatment, participants listened to "It's a Long Way to the Top" (featuring Bon Scott on vocals) from the album High Voltage. In our Brian Johnson treatment, participants listened to "Shoot to Thrill" (featuring Brian Johnson on vocals) from the album Back in Black. These songs were chosen in order to avoid pre-conceived preferences for the band's biggest singles (e.g. "Highway to Hell," "You Shook Me All Night Long").

    3. Results

    A total of 36 participants from a large Canadian university took part in the experiment (two sessions of 18 individuals each). In one session, "It's a Long Way to the Top" was played while participants made their decisions; in the other session "Shoot to Thrill" was played while participants made their decisions. To maintain anonymity among subjects and bargaining pairs, participant pairings were made by computer and decisions were entered via computers located in separated experimental stations. [The experiments were programmed using the software by Fischbacher (1999).]

    To analyze the results, we compared the offers extended by participants across each treatment. For each participant we also calculated their minimum acceptable offer (MAO; representing the lowest offer a participant would accept) and compare these across treatments. Note that in any participant pair, an efficient outcome (i.e. an offer that was not rejected) was more likely in the presence of a higher offer and a lower MAO.

    When the music of Bon Scott was played, participants extended offers (albeit in Canadian dollars) with mean (standard deviation) of 3.28 (1.18) whereas participants in the Brian Johnson treatment extended offers with mean (standard deviation) of 4 (0.97). The distributions of offers in each treatment are presented in Figure 4.

    Using nonparametric Wilcoxon rank-sum tests, we can reject the hypothesis that the distribution of offers across treatments are the same (p = 0.064). In terms of MAO, participants of Bon Scott treatment had minimum acceptable offers with mean (standard deviation) of 3.94 (0.87) while participants in the Brian Johnson treatment had minimum acceptable o_ers with mean (standard deviation) of 3.17 (1.25). The distributions of MAO are presented in Figure 4. Again, using nonparametric Wilcoxon rank-sum tests, we can reject the hypothesis that the distribution of MAO in each treatment are the same (p = 0.050).

    Thus, offers were lower and MAO were higher when participants heard the music of Bon Scott. This suggests that more offers would be rejected when listening to Bon Scott than when listening to Brian Johnson.

    In terms of the actual number of pairs in which o_ers were rejected, we observed five rejections (four acceptances) in the Bon Scott treatment as opposed to three rejections (six acceptances) in the Brian Johnson treatment.

    As suggested by our analysis above, we observed a higher rate of rejection and hence less efficient outcomes when the music of Bon Scott was played during participants' decision-making.

    4. Conclusions

    The question as to who was a better singer, Bon Scott or Brian Johnson, may never truly be resolved. However, our analysis suggests that in terms of affecting efficient decision-making among listeners, Brian Johnson was a better singer.

    Our analysis has direct implications for policy and organizational design: when policymakers or employers are engaging in negotiations (or setting up environments in which other parties will negotiate) and are interested in playing the music of AC/DC, they should choose from the band's Brian Johnson era discography.

    *

    References
    Bernardi, L., Porta, C., and Sleight, P. (2006). Cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and respiratory changes induced by different types of music in musicians and non-musicians: the importance of silence. Heart, 92:445-452.

    Bolton, G. E. and Ockenfels, A. (2000). A theory of equity, reciprocity, and competition. American Economic Review, 30(1):166-193.

    Camerer, C. F. (2003a). Behavioral Game Theory. Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ.

    Camerer, C. F. (2003b). Strategizing in the brain. Science, 300:1673-1675.

    Charness, G. and Rabin, M. (2002). Understanding social preferences with simple tests. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 117(3):817-869.

    deQuervain, D. J.-F., Fischbacher, U., Treyer, V., Schellhammer, M., Schnyder, U., Buck, A., and Fehr, E. (2004). The neural basis of altruistic punishment. Science, 305:1254-1258.

    Fehr, E. and Schmidt, K. (1999). A theory of fairness, competition, and cooperation. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 114(3):817-868.

    Fischbacher, U. (1999). Toolbox for readymade economic experiments. Technical
    Report IEW Working paper 21, University of Zurich.

    Oxoby, R. J. andMcLeish, K. N. (2004). Specific decision and strategy vector methods
    in ultimatum bargaining: Evidence on the strength of other-regarding behavior.
    Economics Letters, 84(3):399-405.

    Roth, A. E. (1995). Bargaining experiments. In Kagel, J. H. and Roth, A. E., editors,
    Handbook of Experimental Economics. Princeton University Press, New Jersey.

    *

    1ACDC.jpg

    *

    2ACDC.jpg

    -

    Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:22 AM | Permalink

    March 3, 2010

    The [Wednesday] Papers

    "A recent federal audit of stimulus spending in Illinois schools calls for improvement in state oversight, noting that two of the three districts examined by auditors - including Chicago - did not track any spending of so-called State Fiscal Stabilization Funds," Catalyst reports.

    Oy.

    *

    "In an unusual effort to solicit public input on the budget, Gov. Pat Quinn yesterday proposed $2 billion in cuts to education along with grim revenue estimates for a state awash in $13 billion of red ink," Catalyst also reports.

    "Notably missing from revenues are some $3 billion in federal stimulus funds sent to schools since 2009, a loss that is part of what national observers call a 'stimulus funding cliff' that threatens school districts across the country. In Chicago, where Quinn's cuts would mean perhaps a $200 million shortfall, it's unclear how well officials have prepared."

    *

    Sigh.

    Does it ever get better? Do people ever learn? Why must we keep watching the same movie over and over again? It's not hard to be competent, is it? To do the right thing? Just do it!

    *

    Sheesh.

    Stormy Weather
    Speaking of things that never change . . .

    "In my home city of Milwaukee, or in Chicago or Boston, snow is not news to most of us," Jeff Cole writes at PR 101 (h/t: Spencer Maus). "Yet, every time the forecast calls for snow to fall, the local television stations treat the event as if aliens were invading."

    Memo to local station directors: Re-imagine your weather coverage. Step 1: Get real. Step 2: Show us cool stuff. Step 3: Website for local weather geeks. Step 4: Put my check in the mail*.

    *Available for consulting.

    Dear Jack Higgins
    Speaking of weather, the Tribune's Michael Hawthorne separates global warming fact from spin today. Clip and save.

    *

    Um, actually, if this is true it only goes to further prove the planet is warming.

    As I've written before, growing up in Minnesota we knew that the closer the temperature got to 32 the more likely we'd have snow. That's where the phrase "too cold to snow" came from.

    Hired Trucker
    Speaking of things that never change . . .

    "Former Hired Truck kingpin Michael Tadin has snared a three-year, $39.4 million contract to operate and maintain one of three waste transfer stations that Mayor Daley once attempted to lease," the Sun-Times reports.

    "Tadin is the perennial city trucking magnate whose $1.25 million loan to a security company co-owned by Ald. Patrick Huels (11th) forced the 1997 resignation of Daley's former City Council floor leader. Tadin's trucking company had received a $1.1 million city subsidy with Huels' help.

    "Tadin was the undisputed king of Hired Trucks, emerging from the pack, even after City Hall accused the company of over-billing and agreed to spread the wealth to other firms."

    *

    But didn't Tadin once say . . .

    "The new contract appears to fly in the face of Tadin's 2004 pledge to wash his hands of city business.

    "But, he said, 'We never precluded ourselves from public work. We were talking about Hired Truck.'"

    Really? If the Sun-Times put links in their stories, they could have linked to that pledge. At least they should have looked it up. Like I did. See for yourself.

    (This piece didn't even show up in their "Related Blog Posts," which is a failure to add value and even monetize its archives, which is one aspect of the so-called long tail.)

    Trib Toot
    Speaking of the long tail . . .

    The Trib is getting in the game.

    The Daley Show
    Speaking about city contracts again . . .

    "If Mayor Daley wants to empower Chicago's corruption-fighting inspector to investigate aldermen, he should give the City Council something in return: oversight over city contracts, alderman said Tuesday," the Sun-Times reports.

    "Daley took the power away shortly after taking office and has resisted periodic attempts to snatch it back amid a steady drumbeat of contract cronyism. The mayor has long argued that contract oversight would literally require the Council to meet every day."

    Because that's how often he gives them out to pals like Tadin?

    Goodbye, American Gothic People
    Majestic and kickbutt.

    Catchers Report
    And who will gain from Joakim Noah's injury. Both in Fantasy Fix.

    1980s Chicago Radio Memories
    It starts with Scott Loftus's Real Precious Metal on WVVX and ends at a tiny Zion radio station, but transverses Ozzy, the Stones, the Cubs, Jesse Jackass, the Cubs, and the venerable Thirsty Whale.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Thirsty.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:01 AM | Permalink

    Goodbye, American Gothic People

    Sadly, the American Gothic statues that graced Pioneer Court next to Tribune Tower for lo these many months has been dismantled and sent on its way. It was one of the best things Chicago has had going for it in the way of public art since the cows - even if some art critics bristled (at both).

    Both were tremendous, but the Gothic people - the work is officially called "God Bless America" - were fairly mesmerizing.

    Yes, the "real thing" by Grant Wood is at the Art Institute, but the towering sculpture by J. Seward Johnson Jr. derives its power from the real thing - that's why it connects with people. Isn't that a tribute?

    The Johnson piece also drew its power from its location in Chicago. Put it at the Indiana State Fair - one of its future stops - and it's almost a gimmick. Put it in a crowded downtown surrounded by skyscrapers and it takes on a multi-layered resonance not easily duplicated.

    I don't know if there was any way the city could have made this a permanent exhibit, but if they didn't try, they are fools.

    Here's to Johnson's work - and Wood's.

    -

    1. Their kind of town.


    -

    2. A farmer and his daughter face foreclosure.

    -

    3. "The work stands about 25ft high majestically at Michigan Ave."

    4. With suitcase.

    5. Mom and Dad.

    6. Bean and Bail.

    7. Goth American Gothic.

    8. The American Gothic House Facebook Page.

    9. The American Gothic Appreciation Facebook Page "for one kickbutt painting."

    10. American Gothic's Wikipedia entry.

    -

    Comments welcome.

    -

    1. From Jeff Huebner:

    Yes - "God Bless America" may have been making a sly critique of the outsourced corporate economy - all those Asian ports of call stickers plastered on the suitcase represent places where many American jobs have gone, giving the "man with a pitchfork" a whole new meaning.

    Other than that, the sculpture sets a bad-and-getting-worse precedent for urban public-art policy. With city percent-for-art budgets (here in Chicago managed by the Dept. of Cultural Affairs' Public Art Program) shrinking due to the dearth of taxpayer-funded public-building construction, cities increasingly can lean on the private and corporate sectors for their latest public-art cultural-tourism razzmatazz extravaganzas (the nation's most significant case in point: Millennium Park). Like almost everything else in Daley's Chicago, "God Bless America" represents the ongoing privatization of public art. It is not "public" at all.

    In fact, as I uncovered/explained in the fall/winter 2009 issue of Public Art Review magazine (in a piece on the current state of public art and sculpture in Chicago): the plaza - Pioneer Court - is privately owned by the Zeller Realty Group. (It is not owned by the Tribune Co.) A few years ago, Zeller entered into an agreement - sorry, I don't have a dollar amount, at least yet - with an organization called The Sculpture Foundation to program its plaza with sculptures. Who founded The Sculpture Foundation? Why, J. Seward Johnson. Who is he? The "God Bless America" sculptor. He's had previous works in the plaza, and will have more of them there in the future, according to a ZRG spokesperson.

    What a great deal! But since it's private art in a private space, well, then I guess we don't have any right to complain because it's not our money, right? (All the public artwork for Medici - I mean, Millennium - Park was selected by a private committee, even though taxpayer money was eventually tapped to build the park.) The city's Percent-for-Art/Public Art Program once had local project advisory panels and a larger Public Art Committee composed of citizens and artists (as well as city officials) to help select public art projects. But these were abolished by a Daley-rammed ordinance in 2007. As attorney Scott Hodes - who filed a series of suits against the city's Public Art Program over an 8-year period, resulting in some public-accountability reforms - told me: "We have art that's public, but we don't have the public in art."

    To me, bad policy trumps good aesthetics, anytime, anywhere. It's why I look at the Bean and only see a $23 million Bean-doggle that does not even belong to Chicago citizens. But of course, doesn't that sound increasingly familiar? Local artists: Where is our representation of a giant expired parking meter?

    -

    Editor's Note: Please also see The Broom of Wicker Park, which Huebner wrote for the Beachwood in February 2009.


    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:14 AM | Permalink

    Fantasy Fix

    Chicago's very own Joakim Noah was one of the pleasant surprises and breakout stars of the first half of the NBA season. He has been one of only a half dozen or so players to average a double-double per game (10.7 points, 11.4 rebounds, along with a nice 1.6 blocks), and seemed destined for top 50 status in next year's draft - until the dreaded plantar fasciitis hit.

    Now, he appears to be on a program of a few games rest, followed by a few games with minor playing time (though I'm betting more of the latter if the Bulls manage to hold their current playoff slot).

    Noah's pain should be Taj Gibson's gain, by my count. Gibson, SF/PF, has had a good rookie campaign (8.6 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 1.2 BPG). Though his numbers didn't surge much after the Bulls became disenchanted with Tyrus Thomas, SF/PF, and his playing time looked to take a hit with the arrival of another SF/PF, Hakim Warrick, it's the void left by Noah, a PF/C that has provided a boost.

    Last week, Gibson averaged 11.8 PPG, 9.8 RPG and 2.0 BPG, and my guess is he'll be averaging a double-double in another week or so. Yet, he was only 39% owned in Yahoo! leagues.

    It's Week 19 in the NBA, and time to start appreciating the under-appreciated.

    Fantasy Find of the Week: Louis Williams, PG/SG, Philadelphia.

    Another who has quietly filled a void (the one left by Allen Iverson, more on that below), Williams averaged 18.5 PPG, 6.0 RPG and 6.0 APG last week. His rebounds and his infrequent turnovers (1.3 TPG) provide additional value where you wouldn't expect it. Only 72% owned.

    Fantasy Stud of the Week: Carlos Boozer, PF/C, Utah.

    Having survived the trade deadline to remain in Utah, Boozer, already on a month-long resurgence, raised his game another notch last week with 24.3 PPG, 10.0 RPG and a deadly .740 field goal rate.

    Fantasy Dud of the Week: Al Jefferson, PF/C, Minnesota. I usually won't call a player who missed a couple games a dud, but Jefferson missed two games with a suspension after a DWI arrest following three poor games in an already sub-par year. His 12.8 PPG, 7.3 RPG last week might be respectable under someone else's name, but not for a guy who averaged a double-double three seasons straight coming into 2010.

    Fantasy Match-up of the Week: Antawn Jamison, SF/PF, Cleveland.

    He's still struggling a little with his new team, but faces New Jersey, Detroit, Milwaukee and San Antonio this week - three lackluster teams and a fading giant.

    -

    Catchers Report
    As we continue to march toward fantasy baseball drafts, here's a breakdown of catchers to watch, assuming you aren't lucky enough to land Joe Mauer or Victor Martinez.

    1. Matt Wieters, Baltimore: Here's hoping for more power from the much-hyped backstop.

    2. Brian McCann, Atlanta: 21 HRs, 94 RBIs last year, but I see those numbers falling slightly.

    3. Russell Martin, LA Dodgers: His numbers have dwindled, but he reportedly added power muscle.

    Top Sleeper Pick: Ramon Hernandez, Cincinnati. After calling Geovany Soto a mid-round find last week, Hernandez is more like a last-round pick. You may have been down this road last year and he disappointed, but he's still in a hitters' park and a speedy, aggressive lineup that should feed him RBIs.

    Best Chance for Rookie Impact: Buster Posey, San Francisco. May not start the season in MLB, but he's ready.

    Best to Avoid: Bengie Molina, San Francisco: 20 HR power may fade this year. Plus, Posey will shadow him.

    Next week, we'll look at 1B and 2B draft finds.

    -

    The NBA Expert Wire
    * Bleacher Report says that Allen Iverson is done for the season after leaving Philadelphia to deal with a family illness. The personal situation is terribly unfortunate, but Iverson's future seemed in doubt even before that happened.

    * The Red Zone Report likes Taj Gibson, too, but likes Drew Gooden, PF/C better.

    * ESPN's Brian McKitish notes that Jason Kidd has been playing well since Dallas added more offense through a big trade.

    * SLAM Online suggests picking up Anderson Varejao, C, after the news that Shaq will probably sit for the rest of the regular season.

    -

    The MLB Expert Wire
    Positional rankings are sweeping across the Web:

    * Bleacher Reports eyes the top 40 starting pitchers. Good choices for the most part, and I like Chad Billingsley and Cole Hamels buried down at No. 21 and No. 22. Both are comeback candidates.

    * The Yahoo! fantasy sports experts have convened to reveal their composite top 60 outfielders.

    * SB Nation has the top 20 second basemen for 2010. Nobody seems to think Aaron Hill can repeat his great 2009. Maybe we can get him cheap?

    * FanHouse hosts a chat about the elite fantasy shortstops.

    Plus:
    * Rotoworld has the latest on hot catching prospect Posey. Is he this year's Matt Wieters? I wouldn't saddle him with that expectation.

    -

    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 6:16 AM | Permalink

    My Favorite 1980s Chicago Radio Memories

    I bought a 1960s transistor radio online a month ago, and I've been listening to the eclectic shows of the local college radio station ever since. The Old-Timey Country Hour and the experimental Portuguese jazz hour are my favorites.

    Dialing in strange, new exotic music is a source of endless happiness for me. Not that I would ever purchase Portuguese jazz or that I even particularly like old-time country music.

    It's the act of discovering something that I don't know, hearing a message from places I will never go, that takes me right back to my childhood.

    I discovered rap music hiding under the covers with a pocket transistor pressed against my ear. I learned about sex and romance listening to the Quiet Storm after midnight. I developed an obsession with "That's All" by Genesis that got so bad that my school banned me from carrying a radio into the building, even if it was turned off.

    I am not so old that I had to listen to a transistor radio; I've just always loved the way they look and sound. My first hobby was buying broken hand-held transistor radios and taking them apart. I don't know what I was looking for; I never tried putting them back together.

    I grew up on the border of Illinois and Wisconsin and got all of the Chicago stations. The folks never let me watch much TV growing up - my addictive personality was clear then - so the radio was always on.

    Here, then, are my favorite 1980's Chicago radio memories*:

    1. RPM.

    The late-night heavy metal show hosted by Scott Loftus is going to feature heavily on this list, so I'll just include it alone. RPM, or Real Precious Metal, was the radio station of my angry youth. Broadcasting on 103.1 WVVX from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m., the show was the ultimate fan podcast long before such a thing existed.

    As soon as Bill Murray's soliloquy from Stripes kicked in, the metal was raining down upon us. Loftus and his school-bus-driving sidekick, played, defended, promoted, and lived metal with every single breath. My buddies and I traded homemade RPM tapes to prove how metal we were. Amazingly, the RPM scored live interviews with the top names in metal. That's where this list really starts.

    2. Ozzy Puking.

    Before he was a cell phone pitchman and reality TV star, Ozzy was the prince of fucking darkness. And legendarily wasted all the time. One night, he inanely mumbled his way through about 10 minutes of an interview when, live on air, he threw up in a studio garbage can. Loftus and his sidekick cheered wildly that Ozzy ruled while he was throwing up. I dare you to find a moment as kick ass as that on any rock station today.

    3. Tom Araya's Fucking Interview.

    During a drunken call-in interview, the Slayer front man would not stop using the f-word. Loftus repeatedly asked him to stop because the show was live and he would get his license yanked. Araya wouldn't stop and finally Loftus hung up on him. The interview, and the blowback from it, caused RPM to boycott Slayer for years. My friends and I argued the Venom vs. Slayer debate constantly, and this interview weighed heavily in the anti-Slayer crowd (I was pro-Slayer). I called RPM twice a week to request Reign in Blood.

    4. Thirsty Whale.

    I felt trapped as a kid; by economics, my weird obsessions, and low-self esteem. But there was a place so magical, so distant, so fucking cool that if I could only get there, just once, I would be free. That place was the Thirsty Whale. Thirst Whale commercials for their Friday night shows ran constantly on RPM. Those spots were everything I wanted to be: rocking, far away from home, and surrounded by chicks. Once, my uncle went to a show (Enuff Z Nuff) at the Whale and he let me keep the ticket.

    5. Jesse Jackass.

    I grew up next door to redneck bikers. They introduced me to metal music and lower-class racism. They were huge Steve and Garry fans; the show was always on in their garage. We hung out there, messing with our bikes and listening to the radio. One day, Steve and Garry ran a parody song of Jesse Jackson called "Jesse Jackass." The rednecks loved it and sang it all afternoon. I didn't know who he was or why it was funny, but it triggered some taboo reptilian part of my brain that told me I wasn't so comfortable with the bikers anymore.

    6. Start Me Up.

    Bear with me. I know I was only eight, but I remember the Loop DJ talking about the Rolling Stones' new record and hyping the debut of a new song. I remember standing in the kitchen, washing dishes, when "Start Me Up" kicked in. I also recall not being that impressed by the song. It wasn't until I was in my twenties that I realized that hearing the debut of "Start Me Up" was really cool.

    7. Meeting the 1984 Cubs.

    I was an obsessive Cubs fan before I learned better (it would only take about three months and a three-game stand in San Diego). The local radio station held an on-site promotion at a local tire dealership with "members" of your Chicago Cubs. I begged, pleaded and bargained with my mother to take me; she agreed. When we got to the place, it was utterly mobbed. The featured Cubs players turned out to be Jay Johnstone and Thad Bosley, along with ballgirl Marla Collins. I won some sort of contest, neither my brother nor I can remember what it was, but my prize was autographed pictures of the two players. I also got to say my name live on the radio. My brother remembers the story a little differently; he recalls that I won a contest but I was really pissed off that the prize was two Goodyear mugs. Could be, but the point is I got to meet to Chicago Cubs and make my first media appearance.

    9. Crotch Rocket.

    The Waukegan radio station, WXLC, used to hold live, on-site promotional events. Once, during a live event at a local bar, the DJ, Scott something-or-other, was obviously really drunk. He made blatant sexually suggestive remarks that I didn't understand to a woman in the audience. My mother turned beet-red and made me turn the station. I don't remember what he said but I do recall the station announcing the next day that he had been fired.

    9. Momma.

    A tiny radio station in Zion had a weekend call-in program for yard sales. The show, hosted by Walt Stare, let people holding a garage sale to call in and describe their sale: location, hours, items. My mother called in and I listened to her on a pocket transistor radio. Hearing my mother's voice coming out of the radio was a revelation akin to hearing the voice of God. The yard sale was a bust anyways.

    * I, in no way, attest to the accuracy of these memories. They're mine, they exist in my head a certain way and factual truth be damned.

    -

    Comments welcome.

    -

    Other Lists By Drew Adamek:
    * Today's Syllabus
    * Shit My Dad Says
    * Work Weirdos
    * Things I Miss About Chicago
    * 20 Albums I Wish I Had Never Bought
    * Their Chicago
    * Cities I've Slept In

    Plus:
    * Fan Note: Me & Metallica

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:51 AM | Permalink

    March 2, 2010

    The [Tuesday] Papers

    1. "Cook County's post-Sept. 11 security initiative, dubbed Project Shield, which has come under fire for being sharply over budget and years behind schedule, is proving to be an even bigger drain on taxpayers," the Sun-Times and NBC5 report. "And in the end, it will provide a more porous security net than envisioned."

    The county has already spent at least $43 million in federal funds on Project Shield.

    I would have done it for $42 million, but I missed the application deadline.

    *

    "Cook County officials have rejected interview requests regarding Project Shield."

    Why shouldn't they? I'm sure they've figured out by now that they can just write up a statement later and get it published without being challenged.

    2. Is it any less crazy for Pat Robertson to claim that earthquakes in Haiti and Chile are God's work than it is for the Morgan Park man who is the lead plaintiff in a Supreme Court challenge to Chicago's handgun ban to state that "I [feel] the Lord put me here for this?"

    *

    Does that mean defendant Mayor Daley is a tool of the devil?

    3. Heh-heh.

    4. "One of the reasons the extended debate rule is so important is because it forces us to sit down and negotiate with one another, not because we want to but because we have to," Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) said in a floor speech.

    "I have helped pass many pieces of legislation in my 24 years here, both as a majority and minority Member of this institution. I have never helped pass a single bill worth talking about that didn't have a Republican as a lead cosponsor. I don't know of a single piece of legislation here that didn't have a Republican and a Democrat in the lead. We need to sit down and work with each other. The rules of this institution have required that. That is why we exist. Why have a bicameral legislative body, two Chambers? What were the Framers thinking about 218 years ago? They understood the possibility of a tyranny of the majority. And yet, they fully endorsed the idea that in a democratic process, there ought to be a legislative body where the majority would rule."

    5. President Obama pulled a sly and cynical trick in setting up his health care summit that only served to make health care reform an even more partisan issue than it already is - he left out the Democrats who oppose the bill. That would have been a true health care summit. Why couldn't their ideas be heard?

    After all, if the Democrats are going to push this through themselves, they'll need to convert a significant number of their own party members in the House. And those are members who are both liberal and think the bill is an insurance industry giveaway that falls woefully short of real reform and conservatives who think the bill is too costly and not strict enough on abortion funding.

    The divisions in this country are no longer merely partisan.

    The transcript isn't available yet, but Howard Dean noted last night on Hardball how many independent Obama voters and Democrats voted for Scott Brown in Massachusetts - knowing the consequences for the health care bill.

    Using reconciliation to push the bill through is not just an affront to Republicans - and it would certainly be another broken promise by Obama, both by dint of his previous statements as a United States Senator about the process and by his central campaign pledge to change the way business is conducted in Washington.

    6. From state Senate President (Fast) John(ny) Cullerton's law firm bio:

    "John J. Cullerton practices in Thompson Coburn Fagel Haber's Real Estate Practice Group. His focus includes:

    "* Government relations work with respect to real estate tax assessment and real estate tax appeals.

    "* Zoning, land use and annexation.

    "* Licensing and permit applications before local governments.

    "* Procedures and advocacy strategies for clients with matters being considered by legislators, regulators and policy makers.

    "Representative Matters

    "* John has been successful in obtaining for clients: tax increment financing, tax abatements, special service areas, enterprise zones, special tax classifications, sales tax sharing agreements and industrial revenue bonds.

    "* John also appears before the Chicago City Council, all state and local governmental regulatory agencies, local real estate tax assessment boards, and negotiates for clients with Aldermen and Alderwomen throughout Chicagoland."

    Oh, and by the way, he's the president of the state senate.

    7. Searching for the choke-proof hot dog.

    8. Wither Lee and Konerko? Our very own George Ofman says they could both be gone by July.

    9. Cities He's Slept In. My favorite is Baltimore, though there's a whole lot of goodness to choose from.

    10. Oops, the Sun-Times re-ran a Jack Higgins cartoon from last month. Either that or Higgins is just trying to goad us.

    Higgins4.jpg

    Or - and I'm just throwing this out there - Higgins really is that stupid. Or, or, another alternative, maybe he's really just run out of ideas. (See Item No. 12.) (For that matter, see the Snow Job item here too.) (For that matter, see the item Is Jack Higgins Smarter Than A 5th-Grader here.)

    *

    Conservative commentator and self-described global warming agnostic Charles Krauthammer talking about record snowfalls on Fox News recently:

    "It has no effect one way or the other on the veracity of the science. There is no weather event, even a string of weather events, that's going to have any affect on the truth or the falsity of global climate change . . . It doesn't have any effect on the science."

    Too bad the same couldn't be said for its effect on journalism.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Goad us.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:06 AM | Permalink

    Cities I've Slept In

    I never thought I would leave the small town I grew up in; as far as I knew the rest of the world only existed in the television. Other cities, other states, were strange, exotic, distant and unreachable places I would only ever read about.

    So I've kept track of all the cities I've slept in and the most memorable night spent in them as a reminder that the world is a lot larger than I can conceive. I love having stories about these cities; I feel like a romantic drifter in a '40s novel sometimes (especially since I rarely leave the house now). This list isn't inclusive; it only includes memorable trips.

    Here, then, are the (large) American cities I've slept in:

    1. Chicago.

    The once and future home. No need to explain the greatness of this overnight (a lifetime's worth).

    2. Milwaukee.

    I had my first heartbreak in this town. I still think about crying on the beach every time I return.

    3. Detroit.

    I went to a Rosicrucian baptism for my godson. First time I was scared driving through a city.

    4. Minneapolis.

    Spent an uncomfortable night on the couch after I discovered that the girl I was hitting on at work was my roommate's girlfriend.

    5. Indianapolis.

    I slept overnight in the Greyhound station with a hippie chick and a chain-smoking Buddhist monk. We only talked about movies.

    6. Cleveland.

    Awesome rock 'n' roll moment: Watching Metallica get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Jimmy Page/Jeff Beck jam session with my dear friend Meghan.

    7. Pittsburgh.

    Almost ended up living here instead of Massachusetts. We were so excited to be out of D.C. that Pittsburgh seemed like the greatest city in America.

    8. Philadelphia.

    Meghan, Steve and I went to the last Dead Milkmen show and ate Philly cheese steaks four meals out of five.

    9. New York City.

    My brother and I saw Iron Maiden at Madison Square Garden. It was a childhood dirthead dream come true.

    10. Boston.

    I went for a business meeting but left all of the material I needed on the airplane. Most uncomfortable meeting of all time. I was afraid the boss was going to make me pay for the room.

    11. Baltimore.

    The wife and I left to escape the St. Patty's Day party the douchebags upstairs were throwing. We got stuck on a floor of douchebags throwing a St. Patty's day party.

    12. Richmond.

    Got stuck in a hotel because of a Chicago snowstorm. Best barbecue I've ever had.

    13. Fort Lauderdale.

    I slept in a tent next to the highway with an incredibly resourceful scavenger named Richard. A giant spider crawled across my face one night; I bought a ticket home the next morning. I still wonder what happened to Richard.

    14. Miami.

    Mr. Richard and I went to a jai alai match. We lost all of our bus money back to Ft. Lauderdale, so we had to sleep in a park next to the bus station. We collected aluminum cans the next day until we had the bus money to get home.

    15. New Orleans.

    Shortly after Katrina, I worked on a documentary for the Weather Channel. I have never had so much fun with my co-workers as I did on that trip. I also spent a night on a shrimp boat in the Gulf.

    16. Los Angeles.

    I found my cousin sprawled out on the floor of his apartment; Meghan and I had to rush him to the emergency room and we spent the night in the lobby of an L.A. hospital.

    17. Albuquerque.

    Celebrated our engagement in an awesome mansion at the top of a mountain. Got to have drinks with Terry Brunner in a rundown, roadside bar.

    18. Phoenix.

    My cousin was moving to L.A. The rental truck broke down in Phoenix and we spent the night waiting for the tow truck to show up. My cousin's lizard was in the cab with us and, without air conditioning, stunk the truck up to high heaven.

    19. Little Rock.

    I ran away from home with a friend of mine in my teens. "Somehow" we got separated and I ended up with his car without him. Spent the night talking to the police about his whereabouts. (He was fine).

    20. Hot Springs.

    Same trip, the friend and I (before I "somehow" ended up with his car), spent the night in a laundromat. I was still young (14) and had no idea that such clear racial tensions existed in America.

    21. Nashville.

    An ex-girlfriend was looking for her father. We drove to Nashville to discover that he had moved a year before. We didn't have enough money for a hotel, so we spent the night in a Waffle House drinking coffee and dozing off until the sun went up (I still don't know why we didn't leave right away).

    22. Atlanta.

    I got hired to drive a truck to Florida. I stayed in a highway hotel and only remember it because it was the first time I saw the "Unforgiven" video.

    23. San Francisco.

    I went to see Metallica open for the Stones. My last trip as a single guy.

    24. Seattle.

    Had the most amazing room because of a booking error; the concierge told me that the Beckhams had stayed in that room.

    25. Tacoma.

    The toughest day of shooting I've been on.

    26. Las Vegas.

    We did things I am not proud of in Las Vegas.

    27. Austin.

    I saw one of the Bush twins on Sixth Street.

    28. Oklahoma City.

    On the L.A. moving trip, the truck first broke down in Oklahoma City. It was so hot we didn't leave until the sun went down.

    29. Biloxi.

    The city felt like Europe 1945 - after Katrina. I drank out of the spit cup of my shooter, mistaking it for my Diet Coke.

    30. Washington, D.C.

    I am hoping that I can go the rest of my life without having to do that again.

    31. Springfield, Illinois.

    Eighth-grade trip. I just found out this morning that my roommate for that trip, the fat kid with a suitcase full of junk food, passed away. That was the first time I saw soft-core porn: Chained Heat. R.I.P., TR.

    32. Madison.

    We promised that we were never going to talk about Madison again.

    33. Flagstaff.

    My best friend's wedding. My roommate in the hotel room had the worst gas I've ever had the misfortune to encounter.

    -

    Submit your own list or comment on Drew's.

    -

    Other Lists By Drew Adamek:
    * Today's Syllabus
    * Shit My Dad Says
    * Work Weirdos
    * Things I Miss About Chicago
    * 20 Albums I Wish I Had Never Bought
    * Their Chicago

    Plus:
    * Fan Note: Me & Metallica

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:10 AM | Permalink

    Wither Lee and Konerko?

    First base is a much maligned position. Some have called it the easiest spot on the field. Hard to argue, though ask Mark Grace how easy it was to handle all those erratic throws from Shawon Dunston. You don't really notice first basemen until they make one of those fancy scoops of a an errant throw or make a diving stop and manage to toss to someone covering the bag. Of course, you do notice them when they hit, and many first basemen can hit and hit for power. Granted, it's not a glamour position, nor have many first basemen advanced to the Hall of Fame. Only ten have been inducted and the most recent was Eddie Murray, who last played in 1997. Some players are moved there because they can no longer function in the outfield, third base, or catching.

    Some though, are originals - and very good ones. And today's crop just might be the best of the bunch. For openers, there is Ryan Howard, Albert Pujols, Justin Morneau, Todd Helton, Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez and James Loney.

    Then there are the pillars of Chicago. Paul konerko and Derrek Lee have provided fans here with stellar play; Konerko for the last 11 years and Lee since 2004.

    And both could be gone by July or, at least, by the end of the season.

    What will we do without them? Don't think for a moment the respectful general managers of the Sox and Cubs haven't been mulling over that question for a while. Finding solid first basemen isn't as easy as the position supposedly is to play. And finding ones who are left-handed hitters is even more difficult.

    It's exactly what both teams could use.

    Aren't the Cubs a top-heavy right-hand hitting team? Didn't they seek balance when they bought into Milton Bradley? (Geez, I really hate to mention his name again). Won't they be looking for that left-hand hitting bopper who can make a difference?

    Won't the Sox do the same since they launched Jim Thome? Having a left-hand hitter who could play first and or DH would still allow Ozzie Guillen to play roulette with the DH spot.

    Did anyone say Adrian Gonzalez? Jake Peavy did. The newest Sox ace told CBSSports.com: "I want Adrian to be my teammate over here."

    What Sox fan wouldn't - even if it meant the end of the Konerko Era on the South Side?

    And what Cubs fan wouldn't want Gonzalez - even if it meant the end of the Lee Era on the North Side?

    Over the last four seasons, Gonzalez has averaged 32 homers and 100 RBI playing in Petco Park, the toughest yard to hit a homer in. He's also batted .285 with an OBP of .369 and an OPS of .903. And he's a two-time Gold Glove winner.

    But getting him here would come at a very hefty price. He's not a free agent, meaning both teams would have to mortgage some high caliber young talent.

    I don't believe the Sox would part with Gordon Beckham. Actually, I think they would be nuts to. But they appear to have more in reserve than the Cubs. And GM Kenny Williams has never been bashful about trading future prospects to get what he wants.

    Counterpart Jim Hendry has hotshot shortstop prospect Starlin Castro waiting to blossom at Wrigley Field. No way is he going to sacrifice him.

    And while the Cubs have three other prospects in the top 100, they might not have the ready-made players the Sox do, such as John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Alexei Ramirez. And remember, guys like Tyler Flowers and Daniel Hudson could also be used as bait. I'm not suggesting any of them would go, but some of these players would certainly flavor the pot for Gonzalez.

    But Gonzalez isn't the only left-handed hitting first baseman who might be available. What if the Sox decided not to trade anyone and went after Adam Dunn to make him their full-time DH?

    Dunn is currently playing some first for the Washington Nationals but he's an absolutely brutal defensive player. But can he hit!

    Over the last six years, Dunn's numbers compare favorably with Gonzalez's. He doesn't hit for average; only .252 to .285, but he's averaged nearly 41 homers and 101 RBI. And he'll turn 31 this season while Gonzalez will be 28 in May.

    Both teams could go after Carlos Pena or Lance Berkman, who become free agents at the end of the season. But while Pena's power numbers are holding in Tampa, his batting average fell to .227 last season. (He did win a Gold Glove in 2008.) Since his agent is the notorious Scott Boras, you can all but cancel him from the Sox's list.

    Berkman may be fading. But while the switch-hitter fell to.274 last season - 25 points off his career average - and drove in only 80 runs, the Astros also happened to score the third-fewest runs in the National League. Berkman did hit 25 homers and could be an attractive alternative for Lee for the next several years. He wouldn't look to shabby in a Sox uniform, either.

    Of course, both teams can wait for Prince Fielder, whose two-year contract with the Brewers is up after the season. Because he remains arbitration-eligible, the Brewers will still control his rights, but not his weight nor a weighty price tag that could exceed $15 million. Trade rumors have followed Fielder because the Brewers might not be able to afford to keep both him and Ryan Braun.

    Want a stab at Ryan Howard? The Phillies only owe him $19 million this year and 20 the next!

    Maybe the Sox and Cubs should re-sign Konerko and Lee and forget the whole thing.

    -

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

    -

    Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:56 AM | Permalink

    March 1, 2010

    SportsMonday: Golden Molson

    The idea of Canada as our continent's dominant sports power will take some getting used to. When do the next Summer Olympics start? Yes, I know the U.S. finished atop the overall medal table in Vancouver (with 37 total medals to 30 for second-place Germany), but the Canucks' 14 golds to the Americans' nine? Yikes.

    Canada does have 33 million people, so I guess it isn't completely surprising that a few dozen of them excel at obscure, icy sports and that some of them managed to win individual and team competitions at their home facilities. I'm just hoping that, given the whole 300-million-population thing we have going for us, maybe we can find a distance skier or two by the time the 2014 games roll around. If we can dominate men's Nordic combined, surely we can finish in the top 10 of a cross country ski race or two.

    "We won almost twice as many bronzes as anyone else (13-7 over Germany)!" just doesn't do it as a rallying cry. And for the last time (for the next two years), we understand that the Olympics aspire to be something more than countries mining for maximum medals but it is the score (or the standings) that elevates sport above standard entertainment. If we don't have a horse in the race, we aren't fans. You can cast about from sport to sport for compelling individual stories, but in the end the most sensible thing is to zero in on the home country competitors and root, root, root.

    One cool thing about the American medals: No one won more than one gold. The U.S. medal haul was truly a team effort, even if the winners almost all triumphed in the most individual way possible (competing alone out on the ice or the mountain or the speedskating track)

    And, of course, it was all capped off by that last little hockey game. Regarding the Olympic finale, well, let's start with congrats to the Canadian men's hockey team and especially to the local trio (Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Jonathan Toews). Clearly we shouldn't have felt sorry for those guys after last weekend's shocking preliminary round loss to the U.S. I thought coming back from that setback would be too tough a task for the Leaf-wearers, but I didn't count on the Russians absolutely lying down in the quarterfinals (losing to Canada 7-3). Still, the home team was on the verge of blowing a 3-0 third-period lead to the Slovaks in the semis (when I thought they surely would run out of gas) when they found a way to hold on to a 3-2 win. And in the super-charged final they had adrenaline to spare, even for overtime.

    In the end, we still remember that going into the Games we were very much just hoping for a medal for the U.S. team, don't we? And then there was the fact that this result was part of our just barely edging those aforementioned Germans for the win in the overall silver medal count (15-13)! Also not quite inspiring now, is it? And that is officially my last comment about 2010 medal standings.

    Miller's Crossing
    American goalie Ryan Miller saved his worst for last, simply whiffing on Sid Crosby's relatively innocuous shot from a tough angle only a few minutes into overtime.

    Otherwise, though, it was an awesome Games for Miller and we look forward to a repeat performance from him in 2014 (and we try not to think about the fact that star Swedish goalie Henrik Lundvquist couldn't even manage to get his team into the medal rounds after back-stopping them to the Gold in 2006).

    There was also more than a little sporting justice in Crosby's goal; it evened up the breaks for a Canadian team that had sent a ridiculous two pucks off the post in two minutes early in the third period.

    Pole Dance
    And for my final Olympic bit, in honor of Casimir Pulaski Day, we make special note of the fact that Poland's Justyna Kowalczyk won the mass start classic 30K women's cross country event on Saturday to become the first-ever Polish woman to take home a gold medal at the Winter Games. She won a thrilling duel with Norway's Marit Bjoergen, prevailing in the 18-mile-plus race by all of three-tenths of a second.

    Bulls Beat
    Back in Chicago . . .

    The next few weeks feel like big trouble for the Bulls. They play eight of their next nine games against teams that are currently above .500, and not only did Joakim Noah suffer a significant health setback over the weekend but Luol Deng was forced to the sideline on Saturday when, surprise, surprise, a seemingly minor injury flared into something potentially more dire, at least to Deng.

    Last year a sore leg caused Deng to see multiple doctors before finding one who gave him the diagnosis off a stress fracture that Deng decided would end his season. This time Deng banged knees with an opponent during the Bulls' win over the Pacers in the middle of last week. Derrick Rose did something similar over the weekend but didn't even need treatment on Sunday and will start Monday versus Atlanta. Deng on the other hand said on Saturday that Wednesday's injury had caused some swelling in the Friday victory and then became very painful in Saturday's loss at the Pacers. Uh oh.

    -

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

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:51 AM | Permalink

    The [Monday] Papers

    It was a wonderful Winter Olympics.

    And now Vancouver faces the reckoning.

    "Security costs, first estimated at $165 million, are now headed toward $1 billion," the New York Times reported last week.

    "Still, organizers insist the operating budget will break even. But that forecast includes $423 million in emergency money from the International Olympic Committee, and detailed financial information will not appear until after the Games are over.

    "As for Vancouver's municipal government and the taxpayers, the bad news is already in. The immediate Olympic legacy for this city of 580,000 people is a nearly $1 billion debt from bailing out the Olympic Village development. Beyond that, people in Vancouver and British Columbia have already seen cuts in services like education, health care and arts financing from their provincial government, which is stuck with many other Olympics-related costs. Many people, including Mrs. Lombardi, expect that more will follow."

    You'd think a pouting local media that has lamented that "there will be no Chicago Olympics to create jobs" and how we have to adjust now that we'll be missing the "bonanza of federal funding, jobs and contracts that an Olympics would have provided" would be paying attention to the bill coming due in Vancouver, but then again, why should they start caring about facts now?

    While the mood in the city has picked up since the start, when many people were suffering a severe case of buyer's remorse, the looming budget realities make it unlikely that all will be forgiven or forgotten," the Times reports.

    "The real estate development industry, which is unusually powerful in Vancouver, provided the city with an Olympic Village plan that seemed - and ultimately was - too good to be true. A development firm would finance and build the village on a desirable piece of city-owned land. After the Games, the developer would convert the accommodations into luxury condominiums and pay the city for the property. Vancouver would get its village and turn a profit as well."

    Sound familiar?

    Folks in Canada aren't getting any clear answers, either. This is how it always is with the Olympics because the elites who get off on hosting them don't want those who pay for them to know the ugly truth.

    That influx of tourists? Didn't happen.

    It was a wonderful Olympics. I enjoyed it immensely. But don't let anyone tell you that hosting the Games is an economic gain. It's a huge economic drain that shouldn't be wished upon our enemies.

    *

    Don't you think the local media owes us an apology for its incredibly horrible reporting about how much largesse the Olympics would have brought to Chicago? Don't you think it's time they fessed up to the fact that they were, um, snowed?

    Fast Johnny Cullerton
    Lobbyist.

    *

    This is not acceptable. Cullerton refused to answer the Sun-Times's questions, as the paper noted. Why allow written responses by a press secretary - responses you can't challenge or follow-up on? You might as well just publish a press release. Why should any public official talk to a newspaper knowing they can just issue a statement instead?

    An alternate way of writing the story:

    "State Senate President John Cullerton refuses to answer questions about his lobbying of other government officials, despite the clear appearance of conflicts of interest and an unseemly wielding of clout of the sort that has made Illinois notorious for its corrupt political culture.

    "We called Cullerton X times over the past week. Is he embarrassed? Ashamed? We don't know. He won't explain how his lobbying is good for the voters."

    Objective? Yes! Show me one thing that isn't factually correct there.

    Stop being such a bunch of chumps.

    *

    As I heard someone say the other day, the job of a reporter isn't to be the spokesperson for the spokespersons.

    *

    From a reader: "Regarding the Cullerton spokeswoman - why in the hell is a State employee answering questions about Cullerton's lobbying business? She should only be answering questions about his Senate position."

    *

    Cullerton vs. Daley in The Great Traffic School Bonanza.

    Parking Pork
    Over the weekend I watched in horror as workers put up parking pay boxes along a stretch of California Avenue in Humboldt Park that is home to a slew of small businesses. Parking along that street had always been free. So it's not just that the rates are going up in metered spaces; our new parking overlords are converting free parking to charged parking all over the city. And who do you appeal to? Your alderman? Good luck. The contract is signed. For 75 years. How is this not the privatization of public property?

    The only good news to report about this development is that within 24 hours several of the new pay boxes had been vandalized.

    EPA's Secret Chocolate Documents Revealed!
    Three years later, our request for records concerning the yuppie who blew the whistle on the Blommer Chocolate Company come through. Sort of.

    Die, NBC!
    "Just when you thought NBC couldn't screw up its Winter Olympics coverage any more than it already had, the network decided to go for broke Sunday night and sprint across the crash-and-burn finish line," our very own Scott Buckner writes in What I Watched Last Night.

    Golden Molson
    I confess I was rooting for Canada in the men's hockey final yesterday because I figured a win by them would prove that their way of life was better than ours.

    Our very own Jim Coffman found something else, though: The American medal count isn't as impressive as it seems.

    *

    Mmm, Molson . . .

    Musical Soul Food
    Our very own Don Jacobson nominates a new entry in the contest for ultimate cool old record store.

    Pundit Patrol
    Featuring Eric Zorn, Don Wycliff, and Bonus Steinberg.

    -

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Rat Patrol.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:24 AM | Permalink

    Pundit Patrol

    Really, there's so much madness among our pundits I could do this every day and not stay caught up. It's exhausting, as reading lazy journalism often is, and I can't get to nearly all of what I intended. But I promised a third installment so here it is.

    Previously:
  • Warren, Ponce, Washington.
  • Telander, Roeper, Steinberg, Huntley.

  • Jim O'Donnell: Wow, Watergate was spoon-fed to the Washington Post! Yeah, it really wasn't a tough story to crack.

    Eric Zorn: "Critics snorted at and mocked the line in President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech in which he alluded to increasing public skepticism about health care reform legislation and said, 'I take my share of the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American people,'" Zorn wrote recently.

    "Well, here are a few news flashes for [Center for a Just Society Chairman Ken] Connor and scores of other indignant commentators who think that support for these bills has fallen below 50 percent because the public has studied and rejected them.

    "A Kaiser Family Foundation poll released last month found that 58 percent of respondents either didn't know or were unaware that the bills now in Congress would prohibit insurance companies from setting lifetime caps on coverage."

    Here's a news flash for Zorn: The critics snorted and mocked Obama's line because even up until then - and since with his pretend "summit" - he kept scheduling TV time and speeches and media appearances to explain his plan one more time, only this time clearly in a way that the American people would finally understand.

    Of course, Obama only a week or so ago actually released his own plan, so we spent the last year debating something whose existence was ephemeral. And even really smart people, you know, like Zorn, disagree about what's in the legislation and/or how it would work.

    Beyond that, the American people never have a solid grasp of the issues they are polled on.

    "As we've noted here for years, the American public is almost always stunningly misinformed, on almost every major issue," Bob Somerby wrote last fall - just as he has before and since.

    You know what, though? Even those who do know the particulars hate the bill.

    Neil Steinberg: In a column about Rod Blagojevich's request to make public 500 hours of wiretaps, Steinberg writes:

    "Not, I hasten to add, that I am confident a crime was actually committed by Blagojevich. United States District Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said he had to act quickly in arresting Blago in late 2008 to prevent the commission of a crime - the selling of Barack Obama's open Senate seat. He may have acted too quickly. It's as if he burst into a would-be bank robber's house the morning the heist was to take place. On a chair were a ski mask, a water pistol and tickets to Mexico. One could argue - and perhaps win - that this was preparation for the crime. But one could also argue - and perhaps win - that it is not a crime to possess a ski mask, a water pistol and tickets to Mexico.

    "So Blagojevich said the opportunity was 'golden' and he should make money on it. That's like me saying that all the money in the bank is mine and I want it. Scary? Yes. Unhinged? Sure. But a crime? We'll see . . . "

    First, the intent to commit a crime is often a crime itself. Should the police wait until a planned murder is actually pulled off before interceding?

    Second, even if the Senate seat charge doesn't fly, Blagojevich is likely going to prison. If Steinberg had bothered to look at the indictment, he'd see that the charge involving the Senate seat is almost a footnote to a sweeping host of other alleged misdeeds that probably make up 495 hours of those tapes.

    Bonus Steinberg!

    "So I'm pushing through the revolving door heading to work. Coming out is a young man in a leather motorcycle jacket, wearing a Mohawk haircut, dyed blond and moussed so it stands 4 inches high," he wrote last week.

    "Which sparked a question I cannot answer, so I'm asking you: Why is this still a contemporary fashion? Why does it retain even the tang of rebelliousness? Why has it not sunk into nostalgia and period costume?

    "The Mohawk hairstyle is, by my calculation, 34 years old. Which means it is the equivalent of a young man in the mid-1970s going around in a zoot suit and wide-brimmed hat. That would not have been considered edgy then. Why are Mohawks still considered edgy now? Is there no new way to rebel?"

    Some possible answers:

    A) Maybe the guy just likes to wear his hair that way. Is that a crime? it looks really good on some people.

    B) Maybe it's still contemporary fashion for the same reason that leather jackets and t-shirts and jeans are still contemporary fashion: Some people think it looks cool. What, did someone declare this could only be a fad? Why are Neil's ties still contemporary fashion?

    C) Who says the guy is rebelling? On the other hand, it certainly retains a "tang" of rebelliousness to square newspaper columnists.

    In a follow-up column today, Steinberg writes "Me, I'd rather be ridiculed than forgotten."

    Done!

    Don Wycliff: After the president's State of the Union speech, Wycliff wrote that "Barack Obama, I am afraid, sealed his fate as a one-term president Wednesday night."

    Oh, please!

    Only a fool would write such a thing. Even a casual observer of politics should know by now that - like in sports - it's not over until it's over and you can never really predict the outcome of anything. Remember when George H.W. Bush was a shoo-in for re-election, with an approval rating of, what, 80 or 90 percent? It was hard to fathom George W. Bush getting re-elected, and yet he did. Scott Lee Cohen! Jesse Ventura! I mean, the list goes on and on. Dick Devine! Marion Barry!

    Bill Clinton looked dead in the water after the 1994 mid-term elections; Richard Nixon got re-elected in a landslide despite the papers filling up with Watergate revelations. Michael Dukakis had something like an 18-point lead at one point in the 1988 race.

    The best "pundits" don't pretend to be soothsayers; their predictions are almost always wrong. One (non-controversial, if mediocre) speech sealing a president's fate?

    Nonsense.

    Which is what most pundits peddle.

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    Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:03 AM | Permalink

    What I Watched Last Night

    NBC deserves to die. Today.

    Just when you thought NBC couldn't screw up its Winter Olympics coverage any more than it already had, the network decided to go for broke Sunday night and sprint across the crash-and-burn finish line by interrupting the contemporary music portion of the closing Olympic ceremonies for a Jerry Seinfeld abomination called The Marriage Ref and then air the portion it bumped an hour later, following the local news.

    If we weren't convinced before, we're convinced now that NBC is the only network on the planet that wouldn't just tape-delay the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, it would find a way to cut away from the really crucial part where The Savior is telling Christians how to save themselves and avoid the rising dead so it could squeeze in four more minutes of commercials.

    It's not that the closing ceremony program was so stunning that interrupting it for something considerably more interesting would have been completely unforgivable. If anything, Sunday night's show was as if someone let British Columbia move to Las Vegas and stage a Pink Floyd acid trip involving showgirls and humongous inflatable Mounties and beavers being followed around by giant flying moose. Still, it wasn't too awfully bad.

    On the other hand, The Marriage Ref really isn't as bad as you think. It's worse. Horribly, horribly worse. So horribly worse that just writing about it as quickly as I can so I'm able to move on to something more pleasant - flossing with a string of razor wire, for instance - is a chore.

    The idea of the show, created and executive produced by Seinfeld, is for a panel of visiting celebrity guests (for the debut it was Alec Baldwin, Kelly Ripa, and Seinfeld) to referee a disagreement between a regular-folk couple arguing over something or other. Tonight's disagreements were whether one husband should be allowed to enshrine his beloved and taxidermied dead dog in their home, and whether another should get his wish to install a stripper pole for his wife in the marital bedroom. After the celebrities weigh in with their opinions and alleged NBC reporter Natalie Morales provides some pertinent trivia, host/comedian Tom Papa is left to tell the husband or wife to go lump it with his binding decision.

    Contributing to the "This is just so wrong" feel of the show is the crappy, unfunny animated intro; opening theme music lifted straight from Doc Severinsen and The Tonight Show; sportscaster/announcer Marv Albert rehashing the "best line" from each couple's segment in corny, over-exaggerated boxing-announcer style, and the fact that Papa is awfully painful to watch and listen to. The worst offender, though, is a studio audience that's light-years giddier than the people responsible for America's Funniest Videos could ever wet-dream of collecting in one place. Never in my life would I have thought it possible that a live studio audience could be mistaken for a canned 1970s sitcom laugh track.

    The only people who make out in the deal - other than Jerry Seinfeld and whoever else at NBC is obviously owed favors of incredible magnitude - are the couples, who get a free cruise from a prominently mentioned cruise line as a parting gift.

    The only thing that might have saved the evening would be a breaking news story somewhere around 9:40 p.m. announcing that The Marriage Ref had made TV history by being the first program to be canceled while it was being shown.

    Those who bothered to tune in an hour later to see what NBC bumped were treated to uninspired musical performances by uninspired Canadian acts like Nickelback, Alanis Morissette, Avril Lavigne, and Simple Plan. There was plenty in there to complain about if you really wanted to, but after being subjected to The Marriage Ref and the other decisions NBC dreamed up during its 17 days of Olympics programming, you'd have felt pretty silly.

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

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    Submissions and comments welcome.

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    1. From Don Jacobson:

    I may add that the creepiness and hypocrisy factor is magnified by the presence of Alec Baldwin, whose own marriage to Kim Basinger was such a gross-out train wreck that it's obviously hurting their 14-year-old daughter, who called the cops last month after arguing with him because she thought he was going to kill himself. This is a guy who a couple years ago called his daughter a "rude, thoughtless little pig" in a voice mail that was leaked to the media. I adore his work, but Alec Baldwin, a "marriage ref?" Please.

    2. From Steve Rhodes:

    I may add that the creepiness and hypocrisy factor is also magnified by the presence of Jerry Seinfeld. From Celebitchy: "Interesting that Seinfeld thinks he knows so much about marriage and relationships that he should create and produce a show advising people about them. Considering he met his wife Jessica while she was on her honeymoon with her first husband. Quite the tawdry beginning. I wonder if he'll advise couples to seduce newly married folks?"

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:06 AM | Permalink

    EPA's Secret Chocolate Documents Revealed!

    I was recently jolted from a deep sleep by a surprise 7 a.m. phone call. It was the federal government calling. More specifically, someone from the EPA. It seemed my Freedom of Information Act request was ready. The one I had filed more than three years ago - to track down the yuppie who ratted out the Blommer Chocolate Company. "Do you still want them?" she asked me as if the documents were something she found while cleaning the garage. "Um, yeah." "Do you still live at the same address?" Since then, I've moved five times.

    I filed the FOIA request in August 2006 as part of a Beachwood Reporter investigation to uncover the identity of the Fulton River District resident who complained about the smell of chocolate in the air. Since 1939, the neighborhood's Blommer chocolate factory has pumped its sweet aroma throughout the area and down the capillary avenues that lead to the heart of this city. That smell is a reminder of Chicago's candy history - the stomping ground for Milk Duds, Tootsie Rolls, Jelly Bellys, and, of course, Wrigley gum. To thousands of workers and residents in the district, the chocolate scent is simply home.

    Save one condo dweller. His complaint sparked an EPA citation that found emissions vented from the northeast corner of the factory roof in violation of the 2001 Clean Air Act. To make things right, Blommer would have to install control equipment. Many worried it would also burst the Wonka fantasy.

    The citation created uproar in the media at the time. Headlines worldwide - like one India newspaper's "Sweet Smell No More" - painted the EPA as the malevolent monster, while Blommer made a local PR push to assure neighbors that the substance emitted from its factory was "organic, not toxic." The only person who evaded the public's eye was the citizen who complained. And I wanted his story.

    While the EPA complied with some portions of our request for all records in the case, they held back the identity of the complaining condo dweller, citing privacy concerns. There was also a list of documents that were not included due to business confidentiality restraints. We wrote our story and moved on.

    Until that early morning phone call. Our request was finally being fulfilled. We still don't know why it took so long. Perhaps the threat to national security has passed.

    The new documents are fairly innocuous. They contain mostly records of when various machines were cleaned, repaired, or replaced. According to the EPA Public Information Regulations, a business can file a confidentiality claim if they're concerned that requested records contain information that would "cause substantial harm to the business's competitive position," which can include anything from trade secrets to personal and financial information.

    That final determination is made by the EPA, which may ask the business to support its claim before deciding. "There's a whole process," an EPA spokesperson told me to justify why the documents took so long. "You have to ask the company to support their designation and then if they don't give enough information the first time then you have to ask for more." I was given no further explanation.

    But Terry Norton, director of the Center for Open Government at Chicago-Kent College of Law, is baffled about why that process would take three years to complete. He says government agencies usually have administrative rules that put a time limit on their response, though I could find no such clause in the EPA regulations. "I can see where it could get messy if the government did disclose something and there were lawsuits because it helped a competitor, but three years sounds like an excessive amount of time no matter how you cut it," he says. "It should never get close to that."

    The new documents arrived just weeks before the death of Joe Blommer, the former factory owner and son of its founder. During the 1980s, Joe Blommer expanded the company into the largest cocoa bean processor in North America. His son, Rick, now runs the firm and was there in 2005 when EPA investigators delivered news of the violation and conducted a formal inspection of the facility, records show.

    Simply put, the documents provide vivid detail of how one disgruntled neighbor and classic government bureaucracy wasted a lot of people's time, all chronicled with an anal-retentiveness one would only expect from big city inspectors.

    Those EPA investigators were already wearing hairnets when they confronted Blommer to explain their unannounced factory visit on September 23, 2005. It was just after 9:30 a.m., and their agenda over the next six hours would include a impromptu presentation by the owner and his staff about the factory production process followed by a full facility tour and a file review of record logs - pulled undoubtedly by Blommer's poor secretary.

    They learned how the facility received some 400,000 pounds of cocoa beans a day from around the world, by truck and rail, and how they were weighed and carried into the building by a vibrating conveyor belt, cleaned and sent through two "classifiers" that removed debris. As he talked, Blommer described the size and installation date of each machine he mentioned. Two roasters located on the fourth floor of the factory were identical, installed in 2003, and could roast up to 8,000 pounds at a time. Ten beater mills spun blades that pulverized the cocoa beans, and ten ball mills used bearings to smash the nib so the chocolate liquor flowed out through a filter screen to be stored, mixed, molded, and eventually shipped. By the time the group finished their opening conference, it was almost noon.

    Exactly what, if any, trade secrets Mr. Blommer was worried about divulging as he led the EPA inspectors through the facility is unclear. They started at the loading dock, where earlier that morning investigators had noticed a Blommer employee pounding a filter on the ground that sprayed brown particles into the air. The group eventually climbed a staircase to the roof, then up a ladder to the top of its sugar silos. From where they stood, they could see several stacks scattered on the roof. The ones that lead to the boiler room gave off a colorless vapor that blurred their vision. White emissions plumed from two roaster stacks to the north. A strong odor enveloped them and one inspector "thought it smelled like chocolate."

    From the northeast corner, where the violation had been observed, they could see visible particles blowing out from vents over the railroad tracks that hug the building. But the grinding unit that led to these vents was already scheduled to be replaced the following month, they discovered. In fact, Blommer had submitted a permit application to the Illinois EPA for the new unit installation before the violation was recorded and had been working with the Chicago Department of Environment for the past two years trying to address citizen concerns about odor and emissions, the report explains. By the time the investigators left the facility, it was after 3:30 p.m.

    In some ways, nothing has changed. The EPA issued no fine or even agreement that Blommer had committed wrongdoing. The factory installed its emissions control equipment as planned and is in compliance today. For now, Chicago's bridges still make me crave dessert, its river still circulates the sugary musk past condos and crannied streets. But that smell also carries a bitter dash of inevitability, a reminder of how fragile simple pleasures can be.

    Wherever these documents have spent the last three years, it's the same place where yuppies get cached safe from scrutiny, where government agencies fail to share information, where a city's arteries slowly clog citation by citation. It is one place I hope never smells like chocolate.

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    Our favorite document finally released from the EPA's secret vaults:

    BlommerDoc.jpg

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    Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 3:07 AM | Permalink

    A Musical Soul Food Library

    I have a new nomination for the ultimate cool old record store.

    After reading about it in the San Diego Union-Tribune, I'm kind of afraid that if I ever went into Folk Arts Rare Records I wouldn't emerge until sometime in the latter part of this decade.

    I'm not sure exactly what that says about me except that I'm a music dork who gets the same kind of satisfaction from digging out cool old records as others get from, oh, say, a life.

    So now I'm talking to you, o record collectors, because only you will understand. Imagine a mighty fortress of vinyl - 90,000 hours worth - lovingly tended in neat rows by burly, bearded Lou Curtiss, a 70-year-old curmudgeonly Seattle native considered one of the country's prime archivists of early recorded jazz, blues and country music.

    I mean, this man's collection of sound is so immense, a couple of years ago he got an Archiving and Preservation Grant from the Grammy Foundation to digitize a boatload of four-inch, reel-to-reel tapes he made at the early San Diego Folk Festivals, as well as at other venues around the city from the early 1960s through the late 1970s.

    Curtiss co-founded and first staged the San Diego Folk Festival in 1967 and was its show-runner until the late 1980s; he later on produced the city's annual Adams Avenue Roots Festival. The newspaper says he has had a pretty influential role in the shaping of the city's folk music scene over the years, mentoring such local talents as Tom Waits and A.J. Croce as they hung out in his store as youngsters, learning through him just exactly where America's musical roots had spread.

    Tom Waits' endorsement of Lou: "Folk Arts is a soul-food library and seed bank, much like the Library of Congress, where you go to light your torch."

    On his Web site, Curtiss has posted some tasty bits of real Americana from his live tapes, such as a haunting version of "Come Over Here" performed by the legendary Chambers Brothers - then still strictly a gospel group - in 1962 at a San Diego high school gym!

    How about the Reverend Gary Davis finger-picking his way through "No More" at the Sign of the Sun bookstore in San Diego, circa 1962, perhaps the only time he was ever recorded playing a 5-string banjo? Lou has that, too.

    I'm betting a real good place to hear more samples of Curtiss's massive trove is on his weekly radio show on non-commercial KSDS-FM, San Diego's Jazz 88.3. His show, Jazz Roots, runs Sunday nights from 10 p.m. to midnight (Central Time) and can be streamed here.

    Still, it's probably not quite same as sauntering into his store and beholding the collection in all of its glory. An impressive description of the Folk Arts Records shopping experience comes from Ace at Ace Lounge, who says under the heading "San Diego's Best Record Stores:"

    "Folk Arts is a converted residence that looks like any other house on the block, except inside is one of the most expansive selections of vinyl imaginable.

    folkarts_records.jpg

    "Owner Lou Curtiss was kind enough to show me his archives, consisting of thousands of live, locally recorded and self-produced reel-to-reel recordings, as well as his personal record collection. Honestly, all of it is a little mind-blowing.

    "For me, the jewel was an album from a '73 Tom Waits show, but that's only because I don't know shit about music before the '60s. Curtiss spreads the wealth, too - the place is filled with stacks upon stacks of records, most of which are surprisingly inexpensive and well categorized."

    Boinng! My music dork-o-meter just buried the needle!

    In 2006 there was a benefit concert staged to raise money for Curtiss's archiving efforts, and I was able to find some video from it - Lou (on the autoharp) and his wife Virginia (on guitar) performing "Coal Black Choo Choo" by the Maddox Brothers & Rose, "America's Most Colorful Hillbilly Band."

    -

    From the Beachwood Country All-Stars to Dylan's Grammy Museum, the finest bones of rock 'n' roll are rattlin' 'round Don's Root Cellar.

    -

    Comments welcome.

    Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:17 AM | Permalink

    MUSIC - Christgau Loves Chicago Neonatologist.
    TV - Amazon & The Way Of The World.
    POLITICS - Yes On Vouchers For After-School Programs.
    SPORTS - The Ex-Cub Factor.

    BOOKS - Writers Under Surveillance.

    PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Original Warrior.


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