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« April 2021 | Main | June 2021 »

May 31, 2021

Bunt Grunt

I've tried hard. I really have. And I'll continue to make attempts to be more inclusive and tolerant while keeping an open mind about new and different ways of looking at things. However, I can't disavow my genes. Rosters of major league ballclubs are changing constantly so that many of today's players are foreign to me. Just like when I was eight years old, when I see a new guy, I want to know what he's hitting. Not his average exit velocity, barrel rate, wins above replacement, or his spray chart but what's his batting average? Then, how many homers and RBIs? This is who I am. I also like a Polish with onions, fries and a PBR.

So I wasn't as agitated as some of the analytics' followers last Wednesday after the White Sox 4-0 loss to the Cardinals, the lone setback for the Sox in a 6-1 homestand at The Grate, leaving the local crew atop the AL Central Division with a 3½-game bulge over Cleveland.

Manager Tony La Russa's hijinks, namely the use of the sacrifice bunt, was the target of the numbers people on Wednesday. He employed this tactic three times without scoring a run. So far this season, La Russa's club has laid down 13 sacrifice bunts. Last season under Rick Renteria, the Sox registered just one sacrifice bunt in the abbreviated 60-game season, although during the 2019 campaign the number was 36.

For further comparison, the White Sox are not the only team using this old-school strategy. The Royals and Angels, have accounted for 11 and 10 sacrifices, respectively. In the National League where pitchers hit - or at least make plate appearances - the Rockies have sacrificed 17 times thus far this season, while the Cubs and Padres have had batters give themselves up 14 times.

According to FanGraphs, yielding any of the allotted 27 outs statistically is a foolish move. For the uninitiated, this intriguing website measures all matters having to do with probability and numbers. I used to worship the Sporting News for publishing every box score, both major and minor league, on a weekly basis. I envisioned a congregation of laborers hunched over typewriters, recording in agate type every professional game played in America.

This was child's play compared to what FanGraphs does. Surely they must have a humongous boiler room filled with live humans and thousands of machines measuring every pitch to each batter of every game on a daily basis. The truth is you probably (that's the key word in all of this) can eliminate people. Machines no doubt don't need much help.

FanGraphs' Win Expectancy (WE) "is the percent chance a particular team will win based on the score, inning, outs, runners on base, and the run environment. These percentages are calculated using historical data . . . " As each game begins, WE is 50 percent for both teams, meaning that each club has an equal chance to win.

However, the folks at FanGraphs acknowledge that factors such as home field, starting pitchers and lineups are relevant. So it's no surprise that they have other categories to compensate for these items.

Nevertheless, Win Expectancy plays a big part in Win Probability Added, a measure of each at-bat and how it impacts a team's chances for victory. This is where giving up any of 27 outs statistically has a negative effect on the final outcome.

If we reflect on last Wednesday's game, La Russa used the sacrifice bunt in the third, sixth, and seventh innings. Each came with no outs. In the first situation, Adam Eaton, who had four hits in his previous 33 at-bats, was ordered to bunt so that Danny Mendick and Nick Madrigal could advance with Yoan Moncada, José Abreu and Yermín Mercedes coming up. None of that trio was able to drive in a run.

In the sixth, catcher Zack Collins's sacrifice moved Andrew Vaughn to second base as the Sox were battling a 1-0 deficit. Collins had had one hit in his previous 15 at-bats, striking out seven times.

Finally, Billy Hamilton bunted in the bottom of the seventh with the score still 1-0. Madrigal moved to second, but Abreu and Mercedes wound up striking out to end the threat.

According to FanGraphs, the three sacrifices diminished the Sox chances for winning by a total of almost seven percent.

However, the inability of usually dependable middle-of-the-order hitters to drive home runs handicapped the Sox to the tune of a negative 54 percent in Win Probability Added. You be the judge.

Despite being shut out last Wednesday, La Russa's club had a glorious week. Taking two-of-three from St. Louis was the perfect tonic after being swept the previous weekend by the Yankees. The Cardinals came to town leading the NL Central.

Then came the Baltimore Orioles, losers of nine in a row. They limped out of Chicago with a 13-game skid as the Sox used exceptional starting pitching, three saves in two days by closer Liam Hendriks, and home runs on consecutive days by none other than Hamilton. Billy lined a John Means fastball into the left field seats in the fourth inning of Saturday's second game of a doubleheader to give the Sox a 1-0 edge in a game they eventually won 3-1. His third inning homer on Sunday knotted the score at one as the Sox again triumphed 3-1.

Hamilton's heroics, his defense, and his general likeability have created a situation in which a difficult decision is forthcoming. Centerfielder Adam Engel played in four games at Charlotte last week and appears healed from the hamstring injury he suffered during spring training. Engel is an elite defender whose offensive production has improved steadily over the past three seasons. He's had six hits in 16 at-bats at Charlotte while patrolling the outfield for the Knights.

So whose place would Engel take when he becomes the everyday centerfielder in the absence of Luis Robert? Hamilton would be one candidate, but after last weekend it's unlikely Billy is going anywhere. There's Jake Lamb, but he hit his third home run on Saturday in just 47 plate appearances. Lamb bats lefty, a desirable commodity for this team, and he and La Russa go back to their days with the Arizona Diamondbacks when Tony was in the front office and Lamb was making the All-Star team in 2017.

That leaves Danny Mendick, who seems like the ultimate survivor every time he gets recalled from Triple-A. An adequate defender in the infield, La Russa also has used Mendick in the outfield this season. Mendick has shown some pop with a couple of homers, and he always seems like a thorn in the side of Sox opponents whenever he gets a chance to play.

Of course, the Sox could say that Engel isn't 100 percent fit as yet, but that would be untrue, and we know how front offices embrace transparency and veracity.

In the meantime, four games are looming in Cleveland beginning with a doubleheader this afternoon. The Sox are just 12-11 on the road - compared to 20-9 at home - so the next few days will be a good test before coming home to face the Detroit Tigers, who just did something the White Sox couldn't do: They swept the Yankees for the first time in 21 years over the weekend.

This combination of an outstanding starting staff, an improving bullpen and, not withstanding last Wednesday, a generous sprinkle of clutch hitting, has catapulted the South Siders to their hottest streak of the season. On Friday they'll unveil their new City Connect uniforms that have created a loud buzz. And they'll continue to surrender outs via the sacrifice bunt.

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Former Bill Veeck bar buddy Roger Wallenstein is our White Sox correspondent. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:13 AM | Permalink

May 30, 2021

Chicago Drill Lyrics That Actually Happened

A guide to the deadly, stupid, heartbreaking beefs, if you will.


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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:27 AM | Permalink

May 28, 2021

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #358: How Can The Cubs Not Re-Sign El Mago Now?

And Bryant and Rizzo. Advancing the narrative. Plus: Tony La Russa's Diversions; Bulls-Adjacent; Blackhawks-Adjacent; The Sky, An Alderman And A Law School; and The World Of Chicago Soccer.

Beachwood Radio Network · The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #358: How Can The Cubs Not Re-Sign El Mago Now?

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SHOW NOTES

* 358. Mmm, 358 . . .

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1:51: Advancing The El Mago Narrative.

* How much is this worth?

* Rhodes: "Javy's magic doesn't slump."

* Russell Dorsey, you are our Media Patsy Of The Week.

* Tony Two Chains.

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35:00: RIP, Spazzy McGee.

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36:30: Tony La Russa's Diversions.

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46:39: Bulls-Adjacent.

* Johnson, NBC Sports: Toni Kukoc Opens Up On 'Overwhelming' Hall Of Fame Honor.

* Goodwill, Yahoo Sports: Knicks' Derrick Rose And Tom Thibodeau Have Remade Themselves On The Fly.

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52:46: Blackhawks-Adjacent.

* Melton, Second City Hockey: Blackhawks To Enter 2021 NHL Draft Lottery With 12th-Best Odds At No. 1 Pick.

* Minnesota Aims For Another Game 7 Miracle.

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59:46: The Sky, An Alderman And A Law School.

* AP: Parker Out Again, Sky Loses At Home.

* Constabile, Sun-Times: Sky Coach James Wade Confirms WNBA Investigating Use Of Racist Term.

* CBS News: WNBA Coach Suspended For Comment About Player's Weight

* CBS2 Chicago: Mayor Lori Lightfoot Doubles Down On Her Proposal To Honor Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable Without Renaming Lake Shore Drive.

* Plus:

* And:

Keep Name Of Racist On Law School Because We're Against Purity Tests.

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1:08:44: The World Of Chicago Soccer.

* Red Stars Defeat Kansas City 2-0.

* Tremendous Mistake By Rival Goalkeeper Gives Chicago Fire First MLS Victory.

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STOPPAGE: 10:25

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For archives and other Beachwood shows, see The Beachwood Radio Network.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:20 PM | Permalink

May 27, 2021

The Disordered Cosmos

Every community guards a creation story, a theory of cosmic origins. In much of sub-Saharan West Africa, for the past few thousand years, itinerant storytellers known as griots have communicated these and other tales through song.

Cosmologists also intone a theory of cosmic origins, known as the Big Bang, albeit through journal articles and math.

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein is a cosmologist who is adept with both equations and "the keeper of a deeply human impulse" to understand our universe.

In her first book, The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, & Dreams Deferred, Prescod-Weinstein also admits she is a griot, one who knows the music of the cosmos but sings of earthbound concerns. She is an award-winning physicist, feminist, and activist who is not only, as she says, the first Jewish "queer agender Black woman" to become a theoretical cosmologist, she is the first Black woman ever to earn a PhD in the subject.

Prescod-Weinstein is an assistant professor of physics and astronomy, and a core faculty member in the department of women's and gender studies at the University of New Hampshire. She thus enjoys a unique frame of reference from which to appraise science and her fellow scientists. She is an insider whom others nonetheless cast as an outsider, because of her identity, orientation, and the tint of her skin. From the outside, however, she admits a fuller view of her field. She perceives the "structures that were invisible to people, and reveals them.

The Disordered Cosmos is equal parts critical analysis, personal essay, and popular science. It is an introspective yet revelatory book about the culture of physics and the formative years of a scientific career.

Growing up during the 1990s in East Los Angeles, where at night the dominant lights flashed red and blue, Prescod-Weinstein owned a telescope but rarely saw the stars. She was a "born empiricist" who decided to become a physicist at the age of 10, after her single mother took her to see the documentary A Brief History of Time.

Her mother, the journalist and wage activist Margaret Prescod, continually nourished the young girl's passion. She took a teenage Prescod-Weinstein to Joshua Tree National Park, where they spent a night observing the Comet Hyakutake, unblinded by city lights.

After arriving at Harvard University to study physics, Prescod-Weinstein struggled academically, in part because of her own extracurricular advocacy for providing a living wage to campus workers. Yet a classmate tried to help her realize her childhood dream. He offered her a job at a new observatory atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii, where the view to the heavens was among the most limpid on Earth. There she could earn better than a living wage in the astronomers' efforts "to gather photons - particles of light - that will help them tell our cosmological story."

Prescod-Weinstein imagined dedicating herself to pure physics in this idyllic locale, with "beaches, amazing tans, and an opportunity to start over." But no physics is pure, no place such an idyll. Astronomers had started building their telescopes on Mauna Kea during the 1960s against the protests of native Hawaiians, for whom the summit is sacred. Her living wages, she realized, would have underwritten the erasure of another peoples' cosmology.

"I promised myself that I would make more room in my life for my dreams of being a physicist," she wrote. "But not like this."

She now supports the native Hawaiians who have vowed to protect their unceded lands against the impending construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope, which might yet become the world's largest.

Prescod-Weinstein not only narrates her struggle to become a cosmologist, she advocates for all peoples whom physicists have undervalued. She praises the assistants and janitors, mostly people of color, whose labor permits theorists to ponder the universe daily, because "part of science is emptying the garbage."

She elevates her elders, such as Elmer Imes and Ibn Sahl, whose contributions others have disregarded because these forebears were not of European descent.

The beauty of mathematics and the majesty of the stars attracted Prescod-Weinstein to cosmology. They sustain her. Yet, she writes: "Learning about the mathematics of the universe could never be an escape from the earthly phenomena of racism and sexism."

So, Prescod-Weinstein unveils the majesty that oppression obscures. In the opening quarter of her book, she hurries readers through a tour of physics, rushing past Bose-Einstein condensates, axions, and inflatons to arrive at her own research into dark matter. It's a brilliant sprint, and the prize for finishers is some of her finest writing about race and science.

Prescod-Weinstein includes a thunderous essay about scientists' historical neglect of the biophysics of melanin and the repercussions today. Later, there is a chapter that she did not want to write about an episode from her life that she did not want to share. She had no choice, she explained, because "Rape is part of science and a book that tells the truth about science would be a lie if I were to leave out this chapter." Her account is so fierce and switches registers so regularly, as if gliding between chorus and verse, that the writing becomes incantatory. She saps the event's power to define her, transmuting pain into affecting prose.

Prescod-Weinstein is attuned to the language of physicists, especially the biases it elides, as when her colleagues speak of "colored physics," more commonly known as quantum chromodynamics, which she describes as "a theory that uses color as an analogy for physical properties that have nothing to do with color." She is adept at then rephrasing physics to redress those biases. Systemic racism is compared to weak gravitational lensing, the subtle distortion of light owing to the curvature space and time around distant galaxies. Cyclical time is intuitive to a person who menstruates. The wave-particle duality reveals the queer, nonbinary nature of quantum mechanics. Dark matter is not actually dark: "It's transparent - more like a piece of glass than a chalkboard." Not only is the name antithetical to the science, some physicists have compared such invisible matter, crudely, to Black people.

"Studying the physical world requires confronting the social world," Prescod-Weinstein writes. "It means changing institutionalized science, so that our presence is natural and our cultures are respected." It also means confronting the privileged stories of science.

The demographics of physicists still reflect the iniquities of the past. And physics remains diminished because of its biases. Whenever we exclude whole peoples, we not only disallow their questions we disavow their knowledge. The field squanders other cultures' perceptions of time. And as Prescod-Weinstein notes, physicists may even misinterpret the wave-particle duality and confuse the rotating identities of neutrinos because they are too oriented toward binaries.

The Disordered Cosmos is not perfect. There are phrases that Prescod-Weinstein might have heated longer or squeezed harder until they crystalized. There are intervals when the pressure of having to cite so many ideas make matters too dense. But these are quibbles. Besides, the defects of an otherwise ideal crystal can render it more colorful and electric.

Prescod-Weinstein aspires to loftier matters. The book's frontispiece is a sketch of two women who remind her that "even in the worst conditions, Black women have looked up at the night sky and wondered." These women were slaves, who not only navigated the stars to freedom but also wondered at that black expanse. They are "as much my intellectual ancestors as Isaac Newton is."

Prescod-Weinstein's most vital work, in the end, is the emancipation of Black and brown children who still cannot see their futures in the stars. She distills this labor in a series of questions: "What are the conditions we need so that a 13-year-old Black kid and their single mom can go look at a dark night sky, away from artificial lights, and know what they are seeing? What health care structures, what food and housing security are needed?"

Prescod-Weinstein teaches that all humans are made of luminous matter. And she knows just how radiant people can be, despite the obstacles in their way. She understands, intimately, that "Black people hunger for a connection to scientific thought and will overcome the barriers placed in front of them in order to learn more."

Joshua Roebke is finishing a book on the social and cultural history of particle physics, titled The Invisible World. This post was originally published on Undark.

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See also:

The Institute for Quantum Studies at Chapman University presented an online discussion between Prescod-Weinstein and Matthew Leifer, Co-director of the Institute for Quantum Studies at Chapman, in March.

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Comments welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:21 AM | Permalink

Operation Protect Veterans

"Have you or a veteran you know been contacted about 'secret' government benefits for a fee? It's a scam! Help those who served us by learning more about this & other scams & spreading the word! Operation Protect Veterans can help."


*

Military Records Scam.

*

VA Loan Scam.

*

Pension Poaching Scam.

*

Fake Veterans Charities.

*

Military Appreciation Month.

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Previously:

* Vanishing Vending Machines.

* Item: Art Fraud Bust.

* Janene Gordon, Postal Inspector.

* Happy Birthday, U.S. Postal Inspection Service!

* U.S. Postal Inspection Service 2018 In Review.

* Mailbox Fishing.

* History Of The U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

* Work-At-Home Reshipping Scam.

* Brushing Scam.

* The Post Office Is Not Texting You.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:07 AM | Permalink

European Plan To Unify Corporate Tax Rules And Recoup Billions Faces Steep Hurdles

The European Commission proposed this week to revamp the bloc's tax system and introduce a single corporate taxation rulebook that would stop European governments from competing with each other to attract business investments by lowering tax rates.

The new proposal, the third the commission has put forward in the past 10 years, called for a unified way to tax corporations where they generate income rather than where they set up their headquarters - which is often in a low tax rate jurisdiction.

"Our tax rules should support an inclusive recovery, be transparent and close the door on tax avoidance," trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said in a statement.

Irene Tenagli, chair of the European Parliament's Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, welcomed the proposal as a way to support the recovery of the bloc's economy which has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We cannot properly support recovery with a system that allows hundreds of billions euros in potential tax revenues to be lost because of evasion and fraud," she said at a press event.

But some tax justice advocates and observers remain skeptical about the scope of the proposal and its chances of being approved by all member states, a key requirement.

"The big question for us is whether the European Commission is ready to take bold and ambitious action to stop large-scale corporate tax avoidance," said Tove Maria Ryding, tax policy and advocacy manager at the European Network on Debt and Development, a group of more than 50 civil society organizations.

Known as "Business in Europe: Framework for Income Taxation," or BEFIT, the proposal will be finalized by 2023. It also includes a plan to increase authorities' oversight of shell companies to stop tax avoidance and evasion.

Each year, Europe loses between $40 billion and $85 billion in corporate tax avoidance, according to estimates cited by the commission. And some of the jurisdictions that aggressively attract multinationals with sweetheart deals and very low tax rates are in the heart of Europe.

"The commission is in a tight spot due to the fact that EU decisions on tax require unanimity, and several of the EU member states, such as Luxembourg and Ireland, continue to behave as tax havens," Ryding said.

In the 2017 Paradise Papers investigation, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists reported how Apple was able to channel up to two-thirds of its global profits into subsidiary companies, registered in Ireland, that paid almost no tax.

Most recently, the news organization Investigate Europe found that, despite reporting high profits during the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon's 2020 balance sheet for its Luxembourg-based umbrella company, which covers its European business, showed a loss of more than $1 billion. This allowed the company to obtain tax benefits, the report said.

The 2014 ICIJ investigation Lux Leaks highlighted some of the strategies many corporations use to drastically cut their tax bills.

The commission's move follows an initiative by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development that, if approved, will set a minimum rate for multinational companies around the world.

Earlier this year, the U.S. proposed setting a global 21% minimum tax rate for corporations. The finance ministers of France, Germany and other EU countries said they back the plan. The U.K. doesn't, according to the Guardian.

The commission's proposed reform wouldn't touch individual countries' corporate tax rates. Companies' profits and losses from their European activity would be added up and the net profit would then be distributed to individual countries.

However, the commission's political role may make the tax reform efforts fraught and risk alienating some European member states, according to Rasmus Corlin Christensen, a researcher at the Copenhagen Business School and the author of a study about the EU's role in international tax policy

"By insisting on implementation via directive, the commission risks empowering EU tax havens in resisting, at the EU level, a global minimum tax agreement which they couldn't resist at the OECD/G20 level," Christensen said.

While acknowledging such challenges, commission officials told Politico that the proposed European tax agenda may have more chances to go forward if OECD countries agree on the global tax deal, which is expected by mid 2021.

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See also from ICIJ:

* Wealthy Countries That Set Global Tax Rules Are Biggest Enablers Of Corporate Tax Abuse, Report Finds.

* Multinationals Shifted $1 Trillion Offshore, Stripping Countries of Billions In Tax Revenues, Study Says.

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Previously in tax scammage:

* McDonald's Breaks Promise To Raise Wages.

* Last Year, Amazon Paid No Federal Income Taxes. Now, It's Trying To Kill A Local Tax That Aims To Help the Homeless.

* Trump Vowed To Punish Companies That Moved Jobs Overseas. Is Congress Rewarding Them?

* After Long Career Bailing Out Big Banks, Obama Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner Now Runs Predatory Firm That Exploits The Poor For Profit.

* Jeff Bezos Just Became The Richest Person Ever. Amazon Workers Just Marked #PrimeDay With Strikes Against Low Pay And Brutal Conditions.

* A Sweet New Century For America's Most Privileged.

* With Nation Transfixed By Kavanaugh Monstrosity, House GOP Votes To Give Rich Another $3 Trillion In Tax Cuts.

* Deepwater Horizon Settlement Comes With $5.35 Billion Tax Windfall.

* Offshoring By 29 Companies Costs Illinois $1.2 Billion Annually.

* Government Agencies Allow Corporations To Write Off Billions In Federal Settlements.

* The Gang Of 62 Vs. The World.

* How The Maker Of TurboTax Fought Free, Simple Tax Filing.

* $1.4 Trillion: Oxfam Exposes The Great Offshore Tax Scam Of U.S. Companies.

* How Barclay's Turned A $10 Billion Profit Into A Tax Loss.

* Wall Street Stock Loans Drain $1 Billion A Year From German Taxpayers.

* German Finance Minister Cries Foul Over Tax Avoidance Deals.

* Prosecutor Targets Commerzbank For Deals That Dodge German Taxes.

* A Schlupfloch Here, A Schlupfloch There. Now It's Real Money.

* How Milwaukee Landlords Avoid Taxes.

* Study: 32 Illinois Fortune 500 Companies Holding At Least $147 Billion Offshore.

* Watch Out For The Coming Tax Break Trickery.

* When A 'Tax Bonanza' Is Actually A Huge Corporate Tax Break.

* The Hypocrisy Of Corporate Welfare: It's Bigger Than Trump.

* Oxfam Names World's Worst Tax Havens Fueling 'Global Race To Bottom.'

* Offshore Tax Havens Cost Average Illinois Small Business $5,789 A Year.

* State Tax Incentives To Corporations Don't Work.

* GOP Tax Plan Would Give 15 Of America's Largest Corporations A $236 Billion Tax Cut.

* Triumph Of The Oligarchs.

* Amazon Short-List Proves Something "Deeply Wrong" With America's Race-To-The-Bottom Economy.

* Apple's $38 Billion Tax Payment Less Than Half Of $79 Billion They Owe.

* U.S. Surpasses Cayman Islands To Become Second-Largest Tax Haven On Earth.

* Less Than Year After GOP Tax Scam, Six Biggest Banks Already Raked In $9 Billion In Extra Profits.

* After Budget Cuts, The IRS's Work Against Tax Cheats Is Facing "Collapse."

* $6.5 Billion: A Low-Ball Estimate Of The Walton Family's Haul After 16 Years Of Bush, Obama And Trump Tax Giveaways.

* Illinois Could Recover $1.3 Billion Lost To Corporate Tax Loopholes.

* Whatever You Paid To Watch Netflix Last Month Was More Than It Paid In Income Taxes All Last Year: $0.

* Number Of U.S. Corporations Paying 'Not A Dime' In Federal Taxes Doubled In 2018.

* It's Getting Worse: The IRS Now Audits Poor Americans At About The Same Rate As The Top 1%.

* IRS: Sorry, But It's Just Easier And Cheaper To Audit The Poor.

* Corporate America's Tax Breaks Have Left Society More Vulnerable To Pandemic.

* Another Tax Loophole That's Making The Rich Even Richer.

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Previously in The Paradise Papers:

* 'Paradise Papers' Reveal Tax Avoidance, Shady Dealings Of World's Rich And Powerful.

* Just How Much Money Is Held Offshore? Hint: A SHIT-TON.

* Development Dreams Lost In The Offshore World.

* Keeping Offshore 'Hush Hush,' But Why?

* Tax Havens Are Alive With The Sound Of Music.

* Today In Tax Avoidance Of The Ultra-Wealthy.

* Go To Town With This Offshore Leaks Database.

* The Paradise Papers: The View From Africa And Asia.

* The Paradise Papers: The End Of Elusion For PokerStars.

* The Paradise Papers: An Odd Call From The Bermuda Government.

* The Paradise Papers: Nevis Is An Offshore Haven Of Opportunity

* The Paradise Papers: The Long Twilight Struggle Against Offshore Secrecy.

* The Paradise Papers: A Fair Tax System Will Be Lost Without Public Pressure.

* Item: Today In The Paradise Papers: Through Death Threats And Scare Tactics, Honduran Reporter 'Perseveres.'

* The Paradise Papers: Journalists Flee Venezuela To Publish Investigation.

* Last Stop: Chicago.

* The Paradise Papers: 'Africa's Satellite' Avoided Millions Using A Very African Tax Scheme.

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Previously in The Panama Papers:

* The Panama Papers: Remarkable Global Media Collaboration Cracks Walls Of Offshore Tax Haven Secrecy.

* The Panama Papers: Prosecutors Open Probes.

* The [Monday] Papers.

* Adventures In Tax Avoidance.

* Mossack Fonseca's Oligarchs, Dictators And Corrupt White-Collar Businessmen.

* Jonathan Pie, TV Reporter! They're All In It Together.

* Meet The Panama Papers Editor Who Handled 376 Reporters In 80 Countries.

* The Laundromat.

'A widow (Meryl Streep) investigates an insurance fraud, chasing leads to a pair of Panama City law partners (Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas) exploiting the world's financial system. Steven Soderbergh directs.'

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Previously in carried interest, aka The Billionaire's Loophole:

* Patriotic Millionaires Vs. Carried Interest.

* The Somewhat Surreal Politics Of A Private Equity Tax Loophole Costing Us Billions (That Obama Refused To Close Despite Pledging To Do So).

* Fact-Checking Trump & Clinton On The Billionaire's Tax Break.

* Despite Trump Campaign Promise, Billionaires' Tax Loophole Survives Again.

* Carried Interest Reform Is a Sham.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:12 AM | Permalink

No One Wants To Host The Olympics Anymore

The Summer Olympics, postponed in 2020 by a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, is scheduled to begin on July 23rd in Tokyo. The locals aren't exactly thrilled.

According to a recent poll, 83% of the Japanese public wants the Olympics canceled, and protests are frequent. Amid a coronavirus surge that's left the country short on hospital space and slow on carrying out vaccinations, an association representing thousands of Tokyo doctors wants the games called off. So do Japanese business leaders.

The International Olympic Committee, the nongovernmental authority that organizes the Winter and Summer Games, has acknowledged this erosion of support without changing course. "We listen but won't be guided by public opinion," spokesperson Mark Adams said.

Based on research my colleagues and I have done about the costs and benefits of hosting the Olympics and other multibillion-dollar sporting events, I find this statement ironic. The International Olympic Committee weighs public sentiment in cities when it decides where to hold the Games.

For example, in 2019 the committee ruled out Stockholm's bid to host the Winter Games in 2026, instead selecting Milan and the Alpine ski resort of Cortina d'Ampezzo because public support was stronger in Italy. Four other countries bowed out of the bidding process because of underwhelming domestic support to host the Olympics.

Losing Interest

Tokyo's predicament is only the latest and most extreme example of the way host cities tend to lose interest by the time these events happen. The risks that come with the prestige and attention generated when the Olympics, World Cup and other huge events are held no longer seem worth the trouble or the cost.

Initially, the 2020 Games commanded strong support. Tokyo got creative about engaging the public, such as by crowdsourcing the transformation of discarded consumer electronics into Olympic medals, seeking volunteers and collectively choosing Olympic mascots. After a tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the Games carried the promise and symbol of national recovery.

That sense of promise was short-lived.

Five years before the coronavirus pandemic began, Tokyo residents were losing interest in the Olympics. Critics bemoaned the bureaucracy, cost overruns and a lack of trained workers. When the original design for a new national stadium approached $2 billion, it was replaced with a revised plan that would cost half as much.

This pattern echoed what happened in Brazil, which hosted the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Years earlier, many Brazilians had been excited about the event. The reality was far different, with abandoned facilities, claims of corruption, and lost opportunities to remake Rio for all of its citizens.

Urban planning scholar Eva Kassens-Noor and I analyzed 21 million tweets to gauge public interest in the Rio games. We found that while the sporting events may have been popular, the International Olympic Committee generated far more negative than positive sentiments. The tenor of those tweets suggests that the public saw the IOC as self-serving and lacking an interest in helping the host city.

What's In It For Hosts

On May 25, 2021, the State Department issued an advisory warning that "U.S. citizens are strongly discouraged from traveling to Japan." It told Americans not to go there because of "a very high level of COVID-19 in the country." But the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee indicated that U.S. athletes would participate anyway.

Even if the Games do happen, they will be scaled back. International spectators are not coming, and the safety concerns already expressed by many athletes around the world before the ominous U.S. travel advisory could translate into lower numbers of competitors than expected.

A scaled-back Olympics would still generate plenty of broadcast revenue. The IOC earned $4.5 billion for the 2018 and 2020 Olympics, a powerful incentive to maintain the event. People around the world will still be able to watch the competition on television or on other devices, possibly with crowd noise added for effect. But that money largely flows to the International Olympic Committee, not to the place hosting the event.

The committee initially offered Tokyo $1.3 billion to cover some of what it's spending on the Olympics, although contract language allows it to pay a different amount at its discretion. By one estimate, losing out on in-person foreign spectators could cost Japan as much as $23 billion.

Local organizers have historically benefited most not from ticket sales but from what spectators spend on hotels, restaurants and their travels around the city and country. The decision to ban foreign spectators precipitates trip cancellations and refunds owed for 600,000 tickets.

A Brighter Future Is Possible

Even if Tokyo's Olympics turn out to be the debacle residents seem to fear, it won't necessarily damage the Olympics' credibility for other potential host cities.

Instead, the coming decade will determine whether the event will keep going in the future. Will the Paris Summer Games in 2024, the Milan-Cortina Winter Games in 2026 and the Los Angeles Summer Games in 2028 be success stories? These events promise to be less expensive, as they will make use of venues built for past events, use temporary facilities and integrate long-term local needs into their construction plans.

Each of these cities has hosted big sporting events before. The challenge is to do it again, only better.

Mark Wilson is a professor of urban and regional planning Michigan State. This post is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

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See also:
* City Monitor: Will Anyone Want To Host The Next OIympics?

* Deadspin: Nobody Wants To Host The Olympics Anymore.

* New York Times: Does Calgary Really Want the Winter Olympics? Does Anyone?

* Yahoo Sports: Rio's Example: Why No City Should Bid To Host The Olympics.

* Five Thirty Eight: Hosting The Olympics Is A Terrible Investment.

And more on this topic from The Conversation.

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Comments welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:50 AM | Permalink

Local TV's Sponsored Content Ruse

"John Oliver tricked local news shows into promoting a bogus 'sexual wellness blanket,'" Slate notes. "The trick was, he paid them."

Watch:


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See also: Station Groups Reviewing Vetting Processes For Sponsored Content After John Oliver's Last Week Tonight Segment.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:09 AM | Permalink

May 25, 2021

Researchers: Water-Like Plasma Was The Only Matter In The Universe In The First Microsecond Of The Big Bang

About 14 billion years ago, our universe changed from being a lot hotter and denser to expanding radically - a process that scientists have named "The Big Bang."

And even though we know that this fast expansion created particles, atoms, stars, galaxies and life as we know it today, the details of how it all happened are still unknown.

Now a new study performed by researchers from University of Copenhagen reveals insights on how it all began.

"We have studied a substance called Quark-Gluon Plasma, that was the only matter which existed during the first microsecond of Big Bang. Our results tell us a unique story of how the plasma evolved in the early stage of the universe," says You Zhou, an associate professor at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen.

"First the plasma that consisted of quarks and gluons was separated by the hot expansion of the universe," Zhou says. "Then the pieces of quark reformed into so-called hadrons. A hadron with three quarks makes a proton, which is part of atomic cores. These cores are the building blocks that constitutes earth, ourselves and the universe that surrounds us."

illustration_af_universets_udvikling_NASA_CXC_M_WEISS.jpeg(ENLARGE) The universe consisted of a soup of Quark-Gluon plasma in the first microsecond (see left side). After that, protons and neutrons were formed and later atoms, stars and galaxies (see the right side). Illustration: NASA/CXC/ M. WEISS

The First Matter In History

The Quark-Gluon Plasma (QGP) was present in the first 0.000001 second of Big Bang and thereafter it disappeared because of the expansion. But by using the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, researchers were able to recreate this first matter in history and trace back what happened to it.

"The collider smashes together ions from the plasma with great velocity - almost like the speed of light. This makes us able to see how the QGP evolved from being its own matter to the cores in atoms and the building blocks of life," says Zhou.

"In addition to using the Large Hadron Collider, the researches also developed an algorithm that is able to analyze the collective expansion of more produced particles at once than ever possible before. Their results show that the QGP used to be a fluent liquid form and that it distinguishes itself from other matters by constantly changing its shape over time.

"For a long time researchers thought that the plasma was a form of gas, but our analysis confirm the latest milestone measurement, where the Hadron Collider showed that QGP was fluent and had a smooth soft texture like water. The new details we provide is that the plasma has changed its shape over time, which is quite surprising and different from any other matter we know and what we would have expected," says Zhou.

One Step Closer To The Truth About The Big Bang

Even though this might seem like a small detail, it brings us one step closer to solving the puzzle of the Big Bang and how the universe developed in the first microsecond.

"Every discovery is a brick that improves our chances of finding out the truth about Big Bang. It has taken us about 20 years to find out that the Quark-Gluon Plasma was fluent before it changed into hadrons and the building blocks of life. Therefore our new knowledge on the ever changing behavior of the plasma, is a major breakthrough for us," Zhou says.

The study has just been published in the journal Physics Letters B, authored by Zhou and PhD fellow Zuzana Moravcova.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:05 PM | Permalink

Another Tax Loophole That's Making The Rich Even Richer

How do we prevent America from becoming an aristocracy, while also funding the programs that Americans desperately need?

One way is to get rid of a tax loophole you've probably never heard of. It's known as the "stepped-up basis" rule.

Here's how the stepped-up-basis loophole now works. Take a man named Jeff. At his death, Jeff owns $30 million worth of stocks he originally bought for a total of $10 million. Under existing law, neither Jeff nor his heirs would owe federal tax on the $20 million of gains because they're automatically "stepped up" to their value when he dies - $30 million.

Close this stepped-up basis loophole and we help finance the programs the vast majority of Americans desperately need and deserve.

Under President Joe Biden's proposal, Jeff's $20 million of gains would be taxed. And don't worry, Biden's proposal doesn't touch tax-favored retirement accounts, such as 401-Ks, and it only applies to the very richest Americans.

As it is now, the stepped-up basis loophole enables the super-rich, like Jeff, to avoid paying more than $40 billion in taxes each year. It has allowed them to skip taxes on the increased values of mansions and artworks as well as shares of stock.

In fact, it's one of the chief means by which dynastic wealth has grown and been passed from generation to generation, enabling subsequent generations to live off that growing wealth and never pay a dime of taxes on it.

Unless the stepped-up basis loophole is closed, we will soon have an even larger class of hugely rich people who have never worked a day in their lives.

Over the next decades, rich Baby Boomers will pass on an estimated $58 trillion of wealth to their Millennial children - the largest intergenerational transfer of wealth in history.

Closing this giant tax loophole for the super-rich is how Biden intends to fund part of his American Families Plan, which would provide every child with 2 years of preschool and every student with 2 years of free community college, as well as provide paid family and medical leave to every worker.

Close this stepped-up basis loophole, and we help finance the programs the vast majority of Americans desperately need and deserve. We also end the explosion of dynastic wealth. It should be a no-brainer.

This post is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

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Previously by Robert Reich:

* Don't Just Impeach Trump: Annul His Presidency.

* The Sham Of Corporate Social Responsibility.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:55 AM | Permalink

How Is This Legal?

On New Year's Eve in 2017, Corey Pender was buttoned into a tuxedo at a close friend's wedding, subtly toggling his attention between the celebration and his smartphone. His beloved Buffalo Bills had a chance to do something they hadn't done in 17 bedraggled, mismanaged years: clinch a playoff berth.

The situation was promising, but a few things still had to break right. The Bills needed a victory against the Miami Dolphins. They also needed the Cincinnati Bengals to beat a gritty and determined Baltimore Ravens team that was one win away from securing its own playoff spot.

Buffalo prevailed, to Pender's delight. Meanwhile, as the minutes ticked down in Baltimore, the Bengals hung in. With 53 seconds left on the clock, they scored a game-winning touchdown on a hectic fourth-and-12 bullet pass. Improbably, miraculously, the Bills were headed to the playoffs. Their next opponent: the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Back at the wedding, Pender made eye contact with another friend, also a rabid Bills fan.

"Are we going to Jacksonville?" he mouthed silently as the father of the bride took the mic. The friend nodded. "Yeah, let's go."

Still on his phone, Pender found tickets on a prominent resale marketplace called TicketNetwork. He bought two, at a cost of $150 each. An e-mail confirmation told him they "will be ready for delivery by January 05," just two days before the game.

This phrasing didn't bother Pender when the money left his bank account. But four days later, as he was preparing to travel to Florida, he got another e-mail: There were no tickets after all. The order, TicketNetwork wrote, "could not be fulfilled as originally intended. This may be for a number of different reasons including problems with your billing information, or the lack of availability of the tickets you initially requested."

Pender got a refund, but it provided little solace. He already had paid close to $700 for airfare and a hotel. Now he and his friend were ticketless.

"I didn't want the money; I wanted the tickets," he said. "I felt totally cheated."

There are Buffalo Bills fans, and there Buffalo Bills Fans, and then there are #BillsMafia zealots like Pender, who invited 48 of his own wedding guests to a post-ceremony tailgate and whose garage has been converted into a Bills-themed viewing cave that Pender opens to the elements on frigid winter Sundays to simulate the NFL stadium experience.

Screen Shot 2021-05-03 at 10.09.20 PM.pngCorey Pender in his fan cave/Da'Shaunae Marisa

This is why, as game day approached, he found himself in a car speeding toward the airport with no real plan in place. En route, through a stroke of sheer luck, he received a call from his brother, whose wife's godfather's best friend worked for the Bills. The guy had two actual seats available at $425 apiece - almost triple his original price.

Pender instructed his brother to purchase them on the spot. "At that point, I had nothing to get into the game," he recalled. "I'm like, just buy them. Say yes. Send him the money."

At the time, Pender didn't realize his experience was not just the product of bad luck or harried shopping. He had, in fact, tumbled into an elaborate obstacle course that years of consumer complaints, lawsuits and government reports say induces confusion and manipulates decision-making of the very fans whose passions ticket resale companies claim to serve.

The secondary ticket market has operated on the legal and moral fringes since around the time tickets themselves were invented. Near the dawn of the Enlightenment era, members of England's upper class would send servants to hold their seats for hours before plays began. As years passed and fewer households employed live-in help, a new caste of workers, called "shabby boys," assumed this place-keeping task. These gig laborers were often paid in alcohol or drugs, and fistfights among them were common.

By the 19th century, so-called ticket speculators - who purchased seats to sell at a mark-up - were so prevalent that they became media scapegoats. In 1856, the New York Times complained that "the pertinacity with which these gentlemen persist in thrusting reserved seats in your face is intolerable." Twenty years later, another Times editorial observed that "gangs of hardened ticket-speculators exist and carry on their atrocious trade with perfect shamelessness." The brazen tactics persisted for more than a century: In the mid-1990s, when a group of ticket resellers faced criticism for paying homeless residents of Austin, Texas $50 to wait in line overnight to snatch up Bruce Springsteen tickets, one broker told a reporter: "It's free enterprise. That's what America is based on."

Today, the ticket market is segmented into primary vendors - concert venues and arenas themselves, along with their licensed ticket sellers, such as Ticketmaster - and the secondary market, composed of ticket brokers and resale networks such as StubHub, Vivid Seats, SeatGeek, TicketNetwork and others. Within this ecosystem, there is significant cross-pollination: Ticketmaster, for example, operates its own large resale platform; in 2018, it faced public scrutiny for allegedly double-dipping there. And in 2016, StubHub announced a partnership with the Philadelphia 76ers that combined primary and secondary inventory in one place.

In 1999, then-New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer released a landmark investigation into the secondary market titled, "Why Can't I Get Tickets?" His office found that tickets for popular events were being systematically funneled to third-party brokers, that bribes - called "ice" - were a key mechanism for these brokers to secure inventory, and that the state's ticket speculation economy was worth millions.

"Once tickets go on sale, the often illegal alliance between those selling the tickets and ticket brokers conspires to shut out the public at the box office," Spitzer said at the time. "The public is then left with two choices: either pay exorbitant prices for seats, or if they choose not to do that, then not see the event at all."

Today, that dynamic has been supercharged online, with a multimillion-dollar industry ballooning to a market worth roughly $15 billion. Ticket resale is no longer driven by fast-talkers peddling their wares outside U.S. arenas. Now it's effectively dominated by software companies. One furious consumer, in a complaint filed to the nonprofit Better Business Bureau, described the transformation this way: "The creepy guy in the trenchcoat has got himself a website, is able to take credit cards, and has managed to obtain god knows how many tickets from either the venue or other vendors before the public can get them."

Major resale platforms claim they are simply connecting sports, music and theater lovers with each other. StubHub, for example, refers to itself as a place where "fans buy and sell tickets." Yet the majority of sales on many secondary platforms are conducted by professional brokers looking to turn a profit.

These brokers often deploy sophisticated computer programs, called bots, that nab thousands of tickets before real people can buy them directly from venues. Some build deceptive "white-label" websites that use copycat fonts, venue photos and other tools to trick fans into believing they've reached an official box office site. Others sell so-called speculative tickets, which the brokers do not actually yet possess. Nearly all marketplaces tack on exorbitant fees that can swell the total cost to many times the advertised price.

Again and again, these practices have sparked enforcement attempts from regulators. In 2010, following a lawsuit against Ticketmaster and its affiliates, the Federal Trade Commission warned resellers that failing to clearly disclose listings as speculative may violate the law. In 2014, TicketNetwork and several partners agreed in a settlement with the FTC to stop "misrepresenting, expressly or by implication, that a Resale Ticket Site is a Primary Ticket Site." And in 2016, Congress sought to ban the use of ticket-snagging bots through the Better Online Ticket Sales Act - or BOTS Act.

Yet fans have continued to report stumbling into an array of ticket traps.

Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting filed public records requests for 10 years' worth of complaints to every state attorney general's office in the country and to the FTC. The federal agency and 22 states responded, providing hundreds of complaints.

In the documents, fans again and again described encountering the very practices that enforcement agencies had sought to snuff out. They watched tickets sell out in seconds, only to appear immediately thereafter - at higher prices - on resale sites. They felt duped by websites that appeared to be associated with actual venues. Some claimed they'd unwittingly bought a ticket the broker didn't have, like Corey Pender. Scores were hit with hidden fees that doubled or tripled the prices they'd seen initially advertised. So many asked variations of the same question: "How is this legal?"

"If we see the same kinds of violations from the same kinds of companies again and again, that tells me that what we have done so far isn't working," said Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, acting FTC chair. "I don't think that many concertgoers today feel that it is working well. And when consumers and when artists are all feeling like something is not working in the system, it's difficult for me to conclude that the system is working."

In an interview, Don Vaccaro, CEO of TicketNetwork, the platform where Pender bought a ticket that never materialized, said, "I don't think we've had a complaint in the longest time from anyone." And he pointed out that the primary market has its own share of problems.

Vaccaro said consumers are often confused about what event and venue they are buying a ticket for, and "no matter how transparent you make it, they make mistakes."

Screen Shot 2021-05-25 at 6.10.46 PM.pngDon Vaccaro in his Connecticut office in 2009/Librado Romero, The New York Times, Redux

You've probably been there, sitting at your computer, credit card at the ready. You refresh your browser as the seconds tick down to a team or artist's official sale time. Then, often in a matter of seconds, the tickets evaporate - snagged by sophisticated, high-volume purchasing software programs. These bots hurtle across websites at lightning speed, tricking CAPTCHA tools and scooping up huge bundles of inventory. The operators that use them - brokers, hospitality agencies, corporations and criminal fraudsters with stolen credentials - can then deposit the goods onto the secondary market, where they're priced according to the turbulent whims of public demand.

Bot operators began their full-scale assault on the industry more than a decade ago. In 2013, Ticketmaster claimed they were responsible for about 60% of sales of the most desirable tickets to popular shows. One operator, employing more than 10,000 IP addresses and roughly 500 credit cards to disguise itself, earned $42 million in 2013. Ahead of a July 2015 U2 concert in New York, a single bot purchased 1,012 tickets from vendors in one minute.

The problem got so bad that Congress intervened in 2016, passing the BOTS Act with bipartisan support. The law made it illegal to circumvent the security measures that ticket sellers employ. It also forbade the resale of tickets purchased with bots in a variety of circumstances.

Congress gave state attorneys general and the FTC the power to enforce the law. But for years, no one did. Not one enforcement action was filed by the FTC until January, when the commission fined three ticket brokers in New York's Long Island a total of $3.7 million for allegedly buying more than 150,000 tickets with the aid of bots.

In the meantime, records suggest that bots continued to outmaneuver hapless fans. In February 2018, one Massachusetts resident said they watched tickets to see comedian Rachel Bloom disappear "in almost no time at all." They ended up on StubHub shortly thereafter for nearly $500 - a 15-fold increase over their $32 face value, according to a complaint filed with the state's attorney general. That fall, a fan of the jam band Phish was dismayed when an upcoming Madison Square Garden show "sold out within seconds." Those tickets then appeared on StubHub at triple their face value.

Brad Glasser, StubHub's director of global communications, said the company's user agreement requires sellers to abide by all applicable laws, including those that forbid the use of bots. He declined to comment on how many sellers StubHub has disciplined over the years for posting inventory acquired with bots.

Michael O'Neil, senior director of public policy and community engagement for Chicago-based Vivid Seats, confirmed that the company has no way of determining which tickets available on its platform were purchased with bots. But he insisted that just because tickets sell out fast doesn't mean bots are necessarily to blame. Venues, he argued, often save inventory for media, high-profile guests or friends of an artist - a practice that "creates an illusion of scarcity and manufactures artificially higher prices."

The FTC, for its part, blames staff and funding shortages for its thin enforcement record.

"There are a lot of violations out there to investigate and pursue, and our resources don't even come close to allowing us to do that," said Slaughter, the acting chair. The FTC, she added, had 50% more full-time staff under the Reagan administration than it has today. "We are not necessarily well-armed with the kind of deterrent tools that would allow us to scare bad actors out of the marketplace."

The sheer scale of bot use is staggering. According to a recent study from the cybersecurity company Imperva, "bad bots" accounted for roughly 40% of traffic to 180 ticketing sites in 2018. "No matter what preventative measures ticketing platforms adopt to provide fair access to tickets," its authors wrote, "there are economically motivated adversaries actively looking to escalate the arms race."

Ticketmaster says it continues to get overrun by bots. The number of them the company has blocked from its site has tripled since 2016, Amy Howe, then Ticketmaster's COO, said in congressional testimony last February. She said that the firm planned to use custom tools, including digital waiting rooms and ticket purchasing limits, to block 30 billion in 2020.

"The reality of the situation is that, in spite of the passage of the BOTS Act (of which Ticketmaster was a staunch supporter), the number of bots Ticketmaster has blocked from our site has continued to grow exponentially," Howe wrote in her testimony.

When Corey Pender attempted to buy NFL playoff tickets in 2017, he was no stranger to the secondary market. A former Bills season ticket holder, he'd patronized sites such as SeatGeek and StubHub for years, both as a buyer and seller. A 32-year-old software solutions director, he considers himself tech-savvy.

Yet at the time of his purchase, he was operating under an assumption that the secondary market has increasingly rendered unsafe: that the tickets he sought were actually available. In fact, for more than a decade, secondary resale markets have cranked up their own profit margins by allowing the sale of tickets that sellers don't yet possess - sparking reams of consumer complaints, as well as warnings from regulatory agencies.

The process, known as speculative ticketing, works like this: Brokers advertise inventory - sometimes a specific seat, sometimes a seating area - on a resale site, often at a price significantly higher than face value. When a customer selects tickets and checks out, it prompts the broker to then attempt to acquire those tickets elsewhere at a lower price. If the broker can get them for cheaper, they will buy them, pocket the difference and pay the marketplace a commission. If they can't, the broker will either have to make good on the initial offer and take a loss or renege on the sale.

Eric Budish, an economics professor at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business, describes the practice as a distortion, not a natural consequence, of a competitive market.

"It's just a bad behavior," he said. "It shouldn't be allowed."

The FTC's 2010 warning letter made it clear that a failure by ticket resale companies to disclose when brokers don't have tickets they're advertising as "in-hand" may be a violation of federal law. Yet in the decade that followed, speculative selling persisted across the secondary market, and fans continued to feel deceived.

A lawsuit against TicketNetwork, filed by then-New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood in 2018, detailed the scope of speculative selling on its platform. Between Jan. 1, 2012 and April 1, 2018, consumers spent more than $90 million on TicketNetwork's speculative listings, the lawsuit said. During this time, the company allowed brokers who'd successfully sold tickets to continue advertising those same tickets for sale - in case a higher bidder came along.

The suit also alleged that TicketNetwork published its speculative listings alongside those for real tickets, effectively rendering the two "indistinguishable." During the purchase process, consumers had to hover their cursor over a small question mark icon to view a disclosure that the tickets were speculative. Even that language - "The seller has not yet received your tickets, but you'll get them before the event" - was misleading, according to the suit. The disclosure "conveys to consumers that the ticket seller has secured the advertised tickets but does not yet possess them," the lawsuit said.

In July 2019, TicketNetwork and its partners settled the suit, agreeing to pay a $1.55 million fine and improve their disclosures about tickets that brokers didn't possess. The company admitted no liability.

Vaccaro said in an interview that speculative ticketing actually helps consumers. "It's a great thing," he said. "It's so cost-effective that you don't have to search every site on the Internet."

Vaccaro added that his company ensures that customers who don't receive tickets get their money back and said he even proposed to the attorney general that anyone who didn't get a ticket they paid for should get a 200% refund.

Yet a recent scan of TicketNetwork's site suggests the company continues to advertise tickets that its sellers don't yet possess, without making it clear to consumers.

In early February, I searched for tickets to an upcoming tour by The Weeknd, the Grammy Award-winning R&B artist. Ticketmaster, the official seller for the United Center in Chicago, had announced that listings for a Jan. 24, 2022 show wouldn't go on sale until four days later: Feb. 8.

But on TicketNetwork's site, hundreds of seats were already available on a color-coded seating map. When I selected a ticket and began the checkout process, I saw an advertised price of $439 and a digital timer ticking down from four minutes. "HURRY!" it said, in bright red lettering. Further along in the transaction, the site's payment step included another "HURRY!" timer, this one set for 10 minutes, as well as a disclosure revealing that tickets would be delivered by Jan. 23, 2022 - nearly a year from the date I was checking out. Next to this language was a question mark. Hovering my cursor over it, I could view a smaller disclosure that read, "The seller has not yet received your tickets, but you'll get them before the event."

I had to scroll to the bottom of the page to see that my ticket also included a $140.65 service fee - a 32% markup over the advertised total.

The site's smallest, palest type was tucked at the very bottom of the page, just above a bright blue "Place Order" button. Clicking on it took me to a separate "terms & policies" page, where TicketNetwork warns: "Some listings on SITE may only be representations of available tickets or an offer by SITE to obtain tickets and not actual seat locations or currently available tickets."

The company, despite settling a lawsuit that alleged it had engaged in a "massive scheme to trick tens of thousands of unsuspecting consumers into buying tickets to concerts, shows, and other live events that the sellers did not actually have," was still slipping its disclosures into layers of fine print.

TicketNetwork has also landed in hot water for other consumer practices. The FTC sued the reseller and two of its partners in 2014 for knowingly profiting from "deceptive venue-mimicking tactics." The partners named in the suit had employed audacious methods to fool consumers into believing they'd arrived at an official venue box office, according to the complaint. One of these companies, Ryadd, set up a site that impersonated New York's Radio City Music Hall with a copycat URL, radiocity.musichall-ny.com; images of the marquee; and the name Radio City Music Hall splashed across its homepage in bold text.

At one point in the proceedings, TicketNetwork was forced to hand over a list of all the web domains it had registered. A 74-page spreadsheet the company produced included more than 4,000 of them: chittychittybangbangonbroadway.com, jerryseinfeldtickets.com, foofighterstickets.info, chicagowhitesoxtickets.org and more.

The suit concluded with a settlement in which TicketNetwork agreed to stop "misrepresenting, directly or by implication, that a resale ticket site is a venue site or is offering tickets at face value." Today, the company maintains it has abided by the consent decree's terms. But complaints to regulators tell another story.

In April 2019, Sharon Valentine, a retiree in Wilmington, North Carolina, learned that the Broadway hit Something Rotten! was coming to the nearby Wilson Center. Her search for tickets led her to boxoffice-tickets.com. Once there, she selected two $150 seats and began the checkout process. The prices seemed a bit steep, but Something Rotten! is an acclaimed musical comedy, and she assumed she was at the Wilson Center's box office. Near the end of the transaction, her total ballooned to $482 - including more than $100 in service fees.

Immediately doubting her purchase, she started poking around. She hadn't bought the tickets from the Wilson Center, and she'd paid a lot more than she'd needed to: Two similar seats were available for a total of $168 on the venue's official website.

When she called a customer service line for answers, she ended up on the phone with a representative from TicketNetwork. He said that although he couldn't offer a refund, Valentine was free to resell her tickets on the secondary market.

"I thought, 'Whoa, this is really a scam,'" Valentine said. "This has got to affect other people, too. I can't be the first one."

Resigned, Valentine asked to be e-mailed her tickets immediately. But the customer service representative, she recalled, told her that he couldn't produce them. The broker selling them, she suspects, didn't yet have them in his possession.

Valentine filed a complaint with North Carolina's attorney general. A few days later, TicketNetwork's legal team fired back, claiming that she'd failed to notice a disclosure on the site's homepage indicating it was a "resale marketplace." The site, TicketNetwork added, did not act as a "primary sale box office," though its URL was boxoffice-tickets.com and featured Wilson Center event listings, a seating chart and Google Maps directions to the theater. Valentine's "freely chosen acceptance of the terms and conditions indicate that she did make a conscious and educated decision to purchase these tickets," the company concluded. "No refund is due from the seller."

The attorney general's office forwarded the company's response to Valentine, assuring her that it would remain "a part of our files" and that complaints like hers "will also help us monitor questionable business practices and set enforcement and legislative priorities."

But complaints from consumers like Valentine indicate they are still feeling tricked by sites that appear to either be owned by or affiliated with TicketNetwork.

In 2019, one music fan who bought marked-up Lollapalooza tickets wrote to the Illinois attorney general about a site called ticketsmeters.com, whose layout and logo closely resemble Ticketmaster's. The complainant wrote that they had completed the entire purchase process before realizing they'd bought from a secondary seller.

The fan described calling a customer service number to complain. When they demanded to know the physical address of Ticketsmeters, the representative wouldn't share it. Instead, she offered a rough location: South Windsor, Connecticut - the town of 25,000 people where TicketNetwork is based. TicketNetwork refused Reveal's requests to describe its affiliation with this site.

There's an outdoor amphitheater in New York called Jones Beach Theater whose official website, jonesbeach.com, features a cartoon seahorse on the homepage's top left corner. Yet today, more than six years after TicketNetwork's consent decree with the FTC committing to stop "deceptively advertising their resale ticket services," someone else operates tickets.jonesbeach.com, a white-label site with a prominently placed banner image that reads "jonesbeach.com," the venue's exact URL. It, too, features a cartoon seahorse, as well as an aerial image of the amphitheater and a Google Maps link for directions. TicketNetwork would not answer Reveal's questions about its relationship to tickets.jonesbeach.com either. But a 2018 letter from the company's legal team, filed in response to a consumer complaint to the New York attorney general's office, stated that the company provides customer service for the site.

Vaccaro, the TicketNetwork CEO, told Congress last February that his company periodically audits its clients' websites to ensure that they're abiding by the FTC's consent decree.

Companies like his, he added in an interview, drive down prices because they provide ticket buyers more options. "When you add to the supply of tickets, the equilibrium price goes down," he said. "It's true in every marketplace."

Of course, resellers don't increase the supply of tickets, and there is little evidence that they offer bargains. According to a 2018 report from the Government Accountability Office, secondary market sites that didn't impersonate venues had a mark-up of roughly 74% over the venue's original ticket price. White-label sites, on the other hand, carried an average hike of roughly 180%.

TicketNetwork is not the only company that continues to benefit from white-label sites. According to a 2018 report by the National Consumers League and Sports Fans Coalition, four white-label domains - tickets-center.com, box-officetickets.com, ticketoffices.com and onlinecitytickets.com - accounted for roughly two-thirds of Vivid Seats' web traffic. The researchers concluded the use of white labels amounted to "widespread fraud being committed on American sports fans."

Last-second fees are perhaps the most common frustration for consumers who seek to buy tickets online. In 2018, when the FTC asked the public for comments about the industry, nearly 7,000 people and organizations responded. High on their list of concerns were "unreasonable and hidden fees!"

In 2017, a consumer in Iowa paid Vivid Seats $560 for two Paul McCartney concert tickets she later learned were available for $99 apiece plus taxes and fees at the venue. "Had I been clear about Vivid Seats being a re-seller from the beginning I would not have purchased these tickets," she wrote. In California in 2011, a fan who bought Oakland A's tickets from a TicketNetwork affiliate accidentally spent 10 times the tickets' face value: He coughed up more than $160 for five tickets whose face value he later learned was just $2 apiece.

Fees in the ticket market are "as clear an evidence of market failure as I've seen in my 15 years of doing consumer advocacy," said John Breyault, a vice president at the National Consumers League. "Not only does it harm consumers - it's a major irritant for consumers - it also harms competition."

In 2014, the prominent reseller StubHub piloted a solution to hidden mark-ups called all-in pricing. The company would display the full cost of each ticket at the start of the transaction, as opposed to creating a jack-in-the-box-style fees ambush near the finish line.

Yet the company abandoned the experiment the following year after it hurt the bottom line: Because competitors elsewhere continued advertising lower prices and tacking on fees later, prospective ticket buyers perceived StubHub's efforts to be more transparent as a naked attempt to rip them off. They steered clear.

This problem is not intractable. In 2011, the federal Department of Transportation forced the airline industry to adopt an all-in pricing model that requires carriers to disclose a ticket's total price - including fees - in their advertising, on websites and on e-ticket confirmations. Legislation introduced by Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., in 2019 would require the same for ticketing.

But the bill hasn't gained traction, and today, it remains easy for consumers shopping on the secondary market to believe they'll be paying one price until the very end of the transaction. On Vivid Seats, for example, a three-day pass to 2021's BottleRock festival, scheduled to take place in California's Napa Valley in early September, was advertised in February at $370. It's not until the final checkout step that the true total - $498.82, including a $113.87 service total - is unveiled.

"The way these systems are set up, you make a decision about what ticket you want to buy based on the initial information, and it's a few steps down before you realize how much the ticket actually costs," said Anna Laitin, director of financial fairness and legislative strategy at Consumer Reports. "This is a marketplace where it's very easy to confuse consumers and give them bad information."

In February 2020, leaders in the secondary ticket market were called before Congress to explain their fees. Ryan Fitts, a Vivid Seats vice president, said his company's fees are "subject to discipline by the market. If there's a lower price, we have to match it."

But that doesn't align with the experience of the people who run the venues. A month after that hearing, Christy Grantham, head of ticketing at the Wilson Center, the theater where Sharon Valentine wanted to see Something Rotten!, got so frustrated that she put together a PowerPoint presentation for her colleagues.

Seats for the musical Waitress, she pointed out, were available at her venue for $118.64. But on eventticketscenter.com, they were $643. Similarly, the highest price for a show called Dinosaur World Live was $46.96 at the Wilson Center. But on boxofficeticketsales.com, they topped out at $376.

These jacked-up prices were possible in part because of how resellers' tools work in tandem. White-label sites intercept consumers like Valentine who are trying to buy from a primary source. The ticket buyers assume the high prices they're seeing are official because they think they've arrived at the venue's box office. Then brokers fulfill their speculative sales by buying directly from venues like Grantham's at cost - often not until a consumer has already purchased the tickets at a premium. Grantham said she knows this personally because she's observed brokers on StubHub advertising Wilson Center tickets she still had in her inventory: On Grantham's own seating chart, the price to one event was $49.43; StubHub's, meanwhile, was $88.

"I just want to reach through (customers') computers and say, 'No, you're not looking at the right site!'" Grantham said. "We have priced this for you and your family!"

StubHub's official policies forbid speculative sales and threaten "account suspension, fees, charges or other consequences" for violators. Yet in spite of this, the company has admitted that "it is reasonable to assume that speculative tickets are sometimes sold through the StubHub site."

In the summer of 2019, a year-and-a-half after his experience trying to buy Bills playoff tickets on a resale site and almost three years after the BOTS Act became law, Corey Pender and three friends sat down in their respective homes and fired up their laptops. Tickets for the Ryder Cup, an international men's golf competition, were slated to go on sale in minutes. Pender and his buddies, all avid golfers, were eager to attend.

Twenty-five years ago, they might have lined up in the sweltering heat or skipped work to camp out for days in front of a venue's box office. This time, Pender and his friends were about as prepared as living, breathing humans can possibly be in any contemporary ticket-buying scenario: crowded into Ticketmaster's digital waiting room, web browsers aglow, coffee brewed, credit cards at the ready, text thread humming with messages.

"You ready? You ready?"

It was no use. Almost instantaneously, all the Ryder Cup's official inventory was gone. Sold out. A twist of shock, then frustration, washed over the prospective buyers.

"We're all sitting there, 'Did anyone get tickets?'" Pender recalled. "No, none of us got tickets. I had other friends that were doing it with a group. My brothers were trying to do it. Nobody I knew got tickets."

They still had options, of course. Minutes after the event sold out, plenty of inventory suddenly became available, priced well above face value, on a variety of secondary market sites.

This story was edited by Andrew Donohue and Esther Kaplan and copy edited by Nikki Frick.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:47 AM | Permalink

May 24, 2021

The Stats Behind The Slump

Home runs are good. Strikeouts? Despite the viewpoint gaining traction that they're just another out, well, not so fast.

Take the White Sox, for example. They've hit 44 home runs in the season's first 45 games. Only four other clubs have hit fewer. When they've managed at least one in a ballgame, the team has won 22 of 28. To summarize, their chances of winning if they can deposit at least one ball into the outfield seats is almost 80 percent. And that's really good. When the Sox don't homer, they're 4-13, and that's downright crummy.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, such as Sunday when Tony La Russa's crew accounted for three round-trippers, one each from José Abreu and Yasmani Grandal, and a clutch ninth-inning blast from pinch hitter Andrew Vaughn off über closer Aroldis Chapman, tying the game at four before the local cast succumbed in the bottom of the inning by a 5-4 count.

The fellas are whiffing less this season than last, at a rate of 23 percent of their plate appearances or, to be exact, 8.84 times a game. (A year ago they averaged 9.52 strikeouts per game.) Again, to summarize, about a third of the outs that Sox batters make come via the strikeout, which ranks them near the middle of big league clubs.

In fact, approximately one in four plate appearances throughout the game end with a strikeout, which is one of oft-cited criticisms of baseball today. Strikeouts are boring (and fascist). They require no more than a pitcher and catcher while the other seven guys might as well grab a hot dog and a beer.

When the Sox are able to make contact and strike out fewer than 10 times in a game, the outcome has been an 18-6 record. Please understand that in 15 of those wins, they also homered, which, needless to say, abetted their success. They've only lost three times when homering while limiting their strikeouts to single digits. But still. When the boys are difficult to strike out, they tend to win.

Of course, there are other aspects like pitching and defense, but we'll focus this conversation on offense, which surprisingly has produced approximately five runs per game this season for the White Sox. Only six teams have scored more runs than La Russa's crew so far this year.

However, the club slowly has been slipping in that department. Gerrit Cole shut them out 7-0 on Saturday, but that's no disgrace. However, since the 16-4 blowout of the Twins last Monday - you might recall Yermin Mercedes' long ball on that 3-0 count that raised the ire of his manager - the team has scored just 11 runs in five games. which include the three losses in New York over the weekend.

This should not be surprising. A team that lost the services of two middle-of-the-lineup run-producers for months becomes saddled with the challenge of putting numbers of the board. No one is mistaking the likes of Leury García, Billy Hamilton and Jake Lamb for Eloy Jimenéz and Luis Robert. Over a short span the club can get hot, but reality tends to prevail during a 162-game marathon.

In addition, when it comes to home runs, statistically a staple for winning, an investigation is noteworthy.

For instance, Yoán Moncada is doing nicely with his slashline of .287/.413/.826. His walk rate has increased to 16.3 percent, while he's striking out less at 27.2 percent. Coming into this season, those numbers were 9.8 and 31.3, respectively. However, Moncada has hit just three home runs so far this season, the last one coming about a month ago on April 29. In those 21 games, the Sox third baseman has driven in just 11 runs.

Second baseman Nick Madrigal, the target of cynics who aren't impressed by his lack of power, has 10 extra base hits, only three fewer than Moncada.

Then there's the early-season sensation Mercedes, the Yerminator, whose .347 batting average still is third in the major leagues. However, in those 21 games dating back to April 29, the rookie is hitting .260 with a couple of homers, one being last Monday's blast, and 10 RBIs.

Table-setter Tim Anderson endured an 0-for-17 spell last week, which goes a long way toward explaining the Sox slump. Anderson has to get on base for Moncada, Abreu and whoever else is capable to drive him home. One can easily argue that the Sox shortstop is the key to their ability to score.

None of this is meant to disparage guys like Moncada or Mercedes. Moncada is an elite player both with his glove and bat. He ranks second on the club to Abreu with an exit velocity of 90.8. On batted balls in play he's hitting .408. Chances are he's going to start hitting some home runs, but if he starts worrying about doing so, his efficiency will suffer.

And no one saw Mercedes coming, and if you told any knowledgeable Sox fan that he would be a .260 hitter, such news would be gleefully received. Last year the DH position accounted for a .148 batting average. More long balls from the Yerminator would help, but we're not talking about a hitter who can or will carry a ballclub.

Slugging home runs makes the job of winning easier, but when power is absent, other means for success must be employed. The Sox' lack of power has resulted in La Russa ordering more sacrifice bunts than we've seen in the recent past. Hitting coach Frank Menechino appears less interested in launch angle than making contact. Chances are we're in store for more small ball as the season progresses.

It should be noted that Sunday the Yankees failed to hit a four-bagger but capitalized on a couple of Sox errors for three unearned runs. Pitching to New York's hottest hitter, Gleyber Torres, on Friday night resulted in him knocking in both runs in a 2-1 game in which the Sox produced just five hits. Carlos Rodón covered the first six innings, yielding only two hits, walking no one, and striking out 13. He and his starting mates will have to be nearly as effective to offset the lack of power.

National League Central Division leader St. Louis invades the Grate for three games beginning Monday night. On Tuesday, former Harvard-Westlake School teammates Lucas Giolito and Jack Flaherty will be the pitchers while their high school pitching coach Ethan Katz observes from the Sox dugout. Flaherty leads the majors with an 8-0 record, and he's given up just four home runs in 53⅓ innings while striking out a batter per inning. That's why he's 8-0.

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Former Bill Veeck bar buddy Roger Wallenstein is our White Sox correspondent. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:43 AM | Permalink

May 22, 2021

Recall! Tinley Park Catfish

Otten's Seafood, a Tinley Park establishment, is recalling approximately 46,804 pounds of Siluriformes fish (catfish) because the products were produced, packed and distributed without the benefit of federal inspection, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced Saturday.

The fresh and frozen catfish items were produced from Jan. 25, 2021 through May 21, 2021. The following products are subject to recall:

* 30-lb. plastic bags and cardboard boxes containing "IQF Frozen Catfish Steaks Net Weight 30.00 LB" and have a shelf-life of one year.

* 30-lb. plastic bags and cardboard boxes containing "40 + Oz Fresh Catfish Whole Net Weight 30.00 LB" and have a shelf-life of one week if not frozen.

These items were shipped to wholesale and retail locations in Illinois and Indiana.

The problem was discovered during routine FSIS surveillance activities when it was determined that the catfish products did not have the USDA mark of inspection and were produced in an establishment that was not inspected by USDA.

There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products. Anyone concerned about a reaction should contact a healthcare provider.

FSIS is concerned that some product may be in consumers' refrigerators or freezers. Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase.

FSIS routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks to verify recalling firms notify their customers of the recall and that steps are taken to make certain that the product is no longer available to consumers. When available, the retail distribution list(s) will be posted on the FSIS website at www.fsis.usda.gov/recalls.

Consumers and members of the media with questions about the recall can contact Magnus Ottenborn, Owner, Otten's Seafood Inc., at (312) 833-4585.

Consumers with food safety questions can call the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or live chat via Ask USDA from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday.

Consumers can also browse food safety messages at Ask USDA or send a question via e-mail to MPHotline@usda.gov.

For consumers that need to report a problem with a meat, poultry, or egg product, the online Electronic Consumer Complaint Monitoring System can be accessed 24 hours a day at https://foodcomplaint.fsis.usda.gov/eCCF/.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:23 PM | Permalink

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #357: Was Tony La Russa Right?

Sort of. But one thing is for sure: The media was wrong. Plus: Cubs Conspiracists; Sky Opens; Red Stars Thorned; Fire Woman; and a bunch of various tangents therein.

Beachwood Radio Network · The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #357: Was Tony La Russa Right?

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SHOW NOTES

* 357.

* Click through for the whole thread:

* Plus:

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35:38: Cubs Conspiracists.

* Rickettsville:

* Kris Bryant:

* But:

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54:03: Sky Opens.

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55:32: Red Stars Thorned.

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57:11: Fire Woman.

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STOPPAGE: 4:10

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For archives and other Beachwood shows, see The Beachwood Radio Network.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:22 PM | Permalink

May 19, 2021

Tony La Russa's Inflection Point

This is being written before Lucas Giolito takes the mound this afternoon in Minneapolis in what very well could be the pivotal game thus far this baseball season for the Chicago White Sox. In fact, we might be able to look back four months from now just to see how crucial this contest turns out to be.

That may sound panicky and an overreaction, but the events of the past two nights have thrust the team into a situation of their manager's creation, and it's not a pleasant place. We awakened this morning wondering which ballclub, the Sox or the Twins, Tony La Russa is managing. He publicly chastised Yermin Mercedes on Monday night for tomahawking a ninth-inning, 47-mile-an-hour, three-and-oh offering from position player Willians Astudillo over the wall in left centerfield. That would have been splendid had the score been tied or close. However, with the White Sox in command at 15-4, and with the take sign on, poor etiquette doesn't come close to describing La Russa's interpretation of the Yerminator's zealousness.

So much so that the Sox boss called out the most surprising player of this season for his disrespect for "the game, the competition . . . the opponent."

Let me get this straight. The Yerminator was supposed to respect the five-foot-nine, 225-pound, first baseman-catcher who was lobbing the ball toward the plate in what has become a white-flag gesture in today's game in which managers opt not to use a legitimate bullpen pitcher in a lopsided game.

La Russa even sent a message to the Twins' clubhouse apologizing for Mercedes' behavior. And last night when Minnesota pitcher Tyler Duffey threw a fastball behind Mercedes' butt - the umpires ejected Duffey - La Russa said, "What did they do? The guy might have just been trying to get a sinker in. I don't have a problem with the way the Twins handled it."

Sure, Tony, just like you would have done.

Tuesday's starter Lance Lynn, who pitched six innings of two-run ball in a game the Sox lost 5-4, blowing a 4-0 lead, chimed in, "The more I play this game, the more those rules have gone away and I understand it. The way I see it is for position players on the mound, there are no rules. Let's get the damn game over with. And if you have a problem with whatever happens, then put a pitcher out there."

This from a guy who played on the last team La Russa managed in 2011, the Cardinals, a World Series champion.

Of course, Lynn is not alone. Not surprisingly, Tim Anderson, the embodiment of the young, talented, exuberant ballplayer of today, was excited at the time of Mercedes' dinger. He 'grammed his support, making the optics for the club absolutely awful.

La Russa also was upset because Mercedes either ignored or wasn't aware that third base coach Joe McEwing had given him the take sign. La Russa even claimed that he yelled "Take, take, take" from the dugout. Incidentally, a manager doesn't do that unless he fears that his player has his own agenda. Maybe Mercedes not only disrespected the game and the Twins, but also his manager, which really pissed off La Russa.

This is not the first time a player ran through a stop sign at third base or failed to hit-and-run after getting the sign. So you fine him. Bench him for a game like La Russa did when Mercedes was late showing up one day. But this is a new day, and despite what La Russa says, the new rules dictate that social media magnifies and elongates each and every issue and controversy not only in sports but in everyday life.

So much is made about clubhouse cohesion and spirit that one might conclude that what happens there is more important than what occurs on the field. The belief is relations between players, managers, coaches, front office, and the media have deep ramifications for actual performance during the game. If that, indeed, is the case, the Sox now have problems. Maybe they did previously this season but have overcome conflicts to lead the Central Division by three games while posting the league's best record.

Years ago, when Al Lopez was managing the White Sox, players said that communication never came from him. His coaches talked to the players, relaying Lopez's edicts. Nevertheless, the Sox teams of the '50s were consistent winners.

Perhaps that would be a workable arrangement for La Russa today. You know, old school. What I do know is that physical illness will result the next time I hear someone like general manager Rick Hahn talking about someone being "good in the clubhouse." We don't have to guess what's happening there now, and no one is to blame except Jerry Reinsdorf and guys like Hahn and Kenny Williams, whose influence is negligible.

I say this months after learning of La Russa's hiring. While I favored hiring Cleveland coach Sandy Alomar, a fellow who deserves a manager's role but never has received one, my mood was, "Give Tony a chance." My enthusiasm about the team wasn't diminished.

La Russa is getting blasted now for being out of touch and too old. I don't buy that at all. He's been like this for a long time. Just read Buzz Bissinger's Three Nights in August: Strategy, Heartbreak and Joy Inside the Mind of a Manager, which chronicles La Russa's thinking during a three-game series against the Cubs in 2004. I'll do the math. Tony was 59 at the time.

This afternoon's game is well worth watching because the dynamic between the manager and his players has been heaped upon the team in the wake of losing Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert. José Abreu also has been idled for this series with a swollen ankle. That's major firepower on the sidelines.

In addition, we can only hope that the failure Tuesday night of setup man Aaron Bummer, who inherited a 4-2 lead but was charged with the loss after closer Liam Hendricks inherited the runner who scored, giving up the game-winning hit, was simply a blip on the radar. Over the long haul of the season, this patchwork lineup will not continue to blow out the other guys like they've been doing.

The pitchers, both starters and the bullpen, will determine how high the club can fly, with the hope that everyone regains his health by October. So far Giolito, the Opening Day ace of the staff, has been the most inconsistent, and he'll be facing a team today that created an infusion of energy and optimism with its comeback victory Tuesday night.

With a trip into Yankee Stadium this weekend, if Giolito can twirl a gem today, the turmoil of the last two days can be stymied to a certain extent. On the bright side, the Sox still are leading the pack. However, rapid change is not unknown in sports and other diversions, and now would be a scary time to see a negative reversal in light of the events of the past couple of days.

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Former Bill Veeck bar buddy Roger Wallenstein is our White Sox correspondent. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:49 AM | Permalink

May 17, 2021

The White Sox Report: Ticket Stubs, Vendors & Zip Ties

"Your Phone Is Your Ticket," says the sign, assuming, of course, that every fan brought their cellphone to the ballpark. And if, heaven forbid, you don't own a cellphone, you're out of luck as far as seeing the best team in town.

That was the message last Thursday afternoon as we stood in line to enter The Grate for what turned out to be a 4-2 White Sox victory over the Minnesota Twins. In the 20 months since I last watched the Sox in their home park, not only have some of the rules of the game changed, but the fan experience is a clearly different as well.

Of course, much of this has been due to the worst pandemic in 100 years, but I'm curious just how many of these changes will become regular practices once COVID-19 recedes into history. For instance, I don't imagine anytime soon we'll see extra innings begin with the bases empty, and I highly doubt whether we'll ever see ticket stubs again.

As kids growing up, tickets to a ball game were something tangible. We held them in our hands, and the usher at the turnstile tore the ducat in half, handing back what was called a rain check, redeemable for another ticket in case the game was rained out.

But that stub possessed additional significance. It was a record of the games we attended. We saved those stubs. Assuming that our parents neglected the opportunity to trash our memorabilia once we moved out of the house, to this day we can view those ancient ticket stubs when everyone called it Comiskey.

Ticket Stubs.jpg

We can see the numbers for seat locations, and the image of the old park comes alive again. Box 1 occupied the right field corner, with increasing numbers until you reached the corner in left field at Box 99. If you were fortunate to sit in Box 50, you were right behind home plate. Upper deck boxes used letters while less expensive seats in back of the boxes were labeled "Grandstand," first come-first served.

Using the marvelous data of Baseball-Reference, we even can go back and check the box scores of those games to jog our memories. Taking a screen shot today might be the only way that youngsters- perhaps oldsters as well - can think, "Ahh, yes, that was a good seat. Right behind the plate. And the Sox even won!" Unfortunately I'm not aware of any bar code collectors.

At the risk of overdosing on nostalgia, collecting the players' autographs also has lost some of its appeal, even though I haven't sought a signature from José Abreu, Yoán Moncada, and others recently. As a matter of fact, players can't sign today because of COVID. Who would supply the pen? What if the player or fan isn't masked? You get the picture.

In the past I have seen kids gleefully examine autographs from their favorite players, showing them off to their friends, siblings and parents. The only problem is that years from now, if the cursive has been saved, those future adults won't be able to decipher exactly whose signature they collected. Autographs today are mere scribbles. Some respectful ballplayers will at least add their uniform number as a means of recognition.

Billy Pierce.jpg

Sox signatures.jpg

The old guys left nothing to chance. Stars like Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson and many others, whose signatures adorned the barrels of Louisville Sluggers, took as much time signing for kids, duplicating their careful handwriting, so that Little Leaguers had no trouble telling one from another.

Of course, change is inevitable, although one new twist from last Thursday won't be around for long. We entered the parking lot with the attendant asking to see proof of ticket purchase on our phone. Once he was satisfied, we were waved through and, with just 25 percent capacity allowed, we parked maybe a hundred yards from the gates.

Prior to the pandemic, parking cost $23, except on Sunday when the bargain price of $20 was charged. Apparently the rule against exchanging cash both inside and outside. The Grate dictated that parking was free. We'll see how long that lasts once more restrictions are lifted.

One requires a credit card for all transactions inside The Grate. We split a beer and a hot dog for $17.25, a savings of $5.75 when you factor in parking. The aisles were clear of vendors, a sad reminder of the Age of COVID. A friend who went to a Brewers game in Milwaukee reported that vendors were absent there as well. although watching a game from Seattle last week, I noticed one vendor walking the aisles.

I hadn't seen as many zip ties since January 6 at the Capitol as almost 30,000 seats were secured so that no one could sit in them in order to observe social distancing.

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Nevertheless, there were open chairs in the sun which warmed the announced crowd of 8,188. Between innings the bathroom was filled with guys, some masked, some not, lining up at the urinals with no regard for keeping distance from one another. This team has become so exciting that taking a leak as quickly as possible and getting back out to the seats is the goal.

The crowd at The Grate last Thursday also seemed a wee bit different than the Sox crowds of the recent past. Certainly more boisterous and vocal. As early as the fourth inning many fans rose to their feet to encourage a Sox hitter with men on base or starting pitcher Lance Lynn as he was trying to escape a jam. Sort of like Wrigley Field, I daresay. In my experience Sox fans have consistently reacted to what's happening on the field. That energy was in full expression last week. This was in no way a docile weekday crowd. I suppose with folks working from home, taking an afternoon to go to a ballgame carries none of the risk of sneaking out of the office without the boss noticing.

And the Sox didn't disappoint as they completed a three-game sweep of the slumbering Twins. Tim Anderson hit the first pitch delivered by Michael Pineda into the left field seats for a lightning fast 1-0 lead, and Jake Lamb, of all people, hit another dinger in the third. In the top of the fourth with the Sox nursing a 2-1 lead and the bases loaded with two outs, centerfielder Billy Hamilton raced to the wall in left center to haul in a drive that would have scored three runs. It turned out to be a game-saving catch.

As long as much of this piece has been devoted to the way things used to be, we should investigate the maneuverings of Sox manager Tony La Russa, who was around in the days of ticket stubs and legible autographs. His lineup Thursday had Andrew Vaughn in left field and Lamb at first base. With the absence of Eloy Jimenez, Vaughn has become the Sox everyday leftfielder, but his true position is first base. Lamb's career mostly has been as a third baseman.

You could say that La Russa had two guys playing out of position. So why not put Vaughn at first and Lamb in left where Tony placed him in three previous games. That way you have only one guy playing out of position. Lo and behold, Lamb was a disaster at first base. He was charged with one error, a dropped throw, and couldn't corral another toss from Lynn, who was charged with the miscue. After five innings La Russa moved Vaughn to first base as Lamb went to the bench.

La Russa looked much better when he pinch hit Yermin Mercedes for Zack Collins in the bottom of the eighth inning with two outs and two men on. This seemed like an obvious move, and the Yerminator responded with a two-strike hit to drive in Abreu, giving the Sox a two-run cushion.

Tony also seems enamored to the sacrifice bunt with no outs to move runners closer to scoring. Twice last week he had Adam Eaton lay down sacrifices, once on Thursday and again on Sunday in the rousing 4-3 walkoff win over the Royals. In the first instance Eaton moved Moncada and Abreu to third and second base, respectively, from where Moncada was driven home by Vaughn's base hit. On Sunday after Anderson led off the ninth with a double, Eaton's bunt advanced Tim to third base, and he jogged home on Moncada's single to tie the score.

The analytics dictate the odds for success in different situations, and in each of the above examples La Russa was banking on Eaton to move runners along. For instance, with no outs and runners on first and second, teams score about 23 percent of the time. But with runners on second and third and one out, that number increases to 27 percent.

Perhaps La Russa is aware of those percentages although we've learned that nothing can be taken for granted with the Sox skipper. What is laudable is that he has a guy, Eaton, who can bunt. He's not asking him to do something of which he is incapable. We've all seen managers who don't know their personnel well enough and become guilty of asking players to perform beyond their ability.

No White Sox Report from last week should close without mentioning the feats of Abreu, who collected nine hits in 19 at-bats, raising his average from .220 to .255. Abreu had a couple of home runs and seven RBIs. But more amazingly, he and Kansas City's Hunter Dozier collided violently in Friday's first game of a doubleheader, and one could only assume that Abreu would join Jimenez and Luis Robert on a months' long trip to the IL.

However, this guy, aside from his intense desire to play every day, is not your normal athlete. Passing concussion protocol, Abreu wanted La Russa to pencil him into the lineup for the second game, which didn't happen. But he was back on the field again on Saturday, and his ninth inning, game-ending dash to home plate on Sunday was an inspiration to his teammates and anyone watching.

I can't say for certain, but if José Abreu signs an autograph that you actually can read, I wouldn't be a bit surprised because nothing seems beyond the reach of the Sox star.

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Former Bill Veeck bar buddy Roger Wallenstein is our White Sox correspondent. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:32 PM | Permalink

May 16, 2021

TrackNotes: Rombauer Does America A Favor

Rombauer, a versatile turf-or-dirt horse, laid in the weeds most of the way, wheeled into the stretch, went wide and snatched the 146th Preakness Stakes from the two favorites, who had engaged in today's excuse for a hot pace duel and flattened out in the end.

Jockey Flavien Prat, in his Preakness debut, kept Rombauer in the third group, between horses. As 'Bourbon and 'Spirit broke away from the field on the turn, Rombauer went right with them, 2+ lengths back. The table was set. Keeping to the task, the little colt passed the much taller Midnight Bourbon in deepish stretch and appeared to be running downhill.

The Michael McCarthy trainee did the game a huge favor by taking the second leg of America's Triple Crown over Bob Baffert's Medina Spirit, who finished third, 5-1/2 lengths behind the winner. Midnight Bourbon took Place, 3-1/2 behind the winner. Those two went off at odds of 2.40-1 and 3.10-1, respectively. Rombauer was a healthy 11.80-1. Midnight Bourbon dragged down the Exacta, which paid only $49.30 for $1. Keepmeinmind rounded out the Superfecta.

Baffert's other horse, Concert Tour, kept Rombauer company for awhile, but couldn't keep up and was basically eased to finish ninth.

France Go de Ina showed a flash on the backstretch and into the turn, but the horse, under Joel Rosario was basically rank and then lost major ground. He finished seventh.

Integrity And Safety

While the Baltimore skies were blue and sunny, the controversy of Baffert's betamethasone-positive test of Kentucky Derby first-placer Medina Spirit darkened the festivities all day. At least on TV.

On NBC, analysts Randy Moss and Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey made the same comments three times. Before Friday's Black-Eyed Susan coverage, and leading into both the undercard show and the Preakness show itself Saturday.

We're getting the bits and pieces that help round out this story every day. In a short interview Dr. Mary Scollay, executive director of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium in Lexington, again pointed out why it's important to test horses for betamethasone on race day. It's all about giving track veterinarians a clear view to examining a horse.

"We want to make sure (betamethasone) is not impacting the horse's clinical presentation at the time of the pre-race exam or during the running of the race. Both for rider safety and the safety of the horse. it's for racing safety and equine welfare," she said.

When asked if the steroid is actually a performance enhancer, Scollay said, "That actually can't be known. It's likely minimal. We don't consider it a performance enhancer."

A new factor I hadn't yet seen, as reported by Bloodhorse's Bob Ehalt, is the banning of Lasix, an anti-bleeding medication, from most major races. "Some eagerly await next year's implementation of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act with national standards and regulation, while there are contentions that the rules outlawing Lasix in the three Triple Crown races and stakes in most major jurisdictions have vexed horsemen since that medication can theoretically wipe away picograms of banned substances."

So it sounds like people like Baffert are peeved they have to go back into the lab.

Back at the anchor desk, Bailey said that while he believes the substance "probably" did not aid the horse's performance, Baffert still broke the rule while the other trainers obeyed it. Bailey naturally skewed toward the safety of the jockeys: "This is a problem. The rule is there to protect the horse and the rider on their back. That's why it matters."

Moss took a similar tack: "There is a bottom line here. Even thought Baffert is the face of the sport, he again broke a rule on the biggest afternoon of the sport."

Moss then metaphored about getting stopped for speeding and deeming it unfair. That one bombed, Randy, and you should have killed it for the second act.

I have to credit Mike Tirico on his comments. He focused on Baffert's recidivism: "With five violations in the past year-plus, (people) outside of racing aren't going to believe him."

Echoed Moss: "There is one trainer in the world who could least afford another positive. And that's Bob Baffert."

Sports Illustrated's Tim Layden even delivered with one of his video essays.

In angry tones, Layden said that "racing has a credibility problem and Baffert is in the middle of it. He has escaped real punishment with a litany of alibis."

He also placed blame on the game itself: "Racing is once again caught with no leadership. No commissioner to swiftly navigate, to adjudicate.

"Dealing with Baffert and this credibility crisis can't wait. Last fall Baffert promised to 'raise the bar' and 'run a tight ship,' yet here we are again. This has to END!"

However, nobody at NBC speculated or suggested what Baffert's punishment should or would be.

Old codger D. Wayne Lukas wants it all under the rug: "If they would do the right thing, they would dismiss the whole thing. I mean, who reads labels? You don't sit there and read the label." His horse finished last Saturday.

This attitude by Lukas up front and who knows how many other trainers we'll never hear about is a huge reason progress has been so slow. It is hoped passage of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act late last year will help. Testing will be performed by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency by 2022.

There might also be hope that racing insiders will fight for reform.

Barry Irwin, CEO and founder of racehorse ownership syndicate Team Valor International, let Baffert have it.

"Baffert is unable to accept responsibility for his own actions. He never did anything wrong in his whole life. People are out to get him, blah, blah, blah. It's nuts, and the impact on the sport is very bad," Irwin said. "The reason is obviously, that for better or worse, Baffert has become the face of racing. He can be a charming guy. He comes up with funny comments. He's a natural for the role, and everyone focuses on him. The bad part is that it happened in the one race on one day that normal people in America focus on horse racing."

Baffert backed up Irwin last week, saying that "With success comes a lot of jealousy."

"It affected Bob a great deal. It's the Kentucky Derby and the general public is not knowledgeable enough to make an accurate judgement. It's going to bother Bob for awhile," Lukas pontificated.

Well Wayne, there are a lot of people who hope against hope that this really will bother Bob Baffert. Enough to change his ways. Forever.

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

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:26 PM | Permalink

May 14, 2021

TrackNotes: The Spirit Of The Preakness

Did you hear the news?

They're running the 147th Preakness on Saturday, as chocolate-dipped in tradition as any race in America. It's Grade I, three-year-olds, 1-3/16th miles, a $1,000,000 purse.

This edition provides more intrigue than the May 1 Kentucky Derby did both before and after, I'm serious. Especially if you consider Bob Baffert basically fixed the Derby.

A few of these Preakness horses intentionally skipped the Derby for this, and there are a couple wanna-sees who could have a breakout here. Unfortunately, both of Baffert's horses figure strongly in this one. How bad is it that his horses are victimized and sullied by the humans?

Only three Derby runners will be at Pimlico on Saturday: Keepmeinmind, Medina Spirit and Midnight Bourbon. Medina' is the morning line favorite, but as of this writing, Midnight Bourbon is the 5-2 favorite with Medina' at 3-1.

Just in, Baffert's horses have cleared rigorous drug tests.

In post position order.

1. Ram (Morning line odds 30-1, jockey Ricardo Santana Jr., trainer D. Wayne Lukas)

At 85, Lukas just keeps going, with his best days behind him. So what? But this one will not be wearing the black-eyed susans blanket afterwards. This son of American Pharoah has never run in a stakes race at any level and his Beyer Speed figures, while improving only lately, are not nearly enough. Pass.

2. Keepmeinmind (15-1, David Cohen, Robertino Diodoro)

He was an improving seventh in the Derby. He hasn't won since the Kentucky Jockey Club as a two-year-old and was a bad fifth in the Blue Grass two back. He hasn't proven he's a Grade II or Grade I horse, not at all. There are just enough better horses in this race to keep him out of the money.

3. Medina Spirit (9-5, John Velazquez, Bob Baffert)

Your Kentucky Derby first place finisher has had the universe explode around him. Thankfully, he's a horse, so he doesn't read the papers or watch Fox News, we think on that last one. Everything being equal, he's a solid contender here, but what is equal anymore with Baffert? Baffert's horses at Pimlico have undergone relentless testing, even into late Friday afternoon. There are two ways to look at Medina in this race. He might still be benefiting from the steroid administered to him, even though it hasn't proved detectable in the hours before this race. If he can cope with what might be a quick pace, he's a strong go. Johnny V. knows what to do. OR, with the drugs out of his system, he might come back down to earth and bounce, big. He had a 102 Beyer in the Derby, but his level is more in the mid-90s. See what Bob did? I figure a combo, even perhaps with Baffert not wanting him to win. He's too talented to be out of the money. The big Water Buffalo is hanging back in California and won't be at Pimlico this weekend.

4. Crowded Trade (10-1, Javier Castellano, Chad Brown)

This one is taking on wiseguy trappings. Chad Brown kept him out of the Derby after a middling third in the Wood Memorial, which was a setback after a tough beat in the Grade III Gotham at Aqueduct. Your angle is Brown having him ready after a nice gap between races, which is as real as it gets. Castellano will help. 10-1 seems right, but he might be lower. You may not be able to toss him, which is why they call it gambling.

5. Midnight Bourbon (5-1, Irad Ortiz Jr., Steve Asmussen)

Everybody expects this son of Tiznow to break out in this race. That remains to be seen. He had a bad start and was squeezed in the Derby, and ancient Mike Smith felt bad and kept him wide the rest of the race, as he will do. 'Bourbon flashed up to sixth. Ortiz up is a huge factor for this horse, figuring to be a game-changer. However, he hasn't won since the Lecomte, the prep for a prep for the Louisiana Derby, and he's only won twice overall. His Beyers have plateaued in the mid 90s. 5-1 might be my bottom for him, but he's already taking money and might be no better than half that and the favorite. Again, you have to include him, but invite others into your tickets.

6. Rombauer (12-1, Flavien Prat, Michael McCarthy)

We've kind of been waiting to see this one here. Why? I don't know. While potentially the Rom-Bomber, it can't happen at that price. The 12-1 is an anticipation line. His claim to fame is the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate two back. No, I didn't see it either. He had a troubled start and finished third in the Blue Grass. He's a couple points shy of even a 90 Beyer. He shows a tendency to close, so if the pace suicides up front, he has a Baltimore chance, whatever that is. Prat is a plus. Watch the tote. I'll be including him.

7. France Go de Ina (20-1, Joel Rosario, Hideyuld Mori)

France is in his name, but Japan is his game.They say this son of Will Take Charge oozes distance. He had a bad start in the UAE Derby in Dubai on World Cup Day. In two straight wins at Hanshin, he drew off cleanly, which shows his love of distance. He had a bad start under Rosario in Dubai, but Joel didn't do anything crazy to get him back in that mix. But that March 27 race was his last one and he's only raced four times. It's possible that once he blows out the carburetors by the backstretch, he might get faster as the race goes on. Then, watch out at Belmont.

8. Unbridled Honor (15-1, Luis Saez, Todd Pletcher)

Pletcher was named to the Hall of Fame this week. As camera-ready as Baffert is - although the media bears a large responsibility for that - Pletcher is a quiet protege of D. Wayne Lukas - once a groom at Arlington - who has done wonders with two-year-olds and got over the hump in the more glamorous races in the past decade. He's won two Derbies, his first with Super Saver in 2010. He won the 2007 Belmont with the fabulous filly Rags to Riches. He's never won the Preakness. This colt with the mishmash name pops out at you with an 18-point Beyer improvement to 91 in the Grade III Lexington April 10 at Keeneland. Horseplayers will notice he did that in the slop, but Pletcher/Saez means we don't hold that against him. His only win is a maiden special weight, but he shows he can close, which figures to be an ace in his mane in this race. Win? Probably not. But delectable in the exotics. Please don't tell anybody and hope his morning line resembles his actual price.

9. Risk Taking (15-1, Jose Ortiz, Chad Brown)

There's a lot to dislike here. I don't think you can give him a mulligan for his fading seventh in the Wood Memorial. He's never hit a 90 Beyer and regressed by 12 Beyer points in the Wood. He beat nobody in the Withers, but dove into the deep end in the Wood. Same here.

10. Concert Tour (5-2, Mike Smith, Bob Baffert)

Considered Baffert's more talented horse in this race, this son of Street Sense basically bombed in the Arkansas Derby on April 10 at Oaklawn. Despite Super Stock and Caddo River trading haymakers on the front in a hot pace, Concert Tour could not take advantage and those two still beat him, in that order. He kind of kept up with that pace but got nothing for his effort. That's not good. If he repeats that here, which is possible, it's deja vu. He'll have to bide some time and Smith is going to have to downshift and take it. At a better Beyer than his top 94. That's a turn of foot we would be talking about Sunday.

Your flat screen focus will be on the Preakness Prep undercard, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. NBCSN. The main event starts at 4 p.m. on NBC 5. Preakness post time is 5:47 p.m.

About Baffert
A few more thoughts on this Baffert stuff.

While it appears to coverage consumers that the lead trainers whisper to every horse in their barn, that's impossible. But the trainers will never disabuse you of that notion.

Nevertheless, Baffert should know the ins and outs of every medication, legal or not, and the laws in every state. I'm sure he does. The ointment excuse stinks because that would not do the horse any good in his running. It needed to be injected into the joint. Ask me and I'll tell you, I've been there. The point is the running. Nothing else.

As far as I know, Baffert has never advocated for medication control, the advancement of knowledge, or cooperation across the game to rid the sport of substances that, in many ways, can't be good for a horse. All he has ever done is bitch about it when he got caught. He showed little or no remorse in the death of the seven horses. He appears to have little or no control over the operations of his barn. It starts at the top, as always. If they doped Medina Spirit, and all the others, Baffert knew about it, condoned it, cultured it and approved it. He probably timed the betamethasone to the tick of the clock of 14 days. Oops.

Don't get me wrong. There are therapies, and medications, that really help a horse. The thing with Baffert is that he gets some of the most regally bred, pedigreed horses in the world. Now, we really don't know how good of a trainer he is or ever was. That's not a good legacy. It's not a legacy at all.

You'd have to analyze the man, but did he just become an out-of-control typhoon who got too big to take down? He got in deep, but he had a unique power to put on the brakes. And who determined he was too big to fail? Did NBC and the flaccid racing press believe that they have to have Baffert or else there's no appeal? It's like Dancing With the Stars fixing it every year to let him win because the disco ball bounces off his white hair so cool. "People LOVE it!"

Give me a D. Wayne Lukas, Todd Pletcher, Shug McGaughey, Larry Jones, Mike Maker, Graham Motion, Wesley Ward, Bill Mott, Wayne Catalano, Aidan O'Brien the greatest trainer in the world actively without dope.

It is for the very reason that Baffert is, and was, encouraged and allowed to become an otherworldly plaster statue in horse racing that he be punished, evidence allowing, in the most severe way. And that would be to truly take the game away from him for some significant amount of time. He reaped the benefits of his actions in a most outsized way and must pay a commensurate penalty.

OK, he got caught with Medina Spirit. But his record of skulduggery, avalanching as the years have gone on, demands such a sentence.

It would shake Thoroughbred horse racing to its core, which the game needs. Hopefully, it would get horse owners(!), track owners, state racing authorities, prominent trainers, jockeys, online betting platforms and, dammit, include the fans, off their sorry asses to get their shit together. If the track and turf are clearly equal for everyone, it doesn't matter. Put the game back on the backs of the horses.

Horses and fans. Fans never forget horses. But we've both been left behind.

In NBC Sports' Court
The ideals we hold so dear here at The Beachwood Reporter will be put to a monumental test this weekend in one place and on one platform: NBC Sports.

The entire broadcast crew that we see will, in my opinion, be required to comment and, I hope, harshly condemn what is Bob Baffert.

In my mind, while Randy Moss is certainly capable of learned discussion, this falls squarely on the shoulders of Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey. He has nothing to lose. He's Jerry Effing Bailey. He understands being in the saddle on a horse that isn't what it appears to be.

You be the judge. I will be in the recap.

Mayne Event
When I saw Kenny Mayne got canned from ESPN this week, it brought back fond memories.

I have barely ever watched ESPN, but they had great horse racing coverage back in the day. Mayne seemed a legit horseplayer and joked easily about the roller coaster of winning and losing wagers. He always commented on the wiseguy horses. He seemed to have the attitude of "We can talk about it all day, but what are you going to DO (wagering)?!"

Jeanine Edwards both loved the horses and was razor sharp on the game. Hank Goldberg was the avuncular, terrible handicapper that Mayne hated to love, but loved in the end.

Horse racing has bounced around the airwaves. The glory days of Jack Whitaker and Heywood Hale Broun in the Secretariat era on CBS. Jim McKay, who has a race named for him tomorrow at Pimlico, was a rock on ABC. These guys on NBC now? Not so much. But the NBC women on air are their strong point.

Those were the days.

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

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:08 PM | Permalink

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #356: White Sox Beating Their Manager

Tony La Russa remains the White Sox's biggest threat. Plus: Cubs Starters Are Perfect Subs; Weirdest Backup Catcher Trajectory Ever?; Bulls Pre-Post-Mortem; Blackhawks Post-Mortem; Sky Opening; Red Stars Opening; and Fire Continue To Be Terrible.

Beachwood Radio Network · The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #356: White Sox Beating Their Manager

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SHOW NOTES

* 356.

1:30: The Most Compelling Team In Baseball?

* Rogers, ESPN: Why The Chicago White Sox Are MLB's Most Interesting (And Best) Team.

* Maybe, but the Dodgers, Padres, Giants, A's and Red Sox are all kinds of interesting right now too!

* ESPN Power Rankings.

* One thing that makes the White Sox so compelling is just how bad Tony La Russa is, and how they are (for now) overcoming that.

* Billy Hamsitupton.

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23:57: Cubs Starters Are Perfect Subs.

* And other inanities.

28:23: Weirdest Backup Catcher Trajectory Ever?

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32:30: Bulls Pre-Post-Mortem.

* Johnson, NBC Sports: Mailbag.

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46:37: Blackhawks Post-Mortem.

* Thompson, Tribune: What We Learned About The Blackhawks In 2021.

* Pope, Sun-Times: Patrick Kane's Season Included Secret Injury.

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58:04: Sky Opening.

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59:24: Red Stars Opening.

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1:02:04: Fire Continue To Be Terrible.

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STOPPAGE: 9:25

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For archives and other Beachwood shows, see The Beachwood Radio Network.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:02 PM | Permalink

May 13, 2021

Stock Music Market On Fire

The stock music market is expected to grow at a CAGR of over 10% during the period 2020−2026.

Key Highlights Offered In The Report:

* The global stock music market would realize an absolute growth of 78% - a phenomenal leap of over $834 million revenue between 2020 and 2026.

* The track-based stock music market accounted for a revenue share of over 77% in 2020, where it is expected to witness an incremental growth of approximately $647 million between 2020 and 2026.

* Growing demand for podcasts and rise in audio-based user experience is expected to boost the market for the track-based stock music market, growing at a CAGR of over 10% during forecast period.

* The stock music market based on licensing is expected to generate an incremental growth of $404 million between 2020 and 2026, together by North America and APAC.

* The stock music market for individual content creators accounted for approximately 12% in 2020, with rising attraction toward individual music creation during COVID-19 lockdown, where it is expected to witness an incremental growth of around $100 million during 2020 to 2026.

* Audio in video game development is becoming more cinematic than ever as the US is one the largest gaming industries, thus creating many avenues for stock music. The US dominated the North American stock music market with over 91% in 2020 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of around 10%.

Stock Music Market - Segmentation:

* The growing demand for podcasts and the rise in the audio-based user experience are expected to boost the track-based stock music market growth. The market is expected to grow higher in North America and APAC with projected incremental revenue of over $348 million and $135 million respectively by 2026.

* Consistency, in terms of standards, has driven the demand for licensed music and is expected to continue over the next few years. High curation standards have led to the music that is largely cinematic and emotion-based as opposed to flat, thereby driving the market at a rapid pace.

* The growing demand for improving the movie experience is expected to boost the market for large business stock music, which is likely to grow at a CAGR of over 10% between 2020 and 2026. There is a shift in the consumption preference of digital content from passive, video-based to audio-based content. This has resulted a change from "look and feel" to "listen and feel," which has fostered the use of audio branding where consumers can easily identify with the brand.

Stock Music Market - Dynamics:

The most complex step of selecting audio is often decoding licenses associated with each audio file. From attribution to exploitable rights, the criteria are huge and sometimes can be stretched, thereby requiring navigation through a complicated terrain of licenses.

Customers have always struggled with licensing music dealing with tediousness, variables, differing interpretations, and expensiveness, ending up being a bottleneck for many. It can get in the way of the creative process. Players in the market are thus trying to ease out this process.

From realizing that licenses were either restrictive or largely misunderstood to deal with the grey area of extended use, there have been efforts to better fit the needs of creators and buyers. Vendors are creating use-for-everything, no-questions-asked licenses, and licenses that allow the purchase of additional rights for use under a large selection of users and a larger audience. This prompts flexibility of use in the market.

Stock Music Market - Geography:

The advertising space in North America has grown exponentially over the last six years, primarily driven by cyclical events such as the Olympics and elections. Technology has been witnessing an indisputable force for good, driving changes across the marketing world. Magazines and newspapers are considering new survival strategies in response to the shifting of advertising money to Facebook and Google. As Facebook and Google brace for more video content than ever, audio is well placed to grow. Of all developed economies, North America's abandonment of print channels is the fastest, with social platforms coming to the forefront, leading to the creation of dynamic content that appeals to more than the sense of sight. Major cost-cutting imperatives are in place. They are investing in other revenue streams to live, moving into spaces such as video and podcasts.

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Previously in markets:
* Global Chewing Gum Market On Fire.

* Global Chainsaw Market On Fire.

* Automatic Labeling Machine Market On Fire.

* Tube Packaging Market Worth $9.3 Billion By 2021.

* Luxury Vinyl Tiles Flooring Market Worth $31.4 Billion By 2024.

* Global Condom Market On Fire.

* Global Sexual Lubricant Market On Fire.

* Industrial Lubricants Market Booming.

* Global Electric Guitar Growth.

* Early Impacts Of COVID-19 On The Pet Food Packaging Market.

* Global Music Recording Industry Trajectory & Analytics 2020-2025.

* The Global Premature Ejaculation Market Is Exploding Quickly.

* Pressure Sensitive Adhesives Market On Fire.

* Global TV Market Spikes With Pandemic.

* The Robust Undercurrent Of The Sports Flooring Market.

* Data Historian Market Heating Up.

* Fantasy Sports Market To Pass $2 Billion In Revenue By 2026.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:29 AM | Permalink

TrackNotes: Bob Baffert's Boulders

Sitting in the luxe (not, but decent) Shalimar OTB in Indio, California with Mother, I commented on a prohibitive favorite at Hollywood Park.

"Typical, that's a Baffert horse."

"I don't like him," Emily said.

"Why not?"

"There's just something about him, the way he looks. I don't trust him. I just don't like him."

With that kind of years-ago intuition that you can take to the bank, I've been wary ever since. And admittedly, still with one-quarter blinkers on.

Hall of Fame (2009) trainer Robert A. "Bob" Baffert, because of who he is and the horses he's had, the face of American Thoroughbred horse racing to people from the most gristled horseplayers to the little girls who always seem to fall in love with horses, has found himself with the sport on his shoulders and has decided to take it to the edge of the dump and toss it in.

The future of the game might be at stake. Everybody knows about the dark, shady goings-on in the game, but if Baffert is not punished, severely for once, the game itself will tell us it doesn't care about anything, including the horses themselves.

Baffert's behavior since learning that Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Horse Racing Board were working with facts that his horse Medina Spirit, first-place finisher in the May 1 Kentucky Derby, tested positive after the race for betamethasone, has been classically gutter despicable.

His strategy, not very successful, has been right out of the Trumpian Textbook. Obfuscation. Serpentine, serpentine! I am Baffert, hear me roar! First, lie, using carefully chosen, untruthful words and amazed astonishment. Then make up excuses, blame everybody else, admit there is a problem although it's not his problem or fault.

And the big one, play victim: "I do not feel safe training," Baffert said. "It's getting worse, to me. How do I enjoy, how do I move forward as a trainer knowing this can happen? It's a complete injustice, and we're going to fight it tooth and nail."

With the big followup, That's Not Me: "I know I'm the most scrutinized trainer out there. I have millions of eyes on me . . . The last thing I would want to do is do something that would jeopardize the greatest two minutes in sport." Then why did you?

The first tell was when Baffert and his lawyer flew back to Louisville and beat officials out of the starting gate, announcing the positive himself on Sunday. Official results of back-up, secondary testing would not have come back for at least a few weeks, so Baffert's bleating led to the immediate Churchill suspension.

"All I can tell you is that betamethasone - even though it is an allowed (Mine: Legalese) drug, a therapeutic (Mine: Angelic benevolence) medication, we did not give it ... In fact, Medina Spirit has never been treated with betamethasone," Baffert said Sunday.

Betamethasone is a steroidal substance that, like any steroid, I can attest, can perform miracles. It is a legal horse treatment most commonly used to ease sore joints. It can also be used topically for things like a rash or dermatitis, just like in humans.

In Kentucky, it cannot be administered less than 14 days before a race. After allowing up to 10 picograms - a trillionth of a gram - per milliliter of blood in a post-race test as of last August, the KHRB then made the decision to lower the threshold down to zero picograms in post-race testing. A big reason for that is that betamethosone can mask joint problems in a horse either visually or in the gait of a horse in the post parade, making it difficult for the on-track veterinarian to detect a potentially catastrophic condition.

Now, here, to me, is the Enola Gay hook. I chanced upon it at Horse Racing Nation, in an interview with Dr. Mary Scollay, executive director of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium in Lexington, KY. Speaking generally about betamethasone, she said the 21 picograms was found in a milliliter of blood from the horse that was tested. I have not seen this in any other media report, which will help Baffert in the public's eye. "21 picos, big deal!"

A horse has up to 50,000 milliliters of blood in its system. Twenty-one times 50,000 equals 1,050,000 picos in the blood, and tissue, muscles and organs.

"So 21 picograms, you know, you can be a little overly reductive and say that's nothing. But when you can contemplate the total sum of medication that may be in the body at that time point, it's a different story," Scollay said.

The horse was 'roided up, at least enough. Bob, the rule is zero. Baffert has said it's only 21 picos and would not have affected his performance. But it's not 21 picos. It's not. In other words, whatever he does or says is perfectly acceptable. None of the shit he puts in his horses enhances their performance, ever. Bob, NO!

Churchill Downs announced Monday that not only will Baffert be banned from entering horses at Churchill, but his entire organization will be too. Trainers often declare their assistant, in this case Jimmy Barnes, as the official trainer, until the ban or suspension is over. Steve Asmussen had a revolving door there for awhile.

On Tuesday, the Maryland Jockey Club said it would allow Baffert's horses to run in the Preakness Stakes and the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes on Friday for fillies. Betamethasone is banned in Maryland. MJC is taking an innocent-until-proven-guilty approach even when states and tracks often demonstrate reciprocity with such suspensions. Medina' could be tested again as late as Friday and the MJC agreement with Baffert says if there's a positive, it will be shouted from the crest of Old Hilltop. If it's me, I'd be embarrassed if Baffert won one of my big races.

That's the police report. What does it all mean?

Baffert, clearly the face of racing, especially on television on the big days, has a multi-ton boulder on each shoulder. Because racing officials have been so lenient of him, he carries a sense of invincibility on one side. Because he wins so much, he also lugs the most responsibility of any single individual in the sport, which he abjectly neglects for what? Money, ego, money?

Is racing afraid of him because he presents such a dashing figure in NBC interviews, to the point of being a God? On Derby weekend, the story was that his wife Jill picked out and co-owns one of their horses that won a big race. When they caught up with Bob and Jill, the NBC wonk completely ignored Jill and peppered Bob with questions. Not only did the interviewer miss the angle, Bob never said anything like, "Ask Jill, she's right here." Jill was anticipatory, disappointed and then pissed off. I don't blame her. That's the attention Bob Baffert gets.

I can't wait to see how NBC - especially Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey - handles the issue this week from Pimlico. They'll probably have two or three strong words, this is sad, we have to see how it turns out. Surprise me, Peacock. Baffert won't be there. He's holing up in California this weekend.

He's "won" seven Kentucky Derbies, seven Preakness Stakes and three Belmont Stakes. TWO(?) Triple Crowns. He's been in the money in 29 Triple Crown races. He's won 15 Breeders' Cup races, nine Santa Anita Derbies, nine Haskell Invitationals, 14 Del Mar Futurities and three Kentucky Oaks'. These have now become his burden, that he tries so desperately to safeguard inside his house of cards. Winning seems everything, at the expense of all else. ALL else.

Last fall, Baffert rose to his pulpit and made it about him. He wanted no more complaints against him, kind of like Michael Corleone's demand to Sollozzo.

He said he would pay closer attention to his own business and "run a tight ship." Train his employees on protocols. And appoint Dr. Michael Hore of the Hagyard Equine Medical Institute to "add an additional layer of protection to ensure the well-being of horses in my care and rule compliance."

We found out Wednesday the important part - the doctor helping Baffert "raise the bar and set the standard for equine safety" - never happened.

The excuse was COVID, travel, track restrictions in SoCal, all that. Hore is based in Kentucky, not even licensed to practice in California. Of course, if Baffert had found a California vet, we'd all ask "Who sent him?" I believe it still could have been done, if Baffert had really wanted to.

I've heard that even as they call them Black Holes, they're extremely dense. Both, at once. Just sayin'.

His delinquency in just recent years really seems to betray his proclamations of loving the horses. This week was beyond the pale.

He announced the drug positives Sunday, saying his horse was never even treated with betamethasone. Even said he would take blood and hairs from the horse and compare the DNA with the testing blood.

He took to Fox News, which of course indulged him - including a photo of Baffert petting a palamino - because anything bad that happens in the world in the name of "winning" is A-OK with Fox.

In an atypical bit of babble, Baffert went deep into the manure pile. "With all the noise . . . We live in a different world now. This America is different. (Churchill banning him) was like a cancel culture kind of a thing, so they're reviewing it. I haven't been told anything (by the Preakness). We're prepared to run." Keep in mind Churchill keeps its eye on every last dollar, so it doesn't want anybody messing with its Derby.

Later that day, Baffert floated the outlandish concept that a groom, who had been taking cough medicine, peed in the stall, the horse ate the hay, and . . . Can you put a steroid in drug store cough medicine?

Doesn't the bus driver feel all the people under his chassis?

I can't say how stupid Baffert is, but he had to understand, at about 1-9, that the steroid was in his horse's system. So he reloaded Ol' Betsy with another round and fired, saying his veterinarian used a topical ointment, Otomax, that contains betamethasone, to cure a case of dermatitis.

Baffert, who also provided a picture of Medina Spirit's pocked rear quarter, said he didn't know the steroid was in the ointment and was only doing what the vet told him to. It's right on the box, probably the key ingredient! Oh Bob, ye of little credibility! If Baffert is such a Zeus of training horses . . . do I even have to say it? What about the vet, who should speak up or forever hold his peace?

Baffert's Perry Mason, Scott Robertson, said he didn't want to name the vet, to avoid "the appearance of throwing him under the bus." Seriously.

Scollay again: "If the stewards feel that he had made a legitimate effort to understand the treatments the horse was receiving or they determined the veterinarian did not sufficiently disclose information, they could mitigate penalties, but that doesn't negate the finding." Meaning that although Baffert will Sergeant Schultz it and play dumb, he is responsible for the crime committed and needs to pay a real price.

Industry whore and retail data outlet Daily Racing Form laid a foundation for Baffert's defense with this gem:

"While most members of the general public and the outsized group of racing participants who are suspicious of Baffert will treat the positive as an indication of cheating, many horsemen and regulators will instead place the blame on what they consider endemic problems in how the racing industry handles commonly used medications, including what those critics characterize as poorly researched withdrawal times and thresholds set so low that laboratories catch the presence of regulated drugs well after they could have had any impact on a horse's performance or through accidental contamination."

I don't believe Matt Hegarty really wrote that.

If Baffert hasn't done anything wrong, why does he always seem in flagrante delicto?

In May 2020, Arkansas Derby Day, his horses Charlatan and Gamine tested positive for lidocaine. Baffert's Nordberg in that one was his trusty sidekick Jimmy Barnes. Barnes had been wearing a Salonpas pad for a sore back and the lidocaine got into the horses' system "environmentally." See? Penalty: $10,000, but horses reinstated.

Gamine also tested positive for betamethasone after Placing in the 2020 Kentucky Oaks. Penalty: Baffert $1,500 fine; owner Michael Lund Peterson coughs back $120,000 in purse money, which I hope he tore out of Baffert's butt. Gamine won the Derby City Distaff sprint this past Derby Day.

Baffert's Merneith tested positive for dextromethorphan, a cough medicine, after a race at Del Mar in November. Bobby not only pulled out the groom-taking-cough-medicine environmental gag, he barely paid any price. Penalty: $2,500 fine.

Then there's 2018's Justify, who has been credited with winning the effing Triple Crown. After he won that year's Santa Anita Derby, which he needed to get into Kentucky's Derby, he tested positive for scopolamine, 300 nanograms vs. the accepted 75 nanograms, which is basically used to settle the stomach.

Once again Baffert, declaring that it wasn't a performance enhancer anyway, cried environmental and said he got it from contaminated hay that had jimson weed in it, a source of the substance. In a classic case of clout, coverup and corruption, the California Horse Racing Board, filled with many of Baffert's friends and clients, did not reveal the findings until a day or two before the Derby, filed no official complaints or findings, held no substantive hearings on the matter and dismissed it that August. The horse was never entitled to run in Kentucky.

Another huge stain on Baffert is the dead seven horses. The CHRB cleared him of all liability after seven of his horses dropped dead at Hollywood Park over a 16-month period to March 2013. Five from heart attacks, one from encephalitis and one from rat poison(?). Penalty: Nothing. Although Baffert was nice enough to declare at the time "My focus will continue to be on providing the best care for my horses."

Tests were performed, drugs, included clenbuterol, were found. All seven had been treated with thyroid medication Thyroxine, which Baffert said he used on all of his horses. Legal, but highly unusual to be used on every horse in a barn, investigators said.

Hollywood medical director Dr. Rick Arthur said at the time, "All of these horses have pathological changes that you couldn't do intentionally if you wanted." Oh well.

What about 2015's American Pharaoh? Baffert kept saying "This horse recovers so well!" I know I could see it on TV the next day, and he looked pretty fresh in just about every race. We learned from baseball that recovery was a main incentive to use steroids; 2015 was a long time ago in the willingness and expertise to test racehorses.

We will watch for the nuances of how the betamethasone got into Medina Spirit's system. Even if it wasn't injected, the ointment could have been the problem, treated with it for weeks. In any case, it was there, Mr. Baffert.

We will see what the racing industry is made of, where its priorities are. He needs to be punished in a severe and fair manner. Get him and his barn out of racing for at least two years. Obviously take away Medina Spirit's "win." Think about stripping Justify of his Derby title, and look at Gamine.

He did the crime, now do the time. He's raked in as many spoils as anyone in history. The highest-profile figure in horse racing in the most important race in America, Bob Baffert would not, for any reason, be unfairly made an example of.

He would be treated on par with the example he chose to set.

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

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:09 AM | Permalink

May 12, 2021

Reassessing Mandela

There are two widely available views of Nelson Mandela, the first post-apartheid president of South Africa. The first is a reverential and uncritical celebration of his life and achievements. It resonated in the obituaries and eulogies when Mandela died in December 2013.

Madiba (his clan name) was "sent by God," said Irish newspaper magnate Tony O'Reilly, who's said to have been a friend of Mandela's. His purchase of South Africa's then largest newspaper company, Argus Newspapers, was made possible by Mandela's support. Former American president Barack Obama declared that Mandela "changed the arc of history, transforming his country, the continent and the world."

A second prevailing view is hostile and dismissive. By 2015, a reputation that had appeared invincible was being shredded in some media outlets, on the streets and especially on university campuses across South Africa. The critique centered on the 1994 negotiated settlement that ended apartheid. It accused Mandela of betraying the black majority to appease the economically powerful white minority.

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Both narratives - Mandela as secular saint or Mandela as sellout - are poor history. The suggestion that Mandela single-handedly achieved democracy is as intellectually threadbare as its mirror image: that he was responsible for the failure to transform social and economic relations after 1994.

Our edited collection, Reassessing Mandela, provides a scholarly counterweight to the two polarized positions. It attempts to begin the task of revisiting the canonical biographies, rethinking aspects of Mandela's life and his politics, and evaluating how he is and should be remembered.

Unreliable Narrator

The first aspect of Mandela's life reassessed in the book is his family and its background, his childhood and youth, and his Thembu lineage. Two chapters - by the late Phil Bonner and by Xolela Mangcu - complement one another in intriguing ways. Both historians remind us that Mandela's 1994 autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, is an unreliable text. Some of its flaws are replicated in the work of others.

Bonner's archivally-based chapter corrects some of the shaky chronology in Long Walk. It identifies Mandela's father, Gadla Mandela, as "a significant if little recognized historical figure" but shows that Mandela's own account of his father defying the white magistrate cannot be read as history.

Mangcu's chapter challenges Mandela's own account of his descent. He locates him within a history of the Thembu royal house's "pragmatic co-operation" with colonial rule. Mandela did not mention this.

Mangcu emphasizes the history of "African political modernity" in the Transkei, a territory comprising a number of African kingdoms and chiefdoms annexed in the 19th century. He also considers Gadla's role in the local administrative body (Bungha), where he is portrayed as resisting both missionary influence and colonial regulations.

Bonner and Mangcu underline the complexity of "indirect rule" in the Transkei. They correct the tendency to discuss Mandela's early years through a lens of rural nostalgia.

Mandela's Political Activism

A second broad area of reassessment emerges from three chapters which consider Mandela's relationship with the South African Communist Party (SACP), his activism and especially his leadership in underground politics. Tom Lodge produces a fine-grained account of Mandela's "association with South Africa's communist left." His is a study of friendships and social networks, of left-wing readings and writings, and of political alliances and tactics.

Paul Landau's chapter focuses on the period between the 1960 Sharpeville massacre of black protesters by apartheid police and Mandela's arrest in August 1962. It traces the efforts to implement the M-Plan - a template for an underground structure of the liberation movement, the African National Congress (ANC).

Screen Shot 2021-05-12 at 12.26.29 PM.pngAt the 1994 commemoration of the 1960 Sharpeville massacre/ Georges Merillon, Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Mandela and a small group of like-minded colleagues sought to use the plan to transform the ANC into a militant vanguard movement willing to employ violence against the state.

Thula Simpson's chapter reconsiders Mandela's role as commander-in-chief of umKhonto we Sizwe, an armed wing set up by the ANC and SACP. He suggests that its campaign of urban sabotage was more effective than generally acknowledged.

Three other chapters cast new light on different aspects of Mandela's life: his marriage to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela; his years in jail on Robben Island, and his role in the human rights discourse that shaped South Africa's new constitution.

Shireen Hassim provides a compelling rereading of "one of the most iconic political marriages in history.

First, she establishes Winnie's own political career and significance. She says it offered "a form of intimate political leadership" to young activists. Secondly, she explores the complex relationship between Winnie's political trajectory and Nelson's, and how a widening political divide accompanied the breakdown of their marriage.

Martha Evans examines four visits by journalists to Robben Island between 1964 and 1977, their interactions with Mandela and their published accounts. She discusses Mandela's capacity to capitalize on brief contacts from an apparent position of weakness, and shows how incarceration enhanced his iconic status.

Recalibrating Mandela

These chapters are book-ended by Colin Bundy's introduction and Elleke Boehmer's postscript. Boehmer explores how memories of Mandela are constructed and contested, and what fresh interpretations can teach us.

This collection treats Mandela not as an individual miracle-maker or traitor to the cause of transformation. It shows him as one political actor, alongside a multitude of others, within complex political and social forces.

It suggests that scholarship on Mandela will continue to explore and explain his politics and his ability to assert leadership. It will also continue to explore the contradictions and continuities of his personal makeup, and his determination over decades to bring people together. All this, while negotiating the corrugated terrain of race and identity in South Africa.

Colin Bundy, is an honorary fellow of Green Templeton College at the University of Oxford. William Beinart is a professor at Oxford. This post is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

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Comments welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:57 AM | Permalink

May 10, 2021

He Gets On Base

Why in the world would you ever walk Yasmani Grandal? Why not have the opposition simply plant a batting tee at home plate, place a ball atop the contraption, and ask the White Sox catcher, "Mr. Grandal, how's that? A little higher or lower? Would you like us to bring the tee a bit closer to you? Maybe a bit more toward the outside corner?"

Rather than issuing yet another base on balls, at least the fielders would have a chance to get the guy out.

Perhaps I need to back up a bit. Grandal, who went 0-for-4 Sunday with three strikeouts in the Sox 9-3 win in Kansas City, has registered three hits in 47 at bats in his last 18 games, dating back to April 7. Check the calendar. That's more than a month ago and computes to a .064 batting average.

Dylan Cease, one of the club's starting pitchers and a battery mate of Grandal's, never had batted in a major league game until last Tuesday when he collected three hits including a rousing double off the right field wall in Cincinnati. Cease probably will pitch in a National League park before the season ends, but for right now, in one afternoon he equaled Grandal's hit production for an entire month.

However, that is far from the end of the story of the Sox's highest paid player's season-long slump. Historically Grandal has been a discerning hitter. He rarely swings at anything outside of the strike zone, regardless of who's doing the umpiring. Being a catcher, he apparently understands that the zone varies depending on the man calling the pitches. During his 10-year career, Grandal's walk rate is 14.3 percent. For comparison, José Abreu's mark is 6.4, providing a fine description of different styles.

But Grandal, despite an inconceivable .113 batting average, possesses an on-base percentage of .378, far better than Abreu's .317, for instance, and second only to Yermin Mercedes' .407 on the first-place White Sox.

In 91 plate appearances this season, Grandal has reached base 27 times via the walk - just about 30 percent of the time. In his recent 3-for-47 swoon, his OBP is a whopping .388. In addition, he's struck out 19 times, or about 21 percent, a couple of ticks below the major league average.

Starting a week ago Saturday against Cleveland, Grandal walked 13 times in four consecutive games, joining - I hope you're sitting down - Babe Ruth as the only American League players ever to do so. The Bambino accomplished the feat in 1930, but he wasn't hitting .113 at the time. His average actually was .376.

More recently in the National League, Bryce Harper, playing for the Nationals, also was walked 13 times in four games May 7-10, 2016. However, one of those games was a 13-inning contest in which Cub pitchers put him on six times via the walk, and, as we all know, because of the free runner on second base, that game five years ago wouldn't have had much chance of lasting four extra innings.

None of this fazes Grandal, who has been handling himself like the consummate professional.

"My numbers haven't changed," Grandal said after Sunday's game. "I don't know if you guys did homework when I first signed here, but it seems to be right on point."

Grandal claims that his .119 batting average on balls in play is misleading, and his exit velocity of 92.9, the highest of his career since EV became a metric in 2015, supports this explanation. He has only 62 official at-bats so far this season, so it seems reasonable that Yaz will continue to reach base but with a mixture of hits and walks instead of primarily the latter.

Grandal's saga is just one eyebrow-raising item for the South Siders 32 games into the season. Without belaboring last week's topic in this space, manager Tony La Russa really opened up himself to additional criticism last Wednesday in a 1-0 walkoff loss to the Reds, the Sox lone defeat last week.

Bringing in Liam Hendricks in the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs of a scoreless game, the Sox skipper engineered a double switch, replacing Andrew Vaughn in left field with Jake Lamb. Hendriks got the third out, but a problem arose. Vaughn had made the last out in the top of the inning and would have been the designated runner at second base to open the top of the tenth.

Of course, Hendriks now was in that position, and this is where La Russa created big-time trouble for himself because he was unaware of the rule that says a pitcher can be excused from being the runner in that situation. Not only was La Russa in the dark about the rule, but the club has more coaches than an NFL franchise, and not one of them stepped up to educate his boss.

Hendriks ran to third on an infield groundout and stood there while Leury Garcia was thrown out trying to steal second base against Reds' catcher Tucker Barnhart, a three-time Gold Glove winner. According to the rules, Abreu could have been the designated runner. He's not the swiftest man on the team but certainly an improvement over Hendriks. Barnhart arguably might have held on to the ball had Abreu been stationed at third base rather than risk him trying to score. We'll never know.

The optic of a sportswriter reading the rule to La Russa after the game wasn't the recommended way to silence the manager's critics. Shaking a little more salt into the wound was Reds manager David Bell, bursting forth with the proclamation that he knew the rule. Learned about it in spring training. Maybe La Russa was absent that day along with his coaches.

A fine antidote to a misstep like last Wednesday and a catcher hitting .113 is a starting pitching staff that was as close to perfect last week as you can get. Starting with Cease on Tuesday and followed by Dallas Keuchel, Lance Lynn, Carlos Rodón and Lucas Giolito, the quintet covered 29 innings. The Royals' first-inning run on Sunday against Giolito was the only tally charged against the starters all week. The Reds and Royals managed just 13 hits in the five games, striking out 28 times and walking but 13.

Sox starters have a 2.66 ERA, easily the best in baseball. The Mets are next at 2.97. Opponents are hitting just .196 against them, also the best in MLB. You have to wonder about the influence of new pitching coach Ethan Katz. He has a strong group with which to work, but these guys are off the charts.

On the other side of the ball, with the devastating injuries to Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, the club lost anywhere from 50 to 60 home runs, depending on if and when this talented duo returns to the lineup. The White Sox rank 28th in the major leagues so far this season with 27 dingers. Since more than 40 percent of runs are scored via the long ball, one might conclude that the Sox have trouble scoring.

Nope. Only three teams have scored more often. Must be all those walks Yasmani Grandal has received.

I'm not a big believer in the run differential metric that is published daily. A club can win a blowout game and then lose 2-1 and 1-0 and still have a positive run differential. I'd rather have a team that consistently wins the close games, especially the low-scoring contests that leave little room for error. Nevertheless, with a run differential of plus-53, the Sox are baseball's tops, and it's not even close with the Red Sox next at plus-36.

La Russa has been playing Vaughn in left field even though the kid is a first baseman. He's clearly the equal of Jimenez out there, and when La Russa used infielder Danny Mendick in right field over the weekend he responded with a couple of fine running catches - and chipped in on Saturday with a two-run first-inning home run.

In a short amount of time we've seen lots of unexpected and unique happenings - some good and a few not so much - with this ballclub. We've had Rodón's no-hitter and Nick Madrigal, still technically a rookie, leading everyone in fewest strikeouts and best batting average with two strikes. Who knows? That batting tee might be next.

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Former Bill Veeck bar buddy Roger Wallenstein is our White Sox correspondent. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:16 PM | Permalink

May 7, 2021

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #355: The La Russa Rules

Don't go near him! Plus: Cubs Might Be Forced To Keep Kris Bryant; The Rest Of The Bears Draft Not So Great; and more!

Beachwood Radio Network · The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #355: The La Russa Rules

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SHOW NOTES

* 355.

:52: Tony Larue.

* La Roosa, like Johnny LaRue.

Also:

* Rhodes: "Maybe his coaches don't wanna go near him because he doesn't wear his mask right."

* White Sox bench coach Miguel Cairo is in his first full-time coaching job.

* Sullivan, Tribune: "You may not have known the entire rule either. I sure didn't."

* Rhodes: "People who make their living criticizing others not being able to take criticism themselves is what makes journalists the most hypocritical people on the planet."

* Coffman: "What a joke! What a joke."

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36:10: Cubs Might Be Forced To Keep Kris Bryant.

* Most versatile MVP ever?

* Clemens, FanGraphs: Kris Bryant, High Ball Hitter.

* Plus: More like El Castro.

* And: Assignment Desk: Was Pedro Strop the best middle reliever in Cubs history?

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58:45: The Rest Of Bears Draft Not So Great.

* Dickerson, ESPN: Analysis For Every Selection.

* Flashback:

* Teven Jenkins: "The number one thing I've always learned is you keep your quarterback clean, you always keep him upright, no matter what you have to do - be dirty, hold, whatever you've got to do."

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STOPPAGE: 15:10

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For archives and other Beachwood shows, see The Beachwood Radio Network.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:20 PM | Permalink

May 6, 2021

Company C, 96th Illinois Volunteer Infantry

When curator Diana L. Dretske discovered that the five long-gone Union soldiers in a treasured photograph in the Bess Bower Dunn Museum were not fully identified, it compelled her into a project of recovery and reinterpretation.

Utilizing an impressive array of local and national archives, as well as private papers, the author's microhistorical approach records events that often go unnoticed, such as a farmer enlisting in the middle of a crop field, a sister searching her brother's face for signs of war, and an immigrant dying in an effort to become a good American citizen.

This book, the most intensive examination of the 96th Illinois Volunteer Infantry since the regiment's history was published in 1887, centers on immigrants from the British Isles who wished to be citizens of a country at war with itself.

Far removed from their native homelands, they found new promise in rural Illinois. These men, neighbors along the quiet Stateline Road in Lake County, decide to join the fighting at its most dangerous hour. The bonds of war become then the bonds of their new national identity.

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The Bonds of War uncovers the common soldier from the cataclysm that is the American Civil War by offering a collective biography of five soldiers of the 96th in the Western Theater. The human drama of their lives unfolds before the reader on battlefields such as Chickamauga and within the high pine stockades of Andersonville. Their lives argue that those who seem to matter least in military history are the very ones who can tell us the most about the experience of war and the reasons for remembering.

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See also:

* The 96th Illinois Infantry Regiment.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:08 PM | Permalink

Fantasy Sports Market To Pass $2 Billion In Revenue By 2026

The fantasy sports market is expected to grow at approximately 14% during the period 2020−2026, according to a new report.

Key Report Highlights:

* Global fantasy sports market expected to witness an absolute growth of around 120% between 2020 to 2026 with an incremental growth of over $1 billion.

* The growing demand for improving online gaming infrastructure and the rise in application-based user experience is expected to boost the fantasy cricket market, which is expected to grow at a CAGR of over 13% during the forecast period.

* Owing to the popularity of the sport in the biggest fantasy sports market in the world, American football has been able to draw a significant audience. North America is expected to record an incremental revenue of around $539 million during 2020-2026 in the football fantasy sports segment.

* The female segment in global fantasy sports is expected to reach $737 million by 2026 due to the rising awareness about fantasy sports among female through social networking websites.

* Application-based fantasy sports market has a large customer base with rise in use of smartphones, where the segment is expected witness an incremental revenue of $729 million between 2020 to 2026, growing at a CAGR of around 14%.

Fantasy Sports Market - Dynamics

The rising number of sports events across the world is creating high opportunities for fantasy sports. It is encouraging the maximum participation of fantasy sports players.

However, due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, various sports events were either canceled or postponed, which had a negative impact on the fantasy sports market.

Since the beginning of 2021, some restrictions and regulations were relaxed for conducting sports events. However, the presence of a physical audience at live sports events is still regulated but has created an opportunity for fantasy sports, as people sitting in their places can play fantasy sports as well as enjoy the real game.

In addition, sports events today have a global reach as traveling has become much affordable. Earlier, tickets for sports events were largely sold in the domestic market but as interest is growing and tickets have become affordable, people have started taking part in fantasy sports to enhance their sports experience.

Fantasy Sports Market - Geography

North America is a key region for the global fantasy sports market owing to the high popularity of various sports there. Ever since the inception of fantasy sports in the region, several vendors such as ESPN, Yahoo, FanDuel and DraftKings, among others, have launched their wide range of fantasy sports offerings.

The region is home to more than 60 million fantasy sports players today and is a highly promising market for the vendors to target.

The region has undergone several transitions regarding regulatory restrictions related to the fantasy sports business. With the demand for betting rising in recent years, regulatory authorities have taken stern steps to prevent the same from penetrating restricted areas.

The thin line of difference between fantasy sports and betting is differentiated as a game of skill versus a game of chance; this topic is a highly debatable one.

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Previously in markets:
* Global Chewing Gum Market On Fire.

* Global Chainsaw Market On Fire.

* Automatic Labeling Machine Market On Fire.

* Tube Packaging Market Worth $9.3 Billion By 2021.

* Luxury Vinyl Tiles Flooring Market Worth $31.4 Billion By 2024.

* Global Condom Market On Fire.

* Global Sexual Lubricant Market On Fire.

* Industrial Lubricants Market Booming.

* Global Electric Guitar Growth.

* Early Impacts Of COVID-19 On The Pet Food Packaging Market.

* Global Music Recording Industry Trajectory & Analytics 2020-2025.

* The Global Premature Ejaculation Market Is Exploding Quickly.

* Pressure Sensitive Adhesives Market On Fire.

* Global TV Market Spikes With Pandemic.

* The Robust Undercurrent Of The Sports Flooring Market.

* Data Historian Market Heating Up.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:33 AM | Permalink

Dinosaur Drive-Thru!

GURNEE - Dinosaur Drive-Thru's family attraction will be located in the parking lot of Six Flags Great America from May 13th through June 6th.

Dinosaur Drive-Thru is a COVID, and family, friendly activity, as everyone remains in their own vehicle during the show. The attraction presents over 50 animatronic dinosaurs that will educate, entertain and engage kids of all ages.

The dinosaurs are uniquely set up in order of when they existed. The entire drive-thru adventure is guided by a very entertaining and educational audio tour, in both English and Spanish, that is filled with jokes and shocking fun facts about each dinosaur. Also included in the audio tour, is an interactive trivia game that the entire vehicle plays throughout the show. Each vehicle receives a scorecard when the show begins, then every winner is awarded an official Dino Guru certificate at the end! Tickets are $49 per vehicle (which includes up to 8 people.)

"We are dads of little kids, and nothing feels better than taking them to an experience that we can share together versus buying them something that they only play with for a few times," said owner Troy Diskin.

"It's not just seeing robot dinosaurs," said marketing director Jim Wojdyla, "it's the only interactive and educational experience that you can do while feeling the vibration from the roar of a 40-foot T. Rex in your chest. What's cooler than that?"

Wojdyla is also the lead singer of the popular Chicago-based band Modern Day Romeos. After COVID took away the Chicagoland music scene, this business venture was created.

"After taking the show to many southern states during the winter, I am very excited to bring another form of entertainment back to Chicagoland until the music scene gets back in full force," said Wojdyla.

Enjoy the museum-quality detail of each dinosaur during the day, or while they are illuminated with colorful lights at night for an even more realistic experience. The website offers many free downloads including coloring pages for adults, kids and toddlers, word searches and a joke sheet. Tickets and more information are also available at www.dinosaurdrivethru.com.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:29 AM | Permalink

May 5, 2021

Shit Jobs

My first ever job in 1967 was loading cases of orange-flavored, drink-generating powder Tang onto truck pallets at a General Mills facility.

It was a sweaty job for minimum wage. The minimum wage in 1967 was $1.40 an hour. Various calculators assert this is $11.08 in 2021 dollars. But that judgement is an optical - and fiscal - illusion, wrought by economists who would not work for minimum pay, no matter what century it is.

That pay scale was exactly then what it seems like now. Roman galley oar rowers got more for sea duty. They were fed nutritious slop.

Zag of the Pleistocene Era would not work for $1.40 an hour, even if you tossed in free brontosaurus filets as a bonus. That's about 2.5 pennies per minute. Even Cro-Magnons won't work for that.

Yes, I sweated blobs of orange-colored Tang breakfast libation powder for 2.5 pennies per minute.

Being generous with the federal tax bracket, I paid 14 percent of my hourly pay to Washington. About 8 cents. I also sent 3.23 percent to Indiana's government. About 4 cents.

So I got to keep 120 pennies for every hour I hoisted the 50-pound cases. Ah, yes. Death and taxes, I reminded myself.

I had been informed that I would be uplifted as a youthful working citizen, but I found the experience vaguely disquieting and unfulfilling.

In truth, it was a shit job for shit wages. And I felt like . . . shit?

If you are getting $1.40 every hour - 140 pennies every 60 minutes before taxes - you also are counting every second to keep track of how much this miserable job is worth. And by inference, how little you are worth. And by further inference, how little do I value my own miserable life to spend it doing this?

And thinking after two minutes, "Hey I just earned 4 cents." In 1967, you could buy one drink from a friend's Coke bottle for 4 cents.

Of course, you don't actually make 2 cents a minute. It's actually 2.334 cents. It's the last four-thousandth of a penny that makes you feel special. It's a performance bonus, just for really miserable people.

The current environment suggests some self-interested employers view such experiences of job misery as noble moments of human growth. Yours. Not theirs.

Yes, it's the modern post-Depression version of, "When I was your age, I walked to school four miles in the snow every day. Uphill. With no shoes. It was six miles back home."

That rearview mirror education has reinforced to me that the Tang Experience was, as I have come to judge such things, a shit job paid by a shit employer for shit wages.

In the approaching aftermath of the pandemic, America seems to acknowledge that it's awash in such job openings that no one wants or should. Employers are disturbed and perplexed by the rejection, as if government unemployment benefits were better at feeding a family than a shit job with shit pay.

Of course unemployment benefits are better. You can almost live off them.

Shit employers are shocked and angry at this disloyalty, though what they tangibly contribute to the nation is debatable. Their business model depends mostly on someone else's shit experience and galley slave pay.

You can see placards on many storefronts announcing snarkily that they cannot open because no one - the ungrateful louts - will take the offered positions they once had before they were ditched.

The concept of "shit jobs" and the harm they do is not merely a crude observation. It's a scientifically studied phenomenon.

As opposed to the vulgar but colloquial "shit for brains," "shit sandwich," "shit storm" and "shitload," the term "shit jobs" is the scientific term invented by the late cultural anthropologist, professor and author David Graeber. He had a doctorate from the University of Chicago and taught at the London School of Economics. He did not have shit for brains.

In 2018, he wrote Bullshit Jobs: A Theory, postulating the existence of meaningless jobs and analyzing their harm to our humanity. He suggested more than half of societal work in private enterprise is pointless, and "becomes psychologically destructive." These jobs drain us every day, We are told they are good for our self-worth.

The dead-end pathways to nowhere are ubiquitous.

Graeber broke down the categories of uselessness as flunkies, goons, duct tapers, box tickers, and taskmasters. Yep, that sounds like my professional life.

Here's the useless roster as Graeber labeled them:

1) flunkies, who serve to make their superiors feel important, e.g., receptionists, administrative assistants, door attendants.

2) goons, who act to harm or deceive others on behalf of their employer, e.g., lobbyists, corporate lawyers, telemarketers, public relations specialists.

3) duct tapers, who temporarily fix problems that could be fixed permanently, e.g., programmers repairing shoddy code, airline desk staff who calm passengers whose bags do not arrive.

4) box tickers, who create the appearance that something useful is being done when it is not, e.g., survey administrators, in-house magazine journalists, corporate compliance officers.

5) taskmasters, who manage - or create extra work for - those who do not need it, e.g., middle management, leadership professionals.

We once thought - at least predicted by economist John Maynard Keynes in 1930 - that automation would create 15-hour-a-week jobs. It hasn't. But it did spawn lots more meaningless jobs that no one would choose if they had a choice.

The premise of shit jobs is they pay shit wages, though this is not universally true. Aaron Rodgers is willing to pay the Green Bay Packers $23 million from a returned signing bonus not to play for them. He suggests the Packers are a shit organization.

I firmly believe I have held several of those meaningless jobs and earned just enough not to starve to death. It was a close call.

A few points of historical enlightenment.

That idea that work was intrinsically valuable was invented by 16th century European aristocrats so somebody else could do the work. The Puritan Capitalistic Work Ethic turned that arrangement into religious philosophy. Shit jobs apparently are God's will.

Current politicians worry about having enough jobs so they can take credit for them. But they do not much care that such shit jobs are worthless.

Does this sound like your life?

The Urban Dictionary immortalizes the term in its definition: "An unfulfilling, tedious waste of 8+ hours of the day, five days of the week, that you only persist with in order to pay the bills and the ever mounting debt that comes from having to increase your spending in order to entertain yourself outside of working hours as you are so brain dead from the hours you spend in work."

Yep, that about covers it, except for the "entertainment" motivation. After eight hours of lifting cases of Tang, you are not capable of entertainment.

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David Rutter is the former publisher/editor of the Lake County News-Sun, and more importantly, the former author of the Beachwood's late, great "The Week In WTF" column. His most recent piece for us was BMW Is The Answer To The Begged Question. You can also check him out at his Theeditor50's blog. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 3:26 PM | Permalink

May 3, 2021

Judging Tony

Bobby Winkles, who managed the Angels and A's after winning three College World Series in the '60s with Arizona State, used to tell the story about Nolan Ryan when the Hall of Famer was pitching for the Angels.

Seems that Ryan was tiring in the late innings of a close game when Winkles went to the mound to make a change. Before handing the ball to his manager, Ryan said, "You mind if I ask you a question?"

"No, of course not," replied Winkles, who had great respect and admiration for one of the game's all-time greats, especially since he won 21 games for Winkles' club in 1973 while striking out 383 batters.

"Would you rather have a tired Nolan Ryan face the next hitter or that guy warming up in the bullpen?" deadpanned Ryan.

Winkles didn't hesitate. "You go get 'im," said the skipper, turning on his heel and heading back to the dugout.

That's what you call direct and effective communication, something that was missing last Tuesday between White Sox ace Lucas Giolito and his manager Tony La Russa.

Facing the last-place Detroit Tigers, Giolito had sailed through six innings with a 2-1 lead. Lucas had thrown 89 pitches; he had walked one hitter while striking out seven and yielding just three hits. In this era, that's a full evening's work.

Nevertheless, Giolito jogged to the mound for the seventh inning, which opened with an eight-pitch walk to Willi Castro, a .217 hitter at the time. In a tight game with a vaunted bullpen at his behest, one might have expected La Russa to call upon one of his hard-throwing relievers. But that didn't happen.

A flyball ensued before Wilson Ramos's double tied the game, followed by Niko Goodrum's home run to give the visitors a 4-2 bulge en route to a final 5-2 victory. Only then did Giolito depart.

According to Paul Sullivan's account in the Tribune, Giolito disclosed after the game that he "didn't have much left in the tank," to which La Russa replied, "Is that what he said?" Apparently the skipper thought Lucas had a few gallons remaining.

At the risk of focusing undue attention on the one loss to Detroit last week - the Sox swept the Tigers in two seven-inning games on Thursday after a rainout on Wednesday - La Russa received a barrage of criticism for staying with Giolito. Perhaps Sox followers and scribes haven't forgotten La Russa's faux pas the first week of the season when he summoned Matt Foster in relief of Dallas Keuchel in Seattle with the Sox holding a 4-1 lead in the sixth inning.

Required to face a minimum of three batters, Foster faced eight, retiring just one, before La Russa mercifully removed him. By then the Sox were losing 8-4. Adding to the daggers thrust La Russa's way, the Sox still held a 4-2 lead after Foster's three-batter minimum.

Robert Arthur, writing in Baseball Prospectus, claimed, "La Russa's error with Giolito highlights one of the ways the oldest manager in the majors has failed to adjust to the modern version of baseball," namely that starting pitchers simply don't pitch deep into games anymore. Arthur pointed out that Giolito threw a 91.5 mph fastball, one of his slowest this season, at the start of the seventh inning on Tuesday, indicating that fatigue had reared its ugly head.

La Russa's lineups also have been scrutinized on social media and elsewhere. In Thursday's first game of the doubleheader, he used Jake Lamb, Andrew Vaughn, Zack Collins, Billy Hamilton and Leury Garcia in the five-through-nine slots in the batting order. That quintet entered the game with a .193 composite batting average.

Nevertheless, despite garnering just four hits for the game, the bottom of the order accounted for the three Sox runs in the bottom of the fifth inning for a 3-1 victory. Garcia's bases loaded single with one out plated Vaughn and Collins to break a 1-1 tie, and Carlos Rodon (six innings) and closer Liam Hendriks limited Detroit to just two hits. Score one for the Sox skipper.

In the Sun-Times' Saturday Sports readers' poll, 62 percent of respondents replied "less" to the question of "A month into the season are you more or less confident in Tony La Russa than you were when the White Sox hired him?"

La Russa clearly has faced some momentous challenges in his return to the dugout, not the least of which is guiding his team toward the lofty expectations not only to win the Central Division but also to advance far into the post-season.

Aside from his strategical and personnel decisions, La Russa should either trash his COVID mask or at least cover his nose as well as his mouth, just like the protocol dictates. His schnazola has been sticking out prominently since Opening Day. In his defense, Cleveland manager Tito Francona displayed the same medical or sartorial, if you will, method during his weekend visit to The Grate. Both could benefit from a re-do.

La Russa also looks, well . . . old, in these post-game Zoom interviews. He appears tired and beaten even when the ballclub wins. A smile or a stab at humor, the funny variety, would help.

So now that we've pointed out a few of the items for fodder for La Russa's critics, there is more to the story.

As mentioned, despite the paltry lineup last Thursday, the Sox did win the game. Lamb, who bats from the left side, also appeared again in left field on Saturday against Cleveland righthander Triston McKenzie while Garcia, a switch hitter, sent Nick Madrigal to the bench with his .316 batting average.

With one out in the bottom of the fourth inning and the Sox leading 5-2, Yasmani Grandal and Lamb both walked. Despite it being relatively early in the game, La Russa pulled Lamb in favor of Hamilton to run at first base. Garcia came through again, lining a ball into the right field corner as Hamilton turned on the jets and scored from first, a feat that easily would have escaped the slow-footed Lamb. Tim Anderson and Adam Eaton followed with infield ground balls, so La Russa's maneuvering produced the runs which provided a nice cushion for what turned out to be a 7-3 Sox win.

In his own defense, La Russa explains that keeping his bench players "fresh" is the objective, an explanation failing to receive high marks from his detractors. I wonder if those fans recall the championship season of 2005 when Ozzie Guillen, citing the same rationale as La Russa, used Pablo Ozuna, Willie Harris, Timo Perez, Chris Widger and Jeff Blum liberally to rest his regulars while keeping the bench players involved. We all know how that turned out.

La Russa also has done a masterful job with Michael Kopech, who apparently is on an innings-limited schedule this season. La Russa has been clear that he spots Kopech both as an occasional starter and reliever. When he does pitch, Kopech has a relatively long leash, having logged two innings or more in six of his seven appearances, including three innings on Saturday in relief of winner Lance Lynn. Kopech allowed just one hit while fanning three.

Kopech has had at least three days off between appearances. In 18⅔ innings, the righthander has allowed just eight hits while striking out 30 and walking only four hitters. His ERA is 1.45 (and his FIP an even more sterling 1.24). Of course, Kopech deserves the lion's share of credit, but his manager has been able to sell his prized young hurler on plans for his role this season.

After a lackluster 5-0 loss on Sunday against Cleveland, compounded by Luis Robert's strained hip flexor sending him to the IL, the Sox stand at 15-12, a game worse than a season ago with Rickey Renteria at the helm. No doubt the club misses Eloy Jimenez, who after 27 games last season was hitting .295 with nine homers and 20 RBIs. Yermin Mercedes has taken up some of the slack, and La Russa's starting pitchers, with the addition of Lance Lynn and the resurgent Carlos Rodón, have performed far better than the group Renteria had a year ago.

Let's just say that the criticism aimed at La Russa has been overly severe while few can argue that La Russa is the same manager he was at Oakland and St. Louis. With 135 games remaining on the schedule, there still is plenty of time to see if TLR still has something left in the tank.

Final Note
Much of the consternation and concern about baseball these days centers on the fact that approximately one-third of plate appearances result in either a strikeout, walk or home run. If you observed the first three innings Saturday of the Sox victory over Cleveland, you got a huge dose of that exact dilemma.

Fourteen Sox hitters went to the plate, first against Triston McKenzie followed by Phil Maton. McKenzie struck out the side in order in the first inning as did Maton in the third. In the second frame, McKenzie again struck out the side. However, he also walked four hitters and gave up a grand slam home run to Tim Anderson.

Summary: 14 batters, nine strikeouts, four walks, and one home run. And that, my fellow fans, is why we can be thankful the White Sox were the batters and not the pitchers.

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Former Bill Veeck bar buddy Roger Wallenstein is our White Sox correspondent. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:23 AM | Permalink

May 2, 2021

TrackNotes: Evil & Earworms

They ran a race and nobody got hurt, so that's something.

Class willed out as Medina Spirit gave trainer Bob Baffert his record seventh Kentucky Derby victory. Earlier in the day, his Gamine gave him a record-breaker for Grade I wins, after the horse was reinstated to an Oaklawn victory from last year that was drug-disputed by what Baffert called "uncontrollable environmental factors." It never ends.

After Medina's Derby win, even Baffert seemed blasé, as if to say "HA! Chumps" as he walked to the winner's circle.

More later, but television fans were stomped upon by NBC's painful coverage and this wagerer was injured by satanic internet demons, which perhaps could have been anticipated in such close proximity to Churchill Downs Inc.

The break was clean as Hall of Famer for a reason John Velazquez got/let his son of Protonico (Giant's Causeway and Storm Cat on pop's side, which explains it) take the first lead.

Soup and Sandwich followed him and Mandaloun was close as they settled in for the 10-furlong journey. Luckily, some of the bums we talked about trailed. Hot Rod Charlie, who acquitted himself well in the end, had his name called too. How many times? Mandaloun and Florent Geroux tried hard, but he just couldn't catch Medina Spirit, even if they'd have run another furlong, and Baffert's trainee had wired the race.

Medina Spirit paid a healthy $26.20, $12.00 and $7.60 on 12-1 odds. The exotics followed with a $503.60 exacta, $848.84 for the trifecta and $9,456.40 for the super. Mattress king Jim McIngvale of Runhappy fame was gaudily shown making his $2 million bet on the favorite Essential Quality. I'm thinking' it's pretty obscene to be able to bet and lose that kind of money, but maybe that's just me. Mattress Mack does a lot of good things for people, as he must, when non-existent climate change keeps pounding his beloved Houston with hurricanes, flooding and petroleum accidents. Rock Your World finished a bumper-car 17th and he's going to need to get off his knees and run again if we are to have faith in him.

I was happy for my Mandaloun, and Hot Rod Charlie finished third, indicating that this race restored a kind of order in the world when Churchill Downs tries so hard to upset the apple cart every year with such a ridiculous race. Favorite Essential Quality finished fourth, which I think was just about right. Soup and Sandwich faded to 19th. Pole sitter Known Agenda came in ninth and O Besos took fifth. The Preakness will feature a bunch of new shooters. If you want to, remember some of these Derby runners for the summer. If you don't want to, that's alright too.

I'll explain my travails a bit later.

Terrible Tirico
We don't expect much; I was expecting NBC's coverage to be rote and lazy. It was, but it was also even worse.

You be the judge of why MikeTirico still has a job. I guess he did what he was told to do, and it felt like "For this kind of pay, I'll do what I'm told."

His lack of interest and knowledge and even his seeming disdain for horse racing was obvious. His earworm was "some sort of normalcy as a reduced crowd comes back to the Derby." Mike, when you only know three things, maybe it's time to sit down and learn more.

Again, he went nuts for football when they showed Aaron Rodgers lurking on the balcony rail in his super suite. He went nuts when they mentioned, many times, that Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim was part owner of one of the horses. For 260 years, Boeheim has represented to me the dark underbelly of college sports. He just hasn't been caught in any meaningful way.

But the blood coursing through Tirico's veins was OLYMPICS. NBC cut away from pre-race analysis of the Turf Classic entree race into the Derby to talk to a sprinter. Not a 6-furlong horse - an Olympic sprinter. I think Randy Moss and Jerry Bailey were really peeved when they got back to talking about the race. Gary Stevens might have said something if he were there.

NBC is part of the problem when they launder boatloads of money into the bubbling Olympic cesspool, and I get why they were talking about it so much. The Olympics must be stopped, NOW. The best we can do is make sure they are never held in America again.

But Tirico was a kid-in-the-candy-store gleeful shill for an agenda that had nothing to do with American Thoroughbred horse racing. Dennis Green, we know exactly who Mike Tirico is.

The Normalcy Chorus
Gravity. But what Tim Layden does, with the help of a symphony of violins and video images, is very easy to do. Buy into it, give 'em what they want and schmaltz it to Saturn. His "essay" pinkies up, about how Churchill Downs was empty this time last year, created a new victimhood for both himself and the American masses. That's cheap and easy. It's a lot harder to write when you have to deal with the truth.

"A shrine with empty pews. A party with no revelers. A tradition painfully interrupted. We had already begun to long for the undefinable something we call 'normal.'"

Garth, I think I'm gonna hurl! When I see crap like that, I wonder, how much is he getting paid?

Brothers & Britney
Let's go positive for a moment. Commentators like Kenny Rice were right on the edge of pook and reality, scripted. But Donna Brothers asked all the best questions of the winning jockeys in the return to the winner's circle. As usual. You do know she was an accomplished jockey, right? Britney Eurton must have been mortified as Tirico fell back on one of the four or five things he knows about racing and kept mentioning how Britney's father, Peter, is a horse trainer of high skill. But she's a young veteran by now and asked the trainers the right questions too. My friend, The Girl With a System, I'm seriously not kidding, from Wisconsin's Fox Valley, was itching to see what kind of shoes Britney might wear on the trek from the barns, across dirt, to the paddock. We never got to see. As she said, "She's walking with no problems."

Lava, Luis & Belichick
The video features, without Tirico involved, were very good, except for one, which included Tirico.

The piece on Lava Man, who went through claiming and racetrack glory both, was really sweet. His cheap price and personal travails, and race heroics, make his story worth reading. Now, he's a companion and lead pony for current runners, and don't think that's easy. Imagine stepping on the track, which you used to dominate. The heartthrob Kona Gold did the same thing, to the point of helping his charges.

The piece on jock Luis Saez was also sweet, although it failed to mention that his and Maximum Security's disqualification in the 2019 Kentucky Derby was justified. They portrayed him and his horse as the victims, but it was so nice to see his wife and children's support, and the very young daughter sit on top of a horse.

Then, they had a gratuitous video of Bob Baffert and Bill Belichick talking to each other via video about "the numbers." The numbers of championship wins. Tirico moderating, fawningly of course. Baffert was on his ego horse, although it looked like he could see through the concept. Belichick showed how he is really a big horse racing fan and was relaxed and jovial. They should have just let those two jawbone together, but with the amount of money they're paying Tirico, they have to give him something to do.

Betting Bungle
In the "They're Going To Hear From Me Monday Morning" department, my betting platform froze up 27 minutes before the Derby. For you eagle eyes out there, I know I said I would never bet Churchill again. But after much research, I determined that my miserly gold doesn't really reach CDI. And that's all I can say.

But imagine my shock and disappointment of not being able to put in what would have been a sizable bet. I had to jump over to another service I have, but it only had $30 in the bankroll. The best I could do was get in Win and Place on Mandaloun and a couple others. I would have had the top two and the exacta. Funny, I didn't get totally angry. Now I want to see what I can extract from the website.

Our Very Own Evil Incarnate
One more thing, Columbo. There was no mention of the homicide Churchill Downs Inc. is committing on Arlington Park. I didn't expect it. On Friday morning, Fox32 news sent Roseanne Tellez, a very likable person and you should know her story, out to Arlington for a clueless valentine to the track on its opening day.

She clearly doesn't understand the impact of what evil incarnate is doing out there, but she was clearly gobsmacked and giddy over the magnificence of what I will say again is the greatest sporting venue in the world.

The place looked great, to the point of tears. She interviewed Arlington's general manager and rusted horseshoe Tony Petrillo. I kept saying to the screen, here's your question: "What on Earth would possess Churchill Downs Incorporated to close this place? Huh? HUH?"

Instead, because they don't know better, she allowed Petrillo to just say "We'll see what happens."

Petrillo has worked there a long time. He is as responsible for the violent acts CDI has perpetrated on racing, and racing in Illinois, as anybody. With a smile on his face, I couldn't help but wonder how he squares selling his soul to what they're doing. I'm sure money has something to do with it. Does he breeze past the grooms and hot walkers without even acknowledging their existence, if he even goes down there? Paul Lynde for the win, I say yes, he does.

Vexing Valets
Just a minute, ma'am, the valets at Churchill Downs backed down on their threat to strike during the Derby. They're the guys who take care of the jockeys so all they have to worry about is riding. I would kill for that job. What an opportunity wasted! I don't get it.

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

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:21 PM | Permalink

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
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POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Don't Let Your Pet OD.


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