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« February 2019 | Main

March 20, 2019

Cook County Land Bank To Demolish Structurally Sound 1924 Washington Park Bank Building Despite Promises, Community Input & Options To Save It

The Cook County Land Bank Authority selected a development partner Wednesday to demolish the historic 1924 Washington Park National Bank Building at the corner of 63rd Street and Cottage Grove.

woodlawnbank1.jpg

While pointing to five-story renderings, the CCLBA announced a plan to construct a three-story office and retail building with seven parking spaces in its place to house national retailers, organizations, and a co-working operation paid for by the YWCA and managed by an undisclosed "national enterprise."

In partnership with the Metropolitan Planning Council, the CCLBA facilitated a community planning process to identify the community's vision for the building, which had been allowed to accumulate $3.7 million in back taxes over a 20-year period of time.

Woodlawn residents identified a number of top priorities, including preserving the building if at all possible, local and diverse construction jobs, broad-based/local/diverse community and business development space, local retail, healthcare, and a bank.

"Please preserve this building. It could be redeveloped for so many uses," said Linda Barnes at a community meeting.

"Please preserve this landmark building and return it to mixed use, with retail, offices, and maybe residential," another resident, Eric Rogers, said. "It's one of the last vestiges of 63rd Street's heyday, and the building's architectural charm is irreplaceable."

The structure was found to be sound by the CCLBA's engineering firm. Page 3 of their report states: "We believe that the existing framing system of the building is structurally sound, intact, and still in good condition. We believe that the building is salvageable and can be repaired to restore its full structural integrity."

"We are going to save this building," CCLBA executive director Rob Rose told a packed room of Woodlawn residents at one of the neighborhood's community meetings.

At another community meeting, Rose said that "Without intervention, the fate of the building would have been demolition."

This is the CCLBA's first large-scale mixed use development, and CCLBA created a "model process" they hope to replicate for "fast, transparent, community-centric redevelopment."

The CCLBA formed a selection committee that included a downtown developer, financier, one Woodlawn leader (the Apostolic Church) and an attorney. Several proposals were received last October, and a decision was expected within six weeks. Three finalists were selected. Two of the groups, East Lake as well as Woodlawn Works, proposed to keep the building. The third proposed demolition. The decision stretched into 2019 due to the "closeness and strength of the final groups."

The development group eventually selected was allowed to make major changes to their proposal four months after the RFP response submission deadline, and right before the final selection. There was a 40% alteration to the height of the proposed building, usage (from combining YWCA organizational offices into the building to the sudden inclusion of "co-working"), as well as the apparent addition (with no disclosed letter of intent) of a University of Chicago initiative. The last-minute changes were on display at the public CCLBA announcement as Rob Rose pointed to 5-story renderings while touting a 3-story building, and sharing that the co-working space would be paid for by the YWCA but that the national operator was undisclosed.

Five people - including an architect, Woodlawn residents, and Preservation Chicago executive director Ward Miller - all made public comments at the announcement urging CCLBA's board of directors to consider both community sentiment and adaptive reuse.

CCLBA chair Bridget Gainer then immediately lead the board in a vote to approve the recommendation. Chicago Commissioner David Reifman abstained, and Northlake Mayor Jeffrey Sherwin opposed the decision.

This was the CCLBA's first involvement in large-scale, mixed use development, and CCLBA lauded its "fast, transparent, community-centric redevelopment model."

The CCLBA has been linked to the Landmark Laramie State Bank in Austin, the Loretto Academy in Woodlawn, and the Gaitan Substation in Washington Park, all of which, like the Washington Park Bank Building, are on Preservation Chicago's endangered list.

If the "model process" followed for the Washington Park Bank Building is repeated, the outcomes may be similarly grim.

It is important to note that these buildings, CCBLA dealings, and therefore this CCLBA RFP "model process" would impact historically significant buildings in predominately minority and lower-income communities.

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About Woodlawn Works

Woodlawn Works is a diverse team of highly qualified Woodlawn-based community members in the fields of architecture, business development, community engagement, co-working, construction, finance, food services, accounting, and law who came together and submitted a response to the CCLBA RFP. Our team strongly opposes the demolition of the 1924 Washington Park Bank building. We share portions of our proposal and insights into the CCLBA process in order for neighbors to see that there were great adaptive reuse alternatives to demolition. We hope that the CCLBA and selected developer change course. We also call on the CCLBA to alter its "model process" which needlessly puts historic buildings - and thus heritage and culture - in minority and lower income communities at risk.

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See also from Block Club Chicago:

"Of the three proposals considered finalists at Friday's meeting, only one plan included razing the building completely. That proposal, from DL3 Realty's Leon Walker, was ultimately approved by the land bank authority."

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:36 PM | Permalink

The [Wednesday] Papers

"[U.S. Rep. Danny] Davis argued that a vote for Lightfoot would be a risk voters cannot afford to take at a perilous time when Chicago is facing a $1.2 billion spike in pension payments and other intransigent problems," the Sun-Times reports.

"Would you rather take a chance for an individual who has been a great prosecutor, a well-learned individual, an outstanding attorney, a great litigator, skilled professional in the courthouse, but never been elected to anything?" Davis said of Lightfoot.

Representative Davis is right! Let's all vote for Lightfoot!

I mean, that's quite an endorsement of . . . his candidate's opponent.

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"It's great to be a great choir member," Davis said. "You can sing in the choir. But, it's something else to stand behind that podium every Sunday and try and reach the people. You can talk about what it might feel like to be there. But having the experience of doing it is very different."

Davis previously endorsed never-elected literal choir member Willie Wilson.

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Meanwhile . . .

"With two weeks to go before the April 2 runoff election, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle's mayoral campaign has stopped airing TV commercials - an unorthodox move that raises questions about the viability of her campaign in the race's closing days," the Tribune reports.

"We're making strategic decisions to put us in the best place to win this campaign," Preckwinkle said Tuesday during an endorsement event with U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, when asked to explain why her campaign has gone off the air.

Asked whether her campaign had run out of money, Preckwinkle said: "We're making strategic decisions to put us in the best place to win this campaign. Thank you."

No, thank you, Madame President.

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"Preckwinkle's Tuesday press conference featured many of the same elected officials and ministers who already have backed the county Democratic Party chair's mayoral bid or are her longtime allies."

Yup. As Lightfoot rolled out a broad range of endorsements in the least week from the likes of Gloria Steinem, Mike Quigley, Our Revolution Chicago and Jerry Joyce, Preckwinkle's campaign felt compelled to regurgitate old and tired endorsements of their own to convey the (false) notion that they were matching their opponent's momentum.

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From the Sun-Times' latest Lightfoot endorsement:

"[Preckwinkle] entered public life as a reformer, first as an alderman and now as Cook County Board president. She has improved the county health care system, reduced the jail population and made county government more efficient. But she has an overdeveloped instinct for the pragmatic - a willingness to forge dubious alliances in the service of getting things done."

Emphasis mine - because it's spot-on. From December:

"Your job always, if you're in office, is to try to move your agenda forward and get things done," she told the Tribune in a recent interview. "You know, I'm not into being Don Quixote."

Sometimes, though, voters (and taxpayers) want their mayor (or any other elected official) to fight the good fight - even if they go down with the ship. They want an elected official to, um, fight for them.

Hence, Lori Quixote, who was willing to tilt at the city's biggest windmill - it's incumbent mayor - back when few others were.

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Four years ago, I'm convinced, Preckwinkle could've beat Rahm without needing a runoff. She said no.

Why? It wasn't practical. Rahm had raised too much money. That was her excuse this time around too; if Rahm hadn't bailed on re-election, Preckwinkle would still be on the sidelines.

(Similarly, Preckwinkle preferred Dan Biss to JB Pritzker in the last Democratic gubernatorial primary, but didn't come out and support Biss because she didn't see a "path to victory" over Pritzker's millions. She also didn't endorse her floor leader Chuy Garcia, who did run against Rahm four years ago. So when Preckwinkle says she's "taken on the Old Boys' Club," well, that's not really true. Instead, she's joined it. You can't get more Old Boys Club than Burke and Berrios.

(Another example: She thought the city's Olympic bid was a bad idea, but sensed it was going to pass the city council easily, so instead of leading a fight against it, she voted for it and tried to assure as much of the spoils for her ward as she could. Frankly, that's why it's a surprise she voted against the parking meter deal, but maybe there was nothing for her to gain by conceding on that one.

(And look, I get it, sometimes you take half a loaf, or even a quarter of a loaf or just a slice, but sometimes you fight for what you believe in - and engage others while doing so, giving them a voice. Sometimes, over time, that can become a win, too.

(I'm just not a "That's just the way it is" kind of person. Things are whatever way we want them to be; there is nothing inherent in the way we live besides the constraints of physics.)

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Back to the Sun-Times:

"As a partner in a major law firm with a global reach, Lightfoot worked on two lawsuits to actually decrease the unfair advantage of the Democratic Party. The suits alleged, correctly, that the congressional map in Illinois was unfair to Republicans."

She took on Michael Madigan? Yes!

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"As deputy chief in City Hall's procurement department, she gave Mayor Richard M. Daley grief by questioning contracts to the politically connected.

"As head of special task force, she gave Mayor Rahm Emanuel grief by producing a scathing report on the Chicago Police Department.

"This election is no longer about who's the real progressive, a label that might scare off half the voters anyway. That's a wash. It's about who is most likely to put an end to the Democratic Party and City Hall's culture of favoritism and self-enrichment . . . "

True.

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Also, Preckwinkle continues to lie about how Ed Burke Jr. got his latest cushy job with the county. He did not, as she contends, merely send in his resume and get the position on his own merits. As the Tribune has reported, Ed Burke Sr. met with Preckwinkle and told her his son was "looking for a new opportunity," and Preckwinkle personally handed his resume to her human resources director.

It's not the only thing she hasn't been honest about. From the Trib last November:

A day after she announced that she had fired her chief of staff for "inappropriate behavior," Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle was asked twice if she knew about any harassment allegations involving her top aide before mid-September.

And twice Preckwinkle responded "no," portraying her disciplinary action as swift and decisive.

"As I said, this allegation was brought to me on Friday (Sept. 14)," she told reporters. "On Monday and Tuesday, we corroborated the allegation by talking to the victim and two witnesses, and I demanded his resignation. I have zero tolerance for this."

But Preckwinkle knew of concerns about chief of staff John Keller six months earlier, the Tribune has learned.

There is no mystery about the way Preckwinkle operates. It's too bad, because she could've been one of the greats. But that's just not who she is.

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By the way, I came across this 2015 Omaha World-Herald article when I was looking for a link to Willie Wilson's choir:

"An Illinois man is suing to stop Millard Public Schools from using the name Singsation for an annual swing choir competition."

Click through to see why I'm now tempted to call him Silly Willie Wilson.

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Also:

The whole image isn't showing in the embed; click through to see it.

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FYI: I'm not emotionally invested in Lori Lightfoot. She could be a huge disaster. She's far from my dream candidate. I'm just calling it like I see it.

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Medicaid Mess
"Sen. Laura Murphy, a Democrat from Des Plaines, meanwhile, said there were concerns that go beyond the managed care system, and that's the difficulty people have getting recertified for Medicaid to continue their benefits after their initial period of approval expires," the Springfield State Journal-Register reports.

Amen! I can personally attest to that.

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"I'm sure my office is not unlike most other districts' offices, where 90 percent of my staff's time is spent on trying to get people recertified," Murphy said. "And the amount of frustration that my constituents, and I'm sure everyone's experienced, it is beyond unacceptable."

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If I hadn't tumbled into the economic abyss these last few years, I wouldn't have experienced this - and other issues of relative poverty - so viscerally. Every reporter should experience it. You gain a true understanding of a system that literally does not care if people live or die.

Proposal: A Medicaid beat. HMU!

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ChicagoReddit

Have at it!

Lollapalooza 2019 Lineup from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

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BeachBook

U.S. Government Using Clandestine Shelters To Detain Immigrant Children.

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No Soccer Experience, But She Still Got A Spot On UCLA's Elite Team.

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At The Cozy Corner, The Bill Doesn't Add Up.

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Inside The Lives Of NBA Agents.

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TweetWood
A sampling.

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The Beachwood McRibTipLine: Mmmkay?

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:41 AM | Permalink

March 19, 2019

The [Tuesday] Papers

"Chicago mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot is calling for the release of thousands of pages of records from the city's investigation of an alleged cover-up for Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke after he killed teenager Laquan McDonald," WBEZ reports.

"There's no good-faith justification for keeping those reports secret at this point," Lightfoot said.

The investigation, conducted by Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson's office in 2016, focused on the Police Department's handling of the shooting.

Based on the investigation, the most exhaustive probe of the shooting's aftermath, Ferguson recommended that the city fire Chief of Detectives Eugene Roy, Deputy Chief David McNaughton and nine lower-ranking officers. Ferguson also recommended that four officers be suspended.

Okay, but what is there really left for us to learn about the incident?

"Ferguson told WBEZ last month his probe was 'a matter of high public interest and importance' and warned that the public still does not know 'the full story' about the shooting's aftermath."

Oh. Wow. So in other words, it's even worse than we already think.

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So what's keeping Ferguson from making the records public?

Ferguson said a Chicago municipal code that bars his office from releasing investigation records does not apply to the Police Department, which possesses the material.

But the Emanuel administration insists it cannot release the records - in part because of a gag order imposed three years ago by Vincent Gaughan, the Cook County judge who oversaw Van Dyke's trial. The gag order bars law enforcement agencies from releasing "any purported extrajudicial statement of either the defendant or witnesses relating to this case."

Last month, Gaughan said the order remains in effect because of plans by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul to ask the state Supreme Court to order a redo of Van Dyke's sentencing. Gaughan gave the former officer an 81-month prison sentence with possible release in half that time, a penalty criticized as too lenient by police accountability advocates.

I'm not sure how releasing the records would impact that request - there is no jury to be influenced, if that's the concern. But Judge Gaughan has been Judge Gag throughout the proceedings.

"Gaughan's overly cautious approach ignores a central value the high court has recognized but he seems to ignore: the public's right to know," BGA president David Greising wrote for the Tribune in May 2018. "[E]very time Gaughan blocks the path of truth he risks making an insidious impact on society. People lose confidence in the cops, the city government, even courts of law."

Similarly, the Sun-Times said in an editorial last month that "To this day, the most exhaustive review of how the cops conducted themselves remains a secret. And that is indefensible."

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I don't know if it's exactly "ironic," but it's worth remembering that the murder of Laquan McDonald is the central reason why Lori Lightfoot is poised to become our next mayor - and Rahm Emanuel, who appointed her to head his police reform task force in the wake of the scandal surrounding McDonald's death, is on his way out.

Preckwinkle's Housing Stories
"At a recent debate with rival Lori Lightfoot before the Chicago Tribune's editorial board, both candidates were asked about the growing pressures of gentrification and the shrinking supply of affordable housing in Chicago," the BGA reports in one of its fact-checks. Bear in mind that their fact-checks have been, well, weird. This one, though, seems to, um, bear out.

In explaining how she would attack the problem, Preckwinkle criticized a city-run program aimed in part at increasing the supply of affordable housing in better-off neighborhoods that have high rents. The program requires developers of new residential projects to either set aside a share of units at below-market rates or pay into a special fund to support less pricey housing elsewhere.

"The Affordable Requirements Ordinance - ARO - is really challenged because, my understanding is, in the last 12 years, despite the tremendous amounts of money that have gone into it, only 400 family units have been created. Four hundred in 12 years," Preckwinkle said. "Clearly, 400 family units in 12 years does not constitute success."

So what's the problem?

"When we asked the Preckwinkle campaign for the source of her number, a spokesman sent us a letter to the editor in the Chicago Sun-Times from the director of a local housing group who cited an online list of affordable housing developments the city offers as a tool for prospective renters."

Yeah, those aren't exactly great sources, and it turns out those numbers are wrong. You can click through for the details.

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From my notes of that same Tribune editorial debate:

"Preckwinkle: I built 1,500 units of affordable housing in my ward during my 19 years as alderman. Is that a lot? It doesn't sound like a lot to me - fewer than 100 a year - but I have nothing to compare it to. How does that stack up against the documented need in her ward?"

From Curtis Black, reporting from a housing forum in December:

"In the back of the room where the forum took place, a couple of South Side community organizers were grumbling as Preckwinkle touted her record on housing during her two decades as Fourth Ward alderman. I spoke later with Jawanza Malone, executive director of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, who worked with low-income and public housing residents of the ward during Preckwinkle's tenure.

"He recalls an alderman who backed development policies that led to the displacement of thousands of low-income working families from her ward. While Preckwinkle says she brought in [1,500] units of affordable housing, he says the actual cost of so-called affordable units was often out of reach for existing residents.

"While Preckwinkle says she worked with public housing residents, Malone points to a KOCO study finding that over 2,500 public housing units in North Kenwood and Oakland were lost while she was alderman.

"And while now, when the CHA's Plan For Transformation is near completion, she backs one-for-one replacement, he says that when it mattered, she was a major supporter of the mixed-income formula for redevelopment that excluded many displaced public housing residents."

Re-Runoffs
"They're called runoffs. But in three wards on the South Side and Southwest Side, they might well be called re-runoffs," Rachel Hinton writes for the Sun-Times.

"Three sitting aldermen face off April 2 against familiar foes - the same rivals who challenged them four years ago. The grudge rematches are in the 15th, 16th and 21st wards."

The incumbents are Ray Lopez, Toni Foulkes and Howard Brookins, respectively.

The challengers are Rafa Yanez, Stephanie Coleman and Marvin McNeil.

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In other challenges to incumbents, it's Rossana Rodriguez against Deb Mell in the 33rd, and Felix Cardona Jr. against Milly Santiago in the 31st.

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Meanwhile, in the 39th its Robert Murphy against Samantha Nugent, and in the 47th its Matt Martin against Michael Negron. Both are open seats with the retirement of Margaret Laurino and the departure of Ameya Pawar, who is in a runoff against Melissa Conyears-Ervin for city treasurer.

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In the 40th, it's Andre Vasquez challenging Pat O'Connor.

See also:

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In the 5th, it's activist William Calloway against incumbent Leslie Hairston. One thing they agree on: keeping aldermanic privilege.

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You can see the rest of the runoff matchups at The Political Odds, which is due for an update this week - maybe even later today!

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Campaign Twitter

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And Sneed's editors embrace it.

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There's still six debates left.

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Latest endorsements:

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ChicagoReddit

If you buy a balcony ticket to a concert at the House of Blues do you have to go up to the balcony? from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

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BeachBook

Will Amazon Really Pay Employees $150,000 In Nashville?

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TweetWood
A sampling.

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The Beachwood McRipTipLine: Saucy.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:16 AM | Permalink

March 18, 2019

The [Monday] Papers

For completists, there was no column on Friday and no Weekend Desk Report. Sorry!

"As Boeing hustled in 2015 to catch up to Airbus and certify its new 737 MAX, Federal Aviation Administration managers pushed the agency's safety engineers to delegate safety assessments to Boeing itself, and to speedily approve the resulting analysis," the Seattle Times reports.

"But the original safety analysis that Boeing delivered to the FAA for a new flight control system on the MAX - a report used to certify the plane as safe to fly - had several crucial flaws.

"That flight control system, called MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System), is now under scrutiny after two crashes of the jet in less than five months resulted in Wednesday's FAA order to ground the plane."

Our very own Tom Chambers emphasized this dynamic in his piece on Friday responding to a Steve Chapman column in the Tribune:

The FAA is also allowing Boeing to certify its own airplanes in a classic fox-in-the-henhouse scenario. European nations depend on America's FAA to certify American planes, and then do some follow-up evaluation. Simply said, other countries, include emerging Third World nations, depend on the FAA as the source of their confidence in American planes.

Back to the Seattle Times:

The FAA, citing lack of funding and resources, has over the years delegated increasing authority to Boeing to take on more of the work of certifying the safety of its own airplanes.

Early on in certification of the 737 MAX, the FAA safety engineering team divided up the technical assessments that would be delegated to Boeing versus those they considered more critical and would be retained within the FAA.

But several FAA technical experts said in interviews that as certification proceeded, managers prodded them to speed the process. Development of the MAX was lagging nine months behind the rival Airbus A320neo. Time was of the essence for Boeing.

A former FAA safety engineer who was directly involved in certifying the MAX said that halfway through the certification process, "we were asked by management to re-evaluate what would be delegated. Management thought we had retained too much at the FAA."

"There was constant pressure to re-evaluate our initial decisions," the former engineer said. "And even after we had reassessed it . . . there was continued discussion by management about delegating even more items down to the Boeing Company."

Even the work that was retained, such as reviewing technical documents provided by Boeing, was sometimes curtailed.

"There wasn't a complete and proper review of the documents," the former engineer added. "Review was rushed to reach certain certification dates."

When time was too short for FAA technical staff to complete a review, sometimes managers either signed off on the documents themselves or delegated their review back to Boeing.

Libertarians who want to get rid of all government besides the military and police, and conservatives who want to let businesses regulate themselves, should be the ones forced to fly on the planes that result. The rest of us will fly on well-regulated planes that get us to our destinations safely instead.

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Imagine, if you will, three airline carriers, each operating according to its namesake political philosophy: Libertarian Air, Conservative Air, and Liberal Air. Which do you think would get more customers?

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There's a lot more in the Seattle Times story, give it a read.

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Plus:

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Campaign Twitter

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New on the Beachwood . . .

Tribune Columnist Trusts Airlines To Do What's Right With Boeing Planes
"These are corporations that have run roughshod over local, regional and national entities in this country for decades," our very own Tom Chambers writes.

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The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #243: Bears Make Big Little Moves; Cubs Building A Mystery
Defense to get more aggressive, incur more penalties. Plus: The Cubs Did Not Respect 90 Last Year And No One Was Held Accountable; Budget Bullpen Breaks; New Rules, Fools!; Sister Jean Has Down Year; College Admissions' Side Doors; Duncan Keith, Biohacker; Alma Otter!; Puck Drop; and Schweinsteiger!

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College Admission Scandal Grew Out Of A System Already Rigged With 'Side Doors'
"Those ensnared in the current criminal case - which alleges that they paid for their children to get spots on the sports teams of big-name schools - couldn't have succeeded if the college admissions process wasn't already biased toward wealthier families."

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10 Ways Chicago Muslims Are Reacting To The Tragedy In New Zealand
Security, social media and open houses.

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ChicagoReddit

Are there more Rap/Hip Hop/Dancehall Based clubs/bars in Chicago from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

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BeachBook

What 'Operation Varsity Blues' Has To Do With The Art World.

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Do You Really Need More Vitamin D?

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'I'm Weary Of Dating In The Church.'

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Jello Biafra And The Politics Of Punk.

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How Do You Know When It's Time To Break Up?

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Did We Get Amy Schumer Wrong?

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TweetWood
A non-campaign sample.

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The Beachwood McRibTipLine: Begin the begin.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:35 AM | Permalink

March 16, 2019

10 Ways Chicago Muslims Are Reacting To The Tragedy In New Zealand

The Chicago Muslim community is visibly shocked at the news of the terrorist attack in two mosques in New Zealand.

Here's how the Muslims of Chicago are reacting to the attacks:

1. Many Muslims kept wake watching their social media feeds, especially Whatsapp to get updates on the shooting.

2. Many turned to local news and national news and were disappointed that regular programs were going on, and Muslims wondered: "If such an attack were made by a Muslim on a church, would the world stop regular news and give us wall-to-wall coverage?"

3. Video of the gun man's live feed was circulated on WhatsApp groups run by Muslims. Later, Muslim scholars circulated their message for Muslims to stop circulating such videos and delete them from their devices.

4. On Friday, mosques in the Chicago area (there are 130) held special prayers for the victims and their families.

5. Mosque leadership contacted local authorities to perform extra security around every mosque.

6. Mosque leadership hired extra armed security personnel at both the doors of the masjid because all the mosques were expected to be packed for the Friday afternoon (Friday) prayers, which happened between 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

7. All the 25-plus full-time Islamic schools in the Chicago area remain open but under heavy security.

8. Muslims were pleased that some media outlets are designating this incident as a terrorist attack - and disappointed that other media outlets have failed to to do so and are just using the word "attacks."

9. Special bulletins were taken out by ICNA CSJ (Council of Social Justice) to assist mosque in preventive measures against such attacks.

10. GainPeace will be holding Mosque Open Houses to meet with neighbors and to help fight bigotry and Islamophobia. The first such open house was Friday in Denver. Another is in Indianapolis on Saturday. Locally, an open house will be held at a mosque in Wheaton on April 13, and a mosque in Glendale Heights on April 20 at a Mosque in Glendale Heights.

"Muslims are using the opportunity of this terrorist attack to take extra precautions," said GainPeace director Sabeel Ahmed.

"We are receiving calls from non-Muslims on our 800-662-4752 outreach line, for support and help. One such call also came from Canada, and the lady called to convey condolences to the Muslim community.

"We are also hosting mosque open houses to provide an opportunity for non-Muslims neighbors to meet Muslims and share grief, learn from each other and get educated about each other's faith and cultures.

"Hopefully, education and finding out our common believes will help us to fight the fear of the unknown, which often leads to hate, bias and attacks."

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Previously by Sabeel Ahmed:

* Wheaton Mosque Conducting Open House to Promote Peace.

* Chicago's Hijab Campaign.

* Area Man Offers Neighbors Help During Bitter Cold Snap.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:41 AM | Permalink

March 15, 2019

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #243: Bears Make Big Little Moves; Cubs Building A Mystery

Defense to get more aggressive, incur more penalties. Plus: The Cubs Did Not Respect 90 Last Year And No One Was Held Accountable; Budget Bullpen Breaks; New Rules, Fools!; Sister Jean Has Down Year; College Admissions' Side Doors; Duncan Keith, Biohacker; Alma Otter!; Puck Drop; and Schweinsteiger!


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SHOW NOTES

* 243.

:42: Bears Make Big Little Moves.

* Adrian Amos vs. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix Debate Rages Among Fans.

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* Buster Skrine, The Penalty Machine.

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Also:

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* Kevin White, The Unfortunate Injury Machine.

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* Josh Bellamy, Pass-Dropping Machine.

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* Mike Davis, Third-Down Machine.

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* Ted Larsen, OL Depth Machine.

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* Ben Braunecker, Last TE On The Roster Machine.

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* Cordarelle Patterson, Running Wide Receiver Machine.

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* Packers Publicity Machine.

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32:50: The Cubs Did Not Respect 90 Last Year And No One Was Held Accountable.

* Willson Contreras Lays Down The Truth On His 2018 Season: 'I Didn't Deserve To Have A Good Year.'

"I used to get to the ballpark, like I did in 2017, and I'd usually get on the elliptical or bike or stretch or lift," Contreras said. "To be honest, I didn't lift at all [as 2018 went on]. I came out of my routine completely. I didn't deserve to have a good year last year. That's what I told myself. I've learned from it, I took it as inspiration and now I'm here.

"Everything is easy when you're going well, when you're not thinking too much and hitting homers and doubles with guys in scoring position. I was too comfortable last year, to be honest. It kills me - I was like way too comfortable. I talked to my family and my wife about this.

"I didn't do my best on my routine because the season before, I hit 21 homers and I told myself, 'OK, if you hit 21 homers one year, you can do it again next year.' But it doesn't work like that.

"This game taught me that you have to keep working hard like you did the last year and don't get too comfortable because you're gonna fail and fail and fail. We learn and we move on."

+ Javy Baez:

"Last year, I didn't run full speed to first base and I would get back to the dugout and no one would say anything. This year, if I don't do it, someone will hopefully say something and it's not to show you up, it's to make our team better."

* Gonzales, Tribune: "For now, the Cubs seem content with Victor Caratini as their backup catcher."

Really? From MLBTradeRumors.com:

"The Cubs made an offer to Brian McCann this offseason that was worth more than the one-year, $2MM deal that McCann eventually received from the Braves, The Athletic's David O'Brien reports (subscription required). The money wasn't the primary factor in McCann's choice, however, as the catcher wanted to either return to the Astros or to the Braves, his original team. It doesn't seem that any other suitors were given serious consideration, as McCann 'had no interest in being a hired gun and going elsewhere to play what could be the final season of his career,' O'Brien writes. Between this item and reports from earlier today that the Cubs had interest in Martin Maldonado, it seems as if Chicago was a quiet player in the catching market this offseason. Willson Contreras is the incumbent starter, though the Cubs are looking for more depth beyond Victor Caratini and minor league signing Francisco Arcia."

* Poor Joe Maddon:

"I've experienced an average of 97 wins the last four seasons. The year before that, we almost went to the World Series. The year before that, we won 103 and won the World Series. And the year before that, we won 97. I just think there's a big disconnect between the results and the narrative right now."

* More on how Contreras sucks:

"Like a lot of Contreras' game after his rookie season, his pitch framing has dropped to the bottom of the league. In 2017, he ranked 49th out of 54 catchers (minimum 50 games). Last season, he ranked 45th out of 51. Perhaps improving there will spill over to his offense, as Contreras is committed to being better . . .

"According to FanGraphs, he has been among the Cubs' three worst baserunners every year of his career. He was second-worst on the team in 2018, with a minus-5 in the FanGraphs baserunning metric (which translates somewhere between poor and awful)."

* The Ongoing Mystery Of Yu Darvish:

"The Athletic's Patrick Mooney explores in an in-depth look at the Japanese star. Darvish 'didn't feel any power in [his] body' last season, easily the nadir in the righty's decorated seven-year MLB career thus far. The righty's season-long search for the root of his struggles came to a head in August, when he was ultimately diagnosed with a stress reaction in his right elbow. Limited to just 8 starts last season."

* The Cubs Are ? And The Mysterians.

46:39: The Cubs' Bullpen Is A Mess, Too.

* Pedro Strop Has A Hammy.

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* X Has A Wrist.

"Cubs reliever Xavier Cedeno is likely to miss the start of the season on account of a wrist injury, per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. It doesn't seem overly serious, though, as Cedeno's only expected to sit out the next seven to 10 days. Cedeno, whom the Cubs signed to a minor league contract in February, had been competing for a bullpen spot after several productive seasons divided among the Astros, Nationals, Rays, White Sox and Brewers. Over 175 1/3 innings, the 32-year-old southpaw has logged a 3.69 ERA/3.80 FIP with 8.91 K/9, 3.54 BB/9 and a 50.4 grounder percentage, and has held same-sided hitters to a weak .218/.285/.298 line."

* Get Kimbrel!

* Feldman!

50:58: New Rules, Fools!

Plus:

* Sullivan, Tribune: "Major League Baseball recently outlined some rule changes on technology use and replay systems, demanding all TV monitors available to players and coaches be placed on an eight-second delay during games. The rule is meant to prevent sign stealing. But it also means most relievers will be unable to watch games live at Wrigley Field, where the bullpens are fully enclosed and situated under the bleachers."

59:19: Loyola Won't Be Returning to the NCAA Tournament.

* Bradley will rep Illinois.

1:06:18: College Admission Scandal Grew Out Of A System Already Rigged With 'Side Doors.'

1:07:43: Why Duncan Keith Calls Himself A Biohacker.

1:08:23: TrackNotes: Diagnosing Death.

1:08:53: Alma Otter!

1:09:23: Puck Drop.

* via the Minneapolis StarTribune hockey newsletter:

"Give yourselves a hand, Minnesota. The announced attendance for Thursday's Class 2A state tournament quarterfinal sessions was 18,559 for the afternoon and 18,735 for the evening. The night crowd ranked third and the afternoon fifth among the 13 games in NHL arenas on Thursday."

1:11:03: Schweinsteiger!

* Chicago Fire Sign Argentine Star Nicolas Gaitan.

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STOPPAGE: 11:32

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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 3:04 PM | Permalink

Tribune Columnist Trusts Airlines To Do What's Right With Boeing Planes

Adapted from an actual note our very own Tom Chambers sent Thursday to Tribune columnist Steve Chapman after reading his "Trump's Unwise Decision To Ground The 737 Max 8 And Max 9."

Mr. Chapman,

Late on deadline and had to crank one out?

Your lack of information on the 737 Max situation is appalling.

The 737 Max is not a tweak of the old 737. It is almost virtually a new plane, hot-rodded off the old 737, with substantially new and different engine configurations and software that is supposed to control new aeronautics on an old chassis.

Boeing used its clout with the FAA and Trump to keep the plane designated a 737 so as not to put it under more testing and approval scrutiny.

The FAA is also allowing Boeing to certify its own airplanes in a classic fox-in-the-henhouse scenario. European nations depend on America's FAA to certify American planes, and then do some follow-up evaluation. Simply said, other countries, include emerging Third World nations, depend on the FAA as the source of their confidence in American planes.

There's nothing wrong with new software, but like the instruction manual for your new toaster, there were gaping holes in the plane's instruction and procedures manual, according to American pilots. Training has also been sorely lacking.

This is even assuming U.S. pilot training is the best in the world. What about a smaller airline in a small country with its head spinning over growth and demand for flights?

It is becoming clear that Boeing thought its software was so hotshot that the plane would fly itself, so pilots didn't need to be told anything. An aviation expert on WGN Thursday morning said the new software is supposed to gather information from MULTIPLE sensors on the plane, average it out and act accordingly. But the computer is using information from only one sensor to make its commands. The software is not dealing in the reality of the actual flight characteristics.

"Why should we trust Southwest, American and other airlines with these decisions?" you write. "Because they know a lot about aviation safety and about these planes."

Are you kidding? Southwest's terrible maintenance performance has been a dirty little secret in aviation for years.

Are you so naive so as not to even consider that airlines and airplane manufacturers, backed by the FAA they bought and paid for, are simply rolling the dice? Taking a calculated risk - X number of deaths per year being risk-worthy - that a plane won't go down in the U.S.? Indonesia and Ethiopia? Who cares? Well, there were Americans aboard both flights, one from Chicago. These are corporations that have run roughshod over local, regional and national entities in this country for decades. They have deep-rooted influences on society itself simply through the profit models of their hub-and-spoke systems, and human interaction in airports and flying sardine cans.

Of course, U.S. airlines are not going to ground the planes, even "having found no basis in their own experience and data to stop." But scientific data has been available, the same data Canada used days ago to ground the planes. Concerns with the planes were voiced immediately after the Lion Air crash.

If the White House made the decision to ground the 737 Max planes, good for them, once a year. But the FAA, with alarming data we know they damn well had, should have grounded the planes. I wouldn't be surprised if Trump ordered his cronies at the FAA to hold off until he made his dog-and-pony announcement. But the planes are on the ground.

If you are on some kind of mission to protect corporations like Boeing and United simply because they have a few handfuls of executives working here, much as Crain's does, knock it off. Boeing contributes nothing to this city, and we're paying them to be here!

Simply following the story for the past days and with a half-hour of simple searching, I found what you would have needed to comment responsibly on this topic. Obviously, you couldn't be bothered.

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See also, from AP this morning: FAA's Close Ties To Boeing Questioned After 2 Deadly Crashes.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:56 AM | Permalink

College Admission Scandal Grew Out Of A System Already Rigged With 'Side Doors'

As part of the Operation Varsity Blues case that federal prosecutors announced Tuesday, dozens of people - including Hollywood actresses and wealthy businessmen - stand accused of having bought their children's way into elite colleges and universities.

As a researcher who has studied how young athletes get admitted to college, I don't see a major difference between this admission fraud case and how many wealthy families can buy their children's way into elite colleges through "back" and "side" doors.

In my research, I show how most intercollegiate sports are fed by wildly expensive pay-to-play youth sports pipelines. These pipelines systematically exclude lower-income families. It takes money, for example, to attend so-called "showcase tournaments" to get in front of recruiters.

In many ways, then, those ensnared in the current criminal case - which alleges that they paid for their children to get spots on the sports teams of big-name schools - couldn't have succeeded if the college admissions process wasn't already biased toward wealthier families.

Bypassing The Front Door

Even if college sports is taken out of the equation, the college admissions process already favors wealthy families in a variety of ways.

It has long been known that higher family income usually correlates with higher standardized test scores. There are many test prep companies, including some that guarantee higher scores for approximately $1,000. Taking advantage of test prep may not be fraud, but it certainly provides advantages to the wealthy that have little to do with academic merit.

In his book The Price of Admission, Daniel Golden highlights a number of other ways wealthy families can buy their way into elite universities. These include large donations, financing new buildings, creating endowments, and playing on parents' celebrity status. These also have little to do with an applicant's academic merit, but would never be considered criminal.

Sociologist David Karen has documented how attendance at expensive boarding schools gives wealthy students an admissions advantage to Ivy League universities. Again, that may not be fraudulent, but it certainly seems unfair.

Athletics And Admission Advantages

So how do the wealthy get an advantage when it comes to college athletics? Research has shown that recruited athletes receive the largest admissions advantages independent of academic merit.

The advantage varies by sport and athletic division, but is almost universal within higher education. Many sports - particularly squash, lacrosse, fencing and rowing - are pricey to play, so rich kids get opportunities that are out of reach for the poor. Even non-elite sports such as soccer and softball are subject to class-based restrictions.

The Mellon Foundation's report "College and Beyond" found that recruited athletes with lower academic credentials get admitted at four times the rate of non-athletes with similar credentials.

Athlete Screening

In the Varsity Blues case, some students' parents essentially bought their children's spot on a team. For instance, Stanford sailing coach John Vandemoer is charged with accepting contributions to the sailing program in exchange for recommending two prospective students. He pled guilty on Tuesday.

How could a coach pull off this sleight of hand without drawing attention?

The answer, I believe, lies in the growing role of intercollegiate sports in adding some predictability to the very unpredictable enrollment process. Schools want to lock prospective students in as quickly as possible. College athletes are generally admitted through a school's early-decision process. As the proportion of admitted athletes increases, so does the proportion of locked-in applicants.

Colleges also benefit by admitting more students early since those people are not part of acceptance rate calculations. The result is a lower acceptance rate, which inflates the school's perceived selectivity. This in turn spurs an increase in future applications, which further lowers the acceptance rate - and again increases perceived selectivity - without any objective changes in the actual quality of teaching and research.

College sports teams are an increasingly attractive venue for locking in these early admissions. It is not unusual to have 30 or 40 players on a college soccer or lacrosse team. Most will never play. Women's crew teams often have more than 100 rowers. Most will never get into a boat. Many will quit the team after one season but remain students.

Of course, because a family can afford to have their child play a sport doesn't mean the student is a good athlete. The pipeline system is far better at identifying best payers rather than the best players. Since scholarships are quite rare, it costs colleges almost nothing to have some bad players on the roster. And there are benefits.

I'm certainly not defending the families and entrepreneurs at the heart of the Varsity Blues scandal for breaking the law to take advantage of a system already fraught with inequalities. The prosecutors in this case have insisted that "there can be no separate admissions system for the wealthy." For that to be true, current practices that favor deep-pocketed families would have to be abandoned. That will require much more than prosecuting a few people who use their wealth to take advantage of an admissions process that already favors the rich.

Rick Eckstein is a sociology professor at Villanova. This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

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See also: How The Rich Really Play, "Who Wants To Be An Ivy Leaguer?"

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Previously by Rick Eckstein:

* Until Youth Soccer Is Fixed, U.S. Men's National Team Destined To Fail.

* In Scandal After Scandal, NCAA Takes Fall For Complicit Colleges.

* The Man Who Made March Madness A Monster Moneymaker.

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Comments welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:10 AM | Permalink

March 14, 2019

The [Thursday] Papers

Let's take a day off the campaign trail to see what else is going on around here. In no particular order:

1. Frack Hack.

"Republican state lawmakers from Illinois pushed back Tuesday against a bill that would require more public disclosure from oil and gas drilling companies whenever they use hydraulic fracturing, or 'fracking,' in their operations in the state," Capitol News Illinois reports.

"Their comments came during a hearing in the House Energy and Environment Committee. It is considering House Bill 282, dubbed a 'fracking transparency bill,' sponsored by Rep. Robyn Gabel, D-Evanston, and supported by environmental groups including Illinois People's Action and Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment."

So the bill has the support of groups against fracking. But how does that make the underlying premise - transparency - objectionable? What are the frackers afraid of?

"Rep. Chris Miller, a Republican from Oakland, in eastern Illinois, argued that the bill, like its earlier predecessor, was intended only to turn public opinion against the oil and gas industry."

By telling the public the truth?

Chris Miller, you are Today's Worst Person in Illinois.

*

Miller has an education degree, fer chrissake.

*

Learn more about Miller, who used to live in Naperville and hates Chicago, here.

2. Mass (Shooting) Market.

"Insurance companies including Lloyd's of London, American Insurance Group, Hiscox and Beazley started offering 'active shooter' or 'active assailant' policies within the last five years. They generally cover liability, business interruption and property damage not covered by other policies, as well as expenses like counseling, public relations and funerals," Crain's reports.

Emphasis mine.

*

"Insurance companies suffer minimal losses on active shooter policies. Kochenburger and George Mocsary, a professor at Southern Illinois University's law school, estimate that less than 10 percent of premiums go to pay claims. In contrast, insurers paid 52 percent of commercial general liability premiums toward claims in 2017 and 59 percent for commercial property and casualty.

"Still, there's substantial potential benefit to companies, Mocsary says, given how gut-wrenching shootings are and how likely they are to be followed by litigation. It's a matter of appropriately pricing a product when the odds are like being struck by lightning.

"'If someone charged you six, five, even four figures for lightning insurance, you'd laugh,' he says."

3. That's Chicago-Based Boeing, A Company Woefully Undercovered In Its "Hometown."

"Boeing executives sat down last November with pilots at the Allied Pilots Association's low-slung brick headquarters in Fort Worth," the Washington Post reports.

"Tensions were running high. One of Boeing's new jets - hailed by the company as an even more reliable version of Boeing's stalwart 737 - had crashed into the ocean off Indonesia shortly after takeoff, killing all 189 people on board the flight operated by Lion Air.

"After the crash, Boeing issued a bulletin disclosing that this line of planes, known as the 737 Max 8, was equipped with a new type of software as part of the plane's automated functions. Some pilots were furious that they were not told about the new software when the plane was unveiled."

Wait - the company didn't tell its own pilots about the new software? I'd love to be a plaintiffs lawyer today.

*

"Boeing had trumpeted the new plane as offering a 'seamless' transition from previous models, a changeover that would not require carriers to invest in extensive retraining."

Emphasis mine.

4. Heartland Rocked.

"Eight months after its shelters for immigrant children came under public scrutiny over allegations of abuse and lax supervision, Heartland Human Care Services says it will close four shelters in suburban Chicago and add staff, training and other resources at its remaining five facilities," ProPublica Illinois reports.

"Heartland officials told ProPublica Illinois they plan to move children out of its four shelters in Des Plaines between now and the end of May. Altogether, the Des Plaines shelters can house as many as 116 children and teens; the change will cut Heartland's total capacity under state rules a little more than 20 percent, from 512 to 396."

Like so many others, the Heartland got caught in Trump's wake - and then compounded its problems with awful mistakes of its own.

5. Fighting Word.

"Law professor Geoffrey Stone had been saying a racial epithet in his First Amendment class for over 40 years to explain the 'fighting words' doctrine. After a spontaneous and emotional conversation with several Black Law students in the Law School's main lounge last week, he has decided to stop," the Chicago Maroon reports.

"Following heated discussions about a recent op-ed sharply critical of Stone's use of the slur, several members of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) decided to demonstrate in the main lounge last Wednesday. In addition to protesting Stone's use of the racial epithet, BLSA members wanted to share their frustration after years of trying to push forward various diversity initiatives through the Law School administration."

Emphasis mine - and go read the rest of this piece, it's pretty damn interesting. I'll wait.

6. The Competition Is Tough, But The Ricketts Are A Contender For Worst Family Not Named Trump.

"Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said he was 'shocked and horrified' after leaked chat logs revealed that a man he employed pushed white nationalist ideology and violence," HuffPost reports.

"I haven't seen language like that since my dad's e-mails were leaked," I imagine Ricketts said.

*

"Bennett Bressman, 22, was the statewide field director for the billionaire governor's successful re-election campaign in December. Bressman is also a prominent poster on white nationalist Nicholas J. Fuentes' Discord server, under the moniker bress222, according to Anti-Fascist Action Nebraska, which published the revelation on Sunday.

"After searching some 3,000 comments Bressman made, anti-fascist activists and news organizations like Talking Points Memo uncovered his regular use of the N-word, sexism, anti-Semitism, an admission that his 'whole political ideology revolves around harming journalists,' and fantasies about running over black people with his car.

Emphasis mine.

7. Sweet.

"Speen admired the unimpeachable quality that went with transportation workers in Chicago and the suburbs," Robert Tindall - the brother of our very own J.J. - writes in a piece picked up by Harper's.

"The idea of men and women who worked the trains was a good one and they knew the secrets of life."

8. High Taxes Be Damned, The Rich Keep Moving To California.

Take me with you, please.

9. "Tornado Watch Issued For Chicago Area."

Where? I'd like to see it.

10. Lincoln Towing Barely Avoids A Runoff.

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New on the Beachwood . . .

I Called 911 About A Stray Muffler On The Ohio Street Off-Ramp. It Was . . . Weird?
Rattle, rattle, thunder, clatter, boom boom boom.

*

TrackNotes: Diagnosing Death
"In the corporate sense, Santa Anita has put on a performance that would bring tears of joy to a damage control specialist," writes our very own Tom Chambers.

*

ICE Targeting Immigrants Based On Automatic License Plate Reader Data Supplied By Illinois Police Departments
ACLU puts Lombard, Burr Ridge, Downers Grove and Mundelein on blast.

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ChicagoReddit

Is it a bad idea to drive downtown this Saturday? from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

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ChicagoTube

GlobalGirl Media - Chicago.

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BeachBook

*

Everything You Thought You Knew About Tetanus Is Wrong.

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TweetWood
A sampling.

Public Regularly Denied Access To Police Video.

*

*

*

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The Beachwood McRibTipLine: Hang tough.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:58 PM | Permalink

I Called 911 About A Stray Muffler On The Ohio Street Off-Ramp. It Was . . . Weird?

A true story.

Me: There's a huge muffler in the middle of the Ohio Street off-ramp of the Kennedy. Like it fell of a truck or something.

911 operator: OK, has there been an accident?

Me: No, but it looks super dangerous.

911: Is it in the street or on the shoulder?

Me: In the middle of the right lane.

911: Is it on the street or the ramp?

Me:

Me: It's on the off-ramp?

911: OK, but if it's on the street then it's us but if it's on the off-ramp that's State Police.

Me:

Me: When does it stop being an off-ramp and turn into a street?

[Picture the Ohio off-ramp, it's like a half-mile long.]

911:

911:

911: Where did you say it was?

Me: The Ohio Street off-ramp.

911: Eastbound or westbound.

Me:

Me: The off-ramp?

911: Yes.

Me: Eastbound, I guess.

911: OK, we'll send someone out.

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Post-call commentary from Steve and Tim:

911: Did you see what brand of muffler it was?

911: Was it making a sound like, "Rattle, rattle, thunder, clatter, boom boom boom?"

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:52 PM | Permalink

ICE Targeting Immigrants Based On Automatic License Plate Reader Data Supplied By Illinois Police Departments

The ACLU announced Wednesday that it has discovered U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is using mass location surveillance to target immigrants.

Records obtained by the ACLU of Northern California in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit detail ICE's sweeping use of a vast automated license plate reader (ALPR) database run by a company called Vigilant Solutions.

Over 80 local law enforcement agencies from over a dozen states - including four in Illinois - have agreed to share license plate location information with ICE.

In response, the ACLU of Illinois is calling for an end to this information-sharing and has sent letters to law enforcement agencies that were identified as sharing ALPR information with ICE: police departments in Lombard, Burr Ridge, Downers Grove, and Mundelein.

"This information gathered by ALPR technology helps ICE target, locate, and deport immigrant community members as they drive to work, run errands, or bring their kids to school," said ACLU of Illinois police practices director Karen Sheley. "Any sharing of this data directly with ICE violates privacy and civil rights of immigrants and their families and puts these communities at serious risk. At a time when immigrant communities are under multiple attacks by the Trump Administration, the best way forward is for local police departments to stop sharing this information and, further, reject the use of ALPR technology altogether."

The ACLU's grave concerns about the civil liberties risks of license plate readers take on greater urgency as this surveillance information fuels ICE's deportation machine. Many communities throughout Illinois have license plate readers: high-speed cameras mounted on police cars, road signs, or bridges that can photograph every passing license plate. Together with time, date and location coordinates, the information is stored for years, generating a literal and intimate roadmap of people's private lives. Vigilant sells ALPR systems to local police and hosts location information collected by law enforcement and private companies in a massive database called LEARN.

In conclusion, the letters demand that the Illinois police departments:

* Limit use of license plate reader cameras and technology, and to reconsider use of this technology altogether.

* Adopt a usage and privacy policy governing use of ALPR technology that includes additional protections to prevent residents' data from being used for the purpose of enforcing immigration law.

* Support efforts to increase transparency, accountability, and oversight of decisions to acquire or use surveillance technologies.

For more information, please click here.

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See also:

* The Verge: Thousands Of ICE Employees Can Access License Plate Reader Data, E-Mails Show.

* NBC News: ACLU Calls For U.S. Law Enforcement To Stop Sharing License Plate Data With ICE.

* Washington Post: ICE Is Tapping Vast License-Plate Database To Track Immigrants.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:47 AM | Permalink

March 13, 2019

TrackNotes: Diagnosing Death

It was the second time I ever went to a race track, the second time I went to Arlington Park.

The pastoral appeal was firmly ingrained by then. The hazy toothpicks of Chicago's tallest towers sticking up on the horizon, far enough away for race day in the country, suggesting the best of two worlds. The peace of the ovals and fences, including the magnificent turf course, belied the hard, hard work toiled upon them.

In the second race, I was on the rail, a bit up, no closer to the wire than the sixteenth pole. They had entered and straightened into the stretch, and then, right in front of me . . . violence.

I gasped, my breath knocked out. Quickly processing, I realized, thankfully, that the rider had been thrown free. The ambulance that follows the jockeys pulled up, and deftly parked itself so as to shield the fallen horse from fans. I swear, I thought about the children.

It was so very quiet. As soon as it could, the horse ambulance, a large horse trailer painted white with red crosses on it, came out, moving with urgency, but not so fast as to create anxiety or drama or to have something bad happen. They deployed a large frame with heavy blue plastic, so that nobody could see anything, although the reporter in me wanted to witness it.

The rest of the day was quieter, all through the track. Track announcer John G. Dooley called the next race as reverently as he could. That was before Arlington blasted Noriega-loud torture over the PA in every available moment.

I thought back to that day over the last several weeks, as horses, a track and the game itself were dragged down by the evil, ever-present horse racing serpents. And now they must be dealt with.

Last Saturday, on Santa Anita Handicap Day, Big 'Cap day, San Felipe Day, Frank Kilroe Mile Day, Santa Anita, Arcadia, Calif., rightfully and ethically so, was closed for racing.

Since December 26, the opening of the winter meet, 21 horses have suffered catastrophic, fatal injuries. Seven died in races on the dirt main track, nine on the dirt while training (perhaps one of those a heart attack), and five while racing on a notably firm turf course turned soft on many days.

Only humans, for profit, pay attention to the social standing of Thoroughbreds. The most prominent victim was four-year-old Battle of Midway, a hard tryer who gave fans all they wanted and was one to keep an eye on. A tough second in the 2017 Santa Anita Derby and an honorable third in the Kentucky Derby, he shocked the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile that year, and won his final race this February 2nd, the San Pasquale. Seven days later, he broke a rear leg in training.

Of note, at least to me, was the death of Eskenforadrink, who broke a front leg in a $16,000 claiming race March 2nd. He was the son of Eskendereya (Giant's Causeway/Aldeberan[Seattle Slew]). I loved that runner. He crushed the Fountain of Youth and then the Wood Memorial on his way to odds-on favorite in the 2010 Kentucky Derby. Days before the Derby, in what I still believe was a result of today's breeding, he injured a leg and never ran again. He is still at stud. More on that later.

The last in the spate of fatalities was Ron McAnally's Let's Light The Way, a four-year-old filly who was breezing a workout March 5th, after the track was closed to training for two days in late February for track evaluation by University of Kentucky racing surface consultant Mick Peterson.

There are a million questions, but if Santa Anita even does find the problem, I firmly believe we will never be told the truth, or told anything. People, especially the fans, will have to search very deeply between the lines of conversation to find a word, somewhere, that might tip off what really happened. Then there's the outright spin.

The reasons for this are multiple and complex. Tons of rain through the winter are an important factor. The Santa Anita racing surfaces are normally very hard. It's one way they develop "California speed." The turf course is usually not much softer than a quality golf green. With the rain, several races were taken off the turf in this meet. Santa Anita's turf doesn't absorb water anything like Arlington's lush, farm field-type course.

One theory that has continued to pop up was that sealing the track made it even harder, or at least greatly reduced any cushion on top of the hard substrate. Sealing is when a track is tightly compacted to allow heavy rains to roll right off of it.

On another level, the absence of former track superintendent Dennis Moore, who either voluntarily retired at the end of 2018, or was asked to leave, has also been a topic of conversation.

In a videocast worth watching, Scott Jagow and Ray Paulick of The Paulick Report touch upon many issues and include a telling interview with veteran trainer John Sadler.

We could see the thoughts orbiting in Sadler's brain. "The hardest part has been, um, ya know, seeing what's, ya know, some of the errors on management's side. Hopefully they can get some more information out there, clarity of what's going on. There was an error with Dennis Moore, he never should have left; he's back, so I'm grateful." So track management isn't even telling the horsemen, including a pillar like Sadler, what's going on.

Along with Peterson, Santa Anita brought back Moore to evaluate the problem, doing ground radar testing and, no doubt, identifying just what's in the track material now. Moore was famous for installing El Segundo Sand in 2014, replacing an "artificial" sand that itself replaced the second of two artificial surfaces, both of which caused Santa Anita major problems.

In the corporate sense, Santa Anita has put on a performance that would bring tears of joy to a damage control specialist.

The cover-his-ass defensive spin of COO Tim Ritvo of The Stronach Group, Santa Anita's parent, oozes. About Moore, Ritvo bleated: "I want to tell you, me and Dennis had a love affair. The one thing I never cut or never looked at was the race track. Dennis was in charge. He called all the shots. I reported to him actually when trainers said it was too hard or it was too slow and I gave him the information. That's it. A lot of them were afraid to go to him because he was such a powerful force. We have a great relationship. He was getting to an age (69) where he didn't want to work 365 days a year, and I respected that . . . we had no issues with money, we had no issues with anything. None. Zero. It's the truth."

In just one answer, Ritvo blames the track on Moore, calls Moore an old-man jerk who's hard to work with, and brings up money when he probably tried to cut the salary of Moore, who left Santa Anita voluntarily according to all race press media I've seen, which doesn't make it true. Don't you love it when a guy like Ritvo emphatically insists he's telling the truth?

Ritvo also disagrees with another theory, this time from former Santa Anita and Hollywood and current Los Alamitos racing executive Jack Liebau. The pure amount of horse activity at the facility is quite heavy. Santa Anita races seven or eight months a year, far more than when Hollywood Park existed. It's stressful for a track, with close to 2,000 horses on the premises all trying to use the track for training in heavy traffic, Liebau said.

Right out of the White House instruction manual, Ritvo deflects, saying, "No, I don't think so. My friends at Del Mar have been real good, and wasn't there an issue at Del Mar?" Yes there was, 17 deaths during the 2016 summer meet.

Ritvo's additional culpability was in the decision to not shut down the track sooner. When do you do that? The horses were dying at a steady rate, from the beginning of the meet. Do you stop it at the end of January? February 10, the day after Battle Of Midway but before three more? It came after March 5th, the day Let's Light the Way died.

The meet's opening day brought in record wagering handle. The track was doing well, with a probable small dip in handle during the rains. I firmly believe that one of the biggest reasons the track closed when it did, besides the horses or anything else, was because of the coming television exposure scheduled for March 9th, Big 'Cap Day. All eyes on racing would have swung west for one of Santa Anita's most important cards.

Always consistent, Ritvo also tried to spin the date the track might reopen for racing, deflecting that maybe some "members of his team" were throwing around dates. "There's no exact date, everybody speculates and throws stuff around, and there's a good chance it could be before (March 28th). Hopefully it is, if everything's good." this past weekend, the Santa Anita web site announced racing would resume March 28. The Racing Form now says March 22nd for the resumption of racing, but the website is touting April 4th. The track is open now for light workouts and will resume heavier training this week. For TrackNotes, I'll just take it a week at a time.

* * * * *

As usual, the racing "press" went into see/hear/speak no evil, just like the industry did. Same thing?

The California state horsemen's group Cal Racing and Santa Anita tag-teamed early on to offer this pap through an aggressive modal pop-up on the Santa Anita web site. They deployed the HTML squad to develop this page that displays today.

With a link named "preventing-fatalities-high-priority-in-todays-racing-industry," perfect for the old search optimization switcheroo, Matt Hegarty takes the milquetoast stance in the Daily Racing Form that these things happen and all hands are on deck.

Criticizing people for "scapegoating" the racing surface, Hegarty says, "Horses will die and when those deaths occur in close proximity to each other, commentators far-and-wide will believe that there must be common factors, rather than data just clustering together."

Which commentators? Local TV anchors who don't see anything in horse racing? Me?

Then he does place blame on the surface because California is a leader "as far as monitoring the horse population for risk factors." Huh?

Air freshener distracts from the stench, doesn't eliminate it.

I got your data cluster right here:

* Breeding. When horses run five times and you never see them again, the first thing I think is "leg problems," or potential for problems. Ghostzapper had leg problems, Big Brown had horrible feet. What happened to Eskendereya? What about Justify, 2018's TRIPLE CROWN winner? 2016 Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist, a son of Uncle Mo, who had liver disease, also appeared to have questionable legs. After the Derby, he never ran to what we expected. Maybe it was the puffy ankles that knocked him out of the game for good just before the Breeders' Cup.

Simply speaking, all American and English Thoroughbreds are descended from three sires and 21 mares, in the 1600s, that directly account for 80 percent of genetic makeup today. The gene pool has always been restricted. Depending on motivation, there is some debate. Some experts contend that inbreeding has accelerated in the past 15 to 20 years. Hmm, does that account for my perception that horses are running less and less these days?

I am no breeding expert, but it stands to reason that undesirable genetics - anything from organ problems to questionable bone structure or composition - have to be passed down through such a limited population.

* Drugs. Longtime and probably permanently-suspended trainer Richard Dutrow took almost diabolical pride in the telling of administering steroids to Big Brown. Dutrow was considered a CVS in the barns. The rumors are strong that Secretariat was also steroidal. I don't doubt it.

Keeping with the all-in reality of the uniquely American racing drug culture, Lasix, a diuretic that helps keep a horse from bleeding in the lungs during a race, is automatic for nearly every horse in every race. Pain blockers and, in some jurisdictions still, steroids, are legally administered in training periods between races. Hmmm, is that why horses run once a month at the most, and sometimes train into a race seven or eight weeks out?

Get rid of the drugs. It will take years, but start with 2020 foals. Create a unique division for drug-free horses, temporarily, if you have to.

* Leadership. This is a pretty flowery mission statement, but for chrissakes, a national organization, or commissioner, with complete fealty from all parties, has long been a need. How long? Howzabout nearly 50 years, or since the advent of race simulcasting and off-track betting?

The electronic signal and, now, global betting, kind of make oversight important. You'd think. Unlike baseball and football, where league differences have been obliterated, racing could keep its regional rivalries based on the idiosyncrasies of breeding and the tracks themselves.

Medication rules are different in every state. Don't get me started on the lack of management consistency in running the races themselves. That's another column.

* Respect the fans. Either they think we're worthless betting bums and will always come back for the fix, or that we "understand" that horses do go down and learn to accept it.

No. Horseplayers, and people who follow the game but just watch, and there are some, are as hurt by this as much as anybody. We're hurt by the death, but we're equally infuriated with the performance of the people who run the sport. The Stronach Group, Santa Anita itself, the California Horse Racing Board. Timed right before a national television weekend.

Their first inclinations were to close the track too late, declare themselves heroes, and firehose the world with bullshit. I can't worry about your marketing problems, but if I ask a newbie if he wants to go to the track, am I going to hear, "Where the horses die? I don't wanna to see that."

It is true that major tracks go through spikes in horse deaths. The bull rings of racing are another story. It happened in the 2000s when California mandated artificial surfaces at all tracks. It has happened after they got rid of those surfaces. It happened at Arlington in 2007, when they installed the artificial they still use. Aqueduct had a problem.

If, in track maintenance alone, consistent national standards, taking into account variations in local conditions, can be implemented, just do it!

It used to be: This is AMERICA!

Now it's: Yeah, but this is america.

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

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 3:35 PM | Permalink

The [Wednesday] Papers

Chicago, in one tweet, from the city council meeting today:

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The council approved the construction contract for the proposed West Side police academy.

The council is expected to approve a zoning change paving way for the academy today, too, making the done deal done.

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The new mayor can't take office soon enough.

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The election Ervin is referring to, via the Reader:

In the west-side 37th Ward, notwithstanding a social media and community organizing campaign against her, incumbent alderman Emma Mitts won reelection with 54 percent of the vote and won't face a runoff. Despite #AnybodyButMitts, which targeted her for her steadfast support of the $95 million police academy planned for the ward, voter turnout dipped slightly compared to 2015, from 27 to 24 percent.

Then again, on the same night that Mitts won re-election, two mayoral candidates opposed to the police academy also won, so are there no consequences from that?

Now, Ervin might say, hey, it's Emma's ward - aldermanic prerogative, ya know!

And Toni Preckwinkle might agree - after all, unlike Lori Lightfoot, she's not against aldermanic prerogative.

So I don't know if elections have consequences in this particular instance.

*

To be clear, Lightfoot is not against a new police academy, she's just against this one:

"The Chicago Police Department 'desperately needs' a new training academy, but Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan to build a $95 million complex in West Garfield Park is 'ill-conceived,' Police Board President Lori Lightfoot said Monday," the Sun-Times reported a year ago.

The newly-reappointed Police Board president said it's "undeniable" that the Police Department "desperately needs" a new training facility. The U.S. Justice Department report triggered by the police shooting of Laquan McDonald found CPD's training to be sorely lacking.

But she said: "From the perspective of many, the plan for the new police academy is flawed. I share that view . . . In its current form, the plan is ill-conceived."

Lightfoot then ticked off the reasons. It has more to do with the how and the where than the what.

"Putting this edifice to policing in this high-crime, impoverished neighborhood where relations between the police and the community are fraught, without a clear plan for community engagement, is a mistake," Lightfoot said.

Questioning how a $37 million funding gap will be closed, she said: "The allocation of any funds for a police academy - and certainly one that will likely exceed $100 million when all is said and done - is viewed by many as further affirmation that needs of the people will never be prioritized over those of the police."

Lightfoot argued that the "young people of color" who have organized around the Twitter hashtag #NoCopAcademy are "smart, organized and determined" - and not going away.

"For these young people, every dollar spent on policing is a dollar not spent on the needs of their communities," she said.

I agree. I'm not necessarily against a new police academy, but I'm against Rahm's typically heavy-handed top-down approach in all its insensitivity to the actual community in which it will be placed. I also don't see a police training facility as an economic development project to brag about. The trainees will need some places to eat? That will lure new housing and other businesses? I dunno.

*

As for Preckwinkle:

"Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle says she'll halt plans to build a new police academy, dismantle the city's contentious gang database and create an office of criminal justice as part of her plan to create a safer Chicago if elected," the Sun-Times reported in January.

"The plan to freeze the proposed construction of a new $95 million police and fire academy 'until further review' would allow the department to focus on overhauling police training because 'our highest priority is curriculum and content, not buildings and amenities.'"

Is this possible? Can the new mayor really freeze the project? Wouldn't it take a new city council vote to reverse field?

*

As for Mitts, she said this in late February:

"Every time I try to bring any project in I have to fight and fight. Do you want us to be black and stay back all the time? No, I don't," Mitts said.

And, via Block Club Chicago:

"You take care of your business, and I'll take care of mine," Mitts said, delivering a succinct defense of aldermanic privilege, which gives each alderman the final decision over projects in his or her ward.

"And I hope that each and every one of you look in your own wards, see what you got," Mitts said. "And then just take a look in the 37th Ward. Don't you think we want the same thing? Don't you think we deserve the same thing?"

I get what she's saying, but I can think of several wards that probably wouldn't want the academy - especially in lieu of schools, businesses, tourist attractions, entertainment districts and all manner of housing.

*

And then there's Rahm's not-so-hidden hand:

"Alderman Emma Mitts (37th Ward) took a $40,000 campaign donation from Mayor Emanuel two weeks before the city's planning commission approved funding for a $95 million police academy that will be built in her ward. The commission approved the funding two days after Mitts was elected to a sixth term," the Crusader reported last week.

*

Previously in Emma Mitts, via the Beachwood vault . . .

February 2, 2010:

The money Carothers pocketed might seem like small change, but consider:

"The zoning change had another, more personal economic impact. Prosecutors said that change meant an extra $3 million in Boender's pockets," the Tribune reports.

"Others benefited as well, according to court records filed Monday. Boender hired Carothers' brother, Anthony, for security at Galewood Yards. The records also state that Red Seal Development Corp., Boender's partners in the project, employed Ald. Emma Mitts' daughter as a laborer and used Gutierrez's sister-in-law to sell real estate.

March 8, 2010:

"Mitts' daughter, LaTonya Mitts, said she got the job on her own.

"'I had the skills and I applied,' LaTonya Mitts said.

"Ald. Mitts said her daughter worked as an hourly maintenance laborer on the project for three to six months.

"'One of my primary goals as alderman is to provide jobs and economic empowerment and opportunity for my constituents,' Mitts said. 'Several constituents, including my daughter, applied and after a review of their qualifications, were hired.'"

Nobody even knew who LaTonya's mother was!

February 7, 2014:

"A Chicago alderman has thrown her support behind convicted former Ald. Isaac 'Ike' Carothers as he attempts to make a political comeback - and history - by becoming what one expert said would be the first area public official to return to elected office after doing time for corruption," the Sun-Times reports.

"Documents filed with the state Board of Elections indicate Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) is the campaign chairwoman of the Friends of Ike Carothers committee, the political organization behind Carothers' bid for an open Cook County Board seat."

"The Tribune reports that federal authorities are examining the deal as part of an investigation into how zoning decisions are made in City Hall," I wrote in 2008.

"Of course, Gutierrez is one just one end of the deal; Daley is on the other end. City planners told Daley they opposed the Boender project. Yet, a compromise favorable to Boender passed the mayor's Chicago Plan Commission; naturally, Boender was represented by zoning lawyer James Banks, the nephew of Big Bad Bill Banks, who conveniently enough is the chairman of the city council's zoning committee.

"Alds. Ike Carothers and Emma Mitts also deserve special mention. As reported by the Trib, Carothers compared the development, which would include a 14-screen movie theater and 187 homes, condos and townhouses, to the proposed Calatrava Spire. Mitts, meanwhile, put a down payment on one of Boender's homes, though she ultimately couldn't follow through."

"'After going through the motions of taking resumes on the city Web site, Daley picked someone who wouldn't have been state representative if Carothers hadn't decided to pull out all the stops to get her elected in 2002, with some help from Carothers' wholly owned subsidiary in the 37th Ward - Ald. Emma Mitts,' Mark Brown writes."

December 9, 2015:

"West Side Ald. Emma Mitts, 37th, said she has apologized to her constituents for not doing more due diligence on the McDonald case. Mitts said she was 'really just as shocked as everyone when we got briefed on' the McDonald video shortly before Emanuel publicly released it.

"They told us about it and said 'You voted for it,' and I'm like, 'Voted for what?'" Mitts said.

Let's look at the transcript again of the Finance Committee approving of the settlement and sending it along to the full City Council, where it was approved without discussion.

City attorney Stephen Patton: Words, words, words.

Finance Committee: Aye.

*

"So I had to research," Mitts said, "and I apologized for that, but at the same time our duty is to oversee the taxpayers."

That's true, and to that end it appears the city and the council did a good job cheaping out the McDonald family. Bravo.

June 23, 2016:

"Motorists who park illegally in private lots and return to find their vehicles booted may soon have to pay a little extra for using credit cards to pay the $140 removal fee," the Sun-Times reports.

"Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) chairman of the City Council's License Committee, wants to empower private booters now roaming free in more than half of Chicago to charge a 'convenience fee' to recoup the processing fee they must absorb when motorists pay with plastic."

Emma Mitts, you are Today's Worst Person In Chicago.

August 6, 2018:

George McKinley, 37th Ward Magically, all of George's petition signatures are identical to the ones for Emma Mitts, the 37th Ward Democratic committeeman and alderman. It seems that someone carried both a Democrat and a Republican petition down the streets of the 37th. Perhaps it isn't magic: George works in Emma's office.

*

And, finally . . .

When Emma And Ike Stalled Police Board Reforms:

"If it ain't broke, why are we trying to fix it?"

Emma Mitts, everyone!

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New on the Beachwood today . . .

How The Rich Really Play, "Who Wants To Be An Ivy Leaguer?
What was meant as a work of investigative journalism became a how-to for affluent readers.

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ChicagoReddit

Has anyone had issues with Ventra cards on the app from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

Instagram is down!

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ChicagoTube

R. Kelly Pranked At His Chicago Trump Tower Condo.

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BeachBook

Hal Blaine, Pop Music's Go-To Studio Drummer, Is Dead At 90.

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TweetWood
A sampling.

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The Beachwood McRibTipLine: In our cups.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:44 AM | Permalink

How The Rich Really Play, "Who Wants To Be An Ivy Leaguer?"

My 2006 book, The Price of Admission: How America's Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges - and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates, was intended as a work of investigative journalism.

But many of its more affluent readers embraced it as a "how-to" guide. For years afterward, they inundated me with questions like, "How much do I have to donate to get my son (or daughter) into Harvard (or Yale, or Stanford)?" Some even offered me significant sums, which I declined, to serve as an admissions consultant.

They may have been motivated by a tale I told in the book about a youth whose admission to Harvard appears to have been cemented by a $2.5 million pledge from his wealthy developer father.

The then-obscure Harvardian would later vault to prominence in public life; his name was Jared Kushner.

Those requests from people who misunderstood my aim in writing the book came back to mind on Tuesday when I heard about the latest and most brazen scandal involving upper-crust parents - including chief executives, real estate investors, a fashion designer and two prominent actresses - manipulating college admissions.

One would think that the rich and famous would care less than the rest of us about foisting their children on elite colleges. After all, their kids are likely to be financially secure no matter where, or if, they go to college. Yet they seem even more desperate - to the extent, according to a complaint, that dozens of well-heeled parents ponied up six or seven figures for bogus SAT scores and athletic profiles for their children to increase their chances at Yale, Stanford and other brand-name universities.

The parents allegedly paid anywhere between $200,000 and $6.5 million to William Rick Singer, who ran a college counseling business in Newport Beach, California. Singer in turn bribed standardized test administrators and college coaches in upper-class sports like crew, sailing and water polo, even staging photos of the applicants playing various sports, prosecutors said.

The parents "chose to corrupt and illegally manipulate the system," Andrew Lelling, U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, said at a press conference Tuesday. "There can be no separate college admissions system for the wealthy."

Perhaps these parents were pining to boast at Hollywood cocktail parties about their Ivy League imprimatur. Possibly their offspring, like those of many successful families, lacked the motivation to strive and excel academically, and without a substantial boost would have been consigned to colleges of lesser repute.

In any event, such allegedly criminal tactics represent the logical, if extreme, outgrowth of practices that have long been prevalent under the surface of college admissions, and that undermine the American credos of upward mobility and equal opportunity. Although top college administrators and admissions officials were apparently unaware of the deception, their institutions do bear some responsibility for developing and perpetuating the system that made it possible.

I began looking into this issue in 2003, at a time when the U.S. Supreme Court was considering the fairness of affirmative action for minorities. I documented another form of affirmative action - for the white and privileged.

According to one poll after another, most Americans believe that college admissions should be based on merit, rather than wealth or lineage. Through their own intelligence and hard work, students with the best grades, the highest test scores, the most compelling recommendations and other hard-earned credentials achieve a coveted ticket to higher education - and with it, enhanced prospects for career success and social status. So goes the legend perpetuated by elite colleges, anyway.

But decades of investigating college admissions have led me to conclude that, for rich and famous families, it's more like a television game show, "Who Wants to Be an Ivy Leaguer?" complete with lifelines for those who might otherwise be rejected. Instead of phoning a friend or asking the audience, the wealthy benefit from advantages largely unavailable to middle-class and poor Americans - what I described in my book as "the preferences of privilege."

The best-known and most widespread of those preferences is conferred on alumni children, known as "legacies," who tend as a group to be disproportionately white and well-off. But rich applicants whose parents didn't attend the target university, like Kushner, still have a leg up.

Rich candidates can enhance their standardized test scores with test-prep and tutoring. They don't have to rely for college recommendations and advice on an overburdened public high school guidance counselor with a caseload of hundreds of students. Instead, their parents can afford a private counselor who discreetly advises the desired university that the family has a history of philanthropy and, in case of acceptance, would be inclined to be especially generous.

Similarly, inner-city schools often don't field teams in patrician sports like crew, squash, fencing and the like. But prep and suburban schools do, giving their affluent students an opportunity for the significant edge given to recruited athletes, even in upper-class sports limited to a relative few. Colleges favor recruits in these sports at least partly for fundraising reasons; they're important to wealthy alumni and donors who played them in college or enjoy them as leisure activities.

So the parents charged in the current case followed customary practices of the entitled: hiring a private counselor, getting test help and participating in a patrician sport. The difference is that they allegedly took blatant short cuts: The counselor was unscrupulous, a stand-in secretly took the tests and the applicants didn't actually play those sports. But, without the tilted system of preferences already in place, the parents would have had to choose a different route - or actually let merit determine their children's college destiny.

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.

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Previously:

* The Truth Behind Jared Kushner's Acceptance Into Harvard.

* Jared Kushner Isn't Alone: Universities Still Give Rich And Connected Applicants A Leg.

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Comments welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:03 AM | Permalink

March 12, 2019

Manfred's Folly

It doesn't take a sledgehammer to change a light bulb, but that is the approach of Major League Baseball when it comes to responding to what it perceives as the problems with today's game.

Commissioner Rob Manfred certainly recognizes that attendance dipped below 70 million last season for the first time since 2003. Perhaps he tosses and turns at night haunted by visions of millennials scanning Tinder rather than box scores. He's confronted daily with concerns about the length of games, tanking, Bryce Harper's contract, and labor strife on the horizon for 2021.

So last week Manfred announced a number of rule changes. Not at the big league level, nor even for minor league teams affiliated with major league clubs. No, Manfred found a willing guinea pig in the independent Atlantic League, an eight-team circuit based primarily in the east with one team in Texas. Rickey Henderson, then in his mid-40s, put it on the map 15 years ago when he played a couple of seasons for the league's late, great Newark Bears.

I sure hope that MLB is paying its little brother a pile of cash for what they just agreed to, such as outlawing defensive shifts, pushing the pitching rubber back two feet, using a computer to call balls and strikes, and cutting time between innings from 2:05 to 1:45.

See what I mean about a sledgehammer?

If the baseball powers really, truly believe that games are too long, there is a very simple solution: Play seven innings. This also will reduce wear-and-tear on the pitchers, aside from getting fans in and out of the park in 2 1/2 hours. After all, nine is such an arbitrary number. No one questions six-inning Little League games. Many colleges play seven innings, and even minor-league doubleheaders are limited to seven frames.

In the early stages of the game in the 19th century, the rules evolved constantly. Initially a runner not standing on a base could literally be thrown out when a fielder fired the horsehide, striking the runner square in the back - or head, or, heaven forbid, the front. The players quickly figured out that the welts and bruises were no way to play a gentleman's game, hence the rule was changed.

For almost 40 years, fielders didn't wear gloves, until A.G. Spalding introduced the first ones in 1877. Certainly he must have had player safety in mind, but he also understood that he could get rich by manufacturing the leather mitts. Then he started making baseballs and soon the Spalding Company became the nation's largest sporting goods outfit.

So change clearly is not unknown to the Great Game. However, it's not the rules which require visitation, but rather certain trends and practices that could use investigation.

Consider that major league hitters averaged .248 last season, the lowest mark since 1972 when the MLB batting average was .244.

However, there is little comparison when it comes to the pitchers for those two season. Last season the ERA for MLB was 4.14, while 47 years ago it was almost a run lower at 3.26. You might attribute the paltry batting average in 1972 to overpowering pitching, and you would be correct. The top 10 pitchers in ERA that season were all 2.50 or less, while last season only four pitchers fit into that category.

So the hitters, at least from a batting average viewpoint, didn't have such a hot year in 2018, but, surprisingly, the pitchers didn't either. They walked more than 8 percent of batters faced, and they gave up the fourth-most home runs in history. But they did strike people out to the tune of 22 percent of batters faced.

What we can decipher from this numerical mishmash is what everyone knows. Approximately one-third of all plate appearances in 2018 resulted in either a walk, strikeout, or a home run, creating for some observers a lengthy, often boring experience. In 1972 one-fourth of plate appearances had a similar outcome, meaning that there was notably more action involving the defense than we saw last year.

Walks and strikeouts take time, requiring more pitches, making the poor hurlers tired or injured, resulting in a parade of relief specialists who jog in from the bullpen before taking their eight warm-up pitches. That, my friends, is why games consume three hours or more.

To change this paradigm doesn't require new rules but better coaching. I wish someone could explain why today's pitchers have a more difficult time throwing strikes than the pitchers of past generations. Guys like Mark Buehrle and Greg Maddux walked 1.8 and 2.0 batters per nine innings, respectively. Even hard throwers like Bob Gibson (3.1) and Bob Feller (4.1) didn't give up hordes of free passes. Is it too much to expect today's pitchers to be able to throw strikes? You'd think that pitchers who reach the major leagues would have pinpoint control. Otherwise they wouldn't be in the big leagues. Who are the coaches at all levels guiding these athletes? You'd think they could help them throw the ball over the plate.

On the other side of the ball, hitters are encouraged to increase their "launch angles," a concept created by Statcast, brought to you by Amazon Web Services - wouldn't you know it? - in 2015. A launch angle of zero theoretically would result in a line drive about belt high, providing the hitter makes contact. But ground balls and line drives are not the soup de jour today. Couple an uppercut swing with "exit velocity" and you have a home run, which, of course, was encouraged and celebrated 20 years ago to bring fans back to the ballpark after the strike of 1994. (See Sosa vs. McGwire.)

Once the commissioner and owners were forced to confront the steroid issue, those 60 or 70 homers in a season became much less celebrated. But the owners already had achieved their goal. Fans were lined up to watch batting practice, let alone the actual contest. And, of course, the Home Run Derby on the eve of the All-Star Game continues to put strength and power on a pedestal.

Josh Donaldson, the American League MVP in 2015 when he was a Toronto Blue Jay, once said, "No grounders. Ground balls are outs. If you see me hit a ground ball even if it's a hit, I can tell you: It was an accident."

Now that launch angle and exit velocity are entrenched in the game, strikeouts and shifts have skyrocketed. Hitters who dwell on the uppercut swing for power aren't the least bit interested in using the whole field or hitting the opposite way. This season in the Atlantic League, two infielders on each side of second base will be the new rule, which simply plays into the power, swing-and-miss game.

The "no-shift rule" does nothing in terms of teaching hitters to hit the opposite way. It encourages them to continue to swing for the fences.

Consider a player like Tony Gwynn and his .338 career average and 3,141 hits in 20 seasons, all with the Padres. His biggest home run year was 17. If a strike hadn't cut short the 1994 season, Gwynn might have hit .400. He wound up at .394.

White Sox second baseman Nellie Fox used what was called a "bottle" bat whose handle was almost as thick as the barrel. Fox, a left-handed hitter, was adept at dumping base hits into short left field, but when he saw an opportunity, he could drive a ball into the right field corner for a double. A Hall of Famer, Fox was MVP the pennant-winning year of 1959. He might have been the Volkswagen Bug in terms of exit velocity, but he made 12 All-Star teams. The most he ever struck out in a season was 18 times in 1953.

Think of Rod Carew (19 years, 3,053 hits, .328 career average, 92 HRs) or Ichiro (18 years, 3,089 hits, .311 average, 117 HRs) and you wonder why there aren't more players whose approach is similar to those gifted athletes.

Instead of teaching the art and craft of hitting a baseball - as opposed to swinging and missing with the intent to connect for a 400-foot blast - coaches appear to have bought into the launch angle philosophy. You never hear anyone talk about a guy who's been dead for almost 100 years who amassed almost 3,000 hits from 1892 until 1910. That would be Wee Willie Keeler who once said, "Hit 'em where they ain't."

Too bad Wee Willie isn't around today teaching these guys how to hit.

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Roger Wallenstein welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:27 PM | Permalink

The [Tuesday] Papers

I watched the Tribune editorial board debate between Toni Preckwinkle and Lori Lightfoot this morning (via Facebook livestream!) and have a few notes to pass along.

* Lightfoot was much better than she was at last week's forum. More relaxed, less nervous and interrupty. She scored some points and once again was able to draw a contrast between her as the independent reformer and Preckwinkle as the status quo. Preckwinkle almost can't help but take on that role, as much as she's trying to cast herself as "the real progressive." And Preckwinkle, as I've said repeatedly, is progressive policy-wise. But she's also Machiney in her politics, and isn't the kind of disruptor the city seems to want right now; instead, she pledges to run a more efficient machine. Examples to follow.

* Credit to Trib board member Kristen McQueary, who finally asked the candidates about how they would work with the city council - lord over it like mayors past have, essentially deputizing it as the Department of Aldermen, or step back and let it (try to) flourish as an actual, independent legislative body. Lightfoot went with the latter, unreservedly. She even suggested the council should have its own lawyer to counter the city's corporation counsel, who in effect is the mayor's lawyer. Lightfoot said she was not afraid of an independent council, and that, in fact, we would be a better city for it.

Not so much for Preckwinkle.

"The critical issue is that the mayor has a vision for the city which is shared with the council," Preckwinkle said.

Really? I'm not sure that's the critical issue.

Preckwinkle said the council should "organize" itself, which means it should choose its own committee chairs and set its own agenda, but also said she would "collaborate" with the council in such an endeavor - the way she's done at the county with finance committee chair John Daley.

That's probably not what voters want to hear - not that I'm under any illusion that voters (who might have day jobs) were watching. (Like Lee Elia famously said, 15 percent of us had nothing better to do today.)

* Preckwinkle wants to preserve aldermanic privilege (also known as "aldermanic prerogative"). Lightfoot thinks aldermanic privilege is the root of city council corruption.

Preckwinkle, who was the alderman of the 4th Ward for 19 years, took issue with what she called a "derogatory characterization of what aldermen do." There have been, she acknowledged, "some true misuses of power, but that's gonna happen in any human enterprise." Voters, she said, have a chance to "make corrections" when elections come around every four years.

Oy. That's a very Daley-like view - the darkness of human nature and all - and rhetoric that comes from someone who feels pretty comfortable with the way things are.

* Preckwinkle also opposes term limits. Lightfoot supports term limits - two terms for mayor, three terms for aldermen, and two terms for aldermen to serve as committee chairs.

I'm not sure what I think about that, but I am sure that Lightfoot understands far more than Preckwinkle what some of the council's problems are, and is far more likely to try to fix them - because why would Preckwinkle try to fix something she doesn't think is broken?

* Preckwinkle does want to ban outside employment for aldermen. Lightfoot wants to ban outside aldermanic employment that poses a conflict of interest, so she is less strict on that point.

Of course, in the case of Ed Burke - and so many others who have come before him - it's the combination of outside employment (property tax appeals, say) aldermanic privilege (granting a zoning request in exchange for law business) that is so powerful.

* Both candidates said a final vote on Lincoln Yards should be delayed until the next mayor comes aboard, but aldermanic privilege (as Lightfoot noted) is what allowed Brian Hopkins of the 2nd Ward to single-handedly move the project forward.

* Both candidates - like pretty much the entire field before them - pledged to "invest" more in neighborhoods than Rahm Emanuel did, but I'm still not clear just what they mean by that. How does a city government "invest" in neighborhoods? Infrastructure? Schools and police stations? City services? Because when we talk about "investing in neighborhoods," what we're really trying to talk about is economic development in areas of the city that businesses generally don't want to locate in.

Lightfoot said her main focus would be small businesses, and she detailed some plans (as did Preckwinkle) for how the city can assist with small businesses, but nothing that is a game-changer.

Preckwinkle championed a $15 minimum wage (by 2021) and said that at the county she has created a bureau of economic development and council of economic advisors where none existed before.

That's great, but I'd prefer to hear bigger ideas from each of them. I'd like to hear one of them support the (still-breathing) Peotone airport as a way to fuel economic development on the South Side and southern suburbs, or suggest that they would have worked hard to persuade George Lucas to place his museum in Bronzeville, or require developers (to some degree) to mirror investments on the North Side with investments on the South Side (a Lincoln Yards on the USS Steel site). Smoothing the way for small business and expanding microlending (something both candidates mentioned) are fine things to do, but they will produce infinitesimally incremental change.

It seems to me that Lightfoot is more likely to be open to such ideas - and to go for it. Preckwinkle promises to just be a more efficient version of what we've already had.

* Lightfoot clearly has a new strategy of trying to make her role as an equity partner at Mayer Brown a plus, instead of the minus that Preckwinkle's people say it is in trying to define her as a corporate lawyer.

At Mayer Brown, Lightfoot handled complex litigation including, according to her, "the intersection of civil and criminal regulatory matters," and advising corporate executives.

* Lightfoot often comes off as dull and platitudinal in these forums, but it's clear from her resume and what others say that she's very smart in real life.

Preckwinkle can be really good at explaining herself - even if she's not always honest, which she's not - but seems to have little patience for actually answering questions, like it's a chore she barely tolerates before getting back to her desk.

As a politician, Lightfoot is still a work-in-progress. That's fine. She can be reached; she's not set in her ways. (She's also a bit ham-handed when it comes to what I can only guess is a political handler's advice on what attacks she should try to slip into her debate answers. For example, when asked about revenues, Lightfoot said that one thing she wouldn't do is one of two things a mayor can do unilaterally: impose a soda tax. I rolled my eyes at that one.)

* Lightfoot has been reading the reports emanating from the city's inspector general's office, and seems eager to implement much of what he's recommended ("They've landed in the circular file, but I'm gonna run with them.") Preckwinkle has been at odds with the county's inspector general.

* When Preckwinkle mentioned the "inherently inequitable property tax system," I winced. I still can't get past the fact that, even when presented with the Tribune's utterly remarkable and astonishing report, she pushed back against it, and stood by the man at the center of it, Joe Berrios, until the end.

* Preckwinkle: I built 1,500 units of affordable housing in my ward during my 19 years as alderman. Is that a lot? It doesn't sound like a lot to me - fewer than 100 a year - but I have nothing to compare it to. How does that stack up against the documented need in her ward?

* Lightfoot's facial expressions were amusing during this morning's debate. Preckwinkle kept monopolizing the floor, often ignoring questions and veering instead into her talking points and stump speech. Lightfoot kept narrowing her eyes, or raising her eyebrows, or giving sly little grins to . . . someone. When Lightfoot got her turn, she would often note that she was going to answer the question asked - and did - and would try to be succinct. She was clearly exasperated by the Trib moderators' unwillingness to rein Preckwinkle in.

* At the end, each candidate was asked to pretend they were on the Tribune's doorstep and had one minute to say why the (personified) Tribune should vote for them. Preckwinkle repeated her laundry list of experience and platform points. Lightfoot said, and this quote is not exact, but close: "Hello neighbor, if you're sick of the same-old same-old . . . and you want change, then I'm your candidate. I'm not tied to the Machine. I haven't aspired to climb the ladder of the Machine. I'm an independent reformer."

Winner.

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Meanwhile . . .

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New on the Beachwood today . . .

The Political Odds
Updated to reflect recent developments, including aldermanic runoffs.

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John Oliver, American Hero, Robocalls The FCC
"If only there was a way to get the FCC's attention on this issue," Oliver mused. "Of course, one way to do that would be if someone had, oh, say, the office numbers of all five FCC commissioners - because then you could, hypothetically, set up a program to robocall those numbers every 90 minutes with a message."

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World Cup 2022 Growing Pains
Corruption of Qatar bid comes full circle.

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Sanación De Generaciones: Esperanza Del Mañana
A worker-led movement to end gender-based violence presents a community-designed art exhibit, Hope Of Tomorrow.

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SportsMondayTuesday: Last Blackhawks Gasp
Back at almost being in it.

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ChicagoReddit

Lakeview: Early 20th Century Bankes Coffee Signage - Recently Uncovered After a About Century of Being Hidden by the Building Next Door, and It'll Be Gone by the End of the Day. from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

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ChicagoTube

Homewood-Flossmoor Art Students.

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BeachBook

ESPN Launches As Legalized Sports Betting Comes Online.

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Houseplants Don't Clean The Air.

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At The Field | Wildlife Photographer Of The Year.

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TweetWood
A sampling.

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The Beachwood McRibTipLine: High yield.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:55 PM | Permalink

John Oliver, American Hero, Robocalls The FCC

John Oliver once again zeroed in on an injustice perpetrated on the American people and is taking direct action - this time focusing his attention on robocalls and the Trump administration's refusal to combat them.

Oliver's unveiled on Last Week Tonight Sunday that his production team had set up an automated message that was programmed to dial the Federal Communications Commission every 90 minutes.

The host aimed to drive home the point made by more than 200,000 Americans who called the agency to complain about to robocalls last year - that the calls "vary from the irritating to the outright illegal," and that the FCC must act to stop companies from continuing their usage.

The announcement of Oliver's new effort came at the end of segment on the scourge of robocalls - defined as any call in which a machine dials a number or a person picks up their ringing phone only to hear a recording on the other end - and how the problem became so widespread in recent years, with Americans receiving constant calls from recordings warning of pending lawsuits and criminal charges or promising new credit card offers and lowered interest rates.

"If you've been feeling like you've been getting more of them lately, you're actually right," Oliver said. "Robocalls increased by 57 percent in 2018 to nearly 50 billion calls."

Complaints about the calls are the number one grievance the FCC receives from consumers, making up 60 percent of the complaints it received last year. And by next year, half of all phone calls made in the U.S. will likely be from robocallers.

The FCC is "definitely aware of the problem," Oliver said. "It should not be entirely up to us to deal with this bullshit. The FCC has the authority to police robocalls."

Yet, FCC chair Ajit Pai has merely "urged" companies to combat robocalling instead of requiring them to do so.

Pai's inaction has left consumer advocates worried that the FCC may make it even easier for spam phone calls to continue by narrowing the definition of what constitutes a robocall.

The solution, Oliver said, is to show Pai what millions of Americans face daily, sometimes receiving dozens of robocalls in a single day.

"If only there was a way to get the FCC's attention on this issue," Oliver mused. "Of course, one way to do that would be if someone had, oh, say, the office numbers of all five FCC commissioners - because then you could, hypothetically, set up a program to robocall those numbers every 90 minutes with a message."

Oliver's team did just that, taking just 15 minutes to set up the automated calls.

The comedian's campaign is just his latest effort to take direct action against corporate and government powers on behalf of the American people, using his wide platform.

Oliver established a church to demonstrate how easy it is for self-proclaimed religious organizations to avoid paying taxes and forgave $15 million in medical debt by purchasing the debt for under $60,000. The host also crashed the FCC's website in 2017 when he set up a system allowing users to easily leave comments calling for the agency to uphold net neutrality rules.

"Yes, FCC, we meet again, old friends," Oliver said Sunday night. "Except this time, unlike our past encounters, I don't actually need to ask hordes of real people to bombard you with messages - because with the miracle of robocalling, I can now do it all by myself."

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

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:45 PM | Permalink

Sanación De Generaciones: Esperanza Del Mañana/Healing Generations: Hope Of Tomorrow

Healing to Action, a non-profit, Chicago-based grassroots organization whose mission is to build a worker-led movement to end gender-based violence. is proud to open a community-designed art exhibit, Sanación De Generaciones: Esperanza Del Mañana/Healing Generations: Hope of Tomorrow.

This bilingual art show features ofrendas, or personal altars, designed by eight of Healing to Action's worker leaders, who are using the exhibit to launch a broader campaign to address the root causes of gender-based violence in Chicago's low-income communities of color.

Each ofrenda honors the leaders' past, present and future journeys, and represents their personal truths that have been silenced across generations, cultures, and gender lines.

This project was done over six months in collaboration with Awakenings Art Gallery, a multi-media gallery which makes visible the artistic expressions of rape and sexual abuse survivors.

WHEN: Opening Reception, Friday, March 15, 6 p.m. - p.m.

Leaders will share their artistic process and an upcoming campaign they are launching to address gender-based violence in their communities.

The exhibit runs from March 15- May 18.

WHERE: Awakenings Art Gallery, 4001 N. Ravenswood Ave, Suite 204C

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:14 PM | Permalink

SportsMondayTuesday: One Last Blackhawks Gasp

I tuned in to Len (Kasper) and Jim (Deshaies) at some point in the past week when they were commenting on one of the Cubs' spring training games. They had plenty to say but so much of it boiled down to this: "None of this stuff matters."

Do not draw any baseball-related conclusions based on pretend game action in Arizona. Wait until the real games start in a couple weeks. In the meantime, a caveat: "None of this stuff matters" pertains to veterans, who will make up the entire Cubs roster.

But young guys, like last year's first-round pick Nico Hoerner, can make news. And Hoerner, a shortstop who starred for Stanford, has earned a couple headlines saying he has a world of potential. (Potential that should probably be used - in another year or so - in a trade for some young starting pitching but still . . . )

I can wait until the regular season. But it isn't easy to do so both as a fan and as a sportswriter who really wants to not write about the winter sports in Chicago anymore.

So let's talk a little more about the Blackhawks before they are gone. First, they have pulled themselves back to within five points of the second wild card, currently held by the Wild. Second, they probably won't make it with a dozen games left and a couple other teams to pass in the standings.

Then again . . . in all the time the local hockey team seemed to be getting its stuff together in the past six weeks, they never played a game like the one they played Saturday. That was when they went to Dallas, took a 2-1 lead toward the end of the first period, and then played rock-solid defense the rest of the way to lock down the win. The usual over-praise of the goalie (in this case Corey Crawford) followed, but this was a team defensive effort with forwards and blue-liners contributing strong performances in front of their own net.

So the question heading into Monday night's game was if the Hawks could keep it going. Could they maintain the discipline that resulted in their best defensive performance in seemingly forever in the previous game?

The answer was a resounding yes. They blew away Arizona 7-1 - though the Coyotes who actually still have a better shot at the playoffs than the Blackhawks do. Even so, the Blackhawks combined a good team defensive performance with the explosive offense that has been so much fun in the second half of this season.

Individually, the biggest news was that the rehabilitation of young forward Brandon Perlini contininued. In his first few weeks with the Hawks after he came over from the Coyotes with Dylan Strome in the trade for Nick Schmaltz, Perlini was simply horrible.

He fit in with a Hawks team that so frequently played irresponsibly in pursuit of more goals that its defense was atrocious. But considering his status as a former first-round pick, it didn't seem as though he was close to cashing in on his potential.

So he sat, as a healthy scratch, for about a dozen games. That seemed to get his attention, and in the last few games he has played quite well on both ends of the ice. Keep it up young man!

Relatively speaking, shutting down the Stars and the Coyotes was easy compared to the Hawks' next challenge: they travel to Toronto to face the young, talented and offensively minded Maple Leafs on Wednesday.

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Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:05 AM | Permalink

World Cup 2022 Plan To Expand To 48 Countries Exposes Regional Fault Lines

Soccer's top brass are heading to Miami this week as the FIFA Council gets together for one of its regular meetings. Generally, these gatherings are tepid affairs as football's world governing body works through the minutiae of administering a game that has an official membership of more than 200 countries.

But this meeting will be different, as almost two years of high stakes maneuvering should culminate in a decision that will not only determine what format the 2022 World Cup will take, but may influence the nature of country relations across the Gulf region for years to come. Item 8 on the meeting's agenda: "Feasibility study on the increase of the number of teams from 32 to 48 in the 2022 World Cup."

Screen Shot 2019-03-12 at 8.08.18 AM.pngFIFA president Gianni Infantino/Claudio Peri, EPA-EFE

Item 8 has its origins in FIFA president Gianni Infantino's electoral manifesto, which combined social democracy with hard-nosed business.

On the one hand, the Swiss official campaigned on a platform of promoting equality across world soccer, a promise that somehow has had to be paid for. It hasn't helped that FIFA's books have at times been threadbare, the fallout from years of dealing with corruption.

During his term in office, Infantino has therefore set about drumming up business through all manner of money-making schemes. This has included signing a series of big money sponsorship deals, most notably with a group of big Chinese companies.

He also hit upon the idea that bigger tournaments make more money. As a result, FIFA has already agreed with the United States, Canada and Mexico that the 2026 World Cup, which they will co-host, will be staged with 48 rather than 32 participating teams.

In Infantino's eyes, more games means more chances to generate more broadcasting, sponsorship and ticket revenues. This solution seemingly cracks the president's conundrum: a perfect way to reconcile money and equality - allowing more countries to compete with more games in more venues.

It's worth remembering at this point that Infantino is in the middle of a presidential re-election campaign, albeit one in which he is the only candidate.

Offside Trap

The problem is, the next World Cup is being held in a country that is less than 100 miles long and 60 miles wide, with a population of little more than 2.5 million people. In simple terms, Qatar doesn't have the capacity to stage an enlarged tournament. As things already stand, some fans in 2022 will have to sleep either in tents or else on hired cruise ships.

Infantino's solution might seem obvious: share the tournament between countries in the Gulf. After all, the Qataris have always claimed that it is not their World Cup but the region's. But it's at this point that matters start to become more complicated. Qatar only has one land border - with Saudi Arabia, a country with which it has been engaged in a bitter feud since mid-2017.


Read more: Soccer may be caught in the crossfire between Qatar and the Saudis


This hasn't simply been a war of words. The government in Riyadh has cut all ties to Doha, action in which it has been joined by loyal allies including the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Both of these countries are Qatar's next closest neighbors and would, historically, have been ideal candidates to share the hosting of a mega-sporting event such as the World Cup - though there would still have been issues (not least the reception facing visiting female fans). That one now can't even fly from Doha to Dubai (a mere one-hour flight) has seemingly doomed Infantino's cunning plan to failure.

Nevertheless, for some time there have been rumors that Infantino has been intent on cutting a deal so that he gets his bigger tournament, and the Gulf region is somehow reconciled in the process. Ample evidence that this has been his intention can be seen in his movements across the world over the last year or so.

Shuttle Diplomacy

Infantino has cropped up in places as diverse as the White House and the Kremlin; he's been photographed shaking the hands of the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, and Saudi Arabia's Prince Mohammed bin Salman; and he's addressed audiences at both the World Economic Forum and the G20. Some suspect that he's been trying to broker a peace deal using soccer as a lever which, in so doing, would give him his 48-team tournament.

Reports have nevertheless recently emerged that speculation about his "diplomacy" may have been wide of the mark, as it appears that Oman and Kuwait are about to become 2022 co-hosts. Both countries remained neutral during the Gulf feud, though aligning with Qatar would be likely to antagonize Saudi Arabia. This, then, is perhaps where the geopolitics become crucial.

Stories have been around for the best part of a year that government in Riyadh is behind proposals for a new FIFA Club World Cup, a deal rumored to be worth $25 billion. Many observers have been left mystified by Saudi's involvement in this competition, though in the light of potential Omani and Kuwaiti involvement in the World Cup it does suggest that it could be part of a much bigger deal between FIFA and government in Riyadh.

Qatar's hosting of the 2022 World Cup has been mired in controversy ever since Sepp Blatter, who was FIFA president at the time, revealed its name as host at a bidding ceremony in 2010.

There have been concerns about the treatment of migrant laborers, and allegations of corrupt activity - the latest, a story in the Sunday Times alleging "secret payments" of more than $800 million from Qatar to FIFA in the run-up to the decision to award Qatar the tournament.

However, as the great and the good of soccer sit down in Miami, the most dramatic episode of all may be just about to unfold.

Simon Chadwick is a professor of Sports Enterprise at the University of Salford. This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:43 AM | Permalink

Political Odds

For entertainment purposes only. And office pools. Updated as events warrant.

The chance that . . .

Toni Preckwinkle is elected mayor: 50 percent. Down five percent on a despicable, disingenuous campaign that is leaving her brand in tatters; she still has organization, though.

Lori Lightfoot is elected mayor: 50 percent. Up five percent on maintaining momentum by avoiding errors and gaining influential new adherents.

column_pol_odds.gifPatrick O'Connor is re-elected: 50 percent. Will Lightfoot coattails deliver the final blow? Also, note that it's Lightfoot's coattails, not Preckwinkle's, that threaten him (for example, SEIU supports Toni and Pat).

Leslie Hairston (5th) is re-elected: 60 percent. Challenger and activist William Calloway is a key figure in breaking the Laquan McDonald story, but doesn't have enough to get over the hump. Hairston vulnerable next time, though.

Roderick Sawyer (6th) is re-elected 60 percent. Like Hairston, lackluster alderman put on notice.

Ray Lopez (15th) is re-elected: 50 percent. Challenger (and Chuy Garcia ally) Rafael Yanez has a chance.

Toni Foulkes (16th) is re-elected: 55 percent. Foulkes ekes it out against Stephanie Coleman just like she did four years ago.

Jeanette B. Taylor is elected (20th): 51 percent. Former Dyett hunger striker squeaks by Nicole Johnson.

Howard Brookins is re-elected (21st): 57 percent. A stronger challenger might have had a shot.

Alex Acevedo is elected (25th): 50 percent. Ugly race against Byron Sigcho-Lopez will just get uglier; toss-up.

Ariel Reboyras is re-elected (30th): 50 percent. No one to root for here; challenger is Luis Gutierrez's daughter.

Milly Santiago is re-elected (31st): 60 percent. A stronger challenger could knock her off.

Deb Mell is re-elected (33rd): 45 percent. Please, no; challenger Rossana Rodriguez could be the shining light of new aldermen.

Samantha Nugent is elected (39th): 50 percent. Margaret Laurino protege trying to replace her retiring mentor vs. ward committeeman Robert Murphy; toss-up, with no heroes.

Michele Smith is re-elected (43rd): 55 percent. Vulnerable, but Derek Lindblom not the one.

James Cappleman is re-elected (46th): 50 percent. Wounded incumbent may eke out a win unless challenger Marianne Lalonde can consolidate the rest of the field who also took on JC in round one. Make it so!

Matt Martin is elected (47th): 60 percent. Beat Michael Negron (D-Rahm) by 18 points in round one; no reason to think that margin will fall by much.

Melissa Conyears-Ervin wins city treasurer: 60 percent. Machine pick has the money - and Gariepy's endorsement.

Ameya Pawar wins city treasurer: 40 percent. Needs big-time endorsement to change the dynamic.

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Propositions

Over/Under on number of aldermen caught on Danny Solis's wire who will be indicted: 2.5. Get in now while the number is that low.

Over/Under on number of aldermen currently wearing a wire not counting Solis: 1.5. You don't think he's it, do you?

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:10 AM | Permalink

March 11, 2019

The [Monday] Papers

"A new round of labor upheaval hit the classical music world on Sunday night, when the musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, one of the finest ensembles in the nation, went on strike in an effort to preserve their defined-benefit pension plan," the New York Times reports.

"The players - who are among the best-paid in the field, earning a minimum annual salary of $159,000 last season, and often more - began walking a picket line outside Orchestra Hall on Monday morning."

I'm not a symphony guy myself, but I would think the CSO's players should be among the best-paid in the field. But that's not really the central point of the strike.

"While many other industries have shifted to cheaper defined-contribution plans in recent decades, defined-benefit plans remain the norm at the nation's largest orchestras - and players around the country have made preserving them a priority," the Times notes.

"But many are underfunded. The American Federation of Musicians and Employers' Pension Fund, a large multiemployer plan covering thousands of musicians, is currently considered 'in critical status,' and if its condition worsens, it could trigger a rare move to cut the benefit payments for those already retired."

Huh, I see the dilemma.

"Helen Zell, the chairwoman of the orchestra's board, said in a statement that 'it would be irresponsible for the board to continue to authorize a pension program that jeopardizes the orchestra's future.'"

Oh, you did not Helen Zell! Your husband is worth $5.3 billion, which makes him one of the 400 richest humans on the planet. He's also a giant ass.

I realize there is no direct connection between the Zells' fortune and the finances of the CSO, but the Zells' fortune leaves them in no position to preach - especially given the way some of that fortune was made.

Go Oboes!

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New on the Beachwood . . .

Charter School Cap Efforts Gain Momentum Across The Country
Charter school expansion drains dollars from local districts. Whoever argues otherwise is misinformed.

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Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #242: Every White Sox Story Is Really About The Cubs
Baseball is back in all its dysfunction and glory. Plus: Bears Relatively Needless - Except The One Position They Refuse To Spend More Money On To Fix; Trestman Train At Last Stop; Blackhawks Dream Over; Bulls Fantasy Beginning; and Schweinsteiger!

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ChicagoReddit

Where to discard old lumber? from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

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ChicagoTube

R&B Artist Grounds Himself In His Chicago Roots.

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BeachBook

Wikithon Highlights Unsung UMN Women Scientists.

I feel like I can vaguely remember efforts like this elsewhere in the Wikipedia universe, but I'm not totally sure. Similarly, the New York Times has been making an effort to supplement their archive of obituaries with overlooked women and people of color. I'd be up for aiding a similar effort in Chicago or in a particular subject area. HMU!

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"No Shit, Sherlock. Let's Get On With It."

Once again, the problem is editors. It didn't take me long to figure out early in my career that most editors were ill-equipped and untrained for their jobs. That was part of the impetus behind creating my own master's program in newsroom management at Northwestern as I set out to essentially groom myself to be an editor one day, which was always my goal. That's a story I have to fully tell! But man, sometimes you just think, Where do these people come from?

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The Gazillion-Dollar Standoff Over Two High-Frequency Trading Towers Near Stan Mikita's Donuts.

Maybe the real problem is flash-trading, and everyone's computer should get the data at the same time.

FB comment from Mike Halston: "'It isn't clear that the Aurora council fully comprehended the legal and technological issues involved' is likely an understatement."

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La Gordiloca: The Swearing Muckraker Upending Border Journalism.

This article makes me want to buy a car and just drive around Chicago live-streaming.

P.S.: I miss my car.

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Consumer Confidential: Why Are Glasses So Expensive? The Eyewear Industry Would Prefer Keeping That Blurry.

I had to buy new glasses last year and, in the end, both I and Medicaid got ripped off.

FYI: It looks like I'm getting my Medicaid restored. Thanks Greg, Kieran and Annamarie!

P.S.: Just got a call from someone at DHS reprocessing my case: "I've been looking at the case notes for 30 minutes and none of it makes sense."

I've been on Medicaid since the ACA went into effect and states were allowed to expand coverage based on income. I don't know why they're looking so hard at me now, but last July the state bureaucracy screwed up their own paperwork and wrongly took away my Medicaid, then put me under a microscope and decided I qualified after all, but only extended me then for six months. So here I am again. Now I just got off the phone with someone trying to explain that, at least according to the IRS, I'm not self-employed because I have an S Corporation. She explained that for their purposes, someone is either self-employed or employed by someone else and has pay stubs they can show. I have no pay stubs. And believe me, the IRS has looked very hard at my tax forms; I fought them for several years over taxes and fines they wrongly tried to impose on me and won - they wanted about $8,000 and in the end I only owed about $800. So whatever, Medicaid. Don't test me!

P.P.S: I should get a letter in a few days with my fate. Person on the phone today: "Hopefully there won't be any screw-ups going forward like there were in the past." Um, okay.

P.P.P.S: It would not be wise for me to accept freelance assignments this year unless I get enough of them to cover the cost of losing health insurance. What a country.

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TweetWood
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The Beachwood McRibTipLine: Windy.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:22 PM | Permalink

March 10, 2019

Charter School Cap Efforts Gain Momentum Across The Country. Here's Why.

From California to Wisconsin to Chicago, where both remaining candidates for mayor say they want to halt charter school expansion, efforts to stop charter school growth are gaining momentum.

Financial issues lie at the core of these efforts.

Schools were hit particularly hard by the 2008 global financial scandal. Many states cut education funding. As a scholar of school finance, I would argue that charter school expansion is making this bad situation worse.

Trends In School Finance

In my home state of Pennsylvania, schools watched $1 billion disappear when former Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, both cut state funding and refused to replace federal stimulus funding.

A similar pattern unfolded across the country. In 2015, 29 states were still providing less money per pupil than before the recession began. In most states, state aid is designed to assist districts with high needs and low wealth. As a result, high-poverty districts were hurt the most by state cuts.

School finance scholars often consider school funding systems fair when they give additional funds to districts with the greatest needs. For instance, in conjunction with the Education Law Center of New Jersey, Bruce Baker, an education finance scholar at Rutgers University, has developed a measure of school funding fairness. In a majority of states, Baker found that funding fairness declined in the five years after the 2008 financial meltdown.

Why Funding Disparities Matter

A number of politicians, such as Education Secretary Betsy Devos, reformers and pundits claim that education spending does not impact student learning. They are wrong.

Over and over, rigorous research has shown that money matters and that increases in funding for low-income students have a positive impact on outcomes. No matter how we define those outcomes - from scores on standardized tests to the probability a student will experience poverty as an adult - the results are consistent. Anyone who says otherwise is misinformed.

The Impact Of Charter Expansion

The details of how charter school funding is structured differs by state, and even by districts within a given state. Despite this variation, a number of studies have shown that charter school growth hurts the finances of nearby public school districts.

Recent studies from New York and North Carolina have found that charter expansion negatively impacts local districts' finances above and beyond simply losing per pupil revenue because of declining enrollments.

In Pennsylvania, the local district makes a tuition payment to the charter school enrolling each student from that district. The payment is based on per-pupil spending for similar students. For example, if a fourth grader leaves a public school in the Pittsburgh School District to attend a charter, the Pittsburgh School District is required to pay the charter school $16,805.99 - which is the average amount the district spends on a student in the district.

At first glance, it perhaps makes sense to have money follow the children. The problem is that increased charter enrollments rarely allow a district to save as much as they lose in charter tuition. As a result, without additional revenue from state governments or local taxes, districts are forced to make budget cuts and spend less on the students who remain in traditional public schools.

Consider an example. Bethlehem Area School District paid $25 million in charter school tuition payments in 2017. It was not possible to save $25 million with the students gone, however, because of the way the students were distributed across the district.

The students enrolled in charter schools came from 13 different grades in 22 different schools. Since students moving to a charter were rarely all of the students from a single school, grade or class, the district was not able to reduce staff or close classes to help cover the charter tuition payments. If next year's third grade class goes from 28 students to 26 students in a school, district officials still need to keep that third grade class open. They cannot pay that teacher 2/28th less, heat 2/28th less of that classroom, or reduce the operation of electricity in that classroom by 2/28th.

Yet, if the class went from 28 to 26 students because two students enrolled in charters, the district needs to make tuition payments for the missing students. When those payments are repeated and distributed unevenly across schools and grades, it adds up to millions of dollars.

Students move between districts all the time, but nowhere near the scale - nor with the fiscal impact - that takes place because of charter expansion. Bethlehem Area School District had 1,900 students, about 12 percent of the district's population, enrolled in charter schools in 2017.

As Bethlehem Area School District's business manager explained in a recent survey describing the challenges the district faces because of charter tuition payments, "there's nothing left to cut."

Across the state, mandated costs are growing faster than the money many districts have coming in: costs for faculty and staff benefits like health insurance and pension payments, special education services and charter school tuition payments.

Charter school expansion drains dollars from local districts in other ways as well. For example, charters enroll far fewer students with characteristics that require additional financial resources, including students with disabilities and English language learners. These dynamics compound the financial difficulties for traditional public schools, which are required to educate all students.

The Appeal Of Charter Schools

Research on the academic performance of charter schools is mixed, though some perform quite well. In New York City, students in a number of well-known charters often outperform similar students in traditional public schools. It makes sense - the highest-performing charters in New York often spend $2,000 to $4,300 more per pupil than traditional public schools, much of it coming through fundraising and philanthropic efforts.

Some pundits and politicians like Sen. Ted Cruz insist charter school expansion will force traditional public schools to improve through competition. I believe it's dishonest to ask traditional public schools to improve through competition while at the same time creating fiscal difficulties that hamper their ability to compete.

Since the 19th century, American school reformers have focused on making schools and districts larger to lower costs and save money through economies of scale. But charter schools increase costs by removing these economies of scale and creating multiple school systems within the same district.

Until policymakers provide additional funds to deal with the problems that arise from removing economies of scale, charter school moratoriums might provide some temporary relief. However, a moratorium on charter schools will not fix the issue by itself. Public schools need more revenue to deal with the problems created by the money they lose to charter schools.

Matthew Gardner Kelly is an assistant professor of education at Penn State. This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 3:43 PM | Permalink

March 8, 2019

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #242: Every White Sox Story Is Really About The Cubs

Baseball is back in all its dysfunction and glory. Plus: Bears Relatively Needless - Except The One Position They Refuse To Spend More Money On To Fix; Trestman Train At Last Stop; Blackhawks Dream Over; Bulls Fantasy Beginning; and Schweinsteiger!


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SHOW NOTES

* 242.

4:47: Blewitt.

* A comedy workshop.

7:17: Sad White Sox Stories Say So Much - Usually About The Cubs.

* Cubs Cheap Out Mono-Stricken Reliever.

* Coffman: "It's a big week for mono."

* Cubs lead league in spring training attendance; White Sox are 21st.

* Coffman, SportsMonday: "This team won 95 games last year. It won 95 with its best hitter missing 60 and struggling with the after-effects of an injured shoulder for half of the rest of them. It won 95 with an absolute ace pitcher sidelined virtually throughout. There might be something I'm missing, but I don't think so."

* Kogan: A New Biography Goes Behind The Sunny Smiles Of Ernie Banks.

* The Real Walter Payton.

* Why Pedro Strop Is An Anomaly Among Relievers.

* How Much Are The Cubs Worth? Try $2.15 Billion.

* Ultimate Grand Slams.

* How To Make A Cactus-Grapefruit Marriage Work: A Coffman Family Rom-Com.

36:35: Bears Relatively Needless - Except The One Position They Refuse To Spend More Money On To Fix.

* The Bears Are Shopping Jordan Howard.

* Haugh: It Would Be A Mistake To Trade Jordan Howard.

* Biggs: 10 Thoughts On The Bears.

* Adrian Amos, TCB.

* Bears will not throw money at the one position they most definitely need help at!

52:41: Trestman Train At Last Stop.

* Rhodes: Thomas Friedman And Me, Marc Trestman And Ilan Omar.

1:03:28: Blackhawks Dream Over.

1:04:07: Bulls Fantasy Beginning.

1:08:27: Schweinsteiger!

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STOPPAGE: 8:58

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

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Comments welcome.

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1. From Tom Chambers:

Until the Bears can prove they can build a winner, they can't.

They had, like a bird flying into it, their window last year. I will bet either or both of you $50 that the Bears won't reach the Super Bowl with this team.

C'mon. Go to battle with a failure kicker? Classic Bears. Classic. Generations DNA Bears. I remember when their biggest weapon was their punter! There are hundreds more examples.

Sorry gents, this has been going on for decades. I'll believe it when I see it, simultaneously with their search for a KICKER!.

They make a 33-year old Twinkie last forever. They have 60+ years of ineptitude to overcome.

The Bears have done nothing but disappoint and taunt this city since the day I was born.

Just sayin'.

P.S. The punks didn't give Walter the ball.

2. From Andrea Kaspryk:

The American Alliance Football league may be a good place to possibly find a good, reliable kicker.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:19 PM | Permalink

March 7, 2019

Melted Cheese Tops Wisconsin Championship

The nation's largest cheese, butter and yogurt competition started Tuesday in Green Bay, with more entrants than ever. AP on the call:


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See also:

* Madison.com: Wisconsin Cheesemakers Again Dominate U.S. Championship Cheese Contest.

* Green Bay Press Gazette: Are Any Of These 20 Best Cheeses Made In America In Your Fridge?

* Channel3000: U.S. Championship Cheese Contest Starts In Wisconsin.

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Previously in Wisconsin:
* Song of the Moment: On, Wisconsin!

* Wisconsin Cheese Production Continues To Grow.

* Wisconsin's Specialty Cheesemakers May Be Better Off Than Other States.

* Tips For Growing Blueberries In Wisconsin.

* Amid A Boom, Wisconsin Cranberry Growers Look To Future Markets.

* The Top 10 Wisconsin Insect Trends Of 2016.

* Wisconsin's Penokees Are A Geologic Gem.

* Wisconsin Researchers Aim To Make Cows Happier.

* Wisconsin And The Extinction Of The Passenger Pigeon.

* The Life Of Land After Frac Sand.

* Blueberry Maggot Fly Poised To Expand In Wisconsin.

* Efforts To Boost Marten Numbers In Wisconsin Meet Ongoing Failure.

* How To Raise A Pizza.

* RECALL! Wisconsin Pork Sausage Patties.

* Making The Most Of Wisconsin's Autumn Garden Harvest.

* Who Is Stealing Wisconsin's Birch?

* How To Harvest And Process Wisconsin's Edible Tree Nuts.

* Lakes, Cheese And You.

* When Oshkosh Was Sin City.

* Wisconsin Workers, Chicago Commuters And The Cost Of Living.

* Chicago vs. Wisconsin.

* Before Dairy Ruled, Wheat Reigned In Wisconsin.

* The Allure Of Destination Breweries As Rural Economic Engines.

* Green Bay Packers Fans Love That Their Team Doesn't Have An Owner. Just Don't Call It 'Communism.'

* When UW Arboretum Restoration Research Fired Up An Oscar-Winning Disney Doc.

* The National Bobblehead Hall Of Fame Has Opened In Milwaukee.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:14 PM | Permalink

The [Thursday] Papers

"I've been watching with more than a little interest the controversial statements about Israel and the Israel lobby by Ilhan Omar, a freshman Democratic congresswoman from the Fifth District of Minnesota, because it turns out that we have a lot in common - up to a point," Thomas Friedman writes for the New York Times.

"The first thing we have in common is that I was raised in the Fifth District of Minnesota, specifically the Minneapolis suburb of St. Louis Park. I lived there until I was 20. It was a freaky place - a crazy mix of Minnesota Jews (we called ourselves 'the Frozen Chosen'') and Scandinavians that produced a uniquely tolerant civic culture and an interesting group of neighbors: Al Franken, the Coen brothers, Peggy Orenstein, Norm Ornstein, Michael Sandel, Sharon Isbin, Marc Trestman and lots of others you can find on the St. Louis Park Wikipedia page. Our little town was immortalized in the Coen brothers' 2009 movie A Serious Man.''

My uncle, Jim, was a Republican who represented a liberal St. Louis Park district in the Minnesota legislature for six terms. When he finally lost his seat in 2004, AP described him as "part of a shrinking group of moderate voices at the Capitol."

As I recall, he was able to win in a district more liberal than he was because voters knew him so well from his decades of public service, from park board to school board and even playing saxophone in the community band.

The main thing he and I agreed on was not delivering tax subsidies to sports teams to build their stadiums, arenas and ballparks. He was also liberal on social issues, supporting gay rights, for example.

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The most well-known Jewish deli in the Twin Cities back then was the Lincoln Del. (I always wondered about the name: The Abraham Lincoln Del?) At one time, there were three locations. One, not the original but the largest, was in my hometown of Bloomington, Minnesota. My parents became friends with the owner, Danny Berenberg, who inherited the operation (and expanded it greatly) from his father, Morrie. In high school, I began working there after school, along with my job in the Minnesota North Stars' public relations department. (I had previously worked on a Supervalu factory line filling plastic bags with chocolate stars, and surveying folks over the phone about all manner of products for a consumer research company.)

At the Del, I worked in the back office - well, back in the stockroom, which was managed by a guy who looked a bit like this and got to wear really cool blue jumpsuits - performing such tasks as sticking address labels on advertising mailers and whatever other odd jobs came up.

Most jobs, though, required more than one person, so I would assemble work crews from my group of friends according to what was needed. (Mike, from Wednesday's column, was one of those friends - probably the best, smartest worker!)

Obviously, we participated in our fair share of hijinks. We also got a free meal every day, and our thing was the French dip. The key, as Mike recalled Tuesday night, was absorbing just the right amount of au jus with each bite to leave no trace left at the end of the sandwich - without running out before the last bite. We were French dip nerds.

One of those years in the early 1980s, I can't recall which one, Danny Berenberg started a charity 5K race called the Kaiser Roll. The race included wheelchair athletes, which I don't think was common at the time.

On Tuesday night, again, described in Wednesday's column, Chris, who was from Hopkins, mentioned that he had run in a race in Bloomington called the Kaiser Roll. Me and Mike lit up. "You know the cones you ran by that directed you in that race?" I basically yelled. "Those were laid down by us!"

Among our tasks when were dispatched from the stockroom to help out on the race: driving the course in a pick-up with another friend of ours - one driving, two in the back - placing the cones on the course. For some reason, maybe because of how the cones were "batched" together and had to be pried apart before placed, we would yell "Batch it!" each time we laid one down. We were probably driving faster than we should've been doing that job.

What does this have to do with Thomas Friedman? Well, guess who paid for young Tom to go to college? Morrie Berenberg. Friedman's mother was the Del's bookkeeper, and when her husband - Tom's father - died, Morrie stepped in.

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The Lincoln Dels are no more. Danny pulled up stakes awhile ago now and lives in Jacksonville, Florida.

I went on to the University of Minnesota, where I eventually worked in the sports information department before finally landing at The Minnesota Daily. I helped Chris get a job in SID, too, and once again I found myself assembling work crews amongst my friends for various tasks associated with sporting events, like getting guys to "pull cable" behind TV camera operators, or work in press boxes as "spotters," helping broadcasters identify, say, which player made the tackle. If I recall correctly, one of our friends was asked to grab a broadcaster a hot dog and, instead of just walking down the press box to the food area, he left the press box and went into the actual arena, stood in line, and paid for the food out of his own pocket. We didn't call ourselves the Knuckleheads for nothing.

Another time, another friend appeared to cause a press box blackout by plugging Brent Musburger's teapot into the wrong electrical outlet - or something like that. All I know for sure is that Brent Musburger, his tea and a blackout were involved.

I also remember quite often dying of internal laughter as I surveyed a football field or basketball court on a given night and saw, as I used to say, "a Knucklehead in every corner" working the game one way or another. And usually badly. It was the best.

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Adding . . .

Chris posted this on Facebook this afternoon. That's him standing on the left - with a Kaiser Roll t-shirt! This is one of our college softball teams. See if you can find me.

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New on the Beachwood today . . .

Melted Cheese Tops Wisconsin Championship
The nation's largest cheese, butter and yogurt competition started Tuesday in Green Bay, with more entrants than ever.

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RedditChicago

Should I bring my car to Chicago? from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

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ChicagoTube

WBKB Channel 7, Chicago Report, Midnight with Art Hellyer (Complete Broadcast, 8/15/1964).

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BeachBook

Leaving Neverland Deepens Shadow Over 2003 Michael Jackson Interview.

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We Appreciate It Very Much, Tim Apple.

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TweetWood
A sampling.

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A good question particularly in light of a) Toni Preckwinkle's accusation that Lori Lightfoot secured Scott Waguespack's endorsement in exchange for the finance committee chairmanship; and b) Preckwinkle's support of aldermanic privilege and securing of Ald. Walter Burnett's endorsement, both moves of the highest hacky nature. Also, how has Preckwinkle run the county board? That's almost assuredly how she'll run the city council, if elected mayor.

On the other hand, Sposato and Napolitano aren't anything for a progressive to be proud of.

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The Beachwood McRibTipLine: Medium rare.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:21 AM | Permalink

March 6, 2019

The [Wednesday] Papers

I had a fun night last night, and there's a connection to Monday's column, so I'm going to tell whoever cares to read this about it.

I have a high school friend, Mike - actually met him in 8th grade, which was junior high back in our suburban Bloomington, Minnesota school district - who has lived in Evanston (and Chicago before that) for just about as long as I've been here. Maybe longer!

I also have a college friend, Chris, who moved to Evanston within months of me moving to Chicago.

It was all coming together!

But the truth is, it never occurred to me to introduce Mike and Chris to each other. I don't know why. I've kept in touch with both over the years. It's weird, now that I think about it.

Mike and Chris found each other anyway, though. They've recently seen each other around at various doings in Evanston, and particularly, I think, at Sunday night rat hockey, and they became pals. Then they discovered they both knew me.

So Mike got the ball rolling and got us together last night and my worlds collided. It was glorious.

For dual ease of transportation, we chose to meet at the Independence Tap, though none of us had been there before. It did not disappoint. My walk-in music was by Pink Floyd, and the jukebox was on-point all night - especially with the Dead, seeing as how Chris was the one who introduced them to me. The only thing missing musically was Rush; Mike used to make me Rush (and a bunch of other) tapes in high school. I still have them.

The bartender told dumb bartender jokes that were nonetheless a cut above the average, and even chided us for nostalgically ordering Hamm's, which he took to be a Wisconsin beer. It's not; it was founded in St. Paul and is now a marketing play by Chicago-based MillerCoors, but that's okay. He's a Cheesehead.

(In another piece of magic, it turned out that the bartender and I had a common acquaintance. Worlds colliding, Jerry!)

I'm sure many of you have had nights like this, so you know how golden they are. We caught up on new times, reminisced about old times, recycled old familiar stories that became fresh again - and sometimes muddled - with the passing of time, and recovered lost memories jarred loose by what we determined were the magical properties of Hamm's. "Hamm's Remembers!" became our rallying cry. (Seriously. Every time I took a swig, it seemed a new obscure reference rose from the depths of my brainpan into my consciousness. I'm going to call Hamm's Marketing later today. Hamm's Remembers!)

* * *

In Monday's column, I mentioned that me and my college friends road-tripped from Minnesota to Madison twice a year - in the fall for the football game or Halloween, and in the spring for the Mifflin Street Block Party. Chris was one of those friends and he filled in some blanks.

I had forgotten that we usually stayed with a friend of Chris's from high school who was going to school in Madison, Kim. Kim!

Well, in another magical connection, Kim now lives in . . . Evanston.

Chris also recalled the Mifflin Street brownies he ate one year that were laced with . . . something. He just sat in the back of the car on the way home and didn't say a word one trip - now we know why. He was just trying to maintain, man.

It's funny that Chris remembered the car we were in that time, because the first thing both of them asked me about at the bar last night was my North Star Green 1975 Camaro, which I bought in high school and drove through college until it gave out. I loved that car more than I've loved most things in my life, and you better believe that it had a 350 V8 ("Put a 350 in it!" I mean, pure Wooderson), with what we would now call "fat" Jensen speakers in the back that enveloped you in the music by propelling forward along the curving low-rise roof, then dropping down on you when it bounced off the windshield and swallowed you up.

Mike recalled taking a photo of me with my car on a hill with nothing but sky behind us back in the day. "Turn the wheel!" he said. And that made the photo.

(I thought about digging it out to bring last night, but ran out of time. I'll scan it in here later.)

Chris knew that car, too, from our college days. Later, I had an updated version of a sort: a black 1992 Nissan 240SX. I also loved that car more than most things in life.

Mike, too, was referenced in a way on Monday. He was on my floor hockey team here in Chicago, Moe's Tavern, for a number of seasons. He brought me a present last night: an old ball from floor hockey he dug out of his sock drawer that had "Moe's" written on it.

Hockey is a big thread in our lives. I was always a terrible skater, but Chris played high school hockey and still plays men's hockey (and he's still a stalwart stay-at-home defenseman who takes pride in his outlet passes). Mike, as I said, still laces 'em up for rat hockey in Evanston.

In high school and my first couple of years in college, I worked in the PR department of the Minnesota North Stars, and got free tickets to every game when I worked in the press box. Those tickets went to my friends when my parents didn't use them.

In college, me and Chris and our circle of friends - the self-described Knuckleheads - played intramural hockey, and I still remember what a thrill it was for me to jump over the boards at the original Mariucci Arena like so many famed Gophers and future-Olympians and NHLers had before. Me!

My teammates had almost all played high school hockey, which was something I could only cheer from afar. And here I was on the Mariucci ice with them! I loved it so much. My greatest moment, since I was, um, not good, was when I was standing in front of the net and got blasted in the helmet by a wicked slap shot. It knocked me over. Everyone else got quiet but I was laughing my head off while flat on my back, because it was so great. I yelled, "Play on!" and they did. Because that's hockey.

* * *

Some of you may know that a core member of Beachwood Nation - the bar, not the site, though there is obviously overlap - killed himself a few weeks ago. We had a memorial for him at Nick's Beergarden in Wicker Park. It's such an old cliche - wait, is that redundant? - that it often takes tragedies like a death to bring old friends (or families) together, but that doesn't make it less true. The night we held for Joe was absolutely terrible because of the circumstances, but also absolutely classic. I'm lucky to have friends who are fucking hilarious and fun and great hangs and nice at the same time. It's too bad everyone is so scattered now, but apparently that's the way it goes. I never understood it, but whatever.

In the case of Chris and Mike, it wasn't tragedy that brought us back together, it was hockey! Sort of. I just know that, for me, there's nothing better in life than hanging with funny friends delivering the comedy over beers and tunes. And no place in my life has been a better place to do it than the old Beachwood Inn, even with all its dysfunction and soap opera, because there was plenty of that too.

Many of you have similar friends, and have or have had your own Beachwoods. I'm not claiming a unique experience. In fact, though our individual experiences are special, the general experience is pretty universal. But these are the experiences, too, that are not nurtured or valued enough in society, because people are too busy valuing money. That's not me. As much of a hardened journalist as I might be, I've also always been a "Is this great or what?!" kind of guy. What makes me mad are the people who ruin what a good time we should all be having.

I'll never forget one day when I was at the Tribune and an editor chided me across the newsroom saying, "What are you so happy about?" Now, those of you who have read me but not met me might not think of me as a "happy" journalist. That's because I know how to do my job. But something I never understood about the Trib - and this was in the early '90s, though I doubt it's changed and I also doubt it's only slightly worse than other newsrooms - is why everyone there was so unhappy. Check that - I do understand, and it was mostly because it was a dysfunctional newsroom with lousy management and wicked office politics. But even still, who should be having more fun on the planet than reporters at the Trib - or reporters anywhere, really, despite the challenges. In fact, understanding what's so great about what newspapers could be is exactly the kind of understanding that should have led to more newsroom involvement in digital innovation and stands against corporate greed both back in the day when, instead, everyone was sticking their heads in the sand and selfishly clinging to old ways. Now it's simply too late for many of them. But then, there's a reason Pete Hamill (actually, Paul Sann) used to say, "Newspapers will always break your fucking heart."

Anyway, I don't know that I was particularly happy that day in the newsroom, because that's not really my style, but I was probably just enjoying something that I was doing that day - like, my job. I was also happy to be there - until I wasn't, partly because no one else seemed to be.

Maybe that's why I always despair a bit, too, whenever I have a great night like I had last night, because as we know, the good times can't last. I've never understood why, though. It can always be great! Why is everyone so miserable? I mean, I know why some of us are angry. We ought to be angry. I'm apparently "perpetually seething," according to one local columnist. But I'm angry at the bastards, as any good journalist should be, not angry as a general emotional state. As a general emotional state, I'm perpetually rocking.

I'll just blame rich people, because basically everything bad in society is their fault. Those are the people we cover - people of wealth and power. People in a position to ruin what's great about life in their own pathological pursuit of - usually - money, or whatever else it takes to fill the holes in their souls.

That's what's so maddening, to use a current example, about the Lincoln Yards project. Among its many problems, the plan threatens one of the city's special places, the Hideout. The Hideout is a place the city should nurture - even if by just leaving it alone. It's not the kind of place that is important to a developer whose sole interest, believe me, is bringing home an absolutely huge payday. The developer's interests should come last in this equation. The developer does not care about you. The developer is not interested in those special nights you have with your friends and a beer bear.

It's an old story seemingly on repeat forever. These people - we might call them "the rich" - are (almost) all the same. They don't see the value of nurturing neighborhoods, they see the value in exploiting them. They don't care about ballpark rooftops or artists enclaves or building a behemoth of a luxury condo building next to your quaint hovel. [This is bad parallel construction, I know; the first two things are things we want preserved but the last is something bad. If I was editing this piece, I'd ask for a change.] They don't get what truly makes humans connect in important ways, because for them the only connections are transactional. And maybe they aren't human. Unfortunately, they are in the majority.

They are why the good times can't last. Connect the dots! They have less heart than a cartoon bear that was probably designed to make beer appealing to kids. Beer that is now produced by a nasty corporation, just like the music on the jukebox we listened to last night is distributed by a nasty corporation. But it's still ours, all of it. Because we make it our own. It's like someone once said of baseball: It can't be killed, no matter how hard the owners try. (You might say the same of newspapers, except they clearly can be killed. Journalism, though, will survive. Not the same thing.)

* * *

Anyway, the Hamm's bear plays hockey. I love that bear, even if MillerCoors owns him now. In my mind, Hamm's is still from the land of pines, lofty balsams; brewed where nature works her wonder. It's a pretty awful beer, truth be told. But so awfully good.

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Editor's Note: I rewrote the end tonight. I thought it went off the rails, it was really bugging me. So this is version 2.0. (Actually, I kept futzing with it, so it's more like versions 2.0 through 6.0.)

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New on the Beachwood today . . .

The Ex-Cub Factor
Featuring: Kosuke Fukudome, Adam Warren, Dan Vogelbach, Luke Farrell, Isaac Paredes and Rich Hill.

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Impeachment And Insubordination
"If Trump's abusive orders to senior officials were actually implemented as policy, they would support multiple articles of impeachment," Joshua Matz and Laurence Tribe write. "The widespread practice of ignoring his tweets, statements, and even direct commands - or treating them as merely advisory - has thus saved Trump from potentially dire political consequences."

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FCC Should Revoke Sinclair's Licenses If They Lied To It, Which They Did
"[P]roviding false statements to the Commission has been a basis for license revocation since the inception of the Communications Act in 1934," the commission's administrative law judge just noted.

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The Illinois Clone
"I am a plant physiologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign . . ."

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ChicagoReddit

What's up with people walking around with a plus sign on their foreheads in downtown today? from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

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ChicagoTube

Raining in Chicago/Walter Robinson.

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TweetWood
A sampling.

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The Beachwood McRibTipLine: Situational.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 3:55 PM | Permalink

March 5, 2019

Free Press To FCC: Revoke Sinclair's Licenses If They Lied To You

Federal Communications Commission Administrative Law Judge Jane Halprin issued an order Tuesday dismissing the Sinclair Broadcast Group's application to transfer Tribune Media Company's broadcast licenses to Sinclair. Halprin found that an administrative inquiry would be a purely "academic exercise" because Sinclair withdrew its application in August 2018.

In her order, Halprin also stated that a broad inquiry into whether Sinclair is of fit moral character to "hold any station license . . . would be more appropriately considered in the context of a future proceeding in which Sinclair is seeking Commission approval, for example, involving an application for a license assignment, transfer, or renewal."

"At that time, it may be determined that an examination of the misrepresentation and/or lack of candor allegations raised in this proceeding is warranted as part of a more general assessment of Sinclair's basic character qualifications to be a Commission licensee," wrote Judge Halprin, adding, "[h]onesty with the Commission is a foundational requirement for a Commission licensee" and that "providing false statements to the Commission has been a basis for license revocation since the inception of the Communications Act in 1934."

"The FCC's administrative law judge could have dismissed the proceeding on procedural grounds without further comment, but instead she issued a strong rebuke regarding Sinclair's dishonest representations to the FCC, and all but insisted that the agency examine Sinclair's lack of candor at the next opportunity," Free Press policy manager Dana Floberg said.

"Free Press is calling on the FCC to examine Sinclair's dishonesty in early renewal proceedings. If the agency finds that Sinclair lied to the Commission, it should revoke Sinclair's broadcast licenses and return the public airwaves to broadcasters that will serve their communities and comply with the law and with FCC rules.

"Sinclair has long abused its power to stifle local news, evade media-ownership protections, and spread racist and Islamophobic lies and propaganda on its newscasts. It's shown time and again that it has zero interest in actually serving the public - and now Sinclair has shown that same blatant disrespect and dishonesty to the FCC. The agency must investigate these apparent misrepresentations and hold Sinclair accountable."

Free Press is a nonpartisan organization fighting for people's rights to connect and communicate. Free Press does not support or oppose any candidate for public office.

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Previously:
* Item: Former Trump Aide Joins Sinclair.

* Trump's FCC Chair Continues To Shaft The Public, Offer Major Handouts To Big Media.

* Trump-Friendly Sinclair's Takeover Of Tribune TV Stations Brought To You By Trump's FCC Chairman.

* Jonathan Pie, TV Reporter! Make The Air Fair.

* 'Maybe The Worst FCC I've Ever Seen.'

* A Pair Of Decades-Old Policies May Change The Way Rural America Gets Local News.

* Tribune's Disastrous Sale To Sinclair.

* Lawmakers Demand Answers About FCC's Favoritism Toward Sinclair.

* Can Anyone Stop Trump's FCC From Approving A Conservative Local News Empire?

* Sinclair's Flippant FCC Ruling.

* FCC Presses Sinclair For Answers On Tribune Merger.

* Trump FCC Eliminates Local Broadcast Main Studio Requirement In A Handout To Sinclair That Will Harm Local Communities.

* Trump's FCC Chairman Announces Plan To Scrap Media Ownership Limits Standing In Way Of Tribune-Sinclair Mega-Merger.

* Lisa Madigan et al. vs. Sinclair-Tribune.

* Local TV News Is About To Get Even Worse.

* Trump's Secret Weapon Against A Free Press.

* With Massive Handouts To Sinclair, FCC Clears Path To New Wave Of Media Consolidation.

* Trump FCC Opens Corporate Media Merger Floodgates.

* FCC Wraps New Gift For Sinclair.

* FCC Inspector General Investigating Sinclair Rulings.

* Behind Sinclair's 'Project Baltimore.'

* Don't Be Fooled By Sinclair's Shell Games.

* Free Press Sues The FCC For Dramatic Reversal Of Media Ownership Limits That Pave Way For Media Mergers.

* Thanks, Tribune Media, All You Did Was Weaken A Country.

* Sinclair-Fox Station Deal Enabled By FCC Is Dangerous For Democracy.

* The Sinclair Sham.

* Debunking The Broadcast Industry's Claims About Sinclair's Tribune Takeover.

* Surprise FCC Move Maims Sinclair-Tribune Merger.

* Sinclair Makes Last Ditch Effort To Salvage Tribune Merger. Will FCC Bite?

* Sinclair-Tribune Deal On Life Support.

* Sinclair-Tribune Deal Is Dead.

* Tribune Media Lawsuit: Belligerent Sinclair Blew A Sure Thing.

* Tribune Executives Will Get Bonuses After Sinclair Deal Collapses.

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See also:

* Sinclair Broadcast Group Solicits Its News Directors For Its Political Fundraising Efforts.

* FCC Plans To Fine Sinclair $13.3 million Over Undisclosed Commercials.

* Sinclair's New Media-Bashing Promos Rankle Local Anchors.

* Sinclair's Latest "Must-Run" Segment Defends Tear-Gassing Refugees.

* Nexstar-Tribune Deal Is Bad News For Communities And Local Media.

* Dear FCC: Further Weakening Media-Ownership Limits Isn't The Answer.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:17 PM | Permalink

The Illinois Clone

Climate change is an urgent threat to societies around the world, driven by carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels such as oil. One of the most effective ways to curb emissions is to replace these energy sources with others that are carbon neutral or even carbon negative - that is, technologies that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than they put in.

Bioenergy, or energy derived from organic matter, usually plants, is an attractive option. The U.S. already derives 5 percent of transportation fuel from bioenergy, mostly corn. Even jet fuel could be produced from specially engineered crops, potentially balancing out 3 percent of the world's human-made emissions.

Screen Shot 2019-03-05 at 1.54.46 PM.pngA stand of Miscanthus x giganteus at the University of Illinois's Energy Farm/Brian Stauffer, University of Illinois

Because the world population and its demand for food continues to rise, there might not be enough conventional farmland to grow crops for both food and bioenergy. One solution is to grow bioenergy crops on marginal land, which isn't good enough to grow food. The logical conundrum: If this soil isn't good, how can we grow anything on it that is reasonably productive?

Miscanthus, The Candidate Bioenergy Crop

That is where Miscanthus x giganteus comes in. This species, also known as elephant grass, is incredibly productive - 59 percent more productive than corn in the Midwestern U.S.

It grows well on marginal soils with minimal fertilization. M. x giganteus is a perennial, meaning it stores nutrients in underground stems called rhizomes and uses them to regrow from one year to the next. These rhizomes, along with the plant's roots, store atmospheric carbon dioxide underground and keep soil in place, preventing carbon dioxide loss from erosion. M. x giganteus may be able to sustain significant bioenergy production to replace fossil fuels, while being grown on marginal lands that do not compete with food crops.

M. x giganteus is a naturally occurring hybrid: Despite performing well in experimental trials, it was never designed to be a bioenergy crop. It is produced by crossing the Asian grasses Miscanthus sacchariflorus and Miscanthus sinensis, popular ornamental plants whose flowers form beautiful feathery plumes. M. x giganteus is sterile, and can propagate only clonally - that is, instead of seeds, a rhizome from a M. x giganteus plant can grow into a new, genetically identical plant. A single clone of this hybrid, now called "Illinois," has been the focus of most trials of Miscanthus as a bioenergy crop in Europe and the U.S.

The incredible productivity and resilience of the "Illinois" clone, especially since the first U.S. agronomic trials at the University of Illinois in 2000, propelled M. x giganteus to prominence as a leading-candidate bioenergy crop.

Yet, the "Illinois" clone was produced by accident. What if parent species M. sacchariflorus and M. sinensis, growing in the wild in Asia, had even greater resilience, that could be used by plant scientists to breed M. x giganteus hybrids that perform even better than "Illinois?"

Miscanthus, Mosquitoes And More Cold Tolerance

I am a plant physiologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. My job involves understanding how plants work in order to develop improved crops that can mitigate climate change, in this case by developing improved hybrids of M. x giganteus for bioenergy production. I teamed up with crop sciences professor Erik Sacks to study some of the plants he had recently collected during a trip to the eastern reaches of Siberia.

Screen Shot 2019-03-05 at 1.59.44 PM.pngErik Sacks stands among Miscanthus sacchariflorus in Eastern Siberia/Erik Sacks

In the summer of 2016, Sacks's team of fearless plant scientists, guided by two adventure ecotourism guides turned amateur botanists, braved the flooding and mosquitoes of eastern Siberia to gather one of the world's largest collections of M. sacchariflorus plants. The team was interested in collecting plants that could withstand cold better than M. x giganteus "Illinois," which struggles to photosynthesize - a process where plants use sunlight to capture carbon dioxide from the air and turn it into biomass - when temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Eastern Siberia is the coldest part of the world where Miscanthus grows. One species, M. sacchariflorus, was found growing in areas with a minimum October temperature as low as 26°F, compared to 41°F in Central Illinois. Most of the region where plants were collected had a continental climate, with severe winters and big temperature swings in the spring and autumn, suggesting these plants can thrive under a wide range of temperatures.

With this diverse Siberian collection, containing 181 accessions, or groups of genetically related plants, Idan Spitz and I, plant physiologists from crop sciences professor Steve Long's lab, decided to look for M. sacchariflorus with exceptional tolerance of photosynthesis to cold conditions. These cold-tolerant specimens could then be brought back to the United States and used to breed more cold-tolerant, and therefore more productive, M. x giganteus.

From Many, Three

We filtered 181 genetically distinct accessions from Siberia down to a handful displaying the greatest photosynthetic cold tolerance. To identify the best cold-adapted plants, the entire collection was grown in an outdoor field at Aarhus University in Denmark. M. x giganteus "Illinois" was grown alongside as a control. During a cold spell, when temperatures dropped below 54°F, we measured leaf fluorescence on individual plants to identify those that were the least stressed by these low temperatures. Fluorescence is a minuscule amount of light emitted by key leaf components and can be measured to detect when the leaf has sustained damage.

Screen Shot 2019-03-05 at 2.01.39 PM.pngA leaf of Miscanthus is placed in the chamber of an instrument that measures photosynthesis/Don Hamerman

We brought the most promising M. sacchariflorus plants to the University of Illinois to grow along with M. x giganteus "Illinois" in an indoor environment with precisely controlled light, temperature and humidity. In two successive experiments, we regularly monitored photosynthesis as plants were exposed to severe chilling at 50°F for two weeks. We then raised the temperature to test how well they could recover. Our team measured photosynthesis by tracking absorption of carbon dioxide into the leaf from the surrounding air.

Although photosynthesis slowed in all Miscanthus plants during chilling, we were excited to discover three genetically unique M. sacchariflorus specimens that sustained much better activity during the cold than M. x giganteus "Illinois."

The first one maintained photosynthetic rates double that of M. x giganteus "Illinois." The second quickly recovered photosynthesis when temperatures were increased, a useful ability that could maximize photosynthesis during intermittent warm periods in the early spring. The third stabilized photosynthesis during chilling. In contrast, photosynthesis in the "Illinois" clone dropped steadily during the two weeks.

In the Miscanthus plants studied here, improved photosynthesis during chilling was supported by the ability to maintain activity of photosynthetic enzymes that are essential for absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but slow down when temperatures drop. M. x giganteus "Illinois" adapts to cold by producing more of these enzymes to counteract chilling. The new M. sacchariflorus plants we discovered in Siberia may be even better at turning up production of these enzymes at low temperature.

What's Next?

Identifying these useful traits is just the first step. Next, scientists at the University of Illinois will use these three genetically unique accessions to breed new hybrids of M. x giganteus that perform better in the cold. By breeding Miscanthus with improved photosynthesis during the chill of early spring and late autumn, we can develop new hybrids that yield even more than M. x giganteus "Illinois."

Screen Shot 2019-03-05 at 1.57.47 PM.pngErik Sacks in front of a 11.5-foot-tall stand of Miscanthus x giganteus at the University of Illinois's Energy Farm. This stand is dormant in the winter, but it will put out green leaves again in the spring/Claire Benjamin, University of Illinois

In addition, Miscanthus is a close relative of sugarcane, so Sacks is breeding the Siberian M. sacchariflorus specimens with sugarcane to develop energycane cultivars that can be grown farther north than current commercial sugarcane in the U.S.; currently sugarcane production is limited to southern parts of Florida, Louisiana and Texas. The goal is to create new bioenergy crops that can withstand cold temperatures to produce more biomass, and ultimately, more bioenergy.

Charles Pignon is a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

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Comments welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:00 PM | Permalink

Insubordination And Impeachment

Basic Books released today a paperback edition of our latest book, To End A Presidency: The Power of Impeachment. The paperback version includes a new epilogue, from which this post is adapted.

Over the past two years, many of President Donald J. Trump's critics have suggested that he can be impeached for some of his most alarming statements to senior advisors, on Twitter, and at campaign rallies. For instance, former White House Counsel Bob Bauer has argued that "[a] president who is a demagogue, whose demagoguery defines his style of political leadership, is subject for that reason to impeachment." It is unappetizing to defend Trump with respect to these issues. But we are exceptionally wary of efforts to characterize Trump's rhetoric taken in isolation as a "high Crime and Misdemeanor." And ironically, a pattern of high-level insubordination has helped Trump avoid impeachment territory for demanding that his administration engage in abuse of power.

A Cautionary Note About Impeachment For Abusive And Destructive Statements

On the merits, we agree with Bauer's warning against Trump's demagoguery. We would go further and join Michiko Kakutani in concluding that Trump has "exchanged the language of democracy and its ideals for the language of autocracy." Trump's anti-constitutional vocabulary reveals itself in his reckless and potentially dangerous verbal assaults on journalists, prosecutors, courts, civil servants, election officials, and racial minorities. This is a man disturbingly comfortable with calling for the abuse of power. He does not hesitate to use his bully pulpit in ways that cause (and invite) tangible harms to our democratic institutions.

However, Trump's public and private statements alone are not "high Crimes and Misdemeanors." Concluding otherwise would violate the rule against impeachment for mere maladministration or policy disagreement. It would also create insurmountable line-drawing difficulties and risk chilling presidential speech on matters of public concern. In our view, set forth in Chapter 2 of To End A Presidency, Trump's public statements can qualify as impeachable only if they were essential to the execution of - or intimately connected to - a broader pattern of conduct that itself justifies impeachment.

This position is consistent with the first article of impeachment that the House Judiciary Committee approved against Richard Nixon on July 27, 1974. It is occasionally suggested that this article proves that presidential lies are impeachable in their own right. That's because the eighth paragraph of the article accused Nixon of "making or causing to be made false or misleading public statements for the purpose of deceiving the people of the United States." But read in context, that paragraph merely described one of nine separately-alleged "means used to implement" the actual impeachable offense: obstructing justice in the Watergate investigation. Nixon's lies were essential to the execution of that cover-up, and so they were properly included in the article of impeachment.

Thus, even if we treat the Nixon articles as carrying the weight of congressional precedent (and it's worth recalling that they were never voted on by the House or Senate), they don't suggest that a pattern of lies is sufficient to justify removal. Rather, they show only that lies in furtherance of a broader plot against democracy may support the case for impeachment. This point is not only true of lies, but also applies to statements that undermine democratic values and institutions.

Insubordination As A Guardrail Against Impeachment

In Trump's case, the ordinarily-direct path from presidential statement to public policy has been broken. Since taking office, Trump has repeatedly urged the FBI and Justice Department to investigate and prosecute his political opponents, to show leniency to his allies and associates, and to support demonstrably false claims (e.g., that Barack Obama wiretapped him and that Russia never interfered in our elections). Trump has also declared that prosecutors should seek harsh sentences against those who cooperate with Special Counsel Bob Mueller, and has criticized the Attorney General for bringing charges against "two very popular Republican Congressmen . . . just ahead of the Mid-Terms." In other contexts, Trump has called upon police to rough up suspects during arrests, expressed support for severe restrictions on the free press, and urged regulators to target his political critics.

Indeed, the New Yorker reported Monday that Trump sought to engage in a classic, contemptible abuse of power by wielding federal antitrust authority to harm his perceived political opponents in the news media. These efforts apparently were thwarted by Gary Cohn, who saw the abuse of power for what it was and declined to carry out Trump's command:

However, in the late summer of 2017, a few months before the Justice Department filed suit, Trump ordered Gary Cohn, then the director of the National Economic Council, to pressure the Justice Department to intervene. According to a well-informed source, Trump called Cohn into the Oval Office along with John Kelly, who had just become the chief of staff, and said in exasperation to Kelly, "I've been telling Cohn to get this lawsuit filed and nothing's happened! I've mentioned it fifty times. And nothing's happened. I want to make sure it's filed. I want that deal blocked!"

Cohn, a former president of Goldman Sachs, evidently understood that it would be highly improper for a President to use the Justice Department to undermine two of the most powerful companies in the country as punishment for unfavorable news coverage, and as a reward for a competing news organization that boosted him. According to the source, as Cohn walked out of the meeting he told Kelly, "Don't you fucking dare call the Justice Department. We are not going to do business that way."

Ultimately, the Department of Justice decided - apparently in the ordinary course - to file an enforcement action to stop AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner, which owns CNN. And last week, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against DOJ, upholding a district court decision that allowed the merger to proceed.

In a normal administration, the president's statements of policy and orders to his subordinates would carry extraordinary (if not decisive) weight. As some scholars delight in pointing out, the president alone possesses "the Executive power" under Article II of the Constitution. But in practice, the so-called "unitary executive" theory has fared poorly as of late. As Jack Goldsmith writes, "What is most remarkable is the extent to which his senior officials act as if Trump were not the chief executive. Never has a president been so regularly ignored or contradicted by his own officials." This tendency, Goldsmith adds, is not confined to low-level bureaucrats or the "deep state:" "I'm talking about senior officials in the Justice Department and the military and intelligence and foreign affairs agencies. And they are not just ignoring or contradicting him in private. They are doing so in public for all the world to see."

If Trump's abusive orders to senior officials were actually implemented as policy, they would support multiple articles of impeachment. The widespread practice of ignoring his tweets, statements, and even direct commands - or treating them as merely advisory - has thus saved Trump from potentially dire political consequences.

Under normal circumstances, we wouldn't celebrate a president's inability to superintend his own branch of government. But these are hardly "normal" circumstances. All of us, Trump included, should be thankful for this bout of intermittent insubordination.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 3:39 AM | Permalink

The Ex-Cub Factor

One in an occasional series tracking the movements of former Cubs.

1. Kosuke Fukudome.

Fukudome never quite lived up to the hype of the 4-year, $48 million contract he signed with the Cubs as a free agent in December 2007. That was a lot of money back then, particularly for the Cubs. (That contract would be worth about $57 million in today's dollars.)

From Wikipedia:

After a fast start, Fukudome's 2008 MLB performance faded. After a .327 batting average in April, each successive month reflected less success as Fukudome batted .293 in May, .264 in June, .236 in July, .193 in August, and .178 in September, followed by .100 in the postseason. He ended the year with a .257 average, and a .370 slugging percentage. He hit .251 against righthanders, and .137 when there were 2 outs and runners in scoring position. Fukudome's slide was detailed in a New York Times article.

Nonetheless, on July 7, 2008, Fukudome was voted a starter in the 2008 MLB All-Star Game. Cubs manager Lou Piniella defended him from criticism, and said, "[Fukudome] does such a good job in right field we hate to take him out of the lineup," and further stated the team would continue to give him more opportunities.

After the Game 2 loss to the Dodgers in the NLDS, a reporter asked Piniella, enraged about the loss, about starting Fukudome. Piniella responded, "I'm going to play [Mike] Fontenot or Reed Johnson or somebody else, and that's the end of that story. The kid is struggling, and there's no sense sending him out there anymore." Fukudome managed only one single in 10 at-bats in the postseason.

In 2009, the Cubs switched Fukudome to centerfield, after acquiring rightfielder Milton Bradley. In July, Fukudome became the Cubs' leadoff hitter. He replaced Alfonso Soriano, who had been performing poorly in May and June. He had the lowest range factor of all starting major league center fielders (2.29).

Fukudome was a good defensive outfielder - in right field. He was also an on-base monster (.359 career), but nobody (especially the Cubs) really cared about that back then.

The Cubs eventually managed to trade Fukudome, to the Indians for outfield prospect Abner Abreu and pitching prospect Carlton Smith. Abreu played six minor league seasons to a .264/.307/.431 slash line. He never made it above Class A. Smith eventually made it to Triple-A Iowa, but washed out after eight seasons with six teams, compiling a 4.39 ERA and 1.33 WHIP.

After quickly washing out of Cleveland, Fukudome signed 1-year, $1 million deal with the White Sox. He was DFA'd after just 24 games in which he hit .171 in 41 at-bats.

He played in 43 games for the Yankees' Triple-A team, then returned to Japan in 2013.

And guess what? He's still playing there!

2. Adam Warren.

The Cubs acquired swingman Warren in December 2015 when they shipped Starlin Castro to the Yankees. The Yankees also sent the Cubs a player to be named later, who turned out to be journeyman infielder Brendan Ryan. The Cubs released Ryan a week later.

Warren never acclimated to Chicago, working to a 5.91 ERA over 29 games. He reportedly couldn't make the adjustment from Joe Girardi's traditional style of managing a bullpen where he "knew his assigned role" to Joe Maddon's more freestyle ways. The Cubs returned Warren to the Yankees in the 2016 midseason deal for Aroldis Chapman. Cubs prospects Gleyber Torres, Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford went with him - and then the Yankees re-signed free agent Chapman after he helped the Cubs win the World Series.

Warren subsequently logged ERAs of 3.26, 2.35 and 2.70 in the next three seasons in New York, and then 3.74 for Seattle last season.

Last Friday, he signed a one-year deal with the Padres.

3. Dan Vogelbach.

Vogey is a familiar name in this feature as he's seesawed between the big club in Seattle, its top minor league affiliate, and the DL (now the IL).

"[H]e's yet to do is convince the Mariners that he merits regular playing time at the highest level," FanGraphs noted Sunday.

But: "He has little left to prove on the farm."

You know what we call a player like that? 4-A.

4. Isaac Paredes.

The Cubs signed the young shortstop out of Mexico in 2015 and shipped him to the Tigers two years later with Jeimer Candelario and cash for Justin Wilson and Alex Avila. Wilson had a 2.68 ERA in 42 games at the time and was equally tough on lefties and righties. We all know what happened once he got to Chicago - he folded.The Cubs didn't re-sign Avila after the season and now Wilson is gone too.

Meanwhile, Candelario slashed .330/.406/.468 once he got to Detroit, though last year he fell off to .224/.317/.393 mark.

And Paredes? He's the Tigers best hitting prospect - though his conditioning may leave something to desire.

5. Rich Hill.

Hill started his career with the Cubs in 2005 and put in four years on the North Side before moving on Baltimore, Boston, Cleveland, Anaheim, the Bronx, Oakland and Los Angeles.

He has a career 3.91 ERA.

Hill and his wife, Caitlin, just pledged $575,000 to the Massachusetts General Hospital for Children to help fund research on rare and undiagnosed genetic diseases.

6. Luke Farrell.

Farrell pitched to a lackluster 5.17 ERA/5.20 FIP and 11.2 K/9 against 4.6 BB/9 in 31 1/3 innings with the Cubs last year, after stops in Cincinnati and Kansas City. The Angels claimed him off waivers from the Cubs in September, and the Rangers claimed him off waivers from the Angels in January.

Last Saturday, the Giants' Jalen Miller claimed him off his bat with a line drive that smashed Farrell in the face. He likely needs surgery and could miss a few weeks or a couple months if he lands on the 60-day IL.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:52 AM | Permalink

March 4, 2019

The [Monday] Papers

I've basically been sleeping since Thursday. I don't know why.

I had mono when I was a college sophomore, so it's not that. (Or is it?)

I actually recall having mono with fondness. It's a fun, little story.

It was the fall of 1984 at the University of Minnesota. I lived in a dorm called Sanford Hall. Mono went around our floor. I suspected I got it from a particular co-ed. I just used the word "co-ed" to describe a female college student because I've never done that before, and it baffles me that anyone would use that word in that way. It's so Fifties.

Anyway, it later turned out that I actually, almost assuredly, instead contracted mono from the roommate of a high school friend I visited who was attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Me and my college friends would road trip to Madison twice a year - in the fall for a Minnesota football game there or the annual Halloween party, and in the spring for the Mifflin Street Block Party.

God, we loved Madison.

Best college town ever, in my humble opinion. The platonic ideal of a college town, one might say. One in college.

On our drives back home to Minneapolis, we'd spend the four hours in the car saying "We've got to transfer! We've got to transfer!" over and over.

None of us ever transferred.

But to this day, I love Madison. Those were some of the best weekends of my life.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure I drank from the same glass as my friend's roommate, whom I learned later had mono. (Maybe that was a Halloween trip, because I remember me and my old high school friend dressed as hockey players and his unknowingly mono-stricken friend dressed as imaginary sports agent Gus Badali. Oh, wait - Gus Badali wasn't our creation at all!

All these years, I thought he was - because that's what the name of our agent would sound like. Thanks for ruining the fantasy, Google. Although maybe it's funnier this way. The obscurity of the reference is priceless, and we were only out to amuse ourselves, not anyone else.

I have an old-fashioned photo of the three of us, which I will attempt to scan and upload here later. Old-fashioned meaning taken with a camera that wasn't also a phone. If it was taken with a camera that is also a phone, you'd be looking at the photo right now. The good ol' days were rarely better than the present. Camera phones rule.

Anyway, I was disappointed to figure out later that that was the way I got mono, because it's so less interesting than getting it from a pretty girl, let's face it. And what's weird about it is that one of my close dorm friends also got mono, and because it was going around our dorm, or our floor, which just assumed we all got it from each other. I felt terribly guilty that I might have given it to my friend, somehow, but then, we both thought we got it from the same girl - who turned out not have ever had it in the first place.

It was all very confusing.

But here's the thing: Those four to six weeks or so when I had mono were the best four to six weeks of my life. The best.

See, when I was diagnosed, finals were only a few weeks away and the doctor wanted to make sure I got through the end of the quarter (quarter system rules, btw) and finals. So he prescribed me some medication that I have always assumed was some kind of speed. Because I was super-productive - and lived my life during those few weeks the way I imagined life should be lived, and how other people lived. I no longer needed so much sleep. I became focused. I had energy that I've otherwise never had in life - I've always had an energy deficiency, which is part and parcel of a lifelong battle with depression. I was "on" during that time - and not in a manic, special episode of Family Ties way. I didn't feel like shit when I woke up. I knocked out full days and full nights, from classes to studying to partying and engaging in the usual hijinks with my crew. I was "normal."

I've never been that since.

The only downside was that the doctor held me out of the rest of the floor hockey season, including the playoffs. That hurt. Big-time. I loved floor hockey.

My group of college friends - before I got to the Minnesota Daily and fell in with the weirdos there - played all manner of intramural sports. Our circle had acquired a nickname, the Knuckleheads, and so each of our teams was so-named: Knuckleheads on Ice, Knuckleheads on Field, Knuckleheads on Floor . . .

Years later, I put together a floor hockey team here in Chicago with my then-girlfriend. I kept that team together for eight years - three "seasons" a year (fall, winter, spring). We made it to the finals six times, winning three. It wasn't about the winning with us, of course. When we started our team was terrible. But it got better. And it was a blast. And, yes, we were the alt team in a typically jock Chicago social sports league. And, yes, I did score the winning goal in one of our championship games with about 12 seconds left in regulation time. That's what life's about, people! It was an amazing moment for me, for all kinds of reasons I won't go into here; I still can see in my mind the entire play. With our first championship, our team, Moe's Tavern, earned a pennant on the wall of the Beachwood Inn. We all signed the back. That pennant was later stolen - and later returned - but that's another (miraculous) story.

Anyway, once I was diagnosed with mono that sophomore year, I was held out of floor hockey. Apparently when one has mono, the internal organs can become tender and vulnerable, and many forms of physical activity are prohibited. That was really the only price I paid for having mono - a big price, for sure, but worth experiencing life as I've always imagined it.

Actually, there was a second downside. When my prescription ran out, that was that. I was not allowed to refill it. I rode out the tail end of the mono with relatively minor sluggishness, and that was that.

(About 10 years ago, I had the chance to test out samples of what is basically trucker speed - Nuvigil - to try to boost my energy, and the results were fairly decent, but not like whatever it is I was taking when I had mono. If only I could remember what that magic elixir was . . . )

I'm almost certain I don't have mono again, but I really have been sleeping since Thursday. I felt really shitty on Wednesday before going into a coma-like existence. I'm going to attribute it, for now, to a combination of stress, caffeine, booze, bad sleep, difficult personal issues, the suicide of a friend, and depression that piled up and finally broke me once the mayoral campaign - at least its first round - came to a close last Tuesday night.

I'd think about going to the doctor, but last Wednesday I got a letter from the state informing me that they were taking my Medicaid away two days later, last Friday. Thanks for the warning!

Didn't I just go through this last July? Yes. Yes I did. I got my Medicaid restored then because it never should have been taken away. But that's what's been happening in Illinois, and elsewhere, for years, and to people in far worse shape than me.

The funny thing is, my income - which was cited as suddenly being too high to be eligible for Medicaid - has not only not changed since I first qualified for Medicaid under the Obamacare expansion, but it has gone down. Nevertheless, they persist.

So I'm currently without health insurance. I am fighting to get my Medicaid reinstated. We'll see how that goes. I can't afford the health insurance on the "Marketplace" and I can't afford to pay for my monthly antidepressant prescription out of pocket. So many others have it far, far worse than I do, though. This is a sick country, no pun intended. Every politician who stands against some form of true universal health care, be it Medicare for All or something else, has actual death on their hands. They are murderers. Let's be clear. (And in Illinois, who knows how many people's lives were cut short because they lost social services during Bruce Rauner's campaign to break unions? Seriously, lives were lost.)

Oh hey, I'm getting some strength back! Sometimes anger has its positive purposes.

Anyway, I actually got up early this morning and thought the whole sleeping thing was behind me, and I went to a coffee shop to crank up the ol' laptop and get back in the game. I wasn't there for very long when I decided I had to go back home and get back in bed.

Now it's 3 p.m. as I write this and I'm back up and around. I was just going to write a brief placeholder for the column and try again tomorrow, but look! I've written a column about why I won't have a column today! Not for the first time.

P.S.: Don't tell mom. I'll be on the phone all night assuring her I don't have mono, I don't have the Epstein-Barr virus, I don't have (probably) a brain tumor, I don't have Ebola, and that I will get my Medicaid back somehow. Don't. Tell. Mom.

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New on the Beachwood . . .

Beachwood Sports Radio: Che Bryant
Cubs radicalized their MVP. Plus: The Ricketts' Very Bad Election Night; Kenny Williams Twists Knife In Back Of White Sox Fans; Blackhawks Blow Pathetic Chance To Make Playoffs; Don't Let The Upright Hit You In The Ass On The Way Out; and Tank Wank.

I did wake up to do this podcast with Jim "Coach" Coffman.

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Go Joe Becht!
Downers Grove South product meets the California Winter League. "It's not glamorous, but you get to play ball."

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SportsMonday: Cubs Will Not Finish Last
"This team won 95 games last year. It won 95 with its best hitter missing 60 and struggling with the after-effects of an injured shoulder for half of the rest of them. It won 95 with an absolute ace pitcher sidelined virtually throughout. There might be something I'm missing, but I don't think so."

I dunno, I could see it . . .

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Chicagoetry: Like A Rembrandt In Candlelight
Like the difference between the Great Plains and the Kettle Moraine.

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ChicagoReddit

On the L, is it expected that you exit through certain turnstiles? from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

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ChicagoTube

Studs Terkel Endorsing Harold Washington.

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BeachBook

MLB Players Love Our Caps. The People Who Make Them For Us Deserve Fair Wages.

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My Restaurant Was The Greatest Show Of Excess You'd Seen, And It Almost Killed Me.

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TweetWood
A sampling.

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The Beachwood McRibTipLine: Golden tee-off.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:07 PM | Permalink

Go Joe Becht!

They came to the California desert the month of February from familiar programs such as Stanford, Arizona and Ohio State, along with schools most of us never heard of like Baker (it's in Kansas) and William Carey (Hattiesburg, Miss.). Rosters were sprinkled with ballplayers from Japan and a few who had been released from major league organizations trying to get just one more shot.

This is the California Winter League in Palm Springs, which closed up shop this week just as spring training games in Florida and Arizona were moving into high gear.

Trying to gain the attention of professional scouts and coaches, approximately 250 aspiring athletes paid $3,000 apiece for the opportunity to play ball beginning in early February.

"You sign up online, put your credit card in," says Joe Becht, a product of Downers Grove South who graduated from Santa Clara University last spring before signing with the Windy City Thunderbolts last summer. "Honestly, I think they would take just about anyone. It's not glamorous, but you get to play ball."

joebecht2.jpgJoe Becht at the plate on the auxiliary field.

The league began in 2010 with the intent of being "an instructional showcase league for free agent baseball players who are looking to earn a professional contract before spring training begins," according to Wikipedia. Games are played in Palm Springs Stadium, former spring training home of the Angels. An auxiliary diamond with a funky rubberized infield also is used.

The CWL website lists 69 players from 2018 who played professionally during the regular season last year. All but two were signed by independent league clubs as opposed to major league affiliates. The California league bills itself as the "Official Winter League of the Frontier League" which includes the Thunderbolts of Crestwood, the Joliet Slammers, and the Schaumburg Boomers. Becht's Windy City coach recommended him for the CWL, and a number of coaches from the Frontier League were on hand in Palm Springs, providing instruction and coaching.

Basically for paying $100 a day, the guys are put up in local hotels - clearly not the Ritz but not Motel 6 either, since you don't find too many of those in Palm Springs - along with a stipend for breakfast groceries, a provided lunch, and a gym membership. It's a 10-team league where pitching is at a premium, so games could last anywhere from five to nine innings, depending on the availability of pitchers.

Becht, who also received an invitation from the Red Sox to participate in a one-day tryout in Florida later this month, played six games a week, and the 23-year-old gave a fine account of himself. An infielder with good hands, speed, and notable baseball acumen, Becht hit .295 with an on-base percentage of .436. Among his 13 hits were three doubles and a home run to go with six RBIs and four stolen bases. He's already signed to play again for the Thunderbolts, whose 95-game season begins on May 9, providing the Red Sox don't offer employment.

What were Becht's expectations when he arrived in Palm Springs? "Run fast, hit the ball hard," he says simply. "Get back into my normal playing shape, get live reps, get ready for the season. The Red Sox called, and I don't want to go [to Florida] and not be in shape. I'll give it one more try and we'll see how that goes. At least I have a degree."

So Becht doesn't have to do this. He graduated in four years from Santa Clara, majoring in economics. (He also hit .290 his senior year, earning honorable mention All-West Coast Conference.) After graduation, Becht remained in California working for an IT company in the Silicon Valley. When he informed his bosses that he wanted to continue his baseball career, he was told that his job would still be there upon his return.

It's not so easy for young guys without the education that Becht received. "There are guys I played with in the Frontier League who are my age or even younger who got drafted out of high school and got released, and they never went to college," he points out.

You don't hear much about those youngsters because a prospect like future White Sox centerfielder Luis Robert, who got a whopping $26 million signing bonus two years ago, justifiably gets the headlines.

Meanwhile, consider all the 20-somethings playing either for a chance to be noticed or simply because they love the game. Becht's contract with Windy City for the coming season pays $700 a month. If a major league organization wants to sign him, it will have to write a $5,000 check to the 'Bolts, according to Becht.

Years ago there were six levels of minor league baseball from Class D up to Triple-A. Many of those small-town franchises lost money and folded. Approximately 20 years ago independent leagues began to take shape as operators realized the potential of offering the game at less than half the cost of a major league contest where the quality of play was of minor-league caliber. Spiffy new ballparks were built, and the promotions were fun and entertaining. And, despite what you hear, people still like baseball.

Furthermore, there has been no hesitation to having independent teams in metropolitan areas. The American Association counts the Gary Southshore Railcats, Rosemont's Chicago Dogs, and the Milwaukee Milkmen among its teams.

And as long as there are Joe Bechts, who leg out every ground ball and play with enthusiasm, populating the rosters, fans will come.

Looking ahead to the tryout with the Red Sox, Becht says, "I'll show up with my glove, my cleats and my bat and be ready to play."

Go get 'em, kid.

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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

SportsMonday: Cubs Will Not Finish Last

Any system that determines the Cubs will finish under .500 and last in the division in 2019 is goofy.

There is a great chance there will be more issues for this team than there were last year - veteran pitchers are a year older and they didn't add a big time arm or two in the bullpen like we thought they would, so more turmoil there is slightly more probable than not.

But this team won 95 games last year. It won 95 with its best hitter missing 60 and struggling with the after-effects of an injured shoulder for half of the rest of them. It won 95 with an absolute ace pitcher sidelined virtually throughout. There might be something I'm missing but I don't think so.

I have one reservation. We need a promise from that "best" guy, Kris Bryant, that he is through with sliding head-first, especially into first base for gosh sakes. If Bryant refuses to make that promise, then maybe there is a 1 or 2 percent chance the Cubs plummet to the basement.

If Theo and Jed have proven anything during their Cubs tenure, it is that they will find ways to make moves to improve the bullpen when necessary. If one of the Cubs' veteran starters gets hurt, as they are more likely to do with every passing year, they have Mike Montgomery at the ready to step in. I'm not even talking about Tyler Chatwood until he is able to give the team, I don't know, three outings in real games that don't suck?

At this point, Kyle Schwarber is a platoon player. He hasn't hit left-handers well enough to justify his playing left field ahead of Ian Happ or Ben Zobrist or whoever else might be in the lineup against a southpaw starter.

But he is a hell of a platoon player. He had 26 home runs last year and kept his on-base percentage above .350 for much of the season. The switch-hitting Ian Happ is the same way although with less power. The Cubs desperately need for one of those two to take one more step up and establish themselves as a well-above-average everyday player to feel better about their prospects for the next three or four years, but for the coming season, incremental improvement will be fine.

I was hoping the Cubs would trade Albert Almora for a prospect or two (I thought there would be some team out there willing to deal for a young, well-above-average defensive centerfielder). That would have opened up a spot for a better-hitting rightfielder (signed as a free agent or acquired in a trade) than they've had and enabled Jason Heyward to switch to playing mostly center, which is where he should be given his weak bat.

That didn't happen, but it doesn't change the fact that with the outfielders they have, the Cubs can match up against anyone, and they have good players at the ready every day to substitute in against opposite-handed relievers later in games.

Yes, the lineup didn't work for the last month of last season. But my guess is that was an anomaly. Let's see what this crew can do in the coming season, especially with a healthy Bryant in the middle of the lineup taking pressure off other guys.

Speaking of possible trades, what is Victor Caratini still doing here? Yes, he was decent as a backup, switch-hitting catcher last year, but he isn't going to reach his potential backing up Willson Contreras and playing a game or two a month at first base. Get what you can for him and track down a veteran backstop.

Then again, I wonder if the Cubs will hang on to Caratini because they are worried about Contreras's long-term viability. A number of Cubs struggled down the stretch last year, but Contreras was the worst of the worst. He says he knows how to frame pitches better (rotate your glove rather than trying to pull the Little League move of moving it sideways), but when he gets even a little fatigued, he completely loses track of the sorts of little details that make a good catcher great.

He is one of the many players Theo was referring to when he said that, at this point, the Cubs leading lights are who they are going to be. The Cubs will be judging all of their players on what they are this season, not what they might be a little further down the line.

Baseball baby! It will be here soon.

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Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:16 AM | Permalink

Chicagoetry: Like A Rembrandt In Candlelight

Like A Rembrandt In Candlelight

She moves
Like a Rembrandt
In candlelight:

There's a glimmer,
A flicker, that is signature.

The others lack dimension,
Somehow, in comparison,

Like the difference
Between the Great Plains
And the Kettle Moraine.

Her golds
And reds and flesh
Appear warmer,

Richer, more alive.
The effect
Is instantaneous.

Her grace seems balletic.
The only option, surrender.

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

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More Tindall:

* Chicagoetry: The Book

* Ready To Rock: The Music

* The Viral Video: The Match Game Dance

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:21 AM | Permalink

March 2, 2019

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #241: Che Bryant

Cubs radicalized their MVP. Plus: The Ricketts' Very Bad Election Night; Kenny Williams Twists Knife In Back Of White Sox Fans; Blackhawks Blow Pathetic Chance To Make Playoffs; Don't Let The Upright Hit You In The Ass On The Way Out; and Tank Wank.


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SHOW NOTES

* 241.

1:58: Blackhawks Blow Pathetic Chance To Make The Playoffs.

* Coffman: SportsMonday: Blackhawks + Bulls = Baseball.

* Rosenthal: Wake Up And Smell The Losses: Blackhawks' Playoff Hopes Are A Pipe Dream, Despite Beating Ducks.

* How Patrick Kane Traded Weights For Points.

20:00: Tank Wank.

23:18: Kenny Williams Twists The Knife In White Sox Fans' Backs.

* Not helping, Kenny.

33:36: Ricketts Family Had A Very Bad Election Night.

39:16: The Cubs Radicalized Kris Bryant.

* Pending Cubs labor rep rightfully holding grudge.

* "Everybody has money. We're not stupid."

* Sinclair Sees Cubs Channel Generating $40-$50M In Cash.

* Kris Bryant uses "criticism" as motivation.

49:09: Don't Let The Upright Hit In The Ass You On The Way Out.

52:30: Bulls Unwatchable.

53:01: Loyola, DePaul Uninteresting Until Conference Tourneys.

55:05: Mayoral Race Roundtable!

* StarTribune: Chicago Mayoral Contender Got Start In St. Paul.

* Canton Repository: Massillon Native Lightfoot One Step Away From Becoming Chicago's Mayor.

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STOPPAGE: 2:23

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

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Comments welcome.

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1. From Tom Chambers:

Maybe I was late to the pilots' bombing briefing, but I have never honestly heard this logic. These (fill in profanity here) owners have created a scenario where ANY eventuality is good!

If you win, great, you are successful.

If you lose - and the word tanking is never used by ANY team members and I'll bet organizational personnel are told not to - you are "rebuilding" and, lusting the superhuman players awaiting you at the end of the black rainbow, YOU are being successful. You've got fans CHEERING for their team to lose, and seeing it as a positive when they do!

What an absolute interplanetary quantum particle SCAM! Who invented that?! It's pure GENIUS!

Pre-, during, and post-playing career, Derek Jeter remains a jerk, calling his own fans stupid and informing them that no matter what happens they WILL enjoy it, at the same prices.

This is an extremely ballsy declaration of "We don't care, fans" about anything, or you. Go beef about it to Billy the Marlin, who's not allowed to talk. And enjoy the Miami-style food, even though you already live in Miami. Jeter had better be careful, or he's going to give tanking a bad name.

It's a COOKBOOK, Professor Chambers!

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:28 AM | Permalink

MUSIC - DeRo, Hero.
TV - John Oliver Robocalls The FCC.
POLITICS - Steve Chapman's Misplaced Trust In Airlines.
SPORTS - Cubs Building A Mystery.

BOOKS - A College Admission Scam How-To.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Chicago's Muslims React To New Zealand.


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