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« July 2020 | Main

August 13, 2020

Da Region's Unabated Crime Spree

John Buncich only seemed a burly, powerfully connected Indiana sheriff. That's who he seemed for 16 of the past 20 years.

He officially ran the Democratic Party in Lake County. He was a Big Shark who wore expensive suits.

But events have shown he was only a small fish in a barrel.

Mr. Fish, meet Mr. Guy with a shotgun.

With slightly reduced charges, Buncich got 151 months in his second and likely final sentencing last Wednesday, which is survivable if you are 30 but not if you are 74. It's a death sentence by another name.

Buncich's sentencing curtain call marks another in the series of tableaus examining how theoretically smart people do really dumb things. Is there a patron saint of hubris?

For 30 years in cop work, Buncich watched compatriots in the FBI and Northern Indiana federal prosecutor's office snag lowdown public officials and dispatch them to prison. All of them. It was an assembly line.

They busted cops of all stripes, ex-congresswomen, county officials, well-wired township trustees, county council folks, city councilmen, judges and even mayors - all Democrats. They imprisoned almost literally every person in the modern political history of East Chicago.

No one escaped in seven decades of federal pursuit.

The only technical exception was Frank Kollintzas, an East Chicago city council bagman who stole millions of dollars before being caught.

But he fled before sentencing and has been hiding in Greece for 15 years. The land of Socrates does not return foreign crooks to other countries if they have joint Greek citizenship, which Kollintzas' immigrant parents provided Frank.

He went to O'Hare two days before his sentencing, bought a Swissair ticket at the counter, and was never seen again. His precipitous migration has made it all but impossible for corruption inmates to be freed pending sentencing.

If the feds were to catch him now, he'll be 77 and likely will spend the rest of his life in federal prison, too. He had $25 million stashed away then. The feds snatched it before his wife could.

By financial comparison, Buncich was small fry - usually a few thousand at a time from local bidders. But because Buncich expressed shocked dismay at his conviction, no one could tell how long he'd been stealing. He didn't think of corruption as stealing; it was just politics. You'll remember Mr. Blagojevich.

This common attitude stokes a more or less perpetual crime spree, and public suspicion that every elected official there is a crook. When political kings die in Da Region - such as East Chicago's mayor Robert Pastrick four years ago - their funerals are like Mafia circuses with jugglers, dancing bears and someone in a clown costume belting out the Pagliacci aria.

Steel is not Lake County's primary product. It's chiseling public officials.

Every time they get caught, officials there are shocked, which likely proves they either are great actors or none of them is as smart as they thought.

Yes, but that can't happen to me because I'm a clever crappie, and can't be caught. If fish could think, that's what they would be thinking, too.

You can almost hear Buncich muttering those words which, in fact, was very close to his public defense. The FBI had undercover videos of Buncich stuffing wads of cash in his pocket - actually stuffing loot - while selling county vehicle towing contracts.

Buncich's defense was: Who are you going to believe, me or your eyes watching the video? Plus, this is how Blagojevich did it and no one ever had a problem with him, right?

After a 13-day trial, the jury took five hours to convict and convert Mr. Smart Fish into a lifer.

When Buncich walked out of court in Hammond last week, he was just an old man who limped back into the world's largest senior assisted living center: America's federal prisons. He returned to the fed lockup in Springfield, Mo.

He joins 5,000 other 70-plus-year-olds nationally likely to die in their federal cells.

He got 12 years and six months for being a political maestro turned bribery extortionist. When you are 74 and suffering from ever-advancing health complications, that is essentially the end.

Some old friends wept when they saw him appear for the resentencing. He was no longer the fearsome physical force he had been.

Federal prisoners usually serve 80 percent of their time because of sentencing rules.

In Buncich's case, he is unlikely to live for that long. Federal prison is not a loving environment for the elderly.

Unless unforeseen intervention occurs for him, you will not see John Buncich again. Even the Supreme Court said no to him.

Do you not wonder why a man of advanced years would be tempted to that fate by money? He was making $165,000 in salary alone; that's $2.6 million over his four-term elected life.

Not one result of Buncich's current pitiful state was a surprise, particularly where justice occurred and who was pointing the shotgun into the barrel.

No one who has ever been a cop in Lake County could be honestly unmindful of that risk. So, it's merely greed.

Once the FBI nabs a crooked politician in Lake County, he or she is going away. The only legal presumption is how long the federally guided sentence will be.

That's partly because local FBI practitioners have mastered the art of catching the targets lying to them - a felony.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Indiana through both Democratic and Republican national guidance has not lost a conviction in that category for at least 70 years. Fish in a barrel meet guy with a shotgun.

That string of convictions might be longer, but no one was paying attention to metrics in the 1940s when the FBI was more interested in Nazi spies and Commie labor instigators.

But in modern contexts, Lake County offers frequent flyer miles to federal prisons across the country.

In the current crop, former East Chicago Mayor George Pabey, who got five years for taking $14,000 from the city, went to Duluth, Minnesota.

Former Calumet Township Trustee Dozier Allen, sentenced to 18 months for stealing $143,000 from the township, went to Ashland, Kentucky.

Former East Chicago Controller Edwaurdo Maldonado, sentenced to more than eight years for stealing $25 million from the city, went to Duluth.

Former North Township Supervisor Robert Cantrell, sentenced to six-and-a-half years for stealing $68,000 from the township, as well as tax and insurance fraud, went to Ashland.

Former county clerk and coroner Thomas Philpot, sentenced to 18 months for stealing from the county, went to Milan, Michigan.

Former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist, sentenced to four years for theft, went to Thomson, Illinois.

Former Lake County Surveyor George Van Til, sentenced to 18 months for using county resources for his campaign, went to Terre Haute.

When he was initially convicted two years ago and sentenced to 188 months, Buncich was literally amazed that day. "This is the darkest day of my life," he said then.

So his legal team spent two years squirming and wiggling and finagling to get him leniency he had never offered anyone in his jail. They earned their money, and got the time reduced.

But there was no one who saw Buncich in court last week who believes he will survive the experience.

He was a fish in the barrel.

And he is not getting out alive.

-

Recently by David Rutter:

* Kris Bryant's Future Bar Trick.

* Mansplaining To A Millionaire.

* Status Check: Chicago Sports.

* The Week In WTF Redux: Blago Is Back Edition.

* What Is A Chicagoan Anyway?

* Glenn Beck's Turn In The Volcano.

* Only Science Will Bring Back Sports.

* I Loathe The Lockdown Protestors.

* Reopening Books.

* A Return To Abnormalcy.

* I'm Having A Down Day Emotionally. Here's Why.

* So Long, Jerry.

* A Special "Trump's Bible" Edition Of WTF.

* 5 Things An Angry Old White Man Wants To Say.

* An ANTIFA American Hero.

* The Fonz Lives And Franco Is Dead: News You Can't Use.

* Gone With The Wind: My Lost Cause.

* How To (Pretend To) Negotiate A Labor Deal.

* The Mystery Of Mitch's Missing Motivation.

* Dave's French Foreign Legion Tour Of Chicagoland.

* Remember The '85 Bears? Actually, No You Don't.

* On Boredom.

* Wherever Rod Moore Is, I Hope He's Safe.

* Blackhawk's Life Mattered.

* A Blackhawks Proposal.

* Launching College Football.

* Tom Hanks Meets His Match.

* The Truth About Hamilton.

* Goodbye, Columbus.

* Who Mourns For Basie?

* The Hamburglar Of Passion.

-

David Rutter is the former publisher/editor of the Lake County News-Sun, and more importantly, the former author of the Beachwood's late, great "The Week In WTF" column. You can also check him out at his Theeditor50's blog. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:25 AM | Permalink

August 11, 2020

Machiavelli's Prince Charming

When I was 16, I had unusual ambitions: assuming political and popular power; kindling a cultural revolution; and overthrowing the remaining monarchies of the world, starting with the British (don't ask). Like any power-hungry teenager, I consulted (quite ironically) Niccolò Machiavelli's The Prince.

Written in the 16th century by the Italian diplomat, the guide for assuming, using and maintaining power has been criticized for its brutality, immorality and despotic rage. Many are disgusted with the coolness and frankness Machiavelli deploys in this 71-page text, suggesting one do whatever is possible to maintain their power. Others, however, are refreshed by this text. Not because they're relieved at finally having found a guide for themselves; rather because they've finally come across a political text that lays out the world as it is, not as it should be. Whether a cynic or not, even the most optimistic ones have to admit that dreaming for what can remain only in dreams becomes exhausting.

Machiavelli was not the first to suggest such ruthless tactics in obtaining power; he was just the first to cut out the fluff and faff in naming it. What The Prince does is lay down the cards for what the game really is. It doesn't pretend to live in a utopia, and it doesn't waste the reader's time by giving in vain a guide to achieving utopia. It calls out the world for what it is, and gives the reader a fighting chance to play along, because that is the only alternative to perishing. But of course, that's how us cynics would look at the matter . . .

Machiavelli understood better than anyone that nice guys finish last. Certain that goodness and traditional Christian virtue would only hinder the Prince, Machiavelli urges the would-be monarch to use goodness merely as a front. Deception, manipulation and sly tricks are all to be learned and used if necessary. As a School of Life video describes, "what citizens most need from their rulers is effectiveness, which may well call upon some 'darker arts.'"

It might be cynical to assume great things cannot be achieved only through goodness and kindness, but it is a position I'm willing to stand by. Those two virtuous traits have the nasty tendency of quickly becoming blind spots that are later used against those practicing them. To reiterate, the virtue and morality Machiavelli warns against are those championed by Christianity.

It was common in Machiavelli's day to hear how a good ruler was the same as a good Christian. The political theorist, however, was not convinced. In An Analysis of Niccolò Machiavelli's The Prince, Ben Worthy and Riley Quinn elaborate on Machiavelli's belief that morality hampers a ruler's ability to rule effectively, which is really all that matters. To him, so long as the ruler is able to maintain and further encourage the glory of the State, all is well. Whatever means the ruler uses are completely justified - granted the means are calculated, thoughtful and without alternative.

For this reason, Machiavelli's suggestion of using cruelty is coupled with the warning that cruelty must be husbanded for only when it is absolutely essential. Worthy and Quinn summarized the naivete of a moral ruler with, "But in a world where people are willing to be ruthless, a moral prince would make himself, and his state, vulnerable. His morals might make him hesitate to act - and this could cost him everything."

Machiavelli knew this, and wrote this text precisely to warn against the religious habit of confusing good rulers for good people. As the essay "A Critical Analysis of Machiavelli's The Prince" describes, "In Machiavellian opinion, Christianity should not constrain any political activity. The matters of government should be solely secular." As such, Machiavelli dismisses the constricting and vulnerable-making Christian way of ruling and focuses, instead, on a cold and calculated way of doing things.

Uncomfortable though it may be to read the two-faced suggestion, Machiavelli's strategy on effective ruling relied upon facades, smoke and mirrors. As he states in his guide, "It is not essential, then, that a Prince should have all the good qualities which I have enumerated above, but it is most essential that he should seem to have them; I will even venture to affirm that if he has and invariably practices them all, they are hurtful, whereas the appearance of having them is useful. Thus, it is well to seem merciful, faithful, humane, religious, and upright, and also to be so; but the mind should remain so balanced that were it needful not be so, you should be able and know how to change to the contrary."

Succinctly put, "It is essential, therefore, for a Prince who desires to maintain his position, to have learned how to be other than good, and to use or not to use his goodness as necessity requires."

When the Prince must rely upon underhand tricks, cruelty and cunning, the rate at which he executes is imperative. It is essential that the blow is laid quickly and all at once to ensure two things: firstly, that the enemy is completely crushed. Secondly, the list of blows is short and concise, which Machiavelli thought would make the Prince less hated, as opposed to drawing out the attacks. Machiavelli advises " . . . the usurper should make haste to inflict what injuries he must, at a stroke, that he may not have to renew them daily . . . "

To smooth out whatever hate must be boiling in the veins of the usurped, Machiavelli suggests to " . . . win them over by benefits . . . little by little, that so they may be more fully relished."

By now it must be crystal clear to the reader that Machiavelli was not one to sugarcoat things. Indeed, he states quite bluntly that the Prince runs the risk of not being loved by his people. He assures that so long as the Prince is not hated, he is not in danger. Being loved is not necessary; in fact, it may be better for the subjects to fear the monarch. The most famous line, perhaps, is also one of the most crucial to understand: "[S]ince love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved."

Humans are so deeply flawed that their love may not even be something worth fighting to gain. If you're to take anything away from this column, it's to not bother over gaining someone's love if they're "thankless, fickle, false, studious to avoid danger, greedy of gain, devoted to you while you are able to confer benefits upon them, and ready, as I said before, while danger is distant, to shed their blood, and sacrifice their property, their lies, and their children for you; but in the hour of need they turn against you."

Machiavelli agreed with me, and warned precisely for this reason that humans are always in a position more advantageous to the Prince when they fear their ruler, not love them. "Nevertheless," Machiavelli chimes, "a Prince should inspire fear in such a fashion that if he does not win love he may escape hate."

The best way is to construct an environment where the subjects feel a dependency upon their Prince. It's suggested that "a wise Prince should devise means whereby his subjects may at all times, whether favorable or adverse, feel the need of the State and of him, and then they will always be faithful to him."

Through a manufactured sense of necessity, Machiavelli assures the reading would-be Prince that his subjects, however much or little they might love him, will always turn to and be loyal to him. I'd be lying to you if I said I looked forward to drinking my multivitamins; however, I simply have no other alternative than to continue consuming them, lest I keel over from slightly less-than-ideal dietary choices. The principle is similar when running a State.

Machiavelli tells the reader that there are two types of threats when running a State: one is external, the other is internal. The latter is always worse than the former. To prevent domestic conflicts, the Prince is advised to not only keep his subjects from hating him, but to "show himself a patron of merit." Honoring the arts and entertaining the subjects with festivals and shows are sound ways to keep the people distracted from what's really going on. So long as the people's need for the State is coupled with carefully weighed benefits, rights, and entertainment, the subjects shouldn't be a problem. What's that old saying? Panem et circenses . . .

Now that I'm slightly older, not much wiser, but retired from my political ambitions (the British can finally rest), I'm able to see Machiavelli did two things: he very well may have armed would-be tyrants with a step-by-step guide, but he also disarmed them by giving the general public the same guide, giving the people knowledge of what to expect. That is what most people fail to realize when reading this text: this work is just as much of a guide as it is a warning. The power-hungry may be taking notes as they flip through The Prince as their bedtime story as I might have done in my youth, but the ever-prudent people, now finally getting a glimpse of the cards the beast holds, are also taking notes.

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Previously by E.K. Mam:
*
How Studying History Made Me A Stoic.

* Dear High School Students And Recent Graduates . . .

* Tunes To Remedy Any Existential Crisis.

* Flex You.

* Simply Cynicism.

* Suffering With Stoics & Cynics.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:15 AM | Permalink

The [Tuesday] Papers

Yeah, this is old news by now. I've been in a census cave all day. The column I started this morning is outdated. Best I can do; busy counting heads. Or, more like, supervising a team of folks counting heads.

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My landlord called it Treemaggedon, which surprisingly is not a thing on Twitter. #Original

*

Meanwhile, "unrest" . . .

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New on the Beachwood today . . .

Machiavelli's Prince Charming
"When I was 16, I had unusual ambitions: assuming political and popular power; kindling a cultural revolution; and overthrowing the remaining monarchies of the world, starting with the British (don't ask). Like any power-hungry teenager, I consulted (quite ironically) Niccolò Machiavelli's The Prince," our budding philosophy correspondent E.K. Mam writes.

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ChicagoReddit

Chicago Sportsbetting from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

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ChicagoTube

Chicago Duck Derby: Artist JC Rivera

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BeachBook

How An Artist Found Out He Was Pablo Escobar's Son.

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TweetWood
A sampling of the delight and disgust you can find @BeachwoodReport.

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*

*

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The Beachwood Treemageddon Line: Treemageddon.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:08 AM | Permalink

August 10, 2020

The Hamburglar Of Passion

The Steve Easterbrook Story should be a movie soon on Hallmark, as soon as Hallmark develops an X-rated romance channel.

The movie? Call it "The Hamburglar of Passion."

In the meantime, we must console ourselves with unintended real-life comedy taken to the heights - or maybe lowest depths - of American capitalism.

Occasionally it's good to be reminded that some people have everything. And you? You have nothing and are worthless. But the world always finds a way to get even.

Money can't buy smarts, when sex is involved.

Easterbrook's tale is a real schadenfreude knee-slapper, and amusingly ironic in an era when elected officials gather ominously at microphones, and lecture everyone about greedily hoping for extended $600 unemployment benefit checks.

In any case, Easterbrook's tragedy is hilarious, and I enjoy slapstick comedy as much as any connoisseur.

Easterbrook is Charlie Chaplin in better suits. Easterbrook is also a Brit comic.

First things first. In 2018, McDonald's and its 2,000 headquartarians moved into the new glistening nine-story world headquarters at Randolph and Carpenter Streets.

Goodbye, Oak Brook. Hello, West Loop. Huzzah!

Easterbrook was the ringmaster of the profitable circus for nearly five years.

As Easterbrook proclaimed that day: "Our move back home to Chicago is about more than a building - it's symbolic of our journey to transform our brand and become more closely connected with our customers."

"Symbolic journeys" always "transform." It's a rule, I think.

Well, there's the nut of the problem, right there.

When Easterbrook talked about "more closely connected," he was not intentionally referring to the CEO having sex with almost everyone in the company who would say yes. Easterbrook was, as they say, busy.

So McDonald's fired Easterbrook for a single inappropriate relationship, bad judgement, and dispatched his $17 million salary package late last fall.

Easterbrook's paycheck that year - plus the $60 million he'd gotten as CEO for five years - constituted the most expensive consensual sex in the history of consensual sex.

That's SOME expensive piece of . . . well. It's a lot of money per orgasm.

McDonald's might have trouble with pickles and ketchup. But sex? That's sort of a surprise.

But McDonald's wasn't so morally outraged by the "sex problem" that it denied Easterbrook a $40 million golden parachute.

Other fired workers get perp-walked to their cars in the park-ing lot by an armed security guard. Easterbrook's exit was somewhat more genteel. For that parachute, there's little chance he'd return in a huff wth an Uzi machine gun and settle scores.

No accusatory "fired for cause." Just leave. So he did. And thanks for playing.

He did have to turn in his key to the executive washroom.

Easterbrook's exit was logistically convenient. He was within walking distance of his $2 million bachelor apartment in the Loop.

But now McDonald's has found what it says is evidence of three other in-house doinking situa-ions with Easterbrook. And, horrors. Easterbrook lied about it all.

McDonald's, viewing itself as both police and court, says such evidence was withheld from the jury. The bailiff is Ronald McDonald. Mayor McCheese will serve as judge.

So McDonald's wants its $40 million back and is suing to get it. The legal theory, one supposes, is that we were too mindless to pay attention to what you were doing. How were we supposed to know you were untrustworthy, except that's why we fired you in the first place?

We can anticipate that Easterbrook's defense will be some version of "finders keepers, losers weepers."

There appear to be massed phalanxes of well-heeled board members and senior managers at McDonald's who don't pay much attention to anything. Or perhaps don't wish to pay to attention, because it's messy.

This all happens in a contentious period for a company that is being sued by employees for condoning sexual harassment in the workplace.

Florida McDonald's workers have filed a $500 million class-action law-suit against McDonald's, alleging the fast-food giant has a "systemic sexual harassment problem." The suit was filed for 5,000 women who worked at the 100 corporate-run McDonald's locations in Florida since 2016.

There are similar lawsuits in virtually every country where McDonald's put up its golden arches.

McDonald's defense? We don't allow that sort of thing. But it appears that McDonald's did allow that sort of thing, if your name was Steve Easterbrook.

But the culture under the Golden Arches - now under command of crisis management paratroopers - poses another question.

Capitalism implies that Easterbrook deserved his money in part because the job was so complex and all-involving. Only an obsessively focused business genius could do it.

That theoretically is why we pay generals more than corporals.

But that supposedly was also true for the career of media big-wigs Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes and Matt Lauer.

Big job. Big money. How difficult were their media jobs?

Jobs might not be as complex as we've told when there is plenty of spare time and energy to chase sexual partners on the job. How busy were these guys, aside from sexual pursuits?

Notwithstanding scruples and damage to employees, it's a time-management question.

It makes me tired just thinking of how much work it might take to manage three romantic affairs simultaneously when you're keeping them all separate.

But don't expect the fun of an Easterbrook civil trial.

The Easterbrook imbroglio has "settled out of court" written all over it. The "non-disclosure agreement" will be written in O-Negative blood with a plasma chaser.

The genius "Hamburglar of Passion" is safe. He and Chaplin will waddle into the sunset each carrying a satchel of money.

And they'll probably laugh at the zany joke.

-

Recently by David Rutter:

* Kris Bryant's Future Bar Trick.

* Mansplaining To A Millionaire.

* Status Check: Chicago Sports.

* The Week In WTF Redux: Blago Is Back Edition.

* What Is A Chicagoan Anyway?

* Glenn Beck's Turn In The Volcano.

* Only Science Will Bring Back Sports.

* I Loathe The Lockdown Protestors.

* Reopening Books.

* A Return To Abnormalcy.

* I'm Having A Down Day Emotionally. Here's Why.

* So Long, Jerry.

* A Special "Trump's Bible" Edition Of WTF.

* 5 Things An Angry Old White Man Wants To Say.

* An ANTIFA American Hero.

* The Fonz Lives And Franco Is Dead: News You Can't Use.

* Gone With The Wind: My Lost Cause.

* How To (Pretend To) Negotiate A Labor Deal.

* The Mystery Of Mitch's Missing Motivation.

* Dave's French Foreign Legion Tour Of Chicagoland.

* Remember The '85 Bears? Actually, No You Don't.

* On Boredom.

* Wherever Rod Moore Is, I Hope He's Safe.

* Blackhawk's Life Mattered.

* A Blackhawks Proposal.

* Launching College Football.

* Tom Hanks Meets His Match.

* The Truth About Hamilton.

* Goodbye, Columbus.

* Who Mourns For Basie?

-

David Rutter is the former publisher/editor of the Lake County News-Sun, and more importantly, the former author of the Beachwood's late, great "The Week In WTF" column. You can also check him out at his Theeditor50's blog. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:36 AM | Permalink

Modesty: A Fashion Paradox

'Dubai-based fashion writer Hafsa Lodi takes a deep dive into the expectations and debate surrounding modest fashion.'


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From Neem Tree Press:

"Modest fashion has been gaining momentum in the mainstream global fashion industry over the past half-decade and is now a multi-billion-dollar retail sector. Its growing and now consistent appearance on high-profile fashion runways, on celebrities and in the headlines of fashion publications and news outlets, has shown that the modest fashion movement is hugely relevant to consumers.

"This is particularly true for millennials who are attracted to the feminist influences behind concealing your body, follow faith-based dress codes, or are attuned to social media, where more and more modest fashion bloggers are using imagery to inspire their followers."

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:32 AM | Permalink

Pitchers Can't Catch

Pitchers are terrible fielders. If confirmation is requested, the first couple of weeks of this shortened season provide more than enough evidence.

Thankfully for the White Sox, much of this ineptitude has been displayed by the opposition, helping the local crew to an 8-8 record thus far after losing a 5-4 decision in 10 innings to Cleveland on Sunday night.

Go back to August 2nd in Kansas City in a 2-2 game in the top of the seventh. After Nicky Delmonico, who last week was demoted to practice time in Schaumburg, singled in two runs, reliever Glenn Sparkman was summoned to stop the bleeding with two outs and two men on base. All Sparkman had to do was retire Danny Mendick to keep the Royals in the game.

Mendick complied by hitting a dribbler just to the left of the mound, which Sparkman, a 4-year veteran, easily fielded before launching a soft toss far over the head of first baseman Salvy Perez as Eloy Jimenez and Adam Engel scampered home. The Sox added another run to go ahead by the final count of 9-2.

Last Tuesday against Milwaukee in a tense pitching match-up between Lucas Giolito and the Brandon Woodruff, the Sox led 3-2 thanks to a mammoth two-run homer by Jimenez and José Abreu's go-ahead single, which turned out to be the deciding blow.

Woodruff and Giolito had long since departed when lefthander Brent Suter came out of the Milwaukee bullpen to pitch the eighth and ninth innings. He held the Sox in check on a yield of just one hit, that being a slow roller toward the mound in the top of the ninth off the bat of Luis Robert. Suter gloved the ball but threw off balance past first base, allowing Robert, who was credited with an infield hit, to race to second base. Suter, who has been an effective reliever since his debut in 2016, then retired the next two batters.

Sox pitchers contributed their own porous defense last week. Closer Alex Colomé, who's converted all four of his save opportunities, emulated Suter in the bottom of the ninth on Tuesday after retiring the first two hitters. Ryon Healy, who runs like an ox, topped one back to Colomé, who had to move a step or two to his right.

Having successfully fielded a comebacker with his bare hand a few days prior, Colomé appeared undecided whether to repeat the technique on a ball he easily could have handled with his glove. Or, heaven forbid, with two hands. Instead, the ball escaped his grasp and squirted toward third base. Healy generously was credited with an infield hit.

Omar Narvaez, who can still hit but can't catch, followed with a base hit, and suddenly the verdict was in doubt when our fellows should have been in the clubhouse celebrating. However, Ben Gamel hit a smash to Abreu who retired him unassisted to keep Colomé's success streak intact.

The Sox weren't as fortunate on Friday night against Cleveland when Aaron Bummer was summoned by manager Ricky Renteria to protect a 1-0 lead in the top of the sixth inning. That may seem a bit early for a set-up man as talented as Bummer, but he was making his 23rd appearance when called upon to get four or more outs.

Renteria should not be second-guessed because the Indians had a pair of their best hitters - Francisco Lindor and Carlos Santana - coming to the plate, and starter Dylan Cease, while he held Cleveland scoreless over five innings, had thrown 99 pitches while walking five and hitting a batter.

Bummer got a double play to close out a scoreless sixth before retiring the first two hitters in the seventh. He then walked Delino DeShields but got Cesar Hernandez to hit a one-bouncer just to the left of the mound. Bummer had plenty of time to get the runner but he hurried his throw, which bounced far in front of Abreu, who couldn't handle the missile.

One pitch to José Ramirez was all it took for Bummer to signal that his arm was aching, and that was the end of his night. In fact, after a diagnosis of a "strained bicep," the Sox put their star pitcher on the 10-day IL. Many of us, this writer included, have strained a bicep raising a beer mug, but by the next morning, not 10 days later, we've felt no ill effects. Bummer's injury appears far more serious than the Sox are disclosing.

Questions also can be raised, such as, did the lefthander hurt his arm on the throw to first? If not, had he made an accurate toss to end the inning, would he have exited the game injury-free? Exactly when did Bummer hurt his valued left arm?

Retreating back to my original premise, Bummer had plenty of time to field the ball, set his feet, and make a throw to first. But he's a pitcher, a species seldom noted for its fielding prowess. Consider that during spring training, pitchers spend a decent amount of time practicing covering first base. But how much emphasis is placed on fielding ground balls and comebackers? While infielders handle hundreds, if not thousands, of ground balls, pitchers are busy throwing simulated games, side sessions, and working on their repertoire.

Once the season begins, the other eight defenders are given instruction and practice during pre-game drills. Not so with pitchers, and it shows. With the season a quarter completed, pitchers have made 42 errors compared to 39 for shortstops, who handle far more chances.

Pitchers' inability to catch and throw is somewhat baffling if you consider that the most outstanding pitchers - those who keep advancing to the next level - in youth baseball often are the best players on their teams. Many of them play another position, frequently shortstop where defense is paramount. Not only that, but the majority of the elite pitchers in sandlot baseball also can hit. Can it be that once they're paid for their services, they become unidimensional, concentrating only on their ability to throw strikes while developing a variety of pitches?

Jon Lester is pitching in his 15th big league season and has won almost 200 games, yet he can't throw to first base. He's the poster boy for non-fielding pitchers.

Of course, there are outliers. Mark Buehrle helped his cause mightily when he pitched for the White Sox, winning three Gold Gloves and another with Miami in 2012. Jim Kaat pitched 25 seasons in the big leagues and won 16 Gold Gloves along the way, while Greg Maddux, winner of 355 games, was voted best fielding pitcher 18 times, including 13 in a row from 1990 to 2002.

This is impressive, but it also shows that over an extended period of time, no other pitchers could challenge guys like Kaat and Maddux. Adept fielding pitchers were and are few and far between.

The best one today probably is Zack Greinke, now in his 17th season with six Gold Gloves - all in the past six seasons - under his belt. Greinke, who continues to pitch effectively for the Astros, is as versatile as they come notwithstanding Shohei Ohtani. Greinke owns a lifetime batting average of .225. As a Dodger in 2013, he slashed .328/.409/.788. He must have been a terror as a Pony Leaguer.

Don't look for any defensive improvement on the part of pitchers any time soon. You won't find coaches tapping out ground balls hours before the day's opening pitch the way they do for infielders. Pitchers simply are too fragile. There's no time or dedication to making pitchers better fielders. Just make sure the other eight guys can catch and throw.

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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 8:55 AM | Permalink

The Family Guy (Virtual) Panel At (Virtual) Comic-Con 2020 Is (Virtually) Really Funny

Featuring a virtual table read from a 4th-season episode.


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Previously in Family Guy:
* Family Guy Jesus.

* Scoring Family Guy.

* Family Guy God.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:39 AM | Permalink

Why We Should Cancel Black Grads' Debt

Soaring unemployment and underemployment, a result of the coronavirus pandemic, are forcing college borrowers to defer loan payments to make room for things like food and rent.

Back in March, student loan borrowers received a reprieve with the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, which included provisions that suspended loan payments.

But those provisions are set to expire next month.

The effects of the pandemic on economic activity will last well beyond the end of the social distancing, as my Brookings colleagues have pointed out. Many economists predict a long, drawn out recovery, spanning years. Even if borrowers defer their loans for an extended period of time, the albatross of debt, which weighs heavier for borrowers of color, will continue to be a drag on the overall economy.

A move to cancel student debt for borrowers, especially Black and Brown students, who could not draw upon the equity in a family home or other savings will put more spending money in people's pockets at a moment when the economy desperately needs it.

Student borrowers, like others who are struggling to cope with acute economic and health crises, need immediate and permanent relief. Congress needs to enact bold, structural changes to the economy: It must cancel student debt for borrowers who have yet to recover from the epidemic of structural racism. More debt equates to less spending; if we cancel student debt for those who carry the most, it will free up more income that can be used in the marketplace in ways that expand regional and national economies.

Otherwise, student borrowers without wealth - the sum total of the value of assets minus debt - to fall back on could face decades of hardship. Black people know this truth all too well.

Related: Black students default on college loans at a higher rate than others, study finds

Past anti-Black federal policies and practices in housing precluded Black people from building wealth, forcing a higher proportion of Black borrowers to take out loans for higher education. A 2016 Brookings Institution study found that upon graduation Black college graduates owe, on average, $7,375 more in student loans than their white peers ($23,420 versus $16,046). Importantly, that difference increases with time.

Examination of Black and white college graduates four years after graduation showed that the loan gap more than tripled during that period, to $52,726 versus $28,006, a difference of nearly $25,000. By cancelling student-loan debt for low-wealth individuals, we help create wealth among Black and Brown people who have historically been denied access to it.

By helping restore the wealth that has been extracted by racism and ethnic bigotry, not only will we right previous injustices, we will stimulate growth to the economy. A move to cancel student debt for borrowers, especially Black and Brown students, who could not draw upon the equity in a family home or other savings will put more spending money in people's pockets at a moment when the economy desperately needs it.

The burden of college debt has an outsize impact on Black college graduates: Where a college degree improves the long-term finances of white college graduates, the same is not true for their Black counterparts. A 2017 study from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, cited by the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Monthly Labor Review, found that from 1989 to 2013 the median net wealth of white college-educated households increased by $31,343, while that of Black college-educated households fell by $19,816. A post-secondary degree shouldn't just help people gain higher incomes. Removing student debt will help historically marginalized groups gain requisite wealth to achieve the American Dream while stimulating the economy.

Congress can begin to right past wrongs while stimulating the economy by helping low-income families break cycles of poverty and contribute more to state coffers. This should be in the next relief bill. Unfortunately, the current GOP proposal won't help relieve student debt in the short or long term.

College attendance has evolved to become an essential rung on the economic ladder toward the American Dream for most Americans. If we work hard in college and get a degree, we should be able to get a good job, buy a home or start a business. What's hidden in the American Dream narrative is the reality of anti-Black policies that throttled the economic potentials of generations of Black and Brown families.

Investing in people who have suffered economically from past discrimination is a stimulus plan we have yet to try.

This post was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for Hechinger's newsletter.

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Previously by Andre Perry:
* Black And Brown Kids Don't Need To Learn 'Grit,' They Need Schools To Stop Being Racist.

* Why Black Lives Matter Should Take On Charter Schools.

* Don't Be Surprised If Colin Kaepernick Prompts More Schoolchildren To Sit For The Pledge Of Allegiance.

* "Wraparound" Services Are Not The Answer.

* Youth Aren't Props.

* NOLA's Secret Schools.

* Poor Whites Just Realized They Need Education Equity As Much As Black Folk.

* Letting Our Boys Onto The Football Field Is A Losing Play.

* America Has Never Had A Merit-Based System For College Admissions.

* Don't Ever Conflate Disaster Recovery With Education Reform.

* Black Athletes Can Teach Us About More Than Just Sports.

* Charter Schools Are Complicit With Segregation.

* When Parents Cheat To Get Their Child Into A "Good" School.

* Any Educational Reform That Ignores Segregation Is Doomed To Failure.

* Dress Coded: Rules And Punishment For Black Girls Abound.

* When High School Officials Suppress Students' Free Speech.

* Disrupting Education The NFL Way.

* The Voucher Program We Really Need Is Not For School - It's For After.

* Charter School Leaders Should Talk More About Racism.

* Bold, Progressive Ideas Aren't Unrealistic.

* White Coaches Pick The Wrong Side When They Talk Down To Their Black Athletes.

* The Importance Of The 1619 Project.

* Black Athletes Have A Trump Card They Are Not Using Enough.

* Making Elite Colleges White Again.

* When Acceptable Attire Depends On The Color Of Your Skin.

* White Parents Should Have 'The Talk' With Their Kids, Too.

* What's Wrong With White Teachers?

* Defund Private Schools.

* Don't You Forget About Them: Custodians, Cafeteria Workers, Bus Drivers And Substitutes.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:04 AM | Permalink

'Olympic Athletes Are Dying'

"Olympians including Michael Phelps, Apolo Anton Ohno, Jeremy Bloom, Shaun White, Lolo Jones and Sasha Cohen are opening up about their mental health struggles in a new sobering documentary about suicide and depression among the world's greatest athletes," AP reports.

"Many of the athletes are sharing their pain for the first time in The Weight of Gold, on HBO. The documentary aims to expose the problem, incite change among Olympics leadership and help others experiencing similar issues feel less alone."

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The Weight of Gold trailer.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:54 AM | Permalink

Joan Mitchell's City Landscape

'In City Landscape, painted in 1955, a tangle of various colors - pale pink, scarlet, mustard, sienna and black - evoke the streets of a bustling metropolis. The spontaneous energy conveyed in the composition is at odds with Mitchell's slow and deliberate process.'

I paint a little, then I sit and look at the painting, sometimes for hours. Eventually, the painting tells me what to do.


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From Janina Ciezadlo's "Joan Mitchell's Life and Art - Brutal and Beautiful" in New City, 2011:

[An] extraordinarily detailed biography on Joan Mitchell will be particularly compelling to Chicagoans for the picture it offers of a financially and culturally privileged girlhood on the Near North Side during the 1930s and ['40s].

Mitchell, the daughter of an overbearing doctor, who "wanted his daughters to compete like boys, but also, confusingly, to behave like little ladies," grew up with mixed messages. Her mother was an editor for Harriet Monroe's modernist journal Poetry and friends with Chicago artists like Manierre Dawson.

Her maternal grandfather, Charles Louis Strobel, a steel and wrought-iron engineer, a colleague of Louis Sullivan, John Holabird and Sylvia Shaw Judson, among others, constructed the rolling bascule bridge at Van Buren Street.

Mitchell grew up in Streeterville, on East Chestnut Street, and later the family acquired a floor of a building at 1530 North State Parkway close to the lake. They "summered" in Lake Forest.

However, her years at the progressive Francis Parker School, the Art Institute and Ox-Bow were formative. She was, if I have this correctly, while studying at the AIC, simultaneously a member of the Communist Party and listed in the Chicago Blue Book, the social register.

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Via Wikipedia:

"Mitchell is recognized as a principal figure - and one of the few female artists - in the second generation of American Abstract Expressionists.

"By the early 1950s, she was regarded as a leading artist in the New York School. In her early years as a painter, she was influenced by Paul Cézanne, Wassily Kandinsky, Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, and later by the work of Franz Kline and Willem de Kooning, Jean-Paul Riopelle, among others."

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Joan Mitchell, Lady Painter.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:24 AM | Permalink

The [Monday] Papers

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The President Of The United States

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New on the Beachwood today . . .

The Hamburglar Of Passion
What the sex scandal at McDonald's tells us.

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Pitchers Can't Catch
"Once the season begins, the other eight defenders are given instruction and practice during pre-game drills. Not so with pitchers, and it shows."

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Joan Mitchell's City Landscape
'The art of a privileged Chicago woman of the '30s who was simultaneously a member of the Communist Party and listed in the Chicago Blue Book, the social register.'

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Olympic Athletes Are Dying
"Olympians including Michael Phelps, Apolo Anton Ohno, Jeremy Bloom, Shaun White, Lolo Jones and Sasha Cohen are opening up about their mental health struggles in a new sobering documentary about suicide and depression among the world's greatest athletes."

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ICYMI: The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #316: Blackhawks, Baseball Barely Back
Me, solo, with "Coach" out of town . . .

Deflections and denial. Plus: David Ross Week; The White Sox Are Also Playing; Boylen Not Over; Breaking Bears Truths!; Sky & Fire; Smashville; 22-Year Temper Tantrum Approaches Endgame, and more!

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Why We Should Cancel Black Grads' Debt
"Black college grads end up with $25,000 more in loans than whites. Canceling those loans for people who have been denied wealth-building opportunities is a moral and economic imperative."

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The Fashion Paradox Of Modesty
'Dubai-based fashion writer Hafsa Lodi takes a deep dive into the expectations and debate surrounding modest fashion.'

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The Family Guy (Virtual) Panel At (Virtual) Comic-Con 2020 Is (Virtually) Really Funny
Featuring a virtual table read from a 4th-season episode.

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ChicagoReddit

How long does it take for animal control to respond? from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

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ChicagoTube

Chicago Worker Nails Trash Can Trick Shot

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BeachBook

50 Purchases Buyers Almost Always Regret.

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Why Isn't The UP Part Of Wisconsin?

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TweetWood
A sampling of the delight and disgust you can find @BeachwoodReport.

To some, it represents everything wrong with Chicago and America.

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The Beachwood McMasters & Johnson Line: Mixed meta.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:47 AM | Permalink

August 8, 2020

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #316: Blackhawks, Baseball Barely Back

Deflections and denial. Plus: David Ross Week; The White Sox Are Also Playing; Boylen Not Over; Breaking Bears Truths!; Sky & Fire; Smashville; 22-Year Temper Tantrum Approaches Endgame, and more!

Beachwood Radio Network · The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #316: Blackhawks, Baseball Barely Back

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SHOW NOTES

* 316.

1:13: Blackhawks Make Playoffs Again.

* Second time this season!

* Powers and Lazerus, The Athletic: Observations From The Blackhawks' Game 3 Win.

* Lynch, Blackhawk Up: 3 Takeaways From Game 4 Win Against Oilers.

* King, NBC Sports Chicago: How The Blackhawks Upset The Oilers In The Stanley Cup Qualifiers.

* NHL: Maple Leafs Pull Off The Impossible Comeback In Thrilling Stanley Cup Qualifier.

* Rhodes: The cardboard fans went crazy!

* Eckardt: Burst into flames!

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10:54: Baseball Is Barely Back.

* Sullivan, Tribune: Cubs-Cardinals Series Postponed Amid More COVID-19 Positives.

* MLB: 'Field Of Dreams' Game Canceled.

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16:36: David Ross Week.

* The Score: Happ: Ross Is 'Right Guy For This Team.'

* Levine, The Score: Epstein Credits Ross For Creating Energy, Harmony.

* Misener, Cubbies Crib: Maddon Makes Inexcusable Move With Sho-Oh.

* Fletcher, Orange County Register: Maddon Believes Angels Clubhouse Is Free Of Drug Issues.

* TWIC Notes:

* Levine, The Score: Cubs' David Bote Flashing His Defensive Prowess.

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35:07 The White Sox Are Also Playing.

* Eloy.

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39:38 Boylen Not Over.

* Cowley, Sun-Times: Financial Concerns Likely Will Keep Jim Boylen As Bulls Coach.

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41:56: Breaking Bears Truths!

* Emma, The Score: Bears Believe More Mature Miller Ready For Breakout.

* Fishbain, The Athletic: What Can The Bears Get From Second-Year RB David Montgomery?

* Rhodes: Hell, I've opted out of the grocery store. I'm about to opt out of the sidewalk . . .

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49:33 Sky & Fire.

* Meh.

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50:14: Smashville.

* World TeamTennis: Chicago Smash Help Set Team Tennis Viewership Record.

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51:20: TrackNotes: 22-Year Temper Tantrum Approaches Endgame.

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Bonus clips:

* KHN: Forced Sports Timeout Puts Squeeze On College Coffers, Scholarships And Towns.

* The Conversation: Why A Canadian Hockey Team's Name Recalls U.S. Civil War Destruction.

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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 11:43 AM | Permalink

History Of The U.S. Postal Inspection Service

An in-depth look at the rich history of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service - the oldest federal law enforcement agency.


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Previously:

* Vanishing Vending Machines.

* Item: Art Fraud Bust.

* Janene Gordon, Postal Inspector.

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

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

* Mailbox Fishing.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:34 AM | Permalink

To Understand The Misogynistic Veepstakes Backlash, Watch TV

Joe Biden's promise to name a woman running mate has prompted familiar debates about gender and power.

Are these potential vice presidents supposed to be presidential lackeys or understudies to the leader of the free world? Should they actively seek the position, or be reluctant nominees bound by duty?

After Senator Kamala Harris's name emerged as a short-list favorite, CNBC reported that some Biden allies and donors "initiated a campaign against Harris," arguing that she was "too ambitious" and would be "solely focused on eventually becoming president."

Claiming that people who want to be president make bad vice presidents might seem ill-conceived if your audience is Vice President Joe Biden. And pundits and journalists quickly pointed out that the argument was racist and sexist - like, really, really sexist.

So why were Democratic party insiders spouting it?

One clue can be found in the way we tell stories about women politicians. In our book, Woman President: Confronting Postfeminist Political Culture, communication scholar Kristina Horn Sheeler and I examine how fictional and actual women presidential figures are framed in news coverage, political satire, memes, television and film.

Our close reading of these diverse texts reveals a persistent backlash that takes many forms: satirical cartoons that deploy sexist stereotypes; the pornification of women candidates in memes; and news framing that includes misogynistic metaphors, to name a few.

But in our chapter on fictional women presidents on screen, we found something particularly relevant to the coverage of the Democratic Party "veepstakes." Women who are politically ambitious are presented as less trustworthy than those who don't actively seek the presidency.

There have been six series' on U.S. television that follow a woman president for at least one full season: ABC's Commander in Chief; the Sci-Fi Channel's Battlestar Galactica; Fox's 24; CBS's Madam Secretary; Fox 21's Homeland; and HBO's Veep.

It may seem like a small point, but when showrunners want to create a "likable" woman president, they go out of their way to demonstrate that pursuing the presidency isn't her life's goal.

The women presidents in Commander in Chief and Battlestar Galactica didn't campaign for the office. They ascended to the presidency as a result of tragedy.

In the former, the president dies of a brain aneurysm; in the latter, a nuclear attack takes out the first 42 people in the presidential line of succession, leaving the Secretary of Education to fill the role. (To be fair, this did seem like a woman's likeliest path to presidential power in 2004.)

Each character is portrayed as an ethical and effective leader - not perfect, but plausibly presidential.

Conversely, series' like 24 and Homeland feature women candidates who aggressively seek the presidency. In both cases, the women start out as principled politicians, but their true nature is revealed as weak and duplicitous. Their presidential tenures end up being ruinous for the nation, and order is restored by a white male - 24's Jack Bauer and the male vice president in Homeland. HBO's Veep takes the premise of a craven woman politician to an absurd extreme, with actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus winning six consecutive Emmy Awards for her burlesque send-up of the familiar female trope.

Interestingly, both 24 and Homeland have important connections to real-world presidential politics. Both series' portray the first woman U.S. president as a veteran politician and middle-aged white woman. They bear strong resemblances to the only woman who has been a major-party presidential nominee: Hillary Clinton. Appearing in 2008 and 2017, respectively, the storylines were clearly planned to coincide with what could have been Clinton's first term as U.S. president.

Screen Shot 2020-08-08 at 4.11.02 PM.pngPresident Allison Taylor of 24 ends up being exposed as Machiavellian/20th Century Fox

Yet 24's and Homeland's depictions of fictional women presidents align with communication scholar Shawn J. Parry-Giles's findings that the media framed Clinton as inauthentic, Machiavellian and, ultimately, dangerous.

Screen Shot 2020-08-08 at 4.13.06 PM.pngPresident Elizabeth Keane of Homeland is a craven politician who has a ruinous tenure in office/Showtime

That brings us back to our current veepstakes.

Criticisms of women vice presidential prospects echo cultural scripts that insist women who want to be president shouldn't be trusted. Understanding the resistance to Harris - and Elizabeth Warren, Stacey Abrams and others who announce their eagerness to serve - requires recognizing the diverse forms that backlash against women's political ambitions can take, which span from calling a congresswoman a "fucking bitch" on the steps of the U.S. Capitol to portraying women presidents as Machiavellian on television dramas.

Did pop culture cause those Biden funders to try to undermine Harris?

No. But the stories we tell ourselves on screen have taught us that women who actually want to be president can't be trusted. That might be why people like Ambassador Susan Rice, who's never run for office, and U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, who has said she doesn't want to run for president, landed on Biden's short list to favorable coverage.

"At every step in her political career," the New York Times wrote of Bass, "the California congresswoman had to be coaxed to run for a higher office. Now she's a top contender to be Joe Biden's running mate."

Men who run for president typically have to demonstrate the requisite desire - the so-called "fire in the belly."

Bizarrely, women are supposed to act like they don't even want it.

Karrin Vasby Anderson is a communications studies professor at Colorado State. This post is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

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See also:

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Comments welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:24 AM | Permalink

Infinite Corporate Greed Is Literally Killing Us

The combination of greed and power often spin out of control and challenge the enforceable rule of law and the countervailing force of the organized civic community.

When greed and power are exercised by giant multinational corporations that escape the discipline of the nation-state, the potential for evil becomes infinite in nature. Enough is never enough.

Global giant companies, aided and abetted by their corporate attorneys and accountants, can literally decide how little taxes they are going to pay by shifting profits and expenses among different tax haven countries such as Ireland, Luxembourg and Panama.

These same companies then proceed to lobby any nation, including most prominently the United States. Congress and the White House are pushed to cut formal tax rates, pack the tax laws with loopholes, and lower further the effective tax rate. The formal top tax rate for billions of company profits is now 21%, while the actual tax rate is lower - much lower for banks, insurance companies, drug companies, and behemoth tech companies like Apple that master tax avoidance.

"Generous" is not a word one can associate either with Apple or it's avaricious CEO Tim Cook. One of the first moves Tim Cook made after replacing legendary Apple Founder, the cancer-stricken innovator Steve Jobs, was to arrange a $378 million, 2011 compensation package for himself and launch the biggest stock buyback in corporate history.

Apple, which is worth $1.5 trillion, has spent $327 billion since 2013 to buy back 2.5 billion shares of stock. Yet Apple has done little to produce productive investments, remediation of used and very toxic Apple products when discarded, or increase pay for the 350,000 serf-labor workers in China toiling under its merciless contractor Foxconn.

Apple made $104 billion in the last 12 months, puffed up by tax-avoidance, tax cuts and a no tariff deal with Trump on its Chinese imports, yet Cook has rejected pleas to spend a little over $2 billion (deductible) to award a full-year's pay bonus to the 350,000 Foxconn workers who build Apple's iPhones and iPads.

Apple's massive stock buybacks have, however, increased the metrics to set compensation levels for Tim Cook and his executive sidekicks. Unfortunately, stock buybacks do little to tamp down excessive prices for Apple products.

The massive stock buybacks also send a message that Apple's management has no other uses for its corporate cash - not for R&D, not for improving the nature and security of its workers' pensions, not for investing in curtailing the damaging side effects of Apple products on the environment, and not for reducing other offloaded damage to society.

Cook and Apple are also stingy, given their vast wealth, with charitable contributions; so stingy that Apple's bosses do not even come close to the company's charitable deduction limit of 5 percent of adjusted gross income.

In 2018, Apple gave $125 million to charities. Apple's net income for 2018 was $59.53 billion - a tiny fraction of 1 percent!

Recently, the New York Times published articles showing how tiny the executive pay cuts were by the very few executives who announced and declared sympathy for their laid-off and impoverished workers.

The media has also been reporting illicit maneuvers developed by corporate attorneys to help chain stores get relief payments that should have gone to legitimate small businesses. (Why isn't the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) speaking out against this abuse and avarice?)

Replacing some of their greed with generosity could be directed to the estimated $6 billion to $11 billion needed this coming school year to give low-income students full equipment and connectivity to the internet for remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

States and localities need $4 billion to assure the voting process will be fair and that all votes be counted and on time. The Republicans in the Senate are blocking the money needed to guarantee free and fair elections. Four billion dollars for the profit-glutted Silicon Valley giants Facebook, Google, Apple plus Amazon, and Microsoft, is peanuts. These high-tech digital giants could easily contribute the money needed to avert a widely predicted election-time disaster and weeks of understaffed counting after November 3rd. Imagine such a show of patriotism from these companies.

Then there are the matters of woefully inadequate supplies, facilities, and training programs to counter the spreading COVID-19 pandemic that is crumbling the economy. These record-setting profitable companies, with soaring stock prices due to their monopolistic powers or consumer-gouging, should return some of Trump's giveaway tax cuts of 2017 and the burgeoning corporate welfare payments from crony-capitalistic Washington, D.C. to help their afflicted or vulnerable fellow Americans. Many of these people are their own workers, friends and relatives.

Economists should develop a "Hedonistic Index" to rank the "greed-with-power" status of the 500 largest U.S. corporations.

People have the right to know how CEOs and major corporations do on the "Hedonistic Index" of greed and power. After all, at the end of the day, we are all paying the price of the full measure of the infinite avarice spiraling from these corporate supremacists and their private governments of controls.

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

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:19 AM | Permalink

August 7, 2020

Why You Should Think Twice About Showering

James Hamblin kicks off Clean: The New Science of Skin with a confession: He virtually stopped showering years ago.

Hamblin, a physician and staff writer for The Atlantic, still sprinkles water on his head from time to time, but shuns shampoos, conditioners, and the cavalcade of other products that march across American shower shelves.

Clean-the-new-science-of-skin-cover-1200x1812.jpg

In polite company, Hamblin's confession tends to land like the Hindenburg, which reveals just how obsessed we've become with surface notions of cleanliness - and how reluctant we are to disavow them.

But Hamblin thinks the sensible-sounding idea that we should scrub up regularly is both simplistic and wrongheaded.

When you take a soap-slathered loofah to your greasy pelt, he says, you're actually destroying an interdependent microbial universe, or microbiome, on the surface of your skin.

"When we clean ourselves," Hamblin writes, "we at least temporarily alter the microscopic populations - either by removing them or by altering the resources available to them."

By chasing that born-again post-shower rush, in other words, we stymie one of evolution's best strategies to shield us from disease and keep out invaders.

This kind of context is particularly relevant in the era of COVID-19, a virus that often causes skin-related symptoms like rashes and hives.

A search for the origins of our cleanser and skin-potion worship leads Hamblin into a vivid exploration of the cleanliness-is-godliness movement that began hundreds of years ago.

After the Black Death and other devastating plagues, "a person's cleanliness could be taken as a marker of who was or was not dangerous," Hamblin writes. "Indicators of hygiene became proxies of status, and more was often seen as better."

In time, post-outbreak distrust of contaminants - as well as the discovery that cleansers helped stop disease spread - gave rise to early 20th-century branding campaigns that marketed soap as a life-saving and virtuous necessity (and to modern cleanvangelists like David Bronner, a soap company heir whose vibe Hamblin describes as "party but respect the mothership we call Earth").

But what soap hoarders and hawkers overlook is that wiping out our symbiotic microbes may make us more vulnerable to other, unexpected maladies.

First-line eczema treatments, for instance, include topical antibiotics, cleansers, and drugs that dampen immune response, but some researchers say these approaches can make the condition worse in the long run.

"Perturbing the skin barrier by washing or scratching can change the microbial population," Hamblin notes. "That can rev up the immune system, which tells the skin cells to proliferate rapidly and fill with inflammatory proteins."

This observation lines up with an older one that kids raised in highly sanitized environments are more prone to allergies than farm kids like the Amish.

Wipe the body's microbial slate clean too aggressively, the theory goes, and the unseasoned immune system roars back with a vengeance.

This kind of immune overreaction can also trigger what immunologists call the "Atopic March," in which one allergic disease - such as eczema, food allergy or hay fever - leads to another.

Though he sometimes veers off topic David Foster Wallace-style, Hamblin's distillation of the latest skin microbe science is both creative and incisive. He likens assaulting the skin microbiome with soap to crashing a house party: Your skin only has room for a certain number of microbial "guests," and you want to keep good microbes on the premises so there'll be less room for those that might trash the place.

Clean is also a user-friendly look at the broader field of microbiome science and its health implications. Research increasingly suggests that manipulating our onboard microbial universe in the right ways could lead to new treatments for conditions as diverse as eczema, irritable bowel syndrome and depression. (It's literally true that we'd be shadows of ourselves without this portable universe: For every human cell in our bodies, there's at least one microbial cell.)

The bad news, Hamblin reports, is that efforts to shore up the microbiome may not always work, since we can only switch out some of the microscopic party guests we already have.

At the beginning of our lives, the immune system "is like freshly poured concrete," he writes. "After that, we pick up microbes and we lose them, but the foundation stays the same."

This broad assertion masks unanswered questions about how skin microbes may interact with other communities like the gut microbiome; scientists don't yet fully understand how one microbial community influences the rest.

Still, researchers agree that changing your skin microbiome as an adult is probably an uphill venture - a reality that throws Hamblin's decision to forgo modern hygiene into question.

If, as Hamblin points out, we have limited latitude to change our skin microbes post-childhood, does it really make sense to take a drastic step like cutting out showers? Eliding hygiene comes with its own set of disease risks that are impossible to ignore in the midst of a global pandemic.

And while research shows that regular cleansing can affect skin microbe balance temporarily, it hasn't yet revealed whether the average person who chooses Hamblin's approach can expect ongoing, concrete health benefits.

The book's inherent limitation is that it is essentially a map of a new scientific territory, with all the sketched-out routes and undefined borders that implies. But that's also why Clean is worth reading. It doesn't make an airtight case for committing to Hamblin's shower-free credo, but it alerts us that we'll need to upend some of our cultural dogmas about cleanliness once the skin microbial landscape is fully mapped and characterized.

That's why Hamblin plans to continue his shower-free routine for now - as long as his odor doesn't send others fleeing from the room.

It hasn't so far, he reports: "I didn't smell like pine trees or lavender, but I also didn't smell like the oniony body odor that I used to get when my armpits, used to being plastered with deodorant, suddenly went a day without it."

Other shower-eschewers have reported the same, although research hasn't yet clarified why this might be happening. If retaining a thin layer of grime indeed proves to bolster our health and well-being over the long term, plenty of people might be willing to forgo smelling like artificial pine trees.

This post was originally published on Undark.

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Previously by Elizabeth Svoboda: Why Science Denialism Persists.

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Comments welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:30 PM | Permalink

The [Friday] Papers

"Facing steep budget deficits and escalating income inequality, Mayor Lori Lightfoot should consider a graduated payroll tax and other ways to make corporations pay their fair share," Curtis Black writes for the Chicago Reporter.

He's not wrong.

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Speaking of making corporations pay their fair share . . .

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New on the Beachwood today . . .

Just me this week; Coach is out of town.

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #316: Baseball, Blackhawks Barely Back
Deflections and denial. Plus: David Ross Week; The White Sox Are Also Playing; Boylen Not Over; Breaking Bears Truths!; Sky & Fire; Smashville; 22-Year Temper Tantrum Approaches Endgame, and more!

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ChicagoReddit

Grand/State at PM rush yesterday from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

View this post on Instagram

At the Brown line. #cta #brownline #chicagoart

A post shared by Aaron Wooten (@aaronrwooten) on

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ChicagoTube

Fender Custom Shop Marauder Master Built by Carlos Lopez

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TweetWood
A sampling of the delight and disgust you can find @BeachwoodReport.

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More admirable than Fauci.

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Journos now mad that advertisers no longer getting ripped off.

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The Beachwood McPaper Line: It's Dinkytown, Jake.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:52 AM | Permalink

August 6, 2020

The [Thursday] Papers

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Programming Note
It's 7 p.m. Thursday and I'm happy to report that I'm off from census duty until Sunday. They will have to count America without me. Behave accordingly.

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New on the Beachwood . . .

TrackNotes: 22-Year Temper Tantrum Approaches Endgame
"Unless a rumored group rides in to buy the jewel - at least physically - of American racing, it will become another array of condos, apartments and strip shopping that has already made Arlington Heights just so special," writes our man on the rail Tom Chambers.

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ChicagoReddit

DuPage County from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

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ChicagoTube

"Ricardo Mondragon is a Mexican artist and music composer born and raised in Mexico City (1984). Ricardo graduated with a Post-Baccalaureate of Arts in Music Composition at Columbia College Chicago.

"Topics of his work include harmony, frequency, waveforms, vibrations, modulations, particles, color, and light. Ricardo's work finds harmonies and materializes them, making the invisible, visible through sculptures, paintings, and installations.

"Each work is an exact representation of harmonies, musical chords, intervals, and waveforms. When waves travel through space they create beautiful patterns that flow and resonate in our universe. With the help of different materials, these waveforms can take form and be perceived as a snapshot of time, unveiling new sensorial experiences that usually go unnoticed.

"Ricardo currently resides in Chicago, Illinois."

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TweetWood
A sampling of the delight and disgust you can find at @BeachwoodReport.

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The Beachwood We Count Hedz Line: Ah-one and ah-two . . .

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:41 PM | Permalink

August 5, 2020

TrackNotes: 22-Year Temper Tantrum Approaches Endgame

Like a 5-1/2 furlong sprint, this won't take long. If I'm all over the track, well . . .

I'm sick of talking about Arlington Park and with the world going to hell anyway, it's inevitable.

Like a toddler on a 22-year temper tantrum, Arlington Park management, led by corporate mercenary William Carstanjen, got its 265th wind, stood up from its fetal finish-line blubbering, and kicked and screamed that the track will close for good, possibly after its coronavirus-truncated 2020 meet.

Unless a rumored group rides in to buy the jewel - at least physically - of American racing, it will become another array of condos, apartments and strip shopping that has already made Arlington Heights just so special.

Churchill Downs Inc. and CEO Carstanjen have taken the scorched-earth approach and it sounds like he wouldn't mind pushing the plunger before the snow flies.

Speaking of destruction, when CDI's decree came down, I first went to the local paper and found this. Godamighty, Lois! When in the hell are newspapers going to repeal the Five-Year Increment Anniversary Amendment to their Constitution that calls for a variant of the same story every five years? I know it gives a kid reporter a chance to think he's doing a major feature, but I'm fed up with this string about how Arlington "rose from the ashes." Also, where's the fire marshal's report on the exact cause of the fire?

As far as Chicago racing icon Richard Duchossois is concerned, while he did build Arlington as we see it today, he's also the guy who took his tack and closed the track and went home in 1998-99 when he couldn't get a tax cut on handle. The track reopened in May 2000, but just days later, really, the deal to sell the track to Churchill Downs was cut.

The tax boo-hoo continues today, although CDI is wrong when it throws around the word "tax." As part of Illinois' gaming legislation, all three race tracks were granted casino and sports book permits. Part of the requirement was that a percentage of casino revenues would be diverted into race purses. It's a fairly standard set-up, one that Oaklawn has parlayed into the quality racing CDI can only dream of, including at Churchill Downs itself. With other taxes, it would have been estimated at 17-21 percent.

Corporations like CDI don't like any taxation. And CDI sees racing as a nuisance, unless it gets everything it wants.

Full disclosure, I couldn't give you the year I was last there. 2010? 2012? By then, I was fed up. With horses dropping dead like flies because Arlington was lax in maintaining the far and stretch turns, the 2007 PolyTrack installed to ameliorate the problem had already turned black. The artificial is still there.

The economic model was called "The Baby Stroller" crowd and depended on higher parking and entry fees, high prices for truly inedible food - big breakfast at Lou Mitchell's and bring granola bars - and earsplitting metal music between races. Attendance, not quality racing or revenue through betting handle. Unready civilians, as post time approached, would take long minutes at the betting machines - strollers really did get in the way - with yuppie wiseguys burning stogies and doing Jimmy the Hat impressions.

Know the old saw of climbing the stairs at Wrigley or wandering the concourse at Comiskey and you get goosebumps over the immaculately manicured, verdant green?

I'd get to Arlington or Hawthorne very early and see the very tail end of morning workouts. The coolness of the morning, heat building, the muted diesel tractors, always working the track, the tote board all 999s, that's the feeling I always had. Same thing. At Arlington, while you could see the Chicago skyline, you missed 18 percent of the race because somebody likes willow trees, which block the view of the horses.

My mother loved willow trees, but even she knew when it was time to cut them down.

Territorial tribes of white people, who would declare general admission picnic tables for God, queen and the kingdom of Mount Prospect - and could bring in their own cooler filled with food and glassless drinks back then - would slit your throat if you grabbed a loose plastic chair to take a load off. "That's OUR CHAIR!!" Turf wars, and I don't mean the truly world-class Arlington turf oval.

For example, a seven-horse race would open with a range of odds from 2-1 or worse all the way to 24-1. By post time, the civilians would throw darts at the prices and bet all the horses down to 4-1 or 5-2, tops. You never got proper value on most of the horses.

Then, apparently Dickie D. and The Dont's never had any clout with Metra commuter service. The trains were never coordinated with first post or the last race.

The racing has sucked for years. Even the Arlington Million, touted as its "International Festival," became a parade of third-string Euros and Breeders' Cup wannabes, with the notable exception in recent years of Bricks and Mortar, The Pizza Man, and a win by Gio Ponti.

In its latest power move, CDI said it will race in 2021 "if it chooses." It's unsure what that exactly means. I interpret it as CDI abandoning its request for 2021 racing dates, which has already been submitted, or simply refusing to open next spring.

Again, CDI talks about "relocating" Arlington racing to some other location in Illinois. First of all, where? Secondly, CDI cares nothing about horse racing and with casinos already operating in any possible population center, where? Do they honestly believe we think they would build another race track? Horse apples smell so much sweeter than the shit these corporates deal us. Corporations think nothing of blowing smoke up any and all butts it can find.

Arlington turned its back on the casino and sportsbook it cried for for so many years, after jumping the gun by purchasing majority interest in Rivers Casino, Des Plaines.

Carstanjen has already said he's interested in selling or developing the Arlington Park property into cheap plasterboard suburban crapola that, you know, we need more of. I know where it is, but I'll never, ever go out there again.

As far as selling the track to anyone who who would continue racing there and maximize the casino permit, dream on. Churchill will never sell to such an entity. They've stated why.

Again, Churchill wants it all, including a casino in Waukegan. Don't ever think Churchill isn't greasing Illinois politicians, but giving a Waukegan license to someone else would be true justice.

Like an old movie palace or magnificent apartment building that "falls into neglect and disrepair," Arlington Park does not have bats flying inside, dripping ceilings, cracked tiles, peeling paint or boarded up windows. Nevertheless, all persons responsible for caring for the best racing plant in the country have been nothing but neglectful. They've sabotaged and let racing die on the vine, even after getting the gambling they cried for.

It's so goddamned sinister, there will never be forgiveness. Even for Saint Dickie D.

With the image of a wrecking ball in my head, I'm pre-pissed off. Nothing good, lucky or fortunate ever happens anymore.

And it sure as hell is not going to happen in Arlington Heights.

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

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:33 PM | Permalink

The [Wednesday] Papers

What a freakin' day counting America.

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What a freakin' day trying not to die in America.

ME TO AN UNMASKED GROUP OF FOUR STANDING RIGHT NEXT TO EACH OTHER ON LOGAN BOULEVARD AND CALIFORNIA: Thank you for wearing your masks. Sleep well tonight knowing you've killed people.

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I know the big danger is indoors and not outdoors, but I don't want to walk into the viral load of four unmasked people who also aren't social distancing, which tells me I can presume they are not being safe no matter where they are.

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ME TO TWO UNMASKED PEOPLE IN A BUS SHELTER ON CALIFORNIA: Ya know, masks are required on buses.

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I am so angry at America.

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I am neither making any political statements nor speaking for the census.

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New on the Beachwood today . . .

How The South Won The Civil War
A (nearly) straight line through the West and the wealthy, traveled by William F. Buckley, Goldwater, Reagan, and the Bushes to Trump.

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Forced Sports Timeout Puts Squeeze On College Coffers, Scholarships And Towns
Reality is sinking in.

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Chicago Smash Help Set Team Tennis Viewership Record
Nail-biting super-tiebreaker championship a hit.

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Now You Can Speak At Your Own Funeral
"We see this becoming a 'thing.'"

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ChicagoReddit

Indian grocery stores near Logan Square? from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

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ChicagoTube

Nike Air Jordan.1 Chicago Concept Art

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TweetWood
A sampling of the delight and disgust you can find @BeachwoodReport.

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The Beachwood Not Tipper Gore Line: Not Tipper Gore.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:46 PM | Permalink

Forced Sports Timeout Puts Squeeze On College Coffers, Scholarships And Towns

On college football Saturdays, tiny Clemson, South Carolina (pop. 17,000), turns into a city of 150,000 when fanatics pour into downtown and swarm Memorial Stadium, home of the Tigers. Some don't even have a ticket to the game, but they come with money to burn.

"It's well north of $2 million in economic impact per game," said Susan Cohen, president of the Clemson Area Chamber of Commerce. Hotels sell out rooms at $400 a night; some shops bring in 50% of their year's revenue during the seven home-game weekends. Add in massive broadcasting contracts and apparel deals that enrich schools directly, and there are hundreds of millions of reasons that universities with large athletic departments and the towns they occupy don't want to lose even one season to COVID-19.

And that's just the dollars. There is also the intangible value of a community rallying behind a shared passion in particularly bleak times - to say nothing of the life-changing impact of scholarships to students who might have no other chance to shine or get a college education.

Unfortunately, the coronavirus dominates the conversation. Sports like football offer an ideal environment to spread a highly contagious disease: Players are in close contact for long periods inhaling one another's sweat and saliva droplets. Even with empty stadiums, players can still infect one another, their team staffs and the communities where they study and live.

College sports are a multibillion-dollar industry, but in 2020 they're being brought down by the same forces that have hobbled the rest of the economy. University presidents and athletic directors are playing defense amid the constantly changing landscape of the pandemic, rather than driving any sort of solid plan forward.

"We've developed seven different budget scenarios, ranging from pretty normal to sports being out of the picture for a long time, and one of those, hopefully, will be close to what we are ultimately dealing with," said Kevin Blue, athletic director at the University of California-Davis.

A loss of anticipated fall revenue will hurt athletic departments, especially at public schools, which spend most of their budgets every year. Uncertainty over the season has derailed the plans of scores of current and incoming college athletes.

When the NCAA in March canceled its upcoming championships, it granted the athletes in all spring sports an extra year of eligibility and eased some scholarship limits. The association could do the same if fall sports are canceled - but it's up to the schools to decide whether to offer extra scholarships. Some say they won't. "Those are dollars we don't have," Long Beach State University athletic director Andy Fee told the New York Times.

Christian Molfetta, a graduating senior and catcher on the Stanford baseball team, had scholarship offers from multiple schools to play for them next season as a graduate transfer. But with so many of those programs' older players now returning for another year, "most of those offers disappeared," Molfetta said. He plans to play for the University of Michigan, which will cover the cost of his books as he pursues a master's in kinesiology, he said.

Other athletes have been told they may return without their scholarships, which may range from a small stipend to tens of thousands of dollars, while some are getting money that would've gone to incoming freshmen, who are suddenly denied the financial aid they had been promised, Molfetta said. The trickle-down effect is wicked. "We're getting questions from kids in the 2023 and 2024 recruiting classes, asking if there's going to be any scholarship money for them," said Pat Bailey, assistant baseball coach at Oregon State University.

When the pandemic swept in this spring, college football cheered for business as usual. Americans are going to "rise up and kick this thing in the teeth," Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney predicted in April. Then 37 of his players tested positive during one of the outbreaks that also have been documented at the University of Texas, Kansas State, defending national champion Louisiana State University and other schools.

Now, the reality of a fall without sports is sinking in. Already, the Ivy League and many smaller conferences have canceled their fall schedules. Members of the so-called Power Five conferences - the SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12, Big 12 and ACC - have waffled, holding out for abbreviated seasons while discussing how to restrict travel and exposure.

The cost of regular COVID-19 testing for entire rosters of athletes, plus coaches, staff and support personnel, would swamp all but the largest university sports budgets. And what the tests reveal - and how quickly - means everything: If schools don't know on the day of a game who is infected, the idea of going forward is nonsensical.

Professional sports clubs can pay for all the testing they want, and they have the ability to closely monitor and control the movement of their players and staff. But "college sports occur on college campuses, where people arrive from all over," said Zachary Binney, an epidemiologist at Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta.

Testing an entire football team and staff to detect infection could cost anywhere from $20,000 to $25,000 a week, said Binney. Tests must be done the day before a game, with a quick turnaround of the results, or else they'd be meaningless, he said. "You would have no idea whether you were about to seed an epidemic on somebody else's campus."

The NCAA recently released guidelines that call for testing within 72 hours of competition in "high-contact risk sports" like football. NCAA President Mark Emmert stated recently that "the data point in the wrong direction," but his organization has been conspicuously absent from most of the conferences' conversations about the fall season, leaving university presidents and athletic directors to hash it out for themselves.

The result is a patchwork of conflicting decisions, and the dividing line is usually money. For conferences like the Patriot League, for which football revenue is not major, canceling the season was perhaps an easier call. "It is clearly the right thing to do," said Colgate University athletic director Nicki Moore, noting that athletes regularly travel to other campuses and may risk infecting others when they return.

For the Power Five, the cancellation of football would be a budget-breaker, with potentially $4 billion in revenue at stake, money that helps keep some athletic departments afloat while minimizing the annual losses of others. Still, many of these schools also have the resources to conduct repeated tests on entire rosters of athletes and staff, totaling more than 100 people - and have begun to do so.

Scott Swegan, director of communications for the Stanford football program, said athletes there have been tested regularly since returning for summer workouts July 1 "and will continue to be tested weekly throughout the season." The program is looking at several full face-shield or mask options to fit the players' helmets, should the Pac-12's plan for a shortened, conference-only season be realized, he said.

Any return to normalcy, of course, depends on COVID-19 and the nation's response to it.

"The virus doesn't care what you want or how much you wish you could do something. It does not care about your convictions," Binney said. "It only cares about opportunity."

This KHN story was first posted on California Healthline, a service of the California Health Care Foundation.

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Comments welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:57 AM | Permalink

Now You Can Speak At Your Own Funeral

Have you ever thought about writing your own obituary? How about speaking at your own funeral? Now the public can.

A new Utah company (www.SpeakatYourOwnFuneral.com) allows consumers to literally speak at their own funeral - virtually. They will come to the client's home and create a five- to ten-minute video document that family can then show at the actual funeral or memorial service. They also give their clients a longer, less edited version with the additional details, stories and sometimes even humorous out-takes less appropriate for the funeral.

With a formula that is respectful, sometimes playful, but often profound and genuinely emotional - a great idea many have also found is vitally important. "It's what my family needs to hear," says Richard Brown, a recent customer, who is still very much alive, "I want my family to know that I love them and to give them some advice for when I am gone."

"No one should die without leaving at least a note to their loved ones," says CEO Rick Porter, who's been producing film and video for more than 40 years. "But these videos have a greater impact than a note. We live in an age when we can digitally record and archive records that can last for generations. And these, well, they are the most important records we can leave - a summary of all we experienced; life lessons that taught us, made us who we are. Not to do that is a real loss - a missed opportunity."

"I didn't know what to expect," says Brenda Johnson, a recent interview subject. "I was given the questions ahead of time and did a little preparation. I was nervous, but that all went away once we began. I felt like the camera disappeared, and we were just having a friendly conversation. Okay, maybe the camera did not completely disappear, but the result was more than worth it. I can't tell my children and grandchildren I love them enough. Now it will always be there whenever they want it."

The company is breaking new ground, attempting to connect the estimated 73 million Baby Boomers with their posterity to come. "This type of interview should be done by all those who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's or with a terminal illness," says Porter, "yet few know such a service exists or even can exist."

"The $1,000 cost is surprisingly affordable considering the quality of their work," states Paul Jones of Alden Keene & Associates, a Utah marketing firm.

Couldn't people just do this themselves with a smartphone? "Absolutely," says Jones, "and should, because these family records are invaluable and ought to be made. But having a great camera phone, a good microphone, lights and editing software doesn't guarantee you'll produce a professional result. But the number one reason people can but won't do this: procrastination," says Jones.

funeral1.jpg
funeral2.jpgCEO Rick Porter shooting a recent "Speak at Your Own Funeral" interview

Currently, the company has production teams in Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah, Chicago, Jacksonville, Florida and San Diego, California but will ramp up as demand increases.

"We see this becoming a 'thing'," says Porter, "It immediately draws on people's curiosity. It has that 'What a great idea' quality. But watch an example or two, hear the comments, the sincere and authentic sentiments, feel the emotions - then you too, will want to 'Speak at Your Own Funeral.'"

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:23 AM | Permalink

Chicago Smash Help Set Team Tennis Viewership Record

CBS's live airing of Sunday's 2020 World TeamTennis championship, in which the New York Empire defeated the Chicago Smash on the last point of the super-tiebreaker 21-20, delivered 556,000 viewers, making it the most watched in the league's 45-year history.

The victory by the New York Empire earned them the King Trophy and $500,000 in prize money and marked the first time that the WTT's Finals have aired live on network television. During the event's "super-tiebreaker" that determined the 2020 Champion viewership peaked at 1.128 million viewers.

The previous viewership record for World TeamTennis was 484,000, also on CBS, which occurred on July 19 of the 2020 WTT regular season when the Washington Kastles, featuring Venus Williams, defeated the Vegas Rollers, led by Mike and Bob Bryan, 24-18.

The season was unlike any other in the league's 45-year history, with all nine participating teams staying in one location versus playing matches across the country in their home venues. Additionally, the league permitted up to 500 fans to attend its matches held at Center Court at Creekside, a 2,500-seat outdoor venue at Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia.

The league completed 822 COVID-19 tests of all players, coaches, trainers, WTT staff and media covering the three-and-a-half week season at Greenbrier - all returning negative results for those participating in the event. In all, three COVID-19 tests were given: pre-arrival, arrival and midseason.

This year also delivered the most blue-chip sponsors in World TeamTennis history, with GEICO (Government Employees Insurance Company) as WTT's Official Auto Insurance Provider, DraftKings (Official Daily Fantasy Partner), Dolby (official Entertainment Partner), Guaranteed Rate (Official Mortgage Lender), Wilson (Official Racket and Ball), Har-Tru (Official Playing Surfacer), Weatherman (Official Umbrella), Zenni (Official Eyewear), Mack Weldon (Official Playoff Apparel) joining at the league-wide level, and UTR powered by Oracle, the USTA, Chosen Foods, EleVen, Greenbrier Tourism and KT Tape also coming on-board.

The season featured more television and online exposure than ever before for WTT. The playoffs aired exclusively on CBS Sports with the WTT Finals on CBS Television Network and both Semifinals airing exclusively on CBS Sports Network, which also aired 13 WTT regular season matches. The WTT 63 match regular season included first time broadcast/digital partnerships as well with 15 matches on ESPN2 (10 on ESPN+, which aired matches last season), 19 on Tennis Channel and five matches that streamed exclusively on the CBS Sports app and Facebook Watch.

WTT's nine franchises include the expansion Chicago Smash, New York Empire, Orange County (Calif.) Breakers, Orlando Storm, Philadelphia Freedoms, San Diego Aviators, Springfield (Mo.) Lasers, Vegas Rollers and Washington (D.C.) Kastles.

About World TeamTennis (WTT)
World TeamTennis showcases the best in professional tennis with nine teams competing in the innovative team format for the King Trophy, the league's championship trophy named after tennis icon and co-founder Billie Jean King.

Since the league's debut, virtually every major champion of the Open era has played WTT, including Andre Agassi, Venus and Serena Williams, Pete Sampras, Stefanie Graf, Andy Roddick, Kim Clijsters, Bob and Mike Bryan, Sloane Stephens, Martina Hingis, Maria Sharapova, Lindsay Davenport, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert and Naomi Osaka.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:17 AM | Permalink

How The South Won The Civil War

ANNOUNCER: Welcome to Moyers on Democracy.

If you want to understand this moment in American politics, here's a suggestion for you: It's the must-read book of the year - How The South Won The Civil War, by the historian Heather Cox Richardson.

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Yes, the Civil War brought an end to the slave order of the South and the rule of the plantation oligarchs who embodied white supremacy. But the Northern victory was short-lived. Slave states soon stripped Black people of their hard-won rights, white supremacy not only rose again to rule the South but spread West across the Mississippi to create new hierarchies of inequality.

That's the story Heather Cox Richardson tells in How The South Won The Civil War, with echoes resounding every day in the current wild and fierce campaign for the presidency. Here to talk with her about America's ongoing battle between oligarchy and democracy is Bill Moyers.

BILL MOYERS: Heather Cox Richardson, thank you for joining me.

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON: Oh, it's a pleasure to be here.

BILL MOYERS: Will you take us on that long but vivid arc of how we got from Abraham Lincoln, describing the end of the Civil War as "a new birth of freedom," to Donald Trump describing America as "a land of carnage, a nightmare." From Lincoln to Donald Trump in 2016, what happened?

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON: If you think about the Civil War as a war between two different ideologies, two different concepts of what America is supposed to be, is it supposed to be a place where a few wealthy men direct the labor and the lives of the people below them, the women and people of color below them, the way the Confederacy argued? Is that America? Or is America what Lincoln and his ilk in the Republican Party in the North defined the democracy as during the Civil War?

Is it a place where all men are equal before the law and should have equal access to resources? And of course, I use the word man there, but that's because that's the language that Lincoln used. But the principle is expandable of course.

It looked by 1865 as if that latter ideology, that of the Republicans and that of the idea of equality had triumphed. And certainly, the Republicans and Northerners who had fought for the United States government in that war believed that they had redefined America to mean equality before the law. They really believed that was the case.

And that they had defeated what they called the "slave power," the oligarchs who had gone ahead and taken over the system in the 1850s. After the Civil War, Easterners moved West across the Mississippi in really large numbers after 1865.

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BILL MOYERS: White Southerners went too, of course, and you argue they saw the West as the final frontier ruled by elites, just as elites, with violence and intimidation, had ruled in the old South.

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON: And in that West, they discover a land that is already susceptible to the idea of racial and gendered hierarchies, because it has its own history of them.

And it's a place out there where the new American system happens to be a really fertile ground for the Confederate ideology to rise again. And that's exactly what happens with the extractive industries in the West that encouraged the heavily capitalized cattle markets, for example, or mining industries, or later oil, or even agribusiness. You have in the West a development of an economy and, later on, a society that looks very much like the pre-Civil War South.

And over the course of the late 19th century, that becomes part of the American mythology, with the idea that you have the cowboy in the West who really stands against what Southerners and Northern Democrats believe is happening in Eastern society, that a newly active government is using its powers to protect African Americans and this is a redistribution of wealth from taxpayers to populations that are simply looking for a government handout. That's language that rises in 1871, and that is still obviously important in our political discourse.

But in contrast to that, in the West, you get the rise of the image of the American cowboy, which is really our image of Reconstruction. In a weird way, people think of Reconstruction, obviously, they think of formerly enslaved people. But the image that has obtained in our textbooks and in our popular culture is the American cowboy, who is beginning to dominate American popular culture by 1866.

And that cowboy - a single man, because women are in the cowboy image only as wives and mothers, or as women above the saloons in their striped stockings serving liquor and other things - is a male image of single white men. Although, again, historically a third of cowboys were people of color.

It's a single white man working hard on their own, who don't want anything from the government. Again, historically inaccurate. The government puts more energy into the American plains than it does any other region of the country.

BILL MOYERS: And also on land that had been taken from Mexico after the Mexican-American War, and on land that had been stolen from the Native Americans after genocide. I mean, it's this whole notion of, "I'm free to roam the land and become a self-made hero," which was the cowboys' image to those of us growing up in the '30s and '40s, was really a bastard idea.

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON: And part of that bastard idea, though, was so interesting. Because it is, in part, the Indian Wars of the Civil War and immediate post-war years that helped to both create the image of the cowboy, but also reinforce the idea that a few white men belong above subordinate groups like the Indigenous people, like Mexicans or Mexican Americans. Like Chinese Americans, like Fiji islanders, about whom they care very much in the late 19th century.

And that racial hierarchy and gendered hierarchy really gets tied into the image of the American cowboy. And popularized with this backlash against activism in the East, trying to help African Americans adjust to the new free labor economy.

But that image becomes enormously important after 1880. Because in 1880, the South goes solidly Democratic. And, of course, in retrospect, we now know it's going to stay Democratic for a very, very long time, indeed. But they don't know that at the time.

But what Republicans do note is that they must pick up Western votes if they're going to continue to dominate the White House and the Senate. After 1888, when we get the installment of Benjamin Harrison in the White House, he loses the popular vote by about 100,000 votes. But he's installed thanks to the Electoral College.

The Republicans under Harrison between 1889 and 1890, they let in six new states in 12 months. That was the largest acquisition of new states in American history since the original 13 and it's never been matched again. They let in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Washington, and then Idaho and Wyoming to go ahead and make sure that they would continue to control the Senate, and the Electoral College.

And they're not hiding this. They actually go onto their media which is their equivalent of the Fox News channel at the time and say, by letting in these states, we're going to hold onto the Senate for all time and we're going to make sure we hold onto the White House for all time.

But what that does is it begins to shift the idea of that human freedom. All of a sudden, the Republican Party, which has tried to continue to argue that it is standing in favor of equality, although that's negotiable. After 1888 and the admission of those new states, the Republican Party's got to start adopting that racially charged language in order to get the West on board. And that begins the change in American history that leads to a later union between the West and the South around this idea that really white men ought to be in charge. It's not just a Southern thing. It's a Western thing as well.

And they make up a voting bloc in Congress that manages to change a lot of the legislation of the 20th century.

BILL MOYERS: You write about how the massacre of Native Americans at Wounded Knee in 1890, in South Dakota, was an atrocity brought on by politics. And that it played into the use of politics to reimpose inequality, and the use of force for malicious purposes.

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON: It did. What happens is that with the admission of these new states in 1889 and 1890, the Republicans believe that they are going to do very well in the midterm election of 1890. And the big thing on the table in America in 1890 is the tariff - high walls around the American economy that protect businesses inside America, they protect them to the degree that because they face no foreign competition, different groups can collude with each other to raise prices.

So in 1860, the Republicans insist that an economic downturn that's been happening is only because those tariffs aren't high enough. What happens in the election of 1890 is the Republicans think they're going to win and they lose dramatically. It turns out when these ballots are counted, a Republican Senate or a Democratic Senate hangs on the seat of South Dakota, on one Senate seat. And that Senate seat has pretty clearly been corrupted. There's a huge fight, then, in the legislature of who actually won. So there the situation sits.

BILL MOYERS: Sits there, for sure, with President Benjamin Harris needing to shore up his support in the Dakotas. So, he sends corrupt cronies out to replace experienced Indian agents and dispatches one-third of the federal Army as well.

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON: And with that movement of the Army into South Dakota in the largest mobilization of the U.S. Army since the Civil War, Lakota are trying to negotiate with the Army that increasingly wants to bring them into the reservation, to the agencies to make sure that they're under control. And over the course of the next few months, that situation escalates until a Lakota leader, Sitting Bull, is killed in December of 1890.

And then in terror after that, a group of Miniconjou Lakota move across the state. They actually find the Army, the Army doesn't find them. And in the process of corralling them and disarming them later on that month, the soldiers start to fire. And about 250 Lakota are massacred. So, it was a massacre that was really directly attributable to whether or not the Republican Party could control the U.S. Senate in order to protect its tariffs that promoted big business, and protected a few oligarchs.

BILL MOYERS: When Americans moved to the wide-open spaces of the West after the Civil War, they kept alive the same vision of the world that had inspired Confederates. What was their argument?

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON: They certainly were not arguing at the time for a renewal of hostilities. But they did believe that America was one in which a few good hard-working white men should dominate women and people of color. And I think that's written all over the West, although we don't like to see that because we love our cowboys.

But inherent in Western society, Western politics, Western economy and the Western society after the Civil War was the idea that a few wealthy men should control the industries. Or at least, did control the extractive industries of mining and cattle, and agribusiness and oil. And they should also control politics. And that the legal system should defend their interests while the workers should work for the people in charge.

You know, these wealthy cattlemen, for example, were somehow the salt of the earth, hardworking little guys. That image was really in contrast to what was going on, which was the creation of a society that looked, in many ways, like the society of the pre-Civil War South.

And by the late 19th and early 20th century, the rise of industrialists in the North who took a lot of their power and their ideological power from the cowboy imagery and from the support that they received in the American West. And to some degree, from Southern leaders as well.

BILL MOYERS: So, the pre-Civil War South was an oligarchy.

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON: Yes. I was very careful with that word. Because there are obviously a lot of words we could use for a system in which a few people take over. But the way that I was using it was with the idea that an oligarchy was a small group, usually of men in that case, who controlled the money in society and therefore came to control the political system, and also the social system.

BILL MOYERS: In order to use government policies to shore up white supremacy and prevent racial equality, right?

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON: And I think the echoes from that to the present are pretty clear, when you have again a small group of Americans now who define themselves that way, I think.

One of the things that I found interesting is with the rise of this small elite group of large planters in the 1850s, the ways in which they came to monopolize popular culture and popular literature so that they simply didn't say, "Well, we're hard workers and we've been lucky."

But they came to believe that they deserved what they had gotten. And that they were somehow better than everybody else. And you can see that through the pulpits, ministers starting to talk about how blessed they were to have these men in their congregations.

You can see it through literature, the rise of novels that talk about people who own large numbers of other people as somehow paternalistic patriarchs.

And you can see it through the construction of the other, the people who are enslaved, as being somehow almost sub-human. And that's a very deliberate construction in the 1850s.

And I would argue, you can see something very similar in America in the 2000 aughts.

BILL MOYERS: In what sense?

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON: The emphasis in popular culture on how the people who were at the top really belong there. That they somehow are the best people. That they know more than the rest of us. That if you have a billion dollars, you must somehow be really much more special than those of us who don't have a billion dollars.

And I think that really shows in the way that President Trump talks about the people around him. He would appoint only the best people, who by definition, knew more than the experts did. And you look at the position that Jared Kushner has in this administration. I mean, he's a young man with really very little training in anything and he's supposed to be solving the Middle East crisis and handling coronavirus? And I don't even know what his portfolio looks like at this point. But I think that's a reflection that looks very much like that of elite Southerners in the 1850s when they simply thought by virtue of who they were, they could make things work better than anybody else could.

BILL MOYERS: And you write that as this Old South ideology moved West it influenced popular culture, especially in upholding white supremacy. There were Western movies like the classic Stagecoach, remember? A Confederate soldier joins with the U.S. Cavalry to defeat the "savage" Apache. And novels such as Little House On The Prairie and Gone With The Wind celebrating the union of Western and Confederate ideology.

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HEATHER COX RICHARDSON: Yes. And isn't it fascinating - if you think about, again, Laura Ingalls Wilder's a great example. People tend to dismiss her because they see it as a children's book. And yet, it's been enormously influential, enormously influential. And she writes about a world in which Pa takes care of the womenfolk and dominates the native populations around him.

And certainly there are passages in that book that are extraordinarily racist, not only toward Indigenous people, but toward African Americans as well. It's gotten her in trouble lately.

But the theme throughout that book is of individualism. Pa is doing it on his own. Pa is not doing it on his own. The reality of her life was that Pa was managing to keep the family together based on the fact his daughters and his wife worked because Pa could never manage to make ends meet.

And they're living in places that are habitable for white settlers like themselves only because of the protection of the U.S. government.

And, you know, even scenes like when Mary goes to college. And remember, they scrimp and save for years for Mary to go to college. And the implication in that book is that they are sending Mary to college. No. They're raising money for her train fare and her clothing. Her room and board is being paid for by the State of South Dakota. South Dakota actually, weirdly enough, had the highest rate of literacy in the country in that era. But you don't see that in those books. Because again, you have this wedding, if you will, of individualism to racism and this concept of women being taken care of by their men. It's a very popular trope in American history. But it doesn't reflect reality.

BILL MOYERS: So, when a group of slaveholders embraced the idea that they and they alone should control America's economic and political system, the Americans fought back, won the Civil War, and rededicated the country to equality. But when it happened a second time, when very rich men of property mobilized to take over America again, they largely succeeded by convincing voters that equality for people of color and women and minorities destroyed the liberty of white men. That's almost the drum beat in the background of American politics today.

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON: One of the things about that ideology that a few wealthy men should rule, it's not new to America. It's been around for a very long time. And what's really radical is the idea that in fact, all of us should have the right to self-government.

And the fact that we're still fighting about it in America today suggests to me that those two fundamentally different concepts of the role of the American government at least are still absolutely the question of what America really is about.

For all the frightening things that are happening in America right now, it's also exciting to get to redefend the concept of human self-determination, which is really what we've been doing all along on this continent.

BILL MOYERS: But as you write, the ideology of the Old South and its new Western allies found a powerful reactionary force to reimagine it. Let's go to the very opening scene of your book. It's July, 1964. The Cow Palace outside San Francisco, packed with cheering Republicans who've just nominated Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona as their candidate for the presidency. They came roaring to their feet when he declares, quote -

I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.

BILL MOYERS: Fifty-six years later, that scene still plays out in my head. Explain why you chose that moment to begin a story that spans America from the Civil War to now.

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON: Barry Goldwater at that point was known sort of as a cowboy character. And that moment when the State of South Carolina, the state that was responsible for taking the Confederacy out of the Union, when those delegates stand up, they were the ones to put Barry Goldwater over the top, as their delegate yelled when he announced the delegation's votes, it's that moment when you recognize that there is a new force in American politics. And it's the force of reaction against the liberal consensus that was widely shared by Democrats and Republicans both, that in fact, the government should be of the people, by the people and for the people.

And that's the moment when you had that reactionary voice saying, "No, that's not what America should look like." And it's that theory that in fact a few people should run the system and make decisions for the rest of us that has taken over America since '64. It came across as a racial argument. But of course, his skin was in the game for the end of business regulation.

BILL MOYERS: Regulation, right.

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON: That's what he really cared about. It's interesting the degree to which they harnessed the tradition of American racism and sexism as well, to their project of destroying business regulation.

BILL MOYERS: Goldwater's big bone was government, but that was all mixed up with opposing Civil Rights and keeping segregation, discrimination. This fear of government that Goldwater was stoking at that moment was the same fear that Southern demagogues had stoked to keep Blacks in their place, it was government that was at stake here. It was what you can do with government.

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON: Well, and I think you just hit the nail on the head there with the idea that all of this is about the proper use of government. Is the idea of the United States government to protect property, so that people can accumulate more and more of it, and thereby get the power and the education and the connections to go ahead and direct society in a way that's good for all us, which is their theory. Or is the role of government, in fact, to protect equality before the law, and to make sure that all men, in fact, and all, you know, all people are created equal and have equal access to resources and to opportunity? And those two questions are really the central questions of America.

BILL MOYERS: Ronald Reagan gave the conservative movement its present-day mantra:

The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, "I'm from the government and I'm here to help."

BILL MOYERS: Now just imagine using that mantra today when the pandemic is rampant. And somebody knocks on your door and says, "My name is Fauci, and I'm here to help you." And they say, "But you're from the government. We don't want you."

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON: I love the way you put it earlier when you said, "This is all a question of what the government should do." Coming out of World War II, we had a real resurgence of the idea that the government really had a responsibility to promote equality before the law, and to guarantee equal access to resources. And that was a principle that was shared across America, I think, from Republicans and Democrats both.

I mean, obviously you saw it with Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the New Deal. But you also saw it with Truman, of course. And then you also saw it with Eisenhower and Eisenhower's Middle Way. And the idea was that this American democracy stood against the fascism that had drawn us into World War II. And that FDR was so articulate about fighting back against.

You know, when he talks about Italy again and again, FDR talks about how, you know, American democracy's messy, for sure, but look, Mussolini was supposed to make the trains run on time and instead, his people are dying and they're starving to death. And we, us messy members of a democracy, are the ones feeding them. And he says this again and again. And coming out of that war, I think Americans really stood for that.

But even before that, there's certainly a group of reactionaries who look at the New Deal and at the Middle Way and they say, "We don't believe that the government should interfere in our businesses. We should have the liberty, the freedom to run our businesses as we see fit."

And they, in fact, really believe that the New Deal is going to be erased. They really thought it was a temporary measure, and that Americans would turn against that.

But, of course, Americans loved the New Deal. It had gotten us out of out of the Depression and it had won World War II. So they didn't have any intention of walking away from that.

BILL MOYERS: But Goldwater and Reagan were riding away from it. And both, as you know, loved casting themselves as cowboys, white hats and all. They wrapped themselves in the mythology of the cowboy as hero; a lone white man carving a new world for white people from a hostile environment.

So how did we get from Barry Goldwater in 1964, Richard Nixon, a Californian in 1968, invoking the Southern strategy of stirring up the resentments and fears and hatreds of white Southerners and Ronald Reagan who opened his campaign in 1980 in Neshoba County, Mississippi, just a few miles from where three Civil Rights volunteers had been murdered? And then George W. Bush buying a Stetson and a Texas ranch to prove he was a Westerner? Finally, to Donald Trump, the rich guy from Queens, not a part of the Southern culture or complex, who used the same racial fears, the same threats and promises that had been used in '64, '68, and '80?

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON: Well, finally by 1951, you have that famous book by William F. Buckley Jr. called God & Man at Yale in which he says, "Listen, we got a problem. If we keep on trying to argue against the New Deal on the merits, we keep losing. So, we should stop trying to argue it on the merits. Because when we talked about what was best for most people, people voted for the New Deal."

So, he suggests that we needed to start from a baseline, saying that the government should only protect what he calls "free enterprise." That is, there shouldn't be regulation.

And it should protect Christianity.

You could wiggle around the edges. But you needed to have those two things.

Well, that doesn't really get much traction. And, of course, William F. Buckley Jr. is the son of an oil man. And he is bankrolled by some pretty serious money there. It's a vision of a very few wealthy men.

And it really doesn't get traction until after the Brown vs. Board of Education decision of 1954, when a unanimous Supreme Court, where this chief justice is a Republican and a former governor of California-

BILL MOYERS: You're talking about Earl Warren.

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON: Yes. He says the government needs to stand behind the desegregation of public schools. And with that, a door is open to resurrect the idea of the Reconstruction years. That any kind of government action in trying to level the playing field for African Americans in American society is a redistribution of wealth.

And in 1955, we get the formation of the National Review, of course, with the hiring of James Kirkpatrick, who's a Southern editor. Who hammers again and again and again on the idea that in fact, if you let government be an active government, to go ahead and intervene in things like regulating the economy, or in this case, promoting desegregation, what you are going to get is an attack on liberty, by which they mean tax dollars, your, in coded words, "White tax dollars" are going to go to African Americans. Who, in their eyes, had not earned that sort of entree into public schools. Which is gonna cost tax dollars. Among other things there were - needed to be troops to have that happen.

Well, that idea, that somehow an activist government, a New Deal government, an Eisenhower government was a redistribution of wealth from hard-working white people to first African Americans, and then that group of other is going to be expanded to eventually include, in the 1970s, feminist women.

But that argument is really established in the 1950s. And the people who adhere to it initially are not traditional Republicans. And they're certainly not Democrats. They self-identify as a group called movement conservatives. And they are not true conservatives. They are radical extremists. And they know it. They, a few group of capital "C" conservatives, are going to stand against capital "L" liberals. By which they mean virtually everybody else in America, Republicans and Democrats both.

Because they make no distinction between the liberal consensus of FDR and Eisenhower and Chinese communism. To them, those are the same kind of redistributions of wealth.

So that movement conservative argument that gets its roots in the 1950s and then is picked up by Nixon - I think he gets backed into a full-hearted embrace of movement conservatism because of the problems he's facing in 1970, with the Vietnam War and Kent State.

But by Reagan, you have Reagan fully defending that vision. And you remember, Reagan's initial ideas of cutting taxes were not popular. And it was not clear that that was actually going to happen. He has to put George H. W. Bush into his administration as vice president. And he had called that system "voodoo economics." But it's really after he's shot that he manages to get the popular momentum in Congress to pass his first tax cut.

And then he tries to cement the ability to hold those tax cuts through including Evangelicals into the political system on the Republican side, beginning really dramatically in 1986. But, also, by packing the court. So, you can see from there on, this vision snowballing.

And then in the 1990s, of course, you get Newt Gingrich becoming the Speaker of the House, and really deliberately purging the Republican Party of traditional Republicans, those he calls RINOs, or Republicans in Name Only.

By the time you get to Trump, that language is there. That whole set up is there.

But Trump himself is an interesting character. Because if you remember, he was the most moderate of the Republican candidates when he was running. So he had the racism and the sexism down.

But a lot of people who might have liked or might even have not liked the racism and the sexism loved the idea he was gonna make taxes fairer. He was gonna create a better health care system. He was gonna make wealthier people pay more. He was gonna promote infrastructure. All those things that went by the board. He's put movement conservatism on steroids.

And his platform in 2016 was stunning. It was William F. Buckley Jr.'s wish list, or Goldwater's wish list. And a narrative that, by the way, has taken off, and been extraordinarily strong since the rise of Reagan.

He was elected in 1980. And you have that cowboy individualism gone wild with the Star Wars series, which is the movie of 1977. That imagery, that one guy is going to do it on his own without the help of the government is a lovely image. It's a mythological image. It's one that Americans love, but it's not reality.

In fact, that image has enabled oligarchs like those really taking the reins of power under Ronald Reagan, to skew our laws in such a way that wealth has moved upward, opportunity has been taken away from the vast majority of us. The lives of most Americans, a majority of Americans, has gotten significantly worse, not better.

And now under Donald Trump with the coronavirus, but also with the extraordinary disjunction in the economy. Now, of course, we're looking at the recession because of the coronavirus. But even before that, with the booming stock market, and the reality that most Americans didn't have $400 in the bank to meet an emergency. I think people are really coming to realize there is this extraordinary gap between that image and reality. And beginning more to want to root their politics in reality, both to fight the coronavirus and to fight the economic recession. But also to give credit to the essential workers of color, and to the women who are keeping this country running.

I thought it was really interesting that one of the tropes from American individualism is, of course, that moms are home, right? Taking care of the kids. Over the weekend in Portland, moms went out and made a wall, a wall of moms to stand between the protesters and the federal troops.

BILL MOYERS: You say that the movement of women into politics rejects the construction of a society in which a few elite white men control the destinies of the rest of the country. And you find hope in that. But I wrote after your last sentence, "Yes, but white oligarchs and their mercenaries still have the power."

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON: Yes, they do. And I often don't sleep at night.

But people ask me what gets me up every morning, and why do I continue to be optimistic. And I am because I believe in American democracy. I believe in the concept of human self-determination with almost a religious faith. And if I lose that faith, I feel like I will have broken that faith not only with the people around me today, but with all those people who came before us, and fought in wars, and who gave up their time and their money and their energy and did everything that they could to make sure that American democracy would survive.

So, we're in a very frightening time. But there are a lot of us, I think, who believe in this great American experiment, and will give it our all to make sure it doesn't end on our watch.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:12 AM | Permalink

August 4, 2020

Cancel Culture

It is the best of times for Chicago baseball. It is the worst of times for Baseball.

It was the best of times for Blackhawk hockey on Saturday. And it wasn't the worst that the team lost late last night to the Oilers (6-3), but it obviously wasn't good, as the best-of-five NHL play-in series evened up at one win apiece. Next game is Wednesday at 9:30.

I'll have a little more about the Hawks later but I'm going to mostly talk about baseball while I still can as the season teeters on the edge of cancellation.

I say cancel the Marlins first. And while you're at it, cancel the idiot Cardinals too. Or at least a lifetime ban for the players and staff who took a trip to a casino recently? A strip club? Some combination of the two? Wow is that some kind of stupid. A total of seven Cardinal players and six staffers had tested positive as of late Monday.

Do you love baseball or not? It is a simple question. If you don't, opt out. If you do, get your shit together. Yesterday. At the very least if I were in charge I would tell both those teams that if one more member of their standard traveling party gets the virus, they are relegated to AAA ball next year.

Or you could just shut them down and flip coins to decide who wins the rest of the Marlins' games. Do it for the Cardinals too and then put all those geniuses into three-month quarantine. If the Marlins and/or Cardinals seemingly qualify for the playoffs with their coin flip games they forfeit their first post-season series'. Get on it baseball commissioner Rob Manfred!

The Marlins haven't played since their opening series after an utterly bad ridiculous 18 of their players and several assistant coaches/staff members tested positive for COVID-19. The last of those infections happened after the team decided to play its third game despite multiple positive tests in the previous 24 hours. Manager Don Mattingly later said it didn't even occur to him to not play the game. If the overall season ends up canceled, Mattingly gets a six-month quarantine.

Meanwhile, heading into Tuesday's action the Cubs are riding the crest of one of their best winning streaks in recent memory, pandemic or no pandemic, to the best record in the National League (8-2). Sure they are beating up on bad teams but that's the way you at least qualify for the playoffs this year. Win a few against good teams and you are in the running for a top seed.

And the White Sox essentially stopped a bad start before it started with five wins in a row to give them six in their first 10 games.

Way to go Go Go White Sox! Now be quiet over there while I talk about the Cubs. OK, OK, I'll acknowledge that this Luis Robert character might actually be a true, five-tool superstar and that 10 games into his Major League career he is already establishing himself as must-see TV. Are you happy White Sox fans? No? Shocker.

Best of all last night we had some Javy gloriousness. The young man did what he does routinely and yet so extraordinarily with a magical tag on speedster Adelberto Mondesi trying to steal.

Mr. Baez executed this tag with his gloved left hand while giving Willson Contreras the OK sign with his right hand. Go back and look at it again.

I mean, seriously, how can a tag play at second be this awesome? It more than earns the tag (as in label) of Good ridiculousness! And as we always do around here at times like this, we pay homage to Devin Hester, the crown prince of good ridiculousness.

With Contreras throwing and Javy catching (at least some of the time), will any player successfully swipe second against the Cubs this season? (Yes, some goofy young Royal stole second on Contreras in the ninth inning when his run meant nothing. In this space I am officially scoring that defensive indifference.)

Contreras made some noise early last season about his primary goal being to be better than Yadier Molina, the longtime Cardinals catcher who, it seems clear to me, should be a first ballot Hall of Famer five years after he hangs up his spikes.

The Cubs catcher still has plenty to work on but he has improved so much from last year to this year. He drives me crazy at times when he doesn't run the bases his hardest and it almost costs his team outs, or when his pitch-blocking fundamentals break down. But he has been so good that you start to believe that he could be in a Most Valuable Player conversation at some point - at least if he can continue to improve like he has. Oh, and he also needs to avoid being a dim-witted hothead.

Oh, and the Hawks. Well, Chicago might have the better team in their series with Edmonton but the Oilers definitely have the best player.

Connor McDavid scored all of two minutes, 30 seconds into Game 1. But they the Hawks responded with a flurry of offensive greatness to take a 4-1 lead midway through the first and held on for a 6-4 victory over the weekend.

So what did McDavid do? He scored 19 seconds into Game 2 last night on his way to a hat trick of the sorts of stellar goals that make the young Edmonton forward just about the most exciting player in the game.

Still, Alex DeBrincat was great last night with a couple of sweet first assists and the game was closer than the final score indicated. Hang in there Hawks!

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Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:08 AM | Permalink

The [Tuesday] Papers

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Union Sundown
"Two unions at the center of Chicago life duked it out on the city streets Monday. The Chicago Teachers Union marched on City Hall to protest any plan that would bring teachers back to the classroom amid the pandemic. And the Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara waged a counterprotest telling teachers to get back to work," Shia Kapos writes her Politico Illinois Playbook.

"Tensions are high as educators and law enforcement face working around a highly contagious disease and during a time of social unrest and calls for criminal justice reform. Still, it's an odd turn of events to see two labor unions aligned in so many ways at odds with each other."

Not really. Those unions have always been at odds with each other. But the truth is that the police union stands alone; if they have other union allies in the city, I'm not aware of it and as far as I know it's not of significance.

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For years, I and others have wondered about a far more interesting union dynamic: athletic unions. Now that athletes have caught the social justice bug in numbers we've never seen before, will they seek to forge alliances with more traditional unions? When teachers go on strike, for example, we never see local baseball, football, hockey and basketball players will offer their support.

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Back to Kapos:

"The CTU and FOP do share one thing: a disagreement with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. She's not left-leaning enough for the CTU and too liberal for the FOP."

That equation is really out of whack. Anyone to the right of David Duke is too liberal for the FOP (or Donald Trump, if you will). And while Lightfoot's politics may not be socialist enough for CTU leadership and some others in the ranks, every article reporting on the CTU's political standing should include the caveat that they demonized Lighfoot to their members to a point of no return and are now running their 2023 campaign.

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When you work for a place like Politico, it's incumbent on you to come up with concepts, themes and narratives. That's what they think makes you "smart." But it's all coming out of their imagination (or memory of past concepts, themes and narratives, or those they've seen others employ recently) but real life is far less clever and novelistic. That's what makes it real, and that's what we should concern ourselves with.

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Stick, Please
"Looking to crack down on a surge in coronavirus cases among young people in the suburbs, Cook County officials announced Monday they're urging restaurants to seat fewer diners at each table and bars to only serve customers outdoors," the Sun-Times reports.

Fitness classes offered in suburban Cook County should be reduced from 50 people to 10, Rubin said.

Though the recommendations are "basically voluntary" [Dr. Rachel Rubin, a co-leader of the county's Department of Public Health] said she hopes "most individuals will want to follow that guidance and understand why we're doing this now."

"Right now, we're sort of in the carrot stage, not the stick," Rubin said. "We really want people to get on board with this and to see that now is the time to decrease some of our openings and put mild restrictions in place for now on a voluntary basis."

Shouldn't we be long past the voluntary stage? Plenty of sticks in those forest preserves. Use them.

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New on the Beachwood today . . .

Cancel Culture
MLB should cancel the Marlins, Javy Baez cancels baserunners and Conor McDavid just might cancel the Blackhawks, Jim "Coach" Coffman writes.

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At Home Chicago Blues
At Home Chicago Blues 'Trading 4s' is a new pay-what-you-can Blues concert & conversation series hosted by acclaimed guitarist, Delmark recording artist and bandleader Dave Specter and streaming live on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of every month.

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Why A Canadian Hockey Team's Name Recalls U.S. Civil War Destruction
Sherman's March to Calgary.

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ChicagoReddit

"Open Face Sneezers to be Arrested" -Newspaper headlines from Chicago during the Spanish Flu from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

View this post on Instagram

Painting these babies on Walcott and 47th

A post shared by Helen Sanz (@helensanzcor) on

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ChicagoTube

El Greco at the Art Institute.

See also: El Greco: Ambition & Defiance.

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TweetWood
A sampling of the delight and disgust you can find @BeachwoodReport.

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ALL DAY LONG AT THIS RALLY . . .

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The Beachwood Mic Drop Line: Drop it good.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 6:39 AM | Permalink

At Home Chicago Blues

At Home Chicago Blues 'Trading 4s' is a new pay-what-you-can Blues concert & conversation series hosted by acclaimed guitarist, Delmark recording artist and bandleader Dave Specter and streaming live on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of every month.

This week's A-list session will feature sets and behind-the-scenes storytelling by Alligator Records' electric blues guitarist Toronzo Cannon, plus acoustic slide guitarist Donna Herula, vocalist Katherine Davis and Delmark's electric bassist Harlan Terson.

CBC-Home-Logo.png

WHEN: This Thursday, August 6, from 7 p.m. - 8pm and then the 1st and 3rd Thursday of every month.

WHERE: Visit At Home Chicago Blues to enjoy songs and stories from the comfort of your couch, at peace on your porch or wherever you dig watching contemporary Chicago Blues greats practicing their craft. And if Thursdays don't work, past concerts also available for viewing anytime.

WHY: At Home Chicago Blues concerts are intentionally 'pay-what-you-can' so as to not limit access to anyone seeking a live concert experience during this tenuous time.

For those viewers who are able to contribute, a 'virtual tip' jar provides compensation for the performers in addition to supporting the Firehouse Community Art Center in the North Lawndale neighborhood.

Under the direction of Pastor Phil Jackson, its mission is to interrupt the cycle of violence among youth and young adults in North Lawndale through the power of the arts.

Nationally, monies also benefit The Blues Foundation's COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund for Performing Blues Artists.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:46 AM | Permalink

Why A Canadian Hockey Team's Name Recalls U.S. Civil War Destruction

In 2017, I was in Calgary, Alberta, for a conference when I took an opportunity to see a hockey game between the Calgary Flames and the Ottawa Senators. There, as I sat high up in the seats with a beer and a burger, the word "Flames" was in the air, and a light show depicted flames on the ice and around the arena's perimeter. I wondered if I, an early American historian, was the only person in the place thinking about how a 21st-century hockey team connected with Gen. Sherman's 1864 Atlanta campaign and the destructive journey to Savannah.

Screen Shot 2020-08-04 at 5.45.34 AM.png

In September 1864, having conquered the city of Atlanta, U.S. Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman proposed marching his army to the coastal city of Savannah, Georgia, destroying railroads, factories, farms and other major sources of Confederate power along the way. Sherman's March to the Sea was an example of a military strategy called, in Sherman's words, the "hard hand of war," in which an army destroys not only military targets but takes supplies from the residents, leaving the civilian population demoralized and short of food and shelter.

The Sherman-authorized burning targeted Confederate military resources, including machine shops, railroad depots and arsenals. When the fires reached munitions housed in a machine shop, the explosion made the Atlanta night "hideous," Sherman wrote.

Despite orders that nonmilitary structures not be torched, Union soldiers drunk with either rage or with spirits went on to burn much more. As the fire spread, Sherman noted that "the heart of the city was in flames all night."

Screen Shot 2020-08-04 at 5.46.56 AM.pngAlexander Hay Ritchie engraving after F.O.C. Darley drawing

When Sherman and his army rode out of Atlanta on the morning of November 16, 1864, he and others looked back "upon the scenes of our past battles." There stood Atlanta, Sherman recalled, "smouldering and in ruins, the black smoke rising high in air, and hanging like a pall over the ruined city."

As they left the ruined city behind, a band "struck up the anthem of 'John Brown's soul goes marching on'; the men caught up the strain, and never before or since have I heard the chorus of 'Glory, glory, hallelujah!' done with more spirit, or in better harmony of time and place."

Ulysses S. Grant, the Union commander who would later become the 18th president of the United States, commented in his memoirs that Gen. Sherman's Atlanta campaign "was managed with the most consummate skill" and "was one of the most memorable in history."

Grant, like others, argued that its success contributed to Abraham Lincoln being elected to a second - and, as it turned out, fatal - term. "The news of Sherman's success reached the North instantaneously, and set the country all aglow," Grant wrote.

Southerners, of course, saw Sherman's fiery and destructive march differently. Southern writer Eliza Andrews, then 24, wrote in her journal during the war that "The dwellings that were standing all showed signs of pillage, and on every plantation we saw the charred remains of the gin-house and packing-screw, while here and there, lone chimney-stacks, 'Sherman's Sentinels,' told of homes laid in ashes. The infamous wretches[!]"

Screen Shot 2020-08-04 at 5.48.50 AM.pngIn November 1864, downtown Atlanta stood in ruins, with chimney stacks showing where buildings used to be/George N. Barnard, Library of Congress

According to Sherman biographer James Lee McDonough, Sherman's name would "come to symbolize that terrible time in Atlanta, when a deep and lasting scar, which rankles to this day, was created in the hearts of many Southerners."

A Wound That Still Burns

More than a century later, the National Hockey League decided to add a team in Atlanta, as well as one in New York. To select a name for the Atlanta team, its owner, the real estate developer and owner of the Atlanta Hawks basketball team, Tom Cousins, held a contest in 1971 that received 10,000 entries.

The name chosen was "Flames," though hockey writer Stephen Laroche notes in his book Changing the Game: The History of NHL Expansion, that it got only 198 of the total ballots.

Even in the early 1970s the memory still burned of Union troops under Sherman's command setting fire not only to factories, farms and warehouses but also to homes and shops in the city center that were destroyed in the unauthorized fire.

By bringing the Atlanta Flames into the NHL, the league began its own march into the South. It was a slow start, but the sport would eventually win over fans in the former Confederacy. In the 2020 season, the NHL has teams in Tennessee, North Carolina, Texas and Florida - which has two.

But a group of Canadian businessmen led by Nelson Skalbania bought the Flames and moved the team to Calgary after the 1979-1980 season. They kept the name because some of the team's new owners were in the oil industry, which is also associated with flames.

Named For Calamity

Naming a sports team after a destructive event may seem uncommon. Strangely, it is not - especially when it comes to destruction by fire. I'm writing from a suburb of Chicago, where the Great Fire of 1871 killed 300 people, destroyed more than 18,000 buildings, and left homeless more than 100,000 people - a third of the city's population. It also provided scorching monikers for the professional soccer team, the Chicago Fire, the University of Illinois-Chicago Flames and the short-lived World Football League team from Chicago, also called the Fire for its one and only season in 1974.

Also, the Colorado Avalanche, the Carolina Hurricanes, and the Iowa State Cyclones are all named after devastating natural forces.

The Calgary Flames are unique, however, for being named after an intentional destructive event, not a force of nature or a natural tragedy.

The Civil War echoes elsewhere in the NHL, too, with the Columbus Blue Jackets - the only team from Sherman's home state of Ohio - which celebrates the Blue Jackets' goals with booming cannon fire.

As professional hockey resumes across North America, even fans newly aware of the country's struggle with racism and the legacy of slavery may not be thinking about their Civil War history. But the team names are there to remind them anyway.

Christopher J. Young is a history professor at Indiana University. This post is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

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Comments welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:12 AM | Permalink

August 3, 2020

The [Monday] Papers

"The number of new confirmed statewide COVID cases and the percentage of tests that come back positive now have climbed to levels last seen in May, when Illinoisans were pretty much told to stay home unless absolutely necessary," Greg Hinz writes for Crain's.

"Yesterday, for instance, another 1,467 cases were diagnosed in the state, way above the figures in the hundreds on some recent Sundays. Over the last week, totals are averaging well over 1,500 and, perhaps more significant, the positivity rate has crept from just above 2 percent to nearly 4 percent.

"It's for reasons like that that Pritzker late last week described the state as 'at a danger point' that could follow many states in the South and West into rough territory unless something changes."

Turn the car around, governor, and drive us back to the previous phase. We deserve it for misbehaving.

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Oh Fish!
"Nearly 60 different types of fish are swimming in the Chicago and Calumet Rivers these days, up from fewer than 10 during the early 1980s, according to a new study of sampling conducted by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District," the Tribune reports.

Common carp are still the species found most frequently by district biologists during their annual monitoring of the rivers and connected channels. Last year they pulled a nearly 40-pound carp swollen with eggs out of the Little Calumet River.

But since 2001, biologists also have found 19 other species in the waterways for the first time, only one of which wasn't native to the area, the study found.

Among those netted were bluegill, catfish, largemouth bass and yellow perch - species less tolerant to pollution than carp that European immigrants deliberately introduced across the nation during the 19th century.

Why all the new fish? You'll have to click through - which I highly recommend!

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True-Up Blew Up
"The latest financial report by KPMG provides even more proof of what a great bit of business [the parking meter] deal was for the private investors, who hail from as far away as Abu Dhabi," the Sun-Times reports.

Click through for the latest grisly details, but it's really just more of the same - even in a global pandemic.

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No Mercy
"In the past year, the number of hospitals offering maternity service on the South Side of Chicago has dropped from seven to three, including two hospitals that suspended services temporarily to accommodate a crush of COVID-19 patients," Curtis Black writes for the Chicago Reporter.

"And with news that Mercy Hospital plans to close next year, the situation has suddenly become even more dire."

This is structural racism. The decision-makers (presumably) aren't bigots, but the results of their actions have a racist effect - meaning it disproportionately harms people of color - because of the socioeconomic structure of our city, state and country.

To wit:

"Even before the pandemic, Black women in Illinois were six times more likely to die from pregnancy-related conditions than white women, according to a 2018 report from the Illinois Department of Public Health. The gap here is twice as large as the national average. While this is a national problem, it's particularly acute in Chicago and Illinois. The vast majority of those deaths were preventable, according to the report."

Structural racism kills, even more than personal bigotry. And Chicago is particularly structurally racist.

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See also: Detailed Explainer On How America Was Segregated By Design.

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New on the Beachwood . . .

How America Teaches (And Doesn't) History
"Y'all don't want to deal with the fucked-up shit your ancestors did."

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Remembering Baseball's Historic 2020 Season
A future grampa talks to a future grandkid.

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Suffering With Stoics & Cynics
Coping with the dark truth of our existence.

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ChicagoReddit

Can I break My Lease Due to Bed Bugs? from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

View this post on Instagram

4945 S Halsted Ave. Back of the Yards

A post shared by Brick of Chicago (@brickofchicago) on

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ChicagoTube

Chicago Panthers vs. Texas Crush 60's

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BeachBook

In 1906, The Bronx Zoo Put A Black Man On Display In The Primates' House.

They JUST NOW apologized.

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Michael Phelps: 'I Can't See Any More Suicides.'

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The Sledding Team Trained Hard For Gold In 2010. Some Members Regret It.

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Sources Report Abuse At NBA China Academies.

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The War Frats.

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Scientists Just Proved That the Humanoid Lamb In The Ghent Altarpiece That Everyone Made Fun Of Is Supposed To Look Like That.

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Here Are 7 Delightful Stories Of Animals That Live (Or Work) In Museums, From A Dog Docent In Missouri To A Donkey Crew In New York.

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TweeWood
A sampling of the delight and disgust you can find @BeachwoodReport.

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The Beachwood McTipLine: Boneless.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:22 AM | Permalink

How America Teaches (Or Doesn't) The History Of Race

"Y'all don't want to deal with the fucked-up shit your ancestors did."

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See also: Chicago-Area Leaders Call For Illinois To Abolish History Classes.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:05 AM | Permalink

August 2, 2020

Remembering Baseball's Historic 2020 Season

"Please, Gramps, tell me some stories about baseball and the pandemic, then I promise I'll go to sleep," pleaded the boy.

"Alright, as long as you're asleep by the time your parents come home," replied Grampa. "I don't think they'll let me stay with you again any time soon if they find you still awake at this late hour. What do you want to know about those times so many years ago?"

"Were the White Sox any good?" the youngster asked.

"Well, they hadn't been very good because of what they used to call a 'rebuild,'" Gramps began. "That wouldn't fly today because kids like you wouldn't stand for it. You'd start rooting for the Yankees or Dodgers. But anyway, the season of 2020 was Luis Robert's rookie season for what turned out to be a Hall of Fame career. I'm sure you've heard of him."

"Yeah, I've read about Luis Robert. He was from Cuba, right? He played a few seasons for the Sox before signing for a billion dollars with the Yankees. He musta been really, really good."

"Oh, he was one of the greatest players I ever saw," marveled Grampa. "You have to remember that teams were scheduled to play just 60 games when he was a rookie, so his numbers that season were rather modest, but he gave us a sample of things to come. The team had other good players, too, but they never had enough pitching to get to the World Series."

"What else do you remember about that season?" asked the kid, still wide awake and curious.

"Well, games didn't begin until late July due to the virus which killed hundreds of thousands in this country," replied Gramps. "And once baseball started, players were tested over and over again to see if they were infected. A number were, and games were either cancelled or postponed. It was a huge mess. And they also tinkered with the rules."

"That's crazy," said the kid. "What did they do?"

"Until that time, the National League didn't have the Designated Hitter," explained the grandfather. "The pitchers hit for themselves. So the commissioner ruled that both leagues should have the DH. Of course, today the National League still has the DH, but it also lets the pitchers hit. So instead of nine players in the lineup, you have ten while the American League hasn't changed for something like 125 years."

"You mean the pitchers didn't bat when the pandemic was around?"

"Oh, no. The pandemic was just the beginning of tampering with the game's rules. It was the first time extra innings started with a runner on second."

"Extra innings? What was that?" queried the grandson.

"I should have told you," said Gramps. "There were no tie games in those days like we have today. Football and hockey had tie games many, many years ago. But baseball always kept playing additional innings until one team came out on top. Games could go on forever, which the commissioner didn't like because they took too much time. Baseball had this inferiority complex. The powers kept trying to speed up things because they thought that's what people wanted. They said the game was boring, that people liked other sports which moved faster. Plus, extra innings required lots and lots of pitchers who sometimes pitched to just one batter. So they put in a rule that relief pitchers must face at least three batters unless they closed out an inning."

"How long did the games take? The Sox played the other day in an hour-and-a-half."

"That's another thing," said the old man. "In the pandemic season, because there were so many postponements, they had to play doubleheaders, and those became two seven-inning games, just like all the games today. Before the pandemic, every game was nine innings unless the score was tied, in which case they played extra innings."

"I guess that's why those players had so many home runs and RBIs," said the kid. "They played longer."

"You are a bright boy. That's absolutely right. People like the commissioner who controlled baseball kept making excuses about games taking three hours or more. At the time, tackle football, which you've never seen, was popular because of the violence and all the money that was bet on every game. Of course, fans saw maybe a half-dozen exciting plays during a game, but much of the time was spent in what was called a huddle when nothing happened.

"Football players kept getting severely injured and after a few fatalities, the league couldn't find enough athletes who wanted to play," explained Grampa. "So that's how flag football became a major sport, and baseball does just fine compared to that.

"Another thing to remember about 2020 is that there were no fans in the stadiums. Crowd noise was piped in, and cardboard pictures of people littered the seats. It was really tacky, but, like I said, they really messed with the game that season.

"What eventually happened is that when it came time to build new ballparks, the owners figured that the best way to fill them was to make them smaller," he continued. "The image of empty stadiums during the pandemic really scared them and reminded the owners that television was the best way to make money. Way back before I was born, there were stadiums in places like Cleveland that seated as many as 80,000 fans because many of these places were used for both baseball and football.

"Then the new stadiums were built for approximately 40,000, and today a big ballpark has a capacity of maybe 25,000, just like Reinsdorf Field where the majority of the seats are filled. Of course, tickets cost hundreds of dollars which is why your folks don't take you to many Sox games."

"Gosh, Gramps, it sounds like that pandemic season was the beginning of all kinds of changes in baseball. I love the game today just as it is. I hope nothing about it ever changes again. By the way, how did the season that year wind up? Did they play all the games? Who won the World Series?"

"I'll make you a deal," said Gramps. "You go to sleep now, and I promise to answer those questions in the morning."

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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 4:46 PM | Permalink

August 1, 2020

Stark Rich-Poor Divide In How U.S. Children Are Taught Remotely

As the coronavirus pandemic spread through the country, a common (socially distanced) conversation among friends and families compared how many hours of remote learning kids were getting. Preliminary results from a new survey of school districts confirm what many parents learned through the Zoom grapevine. The number of hours your kids got varied wildly depending on where you happen to live. But the amount of time was not the only difference, according to a recent survey: the type of instruction students received also diverged dramatically.

Twenty-five percent of districts said children in kindergarten through second grade were supposed to receive more than three hours of remote instruction every day but another 25 percent of districts reported only one hour or less. The two-hour-a-day difference narrowed a bit in higher grades but even by high school, many students received 1.5 fewer instructional hours every day than others (3 hours vs. 4.5 hours). Over several months of school closures, the daily difference in hours added up to a lot of instructional time. My back-of-the-envelope calculation puts it at more than 100 hours. (My math: 2 hours a day x 5 days a week x 12 weeks of school closures = 120 hours.)

"One key question is why these differences occur and what do these differences mean for students," said Mike Garet, head of the survey team at the American Institutes of Research (AIR), a nonprofit research organization.

AIR presented early results from its "National Survey of Public Education's Response to COVID-19" at a virtual session of the Education Writers Association's national seminar on July 22. AIR sent out surveys to more than 2,500 of the nation's 13,500 school districts in May and plans to release results periodically to inform education policymakers during the pandemic. This early report represents a 19 percent response rate so far and includes data from nearly 500 districts across 49 states and covers a wide range of both urban and rural regions.

I was surprised to learn that the difference in instructional hours can't be simply explained by poverty. When researchers diced the survey data up by income, they discovered less than a half-hour difference in school time between low- and high-income districts. Understanding why schools made such different decisions on the amount of daily instruction during the pandemic is a mystery - for now.

Instead of hours per day, the survey revealed that it was how students were being taught that clearly varied by income. Low-income schools spent considerably more time reviewing old content. Wealthier schools were more likely to teach new material. Almost a third of high-poverty districts reported that their teachers primarily reviewed content taught earlier in the year to students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Among low-poverty districts, only 8 percent emphasized review. Even for older kids in grades six through 12, nearly a quarter of high-poverty districts emphasized review. Among low-poverty districts, only 6 percent primarily reviewed previous material for older students.

Learning materials - paper versus screens - were another chasm. Nearly half of low-income districts distributed paper packets of worksheets to families while more than three-fourths of wealthier school districts distributed everything digitally.

This digital divide had enormous consequences for what instruction meant. Low-poverty districts offered far more live virtual classes, live one-on-one sessions with teachers and prerecorded classes for students to watch at their convenience. High-poverty districts were far less likely to offer any of these three things. For example, 53 percent of low-poverty districts offered live virtual support between a teacher and his or her student. Only 32 percent of high-poverty districts offered this.

It's worth noting that the AIR survey revealed that almost all school districts - rich and poor alike - dedicated much less time to instruction than they do in ordinary times. The average of 3.87 hours of instructional time per day for high schoolers across the nation was far less than the 6 hours a day that many states require.

Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat, superintendent of the Peoria, Illinois schools, speaking at the conference session, said her district's data "aligned very closely" with the AIR survey results. She runs an urban district of more than 13,000 students, more than half Black and 70 percent low-income. "Our [instructional] hours were low," Desmoulin-Kherat said. "We spent a lot of time, as your data illustrated, reviewing content."

Desmoulin-Kherat described how her district was consumed with feeding children during the shelter-in-place order as many families relied on the school system for daily meals. She partnered with the Salvation Army and delivered 440,000 meals. Her district was also operating health clinics inside school buildings, so that children could continue to get their immunizations, and finding ways to address the mental health needs of staff and students. Even getting students to "check in" online for the limited hours of remote school was a challenge. Desmoulin-Kherat said school staff visited homes during the pandemic to help more families log in online. That eventually raised attendance rates to 70 percent at Peoria's low-income schools, she said. By contrast, she said, 95 percent of the students in gifted and talented programs checked in every day.

Peoria deviated from the national trend when it came to technology. Despite her district's high poverty, Peoria was in the middle of an effort to provide every student with a laptop and already had 10,000 laptops on hand when the pandemic hit. That allowed Desmoulin-Kherat to distribute 6,000 laptops to families at home. Still, she described how virtual teaching lagged as the district first had to train many teachers on how to use software for remote instruction.

This first glimpse of public schools' experiences with remote learning provides concrete evidence for why education experts are expecting a growing gap in academic achievement between rich and poor students. A recent McKinsey & Company report predicted that the pandemic's harm to student learning "could last a lifetime." More detailed results from the survey are expected in the fall.

This post was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for our Proof Points newsletter.

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Previously by Jill Barshay:

* When "School Choice" Leads Families To Trade One Bad School For Another.

* Punishing Bullies Doesn't Work.

* The Literacy Secret That Dolly Parton Knows: Free Books Work.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:27 PM | Permalink

Suffering With Stoics & Cynics

To mock or to remain indifferent? Convince the world they're wrong or change what's wrong about yourself? Cynicism and Stoicism are two ancient Greek philosophies that have a long history together, with the former influencing the latter. The colloquial terms "cynic" and "stoic" are both different from the classical meanings. Colloquial cynic refers to a distrusting and snarky individual, while colloquial stoic refers to a cold and emotionless individual. In this column, I'll be focusing on the classical definitions.

The Stoics believed in self-mastery through wisdom, courage, justice and temperance. Unlike the modern interpretation, classical Stoicism is not meant to eradicate all feelings; however, it aims to control the irrational, toxic emotions that lead to suffering.

Cynicism is marked by its disdain and ridicule of society, particularly the socially accepted conventions of fame, money and power. According to Cynics, indulgence, desire and ignorance are the three main causes of human suffering.

Stoicism hums a similar tune, as The Basics of Philosophy explains, unhappiness and evil are the results of ignorance. Both philosophies believe in living in accordance with nature, where neither "rank [nor] wealth" are important. Cynics practice this through self-sufficiency as a result of self-imposed poverty (regarded as Cynic Poverty), while the Stoics interpret this to mean living in accordance to " . . . the laws of the universe and of man's own essential nature, reason." The teachings of Stoicism might seem very similar to those of Buddhism, as The Basics of Philosophy notes, as both say that noble truth follows four principles, and fortitude and happiness may result:

1. All life is suffering.

2. Suffering is rooted in passion and desire.

3. Happiness is freedom from passion.

4. Moral restraint and self-discipline are the means by which one becomes free from suffering.

The Basics of Philosophy also notes how through the writings of Stoicism's most famous philosopher, Seneca the Younger, on universal emotion and anger, the core of Stoicism is revealed. Seneca was convinced that anger, or any emotion, can be overcome through logic, or "philosophical argument." Certain that anger arose from "overly optimistic ideas about the world," Seneca encouraged individuals to adopt a more pessimistic outlook on the world to better prepare us for the inevitable disappointments that await us.

Moreover, Stoics believed in indifference to external events, focusing instead on what was in their control. Their choice to not only disengage from the uncontrollable world but to remain unmoved by whatever happened can be summarized by the common, modern saying, "It is what it is." They controlled not only their emotions, but what they engaged in, giving them the power to overcome irrational feelings, and therefore mastering the concept of Apatheia, or self-conquest.

Cynical Cynics

Cynics were known ridiculing passers-by and preaching their philosophy in town centers. They were provocateurs; disturbers of peace. There is no point in going out of your way to disturb society just to feed into your ego, which is what I believe the Cynics did. They had to have an innate sense of superiority to motivate their juvenile indecency that aimed to change people's ways. Their flamboyant rejections of social norms was their way of claiming to take back control, to liberate themselves of social constraints. But why must their rejection of society invade my life?

Cynics were not modest in the slightest; they actively placed themselves before the public gaze and took advantage of that by acting in the most ostentatious and outrageous way possible. But what exactly is the point of all of that? It does not facilitate dialogue; it only fuels the disdain both parties have of each other.

As I mentioned in my last column, no one likes unsolicited advice. If the Cynics were looking to give advice to a society that did not ask for it, surely there was a better way of going about it without masturbating or defecating in public.

Enter the Stoics. "The Stoics believe humans are meant to live in societies and meant to treat each other with respect," according to the Daily Stoic. The Stoics understood two very important lessons the Cynics were oblivious to: First, that you cannot expect people to want to listen to you if you scream and shout. Second, that you cannot expect people to want to listen to you, period. There is no point in fretting over what is out of your control. The best thing you can do is respect that person's withdrawal from your advice and apply the advice to yourself, so that you might present the best version of yourself to society in your own attempt to change the world you live in.

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Previously by E.K. Mam:
*
How Studying History Made Me A Stoic.

* Dear High School Students And Recent Graduates . . .

* Tunes To Remedy Any Existential Crisis.

* Flex You.

* Simply Cynicism.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:47 AM | Permalink

MUSIC - At Home Chicago Blues.
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POLITICS - The Hamburglar Of Passion.
SPORTS - Olympic Atheletes Dying Under Weight Of Gold.

BOOKS - Machiavelli's Prince Charming.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Joan Mitchell's City Landscape.


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