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« May 2007 | Main | July 2007 »

June 30, 2007

The Weekend Desk Report

It may be a short week for you, but the Weekend Desk never knocks off early for a holiday.

Guantana-Maybe
In what is largely seen as a blow to current Bush administration policy, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of several Guantanamo Bay inmates challenging the legality of their confinement. Naturally, we have responded by opening the Beachwood Reporter Weekend Desk betting window, but wagering has been surprisingly flat. Here are the latest odds that the Justices will:

Find in favor of the administration: 5/4
Wrap their anti-civil rights decision in the language of noble struggle: 5/4
Insult your intelligence: 5/4

Maine Squeeze
Apparently worn down by months of hurt feelings and hurtful behavior, President Bush has agreed to take Vladimir Putin home to meet his parents. Enjoy the lobster dinners while you can, Dima. Someday Gordon won't be too busy to take George's calls and then you'll be right back at Crawford again.

Law and Horder
Lawyers for accused long-haul confrontationist Lisa Nowak have found a novel defense for their client. Rather than being a freak who tore ass across the country wearing a diaper, they contend she is a freak who tore ass across the country in a car that hadn't been cleaned in 18 months while apparently soiling herself. We can't wait to hear their explanation for the pepper spray, wig, BB gun and folding knife.

Unsteady Rests the Jaw...
In other news, duh.

Northern Exposed
Canada took another small, inexorable step toward becoming America this week. But don't worry. They won't notice.

Barrels of Laughs
Finally this week, we don't know for sure, but we're willing to bet when the city decides to make these mandatory, they'll be overpriced and blue.

Posted by Natasha at 07:29 AM | Permalink

June 29, 2007

The [Friday] Papers

They just raised your prices and re-segregated your schools.

Moore Score
Tribune health reporter Julie Deardorff conducts a pretty interesting interview with filmmaker Michael Moore about his physical condition.

Roger Ebert gives Sicko three-and-a-half stars.

Kirk Quirk
Watching Chicago Tonight last night, it dawned on me as state Sen. Kirk Dillard was describing taking a bus tour or something with state Sen. (and Rev. and Democrat) James Meeks what was behind his participation in a Barack Obama TV ad: He's running for governor.

Tool Shed
The panel was Dillard, Jennifer Hunter, and Paul Green.

Mystery Debate Theater
Find out what Paul Bunyan and Bruce Wayne had to do with last night's Democratic debate, in our continuing Mystery Debate Theater coverage.

Olympic Accounting
They say it, the Sun-Times prints it - no matter how absurd.

Olympic Evasion
"Olympic officials did not make [new Chicago 2016 chief operating officer David] Bolger available for comment, and Bolger did not return calls. [Chicago 2016 chairman Pat] Ryan called Bolger 'the guy who runs the inside,' who would have limited public exposure."

Just like the budget.

Porch Poop
An engineering report done by the city four years ago on the Lincoln Park porch that collapsed in 2003, killing 13 people, has just come to light.

Obamafied
"Michelle Obama addressed the experience issue yesterday - a day after Barack Obama himself addressed it," says First Read (third item). "'For people who say that Barack Obama is not experienced ... I can't wrap my head around that,' Michelle Obama told hundreds of people crowded into the offices of the nonprofit Our Children's Foundation in Harlem."

I can't wrap my head around electing a president virtually straight out of the Illinois legislature either.

Impeachment Grounds
If lying a nation into war and wiretapping our phones and torturing our 'prisoners' isn't grave enough, then what is? I'd just like to know what standard we have to meet.

Straw Poll
"Meanwhile, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe is engaging in a bit of media baiting in mounting a straw man argument in a direct e-mail appeal to supporters, designed to spur donors to give in time to run up second quarter numbers," Lynn Sweet writes.

"'Media pundits and Washington insiders are already speculating about our end of quarter fundraising totals,' Plouffe wrote. 'They claim the money we raise by this Saturday, June 30th, will determine the success or failure of our campaign,' Plouffe wrote."

How meta. Prove the pundits wrong by beating them at their own game!

Sox Pox
Somebody told us so.

This Week in the Beachwood
* "Even the children of Lake Forest, it seems, are not good enough for Lake Forest."

* "The importance of power calculations in the making of a political news story was further evidenced by how the Washington Post constructed the attempt of Representative John Conyers (D-MI) to publicize the implications of the memo by holding a House informational hearing. That hearing was held in the political context of Republican dominance of the House, and the continuing muddle among Democrats about making an election issue out of being deceived on the war.

"Given this context, the hearing was unlikely to result either in a shift in Democratic position or in any direct political repercussions for the Bush administration. The degree to which these power considerations by the press trumped (indeed defined) the implications of the document is shown in a telling story by Washington Post reporter-analyst Dana Milbank which began with the headline 'Democrats Play House to Rally against the War."

"The lead sentence was even more revealing about the power calculus underlying news construction: 'In the Capitol basement yesterday, long suffering House Democrats took a trip to the land of make-believe.'"

* "We like to call this the Cub Chill Factor. It's the difference between the real temperature of this team and what it 'feels like' to Cubs fans.

"For example, when the Cubs go, say, .500 over a period of 10 games, it 'feels like' they've won seven of 10. When the Cubs win one of six but a couple of losses are close, it 'feels like' they've gone 3-3. When the Cubs win two in a row - or sweep the White Sox - it 'feels like' they are a contender. And when the Cubs are closer to last place than first but are within a half-dozen games of .500, it 'feels like' they are making a run for it."

* "The post-Real World life has obviously been good to Trishelle. Not so sure about the others. Former go-go dancer Brynn Smith, who had a threesome with Trishelle and hunkmate and condom-refuser Steven three days after they met for the original series, is married with two kids, who, um, she has brought along for the reunion show. Buzzkill, dude. Her marriage actually seems solid, though she is purportedly jealous of the wild, single life Trishelle still lives while Trishelle pretends to be jealous of Brynn's married life."

* "Jimmy Swaggart Ministries claims it has sold 13 million gospel music albums worldwide, and although that assertion is impossible to verify because JIM Records, as a private label, isn't audited by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), there's no doubt Swaggart's popularity as a musician is immense and has changed the face of gospel music forever."

Who knew?

The Beachwood Tip Line: Pending appeal.

Posted by Lou at 10:15 AM | Permalink

Mystery Debate Theater 2007

Once again the Beachwood's crack team of analysts gathered at HQ to size up the candidates for leader of the free world - this time the Democrats meeting at Howard University in a forum focused on race. Andrew Kingsford, Tim Willette, and Steve Rhodes provide the commentary.

*

Andrew: Look, there's a white guy in the audience!

Steve: This is like bizarro debate.

*

Host Tavis Smiley begins speaking.

Steve: I'd like to say that as we speak, all whites are being rounded up . . .

Andrew: And put in cabs to Arizona.

*

Crowd shot of Cornel West.

Tim: Ever hear his record?

Andrew: He has a record?

Steve: It's post-structuralist rap.

*

An African-American youth group of some sort wearing blue blazers and khakis is introduced.

Steve: Awww, don't wear the white man's tan pants!

*

Lost among the paralyzing effects of my delivery Chinese BBQ shrimp is who was speaking, but the person started to talk about the influence of Paul . . . Robeson.

Andrew: I thought he was gonna say Paul Bunyan.

Steve: I thought he was gonna say Paul Westerberg.

[Pause]

Steve: Paul Bunyan?

Andrew: I'm sorry.

*

. . . change the direction of the nation . . .

Andrew: From 90 degress to 91.5 degrees. North.

*

Is race still the most intractable issue in America?

Steve: Obama will say no, it's cynicism.

*

Hillary: For anyone to assert that race is not a problem in America, the march is not over.

Steve: She just called out Neil Steinberg!

*

Bill Richardson makes his first appearance.

Andrew: Look at his tan!

Steve: He's trying to pass.

Richardson: [blah blah blah]

Steve: He's such a buzzkill.

Andrew: Will his tan go away in Iowa? Is it a spray-on?

Andrew: It's like a minstrel show going on up there.

Edwards: [blah blah blah]

Tim: Race plays an enormous role in the problems faced by African Americans.

Obama: [blah blah blah]

Dice-K: . . . universal pre-kindergarten . . .

Tim: For all ages.

Dice-K: . . . constitutional amendment guaranteeing an equal education . . .

Steve: Kucinich is doing policy!

Dice-K: . . . move war resources to college education . . .

*

Gravel lambastes the war on drugs.

Andrew: It's the craziest thing Crazy Guy has said!

*

Chris Dodd is speaking.

Steve: The Silver Fox. Hey, what's Pate Philip doing up there?

Dodd: . . . something you have forever . . .

Andrew: And that is herpes.

Tim: What if you had shock treatment?

Andrew: For herpes?

Tim: For education. There are ways to remove education, like with a drill.

Andrew: Two words: Chinese jails.

*

The question is: "The unemployment rate for black high school graduates is higher than for white high school droputs. To what do you attribute this?" Virtually every candidate misses the point and calls for more education.

Tim: Education my ass. It's about power.

Biden: We do not start school early enough.

Andrew: It should start at 7, not 9.

[blah blah blah]

Steve: They are missing the point. The black kids have graduated and they're still not getting hired.

Richardson: . . . a minimum wage for teachers . . . [blah blah blah]

Steve: Oh is he awful.

Andrew: His tan is fucking out of hand.

Edwards: This issue of poverty in America is the cause of my life . . .

Steve: The question has nothing to do with poverty, teacher wages or achievement gaps; it's about employment.

Andrew: The man's hair does look good, though.

Obama: It starts from birth.

Tim: That's really early childhood education!

Tim: We're saying we should have a teacher in the delivery room.

Andrew: In the womb.

Tim: We should have teachers deliver the child.

Andrew: They should be delivered at school.

Obama: The reason for underperfromance . . . too many think it's acceptable . . .

Steve: They have achieved! They've graduated high school! It's the white kids who haven't and they're still getting the jobs!

Dice-K: Dr. King said . . . when there is war, two people suffer . . . the link between war, fear, poverty . . . shift paradigm away from war . . . resources for education.

Steve: Then maybe white kids will graduate too.

Crazy Guy: You've heard these nostrums before. You heard then 10 years ago, 20 years ago . . . the Democratic Party is not appreciably better than the Republicans . . . this will not be solved by your leaders.

Steve: Okay, that's where he fell off the table.

Crazy Guy: . . . squandered in Iraq. The people on this stage are all guilty.

Silver Fox: I've been dedicated to this issue in the Senate. The key to the door is education.

Hillary: The American village has failed.

Tim: It takes a village of millions to hold us back.

Hillary: . . . discrimination in the workplace.

Steve: Yes! She answered the question.

*

The question is about AIDs prevention.

Richardson: [blah blah blah]

Andrew: Skin cancer is something that, er, oh, I'm sorry . . .

Edwards: [blah blah blah]

Andrew: God, he's good looking. He's like Dan Quayle is he was in Mensa.

Obama: [blah blah blah]

Dice-K: [blah blah blah]

Steve: Borrrrrrring.

Dice-K: We have to end for-profit medicine.

Steve: Oh, I like that.

Dice-K: Michael Moore is right about this, by theway.

Crazy Guy: Scourge is war on drugs.

Steve: The craziest people tell the most truth. The "pragmatists" lie. The realists are the most unreal.

Hillary: If HIV/AIDS were the leading cause of death among white women there would be an outrage in this country.

*

The question is about taxes and the rich.

Edwards: The family you are born into has a lot to do with your life.

Andrew: If your name is Bruce Wayne.

Obama: People aren't looking for charity.

Tim: I wouldn't mind a little.

Andrew: Yeah.

Tim: Can I borrow a dollar?

*

Obama: Katrina.

Kucinich: End war as an instrument of policy.

Gravel: Wipe out the income tax. It is corrupt. It is corrupting our society . . . retail sales tax. Everybody knows what everybody else is paying.

Andrew: That's why we call him the Crazy Guy. He says something crazy every now and then.

Dodd: . . . get back to the Clinton days . . .

Steve: So vote for Hillary.

Hillary: . . . it's the payroll tax plus the income tax, and when you cut of contributions at $99,000 . . .

Richardson: [blah blah blah]

Tavis Smiley tries to cut him off.

Richarson: I'm almost finished.

Tim: You're almost finished? Put it on your blog.

*

The question is about the black arrest rate.

Obama: The crimnal justice system is not color-blind. It does not work for all people . . . I've got track record on the state level - racial profiling legislation . . . against wrongful convictions . . . requires political courage, you'll be accused of being soft on crime.

Steve: By Kirk Dillard!

Kucinich: End mandatory miniumums . . . rehab for drugs, not into incarceration . . . end the federal death penalty . . .

Gravel: Is it a surprise to anyone in this room that if you don't have any money you don't get any justice?

Dodd: End mandatory minimums . . . eliminate distinction between crack and coke . . . a justice department that is not politicized.

Hillary: End racial profiling . . . mandatory minimums may be appropriate for certain violent crimes; diversions . . . drug courts . . . non-violent offenders . . .end distinction between crack and powder cocaine . . .

Richardson: [blah blah blah]

Steve:Oh please! Snooze!

Richardson: We need a strategy to deal with poverty.

SR: He doesn't know where to go with this.

Tim: It's not just poverty, it's racism. There are more poor white people than black people.

Andrew: He's got sunstroke.

*

The question is about a federal right of return to New Orleans.

Huh?

*

Hillary: I have proposed a 10-point Gulf Coast Recovery Program. Get the hospitals up, law enforcement, fire departments . . . almost criminal indifference to rebuilding . . . even if you give people a right to return, there's nothing to return to . . .

Biden: The U.S. Constitution should be sufficient.

Steve: Oh Joe Biden, I'm so over you.

Richardson: Put FEMA under the president.

Andrew: Yeah, that would've made a difference.

*

The question is about outsourcing.

Tim: Batter up!

Gravel: Outsourcing is not the problem. What is the problem are the trade agreements we have . . .

Hillary: End tax breaks for outsourcing; enforce labor and environmental standards in our trade agreements; help Americans compete . . . find new sources of jobs - clean energy would generate millions more.

Edwards: Eliminating tax breaks is not gonna keep jos here in America. You have to make it more attractive to have jobs here . . . get rid of employer health care.

Richardson: I will establish 250 science and math academies . . .

Steve: Who are you, Mayor Daley?

Edwards: My father worked in a mill . . .

Obama: . . .working with churches . . .

Kucinich: Cancel NAFTA.

*

The question is about Darfur/

Dodd: As a result of Iraq, we have lost our moral authority. We should be able to take unilateral action.

Hillary: Three things: Move peacekeeprs into Sudan . . . [I missed the second[ and establish a no-fly zone over Sudan.

Biden: I've been talking for three years.

Richardson: No fly-zone . . . sanctions . . . blah blah blah.

Edwards: . . .. the bigger question is about America as a force for good in the world . . . primary education for everyone . . .

Obama: No-fly zone . . . protective force . . .

Kucinich: Stop looking at Africa as a place where our corporations can exploit the people. If Darfur had a large source of oil, we'd be occupying it today.

Steve: He says what Obama won't.

Gravel: The president has to have moral judgement. Most people on this stage with me do not have that, and they've proven it.

Steve: He's right.

*

Analysis: Hillary won. She has a command of the issues, policy proscriptions for each, she thinks on her feet and answers the questions. Edwards placed second with his strong emotional appeals. Obama was just kind of there, always wanting to re-frame the questions away from policy to philosophical discussions about the way we frame the questions. Biden was a bit unhinged. Dodd must be running for vice-president. His candidacy makes no sense. Richardson is shockingly bad for a guy with the best resume for the job. Kucinich and Gravel will get nowhere speaking truths no one else dares to speak.

-

Previously in the series

- The Democrats: Episode 1.

- The Republicans: Episode 1.

- The Republicans: Episode 2.

- The Democrats: Episode 2.

- The Republicans: Episode 3.

Posted by Lou at 08:15 AM | Permalink

The Periodical Table

A weekly roundup of the magazines laying around Beachwood HQ.

Still Depressed
With the incredibly sad demise of Punk Planet, the arrival of the new No Depression came at just the right time. At least there's still one good music magazine going. (And at least we have the work of Don Jacobson here at the Beachwood to enjoy; if only we could clone him about a dozen times . . . ) While No Depression's constant self-examination of what it is and who it covers gets tiresome, Peter Blackstock gets it right in his "Hello Stranger" column this issue when he writes "The difference between ND and most mainstream music publications is, of course, that while we both might cover the Shins or Miranda Lambert or Mandy Moore, the mass-media magazines are unlikely to give significant space to, say, a sideman such as Fast Kaplin (p.8), or a roots-music event such as Merlefest (p. 16), or a family bluegrass act such as Cherryholmes (p. 42). And they darned sure aren't gonna put a 79-year-old performer of traditional country music on their cover."

Damn straight. The 79-year-old is Porter Wagoner. The story is "Hillbilly Deluxe." The closing line is "That's music for grown-ups, what people used to call country music."

No Depression
John Updike, in the latest New Yorker takes up the Amity Shlaes book on the Great Depression mentioned in a recent Reviewing the Reviews (see Sun-Times Review of Note) and concludes, as any thinking person would, that she's full of it.

Consumption Culture
Is there a magazine out there more sensuous than Print? It's at once a tactile, visual, brainy read that makes you want to share.

The July/August issue is all about consumption - "How Design Drives Spending, Saving, and Desire" - and is chock full of goodies.

For example, the Ladies Home Journal said this in 1918: "There has been a great diversity of opinion on the subject, but the generally accepted rule is pink for the boy and blue for the girl. The reason is that pink being a more decided and stronger color is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl."

And did you know that blue is "a primary color, but the rarest in nature, [and] was considered a form of black until about 5,000 B.C. In many languages, there is no word for blue; a term referring to both blue and green often suffices for either color."

Pink & Blue II
An observation on gender - who brought the pink bats? - from a friendly T-Ball league.

Presumption Culture
Herbert Okun of New York writes to The Economist this week: "May I suggest 'What Blair's Not Learned', courtesy of Machiavelli's The Prince. First, 'no matter how powerful one's armies, in order to enter a country one needs the goodwill of the inhabitants.' Second, 'there is nothing more difficult to handle, more doubtful of success, and more dangerous to carry through than initiating changes in a state's constitution.' And finally, 'A prince should never join in an aggressive alliance with someone more powerful than himself.'"

Pillorying Hillary
The Economist's Lexington columnist writes: "The anti-Hillary jibes of left and right cannot all be true. For all her talents, Mrs. Clinton cannot be a warmonger and a peacenik, or a radical feminist and a shill for the patriarchy. Perhaps if extremists of both left and right detest her, she must in fact be a nice, reasonable moderate . . .

"She has a prodigious memory, a bottomless capacity for hard work and a quarter-century of experience of national politics. In debates, her grasp of policy makes her Democratic rivals look callow or shallow."

Press Freedom
Ten countries where it has deteriorated.

One Magnificent Mockery
The Farwell Building. In The Voice: The Quarterly Journal of Preservation Chicago.


Posted by Lou at 06:49 AM | Permalink

Genesis Limousine Purchased

The following press release announcing Eilat Limousine's acquisition of Genesis Limousine and the personal luxury services this limousine company can provide, may be of interest to your audience. Any editorial comment or mention that you may give this press release would be greatly appreciated.

- - -

EILAT LIMOUSINE OF NEW YORK ANNOUNCES PURCHASE OF GENESIS LIMOUSINE INTERNATIONAL NETWORK, INC.

Dateline: June 28, 2007 . . . Brooklyn, NY
Contact: Doron Guez
Phone: (718) 253-1500
E-Mail: dorong@eilatlimousine.com
Web Address: www.eilatlimousine.com/

BROOKLYN, NY - June 28, 2007 - A well-known limousine service in New York called Eilat Limousine International announced today that it has acquired Genesis Limousine International Network, Inc. The acquisition was effective June 1 and will combine two very popular personalized luxury services into one.

Genesis Limousine International Network, Inc. is led by Janet Ben Naim as one of the leading grounds transportation services in New York. Eilat Limousine International is owned by Doron Guez, the company's president. The two companies combined will be able to offer clients continued comfort and personal luxury while traveling through New York City, and Eilat Limousine International will now be able to reach a greater span of customers needing ground transportation services.

Eilat Limousine International offers personal limousine and jet services, which are performed by highly-trained personnel to ensure top quality service for its customers. With this new acquisition, the company will now be able to capitalize on the growing market for corporate ground transportation. Clients can enjoy luxury, comfort, safety, and tranquility as they meet with business associates, friends, or loved ones in the New York area.

A great customer service rating is one thing that attracted Eilat Limousine International to Genesis Limousine International Network, Inc. The company's number of corporate clients are growing at a remarkable rate, and more than 99.5 % of Genesis Limousine International Network's customers have recommended the service to others.

"Whether a consumer wants last minute immediate service, around-the-clock service anywhere in New York or around the globe, or needs the simplicity of ordering online, Eilat Limousine International continues to provide an affordable, simple and more professional ground transportation experience in New York City and beyond," states Doron Guez, President of Eilat Limousine International.

Guez feels that this new venture will expand Eilat Limousine International's capabilities to better serve clients in the New York area and those traveling through the area. The company's clients will be able to build an image of distinction while using an affordable world-class service.

*

Other news that may be of interest to our readers:
* Awesome Amplitude Range.
* Left Lane Drivers Unite!
* Excessive Teen Showering Solved.
* Perpetual Motion Breakthrough!
* One Giant Step for Fishkind.
* Spoonmantics.
* College Kid Proves Creation.
* Foolin' Fish Spray.

Posted by Lou at 02:26 AM | Permalink

T-Ball Journal: Pink & Blue

The superficial ways girl T-Ball players are different than boys become apparent at practice. For one thing, it appears the boys have more of an aptitude for careers in archeology.

"I don't know what it is with you guys and the dirt," said an exasperated assistant coach at my almost-six-year-old daughter Alana's most recent training session. He made the statement in lieu of what would have been at least his fifth admonition to "get up out of the dust already." Fortunately the wind wasn't up and therefore the boys' little excavations weren't resulting in decreased air quality. There have been seriously breezy days as the season has progressed but still nothing like the Great Opening Day Dust Storm of 2007.

Alana and the two other girls on her team - who all occasionally kick up a little dirt but don't dive in like the fellas - don't necessarily pay better attention than the boys . . . Then again I suppose it is most accurate to say the more attentive boys zone out about as frequently as their female teammates. But the girls definitely don't share many of the boys' commitment to building the best darn dirt pile anyone in these parts has ever seen.

A few of my eight-year-old son Noah's younger teammates on our junior division (T-Ball/coach-pitch) Dodgers are still occasionally captivated by what's under their feet. But having had a chance to watch several games at the next level (the Minors) this summer, it appears the fascination fades away completely as double digits approach. Or maybe 10-year-olds are just better at controlling the urge to get in touch with the earth.

One final thought: when she was a toddler, Alana, who still isn't averse to marching around in a nice-and-grubby uniform an hour after the game, was a big fan of a nearby sandbox. But that faded away after a couple years. So maybe it is just a matter of the girls being a little bit ahead of the boys. Not exactly a shocker.

*

Another surface difference is obviously appearance. There isn't a rule that girls who play baseball at our park keep their hair long, but it seems like they all (including Alana and her teammates) have seriously cute ponytails sticking out the back of their hats. And you can probably guess which gender brought the pink bat the first time the Red Sox got together.

We have seen a couple girls on other teams with pink mitts and even a pink helmet or two. But Alana, after using the pink bat in her first few games, decided to go with a less flashy model. And at one point one of the moms of one of the boys on the team said quietly that you could tell who the girls were by the way they ran. She then quickly added "except yours of course."

I suppose the most surprising thing is that fundamentally there really aren't many differences between the girls and the boys, except of course the difference in numbers (no team has more than a few girls on its roster). Alana's practice revealed, as had others before it, that some of the girls are fast and some of the boys are slow. Some of the girls have good arms and some of the boys don't. Some do a good job scooping up ground balls and they all struggle on pop flies. And I know at any given time Alana cares considerably more than many of the guys what the score is.

*

While we're on the subject of practices, I do wonder what activity the person who first said "practice makes perfect" could possibly have been watching. Clearly it wasn't youth baseball. I would be overjoyed if someone could officially confirm that a practice I coached "made slightly improved." And while I am of course familiar with the revised edition of the conventional wisdom, i.e. "practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice makes . . . etc. etc., it is all obviously of a piece. Practice well enough and you will play well.

It has been my experience that sometimes that is the case and sometimes not. Fortunately I've always been confident that the squad of seven- and eight-year-olds that I coach is not alone . . . that none of the teams in our league have yet even approached training perfection.

But that was before Sunday, when an opposing team, which I happened to know was without its best player, made all the plays in the field and hit a ton for six straight innings. Noah's and my team lost by 20 (if not 21 or 22) and it probably could have been worse. At the end of the weekend our record stood at 5-6-1. We have two more regular season games and then the playoffs start.

*

Noah had a solid game at the plate, blasting a legitimate triple (as opposed to the ground balls followed by two throwing errors that kids so endearingly translate into three-baggers) and beating out a couple coach-pitch infield hits. But on this day all the Dodgers struggled defensively - probably was the defensive chart.

There was one highlight in the field in the fifth inning. My shortstop managed to fill his entire glove with dirt, then hurriedly dumped it out and got the glove back on his hand in time to scoop up a ground ball and make a throw. With the ability to pull off that sort of slight of hand, he'll eventually have to consider a career in entertainment.

-

Jim Coffman's daughter is in her first season of T-Ball. Her older brother is in his last year in the Junior Division. Coffman is chronicling his travails as coach of his son's team and observer of his daughter's initial foray into this slice of Americana.

Posted by Lou at 12:24 AM | Permalink

June 28, 2007

The [Thursday] Papers

1. Mary Mitchell says it so I don't have to.

2. Expecting insight about race from Neil Steinberg is like expecting insight about the Constitution from Dick Cheney.

3. Even Jonah Goldberg has bailed.

4. "Friday Classes Limit Student Drinking on Thursday," USA Today reports. Actually, if you read the story, it's the other way around: Thursday drinking limits Friday classes. And that's the way it should be.

5. At least young people have an excuse. They're still in school - and only four days a week. What's the adults' excuse?

6. Obedience must be absolute.

7. When Sun-Times editor-in-chief Michael Cooke says in a memo that went out on Wednesday that editorial page editor Steve Huntley "has brought honor to our newspaper,' does he mean the time he went along with the endorsement of Todd Stroger because publisher John Cruickshank made a business decision to try to win back black readers (and promised without any authority that the paper would assign extra reporters to cover Stroger), or did he mean the recurring times he got the facts wrong in the Valerie Plame affair even though his own columnist, Robert Novak, was centrally involved?

The memo announced that Huntley is leaving the job to become a senior columnist. I don't know if he was pushed aside. Perhaps it was a business decision.

Books editor Cheryl Reed, who has only been in that job for a year, will replace Huntley, who will stay on the editorial board.

8. Is Ald. Brendan Reilly moving toward a plan to save the Lake Shore Athletic Club and push for its re-use rather than destruction? That's the latest word on the street. And here's what Reilly tells architecture writer Lynn Becker:

"I think there has to be a very compelling case made to tear down historically significant buildings to replace them with new structures. I would say that Chicago has precious few historic buildings still standing today, and it's in the community's best interest to have a good mix of old and new. That's one reason why the Lake Shore Athletic Club issue in my ward is weighing very heavily in my mind and I've spent the last month meeting with local residents, and explore all potential options for that property. I'll be making an announcement by the end of this week . . . . I have asked Northwestern University to voluntarily extend the deadline for their request for a demolition permit for that property, and I'm waiting to hear back from them. (Reilly said he's looking to extend the demolition moratorium by some 60 days to fully vent this plan.')"

9. A question from The Huffington Post for the Democratic presidential candidates tonight: Why are you against a single-payer health care system?

"The first pillar of the system - private insurance - is an inherently flawed means of providing health care. First, the incentive of a private insurance company is to find ways to deny needed care - the less care provided for the same premiums, the higher the profits and the bigger the salaries and bonuses of their top executives. So private health insurance companies pay huge staffs to review claims and deny coverage. Michael Moore's Sicko shows horrifying examples of people who actually have health insurance coverage but suffer from lack of care because insurance companies wrongly denied their claim, and presents eloquent testimony from former insurance company employees about how they were promoted and award bonuses for finding ways to reject coverage.

"Second, private health insurance involves a colossal waste of money. Nearly 1/3 of private health insurance premiums go to administrative costs of underwriting (i.e. turning down insurance applications from consumers who might actually need to use their insurance), claims processing (i.e. denying as many claims as possible), marketing and advertising, plus shareholder profits and multi-million dollar executive salaries and bonuses. By contrast, Medicare's administrative run approximately 2-3% of costs. At the same time, to deal with numerous different insurance companies and their varying claims procedures, doctors and hospitals have to employ large staffs, not to provide care, but just to process insurance claims. Approximately 20% of doctor's income goes to the overhead of processing insurance. It has been estimated that approximately $350 billion a year of health care dollars goes to administrative costs. Saving most of these costs alone could pay to insure the tens of millions of uninsured Americans in a Medicare-For-All system.

"Moreover, the second pillar of the system - employer-provided health insurance - is collapsing. No less a businessman than the chairman of Ford Motor Company stated that employee health costs are 'the biggest issue on our plate that we can't solve. Health care is out of control. It's a system that's broke.'"

I don't know if single-payer is the way to go, but it seems to me conservative business interests and liberal policy wonks should agree that employer-based health care ought to be jettisoned - it's bringing everyone down. A private-based for-profit system is only workable if competition actually breeds better service and lower costs. And a government-based (or at least mandated) system is the only one that can guarantee universal coverage. At least that's what it seems like to me.

10. "If Cook County were a business, the board would be taking steps to remove [Todd] Stroger from office," Bob Reed writes. "In reality, we know that's not going to happen. In fact, there's real doubts that a legal mechanism even exists within Cook County government bylaws to impeach or remove a board president.

11. "Oprah to Open Store."

* Self-Esteem: $49.95 (one week's supply).
* Nostrums: $5.95 each.
* Old-time religion: $20 per visit.
* Snake oil tall/grande: $12.99/$14.99.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Now at a discount.

Posted by Lou at 08:40 AM | Permalink

What I Watched Last Night

The most well-known recent season of MTV's seminal reality show, The Real World, was the season in Las Vegas that made the off-Strip Palms Casino & Resort famous. It was the season the series officially and unapologetically became sponsor to in-your-face spoiled whiny youth indulgence of booze and sex by a cast of boneheads with the exact lack of maturity to gracefully handle the magic but perilous gifts of vice that we have been endowed with by our Creator. Pity.

That was the season, too, that some might say The Real World jumped the shark, though rode the shark might be a more apt phrase. How unlikely, though, that the cast member to emerge with a semblance of celebrity career ahead of her was Trishelle Cannatella, the loose (and that's not a pejorative) airhead on-call to all horny boys camera range.

Er, how very likely in retrospect, I should say (though she wasn't the only cast member who went on to pose for Playboy), now that we know just how ready the church-schooled girl from Cut-Off, La., really was to break out.

That season was so memorable - so much more than, say, last season, which was, where, in Anchorage or something? - that MTV brought the cast back to the Palms for an encore and is now running Reunited: The Real World Las Vegas. And wouldn't'cha know, last night the housemates gathered to see Trishelle in her new film, Ninja Cheerleaders. Trishelle told her pals she didn't really know what the movie's plot was, but from the looks of the clips, she weren't bad!

The post-Real World life has obviously been good to Trishelle. Not so sure about the others. Former go-go dancer Brynn Smith, who had a threesome with Trishelle and hunkmate and condom-refuser Steven three days after they met for the original series, is married with two kids, who, um, she has brought along for the reunion show. Buzzkill, dude. Her marriage actually seems solid, though she is purportedly jealous of the wild, single life Trishelle still lives while Trishelle pretends to be jealous of Brynn's married life.

The promo for the next episode also hints that Brynn isn't getting much action in her marriage, so the cast arranged for her and her husband to spend a romantic night in the Palms' Playboy Suite, designed specifically for Hugh Hefner and even more obnoxiously decadent than the Real World Suite. Don't these people know that nealry 50 million Americans don't have health insurance and that a dollar a day can save hungry children the world over?

Meanwhile, Frank Roessler continues to be the most annoying amiable dunce reality television has produced, complaining last night about his tendency to sleep with ugly chicks while dating - but apparently not sleeping with - pretty ones.

After the cast acts as his pimping agency and lines him up with three dating options, he complains that "they are so not hot."

I've got news for you, Frank: neither are you. You are soft, clueless, naive, and obviously still secretly and massively in love with Trishelle. But the best you can hope for - and this is shooting for the top of your range - is to be Steven's wingman.

Steven Hill, a pretty boy without a brain, and so a perfect fit for Trishelle, is trying to cover up his hair loss with a close crop up top. I wonder if he regrets now letting Trishelle get away. They seemed made for each other, but he wanted to play the field. Now he's the one whose been played, though his dumb bright smile and dopey dumb-guy charm will get him through life just fine. He'll never really know the difference - about anything.

Meanwhile, Irulan Wilson and Arissa Hill have made up after a falling out. Though she has a new boyfriend, Irulan is still not over castmate Alton Williams, whom she dated for three years after dumping her boyfriend back home. Alton is an uncomfortable and odd duck, but not charmingly so. Irulan and Arissa are case studies in emotionally troubled but not entirely stupid women making bad choices though not the most possible worst choices. Just choices enough to keep the drama going.

Up until Vegas, I had seen every episode of every Real World. While the original season in New York didn't really click for me, Los Angeles and San Francisco were the top of the form, even if the show was never as real as purported.

At first I thought the tipping point was Miami, which was pretty much an over-the-top drunken mess, except for the comic book editor skateboarder Cubs fan Sarah chick, who inspired a secret fan club - of which I was one - who lusted and swooned after her, though she was depicted on the show as the unattractive one. So not. (But even she's taken a bad turn.)

We then trudged through, oh , I don't know, some European settings and at some point Denver, and of course the show rampaged thorugh Chicago and Seattle as ham-handedly as possible. Who could forget Stephen's slap of that crazy curly-haired chick?

(He, too, now has a record.)

The Real World, though, is a classic form of TV that we watch despite breaking the informal rule that characters be likable. From my particular corner of the world - not the most populated one, I know - we watch Real World and loathe these people, trying to discern the psychology behind their behavior, and yet, to watch the soap opera unfold as voyeurs unto lives that are different from ours, but perhaps only because they are on TV. And because they seem to have unlimited wardrobe budgets, horrible taste, and no intellectual interests whatsoever.

The Real World is also a sly take, purposefully or not, on the TV form, be it sitcom, soap opera, or drama, and now, folding back on itself, the reality show. In a post-post, meta-meta world, Reunited ups the stakes again, even as the content draws down dangerously to near-zero.

At some point, the physics of a black hole will kick in and no light will escape. A season following The Real World Crew will ensue, and then a special look back at the Reunited Shows, and then The Real World Crew Reunited, and then the season in which the lives of Real World fans picked to live together in a house to watch the show will be chronicled. And don't even get me started about The Real World/Road Rules Challenge.

*

The What I Watched Last Night library is free for your perusal.

Posted by Lou at 06:07 AM | Permalink

When the Press Fails: Part 3

Today we conclude our three-part excerpt from the opening chapter of When the Press Fails: Political Power and the News Media from Iraq to Katrina, by W. Lance Bennett, Regina G. Lawrence, and Steven Livingston, graciously provided to us by the University of Chicago Press and also available in one fell swoop on their website. Catch up here with Parts 1 and 2.

*

WMDs and the Al Qaeda Connection

Perhaps the central example that illustrates the press's having limited capacity to challenge potentially questionable, but dominant, official accounts involves the allegation of links between the international terrorist organization Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, and between Saddam and 9/11. Those claims, like the charges that Saddam possessed WMDs, were asserted repeatedly by high administration officials including President Bush and Vice President Cheney, but little solid evidence was ever presented. To the contrary, there was ample evidence that Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had condemned Saddam's government as a secular threat to Islamic fundamentalism, and that Saddam feared an Islamic threat to his rule. Indeed, after Saddam's capture, documents were found in his possession ordering Iraqi resistance fighters to refuse to cooperate with any Islamic fundamentalists who entered Iraq, suggesting that Al Qaeda, while sharing an antagonism toward the United States, was also seen as a threat to stir Islamic revolution in Iraq.

Despite the available challenges to this core rationale for the war promoted by the Bush administration, the durability of the Saddam-Al Qaeda connection in public opinion polls continued years into the conflict. Just the right dose of reinforcements from high administration sources continued to receive publicity from news organizations that were curiously ill equipped to balance the spurious claims. Indeed, the underlying ethos of "we report (what officials say), you decide (if it is true)" results in the odd problem of balancing erroneous claims. It might make sense to worry more about whether such claims should be reported so decorously at all. In any event, a poll conducted in July 2006, more than three years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, found that 64% of Americans still believed that Saddam Hussein's regime had strong ties with Al Qaeda - even though volumes of contrary information circulated just beyond, and sometimes even found its way into, the mainstream press.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: "Poll: More Than 4 in 10 Americans Still Believe Saddam Involved with 9/11," June 25.]

There was similarly little evidence presented to support the alleged existence of WMDs - particularly nuclear weapons capacity - that was offered as the imminent threat to U.S. national security that justified the war. The slim evidence put forward by government officials was overplayed in the news, as indicated in the published apologies of both the Times and the Post. Weaknesses in the accounts and challenges to claimed evidence were either buried deep in the newspapers' inside pages or not examined much at all. Here is how the Times' editorial apology to its readers assessed the paper's reporting on an intelligence finding about the aluminum tubes alleged to be part of Saddam's hidden operation to manufacture nuclear materials:

On Sept. 8, 2002, the lead article of the paper was headlined "U.S. Says Hussein Intensified Quest for A-Bomb Parts." That report concerned the aluminum tubes that the administration advertised insistently as components for the manufacture of nuclear weapons fuel. The claim came not from defectors but from the best American intelligence sources available at the time. Still, it should have been presented more cautiously. There were hints that the usefulness of the tubes in making nuclear fuel was not a sure thing, but the hints were buried deep, 1,700 words into a 3,600-word article. Administration officials were allowed to hold forth at length on why this evidence of Iraq's nuclear intentions demanded that Saddam Hussein be dislodged from power: "The first sign of a 'smoking gun,'" they argue, "may be a mushroom cloud."

Five days later, the Times reporters learned that the tubes were in fact a subject of debate among intelligence agencies. The misgivings appeared deep in an article on Page A13, under a headline that gave no inkling that we were revising our earlier view ("White House Lists Iraq Steps to Build Banned Weapons"). The Times gave voice to skeptics of the tubes on Jan. 9, when the key piece of evidence was challenged by the International Atomic Energy Agency. That challenge was reported on Page A10; it might well have belonged on Page A1.

Other evidence being pushed by the Bush administration to support its case for war was similarly disputed within government intelligence circles, but effective management of a compliant press kept the lid on the story. For example, intelligence analysts suspected that the document underlying the administration's charges that Saddam tried to purchase bomb-grade uranium in Africa was a fabrication. In fact, the Central Intelligence Agency asked that the claim be removed from a Bush speech during the fall 2002 campaign to raise support for the war. The CIA again pushed successfully for removing the charge from the U.S. ambassador's speech to the UN Security Council later in December. Yet the uranium charge reappeared at White House insistence in the president's 2003 State of the Union address that signaled the coming war. Months after it was discredited, the charge continued to be spread in news interviews and speeches by other administration officials, who simply attributed the claim to British intelligence reports that also proved to be groundless. The repetition of the dubious charge by nearly every top official in the coming weeks was part of the "strategic coordination" of the administration's message, as described by White House communications director Dan Bartlett.

When Joseph Wilson, a well-respected retired U.S. diplomat, was moved by the administration's inaccuracy to explain publicly in an editorial that the nuclear weapons charge had been discredited, the White House retaliated by leaking the identity of his wife, the now well-known Valerie Plame, who was working undercover for the CIA. This bit of hardball led to a special prosecutor investigation of the White House's breach of national security law, and ironically dragged journalists into the awkward position of protecting the very sources who had tried to use them to dissemble public information. As discussed further below, the close news-making ties between key administration figures and prominent reporters like Judith Miller, formerly of the New York Times, who wittingly or unwittingly helped the administration to damage Wilson and manage the news, are the all-important backstory that explains much of the front-page coverage of the lead-up to the war. We explore the Wilson-Plame incident as one of many examples of the administration's bare-knuckle news management tactics in chapter 5.

The Intelligence Fiasco

The press's now familiar inability to create better balance independently in its news stories occurred again after the invasion of Iraq, when reporting turned to the particulars of the intelligence that was presented as cause for the war. Once again, the issue is not whether another side to the Bush administration's story ever appeared in the news; it did. But once again, it came and went without leaving much of a trace on public opinion or gaining the prominence needed to provide a safe and inviting public context for other government opponents to speak out.

Perhaps the Iraq story that had the greatest potential effects on public comprehension and government debate was the issue of the faulty intelligence that led to the war. Was the intelligence failure a product of poorly organized and ill-qualified intelligence agencies, as the administration and many in Congress offered as their version of the story? Or was it more the case, as a lesser told version of the story had it, that the desire for war at the highest levels of the administration essentially forced intelligence agencies to certify and promote internally contested and knowingly weak intelligence? It is ironic that this important alternative version of the intelligence story - one with the potential to unravel many other claims by the administration - had such trouble gaining traction in the news despite a stream of former officials who came and went in the front pages, echoing similar versions of these stark challenges to the administration's preferred story.

Impressive as those sources were, they simply operated with a news deficit given their status as past officials who no longer had the mechanisms of office and power to advance their stories. Yet their stories were enormously important, and largely consistent with one another in corroborating firsthand knowledge that high-level administration officials may have pressured intelligence agencies for information to support a preordained war. These charges were lodged in various forms by former treasury secretary Paul O'Neill, former security adviser Richard Clarke, and first-term secretary of state Colin Powell's then chief of staff, Lawrence Wilkerson, among others, who simply could not compete with the administration's news-making capacity to beat them back.

Consider, for example, the news moment surrounding O'Neill, who claimed that discussions about overthrowing Saddam Hussein were held from the earliest cabinet meetings of the Bush administration, long before the attacks of 9/11. In the book The Price of Loyalty, O'Neill charged that 9/11 merely provided the pretext for a war that was already on the agendas of Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and the president, among others. According to O'Neill, who had been a trusted Bush political ally, the administration's belief was that regime change in Iraq would provide a model for democracy that would transform the rest of the region. The main question, he claimed, was how to justify going to war, and the president set a tone of "Fine. Go find me a way to do this." Both Bush and Rumsfeld issued strong denials after the book came out, and the White House retaliated by calling for an investigation of whether O'Neill had broken governmental secrecy laws in providing the author with official documents to back up his claims.

Such reports came and went in the news, with the stories taking on a "he said/they said" quality. In such stories, the advantage quickly tilted to administration officials with better news access and the inclination to challenge ferociously the patriotism and credibility of anyone who might question their preferred script. And so the charges that the administration had pressed for intelligence to support the war also came and went as sporadic news backdrop - sustained mainly as long as the sources were able to promote their books on cable and late-night television shows. Even Colin Powell's former chief of staff Lawrence Wilkerson received little news traction for his charge that the war was pushed through the administration by a "cabal" of Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney.

The parade of former Washington insiders - former government officials and lower-level officials such as agency technicians and bureaucrats - pointing out the spurious origins of the war in Iraq came and went, with most of them quickly dropping from the news. Even though, as long-time government insiders, they enjoyed considerable credibility among journalists, as mere former officials they lacked the daily story-advancing mechanisms attached to their former offices and institutional processes to keep their side of the story in the news through the daily update mechanisms of press briefings, hearings, official trips, investigations, court cases, legislative debates, and other government news levers. As we explain further in chapter 5, some of these critics had somewhat greater success in sustaining media attention than others, depending in large part on their own public relations resources and their personal vulnerability to intimidation by the administration.

What about those potential storytellers who did have access to the institutional mechanisms that drive stories - members of Congress in particular? They were effectively held hostage to their earlier acceptance of the administration spin that filled the public sphere. Since the climate of press debate about the grounds for war was so stifling that most Democrats ended up voting for the U.S. invasion of Iraq and publicly accepting the dubious intelligence as grounds for military action (which, of course, further stifled news coverage), there was little room for them to stake out a subsequent antiwar position when the early rationale proved unfounded. Cries of deception were quickly deflected by administration officials who said that the Democrats had seen the same intelligence reports that the administration saw, and that everyone then believed that Iraq presented an imminent security threat. Latter-day critics, the administration charged, were exercising convenient hindsight.

All of this may seem strange to an outsider who, when presented with the facts, might simply reason that since intelligence may have been cooked to pave the way for an unwarranted war, the opposition would have reason to cry foul, and to use this as a key issue in upcoming election campaigns. Yet the capacity of the Bush administration to promote its news story of intelligence failure and reform over considerable evidence to the contrary made it difficult for the Democrats to formulate and publicize possible objections, particularly when confronted with equally blaring news featuring the administration's charges of waffling and lack of patriotism among the opposition. Once again, the absence of an institutional power platform from which to press their case left the Democrats in a defensive position of denying the administration's smear charges, at least as the press chose to construct the story.

So ingrained is this press calibration of the relative power and status of the available sources when constructing balance, plot, and viewpoint in news stories that even the revelation of "smoking gun" type evidence about the administration's intelligence fixing was similarly marginalized. On April 30, 2005, the Times of London published minutes of a secret meeting between Tony Blair, the British prime minister, and top British military and intelligence officials. The minutes showed that a core topic was constructing a legal cover for going to war in light of documents from a high British intelligence official who had attended prewar meetings in Washington, at which time it was made clear that 9/11 was being used as a pretext for removing Saddam Hussein from power. As his report put it, the "facts were being fixed around the policy."

Yet when the so-called Downing Street Memo was disclosed soon thereafter in the United States, it was largely treated either as old news or as a British politics story (an election problem for Blair). Even the huge surge of blogging activity aimed at getting the mainstream media to take up the story was largely ineffective. One of our sources interviewed revealed that the pesky bloggers squeezed only one grudging front-page story out of the Washington Post.

The importance of power calculations in the making of a political news story was further evidenced by how the Washington Post constructed the attempt of Representative John Conyers (D-MI) to publicize the implications of the memo by holding a House informational hearing. That hearing was held in the political context of Republican dominance of the House, and the continuing muddle among Democrats about making an election issue out of being deceived on the war. Given this context, the hearing was unlikely to result either in a shift in Democratic position or in any direct political repercussions for the Bush administration. The degree to which these power considerations by the press trumped (indeed defined) the implications of the document is shown in a telling story by Washington Post reporter-analyst Dana Milbank which began with the headline "Democrats Play House to Rally against the War." The lead sentence was even more revealing about the power calculus underlying news construction: "In the Capitol basement yesterday, long suffering House Democrats took a trip to the land of make-believe."

For some news organizations, the lack of coverage became a larger story than the story itself, suggesting that many journalists knew they were looking at something important, but simply could not imagine how to fashion a big sustainable story out of it. And so they blinked. In an NPR commentary, Daniel Schorr called it the biggest "under-covered story of the year."

*

Copyright notice: Excerpt from pages 13-28 of When the Press Fails: Political Power and the News Media from Iraq to Katrina by W. Lance Bennett, Regina G. Lawrence, and Steven Livingston, published by the University of Chicago Press. ©2007 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that this entire notice, including copyright information, is carried and provided that the University of Chicago Press is notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the consent of the University of Chicago Press. (Footnotes and other references included in the book may have been removed from this online version of the text.)

Posted by Lou at 05:31 AM | Permalink

June 27, 2007

The [Wednesday] Papers

"Young Americans are more likely than the general public to favor a government-run universal health care insurance system, an open-door policy on immigration and the legalization of gay marriage, according to a New York Times/CBS News/MTV poll," the Times reports this morning. "The poll also found that they are more likely to say the war in Iraq is heading to a successful conclusion."

Those wacky kids. They had me going there for a second.

Gov. Baloneyvich
"So in the latest effort to attempt to work with Democratic House members, the Governor's office was behind an anonymous flier that was distributed to attendees at yesterday's Pride Parade," state Rep. John Fritchey (D-Chicago) writes on his blog (via Illinoize).

"But it does so in such a clumsy way that it is almost laughable. Almost. . . .

"The frosting on the cake is that the Governor's office, directly and through another legislator, denied having any knowledge of the flier. Without wanting to put anybody in a bind, let me just say this. They're lying."

Pride Paucity
A reader writes: "You were right to call out the metros on downplaying the news of Rod Beck's death. I was hoping you'd do the same about their abysmal coverage of the Pride parade. A crowd estimated at 450,000 (by the city, not the organizers) gathers in the heart of town and it gets one story on Page 8 in the Sun-Times and B3 in the Trib.

"Meanwhile, the Trib goes main on A1 with a soccer game that drew a fraction of the Pride crowd? And they couldn't even squeeze the parade on their Metro front?

"Then there's the Sun-Times, which devotes two pages a day to that sports notes package whose main reason for being is to run pictures of scantily clad women (all the while their columnists rail on pro athletes like the Bears' Greg Olsen, who recorded a misogynistic rap a few years ago; but that's a topic for another rant). The S-T is obviously a lot more interested in catering to horndog straight guys than the city's large gay community. That doesn't surprise me, but the limited Pride coverage does disappoint me. I guess that's why there's such a thriving gay press here - because the mainstream media pretty much ignores the community."

Beltway Brains
As those of us living in Illinois know, this is just pure ignorance.

Emergency Broadcast
"Radio listeners across Illinois got some unexpected - and unexplained - interruptions Tuesday morning. The Federal Communications Commission was investigating the series of glitches that broadcast stations said included periodic interruptions of programming by the Emergency Alert System's tone, sometimes lasting three or four minutes at a time," the AP reports.

"Others said their signals were scrambled and that other stations were being broadcast on their frequencies."

As a service to our readers, here's a summary of what you missed.

WXRT: A Talking Heads song.
WLUP: An AC/DC double-shot (Two for Tuesday).
WLS: Rush Limbaugh smearing Mexicans.
WBBM: Someone reading newspaper headlines on the air.
WSCR: Mike North smearing Mexicans.
WVON: Al Sharpton smearing Mormons.
WBEZ: The most boring report on immigration ever.
WNUR: They don't know, they're really hungover.
WLIT: Norah Jones still doesn't know why she didn't come.
WDRV: Joe Cocker is still feelin' alright.
WGN: Kathy & Judy sharing girl talk.
WMVP - Mike and Mike apologizing for Barry Bonds.

Comcastic
Comcast SportsNet says it made a mistake when it didn't cut away (second item) the other night as Brent Kowalkoski of Elmwood Park jumped onto the field at Wrigley and charged pitcher Bob Howry. To the contrary. The policy of not showing idiots who run onto the field is what's wrong. It's news, we deserve to see it, the evidence for copycats is weak to nonexistent, and if that was the standard we wouldn't have TV at all.

Now what we're waiting for is an interview with this guy and/or his friends to find out just what he was thinking.

Fighting for Democracy
"The young combat veteran stared at the letter in disbelief when it arrived in his mailbox a few months ago."

Freedom to Leverage Information
"Wilton Partners and the tollway have been in extended discussions over how to deal with the firm's lack of payments to the tollway, construction disputes and angry oases tenants who say Wilton charges them too much for their leases," the Tribune reported on Sunday.

"Despite its hard line with tenants, Wilton has not made its monthly rental payment to the tollway agency since June 1, 2006. But the tollway got some of the money it was owed after the Tribune asked the agency about rental payments in February.

"Joelle McGinnis, spokeswoman for the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority, said the newspaper's Freedom of Information Act request was used as leverage to push Wilton into converting $400,000 of its construction security deposit to cover back rent so the firm would 'look better' to the public. . . .

"Wilton officials did nto return calls seeking comment. The oases raise questions about the viability of what the state has billed an 'innovative public-private partnership.'"

Chief Beef
The mayor lays the groundwork (third item).

Sam's Club
"The Cubs were to eat $6.6 million of the final $7.2 million on [Jacque] Jones' contract. But the Sun-Sentinel reported that with the deal all done, prospective Tribune Co. owner Sam Zell nixed it because of the money the Cubs would lose," Greg Couch notes.

vs.

"But Hendry said, 'What happened today really had nothing to do with his remaining contract."

Save Internet Radio
Our very own Don Jacobson tells you how and why.

Image Enablers
"The fascinating aspect of such recurrent reporting patterns is that the news itself is the completing link in the image creation process. Reporting stories according to a calculus of government power and dramatic production values often makes the news reality emanating from Washington an insular, circular, and self-fulfilling operation. News and politics loop quickly back on each other because of the press's preoccupation with how well powerful officials manage their desired images in the news."

- From today's excerpt of When the Press Fails

Silver Tide
Every time I see an article or advertisement for the new Silver Surfer movie I think of this dialogue from Crimson Tide:

Lt. Commander Ron Hunter: Rivetti, what's up?

Petty Officer First Class Danny Rivetti: I'm sorry, Sir. It's just a difference of opinion that got out of hand.

Hunter: What about?

Rivetti: It's really too silly to talk about, Sir. I'd really just forget about . . .

Hunter: I don't give a damn about what you'd rather forget about. Why were you two fighting?

Rivetti: I said, the Kirby Silver Surfer was the only real Silver Surfer. And that the Moebius Silver Surfer was shit. And Bennefield's a big Moebius fan. And it got of hand. I pushed him. He pushed me. I lost my head, Sir. I'm Sorry.

Hunter: Rivetti, you're a supervisor. You can get a commission like that. [Snaps finger]

Rivetti: I know, Sir. You're 100 percent right. It will never happen again.

Hunter: It better not happen again. If I see this kind of nonsense again, I'm going to write you up. You understand?

Rivetti: [No answer]

Hunter: Do you understand?

Rivetti: Yes, Sir.

Hunter: You have to set an example even in the face of stupidity. Everybody who reads comic books knows that the Kirby Silver Surfer is the only true Silver Surfer. Now am I right or wrong?

Rivetti: You're right, Sir.

Hunter: Now get out of here.

Rivetti: Yes, Sir.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Foxtrot Hotel Yankee.

Posted by Lou at 06:54 AM | Permalink

When the Press Fails: Part 2

This week we are providing a three-part excerpt from the opening chapter of When the Press Fails: Political Power and the News Media from Iraq to Katrina, by W. Lance Bennett, Regina G. Lawrence, and Steven Livingston, graciously provided to us by the University of Chicago Press and also available in full on their website. Part 1 of our series is here. Part 2 follows.

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Mission Accomplished

Consider for a moment that day in May of 2003, when President Bush, wearing a Top Gun flight suit, gave his "Mission Accomplished" speech on an aircraft carrier staged as a big-screen movie set. Nearly every major U. S. news organization reported the story just as it had been scripted. The result was the sort of public relations coup that occurs only when the news can be managed on such a scale. (We believe that the idea originated with a public relations consultant, and was then staged with the considerable resources of the White House communication office and the U.S. military.)

Beyond the irony of a president with a dubious military service record playing Top Gun, the message channeled through the news turned out to be disastrously wrong. But such details were no match for the Hollywood moments that the administration regularly rolled out with the help of Hollywood set directors and Washington PR firms. The news had become something of a reality TV program, replete with dramatic stories from top organizations such as the Washington Post, which published the following:

When the Viking carrying Bush made its tailhook landing on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln off California yesterday, the scene brought presidential imagery to a whole new level. Bush emerged from the cockpit in a full olive flight suit and combat boots, his helmet tucked jauntily under his left arm. As he exchanged salutes with the sailors, his ejection harness, hugging him tightly between the legs, gave him the bowlegged swagger of a top gun.

The fact that all of this was known to have been staged just for this effect did not detract from the amount and prominence of news coverage the media lavished on the event. To the contrary, the orchestration of the event fit perfectly with the unwritten rules of mainstream journalism in the United States, and thus helped make the coverage what it was: dramatic, unchallenged, triumphant, and resonant throughout the media. Beyond this staging, the implicit journalistic preoccupation with political power in Washington shaped the plotline of Mr. Bush's Top Gun episode. As a result, most of the coverage of the "mission accomplished" moment was not about whether the war was really over (it wasn't), or even if there was reason to think that things in Iraq were going particularly well (they weren't). The story was about power in Washington, and in particular, Mr. Bush's mastery of the imagery of success - which, at that moment, seemed to make him the odds-on favorite in the 2004 election.

The fascinating aspect of such recurrent reporting patterns is that the news itself is the completing link in the image creation process. Reporting stories according to a calculus of government power and dramatic production values often makes the news reality emanating from Washington an insular, circular, and self-fulfilling operation. News and politics loop quickly back on each other because of the press's preoccupation with how well powerful officials manage their desired images in the news. Thus, in early Iraq coverage, potentially important contextual details such as the dubious reasons and evidence given in support of the war became incidental to the fascination with whether the Bush administration had the image-shaping capacity and the political clout to pull it off.

The Selling of the Iraq War

Consider, along these lines, another important aspect of the lead-up to the Iraq invasion. Much as the Hollywood staging of the carrier landing made for a great news event, the campaign to sell the war was designed to help the press make the administration's story far sharper and more dramatic than the evidence on which it was based. More than a year after a seemingly manufactured case for war had been presented to the public, Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) attempted to redefine the political debate by making a speech with this bold claim: "The administration capitalized on the fear created by 9/11 and put a spin on the intelligence and a spin on the truth to justify a war that could well be one of the worst blunders in more than two centuries of American foreign policy."

He charged that the war was marketed like a "political product" to help elect Republicans, and that "if Congress and the American People knew the whole truth, America would never have gone to war." Kennedy was quickly dismissed by the Republican rapid-response network as a traitorous liberal throwback. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) said that "[Kennedy's] hateful attack against the commander in chief would be disgusting if it were not so sad," adding that Kennedy had "insulted the president's patriotism." The story was immediately reduced to the Washington news formula of "he said/he said," and the larger issue about selling the war based on false advertising was lost in a story about partisan sniping.

Even without the vociferous Republican counterattack, Kennedy was not likely to be a decisive player in mobilizing congressional opposition to the war, and thus did not constitute a news source with enough power to sustain another side to the story.

Equally important, Senator Kennedy's assertion that the Bush administration had marketed the war as a partisan political product came as no news to journalists and other political insiders. A good piece of investigative reporting (characteristically not followed up by the Post or other news organizations) had already been produced six months before, establishing independent evidence for Kennedy's charges. Two journalists for the Washington Post described a systematic media campaign that had begun in August 2002 with the formation of the White House Iraq Group (WHIG), aimed at rolling out a communication strategy for the coming war. WHIG's "strategic communications" task force planned publicity and news events for a campaign that would start in September, after most Americans (and Congress) had returned from their summer vacations. The Post story quoted White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, from an interview that had appeared in The New York Times nearly a year earlier, on why the campaign had been launched in September: "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August." This strong signal that the war was being promoted via a concerted communication campaign was in the news fully one and a half years before Kennedy's assertion.

The important question is, why didn't this journalistic "common knowledge" about the selling of the war become big news at the time it was first reported, when there was still time to debate the U.S. invasion of Iraq in public? To the contrary, when it was launched in September 2002, the administration's sales campaign was quickly translated into the news code of the mainstream press and told as a story about how power works in Washington. The fact that the administration was selling the war as a political campaign was noted for the record and then, like much of the its image management operation, passed on to the American public according to plan: prominently featured throughout the news, and unimpeded by serious journalistic investigation of either the sales operation or its veracity. As independent journalist Michael Massing later observed, "Most investigative energy was directed at stories that supported, rather than challenged, the administration's case." The result is that the public was saturated with the sales pitch, which was delivered loud and clear throughout the news media.

The nation's talk shows on the weekend after Labor Day 2002 were filled with Bush administration officials staying on message and reading from a script that pumped fear through the media echo chamber. On NBC's Meet the Press, Vice President Cheney raised the specter that Saddam's arsenal of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons presented an immediate danger to the United States. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acknowledged on CNN's Late Edition that solid evidence was scarce, but that waiting only increased the risk. Her punch line: "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud." And Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warned on CBS's Face the Nation: "Imagine a September 11 with weapons of mass destruction. It's not 3,000, it's tens of thousands of innocent men, women, and children."

In short, a war being promoted through a sales campaign was not the story the news highlighted. The focus of the story was on power - the effectiveness of the campaign in pressuring Congress (and the United Nations) to support the war initiative - not the truth or the propriety of the effort. Here is The New York Times' account of the opening weekend of the campaign:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 8 - Led by Vice President Dick Cheney, who warned grimly that "time is not on our side," President Bush's top national security officials said nearly in unison today that Saddam Hussein's efforts to build an arsenal of immensely destructive weapons left the United States little choice but to act against Iraq.

"There shouldn't be any doubt in anybody's mind that this president is absolutely bound and determined to deal with this threat, and to do whatever is necessary to make certain that we do so," Mr. Cheney said. He said that Iraq was sparing no effort to revive its nuclear weapon program and that in light of the terror attacks of last Sept. 11, its history with nuclear, biological and chemical weapons programs directly threatened the United States.

In almost identical language that signaled a carefully coordinated campaign to move Congress and the United Nations in their direction, Mr. Bush's other top national security officials said on television news programs today that the president would seek support from Congress and the United Nations for action, including a possible military strike. . . .

It was Mr. Cheney, in a nearly hour-long interview on Meet the Press, who outlined the darkest picture of Iraq's potential threat, not only of Mr. Hussein's efforts to acquire nuclear weapons but of his possible connections to Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

Mr. Cheney cited what he called a credible but unconfirmed intelligence report that Mohamed Atta, one of the Sept. 11 hijackers, had met at least once in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official a few months before the attacks.

Of Mr. Hussein's efforts to develop nuclear weapons, Mr. Cheney said, "All of the experience we have points in the direction that, in the past, we've underestimated the extent of his program." He added that he hoped more intelligence about such efforts could soon be made public, without compromising sources, to help persuade allies, Congress and the public of the need for action.

"One of the real concerns about Saddam Hussein, as well," he said, "is his biological weapons capability, the fact that he may at some point try to use smallpox, anthrax, plague, some other kind of biological agent against other nations, possibly including even the United States. So this is not just a one-dimensional threat."

These allegations were sufficiently vague and unsupported to warrant serious questioning, yet they passed through their talk-show conduits into mainstream news reports largely as scripted. Why? For starters, the story was being told by the vice president of the United States himself - the kind of source to which journalists typically show deference in matters of national security. It also helped that this was the most dramatic story of the new millennium. More important, as noted above, the implicit journalistic logic of following the trail of government power drove the media's own storytelling: the Bush administration was on a course to war, and the issue in the news was not whether the grounds for war were reasonable or honestly presented, but whether they would be opposed and thus derailed by Congress. The eventual failure to win support from the UN was insufficient to introduce serious challenges into the story, because the UN did not have, or was not perceived to have, the power to stop the administration from attacking Iraq.

As it turned out, there was no decisive domestic political opposition sufficient to block the path to war. There was, of course, significant opposition among European publics, but, like the UN resistance, those opponents lacked the perceived power to derail the administration's war plans. The underreporting of numerous possible challenges to the war campaign effort boiled down to the simple fact that the administration's claims were largely unopposed by the kinds of powerful officials or decisive institutional actors (the opposition party or key administration defectors) who might have rated another side in the news as it is constructed in the United States.

Journalists, of course, may point to a scattering of investigative reports as evidence that they entered independent concerns into the public record. While this may be strictly true, it does not address the larger issue of why the stories that attempt to hold officials accountable for gaps and outright deceptions often get such small play compared to the stories containing the gaps and deceptions. Unless the press reports sustained challenges to inadequate or deceptive government actions, several important democratic dynamics are unlikely to occur: (1) public opinion will not become meaningfully engaged in deliberation about important competing political considerations; (2) knowledgeable insiders may be reluctant to be whistleblowers absent the protective context of ongoing critical coverage; and (3) ill-considered policies formed and defended by "groupthink" operating inside the circles of power are unlikely to receive critical reexamination. As a result, key claims in the Bush administration's sales campaign were repeated in the news time and again, with notable effects on public opinion, despite little supporting evidence.

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Coming Thursday: WMDs, Al Qaeda, and the Downing Street Memo: The intelligence failure of the press.


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Copyright notice: Excerpt from pages 13-28 of When the Press Fails: Political Power and the News Media from Iraq to Katrina by W. Lance Bennett, Regina G. Lawrence, and Steven Livingston, published by the University of Chicago Press. ©2007 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that this entire notice, including copyright information, is carried and provided that the University of Chicago Press is notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the consent of the University of Chicago Press. (Footnotes and other references included in the book may have been removed from this online version of the text.)

Posted by Lou at 05:22 AM | Permalink

Save Internet Radio

Anybody who knows me can tell you I'm nothing if not an obsessive-compulsive radio freak. I love the radio and I love the rock 'n' roll, always have. I suffered mightily in my younger days when the suits took over the airwaves and shrunk the playlists to the point where you could inscribe them on the head of a pin. It hurt me so much, well, you'd have wept if you would have seen it. It was that bad. Now they're going to do it me (and you) again: The suits are getting ready to do to Internet radio what they did to regular radio decades ago - kill it dead. If you like the wonderfully diverse playlists of the kind of Internet radio shows listed on our handy (and somewhat dandy) Beachwood 24/7 Alt Country Internet Radio Guide, you'll keep reading and perhaps you can help me stop them.

What I've done is written to my Congresswoman to ask her to support legislation that's meant to counter a horrible decision made by an obscure panel of federal judges called the Copyright Royalty Board. They ruled that webcasters - from Internet-only outfits like Live365.com to terrestrial community broadcasting stations that stream their eclectic playlists onto the Web - will have to pay a much higher royalty rate to record companies for the right to webcast their artists.

Strangely enough, the new rate is exactly what the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) asked for. Instead of keeping the current system that treats webcasters the same as terrestrial radio, where they pay a manageable percentage of their total revenues to the industry, webcasters are now being singled out for what amounts to a death sentence. The Royalty Board granted RIAA's request to charge them per song, per listener, something totally new, which will result in webcasters' fees skyrocketing by between 300 and 1,200 percent! Many, many of them say it will be the end of their labors of musical love, which the vast majority of these "stations" are, dedicated as they are to nothing more than getting new music and new artists exposed in an ever-more stultifying terrestrial radio landscape.

old_radio.jpgHardly anybody is making any kind of real money on webcasting. But that's not what the RIAA and its grocery clerks, SoundExchange, believe. They see the growth of online advertising revenues in general and the sale of one or two ultra-successful websites as some kind of evidence that money is being made hand-over-fist, that music geeks with servers in their basements are greedily wringing their hands in anticipation over all the lucre they're going to rake in at the expense of poor struggling artists and the honest record companies that are just trying to make a modest living.

What crap. If online ad revenues are getting so great and will make up for the ruinous new fees, why hasn't there yet been a money-making online newspaper? This is the same kind of justification the government uses to allow big media monopolies - "Yes, Newspaper A and TV Station B can merge because there's so much new competition coming from the Internet." Yeah, from amateur bloggers who haven't figured out a way to make so much as a nickel online and who'll probably disappear as soon as Mom and Dad get back. The same is true for 99 percent of webcasters: They're amateurs who are doing it for the love of music, just as online journalists are doing it to "seek truth" in a world where that worthy goal has largely been abandoned by the media's corporate owners.

As anyone who has followed the exploits of the RIAA knows, its forte is heavy-handed enforcement tactics, especially when it comes to illegal downloading of MP3 music files. They like to bust into dorm rooms and harass Joe College as he uses the university's computer to distribute pirated music. And when it comes to outright theft like that, to my way of thinking, it might be OK to bust a few heads. I do believe that kind of thing can lead to a serious cut in payments to artists both big and small. Because of abuses like that, the industry is panicking over anything having to do with music and the Internet. Record sales are declining, and that has to be the reason, right?

But taking a similar scorched earth policy to Internet radio as well is just asinine and will only result in years of ill will and - this is the important thing - a lost chance for the record industry to actually use the Internet to help its own self by allowing thousands of small webcasters to pick up the slack created when the media biggies decided they weren't interested in playing new and exciting music anymore. That's the real reason record sales are declining. Don't beat up on John Q. Webcaster - put the blame where it belongs - on Clear Channel and its cut-rate, alienating programming formula.

The RIAA can't see the difference between webcasting - which is radio like any other kind of radio - and file-sharing, which is much more problematic. No one is grabbing "perfect copies" of songs off Web streams. No one wants to, just like they didn't use cassettes to record their favorite AM Radio songs instead of buying them in the '70s. No one is going to bother. And in the meantime, the record industry is going to use a sledgehammer to kill a gnat that could represent one of the few hopes it has of finding some way to stop its horrible slide into irrelevance. But it will require some vision and a bit of power sharing, things that always seem to be in short supply in the music industry. If they can't see the light and continue to refuse to negotiate something that will allow webcasters to survive, and if they want to use an industry-compliant copyright board to ram through unfair decisions, we need to ask Congress for help to Save Internet Radio. This week's Day Of Silence by webcasters has helped to raise awareness.

Like I said at the top, I wrote my Congresswoman to support a bill that would reverse the copyright board's decision and eliminate a July 15 deadline for webcasters to not only start paying the sky-high new fees, but cough up millions more because it would be retroactive to Jan. 1. I hope you can write too, and that way, not only can I save the Twanglist, but I can also keep finding great new webcasters to place on it for years to come.

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Comments? Please provide a real name to be considered for publication.

Posted by Don at 12:38 AM | Permalink

June 26, 2007

The [Tuesday] Papers

You can now be punished for this.

And this.

And presumably this.

One more.

Mob Job
A curious thing happened at the Family Secrets mob trial on Monday and was noted by the Tribune, but without explanation.

"U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel, who is presiding over the landmark trial, limited [testimony by former FBI agent Jim] Wagner to talking about the Outfit in general terms without providing any details he might know about the defendants," the Tribune reports.

"That changed, however, when Lombardo's lawyer, Rick Halprin, made the strategic decision to question Wagner about his knowledge of a case involving labor racketeer Allen Dorfman and an attempt to bribe the late U.S. Sen. Howard Cannon of Nevada.

"Zagel then allowed prosecutors in a later round of questioning to ask who else had been convicted in the 1982 case.

"'It was Joseph Lombardo,' Wagner said."

Why in the world would Halprin open the door like that?

Moblogging
It occurs to me that if someone were live-blogging the trial, we would have gotten a fuller account - and maybe an explanation.

Defenseless
One way to assess the strength of the defense in any trial is to watch how closely and aggressively they attack the facts and underlying circumstances of the charges versus how desperately far afield they go to plant stray impressions that may sway a single, stupid juror.

In the Conrad Black trial, I think the defendants are guilty, but particularly due to the testimony of former Gov. Jim Thompson, there may be enough haze and gray to the prosecution to hang a jury on the facts.

The early-going in the Family Secrets trial, however, already bodes ill for the defendants - or at least for Lombardo.

Aside from the seeming error noted above (and if there is a strategy to it I haven't thought of, please enlighten me), Halprin made what seems like another bonehead move when it came to the jury seeing a rare photo of Lombardo with other reputed top mobsters at the Sicily Restaurant in Chicago, in a 1976 photo known to mob junkies as The Last Supper.

"Halprin noted that Lombardo was the only [attendee in the photo] wearing a suit," the Tribune reported. "The lawyer sought to portray his client as a non-violent businessman who is only associated with the mob, not a key member of the conspiracy."

The suit defense is not a winning one. Halprin could have said, "So what? The man can't have dinner with the folks he grew up with? Doesn't make him guilty of anything."

And the revelation to jurors that Lombardo was convicted in the Dorfman case puts him in a conspiracy. The combination made for a bad day for the defense.

Daley's Street Tax
William "Red" Wemette testified that he had to pay Lombardo a street tax to operate his porn shop in Old Town in the early 1970s.

Another way the mob's way of doing business isn't so different than government and the private sector.

Like a Movie
Our very own Rod Heath takes up the Outfit boys with a timely review of Casino in the latest installment of his Martin Scorsese retrospective.

Demolition Men
Dear Friends in Real Estate: Help us beautify the Gold Coast by destroying one of its most fabulous structures.

Minor Threat
The Chicago area is experiencing a boom in minor league baseball success, the Tribune reports.

We track the highlights at Minor League Report.

Double Dilling
Republican state Sen. Kirk Dillard has cut an ad for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. But Dillard is sort of, um, playing the field.

"Dillard said in an interview that he is officially backing the presidential bid of Sen. John McCain and told the McCain campaign he still intends to run as a convention-delegate candidate pledged to the Arizona senator in Illinois' Feb. 5 primary," the Tribune reports. "Dillard agreed to appear in Obama's ad more than a month ago as a favor to his former state Senate colleague.

"His praise for Obama, which he said stops short of an endorsement, runs counter to some things Dillard said when Obama was campaigning for the U.S. Senate in 2004," the Trib notes.

"'He's shown a tendency to work on non-philosophical issues, but has been nowhere near the middle of the road, despite how he is trying to portray himself now,' Dillard said then. 'Even though I have sponsored major legislation with Barack and I like him personally, clearly he is soft on crime and borderline socialist on health care.'

"These days, Dillard said he doesn't believe the 'soft-on-crime' tag is appropriate. Obama, he said, now represents the entire state and has to be 'more moderate,' rather than only reflecting the liberal Hyde Park area he represented in the state Senate."

Sicko
"After attending a screening on Wednesday night, Representative Bobby L. Rush, a Democrat from Chicago, promptly swore off contributions from the pharmaceutical industry," The New York Times reports.

Among the top industries giving to Rush, pharmaceuticals rank 17th. If only the movie was about lawyers and utilities.

Grandma Trib
Molly Redden of Oak Park writes to the Tribune: "Are you, the newspaper with the largest circulation in the Chicago area, home to an important forum reserved for important discussions, or are you my friend's grandmother?"

Public Address
R.L. Darcy of Wheaton writes (fourth item) to the Tribune: "If any baseball fan anywhere in North America can name five baseball broadcasters worse than Ron Santo, Ed Farmer, Darrin Jackson, Ken Harrelson and Chris Singleton, the folks at Guinness World Records would like to hear from them."

The Beachwood Tip Line: Set a record.


Posted by Lou at 08:56 AM | Permalink

The Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report: Offseason Special Edition

Drugs, guns, strip clubs, pit bulls, and DUIs - it must be the NFL off-season!

Mini-camp can't come soon enough for league officials hoping to drown out the bad news with feel-good stories about eccentric kickers and All-American quarterbacks who help old ladies across the street, but there's plenty more hijinks to be accomplished before training camp kicks in. Here's what we see in our Cristal ball.

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Player:Pacman Jones.
Alleged Vices: Strip Clubs Fights and Friends with Guns.
What's Next: Opens chain of strip clubs called "Strip, Scrap, and Strap." Puts all your lap dance, bar brawl and gunfight needs under one roof.

Player: Tank Johnson.
Alleged Vices: Night Clubs, Speeding, Guns, Pit Bulls, and The Slightest Degree of Impairment.
What's Next: Signs with Cops as the reccurring character "Guy Police Get to Berate for Being Exceedingly Stupid."

Player: Michael Vick.
Alleged Vices: Spread of Infectious Disease, Possession of Marijuana Concealing Vessel, Dog Fight Training.
What's Next: Ron Mexico's House of Weed and Bleed.

Player: Ricky Williams.
Alleged Vices: Marijuana, Growing a Ridiculously Large Beard.
What's Next: Isolates chemical that caused beard to grow and combines it with pot seeds. Packages mixture in Chia Pets boxes. Markets under "Chia Puff and Pass."

Player: Roughly 18 percent of the Cincinnati Bengals roster.
Alleged Vices: Everything except pimping.
What's Next: Familiarity with legal system results in founding of Bengal Law School.

Player: Richard Seigler.
Alleged Vice: Moonlighting as a Pimp.
What's Next: Replaces Fred Thompson in Law & Order.

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Familiar with the phrase "One rotten apple spoils the whole barrel"? For those involved in a team sport, this cannot be further from the truth. Those familiar with the Vikings know that once they rid themselves of a Randy Moss, three others gladly took the title of "Team A-Hole" and ran with it. I'm guessing the prevailing wisdom on Vikings was not "With Randy gone, we can finally concentrate on football", but rather "With Randy gone, we can finally concentrate on renting lake boats and party with naked women."

With the departure of Tank Johnson, conventional wisdom dictates that discipline will now rule the day in Lake Forest. I disagree. Now is the time for some other Bears to step up and shine. Here are the top candidates.

Tommie Harris: Last week Harris "joked" that he wanted Philadelphia Eagles QB Donovan McNabb to be the next Bears QB. Harris will next reiterate that he was joking after he knocks Rex out for the season with a vicious clothesline in mini-camp.

Rex Grossman: Gets tired of the question "You had a pretty good year and again, many believe you should not be the Bears starting QB. How do you respond?" and attempts to punch a reporter in the face. Misses easy target.

Devin Hester: After learning that he is the first player that was assigned with a "100 Speed Rating" in Madden '08, Hester stays at home and plays 13 year-olds on his X-Box 360.

Cedric Benson: After learning that Benson played centerfield for the Texas Longhorns, Jim Hendry signs him to play for Cubs. Benson pouts when he doesn't touch the ball enough.

Brian Urlacher: The Schuamburg Flyers plan to give away "Mini-Urlachers" on August 21. Interestingly, the American Tort Reform Association sponsors the event. When asked about the sponsor, Urlacher remarks, "When you are a 'baby daddy' as often as me, you need all the reform you can get."

Robbie Gould: After buying gold shoes to celebrate the nickname "Good as Gould", players remind Gould that he is only a kicker by giving him a Code Red. Gould overcompensates by buying pit bulls, moving into Tank Johnson's old home. and re-recording "I Wanna Be a Gangsta."

Lance Briggs: In a seemingly pleasant surprise, Lance Briggs claims "I need to be a man and honor this contract." Briggs remains a model citizen both on and off the field. The Bears, in large measure due to Briggs, post a 14-2 record. After their first round bye, the Bears host the Green Bay Packers and whip them. A Lance Briggs sack clinches a three-point win over the Saints in the NFC Championship Game. The Bears stun the Patriots in the Super Bowl, with Briggs emulating Willam "The Fridge" Perry and running the ball in for a touchdown.

Jerry Angelo awakens from his dream to find that Urlacher and Briggs have formed a linebackers union and are going out on strike. Angelo, too, recuts "I Wanna Be a Gangsta" and starts packing.

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Sugar in the Bears Off-Season Kool-Aid: 60 percent and rising with each Cubs and Sox stumble.

Recommended sugar in the Bears Off-Season Kool-Aid: 55% and falling with each training camp injury and arrest.

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Eric Emery is the Beachwood's resident football writer and author of The Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report and Over/Under.

Posted by Lou at 05:54 AM | Permalink

Open Letter

Can't we all just get along? You have to admit it's ironic when an exclusive, wealthy suburb passes a rule to exclude even many of its own wealthy citizens. I refer, of course, to the new Lake Forest beach protocol so interestingly reported in the Chicago Tribune by Susan Kuczka, which restricts about a quarter of the mile-long beach to adults only. Even the children of Lake Forest, it seems, are not good enough for Lake Forest.

Criticizing an exclusive, wealthy suburb such as yourself is sometimes not just shooting fish in a barrel, it's strapping a big pack of dynamite to the barrel and lighting the fuse. This is one of those times. Does that mean the rest of us, living in the real world, should delicately shade our eyes and look away? Nah.

I realize there are many nice, fair-minded individuals living in Lake Forest who are convinced of their own diversity and tolerance and are saying to themselves right now, "What about Kenilworth? Now they're rich and exclusive!" Yes, but so are you. No matter how many times you've mortgaged that mansion on Sheridan Road. No matter who you vote for. Even if you have a black friend. Even if you are black. (But we know how statistically unlikely that is.)

Look, no one in Lake Forest got forced out of the city due to the lack of affordable housing, the paucity of decent neighborhood schools or the insanity of the magnet school system. You've chosen to sequester yourself in an ultra-wealthy community where you will not run the risk of rubbing elbows with poor, or even middle-class, people. You've guaranteed that your tax dollars will not be used to support any more social services than absolutely necessary. There is a fee, however; those of us who can't afford the price of admission into your club get to make fun of you for it.

So back to the beach. Lake Forest beach patrons were quoted in the Tribune story saying that they go to the beach for peace, solitude, and to hear the waves - things which are apparently ruined by children. One said that if she's at the beach without her own kids, she sure doesn't want to see other people's kids.

Both points puzzle me. Let's start with the peace and solitude thing. I live across from Promontory Point at 55th Street, a lakefront area (including the 57th St. beach) which attracts not just people in the adjoining neighborhood, Hyde Park, but from all over the South Side. The South Side of Chicago is considerably more densely populated than Lake Forest.

Yet I would have no problem finding times and spots where I can be by myself at the water. I don't actually have the leisure to do so, but I know I could from surveying the area when I run. Consequently it's hard for me to believe that the Lake Forest beach, at all hours of the day, is as teeming as a Toyko subway.

In any case - and this brings us to the second point - I find one of the main attractions of the lakefront is the wide array of my fellow citizens enjoying the great outdoors. I've never sat on a rock and silently cursed the people nearby for flying kites, conducting outdoor religious ceremonies, holding festive family picnics, etc.

At the beach itself, the children are easily the most charming part of the experience, including those that do not belong to me. In fact, I enjoy other people's children all the more when mine are not there, in the same way I like seeing other people work when I am on vacation. I was relieved to see one Lake Forest resident quoted as saying she likes "to hear the voices of children on the beach." One hopes her view is not too controversial among you, her neighbors, and that you won't shun her or run her out of town.

Experts can yammer on and on about alleged historical and cultural reasons why some people don't like kids "these days," but the truth is, it's nothing new. There have always been, and always will be, adults who a) have no recollection of what brats their own children were, b) have no recollection of what brats they were themselves, or c) have no idea how unpleasant they are themselves, right now, without the excuse of childhood.

Child-aversion is timeless. I remember it was hard for me at first to reconcile the old people who hated kids with my own kindly grandparents, who would put up with anything. In a childish form of bigoted stereotyping, old people equaled grandparents equaled nice people. The oldest Baby Boomers - newly-minted senior citizens - may think they invented hating kids, but as usual, they are wrong. The Baby Boomers were in high school and college during my childhood, and I can assure them, there were some pretty cantankerous old coots at that time.

God, don't you remember the child-haters from your own past? On our block, we had mental topographical maps of which houses sheltered kid-friendly grown-ups and which houses harbored the mean ones. The mean people might as well have had sloppy swaths of animal blood marking off their front sidewalks in secret symbols. You didn't even stop your bike in front of those houses if you could help it.

Many of the mean people were childless, but not all. I remember one house where no one would play even in the front yard, because the mom was so nasty she banned her own kids from setting foot inside all day, except for lunch. The only difference between the mean grown-ups of my childhood and today is that our mean grown-ups lacked the money or clout to ban us from certain stretches of sidewalk. All they could do was put up fences and plant thorny bushes. Which they did.

I have no sympathy for these people, but certainly they're free to avoid children whenever possible by living in adult-only communities, never attending early shows, and eschewing Chuck E. Cheese. When they want to start sweeping children out of places where kids normally congregate, like so many landmines, that's getting ridiculous.

The silliest part about your beach ban, Lake Forest, is that according to the Tribune article, children and families already pretty much steered clear of the area now designated "Adults Only." It's furthest from the playground and other amenities - and I suspect, like the mean people's houses on my old block, everyone knows they're not welcome.

I can't help but surmise a probable association between living your life in a privileged setting in which all your tastes are accommodated, and expecting that privilege to extend to the great outdoors. This is either the complete opposite of, or exactly the same as, a phenomenon I witnessed many times during a recent vacation in Yellowstone. There, a surprising number of people do not seem to understand that wild animals might attack them, even in their gigantic SUVs. Either these people are blissfully ignorant of the circle of life and so feel unreasonably safe being one with nature, or they expect wild animals to follow civil law.

Lake Forest, you can afford to take the blissful one-with-nature approach. Children are the closest thing you have to wild animals. Kids exhibit a savage freedom in their complete oblivion of accepted social conventions, especially during a splash fight. But do not be afraid. The children will not rip out your throat with claws the size of knitting needles. If my dad can walk up to a buffalo and grab a piece of shedded, mangy buffalo fur from a nearby bush, you can surely sun yourself close to a sand castle under construction.

Warmest regards,

Cate Plys

*

What would you ban from the beach? Uptight, snobby
rich folks? Obnoxious, snotty Web columnists? Open
Letter is open to letters: cateplys@sbcglobal.net

*

The Open Letter archive - exclusively for your enjoyment.

Posted by Lou at 12:58 AM | Permalink

When the Press Fails: Part 1

Today we begin a three-part excerpt from the opening chapter of When the Press Fails: Political Power and the News Media from Iraq to Katrina, by W. Lance Bennett, Regina G. Lawrence, and Steven Livingston, graciously provided to us by the University of Chicago Press and also available in full on their website.

*

PRESS POLITICS IN AMERICA
The Case of the Iraq War

We now know that officials in the Bush administration built a case for the U.S. invasion of Iraq that was open to serious challenge. We also know that evidence disputing ongoing official claims about the war was often available to the mainstream press in a timely fashion. Yet the recurrent pattern, even years into the conflict, was for the official government line to trump evidence to the contrary in the news produced by mainstream news outlets reaching the preponderance of the people. Several years into the conflict, public opinion finally began to reflect the reality of a disintegrating Iraq heading toward civil war, with American troops caught in the middle. But that reckoning came several years too late to head off a disaster that historians may well deem far worse than Vietnam.

There is little doubt that reporting which challenges the public pronouncements of those in power is difficult when anything deviating from authorized versions of reality is met with intimidating charges of bias. Out of fairness, the press generally reports those charges, which in turn reverberate through the echo chambers of talk radio and pundit TV, with the ironic result that the media contribute to their own credibility problem. Yet it is precisely the lack of clear standards of press accountability (particularly guidelines for holding officials accountable) that opens the mainstream news to charges of bias from all sides. In short, the absence of much agreement on what the press should be doing makes it all the more difficult for news organizations to navigate an independent course through pressurized political situations.

The key question is, can the American press as it is currently constituted offer critical, independent reporting when democracy needs it most? In particular, this book examines whether the press capable of offering viewpoints independent of government spin at two key moments when democracy would most benefit: (1) when government's own public-inquiry mechanisms fail to question potentially flawed or contentious policy initiatives, and (2) when credible sources outside government who might illuminate those policies are available to mainstream news organizations. It may seem obvious that the press should contest dubious policies under these circumstances, but our research indicates otherwise. The great irony of the U.S. press system is that it generally performs well - presenting competing views and vigorous debate - when government is already weighing competing initiatives in its various legal, legislative, or executive settings. Unfortunately, quite a different press often shows up when policy decisions of dubious wisdom go unchallenged within government arenas.

The Iraq Story as Told by the Unwritten Rules of Washington Journalism

Our story begins with the post-9/11 publicity given to the Bush administration's claims that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction (the now infamous WMDs), and had connections to the terrorists who attacked the United States. Leading news organizations so emphasized those claims over available information to the contrary that two prestigious newspapers later issued apologies to their readers for having gotten so caught up in the inner workings of power in an administration determined to go to war that they lost focus on other voices and other views. Here are excerpts from a now legendary New York Times report from the editors to their readers:

We have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been. In some cases, information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged. Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged - or failed to emerge.

The problematic articles varied in authorship and subject matter, but many shared a common feature. They depended at least in part on information from a circle of Iraqi informants, defectors and exiles bent on "regime change" in Iraq, people whose credibility has come under increasing public debate in recent weeks. . . . Complicating matters for journalists, the accounts of these exiles were often eagerly confirmed by United States officials convinced of the need to intervene in Iraq. . . .

Some critics of our coverage during that time have focused blame on individual reporters. Our examination, however, indicates that the problem was more complicated. Editors at several levels who should have been challenging reporters and pressing for more skepticism were perhaps too intent on rushing scoops into the paper. . . . Articles based on dire claims about Iraq tended to get prominent display, while follow-up articles that called the original ones into question were sometimes buried. In some cases, there was no follow-up at all.

Despite this introspection, much the same pattern of deferring to officials and underreporting available challenges to their claims would soon repeat itself - beginning the very month in which this critical self-assessment appeared - in reporting on the treatment of prisoners in U.S. military detention centers in Iraq and elsewhere. The importance of the Abu Ghraib story for understanding the close dependence of the press on government spin is developed more fully in chapter 3. For now, the point is that this pattern of calibrating political reality in the news to the inner circles of Washington power will go on, despite occasional moments of self-examination by the press, unless leading news organizations and the journalism profession somehow resolve (and develop a standard) to temper their preoccupation with the powerful officials whose communication experts often manage them so well.

Part of the reason the Iraq story was written much as the Bush administration told it is that nearly every installment was well staged and fed expertly to reporters. It also helped that during the events leading up to the war and much of its aftermath, the stories spun by the Bush team were pretty much the only sustained official versions in town - thanks in part to the particularly hard-hitting style of news management practiced by the administration (discussed in chapter 5). As indicated below, plenty of other sources and bodies of evidence outside official Washington power circles could have been elevated to challenge the administration's stories, but those challenges either did not emerge aggressively or were reported only in passing - again, because of the administration's tactics and the unwritten rules followed by the mainstream press for selecting, emphasizing, and sustaining stories. And so, from the WMD story that sold the war to the "mission accomplished" Hollywood ending (which, of course, did not mark the "end" of the war), the unwritten rule of favoring prepackaged, officially sanctioned news events reveals why the ideal of a watchdog press is in trouble.

*

Coming Wednesday: The media's complicity in the staging of the Mission Accomplished moment.

*

Copyright notice: Excerpt from pages 13-28 of When the Press Fails: Political Power and the News Media from Iraq to Katrina by W. Lance Bennett, Regina G. Lawrence, and Steven Livingston, published by the University of Chicago Press. ©2007 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that this entire notice, including copyright information, is carried and provided that the University of Chicago Press is notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the consent of the University of Chicago Press. (Footnotes and other references included in the book may have been removed from this online version of the text.)

Posted by Lou at 12:12 AM | Permalink

Fifield Rallies Real Estate Friends

This letter was recently sent to friendly real estate interests in support of the proposed demolition of the Lake Shore Athletic Club.

*

June 19, 2007

Dear Friend in Real Estate,

As real estate professionals, we both believe that development in downtown Chicago will benefit the city with beautiful new buildings and economic opportunities. That's why we are urging you to support Fifield's proposed residential development at 850 Lake Shore Drive, a 100-unit, high-end condominium development that will further beautify the Gold Coast and Lake Shore Drive areas, as well as enhance property values in the neighborhood.

The 850 Lake Shore Drive project has been in the news lately because the project requires the demolition of the Lakeshore Athletic Club, a vacant 80-year-old building owned by Northwestern University that hasn't been occupied by students in several years.

If this project moves forward, a new, high-quality, residential development will replace a dilapidated structure that will continue to be an expensive responsibility for Northwestern and a real estate liability for the Gold Coast as it sits empty and unused. Fifield has also committed to significant improvements to the Chicago Avenue underpass at Lake Shore Drive and other green space upgrades.

We at Fifield urge you to express your support for this project to 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly.

A group of preservationists are urging Alderman Reilly to landmark the building which would guarantee it will not be redeveloped due to the economic unfeasibility to do so. Northwestern has sought proposals to re-use this building for a residential use, the only use allowed per the zoning code and deed restrictions, and has found no qualified proposers. Therefore, the building would remain empty and unused.

We are especially urging 42nd Ward residents to express their opinion so Alderman Reilly knows there are many 42nd Ward residents who support the development. You should phone or email him TODAY to help this project move forward.

You can reach Alderman Reilly at:

Alderman Brendan Reilly
42nd Ward
200 East Ohio, Suite 401, Chicago, IL 60611 (312)642-4242
121 N. LaSalle Street, Room 306, Chicago, IL 60602 (312) 744-3065
Or email
Brendan@reillyforchicago.com

If you want more information about the Project, please call me at 312-424-6228 or email me at
aschachtman@fifieldco.com. Thank you for your help.

Sincerely,

Alan Schachtman
Senior Vice President

*

Previously:
* The 42nd Ward's New Demolition Man.
* Preservationist protest.
* Brendan Natarus item.
* Landmark Ruling item.
* Lake Shoreistan item.


Posted by Lou at 12:01 AM | Permalink

June 25, 2007

The [Monday] Papers

Rod Beck was one of the greatest, joyous characters ever to don a Cubs uniform. He captured the imagination of a city - and not only this city, by the way. The loss of such a memorable, colorful, and down-home regular guy deserved front page coverage. Instead, both papers buried the news of his death at age 38.

If our local newspaper editors want to return to their home planets now, that would be fine with me.

The Cub Chill Factor
The Beachwood's Marty Gangler explores the difference between the real temperature of the Cubs and the "feels like" temperature experienced by their fans.

Terror Cell
"Another big fight broke out during Saturday's game, but Bob Howry said it was small potatoes compared to Friday's brawl in the upper deck," the Tribune reported (second item) in an obscure part of its paper on Sunday.

"They just threw a lot of beer today," Howry said. "[Friday] was more haymakers. A guy grabbed a girl by the hair and threw her down three rows. I was like, 'Wow.'"

Um, is it just me or does this sound like news?

Gaseous Emissions
Richard Sandor, CEO of the Chicago Climate Exchange, accuses the Tribune in a letter to the editor today of "missing the point" in its recent report comparing the mayor's green rhetoric to the reality of the city's increased in greenhouse-gas emissions.

The point, apparently, is to report what the mayor says, not what he does.

Corruption Pays Off
"The Daley administration doled out more than $13 million in legal fees to politically connected law firms from Jan. 1, 2006, through mid-May of this year, thanks to federal corruption investigations, the long-running Shakman case, and the police torture case against former Lt. Jon Burge," the Sun-Times reports.

"A large chunk of [Burge-related] fees went to Dykema Gossett PLLC. The 2004-2006 Sullivan's Law Directory lists the firm's 'government relations professional' as William Lipinski, the former Southwest Side congressman and longtime Mayor Daley ally."

Endorsements Pay Off
"Chicago lawyer-businessman William Daley, a leading supporter of Barack Obama's Democratic presidential campaign, used a monthlong business trip to Asia to address the Illinois senator's supporter in China," Robert Novak reports.

"Former Secretary of Commerce Daley met Obama backers in Shanghai and Beijing. They told him they could raise half a million dollars for the senator's campaign."

Sandor said critics just don't get the point of Obama's grass-roots movement.

Hall Monitor
"The Sorich case exposed chronic, criminal acts at the core of Daley's administration," the Tribune said in an editorial on Sunday.

"But we endorsed him anyway."

Head of the Fish
Federal judge Wayne Andersen says that the city's inspector general, David Hoffman, has "shown independence 'from the normal chain of command' in the Daley administration," the Trib edit notes.

Instead of fixing the command, we'll just work around him.

"Letting City Hall police City Hall would amount to an unlearning of recent history," the Trib says.

Maybe we should just get a new City Hall.

Babbling Bradley
The Tribune's Washington bureau chief is impressed with the big ideas in Bill Bradley's latest book, which opens with the never-before-thought-of revelation that "Politics is stuck."

Among the incredible ideas Bradley boldly puts forth: longer school days, more early-childhood education, better funded pensions, a reduction of defense spending, and more energy efficient cars.

Wow, what a fresh thinker!

"He has one big criticism for his own party, namely the 'fear of thinking big,'" Tackett writes. "Heard much like this from any of the actual candidates?"

Why, yes. Only all of them.

Next week: Making fun of Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul. You're supposed to just think big, not actually say big things out loud.

Semper Lie
The Marine honor code apparently doesn't include honesty.

Oh Hendry
"Give manager Lou Piniella credit for righting a wrong that was firmly planted in the Cubs' mind before their first sit-down with Soriano in November - heck, even before Piniella signed on as manager in October," Chris De Luca writes.

"'Look, it's probably something that we shouldn't have done, in retrospect,' Piniella said Saturday of the Soriano-to-center plan. 'I mean, I can't really tell you why we did it. I don't want to tell you why we did it.'"

A) We thought he was fast enough to play the entire outfield by himself.
B) We thought we were signing some other guy named Soriano.
C) We thought the team would be sold by then and we wanted to play a joke on the new owners.

That's Neil!
Neil Steinberg spoke with Judy Baar Topinka about Rod Blagojevich.

"I wish I could share the dirt - and really, our lunch was like one of those vacuum cleaner commercials where the canister of filth is upended on a white carpet," Steinberg writes. "But there are libel concerns, and I wouldn't want to get any of the troopers feeding gossip to Judy into trouble."

Whoa! Libel concerns? Troopers feeding gossip to Topinka? What the . . . ?

First, it would be extremely difficult to libel the governor - or even those around him. Second, troopers are feeding gossip to the former state treasurer? For godsakes, why?

Finally, if any of the great dirt you got over lunch that you can't share with your readers is valid or relevant, Neil, please pass it on to the real reporters at your paper. But don't play coy with crappy little secret smears that you share over lunch with a public figure. (And your job, by the way, isn't to protect troopers - or Topinka.)

The Beachwood Tip Line: Apply directly to your forehead.

Posted by Lou at 09:12 AM | Permalink

The Cub Factor

When it comes to Cub fans and the play of the Chicago Cubs, there is always a certain disconnect. We here at The Cub Factor would like to ask why. Haven't we learned our lesson? Why can't people take this team at face value? How many times has this team let us down? Yet we cling to the hope that they are always just one winning streak - or one more journeyman, whichever comes first - from turning this whole thing around. We like to call this the Cub Chill Factor. It's the difference between the real temperature of this team and what it "feels like" to Cubs fans.

For example, when the Cubs go, say, .500 over a period of 10 games, it "feels like" they've won seven of 10. When the Cubs win one of six but a couple of losses are close, it "feels like" they've gone 3-3. When the Cubs win two in a row - or sweep the White Sox - it "feels like" they are a contender. And when the Cubs are closer to last place than first but are within a half-dozen games of .500, it "feels like" they are making a run for it.

The Cub Chill Factor kicks into effect in a variety of other situations, as well.

*

Real temperature: The Cubs bring up some promising young kids from the minors who should have been playing all along.

Cub Chill Factor: They're really revamping the roster nicely!

*

Real temperature: The Cubs trade Michael Bonehead Barrett at his lowest possible market value.

Cub Chill Factor: Rob Bowen could really blossom!

*

Real temperature: The Cubs put together three (barely) winning weeks of baseball and they've still lost ground to the first place Brewers.

Cub Chill Factor: The Cubs are in it!

*

Real temperature: The Cubs sweep the White Sox the same week that they lose two of three to the Rangers, arguably the worst team in baseball.

Cub Chill Factor: Call 911, this team's on fire!

-

Week in Review: The Cubs lost two of three to a horrendous Texas Ranger team and swept an even more horrendous White Sox team. City bragging right aside (and tell me again why this matters), this was a brutal week. Losing a series to the Rangers is like losing your keys in a one bedroom studio apartment - there really shouldn't be enough room to lose them yet it happened and you feel really, really stupid about it.

Week in Preview: A Cub team on a 3-game winning streak takes on the Colorado Rockies for three and the (still comfortably in first place) Milwaukee Brewers for three, all at home. Let's get real, the Cubs need to at least take two of three from the Rockies and sweep the Brewers to get back into this thing. The problem is that they left their broom on the South Side and won't be able to get there and back on the Red Line in time to use it again.

The Second Basemen Report: For the first week all season, one player started every game at second base: Mike Fontenot. Boy, if this keeps happening there really won't be much to talk about in The Second Basemen Report, but fear not. With Aramis Ramirez back off the disabled list, Mark DeRosa will move from third base and will have to play somewhere. So expect a fair amount of juggling at second base in the weeks to come. It seems odd to say, but Ramirez on the DL is the event that really solidified the line-up. It's too bad he's back, this is certainly going to put a wrench in the plan that Jim Henrdy drew up.

In former second basemen news, Augie Ojeda is batting .429 with 1 HR and 3 RBI in six games for the Diamondbacks. He is missed.

On a side note, we here at The Cub Factor would like to thank Rod Beck for his years of service to the Cubs and to baseball. Beck died on Saturday at the age of 38. He was a great Cub to root for and a great character for baseball in general. So sometime this week, let your right arm hang down on your side the way Rod did, hunch over a little to let it swing back and forth, then toss back a cold one and think of Rod Beck. We'll miss you, Shooter.

Sweet and Sour Lou: 63% sweet and 37% sour. Lou is up five points this week on the Sweet-O-Meter due to a three-game winning streak but more importantly because he no longer has Michael Barrett to kick around. Like your real drunk uncle, Lou knows he lost money on the sale of Great Aunt Martha's house but he doesn't care. The realtor was pissing him off and Lou wanted this guy out of his life forever.

Beachwood Sabermetrics: A complex algorithm performed by the The Cub Factor staff using all historical data made available by Major League Baseball has determined that without the team in first place losing it is impossible to make up ground.

Over/Under: The amount of people who don't care if the Cubs make the postseason and are just happy that the Cubs beat the Sox: +/- Too many.

The Cub Factor: Catch up with them all.

Mount Lou: Lou moves back to green as roster changes have cooled Lou's anger magma to solid igneous rock. Recent events have alleviated pressure on Mount Lou and it may even be safe to ask stupid questions without an eruption. But be warned, as first place creeps further away, anger lava creeps closer to the surface.

mtlou_green.gif

Posted by Lou at 07:10 AM | Permalink

Reviewing the Reviews

June 23-24.

Publication: Tribune

Cover: Artwork depicting a businessman tearing open his white shirt and tie to reveal the $ on his chest. Text: "Economic Superheroes: A look at the free marketers from the University of Chicago."

For a Kim Phillips-Fein review of The Chicago School: How the University of Chicago Assembled the Thinkers Who Revolutionized Economics and Business, by Johan Van Overtveldt.

Phillips-Fein's effort starts out weakly, stating, for example, that the Chicago School of economic thinking dismissed arguments in favor of the minimum wage and against school vouchers - hardly the success stories they are purported to be. Phillips-Fein also notes, in trying to further illustrate the achievements of the Chicago School, that "by 1982, the nation had elected a president who believed that cutting tax rates and shrinking the government were the keys to economic growth," though it's not clear at all that anything but displeasure with Jimmy Carter won Ronald Reagan the presidency in 1980, before anyone had conceived of the "Morning in America" marketing conceit - not to mention Reagan's huge expansion of government spending creating record deficits.

Phillips-Fein recovers somewhat, though, later in the piece when formula book reviewing calls for lodging criticism. "In the marketplace of ideas, Chicago won out," Phillips-Fein writes. "But this explanation evades the hard realities of politics and of power that shape our choices about economic policy."

For Example: As noted by Phillips-Fein, it was the U of C's own Thorstein Veblen "who argued that the calculating individuals portrayed by Adam Smith and Alfred Marshall were a pleasant fiction, and that people are instead motivated by primitive, atavistic drives to demonstrate their social status by wasting great sums of money in craven acts of 'conspicuous consumption (think Louis Vitton bags)."

The idea that human beings are "rational" economic actors is pure folly, and to see Gary Becker, for example, compare racial discrimination to international trade may be the stuff that Nobel Prizes are made of, but it's nothing of value to improving (or even explaining) the way people live.

Finally: Overveldt quotes former U of C professor Deidre McCloskey as saying "Don't you know that the greatness of the University of Chicago has always rested on the fact that the city of Chicago is so boring that the professors have nothing else to do but to work?"

What a patently ridiculous statement. As opposed to, say, all the exciting things going on in Palo Alto for the Stanford faculty? For that matter, you'd think North Dakota State University would have produced the world's greatest economists.

With the recent passing of Milton Freidman, a less sycophantic account of Chicago's economists (including advising dictators) might be in store. This, however, doesn't feel like a book worth reading about an otherwise tired subject.

*

Publication: Sun-Times

Cover: If you focus your eyes just right, it's Stalin.

Review of Note: Sun-Times deputy features editor Bob Oswald reviews The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression, by conservative writer Amity Shlaes. I saw Shlaes talking about her book on C-SPAN over the weekend with libertarian Reason magazine editor Nick Gillespie, and found her attacks on FDR and support of Herbert Hoover ("they were the same person" I pretty much remember her saying) unbearable. That's not to say I'm not open to a puncturing of the hype - seems to me Hitler and WWII got us out of the Depression, but the safeguards put into place the New Deal were unassailable even to Ronald Reagan, who said it was LBJ's Great Society that he wanted to reverse, not FDR's safety net.

So I just skimmed this review and found it wanting.

Also: A week after calling Carl Bernstein's tragically flawed biography of Hillary Clinton is "fresh, complete and detailed," saying that Bernstein is "dead solid perfect in his reporting," despite, as I said last week, reams of evidence to the contrary, Sun-Times general manager John Barron is back with a more critical but still flawed review of Her Way, the thoroughly debunked Hillary biography by Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta Jr.

"Still," Barron writes,"Hertz [sic] and Van Natta have done a great service to confused people everywhere by beautifully explaining the early Clinton scandals like Whitewater, Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan and Hillary's remarkable success in the commodities market."

Barron is apparently unaware that Gerth's reporting on just those subjects has been decimated.

As for that "secret" plan the Clinton's had to rule over America for a combined 16 years, Barron is rightfully skeptical but, again, is apparently unaware of the scorn this claim by the book's authors has generated, given that they have not been able to provide any evidence of any such plan.

*

Publication: New York Times

Cover: A drawing depicting a man, possibly with a rock in his hand behind his back, and a dog. For a review of Per Petterson's Out Stealing Horses. Yawn.

Review of Note: "How can Judas be branded evil for carrying out God's plan?" Because theology - Christian and otherwise - makes no sense, even within the elaborate frameworks that flawed, zealous, and unstable humans have constructed around it. To focus, though, this is among the central questions Elaine Pagels and Karen L. King take up in Reading Judas, reviewed by Stephen Prothero.

Prothero, the chairman of the religion department at Boston University and the author of Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know - And Doesn't, unwittingly gives up the game in his review-ending dismissal of Pagels' work and the Gospel of Judas, tossed aside by early Christians for its inconvenience. "Most Americans will rightly prefer Luke's Jesus, whose heart breaks over the oppression of women and the poor [then why aren't more Christians liberals?] , to a smart-aleck Jesus who guffaws at the stupidity of his listeners. America is supposed to be a happy place. Americans want their Jesus to channel Paula Abdul rather than Simon Cowell, Dorothy rather than the Wicked Witch of the West."

Ah, but you don't go to eternity with the God you want, but the God that is. All Prothero does is repeat the mistake of throwing away that which does not square with the pleasing myth construced by the radical cultists of their day.

As for America, well, Prothero notes that "Thomas Jefferson, in his own cut-and-paste version of the Gospels made in the White House in 1804, depicted Jesus not as a savior who died to pay for our sins but as a great moral teacher who lived to show us how to live ourselves . . . Jefferson's Bible scoffs at the notion that God would sacrifice his son to atone for the world's sins."

Pity that means he couldn't get elected today.

Letter of Note: "They Could Be Heroes."

*

CHARTS

1. Reagan
2. Gore
3. God

Einsein is 4th; Jesus is 9th; Iacocca is 11th; Rickles is 14th.

Posted by Lou at 03:58 AM | Permalink

Jimmy Swaggart: You Don't Need to Understand

Jimmy Swaggart was still mainly a radio preacher known for his fiery opposition to rock 'n' rollers like his first cousin Jerry Lee Lewis in 1972 when You Don't Need to Understand was released on his private-label JIM Records. He made his first TV appearance the next year in Nashville - the initial step on his infamous road to TV preacher mega-stardom - so this is probably the final album of more than 50 he's made on which it was still mostly about the music and his considerable gifts as a piano-playing gospel song interpreter.

jimmy_swaggart3.jpgHere, Swaggart has his musical formula honed to an ultra-fine sheen: It was a now-overlooked and crucial part of his rise to glory in the '70s and '80s. He forged a dependable melange of rhythm and blues, honky-tonk piano (the "Golden Gospel Piano') and traditional country music with a Pentecostal "Jesus saves" message, and put it over so well with his smooth baritone voice that it had appeal well beyond religious communities. On this album, for instance, he chooses a mix of songs from then-contemporary gospel songwriters like Dottie Rambo ("Remind Me Dear Lord") and classic hymns from Johnson Oatman Jr. ("The Last Mile of the Way") and Stuart K. Hine ("How Great Thou Art"), which are given secular shoves.

Jimmy Swaggart Ministries claims it has sold 13 million gospel music albums worldwide, and although that assertion is impossible to verify because JIM Records, as a private label, isn't audited by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), there's no doubt Swaggart's popularity as a musician is immense and has changed the face of gospel music forever. And of course, his musical formula, much like his personal life, is overflowing with hypocrisy, so much so that despite his status as probably the biggest-selling gospel artist of all time, he's nowhere to be found in the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. The fact that he viciously denounced rock 'n' roll in fire-and-brimstone sermons from his Assemblies of God pulpit, but at the same time was so intimately connected to it and applied some of its techniques to gospel music, was beyond the pale even for many church-goers willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

But even after his much-publicized dalliances with prostitutes in 1988 and 1991 put an end to his credibility as a preacher, his musical legacy lives on. You Don't Need to Understand is a fine example of what got him to the top. The Golden Gospel Piano is evident throughout - Swaggart's honky-tonk style is eerily reminiscent of cousin Jerry Lee's seminal rock 'n' roll bashing - and is probably the closest thing linking his gospel stylings to their secular roots. Also typical of his music here is the glossy production sheen he achieved at Columbia Records' Nashville studios with legendary recording engineer Selby Coffeen (Patsy Cline's "Crazy"; Baez Sings Dylan) at the controls.

On background vocals are the Anita Kerr Singers (performing here as The Sounds of Nashville), a top-notch studio session group that helped define country and pop music sounds in the post-war years. They provide the most "sacred" aspect of Swaggart's sound with their church choir-like contributions.

To a roots rock fan such as myself, the two most interesting tracks on You Don't Need to Understand are "He Accepted Me," which is credited to "Wethering" (couldn't find any more info on this person), and "Something Within Me." "He Accepted Me" is about as honky-tonk as a Swaggart song can get . . . a rollicking number in which Swaggart displays some extremely dextrous ivory tickling and trades nice call-and-response lyrics with the Anita Kerr clan. It also features a very tasty and country-ish dobro solo from Grand Ol' Opry veteran guitarist Joe Edwards.

"Something Within Me," credited to "unknown" also sounds like it came straight from Swaggart's Louisiana home turf, specifically from New Orleans. If it weren't for the lyrics extolling God Almighty for His power to "take away pain," it could be a honky-tonk shuffle worthy of Willie Nelson himself.

And of course, no review of a Jimmy Swaggart album would be complete without an irony-meter lyrical check. We hit paydirt in that respect on "Remind Me Dear Lord:"

Roll back the curtain of memory now and then
Show me, Lord, where you brought me from
And without you, where I could have been

And remember, Lord, we're all human
And sometimes we forget,
So remind me, remind me dear Lord.

*

From Tommy Cash to Blue Oyster Cult, Bin Dive reveals rock's secret history. Send comments, suggestions, distortion and feedback to Don. You must include a real name to be considered for publication.


Posted by Don at 12:42 AM | Permalink

June 23, 2007

The Weekend Desk Report

The interns are working the field this weekend while Weekend Desk Editor Natasha Julius is on assignment.

Market Report
Regulators will consider halting trading this weekend upon vulnerabilities caused by volatile activity in Secret Governments combined with another big sell-off in Presidential Approval. Speculation of either a leveraged buy-out or hostile takeover of the market's biggest customer has forced a special meeting to find ways to rally Democracy, even if that means propping it up using Artificial Measures.

Gitmo Going
Change of address cards are in the mail for prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, which is being closed after embarrassing the Bush Administration for the last time.

Tank Engine
The irony is that he was on the way to see his probation officer.

Secret Government
The Weekend Desk has assigned a subcommittee of investigators to peruse the newly released secret files of the CIA to identify the lamest assassination attempt of a foreign leader to finally settle that bar bet.

Sex and Drugs
The Weekend Desk is investigating the breakthrough behind the federal government's latest study of sexual behavior and drug use based on "high-tech methods to solicit candid answers." Is there a patent pending?

Crosstown Caper
The Weekend Desk will not be monitoring the rest of the Cubs-Sox series.

The FBI, however, will announce terrorist charges soon based on undercover conversations it captured on tape featuring rogue Chicagoans openly discussing their terror Cell, including phrases such as "blow it up."

Week in Review
* The Papers.

* Joey "the Clown" Lombardo.

* Dear Todd Stroger.

* Minor League Report.

* What I Watched Last Night.

* T-Ball Journal.

* The Periodical Table.

* RockNotes.


Posted by Lou at 07:45 AM | Permalink

June 22, 2007

The [Friday] Papers

"Who is the man in the powder blue suit who could be a cheese salesman from Wisconsin?"

Why, it's Frank Calabrese Sr., reputed Outfit hit man!

Change Agent
"Voters in Aledo, Ill., might applaud Sen. Barack Obama's attempt to bring home $750,000 to replace two aging water towers, but taxpayers in South Carolina might look askance at sharing the tab."

The only greater enemy we have than cynicism is aging water towers.

Agent Cheney
"For four years, Vice President Dick Cheney has resisted routine oversight of his office's handling of classified information, and when the National Archives unit that monitors classification in the executive branch objected, the vice president's office released yesterday by a Democratic congressman."

Cheney said he is not bound by the U.S. Constitution, only the constitution of his home planet.

Agency Secrets
"The CIA will make public next week long-secret documents compiled in 1974 that detail domestic spying, assassination plots and other CIA misdeeds in the 1960s and early 1970s, agency Director Michael Hayden said Thursday."

In 2040, the agency will release secret documents on domestic spying, assassination plots and other CIA misdeeds occurring now.

Secret Olympics
"Jiang Xiaoyu, the executive vice president of the Beijing Organizing Committee, ticks off the long list of extraordinary accomplishments that have been necessary for China to fulfill its commitments to the International Olympic Committee for the 2008 games. Huge industrial operations, including a steel mill, have been moved from Beijing to reduce air pollution; construction is forging ahead on a new railway line, airport terminal and too many world-class sports facililities to count. Everything seems to be either on or ahead of of schedule - with one exception. China may, says Mr. Jiang, have to go back to the IOC to discuss its pledge to have a 'third generation' mobile-phone network available in time for the games."

We have no idea what we might be getting into.

Stroger's Secret
Commenting on Todd Stroger's secret prostate surgery this week, Cook County Commissioner Robert Steele said last night on Chicago Tonight that the "public trust" and "good government" were important.

You know, this Robert Steele.

Secret Message
Recalling the disingenuous handling of John Stroger's illness and Todd Stroger's secret prostate surgery, Better Government Association executive director Jay Stewart said: "No lessons were learned."

School Secret
"A Wilmette middle school spends more than $14,000 per kid; Chicago gets ready to dole out $65 million to developers."

Compare and contrast.

Music Secret
"A 'music guy' is not the type of person that takes a programmer to a hockey game, steak dinners, and strip clubs in order to 'persuade' him to play the new hot track from the new hot artist."

Sell-Out Secrets
The Reader's Miles Raymer writes "In Praise of Selling Out," but it's just a rationalization for something rarely acceptable. Sonic Youth doesn't have to record for Starbucks and Wilco doesn't have to license its songs to Volkswagen to reach larger audiences. They could use their imaginations instead. Buy Google ads. Play surprise free shows on rooftops of major American buildings. Hold a radio station hostage like the dudes in Airheads. License songs to commercials for causes you believe in. Sponsor an episode of Family Guy. Or just admit you're in it for the money. But don't bullshit your fans. I mean, why not just go on American Idol next season and be done with it?

Secret Staff
"Despite often lofty rhetoric that he plans to bring the nation a 'new kind of politics,' Sen. Barack Obama has surrounded himself with operatives skilled in the old-school art of the political backstab," the Tribune finally gets around to reporting.

"When Obama assembled his crew early this year, he brought together a team with a long track record of the sort of caustic rhetoric he has pledged to avoid . . . [including] a communications director who once worked for a group that ran a controversial ad that used an image of Osama bin Laden to attack Howard Dean."

And then defended it. But then, it's not like Obama could have hired, oh, say, just about anyone to be his friggin' communications director.

"Obama's research director, Devorah Adler, for example, was tied to a controversial 2005 Democratic National Committee research memo distributed to reporters on a not-for-attribution basis about then-Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito."

The Tribune doesn't say it, but the memo intimated that Alito, who is of Italian heritage, was sympathetic, if not tied to, the mob.

Yet, "when Obama was criticized this past week for opposition research memos critical of Sen. Hillary Clinton's ties to India and Indian-Americans, he was quick to blame his staff," the Trib notes. "That is starting to sound familiar. It was at least the third time since February that the Illinois Democrat has blamed his staff for a glitch."

A candidate's campaign staff is an early glimpse of what their administration would look like.

"Obama's campaign declined to say whether Adler had seen the India documents before their release or whether she is part of the senior staff. "

How very Cheney of him.

"'We're not going to get into the internal machinations,' spokesman Bill Burton said."

Transparency and accountability? Stop being so cynical.

Secret Blown
"Observers were surprised at Obama playing the outsourcing card as he himself is trying to court the Indian-American constituency with moves afoot to promote 'South Asians for Obama' chapters across the country."

The Beachwood Tip Line: B to the A.


Posted by Lou at 08:26 AM | Permalink

T-Ball Journal: Naps and Taps

Until recently, if you had asked me to detail my dream Father's Day (i.e. during my first half-dozen or so years of paternity), the afternoon segment would have sandwiched televised sports around a delicious nap. Lately the nap continues to be a priority (I didn't get one this year and later I was ready for bed way too early - an elemental part of me needs to at least be able to stay awake for the 9 o'clock news), but live sports are replacing the ones on TV. And I'm OK with that.

I'd better be. I'd be stunned if my Father's Day weekends didn't include some sort of youth baseball competition for - conservatively - the next decade. I have mentioned before in this space that my eight-year-old, Noah, is obsessed with the games we play in our league's Junior Division. His almost-six-year-old sister has jumped right into T-Ball this spring and summer and is good at it. Unless I'm completely misinterpreting the situation (always a possibility of course), she's also enjoying it quite a bit. And our little bitty toddler Jenna, who of course has oodles of baseball/softball potential (for one thing, she's showing every indication of being lefthanded!) is only a couple months past two.

Our league takes all of Memorial Day weekend off but plays right through Father's Day and I think that's exactly right. In fact, this is the weekend the games move to the venerable Thillens fields, a North Side youth baseball institution for more than half a century. On the eve of this year's big day, Noah played a morning game with a new team (he was "called up" to a team in the Minor League where the first three innings are coach-pitch and the rest are kid-pitch, i.e., real baseball). His new team, the Rangers, lost 8-3 as Noah made a few decent plays in the outfield (he couldn't quite reach the only fly ball that came anywhere near him), reached on his only at-bat in coach-pitch and struck out in his only chance against a kid.

Then, in the last game of the day, our Dodgers took on the Yankees and struggled initially. With the quick turnover between games and a lack of room on the sidelines of the diamonds at Thillens, we didn't get much of a warm-up (we particularly missed infield practice). Plus, it looked like we might very well be rained out. We saw some distant lightning before the game started and found out later that we just missed being drenched by a thunderstorm that passed through to our east.

Before we knew it, we were behind 6-1 (our T-Ball hitting was sub-par again despite spending the entire practice on it two days prior). But again we rallied, took a 9-7 lead in the bottom of the sixth and preserved the victory in the seventh. The game ended when our youngest player tracked down a seemingly sure double in left-center, turnedm and without hesitating fired a strike to third - where a player who had been to just one practice in the previous month was in perfect position to haul it in and make the strong two-handed tag on the base-runner trying to advance from first. You gotta love baseball.

Father's Day was highlighted by a delightful doubleheader - a tap and T-Ball twin-bill that played out smoothly thanks in largest part to a lucky little coincidence. My daughter Alana's dance recital and rookie league contest were hosted by far North Side landmarks located only two miles from one another. We traveled to St. Scholastica (which would have been slightly more delightful on a 90-plus degree day if the auditorium had been air-conditioned) for the first half. The home of the Stingers is an all-girls school I have driven past for decades on my way from North Side residences to activities in Evanston, but have never visited.

And it was an all-girls dance recital except for one of the teachers (who all did a little performance and were introduced at the start of the show) and some dads and brothers or male friends who played a supporting role in a big dance number early in the show.

Alana's tap dance routine, which she and her classmates had been practicing for months, finally began about 50 minutes after the overall show started. The kids kept their cool in their red-and-white hat-and-dress outfits and seemed to have fun. The tapping wasn't quite as thunderous as it was at the practices back at the small studio where Alana takes classes but they still made some noise. One thing I have learned during Alana's first year of tap dance instruction - the folks who teach these classes and maintain their patience for an hour despite an awesome amount of noise have an early leg up on sainthood. I wonder if that was one of the virtues of the Scholastica character who had the school named after her.

At intermission, my wife went in and helped Alana make her rather jarring change from tap-dance outfit to baseball uniform (they left on her stage make-up, which Alana made sure to show her coach). Then we made our way south on Ridge, west on Touhy, south on Western, west on Peterson and south on Kedzie, parking about a quarter mile north of Devon. Thillens isn't really Thillens Stadium anymore like it was when I played there as a kid affiliated with what I think was called the Old Town Little League (based in Oz Park).

The Thillens family founded the place in 1938 and was going to shut it down in 2005 until the city engineered a takeover. There have been some renovations and while the main field is flanked by two sets of medium-sized bleachers it doesn't have the same feel it used to, when everything was more enclosed. The old closed-in press box is still there but it is detached from a smaller announcing stand that backs up the back-stop which backs up the diamond. Anyway, both the Dodgers and Alana's Red Sox played their games on the facility's secondary field, which meant the folks lugging in the water and snacks (our lucky week) had to haul it more than a little ways extra. And of course we had wanted to make sure we had enough water in our large cooler. I did mention the heat before didn't I? It was OK, I needed the upper-body workout - only a couple hundred more of those and I should be fit as a fiddle.

Alana's team scored a lot of runs and was competitive but didn't quite pull out a victory. The highlight came in the sixth, when the Red Sox reached 19 runs and clinched a tie, at least according to the scoreboard. It only had enough little lights for a one next to the main space for the score so it couldn't show anything higher than 19.

This coming weekend, Alana has a game on Friday and Noah and our Dodgers hit the diamond Saturday and Sunday. Everything else (soccer, dance, swim and guitar lessons) ended during the final official week of spring (leading up to June 21), seemingly freeing up our schedule. But we've got family visiting on Saturday and Sunday and there's a birthday party and a play-date in there somewhere. Sounds like it will again be a challenge to squeeze in the necessary naps. It is a challenge I know I can answer.

*

Jim Coffman's daughter is in her first season of T-Ball. Her older brother is in his last year in the Junior Division. Coffman is chronicling his travails as coach of his son's team and observer of his daughter's initial foray into this slice of Americana.

Posted by Lou at 06:29 AM | Permalink

The Periodical Table

What Rumsfeld knew about Abu Ghraib. What the Cubs knew about Kerry Wood. And what the media still doesn't know about how stupid it is. In our weekly roundup of the magazines laying around Beachwood HQ.

Your Newspaper Industry: The Daily Dumb Show
The cover story of the June/July issue of American Journalism Review is "What the Mainstream Media Can Learn From Jon Stewart." That's June/July 2007. One answer not sussed out by AJR is to not be so dumb, slow and clueless. Next issue: "Stephen Colbert: Now We Get It!"accompanied by "New Onion Newspaper Catches On With Kids."

Bushwhacked
The cover story of the June issue of Harper's is "Undoing Bush," a collection of essays about "How to Repair Eight Years of Sabotage, Bungling, and Neglect." One answer not sussed out by Harper's is to not be so dumb, slow and clueless. Next issue: "We Give Up! Harper's Ceases Publication As Own Staff Literally Bore Selves to Death."

What Rumsfeld Knew
If more reporters (and their news organizations) were devoted to getting to the bottom of things, maybe there'd be some true accountability to this administration's sabotage, bungling, and neglect. Harper's can essay themselves to death, but nothing takes the place of reporting.

Case in point: Seymour Hersh's must-read in this week's The New Yorker, which gets to the heart of the Abu Ghraib scandal and persuasively shows that Donald Rumsfeld lied under oath to Congress, and that George W. Bush either sanctioned the torture that occurred at the prison or willfully turned away from seeking the truth.

Hersh's article is based largely on interviews with retired Army Gen. Antonio Taguba, who was assigned to investigate Abu Ghraib after the story broke and made the career-klling mistake of telling the truth in his report.

In fact, the abuse there was worse than we have even been told up to now; a cache of photos exists that have never been released to the public because of their "extremely sensitive nature."

Taguba (and others) tell Hersh that the front-line soldiers vilified and punished in the scandal were far from rogue elements; they were acting on orders from above. "Somebody was giving them guidance," Taguba says, " but I was legally prevented from further investigation into higher authority. I was limited to a box."

Bush and Rumsfeld are responsible for Abu Ghraib, and the retribution that Taguba faced for doing his duty with honor once again reveals how many dark corners this administration has driven the country into - with the aid of a clueless press that spent its time meditating on the value of torture instead of digging deeper to report the facts of what had actually occurred.

What The Cubs Knew
Just catching up with the June issue of Play, the New York Times's monthly sports magazine. Buzz Bissinger's profile of Kerry Wood is mostly familiar, but additional details emerge about the possible causes of Wood's arm injuries, including his own refusal to adjust his pitching style early in his career, and the selfish misjudgements of his managers and team executives.

"What is 'overuse?' Dusty Baker says, for example. "There didn't used to be such a word . . . You got to blame somebody and I got blamed for everything."

Former Cubs manager Jim Riggleman, though, as he has in the past, admits that he wonders if he abused Wood's arm down the stretch in 1998, when the Cubs went to the playoffs.

At the same time, the true blame lies with the organization's executives.

"Though Wood had rocketed through the Cubs' organization, Riggleman says, he wanted to keep him in Class AAA for more seasoning," Bissinger reports. "But 1998 was shaping up as a magical year for the downtrodden Cubs . . . Influential Cubs players were clamoring for Wood. So when a spot opened up in the rotation in April because of injury, the Cubs brought him up. Wood believed he was ready to handle the workload, but he now says he was carrying too much weight and had paid too little attention to his mechanics to prevent injury."

He was also 20 years old. Management should have known better.

"Riggleman also notes that the Cubs' medical reports showed that Wood's ligament was thin to begin with, making it likely to blow at some point anyway, "Bissinger reports.

And yet . . .

"Baker says that when he came to the Cubs in 2003, he saw photographs of Wood's mechanics and expressed concern about further injury to members of the organization. But nothing happened, he says."

So Baker abused Wood too.

"You got to overextend if you're going to try to win it," Baker told Bissinger.

Bissinger also writes: "Baker's bullpen was not very good, so he kept Wood in the game no matter what the pitch count."

As usual, Steve Stone had it right.

"Stone says he had a private conversation with team president Andy MacPhail in 2000 in which he predicted the following: 'He's going to have at least one or possibly two more surgeries. They will be in the shoulder. The elbow will probably hold up. He's going to break your heart on almost a yearly basis. He will never win as many games as you think eh should, and he will consistently break down to the point where you will give him an extraordinary amount of money for very few active days."


Posted by Lou at 06:15 AM | Permalink

June 21, 2007

The [Thursday] Papers

"[Todd Stroger] and his wife just sort of wanted to get it done, taken care of and not have to deal with the media circus," Stroger's doctor said Wednesday.

Mission accomplished.

Missing in Action
A lot of the pundits are missing the point about Stroger not disclosing his illness sooner. It's not so much about not informing voters 10 months ago that he had a very treatable, non-life threatening medical problem - though that would have been nice - but that he didn't show up for work one day and his aides would only say he would be out for the next three weeks with no explanation.

Legacy Vote
"It's too soon to say with certainty that Todd Stroger will go down as an amateurish one-termer," the Tribune editorial page says today.

Yes. He could be a half-termer if we can figure out how to impeach him.

Playing Favorites
The Trib editorial about Stroger says "Stroger's choice of secrecy over candor reminds voters that it's all about him, not them."

And in its next editorial, the paper goes easy on the mayor's refusal to acknowledge the truth about the city's greenhouse gas emissions, saying "The city has fallen well short of its goals, but it has the right vision."

It's not about goals and vision, it's about facts. The mayor doesn't like them. Alternate editorial message: Stop lying.

Or that thing they said about Stroger.

Earmarks in the Dark
"Only five of [Illinois'] 21 [congressional] members gave their complete earmark requests to the Tribune: Democratic Sen. Barack Obama; GOP Reps. Roskam, Judy Biggert and Mark Kirk, and Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the Democratic conference chairman, who started the disclosure ball rolling in May," the Tribune reports.

[Insert name of Illinois congressperson]'s choice of secrecy over candor reminds voters that it's all about [Insert name of Illinois congressperson], not them.

Barrett Bungle
"By liberating embattled catcher Michael Barrett from the Chicago Cubs yesterday, Padres evaluators say they bought low and sold high," the San Diego Union-Tribune says.

"[Padres GM Kevin] Towers said the Cubs initiated trade talks with him last week. Barrett had landed in the doghouse of manager Lou Piniella, a man not renowned for patience or tact.

"Geoff Blum, a friend and former minor league teammate of Barrett's who played for Piniella in Tampa Bay, said Barrett should benefit from the change of managers.

"'This environment will be good for Mike, because Lou Piniella and catchers don't get along, in my experience,' Blum said."

Cubs Curse
A better GM than Hendry would have sized up Barrett's skills long ago and traded him when his value was at its highest, knowing he wasn't the long-term answer behind the plate.

A better manager than Piniella wouldn't have had to ask his captain to hold a players-only meeting just a couple months into his first season on the job to see if he had already lost the team, only to see his clubhouse implode and force his general manager into making a really bad, rushed trade.

Sox Suck
They're not happy over at South Side Sox either.

Crosstown Crucible
Take the Quick Hits quiz.

Cold and Watery
"A big bowl of state budget clam-up chowder."

Teaching Moment
"Suburban officials are treating public documents as if they contain national secrets that would expose the country to terrorist attack."

Human Calculator
"A soon-to-be-released biography of Sen. Barack Obama portrays the Democratic presidential candidate as a far more calculating politician than his most ardent supports might imagine," the Tribune reports.

No! Say it isn't so!

"One such calculation was his much-heralded 2002 speech in Chicago about the impending Iraq war," the Trib says.

"Obama gave the speech not just because of a desire to speak out about the coming war, [the book's author asserts], but also to try to curry favor with a potential political patron, Bettylu Saltzman, a stalwart among Chicago's liberal elite, and to win over political adviser David Axelrod, who was close to Saltzman.

"'Obama, still an unannounced candidate for the U.S. Senate, did not immediately agree to speak [at the rally],' according to an advance copy of the book obtained by the Tribune. 'But he told Saltzman that he would think it over.'

"After consulting with a political aide, Obama, who was personally opposed to the invasion, agreed to make the speech."

Meanwhile, U.S. News reports that the mostly favorable book also reveals Obama's calculating plan to win the White House, including how he would manipulate a compliant press. Among the plan's elements:

* "Avoid controversy and tone down his liberal image. And overall: Keep the press at bay, allowing the senator to control his message while being portrayed as a rising star in the Democratic Party."

* "One of the final elements was a media-crazed congressional delegation trip to Africa, where Obama would trace some of his fascinating roots. 'The hope among Obama's team: To raise the senator's profile nationally and internationally; to solidify his support among a key constituency, African Americans; and to bulk up his foreign policy credentials.'"

* "The final act of the plan was turning up the talk about a potential presidential bid, which was greatly aided by his positive press and suggestions by pundits that he run for president."

The Beachwood Tip Line: Deflate the hype.

Posted by Lou at 08:22 AM | Permalink

June 20, 2007

What I Watched Last Night

Comedian Kathy Griffin has pretty much made a career saying the only people who find her standup material incredibly funny are gay people. I've liked Griffin's humor for a long time (she was the best reason to watch Suddenly Susan) so I spent last night's mini-marathon of My Life On The D-List on Bravo laughing my ass off. Since she refers to herself "the gaymaker," I started wondering whether Griffin possesses a mysteriously incredible power to use the power of television to temporarily turn perfectly hetero guys like me to suit her own evil purposes.

No, wait. I the only reason I tuned into D-List was because I ran across Griffin with her pants around her ankles in her Strong Black Woman standup special while channel surfing a few minutes before and thought, "Damn, I'd do her."

I spent the whole D-List mini-marathon thinking, "Damn, I'd do her," too. Yet, I laughed my ass off.

Christ. I'm so confused.

Anyway, "-list" is celebrityspeak for how famous you are at the moment in the public eye. A-List'ers on a budget stay at The Four Seasons. D-List'ers stay at motels advertising nap rates on the sign in front. A-List'ers have a hard time disappearing anywhere because they're constantly hounded by fans and paparazzi. D-List'ers surface days later when some raggedy couple in for a nap notices a strange, awful smell coming from the room next door.

My Life On The D-List is an apt description of her professional day, since she spends a lot of her time bombing at chili cookoffs in Michigan with freaky drunken dudes in Batman costumes, jewelry auctions, and Sunday morning gigs for Redken hair product salespeople. Because most of the country between the coasts has no idea who she is, she makes a lot of fun of herself and spends a lot of time trying to give away free tickets to her shows to bewildered Midwesterners. In one episode last night, Griffin made her assistant/roommate Tom work a steakhouse waitress' night shift so she could attend Griffin's show for free.

Christ, Ticketmaster's now charging $62.50 for main floor seats to her October show at the Chicago Theater and people in Bumfuck, Nebraska won't take them for free. Someone needs to beat these people with big rocks or something.

Plenty of people in New York City have no idea who she is, either - not even when she's standing in front of a giant poster of herself publicizing her appearance at Carnegie Hall and trying to engage passing pedestrians. Mostly, though, D-List is funny because Griffin walks through life with the same sarcasm she brings to the stage, and because her show isn't basically something like The Anna Nicole Show except without all the slurring. We get some glimpses into her home life, such as her search for a handyman (they have no idea who she is, either), and visits with her highly amusing parents. Her 85-year-old mother Maggie is very likable, and answers the door the same way you'd imagine one of the Keebler elves opening the door to the tree.

Since she'll do pretty much anything "to fuck my way to the middle" and promote her way to maybe the C-List, Griffin spent a lot of last night trying to arrange a "date" with anyone the paparazzi might be interested in so she'd end up in one of the tabloids. The best her assistants were able to dig up was former Backstreet Boy Nick Carter.

In a lot of ways, I hope Griffin never gets off the D-List. She'd just end up all full of bad attitude.

*

For your viewing pleasure, the What I Watched Last Night collection.

Posted by Lou at 02:19 PM | Permalink

The [Wednesday] Papers

What's a mob trial without a fake bomb scare? Juror intimidation is next. And then maybe a little something for the judge.

Family Secrets I
"As jury selection began Tuesday in the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse, Frank Calabrese Sr. sat in a powder-blue sport coat talking to [defense lawyer Joseph] Lopez. It marked the first time that the five men facing trial - Calabrese, Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, James Marcello, Paul Schiro and Anthony Doyle - have been in the same courtroom," the Tribune reports.

"They are accused in a sweeping Outfit conspiracy blamed for 18 decades-old gangland killings."

We've got the scoop on Joey "the Clown" Lombardo - known on the street as "Lumpy." Find out why, and everything else you need to know about one of the last links to the Outfit's glory days.

Family Secrets II
An anonymous post on The Capitol Fax Blog:

Two headlines in today's Tribune:

Stroger Has Prostate Surgery and County's Health System Faces Ax

Hmm. Perhaps if the stories were combined, with a single headline - Stroger Faces Prostate Surgery With Ax at County Hospital - we'd see a change of heart regarding the devastating cuts to the Cook health system by the "President."

Family Secrets III
Dear Todd Stroger: What the hell is wrong with you?

In Open Letter.

Beachwood Secrets
If you've missed this week's previous Papers columns due to our technical glitches, you can find them here.

Cobra Bite
In the Sun-Times business section Tuesday, an article-tisement on/for Cobra's new device for spotting intersection cameras had some great advice: "As we passed through a downtown intersection monitored by a photo enforcement camera, my pilot, Dave Marsh, a Cobra Electronics executive, and I smiled.Thanks to a unique, new camera-detector device Marsh was demonstrating, we knew the camera was there and took appropriate measures to avoid getting a $90 ticket."

The device goes for $450.

Here's some advice that will save you the $90 ticket AND $450 for the device: DON'T SPEED THROUGH INTERSECTIONS ON THE RED LIGHT!

- Tim Howe

Chicagoetry
GET THE LIONS

Get the lions
And tigers

From Lincoln
Park Zoo,

Put them
In New Soldier Field

And feed them
Aldermen.

- J.J. Tindall

Comeuppance I
The geese get their revenge.

Comeuppance II
"Daley was one of three mayors who testified before the [U.S. House] committee about municipal efforts to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. He touted Chicago's efforts in transportation, engery efficiency and environmentally sensitive building and challenged the federal government to join the city and 'lead by example' on climate change - starting by forcing federal buildings to comply with municipal codes," the Tribune reports.

The timing of the mayor's appearance couldn't have been more exquisite.

"Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) . . . repeatedly invoked a front-page article in Monday's Tribune to back up his contention that goals to reduce emissions are often unattainable for governments.

"That article reported that Chicago's greenhouse-gas emissions have actually risen since Daley pledged to cut them six years ago."

The story doesn't tell us because, well, it's the Tribune, but I'm pretty sure at this point the mayor's face turned red and his eyes started to dart around.

"In a five-minute barrage of questions, Sensenbrenner mocked Daley for his administration's unwillingness to verbally respond to Tribune questions about emissions efforts."

Wow, we could use this guy in our City Hall press corps.

"When the mayor said he did not know where the newspaper got its information, Sensenbrenner peered down at the story.

"'I know my eyes are getting a little weak,' he said, 'but it appears to me that the source is the City of Chicago.'"

Wow, we could use this guy in our City Hall press corps.

"Daley said that the Tribune story had 'discrepancies' and that it 'has nothing to do with what we're here for. We're here for the environment.'"

And rising greenhouse-gas emissions have no place in that discussion!

Now, where were we? Oh yeah, greenhouse-gas emissions. As I was saying . . .

"Later, [Daley] told Sensenbrenner: 'Remember, you can't believe everything you read in the newspaper about a public official."

Especially if it comes from City Hall.

Richard M. Jefferson
"It was a brief bump in an otherwise glory-draped day for the mayor, who received the Jefferson Award for Public Service at an evening gala," the Trib reported.

Like Jefferson, Daley would rather have newspapers without a government than a government without newspapers.

Er, wait a minute. You can't believe everything you read in the newspaper about a public official!

"Jefferson organizers brought Daley to the Mayflower Hotel before his congressional testimony to talk about his accomplishments."

He was not under oath.

"Daley touted his emissions-control initiatives, along with efforts to improve Chicago public schools, expand affordable housing and crack down on gun crimes.

He was not under oath.

"'Everyone's concerned about Iraq' and appropriately so, the mayor said. 'But 30,000 people get killed every year in America [by guns], and no one says anything about it.'"

I know! I never read anything about people outraged at gun deaths! And the politicians - they hardly ever talk about gun control!

And here we are at the Jefferson Awards and you realize you never hear a debate about the Second Amendment.

On the other hand, Daley speaks out against the war all the time!

"Asked how he deals with the media, Daley said it's important to stay focused and not take stories personally."

Which he never does.

"'They can judge me every day,' he said. 'I don't go off on tangents . . . '"

Hey, I'll supply the ironic jokes, Mr. Mayor!

"'The next day's another story - Paris Hilton or something like that.'"

Hey, I'll supply the media criticism, Mr. Mayor!

"In a brief interview after the awards ceremony, Daley called the Jefferson Award a 'great honor.'

"Asked whether the recent Tribune story would affect the weight of his 'green' testimony, which was due to start in a half-hour, he replied, 'I don't care what they write.'"

As long as it's not true. Because when it is, that's when the problems start.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Just like Jefferson wanted it.

Posted by Lou at 08:05 AM | Permalink

The Secret Life of Joey "the Clown" Lombardo: Part 3

Joey "the Clown" Lombardo and several alleged Outfit compatriots go on trial this week in what may be the last housecleaning of the oldtime Chicago mob. This profile was published in the October 2005 issue of Chicago magazine, before Lombardo was nabbed in Elmwood Park. We have enhanced it (links!) for your enjoyment, and split it into three parts. This is Part 3. Here are Parts 1 and 2.

*

THE LOST DON/By Steve Rhodes

Shortly after he was paroled from a federal penitentiary in eastern Pennsylvania in 1992, Lombardo placed an ad in several Chicago newspapers. "I never took a secret oath with guns and daggers, pricked my finger, drew blood or burned paper to join a criminal organization," the ad said. "If anyone hears my name used in connection with any criminal activity please notify the FBI, local police and my parole officer, Ron Kumke."

While the ad played like a joke, it was probably a calculated, if odd, strategy undertaken by Lombardo. "My belief, based upon information known to us through sources, was that when he came out of prison his most important goal was to never go back to prison, not necessarily to become known as the head of Chicago organized crime, says the Gaming Board's Jim Wagner. "And so, in order to accomplish his first goal, he wanted to stay in the background as much as possible, not get a spotlight on him, and I think that's why he put the notice in the newspaper. But, beyond that, we still had sufficient source information that we believed that regardless of his protestations, he was in fact in charge."

Another way to deflect attention was simply to change the way the mob operated. "A friend of Joe Lombardo's recently claimed that Lombardo decreed in the early nineties that murder and mayhem were now forbidden, except in the most extreme cases, and then only when given the green light from above," Gus Russo reported in his 2001 book, The Outfit.

It's not as if Lombardo went into hiding, though. After returning home from prison, he again became a visible neighborhood presence. Abadinsky recalls touring the neighborhood in a car with an investigator in the Chicago Crime Commission, a cop, and a deputy sheriff. They pulled into the alley behind Lombardo's home and found him there fixing his garage. "When you're fixing your garage and suddenly a car comes down the alleyway with four big guys in it - you think you think you'd get a little bit nervous?" Abadinsky says. "So here's Joey with a cigar in his mouth; he's working; he takes a quick glance at us, doesn't even glance back; he couldn't care less. He's in his neighborhood, he's in Grand Avenue; nobody's gonna touch him in Grand Avenue."

And the neighborhood still embraced him. "He loved all of the trappings of being a mobster," Abadinsky says, "including the old-timer's idea that you settle disputes - we have a sit-down and Joey settles things in the neighborhood."

A year before his release, Lombardo and Marion divorced. He returned to 2210 West Ohio anyway, but moved into the basement.

Peter Wacks and other mob watchers say that while Lombardo was away, he put Vincent "Jimmy" Cozzo in charge of the Grand Avenue crew. Cozzo is a former Teamsters official - and once a technical adviser in the state transportation department - whom the union barred in 1990 because of his mob activities. In the 1980s, Cozzo built a casino-hotel on the Caribbean island of Curacao that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency reportedly once suspected laundered the Chicago mob's drug money. "And anything that Jimmy Cozzo was doing down there, Joey had a piece of," says Wacks.

The Curacao venture, though, ended badly. The Curacao authorities seized the property after Cozzo fell millions of dollars behind in taxes, lease payments, and other fees.

Another influential Lombardo pal, Chris "The Nose" Spina, lost his job as a foreman at the First Ward sanitation yard in 1993 when the city alleged he was spending his time chauffering Lombardo around town while he was clocked in at work. In 1997, a Cook County judge reinstated Spina - with back pay. "He's seen as a spy of the Clown," the Tribune's John Kass reported a couple of years later. (Spina retired in 1999.)

In 1998, in a purge of organized crime members, Lombardo's on, Joseph Jr., was kicked out of the Laborers' International Union of North America, where he had risen to the post of secretary-treasurer. Later, though, a report by hearing officer Peter Vaira, a former federal prosecutor, found that Lombardo Jr. was a hard worker, the only ruling council official with a college degree, and not a member of the mob.

Even with all that, the 1990s were a relatively quiet time for Lombardo. Curtailing the killings worked; the Outfit drew less attention from the police and the media was its operations shrank mostly into the suburbs, focusing on comparatively small rackets such as video poker. Lombardo, meanwhile, had amassed considerable property in the Grand Avenue area under other names and fronts, says former FBI agent Jack O'Rourke.

But then somebody started to sing.

* * *

For a long time the death of Big John Fecarotta - who was whacked for his sloppy handling of the Spilotro burials - looked as if it might go down as just another unsolved gangland hit. But a few years ago, authorities were able to use DNA evidence to tie Fecarotta's murder to a mob loan shark and enforcer named Nick Calabrese, who was doing time in a Michigan prison for another crime. When confronted with the evidence, Calabrese started telling the feds what else he knew about the workings of the Chicago Outfit, providing a crucial impetus in the launching of Operation Family Secrets.

"With his well-established connections, Calabrese is capable of giving Lombardo fits," a Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist wrote. The result so far is the nine-count racketeering indictment filed last April against 14 men that charges murder, bribery, extortion, and bookmaking, among other crimes. The indictment purports to solve 18 murders - 13 of them allegedly committed by Nick Calabrese's brother, Frank Calabrese Sr. (Nick Calabrese is now believed to be in the federal witness protection program.)

In 2003, based at least in part on the information gleaned from Calabrese, FBI agents showed up at the masonry shop at 505 North Racine Avenue where Lombardo went to work every day, according to Rick Halprin. The agents took a saliva swab and hair sample. They hoped to match Lombardo's hair with a strand found on a ski mask discovere in the getaway car used in the Seifert murder. The FBI also warned Lombardo that his life was in danger, according to Halprin. Perhaps someone was afraid Lombardo, not wanting to live out his last days in jail, would flip. (It's possible the Marcello brothers wanted to get rid of him. According to Wagner, the Marcellos "were really starting to take over and were probably the reason for the most recent mob murders. The indication was that that was how they would resolve problems.")

Lombardo vanished for a while, but Halprin says he was there at least two weeks before agents knocked on his door with an arrest warrant last spring. FBI investigators, stung by critics who said Lombardo should have been under surveillance, now say he was long gone before they got there. "This came as no surprise to the bureau," says John Mallul, supervisor of the FBI's organized crime unit in Chicago; Lombardo was "gone well beforehand."

* * *

Why wasn't Lombardo under surveillance? "Everybody knew that he was going to be indicted, and yet they didn't bother watching or paying attention to him," says Robert Cooley, the former mob lawyer who became a federal informant in the 1980s. "It makes no sense whatsoever. The FBI has a surveillance squad whose sole job is to do surveillance. They've got planes at their access! That's what some of the retired guys are snickering about. That is total, absolute incompetence."

(An old Lombardo colleague, Frank "The German" Schweihs, 75, also disappeared before authorities could arrest him. Schweihs is named by prosecutors in the Seifert murder, too, and some authorities suspect he killed Dorfman.)

FBI spokesman Ross Rice finds the critics' view facile. "The so-called experts said we should have had them under surveillance," Rice said. "That may sound very plausible on its face, but if you've ever conducted a physical surveillance of someone, especially someone like Lombardo or Schweis, who are surveillance-conscious, it's very difficult. Maybe in hindsight we can say, OK, surveillance of Schweihs and Lombardo would have been prudent. But at the time, how do you know which defendants are going to be flight risks?"

Surveilling suspects prior to arrest is "an extremely manpower-intensive operation," Wagner says. "And you don't want the surveillance people to get 'made'; you don't want to tip [the suspect] off."

Lombardo is also "a very hard guy to surveil," says Peter Wacks, who speaks from experience. "He had little hiding places. He had a knack for slipping away, sometimes through back alleys."

In the weeks before the indictment, Halprin discussed the possibility of Lombardo's surrender with the U.S. attorney's office. The looming arrest warrant "wasn't a big secret," says Wagner. "Joey had plenty of time to make up his mind as to what he was going to do."

* * *

So where is the Clown?

"My suggestion to my former associates as the FBI was that he's down with Frank [Schweihs] in a retirement community in Florida," says Wagner. "Who's going to notice two old men?"

"The most obvious place to me where somebody should be looking is down in Curacao," says Wacks.

"Tijuana," says Cooley.

"Sicily," says O'Rourke. "His best friend in prison was an old-time Mafia boss from New York, who had had a brother and some other relatives in Sicily. The boss would brag that he'd take care of his friend Joey if he ever got in trouble."

"Vegas," says former Cook County police officer John Flood, an expert on organized crime.

"I don't see how he functions outside of Grand Avenue," says Abadinsky. "It's his neighborhood; he loves the place, he's known in the place, he's comfortable there. It's got to be very uncomfortable for him if he's out of that, not connected to the area anymore."


Posted by Lou at 01:52 AM | Permalink

What I Watched Last Night

Welcome every single one of you 150 or so trendy Los Angeles people to the TV-set restaurant featured on Hell's Kitchen. This evening, I will be your fake-accent maitre d' and the bloke who rings that funny round vibrating plastic blinky-light thingamajig they give you on weekends at Outback Steakhouse and Applebee's that tells you your table's ready. They're very expensive thingamajigs, so please don't go kill time next door at Bed, Bath & Beyond and leave them stashed in the towels.

In the meantime, feel welcome to have a seat at our bar for unlimited complimentary drinks. Hopefully soon, food will be the furthest thing from your mind.

Now, before you get all a-quiver, head chef Gordon Ramsay has personally assured me that some of you might get fed after running out of small talk after two-and-a-half hours trying to impress your blind dates and wives with whom you've nothing left to talk about anymore anyway. But alas and alack, most of you probably won't get fed.

What? No, I'm sorry, sir. They're not available. If I recall correctly, Chef Ramsay's exact words were, "Fuck breadsticks and any pissant who dares ask for them."

Anyway, as I was saying, least one of you - we don't know who right now, so perhaps some of you might want to shake the dice at the bar for two dollars just to be safe - might die from eating rancid crab because one of our cheftestants isn't able to identify the incredibly noxious odor of rotten seafood any better than Stevie Wonder is able to see. And some of you - oh my God, this is sooooooo exciting my own heart is racing - some of you might even end up eating pasta rescued STRAIGHT OUT OF THE KITCHEN GARBAGE BIN and then put back in the pot of boiling water with the other pasta by cheftestant Jen! So when you entree is served, please just flick out any little bits of anything that doesn't look like it naturally belongs there because if you send it back, it'll just take two more hours to bring out another dish.

Is this fucking exciting OR WHAT???

As for the rest of you, please, please be assured that if you actually get served, your meal will be perfectly fine because cheftestant Joanna has licked the tongs herself to give whatever the hell might be in your meal her personal taste of approval. And Chef Ramsay himself will be ensuring TOTAL QUALITY MANAGEMENT by personally tasting the food RIGHT OFF YOUR PLATE just seconds before it goes out!!!! Especially you people ordering risotto - because, well, it's been at least two weeks now and nobody in the back seems to know the first fucking thing about cooking risotto. Sigh. What's with you people anyway? Just order the fucking spaghetti. We have it in a can. Are you people here to eat or just show up on TV?

For those of you here last week, not to worry a bit: Our big sweaty Asian cheftestant Aaron won't be anywhere near your food tonight. He fainted in the kitchen today and was rushed to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a dreadful illness of some sort. He won't be back. Ever. So carry on and bon appetit, but keep in mind that we have your signed waivers on file. So don't get any funny ideas.

Okay now everyone, a last little bit of instruction: When everyone who hasn't been fed in two hours gets up as if exactly on cue and leaves all at once like a big line of war refugees, Chef Ramsay himself will be standing outside the main door to sign autographs, hand out complimentary coupons for hamburgers and Coneys good at any Sonic Drive-In in California, and yell "piss off" to each and every one of you. Because that's the least we can do to make your Hell's Kitchen restaurant dining experience one you'll certainly cherish forever.

If not, just piss off until next week. Because that's just the way Chef Ramsay would want it.

*

Peruse our What I Watched Last Night collection.

Posted by Lou at 12:50 AM | Permalink

Open Letter

What the hell is wrong with you? And I don't mean your prostate cancer.

Did you really think everyone in town would simply accept that you'd be gone for three weeks for a "routine medical procedure" - and no one could know why because it was "personal" and "private"?

Apparently that's exactly what you thought, or your people wouldn't have stonewalled the press until Sun-Times reporters found out about your cancer from other sources.

Thoughtful long-term planning is obviously not your strong suit. Still, let's consider the implications of your strategy. By your logic, mayors, governors and senators could be mysteriously disappearing right and left for secret face lifts, tummy tucks, breast enlargement, and you-know-what enlargement. (I presume since you consider "prostate" too embarrassing to say out loud,you would positively cringe at the other word that begins with 'p'.)

Your original thinking - which you have followed since your diagnosis ten whole months ago, before your controversial election as president of Cook County - is that prostate cancer is too "personal" and "private" to admit publicly. Me, I would have thought prostate cancer rather old hat when people like Rudy Guiliani, Robert De Niro and Bob Dole, among so many others, have long since made theirs public . . . and in an age when you can't watch sports events on TV with children because of all the Viagra and Levitra commercials. Mike Ditka doesn't seem to have a problem talking about things that begin with 'p'.

Do you by any chance remember John Kerry? Sure you do - tall, white, long skinny horse face, Democratic presidential candidate last time around. Kerry found out about his own prostate cancer during medical testing in preparation to give his medical records to the press as part of his presidential campaign . . . and before he had the Democratic nomination. Rather than keeping it secret until after the primaries or election, Kerry's campaign provided reporters with a complete timeline of his diagnosis, tests and treatment.

Kerry even gave out a bit more information than I, for one, really needed. He announced he would have "nerve-sparing" surgery to reduce the chances of incontinence or impotence afterward.

The fact that you would have been elected anyway, Todd, is completely beside the point. Your handling of this situation tells me that you don't even have the good judgment to hire public relations people with good judgment.

Who could possibly live in the same town as Oprah Winfrey and not realize that prostate cancer could have been the best thing to ever happen to you politically - outside having John Stroger for a father?

Todd, had you announced your prostate cancer early on and combined it with a massive drive for prostate cancer awareness, throughout the campaign for County President you could have posed as a courageous patient concerned about the disproportionate toll prostate cancer takes on black men . . . and simultaneously deflected all those pesky questions about your complete lack of knowledge and experience in county government.

This is known in the magical community as "misdirection." Elsewhere, it is simply called "politics."

Now that the press has forced your spokespeople to admit that you kept your prostate cancer secret for nearly a year, and your behavior makes it clear that you hoped to continue keeping it secret, the whole public awareness campaign idea doesn't really work anymore. Especially since the Sun-Times already did it, with no help from you, in April.

Get some rest, Todd. Then, get some new PR people. Because right now your next campaign slogan should be "Todd Stroger: What A Fucking Idiot".

Sincerely,

Cate Plys

*

Open Letter is open to letters. Send comments to Cate Plys. And catch up with the classics in our Open Letter catalog.

Posted by Lou at 12:37 AM | Permalink

June 19, 2007

The [Tuesday] Papers

Editor's Note: Some of you may have experienced problems accessing the site on Monday. Apologies - we had a glitch that we believe is resolved. In case you missed our fine new offerings, check out The [Monday] Papers; TV's Virtuous Assault; Reviewing the Reviews; and The Secret Life of Joey "the Clown" Lombardo: Part 1. If you look to your right, you'll see we've added a few new posts today as well. Thank you for your support.

*

Secret Agent Stroger
Apparently Todd Stroger thought he could just disappear for three weeks and keep it a secret, even though he is the chief executive of the 19th largest government in the United States.

Stroger's staff announced yesterday that the bossman wouldn't be showing up for work until late July, but wouldn't explain exactly why.

The Sun-Times breaks the news this morning that Stroger had surgery on Monday to remove his cancerous prostate. He tried to do so without telling some of his own senior advisors, much less county board commissioners or, God forbid, the public who pays his salary.

What's more, Stroger was diagnosed 10 months ago. "During the campaign, Stroger knew that he would need to have surgery," the Sun-Times reports.

His family asked that their privacy be respected. His family apparently has not been informed that they are living on our dime, and maybe we ought to be respected.

"County officials were surprised to learn that Stroger was even hospitalized and woudn't be attending today's County Board meeting," the Sun-Times reports. "Even those in the highest ranks of Stroger's administration were kept in the dark about his condition, at the family's request.

"It was only after the Sun-Times learned of it from other sources that Stroger's circle discussed the diagnosis and surgery.

"When asked why more details weren't forthcoming about a public official, [taxpayer-funded chief of staff Lance] Tyson said Stroger is also "a husband, a father, a son."

Come on down, Lance Tyson! You are our new nominee for Tool of the Week.

According to the Tribune's account, Tyson referred questions to taxpayer-funded spokeswoman Ibis Antongiorgi. Antongiorgi said Stroger didn't want details of his "routine medical procedure" revealed. LIke what the illness actually was.

Commissioner John Daley played along, saying only that Stroger was undergoing a "personal medical procedure" and adding that disclosing medical details is up to elected officials. Not the people who elect them.

When Stroger's absence was still a mystery last night, I thought maybe he was going on a three-week vacation and didn't want to take the heat. Once it was disclosed that a medical issue was involved, I figured they didn't want to release details so they could deceive the public should he become incapacitated.

Meanwhile, Tony Peracia tried to march on the hospital where Stroger is being kept, but nobody knows which hospital he is at. Which means he ain't at Cook County.

Irony of the Week
"Because prostate cancer is so common among black men - and because it's the same disease that Stroger's father, former Board President John Stroger, battled in his 60s - the usually quiet Todd Stroger, 44, is expected to make this a very public fight."

Our Mayor Is a Child, Pt. 73857
"Mayor Daley questioned the Tribune's record on the environment Monday, defending his administration's performance despite research by the newspaper that found city government's contribution to greenhouse gas production has jumped," the Trib reports.

"'Well, they're cutting all the trees down,' Daley said, referring to wood pulp used to produce newsprint. 'Go talk to the Tribune. Chop another tree down. Great.'"

The mayor would apparently prefer the Tribune drive up electricity usage by moving its operations entirely to the Internet, instead of using a renewable resource.

The mayor also failed to explain what his administration has done to cut down on its use of paper, which has grown exponentially as his staff has to continually generate press releases to distract the public from each week's misdeed.

"We should never have built the Tribune building because it was a high-rise when it was built on Michigan Avenue," Daley said. "They should have never [built] your printing plant in Chicago for all your [delivery] trucks in Chicago. Why are you doing that?"

The mayor's aides then hustled him away for nap time.

Green Preen
The mayor and his administration had a chance to discuss the Trib's story while its reporter, Michael Hawthorne, was working on it. They declined, with the exception of some e-mail exchanges.

Why, Mr. Mayor?

The administration then sent environment commissioner Sadhu Johnston to Chicago Tonight last night to cast aspersions on the Tribune. Fortunately, Hawthorne was there to call him on his bullshit. Illinois Sierra Club director Jack Darin also appeared. This excerpt is edited for length, clarity, and sloppy note-taking.

JOHNSTON: We have achieved our goal. The story is inaccurate. We have decreased emissions by 1 percent each year.

HAWTHORNE: The city's own records show emissions went up 10 percent from the baseline.

JOHNSTON: You're only getting part of the story.

DARIN: [blah blah blah]

HAWTHORNE: The city's own records show that.

JOHNSTON: One percent reduction every year. For last four years. Doesn't mean energy consumption doesn't go up. A trading system. Emissions are up, but we bought offsets.

DARIN: The mayor is doing what leaders do.

Lie?

JOHNSTON: It's inaccurate.

HAWTHORNE: The commissioner is throwing words around like 'vague' and 'inaccurate.' If anything, their own records would be 'vague and 'inaccurate.' They refused to answer questions.

Let's just get this straight: We based this story on their records, not sonmething I made up. If he needs someone to quibble with, he can quibble with his own staff.

JOHNSTON: The fact remains that energy consumption through electricity has gone up . . . you can go back and forth and quibble on numbers.

DARIN: [blah blah blah]

HAWTHORNE: It's basic journalism. A public official promises something, a journalist goes to find out if the promise was kept . . . Our story showed this was what the actual record is . . . you can talk about all the great things they're doing, they promote, that's fine. That's their job. We're just trying to provide a little reality check here.

Advantage, Hawthorne.

Mob Job
"Jurors [in the Family Secrets trial] were asked what they read and listen to as well as what TV shows they might watch that touch on the mob. One prospective juror listed The Simpsons, apparently a tongue-in-cheek reference to the character 'Fat Tony' and his band of hoodlums from fictional Springfield's underworld."

Is that juror single?

Harbor Country
Erika Enk of Chicago writes to the Tribune: "I find it quite funny that the City of Chicago's Park District will spend $120 million to fund additional harbors in anticipation for a possible Olympic bid, but the city's crumbling public transit system is in a $100 million-plus financial crisis."

The Beachwood Tip Line: Go for the green.

Posted by Lou at 08:34 AM | Permalink

Punk Planet is Dead. Long Live Punk.

Bad news from Punk Planet:

Dear Friends,

As much as it breaks our hearts to write these words, the final issue of Punk Planet is in the post, possibly heading toward you right now. Over the last 80 issues and 13 years, we've covered every aspect of the financially independent, emotionally autonomous, free culture we refer to as "the underground." In that time we've sounded many alarms: about threats of co-optation, big-media emulation, and unseen corporate sponsorship. We've also done everything in our power to create a support network for independent media, experiment with revenue streams, and correct the distribution issues that have increasingly plagued independent magazines. But now, finally, we've come to the impossible decision to stop printing, having sounded all the alarms and reenvisioned all the systems we can. Benefit shows are no longer enough to make up for bad distribution deals, disappearing advertisers, and a decreasing audience of subscribers.

As to the latter two points, we could blame the Internet. It makes content - and bands - easy to find, for free. (We're sure our fellow indie labels, those still standing, can attest to the difficulties created in the last few years). We can blame educational and media systems that value magazines focused on consumerism over engaged dissent. And we can blame the popular but mistaken belief that punk died several years ago.

But it is also true that great things end, and the best things end far too quickly.

As to bad distribution deals, we must acknowledge that the financial hit we took in October of 2005, when our newsstand distributor announced that it was in dire straits, was worse than we originally thought. As the dust began to clear from their January bankruptcy announcement, we began to realize that the magazine was left in significantly worse shape, distribution-wise, than they let on.

Add to that the stagnation that the independent record world is suffering under and the effect that has had on our ad sales, not to mention the loss of independent bookstores with a vested interest in selling our publication, and it all adds up to a desperate situation. This has been made far worse by the exhaustion felt from a year and a half of fighting our own distributor. It was a situation that didn't have an exit strategy other then, well, exiting.

Thank you for all the hard work and amazing writing you've done at Punk Planet over the years. Your work has helped to create a legacy that will be remembered for many years - thank you. Of course, some of you are still owed for for your work. We apologize and want you to know that we are working to meet our outstanding financial commitments. If you are still owed for a story, remind us of what the story is. If you'd take your payment in backissues or other merch, thank you, and now is the time to do it. Please let us know what you'd like.

In the future, the books line will continue to publish, and the website will continue to be a social networking site for independently minded folk engaged in these ideas; Dan will be staying with both, but Anne will be moving on, only blogging occasionally at punkplanet.com while she pursues other interests. All future inquiries about the magazine should go to theend@punkplanet.com.

There probably isn't much else to say that we haven't already said in PP80 - in articles about new activist projects, SXSW, the demise of the IPA, and transgender media, and in interviews with the G7 Welcoming Committee, Andre Schiffrin, and The Steinways. Read it, enjoy it, and find in it enough inspiration to last until we come back in some other form, at some other time, renewed and ready to make another outstanding mark on the world.

I've been honored to work with you for these past three years.

Sincerely,

Anne Elizabeth Moore


Posted by Lou at 06:46 AM | Permalink

The Secret Life of Joey "the Clown" Lombardo: Part 2

Joey "the Clown" Lombardo and several alleged Outfit compatriots go on trial this week in what may be the last housecleaning of the oldtime Chicago mob. This profile was published in the October 2005 issue of Chicago magazine, before Lombardo was nabbed in Elmwood Park. We have enhanced it (links!) for your enjoyment, and split it into three parts. Part 1 is here. This is part 2.

*

THE LOST DON/By Steve Rhodes


For a while, though, everything clicked - not only in Vegas but in Chicago. Problems had a way of disappearing. In 1974, for example, the U.S. attorney here charged Lombardo, Spilotro, and Dorman, among others, in a fraud scheme involving a $1.4-million pension fund loan to the American Pail Company, a sham enterprise unwittingly fronted, in part, by Daniel Seifert, a 29-year-old Elk Grove Village businessman. The FBI suspected that Lombardo and his pals were more interested in using the loan to line their pockets than to make pails. Word of Seifert's cooperation with the federal probe leaked out, leading Lombardo to ask Accardo for permission to eliminate him, according to Bill Roemer's 1995 book Accardo: The Genuine Godfather.

Despite Accardo's professed aversion to kiling private citizens, he told Lombardo to "take him out," according to Roemer.

At 8 a.m. one fall day, four masked gunmen shot Seifert dead in front of his wife and child as they were about to enter a Bensenville factory he owned. Both Roemer and an FBI informant have named Lombardo as one of the triggermen. In their indictment last spring, prosecutors linked Lombardo to the murder for the first time. (Rick Halprin says Lombardo was in a police station reporting a stolen wallet at the time of the murder.)

By Roemer's account, Accardo was furious that Seifert had been killed in front of his family. Such a cold-blooded hit was bound to bring heightened police and media scrutiny. "[Accardo] could understand that Tony Spilotro would stoop to such stupidity," Roemer wrote. "But Accardo had a hard time reconciling that Joe Lombardo, a much sharper guy than Spilotro, could be so stupid."

Nonetheless, Seifert's murder was "an absolute disaster" for the prosecution in the loan-fraud case, says Peter Wacks, one of the lead agents in the matter. Without Seifert's testimony, the prosecution fell apart and all hands were acquitted.


* * *

Some veteran mob watchers are disappointed that last spring's indictment doesn't address more of the killings long attributed to Lombardo. First among those is the 1973 slaying of the Cook County sheriff's chief investigator, Richard Cain, in Rose's Sandwich Shop on Grand Avenue. According to police accounts, two men walked into the shop, lined the customers against the wall, put their shotguns under Cain's chin, and blew his brains out.

Cain worked for Sheriff Richard Ogilvie, the future governor. A partner with Sam Giancana in overseas casinos, Cain also worked for the mob and as an FBI informant, kind of a triple agent. Among others, Bill Roemer, who claimed Cain as one of his closest friends, named Lombardo as one of the triggermen that day. So did FBI informant and federal witness Alva Johnson Rodgers. (Lombardo once reportedly said that he was at Fritz's Bamboo Hut, also on West Grand Avenue, at the time of Cain's murder.) Rodgers also said Lombardo OK'ed the assassination in 1977 of a millionaire Indiana oilman, Ray Ryan, who supposedly had stopped making payoffs to a colleague of Lombardo's.

Another informant said he once asked Lombardo for permission to kill a man who had damaged the informant's Schiller Park disco. "Break the guy's arms, legs, and head instead," Lombardo said, according to news reports. "But if the problem occurs again, do whatever you have to do."

"Such alleged exploits," Roemer once said, "give [Lombardo] a certain respectability in his circle."

* * *

Lombardo's public exploits were another matter. Take, for example, the night in 1980 when he and James "Legs" D'Antonio were sitting in a car on the 500 block of North Racine Avenue and police in unmarked cars arrived to raid a gambling den. One of the officers, mistaking Lombardo for one of the men named in his search warrant, approached the car. Lombardo and D'Antonio took off. A six-minute high-speed chase ensued, until Lombardo and D'Antonio stopped at Fulton Street and Western Avenue. Three officers and a detective hopped out of their cars with guns drawn. Lombardo tried to walk away quietly. (He later told police he was "going for cover.") Once busted, he tossed two notebooks over a fence. Police recovered the notebooks, which included descriptions and license plate numbers of the two cars that had just chased him, and a series of off-color jokes. He was, after all, the Clown.

In the lockup, police found $6,000 in cash on him. After he was treated at Cook County Hospital for minor injuries, police searched him again and found another $6,000 in cash in his shoes.

Lombardo was diligent about attending routine pretrial hearings, unusual for a mobster. After one day's proceedings, hoping to dodge the media, he pulled up his collar, pulled down his hat, and whipped out his Sun-Times, with precut peephole. He was photographed as he made his way from the courthouse to the car that D'Antonio had brought around. That photo is now the iconic image of Joey the Clown.

A jury convicted Lombardo of resisting arrest, despite his testimony that he merely told D'Antonio to speed away when he was a suspicious car appear. "I had $12,000 on me," he said. "Those guys might be robbers or killers."

* * *

The beginning of the end of the Outfit's glory days apparently unfolded in the International Towers, an office building on Bryn Mawr Avenue near O'Hare airport. In the first six months of 1979, FBI agents secretly recorded 112,000 telephone conversations from 13 phone lines in Allen Dorfman's insurance office there, as part of an investigation into the mob's hidden ownership of several Las Vegas casinos. Unexpectedly, agents stumbled upon a bribery scheme in which a 5.8-acre plot of land that the Teamsters owned next to the Las Vegas Hilton hotel and casino would be sold to U.S. senator Howard Cannon, of Nevada, at a cut-rate. In turn, Cannon, the chairman of the Commerce Committee, would wrest control of a trucking industry deregulation bill from the Judiciary Committee chairman, Edward Kennedy. Cannon would then kill the bill, as a favor to the Teamsters.

In 1981, the feds indicted Lombardo, Dorfman, Teamsters president Roy Williams, and two others. (Cannon was not charged, and the property was sold to another party.) Prosecutors described Lombardo as the "pragmatist" of the conspiracy, whose role in smoothing the way included persuading other bidders for the property to drop out. After performing one such delicate manuever, he was caught on tape saying, "Another good move by me. I'm like an old-time general. They'd better give me some stars."

Near the end of the trial, the jurors had to be sequestered because five of them had received ominous phone calls from strangers. A sixth juror was approached while on an outing of the jury to a Chicago Bears game.

In December 1982, after four days of deliberations, the jury found Lombardo, Dorman, Williams, and two others guilty on 11 counts of bribery, fraud, and conspiracy. A month later, while out on trial awaiting sentencing, Dorfman was shotgunned to death in the parking lot of the Lincolnwood Hyatt Hotel. The mob apparently thought Dorfman was too soft to do his time and might start singing. ABC-TV's Ted Koppel devoted an episode of Nightline to the murder, accompanied by a profile of Lombardo. To this day, the Dorfman slaying remains unsolved.

Lombardo's neighbors said they could not imagine their friend bribing (or killing) anyone. "He's very hghly regarded by all the homeowners," one neighbor said at Lombardo's sentencing. "They were devastated when they found out he got taken into custody." Another neighbor said, "You could tell Joe Lombardo anything, and it would be held in confidence. You wouldn't even go to a priest with some of your problems, but you'd go to Joe Lombardo." Another recounted how Lombardo was known as "the coach" at local playgrounds. Yet another recalled how Lombardo once took in a stray dog and named it Fluffy.

Then Lombardo spoke for himself. "I never ordered a killing," he said. "I never OK'ed a killing. I never killed a man in my life. I never ordered or OK'ed any bombing or arson in my life."

He impressed Judge Marshall. "Mr. Lombardo delivered what I regarded as one of the more eloquent statements that I have heard in my time on the bench the other day," the judge said. Then he sentenced Lombardo to 15 years. "Mr. Lombardo is an enigma. You are not a Jekyll and Hyde. You apparently live very publicly. But no one can get ahold of your economic life over the last seven years."

About a month and a half into his term, Lombardo gave a jailhouse interview to the Chicago Tribune. "Don't you know when an innocent man is in jail?" he complained. "If a guy commits a crime, he belongs in jail. But when they start trumping up stuff, it's sickening. And the way you guys in the news media tolerate it, it's just sickening."

"I have no faith in the system," he declared.

* * *

A few months later, the FBI finally broke the mob's hold on Las Vegas. On the strength of an extensive series of wiretaps, the government convicted the mob bosses of Chicago and Kansas City, among others, including Lombardo, with having skimmed almost $2 million in hidden profits from several Las Vegas casinos since 1974. Lombardo got 16 years, though the sentence ran concurrent to the one he had already begun serving. (Alan Dershowitz represented Lombardo on his failed appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.)

Six months later, the bodies of Tony Spilotro and his brother Michael were found in a shallow grave in an Indiana cornfield. In his last few years, Tony Spilotro had spun out of control, freelancing on the side with his so-called Hole-in-the-Wall Gang and taking up with Rosenthal's estranged wife. Tony also faced an upcoming trial. In short, he had become a headache, which made him expendable. The bodies, however, were supposed to disappear. Three months later, John Fecarotta, who was in charge of the burying operation, was killed for his incompetence, according to law enforcement accounts. Fecarotta's murder would later open the door for the Operation Family Secrets investigation.

Everything connected to the Las Vegas operation seemed to go sour. Somehow, though, Lombardo escaped reprisal. In Double Deal, Michael Corbitt offered his explanation: "In the Outfit, when you screwed up, you got planted. End of story. It wasn't like they handed you a pink slip and you went to work for another crew. You were done. That is, unless you used a tactic that was a favorite of America's corporate set, the old CYA routine - cover your ass and blame whatever went wrong on the other guy. That was Joey Lombardo's modus operandi, and that's what kept the son of a bitch alive and in power. Every time somebody who reported to Joey got in trouble, he just blamed that particular guy for the problem and got permission to have him whacked. Obviously, you didn't want to work for Lombardo."

*

Coming Wednesday: Joey returns to the neighborhood. And then disappears.

Posted by Lou at 06:10 AM | Permalink

What I Watched Last Night

The biggest collection of head cases any American network has ever had the balls to produce in television history returned to FX with a rerun of the fourth season opener of Rescue Me. While the networks serve us reality-show slop and bad sitcoms and then wonders where all the viewers have gone, recovering boozer Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary) and the men of NYFD Station 62 are back elevating into an art from the state of being incredibly fucked in the head by bad childhoods and worse adulthoods. It's no wonder guys like this don't mind going into blazing warehouses. For some of them, death would be easier and cheaper than the years of therapy it would take to undo the messes they've become.

Which is why Rescue Me is one of the best shows television has ever seen. So God bless creators Peter Tolan and Denis Leary and whoever is running FX these days.

Tatum O'Neal returns as Tommy's alcoholic/crazy-bitch sister Maggie, a character I've become rather partial to. She's been married for nine months to Engine 62 firefighter Sean Garrity, who finds out in the opener that besides drinking, one of Maggie's hobbies is porn - particularly porn involving guys hung like elephants. Naturally, this makes average-guy Sean feel inadequate. "You don't want your cock to be that big," Maggie reassures him. "Your life would be terrible! You wouldn't be able to buy pants!"

Later, instead of throwing out Maggie's big box o' porn ("The box is your friend," Maggie says) he decides to give porn watching with Maggie a try.

Sean: "What's he going to do with the pepper mill?"
Maggie: "That's not a pepper mill."

Divorced and conned by some grifter skank out of his life savings, nice guy fireman Kenny Shea picks up where he left off last season: screwing a nun with an insatiable appetite. But that's okay, Kenny tells Tommy, "she's only a nun until the end of the month." In what may be the most decadent example of public-place sex anyone might conceive, Kenny and the good sister celebrate the orgasm in the church balcony on the pipe organ bench. While Mass is going on.

On the homefront, Tommy's teenaged daughter Colleen has decided to no longer be lesbian. "That was so six months ago," she tells Tommy. "I'm through with girls. Girls are crazy." Instead, she's dating a 26-year-old musician and smoking pot. "Oh, the pot made me forget: I drink now," she states right before puking up a load of schnapps. Seeing his daughter starting down the road to becoming the wreck he is, Tommy confronts his ex-wife Janet about Colleen's new direction. Janet, of course, knows all about it. "It's the good pot too," she tells Tommy. "Not the cheap shit we used to get."

Of course, Tommy is still seeing and conversing with dead people he couldn't save in the line of duty, particularly his firefighter cousin Jimmy Keefe, a Ground Zero fatality who shows up to bitch-slap Tommy in an elevator.

But his discussions with dead people are nowhere near as good as his conversations in seasons past with Jesus, who would occasionally show up in Tommy's pickup truck or in his apartment prying nails out of his feet. He was a really hip Jesus who made a lot of sense, and I've missed him since he drove off in a yellow Lamborghini with an incredibly hot Mary Magdalene a season or two ago.

*

Every time I see Man Vs. Wild and think of the cameraman who has to tag along to film survival professional/host Bear Grylls' journeys into some of the most inhospitable places on the planet, the kamikaze pilot bit from Cheech and Chong's first album pops into my head:

"Honorable kamikaze pilots of Rising Sun Empire of Japan: Today you going on most dangerous mission. Today you take kamikaze airplane high up in the sky, find Yankee aircraft carrier, bring kamikaze plane down fast, crashing on deck, killing yourself and all aboard. Now, before we have ceremonial saki toast, are there any questions? Yah, in the back, Sakimoto."

"Honorable General, sir!"

"Ah so!"

"Are you out of your fucking mind?"

In Friday's premiere of the show's second season, Grylls was plopped into the middle of the Florida Everglades to see how long it might take him to reach civilization without being eaten by an alligator or a black bear. Dressed in street clothes, the only survival tools Grylls carried were a hunk of flint for building a fire, a knife to cut branches and stab wildlife, and a plastic canteen. These would, I guess, represent the bare minimum a civilian might have if, say, you happen to be flying with Lynyrd Skynyrd or your drunken airboat captain slams into a big cypress tree.

In light of the things you can't carry onto a commercial flight anymore, his basic survival necessities are a bit unrealistic. Most people under the age of 70 don't even own or carry even a penknife (yet Bear's blade is substantial enough to skin a deer), and the only citizens walking around with a chunk of flint in their possession are Boy Scouts at jamboree. But still, if you did manage to have these things on you because Underpaid Sleepy Boarding Gate Guard was manning the X-ray machine at O'Hare and you somehow ended up in the middle of the Everglades, you'd be damn glad you watched last night's show. Grylls was careful not to turn any protected wildlife into a meal, but he was able to pass on some important survival tips:

Survival Tip 1: First order of business is to get yourself a really big-ass walking stick at least as tall as you. It might not be weapon enough to spear a black bear for dinner, but it'll get you unstuck from swamp mud (which will suck you in same as quicksand), and keep your face from being torn to shreds walking through sawgrass. And if you get bored easily, you can poke alligators and rattlesnakes with it.

Survival Tip 2: At the end of the day, keep your feet dry. You would dry them, along with your clothes, in front of a fire you've built from palm tree fuzz on a platform (using palm tree fonds to cover it) you've built in a tree high above the swamp. After 12 hours in the water, your worst friend is trench foot, especially if it gets all infected. "If you can't walk, you die," Bear instructs. I don't recall how you and the platform keep from going up in flames in your sleep, however, and there are apparently no survival skills known to Bear that will keep you from being eaten alive overnight by swarms of mosquitos.

Speaking of water, once you use your shirt to filter out all the decaying leaves and slime floating about, you have to boil swamp water to drink it without keeling over from bacteria and parasites. I'm foggy on where Bear got the metal cup in which he boiled the water to fill his canteen. Hopefully someone on the crashed plane will have one you can use.

Survival Tip 3: There's simple a way to tell the difference between a poisonous coral snake and the scarlet kingsnake ("Red touching black, friend of Jack; red on yellow, kill a fellow"), but most of us would forget the rhyme, especially if you had a gaping head wound or something. So for chrissake, just stay away from the snakes, okay?

Survival Tip 4: If you look hard enough, you can find enough stuff that won't kill you from making a snack or a meal out of it once you're able to find a spit of dry land with pine or oak trees on it. Not that you'd actually want to eat carpenter ant larvae (gritty and bitter, but four times more protein than beef) or skinny little tree frogs (bite the heads off so they don't kick and squirm on the way down), but still. There are no poisonous frogs in the Everglades, so eat hearty; however, there are poisonous toads, so stay away from anything that looks like a frog with bumpy skin.

You can eat turtles, too; their shell is like a big crock pot. Just kill it by stabbing it in the head with your big knife, and stick it in the campfire you've started using palm tree fuzz and your hunk of flint. When the shell is brittle enough to break apart with your big-ass stick, it's done.

Reaching civilization after slogging around the swamps for three days, Grylls faced his biggest survival challenge once he hopped a fence and reached a really long stretch of desolate highway: Hitching a ride from a passing motorist who wasn't a serial killer.

*

I had to stay up long enough to see the midnight showing of the respectable but often too-philosophical (as films directed by Robert Redford tend to be sometimes) The Legend of Bagger Vance on TBS.

Matt Damon portrays Rannulph Junnah, a local Savannah, Georgia, golf hero born to parents unable to spell "Randolph" who goes off to World War I to lose his mind and his golf swing. Will Smith portrays Bagger Vance, a caddy who helps him find both after many tall doses of Zen once Damon/Rannulph answers the philosophical question of "how drunk is drunk enough?" during a card game for 10-year-old acquaintance Hardy Greaves:

Rannulph: "Now, the question on the table is, 'How drunk is drunk enough?' And the answer is that it's all a matter of brain cells."

Hardy: "Brain cells?"

Rannulph: "That's right, Hardy. You see, every drink of liquor you take kills a thousand brain cells. Now that doesn't much matter, 'cause we got billions more. And first the sadness cells die, so you smile real big. And then the quiet cells go so you just say everything real loud for no reason at all. That's okay, that's okay, because the stupid cells go next, so everything you say is real smart. And finally come the memory cells. These are tough sons of bitches to kill."

Amen, brother. Amen.

-

Check out the What I Watched Last Night library.


Posted by Lou at 05:48 AM | Permalink

June 18, 2007

The [Monday] Papers

"During his 12 years in politics, Sen. Barack Obama has received nearly three times more campaign cash from indicted businessman Tony Rezko and his associates than he has publicly acknowledged," the Sun-Times reports.

In particular, Obama relied on a cocktail party at Rezko's mansion in June 2003 to show he could compete in the U.S. Senate primary with fellow candidates Blair Hull and Dan Hynes.

"At the time of the party, the state was in the process of foreclosing on a low-income apartment building Rezko's company rehabbed in Obama's state Senate district - a rehab project on which Obama's law firm worked on," the Sun-Times reports. "Rezko had also abandoned many other low-income apartments, leaving numerous vacant units in need of major repairs."

It's all coming together.

Green Screen
"Mayor Richard Daley vowed six years ago to make Chicago a leader in emerging efforts to fight global warming, but city government is churning out more heat-trapping pollution every year," the Tribune reports.

"The city's lack of progress highlights how the mayor's environmentally friendly speeches failed to translate into aggressive action at City Hall."

You mean all that PR was just . . . PR? And reporters just . . . bought it?

"For instance, as Daley traveled around the country giving speeches that touted the city's involvement [with the Chicago Climate Exchange], staff members at the Department of Environment struggled to gather electricity and fuel bills to verify the city's emissions baseline and annual report," the Trib reports.

"Records show that officials fell well short of targets for curbing electricity usage by city buildings despite the construction of energy-efficient buildings and the installation of green roofs across the city."

Like the green roof on City Hall that makes so many reporters gush.

Ironically, some of the city's rising electricity demand came from the very buildings it was touting as energy-efficient.

Now, "taxpayers could be required to make up the difference" in greenhouse allowances from the Exchange.

Nice.

City officials would only comment to the Trib via e-mail. I wonder if that takes more electricity than picking up the phone?

Uncle Lou
Girls are dumb.

Surge Protectors
"The 'surge' is a failure. The 'surge' is a success. Come September, it is likely you'll be hearing both verdicts from politicians, analysts and your neighbors."

And editorial pages.

"And it's likely that evidence in Iraq will support either conclusion."

If you're a relativist or ideologue.

"That's because success and failure hinge on definitions and expectations - how much better or worse is Baghdad? - not to mention rough statistics and anecdotes that tell at best only a sliver of the story."

Like the one we're trying to tell.

*

As the Trib editorial says, the Bush administration is already looking at a "post-surge" strategy that would cut the U.S. presence there - in other words, to unsurge.

But I suppose that's a matter of how you define it.

Scrubs
I did it. I defied the explicit instructions of The Cub Factor and looked into the light. It happened on Saturday when D-Lee threw that punch. The Fightin' Cubs! What's gotten into them?! And what with the Cicadas - Theriot, Fontenot, Pie - I was starting to like a Cubs team for the first time in years.

Even the most hardened among us never learn.

China Syndrome
The Trib editorial page chides Darfur activists who have targeted LeBron James, who is one of only two Cleveland Cavaliers not to sign a petition asking China to demand that its trading partner, Sudan, accept a U.N. peacekeeping force. James has a $90 million deal with Nike, which has factories in China. "Connect the dots and . . . James is enabling genocide for fear of jeopardizing his relationship with Nike."

The Trib says that with sarcasm. But it's true.

Daley Dose
"As [Aldermen] Brookins and Fioretti were talking to reporters, Daley aide Lance Lewis, one of the few straight shooters I've met in the mayor's administration, was standing in the middle of the throng with a recorder that captured every word they said," the Reader's Mick Dumke reports. "'When I take notes, I can't read my own writing,' he explained. I asked why anyone from the mayor's office needed to write down OR record what aldermen were saying to the press. 'Well, if the mayor gets asked questions about it, he needs to be prepared.'"

Lance Lewis, Tool of the Week.

"Later, when the mayor was asked if the 11 'no' votes bothered him, he engaged in a classic Daley deflection. 'No, I think public art is really important in Chicago,' he said. 'I think we need more of it.'

"'Right, but they don't like the way you're going to choose the artists,' said Fran Spielman of the Sun-Times.

"'I'm not choosing the artists. I'm not choosing the artists. [Cultural Affairs commissioner] Lois Weisberg is,' Daley said. 'We have more public art in Chicago than in most cities in the country. If you look at our public art, it's all over. I mean, it's really fantastic . . . '

"After several more minutes, the question was pressed again, this time at a much higher volume: Were you concerned with the 11 no votes?

"'No,' Daley said. 'No, no.' He hurried out of the room."

R.I.P. Fluff
The Sun-Times's Fluff section is dead. Long live Fluff.

Last Supper
From a faithful Beachwood reader:

"The Trib Metro section last week ran an article on Taste of Chicago, with an accompanying photo that shows a handful of empty chairs surrounding a food-laden table. The caption: 'Taste of Chicago presented a sampling of its offerings to members of the media at a preview of the event on Tuesday.'

"There are no members of the media in the photo; there are no people in the photo, period. Do you supposed this is supposed to symbolize Tribune employees who've taken buy-outs?"

Urban Education
The city is considering creating an arts high school. Within five years the school would be converted into yuppie condos.

Joey the Clown
Today we start a three-part series called "The Secret Life of Joey "the Clown" Lombardo," who goes on trial this week with a few of his alleged mob compatriots. We also have outstanding new offerings throughout the rest of the site. Please consult "Inside the Reporter" to guide you, and don't forget to generously send out our links to both friends and enemies. We thank you for your support.

The Beachwood Tip Line: See the light.


Posted by Lou at 10:09 AM | Permalink

The Secret Life of Joey "the Clown" Lombardo: Part 1

Joey "the Clown" Lombardo and several alleged Outfit compatriots go on trial this week in what may be the last housecleaning of the oldtime Chicago mob. This profile was published in the October 2005 issue of Chicago magazine, before Lombardo was nabbed in Elmwood Park. We have enhanced it (links!) for your enjoyment, and split it into three parts. Today is part one.

*

THE LOST DON
By Steve Rhodes

At 6 a.m. one Monday last spring, nearly 100 FBI agents fanned out to serve arrest warrants on a handful of men thought to be connected to 18 of the most gruesome unsolved gangland murders in Chicago since 1970. Teams of agents found most of the suspected wiseguys in their suburban homes or hangouts. Two were arrested in Lombard, including James "Jimmy the Man" Marcello, thought to be the current boss of the Chicago mob, otherwise known as the Outfit. Agents nabbed Marcello's brother, Michael, at his home in Schaumburg. Nicholas Ferriola, son of the late reputed mob boss Joe Ferriola, was apprehended in Westchester. Others were arrested in Hillside and Western Springs. Frank "Gumba" Saladino was discovered dead (of natural causes) in a Kane County motel room where he had been living. A retired Chicago police officer accused of acting as a mob mole while he was on the force was located in Arizona.

At a press conference that day, Chicago FBI chief Robert Grant touted the significance of the roundup, the result of a federal investigation called Operation Family Secrets. "While there have been many successful investigations during the past quarter century resulting in the arrest and indictment of high-ranking members of the Chicago Outfit," Grant said, "never before have so many in lofty positions in the Chicago mob been charged in the same case."

The man in perhaps the loftiest position, however - the one thought to be most intimately familiar with Chicago mob matters, and the final link to the Outfit's glory days of Tony "Big Tuna" Accardo, the infamously mobbed-up First Ward, and organized crime's glittery reign over Las Vegas - that suspect could not be found.

At age 76, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo was on the lam.

"We thought we had everybody in pocket, so to speak, but obviously we're still looking," Grant said.

Lombardo, many believe, is Marcello's consigliere, the senior adviser whose approval even the boss must seek before making major Outfit decisions. "On a higher plane than day-to-day operations," says Jim Wagner, a former supervisor of the FBI's organized crime unit in Chicago and now chief investigator for the Illinois Gaming Board.

Lombardo ascended to his position by cunning, street smarts, and sheer ruthlessness - and in spite of the eccentricity that earned him his nickname. "[H]e was no clown; he was a deadly killer," Bill Roemer, the late FBI mob hunter, once wrote. Michael Corbitt, the late Willow Springs police chief who was secretly working for the mob, once said of Lombardo, "I believe he filled up a cemetery or two."

Lombardo was been weirdly conspicuous by his absence. The media attention last spring included an unfortunate episode in which the Chicago Tribune thought it had an exclusive: a Columbia College student gave the paper a photo purportedly of Lombardo, riding a bicycle down West Grand Avenue. The Tribune put the photo on the front of its Metro section under the headline, "Have You Seen This 'Clown'?" To the paper's horror, the cigar-smoking man in the floppy hat and overcoast merely bore an uncanny resemblance to the missing mobster, but certainly wasn't Lombardo.

Then, a week after his disappearance, Lombardo sent a four-page letter to the federal judge handling the case that outlined his surrender terms - namely a ridiculously low $50,000 bond and (also unlikely) a trial separate from those of his codefendants. He signed the letter "Joe Lombardo. A Innocent Man."

"It sounds like part of his clown routine, a real bonehead move," says Howard Abadinsky, an expert on the Outfit and a professor of criminal justice at St. John's University in New York. "But he's not stupid. That letter might be written for somebody else's review, not the judge."

Such as? "A message to the Outfit: I'm not going to flip, Abadinsky says. Just in case the mob had any ideas about making very sure Lombardo didn't - couldn't - talk.

Whatever, the letter was very Joey the Clown.

"It's kind of refreshing to have people like Joey Lombardo out there," says Peter Wacks, a former FBI agent who once helped put Lombardo away. "There aren't many left from that era, that's for sure."

Which isn't to forget the terrible crimes authorities link to Lombardo. It is to suggest an appreciate of Joey the Clown as a consummate Chicago character whose story in many ways tells the story of the Outfit in the past half century.

* * *

By law enforcement accounts, Joey Lombardo's long rise to the top of the Outfit demonstrated a remarkable versatility and savvy business sense. He began as a poor but determined street tough in the 1950s who moved ahead as a jewel thief, juice loan collector, and hit man. He rose into management, so to speak, when he took over as capo of the Grand Avenue crew - kind of like a corporate vice president getting his own division, with about 30 "soldiers" in his employ.

When it came time for the Outfit to solidify its control of Las Vegas, Lombardo turned into a major player, authorities say. The big boss, Tony Accardo, tapped Lombardo to serve in two key, overlapping roles: overseeing the Teamster union's Central States Pension Fund (otherwise known as the mafia's bank because the mob dipped into it so often to finance so many of its schemes, including the secret purchases of several casinos) and supervising the dynamic duo that ran Las Vegas for the Outfit, Tony "The Ant" Spilotro and Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal.

Martin Scorsese dramatized the adventures of Spilotro and Rosenthal, played by Joe Pesci and Robert DeNiro, respectively, in his 1995 film, Casino. Lombardo isn't depicted in the film, and he is barely mentioned in the Nichola Pileggi book on which the film was based. But Lombardo's crucial role emerged during the federal racketeering trials in the 1980s that destroyed the mob's hold on Sin City. "We all underestimated Joey," says Wacks. "We found out later he had a huge responsibility in Vegas."

Those trials resulted in Lombardo's first conviction; like a slew of other top mob leaders snared by the feds, he did a long stretch in the pen. In organized crime, however, imprisonment is not necessarily a career-killer. As the Chicago mob retrenched, according to several former FBI agents and other experts, Lombardo managed the changes from his prison cell. Though trying to pierce the Outfit's veil to determine who is really in charge is a bit of a parlor game, mob watchers alleged that when Lombardo left prison in 1992, it was as the boss of a smaller, quieter version of the Chicago mob.

Even then, Lombardo didn't stray from his roots as a neighborhood guy. Unlike most other elite mobsters, he never moved to the suburbs. In fact, with the exception of his eight years in the joint, he has lived in the same building - 2210 West Ohio Street - for nearly five decades. And he has hardly been a recluse. Instead, he regularly padded around the neighborhood to and from card games or the masonry shop where he ostensibly worked. "This guy is a neighborhood feature," says Abadinsky.

He is also, now, a rarity. During a raid on a bookmaking operation in 1981, Internal Revenue Service agents came across a photograph that mob junkies today call The Last Supper. Taken at the now-shuttered Sicily Restaurant, on the 2700 block of North Harlem Avenue, the picture shows the Outfit's top ten leaders of the day, including Accardo, Joey "Doves" Aiuppa, and Jackie "The Lackey" Cerone. On the right, in the rear, stands Lombardo, a youthful contrast to the graybeards.

For anyone looking at the photo now, Lombardo stands out for a different reason: everyone else in it is dead.

* * *

While he may be known as "The Clown" in the press, Lombardo's nickname on the streets is "Lumpy" - 'because he was so good at pounding lumps on people's heads," says Richard Lindberg, a Chicago author and historian. Lombardo has also used a number of aliases, including Joe Padula and Joe Cuneo. But is given name is Giuseppe Lombardi, one of 11 children born to Mike and Carmela Lombardi.

The Lombardis emigrated from Bari, Italy. Like most Italian immigrants to Chicago at the time, they settled on the Near West Side, where Mike worked as a butcher, according to Giuseppe's birth certificate. "Mama and Papa were 'old country,'" says Jack O'Rourke, a former Chicago FBI agent who is now a private investigator. "And dirt poor."

Joey Lombardo once told police he committed his first theft when he was 18 so his mother could get an operation. But it's likely that Lombardo, a high-school dropout, began his wayward life at an earlier age, growing up in the same Grand-Ogden area as Tony Spilotro and Tony Accardo's Circus Cafe Gang.

In 1951, Lombardo married Marion Nigro in a Catholic ceremony at the Holy Rosary church, at 612 North Western Avenue. Nigro already lived in the two-story brick building on West Ohio Street that has become so familiar as Lombardo's home. Joey moved in, and the couple never moved out, while raising their two kids, Joseph Jr. and Joanne. (Property records show that Marion and Joanne now co-own the building.)

By the time he was 25, which would have been 1954, Lombardo owned a construction company, according to his lawyer, Rick Halprin. Indeed, Chicago Crime Commission documents describe Lombardo as a partner in Lombardo Bros. Construction at one point. He is also variously described over the years as a partner in several other construction companies; owner of the Lombardo Trucking Co. (address: 2210 West Ohio); a worker for a hot dog stand manufacturer; and the holder of hidden interests in real estate and restaurants. Lombardo started racking up a series of burglary and loitering arrests in 1954, according to Chicago Crime Commission files. (In each case he avoided conviction.)

In 1963, Lombardo first started showing up in the detailed annual reports compiled by Virgil Peterson, then the crime commission president. Chicago police had charged Lombardo and five others, including future mob bigwig John "No Nose" DiFronzo, in connection with an alleged West Side loan-sharking ring. The case centered on a factory worker who owed $2,000 and was behind on his payments. Lombardo and his pals allegedly tied the deadbeat to a beam in the basement of a bar called Mr. Lucky's Tavern and beat him "unmercifully" until he lost consciousness, according to Peterson's account. On the witness stand, however, the factory worker couldn't positively identify Lombardo, who was immediately dismissed from the case - his 11th acquittal in 11 arrests. The other defendants also won acquittals.

By the end of the 1960s, Lombardo's work for the mob covered virtually every one of its specialties, according to law enforcement allegations: loansharking, gambling, porn, and even a ring dealing in stolen furs that operated at four Midwestern airports, including O'Hare, and had the participants wearing coveralls to pose as airport workers. "He was a well-rounded crook," says Jim Wagner. And Lombardo was attending the weddings and wakes of mob members, according to a contemporary Chicago Crime Commission memo. The newspapers started calling Lombardo an "up-and-comer."

In 1967, the mob held one of the premier public social events of its history, a swanky party at the famously pink Edgewater Beach Hotel honoring the West Side overlord Fiore "Fifi" Buccieri. The 1,000-strong guest list included 200 "important crime syndicate hoodlums," according to Peterson. At least a handful of unabashed pols attended, too. The crooner Vic Damone and a 20-piece band provided the entertainment. The Chicago police called it "the largest assemblage of mobsters ever staged in Chicago."

Lombardo, of course, was there.

* * *

The story of Las Vegas still astonishes after all these years. Who would have imagined that gigantic and gaudy casinos would bloom in the desert, and that the descendants of Al Capone's Chicago mob would be there to cash in? That they would use the pension fund of a union for truck drivers, taxi drivers, and warehousemen - the Teamsters - to finance their scheme? And then coordinate couriers crisscrossing the country with suitcases of cash every week, delivering the "skim" to all the mob bosses who had a piece of the action?

In 1971, Tony Accardo sent Tony Spilotro to join Spilotro's childhood friend Frank Rosenthal to run the Outfit's operations there. As revealed by the FBI's investigations and portrayed in numerous accounts, Spilotro acted as Mr. Outsid, the street muscle who did the dirty work to keep everyone in line. (Bill Roemer titled his book about Spilotro The Enforcer.) Rosenthal acted as Mr. Inside, the brilliant innovator who took the sports book off the street and put it in the casino. Rosenthal not-so-secretly operated the largest casinos in town, including his home base, the mobbed-up Stardust.

Back in Chicago, Lombardo had proved himself as a dependable moneymaker with sharp business instincts. (FBI agents listening to wiretaps would later be surprised to hear how knowledgeably Lombardo spoke about the stories he read in The Wall Street Journal.) He did a stellar job as Grand Avenue capo and seemed ready for a promotion. By many acconts, Accardo tapped Lombardo to oversee Spilotro and Rosenthal; they would report to him.

Accardo also made Lombardo the Outfit's liaison to organized labor, and in particular to Allen Dorfman, the Chicago insurance executive who managed the Teamsters' pension fund. Dorfman was a legacy; his father, Paul, had introduced the Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa Sr. to the mob. Dorfman was essentially the mob's loan officer - the mob couldn't exactly go to a bank to get financing to build or acquire new casinos. He, too, would report to Lombardo.

From here on out, Lobmardo's fate would be inextricably bound up with the performance of Spilotro, Rosenthal, and Dorfman. He would also be fortunate to remain out of the spotlight as the exploits of his new crew spread. "A Machiavellian figure in the back of things," says Richard Lindberg.

The job got a little easier in 1976, when New Jersey voters passed a referendum to allow gambling in Atlantic City. Before that, the ruling body of the mob nationally, "The Commission," considered Las Vegas open territory. After New Jersey legalized gambling, The Commission gave Chicago the exclusive rights to Las Vegas in exchange for securing Atlantic City for the East Coast mobs.

It was a coup for Chicago, a reverse Brock-for-Broglio. But it's no secret how things turned out. "These people had paradise all to themselves," Scorsese later said, "and blew it."

*

Coming Tuesday: The glorious, violent, tragic reign of the Outfit in Vegas. Brought to you in part by Joey "the Clown" Lombardo.

Posted by Lou at 08:06 AM | Permalink

TV's Virtuous Assault

The Sun-Times published a column on Saturday asking "Does Too Much TV Lead To Decaying Moral Values?" Gosh, we certainly hope so. Especially if that means leading us to a society more tolerant, less hateful, more compassionate, and less repressed than what the author favors. Let's take a look.

Does too much TV lead to decaying moral values? Heavy TV viewers more permissive about sex, abortion and homosexuality: survey

BY BRIAN FITZPATRICK

Couch potatoes, beware: Someday, you might be saying "the TV made me do it."

A new special report by the Culture and Media Institute indicates that watching too much television could be hazardous to your moral health.

The report, "The Media Assault on American Values," reveals that media messages appear to be undermining the pillars of America's cultural edifice: strength of character, sexual morality and respect for God. The report is based on findings of a major scientific survey commissioned by the institute, a division of the Media Research Center.

COMMENT: We can all see where this is going. It's the gays' fault.

The National Cultural Values Survey reveals a striking correlation between greater exposure to television and permissive moral views.

Striking because because such a correlation has no basis in actual scientific methodology.

Heavy television viewers (four hours or more per evening) are less committed to character virtues such as honesty and charity, and more permissive about sex, abortion and homosexuality. Light television viewers (one hour or less per evening) are more likely to attend religious services.

The more you watch television, the less honest you are? I suppose if you spend all your time watching Fox News and televangelists . . .

The survey wasn't designed to identify causal relationships between media and behavior, but it did collect information about television viewing habits.

So everything we've said up to now is bogus.

The results are compelling.

Let's look at the foundation of good character: personal responsibility. According to the survey, the more a person watches television, the less likely he will be to accept responsibility for his own life and for his obligations to the people around him.

Except when it comes to taking responsibility for the remote.

Personal responsibility begins with providing for your own needs, but the news media and movie directors consistently preach that people should look to government, not rely on themselves. Heavy television viewers are much likelier than light viewers to expect government to provide retirement (64 percent to 43 percent) and health care (63 percent to 43 percent).

This was published in a major metropolitan newspaper?

Another aspect of personal responsibility is taking care of your neighbor's needs. The media's voyeuristic, celebrity-driven entertainment and "news" programming promotes narcissism, not charity. Not surprisingly, light viewers are more likely than heavy viewers to contribute time or treasure to every kind of cause. Heavy viewers are more than twice as likely not to give at all (24 percent to 11 percent), and not to volunteer (56 percent to 27 percent).

Well, that's understandable. It's hard to volunteer when you can't get off the couch. On the other hand, who is going to buy all the products advertised on TV and keep this economy going? That's helping your neighbor.

The pattern persists with sexual morality. Is sex outside of marriage, the way Hollywood incessantly depicts it, always wrong? Thirty-nine percent of light viewers say so. Only 26 percent of heavy viewers agree.

Wait a minute. Twenty-six percent of heavy TV viewers think sex outside of marrage is always wrong? They must have thought the question was about sex outside.

Fifty-five percent of light viewers say homosexuality is wrong, but only 43 percent of heavy viewers.

So 45 percent of light viewers are okay with homosexuality? Who are you going to blame that on then, if not TV?

The media's continual portrayal of clergy and believers as moral reprobates, and outrages like showing God in bed with a woman (both Fox's Family Guy and Comedy Central's Sarah Silverman Program), appear to be eroding the nation's devotion to religion. Thirty-two percent of heavy viewers say they live by God's values above their own, significantly less than the 43 percent of light viewers.

Family Guy is eroding the nation's devotion to religion? I mean, I knew the show was good, but I didn't know it was that good.

Overall, 74 percent of Americans say our moral values are weaker than they were 20 years ago, and 48 percent say values are much weaker.

Well, there's been a Republican in the White House for 12 of the last 20 years.

That's another way of saying they see eroding character, lower sexual standards, and diminished respect for God - precisely the values the media undermine.

In consequence, overwhelming majorities hold the media responsible for contributing to moral decline.

I thought overwhelming majorities were participating in the decline.

Ten Americans believe Hollywood is harming the nation's moral condition for every one who thinks Hollywood is helping.

It's all those war movies.

The numbers: 73 percent to 7 percent. For the news media, the ratio is 5-1: 54 percent harming the nation's moral standards, and just 11 percent helping.

The bottom line: Most Americans believe the nation's morality is slipping. These people name the media as the second greatest factor in the moral decline, exceeded only by the family.

So the family is most responsible for moral decline.

This report, "The Media Assault on American Values," is available at www.cultureandmediainstitute.org.

It will soon appear in a peer-reviewed journal. Or excerpted in the Sun-Times.

Brian Fitzpatrick is senior editor of the Culture and Media Institute.

He works for the people who put out the report!

Posted by Lou at 07:26 AM | Permalink

The Cub Factor

You would think Cubs players have it all, getting paid millions of dollars to work in the world's best ballpark and live in one of the world's best cities while drawing adoring fans despite years of losing in ways beyond description. So why are so many Cubs so angry?

It can't just be the losing. After all, the Pirates, Devil Rays, and Nationals aren't charging the mound every day.

Carlos Zambrano, sure. He's nuts. Michael Barrett? Not the most solid bat in the rack. But when Derrek Lee loses it, you have to wonder: Why is this team angrier than Rosie O'Donnell at an Elizabeth Hasselback baby shower? What's going on in that clubhouse?

We here at The Cub Factor blame the clubhouse boombox. Look at this playlist.

1. Take This Job and Shove It/Johnny Paycheck.
Requested by: Lou Piniella.

2. Only God Knows Why/Kid Rock.
Requested by: Carlos Zambrano.

3. Head Like a Hole/Nine Inch Nails.
Requested by: Michael Barrett.

4. Don't Go Away Mad, Just Go Away/Motley Crue.
Requested by: Jacque Jones.

5. Livin' On a Prayer/Bon Jovi.
Requested by: Ryan Dempster.

6. I Don't Care Anymore/Phil Collins.
Requested by: Cesar Izturis.

7. Smells Like Teen Spirit/Nirvana.
Requested by: Mike Fontenot.

8. Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)/Green Day.
Requested by: Matt Murton.

9. Who'll Stop the Rain/CCR.
Requested by: Jim Hendry.

10. We're Not Gonna Take It/Twisted Sister.
Requested by: Gerald Perry.

*

Week in Review: The Cubs went 4-3, winning the Monday make-up game against the Astros, taking two of three from the Mariners and losing two of three to the Padres. A decent week, but the Brewers had a better one and the Cubs lost ground in the standings. This season might be turning around, but an old man is driving who doesn't see very well and he doesn't know that his turn signal has been blinking for the last 20 minutes, so it could take a while to get there.

Week in Preview: The Cubs hit the road for six games; three against Sammy Sosa and a bad Ranger team in Texas, and three again against the White Sox at the Cell. With the Sammy kisses and White Sox trash talk, this week is going to suck. Wake me up Monday the 25th when the Rockies are in town. I might be done throwing up by then.

Second Basemen Repor: The Cubs have a new second baseman, Mike Fontenot. Mike started at second six of the last seven games and knocked the crap out of the ball. Sure, he might be the best second-sacker they've had this year, but he's only seeing playing time because Aramis Ramirez got hurt and Cesar Izturis is stinking it up, resulting in moving the team's other second basemen, Mark DeRosa and Ryan Theriot, to third and short. Just like Jim Hendry drew it up.

On a side note, The Cub Factor hereby christens Theriot and Fontenot The Cicadas. They are pesky, they have a lot of buzz, and as players from the Cubs minor league system performing well, they don't come along very often.

In former second basemen news, Damian Jackson hit .198 in 67 games for the Nationals last year and was released. He signed with the Dodgers in 2007 but was released in March. He is missed.

Sweet and Sour Lou: 58% sweet and 42% sour. Lou is down 4 points on the Sweet-O-Meter due to Derrek Lee's pending suspension. Like your real crazy old uncle, Lou isn't too happy you got into a fight, but he's secretly glad it wasn't with one of your brothers. After a few too many Busch Lights, Uncle Lou is going to take you into the basement to hit the old heavy bag a few times, you know, so if you do get into a fight, you know what to do.

Beachwood Sabermetrics: A complex algorithm performed by the The Cub Factor staff using all historical data made available by Major League Baseball has determined that if you score zero runs your chances of winning are greatly diminished.

Over/Under: The amount of "kisses" blown to the camera in the Ranger series: +/- 3.

The Cub Factor: Catch up with them all.

Mount Lou: Lou has moved to Yellow after events out of Mount Lou's control have begun to create pressure beneath the surface. With the once completely dormant Mount Lee causing significant seismic activity (who knew it even possessed magma?), it's only a matter of time before tensions caused by the closing of Mount Lee to tourists creates another Mount Lou eruption. Expect lava on the South Side this weekend.

mtlou_green.gif


Posted by Lou at 06:39 AM | Permalink

Reviewing the Reviews

June 16-17.

Publication: New York Times

Cover: The eyes of Clarence Thomas through his glasses, with the rest of his head and face wiped away, represented only by the white newsprint surrounding it. Accompanying "Thomas Agonistes," Orlando Patterson's review of a new Thomas biography that seems to nail down the humiliations and psychological framework of the man's upbringing while coming up short on new details of the present-day justice.

For example, Patterson describes what I think is new ground on Thomas' relationship with women. "There is now little doubt that he lied repeatedly during his confirmation hearings - not only about his pornophilia and bawdy humor but, more important, about his legal views and familiarity with cases like Roe v. Wade."

At least according to Patterson's review, authors Kevin Merida and Michael A. Fletcher fail to plumb this rich vein further, connecting his views - and the forces that shaped them - to his legal theories and positions.

Beyond that, what penalty is there to be paid for a Supreme Court justice found to have lied repeatedly during his confirmation hearings? How do his supporters - then and now - respond to the clear facts before them? What is the impact on the court's credibility with Thomas on the bench?

Patterson writes that "up to the point of Thomas's confirmation hearings, this book is a finely drawn portrait that surpasses all previous attempts to understand him."

That sounds like only half a book. Thomas is on the bench now, making laws of the land. That's the only reason to care about his personal psychodrama. And if that's where this book falls short, then it falls short at its most important juncture.

Other News & Reviews of Note: Kevin Phillips weighs in on The Reagan Diaries. Phillips, who voted for Reagan twice, says "the diaries do not make me regret that I did, but his approach to his office had both strengths and weaknesses."He goes on to say that "if any central weakness leaps out of this book, it is Reagan's tendency to view the presidency and its challenges in terms of personal media performance and people-to-people salesmanship. The Great Communicator thought so much about the image of his office that many of his entries show him preening like a peacock over public approval and perceived milestones . . . Nowhere does this popular president speak of the challenges of the approaching millennium, of history and its turning points, of the squeeze on the middle class that provided him with enormous support of the transformation of the American economy as manufacturing gave way to speculation and finance. These, apparently, were not his concerns."

Can there possibly be strengths in any such presidency?

And once again I am struck by how the media constantly refers to Reagan's popularity while it refers negatively to Bill Clinton, who spoke of exactly those things Reagan didn't - and finished with a higher approval rating despite reams of negative press compared to Reagan's media enablers.

Finally, for someone so concerned with image, isn't it obvious that Reagan's diaries were intended for and thus crafted to public consumption? Is there really any other way to view the diaries but as Reagan's attempt to spin history and only accidentally revealing of his not-too-probing mind?

Also: Pete Hamill reviews Taxi! A Social History of the New York City Cabdriver.

*

Publication: Sun-Times

Cover: A Ralph Steadman Lite (Very Lite) depiction of a rooster with his head chopped off. For a reviews of Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life and Plenty: One Man, One Woman and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally. It's all about eating local.

Other News & Reviews of Note: Sun-Times general manager John Barron (and formerly/recently editor-in-chief) writes that Carl Bernstein's biography of Hillary Clinton is "fresh, complete and detailed," and that Bernstein is "dead solid perfect in his reporting," despite reams of evidence to the contrary.

*

Publication: Tribune

Cover: "The Real Saul Bellow: Richard Stern remembers his old friend and gifted writer." Yawn.

Other News & Reviews of Note: Mark Coatney reviews Tribune reporter Naftali Bendavid's book about Rahm Emanuel and the 2006 congressional elections. This book sprang from a Trib report called "The House That Rahm Built" that I roundly criticized last fall for its Emanuellian prism that gave short shrift to DNC president Howard Dean's strategic vision and the conflicts that ensued with the cynical insider Emanuel crowd.

Coatney picks up the same thread of criticism, at least to some extent, pointing out for example that "though Emanuel is constantly telling his candidates how to campaign, there isn't a lot from the candidates on whether it was Emanuel's advice that made the difference or simply the money that his top-notch fundraising organization provided."

I'll take it a step further: A lot of Emanuel's hand-picked candidates lost, while netroots candidates became the poster candidates for a new kind of Democrat.

Coatney also asks as I and many others have, if "Emanuel's insistence on targeting races in a few states and cultivating 'candidates who could win' (which, in Emanuel's formulation, basically always comes down to 'candidates who could raise a lot of money')" [was] a better approach to than the 50-state strategy advocated by Howard Dean and the netroots liberal bloggers?

"While there's plenty on the clashes between Emanuel's operation and Dean and the bloggers, they're seen, for the most part, from Emanuel's point of view, which is, mainly, that these people are either dreamers with little practical political experience (in Emanuel's view, Dean) or 'Internet blog people whining, who've never won an election.'"

That's ridiculous on so many levels I can't even begin to get into it here. But Bendavid is in Rahm's corner.

"Bendavid lays out some of these criticisms in an afterword, but they're not given anything more than a quick evaluation."

In other words, Bendavid was so ensconced inside Rahm's bubble that he failed to do his homework and felt forced to respond to critics and those dumbshit bloggers who called him out on it in an afterword.

Access is no substitute for reporting. And reporting isn't the same thing as being inside the room.

Quote: "Bendavid likes Emanuel so much that we suggest double checking your copy to make sure the pages aren't stuck together." wonkette.com/politics/to-do-dept'/long+winded-weekend-263734.php

*

Of Note: The Mixed-Income Myth: Northwestern prof Mary Pattillo on why even the black middle-class can't save a poor black neighborhood in Chicago."

*

Charts

CHARTS:

1. Gore
2. Reagan
3. God


Einstein falls to 4th; Jesus 8th; Iacocca 9th; and Rickles 10th.

Posted by Lou at 06:11 AM | Permalink

RockNotes: Your Lifestyle Rock Sucks!

1. I don't know how The New York Times chooses its lifestyle articles, but I want to believe that they're based on the work of dedicated legions of trend-spotters working in close conjunction with squinting, bespectacled social scientists, together continually scouring the minutiae of daily life to come up with relevant, insightful dissections of which cultural imperatives drive us to do what weird things.

Then there's this week's story of an alleged trend of middle-aged white guys all across the country flocking to their three-car suburban garages to bash out bad rock 'n' roll on expensive musical gear. Unlike the NYT, I'm pretty sure this isn't really a trend, and if it were - keeping in mind the recent Father's Day "holiday" - it would only confirm to me the death of rock. I mean, with ol' Dad hogging the garage to play Doobie Brothers covers with his accountant buddy on the drum kit, no self-respecting teenager would want to have anything to do with this kind of music ever again.

And even if they did, where are the kids supposed set up their gear?

Answer: Not in the garage, but on GarageBand, there to make virtual rock. And so the next generation is lost thanks to the Boomers' inability to ever truly leave the garages of their minds.

Like I said, I'm dubious these "dad bands" are really a trend. But I'm also thinking, well, OK, maybe I'm just not as in touch with the suburban white guy world to know what's going on in their garages (besides the Escalades, of course). And it would make sense that the NYT would know that kind of stuff, since that's its demo. But then comes the nut of the story - some prominent quotes from NAMM, the trade group representing the fine manufacturers and dealers of all those instruments being snapped up by aging hipsters. NAMM's honcho says, hey, old guys are buying tons of gear, and they're having so much fun! Are you sure you wouldn't like to join them? And by the way, we have a great new program where you can do just that:

"NAMM . . . has noticed the increasing numbers of middle-aged rockers, and now oversees what it calls the Weekend Warriors program, a six-weekend series designed specifically for baby boomers to get back into playing in a band - or start playing in one. The program brings would-be rockers into music stores around the country and provides gear, rehearsal space, coaches and, for those in need, additional band members.

bizman2.jpg"Joe Lamond, the chief executive of NAMM, started the program when he was working in a music store in Sacramento and began noticing a change in the store's clientele. 'I started seeing customers coming in who you'd think would have been shopping for their kids,' he said. 'But they were shopping for themselves.'

"Mr. Lamond said the program has burgeoned in recent years, as the rock 'n' rollers of the '60s and '70s become empty-nesters with time and disposable income on their hands."

Whoever NAMM has on its PR payroll, they deserve a raise - maybe the real trend here is they've perfected a way to make the NYT bite on any kind of "trend" story.

And, God, where is this "disposable income" they keep talking about Baby Boomers having? It's not income that they've got - it's debt.

As if these people haven't already mortgaged themselves to the hilt to afford that six-bedroom estate in Lake County, now they're going to be ringing up the MasterCard for a fancy guitar as well?

I guess it's okay because the New York Times says everyone is doing it.

And then what about subjecting the homeowners' association to their caterwauling of some Eagles song? I submit that is grounds for getting kicked out of the country club, and I mean right now.

And then here's the ultimate quote from one of those "weekend warriors":

"'I don't know what has done me more good - Lexapro or Thursday nights jamming with the band,' Mr. Lynd said."

Hmmm. You know, I'm no doctor, but I'm betting Mr. Lynd's depression just might have its roots in that moment in 1980 when he decided that being poor sucked, rock 'n' roll was dead, and voting for Ronald Reagan was a good idea.

The whole thing reminds me of a Bottle Rockets song called "White Boy Blues" from their 1999 album Brand New Year. Of course, it's a song none of the weekend garage warriors have probably ever heard because it came out in the post-Jimmy Carter era. But it nonetheless accurately captures the pathetic quality of old dudes strapping on the tools of youthful rebellion:

Got the best tweed Bassman that you ever saw
He's a down-home, low-down attorney-at-law
He knows his licks so don't you laugh
His beat-to-shit Strat cost ten grand and a half

Have you heard the news?
He's got the white boy blues
Bought himself a guitar that paid its dues
Jam a little when he gets off work tonight
Singing hey hey, the blues is alright

Now the boys from the office are really impressed
When he straps that Strat up across his chest
Stevie Ray videos parts one and two
Studied them both he knows what to do

Member of the local Blues Society
Trying to work his way up to a 12-gauge 'E'
His wife's so proud of how he made it sing
He drank too much but that's a bluesy thing

Wipes down his strings and what's left of his chrome
Throws it in his Turbo Volvo and he heads for home

Thanks, Brian Henneman. You should be in the NYT every day.

2. Now that Tommy Stinson's wrist sprain has healed, Guns N' Roses are on tour in Australia and New Zealand, the first time the band has been Down Under (in a geographical sense, at least) since some infamous 1993 appearances that were debacles for the fans, or punters, as the Commonwealth nations so charmingly call them. The memory of the 1993 GN'R shows in Melbourne and Sydney inspired The Age newspaper to run down some of the greatest live rock show flops to ever transpire upon the Fatal Shore. And it's truly great reading, proving that poor star behavior knows no bounds, and that, indeed, there may be something about Australia that provides an unspoken license to foreigners to really let go, perhaps feeling that its remoteness from the rest of the Western world provides some kind of cover.

Among the items cited by The Age:

"Guns N' Roses tour of 1993 hit Melbourne's Calder Park and Sydney's Eastern Creek - drawing 150,000 rock fans - the result was, well, disastrous. The Melbourne show began farcically when promoter Michael Chugg tried his hand at crowd control from the stage.

"'Oi, you in the black T-shirt. Stop fighting or the show won't go on!'

"'Who me?' replied 70,000 black-T-shirt-clad rockers en masse.

"It was a stinking hot day before the change came and the charming Sebastian Bach from support act Skid Row described it as 'hotter than a five-dollar hooker's c---.' It all went downhill from there. Bon Jovi and Alternative Nation shows at Eastern Creek were disasters almost on par with the Gunners tour. Calder Park's barren 440-hectare site has not been used as a rock venue since that fateful show - with good reason. The bands were great but punters were not allowed to bring in water bottles, full or empty, and once inside water bottles soon sold out. Food was overpriced, the queues were massive, public transport was inadequate, and after the show there was insufficient lighting to help drivers find their cars in the mud before they drove home in bumper-to-bumper traffic."

cat_power.jpgSounds like what rock 'n' roll's all about to me, actually. Don't you really have to expect some amount of pain and degradation if you're going to a GN'R show? I'd say so. But maybe not for, umm, Cat Power, known for being an on-stage trainwreck. The piece calls her out:

"Cat Power has performed some of the biggest 'car-crash' shows this country has seen. Unable to finish songs, hiding behind the piano, giggling like a little girl or abusing her audience are commonplace behaviour for the singer. In 2003, at Sydney's Metro, she took the microphone into the audience, lay on the ground and moaned, wailed and babbled."

Maybe that was part of show, huh? Or is it just that she, like so many other rockers we've known and loved, is merely working out her personal demons in public, charging punters (I'm going to be using that word every day now, so watch out) top buck to gawk at the freak in the meantime? The Age goes on:

"Other car-crash shows of recent years include the Brian Jonestown Massacre's meltdown at the Hi Fi Bar and Evan Dando's infamous gig there with a then-unknown Missy Higgins holding up lyric cards. That may or may not have been the tour during which Dando told two young Sydney female fans who had won a competition to hang out with him for the day: 'I haven't been to sleep, you can all f--- right off.'"

And who in Australia could forget the "Barry White's Too Fat to Cope" 2001 tour?

"Barry White's 2001 tour was billed as 'in the round.' It was an appropriate title on a few levels. He was so overweight and unfit that for the entire Sydney show he sat at the piano with a bucket and a pile of towels, continuously mopping up sweat. No one behind him could see and 4,000 people asked for their money back. For the Melbourne show, the stage was adapted so he could be rotated as if on a lazy susan. Within a few years, the soul star was dead."

Lastly, no catalog of Aussie rock disasters would be complete without the "Perry Ferrell Beaten By a 'Roo" incident:

"Touring with his band Jane's Addiction in the early '90s, singer Perry Farrell tried to pat celebrity marsupial Eric the Boxing Kangaroo at a wildlife farm. After copping a sharp jab right to the chin, a petrified Farrell ran into the nearby woods and was found two hours later curled up in a fetal position."

Yes, that's pretty good, but can't you find pretty much the same thing at some point backstage during any Guns N' Roses concert?

3. I cannot believe Sammy Hagar is still saying it's not about the money. Just weeks after he made $80 million by selling his personal tequila label to a multinational corporation, the guy is imploring people to trust that he's still (??) an artist. "Please don't hate me because I'm rich, I can still rock 'n' roll, and . . . and . . . Oh yeah, Hello St. Louis!!" (Glug, glug).

Apparently they love this kind of thing in St. Louis, where Sammy is inexplicably worshipped. This month he was there debuting a concert DVD that was filmed in the city last year, was a "special guest" at a Cardinals game, played a sold-out gig at the Pageant Theater, was given the keys to all the city's liquor cabinets, and worked the phone banks for the local homeless shelter (OK, just kidding on those last two). But I mean, for a guy who basically spends most of his concerts boozing it up, fucking around onstage and signing autographs, all the while belting out the most boring kind of soulless blues-rock, he's got the city eating out of his hand. But he's misunderstood, see, and people can't see the sensitive artist underneath all the jingoistic bluster. Or so he tells the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

"Q. What's it like having 'Hall of Famer' in front of your name?

"A. It's really exciting, being there and standing next to Keith Richards and people I looked up to my entire career. That puts my name in the same light as my heroes, and that really affected my self-confidence and how I feel about where I am and what I did in music. It was a feeling like I'd arrived.

fat_sammy.jpg"Q. After all you've accomplished over the past few decades, how can you talk about arriving and self-confidence?

"A. You'd be surprised. There's always somebody criticizing me, ever since I reinvented myself in 1996 after I left Van Halen and stopped being that heavy metal rock guy to become the lifestyle guy. I got heat from critics and fans who thought I was too mellow and sold out. I'm always taking shots. Now you can shoot all you want, but be careful. You might hit Keith Richards."

Oh, I see. He's a lifestyle guy now. No wonder I didn't get it. Yes, it is all about lifestyles nowadays, especially of the rich and famous. I think what the deal is, is that if you get really, really smashed on Sammy's Cabo Wabo Tequila, you can enjoy that special kind of county detox tank lifestyle shared by drunks all over America. So maybe you should only do it in Mexico.

And now I also understand that to take shots at Sammy is to take shots at the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, hell, rock 'n' roll itself, thanks to his ill-advised inclusion into that dubious Hall of Fame thing. Thanks for clearing that up, Sammy. It's kind of like not being allowed to take shots at George Bush because it's the same as "criticizing the troops," right? But in case you didn't get the point, just because Sammy's rich doesn't mean he wants or even likes money.

"Q. Is it true you sold a major interest in your Cabo Wabo tequila brand for $80 million to Skyy Spirits?

"A: It's true. I took on some partners who are some of the biggest distributors in the world. I needed someone to take it to the next level, so I made the deal for worldwide distribution. They gave me so much damn money it's stupid. But I've been a rich rock star for so long money doesn't mean that much to me. It ain't about money, and I wish everyone would believe that. I already own everything I want. And if Jimmy Buffett woke up with my money he would file Chapter 11."

Because we all know Jimmy Buffett is a guy who's worth every cent he's made due to a faithful devotion to his compelling artistic vision.

*

Comments? Praise? Hagar-related hate mail? Send it to Don Jacobson. Please include a real name to be considered for publication.

*

Previously in RockNotes:

* U2 vs. Styx
* Bowzer vs. the Replacements
* Sammy Hagar vs. Les Paul
* Kill Category

Posted by Don at 12:11 AM | Permalink

June 16, 2007

The Weekend Desk Report

The world keeps turning, and we spend another weekend chasing it.

Market Update
We saw the sub-prime bubble burst coming a mile away, and we figure the nation could weather the steep price increase for staple foods. But when these guys can't make money? Now, we're fucked. Seriously.

Truth in Advertising
Kellogg, the world's foremost manufacturer of sugary cereals, bowed to pressure from concerned consumer groups this week, agreeing to stop marketing unhealthy food to kids. It's a jolly good thing McDonald's only markets their toys to serious collectors.

This Just In...
Apparently, young people sometimes use the Internet for fun. It's important to spot these frauds, what with a key election looming in the still fairly distant future.

Nobel Update
This year's prize for medicine looks to have been locked up in record time, as yet more researchers independently confirm that women get horny. However, some observers indicate the Nobel committee may yet choose to honor important work done to make overweight people feel even worse about themselves.

In Other News
Ninjas still rock.

Blue States
Finally this week, the state legislature in Massachusetts has voted to keep same-sex marriage legal at least through the next election cycle. This means Massachusetts remains the only freakin' state in the Union more progressive than Colombia. Awesome.

Posted by Natasha at 07:54 AM | Permalink

June 15, 2007

The [Friday] Papers

1. How good is Jessica Hopper? This good.

2. Beachwood reader Mike O'Connor writes:

"I agree with your assessment of the Filter article [see the Neo-Gentrification item here]. Do patrons of Filter lament the loss of the Busy Bee, as many of us with a longer view of the community do? Whether they want to admit it or not, Lincoln Park created the present day Wicker Park. Artists and musician-types fled Bucktown when the economic burn from Lincoln Park spilled over. When I was at DePaul in the early 1980s, going to bars south of Armitage such as the Artful Dodger or the Get Me High Lounge was considered adventurous. Going South of North Avenue wasn't even on the radar.

"Mike Royko was shocked when he first read Algren's Man with the Golden Arm as a young airman in the service. A third person portrayal of the heroin trade put Wicker Park in a gritty,unpleasant light, intended to shock the reader. Royko just thought it was his neighborhood.

"Neo-Bohemians indeed."

3. "Many public housing residents from the Dearborn Homes on the South Side are upset at the Chicago Police Department because they are being forced to give out personal information about themselves and their guests' lives," reports Beauty Turner in Residents' Journal.

Turner says the police are forcing public housing residents - and their friends and family - to fill out "contact cards."

Hmmm, what does that remind me of?

4. What does a movement look like, Barack Obama asks in his latest e-mail solicitation.

A lot like this.

5. "Pilsen residents said they thought they had overcome a developer's ambition to turn their neighborhood garden into parking spaces a decade ago," the Tribune reports.

"But they found out three weeks ago that a company run by the same developer - John Podmajersky III - had bought a large chunk of one of the neighborhood's few green spaces . . . "

I think you know how this story turns out.

6. Legislative leaders and ComEd officials "reported 'substantial progress' on a rate-relief package that could include about $1 billion in concessions to consumers, double what had been on the table," the Sun-Times reports.

Then keep going! Apparently ComEd can afford it.

On the other hand, they'll just recoup those concessions in rate hikes to come. Bob Reed is right.

7. In the same story, the Sun-Times reports that the governor acted "like a child" during a budget meeting.

I have news for you: He wasn't acting.

8. The latest news from our good friends in Pueblo, Colorado:

* Liposuction.

* Your Family Disaster Supplies Kit.

9. From the Windy City Times archive.

WCT: What do you think the alderman's biggest weakness is?

Brendan Reilly: Well, I'm not going to launch into some sort of attack . . .

WCT: Or what do you feel he's not doing right? I'm assuming you're running because you feel he isn't doing something correctly.

Reilly: I would argue that the alderman has lost touch with the real priorities of residents. Voters are concerned that many development decisions are being made in a vacuum; people feel that their opinions are not solicited in a proactive manner.

From developments stem all kinds of issues, like traffic congestion and scarcity of parking. The one criticism I hear on a pretty regularly is that [voters] are not being invited into that process.

I'm absolutely willing to listen to the residents. An alderman's chief responsibility is being accessible and responsive. Every letter or call deserves a response in a timely fashion, and that response should include a clearly-stated next step and regular progress updates. Some constituents have sent letters and left voicemails and have never heard back. An alderman should respond to concerns and proactively share information.

*

An impeccable Beachwood source says: I have spoken to dozens of people who have contacted Reilly about the Lake Shore Club. They have written, phoned and e-mailed. None of them have heard back from him.

10. Whatever happened to this proposal?

11. Ed Burke's proposed "congestion fee" seems totally unworkable unless a moat is put around downtown.

12. The next idea Burke will steal from New York City.

13. "For the second time this year, the Illinois House has given overwhelming support to legislation aimed at limiting the influence of big campaign contributors, and attention again shifts to the Senate, which has bottled up legislation to discourage 'pay-to-play' contracts in state government," the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform says.

"On Thursday, the House voted 99 to 0 in favor of Senate Bill 1305, which would prohibit business owners with more than $25,000 in state contracts from making campaign contributions to officeholders awarding the contracts. Identical language is contained in House Bill 1, which the House sent to the Senate in April.

"'Even though 45 of the 59 Senate members are co-sponsors of HB 1, the Senate leadership has blocked consideration of this important reform measure,' said ICPR director Cynthia Canary. 'The House now has given the Senate yet another opportunity to show taxpayers they are willing to end pay-to-play practices in state government.'

"In letters to Senate President Emil Jones, D-Chicago, and to the 45 Senate sponsors of HB 1, Canary said HB 1, which is being held in the Senate Rules Committee, should be moved to the floor for a final Senate vote.

"'Can anyone seriously argue that the state gets better services because contractors are allowed to make unlimited donations to the statewide official who oversees their contracts,' Canary asked.

"'The public is well aware that large campaign contributors often land large state contracts,' Canary said. 'It happens so often that many taxpayers are convinced that state government is for sale. The pay-to-play defenders have damaged faith in the fairness of government and discouraged businesses without political connections from even bidding on state contracts.'"

It's all up to the audacity of Emil Jones now.

14. "No Girlfriend For 3 Years, Judge Tells Man."

I knew my personal life felt like a sentence.

15. "Dick Durbin, the Senate's majority whip and second-highest ranking Democrat, said in more than 20 years in Illinois politics, he has seen no problems arising from cross-ownership in Chicago, where the Tribune owns the Chicago Tribune, WGN radio and TV stations," Crain's reports.

"I don't find any monopoly power being pushed into the market, and I think most people in the market feel . . . that they're really good sources of news," he said.

"The world of media is changing with the Internet, the diminished role of newspapers, with the proliferation of television stations, cable and network," he added. "We have to take care that we don't judge today's market with yesterday's standards."

"Besides, the last thing I want is a lot of reporters snooping around."

16. Blue Cross/Blue Shield is getting into banking. Cutting out the middle man.

Next they'll move into predatory lending, video poker, and currency exchanges.

17. I wonder what kind of health care benefits employers of health care insurers get?

18. Re: the AP memo I cited yesterday [see the Declining Value item] about reporters writing the truth, it is pointed out to me that more often than not the problem is editors who can't handle the truth. And I certainly can't disagree with that.

19. "A federal judge ruled the jury [in the Conrad Black trial] can be given the 'ostrich instruction,'" the Sun-Times reports. "That means the jury will be told a defendant can be held liable if he intentionally avoided knowing what was going on."

In other news, the mayor convened his aides for a legal strategy meeting and said, "Okay, tell me everything!"

20. Confessions of an Ostrich.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Better than sticking your head in the sand.

Posted by Lou at 08:23 AM | Permalink

My Pal Tony

The front page story in The New York Times this week probing the relationship between Barack Obama and Tony Rezko revealed a few new disturbing facts, though the article was short on explanation and analysis - and there is yet more to the story of Illinois' favorite son and his dark patron.

Let's take a look.

* * *

"Mr. Obama has portrayed Mr. Rezko as a one-time fund-raiser whom he had occasionally seen socially. But interviews with more than a dozen political and business associates suggest that the two men were closer than the senator has indicated," the Times reports.

"Mr. Obama turned to Rezko for help at several important junctures. Records show that when Mr. Obama needed cash in the waning days of his losing 2000 Congressional campaign, Mr. Rezko rounded up thousands of dollars from business contacts. In 2003, Mr. Rezko helped Mr. Obama expand his fund-raising for the Senate primary by being host of a dinner in his Mediterranean-style home for 150 people, including some whose names have come up in the influence scandal.

"And when Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, bought a [$1.65 million] house in 2005, Mr. Rezko helped smooth the transaction. Even though his finances were deteriorating, Mr. Rezko arranged for his wife to buy an adjacent lot, and she later sold the Obamas a 10-foot-wide strip of land that expanded their yard.

"The land sale occurred after it had been reported that Mr. Rezko was under federal investigation. That awkward fact prompoted Mr. Obama, who has cast himself as largely free from the normal influences of politics, to express regret over what he called his own bad judgment."

Why did Obama need Rezko's help?

'People familiar with the transaction said that the sellers did not want to close until that June 15, and that the sale would go through only if someone bought the adjacent lot from them on the same date," the Times reports.

Obama needed a favor from Rezko. He needed someone to buy that adjacent lot on the same day so he and Michelle could get that house. Someone he knew, who would let the Obamas expand their property and keep the rest of the lot, which the Obamas tended, vacant. Far from Rezko slyly buying a home next to a rising star, it was Obama who called Rezko and brought him into the deal.

"Rita Rezko paid $625,000 to outbid others for the lot and later sold the Obama's one-sixth of that land land, for $104,500," the Times reports.

"After the Chicago Tribune reported the transactions last November, Mr. Obama said he had acted ethically, though it had been a mistake to let Mr. Rezko do anything that could be seen as a favor.

"The disclosure came four days before Michelle Obama was to appear as a special guest at a charity fashion show organized by Mrs. Rezko. Mrs. Obama attended, though others there said it seemed a bit awkward."

* * *

"When Mr. Obama first fielded questions about Mr. Rezko last fall, he said they had had lunch once or twice a year and had socialized with their wives 'two to four times.'"

Not so.

"In addition to enlisting his huge circle of donors, Mr. Rezko and Mr. Obama talked frequently about campaign developments during the Senate race, Mr. Rezko's associates said."

* * *

"In one instance, when he was running for the Senate, Mr. Obama stopped by to shake hands while Mr. Rezko, an immigrant from Syria, was entertaining Middle Eastern bankers considering an investment in one of his projects."

* * *

"While Mr. Obama was running for the Senate, Mr. Rezko was also raising money for a huge development in the South Loop of Chicago, often playing host to dinners in a private room at the Four Seasons Hotel here.

"Former Rezko associates said that Governor Blagojevich attended one of the dinners, and that at Mr. Rezko's request, Mr. Obama dropped in at one for Middle Eastern bankers in early 2004, just as he was starting to pull ahead in the Senate primary. The visits, Mr. Rezko's partners said, helped impress foreign guests.

"'I remember that he had been on the campaign trail, and he was completely wiped out and exhausted,' said Anthony Licata, a lawyer who represented Mr. Rezko on real estate deals. 'My recollection is that he drank ice tea, and he talked about how he was really making progress, and we were all excited to see him.'

* * *

Obama refused to talk to the Times for the story. His campaign office issued a content-free written statement. Obama has previously said he never did Rezko a favor. And, of course, he often says that his a different kind of campaign - a movement - for those who think politics is an insider's game. But at every step of the way, Obama has played that game with utmost expediency. Far from carving out a niche as an independent reformer with clean hands, he has embraced the worst elements of the Machine - Rezko, Daley, Jones, Stroger, Tillman - to advance his own ambition. And I can tell you, Obama fans, that we haven't heard it all yet. Particularly where Rezko is concerned.

*

For more of the Beachwood's coverage of Obama, see Obamathon.


Posted by Lou at 05:50 AM | Permalink

T-Ball Journal: Snack Attack

I didn't want to disappoint my eight-year-old son, especially in the afterglow of a hard-fought sporting endeavor. But I decided I had to draw the line: "Noah, I think mini-Oreos on top of mini-Chips Ahoy after a bag of Cheetoh's would be a bit excessive." OK, perhaps my exact quote wasn't quite that droll. It was more along the lines of, "Take it easy on the snacks would you? We're having dinner after this."

Of course, at that point he was already well past the point of no nibbling return. And when he didn't exactly chow down on the delicious dinner his mother prepared for him about an hour later, the standard "Next time don't spoil your appetite with so much junk" speech was right there for me.

But I took a pass. Someday he'll grow up and go off to college, after all, and I'll regret it if I clutter up our precious time together with too many recriminations and remonstrations, right? Isn't that what the empty nesters always say? Next time, though . . . next time I'll really lay down the law: no sweets until after dinner young man - no ifs, ands or buts.

We know it's been said many times, many ways that the youth sports post-game snack is more important than the game. I'm confident that isn't true for at least some of the older kids on Noah's junior division T-Ball/coach-pitch squad. Then again I haven't exactly done a survey. And if I did do one, the results would depend almost entirely on the timing, i.e. if I did it in the midst of a sugary feast or, say, just after the announcement that a given day's treat would be (gasp) "healthy."

As for the rest of the Dodgers . . . let's just say that with the right bag of treats in one hand and the right flavor of juice in the other, the disappointment of a tough loss disappears instantaneously, if not sooner.

In fact, I've seen several instances already this season where contented kids simply erased critical details - like, say, whether we won or lost - from their memories in the game's immediate aftermath. When a couple have asked "Did we win?" I've been tempted to answer in the affirmative even if we didn't. But a few of their teammates - the ones who so delightfully and insistently request updates on the score every, oh, at-bat or so - always jump right in with the ugly details.

Serving up a popular snack in a way that doesn't leave you feeling at least slightly queasy is not easy. One of the primary challenges is purchasing the right amount of food. One anticipates that all the kids will scarf down a couple snacks and a couple drinks but they never do. Then again the biggest fear is that this will be the day that they all do that and that if you don't buy out the snack section you might have to say "we're all out" to one of them

A few will eat even more than that if their parents let them (earlier this season my son said to me "Dad, guess how many donut holes I had. . . . Seven." When I expressed a bit off disapproval, he said "But Johnny had twelve."

On the other hand, a significant number will also turn up their noses at the food no matter what. And don't think to yourself "Well, if some of the kids don't like this one snack, we better have plenty of another." Then you'll just have too much of two different kinds of foods.

Then there is the allergy element. Until a couple years ago I had no idea how scary the phrase "Dad, my tongue feels funny" could be. My daughter Alana is allergic to tree nuts and raw eggs (no chocolate mouse or cookie dough for her), and while we've tried to stay on top of it, there have been several situations in the past year where we were lucky (and Alana was vigilant). At those times she was offered cake or a cookie without our knowledge and she was smart enough to ask about the presence of nuts.

Alana's favorite post-game snack is probably the dastardly fruit roll-up. At our kids' last teeth cleaning, their dentist didn't just say she wanted us to limit their consumption of the sticky, 'just about 100 percent artificial' treat; she wanted them to never have another one again. But hey, doc, at least they definitely don't have nuts.

*

It was a big week for Alana's T-Ball team, the Red Sox. After a tough Rookie League loss the day before, the squad finally pulled out an official victory Sunday. Unfortunately, Noah's and my Sunday game was at exactly the same time as that contest and we didn't get to share in the triumph. Apparently the T-Ball was great and the socializing with an opposing team, the Angels, featured many players who go to school with my older daughter. "Dad, when I was playing second base I couldn't believe it. Everyone on the other team who got there, I knew. I was talking to everyone."

As for T-Ball/coach-pitch with Noah, one of the highlights was that before both games only one player didn't show up whose parents hadn't told me he or she wouldn't be there. My carefully calibrated defensive chart (outlining which of 16 players play which of 12 positions - the usual nine plus right-center, left-center and short-centerfielders - with everyone taking a one- or two-inning break, shifting positions every couple innings and getting at least two frames in the infield) can be adjusted to make up for the absence of one child. Any more than that and it starts to get ugly.

On Sunday we pulled out a very fortunate 10-9 victory (despite scoring only two T-Ball runs - usually you need at least a half dozen to have any kind of a chance). The day before we had suffered a very disappointing 19-17 defeat. But then it was snack time and - surprise! - one of the moms had brought hot dogs for everyone. They were fan-tastic.

*

Jim Coffman's daughter is in her first season of T-Ball. Her older brother is in his last year in the Junior Division. Coffman is chronicling his travails as coach of his son's team and observer of his daughter's initial foray into this slice of Americana.

Posted by Lou at 12:40 AM | Permalink

Memoir of a Mobster

Nicely timed to the approaching Family Secrets trial, former Tony Spilotro associate Frank Cullotta has spilled his story to Las Vegas author Dennis N. Griffin in a new memoir, Cullotta: The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, and Government Witness.

The book is a raw retelling of Cullotta's life of crime that takes us inside Tony Spilotro's Hole in the Wall Gang and another view of many of the events memorialized in Casino, in which Cullotta was renamed Frankie Marino, played by Frank Vincent.

Cullotta, who spoke to author Nicholas Pileggi for the Casino book that preceded the movie, was a technical adviser on the film and re-created on celluloid the bumbling murder of Jerry Lisner, who simply refused to die no matter how many bullets Cullotta put in his head, and instead had to be chased through his Las Vegas home, endure an attempted strangling, and eventually thrown into a swimming pool where he sank to the bottom.

Pileggi writes the forward for Cullotta, opening with the sentence: "Frank Cullotta is the real thing."

He goes on to write: "He and Spilotro had been boyhood pals back in Chicago and it was Spilotro who convinced Cullotta to migrate west to felony paradise. Cullotta had run the robbery, extortion, and murder departments for Spilotro's Vegas mob."

Cullotta was a hardened criminal and a cold-blooded killer. He eventually turned state's witness after suspecting that Spilotro, who had for a period near the end when things were falling apart put a contract on Cullotta's head, had been set him up to take the fall when the FBI was closing in.

Here are the highlights of Cullotta.

* * *

How does one become a gangster? Sometimes it just runs in the family.

"[Frank's father] Joe Cullotta exhibted a businesslike demeanor to all, including his family. He also had a violent temper . . .

"Joe Cullotta, age 38, was killed when the car he was driving crashed during a high-speed police chase when Frank was about nine years old. In addition to his own memories, as Frank grew up relatives and associates of his father told him story after story of Joe's exploits and expertise as a criminal. The elder Cullotta was considered by friend and foe to have been the best wheel man in Chicago. He was also highly dangerous, capable of mayhem and murder."

* * *

"Frank started shining shoes up and down Grand Avenue. One day he noticed a kid about his age, though much shorter, shining shoes on the opposite side of the street. The competitors glared at each other for several seconds.

"The stranger hollered, 'What the fuck are you lookin' at?'

"Frank replied, 'I'm looking at you. What about it?'

"Like a pair of Wild West gunfighters ready to do battle, the boys walked toward each other. Stopping a few feet apart in the middle of the street, they put down their shoeboxes.

"The stranger said, 'This is my fuckin' territory and I don't want you on this street. Understand?'

"'I don't see your name on any street signs and I'm not leaving.'"

The stranger was Tony Spilotro. But instead of fighting at a pre-arranged time the next day, Spilotro learned that Cullotta's father had helped his father out of a jam once. The boys became fast friends.

* * *

Sound familiar?

"The new place was a trade school for boys who couldn't handle a normal academic environment. Frank liked working with his hands and was actually doing well in shop. But the principal, Mr. Jones, was a real tough guy. He was always on the kids about haircuts and wearing their pants too low."

* * *

"His mother always told him that he should be a good boy, because wearing glasses made him stand out in a crowd and people would remember him if he acted up. With that warning in mind, when Frank went to rob the tavern that night, he didn't wear his specs. He never considered that the bar might not be adequately lit.

"Frank and Crazy Bob charged into the tavern. Bob yelled, 'Everybody put your hands up and behave!' For emphasis, he let loose with a blast from his sawed-off shotgun. The pellets shattered several of the whiskey bottles behind the bar, creating a shower of broken glass and booze. Having everyone's attention, Bob ordered them to the floor.

"Frank was positioned by the door to prevent anyone from running out. He watched as the bartender and patrons obeyed Bob's instruction and went to the floor, but one obstinate man just stood there. Frank yelled for him to get down, but he didn't budge.

"'What's the problem?' Bob wanted to know.

Frank started toward the stubborn patron as he answered. 'This bastard won't do what he's told. But he's going down now, one way or another.'

"A few steps closer now, Frank realized the guy who wouldn't follow his orders wasn't a person at all; it was actually a coat rack. With hats and coats on it through his bad eyes, it had looked like a person. Embarrassed, he hit the coat rack and knocked it over. As the robbers ran out of the building with their loot, the sound of Crazy Bob's laughter was ringing in Frank's ears."

* * *

Talk about sounding familiar. Here's a tale of Cullotta in a Chicago police lock-up.

"This time Frank's failure to answer resulted in another crack in the head with the phone book. That was followed by a punch in the chest, knocking both him and the chair over backwards. Looking up at [CPD robbery commander Frank] Pape, Frank said, 'I haven't done anything wrong and don't even know why I'm here.'

"Pape said to [Det. Tom] Durso, 'Get the cattle prods in here. I'm going to make this son of a bitch talk.'

"A few minutes later, the cattle prods were applied near Frank's testicles. The same questions were asked over and over: Tell us about the robbery. Who was with you? Where's the money?

"Each time, the prisoner answered that he didn't know what his interrogators were talking about. Every denial was followed by a zap with the cattle prods. Screaming in agony, Frank told the cops what he thought about them, generating additional pain. But through it all he didn't talk. He didn't admit to anything.

"After a while, Pape left the room. On his way out he said to Durso, 'Throw this bastard out the window. Say he tried to escape.'

"Hanging out the window by his ankles, Frank prayed he wouldn't be dropped. Durso fired more questions at him as he hung upside down, but Frank kept his mouth shut. Eventually, he was pulled back inside where Frank Pape was waiting. He said, 'Was your father Joe Cullotta?'

"'Yes.'

"Are you trying to be the man he was? You aren't going to make it. You'll never be the man he was.'

"Finally, Frank was turned loose."

* * *

"Someone must have talked, though. Sausage Fingers was killed in his car right in front of his house and Crazy Bob disappeared.

"One day as Tony [Spilotro] and Frank were riding down the Eisenhower Expressway, Tony pointed at the pillars under an overpass. He said, 'Did you know that Crazy Bob is the foundation for one of them?'

"Frank didn't want to believe it. 'You gotta be kidding.'

"Tony laughed. 'No, I'm not. Crazy Bob is holding up the fucking overpass.'"

* * *

This incident was re-created in Casino.

"Frank concealed the murder weapon in his waistband. When they arrived, Frank told [his partner Wayne] Matecki to wait in the car while he went to the door and rang the bell. [Jerry] Lisner responded and let him in. They stood in the hallway for a few seconds making small talk. Then Frank used a ruse to get Lisner away from the door. 'What was that?' Frank said suddenly.

"'What was what?'

"'I heard a noise.' Frank pointed down the hallway. 'I thought you were alone.'

"'Nobody's here but me. Come on, let's take a look.'

"Frank followed his victim into the living room. The hit man couldn't wear gloves without looking suspicious to Lisner, so he was very careful not to touch anything that could retain his fingerprints.

"'See, nobody's here but you and me,' Lisner announced.

"'Maybe the noise came from the outside,' Frank suggested.

"Lisner led the way toward the rear of the house to check the backyard. As they passed the dining room Frank pulled his gun. He fired two rounds into the back of Lisner's head from point-blank range. And then the situation became surreal. Instead of going down, Lisner turned around and said, 'What the . . . Why?' Then he started to run through the house toward the garage.

"Frank caught up with him and emptied the rest of the bullets into his head. Lisner fell, but he was still alive, still moving. Frank had trouble believing what was happening. He got on top of the wounded man and held him down. Out of ammunition, his eyes searched for an alternate weapon. He saw a knife on a counter next to the door leading to the garage and made a grab for it; it was just out of his reach. Next he spotted an electric water cooler that was within his grasp. He ripped the cord out of the cooler to strangle his victim with, but when he wrapped it around Lisner's neck, the cord broke.

"Getting frustrated, Frank got up and dragged Lisner into the den. The man was still conscious and aware of what was going on. 'My wife knows you're here! She's going to know you did this!' he screamed at Frank.

"By that time, Matecki had become concerned and came into the house; he was carrying an extra magazine of ammo with him. Frank reloaded his pistol and put pillows from a couch over Lisner's head to muffle the gunshots. Frank then emptied the pistol into Lisner's head again. It had taken ten rounds, but Lisner was finally dead. The killers dragged him outside to the pool and dumped him in. The body floated for a few seconds, then sank to the bottom."

* * *

"Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal [played by Robert DeNiro in Casino] lives in Florida and is still involved with the world of sports betting. He has a sports-related Web site at www.frankrosenthal.com."

* * *

Frank Cullotta's concluding words.

"[T]oday you've got the white-collar criminals. They don't use guns, but they'll empty your pockets and bank accounts and put you in the soup line without batting an eye. Maybe some day they'll all be gone - the mob, the gangs, and the scam artists. And then the world will truly be a better place."

Posted by Lou at 12:38 AM | Permalink

June 14, 2007

The [Thursday] Papers

Barack Obama's relationship with Tony Rezko is the subject of a front page New York Times story this morning.

"There is no sign that Mr. Obama, who declined to be interviewed for this article, did anything improper," the Times reports.

At least until you read the rest of the article. Then there are plenty of signs.

"Mr. Obama has portrayed Mr. Rezko as a one-time fund-raiser whom he had occasionally seen socially," the Times reports. "But interviews with more than a dozen political and business associates suggest that the two men were closer than the senator has indicated.

"Mr. Obama turned to Mr. Rezko for help at several important junctures."

This story won't be the last of it either; there is still more to the Obama-Rezko relationship to be unearthed.

Our updated Political Odds, posted earlier this morning, can hardly keep up.

Declining Value
Did Obama simply "decline" to respond to the Times? Or did he make a calculated, strategic decision to avoid answering questions because the truth could hurt him politically?

I'm not a fan of the Times's soft-pedaling.

The AP's highly respected political reporter Ron Fournier just wrote a memo urging his colleagues to toughen up and tell the truth.

When a public official lies, write it, he says. You are not obliged to print spin. Write with authority.

What's depressing is that professional journalists have to be reminded of the lessons they were supposed to have learned in Journalism 101. Or maybe those aren't the kind of things they teach at Medill and taught at City News.

Piss Water
"The Republican hunger for [Fred] Thompson reminds me of how popular Coors beer was in Chicago long ago, when it wasn't sold here, and so it became somewhat precious," John Kass writes this morning. "Beer drinkers lusted after Coors and lugged cases of it back from Colorado in the trunks of their cars, handing out the cans as if they were special treats, driving up the desire, until Coors appeared in stores and beer drinkers figured out it was just another beer."

Rug Burn
Kass persuasively compares Thompson to Obama, then ends his column with a bit of media criticism.

"Which candidate will have the media rug pulled out from under him first? Guess. Obama's a Democrat. Thompson's a Republican."

So, judging by the 2004 and 2000 presidential campaigns, Obama.

Separation Anxiety
The special prosecutors who examined the Jon Burge torture cases, Edward Egan and Robert Boyle, have refused to appear before Cook County Commissioner Earlean Collins' criminal justice committee.

Egan and Boyle cited the separation of powers between legislative and executive branches of government. The mayor is the executive, see, and he has to keep the legislative branches separated from power.

Power Grab
"Mayor Daley's proposal to overhaul the police Office of Professional Standards hit a snag Wednesday when four aldermen who contended the plan doesn't go far enough delayed a City Council vote," the Tribune reports.

"There have been concerns about police misconduct for years, and there really never was an attempt to form a more independent OPS," Ald. Joe Moore (49th) said. "All of a sudden, the mayor proposes something and in a couple weeks it is considered a done deal. I thought it was important to take a deep breath and look at it more closely."

Egan and Boyle refused to comment, citing a conflict of interest with reality.

Family Dining Front
"Ihop Corp., the biggest U.S. pancake-house chain, offered to buy Applebee's International Inc., people familiar with the matter said."

Egan and Boyle issued a statement saying the deal would violate the separation of pancake powers - but they'd be willing to overlook it as long as the Denny's grand slam breakfast was left alone.

Bayless Clueless
Famed Chicago restrauteur Rick Bayless said Wednesday that the city council should repeal its ban on foie gras because "if it stays on the books, I am afraid it gives us a strange and provincial reputation."

Bayless added that he preferred Chicago be known for torture of both animals and black men.

A Separate Piece
The city council voted Wednesday to separate the public from public art. The mayor assured critics of the new measure that "I'm not choosing the artists. [Cultural Affairs Commissioner] Lois Weisberg is," he said.

So that's one degree of separation.

Mission Unaccomplished
Walt Zlotow of Glen Ellen congratulations the Tribune on its 160th birthday. Or does he?

Schools Screwed
"Effectively, Daley and Duncan are manipulating the state's goofy education-funding system to divert money intended for schoolchildren to TIF deals - like the $58 million handout they're ready to give developers to build an 18-story tower on top of Union Station," Ben Joravsky reports.

Time Wasters
Why are the mayor, the city council, and civic leaders spending so much time on foie gras when there are so many more important things to worry about?

Gov. Baloneyvich
"The antipathy toward Blagojevich's budget efforts was expressed in the House by one of his toughest critics, Rep. Jack Franks (D-Woodstock), who said the governor spent more time jogging in Chicago than working in Springfield," the Tribune reports.

"In a scathing broadside, Franks lashed out at Blagojevich for refusing to explain why his campaign fund has been subpoenaed by federal authorities, an issue brought to light by the Tribune, and why the governor has failed to push for ethics reforms, including his own dormant plan that he vowed would 'rock the system.'

"'The reason the governor is not pounding his bully pulpit is because he can't,' Franks said.

"Deputy Gov. Sheila Nix disputed Franks' assertions, saying the governor and his aides work every day on budget matters."

Sometimes even from home.

Catching Flak
"The value of Michael Barrett, a lousy defensive catcher having a career year at the plate, will never be higher. Trade him."

- Me, July 26, 2006

The Beachwood Tip Line: Take a power trip.


Posted by Lou at 09:07 AM | Permalink

Awesome Amplitude Range

The following press release announcing MetaGeek's release of a new Wi-Spy Spectrum Analyzer, may be of interest to your audience. Any editorial comment or mention that you may give this press release would be greatly appreciated.

METAGEEK(TM) RELEASES WI-SPY(TM) 2.4X SPECTRUM ANALYZER

NAMPA, ID - JUNE 14, 2007 - The 2.4 GHz band is getting crowded, so you need better wireless networking tools to quickly resolve interference issues. That's why we here at MetaGeek have been working feverishly on Wi-Spy(TM) 2.4x, our second generation Wi-Spy with three times the frequency resolution, three times the amplitude resolution, and twice the amplitude range of our original Wi-Spy.

With the higher resolution and improved amplitude range of Wi-Spy 2.4x it is now even easier to identify wireless signals that could be causing interference with your Wi-Fi networks. With Wi-Spy 2.4x, "now you'll know, and knowing is half the battle."

Technical Specifications:
* Antenna: External, RP-SMA
* Frequency Range: 2400 to 2495 MHz
* Frequency Resolution: 328 KHz
* Amplitude Range: -110 dBm to -6.5 dBm
* Amplitude Resolution: 0.5 dBm
* Sweep Time: ~165 msec
* Interface: USB 1.1/2.0 compatible

Of course, our new Chanalyzer(TM) 2.1 software takes full advantage of the higher resolution with improved graphics, powerful new play-thru controls, and an even friendlier user interface. Chanalyzer 2.1 seamlessly supports both the original Wi-Spy and Wi-Spy 2.4x. Wi-Spy 2.4x is available now for $399, and Chanalyzer 2.1 is available (as always) as a free download.

Media Contact:
Brian Packer

Posted by Lou at 06:24 AM | Permalink

June 13, 2007

The [Wednesday] Papers

Fourteen-year-old Roberto Duran, of Little Village, became the the 32nd Chicago Public Schools student killed in the last school year on Monday evening- the 24th to die by gunfire.

Father Michael Pfleger led a march last night, joined by the mayor and other dignitaries.

It's a familiar sequence of events, one we have been watching for years. It always leaves the public with the uncomfortable question: What can be done? How can this madness be stopped?

Some people want to blame the Chicago Public School system. It's not the fault of CPS. The schools can't be full-time sanctuaries for our children.

Others, including the mayor, speak passionately about tougher gun control. They are right, but that alone won't solve the problem.

As I said on WTTW's Week in Review last Friday, nobody wants to talk about poverty. Or about the mayor's social services budget. Or about the way our most distraught neighborhoods and desperate citizens always come last.

The city announced on Tuesday that it is considering a plan to spend more than $120 million - funded through park district bonds - on three new harbors that would add 2,230 new boat slips. One of the proposed harbor locations is a potential Olympic site.

Meanwhile, Channel 7 reported this last night: "As Chicago looks to host the 2016 Olympic Games, a new study finds that over the last 20 years more than 2 million people have been displaced as a direct result of the Olympics. Many were low-income renters who were forced out when rents soared soon after a city was awarded the Olympics."

What are our true priorities? How much of a commitment to our children has really been made?

It's not just the city or civic leaders, either. The emoting media also don't exactly staff the city neighborhoods that would cut into the demographic profile they like to sell to advertisers.

What can be done? Action. Commitment. Priorities. Lamentations aren't enough.

Corporate Media Lament
"Our ultimate responsibility is - as is the goal of all stockholder enterprises - to grow stockholder value."

- Cyrus Freidheim, CEO of the Sun-Times Media Group, at Tuesday's annual meeting

Social Service Budget
I could create a few jobs for $5 million.

Where do I go to draw up a Beachwood TIF?

Crime Writing
Okay, one more time: a hate crime is one motivated by hate and intending to terrorize not just the immediate victim, but others by dint of their race, sexual orientiation, or religion. Black people who commit horrible crimes against victims who happen to be white do not qualify. Nor do white folks who commit crimes against victims who happen to be black. A hate crime is like domestic terrorism.

Why is that so hard to understand? What is the deep, defensive, bitter, reflexive psychology that drives this kind of response?

The Obama Letters
"As a state senator, Barack Obama wrote letters to city and state officials supporting his political patron Tony Rezko's successful bid to get more than $14 million from taxpayers to build apartments for senior citizens," the Sun-Times reports.

But Obama didn't know anything about Rezko's slum properties in his district.

Speak No Evil
Obama's press secretary responded in a written statement. Answering questions directly is so unpresidential.

Power Grab
Bob Reed persuasively argues why the state legislature should freeze utility rates for now so it can go back and solve this mess the right way, rather than just making it worse.

Lake Shoreistan
Speaking to Crain's about the proposed demolition of the Lake Shore Athletic Club, David "Buzz" Ruttenberg, chairman of Chicago Developer Belgravia Group Ltd. said: "One hopes the alderman will take a position and lead rather than abrogating responsibility to community groups. When an alderman follows a show of hands, that's kind of a form of anarchy."

A) Yes, the kind called democracy.
B) I prefer fascism.
C) Aldermen should follow a show of money instead.

Ready To Be President
Obama had a lot to learn when he became a United States Senator, The Politico reports. So he was put through school.

"The seminars also reflected Obama's newness to the Senate and to national policy debates. Though he had offered some policy planks during his Senate campaign - such as raising fuel emissions standards and pressing for universal health care - he was not entirely familiar with decades of congressional close combat on key issues.

"However, his aides were quick to brush aside any notion that Obama was, as some Democrats like to portray President Bush, in need of a basic education on matters of national policy."

Product Placement
The Sun-Times publishes a press release from U.S. Cellular.

Green Queen
The mayor wants you to turn off your water while you brush your teeth. And that's important. But Carol Marin says "[I]t's time to finally establish a citywide, comprehensive recycling program beyond the experimental blue cart program that operates in only seven wards right now."

Remember when environmentalists were considered crazy tree-huggers? Remember when Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich were thought to be a little nuts about the war? Think about who you think is crazy today who will turn out to be right in the future. Open your mind. Maybe this guy - or this guy - is onto something.

Mount Lou
As foreseen here, Lou Piniella mismanaged his multitude of lineup changes so badly last night that he used Carlos Zambrano as a pinch hitter in the 11th - with Jason Marquis standing by.

Wilco and Out
Wilco's turn to darkness doesn't end with Volkswagen, as I found out watching AMC last night.

For a Lousy Buck
"It's the city of Chicago vs. the hot dog vendor. And vs. the carnival workers. And a Giordano's restaurant. And throw in a travel agency too.

"All have operations in buildings at 300-308 W. Randolph that City Hall wants to see torn down.

"The Daley administration wants to replace the three low-rises with a small park that would enhance a 46-story office building the John Buck Co. will put up next door," the Sun-Times reports.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Action-oriented.

Posted by Lou at 08:20 AM | Permalink

Building Brand Obama

The Tribune completed its "Making of a Candidate" series this week with an examination of how Barack Obama and his political consultants decided to craft the Obama brand and fix his politics around it. So much for authenticity.

Let's take a look.

*

"One evening in February 2005, in a four-hour meeting stoked by pepperoni pizza and grand ambition, Sen. Barack Obama and his senior advisers crafted a strategy to fit the Obama 'brand,'" the Trib reports.

"Yet even in those early days [of the U.S. Senate term he had just won], Obama and his advisers were thinking ahead. Some called it the '2010-2012-2016' plan: a potential bid for the governor or re-election to the Senate in 2010, followed by a bid for the White House as soon as 2012 or, if not, 2016.

"The way to get there, they decided, was by carefully building a record that matched the brand identity: Obama as unifier and consensus builder, an almost postpolitical leader."

So the brand came first.

*

The brand is all he's got. It's not as if he's running for president based on a distinguished career as an Illinois legislator. As much as Obama tried to stay above the fray in the cesspool of Springfield, it's not as if he was leading the charge against corruption and for a new kind of hopeful politics (like, ironically, his senatorial successor Peter Fitzgerald did both in Springfield and Congress).

I've casually run into a handful of folks who knew Obama in his Springfield days who uniformly describe him as MIA as a state legislator, not one for the heavy lifting, overly ambitious, and inattentive to his district.

And he certainly isn't running for president based on his short, contradictory but largely immemorable tenure as a United States senator.

*

Take the war. Obama on the campaign trail likes to boast of his early opposition to the Iraq misadventure. And Obama was right - just like, say, Howard Dean in the 2004 presidential campaign. (There is little to no evidence that I have found that Obama ever spoke in favor of Dean.)

Yet, Obama entered the U.S. Senate with the nation's rapt attention (well, the media's anyway). And instead of leading on the war, he receded into the background, mum as a church mouse.

"Even before the national mood was turning on Iraq, Obama was a critic of the war," the Trib writes, " but for most of the time in the Senate he was not a strong voice of opposition."

Perhaps that was Obama being "mindful," in his own words, "of the importance of establishing good relationships with my colleagues early on."

The Trib puts it kindly. "Obama the candidate for U.S. Senate spoke out forcefully against the Iraq war. For most of his tenure in Washington, though, Obama the U.S. senator has not been a moving force on Iraq.

"He left it to others to lead public opinion. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) emerged as the strongest voices against the war. Those critics all spoke out before Obama gave his first major policy speech on the war - 11 months after he took office."

Obama was building his brand while soldiers were dying.

*

"Several advisers said that during that time Obama wrestled with how to proceed," the Trib reports. "In keeping with the pattern of his political career, he moved cautiously."

He had to factor in public opinion, the advice of his consultants, his political ambitions, and how best to protect the brand. Leading in the anti-war movement was not in the cards.

*

"Only after Obama announced his presidential exploratory committee did he introduce legislation this January that sets a date for withdrawal of U.S. combat troops," the Trib reports. "By then the high-profile, bipartisan Iraq Study Group also had endorsed a deadline for troops to leave.

"In May he voted against continued funding of the war, after Bush vetoed a funding package that included a timetable for withdrawal by March 31, 2008.

"Obama defended his reluctance to call for withdrawal during most of his first year in the Senate.

"'At the time, my view was that the [Iraqi] government was still forming and it would be important to not give the impression, prior to the formation of that government, that we were already on the way out,' Obama said."

Some folks thought - and say now - that that was exactly the kind of pressure that should be put on the new Iraqi government.

*

"Now, what changed?" Obama continued. "We have the breaking out of a complete civil war, at least a significant low-grade civil war."

Yes, nobody saw that coming.

*

Obama himself has been conscious of the hype, even as he has helped fuel it. He told the Tribune that early in his U.S. Senate career he was bent on "making sure that people didn't think I bought into all the hype."

He also famously told reporters at the 2006 Gridiron Dinner: "Most of all, I want to thank you for all the generous advance coverage you've given me in anticipation of a successful career. When I actually do something, we'll let you know."

*

"Obama made it an early priority to fit in at the institution [of the U.S. Senate]," the Trib reports, "reflected in his choice of a chief of staff, Peter Rouse, a veteran Senate insider who had been the top aide for departing Democratic leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.). Rouse crafted the memo that formed the basis of the conversation at the strategy session that February night at a Democratic Party office near the Capitol."

*

Even having Obama sit through lengthy committee meetings to from start to finish to show diligence adn deference was part of the image-building.

*

"To some liberals, the proposal was a no-brainer: a ceiling of 30 percent on interest rates for credit cards and other consumer debt," the Trib writes. "And as he left his office to vote on it, Obama planned to support the measure, which was being considered as an amendment to a major overhaul of the nation's bankruptcy laws.

"But when the amendment came up for a vote, Obama was standing next to Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.), the senior Democrat on the banking committee and the leader of those opposing the landmark bill, which would make it harder for Americans to get rid of debt.

"'You know, this is probably not a smart amendment for us to vote for,' Obama recalled Sarbanes telling him. 'Thirty percent is sort of a random number.'

"Obama joined Sarbanes in voting against the amendment . . . There remains no federal ceiling on credit card interest rates."

*

"Within his own party, Obama gained the confidence of the leadership and soon took on a role as the Democrats' spokesman on ethics reform."

Again, an exercise in brand-building - similar to Emil Jones putting Obama out front on ethics legislation in Springfield.

Not that any of it really took with Obama.

*

"In keeping with the original game plan, staff members spent nights and weekends scouring the chapters [of drafts of The Audacity of Hope) as they rolled in, looking for potential political pitfalls - a vetting committee Obama didn't have when he published his earlier, more provocative memoir," the Trib writes, seeming to forget its earlier reporting that showed that memoir to be a work of fiction.

Audacity, too, would become fiction, if only by omission.

"For instance," the Trib writes, "when Obama was seeking to name someone as the epitome of left-leaning politics, an aide urged him to use a House member instead of a Senate colleague. So the book names now-Speaker Nancy Pelosi, though Obama's voting record is similar to hers."

The Audacity of Inauthencity.

*

The Trib story comes with a sidebar about Obama's endorsements of Mayor Daley, Todd Stroger, Alexi Giannoulias and Dorothy Tillman that seem to be at odds with his clean government rhetoric.

Obama's responses are wholly unsatisfactory. The fact that Giannoulias and Tillman, for example, were early supporters of his only reveals a pol more interested in loyalty than the public interest - you know, a hack. His support of Tillman came at the expense of a true reform candidate (and ultimate winner), Pat Dowell.

And the Trib neglects to include Joe Lieberman anywhere in its reporting; Obama raised money for Lieberman in his race against anti-war candidate Ned Lamont.

*

In fact, the Tribune series on the whole portrays Obama as a politician not wholly dedicated to truth and transparency, and hardly one who has practiced a new kind of politics nor accomplished anything near what might be expected in a presidential candidate.

As valuable as the Tribune series is, though, it comes too late. Why wasn't Obama vetted sooner?

The image of Obama is fixed in the public mind; now media revelations that cut across that image are fighting an uphill battle, no matter how much more accurately they may portray the man. I hear it all the time: stop picking on him. Or "This is just what they did to Gore."

The advisors who built the Obama brand have successfully brought it to market, aided and abetted by a starstruck media that never seems to learn its lessons. It has altered the shape of the race, enabling Obama to raise enough gobloads of money to keep out other candidates such as Tom Vilsack and Evan Byah, and to set up well-intended folks for heartbreak.

I saw Ben Affleck being interviewed by Wolf Blitzer the other day. Affleck is an Obama man. Doesn't know much about him, Affleck said, but what he knows he likes. The brand is flying off the shelves. But is the product defective?

-

Check out the rest of the Beachwood's unique Barack Obama coverage in Obamathon.

Posted by Lou at 05:08 AM | Permalink

June 12, 2007

What I Watched Last Night

Welcome back to hell, everyone. Chronically pissed-off Scottish chef Gordon Ramsay was back last night to guide us through a third expletive-laden season of failure and humiliation in Fox-TV's Hell's Kitchen - a show that might as well be called Get The Fuck Out Of My Fucking Kitchen, You Fucking Worthless Lazy-Arse Pieces Of Fucking Shit.

In last night's two-hour extravaganza, which repeated last Monday's premiere episode, we met 12 chef wannabes looking to win a $250,000-a-year salary (plus profit-sharing) as head chef at the Green Valley Ranch Resort in Las Vegas, which we last saw on TV as the home base of the American Casino reality show that got a little too real.

To win the Hell's Kitchen chef-off, our contestants have to prove to Ramsay that they possess both the backbone to withstand his verbal abuse and the basic cooking skills to actually run a kitchen that serves high-falutin' cuisine - all while cooking for crowds of real, high-falutin' people in the Hell's Kitchen restaurant. To prevent the guests from being food poisoned or notes hurriedly scrawled in pencil saying "Help Me" being stashed under customers' cuts of Beef Wellington, Ramsay has to approve every appetizer and entree dish that goes out.

The 12 competitors are split into same-sex teams (boys are Blue Team, girls are Red Team), and those on the losing side have to survive the Worthless Cook Elimination at the end of each program. Ramsay selects one "best of the worst" loser from the losing team to be the hatchet man responsible for nominating two underperforming schmucks on the team for elimination. Ramsay then tells one of them to get the fuck out of his kitchen and go home.

A jungle beast looking for the sick and weak among the herd to eat first wouldn't have far to look with this bunch. My choices for first-eaten were Eddie, a soft-spoken 5'2" short-order cook with a kidney disease that has stunted his growth, and Aaron, a rotund 48-year-old Asian basket case of a retirement home chef who spends his time sweating profusely, bursting into crying jags for no reason, and getting dizzy every five minutes because his answer to weight loss is starvation and cigarettes.

I figured Aaron would be in for the most pain this season when he showed up for the introductory meeting with Ramsay decked out kinda sorta like a cowboy. I'm not sure whether Aaron just wandered away from the line for Let's Make A Deal, but there he was.

"Where's your horse?" asks Ramsay, as if he's never met an Asian cowboy. "You're one chunky monkey."

Right, then. I wasn't sure whether I wanted to laugh or feel sorry for banzai buckaroo. Maybe that thought occurred to Ramsay too, since he spent the next two hours out of character by not once swearing or hurling kitchenware at such an easy mark for brutal humiliation. Or maybe Ramsay's just too smart to browbeat the psychologically fragile with a kitchen full of sharp knives and cleavers hanging about. So instead, he spent a lot of time picking on some wise-ass named Vinnie, a New Jersey nightclub cook too dense to actually know what the word "rubbish" means.

Vinnie can't cook pasta worth a shit and uses water instead of vegetable stock in the risotto because the kitchen's out of stock. What the hell - "vegetables are made of water," Vinnie pretzel-logics Ramsay, who samples the risotto water and proclaims it "gnat's piss." I'm not sure how Ramsay would know what gnat piss tastes like, but heck, he's a French cuisine chef. Those guys are always using all sorts of weird shit anyway.

Meanwhile, the women on the Red Team were embracing the notion that if you're going to cook snooty French food, you might as well act like a snooty French chef - so they spend their time ignoring Julia, who they sneer at for being a lowly short order cook in a waffle house. None of them can fry quail eggs to save their lives, yet they spend two hours chasing Julia away from the eggs without it occurring to any of them that if anyone knows how to fry a fucking egg, it's a waffle house cook.

By now it's been two or three hours since the actual dinner guests started filing in and not a single one of them have eaten so much as an appetizer, so Ramsay orders his maitre d' Jean Phillipe to close down the whole place. Eventually, I'm sure the trendy folk of Los Angeles will consider showing up at Hell's Kitchen and being sent home after not being fed for three hours a trendy way to lose weight.

In the following episode, Ramsay designates Buckaroo Aaron as the restaurant's server for the evening, saving him from any possible kitchen indignity. Buckaroo Aaron spends the evening crying again, getting dizzy, and sweating profusely tableside while taking 15 minutes to de-bone the sole on their plates. One woman expressed a look of sheer dining-customer terror while the suspense built to see whether any of the giant rivulets of sweat running down the cowboy's cheeks were going to fall into her food. The customers express their thanks by complaining to Jean Phillipe about their sole going cold and the big trail of bones still left in the fish.

Back in the kitchen, Jersey Vinnie is burning the sole, Little Eddie is getting stepped on while getting confused over how to properly cook pasta, nobody in the restaurant is getting served a thing created by Blue Team, and Ramsay rails on about the risotto continuing to be too peppery. Christ, you'd think these idiots could save themselves a whole lot of trouble if it would just occur to someone to follow a written recipe, but nobody seems to be that bright. So Ramsay gets incredibly pissed, yells "Where's that fucking cowboy?" and kicks the entire Blue Team out of the kitchen, leaving Red Team to feed the rest of the now-starving customers.

At the end of the episode - despite volunteering to be the sacrificial lamb because, well, you don't have to put up with anywhere near this level of shit down at the nursing home - Buckaroo Aaron isn't even nominated for the chopping block.

Immediately, a sigh of relief is heard across the nation from everyone in a Hell's Kitchen pool betting that he'll have a nervous breakdown, stroke out, or just hang himself in the shower before getting the ax.

Instead, Ramsay sends Little Eddie packing because casinos generally prefer head chefs who don't get trampled underfoot without protesting loudly about it at least once.

My prediction for next week's episode, whose trailer featured an ambulance: Jersey Vinnie accidentally lops off one of his fingers with a knife after being instructed by Ramsay to go peel some shrimp.

*

Holy polio and Hiroshima, Batman! You're in the Army now! Earlier, the History Channel's Modern Marvels: Weird Weapons of the Allies featured a U.S. plan to attack Japanese industrial targets by using bat bombs.

The plan, approved by President Roosevelt in 1942, involved clipping tiny napalm incendiary devices to semi-hibernating bats and packing them in large Bat Bombs dropped at night over the Japanese mainland. The bombs would open before hitting the ground, the bats would fly out and trip the napalm bomb timers, and find buildings in which to roost. Thirty minutes later, Japan would be a mass of flaming bats and all sorts of weird confusion would reign.

The idea was deemed a success after some of the armed bats accidentally got out and burned down half of the Auxiliary Army Air Base in Carlsbad, New Mexico. Few people, Commissioner Gordon included, were amused.

The whole project was scrapped before actually being implemented when the buzzkills over in Atomic Warfare showed everyone how to stop worrying and love The Bomb. The following quarter, the Army was nearly brought to budgetary ruin when 90,000 bats filed unemployment claims.

-

See what else Buckner and the Beachwood has been watching in the What I Watched Last Night archives.

Posted by Lou at 03:34 PM | Permalink

The [Tuesday] Papers

The Tribune discovers that "Obama" is just a brand cooked up by his political consultants; that his policy choices are fixed around that brand, not the other way around (and not always very well); and that his deepest political ties in Chicago reveal anything but a new kind of politician.

Welcome aboard!

Making of a Candidate
Today's Obama piece is the last in a series, which is actually quite valuable, though it would have been more helpful if this kind of reporting had been done before the image of Obama had been fixed in the public mind by gullible media twits.

Reform Tha' Police
"Mayor Richard Daley's proposal to revamp the controversial police Office of Professional Standards was advanced Monday by a City Council committee, but not before critics contended that it won't improve efforts to root out renegade officers," the Tribune reports.

"Under one 'very pernicious provision,' the officer must receive the name of the complainant and advance copies of all witness statements, [lawyer Locke] Bowman said, and all previous unsustained complaints cannot be used against an officer in an investigation, even if there are several."

Another provision allows accused officers to beat the shit out of their accusers for not keeping their mouths shut about their first beating.

Art Patrol
Sun-Times critic Kevin Nance isn't impressed with a 200-strong turnout of artists protesting a controversial proposed public art ordinance, but that's a far better turnout than I would have expected, knowing the habits of artists and the aesthetically unpleasing topic of public art ordinances.

Nonetheless, Nance reports that one proposed compromise would establish a Public Art Commission and wrest control of public art selection from the mayor's cultural affairs department, in exchange for reducing some of the bureaucratic and burdensome community participation requirements of the current system.

Stroger Salvo
Look! One of Todd Stroger's taxpayer-funded PR creatures wrote a letter for him and sent it to the Sun-Times!

That's cute.

Cubness
As foreseen by Cub Factor writer Marty Gangler, three of the Cubs four infield positions last night were played by second basemen: Mark DeRosa at third, Ryan Theriot at short, and Mike Fontenot at second.

And, of course, the Cubs had a second basemen in left field in Alfonso Soriano.

Now, to be fair, Theriot apparently came up as a shortstop. So he's playing out of position once removed. Kind of like Jacque Jones when he plays center. Which Soriano used to play too - briefly. As Marty says, just like Jim Hendry drew it up.

Tribness
Inspired by the Cubs' success, Tribune Company now wants its reporters in Baltimore to take photos too. Also, if they could deliver some papers on the way to work, put those new cover sheets on the TPS reports, and make some sales calls on the way home, that'd really help out. Ummkay?

Illigoyevich
"Forty-two states reported higher than expected revenues this year, allowing lawmakers to set aside money for long-term projects, reduce taxes or set up a rainy day fund,"The New York Times reports.

Illinois is not one of them.

Weather Monkeys
"Forecasters in Illinois and Wisconsin spent days checking out phony weather reports this spring after a weather-savvy person submitted more than 50 fake sightings to a National Weather Service Web site that meteorologists use to track severe weather," the Tribune reports.

"Over a six-week period this spring, someone filed reports, sometimes several in one day, describing felled trees, hail and tornadoes that never occurred."

Jobs Report
"Apple Unveils PC Browser."

The iGates is next.

Transit Buff
"A hefty 61% of those who work downtown get there on the CTA or Metra, the commuter train line, which has its own financial problems. In the Stevenson, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Lake Shore corridors, the CTA alone carries at least 40% of total rush-hour traffic," Greg Hinz writes in Crain's this week, in an interesting analysis of the transit system's problems.

"Years of grossly underfunding its employee pension plan, misdirecting capital funds, operating unreliable service with dirty vehicles, hiring City Hall rejects for middle-management jobs and extending its middle finger to the outside world have caught up with the agency," Hinz says. "Its credibility is gone, and though new CTA boss Ron Huberman is off to a promising start, he can only do so much in a month.

"Ironically, the CTA is in trouble now because then-President Frank Kruesi uncharacteristically chose to play nice last fall. Instead of justly declaring a budget crisis then -- a card he played prematurely in prior years -- the CTA and Regional Transit Authority assented to pleas to keep quiet until after Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Mayor Richard M. Daley and state and city lawmakers had been safely re-elected. The unstated promise from the pols: Help us now and we'll help you in the spring.

"That was then.

[snip]

"Oddly, it's been suburban Republicans, the chairs of the collar county boards, who've been willing to talk about new taxes for transit and roads.

"And Mr. Daley?

"While waiting to hear him address a business group last week, I suggested to his spokeswoman that transit is a lesser priority for him. She disputed that. "They are aware of what his priorities are in Springfield," she said.

"But when Mr. Daley spoke, he talked for a half-hour about the 2016 Olympics and how Chicago school kids are learning Chinese and other education issues. Transit came up, briefly, only when an audience member asked about it."

The Beachwood Tip Line: A regional solution.

Posted by Lou at 08:44 AM | Permalink

NU to Streeterville: Drop Dead

May 21, 2007

Ms. Gail Spreen
President
Streeterville Organization of Active Residents

Dear Gail:

I was very disturbed to receive your e-mail that the SOAR board had voted to recommend that 850 Lake Shore Drive be designated as a Chicago landmark.

Northwestern University strongly believes that such a landmark designation will have adverse unintended consequences and will result in substantial financial harm to Northwestern.

We explained our process and the Fifield proposal at a previous meeting with you but I would like to meet again with SOAR to further explain the situation in hopes that the SOAR Board will reconsider its decision.

Northwestern has acted in substantial reliance upon the City's approved Planned Development for this site in maintaining the building to this point in time and in seeking a buyer consistent with the terms of the PD.

Moreover, in furtherance of that PD, we have entered into a contract to sell the property to Fifield Realty. We spent millions of dollars maintaining the building until it outlived its usefulness and Fifield has expended over a million dollars to undertake the contract and to develop plans for redevelopment.

As you may remember, the process for LR's development of condominiums along East Pearson Street was a long and very open public process. During that process, the community expressed its concern about the future redevelopment of 850 Lake Shore Drive; the community wanted assurances that we wouldn't come in with a future proposal for a very high and dense redevelopment on that site.

As a result of the community's expressed concerns and as part of the approval process for the LR redevelopment of the former AHA building site, Northwestern agreed to restrictions on the redevelopment of 850 Lake Shore Drive. Those restrictions limited the height of a replacement building to no more than the height of the existing building (217'), the density of a replacement building to no more than 354,000 sf and the uses to student residences of no more than 490 units (and ancillary uses) or a private residential building of no more than 200 units.

The City codified those restrictions as part of the Planned Development. Additionally, in order to reinforce our commitment to the constraints on future development, we established restrictive covenants on the land running to the LR development that mirrored the constraints in the Planned Development.

Proposals that have been discussed for either a hotel or retail use violate not only the Planned Development constraints but the restrictive covenants as well and could not be approved. During this entire process, neither the community nor the City asked for a requirement that the building not be demolished and redeveloped nor did they ask that the building be designated a Chicago landmark.

In fact, the City granted an approved Planned Development that makes clear that the property can be demolished and rebuilt. We believe that the City passed on landmarking the building at the time that the PD was granted.

The Northwestern University trustees and administration have a fiduciary responsibility to support the educational and research missions of the university. Our responsibility was recognized by the State in its original charter granting us tax exemption. When it became clear that 850 Lake Shore Drive was no longer serving a useful purpose for the University and that keeping it open in its current configuration was resulting in a substantial financial deficit, we made the decision to close the building.

Our internal analysis showed that there was no financially feasible way for Northwestern to renovate the building for student residences; we then made the decision to sell the property. Landmarking the building would negate the sale to Fifield Realty and would result in substantial financial harm to both Northwestern and to Fifield.

Northwestern has no viable alternatives for the use or the sale of a landmarked 850 Lake Shore Drive and it is highly likely that the building would remain vacant for years to come. We believe that, given the circumstances that exist, landmarking the building would deprive Northwestern of its rights and raise serious legal issues that we would feel compelled to address.

We have acted in good faith in the process for the sale and development of 850 Lake Shore Drive and kept SOAR informed at each major step in the process. Because of the private and confidential nature of real estate transactions, we could not involve SOAR in the details of the process.

When NU made the decision to close 850 Lake Shore Drive, we informed SOAR of that action. When we decided to seek a broker to market the property for sale and subsequently selected Holliday, Fenoglio, Fowler (HFF), we informed SOAR of those actions. And when we negotiated a contract with Fifield, we informed SOAR of that choice and brought Fifield forward to make a presentation of their proposal. HFF prepared an RFP for sale of 850 Lake Shore Drive that was distributed to scores of real estate developers. Since Northwestern believed that the Chestnut Street garage could be needed to meet the future needs of the campus, we were selling only the Lake Shore Center and put that forward in the RFP.

The potential sale of 850 Lake Shore Drive was also well known in the Chicago community and we received inquiries and offers from developers not on HFF's initial distribution list. HFF reviewed the proposals and made recommendations to Northwestern about which proposals and developers were viable and which proposals agreed to live within the constraints of the RFP, the Planned Development and the restrictive covenants.

We did not receive any responsive and responsible proposals for the renovation of the existing building at 850 Lake Shore Drive. We also received proposals for redevelopment of the property which were not responsive to the terms of the RFP because they proposed new buildings that exceeded the zoning constraints; we rejected those proposals as well.

Fifield Realty has been conducting a very public and open process in discussing their proposal for the redevelopment of 850 Lake Shore Drive. They have sent out hundreds of letters to neighboring residents, have contacted all nearby building managers, have proactively contacted preservation groups and have established meetings with representative community groups (SOAR, GNMAA, etc.).

Fifield has openly discussed their financial analysis that shows that adaptive reuse is not a financially viable option. They have demonstrated that the cost for an adaptive reuse condominium project would be approximately $170 million with sales proceeds of approximately $90 million, creating an $80 million gap.

They have also discussed their analysis of an adaptive reuse rental project which would create a $90 million gap. Tax credits and façade easement credits might defray up to $15 million of the gap, but a $65-75 million gap would still exist. This is not a TIF district and a residential project of this type in this area would not be appropriate for a TIF; even if it were in a TIF district, the gap far exceeds what would be available as a typical maximum contribution. Therefore, Fifield's analysis shows that there is no financially viable alternative for adaptive reuse.

We hope that this letter adequately depicts the adverse unintended consequences that landmarking the existing building at 850 Lake Shore Drive would cause and that you and the SOAR Board will listen to our case and reconsider your recent decision. We look to your response and would be happy to assist with a broader meeting of all neighbors. If you have any questions or need further information in the meantime please contact me.

Sincerely,

Ronald Nayler [Northwestern's associate vice president for facilities management]

Cc: Alderman Brendan Reilly
Commissioner, Department of Planning and Development
President Henry S. Bienen
Thomas J. Murphy, Esq.
Richard Blum, Fifield Realty
Alan Schachtman, Fifield Realty

-

Previously:

* The 42nd Ward's New Demolition Man.

* Landmark Ruling item: Reilly "hedging."

* Reilly "holding off judgment."

* Brendan Natarus item: Reilly rebuffs Reader.

Posted by Lou at 07:01 AM | Permalink

Left Lane Drivers Unite!

The following press release introducing Left Lane Drivers of America, a website dedicated to reminding slow drivers to get out of the left lane, may be of interest to your audience.

SLOW DRIVERS - MOVE OVER: GRASSROOTS CAMPAIGN PRODS SLOWPOKES OUT OF LEFT LANES

CAMAS, WA - JUNE 12, 2007 - Enough with slow drivers in the left lane!

"As traffic gets increasingly congested, it's time for citizens to reclaim the left lane," says J.A. Tosti, spokesman for Left Lane Drivers of America, a grassroots effort to get slower traffic to move right.

"More and more these days, you find slow drivers in the left lane, causing no end of headache and frustration to those of us who have places to go and people to see. Some of these offenders are timid and tentative, some are completely oblivious to what's going on around them, and some are self-appointed 'hall monitors' regulating what they alone have determined to be proper driving speeds. Whatever be the case, it's time for us raise the awareness level and trumpet the message, 'If you're not a Left Lane Driver, get out of the left lane!'"

In order to actually help slower drivers get the point, Left Lane Drivers of America offers copyrighted windshield decals which boldly and prominently display their unified sentiment in the offending driver's rear-view mirror.

The decal, which reads "MOVE OVER" also has a large arrow showing them where to go. The words and arrow display backwards on the windshield so that they read properly when seen in the mirror.

According to Tosti, "Although the sign minces no words, the idea here is not to be rude or pushy but to offer slow drivers a gentle prod, reminding them of the need to either pick up the pace or make room for those who choose to drive a bit faster."

In fact, slow drivers do need to move over. In many states, the left lane is supposed to be the passing lane and slower drivers can be cited for obstructing traffic. Those who stake out permanent positions for themselves in the left lane tend to provoke those wanting to drive faster, often giving them no other choice but the dangerous strategy of passing on the right in order to get ahead. Slow drivers can easily become slow moving safety hazards.

Bottom Line: Moving over is a matter of courtesy. It is a matter of safety. It is a matter of doing one's part to help traffic flow smoothly. And it is the law in many states: "Stay to the right except to pass."

Left Lane Drivers of America is doing something positive to help improve traffic flow on today's overcrowded, pressure- packed freeways. Their "Move Over" message has the potential of helping reduce instances of road rage, hazardous driving and untimely, often deadly accidents.

For more information, please contact:

J.A. Tosti
Email: jat@leftlanedrivers.org

Posted by Lou at 05:49 AM | Permalink

The Periodical Table

A review of the magazines laying around Beachwood HQ.

Meet Mrs. R. Kelly
R. Kelly's estranged wife Andrea speaks to Chicago's very own Natalie Moore in the June issue of Essence. Andrea pretty much skirts around the central issue - her husband's alleged underage philandering - as she stays loyal to the man she is divorcing and exhibits no sympathy to the alleged victims or their families. The key passage is this one:

"When asked, 'Do you believe the allegations about your husband?' she responds without hesitation that she absolutely does not, suggesting it's all a lie and that her husband is not the man on the tape. 'C'mon. Who would believe all that? That's why they call them allegations,' she says.

"But did she see the tape?

"'Why would you ask that question of a woman married with children?' she says. 'It's ludicrous to ask me a question like that. Really, would you want someone to ask you that? And if they did ask you, would you see the tape?'

"All that to say, no, she hasn't seen the tape and never looked at it. And for all those people who sought out the tape, she says, check your morals."

I've got news for you, Andrea. You're the one who ought to check her morals. Evidence strongly suggests your husband hurt underage girls in the most traumatizing way known. Besides, if the man on the tape isn't R. Kelly, you could certainly help his defense, no? And you might even be able to identify the girl, too. Check your morals, girl.

Hi-Tech Diet
The June issue of Self features Mandy Moore on the cover and instructions to take "Inches Off In 8 Moves."

I didn't know Photoshop was that complicated. I think I can do it in three.

Bono Fair
The Bono-edited July issue of Vanity Fair is for a good cause - Africa - but a snooze nonetheless.

But is that Jennifer Aniston going commando in that SmartWater ad opposite page 84?

(And what's up with this kind of imagery?)

Rich Man, Poor Man
The superrich are getting superricher. The rest of us aren't.

This true but familiar tale brought to you by this week's New York Times Sunday magazine.

But not everything in their "money issue" is so familiar.

* It turns out, somewhat predictably, that the growth Democrats who prevailed in the Clinton Administration with their own brand of trickle-down economics (as well as smug NAFTA proselytizers) were wrong and the more leftish elements of the party were right.

The story is told through the evolution in the thinking of former Treasury Secretary and Harvard president Larry Summers.

* Zoe Cassavetes lives in a West Village studio and doesn't have a job. She does go to the gym every day, though.

* John Edwards cares about poverty, but his passion is not equalled by policy expertise, nor even poverty expertise, if this portrayal is to be believed. And my God, what was he thinking when he built a 28,000-square-foot mansion complete with indoor squash and basketball courts while going around the country denouncing inequality?

Neo-Gentrification
I appreciate the effort, but Conscious Choice's story on gentrification in Wicker Park is about 10 years too late. I remember when Filter was the interloper.

Thin Reed
"We should wrap this up, sweets."

- Lou Reed to Conscious Choice's Eliza Thomas

Fictional Issue
This week is The New Yorker's summer fiction issue, so I breezed through it in a few minutes 'cause I'm not really a fiction kind of guy. David Denby, though, surprisingly raves about Mr. Brooks, the new Kevin Costner-Demi Moore movie.

Apple of our i's
Is Apple the coolest company ever? Maybe. I mean, Fender is a pretty cool company. They make guitars. And working on the line at Hostess may not be so great (or maybe it is), but they deliver joy to the world. Apple, though, is one of the world's most creative and innovative companies ever, and you wish smart, fun folks like this populated newsrooms.

"Apple and Art of Innovation" is nonetheless a snoozer of a cover story in this week's Economist, mainly because there's not much new in it, at least if you are the sort of person who reads the Economist.

But it's still a cool company.

Spin Cycle
In its somewhat skeptical "The Truth About Recycling," the Economist concludes thusly: "If done right, there is no doubt that recycling saves energy and raw materials, and reduces pollution. But as well as trying to recycle more, it is also important to try to recycle better. As technologies and materials evolve, there is room for improvement and cause for optimism. In the end . . . waste is really a design flaw."


Posted by Lou at 04:01 AM | Permalink

June 11, 2007

The [Monday] Papers

I don't have HBO so I've only had the opportunity to see The Sopranos a few times, though I have to say it was every bit as good as billed.

But having read enough in advance of last night's finale and then the papers this morning, I have to say I find it a perfect ending. Life goes on, as usual. Same-old, same-old.

The Cub Factor
Now this is more like what we expected out of the Cubs: Alfonso Soriano knocking the snot out of the ball and Jason Marquis and Ted Lilly slouching into mediocrity. Same result, but still. It was confusing losing the other way.

TV Guide
Face the Nation: Joe Lieberman.
This Week: John McCain.
Meet the Press: Pre-empted by tennis.
Fox News Sunday: Tony Snow.

You'd think the war was popular. I guess the French Open was the antiwar guest.

- Tim Willette

Street Sense
Sun-Times transportation reporter Monifa Thomas retypes the press release from Ald. Manny Flores's office about those new street cleaning lights that signal when the street sweeper has been by and it's safe to park again.

Question: Why are these lights necessary?

Official Answer: So residents can park their cars right away after the street sweeper has gone by and not wait until the end of the proscribed no parking period.

Follow-up: Why can't the police just not issue tickets after the sweeper has been by?

Official Answer: Well, there can't be an Official Answer if the question isn't asked.

I live on one of the streets in question, and this is a solution to a problem that doesn't exist. The real problem is that everyone is getting tagged (at $50 a shot) because the city no longer puts up those temporary orange signs alerting us to street sweeping days.

"Installing a total of 500 lights should cost the city $150,000," Streets and San spokesman Matt Smith says.

Not only will it cost more - it always does - but at the end of Thomas's piece we learn the lights aren't even working properly.

Landmark Ruling
"I'm not convinced that the Lake Shore Athletic Club has the stuff to qualify as an official Chicago landmark," the Tribune's Blair Kamin wrote on Sunday, "but it clearly brings value to the cityscape."

I can't say whether the building meets landmark requirements, though I suspect it does, but it doesn't matter. Not every building worth saving is an official landmark.

Kamin praises the building's "solid urban design, turning the corner with sharply cleaved wall planes and deep recesses that give it the feel of a stripped-down castle . . . Inside is the kind of quality they don't build anymore - a lobby sheathed in marble, plus a swimming pool adorned by colorful murals of golfers, runners, high jumpers and other athletes in the heat of competition.

"The Fifield-LaGrange plan would wipe out all that for a luxury condo . . . "

And what will that condo look like? We don't know, because the drawings with the city are just "place-holders."

Where does Ald. Brendan Reilly stand? Kamin says he's "hedging."

We all know how that tends to turn out.

Birthday Bash
"A newspaper that speaks for so many years can fall in love with the sound of its voice," the Tribune said on Sunday, proving its own axiom as it marked the paper's 160th anniversary.

Wilco World
If Jeff Tweedy is trying to break our hearts, he's finally succeeded.

Tweedy and his bandmates have licensed songs from their latest release for a bunch of Volkswagen TV commercials.

"With the commercial radio airplay route getting more difficult for many bands (including Wilco), we see this as another way to get the music out there," the band explains on its website.

You know, some things in life are more important than getting your songs on the radio.

And if that's the goal, write different songs. Maybe collaborate with Gwen Stefani. I mean, what was the lesson of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot? Was Reprise right after all?

Mob Squad
Sun-Times reporter Steve Warmbir called Al "The Pizza Man" Tornabene and asked if he was now running the Chicago Outfit. Tornabene hung up without answering.

Incentive Pay
A Christian Science Monitor article reprinted in the Sun-Times's Sunday "Controversy" section asks: "Pay the Poor to be Good?"

Maybe we ought to pay the rich to be good. Like pay them to stop looting corporate treasuries in the form of obscene executive compensation, and pay them to stop seceding from the public school system, and pay them to stop buying off politicians and rigging the system in their favor. You know, stuff like that.

Just a thought.

Hata Playas
"What is a Hate Crime?" the Tribune asked in a "special report" on its front page on Sunday. The story explored a case in Knoxville, Tenn., touted by conservative media as a hate crime ignored by the mainstream media because a white couple were the victims, allegedly brutalized and killed by four black men.

The fact that there is no evidence of racial motivation strikes me as a reason to frame the story differently: Look at what's captured the conservative media's attention and why. If you take a deeper look, you'll see where the racial animus really lies.

Rape Victims
"Investigators working with the sex crimes unit of the Cook County state's attorney's office seized hundreds of untested rape kits scattered throughout the Harvey police station basement, the Daily Southtown has learned."

The City of Harvey had no response.

Danny the Lip
Congressman Dan Lipinski (D-Chicago) spent the most of anyone in the Illinois delegation on taxpayer-funded mailings to . . . taxpayers, touting all those great achievements of his. By contrast, colleague Don Manzullo (R-Rockford) has returned $1.1 million in mail funds in his 14-year congressional career, never once using (or abusing) the privileges.

"Rep. Ray LaHood, a Peoria Republican, considers the mass mailings 'self-promotion' and has repeatedly introduced legislation to ban the practice," the AP reports.

Art in the Dark
A coalition of artists will rally in Daley Plaza today at 5:30 p.m. to protest the mayor's attempt to remove the public from public art.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Disinfected.

Posted by Lou at 09:13 AM | Permalink

Reviewing the Reviews

June 9-10.

Publication: Tribune

Cover: Lincoln, Reagan, and Einstein above the cover line "Legacies." Better choice would have been "Who Doesn't Belong?"

For multiple reviews, which we will address below.

* A Yale political history professor reviews The Reagan Diaries. Subhead: "Ronald Reagan's diaries are long on detail but short on revelations."

And not even long on detail, really. Reagan wasn't really a detail man.

"An awful lot of slag," reviewer Beverly Gage writes. "The Reagan Diaries as a book is - What's the technical term? - pretty tedious."

* An assistant professor of philosophy at UIC reviews two Einstein books. Subhead: "Biographies provide a quantum leap in our understanding of Albert Einstein."

Really? Personally, I think we've had enough.

* Art Winslow reviews Andrew Ferguson's Land of Lincoln. "What Does Lincoln Stand For? Nearly anything we wish."

This is kind of a fascinating look at the various interpretations of who Lincoln really was and what he really thought, and how he's been claimed by a surprisingly broad range of political believers while disclaimed by a surprising number of others. In Ferguson's exploration, for example, he is told both that "You put Lincoln's name on anything - soap, insurance, whatever - it'll sell," as well as that Lincoln "clearly detested blacks and used slavery as a pretext to grab power."

A University of South Carolina history professor calls Lincoln's life "shabby and tawdry," while an Emory University professor says Lincoln has had a "corrosive" effect on history.

The book isn't just about the heavy stuff though. For example, Ferguson learns from the man who created it that the Lincoln Heritage Trail that runs through Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky "was cooked up by the marketing guys at the American Petroleum Institute."

Sounds like a book that is a bit of a fun romp while also expanding our view of Lincoln and throwing some cold water in our face.

Other News & Reviews of Note: None.

*

Publication: Sun-Times

Cover: "Afghanistan's True Darkness: Khaled Hosseini's gut-wrenching second novel tells of two women pinned between war and their own domestic nightmare." Reviewed by Books Editor Cheryl Reed.

Other News & Reviews of Note: None.

*

Publication: The New York Times

Cover: A review of Tina Brown's The Diana Chronicles I could hardly be less interested.

Other News & Reviews of Note: I would have liked to have read about two new sushi books (The Zen of Fish and The Sushi Economy) but I couldn't get past reviewer Jay McInerney's opening about himself: "When I first tried sushi in Tokyo in the fall of 1977, I thought of myself as an intrepid culinary adventurer who, if he survived the experience, would return to America to tell the incredible, unbelievable tale of the day he ate raw fish on rice balls."

And now he finally has.

Also: What's with the excessively long book titles? I mean, I know it's marketing, but is this really necessary: The Pentagon: A History. The Untold Story of the Wartime Race to Build the Pentagon - and to Restore It Sixty Years Later.

It kind of works against stirring up interest in the book, too. As opposed to this pull quote from the Times review: "The Pentagon was originally intended to be a temporary military headquarters." Hmm. Okay. I'm kind of interested. On the other hand, if this is the best you've got . . . but an architectural history of the Pentagon seems worthy enough.

And: Knowing Not: Most Americans are ignorant of the Bible and key concepts of religion. In fact, how many religious people have even read the Bible? (The truth is, I've tried several times and let me tell you, it's pretty tough going. Although Revelation at the end of the sequel is pretty killer.)

Mark Oppenheimer's review makes this sound like a decent resource, though he points out that "Hanukkah need not be defined with reference to Adam Sandler's 'Hanukkah Song,' and Moses does not, in fact, 'figure in' William Faulkner's 'Go Down, Moses.'"

Oppenheimer also points out that Rick Warren might have been a more significant entry these days than Billy Graham.

Ultimately, Oppenheimer disagrees with the premise of author Stephen Prothero. "[W]ith some exceptions - a grasp of the Sunni/Shia distinction comes to mind - religious knowledge is not necessary to be a good citizen." He adds, though, that "It's just necessary if one wants to be an educated person. It enriches our lives. That's blessing enough."

*

Charts

1. Gore
2. Reagan
3. Einstein

God is 4th; Jesus 7th; Iacocca 9th; and Tenet 12th.

Posted by Lou at 06:34 AM | Permalink

The Cub Factor

You would think that after close to 100 years of losing on the North Side, Cubs fans would have learned a few lessons by now. For example: Don't get sucked in by a modest display of decent baseball apparently sparked by an event - such as a fight and an ejection - rather than actual solutions applied to the makeup of the team. Yes, the Cubs had a decent week. And yes, Milwaukee can't beat a T-Ball team right now. So has this team really pulled it together? Did Uncle Lou the mad scientist finally find the secret formula for winning? And could that formula include a four-man platoon - a quadtoon, if you will - in right field? We here at The Cub Factor are going to say No. A glimmer of hope is just that - a glimmer. That means there's still a whole lot of darkness. Don't look at the light, people. It will hurt your eyes, damage your brain, and break your heart.

Let's take a look at other life situations where a glimmer of hope can cause dire consequences.

Situation: Your girlfriend breaks up with you and you are devastated, but then one evening she drunkenly hits your number on her speed dial by accident and hangs up once she realizes her mistake.

Consequence: You latch on to that glimmer of hope - she still has your phone number and she used it one night, even if she hung up. You spend the next two months calling her, "accidentally" bumping into her at the health club, sending her flowers, and generally acting the fool because you allowed yourself to believe what you knew wasn't really true. Her mistake was just a reminder to her to replace you on speed dial with that new rich guy she's been seeing.

*

Situation: Your boss hints that a promotion is up for grabs to whoever shows him that they "want" it, although the company has already planned to bring someone in from the outside, as usual.

Consequence: For three months you come in to work early, leave late, bust your ass, manage multiple projects to completion, work extra hours at home, and get nothing to show for it besides a reprimand for not knowing how to turn the alarm off when you came in early on a Saturday morning. All because false hope triumphed over actual experience.

*

Situation: Your perpetually bad favorite baseball team plays nearly one week of good baseball and then tanks the rest of the season.

Consequence: You log on to stubhub.com and buy tickets at incredibly inflated prices for a couple games, decide that getting that authentic Theriot jersey is a good idea, and start chest thumping in the office to Sox fans that they are the ones in trouble. But once the Cubs are in the crapper again you are out 500 bucks and look like an idiot wearing a jersey for a shortstop with the range of a second baseman.

*

Week in Review: The Cubs went 4-3, taking two of three from the Brewers and splitting a four-game set with the Braves. A good week against two of the better teams in the National League. If someone were trapped in a well for the first two months of the season they would think the Cubs are pretty good. But c'mon we aren't trapped in a well, as much as we'd like to be.

Week in Preview: The Cubs come home for a make-up game against the 'Stros and then three game series' against the Mariners and Padres. You know, "make-up" is a funny word. It's used to describe a game that has been cancelled and has to be played again and also cosmetic products that make people look better than they actually are - kinda like last week with the Cubs.

Second Baseman Report: The Cub Factor would like to welcome Mike Fontenot to second base. So if you're scoring at home, if there is a game where DeRosa plays third, Theriot plays short, and Fontenot plays second, we'll have three second baseman in the infield at one time. Just like Jim Hendry drew it up.

In former second baseman news, Ramon Martinez is now a Dodger currently on the DL with a lower back ailment. This season Ramon has appeared in 26 games and is batting .153. He is missed.

Sweet and Sour Lou: 62% sweet and 38% sour. Lou is up an astounding 30 points on the Sweet-O-Meter. Like your real crazy old uncle, Lou feels better after getting some things off his chest, like how Aunt June nags about him not wearing socks and how Uncle Charlie is a cheap bastard who never buys his own beer. Lou also appreciated some time away from his family to decompress; he went to the track. The family was also happy to see him go. It'll take a while for things to reach the boiling point again because everyone is being so polite right now, but eventually the same-old same-old will fall into place.

Beachwood Sabermetrics: A complex algorithm performed by the The Cub Factor staff using all historical data made available by Major League Baseball has determined that Alfonso Soriano is worth his huge contract - this week.

Over/Under: Use of the phrase "it's all coming together" this week at Wrigley Field: +/- 25,685.

The Cub Factor: Catch up with them all.

Mount Lou: Lou has moved to Green after his orchestrated eruption and subsequent suspension-related cooling period. Expect little to no magmic activity this week as the media takes a break from exploring pressure points. This is not to say Mount Lou has gone dormant, no. Mount Lou is still an active force of nature not to be taken lightly.

mtlou_green.gif

Posted by Lou at 05:18 AM | Permalink

June 09, 2007

Reunion Blues

1. Rock reunions suck, generally, let's be honest - especially the huge, overblown ones like the Police. Outrageous ticket prices, quarreling band members, dubious musicianship (after all, doing old songs live again after so many years and getting it right is like asking the 1997 Bulls to "just get back together" tomorrow and win the NBA title again) . . . there are just so many ways it can go horribly wrong. I'm not saying these reunions can't be done, but I think you've got to pick and choose your spots with them. My reunion tour money is on one of the best alternative country acts of the 1990s, Blue Mountain, who are coming to Chicago for a June 24 show at Schubas.

blue_mountain2.jpgBlue Mountain, to me, was one of the seminal bands that defined what roots rock could mean to a new generation. Their first two albums (1995's Dog Days and Homegrown two years later) especially established them in my mind as giants and progenitors of the alt country movement. Cary Hudson is a Southern singer-songwriter of the first order. His songs are haunting, intelligent, poetic, and when they need to be, all-out rocking. His voice captures that kind of spooky, mystical strain of dirgy, Delta/Appalachian folk-blues. and he mixes it up with '70s-style Southern rock, creating a totally unique experience .

The other essential element of the Blue Mountain was Hudson's then-wife, Laurie Stirratt (twin sister of Wilco's John Stirratt), who played bass and added crucial harmonies on their key albums. Her contributions reflected a musical iteration of the off-stage relationship and it was indeed a thrilling partnership. By 2000, however, their marriage was off and by the next year Blue Mountain was also history. Hudson has continued doing great solo work, and Stirratt, who like her brother now lives in Chicago, was with the Preachers Kids for awhile and has participated in several other band projects.

Blue Mountain made some really, really special stuff that never got its full due despite the cult following the band built up. Though underrated, to my mind they still ended up being one most influential roots rock acts of the '90s. The reunion tour, unlike that of the Police, is far from extensive - just a few dates in the Upper Midwest and a few more in and around the band's birthplace in Oxford, Miss., so the stop at Schuba's is not to be missed (the venue was also the scene of the recording of Blue Mountain's final record, the live Tonight It's Now or Never).

Also unlike other rock reunions, it won't be overpriced or overhyped, so the karma is already excellent. And I could be wrong, but even though they're now divorced, I really don't think Hudson and Stirratt will be throwing any punches backstage. I predict they'll be focused on the music.

2. As faithful readers of the Beachwood Reporter music page know, we never let anything regarding Jerry "Iceman" Butler, Cook County Commissioner and Chicago Soul Brother No. 1, go without duly noting it in this space. So consider this an official Iceman alert: Some of his best early work is being reissued on an impressive retrospective of Chicago's Vee-Jay Records label.

Of course this effort, from Shout! Factory Records, is about much more than the Iceman. For instance, to any Baby Boomer who was in on the very first wave of Beatlemania, the Vee-Jay label was very familiar: It, and not Capitol Records, was the first American imprint the group's music was released under. As related by Shout! Factory:

"The label's success came to a soaring crescendo in 1964, when some records Vee-Jay had released to little fanfare two years previous by a group called the Beatles suddenly became hugely successful as Beatlemania landed on U.S. shores. Sadly for Vee-Jay, EMI's American label, Capitol, promptly decided that they were entitled to sign the Beatles, though they had passed on them initially."

vee_jay.jpgOf course, the Vee-Jay Beatles records quickly became collectors' items. But Vee-Jay was much more than a Fab Four footnote. Again, according to Shout! Factory:

"Vee-Jay represented the ultimate American success story. It began in 1953 when husband-and-wife entrepreneurs Vivian Carter (a DJ at a Gary, Ind., R&B station) and Jimmy Bracken (a record store owner) borrowed $500 from a pawnbroker to record the Spaniels' "Baby, It's You," which rose to the No. 10 position on Billboard's R&B chart. Later that year they chanced upon bluesman Jimmy Reed, a worker at a Chicago slaughterhouse, who became the best-selling blues artist of the '50s and '60s. Relocating from Gary to Chicago, Carter and Bracken found the talent pool, networks and marketplace just right for a label like theirs. Over the next decade, Vee-Jay built itself into a black music powerhouse that also made strong inroads into the pop market, with acts like Jerry Butler and the Four Seasons."

Thanks to "mismanagement," Vee-Jay also lost the Four Seasons and after that went into a financial tailspin. By 1966 it had folded, 13 years after it had established itself first and foremost as a seminal "doo-wop," soul and black music outlet that clearly rivaled its much better-known Chicago competitor, Chess Records. And that's where the new deluxe four-CD box set, to be released in August, concentrates its efforts.

One of Vee-Jays biggest hitmakers was Jerry Butler. His songs included in the box set are "For Your Precious Love" (with the Impressions), "He Will Break Your Heart," "Make It Easy On Yourself" and "Let It Be Me" (with Betty Everett). But that only scratches the surface of what looks to be a fascinating journey through one of the great eras of Chicago soul, blues and R&B music. Among the plethora of artists Vee-Jay recorded in the '50s and '60s were Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker, the Staple Singers, Little Richard, Billy Preston, Gene Chandler, Rosco Gordon, J.B. Lenoir, Joe Simon, the El Dorados, the Dells, Jimmy Hughes, the Spaniels and many more.

Titled Vee-Jay: The Definitive Collection, the upcoming release will have 86 tracks in all, and will boast detailed liner notes by music writers Gerald Early and Michael Ribas. The box set will list for $59.98.

3. And finally, this from regular Beachwood Reporter contributor Tim Willette:

iTunes sends an email to notify me it's Black Music Month. Is this necessary?

I think Black History Month makes sense, but for the last 100 years African-Americans have been the subjects of musical history more than any other ethnic group. Shoehorning Robert Johnson, W.C. Handy, John Coltrane, Muddy Waters, Etta James, James Brown, Dinah Washington, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jackson, Rick James, Grandmaster Flash, Marshall Jefferson, Run-D.M.C., Tupac Shakur, Missy Elliott, DJ Spooky, et al into a single month strikes me as ludicrous.

But I didn't read the e-mail - maybe they're dedicating a month to bands/performers with Black in their names (Black Flag, Black Sabbath, Clint Black, Bill Black, Blackie Lawless, Black Francis, Jack Black, Black Oak Arkansas, Black Stone Cherry, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Black Keys, Black Eyed Peas, Big Black, Black Uhuru, Ritchie Blackmore, Black Crowes, Black Kali Ma, Black Randy & the Metrosquad . . . ).

Comments? Send them to Don Jacobson at don@beachwoodreporter.com.

Posted by Don at 11:52 AM | Permalink

The Weekend Desk Report

We thought about taking a week off, but there are some things you can't cry your way out of.

Market Update
Hoping to stem the rising tide of investor worry, managers of Chicago, Inc., voted themselves a pay cut this week. However, analysts dismissed the move as a token measure that will do little to ease fears of budget shortfalls and cut-backs.

Weekly Intervention
We know it's none of our business, but...

Oh Angie, honey, just dump this guy already. He leads people on, picks fights with anyone close to you, and makes you compromise on everything that's important to you. This is classic control-freak behavior. Besides, between you and us? He's totally running around on you.

The Upside
But, hey, every apocalyptic cloud has its silver lining, right?

Next Time, Try Flowers
President Bush attempted to make it up to main squeeze Angela Merkel this week by renewing a pledge of $30 billion to fight catastrophic diseases in Africa. It may be too little too late, however, as experts say the president will still be shown up by a total geek.

The Natural
And finally, Technology looks set to trounce the field at the week's Belmont Perfect Administrational Metaphor Stakes.

*

And now, the Weekend Desk brings you an encore presentation of . . .

The [Friday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

1. Obama is at it again.

2. The Waco Brothers open for Blue Oyster Cult at Ribfest in Naperville on Sunday July 1. I smell Beachwood road trip.

3. Illinois leads the nation in subsidies to Wal-Mart. By a wide margin.

4. Aldermen can't be bothered to show up at committee hearings.

5. What will Bush say to the pope?

A) Talk to the Godster lately? Heh-heh.

B) God was talking to me about you behind your back.

C) I know what God told you, but he told me that the war was a good idea. I just don't get Him.

6. "I would end up living in Lincoln Square for the next six years, and in that time I saw the neighborhood totally transform."

7. Your property taxes are going up. A lot.

8. "Small, independently owned publications such as No Depression and Punk Planet could face financial ruin if a proposed rate hike goes through July 15th."

9. "In December, the Tribune reported that Obama hired Aramanda's son as a 2005 summer intern in Obama's Capitol Hill office after Rezko recommended the intern," the Trib reports. "But it wasn't until last week that his campaign decided to give that money to charity."

10. "Dear Friend,

"Most political fundraisers are hosted by lobbyists and filled with representatives of special interests.

"But our campaign is different."

11. The lawyer who represented the recipient of the most controversial Clinton pardon was Scooter Libby.

12. Either way, Jim Thompson was negligent.

13. One of the mayor's common tactics in evading unpleasant questions or having to explain himself like an adult is to foresee the dire headlines and editorials that would result if he took this or that action. A tactical manuever, but also telling in how sensitive and obsessed he is about his media coverage.

"'You criticized [my father]. You said, He's the boss. You don't want bosses anymore. That word [boss]. You don t want that. Remember that. That's a bad word. Broker. Oh my gosh,' Daley said, tongue in cheek," Fran Spielman reports.

Spielman could have then asked, "Why are you such a prick?"

But her follow-up wasn't bad.

"And why is it a bad thing to break a stalemate between feuding political leaders that threatens to stand in the way of the state funding Chicago needs so desperately to stave off cuts at the public schools and CTA?

"'Read your editorials. Don't talk to me about that,' the mayor said. 'You can't say that word [boss]. You know that. There would be editorials criticizing it.'

"After saying all of that, the mayor, who lacks his father s Springfield clout, appeared to catch himself.

"Asked point-blank whether he would steer clear of brokering an agreement for fear of being labeled Son of Boss, he said, 'No. No. I m just kidding. I'm just saying you work with people. You talk to people. You have conversations. And you ask other people to really come together . . . I don't think anybody can come in now [and broker a deal]. There has to be a little more discussion. The public has to get more involved.'"

14. The last thing the mayor wants is for the public to get more involved.

15. The Tinley Park shed sucks. They should fill it with disco records and blow it up.

16. Tony Soprano has 61 minutes left to find redemption.

17. The New York Times recently reported on a focus group asked how they thought each of the presidential candidates would respond being stuck in a line at the airport. Here a few answers that have floated in placing Illinois figures in the same situation.

Daley: Would say "What line? I don't see a line" as he cuts to the front.

Obama: Would try to inspire the line to move faster.

Emil Jones: Would take ComEd's private jet.

Todd Stroger: Would hire his cousin as spokesperson to try to talk the people in the line into liking him.

Oprah: Would buy airplanes for everyone in line.

Lou Piniella: Would rearrange the line over and over but get the same result.

Rod Blagojevich: "This flight goes to Springfield? I'm in the wrong line!"

18. The five-second rule is now 30 seconds. So I'd say you've got a minute or two.

19. Catch up with the rest of this week's Papers.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Find redemption.


Posted by Natasha at 07:28 AM | Permalink

June 08, 2007

What I Watched Last Night

Back in 1995, Court TV brought everything that was sordid and wrong with the O.J. Simpson and the Menedez brothers trials into the living room of anyone who had cable TV. Since there hasn't yet been a trial of the century this century to justify the network sucking up space on the dial, owner Time Warner decided it will dump the Court TV name in January 2008 in favor of something that reflects a move to programming about "real people and real situations."

You know, because real women on trial for poisoning their real husbands aren't real situations. On top of that, in a drastic move to get trashy America and old people to finally break down and buy computers and high-speed Internet connections, the company announced that actual trial coverage will be aired only on the Web.

If last night's Speeders and Getting A Ticket In America is any indication of what the new Court TV is to become, I have a suggestion for its new name: Succhiamo!

That's Italian for "we suck!"

First up was Speeders, a program that follows various city cops and state troopers as they hand out speeding tickets to everyone from electricians to doctors. It's a show designed to be a lighthearted look - complete with wacky music and an even wackier Gotta Be Punny Announcer Guy - at a cop's day when that day doesn't involve being shot at or chasing fleeing drunkards. What we end up with is a show that tries to be Cops without being anywhere as good as Cops because, quite frankly, there's nothing interesting or entertaining whatsoever about cops writing speeding tickets.

Likewise, the speeders are nowhere as interesting or entertaining as the crackheads and domestic abusers who are often the main ingredients of Cops. Maybe meter maids see their share of weird shit on the street, but there's a reason nobody has bothered to give them their own weekly show.

The only person of interest, if you want to call it that, was Oxnard, California, city officer Ernie Orozco - a cop so prolific in his ticket-writing (he once wrote up 70 drivers in a single shift) that he's called "The Hammer." "I gave my mom a ticket one time," he tells a surgeon rushing back to check on a patient at the local hospital; nobody gets a break, except maybe priests. And even there, they'd better be rushing to a really nasty exorcism or something.

Things continued rolling downhill with Getting A Ticket In America, a program that cobbles together years-old footage collected from video cameras mounted on cop car dashboards. Unfortunately, everyone's already seen this stuff a zillion times on shows like World's Wildest Police Videos, World's Scariest Police Shootouts, and You're So Bored You're Watching This.

Ticket is so awfully been-there/done-that it uses police video show veteran John Bunnell to bring read the cheesy, cop cliche-ridden commentary. Christ, if there's any show begging for Robert Stack to be dug up from the dead to for cheesy, cop cliche-ridden narration, it's Ticket.

The highlight of Ticket was the musical cop-video montage of drunk drivers staggering and falling over to The Blue Danube Waltz. Although entertaining, it's the same sort of thing we've been seeing almost every week for years on America's Funniest Home Videos. And that's really more than enough to fill this programming niche. Let's move on to jewel heists and pyramid schemes.

*

An evening of unremarkable TV was salvaged by WTTW'S airing of the somewhat remarkable The Legacy of Jim Croce, an hour-long unplugged reminder of how cruel private air transportation in podunk towns has been to the American pop music industry.

Legacy was shot not long before Croce, then 30 years old, and his guitarist partner Maury Muehleisen ended up dead in a pecan tree grove at the end of a runway in Natchitoches, Louisiana, in 1973. Croce's albums that made him a folk-pop music name (1972's You Don't Mess Around with Jim and 1973's Life & Times) had been out for barely a year, and his third, I Got a Name, was scheduled to be released the day after his plane didn't quite clear the trees.

Legacy presented Croce and Muehleisen doing stripped-down versions of some of Croce's better songs, including the haunting, often musically complex and classically-flavored "These Dreams" and "Lover's Cross." Most of all, it was a reminder that even a somewhat butt-ugly truck driver (who 40 years earlier could've easily been mistaken for a Marx Brother) with a unique voice and a story to tell had the ability to give us some of the best folksy regular-guy music ever made that didn't involve the gosh-howdy yokelness of John Denver or the pretentious rambling of Harry Chapin.

"And the roller derby program said/that she was built like a 'frigerator with a head . . . "

- "Roller Derby Queen"

Nope, there aren't enough guys like this to go around. Makes you think there really is something to be said for just renting a damn bus.

*

Catch up on what else Scott Buckner has been watching in the What I Watched Last Night programming guide.

Posted by Lou at 02:47 PM | Permalink

The [Friday] Papers

1. Obama is at it again.

2. The Waco Brothers open for Blue Oyster Cult at Ribfest in Naperville on Sunday July 1. I smell Beachwood road trip.

3. Illinois leads the nation in subsidies to Wal-Mart. By a wide margin.

4. Aldermen can't be bothered to show up at committee hearings.

5. What will Bush say to the pope?

A) Talk to the Godster lately? Heh-heh.

B) God was talking to me about you behind your back.

C) I know what God told you, but he told me that the war was a good idea. I just don't get Him.

6. "I would end up living in Lincoln Square for the next six years, and in that time I saw the neighborhood totally transform."

7. Your property taxes are going up. A lot.

8. "Small, independently owned publications such as No Depression and Punk Planet could face financial ruin if a proposed rate hike goes through July 15th."

9. "In December, the Tribune reported that Obama hired Aramanda's son as a 2005 summer intern in Obama's Capitol Hill office after Rezko recommended the intern," the Trib reports. "But it wasn't until last week that his campaign decided to give that money to charity."

10. "Dear Friend,

"Most political fundraisers are hosted by lobbyists and filled with representatives of special interests.

"But our campaign is different."

11. The lawyer who represented the recipient of the most controversial Clinton pardon was Scooter Libby.

12. Either way, Jim Thompson was negligent.

13. One of the mayor's common tactics in evading unpleasant questions or having to explain himself like an adult is to foresee the dire headlines and editorials that would result if he took this or that action. A tactical manuever, but also telling in how sensitive and obsessed he is about his media coverage.

"'You criticized [my father]. You said, He's the boss. You don't want bosses anymore. That word [boss]. You don t want that. Remember that. That's a bad word. Broker. Oh my gosh,' Daley said, tongue in cheek," Fran Spielman reports.

Spielman could have then asked, "Why are you such a prick?"

But her follow-up wasn't bad.

"And why is it a bad thing to break a stalemate between feuding political leaders that threatens to stand in the way of the state funding Chicago needs so desperately to stave off cuts at the public schools and CTA?

"'Read your editorials. Don't talk to me about that,' the mayor said. 'You can't say that word [boss]. You know that. There would be editorials criticizing it.'

"After saying all of that, the mayor, who lacks his father s Springfield clout, appeared to catch himself.

"Asked point-blank whether he would steer clear of brokering an agreement for fear of being labeled Son of Boss, he said, 'No. No. I m just kidding. I'm just saying you work with people. You talk to people. You have conversations. And you ask other people to really come together . . . I don't think anybody can come in now [and broker a deal]. There has to be a little more discussion. The public has to get more involved.'"

14. The last thing the mayor wants is for the public to get more involved.

15. The Tinley Park shed sucks. They should fill it with disco records and blow it up.

16. Tony Soprano has 61 minutes left to find redemption.

17. The New York Times recently reported on a focus group asked how they thought each of the presidential candidates would respond being stuck in a line at the airport. Here a few answers that have floated in placing Illinois figures in the same situation.

Daley: Would say "What line? I don't see a line" as he cuts to the front.

Obama: Would try to inspire the line to move faster.

Emil Jones: Would take ComEd's private jet.

Todd Stroger: Would hire his cousin as spokesperson to try to talk the people in the line into liking him.

Oprah: Would buy airplanes for everyone in line.

Lou Piniella: Would rearrange the line over and over but get the same result.

Rod Blagojevich: "This flight goes to Springfield? I'm in the wrong line!"

18. The five-second rule is now 30 seconds. So I'd say you've got a minute or two.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Find redemption.

Posted by Lou at 06:33 AM | Permalink

Privatizing Public Art

Dear Editor:

I'm writing today to express my concern for an issue about to come up for vote at the City Council meeting on June 13 that will affect my work as a creator (and critic, and consumer) of public art.

As you may be aware, in mid-May at the request of the Commissioner of Cultural Affairs (Lois Weisberg), Mayor Daley proposed an ordinance to revamp the Public Art Program. Unfortunately, this proposed ordinance is bad government: bad for Chicagoans and particularly bad for the Chicago art community. In essence it wipes out public participation in the selection of public art. This is outrageous, and will not be tolerated by the Chicago art community.

Mayor Daley and the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) have proposed an ordinance to modify the Public Art Program. Their stated reason makes no sense: that the open meetings were cumbersome and unnecessary. Unfortunately, public participation is a necessary and vital aspect of the selection, creation, and consumption of public art. It is, in other words, absolutely necessary.

We have proposed an alternative ordinance. We are the following groups: Punk Planet, Bad at Sports, the Chicago Artists Coalition, Lumpen, Sharkforum, ArtLetter, and others to be named soon. The issue comes up for a vote on June 13th, and I am writing in support of the ordinance as we've rewritten it here.

This language, in comparison to the original ordinance and that proposed by the DCA, can be found here.

Chicago has a great tradition of public art. This is a process that should be opened to wider public participation, not shut down to members of the public. To that end, I'm asking you please act in support the Public Art Ordinance Amendments we've created.

Sincerely,

Anne Elizabeth Moore
Punk Planet

cc: Tribune, Sun-Times, Gaper's Block, Wednesday Journal.


Posted by Lou at 12:26 AM | Permalink

June 07, 2007

The [Thursday] Papers

"A couple of years ago, the graduation ceremony at Galesburgh High School had come to resemble a circus, but without the calming influence of elephants," the Tribune's Steve Chapman writes this morning.

"Students were dancing and making hand signs; friends in the audience were jumping up and raising a racket with air horns."

Cool!

Go Galesburg!

"Deluged with complaints from parents and others who couldn't see or hear at crucial moments, local officials decided a change was in order."

Oh.

Crucial moments? At a high school commencement?

The only crucial moment is the one when it's over.

"Back in 1999, Ravinia banned Lake Forest High School from holding commencement exercises there after students and parents threw marshmallows, trampled flowers, ignored no-smoking signs and insulted employees."

Threw marshmallows?

Cool!

Go Lake Forest!

"Some people think that a commencement is a celebration, and that celebrations by definition should be unrestrained. By that logic, wedding guests should be blowing noisemakers during the recitation of vows."

Damn straight!

Chapman has apparently only been to one kind of wedding - the worst kind.

And this just in: "Galesburg School Relents On Diplomas."

Good. It's about time they grew up.

Casino Royale
Former Chicago Bear Shaun Gayle and fellow Emerald Casino investor Chaz Ebert take to the papers today to plead their case for refunds. Gayle's incomprehensible argument appears on the Sun-Times Op-Ed page, while Ebert's whinefest manifests itself as a letter to the Tribune.

Dead Tree Syndrome
Both papers sent reporters out to Rosemont to check out a tree that bears a likeness to the town's dead mayor and acted as if it was a real news story.

Obamafication
The Sun-Times is withdrawing its story, linked here yesterday, that Barack Obama has just reversed his support for the Defense of Marriage Act. In fact, the paper says today in a clarification (last item), Obama switched his position in early 2004 when he was running for the U.S. Senate.

Obama Oops
Miscalculation.

That's Stella!
Stella Foster certainly hopes Carlos Zambrano and Michael Barrett love each other.

The Cicada Diet
"Descriptions of the taste range from shrimp to canned asparagus to not much at all."
- USA Today

"They taste like almonds."
- RedEye

"They taste like raw potato."
- Northwest Herald

"I found them woodsy and nutty at first, kind of crunchy. And there was a creamy peanut butter taste under them that was not unpleasant"
- ABC News

"Clam-flavored potato."
- National Geographic

"Potato with some flavor in it."
- RedEye

"At first it tasted nutty, with a finish like asparagus."
- Chicago Suburban News

"They have an earthy, potato-like taste.
- Chicago Wilderness Magazine

"They taste like cold canned asparagus."
- Inside the Mount, College of Mount St. Joseph

"They taste like avocado with a dash of clam juice."
- Northwest Indiana Times

"They're like a juicy almond."
- Sun-Times

"It wasn't bad, tasted a little like chicken," said sixth-grader Sam Freedland. "Not KFC or Popeye's though, more like the kind you get at Dominick's."
- Daily Herald

"They had a weird taste that I've never experienced before that I can only describe as disgusting," said 13-year-old seventh-grader Laura Zimmermann. "I'm trying to get the taste out now with the rest of my peanut butter sandwich, and if that doesn't work, maybe some chocolate."
- Daily Herald

You said it, sister.

- Bethany Lankin

The Beachwood Tip Line: Good to the last drop.

Posted by Lou at 08:16 AM | Permalink

T-Ball Journal: Pop Flies And Dark Skies

The clouds were intense. They didn't bode well for the successful completion of my daughter's T-Ball game on Sunday, but they were still something to see - truly mountainous cumulus confections. They rushed in over the park as the first couple innings played out and sure enough, the rain began to fall in the third.

Soon tiny raindrops felt more like big ol' smooches and the umpire called a halt to the proceedings. It wasn't clear if the game was canceled or simply delayed but the other team fled the field like they had just heard the siren song of the ice cream truck. When the precipitation quickly eased and play could have resumed (it simply continued without any sort off delay on all the other surrounding diamonds) my daughter Alana's Red Sox, most of whom had lingered near the diamond, no longer had an opponent. So I am hereby officially declaring Sunday's contest a forfeit victory.

During the earlier innings, a central thought occurred - baseball is ridiculously difficult. As I watched Alana make a few plays and miss a few plays (miss a few plays? How is she supposed to catch those one- or two-hop throws coming into first base? Those are errors on her teammates - got that pal?), I hoped she wouldn't get discouraged or discombobulated. Mostly, I hoped she wouldn't get hurt.

Actually even minor injuries don't happen very often at the Rookie League level thanks in largest part to those wonderful, slightly soft T-Balls. At the next level we start in with the hard balls. When I got my first batch last season and finally opened them up shortly before my son Noah's first junior division game, I thought a mistake had been made. They were hard as horsehide-covered rocks, and I had been sure we had another couple years with the T-Balls. On the bright side I realized I was wrong before I demanded a refund.

Hard balls are scary. We had only one bad-hop bloodied face last year but there were plenty of bruises and bumps. The kids' shins always take a beating. In particular I remember a line drive to first early in the 2006 campaign. Our player got his glove up but not quite far enough and the ball seemed to crash into his face. We rushed over and found that, miraculously, it had hit square off the brim of his cap, pushing it up and off his head and then continued on to hit his forehead. The initial impact absorbed most of the ball's force and saved the day. Our guy didn't suffer a scratch.

Anyway, regarding the degree of difficulty - it is awfully high for the little bounders. The first and second-graders on Noah's Dodgers have a tough enough time paying attention throughout an inning, let alone Alana and her fellow kindergarteners. I'm always telling my team "When the ball goes up (onto the T or in the coach-pitcher's throwing hand) - assume the ready position!"

But at some point you just have to let it go. They simply aren't going to be ready every play.

-

A quick Dodgers update: We played our best game of the year to record a shocking 18-8 victory over the previously undefeated Athletics on Saturday. The best thing was 11 coach-pitch runs (during the final four innings after three innings of T-Ball). We had averaged maybe two in our first five games. It was definitely the best pitching performance of my career, even better than the glorious victory or two I recall notching on the mound for my tough-as-nails Latin Romans middle school squad in the late 70s. Of course that was followed by a sloppy 22-17 loss on Sunday to the Rangers (or was it the Packers?) that dropped us back to .500 (3-3-1).

-

Back on the T-Ball diamond we're lucky if a majority of Alana and her teammates are ready on any given play. Fortunately opposing hitters usually don't hit it terribly hard and therefore the kids have time to wake up before the ball gets to them. On Noah's team we had a play on Sunday where one of my guys wasn't ready for a line drive hit his way and for a couple seconds it looked like it might hit him before he even realized the ball was in play.

Then there is the challenge of mastering specific baseball skills - throwing and catching and hitting. Some kids are naturals at throwing but plenty of others take a long, long time to work out the mechanics - long enough that it seems like they won't ever get it. A few players on Noah's team, who are in their second year of junior division competition, know how to use most of their arms to throw faster and farther. And they do it some of the time. But they also forget a lot of the time and then you get the elbow-bent, throwing-hand-behind-the-head mechanics that used to be referred to as "throwing like a girl." Anybody catch any of the softball College World Series on ESPN this month, by the way? That pejorative has officially been obliterated.

Catching is tricky in part because of the initial awkwardness of the mitt especially if it isn't broken in correctly, in part due to needing to work out basic depth perception issues, and in part due to the need to switch from one hand to both hands and back again. With the mitt you still want them to use two hands but unless they are scooping up a grounder, you want them to catch it by closing their glove hand around it and then locking it in there with the throwing hand (unless of course it is a sacrifice fly situation . . . OK, OK we won't go into that). The trickiest part is getting a feel for when to catch the ball with your glove straight up, when to turn it over (for lower throws) and when to go to the backhand.

And hitting, yikes, let's not completely break down hitting at this point. I will say it is amazing how often it comes down to the old saw "Keep your eye on the ball" at least in terms of making consistent contact. On the other hand, there is a ton of other stuff that comes into play.

With all this in mind, one does wonder what it is about baseball that made it the central sport of childhood, at least for boys, for what, the last century and then some? Soccer is not only easier, it is also, obviously, much better exercise. But baseball still captivates. And funny little stuff always plays out before, during and after the game.

Earlier on game day Alana, who is more than a little precocious about baseball thanks in largest part to an older brother who is very, very into it, was talking about one of her goals for the day. "I'll hit one all the way to second base and the second baseman will forget to step on second (for the force) so there won't be an out."

She is also aware that the standard of excellence for T-Ball hitting is slightly lower than it is a little further up the age-group ladder. Alana dreams of hitting "pop-flies," i.e. anything that rises above the weak ground balls that are what usually come off the T. Clearly there is a big difference between her pop-flys and the miserable sky-highers that so often result when, say, Cubs take their swings with games on the line.

Plus pop-ups force us to gaze skyward. And you never know what you might see up there.

*

Jim Coffman's daughter is in her first season of T-Ball. Her older brother is in his last year in the Junior Division. Coffman is chronicling his travails as coach of his son's team and observer of his daughter's initial foray into this slice of Americana.

Posted by Lou at 06:16 AM | Permalink

Cab #2699

Date Taken: 06/05/07
From: North Loop
To: Albany Park

The Cab: Was filled with miniature hookers who stumbled from the backseat and blocked the door while their pimp paid the fare. After pushing past them I discovered they were actually three fashionably dressed eleven-year-old girls and an exhausted father. I was astonished when I saw the cab's leather seats. I wondered for a moment if it was fine, Corinthian leather. An enormous amount of black rubber sheeting covered the floor and the excess bulged from below the drivers' seat. A "U" shaped slice had been cut into the back seat divider. White synthetic filaments fanned out of it and made a tiny Santa beard. A picture of the illegal Chicago Olympic torch logo was pasted onto the Plexiglas divider. The cab smelled like - nothing. Sweet, unexpected nothing.

The Driver: Fairly good-looking, with a ten o'clock shadow and a furrowed brow. He asked me where I would like to go and how I would like to get there. When I told him he frowned. "Dee Kennedy eez too crowded." He shook his head. "I will take Elston." I told him I preferred the Kennedy, but he insisted. As we drove over the expressway he extended his right arm in a sweeping gesture and inhaled deeply. His barrel chest almost doubled in size. I expected to hear, "I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him," but instead I got "Dat is de Kennedy." I looked. It was full of cars. Just like always. No better or worse than usual. I groaned and prepared for an expensive meandering trip. He assumed I had groaned about the traffic and cried, "Yes, Yes!" I frowned, curled into a loose fetal position, and felt like a baseball in a glove.

The driver was wearing something on his right ear the size and shape of a silver cicada. Its single red eye blinked rhythmically during the ride while he had a long conversation in a language consisting mainly of the sounds "Shhh", "Ow", and "Ah La La."

The Driving: Extremely slow due to the traffic and fruitless shortcut. I finally convinced him to get back on the Kennedy. The traffic broke somewhere around the Ozinga Redimix towers. The ride cost four dollars more than usual.

Overall rating: 1 extended arm

- Bethany Lankin

*

There are more than 6,000 cabs in the city of Chicago. We intend to review every one of them.

Posted by Lou at 06:05 AM | Permalink

What I Watched Last Night

I'm glad the data-entry stoner in charge of my satellite TV program guide at 2 a.m. this morning was promising "super heavyweights arm wrestling" on ESPN2. Otherwise, I wouldn't have found the taped replay of the previous evening's NCAA Division I Women's College World Series softball finals in Oklahoma City between Arizona and Tennessee. It was a do-or-die game for Arizona, which trailed 1-0 in the best-of-three series. I was looking forward to some good heavyweight arm rasslin', but I stayed with the softball because I'm a guy, and I naturally welcome three-hour events involving a whole bunch of attractive college women. Especially when a TV camera spends practically the entire time trained on their backsides.

While I came for the pie - particularly Arizona's pitcher, Taryne Mowatt - I stayed for the food because the Arizona-Tennessee game reinforced my opinion that next to rugby and Australian rules football, women's softball is largely an undiscovered gem that helps make ESPN2's programming far more interesting on the whole than ESPN's. Screw the Cubs and the White Sox, folks; these women play ball like there's no tomorrow - and somehow without the grinding boredom that makes Major League Baseball famous. Christ, if unpaid college chicks can go nine innings without making it feel like you're watching slugs cross the road, why can't grown dudes making more money than God for a living do the same?

Granted, college women don't spit or go adjusting themselves on the field, but I find it remarkable that anyone's able to wind up and pitch a softball underhand (and do screwballs, changeups, and curveballs) up to 75 miles an hour with the kind of consistent control that Lou Piniella only sees in his wet dreams. Come to think of it, if Piniella had a pitcher like Mowatt who could start 43 of the team's 55 games, go 34-10 with a 1.61 ERA, strike out 433 batters in 296 innings and hold batters to a .156 average, this town would have a woody massive enough to be seen from Neptune.

Besides being a pitching duel between Mowatt and Tennessee's skyscraper-tall Monica Abbott, the game featured dueling Nike vs. Adidas uniform fashions. The synthetic Nike/Arizona tighter fit was the clear winner over Adidas/Tennessee's baggier, more-traditional styling common to boys' Little League fields everywhere. Other than that, Tennessee's team colors are right out of The Bad News Bears, so I was kind of bummed to see the Lady Volunteers going without "Chico's Bail Bonds" plastered on the back of their jerseys.

The color commentary moved along nicely, too. Calling the game was ESPN's Beth Mowins, who was joined in the booth by the perky Jessica Mendoza, a 2004 Olympics softball gold medalist and Stanford University softball All-American. Mowins' voice is a dead ringer for that of slightly-butch actress Jane Lynch (Best in Show, The 40-Year-Old Virgin); the highlight of Mendoza's on-screen time was demonstrating the science of bunting. This reminded me of pro football commentator Terry Bradshaw's own on-camera demonstrations in the booth, except nobody made Mendoza and Mowins stick their hands anywhere near each other's ass like Bradshaw does.

Anyway, a nail-biter of a scoreless game came to an end in killer fashion when Arizona wrapped it up in the 10th after pinch runner Danielle Rodriguez barely caught the tip of home plate under a spinning tag by Tennessee catcher Shannon Doepking. That meant the two teams were back last night for the deciding game on ESPN2, with Mowatt and Abbott again on the mound. I'm not sure whether this is because amateur women softball pitchers are less fragile than professional baseball pitchers so they're able to pitch back-to-back games, or whether throwing a softball underhand at 75 miles per hour just takes less out of you than throwing a baseball overhand at 95 miles per hour, but there you go.

In a related but non-TV thought, you might want to head out this summer to the metro's own women's pro softball team, the Chicago Bandits, who now play their home games at Benedictine University's Sports Complex in Lisle.

And you might want to do it soon, before TV wrestling promoter Vince McMahon buys the whole damn league and turns it into a traveling slow-pitch T&A bikini rodeo and calls it The World Chicks With Sticks Federation or something. Because for now, it's as good as it gets.

*

Catch up with the What I Watched Last Night collection.

Posted by Lou at 05:35 AM | Permalink

Prison Bars and Guitars

Every Monday at noon, Matt Cook and John Dorr host Trucker Caps and Cowboy Hats on WIIT from the Illinois Institute of Technology on Chicago's South Side. You can listen in at 88.9 on the FM dial or stream it here. Each week they concoct some sort of theme to hang the show on, and this is what they've been listening to this week in support of their hand-picked motif.

peck_mockingbird.jpgDo you remember the scene in To Kill a Mockingbird where the angry mob is trying to lynch Jim at the jail only to be thwarted by the pie-eyed happiness and good cheer of Scout? Me too. That is the way I like my justice served - in a timely, dispassionate fashion with as little mob activity as possible. Emotionally remote jailers simply carrying out their appointed tasks without comment or prejudice. For, after all, aren't we all criminals in one sense or another? Have we not committed crimes in our hearts if not our actions? And don't we deserve to be treated like it's not a big deal?

Perhaps that is why we are drawn to songs about jails and crimes and lawmen and criminals, as we all possess some larceny inside a dark part of ourselves (maybe it's your big toe, like me). But, probably not. I reckon in the end we simply like good tunes, strong melodies, and memorable choruses and, well, if the song is about jail, it don't matter as long as we can dance to it. Likewise, the record label folks care little about a song's content and more about moving units, so country music (indeed, popular balladry) has a ton of songs about black-hearted souls on both sides of the law.

I hear one now - let's listen in.

1. Lefty Frizzell, "Long Black Veil."

2. The Band, "Long Black Veil."

3. Stonewall Jackson, "Long Black Veil." When I was first learning to play guitar and trying to figure out how to write songs, a writer friend of mine met up with me one night and told me that he had the best lyrics for a country music song ever. He'd been working that summer as a groundskeeper at the University of Virginia and one of his derelict co-workers showed him his poetry over a few beers. My friend pulled out that man's lyric sheet and we sat down and wrote the greatest country music song ever, which, it turns out, was "Long Black Veil." To this day I still don't know if my friend knowingly set me up or if we'd both been duped, but I still get a chuckle over it. To my credit, I did use the same chord pattern heard here, but in a different key. But I don't feel too bad, because the song is co-written by masters. Marijohn Wilkin was one of the first batch of Music Row songwriters and wrote or co-wrote, in addition to "Long Black Veil," "Cut Across Shorty" and "Waterloo." She also headed up the company that gave Kris Kristofferson his first writing contract in Nashville. Her first publishing house deal was with Cedarwood, whose roster included John D. Loudermilk, Wayne Walker, Mel Tillis and Danny Dill, her co-writer on "Long Black Veil." Danny himself was no slouch, having helped pen "Detroit City," and he and his wife, Annie Lou Stockard, joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1946.

4. The Kinks, "Holloway Jail." From the classic Muswell Hillbillies, the first album released on the RCA label after years of neglect and poor support from Pye Records. Unfortunately for the label and the band, "Lola" was the single and record just prior to this one and, so, although brilliant, it didn't sell as much (how would you like to have to follow up "Lola") and probably has been neglected unfairly. Until, I think, a reissue on Velvel records - now I've got friends coming up to me telling me what a great record it is. Well, frankly, they are right, and you should get it. Recorded in 1971 and the first single was "20th Century Man."

5. Everly Brothers, "I'm Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail." Nice, but a little long. From Songs Our Daddy Taught Us. The Everly's released Roots in 1968, which represents an amazing and underappreciated contribution to country rock (their version of "T for Texas" features a wah'ed out guitar solo and soaring harmonies and should be heard) and when I first got the disc, I became pretty obsessed with them. But the 1954 Songs Our Daddy Taught Us is not at all adventurous and, in fact, it is unimaginative - in arrangements, vocal and instrumental, and in choice of song (they just aren't good). So, now I'm able to say at parties, "Well, yeah, I like the Everly Brothers, but post-1965 and pre-1994," making me very cool.

6. Rockpile, "Take a Message to Mary." Well, not really Rockpile, rather, a demo made by Nick Lowe and Dave Edmonds. Wow. it isn't the Everlys, but sounds almost exactly like them.

lee_hazlewood.jpg7. Lee Hazlewood, "Six Feet of Chain"

8. Lee Hazlewood, "Pray Them Bars Away." You either dislike or are obsessed with Lee Hazlewood. Put me in the latter. "Six Feet of Chain" is from a record I believe was the third that I had bought by Lee and I just couldn't believe that he had made it. All the songs have long talking intros that set up the song before breaking into it. Talk about a recipe for not having a hit. All of the material is set in Lonesome Town and populated with criminals, beautiful pre-adolescent women, and our hero, Lee Hazlewood. The instrumentation is quite light for a Lee record, usually just acoustic, bass, and drums. But as with all of his recordings, Lee comes out. "Pray Them Bars Away" is from Cowboy in Sweden which is a serious contender for being one of the best records that I've ever heard.

9. Vernon Dalhart, "The Prisoner's Song."

10. Vernon Dalhart, "The Governor's Pardon." I'm not certain who you blame for the state of contemporary commercial country radio, but I blame Vernon Dalhart. After all, he was country music's first and, for a long time, its biggest star. But he wasn't country AT ALL! And I'm not referring to the geographical location of his hometown or his disposition (in fact, he worked as a cattle puncher in his teens, so that is pretty country/western). No, I refer to the fact that he was singer who was just as likely to sing a sonata as he was a shuffle, depending on the money. The Encyclopedia of Country Music described him as "a journeyman studio artist handling every kind of repertoire required by the popular disc market, from "coon song" to "Hawaiian." His first-ever recorded track was "Can't You Heah Me Callin', Caroline?" in 1917 (I've never heard it and I can't decide if it is a "coon song" or an Irish-brogued lament). But in 1924 his recording of "The Wreck of the Old '97," became country music's first million-seller. And why wouldn't it? It sounds like country music to me (says I, sarcastically). Ralph Peer wrote in Variety in 1955, "Dalhart had that peculiar ability to adapt hillbilly music to suit the taste of the non-hillbilly population . . . He was a professional substitute for a real hillbilly." Well hell, if that doesn't aptly describe the artists in the current country music Top 10, I don't know what does.

11. Waylon Jennings, "Theme from the Dukes of Hazzard." Waylon wrote it, which means he made a ton of money. Good for Waylon. And, hell, it is fun.

12. Merle Haggard, "Shackles and Chains."

13. Merle Haggard, "The Legend of Bonnie and Clyde."

14. Merle Haggard, "Mama Tried."

15. Merle Haggard, "I Can't Hold Myself in Line."

16. Merle Haggard, "I'm Still Your Daddy." A quintet from Merle Haggard, San Quentin's most famous graduate.

17. Ray Price, "Sitting and Thinking." This is from the classic Ray Price record Night Life. Written by Charlie Rich.

18. Spade Cooley, "Fort Worth Jail." The man stomped his wife to death. Dennis Quaid is shooting a bio-pic about Spade. He jumped up and down on her, until she died. Spade Cooley beat Bob Wills in a battle of the bands at the Santa Monica Pier. He did so in front of his 14-year-old daughter. I think that sums up the career and life of Spade Cooley pretty darn well.

19. Commander Cody & the Lost Planet Airmen, "Riot in Cell Block #9."

20. Wanda Jackson, "Riot in Cell Block #9."

21. Woody Guthrie, "Jesse James."

22. Woody Guthrie, "Vigilante Man."

23. Woody Guthrie, "Pretty Boy Floyd."

24. The Byrds, "Pretty Boy Floyd."

25. The Byrds, "Life in Prison."

26. Leadbelly, "Midnight Special."

27. Johnny Rivers, "Midnight Special."

28.Creedence Clearwater Revival, " Midnight Special." People like to speak of the link between popular music and the blues and the story of Hank Williams leaning guitar from Tee-Top, a black blues street musician, is as oft-told as Robert Johnson's midnight rendezvous with the devil is. Nevertheless, the lineage is real but it is rare that we are able to see it so clearly and in the form of one song.

leadbelly.jpgNow, you might know this song by CCR and maybe by Leadbelly, but did you know that Leadbelly was actually imprisoned in Sugarland? And that he knew the men mentioned by name in the song?

Midnight Special, second stanza:

Bason and Brock will arrest you.
Payton and Boone will take you down.
The Judge will sentence you,
And you Sugarland bound.

This is from Charles K. Wolfe's essential The Life and Legend of Leadbelly. "The title alludes to a Southern Pacific train that left Houston every night . . . often its lights flashed through the cell windows . . . it became a cruel, tantalizing and regular reminder of life beyond the Sugarland (where the prison was located) fences."

Wolfe goes on to tell us that Bud Russell was the "transfer man" who took Leadbelly to Sugarland, that A.W. Brock was the Chief of Police in Houston, and that George Payton and Johnnie Boone were police detectives working in the black part of town.

What a weird journey for a song - from a cell in an East Texas prison to Johnny Rivers on some Vegas stage?

29. Webb Pierce, "Tupelo County Jail."

30. Webb Pierce, "In the Jailhouse Now."

31. The Memphis Sheiks, "In the Jailhouse Now."

32. Leon Russell, "In the Jailhouse Now."

33. Johnny Paycheck, "11 Months and 29 Days."

34. Johnny Paycheck, "Colorado Kool Aid."

35. Johnny Paycheck, "Outlaw's Prayer." A Johnny Paycheck jail song? Like you, I am perplexed as to why such a good, clean, red-blooded American would stoop to record material about low-lifes who are so un-like him. God bless Johnny Paycheck.

36. Johnny Cash, "Folsom Prison Blues."

37. Johnny Cash, "Cocaine Blues."

38. Johnny Cash, "Long Black Veil." All from Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison - only fitting, right? You've probably heard it a million times, but isn't it kind of chilling when the crowd cheers at "But I shot a man in Reno." I agree, it isn't chilling, its just good clean fun. No better way to end the show.

-

Previously on Trucker Caps and Cowboy Hats:

* Broke & Hurtin'.

* Here Comes the Country Sun.

-

Contact Matt and John and share your country tales.

-

And check out the Beachwood Playlist collection.


Posted by Don at 01:00 AM | Permalink

June 06, 2007

The [Wednesday] Papers

"I. Lewis Libby Jr., the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney and one of the principal architects of President Bush's foreign policy, was sentenced Tuesday to 30 months in prison for lying during a C.I.A. leak investigation that became part of a fierce debate over the war in Iraq," The New York Times reports.

"The sentence was several months longer than the minimum recommended by federal sentencing guidelines, based on what Judge [Reggie] Walton said was his agreement with prosecutors that Mr. Libby's crimes obscured an investigation into a serious matter and that his lies obliged the government to engage in a long and costly investigation that might have been avoided had he told the truth.

"If Mr. Libby goes to prison, he will be the first senior White House official to do so since the days of Watergate, when several of President Richard M. Nixon's top aides, including H. R. Haldeman and John D. Erlichman, served prison terms."

Pardon Pablum
For a bunch of law-and-order guys talking tough about national security and war, the Republican candidates for president are flummoxed by the Libby case and were wishy-washy at best in last night's debate on whether Libby ought to be pardoned - a lot of "we have to look at the transcript." But Rudy Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor, really outdid the others. From The New York Times's transcript, edited for brevity.

MR. BLITZER: Congressman Hunter, do you think it would be appropriate for President Bush to pardon Lewis Scooter Libby?

REP. HUNTER: You know, I think, Wolf, to make a determination on that, you'd have to look at the transcript.

MR. BLITZER: I just want to do a quick yes or no, and I'm going to go down the rest of the group and let everybody just tell me yes or no, would you pardon Scooter Libby?

REP. PAUL: No.

MR. GILMORE: No. I'm steeped in the law. I wouldn't do that.

REP. HUNTER: No, not without reading the transcript.

MR. HUCKABEE: Not without reading the transcript.

SEN. MCCAIN: He's going through an appeal process. We've got to see what happens here.

MR. GIULIANI: I think the sentence was way out of line. I mean, the sentence was grossly excessive in a situation in which at the beginning, the prosecutor knew who the leak was -

MR. BLITZER: So yes or no, would you pardon him?

MR. GIULIANI: - and he knew a crime wasn't committed. I recommended over a thousand pardons to President Reagan when I was associate attorney general. I would see if it fit the criteria for pardon. I'd wait for the appeal. I think what the judge did today argues more in favor of a pardon -

MR. BLITZER: Thank you.

MR. GIULIANI: - because this is excessive punishment -

MR. BLITZER: All right.

MR. GIULIANI: - when you consider - I've prosecuted 5,000 cases -

MR. BLITZER: I'm trying to get a yes or no. (Laughter.)

MR. GIULIANI: Well, this is a very important issue. This is a very, very important - a man's life is at stake. And the reality is, this is an incomprehensible situation. They knew who the leak was - and ultimately, there was no underlying crime involved.

MR. BLITZER: All right.

MR. ROMNEY: This is one of those situations where I go back to my record as governor. I didn't pardon anybody as governor because I didn't want to overturn a jury.

But in this case, you have a prosecutor who clearly abused prosecutorial discretion by going after somebody when he already knew that the source of the leak was Richard Armitage. He'd been told that. So he went on a political vendetta.

MR. BLITZER: So is that a yes?

MR. ROMNEY: It's worth looking at that. I will study it very closely, if I'm lucky enough to be president, and I'd keep that option open.

MR. BLITZER: Senator?

SEN. BROWNBACK: Yes. The basic crime here didn't happen.

MR. BLITZER: All right.

SEN. BROWNBACK: What they were saying was that the identity of an agent was revealed

MR. BLITZER: Governor?

SEN. BROWNBACK: - but that agent has to be in the field for that to be a crime. That didn't occur.

MR. BLITZER: Governor?

MR. THOMPSON: Bill Clinton committed perjury in a grand jury - lost his law license. Scooter Libby got 30 months. To me, it's not fair at all. But I would make sure the appeal was done properly, and then I would examine the record.

MR. BLITZER: Congressman?

REP. TANCREDO: Yes.

MR. BLITZER: Yes.

All right. We heard from all of them. (Applause.)

Points of Fact
* The idea that prosecutor Pat Fitzgerald "went on a political vendetta," as charged by Mitt Romney, is laughable on its face.

* The idea that there was no underlying crime is bogus on two levels. First, Libby is convicted of obstructing an investigation into the underlying alleged crime; his actions prevented prosecutors from determining if a crime was committed and by whom. Also, lying to federal agents to thwart an investigation is a crime regardless of the outcome.

* The idea that Fitzgerald knew who the leaker was - Armitage - supposes that Armitage acted alone and on his own information. We know conclusively this isn't the case.

* The idea, put forth by Brownback, that Plame wasn't undercover has not only been contradicted by the CIA and Plame herself, but now by Judge Walton.

* Finally, anyone who compares this case to Clinton trying to straddle the line about an affair ought to be automatically disqualified from the presidency.

Political Theater
As always, you can find the best debate coverage in the world here at the Beachwood. Check out what the Republican candidates had to say last night - and our responses - in our latest installment of Mystery Debate Theater.

Familiar Plot Line
"Alleged Plot Talk Hyped, Some Say."

Everyone except the Tribune editorial board saw that one coming.

Gaydar
Is Obama coming around on gay marriage?

Southern Discomfort
"Arkansas Gov Not Ready To Apologize For Slavery."

Says he has to look at the transcript.

Radar
"Obama has already made it clear that when it comes to uncomfortable questions, he's careful whom he's willing to be interviewed by," Carol Marin writes.

That's Neil!
"The concept of a 'hero' gets tossed around a lot. Sometimes aptly, sometimes it seems that no firefighter can pluck a cat out of a tree without being called a hero by somebody," Neil Steinberg writes this morning.

"That's why it struck me as odd that, after a four-person University of Michigan Hospitals organ transplant team plus two pilots were killed when their plane crashed into Lake Michigan Monday, the story was treated as a routine crash, as if they were businessmen on their way to fish to Idaho."

Tribune front page today: "On Mission To Save Life, 6 'Heroes' Lose Theirs."

On the other hand, Steinberg thinks the Tribune overplayed the story of Sam Zell buying the media company by placing it prominently on its front page. Because the fate of one of the nation's largest media companies whose products reach 80 percent of American households that also happens to be a 160-year-old local institution that sets the news agenda here and also happens to own the Los Angeles Times, Newsday, Baltimore Sun and other newspapers and TV stations across the country and will now no longer be a public corporation and will sell the Chicago Cubs as part of the transaction really isn't that big a deal.

Status Quotient
Being Paul Green.

Dark Matter
Just to put things in perspective, the universe is expanding "beyond all understanding' and scientists are really bummed out.

The Beachwood Tip Line: A wave AND a particle.

Posted by Lou at 08:32 AM | Permalink

Mystery Debate Theater 2007

It was a little too soon for the Beachwood Mystery Debate team to bounce back from Sunday night's Democratic debate to cover Tuesday night's Republican debate - I mean, even we have our limits - so this is an edited and adapted transcript with commentary added this morning from Beachwood HQ. It's still pretty good.

*

MR. BLITZER: So let's meet the candidates. We've asked for no opening statements. However, I'd like to ask each candidate to -- in one short sentence, about five seconds or so, to introduce themselves to the voters of New Hampshire.

Let me begin with an example. I'm Wolf Blitzer, and I'm with CNN. (Laughter.) Let's start across the stage, and we'll begin with Tom Tancredo.

REP. TANCREDO: Hi. I'm Tom Tancredo.

Beachwood: And I'll only be in this race for two more months.

MR. THOMPSON: My name is Thompson, Tommy. I'm the candidate, not the actor.

Beachwood: Though I can play the conservative in this primary if you hand me a script.

SEN. BROWNBACK: I'm Sam Brownback. I was raised on a farm near Parker, Kansas. My wife, Mary, and I have five children. We live in Topeka. I'm a U.S. senator in my third term.

Beachwood: I like to take liberty with the rules.

MR. ROMNEY: My name is Mitt Romney. I'm a husband, a father, a grandfather, a neighbor and formerly governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Beachwood: A neighbor?

MR. GIULIANI: I'm Rudy Giuliani. I agree with the motto of your state, "Live free or die."

Beachwood: And that's why I'll die before I allow the president of the United States to tap my phones! Er, wait a minute . . .

SEN. MCCAIN: I'm John McCain. I've had the honor of serving my country all of my life.

Beachwood: And disserving it for half.

MR. HUCKABEE: I'm Mike Huckabee. For 10 and a half years, I was governor of Arkansas. I'm from the small town of Hope. You may have heard of it. All I ask you is, give us one more chance.

Beachwood: No way. I for one am not going back to peace and prosperity.

REP. HUNTER: I'm Duncan Hunter, four years chairman of the Armed Services Committee and in Congress 26 years. And I stand for a strong national defense, an enforceable border, bringing back American jobs.

Beachwood: And Lou Dobbs for president!

MR. GILMORE: I'm Jim Gilmore, the former governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, former chairman of the National Commission for the United States Government on Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Beachwood: And let me tell you, that last job was pretty slack!

REP. PAUL: I'm Ron Paul. I'm a congressman from Texas, serving in my 10th term. I am the champion of the Constitution.

Beachwood: You're at the wrong debate.

*

MR. BLITZER: Gentlemen, thank you very much for those brief self-introductions. Let's begin our questioning right now, Tom Fahey of the New Hampshire Union Leader with the first question.

MR. FAHEY: Governor Romney, I wanted to start by asking you a question on which every American has formed an opinion. We've lost 3,400 troops; civilian casualties are even higher, and the Iraqi government does not appear ready to provide for the security of its own country. Knowing everything you know right now, was it a mistake for us to invade Iraq?

MR. ROMNEY: Well, the question is kind of a non-sequitur, if you will, and what I mean by that -- or a null set . . . [blah blah blah]

Beachwood: A null set?

MR. BLITZER: Governor, thank you, but the question was, knowing what you know right now -- not what you knew then, what you know right now -- was it a mistake for the United States to invade Iraq?

MR. ROMNEY: Well, I answered the question by saying it's a -- it's a non-sequitur, it's a null set kind of question . . . [blah blah blah]

Beachwood: We regret to inform you that your son was killed by a null set today. Or a non-sequitur, we're still investigating. It may have even been a friendly null set.

Beachwood: We regret to inform you that your candidacy is seriously wounded.

MR. BLITZER: Mayor Giuliani, same question to you. Was it -- knowing what you know right now, was it a good decision?

MR. GIULIANI: Absolutely the right thing to do. It's unthinkable that you would leave Saddam Hussein in charge of Iraq and be able to fight the war on terror. And the problem is that we see Iraq in a vacuum. Iraq should not be seen in a vacuum. Iraq is part of the overall terrorist war against the United States.

The problem the Democrats make is they're in denial.

Beachwood: Okay, I don't think the American public is buying this anymore. Rudy Giuliani, you're in denial!

MR. BLITZER: Senator McCain, arguably, going to war is the most important decision a member of the Senate can make.

Did you read the National Intelligence Estimate, which included all the caveats, on whether or not there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

SEN. MCCAIN: I did not read that particular document. I received hundreds of briefings, tens and hundreds of hours of study and background and information on it.

Beachwood: Same answer as Hillary!

MR. BLITZER: Senator Brownback, you're also a member of the United States Senate. Did you read that classified National Intelligence Estimate?

SEN. BROWNBACK: I don't remember that report. I had a number of briefings. And I held a number of committee hearings. At that time, I was chairing the Middle East Subcommittee on Foreign Relations and we held hearings on this topic and what was taking place and what Saddam was doing.

Beachwood: Wow, have the Republicans just inoculated Hillary on this question?

Beachwood: I don't think he wants to advertise that he chaired committee meetings on Saddam and still got it wrong.

BROWNBACK: But the issue is, is that we've got to put forward now a political plan. And that's something I'm going to introduce tomorrow, a political plan to create a three-state solution in Iraq -- a Kurdish state, a Sunni state, a Shi'a state -- because Iraq is more three groups held together by exterior forces.

Beachwood: Hey, what's Joe Biden doing in this debate! That's his plan.

MR. BLITZER: Governor Gilmore, let me go to you. You chaired this commission. Do you think it was appropriate that members of Congress would authorize the president to go to war without reading that National Intelligence Estimate?

MR. GILMORE: Well, you know, I think the people who are in Congress who are responsible for sending this country to war, with the enormous dangers that it has geopolitically and strategically, ought to read at least that kind of material.

Beachwood: Snap!

*

MR. SCOTT SPRADLING: Senator McCain, we've just spent a few minutes looking back. I'd ask you to look forward now, if you will.

Since June 1st, there have been at least 17 confirmed deaths of American soldiers in Iraq. Approximately, 100 U.S. troops are dying there every month. If our top military commander in Iraq, General Petraeus, reports back to Congress this September that the surge hasn't significantly improved the situation on the ground, what then?

SEN. MCCAIN: Well, let me say, first of all, I know how frustrated and saddened all Americans are. This morning I was with the family of Matthew Stanley of Wolfeboro, who sacrificed his life, and our hearts and our sympathy goes out to all those who have sacrificed their lives in this conflict . . . [blah blah blah]

Beachwood: What if we come back in six months and your campaign hasn't significantly improved on the ground?

MR. BLITZER: The question was, if General Petraeus says -- (applause) -- it's not working so far in September, what do you do then?

SEN. MCCAIN: Then you have to examine the options. And I'll tell you the options. One is the division that Sam described. You would have to divide bedrooms in Baghdad, because Sunni and Shi'a are married to each other.

Beachwood: So now the Republicans want to intrude in Iraqi bedrooms too.

MR. BLITZER: Let me bring in Governor Thompson. Go ahead, same question to you. If General Petraeus says it's not working in September, what should the U.S. do then?

MR. THOMPSON: The first thing the president should do is demand the al-Maliki government to vote as to whether or not they want the United States to stay in Iraq . . . [blah blah blah]

Beachwood: Okay, this is the same thing he said last time. Not a terrible idea, but not answering the question.

MR. BLITZER: Let me bring in Congressman Duncan Hunter.

Congressman, if it's not working at that point, how much longer should the United States stay?

REP. HUNTER: Well, Wolf, you know, I read that NIE report, and I held the briefings before we made the vote to go in. I'd invited everybody, Democrat and Republican, to get the classified information.

Beachwood: And I still supported the war, so reading the NIE report is overrated. Or I'm just an idiot.

MR. BLITZER: Congressman Ron Paul, how much longer should the United States stay in Iraq?

MR. PAUL: The sooner we come home, the better. If they declare there's no progress in September, we should come home. It was a mistake to go, so it's a mistake to stay.

Beachwood: Channeling Dennis Kucinich. We should do a debate with all of 'em together, both parties. They could pair off.

MR. BLITZER: Governor Huckabee, do you have confidence in the government of Iraq, the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, that he's going to do what needs to be done?

MR. BLITZER: All right. Congressman Tom Tancredo, what do you say?

REP. TANCREDO: I'll tell you this: that if it comes to that point in time that you describe, that the surge -- is apparent that it is not working -- I did not support it. I hope to God it does work.

Beachwood: But they have a different God, so who knows.

REP. TANCREDO: However, if it is apparent that we cannot, then we have to do and tell the Iraqis the exact same thing that Benjamin Franklin said when he came out of the convention in 1787 and somebody said to him, "Dr. Franklin, what have you given us?" And he said, "A republic, if you can keep it." It is exactly that time and it is exactly that thing that we have to say to the Iraqi government.

Beachwood: Uh, that's not bad.

*

MR. GIULIANI: This war is not a bumper sticker. This war is a real war.

Beachwood: And that's why I have a "Rudy Supports the Troops" bumper sticker on my car.

*

MR. SPRADLING: You opposed the immigration reform compromise calling it, quote, "the worst piece of legislation to come down the pike in a long time."

REP. TANCREDO: What we're doing here in this immigration battle is testing our willingness to actually hold together as a nation or split apart into a lot of Balkanized pieces.

Beachwood: The next thing you know, we'll have a state called "New Mexico."

*

MR. BLITZER: Governor Romney, Senator McCain has accused you of flip-flopping on this issue.

What do you say to Senator McCain?

Beachwood: Wanna be my VP?

*

MR. GIULIANI: On September 11th, when we tried to figure out who was in this country, it took weeks to figure out who were the right people and who weren't, because there isn't such a database.

Beachwood: I mean, sure, the CIA and FBI knew, but still . . .

*

MR. BLITZER: Congressman Paul, I want you to weigh in on this as well.

I believe -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- you voted to support that 700-mile fence along the border between the United States and Mexico. Did you?

REP. PAUL: I did.

MR. BLITZER: What about Canada? Is there a need for a similar fence along the border between the United States and Canada?

Beachwood: An even bigger one, so socialized medicine doesn't sneak in.

*

MR. FAHEY: Governor Huckabee, at a previous debate, you and two of your colleagues indicated that you do not believe in evolution. You're an ordained minister. What do you believe? Is it the story of creation as it is reported in the Bible or described in the Bible?

Beachwood: Governor Huckabee, are you smarter than a fifth-grader?

MR. HUCKABEE: It's interesting that that question would even be asked of somebody running for president. I'm not planning on writing the curriculum for an eighth-grade science book. I'm asking for the opportunity to be president of the United States.

Beachwood: And the requirements aren't as stringent.

*

MR. BLITZER: Senator McCain, do you believe creationism should be taught alongside evolution in the nation's schools?

SEN. MCCAIN: No, I believe that's up to the school districts. But I think that every American should be exposed to all theories.

Beachwood: Like the different theories of gravity, and the various theories of radical Islam.

*

MR. BLITZER: Congressman Paul, you ran for president once before as a Libertarian. What do you say about this whole issue of church and state?

REP. PAUL: Well, I think we should read the First Amendment.

*

MR. ROMNEY: Someone said to me -- Matt Simons, an investment banker down in Houston, he said our refineries today are rust with paint holding them up.

Beachwood: Hey, is that the same guy McCain talked to? Maybe he should be president.

*

MR. BLITZER: Is there anyone here who believes gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly in the United States military? If you do, speak up now. (Silence.)

*

MR. SPRADLING: Gentlemen, last night (sic) we asked Democrats, if they were elected, what role -- would they use former President Clinton. I'm not going to ask you that. (Laughter.) Governor Thompson, I'd like to know, seeing as how you were a member of President Bush's Cabinet as Health and Human Services secretary, how would you use George W. Bush in your administration?

MR. THOMPSON: I certainly would not send him to the United Nations.

*

MR. BLITZER: Congressman Hunter, do you think it would be appropriate for President Bush to pardon Lewis Scooter Libby, who was sentenced today to 30 months in prison for his role in the CIA leak case?

REP. HUNTER: You know, I think, Wolf, to make a determination on that, you'd have to look at the transcript. I'll tell you a couple transcripts I have looked it, and that's the agents, Compean and Ramos, who were given 11 and 12 years respectively for stopping a drug dealer bringing 750 pounds of drugs across the border. I've looked at their transcript; I would pardon Compean and Ramos right now.

And let me say -- (interrupted by applause) -- and let me say with respect to what Mike said, we got to bring back the Reagan Democrats to this party because we need the Reagan Democrats, Republican leadership to work, and we're going to have to get a good trade bill that brings jobs back to this country.

We're going to have to stop China from cheating on trade. Build the middle class, build jobs, Wolf. That's what strengthens the Republican Party.

Beachwood: Wow, that answer went on a long journey. Libby's sentence is almost up already.

*

MR. DOUG HALL: I know a business owner in northern New Hampshire who was on vacation in Spain last year for about three weeks. While he was there he had to buy refills for prescription drugs - brand-name drugs. And he discovered in buying those drugs that he could buy his refills there for $600 less than he could by them here in New Hampshire. So since then, he's said he is going to take a trip over to Spain and get his vacation paid for to buy his drugs

MR. GIULIANI: What I would do is change the whole model that we have for health insurance in this country. The problem with our health insurance is it's government- and employer-dominated. People don't make individual choices. It's your health; you should own your health insurance.

Health insurance should become like homeowners insurance or like car insurance: You don't cover everything in your homeowners policy. If you have a slight accident in your house, if you need to refill your oil with your car, you don't cover that with insurance.

Beachwood: Let him dabble in health care, but don't let him near the Constitution or the button.

*

REP. HUNTER: We need to be able to buy our health care insurance across state lines. Right now the same single policy that can be purchased in Long Beach for $73 costs $334 in New Jersey.

Beachwood: Not bad.

*

MR. BLITZER: Congressman Paul, what's the most pressing moral issue in the United States right now?

REP. PAUL: I think it is the acceptance just recently that we now promote preemptive war. I do not believe that's part of the American tradition. We in the past have always declared war in the defense of our liberties or go to aid somebody, but now we have accepted the principle of preemptive war. We have rejected the just- war theory of Christianity.

*

MR. BLITZER: Congressman Tancredo, would you advertise for your campaign in Spanish? Specifically, I'm referring to the highly publicized comment you recently made that Miami was like a third world country.

REP. TANCREDO: Right. Yeah, exactly. No, I would not advertise in Spanish.

SEN. MCCAIN: Well, first of all, muchas gracias. (Laughter, applause.)

My friends, we know what we're talking about is the latest wave of migrants into this country. We have to stop the illegal immigration, but we've had waves throughout our history. Hispanics is what we're talking about, a different culture, a different language, which has enriched my state where Spanish was spoken before English was.

My friends, I want you the next time you're down in Washington, D.C. to go to the Vietnam War Memorial and look at the names engraved in black granite. You'll find a whole lot of Hispanic names. When you go to Iraq or Afghanistan today, you're going to see a whole lot of people who are of Hispanic background. You're even going to meet some of the few thousand that are still green card holders who are not even citizens of this country, who love this country so much that they're willing to risk their lives in its service in order to accelerate their path to citizenship and enjoy the bountiful, blessed nation.

So let's from time to time remember that these are God's children. They must come into country legally, but they have enriched our culture and our nation as every generation of immigrants before them.

Thank you. (Cheers, applause.)

Beachwood: McCain at his best.

*

MR. JOHN LEWICKE: In 2006, we saw the first -- the worst Republican defeat in living memory. If we do more of the same, why do we expect anything different? And I'd like to ask each of the candidates why their position is -- or how their position differs from the present administration's, so that we won't see a repeat of 2006 in 2008.

SEN. MCCAIN: Spending, spending, spending, spending, which led to corruption. We have members -- former members of Congress in jail as we speak because of this earmarking. We let spending get out of control, we presided over the largest increase in the size of government since the Great Society, and our constituents and our Republicans became dispirited and disenchanted. We've got to stop the earmarking. The bridge to nowhere, the 233 miles -- a $233 million bridge to an island in Alaska with 50 people on it was the tipping point.

I want to promise you, as president of the United States, I'll veto every bill that has a pork-barrel project on it, and I'll make the authors of it famous, and we'll get spending under control, and we'll stop the corruption in Washington. (Applause.)

Beachwood: McCain at his best.

*

MR. GIULIANI: Abraham Lincoln defined what an American is better than I'm going to be able to do it or Congressman Tancredo or anyone on the stage. Abraham Lincoln, who fought the know-nothing movement, said being an American is not whether you came over on the Mayflower or you came here yesterday. How much do you believe in freedom? How much do you believe in freedom of religion? How much do you believe in freedom for women? How much do you believe in the right to vote? How much do you believe in the rule of law?

Beachwood: So tonight, I'm announcing that I've become a Democrat.

SEN. MCCAIN: The question was just asked, "What is it to be an American?" It's to share a common goal that all of us -- a principle -- are created equal and endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights.

That means we go as far as our ambition will take us. That means we have a better life for ourselves and our children. And the lady that holds her lamp beside the golden door is still the ideal and the dream. Of course it has to be legal. Of course it has to be regulated. And 18 months, by the way, will go by while we fix the border before we do anything else on this issue.

But America is still the land of opportunity and it is a beacon of hope and liberty, and as Ronald Reagan said, a shining city on a hill. And we're not going to erect barriers and fences.

Beachwood: Turning into a good night for McCain.

*

SEN. MCCAIN: Protect the family, that's one of the questions earlier. Protect our American family, it's under assault in many respects, as we all know. And second, take the lead in fighting this transcendent issue of our time: the battle and struggle against radical Islamic extremism. It is a force of evil that is within our shores. Look at the events of the last few days at JFK, attempts at Fort Dix, the London suicide bombers.

My friends, this is a transcendent struggle between good and evil. Everything we stand for and believe in is at stake here. We can win. We will never surrender, they will. I am prepared to lead. My life and my experience and my background and my heroes inspire me and qualify me to lead in this titanic struggle which will not be over soon, but we will prevail.

Beachwood: And then, not so much.

*

Previously in Mystery Debate Theater:


- The Democrats: Episode 1.

- The Republicans: Episode 1.

- The Republicans: Episode 2.

- The Democrats: Episode 2.


Posted by Lou at 06:43 AM | Permalink

Reviewing the Reviews

June 2-3.

Publication: Sun-Times

Cover: Somewhat nonsensical but not entirely aesthetically unappealing art attached to Publisher John Cruickshank's review of Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach. I'm generally uninterested in reviews and articles by the bosses, whose only qualification for writing them is usually that they are the bosess. Jeff Johnson's review of Crystal Zevon's I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon also starts on the section front.

Other News & Reviews of Note: Sun-Times writers Leslie Baldacci (A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, And A Prayer: Writings to Stop Violence Against Women And Girls) and Neil Steinberg (two volumes of reissued Woody Allen stories and Simon Rich's Ant Farm: And Other Desperate Situations) each contribute reviews that I avoided like the plague as well.

Also: I also skipped gambling columnist John Grochowski's story about the kid who runs the world's largest Harry Potter fan site, though I like his column.

*

Publication: Tribune

Cover: An entirely bored looking Joyce Carol Oates. Pass.

Other News & Reviews: University of Wisconsin history professor Jeremi Suri reviews Robert Dallek's Nixon and Kissinger. The Trib is a little late to the party on this one. Conveniently for Suri, though, his book about Kissinger comes out this month.

Also: Four pages of "Hot Reads for the Summer."

*

Publication: Books & Culture

Cover: "Remembering Auden: And learning how to make sense of his renunciations." (Assumed; I only look at it online.)

Other News & Reviews: Andrew Morriss reviews geologist Geerat Vermeij's Nature: An Economic History.

*

Publication: New York Times

Cover: A completely unappealing drawing of a man and woman on the beach for Jonathan Lethem's review of On Chesil Beach.

Other News & Reviews of Note: Dick Cavett (!) reviews Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools.

"I am one who came to scoff," Cavett writes, "but remained to pray. It quickly becomes clear that Jeff Wiltse's Contested Waters isn't a dreary historical catalog of shapes and styles of swimming pools vast and small. It's the colorful story of America's municipal swimming pools in the 19th and 20th centuries. Against that backdrop it becomes the story of America."

Also: Neil Genzlinger says Chuck Barris' new comic novel is "shamelessly entertaining."

And: Robert Christgau pans Redemption Song: The Ballad of Joe Strummer.

Pull Quote: "In 1982, the Clash opened for the Who, a group Strummer respected yet feared his own band might turn into."

Finally: A man writing a book about death reviews a book about shrooms.

*

Books of the Times: On Tuesday, the Times Arts section led with dual reviews of new books about Hillary Clinton. Michiko Kakutani pretty much rips apart Carl Bernstein's A Woman In Charge.

"Mr. Bernstein reportedly spent eight years working on this portrait of Mrs. Clinton," Kakutani writes, and in these pages he sometimes sounds defensive, as if he needed to resort to hyperbole to justify all the time he devoted to his subject."

Bernstein compares Hillary to FDR, Princess Diana, Oprah and Eleanor Roosevelt, Kakutani notes.

"In the course of a book that weighs in at more than 600 pages, he's created a highly detailed portrait of Hillary Rodham Clinton, but it's a portrait largely made up of incidents and descriptions and theories any regular follower of the news already knows."

Meanwhile, Robert Dallek tackles Jeff Gerth's and Don Van Natta Jr.'s Her Way. Dallek is the latest to challenge the book's assertion that Bill and Hillary forged some sort of secret pact to rule the country for a combined 16 years, finding the evidence "less than convincing."

But the book has a bigger problem, Dallek writes.

"The book's greatest flaw is its flogging of all the Clinton scandals, not simply because they are so familiar and ultimately came to so little, but also because they give us insufficient clues to what sort of president Mrs. Clinton might be."

Additional Resource: Charlie Rose grills Bernstein.

Note: Bernstein makes a big deal out of the fact that Hillary failed the bar exam, as if it's a scoop, but in her own Living History, she wrote that she failed the Washington, D.C., bar exam but passed in Arkansas.

*

Charts:

1. God.
2. Einstein.
3. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

George Tenet drops to 8th. Paula Deen drops to 11th.

Posted by Lou at 12:45 AM | Permalink

24 Hours With Current TV

Comcast Ch. 125 (Northwest 2 & 3 - Standard)
June 5-6, 2007

Al Gore's Current TV says they slice their programming into pods of just a few minutes each, but here's how their schedule looks on the Comcast viewing guide.

5 p.m.: Exciting New Excitement

5:30 p.m.: Trust Me On This One

6 p.m.: Man, What a Surprise

6:30 p.m.: What Would Your Mother Think?

7 p.m.: My, How You've Grown

7:30 p.m.: I Can Do It All By Myself

8 p.m.: Fast, Friendly Service

8:30 p.m.: Carefully Blended

9 p.m.: The Wonder of the World

9:30 p.m.: Built for Comfort and Speed

10 p.m.: Make It a Double

10:30 p.m.: Not Just for Breakfast Anymore

11 p.m.: Don't Surf Anymore

11:30 p.m.: Your TV Will Thank You

Midnight: Flip Your Mind's Switch

12:30 a.m.: Cooler Than Primetime

1 a.m.: Remember the Alamo!

1:30 a.m.: We Come in Peace

2 a.m.: We Are the Walrus

2:30 a.m.: No Stinkin' Badges

3 a.m.: Warning Radioactive!

3:30 a.m.: Happy Little Trees

4 a.m.: We Hate Math

4:30 a.m.: What's Your Sign

5 a.m.: Care to Dance?

5:30 a.m.: No New Taxes

6 a.m.: You Talking to Me?

6:30 a.m.: Bringin' the Funk

7 a.m.: We Kick A.

7:30 a.m.: Ride Shotgun With Us

8 a.m.: Gooooooooooooaaaaal!!!

8:30 a.m.: Fries With That?

9 a.m.: You Found Us!

9:30 a.m.: We Love Puppets

10 a.m.: Pass the Salami

10:30 a.m.: You've Got Taste

11 a.m.: Believe the Hype

11:30 a.m.: Tastes Like Chicken

Noon: Don't Channel Surf

12:30 p.m.: Take Me to Your Leader

1 p.m.: More Pickles Please

1:30 p.m.: Don't Waste Your Life

2 p.m.: And It Tastes Good, Too

2:30 p.m.: Bring It On

3 p.m.: Caution: Low Water Crossing

3:30 p.m.: Bring Out

4 p.m.: To Protect and Serve

4:30 p.m.: Mi Casa, Su Casa


Posted by Lou at 12:37 AM | Permalink

Letter From Tampa

Well, it's been a few weeks since I left Chicago and drove halfway across the country to Florida, land of my birth. My last stint in Chicago lasted three years, in increasingly crappy apartments, but with increasingly great friends, all of whom I miss very much. (You know who you are, except Andrew, who doesn't have a computer, so someone pass it along to him, will you?)

It's amazing how radically my life has changed since the end of April. I survived a four-day trip with my parents, something any adult would find trying. We unloaded 99 percent of my stuff into storage and kept the remaining one percent for my room at my sister's house, where my dog, Jed, and I are living with her and her husband until September. I've downgraded from a one bedroom apartment, all to myself, to one bedroom in a house with two other people, two other dogs, and a cat. I sleep in a single bed, which makes me feel like I'm about eleven years old. But my sister and her husband have certainly been welcoming, to the point that my brother-in-law dropped everything in order to get me coffee and butter my waffles and get me out the door the morning my alarm didn't go off.

Oh yeah, the alarm. After three years without continuous employment, it took me two weeks to find a job down here, thanks to the press association web site. I'm at a small weekly paper about forty miles from where I currently live, and since the paper came out today, I'm bored witless, though yesterday I got a lesson in Quark and did a lot of proofing, which was kind of fun.

Life's changed a lot. I miss Chicago a ton. I miss its vitality and its edginess and its attitude. I miss my pals. I miss the Flying Saucer and the Beachwood Inn. I even miss my crappy apartment.

But I love those Gulf sunsets. I love taking the dog out to Picnic Island for Frisbee and swimming, and watching that big orange disc slip behind the horizon.

I love dragging out my old hippie togs and heading out to Skipper's Smokehouse every Thursday night to see Uncle John's Band, and dancing my cares away. And I love the friends I've already made down here. Seems like it took me the better part of two years to really find people to love up in Chicago.

Down here? There's Wil, and Jessica, Grateful Dave and Gator and Per, not to mention my old friends Kat and Henry.

I won't lie. It's hot as hell down here, and there are plenty of Bible-thumpin', right-wing, jackasses to go around. But when you're sitting on the beach at night, with a band in the background and the stars in the sky, and the waves rolling on the shore, well, there's a lot to be said for coming on back to the old family homestead.

*

Beachwood contributor ML Van Valkenburgh's works include:

- Booklist: A Beachwood Gift Guide.

- Booklist: Five Best Books Ever (For Now).

- Genre-Bending: A Literary Trend To Loathe.

- From The Doggie Desk: A Few Words About Jed.

Posted by Lou at 12:02 AM | Permalink

June 05, 2007

The [Tuesday] Papers

"A commencement ceremony is supposed to be a joyous occasion, and it usually is," the Tribune says in an editorial this morning. "But it is also supposed to be a dignified ritual marked by a solemnity appropriate to momentous events."

Please. It is the responsibility of all graduating teenagers to mock and disrupt the pomposity of such momentous events to the cleverest of their abilities.

And if their family and friends want to blow air horns and clang cowbells, more power to 'em. It's high school graduation, not a funeral. It should be a party.

Talk Actually Is Cheap
Yet another scary terror plot becomes far less dangerous than the Fullerton-Damen-Elston intersection under further scrutiny.

Unless you're the Tribune editorial page and you're still trying to justify the Iraq War, the War on Terror, and the ridiculous hysteria of the infamous Sears Tower plotters.

"There's an instinct - a misguided one - to dismiss these kinds of alleged conspiracies, just because the co-conspirators seem, to some, hapless or ill-equipped at the moment," the Trib says.

The editorial board apparently does not believe that hapless is as hapless does. Hapless apparently can smarten up real quick.

"A plan can go from the talking stage to the action stage in a very short time," the editorial warns, citing Timothy McVeigh. No one, however, would have characterized McVeigh, an Army sergeant and gunner who won the Bronze Star in the first Gulf War, as hapless - nor having a grandiose vision. It is the mundane plots of competents that should cause us worry.

Facts Are Not Cheap
"But a reading of the criminal complaint filed by the federal authorities against the four defendants in the case - one of them remained at large yesterday - suggests a less than mature terror plan, a proposed effort longer on evil intent than on operational capability," The New York Times reports.

The news release out of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Brooklyn said that "the public was never at risk," the Times notes.

"At its heart was a 63-year-old reitred airport cargo worker, Russell Defreitas, who the complaint says talked of his dreams of inflicting massive harm, but who appeared to possess little money, uncertain training and no known background in conceptualizing or planning a terror attack."

Osama bin Laden, meanwhile, is still at-large.

ObamaCare
Barack Obama on his health care plan: "I'm committed to starting the process - everybody who wants it can buy it and it's affordable. If we have some gaps remaining, we will work on that."

Isn't that kind of where we already are?

And won't those gaps invariably belong to the neediest?

Homecoming
Obama re-introduces himself to the local press.

Millennium Parking
The cost of parking in the Millennium Park and Grant Park garages has just gone up, thanks to Mayor Daley's bungling that led to privatizing the garages.

General Manager Tony DePaolo of Laz Parking Chicago told the Sun-Times that "rate hikes were necessary to finance an array of garage improvements either in place or in the planning stages.

"They include everything from new signs, painting and lighting to improve patron safety to high-tech cashiering, additional parking attendants and the purchase of golf cars to speed motorists to their vehicles," Fran Spielman writes.

So all of the new additional revenue will go back into the facilities and not your pocket, Mr. DePaolo? Apparently unasked and unanswered.

"We're trying to change the culture to more patron-friendly garages," DePaolo told Spielman. "All of that costs money."

I have a feeling customers would prefer lower prices even if it meant they had to do without high-tech cashiering to more efficiently take their money.

Sprint Meet
I had a classic Seinfeld moment with Sprint last night. I'll spare you the details, but the gist of it is that I've been trying to pay my screwed-up-on-their-end bill for weeks and the phone company just isn't cooperating.

I reached a customer service rep in the finance department that does collections last night and after getting the smirking runaround, asked to speak to his supervisor. He said he would call for one on another line while we continued to talk. A supervisor never materialized, and when I asked him about this he said, "I didn't want to be on hold for four hours."

I said, "Now you know how I feel."

That's Stella!
"There was way too much cursing by the presenters and winners at the MTV Movie Awards show Sunday night. And the host, Sarah Silverman, was downright insulting with her monologue."

- Stella Foster, Sun-Times columnist

Speaker's Bureau
"TB Patient May Be Allowed Outside Room."

Line to beat him silly forms at the nurse's station.

Debate Club
Loyola University political science professor Alan Gitelson says "the early [presidential] debates do seem vacuous . . . You've got so many candidates involved and so little time for them to talk."

I disagree. I've learned a lot about the candidates in the debates so far. My dark-horse candidates Mike Huckabee and Bill Richardson have failed to impress. Seeing Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, and Mitt Romney on stage and answering questions has been illuminating, if not depressing. Watching Barack Obama to see if he's got the heft has been important. As usual, the marginalized candidates - Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, and Ron Paul - speak the truth more often than not. And I think Sunday night's Democratic debate was particularly informative. Our Beachwood debate coverage shows that.

Besides, the debates are merely a supplement to various other campaign activities. These events don't work when the candidates just regurgitate their set pieces no matter the question, but I'm finding the candidates so far to be far less programmed and more in discussion mode than in previous years.

Cubs Corner
* Reports of player dissatisfaction with Lou Piniella have trickled out over the last few days.

"[H]is managing style has worn on some veteran players, many of whom spent most of the first two months trying to figure out his lineup patterns and some of whom bristle at his willingness to publicly criticize mistakes," Gordon Wittenmyer reports in the Sun-Times this morning.

"One of the biggest issues with many of the position players is a lineup that has had 46 eight-man versions through 55 games, with several veterans used to starting every day sitting for stretches or alternating depending on pitching matchups."

The Cubs' continuing problems with fundamentals begins with the kind of players Jim Hendry keeps bringing in, but the team's mental approach can't help but be disrupted by what Beachwood baseball writer Marty Gangler describes as "more lineups than the Chicago Police Department."

* Terry Boers of The Score sports radio said yesterday that there is a "concern [among some players] that Lou is just crazy. Some of them think he is crazy . . . .there is a genuine, real distaste for him."

* Even though the Cubs won again last night, Rick Morrissey's Tribune column yesterday - roundly criticized by Boers and co-host Dan Bernstein - giving the team a 10-game grace period to really see where they stand reminded me of Thomas Friedman's New York Times columns over the years citing the next six months as critical for Iraq.

* Also on The Score, Steve Stone said Carlos Zambrano was "100 percent" to blame for his fracas with Michael Barrett. On the sequence that led to Slugout in the Dugout, Stone said, it was Barrett who set up properly and Zambrano who threw the wrong pitch and crossed up his catcher. Barrett shouldn't have thrown wildly to third, but Zambrano set off the events.

Stone also said that in the dugout confrontation, Barrett wasn't pointing at the scoreboard before Zambrano lunged at him, but was pointing to infielder Mark DeRosa, who was in a position to see what pitch Barrett had called.

* Slugout in the Dugout, the phrase used by both the Tribune and Sun-Times, is not an original phrase.

* "I'm perfectly satisfied with Lou," Hendry said. "The only thing we're not happy with is our record."

But other than that, Lou's doing a great job.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Hyperlinked for your convenience.

Posted by Lou at 07:53 AM | Permalink

June 04, 2007

What I Watched Last Night

Bravo began its Sunday programming day at midnight with a showing of The Terminator a film which has now taken on same slightly washed-out look as movies shown on WLS-TV at 3 a.m.

It's 1984 in Los Angeles and cyborg Arnold Schwarzenegger has traveled 40 years back in time from a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles to scare the shit out of a garbage truck driver by appearing naked in an alley and stealing clothes from community college-level gangbangers too skinny to have clothes that would actually fit him. Now dressed like Michael Jackson, Arnold begins to lay the foundation for his gubernatorial campaign with a thorough cleansing of the voter rolls, starting by shooting every constituent named Sarah Connor.

Mayhem ensues with plenty of chases, car crashes, shootings, and explosions.

*

On Saturday night, Discovery Health's Hypersexual Behavior explored the line between sexual enjoyment and compulsion by profiling several men and women whose lives were nearly ruined by their addiction to sex. We discover that sex addicts are actually drug addicts because they spend hours whacked out on their brain's own powerful neurotropic feel-good substances.

Discovery Health's obsession with compulsion continues with Untold Stories of the ER, in which a 22-year-old woman's deadly ectopic pregnancy is discovered only by virtue of her need to eat six rolls of toilet paper a day.

Hospital trivia: People who habitually show up in ERs complaining about the same - often non-existent - health concern are called frequent flyers.

*

Also appearing on Discovery Health were several commercials for a line of feminine hair removal gel products called Nad's, which now joins the weight-loss product Ayds in the Worst Product Name Hall of Fame.

Unfortunately, the commercials fail to mention whether the product is recommended for actual 'nads.

*

Earlier Saturday night, the Independent Film Channel showed the excellent and highly informative 1999 Albert and Allen Hughes documentary American Pimp, which presents a look into the working lives of a dozen or so active and retired black pimps around the country. Consequently, American Pimp answers the one question you always wanted to know about pimpin' but were afraid to ask: The reason why there aren't any white pimps is because white street guys just don't have it in them to walk the walk and talk the talk like black street guys.

Or, as pimp Bradley put it: "I never seen a white pimp. They don't have the moves. They don't shake like a black man shake." How Billy Clyde Tuggle lasted as long as he did as Pine Valley's resident white trash pimp on All My Children during the mid-1970s is beyond me. Maybe Pine Valley doesn't raise the bar too high or something.

Actually there are white pimps, points out American Pimp. Instead of bothering with the headaches involved with maintaining a stable of streetwalkin' hos, they head out to Reno like Dennis Hof and run legal, Playboy Mansion-like brothels like the Moonlite Bunny Ranch, where the women get benefits and a cut of what they earn for the house.

Streetwalkers, on the other hand, get no cut of what they turn over, a few pimps explained, because it takes a lot of money to clothe them, feed them, house them, pay their medical expenses, and bail them out of jail. This might explain why a pimp like Payroll lives in an apartment as ratty-looking as the one Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston share on Bravo's Being Bobby Brown.

Some American pimps are smooth, some are gangsta, a lot of pimps from the 1960s and 1970s looked remarkably like Chuck Berry and Ike Turner, and they all like the word "motherfucker" a lot, but the Hughes brothers present no personal angle about the morality of pimping. Instead, they let the pimps ramble on about the business to let you make that decision for yourself. Nobody goes out of their way to make you want to like their attitudes or understand what they do, because pimps and squares live in separate universes and that's just the way it is. Either you get it or you don't.

Even though I still don't think pimping's a profession any kid should intentionally aspire to (even though it provides pimp Charm the means to play country club golf with doctors and lawyers several days a week), I came away with something that resembles an understanding of it, including the liberal use of "bitches" and "hos" - titles streetwalkers actually accept. Which is how a pimp like Ken Red gets away with answering cell phone calls from his women with, "Hey, bitch. What's happenin'?"

That's because pimpin' is a business, hos are product, and it's a relationship built upon cash generation instead of emotional attachment. In fact, says pimp Payroll, "If I came home calling her 'sweetie pie' and 'honey,' she'd think there's something wrong with me."

Think what you will of pimps, there's something to be said about the motivation and effort it takes to continually cruise the streets keeping tabs on a whole stable of women wandering about willy nilly. Collecting the cash, making sure they're not slacking off, and providing the, uh, motivation to keep on keepin' on is an exhausting task - especially when your job doesn't offer workman's comp or unemployment insurance. "The only thing a pimp got comin' is what he got out there in the game," says one.

Some of the dudes in American Pimp are engaging and eloquent - including my favorite, ex-Los Angeles pimp Danny Brown, an articulate fellow with a fascinating grasp of the history of pimpin' and ho-in'. According to Brown, prostitution was an accepted fact of life until somewhere around the turn of the 20th Century, when "the black man got the money and didn't pay taxes. That's when it became such a dread thing."

Chicago's American Pimp representative was the colorful ex-pimp known as Bishop Don Magic Juan, who gave up his West Side business after finding God. God might have been able to take the pimp out of the man, but He sure couldn't take the flash out of him, since Don still cruises the streets in a big boat of a lime green Cadillac and covered head to toe in alligator skin and gold rings the size of Rhode Island. "Green for the money, gold for the honey," says Bishop Don.

Yet, even back in the day, he was a pimp even a mother could love. "He never came home like a pimp," says Bishop Don's mother on camera, her home filled with photo mementos from her son's pimping days. "He always come home like a nice child."

Pimpin' trivia: The 1973 film The Mac is unanimously considered - even by today's American pimps - to be the only accurate portrayal of "the science of pimpology."

*

Browse the What I Watched Last Night library.

Posted by Lou at 10:17 AM | Permalink

The [Monday] Papers

About 70 people gathered outside the Lake Shore Athletic Club on Sunday in a protest "aimed at the City Council - specifically newly elected Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) - to persaude members to designate the club a historic landmark and prevent the club's destruction," the Tribune reports.

"It's to put [Reilly] on notice," Preservation Chicago president Jonathan Fine told the Trib.

"Reilly, who attended the protest and spoke to participants, said he is holding off judgment of the demolition and new construction until he has all the facts on the project," the Trib reports.

The facts seem to be in hand, though. The developer who bought the property has already been issued applied for a demolition permit and is preparing the building for the wrecking ball. Reilly toured the building as far back as November, and preservationists and neighborhood residents have been making their case ever since.

It's certainly possible Reilly has some secret strategy in mind, but his lack of commitment to saving the building has neighborhood residents and preservationists understandably skeptical.

UPDATE 7:24 P.M.: Someone who was there tells me he counted 119 people at the rally's peak. The Sun-Times reported "more than 100." Also, I should have made clear that the building is now under a 90-day delay triggered by the demolition permit application. That grace period expires on July 17.

MORE RESOURCES:

* WBBM reports that "Alderman Reilly says the original plan to develop this particular plot was written in such a way that it guarantees the property owner certain rights . . . so it appears that the developer would be allowed to put up a new structure, so long as it doesn't go any higher than the current one."

Of course, the original plan doesn't require the alderman to keep his mouth shut; landmarking the building would also protect it from demolition. It's pointed out to me as well that the mayor could also step in to save the building, and that he will have the ultimate say anyway.

* Video of the protest. Check out the basketball referee.

Send us your insights and tips.

Doing Daley
Brendan Reilly: Freshman suck-up.

Springfield Slugout
Recent activities at Wrigley Field have certainly been interesting, though Lou Piniella's old-school act is child's play compared to this guy's (priceless) Nam flashback.

But how 'bout the governor clenching his fists and threatening state Sen. Mike Jacobs?

Gov. Baloneyvich
"The guy's a liar," Jacobs says of the guv.

Welcome to the club, Mike.

"None of this would be so bad if the governor could be believed when he quotes budget figures or makes a promise. But as members of the General Assembly know, without a written memorandum of understanding, what the governor says will get done might not get done," the Springfield State Journal-Register's Bernard Schoenburg wrote last November.

The Mighty Quinn
Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn went back on the offensive this weekend against ComEd, citing the compensation package of John Rowe, CEO of ComEd parent company Exelon, as evidence that the utility's proposed rate hike is sheer greed.

"Exelon disputed Quinn's analysis," the Sun-Times reports, "stating that 'ComEd customers do not pay any part of John Rowe's compensation - it is paid by shareholders.'"

And I don't use any of the electricity I'm being charged for; my appliances do.

Book Report
* A bouncer at the California Clipper has written a memoir about his time in Iraq as an Army interrogator at Abu Ghraib, Tom McNamee writes in the Sun-Times.

"I don't think of you as a torturer," McNamee says to author Tony Lagouranis.

"If you keep a man awake for a month, that's torture," Lagouranis says. "If you subject a man to hypothermia, that's torture. If you keep him on his knees on and off for a month, that's torture."

-

"We do not torture."
- President Bush, November 2005

-

* A new photographic history "celebrates the 'L's' ongoing contribution to shaping the city and the suburbs," the Tribune's Jon Hilkevitch writes. "It is a story that runs much deeper than just transportation."

* The University of Chicago Press has just put out When the Press Fails: Political Power and the News Media from Iraq to Katrina.

"During the gravest moments of George W. Bush's tenure - the response to 9/11, the buildup to war with Iraq, the Abu Ghraib scandal - the media largely reported reality as his administration scripted it," the publisher says. "Why, in these times when we most need a critical, independent press, does this essential pillar of democracy fail us?"

-

See what else is coming off the local academic presses.

Public-Private Partnership
The mayor's public schedule is not so public anymore.

Hillary's War
Love her or loathe her, Hillary Clinton has probably gotten the rawest deal from the press than anyone in America.

Circulation Station
The Sun-Times's current circulation is certainly worse than the last officially reported figures, but even those figures tell a story.

Average weekday circulation: 349,968.

Sunday circulation: 281,129.

The Sun-Times is the rare paper whose Sunday edition sells dramatically less well than its weekday edition - which tells you how dependent the paper is on its ease of use for train and bus commuters.

Which also helps explain, in part, the success of RedEye, which serves much the same niche but is free.

Cleared For Departure
When I heard that voice from a Southwest Airlines commercial the other day say "You are now free to move about the country," I thought, "Why, did Bush leave office?"

Ford Tough
The car company wants to let Barack Obama in on a little secret.

Daley Dose
"Daley himself took an unusual interest, at one point asking his aides for a list of those buying homes in the project, known as Bridgeport Village."

But when it comes to how hiring in his administration works, he knows nothing.

Keeping Up With Jones
Taxpayers don't have anything to do with state legislators' salaries; lobbyists do.

In Today's Beachwood
* The planet's best coverage of last night's Democratic debate.

* The planet's best Cubs column.

* The planet's best column about songs that reference Chicago.

And over at Ferdy on Films, Rod Heath continues his Martin Scorsese retrospective with Goodfellas, and Ferdy takes on The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Even a caveman can use it.

Posted by Lou at 09:36 AM | Permalink

Mystery Debate Theater 2007

Once again the Beachwood Mystery Debate Theater team of Tim Willette, Andrew Kingsford and Steve Rhodes convened at Beachwood HQ to share Polish beer, takeout from Eat First #2, and a presidential candidates debate, this time the Democrats in their second such meeting.

The event actually exceeded our expectations; it was mostly a lively and substantive discussion - until question time from the public. Let's just say that sometimes citizens are a buzzkill.

Here is a rough account of the proceedings.

*

Local New Hampshire news personality Scott Spradling asks the first question: Senator Obama, you get the first question of the night. It has been nearly six years since 9/11. Since that time, we have not suffered any terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. Just yesterday, the FBI arrested three men for a terror plot at JFK Airport. Could it be that the Bush administration's effort to thwart terror at home has been a success?

Obama: There are some things that the Bush administration has done well. But the fact of the matter is is that we live in a more dangerous world, not a less dangerous world

Wolf Blitzer: Does the Bush administration, Senator, deserve any credit for the fact there's been no terrorist attack here in the United States for nearly six years?

Obama: I think they've cracked down on some of the financial networks; I think that is important. They have unfortunately not strengthened our alliances with other countries

*

Blitzer: Senator Edwards, let me let you clarify what you said the other day. You said the war on terror is a bumper sticker, not a plan. With the news yesterday, this alleged plot at JFK which could have done supposedly horrendous damage and caused incredible number of casualties, do you believe the U.S. is not at war with terrorists?

Edwards: I reject this bumper sticker, Wolf.

Andrew: He coordinates his tanning days to the debate schedule.

Blitzer: Senator Clinton, do you agree with Senator Edwards that this war on terror is nothing more than a bumper sticker?

Clinton: No, I do not.

Steve: It's more of a scare tactic. Bumper stickers are usually funny.

*

Blitzer: Congressman Kucinich, you voted against the Patriot Act when it was first introduced; you've since voted against it. But some would say yesterday's plot that was described by the FBI underscores the need for precisely that kind of tough measure to deal with potential terrorists out there.

Dice-K: Benjamin Franklin once said that those who would give up their essential liberties to achieve a sense of security deserve neither. We have to remember that 9/11 led us down a cul-de-sac.

Steve: He'll never get elected if he keeps speaking French.

*

Spradling: Senator Biden, question for you on Iraq. You are on the only person standing on this stage tonight to recently vote to continue funding the troops in Iraq. My question is this: why were Senators Obama, Clinton, Dodd and Congressman Kucinich wrong to vote against the funding?On Iraq, voted to fund war. Why others wrong?

Biden: No one has fought harder to change this president's policy.

Steve: He's projecting really well.

Blitzer: Senator Biden, why are you reluctant to say now they were wrong and you were right?

Biden: Because I don't want to judge them.

Steve: You just want voters to judge them - guilty!

*

Blitzer: Senator Clinton, you've voted in favor of every funding for the U.S. troops since the start of the war until now. And some are accusing and some others of playing politics with the lives of the troops. What is your response?

Clinton: Unfortunately, we don't have a president who is willing to change course, and I think it was time to say enough is enough.

Blitzer: Senator Obama, you did the same thing. Since you came in to the Senate you voted for the funding for the troops for this war until now. What's your answer?

Obama: [a bunch of nonsense.]

Edwards: Senator Clinton and Senator Obama did not say anything about how they were going to vote until they appeared on the floor of the Senate and voted. They were among the last people to vote. And I think that the importance of this is - they cast the right vote, and I applaud them for that. But the importance of this is, they're asking to be president of the United States, and there is a difference between making clear, speaking to your followers, speaking to the American people about what you believe needs to be done.

Steve: So he's against the black guy and the chick.

Obama: I think it is important to lead. And I think, John, the fact is, is that I opposed this war from the start. So you are about four and a half years late on leadership on this issue.

Clinton: This is George Bush's war.

Andrew: We just voted for it.

Chris Dodd: blah, blah, blah.

*

Blitzer: What if some of the critics, some of the supporters of this war are right, and a unilateral, quick U.S. withdrawal from Iraq - and you want troops out by the end of this year - does lead not only to an increased civil war but to genocide in Iraq?

Bill Richardson: Spent a lot of time . . . de-authorize war . . . timetable . . .

Blitzer: What about genocide?

Richardson: Darfur . . . stop this genocide there.

Blitzer: What about Iraq?

BR: Keep troops in kuwait . . .move to Afghanistan to fight Al-Qaeda.

Steve: Strike three, Bill. You're out.

*

Blitzer: Senator Gravel, I know you've been outspoken on all of these issues. Where very briefly do you disagree with these other Democratic candidates?

Crazy Guy: Totally. Totally. It's just that simple. Four of these people here will say that it's George Bush's war. It was facilitated by the Democrats. They brought the resolution up, one of them authored, co-authored it here, standing here, and so it's -- sure, it's George Bush's war, but it's the Democrats' war also.

Now, you want to end it? You're concerned about what's going to happen after we withdraw. Remember Vietnam. All the dominoes are going to fall, Southeast Asia's going to go -- is going to go communist. Well, how do we know what will happen? I do know this, that the insurgency is successful because the population sustains that insurgency. Period.

Blitzer: Let's go to the next question from Tom.

Andrew: Now get back in your cage.

Steve: Wolf can't handle the truth.

Tim: Markinson's dead.

*

Local news personality Tom Fahey attempts to ask a question.

Fahey: Congressman Kucinich, the New Hampshire Union-Leader asked . . .

Dice-K: Can you put your mike up?

Fahey: . . . you were . . .

Dice-K: Hard to . . . can't hear you.

Andrew: He can only hear sonar.

*

E-mail citizen question: Can you tell me if the mission we accomplished during our deployment in Iraq was worth our effort and sacrifice, or was it a waste of time and resources?

Dice-K: Those who sent those soldiers were wrong. This war has been based on lies. And this is where Senator Clinton says well this is George Bush's war. Oh no. There's a teachable moment here, and a teachable moment is that this war belongs to the Democratic party because the Democrats were put in charge by the people in the last election with the thought that they were going to end the war.

Biden: Wolf, look, the Republicans and this president have not told us the truth about this war from the beginning. The last thing we Democrats should do is not be telling the truth. We have 50 votes in the United States Senate. We have less of a majority in the House than at any time other than the last eight years.

Andrew: Less than the number of hairs on my head.

Biden: Ladies and gentlemen, you're going to end this war when you elect a Democratic president. You need 67 votes to end this war. I love these guys who tell you they're going to stop the war. Let me tell you straight up the truth; the truth of the matter is, the only one that's emboldened the enemy has been George Bush by his policies, not us funding the war. We're funding the safety of those troops there till we can get 67 votes.

Steve: He's projecting well again.

*

Blitzer: Senator Clinton, do you regret voting to authorize the president to use force against Saddam Hussein in Iraq without actually reading the National Intelligence Estimate, the classified document laying out the best U.S. intelligence at that time?

Clinton: I was thoroughly briefed. I knew all the arguments.

Steve: She don't need no stinkin' National Intelligence Estimate.

Blizter: Senator Edwards, you didn't read that National Intelligence Estimate either. Do you regret that?

Edwards: [Obama] was right. I was wrong.

Blitzter: Senator Obama, do you think someone who authorized the use of force to go to war in Iraq should be president of the United States?

Obama: I don't think it's a disqualifier. I will say on the National Intelligence Estimate that Chairman Graham, Bob Graham of Florida, who at the time was the head of the Intelligence Committee, cited that specifically as one of the reasons that he voted against it. So obviously there was some pertinent information there.

Blitzer: Senator Gravel, do you think someone who voted to authorize the president to go to war should be president of the United States?

Crazy Guy: Not at all, because it's a moral criteria. And there's information coming out - Senator Durbin, Mr. Strum in his book - that really points out that these people knew that there was two sets of intelligence going on at the same time, and they made a political decision to vote the way they voted, a political decision that cost - stop and think, we have killed more Americans than was done in the 11th of September.More Americans died because of their decision. That disqualifies them for president. It doesn't mean they're bad people, it just means that they don't have moral judgment, and that's very important when you become president.

Steve: He shall no longer be called Crazy Guy. Let's call him president-elect.

Clinton: It was a mistake to trust George Bush that he would do what he told all of us he would do.

Steve, Tim, Andrew: That's a helluva mistake to make!

*

Fahey: Governor Richardson, a question on immigration. Despite your doubts about the immigration bill that's now pending in the U.S. Senate, you support granting legal status to about 12 million people who have entered this country illegally. Why is this not an amnesty program?

Richardson: I'm a border governor . . .

Steve: He's giving another pre-programmed answer. He's campaigning like this is 1992. Let's order food.

Andrew: Yeah, maybe things will get better when the food gets here.

Blitzer repeats the question.

Richardson: . . . standards . . . separates famlies . . .

Blitzer: Alright.

Steve: Sigh.

*

Blitzer: Senator Biden, you voted last year to support this immigration legislation, including the construction of an approximately 700-mile fence along the border between the United States and Mexico. Governor Richardson doesn't think there needs to be such a fence. Why is he wrong?

Biden: Well, he's not wrong. There doesn't need to be a 700-mile fence . . .

Blitzer: If you don't think there needs to be a fence, why did you vote for that legislation?

Biden: The reason I voted for the fence was that was the only alternative that was there, and I voted for the fence related to drugs. You can - a fence will stop 20 kilos of cocaine coming through that fence. It will not stop someone climbing over it or around it.

Andrew: It's a fence that just stops cocaine. The drug fence.

Steve: Ask Obama, he voted for the fence too.

Blitzer: Senator Obama, you also voted for that legislation, including the construction of that fence, and some say, to be even-handed, if you want to build a fence along the border with Mexico, we should also build a fence along the border with Canada.

Obama: Well, we should certainly do a better job patrolling the borders in Canada.

Steve: Oh Lord!

*

Spradling: Governor Richardson, for example, says that you can fund health care meaningfully without raising taxes. Senator Clinton has said that she's not prepared to say she will raise taxes to reform health care. Your plan does raise some taxes to fund your universal health care program, so I'm wondering, from your perspective, are they being honest about the true cost of universal health care in America?

Edwards: This country's health care system is completely dysfunctional . . . Senator Obama came out with a plan just a few days ago, which I don't believe is completely universal . . . And I believe you cannot cover everybody in America.

Blitzer: Let Senator Obama weigh in, because you did release your plan that Senator Edwards says is not really a universal health care plan because it isn't mandatory on everyone.

Obama: Well, you just identified the basic disagreement with John and I . . . my emphasis is on driving down the costs.

Steve: You can't solve the health insurance crisis by driving down costs. What is this, Ronald Reaganville?

Clinton: I'm thrilled . . .

Andrew: That his plan sucks!

Richardson: As governor of New Mexico . . .

Blitzer asks question again.

Richarson: . . . my plan is mandatory . . . no new bureaucracy . . .

Blitzer: Thank you.

Richardson: . . . Medicare 55 and over . . .

Blitzer: Alright.

Richardson: . . . That's what you do.

Blitzer: Thank you, Governor.

Steve: Your campaign is over.

Dodd: There is not a person in this audience . . .

Andrew: Who doesn't have insurance.

Dodd: [blah blah blah]

Edwards: The New Republic has estimated that [Obama's] plan will leave about 15 million people uncovered. He says he will do something about that later.I believe unless we have a law requiring that every man, woman and child in America be covered, we're going to have millions of people who aren't covered.

Obama: If you look at auto insurance, in California there's mandatory auto insurance. Twenty-five percent of the folks don't have it. The reason is because they can't afford it. You take it from the opposite direction, but you're still going to have some folks who aren't insured under your plan, John, because some of them will simply not be able to afford to buy the coverage they're offered.

Steve: Yes, Edwards wants to insure the poor first, not last. That's the opposite direction.

Dice-K: I reject this whole approach. And the American people should know that with half the bankruptcies in the country connected to people not being able to pay their doctor bills or hospital bills, premiums, co-pays and deductibles going so far through the roof - 46 million Americans, no health care; another 50 million underinsured, there is only one way to get health care coverage for all Americans, and that is to have a universal single-payer, not-for- profit healthcare system, Medicare for All. Wolf, I've written the bill - it's H.R. 676 - with John Conyers, supported by 14,000 physicians.

Steve: Kucinich-Gravel.

*

Fahey: Was don't ask, don't tell a mistake?

Clinton: Barry Goldwater said you don't have to be straight to shoot straight.

Richardson: I love all this parsing and senatorial courtesy and "on the one hand, on the other hand."

Steve: They all agree! It couldn't be more clear!

Richardson: Hate crime . . . civil union . . .

Steve: Richardson's not even a VP candidate anymore.

*

Blitzer: Is it time to move beyond [civil unions] and let gays and lesbians get married?

Edwards: I don't think the federal government has a role in telling either states or religious institutions, churches, what marriages they can bless and can't bless.

Steve: So heteros should only have civil unions too.

*
Spradline asks how each candidate would use Bill Clinton in their administration.

Gravel: As a roving ambassador.

Richardson: He's needed in the Middle East.

Obama: . . . [blah blah blah]

Andrew: To take control of his wife.

Clinton: I believe in using former presidents.

Andrew: They're cute, they have superpowers . . .

Andrew: I'd make him a roving ambassador. Send him around the world in a catamaran. Alone. With Steve Jobs.

It's later determined that Andrew meant Steve Fossett.

*

Spradling asks what each would do to reduce gas prices.

Dodd: [Blah blah blah]

Steve: Oh, is he still here?

Blitzer: But the quesiton is what would you do right now to reduce the price of gasoline.

Dodd: [Blah blah blah]

Gravel: Nothing. We Americans have to grow up. You only see $3. Just watch those wheels turn. There's another $4, which is what we spend to keep American troops around the world to keep the price.

Beachwood HQ busts out in approval.

So you're paying more than seven dollars a gallon; you just don't know it.

Edwards: Can America finally stop spending $3 billion a year of taxpayers' money subsidizing oil and gas companies that already make billions of dollars?

Tim: But that will make the price go up!

Richardson: Give us, the states, the authority to engage in serious price-gouging investigation.

Steve: You do haev the authority - it's called the attorney general's office.

Biden: Take away the subsidy.

Tim: But that will raise the price!

*

We now move into the second half of the debate, where questions will come from the audience. The candidates are no longer standing at lecterns, but sitting in chairs.

Andrew: It's debate unplugged.

*

Jenny wants to know what each candidate would do to rebuild the military.

Kucinich: [blah blah blah]

Blitzer: But what would you do to rebuild the military?

Kucinich: Cut military spending. End the U.S. commitment to war as an instrument of diplomacy.

Blitzer: Senator Obama, you want to increase the size of the U.S. military by almost 100,000 troops. That's going to cost billions and billions of dollars.

Andrew: Here's an idea: Let's stop invading and occupying countries!

Dodd: [blah blah blah]

Blitzer: But is there a specific . . .

Dodd: [blah blah blah}

Steve: He's so not going to be VP either.

*

Polly wants to know how each candidate would deal with Iran.

Andrew: Stop them from copying all those Justin TImberlake and Madonna CDs in violation of the copyright act.

Blitzer: What if diplomacy fails?

Andrew: Then we nuke them.

AK: then we nuke htem.

*

Jeffrey wants to know about Darfur.

Richardson: Maybe we won't go to the Olympics.

Andrew: Boycott the Darfur Olympics?

Dodd: I think that goes too far. We're electing the most important leader in the world.

Steve: We're electing Bob Dylan?

Andrew: According to Q magazine, it's the Smiths.

*

A former salon owner asks about the economy.

Richardson: I created 20 million jobs.

Andrew: And a lot of them were in hair dressing.

Richardson: [blah blah blah]

Steve: He's dozing off during his own answer.

Dodd: [blah blah blah]

*

Question about what each would do in their first hundred days in office.

Edwards: Travel the world to re-establish moral authority.

Beachwood consensus: You don't travel the world as your first order of business.

Clinton: Bring our troops home.

Obama: That would be the number one priority. Second is health care.

Steve: He had to try to one-up her.

Richardson: Pre-school for every American, whole-kindergarten.

Steve: Right. Your top priority is getting all Americans into pre-K. He's such a putz.

Biden: End the war in Iraq. Move to defuse Iran. Defuse the Korean Peninsula.

Kucinich: Get rid of nuclear weapons, cancel NAFTA, cancel the WTO.

Tim: I have no doubt that his first 100 days would be pretty busy.

Gravel: They could end the war if they . . . .

Dodd: Restore constitutional rights.

Steve: Dodd finally got one right.

*

In the aftermath, Andrew told a story about being president of all the high school clubs, including the Radio-Controlled Aircraft Club. Then we watched the end of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, particularly marveling at the pretty wicked pirate hat Hamilton had to wear at the seafood place, and trying to get a fix on the careers of Phoebe Cates and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Then, good Americans as we are, we moved on to the Beachwood proper for a Leinie's and some pool.

*

Evaluation: Obama didn't do bad, but he's missing heft. Hillary did pretty good except for the war vote. Biden had a very good night. Kucinich was Kucinich - right a lot of the time, but also a bit too peace-y. Gravel spoke the truth. Dodd is a dudd. Richardson looks worse every time he opens his mouth. Hamilton was awesome when he foiled that robbery.

*

Previously on Mystery Debate Theater:

- The Democrats: Episode 1.

- The Republicans: Episode 1.

- The Republicans: Episode 2.

Posted by Lou at 06:20 AM | Permalink

The Cub Factor

Wow. What an ugly week in Cubs history. The only thing that would have been better would have been for things to have gotten even uglier - we'd like to see Carlos Zambrano and Michael Barrett go at it again to determine who stays and who goes. And we think a few other fights within the Cubs family would be productive. Let's take a look.

BIG Z vs. LITTLE B

Tale of the tape: Zambrano 6'5" 255. Barrett 6' 3" 210.
Advantage: Big Z.

Offense: Barrett is a good offensive catcher, Zambrano hits great for a pitcher but his actual pitching this year has been offensive.
Advantage: Little B.

Defense: Zambrano fields his position effectively. Barrett does not.
Advantage: Big Z.

Speed: Zambrano runs well for a big guy. Barrett runs well for a slow guy.
Advantage: Big Z.

God: Barrett believes in God. Zambrano believes he talks to God.
Advantage: Little B.

Makeup: Barrett is dumb as a box of Mars rocks. Zambrano is emotional as a chick from Venus.
Advantage: Neither.

Conclusion: Trade 'em both, and throw Piniella into the package too. Maybe for this guy. The grenade thing is a classic; Lou is still kicking his hat.

*

Other Cubs fights we'd like to see.

Jacque Jones vs. Himself: Oops, he's already fighting himself every at-bat.
Winner: The Cubs after they finally unload him.

Lou Piniella vs. Jim Hendry: Lou should have known better, but we'd still like to see him pummel Hendry for creating this mess.
Winner: Lou would kick his ass. Then die of a heart attack. He's too old for this shit.

Kerry Wood vs. Mark Prior: Because they are inextricably linked in baseball history.
Winner: Both injured before a winner emerges.

Aramis Ramirez vs. Derrek Lee: Ramirez would throw his punches wildly; Lee would get in front of them anyway.
Winner: Lee for being such a good sport.

Cesar Izturis vs. Daryle Ward: So we could remember what each of them looked like.
Winner: Who cares.

Dusty Baker vs. Jim Hendry: You know Baker wants a piece of him.
Winner: Baker. Especially after Lou softens him up.

Cubs fans vs. Jim Hendry: We deserve a little satisfaction.
Winner: Cubs fans. Hendry's scouting is for shit.

*

Week in Review: The Cubs went 1-5, getting swept by the Marlins and losing two of three to the Braves, all at home. The Slugout in the Dugout was instant Cubs karma, but Uncle Lou's hissy fit was staged, and not very well. Mount Lou has jumped the shark.

Week in Preview: The Cubs go north to Milwaukee for three against the Brewers, and then south to Atlanta for four against the Braves. The Cubs will also travel south in the standings.

Second Basemen Report: We finally have a second baseman. Mark DeRosa started all six games this week at second base. So it took Uncle Lou close to 2 months to play the second baseman that was signed in the off-season to play second base everyday, everyday. That sounds like a plan finally coming together. Even if the Cubs went 1-5 in that stretch.

In former second baseman news, Jose Macias is batting .288 without a home run in 44 games for the Nashville Sounds, the Brewers' AAA affilitate. He is missed.

Sweet and Sour Lou: 32% sweet and 68% sour. Lou is down 10 points on the Sweet-O-Meter this week. Like your real aging Uncle, Lou doesn't like it when your kids fight with each other, but he can't slap them around himself, like the old days, so he gets really drunk at your graduation party and takes it out on poor aunt Sue, whose potato salad just doesn't taste right.

Beachwood Sabermetrics: A complex algorithm performed by the The Cub Factor using all historical data made available by Major League Baseball has determined that the Cubs need to bring a goat-riding black cat to Wrigley Field to break the curse.

Over/Under: Innings until Carlos Zambrano loses it again: +/- 7.

The Cub Factor: Catch up with them all.

Mount Lou: As predicted in last week's Cub Factor, Mount Lou skipped Level Orange and headed straight to Red. Excess magma, however, continues to linger close to the surface. Chauffeurs, bell hops, bus drivers, pilots, equipment managers, and umpires are most directly at risk, and warned to step lightly and wear lava-proof galoshes.

mtlou_green.gif

Posted by Lou at 12:50 AM | Permalink

Chicago In Song: Cubs 'N Roses

In this edition of Chicago In Song, Sinatra's depiction of the city as a sophisticated land of martini-swillers is co-opted by a bluegrass hillbilly; Izzy Stradlin feels safer on the streets of the Windy City than on stage with Guns 'N' Roses; and a Mountain Goat (not a billy goat) curses the Cubs in the lyrics of popular song.

If Frank Had Been a Cowboy/Bob Colladay
One of the things that most amused me about the alt-country music hotbed in Chicago was its sheer unlikeliness. I just found it so fun that the Home of the Blues was a big enough place to also be the Home of Wilco. It taught me something about the bigness of Chicago and the meaninglessness of civic stereotypes - if it's out there in the country, it's in Chicago as well. But in the eyes of the rest of the nation, the city means the exact opposite of country music, alternative or otherwise. In that standard line of thinking, nothing, it seems, could be further from Bill Monroe than Monroe Street.

bob_colladay2.jpgWhich brings us to our first song, a witty number from bluegrass artist Bob Colladay. Bob is a singer, acoustic bass player and guitar picker with an outfit called the Gazaway Mountain Boys out of Reno County, Kansas. Judging from videos of the group posted on the Internet, they mostly play traditional bluegrass in and around Hutchinson, Kansas, alternating their own compositions with such Johnny Cash standards as "Jackson" and "I Still Miss Someone," which Bob performs on stage with wife Tammy Colladay, much like the Man In Black did with June Carter.

But Bob also has a strange affair going on with the ukulele, the instrument he says he loves the most - so much, in fact, that he has invented a "band" that basically seems to be him multi-tracking himself on the uke. He calls it Bobulele. It was in the guise of Bobulele that Colladay penned this amusing take on the man he identifies on his MySpace page as the person he'd most like to meet - Sinatra. It's pretty obvious Bob admires Frank's style, which to him is personified by an early '60s notion of Chicago and Las Vegas. The implication is that the Chicago of Frank and Dino epitomized the kind of martini-swilling, tough-guy savior faire that the rest of the country could only imagine and envy.

But being a bluegrass diehard, in the song, he also wishes Frank were from Texas.

If Frank had been a cowboy
He would have been the king
Sinatra swingin' Texas with a
Little ring-a-ding
He'd have a horse named Dino
And spurs that jingle-jang
He'd still be crooning "My Way"
With just a little twang

Oh, can't you hear him play the Opry
And sing those swingin' hits
He'd be the king of all that sways
While putting on the ritz
He'd sing about Chicago
But he'd be in San Antone
If Frank had been a cowboy
That's where he'd get to roam

Now Frank was quite a singer
And a full-fledged swinger too
If he'd only lived in Texas
He'd been a buck-a-roo
He'd trade casinos for honky tonks
And the Vegas strip for fairs
Yeah, Frank would get 'em swingin'
As they all two-stepped in pairs

Colladay says he recorded the song with a tenor ukulele, a banjo ukulele, and a harmonica. It's a simple, simple number in which he uses a kind of shaky falsetto, but that just heightens its effect because of the total disconnect it produces when it invokes the class of Sinatra. But the thing of it is, Chicago's much more hick than the rest of the country believes thanks to the Rat Pack. In the shadows of the condo towers are windswept lonesome streets full of hillbilly country pickers: Posted right on Bobulele's MySpace page is an ad for the inaugural Chicagoland Ukulele Jam Festival, which is happening Saturday, June 23, at the Legal Grounds Coffee House in Maywood.

Hey, songwriters: We don't have much ring-a-ding left at all anymore, despite the Playboy empire and the ancient Dino vibe. The Outfit got out of swank clubs and into video poker long ago. A more accurate Chicago reference nowadays would be something about beating the spread on the Michigan-Notre Dame game.

Yeah, it's not the same.

Cuttin' the Rug/Izzy Stradlin
Izzy Stradlin left Guns N' Roses in 1991 - the peak of their infamy - after their rock 'n' roll lifestyle proved a bit too much for him. The incident in which he relieved himself in an airplane's galley (the can must have said occupado) put a serio-comic exclamation point on his time with Axl & the boys, and shortly thereafter he sobered up, headed back home to Indiana and proceeded to make a bunch of solo hard-rock records that didn't really attract too much attention.

izzy.jpgWas that because they weren't GNR or because they just weren't that good? Despite the critical praise his early ones got, I'd say a little of both. It's in style now, I think, to play up his importance to GNR as "the quiet one," sort of like their very own George Harrison. But while his die-hard fans say his early solo work, like "Cuttin' the Rug" from Izzy Stradlin and the Ju Ju Hounds, is evidence of that greatness, to me it seems more of a confirmation that GNR was a one-off oddity that was greater than its parts, and Izzy was lucky to be tagging along on the Slash 'n' Axl express. Rather than revealing him as the spiritual equal of his hero Keith Richards as some claim, the well-executed but by-the-numbers blues rock on his first solo album (in 1992) to me exposes his limits as a songwriter and shows just how far an uber-talented frontman like Axl Rose can take mediocre material.

He does resemble Keith Richards in one important way, however - he can't sing. And unlike Keef, he can't play lead guitar either, which is always the saving grace when Glimmer Twin No. 2 does a solo number. On Ju Ju Hounds, pretty much all of the interest comes from the excellent sidemen Stradlin and Geffen Records had assembled, especially Georgia Satellites lead guitarist Rick (not Keith) Richards - who absolutely makes this record - and Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan, who does some tasty bits on the Hammond B3. The album spawned a couple of tracks that gained significant airtime on classic rock stations that just couldn't let the GNR cash train go. But the fact that Geffen dropped Stradlin a couple years later, I think, says a lot about his potential as a solo act. Technically, his stuff is fine if you like this kind of red meat rock. But for the life of me I can't find any evidence here of what's supposed to be the "soul" of GNR. It seems like he's having fun, but so what?

The other Izzy weakness that was easily overlooked with GNR was his rudimentary lyrical skills - obviously not a crucial skill in hard rock, but still, you can't just go out there and scream nonsense for 90 minutes. "Cuttin' the Rug," for instance, doesn't make a whole lot of sense lyrically. But from what I can tell, it's not so much about dancing as (I think) about how it felt for him to be in the middle of the GNR parade of grotesqueries. In the song he references a "riot so big," which I can only assume means the huge disturbance the band caused in 1991 in St. Louis, which happened after he had left the band. He starts out by talking about watching coverage of a riot on TV, probably while detoxing at home in Lafayette, Ind., and his reaction is to imagine an escape from a GNR venue to a safer place: Chicago. (This is the first and I bet only time I'll ever come across Chicago wistfully portrayed a "safe" place in a song lyric. But I guess as opposed to a GNR concert in 1991, it probably was.)

The TV set's a'lookin' grim,
This time a riot so big
I'm feelin' lucky 'cause I got the wheels
Looks like I'm takin' a trip

Head to Chicago, it's close to home
To get a little relief
Don't really need to carry no gun here
Don't need to be packin' no piece

Funny. You need to pack a piece while hanging with GNR. But not in Chicago. Now that's a riot. Then he switches into the well-worn metaphor of Chicago as a center of excitement and nightlife, a lyrical ploy that started in, oh, 1899 or so:

Take a cab, take a bus
And you could walk if you like
Don't really matter, as long as you go
You're gonna feel it alright
All right, say

And if you wanna stay alone
Sure is plenty goin' on
On every corner

Cuttin' the rug
Cuttin' the rug
Kid can't dance
But he's cuttin' the rug
I can almost dance

Yeah, slammin' and jammin'
And cuttin' the rug again
Cut it up, oh

Like I said, this is a good enough song, especially with Richards (Rick) on guitar. It's catchy in a way, but ultimately served to illustrate the Izzy letdown.

The Mountain Goats/Cubs in Five
Nothing like a song comparing the Cubs' chances of winning to some of the greatest unlikelihoods on Earth to get the Chicago In Song juices a'flowin'. And John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats doesn't disappoint in that respect.

john_darnielle.jpgIt's with pleasure that I found indie lo-fi stalwart and master lyricist Darnielle's take on something Chicago. And better yet: It's about the Cubs. I even found a YouTube video of the Mountain Goats playing "Cubs in Five." It's hard to beat the authentic feel of the Cubs fan here - the resigned knowledge that winning a pennant is about as likely as Mayor Daley losing an election. I've got to say that this one of the more accurate CIS entries so far.

They're gonna find intelligent life up there on the moon
And the
Canterbury Tales will rocket up to the top of the bestseller list
And stay there for 27 weeks

And the Chicago Cubs will beat every team in the league
And the Tampa Bay Bucs will make it all the way to January

And I will love you again
I will love you, just like I used to
I will love you again
I will love you, just like I used to

The stars are gonna spell out the answers to tomorrow's crosswords
And the Phillips Corporation will admit that they've made an awful mistake
And Bill Gates
Will single-handedly spearhead the Heaven 17 revival

And I will love you again
I will love you, just like I used to
I will love you again
I will love you, just like I used to


God, I love it. All I can say about this song is, sometimes this job is worth it.

*

Check out the Chicago In Song collection. Contact Don Jacobson at don@beachwoodreporter.com.

Posted by Don at 12:29 AM | Permalink

June 02, 2007

The Weekend Desk Report

Market Update
Tension in the global markets eased this week as a long-held economic theory was once again proved correct: America can be counted on to under-perform in sectors Americans don't really care about. Domestic manufacturers, however, took heart in recently-released figures showing we can still out-perform Canada without even really trying.

When You Care Enough . . .
In further economic news, Hallmark announced this week plans to supplement its new, modern-themed Journeys line with a limited run of "Sorry I may have unwittingly infected you with drug-resistant TB" cards. Always sensitive to changing demands, the company is also considering adding "Sorry County Jail is a festering death-trap" and "Nice to see you out of quarantine" designs for fall.

The Soda Wars
Sudanese officials have found a creative way to hit back at proposed U.S. sanctions, threatening to unleash a campaign of wide-spread health on the American populace. While the US government initially played down the potential impact, the threat level was raised to Mountain Dew Code Red when Starbuck's shockingly took up the Sudanese cause. Department of Homeland Security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, warn that without an immediate response all of the nation's potable fluids could be nutritious by the year 2009.

Talking the Talk
Meanwhile, President Bush has announced plans to safeguard the nation from meaningful environmental reform through the end of next year.

Walking the Walk
In marked contrast to the national government's chronic foot-dragging, Chicago took a major step in its plan to become America's greenest city this week by attempting to eliminate a major source of noise pollution. Unfortunately, the sheer number of high-profile blowhards in town makes light of current efforts.

It Does Love Company
And in other news, duh.

Posted by Natasha at 06:55 AM | Permalink

June 01, 2007

The [Friday] Papers

"Though Democrats control the House, Senate and governor's office, the party's iron grip on power turned arthritic Thursday when it failed to pass a state budget, dropped the ball on utility rate relief and lurched the gridlocked legislature toward overtime," the Sun-Times nicely summarizes for us this morning.

"Among the potential casualties from the party's stunning Statehouse implosion were consumers facing skyrocketing power bills, homeowners coping with soaring property taxes and uninsured Illinoisans banking on Gov. Blagojevich's stalled universal health insurance plan.

"'I've been in this building through five governors, and this is the most rudderless ship of Illinois government I've ever seen,' said Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale)."

Rod's #3
A faithful reader adds Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher to the short-list of state chief executives worse than Blagojevich. The other is Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons. But Rod still has time. After all, there's that pending indictment.

Starstruck
NBC's Brian Williams spent his day in Chicago on Thursday and anchored his evening news program from here. Local affiliate Channel 5 then spent a good portion of the top of its newscast following Williams around and interviewing such fascinating colleagues as the producer who assured us that just because Williams was in Chicago, major news such as developments in Iraq wouldn't be forgotten. Whew.

Daleystruck
Over at Channel 2, Antonio Mora gasped with awe that the mayor had delivered "an impressive new weapon" to the Chicago Police Department: a $2.1 million helicopter secured with Homeland Security funds.

I'm pretty sure that's a waste of money, but I don't know for certain because there's no evidence Channel 2 - or anyone else - bothered to do any reporting to flesh it out.

Helicopter Hack
Fran Spielman retypes the press release.

ObamaCare
Barack Obama's campaign sent out an e-mail claiming that the candidate's health care proposal "guarantees coverage for every American," with Obama himself saying "My plan begins by covering every American."

Funny, but I had just read how it doesn't. In his own words.

Worse, by my reading of it, Obama's plan takes care (sort of) those most in need last.

Moneybags Barack
"Democratic White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama is on a fund-raising binge," Lynn Sweet reports.

Obama has scheduled fundraisers nearly every day for the next month.

Daley Dose
$12 million corruption tax approved.

Daley Dosage
"At an unrelated event Thursday, Daley was less than enthusiastic about discussing the topic with reporters," the Tribune reports. "Asked why the latest, anti-patronage push would succeed where previous efforts have flopped, the mayor would only say that 'it's going to work.' Pressed to say why he thought so, Daley repeated the same one-sentence answer."

Mail Call
"Records that Chicago postal workers use to deliver the mail contain more than 84,000 errors - one of the major reasons mail delivery in the city is such a mess, postal officials told a congressional subcommittee Thursday," the Tribune reports.

"Faulty records, outdated equipment, poor supervision and the 'overall work culture' were among the explanations provided for the decline of Chicago's mail operation."

I know of a helicopter that maybe they could use.

Opposite of Faith
"The crashing sound you just heard was Jesus banging his head against the wall of his office," Cathleen Falsani writes.

Sweet and Sour Lou
Is Lou Piniella considering quitting? Or does he just want to take a nap?

This Week in Beachwood
What you may have missed.

* Scott Buckner tours downtown Chicago.

* New taxicab reviews.

* Reviewing the book reviews.

* This week's Cub Factor.

* And from the archives: A Trademark Checklist.

That's all for today, watch for the Weekend Desk Report tomorrow and I'll be back on Monday.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Nice and easy.

Posted by Lou at 08:14 AM | Permalink

Cab #6422

Date Taken: 5/23/07
From: Navy Pier
To: Wicker Park

The Cab: Scented by Royal Pine. A little light shining above the driver's ID tag. A "No Smoking" sign in silver lettering on red background circa 1975 tacked onto the divider. Stevie Ray Vaughn playing on low volume. His stuff really doesn't work that way.

The Driver: He can't really be bothered. His mind is on just about everything else but his job. But he's such a pro he doesn't need to think about his driving; that he does by instinct.

The Driving: Driver #6422 is one of those pros who uses every inch of available roadway and attendant vertical air rights - and with increasing speed while manuevering in open space visible only to himself. I would be more impressed if he wasn't also an inveterate stop-and-goer of the mega-lurch variety. Our tires squeal every time the light turns green. And yet, not a very entertaining ride.

Overall rating: 2 extended arms.

- Steve Rhodes

*

There are more than 6,000 cabs in the city of Chicago. We intend to review every one of them.

Posted by Lou at 12:47 AM | Permalink

Coast to Coast

A mix tape.

1. Anchorage/Michelle Shocked. She walked across that burning bridge.

2. Come a Long Way/Michelle Shocked. Her 920's gonna take her far today.

3.This Note's For You/Neil Young and the Bluetones. The real thing, baby.

4. Friends of P/The Rentals. If you're down with P, then you're down with me.

5. Miss Therapy/The Billy's. The Billy's were sort of a Gear Daddies-esque Minneapolis band not really alt enough for alt-country or indie enough for indie rock, but earnest and quirky and a band that would've made it in a better universe.

6. -3F/The Billy's. That was the quirky, this is the earnest. Both work.

7.My Maria/Gear Daddies. One of the all-time great Minneapolis bands take on the B.W. Stevenson classic. I'm a lonely dreamer, lonely highway in the skies.

8. 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)/Bruce Springsteen. He sang what we felt; the pier lights, our carnival life forever. No matter where we lived, we all lived on that pier.

9. Dodge/Dog's Eye View. An amazing cover of the Vic Chesnutt song, from the second Sweet Relief record, The Gravity of the Situation: The Songs of Vic Chesnutt. With the classic line, "I've done shit everywhere there is to eat." If you don't own any Chesnutt, this record isn't a bad introduction.

10. Ventura Highway/America. Rightfully occupies a place among the great songs that evoke not only living in L.A. and California, but in the yearning to do so.

11. Across the Great Divide/Semisonic. Before annoyingly hitting it big with "Closing Time," Semisonic put out this buoyant and funky record with just enough dark edges to warrant extended play. This is the title track. Lo and behold, bandleader Dan Wilson won a Grammy this year for co-writing the Dixie Chicks song "Not Ready to Make Nice." Semisonic grew out of Trip Shakespeare, whose "Toolmaster of Brainerd" is in the pantheon of great Minnesota songs.

*

See the Beachwood Playlist collection.

Posted by Lou at 12:35 AM | Permalink

PressNotes: Impotence, Goths, & Roy Lichtenstein

News from Chicago's academic presses, and other intellectual developments.

1. UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO

Off the Presses
* Impotence: A Cultural History. By Angus McLaren.

* Aguecheek's Beef, Belch's Hiccup, and Other Gastronomic Interjections: Literature. Culture, and Food Among the Early Moderns. By Robert Applebaum.

* Wannabes, Goths, and Christians : The Boundaries of Sex, Style, and Status.. By Amy C. Wilkins.

* Chicago's Urban Nature: A Guide to the City's Architecture + Landscape. By Sally A. Kitt Chappell.

See/Do
* Theater: Arcadia. By Tom Stoppard
Through: June 3rd, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m, Friday at 8 p.m, Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., Sunday at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
At: Court Theater, 5535 S. Ellis Ave.

* Workshop: "Conference on the Legal Implications of the New Research on Happiness."
On: June 1st and 2nd, from 9 a.m. - 5:10 p.m.
At: University of Chicago Law School, Room D, 1111 E. 60th.

* Exhibit: "Living Modern: German and Austrian Art and Design, 1890-1933."
Through: September 7, 2007, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
At: Smart Museum of Art, 5550 S. Greenwood Ave.

2. NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY

Off the Presses
* Postal Indiscretion: The Correspondence of Tadeusz Borowski. By Tadeusz Drewnowski.

* Foucault's Askesis: An Introduction to the Philosophical Life. By Edward F. McGushin.

See/Do

* Workshop: "Chinese and Japanese Participation in Chicago's Two World Fairs," presented by Humanities Library Fellow Andrea Stamm.
On: June 4th, at 4 p.m.
At: Humanities Seminar Room, 2010 Sheridan Road.

* Exhibition: "Roy Lichtenstein Prints, 1956-97."
Through: June 17th.
At: Block Museum of Art, 40 Arts Circle, Evanston.

3. DE PAUL UNIVERSITY

See/Do

* Listen: "De Paul Symphony Orchestra and Holland America Music Society Cello Competition Finalists : Tchaikovsky: Rococo Variations. Haydn: Concerto in C."
On: June 5th, at 8 p.m.
At: De Paul Concert Hall, 800 W. Belden.

4. LOYOLA UNIVERSITY

See/Do

* Lecture: "Freedom from the Riven Earth: Karol Wojtyla's Path to Mature Love." Loyola professor Dennis Martin's discussion of the play The Jeweler's Shop, written in Poland during German occupation.
On: June 5th, at 6 p.m.
At: Simpson Lecture Hall, 820 N. Michigan Ave.
Cost: $5.

*

Previously in PressNotes:

- Ink, Blood & Dictionaries.

Posted by Lou at 12:28 AM | Permalink

MUSIC - Smells like tech spirit.
TV - It's A So-Called Wonderful Life.
POLITICS - Inside Obama's internal report.
SPORTS - Down the Bears memory hole.

BOOKS - Beachwood's best books of the year.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Australia 2008 in Review.

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