Journalism · Uncategorized

Save the Sun-Times

Thirty years ago, the Chicago White Sox announced plans to move to Florida. Governor Jim Thompson knew the loss would diminish the city’s stature.

He also realized he would be held responsible if the Sox left. In June, 1988, with assistance from Speaker Michael Madigan, “Big Jim” twisted enough legislator’s arms to keep the White Sox on the south side.

The point: Keeping Chicago as one of two cites (with New York) with two big league teams was/is a big deal and was worth fighting for.

You know what else is a big deal and worth fighting for?

Having two high-quality daily newspapers.

Yesterday’s Tweet from a reporter at the Sacramento (CA) Bee is a reminder of the state of the newspaper industry.

In Chicago, significant numbers of reporters and editors at both the Tribune and the Sun-Times have been dismissed in recent years.

Five years ago, due to economic pressures (and bad management), the Sun-Times fired all of its photographers, though a few were later rehired. The paper itself has many fewer reporters than it did a decade ago.

But the Sun-Times, with new management, is still here and fighting for survival.

At the Tribune, a much bigger paper, the exit door has been seeing a lot of activity in  recent years, with the latest exodus occurring last month.

It marked the second round of layoffs in five months under publisher and editor-in-chief Bruce Dold. In October Dold cited “significant financial pressure” facing the news industry in cutting a reported 14 positions.

A financially healthy Sun-Times will help protect the Tribune as well. Tribune reporters have decided to form a union to protect the newsroom from the paper’s management. That management, unsurprisingly, has decided to fight the union organizing effort.

Without competition, the Tribune will have no incentive to make peace with the union or to stop diverting newspaper revenues from the newsroom to executives. Saving the Sun-Times means TWO quality papers for Chicago.

We need to save journalism by paying for it.

Two papers staffed with reporters committed to the public’s right to know, who keep each other honest while informing the rest of us, help protect our democracy from those who would prefer we remain clueless.

While a number of individuals or organizations fit that description, no matter who you are or who you do/don’t trust, the point is the same: We need reporters who will ferret out the truth and deliver it to us.

Good journalism has value and must be paid for, so please subscribe.

If past editorial positions are keeping you from subscribing, please reconsider.

The Sun-Times is under new management, including support from organized labor. This  coincides with a new trend of publishing editorials supportive of working people.

Don’t be the person who helped kill democracy by allowing journalism to die. Support your local paper and consider supporting the Sun-Times. Choose home delivery or online access, but please subscribe NOW.

Below are links to the top ten (by circulation) newspapers in Illinois. You can google your area’s paper, if you don’t see it.

As another paper likes to say, “Democracy Dies in Darkness.”

Let’s keep the lights on.

1.   Chicago Tribune

2.Chicago Sun-Times

3.   Hoy

4.   Journal Star

5.   Daily Herald – Cook County

6.   Belleville News-Democrat

7.   The State Journal-Register

8.   Rockford Register Star

9.   Dispatch/Argus

10. The Pantagraph

McBarronBlog Bonus:

Imagine Chicago without the Sun-Times

Uncategorized

Teachers, students, parents wasted their time talking to President Trump

Cw_k5phVIAACeeNFor a moment on Wednesday I thought President Trump gave a damn about the danger posed to all Americans, including school children and teachers, by the easy access to guns in the United States.

I thought he might have actually been paying attention during Wednesday’s “listening session” at the White House, where the parents and classmates of the Florida school shooting victims poured their hearts out to him. They spoke eloquently, angrily and tearfully about their pain and their passionate belief there are too many guns, too easily obtained, especially weapons capable of killing dozens of people within seconds.

The President said the right things Wednesday, showing, for maybe the first time as president, a little bit of empathy.

Trump told the group he would “do something about this horrible situation that’s going on” in America, and that he hoped to “figure it out together” with those students, teachers and parents gathered at the White House.

“We don’t want others to go through the kind of pain that you’ve gone through,” Trump said.

It was a different story Thursday, when the President voiced support for countering the problem of guns in schools by having teachers bring more guns into schools.

President Donald Trump on Thursday expanded on his idea to train and arm some teachers with guns, suggesting that firearm-adept school staff be given “a little bit of a bonus” for carrying weapons, and promising federal funds to train them.

At a White House discussion on school safety solutions with state and local officials, Trump said “highly adept people … who understand weaponry” could carry guns in schools, estimating that 10 to 40 percent of teachers could be qualified for such a task. Those who are would undergo “rigorous training,” he said, later adding that he’d consider offering federal money for that effort.

Though on Wednesday, he said he wanted to “figure it out” with teachers and students, by Thursday it was clear the only voice he hears is that of the National Rifle Association (NRA).

The NRA answer to every problem is “more guns,” which makes sense because the NRA is the marketing and lobbying arm of the gun manufacturers. Anything that reduces the number of guns sold is bad for business.

Arming teachers could mean 720,000 more guns in schools., so you can see why the NRA told Trump to float the idea, which was immediately rejected by the nation’s largest education employees union. NEA President Lily Eskelsen-Garcia, said more guns into schools does nothing to protect students and educators from gun violence.

“Our students need more books, art and music programs, nurses and school counselors; they do not need more guns in their classrooms. Parents and educators overwhelmingly reject the idea of arming school staff. Educators need to be focused on teaching our students. We need solutions that will keep guns out of the hands of those who want to use them to massacre innocent children and educators. Arming teachers does nothing to prevent that.

A post on the issue on the IEA Facebook Page generated more than 500 comments in less than 24 hours, virtually all of them in opposition.

A sampling:

  • If teachers become armed I am leaving the profession.
  • #ArmMeWith enough school psychologists, social workers, & teaching assistants to ensure my students are getting all of the help they need before it becomes too much for them.
  • NOPE. Stop leaving problems created by society as a whole at the feet of teachers and expecting us to fix them on our own. Society created this issue. Society needs to fix it. People can’t budge on their guns but expect teachers and kids to fight off attackers? Insane. And teachers would probably be required to fund it on their own.
  • Not surprised by his ignorance. I will not be forced to carry a gun at school! Just as lawmakers are unwilling to amend the 2nd Amendment, I will not allow it to infringe on my rights as a teacher!
  • I grew up in a gun collector’s home and was taught from a young age just how serious they are by my father who worked in Chicago emergency rooms. As a middle-school teacher and union president, I do not want them introduced into my school unless they are in the hands of trained law enforcement, not those of my coworkers, and especially not in my hands.
  • The people best prepared to deal with this issue–our enforcement officers in this nation–believe this is not a good solution. I just heard the Sheriff of Broward County where the Florida school shooting took place said this idea of arming teachers is not a good idea.

Offering to bribe teachers to carry guns is classic Trump. He knows teachers will never go for a plan to give them weapons. That’s not why they became teachers.

But the thing is He doesn’t care.

Now he’ll say, “I offered a solution, teachers didn’t like it, we’re done.” As far as he’s concerned, that gets him off the hook.

Status quo, the position always favored by the NRA, remains in place.

Let’s hope everyone outraged by last week’s violence in Florida will remain angry in November.

The president won’t be on the ballot. However, many of his enablers will.

McBarronBlog Bonus

This president can’t relate to people whose focus is not on “making money.” This explains the meeting Trump had with the national Teachers of the Year at the White House last year, which the Washington Post described as “weird.”

 

Uncategorized

Oh say, did you see that Anthem performance?

Had it been a fight, Fergie’s performance of the National Anthem at Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game would have been stopped by “the dawn’s early light.”

Twitter was not kind.

It seems foolish to get too exercised over this latest Anthem insult. After all, the song itself is, at the least, controversial.

The lyrics to The Star-Spangled Banner were written by Francis Scott Key, a slaveowner. He was celebrating the failure of the British to conquer Baltimore in the War of 1812.

And

The words were set To Anacreon in Heaven, an awkward tune appropriate for inebriation, which is how it was usually sung.

Though I’ve always thought it silly to perform it before every sporting event, I remain an Anthem fan. It’s how I was raised. There’s nothing wrong with putting your own spin on the song, if your talent and your heart are in the right places.

Any list of great Anthem performances must include the lengthy but incredibly soulful version by Marvin Gaye at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game.

Fifteen years earlier, Jose’ Feliciano was a little too soulful for the time. His expressive performance at the 1968 World Series resulted in death threats and calls for the Puerto Rican-American singer to be “deported.”

My favorite Anthem performance took place in Portland on April 25, 2003, prior to a NBA Playoff game between the hometown Trailblazers and the Dallas Mavericks.

The scheduled singer that night was 13-year-old Natalie Gilbert who, in true, “the show must go on” fashion, decided to take the mic despite having spent the day in bed with the flu.

In retrospect, that was a mistake. Yet, something wonderful happened.

That Anthem performance shows how things ought to be in America. When we see someone struggling, we should accept the risk that we could look silly and we lend a hand.

It doesn’t matter that Trailblazers coach Mo Cheeks couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. He saw a young girl who needed help and stepped in.

That clip gets me, every time. And I’ve watched it a lot.

That’s leadership.

Sadly, Mo Cheeks wasn’t nearby when a man who pontificates about patriotism drew a blank on the words to the anthem of the country he’s supposed to be leading.

At least Fergie knows the words.

When performed with sincerity, the Anthem can be quite moving.

When things go awry, the Anthem can either give us a window into the heart of those who talk a good game about patriotism but don’t feel it, or it can show us something great about America.

Thank you, Mo Cheeks.

Happy President’s Day.

# # #

McBarronBlog Bonus

One of the most “unorthodox”performances of the Anthem took place at the 1969 Woodstock Festival. Former US Airman Jimi Hendrix said he just wanted to share something “beautiful.”

It might be hard to believe, but the Anthem was not always played before every sporting event

In his stand-up days, Albert Brooks ruminated about the possible rewriting of the National Anthem

Uncategorized

Resolve to ignore fake news in 2018

Happy-New-year-2018-Images-1-1024x538 2

It wasn’t merely that the news itself was bad in 2017 though, mostly, it was.

But it was also a bad year for the news media. Here in Illinois, citizens, once again and in increasing quantities, were fed a daily ration of BS by the “Illinois Policy Institute,” an organization dedicated to the eradication of unions, the privatization of public education and to the enrichment of the state’s wealthiest people at the expense of those on lower rungs of the economic ladder.

This organization (its leaders prefer IPI be called “The Institute” – we won’t be doing that) officially refuses to divulge who funds it, though we’re certain the Koch Brothers are involved and we know an early funder was a guy who made a fortune off the teacher pensions he wants to eliminate.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner has donated more than $500,000 to the Illinois Policy Institute over the last five years. The institute, which bills itself as a free-market, liberty-based organization, promotes a range of policies and has writers in an offshoot called the Illinois News Network, which provides stories free of charge to newspapers.

After the legislature approved a new state budget for the first time in more than two years, former state legislator James Nowlan analyzed the work of IPI’s “analysts” and their “conclusion-driven” reports.

By that, I mean the IPI first establishes its ideological conclusion, to wit: Illinois could have enacted its recent budget without a tax increase. Then, the so-called analysts go out in search of narrative to buck up the conclusion.

and

The IPI “budget solution” is not to save or cut huge amounts but simply to shift, massively, state responsibilities onto the backs of its local governments. Their proposal would, for example, shift at least $2.5 billion in teacher and professor pension responsibilities off the state ledger books and onto local school districts and universities.

The IPI tools for BS distribution include social media and spokespeople claiming to be experts. Their pronouncements are, too often, presented to the public as “news” by people who, as journalists, should protect their consumers from unfettered nonsense.
For example, the Editorial Page of the Chicago Tribune regularly features editorials from IPI sources. Similarly, the TV show Chicago Tonight allows IPI spokespeople, long on ideology but short on credentials, to appear as “experts” on taxation, economics and government.
More recently, the IPI has spread its tentacles into broadcasting by purchasing the Illinois Radio Network. As is the IPI M-O, “news stories” are offered at no charge to radio stations statewide.
Among the stations now airing IPI propaganda is one of Springfield’s top news and information outlets, WMAY Radio. (full disclosure: I was a WMAY news reporter from 1982-85)
In an interview with columnist Bernie Schoenberg, WMAY general manager Harvey Wells defended the IRN association, apparently believing an organization that exists solely to advocate for its anti-tax, anti-union agenda, purchased an unprofitable statewide radio network in order to deliver fair, balanced, journalistically sound information.
He said it was made clear to the station the policy institute and INN/IRN are separate entities. He also said the station isn’t using some weekly programming from IRN — just news that can be chosen, story by story, by the station.
There certainly is a financial advantage to the arrangement. “Nothing” is always a good price and that is what WMAY and other IRN stations are paying to air, as news, IPI propaganda. It allows the station to sound “bigger” at no cost.
The price paid for the acceptance of free “news” is that true journalists can suddenly seem prohibitively, or at least unnecessarily, expensive.
Why buy news when you can get “news” for free?
In 1987, 44 journalists representing 27 news organizations were Illinois Statehouse reporters. In the most recent edition of the state government “Blue Book,” 14 journalists representing 13 independent news organization are listed as members of the Illinois Legislative Correspondents Association.
Not every news operation airing IPI propaganda is in cahoots with the dark money group.
For example, despite the IPI BS regularly printed on the Tribune editorial/opinion page, the paper continues to publish journalists delivering accurate and fair reports.
At the Tribune, there exists a metaphorical “wall” between the newsroom and the editorial board room. It is safe to assume that much that appears in the Tribune’s news section irritates the folks in the board room. That’s how it’s supposed to work.
WMAY continues to employ independent and outspoken hosts who “call them as they see them,” but to claim a wall exists between the IPI and its in-house news operations would be laughable if it wasn’t so dangerous to the public good.
So, in in the interests of keeping journalism alive, the following resolution for 2018 is offered:
Whereas, a misinformed public cannot be expected to make decisions protecting  democracy and our Constitution,
Whereas, the Koch Brothers, Bruce Rauner and the Illinois Policy Institute have made the eradication of public employee unions, the privatization of public education, the reduction or elimination of services for the poor, sick , elderly and children their primary goals, 
Be it resolved that I, as a news consumer in 2018, will strive to remember that  reports from the Illinois Radio Network and the Illinois News Network are propaganda intended to further the agenda of the Illinois Policy Institute, Gov. Rauner and the Koch Brothers,
Be it further resolved that, when I receive BS, via newspaper or broadcast, I will contact the newspaper or station and let then know that I expect journalism from  the news and, if I don’t get it, I will will stop supporting advertisers who support attacks on our democracy,
Be it also resolved that, as a free and independent news media is crucial in a democracy, in 2018 I will support journalism by purchasing subscriptions and supporting the advertisers of stations, papers and e-publications that continue to deliver high quality, fair and accurate journalism.
If we pay attention, the truth, the facts, will prevail.
Happy NEWS year!
# # #

McBarronBlog Bonus

Uncategorized

Doubling down on the $2 bill

Nicknames for popular paper currency are often based on the person whose face appears on the front: A $10 bill is a “Hamilton,” the $100 bill is a “Franklin” or a “Benjamin.”
Unless you spend a lot of time at the $2 betting window at a race track you probably don’t know who’s on the $2 bill, a denomination accounting for just 3 percent of currency in circulation.
In March 1862, the first $2 bill was issued as a Legal Tender Note (United States Note) with a portrait of Alexander Hamilton; the portrait of Hamilton used was a profile view and is not the same portrait used currently for the $10 bill.
By 1869, the $2 United States Note was redesigned with the now familiar portrait of Thomas Jefferson. 
Let’s agree the $2 bill, aka the “Tom,” is quite attractive.

wbe0zsulqjg30dul4c9jma.jpg

img_0754.jpg

Lovely, yet rare. The $2 bill is a victim of it’s specialness. 

Everyone who deals with American money—even people who dedicate very little thought to the matter—knows that $2 bills are something worth commenting on. They’re something worth commenting on because they aren’t seen very much. They aren’t seen very much because they aren’t printed very often. They aren’t printed very often because people are disinclined to use them. People are disinclined to use them because they are thought to be special—or sometimes even fake—because of how rare they are. 

Hoarding the bills is a problem, but the biggest barrier acceptance is that cash registers aren’t designed to receive/store $2 bills. The Tom will fade away unless we resolve to obtain and spend them.

I am joining the ranks of “Tom ambassadors,” a group of brave Americans trying to bring the $2 bill back into common use by…using it.

The movement has many enemies. TIME last year printed an anti-Tom op-ed. Also, there are active Tom hoarders participating in an insane savings system.

It will take time to resurrect the Tom. The $2 bill’s reputation reached an all-time low in 1966, when the Treasury decided to halt printing of the bills despite the fact they are a proven money saver:

Today, for example, it costs about 5 cents to make a dollar … and it costs the same amount to make a 2. Since the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing presses upwards of 4 billion $1 bills a year, that adds up to a lot of … coin.

The Tom made a comeback ten years later as part of the 1976 Bicentennial celebration. Unfortunately, they were so attractive and “special,” people kept them instead of spending them. They continue to be printed, but not often spent.

While America will be a better country if people acquire and spend $2 bills, let’s be clear: If you are paying a premium for $2 bills, you’re doing it wrong.

screen-shot-2017-12-17-at-10-18-58-am-e1513622929333.png

You can get tons of Toms, AT FACE VALUE, at your bank. Just walk in an ask if they have any $2 bills, then buy them. If they don’t have any, ask them to order some for you.

If you need incentive, the producer of The $2 Bill Documentary has found Toms get a reaction, 

“If you start tipping waiters and waitresses and valets, they’re going to remember who you are and the next time you come in if you keep doing it, you’re going to get better service. This has been proven to me several times when I use them. It’s a way to get remembered, it’s a way to stand out.”

The key to success is to spend Toms. We can do this!

I thank you. Tom thanks you two too.

McBarronBlog Bonus:

A truly amazing $2 bill story

Trailer: The $2 Bill Documentary

Two Buckaroo – a blog focused on the Tom

Uncategorized

It’s Sammy Davis Jr.’s birthday – give yourself a present

dAHJKKgsRMO23jzpAQGglg

On this date in 1925, the greatest entertainer ever produced in the United States was born.

If you’re not a Sammy Davis Jr. fan, or aren’t at least open-minded about popular music of the mid-20th century, stop reading now.

Parts of Sammy Davis Jr.’s, story are well known; how he was born in Harlem and was dancing on stage with his father in the Will Mastin Trio by the time most kids are learning to walk. At age 7, he starred in a Vitaphone Short.

Screen Shot 2017-12-08 at 8.48.20 AM
Rufus Jones for President (1933)

In ensuing years, Davis and the Trio went through personal and show business ups and downs. Davis eventually went solo and, beginning in the 1950s, attained nightclub, TV, Broadway, and movie stardom. He also became a member of the famed “Rat Pack.

2c75d78b438b54b4ff623e190dea9a55

Though his talent was never doubted, Davis was very “show biz.”  As a result, he wasn’t always taken seriously as an artist and occasionally was the subject of parody.

If the Neru jacket-wearing, finger-snapping, jazz hipster-talking guy who punctuates every sentence with “man” is the image that comes to mind when the name Sammy Davis Jr. is spoken, you haven’t heard Sammy Davis Jr. sings, Laurindo Almeida plays.

This long-forgotten album from 1966 is simply Davis accompanied by a single acoustic guitar, played by Brazilian jazz guitarist Almeida.  Everything about it is amazing.

Though famous for his dynamic “I’ve gotta be me” performing style, on this album Davis couldn’t be more relaxed and the recording could not be more intimate. Davis takes his time on well-known standards and, truly, makes them his own, including some famously recorded previously by his friend Frank Sinatra.

Since I first learned of this album’s existence more than a decade ago, I’ve been on a quest to find a perfect copy on vinyl.

fullsizeoutput_6888

I’m still searching, but there is a terrific remastered CD that you can look for.

The bad news is, it’s out of print and pricey. The good news is, it’s worth it.

If you don’t believe me, listen.

Celebrate Sammy Davis’ birthday by giving yourself the gift of hearing a great, underrated singer at his absolute best.

McBarronBlog Bonus:

Wikipedia: Sammy Davis Jr.  

2006 NPR review of the remastered CD: A Song-and-Dance Man, Reconsidered 

Vitaphone Short – Rufus Jones for President (1933)

Davis loved to take chances. Here he performs a medley of songs from West Side Story accompanied only by bongos.

In one of this last TV appearances, on Late Night with David LettermanI Can’t Get Started.

Uncategorized

Chipping away at Cooperstown’s “character clause”

Until recently, I was adamantly opposed to allowing Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens and other proven steroid “cheaters” to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.

My opposition was based on the way these players shredded the baseball record book.

Before steroids, team and league records were only sporadically approached and were rarely reached or exceeded because, through the eras, players remained about the same size with about the same skills. They improved, but incrementally.

The “great” players among the “good” players were the future Hall of Famers.

Along came steroids and suddenly, after undergoing major physical changes, very good  or even great, players became great home run hitters. In Clemens’ case, a pitcher in his mid-30s, who appeared to have reached the end of a great career, became dominant again in his late 30s and early 40s.

That doesn’t happen without help.

McGwire

BB

roger

Rules for getting into the Hall include what is often called the “character clause.” 

“Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.

The “character clause” kept these superstars out of the Hall of Fame despite statistics that dwarf those of most of the Hall’s members.

What makes the exclusion of the “steroid cheaters” problematic is that the Hall, from the beginning, has admitted some pretty terrible people. For example, look at Cap Anson.

Anson starred for the 19th century Chicago National League team, then called the White Stockings, and had a long-lasting impact on Major League Baseball.

“An 1883 exhibition game in Toledo, Ohio, between the local team and the White Stockings nearly ended before it began when Anson angrily refused to take the field against Toledo’s African-American catcher, Moses Fleetwood Walker. Faced with the loss of gate receipts, Anson relented after a loud protest, but his bellicose attitude made Anson, wittingly or not, the acknowledged leader of the segregation forces already at work in the game. Other players and managers followed Anson’s lead, and similar incidents occurred with regularity for the rest of the decade…

Moses Fleetwood Walker was the first black major leaguer. Anson’s protest made him the last until Jackie Robinson, whom baseball in the past 20 years turned into a cause for celebration with little castigation of its role in Robinson getting an opportunity to play baseball only as a racial guinea pig.

If character mattered, Cap Anson wouldn’t be a Hall of Famer. Yet, he was admitted in 1939. This always made the position against steroid users in the Hall harder to defend.

In addition, recent Hall inductees included players rumored to have used performance-enhancing drugs.

Time heals, I suppose. On-the-field accomplishments certainly prove Bonds, Clemens and McGwire were great players and I’m no longer sure they failed the Hall’s “character” test.

Not if Chipper Jones is about to be welcomed with open arms.

Jones, the former Atlanta Braves third baseman, unquestionably, had a stellar career.

Jones is a slam-dunk first-ballot Hall of Famer. A career .303/.401/.529 hitter, he is one of just seven players in Major League history to finish his career with a .300 average, .400 on-base percentage and .500 slugging percentage over 10,000 or more plate appearances. The other six (Ty Cobb, Stan Musial, Tris Speaker, Mel Ott, Babe Ruth and Frank Thomas) are all in the Hall of Fame. 

Here’s the thing: Could a person of good character have issued this tweet?

image-11

As it turned out, there was plenty of outrage, all of it directed at Chipper Jones for repeating the malicious lie about the Sandy Hook Massacre. Jones deleted the tweet and “apologized.”

He needed to research to find out what happened at Sandy Hook? Really?

Only a heartless idiot, a person of no moral character, would have believed and spread the obscene lie that Sandy Hook was a hoax. His apology is worthless and probably related directly to the impending Hall of Fame voting.

The first-ballot acceptance of Chipper Jones into the very exclusive club will prove once and forever that character doesn’t matter.

I have never accepted Barry Bonds as “Major League Baseball’s Home Run King.” That probably will never change, certainly not as long as Hank Aaron is alive.

However, there is no reason to block these great players, who also happen to be cheaters, from The Hall. The “character clause” is meaningless when someone capable of posting such a hateful message to the world is easily accepted into the “Hallowed Hall.”

So, come on in, Barry, Roger and Mark. All is (mostly) forgiven.

# # #

McBarronBlog Bonus:

Founded in 2013 in memory of Ana Grace Márquez-Greene, The Ana Grace Project was born as a response to the tragedy that took her life in Sandy Hook, CT on 12/14/12. The Ana Grace Project is dedicated to promoting love, community and connection for every child and family through three lead initiatives: partner schools, professional development, and music & arts. Learn more