It was 1974. I was bored silly in a fog of ADHD (when they called it “unsettled”) and sitting at my desk at Dirksen Elementary. It was first grade. I was pouring glue on a fresh spot of marker ink, letting the color soak in so I could manufacture a rare jailhouse jewel while ignoring Mrs. Lancaster.
The intercom exploded, “Kevin Folta, come down to the principal’s office.”
“What did I do?” I thought. Certainly it could not be my glue gems.
When I got to the office the school nurse told me I had to head out for my doctor’s appointment. I had no idea what the hell she was talking about. She told me my mom would be there to pick me up for a medical dismissal.
I was puzzled. My folks were pretty straight about filling me in on medical stuff. I was 7 years old, I had a good command of immunology and memorized my vaccine schedule, and today was absolutely not the day. I sat on the vinyl couch making fart noises with my wet thumb on the cushion before my mom arrived. We left the school, climbed into her maroon Buick Regal with the white interior and drove away.
“Whazzup with the doctor?” I asked.
Mom looked at me reassuringly, “We’re going to a Cubs game.”
Yes. Baseball in the sunshine. Back in 1974, the Chicago Cubs played every game during the day, meaning that no kids were in the stands from opening day until mid-June, and Labor Day until the World Series. Of course, that was not much of an issue, as the Cubs season was doomed well by the time we returned to school in the fall.
Mom and I drove to an office building on the corner of Cumberland and Addison and snuck the car into the back of the parking lot. We lived on the edge of Chicago. Wrigley Field is on Addison Avenue and it ended at Cumberland, and that parking lot where we’d grab a bus ride.
The bus was pretty empty out there. I’d read and try to memorize the new swears I’d read on the back of bus seats.
As we’d crawl stop-to-stop toward Wrigley Field at Addison and Clark. We’d pass Lane Tech where my dad went to high school, WGN where the TV shows happened, and the Addison Snack Shop where the red first letters spelled “ASS.”
That was primo stuff. First grade comedy gold. Comedy gold.
After about 45 minutes, the neighborhoods transitioned into strangely residential, and a few stops later, we’d see the majestic façade of Wrigley Field rise into the windshield. We’d disembark on the southwest corner of Clark and Addison, crossing two streets carefully, looking both ways and holding her hand to get to the stadium.
If the game started at 1:15, we’d get there about 10:30. There was nobody there, but we’d push through the turn-style and inhale the cool rotten beer stink of an even-then-ancient stadium. We’d head out of the grey shade of the stadium’s metal beams up the stairs toward the light of the field. It was an early-day pre-game practice of batting cages and players on the field, taking swings and fielding baseballs.
We’d walk up onto the first level and then turn left away from the fancy plastic seats near the field, and make our way up to the dark-green wooden seats that matched our ticket numbers. These were not the cheap seats of the bleachers, the place where the drunks and chronically self-unemployed would sequester. These were the grandstands, a lavish $2.25 a seat. A bit rich for our blood. We’d look down at the $6.00 box seats near the field, wondering how people possibly could afford such an exorbitant luxury.
My mom liked to go early because we’d watch batting practice. We’d watch Jose Cardenal, Rick Monday, and Bill Madlock smack baseballs into the stands while eating hotdogs and listening to solitary drunkards yell at imaginary problems.
I don’t remember who won or lost. I remember a few little bits and pieces like when outfielder Larry Biittner pitched game two of a double header and when Bill Madlock needed to go four for four to win the batting title in the last game of the season, and he did it.
That was the point. It was not about baseball.
Baseball was simply the place where we created a tapestry. My mom was only in her mid-20s, and she was lying to my school so that we could watch baseball players hit soft lobs into the stands during batting practice and then sit together in a day game, in an irrelevant baseball season, with nobody around us for miles.
That is pretty damn cool.
After that era we’d watch salaries skyrocket, players become rock stars, baseball become a wild commercial enterprise. I really lost interest.
But my mom would watch every season with great interest. She’d suffer through every game of every Cubs season for the next 35 years. It was a willful subscription, a glimmer of hope in April that would fade in painful slow motion into baseball’s cellar year after year. Heartbreak happened early except for 1984 and 2003 when she’d scream at the TV to push promise to success, only to find profound disappointment.
Tonight, I’m watching game seven of the improbable Cubs in the World Series. I’m watching the Cubs battle in this game tonight not because I like baseball. I’m watching it because my mom loved baseball. It was the reason she hustled home to watch the game on a tiny fuzzy TV screen. It was the noise from her radio, and the reason she felt a day with her in Wrigleyville was a more important lesson for me than another day riding second-grade desk.
These visions live in my head and no place else. My mom had a love for baseball and a love for me, and she felt the best situation was putting the two together ― even if it meant breaking a few rules.
If we had just one last time together, last night’s World Series deciding game would have been a good one. It would have been her and me, sitting on my couch like we sat on that Addison Avenue bus. Sadly, she’s not here. I don’t think she’d ever believe the success that her favorite team, or that little kid, eventually might eventually find.
-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
As the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians battled Wednesday night in a historic Game 7 of the World Series, Neil deGrasse Tyson took to Twitter to give a history lesson on just how long its been since the Cubs last won the championship in 1908.
And as usual, the renowned astrophysicist’s scientific knowledge did not disappoint.
From the mind of Tyson, a look at all the ways the world has changed since the Cubs were crowned champions 108 years ago ― from advances in human flight to the discovery of Pluto and our expanding universe.
The last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, the existence of the Atom had only recently been established.— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) November 3, 2016
The last time the Cubs won the World Series, the Wright Brothers were debating if aeroplanes could ever fly from NYC to Paris— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) November 3, 2016
The last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, the Periodic Table had only 85 Elements on it.— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) November 3, 2016
The last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, the cosmic object known as Pluto was not yet discovered— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) November 3, 2016
The last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, Mark Twain was still alive.— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) November 3, 2016
In the same year the Chicago Cubs last won the World Series, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were killed in Bolivia.— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) November 3, 2016
Five years *after* the Chicago Cubs last won the World Series, Henry Ford perfected the moving assembly line.— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) November 3, 2016
The modern Planetarium was invented 15 years after the Chicago Cubs last won the World Series.— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) November 3, 2016
The expanding Universe was discovered by Edwin Hubble 21 years *after* the Chicago Cubs last won the World Series.— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) November 3, 2016
The last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, three years would pass before the discovery of the atomic nucleus.— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) November 3, 2016
One more?— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) November 3, 2016
Halley's Comet has appeared TWICE in our skies since the last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series.— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) November 3, 2016
After the Cubs won the Series, Tyson finished off his tweet streak:
The last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, Real Estate developer Donald Trump was running for President of the USA.— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) November 3, 2016
This article has been updated to add Tyson’s postgame tweet.
-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
The Democratic clerk of Rock Island County in Illinois says a conservative group allowed more than a thousand completed vote-by-mail applications to sit in a post office box for three weeks before someone raised questions about it.
“We think they had no intention of ever delivering it to us,” Karen Kinney said in an interview.
Kinney said she learned of the problem last month after hearing from voters who hadn’t received their ballots. She said the 1,500 applications would have continued to languish if she hadn’t contacted law enforcement.
Illinois law allows outside groups to send out ballot applications to potential voters, who can fill out the forms in order to receive a vote-by-mail ballot from their county clerk’s office. The controversy in Illinois is over how long the completed applications allegedly sat in a P.O. box without being handed over to the clerk. State Democrats say it looks like it could be a voter suppression scheme.
“When you solicit absentee ballot applications and then sit on them, that’s about the only thing you can call it,” Steve Brown, spokesman for the Illinois Democratic Party, said in an interview.
Pat Hughes, the co-founder of the Illinois Opportunity Project, the conservative group that distributed the applications, said the criticism is bogus because the applications have, in fact, been submitted to the clerk.
“It’s a red herring,” Hughes said. “It’s a pretext for harassment.”
The Illinois attorney general’s office last week warned voters that if they filled out vote-by-mail ballot applications, they should “stay alert and monitor whether they then receive a ballot in the mail.” The office, which is headed by Lisa Madigan, a Democrat, sent several letters last month to the Illinois Opportunity Project demanding information about its vote-by-mail efforts in Rock Island and six other Illinois counties.
Maura Possley, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, said people were confused because the group’s vote-by-mail solicitation didn’t say who it was coming from.
“Because the Illinois Opportunity Project’s mailings do not identify that organization and, instead, are sent from ‘[Name of County] County Vote By Mail Center’, they have led to voter confusion regarding whether they are official documents from the counties,” Possley said in an email.
The Illinois Opportunity Project has ties to Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican. One of the group’s co-founders, the conservative radio host Dan Proft, also heads up a big-spending political action committee that is funded partly by Rauner. The governor is looking to chip away at Democrats’ supermajority in the state legislature. Madigan’s father, state Rep. Michael Madigan (D), has been speaker of the Illinois House for decades.
The Illinois kerfuffle is one of several voting controversies, some more serious than others, unfolding in various states as Election Day nears.
After finding a number of allegedly forged applications in Indiana, Republican officials there have warned that a Democratic voter registration drive could be committing fraud. In North Carolina, the NAACP has alleged in a lawsuit that the state illegally canceled the voter registrations of thousands of black residents. And based on the fact that polls show him likely to lose, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed the election will be “rigged” in favor of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Hughes said the Illinois Opportunity Project mailed applications to voters on Oct. 11, and picked up the returned applications from the Rock Island Post Office on Oct. 26, after receiving inquiries from law enforcement. Hughes says the group didn’t break any laws by not grabbing the applications sooner. He also says that because the group distributed applications on the 11th and collected them on the 26th, it disproves the Democratic clerk’s claim that the applications languished for three weeks.
Mark Curley, postmaster for the Rock Island Post Office, corroborated Hughes’ timeline.
“There was no three weeks,” Curley said. “They didn’t languish.”
Rock Island Democratic Party chair Doug House said that a preliminary analysis of absentee ballots processed by the clerk on Oct. 27 showed they are mostly from Democrats and older voters.
“Why in the world would a dark money group that supports Bruce Rauner target high turnout Democrats and independents like this unless they wanted to suppress voters?” House said in an emailed statement. “We’ve closely examined the related facts and I am convinced that Bruce Rauner’s allies are trying to win one of the most competitive State House seats in Illinois through dirty tricks, deception and possibly illegal voter suppression tactics.”
Kinney said the deadline for Illinois clerks to receive vote-by-mail applications is Thursday. People who applied for ballots but didn’t receive them can still vote in-person on Election Day.
CHICAGO ― Each fall, thrill-seeking visitors show up to one of the most infamous maximum security prisons in the United States, only to be turned away.
Five minutes away, the loved ones of prison inmates send mail and phone calls to Paul Siegel’s farm, hoping to find out about commissary accounts and prisoner release dates.
The Halloween season is peak time for confusion between Stateville Correction Center and Statesville Haunted Prison, two sites located a stone’s throw from each other roughly 40 miles southwest of Chicago.
That tourists easily mistake one for the other has been a boon to Siegel since he opened the attraction on his farm in 1996. The site is consistently named among the best haunted houses in the state, and for Siegel’s livelihood as a farmer, “it’s a very big piece of the puzzle,” he said.
But the proximity is troubling to others ― namely, prison reform advocates and those who work in restorative justice.
Critics say these kinds of prison-themed haunted amusements reinforce existing stigmas that make it hard for inmates to reintegrate into society once they’re released.
“It’s indirect damage, that’s what’s insidious about it. It affects us on a level that’s really hard to be conscious of,” said Kimberley Moe, who teaches a course on restorative justice at Stateville as part of the Inside-Out prison exchange program at DePaul University. The course is held inside Stateville itself, with DePaul undergrads and inmates studying side by side for the term.
Jamal, one of the program’s students and an inmate at Stateville, said he feels conflicted about the haunted prison being so close to his real-life prison. In a letter to The Huffington Post, Jamal called the attraction a “complete contradiction of our reality.”
“You profit off the sorrows of men who are more than the sum of their mistakes,” he wrote.
Andre, another student from Stateville, wrote that visitors likely see the attraction as just harmless entertainment.
“They don’t realize they’re being fed some of the worst, most sensationalized versions of prisons and prisoners,” he said.
Old prisons that no longer house inmates can experience a wide variety of second acts. Some become popular filming locations, like the Tennessee State Prison in Nashville that’s been used in movies like “The Green Mile” and “The Last Castle.” Others, like Alcatraz in San Francisco, become museums and historical sites. Increasingly, as the Marshall Project noted in July, old prisons are becoming so-called “dark tourism” sites that host haunted houses and ghost tours.
Rutgers University Professor Michael Welch, who studies penal tourism and wrote the 2015 book Escape to Prison, says haunted prisons and similar attractions offer an alluring mix of frightening authenticity and safe distance.
“A haunted prison has a gravitational pull because people want to be on an actual site where horrible things have happened, but they also want safe contact,” he said. “If you said ‘you can come into this haunted prison, but only half of you will be allowed to leave,’ well, that’d be the end of it.”
Housing an attraction at an actual prison, or at least near one, is crucial in providing what Welch calls “sited-ness” ― a kind of authenticity that can’t be replicated just anywhere.
Statesville Haunted Prison gives a false sense of sited-ness since it was never a real prison to begin with, Welch said. Even so, having an actual prison nearby adds an extra dimension to it.
But since the haunted attraction is highly dramatized and the scenarios it depicts are fantastical and embellished, Welch doesn’t believe there’s much negative impact.
The haunted prisons have “no authenticity” with regard to actual prisons ― something that Welch says most visitors understand.
Alan Mills disagrees. Mills, the executive director of the Chicago-based Uptown People’s Law Center, which advocates for prisoner rights, says that sensational portrayals of prisons and inmates do a disservice to everyone ― not just the incarcerated.
“Done right, like the Eastern State Penitentiary, it can serve as an excellent means of opening up a world that is usually closed, exposing just how inhumane prisons are,” Mills told HuffPost in a Facebook message.
But haunted house-style attractions meant only to thrill or scare “add nothing to our understanding of prisons” and are “dehumanizing,” he said.
“It encourages people to think of prisoners as scary monsters, rather than people exactly like everyone else ― except they had fewer choices, and (may have) made a bad decision in their lives,” Mills said. “They encourage people to accept prison conditions which constitute torture, by getting people to think of prisoners as less than human.”
Apart from an incident in the 1940s when two escaped inmates allegedly stole a family car at knifepoint, Siegel, 59, said Stateville’s closeness had never had much of an effect on the farm one way or another, until he opened the haunted prison to support the farm’s finances.
Twenty years ago, there were fewer haunted houses around, and the ones that existed typically offered a melange of pop-culture movie monsters and references to famous historical events. Today, haunted houses are an industry worth nearly half a billion dollars, according to the Haunted Attraction Association.
“I wanted to have [a] themed haunted house that was scary but was also very different than what most of the slasher-movie type things would be produced,” Siegel said.
Stateville holds a number of historical distinctions. It was the execution site of serial killer John Wayne Gacy and the home of the last functioning panopticon, or “roundhouse” unit, in the country. Earlier this month, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) announced he was closing down Stateville’s panopticon, calling it dangerous and antiquated.
“Of course I wanted use the notoriety of having a very scary maximum security [prison] next to the place,” Siegel said, explaining his decision to give his haunted prison attraction a name almost identical to Stateville’s.
Statesville Haunted Prison’s conceit is simple enough: The “guards” have fled, and a cast of deranged “inmates” have taken over. The attraction is for adults only and takes about 45 minutes to navigate, although Siegel says not everyone is brave enough to make it through.
About 160 actors work the haunted house, including star players with intricate makeup and detailed backstories. One character is a mental health patient whose history includes “the murder and mutilation of 6 teenagers and 1 police officer” with “hands and feet” as the weapon of choice.
“We’re not glorifying anything or showing any mayhem,” said Siegel, who notes that the attraction never depicts torture or murder. “We’re not showing guards getting taken over or killed or anything like that.”
Siegel also points out that the prison is just one of his farm’s holiday offerings. Most are decidedly more family-friendly, like pumpkin festivals, hayrides and corn mazes. But the haunted prison is crucial to the farm’s finances, he says. And people enjoy it.
Moe, the DePaul professor, acknowledged that the issue is not black and white.
“I understand that people need to live and need to make money,” she said. “It’s not easy to make ends meet on a farm.”
While some of the Stateville students say they’re deeply offended and frustrated by the haunted prison, others simply shrug it off as a product of capitalism.
Moe is aware of the challenges her Stateville students will face if and when they’re released. She said that some of them share “a kind of worn down-ness that no matter which way they turn, they’re met with these real negative things.”
An estimated 95 percent of state correctional inmates, like those at Stateville, will return to society at some point.
More than a dozen of the Stateville students wrote that their biggest desire is to be productive when they’re released, and to be able to contribute to society instead of being shunned.
“Just because you’ve been touched by the correctional system,” Moe said, “that does not make you a monster.”
Sincere apologies to an American hero, Tammy Duckworth, and gratitude for her family's service. #ilsen
With the election less than two weeks away, Big Soda is preparing for battle.
The soda industry, led by the American Beverage Association trade group, is spending many millions of dollars in a carefully coordinated effort to defeat proposals in four U.S. cities to tax local sales of sugar-sweetened beverages.
Three of the cities where voters will consider the proposals on Nov. 8 — San Francisco, Oakland and Albany — are in California, while the fourth, Boulder, is in Colorado. The industry is spending about $19.3 million to fight the Bay Area proposals alone.
They may follow in the footsteps of cities like Berkeley, California, which passed its tax in 2014, and Philadelphia, which earlier this year introduced a tax that’s currently the subject of a lawsuit brought by the ABA.
As supporters of the soda taxes tell it, the beverage industry is fighting the new soda tax proposals so aggressively because it can sense proponents of such legislation gaining momentum.
Marion Nestle, a pro-soda-tax New York University nutrition professor and author of the book Soda Politics: Taking On Big Soda (And Winning) told The Huffington Post she believes the tipping point on the taxes has already been reached.
“This fight is a last act of desperation,” Nestle said by email. “The more they fight the taxes, the more people learn that sodas are best consumed in small amounts.”
If soda tax proponents succeed at the ballot box in all or most of the Nov. 8 votes, Barry Popkin, a nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina, believes more municipalities will soon follow. Cook County, Illinois, the nation’s second most populated county, already appears to be on the verge of proposing its own 1-cent-per-ounce soda tax.
“I think this is going to empower enormously the advocates,” said Popkin, who has researched the impact of soda taxes extensively. “I see a series of counties and maybe one state that will be the next generation.”
Supporters like Nestle and Popkin point to research showing that soda taxes in Berkeley and Mexico, which enacted a nationwide tax in 2014, resulted in reduced soda consumption, as evidence they could be effective.
The World Health Organization agrees. Earlier this month, WHO issued a report urging that the cost of sugar-sweetened beverages be increased at least 20 percent to curtail consumption and reduce obesity.
Opponents, however, say there are few signs the taxes will have any impact on the nation’s diet-related health challenges.
An ABA spokesman pointed to Popkin’s own research and a second study, conducted by the Mexican Institute of Technology’s Center for Economic Research, on the impact of the Mexican soda tax that the legislation had only a negligible impact on soda consumption over its first year in effect.
According to Popkin’s paper, the Mexican soda tax resulted in a reduction of soda consumption of just 11.6 fewer milliliters of soda — about 4.9 calories — per day. This was in line with the second study, which found a reduction of soda consumption equivalent to just 6 calories per day.
“That’s not even measurable on a bathroom scale,” ABA vice president of policy William Dermody Jr. told HuffPost.
Baylen Linnekin, an outspoken critic of the soda taxes and author of Biting the Hands That Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable, agreed that the soda taxes do not appear to be having the impact their supporters claim they do.
“There’s absolutely no evidence whatsoever from the taxes that have existed or been proposed that there is any connection between soda taxes and health,” Linnekin said.
Linnekin pointed to the overall trend of soda consumption running parallel to increasing rates of obesity in the U.S. as further evidence that there is no relationship between the two.
“There are lots of calories that aren’t taxed, so picking on soda is not a scientifically, economically or dietarily legitimate policy,” Linnekin added.
A new study from a team of Swedish researchers runs counter to some of the arguments of Linnekin and other tax opponents.
According to the study, published last month in the European Journal of Endocrinology, daily intake of sweetened beverages like soda was associated with double the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Further, Jim O’Hara, director of health promotion policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit group, argues that such criticisms ignore the benefits associated from the revenue generated from such taxes.
In the case of Berkeley, money from the soda tax has funded youth-focused education programs on health, nutrition, cooking and gardening in the city’s public schools. The full impact of such programs, of course, won’t be fully understood for some time.
“Public health always depends on approaching a problem from many angles,” O’Hara told HuffPost. “[The tax opponents] are doing a very crude analysis that doesn’t fully address the issue.”
Regardless of what happens in the soda tax votes this Election Day, it is clear the broader battle on the issue has only begun.
Proponents of the taxes anticipate any victories at the ballot box will be met with legal action from the industry, just as they were in Philadelphia.
“The DNA of these beverage companies is ‘no regulations’ and they’re going to continue to fight,” Popkin said. “I can see them losing all of [the ballot measures], but I don’t think it will stop.”
Joseph Erbentraut covers promising innovations and challenges in the areas of food and water. In addition, Erbentraut explores the evolving ways Americans are identifying and defining themselves. Follow Erbentraut on Twitter at @robojojo. Tips? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
WASHINGTON ― Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) won’t say which presidential candidate he’s voting for, a curious move considering he’s now changed his mind about his endorsement four times.
Kirk, who is struggling in his Senate race against Democratic challenger Tammy Duckworth, said months ago that he planned to write in former CIA Director David Petraeus for president. But in an interview with a Chicago radio station on Wednesday, he refused to confirm whether that was still his plan.
“I said that largely out of total frustration,” Kirk said. “The joke I’ve seen going around is, ‘If you had a rowboat and it sprung a leak with Hillary and Trump in it and it sank, who would win?’”
Asked if that means he doesn’t have a candidate he’s planning to vote for, the Republican senator replied, “I don’t at this point. Pretty frustrated by the choice that we have now.”
Kirk’s comments come after he’s endorsed ― and then un-endorsed ― different people for president four times. He originally backed GOP nominee Donald Trump, but announced in June that he couldn’t support him anymore and planned to write in Petraeus instead. In July, he changed his mind and said he planned to write in former Secretary of State Colin Powell. By mid-August, Kirk changed his mind again, and was back to endorsing Petraeus.
His latest position, which is that he has no candidate, comes less than two weeks before Election Day.
Asked for comment on Kirk’s changing positions, his campaign spokesman Kevin Artl had only this to say: “Give it up.”
Kirk isn’t the only GOP lawmaker in a tight race who is trying to escape Trump’s shadow. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) won’t say who he’s voting for, either. Senate hopeful Joe Heck (R-Nev.) said Tuesday that voters don’t have a right to know who he’s voting for. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) said he might not vote at all.
HUFFPOST READERS: What’s happening in your state or district? The Huffington Post wants to know about all the campaign ads, mailers, robocalls, candidate appearances and other interesting campaign news happening by you. Email any tips, videos, audio files or photos to email@example.com.
CHICAGO ― Even staunch advocates of policing admit that major changes are needed to salvage the institution’s reputation and efficacy after two years of harsh scrutiny over racism, secrecy and lack of accountability.
They disagree, however, on how to best do that.
“Because it was so stark, there was no denying how horrible it was,” Craig Futterman, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, told The Huffington Post ahead of last week’s Chicago Ideas Week conference. He and several other policing experts met there to discuss the police force of the future ― with discussions ranging from better officer recruitment to full-scale abolition.
“But perhaps more important, what caught even the most causal observer, was what happened afterwards,” Futterman added.
Footage of the fatal shooting was only made public after an anonymous tipster told Futterman it existed, and he stared a yearlong legal battle to have it released. In addition to discrediting the police’s official narrative, the video galvanized already growing scrutiny around problems that reform advocates say are pervasive in police departments across the U.S.
Some law enforcement officials, including FBI Director James Comey, have responded by invoking the “viral video effect” ― a popular but discredited theory that filming police has actually resulted in higher overall crime rates and fewer arrests.
But Futterman says videos only reveal problems that have been there all along.
Rationale for police misconduct has changed from “justified shootings” to “acts of self-defense” to “one bad apple,” he said, noting that videos force departments to reckon with patterns that have led to that evolution.
“We shouldn’t forget the whole saying: One bad apple spoils the whole bunch,” Futterman said. “We’ve had systemic issues with regard to racism and brutality for years. That goes beyond the bad acts of a single person.”
Eugene O’Donnell, a former New York City police officer and prosecutor who now teaches at John Jay College, took issue with the belief that Americans are generally unhappy with the police. He argued instead that “elites” ― like journalists and politicians ― have led much of the anger directed at law enforcement.
Still, he acknowledged that departments can’t go on with business as usual.
“I think the profession has been irreparably damaged and we have to figure out what’s next,” O’Donnell said.
Many of his peers support community policing ― a strategy that involves officers fostering trust by patrolling a specific area to build relationships and familiarize themselves with the issues there ― but O’Donnell said that tactic ignores the reality of police work.
“Built into the police role is that they make enemies with people,” he said. “That’s the way policing works.”
O’Donnell said he believes the current climate of scrutiny could lead to a longer-term crisis of no one wanting to be a cop.
A dearth of recruits has prompted departments to lower their hiring standards related to such issues as exam performance, drug tests and academic qualifications, he said. About 1 percent of police forces nationwide currently require a four-year degree; nearly a decade years ago, 75 percent of forces required one.
“I don’t know what [police] are allowed to do once they get hired,” O’Donnell said, noting that widespread criticisms of law enforcement have resulted in some officers feeling like they can’t use traditional policing methods.
President Barack Obama established a task force on 21st-century policing in 2014. The group recommended in a report released the following year that police departments should improve how they collect data, particularly regarding use of force.
Cedric Alexander, a task force member and public safety director in DeKalb County, Georgia, said better data collection could be a step toward building better community-police relations and rooting out excessive force.
“I think you’re going to see a much better police department if you can see the data and see what they’re doing the street,” Alexander said during a panel discussion at Chicago Ideas Week.
Marc Lamont Hill, an African-American studies professor at Morehouse College and former HuffPost Live host, was the panelist most wary of the proposed reforms. He comes from a self-described radical background, and said the institution of policing is too broken to mend because it was built on a foundations of racism, brutality and secrecy.
In the immediate term, Hill suggests decreasing the overcriminalization of small infractions, which are overwhelmingly enforced against black and Latino Americans. Something like selling CDs in front of a store should be regulated by a community entity rather than an armed police force, he said.
The cost of perpetuating bad practices, Hill said, is loss of human life.
“Take Eric Garner ― that’s ticky-tacky policing,” he said. “That’s ‘I gotta stop a guy selling loose cigarettes because those type of minor offenses lead to major ones.’ Bad policing causes people to die.”
Futterman, the University of Chicago professor, said the tight-knit, fraternal culture of police departments has contributed to the challenge of overhauling the institution. There is a dangerous “us versus them” mentality that has abetted misconduct ― and punished whistleblowers trying to do the right thing.
“If you buck the official narrative, you get crushed. Not just by the rank-and-file, but by the entire department,” Futterman said. “That could mean the end of your career, the end of your life, the end of your family.”
The person who alerted him about the McDonald footage, for example, still works in Chicago law enforcement and has chosen to remain anonymous.
Moving forward, Futterman said departments must fire officers who lie on reports and criminally prosecute anyone who retaliates against their peers for blowing the whistle on misconduct.
“If you’re going to lie, if you submit false reports, put people in jail who shouldn’t be in jail, if you’re going to abuse your power to wantonly hurt someone who is weaker than you, you absolutely have no business wearing a badge,” he said.
Reconciling the longstanding practices with the new expectations is part of the issue, Futterman said. And he agreed it would be difficult for the officers.
“If you’ve taught me for all these years that policing means laying hands on more and more people, and you’re telling me not to do that, what do I do now?” Futterman said. “The ground has moved beneath them.”
Chicago Cubs fans are looking at a 1993 yearbook photo taken in Mission Viejo, California as a sign of good fortune.
The Cubs last won a World Series in 1908, but in 1993, Michael Lee outrageously predicted a World Series win for the Cubs in his yearbook picture.
He cheekily added, “You heard it here first.”
The photo has since gone viral after Twitter user Thomas J. Dale posted a photo of the yearbook prediction that he said his mother found.
*mom walks into my room* -look at my yearbook from '93 #...
This dude called the cubs winning the series in 2016 for his senior quote. pic.twitter.com/Dq4kWFIziy
Admittedly, faking a yearbook pic is well in the realm of a capable photoshop hoaxer.
However, one Reddit user named number1makeitso claims to have found four other copies of the same yearbook, and that Lee’s prediction is in those yearbooks as well. The user posted them on Imgur as evidence:
And Lee’s former classmate Marcos Meza never forgot the prediction, according to WGN TV.
“When [Lee and I] connected on Facebook in 2009 I sent him the photo and told him we were nearing 2016. He posted the photo of his prediction on August 8th,” Meza told the station. “After my Dodgers lost it was time for me to make this go viral and BeLEEve in the Cubs for 2016.”
The station has been in contact with Lee, who, fittingly, lives in the Chicago area and is waiting to see if his prediction comes true.
These Cubs fans are roaring.
The lions outside of the Art Institute of Chicago received Cubs hats on Monday morning in honor of the team’s first trip to the World Series since 1945. WGN TV provided live coverage of the caps being placed on the statues around 8 a.m. ET.
As the pictures below show, getting a hat on these animals takes a bit of work.
The Art Institute’s support of the city’s sports teams has become a Chicago tradition. In the past, the lions have worn Bears, White Sox, and Blackhawks gear during those teams’ championship runs.
Of course, it has been a while since the Cubs were in the World Series. This marks the first time these lions have sported Cubs hats.
But on Friday, the actor and comedian took his legendary spontaneity to new heights when he turned up in the White House briefing room decked out in Chicago Cubs gear.
“So, you can actually sort of lean on it,” Murray said as he approached the lectern.
Asked if he thought his beloved Cubs would defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday to clinch their first World Series appearance since 1945, Murray said Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw is a “great, great pitcher,” but the Cubs “got too many sticks.”
“And at home, with our crowd, the weather,” he said. “We also, we get a little bit of autumnage in Chicago. You don’t get that in Los Angeles. Trees just die in Los Angeles. In Illinois, they flourish.”
Murray took to the microphone shortly after White House press secretary Josh Earnest finished an official briefing, CNN reports. The comedian was reportedly in Washington to receive the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor from President Barack Obama.
After beating the Dodgers 8-4 on Thursday, the Cubs have a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.