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Shots Fired

Thursday, May 10, 2018

When a gun was considered a girl’s best fashion accessory

Posted By on 05.10.18 at 06:00 AM

Author Paxton Quigley and the oh-so-fashionable .38 - SUN-TIMES PRINT COLLECTION
  • Author Paxton Quigley and the oh-so-fashionable .38

Reader's archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every day in Archive Dive, we'll dig through and bring up some finds.

The early 80s were a dangerous time for women. Actually, every time is probably equally dangerous for women, but in the early 80s, the media decided to make a Thing about it. But the other part of the story was that women who were imperiled decided to take matters into their own hands. Dolly Parton was the first famous woman who admitted to owning a gun. "One good indication of how times are changing occurred last year," Marcia Froelke Coburn wrote in 1981, "when Nancy Reagan admitted to owning 'just a tiny little gun. . . . I don't know anything about it.'" In a survey, 65 percent of readers of Glamour magazine reported owning guns. According to the New York Times, the most popular model among women was the .38 revolver. "The reason all these women in these articles cited for turning to handguns and survival shooting lessons: self-defense," Coburn wrote. "For many, a poster of a smoking gun barrel says it best: 'No one ever raped a .38.'"

Coburn decided it was time to become a modern women and learn how to use a gun herself. Then as now, Illinois law prohibited carrying a loaded handgun outside the house. But Coburn could take shooting lessons. Which she did, at Bells Gun & Sport Shop in Franklin Park, from a woman named Barb Mueller.

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Thursday, April 12, 2018

The lessons from local media’s softball treatment of the Ken Griffin CPD donation story

Posted By on 04.12.18 at 06:00 AM

Ken Griffin's $10 million is expanding Chicago's Minority Report-like predictive policing program.
  • Ken Griffin's $10 million is expanding Chicago's Minority Report-like predictive policing program.

It's instructive to observe how most local news outlets covered Ken Griffin's $10 million handout to Chicago law enforcement.

Let's start at the top: Nearly half of all of the headlines written in the last 24 hours about the Citadel hedge fund founder's announcement is some minor variation of the same theme. WGN's coverage starts with "Illinois' Richest Man to Donate $10M to Fight Chicago Violence," while Fox 32's report leads with "Billionaire Donates $10 million to Fight Chicago Crime." Don't forget CBS Chicago, whose headline is: "Billionaire Ken Griffin Donates $10M To Help Fight Chicago Crime."

These lines alone imply a positive outcome thanks to Griffin's effort—hey, crime is bad, Chicago has a lot of it, and we all want to fight it, right? And now here's some rich guy just giving away a lot of his hard-earned cash toward that cause? Wow! The Sun-Times headline ("Billionaire Ken Griffin takes on Chicago crime with $10M to prevent violence") even makes it sound possible that Griffin is a crime fighter himself. He's taking on crime? God bless him, he's like Bruce Wayne without the whole bat-costume thing!

Those readers who get past the bold font at the top of these stories (not a sure thing in attention-span-deprived 2018) get to learn where all of Griffin's cash is actually flowing to. Turns out all of the $10 million is going in some shape or form to Chicago law enforcement—most of it to fund the expansion of "strategic decision support centers." That's a bloodless term for $1.5 million high-tech rooms inside police stations in which officers and University of Chicago analysts use newfangled crime software to predict where shootings in the city will happen and employ gunshot detection systems that are supposed to improve CPD deployment to the scenes of crime.

CPD officials partly credit a recent decline in gun violence to the support centers (through March, the number of homicides in Chicago was down 17 percent) but the truth is no one knows for sure why Chicago's homicide rate spiked two years ago and has dropped to pre-2016 levels in the past year.
Notice a pattern here?
  • Notice a pattern here?
The real substantive evidence that predictive crime software reduces crime is inconclusive at best, and at worst, critics argue, it perpetuates racial discrimination in policing by shrouding it in the legitimacy accorded by science. After six years, the city of New Orleans just ditched its secret predictive policing program, and the company that ran the software—Palantir Technologies, Peter Thiel's Silicon Valley tech firm, which also came close to selling CPD on the program in 2014, the Verge reported.

The rest of the grant from Griffin is reportedly funding stress management and mental health treatment—not for those at risk in high-crime areas, but for police officers themselves.

Do the math and you'll find that of the $10 million designated to "fight crime" exactly zero dollars are going toward stricter gun control efforts or existing community anti-violence programs, or will go toward underserved south- and west-side neighborhoods, or fund failing Chicago schools, or address the dearth of economic opportunities in those same poverty-stricken neighborhoods, or the lack of mental health treatment available to those in high-crime areas.

Call it what it is—another questionable top-down technocratic solution to solving the city's problem with gun violence that involves handing more power and resources to a police force that a 2017 U.S. Justice Department investigation found to have been engaging in a pattern of civil rights violations.

But no other local media outlet I could find mentioned any of this. Nor did they recap the other notable news story that Griffin was involved with this week—that he temporarily halted construction of a football field-size house on his $230 million oceanfront property south of President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach. Chicago media were busy instead describing Griffin, who also donated $20 million to Bruce Rauner's reelection campaign—as a "philanthropist" who also gave $125 million to the University of Chicago's economics department and $12 million for walking and bicycle paths along the Lakefront Trail.

Let's face it, this is par for the course for so-called "neutral" news outlets. Too often these stories read like press releases or recaps of what the elites in government and business say and call it a day.

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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Reader readers sound off about Chicago's worst things

Posted By on 12.21.17 at 12:23 PM

Some of the Worst of Chicago in a single illustration - RYAN SMITH
  • Ryan Smith
  • Some of the Worst of Chicago in a single illustration

For our year-end double issue, we flipped the script on our annual Best of Chicago edition with a Worst of Chicago issue, featuring dozens of essays about the worst people, places, and things in our fair city. On social media we asked you to kvetch about your own least favorite things.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Dunkirk and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets are alive with the sound of money

Posted By on 07.26.17 at 12:18 PM

  • Dunkirk
In a famous put-down, Pauline Kael once referred to The Sound of Music as "The Sound of Money," implying that the film's expensive production values distracted from any of its virtues. I was reminded of her line when I watched a couple of recent releases, Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk and Luc Besson's Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. These are handsome, rousing movies that provide the biggest sense of spectacle that money can buy, and neither lets you forget how much was spent in the service of its spectacle. Dunkirk is a serious WWII film while Valerian is an unserious space opera, yet both encourage viewers to ooh and ah at the detailed, large-scale imagery, with characterization getting lost in the fray.

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Strong performances can’t undo the self-importance of It Comes at Night

Posted By on 06.12.17 at 01:55 PM

Joel Edgerton in It Comes at Night
  • Joel Edgerton in It Comes at Night

Rarely have I been so ticked off by an American horror feature as I was by It Comes at Night, an arty new film written and directed by Trey Edward Shults. Shults's script is undercooked and his direction is needlessly mannered; moreover, neither the writing or the visual approach is interesting enough to transcend the familiarity of the story, about a middle-class family's efforts to survive in a postapocalyptic United States. Shults's ideas are hand-me-downs from George A. Romero's works and Cormac McCarthy's novel The Road, both of which deal with themes of individualism and societal construction with more nuance—and far less pretension—than he does. But after reading some positive reviews of It Comes at Night (in particular, A.O. Scott's in the New York Times), I was ready to reconsider it. On a return viewing, perhaps I could look past Shults's distracting style and appreciate his psychological approach to character and his consideration of social control.

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

[UPDATED] Can the Reader survive a second helping of Michael Ferro?

Posted By on 05.18.17 at 07:28 PM

Will the Reader get Tronc'd? - ILLUSTRATION BY RYAN SMITH
  • Illustration by Ryan Smith
  • Will the Reader get Tronc'd?

[Editor's note: This post was taken off-line shortly after it was originally published on May 17. It has been amended and republished to correct factual errors and to include additional information, sourcing, and reporting.]

It is an odd thing to find Chicago's award-winning alternative weekly now contemplating the business end of a Tronc content funnel since it was announced Monday that the media company formerly known as Tribune Publishing has entered talks with Wrapports to buy the Sun-Times and "related assets."

The Reader, after all, is one of those assets, having been purchased by Wrapports in May 2013 for slightly less than $3 million. If Tronc—publisher of the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, among other newspapers—ends up owning the city's alt weekly, it remains to be seen whether the Reader will live to even blog the tale.   

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Cook County has become an 80s movie villain in its attempt to tax small music venues to death

Posted By on 08.25.16 at 10:13 AM

The town preacher in the movie Footloose tried to ban rock music and dancing—sound familiar? - YOUTUBE
  • YouTube
  • The town preacher in the movie Footloose tried to ban rock music and dancing—sound familiar?

Pop quiz: Who uttered the following line—a Cook County official commenting on the legalities of a tax on small music venues booking rock, rap, and DJ shows, or Reverend Shaw from Footloose preaching about a ban on loud music and dancing? 

"Even if this was not a law—which it is, I'm afraid—I would have a lot of difficulty endorsing an enterprise which is as fraught with genuine peril as I believe this one to be."

You had to think about it for a second, didn't you?

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Monday, June 13, 2016

After Orlando, is America capable of lifting a finger?

Posted By on 06.13.16 at 06:46 PM

Mourners gather in Orlando Monday. - JOE RAEDLE/GETTY IMAGES
  • Joe Raedle/Getty Images
  • Mourners gather in Orlando Monday.
I was driving into Chicago Monday morning, as WBEZ tried to bring as much light as heat to the slaughter in Orlando. A caller named Ben came on the air to speak to the host of Morning Shift, Tony Sarabia, and I recognized light.

"I just wonder when people are going to get tired of praying," said Ben. "You know these things happen, and we pray, and, you know, it doesn't work. If we pray and act, then we've acted, but if we pray and continue to do nothing, then all we've done is nothing. Praying does not help us solve problems. We can feel better but it doesn't result in any consequences."

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Thursday, December 3, 2015

Spike Lee says Chi-Raq will save lives on the south side—but can't say how

Posted By on 12.03.15 at 03:52 PM

Spike Lee and John Cusack speak at a panel at an Apple Store in NYC. - RYAN SMITH
  • Ryan Smith
  • Spike Lee and John Cusack speak at a panel at an Apple Store in NYC.

Spike Lee believes Chi-Raq will save lives on the south side of Chicago and beyond—but so far he's done a poor job of articulating how that will happen.

Chi-Raq, which opens nationwide on Friday (and which Leor Galil wrote about in a long review we published last week), is a satire loosely based on Aristophanes's Lysistrata. Set on Chicago's south side, it portrays the murder of a child and how a group of women decide to go on a "sex strike" until the gun violence ends. The Brooklyn-based filmmaker proclaimed his latest work a "lifesaver" during a panel and Q&A that was sponsored by Apple and took place in the tech giant's SoHo-neighborhood store in Manhattan on Wednesday night. I was one of roughly 120 attendees.

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Friday, August 7, 2015

Why I'm suing the Chicago Police Department

Posted By on 08.07.15 at 03:30 PM

Laquan McDonald was shot 16 times. - COOK COUNTY MEDICAL EXAMINER
  • Cook County Medical Examiner
  • Laquan McDonald was shot 16 times.

On Wednesday, I filed suit against the Chicago Police Department because of its refusal to release the police car dashboard camera video that shows an officer fatally shooting Laquan McDonald on the city's southwest side last fall. The 17-year-old was shot 16 times, according to an autopsy conducted by the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office.

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