Monday, April 20, 2015

What Is TPP? Not For Me

Until last week I'd never heard of the Trans-Pacific Partnership or T.P.P. and that's no mistake. It seems to be another “free trade” deal that promises millions of new jobs but looks like another surrender of our sovereignty and more jobs leaving the country. In other words yet another corporate sellout. So it's no wonder it's been pretty much a secret deal that they want to enact without any debate. Maybe we should find out more about it. So that's what I've been doing today and here's what I found out.

What got me started was hearing a radio with Jim Hightower for an organization called it That website didn't really seem to have their stuff together through it I found myself on the PublicCitizen web site at It was very informative here is what they had to say (in part);
    “Have you heard? The TPP is a massive, controversial "free trade" agreement currently being pushed by big corporations and negotiated behind closed doors by officials from the United States and 11 other countries – Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.
    The TPP would expand the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) "trade" pact model that has spurred massive U.S. trade deficits and job loss, downward pressure on wages, unprecedented levels of inequality and new floods of agricultural imports. The TPP not only replicates, but expands NAFTA's special protections for firms that offshore U.S. jobs. And U.S. TPP negotiators literally used the 2011 Korea FTA – under which exports have fallen and trade deficits have surged – as the template for the TPP.
    In one fell swoop, this secretive deal could:
    expose the U.S. to unsafe food and products,
    roll back Wall Street reforms,
    ban Buy American policies needed to create green jobs,
    offshore American jobs and increase income inequality,
    jack up the cost of medicines,
    sneak in SOPA-like threats to Internet freedom,
    and empower corporations to attack our environmental and health safeguards.

    Although it is called a "free trade" agreement, the TPP is not mainly about trade. Of TPP's 29 draft chapters, only five deal with traditional trade issues. One chapter would provide incentives to offshore jobs to low-wage countries. Many would impose limits on government policies that we rely on in our daily lives for safe food, a clean environment, and more. Our domestic federal, state and local policies would be required to comply with TPP rules.”

To find out more click here.

What makes all this important right now is a bill before Congress that would hand over their own constitutional authority to debate and modify this trade law. The process is called Fast Track, or Trade Promotion Authority. It creates special rules that empower the White House to negotiate and sign trade agreements without Congressional oversight. Lawmakers won’t be able to analyze and change their provisions, and have only 90 days for an up or down, Yes or No vote to ratify the entire treaty.

In this video Senator Elizabeth Warren exposes one of the provisions of this agreement called Investor Dispute Settlement and how it threatens our sovereignty.

Does all of this sound like something you'd want to find out more about and perhaps fight? Follow the links and find out more and below is one more if you'd like to sign a petition to keep Congress from approving this Fast Track authority.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Chicago's Near South Side Mansions, Murder, Motor Row & More

I used to think of the south of the loop as an area without much interest besides Chinatown. Once I started studying Chicago's history and walking around I discovered the south loop had a number of interesting spots.

There was the Prairie St. Historic District the post Chicago Fire home to the city's wealthy. 

Before they were scared out by the nearby Levee district where "legalized" vice reigned. 

There was motor row on south Michigan Ave. where turn of the century Chicagoans went to buy their horseless carriages. 

I even found the spot where Al Capones depression era soup kitchen once stood. All this and a whole lot more. 

I've just gathered the above videos and others into a playlist on ChiTownView. There is also have an album with more photos posted on Flickr follow this link to see it. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Life And Death Of Frank Nitti Chicago Gangster

Francesco Raffaele Nitto or Frank “the enforcer” Nitti was one of millions of immigrants who came to America in search of a better life. He grew up in the teaming slums of Brooklyn where he dropped out of school in the seventh grade. He tried his hand at a number of trades; pinsetter, factory worker, barber and jewel thief / fence. Among his friends were Al Capones older brothers and their gang the Navy Street Boys.
He left Brooklyn in 1910 and moved around for most of the next decade. Nitti spent part of 1913 in Chicago where he plied his barber / jewel fence trade through which he became acquainted with north side gangster Dion O'Bannion. He didn't settle in Chicago and eventually surfaced in Galvaston Texas where he become a associated with a crime syndicate run by "Johnny" Jack Nounes. His 1918 departure from Galvaston in 1918 reportedly stemmed from his theft of a large sum of money from Nounes and fellow mobster Dutch Voight.
Back in Chicago he settled in the Taylor St. area on south Halsted St. where he worked as a jewel thief, liquor smuggler and fence. It was through his liquor smuggling activities that he came to the attention of fellow Brooklyn expatriots Johnny Torrio and Al Capone. Both now major players in the crimminal organiztion of Big Jim Colosimo.
With the advent of prohibition Nitti's stock kept rising and with the subsequent murder of Colosimo and the retirement of Torrio Nitti became one of Al Capone's top men. By this time he was in charge of Capone's booze importing and distribution operation. Despite his nickname Frank was not a dirty hands guy he was much more a business man content to leave the rough stuff to guys like Machine Gun Jack McGurn, Tony Accardo and others.
When the heat from the 1929 St. Valentines Day Massacre became too much and Al ended up going to prison on a gun charge it was Nitti along with Jake Guzik and Tony Accardo who ran the organization. Capone was out in less than a year but Nitti's stature in the mob made him one of the governments major targets. In 1931 Nitti along with Al Capone were indited for income tax evasion. They were both supposed to get 18 months but when attempted jury tampering came to light in Capones trial he ended up getting 11 years.
Nitti was released from prison in 1932 and took over the reins from Capone who was now done for. Or maybe not there is a school of thought amongst Chicago mob historians on this issue, not that there isn't much up for debate with the Outfits history. At any rate there is a large school of thought that Nitti was the front man for the likes of Paul “the waiter” Ricca, Jake Guzik & Murray Humphries who really ran the show.
In December of 1932 Nitti was the victim of a spectacular attempted hit by a Chicago police detective. This incident is the subject of a recent video that is part of our Chicago Crime Now & Then series. 

Prohibition came to an end in 1933 and the cash cow that made the Chicago Outfit the force it was expired and the boys had to find new ways of making money. They expanded into gambling and favor racketeering in Chicago and beyond. It was a plan that proved to be very successful but one part of it almost took down the mob and did cost Nitti his life.
In 1943 the lid came off the mobs penetration of the movie industry when many powers in the Chicago Outfit were indicted for extortion. Among those charged were Nitti, Phil D'Andrea, Louis "Little New York" Campagna, Nick Circella, Charles "Cherry Nose" Gioe, Ralph Pierce, Ricca, and John "Handsome Johnny" Roselli. They were accused of extorting money from some of the biggest studios, including; Columbia, MGM, Paramount, RKO, and 20th Century Fox. The studios had cooperated with The Outfit to avoid unrest stirred up by the mob controlled unions.
At a meeting of Outfit leaders at Nitti's home, Ricca blamed Nitti for the indictments. Ricca said that since this had been Nitti's scheme and that of the informant was Willie Bioff one of Nitti's trusted associates, Nitti should go to prison. A sufferer of claustrophobia as a result of his first prison term, Nitti dreaded the idea of another prison confinement. It was also rumored that he was suffering from terminal cancer at this time. For these or possibly other reasons, he ultimately decided to take his own life. This part of the story is the subject of another of our videos .

For more on Chicago's organized crime history check out our 

 Chicago Crime Now & Then playlist.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Ramblin' Jack Elliott, 11th Dream Day On ChiTownSoundz, A New Chicago Based Music You Tube Station

MindsiMedia has always had a strong musical component. We have our Mikes Diggs Music posts on our web portal, our selection of Pandora radio stations and music videos on our YouTube and Vimeo channels. We had an all music video station ChicagoRock1 until 2013 when it was terminated by YouTube. With that termination we lost a home for a hundred or more live music videos we'd recorded in and around Chicago over the years.

Since then I've re posted some of the videos here and there now we've decided to start a new music based channel. ChiTownSoundz will be the new home for those old videos and a new ones. Here we give you a little sample of the nuggets from our vault. For more check out ChiTownSoundzAre you a musician or in a band from the Chicago area? Let us know send us a link we'd like to serve as a clearing house for local artists.

11th Dream Day

11th Dream Day is one of the original Chicago alternative rock bands from the 1980's. Their "Prairie School Freakout" lp is one of my favorite records of all time. A towering testament to the kind of fuzzy, feedback laden sound made famous by Neil Young and Crazy Horse.

They've only recorded a dozen lps since they began 32 years ago in 1983. That combined with a not very active tour schedule has kind of kept them from the limelight. This clip is from a May 2011 concert in Chicago's Millennium Park. The tune is "Among The Pines" from the afore mentioned Prairie School Freakout lp

Rambling Jack Elliott

Rambling Jack Elliott is one of the original folkies and has inspired generations of folk, blues and rock artists. He was living with Woody Guthrie and his family in 1950 and met Bib Dylan at Woody's bedside in 1961. Over the years he has recorded more than 40 albums. If you want to learn more about this music icon check out his web site.

This clip of him doing "San Francisco Bay Blues" at Chicago's Bluesfest in 2010. It is the year he won a Grammy for "Best Traditional Blues Recording"

The Insignificant Others

The Insignificant Others were Ed Martinski on Guitar and Vocals, Randy Kertz on bass, and Tom Giers on drums. These guys kicked ass. While they are no longer together I was digging their cd the other day and thought I'd post up some of their videos. Here they are playing at The Friendly Tap, Berwyn Il. in July of 2012. The tune is "Soledad Brother"  their tribute to George Jackson and is featured on the cd.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Amanda Palmer, Lessons In Asking, Listening & Facing Fear

I was at the Forest Park Library last week checking out some books and cds last week. It's amazing that you can check out The Stooges “Funhouse” from the library, but I digress. As I was leaving I took a quick look on the new releases rack. There was a book with a half naked woman on the cover with “The Art Of Asking” artfully scrawled on her chest. The author was Amanda Palmer a name that rang a bell so I checked it out. Maybe there would be more revealing photos inside.

Once I started reading it I realized why her name was familiar. Amanda was one of the “Ted” speakers I had watched her along with millions of others give her talk on the art of giving. For those of you who don't know her she began her career as a human statue in Harvard Square. Amanda would stand on top of milk crates dressed in a wedding gown and white face standing still until someone dropped some money, or other gift, into her hat. Then she would present the giver with the gift of a flower. The exchange was without words.

Anyway that's about all I remembered from the speech or I didn't watch the whole thing. That's kind of the way it works when with online videos for me it's hard to stay all the way through. A book is a different medium when you pick one up it's a commitment without distractions. You tend to give a book more of a chance. At least that's the way it works for me.
So it hooked me I read the story of the human statue. Then she become a musician as half of The Dresden Dolls and would later go on to raise over $1,000,000 on Kickstarter to finance the recording of an album and tour. How she used her blog and Twitter to grow and maintain her fan base. There was also her personal story culminating with her marriage to author Neil Gaiman.

Throughout the story underlying all the different parts was the same three interrelated themes asking, listening and facing fears. I don't know if it's a great book but it is very entertaining it's message spoke to me and showed me something missing in my own life. Apparently she is also a controversial figure who a lot of people dismiss as a greedy egotist. Well that may be true but she wouldn't be the first artist to be guilty of those “sins” and shouldn't diminish her art or message.

Now I've never heard her music until just this moment as I'm writing this part about how the themes of her book/life related to my life. Or to be more precise didn't relate to my life because as I was reading I could see that these were things that I was all terrible at. People kind of scare me so I've never been good at asking, listening and much better at hiding from than facing up to my fears. Maybe I realized the different parts but never got how they related to one another.

It goes a long way to explaining how I find myself at sixty having lost everything I ever had and desparatly trying to create a new virtual life here online and even after six years finding it hard to connect with people. Well it's never to late to learn. Thanks Amanda, good book and some pretty bitching tunes.

Find out more about Amanda Palmer by visiting her web site.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Jimi Hendrix Goes Up In Flames, Tours With The Monkees and Pink Floyd + MORE

We started a Mikes Diggs Music section on out web portal because well I dig music and I used to have a business selling records called Mikes Diggs. Anyway we have a page that has some offbeat Hendrix videos and stories on it. Like the one about The Jimi Hendrix Experience's short lived tour with The Monkees! It lasted for just eight dates before Jimi flipped off the audience and quit the tour. Below is a brief video of Monkee "bassist" Peter Tork's memories of the tour. The web post features much more.

Also included is footage; of a Stockholm concert from 1969, Jimi checking out Buddy Guy then getting up on stage with him from 1968, a blistering version of Machine Gun played as a tribute to slain Black Panther Mark Clark. There is the story of Jimi's November 1967 English tour with Pink Floyd and should you havea spare $14,000.00 a chance to buy a rare dual autograph of Hendrix and Roger Waters. All this and more at


And just for additional kicks I've thrown in this hot Hendrix video.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Following up our musical journey to Ohio in our last post we stay in the middle west for a road trip that is the subject of our latest upload to ChiTownView. In the summer of 1990 Bob & Mike two Chicago area musicians & artists take a road trip to Michigan. They are in search of the Ann Arbor boyhood trailer home of Iggy Pop from The Stooges. The trip continues on to Detroit where our intrepid explorers are looking for The Heidelberg Project an open air creation by outsider artist Tyree Guyton.

Starting in the late 1960's with The Psychedelic Stooges Iggy has been bringing his over the top brand of rock and roll to audiences ever since. Tyree Guyton began his Heidelberg Project in 1986. It is named for the street where this one of a kind art work covers several blocks. It has survived two partial demolitions and continues today.. Here is a link to it's website.