Welcome the New Year!

Godnight, Loen!

The image you see above is from Martynas Milkevicius. His presence speaks to the times as we share a vision from half the world away. How fortunate we are to feature his gallery on the KIOSK page. The global community is real, and now.

I found a common thread of optimism weaving its way through the essays this month. We will survive the recent onslaught of electric-shock treatments to our cultural frontal lobe. These political troubles will pass. A populist voice is awakened and we are talking about the world. There is an air of activism at large.

This blog is made to go with coffee, of course.

John Zielinski knows ornithology. True… and not just the Charlie Parker standard. His essay “For The Birds” extols the virtue of community and survival.

Steve Buschbacher asks “Are We Selfish?” and talks values. How were you raised?

Brule Eagan takes on “The Annual Challenge” of New Years in free-form.

What better time of year to talk baseball? Tom DeMichael has the latest from winter camp and thoughts for both Cubs and Sox fans, “Buh-Buh-Baseball – What’s New, Year?

Is reality subjective? Marc Piane tugs at our brain muscle in his essay “A Thought for the New Year.”

At “The Publisher’s Desk” I reviewed a recent field trip. “This Place” was a day well-spent in reflection.

We stride into the New Year with energy and a sense of determination. The world moves forward through the hands of the obsessed. These are people who can’t put down the pen, who can’t stop painting, alone practicing their musical instrument hour after hour, driven people, compelled to read and learn, speak and listen.

Such are the contributors in this month’s issue of Central Standard Time. Contemporary views from the urban, the urbane, the wry and seasoned, creative practitioners in every discipline grace these pages for you… the reader.

Write to the publisher – jstortorici@gmail.com. I invite your input. Don’t forget the coffee.


Majors and Minors

– J. Tortorici

Enigmatic counselors and “dark ministers” of the political system have an enduring history in America. My liberal’s dismissal of Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka, and their ilk, is rooted in remembering genuine, diabolical giants of the Washington power drama. Over the decades, perspective is revealing.

One of my first memories of world events involved the Dulles siblings, John-Foster and Alan. Eisenhower’s Secretary of State, John-Foster, built Cold War alliances, most prominently NATO. With his brother, Alan, head of the CIA, he helped instigate Operation Ajax, the 1953 Iranian coup d’état, and the 1954 Guatemalan coup d’état. Alan oversaw the U-2 spy aircraft program, and the Bay of Pigs Invasion. After President Kennedy abandoned the Bay of Pigs, he forced Alan Dulles out of government service. Thus began one of the premier conspiracy sagas surrounding the Kennedy assassination.

Robert McNamara was the classic hero/villain conundrum. He was an author of an imaginative global nuclear strategy known as “MAD” (Mutually Assured Destruction). As Secretary of Defense under Kennedy and Johnson he escalated the United States involvement in the Vietnam War, yet advocated the use of a blockade during the Cuban Missile Crisis, averting a nuclear confrontation. I highly recommend “The Fog of War” for his unique view of global power politics.

Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, USMC, oversaw an illegal arms program (from the basement of Reagan’s Whitehouse) with Iran (designated State Sponsor of Terrorism) and Nicaraguan rebels, the Iran-Contra scandal.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is a contemporary legend. Rumsfeld played a central role in planning a response to the September 11 attacks, which included two wars: Afghanistan, the seat of terrorism; and Iraq, an inspired, erroneous WMD conflict. His tenure then became controversial for prisoner abuse.

Imagine the cost in human life and physical resources this gallery represents. It is not arbitrary to say “immeasurable.” These were cabinet secretaries, administrators, and principals of the National Security apparatus… the major league of decision makers with high executive function. Their influence and the consequences of their decisions were so profound as to effect the course of history in ways we continue to experience.

No, the Bannon coterie, including Stephen Miller and Kellyanne Conway, appear like so many Dick Tracy villains by comparison. Strip away the bravado and hyperbole, little of purpose remains… and I always worry less about the guy needing to tell me what a bad-ass he is. For the time being, they have access to the halls of power, and history proves these characters will fade along with the aberrance of their views. Consider the fate of so many that had the same access, the same bombast, the same imagined elevation, whose existence is now more ignominious than influential. Their ideas were not durable.

Perspective, indeed. Time is an ally. Every organization, General Electric down to your local Cub Scout Pack, reflects the tenor of its leadership. In spite of all the media exposure, we are dealing with a farm-team of limited political acumen and untenable schemes. Deep governmental skills elude them, they refuse to be “coached,” in many ways to our good fortune. Their limits become our safety net.

American Statesmen –


Before introducing this month’s articles, it is worthwhile for every American to reflect on some of the unsung heroes populating the halls of our government. Theirs is an unwavering path of significance.

In January of this year. I enrolled in an honors course examining International Relations. The class, through the City Colleges of Chicago, was uniquely chosen to participate in a State Department program called The Diplomacy Lab. Launched in 2013, this is a Public-Private Partnership that enables the State Department to “course-source” research and innovation related to foreign policy challenges by harnessing the efforts of students and faculty experts at colleges and universities across the United States.

Within the structure of Public/Private Partnerships, we examined social entrepreneurship, the State Department’s Global Partnership Initiative, USAID , and a variety of programs addressing issues around the globe: children’s rights and public works in India, land rights in Thailand, citizen sector and renewable energy in Brazil, public health in Nigeria, environmental concerns in Iceland, microfinance in Bangladesh, and nascent entrepreneurship throughout Central and South America.

My class interacted, one on one, with representatives from the State Department and other universities in the evaluation of selected social programs. It was the experience of a lifetime. Thank you, Professor Mayer.

A potent example of unified effort can be found in this TED Talk:

Myriam Sidibe – The simple power of handwashing

I find myself in awe of the career diplomats we met. If they had a partisan dogma, it was never evident. Theirs is a world of global perspective and a deep sense of responsibility for utilizing the vast resources of our country in an effort to address real-world problems. These are dedicated people that see possibilities through countless improbabilities, venerating the art of statesmanship. They function with little fanfare, remaining the quiet steady force of an America we seldom acknowledge. It was a humbling example of true patriotism.

I learned the community of nations operates most productively at the conference table. Civility, language, accountability, and the nature of practical debate are more formidable than any force of arms. The future belongs to this conviction.

Within the tsunami of reading required to survive this course, Professor Mayer included two exceptional books. For those interested in world affairs, I highly recommend:

The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It – Collier, Paul. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007)

The Wilsonian Moment: Self-determination and the International Origins of Anticolonial Nationalism – Manela, Erez. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007)

I can’t overstate the superlatives when speaking about the exceptional, talented people contributing to this blog. Yet, once again, they exceed every expectation. Please welcome a new page to this humble effort, KIOSK. Quips, commentary, music, poetry, marginalia, all will find a path to the village square of Central Standard Time.

Brule Eagan reports from Los Fresnos, where everything is Texas-sized…including the future, in Land of the Giants.”

Steve Buschbacher never shies from the most difficult questions and his essay Liberal Media? gets to the point. Let’s talk reality.

John Zielinski proves unequivocally “All that we can control is the now” in his insightful essay It’s About Time.”

Tom DeMichael has few peers when it comes to the topic of baseball. Tom breaks down the current highs and lows of our Cubs and White Sox in Crosstown.”

Marc Piane is back with brain food. When Marc’s research includes Monty Python, his philosophical perspective Thinking Critically vs Being Critical is likely to include an Argument Clinic.

Our new page, KIOSK, will begin the urban affectation for violating “Post No Bills.” This month we are treated to some verse from Rebecca Francescatti and Linda Solotaire. So much more is coming for this part of our monthly presentation.

My 50th high school reunion is on the immediate horizon. It’s been months of reflection and wonderful memories. I hope my former class-mates will join me in The Reunion.”

Thank you for being here. Let’s take a break from the common and keep company with the uncommon. As always, fill your favorite mug with designer coffee and have a seat. Let us know your thoughts and wishes…this publication belongs to you.

April 16, 2017

Ukrainian Village Alley












Welcome to a new edition of Central Standard Time. I am pleased to welcome back old friends, regular contributors, and some fresh talent. Grab your coffee and join us for comments, opinions, and interesting thoughts.

My friend Greg King is back with an observation on religion in today’s world with his essay, “Can We Talk?”

The bon vivant of South Texas, Brule Eagan, looks to his local politics for some contemporary perspectives in “The Trouble With Eddie.”

How fortunate we are to live in an urban environment brimming with the creative ethos. It is my pleasure to introduce Rebecca Francescatti. Rebecca’s art graces this issue’s cover.

I met this talented lady at a professional function in which she served as secretary and reporter. Her articles were very good. As I am always on the spy for exceptional writers, this was someone I needed to court for CST. The more you know of Rebecca, the more you see the essence of a complete artist. For some people in the world, the muse descends from Olympus and touches them on the forehead…”This is for you.” Writer of songs and insightful prose, and stunning artist, Rebecca is one of those people.

The SCIENCE page returns. Here is an essay on the fate of our species, “The Solar Federation.” I can promise my favorite page will get more attention in the coming months.

From the Publisher’s Desk, a long hard look at the myth and fate of one particular Arab Spring. “Out of Egypt…” examines the zero-sum game of power in the Middle East.

Here we go! Summer is pulling at our sleeve and the time is right for a moment of leisure and good reading.

 Rebecca “F” Francescatti is a performing songwriter, musician, artist and writer residing in Chicago.  Currently a student in the M.A. Counseling program at Northwestern University, she holds an M.A. in English Literature from DePaul University.  When not moonlighting with her bands Rebecca F. & The Memes or Night Jogger, you’ll find her serving the humanities in the fields of counseling and publishing.  


November –

GettyImages-855728_2640652aWhat a time to be alive! Let’s take a moment and contemplate the sweep of history unfolding before our eyes. The crystal ball of speculation grows murky as pundits, politicians, and the general electorate contemplate a future full of promise, or the need to stock food and water.

Through the coming weeks take a break and listen to your favorite music, draw a picture, sing a song, dance, sip your best wine, and read for escape and stimulation. Central Standard Time can help with reading part. Here is our new edition and it’s all about you, the reader.

David Edward Sims graces this publication for the first time. I can only hope it is the beginning of many more articles from this exceptionally talented man. David’s beat is the creative muse in all its forms and we are treated to an introspection of the spectacular Carmen McRea and the Triumph of the Lyric. Hear his interview program every Sunday morning at DePaul Radio – radio.depaul.edu

The round-table of political opinion may end up as kindling from the heat generated by our crew. Consider these offerings:

Marc Piane delivers a pair of essays. Marc continues his “Outside In” series with a new chapter, “Time.” Never at a loss for an eye-catching title, Marc embraces the philosophy of politics in “An Attempt at Cutting Through the Bullshit”…and cut he does.

John Zielinski clears away the campaign sensationalism by examining our constitution in “Decide!” Informed observation is John’s realm and it’s never stated better than in his article.

My friend Greg King returns to the pen with his essay “Rigged!” The title goes beyond the media blather and observes some of our election history.

Steve Buschbacher gives us a definitive down-ballot look at the congressional elections and the mandate for change in “Taking Back the Senate.” Steve’s detailed research and comprehensive presentation is second to none. A must-read.

The Zenpundit, author Mark Safranski, takes us to the cradle of self-government for an illuminating look at the writings of Greek historian, Polybius, and the contrast to today’s political atmosphere. Grab a seat for “This Election and the Nature of Republics”.

Regular contributor Brule Eagan can paint a word-picture like few others. Take a stroll through South Texas during the election season with “Una Palanca.”

Had enough? I hope not.

As Game #5 of the World Series goes to the Cubs, resident baseball guru Tom DeMichael celebrates the victory and looks to an exciting week ahead in “And They’re Heading For Home!

What would this publication be without Charley Krebs and his razor-sharp illustrations? Check his page for new drawings.


And finally, visit the Publisher’s Desk for some obtuse thoughts on Optimism and Psychohistory.

Pull up a chair and pour a cup of your favorite coffee…join us for some good conversation.

September –



Welcome to the September pages. This month we offer a diverse set of reading material from a lively and talkative group of very clever people. We mark the Equinox with balance and prudence…nah, let’s party!

Marc Piane continues his trek through the forest of self-awareness in a new chapter of “Outside In.” Grab your backpack, turn off your mind, relax and float downstream.

We are treated to more of Steve Buschbacher and his discovery of Philadelphia. Every evidence proves the truism “you can’t take Chicago out of the boy”…or something like that. His question is “Are You Comfortable?”

The Zenpundit, Mark Safranski, offers a wonderful review of  Bob Woodward’s new book “The Last of the President’s Men.” For those of us that lived this crisis in leadership, it’s easy to see the reflection of those times in our daily life. A must-read. More coming from Mark later this month.

The “Sports Oracle”, Tom DeMichael, runs down the state of baseball in Chicago as we head into the post-season. What a year it is turning out to be. Will the Bride’s Maid finally catch the bouquet? Tom gives up the details in “Here They Come, Rounding Third Base…

Charley Krebs graces several pages this month. Look for his current work on the “Publisher’s Desk” and his own page.


I had the extreme pleasure of visiting with Brule Eagan recently. We are truly fortunate to have his intellect in our midst. That said, his essay speaks to “Writer’s Block.” Don’t ask, just read.

In an adjustment of format, a new page is added in place of my normal blog. The “Publisher’s Desk leaves our front page free to summarize and tag the content for each writer, each month. Navigation will be a breeze and indexing will allow a larger readership. This month is an indulgence in casual conversation: Genius and the Jester, and Great Expectations.

Drop us a line on the CONTACT page and help us improve your reading experience.

“Someone died.”

A demonstrator protesting the shooting death of Alton Sterling is detained by law enforcement near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S. July 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

As a child in the Fifties, I recall news of lynching in far-away places like Mississippi and Alabama. When I asked my father what this meant, his response was simply “Someone died.” The war gave Dad an egalitarian view of humanity. Everyone’s blood is red. One of the drawbacks of growing to adulthood is a sudden awareness of life’s inequities. The racial divide becomes crystal clear and awareness is no longer an abstract intellectual concept. We now have the video to back it up. Graphic, gut-churning, images that put a cold, wet hand around your throat. Sobs and screams, imploring, and finally, the voices of shocked disbelief. Candles, flowers, balloons, teddy bears…

When I saw the images of a prone Rodney King being pummeled by batons in 1991, my first reaction was that no living thing should be beaten in such a way. It was a frenzy of policemen taking baseball swings at a prone black man who was not resisting. The four white LAPD officers who perpetrated the beating were acquitted and what followed was the infamous L.A. Riot, followed by the equally infamous orchestrated retreat by law enforcement. I was working in Hollywood at the time and gazed in wonder at the armored van barricading the entrance of the police station, while everything south of Melrose Avenue burned.

The video still haunts me. I could watch it only once. I was able to watch Laquan McDonald being used for target practice no more than once. Or an unarmed Walter Scott being shot in the back as he fled from a traffic stop. Then Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and Michael Brown. A single viewing is all a sane person needs to understand that something is terribly wrong. Every visual evidence is the state of policing in America carries an imperative for victimizing people of color.

I say this with the stipulation that the number of rogue cops is actually a small percentage of the total profession. Yet those few troubled figures dictate a powerful and palpable fear throughout the community and are a disaster to civilian trust. It’s an overt, repeating pattern. Police departments across the country bear closer scrutiny as a haven for a variety of nihilistic personalities.

And now, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. The nightly news puts death on an endless loop while warning us about graphic and disturbing content. It is an advertisement for the institutional murder of black men. As for the tragedy in Dallas, how can anyone be surprised? The only shock is that it didn’t take place in Chicago. There is ample reason it could have.

Chicago, October 2014 – An drug-intoxicated LaQuan McDonald was shot sixteen times by Officer Jason VanDyke. Twelve of those rounds fired after he had fallen. It was more than a year before the dash-cam video was released showing evidence contradictory to the police account. Further discovery revealed Mayor Rahm Emanuel was up to his eye sockets in a cover-up and five million-dollar pay-off to the McDonald family. Jason VanDyke was indicted for murder and faces a sentence of 20 years to life imprisonment. The case marks the first time a Chicago police officer has been charged with first-degree murder for an on-duty fatality in nearly 35 years. At least 20 citizen complaints had been filed against Officer Van Dyke since 2001, but none resulted in disciplinary action.

Chicago, December 2015 – Quintonio LeGrier was shot six times by police in a fusillade of bullets that also left a neighbor, Bettie Jones, fatally wounded. While LeGrier’s father claimed he was being threatened by his son, 911 calls reveal that it was actually the son who called police first. An official Medical Examiner’s report suggests the shots were fired in the hallway. The physical evidence suggests the shots were fired from the curb. Officer Robert Rialmo is now suing the LeGrier estate for ten million dollars citing “extreme emotional trauma” for having to take the life of their son.

Chicago, June 2016 – A video surfaces of suspect Shaquile O’Neal (no, not that one) being head-kicked unconscious while on the ground, handcuffed. The Fraternal Order of Police (CPD’s union) said it disagrees with the decision to strip police powers from the offender before IPRA (Independent Police Review Authority) has completed its investigation into the incident.

“It’s just another disappointing display of, what we consider to be a consistent, anti-police (attitude). The police are just wondering what it takes to get considered as a viable part of society.” – Fraternal Order of Police

Perhaps we should wait for a determination as to whether the cop’s shoe was hard-sole leather or rubber-soled sneaker. Police unions are some of the most robust labor advocacies in the country. In numbers, there is strength…and political clout. An illuminating article by Flint Taylor delves into the dark world of police unions.

…”they mirror and reinforce the most racist, brutal and reactionary elements within the departments they claim to represent and actively encourage the code of silence within those departments.”


These cases are just some representative highlights. Cash settlements for the remediation of complaints with the CPD total over half a billion dollars. That figure easily represents the salvation of our bankrupt and troubled school system.

The police are rarely prosecuted successfully. There is no courtroom miracle or lawsuit solution, no matter how clever the litigator, that is going to discipline the police. Nor are military accoutrements the base cause of trouble. They just look thuggish and reveal a fearful over-reaction by the police, an after-effect. The real action takes place on the streets with the most common enforcement actions, the point where things go all wrong. Moreover, how does a policeman NOT understand that someone is going to document his actions, even after he sabotages the dash-cam and body-cam? A more frightening scenario is that the policeman DOES know he is being monitored, and doesn’t care.

The real tragedy of the Dallas shootings is the progressive improvements made department-wide by police Chief David Brown. In 2012, the department committed itself to transparency. It developed a policy that emphasized de-escalation. Police officers in Dallas are subject to lethal force training every two months instead of every two years. Chief Brown released an enormous amount of police data publishing statistics including 12 years’ worth of data on police shootings on an official online repository. The number of body cameras used by officers increased. Poor performing police officers were fired.

In Chicago we are saddled with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose machinations regarding revenue are the stuff of legend (and fodder for a future article). Former Superintendent Garry McCarthy gave a glimmer of hope for elevating the department’s operations. Instead, he was scapegoated for the results of a disastrous economic policy that victimized and impoverished entire sections of the city.

The first step in changing the actions of our police is to get rid of the fantasy, once and for all, that the law is on our side. The law is firmly on the side of police, even those who open fire on unarmed civilians.

The use of deadly force is governed by the Tennessee v. Garner ruling in 1985 in which the U.S. Supreme Court said that “deadly force…may not be used unless necessary to prevent the escape and the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious bodily harm to the officer or others.” The court later expanded its definition to include an “objective reasonableness” standard. Use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer at the scene and its calculus must embody the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions about the amount of force necessary in a particular situation. Simply stated, the policeman on the scene gets to make a judgement call regarding deadly force.

Next, break the intransigent stranglehold of the police union, the Fraternal Order of Police.

When policemen understand the consequences of their actions and have clear limits defined by state law, when indictments and sentences are handed down to rogue cops based upon those well-defined limits, when there is a provincial political motivation, this will change. Ultimately, the institutes of law enforcement will conform to the parameters they are given for, at least, their personal interests. As a community, we hope for more, but that would be an effective start.

“This is potentially a state authorized killing. It gives law enforcement officers the authority and mandates them to kill when in defense of themselves or others.” – District Attorney Hillar Moore (regarding Alton Sterling)

Finally, policing is the province of state governments. Being proactive, we can make a difference. The viable remedies are as fundamental as a gubernatorial election, a mayoral election, the appointment of a police and fire commission, a board of review, your state senators, representatives, judges and magistrates. We are too frequently caught in the maelstrom of presidential politics and take a laissez faire attitude about election issues in our immediate surroundings. Attend your local city council meeting, ask questions and demand answers. Be informed and vote.

Across the country, 116 black people were killed by law enforcement officers in the first six months of 2016. How do we ignore the ProPublica investigation that found that young black men are shot dead by police at 21 times the rate of young white men?

We sit atop a powder-keg and the sparks move closer.

  • Joe Tortorici