People who live outside Chicago might find it shocking and dismaying to read a newspaper report that their city's Olympics bid will, if successful, make the mayor's friends rich. For us, it's actually comforting. I mean, we all knew someone would get rich; now we have a better idea who:
Chicago 2016 committee member Michael Scott also served as a consultant to the developer on a condominium project near the proposed athletes village, a development that would increase in value if the city wins the Olympics.
Scott, who negotiated key components of the $1.2 billion Olympic Village plan, said his business relationship with the developer, Gerald Fogelson, does not interfere with his role with the bid team. Chicago 2016 officials declined to say whether Scott's relationship with Fogelson was a problem, with Daley's Olympic team poised to spend billions of dollars in coming years.
What? You think civic pride alone would motivate the mayor to put us on the hook for $4 bn to get a sporting event?
In other news, the White Sox are officially out of the post-season, but the Cubs are still hanging on.
Perhaps we should look at Atlanta's example:
Thirteen years later, the financial legacy of the Olympics in Atlanta is harder to detect. Like many major cities, Atlanta has fallen victim to the recession, forced to lay off teachers and city workers while slashing services. The City Council recently voted to raise property taxes to cover a $56 million budget deficit.
Winning the Olympic bid catapulted Atlanta into the big leagues, giving it name recognition around the globe. Atlanta's $1.7 billion private-funded investment in hosting the games helped revitalize its sluggish downtown and poured $5 billion into the metropolitan area's economy during the next decade, according to the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.
Atlanta's cost was less than half of the $4.8 billion Chicago has estimated it will need to raise if the city is awarded the 2016 Olympic Games.
In sum, no one knows. The Tribune doesn't analyze with much rigor what parts of Atlanta's economic problems come from unrelated factors. Nor do they tease out the direct economic benefits or costs of hosting the games. In short, it's one more frustratingly unhelpful piece of journalism about local politics.
I think our problems and our strengths look nothing like Atlanta's. Possibly Los Angeles might have been a better model; it's hard to say. I honestly don't know whether Chicago will benefit or lose from 2016. No one does. But I think we'll find out, whether we want to or not.
Tom Friedman on why the U.S. is falling behind in alternate-energy research:
The reason that all these other countries are building solar-panel industries today is because most of their governments have put in place the three prerequisites for growing a renewable energy industry: 1) any business or homeowner can generate solar energy; 2) if they decide to do so, the power utility has to connect them to the grid; and 3) the utility hasto buy the power for a predictable period at a price that is a no-brainer good deal for the family or business putting the solar panels on their rooftop.
Regulatory, price and connectivity certainty, that is what Germany put in place, and that explains why Germany now generates almost half the solar power in the world today and, as a byproduct, is making itself the world-center for solar research, engineering, manufacturing and installation. With more than 50,000 new jobs, the renewable energy industry in Germany is now second only to its auto industry. One thing that has never existed in America — with our fragmented, stop-start solar subsidies — is certainty of price, connectivity and regulation on a national basis.
But hey, even though we're slipping behind just about every other rich country in the world, at least we have the Free Market. (I am reminded of the old Kit-Kat commercials from the 1970s: "We ain't got class, but we got taste!")
Via Calculated Risk, tomorrow the Irish Finance Minister will explain, somehow, what Ireland's government will do with the €90 bn in real estate loans now crippling the country's economy:
In what may be the biggest financial gamble in 87 years as a sovereign state, the government will become the owner of loans for property developments that have plunged in value.
Ireland is suffering the worst economic slump of any developed nation since the Great Depression, according to the Economic & Social Research Institute in Dublin.
The National Asset Management Agency, known as NAMA, will buy 18,000 loans at a discount from lenders led by Allied Irish Banks Plc and Bank of Ireland Plc. The agency will manage the loans, which amount to about half of Ireland’s gross domestic product. Should any of the 1,500 borrowers default, the agency can seize the land or other security put up.
To put that in perspective, imagine if the U.S. government took over $8.5 trillion in loans. That's the equivalent.
Patrick Smith ("Ask the Pilot") wonders why we still can't get airport security right:
[T]he primary threat to commercial planes is, was and shall remain explosive devices. The Sept. 11 skyjack scheme is today unworkable for a variety of reasons. Yet those who run airport security refuse to acknowledge this, wasting time and resources ransacking people's luggage for what are, in effect, harmless items. Has anybody at the Transportation Security Administration bothered to peruse the air crimes annals of the past 50 years? The agency, along with too many Americans in general, seems to exist in a world that did not begin until 2001, oblivious to the long record of terrorist sabotage against civilian airliners.
My ranting on this topic might be redundant, but remember there are hundreds of lives, and tens of billions of dollars, at stake. A bombing, or multiple bombings, would be devastating to the U.S. economy and possibly catastrophic for the airline business. In the past, airlines were able to pull through after incidents of sabotage. People recoiled in horror, but they didn't stop flying. Nowadays our mind-set is very different. We are, I'm afraid, more predisposed to panic and rash behavior.
The entire column is worth a read.
My senior U.S. Senator responded yesterday to a letter I sent in July. He writes:
Thank you for contacting me about giving Americans the choice of a public health insurance option that will compete with private insurance plans.
I support a public option and appreciate hearing from you. We need health care reform that reduces costs for families, businesses, and the government; protects people's choice of doctors; and assures affordable, high-quality health care for every American.
We are crafting a reform bill with these goals in mind. Those who like the health insurance they have should and will be able to keep it. However, a public option will provide a valuable alternative to today's private health plans. Too many Americans do not like or cannot afford the health insurance offered by today's for-profit insurance companies. A public option will provide competition that will hold private plans accountable and help moderate the price of health insurance.
I will continue to work for a reform plan that provides stable and secure coverage, stable and affordable costs, and better quality care. We face a difficult challenge gathering the 60 votes necessary to move legislation forward in the Senate, but I will continue to work for the inclusion of a public option in the final legislation.
Keep in mind, Senator Durbin is the Majority Whip, the second-highest-ranking member of the Senate, so his views carry some weight.
U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown yesterday formally apologized to Alan Turing, the gay cryptogropher who broke the German navy's codes in World War II, saving the lives of thousands of British sailors:
Turing was a quite brilliant mathematician, most famous for his work on breaking the German Enigma codes. It is no exaggeration to say that, without his outstanding contribution, the history of the Second World War could have been very different. He truly was one of those individuals we can point to whose unique contribution helped to turn the tide of war. The debt of gratitude he is owed makes it all the more horrifying, therefore, that he was treated so inhumanely.
In 1952, he was convicted of "gross indecency" – in effect, tried for being gay. His sentence – and he was faced with the miserable choice of this or prison – was chemical castration by a series of injections of female hormones. He took his own life just two years later.
It is thanks to men and women who were totally committed to fighting fascism, people like Alan Turing, that the horrors of the Holocaust and of total war are part of Europe's history and not Europe's present. So on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan's work, I am very proud to say: we're sorry. You deserved so much better.
It's about bloody time. But good job, Prime Minister.
Lots of interesting (to me, anyway) items on the Intertubes today:
- Chicago really did have one of the coolest summers ever this year, complete with the longest stretch of sub-27°C temperatures in 124 years.
- Via The Expired Meter, Chicago ranked first in a list of the worst cities to drive in, because of our lovely red-light cameras paired with 3-second yellow lights. Before you get smug, the entire state of Florida made the list, too.
- The International Olympic Committee president said the vote will be close, and it's down to Chicago and Rio for the 2016 games. Meanwhile, the White House denies rumors that the President will go to Copenhagen to
lean on show support for Chicago.
- The Dubai Metro opened on Wednesday, but will it help? At least it goes to the airport, a feature whose importance the two largest U.S. cities have still failed to grasp.
- A story appeared in the Washington Post about a D.C.-area school that squandered a $50,000 grant, after squandering a $27,000 grant just a few years ago.
- Via Andrew Sullivan, a report that Margaret Thatcher told Mikhail Gorbachev in a secret meeting that the U.K. did not want German reunification because it would destabilize the U.S.S.R.
Whew. Back to accounting homework.
Apparently Illinois has its own rude Congressman:
Rep. John Shimkus, a Republican from Illinois, walked out.
"Congressman Shimkus was frustrated that the president was not offering any new ground and left with just minutes remaining in the speech," spokesman Steven Tomaszewski said today in response to our question about the late-speech walk-out.
I have also gotten clarification of the British way of doing things:
Language and expressions used in the Chamber must conform to a number of rules. Erskine May states "good temper and moderation are the characteristics of parliamentary language". Objection has been taken both to individual words and to sentences and constructions ‐ in the case of the former, to insulting, coarse, or abusive language (particularly as applied to other Members); and of the latter, to charges of lying or being drunk and misrepresentation of the words of another. Among the words to which Speakers have objected over the years have been blackguard, coward, git, guttersnipe, hooligan, rat, swine, stoolpigeon and traitor.
The context in which a word is used is, of course, very important. The Speaker will direct a Member who has used an unparliamentary word or phrase to withdraw it.
Members sometimes use considerable ingenuity to circumvent these rules (as when, for instance, Winston Churchill substituted the phrase "terminological inexactitude" for "lie") but they must be careful to obey the Speaker's directions, as a Member who refuses to retract an offending expression may be named or required to withdraw from the Chamber.
Still, our side disagreed with the President about a war that has cost thousands of lives and close to a trillion dollars and we behaved ourselves. What is it with the GOP today, anyway?