The Tribune is reporting this hour that Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has been taken into Federal custody in Chicago.
Blagojevich joins a long line of Illinois governors hosted by Club Fed going back to the early days of the Republic.
First, hoping to capitalize on their sterling reputation for honesty and good management, Tribune claims that the Cubs sale will continue as planned:
Tribune Co. did not include the franchise and Wrigley Field in its bankruptcy petition, allowing the media company to retain control of the sales process. Nonetheless, Tribune Co. will have to keep creditors informed about the auction, and the winning bid will have to be signed off by a bankruptcy judge, sources close to the situation told the Chicago Tribune.
Moreover, the bidders are unsure of how to proceed. "I really don't know enough to comment," said one bidder. "Some very complex issues have arisen."
Some issues, yes. I'm sure publisher Tony Hunter can clear things up:
What does all this mean for our readers, viewers and advertisers? As a practical matter, very little. Tribune is continuing to operate its media businesses, including its newspapers, television stations and websites. And, at Chicago Tribune, we remain dedicated to providing you with the level of service and news coverage you've come to expect from us every day.
The decision to restructure our debt was driven by the dramatic and unexpected operating conditions we've encountered this year. We have experienced the perfect storm -- a precipitous decline in revenue and a tough economy has coupled with a credit crisis, making it extremely difficult to support our debt. All of our major advertising categories have been dramatically impacted.
In other words, we had no way of knowing that taking on $8.2 billion in debt during a credit crisis while denuding our news departments of reporters under the direction of a man who doesn't actually read newspapers could, in any way, get in the way of us transferring vast amounts of wealth to our major shareholders. Hoocoodanode?
Sad. Very sad.
The Chicago Tribune's parent company was working with bankruptcy advisers at investment bank Lazard and law firm Sidley Austin to weigh financial options, sources told the Chicago Tribune for this morning's paper.
Tribune Co. has been struggling under a $13 billion debt load since real estate magnate Sam Zell took the company private last December in an $8.2 billion leveraged buyout. The company faces a deadline today on $70 million of unsecured debt it took on before Zell's deal.
Analysts have said the sale of the Chicago Cubs baseball team by the end of this year is critical to keeping Tribune Co. within its existing debt covenants, which prohibit borrowing more than nine times its earnings before interest, depreciation and amortization.
But even a potential windfall of a Cubs sale might provide only temporary relief if the Tribune Co. and its advertisers continue to be dragged down by the current economic crisis, which has compounded the effects of splintering audiences for media companies.
My question is, did Zell expect this outcome? Or did he figure, as others have done in the past, that because he made a lot of money in one arena he was therefore qualified to work in another?
It's a little thing, but it means our evenings won't seem as gloomy from now on: tonight's sunset in Chicago is the earliest of the year. Seriously. It has to do with the speed of the earth's orbit around the sun this time of year (it's faster, as we approach perihelion).
In any event, tomorrow night the sun sets just a few seconds later than it does tonight, which just adds a little happiness this time of year.
After eight years of having a president who could barely speak English, and having him say the most reactionary, anti-labor things possible when he did manage to croak out a polysyllable, this overwhelms me with joy:
"When it comes to the situation here in Chicago with the workers who are asking for their benefits and payments they have earned, I think they are absolutely right," [President elect] Obama said Sunday....
"Have we done everything that we can to make sure credit is flowing to businesses and to families, and to students who are trying to get loans? And to homeowners who have been making payments on their homes but are still finding their property values so depressed that it becomes very difficult for them to make the mortgage payments?
"That's where the rubber hits the road and that's going to be the central focus of my administration."
I could cry, I'm so happy. For the first time in, I think, ever, I feel like my vote wasn't a compromise.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Tribune Media may go under; Crain's has more. Thanks, Sam, we appreciate it.
From my dad, yet another New York Times article to make you all warm and fuzzy inside:
Thieves Winning Online War, Maybe in Your PC
Despite the efforts of the computer security industry and a half-decade struggle by Microsoft to protect its Windows operating system, malicious software is spreading faster than ever. The so-called malware surreptitiously takes over a PC and then uses that computer to spread more malware to other machines exponentially. Computer scientists and security researchers acknowledge they cannot get ahead of the onslaught.
As more business and social life has moved onto the Web, criminals thriving on an underground economy of credit card thefts, bank fraud and other scams rob computer users of an estimated $100 billion a year, according to a conservative estimate by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. A Russian company that sells fake antivirus software that actually takes over a computer pays its illicit distributors as much as $5 million a year.
Still mulling over intergenerational conflict as I am, at least I have some good news about Chicago's infrastructure:
[T]he CTA today announced that Purple Express trains in the Loop will resume operation traveling clockwise on Monday, December 29. In April 2007, when three-track operation began at both the Belmont and Fullerton stations, the CTA moved Purple Express trains to travel in the same direction as Brown Line trains (counter-clockwise around the Loop) to supplement Brown Line service and help ease congestion in the Loop during three-track operation.
With fewer Brown Line trains in service as a result of three track, Purple Express trains were rerouted in the Loop to mimic Brown Line service and help customers more quickly exit the downtown area.
This won't make the ride any warmer, but it will make it faster.
Forgot to mention, it won't make it any cheaper , either.
Some of my friends and I have a running conversation about the differences between us in Gen X (born 1964-1978) and the two generations on either side of us (Boomers, 1946-1964; Millennials or Gen Y, 1978-2000). We've concluded that both display a sense of entitlement, in different ways, not present in other generations.
Thomas Friedman sees some of this, as well as how the Boomers are sticking us Xers with their bills, as are the Millennials:
What book will our kids write about us? “The Greediest Generation?” “The Complacent Generation?” Or maybe: “The Subprime Generation: How My Parents Bailed Themselves Out for Their Excesses by Charging It All on My Visa Card.”
Our kids should be so much more radical than they are today. I understand why they aren’t. They’re so worried about just getting a job or paying next semester’s tuition. But we must not take their quietism as license to do whatever we want with this bailout cash. They are going to have to pay this money back. And therefore, we have an incredibly weighty obligation to make sure that we not only spend every stimulus dollar wisely but also with an eye to creating new technologies.
But what Friedman doesn't quite get is that my generation is going to pay for the mistakes of his, and the succeeding generation (the Millennials) will enjoy the benefits of that investment a lot more than we will. We've seen it all their lives: Boomers got rich on computers; Xers did the grunt work to make them as common as light bulbs; Millennials have grown up taking the technology for granted.
I'll develop this further and write more at some point.
This morning the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced the economy lost 533,000 non-farm jobs last month, giving us a main-line unemployment rate of 6.7%. This is the highest since 1993, which, along with the usual credit-crisis indicators (like the 3-month Treasury now at zero), is quite sobering.
Appropriate, then, that today is the 75th anniversary of the 21st Amendment, repealing Prohibition.