Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Morning Round Up

Kass thinks Olympics will make Daley King.  Hard to disagree, though isn't he already?  If we get the Olympics won't it be more like Moscow 1980 than LA 1984?

New CTA stop at Morgan and Lake on the Green line in the West Loop.  Being built with TIF money.  See TIFs aren't always bad.

Also apparently about people were protesting and ripping down Olympic stuff at Daley Plaza and then tried to burn it in the eternal flame there.  I would say most people here in Chicago either don't want them or don't care.  And when I say most, I mean like 65%.  Daley has every company (even the Tribune!) flying Chicago 2016 flags and backing the bid.  But it's the most unenthusiastic backing one could imagine. Compared to a year ago when the City had Obama fever... this is nothing.  It's all fake I'd even say.  Most of the support is coming from people who don't live in Chicago... people form the burbs.

BTW, if/when Chicago doesn't get the Olympics, the tragic and horrible beating death of a Chicago Public School student will be the reason why.  This story won't go away and went INTERNATIONAL.

And the 2016 team is literally making stuff up now about the Olympics and Chicago support for it.  They've got the media wrapped around their fingers, I know, but where is all this support they're talking about?  They have money, sure, but where is the actual support?

We're not stupid, we know how this will work.  We know that their $4.8 billion bid (the lowest of the four bids) is a pipe dream.  London is already over budget.  Vancouver, VANCOUVER, CANADA, is over budget. How is Chicago, a town that is still ripe with graft and clout, going to be on budget?

Think about this for a second.  Vancouver is $400 million over budget. Their original budget was $1.2 billion.  That means they are 33% over budget.  London's 2012 budget is currently... $15 billion!  Chicago's big is about a third of that price.  And a 33% increase on Chicago bid would put costs at $6.4 billion.  This is going to be a disaster if Chicago gets the bid.

Only 50 odd hours to go until they make their decision.  I'll break down how I think the vote will go one of these hours...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fed Catch the Bad Guy?


The FBI had a drug informant become friendly with Finton, according to the complaint. The informant told agents Finton had talked about wanting to get terror training and to fight in Gaza against the Israelis. Agents then worked to set up an "opportunity for action that we controlled," began recording contacts with him and put him in touch with an undercover agent who told Finton he was an al-Qaeda operative.

In a July conversation, Finton allegedly told the agent he was considering attacks on "government buildings, banks and police stations." His hope was that an attack would cause the U.S. military to withdraw from conflicts overseas.

The headline sounds great.  Feds catch terrorist.  But, um, was this guy actually going to be a terrorist before the Feds got involved?  I think it's fair to say that the Feds caught a guy who they created. Which is sort of scary when you think about it.  This is not like someone going undercover with the Mifa... this is leading someone on to think thinking they're going to kill Americans and letting them believe that they were being given everything they need to do so.  They only caught this guy red handed because the Feds were the one giving him everything he needed.

Now there are two sides to a coin... and this case seems like a coin situation.  It's easy to argue that Finton was in fact a terrorist in waiting and if he had hooked up with the real bad guys, bad things would have happened.

But the other side of the coin is what I'm starting to think the more I hear about the Feds catching guys who, um, they sort of created.

I mean, was Finton ever really a threat?  Sure he wanted to cause some harm, but was it real or was he pushed by the FBI?  If the FBI had left him alone would anything had happened?  It's hard to say of course, and on the face of it the country is safe... but is it?  Because at the same time the Feds were focusing all this energy on this one man who may not have even been a threat if the Feds had left him alone urban America continues to decay.  How many gang wars does the American city have to suffer through?  How many young people have to die before we start focusing on another form of terrorism happening blocks away from where you're reading this?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

You couldn't make this stuff up.

You couldn't make this stuff up:
Protesters who attended Saturday’s Tea Party rally in Washington found a new reason to be upset: Apparently they are unhappy with the level of service provided by the subway system.

Rep. Kevin Brady asked for an explanation of why the government-run subway system didn’t, in his view, adequately prepare for this past weekend’s rally to protest government spending and government services.

I mean, you can be all anti-taxes and government for all I care, but please, whatever you do, do not bitch about there not being enough government or service.  You just look silly.  You look stupid.  And you make me wonder if you and your constituents are educated.  And I don't want to think that half the Republican Representatives from the South and their constituents are morons.  I don't want to think that my tax dollars go towards enabling these people to be stupid, because that's a billion times worse than the made up "Welfare Queen" whom you blame for all our problems.

You seriously couldn't make this shit up.  The South everyone, let's give it up for the South!  They may have caught up with us economically, but we're still waiting for them to catch up with us intellectually!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What am I missing?

Bloomberg headlines at about 1:30 (CST) today:
Stocks, Commodities Gain on Speculation Global Economy Returning to Growth
Global Confidence Index Holds at Record High on Signs Recession Has Ended
Ireland Will Spend $79 Billion to Purge Financial System of Toxic Assets
Huh?  Irleand is going to drop nearly 29% of it's GDP in an attempt to get rid of Toxic Assets and the world economy is getting better?  And there are stories like this almost EVERY DAY.  Banks on the brink... banks failing... yet all of a sudden things are getting better?

I am totally lost.  Sure things are better than they were six months ago, but let's not for a second believe that because the DOW is up 2% every day now that things are back to normal and the Sept. 15, 2008 — Sept. 1, 2009 was just a minor bump in the road.  Governments are keeping banks alive and without banks then there is no capitalism.

It's going to take a long time for us, as a nation and world, to get back to where we were in 2007.  But then again, as we found out, much of that money in 2007 was... well... not real.

Monday, September 14, 2009

(Un)Constructive Summer

Frank Rich points out what, frankly, I should have realized and pointed out more directly: the summer of 2009 has been a total waste from a policy perspective:
This was a silly summer, as wasteful in its way as the summer of 2001, when Washington dithered over the now-forgotten Gary Condit scandal while Al Qaeda plotted. The president deserves his share of the blame...

a certain damage has been done — to Obama and to the country. The inmates took over the asylum, trivializing and poisoning the national discourse while the president bided his time. The lies that Obama called out so strongly in his speech — from “death panels” to “government takeover” — ran amok. So did all the other incendiary faux controversies, culminating with the ludicrous outcry over the prospect that the president might speak to the nation's schoolchildren on a higher plane than, say, “The Pet Goat.”
The problem with health care has been the lack of leadership from Obama.  He finally stepped the plate on Wednesday.  But it took far too long.  His political capital is less than it was five months ago, and health care is going to take a lot of political capital.  It was a wasted summer.

And just as all four years of Bush's second term was a waste because nothing happened on the domestic front, 2009 hasn't looked too much better. Yes, stimulus got done, which is more than Bush can say about 2005-2008, but it's not enough.  Obama came in with more political capital and power than any President since probably FDR in 1932.  And what does he have to show for it?  A disliked stimulus and a bunch of two bit rumors started by idiots.  That's what I'd call an (un)Constructive Summer.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

It finally happened. Now will it hap...

It finally happened.  Now will it happen?

That's what I'm left wondering this morning.  Obama finally came out and told Congress what he wants.  I'm sure he'll get something close to what he outlined last night.  So what did he say... going to the newspapers... oh wait, it is impossible to get a news article that talks about what Obama wants.  The New York Times? NOPE.  Chicago Tribune?  SUCKS.  Washington Post?  STINKS.  Seriously, can someone in the media tell me what Obama said last night?  Did anyone in the media listen to his speech?  This is amazing at how poorly it's being covered.  This lifeline from Politico is the best I can send you...  Hey, but at least we know they pointed out that Joe Wilson is a fucking idiot!  Oh wait, we knew that last night.

So I'll do it myself. <sighs/> Anything in italics is Obama's words from last night.  

We are the only advanced democracy on Earth – the only wealthy nation... Then there’s the problem of rising costs. We spend one-and-a-half times more per person on health care than any other country, but we aren’t any healthier for it. 

Amazing when you think about it.  Why is the GOP and some Dems against reform again? If universal coverage was so bad, then why does everyone else have it?

First, if you are among the hundreds of millions of Americans who already have health insurance through your job, Medicare, Medicaid, or the VA, nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have.

Under this plan, it will be against the law for insurance companies to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition. As soon as I sign this bill, it will be against the law for insurance companies to drop your coverage when you get sick or water it down when you need it most... 

They will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or a lifetime... And insurance companies will be required to cover, with no extra charge, routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies – because there’s no reason we shouldn’t be catching diseases like breast cancer and colon cancer before they get worse... 

Now, if you’re one of the tens of millions of Americans who don’t currently have health insurance, the second part of this plan will finally offer you quality, affordable choices... We will do this by creating a new insurance exchange – a marketplace where individuals and small businesses will be able to shop for health insurance at competitive prices....

That’s why under my plan, individuals will be required to carry basic health insurance – just as most states require you to carry auto insurance. Likewise, businesses will be required to either offer their workers health care, or chip in to help cover the cost of their workers...

And the insurance reforms that I've already mentioned would do just that, but an additional step we can take to keep insurance companies honest is by making a not-for-profit public option available in the insurance exchange... I've insisted that, like any private insurance company, the public insurance option would have to be self-sufficient and rely on the premiums its collects... The public option is only a means to that end, and we should remain open to other ideas that accomplish our ultimate goal....

I don't believe malpractice reform is a silver bullet, but I've talked to enough doctors to know that defensive medicine may be contributing to unnecessary costs.

So let's review:
1) Insurance companies cannot deny anyone coverage.  They also cannot drop coverage when they want to.
2) There will be no maximum on coverage (I'm sure most people don't realize this, but most plans have a lifetime cap, if you hit, you're SOL).
3) There will be something called an insurance exchange were people and businesses can go to shop for health insurance.
4) Everyone in America will be forced to buy health insurance.
5) He wants a Public Option... but he doesn't have to have a public option.  Apparently, the public option is like the iPhone, it'd be cool to have but I don't have to have it.
6) Malpractice/tort reform won't solve everything, but we should probably do something about it.
7) If you have insurance, you can keep your insurance.

Okay... seven things.  Laid out nicely for us.  What to think?

Requiring everyone to buy health insurance isn't a cure all, end all... but it is a start.  This won't necessarily control costs, but it will increase the insurance pool.  And Obama's right about tort reform, it's not a silver bullet.  (What he is doing is throwing the GOP a bone.  Will they work with him?  Of course not.  Why?  Because they're fucking dickheads at the moment.  The real question is, why is the Republican party refusing health care reform?  If we don't do anything about health care, things will only get worse, and it will start to eat and destroy America from the inside out... who wants that?)

Final Thoughts:
This is a start.  Obama finally said what he wants.  It should make things a bit better.  But I'm still not sure how it controls costs. Health care—in and of itself—should improve under his plan.  However, are incentives being given for people to get preventive care?  Are their disincentives to going to the ER or the doctor for a cold?  What about end of life treatment?  And who is going to pay to keep a premature baby alive for the necessary time until it can live on his/her own?  Prescription drugs?  The insurance exchange seems... how will it work?

There are a lot of questions out there to be answered still.  This isn't the kind of health care reform that will totally change the face of America or drastically reduce costs or provide results that are as good as Cuba's, let alone Frances.  But it's a start.  And Obama telling Congress and American what he wants was necessary.  Now, let's get it done.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Sun-Times Saved

Good day in Chicago yesterday.  The Oprah thing went fine.  Jay-Z played for free (though someone did get stabbed).  Cubs had 8 straight hits to start the game and won... and it looks like the Chicago Sun-Times will be saved.

Yup, Chicago continues to be a two paper town.  If only the Sox had won... at least the deal reminded me of Mike Royko.

I'm sure Trib Tower is a bit upset.  They've been waiting for years for the Sun-Times to fold.  'Any day now,' they would say to themselves.  Then make a glib remark about Ebert writing them to discontinue publishing the Red-Eye because it was the Red-Eye that was killing the Sun-Times.  Once the Sun-Times was gone then they'd have a nice little monopoly over Chicago and, I guess in theory, make a lot of their financial problems go away.  But I guess they'll have to continue to be the paper in bankruptcy.

Chicago wakes up to both the Trib and the Sun-Times.  The Almighty Tribune and it's harder working, better Chicago reporting red headed step child Sun-Times.  The real winners?  Anyone who lives in Chicago.  

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Sold on the Stimulus

Day late and a dollar short?  Or at this point, do we still need to be sold on it?  I know the bill was passed seven months ago and it's been showing itself in cash for clunkers and high speed rail ideas ever since.  Next year, that money will flood the US economy.  However, all summer we've been told that things are getting better and that the stimulus was unnecessary.

Well those people are wrong.  I rediscovered this graph and even though I've always been pro-stimulus, I was 100% resold when seeing it again
But looking forward, the Taylor rule says that the Fed should cut rates a lot from here — in fact, to negative 6%. That’s not surprising: we’re clearly opening up a huge output gap, inflation is turning into deflation.

The problem, of course, is that you can’t cut interest rates below zero (if you try, lenders will just hoard cash.) So the Fed simply can’t do what the rule says it should.

This is why we need a huge fiscal stimulus, unconventional monetary policy, and anything else you can think of to fight this slump. Quite literally, the usual rules no longer apply.
No matter what we we told all summer, things are not getting better.  Banks are still not fixed.  Business are not growing.  People are out of work and continue to be out of work.  Things are really really bad.  Maybe not 1932 bad, but they're as bad as anyone born after World War II has seen.  And they are not getting better.  Don't listen to the GOPers or the White House.  We have a ways to go.

However as wrong as both parties are about the economy (nothing says out of touch as when you say one thing and your constituents look around see and tell you another), the GOP is more 'wrong'.  This idea that the stimulus wasn't need is wrong—Iraq has WMDs wrong.  The Fed was out of tools back in the Fall and Winter of 2008.  A huge injection of money—the hope, promise, and reality of—was a necessity.

Now, I think people are too often confusing the stimulus (Obama) and the bank bailout (started with Bush, lead by the Fed and pretty much non-political/partisan).  The credit crisis and thus the bailouts, are what should make us all go, Holy Shit.  Those numbers are so large, that it's pretty much impossible for us to fully understand them in our heads.  Check this out if you haven't already - it compares policies like the Marshall Plan to the credit crisis.  Wow.

And of course, that's lead to a whole new mess—already big banks taking on the sick banks to create even bigger banks which of course can't fail.  It's a moral hazard that is TRILLIONS of dollars worse than any welfare program only two bit idiots have an issue with.  But of course, some how, in the mess of the last year, everyone is confusing policy, politics, GOPers and Dems... and as a result, lots of misinformed people (ie main stream media, Sarah Palin) are placing a lot of blame on all the wrong shoulders.

If you have the 90k a year job and think the stimulus was a bad thing... well, be happy you have the 90k a year job because there is a better than you might think chance that you might not have it without the stimulus.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Signs that your country is screwed: #29,483,283

When people bitch about the President giving a small speech to grade school students to the point where it becomes a story.

The GOP is complaining and giving their usual "socialist" bullshit stupid ass ignorant argument.  However, to be fair, back in the early 90s, Dems complained about Bush (the not bad one) giving a small little address to 3rd graders.

Come on people, let's let the President say hi to the kids and encourage them to stay in school.  It's really not a big deal.  He  isn't going to start talking about health care policy or the stimulus or some socialist program.  Why?  Because he's talking to 9 year olds.  And 9 year olds aren't interested in socialists agendas.  

So let's chill the fuck out.  No one is forcing every school student to watch this. It's totally optional if they want to hear the shout out that Obama's gonna lay on 'em. Let's just move on before we fuck this country up any more talking about stupid shit.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Et tu, Daley?

Well one report from the IOC and the Chicago media goes crazy.  I'm happy about it of course—the media is finally starting to catch up with the public.

The stories and editorials are coming fast and furious. But the Mayor has to be starting to panic: His constituents don't want the Olympics any more:
Nearly as many city residents oppose Mayor Richard Daley's Olympic plans, 45 percent, as support them, 47 percent. And residents increasingly and overwhelmingly oppose using tax dollars to cover any financial shortfalls for the Games, with 84 percent disapproving of the use of public money.
Daley has, for the last two or three years, put all his eggs and political capital and connections and ego and time and effort and you know... everything... into getting the Olympics.  The thought was two fold:
1) The Games would be Daley's final 'stamp' on Chicago.  His legacy.  They would be the Daley Olympics, not Chicago's, Daley's.  

2) Money.  Daley also needed the Olympics because of the money it would bring in.  Not the ticket sales and the bullshit multiplier effect that they try to sell us.  But rather federal money.  The city for a bunch of reasons, is out of money (or sitting on billions depending on who you believe) and Daley is/was hoping that the Feds would come in and build him some new public transportation lines and help with crime which would allow him to throw more money at the schools.  But ever since the Federal government started bailing out the banks, it's hard to believe that they're going to send much (any?) money Chicago's way.  

The people of Chicago will put up with a lot as long as you: pick up the garbage, keep the city open spaces clean, and plow the snow.  But even Chicagoans will start to feel a bit rebellious after three years of over all decline throughout the city.  

The decline isn't exactly noticeable to the untrained or out of town eye.  The Loop still looks the Loop and the Lakefront is amazing on a sunny day.  But if you were to walk the streets every day, the difference starts to become obvious.  Crime is up, cops don't have a contract, schools are out of money, if you park your car on the street someone seems to find a way to give you a ticket, it seems like we're being hustled by our own government at every street corner.  And thus, the air, the rhythm of the city, doesn't feel right.  Every Chicago resident feels ignored—we know when the Mayor takes off for China or Moscow and we feel a little, well, neglected.

It hasn't helped that the Olympics have been rammed down our throat.  We haven't had a say in any of this.  That's partly our fault.  But at the same time, Daley and his buddies at Aon (who are working on the details of this bid) haven't allowed us to speak, let alone listened.  Daley figured that we want the Olympics because HE WANTS the Olympics.  But this time he misjudged us. We aren't upset because of the money or the financing.  This is about being ignored.  

Every Chicago resident knew what was going to happen the moment this process started years ago.  We knew there would be corruption. We knew that the Olympic people would be paid a ton of money. We aren't stupid.  But as Daley realizes that we, his constituents, know that he can't deliver everything his promised and that we feel ignored... well I'm not sure what he's going to do.  With a month to go, he has to sell the Games to us, something he never thought he'd have to do.  And now, as the last leg of this journey begins, Daley is still pandering to the world.

He can shut down Michigan Avenue and let Oprah become the #2 cheerleader for all the world to see.  But with every stunt that Daley does to impress the World, he loses another one of His Own.  The people of Bridgeport have been saying this for years—ever since he left the 'hood.  They'll tell anyone and everyone their own Ritchie story, and none of them are ever good.  And we non-Bridgeporters would smile and think, "oh come on, he's not that bad."

But the truth is, they were right.  And now, as we all walk down Ashland or Irving Park or Longwood or Kosner making that quick, slight eye contact with the passerby, we both share a moment where we both thing:

Et tu, Ritchie?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

So close...

In a way, you've got to feel sorry for the Chicago Tribune Editorial board.  Tuesday was supposed to be their big day—the day that the Cook County Sales Tax would be rolled back.  They've been waiting for this day for about 18 months.  They've been so against the County's tax hike that they have a little clock counting down the days until the next election.  In fact, they were so confident that they even wrote an editorial on Monday about the rollback.  The excitement was in the air...

But of course this is Chicago and Cook County... the one place were the person who proposed the bill would vote against her own bill:
Sims deserved Tuesday's award for Most Bizarre Commissioner, a floating distinction for which there often are many qualified candidates. In July, Sims co-sponsored, and voted for, a measure to cut in half the full-percentage-point tax increase that took effect 14 months ago. Sims evidently had enough information to justify casting that July vote. Inexplicably, though, she didn't have enough information Tuesday to override Stroger's veto of the very measure she co-sponsored in July.
You can read the rest of that Trib's well written editorial at that link.  And while the Sun-Times echoed much of what the Trib said, it didn't have the passion that the Tribune's piece did.  

Anyway, what happened at the County yesterday is unique to Chicago and a few other cities in this country: everyone is left wonder just what the fuck is going on.  The tax hike was sold on the fact that the County Hospitals needed more money.  Well they don't.  So the question now is... where did and does all that money go?  (Other than the Forest Preserve hacks of course).

Who knows... and the thing is... at a certain point, we don't care.  Or better put, we stop caring.  And the hacks in the city and county know this. Keep the streets clean, make sure crime only happens in certain neighborhoods, pick up the garbage and get rid of the snow.  You do those four things... and you can do and make whatever you want here in Chicago.