The Blog @ Rotating Header Image

March, 2008:

All you need to know about White Sox fans

This is for the benefit of those who read this blog, but not Hire Jim Essian! You know, all one of you. Mike Donohue spun a gem the other day about the essential difference between Cubs fans and Sox fans.

It’s true. I’ll be willing to bet that most Sox fans would trade their 2005 World Series title for an iron-clad guarantee the Cubs would never see the same.

David Mamet? Really?

Mark Steyn of the Corner alerts us that David Mamet has re-examined his political leanings. He starts this Village Voice article quoting John Maynard Keynes and closes it by praising Thomas Sowell, Milton Friedman and Shelby Steele.

He does point out this parallel for those infected with “Bush-derangement syndrome”:

 I found not only that I didn’t trust the current government (that, to me, was no surprise), but that an impartial review revealed that the faults of this president—whom I, a good liberal, considered a monster—were little different from those of a president whom I revered.

Bush got us into Iraq, JFK into Vietnam. Bush stole the election in Florida; Kennedy stole his in Chicago. Bush outed a CIA agent; Kennedy left hundreds of them to die in the surf at the Bay of Pigs. Bush lied about his military service; Kennedy accepted a Pulitzer Prize for a book written by Ted Sorenson. Bush was in bed with the Saudis, Kennedy with the Mafia. Oh.

And I began to question my hatred for “the Corporations”—the hatred of which, I found, was but the flip side of my hunger for those goods and services they provide and without which we could not live.

And I began to question my distrust of the “Bad, Bad Military” of my youth, which, I saw, was then and is now made up of those men and women who actually risk their lives to protect the rest of us from a very hostile world. Is the military always right? No. Neither is government, nor are the corporations—they are just different signposts for the particular amalgamation of our country into separate working groups, if you will. Are these groups infallible, free from the possibility of mismanagement, corruption, or crime? No, and neither are you or I. So, taking the tragic view, the question was not “Is everything perfect?” but “How could it be better, at what cost, and according to whose definition?” Put into which form, things appeared to me to be unfolding pretty well.

It’s a great read, even if you continue to lean left (one day you’ll figure it out). Parts of it have an Ayn Rand feel.

Mamet, it’s great to have you!

Outrage wanted

The quickly-dying Sun-Times has decided to fan the flames of fan outrage over the renaming of Wrigley Field. Again, it won’t happen. And again, it’s time to wake up if you live south of Wisconsin, East of the Mississippi River, West of Lake Michigan and the Indiana line, and north of the Ohio River.

Sometime before Easter, the state of Illinois will make an offer to buy Wrigley Field from the Cubs, who are owned by the Tribune Company, who are led by Sam Zell. Zell’s motivation for selling Wrigley Field separate from the Cubs?

The conventional wisdom is proving only half right. According to this Chicago Sun-Times story late last week, Tribune intends to sell the Cubs, Wrigley Field and “related real estate” in the first half of 2008, as Zell seeks more financing for the $8.2 billion buyout of the newspaper publisher that is expected to close by year end. But the story goes on to say Zell is looking at selling Wrigley and surrounding real estate separately from the team itself.

Now the latter isn’t exactly news. The Chicago Tribune itself has reported that Zell is seeking more creative ways to monetize assets and is examining each of the assets separately. Specifically, he wants to know whether there are ways to derive revenue from them either through financial engineering or by finding what the paper called “nontraditional buyers who look at value differently.”

Simply put, he thinks he stands to make more by selling each off separately rather than bundling them. We have potential buyers for the Cubs, to be sure, but who wants to buy a 94-year-old ballpark that needs major renovation? Obviously the Illinois State Facility Authority, aka “Corporate Welfare for Jerry Reinsdorf.” The ISFA generously took taxpayers’ money, built a ballpark on the South Side for Reinsdorf’s business to use nearly exclusively. Zell will sell the park to the ISFA, which will issue bonds to finance the sale and then take the city’s share of the sales tax in the area around Wrigley Field to finance the bonds. Oh and they will probably tack on another “ticket tax” as well.

I have seen very limited outrage over this deal, mainly from Ben Joravsky from the Reader, and the always-reliable-for-a-contrarian-opinion Chuck Gitles. The thing with Chuck is that he makes sense.

What they want to do is charge the team rent, use the funds from a naming rights sale, and keep all sales taxes generated by the ballpark to pay for the cost of renovations. Those sales taxes are taken from the Cubs and spent on local services. If the state sequesters those funds for Wrigley Field, existing services will need revenue from other sources to replace that used for the bonds.

There is no way this is free.

But let’s look at the actual transaction. Basically the state wants to use money already available to the Cubs (naming rights and themoney they’d need to come up with to cover rent) and throw in sales tax revenues to pay for the renovations.

Why not just give the Cubs a 30 year tax break on sales tax and let the team continue to own the park themselves?

Oh yeah. Sales taxes are not a happy topic in Strogerland right now.

(An aside, why not have the Cubs do it themselves and simply raise ticket prices the $.50 to $1 as the city proposes raising the amusement tax?)

Just tonight, I found another anti-ISFA sale site, which asks a few simple questions that it has sent to a few state leaders, with no response:

Q Will there be any “PUBLIC VOTE” on ISFA buying Wrigley Field? If not, why not?
Q If the ISFA does buy Wrigley Field, will this deal make money for the State of Illinois?
Q Does the State of Illinois make money on the Comiskey Park deal?
Q Will the Cubs get a similar deal to the White Sox?
Q Why doesn’t the State of Illinois open an Amusement Park or an Outdoor Music Theatre that makes money too?
Q How is it that we keep hearing that not enough money exists for the CTA or Schools, but this purchase seems to be no big problem?
Q I have heard Sam Zell “This is best for the State of Illinois” Anyone care to explain?
Q Who the hell are you guys?
Q I read the website and you sure make it look like the place is some revenue machine, yet you only made $73,000 in addtional event income in 2006?

This is a bad deal for the state, and Chuck pointed out its an awful deal for the new owner of the Cubs, which makes it a bad deal for Cubs fans.

Where’s the outrage? Remember, the state and city just paid to fix Soldier Field, and are talking BILLIONS for the Olympics. Meanwhile, I’m finding I’m not the only one who wants out of Cook County thanks to the oppressive taxes.

Are Chuck and Ben Joravsky and the guys at the site I pointed out the only ones against this sale? Really?

Schadenfreude Rally?

Via Steven Spruiell from the Corner:

Yesterday’s image from New York:

The Emporer Has No Clothes!

The most dangerous man in America, the poster boy for state Attorneys General (and Governors) running amok, Eliot Spitzer fingered in a prostitution ring!

Today’s news from New York.

Dow Jones: + 416.6

S&P 500: +47.28

NASDAQ: +86.42

Think traders went out for a few cocktails last night, and maybe kept the merriment going when the bell sounded? Hmmm, maybe? Sure, Bernake helped this morning, but Spitzer’s legal troubles probably didn’t hurt.

On a smaller scale, the revelation about Spitzer is similar to the downfall of Larry Bloom 11 years ago.  Spitzer will go down hard, and we’re all better off for him disappearing from the political stage.

A Tax Revolt

Upon the Cook County Commissioners’ passing a sales tax hike last week, I suggested to my wife that we start making all of our purchases in Lake County, the land of sub-7 percent sales tax. Starting this November, the lowest-taxing municipalities will have a sales tax nearing 10 percent. What does this mean? $100 in books at the Borders at Lake-Cook and Waukegan Road will cost $110, while the same books at the Barnes and Noble on Deerfield Road and Waukegan Road will cost only $106.75. Even more starkly, a $2000 large-screen TV at Best Buy at Lake-Cook and Waukegan Road will cost a consumer $2200; at the Best Buy at Milwaukee Ave., and Townline Road in Vernon Hills, the same television will cost $2135. If your town has retail outlets along Cook County’s outer boundaries, you stand to lose some of your own tax revenue.

Naturally, some villages, like Palatine, Barrington and Hoffman Estates are steamed. The proposed solution? Secession. Ironically, the proposed name of the new county is Lincoln County. How better to honor the President who fought secession than by naming a county in his home state that was borne out of secession? All kidding aside, I’m all for it, but only if this secession scheme includes Northfield and Niles Townships as well. But beyond the perfidious taxes, the services offered by Cook County could benefit. Indianapolis benefited from uniting city and county services, aka Unigov. Cook County, at 5.6 million people, is the second-largest county in the country, and the 19th largest government in the U.S. It also is dominated by city politics; the suburbs exist to send money into the County.

The quality of county services — not the disparity of money being sent to the county — was a big reason why some southern and western suburbs proposed seceding three years ago. I’d like to see the state split the county three ways: a county comprising just the city; a county making up all of northern Cook; and a southern county making up the western and southern suburbs.