Monthly Archives: September 2009

The case against the Chicago Olympics

10/02/09 1:05 p.m. CST: UPDATE: Chicago’s bid has been rejected. Read IOC Blows off Windy City, Obama

Wow…..after reading this I’m more inclined to support those who oppose the Olympics coming to Chicago. Since this is published as an open letter and I’ve seen it in several spaces in the public domain, I’m going to republish it here in full, as opposed to just excerpts. This is written by investigative journalist Ben Joravsky and originally appeared in the Chicago Reader. This is really quite a letter, so consider this highly recommended reading. Finally, the more I think about the obsession with pageantry and political stagecraft on the part of team Obama, the more likely it seems to me that this push is all about Obama (at least, for the Obama machine it is). It would not be fitting to bring the games to Chicago for that reason.

Dear members of the International Olympic Committee Evaluation Commission:

Welcome to Chicago!

I know you’re here for the next few days to check out our lovely city to determine if we—as opposed to Madrid, Tokyo, or Rio—have the best plan for hosting the 2016 Olympics.

Just so you know from the outset, I hope you don’t give us the games. I’ve been against it from the start, and I could fill a book with the reasons. But I’m not here to tell you how paying for the games would cripple my hometown—if you want that, see This letter is about your needs, not ours. I’m here to tell you some things about Chicago you’ll never hear from Mayor Daley, who’s acting like a used-car salesman, trying to sell you an old beater without letting you look under the hood.

Here’s the fundamental problem: We can’t afford the games. We’re broke—and I mean damn near destitute. The public school system is about $475 million in the red and the city’s facing its own deficit of at least $200 million. Just a few months ago Mayor Daley said he’d balanced the budget by raising fees and fines and slashing the city payroll, but already expenses have risen and revenues have dropped faster than anticipated. His aides have warned that more cuts could be on the way.

The Chicago Transit Authority, which runs our public transportation system, is busted too, in more ways than one. CTA officials are in the thick of their annual budget crisis, warning of fare hikes and service cuts that could affect traffic in every part of town. They don’t have enough money to replace the old buses or repair the tracks that are falling apart.

I know it’s not your concern if it takes ordinary Chicagoans ever more time and money to get to work, especially since the 2016 bid committee has made it clear that it won’t depend on the CTA to shuttle athletes, reporters, and spectators back and forth from hotels to venues.

But thousands of people here are quietly stewing over these budget problems, since they’re the ones who always have to fork over taxes, fees, and fines to make up the difference. Mayor Daley has acknowledged that citizens won’t stand for another property tax hike, especially with thousands of families losing their homes to foreclosure during the economic meltdown.

So instead he’s hiking fees that hit tourists as well as residents. It costs more than ever to park, go to a play or restaurant, or stay in a hotel. And he’s selling off pieces of public property, including Midway Airport and the city’s parking meters. It’s starting to sink in here. A day doesn’t go by when I don’t get a call from an outraged resident bitching and moaning about how much it costs now to park at a meter—or to pay off parking tickets.

And then there are the TIFs: $550 million a year in property taxes siphoned from the schools and parks to feed slush funds that Mayor Daley controls with virtually no oversight. At the moment, the public is conveniently in the dark about them because they’re too complicated for the mainstream press to cover and our tax bills don’t reflect how much we’re paying to keep them funded. But every year the TIF take rises and sooner or later the public will catch on. (If you’d like to bone up on the subject, see

Again, I know it’s not your problem if the city is selling off public assets or keeping two sets of books. But I do think you’ll want to keep these things in mind as you consider whether the bid committee’s financial guarantees are worth the paper they’re written on.

The committee says it can put on the Olympics here for less than $5 billion, since it won’t have to acquire a lot of land or do a lot of construction. Don’t believe it. London, the host for the 2012 games, is now expected to spend $16.5 billion, nearly twice what it first estimated. And Chicago has a fine track record of delays and cost overruns on public projects. The mayor may take you on a tour of Millennium Park while he’s here, but he probably won’t mention that it cost $475 million to build—a mere $325 million more than originally projected. You might like to take a stroll along the Chicago River, but the latest extension of the riverwalk won’t be finished until June. It’s cost taxpayers $22 million—double the original estimates.

Take a drive down State Street while you’re here and see the enormous construction zone between Randolph and Washington. Block 37, as it’s known, has taken the city more than 20 years and tens of millions of dollars to develop, and under those newly constructed buildings is an unfinished train station that’s cost $250 million so far—more than twice the initial price tag.

Chicago’s bid committee has told you that it’ll raise the money through “public-private partnership.” That is, they’ll get private donors to kick in all the cash, and if somehow they don’t, they’ll be able to dip into various rainy day funds, insurance payoffs, and $500 million in taxpayer money authorized by the Chicago City Council and another $250 million guaranteed by the state legislature.

Given our financial situation, where’s that money going to come from?

People around here are going to be very, very displeased if they’re asked to cover the mayor’s enormous bet. Think of the citizenry of Chicago as a big sleeping giant. One day that giant will be stirred from his slumber. Someday, possibly very soon, it will dawn on Chicagoans that all the meters they’ve been feeding, all the taxes they’ve been paying, all the fines and fees they’ve forked over, still can’t pay the teachers and the police and the firefighters and fill the potholes and collect the garbage and remove the snow, and wonder how it is that we can still afford two weeks of international fun and games. And they will erupt.

I know it sounds like a long shot. But I’ve seen it happen before. Back in 1979, when folks got so angry they ousted one mayor—a guy named Bilandic—in favor of a relatively unknown out-of-work city employee named Jane Byrne.

And if it happens between now and 2016, guess who the public will blame? That’s right—the Olympics will be public enemy number one around here. You might even have to hand the games off to some other city, like you did with the winter games back in 1976. I know you remember that fiasco. In 1970, you awarded the games to Denver. Two years later, Coloradans voted to deny public funding for the games and you wound up having to shuffle them to Innsbruck, Austria.

If there’s a revolt over the Olympics in Chicago, it will probably be a messy one, made toxic by matters of race. Mayor Daley has been careful to include pictures of happy children from a variety of backgrounds in the public relations packets he’s been sending you. Obama’s historic election-night celebration in Grant Park made us look like one big charming melting pot. And race relations are a lot better around here than they were in the 1980s, when white folks lost their freaking minds over the prospect of electing a black mayor.

But Chicago remains one of the most racially segregated cities in the country, with a nervous tension just beneath the surface that flares every now and then over issues like crime, police misconduct, or the worth of black politicians such as Senator Roland Burris or Cook County Board president Todd Stroger. Mayor Daley usually contains the animosity by plying his black political supporters with just enough patronage to keep them happy. But the Olympic plan is perceived by many as a thinly disguised urban renewal project. They worry that Olympic “improvements” will drive working-class African-Americans from the near south side.

Granted, so far there have been no large public outbursts against the Olympic bid. You can’t even find an alderman with the guts to ask routine questions before approving the mayor’s Olympic initiatives—like $86 million in public funding for the Olympic Village. If people haven’t raised a stink yet, it’s because they’re not putting two and two together yet—2016 seems so far away, and meanwhile there are parking meters to be outraged about—or they’re scared to take on the mayor.

But it’s not because they love the idea of hosting the Olympics. The mayor waves around a poll his Olympic bid committee took a year ago that found 76 percent of Chicago-area residents favor bringing the Olympics to town. But a Chicago Tribune poll taken in February found that 75 percent are against using public money to pay for them.

Several aldermen have told me that they’ve gone along with this boondoggle because they’re afraid of enraging the mayor by voting no. I know he’s probably been pretty charming to you. But you wouldn’t like Mayor Daley when he’s angry. Some aldermen—and even a few of the business leaders who’ve kicked in money to the Olympic campaign—tell me they’re hoping you’ll do the dirty work of killing the games.

So please do us all a favor: Give the games to Rio. Or Madrid. Or Tokyo. Send them anywhere but here. And let’s all pretend like this cockamamie idea of holding them in Chicago never left the confines of Mayor Daley’s skull.



Filed under Barack Obama, Corruption, Sports

Chicago Olympics opposition mobilizes…in Chicago

An organization by the name of “No Games Chicago” has formed in the Windy City, dedicated to prevent the Olympics from coming there in 2016.

I’ve been mildly intrigued and amused by this little story this week, with the first couple going to Copenhagen to either try to convince an international Olympic committee to bring the games to Chicago – or take credit when a decision that has already been essentially made, is announced (to present the conspiratorial but certainly credible view).

The politically correct thing would seem to be to get in the spirit and support one’s city in a bid for the games, so I love that these folks have the gumption to stand up and be the proverbial sticks in the mud. And they definitely have some good points….it could potentially be a very costly proposition for the city and state, and it is also true that the city and state are corrupt politically, and in that sense do not live up to the noble spirit of the games.

Anyway….I’m not too concerned one way or the other at this point. I don’t necessarily think it’s incredibly presidential for Obama to be getting so parochial on this thing, but whatever……And the thought did ocurr to me that this could really be a big attempt at legacy building: If Obama wins a second term, this would be a kind of final cap on his tenure….a big, international event, bringing together nations, etc., right in his home city of Chicago. You get the idea. So, if it’s to be used to glorify The One, then absolutely I’m opposed to that.

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Filed under Barack Obama, Sports

Van Jones, Yosi Sergant….Kevin Jennings?

This one has been simmering quietly for a bit…..

Apparently a top official at the Department of Education once counseled an underage boy regarding a sexual relationship with an older adult male, neither reporting to authorities what amounted to statutory rape nor advising the boy to suspend contact with the man.

Today Jake Tapper of ABC reports that Kevin Jennings, a former teacher, has now “expressed regret” over the incident. Is the White House attempting to head off any pressure they see coming over Jennings?

Jennings is a former director of GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. He works for Arne Duncan, the Education Secretary (whom I’ve had some positive things to say about), as the head of the “Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools.”

Jenning’s statement of regret comes the same week in which a political-cultural divide of attitudes towards sexual mores has been exposed dramatically in the case of Roman Polanski. Some prominent liberals argue the aging film director should not be subject to further prosecution for his rape of a thirteen year old girl in California several decades ago. Conservatives have said that justice will be served by bringing the case to a conclusion.

Can’t say I’m surprised that a GLSEN activist is in this post, nor can I say that I was surprised by this incident when I first learned about it.

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Filed under Barack Obama, Education

A moment’s reflection on music

I need more jazz in my life.

Was just listening to some John Coltrane and Miles Davis, Blue in Green. Incredibly relaxing. The type of stuff you can put on background and just exist emotionally, think intellectually, et cetera. Be absorbed by the very cool, very sophisticated grooves of it all. Transported.

I’ve been playing the piano recently…some of the simpler classics from Mozart, Handel, Burgmuller and Bertini.

Maybe it’s time I get into some jazz.

Hat tip of sorts to my fellow Pembroke Hill Class of 2000 alum Tim Kessler, for his casual mention of Blue in Green on Facebook!


Filed under Music, Personal Living

It’s NOT “advocate for”

One point of personal privilege that comes with running a blog is that if the urge strikes, I can publish a quick thought on a completely random topic. Here’s one that’s been bugging me for a while.

The use of the term “advocate.” The word can be used as a noun or verb, and in its latter usage what was once a somewhat common error now seems to be absolutely pervasive – and it annoys me.That is the tendency to say that this or that group “advocates for higher wages” or increased disabled accessibility or less pollution or greater “access” to whatever the most recently discovered birthright entitlement is. No, they don’t. Well, maybe in a new, slightly maladaptive way they do. But in the proper sense, the truest sense, this group does not “advocate for.” They “advocate.”

The permeation of this error is a reflection of laziness and imprecision among those classes (agitators, self-styled do-gooders, etc.) who use it. While I do own an unabridged American Heritage Dictionary (widely considered to be the authoritative prescriptive dictionary of American English today) along with my collegiate version Merriam-Websters (a more descriptive, and on some level, liberal defining source of words), I’m not one of those people who don’t think the language can’t or shouldn’t evolve. I have no problem with that. This trend just happens to be particularly nauseating.

There are a few reasons why this error has probably developed, but one is undoubtedly the proliferation of politics as a proportion of the civil sphere. Everybody is an advocate these days, advocating for something. And by that I mean advocating something, of course.  I would include in this, broadly speaking, the rise of non-profits. Or “not for profits,” as the more well heeled among them prefer to be called. (That is another topic in and of itself, and a fun one at that!) The higher-quality sources tend to get it right, I’ve noticed, but I don’t know that even they’re immune.

Anyway. I received an email from a Missouri blog today that contained this error (I’ll let you guess which blog). It ticked me off and now I’ve steamed about it. Consternation relieved.


Filed under Just For Fun, Media

Support for Health Care Overhaul Sinking

Rasmussen Reports:

“Just 41% of voters nationwide now favor the health care reform proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats. That’s down two points from a week ago and the lowest level of support yet measured.”

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Filed under Health Care

Goldberg on Obama’s U.N. speech

National Review’s Jonah Goldberg dissects the rhetoric from President Obama’s mid-week speech to the United Nations. On foreign policy it is as platitudinous, equivocating, and ego-driven as his much of his domestic policy rallying. This is my own reading and summary of the article, with which I agree – but read it for yourself, you’ll be glad you did.

President Barack Obama addressed the United Nations on Wednesday

President Barack Obama addressed the United Nations on Wednesday

It seems that in Obama’s world, the only moral vision of international comparisons and relationships is that filtered by moral equivalency and political unity. If you disagree, naturally you’re immoral and divisive. Such is the bull-headed piety and arrogance from The One.

Much of Goldberg’s current work focuses on the subject he discussed in his recent book Liberal Fascism, an invaluable contribution to the discourse on present day political lineages and the philosophical origins of the Left. I was particularly glad to read this piece coming from him because it demonstrates his versatility.  It contains a few trademark barbs, treating a reader in the know to subtle yet brutally poignant critiques.

On the defense of Obama’s rhetorical similarity with anti-American voices as realpolitik:

“The problem with this analysis, however, is that most of what Obama said Wednesday was a repeat of what he has said many times before, on the campaign trail, in Berlin, and in Cairo. He has said this stuff so often, some might be forgiven for thinking it is more than just words.” (emphasis added)

Recall Obama’s sneering use of this phrase in a taunt of his campaign critics.

Liberal Fascism author and National Review Online Editor-at-Large Jonah Goldberg

Liberal Fascism author and National Review Online Editor-at-Large Jonah Goldberg

I’ve followed Jonah Goldberg closely since Liberal Fascism, and in my view his work is now attaining levels of energy, insight and eloquence comparable to Pulitzer Prize winners Charles Krauthammer and George Will. Each has their own style and focus, and while Goldberg is much younger he now joins the club. May his career be fruitful for many years.

As an aside, I had a chance to meet Goldberg in Kansas City earlier this year, following a lecture sponsored by Americans For Prosperity. Even at the end of a long night, after delivering a lecture and talking with many guests, he took a few minutes to give a young fan some writing advice. I remain grateful.

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Filed under Barack Obama, Conservative Movement, International Relations