Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Olympics? Budget? Whatever: Mayor Daley keeps it copacetic

Posted By on 06.30.09 at 08:27 PM

If there’s an insurgency afoot in Chicago, Mayor Daley isn’t aware or worried. His mind is on other things.

“I hope you don’t take pictures of me,” he abruptly told a photographer in the middle of a press conference this afternoon. “You’re trying to make me always look mad. Now I can’t get emotional—I have to calm down. When you’re emotional, you start looking different.”

In fact, throughout his Q & A with reporters the mayor sounded surprisingly chill and jovial, passing up numerous opportunities to knock down his ever-louder critics and repeatedly proclaiming adherence to something like a live-and-let-live philosophy—which happened to be helpful as he discussed and deflected questions about the city’s budget deficit and funding for the Olympics.

Daley had some reason to feel copacetic. Minutes before he started the press conference, the City Council had concluded a fiery debate over whether to endorse his plan to save the city $14 million by making nonunionized city workers take 15 unpaid days off over the next six months. Some aldermen bitched, saying they wouldn’t sign off on the plan because Daley’s budget staff had kept information from them, but others countered that they’d all had plenty of time to get whatever information they needed. Most simply lamented that they didn’t know what else to do but vote yes.

The resolution was nonbinding—meaning Daley could have enacted the plan without any council say so—and even though the debate lasted nearly two hours, the administration wasn’t worried about the outcome: press releases announcing council approval were printed up before the vote was taken. It came in at 42-6.

Afterward Daley praised the aldermen for their support. He praised his budget staff for being honest and hardworking. He praised the furloughed city employees who were doing their share to help the city. He praised himself for being one of those employees. He even reserved some goodwill for organized labor, whose leaders have so far have resisted pay or benefit cuts that might avert city layoffs.

“Unions are good,” Daley said, and then added, “They’re not all evil.”

He was asked about the idea, floated earlier by a frustrated First Ward alderman Manny Flores, that the City Council start conducting its own independent budget analysis since some aldermen don’t think they can trust the administration’s.

“They can analycize anything,” Daley said with a shrug.

Another reporter told the mayor that alderman Sandi Jackson said she’s reconsidering her support for the Olympics because of a “credibility gap” created by Daley’s contradictory statements on funding them.

“First of all, there’s no credibility gap,” Daley said. “There’s no credibility. I don’t know where they get that.”

But if aldermen start opposing the Olympics?

“If they want to be against it, fine—they can be against it,” he said. “This is not Mayor Daley’s idea. Let’s forget that. This is not Mayor Daley’s idea. This is not Mayor Daley’s plan. We went though a whole process several years ago with the U.S. Olympic Committee, and we got strong support, and we were the finalists—they selected Chicago on behalf of the United States of America. We represent the United States of America—not just Chicago. . . . If they oppose it, I have no problem with that.”

Yesterday, the mayor was reminded, inspector general David Hoffman declared that the City Council should start discussing Olympic funding plans right away—not in a month or two, as has been promised by bid committee chairman Patrick Ryan.

Instead of replying, Daley calmly offered a rough outline of his plans to cover potential cost overruns—which is apparently all there is so far. “We are now trying to get an insurance policy. We told them—we have $500 million from the city, $250 million from the state, and an insurance policy—we are trying to get an insurance policy. That’s it!”

But wait, I asked him—what was the agreement you signed on to in Switzerland?

“I signed nothing!” Daley cried out. He ran from behind his podium and stopped directly in front of me, shouting and giggling inches from my face. “I signed nothing! Please! Write that—the Reader! Please! I signed nothing! I signed nothing! I don’t know where you get that—I signed nothing!”

My mistake—he merely promised to sign something: an agreement that the city would cover any cost overruns if it hosts the games.

The mayor was still cracking up as he returned to the podium and promised that more details on the plan would follow—as soon as he and the bid committee had any. “We have not come up with that end plan yet,” he said, but vowed that when they did, “We’ll be briefing you on it.”

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Aggregation

Posted By on 06.30.09 at 04:35 PM

Report: Jackson Not the Biological Father of Kids

KTLA News

June 30, 2009

"TMZ reported Tuesday."

"That site also reported...."

"TMZ says multiple sources...."

"according to TMZ"

"US Weekly has reported"

"according to the magazine"

"told The Associated Press"

"said on NBC's 'Today Show.'"

Richard Posner is gonna be pissed.

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7/1 -- Free screening of Uptown: Portrait of a Palace

Posted By on 06.30.09 at 04:08 PM

Passersby may know the Uptown Theatre as a vacant pile of stones near the Lawrence el stop, but when it opened in 1925 the movie palace was touted by architects C.W. and Geo L. Rapp as a theater "beyond human dreams of loveliness." From 12:15 to 1 PM Wednesday at the John Buck Company Lecture Hall Gallery (224 S. Michigan), the Chicago Architecture Foundation will present a free screening of Uptown: Portrait of a Palace, John Pappas and Michael Bisberg's documentary about the landmark's survival. The screening will be followed by a discussion with Andy Pierce, a volunteer for Friends of the Uptown, and Jerry Mickelson, founder of Jam Productions, about the Uptown's history and planned renovation.

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Another bad day for Ticketmaster

Posted By on 06.30.09 at 03:56 PM

The Illinois Attorney General's office today announced that AG Lisa Madigan has reached a settlement with Rolling Meadows-based ticket-resale operation TicketsNow, a subsidiary of Ticketmaster, after an investigation stemming from complaints by Hannah Montana and Bruce Springsteen fans (among others) who felt the sellers had misled them.

The investigation showed that TicketsNow was using a series of sock-puppet Web sites that gave users the impression that (a) they were buying directly from the concert promoters or the venue itself and (b) they were paying face value for the tickets. In truth they were buying basically scalped tickets at a significant markup. As part of the settlement, TicketsNow has already taken down 100 (!) such sites.

Other terms of the settlement include a $50K fine, a requirement that TicketsNow let customers know that they're buying secondary-market tickets at what may be much more than face value, and a ban on non-sporting-event sales by TicketsNow until after Ticketmaster has made face-value tickets available to the general public.

The damage to Ticketmaster's reputation from this settlement? I figure it'll be like putting a ding in the bumper of the rusted-out abandoned car in the empty lot on your block that no one can get the city to take away. 

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No one goes there, it's too busy

Posted By on 06.30.09 at 03:49 PM

Thomas Tunney wants to expand the peddler-free zone outside Wrigley. Since the area around Wrigley that is free of my presence is much larger, I'm totally ambivalent, but I thought this was funny:

"'It's a public safety issue,' Tunney said. 'You can't walk to the park.'"

[snip]

"'The neighborhood has really been changing,'" the alderman said. "'Attendance (for Cubs games) has gone to an all-time high.'"

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The return of juju titan King Sunny Ade

Posted By on 06.30.09 at 03:44 PM

4967.jpg

Four years ago, when Nigerian juju legend King Sunny Ade last played Chicago, the show was pitched largely to the local Nigerian expat community and as such provided an experience similar to what you might get in Lagos (I doubt I'll ever see such a big contingent of sharp-dressed Nigerians at the Vic). A large portion of the concert was devoted to praise songs: fans would climb onto the stage and "spray" the musicians with cash, sticking it to sweaty foreheads or simply tossing the bills in a constant shower, and Ade would respond with improvised praise for his patrons. It was fascinating to watch for a while, but since I couldn't understand what Ade was saying I was prepared to enjoy an hour of it.

For this Ravinia gig Ade is back in Western showbiz mode, playing tightened-up arrangements of his songs without the extended spraying section. His latest U.S. studio effort, Seven Degrees North (Mesa/Blue Moon), was originally released in 2000, but the dissolution of V2 Records a few years back pushed it out of print; it's been reissued to coincide with the tour. It's a sturdy album, even given the irritating presence of electronic keyboards on a bunch of tracks, and the crisp performances contain all of the Ade trademarks: gently cooed singing, wild talking-drum explosions, interlocking guitar and percussion patterns, and pedal-steel solos galore.

King Sunny Ade & His African Beats perform at Ravinia tomorrow night with Femi Kuti, son of perhaps the one Nigerian musician who's always been more famous than Ade both at home and abroad.

Today's playlist:

Maysa, Maysa é Maysa . . . é Maysa, é Maysa (Som Livre)
Federico Ughi, Gene Janas, and Daniel Carter, People's Resonance (577)
Conjunto Sete de Ouros, Sete do Ouros (Odeon)
Built to Spill, Live (Warner Bros.)
Tortoise, Beacons of Ancestorship (Thrill Jockey)

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QOTD

Posted By on 06.30.09 at 03:38 PM

The real Annie Oakley brought 55 libel suits against various newspapers, 54 of which were successful. The Hearst papers were responsible for putting this counterfactual gem into circulation in the first place, and they tried to fight Oakley’s lawsuit by hiring a private dick to dig up some compromising dirt on her. They failed. The Hearst papers were always at the cutting edge of “human interest” journalism. As one Hearst reporter memorably put it, “A Hearst newspaper is like a screaming woman running down the street with her throat cut.”

The Hope Chest, "Annie Get Your Lawyer"

Not unrelated: Michael Miner asks if the Tribune is going overboard on the U. of I. clout story. What I think: the U. of I. is giving clout a bad name. As Paul Campos puts it:

The only surprising thing about this stuff is that none of these bigwigs (including a law school dean -- apparently she never learned to think like a lawyer) can ever seem to remember that government emails are subject to FOIA requests.

It's not just that; the e-mails are hilariously literal: 

Hurd replied: "Only very high-paying jobs in law firms that are absolutely indifferent to whether the five have passed their law school classes or the Bar."

Hurd's e-mail suggests that students getting the jobs are to be those in the "bottom of the class."

It's not just that Dean Heidi Hurd isn't thinking like a lawyer; she's not thinking like a crooked pol, either. The Blago tapes read like Navajo code-talking in comparison.

Miner's point that private schools pull this sort of stunt all the time is well-taken, and it's at least worth considering the broader argument for legacy/clout admissions - grateful invitees and their parents can underwrite deserving students with their expected generosity, and it can keep channels of communication open for the school and its alumni.

But they're private, and can do whatever the hell they want, and those of us who are not clouted can eat it. The U. of I. is public, and we have the right to demand a different, higher standard, even if it costs us a bit more money.

Plus, I try to think of it as a small piece of a larger puzzle, one that includes the parking-meter blowback, the pressure over 2016, and the seemingly increased interest in the TIF system. Tabloidizing a comparatively simple and less consequential controversy doesn't have to draw attention from other scandals; the exact opposite is possible.

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Indeed

Posted By on 06.30.09 at 01:10 PM

zambrano.jpg

This is following up on the heels of Phil Rodgers's column which suggests that the Cubs waive Zambrano.

I know that Zambrano is crazypants and kind of a jerk (per Rodgers, he was clearly trying to hit DeWayne Wise), but... chill. Let's do some comparisons.

Carlos Zambrano
Year / W-L / ERA / IP / WHIP / K9
2007 / 18-13 / 3.95 / 216.1 / 1.33 / 7.4
2008 / 14-6 / 3.91 / 188.2 / 1.29 / 6.2
2009 / 4-3 / 3.69 / 83 / 120 / 1.33 / 7.2

2009 salary: $18M

Mark Buehrle
Year / W-L / ERA / IP / WHIP / K9
2007 / 10-9 / 3.63 / 201 / 1.26 / 5.1
2008 / 15-12 / 3.79 / 218 / 1.34 / 5.8
2009 / 7-2 / 3.26 / 99.1 / 1.16 / 5.5

2009 salary: $14M

Here's another way to look at it: IP leaders, since Big Z is famously reliable. Z is 28, and 49th in the list of active pitchers in career IP with 1465. Some pitchers within 2 years of his age, who have pitched 200 IP at least twice (Zambrano broke 200 IP five years in a row, and pitched 188 last year):

Mark Buehrle, 30, 1947, $14M, 3.26 ERA.

CC Sabathia, 28, 1768, $18M, 3.55 ERA

Jon Garland, 29, 1714, $6.25M, 5.04 ERA

Johan Santana, 30, 1639, $18.9M, 3.08 ERA

Carlos Zambrano, 28, 1465, $18M, 3.69 ERA

Kyle Loshe, 30, 1420, $7.4M, 3.99 ERA, DL

John Lackey, 30, 1378, $10M, 5.04 ERA

Josh Beckett, 30, 1287, $11.2M, 3.48 ERA

Brett Myers, 28, 1177, $12M, 4.66 ERA, DL (technically hasn't pitched 200 IP twice, but has done so once and has pitched 190 three times)

The pitcher who compares most unfavorably to Zambrano is Dan Haren, who is the same age, has pitched 200+ IP for the past four years, has a 2.25 ERA, and is making $7.5M this year. But those who've acquired Haren have had to pay a steep price in talent (if you count Mark Mulder, of course).

Is Zambrano overpaid? Compared to Buehrle, Santana, Sabathia, and Haren, of course. But how overpaid? For a maniac, he's amazingly consistent - he's never had an ERA over 4.00 while starting no less than 30 games since the age of 22. In Baseball Prospectus's subscribers-only section, they describe him as basically somewhere between a subpar ace and a very good #2 starter, which seems fair, and would make him overpriced. But the Cubs overpaid for a very reliable (for good and ill) investment - a known quantity. Perhaps not the best decision, but not worth this week's freakout.

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Fashion after 40

Posted By on 06.30.09 at 12:48 PM

Whenever I hear from a potential client over the age of 35, it's almost a sure thing that she'll want to know how she can dress fashionably without looking like she's either in denial or Florida-bound. I know from experience that there are a lot of clothes out there that fall between saucy twentysomething and dowdy old crone. The problem is that the burden falls on the consumer to find and edit these looks--advertising and magazines tend to highlight styles that look best on those ladies who are still heedlessly enjoying the flower of their youth (as well they should).

I think I'll save this story from the Times as a helpful guide, even though in the typical Newspeak of style advice it suggests that anything goes, except when it doesn't. (Which is, frankly, sometimes as specific as you can be when trying to give advice to a theoretical group of people with diverse personal styles, body types, and issues). It even addresses Michelle Obama's right to bare arms. 

On the other hand, Cathy Horyn recently wrote about the fine line between fashionable irony and looking like a ragdoll as time takes its toll. Patricia Field and Vivienne Westwood have an excuse--it's part of the dress code. But for the rest of us, there's a fine line between quirky and crazy cat lady. Clean lines and proper fit become bigger concerns.

Confused? Of course you are. Some women grow frustrated enough with fashion to bag it entirely as they get older, but others find ways to work with their changing bodies. About a year ago I met a woman who had to at least be in her 60s. She wore a slim, black biker-style jacket made of some shiny, vinyl-like material that made an striking contrast with her snow-white hair. She didn't look like she was trying to look young--it simply looked right. When I am an old woman, I shall wear a biker jacket.

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My goodness, is that newspaper angry!

Posted By on 06.30.09 at 11:36 AM

The Tribune's investigation of admissions at the University of Illinois, "State of Corruption: Clout Goes to College," reminds me of an old-fashioned hybrid car -- the gas in the tank goes only so far, and to go the rest of the way you get out and push.

Consider Tuesday's installment in the month-long series, typically positioned on page one. The pushy headline, "How U. of I. scheme began," promises an origins story that reveals how and why the corruption took root. But the story falls short. It's simply an account of the unverified testimony of Abel Montoya, a former admissions director, to the commission investigating the university's admissions practices. Motoya's story implicates former governor Jim Thompson and the former director of undergraduate admissions, Martha Moore, but both these officials tell the paper they don't know what Montoya's talking about.

The Tribune investigation, though interesting and entertaining, has been tainted by a disingenuousness that would have embarrassed the old Tribune. We are asked to be shocked and appalled that admissions procedures at Illinois' top state university aren't always on the square, that clout and money sometimes play an ugly hand.

Well, yes. But we aren't naive and the Tribune isn't either. On June 25 it carried a short article on tuition increases at the Urbana-Champaign campus. There was this passage:

"Lawmakers have not approved next year's state budget, a draft of which includes $756 million for the U. of I.... The university's total budget is $4.1 billion."

In other words, about 18 percent of the money in the university's budget will come from the state. For the other $3.3 billion it'll have to wheel and deal and make Faustian bargains with potentially deep-pocketed benefactors just like every private school does.

And on the other hand, that $756 million is nothing to sneeze at and it's not guaranteed. So the school has to play ball with Springfield too.

But this is a story on which the Tribune has decided it's better to look splenetic than worldly. On Sunday the Tribune treated its readers to some robust spleen-venting in the form of a front-page editorial. The headline: "U. of I.'s cynical breach of public trust."

The language: "specter of public corruption...increasingly infuriating scandal...betrayal of the public trust...identify the schemers...lost whatever last shred of credibility...cynical game...officials who swam in this sewer..."

Dogs that foam at the mouth this way are put to sleep. 


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