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Obama and the Chicago Olympics

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Notice Obama isn’t actually going to Copenhagen: the bid is not worth wasting the power of the presidency on. The Olympics might end up in Brazil, after all.

Gotta Support the Team!!

With 16 days left until the International Olympic Committee chooses a host city for the 2016 Olympics, President Barack Obama stood on the South Lawn of the White House on Wednesday and made a pitch for Chicago’s bid to win those Summer Games. He promised that if the I.O.C. chose Chicago, the city would make the United States — and the world — proud.

“Chicago is ready,” Obama said during an event featuring Olympians, Paralympians and local schoolchildren. “The American people are ready. We want these Games.”

“I promise you, we are fired up about this,” he said of the possibility of the Games being awarded to Chicago, where he lived for nearly 25 years before moving into the White House.

[Click to continue reading Obama Says Chicago Is ‘Ready’ to Win Bid to Hold 2016 Games – NYTimes.com]

Division Street Bridge
Here’s what the City of Chicago needs to spend money on instead: this is the Division Street Bridge, seemingly rusted nearly to collapse. Why don’t we spend money fixing our infrastructure and mass transit first?

Ms. Obama loves to publicly tease the President:

Michelle Obama, a lifelong Chicagoan, will lead the United States contingent at the meetings. On Wednesday, she showed the crowd charisma that just may win over some I.O.C. members.

After taking to the podium, she encouraged the audience to cheer and show its Olympic spirit. She then poked fun at her husband’s attempt at a few of the Olympic sports that were on hand, causing the crowd to roar with laughter.

“You should have seen the president in there fencing,” she said of her husband, who said he had always wanted to try the sport. “It was pathetic.”

and not sure how relevant the Chicago Cubs attendance records are to funding Olympics:

Michelle Obama said Chicago was the “ideal home for the 2016 Games,” not just for its landscape, infrastructure or resources, but also for its people and their love of sports.

“You know, you have to admit, even White Sox fans are impressed by the fact that even though the Cubs haven’t won a World Series in centuries, Cubs games sell out,” she said. “Everybody’s there. It doesn’t matter. Win or lose, we are going to watch the Cubs.”

because the White Sox don’t always sell out, just the Cubs.

I still haven’t heard anyone give a good reason as to why Chicago should even host the Olympics, much less fund the damn things.

Click here for some other posts discussing the 2016 games

Written by Seth Anderson

September 17th, 2009 at 7:57 am

Chicago Olympics = Unmitigated Disaster

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Ramsin Canon of GapersBlock on why Olympics 2016, if Chicago is unlucky enough to win it, will be a Mongolian clusterfuck of the worst kind.

Homes Not Games

We’re going to get the watered down [Olympic Oversight] ordinance, because our Aldermen are afraid of their own shadows. We’re going to get the Olympics. Mayor Daley will get re-elected. There will be massive cost-overruns; historic displacement of working class black families from the South and West side*; abuse of the homeless and indigent**; brutal police crackdowns; privatized security armies on the streets of Chicago; an unceasing stream of conflict-of-interest and contracting scandals; there will be gigantic budget shortfalls that will force more layoffs, more shutting down of social services like the mental health centers, more labor disputes.

We know why the Mayor and his people are pursuing this: it’s a distraction from the problems in the city, it wipes clean what is now approaching a decade of scandals and bad news for the Mayor, and pumps enormous sums of money into the pinstripe and identity politics patronage that has protected the status quo for a generation. Or, have we become so credulous, and ungenerous, that we believe that the Mayor honestly believes the Olympics are the only way to invest in our neighborhoods, and that he sincerely understands “being a world class city” as “getting on television”?

[Click to continue reading Gapers Block : Mechanics : Chicago Politics – No Cap on Public Money + No Oversight = Unmitigated Disaster]

Chicago 2016 Olympic City

I read somewhere today that one of the other four finalists, Tokyo, only has 56 percent of its population supporting their bid, while Chicago’s populace allegedly is 67 percent gung-ho. Ha, if only 33 percent of us oppose 2016, we sure are vocal. In fact, in my own informal surveys, I have yet to meet a single person who thinks the Olympics won’t be a disaster for Chicago. My sample size is under 100, but 73-0 is pretty compelling evidence, if not exactly statistically valid.

Click here for some other posts discussing the 2016 games

Written by Seth Anderson

September 3rd, 2009 at 3:12 pm

Paul Ryan: Murderer of Opportunity, Political Coward

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Are We Done Yet?
Are We Done Yet?

As you probably heard, Mittens chose the his VP: Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny-starver from Wisconsin. I guess the Etch-a-Sketch isn’t going to move to the center after all. Here are a few articles I’ve read about Ryan today. 

Jim Messina, the President’s campaign manager, blogged:

What you need to know right now: This election is about values, and today Romney doubled down on his commitment to take our country back to the failed policies of the past.

Paul Ryan is best known as the author of a budget so radical, The New York Times called it “the most extreme budget plan passed by a House of Congress in modern times.” With Mitt Romney’s support, he’d end Medicare as we know it and slash the investments we need to keep our economy growing—all while cutting taxes for those at the very top.

(click here to continue reading Romney’s VP pick — Blog — Barack Obama.)


a few news clips for your amusement: Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan: Back to the Failed Top-Down Policies

from the NYT article about the announcement, this bumpersticker:

It was the largest stage yet for Mr. Ryan, a native of Janesville, Wis., elected to Congress at age 28, who has spent his adult life working in the federal government of Washington that many conservatives deplore.

(click here to continue reading Romney Adds Ryan to the Republican Ticket – NYTimes.com.)

Charles Pierce has a good description for Mitt Romney’s Vice President choice:

Leave it to Willard Romney, international man of principle, to get himself bullied into being bold and independent.

Make no mistake. In his decision to make Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny-starver from Wisconsin, his running mate, Romney finally surrendered the tattered remnants of his soul not only to the extreme base of his party, but also to extremist economic policies, and to an extremist view of the country he seeks to lead. This is unimaginable to those of us who lived here under Romney’s barely perceptible stewardship of the Commonwealth (God save it!). If he’d even hinted that he agreed with a fraction of a smidgen of a portion of the policies on which Ryan has built his career, Romney would have been hanging from the Sacred Cod by the middle of 2005. And it’s hard not to notice that the way the decision got leaked — in the dead of a Friday night, with the Olympics still going on, after two weeks in which Romney and his campaign had demonstrated all the political skills of a handball — fairly dripped with flopsweat.

And more:

Romney now has forced the administration itself to confront its own silly attempts to woo Ryan as a serious man of policy back in the day. Granted, they split rather permanently last April, when the president, correctly, referred to Ryan’s “budget” as “thinly veiled social Darwinism.” (Ryan got all sad about how things had deteriorated.) But, prior to that, the president had treated Ryan as though the president were, oh, I don’t know, a CNN anchor or something, specifically wooing him prior to the big health-care summit back in 2010, when everybody was oh-so-reasonable while the howler monkeys were out across the dim horizon, photoshopping bones through the president’s nose. Nonetheless, it can be argued — and I’m fairly sure it will be — that Ryan is the logical end of any Grand Bargain the White House strikes on the economy and on debt reduction. And, if you have committed yourselves to that latter purpose over most others, then it’s harder for you to argue against a guy who’s more committed than you are to your own ultimate goal.  I have none of those problems.

Paul Ryan is an authentically dangerous zealot. He does not want to reform entitlements. He wants to eliminate them. He wants to eliminate them because he doesn’t believe they are a legitimate function of government. He is a smiling, aw-shucks murderer of opportunity, a creator of dystopias in which he never will have to live. This now is an argument not over what kind of political commonwealth we will have, but rather whether or not we will have one at all, because Paul Ryan does not believe in the most primary institution of that commonwealth: our government. The first three words of the Preamble to the Constitution make a lie out of every speech he’s ever given. He looks at the country and sees its government as something alien that is holding down the individual entrepreneurial genius of 200 million people, and not as their creation, and the vehicle through which that genius can be channelled for the general welfare.

(click here to continue reading Paul Ryan Romney VP Pick – Paul Ryan: Murderer of Opportunity, Political Coward, Candidate for Vice President of the United States. By Charles P. Pierce – Esquire.)

Dancing Lesson

Dancing Lesson 

David Frum has the script for a commercial already written, in his head, at least:

A woman’s voice over. “You’ve worked hard all your life. You’ve paid Medicare taxes for almost 30 years. But under the Republican plan, Medicare won’t be there for you. Instead of Medicare as it exists now, under the Republican plan you’ll get a voucher that will pay as little as half your Medicare costs when you turn 65—and as little as a quarter in your 80s. And all so that millionaires and billionaires can have a huge tax cut.”

That ad will draw blood and will—as Henry Kissinger used to say—have the additional merit of being true.

(click here to continue reading The Coming Democratic Attack Barrage – The Daily Beast.)

kind of like this ad:

Little Faith
Little Faith

Liz Ryan’s cover piece on Paul Ryan in the August 6th, 2012 edition of the New Yorker is worth a read, it includes a bio, and this bit of hypocrisy from Ryan:

The current Presidential campaign centers on the debate about the government’s role in the economy. Ryan, by forcing Republicans to embrace his budget plan, has helped shape this debate. Obama, on July 13th, told a crowd in Virginia, “If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” He added, “When we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.”

To Ryan, Obama’s words were anathema. In a conversation three days later with James Pethokoukis, a conservative blogger for the American Enterprise Institute, he had harsh criticisms for the President. “His comments seem to derive from a naïve vision,” Ryan said, that is based on “an idea that the nucleus of society and the economy is government, not the people.” Obama’s “big-government spending programs fail to restore jobs and growth,” he said, and amount to “a statist attack on free communities.”

When I pointed out to Ryan that government spending programs were at the heart of his home town’s recovery, he didn’t disagree. But he insisted that he has been misunderstood. “Obama is trying to paint us as a caricature,” he said. “As if we’re some bizarre individualists who are hardcore libertarians. It’s a false dichotomy and intellectually lazy.” He added, “Of course we believe in government. We think government should do what it does really well, but that it has limits, and obviously within those limits are things like infrastructure, interstate highways, and airports.” But independent assessments make clear that Ryan’s budget plan, in order to achieve its goals, would drastically reduce the parts of the budget that fund exactly the kinds of projects and research now helping Janesville.

(click here to continue reading Paul Ryan’s Influence on the G.O.P. : The New Yorker.)

 Victim of Fuzzy Thinking

Victim of Fuzzy Thinking

  Charles Pierce snorts, in response:

The fact is that his “budget” will demolish federal spending on those very things, either directly, or by sending the deficit off in the direction of Alpha Centauri. But the quote illustrates something else about Paul Ryan: get him out of his comfort zone of being thought an intellectual by the likes of Louie Gohmert, and of being thought of as a bold thinker by half the buffet-grazers in the Beltway media, and he really is quite the political coward.…Paul Ryan… lives in a house overseen by the National Park Service, which means that he qualifies for a 20-percent investment tax credit for the house he lives in. Of course, his “budget” would largely decimate the NPS, but that would be only those parts of it enjoyed by other people. Yes, Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny starver, has done very well by the federal government that he seeks to dismantle.

Making The Same Mistakes
Making The Same Mistakes

Jamelle Bouie of the American Prospect:

[Paul Ryan’s] plan to cut taxes on the rich and gut the welfare state is one of the most unpopular proposals in American politics. Conservatives love Ryan, but seniors, young people, women, nonwhites, veterans, the disabled, and the poor might feel differently about a man who wants to make the federal government an ATM for the wealthy.

In terms of the election, it’s hard to see how Romney gains from this choice. Because of its large population of working-class whites, Wisconsin has the potential to become a swing state, but for now, Obama has a solid lead. Yes, vice presidential nominees provide a home-state boost, but it’s small—on average, two points. Barring a major change in the race, the most Ryan will do is help Romney lose Wisconsin by a somewhat smaller margin than he would have otherwise.

With that said, a vice presidential choice is most important for what it says about the nominee, and Ryan reflects poorly on Mitt Romney. On the first and most crucial qualification—“Can this person govern the country if the president dies or leaves office”—the answer is “no one knows.” Ryan has no executive experience of any kind: no experience leading a large organization, or something just as complex like a presidential campaign. Executive experience isn’t everything, but it does stick out, especially given Romney’s short tenure in public office.

(click here to continue reading Lipstick on a Wonk.)

 Waiting to be Discovered

Waiting to be Discovered

One day, some years from now, I’m going to figure out how Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny-starver from Wisconsin, managed to fool so many people for so long. He’s a garden-variety supply-side faker. His alleged economic “wonkery” consists of a B.A. in economics from Miami of Ohio — which he would not have been able to achieve without my generosity in helping him out with the Social Security survivor’s benefits that got him through high school after his father kicked. (You’re welcome, zombie-eyed granny-starver. Think nothing of it. Really.) Whereupon he went to work in Washington for a variety of conservative congresscritters and think-tanks, thinking unremarkable thoughts for fairly unremarkable people. Once in Congress, however, he has been transformed into an intellectual giant despite the fact that, every time he comes up with another “budget,” actual economists get a look at it and determine, yet again, that between “What We Should Do” and “Great Things That Will Happen When We Do” is a wilderness of dreamy nonsense, wishful thinking, and an asterisk the size of Lake Huron. 

(click here to continue reading Paul Ryan Is Not a Vice President. Paul Ryan Is a Fake. – Esquire.)

How about his legislative accomplishments?

If you’ve heard of Paul Ryan, you’ve heard of Paul Ryan’s budget. But Ryan has been in the House of Representatives for 14 years and has proposed many, many other bills. Looking through the Library of Congress’s records, I counted 71 bills or amendments that Ryan has sponsored 71 bills or amendments and 971 bills that he has co-sponsored. That’s a lot of legislation, and some of it is pretty interesting. As Ezra noted, Ryan sponsored a Social Security privatization scheme that went so far the George W. Bush administration rejected it. So let’s dig a little deeper in the Ryan archives.

(click here to continue reading Paul Ryan’s non-budget policy record, in one post.)

 Ryan is no Green:

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Mitt Romney’s vice-presidential pick, is a virulent denier of climate science, with a voting record to match. A favorite of the Koch brothers, Ryan has accused scientists of engaging in conspiracy to “intentionally mislead the public on the issue of climate change.” He has implied that snow invalidates global warming.

Ryan has voted to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from limiting greenhouse pollution, to eliminate White House climate advisers, to block the U.S. Department of Agriculture from preparing for climate disasters like the drought devastating his home state, and to eliminate the Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E)

(click here to continue reading Meet Paul Ryan: Climate Denier, Conspiracy Theorist, Koch Acolyte | ThinkProgress.)

Rooster and angles
Rooster and angles

A Koch-sucker

Rep. Ryan’s budget maintains his recent path of supporting Big Oil at the expense of the middle class. In 2011 Rep. Ryan joined all House Republicans and 13 Democrats in his vote to keep Big Oil tax loopholes as part of the FY 2011 spending bill while cutting funds for education, medical research, and clean-tech investments. His subsequent FY 2012 budget left $40 billion in Big Oil tax breaks untouched, too, though it cut $30 billion from Medicare.

Interestingly, after Rep. Ryan introduced his 2012 budget last year, he told some of his constituents that he would support repeal of Big Oil tax breaks. Think Progress captured this discussion at a Ryan town meeting in Wisconsin.

Q: The subsidy for the oil companies that the federal government gives. They’ve gotta stop.

RYAN: Sure.

Q: End the oil company subsidies…

RYAN: I agree.

So why does his FY 2013 proposal leave these Big Oil tax breaks intact? Why would he break his word?

Perhaps it’s because Koch Industries, a large private oil company, is his fifth-largest campaign contributor over his career. And the oil and gas industry as a whole gave him $242,850 in campaign cash. Or maybe he maintained these oil tax breaks because Big Oil gave Republican incumbents and candidates 88 percent of their $20 million in donations so far this election cycle. This is a higher proportion than the 75 percent of $174 million in donations given by Big Oil to Republican congressional candidates beginning in 1990.

As he promotes his new budget, Rep. Ryan will make numerous claims about the urgency of cutting the federal budget deficit to justify cuts in clean energy, health, education, and other priorities essential to the American people. Maintaining $40 billion in tax breaks for rich Big Oil companies profiting from high gasoline prices makes his rhetoric hypocritical at best and a lie at worst.

(click here to continue reading Ryan Budget Pads Big Oil’s Pockets with Senseless Subsidies.)

Matt Taibbi was never fooled by Paul Ryan’s schtick…

Paul Ryan, the Republican Party’s latest entrant in the seemingly endless series of young, prickish, over-coiffed, anal-retentive deficit Robespierres they’ve sent to the political center stage in the last decade or so, has come out with his new budget plan. All of these smug little jerks look alike to me – from Ralph Reed to Eric Cantor to Jeb Hensarling to Rand Paul and now to Ryan, they all look like overgrown kids who got nipple-twisted in the halls in high school, worked as Applebee’s shift managers in college, and are now taking revenge on the world as grownups by defunding hospice care and student loans and Sesame Street. They all look like they sleep with their ties on, and keep their feet in dress socks when doing their bi-monthly duty with their wives.

Every few years or so, the Republicans trot out one of these little whippersnappers, who offer proposals to hack away at the federal budget. Each successive whippersnapper inevitably tries, rhetorically, to out-mean the previous one, and their proposals are inevitably couched as the boldest and most ambitious deficit-reduction plans ever seen. Each time, we are told that these plans mark the end of the budgetary reign of terror long ago imposed by the entitlement system begun by FDR and furthered by LBJ.

Never mind that each time the Republicans actually come into power, federal deficit spending explodes and these whippersnappers somehow never get around to touching Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. The key is that for the many years before that moment of truth, before these buffoons actually get a chance to put their money where their lipless little mouths are, they will stomp their feet and scream about how entitlements are bringing us to the edge of apocalypse.

The reason for this is always the same: the Republicans, quite smartly, recognize that there is great political hay to be made in the appearance of deficit reduction, and that white middle class voters will respond with overwhelming enthusiasm to any call for reductions in the “welfare state,” a term which said voters will instantly associate with black welfare moms and Mexicans sneaking over the border to visit American emergency rooms.

The problem, of course, is that to actually make significant cuts in what is left of the “welfare state,” one has to cut Medicare and Medicaid, programs overwhelmingly patronized by white people, and particularly white seniors. So when the time comes to actually pull the trigger on the proposed reductions, the whippersnappers are quietly removed from the stage and life goes on as usual, i.e. with massive deficit spending on defense, upper-class tax cuts, bailouts, corporate subsidies, and big handouts to Pharma and the insurance industries.

(click here to continue reading Tax Cuts for the Rich on the Backs of the Middle Class; or, Paul Ryan Has Balls | Matt Taibbi | Rolling Stone.)

and silly, but…

One small but important part of the announcement: Paul Ryan’s Wikipedia page is about to undergo a wave of edits and revisions. (The page was edited 14 times in the first hour and a half following the Romney campaign’s announcement.)

The first edit:

Removed unnecessary statement from Early Life about prom king or “Brown Noser.”  This is not needed in article is not common in such brief survey sections.

The detail, in Ryan’s Wikipedia biography since June 16, comes from an AP report on that date noting that Ryan “was voted prom king and the ‘Biggest Brown-Noser’ of his 1988 high school class before leaving for college in Ohio.”

(click here to continue reading The Paul Ryan Wikipedia edits begin – POLITICO.com.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Seth Anderson

August 12th, 2012 at 5:21 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with , ,

Sharron Angle will be fun to ridicule

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Amanda Morcotte has a little warranted fun with the Republican candidate for Senate in Nevada, a Tea Party reactionary by the name of Sharron Angle.

[Sharron] Angle is an even bigger win for fans of the Wingnut Olympics. There’s a plethora of goofball stances Angle’s taken for the opposition to choose from.

At first, Angle appeared to be a conservative beamed to us straight from 1932. She’s come out against the repeal of Prohibition (which she later retracted). She’s against Social Security and Medicare. If you pressed her, you’d probably get her to grouse that things have gone downhill since the 19th Amendment, or that movies lost their spark once they introduced sound.

But sadly, my theory that Angle simply came to us after accidentally stepping in to a time machine in 1932 has been disproved. It turns out that Angle also staunchly opposed fluoridation, because she’s at least strongly influenced by the Bircher conspiracy theory about how fluoridation is a communist experiment in mind control. This conspiracy theory dates back to the ’50s and ’60s, when the government mandated fluoridation. It appears that Angle is less a time traveler and more a grab-bag of a century’s worth of right-wing conspiracy theories and screwy ideas.

(click to continue reading The new Senate candidate has some hoary old ideas..)

fluids.jpg

Written by Seth Anderson

June 9th, 2010 at 6:08 pm

Posted in politics

Tagged with

Unions Push to Finish Tallest Tower in Chicago

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The 2,000 foot planned condo tower, designed by Calatrava, has been stuck at hole-in-the-ground status for a while now. [Wikipedia has a few photos, including this one]. Wonder if this latest surge will help complete the project?


[artist’s rendition of the Spire, via Wikipedia]

The stalled construction of North America’s tallest building, a 150-story luxury residential tower planned for downtown, may get a boost from unionized construction workers desperate for jobs.

Any effort to save the Chicago Spire faces major hurdles, especially coming after a real-estate glut that flooded Chicago with new condos. Plans call for the 2,000-foot-high Spire to have nearly 1,200 units — more than are expected to be completed for the entire downtown area in 2010. Prices start at $750,000, with the bulk of the condos costing $2 million to $15 million.

Workers broke ground with great fanfare in 2007, but the project stalled last year amid the financial crisis when funding dried up. That left many doubtful that the Santiago Calatrava-designed tower would ever emerge from the circular foundation that sits about a block from Lake Michigan.

Now a group of union pension funds is conducting due diligence on a plan to lend $170 million to Irish developer Shelbourne Development Group, said Tom Villanova, president of the Chicago and Cook County Building and Construction Trades Council, which represents 24 unions with some 100,000 members.[Click to continue reading Push to Finish Tallest Tower – WSJ.com]
[Non-WSJ subscribers use this Digg-enabled link]

The Chicago Spire website is a flash-centric p.o.s., but if flash annoys you less than it annoys me, browse the Chicago Spire website here for lots of photos, descriptions and the like.

and the failed Olympics bid continues to have a ripple effect on the Chicago economy:

The Spire got an unlikely break in early October with the demise of Chicago’s hopes to host the 2016 Olympics. Mr. Villanova, who was on Chicago’s Olympic bid committee, said the unions had committed to help fund the Olympic Village to house athletes. “When that went south on us, we started focusing on the Spire project,” he said.

After cranking out an average of 4,500 new condo units a year downtown for the past four years, Chicago developers expect to complete 900 units next year and fewer than 100 in 2012, said Gail Lissner, vice president of Appraisal Research Counselors, a Chicago appraisal and consulting firm. “We don’t see cranes in the sky anymore,” Ms. Lisser said, which could mean the Spire would arrive in a much-changed market in four or five years.

Written by Seth Anderson

December 8th, 2009 at 11:42 am

Illinois Bridges near collapse

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Perhaps some attention will finally be paid to our national infrastructure, specifically bridges.

Congress Parkway Bridge
[Congress Parkway Bridge]

Ever since the 2007 collapse of an interstate highway spanning the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Illinois officials have kept quiet about the deteriorating condition of many bridges here, citing security concerns in an era of terrorist threats.

Now we’re finally getting a peek at what risks may be lurking under or within Illinois bridges. Newly released inspection data reveal some details about what’s specifically wrong with many of the state’s deficient bridges, and thus what rehab work is required to keep them safe. Notably, part of the Congress Parkway bridge over the Chicago River received the lowest possible rating for a span allowed to remain in service.

[Click to continue reading Bridge safety: Illinois puts inspection summaries online — chicagotribune.com]

Governor Rod Blagojevich’s administration wouldn’t let the public look at the data, citing terrorism or some such twaddle. A lame excuse, if one was looking for a weak bridge, a simple glance at the rusting decay of nearly any of Chicago’s bridges would be sufficient. I mean, they are in horrible shape and we’re lucky none have collapsed during the years that Mayor Daley single-mindedly pursued the 2016 Olympics.

Congress Parkway Bridge Decay

Freedom of Information Act requests filed by the Tribune and public watchdog groups seeking inspection records were rejected, leaving interested parties no options except to wade through outdated inspection summaries the state provided to the Federal Highway Administration.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration cited homeland security concerns, saying terrorists could potentially use the information to blow up major bridges in Chicago that carry thousands of vehicles each day, including the Congress Parkway bridge feeding traffic onto the Eisenhower Expressway ( Interstate Highway 290) or the double-deck Wacker Drive winding through downtown.

Critics countered that the governor and the Illinois Department of Transportation had a different motive: Hiding the truth about the dismal condition of some bridges.

Now, for the first time, information summarizing inspection findings is available. It can be viewed online, at http://wrc.dot.il.gov/bridgeinformation/main.aspx

What function does the government really have? Isn’t maintenance of commonly-used infrastructure high on the list?

Since I was looking, here are a few snapshots of other Chicago area bridges that look like they need at least a little attention:

Division Street Bridge
[Division Street Bridge]
Division Street Bridge
[Division Street Bridge]

Gentle Yet Steady Roll
[somewhere in West Loop, probably Halsted Street]

Lost Causeways[Ogden Avenue and Fulton]

Less Than You Would Think
bridge, Kinzie and Canal

Enchanted Sky Machine
[Evanston]

Somebody's Lunch
[Division Street Bridge]

Promised and Yet Not Delivered
[Hubbard Street Bridge]

Just the Facts of Life - Metal #2
[Hubbard Street and Milwaukee Avenue]

Written by Seth Anderson

October 5th, 2009 at 1:28 pm

Posted in government

Tagged with ,

Terrorism Theater Cost Chicago 2016 Bid

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Nobody will exactly say this was the one thing, but it doesn’t surprise me one bit that the out-of-control US airline security theater was a large factor in the decision to award Rio with the 2016 Games.

Poor Boy Long Way from Home

Did Chicago lose the chance to host the 2016 Olympics because of airport security issues?

Among the toughest questions posed to the Chicago bid team this week in Copenhagen was one that raised the issue of what kind of welcome foreigners would get from airport officials when they arrived in this country to attend the Games. Syed Shahid Ali, an I.O.C. member from Pakistan, in the question-and-answer session following Chicago’s official presentation, pointed out that entering the United States can be “a rather harrowing experience.”

[Click to continue reading Chicago’s Loss: Is Passport Control to Blame? – In Transit Blog – NYTimes.com]

and some noticed:

Once the news came out that Chicago lost its Olympic bid, the U.S. Travel Association didn’t miss an opportunity to point that out, sending out a critical press release within hours.

“It’s clear the United States still has a lot of work to do to restore its place as a premier travel destination,” Roger Dow, U.S. Travel’s president, said in the statement released today. “When IOC members are commenting to our President that foreign visitors find traveling to the United States a ‘pretty harrowing experience,’ we need to take seriously the challenge of reforming our entry process to ensure there is a welcome mat to our friends around the world, even as we ensure a secure system.”

That might help, but a bigger problem is the Bush Administration’s ridiculous terrorism theater policies, still in place.

Written by Seth Anderson

October 3rd, 2009 at 10:00 am

Reading Around on October 1st through October 2nd

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A few interesting links collected October 1st through October 2nd:

  • The Outfit: A Collective of Chicago Crime Writers: If You Wanna Win You Gotta Learn How to Play – The whole Olympics is going to be like this–a game in which Chicagoans will be made to feel like they should be emotionally invested when the real players will be behind the scenes: the guys with contracts waiting to be signed, and properties on the Olympic venue Monopoly board … Maybe the games will lose money on the whole, but some people, people on the inside, are going to make Benjamins by the bagful. These are the people who exaggerate the benefits, who make it sound like Chicago needs the Olympics more than the Olympics needs Chicago (a dubious claim if only because the IOC stands to make another half billion or so in television rights for summer games on US soil) so that you’ll support an endeavor that will line their pockets.

    One Billion Dollars

    One Billion Dollars

  • Senator Helped Mistress’s Husband, Raising Ethics Flags – NYTimes.com – A Republican Senator and an ethical scandal? What a a surprise!”The senator also put his chief of staff at the time, who had raised concerns that Mr. Hampton’s activities could violate the one-year ban on lobbying, in charge of dealing with him.”
  • whore.jpg
  • Michael Wolff on Rupert Murdoch | vanityfair.com – more than being about cost, [Rupert Murdoch’s] strategy is about pain. What he is always doing is demonstrating a level of strength and will and resolve against which the other guys, the weaker guys, cower. He can take more pain than anybody else. While others persist in the vanity of the Internet, he will endure the short- or medium-term pain necessary to build a profitable business.

Written by swanksalot

October 2nd, 2009 at 4:01 pm

Rio Wins 2016 Olympic Games

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I’m with Andrew Huff of GapersBlock, the Olympics games were not going to be a panacea for all the problems Chicago faces.

Went to Brazil

Not everyone was displeased. “My hope is that we’ll get back to paying attention to the problems that are facing the city on an ongoing basis,” said Andrew Huff, editor and publisher of Gaper’s Block, an independent Web site that covers local Chicago news. “We can concentrate on 2009 and 2010 instead of 2016. There are so many things we should be paying attention to rather than whether we’re going to host an event in the future.”

[Click to continue reading Rio Wins 2016 Olympic Games – WSJ.com]

Eric Zorn and Dennis Byrne expressed similar sentiments: funnel all the cash that would have been spent preparing for a two week event seven years from now into lasting improvements for the city right now.

Now that the U.S. Olympic Committee has killed Chicago’s fledgling bid for the 2016 Summer games, we’re free from all the fuss, headaches and financial risks of that event.

While Los Angeles stews and spends for the next 30 months until the International Olympic Committee choose a host city, Chicago can get on with the business of building and improving this region for people who live here rather than in preparation for a momentary burst of tourists, athletes and reporters nine summers from now.

an insider wrote into Talking Points Memo, one possible reason for Chicago not being chosen, the bad reputation the US Immigration policies have:

Id prefer to not have my name published if you post any of this, but I wanted to give you some inside perspective on the Olympic planning as I had the privilege to work and help with some of the architecture and planning proposal for Chicago’s Bid.
Mainly, this is just an email to say that regardless of the headline on Drudge, and your comment that the IOC might not enjoy being “big-footed” by Obama, that is not the case. In fact, it was probably helpful, even though we were voted out in the first round. Almost every other country has their leader making personal appearances in support of major international architecture and planning endeavors, but the American president. There have been a number of projects, New Mariinsky Theater in St Petersberg, Russia (for example), where all the finalists, were supported by the leader of their country in having a call placed to the committee, however, the US architect/planner never receives that level of support or interest from the President. So it can only be refreshing to have the President support its country in these types of selections.

A few months ago, (getting back to the Olympic selection) it was made clear to us that Chicago was going to have some difficulty in gaining the selection for a number of reasons including that we have had a large percentage of games hosted here, but most importantly, that we do not have the best international reputation at this time, and it is well known that it is a frustrating and difficult process compared to the other host countries for travelers to gain admittance into the US. There was not a lot that could be done with our planning about this, but it was still brought up as an unofficial “official” concern of the IOC. I think Obama’s visit was prob in some effort to help remove this concern from the selection committee. I would say from knowledge of work on this bid, as well as having produced work to assist with London’s planning effort for Foreign Office Architects in London (before starting my own practice in Chicago) that there was little chance that the decision would be able to be changed this late in the game, and that at this point (the last week), most of the IOC already knows their rankings, and are just discussing the top two. So, again, regardless of Obama’s influence (or lack of), at best, all he would have been able to do was help push over the top, or slightly hurt, but not much more. The decision was most likely already made that Chicago would not host it a few weeks ago by the IOC.

[Click to continue reading Not Their Kinda Town | Talking Points Memo]

Chicago 2016 Olympic

I hope Rio has a great Olympic games, I’ve always wanted to visit there actually.

Written by Seth Anderson

October 2nd, 2009 at 12:08 pm

Mayor Daley Places Olympian Bet on Chicago 2016

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Mayor Daley has famously only lost four votes in the City Hall rubber-stamp room called the City Council, but the residents of Chicago are less sanguine about the economic benefits of hosting the Olympics.

Heart versus Head

The Second City is weary after months of recession and Illinois corruption scandals, and angry about everything from rising taxes to deepening potholes. The city is especially skeptical of Mr. Daley’s Olympic push: After pledging Chicago wouldn’t pay a cent should the Games lose money, the mayor later said Chicago would cover any potential shortfall.

Mr. Daley, re-elected in 2007 with more than 71% of the vote, now has a career-low approval rating of 35%, according to a recent Chicago Tribune poll. In public meetings, citizens rail that he has become isolated, thin-skinned and autocratic. Only 47% of Chicagoans support hosting the Games.

Mr. Daley, asked about his falling approval ratings and concerns over cost overruns and corruption, shakes his head.

“You have to have vision,” the 67-year-old mayor said in an interview this month as he shuttled between appearances in the back seat of his black sedan. “You can’t start second-guessing yourself.”

Mr. Daley says the Games will transform Chicago and update its international image from a meat-and-manufacturing hub to the Paris on the Prairie its planners envisioned. Chicago’s Olympic committee has said the Games will generate tens of thousands of jobs and a $13.7 billion economic boost for Chicago. Last week, Anderson Economic Group LLC estimated that spending in Chicago would be more modest, around $4.4 billion.

University of Chicago sports economist Allen Sanderson is more skeptical still. “When you say the word ‘billions,’ special-interest groups start salivating,” he said. “This is Chicago, so yeah, I expect some cost overruns.”

[Click to continue reading Mayor Places Olympian Bet on Chicago’s Bid for Games – WSJ.com]

The Olympics last for what, two weeks? But preparation has to start seven years in advance? Yikes.

Apparently, Chicago has integrated without much notice:

As other Midwestern cities emptied, Chicago grew. In the past 10 years, it added parks and trees, luxury residential skyscrapers and 36 million square feet of commercial development — nearly twice as much as Los Angeles. Between 1989 and 2008, Chicago’s median household income rose 2.7%, in 2008 dollars. Over the same period, incomes in Rust Belt cities Detroit, Cleveland and Indianapolis shrunk 11% or more.

By 2008, Chicago had become the eighth-most integrated global city in the world, according to Foreign Policy magazine, behind Singapore and ahead of Seoul.

Mind Detergent

And Obama is going to personally persuade IOC officials in Copenhagen after all, for some reason.

Less than two weeks ago, President Obama lamented that he was too busy to go to Denmark to lobby for Chicago’s bid to host the Olympics. “I would make the case in Copenhagen personally,” he said, “if I weren’t so firmly committed to making real the promise of quality, affordable health care for every American.”

Evidently, his commitment to health care is no longer quite so time consuming. Mr. Obama announced Monday that he would fly to Copenhagen this week after all to lobby the International Olympic Committee for the 2016 Summer Games.

Mr. Obama changed his mind and decided to take a gamble no other American president has taken at the urging of his close friend and senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett, who has been deeply involved in promoting Chicago’s bid. He hopes to trump the presence in Copenhagen of his counterparts from rival countries seeking the games — Brazil, Japan and Spain — and duplicate the success that Tony Blair of Britain and Vladimir V. Putin of Russia have had in recent years by personally lobbying for their nations’ bids.

Moreover, aides noted that it would be a relatively small time investment. Mr. Obama will leave Thursday evening and fly overnight, arriving in Copenhagen just in time to join Chicago’s final presentation Friday morning, when he and the first lady will address the committee. He returns to Washington on Friday afternoon.

[Click to continue reading White House Memo – In Pitch for Games, a Gamble for Obama – NYTimes.com]

I don’t buy the argument that the President can only perform one task in a day. Maybe GWB was limited that way, but most modern politicians are adept enough to chew gum and walk at the same time. Still, I question whether the Olympic Games are worth wasting a President’s limited agenda upon.

Click here for some other posts discussing the 2016 games

Written by Seth Anderson

September 30th, 2009 at 8:17 am

Reading Around on September 18th through September 21st

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A few interesting links collected September 18th through September 21st:

  • Back Issues : The New Yorker

    “Today we launch Back Issues, formerly a department in our News Desk blog, as its own blog on newyorker.com. In the coming weeks and months, we’ll use this space to delve through more than eighty years of New Yorker history, with an eye to relating that history to the happenings of the day. Our chief goal will be to make this vast resource approachable and useful to our readers.”

    maybe its just my inner historian, but I love looking at news coverage from years before I was born

    Melrose Park Speakeasy.jpg

  • Chicagoans for Rio 2016 – It would be exciting to host the Olympics here in Chicago. But you know what would be even better? Rio De Janeiro. Just let Rio host the 2016 Olympics. We don’t mind. Honest.
  • In defense of ACORN | Salon

    To claim that the stupid behavior of a half-dozen employees should discredit a national group with offices in more than 75 cities staffed by many thousands of employees and volunteers is like saying that Mark Sanford or John Ensign have discredited every Republican governor or senator. Indeed, the indignation of the congressional Republicans screaming about ACORN and the phony streetwalker is diluted by the presence of at least two confirmed prostitution clients — Rep. Ken Calvert and Sen. David Vitter — in their midst. Neither of those right-wing johns has been even mildly chastised by their moralistic peers. Nobody is cutting off their federal funding.

    Indeed.

  • suburban romps.jpg
  • freedarko.com: A Significant Bullet – From the press kit for Herzog’s new film Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans: “I call upon the theoreticians of cinema to go after this one. Go for it, losers.”

Written by swanksalot

September 21st, 2009 at 3:04 pm

Fifty Million Dollars Just to Sit At the Table

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From my vantage point, $50,000,000 is a lot of cheese just to be one of the four finalists for the 2016 Olympic Games. Especially if this money was provided by the City of Chicago, and not private largesse

One of these Things is Not Like the Other

[Anti-Olympic Fever! Catch It! ]

After spending $50 million showing off Chicago and circling the globe to hobnob with the world’s sporting potentates, civic boosters pursuing the 2016 Olympic Games are fretting over one last detail: Will Chicago’s First Citizen, President Barack Obama, travel to Europe next month to make the final pitch to the International Olympic Committee?

Chicago’s rivals plan to send their own heavyweights to Copenhagen for the Oct. 2 vote: President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva for Rio de Janeiro; King Juan Carlos for Madrid; and Japan’s crown prince and princess for Tokyo.

Mayor Richard Daley has led Chicago’s charge for 2016, but an appearance by Mr. Obama in Copenhagen would be the trump card. The White House “certainly knows that we would like him to come,” says Patrick Ryan, founder of Aon Corp. and leader of the bid committee.

[Click to continue reading For 2016 Olympic Contenders, the Games Have Now Begun – WSJ.com]

previous bids have been derailed by blabbing politicians:

In the weeks leading up to the decision, Paris was the presumed favorite over London and New York City. But [Prime Minister Tony] Blair arrived for the final IOC session in Singapore three days early, and proceeded to receive a phalanx of IOC members. [French President Jacques] Chirac arrived fashionably late.…

London won by four votes over Paris; New York was eliminated in an earlier round. The voting is secret, but a number of IOC members later said Mr. Blair’s lobbying was likely decisive.

Mr. Chirac also might have lost votes when, in the company of fellow world leaders, he took a Gallic swipe at British cuisine: “After Finland,” he said, “it’s the country with the worst food.”

Finland had two members on the IOC during that host city election — perhaps the votes that pushed London over the top.

Loose lips also might have damaged Toronto’s pitch to host the 2008 Summer Olympics. Toronto was thought to be a robust candidate for the Games, until the city’s mayor, speaking before a trip to Africa, said he feared ending up in a pot of boiling water, surrounded by dancing natives. Instead, he was likely scalded by the IOC’s African members, who often provide swing votes in host-city elections, as the continent itself rarely puts forth a bid.

Chicago 2016 Olympic

I have decidedly mixed feelings about Chicago’s bid to host the Games. I suspect a lot of debt will be incurred in the name of taxpayers, and for what? Crowds of international tourists, above and beyond the crowds of international tourists we already have? Money not spent on parks, bridges and schools, but instead spent building infrequently used sport stadiums, on land owned by friends of Mayor Daley? Of course, we, the citizens of Chicago, have decidedly not been asked our opinion, because we are skeptical of the actual practical benefits of being an Olympic City.

Update: Click here for some other posts discussing the 2016 games

Written by Seth Anderson

September 2nd, 2009 at 8:27 pm

Ridealong

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As Mo Ryan, the Chicago Tribune television critic tweeted earlier today, there is Fox television drama being produced by Shawn Ryan. I might even watch an episode or two – especially if Chicago is the central character in the drama.

City of Chicago Department of Police

Fox has given a put pilot order to “Ridealong,” a Chicago-set cop show from “The Shield’s” Shawn Ryan.
Project’s a personal passion project of Ryan’s, who grew up in nearby Rockford, Ill. “Ridealong” will center on three groups of police officers –ranging from uniformed beat cops to the female chief of police.

Ryan is set to write and exec produce the hourlong drama, which comes from 20th Century Fox TV.

Ryan plans to shoot the skein in Chicago, which he plans to make a major part of the show.

“It’s a city I’m very familiar with, and one I haven’t seen photographed much, at least on TV,” Ryan said, “In my opinion, Chicago has become the center of the universe: It’s the place that Barack Obama comes from, it’s a candidate to host the Olympics, and it’s where Oprah dispels her wisdom.

“When I pitched it to the people at Fox, (Chicago was) the first character I described,” Ryan said. “It’s a gorgeous town and is the most interesting architectural city in America.”

Ryan said Chicago is also a “city with a big crime problem at the moment,” which will inform the show.

Ryan said “Ridealong” will mostly take place on the streets of Chicago, and will be populated by unique people — including the central lead character, a Polish-American cop who plays up his heritage.

[Click to continue reading Fox on Ryan’s ‘Ridealong’ – Entertainment News, TV News, Media – Variety]

I wanted David Simon and Ed Burns to extend their show, The Wire, and set it in Chicago, but I guess they are busy working on the Haymarket Riot film without a working title. Ridealong (possibly) is an acceptable substitute.

April 6 2007

Ms. Ryan, interviewed Mr. Ryan:

No filming dates have been set, but if the “Ridealong” pilot gets the green light, it would be shot in Chicago in the spring. If Fox orders a full series, Ryan wants to film that in the Windy City as well.

“These things always come down to finances and I’m told that at the moment that Chicago is film-friendly and feasible,” Ryan said.

The show is “mostly about cops, but we will deal with how cops are affected/stymied/supported by local political elements,” Ryan said. “Ridealong” will also feature a “young, female chief of police and her attempts to navigate Chicago politics.”

So how will the show be different from “Hill Street Blues” — or Ryan’s own influential cop drama, “The Shield”?

“I’ll take comparisons to either of those shows any time,” but Ryan said “Ridealong” will be “very different” from either the NBC classic or the influential FX drama.

“I definitely would not be interested in doing the network version of ‘The Shield,'” he noted.

“Ridealong” will be “filmed primarily on the streets with our cops’ vehicles serving as their offices. It will be part cop procedural, part buddy comedy, part political thriller, part undercover drama… or it will just be a huge mess,” he said. “But I’m going to try to make it good.”

[Click to continue reading The Watcher: ‘Shield’ creator’s new cop show a ‘love letter’ to Chicago ]

Alleys are life, embodied

Worth paying attention to, maybe they’ll need some photos for location scouting?

Written by Seth Anderson

August 10th, 2009 at 2:37 pm

The Humor of Obama

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President Obama’s cynical, quirky style of humor is one of his most endearing characteristics. I can relate to that kind of joking: it is the kind of language I might use myself.

Speaking to U.S.

Matt Bai writes about the original Skip Gates press conference question where Obama remarked

But perhaps the more jarring if overlooked moment in Obama’s answer came just before that, when he endeavored to cast himself in the place of his friend Henry Louis Gates Jr., whose trouble began when he needed to break into his own home. “I mean, if I was trying to jigger into — well, I guess this is my house now, so it probably wouldn’t happen,” the president said. Then he flashed a mischievous grin and added, “Here I’d get shot.” [view YouTube clip]

It’s hard to imagine an edgier joke than this — the nation’s president, its first black president at that, teasing about being gunned down in the White House foyer. Had Obama not gone on to malign a cop, it almost certainly would have dominated the next day’s punditry. And yet the moment was in keeping with what we have learned about Obama in the months since his inauguration. The president, it turns out, is quite funny — and sometimes a little reckless. Obama had to make his first apology just days after being elected president, for joking about Nancy Reagan’s séances. He ran into trouble with advocates for the handicapped in March, when he suggested to Jay Leno that his bowling on the campaign trail belonged in the Special Olympics. And before the Super Bowl, he angered fans of the singer Jessica Simpson by appearing to make light of her supposedly ballooning weight. (Fortunately for Obama, fewer than a dozen of those fans are old enough to vote.) You have to have a pretty determined sense of aggrievement — or just a dim view of the president generally — to take genuine offense at such throwaway one-liners. And yet they tend to obscure, if only for a day, Obama’s more serious objectives, undermining the comedian in chief’s reputation as an innately disciplined politician.

More recently, Obama sounded mystified by plans for a new presidential helicopter. “The helicopter I have now seems perfectly adequate to me,” he remarked dryly. “Of course, I’ve never had a helicopter before, you know? Maybe I’ve been deprived and I didn’t know it.” Other presidents mastered the telling of the canned political joke. Obama’s shtick is that he finds such stagecraft, the falsity and pomposity of modern politics, to be as laughable as we do.

Such a perspective is entirely new in the White House, born perhaps of the same deconstructionist ethos that gave us “The Simpsons” and The Onion — self-aware acts of ridicule that would have seemed wholly out of place in the age of “All in the Family.”

[Click to continue reading The Way We Live Now – Funny How? – NYTimes.com]

Refreshing, and a welcome contrast to the smug frat boy humor of the previous resident of The White House.

Written by Seth Anderson

August 9th, 2009 at 4:28 pm

Posted in humor,politics

Tagged with , , ,

Belching Out the Devil

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Belching Out the Devil

New exposé of Coca-Cola that you probably won’t hear much about. Coca-Cola spent approximately $450,708,000 on advertising in the U.S. last year, that buys a lot of silence in the struggling corporate media

The company, Thomas contends, looked the other way as some bottlers in Colombia and elsewhere intimidated and attacked union organizers, who “walk with a gravestone” on their backs. Pressured to audit Colombian plants in 2005, Coke helpfully noted a substandard number of fire extinguishers at one, but didn’t address the charges.

Coke often doesn’t make its own Coke. It relies on a vast web of subcontractors, bottlers and distributors. Most have loose or no ties to the company, and are in countries where workplace laws are underdeveloped at best.

In India, Coke drained water from local villages but gave them fertilizer in return—which contained lead and toxins, according to a BBC investigation. A leading British poisons expert warned of “devastating consequences” for the local population, but Coke called the fertilizer “absolutely safe.”

The concentrate for 70 percent of Coca-Cola’s 1.5 billion drinks served each day originates in the tax haven of Ireland, where enough concentrate for 50,000 Cokes costs $2.60—including labor. The concentrate’s main ingredient? Caramel.

[From We Read It: Mark Thomas’s ‘Belching Out the Devil’ | Newsweek Books | Newsweek.com]

Coke Truck

The Amazon review:

Coca-Cola and its logo are everywhere. In our homes, our workplaces, and even our schools. It is a company that sponsors the Olympics, backs US presidents and even re-brands Santa Claus. A truly universal product, it has even been served in space. From Istanbul to Mexico City, Mark travels the globe investigating the stories and people Coca-Cola’s iconic advertising campaigns don’t mention such as: child labourers in the sugar cane fields of El Salvador; Indian workers exposed to toxic chemicals; Colombian union leaders falsely accused of terrorism and jailed alongside the paramilitaries who want to kill them; and, many more. Provocative, funny and stirring, “Belching Out the Devil” investigates the truth behind one of the planet’s biggest brand

I haven’t had a coke in many, many years: no need to consumer high-fructose corn syrup unless absolutely necessary.

Written by Seth Anderson

June 10th, 2009 at 6:41 pm