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  • Archive for the 'Chicagoania' Category

    2014 Midwest Business & Markets Conference

    Posted by Zenpundit on 9th March 2014 (All posts by )

    cross-posted to zenpundit.com

    The Union League Club of Chicago Building

    Yesterday, I attended the 2014 Midwest Business & Markets Conference at the historic Union League Club of Chicago. While business conferences are far afield from my usual interests, the main draw for me was seeing Lexington Green speak about the book he co-authored with James C. Bennett, America 3.0

     

    Michael J. Lotus (“Lex”)                       His book

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Business, Chicagoania, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Diversions, Economics & Finance, Education, Entrepreneurship, Illinois Politics, Internet, Political Philosophy, Politics, Society, The Press, USA | 9 Comments »

    Your English Major Kids May End Up Serving Tables In Chicago

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 8th March 2014 (All posts by )

    I live in the River North area of Chicago, which is full of restaurants of every type and description. There is also intense competition among many of the smaller restaurant groups, since apparently some level of scale (5+ or more restaurants) is helpful and these restaurants tend to have very high levels of food quality and service, based on my experience.

    When you interact with the bar staff, hostess, and server you can usually tell if you are working with someone who is “going through the motions” or someone “who is good at their job”. There are many subtle details that are much larger than “getting your order right” – they include knowledge about the food and presentation, recommendations based upon your input, and generally anticipating needs and solving problems without having to be prompted many times.

    Recently I’ve come to the preliminary conclusion that many of the waitresses and servers in these higher end restaurant groups must have gone to college and are well educated. When you talk with them they are very sharp and quick and they seem to have the type of drive or energy that could make them successful in a variety of careers. I would never ask them directly because that’s none of my business and it could embarrass them.

    This article form Bloomberg titled “College Graduates Taking Low Wage Jobs Displace Less Educated” confirms at least my anecdotal impressions here in Chicago.

    She got a job as a hostess at Blackbird, a One Off restaurant, while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Germanic studies and communications at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1999. “The formality of classes, papers and grades did lend a hand in where I am today because I had a broader sense of cultures, interactions and interpersonal skills,” said Galban, who is now also a partner at the restaurant Nico Osteria, one of seven Chicago restaurants managed by One Off. Of the company’s more than 700 employees, more than 60 percent hold college degrees or higher, yet fewer than 10 positions require a degree, Galban said.

    The willingness of college educated adults to take on these jobs will likely cause at least three side effects, one of which was the “main” topic of the Bloomberg article I linked to above:

    1. These restaurants will be more competitive than typical restaurants, because the higher educated and higher skilled workers will drive customer satisfaction and drive efficiencies within the food and drink serving processes. As these workers move “up the chain” at the restaurants, they will also offer career paths for other college degree holders as well
    2. Less-skilled workers will have less opportunities because they won’t be able to compete with these individuals. It would be a simple “screen” to give preference to individuals with a degree who apply for jobs, even if it isn’t a requirement of the job. In the past the assumption was that if someone “over-qualified” would work at your restaurant or business, they would leave immediately when a new opportunity arises, but in today’s stagnant economy (especially in Illinois) there don’t seem to be a lot of opportunities for them to “jump to”.
    3. Since the cost of higher education is so high today, parents need to think of how they will feel when their liberal arts (or lackadaisical business) degree holding children are potentially serving them in a restaurant, and if this is worth the vast expense and financial impact of the degree that they are seeking

    Another side effect to consider is that these restaurants are not just randomly seeking out applicants from the pool. Their employees are not only young, they are disproportionally above-average looking. Perhaps if you aren’t college educated you can make up for it in attractiveness.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Business, Chicagoania, Education | 17 Comments »

    Why The Post Office Is Doomed

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 20th January 2014 (All posts by )

    The United States Postal Service (USPS) is in bad financial shape. The service is currently losing money and is unable to pay some required payments to the government for employee retirement benefits. While the USPS has retained its first class mail monopoly, it sends only a small percentage the ecommerce packages that are the backbone of the physical internet economy.

    The real failure of the postal service, however, is encapsulated in the photo above. In our River North neighborhood, where the population density is high (local residents in high rise condominiums plus innumerable tourists) and the value of real estate is high, too, there is one institution that you can count on to not shovel their sidewalk or take care of their property. The US Postal Service.

    The employees of the USPS are unionized and likely no one has the job of shoveling the sidewalk, or it isn’t in their job description. Thus it isn’t shoveled, and you need to trudge through it which becomes treacherous as the snow melts and re-freezes. Since many of the people who actually might want to use the postal service in this area are elderly, the dangerous sidewalks are even harder to defend.

    They also used to have two mailboxes in the “drive up” section where you can pull your car up to the curb in front of the River North post office. Recently when I attempted to mail Christmas cards (we don’t like to leave them with the mailman in our condominium building because we’ve heard horror stories) at the post office, I couldn’t stuff them into the mailbox, because they reduced capacity down to a single mailbox. There were a few other potential customers milling around fuming as well, since the outdoor mailbox had apparently been jammed beyond capacity for some time.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Chicagoania, Economics & Finance | 25 Comments »

    Sonny Boy Williamson, 9 Below Zero

    Posted by Lexington Green on 5th January 2014 (All posts by )

    It is going to nine below zero at 3:00 a.m. tonight.

    Stand by for some serious cold, Chicago.

    Posted in Chicagoania, Video | 5 Comments »

    Divvy Bikes and Logistics

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 26th December 2013 (All posts by )

    Divvy bikes came to Chicago this year towards the end of the summer and they seem to be a big hit. We see people riding Divvy bikes all the time and they have a distinctive “flash” light on the front (like a strobe) that is visible from far away, even from our condominium high up over River North.

    I often walk near the train station and I noticed the Divvy van loading up bikes when the obvious hit me; Divvy bikes came from all over the city and ended up near the train station. These vans were redistributing the bikes back to other stations so that the next days’ rush hour could repeat the process.

    The stations seem to have a solar powered panel; they should connect each of the bikes to a sensor and then broadcast to a central station so that they can map out bike usage in regular intervals and use this information to improve their bike distribution algorithm. I assume that they can also make some stations larger than others; this way you could collect many bikes downtown and then redistribute them to stations that they came from (presumably on the north side) during the day. Here is an article I found about the Divvy “Rebalancers“.

    Perhaps some day they could alter pricing in some sort of “congestion” model to charge people more who drop bikes off at popular stations and charge people less to ride those same bikes in the opposite direction to less popular stations. This could supplement the “rebalancers” with market forces. Grist for an MBA case study perhaps?
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Chicagoania, Economics & Finance | 4 Comments »

    Happy Holidays

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 26th December 2013 (All posts by )

    Happy Holidays from Chicago! And I want to give a special thanks for the writers of America 3.0, who are taking time out from their busy lives and mercantilistic duties in order to try to bring a positive set of recommendations for the future.

    Posted in America 3.0, Chicagoania | 2 Comments »

    Anecdotal Chicago Observations

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 18th December 2013 (All posts by )

    Last weekend I took the family to Chicago for our annual Christmas weekend in the big city. We had a great time, as always. Some observations below the fold.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Chicagoania, Photos | 10 Comments »

    How A Simple Train System Lays Bare Our Impending Decline

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 23rd November 2013 (All posts by )



    Recently I was riding on the Metra, the commuter rail system that connects the suburbs to downtown Chicago.  I picked up “On the Bi-Level”, the flyer that Metra management makes available to riders and was browsing through it when I came upon this innocuous sounding statement:

    I certainly will not argue that Metra is without challenges.  Perhaps the biggest challenge, and one that will impact many of our plans, is our needs for more capital money to invest in our system.  We estimate Metra will need about $9.7 billion over the next decade to achieve a state of good repair on the system, and we expect to receive about a fourth of that amount from traditional federal and state sources.  Riders need to understand that fares help us cover our operating costs but have never been a significant source for capital expenses – we must rely on Washington and Springfield for that funding.

    Within the utility community there is a concept called “generation equity”.  This implies that you need to spread the burden of replacement and renovation across the life cycle of users, rather than hitting them all on the first riders, such as in the case of a train line.  On the other hand, you cannot just ignore ongoing capital costs and let the system run into ruin by paying the minimal upkeep costs every year.


    In this article, Metra lays bare the facts that:

    • Fare costs (riders) only “help” them cover their operating costs
    • Funding from other sources (and debt) helps them cover the rest of their operating costs
    • Then they rely on largess from the state or Federal governments for about a fourth of their capital costs
    • And who knows where they are going to get the rest of the funds for capital replacement


    In fact, it would be impossible for Metra to re-build the train lines that they have today in the current regulatory and legal environment.  Permits, lawyers, litigation, politically favored contractors, and a welter of archaic tools and practices would make the costs impossibly high and the deadlines incredibly long.  By “capital” costs, they are generally talking about replacing bridges, stations and sections of existing track rather than “true” expansion, although they do occasionally add some incremental lines or stations.


    It is important to understand that things have gotten more EXPENSIVE but they haven’t gotten BETTER.  The infrastructure that we take for granted might as well have been built by the ancient Egyptians given how herculean the task would be to replace them.  Americans will never see another major dam built in the USA and likely few to no additional incremental nuclear or coal plants in the next 25 years.  Even major transmission lines are going to be few and far between, which will only be built because it is absolutely necessary to get electricity to new population centers.  This is all due to the layers of process and regulations and lawyers that we have overlaid atop the simplest tasks, and you can see the contrast when you go to China and see cities being built overnight. 


    At some point we are either going to need to radically re-structure how we build and pay for things or go to a completely private system where you pay for what you receive in terms of capacity, reliability and performance.  States and cities that make it impossibly expensive to build and expand will inevitably suffer relative to other locations that are freer in terms of rules and regulations, unless (as is likely) the entire US is burdened with Federal regulations that make it impossible to escape this yoke.


    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Big Government, Chicagoania, Economics & Finance | 9 Comments »

    Apparently Illinois Vote Rigging Doesn’t Count… and a Glimmer of Hope From California

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 16th November 2013 (All posts by )

    Recently I wrote about how the district I live in is perhaps the most gerrymandered district in the entire country.  Great pains have been taken by the Democrats that run Illinois to ensure that my vote can’t count and the legislator that runs our state district doesn’t even have to bother courting voters like me.  Even among Illinois legislators (not exactly the highest quality bunch) my guy is famous for not even voting to impeach Blago.  Literally we have the worst of the worst representing us, but he is effectively immortal since all he has to do is win the Democratic party primary and he’s in, due to basic mathematics and party-line voting.

    While I know writing posts like this is just like shouting into a toilet Rolling Stone recently came out with an article about Red State gerrymandering.  While my district in the article above was in the state legislature, our Illinois US House of Representatives balance has been similarly adjusted to ensure that a 50/50 or so state leans completely blue.  Of course the entire article acts as if this is a Republican phenomenon, when in fact both parties are equal opportunists at this sad game.

    There is a shred of hopefulness in all of this in some electoral advancements coming out of California, of all places.  They have a system where the two top vote getters in the primary battle it out on election day, even if they are from the same party.  In this sort of system, the Democrat or Republican that reaches out to the constituents in the middle from the other party has a shot at beating a stone ideologue that will generally cruise through the party primary (like my state representative).  This solution was “California Proposition 14“.  In parallel, they also have a citizen’s commission to draw districts so that they make more sense rather than be amazing gerrymander constructions.  It is too soon to tell if California’s results will help that much but it seems like a step in the right direction.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Chicagoania, Illinois Politics, Politics | 10 Comments »

    Illinois and the Perfect Democrat

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 3rd November 2013 (All posts by )

    I live in the River North district of Chicago, a vibrant area full of professionals, high rise buildings, and a large service economy.  We are adjacent to the Loop (and many of the people who live here chose this area so that they could walk to work) which employs many of these residents in an internationally competitive group of companies, both public and privately held.

    In my interactions with these residents, few are political, and I would say that most Illinois citizens I’ve met over the year could be considered middle-of-the-road. However, due to factors unique to the state of Illinois, the state is dominated by Democrats who control most of the levers of power at the state, city, county and local levels. As such, a state of mostly moderate individuals is set up, governed, and managed as if it was the most left-leaning state in the country.

    Ken Dunkin is our Illinois State representative for the 5th District, and he helpfully sent me this brochure that outlines his goals and accomplishments as a state legislator. This update provides a great window into the mindset of an Illinois Democrat.

    Ken Dunkin is famous for being the only Illinois legislator to skip Gov Rod Blagojevich’s impeachment hearing, and thus being a de-facto loyalist to the bitter end. It is really hard to add anything more to that sort of fact; even his fellow Democrats finally came to the conclusion that Blago had to go, but not Ken.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Chicagoania, Illinois Politics, Politics | 14 Comments »

    New, New Urbanism

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 2nd November 2013 (All posts by )

    As a long time city of Chicago resident I have seen the immense growth of new buildings and new residents in areas near downtown which previously had been office buildings, warehouses, dilapidated structures, or simply abandoned.  From time to time when I am in an architectural bookstore I glance at books about “new urbanism” or various similar concepts that authors and “urban planners” use to overlay atop the actual growth of a city (or decline, in the case of other parts of Chicago).

    If you are from a smaller town or relatively slow moving US city and haven’t been overseas to see “real” growth somewhere like Hong Kong, China, or India, then Chicago’s growth over the last decade or so that I’ve lived near down is pretty astonishing.  In River North, where I live, literally dozens of high rise buildings > 15+ stories have been built and are filled to the brim with owners and renters.  The entire South Loop has been renovated not only with town homes and large buildings, but huge retail spaces like Target, Costco, and giant movie theaters.  While there were many restaurants in River North when I first moved here, we had to walk far and wide to find even a place open for a decent breakfast; now we have a dozen to choose from within 6-8 blocks.

    Since there are train tracks downtown for the Metra commuters which arrive from suburbs from all directions (except East, where the lake is) and many of these tracks are on ground level, the streets are cut up and there are sidewalks I used to take under viaducts with few people around.  Now, however, immense apartment buildings have popped up (over 40+ stories) and in the morning there is a huge population of well dressed professionals walking along these routes and sidewalks, where previously there was just debris and parking lots.  If I go to work late it is either single women walking dogs or nannies pushing single babies in strollers.

    There must be 50,000+ well heeled urban residents packed into this place, all arriving from somewhere else whether it is a suburb, another state, or another country.  None of them are poor – you can’t be – since rents are in the thousands and move up rapidly, and every new building coming up has more amenities than the competitors in order to attract residents.  The demography is very fluid because many of the condominium owners rent out their units, and then the newer buildings have been built as apartments since the real estate crash of 2008.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Chicagoania, Real Estate, Urban Issues | 5 Comments »

    A Critical Insight.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 1st November 2013 (All posts by )

    Today, Belmont club has a post, with a link to another blog post, that I think explain a lot of the Obamacare fiasco.

    Fernandez begins with a discussion of Obama’s technique with favored columnists.

    get him in an off-the-record setting with a small group of opinion columnists — the David Brooks and E.J. Dionne types — and he’ll talk for hours. …

    “It’s not an accident who he invites: He reads the people that he thinks matter, and he really likes engaging those people,” said one reporter with knowledge of the meetings. “He reads people carefully — he has a columnist mentality — and he wants to win columnists over,” said another. …

    These people are, like him, unsophisticated in technology. They are lawyers or journalists and the numbers of math and science courses represented in the room are few.

    The other blog post is titled “Government is magic.”

    Our technocracy is detached from competence. It’s not the technocracy of engineers, but of “thinkers” who read Malcolm Gladwell and Thomas Friedman and watch TED talks and savor the flavor of competence, without ever imbibing its substance.

    These are the people who love Freakonomics, who enjoy all sorts of mental puzzles, who like to see an idea turned on its head, but who couldn’t fix a toaster.

    This strikes me as a huge insight into why this administration doesn’t understand the trouble it is in.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Chicagoania, Education, Health Care, Human Behavior, Management, Politics, The Press | 14 Comments »

    Pontifical High Mass and Organ Dedication Recital – St John Cantius, Chicago

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 15th October 2013 (All posts by )

    A digital rendition of the now completed organ in St. John Cantius Church

    I’m borrowing this announcement from the New Liturgical Movement blog, where Fr Thomnas Kocik posted it today:

    This coming Sunday, October 20th, at St John Cantius Church in Chicago, His Eminence Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago, will bless the church’s recently installed, fully restored Casavant pipe organ (Opus 1130) at 4:00 pm.
    .
    Immediately following the blessing, a Pontifical High Mass will be celebrated by the Most Reverend Joseph Perry, Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago. There will be a dinner in the church hall at 6:00 pm, and at 7:00 pm the Organ Dedication Recital by Thomas Schuster of Miami’s Church of the Epiphany.

    **

    The event, as you see, will be both musical and liturgical: if I come across a suitable video of the liturgy taken during the event, I will drop it in here.

    Posted in Chicagoania, Music, Religion, Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

    UChicago Economics, Setting the Highest Standards

    Posted by Lexington Green on 15th October 2013 (All posts by )

    With the recent Nobel award to UChicago economists, it is good to be reminded of spirit of Chicago economics, and why it keeps producing Nobel Prize winners.

    A friend who is a UChicago economics professor, who was a PhD student at the time, witnessed the following episode.

    Gary Becker ran the Applications of Economics workshop in the Department of Economics for decades. This workshop was legendary as Ground Zero for tough microeconomics workshops. Frequent attendees included George Stigler, Ted Schultz, Sherwin Rosen, Kevin Murphy, Eddie Lazear, Bob Lucas & more. In addition, many PhD students (including myself) attended. That’s where we learned how to do research & think critically.
     
    In the late 1980s (probably 1988), Asser Lindbeck came to present a paper he was working on. At the time Lindbeck chaired the Nobel Prize selection committee, & Gary was the #1 choice in the betting pools to receive the Nobel next. He did in fact win in 1992.
     
    Lindbeck sent paper #1 ahead of coming to Chicago. As was the culture of the workshop, attendees had read it & were prepared to discuss the paper. As always, Gary showed up with a couple of questions scribbled on the front of his copy of Lindbeck paper #1.
     
    Unfortunately, Lindbeck had sent the wrong paper. He arrived prepared to present paper #2. At the start of the workshop, he announced that he would not take any questions for the first 20 minutes, while he presented paper #2, & then he would open it up for discussion.
    Gary immediately replied, “No, we prepared the paper that you sent, & that’s what we will discuss.” Lindbeck had a stubborn personality & replied, “No, I will present #2 & that’s what we will discuss,” & proceeded.
     
    Gary immediately interrupted him with a question about paper #1. Lindbeck interrupted him with a blunt admonishment that he was going to present #2, & started again.
     
    Gary interrupted again with another question about #1. Lindbeck tried to stop him. This continued for a couple of minutes until Lindbeck relented & we discussed paper #1. A vigorous & constructive discussion then followed (since the audience was prepared).
     
    Watching this as a PhD student was frightening & inspiring. Gary was fearless. He clearly was not interested in playing Nobel politics, but only in running his workshop with the highest of standards. His expectation was that we all read the paper & arrived prepared, that the presenter had high standards, & that the discussion was vigorous, rigorous & thoughtful.
     
    I never forgot this lesson from Gary Becker in what is most important at Chicago: Economics.

    May it always be so.

    Gary Becker, Nobel 1992, above.

    Posted in Chicagoania, Economics & Finance | 9 Comments »

    Two Chicago Boyz Win Nobels for Economics

    Posted by Lexington Green on 14th October 2013 (All posts by )

    Congratulations to Eugene Fama (top) and Lars Peter Hansen.

    Some details about the men and their work can be found here.

    See also, this piece from economist John Cochrane, Gene Fama’s Nobel:

    “Efficiency” is not a pleasant adjective or a buzzword. Gene gave it a precise, testable meaning. Gene realized that financial markets are, at heart, markets for information. Markets are “informationally efficient” if market prices today summarize all available information about future values. Informational efficiency is a natural consequence of competition, relatively free entry, and low costs of information in financial markets. If there is a signal, not now incorporated in market prices, that future values will be high, competitive traders will buy on that signal. In doing so, they bid the price up, until the price fully reflects the available information.
     
    Like all good theories, this idea sounds simple in such an overly simplified form. The greatness of Fama’s contribution does not lie in a complex “theory” (though the theory is, in fact, quite subtle and in itself a remarkable achievement.) Rather “efficient markets” became the organizing principle for 30 years of empirical work in financial economics. That empirical work taught us much about the world, and in turn affected the world deeply.

    Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution on Hansen.

    Tyler Cowen on Fama.

    Posted in Chicagoania, Economics & Finance | 4 Comments »

    Jack Cella Retires as General Manager of the Seminary Co-op Bookstore

    Posted by Lexington Green on 11th October 2013 (All posts by )

    The Seminary Co-op is the best bookstore there is. And Hyde Park is where the best book store there is belongs. I have been a regular and a devotee since I first set foot in the place 32 years ago. When my own book came out I talked to Jack Cella, whose name I did not know, but he knew mine! We had been chatting on and off for 32 years, of course. He made sure they had America 3.0 on the shelf. Seeing my book on the shelf at the Seminary, in the very shadow of my alma mater, the University of Chicago, is the single proudest moment I have had as a published writer. I felt somehow I had come full circle.

    End of an era: Farewell to Jack Cella

    Seminary Co-op’s Cella retires

    “Most everyone that I interviewed for the project, not only identified the Co-op as being the physical embodiment of the life of the mind and the ideals that the University of Chicago strives to create and encourage, but they also strongly identify it with Jack himself,” Doherty said, adding that, “for many, Jack kind of is the Co-op.”

    Posted in Chicagoania | 5 Comments »

    Chicago Sunset

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 21st September 2013 (All posts by )

    Recently I attended a rooftop charity event at the “Life Storage” building in River North. I was able to get a photo of the sunset facing west (I rarely get to shoot in that direction).

    River North, the district where I live, is in the midst of a giant building boom and is among the hottest districts in Chicago. Seemingly every empty lot or older building is either being built on from scratch or redeveloped, and the Life Storage building is no exception.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Chicagoania, Photos | 1 Comment »

    Illinois Legislators’ Lincolns

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 21st September 2013 (All posts by )

    Way back in the day when LITGM used to do a bit more of the political type articles I wrote about Illinois representatives’ automobiles. I confused the Lincoln Navigator that Danny Davis (district one) drove vs. the Ford equivalent that Jesse Jackson Jr. drove, and a bit of web hilarity ensued.

    Recently I saw another politician’s car and the first thing I did was look it up – and this Lincoln is owned by a Republican in the 6th district, which happened to be Henry Hyde’s old district. It is a matter of how jaded I’ve become that the fact that an elected official drives a Lincoln is barely worth a web peep.

    While American’s think that “big money” has captured politics, it is literally nothing compared to the wealth of China’s politicians. This WSJ article describes how wealthy the top Chinese politicians are vs. the USA…

    According to the Hurun Report, as cited by Bloomberg, the 70 richest delegates in China’s National People’s Congress have a combined net worth of 565.8 billion yuan or $89.8 billion. That’s more than 10 times the combined net worths of all the members of Congress, the Supreme Court and the President. (Their collective riches are only $7.5 billion.)

    Thus I can only imagine the rage I’d have over the same type of rich trappings if I were Chinese. Unfortunately, they can’t vote, and protests tend to go down badly with authorities. As bad as our system is, in terms of being captured by the interests of the wealthy, it is a comparatively egalitarian route compared to our largest economic competitor.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Big Government, Chicagoania | 8 Comments »

    A Photo As A Symbol of Illinois

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 16th September 2013 (All posts by )

    Last Sunday I was fortunate to attend the Bears Vikings game at Soldier Field with Carl from Chicago and Lexington Green. A great time was had by all.

    As I was walking to my seats in the nose bleeds, I said to Lex “this picture represents pretty much everything about Illinois”. He said I should blog it. So I am.

    What you see is the top of the old Soldier Field on the left, with its beautiful granite pillars that used to be atop the stadium. On the right is the new Soldier Field, what we all call the UFO, that was basically dropped in on top of the columns. It is pretty much universally derided as one of the worst plans of all time, at least from an aesthetic point of view.

    Of course, the Bears should have put this stadium in Hoffman Estates or somewhere like that, where there is plenty of parking and easy access. But no. The Soldier Field renovations, as with all things Chicago, turned into a giant scam, and now people that choose to see the Bears have to endure insane traffic snarls along LSD, have nowhere to park, and then have to deal with the crazy Chicago traffic to boot.

    This represents a lot of what Illinois has to offer, or, maybe I should say, had. The “combine” in Springfield is legendary for hosing down the taxpayers for any of a million different things. But I have anecdotal evidence that maybe – just maybe – things are ripe for some sort of change.

    A woman visited me on a business call at work last week and she just voluntarily started spouting about how pissed she was about all things Illinois. She didn’t give a political point of view, but more to the point just said that everyone and everything there “sucked” and that she was going to, for the first time in her life, start to get involved. Lex noted that he has heard many of these same things in his dealings in Chicago.

    I hope that this is true. I hope that things that are represented in the photo above come to be a thing of the past, not of the future.

    Cross posted at LITGM.

    Posted in Chicagoania, Sports | 17 Comments »

    Ronald Coase, 1910-2013

    Posted by Lexington Green on 3rd September 2013 (All posts by )

    This blog is, after all, called “Chicago Boyz.” One of the greatest and most influential economists of all time, Prof. Coase was for many years a Chicago Boy. A career spanning eight decades has now come to an end.

    The official University of Chicago obituary is here.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in America 3.0, Biography, Book Notes, Chicagoania, Economics & Finance, Obits, Quotations | 5 Comments »

    America 3.0 author Mike Lotus at America’s Future Foundation Chicago, Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

    Posted by Lexington Green on 28th August 2013 (All posts by )

    I will be speaking to on September 11, 2013 to the Chicago chapter of America’s Future Foundation about our book America 3.0, answering the question: “are America’s greatest days yet to come?”

    Spoiler alert … The answer is YES.

    Details at this handy link. (Interestingly, this page has a version of the cover of the book that we did not end up using.)

    The event is at Ontourage, 157 West Ontario Street, Chicago, at 6:00 p.m.

    You can purchase tickets here. General admission is $10, but for $30 you can pre-order the book as well. That is actually a pretty good deal.

    I am thrilled to be speaking to AFF. I like their libertarian stance, which I mostly share. I like the earnestness and braininess. I like the liquor at their parties. I like the tenor of the evening at their events. I like the whole stimmung of it.

    Our book has several target audiences, and our libertarian friends are one of them. Let’s see how the ideas go over with them.

    I hope to see many of you there.

    Posted in America 3.0, Announcements, Chicagoania, Libertarianism | 3 Comments »

    A Week in Michigan

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 26th August 2013 (All posts by )

    grandbeach_web

    When my sister and I were very young, I was 10 and she was 7, we used to go on vacation to a small village on the lake in Michigan. It is named Grand Beach. It’s a delightful place across the lake from Chicago. Shortly after the war, we began to spend more time there in the summer. I vaguely remember the first time but the month we spent there in 1948 is one of my fondest memories of childhood. My parents, along with another family, the Coyles, rented a good sized house for the month of August through Labor Day weekend. The house is still there although no longer rented by the owners.

    Thirty years ago, my wife Jill and I, plus our three year old daughter Claire, spent a week at Grand Beach with my sister’s family. My sister, Patty, and her husband rented the same cottage last year and this year I joined them for the week. The weather was delightful and we all had a nice time. It gave me a chance to know my nephew Jimmy’s children and my niece, Caroline, joined us for a few days. Jimmy’ wife, Holly, was there and had her hands full with the small kids. The women were also on vacation so we ate most of our meals out. When we were there 30 years ago, Claire hid under a bed with Patty’s dog. Jill was frantic looking for her until someone heard scuffling under the bed. We didn’t have any crises like that, at least.

    The village is entered from a frontage road that runs along the railroad tracks. The gate is a large white painted arch that pierces a white fence along the road. In 1948, there was less foliage and I used to help the village policeman, who drove an ancient Model A Ford, retrieve the mail when the train passed and the mail pouch was tossed from the mail car. This was usually about dusk. There was a hook by the side of the tracks which was supposed to catch the mail pouch but they usually missed and I had a good time searching for the pouch along the tracks.

    grand beach road

    The entry road passes the golf course where I first played golf at age 9 and then the playground, seen here. The entire road is lined with white painted cement pillars that were there in 1948. They may have been there in the 1930s.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Chicagoania, Personal Narrative, Photos | 6 Comments »

    City Living

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 25th August 2013 (All posts by )

    For those of you reading this post from the suburbs or rural America you won’t know why this photo of the River North Walgreens drug store is so unique, but city dwellers might if they ponder for a bit… The answer is -

    Because there are no bums out front

    For people who live in the city, especially women, the presence or absence of bums or aggressive panhandlers in fact is a serious criteria for selecting where you live, shop and eat.  This Walgreens in River North usually has a crew of bums accosting everyone going in and out of the turnstiles, like clockwork.

    After a while you subconsciously avoid those places and favor other places.  Another common bum congregation zone are churches.  I usually walk on the other side of the street whenever churches are in my path, except for the brief times when the churches are fully of happy people all dressed up which would be a wedding.

    Someday I will walk through the loop and count how many times a day I am asked for money or asked to buy something of no value (i.e. the magazine “Streetwise”).  It has to be in the dozens of times.  Another common topic of interaction – “can I ask you a question?” is that they have lost their bus pass / CTA pass / need some money for the train back home.  This “line of inquiry” is consistently heard anywhere near the commuter rail stations.

    Businesses would be wise to hire security of some sort or use their own managers to figure out how to minimize the presence of bums and panhandlers and aggressive street people on their premises.  I’m sure many of the smarter businesses have already done this.  Women in particular will likely shy away from your establishment if they have to run a gauntlet in order to patronize it.

    I feel sorry for the tourists that actually interact with these bums and panhandlers.  Their kids are usually surprised and the “smart” bums will try to strike up a conversation with the children that after a brief start of recognition the parents are quick to want to get out of.  This is a good tactic to get a buck, and quite sneaky.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Chicagoania | 23 Comments »

    Celebrities Behaving Badly

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 14th August 2013 (All posts by )

    How very interesting that über-celeb (and possibly former über-celeb) Oprah Winfrey has now tried to walk back a very publically-made accusation of being treated with racial bias in an expensive Swiss handbag shop in Zurich with one of those lame apologies which aren’t really apologies, more of that sniveling, ‘I’m sorry that you were offended,’ statements which are framed so as to throw blame on the offended party merely for being offended. At least, she has skipped over the second part of the pro-forma excuse and non-apology, which is usually some variant of, ‘gosh, don’t you have a sense of humor?’ Both statements of which, I am obliged to confirm, do not remove the sting that a party thus abused takes away from the experience. Or even that that such an apology has been honestly and fully rendered to the aggrieved party.
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    Posted in Business, Chicagoania, Current Events, Customer Service, Human Behavior, Media | 17 Comments »

    Chicago “TIFs”

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 31st July 2013 (All posts by )

    In Chicago a “TIF” stands for “Tax Increment Financing”. Here is a link to the City of Chicago web site which explains how a site qualifies as a TIF. Basically a TIF limits the amount of property tax the city can collect at the location and in effect gives the owner / developer a big tax break. There are many reasons listed by the city as to why a location might qualify but supposedly it is used to eliminate “blighting factors”.

    The Chicago Reader has written a series of articles about how TIF’s are used to reward already rich developers with tax breaks. The Sun Times wrote one this week:

    It’s time for another serious look at the pros and cons of Tax Increment Financing in Chicago — a tiff over TIF — the controversial economic development program that’s supposed to revitalize struggling neighborhoods by offering financial incentives to potential investors.

    The “sweeteners” come from property taxes that, to a large extent, might otherwise be spent on education, housing, parks, libraries, and public safety.

    That’s defensible when there’s enough tax revenue to go around, but it’s problematic in lean times, like now, when Chicago is closing schools, firing teachers, reducing library hours and trying to fight violent crime with fewer police officers.

    Another concern is that many TIF “districts” are in affluent areas, especially in and around downtown, which violates the intent of the state law that created the program in 1977 to revitalize “blighted” communities.

    Here is a project that is being built under a TIF; this is for a $29M park alongside the Chicago River at Canal and Lake Street. the “River Point TIF” is obviously located in an area that doesn’t appear to be tied to much blight…

    While it is likely that politically connected developers and clout-heavy individuals are tied to this process, on the other hand this is one of the few ways the city actually and concretely assists businesses that generate all of the economic value for them. Businesses pay very high property taxes in Cook County / the Loop and then the tax breaks fall back to the selective few that run through this process. It is a very opaque process and there is limited information available on the TIF accounts and funding.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Chicagoania, Taxes | 1 Comment »