26 November 2010

The Profit & Loss District.

Saw this chart from localfirst.com over at Sully's blog. It quite nicely expresses why corporate welfare districts like Kansas City's Power & Light District are not merely bad economic policy, they're actually counterproductive in terms of building the local economy and enhancing the local taxbase.


buy local restaurant image

As a preliminary matter, former mayor Kay Barnes and the nitwits in charge of Kansas City politics bought into Chicago-based C.H. Johnson Consulting Inc.'s fantastically rosy and spectacularly incorrect financial forecast, and with cartoon dollarsigns in their eyes and delusions of adequacy, decided to put the local taxpayers on the hook for $295 million to construct a mall-like "main street" designed to appeal to suburbanites and tourists. They also agreed to keep the taxpayers on the hook until 2033 to fill any revenue gap created by the consultant's over-sell and corporate underperformance.

It is difficult to overstate just how wrong C.H. Johnson was, so here's the numbers: for 2009, they projected sales of $240.7 million, but actual sales were $65.2 million. C.H. Johnson's epic failure has so far cost taxpayers an additional $16 million — and that's probably going to be the case every year for another generation.

Honestly, if you'd have just pulled a number from your ass you'd have probably gotten closer then these "experts."

But C.H. Johnson's incompetence absolutely pales in comparison to the gaggle of lackwits who comprise Kansas City Council. They actually — and no, I am not kidding — re-hired these same dumbshits and awarded them another $130,000 contract to study proposals for a new convention center hotel. 

Yes, a new taxpayer-subsidized hotel, even though 38% of the city's existing hotel rooms sit vacant. A new taxpayer-subsidized hotel to directly compete against several existing taxpayer-subsidized hotels.

The city has already spent a half-million dollars over the past decade trying to polish this turd of an idea, and there's a fair chance that the city earnings tax is going to be eliminated in the very near future meaning residential property taxes will skyrocket while property values freefall, driving more folks to the suburbs and eroding the tax base to something frighteningly Detroit-esque.

But I digress.

Besides thrill-seeking suburbanites boldly braving the mean streets of Kansas City, the true beneficiary of the P&L district is the Maryland-based Cordish Corporation, a privately owned, multibillion-dollar retail and casino development and operations conglomerate. Cordish touts the P&L District as having "more than 50 unique and captivating shops, restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues" in a 9-block "neighborhood."

By "unique" they mean "almost exclusively out-of-town corporate chains," including 801 Steak & Chop House (Des Moines), Bice Bistro (New York, abandoned P&L site), Chipotle Mexican Grill (Denver), Famous Dave's Legendary Pit Bar-B-Que (Minnesota, leaving P&L site), Flying Saucer Draught Emporium (Dallas/Ft. Worth), Fran's Restaurant (Toronto), The Fudgery (Georgia), GNC (Pittsburgh), Genghis Grill (Dallas), Gordon Biersch Brewing Company (Chattanooga), Hilton President (Virginia), Jos. A. Bank (Maryland), Kobe Japanese Steakhouse (Virginia), McFadden’s Sports Saloon (New York), Standard Parking (Chicago), Ted's Montana Grill (Atlanta, leaving P&L site), and T-Mobile (Germany). Although it's difficult to establish precisely, it seems that Cordish itself owns and operates several of the P&L District venues and chains, including Angel's Rock Bar, Fuego, Howl at the Moon Piano Bar, Lucky Strike Lanes, Maker's Mark Restaurant, Mosaic Lounge, Pizza Bar, PBR Big Sky, Raglan Road, Shark Bar, and Tengo Sed Cantina.

Yes, these marketing whizkids thought folks would drive into the urban core of Kansas City for...Atlanta steaks and Minnesota barbecue.

Way to have your finger on the local pulse, Cordish. Very impressive.

As a privately held company, Cordish is free to keep its finances and operations secret, and it certainly does. Although I don't have the financial breakdown of which company is making how much money, just by way of comparison, if you take the pie-chart figures above against the actual 2009 sales figures, you can see how dramatic the difference can be: if all tenants were non-local: 57% of $65.2 million = $37.164 million goes elsewhere, keeping $28.036 million in KC; however, if all tenants were local: 32% of $65.2 million = $20.864 million goes elsewhere, keeping $44.336 million in KC.

Ultimately, the city government is forcing taxpayers to subsidize a wealthy private out-of state company to operate for its own benefit and other mostly out-of-state companies, meaning 57% of those receipts go somewhere besides Kansas City.

We're not just hemorrhaging cash, we're paying somebody to keep stabbing us.

19 November 2010

Travel advisory.

The United Nations recently contemplated a resolution against extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions.

Should be a no-brainer, right? Nope.

The resolution included executions "committed for any discriminatory reason, including sexual orientation." Naturally, an amendment was presented to remove those last three words from the resolution, which passed; 79 for, 70 against, 17 abstained. So, here's the list of UN member countries who, as a matter of public policy, have no problem with the arbitrary, state-sanctioned murder of people for the crime of being gay.
Africa: Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Asia: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Brunei, China, North Korea, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Viet Nam
Central America/Caribbean: Bahamas, Belize, Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & Grenadines
Europe: Russian Federation
Middle East: Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Yemen
South America: Guyana
I know Jamaica is supposed to be the most homophobic place on Earth (a distinction that Uganda desperately wants, given how it's on the cusp of enacting a national gay extermination law) but the rest of the Central America/Caribbean group surprises me. Really, I had no idea. Evidently, the general rule is former French and Dutch colonies are gay-friendly, the Spanish ones aren't, and the former British colonies are outright hostile.

I had no idea they meant murderously hostile. Jesus.

16 November 2010

Diagnosis: Excess gall.

Glenn Thrush reports on Politico
A conservative Maryland physician elected to Congress on an anti-Obamacare platform surprised fellow freshmen at a Monday orientation session by demanding to know why his government-subsidized health care plan from the government takes a month to kick in. 
Republican Andy Harris, an anesthesiologist who defeated freshman Democrat Frank Kratovil on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, reacted incredulously when informed that federal law mandated that his government-subsidized health care policy would take effect on Feb. 1 – 28 days after his Jan. 3rd swearing-in.
“He stood up and asked the two ladies who were answering questions why it had to take so long, what he would do without 28 days of health care,” said a congressional staffer who saw the exchange.

Yeah and while you wait 28 days, 40 million Americans are doing without healthcare for the foreseeable future, while financing your cadillac policy, you senseless, soulless sack of shit.

Go right ahead Dr. Congressman. Take your principled stand against "socialist" government healthcare. Purchase an unsubsidized policy for your family on the open market. Better yet, just do without. Consider it policy research.

Monsieur Guillotine, some days you are sorely missed.

13 November 2010

Watch this. Seriously.

12 November 2010

Who's the maverick now? (UPDATED)

"Our political and religious leaders tell LGBT youth that they have no future...that they can't serve our country openly...our government treats the LGBT community like they're second-class citizens — why shouldn't [schoolyard bullys]?"
— Cindy McCain

Not only are you absolutely right, Mrs. McCain, but you're evidently the last good decision your husband made.

Your marriage is your business, but you definitely deserve better representation in the Senate.

UPDATE: Evidently, Mrs. McCain wishes to clarify that she endorses her husband's homophobia, but not other people's.

I fully support the NOH8 campaign and all it stands for and am proud to be a part of it. But I stand by my husband's stance on DADT.

07 November 2010

I'd like to join the proofreader's union.

I didn't have a phone on me, so you'll just have to take my word for it, but today I saw a bumper sticker that read:

Kansas City Federation of Teachers and School Related Personnel

It struck me funny because "school-related" is a compound modifier of the word "personnel," and thus should be hyphenated.

Perhaps the union doesn't include English teachers.

06 November 2010

MSNBC asserts its droit de seigneur.

When did our employers achieve the right to dictate what we do off-the-clock?

I understand that a company that depends on the public goodwill and trust of certain "face of the organization" employees might reasonably expect such employees to comport themselves lawfully and even within certain moral boundaries at all times. However, a contractual provision that purports to require any employee to obtain their employer's approval to exercise their First Amendment right to political expression could by extension evolve into a contractual provision that requires employees to obtain approval to vote in a certain way, or even to vote at all.

Contractual provisions are ultimately void and unenforceable if a judge refuses to allow the state to enforce them.* It's utterly irrelevant that every party knowingly and enthusiastically agreed with the specific terms at signing. Enforcing MSNBC's contract would compel the government to infringe on Mr. Olberman's First Amendment rights, and this it cannot do.

Honestly, I hope Olberman sues the living shit out of MSNBC.

I would.

(* In Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1 (1948), SCOTUS held that a provision in real estate contract that purported to exclude any buyer "of the negro or mongolian race" was not in itself unconstitutional because it was a private agreement and there was no state action; however, it would be unconstitutional for the state to enforce such provisions because enforcement would be state action that violates the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause. For all I know, a racially restrictive covenant may still cling to that deed, but it does so without legal effect.)

Wow. It works!

Long ago, in a fit of pique, I posted a sign on the front of the ol' crapshack that reads:


I just watched a complement of Jehovah's Witnesses come up my stairs and turn back around. Awesome.

If only it worked that well on those goddam magazine peddlers.

03 November 2010

On politicizing the judiciary.

"Of liberty I would say that, in the whole plenitude of its extent, it is unobstructed action according to our will. But rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law,' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the right of an individual." 
-Thomas Jefferson, 1819

If the people can vote for you, it's a political office.

It strikes me as self-evident that in the interest of promoting judicial neutrality, judges certainly shouldn't be politicians, and probably politicians shouldn't become judges.

It also strikes me as self-evident that no politician should attack any judge on the basis that a judge's decisions somehow failed to advance the politician's personal agenda. When it happens, it shouldn't be tolerated, much less encouraged.

However, yesterday Iowa's voters — for the first time in history — were persuaded to kick their state supreme court justices off the bench for having the temerity to find that all Iowans share an equal right to marry. In other words, three judges were targeted and expelled on the political basis of the outcome of one single case — not on the basis any were corrupt, intemperate, prejudiced, or legally incompetent.

This astonishing outcome was accomplished by an unholy confederacy of out-of-state Christian political organizations (Faith & Freedom Coalition, Campaign for Working Families, National Organization for Marriage, Family Research Council, American Family Association, and the Alliance Defense Fund) led by Iowa's own failed 'bagger gubernatorial primary candidate, motivational speaker, and professional homophobe Bob Vander Plaats.

The failure here ultimately resides in a voting public who evidently has no idea how a tripartite government is designed to function for the protection of the entire public, who has no idea what they need to do to ensure that a neutral judiciary continues to work effectively to protect all people generally, and who has no idea of what the Constitution actually says or what those words mean.

Further, Americans generally seem not to have learned history's lessons that wherever the state is encouraged to wield its power against one minority, that power will inevitably be used against another one, and another, and another, until the law eventually exists solely for the protection of a political elite. When this happens, at best the people end up furtively trying avoid the attention of sociopaths in jackboots, and at worst the people end up in the Dark Ages as the short-lived farm animals of some bishop or baron.

Ultimately, like California's Prop 8 vote, Iowa's vote should be seen as evidence of a failure of an education system that cannot, or will not, meaningfully teach history and civics, and the triumph of Christians promoting the belief that their particular dogma should be the whole of the law. Because strong belief easily defeats weak wit, we have reached the deplorable point where voters have come to believe that the loudest voice is somehow evidence that it's the most correct, rather than evidence it's probably only the most extreme.

The guiding principle of America has ever been striding toward more equality, not less. To destroy the independent judiciary to ensure that "you people shall never be our equal" is to cheerfully goose-step toward fascism.