Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Audacity of Nope: Chicagoans Protest the Olympic Bid

No Games Chicago led this evening's protest against the Olympic 2016 bid this evening in front of City Hall on LaSalle St. About 200 people turned out to say NO to the Olympic boondoggle. It was a cheerful, orderly crowd that included people of every sort, and the police monitoring the event were grinning broadly at us all.

I saw a number of familiar faces among the other protesters, including our own Lorraine Swanson of Lake Effect News, among the many media reps in attendance.

All our big guns are over in Copenhagen right now, and they must look just a little desperate to the IOC people, what with Barack and Richie and Michelle and Oprah in tow, while other contenders are represented merely by their heads-of-state- sort of like some pathetic social climber from the wrong side of town who has a wedding with 10 bridesmaids or something and gets a HELOC loan to buy a $40,000 dress and invites the mayor and the whole city council to her shindig. What with the country completely bankrupt on every level and fighting no-win wars on two fronts, you'd think Obama would have more pressing concerns, and GOP leaders are seizing on his junket on behalf of Chicago's bid as evidence of his lack of seriousness.

Let's hope they all make royal asses of themselves over there. Rio has come up fast and is now the front-runner. Brazil has guaranteed $14.4 Billion to cover expenses and losses, which is more than the other three contenders put together, and there is no significant opposition there.

This is no time to rest easy, though. Email President Obama and let him know that if he wants to throw some pork to his home town, that we have many more urgent needs than an over-hyped egofest for da Mare that will cost the public at least $4 billion and cause major disruption and displacement.


consultant said...

Chicago loses the bid.

With the tragic beating death of that kid a few days ago, maybe the world is saying to America, "you folks have got a lot more important things you need to work, so go, go back home and solve those problems".

You think? :-)

Anyway, when a nation has lost its direction, outsiders have to step in and steer it straight.

The North Coast said...

I believe that Rio's financing looked much better- they guaranteed $14.4 billion, while Chicago was only willing to guarantee up to $4 Billion.

That, and the vocal public opposition, were the important factors.

We might have just looked like we were more trouble than we were worth. Plus, the circus we staged in Copenhagen didn't exactly dignify us. We looked silly and desperate sending 4 people and their entourages of privileged toadies over there. Barack and Michelle and Oprah and Richie, plus Valerie Jarrett and a bunch of other cronies, with the guys from No Games Chicago- what a show it must have been.

I'm glad it's over. But the whole business has really left a lot of bad blood, and Obama and Daley have both lost a lot of face.

More, though, the Olympics will never look the same to me or a lot of other people. I used to rather idealize the games, and always loved watching the winter games. Before this, I saw the games as a festival celebrating individual achievement and a force for peace and friendship.

No more.

Now, when I think of the event, I will think always of how totalitarian governments torture and abuse competing athletes who lose, like Uday Hussain, who used to have losing Iraqi contestants tortured. I think of the young athletes whose glory-hound parents ruined their lives and deprived them of their childhoods in order to make them into Olympic competitors. I think of how sports have been elevated above scientific achievement and economic progress and opportunity for all citizens, as the measure of a country's worth- does having a few gold medal winners in the Olympics offset economic failure and increasing poverty? The Soviets thought so, and so does every other tyrannical government. Does the lack of star athletes make an otherwise prosperous and civilized country a "loser"?

Those of us who cheered when Chicago "lost" the Olympics have been called "Un-American" by right-wing bloggers. What is "un-American" about not wanting your city and country saddled with yet another tax-guzzling, disruptive boondoggle during the worst downturn since the Great Depression? Would "winning" the games have rescued this country from its problems? How many jobs would it have created in offset to the jobs and opportunities lost because of higher taxes and staggering deficits?

Most of all, the games are supposed to be about individual achievement. How can an entire population morally claim the achievement that is due strictly to the talent and efforts of the singular human being who accomplished the feat. WE did not win the gold medal awarded to an American athlete- the athlete himself won it, and the achievement belongs only to him.

Save Street End Beaches said...

Hi Laura, I don't see your e-mail on this. I wanted to let you know about a forum at Loyola on October 9. http://www.luc.edu/sociology/pdfs/Oct_9.pdf

consultant said...

I just read this short article in Newsweek with former regulator William K. Black. http://www.newsweek.com/id/216785/page/1

We're broke and the folks in power don't want to fix what's broke.

The other day I read online where a representative from a leading train company in Germany compared the train industry in America to a developing country.

This is what societal collapse looks like. Not all at once, but a steady change in status-downward.

The Olympic IOC is basically a bunch of international hustlers playing one city against the other, and in return the IOC gets to travel around the world in style and every few years bestow the honor of hosting the way too expensive games on some poor, idiot host city.

Nice work if you can get it.

We lived in Chicago for 10 years. Jane Byrne once tried to bring a Worlds Fair (as if the city needed it) to Chicago. Chicago folks rejected it then, the IOC rejected Chicago now.

I say amen.

The North Coast said...

I can't think of better proof of the failure and intrinsic wrongness of a government-planned and directed economy than the quite deliberate murder of our railraods in the post-WW2 era, except for the government steered housing industry.

Again, people blame something called "free markets", which have never existed in this country except for a brief period in the late 19th century.

But it was government policies implemented with a sweeping hand, made possible with our tax money, and cascading and amplifying down through decades, that destroyed our railroads, the better to promote the auto industry, airlines, and suburban sprawl builders; and turned our housing industry into a government-subsidized casino designed to enrich the home builders and banking cartel and destroy our cities and small towns.

The railroads were operating very well and profitably into the early 50s, when our central government planners decided that railroads were obsolete and that air travel and mass auto ownership were the tickets to "growth". You absolutely must understand that this was not decided by the "invisible hand", but by brutal tax laws aimed specifically at the railroads, and by regulatory strangulation, while the airlines were given massive subsidies in the form of airport infrastructure and oftentimes direct subsidies. It seemed to "work" only because of cheap fuel, and because the true costs were hidden and spread among the taxpayers, who somehow regard highways and airports paid for by public funds as "investments" but regard funding of transit and railroads, crippled by having to compete against government-funded and promoted competition, as "subsidies". How could the industry survive having to subsidize its competition through unfair taxes deliberately rigged to kill it, while laboring under a punitive regulatory structure?

The housing industry and the development patterns it fostered were, of course, greatly skewed by the programs put into place under Roosevelt's new deal, which aggressively sought to move the masses of the population out of the cities, which the New Dealers saw as corrupting and unhealthy, into new suburbs. This policy became the national religion after Roosevelt's death, and in the post-war era, the FHA and VA redlined perfectly intact city neighborhoods while offering no-down or 3% down loans (my parents bought with a no-down VA loan) for houses in the new sprawl-burbs that are now deteriorating rapidly. The FHA and the GSAs were hatched by the New Dealers but given flaming new life during the 50s, when the interstate highway system, which was a massive subsidy for auto transportation and suburban sprawl, was begun, and destroyed the physical cohesion of our cities while providing an easy path out of them for the newly-minted middle classes.

We've now reached the logical conclusion of these wrong-headed policies that seemed so beneficial at the time, and we somehow can't figure out why our railroads are 3rs world, why housing is more unaffordable every decade and there are more homeless people every year, why we are not birthing vibrant new industries providing the technologies we will need as we head into an energy-short future, and why there is a bigger gap between high and low income brackets all the time.

What ought to be obvious is that when the government plans the economy, that it is creating a playing field heavily tilted towards waste and destruction of organic industries that grew in response to demand and need, and is functioning as the major redistributor of wealth- and not from the rich to the poor, but from the entire bottom 99% of the population to the ruling oligarchy who buy the politicians and pull their strings.

consultant said...

As Kunstler might say, we did what we did because we could.

We've always done what we did because we could. Capitalism yoked to democracy has produced a dynamic society in constant motion. An open frontier with an abundance of natural resources neatly fed both systems.

Big govt./small govt., majority vs. the minority, that debate has gone on since the founding of the country. I think what has changed over time is the different role of private enterprise.

Starting in the late 1800's, private business has grown more powerful. The federal govt. from time to time has stepped in to curb that power; tried to make sure economic wealth and opportunity is more fairly distributed.

What we have today, on the scale that we have it, is an unprecedented merging of govt. and private business interests. Today, we are The United Corporations of America.

Unchecked govt. is bad. Unchecked big businesses are bad. We need to tweak our constitution to curb the excesses we see that occur in both.

Suggestions: change the way we finance and even run for office, strike down the notion that a corporation is a "person", outlaw lobbying, reasonable term limits in Senate and House, etc.

I don't think any meaningful change will occur in the short term. We are in a deep, deep winter of discontent.

We will continue to do what we are doing until we can't, or until someone else stops us.

consultant said...

Chicago/Obama loses Olympic bid, Obama wins Nobel Prize for Peace.

Way to go on both counts.

Although I'm a little confused on why he won the latter.

But,...this isn't just about 'our' perspective.

The Swedes and everyone else in the world is so damned relieved to see the Bush/Cheney gang out of office, they just had to reward America for doing that.

So the Nobel Prize goes to Americans who voted for Obama, who, is moving tentatively, but absolutely not as recklessly as Bush/Cheney were.

So there you go Laura. Enjoy your piece of the Nobel Prize. I know I will.

Now for that second cup of coffee.