The Meaning of Life, Part II

23 08 2010

TIF for That: Comprehensive TIF Reform Coming to Chicago?

23 08 2010

State Representative John Fritchey, who will be giving up his seat in the state house representing the 11th District to replace Forrest Claypool on the Cook County Board of Commissioners (assuming he wins in November), is teaming up with the Chicago Teachers Union and the Raise Your Hand Coalition to push comprehensive reform of the tax increment financing, or TIF, program. The reforms could end the exploitation of TIFs by the Mayor’s office as a cudgel, and restore significant funds to taxing bodies–particularly the schools–that have seen billions of dollars disappear over the last couple decades.

Tax increment financing was created by state statute in the 1970s as a way to provide incentives to develop blighted areas. TIF areas are designated by municipalities; within those areas, property tax assessments are frozen at the level they were at when the zone was designated. The land is still assessed and the taxes on the increase are still collected, but they are diverted into a site-specific fund rather than being paid to the various taxing bodies that typically collect them. Those bodies are, primarily, school districts, counties, the municipality itself, and sanitation and fire districts, among others. The idea is that without the incentive, that tax money would never have been raised in the first place, and so those taxing bodies are not actually losing anything.
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Time for a Puppo

23 08 2010

Well, it’s time for me to adopt a dog. I love them and the excuse that my apartment is too small (it’s really not–it’s actually fairly big as apartments go) doesn’t work anymore. But I need one small and snuggly and that is a little couch potato-ish because I won’t be home too much. Also I’m mildly allergic to fur, so one that is less sheddy would be good, too.


“The Guide To Being Brown”, By Everybody Else

11 08 2010

I had a clashing of two worlds that happens to brown people, particularly first generation brown people; this is when different groups of your friends collide. In this case it was some friends from work meeting some Assyrian friends of mine. Afterwards, one of my friends said I didn’t act like myself around my Assyrian friends.

“How do you know I’m not not acting like myself around you?” I asked. It wasn’t snide; I was honestly asking. To me, both selves are equally me.

This issue has been flogged to death; suffice to say that if you are white and have brown or black friends, please never tell them they’re “basically white.”

This is more common than you’d imagine, particularly for brown people of my ilk; I belong to a tiny ethnic group (less than 4 million worldwide) with no nation-state and who aren’t that phenotypicaly distinct from descendants of Europeans. There aren’t enough of us to generate stereotypes (except parochially–talk to people from West Rogers Park or Sodertalje). A creepy anthropological study of the people of northern Iraq (called “Southern Kurdistan” in the study) from the 1950s cataloged the Assyrian tribes and provided things like the average size of their skulls and chests, and the authors noted that many Assyrians are often “very light complected” and “could pass as Northern Europeans”. My mom for example has blonde hair, greenish eyes, and milky fair skin; my dad on the other hand is dark, has a prominent Semitic nose, and deep-set dark features. I’m undeniably brown. But because I skateboarded and listened to punk rock as well as hip hop, and shed my accent, when push came to shove people would be kind enough to inform me that I was “basically white”.

How cool is my mom? Studying science in Basra in the 60s.

I don’t want to discuss a struggle with identity or the prejudice (or advantages) I’ve had because I’m brown and working class. Again, that’s a boring story, boo hoo, sometimes things are hard. That’s not my point.
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The Meaning of Life, Part I

8 08 2010

Photo via Gapers Block

The Two Liars

8 08 2010

The setting of this story.

In the Hakarra mountains, in a town called Lawando, there were two liars. One day they met in the town square, and the first liar said to the second,

“I have the best eyesight in the town.”

“So do I,” replied the second liar.

The first liar pointed to the distance. “For example, do you see that ant there on top of that mountain?”

The second liar craned his neck and squinted his eyes. “Do you mean the one with his eyes opened, or the one with his eyes closed?”

Is There a Leftist Case Against the State?

6 08 2010

I feel the tension between liberals and the Left. Being on the political Left in the US puts you in uncomfortable position because the national conversation is extremely narrow, and liberals focused on day-to-day governance are pinched from both sides. Those on the broader Left–the “International Left”–come across as contrarians or as puritanical. Petty liberals–those who, broadly speaking, hew to the center-left line of the Democratic Party, embodied by the Brookings Institute, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, and public intellectuals like Matt Yglesias or Robert Reich, and politicians like Barack Obama and, formerly, Ted Kennedy–bristle as much at criticisms from the Left as they do to criticisms from the American right wing, and often are more defensive against those criticisms as they see them as coming from an attitude of “purity” or Utopianism.

Before getting to the problems with statism, it is useful to define what I mean by “liberals” and “the Left”.

It is hard to define terms in this debate, because the political spectrum is essentially fluid and the absence of ideological parties with specific manifestos confound categorization. In general terms, the petty liberal left is redistributionist and mildly statist; petty liberals don’t dispute that the foundations of American society are essentially just; rather, they seek to use extant institutions to address distributive problems.
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