Florida Pilot

A compendium of random thoughts from a former Washington Beltway insider who is now having a lot more fun flying small airplanes in Central Florida.

Friday, November 25, 2005

making baseball team owners rich

And now another baseball owner is threatening to leave for greener ($$$) pastures. In Miami, Marlins team owner Jeffrey Loria has apparently been unsuccessful in obtaining a public subsidy of $300 million plus which, if the experience of other citites is typical, would end up being substantially more.

Two large local newspapers, the Sun-Sentinel and Herald, seem to see nothing wrong with huge public subsidies for baseball. But let's take a closer look at what is going on here.

What is apparent is that Loria made a business decsion when he agreed to buy the Marlins and, in retrospect, it may have been a poor one. He purchased the team subject to a stadium lease that does not provide him with as much of the ancillary financial perks (parking, concession revenues, luxury box revenue in excess of the ticket value, etc.). It is these perks, typically not even shown on the books of the baseball team itself, that make the baseball business immensely popular for the owners. Let's take parking, for example. It costs $9 to park at a Marlins game. While this is not as high as the charge at some venues, it is clear that it is 80-90% profit.

One has to assume that either Loria was smart enough to reflect the conditions of the stadium lease in what he paid for the team and was, essentially gambling that the taxpayers would pay for a new stadium in which he could get a better deal or he was very naive and overpaid for what he got. In either case, he is apparently expecting taxpayers to make him a fortune as they have in Baltimore, Washington DC, Pittsburgh, and other cities that have spent hugh amounts of taxpayer money on stadiums. In the case of Washington, the sweet deal negotiated for public subsidy of the team increased the value of the franchise by a cool $330 million!

I hope that the political leaders of southern Florida decide not to subsidize a new professional baseball stadium. Will the Marlins head for greener pastures? Probably but it will be no real loss to the south Florida area.

Professional baseball, the endless subsidy

Washington, D.C. spends a lot of taxpayer money on its school system but most of it is spent on compensation for staff with the physical facilities being outmoded and in a poor state of repair. With some buildings over 100 years old and literally falling apart, the children of D.C. deserve better.

But the D.C. mayor and city council have little interest in constucting new school buildings and instead are willing to spend over $1/2 billion in taxpayer money for a baseball stadium to be rarely used and which will primarly benefit billionaire sports team owners. But now it appears that the $535 million projected will not be nearly enought to finish the stadium and related

At this point, the mayor and council are removing required road and subway improvements from the $535 allocation and plan (hope?) to have these expenses covered by others. But others certainly does not include the baseball team owners:

"Baseball cut a deal in good faith when they came on board here," Nationals President Tony Tavares said. "They entered into very detailed negotiations that were comprehensively written and that were expanded into a full lease on RFK and
a new building with all the accoutrements that come with it. Bottom line: Baseball has stayed the course and done everything it said it was going to do. The [stadium agreement] clearly stated that cost overruns were clearly the responsibility of the city."
And bseball cut a very good deal indeed:

The sports commission and Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) view the significant shift of money as necessary to meet the terms of the September 2004 stadium agreement with Major League Baseball. The promise of a stadium and all the revenue sources that come with it has allowed the league, whose 29 owners bought the Nationals three years ago for $120 million, to command $450 million for the franchise.
So, the public subsidy of $535 million translated to an immediate benefit to baseball owners of $330 million -- not a bad deal for them but a very poor one for the citizens of Washington, D.C.

Too pretty for prison?

News that Debra Lafave was able to avoid prison time on multiple counts of abusing a 14 year old boy has caused quite a bit of outrage since her "punishment" (up to 3 years of house arrest and 7 years of probation) was so much less than that given to men who are charged with the same type of crime.

But it appears that a major reason that the prosecution was willing to agree to such a deal is that the victim's family was anxious to have this long drawn out case brought to a conclusion.

While one might argue that Lafave's attorney John Fitzgibbons showed an amazing amount of arrogance when he asserted that Lafave was "too pretty to go to prison", the timing of his statement (close to when the plea agreement was announced) suggests that he knew that his client was not going to have to face a jury of her peers.

In fact, the Lafave case was also about legal manipulation and not at all about the facts as the facts were never seriously in dispute and were butressed by a substantial amount of evidence. While the announced Lafave defense strategy was to claim insanity, given the known facts, this would have been a hard claim to argue. What the strategy did do, however, was to enable to defense to delay the case by many months, a strategy which evidently succeeded in demoralizing the prosecution witnesses.

Given the entire situation here, the fact that Lafave is an attractive female has less to do with her minimal punishment than the fact that her legal team effectively manipulated the system using a series of delays to demoralize the prosecution's witnesses to the point where they were unhappy with the prospect of attempting to see the case to a conclusion.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Ready for surrender?

From the sound of their rhetoric, it would appear that the democrats are ready to surrender in Iraq. In the U.S. House of Representatives the other day, however, only 3 backed the resolution supporting surrender; i.e., the withdrawal of U.S. forces at the present time. One can only conclude that most of the advocates of a surrender in Iraq were unwilling to go on the record with that sentiment.

But while the type of surrender envisioned by anti-war democrats would reduce the trickle of U.S. casualties, at least in the short term, it would certainly have other negative and long-term consequences.

The advocates of surrender support their position with the assumption that the terrorists operating in Iraq are only there because of U.S. actions in removing Saddam Hussein. Under that line of reasoning, once U.S. forces are removed, the foreign terrorists currently active in Iraq will go home to the countries they came from (most are not from Iraq), lay down their arms and become peaceful and productive citizens. But the terrorists (termed insurgents by mainstream media) operating currently in Iraq have expressed goals far beyond the removal of U.S. forces from that county to include elimination of all U.S. influence in the region as well as the elimination of Israel! It is hard to believe that a U.S. surrender in Iraq would cause these groups to suddenly abandon their larger goal.

But the overarching belief of those advocating U.S. surrender in Iraq is that terrorism is a product of the foreign relations policies of the Bush administration. Under this view, changing those policies would somehow cause terrorism to fade away and cease to exist. This view, of course, ignores the fact that terrorism was present prior to Bush assuming office and that it was the United States that was attacked on 9/11. It also falls short in beginning to explain why France, a supporter of Saddam Hussein and opponent of U.S. policy, has recently been subject to terrorist attacks and/or insurgent activities, depending on what you want to call them. (It certainly makes no sense to call the activities of young Muslims in Iraq an insurgency and to call those of young Muslims in France the actions of unhappy youths as done by the mainstream media).

It is my view that the surrender of U.S. forces in Iraq would lend considerable support to terror operations throughout the world, increasing their ability to recruit new members and increasing the likelihood that the next battleground in the war on terror will be in the United States and not in Iraq. Surely, the democrats will be unwilling to surrender when terrorists again strike New York or Washington.