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Beware claims that the Braves new ballpark will be privately funded

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As is the case with any breaking news story, there are conflicting reports about the details of the Braves new ballpark in Cobb County, Georgia. Specifically the financing. Reports have the place being a $672 million project overall. Some reports, however, have it as a ~$450 million public contribution from Cobb County with the Braves paying for the rest. Other reports are characterizing that $450 million component of it as private funding or private funding “arranged” by the county, with the Braves paying the rest.

We’ll know the details eventually. But even after we think we know the details, be sure to use your critical listening and critical thinking skills to figure out what you’re really being told. Because politicians and baseball team owners are notoriously opaque about this stuff.

Specifically, they’re big on characterizing what are, in reality, public funds as private funds. Or at least something other than tax dollars. Because in the political orthodoxy of the past 30 years, nothing has become more politically toxic than using tax money for anything. Or, at the very least, having one’s political opponents claim you used tax money for something. Even for things that taxes are actually supposed to pay for like, say, fighting off anarchy and society-killing social and economic dislocation!

So they spin. Like crazy. A hotel bed tax — which is most certainly a tax and is most certainly the spending of public money — is often spun as something other than public funds. So too are bonds. So too are loans. So too are tax breaks and abatements. All manner of politicians with actual educations have stood before cameras before and claimed, with a straight face, that those things aren’t the expenditure of public dollars. As if money wasn’t fungible. As if the government’s spending of money it has for one thing doesn’t necessarily mean that the money can’t be spent for another. Or, if it was derived for a sole purpose, that it could have gone un-derived in the first place.

Private expenditures would be the Braves paying for it all. Or the Braves and a consortium of private businesses using their own money. And, hey, it’s possible that Home Depot (based in Cobb County) or the local Lockheed Martin plant could cut $450 million checks for the place. If so, yes, I will view this project in a very different light.  I just doubt it’s happening that way because it hardly ever happens that way.

Anyway: wait for the information. And, given the compulsion politicians have to avoid looking like they’re spending taxpayer money on anything besides the military, look skeptically at anyone claiming that this is all a private deal with no costs to the taxpayers.

Ichiro was happy to see Pete Rose get defensive about his hits record

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 14:  Ichiro Suzuki #51 of the Miami Marlins warms-up during batting practice before a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on June 14, 2016 in San Diego, California.   (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
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You’ll recall the little controversy last month when Ichiro Suzuki passed Pete Rose’s hit total. Specifically, when Ichiro’s Japanese and American hit total reached Rose’s American total of 4,256 and a lot of people talked about Ichiro being the new “Hit King.” You’ll also recall that Rose himself got snippy about it, wondering if people would now think of him as “the Hit Queen,” which he took to be disrespect.

There’s a profile of Ichiro over at ESPN the Magazine and reporter Marly Rivera asked Ichiro about that. Ichiro’s comments were interesting and quite insightful about how ego and public perception work in the United States:

I was actually happy to see the Hit King get defensive. I kind of felt I was accepted. I heard that about five years ago Pete Rose did an interview, and he said that he wished that I could break that record. Obviously, this time around it was a different vibe. In the 16 years that I have been here, what I’ve noticed is that in America, when people feel like a person is below them, not just in numbers but in general, they will kind of talk you up. But then when you get up to the same level or maybe even higher, they get in attack mode; they are maybe not as supportive. I kind of felt that this time.

There’s a hell of a lot of truth to that. Whatever professional environment you’re in, you’ll see this play out. If you want to know how you’re doing, look at who your enemies and critics are. If they’re senior to you or better-established in your field, you’re probably doing something right. And they’re probably pretty insecure and maybe even a little afraid of you.

The rest of the article is well worth your time. Ichiro seems like a fascinating, insightful and intelligent dude.

There will be no criminal charges arising out of Curt Schilling’s video game debacle

Curt Schilling
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In 2012 Curt Schilling’s video game company, 38 Studios, delivered the fantasy role-playing game it had spent millions of dollars and countless man hours trying to deliver. And then the company folded, leaving both its employees and Rhode Island taxpayers, who underwrote much of the company’s operations via $75 million in loans, holding the bag.

The fallout to 38 Studios’ demise was more than what you see in your average business debacle. Rhode Island accused Schilling and his company of acts tantamount to fraud, claiming that it accepted tax dollars while withholding information about the true state of the company’s finances. Former employees, meanwhile, claimed — quite credibly, according to reports of the matter — that they too were lured to Rhode Island believing that their jobs were far more secure than they were. Many found themselves in extreme states of crisis when Schilling abruptly closed the company’s doors. For his part, Schilling has assailed Rhode Island politicians for using him as a scapegoat and a political punching bag in order to distract the public from their own misdeeds. There seems to be truth to everyone’s claims to some degree.

As a result of all of this, there have been several investigations and lawsuits into 38 Studios’ collapse. In 2012 the feds investigated the company and declined to bring charges. There is currently a civil lawsuit afoot and, alongside it, the State of Rhode Island has investigated for four years to see if anyone could be charged with a crime. Today there was an unexpected press conference in which it was revealed that, no, no one associated with 38 Studios will be charged with anything:

An eight-page explanation of the decision concluded by saying that “the quantity and qualify of the evidence of any criminal activity fell short of what would be necessary to prove any allegation beyond a reasonable doubt and as such the Rules of Professional Conduct precluded even offering a criminal charge for grand jury consideration.”

Schilling will likely crow about this on his various social media platforms, claiming it totally vindicates him. But, as he is a close watcher of any and all events related to Hillary Clinton, he no doubt knows that a long investigation resulting in a declination to file charges due to lack of evidence is not the same thing as a vindication. Bad judgment and poor management are still bad things, even if they’re not criminal matters.

Someone let me know if Schilling’s head explodes if and when someone points that out to him.