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California is willing to sell you the L. A. Coliseum for $400 million, and, if you've got extra money to burn, San Quentin's famous prison.


California is willing to sell you the L. A. Coliseum for $400 million, and, if you've got extra money to burn, San Quentin's famous prison.

Paging Little Caesar

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POTUS envy

POTUS envy

You’ve probably heard by now that former President George W. Bush already has raised $100 million for his presidential library in Texas, outpacing previous fundraising efforts for the mausoleums built to honor other U.S. chief executives. We’re not sure why it became a tradition to build a mammoth facility dressed up as a tourist attraction to house all of the papers a president hasn’t shredded, burned or buried on his way out of the White House. The first official presidential library honored Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio, who grabbed the big prize in 1876 in a disputed election with Samuel Tilden, then New York’s governor. Tilden appeared to have won the popular vote, but some wild shenanigans blocked the Electoral College from confirming the result. After several weeks of ugly political mud-wrestling, a special “commission” of five U.S. senators, five House members and five Supreme Court justices handed the presidency to Hayes by one vote, an eerie precursor to the Bush v. Gore fiasco of 2000. Hayes wasn’t exactly Rushmore material. The most interesting items found at his library in Fremont, OH, are the pair of fuzzy slippers Abraham Lincoln was said to be wearing the night before he was shot (they have deer antlers on them) and a piece of the actual White House fence, which surrounds the building. There’s even a presidential library honoring Gerald R. Ford, who became the 38th president when Richard Nixon crawled out of Washington in disgrace in 1974. In the first application of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, Ford had been appointed vice president by Nixon after Spiro Agnew resigned as part of a plea bargain to avoid jail time for accepting envelopes stuffed with cash from Maryland contractors. Unable to get elected president on his own after he pardoned Nixon, Ford only served for two years. Speaking of Nixon, there are some rather unusual displays at his museum in Whittier, CA. A glass case devoted to Nixon’s war record includes a pair of deuces said to be the hand Tricky Dick deployed to bluff a colonel out of $1,500 while he spent WWII playing poker on a supply-chain outpost in the Pacific. There’s also a picture of the future president in uniform manning a grill at ”Nick’s Hamburger Stand.” Because Nixon resigned after the Watergate scandal consumed his presidency, his was the first library built entirely with private funding. Nixon’s devotees came up with a novel solution to deal with the scandal: visitors walk through an empty room with mirrored walls […]



Sacks of gold

Sacks of gold

We had some trepidation when Australian-turned-American press baron Rupert Murdoch bought the Wall Street Journal a couple of years ago. Murdoch has a well-earned reputation for dumbing down his publications and infecting them with his retrograde political preferences. He most famously transformed the nation’s oldest daily, the New York Post, from a staid liberal icon into a snarling, outrageous tabloid unearthing headless bodies in topless bars. But we have to admit that Murdoch’s feistiness has injected new life into the WSJ, and his brass-knuckles approach to the political class has enabled the Journal to throw a spotlight on the sleaziest machinations of the current fiscal crisis. Like the seasoned war correspondents of yore who braved bullets with nothing more than a notepad and a camera, the Journal has been on the front lines of the global economic calamity exposing the scandalous behavior of the nation’s top bank executives. When New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo alerted Congress in January that the Merrill Lynch gang had grabbed an estimated $3.5 billion in federal bailout funds and showered ”bonuses”on the traders who bankrupted the investment bank, the Journal put a rogue’s gallery of Merrill’s biggest money-grubbers on its front page. Not doubt the WSJ would have followed this up with a directory of the 700 instant millionaires amongst Merrill’s bonus babies. Unfortunately, Cuomo refused to cough up the names produced by Merrill after his subpoena was upheld by a federal judge, despite promising to do so. The latest fiscal atrocity to appear on WSJ’s front page involves the current chairman of the New York Federal Reserve, Stephen Friedman, who also holds a seat on Goldman Sachs’ Board of Directors. When a desperate Goldman Sachs converted itself from an investment bank into a Fed-regulated ”bank holding company” in September so it could get in line for billions in federal TARP bailout funds, Mr. Friedman was obligated under federal conflict-of-interest rules to step down as a Goldman director. Instead, the New York Fed chairman applied for a waiver from the government permitting him to continue to serve two masters. The former New York Fed president, Timothy Geithner, now the U.S. Treasury Secretary, took three months to ”evaluate” this request, then granted the waiver. Here’s what happened while Mr. Friedman’s waiver was being processed: — Friedman installed a Goldman Sachs executive as Geithner’s replacement as president of the New York Fed. — Friedman, who already had significant holdings in Goldman Sachs as a director, purchased an additional 37,000 shares of Goldman Sachs stock, which […]


Final edition

Final edition

Thomas Jefferson once famously said that he would rather have newspapers without a government than a government without newspapers. It is becoming increasingly evident in recent days that we rapidly are approaching the latter. The 137-year-old Boston Globe became the latest arrival this week in a linotype hospice crowded with venerable newspapers on their last legs. The New York Times Co., which owns Beantown’s largest daily, has informed the Boston Newspaper Guild, which represents 600 workers at the Globe, that it needs about $20 million in union givebacks or it will consider closing the paper in 60 days. The Globe, said to be facing losses totaling $85 million this year without the cuts, is the latest in a long line of newspaper dominos that have been falling with disturbing regularity since the economy collapsed last fall. Obituaries already have been written this year for print editions of the Rocky Mountain News, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The Denver paper went under, while the latter two said they would try to survive as online-only publications. Major newspapers across the country—including the Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Enquirer, Los Angeles Times, and Baltimore Sun—have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection since the beginning of the year. The deathwatch also has begun for leading dailies in San Francisco, Miami, Minneapolis and Cleveland. As these and dozens of other newspapers circle their fiscal wagons, job cuts are being accompanied by service reductions and reduced page-counts. Several papers have followed the lead of the Washington Post, which eliminated its influential Book Review section, and the Times, which reportedly is enlisting journalism students to cover outlying boroughs of New York City and New Jersey. The Detroit Free Press cut more than its pages: home delivery has been sliced to three days a week. The numbers are stark. Publicly traded publishers collectively have lost about 39 percent of their market value since Jan. 1, according to USA Today. The Newspaper Association of America reports a 16.5 percent drop in newspaper ad sales in 2008. Even before the economy tanked, the print news business was having its lunch eaten by the proliferation of low-cost local advertising on cable TV outlets. To make matters worse, the print behemoths only recently woke up to the fact that their failure to protect copyrighted content from free distribution on the Web has ceded a potentially lucrative new revenue stream to bloggers and other entrepreneurs who are more than happy to piggyback on the journalistic cache of the mainstream media without paying […]