December 30, 2008

Blago lances a boil

I'm surprised. I find myself sort of rooting for our dysfunctional Governor.

Not because he's a virtuous politician, though he has pushed some pioneering and laudable measures for the needy and working families in the state. But perhaps as a rebel willing to cause massive aggravation to the gang of power brokers who have long plotted his demise.

I've always had a strong inclination to root for the underdog, particularly when they refuses to be steam-rolled and intimidated and instead turn and fight their asses off and at the very least make it as hard as possible for the more powerful to take them down. Maybe that's it.

And Blago has shown that he's more than capable of conducting politics as if it's the Jerry Springer Show (Which after all, originated in Chicago.)

Blago is so isolated, so desperate, and so pissed off, that it's hard not to root for him on some level, just as you'd cheer on some nut who runs out onto a football field in his tighty-whiteys. Crazy? No doubt. But gutsy, and it sure livens things up.

Just as the long knives are out in force for Blago's political throat, with the national press hyperventilating on the basis of a few bare facts and rushing to paint him as the most corrupt politician in world history, just as his many enemies and rivals in the Illinois statehouse were beginning their efforts to impeach him, Blago throws a wrench the size of the Sears tower into the works and appoints former Illinois Comptroller and Attorney General Roland Burris to fill Obama's senate seat.

It's a beautiful thing. And so unexpected and bold that it's guaranteed to cause major aggita for politicians in both Springfield and D.C., and spark a legal battle above and beyond Blago's charges that can't help but be fascinating political theatre.

Blago has lanced the big old boil that is Illinois politics. What was already difficult has now been made into a world class can of worms. It's justice of a sort for this gang in my opinion, and now everyone is going to be exposed and watched as they struggle to come up with some solution to this. What they've tried so far hasn't been too satisfactory and any course won't be clean, won't be easy, and promises to involve protracted fights and legal messiness, and provide a great glimpse into the sausage making machinery in Springfield.

No one is going to emerge from this looking good, and maybe that was Blago's goal all along. If he was going down, he was going to drag a few others down with him. He's long been loathed for his petulance and willingness to recklessly make moves with the sole purpose of tweaking those who opposed him. Bearing his history in mind, this move comes as no surprise.

I seem to recall either Blago or his attorney saying that he would not do this, and no pundits or reporters or politicians ever dreamed he would dare actually make an appointment. After all, it's assumed that the reason Fed prosecutor Fitzgerald rushed to publicize the criminal complaint against Blago was in order to PREVENT him from making a corrupt appointment. Of course, despite the fact that it's emerged that Burris has forked over $20,000 to Blago's campaigns, there's no clear indication that the Burris appointment is corrupt in any way.

But it definitely is a big "F*** YOU!" to his enemies in Springfield. No one dared think Blago would dare make an appointment after his arrest. But he sure the hell just did.

The Gov effectively stuck his thumb in the eye of all those in Springfield with visions of grabbing Blago power, those with fantasies of taking his place as Governor, and those who sought Obama's seat in the U.S. Senate.

Lt. Gov. Quinn was particularly blind-sided in all this. He'd favored holding a special election to select Obama's successor, but was over-ruled by Dems who didn't want to open up the chance of a Republican being elected in the wake of Blago's bust. (of course there are legit reasons to oppose a special election, in particular the cost.)

To some, those who favored a special election stand vindicated after Blago's big move. After all, they argue, if the Dems had gone for one, then Blago would have been held in check. But would that have stopped him from appointing Burris? On that I'm not sure.

I find a certain justice in all of it. Throughout this saga, there's been the rather unpleasant reality that nearly all those who sought to unseat Blago were probably as guilty of playing political hardball as Blago was. They were eager to bring Blago down for some legitimate reasons, but a lot of it was simply due to the fact that Blago wouldn't play nice with the powers that be and refused to kiss their rings and play the game the way it had always been played.

Underlying it further was the fact that Blago, despite his faults, which certainly are numerous, had really made strong efforts at reform and proved a solid progressive who pursued many policies which reflected traditional core Democratic principles and were designed to help the working people, poor, and disenfranchised citizens of Illinois.

The fact that many Dems in their desire for power and corporate and industry campaign dollars nearly always stood in the way of such measures and thwarted efforts at reform lend all Blago's antics a certain air of crude justice.

The leadership of the Illinois legislature have long treated Blago like a rented mule, acting incredibly childish and selfishly in their increasingly petty and personal battles with the Governor, and Blago, to his credit in my opinion, is refusing to lay down and let them use his troubles to pile on and bury him.

He's not going down without a fight. And with his enemies often every bit as seedy and unscrupulous as he, only even less concerned with the interests of the average citizen of Illinois, I'm glad that Blago is giving them plenty of heartburn on the way down.

Was Blago inept, childish, erratic, and utterly unpredictable? Hell yes. The end of his tenure as Governor would be welcomed by nearly all, if only because it might finally end the truly insane spectacle of three figures essentially holding the state hostage to their personal and petty grudges and animosities and childish fits of pique.

The blame for all this seemed to always be placed on Blago, and lord knows he did enough to contribute to the situation which has essentially brought Illinois government to a stand-still and deserves a mountain of condemnation, though the other political "leaders" played every bit as large a role in the insanity but rarely come in for the same scrutiny.

For the last several years, the state has been paralysed while a tiny group battled amongst themselves, almost always at the detriment of the state, and essentially paralysing government. The players consisted of Blago, his erstwhile ally former Senate president Emil Jones, his sworn enemy House Leader Mike Madigan, and to a lesser extent, his daughter, Attorney General Lisa, (who's goofy and transparent stunt to try to get Blago declared unfit to serve out his term was recently and appropriately slapped down by the IL Supreme Court, who refused to waste their time even looking at it).

It was the ultimate three-ring circus. And they're all Democrats.

These three figures were running the state as if they were the only people that mattered. Probably because they did hold ALL the power and for the most part, the Reps and Senators chose sides and obediently played along while Madigan seemed determine to prove that HE ran the state, not Blago, and Blago petulantly insisted that the lege go along with him on all his major programs, or risk him pulling every stunt he could to make their lives difficult.

Blago has long been isolated, shunned, and schemed against by the powerful Speaker Madigan and a growing number of Dems. With the recent resignation of his ally Emil Jones from the Senate presidency, he was left more alone and vulnerable still.

Blago was left fighting for his life like a cornered animal with predators closing in all around him, and forced to resort to using what power and prerogatives he had left. He only had a few arrows left in his quiver, one of which was the Senate appointment, and the only backers those who would pay whoever was in charge some cash for state business. That's all he had left.

This goes a long way to explaining his actions and mind-set, though the press rarely touches on it. It could be argued that Blago might not have had to resort to the crazy shake-down schemes he bloviated about if it weren't for the fact that he had almost zero support from his own party and party leadership. He was a man without a country, forced to rely on his own devices and use what little power and influence was left to him as governor to try to survive in office.

His sworn enemies and their lemmings in the General Assembly have been every bit as corrupt and crazy and petty as Blago, though in a less dramatic fashion. Blago insisted on being his own man, and had the audacity to lead as though it was actually HE who was governor and in charge. They didn't like his style of progressive measures and wanted to go back to the old style corruption they were used to, which served gambling and labor and anyone else with enough dough to grease the skids without those pesky progressive and reform measures that their money men didn't like at all.

To witness this bunch suddenly cast as figures trying to rid themselves of a corrupt Governor has been rich indeed. And the national press has for the most part completely ignored the history of the state and the over-long feuding between Blago and nearly everyone else, let alone tried to get at just what it was all about.

As I've noted before, if you stuck a wire on every pol in Springfield, you'd hear stuff that would make Blago sound like Jimmy Stewart in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington".

And add to the drama the fact that Bobby Rush rushed to the mic to inject race into the Burris appointment by warning people not to "hang or lynch" him just because of Blago's troubles, and we've got the sort of mess that was only inevitable in light of the past several years of Illinois politics.

The national press smugly snorted and said how stunned they were at Blago's amazing stupidity after the wire-taps emerged. But now they're seeing that Blago might be stupid like a fox after all.

He's plaid the aftermath deftly, and stands a real chance of beating a lot of the less than solid charges against him. Of course the impeachment will be stacked against him and should go through. Fairness isn't a real issue there.

But those who thought his political obituary was already written may have to think again.

Now we'll get to witness all sorts of improbable stunts, moves, and actions as the players scramble to get more for position. And there will be drama in D.C. as well as the Dems refuse to acknowledge or seat Burris as a duly and legally appointed U.S. Senator.

To those who worry that this will tie up the state and prevent any meaningful governing from going on, hello! There hasn't been any of that for years.

Let the games begin!

December 22, 2008

Polluters, right here in River City

Just stumbled across this website serving people looking for real estate to check and see what the pollution situation is in prospective locations to live. It provides EPA information on the largest poluters in a town or city. I happened across the page for Moline, thouh I'm sure you can check on your own city as well.

For instance, the largest polluter in Moline is the Quad City Airport, with 3 pollutants from 12 sources, which emitted a whopping 896,000 POUNDS (448 TONS) of harmful pollutants per year.

Second is Deere & Co. with 47 pollutants from 273 sources and belching out 426,977 pounds (213 tons) per year.

Another hidden and little noticed business which has been pouring out toxins for years in close proximity to thousands of residences is Valspar Coatings, which I've seen on polluter lists for many, many years.

Despite it's relatively small size, it comes in a solid third on the list, with 5 pollutants from 10 sources and emitting 171,648 pounds (nearly 86 tons) of toxic pollutants each and every year.

And it's located on the border of Moline and East Moline at 5400 Avenue of the Cities (23rd Ave.) I'm sure many people have driven past it hundreds of times and never even known it was there.

Also interesting is the fact that a few veternary clinics are listed. Not sure what hazardous pollutants they deal with.

Check the website here, and then use the google map with polluters marked. You can zoom in or out and add a satellite view, then simply drag the map around to show any area you're interested in. Polluters are marked with little dark clouds.

An even more comprehensive site can be found here, which allows you to search by state, county or city and further by polutants, top 10 polluters, and more, with links to further infomation.

Here's the page showing amounts of pollution emitted in Rock Island County by type of pollutant.

Topping the list is Sulphur Dioxide, with 1,577 tons, or 3,154,964.96 pounds of it put into the environment per year. Sulphur Dioxide's hazard to human health is stated, "Sulfur dioxide acts as an acid, it reacts with other chemicals in the air to form tiny sulfate particles. When these are breathed, they gather in the lungs and are associated with increased respiratory symptoms and disease, difficulty in breathing, and premature death." and is listed as a suspected...
- Cardiovascular or Blood Toxicant
- Developmental Toxicant
- Gastrointestinal or Liver Toxicant
- Neurotoxicant
- Respiratory Toxicant

Rounding out the top three are the Volatile Organic Compounds (like found in paints and solvents - 2,462,676.72 pounds per year) and the ever popular greenhouse gas Carbon Monoxide (1,890,934.06 pounds per year).

VOC's have a lot of fun potential health effects, which according to the EPA include:
Eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches, loss of coordination, nausea; damage to liver, kidney, and central nervous system. Some organics can cause cancer in animals; some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans. Key signs or symptoms associated with exposure to VOCs include conjunctival irritation, nose and throat discomfort, headache, allergic skin reaction, dyspnea, declines in serum cholinesterase levels, nausea, emesis, epistaxis, fatigue, dizziness.

Both VOCs and Carbon Monoxide are major contributors to acid rain and to global warming due to their role in the depletion of the ozone layer.

Merry Christmas! (I'll look for something a little less grim to post soon.)

December 18, 2008

The campaign in 6 minutes and 9 seconds

P.S. The "political bullshit" comment at 3:15 in the clip was made by none other than arch-conservative former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan on an open mic during a cable talk show.

December 17, 2008

Holiday Blago Edition

Ho, ho, freaking, ho to y'all.

Sorry for the lack of postings lately, but the holiday frenzy is upon TID and between the social swirl and family stuff and incessant shopping and the other ten-thousand and one obligations and chores, I'm afraid posting about the news of the day hasn't been at the top of the list.

The fever dream of somehow tarnishing Obama with our hapless Governor continues to be what Republicans want most for Christmas. But they've been very, very bad this year and I'm afraid they won't get much more than a George W. Bush to hang around their neck.

Sure, they'll huff and puff and rant in mock outrage about things that are really incredibly mundane and ordinary and try to make it seem as if Obama is some modern day Capone. But really, did you think they'd at least make the effort to try out some other act besides their incredibly phoney, and stale "guilt by association" gambit?

The Dems don't know how good they have it with an opposition party who literally has nothing to fall back on but a strategy which was an utter failure during the campaign. They just don't know when to quit. Maybe there should be some sort of intervention?

It will likely emerge that Rahm Emanuel talked to Blago or his staff a lot about the appointment. I'm sure this obvious and completely expected fact will be greated with howls of indignation from the right wing flying monkeys.

I also wouldn't be surprised if, beyond that, there emerged some stuff that made Emanual look like what he is, namely, a savvy Chicago and D.C. political operator who knows how to deal with situations like this. He won't come out like some white knight, but neither will there be any evidence that he was trying to broker any improper deals for the seat.

Worst case scenario? Emanuel or some other transition official will be accused of knowing that Blago was trying to horse trade over the appointment and they didn't immediately run around with their hair on fire and dash off to the prosecutors to rat him out. (for what in essence likely isn't a crime.)

Those of us familiar with Blago and Illinois politics in general were treated to a grand spectacle of just how taboid and innacurate and irresponsible the press can be when a piece of raw meat like this story is thrown in front of them.

They didn't know Blago from a ham sandwich before last week. But they quickly rushed to tell the story. Which consisted of a few common points.

First, the prosecutors announcement was overblown and self-serving, but it caused the press to follow the, "Illinois is such a corruption ridden state it's like some third world banana republic!" story line.

Yes, Illinois has corruption, some of it pretty damn foul. But so do most states. Another point lost in it all is that, for the most part, all the corruption stories are from the Chicago area, just as it's always been focused on large cities across the country for literally centuries, though not exclusively. The vast majority of the state runs quite well.

No matter. The Asst. dude to Fitzgerald had to grandstand and make his little quip that if Illinois isn't the most corrupt state in the entire country, it sure is strong competition. The press ran with that and portrayed the entire state as if it was a huge cesspool. (Well, a bigger cesspool than it really is.)

Then the inevitable trivializing of the story, focusing on Blago's hair, his foul language. (Imagine! A politician who SWEARS in conversation which he THINKS is private and among close associates. Horrors!)

Then they noted that his wife is a king-sized meah-meah biotch. This I was rather pleased to see mention. In my very brief observation of Mrs. Blago over the years, she's always come across as incredibly arrogant, rather rude and haughty, and just generally not a nice person at all.

I was left thinking that part of the reason the cheese seems to be slipping off Blago's cracker, so to speak, is that his wife has been pushing him so hard that he's about a bubble out of plumb. (so to speak.)

She may be the one with outsized ambitions, pushing him toward the laughable goal of a presidential run. She might be the one beating him up all along to make her the country's First Lady (shudder) and against the backdrop of his increasing isolation and unpopularity, might explain why he comes across as nearly frantic to get ahead, one way or another. The tapes revealed that his top concerns was for their financial future and for her getting a plumb status job somewhere. (which she almost certainly isn't remotely qualified for.)

The Obama seat was THE very last card in Blago's hand. He was going down, and going down hard, and it was the only thing of value he had left. He was bound and determined to play it for all it was worth, after all, it was his last shot.

And maybe Patty would neuter him and make him wish he was dead if he didn't use this last chance to get them something to ensure their future financial and social status on the way out the door. They didn't go through all this hell for nothing, was probably the operative attitude.

And only now, FINALLY, has anyone in the press stopped hyperventilating enough to realize that the criminal complaint against Blago may not really detail any actual crimes, and the case against him is very weak. That's kind of important.

Actually, it's the lead of the story. But of course it was never even considered until yesterday by the press, and only AFTER Blago's lawyer reminded them of this rather inconvenient fact.

But the Blago frenzy resulted from the press having to scrape up bits and pieces of anything to fill air time while nothing was happening. All they could do day after tedious day was speculate about the Obama transition and show Bush's embarrassing and lame tour to try to salvage his un-salvagable image as the world counts the minutes until he's off the stage for good.

So it was like tossing a steak to a starving pack of hounds when the Blago story broke. The over-coverage was guaranteed.

And politicians rushed to the cameras with equally unsound theories and proposals, as when Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the daughter of Blago's blood enemy, speaker Mike Madigan, soberly anounced that she would ask the IL Surpreme Court to issue a verdict on whether Blago is even fit to serve as Governor.

THIS situation is the real Illinois corruption, the rampant nepotism that runs through state politics. It's why all this corruption continues and efforts to change it is met with cold fury by hacks with linage back generations. Why not just start a House of Lords and get over it?

To see Lisa Madigan on Meet the Press questioned about whether she was doing this stunt because she'd like the Obama seat she otherwise would NEVER get with Blago in office, she simply lied saying, no. She then responded to being asked whether she IS interested in the seat, to which she responded that, yes, she was interested, but she was busy trying to get Blago out of office and that she won't be able to "think about" grabbing the seat for, "a long time, unfortunately."

Darn the luck. She has to spend her time trying to get her families sworn enemy out of office before she can start campaigning for the seat. THAT is what's wrong with Illinois politics at the top. But Blago's taken all the focus off of the real rot.

Another proposal to deal with the embarassment that is our Governor is one floated almost immediately by Sen. Dick Durbin, and one apparently endorsed by Obama as well. And that is to hold a special election to select Obama's successor.

Ironically, that idea has been seen as a god-send to Illinois Republicans, who've gone as far as spending millions on a TV ad to promote the idea, figuring that they stand a better than even chance to FINALLY get a Republican senator by riding the backlash against Blago and the incestuous Dem leadership.

Not surprisingly, Sen. Mike Jacobs is on record as firmly supporting the Republican endorsed idea, weirdly saying, "I think the people have spoken on this matter. I think the people want an election they want an election on the United States Senate and they want an election for governor, period."

This begs the question for the Senator. Just when exactly did the people "speak" on this issue? It's only been a matter of days since the issue appeared!

Apparently the Senator has polled every Illinois resident in the few days since the story broke and knows their wishes on this very complex issue. Beware the pol who falls back on the hackneyed, lame, "The people want...." blah, blah, blah, which always happens to be what the pol or his contributors happen to want. Amazing, isn't it?

Obviously they don't have the slightest CLUE what people favor, prefer, or "want", but that doesn't stop them from spouting it as if it's rock solid fact.

He also seems to favor anything no matter how flawed to get Blago out of office quickly.

While obviously the most democratic way to proceed, this would cost a lot of money the state doesn't have, and again, it would open the door to a Republican having a better than even shot of winning.

So now we'll likely be treated to Dems opposing the very thing that the only remaining Illinois Senator and it's favorite son president-elect endorse.

And now Boss Madigan has OKed an impeachment effort to begin in the House. It's off to a rocky start.

Maybe 43rd Ward Chicago Alderman Paddy Bauler was right when he said after Richard J. Dailey defeated a good government, or "goo-goo" candidate the 1955 mayoral election, "Chicago ain't ready for reform."?

After all, the city's unoffical slogan has been said to be, "Where's mine?"

(Bauler was also reported to have said, "Them guys in the black suits and narrow ties, them Ivy-League types, them goo-goos - they think the whole thing is on the square."
And to Harry (his son), "If anything happens to me, I don't want you to call the priest or the undertaker. Just get your ass down to the bank and get them deposit boxes.")

Tis the season for more political junk.

Though the Blago saga has focused enough white hot media frenzy on our region to melt the polar ice caps, another little plumb was today's announcement that Obama is to appoint former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack as Secretary of Agriculture.

This is yet another appointment that bodes ill for any sort of "change" in our government policies, as Vilsack is a typical midwest proponent of ethanol, and the enormous government subsidies that support it.

This is an issue key to both the important issues of food security and vital to our country's future energy policies.

Evidence suggests that ethanol uses almost as much energy to produce as it provides, and isn't a viable scheme as it would eat up far too much land to produce the corn needed and take away from land otherwise devoted to production of corn used in the production of food.

It's not a good sign for those concerned with the environment, our alternative energy future, or food production. I only hope Vilsack does a 180 and is at least something less than a shill for the ethanol lobby, which has exerted WAY WAY WAY more power in D.C. than it's size due to the fact that nearly every swing state is an agricultural corn producing state. McCain, to his credit, was the only candidate honest enough to not come out in support of ethanol subsidies, and as a consequence forfeited any chance of winning Iowa. Every other candidate of both parties knew that you have to support ethanol or your chances of getting anywhere are very slim.

And we were given a video clip for the ages when Bush dodged a speeding shoe or two.

Pundit opinion on this seemed to always be prefaced, before they admitted how hilarious it was, by saying that "everyone" felt a little angry about it, after all, he IS our president.

Is that so?

I didn't feel a bit of anger. Not one teeny-tiny bit. I thought it was hilarious on one level, but found it entirely justified and appropriate on the other.

I also have to give Boy George props for having the reflexes of a boxer. It's as if he had gone in EXPECTING some shoes to come his way and was just waiting for it.

Secondly, the reporter who threw the footwear has an incredible arm!! The first shoe was going right at W's nose, and at a very high velocity. It makes you wonder if he'd just come off a productive spring training where he flung shoes at an old tire hanging from a tree limb for hours each day.

Incredible aim, and equally incredibly quick reflexes from our beloved leader.

If it would have been McCain, there would have been at least a bloody nose.

I'm glad that now we have an image, a video clip, that pretty much will stand for the ages as a visual comment on Bush's efforts in the Mid-East.

As Bush's Magical Re-inventing History Tour rolls on, he's caught baldly lying by saying, "I never said the Taliban was eliminated", when he's on tape saying exactly that about 4 different ways, including saying, "We've eliminated the Taliban."

And Good Old Dick gave an interview where he both admitted that they would have invaded Iraq even if they knew they didn't have any "WMDs", thus admitting that all the garbage they fed us about how they knew he had nuclear capabilities and we couldn't risk the smoking gun being a mushroom cloud, etc. were, and are, utter lies.

He also admitted that he was personally involved in authorizing illegal torture of detainees, thereby admitting to having committed a clear and unambiguous war crime.

But as both Bush and Cheney have famously reponded when confronted with facts that reveal them as utterly unconcerned over anyone else's opinion, least of all the people they were elected to represent, or that they obviously lied about their reasons to lead the country into war, and the idea that the rule of law applied to them "So?"

"What are you going to do about it, huh?", is the unspoken follow on to their arrogant answer, knowing that absolutely nothing will be done to hold them accountable, and thus sending the clear message that any future leaders are essentially immune from the rule of law.

They'll walk away scott free. In light of the horror and terror they've both been directly responsible for, dodging a couple shoes seems a tragically minor consequence.

And then there's the interesting story out of New York that has all the elements the press eats up like candy, celebrity, political history, and conlict between two political dynasties of the same party.

Of course I'm referring to the speculation, then news, that Caroline Kennedy, the only surviving member of JFK's immediate family, is interested in being appointed to fill Hillary Clinton's senate seat, presumably to run for election in 2010.

This has caused a somewhat ugly erruption from a group getting known for somewhat ugly erruptions, namely strong supporters of Hillary Clinton.

Some Rep. from Brooklyn dissed Caroline as having never milked a cow, a skill he considers essential for any candidate, though I'd wager most guys from Brooklyn have never even SEEN a cow, much less tried to milk one.

Some other erstwhile liberal Dem from N.Y. dismissed Kennedy as having nothing to offer but name-recognition, comparing her to J-Lo, of all people.

Some pundits consider Kennedy a mortal lock to win if she wins, other's aren't so convinced.

We shall see. First she has to get N.Y. Governor David Patterson to appoint her, which is far from a sure thing.

December 9, 2008

Blago busted

In keeping with Illinois' long proud tradition of crooked governors, Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff John Harris, were arrested by agents of the FBI at their homes earlier today on corruption charges, including trying to "sell" the seat of departing senator Barack Obama, "like a sports agent", extorting campaign cash for political favors, like a "saleman trying to make his sales goal", and demanding that the Chicago Tribune fire editors who have been critical of Blagojevich in exchange for aid to the Tribune Company in their attempt to sell Wrigley Field.


Despite the threat of indictments and federal investigations swirling around him for years, Blago still continued business as usual.

In the face of new ethics guidelines which would preclude taking big cash from people doing business with the state, instead of the probes and indictments and prosecutions over the past year serving to slow down the corruption, it instead increased, in an attempt to rake in all the cash possible before the new ethics rules kicked in in January.

Federal prosecutor Peter Fitzgerald described Blago of engaging in a "crime spree" that would make "Lincoln roll over in his grave." Fitzgerald also used words such as "appalling", "staggering", "astounding", and "amazing".

Fitzgerald's assistant just revealed during the press conference that they called Blago at 6:00 a.m. this morning, waking him and informing him that there were FBI agents outside his home to take him into custody. Blago initially thought it was a joke, but they convinced him finally that it wasn't. They informed him they had a warrent for his arrest and took him into custody at his home without incident. He said that the children were just starting to stir as they hauled Blago out of his home.

The entire Federal criminal complaint against Blago and Harris can be read here.

The Sun-Times reveals that Blago was wire-tapped and caught speculating about what he might get in exchange for an appointment to Obama's senate seat, including...
• A substantial salary for himself at a either a non-profit foundation or an organization affiliated with labor unions.

• Placing his wife on paid corporate boards where he speculated she might garner as much as $150,000 a year.

• Promises of campaign funds — including cash up front.

• A cabinet post or ambassadorship for himself.

Wiretaps revealed Blagojevich speculating about Obama's senate seat.

From the Sun-Times:

Regarding the Senate seat, the charges allege that Blagojevich, Harris and others have engaged and are engaging in efforts to obtain personal gain, including financial gain, to benefit Blagojevich and his family through corruptly using Blagojevich’s sole authority to appoint a successor to the unexpired term of the President-elect’s former Senate seat, which he resigned effective Nov. 16. The affidavit details numerous conversations about the Senate seat between Nov. 3 and Dec. 5. In these conversations, Blagojevich allegedly discussed the attributes of potential candidates, including their abilities to benefit the people of Illinois, and the financial and political benefits he and his wife could receive if he appointed various of the possible candidates.

Throughout the intercepted conversations, Blagojevich also allegedly spent significant time weighing the option of appointing himself to the open Senate seat and expressed a variety of reasons for doing so, including: frustration at being “stuck” as governor; a belief that he will be able to obtain greater resources if he is indicted as a sitting Senator as opposed to a sitting governor; a desire to remake his image in consideration of a possible run for President in 2016; avoiding impeachment by the Illinois legislature; making corporate contacts that would be of value to him after leaving public office; facilitating his wife’s employment as a lobbyist; and generating speaking fees should he decide to leave public office.

In the earliest intercepted conversation about the Senate seat described in the affidavit, Blagojevich told Deputy Governor A on Nov. 3 that if he is not going to get anything of value for the open seat, then he will take it for himself: “If . . . they’re not going to offer anything of any value, then I might just take it.”

Later that day, speaking to Advisor A, Blagojevich allegedly said: “I’m going to keep this Senate option for me a real possibility, you know, and therefore I can drive a hard bargain.” He added later that the seat “is a [expletive] valuable thing, you just don’t give it away for nothing.”

News conference set to start momentarily.

While all this will no doubt sound horribly corrupt to the country, one wonders what the big deal is in Illinois.

I'm sure that many Illinois pols are a bit nervous, seeing as they probably have converstions like this on a near daily basis. If you wire-tapped enough of them, you could probably indict the entire state legislature.

Imagine, trying to bully, threaten, try to buy off or intimidate someone who writes critically about you or your administration!! Hell, that's happened here on a nearly daily basis for years.

More Sun-Times coverage shows Blago's neighbors not surprised.

Details on the charge of selling Obama's seat here.

Details of attempt to get Chicago Tribune editorialists fired here.

This should get Sen. Jacobs excited, since he has visions of being governor dancing in his head.

Another equally pathetic result will inevitably be right wingers trying to insist that this means that Barack Obama is somehow corrupt despite absolutely zero evidence of any involvement on his part whatsoever. Blago is caught on a wiretap complaining that the Obama people weren't team players, that all he got from them was "appreciation", so "F*** 'em!".

But a huge impact of all of this is.... just who is going to select Obama's replacement in the senate??

Sen. Dick Durbin called a press conference earlier today where he called for a special election to choose Obama's replacement in the Senate. It's assumed that this is Obama's preference as well.

Is this the best way to go about it?

Blago was shown yesterday standing with the workers at Republican Window and Door being asked about this. By that time a story had emerged in the Trib that revealed that the Feds were using wire-taps and bugs. Blago said he wasn't concerned and derided them for engaging in spying and comparing it to Watergate.

I assume that there's good in depth coverage and even more, reaction from state insiders over at Capitol Fax as well.

During the press conference, Fitzgerald urged anyone that has been shook down by Blago or other politicians to contact them.

More as details emerge.

December 8, 2008

Bush bids us adieu

Oh, America. Eight years went by so fast, didn't they?

I feel like I hardly got to know you and methodically undermine everything you once stood for. But I guess all good things must come to an end, and even though you know I would love to stick around for another year or four—maybe privatize Social Security or get us into Iran—I'm afraid it's time to go. But before I leave, let me say, from the bottom of my heart: I can't think of another country I would've rather led to the brink of collapse.
It's just gonna be so hard packing up my things and heading off into the sunset come January. I wish I could go on forever giving massive and disastrous tax cuts to the wealthy, taking the country from a surplus to a deficit—nearly $500 billion this year, likely to pass $1 trillion next year, fingers crossed—and just generally doing irreparable damage to the very underpinnings of our economy, but, well, I'm afraid the Constitution says I can't. And not even I can overrule the Constitution. Though Lord knows I tried! Initiating blanket wiretaps without warrants, suspending habeas corpus for prisoners in Guantanamo, infiltrating an unknown number of nonviolent civilian antiwar groups without permission… such wonderful memories. I'm going to cherish them forever.

MORE from The Onion.

December 2, 2008

Jumers opens casino in swamp

Apparently the new Jumers Hotel and Casino opened in it's new location in the wetlands near the I-280 bridge.

The only reason I noticed is a one sentence mention over at Capitol Fax, which linked to this article and the decidedly negative comments (including one which asked where Rock Island was.)

There I noticed a link to another decidedly more interesting article which is part of a series done by the Daily Herald on casinos in Illinois, specifically the fact that casinos are tightening the odds on slots and raking in more cash.

You would NEVER see this sort of reporting in the local paper, for whom questioning any local business is apparently forbidden (unless they're relatively small and don't have a state senator carrying their water.)

A few stats:
• Illinois' nine casinos have managed to make 20 percent more cash from gamblers despite a 13 percent drop in visits between 2000 and 2007.

• The amount of money pumped into slots has increased just 2 percent in that time, but the casinos' take has jumped 30 percent.

• Casino operators are relying on tighter slot machines, ones programmed to keep more from every dollar bet. In 2000, 7 percent of suburban slots kept more than 10 cents of every dollar bet on average. Last year, 46 percent fell into that category.

• Stingier slots took in $600 million last year statewide, close to the cash needed to cover the casinos' massive tax bill.

• Illinois spends a fraction of what other Midwest states do to help gambling addicts, severely limiting inpatient treatment options.

• Problem gamblers who elect to ban themselves from Illinois casinos are disproportionate from cities with casinos.

• Lawmakers have never specifically researched the impact of legalized gambling in Illinois.

Casino operators say they are simply rolling out tighter slot machines to meet gamblers' demand for these newer, more exciting games. The innovative video slots offer a more entertaining and sometimes longer game, even though they are programmed to pay out less and keep more money than older slot machines.

The new slots are programmed for more losses, they say, because gamblers can play as little as a penny per spin. But they often spend more than $1 and sometimes as much as $5 on a spin every six seconds as they hope to strike it rich.

Seems a road to ruin when the state is putting so many eggs in the basket of gambling outfits feeding off the elderly and undisiplined. And who the hell will have any money to gamble away in the coming economy other than those already addicted?

David Gregory to host Meet the Press

NBC is set to announce that David Gregory is being named as the replacement for Tim Russert on Meet the Press, the longest running show on TV.

They obviously had to name someone soon, as it was clear by last Sunday's show that Brokaw had just stopped caring, complete with having his close friend and neighbor in Montana (hell, he's everyone's neighbor, he owns half the state) Ted Turner warbling a verse of "Home on the Range".

Gregory is fine, but judging from the show he's hosted for the past few months, which was initially called "Race for the White House", and re-named "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue" after the race was over, Gregory will leave a lot to be desired.

Gregory is certainly a safe choice, as he seems to have the establishment "don't rock the boat too much" angle down. He's a likable guy, and does well, but I'm not sure this move is going to make Meet the Press any more exciting, and it may well be a little duller than under Russert.

While I'm a bit disappointed in this choice, it certainly could have been worse, and to be honest, no one comes to mind who would be appreciably better.

Gregory certainly has some big shoes and enormous expectations to fill. News junkies can only hope that he'll rise to the occasion.

At least he can bust a move on occasion.

Any thoughts on this move?