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Tuesday, November 28

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The Mechanics

Blagojevich Thu Dec 08 2011

Don't Bad-Apple Blagojevich

A familiar trope in the wake of a high-profile institutional failure, whether private or public, is the suggestion or outright assertion that the disaster was the fault of a lone gunman, a "bad apple" whose actions shouldn't be allowed to spoil how we view the rest of the bunch. Messrs. Cheney and Wolfwitz rolled out this cliché when the horrors of Abu Ghraib surfaced. We were told that Enron was, similarly, an outlier of financial fraud, rather than emblematic of how regulatory schemes (or the lack thereof) are too often purchased in what Greg Palast has called "the best democracy money can buy." In the wake of a major environmental disaster the prompts for the "bad apple" defense are sometimes audible. And, of course, when an official misbehaves, others in the arena are always ready with the singular-fruit metaphor.

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Jeff Smith

Blagojevich Wed Dec 07 2011

Reactions and Coverage of Blagojevich's Sentencing

Today former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in prison for corruption that was first discovered three years ago when Blagojevich conspired to sell the senate seat of President Obama. The sentencing was livetweeted and here's some of the coverage and observations made during the process.

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Monica Reida

Blagojevich Sat Aug 07 2010

Damage Done By Ousted Governor is Still Being Evaluated

Well I hear the jury went home today without a verdict in Blagojevich's trial. Who knows what's going on there as they continue to delibrate. Hay is being made of the political implications of not only Illinois Democrats but for President Obama. After all, this is Obama's old senate seat for whom Blago was charged with attempting to auction off.

In any event before he did finally self destruct what was Blago's legacy? This article from Quad-Cities online attempts to answer that very question via CapFax:

Ex-governor Rod Blagojevich has committed "crimes" against Illinois arguably worse than those of corruption. In his six years in office, Blagojevich mismanaged the state bureaucracy into demoralized chaos and projected to the world such unpredictability, instability and general buffoonery that business has come to see the state as a questionable place, at best, in which to locate or expand.

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Blagojevich Tue Aug 03 2010

A look back at Rod Blagojevich in 2002

Today, the Capitol Fax Blog offers us a look to the past at Rod Blagojevich. As we know the Ousted governor's corruption trial has been sent to a jury and as we wait, Chicago Tonight goes into their archives for this documentary from 2002.

Blagojevich was running for governor that year and this was a pretty good look into his past up to that point. Watching this I feel like it's a shame that his political career had taken the turn that it had. Especially with his background!

Most of the people interviewed for this piece I wonder how they view him now. Even that shoe shiner turned community activist who Blagojevich befriended when he worked as a prosecutor at the police headquarters at 51st & Wentworth.

Now Rich Miller asks us about first impressions when he became the Democratic gubernatorial nominee. When it was time for me to vote in '02 for Governor all I could say was that I knew very little about him and that I didn't vote for him anyway.

All the same this is a good look back to a Governor who for most of the last decade has given us a wild ride to his current trial.


Blagojevich Wed Jul 21 2010

The Moment of...Huh?

Update Wed 07/21: The Blagojevich team decides to rest its case. According to the former governor himself, he always intended to testify and still was prepared to take the stand, before acting on the advice of his counsel that the prosecution "proved I did nothing illegal and that there was nothing further for us to add."

See Blagojevich speak on his behalf in the below video courtesy of the Chicago Tribune:


For the first time since his arrest in December of 2008, Rod Blagojevich has shut up. From his initial Kipling-quoting protestations, Blagojevich has maintained all along that his innocence has been as solid as his lustrous mane. Since that infamous press conference, when he stood up and stated "I intend to answer every allegation that comes my way. However I intend to answer them in the appropriate forum," Blagojevich has been using his whirlwind media tour as a set-up for what would be the absolving nature of having "all the tapes" and his court testimony heard. And now that the day has finally come to shed light on the ultimate truth via his own mouth, Blagojevich, much like his idol Elvis, has seemingly left the building.

Coming as a bit of a shock, not only will Blagojevich not take the stand, but it looks as if the defense may rest its case. (Although, the father-and-son defense team of Sam Adam Jr. and Adam Sr. seem at odds as to what their next move may actually be.) If this development remains true, and if indeed the defense decides not to call any further witnesses, it would appear that Blagojevich's team has either recognized their current defense strategy would fail to establish innocence against the prosecution's burden of proof or believes that resting with Robert Blagojevich's testimony as the freshest thing in the jury's mind puts them at an advantage. More likely, the defense believes that at this point in time, a less is more approach could augment any forceful closing arguments in illustrating any loopholes the prosecution may have opened.

It is interesting to note that all of this activity coincides with the news that disgraced publisher Conrad Black has been granted bail due to the recent US Supreme Court ruling that significantly tempered the "honest services" law. The same law was applied heavily to Blagojevich in the original indictment against him. How this may be used by Blagojevich and his team, if at all, remains to be seen.

Ben Schulman

Blagojevich Fri Jun 18 2010

So You Don't Have To: Choice Excerpts from the Blagojevich Transcripts

Occasionally, I defy conventional boring the shit out of yourself wisdom and read the transcripts from federal cases on the DOJ website. The Family Secrets trial of the Chicago Outfit has some particularly fascinating wiretap transcripts. Since I was whiling away the hours in this fashion, I figured I'd start pulling out some choice nuggets so you don't have to similarly while.

While discussing the alleged shakedown of the betting track owners, there's this nugget:

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Ramsin Canon

Blagojevich Thu Jun 03 2010

Don't Forget: Blagojevich Allegedly Tried to Shake Down A F*&%ing Children's Hospital

The Blagojevich trial officially kicks off today. Amid the partisan celebrations about how the attention on this trial will "hurt Democrats" (it won't), it's important to take a moment to think about what this trial really shows, given that it is the second trial in a row of an Illinois Governor for despicable crimes. Rather than see that as evidence that the system needs fundamental reform--specifically, to eliminate the influence of cash in politics--partisans are using it for political advantage. Real heroes.

The sin wasn't really trying to sell the US Senate seat. Honestly, who cares if he was going to horse trade--or even auction it off for his personal benefit? To be honest, given the way the US Senate works, it probably wouldn't have ended a whole lot different than having Roland Burris in there. I have in mind the shaking down of Children's Memorial Hospital CEO for $50k at the risk of losing funding. That's the real despicable act. And it isn't liberal or conservative or Democratic or Republican. It's part of our political system. A political system that relies on organized money rather than organized people. George Ryan's actions in selling "licenses for bribes" lead indirectly to the death of a family. There wasn't something about Ryan's Republican-ness or conservative-ness that led him to do that, nor is there anything about Blagojevich's Democrat-ness or liberal-ness that led him to allegedly shakedown a kid's hospital. Yet of course that's what partisans resort to; that's the tribal system we're supposed to pretend is more "serious" and "realistic". When we have such clear evidence of both sides operating in the same system, isn't that all the evidence we need that the two parties are uninterested in actually changing that system? It's all so frustrating.

To follow the trial in quasi-real time, check out Natasha Korecki from the Sun-Times on Twitter. Presumably the Trib's Jeff Coen will be there, though his Twitter account is pretty inactive.

After the jump, check out the details of Blagojevich's shakedown of a hospital executive.

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Ramsin Canon

Illinois Tue Mar 09 2010

Why You Shouldn't Be Surprised the State is in This Budget Mess

The really short answer is because Dan Hynes warned us this was going to happen back in 2006.

Paying increased costs for employee pensions, health care for the poor and debt service will eat up virtually all new money the state can expect to bring in over the next three years, Comptroller Dan Hynes said Monday.

The state faces "a serious crisis" by 2010 unless lawmakers take a long-term view of state finances, Hynes told a business group in Chicago.

But this is a problem that has been brewing for years and years. The current economic situation may have hastened it, but this day has been coming for a long time and a large number of different issues have contributed to it.

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OneMan / Comments (9)

Blagojevich Mon Jan 11 2010

The Real Ignorance Behind Blago And Reid's Comments

I've been waiting for someone to analyze what's common about Harry Reid's comments and Blagojevich's but none of my regular writers have seen the pattern like I have. Basically, both comments illustrate what some white politicians think a black person is. If you synthesize the comments, a black person is someone who is poor, "shine[s] shoes", and has a "negro dialect" (presumably meaning somewhat inarticulate). The real tragedy behind both of these comments is they betray a perception of what it is to be black.

The truth is, for these guys simply being black isn't enough to qualify as being black, one has to fit the stereotype. President Obama is exceptional and thus not black in the usual sense because he's not poor and articulates his words. But that would make a lot of black people (me included) not black. But I'm regularly classified as black. People I meet at first think I'm black. On most documents that others fill out for me, they check the black box. My mother is black. By Reid's or Blagojevich's definition though, I wouldn't qualify as black even though I am, by definition, black.

In short, what those comments show is that being a black person is not singly having black skin, it's matching a stereotype.


Daniel Strauss / Comments (2)

Blagojevich Mon Jan 11 2010

And He Was Our Governor You Say?

Wow. Via Ben Smith, it seems former Governor Blago thinks he's blacker than the president:

It's such a cynical business, and most of the people in the business are full of sh** and phonies, but I was real, man -- and am real. This guy, he was catapulted in on hope and change, what we *hope* the guy is. What the f***? Everything he's saying's on the teleprompter. I'm blacker than Barack Obama. I shined shoes. I grew up in a five-room apartment. My father had a little laundromat in a black community not far from where we lived. I saw it all growing up.

All of which begs the question, does Blago know what he's saying?

Daniel Strauss / Comments (3)

Blagojevich Thu Oct 29 2009

Thursday Watch Party: Then Again...

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Ramsin Canon

Blagojevich Thu Oct 29 2009

Thursday Watch Party: What I've Been Up To

Looking back, he really didn't tell us everything he's been up to:

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Ramsin Canon

Blagojevich Thu Sep 24 2009

Thursday Watch Party: Auto-Tune That Hunka Hunka Burnin' Gov

Since RIchard got the ball rolling on video posts, watch as WGN Auto-Tunes Blagojevich.


Ramsin Canon

Blagojevich Tue Sep 15 2009

Burris, Jackson land on watchdog's corruption list

According to a watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, Sen. Roland Burris and Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. made their "most corrupt" list for the first time. The reason was because of their entanglements in Blago's scheme to sell President Obama's old US Senate seat. In other words it's all about Blago!

In the case of Congressman Jackson I almost feel like Blago singlehandedly took his rising career on down with him!

Levois / Comments (1)

Blagojevich Mon Sep 14 2009

The Death of Chris Kelly

Chris Kelly's apparent suicide is a tragedy (and its quick exploitation by local politicians painful to watch). Whatever his crimes, obviously, his life was not a just payment.

I have to tip my hat to John Kass, whom I usually enjoy teasing, for his thoughtful piece on Kelly's death.


A few days ago, a Tribune poll reported that many of us have thrown up our hands when it comes to political corruption. You couldn't hear the champagne corks popping, but you've got to figure that the status quo was celebrating.

And that's the real debilitating effect of the Chicago Way. That's the tragedy and the terrible sin of it. The political carnival is sometimes entertaining, the way crime stories are entertaining.

But it also makes us numb. It makes us feel powerless. The insiders who run our governments like their gangs or hereditary fiefdoms are organized around a single principle -- their self-interests.

And the rest of us? We're dispersed, divided, fighting each other about this program or that benefit, or this tax break or that "free" legislative scholarship, or a coveted spot in the city's magnet schools, or the jobs promised by the 2016 Olympics if the mayor wins his gold.

Up until Saturday, the Chicago Way had become a carnival, a laughing matter. Blagojevich was busy in New York selling his innocence harder than he was selling his autobiography, playing the Mad Hatter on daytime TV.

And his wife Patti was in her little black dress just like Audrey Hepburn. They posed, wide-eyed, holding hands, with Manhattan behind them, a movie poster.

But on Saturday, he paused to offer sympathy for the friend who could have brought him down, sympathy for Kelly's wife and three daughters.

They should be in all of our prayers too. And after, perhaps we could say another prayer, asking for an end to the numbness, and a chance to see things clearly.

A man is dead. And the Chicago Way is not a game.

While this may be hard to swallow from somebody who regularly refers to Mayor Daley as "Shortshanks" (whatever that means) and makes criminal underworld figures into cartoon characters, his point is well made. Chris Kelly's death is a reminder that when we talk about political corruption, we're talking about crime, and punishment.

Ramsin Canon

Blagojevich Wed Jul 29 2009

Sorry Mashup Nerds

The judge ruled against bad YouTube comedy today.

Tapes of secretly recorded conversations the FBI amassed as it investigated former Gov. Rod Blagojevich won't be made public, a federal judge said today.

Ramsin Canon

Blagojevich Tue Jul 28 2009

Blagojevich Tell-All & Rich Miller's Glee

Talk about good things happening to a good guy. Disgraced former governor Rod Blagojevich writes a book, reads it himself for the audiobook, and you could feel the warm mirth emanating from Capitol Fax publisher Rich Miller's blog comments.

- Rich Miller - Monday, Jul 27, 09 @ 3:32 pm:

Notice that the book's price has already been marked down by one-third.

- Rich Miller - Monday, Jul 27, 09 @ 4:01 pm:

...But, I may buy the CD anyway in order to excerpt the best parts here. lol

- Rich Miller - Monday, Jul 27, 09 @ 4:16 pm:

Just pre-ordered the audio book. Ringtones for everybody!!!

It is truly Christmas in July, Mr. Miller.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (2)

Blagojevich Wed Jul 08 2009

Harris and The Hair Do

In federal court today, former Blagojevich chief-of-staff John Harris will be entering his guilty plea--is he working with the G?

Follow the Tribune's Jeff Coen, the Sun-Times' Natasha Korecki, or NPR's Carlos Hernandez-Gomez (or all of 'em!) for breakin' tweets, federal boogaloo.

Ramsin Canon

Chicago Wed Jun 03 2009

KassWatch: Imaginary Friends Edition

I was probably a little hard on John Kass my last time out on KassWatch, but I couldn't help it; he can be incredibly annoying (many of you would say the same about me I'm sure; see? Circle of life). What can I say? He gets under my skin. That's what he's trying to do, so I guess that means he's good at his job.

Anyway, I avoided touching on Kass' frustrating piece on the Sotomayor nomination because I think it deserves a longer consideration and it's an issue that I know will gin up a lot of emotion, so it deserves to be addressed seriously, instead of just me poking fun at a guy who loves the smell of his own ink.

So how about a lighter topic?

I am completely at a loss to figure out what the point of Kass' latest column was. It's about...uh...Patti Blagojevich being more manly than Eminem? Or a better washed up celebrity? I'm not sure that Eminem is washed up though; and I'm certain Patti Blagojevich is not a washed up celebrity because she was never a celebrity, and certainly wasn't one long enough to be considered "washed up". Eminem went out at the top of his game and has been producing records and making zillions of dollars. He just released a record that will definitely go zintuple SpacePlatinum. I realize that he's just trying to have a spot of fun and the piece isn't really meant to be taken too seriously--after all, it's about Eminem getting a face full of Sasha Baron Cohen's hairy ass, and Kass subsequently being put off his raisin bran--but there's an equivalence problem here.

There's no relationship between the Eminem incident/stunt, which happened at an awards show, and Patti's appearance on I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here (which the Tribune's Jeff Coen abbreviated on his twitter feed as IAC...GMOOH, which I think would be pronounced Yak Gmooh, which we can all agree is a much cooler name). I think Kass is trying to call out the Blagojeviches for trying to "taint the federal jury pool" (yet he failed to make the obvious pun there) but couldn't get to his word count, so he thought he'd comment on how gross it would be to get touched by a hairy dude ass.

Ultimately, Kass decides that Blagojevich achieved her objective of tainting the jury pool while the Eminem stunt succeeded only in making him, Kass, nauseous (funny that an ass in the face for ten seconds would make him nauseous, but seeing a woman eat a tarantula for money wouldn't).


"All I can say, it's a good thing Borat didn't try it with 50 Cent," said my friend Big Paul. "If Borat came flying out of the sky with little white wings and touched his [you know] on 50 Cent's forehead, you know what would happen?"

So I think I figured it out. This column is one of Kass' lifestyle pieces where he gets to talk to his imaginary friends.

"Imagine if he tried it with Joe Walsh?" a guy named Tony asked. "What if he tried it with Ted Nugent?" another guy said.

We imagined Borat stumbling, pincushioned by Ted's flaming arrows. Or Ted stringing Borat's dried tendons on his guitar, as a haunch of salted Borat turns nicely on a spit over hot coals, Ted whetting his bowie knife, humming "Cat Scratch Fever."

Nice creepy revenge fantasy by proxy you had there fellas. But really--it was just a dude's ass. When I'm sitting on the bench at the gym tying my shoes, I get about five dude-ass walk-bys. It doesn't make me want to flay them and make jerky out of them. It makes me want to move my face.

Maybe Kass wanted to accomplish two things: taunt Patti for appearing on YakGmooh, and remind everybody that he has friends (and as an added bonus that he, Big Paul, and A Guy Named Tony think dudes' asses are gross). All in all, a successful outing.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Blagojevich Mon Jun 01 2009

Blago Talked to Durbin About Senate

It's amazing how this still makes the news and he's only been gone since late February. It's as if it's not enough that another piece of his handiwork, Roland Burris had dominated the news next week. Why is it still important?

Sources tell The Associated Press that Blagojevich told Sen. Dick Durbin he was thinking of naming Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to the seat.

Last November, Madigan said she did not believe she was even being considered.

A Madigan appointment would have been a political shocker. Blagojevich had been warring politically with her father, powerful Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, on and off for Blagojevich's two terms in office.

Blagojevich said he wanted a deal in which the elder Madigan would allow a construction program through the House and take action on a Blagojevich-backed health care plan in return for his daughter's appointment.

Said to be two weeks before he got pinched by the FBI! Funny thing is, would he have been sure that ploy would have worked? Could he have even been trusted to follow through on this?


Blagojevich Tue May 26 2009

Oh, Burris

A Sun-Times exclusive has Burris on tape with impeached former Governor Rod Blagojevich's chief fund raiser and brother, Rob Blagojevich, promising a check a month before he got his appointment in December.

Burris has previously stated, in an affidavit to the House panel investigating Blagojevich's impeachment, that he had had no contact with Blagojevich or his representatives but for a single conversation with Blago attorney Sam Adam Jr. He later amended his affidavit to say that he had had fund raising conversations but only to say he wouldn't contribute.

The Sun-Times story did not have a transcript of the audio. Burris' story is evolving, which usually means there is a cover-up going on; but just the fact that he made a pledge to donate money to Blagojevich in November, before the election, and later he was appointed Senator, after the firestorm of Blago's arrest, isn't enough to call "pay to play" or "corrupt bargain" just yet. Probably, though, we can call him a liar.


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Ramsin Canon

Blagojevich Tue May 05 2009

Blago Still Running...Permanently Behind Macy's

Blago street art.jpegThe Tribune had a great story a few days ago on some stenciled Blago street art popping up around Chicago, including one on North State Street and East Washington Street, in an alley just off of the Old Navy store and behind Macy's, as well as on a viaduct at South Union Avenue and West 16th Street. Mechanics strolled by State Street to see if Blago's image remains, and sure enough, it's still there. So what do you all think: Who is Blago running from in this depiction?

Sheila Burt / Comments (1)

Blagojevich Tue Apr 14 2009

Blagojevich May Get Reality TV Gig

Lord here we go:

NBC announced Tuesday night that it has made a tentative deal with the indicted former governor of Illinois, Rod R. Blagojevich, to appear in a reality show planned for this summer.

The show, "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here," will be shot in Costa Rica, and Mr. Blagojevich would presumably need some kind of court approval to be allowed to leave the country to tape the program. More from TV Decoder...

I think we're getting into a Joe the Plumber situation. You know, the guy who DOES NOT GO AWAY. Please, somebody, make it stop.

Daniel Strauss / Comments (3)

Blagojevich Fri Apr 03 2009

Burris On The End of Blagojevich

A press release from Sen. Burris's office:

To Blagojevich's credit, he decided as a final act it was important to appoint someone with an exceptional reputation of integrity and superior public service to the U.S. Senate seat. Blagojevich gave Illinois the chance to accomplish three worthy goals -- save the taxpayer's (sic) an expensive special election, give the state a representative of proven experience, and show the rest of the world Illinois has good officials to take us beyond our tainted image. His last words were, 'Please don't let the allegations against me taint this good and honest man,' Blagojevich said at the time.

So let me get this straight...Sen. Burris is praising Blagojevich for picking Sen. Burris? How noble...

(h/t: Josh Kalvin at Progress Illinois)

Daniel Strauss

Social Issues Thu Mar 19 2009

Illinois state police defying expungement orders?

That's what Mary Mitchell is saying in her column today:

An investigation by the Chicago Reporter, a monthly investigative publication on race and poverty, found that the state agency has refused to enforce about 1,800 of 21,000 expungement and sealing orders mandated by state judges.

Earlier this week, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan demanded the State Police immediately conduct an audit to determine the exact number of orders at issue, to comply with court orders and to devise a strategy to reach those people impacted by this issue. "They are not following the law. I am curious about their reasons," Madigan said during an interview. "We've sent off a letter to the director trying to find out what is going on."

Four years ago, Illinois lawmakers who represent districts with large African-American and Latino populations were celebrating legislation that was designed to make it easier for ex-offenders to re-integrate into society.

It was a hard-fought victory.

Expungements and the sealing of criminal records of people with low-level felony or misdemeanor arrests or convictions were viewed as critical to urban communities where unemployment figures were double-digits long before the country sank into a steep recession.

If you're up on a Saturday morning at about 10:30 AM watch some cable access programming. You might see what's going on, especially if there programs may have either a lawyer or a politician as a guest.

That was when I figured out that for a lot of blacks this is a huge issue. Usually the callers are guys who may ask questions about a conviction that they had in their youths. This conviction is holding them back in their lives and perhaps this conviction can be expunged from their records.

Here's what else was found in the investigation:

•  •  Statewide, about 1,800 of the 21,000 sealing and expungement orders issued after the amendment, between 2006 and 2008, went unenforced.

•  •  An additional 900 or so orders went unenforced before theamendment, starting in 1991, when some ex-offender advocates believe the practice began.

•  •  Statewide, 5 percent of the 412 court orders issued in 2008 went unenforced.

•  •  Paul P. Biebel Jr., presiding judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County Criminal Division, got overruled about 13 percent of the time in 2007.

Our ousted ex-governor figured into this article. Larry Trent, the current director of the State Police was appointed by him in 2003. According to Mitchell, Trent may have himself picked up some bad habits. Another thought from Mitchell:

Because African Americans account for about 61 percent of Illinois parolees, it is the group most impacted by the arrogance of this state agency. So, it is quite ironic that it was black community leaders who publicly supported Blagojevich during the corruption scandal that jettisoned him from office.

The failure of the Illinois State Police to expunge and seal criminal records when ordered to do so by a judge also has likely resulted in people who honestly thought they had complied with the law losing their jobs after a background check.

Also, since applying for an expungement costs $60 -- a fee that many applicants are hard-pressed to come by -- the state agency has effectively scammed these applicants when it refused to obey the judge's orders to seal or expunge the records.

Now that we have Gov. Quinn in office and an environment that seeks to break from the past, I hope that we can see some change on this issue. Yeah I know the best way to avoid this is to not commit a crime, however, for those who have paid their debt to society, they should be able to expunge a crime from their record that was only a past offense. Especially if it was a minor one.

And we need for the state police to follow the orders of judges!


State Politics Wed Mar 18 2009

Will Anybody Care If Burris Is Found Guilty Of Corruption?

It's easy to forget that the Senate Ethics Committee is still in the midst of investigating Crazy Old Man Sen. Burris's appointment by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich but it's true, it's still going on and Harry Reid and Sen. Durbin are cooperating with the investigators.

Something tells me though that the entire Burris-appointment story is over. Generally, Chicagolanders have given up hoping to have a normally corrupt political system. We're far more corrupt than your average state. I'll bet that even if Burris is found guilty (which I'm pretty sure he is) Illinoisians will shrug and say 'well, that's how the state is.'

Daniel Strauss / Comments (1)

Blagojevich Mon Mar 02 2009

Keeping Burris Does Not Help The Black Community

It seems Governor Quinn had to back down from his warranted urging for Roland Burris to resign after a meeting with black elected officials of the Chicago area. One can probably figure out what the officials said: Stop pushing Burris to resign and if you don't you're not going to have our support in 2010 when you're running for reelection --you'll probably have our antagonism. Alderman Smith is even quoted by CBS as sharing part of this sentiment:

"Our position is that he should stay in office, and we don't feel that the governor, or Senator Dick Durbin, has the wherewithal to throw him out of office," added Ald. Ed Smith (28h). "He represents this community."

But I'm not so sure it really helps the black community to have the single black senator out there be the one who was nominated by a despicable governor --nevermind that he wasn't brought in by a normal election. Does the black community really need to have one black senator in there so badly that they'll ignore that he's also the one associated with a very corrupt politician? Doesn't that make it seem like a) black senators are regularly corrupt and b) the only way for black people to become senators is through corruption?

Crossposted at Pensons

Daniel Strauss / Comments (6)

Special Election IL05 Thu Feb 26 2009

Geoghegan Files Suit for Special Senate Election

Today, IL-05 Congressional candidate Tom Geoghegan filed a lawsuit against Governor Pat Quinn, claiming Quinn has failed to uphold the Seventeenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. I could parse the suit and bore you to tears, or you can check out the complaint yourself here (PDF).

It's an interesting strategy for Geoghegan to go after Quinn on reform. It's debatable whether Quinn should lose his street cred as a reformer just yet. The newly sworn in Quinn has only just started to make heads or tails of the mess left by everyone's favorite impeached, potty-mouthed Elvis fan. Should Quinn really be spending his time and political capital throwing out Burris and forcing a special election when the primary is just under fourteen months away? Should this be a top priority while our state is basically on the verge of shutting down?

Certainly, if Geoghegan is successful in forcing special elections for appointments permanently, the people of Illinois are better off. But I wonder if this leaves Geoghegan better off politically? Will voters in IL-05 see this as an attack on Quinn? Will the five billion other IL-05 candidates jump in on this issue and accuse Geoghegan of attacking Quinn?

And the biggest question of all: Do voters in IL-05 even care? I guess we'll find out soon enough.

Charlotte Lynn / Comments (1)

Blagojevich Fri Feb 20 2009

Political Panhandling: A Modest Proposal

I've got an idea for stemming the corruption associated with money in politics. How about stopping the politicians from asking for it so much?

Among the many topics never taught in high school civics, and rarely in college political science, is begging. The "beg." The "pitch." The "ask." Otherwise known as the direct solicitation of money, by an officeholder or would-be officeholder.

The uproar over the Blagojevich-Burris follies might lead some to believe that the constant "touch" put on friends, acquaintances, and the not-so-well-acquainted was some freakish aberration on the part of the governor and his henchmen. Hardly so.

Continue reading this entry »

Jeff Smith

Blagojevich Fri Feb 20 2009

Good To Know

Matt Cooper, editor-at-large of TPMDC:

By the way, if Obama's seat goes Republican it'll be the first time in the 20th century, as best I can tell, that a president will have seen his party lose his seat while he's in office. Harding's Republicans held his Senate seat when he was elected president in 1920. Jack Kennedy's Senate seat stayed in Democratic hands. Vice presidential seats have flipped. Gerald Ford's house seat went to a Democrat in a special election after he was confirmed as Nixon's second veep. It would be pretty embarassing for the Republicans to pick up Obama's senate seat but if in the unlikely event Burris manages to stay in until 2010, can anyone doubt that's likely? That would be one more legacy of this weird season.

Yes. Yes it would.

Daniel Strauss

Blagojevich Wed Feb 04 2009

Blagojevich on Letterman

...the gift that keeps on stabbing.

Rod: "Well, I can appreciate your position but consider a circumstance that might involve your life. Let's say hypothetically there was another guy who had a talk show on another station from in Burbank, let's say he came from New Jersey. And let's say, let's say he said you weren't funny and he had 20 reasons why your Top Ten List sucks, would you want him just to get away with that or would you want to be able to say it simply isn't true? And I can just tell you that it's a very difficult thing that I've gone through, unimaginable, unexpected, unanticipated and I assert my innocence because it is the truth. And the alternative is to sit in some corner, hide, cower in the fetal position and assume - and accept what people are saying that you did and you didn't do it and I didn't do it, and at the appropriate time, I'll have a chance to prove that."

Ramsin Canon

Blagojevich Thu Jan 29 2009

Best. Impeachment. Ever.

Was it Illinois's worst day ever or its best?

Listening to the rhetoric from the state senate chamber in Springfield, you might think that we should consider ordering a few million caplets of Prozac from Canada.

Let's refrain, shall we?

I won't go so far as to say it's the state's finest day -- it most certainly wasn't -- but former Governor Blagojevich's unanimous conviction on impeachment charges today should be a proud moment for anyone who believes that the General Assembly has the sworn duty to remove a governor when he or she has lost the confidence of the people.

I never thought I'd find myself thinking this, but I agree with what Senator Meeks of Chicago said on the senate floor earlier today. "This is not a sad day for me," Meeks said. "This is a great day. We are not ruled by angels. We are not ruled by super-humans. We have, unfortunately, as our leaders of our state, city, country, people with flaws -- human beings, just like the rest of us who are prone to mistakes. We have leaders who make errors. However, when those errors drift into criminal activity or abuse of power -- when that happens and a leader oversteps his or her boundary, what a joy that we don't have to form a militia, that we don't have to form an army -- an upstate army and a downstate army -- and go down to the second floor, and get grenades and guns, and bomb the governor out of the second floor."

"What a joy we have a process," Senator Meeks said.

Continue reading this entry »

Richard Lorenc

Republicans Thu Jan 29 2009

Sen. Frank Watson Classes Up the Joint

Most affecting and sincere words of the day from senior Senate Republican Frank Watson (Greenville).

Ramsin Canon

State Politics Thu Jan 29 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Governor of Illinois


Ramsin Canon

Blagojevich Thu Jan 29 2009

Drop What You're Doing, and Soak in the Insanity

I just know you people aren't going to allow "work" or "deadlines" or "lunch" to interfere with witnessing what just might go down in history as one of the all-time most hilarious/embarrassing-for-someone-else (hilarrassing) events in the history of Illinois politics, namely, the "closing argument" Governor Blagojevich wants to provide for himself, before racing out of the building to make sure he can still use the state plane to get home before he gets removed from office, which he will, before the weekend.

Go listen live, or view it live (at the top of the page). Go read the liveblogging; prepare yourselves.

I'll never forget where I was when the networks called the presidency for Barack Obama (probably because I was in the middle of a zillion people in Grant Park). And, I'll also never forget what I was doing when I watched Governor Blagojevich engage in one last egomaniacal, quixotic gesture before the whole world: laughing hysterically/feeling hilarrassed. (That's a thing now, like "too much gherkins.")

Ramsin Canon

Blagojevich Tue Jan 27 2009

Geraldo Loses His Mind

I know Fox News is the television equivalent of a sandwich-board-wearing street crazy, but I couldn't resist watching paunchy propagandist Neil Cavuto's show to see State Rep. John Fritchey discussing the Governor's intensely delusional "media blitz." Boy am I glad I watched -- because Geraldo Rivera absolutely lost his mind. Can he read? Can he use a phone? Does he know that the Governor's approval ratings were nearly in the single digits BEFORE the revelations about the Senate seat?

The Illinois legislature is impeaching the Governor on behalf of the pharmaceutical lobby because of a botched importation fiasco from nearly five years ago? And when he's called on the fact that he doesn't know what he's talking about, he flips his shit.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Blagojevich Sun Jan 25 2009

Ah, But the Strawberries!

Though this be madness, yet there is method in't.
-- Hamlet, Act II, Scene II

Our embattled Gov. Blagojevich's recent jawdropping media blitz is worth a listen, for anyone who hasn't had the pleasure. Among the many interesting tidbits was the Guv, on his own, bringing up the parallel of impeached President Nixon, but comparing himself, instead, to Teddy Roosevelt. Did anyone else find it bizarre to hear an elected Democratic governor saying, "I like to see myself more like a Teddy Roosevelt Republican?" Note to Guv: the last politician to claim that mantle was John McCain. How did that work out?

It may be true that Blagojevich has not yet reached the "pray with me, Henry" stage. But the bunker mentality of the last days of the 37th president seems a far more apt match than the populist progressivism of our 25th. Teddy Roosevelt, instead of opposing tax increases across the board, argued for a more progressive tax structure; instead of raking in millions from favor-seekers, Roosevelt railed against the role of special interests, corporations, and money in politics. Consider these words from TR's famous "New Nationalism" speech in Kansas nearly a century ago:

If our political institutions were perfect, they would absolutely prevent the political domination of money in any part of our affairs. We need to make our political representatives more quickly and sensitively responsive to the people whose servants they are. [A] step in this direction . . . [is] a corrupt-services act effective to prevent the advantage of the man willing recklessly and unscrupulously to spend money over his more honest competitor. It is particularly important that all moneys received or expended for campaign purposes should be publicly accounted for, not only after election, but before election as well. Political action must be made simpler, easier, and freer from confusion for every citizen. I believe that the prompt removal of unfaithful or incompetent public servants should be made easy and sure in whatever way experience shall show to be most expedient in any given class of cases.

Guv, I don't think Teddy helps you here.

Continue reading this entry »

Jeff Smith

Blagojevich Fri Jan 23 2009

Blago Accuses Legislators of Having Secret Good Ideas

There are so many interesting events to write about our beloved Governor that it is difficult to choose what to pay attention to. Notwithstanding, Rod Blagojevich continued his miraculous streak of absurd public statements today, when he revealed the impeachment trial to be a strong-armed attempt to raise the state gasoline and income taxes. Amidst long analogies to Western movies and Pearl Harbor, this accusation was particularly odd because it seems that raising state gasoline and income taxes might be a good idea.

Blagojevich made it a focal point of his platform to oppose any increases in taxes during his time in office. This campaign promise, made ad nauseum by every spineless politician, has had terrible consequences throughout the state. The benefits of increasing the gasoline tax are the easiest to recognize. Economists, such as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, argue that taxes are effective at changing behavior deemed to be harmful or overabundant. Cheap gasoline is a direct cause of the terrible traffic, sprawl and pollution problems that the Chicago area experiences. Drivers who eschew public transportation and contribute to congestion would have a financial incentive to alter their behavior. Perhaps Blago will threaten congestion pricing on our tollways, which virtually every planning agency says is effective.

Between trotting out people in wheelchairs or rattling the saber of an income tax increase, Blago has not only proved his delusion but demonstrated a lack of a basic understanding of tax strategy. While the Chicago area possesses an infamous sales tax rate, Illinois is also home to a pathetically low income tax rate. According to the Tax Foundation, Illinois ranks 30th (higher means a greater burden) with regards to income tax burden and much lower than most other "comparable" states (i.e. states with a large modern city and metropolitan area, yet a sizable manufacturing base). The reluctance of the Governor, as well as state legislators, to make a difficult decision to raise income taxes has shifted the burden to raise revenue to counties and municipalities with property and sales taxes. School funding disparities caused by an over-reliance on property taxes and regressive sales taxes that disproportionately affect the poor demonstrate Blagojevich's complete lack of comprehension as to what policies will actually help the people he seeks to lead.

So beware! If the senate "[hangs] me and ... the 12 million people of Illinois" we might actually get a more logical, structured taxing system.

Carl Giometti / Comments (1)

State Politics Fri Jan 23 2009

The Political Game Means Things for People

The "game" of politics is always interesting for various reasons, and the jockeying of personalities and organizations can fixate us. So it's occasionally easy to forget that politics is ultimately about governing, and governing impacts people's day to day lives -- not just big general social patterns we read about, for example, in the Chicago Community Trust's great Vital Signs series, but in so many personal, material ways.

WBEZ's Gabriel Spitzer filed a great story illustrating just how the mess at the top of our state government is having real, disastrous effects on your friends and neighbors. While insulated politicians stick and move, babies go without formula in the wealthiest nation on Earth. Whatever your views on the services government should provide, there is a real material situation in front of us and when government fails to meet its responsibilities, we are all indicted in the failure as the ultimate source of government.

I don't know about you, but I don't want to be on the hook for failing to provide promised care to children or the elderly.

Besides paying nurses, Bethel also buys formula for babies, meals for needy families and books for teens. Right now, the state is almost 3 months behind in paying Bethel back- last fall, the lag stretched to 5 or 6 months. That means Bethel doesn't have cash to pay the light bill or make payroll. The agency has cut almost a fifth of its staff and lately, they've even been running out of the basics. Margaret Daniels works with new mothers.

DANIELS: It's really disheartening when a parent comes to you and say, I need Pampers for my baby. Then you gotta go home thinking I'm not able to provide this service we're supposed to provide because of the state funding. Now take that dilemma, and multiply it by about 50-thousand. That's how many invoices the state is sitting on from childcare providers, nursing homes, hospitals and others all over Illinois. In the past, those places could just go to their banks and borrow money to get by. But now, for many agencies, that safety net has been yanked away. Steven McCullough says Bethel can no longer borrow against what it's owed.

UPDATE: Missed it this morning, but Angela Caputo has a post up about this same issue at Progress Illinois, which rules.

Ramsin Canon / Comments (1)

Blagojevich Fri Jan 23 2009

Blago's Radio Hits

Visit Illinois Review (but don't linger) and you can read the unbelievable transcript from Governor Blagojevich's interview on the Don "'Stache Champ" Wade and Roma show on WLS 890 AM. Gotta give it to those conservatives, hate moves them to great feats of liveblogging.

I once made a comment about "the most reasonable" option the Governor had in some or other situation, and Rich Miller of Capitol Fax quickly responded to the effect of, "There is no way to predict what this man will do." And while Rich is probably right, there is one thing we can clearly deduce from this interview: Governor Blagojevich actually believes that he is "fighting for the people" when he picks fights over relatively picayune issues, or over nothing at all. If I were a trained medical professional, maybe I'd call that "delusions of grandeur"; but since I'm not, I'll call it really, really sad.

BLAGO: I admired Nixon, voted twice for Reagan, and supported Clinton -- I think Obama will be a great president. Nixon came from a humble beginning, and fought the system, I like to see myself more like a Teddy Roosevelt Republican, not like Nixon. Roosevelt has always inspired me -- I was a Golden Glove boxer. Only kid in St. Andrews gym that became a Golden Glove boxer because of reading about Teddy Roosevelt. I admired him. Would Rooselvelt quit when he knew he didn't do anything wrong? Can our legislator undo the will of the people? I didn't do anything wrong. I want to protect you from the tax increase.

Ramsin Canon

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