Wednesday, July 21, 2010


In the fall and early winter of 2008, former Illinois Governor, Rod Blagojevich, was caught on a series of tapes attempting to sell the US Senate seat soon to be vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. It caused quite a sensation when the case broke in early December. The resultant early reports of involvement or complicity by top Obama people put quite a dent in the showroom finish of the new administration

For much of the nation the Blago case was their first lesson in how things are done in Illinois. Stunned voters didn't have to connect too many dots before they got a picture of what we would be seeing more of in the weeks and months to come. So much for “Hope and Change”.

A brief recap of the case offers a Who’s Who of Democratic politics. One of the bidders, allegedly, was Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. who had a platoon of fundraisers out trying to scratch together $6.5 Million. Convicted fixer and fraudster, Tony Rezko, the new President’s old pal and next door-neighbor was implicated. Also playing parts were key members of the Obama team; Rham Emanuel and Valerie Jarrett, as well as Senators Harry Reid and Dick Durbin. A local Union official, Tom Balanoff president of Local 1 of the SEIU, the union associated with ACORN, is alleged to have acted as a “cut-out” between the Obama team and Blago in the Governor’s mansion. There were bugs crawling around under every rock. All that was needed was a court case that would kick a few of them over.

Unfortunately, crack Federal prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, sprung the trap before money actually changed hands, which means the main crime, actually “selling” a Senate seat, technically was never committed,. Why he did not wait a day or two until he caught all concerned in the act has not been made satisfactorily clear. As a result of Fitzgerald's jumping of the gun, Federal Prosecutors had to base their case entirely on recordings of wire taps and testimony involving other crimes and cases of bribery, which, other than “guilt by association”, did not directly involve members of the Obama Administration

Still, the case against Rod Blagojevich seems not only rock solid, but sensationally so.

To an Illinois public accustomed to existing in a dirty political world, Blago was widely known to be running an exceptionally dirty operation. His administration was something special even by Illinois standards. On one of the tapes, when Children's Memorial Hospital balked at making the suggested $50,000 “donation”, Blago was heard to say “Screw those guys” -- and he held up State funding to the hospital. His brand of politics was not tiddly-winks.

However, Blago’s methods were not so far out of line that he had any problem getting reelected in 2006. Voters in the Land of Lincoln when given the choice between a crook or a Republican, no matter how Rino-like, can always find a reason to go with the Democrat. Look at the current Illinois Senate race between bland establishment Republican, Mark Kirk, and disgraced banker and failed State Treasurer, Alexi Giannoulias, Democrat. It’s neck and neck.

As the corruption trial heated up over the last year Blago was everywhere; making personal appearances, phoning in on talk shows, even at one point hosting his own weekend talker; and all the while professing his innocence and defiantly vowing to take the stand and name names. In fact, he regularly declared his eagerness to take the stand to tell his side of the story. He was only doing what everyone else in Illinois politics does, and he was not going to go to prison without naming names.

Naturally, people in Washington were nervous. Pile the Blago trial on top of the Gulf oil leak, the economy, unemployment, resentment over health care, and etc., all coming just before the mid-term elections, and you can picture the sleepless nights in the White House, in Georgetown, or in other enclaves of power.

It was clear from the start that the official media grasped the serious implications of just how badly it could go if things spun out of control. You see at work their instinct to soft-peddle the trial, which began in June, as a sordid, second-rate “page 3” story. The big reporters were not present at Chicago’ Federal Court Building. The breathless coverage, the interviews, the speculation were largely absent. Lindsay Lohan, LeBron James, even the President's current vacation plans, padded the news and helped squeeze coverage. The trial to proceed next-to unnoticed.

In the media's spin, this was simply the trial of a local big-shot who opened his mouth one time too many and got caught. Nothing to do with Barack Obama or his associations or the polluted political pond that for years he swam in.

But there was always a feeling that the media was holding their breath -- up until news broke that the defense would rest without calling Blago to testify in his own defense.

Not only would the defense rest with no Blago, but it would rest with no Emanuel, no Rezko, no Jarrett, no Durbin, no Jackson, no Reid, no etc… That’s a lot of questions dodged by a lot of people.

Locals may greet the news with a shrug. Around Chicago far worse things get swept under the rug all the time. A few years ago a mysterious fire in the Evidence Room of the Cook County Building killed six county employees. There was some initial hubbub, but after a week or two the story just went away. To this day all we know about the matter is that some evidence was destroyed and six people died. The man ultimately in charge of the investigation, Cook County Board President John Stroger, was a supporter of Barack Obama.

Can anybody reading this guess how the “deal” was made? I can't. Who gets what, and how was the problem made to go away? Previous Illinois Governor, Republican George Ryan, is mid-way through a seven year sentence for corruption. How much time will Blago get? Will he get any time? Will he retire somewhere fat and happy with an off-shore bank account?

It is all part of the infinite puzzle of Chicago Politics.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

All The News That's Fit to Print

All of a sudden, they seem pretty optimistic over at BP. Sounds like they may finally be getting a handle on the Gulf oil spill.

Engineers are installing a new containment cap which is expected be a big improvement over the current cap. That first device, lowered into place on June 3rd, has managed to capture only about one-third of the estimated 60-80,000 barrels of crude gushing from the bottom of the Gulf each day. As we know, the other two-thirds of that oil continued to pollute the shrimp and oyster beds, kill wildlife, wash into marshes and spread onto white sand beaches. It will be about a week before installation is complete and crews can determine if the new cap works. Ideally, it will capture all or most of the oil.

Success will take a big load off President Obama’s mind. Knowing that he can play golf, fiddle with the nation’s economic system, or sue the State of Arizona without feeling like he’s somehow tied down to a crisis that needs attention should put a little of the swagger back in his step.

For Obama the best news is the fact that, if the new cap is successful, the leak will essentially be stopped before the invisible July 28th “deadline”, which would mark Day-100.

Not that an oil spill lasting 100 days would be guaranteed in-depth media coverage. There seems to be an unspoken truce between the President and the media: he’s not saying anything about the spill and the press isn’t asking. It would be nice if they’d ask even a teensy little question; like, how did BP become a finalist for a Major Award on safety and pollution control to be given just days after the initial explosion and disaster?
Wouldn’t any finalist have to undergo an inspection to qualify for such an award in the first place?

There were a few outbursts among talking heads back around Day-50, but they all seemed to quickly get back on the same page. Since then, aside from The Wall Street Journal, Investor’s Business Daily and talk radio, there has been a remarkable lack of media intensity in nosing around the story. They’ve been compliant, too, down along the Gulf, in staying back behind the yellow police tape strung along the beaches and wetlands, in not bothering people or otherwise getting in the way. Strange, isn’t it, that Bush and Cheney were often derided as oilmen – the word “oilmen” said with a sneer – then the nation elects a highly qualified community organizer from Chicago and this happens. It only goes to show that even for a man of Barack Obama’s gifts there is a limit to what he could learn from Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”.

Still, there are lingering questions that need to be asked – and answered truthfully – about some of the connections between BP and the current Administration; from the dollars BP donated to the Obama presidential campaign in ’08 and the gobs of money they’ve given to Democrats in general, to the cozy personal relationship between White House chief of staff, Rham Emanuel and BP lobbyists, to the breezy way Obama’s people in the U.S. Minerals and Management Service waved through BP’s list of variances and exemptions to standard drilling requirements.

President Obama’s hand-picked Minerals and Management Service director, Elizabeth Birnbaum, was thrown under the bus soon after the disaster occured and word of several other, shall we say, SNAFUs got out. So far, enterprising reporters have failed to track down Ms Birnbaum and question her.

To be fair, the Main Stream Press has generally had its hands full lately with other important breaking news. Waiving a calendar and pointing to an arbitrary “Day-100” of an environmental disaster is no guarantee such a story would be considered “news”, or that there would be any space available. These are extraordinary times we live in. Recently, displacing Gulf oils spill was coverage of the tragic Lindsay Lohan court case. Simultaneously crucial contract negotiations were under way involving NBA star LeBron James’, who ended up signing with the Miami Heat. Naturally this shocking development called for lots of interviews with angry fans in Cleveland and happy fans in Miami. Of those interviewed I saw, none seemed terribly upset about the oil spill. And then, wouldn’t you know it, in the middle of all of this, Mel Gibson went off the deep end again.

Looking ahead to the end of July, space for stories about out-of-work fishermen, lax governmental oversight, environmental catastrophe, and questionable Washington ethics will be especially limited. Right around that mythical “Day-100” Pro football training camps will be opening and the pre-season will be just around the corner; the major television networks will be pitching their new fall line-up; and with any luck at all Hef will be on his way to repurchasing Playboy, which some feel he never should have sold in the first place. Any one of these things could lead to a potential big story. Besides, by now just about everybody this side of a Tonight Show “Jay Walking” segment knows that there’s been a leak in the Gulf of Mexico since the middle of April. Right? So, what’s the big deal?

Well, seriously folks, there is a Big Deal. A bureaucratic Charley-Foxtrot of this magnitude demands accountability.

The so-called Main Stream Press has simply become too conflicted and too timid to do its part of the job. Remember all the Hurricane Katrina coverage; the weeks and months of follow-up stories; the stream of celebrity charity concerts; the coffee table commemorative books; the documentaries? Remember how the incompetence of state and local elected officials and the massive crime wave that followed the flooding were carefully Photoshopped out of the story and George Bush was Photoshopped in? We know what it looks like when the official eyes and ears of the media are hot on a story. We know how they sound when they want heads to roll. Right now the media is just going through the motions. They are uncomfortable with this story and are ready to move on.

Next up: Congressional hearings. Damage along the Gulf Coast is not going away anytime soon, no matter how much hush-money the Obama Administration wrings out of BP shareholders to throw at the local economy. No one in the current Administration is interested in getting answers about causes of the Gulf oil spill or the tardiness of Federal response to it. Neither the Harry Reid Senate, nor the Nancy Pelosi House is curious. Otherwise they’d already be holding hearings. Assuming a Republican take-over of either chamber in November, the new Republican committee chairmen should be clear: responsible Federal officials will be subpoenaed. Those who caused or compounded this disaster deserve to tell their stories under oath.

Remember in November.

This essay was originally published on The American Thinker, under the title; "Suppressing the Political Impact of the Gulf Oil Crisis" July 13, 2010

Thursday, July 1, 2010

After November

Why kid our selves? There is something seriously wrong with our government. Some of us may choose to ignore it, others may wish it would go away, but we all, at least on some subconscious level, know it. We see it in dozens of ways: persistent high unemployment, government spending through the roof, a health care system made worse by “reform”, two thousand miles of southern border left wide open, taxes set to explode next January 1, vote buying at the highest levels of the Administration, terrorist states building nuclear weapons, and an oil leak that has been a Charley-Foxtrot of mismanagement from Day One…on and on…

Behind all of this, down in the pit of our stomachs, is the gnawing feeling that many, even a majority, of those we’ve sent to Washington have no interest in looking out for the country’s best interests. What ever particular star in the east they are following, it isn’t ours.

But, a large segment of the population is not taking this bad situation quietly. An epidemic of November Fever has broken out. Brought back from near death by the infusion of energy from revved up Tea Party activists, Libertarians and political first timers, the Republican Party stands a real chance of getting control of at least some part of the government. We know it and the Left knows it.

There is, however, a catch: Electoral victory will not be enough.

Victory at the ballot box will need to be based upon – and followed up by – a plan for swift, sure action. No pussy footing around. The moment the new Representatives and Senators take the oath of office, they get in gear.

The new Congress and new Senate will need to drive off the vultures that are already circling. They will need to face down the Main Stream Press. They will need to challenge every political appointment that comes out of this White House. They will need to keep the nervous ones from panicking or breaking ranks. They will need to force the Administration’s hand by cutting off Federal funding for everything from implementation of the Health Care Reform to so-called “sanctuary” cities. They will need to immediately begin reassuring both the American people and financial markets that they are dead serious about reversing the damage that has been done. World War II was fought on two major fronts. This struggle will be fought on many fronts; legislative, executive, judicial, economic, educational, political and social. The enemy is a malevolent octopus that is rapidly getting its arms around everything and everyone.

So, what can we, the John and Jane Doe’s out here, do to further help mold Congress into a sharp, focused and effective band of legislators, one that takes seriously its Constitutional duties, one that will put the interests of the nation first?

The answer to that question appeared Monday, June 28th. A web site called American Thinker – a terrific site, you ought to take a look at it some time – published an essay by
Kieran Michael Lalor entitled “Top 10 Reasons GOP Must Rally behind Iraq and Afghanistan Veteran Candidates”

Read Lalor’s article. After listing 10 good reasons, the author does us the further service of listing seventeen Iraq and Afghanistan vets running as Republicans in various parts of the country. In order for them to help us, we must first help them. Obviously, it goes without saying that this year any veteran running as a Democrat is not running as a candidate of change, but rather in support a very toxic status-quo.

The message of Lalor’s essay is very encouraging. Those vets he lists know how to march and not tire. They know how to face an enemy. They know how to simplify things down to what they can carry on their backs. These Iraq and Afghanistan veterans potentially offer the mix of leadership and support it will take to effectively turn things around in Washington.

In November, if the American people elect a new Republican Congress and include a squad of lean and mean military vets, starting in January we stand a good chance of hearing some coconuts knocked together.