Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Durbin chooses junket over funeral

Junket king Dick Durbin is among a group of high-ranking Democrats who are declining to postpone a trip to South America to attend the funeral of an American President. Isn't Durbin the guy always lecturing GWBush on not "reaching across the aisle."

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

On Obama, Tribune must lead

The Chicago Tribune today broke another Barack Obama story, this one revealing that one of indicted Tony Rezko's close associates was able to get a son hired as an intern in Obama's Washington office.

Tom Bevan has a point that the story in the pure sense isn't a blockbuster.

Yes, but the Tribune is caught between its own journalistic reputation and a stampeding national media fed by Hillary Clinton hatchet-artists. If national stories appear with new Obama revelations, it will make the Tribune look like the local lap dog paper. So the Trib is in full survivalist mode as evidenced by the assignment of its two top investigative reporters, David Jackson and Ray Gibson, to this story.

To its credit the Tribune so far has made the most important Obama revelation — the simulataneous purchase by Rezko of Obama's adjacent lot. Obama has said the association with Rezko was a mistake and he made a strong statement to the Tribune that never did anything helpful to Rezko, governmentally.

Obama added that he had never "done favors for [Rezko] of any sort. Most of the time, I've never been in a position to do favors for him. I don't control jobs. I don't control contracts. There were no bills that he was pushing when I was in the state legislature that I know of or that he talked to me about. And there were no bills in federal legislation that he was concerned about, so there was no sense of the betrayal of the public trust here."
Obama's spokesman, in attempting to say the above statement was accurate, characterized the hiring as having no value.

Having a connection who can get you kid hired as an intern in a U.S. Senator's office is not a paid trip to a luxury resort, but it's something. Something that helps keep the contributions rolling.

I'll conditionally say Bevan is right in saying the Tribune's coverage of the intern story "borders on being a joke," assuming the press finds no other actions by Obama that contradict his Rezko explanation. I have a suspicion the Tribune has more and that I'll be withdrawing my conditional approval of Bevan's column in the near future.

Meanwhile, the Tribune doesn't have the luxury of hindsight. It must continue to seek and find anti-Obama material and put it into the sunshine so its own reputation doesn't get burned. Over the years, the Tribune has gained the reputation for gathering lots of investigative material that dies on the hard drives of cold-footed editors. In this instance, the Tribune is almost forced to rev up its Obama research and reporting or risk getting run over and judged irrelevent. Ironically, that's same equation Obama is facing — run now or risk becoming irrelevant later.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

She's got the far left covered...

Chicago Tribune reporter Michael Higgins always does an admirable job of writing abortion-related stories without a left-wing slant. His story today about DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett (former client) prodding Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to do her job on the parental notification issue is no exception.

Rich Miller is inviting comments on the Trib story.

An interesting quote from Madigan's spokeswoman notes that Madigan is still researching the issue and has met with two advocacy groups. Both are far, far left on the political spectrum.
They have met with representatives from the ACLU of Illinois, Planned Parenthood and the offices of Birkett and Cook County State's Atty. Richard Devine, (Cara) Smith said. They also have talked to court clerks around the state.
It's fine that Madigan meets with the ACLU and one of her biggest campaign contributors, Planned Parenthood, which has given her more than $150,000 over the years. Those groups, of course, demand unconditional loyalty to the far left position on abortion: no reasonable restrictions allowed. That's fine — every group with interest in the issue should have a say. Wonder if any pro-life groups were consulted?

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Great Kass column

This is textbook good column writing: Get out of the office and find out what's behind the news. Then tell the story in a clear and entertaining way.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Do your job, Lisa

For those looking for a demonstration of the news media's double-standard on abortion, look no further than Illinois' parental notification law.

Lisa Madigan, the liberal Attorney General of Illinois, is predictably as far left on the issue of abortion as can be. She has the radical pro-choice stance, meaning she opposes all reasonable restrictions such as parental notification and a ban on partial birth abortion, even though most Illinoisans favor those positions.

It doesn't matter what her personal position is, however. As Attorney General, she's supposed to defend the constitutionality of laws passed by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor presuming they are not on their face, unconstitutional.

Illinois has such a law, parental notification, that awaits the state's chief legal officer to go into federal court and lift a 1995 injunction. The law was was passed decisively in 1995 by pro-life and pro-choice legislators and signed by Jim Edgar, a pro-choice governor. In September, the Illinois Supreme Court paved the way for the injunction to be lifted when it drafted so-called "bypass rules" it had previously balked at writing. The rules set forth the conditions and procedures for a minor child to bypass having to notify their parents of an abortion.

Madigan said in September she is studying the new rules and would make a decision later on how to proceed.

Well, she's done nothing for three months. And, the news media has not asked her why.

If the situation was reversed — a conservative Attorney General was balking at enforcing a law favored by abortion rights advocates — the news media would be hounding the AG. I know that is true because there were a few times that it happened when Jim Ryan was AG and I was working for him.

However, unlike Madigan in this case, Jim Ryan bucked his own constituency and his personal position when he refused to defend the constitutionality of the parental notification law in 1995 because of the Illinois Supreme Court refused to write bypass rules. Pro-life groups were mad. I remember them calling our office. Sometimes doing your job correctly is not popular.

Lisa Madigan needs to do the same. She needs to buck the special interest groups who support her — NARAL, Personal Pac, Planned Parenthood — and get the injunction lifted.

The Tribune, Sun-Times and Daily Herald all support the parental notification law as do a decisive majority of Illinoisans. It just makes sense if a 14-year-old girl wants to have an abortion, her parents ought to know about it. Every state in the Midwest has such a law except Illinois.

It's time for the news media to ask Madigan why she remains motionless on this issue.

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Obama's PR fence has holes

If you had a sophisticated enough microscope, you probably could see the fingerprints of Hillary Clinton operatives on the anti-Obama story today in the Washington Post.

The silent-but-deadly Clinton takedown of Obama is a trend we noted here, which we still believe will result in somebody filing a Senate ethics complaint over the Tony Rezko deal.

From a PR standpoint, Obama was smart to admit he showed poor judgement. It has muted some of the criticism. Still, there are two avenues of criticism he hasn't barricaded.

First, it's a bit silly to suggest that he didn't know Tony Rezko was in the crosshairs of newspapers and investigators. Rezko was front page news throughout 2005, even in the early months. It is part of a larger pattern of Obama not speaking out about corruption in his own party. He endorsed the ethically challenged Alexi Giannoulias for state Treasurer and stuck by him after it was revealed he was responsible for bank loans to mobsters. Then he stood silently by at the Illinois State Fair in August, refusing to say a word about nine state and federal corruption investigations of Governor Rod Blagojevich. Then, a few weeks later, he had the Audacity to lecture Kenya about corruption.

The second problem Obama has is his explanation of conversations he and Rezko had before they both purchased the adjacent properties. Obama gives the scantest of explanations and makes it sound as if a couple of casual indirect conversations led to the perfect convergence of transactions.

Much more likely, it seems, is that Obama and Rezko agreed that Rezko would buy the lot and hold it until Obama could afford to buy it. In other words, a gift.

If that's the case, Barack better Hope Rezko's version of events never is made public.

That's why it is in Hillary's best interest to prompt an investigation of some sort.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Why did Barack do it?


It is not even worth asking the question why the national news media is fawning over Barack Obama like a love struck teenager. We intuitively know the answer: The media is hopelessly left-wing and when it sees a promising liberal candidate it discards any pretense of objectivity and becomes a nationwide electronic cheerleader.

The evidence is the lack of commentary today about how/why ESPN-ABC granted Obama a multi-million dollar freebie last night as a lead-in to Monday night football. When bearing gifts to the God, Tony Rezko's side yard looks downright cheap compared to a free 60-second spot (via CapitolFax), complete with fake Oval Office set and professionally written copy slapped onto a teleprompter.

If there was such a thing as a conservative shooting star in the media, can you imagine the outrage today had he or she be given such massive free time to tease and promote a candidacy for president. Is it really such a stretch for someone to ask whether it amounts to a de facto violation of the Senate ethics prohibition on accepting gifts?

My surprise was reserved for why Obama accepted the free time. While it may gain him some short-term exposure, that's the last thing he needs right now. His only obstacle to the presidency is reality: the American people might someday come to its senses about the danger we are facing in the world from Islamic extremists and begin to wonder how someone who casts himself as a popular culture in-joke would be the best commander in chief.

That ESPN spot was the best thing to happen to Hillary Clinton all week.

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Blago courted Obama basher

As we said recently, the race is on between the Barack Obama hype and the efforts by Hillary Clinton surrogates to undermine him.

One of the first people out of the blocks to take a hard shot at Barack was a man Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich once courted.

John Catsimatidis, the supermarket magnate and Clinton loyalist, received a dinner invitation from Mrs. Clinton on Thursday. He didn't waste any time before taking shots at the viability of her potential rival.


"To take Obama seriously at this stage of the game is very naïve," said Mr. Catsimatidis. "He's not ready for prime time. What, do you want to take the weatherman from Boise, Idaho, and put him in New York City? I mean, give me a break."
Blagojevich and his merry band of fundraisers, two who since have been indicted, flew to New York in 2003 on the "Shakedown Shuttle." Check out the first stop on the schedule.

Apparently, the Blagojevich crew didn't impress Catsimatidis. He was one of the only people on the schedule that day who didn't immediately contribute money to Blagojevich.

Maybe the Greek grocery tycoon called Paul Vallas first.

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Quinn's selective populism


The great partisan populist has struck again.

Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn rails about utility executives' salary and says nothing when the governor he stands next to takes $15,000 in utility money to help Pat get re-elected.

Now Pat's after ATM fees. The first question he ought to ask is what are the fees charged at the ATMs at tollway rest stops. Those ATMs were installed after the Blagojevich administration, without bids, gave the exclusive contract to a bank that employed the governor's brother.

But I don't expect our Lt. Gov. to be asking about Rod's brother. The not-so-mighty Quinn already has indicated he believes the governor is clean and that, in essence, therefore, that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is wasting his time with his multiple investigations of corruption in the Blagojevich administration, including at the tollway.

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Didn't know about Foley, Rahm?


Now that the election is over, the press is largely uninterested in the Mark Foley "scandal" because it is not serving any purpose, such as getting Democrats elected. That work is done.

Therefore it is not surprising that the Illinois media is ignoring the revelation in the Foley report that says Rahm Emanuel was very likely baldly lying when he said on national television he didn't know about Foley's problems before they reached the press.

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Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Blago brags about study from connected vendor

I'm not surprised anymore by the audacity of the Blagojevich administration. I expect it.

Even so, I almost reached to scratch my head on this one.

The governor's office sent out a statewide press release yesterday touting a new "study" that showed Illinois had the greatest improvement in health care of all states.
"Illinois has steadily improved in the overall health of the population since 2002," said Archello Georgiou, Medical Advisory for United Health Foundation. "One of the most significant improvements in Illinois is the prevalence of smoking, down to 19.9 percent from 22.2 percent in 2005 and down from 28.7 percent in 1990."
Whose study was it? Just happens to be completely funded by UnitedHealthGroup, a huge no-bid vendor of Illinois.' Not just any no-bid vendor. Part of a joint venture that included Pacificare, which since merged with United. One of Pacificare's top employees was Nancy Monk, sister of Blagojevich's former chief of staff and campaign manager.

Eric Krol of the Daily Herald broke the story earlier this year. He quoted Lon Monk as saying he was unaware that his sister's firm got the $100 million contract before it was awarded and quoted administration officials saying they had to truncate the process for seeking proposals because of the urgency of the prescription drug contract.

No other firms applied. Par for the course. Democrat Jack Franks called for an investigation. Not sure if Attorney General Lisa Madigan followed up.

Reminds me of the Fifth Third ATM contract that went to a firm that employed Blagojevich's brother, Robert.

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The $55 million man

Many words were uttered and quickly forgotten during the recently concluded governor's race in Illinois about the fundraising prowess of Rod Blagojevich (and all the federal investigations spawned by that harvest).

When you look at some historical perspective, the numbers are truly staggering.

(Total fundraising with number of active years in parentheses)

Blagojevich -- $55,329,366 (6)

George Ryan -- $24,438,469 (29)

Jim Ryan -- $21,113,264 (13)

Judy B. Topinka -- $15,442,485 (27)

Jim Edgar -- $9,158,286 (22)

Glenn Poshard -- $5,134,728 (2)

Dawn Netsch -- $2,416,184 (20)

When looked at on a per-year basis, the fundraising edge Blagojevich has over every other candidate for governor in recent Illinois history is even more shocking.

Blagojevich -- $9,221,561

Glenn Poshard -- $2,567,364

Jim Ryan -- $1,624,097

George Ryan -- $842,705

Judy B. Topinka -- $571,943

Jim Edgar -- $416,285

Dawn Netsch -- $120,809

These numbers are not perfect -- they are not adjusted for inflation or the offices the candidates were seeking. Still, even with those adjustments, Blagojevich would still have an enormous edge over all the politicians.

I remember when pundits were describing George Ryan as a fundraising machine. His was a rickety wagon compared to the Blagojevich Lamborghini.

How he got the Lamborghini is another question. One that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is exploring in great detail.

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Monday, December 4, 2006

William Howell mystery deepens

One of the men Governor Rod Blagojevich was scheduled to meet with in October 2003 on his Shakedown Shuttle airplane trip to New Jersey/New York was East Coast pay-to-play figure William Howell, we previously reported here.

That same William Howell gave Blagojevich $10,000 in late 2003 and another $10,000 in early 2004. Then, curiously, Blagojevich amended his campaign disclosure earlier this year to change the company name on Howell's first donation. He removed the name of a company affiliated with scandals in Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico and replaced it with another company name not connected to the scandals. Never before has Blagojevich amended his disclosure forms three years after the fact.

Why? It's not clear yet, but my guess is that Blagojevich's lawyers know the feds are looking at Howell's company and they are making a belated disclosure of some type.

Less than three weeks ago, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported the FBI raided the offices of the company Howell is affiliated with.

As we said before, William Howell is a name to watch in future months on the fertile Illinois corruption landscape.

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Thursday, November 30, 2006

One brave, inspirational soldier


The inspirational speech below continues to circulate on the internet since it was delivered several years ago at West Point. I just found it recently while looking for the whereabouts of a former friend, the man who wrote and delivered the speech, Lt. Col. Guy Lofaro.

Lofaro, pictured above as a senior at Pattonville High School in suburban St. Louis, was shot and nearly killed Oct. 27, 1995 when a soldier in training at Ft. Bragg, N.C. went beserk and began firing at fellow soldiers. One soldier died and 17 were injured. LoFaro was nearly pronounced dead and was in a coma for 45 days before recovering fully.

Guy received the Soldier's Medal, the Army's highest peacetime honor for his effort in stopping the sniper. His speech below is posted regularly on military websites by soldiers.

It makes me proud to know that outstanding men and women like LoFaro are doing the hard work necessary to defend our freedoms and liberties. Thank you Guy.

Let me say before beginning, that it has been my pleasure to attend several dinings-in here at West Point and hence, I have some basis for comparison. You people have done a fine job and you ought to congratulate yourselves.

In fact, why don't we take this time to have the persons who were responsible for this event, stand, so we can acknowledge them publicly. I guess I am honored with these invitations because there exists this rumor that I can tell a story. Cadets, who I have had in class, sometimes approach me beforehand and request that, during my speech, I tell some of the stories I've told them in class.

For the longest time I have resisted this. I simply didn't think this the right forum for story-telling, so I tried instead, with varying degrees of success, to use this time to impart some higher lesson - some thought that would perhaps stay with one or two of you a little longer than the 10 or 15 minutes I will be standing here. I tried this again last week at another dining-in and I bombed. Big time. Of course, the cadets didn't say that. They said all the polite things - "Thank you, sir, for those inspiring words - You've provided us much food for thought - We all certainly learned something from you tonight, sir." And I'm thinking - yeah - you learned something all right. You learned never to invite that SOB to be a dining-in speaker again.

So in the interim, I've spent quite a bit of time thinking about what I would say to you tonight. What can I say that will stay with you? And as I reflected on this I turned it on myself - what stays with me? What makes a mark on me? What do I remember, and why? How have I learned the higher lessons I so desperately want to impart to you? Well - I've learned those higher lessons through experience. And as I thought further, I realized that there's only one way to relate experience - that is to tell some stories.

So I'm going to try something new here this evening. I'm going to give you your stories and attempt to relate what I've learned by living them. I'm going to let you crawl inside my eye-sockets and see some of the things I've seen these past 18 years.

Lesson One

Imagine you are a brand new second lieutenant on a peacekeeping mission in the Sinai Peninsula. You are less than a year out of West Point, and only a few weeks out of the basic course. You are standing at a strict position of attention in front of your battalion commander, a man you will come to realize was one of the finest soldiers with whom you've ever served, and you are being questioned about a mistake - a big mistake - that you've made.

You see, your platoon lost some live ammo. Oh sure, it was eventually found, but for a few hours you had the entire battalion scrambling. Your battalion commander is not yelling at you though, he's not demeaning you; he's simply taking this opportunity to ensure you learn from the experience. And you do - you learn that people make mistakes, that those mistakes do not usually result in the end of the world, and that such occasions are valuable opportunities to impart some higher lessons.

Then, out of the corner of your eye, you see your platoon sergeant emerge from behind a building. He's an old soldier - a fine soldier though - whose knees have seen a few too many airborne operations. He sees you and the colonel - and he takes off at a run. You see him approaching from behind the colonel and the next thing you see is the back of your platoon sergeant's head. He is now standing between you and your battalion commander - the two are eyeball to eyeball.

Your platoon sergeant says, a touch of indignance in his voice, "Leave my lieutenant alone, sir. He didn't lose the ammo, I did. I was the one who miscounted. You want someone's ass, you take mine." And you learn another lesson - you learn about loyalty.

Lesson Two

It's a few months later, and you are one of two soldiers left on a hot PZ on some Caribbean island. There's been another foul up - not yours this time, but you're going to pay for it. It's you and your RTO, a nineteen-year-old surfer from Florida who can quote Shakespeare, because his Mom was a high school literature teacher, and who joined the Army because his Dad was a World War II Ranger. The last UH-60 has taken off on an air assault and someone is supposed to come back and get you guys. But the fire is getting heavy, and you're not sure anything can get down there without getting shot up. You're taking fire from some heavily forested hills. At least two machineguns, maybe three, maybe more, and quite a few AKs, but you can't make out anything else. You and your RTO are in a hole, hunkered down as the bad guys are peppering your hole with small arms fire. Your RTO is trying to get some help - another bird to come get you, some artillery, some attack helicopters - anything. But there are other firefights happening elsewhere on this island involving much larger numbers. So as the cosmos unfold at that particular moment, in that particular place, you and that RTO are well down the order of merit list.

You feel a tug at your pants leg. Ketch, that's what you call him, Ketch tells you he got a "wait, out" when he asked for help. The radio is jammed with calls for fire and requests for support from other parts of the island.

"'What we gonna do, sir?" he asks. And all of a sudden, you're learning another lesson. You're learning about the weightiness of command, because it's not just you in that hole, it's this kid you've spent every day with for the last five months. This kid you've come to love like a kid brother.

There is only one way out and that's through the bad guys. You see, you are on a peninsula that rises about 100 feet from the sea. The inland side is where the bad guys are. You figure you are safe in this hole, so long as they don't bring in any indirect fire stuff, but if they come down off those hills, onto the peninsula, then you're going to have to fight it out. And that's what you tell your RTO: We either get help or, if the bad guys come for us, we fight. He looks at you. You don't know how long. And he says only four words. Two sentences. "Roger, sir. Let's rock." Appropriate coming from a surfer. Then he slithers back down to the bottom of the hole. Staying on the radio, your lifeline, trying to get some help. You are peering over the edge of the hole, careful not to make too big a target.

You're thinking about your wife and that little month-old baby you left a few days ago. It was two o'clock in the morning when you got the call: "Pack your gear and get in here." You kissed them both and told them to watch the news. Hell, you didn't know where you were going or why, but you were told to go, and you went.

Then all of a sudden it gets real loud, and things are flying all around and then there's a shadow that passes over you. You look up and find yourself staring at the bottom of a Blackhawk, about 15 feet over the deck, flying fast and low, and as it passes over your hole you see the door gunner dealing death and destruction on the bad guys in those hills. It sets down about 25 meters from your hole, as close as it can get.

You look up and see the crew chief kneeling inside, waving frantically to you, the door gunner still dealing with it, trying to keep the bad guys' heads down, who have now switched their fire to the bird, a much bigger, and better, target. You look at Ketch and then you're off - and you run 25 meters faster than 25 meters have ever been run since humans began to walk upright. And you dive through the open doors onto the floor of the Blackhawk. There are no seats in the bird since this is combat and we don't use them in the real deal.

And you are hugging your RTO, face-to-face, like a lover, and shouting at him "You OKAY? You OKAY? You OKAY?" But he doesn't tell you he's OKAY since he's yelling the same thing at you - "You OKAY? You OKAY? You OKAY?" And then the pilot pulls pitch and executes a violent and steep ascent out of there and had you not been holding on to the d-rings in the floor and the crew chief not been holding your legs, you might have fallen out. Then you're over the water, you're safe, and the bird levels out, and you roll over to your back and close your eyes - and you think you fall asleep.

But then you feel a hand on your blouse, and you open your eyes and see the crew chief kneeling over you with a headset in his hand. He wants you to put it on so you do. And the first thing you hear is, "I-Beamer, buddy boy. I Beamer."' You were in I-4 while a cadet, and that was your rallying cry. And you look up to where the pilots sit and you see a head sticking out from behind one of the seats. He's looking at you and it's his voice you hear, but you can't make out who it is because his visor is down. Then he lifts it, and you see the face of a man who was two years ahead of you in your company. He tells you that he knew you were there and he wasn't going to leave an I-Beamer like that. And you learn about courage, and camaraderie. And friendship that never dies!

Lesson Three

It's a few years later and you've already had your company command. You're in grad school, studying at Michigan. You get a phone call one night, one of the sergeants from your company. He tells you Harvey Moore is dead, killed in a training accident when his Blackhawk flew into the ground.

Harvey Moore. Two-time winner of the Best Ranger Competition. Great soldier. Got drunk one night after his wife left him and took his son. You see, staff sergeants don't make as much money as lawyers, so she left with the lawyer. He got stinking drunk, though it didn't take much since he didn't drink at all before this, and got into his car. Then had an accident. Then got a DUI. He was an E-6 promotable when this happened, and the SOP was a general-officer Article 15 and a reduction one grade, which would really be two for him because he was on the promotion list.

But Harvey Moore is a good soldier, and it's time to go to bat for a guy who, if your company command was any sort of a success, played a significant part in making it so. And you go with your battalion commander to see the CG, and you stand at attention in front of the CG's desk for 20 minutes convincing him that Harvey Moore deserves a break. You win. Harvey Moore never drinks again. He makes E-7.

And when you change command, he grabs your arm, with tears in his eyes, and thanks you for all you've done. Then the phone call. And you learn about grief.

Lesson Four

And then you're a major and you're back in the 82d - your home. And one day some SOB having a bad week decides it's time to take it out on the world and he shoots up a PT formation. Takes out 20 guys. You're one of them. A 5.56 tracer round right to the gut. Range about 10 meters. And you're dead for a little while, but it's not your time yet - there are still too many lessons to learn.

And you wake up after five surgeries and 45 days in a coma. And you look down at your body and you don't recognize it - it has become a receptacle for hospital tubing and electronic monitoring devices. You have a tracheotomy, so there's a huge tube going down your throat and you can't talk, but that thing is making sure you breathe. And there's a tube in your nose that goes down into your stomach - that's how you eat. And there are four IVs - one in each arm and two in the veins in the top of your feet.

There is a tube through your right clavicle - that's where they inject the high-powered antibiotics that turns your hair white and makes you see things. But disease is the enemy now and it's gotta be done.

And there are three tubes emerging from three separate holes in your stomach. They are there to drain the liquids from your stomach cavity. It drains into some bags hanging on the side of your bed. And they've shaved your chest and attached countless electrodes to monitor your heartbeat, blood pressure, and anything else they can measure. They have these things stuck all over your head as well, and on your wrists and ankles.

And your family gathers around, and they are like rocks, and they pull you through. But there's also a guy, dressed in BDUs, with a maroon beret in his hand, who stands quietly in the corner. Never says anything. Just smiles. And looks at you. He's there every day. Not every hour of every day, but he comes every day. Sometimes he's there when you wake up. Sometimes he's there when you go to sleep. He comes during his lunch break. He stays an hour, or two or three. And just stands in the corner. And smiles. No one told him to be there.

But he made it his place of duty. His guard post. You see, it's your sergeant major, and his Ranger buddy is down, and a Ranger never leaves a fallen comrade. And you learn, through this man, the value of a creed.

Lesson Five

And every four hours two huge male nurses come in and gently roll you on your side. The bullet exited through your left buttock and made a hole the size of a softball. The bandages need to be changed. Take the soiled wads out and put clean ones in. And a second lieutenant comes in. She seems to be there all the time. She's the one changing the bandages. And it hurts like hell, but she, too, is smiling, and talking to you, and she's gentle.

And you know you've seen her before, but you can't talk - you still have that tube in your throat. But she knows. And she tells you that you taught her Military Art History, that now it's her turn to take care of you, that she's in charge of you and the team of nurses assigned to you, and she won't let you down. And you learn about compassion.

Lesson Six

And then it's months later and you're still recovering. Most of the tubes are gone but it's time for another round of major surgeries. And you go into one of the last, this one about nine hours long. And they put you back together. And you wake up in the ICU one more time. Only one IV this time. And when you open your eyes, there's a huge figure standing over your bed. BDUs. Green beret in his hand. Bigger than God. And he's smiling.

"It's about damn time you woke up you lazy bastard," he says. And you know it's your friend and former commander and you've got to come back with something quick - something good. He's the deputy Delta Force commander, soon to be the commander. And you say, "Don't you have someplace else to be? Don't you have something more important to do?" And without skipping a beat, without losing that smile he says "Right now, I am doing what I consider the most important thing in the world." And you learn about leadership.

So there you have them. Some stories. I've tried to let you see the world as I've seen it at various points in time these 18 years. I hope you've learned something. I certainly have.

Thanks for your time. "Rangers Lead the Way!"

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Where did Darryl Strawberry land?

One of the weirder items of the week is this online article that reveals that former New York Met and Yankee superstar and longtime bad boy Darryl Strawberry is living in......suburban St. Louis.

About the last place anyone would suspect. Darryl explains why.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Wisconsin part of Blago's multi-state cartel

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's investigators are undoubtedly racking up hefty frequent flier mileage untangling the nationwide Rod Blagojevich fundraising cartel.

Tentacles of the operation spread into New York, New Jersey, California, and Wisconsin, as highlighted here. The Wisconsin connection was highlighted here in a report recently released by the Wisconsin state Board of Ethics, which ruled that the governor there didn't violate ethics laws by accepting Bears tickets at Soldier Field in 2003.

Careful readers of the report will note that on page 11, it says that since indicted Bear Stearns executive Nicholas Hurtgen and Blagojevich fundraisers Tony Rezko and Milan Petrovic entertained the Wisconsin governor that day at a favorite "combine" outpost, Gene and Georgetti's steak house.

Hurtgen has a status hearing on Wednesday in U.S. District Court. He long has been considered a probable cooperating witness, although thus far he is pleading not guilty. His wife is a partner in a company that flew Blagojevich around in the 2002 campaign. Bear Stearns months later was given the largest bond deal in state history, $10 billion in 2003. For these reasons and others, it is believed that Hurtgen's testimony could be very damaging to the Blagojevich administration.

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Sunday, November 26, 2006


Before the Barack Obama presidential coronation train gathers too much momentum, look for Hillary Clinton's operatives to invisibly start dumping dirt on the Boy Wonder Senator.

A prime target will be the huge gift that indicted businessman Tony Rezko bestowed upon Obama by buying his adjacent property.

Look for a Senate ethics complaint to be filed by the hidden hand of Hillary.

It is an entirely appropriate line of inquiry, as the transaction was an enormous favor to the Obamas. In retrospect, Barack, after the negative media coverage, said it looked bad. This is the same guy who lectured Kenyans about corruption in their country at the same time he was endorsing the trio of Rod Blagojevich, Alexi Giannoulias and Todd Stroger and taking favors from Rezko, who was known to be under intense federal investigation.

Only in Illinois.

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Why won't media ask Quinn about $15,000?


As Illinois Lt. Governor Pat Quinn continues to rail against utility companies, he fails to get a single question from the media about the $15,000 in utility money he benefitted from a week before the election.

Rod Blagojevich
and Quinn ran as a team and Ameren sent Blagojevich $15,000 on Oct. 30. That money helped run TV commercials that got Quinn elected.

Yet Quinn continues to whine and complain about utility rate increases and utility executive pay and the news media dutifully reports on his press conferences without mentioning the hypocritical contribution.

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Showdown turns into rout

After a weeklong vacation in Florida, I headed to one of my favorite spots: a state playoff high school football game.

I went to Champaign Saturday afternoon to watch my hometown Wheaton-Warrenville South Tigers thrash Chicago Mt. Carmel 44-21.

Everyone was expecting a tight game from two of the most storied prep football schools in the state, but Wheaton's talented group of seniors, led by Purdue-bound running back Dan Dierking (featured in Sports Illustrated recently), completely outclassed the school that produced Donovan McNabb and Simeon Rice.

It was the fifth state title for WWSHS, which regularly produces entertaining teams with wide open offenses that remarkably make few mistakes. This version of the Tigers was perhaps the best ever with a 2,000 yard runner in Dierking, talented receivers, a good quarterback and an electrifying backup running back (Jim O'Brien) who scored nearly every time he touched the ball in the playoffs, including twice against Mt. Carmel.

High school football is refreshingly simple and free of pretense and also of TV timeouts, which fatally interrupt the flow of play in college and pro football. I won't watch either without DVR.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Myth of the suburban women's vote

Blogging will be light or non-existent for the next week or so. In the meantime, a close look at the vote in the governor's race is intriguing if you look at the suburbs.

By far, the biggest difference between Rod Blagojevich's 2002 victory over Jim Ryan and his win this month over Judy Baar Topinka is in the collar counties. The conventional wisdom fed to us by the Illinois media is that a Republican statewide candidate will do much better in the suburbs if they are pro-choice and moderate.

Guess again.

Pro-life conservative candidate Jim Ryan did much better than Judy Baar Topinka in the collar counties of DuPage, Lake, Will, Kane and McHenry. Ryan won 58-39 percent and came away with a 147,338 vote plurality over Blago in the collars. Topinka barely won in the collars, 47-42-11 over Blagojevich and Whitney and only took away a 32,325 margin. The 115,000 difference in the collar county margins from 2002 to 2006 was by far the biggest geographical difference between the two elections.

2006 Pluralities

The anecdotal evidence is that the women's vote was pivotal in the suburbs. Exit polls and polls taken before the election showed a wide gender gap in Blagojevich's favor. That wasn't supposed to be the case according to the conventional wisdom because Topinka and Blagojevich were similar on many social issues. That conventional wisdom was further destroyed because Blagojevich didn't run TV ads on abortion against Topinka and did against Jim Ryan.

So what was the real reason suburban women turned on Judy? Probably because of the overall bombardment of a 5-1 advantage in TV ads. Rod's tainted money was able to buy a message of education and health care while simultaneously and falsely making Judy look like a crazy woman. The suburban results certainly show that voters are no longer knee-jerk Republican in the suburbs, but they also show that they aren't particularly ideological or tied to any party. They will sway according to the party and candidate that reaches them most often and most effectively.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Great commercial

With apologies to Elizabeth Roskam, Chuck Goudie, Eric Zorn and many others, this is hands down the best ad of the political season.

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Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Newspapers need to fight back

Besides the Republican Party, newspapers were the biggest loser Tuesday night.

Nowhere was that more evident than in the governor's race, where Rod Blagojevich bet and won that his $20 million in TV ads would obliterate the hundreds of hours of toil, research and column inches newspapers expended publishing stories about his administration's corruption.

If it wasn't clear before, it is now: A unrebutted TV ad is at least 100 times more powerful than a powerful newspaper story.

Never in the history of Illinois has a governor been more disdainful of newspaper reporters and editors. The administration treats them like minor annoyances that need to be swatted away occasionally. Traditionally, the governor's office has tried to court and manipulate the print press in order to gain favorable coverage that ultimately would drive radio and television stories. Not these people -- they know they have enough TV commercials in the bank to overcome nearly any onslaught of newspaper coverage.

What can newspapers do to fight back? As a former newspaper reporter and editor, it pains me to see the industry so clearly dying in plain sight.

Newspapers need to fight fire with fire. They must grasp the concept that their medium is far weaker than TV. So they need to use TV to help them drive their own message.

I'd suggest that newspapers all pitch in money to form a consortium that might also seek private funding. The consortium would be used to run TV advertising in political campaigns in races where candidates are stretching the truth the most. The ads would center on "truth squading" of negative TV ads.

Newspapers would form the basis of the critique ads by first publishing "ad watches" that critique the negative ads. Papers used to do this but most have given up. The duty must be taken seriously and whoever performs the critique must be given time and resources to do it right.

Then, the consortium would run the ads in selected races based on some type of objective selection process that identifies the need for intervention. The ad watches and TV ads could all be featured on a nice website that gives the issue an internet presence.

Without some kind of push back, newspapers will continue to die and TV stations will continue to get fat off the campaign contributions of candidates such as Rod Blagojevich.

I'd welcome any other suggestions on how newspapers can avoid their growing irrelevance.

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Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Whitney hit on YouTube

The first and only negative "ad" targeting Rich Whitney.

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Had enough?

For those who are captivated by the TV ads of Rod Blagojevich, here are some of the comments from Illinois newspaper editors who are trained not to be fooled:


In sum, Gov. Blagojevich has disgraced himself and the state. Nothing he may have accomplished in office can erase that taint or entitle him to another term. Voters must send a strong message that Illinois will no longer tolerate the corruption his regime has fostered.

The scent of scandal constitutes more than smoke. It's a five-alarm fire.

On top of that mismanagement, the Blagojevich administration is the target of at least two federal investigations, one of which has already resulted in the indictment of a top Blagojevich fundraiser. And the head of the FBI in Chicago says that investigation remains hot.

His 2002 pledge to end "business as usual" in state government has gone up in flames: The U.S. Justice Department has issued subpoenas to no fewer than six state departments; his top fundraiser faces federal charges of cooking up a shakedown-and-kickback scheme of massive proportions; his administration is under federal investigation for hiring practices; and reporters have extensively documented the governor's record of handing contracts and appointments to campaign donors.

The guy has let down the people of Illinois in every way imaginable. Instead of the ethical government he promised, his administration is the subject of a sweeping federal corruption investigation.

Illinois voters should run, not walk, away from a candidate that close to corruption.

Now a trail of indictments is working its way toward the governor's office, forcing him into the last refuge of the political scoundrel: claiming ignorance of what goes on in his own administration.

Governor, these questions are not going away. Nor are the FBI agents and Department of Justice prosecutors who are unraveling your fundraising machine and your patronage hiring.

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Monday, November 6, 2006

What to expect in DuPage County

Because it is likely that DuPage County returns will be pivotal in the 6th District race for Congress between Republican Peter Roskam and Democrat Tammy Duckworth, expect a lot of shouting and screaming if Roskam wins.

That's because a group that calls itself non-partisan but is run by partisan Democrats has already been laying the groundwork for a cry of vote fraud. I wrote about this group previously and took the Tribune to task for sanitizing the group's partisanship.

Overall, the Illinois Ballot Integrity Project pines for the good old days when Democrats could steal elections at will. I heard an official for the group say on WBBM's At Issue recently that he would prefer old-fashioned paper ballots. Despite the massive vote fraud problems in the city of Chicago and indictments in the East St. Louis area for vote fraud, one-half of the articles posted on this group's website are focused on DuPage County. It's curious that the group is targeting the county with the most spotless record of running elections, that, oh, happens to be the center of Republican power in the state.

Anyway, here's what the group thinks about the election ahead. This is posted on its website.

The next regular open meeting will be Wednesday, November 15th at the Goose Island Brew Pub, 7-9 pm. We'll start sorting through the November 7th "train wreck" nationally and here in Illinois, assessing how electronic voting machines impacted the election and what immediate steps we can begin to work toward pulling the plug in 2007 and beyond. Bring a friend or neighbor who's interested in helping fix the many problems to IBIP.
In other words, the election will be screwed up no matter what the results. How convenient for those looking for a built-in excuse for results that don't go their way.

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National wave more like a ripple

The national media has been foaming at the mouth for weeks about a Democratic takeover of Congress. My general consumer advice is to discount the MSM's optimism. There will be Democratic gains, but the GOP will hold the Senate and maybe the House.

The most level headed information and opinion can be found here. One of my favorite analysts, Jay Cost, says that well-known prognosticators Stuart Rothenberg and Charlie Cook are overstating their own data fairly dramatically. His theory is that they'd rather make sure they catch any big wave and if they miss, they'd rather err on the Democratic side. He has the numbers to back up his theory.

If you think Cost is blowing smoke, consider this -- on election night 2004, I stopped watching network news and instead went to Cost's blog, which was correctly predicting Bush victories in Ohio and Florida and was saying why based on the early returns. Cost had predicted wins in those states days before the election by analyzing new registration patterns. While most of the MSM was waffling on those two states, he was very sure of himself and was spot on.

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Hallmark of socialism is planning


NEWS FLASH! That's right, as we speak, Comrade anti-Capitalist Rich Whitney is having a press conference in Springfield to name his Politburo, er, transition team.

If you are going to have a planned society, might as well start now.

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Quinn a statewide fraud


Illinois "reformer" turned mute Pat Quinn, in order to avoid talking about the "gathering storm" of corruption indictments about to hit his running mate Rod Blagojevich, has been ripping utility executives for high pay.

The media has been playing along with Quinn's phony haranguing, giving him big headlines. Why do I say phony?

Just a few days ago, Ameren, one of those utilities, sent $15,000 to Rod Blagojevich's campaign so it can run more commercials to get Blagojevich and Quinn re-elected.

High pay for executive is bad, Pat, but money for Rod's campaign that benefits you is OK?

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Saturday, November 4, 2006

Will Illinois go for Comrade Whitney?


It looks like Green Party candidate for Governor Rich Whitney has been less than forthcoming about his past. Would up to 14 percent of Illinois citizens support him if they knew he was an 18-year member of the Socialist Labor Party of America and the organization's "national editor" for four years?

This letter in the alternative Illinois Times unearthed the story. An officer of the SLP criticized Whitney for skirting around a party affiliation question in a televised interview with the Illinois Channel.

Fact is that the 51-year-old candidate and 10-year veteran of the Green Party belonged to the Socialist Labor Party for 18 years, from 1975 until 1993. There's nothing wrong with being a Socialist, at least I don't think so. There's nothing wrong with changing your mind about being a Socialist. However, there is something wrong about a candidate asking for your trust while concealing the truth when asked: "What is your history? What party have you identified with over your adult life?"

Green and yellow really do go together.

Robert Bills

National secretary

Socialist Labor Party of America
Bills is right. Whitney was knee deep in the SLP. For those who aren't familiar with SLP's philosophy, it can be summed up as favoring a revolutionary movement in America to remove capitalism and replace it with socialism. Here is a passage from a resolution Whitney sponsored in 1989 at the organization's national convention.

Capitalism has not triumphed over socialism, nor has it proved to be a superior system. Its real battle with socialism has yet to be fought. And capitalism's own disintegration is increasingly demonstrating that it must give way to a higher, superior form of social organization—socialism—if the human race is to survive and flourish.

Fraternally submitted,


My, the Rockford Register-Star must really be proud of its endorsement of Whitney right about now.

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Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Will Rod take the Fifth about Fifth Third?

Does the Rod Blagojevich family regard state government as its personal ATM?

There have been stories in this campaign about Rod's wife receiving questionable $113,000 commissions and his daughter getting a mysterious $1,500 check.

What about Rod's brother, Robert Blagojevich?

Once Rod became governor, Robert's employer, Fifth Third Bank, got a turbo boost in state business.

One of the biggest boons was a no-bid exclusive contract to provide ATM services at the newly redesigned tollway oases. That same pile of no-bid oases contracts already has been subpoenaed by the feds because of ties to Blagojevich's top fundraisers Tony Rezko and Chris Kelly through companies such as Subway and Panda Express. Another contract in that pile went to the official pizza of the NY Yankees, Famous Famiglia, a company with a corporate connection to convicted felon Eddie DeBartolo Jr. ABC 7's Chuck Goudie did a three-part series on the Famous Famiglia contract in early 2005.

Although I don't have the paperwork on it, the State Board of Investments also gave Fifth Third its first ever investment contract right about the same time Robert Blagojevich reportedly was leaving the company, in late 2003 or early 2004.

That contract was brought to the state board by the board's general consultant, Marquette Associates. That same firm was prominently mentioned in Milwaukee papers because bond house Bear Stearns executive Nick Hurtgen was publicly urging the Milwaukee County Board to hire Marquette and the board balked because it felt it opened the door to potential steering of pension business through a general consultant. Hurtgen, of course, has been indicted in Illinois in connection to the Health Facilities Planning Board scandal and was the top executive at Bear Stearns when the Blagojevich administration handed it the largest no-bid bond commission in state history, $10 million.

Here's the amount of state business that Fifth Third has done in the last several years, according to the state comptroller's office:

FY02 = $71,000

FY03 = $1.1 million

FY04 = $515,000

FY05 = $2.4 million

FY06 = $5.8 million

FY07's = $8.3 million (projection)

While nobody has uncovered any documentation that Robert Blagojevich was directly connected to any of the state business that occurred while his brother was governor, it would defy belief that Rod did not know that Fifth Third got these contracts while his brother was there. Did he try to influence those contracts directly or indirectly? And did Fifth Third directly or indirectly reward Robert Blagojevich for the increased state business?

Is this just another coincidence like the one where Chief of Staff Lon Monk's sister just happened to be a high-ranking official of a company that got a huge no-bid health care contract.

If the governor ever stops hiding behind his false and illegally funded campaign commercials, maybe he can answer a few questions about his brotherly love.

And maybe Chris Kelly can chime in, too. I'm told he knows something about at least one of the contracts.

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Slamming the troops sounds familiar

Most commentators say John Kerry meant to slam President Bush and not the troops with his recent comments and their reasoning is that it would be stupid to do the latter (insert joke here). However, they ignore that Kerry has slammed our troops several times, including after returning from Vietnam and more recently in reference to the Iraq War.

And, the comments Kerry made about the troops being uneducated mirrors almost exactly what Rod Blagojevich privately thinks of our troops. Over the course of the last four years, I have talked to dozens of people who have brought me information about the Governor. One extremely reliable source is someone who talked to the Governor on numerous occasions and told me several times that Rod consistently disparaged members of the military as low achievers.

I suspect that at least privately, the sentiment is shared by more than a few liberal Democrats.

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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Illinois loves cheaters

Tribune columnist Eric Zorn notices his disdain for Judy Baar Topinka and realizes that it was manufactured from the blitz of TV commercials from Rod Blagojevich.

He is realizing the attacks are largely made up and that Topinka has been an honest, effective state Treasurer.

Zorn is in the minority, according to polls. Blagojevich is headed for re-election, if the trends continue. Zorn needs to take his column a step further. He needs to ask why Blagojevich has the money to air so many TV commercials.

The answer is that he cheated. His fundraising operation is under multiple federal investigations and when all the federal smoke has cleared, it is highly likely that he and most of his fundraisers will have been indicted. Unless they are media superstars like Barack Obama, lackluster congressmen like Rod Blagojevich do not suddenly raise $52 million without breaking the rules.

If Rod pulls off a victory next week, it will mean Illinois has selected the following two governors: George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich, both who padded their campaign treasury with ill-gotten funds. Rejected along the way were four people who raised far less cash but according to the rules: Glenn Poshard, Paul Vallas, Jim Ryan and Topinka. Each would have been a far better governor and would have stayed out of prison.

Illinois loves its cheaters.

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Blago's curious amendment

We've already seen belated disclosures by Governor Rod Blagojevich that were telling -- most notably the addition of Mike Ascaridis and others after the governor was interviewed by the FBI.

Here's another one that probably has some linkage to the federal investigation.

On Aug. 25 of this year, the Blagojevich campaign filed an amendment to its semi-annual campaign disclosure for July-December 2003. The campaign routinely files amendments for recently filed reports but never one for a report nearly three years ago.

The amendment covers the same time period of the "Shakedown Shuttle" plane trip where Blago, Stuart Levine, Chris Kelly and Joe Cari went to New York to shake the trees for campaign contributions and the contributors shook back for state pension business.

Why did the Blagojevich campaign file the amendment? When comparing the original report and amendment, no dollar figures were changed -- just addresses, company names, occupations of donors, etc. Hardly a compelling reason to file an amendment three years later unless there's something else at issue.

Could Willliam Howell be the reason?

Howell is a Rockville Centre, NY, businessman who has embroiled in at least two major controversies surrounding consulting fees. One was in NY in 2001 and another in Pennsylvania in connection to a federal investigation of influence peddling surrounding the administrations of Governor Ed Rendell and Mayor John Street of Philadelphia. As far as I can tell, Howell was never charged in either of these matters although his name was front and center in newspaper reports.

Well, William Howell was one of the people Rod Blagojevich was scheduled to meet on Oct. 29, 2003, the day of the Shakedown Shuttle flight.

A few days later, Howell gave the Blagojevich campaign $10,000 and then another $10,000 on Feb. 23, 2004.

Howell listed "Pension Enhancement Consulting, Inc." as his company on his original Blagojevich D2 filing. The amendment changes Howell's company name to "Enrhythm LLC."

Why the name change? Pension Enhancement Consulting is a defunct company under the corporate umbrella of Investment Management Advisory Group, Inc., or IMAGE, the company in the middle of the Pennsylvania/Philadelphia corruption investigation a couple of years ago.

John Kass likes to talk about the Illinois "combine" of political corruption. In Blagojevich's case, the combine looks like it was multi-state.

The belated disclosure tells me William Howell is a name to watch in the months ahead as the feds lower the boom on Blagojevich's fundraising scheme.

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Monday, October 30, 2006

A pundit who gets it

Steve Rhodes zeroed in on the two most important points from Stuart Levine's plea agreement on Friday.

Make no mistake - despite the governor's protestations and the unrealistic unmet expectations of some pundits who thought the governor would be personally implicated by now, the plea deal of Stuart Levine does not exonerate the governor. Far from it. Instead, federal investigators have closed the circle tighter around the governor
And, why?

More important than the past, though, is how this deal is a roadmap to the future. While John Kass's stellar column on Sunday was not unreasonably focused on Downstate power broker Bill Cellini, the more telling aspect of Levine's deal in my mind was the implication of Blagojevich's pal, Chris Kelly, in wrongdoing. Kelly and the recently-indicted Tony Rezko have been the governor's two closest advisors.

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Friday, October 27, 2006

Without a clue at AP

Associated Press writer Deanna Bellandi is a nice person but she completely mischaracterized the Stuart Levine plea agreement in a story circulating to newspapers across the state.

Details about corruption in state government keep dribbling out, but observers say it's unlikely to affect the Nov. 7 election without a direct link to Blagojevich - something Levine's plea deal with federal prosecutors doesn't provide.

"That's the key," said Chicago political consultant Don Rose.
Bellandi either hasn't read the plea agreement or is too busy buying the utter baloney regularly dispensed by the Blagojevich administration.

Here's how the Chicago Tribune characterized that same plea agreement. Reporters there noticed a very direct link to the governor.

In the 58-page plea agreement, federal authorities spell out allegations that Blagojevich's two top fundraisers schemed almost from the beginning of the governor's administration to use their newfound influence for corrupt purposes.

The plea agreement identifies Antoin "Tony" Rezko, who has already been indicted on federal corruption charges, as one of those close advisers. The other fundraiser, who is not charged, is identified only as "Individual B." Sources identify him as Christopher Kelly, a south suburban roofing contractor who became a loyal Blagojevich confidant.
Now, if Bellandi wants to argue that Blagojevich is detached from Rezko and Kelly, perhaps she is choosing to ignore the hundreds of stories the past few years that suggest otherwise. Blagojevich has done his two-step away from Tony Rezko since his indictment earlier this month, but not Chris Kelly. In a visit just over a week ago to the Daily Southtown, the governor had this to say about Chris Kelly:

Q: Are you confident that Chris Kelly is not going to be indicted?

A: Yeah. Yes. They're two different people, by the way, and it's a different relationship. Chris and I are much closer. Chris is the head of my political campaign. That's someone I talk to a lot more frequently. I'm confident, yes.
That sounds like a pretty direct link to Blagojevich, Deanna.

Kelly is all over the Levine plea agreement. He is Individual B.

According to the feds, Kelly was instrumental, along with Rezko, in getting Stuart Levine reappointed to the state Health Facilities Planning Board and TRS Board.
In about August 2003, Defendant was re-appointed to the Planning Board. Prior to that point, Defendant discussed his possible re-appointment with Individual A and, separately, with Individual B. Individual A said he'd get back to Defendant about his request and later called Defendant and said that it would happen. A short time later, Defendant was at a meeting in Rezko's office with Individual B and Individual B said that the board seat Defendant wanted had been taken care of. Defendant understood from these conversations that he would be re-appointed to the Planning Board.

About the time Defendant was re-appointed, Rezko and Defendant discussed Defendant's appointment and Rezko said that he had suggested that Defendant be made the vice-chairman of the Planning Board and that Rezko expected to influence a certain number of
votes on the Planning Board. In February 2004, the Planning Board elected Defendant as vice-chairman.

In or about the spring of 2004, Rezko and Defendant agreed that Defendant, whose term on the TRS Board was due to expire in May 2004, needed to be reappointed to the TRS Board and that additional TRS Board members needed to be appointed who would
cooperate with Rezko and Defendant. Rezko agreed to use his relationships and influence with high-ranking State of Illinois officials to facilitate these efforts. Rezko subsequently indicated to Defendant that Rezko had arranged for Defendant to be
re-appointed to the TRS Board, and Defendant was re-appointed on about May 14, 2004.
Kelly also helped block consolidation of pension agencies so the TRS could continue to be plundered, according to the plea agreement.

Defendant was a member of the TRS Board of Trustees from approximately October 2000 through about July 2004. In that capacity, Defendant owed the beneficiaries of TRS a duty of honest services. Defendant was also a member of the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board ("Planning Board") from about August 1996 through about June 2004, and was last re-appointed to the Planning Board in about August 2003. In that capacity, Defendant owed the people of the State of Illinois a duty of honest services.

In or about the spring of 2003, when certain State of Illinois officials advocated consolidating TRS, the Illinois State Board of Investment, and the State University Retirement System, into a single pension fund, Individual A approached Rezko and Individual B on behalf of Defendant and Individual A for assistance in defeating this proposal. Defendant and Individual A were against the pension consolidation idea because they wanted to preserve their influence and Defendant's position with TRS.

Defendant understood that Rezko and Individual B had significant influence with the State of Illinois administration because of their relationships with senior State of Illinois officials and their roles as important fundraisers. Defendant learned from Individual
A that Rezko and Individual B agreed to use their relationships and influence with senior State of Illinois officials to oppose the pension consolidation plan in exchange for the agreement of Defendant and Individual A to use their influence and Defendant's position at TRS to ensure that TRS used investment firms and hired lawyers identified by Rezko and Individual B. Defendant agreed to assist Rezko and Individual B with TRS in exchange for their help defeating the consolidation proposal.
And Kelly was allegedly part of a a scheme to shake-down a company for either a $2 million consulting contract or for a $1.5 million donation to a "certain public official," presumably Blagojevich.
On or about May 10, 2004, Rezko, Defendant, Individual A, and Individual B agreed that in light of Individual J's reaction, it was too risky to continue demanding money from Investment Firm 7 or blocking its $220 million allocation. They further agreed that
although Investment Firm 7 would receive the $220 million allocation, it would not receive any further business from any State of Illinois entity, including TRS.

On about May 25, 2004, the TRS Board, including Defendant, voted to invest a total of $220 million with Investment Firm 7. Defendant intentionally concealed from and failed to disclose to the TRS Board material facts relating to its consideration of the application for funds of Investment Firm 7, including his arrangements with Rezko, Individual A, and Individual B.
Associated Press cannot continue to be played by the Blagojevich administration with mindless he said, she said reporting. There is the largest corruption scandal in the history of Illinois brewing under Blago's watch and AP is giving equal weight in some stories to the almost meaningless fact that some Republicans took a few campaign donations from a few participants in Blagojevich's corruption.

AP ought to be going after the real story here. It ought to be asking the governor why he continues to support and defend his only remaining top fundraiser not under indictment, Chris Kelly, when the federal government has so concretely said he is participating in illegal schemes.

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Baseball gods make amends for 1968


The ghosts of 1968, 1985 and 1987 have been zapped in the Red October sky of St. Louis. Particularly 1968. That Cardinals' team was loaded with talent and was ahead 3 games to 1, winning exactly the same pattern of games the 2006 team did after four games. The 1968 Cardinals lost their last three games to the Detroit Tigers, while this year's team finished off the Tigers in five games.

I'll never forget the pain of that '68 loss, just as Chuck and Eric will never forgot the joy. The 1985 Cards also broke a lot of Midwestern hearts, blowing a 3 to 1 series lead, as did the 1987 Cards with a 3 to 2 lead.

When the Tigers' Curtis Granderson slipped in CF in game four and a key hit dropped behind him, I guarantee every STL fan over 40 thought immediately of Curt Flood and that errant step forward that helped lose game 7 in 1968. When Granderson went down, STL fans knew the curse of the outfield divot had been exorcised and the series was over.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Rod's Shakedown Shuttle

Stulevinejetcabin-1Shakedown Shuttle Schedule
It was the Super Bowl of dirty Illinois politics.

We're not here, to start no trouble, we're just here to do the Shakedown Shuttle.

As I posted here before, the flight cabin of the jet above might have been a crime scene. That's where indicted businessman Stuart Levine and indicted fundraiser Joe Cari sat right next to Governor Rod Blagojevich for almost two hours on Oct. 29, 2003, close enough for Stu to spill coffee on Rod.

On Friday, when he pleads guilty, it's possible Stu will be spilling much more than coffee on Rod's fundraising apparatus.

Why is it being called the Shakedown Shuttle? Because the central theme of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's "gathering storm" investigation into corruption in the Blagojevich administration was in full blossom on that flight.

Levine, Blagojevich and Democratic fundraiser Joe Cari were on board for a day of fundraising activity in New York. Levine booked the corporate jet above that departed from O'Hare in the morning. Levine and Cari have since been indicted and Blagojevich is under heavy federal scrutiny. Another indictee was scheduled to be on board, Tony Rezko, but the Blagojevich administration is now saying that he was replaced at the last minute by Rod's other top fundraiser, Chris Kelly -- also under intense federal scrutiny.

Within days of meeting with various firms and individuals that day, more than $120,000 showed up in Blagojevich's campaign funds. Within weeks of those donations, the donors were awarded lucrative and questionable state contracts by the Blagojevich administration. The Sun-Times already has reported that the feds are investigating circumstances surrounding the trip and several others like it.

To top it off, several of the individuals the Blagojevich people met with that day in New York have themselves been indicted since the meetings on charges unrelated to Blagojevich.

Well, how did the donations and contracts come so quickly right after the flight? All the people on that flight, including Deputy Governor Brad Tusk, could have made it happen. What are the chances those post-flight events happened without the knowledge of people on that flight? Right, about zero.

Again, stay tuned. With Levine's plea agreement expected Friday and rumors of indictments swirling in the crisp October air, it could be a startling end of the week.

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