Friday, June 30, 2006

The return of the "bad apples" defense


As Yogi Berra would say, "It's deja vu all over again."


"In every government entity there are a few bad apples," said Jeremy Margolis on behalf of George Ryan and his emerging corruption scandal.

JUNE 2006
"Among those we hired there were some bad apples who violated the rules," said Abby Ottenhoff, on behalf of Rod Blagojevich and one of his emerging corruption scandals.

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What say ye, Abner?

Reporters looking for reaction to the Patrick Fitzgerald letter ought to call Abner Mikva, who believes our governor is clean as a hound's tooth.

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A Blagojevich investigation scorecard

Here is a rundown of all major state and federal investigations of the Rod Blagojevich administration.

Blago Investigations
The letter being released today and posted on Rich Miller's blog refers to only one of nine state and federal investigations. I'm assuming that Lisa Madigan will continue her other investigations and is just deferring her work on the hiring scandal.

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

"A tight time frame" and voila, no bidders

Careful readers of the stunning series of Illinois Auditor General audits of the Rod Blagojevich administration will note a consistent pattern: When it comes to awarding a contract, there is no limit to the number of ways the administration bypasses good government practices.

Just a few of the dodges noted by Bill Holland were a lack of notice given to prospective bidders, specs rewritten to favor a particular vendor and a lack of witnesses to bid openings.

If you read closely the shifting answers by the administration to Eric Krol's big story about the $100 million no-bid health care contract to a firm that employs the sister of Blagojevich's chief of staff, the tell-tale signs are appearing again. In a story posted Thursday evening that will be published Friday, Krol elicited this new information:
Another administrator, Anne Marie Murphy, acknowledged there was "an incredibly tight time frame" for companies to bid on Illinois Cares and that some firms later expressed regret at not bidding. She said the companies would not have asked for a formal extension of the deadline, but instead might apply next year.

Chicago region federal health and human services officials were unavailable Thursday to verify the state's version of the bidding process.
My guess is that the Daily Herald story was a clarifying event for a few health care vendors. They probably were wondering about why the state shut off bidding so quickly. When they read the contract went to Lon Monk's sister's firm, it probably made sense all of a sudden.

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Blago's chief of staff a family man

The Daily Herald's Eric Krol broke a big story this morning about a $100 million contract that mysteriously went to a firm that employs the sister of Rod Blagojevich's chief of staff.

I say mysterious because the administration is refusing to release the contract or details about whether it was competitively bid, and, if so, who the other bidders were.

Lon Monk, now campaign manager for Blagojevich's re-election bid, said Wednesday he had nothing to do with his sister's firm getting the contract.

"I wasn't aware of it until after the contract was awarded," said Monk, who met Blagojevich while both attended law school at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif. "I never had any conversations about this with my sister or her business."

A Blagojevich public aid agency spokeswoman claimed the Pacificare deal was competitively bid, but the administration refused repeated requests to release the contract or public documents that would reveal how many companies showed interest.

The disclosure of the deal comes as the Blagojevich administration is under federal investigation for its hiring and contracting practices amid allegations campaign contributors were rewarded with special state contracts and commission appointments.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Texas two-step

Well, now that the Chicago Tribune has spent hundreds of hours of staff time writing about executions in Texas, maybe they can focus on a much bigger story -- whether the world famous exoneration of Anthony Porter (above left) was a fraud.

There is an important hearing this morning (Thursday) at 26th and Cal where lawyers for Alstory Simon (above right) will try to convince a Cook County judge that an evidentiary hearing is warranted because of all the new evidence in the case. I have written extensively about Porter/Simon in this thread on my blog.

Tribune columnist Eric Zorn, who serves as the unofficial media "gatekeeper" of all potential wrongful prosecution cases, says he favors a new hearing for Simon. But he's saying that on his interesting blog and not in one of his more widely read newspaper columns. In those, he has raised loud skepticism of the motives of Simon's attorneys and not weighed in on the facts of the case.

The Sun-Times, as I noted earlier, has not written a single word about the matter. I have no idea if the paper will send a reporter to this morning's hearing.

Back to Tribune. It will be interesting to watch how the Trib staffs this story as it unfolds. To its credit, so far, the Tribune has not blown off the story like the Sun-Times. However, it has hardly scratched the surface of the saga and has assigned only one reporter to it, as far as I can tell. With other "wrongful prosecution" cases it is interested in, the Trib routinely assigns a team of reporters for months to look at records and interview witnesses.

In covering two largely forgotten Texas executions, the Tribune clearly is aiming to "score" the first documented case of a person who was executed for a crime he did not commit. I read the two Texas cases the Tribune wrote about in recent weeks and I think the paper fell short.

Yes, doubts were raised. Yet, there was no smoking gun in either case that proved the innocence of the men executed. And I always apply the 25 percent rule to Tribune wrongful execution stories. That is, I assume that the case for innocence is inflated at least 25 percent because it makes it a better story.

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NY Times led the charge

Tom Roeser asked me why I (and much of the conservative blogosphere) was singling out the New York Times for criticism in the disclosure of a secret program to track terrorists through international banking records.

It's simple: The Times published first and everyone else followed -- as this interview with L.A. Times Washington bureau chief Doyle McManus illustrates. Once the NY Times publishes a story like this, there is barely, if any, additional harm by other papers' publication. The secret already is bouncing around the world.

The New York Times is to the national media food chain what the Chicago Tribune is to the Illinois media food chain. When it print a story, everybody follows. The biggest carrier is the Associated Press. The AP national wire automatically picks up a substantial New York Times story just as the AP state wire always picks up big Chicago Tribune stories. Once it's on the wire, most newspapers in the country or state pick it up. AP does not pick up other papers' stories as regularly.

The Democratic leakers in the national government usually go to the New York Times first with their anti-Bush administration stories because that's where they will get the widest and most sympathetic play.

After the fact, the LA Times was saying it was leaning toward publishing the international banking story before the NY Times story, but that sounds like newspaper bravado to me. I doubt the LA Times would have run it first.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Will the FOP sell out its members again?


Back in 2002, the Illinois State Police troopers union disgraced itself when it endorsed Rod Blagojevich for Governor and Lisa Madigan for Attorney General.

The union threw career law enforcement officials and backers Jim Ryan and Joe Birkett to the curb in favor of a mediocre congressman and a woman with zero law enforcement experience.

I was spokesman for Jim Ryan at the time and I remember calling then union president Ted Street afterwards and he gave me some mumbo jumbo about how he voted for Blagojevich in order to break a deadlock even though he favored Ryan. What a sell-out.

What will the troopers do this time? Already, it's a big topic of discussion on a website frequented by Illinois State Police personnel. Opinions vary, but sentiment seems to be running against endorsing Blagojevich this time.

What has fueled some of the discussion is a letter Troopers Lodge president L. H. "Buddy" Parker wrote to members two weeks ago. In it, Parker admitted the 2002 decision was bogus.

The manner in which the Lodge reached an endorsement decision in the last gubernatorial race was not acceptable. Ultimately, the choice should be and is yours.
Will it be, in 2006?

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Four reasons why Rod is a fraud on jobs

Rod Blagojevich jumped out in front of the media earlier this month to proclaim that Illinois had created more jobs than any state in the country in April.

Well, new numbers are out, and he's hiding out in his bungalow. That's because Illinois lost 3,800 jobs in May.

That cements the Blagojevich record on jobs as squarely 45th in the country since he became governor. I don't know if anyone remembers the 2002 campaign, but Rod ran lots of TV commercials promising lots of new jobs.

Since he's been such an abysmal failure on jobs, Rod has resorted to four strategies to fool Illinois citizens and the media on the topic. They are:

1. Raw numbers vs. percentages. When comparing Illinois to other states, the Blagojevich administration always uses raw numbers. That's because Illinois has the fifth largest job base of the 50 states (Behind California, New York, Florida and Texas) and even a mediocre job month will place Illinois in the top third of states in raw number of jobs created. It's elementary math. The only fair and accurate way to compare Illinois to other states is using percentages. When percentages are used, the size of the state's job base is in effect factored out so actual growth can be more accurately compared. Since Rod became governor, Illinois' job growth percentage has been 1.2 percent, ranking it 45 of 50 states (January 2003-May 2006).

2. Selective time periods.
Occasionally, the Blagojevich administration will pick a stretch of months where job performance has not been as bad as other months and twist it to proclaim that Illinois is performing well. By far the best benchmark is when Rod took office in January 2003. All of his job performance should be judged from that point forward.

3. Campaign promise. Rod Blagojevich told voters in 2002 he'd create 250,000 jobs during his first term. His term has only a few months remaining and jobs have risen by only 67,900 during his tenure.

4. Phony figures. The Illinois Auditor General said earlier this year that Blagojevich's administration inflated job creation figures by 78,000. The numbers came from Blagojevich's Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity. Therefore, the only numbers that should be believed come from the U.S. Dept. of Labor.

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Monday, June 26, 2006

Jay Mariotti should be fired

Jay Mariotti is an embarrassment to sports journalism. He's the quintessential weasel nerd who couldn't play sports and now spews his frustration out in print every day. The Sun-Times should have fired him years ago.

His column Sunday about the Ozzie Guillen incident was too painful to read. He was moralizing about treating people right after a career of cheap shots.

Here's what two of the best sports columnists in America have to say about Mariotti's refusal to face the men he writes about.

Michael Wilbon, Washington Post (from a Washington Post chat board)
I've avoided this topic publicly, but no more.

Ozzie shouldn't have said what he said. He knows better. And I'm glad Kenny Williams, the White Sox GM, has said if he can't clean up his act he'll be fired.

But Ozzie owes no apology to Jay, my friend for 16-plus years and someone I like very much. Jay can say all he wants that he's not welcome in the White Sox clubhouse...Really? He writes hyper-critical pieces and doesn't go in the clubhouse for years, then thinks he won't be resented years later?

Anybody who reads my column knows I write critically about athletes and coaches. It's my job. But I learned from Tony, Dave Kindred, Ken Denlinger, my longtime sports editor George Solomon, and of course, the late Shirley Povich, that if you're going to throw punches, you'd better be able to take punches. You show up the next day so that the player/coach/manager can take a shot back at you...even if it means a physical confrontation...And I've never had one of those because a player can walk right up to me and say, "I think you're full of .....!" Or whatever. If you know the player/coach/manager/GM and it's a local situation, it shouldn't even be a surprise. I've called people I know and said, "Listen, I've got to light you up for this in the paper." Sometimes they say nothing. Sometimes they say, "Hold on, let me give you my side." Sometimes they say, "I respect you for telling me."

There are all sorts of ways to deal with this, but not showing up in the clubhouse isn't one of them. It's inexcusable.

When you write tough, critical pieces you show up the next day.
And Bernie Miklasz, St. Louis Post-Dispatch (from St. Louis Post chat board)

I do think it is considered honorable to show up soon after writing critical things about a player or a players or a manager. I try to be there the same day the column appears -- but at times that isn't possible, so it may be a day or two later. The point is, the column is still fresh, and as long as you make an appearance, the player or players or the manager have the opportunity to speak to you if they want to.

Columnist who rip and don't show up are called hit and run drivers in the bizness.

I have been threatened, but never in the Cardinals clubhouse. I've been hollered at a little, but nothing I couldn't handle.

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Don't buy the NY Times

I quit buying the NY Times more than two years ago when it went off the deep edge leading up to the 2004 election.

I don't see a rational reason for anyone to buy the paper after it published yet another gratuitous leak of sensitive national security information that will make it more difficult to defeat al Qaeda. The Times' desire to harm President Bush politically always prevails over the health, safety and welfare of American citizens and I refuse to be a part of it.

The blogosphere is alive with commentary on this emerging scandal. The always reasonable Michael Barone weighs in, as does the National Review, and there's this extremely powerful e-mail from a leader of troops in Iraq.

President Bush also speaks out today.

Barone summed it up best:

Why do they hate us? Why does the Times print stories that put America more at risk of attack? They say that these surveillance programs are subject to abuse, but give no reason to believe that this concern is anything but theoretical. We have a press that is at war with an administration, while our country is at war against merciless enemies. The Times is acting like an adolescent kicking the shins of its parents, hoping to make them hurt while confident of remaining safe under their roof. But how safe will we remain when our protection depends on the Times?

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Friday, June 23, 2006

The Victor Reyes defense?


This is a week late, but hey, everybody else missed it too.

On Tom Roeser's weekly radio show "Political Shootout" last Sunday evening, there was an interesting assertion by Mike Noonan, a Democratic strategist and partner with rumored-to-be-in-legal jeopardy Victor Reyes (pictured left). Reyes is former chief of intergovernmental affairs for Mayor Daley and the head of his controversial Hispanic Democration Organization. Reyes has not been charged with wrongdoing in the ongoing probe of city hiring practices but he has been included in court documents and some speculate he will be indicted.

Noonan went after U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, calling him a "zealot" and somebody who would indict someone without the facts to back it up. Here's the transcript of what Noonan said when Victor Reyes' name came up:

The fact of the matter is, nobody has accused him of any wrongdoing here. And this is America.
I believe Patrick Fitzgerald has an agenda. His agenda is that he thinks that Rich Daley is corrupt and he will go to any means necessary in order to prove his theory whether or not it's based in fact.

I think he is a zealot who has a mindset of what is right and wrong -- absolute black and white.
I got the impression that Noonan was laying the groundwork for a public defense of Reyes.

Roeser needs to get WLS to post the podcasts of his free-wheeling show, or post them on his website. It's one of the few shows left in Chicago where political news is occasionally made.

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New York Times helps al Qaeda again

Once again, the New York Times has published classified information that helps the enemy that is trying to kill hundreds of thousands of Americans.

It's not a stretch to say that anyone who buys the Times is aiding and abetting the enemy. Charles Krauthammer this evening on a panel discussion compared it a newspaper revealing the famous Enigma program in World War II where the Allies were intercepting Nazi communications.

Krauthammer: "The Fed, Alan Greenspan, the heads of the 9/11 Commission. I'm told that even John Murtha objected and tried to get the New York Times to cease and desist in publishing this. So it shows you how wide is the understanding of how important a program it is. I think this is the 21st century equivalent of publishing the Enigma program in the Second World War in which we listened in on secret German communications in submarines. Why it would end up in the public domain, given its efficacy and given the absence of abuse, is a mystery to me."

Morton Kondracke, Executive Editor of Roll Call: "Well, yeah, I concur with everything Charles said. You know, there are two terrible things. One is the totally adversarial attitude of the New York Times toward its own government. I mean, it's as though the New York Times thinks that somehow if the government, if the Bush administration is doing it, it's worse than something al-Qaeda might do to the United States, that we've got more to fear from our own government than we do from terrorist attacks. The second thing is that there are evidently people in the bureaucracy who share that view who are willing to blabber to the New York Times about the NSA spying activity, so-called, domestic spying which was not domestic spying, and now the details of bank transfers. I mean, there is no discipline anymore, and it's got to be based on Bush hatred, you know, the notion that George Bush is George III, as Ed Markey put it. Thank heavens Ed Markey is out there by himself on this one."

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Face the music

The most interesting commentary about the Ozzie Guillen-Jay Mariotti saga was made by Tribune sports columnist Rick Morrissey, who said columnists who rip athletes should face them afterwards in person. I agree.

If you're a sports columnist, you show up in the clubhouse to face the music. It's a matter of fairness.

Let's say I criticize Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski for something he did in a game. And let's say I do it in the Sunday Tribune, which has a circulation of about 960,000.

Isn't it reasonable for Pierzynski to have an opportunity to lash out at me in front of media and teammates in the clubhouse if I've treated him similarly in print? It seems pretty straightforward to me. It's what I was taught to do. It's what nearly all of the columnists in the country do. The honorable thing.

Look, it's not always fun walking into a locker room. Sometimes it's uncomfortable. But it comes with the territory of being a columnist.

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Rod's $250,000 payday haul

Rod Blagojevich has tried to tell the people of Illinois that he has "reformed" the payday loan industry in Illinois. Yes, it's true he signed legislation that puts caps on certain types of loans and he had the "good government" types on board.

And the Illinois news media, in almost perfect lockstep, reported it as a legitimate reform.

What they didn't report (with a few exceptions) is that Blagojevich is taking enormous sums of money from payday loan companies and continues to do so.

In all, Rod has taken at least $254,000 from payday loan companies and their executives. That is just what I found from firms that I know are payday loan operators. I'm sure there's more in his reports I don't know about.

Here is the $140,000 he's taken from national payday loan firms:
  • Advance America--$48,500
  • Check Into Cash--$23,500
  • Check 'N Go--$35,500
  • QC Financial Services--$27,500
  • First Cash Financial Services--$5,000
The contributions included $15,000 from Advance America and $10,000 from Check Into Cash on the last two days of 2005. So the money continues to roll in, even after the "reform" legislation passed. Why?

One reason is that the national firms favored Rod's legislation because it tended to wipe out the small payday loan operators in Illinois. Those firms and their PAC gave Rod $114,000 in the months leading up to the General Assembly's vote on the legislation in 2005. Archpundit was one of the few who noticed this trend back then.

The State Journal-Register in Springfield, in an editorial last year, suggested that it was good government for Rod to stiff the small payday loan operators. The paper appears not to have known that the national payday loan operators were even bigger contributors and a cynic could say Rod sold out to the highest bidder.

To those who say the legislation is helping consumers, I wonder. If it's so helpful to consumers and tough on the new favored class of payday loan operators, why do they continue to pour money into Rod's campaign fund? Maybe the good government types should look into it.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Only "slightly tainted?"

Swiftboat1-1 Danrather
The headline over the online version of Daily Herald TV critic Ted Cox's farewell to Dan Rather says that he left with his legacy only "slightly tainted."

That's like saying Richard Nixon resignation only "slightly tainted" his presidency.

Rather was essentially fired for presiding over a made-up story about the President of the United States on the eve of an election.

And then Cox has this whopper:

Yet he got caught in a ringer during the 2004 presidential campaign when he hurried a story through on a memo that supposedly showed President Bush had skirted his National Guard duty during the Vietnam War. Much of the story was later substantiated, but the memo proved bogus, resulting in a scandal that eventually cost Rather his anchor job.
Sorry, Ted, nothing was later substantiated. The only thing new in the entire CBS story was the "newly found" memos a dead man supposedly had written to file and an exclusive interview with a partisan Democratic politician in Texas. The rest of the story was 100 percent rehash.

Cox is following in the footsteps of other anti-Bush commentators who slip little fibs into stories that mention embarrassing moments for liberals. You see it regularly in stories that mention the Swift Boat Veterans. The stories invariably say their claims were "largely discredited" or "shown to be without merit." That's not true but the journalists believe they can make it true by stating it often enough.

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Monday, June 19, 2006

Open source journalism

Today's Washington Post had the best analysis I've read in the mainstream press about the relationship between newspapers, online news, and bloggers.

It says that newspaper executives and editors have been very slow to recognize that there is nothing they can do to "wall off" the influence of the blogosphere. Instead, they need to recognize that they must become more interactive or expire at a more rapid rate than is occurring naturally.

The analysis also raises the possibility of newspapers and other media outlets of declaring their partisanship of one stripe or another.

The day after President Bush was re-elected in 2004, I suggested on my blog that at least some news organizations should consider themselves the opposition to the White House. Only by going into opposition, I argued, could the press really tell the story of the Bush administration's vast expansion of executive power.

That notion simply hadn't been discussed in mainstream newsrooms, which had always been able to limit debate about what is and isn't the job of the journalist. But now that amateurs had joined pros in the press zone, newsrooms couldn't afford not to debate their practices. This is disruptive because if the unthinkable cannot be ignored, professional correctness loses its power.
That's a drum Tom Roeser has been beating for some time at his excellent blog, one of the most interesting around.

The whole debate reminds me of the way I use software on my Apple computer. Apple's operating system is wide open -- meaning it allows open source developers to come up with all sorts of specialty software that operates lean and mean for whatever specific function you are looking for.

I find that I use behemoths like Microsoft Word less and less. Those programs are massive, slow and not fun to use. Just like most of the big media outlets.

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Swift punch, slowwww justice


Okay, I'm all for due process. Cubs' catcher Michael Barrett deserved his day in court over his May 20 sucker punching of White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski.

Yet it took Major League Baseball one month to finalize the 10-day suspension, which was captured on videotape for the entire country to see. It was clearly an unprovoked act.

Today, the league finally cemented the punishment. Whoever was in charge of this one should work in government. Stretching 15 minutes of work into 30 days is a coveted skill in Springfield or Washington.

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Lisa Madigan and her w-i-d-e-n-i-n-g probes

Although she has produced no significant indictments, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is becoming a prolific investigation "widener."

Today's Crain's says her office is "widening" her probe of the not-for-profit status of Illinois hospitals.

Just a few weeks ago, the Sun-Times said her probe of the Blagojevich administration over a questionable closure of a Joliet landfill connected to his estranged father-in-law Dick Mell was widening. And then there was this:

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is widening the list of Web-based phone record brokers she is subpoenaing to determine if the phone numbers are being obtained illegally from phone companies, her spokeswoman, Melissa Merz, said Thursday.
How about doing a little less widening over there, Lisa, and a little more indicting. Just one indictment would be nice.

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Apple's unintended reverse spin


I'm quite sure Apple tested its ad campaign to death in focus groups and it squarely hits the target audience. Yet I wonder about the casting.

The ads are clean and communicate clearly. No doubt what they are trying to say -- Windows-based computers are nerdy and don't work well. Apple is cool and efficient. Having used both computers extensively, I agree. I would never buy a Windows computer. But unlike my youngest daughter, I don't like the ad campaign.

I think they made the nerdy guy a little too likable and therefore made the Apple guy a fraction too smug. Should have added a pinch of bully to the Windows guy.

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Happy 42nd anniverary


On this day, 42 years ago, my first summer as a baseball fan was about to get much better. Brock for Broglio transformed the Midwest for a generation.

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Shredders and interns and Tony, oh my!


Rod Blagojevich just announced a keep cool summer program. Maybe his handlers believe the whir of 109 shredders will blanket the state with cool air.

In case you missed the shredder story, the Auditor General said important employees' information such as social security numbers were found lying in a dumpster for any identity thief to pick up. The administration's response: Let's buy 109 shredders for $550,000. As Bill Brady correctly points out, how about bidding them first before declaring the price. Oh, wait, I forgot, this administration doesn't believe in competitive bidding.

The bigger question is how Patrick Fitzgerald will take the news that an administration under nine separate state and federal investigations is purchasing 109 shredders?

Also today, the Tribune shows again that Tony Rezko is a much more hands-on governor than Rod. And just in: Rod's former chief of security has been suspended for, among other things, taking a 22-year-old intern to Chicago for a fake government meeting.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

JFK, Reagan, GWB are right.... cuts work.

Mikva living on another planet

The most ridiculous utterance this month didn't come from Ann Coulter. It came from liberal "icon" Abner Mikva, who wrote one of the most brain-dead op-eds I've seen in years.

It's as if he was channeling his days as a lawyer for former president Bill Clinton, where his aides were all practiced in the art of defending untruths by declaring black is white like Soviet spokesmen.

In short, Mikva blasted the media for tarring poor Rod Blagojevich for all the nasty stories suggesting his administration is corrupt. Let's just go over a few of the far-out statements.
Blagojevich began turning things around, from reducing administrative waste and redundancy to providing more funds for critical services. The governor sought the input of government watchdogs and respected public servants in developing landmark ethics legislation that he later signed into law.
Has Mikva read a single report of the Illinois Auditor General? The findings are the most stunning ever for a chief executive in Illinois. About a dozen audits document hundreds of millions of dollars of waste, fraud and abuse of the kind never seen before in Illinois. The Central Management Services audit was so bad Auditor General Bill Holland had to conduct his first ever press conference to announce he was turning over half the findings to the Illinois Attorney General for possible criminal prosecution. Every single claim by the Blagojevich administration of administrative "streamlining" has been found to be bogus. And the ethics act? The audits state that nearly every agency under the governor has failed to follow the most basic tenant of the new law -- that state employees are required to keep timesheets to prove they are not ghost payrollers.

For the first time, an independent inspector general -- not some political lapdog -- was appointed to investigate wrongdoing in state government.
There is no evidence whatsoever that Blagojevich's inspector general has reduced corruption. Blagojevich's first inspector general quit right after the administration refused to take her advice on a matter regarding a politically connected contract that had $5 million in unaccounted for billings. So Blagojevich brought over an inspector general from the state tollway, which, under his watch, was riddled with corruption and is the subject of state and federal criminal investigations. Because the law creating the inspector general shields all results from the public, no one knows what he is doing. The only result that has been announced was timed to beat the Sun-Times to a damaging story against the administration -- raising the specter of political use of the inspector general, exactly the opposite of an "independent" inspector general.
There is a functioning Board of Ethics to review the complaints of wrongdoing.
Barely. Rod declined to reconstitute the former Board of Ethics which had real teeth, including enhanced disclosure of financial dealings of his top staff. In its place he installed an ethics commission which Mikva's fellow liberal Scott Turow said not only lacked teeth, "it lacks a worn set of dentures." The newly constituted board has heard exactly one case during the Blagojevich years.
Because of the reforms, state officials can't leave government on a swinging door to work for businesses they once regulated.
Nearly all of Rod's cronies are making tons of money as lobbyists and representatives of companies doing business with the state. The stories are everywhere. Abner need go no further than Rod's high profile campaign spokesman, who made at least $200,000 after he left his post as deputy governor and went to work for various state contractors and agencies, including one bond firm that paid him $5,000 a month to advise it on bond issues.
The governor was able to control headcount of employees by holding agencies accountable for hiring only for positions necessary to the mission of the agency. That reform helped reduce the size of government by 13,000 positions.
Nearly all the staff reduction was caused by an early retirement program put in place by George Ryan.
He changed the personnel tracking system so that candidates for Rutan-covered jobs -- those that by law are required to be free of political influence -- are reviewed on the merits without disclosing the names of applicants.
No, the Associated Press reported that the names were on the administration's new tracking documents.
Those are the facts. But you wouldn't know it by reading or listening to the media. The emphasis there is on vague allegations that "some" employees have been hired improperly.
Well, Abner, apparently you don't read newspapers because it has been widely reported that nearly every agency under the governor has been the target of federal subpoenas under a broad and widening hiring investigation.

If you want to argue, Abner, that subpoenas are not proof of anything, fine. That finely constructed point is correct. However, I hope you would acknowledge that any administration under nine separate federal and state investigations probably is not operating cleanly and efficiently as you state. There is no governors' office in the history of Illinois that has faced that many investigations and there is probably none in the country right now under so much scrutiny.

And finally, this proclamation by Mikva:
I don't like government being used as a tool to reward political favors and I never have.
Abner, how do you explain the extraordinary fundraising by Rod Blagojevich? Do you think he was able to raise triple the amount of money as George Ryan by not rewarding political donors? Did you miss the Chicago Tribune editorial that called Rod, "Governor Pay to Play?" Have you been on vacation out of the country the last three and a half years?

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Monday, June 12, 2006

Terrorists in Iraq before the war?

The news media keeps telling us that there were no terrorists in Iraq before we invaded. But today, the liberal Beachwood Reporter links to the liberal Media Matters bemoaning that the Bush administration didn't kill Al-Zarqawi before the war at his terrorist training camp in Iraq.

Seems like a short-circuit in logic there.

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Slobbering over "Daily Kos"


Only bomb-throwers on the right get tough questions, it seems.

On the Tribune's "Swamp" blog, national correspondent Jeff Zeleny has a little sit-down with the liberal blogger known as Daily Kos. While just a few posts below on the blog there is discussion about the wild things uttered by conservative author Ann Coulter, this interview with Daily Kos is as gentle as a kitten. Not a single tough question.

Kos, on a daily basis, features content as provocative as Ann Coulter's, only it comes from the far left instead of the right.

I guess Jeff forgot to ask Kos about one of the most caustic comments ever made in public discourse a few years ago when U.S. contractors were tortured, killed and hung in effigy in Fallujah. Kos wrote the comments below and tried to erase them from the internet but some conservatives made a copy.
Let the people see what war is like. This isn't an Xbox game. There are real repercussions to Bush's folly.

That said, I feel nothing over the death of mercenaries. They aren't in Iraq because of orders, or because they are there trying to help the people make Iraq a better place. They are there to wage war for profit. Screw them.
Can you imagine a journalist from the Tribune sitting down with a provocateur like Coulter and conducting such a puffy interview?

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Another liberal media hoax?

Although a lot of facts remain to be cemented, there is a growing buzz in the conservative blogosphere that the Haditha "massacre" might be, at least in part, a phony story. Time has already issued corrections and some of the witness accounts don't add up.

The sum and substance of this thumbnail sketch on the Haditha claims is that it follows so closely the template for the TANG (Texas Air National Guard) and Plame stories. Take a reporter with an anti-Administration agenda, an interested group (think of the Mashhadanis as the VIPS in the Plame case or Burkett and Lucy Ramirez in the TANG case) and a story too good to be checked and circumstances where the people attacked are limited in what they can quickly respond to and you get a story which smells to me like it will soon be unraveled.

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Friday, June 9, 2006

Former Illinois reporter "Blackberried"


Some of you might remember Paul Krawzak, state of Illinois reporter for Copley. I found him to be a hard-working, diligent reporter who tried to be fair.

He moved to Washington and was the subject of Blackberry abuse this morning from U.S. Rep. Bob Ney, who is under duress because of federal investigations.

The trigger for Ney's rage was Krawzak's coverage, carried in The Times-Reporter and its sister Copley Ohio newspapers, The Repository and The Independent, of the trial of White House procurement official David H. Safavian. Safavian is accused of lying and obstructing the criminal investigation of the once-powerful and now-discredited Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Testimony by Ney's former chief of staff, Neil Volz, on May 30 provided some new details on the 2002 Scotland golfing trip that has been the cause of much of Ney's difficulties. That trip was paid for by Abramoff and included Volz, Ney and several other political insiders.

That story was written by Krawzak late in the evening and the reporter did not call Ney for his reaction to the testimony. The next day, when Ney's office complained about that, Krawzak explained the lateness and press of deadline but acknowledged it would have been better to have sought Ney's comment.

That acknowledgment was not enough for Ney, who four days later – on June 3 – had his thumbs flying over the tiny keyboard of his Blackberry, with punctuation and spelling often yielding to his evident anger.

"Let me tell you paul-last week you did not call us for comment ‘you were under deadline,'" began Ney, who then reflected his belief that his critics just keep recycling the same story about the golf trip. "Print the same story-change it to reprint the same story-people in new philly – d's and r's call it ‘elk's politics.'"

He concluded his message with "Go for it – harass my wife and daughter a little bit more big man – maybe I will take out an add talking about your ethics." The reference to his wife and daughter reflected his continuing anger that earlier this year another Copley News Service reporter, based in Ohio, interviewed his neighbors and knocked on his door seeking comment from his wife.

Lest there be any doubt about either his anger or his desire to vent that anger, the congressman sent a separate note from his Blackberry later in the day. "Please-please-print this paul-you don't care about ohio-i am sick of your crap. You are a d c person who couldn't find ohio unless we gave you a map. You don't give two shoots about our people."

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Thursday, June 8, 2006

More funny numbers

Rod Blagojevich's Illinois is 45th in the nation creating jobs since he took office in 2003. Today, he bragged about having one month where he created more raw jobs than state in the country. That's not a big accomplishment because Illinois is the sixth largest state in the country and statistically it ought to lead the nation occasionally in monthly raw statistics.

Overall, it's like a baseball team bragging after a three-run inning that it scored more runs than anyone in that inning even though it is now behind 12-3.

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Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Bad week for media darling

When a "whistleblower" points his whistle in the "right" direction, the news media heels like an obedient dog and is willing to look past faults of its owner.

Joe Wilson of "Plamegate" fame was glorified by the national media because he took on a president it hates, even though Wilson was found to be lying about quite a few things.

In downstate Illinois, former Illinois State Police detective Michale Callahan is another media darling of sorts. He has enjoyed a string of positive press coverage ever since he filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against colleagues in his department and eventually won a $360,000 judgment. But his fortunes have abruptly changed.

As I pointed out earlier this week, Callahan had pointed a finger at my client, a Paris "businessman of interest" as being responsible for the murders of Dyke and Karen Rhoads in 1986. The only problem is that my client had nothing to do with the murders, as evidenced forcefully this week with the news that he passed an ISP polygraph exam and answered all questions of ISP and FBI officers without a lawyer present. It was the second polygraph he passed.

Without going into laborious detail, my examination of Callahan's work product in arriving at his conclusion was revealing. His memos outlining the "case" against my client were embarrassing pieces of work, riddled with factual errors, outrageous conjecture, and third- and fourth-hand hearsay unworthy of a professional.

A few days earlier, Callahan suffered an even bigger blow. The U.S. Supreme Court decided 5-4 in Ceballos v. Garcetti that employees have a First Amendment right to voice their opinions outside the office and they have the right to point out wrongdoing in the office through established whistleblower procedures. But the high court said that protection did not extend to employees who voiced disagreement with decisions while performing duties of their office.

That, in a nutshell, was Callahan's federal case: that he was transferred because he disagreed with his bosses. Legal analysts I talked to say it is likely that a court will now void Callahan's judgment.

The news media has been running with Callahan's side of the Paris murder case for some time now. But the facts are backing up on him. They are showing that Callahan was as much a bumbler as a crusader and that those who questioned his facts were not villains but co-workers who happened to be right.

Callahan's fame clock is at about 14:58 and counting.

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Sun-Times apologizes

It appears the Sun-Times has apologized. Good for editorial page editor Steve Huntley, he's an honorable person.

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Sun-Times dishonors our troops


The Sun-Times has made an egregious error that I hope it corrects soon. The paper ran a Higgins cartoon yesterday that purports to show a bunch of dead Iraqi civilians laying on the ground shot dead execution style, presumably by U.S. soldiers.

The reference is to Haditha, where the military is investigating claims of soldiers unjustly shooting civilians after terrorists killed a soldier. Despite the glee that much of the anti-war media has displayed in breathlessly reporting this alleged atrocity, the facts are still largely unknown. Until then, we ought to give our brave U.S. soldiers at least the same presumption of innocence we give common criminals whose causes are often championed in newspapers when there is even a hint of a false accusation against them.

Higgins, meanwhile, drew an image taken from a photograph that ran in the London Times. The Times has profusely apologized for connecting the photograph to the Haditha investigation. Why? Because it is actually a photo of the terrorist execution of 19 Shiite fisherman who were rounded up, lined against a wall, and shot. Blogger Michelle Malkin has been all over this story.

So the Sun-Times just used an image of a terrorist atrocity to smear our own troops.

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Monday, June 5, 2006

Paris frame job falling apart

48 Hours Graphic-1

I'm involved in an infamous Downstate murder case where the news media is generally following along a storyline that says two men were wrongfully convicted of murder and those who are fighting on their behalf are right and everyone else is wrong.

What isn't getting as much attention is that advocates for the two men are insidiously throwing mud at an innocent man.

I represent that innocent man and I'm happy to report today that piece-by-piece, we are washing off the mud that has been unfairly thrown at him. Known in the news media as the Paris "businessman of interest," my client answered hours of questions from the Illinois State Police and FBI without bringing a lawyer and then passed a state police polygraph. It's the second polygraph he passed; the first one he paid a private firm to test him.

The questions revolve around the 1986 murders of Karen and Dyke Rhoads in Paris, Illinois, a town of about 9,000 near the Indiana border southeast of Champaign. Karen and Dyke were stabbed multiple times and their house was set on fire. Convicted of the murders were Randy Steidl and Herb Whitlock. Steidl was granted a new trial by a federal court and state prosecutors declined to re-prosecute him. He is free and has asked the state to grant him clemency or lifetime immunity from re-prosecution based on "actual innocence," a request pending before the Illinois Prisoner Review Board.

Whitlock was denied a new trial by a state court and remains in state prison.

Defense lawyers know that in Illinois the news media is ready, willing and able to promote any case of innocence and that they will gloss over inconvenient facts.

CBS' 48 Hours has done two shows on the case, in 2000 and 2005, using Northwestern University journalism students' "reinvestigation" of the case as the news hook. Their professor, David Protess, pointed the finger at my client on national television and then made an outrageously false claim about a key fact in the case. He said Steidl and Whitlock were nowhere near the murder scene at the time Protess conjectured it occurred even though Steidl himself has admitted he was driving nearby in the early morning hours to mail an unemployment form.

The Tribune's Eric Zorn has been a pivotal advocate on behalf of Steidl's and Whitlock's innocence and has laid out many of the problems of the case from their point-of-view. His writings have ignored some important evidence that would weaken his argument, such as some holes in their alibis, the documented cocaine selling relationship between Herb Whitlock and Dyke Rhoads, and public statements by Steidl and Whitlock that they didn't know Dyke Rhoads when it is obvious they did.

Anyway, my point is not to judge whether Steidl and Whitlock are guilty or innocent. I don't know. I agree there are serious questions about the original case and the legal representation Steidl and Whitlock received. I do know what has been printed is blatantly one-sided and ignores important information. I could go on for a long time about some of the details of the case but won't right now.

My focus is on the smear campaign against my client. Retired Illinois State Police detective Michale Callahan, who had never headed a murder investigation, has been regaled by the media as some sort of hero. He has been the subject of fawning profiles in the Illinois Times and on a segment in the second 48 Hours piece.

He was assigned to reinvestigate the case after the ISP learned 48 Hours was snooping around in 2000. He bought the theories of a defense lawyer's investigator and quickly stated that Steidl and Whitlock were innocent and that my client ought to be investigated. His basis for that theory was contained in a series of memos that I obtained that are so riddled with factual errors I can't believe they were written by a professional law enforcement official.

Some colleagues in the State Police were dubious of the factual basis of Callahan's theories and friction resulted. Eventually, several people were transferred, including Callahan, and he filed a federal civil rights lawsuit that he mostly won on the point of whether his rights were violated, not whether he was correct about the case.

It's possible Callahan is right about the innocence of Steidl and Whitlock. But he is dead wrong about my client and he ought to say so. So should David Protess and Michael Metnick, Steidl's attorney, who has littered the clemency petition and a civil lawsuit with the half-baked Callahan theories.

Steidl and Whitlock have an absolute right to show they were unjustly accused but they don't have the right to frame an innocent man in the process.

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Thursday, June 1, 2006

Blagojevich spokeswoman's dizzying spin


Look, it's not easy being Rod Blagojevich's spokesperson. How in the heck does Abby Ottenhoff keep straight a dozen state and federal investigations, for example?

Not that I have much sympathy for anyone who chooses to defend a governor, who, by the time all the indictments are harvested, will have made George Ryan's collective corruption look like a parking ticket.

Ironic, isn't it, that when that day comes, George Ryan finally will get a gift from Rod Blagojevich -- a governor so bad that ol' George might not look quite so bad in the history books.

Anyway, back to Abby. In less than 24 hours, she has been backpedaling every several hours as Associated Press reporter John O'Connor, a former colleague of mine years ago, broke new ground with a pair of revelations about hiring practices in the Blagojevich administration, already the subject of state and federal probes.

O'Connor revealed yesterday afternoon that the administration kept a massive list of civil service hires and that the Governor's office OK'd them by name even though the hires are supposed to based solely on merit, not politics. Here was Abby's first response.

Blagojevich spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff said it appears the lists were created before the administration began a new personnel-approval system that ensured names of individuals weren't included.

Ottenhoff said the administration no longer keeps such lists.

``That isn't the case now and wasn't the case once we got a system running, which was pretty early,'' she said. She could not immediately provide further comment.
Then, a few hours later, she pulled out the George Ryan card, saying:

Blagojevich spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff said the lists were in the format used by the previous governor and only were used until the new administration could set up a system that didn't include identities. Hiring decisions made from the lists were not made based on names, she said.
Then, a further backpedal:

Spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff said the lists were used temporarily and that, while names are listed, they did not factor into hiring decisions.
Again, more clarification:
Spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff said Wednesday the lists, which were obtained by The Associated Press, were in the format used by Blagojevich's predecessor and were quickly replaced by a new system for filling state jobs _ one that excluded candidate names.
The only problem was that O'Connor stayed on the story, and on Thursday, 24 hours after the original story, he found the new hiring forms and blew Abby's last answer out of the water. The lists DID have places to put names.

Undaunted by the contradiction, Abby kept spinning:

Blagojevich spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff said on jobs covered by the rules, names were not included on the new forms, and they also are excluded from the administration's current electronic system.
And she wasn't done yet:

Blagojevich spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff said state agencies using the new forms did not fill in the box for names when requesting to fill jobs protected from political decisions, although she acknowledged some early forms submitted might have included names erroneously. Names also are excluded from the administration's current electronic system, she said.
It might be easier to give a straight answer the first time but maybe her pay is based on the number of answers she gives.

I wonder what O'Connor has in store for her today.

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Won't see this in the Daily Herald

Can you imagine reading this in the Daily Herald....or any Illinois newspaper for that matter. The Washington Post had a long and serious article yesterday on the art of being a "wingman," a guy who helps his friends pick up women in bars.

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