Friday, March 30, 2007

Statistics disprove metal bat claims

Below is my "Voice of the People" in today's Tribune. It deals with an issue that is gaining some traction across the country: the notion that metal bats are less safe than wood bats.

The New York City Council voted earlier this month to ban non-wood bats in high school play. Mayor Michael Bloomberg must decide soon whether to sign it.

He ought to veto it. The letter explains why.

John Kass is a superb columnist and his intentions are noble in "Play hardball and bar new metal bats" (News, March 22). But his conclusion is dead wrong.

I have more than a passing interest in the metal bat safety issue. While I was communications director for former U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.), he assigned me to research the contention that balls were flying off the new bats at unsafe speeds.

Fitzgerald tabbed me because I played college baseball when metal bats were replacing wood. (I currently am president of Curry Public Strategies Inc., a political and public affairs company; the bat manufacturer Easton Sports is one of my clients.)

Going in, my instinct was the bats were less safe than wood. My research proved those instincts wrong. I had not realized that starting in 1999, the NCAA and then high schools and youth leagues put in place mandatory restrictions on the barrel size of the bats and their length-to-weight ratio. The new measurements were calibrated to ensure that balls were exiting the bats at the same speed as the best wood bats.

Results were dramatic.

College baseball is the best laboratory because it keeps the most extensive statistics. In the last year before the restrictions, NCAA Division I teams batted .306 collectively, scored 7.12 runs per game and each game averaged 1.06 home runs. Immediately afterward, the numbers dropped to their level today: .291 batting average, 6.15 runs per game and only .68 home runs. Those offensive levels are identical to those in 1980, more than 25 years ago.

The numbers demolish the argument that balls are flying off bats at unsafe speeds and traveling obscene distances.

I was further convinced that safety is not compromised by non-wood bats when I learned that every youth baseball organization—the NCAA, National High School Baseball Coaches Association, Little League Baseball, PONY Baseball/Softball and American Legion—conducted its own safety research or reviewed existing data and concluded the bats posed no safety risk compared to wood bats.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reached a similar conclusion.

We should be free to choose any type bat from the bat rack.

Dan Curry

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Thursday, March 29, 2007


Chris Matthews of MSNBC's "Hardball" tries mightly to get a negative assessment from retired General Barry McCaffrey about Iraq and can't. So he keeps shifting the topic, searching for the bleak answer. A perfect microcosm of the previous post. McCaffrey: "I would certainly not encourage Congress to set a timetable."


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Brazen propaganda

If a prosecutor were putting together a case for MSM anti-war bias, Article 1 in the indictment would be the Washington Post story yesterday by Thomas Ricks titled, "McCaffrey paints gloomy picture of Iraq."

Actually, the report from retired General Barry McCaffrey is broken into four parts:
The problem
The current situation
The way ahead
Guess which of the four Ricks led his story with? You got it, "the problem." The problem with that from a journalism point-of-view is the "the problem" outlined all the known and previously reported on problems in Iraq. In other words, old news.

"The current situation," a.k.a. what is happening now, according to McCaffery, is dramatic improvement.

Since the arrival of General Petraeus in command of Multi-National Force Iraq—the situation on the ground has clearly and measurably improved.
The Iraqi people are encouraged as life is almost immediately springing back in many parts of the city.
There's much, much more. Read the report. And McCaffrey is cautiously optimistic about eventual victory in Iraq.

In my judgment, we can still achieve our objective of a stable Iraq, at peace with its neighbors, not producing weapons of mass destruction, and fully committed to a law-based government.
The amazing part of the way this story was packaged was the Post's open posting of the report alongside the story on its website. In other words, it laid out for all to see its incredibly brazen anti-war slant on the story.

By all "standards" of journalism, Ricks should have led with the optimism of McCaffrey's report: it was current and fit the definition of news because it cut against the storyline that the war is lost. In other words, man bites dog.

Any thinking person who reads McCaffrey's report and then the Washington Post story will no longer be able to deny that the MSM is effectively an anti-war propaganda machine that should not be relied on for the truth about what is happening in Iraq.

No wonder President Bush quoted from bloggers on the ground in Iraq to describe what is really happening there.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Batman and Robin

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty....JFK

Here is what our two freedom loving U.S. senators are doing this week to honor the legacy of their party's greatest hero of the last 50 years, John F. Kennedy.

First, junior senator Barack Obama issued this positively Churchillian statement from the stately confines of the Hart Senate Office building in Washington. (We replaced the euphemisms).

The Senate today made clear today that the goal to withdraw our combat troops from Iraq should be March 31, 2008, the same target date in the Iraq De-escalation Act. No military solution to this war is possible — this additional funding must provide for the safe retreat of our troops. It is time to begin retreating our brave soldiers from Iraq, so they can turn their attention to other missions, and to pursue a process of political reconciliation that heals the region."
Meanwhile, at the adjacent Dirksen Senate building, after taking a similar hard-nosed stance toward our enemies in Iraq, senior senator Dick Durbin took aim at our most menacing threat — carbon. He issued a stinging press release calling for a National Intelligence Estimate to assess the security "challenges" of global warming.

For years, too many of us have viewed global warming as simply an environmental or economic issue. We now need to consider it as a security concern. Many of the most severe effects of global warming are expected in regions where fragile governments are least capable of responding to them. Failing to recognize and plan for the geopolitical consequences of global warming would be a serious mistake. This intelligence assessment will guide policymakers in protecting our national security and averting potential international crises.
Thank God we Illinoisans have these two brave warriors looking out for us.

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Return the $10K Barack, swiftly

Now that John Kerry, Barack Obama and other Democratic U.S. senators have declared that contributing to legitimate 527 groups is unacceptable behavior, we'll await Obama's swift return of the $10,000 he took from this Swift Boat contributor.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Cellini and Blagojevich

Springfield businessman Bill Cellini is the unofficial king of the bi-partisan corruption machine in Illinois dubbed by Tribune columnist John Kass as the "combine." Stealthlike in his movements, Cellini has been a few moves ahead of Illinois newspapers (and prosecutors) for three decades. Reporters have only landed glancing blows on his business ventures tightly integrated with state government.

One of his slickest moves was to become close with Democrat Rod Blagojevich way back in 2002 when Blagojevich was running as a reform candidate. While Rod was bamboozling the public with his promises to "clean up state government" and "change the way we do business in Springfield," he simultaneously was sidling up next to the insider's insider.

That alliance with Cellini continues to this day, as evidenced by the Daily Herald story Sunday that showed that Blago's former chief of staff and longtime buddy Lon Monk has formed a new lobbying firm with a starter kit of new clients from the Bill Cellini collection.

That story probably was welcomed by this former state worker who has filed a lawsuit that alleges an unholy alliance among Blagojevich, Monk and Cellini.

Several sources have told me that the Blagojevich administration was heavily reliant on Cellini during his first year in office. He served as the adminstration's unofficial guide dog, showing Blago's cronies where all the insider levers of state government were located. Democrats needed such a seeing eye after 26 years of Republican rule.

Despite all this, Blagojevich has repeatedly pulled off the stunt of criticizing others for being close to Cellini while having him as a single digit on his own speed dial.

Although it was not fully appreciated at the time, Blagojevich pulled off one of the most spectacular acts of hypocrisy in state history when, in 2006, he criticized Judy Baar Topinka for voting for an investment that favored one of Cellini's companies. Not only did he fail to mention his close relationship with Cellini, he also failed to mention that the board he was talking about—the State Board of Investments—was controlled by his own appointees who, too, had voted for Cellini. And, he forgot to point out that same board had earlier given an investment to a company that employed the governor's own brother.

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald seems to get the joke. His "Individual A" in the corruption indictment last fall of Blagojevich pal Tony Rezko is Bill Cellini. If you don't believe Fitzgerald was sending an alphabetic signal in the "pay-to-play on steroids" charges, ponder who he named "Individual K," namely Cellini pal and fellow insider Robert Kjellander, the only person whose last name begins with "K."

Although there have been firm denials from Springfield pals of Cellini that he is in any legal peril, the smart money on a Fitzgerald investigation is to err on the side of indictments.

Makes you wonder why Cellini, who undoubtedly has plenty of money, wouldn't have retired quietly instead of hooking up with Blago's people. That last little spasm of greed might cost him plenty.

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Phil O'Connor from Iraq

Many of you in the Illinois political world know Phil O'Connor, a former chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission, and advisor extraordinaire to many top level Republicans. I believe he ran one of Jim Thompson's successful campaigns for governor. He is taking a leave from his competitive electricity business, Constellation NewEnergy to serve with the U.S. State Department and the Army Corps of Engineers as an advisor to the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity. Phil arrived in Baghdad in mid-March. He was preceded there in mid-January by Terry Barnich, another former ICC chairman and top Republican strategist. They are serving on the same advisory team.

He recently sent out a "communiqué" to friends, which he has granted me permission to post. He has some interesting observations about life in Iraq. He notes that the views expressed are his own and do not reflect those of the U.S. Government or any agency thereof.

While my impressions and expressions of them at week #1 will no doubt change the longer I am in Baghdad, the sense I most often get is that of incongruity, or at least of attention grabbing juxtapositions. So my first "communiqué" from Iraq to my family and friends focuses on these incongruities.

Much of television fare in its early days when I was a little boy consisted of WWII newsreels (The Big Picture, Victory at Sea, etc.), I always thought that there was nothing quite so poignant as Mass being celebrated in a war zone. Well, no disappointment there. At the daily Mass in the community chapel in the Embassy compound there is a real sense of community and gentleness -– the incongruity, of course, is that half of the people in the room are carrying side-arms or large weapons. Saturday evening I watched a young sailor prepare the altar for Mass as he carefully avoided knocking anything over with the barrel of the weapon slung over his shoulder. While I have seen police officers at Mass with their pistols visible, I have to admit that I have never taken communion from a Eucharistic minister packing a 9mm. At the end of the weekend Masses, the padre asks if this is the last time someone in the congregation will be attending. Several people will stand up and tell where they are going and then there is a round of applause. Also, because we are coming up on Easter, the catechumens are presented with their sponsors and they are applauded.

My favorite juxtaposition so far was last Friday evening when I was doing some e-mails in my room (sort of like a Motel 6, actually perfectly adequate and nice) and the president was on the news vowing to veto the funding/withdrawal bill passed by the House. The only problem was that I could not hear him well due the helo traffic overhead from the main trauma hospital in the IZ the forward operating base not far away. The incongruity was that at home I would have been even more engaged in the discussion of the issue as it played out on the tube. Here, I realize, there is a certain academic quality of the debate even though, arguably, it applies to me in spades now. Go figure.

Friday, the Muslim holy day, can sometimes involve more trouble than other days because people have the day off and a few clerics incite some people to violence. Also, the mosques are full and there is more opportunity for sectarian attacks on "soft" targets. This past Friday saw a suicide bomb attack on a deputy prime minister, a Sunni who had had the courage to participate in the governing coalition. It took place at a mosque in his residential compound. He and other wounded and dead were brought to the 28th Combat Support Hospital (CASH) a main US military trauma center that treats both Coalition wounded and Iraqis whether they are the enemy or our friends. As I crossed the street returning from the Embassy to Freedom Compound where I live, a pickup truck came through the crosswalk and I saw two bodies, a man and a woman, stretched out in back (I do not know what condition these poor people were in.) Then, a white SUV came up to the crosswalk and its parking lights were blinking (like we do for a flat tire at home) and it slowed to let me cross. But, trying to be polite as one would at home, I waved it through. As it passed I saw that in the back was another person whose legs, dangling over the tailgate, appeared to have been burned. The incongruity of someone slowing to let me cross even though they were rushing a terrorism victim to the hospital was actually more unsettling than the sight of these poor people.

One naturally thinks of Baghdad as a very dangerous place. However, the incongruity is the same one most of us are familiar with, living in safe and secure neighborhoods while others not far away live in genuinely tough and perilous conditions. The same is true for me here. I live in the IZ (International- or Green-Zone). It is the ultimate gated community. The compound I live in is guarded by a British security company. Most of the leadership and the personal security detail (PSD) people who provide very good protection for any ventures out of the IZ are Brits, Americans or other such. The bulk of the men and women in the guard force who I see mustering every morning as I walk to work are the famed Gurkhas. With them, I feel as safe in the compound as I do back in South Lakeview in Chicago. For the average Baghdadian, however, life can be pretty hazardous. Within the confines of the IZ the occasional loud boom punctuates life but the odds may be no worse than driving on the Dan Ryan.

In the IZ, Thursday night is the new Friday night. Friday is the official day off and so Thursday night is when people gather to socialize. A few other people from the embassy took me by car a little way inside the IZ to a residence rented a consulting form. We hung out in the backyard of this place and it occurred to me that it was pretty much like a session night in Springfield.

I was trying to figure out how to take the bus from my compound down the road to the embassy when I was asked by a young soldier if I knew which bus went where. He and I ended up walking down toward the embassy together so I could point him in the right direction to go see and photograph the :Hands of Victory" (crossed swords) monument that Saddam built to celebrate all the slaughtering he instigated in the Iran-Iraq war. This young man was about as humble as they get, sort of apologizing to me that he was "only" in the postal unit up at Taji (the busiest airport in the world by the way – not O'Hare). He was in town to accompany someone who was visiting the hospital. He said he was the only one in his group who would likely get to the IZ and see the monument. Here he was, a tourist for a day and enjoying every moment. I told him that as far as I was concerned the postal unit had given me great service so far since I had gotten all of the packages my wife had sent to me faster than I would have imagined. By the way, not enough can be said about the military people. From top to bottom, they seem serious, professional and up to doing whatever they are asked.

All in all, this is a fascinating experience so far and quite sobering in terms of an appreciation for the security of our lives at home that we naturally become accustomed to. The incongruity on that point got a chuckle from me the other morning as I was walking over to get my ride to a meeting outside the IZ, dressed in a blue suit, starched white shirt, tie and polished black shoes lugging my flak jacket and helmet (that stuff really does weigh a ton). An Army officer looked at me and said, "just another day at the office -– with Kevlar."

One development this past week really captured people's attention here. For the first time little children were used as decoys in a car bomb attack. A car with two men and two ten-year-olds got through an Iraqi-manned checkpoint because the Iraqi Army guys figured there was a low risk. The two men then ran from the car and detonated it, killing the two children and, I think, some other people in the area. It was not so much the increased threat indicated by the tactic, but the utter barbarity of it. I have not heard whether they determined whose children they were. But the bad guys here would not be above just grabbing a couple of little kids off the street or "borrowing" some children from friends or family and using them. This really is part of Saddam's legacy and also characteristic of the "boundaryless" approach of AQI (al Qaeda in Iraq) -- that someone would even contemplate doing such a thing.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

One (ex)Cub to root for

I was not rooting for him then, but I am now. A great story about Adam Greenberg, the ex-Cub who saw one pitch in the big leagues—a pitch that hit him in the head. For some reason, I was watching the game. I would imagine there are few if any players in major league history who have been beaned on their first pitch. He's struggling now to make it back to the majors.

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Lying about jobs…again

Much has been written about the cynicism of Rod Blagojevich. In short, the Illinois governor has built his political career out of saying one thing and doing the opposite. The news media catches him sometimes, but they've largely given up.

Blagojevich ran on two themes in 2002 when he was elected governor: ethics and jobs. On ethics, he already has incurred nine separate state and federal corruption investigations and voices like Joe Birkett and Gary MacDougal predict he'll be indicted during his term. Steve Rhodes is predicting an indictment this year.

On jobs, he's been a disaster, too. Since he's been governor, Illinois has ranked 44th in the nation in percentage of job growth. The state's job base has increased 2.1 percent under Blagojevich. The national average is 5.2 percent. Here is how surrounding states have performed during the last four years:

National average…5.2 percent
Iowa…4.9 percent
Kentucky…3.8 percent
Missouri…3.6 percent
Wisconsin…2.9 percent
Indiana…2.2 percent
Illinois…2.1 percent
On Sunday night, top Blagojevich aide John Filan repeated one of the administration's old deceptions—that Illinois has a good job record because the raw number of jobs created is high. I don't have a transcript, but he made the comments on Tom Roeser's "Political Shootout" show on WLS 890 AM. The administration always uses the raw number argument to claim credit for its jobs record.

Comparing the number of raw jobs created compared to neighboring states would be like George W. Bush bragging that the U.S. created more jobs than France, England and Germany. Nobody would let Bush get away with this cheap tactic—of course the U.S. is going to create more new jobs because its economy is much larger than those other countries.

Illinois has the fifth most workers in the U.S. among the states. It has double the number of employees as Indiana, the largest of the surrounding states, and more than four times the number of employees as Iowa and Kentucky, the smallest surrounding states.

Any middle schooler with an ounce of math aptitude would understand why using percentages is the correct way to compare performance. That same middle schooler also understands the temptation to hide bad grades from their parents. Or in this case, a governor hiding bad performance from the electorate.

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Blago touts support of employee

You know it's getting tough for Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and his attempt to sell the state's largest tax increase ever when he issues a press release bragging about the support of an employee.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Tribune tip-toes on Barack

We've mentioned here before how the Chicago Tribune is highly energized to make sure it finds any big revelations about Barack Obama's past before other national media outlets. The paper simply can't be taken seriously as a journalistic force if it gets badly scooped by an out-of-state competitor in Barack's backyard.

That is, if there are any revelations to be found. That constitutes the other part of the Tribune's quandary—being aggressive without inventing scandal.

In Sunday's early editions, that schizophrenia is fully on display. The Tribune has several stories about Obama's school days in Indonesia and Hawaii. The paper said he did more than 40 interviews and judging by the bylines, used about a half dozen reporters.

The Indonesia narrative when Barack was in grade school is not as well researched as the Hawaii days when he attended high school. Tribune reporters essentially knock down the Barack-attended-a-Madrassa-and-was-a-practicing-Muslim story, although they confirm Barack had some limited Muslim upbringing.

In high school, the Tribune found there were a few discrepancies between Obama's autobiography and the recollection of those around him at the time. But the Trib's story said the apparent errors were not particularly important.
Some of these discrepancies are typical of childhood memories -- fuzzy in specifics, warped by age, shaped by writerly license. Others almost certainly illustrate how carefully the young man guarded the secret of his loneliness from even those who knew him best. And much of Obama's self-portrait as someone deeply affected by his father's abandonment yet able to thrive in greatly disparate worlds is born out by the reporting.

Still, the story of Obama's early years highlights how politics and autobiography are not such different creatures: The framework of both is shaped to serve a purpose.

In its reissue after he gave the keynote address at the Democratic convention in 2004, "Dreams from My Father" joined a long tradition of political memoirs, such as John Kennedy's "Profiles in Courage," that candidates have used to introduce themselves to the American people.
In other words, in politics, it's OK to make a few things up. In this instance, I mostly agree with the Tribune because the examples it cites do not seem very frequent or consequential in the big picture.

One episode is sure to have resonance. The Tribune told the tale of Keith Kakugawa, one of his best friends in high school. In his autobiography, Barack refers to him as "Ray" to protect his identity. Reporters and researchers appear eager to find out what Kakugawa says about his friendship with Obama, because, among other things, the friendship was during the period where Obama acknowledges he was smoking pot and trying cocaine. Kakugawa's path led him to prison for drug offenses since high school.

The Tribune was scooped on the Kakugawa angle by the Wall Street Journal on Friday, where it was revealed that Kakugawa and Obama recently spoke for the first time in years and subsequently Kakugawa asked the campaign for money in an apparent extortion attempt.

Coming back, the Tribune repeated the allegations from a day earlier in the WSJ. I will be surprised if we don't see Kakugawa in the tabloids because he is homeless and needs the money and the tabloids always need dirt.

As it stands, the Tribune is inadvertently doing the Obama campaign an enormous favor by airing his past in a largely passive tone. That's probably not the way it would handle a conservative Republican in the same situation but I don't have many complaints at this point about the Tribune's coverage. We'll see in coming months whether the Trib has been tough enough on Obama.

As it stand now, it looks to me like Obama's life has been unusually varied in terms of culture and geography but with a normal quota of situations that are embarrassing but not deeply damning. Obama appears to have led a decent and honorable life overall.

I don't think ethics will be his downfall. I believe his weakness on national security and his far left policies overall will doom him in the general election if he somehow slips by Hillary Clinton.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007


Some people are giving this reporter a hard time for wrongly reporting for a few minutes that John Edwards was suspending his campaign for president because of his wife's cancer news.

He corrected his mistake promptly and no harm was done. Unlike virtually the entire MSM, which may be falsely reporting that man is the prime cause of global warming. That reporting, unlike the Politico's, has consequences, like remaking our entire economy.

The free market doesn't much care about the science. It understands there is a runaway train called global warming. Entrepreneurs are rushing to fill the stations down the track so they can collect a bounty. Oddly, despite Al Gore's overall socialistic approach to the problem, he is unleashing a torrent of capitalism.

Take our very own Chicago Climate Exchange, which is being described as the world's second largest "carbon offset" trading market. I don't pretend to understand all the CCX is doing, but it looks like a bustling business.

The state of Illinois, without any discussion, entered into an arrangement with the CCX recently. Among other things, the state appears to be enlisting farmers to perform conservation type activities as offsets for big carbon users, like Al Gore. To bridge the gap, the state appears to have hired another entity, the Delta Institute, to "aggregate" this rural offset activity.

All this, of course, requires big public relations firms. PR behemoth Edelman appears to be representing Chicago Climate Exchange. Curiously, at the same time, Edelman is representing the American Petroleum Institute. Looks like a conflict to me, but I'm sure the firm will say this just shows we're all in this great green crusade together.

I'm not trying to pick on these firms. They are just a few I found within a few minutes of research. The complex web that Al Gore is spinning is many times larger and growing exponentially every day. Without or without the science.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

MacDougal predicts Blago indictment

Former CEO Gary MacDougal is interviewed here by Jeff Berkowitz and, among other things, he predicts an indictment of Governor Rod Blagojevich.

MacDougal was a superb Illinois GOP chairman in 2002 who was front and center with warnings about pending corruption under Blagojevich. Even Gary underestimated it.

I wish he was crazy enough to wade back into Illinois politics but I know he's smarter than that.

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Inhofe v. Gore

If U.S. Senator James Inhofe was a lone liberal fighting overwhelming conservative orthodoxy, he'd be labeled a hero and would be the toast of adoring interviewers on CNN, MSNBC, CBS, ABC and PBS. He's the opposite, a lone conservative fighting against the global warming industrial complex and when he does interviews on those networks, they treat him like a kook.

The real kook, of course is Prince Al Gore, who even the New York Times now says is exaggerating global warming. He's certainly exaggerating and probably is 100 percent wrong when he says humans are causing the earth to warm. That's good for him, ultimately, I guess, because it turns out he has one of the biggest carbon footprints on the planet.

Gore already is bending Senate rules in advance of his testimony Wednesday before the Senate Environmental committee, where Inhofe is ranking member. Lots of people will be watching when Inhofe poses questions to the Academy Award winner. Billions of dollars are riding on government's response to this issue. It will be interesting to see whether the MSM even attempts to feign objectivity in its coverage tomorrow.

Here's a well-done synopsis of Inhofe's opinion about Gore's work. Here's a video:


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Obama was destined to be anti-war

Democrats and their public relations agents in the media continue to argue over whether Barack Obama's opposition to the Iraq War was "pure." There is no debate—the answer is yes.

What is being overlooked is the context. It was in the cards that Obama was going to be "left" on the war. For one thing, it matches his liberal world view. Second, he was coming off a thumping by Bobby Rush for Congress in 2000 and heading into a U.S. Senate race where his likely major opponent was going to be a conservative-leaning Democrat, state Comptroller Dan Hynes.

If Obama had any misgivings about declaring his anti-war position, the politics would have cinched it. It was imperative that Obama not lose the base like he did against Rush and he had to stay left of Hynes. Some have suggested that it was an unpopular position at the time to be against the war. That was not true among Democratic primary voters in Illinois. I believe all the Dem candidates in the primary ultimately opposed the war.

At the October 2002 rally at Federal Plaza in Chicago, Obama was pushing the left-wing buttons. He wasn't very prescient about the economy, was he?

What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income – to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression.
And, of course, Big Oil.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let's fight to wean ourselves off Middle East oil, through an energy policy that doesn't simply serve the interests of Exxon and Mobil.
Then, Obama repeated his opposition to the war on Jeff Berkowitz's Public Affairs the following month. Berkowitz interviewed him again early the next summer and Obama stood firm against the war.

I don't regard Obama's vote against the war as courageous. It was consistent with his philosophy and it squared with his political aims at the time. It was a foregone conclusion. Get over it, James Carville.

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Will Quinn return his 'bonus?'


Lt. Gov. of Illinois Patrick Quinn continues his phony populism act, demanding today that Ameren executives return their bonuses. We have one question for Pat today as he harummpfs around the state: Will he return the $15,000 his ticket mate, Gov. Rod Blagojevich received on Oct. 30 of last year, just a few weeks before the election?

That money, after all, directly benefitted Quinn because he was running on Blagojevich's ticket and Blago used his huge campaign treasury to muddy the waters about his much-investigated administration.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Dick Durbin meets 'Citizen Kate'

Dick Durbin, the human interview machine, will talk to anyone. Wait for 2:50 and you'll see the most liberal of all U.S. Senators spin around and start talking to a spoof journalist.


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Climate forecast: Corruption

When I was a reporter looking for the next area of government corruption, I used timeless principles to guide me. I looked for politicians with a proven record of corruption and then looked in the areas they controlled that had the most money passing through with the least oversight.

It is a formula that is almost as bullet-proof as a math equation.

Where, under Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, will be the next swamp pit of cronyism and insider dealing? My money is on the "green" industry, where all the warning lights are blinking red.

The dots are not difficult to connect. Last month, Illinois and New Jersey, two of the three most corrupt states in the country, announced they were going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly in the years ahead.

Whatever measures Illinois takes to achieve those reductions will probably include carbon offsets, a scam we identified here. A press release says the state already has committed to working with the Chicago Climate Exchange, a company that deals with carbon offsets, among other things.

BusinessWeek in an article this week said the carbon offset business is growing like crazy. It also says that the results that are being produced are often non-existent and that the industry already is riddled with payoffs for middlemen.

As the offset market now works, intermediaries typically pocket a big portion of the money coming in. Consider two projects in the TerraPass portfolio that are run by dairy farmers in Princeton, Minn., and Lynden, Wash. Several years ago, the farmers had installed expensive equipment that uses methane from cow manure to generate electricity. In theory, the promise of offset income encourages farmers to invest in such equipment. TerraPass typically sells offsets for about $9 per ton of carbon dioxide, or the corresponding amount of methane. The company takes a cut of that $9, but won't say what the percentage is. A broker that introduced TerraPass to the dairy farmers also took a cut. In the end, the farmers say they each received less than $2 a ton out of the original $9. Darryl Vander Haak, the farmer in Washington, says he's happy with the $16,000 he earned last year from offset sales. But offsets didn't factor into his decision to start the methane venture, he adds.

Blagojevich…lots of money…little oversight. Chances are, his pals already are scheming green.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Slash and burn in central Illinois

The sale of Copley to another newspaper chain is not good news for those who want to see quality journalism in central Illinois. Chances are Gatehouse will cut staff and other newsgathering costs at the Peoria Journal Star, State Journal-Register in Springfield, and several other downstate papers.

This isn't a big surprise: Newspapers are bleeding money everywhere. The last place left to make a profit is medium-sized markets with no competition. Newspaper companies can slash costs without worrying about the quality drop-off because of their monopoly.

Billy Dennis is a former newspaper reporter who now runs the blog Peoria Pundit. He has a letter from a former employee of the new chain who predicts her experience will be duplicated in central Illinois.

You will all be asked to re-apply for your own job. Some of you will not be rehired. You may have the option of applying for work at remaining Copley properties, but this will require uprooting your family and moving.

Gatehouse staff very familiar with how to handle this process will come in all smiles and glad-handing and "we're willing to work with you in this transition" while searching ruthlessly for staff and services to cut. The first thing staff will notice is that your co-pay for your health insurance will skyrocket while the number of services available to you and your family members plummets. Hopefully the union will protect against some of this.

After a lull, expect sharp decreases in funds for syndicated features, wire services, and other newsroom budgeted items such as training, equipment, etc. Second-rate substitutes will be offered. There will be a lot of talk about synergy and content sharing among the papers in the group and how this benefits classified advertising sales. Expect to hear a lot about the benefits of sharing of feature stories between the newspapers in the group, but there will be little added news value involved.

The newsroom staff will now be expected to regularly crank out "special sections" that are nothing but love letters to local advertisers. No actual news will be permitted in these special sections.

Any staff that leaves or retires will not be replaced, and a hiring freeze will be put in place.
This is probably good news for well-read central Illinois bloggers like Dennis, who will help fill the information void that will be created.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Even Swampier

The gas from the Chicago Tribune Swamp blog (see previous post) is even thicker than I thought.

Frank James of the Tribune is blaming the U.S. for mass murderer Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's state of mind in the transcript of his confession released today.

At the very least, Mohammed comes across as more than a little strange, which may be attributable to all the time he spent as a guest of the Central Intelligence Agency and the U.S. military at Guantanamo.
Meaning, by implication, Khalid was entirely normal before we got hold of him.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Swamp gas from the Tribune

You don't see as much news from Iraq these days except from the halls of Congress, as the Democrats fight among themselves on a surrender plan.

To occupy their time while there is at least a temporary decline in violence in Iraq and thus no fodder for a political agenda, the MSM is doing its best to make the thin pickings of the U.S. Attorney story a manufactured scandal like the Joe Wilson-Scooter Libby case.

Back in the Swamp, Chicago Tribune "gunners" are covering the MSM flank with a steady flow of anti-war cover fire. Here are the last four Iraq headlines in my RSS reader from the Swamp, the Tribune's Washington Bureau blog.
Analyst paints bleak Iraq picture

Confidence in Iraq victory waning

Obama: 'Last, best hope to end war'

War-critic Hagel ready to rock GOP?
That last one is a beauty. Chuck Hagel could wear a Ronald Reagan mask the rest of 2007 and he'd still be lucky to get 5 percent support among Republicans.

I've been looking at the news, too, and it's funny I see stories and items like this, this and this that suggest violence is decreasing in Iraq and there are early signs that the surge is working. But why cover the actual battleground when you can give voice to an anti-war critic, pull the worst parts out of a poll, or falsely elevate the least popular Republican on the planet?

We can all pick and choose what we read and highlight, indicating the Swampsters are only looking for one kind of Iraq news—bad. As far as the Swamp is concerned, those troops who are fighting and possibly turning the tide in Iraq don't exist. They probably would be surprised that at the end of a long day securing a few more key neighborhoods that instead of reading about what just happened, they are treated to MSM coverage like at the Swamp, where an analyst has already declared the war lost and a junior senator is proclaiming that all news from Iraq is bad.

From the Swamp, all news from Iraq is bad. Maybe that's why Obama felt so confident making such a remark in the midst of battles we are winning.

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Global cooling around the corner?


An extraordinary thing happened Monday. The New York Times, at least for a day, jumped off the liberal hype machine on global warming. It published an article that said in the gentlest of ways: Al Gore might be 100 percent wrong.

The Times handled this operation delicately by injecting quotes supportive of Gore, and, by smoothing the edge off the criticisms. But the story was written for one reason—the liberal media is growing more concerned it is getting played by Gore & Co. in what amounts to one of the biggest scams of all time.

Because I'm not a person who likes or knows much about science, I'm not going to debate anyone about the intricacies of "climate change." My non-scientific common sense detector tells me that it makes a lot more sense that variations in the sun's activities is the main driver in climate change rather than man's output.

In the UK documentary last week, "The Great Global Warming Swindle," that is exactly what scientists interviewed on the documentary believe. The graphs of climate change over the years much more closely mirror sun spot activity than they do CO2 output. If CO2 is the true driver of climate, why did temperatures drop from 1940 until 1975 as industrial output soared?

Scientist Don Easterbrook, emeritus professor of geology at Western Washington University, was showcased in the New York Times story and he also agrees that Gore's central premise about man causing climate change is wrong.

Geologists have documented age upon age of climate swings, and some charge Mr. Gore with ignoring such rhythms.

"Nowhere does Mr. Gore tell his audience that all of the phenomena that he describes fall within the natural range of environmental change on our planet," Robert M. Carter, a marine geologist at James Cook University in Australia, said in a September blog. "Nor does he present any evidence that climate during the 20th century departed discernibly from its historical pattern of constant change."

In October, Dr. Easterbrook made similar points at the geological society meeting in Philadelphia. He hotly disputed Mr. Gore's claim that "our civilization has never experienced any environmental shift remotely similar to this" threatened change.

Nonsense, Dr. Easterbrook told the crowded session. He flashed a slide that showed temperature trends for the past 15,000 years. It highlighted 10 large swings, including the medieval warm period. These shifts, he said, were up to "20 times greater than the warming in the past century."

Getting personal, he mocked Mr. Gore's assertion that scientists agreed on global warming except those industry had corrupted. "I've never been paid a nickel by an oil company," Dr. Easterbrook told the group. "And I'm not a Republican."
Sean Hannity interviewed Easterbrook last evening and the retired professor said his models show that between 2007 and 2010 we will enter a period of global cooling (video above).

Proving Gore wrong is fun, but redundant. What's really at stake is decision-making in the next several years. Will we rush over the cliff and destroy western economies on the basis of a politically driven theory that might be 100 percent wrong? Or will we listen to people like Easterbrook?

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Rod: for tax breaks before he was against them


How would you like a property tax bill of just $150?

—Rod Blagojevich, kicking off his tax increase campaign

How would you like to be governor and have your property assessment rise only 1 percent while everyone else around you is slapped with a 37 percent increase?

—What his oppponents ought to counter with

Rod opened his campaign for the largest tax increase in Illinois history (video) with a sharp poke at corporations that he says get tax breaks. Kind of audacious, I'd say, considering his own property assessment break, which will save him $11,826 over three years compared to his neighbors.

In case you forgot about the issue in the fog of the last campaign, here are my posts on it.

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Lieberman the only JFK among Dems


Democratic U.S. Senators Barack Obama and Joe Lieberman gave speeches the last two days on Iraq. You decide who sounds more like John F. Kennedy, the gold standard for Democrats the last half century.

JFK: Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

OBAMA: There is no military solution to the civil war that rages on in Iraq. And it is time for us to redeploy so that a political solution becomes possible. The news from Iraq is very bad, and it has been that way for the last four years.

LIEBERMAN: The esteemed historian of the Middle East, Bernard Lewis, was in Washington this past week. He said that, when he looks at the world today and the threats we face, it reminds him of the 1930s—and that he hears far more voices that sound like Chamberlain than like Churchill. And so I challenge each of you to find the voice of Churchill inside yourself, and let it be heard this week on Capitol Hill and throughout the nation in the days and years ahead.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Hill like Bill, not JFK


We've already shown through their utterances that there are no JFKs in the bunch among the major Democratic candidates for president when it comes to national security.

JFK was for "paying any price," today's Dems want to scadaddle from Iraq "at any cost."

We could be charitable and say Democrats are rooting for our troops to win in Iraq but then we'd have to say they also favor their simultaneous political extinction, and we know that's not true. So like a good algebra student flip that equation around and you have the answer to the question. If you think that's harsh, find me a quote from a Democrat in the last couple of weeks that recognizes the progress our troops are making in securing Baghdad.

Then there's the economy. There aren't any JFK Democrats there, either. Rich Karlgaard of Forbes noticed this today.

Our 35th president, John F. Kennedy, was pro-freedom, pro-defense, pro-trade and a tax cutter. On taxes, JFK had this to say to the Economic Club of New York on Dec. 14, 1962: "Our present tax system exerts too heavy a drag on growth. It siphons out of the private economy too large a share of personal and business purchasing power. It reduces the financial incentives for personal effort, investment and risk-taking."

No class warrior was JFK. He wanted cuts "for those in the middle and upper brackets, who can thereby be encouraged to undertake additional efforts and … invest more capital." The JFK tax cuts were enacted in February 1964 and touched off an economic and investment boom.
That doesn't sound like Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama or John Edwards, does it? The three millionaires chime in unison they are against "tax cuts for the rich." They apparently want to slow the economy now that they've got theirs.

In New Hampshire, however, Hillary said recently she believes her candidacy rustles the ghosts of JFK. She said of Kennedy, "he was smart, he was dynamic, he was inspiring and he was Catholic." Sorry, Hill, one out of four is not JFK. It's Walter Mondale.

She went on to suggest that because she would be the first woman president, her candidacy is analogous to JFK's breaking the Roman Catholic barrier. She also said in Selma that her womanhood compared to the struggles of African-Americans in the 1960s.

Her comparisons are showing that instead of JFK, she's more like Bill Clinton: Utterly fearless when it comes to confronting the challenge of stretching the truth.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Kass on Obama

John Kass' take on Barack Obama in a national TV interview: Underneath all the rhetoric, a down-the-line lefty without any noticeable political courage.

He was interviewed by Paul Gigot on the Wall Street Journal's, The Journal Editorial Report.

Gigot: What about Obama's political philosophy? Ronald Reagan was a self-identified proud conservative. Bill Clinton called himself a New Democrat. Is there any philosophy would you ascribe to Obama's politics?

I would say that basically he's a left-of-center liberal, doctrinaire in the social positions. He has talked about ethics, which I think is part of his campaign. But really you don't see the kind of--he's not a maverick in the sense that the man who--that his predecessor, Sen. Peter Fitzgerald of Illinois, was a maverick, a Republican who defied his own party to bring Patrick Fitzgerald here, for example. Mr. Obama is sort of a--remember how he was elected. The leading Democratic front-runner imploded in the domestic-violence issue. The Republican front-runner fell apart when there was a sex scandal. Mr. Obama just came in and basically rode in on these disasters. So he hasn't really had the kind of campaign that he's facing now.

Can you think of a single instance in Illinois politics where Obama took on one of the main Democratic interest groups, whether it be teachers unions or the trail bar or some main interest group, and challenged one of their orthodoxies?

I really can't. I've been racking my brain. I'm sure there might be something. He did stand up for ethics and ethical reform at a time when the Democrats were building their case against the Republicans locally. But really, when it comes down to it, I don't think he's revolutionary in that regard. I think he's a basically a doctrinaire liberal in that sense.
Kass described Obama as a "nice man, charismatic, highly intelligent and a decent fellow." But he said his association with indicted influence peddler Tony Rezko also shows Obama might be naive.
Kass: …And the issue for the American people, I think, is when you put Obama next to Vladimir Putin in a room talking about whatever they'll talk about if he's president, is he seasoned enough to deal with that kind of pressure?

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The other view on global warming

Here's that British documentary titled, "The Great Global Warming Swindle." It's one hour, fifteen minutes but well worth watching.


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Tribune story capsulizes Blago foibles

This morning the Tribune has an important story by reporters Jodi Cohen and David Jackson that reveals Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is forging ahead with a controversial plan to sell $3.4 billion in state student loans.

The story perfectly symbolizes all that is wrong with Blagojevich's governance. It illustrates an attempt to sell off assets for short-term financial gain. It features a deal engineered by questionable Blagojevich insiders making lots of money. It is yet another example that bad press on an issue won't deter Blagojevich from sneaking a scheme back later under the radar screen. And it showcases the trademark Blagojevich hypocrisy: Placing middle-class students at the mercy of loan companies while preaching how much he cares about education and the middle class.

After the news media got wind of the scheme in 2005 and found all kinds of insider deals, the General Assembly blocked it. In the months since, Blagojevich simply revamped the obscure Illinois Student Assistance Commission and went forward anyway.

And to head the effort, Blagojevich quietly picked a big fundraiser and a man coming off a high profile business failure. Perfect for state government, I guess. Andrew Davis has raised roughly $100,000 for Blagojevich and more than $50,000 for Barack Obama, according to the Tribune.
Last December, without any job posting or candidate search, the ISAC board promoted Davis to the $180,000 job as executive director. He immediately began pushing a plan to sell all of the state's federally-backed student loans, which make up about 80 percent of the agency's multibillion-dollar loan portfolio.
Davis' most previous business history?
Davis' professional history also has raised eyebrows. Before appointment to the board, Davis was best known for running The Rock Island Co. of Chicago, a LaSalle Street securities firm that controlled dozens of Chicago Stock Exchange seats.

He acknowledged in an interview that Rock Island crashed in 2005 in part because of risky deals in which he paid too much to buy out competitors.

"People advised me at the time that I was making a mistake, and they were right, and I was wrong," he said. "It is hard to see the future."
Davis already has sold 15 percent of the student loans. One of the firms that purchased the loans employed John Wyma, a longtime Blagojevich confidant who has made a mockery of Blagojevich's claims he is cleaning up state government. The state loan commission, prior to Davis' appointment, had rejected hiring a law firm because of its connection to Wyma, the Tribune story notes. But it went ahead and rewarded another firm that had previously given a sweetheart deal to Blagojevich's former spokesman.

Where does this leave this sordid mess? We'll see if the Democratically controlled General Assembly or any of the Democratic statewide office holders steps up and halts this debacle.

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Secret government in Springfield

I am not surprised a major media outlet in Illinois tackled this one. It's no secret that under Governor Rod Blagojevich, obtaining a public document is nearly impossible. When I was a reporter years ago I used to struggle occasionally obtaining a public document from the Republican-run Governor's office, but usually got what I needed.

Today, in my conversations with my former colleagues in the reporting business, it is comical the legal excuses the governor's office gives for not turning over basic public information.

Associated Press just moved an overview story on the problem. Here are examples cited by reporter John O'Connor:

--Phone numbers that state employees dial on taxpayer-financed phones are off-limits to the public because releasing them would violate the Illinois Constitution, according to Blagojevich's Department of Transportation.

--After a prison psychologist in Dixon was held hostage for 25 hours and allegedly raped by a convicted sex offender, the Corrections Department withheld information on staffing levels that day and inmate assaults at the prison.

--The State Police won't release the arrest report on a Corrections Department chaplain who was pulled over for drunk driving in a state-owned car, saying it would be an "invasion of privacy."

--The Department of Central Management Services won't disclose the names of applicants for state jobs that wound up going to politically connected candidates, even though its own rules explicitly state that such lists are public record.
The Blagojevich administration clearly has taken the internal position that it would rather take the heat for occasional stories like this than release documents that will be converted into bad stories. Tactically, Blago's people are right. The downside is that withholding the documents is illegal.

Until Illinois' Freedom of Information Act is changed to give a law enforcement agency the legal authority to enforce the law, I'm afraid Blagojevich and those like him will continue to operate in secret.

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Friday, March 9, 2007

Stalking Obama

A Chicago woman is on Barack's trail in Springfield...


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The stress of surrender


Maybe because some reports from Iraq indicate progress toward victory, those rooting for defeat (Democrats) are getting a little frustrated. Congressman Dave Obey, a Democrat from Wisconsin, blows up at anti-war constituents in this taping outside his office in Washington. The left wing can't figure out how to surrender while making it sound palatable to the American people. The woman featured in this video already is on TV doing interviews.


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Thursday, March 8, 2007

Scheming for defeat


More in the continuing real time demonstration of how far the Democratic Party has fallen:

"The path we have chosen for the present is full of hazards, as all paths are. ... The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender, or submission."

"There are dates certain here for the first time in the congress for the redeployment of our troops out of Iraq."

---Nancy Pelosi

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Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Not so Swift, Barack

I'm not sure that the New York Times story today about Barack Obama's stock investments is a major revelation. But the story did have this wonderful little fact: One of Obama's contributors was also a contributor to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

In May 2005, Mr. (Jared) Abbruzzese, who was vice chairman of Tejas and a principal investor in Skyterra, contributed $10,000 along with his wife to Mr. Obama's political action committee — a departure from his almost exclusive support of Republicans. Eight months earlier, for instance, he had contributed $5,000 to the Swift Boat group, and he has given $100,000 to the Republican National Committee since 2004.
What makes this so satisfying is that Obama a few days earlier upbraided another Swift contributor, St. Louis businessman Sam Fox, President Bush's nominee for Ambassador to Belgium. Along with John Kerry, Obama gave Fox the third degree for daring to contribute to such a negative political action committee.

Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), who was chairing the meeting, told Fox that he found his answers to Kerry "somewhat unsatisfying" and said that "The swift boat ads were of a different degree, even in the ugly arena of politics. They were extraordinarily well publicized, that there was essentially a fraud being perpetrated on the American people. It had a profound impact on the election."

And Obama tied a nice bow around the whole afternoon by basically calling Fox, who spent the entire time disavowing any knowledge of the Swift Boaters' mission or methods, a liar.

"To say that you gave because it's ugly out there and somebody asked you to give. I mean, it sounds to me like you were aware of it -- that this was not the best of political practices -- and you thought it was OK to go ahead and contribute to that," said Obama. "By the time you contributed, it was pretty widely noted -- it would have been hard for you to miss the fact that there was something particularly nasty and insidious about these ads. It had been well publicized at this point."

"I don't think you necessarily crafted the message but you certainly knew at that point what the message was."
Someone ought to ask Barack if he grilled his own contributor, Mr. Abbruzzese, about his contribution to the evil Swifties.

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Gross mismanagement

In Springfield this afternoon, we saw a carnival barker pull the remaining props from his sack of flimflammery. Sadly, we are talking about Governor Rod Blagojevich and not some huckster at the state fair.

Since he became governor in 2003, Blagojevich has stopped paying every bill he could, and borrowed every dollar the General Assembly allowed him. That was his solution for dealing with a bad financial situation. Throw some of the bills in the trash and take out long-term loans instead of digging in, reducing spending and making tough choices.

He supplemented his "plan" by raising more than 300 fees on business. The result was a state economy that lagged all others in the Midwest during the national recovery. Because he raised so much campaign money, he was able to paper over his financial mismanagement to win re-election last year. But instead of entering a second term coming out of a financial hole, he's placed all of us in Illinois more subterranean than ever.

So today, deeper in debt than ever, he did what comes intuitively to him and counter-intuitively to anyone with an ounce of common sense: He proposed a 9. 5 percent spending increase. It would be like a family deep in debt deciding to take out another loan to buy a Mercedes. A centerpiece of the plan is a $16 billion loan, which surpasses the record $10 billion loan Blagojevich took out in 2003.

He is proposing the largest tax increase ever in Illinois—$6 billion in a new "gross receipts" tax and another $1 billion in a new payroll tax. He also wants to lease the tollway to a private contractor. All this to pay back pension bills, increase school funding and provide health insurance for all Illinois citizens.

It doesn't take an economic genius to figure out that this plan would be like declaring war on jobs, growth and vitality for years to come in Illinois. The fallout from the nuclear bomb would last decades and would immediately improve the business climate in every state surrounding Illinois that will gladly welcome the fleeing businesses from the Land of Lincoln.

Any Republican…any Democrat for that matter who votes for any part of this blueprint for financial ruin ought to be deemed unfit for office and removed immediately. There is enough money moving around here to keep three generations of federal prosecutors busy finding all the corruption that will ensue.

Legislators should reject this entire mess and do what they can to muddle by for a year or two. U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald will have dismantled the administration by then and the carnival will have left town.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Welcome home, Fitz


Welcome back to Illinois, where the real criminals reside. You've got lots of work ahead of you—take a short break and then resume indictments.

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Revolving door alive and well in Illinois

If the top guy at a top state government agency can walk over to a job with a big state contractor/contributor without delay what is the point of Illinois' revolving door prohibition?

Today's Chicago Tribune revealed that Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Tim Martin has taken a job with Chicago-based Consoer, Townsend & Associates, a large highway engineering that did $50 million in state business during Martin's term in office.

Martin was allowed to make the transition without the one-year statutory waiting period because he got a waiver from the Illinois Executive Ethics Commission. Why, I don't know because the report is not posted online. Martin's argument was that IDOT did work with lots of firms so if he were locked out for one year, he effectively would have to find another occupation. I'm not impressed with that argument because it can be made in lots of circumstances.

Reporter Jon Hilkevitch deserves credit for breaking the story but there are some questions it raises that deserve answers.

1. Did the ethics commission ignore the evidence that under Martin, Consoer did dramatically better than ever when it comes to gaining contracts. Hilkevitch's story says that Consoer has done $88 million in state work since 1970 and more than $50 million since Martin became IDOT Secretary in 2003. Do the math: that means Consoer got $38 million in state business in 32 years prior to Martin and at least $50 million in the four years under Martin. That's a big spike.

2. Did Martin have anything to do with Consoer's sizable campaign contributions? Consoer gave Blagojevich $15,000 from 2003-2005. Then, in 2006, a subsidiary company, Austin AECOM, gave Blago $10,000, including $2,500 a week after the November election and during the time that Martin says he was negotiating with firms for work while at IDOT.

3. What about the federal and state investigations? Published reports say that the Illinois Attorney General's office and U.S. Attorney's office are investigating IDOT for various allegations that occurred under Martin's watch. I wonder why the Tribune failed to mention this in the article.

The revolving door provision is part of the state ethics law that Blagojevich, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn and other state Democrats brag about. When it came time to enforce it, it looks like the law has no teeth, or at least nobody with the will to use those teeth.

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Monday, March 5, 2007

Reverends dime out Obama

Mix two crazy reverends and Barack Obama, shake, and you have a Tuesday story that is going to be uncomfortable for the Obama campaign.

Several Illinois bloggers, including this one, have been writing about Obama's church, Trinity United Church of Christ, and its controversial pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Church doctrine smacks of black separatism and Wright uses flamboyant and sometimes crude language from the pulpit. A Rolling Stone article Feb. 7 described the church as "radical."

Well, it looks like Reverend Al Sharpton dropped a dime on the New York Times, telling them Obama shouldn't have disinvited his longtime pastor hours before he was to give the invocation at his presidential announcement in Springfield.

The reason for the last minute disinvitation: The Rolling Stone article, it turns out.
Mr. Wright said that in the phone conversation in which Mr. Obama disinvited him from the announcement, Mr. Obama cited an article in Rolling Stone, "The Radical Roots of Barack Obama."
Wright dropped another bombshell in the Times article this morning, one that won't help Obama in the Jewish community he just courted.
"When his enemies find out that in 1984 I went to Tripoli" to visit Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, Mr. Wright recalled, "with Farrakhan, a lot of his Jewish support will dry up quicker than a snowball in hell." Mr. Wright added that his trip implied no endorsement of either Louis Farrakhan's views or Qaddafi's.
Even though the Times article tried to label Obama's church, Trinity United Church of Christ, as "mainstream," each day seems to bring a revelation that makes that assertion difficult to defend.

As for Sharpton, mission accomplished. He slapped down Obama a bit and got more attention for himself. I'm sure that for Al, that's his idea of a perfect day.

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Think different

Wow, this is good. A liberal website says it's not really from Obama's campaign. A spoof of classic Apple ad.


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Dick Durbin, ultra liberal

Move over Barbara Boxer and Ted Kennedy, the U.S. Senate's #1 liberal is our own Dick Durbin.

This is based not on the rantings of the dwindling number of right wingers in Illinois but on 2006 votes compiled and tabulated by the non-partisan National Journal.

We've all heard Durbin intone about about President Bush or his nominees being "extreme" and "out of the mainstream." I wonder who will be the first media interviewer to ask him whether being to the left of Boxer and Kennedy could be considered mainstream. I'm not expecting the question any time soon because the news media is Illinois has never been tough on Durbin despite his far left voting record. Durbin appeases media outlets here by regularly granting interviews and blasting away at the Bush administration. The tacit agreement seems to be in exchange for the steady stream of liberal fodder, no tough questions are asked.

Imagine if the last GOP senator from Illinois, Peter Fitzgerald, had just been found to have the most conservative voting record in the Senate. We'd be seeing long articles titled, "Fitzgerald's hard turn to the right." I remember in the 1998 election when Fitzgerald was running against Carol Moseley Braun. I was not working for Fitzgerald at the time, but was stunned at a radio report I heard. A prominent Chicago radio newsman had just described Fitzgerald as an "ultra conservative" and placed no label in front of Braun's name. I called the newsman and said his labeling was unfair. He listened and agreed with me. As former network television newsman Bernie Goldberg so accurately pointed out in his book, Bias, the left leaning news media often does not realize that it places more labels on conservatives. To them, a conservative seems more unusual and thus worthy of a label because most of their friends are like-minded liberals.

My problem with Durbin is that he has never bucked his own party on anything. And once he sees the political winds blowing, he'll hold up a sail and slide right on over. Former Sun-Times political columnist Steve Neal called him Sen. Flip-Flop, noting that Durbin was pro-life until he decided to run for Senate. The Chicago Tribune, in endorsing his opponent in 2002, described Durbin as a political weather vane, ironically after Durbin acceded to the Tribune's demands that he change his position on expansion of O'Hare airport.

Durbin's vote against the Iraq war doesn't qualify as courage. Durbin's opponent for re-election in 2002 had no money and was no threat to him. He cast the vote on Oct. 11, 2002, along with 20 other Democrats, hardly a lonely position. At the time, Durbin was climbing the party leadership ladder and it helped his career path to be anti-war so he could be the tip of the Democrat's spear against George W. Bush.

As the anti-Bush leader, Durbin has hurled unsubstantiated charges, invective and innuendo at Republicans every chance he has gotten the last six years. For that, he has received the warm embrace of his fellow senator Barack Obama, the man who claims he wants to change the tone in Washington.

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